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The Nigga Project

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By Kimetha Hill
Special to the NNPA from the San Diego Voice & Viewpoint

Nigger. A very abrasive word. A very volatile word. A very powerful word. A word that has caused generations of damage to an entire culture of people. The word comes from very dark roots, but has somehow “conformed” to the liking of many, many black folks. Now a “term of endearment” the word, “nigga” is thrown around like “hello” among circles of young people. Mulemvo Nianda, documentary filmmaker and sociology student, grew frustrated with the use of the word especially among the younger generations and developed a short documentary on the word.

“The motivation behind it was all the negativity I saw going on with the N-word,” said Nianda. He describes how the word is littered among popular rap songs of stars including Nicki Minaj and other artists who choose to utilize limited vocabulary in their expressions. “All of these songs are coming out and nobody was really saying anything or giving an alternative to it. So I felt that I should take it upon myself to put out an alternative for the young people to look at,” he added.

Inspired by his Black Studies class, Nianda set out to interview people at random in a “man on the street” type setting to capture reactions to the word “nigga” on camera. Thus, The Nigga Project Experience was birthed.

“I put out The Nigga Project by going around the city and asking different people how they felt about the word. And then it formulated into the first documentary, The Nigga Project Part I. The demand was high for it so I did Part II.”

The Nigga Project is an extension of a research project on which Nianda worked during his studies. Diving into the community and asking questions was something that came naturally to him. In Part I, Nianda felt it best to randomly select people for responses to the word. Some were classmates, some were old, very few were young, but his selection was random.

“I tried to target young men, but a lot of the younger men didn’t want to get on camera. The older generation was more willing to be on camera and talk about it and how they felt. In Part I, I only have one or two young people in it because they didn’t want that face time.” And though they may have still chosen to discuss their feelings with Nianda, they opted not to be interviewed on camera.

The reactions to the word were interesting, and Nianda points to the emotion the word provoked in many who were interviewed.

“The majority of the responses were not necessarily positive. But with the young people, I found that they were more accepting of it,” says Nianda as he cites the uses that can be heard in younger generation circles. “That’s my nigga, that’s my homie, that’s my brother.” But he says, “With the older generation, 35 and up, it’s more so like a negative word, a term that we shouldn’t be using. A lot of them want to eradicate the word, but they don’t really know how to.”

As the project grew, the generation divide was made clear to Nianda. The word provokes emotions, emotions of pain and hurt for older generations, emotions that seem to be lacking among the consciousness of youth. But Nianda felt instead of condemning the youth, education on the word must happen.

“A lot of them [youth] don’t know the history behind the word, and when they do know it’s still kind of like ‘That doesn’t have anything to do with me. That was then.’ They don’t really have an emotional connection to the word. And that was another goal of The Nigga Project – to emotionally connect the youth to the origin behind the word – the real intent behind the word. A lot of them don’t know that it’s negative. And if they do know it’s negative, they don’t really care that it’s negative. So if I could emotionally connect them to the original intent behind it, I felt that would give them a standpoint to go from.”

Nianda’s documentary has been shown at several venues around San Diego, as his aim is to spark as much discussion about the word as possible. He took his film everywhere including restaurants, beauty salons, the Urban League and the Jacobs Center.

“We try to go to different spots and have discussions afterwards. And it’s a mixed crowd, it’s not just blacks that come. I feel like everybody can chime in on the topic regardless of race, whether you agree with the word or not. I feel like everybody should have a voice. And that’s what happens at the discussions. We just give people the opportunity to share how they feel about the word,” says Nianda. “Maybe somebody in the room can be educated on a different perspective.” It is through these discussions that Nianda hopes to bridge the generation gap and enlighten the masses.

“I just want to give a voice to the younger generation. I feel like a lot of them do have a voice, but they don’t feel like the older generation is going to hear them. The older generation is focused in other things that they kind of lag behind in teaching us on how to carry ourselves, or how to be or do certain things.”

In Part III, Nianda says he will specifically target young black men since the word is used so heavily in those circles. He plans to hold a youth summit at the Malcolm X Library in July where his documentary will be shown.

What began as an extension of a research project on YouTube has grown to reach a large audience. “I’m just happy to see the people and educate our community,” he says.

Another Shooting, Another Clash, Another Police Cam Fails Near Ferguson, Mo.

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By Dr. J. A. Salaam
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

BERKELEY, Mo. – This small town just two miles west of Ferguson, Mo., has become another flashpoint for anger and protests over police shootings of young Black males.

Despite its Black mayor’s insistence that the police shooting death of 18-year-old Antonio Martin was justified skepticism abounds. Protests have mounted and clashes between police officers and demonstrators have occurred.

“My anger is coming from the fact that how he was treated afterwards, he was left on the ground for over a half an hour and could have been saved. There’s a hospital less than a half a mile down the road. I feel they were making a point like sending a point across, like don’t mess with the police,” said Sylvester Dixon, 24, who described himself as a good friend of the shooting victim.

Police officials say the young man and another person were approached by a police officer about a theft but Mr. Martin pulled a gun and pointed it at the officer. The officer fired his weapon in response and videotape shows the encounter, officials said. Yet a body camera issued to the officer involved was not on, nor was a dash cam. Critics also contend a third video clearly showing what happened has been withheld by police. Two grainy videos are proof the Black teen was armed and dangerous, and a weapon was found at the scene, officials said. Doubts remain and the victim’s family insists he was not armed.

“The way they left him and picked him up and put him in a van and drove off with him I think that’s totally disrespectful. If you shot him that’s one thing, okay the situation was under control,” said Mr. Dixon, who stood near a makeshift memorial to his friend.

“He just sat there and bled out, he moaned and he grunted, and moved around and we sitting here looking at him. It just hurt. They put him in a minivan and drove off with him. I believe he would still be alive if they would have rushed him to the emergency room that’s less than a mile down the road. I kind of understand where the officer is coming from. It wasn’t my little brother’s fault. He’s a Black male, him being a young Black man it just makes him a little more dangerous and made the police more cautious but it’s not his fault the color of his skin. The officer may have just seen him and got scared with all this stuff going on with the cops being killed and it could have been handled better.

“Everybody just mad because he just sat there and bled for hours and no one treated him. They didn’t treat him like a human being.  They treated him like evidence,” said Mr. Dixon, who is also from Berkeley.

Antonio Martin was the fourth young Black man killed by a White police officer in the St. Louis metropolitan area since 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed in early August, setting off a wave of anti-police misconduct and police accountability protests that have spread across the country. Kajieme Powell, 25, was shot and killed Aug. 19 by two St. Louis police officers for allegedly approaching them with a knife. Vonderrit Myers, Jr., was shot to death Oct. 8 by an off-duty uniformed St. Louis police officer who claimed the 18-year-old fired a weapon at him.

The Dec. 23 killing of young Martin was described as justified by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmer at a press conference shortly after the shooting, where he declined to show the entire video clip of the incident.

“There’s no reason for the family of this young man to see the rest of this video,” said Chief Belmer. “The individual produced a pistol with his arms straight out pointing at the officer across the hood of the police car. The officer was standing by the driver’s door of the vehicle and the suspect was on the other side where the passenger’s headlight is counter corner from the officer. When the officer was encountered with the pistol, he quickly moved backwards. He eventually loses his balance and falls backwards,” said Chief Belmer.

However, another camera view appears to contradict the chief’s account. It clearly shows the two men standing on the driver’s side of the police car and not where Chief Belmer said they were. The video also showed Mr. Martin reaching in his pocket and pulling out an object that had a glow to it. He extended it and walked toward the officer. The other young man standing there with him didn’t appear to be affected by Mr. Martin’s actions. But when the police officer fires at Mr. Martin, the companion jumps back and runs.

Several hundred people quickly gathered at the shooting scene and demanded medical assistance for Mr. Martin. Chief Belmer said it is standard procedure to leave a body on the ground for an extended period of time at a crime scene.

Berkeley EMS responded within five minutes, examined the teen and pronounced him dead, said the chief.

Witnesses, however, contend that after two and a half hours no EMS tended to the young man.

After several attempts by The Final Call to verify the actual time of death, Berkeley police dispatcher Henny redirected calls to the St. Louis County Police department, which is handling the initial investigation. Police Officer Schellman of media relations was not available to answer questions at Final Call press time.

As the crowd grew to more than 300 people the night of the shooting, some 50 law enforcement vehicles surrounded the area trying to get the angry crowd under control, said eyewitnesses.

The situation grew more tense and confrontational, said Paul Muhammad of the Peacekeepers, a group that has tried to keep order during demonstrations. Mr. Muhammad said he stopped an  officer from attacking his wife, a co-founder of the group. The Peacekeepers typically position themselves between police and protesters.

“The police officer went and assaulted and pushed my wife and was about to swing and hit my wife so I went over to her defense. I pushed the police officer off her and he came at me and told the other police to ‘go get that bitch.’ So my wife was actually able to get away. So he came for me, grabbed me and put me in a chokehold and about four or five other officers came, grabbed me and jumped on my back, held me in a chokehold for about 10 seconds and threw me to the ground. He hopped on top of me and got in my ear, started punching me in my eye and talking in my ear. He busted my head. He started calling me ‘nigger bitch, I told you I was going to get you, you nigger bitch.’ He then went on to say he was going to kill me and he asked for my ID. He said he was going to come to my house, but I didn’t have my ID so he wasn’t able to get my information. Then they tried to hogtie and cuff me. Then a brother from the county police department came named Damier. He didn’t stop them but he came and made his presence and got close to me and actually grabbed me and pulled me out the situation. And he stayed by me the whole time with his hands on my shoulder until they were able to pull me over to another position and put me into the police van. The brother was very helpful and keeping me from getting hurt any further and I asked him to keep me safe because I was in cuffs and vulnerable at that point and he told me he would.

“He got my keys and my phone and gave it to my wife and the brother showed me a lot of respect and love he just couldn’t say much. The racist officer that assaulted and threatened me was B. Fisher of the St. John’s police department. We were out there intervening to keep the peace as we always do, to keep our people accountable and to keep the situation as peaceful as possible given the circumstances and emotion and passion and anger. But we were deescalating the growing chaos and the police were cognizant of who we were,” said Mr. Muhammad.

“They just were not happy and agitated that our people were out there expressing their dissatisfaction for the continued killing and murder of our young brothers and sisters. Yet we were not doing anything to create chaos, instead we were trying to diminish the chaos. And we were making the police accountable and stopping them from attacking our people.

“We told them we don’t want you to indiscriminately hurt our people so step back and we will deal with our own, we’ll police ourselves. So they got aggressive with us and actually three of the Peacekeepers got arrested that night, all of the brothers out there got arrested. … The brother didn’t get any medical care and was moving for a while and I have a picture of the medical van and license plates that picked him up and took him away. I understand that not to be protocol and they never sent an ambulance at all.”

During the time of the shooting, the officer did not have his body cam attached to his uniform and the dash cam was not on.

When Chief Belmer was questioned about the dash and body cams, the chief responded, “the dash cam is activated by the red lights and weren’t on at the time.”

The officer did not get his body cam assigned to him at roll call and it was handed off to him during his shift, the chief continued.

When the officer was asked why he didn’t have it on he claimed he was doing something and clipped it on somewhere in his car but intended to put it on, Chief Belmer said. “Sometimes there’s imperfection with the technology we have, in affect we are not used to it all the time,” he added.

The mayor of Berkeley told the media, the small department, just five officers only had three body cams, and time was needed to download video between shifts, but that had not happened. He appealed for donations of more body cams.

Target Under Fire For Using White Model In 'Annie' Clothing Ads

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Special to the NNPA from the Houston Forward Times

Target has stirred outrage with an “Annie”-themed ad campaign featuring a white model in place of the black actress who stars in the latest film version of the rags-to-riches story.

An online petition calling for the big-box retailer to remove the ads and apologize to “Annie” star Quvenzhané Wallis had accrued more than 10,000 signatures by Wednesday morning. The petition launched on Monday.

The ad campaign, which began promoting an “Annie”-themed collection in early November, ended this month on schedule, Target told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. The backlash to the ads was a “misperception” of the message, a spokesman said.

“Girls from a variety of backgrounds were featured within the campaign, reflecting that anyone can embody the spirit and character of Annie,” the company said in a statement.

Target originally courted Wallis to model in the campaign, but did not reach an agreement with her, Target said. Instead, both Wallis and co-star Jamie Foxx consulted the Minneapolis-based retailer on the campaign and appeared at both Target’s September sales meeting and at a launch event for the collection in New York City in November.

That wasn’t enough for some who felt the ads for the collection, which is now on clearance racks, focused too heavily on the white model, the only one photographed wearing Annie’s iconic red dress. The campaign materials did feature at least one non-white model: In one promotional photo, a dark-skinned girl in a pink skirt was pictured leaning against a bespectacled white girl.

“If you think about the red dress and locket, that’s synonymous with Annie,” LaSean Rinique Shelton, the Delaware-based motivational speaker who started the petition onChange.org, told HuffPost.

She said that, even if Target couldn’t have booked Wallis for the photo shoot, the company should have found a way to make the campaign more diverse.

“It shouldn’t just be one caucasian model, who was very beautiful, but was not the face of Annie,” she said.

In a video commercial, a diverse trio of little girls wear red dresses as they skip down a city sidewalk. That ad was not included in the in-store promotions shoppers saw in Target.

 

Edward Brooke, First Black Elected U.S. Senator, Dies

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Edward Brooke, the first African-American in the nation’s history to be popularly elected to the Senate, died Saturday at his home in Coral Gables, Florida. He was 95.

Brooke, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, died of natural causes, said Ralph Neas, Brooke’s former chief counsel, The Associated Press reported.

Brooke was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966. Prior to his election there had been just two other African-American senators shortly after the Civil War.

Brooke, whose election came during the civil rights movement, opposed the buildup of troops in Vietnam, and later during the Watergate scandal, became the first Republican senator to call for the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

A native Washingtonian who was born on Oct. 26, 1919, Brooke attended Howard University at the age of 16 and fought in World War II before earning a law degree from Boston College.

The Massachusetts Republican, who was also an attorney general for the state, returned to private law practice after leaving the Senate.

Churches Change Strategy for Membership Drive

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By William J. Ford
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

They attended a service in the morning, then, instead of heading home on a recent Sunday afternoon, several dozen members of Turner Memorial AME Church in Hyattsville, Maryland, headed to the basement for a little secular fun.

A jazz duo served up tunes and church cooks portioned out shrimp and grits and jambalaya main dishes and bread pudding for dessert. Members and guests from 18 to 88 shared fellowship and fun at the church’s “Jazzy Sunday” event on Sunday, Nov. 2. Jazzy Sunday was designed to give members an opportunity to fellowship outside the sanctuary, but also to offer a way to draw in new members.

Jazz keyboardist Janelle Gill and drummer Mark Prince provided the entertainment at Turner Memorial AME’s Jazzy Sunday event last November in Hyattsville, Maryland.

“The church is where people should go to find out how to solve life’s challenging issues, such as suicide [and] marriage. The key is you have to package the message in a way [that] is relevant to a person’s life today,” said Bishop Phillip O. Thomas, 56, pastor of Highview Christian Fellowship in Fairfax, Virginia. “You must be creative enough to attract people. Most importantly, however, you must know the Lord.”

Churches around the Washington region are using nontraditional activities to give members — and guests they hope to attract — new ways to spend time in church. The Sunday afternoon church dinners of yesteryear have given way to jazz concerts, game nights, Valentine’s Day dances, yoga sessions and book club events.

Church leaders said after the sermons have been delivered, the hymns sung, the offerings collected and the benedictions said, the recreational events offer wholesome activities and positive interactions in a place where godliness is still the order of the day.

“One of the more celebratory events [in the Bible] is when Jesus went to a wedding. We kind of do those events to help people to live and enjoy life,” said the Rev. James L. Graham, 62, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church in Herndon, Virginia. His church, which has about 2,500 members, hosted a “Jazz & Jeans Night Out” on Saturday, Nov. 15 at the Blue Mountain Café in Leesburg, Virginia.

“These [events] are just done to increase the fellowship among the believers and encourage people to enjoy themselves,” he said. “It is not an aggressive attempt to get new members.”

At Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland, a “Biggest Loser” boot camp, mirrored after the popular NBC television show where contestants exercise, eat nutritious meals and receive coaching to compete for the title and a grand prize, has been popular with members.

But the 10-12 week sessions at Mount Calvary aren’t competitive, according to Natasha Hammond, 43, of Clarksburg, Maryland, who has lost 20 pounds since she started in the program.

“I haven’t [participated] as much as I want because of my job, but I will definitely become more involved,” said Hammond, a certified nurse who tracks the blood pressure and weight of participants.

Besides being a fun way for members to interact, the program encourages healthier living, which is encouraged in the Bible.

Mount Calvary member Alice Barnett, of Silver Spring, Maryland, said members don’t need expensive equipment to exercise. They work out with personal trainer Marsi Fulmer. Recently, Barnett, 66, did push-ups on the church steps.

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