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Young Black Voters Pay Higher 'Time Tax' at the Polls

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As the American electorate becomes more diverse, new voting laws threaten to disenfranchise young Black and Latino voters in what a new report called “the largest wave of voter suppression since the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

The report by OurTime.org and Advancement Project, titled “The Time Tax,” details disparities in the excessive wait times that millennials (18-29 years-old), especially millennials of color, endured to cast votes during the 2012 November elections.

According to the report, millennials are expected to account for 40 percent of the electorate in less than eight years including a higher proportion of young minority voters.

During the 2012 November elections, millennial voters (18-29 years-old) accounted for 19 percent of the electorate. While turnout for Latinos, Asians and the youngest voters decreased (18-24 years-old), voter turnout for Blacks increased.

Yet, Blacks “waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to only 12 minutes for Whites,” stated the report.

In Florida, the last state to report final vote tallies, the wait times were especially egregious for young voters and minorities during the 2012 November elections. According to the study, during the 2012 elections, Floridians reported “an average wait time of 39 minutes to cast a ballot,” three times the national average of 13.3 minutes.

“More than 20% of voters in Miami-Dade County were under 30, and closing times were later in precincts where there were more voters under 30,” stated the report.

Some voters complained of waiting 19 hours to vote in Florida, according to an Advancement Project study filed with the Presidential Commission of Election Administration, a government agency tasked with improving the voting experience for all eligible citizens. Voting rights advocates fear that the ‘time tax’ will discourage young voters from voting in future elections.

New photo ID requirements will also have a disproportionate impact on young voters of color.

“Since the last election, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas and other states have tried to limit or ban the use of student IDs as voter identification,” stated the report.

Black youth scored lower rates of identifications compared to their White peers, for driver’s licenses (71.2 percent vs. 85.1 percent), birth certificates (73.3 percent vs. 84.3 percent) and college IDs (24.9 percent vs. 30.9 percent).

In 2012, poll workers asked young, minority voters (18-29 years-old) to show ID at higher rates than their White peers. In states without photo ID requirements, more than 65 percent of young Blacks were asked to present identification, compared about 43 percent of young White voters. In states where photo IDs were required to cast votes, about 94 percent of young Blacks were asked for their ID compared to a little more than 84 percent of young Whites.

According to “The Time Tax” study, “Black youth reported that the lack of required identification prevented them from voting at nearly four times the rate of White youth (17.3% compared to 4.7%).”

Lawmakers in Wisconsin are attempting to pass legislation that will restrict the type of identification that will be accepted in future elections. The study found that registered African-American voters in Wisconsin are 40 percent more likely than White voters to lack a driver’s license or state ID. Seventy-eight percent of young, Black men (18-24 years-old) and 66 percent of young, Black women don’t have a driver’s license.

Even though Pennsylvanian lawmakers found “zero instances of in-person voter fraud,” they still moved ahead with their own version of a voter ID law. Virginian legislators also passed a bill requiring photo identification, without any evidence of in-person voter fraud.

“North Carolina, which is home to the most comprehensive voter suppression law, includes a voter ID provision that expressly prohibits IDs from the state’s numerous colleges and universities from being accepted for voting,” stated the report.

The report continued: “Among its dozens of voting restrictions, North Carolina’s H.B. 589 decreases the early voting period by a full week and eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting; it prohibits the counting of provisional ballots cast by eligible voters who go to the wrong precinct, expands the number and scope of voter challengers, eliminates pre-registration for 16- and 17- year olds, and eliminates a state mandate for voter registration in high schools, among other provisions.”

The new voting laws in North Carolina inspired a grassroots movement in the state called “Moral Mondays” that has increased awareness of a state legislature that many civil rights advocates believe has passed laws that violate the civil rights of minorities and women.

The report outlined a number of recommendations to upgrade the current election system and increase voter turnout among young people including online voter registration, same-day voter registration and expanding early voting opportunities.

OurTime.org and Advance Project also endorsed federal standards requiring all states to accept “student and university IDs, employee IDs, Veterans Administration IDs, and non-photo identification such as a voter registration card, current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.”

OurTime.org and Advance Project called on Congress to update the Voting Rights Act and restoring the full protections of Section 5 “to block discriminatory voting changes before they can be put into effect.”

The civil rights groups also urged the Justice Department to continue to combat state voting laws that discriminate against minorities utilizing all legal tools available.

“We believe that elections should be free, fair and accessible,” stated the report. “The ballot box is the one place where we are all supposed to be equal, whether rich or poor, young or old, and no matter what your race.”

Booming Entrepreneurship Among Black Women

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Cheryl Lofton had never intended to be a small business owner. Her grandfather, J.C. Lofton, was the first African American to own a tailoring school and related business in Washington, D.C. She spent her summers working with him, learning the craft. She was able to earn money while enrolled at Howard University by ironing, mending, and tailoring her classmates’ clothes.

When her grandfather became ill, she found herself spending more time on the business – including purchasing a new building – and less time sewing and attending to financial matters.

“The day I opened the doors to the new building was the day he died,” she recalls. “I was the first college-educated person in my family, and I went so I wouldn’t have to join the family business. But my conscience wouldn’t let me let the business go under. At the time, no one else in the family was interested or able.”

Today, it’s her name on the doors: Cheryl Lofton & Associates. However accidental, Lofton is part of a national trend.

Since 1997, the number of African American woman-owned businesses has skyrocketed by more than 250 percent. Today there’s an estimated more than 1.1 million Black woman-owned businesses in existence, with an estimated $44.9 billion in revenue for 2013, according to a report commissioned by American Express OPEN, which analyzed Census data.

“While firms owned by women of color are smaller than non-minority women-owned businesses both in terms of average employment and revenues, their growth in number and economic clout is generally far outpacing that of all women-owned firms,” the report explains.

Most of the businesses are one-woman shows: According to the National Women’s Business Council, 96.5 percent of Black woman-owned firms are non-employer status. The small remaining employer businesses owned by Black women provided 272,000 jobs this year.

New York, Georgia, and Texas are home to the highest number of Black women-owned businesses. In North Carolina, Black women-owned businesses are thriving; since 1997, the number of such businesses has increased by 265 percent, the rate of employment of these businesses is up 358 percent, and revenues generated have boomed 406 percent.

“Women of color haven’t had as much access to mobility in the corporate world. Even though there’s this sense that diversity is important you just haven’t seen it reflected,” says Farah Ahmad, policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. “There’s this urge for businesswomen of color to start their own businesses and have professional and career success in that way.”

But entrepreneurship carries its own obstacles for Black women, especially those in male-dominated fields. (For this reason, Lofton makes it a point to do business with other women owners – including her barber, her tailor shop’s plumber, and her home’s landscaper).

“Qualifying for loans…is much more difficult as an African American. The same credit score that’s okay for other folks is not okay for us,” Lofton explains. She has the additional burden of being a woman, saying her grandfather’s male clients did not take her seriously once she took the reigns. She said, “I’m both female and Black, that’s like a double whammy.”

Among African American households, 53.3 percent of wives are breadwinners, according to the Center for American Progress.

Lofton says her childhood home ran similarly – she’s not sure whom the breadwinner was, but her mother held the purse strings and “worked miracles.”

These trends in women-driven business have not gone unnoticed. The U.S. Small Business Association offers more than 100 centers across all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and American Samoa, where women can get training on starting and growing small businesses.

“What’s interesting is that the sheer number of businesses has been really large, but the number of employees and revenue has been really low,” Ahmad explains. “It’s the exact type of entrepreneurship the government says drives our economy, and there needs to be a look at investing in these businesses.”

For Black women who are interested in starting a business, the resources are out there.

The federal Minority Business Development Agency offers help with everything from expansion tips to loan and grant information. Such organizations also exist at the state level, in most cases. And a Forbes article titled, “Minority Women: Entrepreneurs: Go-Getters Without Resources,” recommends joining women’s associations and trade groups.

Lofton also has advice for Black women considering going into business for themselves.

“Be dedicated to what you do, and work hard every day to grow your business,” she says, adding the importance of mutual support among women business-owners. “Women are everywhere now. I think we’ve gotten a lot more respect by stepping out. They know we can do it, and we will do it.”

Marissa Alexander Hopes for Bond After Being Imprisoned Over Two Years

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By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times

Attorneys for Marissa Alexander, 33, the Florida mother of three who has spent over 1,000 days in jail and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot over the head of her allegedly abusive husband, have won a new trial for their client. Now they and Alexander are hopeful that a Jacksonville judge will grant her bond. Last September, the 1st District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Alexander, stating that the jury had received incorrect directions. A new trial has been set for March 31, 2014.

Alexander’s case garnered national attention after she was denied immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years under the 10-20-Life statutes for discharging a firearm during certain felonies. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution says that despite her claim that she was only firing a warning shot and that the bullet hit a wall and not the ceiling, that it could have killed her husband, Rico Gray or his children. Gray has two children, both of whom are now in his custody. The couple also has an infant child together. Her attorney was unable to provide information about the whereabouts of the youngest child and who is currently caring for the child.

In court last week, Bruce Zimmet, one of the lead attorneys for Alexander, argued that she poses no threat to society or to her husband with whom she is now finalizing a divorce.

“We were pleased that the appellate court reversed her conviction and allowed for a retrial,” Zimmet said. “We have already had part of the bond hearing and the judge has reserved ruling on bond until we file additional papers that reply to the state’s reply. The judge will then decide if bond should be granted. Of course Marissa wants to get home to her children and we believe that as she has no criminal record except this matter involving her husband, that she should be granted her freedom until the trial.”

Zimmet, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1976 and is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He is joined by Mike Dowd, a New York-based pioneering attorney in the battered women’s movement. Both have taken on the case pro bono.

“After she was convicted and sentenced in 2012, I was asked to review the case and after looking at the transcript I believed our team could help this woman — a first offender who got a 20-year sentence.”

Husband says Alexander was violent

Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, recently spoke to members of the media at the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville and explained how the events transpired in the August 2010 shooting. He claims it was his wife who first began punching him after he confronted her about texts she had sent to her ex-husband. He says that he was trying to take his two sons away from their home and was getting their things together when he made the remark that their newborn baby must have been fathered by her ex. That’s when he said she uttered several expletives, went to the garage to her truck and returned with her gun. After firing the weapon, he says he grabbed the children and ran.

Late Mississippi Civil Rights Hero Clyde Kennard Honored in D.C.

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By Avis Thomas-Lester
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Several of the Washington, D.C.-area’s most celebrated civil rights leaders converged on Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets NW recently to pay homage to a man who gave his life in the quest for freedom.

Clyde Kennard was a Korean War veteran who lived in Hattiesburg, Miss., who started a public campaign after he was denied admittance to the then-all White Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi. Instead of changing minds about letting him into the university, however, he was framed for a crime he did not commit and sent to prison for seven years to quiet his voice.

As his condition grew grave, throngs of supporters were successful in getting him released. He died in July 1963.

On Nov. 14, several of the late Kennard’s friends from the Civil Rights Movement came together to celebrate him, including Dorie Ladner and her sister, Dr. Joyce Ladner, former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committees.

Both helped in the effort to free Kennard. Also at the program were Julian Bond, the former congressman and NAACP president emeritus who also fought for freedom as a SNCC member; and Dick Gregory, who paid for Kennard to travel to Chicago to be treated for his illness shortly after he was released from prison, six months before he died.

Speakers described Kennard as a soft-spoken peaceful man who fought a gentle fight for his rights and the rights of others. His sword was his pen, which he wielded mightily, writing eloquent arguments on behalf of his cause and the wrongs of segregation. To quiet him, a jury convicted him of theft in a conspiracy that included some of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in Hattiesburg.

“Now this principle is an easy one for us to follow, for it holds as true in human history, especially American History, as it does in logic,” Kennard wrote to the Hattiesburg American in 1959. “Reason tells us that two things, different in location, different in constitution, different in origin, and different in purpose cannot possibly be equal. History has verified this conclusion.”

The Ladner sisters spoke affectionately about Kennard. Members of the Split This Rock D.C. Youth Slam read excerpts of Kennard letters. Eddie Holloway, the current president of the USM, talked about the school Kennard so wanted to attend.

A portrait of Kennard by Robert Shetterly, a member of Americans Who Tell the Truth, was unveiled. Previously, Shetterly has portrayed Gregory, Rep. John Lewis and civil rights martyr Ella Baker.

Years after his death, Kennard’s name was cleared.

Sex Education Needed in the Caribbean

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Sir George Alleyne: Leading Caribbean Health Expert and Administrator Backs sex Education in the Region’s Schools

Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

With teenage pregnancy rates remaining stubbornly high in the Caribbean, the teaching of sex education becomes part of the school curriculum across the region.

So said Sir George Alleyne, University of the West Indies Chancellor who once headed the Pan American Health Organization, the Western Hemisphere’s premiere health body.

“I have felt and I became much more conscious of this when I was the United Nations special envoy for HIV that we fool ourselves if we do not think that young people acquire information about sex and sexual practices very early on outside of the classroom,” Sir George said in an interview with the New York Carib News. “To the extent that we can convey the appropriate information within the classroom is a positive and I am sure that some of that information would correct some of the misinformation they receive from unreliable sources, including uninformed peers. I am a strong believer in sex education in schools.”

Sir George, the first health expert and top administrator from the Caribbean to lead PAHO gave his strong backing for sex education in schools across the region at a time when Caricom countries have some of the Hemisphere’s highest adolescent fertility rates. According to the United Nations State of the World Population report 2013, Jamaica’s adolescent birth rate was 72 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-19; Guyana’s 97; Belize 90; St. Vincent & the Grenadines 70 births; Antigua & Barbuda 67; Haiti 69; St. Kitts-Nevis 67; and Suriname 66 births. At the same time, Trinidad and Tobago had a rate of 33 births; the Bahamas 41; St. Dominica 48; St. Lucia 49; Barbados 50; and Grenada 53 births per 1,000 teenage girls over the age of 15 years. Cuba’s was 51 and the Dominican Republic’s 98.

Sir George, considered one the world’s leading advocates of international action to combat the epidemic of non-communicable diseases – strokes, cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease disagreed with opponents of sex education in and out of the Caribbean who warn that the introduction of sex education in schools would lead to heightened teenage sexual activity.

“Perhaps, the term sex education connotes something different, in other words to educate people to have sex,” he added. “That is far from the truth. Perhaps we need a different name to describe exactly what is done. The Caribbean once had a set of programs on family life education which was a less confrontational term. It included many of the things that are taught in sex education.

“Many of us refuse to accept that sexuality is a normal part of each of us, your physical growth, spiritual growth and sexual growth. Sexuality is a very normal part of human being,” Sir George asserted. “How it is seen is perhaps the damaging issue. But to the extent that we teach the children in schools about what is healthy about relations between the sexes, about what is normal about progression in their bodily functions those things are healthy.”

He worries about the “distorted perspectives” about sex which youths get from various sources.

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