A+ R A-

News Wire

Black Preschoolers' Suspensions Triple that of Whites

E-mail Print PDF

By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Even before they typically learn to read, Black preschoolers – some as young as 4 years old – are taught a disgusting lesson: They are three times more likely to be suspended from school than their White classmates, according to a recent study by the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education.

“Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5 percent of White students are suspended, compared to 16 percent of Black students,” the Department of Education study found.

Black children account for 18 percent of the nation’s preschoolers, but nearly half of students in that age group suspended more than once, compared to White children who represent 43 percent of preschoolers and 26 percent of students suspended more than once, according to the report.

Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies for the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, told the Associated Press: “Just kicking them out of school is denying them access to educational opportunity at such a young age. Then, as they come in for kindergarten, they are just that much less prepared.”

Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and South Carolina reported the widest gaps in the racial disparity suspensions between Black and White students. New Jersey, New York and North Dakota reported the smallest gaps.

Black students also account for nearly 30 percent of students referred to law enforcement in what many civil rights advocates have called the school-to-prison pipeline.

“Black students represent 16 percent of student enrollment, 27 percent of students referred to law enforcement, and 31 percent of students subjected to a school-related arrest. In comparison, white students represent 51 percent of students enrolled, 41 percent of referrals to law enforcement, and 39 percent of those subjected to school-related arrests,” stated the report.

For the first time in 14 years, the Education Department collected data from all 97,000 public schools and its 16,500 school districts, responsible for 49 million students.

“This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain. In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a press release. “As the President’s education budget reflects in every element – from preschool funds to Pell Grants to Title I to special education funds – this administration is committed to ensuring equity of opportunity for all.”

The Education Department report comes on the heels of research funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundations that showed that implicit bias contributes to racial disparities in student suspension rates from kindergarten to the 12th grade.

In a study titled, “The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children,” researchers from the University of California, the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the University of Pennsylvania, concluded that after 9 years old, “Black children and adults were rated as significantly less innocent than White children and adults or children and adults generally.”

A majority of the survey participants were White women, the same group that is also over-represented among public school teachers.

Researchers found that Black boys may be perceived as more than 4.53 years older than their actual age, which meant that a 13 year-old might be “misperceived” to be an adult by law enforcement officials.

The report continued: “These outcomes are particularly worrisome for Black children, who are 18 times more likely than White children to be sentenced as adults and who represent 58% of children sentenced to adult facilities, the report stated.

In recent speeches Attorney General Eric Holder has urged school administrators, lawmakers and parents to work together to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline that often has far-reaching consequences for young people that get swept up into the criminal justice system.

Holder said that the report was critical and showed that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool.

“Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed,” Holder said. “This Administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities.”

Judge Upholds Election of Kevin Johnson in Black Mayors' Rift

E-mail Print PDF

By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After intense internal fighting, court battles and competing board of directors that have characterized Sacramento, Calif. Kevin Johnson’s term as president of the National Conference of Black Mayors since last May, his first month in office, a judge has ruled decidedly in Johnson’s favor, effectively firing Executive Director Vanessa R. Williams and nullifying all actions of the rump board challenging Johnson’s right to remain in office.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher S. Brasher issued his ruling in Atlanta last week.

”We’re gratified that the court has validated the election of our leadership and vindicated our efforts to take the necessary steps to restore accountability and fiscal integrity to this venerable and critical organization,” Johnson said in a statement. “Now we can move forward by taking the actions that will address any outstanding problems we have in order to ensure that the NCBM will benefit current and future mayors and their constituents.”

In some ways, it may be a Pyrrhic victory for Johnson. He is limited to one term, which expires in May. Johnson is also vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is a leading candidate to become president of the group in June.

When he was elected president of the Black mayors last May, many members thought he was just what the group needed. After all, it was still reeling from its previous president, George L. Grace, Sr. of tiny St. Gabriel, La., being sentenced to 22 years in prison for stealing from the organization. Grace, who set up secret NCBM bank accounts in his name in Louisiana, was convicted of bribery, obstruction of justice, mail fraud, wire fraud, making false statements and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ACT (RICO) and use of an interstate facility in the aid of racketeering.

In addition to illegally diverting money from the Black mayors’ group, Grace was also found guilty of extorting businessmen seeking to do business with the city and demanding kickbacks from operators setting up temporary housing in his city for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Former President Robert Bowser, who had preceded Grace in the top job, was called back into temporary service to help stabilize the organization, Bowser, mayor of East Orange, N.J., was initially convinced that Kevin Johnson provided the fresh face and name recognition that would help the organization recover from George Grace’s disgraceful conduct.

And Bowser was not alone. Johnson was unanimously elected president by voice vote on May 30, 2013. The former Phoenix Suns point guard vowed to “shake up things” and called a business meeting for the next day. It was clear that unlike presidents who viewed their role as largely ceremonial, Johnson was going to be different.

According to minutes of the meeting, “Upon a motion made by Mayor Johnny Ford, which was seconded by Mayor Oliver Gilbert, the Board of Directors voted to delegate to the Special Task Force, the power of the Board for the following purposes: (1) to comprehensively investigate facts concerning NCBM’s 501 ( c ) (3) status, any litigation involving NCBM, and the financial and business affairs, obligations and duties of NCBM; (2) to supervise the management of the ordinary affairs of NCBM; and (3) to engage Ballard Spahr LLP, as its counsel, and such other professionals, and to take such other actions as the Special Task Force deems necessary and appropriate to accomplish these purposes.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Realizing that they had ceded their power to the Special Task Force headed by Johnson, board members loyal to Executive Director Vanessa Williams, whom Johnson made no secret about his intent to fire, began a counterinsurgency movement.

On June 13, just two weeks into Johnson’s term, General Counsel Susan “Sue” Winchester sent a memo saying that acting on a request from Otis Wallace, the parliamentarian, she had examined the record of the May 30th election and determined that it was invalid because it did not comply with the organization’s bylaws.

Specifically, Winchester said several provisions of the bylaws were violated, including the establishment of a nominating committee, the requirement for secret balloting and making sure that only eligible members voted.


And for more than eight months, two boards held themselves out to the public as the sole governing body.

Johnson and Treasurer Patrick Green of Normandy, Mo. went to court to force Vanessa Williams and Mayor Bowser to turn over documents needed to conduct a forensic audit. When Williams refused, Judge Brasher issued an injunction compelling her to comply.

With records in hand – and leaked to the local news media – supporters of Johnson found not just a smoking gun but what they consider a whole gun show. Williams, the executive director, had written numerous checks to herself, to her husband and to a Christian academy for her son’s tuition. And there were checks to high-end stores: Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Nordstrom and St. John Knits. There were repeated ATM withdrawals, money spent on toys and nail salons.

A memo written by an accounting firm hired by the Special Task Force noted on Aug. 14, 2013: “Our analysis identified a number of expenditures that appear to be questionable business expenses of NCBM. In summary, based on our analysis of the above-referenced banking records, we identified approximately $623,000 of questionable payments….”

Auditors said that amount “does not include significant amounts of payments we identified for travel, fuel, restaurants, general merchandise stores (including Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, etc.), grocery stores, specialty retailers (Hobby Lobby, Haverty’s Furniture, Best Buy, Apple Store, etc.) or purchases for less than $100 at locations not identified above (including Apple iTunes, Hollywood Video, bookstores, drug stores, etc.).”

Williams has contended that NCBM owed her a considerable amount of back pay. In lieu of paying her, Williams asserts, the board allowed her to use the association’s credit card for personal expenses until the charges equal her back pay.

On Sept. 6, 2013, the board headed by Mayor Johnson fired Williams “due to your failure over a sustained period of several years to fulfil core duties and responsibilities of the Executive Director of NCBM and your recent admissions regarding your use of the bank accounts of NCBM and the NCBM Title Company for personal expenditures totaling at least $632,000 without board approval.”

But the other board that did not recognize Johnson as president voted to retain Williams and ignore any actions taken by the group headed by Kevin Johnson.

As both groups remained divided, it created awkward moments. At a world conference of mayors in Colombia last year, both factions were claiming to legitimately represent the Black mayors. A conference planned for Bermuda next October was cancelled because of the conflict.

“NCBM Executive Director Vanessa Williams spent five days in Bermuda earlier this month on a fact-finding mission to ensure that the Island had suitable facilities to host the conference,” the Royal Gazette newspaper reported. The island paper continued, “The trip was paid for by the Corporation [of Hamilton], which held a reception at City Hall in Ms. Williams honour…

“A spokesman for the NCBM has since confirmed to The Royal Gazette that Ms. Williams was dismissed by the NCBM Board last year, and that she no longer has any association with the NCBM. The spokesman added that the NCBM had no knowledge of any conference being held in Bermuda.”

The story continued, “And last night Mayor Graeme Outerbridge acknowledged that the success of the conference hinged on the participation of the NCBM – and that, with Ms. Williams’ credibility now under question, the future of the conference was in doubt.”

Mayor Browser lost his re-election bid in East Orange, N.J. As of Jan. 1, 2014, he was out of office and thus ineligible for continued membership in NCBM. Even if he had been recognized as the duly elected president of the organization, he would have been forced to resign when he was defeated in New Jersey.

Unless reversed, Judge Brasher’s ruling will settle the dispute between the two factions for good.

“The record shows that Mayor Johnson was both nominated by the Committee on Nominations, and from the floor by an eligible member,” the judge wrote in his opinion. “No other nominations were made. Though it is possible that ineligible members voted, a sufficient number of eligible voters voted, a sufficient number of eligible members also voted in an oral vote presided over by the Chair of the Nominating Committee. Mayor Bowser could have required that the vote be cast by secret ballot, but he did not. In the end, Mayor Johnson was unanimously elected President of the NCBM.”

He also said, “Through his actions, Mayor Bowser, indeed the entire electorate, waived compliance with the Bylaws’ requirement that a secret ballot be held to elect the new President, and that an election supervisor handle the election…The Court finds that Mayor Johnson was validly elected as President of the NCBM on May 30, 2013.”

Conservative Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly Blasts Black Caucus Members as 'Race Hustlers'

E-mail Print PDF

By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

In his March 24 “The O’Reilly Factor” broadcast, O’Reilly supported Ryan’s latest apparent put-down of Blacks and came out firing against Ryan detractors, calling Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) a “notorious race hustler.”

“There is a cultural problem…. And that problem holds certain Americans back from competing in the marketplace.

“But as you may know, if you say that, you become a target. You are called a racist, as I have been many, many times,” O’Reilly said.

George Will, author and Fox News contributor who was a guest on O’Reilly’s show, added, “It’s a reflex on their part to call people racist, just as it was for Joe McCarthy to call people communist in 1954. People stopped listening to him. People stopped listening to these people.”

Ryan has been vilified for statements he made about poverty and the culture of inner cities in an interview on Bill Bennett’s “Morning In America” radio show on March 12.

“We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work. And so, there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” Ryan said, according to a recording of the show.

CBC members immediately fired back, saying Ryan’s comments were uninformed and repugnant.

Lee characterized Ryan’s comments as “a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated.

“His assertions about the racial dynamics of poverty are not only statistically inaccurate, but deeply offensive,” she added in the statement.

The next day, Ryan denied any racial insinuation, saying only that his wording was “inarticulate.”

“After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make,” he said in a statement. “I was not implicating the culture of one community—but of society as a whole. We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities [and] the predictable result has been multi-generational poverty and little opportunity.”

Still, CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), another CBC member, sent Ryan a letter assailing him about his assessments.

“The problem many people in poverty face is not isolation, but rather the lack of resources to help ensure all people have the opportunity to succeed and contribute to society, such as adequate transportation, infrastructure, job training programs and other resources to search for jobs and become gainfully employed,” the letter read.

“A serious policy conversation on poverty should not begin with assumptions or stereotypes. Poverty in our nation is a critical problem that must be approached with diligence and the utmost respect for those who are trapped by poverty’s grasp,” the Black lawmakers said.

Danziger Cop Awaiting New Trial Asks to be Moved to Local Jail

E-mail Print PDF

Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly

Attorneys for a former New Orleans police sergeant who is awaiting a new trial on charges stemming from deadly shootings that took place on an eastern New Orleans bridge less than a week after Hurricane Katrina have asked a federal judge to move him to a local jail, The Associated Press reported last week.

Kenneth Bowen and three other former NOPD officers have been in custody since their indictment in 2010.

The Danziger Bridge shootings took place on September 4, 2005 and resulted in the deaths of two unarmed civilians and the wound ing of four others. The two civilians killed were 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, a mentally disabled man. Former NOPD Sgt. Kenneth Bow­en, former Sgt. Robert Gise­vius, former Officer Robert Faulcon and former Officer Anthony Villavaso were tried and convicted of federal civil rights charges stemming from the shootings and an attempt to cover up the deadly incident.

A fifth former NOPD officer, Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, was convicted of charges that he orchestrated the cover-up. Kaufman, who wasn’t charged in the shootings themselves, was serving a six-year prison sentence when Engelhardt agreed in October 2014 to free him on bond pending a new trial.

Five other officers — Michael Lohman, Jeffery Lehrmann, Michael Hunter, Robert Barrios and Ignatis Hill — pleaded guilty on a variety of federal charges and agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice as it continued its probe of the 2005 incident.

Bowen was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his part in the Danziger Bridge shootings.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ordered new trials for them in September 2013, citing prosecutorial misconduct, but did not free them. In a filing Monday, Bowen’s attorneys claim his confinement in a maximum security prison — where the most violent inmates are housed — puts him in danger because of his history as a police officer.

“Bowen is scheduled to move to the Florence SHU (Special Housing Unit) on or about Thursday, March 20,” attorney Robin Schulberg wrote in court papers. “As a result, his living conditions will be restricted in the same manner as inmates on disciplinary segregation: his telephone calls to his family will be confined to one 15-minute call a month, he will not have access to email, and he will have little, if any, access to the law library.”

Schulberg told the judge in papers filed last week that Bowen will also have limited access to his attorney through U.S. mail.

“National Action Now continues to support the families impacted by the Danziger and Glover cases and will continue to fight for justice alongside them,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a New Orleans-based community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly Thursday. “Of course, we oppose Kenneth Bowen having the freedom to move closer to the city…We also are disappointed by the judge’s decision to grant him and all of the other officers a new trial. There is overwhelming evidence showing him violating these victims’ civil rights. The civil rights community is united in the belief and conviction that Kenneth Bowen should remain in jail and should not be transferred closer to New Orleans.

“Why is the justice system bending over backwards to accommodate these convicted police officers but doing so little to help these families to get justice?” Brown continued. “The Justice Dept. is showing favoritism toward these convicted cops. They’re being released from jail quicker than civilians ever have been. It usually takes an individual many years to get a conviction overturned, but these cops have been in jail only two or three years and are getting their convictions overturned and getting out of jail on bond. …Why is the judge allowing these murderers to go free? The appeals process is working in their favor despite all of the evidence that shows that these officers are guilty. … The Jim Letten (online posting) scandal has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that these cops shot and murdered innocent human beings.”

Brown encouraged concerned residents to stand up and be heard on the issue in New Orleans. “National Action Now is calling for people to organize and rally against it,” he said. “If we sit back and don’t say anything, we’re giving them a green light to allow the cops to keep murdering innocent people and violating our constitutional rights.”

“It is very discouraging to watch the unraveling of a justice system that claims to be the protector of the people it claims to serve,” W.C. Johnson, a member of Community United for Change and host of local cable-access show “OurStory,” told The Louisiana Weekly Thursday. “After more than 140 years of fighting the NOPD, Blacks have remained the victims while the white establishment continues to follow laws they write as they go along their daily duties exhibiting ‘might is right’ and ‘do as I say not as I do’ philosophy. The politics of America is said to be found in the U.S. Constitution, yet the protections granted under the constitution are always being questioned when it comes to Blacks living in America.”

Johnson said that Black residents have learned the hard way that they cannot depend on the Feds to right the wrongs that have devastated the Black community in New Orleans as far back as anyone can remember.

“Blacks in New Orleans have never received any considerations from the federal government who allowed Len Davis to murder Kim Groves while the Feds listened in on conversations describing the instruction to kill Kim Groves,” W.C. Johnson said, “After three years of trying to get the federal government to impart their constitutional protections on the Black people of New Orleans, Blacks in New Orleans find themselves faced with bewilderment from the disenfranchisement of federal protections. It seems as if the American Black population is experiencing a return to third-class citizenship. All of this while under the tenure of a Black president.”

“It is the absolute height of injustice, disrespect and inhumanity for the cops in the Danziger and Henry Glover cases to be allowed to not only get away with murder but to even seek to be reimbursed for their legal expenses, get their old jobs back and to be moved to correctional facilities that are more comfortable and convenient for them as they await new trials,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly. “They have shown absolutely no remorse or concern for the innocent lives lost or the loved ones left behind to grieve in their wake. That says a lot about the caliber of men and women that make up the NOPD.

“Not only are they telling us that Blacks have no rights that white people are bound by law to respect, nike the Dred Scott decision,” Aha continued. “They are also telling us that they are not simply above the law — they are the law.” Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.

This article originally published in the March 24, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Flame of Remembrance Crisscrosses Rwanda on 20th Anniversary of Genocide

E-mail Print PDF

Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

Mar. 31 (GIN) – Ceremonies around Rwanda and abroad are underway to mark the 20th year since the devastating genocide which, according to the Genocide Memorial Center in Rwanda, took over a million lives during a three-month killing spree.

At a ceremony last Thursday in the town of Kirehe, thousands of residents gathered in a field to hear genocide memories. Nsengiyomva Apollinaise, a local official, said the memorials help Rwandans examine the causes and find a path on which to move forward.

The flame reaches Kigali, the capital, on April 7.

At Kirehe’s flame ceremony, Theopiste Mukanoheli recounted how as an 18-year-old she watched her neighbor dig a 10-foot grave to cram bodies in. She was inside Nyarubuye Catholic Church when attackers threw in grenades, killing hundreds. Most of her close family died there, she said.

Mike Nkuzumuwami, who helps look after the rebuilt red-brick church, says 35,000 people died in his hilltop community, a sea of green where tens of thousands of banana trees grow. One positive change since the genocide is a near erasure of the Hutu-Tutsi divide, he said, a principle directive of the Rwandan government, which wants Rwandans to see themselves as Rwandan, not an ethnic tribe.

“After the killings no one has called me a Tutsi, and those Hutus involved in the genocide regret what they have done,” the 45-year-old said.

School groups visit the church, mass grave and museum of death. Near the skulls and bones are tables of dusty brown clothes, sandals, slippers and shoes. The younger generation does not understand the genocide, Nkumuwami said, and Rwanda’s aging population doesn’t want them to repeat it.

At the Kwibuka 20 ceremony — a Rwandan word meaning “remember” and 20 for 20th anniversary — a large audience gazed at a film showing some of the genocide horror. A voice in English said the killings were a planned political campaign that came from an ideology called Hutu Power. Tutsis, the video says, were meant to be exterminated.

“This is something that happens every year, an event to help each Rwandan personally remember what happened, and examine the causes,” said Nsengiyomva Apollinaise, a local officials, who said his parents and siblings died in the genocide. “And also to see the path to move forward on.”

Other events can be seen on the website: http://www.kwibuka.rw/

Page 49 of 342