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Bridging Generation Gaps to Inspire African-American Youth Health

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By Jessica Harper, Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer –

(NNPA) - A 2009 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that Black teens and young adults are more prone to violence than their White counterparts. Despite that alarming fact, mentoring and counseling groups like the District-based Evolutionary Elders (EE) continue to inspire African-American youth to excel personally and professionally.

Co-founder and author, Eugene Williams, Sr., said the organization fights the odds, by maintaining a positive outlook about the future of Black youth.

"We don't want to be bothered with defeatist attitudes," Williams, 68, said.

"Our goal is to work with mentors, counselors and organizations who have not given up on our children," the Clinton, Md., resident said.

Evolutionary Elders seeks to heal social ills that plague African-American young men and women by bridging generational gaps. Members close these gaps by using education and positive reinforcement to reach Black youth.

"We came together to forge this concept--soon-to-become-movement--because we were really upset at some of the things we saw in families and also in schools," Williams said.

Williams established Evolutionary Elders in spring 2010 with his long-time friend Wetzel Witten, a 67-year-old community organizer from Washington, D.C.

The two men bring together men and women, who were born in the 1930s and 1940s, grew up in the 1950s and became social revolutionaries in the 1960s to mentor and counsel young people and their families. These elders forfeit vacations in Miami to "liberate and elevate the thinking and actions" of Black youth.

“We are an African people, and Negritude represents our attitude,” Witten said. “Therefore, we will never be senior citizens because senior citizens retire, Evolutionary Elders inspire.”

Members inspire by venturing into schools, recreation centers and churches across the D.C. area with a two-pronged mission: to work with parents, guardians and educators to improve education (academics and athletics) and to teach Black youth about their history and respect for their elders.

"Whether anybody accepts it or not, our schools and families are in crisis and our children are caught up in this," Williams said.

"As we see it, if something is not done soon, we will see our schools dissolve and become worse off than they are now."

Now 10 members strong, counselors include an eclectic mix of Ph.D. holders and activists; mathematicians and wordsmiths; athletes and musicians--each of whom share their knowledge with young mentees.

Mary H. Johnson, a member of Evolutionary Elders, said psychological counseling warrants as much attention as academic tutoring.

"The highest compliment I have received since I began working with EE came from a student who was asked, 'Why do you go to the math center so often?' Do you know what he said in response to that? ‘Because Dr. Johnson makes me feel like I'm somebody,’" Johnson said.

Johnson holds an Ed.D. in Mathematics Education from University of Maryland College Park and is married to Williams. The two founded Academic Resources Unlimited (ARU) in 2008. ARU is a non-profit that provides tutorial and communication services to high school students and educators.

Johnson said because many of the organization’s mentees receive little encouragement at home, it is incumbent on the mentors to remind them of their worth.

"Our children fight so hard to feel accepted," Johnson said. "Sometimes all it takes is for them to meet someone who says, 'You can do it!'"

Ed Brown, creator of YouTube's social commentary program The Ed Brown Show, echoed Johnson's sentiment.

"Environment affects development," Brown said. "Some of these kids have no one who cares whether or not they succeed."

Brown’s program covers topics ranging from politics to education, and featured guests include university presidents and local lawmakers.

He said the elders' experience is their greatest asset.

"A child might pay more attention to someone who is much older," Brown said. "An elder brings knowledge that other people don't have. So when an elder says, 'Study hard,' they listen.”\ Williams and Witten said several students have changed their behavior since coming under their tutelage.

"We mentored a 15-year-old boy, a very smart kid, who sold drugs. He told me, 'I never thought about the consequences.' So, I decided to give him a job designing our books," Williams said. "Now, he tells me he's staying out of trouble. On top of that, the work he produces for us is outstanding."

Evolutionary Elders collaborates with non-profit group Wise Educators.com and the Success and Learning Math Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., to provide quality tutoring and counseling services to their mentees.

Williams said, "We don't want volunteers looking to benefit from the name, Evolutionary Elders. They must have a history of doing good things and want to continue to do that work."

Lawless Police Create Mayhem in Nigeria, New Report Says

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – Police in this oil-rich nation routinely shake down citizens for everything from bus fare money to expensive flat-screen plasma TV sets. Illegal arrests and torture are commonplace, and some victims lose their life over as little as 13 cents.

This was the dismal finding of the New York-based Human Rights Watch that has been studying entrenched corruption in the ranks of the Nigeria Police Force.

Their new report, “Everyone’s in on the Game” Corruption and Human Rights Abuses by the Nigeria Police Force,” is based on field research in Nigeria in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Researchers looked at three states: Lagos, Anambra, and Kaduna, representing three of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria; as well as in Abuja, the capital, Rivers and Ebonyi State.

The report also shows how government ministers and officials charged with police oversight, have failed to root out corruption. Public complaint mechanisms, internal police controls, and civilian oversight remain weak, underfunded, and ineffective.

Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu called the report “largely embellished innuendos” reaching a preconceived conclusion, but he also criticized corrupt officers on the department’s website.

Writing on the SaharaReporters anti-corruption website, “Nigerian1” observed: “The only difference between the arm robbers and Nigerian police is that the police bring their victims in police station (where citizens right should be protected), abuse then rob their families while the arm robbers take victims in hide outs and demand ransom, same practice different tactics.”

The full report can be found at http://www.hrw.org/node/92390

Split Widens Between U.S. and Africa Over Sudan

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – African leaders and U.S. policymakers appear to be heading for a collision over an approach to the President of Sudan, Omar al Bashir. The Sudanese leader is facing charges by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide during the bitter seven-year conflict in Darfur.

Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika, who holds the rotating African Union presidency, urged the continent's leaders to resolve the conflict in the Sudan without the need to have Bashir arrested.

Subjecting a sovereign head of state to an arrest warrant was undermining African solidarity and African peace and security that they had fought for so many years, he said.

But in Washington, U.S. policymakers appear to favor a hardline approach outlined by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice. Current U.S. special envoy to Sudan, ret. Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, favored incentives over sanctions and pressure, but he is unpopular with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Rice and may be pushed off to Kenya for a new job.

Obama signs Jobs Bill as CBC Chair Calls for Specific Help for Blacks

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By Hazel Trice Edney, NNPA Editor-in-Chief –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As the Black unemployment rate rose slightly last month, President Obama has signed the long-awaited jobs bill with hopes of turning around employment rates, which for African-Americans still nearly doubles the national average of 9.5 percent.

“The Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010 will create jobs, help American companies compete, and strengthen manufacturing as a key driver of our economic recovery,” Obama said during a bill signing ceremony at the White House last week. “To make their products, manufacturers - some of whom are represented here today - often have to import certain materials from other countries and pay tariffs on those materials. This legislation will reduce or eliminate some of those tariffs, which will significantly lower costs for American companies across the manufacturing landscape -– from cars to chemicals; medical devices to sporting goods. And that will boost output, support good jobs here at home, and lower prices for American consumers.”

Obama’s stroke of the pen will not wipe out all of the damage done during the economic crisis that started in earnest during the Bush Administration. But, there are high hopes in Black communities where the jobless rate reached back to 15.6 percent last month, up from 15.4 in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment among Black males – though dropped significantly from its high of 19 percent in March of this year - is still at 16.7 percent, nearly twice the average White rate of 8.6 and White male rate of 8.8 percent.

There is contention among some that Obama may need to take specific actions to help quell the disparate economic suffering in the Black community.

“Unemployment rates for African-Americans and Latinos remain unacceptably high at 15.6 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively, and highlighting the disproportionate impact the recession has had and the need for targeted efforts to address chronic unemployment,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee (D-Calif). in a statement.

In the President’s bill-signing statement, there was no specific mention of the Black unemployment rate at the bill signing Aug. 11. However, earlier this month, Obama acknowledged to thousands at the National Urban League Convention that Black communities had already been hit substantially by the economy before he ever took office.

“The African-American unemployment rate was already much higher, the incomes and wealth of African-American families already lower,” he said. “There was less of a cushion. Many minority communities -- whether in big cities or rural towns -- had seen businesses and opportunities vanish for years, stores boarded up, young people hanging out on the street corners without prospects for the future.”

He added, “So when we came in to office, we focused not just on rescuing our economy in the short run, but rebuilding our economy for the long run -- creating an economy that lifts up all Americans.”

He also told the NUL crowd that certain actions by his administration have been intended to at least respond to the Black unemployment rate, including “making sure civil rights and anti-discrimination laws are enforced.”

Meanwhile, the issue that was predicted to be his toughest is measuring up to its expectations, Obama said: “Now, we knew from the beginning that reversing the damage done by the worst financial crisis and the deepest recession in generations would take some time - more time than anyone would like. And we knew that it would require an ongoing effort across all fronts.”

First Lady Michelle Obama to Campaign for Democrats

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By Dorothy Rowley, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Democrats are deploying First Lady Michelle Obama to the campaign trail to help them retain control of Congress in the Nov. 2 mid-term elections and boost her husband in the 2012 presidential election.

The first lady, who has appeared on the cover of 12 magazines since ascending to the White House nearly two years ago, currently has a 66 percent approval rating. A staunch advocate for military families, she is popular among women as well as among the legions of new young voters who helped put President Obama in office.

But Obama has also had her tough moments in the media. She was criticized during the 2008 campaign for saying that for the first time in her adult life she was proud of her country. More recently, she was taken to task over her vacation in Spain during a time when many Americans struggle for financial balance.

Along the way she has also garnered widespread applause for efforts such as those to curb childhood obesity. Overall, Democrats believe her high popularity could bring them much-needed favor.

But Maryland-based political analyst Ron Walters said that much of the first lady’s success on the campaign trail will depend on how she’s prepared.

“If they send her into districts where the president is unpopular, she’s not going to be able to turn things around,” Walters said. “But if they send her to some districts where she’s popular and she’s got a lot of women and families that she can talk to, then she can make a difference.”

During a recent CNN interview, White House senior advisor David Axelrod was asked how valuable the first lady would be for Democrats between now and Election Day.

“I think she feels strongly about the affirmative things that this administration has done,” Axelrod said. “She’s been a leader on some of them [including the childhood obesity campaign and]…just last week, the United States Senate passed a bill on child nutrition.”

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