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Jamaican Teen Stopped from Joining Islamic State

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Of all the leaders in the 15-nation Caribbean trade bloc, Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad would appear to have an obsession with terrorist organizations in the Middle East and their impact on the rest of the world, vulnerable youth in particular.

As head of government of Trinidad, at least until general elections, which are expected soon, she is the leader in the bloc with responsibility for matters such as energy and security, so it was no surprise that she led off discussions on the issues when regional leaders met with a visiting President Barack Obama in Jamaica last week.

But just a few days after the third summit meeting between Obama and bloc leaders ended in Jamaica, police in Suriname reported Sunday that they had barred a Jamaican youth from entering the country because they had credible intelligence he was transiting the country to Turkey via a nonstop flight from Suriname to the Netherlands.

The unidentified 16-year-old youth was reportedly on his way to link up with the Islamic State group, the terrorist organization that says it is fighting to drive the West from the Middle East and its affairs once and for all. The West, on the other hand argues, that Islamic State wants to spread and impose Sharia law on a region that needs to democratize and create opportunities for women and others.

A statement from the Surinamese police administration said that the teenager had arrived on a flight at the Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport and was planning to fly to Turkey by way of connections in Amsterdam.

“He was denied entry to Suriname because we received information from a regional intelligence service that he wanted to join ISIS,” the statement said, boasting that his entry denial “sends a clear signal that Suriname is doing everything so the region does not become involved in terrorism.”

It praised the level of intelligence cooperation between Jamaican police, regional intelligence systems and sleuths in Suriname, noting that, in the end, the country’s attorney general, military police and other security agencies made the decision to repatriate the youth back to Jamaica on the next available flight. The country’s national security minister and other officials have yet to respond to the latest developments. The ministry had denied knowledge of any Jamaicans lining up to join Islamic State and related terror networks.

The Miami, Fla.-based U.S. Southern Military Command had only recently warned regional governments that it had suspected approximately 100 nationals from several Caricom countries and northern South America of enlisting and now planning to return to the region, where they could pose new security threats.

It is known that several mostly Afro-Muslim converts in Trinidad have already left from the Middle East. Their stories were widely reported in local media earlier this year.

Concerned Black Men National CEO Steps Down

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

George L. Garrow Jr., chief executive officer of Concerned Black Men National, resigned from his position after 17 years. According to a letter he wrote to staff, board, and selected friends, his last day in office was on April 10.

Concerned Black Men is a national organization that develops strategic interventions for African American children and parents, and in particular, Black men and boys. The organization’s vision is to ensure that every child has a responsible and caring adult in his or her life, filling the void of positive Black male role models in many communities. They provide mentors and programs that affirm the care and discipline that all youth need, while providing opportunities for academic and career enrichment.

“I am not retiring,” Garrow told the AFRO on April 13 in an email. “I will continue to provide ‘thought leadership’ nationally on developing positive outcomes for Black men and boys. I will do that through speaking engagements, consulting, media appearances, writing, and other opportunities. I also will remain available to help CBM National and new Executive Director Leroy Hughes pursue this important work.”

Throughout his work with the organization, Garrow helped develop Young Males of Color initiatives, assisted with developing programs for parents to help them create stronger families and healthier children, and many other programs and initiatives.

He currently sits as vice chair of the Board of the District of Columbia Children’s Trust Fund, a nonprofit focused on preventing child abuse and neglect through education and advocacy. He is a member of the Coordinating and Steering committees for the 2025 Network for Black Men and Boys, a national movementbuilding strategy focused on developing positive life outcomes for Black males. He is also a member of the Black Male Achievement advisory board for the Council of Great City Schools, an association representing more than 1800 urban school districts in the country.

“Our communities need to bring long-term strategic interventions to bear in the lives of children, especially Black boys,” he said, referring to the need to support and build institutions from a national perspective. “It’s our best hope to transform the lives of African American men and boys.”

Black Women Face Pay Gap

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Black women working full time earned just 64 cents for every dollar White men made in 2013, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Researchers with CAP, a nonpartisan education and policy group, released the issue brief that reported that even though the types of jobs and the number of hours that women worked can affect the wage gap, “structural and economic realities that limit women’s abilities to compete with men in the labor force” also contribute to the pay disparities. It noted that Black women working several part-time jobs to make ends meet may be falling further behind.

Although White women working full time also earned less than White men (78 cents for every dollar), women of color often earned because they were stuck in low-paying jobs, worked fewer hours and had greater responsibilities as the primary caregiver in their households.

More than half of all Black children grow up in single-parent homes with their mothers. Black men raise children alone in 9 percent of single-parent households.

Black women are also less likely to graduate from high school or attend college than White women. “This places African American and Hispanic women at a disadvantage from the moment they enter the workforce, creating major structural barriers to entering top-earning professional fields,” stated the report.

Nearly 60 percent of Black women worked in either the service industry, sales or office jobs.

“Jobs in industries such as food service—where women of color are concentrated—are often hourly jobs in which many workers are part time and schedules are subject to cancellation or alteration on short notice,” stated the CAP report.

A recent report on the effects of irregular work schedules by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused on low- and middle-income workers, noted that employers in the retail and wholesale trade and services industries, such as hospitality and leisure, professional and business services are more likely to hire part-time workers and adjust their schedules without warning to meet immediate customer demands.

“Moreover, because precarious employment is concentrated among relatively lower-income earners, it not only exacerbates growing income inequality stifling potential economic expansion and underutilizing potential available labor input, but takes a toll on the wellbeing of working families,” the report explained.

Workers who made less than $22,500 annually were more likely to work irregular schedules than workers who earned more.

The EPI report said that, “For workers with significant caregiving or financial commitments, having weeks with as few as zero hours and days when there may be either no work or short notice to arrive at work, may make balancing work with life stressful, intolerable, or even impossible, forcing them to choose between participating in the paid labor force, unemployment, or withdrawal from the labor force.”

Just 35 percent of Black women were employed in higher-paying management, professional and related jobs compared to 48 percent of Asian women and 43 percent of White women, according to the CAP report.

EPI researchers also reported that 43 percent of workers may have less than a week’s advanced notice of their hours. Another 8 percent indicated that they knew their work schedules one to two weeks in advance had and 6 percent had two to four weeks.

“Employees who work irregular shift times, in contrast with those with more standard, regular shift times, experience greater work-family conflict, and sometimes experience greater work stress, stated the report and that work-family conflict is in turn associated with lower job and life satisfaction,” the EPI study said.

The CAP report on the race and gender wage gap said that expanding policies like paid family, medical leave and paid sick days, and strengthening equal pay laws would help women of color remain in the labor market and protect them from racial and gender discrimination.

Milia Fisher, a research associate with the Women’s Initiative at CAP and the author of the report, wrote that public policy alone will not close the gender wage gap for women of color.

Fisher concluded: “The United States needs to address both the structural drivers behind the pay gap and the persistent cultural biases against women and people of color if it wants to truly affect change for these populations.”

Congressional Black Caucus Seeks GOP Cooperation on Economic Challenges

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGNTON (NNPA) – Working across the aisle with Republicans on criminal justice reform might be the best shot that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has to address the economic challenges facing the Black community before the 2016 presidential election, according to the head of the caucus.

“We are having bipartisan conversations on the whole question of criminal justice reform,” said Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), the chairman of the CBC. “There is a group of Republican members that are thoughtful and they are beginning to think through the broken criminal justice system that we have and they are now indicating to us they’re willingness to engage in some type of legislation that will begin to address it.”

As states and jurisdictions weigh the financial burden of mass incarceration against more fiscally responsible criminal justice policies, more lawmakers are considering diversionary programs, decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana to decrease the load on their jails and court systems, and making it easier for ex-offenders to find jobs that pay a living wage after they’ve paid their debt to society.

The Vera Institute of Justice, an independent research and policy group, reported that taxpayers in 40 states shelled out nearly $40 billion in FY2010 to cover the costs of housing inmates and running prisons and jails.

Butterfield speculated that some of his Republican colleagues might just be playing politics with criminal justice reform, but he still welcomed their support.

“We’ve got to get smarter on crime and there are some Republicans who get that,” said Butterfield, adding that the U.S. Congress might see a viable, bipartisan bill on criminal before the August break.

The Joint Economic Committee, a bipartisan panel that studies the U.S. economy, laid out the economic challenges facing the Black community in a recent report. The committee is composed of 10 senators and 10 members of the House of Representatives.

“More than half (51.4 percent) of Black families with children under 18 are headed by a single mother, compared to one-fifth (19.1 percent) of White families with children, and nearly 47 percent of families headed by a Black single mother are in poverty,” stated the report.

The report continued: “The median income of African American households is just $34,600 – nearly $24,000 less than the median income of White households. Black Americans are almost three times more likely to live in poverty than White Americans.”

The report said that at the peak of the Great Recession, one 1 in 6 Blacks was unemployed.

“African-American homeowners who took out mortgages between 2004 and 2008 were almost twice as likely as white homeowners to have lost their home to foreclosure by 2011, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, the report stated. “One-in-ten black homeowners who took out mortgages at the height of the housing boom eventually lost their home to foreclosure.”

The report also included a state-by-state analysis of the poverty and unemployment rates for Blacks and Whites.

The poverty rate for Blacks was highest in Maine at 50.7 percent (1.4 percent Black population) compared to the White poverty rate, which was 13.2 percent. According to the report, Blacks living in Hawaii (2.5 percent of the population) had the lowest poverty rate at 5.8 percent and the poverty rate for White was 11 percent.

In Washington, D.C., where 48.8 percent of population is Black, the Black unemployment rate is 15.1 percent, five percentage points higher than the national average for Blacks in the labor force.

The jobless rate for Blacks was the highest in Wisconsin at 19.7 percent (6.2 percent Black population), more than four times higher than the 4.3 percent White jobless rate. Although the unemployment rate for Blacks was the lowest in Utah at 1.7 percent (1.6 percent Black population), the poverty rate for Blacks was 34.5 percent in the state, compared to a 9.9 percent White poverty rate.

Maryland was the only state where more than 30 percent of the population is Black and the unemployment rate was less than the national average. In Mississippi (35.9 percent Black), Georgia (31.2 percent Black) and Louisiana (31.3 percent Black) the Black jobless rate was higher than the national average.

Although Rep. Butterfield said that he wasn’t surprised by most of the findings in the report, the wealth gap between Blacks and Whites was stunning.

According to the report, “White households typically have 13 times more wealth than black households. In 2013, the median net worth of African American households was only $11,000 compared to about $142,000 for white households—a difference of $131,000.”

When it comes to solutions to the economic challenges facing the Black community, Rep. Butterfield said that targeted funding leads the list.

In the CBC’s alternative budget for FY2016, the group advocated for the “the use of the 10-20-30 policy for federal spending.”

The plan called for, “at least 10 percent of the federal funds in certain accounts be directed to certain areas that have had a poverty rate of 20 percent for the last 30 years.”

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI), a bipartisan program crafted to promote access to capital for businesses and economic growth in low-income underserved communities, determined that 20 percent or more residents in 384 counties, many of them in the South and governed by Republican lawmakers, have lived in “persistent poverty” for more than 30 years.

Under the direction of the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the United States Department of Agriculture developed the “StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity” in an effort to tackle rural poverty, especially in communities where the child poverty rate was roughly 25 percent.

“Since 2010, these efforts have invested over $16.5 billion to create jobs, build homes, feed kids, assist farmers, and conserve the natural resources across twenty states,” according to the USDA’s website. “In 2015, StrikeForce expanded to include Oklahoma and Puerto Rico.”

More than $6.5 billion were invested in StrikeForce states in 2014 alone. Rep. Butterfield wants to see that program expanded to other federal agencies.

If lawmakers can craft similar programs for the Transportation Department, Health and Human Services and even the Department of Defense, Rep. Butterfield said, “We can begin to see a difference.”

But with the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, Rep. Butterfield admitted that finding legislative solutions for problems affecting the Black community is going to be an uphill battle and as both parties rush into 2016 presidential elections those talks may get left behind altogether.

“The tragedy is that we’re now entering the presidential election season and not a whole lot happens during a presidential election season. So our ability to legislate is going to be affected,” said Butterfield.

Rep. Byer continued: “If we are to meet the challenge of the promise of equality in America we need to address these inequities in employment, income, wealth, housing and education through policies designed for inclusive prosperity.”

Butterfield said that designing those policies will take higher levels of civic engagement in the Black community and citizens paying attention to what is happening in the world and connecting it to their lives.

“Once they realize what the politicians are doing will affect their bank account and affect their quality of life, then they will begin to participate in the political process,” said Rep. Butterfield.

“But if we go to sleep in 2016 and don’t have the Obama turnout that we had in ’08 and ’12 and we lose control of the White Hose we’re going to have some painful years ahead that nobody wants to see.”

Blacks Missing Out on 'Obamacare' Savings

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Even as health care costs continue to cause concerns for the poor, nearly 40 percent African Americans and about half of Whites didn’t know that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can help those that need it the most to cover some of those costs.

According to the new report by the Alliance for a Just Society (AJS), a national research network that analyzes health issues including Medicaid, prescription drugs, and insurance industry practices play a major role in coverage savings.

In the report titled, “Breaking Barriers: Improving health insurance enrollment and access to health care,” researchers detailed the stories of 1,200 low- to moderate-income earners, living in 10 states (California, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas). Six of those states refused to expand Medicaid programs using federal funds, effectively pushing many poor people into the coverage gap and limiting their access to health care.

The AJS report said that the rejection of Medicaid expansion in those states remained the most significant barrier to health care for the poor and African Americans.

In the report, Linda Quick, the president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, said, “Trying to convince legislators with economic arguments has NOT persuaded the supposedly ‘business-oriented’ chambers-of-commerce-backed legislators about Medicaid expansion. Their objection is clearly ideological, not practical.”

Most states – 28 and Washington, D.C. – have expanded Medicaid and Blacks accounted for 16.7 percent of the marketplace enrollees and Whites made up 62.9 percent of the enrollees. The second enrollment period just ended in February 2015 and 11.4 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance coverage through marketplace exchanges.

But cost technology and language access created barriers that made it more difficult for some to register, especially poor people of color.

According to the report, less than half of the African American respondents had e-mail addresses (49.3 percent) and only 47.7 percent had Internet at home, below the national average, compared to 64.8 percent of Whites who had e-mail addresses and 77.5 percent with Internet at home.

Antron McKay-West of Upgrade Mississippi, a youth development and community group, said that it’s so rural, most people can’t imagine life there.

“Most people don’t have Internet, if they do, it is very slow, it’s not the technology most are used to,” McKay-West, who grew up in the Mississippi Delta, said in the AJS report. “During enrollment, some people were told to just go to the library and use the Internet. In the neighborhood where I grew up, the library is 15 miles away.”

More than 40 percent of Black enrollees and more than half of White enrollees didn’t know which services were covered under their health plans and which services they would pay for out-of-pocket. The report offered a number of recommendations, including expanding Medicaid in the 22 states that refused federal funding, ensuring that all health plans cover yearly check-ups, immunizations and screenings at no additional cost and measuring results by collecting data on by race, ethnicity, primary language, gender, disability, and sexual orientation. The report also recommended expanding school-based health clinics in underserved communities.

LeeAnn Hall, the executive director of AJS, said, “We will continue to fight to see that disparities are addressed and that these recommendations are put in place.”

Gary Delgado, the author of the report and a longtime civil and human rights leader, said that the Affordable Care Act is a big, new house built on the old foundation.

“We’re still not serving people of color,” said Delgado. “We need to build a more inclusive health care system.”

Gary Delgado, the author of the report and a longtime civil and human rights leader, said that the Affordable Care Act is a big, new house built on the old foundation.

“We’re still not serving people of color,” said Delgado. “We need to build a more inclusive health care system.”

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BVN National News Wire