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Rapper, Producer Diddy Settles Civil Suits with Victims in 1999 Nightclub Shooting

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

More than a decade after Sean “Diddy” Combs' legal woes surfaced after a shooting at a New York nightclub, the hip-hop mogul has settled all civil actions filed against him.

The New York Post recently reported that Diddy, his former artist Jamal "Shyne" Barrow and the now-defunct nightclub struck a deal with the three club-goers who were harmed in the bar fight in 1999, according to court records.

While many of the parties were required to stay silent on the settlement due to a confidentiality agreement, the nightclub's former owner Michael Bergos wasn't bound by the deal and revealed specific details.

Bergos explained to the Post that Natania Reuben, the most seriously injured shooting victim, received $1.8 million. Reuben, 40, was shot in the nose and suffered seizures following the incident due to several bullet fragments still stuck in her face. According to Reuters, she filed a $130 million lawsuit for compensation back in 2008.

The two other victims received $500,000 and $50,000. He added that he was unsure about who was paid what amount in the deal because his portion and Barrow's were taken care of by their insurance companies. Combs, on the other hand, was forced to cover his share of the settlement out of pocket because his insurance company has since closed.

Barrow fired the shots that evening after Combs' group got involved in an argument with another club attendee. While charges against Combs and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez were dropped, Barrow was convicted on two counts of assault, gun possession and reckless endangerment. The rapper then served nine years out of a 10-year sentence and was released in 2009. The rapper was then deported back to his native Belize following his release.

In 2004, Barrow, who had always claimed innocence in the shooting, told MTV News that he was acting in self-defense.

"I'm a regular guy, man”, Barrow told MTV News. "I'm not tougher than nobody. I'm no better than nobody. I know real killers. I know people that really snatch bodies. I'm not that. I just did what I had to do. Somebody pulled out a .40 caliber and I had to pull mine out or I was gonna die."

'X-Offenders' Fight Barriers to Employment

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By Rebecca Nuttall, Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier –

Last year, Gov. Ed Rendell’s office received nearly 600 clemency requests. Of those requests, the pardon board reviewed half and of those 358 requests reviewed, nearly 140 people received public hearings. Ultimately, in the year 2010, 119 pardons were recommended.

However, under the new administration, the pardon board will only hold three public hearings per year and at these hearings only 33 individuals will have the chance to plead their case before the pardon board. Regardless of the number of request for clemency, this means less than 100 people will have the chance to receive a pardon each year.

“We’re going to continue to do what we do and hopefully at some point we’ll do some organizing around it. There needs to be some direct action on the pardon board to go back to the old system,” said Wayne Jacobs, co-founder and executive director of X-offenders for Community Empowerment in Philadelphia. “This process, when the prior administration was in office, we had eight public hearings a year. Now that this administration is in, we have four a year and only 33 will be heard (at each hearing).”

Jacobs asks that ex-offenders be referred to as people who were formerly convicted.

Without a pardon, many formerly convicted people find themselves unable to find employment. In light of this reality, the group XCE is working to lessen the barriers to employment for people with criminal records.

“I’m a formerly convicted person. I have over 30 years going in and out of the jailhouse. Millions of us are getting convicted everyday, getting disenfranchised. I felt our community needed an activist organization to work for our interests,” Jacobs said. “We noticed there was a large segment of the population who were crime free for 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years that were being judged on their past history not their current history.”

XCE, which was founded in 2000, works to remove the legal barriers to employment, housing, education, public benefits, jury service, and driver’s license restoration, as well as to increase voter participation. At a “Pardon Me” workshop hosted at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh on earlier this month, Jacobs and local XCE Director Dean Williams met with formerly convicted participants to walk them through the process of requesting a pardon. When one receives a pardon, the question have you been convicted of a crime is taken off the employment application.

“They did some research on people who have been formerly convicted and on their likelihood to reoffend. If a person is home for four years or more, they are as likely to reoffend as anyone who has never been convicted of a crime,” Jacobs said. “They deserve a second chance because they earned it. When they talk about people who have been formerly convicted, they lump us all into one class.”

Since pardons are often hard to come by, XCE is tackling the issue of employment from another angle. Earlier this year in Philadelphia, as part of their “Ban the box” campaign, the group worked to pass legislation requiring the removal of the question on applications asking about a person’s criminal history.

“We have been successful at getting issues addressed for our people. ‘Ban the box’ gives them a second chance. It takes the box off the application,” Jacobs said. “The question would be asked, but towards the end of the process. Employers would know who they’re hiring.”

District 9 Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess proposed similar legislation in April, but it did not gain traction in city council. Jacobs said the locally proposed legislation was inadequate because it only pertained to city employees.

“That bill is dead. It only had the hiring of city employees and most of what the city does is contract out, so it would’ve never had an impact. We want to include vendors, grantees, and if the city has the power, private employees,” Jacobs said. “The bill that was introduced was not strong enough or adequate. It neglected to include a lot of other opportunities. By the bill not having those types of things included, it wouldn’t have had the same impact.”

Despite his work with the formerly convicted, Jacobs has never applied for a pardon from the governor for himself.

“I have not applied because I don’t have a need to. My background helps me rather than hurts me because I work with formerly convicted people,” Jacobs said. “I might do it one day just to do it, but I don’t need to.”

Civil War Re-enactor On An Education Mission

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Special to the NNPA from The Charlotte Post –

NEW BERN - Bernard George dons the blue wool uniform of a U.S. Colored Troops Civil War soldier to celebrate the role of African-Americans in claiming their freedom.

A member of the N.C. African American Heritage Commission and New Bern Historical Society, George travels the country on a mission of education by re-enacting the role Black warriors played in the conflict between the United States and Confederate States.

“We are always the most photographed group at re-enactments; it’s such a well-hidden story of U.S. Colored Troops and sailors during the Civil War,” he said.

Re-enactors can give a reality to history that the written word can’t, said Jeffrey Crow, deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and co-author of “A History of African Americans in North Carolina.”

“The immediacy of another living person representing an earlier time allows people to connect in a way that they can’t with books. That is even truer when the recorded history is limited or misunderstood.”

George re-enacts as a member of the N.C. Colored Volunteers, a group recruited in New Bern and part of the First African Brigade. When he’s not re-enacting, George is a New Bern city planner, historian, and community volunteer. As a member of the AAHC, he helps ensure that African-American history and culture are appreciated.

“My grandfather told me when I was a young boy that his grandfather was a soldier. His grandfather fought for the Union,” George said. “I was concerned that this was contradictory to what I had learned in history. But when I went off to college, I learned there was a cornucopia of experiences of African- Americans during the Civil War.”

Through oral history from his grandfather and father, George learned that his family was free and had come from the Tidewater Virginia area to New Bern about 300 years ago. Documents from the 1700s at the Craven County courthouse further substantiate this history, along with family records. He notes that free Blacks in N.C. were the thesis subject for eminent historian John Hope Franklin.

As a re-enactor, George finds many adults do not know the story of Blacks fighting for their freedom in the war and during Reconstruction. He said African-Americans are particularly drawn, because most Civil War re-enactors are usually white.

“It is important to talk with and re-educate people,” George said. “As more historical research and study is done, we are shifting the paradigm and a more complete truth of American history will be known.”

Denzel Washington Joins Steve Harvey in DFW

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By Jihad Hassan Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner –

At a glance, people may look at Steve Harvey and his accomplishments and possibly only see him as an entertainer. On television, he is the host of one of the longest airing game shows of all time, Family Feud and also The Steve Harvey Project. On the radio, his syndicated show, The Steve Harvey Morning Show, reaches millions of listeners daily. On the road, he recently started a comedy and gospel tour with local Grammy award winning gospel artist, Kirk Franklin. He is also a best-selling author and comedy icon.

What do his accomplishments mean to the average young man hanging on the streets, growing up without a father figure or a single mother to help her son become a man? Well, as statistics point out, close to 70 percent of African American children live in single parent homes.

His accomplishments have great meaning to hundreds of young men and their mothers whose lives he touches each summer. Harvey uses what he has learned and gained throughout his lifetime to give back to the community. Each summer, he takes time out of his schedule to mentor young men from across the country, which he brings to his private ranch located in the Dallas area.

For the past three years, Harvey has opened up his 120 acre ranch to more than 100 young men during the Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend, a four-day/three-night program that aims to teach the principles of manhood, how they can be better emotionally, economically and overall.

“Steve Harvey is doing a lot of great things by reaching out to those who are less fortunate, and any time you are doing something like that we have an obligation to reach and help out in any way you possibly can. So anytime they call me out here to speak on those issues – to be a part of this – I feel obligated, I can’t turn that down,” Stephen A. Smith, ESPN sports anchor, said. Smith was one of many famous and influential people who came to help mentor the youth.

Other mentors included: Academy award winning actor, Denzel Washington; Jermaine Dupri, hip-hop icon and multi-platinum producer; Terrance J of BET’s 106 and Park; Will Packer, movie producer, who has brought to the world such films as This Christmas, Stomp The Yard, Obsession and Takers; Myles Kovacs, founder of DUB Magazine and self-made millionaire and many more.

“I just flew in from L.A. where I’m in pre-production on my new movie I’m doing based on Steve Harvey’s book, called ‘Think Like a Man,’ he [Harvey] called me and told me about the program and I said there is no way I can’t be involved. I have to be involved,” Packer said.

Upon arrival, the young men had the opportunity to receive a free haircut and image consulting before sitting down to a Texas steak dinner with welcome from Harvey. During their stay, they participated in early morning boot camp style exercises, fishing, football, basketball, and paintball.

There were a number of workshops that cultivated the principles of manhood and self-determination, such as: You Can Be Me Panel Session; Looking Good and Feeling Healthy; Conversations with Jermaine Dupri; Life Opportunities (Discipline & Motivation); Teen Distracted Driving and a Music 101 and Do-It-Yourself.

Harvey chose Black leaders from across the country, such as, Dr. Steve Perry, CNN contributor and principal/founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School; D’Wayne Edwards, of PENSOLE School of Footwear Design; Dr. Albert Cheek, Alex O. Ellis, of Tied to Greatness; Kevin Folkes of SoftSheen-Carson; motivational coach Jonathan Sprinkles; CSM Hershel Turner, of the U.S. Army; Lt. Tommy Elkins of the National Guard; Carlos Treadway, of Ford Motor Company; Benjamin Raymond, of State Farm; KRNB Radio’s Benny Pough and Azim Rashid; Enoch Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam; and Marvin Ellison, from Home Depot.

One youth expressed that his best learning experience was through the Hip-Hop Detox Workshop.

“It expressed to us how not to conform to today’s society, and how to overcome the negative things, said Nicholas Young, a 15-year-old from Waldorf, Maryland.

During the sessions, the youth were coached on behaviors and work ethics needed to fulfill their visions. Many heard personal stories of struggle and triumph from the mentors.

“I was told I wasn’t good enough. People my whole life have told me, I was too small, too skinny, not smart enough, and eventually I interned at BET for over a year and a half, just learning everything, then one day after living on the floor, struggling, not paying rent, I got the biggest job on the network hosting 106 and Park … So never let anybody tell you that you can’t live out your dream,” Terrance J told them.

For a young man, Hakim Elam, a teenager from Los Angeles, California, this was an experience extremely special to him.

“I’m in a situation where I can’t walk right now and being around these other kids my age and even some whose experience is worse than mine right now, I have learned from this, and will always embrace everything taught to me this weekend,” he stated.

Mentors expressed that the weekend was a very important and positive experience to them, as well as to the youth.

“Just growing up being raised by a single parent, by my mom …” Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Shaun Smith said, pointing out the similarities between him and the youth. “A lot of these young guys don’t have a father, so what Steve is doing is giving them an experience to last a lifetime.”

Harvey recently received the Humanitarian Award during the BET Awards. That portion will highlight moments of his life, from 1957 – when he was still known as Broderick Steven Harvey – to present.

Ending War on Drugs, Unemployment Key to Stopping Violence in Black Communities

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By Christian Morrow, Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier –

Ending the “War on Drugs” and unemployment are the keys to stopping the violence in Black communities throughout the country, speakers said at the “Reducing Youth Violence; Models for Success” symposium.

Psychiatrists, social workers, artists, ex-gang members, physicians and researchers from across the country brought their expertise to the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild recently to share their experiences about what works in the struggle to reduce youth violence.

It is fitting they came to Manchester, said Manchester Bidwell Corp. CEO Bill Strickland in his welcoming remarks, because in his experience the center itself is one of the things that works.

“This is our vision of what a school looks like, and we built it to change the way people see themselves,” he said. “In 28 years, we’ve had no police calls, no drugs, no violence. What I discovered is if you build a world-class environment, you get world-class people. You build prisons, you get prisoners.”

After thanking the sponsors and partners that made the symposium possible, Dr. Howard Foster introduced the panelists and the symposium’s opening presenter Ralph Bangs, associate director of the Center for Race and Social Problems, at the University of Pittsburgh.

Bangs address, an “Overview of Violence in Pittsburgh and Projects to Reduce it,” summarized data on the city’s violent crime, victims and perpetrators, as well as the factors behind the violence.

Two of the primary drivers for the high incidence of violence, particularly homicide, which in Pittsburgh is primarily Black-on-Black crime, are lack of access to employment and a welfare policy that excludes males.

As for the unemployment, Bangs said, while there is still racial discrimination, the bulk can be attributed to low education levels, low incidence of custodial parents, and lack of work skills.

“All of this leads to drug dealing—which requires guns,” said Bangs. “In addition to the homicides, we average about 500 shootings each year in Pittsburgh.”

Another causal factor Bangs noted from his research is poor environments for youth both at home—exemplified by poor parenting skills, lack of monitoring and cognitive stimulation, harsh and inconsistent discipline, and at school—where ineffective responses to these and their manifested language and learning problems lead to “kids on the street with no skills and bad attitudes.”

Bangs recommended sweeping changes in social, educational and criminal justice areas to address what he said is a systemic problem. One such change would be to include middle-class students in educational programs so children with poor study and social skills actually have peers from whom they can learn those skills—change the peer response. He also recommended more community-wide social and educational intervention for parents to improve their skills.

“The Homewood Children’s Village, based on the successful Harlem program is a hopeful sign,” he said. “But there are limits to community schooling—because it requires a healthy community.”

Bangs also noted the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program as a positive sign that appears to be working, but said its scope should be expanded to reach disadvantaged youth.

Bangs biggest recommendation, echoed by several panelists, was to end the “War on Drugs,” which has poured billions down the drain and achieved nothing. Taking the criminal, monetary incentive of the illegal drug trade away would eliminate nearly all community violence, and the destruction of families via incarceration.

“We need more treatment and less jail,” he said. “Stop decimating Black families in urban areas.”

Finally, Bangs said the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime has to be made to work. The program is designed to stop homicides. Just two days earlier a report he had done for the city was leaked to a reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bangs would not discuss the report, as it is proprietary, but he did say the portions highlighted in the press were accurate.

As reported, the draft report said the city deviated from the model and PIRC is flawed in both design and execution. Its narrow focus on “gangs” misses other violent groups, among them, parolees.

The police response—which is supposed to round up everyone in a group associated with the person suspected of a killing has been, the report said, too broad, and indistinguishable from standard “saturation raids.”

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BVN National News Wire