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Bias a Factor in Suspending Black Students

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A new collection of research shows that despite the myths surrounding Black student behavior, poverty and severity of the offense have very little to do with the rate Black students are suspended from school.

Rather, the studies point a finger in another direction: the implicit bias perpetrated by school officials.

The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative, a group of researchers, educators, advocates, and policy analysts funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundations, compiled the research on school discipline.

According to the Collaborative, more than 3 million students from kindergarten to 12th grade were suspended during the 2009-2010 school year, twice the rate of suspensions since the 1970s. Black students are nearly 3.5 times as likely to be suspended than their White peers.

In the briefing paper titled, “Are Black Kids Worse? Myths and Facts about Racial Differences in Behavior,” researchers from the Equity Project at Indiana University in Bloomington found that “there is simply no good evidence that racial differences in discipline are due to differences in rates or types of misbehavior by students of different races.”

Research also showed that despite popular myths the relationship between poverty and disruptive school behavior has been overstated.

When researchers looked at middle school referrals, White students were more likely to get sent to office over “observable offenses” such as smoking and vandalism and Black students were disciplined more frequently for subjective reasons including disrespectful behavior, loud noise and defiance.

“In other words, regardless of a school’s official disciplinary policy, there are a variety of factors involved in determining a student’s punishment, not the least of which is the mood, ideology, philosophy, values, and biases of the adults making that decision,” stated the briefing paper on implicit bias. “The more subjective the category of offense – i.e., insubordination, disobedience, disruption, defiance – the greater the risk that bias (either explicit or unconscious) will seep into the process.”

Researchers often use the Implicit Association Test to measure implicit bias.

“Researchers have found that 80% of tested Whites and 40% of tested Blacks show a pro-White bias,” stated the briefing paper. “They consistently implicitly associate Blacks with negative attitudes such as bad and unpleasant, and with negative stereotypes such as aggressive and lazy.”

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin developed a “toolkit” of strategies to combat implicit bias including stereotype replacement, counter-stereotypic imagining that involves thinking about a famous or familiar person that debunks the stereotype, learning about a person’s background and developing an individualized response, tastes, hobbies, and family, and perspective-taking.

“All children deserve access to a quality education, but too often, children of color are pushed out of the classroom – not because they’re behaving any worse than other students, but because of harsh and often discriminatory school disciplinary policies,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project and member of the research collaborative. “While the notion of a post-racial society is aspirational in theory, racial discrimination in school discipline is a major problem.”

The Collaborative also recommended that schools utilize “a systematic protocol” such as the Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines instead of zero tolerance policies that quickly usher’s students down the school-to-prison pipeline.

The Collaborative researchers reported that, “Use of the Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines across schools in Virginia was associated with a 19% reduction in the number of long-term suspensions and an 8% reduction in the number of short-term suspensions, greater than schools not using the Guidelines.”

The Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines entail communicating with the students involved, distinguishing between real and fleeting threats, and intervening before any threats escalate into violence.

The Collaborative briefing paper on new research stated: “Use of the Guidelines was associated with reductions in suspensions for all racial groups included in the study, as well as a reduction in dis-proportionality between Black males and White even after controlling for school size and poverty.”

In schools that didn’t follow the Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines, there was a six point gap between Black male and White male student long-term suspension rates, compared to a three point gap in schools that followed the guidelines.

The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative recommended a range of interventions including building supportive relationships with students, providing high-quality academic opportunities, “culturally relevant and responsive teaching,” and creating “bias-free” learning environments.

“Research shows the best way to create a positive school climate is to foster trusting, supportive relationships between students and adults in the school,” Browne Dianis said. “And when misbehavior does occur, it should be addressed through constructive and equitable ‘restorative justice’ policies that give students an opportunity to learn from, and make amends for, mistakes. We should focus on problem-solving instead of just handing out penalties.”

Browne Dianis explained, “Although it is difficult and uncomfortable to talk directly about race and other differences, addressing inequalities in education requires a willingness to directly address these issues.”

Parents of Slain Black Teenagers in Chicago and Jacksonville, Fla. to be Honored by Black Press in D.C.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – (NNPA) Cleopatra and Nathaniel A. Pendleton, Sr., parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendelton, who was fatally shot in the back while standing in a park after taking her final examination at King College Prep High School in Chicago on Jan. 29, 2013, and Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, parents of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old who was shot to death November 23, 2012 in Jacksonville, Fla. by Michael Dunn on a convenience store parking lot after an argument over loud music being played by Davis and three teenage companions riding in a Dodge Durango sports utility vehicle, will be honored as part of Black Press Week as “Newsmakers of the Year.”

Dunn, who is White, fired 10 shots into the SUV carrying the four Black teenagers even after it was speeding away. Three of the shots struck Davis and the other seven shots missed his friends. The jury found Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted murder, but deadlocked on a second-degree murder charge in connection with Davis’ death. Bullets fired by Dunn pierced Davis’ liver, a lung and his aorta.

Dunn testified that he thought he saw a gun sticking out of the Dodge Durango, but no weapon was found or seen by any witnesses at the scene. Dunn never reported the shooting to police and was arrested after witnesses recorded his tag number and gave it to police.

In Chicago, Young Pendleton was killed one week after participating in the second inauguration events of President Barack Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama, whose home was just a mile away from the shooting, attended Hadiya’s funeral. The president mentioned Hadiya’s death in his 2013 State of the Union address as her parents sat as honored guests in the first lady’s box. The two suspects arrested in connection with Hadiya’s death told police that she was standing in a group that was mistaken for members of a rival gang.

“We know there’s nothing anyone can do to bring back Hadiya Pendleton or Jordan Davis, but we wanted their parents to know that the nation not only mourns their loss, but rededicates itself to reducing senseless gun violence that is all too common in our communities,” said Mary G. Denson, publisher of The Windy City Word in Chicago and chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, the sponsor of Black Press Week.

Cloves C. Campbell, Jr., publisher of the Arizona Informant and chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a federation of approximately 200 newspapers, said: “The deaths of Hadiya and Jordan were stark reminders that all of us must redouble our efforts to rid our communities of violence. The loss of any life is a tragedy and the loss of teenagers with their future ahead of them is particularly appalling and totally unacceptable.”

The parents of the slain teens will be presented with NNPA Foundation’s “Newsmaker of the Year Award” at dinner on Thursday, March 20. At that same event, former North Carolina Congressman Melvin L. Watt, the first director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, will be presented the Torch Award for Political Achievement. Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., leader of the Wilmington Ten and president and CEO of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, will be presented the Torch Award for Religious Achievement.

Earlier, Thursday Charles W. Tisdale, the late publisher of the Jackson Advocate, the oldest Black-owned newspaper in Mississippi, and the late M. Paul Redd, publisher of the Westchester County (N.Y.) Press, will be inducted into the Distinguished Black Publishers Enshrinement Ceremony at Howard University. Tisdale, died in 2007 at the age of 80.

“Charles Tisdale purchased an innocuous, nearly defunct weekly newspaper in 1978, transformed it into a strident voice for African Americans and poor whites in Mississippi, then endured the wrath of those who wanted to silence the paper – and him,” the Los Angeles Times observed in an obituary. “The office of the Jackson Advocate was attacked – firebombed, riddled with bullets, burglarized, ransacked – at least 20 times over the years. Tisdale often received death threats.”

Redd, who purchased his newspaper in 1986, died Jan. 9, 2009 of a heart attack at age of 80. He wrote a column called “M. Paul Tells All” for more than 40 years. He was a major figure in Democratic politics in New York, serving as Rye City Democratic County Committeeman for 46 years. He was also vice chairman of the Westchester County Democratic Committee. Whether through his newspaper or his political activities, he was always urging African Americans to become more active in politics as a means of improving the Black community.

The NNPA will visit the office of the National Republican Committee on Wednesday to hear about their outreach efforts and visit the White House on Friday for a briefing on President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Black male initiative.

On the morning of Friday, March 21, a breakfast panel on confronting HIV/AIDS titled, “Black Press and the Black Pulpit,” will be moderated by Rev. Walter Silva Thompson Jr., Pastor, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, Jamaica, N.Y. Panelists will included Rev. Dr. Kendrick E. Curry, Senior Pastor, Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. ; Rev. Dr. Lewis Brogdon, Director, Black Church Studies Program, Louisville Seminary; Rev. Yvonne Cooper, Associate Minister, Allen Chapel AME Church, Washington, D.C. and Pastor Frances “Toni” Draper, Freedom Temple AME Zion Church, Baltimore, Md.

Black Press Week activities will conclude with a luncheon Friday, March 21, at the National Press Club featuring a panel discussion on Black economic empowerment. Moderated by NNPA News Service Editor-in-Chief George E. Curry, the panel will consist of Maggie Anderson, founder of The Empowerment Experiment and author, Our Black Year, a book that catalogues the Anderson family spending a year buying only products and services produced by African Americans; Dr. William Spriggs, Chair of the Department of Economics and Howard University and former Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration, and Dr. Valerie Ralston Wilson, newly-appointed Director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

Campaign Launched to Get More Blacks in Clinical Trials

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Special to the NNPA from The Florida Courier

For Averi Anderson, seeing more African-Americans participate in clinical trials is personal. The 60-year-old breast cancer survivor said if it had not been for a clinical trial, she might not be alive today.

Anderson was one of the speakers at a Wednesday press conference in Washington, D.C. announcing a new initiative aimed to get more Blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans involved in clinical trials.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the National Minority Quality Forum have collaborated to launch the ‘I’m In’ campaign designed to encourage greater diversity of patients who volunteer to participate in clinical trials.

PhRMA represents the country’s leading biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, while the D.C.-based Forum is a not-for-profit independent research and education organization.

Aggressive cancer
Anderson, a former health care worker, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. At the time, she was a volunteer with the Buffalo/Niagara Witness Project, an initiative of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York that educates participants on early cancer detection through stories told by breast and cervical cancer survivors in churches and community setting.

“I didn’t just have any breast cancer. I had Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer, a very aggressive form of breast cancer in African-American women,” Anderson shared.

Shortly after her diagnosis, Anderson’s oncologist recommended she be enrolled in a federally funded clinical trial.

“I understand the misconceptions and also the Tuskegee experiment where people have a lot of mistrust of medical research. Even in my family, I heard my grandparents talk about those incidents, but I feel if it were not for other 55 year-old African-American women who participated in a clinical trial, I might not be standing here talking to you today.’’

“I thank God that today’s cures were yesterday’s clinical trials and today’s clinical studies are tomorrow’s cures,’’ she remarked.

Legacy of mistrust
Historically, Blacks’ mistrust of clinical research dates back to the use of Black cadavers for experimentation and the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis study, in which White doctors conducted experiments on Black men in Alabama to see how syphilis spreads.

The patients weren’t told they had syphilis and weren’t treated for it.

Minorities underrepresented
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), African-Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but only 5 percent of clinical trial participants. Hispanics make up 16 percent of the population, but only 1 percent of clinical trial participants.

In a statement released prior to the conference, John Castellani, president and CEO of PhRMA, commented, “PhRMA and our member companies are committed to raising awareness and increasing participation in clinical trials, particularly among historically underrepresented populations. Through this collaboration of health care leaders, we are taking a major step forward to help reduce health disparities through greater inclusiveness in clinical research.”

Accelerating inclusion
At the conference on Wednesday, experts noted how developing new medicines is a lengthy and complex process that relies heavily on volunteer participation to evaluate potential therapies for safety and effectiveness in clinical studies.

“According to the FDA, increased diversity in clinical trials could help researchers find better ways to fight diseases that disproportionately impact certain populations, and may be important for the safe and effective use of new therapies,” Dr. Gary Puckrein, president and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum, said in a statement.

“Through the I’m In campaign, new online resources such as the Clinical Trial Engagement Network will be introduced to empower individuals to learn more about clinical trials and the benefits of participating in clinical research,” he added.

Online access
I’m In will support the buildup of the National Minority Quality Forum’s Clinical Trial Engagement Network, which will help accelerate the inclusion of underrepresented populations in clinical trials.

Authorized users will be able to quickly identify potential clinical trial participants by using zip-code level mapping of disease clusters and simultaneously identifying and connecting points of care and community resources that can assist with site selection and patient recruitment.

Others participating in Wednesday’s conference included Dr. Carlos J. Cardenas of Doctors Hospital in McAllen, Texas and Dr. Ho Tran of the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians. Both expressed the importance of minorities in the trials.

‘For ourselves’
Anderson, who celebrated five years as a breast cancer survivor on Feb. 22, reiterated the importance of African-Americans being involved in clinical trials. She shared the joy of being able to see her grandchildren graduate from high school and to see them possibly get married.

“We have to do this for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and our community,’’ she added.

For more information about clinical trials and the I’m In campaign, visit www.JoinImIn.org.

Caribbean Nations Adopt 10-Point Reparations Program

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

A Caribbean initiative designed to seek reparations from European nations that dominated the trans-Atlantic slave trade has received a major boost from the region’s leaders.

Caricom prime ministers and presidents have endorsed a comprehensive plan that includes the cancellation of billions of dollars of debt and an apology from such countries as Britain, France and the Netherlands which enriched themselves from the Caribbean’s human resources over a 250-plus year period ending in the 19th century.

The heads of government have agreed to move forward with their case against the three countries in particular which were prime movers and shakers of slavery, according to the British law firm, Leigh Day, which has been retained by the Caribbean to press the matter in court, if early negotiations fail.

The decision was made in St. Vincent & the Grenadines where the Caricom leaders have just concluded a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

“I would say we made good progress on that (reparations) issue, and before the end of June, some approach is going to be made to the European countries in relation to this matter of reparations,” Gonsalves, St. Vincent’s Prime Minister said.

“We believe we have the law and the facts on our side in relation to addressing the legacy of native genocide and African slavery and we will make our case,” he added. “It is a serious proposal, with serious issues, within the same context of not fighting anybody.

“These things never come easy but these are 14 sovereign countries representing 16 million people with a huge Diaspora in the United States, in Canada, in Europe,” said Dr. Gonslaves, an attorney who once taught at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. “I think we have some influence. I am satisfied and we are satisfied that we have the law on our side, and we have the facts on our side.”

The 10-point plan, explained Martyn Day, a British attorney who is spearheading the region’s case would consist of a “fair set of demands on the governments whose countries grew rich at the expense of those regions whose human wealth was stolen from them.”

As Day pointed out, the group of English, Creole and Dutch-speaking islands and coastal states that belong to Caricom also wants European help in strengthening their educational and cultural institutions and their health facilities.

Caricom states are expected to push for litigation if the European countries decline to negotiate.

The region’s leaders made their decision after Professor Sir Hillary Beckles, Chairman of the Region’s Reparations Commission and Principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies had made a presentation to them on what is being called a “reparatory justice framework.” It comprises such things as an apology, the question of organizing with African nations and persons who support the case for reparations as well as matters relating to health, education and literacy as well as building cultural institutions and developing programs that address the needs of indigenous people.

Sir Hillary is one of the Caribbean’s foremost historians and has written extensively on slavery and reparations. His latest book, “Britain’s Black Debt, Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide,” was published a year ago.

Caricom and European countries are to meet soon in London and their talks would enable “our clients to quickly gauge whether or not their concerns are being taken seriously,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

The plan is said to include a demand for the creation of a “reparations program that would seek European diplomatic assistance from European governments, to potentially resettle members of the Rastafarian movement in Africa.

International Women's Day Rally for NYC to Raise Minimum Wage

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By Khorri Atkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Living on minimum wage is a harsh reality for many New Yorkers like Sabrina Storey, a fast-food worker, who has been working at a local KFC franchise since December of last year.

“The wage is just unfair and for the work we do, we should get a higher raise,” said Storey, who gets a weekly earnings of $127, and says “that is not enough to pay rent and feed myself. I have a friend who helps me with things I need, but can’t afford.”

Storey is also facing another challenge: the recent cuts to food stamps, which she depends. Her story sounds extreme, but Storey is not alone. Living from paycheck to paycheck has been a national problem for many.

This concern prompted hundreds of women of color and members from grassroots organizations to rally at Union Square March 9, calling on Mayor de Blasio to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour. The rally coincided with a global campaign in recognition of International Women’s Day and highlighted the struggles that women around the world continues to face. Living on an unlivable minimum wage is one of them.

“Women are the head of most families. Some are doing two jobs and they need living wage jobs with benefits, said Christine Williams, a member of Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Million Worker March Movement. “$15 dollars an hour with benefits, that’s what we want and it needs to happen now,” she added.

Williams works in the city’s subway system, and said she has been seeing “homeless women and children sleeping on the train 3 o’clock in the mornings, because they have no where to go.” She echoed, “If the system is not creating jobs, you have to make these low wage jobs livable wage jobs.”

In his first State of the City address, in February, de Blaiso have asked the state’s legislature for the city to set a higher minimum wage. But, “this wouldn’t be productive” and may caused “a chaotic situation,” Cuomo said in a recent interview with WCNY’s Susan Arbetter on “The Capitol Pressroom.”

“We’re one state and we don’t want to cannibalize ourselves. We don’t want to have different cities with different tax rates, competing among themselves. We compete with other states,” Cuomo added.

But in one of the nation’s most expensive cities, which has a high cost of living, protesters argued that New York’s current $8-per-hour is a poverty-level wage. States like Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco are all considering to increase their minimum wage up to $15 an hour.

Saturday’s rally started at 23–29 Washington Place where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory once was. Women from all ethnicity groups, including Muslims and student activism groups marched to International Action Center’s New York office with signs, some with pictures of women political prisoners and Marissa Alexander, as passersby looked to see what was happening. Some waved their hands in support. They stopped at a McDonalds franchise, and chanted “The women united will never be defeated! $15 minimum wage is what we want!”

Among the hundreds was Jocelyn Gay, who marched with four others, representing women in Haiti they told the AmNews. This is due to the ongoing struggles that women in the earthquake ravaged country continues to endure. They’re not getting no help from the government, Gay said.

“If the women are behind, workers are behind. A lot of women are still homeless after the earthquake,” said Gay, who alleged that “the UN military forces are raping females and males,” but an allegation that was also reported by the media.

“They are being paid hefty salaries for doing absolutely nothing. Women are the backbone of the society in Haiti,” she continues. Many of them work as farmers and sell as vendors in the market place. Women are also being exploited especially in the factories, with the low wages they get despite long hours they work.”

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