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Rage in Harlem

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By Herb Boyd, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News –

(NNPA) - Without the consolation of tears and in a quivering voice, Myrna Soto, the grandmother of a young man slain in Harlem over the weekend, said, “I wish this had never happened.”

But her grandson, Luis Soto, 21, was dead, his body riddled with five or six bullets, the fatal one through his heart probably fired by a police officer. “I didn’t want to lose this grandson,” Soto said during a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the National Action Network. “It’s sad. It’s real sad.”

If Soto’s rage was muted, the hundreds jamming the House of Justice were not, and the Rev. Al Sharpton had called the meeting not to point fingers and blame anyone, “but for people to talk and discuss how we can come to terms with violence.”

Such violence was occurring right up the street from the meeting, as it was reported that a young boy had been shot. At first, he was reportedly dead but it was later corrected to say he would survive.

Soto didn’t survive, and amidst an ongoing investigation, it is still a bit murky as to what really happened early Sunday morning near Colonel Charles Young Playground at Lenox Avenue (Malcolm X Boulevard) and 144th Street.

According to the latest police report, Soto was in a fight with Angel Alvarez, 23, over a young lady when a gun materialized. It is still not clear whose gun it was, but the police account said Alvarez had it and pointed it at officers arriving at the scene.

Two shots were fired from the fracas between Alvarez and Soto, the police say, which precipitated a barrage of 46 shots. When the shooting was over, Soto lay dead, with Alvarez wounded by 21 bullets and two officers and three bystanders shot.

Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and a speaker at the meeting, said the officers failed to use the necessary precautions and properly evaluate “who was the victim and who was the perpetrator. And 50 shots, that’s excessive.”

What many citizens learned four years ago from the tragic shooting of Sean Bell, a victim in a fatal flurry of 50 bullets, was that according to police procedure, an officer is supposed to, after three shots, evaluate the scene then determine if more force is necessary.

That clearly was not exercised in this most recent incident. That and other points were raised by outraged participants at the meeting, including Ade Williams, who expressed a strong concern about the “culture of snitching” among the current generation. He called for the end of such behavior but was aware that to call the police often exacerbates a bad situation.

“We must police our own community,” was a comment offered by more than one spectator—something Tamika Mallory, executive director of NAN, had stressed during her opening remarks.

The dais was overflowing with noted community leaders and elected officials. Assemblyman Keith Wright picked up on the theme that “it’s up to us, we have to do it ourselves,” he said of ending the violence. “One of the hardest jobs we have as parents is turning boys into men.”

“I’m tired of excuses, no more excuses,” expounded Hazel Dukes, civil rights stalwart and NAACP leader. Soto’s death was like “another one of my children is dead,” she said.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Members Robert Jackson and Ydanis Rodriguez, State Sen. Eric Schneiderman, District Leader Theresa Freeman, Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, political activist and candidate Basil Smikle, Kirsten Foy of the public advocate’s office, the Revs. Herbert Daughtery and Vernon Williams, and Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement were among those waiting a turn at the microphone.

Clay received a rousing applause during his brief remarks. “It’s easier to get a Glock than an apartment,” he said, referring to the current firearm of choice.

It may have been such a weapon that wounded Makeda Joseph. During her statement, she related how she was shot. “I was shot by a woman, so it’s not just young men with guns,” she said.

Most of the notables forsook their time in order to hear what the community had to say about the wave of violence. And the recommendations came in torrents. “We’ve got to find some way to help our single mothers raising children by themselves,” charged Renna Walker. She also suggested that churches could play a bigger role in stemming the conflict.

Veteran activist Michael St. John called for establishing a curfew for the children. “I’m willing to work with anybody on the details of this,” he declared.

“We need to put all our ideas in a box as we leave here this evening,” said Natasha Green, a local teacher.

Several community members repeated that it’s time to end business as usual when it comes to police brutality. Lesha Sekou, Stafford Warren and Jael Sanchez were among those who indicated that it is necessary to take the messages at the meeting to those in the streets.

“I’m mad,” said Rev. Williams, who had just come from yet another shooting on 129th and Madison Avenue. “What we’re doing to ourselves is over nonsense. We need to take back our streets. All you have to do is to get mad.”

Some of the streets and a few blocks have apparently already been recaptured, such as143rd Street, where Diane Boyde is the president of the block association. “I’m very concerned that our block and association is being blamed in the recent incident,” she said. She took exception to news coverage that suggested her activities were in some way connected to the shooting.

U.S. Seen to Back a 'Goodluck' Win in 2011 Nigerian Polls

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan may already have U.S. support locked up for a 2011 reelection bid. The rationale, according to an editorial in the Vanguard newspaper of Nigeria, is the global energy war.

The “war” pits the U.S. against China and India on one hand and the unstable supply source in the Middle East and Africa on the other. The battle is to decide who controls the supply source.

At stake is the $16 trillion investment in the development of oil production and distribution between 2011 to 2030 in anticipation of a rise in energy demand of 35 per cent.

Former American diplomats have been quietly meeting Nigeria’s officials of state, the paper reports, citing a recent visit by Walter Carrington, former US Ambassador to Nigeria, and a meeting between Hillary Clinton and Foreign Affairs Minister Odein Ajumogobia.

A further opportunity to burnish the Nigerian leader’s credentials comes next month when Pres. Jonathan attends the UN General Assembly in NY.

So far, other known aspirants to the Presidential seat are Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Otunba Dele Mommodu and Alhaji Ibrahim Shekerau. Anti-corruption fighter Nuhu Ribadu is also hinting at a possible run.

Tentative dates for the polls are Jan. 8-15, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Amidst Soaring CEO Salaries, South African Workers Demand 'Living Wage'

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – Thousands of public service workers turned out for a one day strike to demand higher salaries at a time when corporate CEOs and top government officials are enjoying skyrocketing pay packages.

Speaking from the back of a truck at Tuesday’s demonstration, South African labor leader Zwelinzima Vavi wagged a finger at the rising wages of South Africa’s corporate execs in general, government ministers and even President Jacob Zuma.

"If my memory serves me right he is earning more than 2.2-million rand ($312,056)," he said to shouts of disapproval. The public service workers, earning about $1,000 monthly, are seeking a 1,000 rand ($138) housing allowance and better health benefits.

"We are saying to the government; 'if you have a conscience, give us better pay… We also have families. The president has a family, a big family just like we do. He has many children to feed, just like we do'. We want geld (we want money)," said Vavi, leader of the labor federation Cosatu.

Cosatu and the Public Servants’ Association represent more than half of the 1.3-million government employees. Also preparing to strike are metalworkers, teachers and health care professionals.

Workers are not prepared to "suffer the same pain they had suffered in the past three years,” said Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers, which has called for an indefinite strike starting this week. "Today is only a warning. This is not a strike; we are just firing a warning shot."

Black Farmers Dealt Another Blow in Settlement Case

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By Zenitha Prince, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Black farmers were again denied a $1.25 billion settlement in a racial bias case against the federal government, when Senate Republicans on August 5 failed to support a unanimous consent on the measure. With Congress now in recess, those farmers have been put on hold again after waiting for more than a decade.

“The Black farmers simply do not have time to waste waiting for justice,” said John Boyd Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, in a statement promising to continue agitating “every day until Congress acts.”

While the House has twice approved the bill, the Senate has proven slower to act. The money is the second round of funds dispersed from the 1999 settlement of a class action lawsuit that claimed widespread discrimination in the government’s award of loans to farmers. The suit is known as the Pigford case, after Timothy Pigford, a Black farmer from North Carolina who was an original plaintiff.

Roughly $1 billion has been paid to about 16,000 farmers, with most getting payments of about $50,000. The new money would go to an estimated 70,000 or 80,000 more farmers who were denied earlier payments because they missed deadlines for filing. The amount of money each would get depends on how many claims are successfully filed.

In his statement, Boyd outlined the long process farmers have faced in trying to claim the funds. “Seemingly obstacle after obstacle is placed before the Black farmers:

• When the case was settled, the farmers were told, `Go to Congress;’

• When the House of Representatives passed the legislation, twice, the farmers were told,` Go to the Senate;’

• When the Senate placed the funding in the FEMA supplemental, the farmers were told, `Go find offsets;’

• When offsets were identified, the farmers were told, ‘Those are not the ‘right’ offsets, go find others;’

• When the farmers were placed in a stand-alone measure, the farmers were told, `You need 100% of the Senate to support it;’

• When the Senate placed the funding in the War supplemental, the farmers were told, `‘Not on this bill;’ and most recently

• When the Senate failed to pass several unanimous consent measures, the farmers were told, `Later.’”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), introduced the Black farmers’ case along with legislation to fund the $3.4 billion class action settlement for Native Americans that suffered losses from mishandling of Indian Trust fund accounts at the Department of Interior. The legislation was introduced as a joint, stand-alone measure after appeals from the farmers who believed that righting such injustices should not be a “partisan” issue.

“But that’s exactly what Republicans have made it by blocking the long overdue settlement of lawsuits for minority farmers and Native American trust account holders which is fully paid for ... for the sixth time this year.”

He added, “I challenge my Republican colleagues to rise above their petty political calculations and think about those Americans who have suffered injustices for far too long.”

Boyd said most of the objections, including that of Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who questioned the compensation of lawyers involved in the case, seem directed toward the Native Americans’ case and urged that Pigford be considered on its own.

“These cases deal with discrimination involving two separate government departments, two separate issues, and deal with very different groups of victims,” Boyd said. “While they both deserve to be resolved immediately, there is no reason why the Black farmers need to wait for a resolution of disputes over [the Native American bill] within the Senate when we have broad support for the Black farmers settlement funding.”

Waters, Rangel Seek to Downplay Race in Investigations

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

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – U. S. Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) are apparently seeking to downplay public allegations of racism as they seek to make the facts of their cases heard before the Office of Congressional Ethics.

“People are speculating all kinds of things,” Waters said in an August 6 interview with the NNPA News Service. “There is one thing that I am clear about though. I am clear that if this gets obscured with any other argument before we get our facts out, we don’t stand a chance because people will say we’re hiding behind race or something. So, I think what has to happen is the charges have to be clear, we have to have our day in court and then let’s deal with the process and how the system is working or not working.”

At NNPA deadline this week, Waters awaited enumeration of charges involving the receipt of $12 million in bailout funds by the Massachusetts-based OneUnited Bank, where her husband owns stock. Rangel faces 13 charges involving reporting of income on his financial disclosure forms and alleged fund-raising violations.

Rangel is moving on with campaigning for re-election to the office he has held since 1971. He is being challenged by educator Adam Clayton Powell III. Rangel beat his father, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in 1970.

“Do I believe the case is racially motivated? No. So, I’d like to acknowledge my re-election which I’m concentrating on,” Rangel said in a message left on the NNPA voice mail. “And the hearing date has not been set, so that’s about the size of it.”

The fact is that of 30 probes considered since late last year, the only members considered for full-fledged investigations have been CBC members. So far, Rangel and Walters are the only two to face charges. This has drawn charges of racism from pundits, Black journalists and publishers. Both Rangel and Waters have been icons for Black justice in Congress and pioneers for programs to help the poor and underserved.

“If It Sounds Like Racism and Acts Like Racism, Then It is Probably Racism,” states the headline on a commentary written by NNPA Chairman Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. and published on the NNPA News Service.

Political Scientist Ron Walters says it seems both Waters and Rangel would politically embrace the racial allegations given their Black constituencies. Her 35th Congressional District is about 35 percent Black; about 10 percent White and the rest predominately Latino. His Harlem-based district is predomanently Black. "But they don't want race to get in the way of the facts," Walters says.

Both Rangel and Waters acknowledge the support from Black newspapers and other leaders for justice.

“I thank the NNPA for the supportive work that they’ve done and Mr. Bakewell has been terrific. Thank you,” he said in the voice mail.

“You guys are doing fine. Just keep doing what you’re doing,” says Waters, expressing her respect for the First Amendment.

“Other people need to have the opportunity to say what they think. We have to have a chance to get our story out,” she said. “If we don’t have a chance to get our story out, we don’t stand a chance. And so let other people speculate. But for us, we just have to deal with our facts and let those chips fall where they may.”

Waters is pushing for a speedy trial long before the Nov. 2 election in which she faces Black Republican homeless activist Ted Hayes. He is not considered to be a formidable candidate or a threat to her seat. But, her reputation and the truth are still concerns, she says. “I am deeply concerned by the Committee’s failure to announce a date for a public hearing in its most recent press release,” she wrote in a letter to Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), chair and ranking member of the ethics panel. “I feel strongly that further delay in the scheduling of the hearing violates the fundamental principles of due process, denies my constituents the opportunity to evaluate this case, and harms my ability to defend my integrity.”

CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is standing with Waters as she has with Rangel.

“Throughout her tenure in Congress, and in the California State Legislature before that, Congresswoman Waters has been a tireless and effective advocate for underrepresented and underserved communities and institutions. She continues to be an important voice on those and many other issues and should not have her rights usurped by politicians or the press,” Lee wrote in a statement.

Lee says the media has appeared to try to convict Waters before the trial, an appearance that is particularly frustrating to Waters.

“The media doesn’t even have the story yet. The facts are not out yet,” she said in the NNPA interview. “And that’s why I have asked that the charges be put forth and that we have an opportunity to respond to them and have a fair proceeding in which all the facts are laid out.”

She is emboldened by the longstanding support for her and her legacy.

“We have a lot of support out there. People want to know what’s happening,” she said. “We will be fighting both legally and politically.”

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