A+ R A-

News Wire

BBC Faces New Attacks Over Rwandan Genocide

E-mail Print PDF

Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN) — Pressure continues to build over a BBC documentary that challenges the generally accepted story of the Rwandan genocide, and questions whether Rwandan President Paul Kagame was a peacemaker or contributor to a horrific mass murder.

Last weekend, hundreds of protestors in Rwanda’s Eastern Province marched in their respective districts to denounce “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” a film which aired on the BBC on Oct. 1, saying it promoted the views of genocide deniers.

Press freedom groups such as the International Federation of Journalists came to the defense of the film, which discusses the events leading up to — and during — the genocide of Rwandan Tutsi in 1994. “The film interviews a number of people who argue the widely accepted narrative of the tragedy is inaccurate,” wrote the IFJ in a press statement.

“It is understandable that reporting on a sensitive topic such as the genocide can give rise to strong views from members of the affected communities,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director.

“But, the ban on BBC radio programs (imposed by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency) not only denies people access to information but also undermines the trust between the BBC and the Rwandan government, which is necessary to work through their differences.”

One of the central points of the film is that the official ending of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 did not end mass killings both in Rwanda and outside of Rwanda (i.e. in the Democratic Republic of Congo). The BBC goes deep and finds Rwandans who live in hiding in order to get answers to what happened in 1994 and to the continued mass killings, assassinations, imprisonment, and forced exiles, writes author and historian Yaa-Lengi Ngemi.

But one of the film’s harsher critics, researcher Andrew Wallis, writing on the website Open Democracy, called it so fatally flawed that it raised serious questions over the BBC’s ethics and standards.

“It is not often a documentary comes along that totally reattributes the historical reality of a genocide in a mere one hour,” Wallis wrote. “Twenty years of scholarly research was pushed aside.”

The uproar has escalated in the U.K., where the Parliament on Nov. 6 accused the BBC of denying the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda and called for an investigation.

Still, there is very little that is “new” in the film, said human rights lawyer Peter Erlinder. “Most of the sources and documentary evidence has been available for years and has been hiding in plain sight.”

“Much of it can be found in the records of the U.N. Tribunal for Rwanda, although this database has been made virtually impenetrable for the untrained.”

“We should think for ourselves and reach our own conclusions when faced with what BBC calls ‘extremely painful issues,’” said Yaa-Lengi, president of the N.Y.-based Congo Coalition. “The only way to do this is to contemplate different points of views with an expanded field of facts and of proofs.”

Blacks Outraged by Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

E-mail Print PDF

By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Long after the St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert M. McCulloch announced Officer Darren Wilson will not be prosecuted in connection with the killing of unarmed Ferguson, Mo. teenager Michael Brown and burning tempers and flames had subsided,  African American leaders were still expressing their disappointment in a criminal justice system that failed Brown.

“It has been fairly obvious from the beginning that the predominate belief in Ferguson and St. Louis was that Darren Wilson, the killer of Michael Brown, was not going to be indicted by a Bob McCullough-led grand jury,” Jesse Jackson said in a statement. “In a rambling statement of the grand jury’s process and conclusion – which did little to inform – Bob McCullough acted in the capacity of a defense attorney who misused the grand jury process ‘as a trial’ without professional legal cross-examination.”

Jackson continued, “The issue is not the unfortunate and unwise violent protests that followed.  The issue is the lack of federal uplift for the community even now.  The issue is the lack of federal enforcement of civil rights laws.  The issue is that Ferguson’s police and fire departments do not represent the people, are in violation of the law, yet it continues to receive federal funds.  Ferguson’s police department, fire department and contracts issued are all subsidized by the federal government –  including the equipment that was used to put down the protests – yet the federal government is still not enforcing its own civil rights laws.”

In a Huffington Post blog, Al Sharpton said: “If a grand jury is hearing evidence tantamount to what they would hear in a jury trial, then what is the point of a grand jury? In Ferguson, there are witnesses who say Brown had his hands up when he was shot. That should be enough probable cause to go to trial to then determine if Officer Wilson is guilty or not. It is at trial that he can then defend himself and his attorneys can present their own witnesses and their own defense.”

Sharpton added, “Whether it is the death of Michael Brown, Eric Garner or the many others who die at the hands of police all across this country, it’s important to remember that we never get to hear their side of the story. The victims don’t have the ability to cross-examine or refute theories. They don’t have the ability to hide out somewhere for months while a grand jury deliberates. And they don’t have the ability to defend themselves as some may attempt to assassinate their character either in a courtroom or in the court of public opinion. They are dead, silenced forever.”

National Urban League President Mac H. Morial said, “We respect the grand jury’s decision in the course of due process of our legal system. We will, however, continue to fight for justice and accountability in the death of Michael Brown.  As such, we first and foremost urge the Department of Justice to continue a full and thorough investigation to determine whether federal civil rights charges should be filed against Officer Wilson, as well as to carry out federal reviews of police misconduct and implement key recommendations for police reform.  The excessive use of force by law enforcement in our communities is unacceptable, and we know that we cannot prevent future similar tragedies unless and until there is systemic change across the nation in the area of police reform.”

Charles Steele, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), said, “The grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson is not an end but just another painful step in the long journey to justice, a journey that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our founding president, and others walked with confidence and determination.

“Just as SCLC did not give up until the buses were desegregated in Montgomery, Ala. Under Dr. King’s leadership, we will not give quit until justice is the norm in America instead of the exception in the deaths of our unarmed Black men and women.”

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a federation of approximately 200 Black Newspapers, said: “(The) announcement that the grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Mo. Police Officer Darren Wilson who killed unarmed 18 year-old Michael Brown in August 2014 is yet another systematic and tragic slap in the face of equal justice in the United States… We are the “Voice of the Black Community” and the NNPA will not be silent or rest until there is justice in the Michael Brown case and other cases of racially-motivated police killings and violence in our communities across the nation.”

The NAACP announced that will initiate a 7-day, 120-mile march from Ferguson, Mo. to Jefferson City, the state capital, on Saturday, Nov. 29.

“The death of Michael Brown and actions by the Ferguson Police Department is a distressing symptom of the untested and overaggressive policing culture that has become commonplace in communities of color all across the country, said NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.

“Our ‘Journey to Justice: Ferguson to Jefferson City’ march is the first of many demonstrations to show both the country and the world that the NAACP and our allies will not stand down until systemic change, accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct are served for Michael Brown and the countless other men and women who lost their lives to such police misconduct.”

Melanie L. Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said, “(the)  decision by the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. to not indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting and killing of Michael Brown who was unarmed is a travesty of justice.  Further, we believe the St. Louis County Prosecutor Attorney Robert McCulloch’s gross mishandling of this case is inexcusable…We join the civil rights and social justice community in a call for an end to racial profiling of our young Black men and women who are losing their lives across the country at alarming rates at the hands of police officers who are sworn to protect and serve.”

Attorney General Eric H. Holder mentioned that there are two separate Ferguson-related investigations underway, one into the shooting of Michael Brown and one into the broader conduct of the Ferguson Police Department.

“I want to emphasize that we have two investigations that are ongoing,” Holder stated Tuesday. “As I’ve said many times before and reiterated in my statement last night, the department’s investigations will continue to be thorough, they will continue to be independent and they remain ongoing. They will be conducted rigorously and in a timely manner so we can move forward as expeditiously as we can to restore trust, to rebuild understanding and to foster cooperation between law enforcement and community members.”

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, said:

“The grand jury’s decision does not negate the fact that Michael Brown’s tragic death is part of an alarming national trend of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters. Yet in most cases, the officers and police departments are not held accountable. While many officers carry out their jobs with respect for the communities they serve, we must confront the profound disconnect and disrespect that many communities of color experience with their local law enforcement.

“The ACLU will continue to fight for racial justice. We must end the prevailing policing paradigm where police departments are more like occupying forces, imposing their will to control communities. This ‘us vs. them’ policing antagonizes communities by casting a blanket of suspicion over entire neighborhoods, often under the guise of preventing crime.”

SCLC President Joins Forces with Gorbachev in Peace Effort

E-mail Print PDF

By Sherrel Wheeler Stewart
Special to the NNPA

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, leader in the transformational nonviolent Civil Rights Movement America in the 1960s, is poised for a major role in bringing international peace and equality with the recent signing of a historic proclamation with world leaders in Berlin.

Charles Steele, Jr., president of the Atlanta-based organization, presented the proclamation and secured support during a summit in Berlin November 8-9, commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Steele, who was the only American participating in that summit, also met with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev who agreed to serve as the international chairman of the SCLC’s Global Roundtable on Peace, an initiative that expands the international work Dr. Martin Luther King launched before his death.

The international link with the SCLC and world leaders focused on solutions to global conflicts again shows how much the organization is still held in esteem around the world, said Steele. He arrived  for the summit just before thousands began commemorating the historic events at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate that changed the world.

“Just five hours before his assassination in Memphis in 1968, Dr. King told one of his lieutenants, [current SCLC board chairman] Dr. Bernard Lafayette, ‘Now is the time to internationalize and institutionalize the SCLC and the Civil Rights Movement all over the world. We must go international,’” Steele said. “The relationships the SCLC has established with world leaders, this proclamation and the Nonviolence Conflict Initiative are all a part of the dream of Dr. King.”

As chairman of the SCLC initiative, Gorbachev will serve as a major adviser, providing SCLC with more access to leading policy leaders who can help the organization fulfill its mission in eradicating poverty and achieving peaceful resolutions.

Dr. King, president and a founding member of the SCLC, had already made a significant impact on Berlin in a visit at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement in September 1964. His trip occurred 30 years after his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., known as “Daddy King,” travelled to Berlin with a delegation of Atlanta pastors to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Baptist congregations in Germany. It was also during the 1934 trip that the elder King decided to change his name and his son’s name from Michael to Martin after the 16th century German theologian Martin Luther, who initiated the Protestant Reformation.

The impact of Dr. King’s visit still resonates in Germany and many people there credit the iconic leader for being one of the heroes behind the scenes who helped bring an end to the Cold War and the wall coming down on November 9, 1989.

Twenty five years after the end of the Cold War, leaders gathered in Berlin confirmed by signing the SCLC’s proclamation that international conflicts can best be resolved through nonviolent peaceful solutions.  This is the same strategy that Dr. King employed during the turbulent 1960s.

The proclamation also calls leaders to work toward help for the poor and suffering, social justice and equity, stewardship of the planet, defense of global human rights, and economic equality and education.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Mikhail Gorbachev are two of my greatest heroes,” Steele said. “I told him the SCLC is interested in addressing poverty and human rights around the world, and he is interested in collaborating with us – the organization co-founded by Dr. King.”

About 25 leaders – former ambassadors, foreign ministers, renowned policy advisers –  assembled for the summit at Allianz Forum, overlooking the Brandenburg Gate, signed the proclamation, because they believe in the dream of peace championed by Dr. King and they respect the words of the Soviet Union’s last president.

“Mr. Gorbachev said: There should never be another crisis on the global community stage that we have to use war and violence in order to solve our problems. The only way to solve our problems is through peace and nonviolence.”

Prior to signing the proclamation, Gorbachev thanked the summit participants, including Steele and leaders from throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and North America and said: “The discussion we have had today shows that there are many ideas. The urgency we see here requires immediate attention.”

Martin Lees, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and secretary-general of the Club of Rome, called the summit significant and indicated it could be the start of major changes in the way Europe and the world addresses issues.

“You have people here from all over the world drawing on their expertise and wisdom. They are looking at today’s world and basically saying we are in trouble. We have to mobilize our forces and get together to build a better world,” Lees said in an interview following the close of the summit on November 9.

“Everyone has been saying that Europe has been looking inside for several decades. Now the world problems are so acute. I hope the leaders will wake up and see the scale of the problems and start acting to do something about it,” said Lees, who chaired one of the summit sessions.

He said President Gorbachev would soon meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to continue the discussion.

Anastasia Poliakova, the North America Coordinator for The Gorbachev Foundation, said President Gorbachev has devoted much of his career to bringing peace and eradicating poverty, so the association with the SCLC is a good match.

“Poverty is one of the biggest challenges we face right now. Social issues are still very, relevant all over the world,” she said. “Mr. Gorbachev is committed to using his name and his influence to inspire, inform and educate the global community in support of Dr. King’s ideas and support of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. Steele in moving forward – connecting people together who are of the same mind.”

St. Louis Commits to Police Diversity

E-mail Print PDF

By Rebecca Rivas
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

St. Louis legislators will put $50,000 behind a police training program that black police officers created this year to recruit more African Americans into the police academy, said Mayor Francis Slay at a press conference on November 4.

The Ethical Society of Police – a long-standing organization for black officers – will lead the 10-week mentoring program that aims to identify and prepare potential minority recruits for careers in law enforcement and other public safety professions.

“The ethical society is glad to be spearheading this initiative,” said Srgt. Darren Wilson, an African-American 18-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and president of the Ethical Society of Police.

In January, Wilson and other society members started mentoring potential candidates through an informal pilot program.

“We ran this for several months,” Wilson said. “We started with 10 and were only able to endorse two – to let you know the dynamics of the program and what we’re looking for as far as the caliber of the applicants we feel comfortable endorsing.”

Slay said his office is entering into an agreement with the Ethical Society of Police to help launch the program full force. The initiative will pay African-American officers to work, while off duty, to identify potential quality recruits and prepare them to go through the academy. The money for the program will come out of the Prop S fund, and aldermen will introduce a bill to allocate those funds soon, Slay said.

The 10-week course will include writing and interviewing skills, fitness, professional etiquette and community-oriented policing strategies.

Slay said, “We’ve seen the mistrust that can exist” when police officers do not reflect the people in the neighborhoods that they patrol.

In July, the Ethical Society released a statement criticizing the demographics of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department – saying that for the last 30 years, African-American officers have only made up 30 percent of the force.

Under Police Chief Sam Dotson and Slay’s leadership, the society said, “The department’s level of diversity has remained stagnant in regards to recruitment, promotion and representation: Police academy classes continue with five or six minority recruits in classes of 20 or more officers.”

Dotson said in the last two police academy classes, 50 percent of the cadets have been African Americans. And he will make sure future classes reflect those numbers as well.

“I will not do a police academy class that is not 50 percent African-American,” Dotson said. “I believe that that is reflective of the community. If that means I have to wait a couple of weeks to get qualified applicants on either side, I will. But I also have to make sure that it is reflective of the community.”

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis City NAACP, said the program should be replicated throughout the region. He said the common excuse offered by police leaders – that they cannot find qualified black applicants – would no longer be tenable.

Race and Opportunity in Detroit: Black, Neighborhood Businesses Lose

E-mail Print PDF

By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen

There is a racial imbalance to opportunity and outcome in Detroit’s revitalization a recent report by a Wayne State University graduate demonstrates. “Detroit: Black Problems, White Solutions” reveals what many already believe: The beneficiaries of Detroit’s revitalization are mostly white — the minority, in a city where the majority population is 83 percent African American.

Most funding from foundations and philanthropic efforts, dedicated to encouraging art, entrepreneurial and other endeavors in Detroit, aren’t going to African Americans.

According to Ken Harris, president of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, investment in Detroit lacks economic inclusion and the participation of minority-owned businesses. Harris says there needs to be an assessment and more data on the philanthropic commitment to Detroit’s neighborhoods.

“There are opportunities that exist in the neighborhoods that don’t exist downtown. The urban corridor has been neglected,” Harris told the Michigan Citizen. “There’s development downtown but without true sustainability — neighborhoods keep the city afloat.”

According to the MBCC, there are 32,000 commercial businesses in Detroit and most have between one to five employees. About 10 percent of those are chamber members.

“We can help invest in those businesses or provide resources to help them hire and grow,” says Harris. “If they can hire up to three or more people, you (would) have 100,000 people working in more jobs.”

Harris says the same approach used to find and recruit businesses to come downtown can be used in the neighborhoods. In fact, he says, there are economically viable areas such as the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois.

“Money should be knocking down their doors because they’re already established. Neighborhoods like Greenacres/Palmer Woods — where the Avenue of Fashion is located — the University District, Boston Edison, Rosedale Park, Indian Village and West Village, are all sustainable areas that have been ignored,” says Harris. “Until (philanthropy) connects with those who have businesses in the neighborhoods and the people with boots on the ground making it happen, we won’t truly be able to implement and execute economic policy that makes an impact.”

This month, NEI or the New Economy Initiative announced winners for its NEIdeas competition. The purpose of the award was to help neighborhood businesses. NEI gave 30 businesses with annual sales of less than $1 million a year, grants of $10,000 for business improvement.

Winners included House of Morrison, on the Avenue of Fashion, a shoe and leather repair business and GLEEOR, Inc., a landscaping and snow removal business. Both are African American family-owned, multigenerational businesses.

According to a demographic breakdown of recipients, 73 percent were minority and 60 percent woman-owned.

Dave Egner, NEI’s executive director, however, told the Detroit Free Press: “It’s all part of changing the culture now, particularly bridging the neighborhood-versus-downtown divide when we talk about the two Detroits.”

Harris says the investment in Detroit’s Black businesses and neighborhood businesses must be meaningful. “There’s a difference between job creation investment and curbside appeal or facade changes — grants for equipment and upgrades. We need substantial investment in our businesses that will help us create jobs,” he said. “I can get a grant for $10,000, but is that going to help me create jobs? What’s the difference between that and 1.2 million to a business downtown?”

Wayne StateUniversity Law Professor Peter Hammer says there has to be a new theory of economic development at play in Detroit — one that puts people at the center.

“The current approach is to put property at the center — a new casino, a new stadium,” said Hammer. “That didn’t stop the crisis but led to the crisis.”

Hammer has been critical of the city’s bankruptcy and the Plan of Adjustment to bring the city out of bankruptcy. He says just looking at the numbers — the bottom line — will not solve Detroit’s problems.

“(We have to look at) how do we build human capital, which takes you to the education system, creating entrepreneurial opportunities and job training,” Hammer told the Michigan Citizen.

Regarding Detroit’s “comeback,” Harris says hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to consultants but not to the organizations and people in the neighborhoods, “who are making things happen.”

Foundations and investment firms, he says need to reach out to these organizations. MBCC has been approached by some entities — but only for data scanning and surveying, for outside firms to get a landscape (of Detroit businesses), according to Harris.

“We have not been approached by anyone in the philanthropic or investment community to target African American businesses in the city of Detroit,” Harris said. “When you have outside groups coming in and not doing the day-to-day work, they approach the organizations doing the work but not working with or funding (them) to enhance the community.”

He added, “We do need to have a true economic assessment — a disparity study, so that we can truly monitor and find out where we are. When you have the data you’re able to help move the pendulum forward. It needs to be more than a social argument or justice argument but a data driven argument.”

Harris says the MBCC’s focus now is proactive economic policy.

Going forward, investment in commercial businesses and community organizations is necessary, says Harris. He and Hammer are proponents of community benefits agreements.

CBAs have been successful in other large cities such as Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Those programs have included job training and local hiring mandates, affordable housing, living wage and adherence to green environmental practices, among other community benefits.

“The mayor’s response to CBAs is throwback to the old ways of doing things,” Hammer says “(CBAs) connect new business opportunity to people already living here. (Developers should be asked) ‘How does your business benefit our community?’ and if they can’t answer maybe we don’t need them.”

Although Mayor Mike Duggan has not publicly stated his position on City Council’s CBA ordinance — called Urban Development Agreement ordinance — his administration informed media he agrees with the head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation that it can entail unnecessary red tape.

Duggan spokesperson John Roach told the Metrotimes newspaper last month, “The Mayor hasn’t said much right now on the CBA because he is in ongoing discussions with City Council on the matter, however, he does agree with the concerns Rod Miller expressed in his letter to Council.”

Hammer says CBAs can be used as a screening device to prevent the exploitation of property.

NEI, Mission Throttle and Invest Detroit did not respond to several phone calls about their projects.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series that looks at the racial imbalance and inequity in the foundation funding to Detroit residents.

Page 31 of 372

BVN National News Wire