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First Lady Obama Tells NAACP Not to Rest

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By Hazel Trice Edney, NNPA Editor-in-Chief –

(NNPA) - Those who struggled and many who died in battles for freedom, justice, and racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement left a legacy that must yet be fulfilled - even in caring for the health of Black children, First Lady Michelle Obama reminded thousands at the NAACP Annual Convention in Kansas City, Mo., this week.

“I know that I stand here today, and I know that my husband stands where he is today, because of this organization - and because of the struggles and the sacrifices of all those who came before us,” Obama said in a passionate speech punctuated with applause. “But I also know that their legacy isn’t an entitlement to be taken for granted. And I know it is not simply a gift to be enjoyed. Instead, it is an obligation to be fulfilled.”

Remarkably, her speech on Monday nearly echoed earlier sentiments expressed by NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock on Sunday evening, who also listed the sins of inequality that still plague African-Americans. This commonality of vision from the grassroots to the White House indicates both the distance that African-Americans have come and the distance that must still be endured.

“When so many of our children still attend crumbling schools, and a Black child is still far more likely to go to prison than a White child, I think the founders of this organization would agree that our work is not yet done,” Obama said.

She continued, “When African-American communities are still hit harder than just about anywhere by this economic downturn, and so many families are just barely scraping by, I think the founders would tell us that now is not the time to rest on our laurels.

“When stubborn inequalities still persist - in education and health, in income and wealth - I think those founders would urge us to increase our intensity, and to increase our discipline and our focus and keep fighting for a better future for our children and our grandchildren.”

Obama, who grew up humbly on the South Side of Chicago, is especially sensitized to economic inequities and overcoming them. Among her foremost issues as First Lady has been childhood obesity which often results from economic inequities.

“And that’s why I really wanted to come here today - because I wanted to talk with you about an issue that I believe cries out for our attention - one that is of particular concern to me, not just as First Lady, but as a mother who believes that we owe it to our kids to prepare them for the challenges that we know lie ahead. And that issue is the epidemic of childhood obesity in America today,” she said.

Citing that one in three children is overweight or obese, Obama said the stats are even worse for Black children.

“Just like with so many other challenges that we face as a nation, the African American community is being hit even harder by this issue,” she said. “African-American children are significantly more likely to be obese than are White children. Nearly half of African-American children will develop diabetes at some point in their lives. People, that’s half of our children.”

Even as illnesses that derive from obesity such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, mental and emotional health and low self-esteem issues can result in economic crisis for many families, that crisis also costs the nation, Obama pointed out.

“And we’re already spending billions of dollars in this country a year to treat these conditions. And that number is only going to go up when these unhealthy children reach adulthood.”

Pleading for those in the audience to help reverse the trend, Obama framed childhood obesity as if it is another civil or human rights issue.

“So we need to take this issue seriously, as seriously as improving under-achieving schools, as seriously as eliminating youth violence or stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS or any of the other issues that we know are devastating our communities,” she said.

She illustrated the problem with statistics that the audience easily recognized:

“Studies have found that African-American children spend an average of nearly six hours a day watching TV - and that every extra hour of TV they watch is associated with the consumption of an additional 167 calories,” she said.

Referring to what is now known as food deserts – neighborhoods where nutritional foods cannot be found to purchase because of the absence of grocery stories – Obama pushed for parental action.

Drawing empathetic laughter from the audience as she pulled examples from her own life, she appealed for parents to put vegetables on every plate; limit treats like sodas, and cut back on sweets.

“Surely the men and women of the NAACP haven’t spent a century organizing and advocating and working day and night only to raise the first generation in history that might be on track to live shorter lives than their parents.”

Obama has planted a garden on the South Lawn of the White House and launched a “Let’s Move” campaign to promote exercise. She recommended that parents and children visit the new website, Letsmove.gov.

The movement must start with self-example, she said.

“Believe it or not, if you’re obese, there’s a 40 percent chance that your kids will be obese as well. And if you … and the child’s other parent are obese, that number jumps to 80 percent,” she said. “And this is more than just genetics at work. The fact is, we all know we are our children’s first and best teachers and role models. We teach them healthy habits not just by what we say but by how we live.”

Finally, Obama told the audience to look to others – even each other – for encouragement – the same way that they did and still do in the Civil Rights Movement.

“See, because back in 1958, folks right here in Kansas City saw what folks down in Montgomery had achieved with their bus boycott. So they were inspired by all those men and women who walked miles - walked miles home each day on aching feet because they knew there was a principle at stake.”

Whether it was fighting for a better economic lifestyle or better health, it was all about wanting “something better for their children and for their grandchildren. That’s why they did it,” she concluded. “And in the end, that’s what has driven this organization since its founding.”

Historic 'Burial Ground for Negroes' Believed to Be Under State-Owned Parking Lot in Virginia

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Special to the NNPA from the Richmond Free Press –

RICHMOND, Va. (NNPA) - Former Richmond City Councilman Sa’ad El-Amin is now seeking a second round in his bid to halt the desecration of a historic “Burial Ground for Negroes,” which he claims is now covered by a paved parking lot at North 15th and East Broad streets in Downtown. The property is owned by Virginia Commonwealth University.

The former city councilman and disbarred lawyer has begun his new push in Richmond Circuit Court. He has delivered a revamped version of his lawsuit that was dismissed July 1 by Circuit Judge Clarence N. Jenkins Jr. His new suit contains fresh wording aimed at overcoming the judge’s objections.

El-Amin’s purpose is the same: He is seeking a court order called a writ of mandamus to require Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the state Department of Historic Resources, to excavate the site to determine the boundaries of the graveyard. His new wording alleges that Kilpatrick has shirked her mandatory duty to “properly identify, explore, evaluate, preserve and protect” the burial ground where he states his “ancestors are buried.”

Her failure, he states in the suit, has enabled VCU to repave the lot and park cars, despite “ample and credible evidence that the burial ground may well encompass” the entire property.

He alleges that without the court order, Kilpatrick “will not voluntarily carry out her statutorily mandated duties with regard to the burial ground.”

Assistant Attorney General Paul Kugelman Jr., who represents Kilpatrick, has another week to respond. He has previously argued that the court lacks authority to issue a writ of mandamus because Ms. Kilpatrick has discretion under state law in deciding how best to carry out her duties.

A new court date for a hearing on El-Amin’s revised motion has not yet been set.

Light at the End of the Tunnel for Federal Jobs Bill

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The fate of a $112 billion jobs bill that would provide relief for struggling states and fresh unemployment benefits for the nation’s jobless, faced new life as the Senate reconvened on Tuesday.

Republicans, who believe its passage would lead to an unmanageable level of additional national debt, have been stalling the bill. But Democrats are hopeful that the appointment of Carte Goodwin to fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) will provide the vote needed to release the bill from a stall generated by Senate Republicans.

Goodwin, once a key staff member for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, is to be sworn in as the interim senator and is expected to vote in favor of the bill, in the face of Republican opposition.

“What we’re not willing to do, is use worthwhile programs as an excuse to burden our children and our grandchildren with an even bigger national debt,” Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

The GOP’s resistance has outraged many of the bill’s supporters who believe it would address the unemployment issue head on.

“This is irresponsible and immoral,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement. “This legislation would create and save jobs, help families feed their children and keep Americans in their homes. We are following through on our commitment to help the people and we are being blocked at every turn.”

According to The Washington Post, the measure would also have protected doctors from a drastic cut in Medicare rates scheduled to be enacted on June 18, and would have offered emergency unemployment benefits to over 5 million people. As a result of the blocking of the bill, an estimated 1.2 million people stopped receiving checks at the close of June.

In an effort to secure Republican support, Democrats initially scaled the bill down from its original $200 billion cost. In addition, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) scaled back other parts of the bill, including a measure that would have protected doctors from the Medicare cut for six months rather than 19 months. In addition, Reid proposed deducting $25 from the checks from the millions of people receiving unemployment benefits.

President Obama and Democratic leaders vowed to continue to keep pushing for the bill, but don’t have a clear method to secure its passing. In order for the bill to advance, it would require at least one or two more Republican votes.

“We owe it to these Americans, who we have sworn to protect to get this legislation passed,” Cummings said in a statement. “Our primary focus must be putting those who are unemployed back to work. I urge my colleagues in the other body to put partisanship aside and pass this job-creating legislation immediately.”

Furor Over Painting of Mandela By White Artist

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) - A white South Africa has stirred a furor over his painting of former president Nelson Mandela as a cadaver, surrounded by prominent African figures witnessing his autopsy.

Artist Yuill Damaso called his work “a modern take on the Rembrandt oil painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.” According to Damaso, his rendition is a tribute to Mandela.

“Underneath all his great achievements, the revered former South African president is flesh and bone, like everyone else,” Damaso said in interviews.

But the work has infuriated local residents who are demanding it be removed from Johannesburg’s Hyde Park shopping centre. The African National Congress also has condemned the work, saying: "It is in bad taste, disrespectful, and it is an insult and an affront to values of our society."

In Africa, some believe it taboo to depict a living person — let alone the internationally revered, anti-apartheid icon — as dead.

Mandela, who is due to celebrate his 92nd birthday on July 18, has increasingly limited his time in the public in recent years. He made a brief public appearance at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday about an hour prior to the World Cup final match.

Ugandans Take Stock of Fatal Blasts Linked to Terror

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – Ugandans shared their grief and shock over three deadly bomb blasts Sunday whose death toll has reportedly reached 74.

Africans from the region took to the internet seeking solace over the many who died, never suspecting a threat at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala and later at the Kyadondo Rugby Club where thousands had gathered to watch the windup of the World Soccer Cup.

“After the first blast, which occurred slightly on the sidelines of the crowded area, many people ducked under their chairs, some lying down and using the chairs as shelter. Barely a minute later, I heard the second blast, right in the middle of the crowd. It was more ear-piercing and louder,” recalled Richard Wanambwa, a survivor.

"What had been a football party turned into a sea of chaos. A blanket of smoke hung over the field, with wails and groans being the signature sound,” he recalled.

Among the dead were 10 Eritreans and one American working with a missionary group. Six Americans were injured in the explosions, according to Police Chief Kale Kayihura, adding this is not new in Uganda. The country suffered similar attacks in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Norbert Mao of Uganda’s Democratic Party linked the attacks to Uganda’s deployment in Somalia. Uganda has the largest troop presence in that conflicted country. The Ethiopian restaurant may have faced retaliation over that country’s support of the isolated Somali president who despite backing from the U.S. and international community controls a tiny fraction of the capital city.

An Ethiopian-born Eritrean, Massawa, wrote to the BBC online: “I am devastated to read about the slaughter of my people by murders driven by religious zealotry. This kind of act should be denounced and stopped at its root.”

Massawa blamed “a misguided foreign policy of the United States to support the thugs and warlords who are unable to govern more than a few block of Mogadishu. Al-Shabab and other Islamic groups, though religious fanatics, govern most of Somalia and therefore should be brought-in to the negotiating table.”

“African leaders who have no vested interest in Somalia should facilitate constructive talks to bring about peace. How can you have Ugandan and Burundian "Peace Keepers" when there is no peace to keep?”

Foreign troops, he said, “only embolden Al-Shabab and others” – “The United States, AMISOM and the Ethiopian army need to stay away from Somalia and only assist the people in their endeavour to find lasting peace.”

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