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Pastors Cite Racial Discrimination in Police Captain Suspension

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By Yasmine Regester, Special to the NNPA from the Carolina Peacemaker –

GREENSBORO (NNPA) - A Greensboro police captain has been placed on administrative duties after filing grievances on behalf of himself and other police officers. A press conference regarding the recent actions taken by the Greensboro Police Department against Captain Charles Cherry was held June 24 by the Pulpit Forum at New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Greensboro.

Cherry is the commander of GPD’s Eastern Division and has served the department for the last 23 years. Cherry’s suspension comes at the beginning of Greensboro Justice Summer, a grassroots movement organized by Beloved Community Center along with other faith based and social activism groups to organize and inform the public of their rights and to address issues surrounding the Greensboro Police Department.

Cherry was placed on administrative duty on June 7, pending a Fitness for Duty evaluation based on the following reasons: 1. writing and submitting grievances on behalf of several officers; 2. an inability to accept reasonable responses from department supervisors, and 3. his physical reactions in front of subordinate employees.

On June 9, Cherry was prohibited from the Maple Street police station and squad line-ups for the Eastern Division or any other divisions. He has also been stripped of his badge and gun. Cherry must also be evaluated by the department psychologist before being permitted to return to active duty.

Cherry sent an email to his employees on June 17 giving the reasons why he was placed under evaluation via the recommendation of a Bureau Commander. He also provided explanations of his actions. Cherry was accused of writing and submitting grievances from several officers who expressed the need for his assistance in writing such grievances. In the memo Cherry states that doing so was not in violation of Departmental Directives or city policy, however, it was one of the reasons provided as to why he is undergoing a Fit for Duty Evaluation.

Cherry told the Peacemaker he felt his employees and the community have a right to know why he was placed under Fit for Duty Evaluation. “I sent the memo to explain to my employees, and I also want the community to know because I serve them. I feel like they have a right to know what is going on.”

The pastors of the Pulpit Forum are citing racial discrimination and double standards within the GPD, which they say is the basis of the content in the submitted grievances. In a press statement released by the Pulpit Forum the pastors state, “This devious and unconscionable action is about covering up the culture of corruption and double standards within the GPD, pure and simple. It is a retaliatory measure…”

They also do not believe that hiring a new police chief will help alleviate the situation and are concerned the city will try to sweep the issues out the door with Police Chief Tim Bellamy when he retires on July 31.

The Pulpit Forum has written letters to the city manager’s office with a list of 97 questions addressing issues they believe need to be discussed publicly by the police department. Members of the forum have also spoken before city council on several occasions but have yet to receive any response to their list of questions.

Rev. Cardes Brown of New Light Missionary Baptist Church and president of the NAACP Greensboro branch, has been quite vocal in addressing members of city council as well as Mayor Bill Knight. Brown had been a supporter of Police Chief Tim Bellamy when Knight made a statement during a political forum in 2009 that he believed the chief only got his position because he was Black.

At the press conference, Brown stated that he owed Mayor Knight an apology for challenging his statement.

“I first challenged the statement because of Bellamy’s credentials. But now I do believe that Bellamy was made chief because he was Black and he could be used to show favor on the force. I believe Bellamy was willing to go along with things requested of him,” said Brown.

Rev. Nelson Johnson of Beloved Community Center added, “I think the apology from the Mayor was called for, because when you are placed in a high position such as mayor, you can’t play with stuff like that. But I do believe the chief is incidental to this.” The pastors and supporters demanded an apology from the mayor on more than one occasion but never got a response.

Johnson explained that he has access to several officers’ grievances because he and Rev. Brown have been asked to be spiritual advisors to them. “These grievances cite racial discrimination, harassment and hostile work environments. I think an interview with the city manager would be helpful because that is where everything has stopped,” said Johnson.

According to Johnson, city manager Rashad Young has a stack of grievances currently on his desk and the majority of them were filed by Blacks and other minorities. Under city policy, Young is required to respond in a timeframe of 20 days per complaint filed.

According to Michael Speedling, Assistant City Manager of Public Safety, Young is in the process of responding to the grievances as well as getting a response to the 97 questions presented by the Pulpit Forum.

'Africa's Worst Dictator' Wants To Spiff Up His Image

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – The President of Equatorial Guinea, once called “Africa’s Worst Dictator”, will get an image upgrade from a former aide to President Bill Clinton. Lanny Davis will receive $1 million for the job.

EG President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who seized power in 1979, is believed to have stashed about $700 million in private accounts from the first wave of revenues from offshore oil.

Davis, a regular cable news presence told the Huffington Post this week that he agreed to the contract because the African leader expressed sincere hopes of modernizing his country and implementing major political reforms.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said it would delay awarding a controversial prize named after and funded by the Equatorial Guinea president after protests from over 270 organizations and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Oil-Coated Fish Found Near Exxon Wells In Nigeria

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – The appearance of oil-coated fish are raising fears for the fishing industry in southern Nigeria where a leakage was reported near a pipeline owned by ExxonMobil.

MPN, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, on May 1 confirmed leakage at one of the company's offshore platforms in south Nigeria in Akwa Ibom State.

Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Chairman of the state chapter of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN), told the Nigerian news agency they could no longer cope with the spills.

"We no longer make reasonable catch, and after fueling our outboard engines, we toil day and night, yet the catch does not cover the fuel costs.

"It is hope that keeps us going; we have been running at a loss and have been praying that God will turn things around."

Ayadi said that fishermen operating along the Atlantic shoreline recorded four oil spills within the past six months on Dec. 4, 2009 as well as March 24, May 1, and June 21, 2010.

According to the Ministry, since May 1, about 300 barrels of crude have leaked from one of ExxonMobil offshore platforms in southeast Akwa Ibom State. The story was first reported in SaharaReporters.com, a citizen journalism website.

Kagan Scrutinized for Confirmation This Week as Black Support Grows

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

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, President Obama’s pick for the U. S. Supreme Court, has gained more Black civil rights support as she goes before the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, who said in May that the LCCR would await decisions from more of its some 200 organizational members before it announces a formal endorsement, has released an updated statement announcing the organization’s endorsement of Kagan.

“The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights today announces its support for the nomination of Elena Kagan to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and urges her speedy confirmation.

"In every step of her career, Elena Kagan has highly distinguished herself through her outstanding intellectual credentials, her independence of thought, and her strong respect for the rule of law. She is fully qualified and ready to serve on the Supreme Court,” Henderson said in the statement.

This adds to a significant list of civil rights organizations, which have chosen to back Kagan, despite deep concerns that Obama failed to continue diversifying the court by nominating a Black woman. The NAACP also endorsed Kagan while the Black Women’s Roundtable, led by Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civil Participation, expressed strong disappointment that the court still has no Black female justice.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund also came out in support of Kagan last week despite some reservations.

The NAACP-LDF released a report last week stating, “Notwithstanding some concerns detailed in this report, LDF supports Elena Kagan’s nomination to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Our review of her record leads us to conclude that she has the professional credentials, respect for the institutional roles of all three branches of federal government, intellect and independence of mind, ability to build consensus, and commitment to justice required of one who would serve in this critical role.”

The National Bar Association, representing 44,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students in 80 affiliate chapters in the U. S. and around the world, had also recommended a Black woman appointee. NBA President Mavis T. Thompson said the organization hopes to eventually support Kagan, but would wait to learn “more about the nominee's sensitivity to issues of race, gender, class discrimination and to affording equal opportunity to all segments of our society.”

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has also withheld support of Kagan, noting questions that still remain on her protection and defense of civil rights while the National Urban League this week announced support of Kagan.

Meanwhile, Kagan will be questioned intensely this week by members of the majority Democratic Judiciary Committee, who will decide her fitness as an associate justice for the Supreme Court to replace long-serving Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. Predictably, Republicans have threatened a possible filibuster if the nomination advances to the entire Senate for vote. They say she is too liberal and has never been a judge. She is ultimately expected to survive all challenges.

Henderson and the LCCR are apparently poised to battle on her behalf:

“We also urge Senators not to be swayed by a small number of ideological extremists who have been grasping at straws to characterize her as having an ideological agenda,” he said in his statement. “While the Senate should thoroughly explore her views, it is abundantly clear to us that Elena Kagan is a consensus-builder who will play an important role in healing a fractured Court and in protecting the rights of all Americans.”

For One Man, 15-Minute Wait for HIV Results Feels Like Hours

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - For 15 minutes, Austin Weatherington rewinds the last seven months of his sex life and reflects on every encounter. He sits with his stomach in knots while anxiety is having its way with him. Fifteen minutes feel like it's been stretched into hours.

Sitting behind a black curtain in the lobby of National Council of Black Women building in Washington, D.C., Weatherington is waiting for the results of his HIV test. He admits that he now realizes that 30 minutes of pleasure suddenly seems heavier. One of those 30 minutes of pleasure could change the rest of his life.

He swabbed the inside of his mouth a few minutes earlier. The man administering the test cracks a couple of jokes to help relax him and tells him that it will take about 15 minutes to get back the results. The tester, a dreadlocked man in disposable latex gloves, then asks Weatherington a series of basic screening questions regarding his sexual history, drug use and other behaviors:

“Have you had unprotected sex in the last six months?”

“Have you ever taken drugs intravenously?”

“Have you ever tested positive for HIV or AIDS?”

This is Weatherington's third test and, hopefully, third negative result. His last test was seven months ago. The 24-year-old radio producer is getting tested at an HIV/AIDS Testing Day event organized by the National Council of Negro Women from a grant sponsored by the Center for Disease Control. The Washington, D.C. radio station that Weatherington works for is broadcasting on site from the event in hopes of getting people to come out. Organizers are hoping to get twice the amount of people tested than they did previous year when they tested 100 people.

"NCNW held our first event to address the issue of HIV/ AIDS 25 years ago so we are not newcomers to this," said Avis Jones-DeWeever, director of the NCNW Research and Policy Center. "We see it as something that is critically important to our community. In recent years, it has been even more devastating than in years past. We are only 12 percent of the population but we are nearly half of those infected with HIV."

Events such as these are crucial because Washington has the worst HIV/ AIDS rate of any major city in the country. The Nation's Capitol's rate is nearly 10 times the national rate with as many as one in 20 adults having HIV, according to the Whitman-Walker Clinic. Eighty-six percent of those with the virus in Washington is African-American. Nationally, that figure is closer to half, which is still disproportionately high.

"It's quick, it's easy, it's painless," Jones-DeWeever said. "That's the message I want to get across to people."

Compared to the previous testing methods, which used needles to draw blood and could take weeks for a result, the process is literally fast, easy and painless. The practitioners administer an oral fluid test called Orasure that tests for the presence of HIV antibodies, not the virus itself.

Weatherington was asked to swab the inside of his mouth. He had to thoroughly swab around the front of his gums. The swab was used to produced an oral fluid sample. The test uses a fluid picked up by the swab called oral mucosal transudate that comes from the tissues of the cheek, not the saliva.

The swab is then put into a solution that in 15 minutes will read whether the person is HIV positive or negative.

"They swab the inside of your mouth and 15 minutes later you go home with a peace of mind and you're protecting yourself and protecting the ones you love," Jones-DeWeever says.

If you get a negative result on the test it is quite accurate. However, if the result is "preliminary positive" you will need to do follow up blood tests to check whether you actually have HIV or not.

While the quick swab test is very reliable it is not 100 percent. It is reported to be 99.9 percent accurate. It is accurate enough in letting a person know that they don't have HIV. But if a person receives a positive reading, it means that HIV antibodies are present and the result is preliminary until a full blood test can be conducted to accurately diagnose that a person is HIV positive.

"If a positive test comes up, that person is counseled immediately and, in addition, an appointment is made for a blood test so that we can verify the results," Jones-DeWeever says. "They are then referred to the appropriate parties for further help."

Jones-DeWeever said that research is telling experts that there is an increasing sense of complacency among the Black community.

"People think that the fight against AIDS is over or that it is not more serious than a cold and that you just have to take a couple of pills and you're fine,” she said. “This is still a serious disease and it is still killing people. We need to take it seriously."

Being proactive by getting tested early will help people who are living with the virus to live long, strong and healthy lives, she said.

“The secret to being able to live 20-plus years with HIV in a way that Magic Johnson, for example, is that he knew early,” Jones-DeWeever said. “You need to know early so that you could be put on the correct regimen and you can have a great quality of life. That's the key.”

Weatherington said that getting tested is not a topic of discussion amongst his friends or family but he and his girlfriend made it a priority to keep each other informed. They made a pact to know each other's status. She already got tested so now it's his turn.

"Am I worried? I think everyone should be worried if you're having sex,” Weatherington says. “But yeah, I'm a little anxious and nervous. But I'm glad it's a swab test. I'm a little afraid of needles."

The 15-minute wait elapses. After the dreadlocked man in the latex gloves finishes asking Weatherington the screening questions, he nonchalantly informs the radio producer of his results.

Weatherington cracks a smile and looks at the paper with the box checked negative as it's handed to him.

He replies, "I've never been happy to hear something so negative in my life."

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