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Evaluating Efforts of the Upper and Middle Classes to Uplift Black America

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By Xavier Higgs, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
Martin Luther King

Many would agree the Black middle and upper classes have contributed greatly to the success of the American society during the last century, but questions still linger as to whether or not they are doing enough for the rest of Black America.

And, there is the issue of whether giving money is enough, or should the more affluent stay in the larger community to offer living examples of success.

There is little dispute that in the United States, living in a poor neighborhood frequently means living in an environment that is unhealthy and violent, and may offer relatively poor learning and economic opportunities. Thus the exodus of middle-class families from poor Black neighborhoods increases the adverse effects of concentrated poverty.

However, some in the middle class feel they are doing enough to contribute resources to the poor. At the same time, some Black families of a certain means do face a dilemma and ask themselves are they doing enough to help Blacks of lesser means, especially those who live in disadvantaged communities.

“You cannot lump all Black middle and upper class (people together) as not doing enough, because there are those who are doing more than they should be doing,” says psychologist Thomas A. Parham, Ph.D., University of California Irvine. “Rather than be offended I would invite them to take it as an invitation to explore, examine, and interrogate their own lives and find out if they have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of someone else,” added the interim vice chancellor of student affairs.

Black separatism, comes with palpable costs as waves of Blacks flee to the suburbs, a desire stimulated by aspirations to escape the social distress of their former neighborhoods.

Studies have shown that troubling inequalities in Black neighborhoods may be contributing to the persistence of racial differences in economic mobility.

The Black middle class carries much of the load regarding financially and psychologically supporting those Blacks concentrated in poverty. Conversely, there is no shortage of consensus to explain why they are apparently not doing enough to resolve socioeconomic problems within the race.

“We have gotten comfortable,” says Bobby McDonald, president Black Chamber of Commerce. of Orange County. “From my point of view, there are those who believe that Black people have enough, and we don’t owe you anything. As African Americans, our biggest gains have been our biggest downfall. We don’t stand out or step up anymore. We are not at the city council or board of education meetings or in the community, because we are too busy working.”

Jamaica-born Dorothy McLeod has lived in the United States for more than 30 years, and insists that the average Black middle-class person is so preoccupied with not being poor that they do not want to take the time to think about helping the poor. “They prefer to block it out, because it’s too painful.”

The good news is that Black investments in neighborhoods can reduce the concentration of poverty and have powerful effects on the economic trajectories of children living within disadvantaged communities.

According to a 2010 study released by Brandeis University, the typical White family is now five times richer than its African American counterpart of the same class, and Black wealth was largely stagnant from 1984 to 2007.

However, in spite of income disparities, African Americans have a long and storied history of giving. They formed mutual-aid societies in the early 19th century to finance educational, business, social, and medical institutions.

“Black communities are known for giving more per capita than other communities (that) might have more wealth,” says Cedric Brown, board chair of Bay Area Blacks in Philanthropy. “Trying to organize ourselves and pool our dollars is a more recent phenomenon that is increasing.”

Jacquelyn L. Lendsey, director of the Black Philanthropic Alliance, in Washington, D.C., agrees but adds, “The African American community is no different than any other community, when it comes to giving. The contributions (first) go to faith-based organizations such as churches. Second would be organizations that are closest to our values. We have not seen a drop in giving, but folks are strategically targeting their money.”

According to Chandra Y. Anderson—interim director of the 21 Century Foundation, which is designed to lead, innovate, and influence giving for Black community change—Blacks do give and have historically been the most generous among donors. The areas they tend to support are education, religion, health, and human services. And coincidentally, added Anderson, institutions in these arenas tend to be the most organized when it comes to reaching out to potential funders and providing them with concrete and sustained mechanisms through which to give.

An April 2010 article in the journal The Chronicle of Philanthropy also noted that nearly three-quarters of the family foundations started by African Americans focus on helping youth.

Most of these foundations are small with assets ranging from $425,000 to $40 million, with the mean at just under $1 million. Most of them were established during the 1990s and more are located in California than any other state.

Nearly three-quarters of the foundations studied were started by either an athlete or his or her family members; eight percent were created by musicians, seven percent by actors, three percent by medical doctors, and two percent by business owners. The remaining seven percent were founded by people from a range of backgrounds, including, those who inherited money.

Lendsey and Brown agree that among middle-class and affluent Blacks there is a growing awareness of these ways of giving and the need to support Black community institutions. The Black church has always been a leader in the social and economic advancement of Black America. Critics blame the church for some of the problems because it seems to have lost its mission, and instead of taking communities higher have simply taken them for granted.

“When the church is doing a great job, Sunday is a celebration of the things that have taken place there throughout the week,” says Rev. Allen Williams, senior pastor of First A.M.E. Church Pasadena. “In general the struggle is, is middle-class Black America in church in order to meet the needs?”

Rev. Williams, like other Black ministers, acknowledges that the Black church has done a poor job because it has not been willing to abandon a building or sanctuary that no longer meet the needs of the African American community, because the area surrounding the church is no longer populated by Blacks.

Disparities within the Black community and how to resolve them is a socioeconomic dilemma that has plagued Black social and behavioral experts since the abolition of slavery in this country.

Black leadership near the turn of the century was divided between two tactics for racial equality—the economic and the political strategy. The most heated controversy at that time raged between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois. Washington was the major spokesman for the gradualist economic strategy while DuBois was the primary advocate of the gradualist political strategy.

Washington urged Blacks, who were mostly impoverished farm laborers, to abandon their efforts for civil rights and instead cultivate a trade for real life job skills to achieve economic security. DuBois, however, declared the exact opposite approach. His strategy was political and focused on Blacks being book smart. He proposed developing the “Talented Tenth” so they could guide the masses.

How Blacks view themselves

Polls show that African Americans indeed look at themselves differently.

A January 2010 Pew survey surprisingly discovered enormous optimism among those surveyed. The percentage of Black Americans who thought Blacks were better off than they were five years before had almost doubled since 2007. There were also significant increases in the percentages who believed the standard-of-living gap between Whites and Blacks was decreasing.

But, even as African Americans have made gains in wealth and income, the question that remains is what is the determining factor in how much the middle class and affluent should sacrifice to help Black folk of lesser means.

Terrence Roberts, retired psychologist and civil rights icon, believes that within the group of folk who are able to help, you’ll find a continuum.

“There are folk who help all the time,” he said. “At the other end, there are those who never help and then there are those in between. There is no one perspective.”

He adds that because of the Civil Rights Movement and the opening up of multiple doors, Black people who were prepared “educationally and mentally are operating in the wider world successfully.”

Roberts concludes that other Black folk who were not prepared to take advantage of the opened doors became even more vulnerable to the system. The people who were prepared acquired a “broader vision,” therefore they could see that the system would welcome them with open arms. They developed an “arsenal of responses” so that they could continue to navigate that terrain. Could Black America be stopped in mid-stride, frozen in place, linked by race but divided by lifestyle, culture, and class?

“There needs to be a paradigm change within the Black community that includes some sustainable efforts to educate our young people and provide more mentors,” says David Ford, president of the Southern California Chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy.

Although the Black middle class continued to grow slowly, many others say Black people, in general, are not keeping up with the rest of the country, and fewer are attaining economic security.

“From my Jamaican perspective,” says McLeod, “I believe that Black people in America have not been really introduced to the Black Diaspora, and it prevents us from coming together because we need to help each other.”

There is a growing awareness of ways of giving back and the need to support Black community institutions.

Brown echoes, “I would like to see everyone make a commitment to serving and supporting a Black community organization that’s not necessarily their church home.”

The double-edged sword nature of their lifestyles have become increasingly familiar among prosperous Blacks over the years as the social price of economic progress. But, a bigger concern remains now and in the future, the fact that according to Pew studies the opportunity to enter that conflicted, but rewarding, middle and affluent class will be available to fewer Black households.

Subsequently, more people are asking is there any obligation to “give-back” to help pull up the rest of Black America?

“I don’t think it is a responsibility unless it is a chosen responsibility,” says Roberts. “I lean in the direction of a helper, but I don’t impose that on anyone else.”

There seems to be no denying there is a moral obligation to help “the least of those among us.” That includes the young, old, widows, the hungry, and the vulnerable.

Some higher-income Black people contrarily disagree that there’s an obligation to allow themselves to be consumed in an effort to rescue people who don’t want to be rescued. But, should having values, expectations, and standards be something we should be ashamed of? And, here is another truism to digest: if you don’t want to love and help your lower-income Black brethren, why would you expect White people to do it?

According Parham, “you have to fulfill a legacy rather than portray one. Helping people develop a sense of entitlement in attitude to help them understand they can make it in this world. Train young kids to develop a sense of mastery, but also develop some discipline around their work.”

As the need to assist the socioeconomically deprived rises, contemporary philanthropic organizations and individuals are beginning to join forces to try to reach a consensus on how to combat the layers of inequities within the Black community, including the issues of race and gender, disparities, and their relationship to achieving the American dream. Sadly these issues are no less relevant today than they have been at any time during the past 40 years.

Early HIV Drug Therapy 'Significantly Reduces' Transmission to Partners

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By Rod McCullom, Special to the NNPA–

Recently the AIDS world received the stunningly encouraging results of the HPTN 052, a randomized, phase 3 clinical trial, which confirmed what many public health experts have long believed: that early HIV treatment not only benefits the person infected but also reduces the likelihood that he or she will transmit the virus to sexual partners.

Termed "treatment as prevention," this approach adds to the rapidly expanding range of prevention and treatment options that, used in concert, many believe, could help break the back of the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic. While the HPTN 052 trial results have been widely reported in the mainstream media--from the New York Times to Wall Street Journal--here we examine their implications for Black America.

The HPTN 052 clinical trial's findings have dramatic implications for the HIV epidemic in the United States, whose epicenter now sits in Black America.

Blacks represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for 45 percent of new HIV infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. African Americans are eight times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than Whites and experience the highest rate of AIDS and AIDS deaths. They also suffer far more HIV-related health disparities than the population at large.

So might Black Americans benefit disproportionately from the more aggressive antiretroviral (ARV) therapy suggested by the HPTN 052?

"That is exactly what we have been talking about for some time," said Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of that National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a telebriefing with reporters. "There is a great disparity in the African American community. This is a good scientific reason why we should do this."

Proof That Treatment's Benefits Transcend the Individual

Compared with the rest of the world, American doctors often initiate antiretroviral treatment early--when an individual's CD4 count, a measure of immune system strength, falls below 500 per cubic millimeter. That's a higher threshold than the World Health Organization's international guidelines of 350.

Yet, large numbers of Black people are not diagnosed HIV positive until after they've been HIV positive for years. African Americans make up some 56 percent of all so-called late testers--people who are diagnosed with AIDS within one year of their HIV diagnosis. Not only do late testers have less chance to benefit from lifesaving ARVs, but they are "considered extremely infectious, because they typically have massive amounts of the virus" in their bodies, the Wall Street Journal notes. The sooner the person is treated after diagnosis, the less likely he or she is to infect others.

And, whether or not they are tested late, many PLWHA elect to delay treatment until their CD4 count drops below 350 or they experience symptoms of an AIDS-related disease.

The HTPN 052 trial's finding that early treatment reduced HIV transmission by 96 percent strongly suggests that treatment's benefits transcend the well-being of the infected individual. "This tells us that the decision [about when to start treatment] has less to do with what is good for [the HIV-positive person] and [more] with what is the extra benefit concerning transmissibility" to others, said Dr. Fauci.

Aggressive testing is key to neutralizing some of the HIV-related health disparities that Black people experience, Dr. Fauci added: "Get out there, find out who is infected with voluntary testing, and link them to care and therapy as soon as possible."

The HIV-Prevention Toolbox Explodes

The HPTN 052 results become the latest HIV-prevention technology to make headlines in recent months--from the landmark microbicide research announced at the 2010 International AIDS Conference to the recent data on the potential of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help protect gay and bisexual men. Several key advances toward discovering a preventive HIV vaccine have also occurred in recent weeks.

"The prevention toolbox has just exploded," says Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "This study definitively ends the debate of prevention versus treatment. Prevention and treatment are inextricably connected: Treatment is prevention."

"These data must serve as a clarion call to funders, policy makers, civil society and implementers," Mitchell Warren, executive director of New York City-based AVAC, formerly known as the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, said in a statement. "If deployed effectively, efficiently and ethically, early initiation of treatment will be fundamental to turning the tide of the epidemic."

ADAP, Disclosure and Stigma: Front and Center

Bambi W. Gaddist, DrPH, founder and executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council, which serves a largely African American and low-income client base, endorses the HPTN 052 findings--with a proviso. "I am elated that the NIAID study officially confirms what we already knew," says Dr. Gaddist. The findings will serve as the "premise for our position as HIV/AIDS activists when we interface with congressional and state leadership who fail to support ADAP," she adds.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is the federal-state partnership that helps low-income people living with HIV/AIDS pay for their expensive, lifesaving medications. Recently a number of states have slashed funding for ADAP, whose participants are disproportionately Black.

But, testing and treatment are only one part of the equation. "The discussion of disclosure will become a greater imperative in light of these supportive findings," says Dr. Gaddist, who worries that the HPTN 052 results could lead some to develop a false sense of security.

"These outcomes should accompany a national discussion of reducing HIV/AIDS stigma--so that the community will uphold the ideals of prevention," adds Dr. Gaddist. "If we move to this mind-set, these medicines will not be needed in the first place."

Wilson believes that the AIDS movement has reached "a deciding moment" in the pandemic's 30-year history. "We have the tools to end the AIDS epidemic," he says. "The question is whether we have the political will and compassion to make the investment necessary to use them."

Rod McCullom, a writer and television news producer, blogs on Black gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender news and pop culture at rod20.com.

Panic, Ignorance Mark U.S. Debt Ceiling Debate

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By Charles D. Ellison, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

WASHINGTON — It may not have showed up in a reality show and it certainly wasn’t the pick of the week on “American Idol,” but it was important enough to further rattle ravenous market speculators and red-eared lawmakers on Capitol Hill still playing chicken: On May 16, the national debt hit its ceiling — then kept on moving past $14.3 trillion.

At occasional briefings, press conferences and lectures, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner appeared as batty as a heartbroken mad scientist.

"I have written to Congress on previous occasions regarding the importance of timely action to increase the debt limit in order to protect the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid catastrophic economic consequences for citizens," said Geithner, last week. in yet another letter to Congress, looking as grim-faced and aged as Professor Lime in the hit sci-fi series “Fringe.” "I again urge Congress to act to increase the statutory debt limit as soon as possible."

But, as with most political and economic crises these days, life goes on. While the Treasury made dramatic moves on the day the debt peaked by temporarily divesting itself from two major government pension funds, the news didn’t seem to hit the American public that hard.

It wasn’t being bantered about on” The Michael Baisden Show” nor teased on TMZ. The Black blogosphere was, instead, lit up over Japanese evolutionary psychologist Satori Kanzawa’s ill-founded conclusions on Black females, while tabloids were circling over the outing of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child.

It all added to what observers lament is a severe lack of awareness surrounding the debt ceiling and what it is. While Washington wonks can pick, probe, and pontificate on every aspect of the national debt standing on their hands, after drowning in Tuesday happy hour alcohol, the average American simply sees it as yet another example of government spending beyond its means — and that’s if they even know there is a debt problem.

“Miseducation is a big problem,” admitted one Republican House, describing the electorate’s collective intelligence on the issue in not so flattering terms. “One reason Members [of Congress] are playing games with it is because it’s not a sexy topic. Most people are like ‘debt what?,’ literally looking up to see if a piano is going to fall on them. So, we can get away with playing chicken or going to the edge of the cliff because most people don’t know what this is about.”

This explains the sense of urgency Geithner and other Obama Administration officials are having in pushing the subject. The Treasury’s Web site is freshly updated with Geithner missives to Congress urging action — like now. The home page is making certain few miss the big-as-day primer titled “Get the Facts: Raising the Debt Ceiling.”

And, while everyone from the President to his Treasury Secretary on down to the White House cooks are warning of a “financial meltdown” that will make the recent recession look like toddler potty training should Congress decide to vote against raising the debt ceiling, signs suggest the American public either doesn’t care or is too mad to be bothered.

Recent polls show the reality of the above-quoted aide’s blithering assessment combined with disturbing political schizophrenia on the topic. Princeton, N.J.-based Gallup, titan of weekly polls, showed a majority of respondents actually wanting Congress to vote against the debt ceiling — despite the Book of Revelation-style outcome, as warned by Obama Administration officials, if such a vote were to occur.

Forty-seven percent of poll respondents didn’t want the debt ceiling raised, while 34 percent were “unsure” and 19 percent “favored it” (Perhaps this later group, a clear minority, were those who momentarily turned their heads away from “Celebrity Apprentice” and Donald Trump’s ugly public demise?)

A CNN poll was a bit more caustic: 60 percent were firmly against raising the deby ceiling compared to 37 percent who wanted it raised. Not surprisingly, seven out of 10 Republicans “rejected” the notion of raising it, while a small majority of Democrats reluctantly went along with the whole idea of kicking the can. Independents, however, are dead set against it across the board. That includes an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, similar to the Gallup results, which reflects 46 percent were against, 38 percent unsure, and 16 percent for it.

Yet, in an inexplicable roundabout that, perhaps, suggests lack of understanding, the CNN poll showed 58 percent agreeing with Geithner, and company, that financial Armageddon will ensue, if the ceiling wasn’t raised.

Meanwhile, budget expert Tad DeHaven, from the libertarian Cato Institute, sees an opportunity in all of this.

“I don’t put a lot of stock in public polling, especially when it comes to budgetary issues,” quips DeHaven. But, he sees a trend where most people paying attention to the issue are probably a bit more aware than Washington insiders would like to admit. “For most people polled, I’m guessing that their thought process goes something like this: Debt equals bad…ceiling on debt equals good…therefore, debt above ceiling equals bad.”

“The public’s intuition that raising the debt ceiling is ‘bad’ is spot on,” DeHaven added. “Therefore, it’s an opportunity to educate the public on why runaway debt is a problem and what can be done to solve it. Unfortunately, too many politicians want to continue promising voters a free lunch to be paid for by their neighbor. But, their neighbor doesn’t have enough money to pay for all the free lunches the politicians are promising.”

That dynamic created a bit of surrealism in American politics last week. Congress, for their part, seemed transfixed in a bizarre mix of both poker-face and chill mode. Most Members on both sides of the aisle seem uncomfortable talking about what their constituents do or don’t know about the debt ceiling debate — in fact, some Republican Members are even suggesting that the federal government begin selling off property and other assets to pay down its debt.

Philadelphia-area Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), attempting to best the best of political predictions on the issue, was still promoting his very own why-didn’t-I-think-of-that “transaction tax” concept — in which obscenely wealthy Wall Street and hedge fund transactions would be hit with a 1% tax that could wipe out the federal deficit in short time.

“I’m still pushing that,” said Fattah, when asked about the ongoing budget wars. “I believe that when we get to the revenue side of things, it will be heavily considered. If we have a better mousetrap, this is the one.”

Vice President Joe Biden, known for his keep-it-realism, was upbeat with thumbs-up outside Washington, D.C.’s historic Blair House, after working on the dreary details of a deal as de-facto mediator in conversations between Democrats and Republicans on the debt ceiling.

Described by some on Capitol Hill as “the only game in town,” Biden seemed happy to push it along, managing his own raucous Washington Insider “Gang of Six,” an interesting swirl of the Hill’s legislative elite: the Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MO.), Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HA), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Experts seemed relieved to find out that the Blair House gang, kicking it over the budget like an old school frat party, was —at least — making some progress with $200 billion in proposed cuts, tentatively agreed to as a condition of a vote on raising the debt ceiling.

Meanwhile, budget talks within another “Gang of Six” on Capitol Hill broke down like an old Cadillac on the side of the road after outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) pulled out over details of a deal that were still unclear. As Senators go back to the drawing board, Hill staffers are stuffing parachutes.

Malcolm X Grandson Decries Allegations of Homosexuality, Infidelity in New Biography

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By Nayaba Arinde, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Throwing a book at the book, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X, is unimpressed with Manning Marable’s hefty tome written about his world famous relative.

Marable’s book stirred up a virtual hornet’s nest when he noted that although there was no evidence, there was a rumor Malcolm X was involved in homosexual acts during the years he hustled on the streets before gaining knowledge of self. Marable went further and mentioned talk of infidelity by both Malcolm and his wife, Betty.

“The rapper M1 stated that we are all human beings, and as human beings, we do have flaws and contradictions, but we can’t apply homosexuality to my grandfather,” Shabazz told the New York Amsterdam News. “Homosexuality is against human nature. This is an assassination of his character. Slander. There is no evidence, no facts. They put these claims out there to sell books and to discredit him.”

On Thursday, May 19, the world observed what would have been the 86th birthday of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Malcolm X. The annual motorcade of cars and buses traveled from in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building to the Fern Cliff Cemetery to the gravesite shared by Malcolm X and Betty.

In town for “Malcolm X Week,” Malcolm Shabazz was scheduled to speak at City College at the Guillermo Morales-Assata Shakur Center.

“I haven’t read the entire book; I have read excerpts,” Shabazz said of Marable’s controversial biography, which was released last month, mere days before Marable’s passing.

“This book is about making money,” Shabazz charged, “but I had known the man personally since I was about 16 years old. The three main things that stick out in the book to me is how he emphasized the homosexual acts that [he implied] my grandfather was engaged in with a rich white man during his hustling days; how my grandparents had a loveless relationship and were unfaithful to each other; and how my grandfather may have embellished his criminal lifestyle.

“They can’t apply homosexuality to my grandfather at all. To try and do so does not humanize him, it dehumanizes him. You know, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and the CIA were monitoring my grandfather to put out dirt about him. If they couldn’t find anything, what makes anyone think Manning Marable has? Manning Marable is a better researcher and investigator than the FBI and the CIA? The FBI and the CIA put out tapes on Dr. Martin Luther King’s indiscretions and other leaders. They couldn’t find anything on my grandfather, so we don’t try to create something that wasn’t there.”

Shabazz’s No. 2 point: “My grandparents had a very unique relationship. It was a model for us as a people. They had six children together, so they were obviously intimate and they were mating. I have one daughter, and she is a blessing. Unfortunately, her mother and I don’t have the best relationship. I wish I would have more children with one woman, but to have six children to one woman—that shows the love right there.”

The young man further said, “As for my grandmother, after my grandfather passed, she didn’t get remarried a year or two years later or somewhere down the line. You could raise the question, but how could he even know that? My grandmother never got remarried. No one could ever fill that void, fill those shoes. No one out there can ever claim that they had a relationship with my grandmother other than my grandfather. No one can make the claim.”

And, his third point, Shabazz assserted, “To say that he embellished his criminal lifestyle…if anything, he downplayed his criminal lifestyle. If anybody is writing about themselves, they are not going to tell all the dirt they did.

“My grandfather spoke out against the social ills that led to situations that produced criminal lifestyles. One thing is though, people from all walks of life, from pimps to a drug addict, drug dealer, convicts, they all can all look at him and think, ‘He’s been in my shoes and look where he is now.’ What did he represent to our people? He is an inspiration. He’s a perfect example of the epitome of change.”

While the 27-year-old father of one said he has not spoken to anyone from Marable’s group, “This is the first time I’m speaking about it. There are way more important things to talk about than the Manning Marable book, which is about making money at the end of the day.”

He questioned why the author “hasn’t relied on any information from the Shabazz family, the Little family, personal family friends, supporters or associates—people who are alive today like Earl Grant, [who is] living in California. He was a member of the OAAU. He was right by my grandfather’s second in command. Or A. Peter Bailey, who was also in the OAAU with my grandfather. Where did this information come from? A third or fourth party?”

Citing the Bible and how it has been revised so many times, Shabazz said sometimes with powerful books, “The truth is there to attract you. And, there are falsehoods there to entrap you—and that’s not scholarly.”

“I’ve spoken to Manning Marable several times since I was 16,” Shabazz noted, adding that he never thought Marable would write such a book about his grandfather. In a world where there is sometimes a state of “education versus certification,” Shabazz said “it’s unfortunate” that there are certain “intellectual leaders” who are able to position themselves to be authorities on issues that they have little or no personal knowledge. “Sometimes we have these people who are raised with a silver spoon in their mouths their whole life, but take the position of being a spokesperson for the people or talk about shared experiences that they just haven’t been through,” said Shabazz.

He quoted the eulogy that actor Ossie Davis delivered at his grandfather’s funeral, in which he called Malcolm X “our Black shining prince, our Black shining manhood.” “They took that and put homosexual on top of that,” said Shabazz. “They want to promote homosexuality at the end of the day. When I was at school, people were not openly gay; today, people are saying they are gay in the first grade. It’s really acceptable today. They want to promote that today to our people with one of our greatest leaders. But, there is no proof. There’s no basis, no facts.”

Asked if this is the consensus with the Shabazz family, he replied, “My aunts and my mother are probably more emotional about it than I am. I just want to protect them. That’s their father. They watched him get murdered. They remember that. Everything their father represents is real personal.”

As he finishes his own book, a coming-of-age memoir packed with social political commentary, the man who was 12-years-old when he was charged with setting the fire that killed his grandmother in 1996, said his book will touch on many issues, including previously undisclosed facts.

Shabazz, the father of Ilyasah, his 4-year-old daughter, is about to return to John Jay College to study international criminal justice and government. During his visit to New York last week, he was also scheduled to visit political prisoner Sekou Odinga, who is currently being held at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility.

Accompanying Shabazz will be journalist J.R. Valrey. The Bay Area–based scribe, creative force and producer of “Operation Small Ax,” an Oscar Grant documentary, is coming to the city to promote his fascinating tome, “Block Reportin.” He has assembled a series of his interviews with a host of notable Black figures, ranging from Malcolm Shabazz to former U.S. Congresswoman and former presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, Mumia Abu Jamal, Ericka Huggins, and Freeway Ricky Ross.

Citing what happened with Denmark Vesey, Shabazz said that when the leader of a would-be revolt among enslaved Africans was killed by white enslavers, “nobody could mourn. Nobody could wear black, nobody could cry, nobody could know where he was buried, because they didn’t want that place to become a place of homage. So, it is important that we visit the gravesites of people, my grandfather,” he said regarding the May 19 annual pilgrimage to the cemetery, which is located half an hour outside of New York City.

“It’s important that we visit the gravesites and honor and keep [our leaders’] legacies alive. It honors their spirits, their sacrifices, and their contributions. It helps us to honor their memory, but always we keep God first.”

“Malcolm X fought for the freedom of African people worldwide,” said Viola Plummer, co-founder of the December 13th Movement. “He taught us to take our struggle to the international arena and strengthen Pan-African unity.”

Announcing an evening presentation, Plummer declared, “The current imperialist attack on Africans at home and abroad must be beaten back politically and economically. Hands off, Libya and Zimbabwe!...”

Surgeon General Benjamin Urges Med School Graduates to be Socially Conscious

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

When Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, Surgeon General of the U.S., addressed more than 400 Drexel University College of Medicine graduates, she encouraged them to make a difference.

Benjamin shared some of her personal experiences during the commencement ceremony held last week at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts.

While an intern fresh out of medical school, Benjamin was instrumental in getting a resolution passed in the Georgia delegation of the American Medical Association that encouraged medical schools across the country to include sexually transmitted diseases in their core curriculum.

“I learned that one person can make a difference, whether it’s in medical policy or in medical practice,” said Benjamin, who received an honorary doctorate of science during the ceremony.

Prior to becoming surgeon general, Benjamin practiced medicine at the Bayou La Batre Clinic in a small, poor Alabama fishing village, where her patients had problems that went beyond the prescription pad. With that in mind, she became more involved in the community organizations in an effort to obtain services for her patients.

She shared the story of “Donna,” a young mother of two small children, whose seizures returned because the pharmacy switched her brand-name prescription to a generic drug. Donna, who could not read, did not realize that the generic medication had caused her seizures to return.

“You’re going to have patients like Donna and others that will need you to be their voice. They will need you to advocate for them,” Benjamin told the graduates.

With that in mind, she encouraged the graduates to become active in their respective communities.

As surgeon general, Benjamin provides the public with information available on improving their health and oversees the operational command of 6,500 uniformed health officers. Her priorities include childhood obesity, breastfeeding support, smoking, HIV/AIDS, youth violence, behavior health, medicine adherence, and health disparities.

As she addressed the graduates, Benjamin underscored the trust that people hold in physicians.

“There is nothing like the look on a mother’s face when you tell her, her baby is going to be okay – whether her baby is three or 33. Our patients truly trust us. If a woman is being physically abused, she will tell you her deepest, darkest secrets before she tells her family, her priest, her minister or her rabbi – because she trusts you,” Benjamin said.

“A mother will put her baby in your hands – a perfect stranger – because she trusts you. Your hands are often the first hands an infant feels when it enters this earth and sometimes your hands will be the last hands that an elderly person feels when they exit this earth.”

As leaders, Benjamin reminded the graduates they never know who’s watching them. She recalled receiving an envelope of letters from second graders who were inspired to become doctors, after they read a news article about her.

Benjamin is the former chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. In 1995, she became the first physician under age 40 and the first African American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association board of trustees. In 2002, she was named president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama – the first African American female president of a state medical society.

During the ceremony, former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter was presented with an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters for his advocacy on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania and his contribution to the advancement of biomedical research and the improvement of the health of the nation. As ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services and Education, Specter was instrumental in doubling the budget for the National Institutes of Health and increasing funding for education.

Specter encouraged the graduates to become political advocates around healthcare issues.

“In order to be successful at delivering healthcare, you must be engaged not only on the bench in the laboratory or at the bedside with the patient, but you must also engage in the political process,” said Specter. “To be successful we have to maintain great programs - Medicare, Medicaid, embryonic stem cell research, NIH funding and that requires political activism.”

With a total of 443 students, the commencement marked the graduation of the largest class of medical students in Drexel’s history. According to Drexel officials, the university has the largest medical student enrollment of any private medical school in the U.S., educating one in every 71 new doctors in the nation.

Contact Tribune Staff Writer Ayana Jones at (215) 893-5747 or AJones@phillytrib.com.

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