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Jordan Davis Worried that He Wouldn’t 'Make it' in Life

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Filled with doubt about his future, Jordan Davis, a 17 year-old student at Samuel W. Wolfson High School began to cry one night sitting on the patio of his father’s condo in Jacksonville, Fla.

Like most teenagers, longing for his own identity and independence, Jordan wanted to work and was having a hard time finding a job. He didn’t feel great about his grades, either.

“He said, ‘Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it,’” Ron Davis, Jordan’s father remembered. “‘I can’t find a job. I’m not doing that well in school. I just don’t think that I’m going to make it.’”

Ron Davis reassured his son and told him that he wasn’t alone.

“You have two parents behind you, you have loved ones behind you,” Davis told his son that night. “Don’t think that you’re in this world by yourself, you’re going to make it.”

Jordan dried his tears and hugged his father.

Looking back, Ron Davis said, maybe Jordan knew more than what he knew at the time. Maybe Jordan saw something.

In 2012, Jordan was living with his father in Jacksonville, Fla., but still maintained close ties with his mother, Lucy McBath, in Atlanta, Ga., and visited often. McBath said that people gravitated to her son, Jordan. He could light up the room with his quick smile and he loved to laugh.

Inside, however, he kept questioning whether he could make it.

Sitting in his mother’s kitchen in Atlanta, Jordan said, “Mom, what would you do if I died?”

Shocked, McBath replied, “Why are you asking me these questions, Jordan?”

“I need to know how you would handle it,” Jordan answered.

McBath told her son that God promised her that he would live a long, fruitful life, that he would get married and give her grandchildren one day. Jordan continued to press, telling his mother that he needed to know that she would be okay, that she would be able to go on.

McBath finally told her son that she would be devastated, but she would find the strength to go on. This time it was the teen reassuring one of his parents.

“I’ll be good, you’ll be the ones that will be suffering,” Jordan told his mother. “I’ll be in Heaven with Jesus. I’ll be fine. I’m not afraid to die.”

On November 23, 2012, a few months before his 18th birthday and only a few days before he was scheduled to begin a new job working at McDonald’s, Jordan Davis, an unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station by Michael Dunn, a White, computer programmer.

Dunn said that he feared for his life after starting an argument over loud music playing in the teens’ SUV. He claimed to have seen a weapon hanging out of the SUV driven by one of Davis’s friends. But no witnesses confirmed his account and no weapon ever found.

What is beyond dispute is that Dunn continued to fire bullets into the SUV while t Davis and his friends were fleeing. Struck three times, Davis sat in bleeding to death while Dunn fled the scene without notifying police.

In February 2014, Michael Dunn was found guilty of three counts of attempted murder, but the jurors could not agree on the first-degree murder charge connected to Jordan Davis’ shooting death. In interviews after the trial, jurors said that the Dunn murder trial wasn’t about race.

“They probably didn’t want it to be, but the element of race is always there,” said Lucy McBath. “The fact that Michael Dunn was able to describe Jordan as a ‘thug’ and describe his friends as ‘thugs,’ those kinds of words are very specific and play a huge role on people’s opinions and ideas.”

During Black Press Week, the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation honored Ron Davis and Lucy McBath for their work advocating for gun control and repeal or reform “Stand Your Ground” laws nationwide.

“That law right there creates all of the loopholes and all of the confusion for jurors on how to decide those self-defense cases,” said McBath.

Davis doesn’t hold any hope for the law to be repealed in Florida, but he says that the law can be rewritten and that’s what they’re fighting for.

“The way it’s written, it takes into account the mind of the shooter,” said Davis. “The victim has no say-so. Why should the shooter be able to make up a story in his mind about why he shot and killed that other person?”

In Florida, a judge decides whether “Stand Your Ground” can be applied. Davis wants that decision placed in the hands of a jury.

The NNPA Foundation also honored the parents of Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed, caught in the crossfire of a Chicago gang war a few miles from a home owned by President Barack Obama.

Ron Davis created The Jordan Davis Foundation to provide educational and travel opportunities for young people across the nation to expose them to different cultures and allow them to explore the world outside of their own neighborhoods.

Lucy McBath founded The Walk With Jordan Scholarship Foundation to provide educational and financial support for students attending four-year colleges and technical training schools.

“We have to educate children to let them know what’s out here and let them know at a young age that they can rally to change the laws,” said Davis. “Young kids think because they’re 14, 15 years old that they can’t do anything, but they can make a difference.”

State Prosecutor Angela Corey said that she would seek a new trial on the first-degree murder charge against Michael Dunn. A new trial date has been set for May 5, but may be delayed to allow time for Dunn’s new lawyer to prepare for the case.

McBath said that they can’t just depend on Jordan’s verdict alone for justice.

“We don’t have a choice to be anything, but optimistic,” said Lucy McBath. “We will continue to work to change the laws no matter what the verdict is.”

Parents of Hadiya Pendleton 'Still Mourning'

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA National Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After a long day of travelling, then networking on Capitol Hill, Nathaniel and Cleopatra Pendleton returned to their downtown Washington, D.C. hotel and dressed for a dinner in their honor. Later that evening, they shook hands and smiled for photographs as they accepted the 2014 NNPA Newsmaker of the Year Award, an accolade they earned as a result of their work against gun violence in the aftermath of their15 year-old daughter’s death. They shared the honor with the parents of Jordan Davis, a Black teen killed in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We are mourning still. We still wake up every day and have to determine what to do, whether what we’re doing is right for us,” Cleopatra says. “So many people want to see something positive come from this, a lot of people came to us and said we need to do something. They empowered us.”

Not as much as the parents have empowered Black America.

On January 29, 2013 their daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, went to the park with friends to enjoy an unseasonably warm Chicago afternoon after a day of final exams. There, her life was taken by a pair of gang-affiliated young men not much older than she, who fired into the group of teens sheltering from a passing rain after mistaking one of them for a rival gang member. Hadiya was hit in the back and passed away in the arms of two friends.

For months afterward, her name was emblazoned in headlines, sometimes with a days-old photo of her performing in President Barack Obama’s second Inaugural Parade. Other times, the headlines accompanied a video of her parents, evenly imploring the nation to honor Hadiya and other victims by passing common-sense gun laws.

Hadiya’s death was the last of 44 homicides that month in Chicago.

In the Black community, gun violence is horrifyingly common.

Homicide is the number-one cause of death for Black males ages 15 to 34, according to 2010 data collected by the Centers for Disease Control. Between 2008 and 2009, Black teenage boys were eight times as likely to die (and 25 times as likely to be injured) at the barrel of a gun than White teen boys.

Globally, a report released last year by the Institutes of Medicine and the National Research Council finds that the rate of firearm-related homicide is 19.5 times higher than the rates in other industrialized countries.

“Sometimes a person that’s just interested [in reducing gun violence] can be a little more insensitive without knowing they are. But people who’ve been there—you don’t even have to say certain things,” Nathaniel says.

“—They can look into our eyes and see when we’ve had enough,” Cleopatra adds, finishing his sentence.

Like Ronald Davis and Lucia McBath (Jordan Davis’ parents), and Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s parents) before them, the Pendletons join a growing movement of parents who have lost their children in a country that makes it easy for anyone to obtain guns, legally and illegally. The Pendletons are using their still-fresh grief as a platform, telling their story in TIME, TheChicago Tribune, the Associated Press, MSNBC, and more media outlets in the hopes of spurring change.

In addition, the family is launching the Hadiya Foundation, a non-profit that hopes to heal Chicago by creating a community of support and embracing at-risk youth. Two weeks ago, they received the keys for their new office space; currently, they are seeking funding and skilled individuals to help actualize and grow the organization.

“Us trying to reach and help other at-risk young adults is our way of trying to find some sort of forgiveness. In the end, you’ve got to have some sort of closure,” Nathaniel explains. “I’m learning to understand the younger generation…the best way to understand is to try to talk to and interact with them. I’ve learned a lot of them just need someone to talk to, to vent to. A lot of them are raising themselves.”

The Newsmaker of the Year Award is awarded to someone who has made significant news in the Black Press during the previous year. Only one person is usually awarded, but an exception was made this year to honor both the Pendletons, and Ronald Davis and Lucia Mcbath for their tireless work on gun control in the wake of their children’s deaths.

And the fight is far from over. Last April, three key gun control bills—a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and expanded background checks—all died in the Senate, as survivors of recent mass shootings looked on from the Senate gallery. It was perhaps the last opportunity for the Obama administration to legislate gun control.

“[Gun control] is a very real issue for us. Hadiya was just a kid in high school hanging out with her buddies,” Cleopatra says of her daughter, a loved older sister, drum majorette, and honors student who was just beginning to think about her future. “It’s not just those in the element being harmed. [Her death] is like a banner that reads ‘Coming to a Porch Near You.’”

Nation Suffers Because of Underrepresentation of Black Women in Politics

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The gaping underrepresentation of women of color on the political stage deeply undermines the American ideal of democratic representation.

That’s a conclusion reached by the Center for American Progress and detailed in an article titled, “Why We Need a Political Leadership Pipeline for Women of Color.”

The article, part of the Center’s Women in Leadership project, was unveiled during a panel event featuring prominent women of color scholars, organizers, and professionals.

“The relative lack of women of color serving in elected office raises grave concerns regarding democratic legitimacy and the fundamental issues of political representation,” the article states. “Lack of representation, of course, can mean a lack of attention to and advocacy for issues important to communities of color. And…translates into a major missed opportunity for the empowerment of underserved communities.”

Today, there are 14 African American women in Congress, less than 3 percent of that body. There is only one woman of color in the Senate, an Asian American. And both delegates to Congress – elected representatives who do not have the right to vote except in committees – are Black women.

The picture is the same at the state level. Black women hold about 3 percent of the country’s 7,383 state legislative seats, across 40 states. Among the 100 largest cities, Baltimore is the only one currently led by a Black woman mayor.

“What I’ve experienced over these years is that if it’s something that’s beyond Black, then it isn’t necessarily obviously seen that a Black woman could be the lead of it,” said panelist Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Roundtable. “Because it’s a multi-racial or multi-ethnic, so therefore – ‘No, we’ll get to your issue later.’ There’s the reality that, in a broad women’s movement, for Black women and [other] women of color, are we all equal in that opportunity for leadership?”

According to the article, lack of representation in politics results in a lack of attention to issues that affect women and people of color more. Moreover, males and females behave differently in politics.

A 2009 report from now defunct The White House Project notes that on average, women in Congress introduce more bills, attract more co-sponsors, and bring home more money for their districts than their male counterparts.

Even in high-stress professions, women can more than hold their own.

For example, Val Demings, the keynote speaker at the Women in Leadership panel, is the first woman to serve as police chief of Orlando, Florida. In her four-year term, violent crime dropped 40 percent.

A 2006 study in the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy found that Latina representatives in four southwestern states were more likely than their male counterparts to prioritize the needs of African Americans and Asians, as well as women and families.

But women need to be represented in more than token numbers, Demings said.

“I can only speak as a Black woman…but if you don’t see a whole lot of folks who look like you doing what you’re thinking about doing, it’s tough to believe that you can do it,” she said in her keynote address.

After she retired as police chief, the mayor urged her to consider running for Congress.

“I was meeting with a member of Congress and he said to me that women have to be asked about seven times to run for public office before they’ll even consider it,” Demings recalls. “I was floored. I felt like I was a pretty assertive, bold, going-into-places-where-others-would-dare-not-go type of person – but I was on my seventh ask.”

Demings ran for a House seat in 2012 on the Democratic ticket. She lost the race to the incumbent candidate by 3.5 percentage points, in a district that was 69 percent white. Currently, Demings is running for mayor of Orange County, Florida.

In a 2012 study, American University researchers found that women are both less likely than men to have anyone suggest they run for office, and twice as likely as men to consider themselves “not at all qualified” for the job. Consequently, fewer women – especially women of color – decide to run for office.

“The barriers holding back women of color are undoubtedly much the same as those shown to limit the political ambitions of all women in general: lack of financial resources, weaker social networks, lack of familiarity with the political process, a greater level of responsibility for children and household tasks, and a greater tendency to be more risk-averse than potential male candidates,” the article explains. “The lack of economic support is perhaps one of the greatest barriers for women of color, as they are often the primary or sole caregivers of their children and their elders, earn less, and have considerably less wealth than men of color and white men and women.”

But there is some encouraging news.

According to the Center for American Progress, women of color are increasingly showing up to the polls; African American women voter turnout rose from nearly 60 percent to nearly 70 percent between 2004 and 2008 (Latinas and Asian American women made 20, and 17 percent gains, respectively, in the same time period). This is higher than the 2008 national voting average of 58.2 percent.

If all eligible women of color voted, that would mean more than 41.8 million votes – or, the equivalent of 62.5 percent of President Barack Obama’s 2008 votes, and 71.7 percent of John McCain’s.

“As I worked through voting rights issues, and working in civic engagement…[I was] focusing on what to do to really deal with the power of the sistah vote,” said Campbell. “I say that as an affirmation, because we have not met that yet. We have the numbers, we turn out, people say we’re the most progressive vote, but we have yet to benefit from that power.”

Haitians Asking the Obama Administration to Allow Federal Suits Against United Nations

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Victims of the 2010 cholera epidemic should get their day in New York federal courts and ultimately be compensated for pain and suffering caused by UN troops

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

A legal battle is looming in federal courts in New York over compensation to victims of the 2010 cholera outbreak in the Caribbean country.

Survivors of the outbreak that took the lives of thousands of people and sickened tens of thousands more are taking their cases to federal court in New York after failing to get the United Nations to offer compensation for their pain, suffering and loss of relatives.

And they are being joined by members of the large Haitian Diaspora in the Northeastern region of U.S. and Florida, including elected officials in Massachusetts and New York who want Washington to stay out of the looming court fight by not joining hands with the UN to frustrate the wishes of those who survived the outbreak four years ago.

What the Haitians are asking the U.S. federal court to do is decline to grant the UN immunity from legal action in the wake of law suits filed recently in the federal district court in Brooklyn in November. The plaintiffs are seeking compensation from the international organization for the tragedy which occurred when UN peace-keeping and humanitarian forces allegedly took the disease to the Caribbean country after the earthquake.

“We were a country free of cholera and all available scientific evidence suggests the UN forces introduced cholera into Haiti” Dr. Mathieu Eugene, a Haitian immigrant who belongs to the New York City Council told the Carib News. “It is important that the suits filed on behalf of the Haitian victims be allowed to proceed in the federal courts. That’s what this country is about: justice and Haitians too must get justice.”

Dr. Eugene, a Brooklyn Democrat who is now in his second and final term at City Hall, said that Haitians should be compensated for the “pain and suffering” they suffered “as a result of the spread of the disease after the devastating deadly earthquake hit in 2010 killing an estimated 250,000 people; leaving more than a million nationals homeless; and causing billions of dollars in damage to the country’s infrastructure.

Hundreds of cholera victims and their relatives filed a class action suit in New York earlier this month seeking to block any immunity being granted to the UN. Back in November, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a Boston-based organization filed a suit in New York seeking compensation for the deaths and the injuries to other victims caused by the outbreak. More than 2,000 Haitian died and thousands more were sickened by the disease. In all, there are about four law suits now before U.S. courts in connection with the cholera epidemic and they can be traced to what is being generally seen as an unwillingness of the U.N to assume responsibility for the tragedy. Scientists have said that UN soldiers from Nepal took the disease to Haiti and contributed to its spread because of poor sanitation which caused human waste to seep into rivers and streams that Haitians used as drinking water.

A U.N. spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, was quoted recently as saying in response to questions about the suits that it was “standard practice for the organization to assert its immunity in cases filed against it in national courts. In short, the action by the U.S. State Department’s action to uphold UN immunity was nothing new.

However, Evelyn Swiderski, a spokesperson for the lawyers involved in the class-action suit cited documents which “explicitly waived sovereign immunity” when UN peacekeeping troops were first sent to Haiti in 2004.

“This express waiver of immunity by the United Nations was missed by the U.S. government in a letter” filed with the court in New York City Swiderski insisted.

But Dr. Eugene, the first Haitian-born immigrant to be elected to the City Council, wasn’t the only elected official of Haitian descent to insist that the U.S. shouldn’t try to block the suits.

Massachusetts State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, who also belongs to the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network, has fired off a letter U.S. Secretary of State warning against the U.N seeking to frustrate the efforts of Haitian to get justice in U.S. courts.

She was worried, she said, that the “UN will now try to prevent the victims o from having their day in court by asking your Department to intervene in favor of its impunity.

“We urge you and your department to stand for justice and international law by refusing to intervene and letting the cholera victims take their case to court,” she added.

NNPA Luncheon Focuses on Black Economics, Growing Income Gap

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By James Wright
Washington Informer

WASHINGTON – The economic status of African-Americans and the “crisis-level” income gap between the rich and the poor was the agenda of this year’s State of the Black Press luncheon Friday at the National Press Club in D.C.

The event, sponsored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, featured discourse among journalists and financial experts about the different factors affecting Black economics, including the crippling recession that some said wiped out gains made by middle-class Blacks during the recent recession.

“The recession supposedly ended in 2009 but there are still adverse effects,” said economist Valerie Wilson, who works with the D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute. “At the rate of recovery that is taking place we will not reach pre-recession employment levels possibly until 2018.”

Wilson took part in the panel, “Access to Economic Opportunity,” which was moderated by NNPA News Service Editor-in-Chief George E. Curry. Author Maggie Anderson and William Spriggs, former Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration and chairman of Howard University’s economics department, also sat on the panel.

Spriggs said that income inequality is fast becoming an unfortunate fact of life.

“The collapse of the economy in the late-2000s affected the lower 99 percent of the population but the 1 percent still did well,” he said. “The top 500 [Standard & Poor] corporations got 30 percent of the income while the middle class is increasingly on a down escalator. The growing income inequality is at a crisis level.”

Spriggs said that income inequality started when President Reagan claimed that middle- and low-income Americans were hampering the economic growth of the country.

“Reagan told the 80 percent at the top of the economic ladder that they were being hurt by the 20 percent on the bottom because of the government,” he said. “That is an example of class warfare and there are some people now trying to recreate that Reagan moment.”

Anderson, who received national attention in 2009 when she and her family decided to live for a year solely on products and services provided by Black businesses, wrote a book, Our Black Year, that chronicled the struggle for Black businesses in the Chicago metropolitan area despite its huge Black population and spending power.

”There was only one Black grocery store in all of Chicago and it was very nice,” she said. “It only lasted eight months.”

Anderson managed to buy gas from a Black-owned Citgo service station that was miles away from her home and frequently bought produce from Black farmers in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. She said the experience taught her that Black businesses do not engage Black consumers enough and the services of Black professionals must be used.

“In order to find a Black business, one should go to their area Black chamber of commerce and Urban League,” she said.

Ron Busby, president of the U.S. Black Chambers Inc., said that sometimes Black businesses do not want to be identified as such, which he said is a mistake.

“There is a stigma about Black businesses not being good enough to provide quality services and products and that is not true,” Busby said. “Businesses should be proud to be Black.”

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