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Hundreds Rally to Support Kidnapped Girls

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By Barrington M. Salmon
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

The kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Islamist rebels three weeks ago has frayed the nerves, tested the patience and deeply angered Nigerians already weary and increasing nervous over a bloody four-year insurgency.

The pre-dawn raid on April 14 by Boko Haram – in what many call their most brazen action yet – has prompted marches by distraught and angry parents in Chibok, where the girls were taken, and demonstrations and rallies in other Nigerian cities around the world. Images of anguished, crying mothers and fathers have pulled on peoples’ heartstrings.

More than 600 gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, May 2, to raise awareness of the victims’ plight and express concern and indignation. They were not alone as over the weekend, similar protests took place in Abuja, Lagos, across Africa, in London, New York and Toronto. While on Tuesday, a throng of demonstrators gathered in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Northwest.

The Saturday crowd, primarily college students and people from across the African Diaspora, chanted vigorously, sang, prayed, demanding word from the Nigerian government of what was going on and the location and quick release of the girls and young women.

“It took me a while to understand. I didn’t understand how they could take the girls. I’m outraged, livid,” said Jennifer Pearse, 21, a University of Maryland student of Nigerian descent. “I wanted to know what the authorities were doing. Where are the tycoons, emirs, sultans, kings of the north, politicians and former presidents?”

“Not doing anything now makes it worse.”

At the rally, Pearse’s anguish was palpable.

“I don’t know why nothing’s been done. It’s really frustrating,” she told the crowd, most of whom wore red and burgundy shirts and T-shirts armed with placards and posters. “Our girls are important. They are our future. I congratulate you for coming out. It’s not easy coming out on a Saturday under this hot sun. Please raise your voice. We need to do something.”

Juliette Bethea agreed.

“I came here as a human being, not as a woman or a mother,” the longtime D.C. resident said. “It’s so inhumane. I have to take a stand for these girls. It shouldn’t happen and when it does, it cannot be ignored. I felt that I couldn’t be alive and not take a stand.”

The organizers –students from local universities and colleges – pulled the rally together on short notice. Word of mouth and social media brought the crowd assembled to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“This started as a conversation among friends,” said Ronke Oloyede, 22. “When I came down the steps (of the memorial), honestly, I was shocked. I was stunned and wanted to cry. We did this in two days. We’re going to keep it going. We won’t stop today. We will keep doing this until someone addresses it. Let’s not just stop at words, let’s take action,” Oloyede, a lead organizer of the event said.

Godwin Akinlami said the reason for his presence was simple.

“We’re here to show we care,” said the 22-year-old graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “We feel for the mothers and fathers and we want the government to do whatever it can. We haven’t seen or heard anything from someone (in charge). This is not a protest. We want answers.”

Obama Administration's Climate Change Report Championed by NAACP

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

The NAACP threw its support behind a climate assessment report released by the Obama administration, echoing the report’s assertion that climate change has played a significant role in increasingly extreme weather patterns.

The civil rights organization, which has shown interest in environmental issues since its founding in 1909, agreed with the report’s assessment that climate change is affecting all Americans in every part of the country and important sectors of the economy.

“Extreme weather, pollution from fossil fuels and toxic emissions not only affect all aspects of our lives from health to economics to education, but also disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color,” said Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP’s director of environmental and climate justice. “We must take the finding from this report seriously and make the necessary changes to protect our environment.”

The administration’s report, which was issued Tuesday, concluded that extreme weather events with links to climate change —prolonged periods of heat, heavy downpours, floods and droughts — are far more frequent in recent years.

The report notes that the warming of the sea is causing it to rise, glaciers and Artic sea ice is melting and oceans are becoming more acidic due to increased carbon dioxide absorption — all of which have a profound impact on the quality of human life, Patterson said.

“Critical steps must include building sustainable communities, restructuring the electricity grid to emphasize energy efficiency and clean energy, building equitable and resilient housing, integrating equity into the emergency management continuum and more,” she said.

The NAACP has put additional focus on such causes for communities of color in the past two decades, working with environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club in lobbying Congress and the White House for environmental justice.

In 2012, the organization released a groundbreaking report, “Coal Blooded,” that ranked the environmental justice performance of the nation’s 378 coal-fired power plants. Last year, it released “Just Energy Policies,” a report that evaluates energy policy in the 50 states and the District of Columbia from a civil rights perspective.

Patterson said that addressing climate change is not just about what is going on today.

“We must seize this opportunity to protect our communities now, tomorrow and for generations to come,” she said.

NAACP Names Lorraine Miller New L.A. Interim President

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Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly

The interim president of the NAACP’s Los Angeles chapter said recently it was “inexcusable” that the organization was planning to give a humanitarian award to Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life from the NBA last week for racist comments that were caught on tape.

Lorraine Miller, in a message addressed to “civil rights activists,” vowed that changes would be made in the operation of the chapter. The chapter’s previous leader, Leon Jenkins, resigned Thursday in the wake of questions about his ties with Sterling.

In her letter, Miller said the NAACP was “actively engaged” in reviewing the operation of the Los Angeles branch.

“We will determine the shortcomings that enabled Donald Sterling to receive or be considered for any awards,” Miller wrote. “We will prevent this from happening again.”

The chapter had been planning to present Sterling with a humanitarian award at a banquet later this month. Jenkins held a news conference Monday announcing that the group was rescinding the honor and returning monetary contributions Sterling had made to the organization. The chapter also honored Sterling in 2009.

“We recognize the need for all our units to have the resources to serve their communities, but we must not allow that need to compromise our founding principles,” Miller wrote. “We must determine what Donald Sterling donated to the NAACP Los Angeles branch—in order for it to be returned.

“My friends, I know you may be angry, frustrated and confused,” she wrote. “We will be making changes, and I hope our commitment to addressing this issue helps us move forward, so we can remain focused on the critical issues facing so many of our communities.”

At his Monday news conference, Jenkins defended the group’s past ties with Sterling, saying the 81-year-old Clippers owner was a generous donor to scholarship funds and charities and invited Black children to summer camps.

The relationship between the NAACP chapter and Sterling continued despite allegations that the real-estate magnate discriminated against Black, Hispanic and Korean tenants at his various residential properties.

In his resignation letter, Jenkins wrote that “the legacy, history and reputation of the NAACP is more important to me than the presidency. In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused the NAACP, I respectfully resign my position as president of the Los Angeles NAACP.”

Marginalized on Campus, Black Students Organize

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By Chanelle Ignant
Richmond Pulse via New America Media
Special to the NNPA

It’s a Thursday evening at Richmond High School, and the hallways of this normally bustling campus have fallen quiet. Behind closed doors in the school library, a small group of African American parents, community members and school administrators are huddled in a conversation, in service to the question: What do our children need to succeed?

“Access to resources.”

“Exposure and experiences outside of the community.”

“Pride in our cultural heritage.”

The high school’s assistant principle, William McGee, notates each response on a large sheet of butcher paper.

The group, dubbed the African American Student-Parent Collaborative, was born out of a desire to improve the educational experience for the school’s Black students – a group whose numbers have diminished greatly on campus in recent years:

A decade ago, during the 2003-04 school year, there were 348 Black students enrolled at Richmond High School, according to the California Department of Education. That number has steadily declined to an all-time low of 83 students currently. That’s just more than 6 percent of a total student body population of 1,309.

By comparison, African Americans make up roughly 26 percent of Richmond’s population, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2010 — although that number, too, has been declining. A decade earlier, in 2000, Blacks comprised 36 percent of the city’s residents.

According to the California Department of Education, the graduation rate for African American seniors at Richmond High during 2011-12 was 57 percent, lowest among all ethnic groups on campus.

Essence Johnson, a Richmond High senior, describes the academic support she’s received at her school from teachers and staff as adequate — but says she still felt there was something lacking.

“I feel like I get a lot of support from some teachers, but I don’t feel like I [always] had the support… for our African American culture,” she says.

The idea of starting an advocacy group for the school’s Black students came from Tamisha Walker, a local organizer and parent of a Richmond High Student, who got inspired by a series of conversations she had with her son about what he was experiencing at school.

“[He said] that he doesn’t feel valued as an African American student,” says Walker. “He feels that his needs are ignored.”

So Walker started talking to other parents and community members, asking them the same question being posed during the parent meeting on that Thursday night. She eventually connected with Andre Aikins of the Omega Boys Club, Aneesha Johnson of the Richmond High Health Center, and school board and faculty members with similar ambitions for the school’s African American students.

Their meetings often function as an incubator for new ideas, and as a space where participants can share their concerns and hopes.

“We as parents need to be here for our kids,” says Andrea Holden, a Richmond High parent who took a bus to the meeting. Her daughter, 17 year-old Jasmine Holden, says she loves it that her mom has become an advocate for her education.

“You don’t see hard working single parents coming out at six or seven at night,” she says. “I wish all students would [have a] parent [that] cares and takes time to come to your school, not because you’re in trouble, but for your education.”

In addition to creating a space for parents and community organizations, Walker saw a clear need for students like her son to have their own platform at the school. As a result, and with the support of Assistant Principle McGee, Johnson, Aikins and others, students were able to institute a Black Student Union (BSU) on campus for the first time in five years.

Umoni Witaker, a senior, says having the BSU is like having a second home at school. “I know I can come here and feel like I have a family here.”

At their weekly meetings, the students gather at lunch and discuss ways to support each one another and engage the community. As BSU president, Essence Johnson is in charge of planning the events. Among other things, the BSU has organized a student trip to the Black College Expo in Oakland, and has lobbied successfully for tutoring services at their school-based health center.

Johnson says having an active and visible BSU also lets other Black students know that they have a community on campus.

“We host a lot of events, so people see that [we] are here,” says Johnson.

Holden sees value in all aspects of the group.

“The BSU provides a broader picture of the world outside of Richmond, that we (black people) can succeed and actually graduate from high school,” says the junior. “[It’s] great to have supporting teachers and administration to actually back up African American students in this school.”

“The BSU and parents work hand in hand,” says McGee. “We set up a support mechanism to accomplish what students want to see happen.”

And the community appears to be taking notice. McGee says he has noticed an uptick in black student transfers to Richmond High, and increased interest by some parents who say they like what the school is doing for its African American students.

While the number of attendees at Thursday night’s meeting was small – about 10′ people – organizers are optimistic that it will grow and have an impact, one parent at a time.

“Let’s go out and invite others. We want to see this room filled with parents in the next few meetings,” McGee tells the group. “We won’t change 16 years in six months, but we want to create a culture of change at this school. We want all of our children to be successful.”

CFATF Concerned About Anti-Money Laundering Legislation

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Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

CMC – The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) has warned of harsh consequences should Guyana fail to pass anti-money laundering legislation before a May 29 conference.

The task force addressed the matter during a meeting on Saturday with President Donald Ramotar, the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall and others.

Following the meeting, Nandlall said CFAFT noted that Guyana is the only country yet to implement all of the recommendations related to the bill, “She made it very clear that the consequences are going to be devastating,” AG Nandlall said.

He said although Guyana has a completed Bill that has been examined by CFAFT, and deemed to be compliant, the proposed draft amendments made by the Parliamentary opposition do not address the bill.

In response, Vice Chairman of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine said there is a political crisis and it requires a political solution.” 
APNU maintains that even if agreement was reached in the Special Select Committee on amendments to the 2009 Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT), there were several political issues to be resolved.

They include the simultaneous passage of amendments to the parent act, presidential assent of Bills that have been approved by the House and the establishment of a Procurement Commission.

The combined opposition controls the 65-seat National Assembly with its 33.

President Donald Ramotar has refused to sign a number of those Bills into law, saying that they are unconstitutional.

Attorney-at-Law, Basil Williams recalled that the top officials of the regional financial crimes watchdog pointed to the grave danger of Guyana being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) if AML/CFT is not amended to make Guyana compliant.

”The team has indicated to us the perils that are associated with being blacklisted and the picture that they painted seem to be very draconian and we were assured that they have advised the government of those perils,” he said.

Based on the stance taken by the opposition, the CFAT team is scheduled to meet with Opposition members to re-emphasise the importance of a compliant bill.

Concerns are that the bill may not be passed by the time of the CFATF plenary, and it is hoped that the meetings with the CFATF members would provide the message to the opposition about the importance of having the bill passed, and about the repercussions of the failure to do so.

A Partnership for National Unity’s support is conditional on the President addressing outstanding issues such as the non-assent to Bills passed by the Opposition and the commencement order for the holding of Local Government Elections, among others, while the Alliance for Change (AFC) has called for the a Public Procurement Commission (PPC) and more recently, it had backed APNU’s demands.

Guyana has been blacklisted by the CFATF and when it submitted its report earlier this year it was documented that the nation was yet to enact the required laws. CFATF will be holding a review next month when it will refer Guyana to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)/ International Corporation Review Group (ICRG). At the FATF review, the nation stands to be blacklisted internationally.

The task force maintains that Guyana must pass the relevant legislation and implement all the outstanding issues within its Action Plan, fully criminalise money laundering and terrorist financing offences, among others.

In February, CFATF’s Financial Adviser Roger Hernandez visited Guyana and explained that in order for the bill to be considered by CFATF’s Plenary in May, it would have had to be passed by February 28.

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