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Egyptians in 'Million Woman March' Defy Hecklers

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Hundreds of Egyptian women, inspired by the recent uprising, returned to Cairo’s central Tahrir square recently and faced down a mob of men heckling them and ordering them to go home.

The women’s “Million Woman March” was planned to mark International Women’s Day and demand more women appointees by the new prime minister, who has appointed only one to his cabinet despite the sizeable participation of women in the uprisings that lead to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

"(The hecklers) said our role was to stay home and raise presidents, not to run for president," Farida Helmy, a 24-year old journalist told a reporter.

“I thought we were going to be celebrated as women of the revolution because we were present during the days of Tahrir," Passant Rabie said to a reporter. "Unless women are included now, we are going to be oppressed."

Rabie said she was surprised to find women being verbally abused and groped after the role they played in the citizen revolt. Women had been central to the protests, leading chants, spending cold nights in the square and even fighting during the battle of Black Wednesday, when pro-government henchmen attacked the protesters.

Commenting on the heckling, feminist activist Mona Ezzat blamed it on the old regime. “This is a natural product of the long years of dictatorship," Ezzat told Ahram Online.

“We need to change social and cultural concepts about what women's role is to begin with. That is one of the biggest battles,” says Yasmine Khalifa, a graduate student. “This is a long process and today's event is not a beginning, it's just a continuation of the revolution.”

In a related development, thousands of women in the Ivory Coast taking part in a Women’s Day march while protesting the continuation of rule by President Laurent Gbagbo came under gunfire. Four fatalities were reported.

Will Angola be the Next Libya?

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

More than a dozen protestors including a popular rap artist were arrested recently as the Angolan government attempted to head off a protest against the 32-year rule of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

The protest began when an anonymous group of individuals set up a website announcing "a new revolution of the Angolan people."

Government officials rebuked the protest. "Angola is not Egypt. Angola is not Libya. Angola is not Tunisia," said one official. Dino Matross, secretary general of the ruling party, was more blunt. "Anyone who demonstrates," he said, "we're going to get you."

Luaty Beirão, a popular Angolan rapper also known as Brigadeiro Mata Frakus believes the political parties are out of touch with Angolan people. At a recent gig, he called on President Dos Santos to step down while a large audience chanted "Fora!" ("Out!")

Although Angola is the continent's first producer of crude oil along with Nigeria, the majority of its people live beneath the poverty line and the gap between rich and poor is one of the widest in the world. Rafael Marques, a noted journalist, observed: "Opposition is weak, but unhappiness with the ruling MPLA party is overwhelming."

Meyers Paving Way as First Female President of Jackson State University

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By Othor Cain, Special to the NNPA from The Mississippi Link –

After 133 years of academic excellence, Jackson State University for the first time has a female as its chief executive officer.

The state College Board voted unanimously in favor of hiring Dr. Carolyn Meyers, 64, as JSU’s 10th president, ending the stronghold of male leadership.

“I’ve had a history of being the first in a lot of situations; either the first Black this or the first woman that so I don’t feel any particular pressure to succeed in what is considered a male dominated field,” Meyers recently shared with The Mississippi Link.

Meyers, who describes herself as a “researcher,” a “collaborative leader” and a “thinker,” replaced interim president Leslie McLemore, a political science professor appointed when Ronald Mason left in June 2010 to lead the Southern University System based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Meyers began her tenure at JSU in January. She has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, most recently serving as president of Norfolk State University.

Prior to working at Norfolk State, Meyers was provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina A&T.

Meyers has been praised for her spirited personality, sometimes bragging about students as though they were her own children. She is also known to be data driven, which brought criticism from those who thought she moved too slowly but accolades from those who appreciated her analytical view.

Her hiring at Norfolk State in 2006 was seen as a coup: a female scientist with degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering who completed postdoctoral work at Harvard University.

Meyers is ready to ensure the masses know about JSU. She plans to start in an unlikely place…Mississippi. “I want to take Jackson State to the people, create listening tours and forge new and build upon old relationships,” she said. “We must get a buy in from everyone across this state and I’m excited about getting out and meeting the great people of Mississippi.”

Community members and staffers alike are excited to have Meyers at the helm of JSU.

Dr. Donna Antoine LaVigne, associate director of the JSU Heart Study Program recently told members of the media that Meyers “seemed like she was a big force in a tiny package. Not only being a scientist and being able to look at evidence based on data but also to have compassion for knowing the university must have a role in the community is very positive.”

Meyers said she’s excited to be at JSU because it is a benchmark school. “As a leader among HBCUs, Jackson State was one of the institutions against which other institutions benchmark,” she said. “The growth, scholarly productivity, and solid reputation made Jackson State University attractive to me.

Meyers made it clear that together, students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the community would shape the vision for JSU. “This is not Meyers State University, this is Jackson State University and together we win,” she said.

Housing Tussle Continues in St. Bernard Parish

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By Zoe Sullivan, Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly –

After Katrina, St. Bernard Parish issued an ordinance restricting rental of single-family dwellings to people related by blood. It also put a moratorium on the construction of multi-family dwellings. Both of these steps were perceived as efforts to prevent African-Americans from moving into the Parish, and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) won federal injunctions to overturn both of these policies.

Last week, the fight heated up again. After St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro urged council members to "stand with him" while adopting a "resolution to this challenge that incorporates the concerns of the federal agencies while maintaining our ability to govern locally." The Parish President's office told The Louisiana Weekly that the multi-family housing development being planned for the parish is of a high-density type that doesn't fit with the agency for Housing and Urban Development's current policies. "They tore down high-density housing in New Orleans," the Parish President's office said, questioning why similar housing would then be built in St. Bernard.

A press release from the GNOFHAC said that the organization filed a temporary restraining order against the parish because "St. Bernard Parish officials clearly stated their intent to violate the Fair Housing Act and the Consent Order by impeding the development of four mixed-income apartment complexes."

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, "We are profoundly disappointed in Mr. Taffaro and other parish leaders for what is another backwards and wrongheaded step by the Parish to limit housing opportunities for people of color. We will continue to advocate in court and through HUD's processes until there is fair housing choice in St. Bernard Parish."

In his statement to the parish council earlier last week, Taffaro "acknowlede[d] and rebuke[d] discrimination both past and present.” But, he said, "The timing of the Provident project is wrong, the agenda is flawed, and the implementation is skewed. At the end of the day, the developers walk away with their profit, the tenants are herded away from home ownership opportunities in a recovering community, and the parish is left with the burden of being left with additional properties expanding the glut of existing rental and for sale housing."

Perry countered the assertion of surplus housing, citing statistics that 40 percent of pre-Katrina St. Bernard residents say that lack of housing is one of the factors that prevent them from returning to the parish. Additionally, Perry argued, a "state-of-the-art" hospital is being built within walking distance of the Provident development, which means that the new homes would be suitable for the facility's staff.

Parish officials say that they were forced by the federal government to re-issue a building permit to Provident Realty Advisors, Inc. although the original permit had expired and the firm didn't follow any re-application procedures.

According to the GNOFHAC, the current situation follows on the heels of a fifth motion for contempt that it filed against the parish in January, sustaining that the parish's actions violated the terms of a February 2008 Consent Order and the Fair Housing Act. The previous decree was extended through the end of this year by Judge Berrigan, who said that allegations against the parish, "if true, indicate that the parish is prepared to deviate from normal procedures in an effort to harass and delay Provident's ongoing construction."

Some of the steps Taffaro suggested in last week's council meeting for Provident include obtaining a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, a release from the State Fire Marshal, and a review by the Water and Sewer Division.

"Their assertions are laughable," said Perry. "Provident Housing has done everything they have been obligated to do under the permitting process. ...they intend to stop the project regardless of whether [Provi­dent] do[es] anything right or wrong."

Perry also pointed out that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is considering withdrawing hurricane recovery funds from the parish as a result of this situation. Additionally, in an extremely rare move, HUD's Secretary has initiated a complaint process. Perry says that Secretary Shaun Donovan "saw activities that were so egregious that he decided to launch the complaint process against St. Bernard Parish."

Baltimore's 'Snoop' Drug Sting Raises Questions about War on Drugs

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

A federal drug trafficking sting, which netted 64 arrests in Baltimore, was lauded by federal officials but has introduced new arguments questioning the effectiveness of America’s war on drugs.

“Wherever criminal gangs bring violence to our streets, that is where we will direct the resources needed to send them to prison,” Baltimore U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. “We must persist in this coordinated effort, because every American deserves to live in a safe neighborhood.”

A total of 40 people were charged by the state while 24 were charged federally. Authorities also seized marijuana, heroin, guns, and $69,000 in cash.

Among those charged was Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, 30, an actress on HBO’s “The Wire,” whose involvement made the case especially newsworthy. Pearson’s difficult upbringing led her to prior brushes with the law, including a murder conviction in 1996.

David Simon, producer of “The Wire,” said her arrest should be enough to prompt authorities to take a further look at the war on drugs.

“In an essay published in Time two years ago, the writers of ‘The Wire’ made the argument that we believe the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral,” he said in a statement.

He said that Pearson’s vastly different upbringing and environment from his own is one that makes him incapable of judgment.

“I, for one, do not qualify as a peer to Felicia Pearson,” he said. “The opportunities and experiences of her life do not correspond in any way with my own, and her America is different from my own.”

Despite Simon’s opinion, authorities say the arrests were necessary to further eliminate the scourge of drugs and violence on Baltimore’s streets.

“These arrests are representative of law enforcement’s commitment to keep this city safe from the violence and crimes associated with drug trafficking,” DEA Special Agent in-charge Ava Cooper-Davis said in a statement.

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