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Black Women are Taking Care of Business

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Instead of breaking the glass ceiling, Black women have increasingly started making their own. According to the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan progressive institute, Black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the country.

“Today, women of color are the majority owners of close to one-third of all women-owned firms in the nation,” stated the report. “Increased access to business capital – including microenterprises, venture capital- funded firms, and crowd funding – has helped the number of women entrepreneurs grow substantially.”

Traditional careers often come with cultural and structural roadblocks that devalue the work of women, especially Black women.

Black women made 64 cents and White women made 78 cents for every dollar that White males made. Black women brought home about $600 a week compared to White women who earned a median of $722.

“From 1997 to 2013, the number of female-owned firms in the United States grew by 59 percent – one-and-a-half times the national average,” stated the report.

The number of businesses owned by Black women skyrocketed by 258 percent over that time period. In 2013, more than 1.1 million Black women owned businesses. At 13 percent, Black women also hold the largest share of businesses owned by minority women.

According to the CAP report, “African American women are starting businesses at a rate six times the national average, and their 2.7 million firms are currently generating $226.8 billion in annual revenue and employing almost 1.4 million people.”

As the country grows more diverse, the success of businesses owned by minorities, specifically women of color, will take on a greater role in American economy.

“A 2009 Center for Women’s Business Research study found that the 8 million U.S. businesses that are majority owned by women had an economic impact of $3 trillion annually that translated into the creation and/or maintenance of more than 23 million jobs, a total that made up 16 percent of all U.S. jobs,” stated the report. “Given the rates of growth among women of color businesses, these positive impacts to the nation’s economy stand to grow even further.”

That doesn’t mean it’s easier for minority women to start and own businesses. They often encounter the same hurdles in entrepreneurship that they face climbing the corporate ladder, including “limited access to mentors and “exclusion from elite networks.”

Minority women don’t often possess the personal wealth that allows men and White women to invest in their own businesses. The report said that Black women with children possess zero median wealth.

Women often turn to credit cards (63 percent), business loans (13 percent) and personal loans (11 percent) to fund their start-ups.

Once they get their businesses off the ground, minority women achieved varied levels of success, with companies owned by Black women earning about 74 percent less than the average for all women-owned firms, according to the CAP report. Businesses run by White women made 9.5 percent more than the national average.

The report explained that the chosen industry often contributes to the difference in earnings. Black women often start companies in the health care and social assistance, “one of the lowest-grossing industries among women-owned firms in terms of average receipts,” the report explained.

Women-owned firms in the professional, scientific and technical service industries earned significantly more, which means that getting more young women of color interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) an economic imperative.

“While better access to funding streams, diverse industries, and networks are in short supply for women of color, the entrepreneurial spirit is not,” stated the report. “Women, and women of color in particular, face a wide array of work-related obstacles, but their participation as employees, business owners, and consumers is fundamental to the success of not only their own families but also to the success of the U.S. economy.”​

Murder Probe of Civil Rights Activist Walter Rodney to Resume

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

A commission of inquiry probing the June 1980 assassination of Caribbean and American civil rights activist Walter Rodney is to resume hearings after a short break later this month. However, it has become quite clear from emerging testimony that the party that Rodney had led in his native Guyana was on a collision course with the then administration of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.

Various witnesses who have testified at the hearings have indicated that Rodney, the man best known for the book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” had made up his mind that the only way to rid the country of Burnham and the then governing People’s National Congress (PNC) was to stage a revolution, and that might have led to his death.

Barbadian jurist Sir Richard Cheltenham is leading the three-person commission of Caribbean attorneys probing the bomb blast that killed Rodney and seriously injured his brother, Donald, as they drove near the main city jailhouse in Georgetown June 13, 1980.

The Working People’s Alliance, which Rodney had cofounded with other radical academics in the 1970s, immediately blamed the PNC and state agencies, such as the military and police, for his death, but it is unclear whether the hearings will conclusively determine how he ended up with a two-way radio bomb in his lap.

Former army sergeant Gregory Smith, aka Cyril Johnson, the man who is supposed to have best known how Rodney was killed, himself succumbed to cancer in French Guiana a few years back. He had moved there after Rodney’s death but blamed Rodney’s own party for stashing him there after realizing that the plot to bring down Burnham’s regime had gone terribly wrong.

At least three witnesses, including Walter’s older brother Eddy, have testified that he had grown increasingly disenchanted with the policies of the Burnham administration at the time and had come to the conclusion that the only way to effect change was through armed revolution, “by any means necessary.”

Smith had argued in a book he wrote before his death that he was asked to pack explosives into two-way radios to sabotage various state agencies, such as the radio station, to undermine Burnham and trigger a popular uprising.

However, others have alleged that the military and police were used to infiltrate the WPA, plant listening devices and sell them guns, and then snitch on them and, in the end, double-cross party activists on behalf of the state. The book has been accepted as evidence.

Rodney and senior party functionaries had never disputed the fact that they had possessed a stash of two-way radios but had argued that the radios were being used to build an alternative communication system to get around planted listening devices. How a bomb ended up in the radio Rodney had in his lap on that fateful night remains the big question for the commission.

Rodney had been active in the U.S. civil rights movement and had taught in East Africa and the Caribbean. Boston University has an academic chair in his name. He was only 37 years old when he died.

New Yorkers/Nigerians Host Panel on State of Girls in Nigeria

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

The kidnapped 276 Nigerian girls have not been returned to their homes in Chibok, Borno State, but neither have they been forgotten. While mothers, men and young people have gathered up their meager resources to trapse through the dense and deadly Sambisi Forest, where the abducted school girls were thought to be held initially, and the military tries to coordinate an adequate retrieval effort, people in other parts of the world are doing their part to keep the genuine #bringbackourgirls movement going.

Twice a week, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and his Interfaith Clergy group hold a daily prayer vigil at the United Nations. On June 26, the Rev. Cheryl Anthony will be among a group of clergy heading to Nigeria to address the issue.

On Monday, June 9, Nkechie Ogbodo, president of Kechi’s Project, presented a forum with a host of organizations, individual activists and everyday people, gathered at 777 United Nations Plaza to discuss the “State of Girls in Nigeria.”

Kechie’s Project is a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to the education of Nigerian girls and is at the forefront of the effort to rescue the missing girls of Chibok. This forum addressed why Nigerian girls are under attack not only from the likes of Boko Haram but also from other cultural, religious and social entities that, Ogbodo said, keeps them perpetually at risk for situations such as “forced underage marriage, sexual and domestic abuse, the likelihood of becoming a victim of human trafficking, higher infection rate of AIDS/HIV and other STDs and little or no access to education.”

Featured panelists were guest speaker Stacey Scarpone, executive director, Women’s Fund of Long Island; our own Nana Brew-Hammond; Rahama Kassim of Civil Society of Nigeria (who flew in from Kano that same day); Nana Afsou-Randal of Voices of African Mothers; Dahiru Tahir Biu (with at least one Boko Haram family member) of the Nigerian American Leadership Council; and Bobby Diggy of Island Voice (Staten Island). It was a riveting and informative presentation and discussion.

“At our panel discussion events, we are about collective processes to get things done, one young girl at a time, both in Africa and internationally,” Ogbodo stated. “It was such a good thing to get together to be inspired as we did today. We are not asking for favors from the Nigerian government, but we only try to tell the truth about the Chibok girls and beyond. Truth is not politics, as we have all seen. Politics is just a means to an end but not always the desired end.”

With issues such as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 re-election bid being bandied about as a possible cause for a calculated destabilizing effort, to the speculation as to possible underhanded international collusion in the funding and supplying of the notorious Boko Haram, Ogbodo stresses that Kechie’s Project is not about politics. “We are about movements, changes and working together. We promise to fight on until the Chibok girls are found.”

Professor Stella Okereke, chairperson of Daughters of Africa in Diaspora, spoke on how to move Nigeria forward. She emphasized her organization’s priority: “To increase the awareness of gender wrongs and advocate action for essential human progress, transformation that adds value to life and puts a lid on unjust policies and discriminatory acts aimed at retarding the girl-child.”

U.S. Justice Department Heeds Call for Legal Representation for Undocumented Immigrants Facing Deportation

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City Council to consider providing $2.9 million for special legal services program in five boroughs

By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

At least 1,650 New Yorkers in the five boroughs, many of them parents with young children face deportation to foreign countries every year and when the fateful day arrives families are routinely ripped apart, deprived of their breadwinners.

The tragedy, say lawmakers and immigration advocates, is that much of the pain and suffering could be avoided if the victims of this ordeal had legal representation when they appear in immigration court to fight deportation.

The same thing is happening across the country, affecting hundreds of thousands of people facing the dim prospect of being forced to leave the country and return to more than 100 nations and territories.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that should be remedied, “ said Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat after participating in an immigration forum sponsored by the Black Institute and held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “People facing deportation doesn’t have the right to have a lawyer in immigration court. Not many people realize this.”

Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs in New York, agreed.

“When you are in deportation proceedings you are not entitled to legal representation but three of four persons in such proceedings are successful when they have legal representation,” said Agarwal, the offspring of immigrants. “Those who can afford an attorney rarely win.”

Now, the Obama Administration is moving to change that situation. It is moving to help immigrants, especially young undocumented people, navigate the complicated web of immigration court. The U.S. Justice Department is linking arms with federal Corporation for National and Community Service and will put up $ 2 million to finance a program designed to encourage attorneys and para-legals to represent immigrants facing deportation when they appear in court.

“We’re taking a historic step to strengthen our justice system and protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of society,” asserted Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney-General, himself the son of Caribbean immigrants. “How we treat those in need, particularly young people who must appear in immigration proceedings – many of whom are fleeing violence persecution, abuse or trafficking – goes to the core of who we are as a nation.”

Although the new initiative will reach out to the growing number of children, their parents and other adults are also expected to benefit from it. The program will run through AmeriCorps, a federal domestic service program. Its aim is to enroll 100 new attorney and paralegals across the country.” They will work in about 30 cities.

Meanwhile, the New York City Council and its Speaker, Melissa Mark Viverito, are negotiating with Mayor Bill de Blasio to include almost $ 3 million in the City budget to finance a broader legal services program for almost 1,000 undocumented immigrants who must appear in court.

“If this program doesn’t go on, immigration families will find themselves again without legal protection and will be railroaded into accepting deportation when many of them could have remained in their homes,” warned Angela Fernandez, executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

The Immigration forum at the Schomburg Center in Harlem attracted more than 200 participants and a blue ribbon panel of advocates, led by U.S. Congressional representatives Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries, co-chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Immigration Task Force; Agarwall, a former Deputy Director of the Center for Popular Democracy, an advocacy group that promote immigrant rights; Julio Chavez Rodriguez, the Deputy Director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement; Michael Blake, a former White House aide who is Director of Public Policy and External affairs for Green for All; Dr. Van Tran, assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University; Imam Souleimame Konatae of the New York City Masjid Aspa, a 1,500 strong congregation of West African immigrants; Reggie Reg, a prominent hip-hop artist; and Edward Hille, an award winning photographer.

“We are seeking through these immigration forums to mobilize wide public support for the comprehensive immigration reform initiative now stalled in the House of Representatives in Washington,” said Bertha Lewis, founder And head of the Black Institute.

Holder Endorses Shorter Terms of Imprisoned Drug Offenders

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the Justice Department supports a proposal to allow some people serving time in federal prison for nonviolent drug offenses to be eligible for reduced sentences.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission approved a proposal in April to significantly lower the base offense associated with various drug quantities involved in drug trafficking crimes. The Justice Department wants the revised sentencing guidelines to be retroactive for convicts without significant criminal histories and whose offenses did not include aggravating factors, such as the possession of a dangerous weapon or the use of violence.

“Under the department’s proposal, if your offense was nonviolent, did not involve a weapon, and you do not have a significant criminal history, you would be eligible to apply for a reduced sentence in accordance with the new rules approved by the commission in April,” Holder said. “Not everyone in prison for a drug-related offense would be eligible. Nor would everyone who is eligible be guaranteed a reduced sentence.”

The commission will vote next month on whether the change, which is estimated to reduce the average sentence by 23 months, should be applied retroactively to those currently incarcerated.

Holder said a retroactive change “strikes the best balance between protecting public safety and addressing the overcrowding of our prison system that has been exacerbated by unnecessarily long sentences.”

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