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Census Shows Lingering Racial Income Gap

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By Christian Morrow, Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier –

As reported in last week’s New Pittsburgh Courier, there are more African-American families living in poverty than at any time since the U.S. Census Bureau began gathering such statistics. Though the poverty rate increased for all ethnic groups, the increase was greatest among Blacks.

While it is not surprising to see poverty increase during a prolonged recession, the report also showed that despite anti-poverty programs dating back to the 1960s, since 1987, median annual income for African-Americans has consistently lagged behind non-Hispanic Whites. The income difference in 2009 was almost $22,000.

Derdrick Muhammad, senior organizer and research associate for the Institute for Policy Studies, said the report not only reaffirms the economic divide between Blacks and Whites, but also indicates it may be getting worse.

“In 2008, Blacks were making about $.62 for every dollar Whites made. Last year it was $.60,” he said. “In the mid-1970s it had narrowed to about $.50 on the dollar. I think the only way to bridge this gap is to have a progressive economy like we had in the 1940s.”

Muhammad said the federal government cannot, of course, copy a wartime economy, but it can pursue policies to create jobs and educational opportunities. He said massive subsidies for “green jobs” and infrastructure improvement would be two areas where such policies should be focused.

“But with infrastructure, there has to be a racial equity component so we can demand diversity from contractors,” he said. “To me, the economy isn’t the problem, it’s the lack of political will. So I don’t see this happening any time soon.”

Derrick Boykin, Northeast regional organizer for Bread For The World, said the census numbers show people who have never been in poverty before now are, largely as a result of the extended recession. That number could continue to grow for some working families as tax rate reductions authorized during the Bush administration expire.

“If the Earned Income Tax Credit and The Child Tax Credit are allowed to expire, 1.5 million more people—half of them children—will be thrown into poverty,” he said. “We also need to see continued authorization for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. While these are immediate concerns, they apply to the longer-term poverty and income issues for African-Americans because without them, we’ll be even further behind than we are now.”

Although Pittsburgh hasn’t been as deeply hit by the recession as some other areas, the poverty rate for African-Americans in the city is 40.4 percent, for African-American children, the rate is 43.5 percent. Those figures are nearly double the national averages that record 25.8 percent of Blacks in poverty and more than 33 percent of Black children.

Locally, aside from agencies like Just Harvest, which helps people with hunger issues, and works every tax season to get as many families to claim the EITC and CTC as possible, most efforts are directed toward education as a means out of poverty.

With that in mind, Community College of Allegheny County has shifted a number of its services toward job placement rather than career enhancement, in an effort to help.

“Since January 2009, we’ve given tuition waivers to more than 325 dislocated workers, and the program was just recognized as a ‘Bright Idea’ by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University,” said College spokesman David Hoovler. “We have eight programs eligible for any county resident laid off in the last year. We’ve tried to offer training in areas on the state’s high priority list.”

For the upcoming spring term, these job programs include accounting, automotive technology, computer assisted drafting, early childhood education, nurses’ assistant training, IT support, business management, and administrative computer specialist.

The displaced worker program is available to any county resident who lost their job due to the recession as long as they apply within a year of the job loss.

“To help with chronic unemployment or underemployment, we just started our Young Adult Empowerment Program,” said Hoovler. “It’s aimed at 17- to 24-year-olds and provides supportive services to get GEDs and move on into career programs like HVAC and automotive technology.”

The college has also created a new job search engine that allows people to search for employment based on their particular skills rather than just by job or industry titles.

Additionally, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services created a Web page called Help in Hard Times that offers links to an array of services struggling families may need. Deputy Director of DHS Reggie Young said he hasn’t read the report, but believes in the long run education is the best way out of poverty.

“In the city, we have the Pittsburgh Promise, which is great because the number of kids not staying in school adds to the problem,” he said. “When they drop out they have the military. Low wage jobs are life on the street. We’re doing all we can to get people housing, food services, and counseling. People are using CareerLinks but our resources aren’t endless. We have to hope this economy turns around.”

Multi-racial Coalition Unveils Platform for Chicago Mayoral Race

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By La Risa Lynch, Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader –

For the first time in 19-year-old Denise Olivarez’s life, the Fifth Floor of City Hall will have a mayor other than Richard M. Daley. That pivotal milestone prompted the Little Village youth to join a newly formed multi-racial coalition. The coalition seeks to hold the ever-growing list of potential mayoral candidates’ feet to the fire in addressing community concerns.

Olivarez, a youth organizer with Enlace Chicago, believes the new mayor should not dismiss youth, but dialogue with them on issues important to them. Youth, she added, want better funded and properly staffed schools.

“The new mayor is going to be the first mayor for a lot of us that isn’t Daley,” she said. “Now we have a true chance of getting someone who is willing to work with us. We are not asking for anything that is out of this planet. We just want equity.”

New Chicago 2011 is a citywide coalition of neighborhood organizations. The coalition plans to educate city residents on candidates’ positions on community issues through get-out-the-vote rallies, questionnaires, and candidate forums. The idea is to weed out campaign rhetoric to hold candidates accountable in fulfilling campaign promises.

“There are many people who talk one thing and get in office and do another,” said Rev. Booker S. Vance, president of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, a New Chicago 2011 member. “That’s why the forum is important. That’s why the questionnaire is important, because we will hold these candidates accountable.”

The coalition has yet to formulate its questionnaire or set a date for its forum. But, it has outlined platforms they believe the city’s next mayor should address. The five-point platform focuses on housing, jobs, school, youth violence, and government corruption. The coalition announced the platforms during a Monday press conference outside the mayor’s fifth floor City Hall office.

“These are what the people say affects their lives, that they care about, and that they want some action and attention on,” said Pastor Monte Johnson, of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Edgewater.

He contends residents want a mayor open to finding evidence-based solutions to address failing schools. He said closing schools have done more harm than good. Residents also want a mayor willing to root out government corruption.

City government, Johnson contends, has a culture of secrecy that breeds “corruption and cronyism.” The next mayor, he noted, should promote open government to ensure “people can participate in the decisions of government in a more democratic way.”

“We can’t do the same old same old over and over again. We need new folks with new ideas and new energy,” Vance added. He noted that the coalition, made of 15 grassroots organizations, wants to ensure resident participation in the election process. The next mayor should not be selected by any backroom deals or closed-door meetings with select pastors, Vance added.

Vance also hoped that a multi-racial coalition will eliminate the racial division in the race for mayor. He said the coalition’s platforms affect every city resident and community. “I don’t care whether you are Hispanic, Black or Caucasian, you are still going to have to deal with the issues because they impact everybody,” Vance said.

Ed Shurna, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, agreed. The coalition prevents the issues from being lost among the litany of candidates running for mayor, he said. “We have to be together on this,” Shurna added. “We don’t want to be divided by different agendas. So, if we unite together, we stand together.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson Displays Economic Vision at Global Auto Summit

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By Yussuf J. Simmonds, Special to the NNPA from the Sentinel –

Called the epicenter of this era’s economic challenge, it was appropriate that Detroit was chosen as the site for the 11th Annual Global Automotive Summit (GAS) – an economic summit. Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC), summoned the Big Three – Chrysler, Ford and General Motors [GM] – and challenged them to help lead the way out of the economic morass in which the country, and indeed the world, have found itself.

In collaboration with GM and arranging a tour of GM’s Hamtramck assembly plant, RPC allowed the Black press to see and understand the economic impact the auto industry has on the nation’s economy. Furthermore, if President Barack Obama did not have the vision to foresee the effects of a collapsed automotive industry, the country would have been in a much deeper economic hole.

The assembly plant, a miniscule look at GM’s total operation, consists of 3.4 million square feet of floor space; 28 miles of conveyor operation; produces 290 cars (Cadillacs and Buicks) per day; has more than 1000 employees; and presently employs only one shift. The GM tour host, Jerome Huddleston, material director, who has been with the company for more than 26 years, stress’ the company’s safety, record on diversity, and opportunities for all who apply themselves - the theme of the Rainbow PUSH global summit. He said, “GM puts its money where its mouth is in people relationship; in addition, it rivals any vehicle in the automobile industry: gas mileage is as good or better and technology is superior.” GM also announced it will begin manufacturing the new plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt at the plant in 2010. A sample of the Volt was on display during the tour.

Rev. Jackson’s economic vision, as displayed throughout the GAS, showcased a massive master plan for urban revitalization beginning with Detroit, which he referred to as ground zero for an urban renewal policy – in housing, education, and employment that will result in tremendous economic growth.

The Citizenship Education Fund (CEF) is a vital component in Rev. Jackson’s urban policy because an educated citizenry is an informed one; and informed citizens add to the welfare of the community. They become gainfully employed, raise strong families; buy houses and cars; vote and pay taxes. He talked about how students are saddled with tremendous debt via student loans when they graduate, and how burdensome the credit scoring system has become. After all, Rev. Jackson said, “The banks didn’t have a perfect credit score when they got bailouts.”

Partnering with Rev. Jackson and present at the summit were Mark Reuss, president of GM; Kevin Williams, president of GM Canada and recipient of the trailblazer award; Danny J. Bakewell Sr., chair of NNPA; Ambassador Sidney Williams; Carol Williams of Williams Advertising; Rev. David Bullock RPC state chapter chairperson; Glenda Gill and Alfreda Weathers of the RPC Michigan staff; and movie maker, Spike Lee (who was absent).

In speaking to the summit attendees and the press, Rev. Jackson elaborated on reference to zones of depression that require emergency attention; and he laid the economic groundwork for a way out. “Detroit has 90,000 foreclosed homes,” he said, adding “those boarded up homes is a treasure trove for the unemployed.” He went on to say that therein lies employment in the landscape industry, plumbers, electricians, painters and the building industry as a whole – with proper training as skilled craftsmen and women.

The end result will be less crime, less homelessness, more taxpayers for the city who will buy more homes and more (GM) cars; and the banks will be able to make more ‘defaultless’ loans – a win-win for society. If adopted, the GAS can be used as a model to cure many of the country’s economic (and other) ills.

In lauding Rev. Jackson’s economic vision, Reuss said, “I recently met Rev. Jackson and was impressed by his work in the community.” He also stated some of the community work GM does that goes unreported and remains unknown because the company does not seek the limelight in those areas. “GM’s business is making cars.”

Bakewell thanked Rev. Jackson for his tireless efforts on behalf of the nation’s powerless and on behalf of the NNPA’s 200 newspaper publishers. He said that GM’s work in the community will no longer go unreported.

The highlight of the day was GM’s award of $100,000 to Rainbow PUSH/CEF for scholarships for 11 college bound recipients (nine of whom were present). It was a testament of the focus of the summit, and tangible hope for the future. The presence of the president of GM of Canada receiving the trailblazer award was a solid remainder of what-could-be: a future with possibilities in the person of Williams.

In reference to diversity in Canada, Williams said, “I live in Toronto and it is known to be one of the most diverse multi-cultural cities in the world, and from that perspective, Canada is becoming more diversed. Today immigrants come from as far away as China, India, Africa, and the Caribbean. It is growing in diversity and it is projected to have more minorities than the general population in the future. Toronto is not a melting pot; it is a mosaic.” Canada has the domestic Big Three and from Williams’ vantage point, he hopes that the Canadians will be buying GM cars.

Finally, addressing foreclosures, Rev. Jackson also shed some light on the absence of Black automobile dealerships in Detroit; the absence of any supermarket chain store, forcing the community to shop outside of the city limits, which compounds the economic malaise. But the upside of the situation was illustrated by the numerous possibilities through future revenue generating ventures with the neighborhood banks (urban renewal policy), the NNPA affiliates, minority suppliers, dealers, advertisers, and a rise in employment in general.

Also participating in the summit were Chrysler, Honda, Volkswagen, Subaru, Toyota and Hyundai.

Denver D.A. Blames Booker for His 'Justified' Killing; No Charges Against Jail Deputies

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By Roger K. Clendening, Special to the NNPA from the Denver Weekly News –

Marvin L. Booker’s slaying in the Denver jail was his fault; his killing was legally “justified,” and the five deputies implicated in his July 9 death will not be charged, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey declared.

Morrissey’s “decision statement” concluded that Mr. Booker brought on his own “homicide” by resisting the Denver Sheriff Office (DS) deputies trying to handcuff him and place him in a holding cell at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center after he merely tried to retrieve his shoes and one deputy forcibly attempted to prevent him from getting them.

Mr. Booker might still be alive had he not defensively responded to the one deputy’s forcible attempt to prevent him from getting his shoes. That theme was repeated frequently in Morrissey’s statement.

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Black people’s reaction to Morrissey’s statement was swift and condemning last week, with some insisting Justice is asleep when it comes to Black men, and others maintaining Morrissey may see “just-us” when re-election time rolls around.

The Greater Metro Ministerial Alliance, for example, described Morrissey’s statement as an “absurd” contradiction, noting that the medical examiner’s report “clearly states that Marvin’s death was at the hands of others (homicide), but the DA states that Marvin’s death was the result of his own action (suicide).”

The Alliance, in a news conference at Greater St. John Baptist Church the day after the DA’s announcement, demanded three things of Morrissey, on behalf of “fair-minded” Denver citizens:

1. A Grand Jury investigation of the Booker homicide, saying “we need more than one set of eyes to review the evidence to determine the accountability for the death of Mr. Booker.”

2. A Federal Bureau of Investigation probe to determine if the civil rights of Mr. Booker were violated, and

3. A rescinding of DA Morrissey’s decision or his resignation

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

In a rally and demonstration at Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church the night after the DA’s declaration, nearly 100 people held signs protesting Mr. Booker’s “murder,” calling his slaying part of “genocide” against Black people in Denver, and reiterating the earlier call for DA Morrissey to rescind his decision or resign.

Those residents, along with Mr. Booker’s grieving brother, Rev. Spencer Booker – here representing the family seeking justice – gathered privately in the church to hold a “next steps” meeting from which Shorter’s Pastor, Rev. Dr. Timothy Tyler, politely asked the media to exclude themselves.

Just prior to the “next steps” meeting, Rev. Spencer Booker dropped “a word of warning” to those present, given what he called the “murder” of his brother that has gone unpunished:

“Tell your children, tell your daughters, tell your aunts and uncles, that if they are arrested in Denver, they may not see the light of day!”

And all Mr. Marvin Booker tried to do was retrieve his shoes.

During the rally, attended by members of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, and by the Booker family’s attorneys, Darold W. Killmer and Mari Newman, of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, there was additional focus on Morrissey’s decision statement.

For example, the evidence that Morrissey said he reviewed – which, according to his statement, did not include the testimony of the 46 other persons, and potential witnesses, referenced in the medical examiner’s report as waiting with Mr. Booker to be processed, was also noted by the ministers – shows that the application of the degree of force used by the five deputies “to control and handcuff Mr. Booker was justified,” Morrissey wrote in the statement.

The names of the deputies involved – all of whom were placed on paid leave (some called it an “undeserved vacation”) pending completion of the investigation – are Sgt. Carrie Medina, Faun Gomez, James Grimes, Kenneth Robinette, and Kyle Sharp, according to DS spokesman Frank Gale.

“A review of the totality of the evidence amassed in this investigation supports the conclusion that it was the actions of Mr. Booker that necessitated the use of force (by five deputies) at its inception and during its protracted continuation until he was subdued and controlled,” Morrissey wrote.

Moreover, he wrote, “tragically, Mr. Booker’s actions and choices resulted in his death.”

Morrissey said that after reviewing all of the evidence, no criminal charge can be proved against any of the five deputies involved.

In fact, he wrote, “the deputies were justified in using the degree of force used which was reasonable, necessary and appropriate” under the specific facts of the case.

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Mr. Booker’s heart stopped pumping “during physical restraint,” wrote Dr. John Carver, assistant medical examiner, in his autopsy report issued August 20. Carver reported that Mr. Booker had been “restrained prone on the floor with the weight of (five) restraining officers” on his chest and abdomen.

That crushing of five, count ‘em, five human beings on Mr. Booker’s 5’5”, 135-pound frame, determined by Morrissey to be “reasonable, necessary and appropriate,” was accompanied by the since-suspended “sleeper” hold around the slain man’s neck and throat; the use of nun chucks, and repetitive shocking with a Taser to keep him pinned to the floor, contributed to his getting killed, according to Dr. Carver’s report.

Other strong criticism of Morrissey’s decision came from Lawrence Borom, former head of the Urban League of Denver. He is a 34-year city resident, activist and academic with wide-ranging experience and exposure to the containment practices of Denver city and county criminal justice system practitioners, and the impact of those practices on Black men, in particular.

After reviewing Morrissey’s publicly issued statement, Borom emailed the following assessment to DWN:

“After reviewing the D.A.'s statement of 9/28/10, I have the following comments: Denver District Attorneys never, or seldom, charge law-enforcement officers with criminal acts when the death of a Black citizen is involved, no matter what the circumstances are, what witnesses relate, or what other evidence is available.

“The newspaper accounts of damaging witness statements against the deputies in this case are not mentioned by the D.A. in his statement. Were they not a part of his investigation? All public accounts of the incident suggested that excessive force was involved in this case, leading to Mr. Booker's death. Five deputies were not able to control one 135 pound, 56- year-old man, short of inflicting death? Morrissey blames Booker's struggles as the cause of his death; he doesn't question the provocation of the female deputy in not allowing Booker to gather his shoes, and then physically contacting him when he proceeded to get them anyway. Was this demand by the deputy unreasonable? News accounts indicated that Booker was not uncooperative up to this point. Might a more reasoned order from the deputy have prevented the incident? Further, in a notorious case of a Black youth dying from a choke-hold in an arrest by Denver Police a number of years ago, the Black community was assured that the choke-hold would no longer be used by law-enforcement officers in Denver. When was this dangerous practice resumed, and under whose authority?

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Larry Borom went on to add: “I met Marvin Booker at the time he arrived in Denver. He endeared himself to the people of the Black community by his uncanny recitations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speeches. He occasionally did unskilled work for the Urban League, of which I was then the President/CEO.

“Marvin was a young man who wanted justice for his people, who was always willing to help others. He became the constant friend of me and the rest of the Urban League staff. I haven't seen Marvin for many years, and I was not familiar with later problems he encountered, but he always had a helping hand for those he thought could be saved from the streets.

“Marvin didn't deserve to be beaten to death, as has been reported, nor does any person. These atrocities have occurred over and over in the 34 years I have lived in Denver,” said Borom.

“They will only stop happening when all the responsible authorities, especially the Mayor [John W. Hickenlooper, now a candidate for Governor of Colorado] and the District Attorney [Mitchell Morrissey is expected to seek re-election to a third and final term in 2012], let it be known that Black citizens, their children, and friends, are not to be brutalized and killed by the law-enforcement officers of the city and county of Denver,” Borom said. The assembled ministers and citizens at the rally, amid shouts of Amen and the calls to an Almighty always perceived as on the side of the righteous but trod-upon masses, issued wailing, prayerful appeals, through the Black church’s ever-present calls and responses, declaring, finally and collectively, “We ain’t going away. We’re here to stay, until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

“Such a tragedy,” concluded Borom, “is only possible when Justice sleeps and killers feel that they are immune to prosecution in the deaths of Black citizens.”

And all Mr. Marvin L. Booker tried to do was retrieve his shoes.

Black Vote Crucial to Stopping Conservative Takeover in 2010

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By Stephon Johnson, Special to the NNPA from The Amsterdam News –

It’s been a trying year for the Democratic Party; a year when even its collective achievements have been dampened by public relations disasters. Despite Democrats’ fright at the thought of losing seats in Congress to the Republican Party, there are several groups that can help them sustain its power, if it can get them to the polls.

One of those groups: Black folks.

All over the country, Black voters have a chance to make a significant impact in major elections. From Senate races in Kentucky, Nevada, and Missouri to gubernatorial races in Georgia, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, the Black vote could be the key to Democrats holding down the fort come November. But does that mean candidates, incumbents, and newcomers alike will alter their message to cater to Black voters?

“Tailor a message for Black voters? By and large, no,” said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “In part because the issue, with respect to Black voters, is going to be turnout, and the Republicans, they basically are viewed by African-Americans as the party of the people who opposed the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a party dominated by White southerners like Jim DeMint and African-Americans are never going to support anybody who represents the views of White southerners.”

In states like California, Blacks are only 7 percent of the population, but vote in the double-digits percentage wise in elections. With a desire to throw their weight around and continually test their political power, Blacks will have a huge effect on elections like the governor’s race between State Attorney General Jerry Brown and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. The buzz surrounding the campaign and Whitman’s alleged transgressions with undocumented workers are dwarfing Brown’s inability to tap into the mindset of Black voters and give them a reason to go to the polls.

Blacks will also play a key role in the Senate race in Nevada, with Harry Reid looking to maintain his seat against Sharron Angle. While vastly underreported, Las Vegas is a union stronghold and many Blacks in the state are union members. Despite being only 8.3 percent of the state’s population, Blacks can sometimes count for 10 percent of the voting turnout.

“Harry Reid knows that for every Black voter that turns out, it’s a plus for Reid,” said Bositis. “And he has a lot of money…enough money to send every Black voter in a limo with a chauffeur [to the polls].”

A lot of attention has been paid to the gubernatorial election in New York State because of Republican candidate Carl Paladino. Paladino, while kicking up dust and riling up feathers, has become a cult figure among New York State’s extreme right wing. According to recent polls by Quinnipiac University and Siena College, Paladino is still getting votes from many New Yorkers—albeit nowhere near as much as Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo.

“No, I don’t think that he has a chance of winning,” said Bositis when speaking of Paladino. “The thing is that this guy is not the kind of Republican who might be able to win in New York State. He’s not George Pataki, who was a reasonable person. Pataki wasn’t some nut. This guy is kind of a nut.”

 

In other words, Paladino doesn’t stand a chance with Black voters, but is Andrew Cuomo taking the Black for granted? Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins says no.

“He has a track record of accomplishment and support for issues important to the African-American community dating back to his days as the HUD secretary,” Dinkins said to the New York Daily News after a ceremony renaming a Brooklyn state office building after Shirley Chisholm. “I don’t think Andrew Cuomo is taking the Black vote for granted at all.” However, in the nation’s capital, one politician learned the hard way what happens to those who disregard the Black vote.

Some were shocked that Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty lost a re-election bid to City Council Chair Vincent Gray. Many believe that Fenty, who is Black, lost his election because of the perception that he left the Black vote behind in favor of gaining White voters. On National Public Radio last week, Washington Post reporter Courtland Milloy stated as much.

“You can see the Capitol dome. You can see the Lincoln Memorial. You can see the Washington Monument. You can see all, all of the testimonies to freedom and justice and equality, and right now, it's as bad as I've ever seen it,” said Milloy when interviewed by Steve Inskeep. “He vowed to work to do something about that. What accompanied the change in character, and it was a stunning change, it happened almost overnight—he went from being a really nice guy to kind of a mean guy, arrogant guy, when it came to dealing with Black people.”

It would behoove candidates around the country to not ignore the Black vote any longer. They’re on the clock.

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