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Congressman Rangel Says He's Ready for 2012 Election

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

It's never too early to start.

Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel is “fired up” for the 2012 election season, with hopes of winning his 41st term as representative of the 15th Congressional District.

Rangel has officially filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission allowing him to run in 2012 and begin to raise funds for his campaign.

The Democratic Party congressman hit a few bumps last year when he was censured by Congress on ethics charges, and stepped aside from his position as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee before the Democrats lost the House of Representatives in the fall elections. However, Rangel's camp said the congressman is gearing up for another victory.

“I would assume he's confident,” said Bob Liff, a spokesman for Rangel's campaign. “We were up against some significant obstacles and went through the toughest election since 1994, and it was extremely gratifying for him. He won every single part of the district and he won against five other candidates.”

Liff added that Rangel is one of several sitting representatives who have already made a running start for 2012. Michigan Rep. John Conyers from Detroit told a newspaper that he plans to run for his 25th term.

Rangel won the 2010 Democratic primary congressional race for the 15th District seat with 51 percent of the vote against five opponents, and in the general election he received 81 percent of the vote.

Several candidates from the 2010 election have expressed interest in running again, including Joyce Johnson, who was endorsed by the New York Times for the seat in 2010, Vince Morgan and Craig Schley.

Harlem Students Making the Grade

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By Stephon Johnson, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Last week while most New York City kids enjoyed their winter recess from school, a group of students in Harlem continued their learning process at the North Harlem Kumon Learning Center, where the learning never stops.

For many of uptown kids, getting the educational edge is always a challenge and it bears out in the statistics. Last week, for example, the New York Amsterdam News reported the release by the city of a report that shows a crisis in the number of Black and Latino students attending specialized high schools in New York City.

Despite the fact that Black and Latino students make up more than 70 percent of the students in New York City schools, only four percent of the students admitted to specialized schools were Black and six percent were Hispanic, while 35 percent were Asian and 30 percent were White.

This week we take a peek inside a decades-old learning center first begun in Japan that has recently set up shop in Harlem and other communities of color, and we wonder if the method holds the key to broad educational achievement for Black and Latino children.

This New York Amsterdam News reporter took a trip to the Kumon Learning Center located on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard between 129th and 130th streets to speak with the center’s director and parents and see how successful the Kumon center is in Harlem.

Upon arriving, one finds an environment of children quietly studying and working, surrounded by pennants from elite colleges and universities on blue, orange and yellow walls. The center’s director, Elizabeth M. Ebbits, discussed her vision of the company and the method that has made it such a successful learning experience for millions of children around the world.

“We’re a supplemental program, so we’re meant to complement what the students are doing in the classroom,” said Ebbits. “We’re an independent-based program. We basically start our students at what is called a comfortable starting point, and that is a point that is below grade level. We do this to fill any gaps in learning they might have; we do this to build up their confidence and their self-esteem to build up momentum.

“And from that low starting point we progress them through the program at their own pace, but each child starts at their own placing point and progresses from that placing point going forward,” continued Ebbits. “Regardless of where they place, they all have to go through the levels. Every child has their own placing point.”

Established in 1958 in Japan by Toru Kumon, a high school math teacher, the Kumon method is designed to teach while leading the child to academic excellence. The goal is to master a subject before moving on to the next step. Since these programs are after school, there is no stopping point, and children can sail past their peers, who are done with school at 3 p.m. The program covers pre-school through high school and is has centers in 46 countries with 4.2 million students worldwide and 211,957 students in America make the trip to Kumon after their school day.

When the New York Amsterdam News asked several parents how they first found out about Kumon, their answers were always the same: Word of mouth, usually from a friend.

“The way I found out about Kumon; my daughter was 3 years old and she was going to the St. Aloysius School [in Harlem] when she and another little girl became friends,” said Shanise Thomas. “So when she had a play date with her friend, the parent showed me the work of Kumon. The parent started telling me about Kumon and how it was really good for her child—how her child was so advanced from coming here. So, she showed me the work and I said let me try them out. I came to the orientation and I think, like, the following week I brought my daughter so they could give her a test to start the program.” Her 6-year-old daughter, Yeali Ulaba-Samura, who has been a student at Kumon for two years, is currently at a fourth-grade reading level.

Delys St. Hill-Lopez’s 6-year-old daughter, Tibisai, has also been in Kumon for two years and currently reads at a second-grade level. “I had a very good friend whose son had been in Kumon from age 4—she found out about it from another friend of hers whose son did so well in Kumon in math that it encouraged her to put her son in,” she said. “And, it encouraged me to put my daughter in.” St. Hill-Lopez enrolled her daughter at age 3 despite having known about it for a year. She wanted to be proactive in her approach and not wait until her daughter had any problems in school to make a move.

“The beautiful thing is that you get them at 3 years old and you start training them to sit down at a table and focus and concentrate,” she said. “And it’s a beautiful thing.”

St. Hill-Lopez’s desire for her child to succeed academically not only stems from the love of a mother, but also from an awareness of the global competition her daughter will face when she’s older. “That’s why I think it’s important to be proactive,” she said. “I’m not confident in our educational system in this country. I look at what this country is accomplishing and other countries that have a GNP maybe one-tenth of what this country produces, but yet their students accomplish so much more. A lot of people think they can just send a kid to school and that’s it: ‘Oh, my kid goes to school. They’re gonna learn.’ And, that’s not true.”

St. Hill-Lopez told the New York Amsterdam News several stories about other friends’ children to demonstrate, in her eyes, why even the prestige of a school doesn’t matter when it comes to a child’s education. “At a school like Trinity or Dalton—a number of those children end up having to leave those schools. I had a friend whose son started at Trinity in kindergarten. By the time he got to seventh grade, they told her that her son is not up to par in reading and math. They have failed her son. Her son had to leave and go to another school. Why is that from kindergarten to seventh grade they did not make sure or give him extra tutoring?

“This country doesn’t value education. It’s about making money and it’s about taking advantage of people and getting them to make money for you. Even at the best of schools,” said St. Hill-Lopez who proceeded to mention well-known private institutions like Fieldston and Horace Mann to further emphasize her point. “And, they won’t hesitate to show your child the door…especially an African-American child.”

With all the positive stories about Kumon, you would think that it’s hard to be admitted to such a program. When asked about the criteria for getting into one of the learning centers, Ebbits said, “As long as they don’t wear a diaper and can sit in a chair for a few minutes. That’s it,” she continued.

SoHo Billboard: Womb is 'The Most Dangerous Place' for an African American

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COMMENTARY

By Stacey Patton, Special to the NNPA from Thedefendersonline.com –

A new billboard placed in SoHo near one of three Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in New York City blared – “The most dangerous place for an African American is the womb.”

Seriously? They’ve got to be kidding, right?

If radical religious pro-lifers really want to urge Black women to be upset, why put this billboard in the demographically White SoHo? Why not Harlem or Brooklyn where more Black people can see it?

Now, after a barrage of protests, the billboard is being taken down.

The eyebrow-raising ad features the innocent face of six-year-old Anissa Fraser. When her mother, Tricia Fraser, signed her up with a modeling agency two years ago, she never thought that her daughter would become the face of a pro-life campaign targeting African Americans.

The billboard is not unique to New York City; it is just another in a string of publicity gimmicks. Similar ads designed to bait the Black community into supporting the anti-abortion movement first appeared last year in Black neighborhoods in Atlanta, also during Black History Month. Those provocative signs called Black children “endangered species.”

At a press conference held earlier this week at the Grand Hyatt on Park Avenue, local religious and civic leaders drove home the message that free abortions in the U.S. are being used as a tool to stealthily target African Americans for extermination.

“During Black History Month, we celebrate our history, but our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried through abortion,” said Pastor Stephen Broden, a board member of Life Always, the nonprofit organization responsible for posting the billboard. “We have seen the heartbreaking effects of opportunists who happen to be Black abortionists perpetrating this atrocity; it’s not just babies who are in danger, it’s also their mothers, and our society at large,” he added.

In a press release, Life Always explained that the billboard campaign is designed to raise public awareness of Planned Parenthood’s targeting of minority neighborhoods. It comes just weeks after the New York City Health Department released its annual Vital Statistics Report, which revealed a 41 percent abortion rate – nearly twice the national average.

“This campaign highlights the tragedy that abortion is the number one killer since 1973 in the Black community and the truth that we must confront in a city with a near 60 percent abortion rate for Black women,” said Life Always board member Rev. Derek McCoy.

The conspiracy theorist’s claims that most abortion clinics are strategically placed in Black neighborhoods have already been proved untrue. In 2008, the Guttmacher Institute conducted a census of known abortion providers, by race and clinic location, and found:

■63 percent of abortion providers are located in predominantly non-Latino White neighborhoods.

■12 percent are located in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.

■9 percent of abortion providers are located in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

■1 percent of abortion providers are located in other predominantly non-White neighborhoods.

■15 percent of abortion providers were located in neighborhoods where no racial group constituted a majority of the population.

It’s also odd to me that these Black ministers and other civic leaders – who are being funded by White organizations – keep declaring that Black women are either callous about their unborn children, or that Black women’s right to an abortion is a White racist conspiracy determined to annihilate the race.

And, yet they also seem to ignore that there is a stream of anti-abortion activists that are allied with those Whites who say that White people need to have more babies to offset the hordes of people of color who keep breeding in larger numbers. Those anti-abortion activists with a more respectable pose wouldn’t dare make this argument.

Yes, it is true that Black women represent a disproportionately higher rate of abortions. But, how are Black children “unusually endangered ” when data from the Center for Disease Control indicates that the fertility rate or births per 1,000 women of childbearing age among Black women remains higher than the national average and has inched up in recent years?

To suggest that Planned Parenthood or other abortion service providers are engaged in a eugenic atrocity against Blacks is simply a media ploy. It boils down to a race-based political strategy and diversionary tactic launched in the aftermath of the historic election of the country’s first Black president. It is an example of right-wing conservatives drawing on Black people’s history of discrimination and pain to garner support and numbers for their own conservative agenda.

After all, since when did radical pro-life or conservative political groups start giving a genuine hoot about Black women aborting babies? Remember, former Education Secretary William Bennett put forth that ridiculous hypothetical proposition in 2005 when he said – “If you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every Black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.”

Looking through the long scope of American history, the only time when there was any genuine concern about Black women aborting babies was during slavery when Black procreation helped to sustain a cheap labor force, giving masters an economic incentive to govern Black women’s reproductive lives. In bondage, slave women refused to bear children for their slave masters by abstaining from sexual intercourse, by using contraceptives and abortives, and sometimes murdering infants as acts of defiance. In her book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty, law professor Dorothy Roberts explores this history.

Writing in 1849, E.M. Pendleton, a physician from Hancock County, Georgia said, “The blacks are possessed of a secret by which they destroy the fetus at an early stage of gestation.”

In 1860, reading a paper before the Rutherford County Medical Society in Tennessee, Dr. John T. Morgan explained a number of techniques slave women used “to effect an abortion or to derange menstruation.” Those techniques included herbal remedies, “medicine,” “violent exercise,” “external and internal manipulation.” He recorded that one slave woman inserted “a roll of rags about two or three inches long and as hard as a stick” into her vagina.

Likewise, some slave men also relinquished their reproductive roles to keep their offspring from becoming their masters’ property. There was J.W. Loguen, who vowed that “slavery shall never own a wife or child of mine.” Henry Bibb declared, “if there was any one act of my life while a slave that I have to lament over, it is that of being a father and a husband of slaves.”

As Roberts explains in her book, slave masters did not care about the dignity and life of black children born into a lifetime of slavery. When slave women aborted fetuses or intentionally killed them, it struck the ire of their masters because those women denied White men the profit that would have been earned from the sale or exploitation later on.

But, the true cause of the many deaths of infants born during slavery, Roberts notes, had less to do with abortion, carelessness or Black women sacrificing children as acts of defiance. Black babies died at disproportionately higher rates than White children because of hard physical labor, poor nutrition, and abuse endured during pregnancy. In addition, Black slave children suffered lower birth rates and higher mortality rates than White children.

Which brings me to my last point . . .

For all the brouhaha and alleged concern about Blacks being targeted by coercive abortion doctors, the pro-lifer’s deafening silence on the problems facing Black infants is quite conspicuous. I don’t see them putting up billboards and raising cane over high infant mortality rates due to poor nutrition or inadequate healthcare. They don’t address other real threats to Black children – asthma, lead poisoning, food access, gun violence, the cradle-to-prison and school-to-prison pipelines, poverty, education discrimination and other effects of racism on life prospects. If pro-lifers are really worried about Black genocide there are plenty of other places to look besides Black women’s bellies. They’re all talk when the fetus is in the womb, but once these Black children are born, they say nothing.

It seems that all this pro-life fever is not directed toward the unborn, but towards the women. But, what is the purpose of demanding a closing down of the reproductive options of women? Why do they want to deny women the right to choose, when they don’t give a genuine hoot about their children once they are born?

Stacey Patton is a writer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Poor Showings Leave Black Candidates Blaming Media in Chicago Mayoral Race

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By La Risa Lynch and J. Coyden Palmer, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –

Three little elements played a major factor in the poor showing Tuesday of the three Black mayoral candidates – little money, little daily media exposure, and little turnout by Black voters doomed Carol Moseley Braun, Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, and William “Dock” Walls. They filled the bottom three slots in a six-person race to replace outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The defeat caused Walls, often described as “the perennial candidate”, to say Tuesday was his last race as a candidate. Watkins told the Crusader she is likely to continue pursuing political office but had not decided which one. Braun outlined a path for the city, but not a personal one. She wished Emanuel well “in his taking up the reins of government.”

But, she stressed the city must work for everyone not just those with a Wall Street agenda. “We will continue to make the case that the homeless, the hungry, and the unemployed deserve our attention and our support as well as La Salle Street,” she said. “If this city doesn’t work for them, it doesn’t work for no one.”

Following her concession speech at the Parkway Ballroom, Braun and her supporters ignored the many public gaffes during her campaign and blamed a lack of major Black funders for her inability to raise enough money to air radio and television commercials.

Members of Braun’s inner circle, former NBC 5 reporter Renee Fergurson, who served as communications director, and John W. Rogers Jr., founder of Ariel Capital Management, echoed each other regarding Braun’s fund raising efforts. Ferguson said big money dumped into Braun’s opponents’ campaign war chest worked against her.

“We know we were up against a huge amount of money,” Ferguson said. “We also know that our community’s business people are hurting, and they didn’t have the money to support us.” John Rogers Jr. backed Braun’s campaign early on. “It hurt her significantly that we were not able to raise as much as we had hoped. The money just wasn’t there,” he said.

“It was extraordinarily disheartening.” He points to the dire economic condition effecting Black businesses for the campaign’s financial woes. The election of the city’s first Black mayor Harold Washington was fuelled by Black businesses, like Ed Gardner’s Soft Sheen.

“We don’t have the same kind of progressive successful business leaders that are free to support progressive candidates,” he said. Watkins maintained that the daily (non-ethnic) news media carried the messages of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to the detriment of all other candidates.

“They fed him [Emanuel] to us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Watkins said. “There was no way to get around it. Even our children knew his name. Maybe that has happened in the past and I didn’t notice it because I wasn’t in the race, but I understood it this time. They [daily media] had chosen a leader already and they protected him. They looked over all of his faults and didn’t report on any of his shortcomings other than he had a bad temper. It was a lopsided race and we have to find a new way of communicating with voters.”

Like Watkins, Walls said the daily media did the city an injustice by creating an “air of inevitability” about Emanuel, which made it too difficult for the other candidates to get their message out. “When the media comes out and clearly says that ‘you are the heir apparent and you are the next mayor,’ people get on the bandwagon, including the people with money,” Walls said.

“When you’re able to raise $14 million, you’re able to buy up support in all corners and consistently run television commercials.”

For Watkins, it was the culmination of a campaign that saw her most publicity come from not what she said, but from what rival Carol Moseley Braun said during a community forum, in which she referred to Watkins as the woman who would not have known Braun’s accomplishments because she was “strung out on crack.”

That was the first time the daily media ever paid any attention to Watkins, a community activist and North Side native who grew up in the Cabrini Green Housing projects. At 3 p.m. Wednesday with all but 10 of the city’s precincts reporting, 41.7 per cent or 587,362 of the city’s 1.4 million registered voters had cast a ballot.

Emanuel garnered 55.25 percent of the votes with a total of 322,120 ballots. Gery Chico finished second with 139,716 votes representing 23.96 per cent. Miguel del Valle attracted 9.28 per cent with 54,110 votes and was closely followed by Braun with 8.97 per cent for a total of 52,280 votes. Watkins recorded the vote for a total of 9,573 votes for 1.64 per cent and Walls had 0.9 per cent representing 5,272 votes. Watkins said it is time for the political leadership in the city to start addressing the problem of how to rebuild the African American family.

Watkins said too many children in the Black community are raising themselves, whether they come from a two-parent home or not. Watkins added that Black residents must also demand equal access to employment and city services. “You only get these things when you begin to amplify your voice as a community after having a good understanding of what the problems and solutions are,” Watkins said.

Conversely, Walls said the issue of race is passe’ in city politics. Walls, who served as an aide for Mayor Harold Washington, the city’s first African American to hold the position, said he was surprised by the campaign of Carol Mosley Braun and her insistence that she be the “Black unity” candidate. Walls said the political climate has changed dramatically since 1983 when Washington was elected, and older Black politicians have to learn to stop playing the “race card” in elections.

“Maybe they’ve learned their lesson this time,” Walls said.

“We have to transcend race at some point. I hope this election was an opportunity to do that. Barack Obama was elected President of the United States despite Blacks making up less than 12 percent of the population. We have socioeconomic similarities with other communities and those things transcend race.”

Race apparently wasn’t a factor with some of the residents in the same 27th precinct of the Fifth Ward where Braun lives. The reasons for Hyde Parkers to vote against Braun were varied, but it was clear the beneficiary was Emanuel. It was Braun’s business dealings that moved Kate Hannigan’s to vote for Emanuel. Hannigan waited outside Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark, for her husband to return from casting his vote.

“It don’t have a lot of confidence in the businesses she ran, and it makes me feel a little less confident in how she would run the city,” Hannigan said.

“Rahm, I do believe, would run with an iron fist, [and] I’m OK with that.” It was a process of elimination for Kelly Carroll. Carroll didn’t care for Gery Chico and believed Miguel del Valle wouldn’t stand a chance. Too many missteps on Braun’s part also excluded her. “Carol was out of the race because of her ill-advised comments that she made throughout,” Carroll said.

“That was unfortunate because I would love to support a woman.” The mayor’s race, she added, also got too divisive over selecting a consensus candidate to represent the city’s Black community.

Carroll said that became problematic and dissuaded her from backing any of the named candidates vying for the title during the election’s early days. “I would have been happy to support some of those candidates until that came up,” she said.

For Adolph Rogers, it was Emanuel’s business acumen that garnered his vote. Rogers said he was impressed that Emanuel was a self-made millionaire and has a commitment to public service. “He hasn’t been missing for 10 years like Carol Moseley Braun,” Rogers said. “Chico, he may have been around for a while, but I never heard of him on a political level in Chicago. And, the others don’t seem to measure up as far as the experience they have.” James McCormick cast a symbolic vote for Miguel del Valle. The Hyde Park resident predicted a run-off, between Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico based on recent news polls.

“I voted for del Valle.” McCormick said. “He seemed like the most progressive candidate, and given that I feel it is a symbolic vote, that is the best way I felt I could make my own values heard.”

While checking on polling places, Alderman Leslie Hairston stopped to talk to the Chicago Crusader. Hairston, who serves as Democratic ward committeeman, was ensuring Fifth Ward polling places had everything they needed. Hairston had yet to cast her ballot that election day morning, but said this is an exciting time for Chicago residents. “This is the first time in 22 years where people will actually have a choice with creditable candidates,” Hairston said.

The election, she added, will not only shepherd in a new mayor, but also how the city council operates. There are 11 open aldermanic seats in the municipal election.

Watkins travelled to different high traffic areas – such as Ms. Biscuit on South Wabash and Wallace’s Catfish Corner on W. Madison Street looking to talk with voters after seeing how empty her polling place was on election day. She visited another site where there were three polling places in close proximity to one another and said there were more judges and poll watchers than voters. “It was like people were hiding out, like they didn’t believe they could do anything about their circumstances,” Watkins said.

“I think the low voter turnout and mindset that we can’t change anything is unfortunate for the city.”

Despite her poor showing, Watkins got just under 10,000 votes, she said she will not go away quietly into the night and is accessing her next move. She would not rule out another run for political office, but said she will need time to reflect and strategize for her future.

Two of Braun’s most notable supporters Congressman Danny K. Davis and Bobby L. Rush had differing views of Braun’s fourth place finish. Davis said he was surprised by Braun’s near 9 percent showing. He says that resulted from a lack of a political organizing machine within the Black community.

“I never would have thought that 9 percent would have been the number,” Davis said. Also the Obama factor did not help. Davis explained, many — especially in the Black community — viewed President Barack Obama’s characterization of Emanuel’s time in the White House as a thinly-veiled endorsement. “There were people who took all of that to mean that the president was endorsing Emanuel,” he said.

Regardless, Davis said he plans to work with mayor-elect Emanuel “to make sure that federal policy reflects the needs, the hopes, and aspirations of the people of Chicago. And, we’ll move on.”

Rush noted “the voters spoke, either by their actions or lack of action.” In the dimly lit Plush Lounge on the city’s Near West Side, Walls watched the returns with his wife and about two dozen supporters. The drab mood inside the establishment was symbolic of Walls’ campaign. He finished with a little over 5,200 votes, garnering him less than 1 percent of the total ballots cast. The Crusader spoke him early on election day. Walls said he is done running for political office and plans to practice law in the future.

Earlier in the day Walls visited several polling places throughout the city. He said it became clear that Emanuel was going to win in a landslide as all of his exit polling showed the mayor-elect was doing well in every neighborhood. “I think the people want a mayor who they can believe in and apparently Rahm Emanuel is that person because he got an overwhelming percentage of the vote and that’s a mandate, especially when you had a lot of other good candidates,” Walls said.

Walls said despite his unsuccessful run, he believes he was able to raise several issues that would have never been talked about. Walls is in favor of mayoral term limits, something he pushed throughout his campaign and said the Chicago Public Schools system needs to be completely revamped to have dozens of good schools, instead of just a few elite ones.

Walls supporter Tania Hawkins told the Crusader after she voted in her South Side ward that Walls came off as the most articulate of the six candidates and based her vote on the candidates political stance. She said she was not influenced by the television or radio ads of other candidates because she saw those as “orchestrated advertisements” and to truly gauge a candidate, she watched the debates and how candidates responded to questions put to them by journalists.

“To me Walls is the only one who seems to have an idea of what the people of Chicago are going through and he has no political ties, which means he doesn’t owe anybody,” Hawkins said. “I never thought he would win, but I couldn’t bring myself to voting for any of the other candidates because I didn’t like their messages.”

Readin', Writin' & Race: Education Snapshots in Black and White

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By TaRessa Stovall, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

A quick round-up of recent education stories offers a glimpse into the complex stew of progress, setbacks, and conflicting news that represents race and learning in America today.

Higher Learning: A rare piece of good-news-in-Black-education comes from a widely-reported story about Urban Prep, a charter school for Black males from some of Chicago’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods, which has sent 100 percent of its graduates to college for the second year. The four-year-old school was founded to provide quality alternative education to its students, 85 percent of whom live below the poverty line and most who came to Urban Prep reading below grade level. All 107 of last year’s inaugural graduating class were accepted into colleges.

“Not only are these young men being accepted to college, they are being recruited by some of the best higher education institutions in the United States,” reported EduinReview.com. “One student this year was accepted to 21 colleges, and received $719,000 in scholarships.” Among his choices: Harvard, Yale and Wheaton College.

Two additional campuses have opened in Chicago, and plans were announced to reproduce the Urban Prep formula in other cities.

Mo’ Down in Motown: A new plan to close 44 schools and one administrative building in the financially-devastated Motor City this June “will create a leaner, smarter Detroit Public Schools,” according to Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager for the city’s school district. Bobb unveiled a $1 billion plan slated to cut some $31 million in operating expenses and lower future maintenance costs.

“We have no more time to waste. We know that we have not only a financial emergency but an academic emergency as well. In many of our schools, we have a reading emergency, a writing emergency, a science emergency, and a math emergency,” Bobb said in a statement.

This is in addition to 29 Detroit schools that were closed last year. “The nearly 88,000-student district faces a deficit of at least $219 million. Full-time enrollment is projected to drop to about 56,000 by 2015,” reported MSNBC.com. “The plan seeks to reduce costs by eliminating unused space in the wake of shrinking enrollment, as students flee to the suburbs. It will mean thousands of students once again will be shuffled between neighborhood schools.”

The closures and mergers dovetail with an academic plan Bobb unveiled recently that call for a 98 percent graduation rate and 100 percent of students being accepted to college by 2015.

Detroit may regret turning down a $200 million gift to revitalize its schools in 2004. As a September 30, 2010 editorial in the Detroit News reports, Bob Thompson, a road builder, wanted to give the bulk of his fortune to local education to help schools graduate 90 percent of their students and send 90 percent of those graduates on to college. “Instead of grabbing the money and doing a happy dance, Detroiters, as is their custom, wailed about a suburban outsider taking away their schools and stealing their children,” the paper stated. “Then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told Thompson to just drop off the check and let Detroit Public Schools decide how to spend it.”

Memo to Detroit: See Newark.

Newark’s Facebook-funded Consolidation: Newark, N.J. school officials are looking at a consolidation plan to make more space for 11 charter schools, according to The Washington Post. The story suggests the move is part of an “overhaul” funded by a recent $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Newark Mayor Corey Booker.

“The plan calls for some long-struggling schools to be closed and their students sent elsewhere. Other schools with low enrollment could be consolidated, The Post reports. “The buildings freed up by the moves would be used to house new and existing charter schools. It’s unclear whether they would pay rent.”

But officials say the news is premature. The Star-Ledger newspaper obtained the draft of a proposal that wasn’t meant for the public, according to Rochelle Hendricks, acting state deputy education commissioner leading the team that is overseeing the transition of Newark’s schools. “While Hendricks told the Star-Ledger that “The co-locations for charters is not finalized in any way, shape or form,” the paper reports that Newark school officials will announce the creation of five new public schools at a meeting of the Newark Public School Advisory Board on February 22.

The new schools are: Bard Early College, Green School, Diploma Plus, Harvey Milk (designed for gay and lesbian students) and YouthBuild (for students transitioning from jail and other trouble) .Unlike charter schools, they will be run by the Newark school district. Each will be housed or share space within an existing Newark school.

Hendricks emphasized that the goal is to offer more options to Newark students while making the best use of the buildings. She said that no school facilities will be closed.

Black Professors, Where Art Thou?: Dr. Boyce Watkins, a popular blogger, media commentator, speaker and a professor of finance at Syracuse University, reports a that a recent survey at his YourBlackWorld.com site reveals that “42 percent of blacks who attended white universities never had a black professor, and that close to three-quarters of blacks have had only one black professor during their college career,” according to NewsOne.com. Watkins said he hadn’t had any Black professors in his college career, adding that few Black professors are granted tenure, but are given temporary or visiting positions to pump up school diversity statistics. He also reported that half of the survey respondents from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) said they hadn’t had more than three African-American professors in fields outside of African-American or Africana Studies.

While related statistics weren’t available at press time, at least one undergraduate student felt the sting of racism in pursuit of her studies. Murray State University freshman Arlene Johnson arrived early to a political science class to find a film in progress. When she asked the professor, Mark Whattier, about the timing, he said that he typically started films before class, adding that, he “expected” Black students to be late because “slaves never showed up on time, so their owners often lashed them for it.”

Johnson filed a complaint with the Office of Equal Opportunity that day, and Wattier was later suspended.

Minorities Given ‘Unfair Edge?’: The Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes race-based affirmative education in colleges and universities, is attacking Ohio State University and Miami University, both in Ohio, for allegedly admitting “blacks over whites” with their new report, “Racial and Ethnic Preferences in Undergraduate Admissions at Two Ohio Public Universities” released last week.

Officials from both schools criticized the study, releasing statements that they select students based on a variety of factors beyond race and ethnicity, including the rigor of their high school courses, strength of their school, essays, leadership and work experience, and examples of overcoming obstacles and demonstrating progress. With OSU and MU released statements last week saying that they look at a variety of factors that transcend a student’s race and ethnicity when doling out seats on campus.

“The report charges that Miami University admitted Blacks over Whites at a ratio of 8 to 1 and 10.2 to 1 using SAT and ACT, respectively, as well as other factors, such as grades, gender, residency and year of admission, and that Ohio State University admitted Blacks over Whites at a ratio of 3.3 to 1 and 7.9 to 1 using the SAT and ACT, respectively,” according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

“The report also claims that MU admitted Hispanics over Whites at a ratio of 2.2 to 1 using either the SAT or ACT, and that OSU admitted Hispanic over White students at a ratio of 4.3 to 1 and 6.5 to 1 using the SAT and ACT, respectively. The schools were also found to give a “modest degree of preference” to Asian students,” Diverse Issues stated.

Dolan Evanovich, Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Planning at OSU, said after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Grutter v. Bollinger case that stated the University of Michigan’s affirmative action could be used in college admissions but only on a limited basis, and that OSU implemented a ‘holistic review’ for all applications.

An Increasingly Different World for Some HBCUs: The globalization of American higher education is a passport to “steep challenges” for several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), according to a new, as yet, unreleased, survey by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a survey of 14 of the country’s 18 historically laBck land-grant institutions suggests that in the 2008-9 academic year:

■Six had no full-time employee in charge of campus internalization, and the average institution had fewer than two people devoted to that area;

■Only 0.55 percent of their students studied abroad, and more than one-third of those who did were White, compared to 14 percent of students at predominantly-White institutions;

■International students made up only 1.78 percent of the student body on these campuses, compared to close to 4 percent for all higher education institutions.

The report explains that historically Black institutions tend to send students to locations that majority-White institutions do not. The Black colleges and universities surveyed offered as many study-abroad programs in Africa as they did in Europe, long the dominant destination for college students nationwide; and they attract many Caribbean students.

In a nation struggling with every aspect of its public education system, it’s clear that race is every bit as relevant as readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic today as in years past, and for the foreseeable future.

TaRessa Stovall is Managing Editor of TheDefendersOnline.

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