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Congressman John Lewis Receives Joint Center's Louis E. Martin Award

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspaper –

On May 3rd, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies recognized U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) with the 2011 Louis E. Martin Great American Award. The Joint Center’s highest honor was given to Lewis for his decades of service as an advocate of civil and human rights and for strengthening the American community.

Lewis received the award at the Joint Center's annual Gala Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. The event drew more than 500 people including government officials, members of Congress and business, and civic and community pioneers from across the nation.

For more than 50 years, the group noted, Lewis has been a pioneering community and political leader and civil rights advocate.

The presentation was given on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the day the first Freedom Riders left Washington by bus on a trip to the south to exercise their right to interstate travel and to fight laws that enforced segregation. Lewis was among the first riders and was severely beaten during the event.

“Congressman Lewis continues to lead by his example, working for racial harmony and inspiring all Americans to make the most of their right to engage in the process of shaping our nation's future,” Joint Center President and CEO Ralph B. Everett said at the event, according to a press release.

Lewis reflected on the turbulent events at the gala, and said that the first violent encounter occurred in Rock Hill, S.C., where he and his co-riders attempted to enter a bus station waiting room that was reserved for Whites. But, he explained that one of the men who beat him came to his office and apologized to him two years ago. Lewis added that while times have definitely changed, America still has work to do.

“Some people ask me these days whether the election of President Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream,” the congressman said at the event, according to a press release. “I’m quick to say ‘no.’ It’s just a major down payment. There are still too many people in America that are left behind.”

The award, named after celebrated journalist, presidential advisor, and co-founder of the Joint Center Louis E. Martin, is given to individuals who epitomize King's dream for justice, compassion, and racial unification.

Past recipients of the award include former presidents Jimmy Carter and William J. Clinton, Muhammad Ali, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and civil rights icon Dr. Dorothy I. Height.

Founded in 1970, the Joint Center is one of the nation's leading research and public policy institutions and the sole one whose work focuses on African Americans and other people of color.

Nigerian Citizen Journalist Receives Major Press Freedom Award

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the Omidyar Network of Redwood City, California, announced the award of nearly $5 million in funding to four media-related groups involved in investigative and citizen journalism in the developing world.

The four groups are: African Media Initiative (Kenya): the SaharaReporters project (Nigeria); Media Development Loan Fund (U.S.); and the Committee to Protect Journalists (Africa programs).

Announcing the grant to Sahara Reporters, an online network of underground and citizen journalists operating inside Nigeria, Omidyar’s Stephen King said: “They put a lens on the Nigerian government by covering corruption, disbursement of oil revenues, and graft on a massive scale. [SaharaReporters.com] provides much more [information] than a newspaper or news outlet might. It’s a forum where controversial stories can be aired.”

Sowore Omoyele, founder and publisher of the NY-based Sahara Reporters, described the work of his group as far-reaching. “We had 1,700 reporters on Blackberry alone who volunteered to cover the [recent Nigerian] elections for us," he said. "They took smartphone photos of police repression and election violence.”

“We report events, news, and write reports of real time issues. It is our response to the failure – the refusal or lack of will on the part of professional journalists – to report real news to the people … SR is doing well in that regard. We have broken the sound and speed barriers of reporting authentic, evidence-based news.

“Omidyar Network believes a healthy government – one that is responsive to its citizens -- requires a healthy, robust fourth estate. By focusing additional efforts on fostering investigative and citizen journalism, we believe we will be catalyzing transparency efforts that will positively affect millions of people,” said King, who heads Omidyar’s global government transparency programs.

To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $400 million to for-profit companies and non-profit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation in the areas of microfinance, entrepreneurship, property rights, government transparency, consumer Internet, and mobile. To learn more about Omidyar Network, visit www.omidyar.com.

Security Heightened for Obama's Grandmother After Bin Laden Death

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

A beefed-up battalion of security was ordered around the rural Kenyan home of President Obama’s grandmother following the fatal shooting of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

“We received reports of plans to attack the home of Mama Sarah Obama and we immediately put in place adequate security measures,” local police chief Stephen Cheteka told the African Review, a Kenyan paper.

In the U.S., news of bin Laden’s killing set off an emotional rally of thousands in the capital city and in NYC at Ground Zero, the site of the fallen Twin Towers. But in Africa, fears of retaliation by the surviving al-Qaida network were uppermost in the minds of many citizens.

"The loss of [al-Qaeda's] leader may first upset the movement but then it will regroup and continue," said Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Douglas Sidialo, blinded by shards of flying glass in the bombing of the U.S. mission in Nairobi in 1998, said bin Laden’s death was "justice from the maker (God). However, I would rather he had been captured and confessed to his evil deeds… I fear this might trigger renewed recruitment amongst those who view bin Laden as a martyr."

South African journalist Julian Rademeyer shared the view. "In death, the myth of bin Laden lives on. Would've been preferable that he stood trial and could be seen for what he was."

Prof Mwesiga Baregu, a political analyst at St Augustine University in Tanzania, concurred. “They should have tried to capture him alive."

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister of Mali Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga warned: “'The event raises the risk in the short term of a headlong rush by the movement. We have to be careful - particularly in the next three to six months.”

Study: Race a Factor in Charity, Social Programs

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By Dwight Ott, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

No one was home in the small, fenced encampment hidden in the trees on the south side of the approach to the Ben Franklin Bridge leading to Philadelphia.

The inhabitants may have been away because of the chill and the unceasing downpour last Wednesday that cut rivulets of rainwater in the mud and grass. Or they might have went looking for food to bring back to their three tent-like hovels, which where patched together with clear plastic, mosquito mesh, blue and yellow blankets, rags and towels.

But, whatever the reason for the absence, it was clear that the people living there were literally on “the other side of the fence” — or, as one author called, in “The Other America.”

According to three, Ivy League-affiliated researchers, such ragged encampments are likely the result of America being stingier than Europe in providing for its most down and out citizens.

And, the reason for this stinginess: Race!

“I think people who are willing to cut Medicaid and Medicare are driven by heterogeneity,” said Albert Alesina, one of the researchers, with “heterogeneity” here clearly meaning racial differences.

Indeed, based on their 2001 study — which they say is still applicable today — the three researchers concluded that race is a major factor in the generosity or lack of generosity built into American social assistance programs. With unabashed bluntness, the study — completed by Harvard economics professors Alesina and Edward Gleaser, and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth — stated: “Race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”

The study goes on to conclude that, “A natural generalization of race-based theory is that Americans think of the poor as members of some different group other than themselves, whereas Europeans think of the poor as members of their own group.”

In other words, people who dislike transferring money to people of a different color seem to be a major determinant in why there is a “redistribution gap” between the United States and Europe.

But, while the professors assert that race is the most “salient” predictor of support for welfare, they are unable to fully identify why this is the case.

The professors state: “We do not really know why interpersonal altruism seems linked to race. It is possible that human beings are hard-wired to dislike people with different skin color. A more reasonable theory is that human beings are genetically programmed to form in-group, out-group associations and to prefer members of what they perceive as their own group.”

In their study, “Why doesn’t the U.S. Have a European Style Welfare State?,” the researchers indicate that White Americans have no problem giving to programs that are seen as supportive of Whites, but some oppose programs which seem to support Blacks.

“People have a negative, hostile reaction when they see welfare recipients of a different race, and a sympathetic reaction when they see welfare recipients of their own race,” the study states.

And, at least two of the researchers contacted last week said they believed their study was as relevant now as it was a decade ago. Indeed, today, as an urgency to cut the deficit ramps up, entitlement programs — which typically help Blacks and other minorities — are on the chopping block.

“We have hit a point where it is obvious we can’t give to everybody,” said Sacerdote, referring to the current hard times that have limited America’s options. “We have reached the point where it’s obvious we can’t give to everybody.”

Sacerdote also said that hard decisions will have to be made. “The question of how to divide the pie is becoming more important,” he stated.

The study also demonstrates why Blacks may be among the hardest hit by the recession and current budget cutting. “Racial discord plays a critical role in determining beliefs about the poor,” the researchers conclude in their document. “Since racial minorities are highly over-represented among the poorest Americans, any income-based redistribution measures will redistribute disproportionately to these minorities.”

However, a recent poll found that 70 percent of tea party members — a group particularly intent on cutting spending in social programs — do not favor cuts in Medicaid and Medicare.

In the recent McClatchy-Marist survey,70 percent of ‘tea party supporters’ were strongly opposed to cutting the healthcare plan for the elderly and indigent, compared to about 80 percent of registered voters.

And yet, phasing out Medicare for those under 55 has been a major proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a high profile Republican legislator.

Republicans seem to have targeted social programs, which heavily benefit Blacks, for the very reason that Blacks make up a high percentage of the impoverished and unemployed. To some Whites, these programs seem to represent a “transfer” or “redistribution” of wealth.

It’s almost as if anti-socialism — many on the right have called Obama and his supporters “socialists” — has become a code word for pro-racism, one professor agreed.

According to the study, while Europeans consider the poor as people like themselves who just may be having hard luck. “Americans are more likely to associate poverty with laziness and to consider the poor unworthy.”

Because of the resultant neglect, the poor in the United States are likely to be “poorer” than those in Europe, the study claims.

“It would appear that, because of a smaller emphasis on policies that redistribute toward the poor, the bottom decile [10 percent] of the income ladder in the United States is less well off than the bottom decile in European countries. That is, the U.S. poor are really poor.”

The study also said America has a smaller government than some and yet larger government tends to reduce inequalities.

Even among U.S. states there is a race-based disparity. Especially in the South, welfare benefits are smaller in areas with large, non-majority Black populations.

And though opportunities seem to be about the same in the U.S. and Europe, Americans seem — by a nearly 30 percent polling margin — to believe that the poor have more of a chance of escaping poverty in the U.S. than they may actually have.

“Americans are inherently more hostile to government, and more prone to believe that governments are wasteful and likely to spend on projects that the voters oppose. Indeed, the United States was created from an ant-igovernment revolution, and its history includes a civil war in which roughly half the country fought against the federal government,” states the study.

Here, the authors seem to redeem a smidgen of the image of America’s generosity by pointing out that, while European social welfare is more generous, Americans give more to charities than Europeans. But, the study does not make it clear if that charity cuts across racial lines.

What was obvious, though, was that the inhabitants of that little Camden encampment near the Ben Franklin Bridge probably are having a harder time here than if they were in Europe.

Because whatever their ethnicity or nationality, the ultimate reason for their economic disparity, like so much else in this country, likely does have more to do with skin color than pure economics or objective prioritization.

Public Ambivalent About Osama bin Laden Death

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By Eric Mayes, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Officials with the local chapter of the Council on American Muslim Relations greeted the news of Osama bin Laden’s death with a relief shared by most Americans.

We’re proud of President Obama and of our Armed Forces for bringing justice to the world,” said Meoin Khawaja, executive director of the local group. “He’s attacked people all over the world.”

Bin Laden’s role — and that of all radical Muslims — in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks cast a shadow over all Muslims, Khawaja said.

“I’ll never forget that day 10 years ago when my country was attacked,” Khawaja said. “I’ll also never forget that my religion and that of over one billion people was tarnished in such a manner that Osama bin Laden became one of the most recognized Muslims in the world. Now, I’m confident that my fellow Americans know that Islam isn’t and never was bin Laden or his ideology, but like all religions is a path to peace and love.”

Spontaneous celebrations were reported in New York City and Washington D.C. The Phillies game was interrupted when the crowd broke into chants of “U.S.A.” and “Bye Bye Bin Laden” after news of his death in a U.S. raid was reported.

Individually, Philadelphians had varied reactions.

“Next they should go after Bush,” said William Payton. “You let his family out of the United States.”

Payton refused to be swept up in the euphoria reported across the nation.

“Show me some proof that he’s dead,” Payton said. “He might be; he might not be. I want to see some proof.”

Photos of a blood spattered Bin Laden were flashed across the globe in Monday morning’s papers. Reports from both CBS and ABC news said they were composite photos and that the White House had withheld real photos because of their gruesome nature.

“You can put anything in the paper,” said Payton.

Officials in Washington said they had DNA samples to prove that the al Qaida leader was in fact dead.

Others took officials at their word.

“Mr. Obama made a promise and he kept it,” said a woman who asked to be identified only by the initials D.E., adding that she was relieved by the news. “Now they will go after the rest of them and they will stop killing people.”

Like Payton, she suggested that bin Laden was not caught during the Bush administration because of personal or financial concerns.

“Why didn’t Bush get him a long time ago?” she asked rhetorically. “They were friends.”

Several Muslims declined to discuss the death.

“I don’t get into politics,” said a young man wearing a taqiyah and shalwar kameez, as he stood near the Clothes Pin across from City Hall with a woman in a full burqa. He declined to give his name.

Another man agreed.

“I’ll let God handle this,” the man said. He too refused to give his name. “He [bin Laden] never did anything to me.”

Others were glad that the terror leader was dead.

“I’m at peace,” said O. James. “Hopefully, all this comes to an end. I hope it brings peace.” Officials with the Department of Homeland Security and city police were on heightened alert following the news.

James said was concerned about the possibility of retaliation.

“You still have his followers out there,” she said.

Khawaja remained optimistic.

“It’s the long-term beginning of the end,” he said. “I really hope and feel that this is the beginning of the next 10 years, and that the next 10 years will be a winding down of terrorism.”

Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or emayes@phillytrib.com.

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BVN National News Wire