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Black Children Rank Last on Milestone Index

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Despite great progress that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement, “a web of stubborn obstacles remains” that prevents children of color, especially Black children, from reaching their full potential, according to a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“Differences in opportunity are evident from the earliest years of a child’s life. Too often, children of color grow up in environments where they experience high levels of poverty and violence,” the report stated. “Such circumstances derail healthy development and lead to significant psychological and physiological trauma.”

The report titled, “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” featured the foundation’s new “National Race for Results Index” that tracked 12 key milestones, including fourth grade reading proficiency, birth weight, the share of children who live in two-parent families and the proportion of children living in poverty.

Black children scored a 345 on the new index, the lowest among all children and 359 points lower than their White peers. Asian and Pacific Islander children scored the highest on the index with 776.

Blacks scored below the national average on every Race for Results Index Indicator accept for “children ages 3 to 5 enrolled in nursery school, preschool or kindergarten” and “children who live with a householder who has at least a high school diploma.” Black children scored 63 percent on the preschool/kindergarten measure compared to the national average of 60 percent and tied the national average for children living with a high school graduate at 85 percent.

“For African American children the gap between where they are and where they should be continues to reflect a level of structural inequality that is difficult to eradicate,” said Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Without a focused effort generated both by the private sector and the government we won’t really have a meaningful response to the problems.”

Those problems, some decades old, were often perpetuated and institutionalized by the federal government and deeply rooted in American society.

Following the Great Depression, as the Federal Housing Administration acted to lift White families out of poverty by encouraging home ownership and providing FHA-backed loans, the agency blocked Black families from those same opportunities through a process known as “redlining.”

When Black veterans returned home from World War II, they continued to face discrimination from the federal government that would have lasting negative impacts on homeownership and wealth in the Black community.

“While White veterans used the G.I. Bill to great advantage, discriminatory practices systematized through government structures often prevented non-Whites from accessing G.I. Bill benefits, either for college or to obtain mortgages,” stated the report.

The report explained: “People of color whose valor helped defeat fascism abroad were being denied pillars of the American Dream by racist processes and practices at home.”

The vestiges of structural racism that deprived Black families of the American Dream, continues to plague the Black community today.

Black children scored below their White counterparts in every measure related to family resources and below the national average on three out of four measures related to family resources. Those measures included: delaying childbearing until adulthood, living in a household with a person who has at least a high school diploma, living in a two-parent family and living in a family with income at or above 200 percent of the poverty line.

The report noted that institutional discrimination continues to plague the South, where most Blacks still live. Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina earned the lowest marks for Blacks on the index.

“Obviously demographics are not destiny,” said Henderson. “On the other hand, the demographic trends pointed out in this report are likely to create a reality for the American economy, that without the interventions that we’ve talked, about will reduce us all to something less than what we want as a nation and that’s the motivation I hope will encourage the investments that we need.”

And those investments will become even more important as the labor force becomes more diverse and the nation’s economy becomes more dependent on the contributions of people of color.

According to the Race for Results report, “If the United States had closed the racial achievement gap and African-American and Latino student performance had caught up with white students by 1998, the gross domestic product in 2008 would have been up to $525 billion higher.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report made a number of recommendations, including collecting more data and using it to develop targeted programs and investments for the children with the most need and expanding programs that have proven track records. The report also recommended connecting communities of color to new jobs and opportunities.

During the panel discussion on the report, Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of Policy Link, said that she hopes the report will get the nation’s attention.

“We know what works,” said Blackwell, “We know how to make [early childhood education] available to all children. What we lack is the political and public will to demand it and to make it so.”

Black Students Receive $25,000 a year Buick Scholarships

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

ATLANTA (NNPA) – After attending a prestigious, predominately White private school, Ty’Quish Keyes yearned for a new cultural and educational experience. Keyes mother pushed him to excel in school and his community because she knew that college was the best way out of their crime-ridden North Philadelphia neighborhood, that held few opportunities for young, Black men.

In 2011, Keyes visited Morehouse College and found students and faculty that supported Black excellence and self-motivated, young Black men. It was a perfect fit for Keyes.

“I was visiting a whole bunch of schools and when I came to Morehouse, I realized that there was a lot I of things I didn’t know about African Americans, my culture and my history,” said Philadelphia teen. Keyes saw Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Chapel for the first time, learned about Malcolm X and about the sacrifices and the perseverance of the Freedom Riders; the richness and success of Blacks in American history, had been largely invisible in the curriculum at his high school. He was one of just a handful of Black students in his graduating class. “When I came to [Atlanta] it was shocking.”

Keyes earned enough scholarships to pay for his first fall semester at Morehouse College, but when his mother applied for a loan to help cover tuition and expenses for the spring semester of his freshmen year, she was denied. During the first weeks of the spring 2012 semester, Keyes scrambled to find scholarships and raise enough money to continue at Morehouse. He watched as some of his classmates in similar financial straits were forced to abandon their college dreams, and the North Philadelphia native wondered if he would be next.

“I was freaking out,” said Keyes, recalling those nerve-racking hours, weighing whether to study for tests or complete assignments for classes, unsure if he would make it to the next week.

Keyes learned about the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program through connections at Morehouse College and applied, thinking that he had nothing lose.

It was a decision that saved his Morehouse College dream and quite possibly his professional career. Keyes, now a junior with a dual major in applied physics and mechanical engineering and a minor in mathematics, won the scholarship and it helped to cover the cost for his sophomore and junior years at Morehouse.

Under the program, students are eligible to receive up to $25,000 per year to attend a four-year college. Every year the scholarships are awarded to100 first-time freshman or existing college students and is renewable up to four years and one additional year for those entering a qualified five-year engineering program, according to program’s website, BuickAchievers.com.

To qualify, applicants must also plan to pursue STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs or a select number of design or business-related courses of study.

College majors available for the Buick Achievers scholarship include: automotive technology, chemical engineering, computer engineering, computer information systems, mechanical engineering, automotive design, accounting economics, international business and business administration. The full list of eligible majors can be found at www.BuickAchievers.com.

The scholarship award process also gives special consideration to applicants who are the first in their family to attend college, minorities and veterans.

“One of the unique things that we have done with the Buick Achievers scholarship program is that we have a component built in where we give extra points to individuals who are the first in their families to attend college,” said Vivian Rogers Pickard, president of the General Motors Foundation and director of Corporate Relations at GM. “We know that it impacts the African American and Hispanic communities. So we know that we are making a difference in the lives of families in those communities and really in our country.”

The funds for the scholarship come from the GM Foundation, not the General Motors Company, according to the scholarship’s website.

Karen Nicklin, the manager of educational initiatives for the GM Foundation and Corporate Relations, said 3,300 students have received $16.5 million to make their educational dreams come true. The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program has awarded $4.7 million to nearly 450 Black students, nearly half of them the first in their family to go to college.

Black students account for 20 percent of the scholarship applicants and 14 percent of the students who receive scholarships through the program, meaning that 70 percent of Black students that apply are accepted. Nicklin said that the scholarship program would be even more successful if more Black students were aware it existed.

“Some of these kids couldn’t even have afforded to go to college, now they are at a Morehouse or a Spelman or a Tuskegee. That’s life changing,” said Nicklin. “Hopefully that exposure changes the beliefs of their families and other members of their communities so that they also believe that they can do it.”

Nicklin said that ensuring a sustainable STEM pipeline for future workers is critical for companies like General Motors.

As the nation’s workforce grows more diverse, investments in education and job development in the Black and Hispanic communities will become even more essential.

According to a 2013 report on the disparities in STEM employment by the United States Census Bureau, Blacks and Hispanics continue to lag behind their White counterparts in those fields.

The report found that in 2011, Blacks accounted for 11 percent of the labor force, but only six percent of STEM workers. Whites represented 67 percent of the labor force and 71 percent of the STEM workers.

“We want to help create that next generation of innovators and leaders,” said Nicklin. “We have to cultivate and inspire them to reach out for that education.”

According to a 2013 report by the National Center for Education Statistics a federal agency that collects, organizes and reports data related to education, the nearly 30 percent of Blacks who started a bachelor’s program in a STEM field left school without earning a degree and “36 percent switched their major to a non-STEM field.” In comparison, roughly 20 percent of Whites who began a bachelors program in a STEM field left without obtaining a degree and about 28 percent switched to a non-STEM major.

Students, who are often underrepresented in STEM fields leave for myriad reasons.

“Such factors include inadequate academic advising, career counseling, and institution support; feelings of isolation in STEM fields because too few peers pursue STEM degrees and too few role models and mentors are available (mainly pertinent to females and underrepresented minorities); distaste for the competitive climate in STEM departments (women especially); and perceived discrimination on the basis of sex and/or race/ethnicity in the STEM workforce,” stated the report.

STEM careers are some of the highest paid jobs in country for people with only a bachelor’s degree. According to PayScale.com, the online salary profile database starting salaries can range from $103,000 for a petroleum engineer to $54,000 for a civil engineer.

Keyes said that highlighting Black students who are Buick Achievers who also attend HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) can help raise the profile of the scholarship program.

Michael L. Lomax, the president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, the nation’s largest provider of scholarships and other educational support to African American students enrolled in private, Black HBCUs, said that General Motors has been supporting UNCF for 70 years.

Lomax continued: “It’s really important that what we’re doing now is helping African American talent understand where the big opportunities and big challenges are,” said Lomax. “We want to see more of our graduates designing the automobiles, and the systems that drive the automobiles and the only way that is going to happen is if they are pursuing STEM degrees.”

Jamaica Records Decline in Murders in First Quarter of 2014

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – Jamaica recorded a 12 per cent decline in murders during the first quarter of this year, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen has said.

Last year, Jamaica recorded 1,200 murders as compared to 1,097 in 2012.

Delivering the traditional Throne Speech at the start of the new Parliament on Thursday, Sir Patrick said that there had also been a 13 per cent decline in the overall category of serious crimes.

According to the head of state, fatal police shootings for the first quarter of 2014 had dropped by over 50 percent, reflecting better operational planning and improved community co-operation.

Speaking under the theme, “Going for Growth: Creating Opportunities”, Sir Patrick said that the long contemplated merger of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) had been approved by Cabinet and will be implemented this fiscal year.

He said the merger would eliminate duplication in the command structure and release more personnel for operational duty.

Additionally, the Governor-General noted that significant capital investment would be made this fiscal year to upgrade the technology available for the investigations and operations of the police.

This will include communication, palm and fingerprint identification, and cyber forensic systems.

The Governor-General made special mention of the Unite for Change (UFC) initiative, which was implemented in December 2013. It is aimed at building a national movement to encourage positive social behaviour and promote a safer, gentler society.

“This important prevention initiative was born out of the realisation that violence is the outcome of dysfunction at many different levels in the society, including family, school, community, social services, and popular culture,” he told legislators.

Does Long-Term Trouble Loom for African National Congress?

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By Jehron Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

(FinalCall.com) – “A weak African National Congress threatens to strengthen the radical populists” is how a recent Financial Times editorial framed President Jacob Zuma’s increasing woes and the ANC’s apparent complacency. Not that South Africa’s ruling party has anything to fear. According to the FT, for all the criticism of his administration, President Zuma “can speak assuredly of victory on May 7.

Not having a strong opposition has its merits. But winning an election won’t stem a growing tide of dissatisfaction among the electorate. Whether it’s passing legislation that requires those with limited means to pay an “e-toll,” or the president addressing the 100th anniversary of the South African Land Act with a broken promise of proposed land redistribution, dissatisfaction—evidenced by booing of President Zuma at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service—is on the rise.

To add insult to injury, a March 19 report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela Nkandia report brought more bad news. According to eNews Channel Africa, “allegations of impropriety and unethical conduct relating to the implementation of security measures by the Department of Public Works at the private residence of the president” were made and the news quickly spread.

Concerning $21 million in government funds spent to upgrade President Zuma’s private residence that included construction of a swimming pool, an amphitheater, a cattle “kraal” and chicken “run” were beyond measures “required for his security,” said the author of the report. “The construction of these as well as extensive paving involves unlawful action and constitutes improper conduct and maladministration,” he said.

Actions required by the Public Protector include President Zuma paying a reasonable percentage of the total cost incurred by the State for construction that didn’t relate to security.

Justified criticism of President Zuma, including questions from opposition leaders Julius Malema and Helen Zille, will do limited damage in the upcoming election May 7. Democratic Alliance leader Zille’s challenge to President Zuma for a one-on-one public debate on the state of the nation fell on death ears. President Zuma declined the invitation reported Business Day, as did previous president Thabo Mbeki when the Democratic Alliance proposed similar debates in 2004, 2006, and 2009.

Explaining his decision, President Zuma said, “There is no president in the DA. She must ask other premiers at her level to have a debate.” Business Day responded by such “logic, the only person Zuma would be willing to debate is himself, because there can only ever be one president at a time.”

Business Day thinks the debate would be good for the country, but “politically, however, the idea is fairly loaded with problems, and all of them for the ANC.”

While Zillie’s campaign seems to focus on highlighting Zuma shortcomings, Economic Freedom Fighters Party leader Malema appears to be shoring up support on the Left. In an unprecedented almost-marriage the EFF and the historic Pan African Congress formed a partnership. Alton Mphethi, who received a court ruling putting him in charge of the PAC, recently announced a formal “agreement of cooperation” between the two parties.

The Mail & Guardian reports that the “partnership isn’t quite a merger however, but there are hints of one in the future.” Mphethi says there isn’t time ahead of the election for the two parties to merge, but for now each party will “be the eyes and ears of each other in voting stations to ensure free and fair elections.”

Malema noted during a press conference to release his party’s candidate list for elections, that the “EFF and PAC share a common passion about the policy of land expropriation.”

According to the FT, the challenge that Mr. Malema poses at just 33-years-old is not at the electoral ballot box. By his own admission, his party lacks resources and some pollsters predict EFF will pick up no more than 8-10 percent of votes. What he represents instead is a generational challenge. “He is a clear warning sign of the looming battle for the hearts of young South Africans for whom opportunity—or the lack of it—is the priority,” said the newspaper.

In a damaging and just-released study, “Strengthening Governance in South Africa: Building on Mandela’s Legacy,” by the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the ANC’s apparent complacency is taken to task.The Wall Street Journal said the report found “that during the country’s 20-year stewardship by the ruling ANC, almost no net new jobs have been created.

Unemployment runs at an official level of 25%, but a widely accepted unofficial level is 40%.”To highlight how critical conditions are in South Africa on March 19 Numsa (the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa), which broke with the ANC, launched its United Front against neo-liberalism across the country in “what could be months of rolling mass action for working-class struggles,” reported South Africa’s IOL News. The marches and one-day strike will mark “a significant move in what may be Numsa’s inevitable exit from the trade union federation Cosatu and the ANC-led tripartite alliance,” it added.

Jehron Muhammad, who writes from Philadelphia, can be reached at Jehronn@msn.com. Follow him on Twitter @JehronnMuhammad.

Obamacare Still Faces Uncertainty, Opposition

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By Starla Muhammad and Eric Ture Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

CHICAGO – The March 31 deadline for uninsured Americans to enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Healthcare Act dubbed “Obamacare” has come and gone. But questions about President Barack Obama’s signature legislation remain along with criticism about “extensions” to mid-April for those who did not meet the March deadline.

At Final Call presstime, over 6 million people had signed up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace website, according to HealthCare.gov. Obama administration officials set an original goal of 7 million.

Up until midnight March 31 the administration and individual state operated health care online marketplaces worked at a blistering pace to enroll as many people as possible. Celebrity tweets, social media postings, print ads and endless commercials targeting Black and Latino communities announced the final days and benefits of enrolling. New campaigns, goals and eventually deadlines were revamped in efforts to make healthcare a reality for many who were previously shut out.

“African-Americans will benefit greatly from the Affordable Care Act as a disproportionate percentage of Blacks will become newly eligible for health care coverage,” said Thomas Duncan, CEO of Trusted Health Plans, Inc. in Washington, D.C. Trusted Health Plans is the only operating majority-owned Black Medicaid managed care organization in the U.S.

“But now, Obamacare will open the door to preventive care, primary care, and strategic specialty care for millions of African-Americans and others,” added Mr. Duncan.

Those who are already insured through employers or federal programs like Medicare or Medicaid are not required to sign up for the Affordable Care Act.

Those who are uninsured, but can afford health insurance and choose not to buy it through the ACA will face an “individual shared responsibility payment” penalty. The penalty in 2014 is 1 percent of yearly income or $95 per person for the year, whichever is greater and the fee increases each year, according to Healthcare.gov. Payment would be due when federal taxes are filed.

Certain factors may offer exemptions from penalties including: The lowest-priced coverage available to you would cost more than 8 percent of your household income or you’re uninsured for less than 3 months of the year.

There are also hardship exemptions for those that missed the March 31 deadline including: You were homeless, you received a shut-off notice from a utility company or you were determined ineligible for Medicaid because your state didn’t expand eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. A complete list of exemptions and how to apply for exemptions is available onwww.healthcare.gov/exemptions.

The next opportunity for open enrollment is not until November.

Reactions from critics of the ACA, coming mainly from Republicans since the rollout of the program, remained divisive and combative. “What the hell is this, a joke?” Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) was quoted as saying at a March 26 press conference. He was responding to the Obama administration decision to extend the deadline for those who began signing up for the ACA by phone or online but are not able to complete the process by March 31. They will not lose their place “in line” for coverage.

Mr. Boehner accused the president, a constitutional lawyer, of “manipulating the law.”

“For those who are considered ‘in-line’ we don’t know the number of consumers who may be in line so we’re planning enough flexibility to be able to handle everyone in line—it could take a few days, it could take a week or so to work through that. If a consumer is applying for a special enrollment, that will vary,” said an e-mail response from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to The Final Call.

In addition to bi-partisan splits on the ACA, views also vary along racial lines. According to the Pew Research Center 77 percent of Blacks approve of the law while only 18 percent disapprove. Yet among Whites only 33 percent approve compared to 62 percent disapproval. Latinos were evenly divided with 47 percent approving and disapproving of the ACA.

Much of the divide is blamed on lack of basic understanding about the law. But the constant undercurrent of a Black president enacting legislation that specifically expands health benefits to the poor is viewed by many as another reason for such fierce opposition.

“The reason that they (Republicans) are so opposed to it is because it moves toward leveling the playing field of life,” said Ava Muhammad, attorney and student national spokesperson of the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, during a March 28 presentation on the merits of the ACA.

The Student Executive Council of the Nation of Islam presented the special Friday evening presentation at Mosque Maryam to outline general information about the ACA to members of the Nation of Islam and the community. The program was also available via webcast.

“This is why the president is being called a Marxist and a Socialist by White extreme racists and by their Negro minions because what he is doing is taking a step toward the beginning of the end of the insurance industry,” added Atty. Muhammad

In addition to Atty. Muhammad presenters included Mustapha Farrakhan, student Supreme Captain of the Nation of Islam; and Derian King of the Robbins Insurance Agency, Inc., a Chicago-based Black female owned business started in 1947.

The ACA gives the chance for people who had no means to go to the doctor before, a chance for preventative healthcare for themselves and their families which is particularly critical for Blacks who suffer disproportionately from health problems, presenters noted.

For more information about the Affordable Care Act including eligibility, exemptions and penalties, visit http://www.healthcare.gov

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