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Is Redistricting in California a Step Backwards for Blacks?

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When the law was passed mandating that redistricting was to be done by the voters instead of the legislators, it seemed like a great thing, but now ...

By Yussuf J. Simmonds, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

Not long ago, in an attempt to educate the community about redistricting, there was a column in this the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper describing the process in simple terms. In addition since the redistricting process has been underway, several community groups have been formed to act as watchdogs over the process: to monitor the town hall styled meetings; to keep the community informed; to write letters to the commission; and to engage the commissioners. One such organization is the African American Redistricting Collaborative (AARC).

The commissioners' mandate was to have released a preliminary draft of the maps by June 10, which they did and to have the final maps delivered to the California secretary of state by August 15. Apparently the preliminary maps, if allowed to become final, would irreparably devastate the African American community politically. According to a nine-page letter sent to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) by AARC, "Our main source of concern is the guidance supplied by your counsel, which has apparently led to some very disturbing map visualizations at the June 30th and July 2nd meetings. From what we gather, these visualizations ignore the hard work by AARC, CAPAFR and MALDEF to harmonize their interests into mutually agreeable configurations..."

It is also important to note that the commission may have already received the results of a study on Racially Polarized Voting in Los Angeles County, which seemed to coincide with the 'disturbing map visualizations' as referenced by AARC in its letter relative to the African American community.

(Another disturbing trend is while the process to redraw California's State and Congressional lines has received national attention, the County of Los Angeles' redistricting effort has proceeded without much fanfare (tantamount to magic: keep the focus on one thing while the real trick is being performed elsewhere). It has been reported that during the past year and a half, 19 plans have been submitted by the public to alter representation for the County's 10 million residents and some have recommended adjustments to the Second Supervisorial District [represented by Mark Ridley-Thomas], which has the highest concentration of African Americans. This has been done outside the purview of African Americans and without a spotlight as with the CCRC's mandate).

Historically, African Americans have fought, bled and died in the fight for civil rights FOR ALL AMERICANS. Every group, ethnicity, race and religion have benefited from the burdens that African Americans have borne so that this nation can live up to its creed that "all men (women and children) are created equal." So it appears paradoxical that the rights that African Americans have fought for are now being eroded and shifted to others.

Specifically, two out of the three African American congresswomen in South Los Angeles are being threatened to lose their districts, if the present maps become permanent. However, a careful analysis of the proposed district boundaries, suggest that it has to be a win-lose outcome. But that is not the case. An alternate boundary map does show just the opposite: a win-win situation for all concerned.

A new map shows that African Americans can maintain their political base and Latinos can have their just due also. It has been proposed, and it is incumbent upon the commission and other communities of interest to fairly and objectively review the proposed map that will result in a solution mutually acceptable for all concerned.

There is still time to correct the above stated imperfections in the mapping process. Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president of Community Coalition, who has been active in the South Los Angeles community for more than 20 years, recently spoke on redistricting and its economic and political impact on South Los Angeles as part of the Brotherhood Crusade's workshop series, of which Charisse Bremond-Weaver said, "Our latest workshop series, The Economic Impact of Institutional and Structural Racism, is a prime example of how we help the entire community establish positive habits and attitudes about money that ultimately lead to an understanding of its power."

The time is at hand and as AARC's letter also stated, "...We can no longer remain silent in the face of so many instances of mis-statements about important elements of voting rights law. Time is too short and the stakes are far too high for our community..."

Congressman Lewis Speaks Out Against Libya War Funding

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

ATLANTA (FinalCall.com) - “There is nothing more powerful than protest, there is nothing more powerful than getting out there, making noise and making protest heard,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in response to the expressed appreciation of protestors who gathered recently in front of the his 5th congressional headquarters.

The news conference turned demonstration was organized by the World African Diaspora Union and included former congresswoman and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. Rep. Lewis acknowledged the demonstrators and insisted that protestors come inside his office for a frank discussion of the issues and their demands.

“I appreciate your coming by. People must speak up. We have an obligation as people to speak up and speak out. We have an obligation to get in the way. I detest war. I hate war. I think war is evil. It's bloody, it's messy and it destroys the hopes, the dreams and aspirations of people,” said the congressman. War is obsolete and not the way to solve the problems human-kind faces, said Rep. Lewis.

“We should talk. We should learn the lessons of history and I think some of us (in Congress) have been trying to make that clear. Not just members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but other members. The American people are tired, sick and weary of war. And we are losing all of these people. It's not just our young men and our young women, but it's the people they (U.S., NATO) are killing. You will not ever get in an argument with me on the issue of war and peace. I am there. And I will continue to do what I can with the administration, and with my colleagues,” the congressman pledged.

Joined by members WADU, the Green Party, the Dignity Delegation (a fact-finding coalition that joined Ms. McKinney in Libya this past June), the New Black Panther Party, the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party, community activists, and a host of Mr. Lewis's constituents.

Abdul Akbar Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, was asked to represent the contingent in the June 29 discussion with Rep. Lewis. The demand was simple: Encourage CBC members to take a united stand against the United States support of NATO in its war on Libya and the much publicized assassination attempts of its President Muammar Gadhafi.

“I did not know this until Cynthia told me,” Muhammad said to the congressman, “but the Black congressional members represent the soul of Congress. Number one, because of our spiritual depth and what we have come through historically, our members represent the moral conscious of the Congress. Only six of the CBC members voted against additional funding of the war on Libya and we think that is immoral and that they should have made a stand.”

“The president understands my opposition to war. I have said it more than once in his presence. I have said it on the floor that I am not voting for another dime, another penny for the Defense Department. I don't vote for appropriation bills anymore. I just vote no. I voted against the rule to even bring the vote up,” said Rep. Lewis.

“It's billions of dollars that we can use to create jobs, fix our infrastructure, feed people, clothe people, educate all of our children and show them how to protect their environment. We could save Medicare and Medicaid. They want to cut WIC, all of these human needs programs but they don't want to cut the Pentagon,” he said. Lewis thanked the group once again and pledged to continue efforts on Capitol Hill to influence fellow CBC members to be a stronger conscience for government.

Rev. Menelik P. Harris of WADU thanked Lewis for the impromptu meeting and asked him to insist on a CBC initiative to encourage African nations to move forward with the development of an African Union government. “The African Union rejected the French-led NATO attack and U.S. support of the war on Libya as a bogus war on Africa. We have a responsibility to Africa,” he said.

Obama Pulls in $86M for Campaign in Second Quarter

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Amid a fractured economy and fickled job market, President Obama outpaced fundraising projections to raise $86 million for his re-election campaign and the Democratic Party during the last three months.

Between April 1 and June 30, Obama garnered more than $47 million for his Obama for America campaign and an additional $38 million for the Democratic National Committee, which will assist with advertising efforts and voter engagement.

His campaign team had expected to raise just $60 million.

“This should end any Washington chatter about whether our grassroots base will be engaged,” Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina said, according to USA Today. “Our people are back and energized, and there’s a new generation of supporters who have joined our organization.”

More than 550,000 supporters donated to Obama’s campaign during the second quarter, a hefty increase from the 180,000 who contributed during the same time period in 2007. The president brought in a total of $750 million over the course of his 2008 presidential campaign.

The figures, released July 13, show the president is still a strong opponent for Republicans who plan to challenge him in 2012. Collectively, Republican candidates raised $35 million.

But political analysts say the sluggish economy remains embedded in the minds of most Americans.

“He can claim…having been president during the end of the Great Recession, but the challenge to the Obama campaign is how to convince voters that he's responsible for making things better,” Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, told USA Today. “It’s a hard argument to say, ‘I kept it from being a lot worse.’”

Of his Republican challengers, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney generated the most donations, with $18 million. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Utah Gov. John Huntsman followed with $4.2 million and $4.1 million, respectively. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has not yet reported her fundraising totals for the quarter.

Secret U.S. Prison Camp in Somalia Revealed in New Report

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

In what appears to be the opening of a new U.S. war on an African front, a secret walled compound with an underground prison has become the center of interrogation of suspected terrorists in Somalia. The U.S.-run operation is on the coast of the Indian Ocean, according to a detailed expose in the current Nation magazine.

According to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, the site has its own airport and is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access.

Staffed by Central Intelligence Agency operatives, this latest initiative targets the al-Shabab insurgency, an Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda and aims to build "an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted 'combat' operations" against the Shabab, Scahill says.

Reports of CIA operatives interrogating terrorism suspects in Somalia was recently confirmed by a senior U.S. official on CNN.

Currently, Somali government forces, fortified by U.S. funds and weapons, control about 30 square miles of territory in Mogadishu while much of the rest of the city is under the control of the Shabab or warlords.

At least three U.S. citizens of Somali descent were among the suicide bombers the Shabab has deployed; at least seven other Americans have died fighting alongside the Shabab.

In a related development, Somali citizen Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was transferred this month for trial after being held incommunicado on a U.S. Navy vessel for more than two months. Warsame’s case has ignited a legal debate over the Obama administration’s policies on capturing and detaining terror suspects.

South Sudan to Give Women Long-Denied Rights

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese danced and cheered as their new country formally declared its independence on July 9. Much remains to be done, however, to undo the legacy of oppression of women.

"The statistics of domestic violence cases are increasing,” said minister of gender, children and social welfare, Agnes Kwaje Lasuba. “This is unacceptable and must be stopped." She commented on a recent report of a girl beaten to death by a relative over a disputed marital gift.

“We have a lot of gender-based violence in the rural areas where men still beat their women to instill discipline", said Lasuba. “The government condemns such practice and looks forward to ensuring that those who commit such crimes are tried in court without delay."

Ms. Lasuba was in Juba, leading a 10 day capacity building workshop on traditional beliefs.

The new national Constitution provides for equal pay, benefits such as maternity leave, equal participation in public life, equal property and inheritance rights and the development of laws to combat traditional practices that are harmful to women.

Meanwhile, Northern Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said the north will launch austerity measures to compensate for the loss of oil revenues after the south's secession.

North Sudan lost 75 percent of its 500,000 barrel-a-day oil production after the south became independent last week. Oil is vital to both economies.

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BVN National News Wire