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Haitians Challenge Injustice in Dominican Republic

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By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times

Last September, the high court of the Dominican Republic [DR] ruled that thousands of men, women and children of Haitian descent would retroactively lose their citizenship — even if they were born in the Dominican Republic, allegedly because they were “undocumented.” But after public outcry from Haitians in the Diaspora, including here in Miami, and from Blacks across the country, the U.S. State Department recently commented on a plan by the DR to restore legal status to those affected by the controversial citizenship ruling. The State Department said it still has “deep concerns” about the impact the decision will have.

“We’ve urged the government to continue close consultation with international partners and civil society to identify and . . . address, in a humane way, concerns regarding the planned scope and reach to affected persons,” said a State Department spokesperson.

Magalie Austin, chairperson of the Miami-based Haitian Americans for Progress, said that her organization appreciates the U.S. government’s expressed concern, she believes “it will take a coalition of organizations and countries to increase awareness of this issue and to pressure the Dominican Republic to restore the legal status of Dominicans of Haitian descent.”

Austin also pointed out that there are several reasons why Dominican officials supported the ruling including: a political party that wins if Dominicans of Haitian descent are no longer allowed to vote; and the creation of a permanent underclass that would be working on far below minimum wage for the owners of the largest sugar cane plantations.

“Most people in the [local] community are shocked by the ruling and weren’t aware of the history of racism in the Dominican Republic,” she added. “However, there is a significant portion, particularly the Haitian American community, who is not surprised by the discrimination . . . The racism isn’t just perceived. This is about the moral lessons that the world needs to live by: never be a perpetrator, never be a victim and never be a bystander. This kind of heinous act on the part of the government can never be allowed to happen without the world taking a stand.”

Miami stands in solidarity

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson had this to say: “It is impossible to deny that in the Dominican Republic there is a long history of shameful discrimination against Haitians living there. Racial discrimination likely played a role in the ruling and this is part of why — as a longtime civil rights activist — that I am so committed to undoing this injustice. As Dr. King said, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

She added that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [IACHR], which was established to investigate these kinds of abuses, began a formal investigation in early December.

“In a recent Congressional letter that I along with Congressman Joseph Kennedy [MA] led more than a dozen colleagues in submitting,” she said. “I requested that Dominican President Medina wait until the IACHR has released its preliminary recommendations before implementing the court’s decision. If he fails to honor this request, we will need to consider all economic options.”

Caribbean Nations Forced to Take Back Thousands of Deportees in 2013

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Dominican Republic and Jamaica among top 10 receiving states

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

Caribbean and Latin America nations topped the list of foreign countries around the world which were forced to accept deportees from the United States in the last fiscal year.

Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Nicaragua and Jamaica in that order led all countries with well over 300,000 out of the 368,644 immigrants who were showed the immigration door and forcibly returned to their respective birthplaces.

The Dominican Republic was at the top of the group of Caribbean countries with 2,462 deportees while Jamaica had to accept 1,119 during 2013. Between them Haiti, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the Bahamas, Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean received less than 2,000 deportees.

The new figures released by the Department of Homeland Security showed an overall 10 per cent decline in deportees when compared with the previous year when 410,000 foreign-born residents were removed from the country, most of them for over-staying the time they were first given by officials of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement on their arrival.

Although the number has fallen, the picture is unlikely to result in an easing of the pressure on the Administration to end its aggressive approach to deporting immigrants. U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke, a Democrat of Brooklyn, has openly called for a suspension of the deportations until Congress has acted on the comprehensive immigration reform proposals which were approved by the Senate several months ago but which were blocked in the House of Representatives by Republicans, who charge that the pathway to citizenship was a form of amnesty that rewarded undocumented immigrants for breaking the law.

But immigration advocates, including the New York Immigration Coalition have been arguing that deportations were too harsh a treatment for most of the people who weren’t “illegal aliens” but were immigrants who “were out of status,” meaning they were in the country without an extension of their original allotted time.

The new numbers are expected to trigger a fresh debate about undocumented immigrants and are likely to heighten the divide between the Republicans in the House and their Democratic colleagues. The Republicans are expected to continue to insist that far too many people were in the country illegally and any pathway to citizenship would be an inducement to others to enter the country without permission or remain in the country. But the Democrats are expected to counter that argument by indicating that the Administration was enforcing the way while insisting on a humane way to deal with people already in the country.

The Administration, said John Sandweg, acting Director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was “enforcing our nation’s laws in a smart and effective way, meeting our enforcement priorities by focusing on convicted criminals while also continuing to secure our nation’s borders.”

Like Clarke, U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a freshman lawmaker from Brooklyn, has called on the Republican House leadership in Washington to bring the immigration reform bill to the floor of the chamber for debate and ultimately for action./

U.S. Congressmen, Charles Rangel of Manhattan and Gregory Meeks, s Democrat from Queens who has been in the lower House for more than a decade, have both called on the “Republican majority” to bring the reform proposals to a vote.

Black Girls Code Invites Young Women Into the Tech World

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By Tamerra Griffin
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

On Saturday, Dec. 14, as snow flurried around the city, Jamie Landeau diligently scribbled down notes, her pink-flowered pen bobbing above the page. The 7-year-old Bronx native then turned to whisper to a nearby friend, causing an eruption of giggles. She eventually turned back to the laptop in front of her and began to type.

This could be a scene extracted from a typical school day anywhere in the country, but what Landeau was participating in that Saturday was once only considered ordinary in California’s Silicon Valley. She was learning how to code.

On Dec. 14, Black Girls Code, an organization aimed at exposing young Black girls to computer science and technology, teamed up with Google to host a day-long mobile app training course. While tourists wound their way through shops on the first floor of Chelsea Market in pursuit of gourmet waffles, about 60 girls of color between 7 and 17 years of age hunched over keyboards and cellphones on the second floor of Google’s Chelsea headquarters, stringing together sequences of commands to create a game.

Throughout the day, the coders-in-training mirrored the instructions given by 29-year-old Donna Knutt, who owns a web development and marketing consulting business. Volunteers from Black Girls Code and Google were also on hand to answer the girls’ questions.

The proliferation of web-based businesses and the ease with which those who are not descendants of the late Steve Jobs can learn computer science have made coding and programming less intimidating and highly covetable skills. Like most areas in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, however, women and racial minorities are severely underrepresented. Black Girls Code is one response to this disparity.

Although Landeau aspires to become a writer, she enjoys coding because it requires her to type out her thoughts. She sees creative writing and coding as one in the same, not a far cry from those who equate coding to learning a new language.

Jessenia Diaz, Landeau’s mother, decided to introduce her daughter to coding after seeing a video online that featured “Mark Zuckerberg and a whole bunch of stars” talking about how they learned to code. The video piqued her curiosity, and after some Google-driven research, she came across Black Girls Code. Diaz enrolled Landeau in her first course in October and said that her daughter “couldn’t stop talking about it.”

Even though the age requirement for the Black Girls Code mobile app event begins at 10, Diaz was able to register her daughter anyway. Landeau and the other youngsters may have required a bit more assistance in this seminar, but for Diaz, experience and exposure are the primary goals in an unwelcoming economy and job market.

“I went to a traditional school, so everything was pretty much ‘Learn this, know that,’ and you didn’t know why,” said Diaz, who is currently working toward a degree in business. “Now that the job market is so hard, I’m struggling to find ways to reinvent myself and be creative, and I want her to have that. I want her to be able to—if there’s not a job for her—I want her to be able to invent one and do what makes her happy.”

More NYPD Racial Profiling in 2014?

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By Saeed Shabazz
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – “People are angry, they feel betrayed by mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, and we intend to follow him around the city wherever we can find him until he hears our complaints concerning stopping ‘stop and frisk,’” anti-police brutality activist Juanita Young told The Final Call.

Days before his victory in November, Mr. de Blasio reportedly stated at a press conference: “I’ve been saying for a long time. We need to get to reforming stop and frisk and bringing police and community together. And further delay is not going to help the city heal and move forward.”

However Dec. 15 Mr. de Blasio, known as a progressive politician, announced the appointment of stop and frisk innovator William Bratton as police chief. Mr. Bratton served in the same capacity in NYC from 1994 to 1996.

“De Blasio is a pseudo-progressive, a pragmatic, opportunistic politician,” argued Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron (D). Bringing in Bratton, the architect of this “racial profiling” policy is an “insult” a “slap in the face,” the council member told The Final Call. “It is business as usual in NYC,” he added.

According to an analysis released in May by the NY Civil Liberties Union, 532,911 New Yorkers were stopped in 2012—a 22 percent drop from 2011. The NYCLU study noted that 9 out of 10 stopped were innocent and 88 percent of those stopped were Black and Latino and 10 percent were White. Blacks and Latinos comprise 54 percent of the city’s population. The NYPD, according to the NYCLU, defended the policy saying it was keeping streets safe.

“Bratton had a chance—he let his police officers brutalize and kill us—he has blood on his hands,” Councilman Barron said.

The Final Call made contact with Mr. de Blasio’s media team by phone and e-mail, however, there was no response to requests for interviews.

Some say stop and frisk issue is in a procedural tangle given current Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s insistence on appealing a decision by a federal judge, who ruled the NYPD policy systematically violated the 4th amendment and 14th amendment rights of thousands of Black and Latino New Yorkers, and said the court should appoint a monitor to keep watch on how the police make stops.

A three-judge panel representing the Second Court of Appeals put the ruling of Judge Schira Scheindlin on hold in early November, and removed her from the case, saying she had “run afoul” of judicial conduct by failing to appear impartial.

In December, Mayor Bloomberg ordered city attorneys to file a merit brief that will be heard in March 2014 and asks for the entire case to be overturned. Mr. de Blasio has said he would not appeal the federal court’s decision.

On Dec. 16, Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists published a report. It calls for New police commissioner Bratton committing to delivering both safety and respect to all New Yorkers by enforcing a zero tolerance policy for police brutality, especially shootings and the killing of unarmed New Yorkers. It also asks the incoming administration discontinue legal challenges to the federal stop and frisk ruling, and work cooperatively with the court-appointed monitor to ensure remedies include a meaningful role for impacted communities.

“You cannot stop stop and frisk, it is the root of policing,” argued Damon Jones of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Policing policy must stop marginalizing Blacks and Latinos, Mr. Jones toldThe Final Call.

“The dilemma for de Blasio and Bratton going forward is how the nation’s largest police department will react to the necessary changes that must be implemented such as disciplining officers who don’t follow the new policies,” Mr. Jones said.

Preserving Nelson Mandela's Legacy

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

PRETORIA, South Africa (NNPA) – Nearly a month after his death, there is a bitter struggle to define – and, in many instances, re-define – the legacy of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

“There is an attempt to do in his death what they could not do in life – take away his story,” Jesse Jackson said in a speech at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. “… He did not go to jail as some out-of-control youth who needed to be matured. He went in as a freedom fighter and came out as a freedom fighter.”

The effort to soften the image of Mandela as a freedom fighter began long before his death.

Speaking at an African National Congress (ANC) celebration a year before Mandela’s death, South African President Jacob Zuma said, “Inside our country, even those who were are who are still, fundamentally opposed to the ANC, and who fought tooth and nail to keep South Africa a racist pariah state, now claim Nelson Mandel as their own.”

In in trying reclaim Mandela as their own, many Whites are trying to sanitize him image, Jackson argues.

Part of that effort begins with attributing many of Mandela’s outstanding qualities to his 27 years in prison. For example, television commentators in the U.S. and in Africa say Mandela learned to love his enemies in jail and cite his forgiveness of his former jailers as evidence to support that assertion.

However, Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, traces that lesson back to his youth.

“On this first day of classes I was clad in my new boots. I had never worn boots before of any kind, and that first day, I walked like a newly shod horse. I made a terrible racket walking up the steps and almost slipped several times. As I clomped into the classroom, my boots crashing on that shiny wooden floor, I noticed two female students in the first row were watching my lame performance with great amusement. The prettier of the two leaned over to her friend and said loud enough for all to hear: ‘The country boy is not used to wearing shoes,’ at which her friend laughed. I was blind with fury and embarrassment.

“Her name was Mathona and she was a bit of a smart aleck. That day I vowed never to talk to her. But as my mortification wore off (and I became more adept at walking with boots) I also got to know her, and she was to become my greatest friend at Clarkebury,” a Wesleyan missionary school Mandela began attending at the age of 16.

In his autobiography, Mandela gave another example of not humiliating his opponents.

“I learned my lesson one day from an unruly donkey,” he recounted. “We had been taking turns climbing up and down its back and when my chance came I jumped on and the donkey bolted into a nearby thornbush. It bent its head, trying to unseat me, which it did, but not before the thorns had pricked and scratched my face, embarrassing me in front of my friends. Like the people of the East, Africans have a highly developed sense of dignity, or what the Chinese call ‘face.’ I had lost face among my friends. Even though it was a donkey that unseated me, I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. Even as a boy, I defeated my opponents without dishonoring them.”

Many public reflections understate the depth of Mandela’s hatred of apartheid, a system where a White minority of 10 percent controlled the 90 percent Black majority.

“In their relationship with us, South African whites regard it as fair and just to pursue policies which have outraged the conscience of mankind and of honest and uprights men throughout the civilized world,” he said in his famous speech from the dock on Oct. 22, 1962, the first day of his trial. “They suppress our aspirations, bar our way to freedom and deny us opportunities to promote our moral and material progress, to secure ourselves from fear and want. All the good things of life are reserved for the white folk and we blacks are expected to be content to nourish our bodies with such pieces of food as drop from their tables of men with white skins. This is the white man’s standard of justice and fairness. Herein lies his conceptions of ethics. Whatever he himself say in his defense, the white man’s moral standards in this country must be judged by the extent to which he has condemned the vast majority of its inhabitants to serfdom and inferiority.”

In that same speech, Mandela said, “I hate the practice of race discrimination, and in my hatred I am sustained by the fact that the overwhelming majority of mankind hate it equally… Nothing that this court can do to me will change in any way that hatred in me, which can only be removed by the removal of the injustice and inhumanity which I have sought to remove from the political and social life of this country.”

There have been some efforts to depict Mandela as South Africa’s version of Martin Luther King, Jr. But unlike America’s apostle on nonviolence, Mandela was in charge of the military wing of the ANC.

“Some of the things so far told to the court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage,” Mandela said in his statement from the dock. “I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the whites.

“I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe [the military arm of the ANC], and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until I was arrested in August 1962.”

Mandela explained, “We felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.”

His widely-praised leadership skills were also honed during Mandela’s youth.

“As a leader, I have always followed the principles I first saw demonstrated by the regent [the man who took him in after his father died] at the Great Place. I have always endeavored to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion. I always remember the regent’s axiom: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

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