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First Black Town Incorporated in Alabama Wants ZIP Code

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Special to the NNPA from The Birmingham Times –

HOBSON CITY, Ala. (AP) – Officials in Hobson City, the first Black town incorporated in Alabama more than a century ago, want their own ZIP code.

Hobson City currently shares its ZIP code – 36201 – with Anniston, but Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory says the town of less than a thousand residents wants its own postal service identity. “We need to make sure Hobson City is not lost,’’ she said. ‘’We were never a part of Anniston, but we are lumped in with them and that is not a good thing for us.”

U.S. Postal Service spokesman Joseph Breckenridge told The Anniston Star in a story Monday that Hobson City’s identity crisis has been shared by other small towns. “When we created ZIP codes, we did it just to serve mail,’’ Breckenridge said. ‘’But some thought ZIP codes are the same as city boundaries, but they are not, and they get all scrambled up because of the way cities grow. Sometimes some addresses are in the same municipalities but are served by different post offices.’’

Originally a part of Oxford, Hobson City was incorporated in 1899 and has struggled financially in recent years due mainly to an insufficient tax base. Some city leaders have said the shared ZIP code is partly to blame. But Anniston Finance Director Danny McCullars said Hobson City needs to inform its vendors and taxpayers that license fees and local taxes need to be paid.

“It’s not about the ZIP code, it’s about physical location,’’ he said. County revenue officials said property tax revenue is paid to municipalities based solely on physical location.

Decades ago, a post office was contracted out to a small Hobson City business called Young’s Grocery, and the memory of that little post office has led some in Hobson City to believe it once had its own ZIP code. But the Postal Service has no record of the town having a separate ZIP code.

While ZIP codes typically are shown with only five digits, there are four other digits that post offices can use to identify specific residences. Breckenridge said they might help Hobson City.

Homeowners Converge On Members of Congress for National Foreclosure Week of Action

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer –

On Wednesday, September 22nd at 10:45 a.m., homeowners from around the country joined NACA CEO Bruce Marks at the United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, NE in Washington, D.C. to kick off NACA’s “National Foreclosure Week of Action.”

Thousands of at-risk homeowners then converged on Members of Congress’s Washington office or district office to have them advocate for their affordable mortgage solution for the next week. The army of homeowners going to Capitol Hill and district offices urged their Congressperson and Senators to advocate for them in achieving their affordable solution by the end of September.

While NACA has worked with the homeowners to determine and document an affordable mortgage payment, advocacy is still necessary to achieve this solution. NACA is urging Congress to advocate for their constituents by urging lenders to approve the NACA solution. This is a continuation of NACA’s Save the Dream Tour that travels the nation lowering unaffordable mortgage payments for many thousands of homeowners.

This is the first time so many homeowners will converge on Capitol Hill having Members of Congress get personally involved in saving their homes. The call to action will go on for a week, to give Members of Congress enough time to come back to their constituents with some good news.

“We need help and we need it now,” said Bo Huber of Miami, FL. “All we want is for our representative to pick up the phone and write letters to our banks advocating on our behalf.”

Members of Congress have a tremendous amount of influence in assisting their constituents with an unaffordable mortgage. They have direct access to the lenders who prioritize referrals from Congress. They also have influence on government owned or guaranteed mortgages that are the most difficult to modify and are being foreclosed on in large numbers.

In addition, the requirements imposed by the government’s Making Home Affordable program are making other modifications more difficult. “It is up to Congress to advocate for their constituents,” states Bruce Marks, NACA CEO. “It is time that Members of Congress make the government program work and send a strong message to the lenders – that they will not have access or influence unless they modify the mortgages for their constituents.

Our government must side with the millions of average working Americans who are desperately trying to keep their homes at an affordable payment,” said Marks.

More Americans Living in Poverty Now than when Eisenhower was President

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By Stephon Johnson, Special to the NNPA from The Amsterdam News

Let’s add 3.8 million people to the list of impoverished Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Last Thursday, the Bureau released a report that stated that one out of every seven American citizens lived in poverty last year. It’s the highest rate since 1959. It wouldn’t be until 1964 that then President Lyndon B. Johnson would launch his “War on Poverty” initiative.

About 43.6 million people in America lived in poverty in 2009. The poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, which is an increase from 2008’s rate of 13.2 percent. It’s also the highest level since 1994. The U.S. government classifies an annual income of $21, 756 for a family of four as impoverished. A record high 50.7 million Americans went without health insurance in 2009 amidst the heated debate regarding President Barack Obama’s health care reform.

And according to a couple of analysts, things might not get better until the end of the decade.

According to a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, Isabel Sawhill, the poverty rate is slated to hit 16 percent and stay at that level during the 2010s. She also came to the conclusion that the poverty club will add 10 million people this decade, which includes 6 million children.

Robert Greenstein also has a similarly dismal outlook for America. The executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington noted that in the country’s last three recessions, poverty rates don’t decrease until a year after drops in the unemployment rate.

As for the numbers concerning New York? They look even bleaker than the rest of the country’s.

According to Census Bureau statistics, the poverty rate in New York State rose from 14.2 percent in 2008 to 15.8 percent in 2009, essentially upping the number of people in poverty from 284,000 to just over 3 million. The only time that New York State suffered a poverty jump this high in a 12-month span was from 1989 to 1990.

All of this feeds right into the desires of one civil and human rights leader to mark jobs as the next big issue facing Washington.

Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition wrote an open letter to public officials calling on a more efficient way to tackle the issue of poverty in the richest nation in the world.

“As people of conscience, as elected leaders of the greatest democracy in the world, we ask ourselves, is there not a need for a new war on poverty or a Great Society plan similar to that enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson?” read Jackson’s statement.

“Dr. [Martin Luther] King's cry for a Poor People’s Campaign has come full circle. There must be a sense of urgency to address this moral and economic crisis. In Stimulus I, we have watered the leaves. We need Stimulus II to water the roots.”

“In Iraq and Afghanistan, we had a plan for security, stability, investment reconstruction, and rebuilding infrastructure,” said Jackson. “Our people, our cities, our nation deserves nothing less.”

Jackson suggested that the American government enact a “modern-day homesteading program” where unemployed urban citizens can reclaim lost homes and learn carpentry, plumbing and green jobs skills in order to rebuild America.

David R. Jones, Esq., of the Community Service Society of New York, expressed distress at what America has become and hopes that the poor of the country will not be forgotten like he feels they usually are. “We are seeing a new poor—previously middle-class or working-class people who had jobs and were able to make ends meet,” said Jones in another released statement. “Many have been jobless for so long that they are queuing up for public welfare benefits. We are wasting lives, and we cannot afford to do so. Many communities—both urban and rural—now mirror a third world country, with adults sitting around with no jobs and no future for them or their families.”

Both Jackson and Jones believe that jobs sponsored by the government are the solution to the economic downturn, but both suggest that the time to debate is over and the time to act is now.

“It is up to our leaders, both in government and the private sector, to move away from old habits and patterns of thought and respond to this national crisis,” said Jones. “Unless we change our priorities, we will be creating generations mired in chronic poverty. The eventual result will be the economic downgrading of America to second-class status.”

“We can begin to work our way out,” said Jackson. “Congressional leaders, take the bold step of committing to reducing poverty by 50 percent over the next 10 years—half in 10! America, give us a listening ear…There is no time to waste. It’s time for a change.”

Aretha Franklin's Son Beaten, Undergoes Surgery

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Special To The NNPA By AFRO-American Newspapers –

Soul icon Aretha Franklin’s son was recently brutally beaten at a Detroit gas station, E! Network reported.

Eddie Franklin, 52, was allegedly assaulted by two men and a woman. Authorities said Franklin described one of his attackers as being approximately six feet tall with dreadlocks and a dark complexion. He said the female was around 19 years old.

Initially, authorities were unable to garner details or talk to Franklin about the attack, saying he had “checked himself out of the hospital” before they could begin questioning him.

Gwendolyn Quinn, a spokesperson for Aretha Franklin, confirmed the attack in a news release. In the statement, she said Eddie Franklin underwent emergency surgery after the attack.

Aretha Franklin issued a statement, describing Quinn as a “former publicist” and blaming the police for insinuating that her son was being uncooperative.

“After observing my son…, it was clear that he was unable to communicate with anyone after such a traumatic attack and with his jaw wired,” Aretha Franklin said in a statement, according to The Detroit News. “The officer probably would not have been able to give a statement, if he had been attacked by three men the very next day either and it was totally unreasonable to expect Eddie to do so as if he were not being cooperative.”

Following Franklin’s statement, Detroit officials responded to her complaints.

“Our department has been in contact with the Franklin family and we are actively investigating this crime,” Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said in a statement, according to the News. “Whenever a citizen becomes a victim of violence, it not only affects their family, but the entire community.”

A spokeswoman for Sinai-Grace Hospital told USA Today that Eddie had been treated for his injuries but said he did not undergo surgery.

According to E! Network, Detroit police are investigating the attack but have not named any suspects or listed a possible motive.

Following in his mother’s footsteps, Eddie Franklin is also a singer. His most notable work appeared on his mother’s cover of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” to which he contributed guest vocals earlier this year.

In 2002, Eddie Franklin was named a suspect in the fire of his mother’s Detroit home, but was later cleared in the case.

After Moving D.C. in the Right Direction, Mayor Fenty Rejected by Voters

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By George E. Curry, Special to NNPA –

(NNPA) After sweeping every ward four years ago en route to becoming the youngest person ever elected mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty was decisively ousted on Tuesday, largely by African-American voters who perceived him as arrogant and unconcerned about issues of greatest concern to them.

It was the second time in three months that black voters turned their backs on a high-profile black candidate thought to be placing the interest of whites over African Americans. In June, Alabama Rep. Arthur Davis lost his bid to become the Democratic nominee for governor by losing seven of the twelve counties that make up his district to a white candidate. He lost every predominantly black county in the state, some by margins as wide as 70 percent, and failed to carry his own polling place.

Fenty’s defeat came in the city’s Democratic primary which, given the city’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate, is practically the same as the final result.

In Fenty’s case, he was booted out of office even though polls showed that most residents thought he was moving the city in the right direction. His aloofness and failure to do enough for blacks apparently trumped his efforts to improve public schools, lower the crime rate and create more recreational facilities in the city.

“Mayor Fenty’s inaccessibility, even to those who had helped him gain office, his reported vindictiveness and his callous disrespect for the people of the District, felt most acutely in the African American community, apparently amounted to gross disrespect resulted in his being rejected vehemently,” said Ramona Edelin, a longtime city resident.

Askia Muhammad, a newspaper columnist and local radio host, said African Americans deeply disliked the one-term mayor. “People hated him because he was a figment of his own creation. That is, he believed his own press releases,” Muhammad explained. “He seemed to believe that white people have colder ice than blacks… Nobody liked him but white people.”

In a city sharply divided by race and class, approximately 80 percent of voters in the white, affluent wards in northwest Washington voted for Fenty. For blacks living east of the Anacostia River, it was the opposite pattern, with 80 percent of them giving their vote to District Council President Vincent C. Gray.

Even in the most racially homogeneous parts of the city, there was a racial divide. Fenty carried the white wards by a 4-to-1 margin. Gray, on the other hand, carried the black wards by the same margin.

How did things change so drastically for the 39-year-old mayor, who had raised $4.9 million to his opponent’s $1.15 million?

The skepticism began almost immediately after Fenty took office. After he announced the launch of a national search for key cabinet officials, blacks saw the top administration of Chocolate City become increasingly, vanilla. Fenty’s choices for city administrator, police chief, fire chief, attorney general and school chancellor were all non-black. In fact, the Washington Post observed that among those who arguably hold the 10 most influential positions in city government, only one was black.

The most controversial cabinet member is Michelle Rhee, a hard-charging Korean-American engaged to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star. In order to reform the District’s failing school system, Rhee has insisted on performance-based teacher evaluations, ordered teacher layoffs, and closed nearly 30 schools as test scores and enrollment began inching upward. She has often been praised and condemned in the same breath.

A poll taken shortly before the election found that 54 percent of Democrats thought Rhee was sufficient reason to vote against Fenty. Vincent Gray, 67, has not said whether he plans to keep Rhee, who openly campaigned for Fenty.

Many residents complained that the mayor expended too much energy on things such as creating new bicycle lanes, a move popular in newly-gentrified sections of the city, and placed too little attention on building affordable housing and expanding jobs.

The mayor is under investigation by the City Council for allegedly steering construction contracts to his friends. He was also seen as petty when he withheld free baseball season tickets from council members. And it didn’t help that, in the eyes of many voters, he did not appear at enough community functions.

Even though pre-election polls showed Fenty trailing his challenger by double-digits, the mayor was reluctant to alter his public posture, saying in effect, that he had done a good job as mayor and the public shouldn’t be concerned about how he brought about change.

But the public was concerned, especially African Americans. Though the mayor was still heavily supported by whites, a Clarus poll showed black voters favoring Gray over Fenty by a margin of 62 percent to 17 percent.

Just five days before the election, Fenty became so desperate that he called the White House in hopes of getting an endorsement from President Barak Obama. That endorsement never came.

In a major shift, instead of proclaiming that he had done no wrong, a humbled Fenty unleashed a series of television commercials in which he acknowledged he had made some mistakes as mayor and that he was eager to correct them. His wife, Michelle, who grew up in London as the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, rarely appears at political events with her husband. But, in an effort to humanize her spouse, the Howard University-trained lawyer met with reporters to fend off charges that her husband is remote or unconcerned about the plight of the poor. With her British accent, she made a tearful defense of her husband. By then, however, it was too late.

Donna Brazile, a political strategist, asked rhetorically: “On the last Sunday before the election, where was Fenty? Out running a marathon and not in church where most politicians go seeking last-minute converts. The message here is simple: Never lose contact with those who backed you in the first place.”

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