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Journey to Success: Mentors Coach Young Black Men On College, Manhood

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By Robyn H. Jimenez, Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner –

DALLAS (NNPA) - "In life, it's not where you start, but where you end," said Dr. Steve Perry, one of the nation's leading motivational speakers.

Perry's journey began in a housing project in Middletown, Conn., when he was born to a teenage mother. He knew first hand the struggles that young men in economically disadvantaged areas experience daily.

His mother was committed to doing what she could to create a better future for herself and Perry, but also for the community in which they lived. She taught Perry that it took discipline and dedication to accomplish his goals. Perry used these tools and his commitment to football to stay out of trouble, graduate and go on to college.

He went on to receive a bachelor's in Political Science, a master's in social work and a doctorate in education. He then went on to put his degrees to work for his community at a part-time college preparatory summer program, where he worked with students that were mainly from failing schools.

In 2005, he founded the Capitol Preparatory Magnet School. The school, with an average 700 students in attendance each year, is listed among America's top schools for consistently graduating 100 percent of its high school seniors.

Perry is also the author of Man Up! Nobody Is Coming To Save Us and Raggedy Schools. He is a contributing writer for CNN and was featured in Black In America 2.

Last month, he was one of many invited guests to speak to a large group of young men during The Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend for Young Men. The four-day camp is held on Harvey's ranch in Little Elm - about 30 minutes north of Dallas - and is open only to young men from single mother households, ages 13 and up, in grades 8 through 11. To attend, the young men must be nominated and then go through a selection process, which includes the demonstration of the ability to overcome obstacles.

Among those young men, was 16-year-old Jason Hardaway, who was chosen to return in his second year as a junior counselor.

"The junior counselor is important because we've already been through it and we're kind of an in-between, between the adult counselors and the new kids that are being mentored," said Hardaway, who stated that some of the new boys were apprehensive about attending, but began to enjoy the experience when interacting with them during the workshops and activities, which was the best part of the experience for Hardaway.

"The most thing that I enjoyed about the event was hanging out with the kids, because Steve brings kids from all over the United States. It's cool to see the different cultures and also how similar we are," said Hardaway, a Dallas resident.

Apprehensive or not, only 100 young men were handpicked to attend the annual mentorship weekend. The elite group of young men drew several national speakers and leaders like Ford designer Earl Lucas, FBI Special Agent Aaron Covey, Stephen A Smith and Shawn Mooring of Fair Game, as well as Perry.

"This is a special group of young men. This is truly the best and the brightest," Perry stated. "Steve Harvey's show reaches millions of people and for this group to come down here, they're representative of a phenomenal group of young men from all over the country, so I had to meet them. Really. It's more about me meeting them, than it is about them meeting me. This is not a small feat to make it to this place."

Perry was asked to be one of the speakers during the panel session: What It Takes to Get In and Stay In College.

He told the boys how special they were and how much it meant for him to meet them. He also told them to, "Enjoy the journey" and "Create opportunities for yourself and for others ... And then I gave them some specific information about how they could get into college and graduate from college," Perry said.

"They tell you about what is mandatory to be accepted. Like they want us to take three years of language, when two is only the necessity, because they want us to exceed everybody else and go to college and have a greater opportunity. They give you tips about taking the SAT and the ACT, and why its very important to do well on the tests to get into college," said Hardaway.

He also told them to take real algebra classes and finish Algebra II before graduating high school. He also talked about when to apply to colleges and to make sure they apply to eight colleges.

"Three years of a language because that's what you need to get into a four-year college. Any language. It could be Spanish. It could be French. Whatever you want to do. It just has to be three years," Perry explained. "At least Algebra II because that's what you need to do well on the SAT or the ACT. Eight colleges because you get two that are a reachable, two that you're pretty sure you can get into and the other four are somewhere in between there."

He said the choices also gave the boys choices between different types of schools - such as rural and urban, and private and public - based on the students' needs and preferences.

During the last part of the session, he asked the young men if they had anyone that they knew who cared about young people, someone who had their back and could serve as a mentor. He encouraged them to listen to these people and use their wisdom and guidance to help them along their journey. Then he told the young men that didn't have mentors to talk to him afterward.

Clifton Crosby, former NFL defensive back and part of College Summit, also spoke during the panel. He shared his personal story with the young crowd about his life growing up in a single parent home.

"I could have used all the excuses in the world, of why not to go to college, why not to graduate. And I chose not to make excuses and really make a decision that I was going to go to college and that I was going to be the best at whatever it was that I was going to do," said Crosby. "I know there were a lot of athletes that were listening to me. And I wanted them to see that life is more than just playing sports. Life is more than just making it to the NBA or the NFL. You've got to have that sense of education first. And if you have that, it's only going to enhance your athleticism and your ability to make it to the NFL."

The session was inspirational, as well as informational. The young men listened intently, responded readily to questions and eagerly asked questions during the session.

Other sessions covered gang awareness, Internet safety, relationships, health, grooming, do-it-yourself quick fixes and a message from the White House. The mornings began with physical fitness and cardio-training. During the day, attendees were able to participate in fishing on Harvey's private lake, golfing, tennis, football and paintball. And even during the sporting sessions, the young men learned important life skills, such as teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership.

"This year, I learned how to be more of a leader, compared to last year when I was learning how to be a man. This year I got to lead people in doing things. Like paint ball that was a really big thing. I got to lead my team to victory. That was fun," said Hardaway.

Harvey took time during the day, to interact and bond with the young men. Then, at the end of the day, he offered his words of wisdom on manhood during the weekend dinner and town hall meetings.

"Honestly, when I first heard that I was going to the Steve Harvey thing, I never really thought he was as funny as he is. Steve Harvey is a really, really hilarious man. I also didn't think he was as concerned about the community as he is. But he really spends a lot of his time in the community and helping young boys to come up in their manhood," said Hardaway.

He looks forward to returning next year, meeting new friends and rejoining old friend from across the country. As a mater of fact, he's already preparing to return.

"I'm going back next year. I've already submitted my letter. I enjoy going because every time I do learn more and they have different mentors and such," Hardaway said, and added that he may not be able to attend the following year, because he will be getting ready for college. And he says, thanks to Harvey and the men that have mentored him through the mentorship.

"The most important thing in a kid's life is what he dreams," Harvey said. And with the belief that "it takes a village to raise a child," he has gathered a village to help young men from across the country build the foundation to their dreams.

"I wouldn't want to brag or anything, but being there, I do feel as if I have more of an advantage over everybody else, because I have more motivation or purpose. I feel it's almost a necessity for me to exceed, because I need to go back and help somebody else. Steve Harvey's fraternity's motto is to help bring up somebody else, once you've gotten to success. So, I guess I have a deeper motivation now, so it drives me harder to succeed, than everybody else. Plus, I already enjoy competing," said Hardaway.

Next year, the mentoring weekend will be held in June. Anyone interested in recommending a young man for next year, can visit http://steveharveyfoundation.com.

For the young men that have not attended the weekend program, Perry hopes that they realize that they are just as special and will be able to use a few of his fundamental steps to make the most of their future.

"Every single one of us has something in us that is very, very special. And it's about finding out what that gift is and finding a way to make that gift grow so that it can help us improve our lives and most importantly help us improve the lives of others."

Media Tainted By 'Afro-Pessimism,' World Cup Official Says

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – A 2010 World Cup coordinator called this month’s competition soccer games “hugely successful” despite “biased reporting” by western media.

"My feeling is that we have been the victim of Afro-pessimism at the highest level," Laurine Platzky said at a press briefing in Cape Town yesterday.

"The British media I can't begin to understand. I think there are people who sit in different parts of the world who think that they know Africa."

Platzky said an exit poll of foreign tourists leaving South Africa in the past few weeks suggested the World Cup had been a huge success.

Still, Patrick Bond of the Center for Civil Society in Durban, warns that after World Cup euphoria dims, immigrants may become the scapegoats for government failure to address “root causes of social stress” namely mass unemployment and housing shortages.

"We are more worried after the World Cup, the possibilities of xenophobia ... construction jobs fall away and people, especially from Zimbabwe, will be looking for jobs,” said former Ireland president Mary Robinson at a press briefing in Johannesburg.

"We hope it does not happen and I hope more job opportunities come."

Brazil To Build University For Kenyan Students

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – In his first visit to Kenya, Brazil’s President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva this week signed six bilateral agreement to boost trade, investments and economic ties with the East African nation, including one that gives Kenyan students a university education in Brazil.

The school in the northeastern state of Ceara will train 5,000 African and 5,000 Brazilian students in various fields.

With the U.S. tied down in a war in Somalia, training troops in Uganda, Congo, Guinea, Senegal and other nations, Brazil, the world’s eighth largest economy, is chasing business deals with the East African Community economic bloc, by partnering with Kenya.

There are more than 125 million people in the five-nation East African economic.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s support for ethanol projects notwithstanding, environmentalists and local residents of Malindi, a historic Swahili settlement on the Malindi bay, are battling it out over a planned multimillion-dollar biodiesel development that will take over some 120,000 hectares of woodland to grow Jatropha Carcus.

Malindi’s county council supports the project, citing “health centers, schools, recreational facilities and employment that would will benefit this area greatly, but environmentalists say it will erode the fragile soil, take up scarce water turning forests into deserts and destroy the livelihoods of locals.

Wall Street Bill Passes House, Heads for Senate With Significant Black Inclusion

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Last week, the House of Representatives passed a Wall Street reform bill that advocates are calling the most comprehensive financial reform since the New Deal was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt 70 years ago.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which comes on the heels of one of the worst economic fall outs in U.S. history, will put in place the strongest consumer financial protections ever by curbing abuses by banks, mortgage and credit card companies and keeping their consumers better informed by making the financial industry more transparent, according to President Obama.

“Today’s House vote in favor of Wall Street Reform puts us on the cusp of passing a law that will give consumers greater protection and safeguard our economy against future financial crises,” Obama said in a statement shortly after the vote was passed on June 30th. “It has been a long fight against the defenders of the status quo on Wall Street, but today’s vote is a victory for every American who has been affected by the recklessness and irresponsibility that led to the loss of millions of jobs and trillions in wealth.”

The bill must still go to the Senate for approval before the president can sign it into law. The anchor of the bill is the creation of new independent watchdog agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It will have the power to regulate the activities of banks, credit card companies, payday lenders and other financial services institutions. It is designed to act as the same manner as the FDA already does for medical safety and set consumer protective standards against such financial practices as hidden credit card fees and deceptive fine print.

The new bureau would be entirely dedicated to protecting consumers from the unscrupulous lenders that helped bring down the economy, said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who chairs the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity and also serves on the House Financial Services Committee.

“We are not only creating new opportunities for minorities and opening doors that had been closed but we were basically in the leadership of support of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that is going to help all consumers with all of these issues that we are confronting,“ she said in an interview with NNPA.

The congresswoman was responsible for many key provisions that were included in the bill that address specific economic problems in the Black community.

Those provisions include:

-The creation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion;
- Additional assistance for homeowners;
- More funding for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which helps homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure and provides low interest loans to unemployed homeowners who are having a difficult time keeping up with their mortgage payments. Under the legislation, the program will receive an additional $1 billion in funding and an additional $2 billion in funding from the Treasury Department;
- Safeguards that ensure fair access, treatment and regulations for minorities, women and low-income workers, including ensuring diversity in hiring and job promotions at federal financial regulatory agencies and in their contracting with the creation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.

“Getting the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion into law is the biggest thing that has happened in many years in terms of legislative efforts to improve the plight of minorities in this country," said Waters, who created the agency. "It's huge.”

Waters said that because banks and financial institutions disparately targeted the Black community for the exploitative sub-prime loans that helped bring down the economy two years ago Black lawmakers were keen on supporting the bank reform legislation and its specific protections for minorities and low-income consumers.

Black members in the House were instrumental in getting the bill passed. But now the bill comes to the Senate chamber, which has one African-American member and is bitterly divided along party lines. Waters still feels that the Senate will be successful in pushing the bill through.

“For the first time, the conference committee that resolves the differences between the two houses had significant minority representation on that committee," Waters said. "And because of that, we were able to not only educate the senators who sat in the conference committee on the importance of what we were doing."

Will Oscar Grant Murder Trial Be Repeat of Rodney King Verdict?

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By Charlene Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

LOS ANGELES (NNPA) - Jurors were set to resume deliberations July 7 in the murder trial of the White former transit cop who shot an unarmed Black passenger in Oakland.

As a verdict neared, some analysts and activists wondered whether L.A. would see a repeat of “Rodney King.”

Rodney King is the Black motorist whose infamous 1991 videotaped beating by members of the Los Angeles Police Department drew national outrage. A predominantly White jury acquitted three of the officers, deadlocked on one, and set off six days of rioting throughout South L.A. The period became popularly referred to as the “1992 L.A. Rebellion” and the “Rodney King riots.”

Video of police beating of Rodney King, May 3, 1991.

“The acquittal of the officers that beat Rodney King triggered one of the worst riots in American history. If the jury with no Blacks acquits Mehserle, it will be silence in the community. It will come. It will go. You will hear angry statements from some youth leaders. You will hear angry statements from the relatives from Oscar Grant, but as far as community anger, rage, you will hear nothing,” predicted Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, political commentator and talk radio host.

The reason is a lack of local and national media attention and what appears to be a lack of emotional engagement and public attention, except for a consistent contingent of youth led protests and scrutiny from community leaders and activists in the Bay Area since Johannes Mehserle shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant, III. on a station platform on Jan. 1, 2009, he said.

According to Dr. Hutchinson, one parallel is that White officers are accused of victimizing Black men, but a difference is there is no sense of a city on edge in the Grant murder as with Rodney King's beating.

The LAPD was on trial, not just the four officers who beat Mr. King, because of its long, well documented history of brutality against Blacks and Hispanics, Hutchinson told The Final Call.

The sordid history includes an almost relentless war with LAPD which spawned beatings, riots, brutality, and murders, but the analyst and writer felt the same relationship doesn't exist with BART.

“Rodney King was just waiting. King was not isolated. King was not an aberration. King was part of a pattern of abuse from a police department to a community. ... Those four officers that beat Rodney King weren't just seen as four rogue cops. They were seen as the face of a brutal police department but Mehserle is seen as just one bad cop,” Hutchinson said.

Aidge Patterson, an organizer with the L.A. Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant, said the system has set the stage for a repeat of Rodney King by lying to people's faces.

"They're trying to tell us what our eyes see is not what the truth is. They're trying to cover this murder by another one of their foot soldiers up but at the same time I see an amazing effort of people across the state to have this cop locked up and let them know they don't have the ability to get away with it like they did back then,” he said.

“As the trial of Johannes Mehserle comes near its conclusion; the city of Oakland fears the response shown in L.A. after an acquittal in the beating of Rodney King. Those whose anger led them to the streets of Los Angeles to protest an unjust verdict were justified in anger. Oakland should learn that the road to peace is the proper administration of justice. Minister Louis Farrakhan teaches us that injustice creates an imbalance of mind; and when the mind is imbalanced, so too can be our actions,” said student Minister Keith Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam mosque in Oakland.

Jan. 1, 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant by Oakland police.

“Our hope is that city leadership will take courage, stand together, and demand justice. There is no need to wait for the verdict to call for peace and calm; demand justice now. This case has zero Black members of the jury. This case should have been monitored closely by the federal government. City leaders should stand on the mountain top and demand justice. Then the people may feel that government is on their side and not the side of rogue police, who are trained to cover their tracks,” he said.

“Remember, Johannes Mehserle is the first peace officer in the history of California to face a murder charge for unjustified homicide or murder. Remember, no peace officer in the country has ever been convicted for murder while on duty. Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Elenor Bumpurs, and a long list of other police killings have all been considered by courts, justifiable homicides. Cities are paying millions of dollars to settle lawsuits; yet no criminal court has convicted an officer for murder.”

News media indicate the Oakland Police Department recently simulated a riot to prepare for the Mehserle verdict, but rebellions only occur when people get fed up with police injustice and terrorism, Patterson noted.

Instead of preparing for war against its own citizens, Oakland police should prepare to create better relationships in communities and a society that's just and better for everyone, he added. Instead, they would rather send the message to the people of Oakland that whatever the verdict is, there's nothing they can do about it, Patterson continued.

“They've made Johannes Mehserle into a victim in this case and he's nothing but a brutal killer. It's like they've been egging the people of Oakland on to smash on the people but they could have done this better. They could have put African Americans on the jury, even African Americans that like police, but they made it blatantly obvious that they've drawn a racist line in the sand,” Patterson said.

He believes a lack of media coverage of the first cop to be tried for murder in California was intended to quiet people down, the same way media refused to show bodies returning from wars." They learned from Rodney King how they're going to show these cases. This is obviously one of the most historic cases in the entire country and it should be on every news station, but they're good at keeping people ignorant.”

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