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Hot Mayoral Race Heads for Probable Upset in Nation's Capitol

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By Dorothy Rowley, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty realizes his disconnect with district residents could cost him the job he was as elected to four years ago, he said during a Sept. 1 Newseum debate against contender Vincent Gray, and asked voters for another chance.

Fenty was elected with 89 percent of the general election vote on the promise of vastly improving the District’s delivery of public services and programs.

In what came across as an earnest, last-minute plea for a second chance, the results-oriented Fenty said during the debate that his original goal was to improve the city’s troubled education system and forge better communities while making residents feel safer.

“I never imagined one day there would be people who would feel I was trying to run them out of D.C., or who would think I was arrogant or who would think I cared more about some neighborhoods than others,” Fenty said. “If you don’t find it in your hearts to forgive me and give me a second chance, I will have no one to blame but myself.”

However, Gray called Fenty’s apology not, “a change of heart, it’s a change of strategy,” according to The Washington Post. Gray said he would work to undo the damage caused by Fenty’s approach to leadership and work to create new partnerships with the public and other local leaders.

“It is time we bring collaboration, integrity and sound management back to the mayor's office,” Gray said.

Over the past three years Fenty has been accused of governing in an overly arrogant, distant and non-inclusive way. However, he promised in the debate to do better and said the District’s best days are yet to come.

“If you believe that we can never go back to the dark days of the past; if you believe in all these things, then I ask you to believe in me again,” Fenty said.

Even Fenty’s attorney wife Michelle, who is rarely seen before the cameras, spoke out in his defense. Following the debate, she tearfully told reporters that the mayor is nothing like the aloof person the media has made him out to be.

“The reason he goes out there every single day, moving a thousand miles an hour [is] for the people of Washington, D.C.,” she said, “and for them to not understand that the whole point of his actions is for them, is very difficult.”

With the Sept. 14 primary looming, a Washington Post poll taken prior to the debate found that Gray holds a solid lead over the incumbent mayor, claiming 53 percent of likely voters to Fenty’s 36 percent.

According to Gray’s campaign manager, Traci Hughes, Fenty realizes he’s behind in the polls and is acting out of desperation.

“His pleas for an apology are insincere at best and quite frankly, it’s a change in strategy,” Hughes told the AFRO. “He knows that he’s behind and that voters are extremely dissatisfied with him as the incumbent.”

Hughes added that while she wasn’t sure if Michelle Fenty’s comments were contrived or if she felt genuinely hurt, the timing of her statements so close to the primary election is suspect. Hughes said, “It’s probably little more than a coincidence that she’s suddenly appearing before cameras pleading for her husband to be re-elected."

Critics Slam South Africa's ANC Over Chaotic Strike Now in Third Week

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – As South African Pres. Jacob Zuma rushed home this week from China to broker an end to the 3-week-long nationwide strike, his ANC party was under heavy criticism for bringing the country to the brink.

In pictures seen around the world, schools and hospital went unstaffed as close to a million people stayed out of work. Patients with TB went unattended, criminal trials halted and garbage collection slowed.

Once known as “the party of the people”, the ANC has drifted away, critics charge, towards its supporters in the upper class.

Political commentator and author Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of former president Thabo Mbeki, did not mince words at a recent talk in the University of the Free State. “The policies of the ANC favor the black middle class and the established businesses. They do not favor the working class," he said.

Public Service Minister Richard Baloyi recently highlighted these concerns when he rejected trade union charges of lavish government spending on luxury cars. “Do they want ministers to ride on scooters when then do their work?” he retorted. “Mercedes Benzes,” he said, “are a tool of our trade.”

Mbeki’s lauded book, Architects of Poverty: Why Africa's Capitalism Needs Changing, argues that Africa's faults lay primarily with its rulers and political elites, who keep their fellow citizens poor while enriching themselves.

But Blade Nzimande of South Africa’s Community Party downplayed the threat to the ANC coalition of workers and leftists. The tripartite alliance, he said, was "experiencing wobbles", but he attributed these to discontents, not to critics in the trade unions.

Government has now upped its offer to workers from 7 to 7.5 percent. The increase is being considered.

Rwanda Up in Arms Over Leaked 'Genocide' Report

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – Rwandan President Paul Kagama is said to be fuming over a leaked U.N. report that ties him to the massacres of Hutu men, women, children and the elderly.

The massive 600-page “mapping” report, prepared for the UN but leaked to Le Monde, a French newspaper, says that after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Tutsi-led Rwandan troops and their rebel allies targeted, chased, hacked, shot and burned Hutus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from 1996 to 1997.

"The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces," notes the report which suggests these killings could be considered "crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even genocide."

Rwandese Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karagurama called the report “worthless.”

The report flies in the face of strong European and U.S. support for the Rwandan president and challenges the narrative that only Rwandan Tutsis were genocide victims.

Govt spokesman Ben Rutsinga attacked the investigators for “failing to consult with Rwanda even though they found time to meet with over 200 non-governmental representatives.”

But Luc Cote, the Canadian war crimes prosecutor who headed the 34-member UN probe, countered: "All this [evidence] put together, submitted to a court of law, may constitute elements from which you can infer the intent to destroy a group as such, which is genocide.”

“It is never too late for justice,” says Sipho Mthathi, Human Rights Watch director in South Africa. “It is unfortunate that the report has taken this long but we hope now it can be acted upon.”

Wanted: Black Male Teachers Across the Nation

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By ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Defender –

CHICAGO (NNPA) - It's a nationwide problem - the shortage of Black male teachers. Only two percent of the nation's nearly five million teachers are African American.

“That’s one in 50 teachers. Something is wrong with that picture,” says U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “As a country, we have a huge challenge to make sure many more of our young Black boys are successful. Our graduation rates have to go up dramatically, our dropout rates have to go down. To get there, I’m convinced we have to have more men of color teaching, being role models, being mentors and doing so not just in high school but on the elementary level.”

Duncan is leading the charge to get more Black males in the classroom – either on the elementary or secondary level. But he admits that it’s a huge challenge that may be an uphill battle.

Nowhere is that challenge more evident than in the Lone Star State.

In Texas, there are more than 333,090 public school teachers, and less than one percent are Black men. Two out of three Texas teachers in the past school year were white, and the state projects that minority students will make up around 62 percent of the student body in the 2011-12 school year, up more than 10 percent from a decade ago. In the Houston Independent School District, the country’s second largest school district, of the 12,829 teachers, only 1,043 are Black males – despite the fact that the district is 26.5 percent African American. In Fort Bend, the seventh largest district in Texas, 31.42 percent of students are Black, and there are only 265 Black male teachers. The lack of Black males in the classroom ultimately, education officials say, hurts everyone.

“The research shows that if you can match the ethnicity and race of teachers and students, teachers tend to be more effective,” said Ed Fuller, associate director of the University Council for Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s important for role modeling and pushing those students to go to college. Of course, you want to make sure teachers are well-qualified and not just thrown into a classroom because of race or ethnicity.”

Why the disparity?

The national epidemic is brought on by a myriad of factors – from low salaries, to declining Black graduation rates, to changing perceptions about education. Texas school districts hire about 30,000 to 35,000 new teachers every year, but the pool of minorities interested in the profession is small, and is particularly acute in early-childhood and lower grades, and is partly pay-related.

“Teachers in elementary school typically don't make as much money as teachers in high school do,” says Reginald Weaver, president of the National Education Agency. “More than 50 percent of male teachers are at the high school level.”

In HISD, teachers with a Bachelor’s degree start at roughly $45,000 a year.

“For a man trying to support a family, that’s simply not enough,” says businessman Lewis Anderson, who left his teaching job with HISD after two years to make more money. “I would’ve loved to teach on the elementary level, but I had a family to support and as the breadwinner of the family, I needed more money. So I took a job in a high school because I could subsidize my income with coaching. Ultimately, I had to leave to find a job that paid more altogether.”

“If you started paying teachers $150,000 per year, you'd see a lot of guys going into the field,” adds Bryan Nelson, founder of MenTeach.

Other key reasons behind the male-teacher shortage, according to MenTeach, is the stereotype that teaching is “women's work,” as well as possible fears of lawsuits around accusations of sexual abuse of children.

Brian Hendrickson, a sixth-grade social studies teacher polled his students to find out how they feel their male teachers differed from their female teachers. The results: Male teachers tend to use sports analogies, such as “Standardized tests are the Super Bowl of knowledge.” They are more tolerant of chitchat and are more likely to integrate active learning methods, including competitions and games, into the curriculum. They also tend to be funnier, the informal poll suggested.

“Men tend to give more direction in their approach to sharing knowledge,” says Stephen Jones, a longtime educator and the author of Seven Secrets of How to Study. “They want to appear to be the expert.” Women, on the other hand, are more likely to collaborate with students and incorporate their ideas, Jones says. “Therefore, men who are teaching mixed classes must incorporate collaborative and direct instruction to meet the needs of all students.”

Mark Brewer believes the Civil Rights movement may have actually had an adverse effect on Black male teachers.

“About 30 years ago the education field was one of the major avenues available for those with higher education. Hence, someone would major in a field, be denied the chance to truly make a career of it, so they taught the subject to others. Since the civil rights movement when Blacks were allowed to move out of an enclave to the suburbs, most of their sons were pointed to other fields of study. The major emphasis was more money, as well as, to fields once off limits to men of color. Earlier generations may have had more emphasis on uplift of race through education, today’s generations may have more focus on financial gain, trappings, and attaining the so called “American dream’,” he said.

In some cases, others at the school ask male teachers to play disciplinarian.

“A lot of female teachers would come to me if they had a disciplinary problem -- mainly with boys -- and ask me to handle it,” says Alan Flory, a retired special education teacher with twenty-eight years of experience. “I didn't particularly appreciate it, but I did it.”

Black males also leave teaching at a higher rate than their colleagues, according to a 2003 study by the National Education Association, a national teacher's union. Half of black males leave the profession before retirement, compared with 30 percent of all teachers.

Why they stay

At KIIP Academy – Sharpstown, David Tell is one of only two African American teachers out of staff of twenty-seven. He knows the startling statistics regarding Black males in his profession and he’s not deterred.

“I was that textbook kid who my teacher saw potential and they dragged me out of the crowd. I thought about all the kids that were left behind. For me, I decided to teach and continue to find that potential in all of our children. A lot of times, just seeing someone that has a similar story, that looks like them, that shares a similar background, the kids kinda reach out,” said Tell, who is entering his ninth year as a teacher.

“I wanted to have an impact on the next generation,” says Chaz Douglas, who teaches first grade and was one of only three Black male education majors at Eastern Michigan State. “I had a Black teacher as a high school freshman. He impacted me and I said I want to have that same impact on a student and make a difference on the elementary level.”

“I was a special education teacher for two years,” says Jeffrey Campbell, who initially worked as an auditor for the first seven years after college. “I was inspired by a male friend who has just started teaching (and is still teaching) to investigate transitioning into education. It was a good fit and really equipped me to do much of the work that I do today. My biggest challenge as a teacher was the recognition of the lack of cultural sensitivity, particularly when it came to some white teacher’s inability to understand and nurture young Black male students. I taught on the east side of the Alief School District during a time when schools in that area were transitioning from predominately white schools to predominately minority schools. Much of this change was caused by many of the apartment complexes in the area being designated as Section 8 properties. Almost overnight white teachers in these schools were faced with classes filled with Black and brown faces. Those teachers, although good teachers, were not prepared to handle these new students and it was the students who suffered from it.”

Even though he left the field (only to pursue a career in ministry), Campbell remains committed to young people and says he’d like to see more Black male teachers in the classroom.

“Black male teachers are needed in schools because Black children and youth from pre-K through 12th grade need Black men in their lives as role models, guides, mentors and wisdom resources,” Campbell said.

Changing the face of the classroom

A Harvard University Kennedy School of Government study published in 2004 concluded that white and Black students did better on state tests with teachers of their own race. The findings indicated that recruiting more minority teachers could generate important gains among minority students. One of the reasons is that minority teachers better understand cultural differences and can “break down the students’ stereotypes,” according to the study.

Fuller said the state hasn’t pushed hard to get more minority college graduates into the classroom.

“It’s hard to change the makeup of our teaching force very quickly,” he said. “The state leadership hasn’t paid much attention to this problem or even thought about it for years and that’s why we are where we are. We don't stand alone in this crisis, this challenge, there are coast to coast, states, colleges, universities, school districts faced with the same challenges. We think that by placing African American men in the classroom is extremely critical because we're losing so many black males in the school district in school system. In fact, more than half of our children don't make it through high school. That's an alarming statistic.”

To attract more male teachers, heavy recruiting at the university level is necessary, says Steve Peha, president of Teaching That Makes Sense, an education-consulting company. “We won't see more male teachers if we don't see more young men pursuing teaching degrees,” he notes.

One of the more prominent recruitment programs is Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models), which provides tuition assistance and leadership training to male African American students pursuing education degrees. When the 150 participants in the program, which originated at South Carolina's Clemson University, finally start working, they will double the number of Black men teaching in the state's elementary schools. The program has ten participating colleges throughout the state, and two other colleges in Pennsylvania and Virginia are replicating it.

Still, according to Peha, a coordinated effort to recruit male teachers is lacking, in part because some education experts remain unconvinced about the added value male teachers bring to the classroom. “If we want more men in the classroom, we'll need to see some data about the benefits of a gender-balanced corps," he notes.

Campbell says he would like to see a grass-roots effort to get more Black men.

“I think you need recruitment programs starting in high school, similar to Future Teachers of American that specifically target Black males. These recruitment programs should be lead by a myriad of individuals who not only equip these young men to be educators but also equip them to be well rounded individuals. School Districts should be connected to these programs providing information about their individual hiring requirements and offering internships for the young men in the programs. This would look something like the internships that Shell Oil and other major corporations hosts annually,” Campbell said.

And Tell says recruiters can start by changing the mindset about teachers.

“We still have a stereotype about teaching, especially Black males because we have this macho façade. I think if you can pump up the need for role models. Get away from ‘you’re in a classroom making lesson plans,’ and focus on ‘you get to bond with children and be a father figure.’ Pay more attention on the mentoring aspect and you’d reach more Black males,” he said.

Getting more Black male teachers in the classroom, Duncan adds, is a win-win for everyone.

“When we get more Black male teachers, all of our students benefit, white, Blacks, Hispanics, but particularly young Black male. They gravitate to them, find them before school, looking for a connection. When young people don’t have that positive mentor, there’s always a guy on the street corner that says ‘come my way I’ll take care of you.’”

Thousands March for Justice in D.C., Detroit, New Orleans

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

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - A red, black and green flag flapping in the sweltering Saturday afternoon breeze said it all in the one word embroidered on its front - “Justice.” That one word encompassed the sentiments of the throng of thousands who weaved for miles through the streets of Washington, D.C. behind civil rights leaders, chanting, singing and shouting demands from the powers that be.

“What do we want? … Justice! … When do we want it? … Now!”

This was the clarion call that went out from Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream” rally and march, adding fuel to an obvious rekindling of a movement to refocus attention back on the plight of the historically oppressed – largely Black people in America – and the disparities that are clear.

“You may remember that my father, in 1967 and early ‘68 was focused on economic empowerment, bringing together poor Blacks and poor Whites, and poor Native Americans and poor Americans from all walks of life. He did not live to see that come to fruition,” said Martin Luther King III after the march reached the MLK Memorial construction site. “But, today, 47 years since the marh on Washington, we are here talking about economic empowerment for all. And so, I hope that we understand as we observe in love that this is not about a left side or a right side. This is about God’s side in terms of doing that which is good, just and right for all of America. Not for a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, but for every American. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was about.”

King III made that point with clarity as the “Reclaim the Dream” march was named as such because of a rally on the same day, led by Fox News host Glenn Beck, leader of the conservative Tea Party movement, which is widely known for its anti-Obama and perceptually anti-Black perspective. Tea Partiers were accused of hurling racial epithets at members of Congress as they crossed the street to the Capitol to cast their health care votes in March.

Little more than a mile from the majority Black “Reclaim the Dream” crowd, the Beck crowd stood on the Washington Mall in a “Restoring Honor” rally that drew a near-solidly White crowd to the same spot – the Lincoln Memorial – Where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Beck had said the date of his rally was a coincidence, but many saw it as disrespectful to the legacy of the civil rights leader.

“Well, they may have the mall, but we have the message. They may have the platform, but we have the dream,” said Sharpton at Dunbar high school where thousands gathered to prepare for the trek. “If you understood dreaming, you can dream anywhere. We don’t have to be at the spot. All we need to be is who we are. We can dream from jail cells. We can dream from hospital beds. We can dream wherever we are!”

Saturday’s march to the King Memorial, another in Detroit with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and yet another on Sunday in the lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, underscored Sharpton’s point that people around the nation – wherever they are – are daring to mobilize. Many are preparing to vote in mid-term elections Nov. 2. Others are simply feeling the need to do something as they come to the realization that racial disparities in just about every category are nearly as outrageous as they were 40 years ago.

Yet a “One Nation” march on Washington, led by the NAACP and some 200 other organizations around the nation will be held Oct. 2, illustrating the passion of this moment in history. “We need you back here on 10-2-10,” shouted Jealous to the crowd, citing the aim to “put our country back to work and pull our country back together!”

Other speakers included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition for Black Civil Participation, Marc Morial of the National Urban League and radio talk show hosts Tom Joyner and Joe Madison, who emceed the rally at Dunbar.

Despite the focus on key issues of disparity, an overriding focus was the perceived insult by the Beck crowd whose philosophy led the anti-civil rights movement in the 60s.

Sharpton concluded, “While they are down there, they ought to have Abe Lincoln to tell them why he fought against state’s rights and held the union together. They ought to read Dr. King’s speech. And then they need to talk to some of us who came up the rough side of the mountain. That’s why we’re marching. Somebody said there’s no trouble today. Ain’t no trouble. We wouldn’t disgrace today by allowing you to provoke us. No matter what you say, no matter what you do, we’re going to celebrate those who laid down their lives to give us a chance.”

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