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Congresswoman Barbara Lee Announces $900K STEM Grant

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Special to the NNPA from The Oakland Post

Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced Alameda-based Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science (IWITTS) will receive a $899,841grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to increase enrollment and retention of women in community college STEM courses.

“I am pleased that the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science has been selected to receive this important and competitive funding,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “It is our obligation to ensure that young women are both encouraged and supported as they pursue studies and careers in STEM related fields so they are prepared to contribute and thrive in the economy of the future.”

This federal award will fund IWITTS’s online professional development about evidence-based practices in outreach, teaching skills and learning to increase enrollment and retention of women in community college STEM courses.

Since 1994, IWITTS has helped educators nationwide close the gender gap for women and girls in male-dominated careers such as technology, the trades and law enforcement. They also work with employers to assist them in integrating women successfully into their male-dominated workplace.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense. With an annual budget of $7.2 billion (FY 2014), the NSF are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.

Phi Beta Sigma Museum Opens in NW D.C.

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By Courtney Jacobs
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

The ribbon cutting ceremony was one of several events planned for members and their guests to take part in during the 2014 Centennial Celebration. Members of  sister sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, also attended the ribbon cutting.

“I traveled all the way from Detroit to be here just to see this museum,” Ben Hilton, a Sigma member told the AFRO.  “A lot of my brothers may have forgotten the history and origins behind the Sigma name, but this museum is here to help refresh their minds.”

International President Jonathan A. Mason thanked his fellow brothers, during the ceremony and emphasized the museum, in the Kennedy Street corridor, was built for them.

When the ribbon was cut, hundreds of people flooded into the new space in awe.

“This is a moment in history that I will never forget,” Zeta Phi Beta member Tracy Washington said.  “It’s so good to see that a brotherhood like this can stay strong for 100 years.  I commend every single man that traveled here today, coming from close or far.  They deserve it.”

The Sigmas are the first Black fraternity to open its own museum.

Prior to the ceremony, a Centennial Collegiate Summit was held for the brothers and their Greek sisters Zeta Phi Beta Sorority to discuss various topics that affect the youth.

“I was sitting in the collegiate summit mesmerized by Brother Rafeal Matos,” one Sigma said of the remarks from a California higher education administrator who is also the  fraternity’s historian, western region secretary and an active member of the Sigma Leadership Institute.  “He is transforming a vital and complex discussion into in an exciting and interactive dialogue.”

One member said the summit gave him a new insight on his own life.

“This summit taught me that I need to implement my rituals in every aspect of fraternity life, and promote the principles and services of my brotherhood,” John Phillips told the AFRO of his fraternity.

“It’s great to look at what our founders had in mind 100 years [ago] and then to look around today and see that we are stronger than ever,” another member, Tom Beal said.  “When is the last time you’ve seen a line for a museum?  Great way to start my week.”

Follow the PEPCO energized AFRO coverage of the Sigma Centennial and the Zeta 2014 Boule’ celebrations on afro.com  or on the special AFRO Live Updates mobile app at live.afro.com

Crisis Task Force Formed to Look into Riverside General Hospital

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By Jeffrey L. Boney
Special to the NNPA from the Houston Forward Times

In response to the front page article that appeared in the Houston Forward Times (HFT) concerning Riverside General Hospital, July 9, 2014, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has announced that she is convening a Health and Human Services (HHS) Crisis Task Force to reassess the federal government’s position concerning Riverside General Hospital.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee, who represents the 18th Congressional District of Texas, is extremely concerned about the issues surrounding Riverside, in that the historic hospital sits in her congressional district.

“I spoke to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and indicated we are in a crisis position regarding the preserving of the historic Riverside General Hospital,” says Congresswoman Jackson Lee. “In helping to convene this Crisis Task Force, we want to work with HHS to use creative thinking in order to address the issues involving the resources and the future of this important hospital that has served the city of Houston for almost 100 years and would be a vital resource for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act.”

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who replaced Kathleen Sebelius, was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) on June 9, 2014.

The Legislative Affairs Department of HHS will lead the Crisis Task Force and they will be consulting with the Secretary of HHS and the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as it relates to Riverside. Congresswoman Jackson Lee says that this Crisis Task Force will engage the state officials along with federal officials to be able to ascertain what monies Riverside General Hospital is still eligible for.

Community leaders and activists have been in an uproar and are calling on the Obama administration to release much needed funding they say is being withheld from one of the nation’s only functional Black hospitals, as punishment for the proven rogue actions of one executive back in 2012.

Back in February 2012, Mohammad Khan was arrested and charged in a $116 million Medicare scheme that paid kickbacks to patient recruiters and personal care home owners in exchange for directing residents to Riverside’s mental health clinics. Khan pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks and five other counts of paying and offering to pay kickbacks for his role in the scheme and after his guilty plea, an additional $42 million in fraudulent Medicare claims were discovered, bringing the total to $158 million.

Supporters say that if Riverside does not receive the payments that are being withheld by the federal government, they may have to close their doors in six weeks.

“We should not be looking to close hospitals by federal action we should be looking to keep hospitals and healthcare services open,” says Congresswoman Jackson Lee. “I know the Obama administration supports that and we’re going to work towards a solution.”

Riverside General Hospital, originally known as the Houston Negro Hospital, was founded in 1927 in Houston, Texas. Riverside has a very rich history in the Greater Houston area and is equally rich in assets also. Riverside is a community-based non-profit acute care facility that owns at least six Houston area clinics and one in Dallas, with assets totaling approximately $100 million. Riverside is extremely important to the African American community, especially in the areas of medical care and the treatment of drug addiction.

Community leaders and activists are encouraged about the news of the Crisis Task Force, but are still concerned and calling on President Obama and his administration to acknowledge the current and historical relevance of this institution to the African American community and immediately release funds to Riverside so they can continue the good work they do in the community and make the necessary adjustments to implement the proper infrastructure to prevent future financial losses.

The HFT will keep its readers up to date on the latest happenings.

Black Man Killed in Chokehold by NYPD Officer

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By Herb Boyd
Special to NNPA

NEW YORK – Rev. Al Sharpton was in the middle of his speech recounting how Eric Garner, 43, had been killed in a chokehold by NYPD officer when Garner’s wife collapsed by his side on the stage of the National Action Network in Harlem on Saturday morning.

“They will try to scandalize the decease,” Sharpton said of the NYPD and what he anticipated they would say. “The issue is not about an unarmed man selling cigarettes…It’s about a man who was subjected to a chokehold and is no longer with us.”

At that point, Esaw Garner collapsed and had to be held up by Sharpton and Rev. Herbert Daughtry, another prominent activist. After she was led from the stage and to a backroom, Sharpton continued his speech.  “You can never predict how someone will react to grief,” he said.

All of Garner’s relatives were in pain and weeping as they left the stage, including his mother, Gwen Carr, his sister Ellisha Flagg, and his daughter, Emerald Garner.

Sharpton promised the family that the National Action Network would pay for the funeral next week of a man the family knew as “Big E” or more affectionately the “Bear” by his wife.

None of these appellations were effective in stopping the officers who sought to detain him in front of a hardware store in Staten Island last Thursday. It didn’t matter to the officers who surrounded him that he was the father of six children and was known as the “Gentle Giant.”  Or, the fact that he repeatedly told them:  “I can’t breathe.”

Once Garner, who was asthmatic, was no longer moving the cops took a step back and one of them stooped over Garner as if to see if he was still alive.  He wasn’t.

The entire video can be seen on YouTube courtesy of liveleak.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, Mayor Bill  de Blasio, who postponed his vacation departure to Italy, expressed his condolences.  After asking that people not jump to conclusions, he said, “We have a responsibility to keep every New Yorker safe, and that includes when individuals are in custody of the NYPD.  That is a responsibility that Police Commissioner [William] Bratton and I take very seriously. We are harnessing all resources available to the city to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances of this tragic incident. The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau is working closely with the Office of the Richmond County District Attorney, which is leading this investigation,” the mayor added.

Bratton began his remarks by citing the arrest record of Garner and explaining that the police were there to apprehend Garner for the sale of illegal cigarettes.  He said that the corner where the incident occurred had been the source of numerous complaints from storeowners. “Mr. Garner went into cardiac arrest while in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” Bratton said, “and he died upon arrival.”

During the question and answer session Bratton said that two of the officers involved in the incident have been placed on “desk duty” while the investigation continues, and that the “final determination” of the circumstances will come from the District Attorney’s office.

Watching Garner, who weighed more than 300 pounds struggle to free himself from the chokehold was reminiscent of the death of Anthony Baez in 1994.   After a football hit a police car, Baez, who also suffered from asthma, was confronted and placed in a chokehold that took his life. Two years before the incident with Baez, chokeholds had been outlawed by the NYPD.  His mother was among those in attendance at the NAN rally on Saturday.

“The video raises serious questions and it is important that we review whether departmental procedures were followed,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.  “There must be a swift investigation of this horrific incident.”

New York City’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement, “Not wanting to be arrested does not grant an individual the right to resist arrest nor does it free the officers of the obligation to make the arrest,” he said. “In these cases, justice for all involved demands a complete and thorough investigation of all the facts before any conclusions are drawn.”

Later Saturday afternoon, Sharpton led a rally in Staten Island where he was joined by members of the Garner family as they marched to the spot where the encounter occurred.  A number of candles and flowers were placed at the spot.

Garner’s funeral is to be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bethel Baptist Church, on Bergen Street, in Brooklyn.

Two Groups Announce Plan to Boost Spending Among Blacks

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The U.S. Black Chambers (USBC) and the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators, and Developers (NABHOOD) are formally partnering to make sure that a significant portion of the $40 billion African Americans spend each year on travel and tourism remains in Black hands.

The partnership was launched last week at the start of USBC’s professional development conference, held at the Marriott Marquis in the District of Columbia. The newly-opened, four-star hotel, next to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, was jointly financed by Capstone Development, a private, Black-owned development firm.

“Today is about more investment in the hotel and travel industry,”  Ron Busby Jr., USBC president,  said at a press conference. “As African Americans, we have conferences, events, weddings, and vacations, always with White-owned establishments. I think we can bring some that money back to us.”

A Nielsen study conducted in cooperation with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) found that African Americans spent 40 billion each year on the travel and tourism industries last year.

But Andy Ingraham, president and CEO of NABHOOD, few of those dollars turn over in the Black community.

“I’d rate [concerted Black patronization] as pretty nonexistent,” he said. “We have to create awareness, because most people who come in contact with this idea think it’s a damn good idea.”

Interestingly, Nielsen finds that Black Americans are 28 percent more likely than other groups to read financial magazines such as Forbes and Fortune, yet have low levels of participation with mainstream financial products such as purchasing stock or mutual funds.

Although Black Americans have yet to truly wield their power as consumers, prominent brands have taken notice, including. Marriott International.

“We see the power of the African American wallet, spending, and economic value,” said Apoorva Gandhi, vice president of Multicultural Markets and Alliances for Marriott. “It’s really important to us that we are consistently authentic in how we employ – through recruitment and developing executive professionals –  and also how we market to, and do business with this segment.”

The hotel brand has been named one of Black Enterprise’s top 40 companies for diversity for eight consecutive  years. Marriott has also maintained decades-long partnerships with m major Black organizations such as the National Urban League, NAACP, the National Black MBA Association.

“One way we try to reach the African American segment is through our multicultural and diversity partners,” Gandhi says. “One, because these are great organizations doing great things. But also, they are gateway groups to their demographic. We work to support their goals because, frankly, they’re our goals too.”

Marriott says it was the first hospitality company to establish a diversity and inclusion program. Today, it is also one of a handful of big-name hotels working to cultivate Black executives and owners.

Interestingly, Norman Jenkins, NABHOOD treasurer, and founder of Capstone Development, the company that co-financed the Marriott Marquis in D.C., is also a former Marriott executive. Under his leadership, the brand boasted of at least 500 minority-owned or minority-franchised Marriotts around the world in just three years under its Diversity Ownership Initiative.

Jenkins represents the other angle of Black economic power: gatekeeping and ownership. By owning a business, African Americans can solve many of their own community problems.

“Black businesses still struggle to find funding, either through equity or debt, to let them grow to what they could be,” Busby says. “But we know Black business is the key to the unemployment that is wreaking havoc on our communities.”

As Ingraham explained, more business at Black-owned hotels results in more hires and more corporate promotions of other African Americans working within the establishment, who can eventually become executives or owners. More business also means that hotels have to buy more goods from suppliers, and can choose to patronize other Black-owned businesses in the process.

NABHOOD counts more than 500 Black-owned hotels and hospitality venues in the United States, and nine abroad, mostly in the Caribbean, with the exception of one  in Ghana and another in Liberia. The organization has a listing of these Black-owned properties on its website, www.nabhood.net.

The two organizations will continue their partnership for the long run, with the next collaboration at the 18th Annual International Multicultural and Heritage Tourism Summit and Trade Show this weekend in Miami.

“We’re trying to sign as many agreements as possible for people to give us a chance to provide the level of service they are accustomed to,” Ingraham explains. “The opportunity exists for each of us to play a role in change the economic tapestry. If we could just revise our conscience level and agree to do business with each other, we can all benefit.”

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BVN National News Wire