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African-American Poverty Rates Highest In Four Years

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Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

For a fourth year in a row, the African-American poverty rate more than doubled that of non-Hispanic white Americans, according to 2010 data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. At 27.4 percent, the African-American poverty rate also nearly doubled the overall U.S. poverty rate - 15.1 percent.

"The figures are both startling and very telling," said Rev. Derrick Boykin, associate for African-American Leadership Outreach at Bread for the World. "That the African-American poverty rate is twice as high as the poverty rate for whites reveals that African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately from social injustices."

African-American children suffered from poverty at an even higher rate - 39.1 percent. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released annual food insecurity data revealing that 25.1 percent of African-Americans were reported hungry in 2010. Widespread and prolonged unemployment, among other factors, contributed to these high figures. At the same time, real median household income for African-Americans declined to $32,068 in 2010-less than two-thirds the real median income of white households.

Accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would show 5.4 million fewer people - including 3 million children - living in poverty. The figures would have been much higher without federally funded safety net programs which help keep poverty and food insecurity numbers down as families work to get on their feet. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction - or "Super Committee" - met recently to determine how to balance the federal budget and reduce the deficit. The committee must identify $1.5 trillion in federal deficit reductions, and funding is at risk for federal safety - net programs that helped many Americans offset the ongoing impacts of the recession and stay out of poverty last year.

"If it weren't for safety net programs like WIC, SNAP, and others, many more African-American households would be suffering," added Boykin. "We urge the Super Committee to consider other alternatives to cutting programs that support vulnerable people as lawmakers work to reduce our nation's deficit."

Equally alarming, the Census Bureau report also revealed that the Hispanic poverty rate increased to 26.6 percent, up from 25.3 percent in 2009. The poverty rate for Hispanic children increased to 35 percent.

Taped Interview Discloses Jackie Kennedy's Opinion of MLK - 'That Man's Terrible'

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Later Became a Tremendous Admirer, According to Caroline Kennedy

Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy held a low opinion of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., calling him “phony” and “tricky” and alleging that King mocked the funeral of her slain husband, President John F. Kennedy.

The remarks came in a series of interviews the first lady gave in the 1960s which will be part of a new book and set of audio CDs to be released in mid-September.

According to ABC News, which obtained tapes of the interviews, Kennedy said she was disgusted by FBI wire taps which allegedly detailed King’s attempts to set up a hotel orgy while in Washington for his historic August 1963 march and, at another point, his affair with another woman in a hotel.

Kennedy claimed King also cracked jokes about the funeral of her assassinated husband, and its officiate, Cardinal Richard Cushing.

“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said he was drunk at it,” Kennedy recounted, according to The New York Daily News. “And things about [how] they almost dropped the coffin. I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, ‘That man's terrible.’”

However, Kennedy’s opinion later changed, as she became friendly enough with King and his family to attend his own 1968 funeral.

“If you asked her what she thought of Martin Luther King overall… she admired him tremendously,” Caroline Kennedy, the first lady’s daughter, told ABC.

“Obviously, J. Edgar Hoover had passed on something that Martin Luther King said about my father’s funeral, to Uncle Bobby and to Mommy. And obviously, she was upset about that,” Caroline Kennedy added. “It shows you the poisonous … activities of J. Edgar Hoover.”

Rep. Davis Legislation Looks at Disparities Facing African-Americans

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Illinois State Rep. Monique Davis, recently sponsored and got passed state legislation that would study the plight of African Americans in this state.

PA 97-0460 authorizes the assembly of a Commission to End the Disparities Facing the African American Community Act to look at health, employment criminal justice, education and other issues besetting African American Illinoisans. The commission would be empowered to make suggestions on how to make things better after holding at least one public hearing. It would report to the General Assembly on its findings and recommendations by December 31, 2013, the new law - signed by Gov. Quinn - mandates.

Davis told the Defender that the legislation was necessary because, “conditions are not being addressed that affect my community.” When it comes to reports on various issues, she said African Americans are usually on the negative end of the outcomes.

“Every statistic that's ever given, if it it's something good we're at the bottom, if it's something bad we're at the top,” she said. “This does not have to be the case.”

'White Folks Forcing Us Out' say Chicago Housing Authority Residents

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By Wendell Hutson, Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader –

Black residents living at the Cabrini Green public housing complex cite racism as the main reason their landlord is evicting them. “White folks are forcing us out. They do not want us here anymore,” contended Norina Rhondes, 37, who was born and raised at Cabrini Green.”

The mother of a 19-year-old son, who is a sophomore at Southern Illinois University, and a 14-ear-old son, who is a freshman at Phoenix Military Academy in Chicago, Rhodes added that she sees her white neighbors stare down from their balconies shaking their heads. “They sit high but look low on us Black folks thinking they are better than us because they have money. One white man had the nerve to drive through here one day, get out his car and said to a group of Black males ‘you guys have been sitting out here all day. Why don’t you go do something productive like get a job,’’ recalled Rhodes, who plans to attend Malcolm X College in January.

The majority of the residents are Black. Race had nothing to do with the evictions, said Chicago Housing Authority officials. They cited crime as the reason at the 73-year-old housing complex at 900 N. Hudson Ave., which spans five blocks. “The levels and nature of criminal activity continue to pose a real threat to the residents of the area, but it is a particularly disturbing threat due to the significant number of children in the old section of row houses,” said Carlos Ponce, interim chief executive officer for the CHA. “This Authority must do what’s right and vacate the property. CHA will take great care in making the transition as smooth and as comfortable as possible for the remaining families.”

According to Matthew Aguilar, a spokesman for the CHA, the non-rehabbed portion of the row houses includes 438 units with only 33 occupied, creating a 92 percent vacancy rate. And the rehabbed portion of the site includes 146 units that were rehabbed two years ago, so those living in these units do not have to relocate. Significant resources have been put towards maintaining the safety of the property, but in spite of these efforts, based on the current data, it was determined that the old sections of the row houses were dangerous and no longer suitable for residents, Aguilar said. Maureen Biggane, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman was unavailable at Crusader press time to verify the CHA’s contention of recent criminal activity at Cabrini Green.

The CHA plans to provide housing counseling and help residents find new housing using a Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called a Section 8 certificate). The Crusader spent all day Tuesday at Cabrini Green, which is surrounded by expensive looking townhomes and condominiums and high-rise office buildings located just north of Chicago Avenue, and witnessed no criminal activity during the day or late at night. Most residents seemed to know one another and stood outside talking while children played and youth kept busy playing basketball at an outdoor court on Hudson Avenue.

Residents gave the Crusader a tour of the rehabbed and old row houses. The rehabbed units included new doors, windows, floors, freshly painted walls, and fine woodwork; while the old row houses had cracked and dirty walls, broken windows, old appliances, and dim light fixtures inside.

Wanda White, 45, of 847 N. Mohawk Avenue, said developers are tired of waiting for what it deems prime real estate. “Developers want this land so they can build condos. The whites that live around here are tired of looking at us and are pressuring the city to get us the hell out,” she said. “They along with whites are tired of waiting and want us out.” White is among the 33 households that were informed by the CHA September 1 that they must move within 180 days. Tamekia Murray, is a 25-year-old single mom, who is White’s niece and lives with her along with her 2 year-old son Rashad. She has been trying for three years to get approved for her own CHA unit but continues to be denied.

“First they said I needed an income. And now that I have one, they are coming up with more excuses,” she said. Unemployed and a single mother as well, White said she is unsure where she will move. But one thing she said she does know is that Cabrini Green does not have an issue with violence. “They (CHA) are lying. Police would be rolling all up and down here if it were as bad as the media has portrayed it. When was the last time you heard on TV an incident occurring here?” she said.

At its peak Cabrini Green housed 15,000 people and in 1980 Mayor Jane Byrne moved into the complex to see first-hand what life was like there.

Invisible Heroes of 9/11: Absence of African-American Stories Prolongs Sense of Being Ignored

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Cynthia E. Griffin, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

Life has gone on since Sept. 11, 2001. In fact, Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of a tragedy that seems as if it only happened a short while ago.

As the nation pauses to remember—10 years away from the cataclysmic events of that morning—there is time to reflect and observe.

And one thing that some people might observe and question is what was the impact of 9/11 on African Americans.

For Atlanta-based psychotherapist Joyce Morely, Ed. D. it was something that is painful and that happens all-too frequently.

“I was watching the television special ‘Children of 9/11,’ and, ironically, I was seeing that the majority of the focus was on White families and White children. There was only one African American, (a) male profiled, and it was from the perspective of how much trouble he had gotten into over time, before he finally pulled himself together last year,” said Morely, who remembers many of her African American clients coming to her office unable to even think beyond what had happened in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

The relative exclusion of Blacks from the coverage of 9/11 remembrances has left their voices, their emotions, their recovery unheard. In fact, Morely, said she has seen Indian families who lost loved ones in the tragedy saying the same thing about their stories being ignored.

“A lot of times when people have latent issues, they so internalize them that if they are not dealt with, they manifest themselves in other behaviors; negative behaviors . . . when your grief is not seen as important and when your grief seems to be minimized as opposed so someone else’s grief, it makes it very difficult.”

Rev. DeQuincy Hentz of Shiloh Baptist Church, in New Rochelle, a bedroom community to New York, recalls many of his members being in shock at the attack and believing that God had protected them going to work that day at the towers.

“A lot of people express how they felt God had protected them. Some people were headed to towers, but were delayed.”

He added that there were no members of his church lost, and they don’t talk about the tragedy much. They sort of relate to it like knowing where you were when Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy were assassinated.

“I think, as a people, African Americans have such a history of tragedy and terrorist acts against us that something within us that is part of our history and fabric helps us to just move on. Now that may not always be good,” Hentz said, adding that in some respects 9/11 enabled Black people to see that contrary to the lynching, cross burnings and other terrorist atrocities aimed at them over the years, there could actually be a equalization of terror; and that hate knows no color, and when unchecked can impact everyone.

There are Black stories to tell. From those who died on the planes, to survivors who walked away without a scratch on their bodies.

Perhaps one of the most poignant is the three 11-year-olds, who were on Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.

Asia Cottom, Rodney Dickens and Bernard Curtis Brown II, had been selected from three different middle schools in Washington, D.C., to travel to the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, Calif., to participate in a National Geographic Society research project called Sustainable Seas Expedition. They were each traveling with a teacher, and two National Geographic staff members accompanied the group. All perished. But in November 2001, the then-mayor of Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the D.C. public schools, the Department of Parks and Recreation of Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Society, the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Earth Conservation Corp. turned the islands of Kingman and Heritage into sanctuaries in honor of the children and their adult companions.

The islands are located in the Anacostia River, which flows through D.C.

And then there was a close friend of Pastor Gregory Robeson Smith of New York’s Mother A.M.E. Zion Church, whose sister was on vacation from her job at the Pentagon, but stopped in that morning to pick up some papers before meeting with her husband for lunch. She never made it.

Marcy Borders too had a story to tell. She had been working only one short month in a bank in one of the towers, when the planes hit. She was led to the lobby of the second tower, where a photographer captured the image of her covered from head to toe in ash and cast in a strange yellowish light.

During the 10 years since the attack, Borders struggled with unchecked fear and paranoia, drug addiction and the inability to work a day.

In April, she checked into rehab, and is working to regain control of her life.

There is also Genelle Guzman-McMillan who laid trapped nearly 27 hours in the rubble of the towers. She said she had an angelic encounter with a man named Paul, who grabbed her hand, called her name and said he was there for her. Once she was freed, neither Guzman-McMillan nor anyone else was ever able to find Paul.

As she lay with her crushed leg awaiting help, the young New Yorker pledged to God, she would dedicate her life to him, if he rescued her.

She kept her promise by joining a church and travels the world telling her testimony through speaking and in her book “Angel in the Rubble.”

Brent Watson literally walked away from his experience at Ground Zero with the same understanding that Guzman-McMillan had developed—life is not promised and must be lived to its fullest and with a profound reverence for God.

Watson, who was then an employee with Merrill Lynch, now Bank of America Merrill Lynch, had gone into work early for a company meeting in World Financial Center 2, a 43-story-high structure that was about 100 yards from the World Trade Center Towers.

“I was in our conference room (which seated about 200 people) that morning, when I heard this sound like a piece of heavy equipment had been dropped on the floor right outside of our conference room,” recalled Watson.

“There was a former Army officer in our management at the time, and he started moving to investigate. I said to myself, ‘if he’s moving, I’m moving . . . .’ All my instincts started to kick in.

“Someone said a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. We assumed it was a single-engine plane or a helicopter because there had been a number of close calls with small planes.”

“Then our risk manager came in, and I’ll never forget her face. She said we are evacuating the building.”

Watson remembers that a ridiculously practical thought about refusing to wait for hours at the New York Department of Motor Vehicles for another license popped into his head. So he went to his desk, retrieved his jacket, wallet, laptop and other personal belongings and headed for the exit. He and his colleagues debated taking the stairs or the elevator, and decided on the elevators.

Had Watson taken the stairs, he like his son’s godfather (who was also in the World Trade Center in 1993, when dynamite exploded in the garage, killing five and wounding at least 1,000), would have seen people falling from the towers. Instead, he and others gathered in a plaza that was about 50 feet from his building and the Hudson River.

“We could see the building burning: white flames, jet fuel. I said that building is not going to be able to sustain itself with that intense heat. I could tell it was going to melt. I felt it might tip over and fall toward us. A few minutes later, here came the second plane. It cut through almost like a knife. That’s when everybody scattered out of fear. My spirit said to me, get as far away as you can.”

Taking about five of his colleagues with him, Watson began walking toward the Westside.

“I kept telling them to stop looking back, and I talked to them about Sodom and Gomorrah. After walking about 18 blocks, the group heard the first tower collapse.

Watson said he knew that the next thing that would happen would be F-16s arriving on the scene.

“Sure enough, shortly after the collapse, you could hear the F-16s traveling at mach [speed]. They were trying to see if another plane was coming.”

Continuing to walk, Watson and his group arrived at Grand Central Station, but the trains were not running because of a bomb scare. He decided not to try for a cab, because he said cabdrivers were gouging people and exploiting the situation by charging people $500 to get out of Manhattan.

Watson eventually ended up in Harlem at a relative’s house after a four-and-a-half-hour walk. “Ain’t no terrorists coming to Harlem,” the wealth management adviser remembers thinking. He also remembers a woman he encountered remarking that he looked like he could walk to Canada.

The 15-year financial veteran credits his strength to an inner spirit honed by a lifetime of growing up in the church and believing in God.

Watson described the first few days after Sept. 11 as a time of shock and questioning how you go on, particularly if you’ve lost someone close to you, and he had.

“ . . A colleague of mine, who had spent time mentoring me, David Grady; he was trapped at the top in Windows of the World. He was there for a breakfast appointment. He only had enough time to call his father and wife to say goodbye. His remains were never found. We have a conference room in our company in his memory. He always had inspirational things to say to me . . . he was one of those guys who believed in what Charlie Merrill said: ‘Put your client’s needs ahead of your needs, and you will be successful.”

Rather than let himself be paralyzed and prevented from reaching full potential in a space where he knew that seeing a Black man working was rare, Watson said he decided to work harder doing things that benefited others.

But he also relied on conversations with members of the male chorus at his church, people in his investment club, a cousin who was a church deacon, discussions with pastors and his own personal relationship with God to sustain him.

“You focus on things bigger than yourself. You dream big,” Watson said. In his case, he is also more aggressive toward things he wants to achieve. “It’s galvanized me to know that tomorrow is not promised and to not be afraid to go it alone.”

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