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More Kidnappings and Bombings in Nigeria; NY Activists Respond

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


Just at press time, details were announced of an explosion in a shopping mall in Emmab Plaza in Wuse II, Abuja. At least 20 people were killed. This cycle of violence continues as citizens continue to rally and fight back in the wake of radical Islamist group Boko Haram’s vicious reign of terror.

With the kidnapped 270 Chibok girls still being held by the group two months after their abductions from their school, protestors are demanding that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan rescue them and bring them home. Fear that the terrorists will use the teenage girls as human shields has led to reports that the government is involved in conversations with the group to do an exchange with some of Boko Haram’s incarcerated leaders.

Meanwhile, the news is that last week, at least 91 people—more than 60 women and girls, and 31 boys—were abducted in Boko Haram raids on villages south of Maiduguri, Borno state. Reportedly, about 30 people were killed in this assault.

The protests and demands are a loud, daily occurrence in Nigeria, and here in New York, activists such as Ronke Olawalem, Ruth Evon Idahosa, Nkechie Ogbodo, the Rev. Cheryl Anthony, Micheal Adeniyi and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry have been keeping the flame alive with constant protests. There will be another one on Friday, June 27 at 12 p.m. in front of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, located on Second Avenue between 44th and 45th streets.

“While the news from Nigeria continues to be depressing, one Nigerian official said that the girls are probably scattered and married and it would be difficult to find them. We are still hopeful that at least, some of them can be rescued,” Daughtry told the Amsterdam News. “We will continue to march, demonstrate, have prayer vigils, write and speak out on their behalf. We are hopeful that once they have been rescued, there would be sufficient material support for them. We will continue to hold the noon prayer vigils on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Ralph Bunche Park across the street from the United Nations.”

Daughtry also continues to hold Interfaith Religious Leaders meetings at his House of the Lord Church (415 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn), on Saturdays at 4 p.m. He said, “I will be participating in the rally this Friday at noon in front of the Nigerian Mission. I hope that the governments and leaders of the world will not give up, but will intensify their efforts to rescue these children.”

New York activist Ruth Evon Idahosa added, “For months, I have heard commentators contend that Nigeria has two options in connection with the 276: either launch a military operation or negotiate with Boko Haram. The harsh reality that we have watched unfold over the last two months is that the Nigerian government has carved out its own third, disheartening option which reflects the morbid disconnection of its soul from humanity, i.e., we will play the role of ‘onlooker’ and let the chips fall where they may. However, to quote the words of Karl Marx, ‘Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor.’ I beg to differ—as the Nigerian government has proven, as abductions become our weekly reality—that it can simultaneously be both.”

Olawalem stressed the panic felt by many over the girls, stating that of the other 300 girls kidnapped, “about 57 escaped, but some 272 are still being held against their wish, and nobody knows their state of health and/or whether they are living/dead or when they would be rescued. Their parents, friends and schoolmates are traumatized. We can’t continue to be quiet about this unfortunate state of affairs here in the U.S., so we have decided to join forces together with our friends from other parts of the world to stand in solidarity with the girls and their families, and continue to challenge the Nigerian government to rescue these girls.”

Olawalem urged attendees to the rallies, including the one on Friday, to “consider wearing red and bringing a sign to help amplify our voices.”

Idahosa has gone even a step further, stating “If you are in Nigeria, please join me; my mother, Archbishop Margaret Benson-Idahosa; and other spiritual mothers of Nigeria on Saturday, June 28 at 10 a.m. at Lagos’ Tafawa Balewa Square, when thousands will gather for a national day of prayer for the #276 abducted #Chibok Girls and their families (#ReturnRestoreRebuild #careforourgirls #Nigeria=I’Mpossible).”

Wal-Mart Holds Supplier Diversity Forum in D.C.

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Local Manufacturers and Service Providers Come Together to Learn about Working with Retail Giant

Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Wal-Mart hosted Thursday a forum in D.C. for local manufacturers and service providers to learn how to become suppliers for the retail chain.

The event, held at the Washington, DC Economic Partnership offices in Northwest, was attended by more than 30 businesses owned by women, Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans, veterans, disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Managers from Wal-Mart’s Supplier Diversity and Construction teams joined Nina Albert, Wal-Mart’s director of community affairs, and guest panelists to speak on behalf of the program. Several panelists, including Martin Mayorga (Mayorga Coffee), Marcus Johnson (Flo Brands) and Walter Nash Jr. (Lefty’s Spices), were on hand to share their experiences about qualifying for and being suppliers to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

“The Lefty’s Spices brand has continued to grow since my products became available at Walmart,” said Nash, CEO and co-owner of the Waldorf, Maryland-based company. “Today’s forum is a valuable resource for other local manufacturers and service providers to better understand Walmart’s requirements for and process to become a supplier.”

The program is designed to improve and increase the participation of minority-owned businesses within the supply chain, offer a broader assortment of products that customers want at prices they can afford, while providing growth and development opportunities.

In 2013, Wal-Mart procured over $12 billion worth of goods and services from over 3,000 diverse suppliers in the U.S.

“Wal-Mart’s Supplier Diversity Program was created to build capacity and achieve long-term success for businesses owned by diverse suppliers,” Albert said. “By embedding the Supplier Diversity Program into Walmart’s overall strategic business objectives, we ensure an inclusive set of products that meets our customers’ needs.”

Dallas County Accidentally Backs Reparations

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

It was a mistake … but it was well executed.

During a meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court last Tuesday, officials voted on an item called the “Juneteenth Resolution,” in reference to the annual commemoration of the day U.S. soldiers arrived in Texas to free slaves after the end of the Civil War (June 19, 1865). The only Black commissioner, John Wiley Price, submitted the resolution. The resolution eventually came up for a voice vote and was passed unanimously.

But Price’s resolution talked addressed more than Juneteenth. Price’s resolution addressed everything from the injustices of slavery to Jim Crow laws to predatory lending practices that Blacks have been subjected to.

The final paragraph of the provision, which most of the commissioners overlooked, revealed one more thing.

“Therefore, be it resolved in the Dallas County Commissioners Court that Juneteenth and its historical mimicking of freedom is just that, and that the United States of America is derelict in its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to the African-American people,” it read. “Be it further resolved that the dereliction that has caused 400 years of significant [inaudible] to millions and significant suffering to the descendants of those who have been enslaved Africans who built this country, should be satisfied with monetary and substantial reparations to same.’”

Dallas County had unwittingly advocated for reparations for Blacks.

Price also read the entire resolution out loud, but commissioners seemed to not hear him. Later on, they complained about not being given copies of the resolution before they voted on it. They also complained of the resolution not being up on the Commissioners Court’s website and that it wasn’t part of their meeting packet.

Price told a local news station that he was inspired by the recent cover story in The Atlantic, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, that presented a case for reparations for African-Americans. Price told the Dallas Morning News that other groups, such as Native Americans and Japanese-Americans, have been compensated for past wrongs.

“We are the only ones that haven’t been compensated,” Price said.

The only Republican on the court, Commissioner Mike Cantrell, later changed his vote to an abstention and also told the Dallas Morning News, “The reason why I didn’t abstain this morning is that I had not received a copy of the resolution.”

Others, like County Judge Clay Jenkins, kept their vote as a show of solidarity with others over the celebration of Juneteenth. He did advise everyone to read the resolutions next time.

Suspended U.S. Democracy Project Back on Track

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

A U.S. government-funded leadership and democracy project that was suspended several weeks ago has restarted following assurances to the contrary, outgoing American Ambassador Brent Hardt said.

Following almost daily complaints from the Guyanese government about the U.S. meddling in local affairs, the U.S. suspended the $1.2 million project after agreeing to talks with the government, which had said that it was uncomfortable with the project because it had little or no input in its drafting and wanted assurances that it was not aimed at manipulating the local political scene.

In remarks made by Hardt this week, he said that the project has restarted since last week, and its Canadian Director Glenn Bradbury is to be handed back his work permit after it was revoked by authorities in the heat of the row.

Both sides have agreed to an oversight mechanism, but no details about this were given. Bradbury had never left the country during the suspension period that began in early May.

“They are back on track. They have been back on track since last week, and IRI [International Republican Institute] is back at work, and so we are moving forward. There was always a belief in a highly partisan environment, that somehow we were seeking some political outcome here, and I’ve repeatedly made clear we have no interest in what party is ruling Guyana. That’s entirely a matter for the voters of the country to decide,” he said.

Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira had openly said that the U.S. was channeling money to the opposition in a bid to remove the Hindu-led government from office, hence the Cabinet’s simmering discomfort with the project, leading to its suspension and several round of talks.

The governing People’s Progressive Party has traditionally been suspicious of U.S. activities in the country, blaming the CIA and other agencies for ousting it from government in the 1960s and for fermenting racial strife between Blacks and East Indians that led to more than 150 deaths during riots, as well as acts of arson and destruction of properties. U.S. declassified documents have confirmed this.

Some of the money from the project has been used to train civil society and non-governmental organizations in leadership and good governance.

The suspension came amid relentless pressure from the U.S. and other Western nations for authorities to organize and hold local government elections that were last contested in 1994. The government has given a plethora of excuses for not doing so, including a suggestion that the population is not ready or interested in these elections. Opposition parties and civil society groups say the government fears losing in the major urban centers and a possible carryover into general elections that must be held by late 2011.

Mobilizing Key Groups Can Change Politics of the Deep South

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As voters’ rights advocates and civil rights leaders commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 “Freedom Summer” in Mississippi, new study by the Center for American Progress finds that shifting demographics in the South can help to accelerate meaningful social and political change.

The report titled, “True South: Unleashing Democracy in the Black Belt 50 Years After Freedom Summer,” defined the Black Belt, a region known for its rich soil and history of plantation slavery, as regions in the following Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

According to the report, between 2000 and 2010, “the non-Hispanic white population in the South grew at a rate of 4 percent, while the so-called ‘minority’ population in the region experienced a 34 percent growth, the greatest out of any region in the country.”

Nearly 60 percent of Blacks live below the Mason-Dixon line and Blacks account for about 20 percent of the total population in the South. The report also noted that 40 percent of the Blacks that relocated “to the South since 2000 were between the ages of 21 and 40 years old” and researchers said this group will likely settle and start families increasing the number of Blacks living in the region.

The report continued: “These trends could have a major effect on the region’s politics because voters of color tend to be more progressive and vote overwhelmingly for progressive candidates.”

Changing demographics, frustration with right-wing extremists and the growing number of young voters will play a role in the growing progressive electorate pushing back on “a long history of polarization” in the Black Belt.

Republican state lawmakers in the Black Belt, who may feel threatened by the growing diversity among potential voters, have enacted a number of laws that have a disproportionate impact of the quality of life of the poor, Blacks and other minorities.

According to the report, “nine states have passed laws requiring voters to bring photo identification to the polling booth in order to cast a traditional ballot” and governors in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, “effectively denying health care to millions of their citizens, overwhelmingly the poor and people of color.”

The report continued: “Eleven states have passed ‘right-to-work’ laws, which discourage organizing by unions. They are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.”

During a panel discussion about the CAP report, Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP State Conference and the national co-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary, said that there’s “a deficit of morality in the South, because people are not seen as people they are seen as exploitable cheap labor.”

Johnson added that access to the polls free of voter suppression, access to quality education, access to health care and workers’ rights are the primary issues that civil rights activists must focus on and organize around so that the South can progress.

The report said that today’s civil rights leaders and stakeholders should learn three key lessons from the Freedom Summer of 1964: voter registration can overcome voter suppression, coalition-building is the key to transformative political power, and that a successful movement is a marathon, not a sprint.

Stacey Abrams, House minority leader in the Georgia State Assembly, said people that have never voted hear about voter intimidation and voter suppression, but they don’t know what that means.

“You don’t know if you’re going to stand in line and cause trouble, you don’t know if you’re going to lose your job, you don’t know what that card is that you keep hearing about and you know that you don’t have whatever ID they think you should have,” said Abrams.

More than 800,000 Black, Latino and Asian Americans are not registered to vote in Georgia, said Abrams. It takes less than half of that, just 260,000, to change a statewide election.

“If you change Georgia, you begin to change the South and if you change the South you change the nation,” explained Abrams. “All of those social policies that we like to talk about can be lived in the Deep South and if they are lived and realized they can be exported to the rest of the country.”

Abrams said that voters’ rights advocates and community stakeholders have to start talking about voter identification in a more positive way.

Ben Jealous, senior fellow for Center for American Progress, former president of the NAACP, and author of the report said, “Right now, when we talk about the South, we end up talking about voter suppression. What we really need to be talking about is the need for massive voter registration.”

The report said that “registering just 30 percent of eligible unregistered black voters or other voters of color could shift the political calculus in a number of Black Belt states” and “Registering 60 percent or 90 percent would change the political calculus in an even greater number of states.”

The CAP report cited Maryland, where a number of progressive policy changes are taking hold, as an example of a state where a slavery was once commonplace and now a diverse electorate has had a significant political impact.

“It is easy to forget that Maryland enslaved half its population at the time of the Civil War and that it is the state from which Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass escaped,” said the report. “Yet Maryland sits below the Mason-Dixon Line, and it practiced legalized segregation up until 1954.”

In just a few years, “The Free State” has experienced a number of key legislative reforms including a ban on the death penalty, the legalization of same-sex marriage, decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, and the extension of early voting and same-day registration.

The report continued: “Maryland shows what can happen when people come together across old lines of separation and division to promote progressive values and policies. Maryland is not seceding from the South, instead it is demonstrating what the South’s future can and should be.”

Still, the report suggested that changing politics in the Black Belt won’t an easy battle for pollsters and others seeking to energize potential voters in the South and across the country.

The report estimated that nearly 21 million members of the so-called “Rising American Electorate,” consisting of “people of color, unmarried women, and youth voters ages 18 to 29 years old,” that voted in 2012, might not vote in the 2014 elections.

Organizers and voters’ rights advocates still have a long march ahead.

“What the ‘Freedom Summer’ taught us is that the antidote for massive voter suppression is massive voter registration,” said Jealous. “There is a dormant majority throughout the South that can be unleashed if we can get back to the spirit of the ‘Freedom Summer’ and focus on massive voter registration.”

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