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NYPD Recordings Confirm Racial Injustices

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News –

(NNPA) - An article published in The Village Voice concerning operations by the NYPD in Brooklyn has many outraged, but also confirms speculation regarding how police handle communities of color.

Earlier this month, the Voice obtained hours of tape recordings from NYPD Officer Adrian Schoolcraft of Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct. The officer secretly recorded his colleagues for hundreds of hours discussing things including street confrontations and roll calls and other conversations at the precinct.

The Voice has put some of the material, which was recorded between June and October 2009, on its website. The tapes were made without the knowledge or approval by the NYPD.

Key concerns are about the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. The tapes reveal superiors threatening street cops if quotas aren’t met. Officers can also be heard calling Bed-Stuy, where the 81st Precinct in located, a “heavy precinct.”

“You’re not working in Midtown Manhattan, where people are walking around smiling and being happy,” one lieutenant said on tape. “You’re working in Bed-Stuy, where everyone’s probably got a warrant.”

A sergeant talking to officers from the precinct said after a shooting, “We had a shooting on Chauncey, so do some community visits, the usual bull---t.”

The recordings also reveal several incidents in which people were arrested and jailed for no reason or injured during arrests.

“I think the article only demonstrates what we have known for years,” said Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement. “The NYPD is, in fact, a criminal enterprise in our community whose interest is not protecting the people. It’s an occupation force whose mission is to use us to rise up statistics.”

Clay added that officers on all levels lie and that the tape should confirm the police’s actions in cases such as Rodney King and the late Amadou Diallo. The recordings also prove that police brutalize youth, he said.

“The biggest thing to come out of this is that they lie—from Mayor Bloomberg to Commissioner Ray Kelly to those on the ground, they lie,” he said.

Concern about police treatment is particularly questioned in regard to the Marcy Houses in Bed-Stuy, where Clay said officers routinely stop young Black men. Clay believes it’s an attempt to gentrify Bed-Stuy event more.

"Everyday in the Marcy Houses, police are picking up young Black men,” said Clay. “It’s a word on the street. They step to you like you are a criminal. We understand that Marcy Houses stands in the way of gentrification of Bed-Stuy, but we are going to resist.”

The NYPD has not commented on the Voice article or the recordings.

NAACP Endorses Kagan for Supreme Court, Black Bar Association Withholds Judgment

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

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The NAACP unanimously endorsed Elena Kagan, President Barak Obama’s choice for the U. S. Supreme Court, at its quarterly board meeting over the weekend, according to a statement released Saturday.

“After a careful and thorough review of Elena Kagan’s record, we have unanimously voted to endorse her nomination,” stated President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Elena Kagan has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights and equal justice under the law throughout her career. Kagan drew her inspiration from NAACP former counsel and Supreme court Justice Thurgood Marshall who she considers a hero and mentor. During her tenure at the White House, Kagan worked on issues such as strengthening hate crimes legislation and civil rights enforcement. As a law school Dean, she worked to ensure a diverse student body and faculty. And as Solicitor General, Kagan has vigorously defended the nation’s equal opportunity and civil rights laws. We look forward to actively supporting her nomination,” Jealous said in the statement.

NAACP Chair Roslyn Brock says in the statement that Kagan is a unifier.

“Elena Kagan has a track record of bringing people together. She is skilled at forging legal consensus on contentious issues,” Brock states. “Civil rights is a bipartisan issue. It is central to the core of our American values. We believe Elena Kagan has the ability to use her fine legal mind, her commitment to diversity and her ability to build bridges to effectively advocate in the Court for the civil rights and democracy enshrined in our constitution.”

The NAACP, with its reputation as the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the country, will no doubt influence the perception of Kagan by some in the Black community who are observing various perspectives from credible Black organizations. Kagan’s civil rights credentials have been intensely questioned by high-profiled organizations. This includes the National Bar Association, which has withheld judgment on her candidacy until her record is more closely scrutinized.

"The National Bar Association, having put forth a very qualified candidate for consideration, was a bit surprised by the choice. I think that has as much to do with the process as the nominee. As the largest association of predominately African-American lawyers and judges, we have a vested interest in our judiciary. We hope to support the president with this nomination and want to know more about the nominee's sensitivity to issues of race, gender, class discrimination and to affording equal opportunity to all segments of our society," said NBA President Mavis T. Thompson in a statement.

"Hence, our standard examines not only the professional qualifications of judicial nominees" said Thompson, "but also scrutinizes whether the proposed jurist has the ability to judge fairly, to conduct matters with judicial temperance, and to advance and seek equal justice under the law. Moreover, our standard is vital to ensuring that groups that have been historically marginalized by the legal system obtain the American mandate of equal justice under law."

The NBA, which represents 44,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students in 80 affiliate chapters in the U. S. and around the world, had recommended that the president appoint a Black female to the court. In a letter, the organization had asked the president to consider Ann Claire Williams, the first African-American ever appointed to the Seventh Circuit and the third African-American woman ever to serve on any United States Court of Appeals.

The Black Women’s Roundtable, headed by Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, had also asked Obama to appoint a Black female to the court. In a letter, Campbell and 27 women also expressed concern that Kagan’s civil rights record is not well established; therefore her appointment is risky for African-American progress.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, says the LCCR is awaiting decisions from more of its more than 200 organizational members before it announces a formal endorsement. However, he added in an interview, “Right now it is pretty clear that major organizations like the NAACP are making their decisions and in the case of the NAACP, obviously their decision carries a lot of weight and influence.”

John Payton, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund has issued a statement calling for the expeditious scrutiny of Kagan by the U. S. Senate. LDF praises her candidacy on one hand, but on the other hand awaits more information on her civil rights record:

“As Solicitor General, Ms. Kagan has an exemplary record on most issues important to us. At the same time, we are interested in learning more about her entire civil rights record. We look forward to reviewing this record, as we do with each Supreme Court nomination.”

NAACP board members say they made their decision based on the Kagan records that they have been able to research.

“The organization reviewed Kagan’s available record on civil rights including her recent authorization for the Department of Justice and the Department of Civil Rights to file an amicus brief supporting the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program in Fisher v. University of Texas and her brief in support of African American firefighters who challenged a hiring test used by the City of Chicago under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Lewis v. City of Chicago),” the press release stated.

“Kagan has a keen understanding of the importance of diversity to the strength and advancement of our nation,” added Jealous. “It is no accident that during her tenure as dean of the Harvard Law School, the percentage of African American students rose from 9.3 percent to 11.6 percent. The percentage of Hispanics in the entering class was 6.4 percent, while it had been 4.6 percent prior to her becoming dean. The number of African American students admitted, particularly Black men - given the national decline in African American males in colleges and universities-- is impressive Her record demonstrates a legal scholar who clearly values the precept of equal opportunity as a right that is protected by our constitution.”

Still, the argument remains that one of the nation’s most powerful institutions has no Black female voice.

“The NBA viewed the court's vacant seat as an opportunity to further diversify the high court and to make it more reflective of the nation it serves,” states Thompson. “The NBA will remain actively engaged in the Supreme Court confirmation process. Further, we will continue to work with the White House to expand the pool of qualified candidates to serve on the nation's highest court.”

Comcast Under Fire: Black Media Reps Demand More Black-owned Channels

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Ownership is a major driver of the Black economy. Knowing this, a group advocating Black media ownership and a former Federal Communications Commission chairman are spearheading a crusade against cable giant Comcast and their proposed merger with NBC/Universal over the cable operator's lack of African-American owned channels on its national platform.

"When you really start thinking about the areas that are critically important to us as African-Americans, one of the biggest issues is our ability to own, distribute and create our image," said Stanley Washington, president of the National Coalition of African American Owned Media (NCAAOM).

Although African-Americans make up almost 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, they own far less than one percent of the country's television channels. Seventy-seven percent of all television channels are White-owned, according to media watchdog group Free Press, who cites public FCC filings. The numbers do not include stations owned by publicly held companies whose boards are typically not very diverse.

If the FFC approves the merger, Comcast, already the country's largest cable and home Internet provider, will own 44 of the 250 channels carried on its platform.

According to the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism's 2010 State of the Media Report, the top three owners of African-American-targeted cable channels are TV One and media behemoths Time Warner and Viacom, who both own three such channels a piece. Viacom's African-American-targeted channels such as BET, VH1 Soul and new channel Centric dedicate a significant portion of its programming toward music videos.

"In addition to cable networks and Video-on-Demand, Comcast also carries several broadcast stations around the country that are African-American owned and/or targeted to African-American audiences," said Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice in a statement. "Our desire to work with African-American media owners extends proudly to our seminal role in partnering with Radio One to launch TV One in 2003."

After Black Entertainment Television's sale to Viacom by Robert Johnson in 2003, TV One is the closest thing to a Black-owned cable channel that Comcast has on its basic cable platform.

Comcast owns 33 percent of the Black-targeted channels along with Radio One, which owns a 40 percent interest. Until it became a publicly-traded company, Radio One, with it's 69 radio stations and other media properties, was the largest Black-owned media company in the U.S. Its African-American founder Cathy Hughes and her son Alfred Liggins, who is the company's chief executive and chairman of TV One's board, still control 90 percent of the company's vote.

Still, Washington contends that TV One is not technically "Black-owned" because although Radio One is a majority owner it still operates as a publicly-traded company.

Washington is demanding that if the FCC approves the Comcast and NBC/Universal merger, then at least 25 channels or 10 percent of the 250 channel capacity that Comcast carries in its basic cable platform should be allocated to Black-owned cable channels.

The demand is not unprecedented. When the FCC approved the merging of satellite radio company's Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc in 2008, the companies agreed to dedicate 8 percent of their channels to African American-owned media.

Are there even enough viable African-American ownership groups available to sustain 25 cable channels?

"Absolutely," said Washington. "We have a number of African-American led groups that have come to the table and they have tried to build themselves strong, viable channel opportunities in the industry."

Washington is not demanding 25 different Black owners. One owner can own and control multiple channels as big corporations already do, he said. He just wants parity.

"We just want as African-American owners in a free trade environment to be able to come to the table fairly like everybody else,” Washington said. “It doesn't have to be 25 BETs or TV Ones. It can be any kind of channels or any type of content. Ultimately, we're looking for ownership in the platform."

Possible high-profile players could be people like BET founder Robert Johnson, who is awaiting the FCC to approve his plan to launch a new television network called Urban Television, and television host and producer Byron Allen who already has six channels on Verizon's FiOs fiber-optic television service. Television personalities like Tyler Perry, Ice Cube, P. Diddy and Russell Simmons are already heavily responsible in the creation of Black programming on major networks and could have a hand in new channels.

"Comcast distributes a variety of minority- and/or independently-owned channels," Comcast's spokesperson said. “We have carriage agreements with independent, African-American networks, such as The Black Television News Channel, which will deliver news and information specifically relevant to the African-American community, and The Africa Channel, which is carried in many Comcast systems today. We also carry other cable networks and Video-On-Demand programming of interest to African American audiences including BET, Centric, VH1 Soul, and the Gospel Music Channel."

While not on its national platform, Comcast has carriage agreements with Black-owned channels the Africa Channel, which focuses on programming about and from the continent it was named after, and the Black Television News Channel, a not-yet-launched 24/7 Black news channel founded by J.C. Watts, a former Black Republican congressman from Oklahoma. The agreement allows Comcast to selectively roll out a channel to a limited number of markets where it is expected to perform well. Washington charges that carriage agreements do not give independent channels an equal playing field to perform.

"Instead of giving the Africa Channel an opportunity to be widely carried, Comcast, which is the nation's largest cable provider and has 25 million households, will give them a carriage agreement--which is essentially a hunting license. But they won't put them on their basic cable platform to be widely-distributed nationally," Washington said.

Cable and satellite providers must pay the channels they carry a monthly subscription payout that can range anywhere from 10 cents to five dollars per subscriber. Subscription rates for carriage agreements, on the other hand, can be as low as one cent per subscriber, according to Washington. Because of their limited distribution, the subscriber base for channels with carriage agreements are far less than basic cable channels.

"What Comcast has been doing is economically starving our business owners out of the business by not giving them fair revenue from subscriber fees that they pay everybody else and by not widely carrying them on their platform,” Washington said.

He charges that Comcast viewed the Robert Townsend founded-Black Family Channel, which folded in 2007 over lack of distribution, as a competitor to its TV One channel and limited its support. He contends that they are doing the same thing to the Africa Channel.

"At the end of the day, the Black Family Channel was unable to sustain itself enough to be able to grow to become a channel on Comcast and other platforms," he said.

In an April letter to Comcast chairman Brian Roberts, Willis Edwards, vice president of NAACP's Beverly Hills Hollywood chapter, wrote, "After decades of ignoring this problem, the perpetual lack of support behind African American owned media can only be described as discriminatory and Restraint of Trade...Our focus on this issue is only the first step in an established strategy to expose what many consider the largest trade deficit in this country; the one between Corporate America and Black America. ... There is a belief that Comcast has been operating in a restraint of trade with a lot of businesses- the Tennis Channel, The NFL Channel, [financial and business channel] Bloomberg Television is concerned about this merger because Comcast will own [rival business channel] CNBC."

The Tennis Channel and the NFL Network have filed lawsuits against the cable giant over fair trade practices, some connected to its ownership of rival channels.

"If those big players with mass resources can't compete, imagine what happens to us?" Washington said.

Over the next 18 months Comcast is converting its platform to become entirely digital. Like it's satellite competitors, Comcast will be able to have a virtual unlimited channel capacity, which could mean better opportunities for independent and Black-owned channels to be carried nationally.

In the mean time, the NCAAOM is working on filing a restraint of trade lawsuit against Comcast. They have retained former FCC chairman Kevin Martin as their lead attorney. As the FCC head under the Bush administration, Martin earned a fierce reputation of being 'anti-cable' over his series of regulatory battles against cable operators.

Fitzmaurice said that all subscriber fees are individually negotiated between each channel and carrier. A popular channel like ABC-owned ESPN with it's expensive sports broadcast licenses and it's millions of viewers has the leverage to negotiate a higher subscriber fee than an independent channel with very little name recognition.

“We have to pay and, ultimately, our customers have to pay,” Fitzmaurice said. “We have to determine our programming based on what we and our customers have to pay for these channels.”

Black Publishers to Celebrate 70th Anniversary in New York - Advertising Capital of the World

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By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The Nation's only association of Black newspaper publishers has chosen to commemorate it's 70th year of existence in New York City - the birth place of the Black press - with a line up of civil rights giants, issues panels, glitzy gathers and a first annual Legacy of Excellence dinner.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association's annual summer convention will take place at New York’s Sheraton Hotel & Towers June 16-19. This year's theme is "Power to Influence Black America."

"Our agenda is how do we find common ground in working together to reinforce the challenges of the Black press with advertising?" said Danny Bakewell, chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel. "These companies have mega budgets but they don't advertise with the Black press. Many of our major companies like AT&T, General Motors and Ford have come back online and reunited with the Black Press as major partners."

The week's string of events are expected to draw big name civil rights leaders and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"It benefits the reputation of NNPA to have all of our colleagues - those who we work with in the struggle - to join us to not only commemorate our 70th anniversary, but also to plan with us and gather with us to focus on how we can work together on our mutual agendas," Bakewell said.

The conference will kick off with a "Press and the Pulpit" breakfast hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and a lunch with Dr. Bernice King , daughter of civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The following day, a breakfast and lunch is scheduled with Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League and the Rev. Jesse Jackson followed by a panel where national civil rights leaders will discuss the crisis in Black America. The panel will also include Morial, Jackson, NAACP's president and chief executive Benjamin Jealous, Dr. Michael Lomax, the president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree and Kathy Times, president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

On Thursday evening, following the MillerCoors A. Philip Randolph Messenger Awards, the annual staple event will take place. That’s the glitzy NNPA Merit Awards gala, hostessed by Black press icon NNPA Foundation Chair Dorothy R. Leavell. Among the string of coveted awards, the top John B. Russwurm Trophy will be given to the newspaper receiving the most points in all 22 Merit Awards categories. Also, for the second year, the Thomas Morgan III Merit Award for HIV/AIDS Education will be given to the NNPA member newspaper which demonstrates the most exemplary original HIV/AIDS coverage from last year.

The first annual Legacy of Excellence dinner gala and awards presentation will anchor the week. The event will award U. S. Rep. Charles Rangel and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. Lead singer of the O'Jays Eddie Levert will highlight that evening's entertainment.

"Both men represent excellence in achievement that is unmatched," Bakewell said. "They come during a time when they set and achieved goals that prior to them people never would have believed could be accomplished by Black people. They were on the threshold of excellence much like the Black press was on the threshold of excellence. We think that they are befitting to be recognized as representatives of the levels of achievement that occurs in our community all the time by people who refuse to accept barriers as an excuse and accept other people's opinions about what we can do and can't do."

With the founding of the nation's first Black newspaper, the Freedom's Journal, in 1827 by two free Black men, John Russwurm and Rev. Samuel Cornish, New York is the official birthplace of the Black press. Bakewell said that he wants to commission a plate or a cornerstone to memorialize the site of the founding of the first Black newspaper. Today there are historic Black newspapers in New York City that are members of NNPA- the New York Amsterdam News, the New York Beacon, the New York Carib News, and the New York Daily Challenge, as well as eight others around the state and immediate area.

The city also holds the distinction of being the media and advertising capital of the world as well, a particular draw for a media outlet that traditionally lacks the same access to resources as their mainstream counterparts. But, Bakewell is optimistic about the future for Black newspapers.

"This has been a landmark year for the Black press," Bakewell said. "We have resurfaced bigger, bolder than ever and it's because of extraordinary leadership of Black publishers across the country and this is just the beginning."

U.N. Refuses to Cancel Prize Named for Dictator

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – A life sciences award administered by the U.N. agency UNESCO and funded by the President of Equatorial Guinea has stirred outrage among the exile community and human rights activists worldwide.

In a letter to the Paris-based UNESCO office, Tutu Alicante of EG Justice wrote: “We repeat our call for the $3 million that UNESCO has accepted from President Obiang to be applied to the education and welfare of Equatoguineans, rather than the glorification of their president.” The money could better be used, he said, to buy school books, benches and other supplies for the poorly financed primary school system.

The UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences is a $300,000 grant to be awarded to up to three scientists each year in the name of Equatorial Guinea's allegedly corrupt and repressive ruler.

Equatorial Guinea is Africa's fourth largest oil producer. Most health and quality-of-life indicators rank the country West African nation near the bottom, with life expectancy at around 50 years old.

Objections were first raised in 2008 by executive board members of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said Alicante. More recently, UNESCO received communications from Equatoguinean human rights defenders, global civil society groups, scholars, and others to cancel the prize without delay.

"We hope you agree that a political leader with this record is not worthy of the positive endorsement of UNESCO," Human Rights Watch wrote. Nevertheless, on April 22 UNESCO informed governments that it plans to award the UNESCO-Obiang prize for the first time at the end of June 2010.

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