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Civil Rights Groups Sign Ground Breaking Agreement With Comcast, NBC Universal

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspaper –

The NAACP, National Urban League, and National Action Network announced an agreement with Comcast and NBC Universal to expand current diversity initiatives intended to increase diversity in a wide range of areas including programming and employment.

The Memorandum of Understanding, filed on Dec. 17 with the Federal Communications Commission, creates initiatives to improve diversity in the areas of corporate governance, employment/workforce recruitment and retention, procurement, programming, and philanthropy and community investments.

“The NAACP stands with the National Urban League and the National Action Network in applauding Comcast and NBC Universal for committing to this memorandum of understanding,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “This agreement demonstrates the power of partnership and collaboration. We look forward to working closely with Comcast and NBC Universal and commend them for their corporate leadership in embracing the rich diversity of our nation. Business models that incorporate the importance of diversity increase prosperity and strengthen our economy. Ultimately, we must work together to create one America.”

“This agreement represents a positive step in the right direction for the principle of diversity, inclusion and economic opportunity,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “We applaud Comcast and NBC Universal for its willingness to enter into written commitments toward the goal of building a first-class communications concern. We thank them for their insight and commitment.”

"This historic agreement is a template for how major corporations should commit to concrete ways they will make equity and fairness part of their business plan. This agreement supports workers, businesses, artists, and charities in our community. It is a major step toward changing the corporate culture in how it relates to our community and will help define 21st century Civil Rights,” stated National Action Network President Rev. Al Sharpton.

Highlights of Comcast and NBC Universal’s diversity commitments include:

Adding at least eight new independently owned and operated networks where minorities have substantial participation either through ownership or operational control will be launched.

Establishing a $20 million venture capital fund intended to expand opportunities for minority entrepreneurs in the development of new digital media applications.

Creating Diversity Advisory Councils, including an African American Advisory Council, to facilitate open communication over the development, monitoring, and evaluation of diversity initiatives and to provide advice to senior executives.

Enhancing minority participation in news and public affairs programming.

Expanding investment priorities, including the building of tomorrow’s leaders, the expansion of digital literacy, and the promotion of community service.

Increasing philanthropic efforts to African American led and African American-serving institutions.

"We are proud to partner with these outstanding leaders of the African American community on this Memorandum of Understanding," said David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation. "This comprehensive commitment resulting from the Comcast NBC Universal transaction will bring key benefits in the areas of programming, investment and procurement. We look forward to continuing and deepening our relationships with these organizations and the broader African American community, as well as with other diverse communities with whom we are entering similar commitments."

“We are delighted to be working with the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Action Network as we further our shared goal of diversity in both the workplace and in the media,” commented Paula Madison, Executive Vice President, Diversity, NBC Universal. “We are also proud to be able to build on NBC Universal’s considerable progress over the past few years, and to accelerate the momentum of our commitments to minority ownership, expanded diversity programs, philanthropic efforts targeting under-served and diverse communities, and diversity among our suppliers.”

D.C. Post Office Named after Civil Rights Icon Dorothy Height

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspaper –

President Barack Obama recently signed a bill that names the United States Postal Service office in Washington D.C. after civil rights pioneer Dorothy Height.

On Dec. 15, Obama signed into order H.R. 6118, which renames the United States Postal Service facility located on Massachusetts Avenue in northeast D.C. as the Dorothy I. Height Post Office. The bill passed the House last September and passed the Senate earlier this month.

"This bill, marking it the first time a federal building in the nation's capital has been named for an African American woman, is cause for celebration," D.C. Non-Voting Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said in a statement. "Dorothy Height was an icon for social justice who lived here, and the Congress has recognized that she deserves a visible place of honor and distinction in the nation's capital. Renaming the post office next to Union Station will remind D.C. and the nation alike of the achievements of one of America's great women."

In addition to being a celebrated civil rights leader, Height also served as the Chair Emerita of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). While working with the NCNW, she devoted much of her energy to attempting to improve quality of life issues for Black women and their families, impacting education, health, and economic empowerment.

In 1994 President Bill Clinton awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Height died at Howard University Hospital of natural causes on April 20, 2010. She was 98.

Michael Vick Teaches Kids Consequences of Animal Cruelty

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By Donald Hunt Eagles, Special to NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

The students at Juniata Park Academy were patiently waiting in the school auditorium for a special guest to arrive. The special guest was Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

This was a big week for Vick and the Eagles (9-4). They had a big game on the road against the Dallas Cowboys (5-8) Sunday night on national television. It’s also Tuesday, which happens to be a day off for all NFL players.

But on this day, Vick is talking to the students about the consequences of getting involved in dogfighting. Vick spent 18 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting operation.

Vick has worked with the Humane Society in regards to speaking to youngsters in a number of schools. He has worked hard in trying to steer kids away from animal cruelty. He’s been getting the message out all over the country.

Vick doesn’t make any excuses for what he did. He clearly stands in a wrong person’s place. He’s been open and honest about his involvement with dogfighting and why it’s not the right thing to do. The students listen closely to him. Rebecca Glenn-Dinwoodie, a coordinator with the Humane Society of the United States, talks about Vick’s commitment to help end dogfighting in the community.

“His story is the strongest possible example of how dogfighting is a dead end,” Glenn-Dinwoodie said. “He comes off to these kids very honest. They listen to him and spread the message to the community. That’s powerful. He has spoken inside and outside of Philadelphia.

“Last week, he spoke to two different schools in (New Haven) Connecticut in regards to ending dogfighting. He’s been getting the word out. He’s definitely a busy guy. He takes time to get this message to the kids who need it who may not listen to other figures.”

Vick’s message is powerful. His story is even bigger.

In 2007, he went to prison where he spent nearly two years behind bars. In 2009, he was released from prison and Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, conditionally reinstated him. The Eagles were the only team that showed interest in him. Vick was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons before his misfortunes. He hadn’t played a game since 2006.

The Eagles signed him prior to the start of last season, when they had Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb and backup Kevin Kolb. He saw limited playing time in his first season with the Eagles.

In the offseason, the Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins. Vick became the backup to Kolb who was anointed the starter. But, Kolb got hurt in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. Vick stepped in and played lights out. He took over as the starter.

Moreover, it was announced that Vick, with 729,838 votes, leads all NFL all-stars in balloting for the 2011 Pro Bowl. He leads Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (691,146), New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (623,074), Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (591,598), and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (547,340) round out the top five in voting.

Vick knows what he’s doing on and off the field means a lot to the students. He realizes how critical it is to reach the kids who could very easily travel down the wrong path in life.

“It’s important to come out and talk to the kids and share some of the experiences,” Vick said. “I try to help them at all cost to prevent from going down the road that you went down. I think that’s very important. I just want to continue to spread that message. I want to continue to assist the Humane Society in putting a stop to dogfighting.”

The other part of Vick’s message is for people in general. He isn’t the first athlete to serve time in prison and come out to turn his life around. Bernard Hopkins is a good example of that. Hopkins, a former world light heavyweight and middleweight champion and future hall of famer, spent 56 months in Graterford State Penitentiary. He grew up in North Philly. He started boxing while he was in prison.

Like Vick, Hopkins needed a second chance. He got one. Hopkins, 45, is one of Philadelphia’s best known professional athletes. Graterford has a mural of Hopkins in his honor because of his perseverance and success. Hopkins is not just a great fighter, but also a good humanitarian. A year ago, he arranged to fight Enrique Ornelas at Temple’s Liacouras Center for all his family and friends from North Philadelphia.

Vick attended that fight and recognizes what Hopkins has done with his life.

“I draw inspiration from a lot of people,” Vick said. “There’s always going to be adversity. There’s always going to be ups and downs. It’s all about how you battle back from it. Bernard has a great story. He put in a lot of hard work. He battled back from what he went through. And, that’s what it’s all about.”

Vick has achieved a lot of success throughout his career. He was a terrific football player at Warwick High School in Newport News, Virginia. He had a great college career at Virginia Tech. His first appearance as a football player in Philadelphia was 1999 when Virginia Tech faced Temple at old Veterans Stadium. Vick led the Hokies to an incredible 62-7 victory over the Owls that day.

He was a freshman quarterback at the time. He ran for a season-high 134 yards and two rushing touchdowns while passing for two TDs. He put on a big time performance. He also led Virginia Tech to the national championship game before losing to Florida State.

In 2001, he became the first African-American quarterback to be taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. With three Pro Bowls in 2002, 2004 and 2005, he had built a great resume. This included an appearance in the NFC championship game against Eagles. In 2004, the Eagles defeated the Falcons while making its first Super Bowl appearance in 24 years. The fans have been quite familiar with Vick’s exploits as a player.

In looking back on what he’s accomplished during the years, he knows how fortunate he is to have another chance to not only play football, but also turn his life to community service. He credits his fiancée, Kijafa Frink from Philly, a graduate of Bodine High School and Hampton University, for providing him with plenty of support through the rough times.

“She’s an inspiration to me as well,” Vick said. “I don’t know where I would be especially during my 18-month prison sentence. You don’t really appreciate certain people until you really needed them or when you’re backed into a corner. That was the situation I was in and she was there for me. I will never forget that.”

Some people will never forget Vick’s quarterback performance on Monday night against the Washington Redskins. He led the Eagles to touchdowns on their first five possessions and posted franchise records for points scored in the first quarter (28) and first half (45) and in total net yards (592).

Vick had a career-high 150.7 passer rating and becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for 300 yards, rush for 50 yards, throw four TDs and rush for two TDs in a single game. As a result, Vick’s jersey is on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

That deserves high praise along with his work in the community.

African Country with Two Presidents Presents A Dilema

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

West African leaders are closely watching the Ivory Coast where two men claiming victory in last week’s elections held separate swearing in ceremonies and appointed their own cabinets.

Laurent Gbagbo, the reigning president, named his government on Tuesday, while his rival, Alassane Ouattara, named his team at a separate location. World leaders have been lining up behind candidate Ouattara, including President Barack Obama, who congratulated Ouattara as the rightful winner.

According to the final vote tally announced on Dec. 2, four days after the Nov. 28 poll, candidate Ouattara was the victor with 54.1 percent, or 2.5 million votes, and President Laurent Gbagbo was the loser, with 45.9 percent, or 2.1 million.

But Gbagbo’s hand-picked Constitutional Council tore up the electoral body’s decision and declared Pres. Gbagbo to be the winner.

This week, a top UN envoy told the UN Security Council that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara clearly captured the most votes. “There was only one winner — with a clear margin,” Mr Choi Young-Jin, special representative of the UN’s chief, Ban ki-Moon, said.

"We hope President Gbagbo makes the right choice," U.S. State Dept. spokesman P.J. Crowley told a news briefing. "We are obviously concerned that if the current government makes the wrong choices there could very well be the risk of violence."

More than 10,000 military peacekeepers are already in the Ivory Coast – a world leader in the production and export of cocoa - since a split between the country’s north and south precipitated violence in 2002. Tensions between the two regions provided Pres. Gbagbo the rationale to hold on to his post long after his term expired in 2005.

Meanwhile, Liberian Minister Cletus Sieh warned that some "players" in the Ivory Coast political crisis were talking to some former Liberian warlords and ex-combatants, apparently to get them involved. Ivory Coast shares a porous 370-mile-long border with Liberia.

Taxi Union Leader Urges Drivers to Racially Profile

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By Cyril Barker, Special to NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

If taxi drivers take the advice of New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers President Fernando Mateo, Mateo might not be able to catch a cab if he wears a hoodie this winter in New York City.

Mateo’s words were simple after an incident involving a livery cab driver in Queens who was shot multiple times by a Latino male suspect: “Profile your passengers.” The message is especially shocking being that Mateo himself is half Black and half Latino.

The words stem from the shooting of 58-year-old livery cab driver Trevor Bell, who was recently shot six times in the neck and legs. The alleged suspect was a 22-year-old Latino male who was caught on a surveillance camera in the cab, with footage showing his face and him aiming a gun. The suspect made off with less than $100. Police have made no arrests.

The taxi union boss made the statements during a press conference in Queens outside Jamaica Hospital , where Bell is clinging to life. Mateo said that racial profiling was sometimes a “good thing.”

“I don’t care about racial profiling,” he said. “Because the God’s honest truth is that 99 percent of the people that are robbing, stealing, killing these drivers are Blacks and Hispanics. So, if you see suspicious activity, you know what? Don’t pick up that person.”

Known for his strong support of right-wing Republicans, Mateo said that he is not racist and that he is simply advising drivers to be more careful in certain parts of the city and to be vigilant concerning customers wearing hoodies.

Mateo’s statements received a quick backlash from various groups and leaders in the community. Those who condemn his advice to drivers say that Blacks and Latinos already have a hard time catching cabs in New York City.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said in one TV news report that Mateo “exacerbates the problem” and “racial profiling is never justified.”

David Yassky who serves as the Taxi and Limousine commissioner, said Mateo’s advice to drivers was “down right wrong and simply unacceptable,” according to a statement.

At a press conference held on the steps of City Hall, several Black and Latino organizations spoke out against Mateo’s words, including the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

“His statement that livery cab drivers should racially profile passengers is not illegal—it’s outright insane given the fact that people who are serviced by livery cabs are people of color,” said David Galaraza of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

“We are trying to end the practice of racial profiling at the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies. For a Latino to put something out so simplistic—it just made no sense whatsoever to put out a call like that at a time when we are trying to stop these practices.”

City Councilman Charles Barron was also at the press conference and pointed out that the real issues at hand are a rise in crime and a need for jobs and economic improvement in poor neighborhoods, where many livery cabs get business.

He said, “Racial profiling is a crime. It’s unconstitutional and it’s illegal. You can’t fight crime with racism. He’s talking out of his head. I wear a hood in the winter, so I can’t get into a car service?”

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