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Philadelphia's FIGHT Organization Teaching HIV Prevention with Music, Dance

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By Ayana Jones, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Philadelphia FIGHT’s Youth Health Empowerment Project is using dance as a way to educate young people about HIV.

Y-HEP is the first to partner with dance4life, a Netherlands-based program aimed at empowering young people around HIV.

The organization joined Victoria’s Secret angel Doutzen Kroes at a press conference to launch dance4life-USA.

“dance4life is effective because it breaks down the inhibitions to learning, helps young people remember the importance of HIV prevention, and is fun,” Kroes said during the press conference held at City Hall.

Kroes encouraged parents to talk to their children about safe sex and condom use.

“We must break the silence and we cannot be afraid to talk to our kids about sex, using condoms, and to answer their questions,” she said.

Y-HEP will take the dance4life program to students at various school and youth organizations throughout Philadelphia where they will encourage young people to take responsibility for their health and decision-making. dance4life Philadelphia has joined 28 countries in offering the global program that provides young people with the skills to join the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“What we have found with dance4life — more than any other program designed to help reach young people transition into adolescence — is that this has been the most successful,” said Jane Shull, executive director, Philadelphia FIGHT.

AIDS Activities Coordinating Office Executive Director Jane Baker hailed the dance4life initiative and said it’s another tool in the arsenal to fight the growing rates of sexually transmitted diseases amongst Philadelphia’s youth.

Last April, Philadelphia’s Department of Health launched a campaign to help combat the rise in STDs amid Philadelphia youth. During that launch, Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz said more than 19,000 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2010, with approximately 45 percent of those cases occurring in youths between the ages of 10 and 19 years, and 33 percent occurring in young adults ages 20 to 24 years. He also noted that 47 percent of the youth who were diagnosed with HIV at the city’s STD clinic had a prior history of gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis.

“Right now we have a public health emergency. This is a crisis. So anything you can do to bring these rates down, to make some impact on the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in Philadelphia, you have to do it. This couldn’t be more timely,” said Baker.

dance4life International Founder Eveline Aendekerk says the organization’s goal is to facilitate a global youth movement of one million agents of change by 2014.

The push to expand the movement comes at a time when half of the new HIV infections are occurring in young people under 25 according to U.N. AIDS.

During the press conference, members of dance4life Philadelphia’s tour team chanted, “Take responsibility for life, let your voice be heard,” while showing off hip dance moves.

The dance4life program has four components, including a heart connection tour that encourages participation through music, drumming, dancing and education; skills4life, a workshop program where participants learn about HIV; and act4life, which encourages involvement in a volunteer project. The fourth component includes celebrate4life, a biannual celebration that is held on the Saturday before World AIDS Day. During the celebration, dance4life participants are connected via satellite where they dance together.

Over the coming months, Y-HEP will work to recruit students and student clubs to participate in the dance4life program, and will stage dance4life interventions in area schools.

Y-HEP is a community-based health and leadership development program for Philadelphia youth.

T.I. Released from Incarceration... Again

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Grammy award winning rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris was released from a halfway house on Sept. 29 to end his federal prison sentence for violating probation.

“He’s out, he’s good,” Jason Geter, who co-founded Grand Hustle Records with T.I., told the Associated Press.

T.I. has found himself in trouble consistently throughout his career. In 2009, he was convicted on federal weapons charges and served seven months in prison.

While on probation, he was arrested in Los Angeles for possession of drugs, a violation of probation. He served 11 months in a federal prison in Arkansas before being released to a halfway house.

His release to the halfway house didn’t go as planned. The rapper traveled to the halfway house on a luxury bus with a camera crew for a reality show. According to the AP, federal authorities claim that was a violation of prison rules and T.I. was sent to a federal prison in Georgia. He was released on Sept. 15.

A video posted by TMZ shows the rapper leaving federal prison with no cameras aside from the one through which he was taped, producers or tour buses. He simply got into a SUV and left.

In 2004, the rapper also spent time in a Cobb County, Ga., prison for a probation violation. He was sentenced to three years but allowed out on a work release program.

Reality TV show 'Keeping up with the Mandelas' to Air in 2012

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“We're definitely not the African Kardashians”

Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Nelson Mandela’s three grandchildren will join the reality show bandwagon, the family announced Sept. 29. The show, which will air in 2012, will show Africa’s “new middle class of intellectuals,” according to one granddaughter.

“The show will be about our lives as young, Black women ... We're not wearing, `I'm a Mandela’ T-shirts," said Swati Dlamini, granddaughter of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The show is supposed to expose the role of the new generation as career women and mothers, Mail and Guardian reports.

Dlamini, Dorothy Adjoa Amuah and Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway said they grew up in the United States, but returned to South Africa for personal and business matters.

“We're definitely not the African Kardashians,” Amuah said.

In case people are wondering whether the reality show may expose the family in a negative light or disrespect the legacy of South Africa’s former president, producer Rick Leed promised good things.

"They clearly have a great love [for each other]. This may be part storytelling, part reality, except the story we are telling is real ... it's not going to detract from the dignity of Nelson Mandela,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.

The grandchildren said they would not feature their parents or grandparents.

Dlamini, 32, is a single mother who would like to set up a foundation.

Amuah, 27, is into the luxury brands market and received a law degree and MBA from Monaco.

Dlamini-Manaway, 34, is a mother with a two kids and one on the way. She plans to launch a clothing line and is involved with Mandela Dlamini Associates.

Commission on Black Males Returns in Philadelphia

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Former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., head of Amachi, to be co-chair

Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Mobilizing the entire city government and allies across the city, Mayor Michael Nutter has re-established the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males.

“The City of Philadelphia is eager to help,” the mayor said in announcing the new commission. “The entire city government, everyone in city government and all of our related agencies will have a role to play, will be tasked to support the efforts of the mayor’s commission.”

The group will eventually be composed of about 30 volunteer members tasked with addressing unemployment, incarceration, a lack of education and health among Black men. They will issue an annual report on the state of African-American men in Philadelphia, along with recommendations for action.

“We must all look at the big picture,” Nutter said. “If a man is uneducated … if they are unemployed, if they are unhealthy, we pretty much know what their life path will be. But, if they are educated, employed and healthy they are a lot less likely to be part of the criminal justice system.”

Nutter signed an executive order creating the commission at a special ceremony last week at City Hall.

He also named its three co-chairs: former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., who first created the commission in 1991 and now heads Amachi, an education non-profit; Bilal Qayyum, president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee Inc. and Jamar Izzard, a radio host at 107.9.

“The plight of the African-American male is a crisis,” Goode said. “Unless something is done, then the future of African-American males looks very, very bleak.”

Goode first created the commission because he had concerns similar to Nutter’s.

“There are ways we can begin to deal with this problem, if we show it attention,” he said, adding that if Nutter hadn’t asked him to be a part of the commission he would have begged to be appointed. “For me, this is my life’s work.”

Qayyum and Izzard echoed Goode.

“We have to challenge ourselves and all the others around us to change their attitude and their behavior,” Qayyum said. “We’re going to make some changes in this city to let folks know that there are more positive Black men in the city doing positive things than there are doing negative things.”

“I’m going to give it everything I have,” added Izzard.


Successful Black Marriages Besieged on All Sides, Say Advocates

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By Starla Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

Is there a systematic assault on Black marriage?

Seemingly every week a new poll, study or blog reports disheartening statistics and commentary on the abhorrent conditions of Black men and Black women in the United States, adding fuel to the often fiery discussion of male-female relationships and its effect on the disappearing intact traditional Black family. Poverty, unemployment, health disparities, incarceration and financial hardships cut across racial lines, especially among the nation's poor and working class. All are contributing factors to decreasing marriage rates, say analysts.

Marriage across the board has declined among Blacks, Latinos and Whites since 1960. Marriage among 30- to 44-year-old Whites has dipped from 87 percent in 1960 to 65 percent in 2007, according to a recent brief released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). During the same time there was also a decrease among U.S.-born Latinos from 84 percent to 54 percent with the biggest drop among Blacks from 71 percent to 37 percent, a 34 percent decrease.

Data suggests Black men and women would like to get married. In 2008, 72.5 percent of Black people reported they will likely get married according to the National Survey of American Life, says EPI. In 2010, 65 percent of Blacks said a child needs a home with both a mother and father.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam, stressed the importance of marriage and family to his followers. His top student, Minister Louis Farrakhan, teaches marriage and family are not only the cornerstone and foundation of a great nation, but necessary and critical to the very survival of the Black nation in particular. Successful nation building depends on strong marriage and family life teaches Farrakhan.

Marriage prospects among Blacks suffer because of a shortage of Black males, with 21 percent fewer Black males than Black females ages 30- to 44 years old not in prison or other institutions, reports EPI.

The disproportionate number of unmarried Black women is being used as justification by some in advocating the push for professional Black women to marry non-Black men.

If Black women “limit themselves to Black men,” most will either remain unmarried or wed to a less-educated man who earns less than they do, argues Professor Ralph Richard Banks, author of the recently released book, “Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.”

The matrimonial dip is not unique to any racial group but because Black men are imprisoned and jailed at higher rates, suffer higher rates of unemployment, coupled with a declining share of good jobs results in the “collateral consequence” of marriage decline, reports EPI.

Growing up in Cleveland in a predominately-Black neighborhood with plenty of two-parent households to witness, Prof. Banks saw the drastic decline in Black marriages firsthand. He is married to a Black woman he has known since elementary school and has three sisters but says while Black women have achieved tremendous success, they are more likely than others to be unmarried. Nearly 7 in 10 Black women are unmarried and college-educated Black women are twice as likely as their White counterparts to be unwed, he says.

“Even as Black women are doing really well in other ways, they have good jobs, they have education, you know they are thriving in many ways but then in this one way life hasn't quite come together as they've imagined it would,” the Stanford law professor told The Final Call.

College-educated Black women will often have more in common with their Asian, Latino or White classmates than with the Black guy they grew up with who did not go to college, argues Prof. Banks. This factor, along with the poor economic and educational realities of many Black men, is why Black women should date outside of their race, says the author of the controversial new book.

“I'm African American; I have three boys who will be young Black men in not too many years. So of course I want a world where they can thrive. It's a tragedy that we have as many Black men in jail as we do. That there are so many that are jobless, they're underperforming educationally. That's a failure that's everybody's fault,” says Prof. Banks.

Professor Banks argues Black women do not marry because they have too few choices, and Black men because they have too many. Further, he insists, somehow the commitment Black women have to Black men “weakens” the Black family.

Professor Banks says federal and state programs are needed to address the many problems plaguing Black men but that his book “is about what to do in the meantime.”

The effect of declining marriage is based in the root cause of the legacy and system of White supremacy which has strategically undermined family in the Black community and skewed the God-centered reality that serves as the foundation of a strong marriage and to suggest that Black women “look elsewhere” is insulting, argues Black marriage advocates.

“There absolutely is an ongoing assault on Black marriage because there is an assault on the Black family because the Black family is the base of wealth and reproduction. The Black family provides stability, self-love and self-acceptance,” says Attorney Ava Muhammad, a student minister for the Nation of Islam and a national spokesperson for Min. Farrakhan.

“In order to destabilize the family you want to start at its root, which is marriage.” Muhammad told The Final Call. The concept of family runs in opposition to a society dominated by White supremacy and an economic ideal based on “free” labor when chattel slavery was outlawed, adds the popular author and lecturer.

“Law enforcement policies that contribute to higher Black incarceration rates deflate the size of the Black workforce and the pool of marriage-eligible Black men,” notes the “Reducing Poverty and Increasing Marriage Rates Among Latinos and African Americans” EPI policy brief. “If 2010 unemployment and incarceration rates for Blacks and Whites were the same, almost two million additional Blacks would have been in the American workforce.”

Current policies in America's criminal justice system have ensured significant numbers of the potential Black workforce is in prison and upon release, it is more difficult to find work, adds EPI. The ability for a man to be in a position to support a family before he gets married is an important factor across all racial lines, says the report.

“You have two things going on simultaneously. You have the Black man being bombarded with media images and concepts which continually inflict on his brain this idea that his own woman is undesirable. On the side of the woman, you have her now being bombarded with this idea that the man is incapable,” says Muhammad.

Why would you look outside of your own kind because of employment and level of education? she asks. “That makes no sense at all because level of education and jobs, they are an effect, they're not a cause of anything,” says Muhammad.

Muhammad says there needs to be promotion of the many successful Black marriages that exist and an end to pretending there are no successful ones.

“Let's talk about the millions who have worked and struggled to keep their marriages together at a time when 50 percent of all marriages across the board are doomed for failure,” she says.

“More importantly, this is why we have to become self-contained as a community. We're not able to focus on one another because we're too fixated on attempting to follow, copy, please the children of our slave-masters. And as long as we are with them, we're going to be ruled by them because we're not focusing on self-development; we're focusing on what they think,” says Muhammad.

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BVN National News Wire