A+ R A-

News Wire

Himba People Protest Plan to Flood Burial Grounds

E-mail Print PDF

Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The Himba of northern Namibia, who survived deadly droughts, guerrilla warfare, and attempted genocide by German colonial armies, are bracing for a new fight.

After a series of delays, Namibia and Angola are moving forward on a planned $1.1 billion Baynes Dam hydropower plant on the Kunene River that runs along their common borders.

"Angola needs power; Namibia needs power; southern Africa needs power, so the development of a hydropower station is gaining momentum," NamPower director Leake Hangala said this month during a meeting in Windhoek.

The planned dam will flood the valleys where the Himba live and their burial grounds. Approximately 18,000 Himbas live on the Namibian side of the border, with another 9,000 on the Angolan side.

"If they build the dam, they'll kill us," said Muhapikwa Muniombara, who wears traditional necklaces and bracelets over her skin dyed reddish with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre.

In other energy developments, a grant of $400,000 from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency has been signed to study the feasibility of upgrading the Van Eck coal-fired plant on the outskirts of the capital, Windhoek, to meet Namibia’s growing energy needs.

South Africa to Launch Health Care for All

E-mail Print PDF

Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

All South Africans will enjoy national health insurance under a program scheduled to kick off in 2010 and be implemented during a period of 14 years.

Details of the program were discussed recently at the mid-term conference of the African National Congress (ANC). Thousands are attending the week-long review of the party’s progress in the port city of Durban which featured health care high on the agenda.

Currently, South Africa spends slightly more than 8% of its economy on healthcare, more than any other country on the continent. Still, only 8% of the Black population is covered by a medical care plan, compared to 64% of White people.

Opening the conference, President Zuma, whose administration has created millionaires and billionaires, took the podium to give a speech some called “Zuma straight up with no frills.” He went on the offensive, tackling the challenges to the party from the nationalist ANC Youth League and the socialist Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

“I think they have managed to call each other to order,” observed Fikile Mbalu, ANC head of organizing. “They’re saying ‘Let’s shape what we want the ANC to achieve.’ On the call for nationalization, he said: “I think this is debate we need. I look forward to this robust, somewhat agitated and militant discussion of the issues.”

New Hearing Date Set For Mumia Abu-Jamal

E-mail Print PDF

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

Death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal will receive a new hearing on Nov. 9 to review his death sentence for the 1982 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

In late September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed to hear arguments in the case, under a directive from the U.S. Supreme Court to review Jamal’s death sentence for killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

In an e-mail to supporters, Jamal’s defense lawyer Robert Bryan said “We are cautiously encouraged that the federal court has taken this step.”

Abu-Jamal was convicted in a unanimous decision by a majority White jury and sentenced to death.

Born Wesley Cook, he has maintained his innocence from death row in a Pennsylvania state prison, submitting appeal requests based on allegations of judicial bias, police brutality, and an inadequate defense during his arrest and trial 28 years ago.

At the time of his arrest, Abu-Jamal was a radio announcer and president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. He was known for his outspoken political views and commentary on racial injustice and police brutality.

During his incarceration he has written several books, appeared on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” and continues to protest his conviction on prisonradio.org, a non-profit organization run by The Redwood Justice Fund.

Opponents to Abu-Jamal's claims of innocence include the Fraternal Order of Police and Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the murdered officer. At a recent screening of the film “Barrel of a Gun,” a documentary about the case, Faulkner’s widow said the movie “will put people’s mind at rest,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“There is no doubt that Mumia Abu-Jamal wanted to murder a police officer that night and that person was my husband,” she said.

His trial and subsequent attempts at an appeal have gained international attention and support including from former South African president Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International, the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, members of Congress, and celebrities.

Black Farmers Rally on Capitol Hill

E-mail Print PDF

By C.K. Moreland, Jr., Special to the NNPA –

WASHINGTON—John Boyd, a fourth generation farmer, wants it to be clear - his effort to secure Congressional funding for a discrimination settlement that Black farmers reached with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not the pursuit of "reparation."

"It's [about] discrimination," John Boyd, the president of the National Black Farmers Association told Fox News. "It's about justice. Black farmers have not been getting justice."

Black farmers originally filed a lawsuit against USDA in 1997 and reached a settlement agreement in 1999. Even though thousands filed claims in the settlement, many more were unaware of the deadline. A second deadline was set for September of 2000 but only a small percentage of those farmers filing claims were declared eligible for payment. Now, nearly a decade later, Black farmers are still waiting for funding for the Black Farm bill. President Obama proposed adding $1.25 billion to settle the suit and the plaintiffs agreed. However, the money was to be allocated by Congress by March 31st, it was not.

Standing in solidarity beside the Black Farmers were members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), CBC Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and former CBC Chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who has been standing with the Black Farmers since the mid-1990s.

“I was pleased to join my friend John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association, and the many Black farmers and their families and friends…to urge the Senate to fund the $1.15 billion settlement owed to these hard working Americans,” said Waters. “I have been working on this issue for almost 15 years, as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the late ‘90s, I worked closely with my CBC colleagues to urge then-Attorney General Janet Reno to waive the statute of limitations so that farmers could redress decades of financial and racial discrimination with the Department of Justice.”

With support from the Obama Administration and with the funding already passed by the House, Waters said , “we now find ourselves waiting on the Senate, which is using procedure as an excuse to further delay and deny justice to these Black farmers. I firmly believe the Senate should make the Black farmers’ settlement a legislative priority, and that they should not recess for mid-term elections until this issue is resolved. I therefore applaud Senator Kay Hagan and some of her colleagues latest efforts to fast track this payment.”

In a symbolic gesture to garner support for and bring attention to the Black Farmers Bill, Boyd recently led a peaceful march from the USDA headquarters to the U.S. Capitol atop an orange tractor he named “Justice”. Prior to the march, Boyd drove “Justice” through the streets of Washington for a week. He has been calling on the Senate to pass funding for claims stemming from the class action lawsuit, known as "The Pigford Case", in which Black farmers sued the USDA for denying them fair treatment when they applied for federal assistance. The case was settled in 1999 and the federal government paid out approximately $1 billion to claimants.

Approximately 80,000 black farmers missed the deadline for the 1999 settlement. In February 2010, the Obama Administration announced a $1.15 billion agreement to resolve the second round of claims, with the purpose of bringing "these long-ignored claims of African-American farmers to a rightful conclusion."

The funding has passed the House but has been stalled in the Senate, where it has been attached to several bills only to be scratched out.

Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, also stood with Boyd, during the news conference to announce they are introducing a standalone bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to fund the $1.15 billion settlement. "We're working together to send this language to the President as quickly as possible because our Black farmers have waited too long," said Sen. Hagan. “We want to ensure Black farmers in our country finally receive the justice they deserve,” she said.

“More than 4,000 African American farmers in North Carolina and over 75,000 nationwide have been discriminated against and denied just compensation for decades. Today, I join with my colleagues from Louisiana and Arkansas, Senators Landrieu and Lincoln, to introduce a bill to fund the settlement once and for all, and we are working to send this language to the President.”

The news conference was the culmination of the mile long march, led by Boyd, which began at the steps of the Department of Agriculture and ended at the U.S. Capitol. Among the participants: John Bonner of Dinwiddie, Virginia, whose father passed away earlier this year but continues to have an outstanding claim.

“At this late and critical stage of the process I was compelled to walk over to the Senate, stand up with my friends, and speak out for jobs, for justice, and for civil rights,” said Waters. “I will continue to speak and work with John Boyd and the Black farmers to make sure that this issue is finally resolved in a swift and fair manner.”

Sound the Alarm: City Rejects Judge's Options to Unfair FDNY Test

E-mail Print PDF

By Jasmin K. Williams, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News Newspaper –

The fight for fair testing and hiring practices within the Fire Department New York (FDNY) continues as an extra 30 days is granted to all parties to think about how to proceed and the city now refuses to hire new firefighters and has rejected options to revamp the current test proposed by Federal District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis.

Last August, Garaufis ruled that the Entrance Exam 6019 was unfair because it is biased against minority candidates and does not successfully establish a difference between qualified and unqualified candidates.

The court gave the city the opportunity to chose from among five options that involved hiring individuals who had passed the 2007 entrance exam until such time that a new test is created.

The judge, recognizing the city’s hiring needs, determined that the city could do interim hiring, as long as it was done in a non-discriminatory manner. This was supported by the Vulcan Society, the professional association of Black firefighters.

The city, however has rejected all five of Judge Garaufis’ proposals, deeming them to be illegal, race-based quotas, choosing instead to delay the hiring of approximately 300 firefighters and increase overtime for current firefighters at an estimated cost of $2 million.

“The city respectfully believes that using raced-based quotas to select firefighters is both illegal and unwise public policy,” stated a letter to Garaufis from the city’s corporation counsel, Michael A. Cardozo. “For these reasons, the city declines to select any one of the five proposals offered by the Court.”

There is a need to revamp the FDNY’s disproportionately white ranks to accurately and fairly reflect the diversity of the city it serves. New York City has the least diverse fire department of any major city in America. While the combined Black and Latino population of New York City is more than half the total population of the city, Black and Latino firefighters make up roughly 4 percent and 7 percent of the FDNY, respectively. More than half of Los Angeles and Philadelphia’s firefighters and 40 percent of Boston’s firefighters are comprised of people of color.

Darius Charney, an attorney from the Center for Constitutional Rights, offered insight on the judge’s ruling and the options that were proposed.

“The goal of all five options is to ensure that if the city is to hire new firefighters while they create a new test—which they must do—the new test must not have a disparate affect on minority candidates,” Charney said.

“One option involves random selection from among the top 2,500 on the eligibility list. The list would be adjusted to ensure that the pool would include 17.5 percent Black and 18.5 percent Hispanic candidates, reflecting the number of minority applicants that took the test so that the proportions were adequate.

“Another proposal was called ‘applicant flow.’ The city has a list, which ranks applicants based on their test scores. The city has processed enough people to give 300 offers. That group would have to be adjusted to reflect the 17.5 percent Black and 18.5 percent Hispanics applicants. Some white candidates would have to be replaced.

“Another version of this option would be to bring in a class of 221 applicants, which would include 22 Black and 33 Hispanic candidates and remove from that group the lower scoring whites. This would create a class with the proper proportions. An additional 13 Black and four Hispanic candidates would have to be processed,” Charney explained.

He stated that one of the other options proposed “hiring the group of 300 right away, but a second class would be hired in January, ensuring that the two classes combined reflected the proportion of minority applicants.

“The last proposal is a hybrid approach. A group of 117 would be hired from the list of 300. This would include 20 Blacks and 22 Hispanic candidates. The advantage would be to hire from the initial group of 300 without having to go farther down the list to reflect the ration of applicants who passed the test.

“The passing rate on the test was higher for whites than Blacks or Hispanics. The problem is when you give an objective test and you see a huge disparity. You’d like to think that most employers would want to have a diverse work force,” Charney said.

“The question becomes, should you be using this test? If you get a score of 95 on this test, does it mean that you are a better candidate? The test is the same one given 40 years ago. The judge has found that this test does not accurately determine who will be a better firefighter,” Charney added.

“If you are giving an employment test that has this severe of a racial disparity then the employer better have a darn good reason to keep using this test. In July 2009, the court ruled that the 1999 and 2002 exams were not valid measures of who the most qualified firefighters would be. In August of this year, the court ruled the same thing. These are bad tests. The city has no legitimate reason to continue to use them. A candidate that passes an unfair test is no more deserving than a candidate that gets a lower score.

“This is about discrimination by an employer by using a test that does not determine the best candidate for a job and which issues a disparity to minority applicants for that job. The law is if the test has a discriminatory impact on a racial group or if the test does not measure who is the best candidate, it violates Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“President H. W. Bush signed the Civil Rights act of 1991, which made it a violation of federal law to use an employment criteria such as a test or other screening method that has a discriminatory impact and that does not measure the skills required for the job,” Charney said.

“A new test could take six months to a year to develop and it would then have to be administered and scored. It could take up to two years to have a new list of applicants to hire from. All of the five options given were legal, though some were better than others. None of these approaches would force the city to hire applicants who are not qualified for the job,” Charney concluded.

A statement issued by attorneys for the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firm of Levy Ratner, representing the Vulcan Society, said in part, “Since Exam 6019 does not predict job performance in any way, hiring from higher or lower scores makes no difference in terms of hiring the most qualified firefighter candidates. Using 6019 scores is like hiring a Major League first baseman on the basis of a written exam. The test has nothing to do with who would be the best firefighters. Yet, the city’s top attorney issued a statement asserting, ‘The citizens of this city are entitled to firefighters who are hired based on their ability rather than their race or ethnicity.’ Time and time again, the test has been shown to have no bearing whatsoever on ability. The city has chosen to ignore the court’s well-reasoned opinion that the current test does not predict better performance on the job.”

Fire Captain Paul Washington, who is also a former president of the Vulcan Society, said, “Mayor Bloomberg is a new version of George Wallace, who said, ‘Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever.’ All people who demand fairness and equality have to finally stand up and say that we’re not going to let you keep this fire department all White. His not following the judge’s order and by stymieing the council’s attempts to pass the bonus points for New York City high school graduates is stopping the fire department from being integrated.”

Page 330 of 371

BVN National News Wire