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Flame of Remembrance Crisscrosses Rwanda on 20th Anniversary of Genocide

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

Mar. 31 (GIN) – Ceremonies around Rwanda and abroad are underway to mark the 20th year since the devastating genocide which, according to the Genocide Memorial Center in Rwanda, took over a million lives during a three-month killing spree.

At a ceremony last Thursday in the town of Kirehe, thousands of residents gathered in a field to hear genocide memories. Nsengiyomva Apollinaise, a local official, said the memorials help Rwandans examine the causes and find a path on which to move forward.

The flame reaches Kigali, the capital, on April 7.

At Kirehe’s flame ceremony, Theopiste Mukanoheli recounted how as an 18-year-old she watched her neighbor dig a 10-foot grave to cram bodies in. She was inside Nyarubuye Catholic Church when attackers threw in grenades, killing hundreds. Most of her close family died there, she said.

Mike Nkuzumuwami, who helps look after the rebuilt red-brick church, says 35,000 people died in his hilltop community, a sea of green where tens of thousands of banana trees grow. One positive change since the genocide is a near erasure of the Hutu-Tutsi divide, he said, a principle directive of the Rwandan government, which wants Rwandans to see themselves as Rwandan, not an ethnic tribe.

“After the killings no one has called me a Tutsi, and those Hutus involved in the genocide regret what they have done,” the 45-year-old said.

School groups visit the church, mass grave and museum of death. Near the skulls and bones are tables of dusty brown clothes, sandals, slippers and shoes. The younger generation does not understand the genocide, Nkumuwami said, and Rwanda’s aging population doesn’t want them to repeat it.

At the Kwibuka 20 ceremony — a Rwandan word meaning “remember” and 20 for 20th anniversary — a large audience gazed at a film showing some of the genocide horror. A voice in English said the killings were a planned political campaign that came from an ideology called Hutu Power. Tutsis, the video says, were meant to be exterminated.

“This is something that happens every year, an event to help each Rwandan personally remember what happened, and examine the causes,” said Nsengiyomva Apollinaise, a local officials, who said his parents and siblings died in the genocide. “And also to see the path to move forward on.”

Other events can be seen on the website: http://www.kwibuka.rw/

Obama Teams up with Pro Athletes to Meet ACA Deadline

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In the final, frenzied push to boost health insurance enrollment numbers under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama turned to sports figures to promote the health care law on television and online.

Riding on the wave of the highly-anticipated NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, also known as March Madness, the move could capture the attention of young Blacks, who often view celebrities and professional athletes as positive role models.

Visitors to the http://www.whitehouse.gov/acabracket web page can still download the president’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Bracket which exploded like thousands of other brackets last week when 14th ranked Mercer University upset 3rd ranked Duke University 78-71 in the second round.

Online viewers also voted on in a video GIF contest titled “The 16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered.” A video titled, “Women can’t be charged more than men” featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and NBA superstar Lebron James video bombing Miami Heat players Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra won the People’s Choice Award in the short video contest inspired by the Affordable Care Act.

When serious and casual college basketball fans tune in to ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA-TV to catch up on March Madness action, they’ll see NBA superstar Lebron James in a 30-second television ad encouraging people, especially young, healthy people to get covered. NBA legend Magic Johnson and former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, each who have battled highly-publicized health problems, appeared in similar ads.

The ads, largely paid for by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could go a long way in sparking conversations about the need for health insurance coverage in the Black community. According to a study by the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Black children and teens are exposed to at least 80 percent more ads than their White peers. Commercials often feature more positive portrayals of Black men when compared to prime time television.

According to a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services, almost 2 million Americans suffered sports-related injuries. including ankle and knee sprains that landed them in the emergency room, one of the most expensive places to get medical treatment.

“Some sports-related injuries, such as sprained ankles, may be relatively minor, while others, such as head or neck injuries, can be quite serious,” stated the HHS report.

The report sports-related injuries continued: “The most common of these were ankle or knee sprains and leg fractures. Estimated rates of sports-related injuries were even higher among children and young adults under the age of 25. An estimated 12 million individuals between the ages of 5 and 22 years suffer a sports related injury annually, and about 20 percent of all injury-related emergency room visits are among children 6 to 19 years of age.”

The most common basketball injuries for adults 25 to 40 years-old were ankle and knee sprains, then facial injuries and broken fingers.

NBA veteran and Miami Heat forward Shane Battier said that through 25 years of competitive basketball, he’s received over 90 stitches from elbows to the face, sprained his ankles more than 25 times, suffered broken elbows, reconstructive ankle surgery and arthritis in the knees and the hip.

“These injuries can happen to anyone,” said Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. “For those without health insurance they can be very expensive.”

According to the HHS report: “For 25- to 40-year-olds, the estimated average charges for a leg fracture were about $3,403, while the estimated average charges for an arm fracture were about $7,666 (2011 dollars), according to 2009-2011 pooled data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.”

In 2012, emergency departments treated nearly 600,000 basketball injuries. For adults, sprains cost on average $2,294 and broken arms cost $7,666, medical expenses that most people would struggle to pay out of pocket the report noted.

Emergency rooms reported almost 500,000 football injuries coming through their doors and about 10,000 of those required hospitalization.

The costs associated with treating a broken leg for someone 10- to 19 years-old was $4,700 and a broken arm cost almost $3,000. Charges for treating dislocations for the same age group averaged $6,900 and for 25 to 40 year-olds the average was roughly $4,600. The average cost for treated sprains and strains was about $2,300.

The rate of injuries in basketball and football may have a disproportionate impact in the Black community, where young Black men play basketball and football at higher rates than their White peers.

In a study on high school sports participation and educational attainment, researchers from the University of Minnesota reported that Black boys “are 1.6 times more likely than their White counterparts to play football, and 2.5 times more likely to play basketball.”

The University of Minnesota study observed: “When other factors are controlled for, Black males are actually 2.5 times more likely to play football and 5.7 times more likely to play basketball than White males.”

NBA veteran Shane Battier said that sooner or later, if you’re active and you play sports, chances are you’re going to get banged up at some point.

“The bottom line is this: you have to protect yourself and make sure that if you get hurt on the court or on the field that you’re covered,” said Battier.

In a blog post on the report at http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services wrote that six out of 10 uninsured Americans will pay about $100 a month or less for a health insurance plan.

“That broken arm would take almost 10 years to pay off at that rate without considering interest or harm to your credit,” wrote Sebelius.

Sebelius added: “Whether you’re out on the slopes or playing the boss in a pickup game of basketball after that stressful meeting, you don’t want to have to hold back because you aren’t covered in case of injury.”

Jordan Davis Worried that He Wouldn’t 'Make it' in Life

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Filled with doubt about his future, Jordan Davis, a 17 year-old student at Samuel W. Wolfson High School began to cry one night sitting on the patio of his father’s condo in Jacksonville, Fla.

Like most teenagers, longing for his own identity and independence, Jordan wanted to work and was having a hard time finding a job. He didn’t feel great about his grades, either.

“He said, ‘Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it,’” Ron Davis, Jordan’s father remembered. “‘I can’t find a job. I’m not doing that well in school. I just don’t think that I’m going to make it.’”

Ron Davis reassured his son and told him that he wasn’t alone.

“You have two parents behind you, you have loved ones behind you,” Davis told his son that night. “Don’t think that you’re in this world by yourself, you’re going to make it.”

Jordan dried his tears and hugged his father.

Looking back, Ron Davis said, maybe Jordan knew more than what he knew at the time. Maybe Jordan saw something.

In 2012, Jordan was living with his father in Jacksonville, Fla., but still maintained close ties with his mother, Lucy McBath, in Atlanta, Ga., and visited often. McBath said that people gravitated to her son, Jordan. He could light up the room with his quick smile and he loved to laugh.

Inside, however, he kept questioning whether he could make it.

Sitting in his mother’s kitchen in Atlanta, Jordan said, “Mom, what would you do if I died?”

Shocked, McBath replied, “Why are you asking me these questions, Jordan?”

“I need to know how you would handle it,” Jordan answered.

McBath told her son that God promised her that he would live a long, fruitful life, that he would get married and give her grandchildren one day. Jordan continued to press, telling his mother that he needed to know that she would be okay, that she would be able to go on.

McBath finally told her son that she would be devastated, but she would find the strength to go on. This time it was the teen reassuring one of his parents.

“I’ll be good, you’ll be the ones that will be suffering,” Jordan told his mother. “I’ll be in Heaven with Jesus. I’ll be fine. I’m not afraid to die.”

On November 23, 2012, a few months before his 18th birthday and only a few days before he was scheduled to begin a new job working at McDonald’s, Jordan Davis, an unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station by Michael Dunn, a White, computer programmer.

Dunn said that he feared for his life after starting an argument over loud music playing in the teens’ SUV. He claimed to have seen a weapon hanging out of the SUV driven by one of Davis’s friends. But no witnesses confirmed his account and no weapon ever found.

What is beyond dispute is that Dunn continued to fire bullets into the SUV while t Davis and his friends were fleeing. Struck three times, Davis sat in bleeding to death while Dunn fled the scene without notifying police.

In February 2014, Michael Dunn was found guilty of three counts of attempted murder, but the jurors could not agree on the first-degree murder charge connected to Jordan Davis’ shooting death. In interviews after the trial, jurors said that the Dunn murder trial wasn’t about race.

“They probably didn’t want it to be, but the element of race is always there,” said Lucy McBath. “The fact that Michael Dunn was able to describe Jordan as a ‘thug’ and describe his friends as ‘thugs,’ those kinds of words are very specific and play a huge role on people’s opinions and ideas.”

During Black Press Week, the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation honored Ron Davis and Lucy McBath for their work advocating for gun control and repeal or reform “Stand Your Ground” laws nationwide.

“That law right there creates all of the loopholes and all of the confusion for jurors on how to decide those self-defense cases,” said McBath.

Davis doesn’t hold any hope for the law to be repealed in Florida, but he says that the law can be rewritten and that’s what they’re fighting for.

“The way it’s written, it takes into account the mind of the shooter,” said Davis. “The victim has no say-so. Why should the shooter be able to make up a story in his mind about why he shot and killed that other person?”

In Florida, a judge decides whether “Stand Your Ground” can be applied. Davis wants that decision placed in the hands of a jury.

The NNPA Foundation also honored the parents of Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed, caught in the crossfire of a Chicago gang war a few miles from a home owned by President Barack Obama.

Ron Davis created The Jordan Davis Foundation to provide educational and travel opportunities for young people across the nation to expose them to different cultures and allow them to explore the world outside of their own neighborhoods.

Lucy McBath founded The Walk With Jordan Scholarship Foundation to provide educational and financial support for students attending four-year colleges and technical training schools.

“We have to educate children to let them know what’s out here and let them know at a young age that they can rally to change the laws,” said Davis. “Young kids think because they’re 14, 15 years old that they can’t do anything, but they can make a difference.”

State Prosecutor Angela Corey said that she would seek a new trial on the first-degree murder charge against Michael Dunn. A new trial date has been set for May 5, but may be delayed to allow time for Dunn’s new lawyer to prepare for the case.

McBath said that they can’t just depend on Jordan’s verdict alone for justice.

“We don’t have a choice to be anything, but optimistic,” said Lucy McBath. “We will continue to work to change the laws no matter what the verdict is.”

Parents of Hadiya Pendleton 'Still Mourning'

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA National Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After a long day of travelling, then networking on Capitol Hill, Nathaniel and Cleopatra Pendleton returned to their downtown Washington, D.C. hotel and dressed for a dinner in their honor. Later that evening, they shook hands and smiled for photographs as they accepted the 2014 NNPA Newsmaker of the Year Award, an accolade they earned as a result of their work against gun violence in the aftermath of their15 year-old daughter’s death. They shared the honor with the parents of Jordan Davis, a Black teen killed in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We are mourning still. We still wake up every day and have to determine what to do, whether what we’re doing is right for us,” Cleopatra says. “So many people want to see something positive come from this, a lot of people came to us and said we need to do something. They empowered us.”

Not as much as the parents have empowered Black America.

On January 29, 2013 their daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, went to the park with friends to enjoy an unseasonably warm Chicago afternoon after a day of final exams. There, her life was taken by a pair of gang-affiliated young men not much older than she, who fired into the group of teens sheltering from a passing rain after mistaking one of them for a rival gang member. Hadiya was hit in the back and passed away in the arms of two friends.

For months afterward, her name was emblazoned in headlines, sometimes with a days-old photo of her performing in President Barack Obama’s second Inaugural Parade. Other times, the headlines accompanied a video of her parents, evenly imploring the nation to honor Hadiya and other victims by passing common-sense gun laws.

Hadiya’s death was the last of 44 homicides that month in Chicago.

In the Black community, gun violence is horrifyingly common.

Homicide is the number-one cause of death for Black males ages 15 to 34, according to 2010 data collected by the Centers for Disease Control. Between 2008 and 2009, Black teenage boys were eight times as likely to die (and 25 times as likely to be injured) at the barrel of a gun than White teen boys.

Globally, a report released last year by the Institutes of Medicine and the National Research Council finds that the rate of firearm-related homicide is 19.5 times higher than the rates in other industrialized countries.

“Sometimes a person that’s just interested [in reducing gun violence] can be a little more insensitive without knowing they are. But people who’ve been there—you don’t even have to say certain things,” Nathaniel says.

“—They can look into our eyes and see when we’ve had enough,” Cleopatra adds, finishing his sentence.

Like Ronald Davis and Lucia McBath (Jordan Davis’ parents), and Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s parents) before them, the Pendletons join a growing movement of parents who have lost their children in a country that makes it easy for anyone to obtain guns, legally and illegally. The Pendletons are using their still-fresh grief as a platform, telling their story in TIME, TheChicago Tribune, the Associated Press, MSNBC, and more media outlets in the hopes of spurring change.

In addition, the family is launching the Hadiya Foundation, a non-profit that hopes to heal Chicago by creating a community of support and embracing at-risk youth. Two weeks ago, they received the keys for their new office space; currently, they are seeking funding and skilled individuals to help actualize and grow the organization.

“Us trying to reach and help other at-risk young adults is our way of trying to find some sort of forgiveness. In the end, you’ve got to have some sort of closure,” Nathaniel explains. “I’m learning to understand the younger generation…the best way to understand is to try to talk to and interact with them. I’ve learned a lot of them just need someone to talk to, to vent to. A lot of them are raising themselves.”

The Newsmaker of the Year Award is awarded to someone who has made significant news in the Black Press during the previous year. Only one person is usually awarded, but an exception was made this year to honor both the Pendletons, and Ronald Davis and Lucia Mcbath for their tireless work on gun control in the wake of their children’s deaths.

And the fight is far from over. Last April, three key gun control bills—a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and expanded background checks—all died in the Senate, as survivors of recent mass shootings looked on from the Senate gallery. It was perhaps the last opportunity for the Obama administration to legislate gun control.

“[Gun control] is a very real issue for us. Hadiya was just a kid in high school hanging out with her buddies,” Cleopatra says of her daughter, a loved older sister, drum majorette, and honors student who was just beginning to think about her future. “It’s not just those in the element being harmed. [Her death] is like a banner that reads ‘Coming to a Porch Near You.’”

Nation Suffers Because of Underrepresentation of Black Women in Politics

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The gaping underrepresentation of women of color on the political stage deeply undermines the American ideal of democratic representation.

That’s a conclusion reached by the Center for American Progress and detailed in an article titled, “Why We Need a Political Leadership Pipeline for Women of Color.”

The article, part of the Center’s Women in Leadership project, was unveiled during a panel event featuring prominent women of color scholars, organizers, and professionals.

“The relative lack of women of color serving in elected office raises grave concerns regarding democratic legitimacy and the fundamental issues of political representation,” the article states. “Lack of representation, of course, can mean a lack of attention to and advocacy for issues important to communities of color. And…translates into a major missed opportunity for the empowerment of underserved communities.”

Today, there are 14 African American women in Congress, less than 3 percent of that body. There is only one woman of color in the Senate, an Asian American. And both delegates to Congress – elected representatives who do not have the right to vote except in committees – are Black women.

The picture is the same at the state level. Black women hold about 3 percent of the country’s 7,383 state legislative seats, across 40 states. Among the 100 largest cities, Baltimore is the only one currently led by a Black woman mayor.

“What I’ve experienced over these years is that if it’s something that’s beyond Black, then it isn’t necessarily obviously seen that a Black woman could be the lead of it,” said panelist Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Roundtable. “Because it’s a multi-racial or multi-ethnic, so therefore – ‘No, we’ll get to your issue later.’ There’s the reality that, in a broad women’s movement, for Black women and [other] women of color, are we all equal in that opportunity for leadership?”

According to the article, lack of representation in politics results in a lack of attention to issues that affect women and people of color more. Moreover, males and females behave differently in politics.

A 2009 report from now defunct The White House Project notes that on average, women in Congress introduce more bills, attract more co-sponsors, and bring home more money for their districts than their male counterparts.

Even in high-stress professions, women can more than hold their own.

For example, Val Demings, the keynote speaker at the Women in Leadership panel, is the first woman to serve as police chief of Orlando, Florida. In her four-year term, violent crime dropped 40 percent.

A 2006 study in the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy found that Latina representatives in four southwestern states were more likely than their male counterparts to prioritize the needs of African Americans and Asians, as well as women and families.

But women need to be represented in more than token numbers, Demings said.

“I can only speak as a Black woman…but if you don’t see a whole lot of folks who look like you doing what you’re thinking about doing, it’s tough to believe that you can do it,” she said in her keynote address.

After she retired as police chief, the mayor urged her to consider running for Congress.

“I was meeting with a member of Congress and he said to me that women have to be asked about seven times to run for public office before they’ll even consider it,” Demings recalls. “I was floored. I felt like I was a pretty assertive, bold, going-into-places-where-others-would-dare-not-go type of person – but I was on my seventh ask.”

Demings ran for a House seat in 2012 on the Democratic ticket. She lost the race to the incumbent candidate by 3.5 percentage points, in a district that was 69 percent white. Currently, Demings is running for mayor of Orange County, Florida.

In a 2012 study, American University researchers found that women are both less likely than men to have anyone suggest they run for office, and twice as likely as men to consider themselves “not at all qualified” for the job. Consequently, fewer women – especially women of color – decide to run for office.

“The barriers holding back women of color are undoubtedly much the same as those shown to limit the political ambitions of all women in general: lack of financial resources, weaker social networks, lack of familiarity with the political process, a greater level of responsibility for children and household tasks, and a greater tendency to be more risk-averse than potential male candidates,” the article explains. “The lack of economic support is perhaps one of the greatest barriers for women of color, as they are often the primary or sole caregivers of their children and their elders, earn less, and have considerably less wealth than men of color and white men and women.”

But there is some encouraging news.

According to the Center for American Progress, women of color are increasingly showing up to the polls; African American women voter turnout rose from nearly 60 percent to nearly 70 percent between 2004 and 2008 (Latinas and Asian American women made 20, and 17 percent gains, respectively, in the same time period). This is higher than the 2008 national voting average of 58.2 percent.

If all eligible women of color voted, that would mean more than 41.8 million votes – or, the equivalent of 62.5 percent of President Barack Obama’s 2008 votes, and 71.7 percent of John McCain’s.

“As I worked through voting rights issues, and working in civic engagement…[I was] focusing on what to do to really deal with the power of the sistah vote,” said Campbell. “I say that as an affirmation, because we have not met that yet. We have the numbers, we turn out, people say we’re the most progressive vote, but we have yet to benefit from that power.”

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