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Protest Movement Goes Global

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By Rebecca Rivas
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American


Growing up in Brooklyn, 20-year-old Keeshan Harley has been frisked more than 150 times since he was 13, he said. He often chooses to stay home rather than chance an encounter with police, he said, where he could be stuck in the back of a cop car for an hour. Even a walk down the block to the corner store can end in being roughed up by police for no reason, he said.

When the Brooklyn college student heard that Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, he immediately felt drawn to come to Ferguson.

“Everything in my body said it’s where I needed to be,” said Harley, youth leader with the New York-based nonprofit Make the Road. “There was that innate sense of urgency. Being a young black male, I understand what that’s like. That could have been me just walking home from the store.”

Harley came to St. Louis in October for the Weekend of Resistance. What he experienced, he said, helped prepare him and other New York organizers for this week of protests following the December 3 grand jury’s non-indictment decision of a New York City police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

The importance of spontaneity was one of the crucial things they learned in Ferguson, he said.

“Understanding that things don’t have to be followed in a rigid way, where there’s one person speaking,” he said. “In Ferguson, there was a profound sense of responsibility. The people were fed up. If someone said, ‘Meet up at 9 p.m. in Shaw,’ the people just knew they needed to go.”

The Ferguson movement’s hallmark element of spontaneity hit new levels last week as thousands of protestors worldwide walked out of schools, shut down highways, occupied retail spaces and took to the streets to demand police accountability.

The day of the grand jury’s announcement in the Garner case, thousands poured into the streets and marched throughout Manhattan. They caused lanes to be closed on the Brooklyn Bridge, West Side Highway and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.

“None of that was planned,” said Carl Dix, co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. “People came out in anger and figured out what they were going to do.”

Several groups also staged mass die-ins in other parts of New York City, drawing from what they’ve seen in Ferguson, said Dix, who also participated in Ferguson October.

The St. Louis activist group Tribe X – which has since splintered into Black Souljahz – orchestrated the first Ferguson die-in action on November 16 in the University City Loop. It has now spread nationally as a staple of the movement.

Tribe X president Alisha Sonnier said in all the actions they have led, including the historic occupation of Saint Louis University’s campus, “You have to be flexible and let the action take its course. Spontaneity is our friend.”

This week, New York organizers have called for a “Week of Outrage.” On Monday morning, activists stormed the Verrazano Bridge during rush hour and carrying banners that read “Eric Garner,” “Mike Brown” and “Black Lives Matter.” They also laid coffins on the freeway, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn. The shutdown was symbolic because many NYPD officers travel to work from Staten Island, where Garner was killed.

“Someone can tweet, ‘Meet me at Union Square at 6 p.m.,’ and even that has been a successful tool,” said Jose Lopez, lead organizer with Make the Road. “There have been so many groups and individuals organizing actions daily. There are folks using different tactics. It’s partially why we will be able to sustain the movement.”

Lopez was among a handful of young organizers who met with President Barack Obama on December 1 regarding issues of police brutality. In New York, the public safety conversation has largely been focused on investing money into the police department and precincts.

“And that’s the wrong conversation to be had,” Lopez said. “If we have funding that could be spent, is it not better to resource individuals and organizations and cultural institutions that are more responsible for the safety of the community than a local precinct might be? How do we deal with the fact that people of color are targeted, stopped and frisked daily?”

Dante Barry, executive director of the New York-based Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, has traveled to Ferguson about seven times since Brown’s death. NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner in a chokehold on July 17, less than a month before Brown’s shooting death. However, the reaction that New York witnessed in Ferguson “helped propel” their own response, said Barry. Million Hoodies was started after Trayvon Martin’s death.

“Ferguson provides a model for what resistance can look like,” Barry said. “We are seeing a collective response all across this country that is recognizing that direct action is the avenue to go to change culture but also to have a conversation.”

Barry is fighting for two things. First, he wants an end to “broken-windows policing,” where police arrest people of color for petty crimes, such as selling loose cigarettes or falling asleep on the subway. And second, he wants demilitarization of police.

“In every sense, Ferguson is everywhere,” he said. “You can see conditions that you see in Ferguson all across the country.”

DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie were among two Ferguson protestors who traveled to New York after the grand jury’s decision, as a way to return the support they received in Ferguson. Mckesson said it was humbling to see Ferguson-originated actions play out among thousands of people and amid the city’s skyscrapers. He learned a lot from New Yorkers, as well, he said.

Like many activists, Mckesson expressed the importance of a decentralized movement.

“The power structure doesn’t want to deal with all of us,” McKesson said. “You cannot co-op one person and say, ‘Stop the protests.’ It makes them responsible to the people en masse.”

What was so amazing about Ferguson, Barry said, was that so much of the community rose up.

“There’s always a role for someone in this movement,” Barry said. “It’s not about having a chairperson. It’s about having low ego and high impact. It’s an issue that affects a lot of folks, and it’s organic.”

And it will be the people who continue to lead the movement, Harley said.

“The community will escalate things until something systemic and substantive has changed, until we see our police officers are held to high esteem,” Harley said. “I don’t think there’s one young black male in Brooklyn who isn’t fed up and ready to yell through the streets. We are not going to be overlooked. And we are not going anywhere.”

Buju Banton Seeks Early Release from US Prison

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – Grammy winning reggae artist Buju Banton, who was convicted on cocaine trafficking charges in 2011, has filed a motion in court in an attempt to secure an earlier release date.

The Tampa Bay Tribune reports that Buju,whose given name is Mark Myrie, filed his own motion from prison asking to be released early based on a recent change in federal drug sentencing guidelines.

This would mean an earlier release date and deportation to Jamaica.

Buju is currently serving a mandatory ten-year sentence for his conviction on a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

He is scheduled to be released in 2019.

However, the amendments do not apply to those serving minimum mandatory sentences under the law.

This would only be possible where the convicts cooperate with investigators or at give a full confession to their crimes.

According to the paper, this is unlikely to happen, as Buju has maintained his innocence since being arrested.

Buju was convicted in February 2011, days after he won a Grammy award for his album, “Before the Dawn.”

Blacks Rejoining the Labor Market

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent


WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Black unemployment rate rose to 11.1 percent in November, according to the latest jobs report from Labor Department, because of increasing optimism in the economy.

The Black unemployment rate rose from 10.9 percent in October to 11.1 percent and the jobless rate for Whites increased slightly from 4.8 percent to 4.9 percent in November.

The unemployment rate for Black men also increased from 10.7 percent in October to 11.2 percent. The share of Black men that either held jobs or looking for work in November, the labor force participation rate, fell from 67.7 percent in October to 67.1 percent last month.

The jobless rate for White men increased from 4.2 percent to 4.6 percent, the labor force rate was flat at 71.8, and the employment-population ratio declined from 68.7 percent to 68.6 percent.

Even though the unemployment rate for Black women increased from 9.4 percent in October to 9.6 percent in November, William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and chief economist at AFL-CIO, a labor group that represents 12.5 million workers, said that that labor force participation rate for Black women over 20 years old continues to go up.

The employment-population ratio, the share of the population of Black women that hold jobs, was 55.1 percent in January 2014 and compared to 56.1 percent in November. The labor force rate for Black women was 61.5 percent in January. The unemployment rate for Black women was 10.4 percent.

Valerie Rawlston Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused fiscal policies that affect low- and middle-income families, said that as the economy continues to grow and the labor market continues to grow, we still have to make investments for those who face challenges with gaining employment.

“That includes providing adequate training, addressing the issue of re-entry and the barriers that ex-offenders face and the significant unemployment gap between Black youth and White youth,” said Wilson. “That includes providing adequate training, addressing the issue of re-entry and the barriers that ex-offenders face and the significant unemployment gap between Black youth and White youth.”

Wilson said that access to enter the labor force and to get early work experience, whether that’s a part-time job in retail or fast food or something more career directed like apprentice programs, will be essential for Black teenagers.

“We’re finally seeing enough jobs, where people are getting optimistic to pull them back into the labor market,” said Spriggs. “That’s a good sign.”

Spriggs explained, “The numbers are good because it means the labor market is on solid ground, it’s growing in a healthy way and the big worry is federal reserve policy. The [federal reserve bank] has to wait until real wages grow and savings get built back up the positive way.”

At 11.1 percent, the Black unemployment rate continues to hover around twice the national average (5.8 percent), a trend that goes back nearly 50 years.

“It’s caused in large by part by discrimination,” said Spriggs. He said part of the difficulty in the recovery for Black employment is that we had such a backlog of job needs.The surest cure of anti-discrimination is full employment, said Spriggs.

“‘If I think I can kill you, without giving a thought to that, do you think I’m going to be fair in hiring you?’” asked Spriggs. “I don’t even have to be fair about letting you live. If I don’t have to be fair about letting you breathe, why do you think I’m going to be fair about whether you need a job whether you need money?”

AT&T Faces $10 Billion Race Discrimination Suit

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent


WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A group that advocates for economic inclusion and fair contracting for Black-owned media recently filed a $10 billion dollar lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against AT&T and DirecTV.

The National Association of African American Owned Media (NAAAOM) filed the lawsuit for an unnamed company that “owns seven original content, high definition television networks (channels), six of which were launched to public in 2009 and one in 2012” and according to the complaint “is the only 100 percent African American-owned video programming producer and multi-channel operator/owner in the United States.”

The suit alleges that AT&T and DirecTV violated a federal statute (Title 42 U.S. Code 1981) found in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, a law that was originally designed to protect freed slaves from discrimination as they joined the labor market and entered business contracts.

Marty Richter, a spokesman for AT&T, called the allegations ‘outlandish’ and ‘completely baseless,’ and said that the company spent $15.5 billion with diverse suppliers last year.”

Skip Miller, the lead trial counsel for the plaintiff and partner with the Miller Barondess, LLP law firm in Los Angeles, said his firm is going up against one of the largest corporations in the United States with vast resources, but it’s a lawsuit like any other lawsuit.

“The real deal is the money, that’s what this is about,” said Mark DeVitre, president of NAAAOM. “It’s about economic inclusion in mainstream America. The First Amendment requires diversity.”

According to the lawsuit, AT&T and DirecTV, collectively pay White-owned media companies approximately $16 billion combined, every year for channel carriage license fees, but don’t pay anything to 100 percent African American-owned media companies.

Even though AT&T executives admitted that they have a “black problem” to the company, according to the lawsuit, they have largely adopted a “wait and see” approach, refusing to increase the amount of business they do with the Black media company, unless it has a negative impact on their merger with DirecTV.

“They [AT&T], just said, ‘No,’” said Miller.  “‘We know you have good programming, but we don’t want to deal with you.’”

AT&T carries one of the unnamed company’s seven channels, but instead of paying carriage fees to the company, the telephone and media conglomerate requires that the company pay AT&T hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the programming.

“Ultimately, AT&T stated that it would consider entering into a carriage agreement with the Company only if AT&T’s and DirecTV’s lack of 100 percent African-American owned channels interferes with approval of the acquisition,” states the complaint filed on December 3. “Otherwise, AT&T would continue to refuse to contract with the Company for its suite of channels, and would shut out the Company from its billions in channel carriage license fees and advertising and expenditures.”

The suit also alleges that AT&T and other White-owned media companies donate money to nationally-recognized civil rights groups in an effort to “buy” their support, actions the complaint calls “window dressing and a deceptive practice.”

“They can get up there say, ‘We support the Urban League.’ Those are all good organizations,” said Miller. “But what does that have to do with the media business?”

DeVitre said those contributions don’t have anything to do with getting African American voices and viewpoints on television.

According to the legal document, 100 percent African American-owned media receive less than $1.5 million of the approximately $4 billion that AT&T spends on advertising, every year.

“Likewise, DirecTV allegedly spends less than $1.5 million of its $2 billion in advertising costs each year on 100% African American-owned business,” according to the suit.

That amounts to fourteen thousandths of 1 percent spent annually with 100 percent African American-owned media.

The NAAAOM complaint stated: “This is an economic atrocity, illustrating the scope and magnitude of the racial discrimination in contracting by AT & T and DirecTV.”The suit alleges that AT&T’s racial discrimination in contracting will continue to perpetuate the economic exclusion of 100 percent African American-owned media from American television.

“But for AT&T’s and DirecTV’s refusal to contract with the Company, the Company would receive approximately $328 million in annual license fees for its seven channels – calculated using a conservative license fee of fifteen center per subscriber per month for each channel for AT & T’s and DirecTV’s combined 26 million subscribers. If Defendants contracted in good faith, the Company would also receive an estimated $100 million per year, per network, in national advertising sales revenue, or a total of $700 million per year,” according to the complaint.

Miller said it would be hard for his client to survive without doing business with AT&T and access to their roughly 26 million subscribers after the DirecTV deal, which would account for nearly 30 percent of the pay TV market. The proposed AT&T/DirecTV deal and the Comcast/NBC Universal deal have received lukewarm receptions from industry watchers.

DeVitre said that AT&T’s refusal to increase the business they do with 100 percent Black-owned companies is a form of economic genocide for African American-owned media, a sector that continues to shrink instead of grow.

DeVitre continued: “These companies either have to give away a tremendous amount of equity or make exorbitant ‘ransom’ payments in order to get carried and you can end up bankrupting yourself with this stuff or losing control of your own company and the system is designed to keep perpetuating it.”

Zimbabwe VP Loses Bid for Central Committee Seat

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By Craig D. Frazier
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News


According to state media reports last week, the Zanu-PF party decided to “defend” President Robert Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, by rejecting Zimbabwe Vice President Joice Mujuru’s bid for a seat on the powerful central committee after she was accused of plotting to assassinate Mugabe.

The central committee is Zanu-PF’s most powerful organ outside congress and consists of members drawn from the party’s 10 provinces. It acts on behalf of congress when it is not in session. Among other things, it implements all policies, resolutions, directives, decisions and programs enunciated by congress.

A provincial executive committee refused to accept Mujuru’s election papers ahead of a key Zanu-PF party congress next week following a campaign against her, which was led by Mugabe’s wife, Grace. The power struggle began after Grace Mugabe’s surprise nomination to lead the powerful women’s wing of the Zanu-PF, prompting speculation that she wanted the top job herself.

Mujuru’s home district “rejected her application in elections that saw a number of other Zanu-PF bigwigs linked to her nefarious activities to oust President Robert Mugabe also failing to make it,” reports say. Mujuru and powerful Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa were seen as the leading contenders to replace Mugabe, who has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe is expected to be confirmed as the party’s leader early in December, but the fight for positions on the powerful politburo could be decisive for the campaign to succeed him. Mujuru’s failure to win a place in the central committee means she ceases to be in the party’s top leadership even before the congress starts Dec. 3.

Other politburo members who suffered the same fate include Cdes Dzikamai Mavhaire in Masvingo, Tendai Savanhu in Harare, Francis Nhema, Flora Buka and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi in the Midlands and Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu in Matabeleland South.

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BVN National News Wire