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Women of Color Urge Obama to 'Re-align' My Brother’s Keeper

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – More than 1,000 women of color – including Mary Frances Berry, former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker; actress Rosie Perez; political activist Angela Davis; Anita Hill, a law professor best known for testifying that she had been sexually harassed by future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and economist Julianne Malveau – released a letter to President Obama Tuesday asking him to expand his White House initiative aimed at Black and Latino males to include women and girls of color.

“We write to join the concerns expressed by the letter from 200 Black Men about My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), and to share our hopes that together, we can re-align this important Initiative to reflect the values of inclusion, equal opportunity and shared fate that have propelled our historic struggle for racial justice forward,” the letter said.

“While we applaud the efforts on the part of the White House, private philanthropy, social justice organizations and others to move beyond colorblind approaches to race-specific problems, we are profoundly troubled about the exclusion of women and girls of color from this critical undertaking. The need to acknowledge the crisis facing boys should not come at the expense of addressing the stunted opportunities for girls who live in the same households, suffer in the same schools, and struggle to overcome a common history of limited opportunities caused by various forms of discrimination.”

The women added, “We simply cannot agree that the effects of these conditions on women and girls should pale to the point of invisibility, and are of such little significance that they warrant zero attention in the messaging, research and resourcing of this unprecedented Initiative. When we acknowledge that both our boys and girls struggle against the odds to succeed, and we dream about how, working together, we can develop transformative measures to help them realize their highest aspirations, we cannot rest easy on the notion that the girls must wait until another train comes for them. Not only is there no exceedingly persuasive reason not to include them, the price of such exclusion is too high and will hurt our communities and country for many generations to come.”

The letter pointed out:

  • Our daughters are disproportionately at risk, as the data on violent victimization make clear;
  • Native American girls are victims of rape or sexual assault at more than double the rate of other racial groups, while Black girls have the highest rates of interpersonal victimization from assault and are more likely to know their assailant than all other groups;
  • The homicide rate among Black girls and women ages 10-24 is higher than for any other group of females, and higher than White and Asian men as well;
  • Black girls are more than three times more likely to be suspended from school than White girls, and are disproportionately funneled through the juvenile justice systems;
  • Black women are three times more likely to wind up behind bars than White women;
  • he four-year graduation rate for Latinas is the lowest among all girls;
  • The median wealth for Latinas is $120 and for Black women it is $100 dollars. This means that just about half of Black women and Latinas are forced to walk an economic high wire without any net whatsoever and
  • Considering that the majority of all households depend on women’s wages and wealth, the economic future of female youth is vital to the community as a whole, including the sons and daughters that are dependent on their mothers’ well-being.

“In short, women and girls of color are not doing fine, and until they are, men and boys will not be doing fine either,” the letter stated. “Girls and young women must be included in all our efforts to lift up the life chances of youth of color. To those who would urge us to settle for some separate initiative, we need only recall that separate but equal has never worked in conditions of inequality, nor will it work for girls and women of color here.”

When more than 200 men sent their original letter to President Obama recommending that he broaden his male initiative to include females of color, administration officials said they were addressing some of the issues facing women and girls through the White House Council on Women and Girls, which was created in 2009.

Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett chairs the council. Earlier this month, she told reporters, “We have been working over the last five and a half years on issues that are important to women and girls in all of our programs, all of our policies and all the legislation that we support.”

However, the authors of the letter don’t feel that is enough.

“To those who would urge us to take up our concerns with the White House Council on Women and Girls, we note that the Council, like many gender-focused initiatives on women, lacks an intersectional frame that would address the race-based challenges faced by young women of color in a racially-stratified society. We note as well that the scale and magnitude of the issues addressed within MBK are specific to the needs of communities of color. The White House Council on Women and Girls should of course, be encouraged and supported to do more; however, girls and women of color suffer, struggle and succeed with the men and boys in their lives. Only together will our collective well-being improve.”

In a press release accompanying the letter, UCLA Law Professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, one of the key organizers of the letter writing effort, said: “We cannot pass the burden of invisibility to yet another generation of our girls of color. When we see the challenges they face and actually listen to what they say, how can anyone who loves our daughters as much as our sons say, ‘No, you must wait.’ Our girls need to know they are supported and loved, and that we are working to remove the obstacles that undermine their well-being as much as the boys. How can we in good conscience do anything less?”

Traditional Parental Roles are Changing

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By Jazelle Hunt
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A cache of new research from the Pew Center paints a picture of the modern American family—a picture in which the historically rigid roles and responsibilities of moms and dads are meeting in the middle.

But that picture has always been a bit different for Black moms and dads, and the ways this cultural shift is unfolding reflects those differences.

“As such roles change, African Americans are included too,” says George Garrow Jr., executive director of Concerned Black Men. The nonprofit seeks to uplift children and families by building Black male role models.

“I would point out there’s an uncounted group of fathers who are staying at home with their children, or they have custody,” Garrow continues. “We focus so much on fathers who are not with their children—and admittedly, Black fathers are disproportionately not in the home—but that group of fathers with primary care is not an insignificant number.”

In fact, those dads are now being counted.

According to Pew research, Black fathers account for 16 percent of stay-at-home dads, and 9 percent of fathers who both work and live with all their children. The number of stay-at-home dads has nearly doubled since 1989, with 2 million fathers comprising 16 percent of stay-at-home parents, up from 10 percent in 1989.

Now, 50 percent of working fathers—more than ever before—report the same “work-life balance” challenges that working moms have decried for so long. The challenge is stemming from changing attitudes around the meaning of fatherhood.

“Our fatherhood program tries to teach that their role as a father does not hinge completely on the financial contributions. Your child needs emotional, psychological support as well,” Garrow says. “Those we are helping to reconnect [with their children], we help them appreciate that…the [lack of] ability to provide is no reason to step away from your family.”

Garrow touches upon a gloomy Pew finding: While fathers are beginning to redefine fatherhood beyond bringing home the bacon, there are also fewer fathers (of all races) coming home at all.

One paper reports that 27 percent of all fathers live apart from at least one of their children. For Black men, that figure is 44 percent. Further, 55 percent of Black children were living in a single-parent home, according to 2011 Census data.

At the same time, Black fathers who live apart from their children are the most likely of all dads outside the home to see their child at least monthly (67 percent do), and most likely to talk to their child several times a week about their day (49 percent).

Garrow says that the reasons behind absentee fathers in the Black community are often overlooked.

“Rarely do you see…fathers who just feel like, ‘I don’t want to be a father, I don’t have desire to be in my kids life,’” he explains. “There are a number of reasons they step away, and a big one is they don’t want to be there if they can’t provide economic support. Sometimes [their child’s mother] may feel this way, too.”

The shift in attitudes and norms is affecting moms, too.

“Since 1965, mothers have almost tripled the amount of paid work they do each week, but they still lag fathers who work, on average, 37 hours a week,” it explains. “Meanwhile, fathers have increased their housework and child care time, but still only do about half of what mothers do.”

Black children are least likely to grow up with a stay-at-home mom (23 percent, compared to 37 percent for Asians, 36 percent for Latinos, and 26 percent for Whites). This is likely because egalitarian views about breadwinning are not new for African Americans.

“According to the survey, blacks are far more likely than whites to see earning a living as a top responsibility of dads and moms. Fully half (51 percent) of blacks say providing income is “extremely important” for fathers compared with 40 percent of whites,” say the researchers. Black respondents felt the responsibility was just as great for mothers, compared to 21 percent of Whites who agreed.

The changes in family roles are also reflected in public attitudes, although the attitudes seem to be changing more slowly. For example, 58 percent of respondents believe that the ideal situation for kids is to have a working mother—though most (42 percent) believe that she should only work part-time. In reality, moms are the breadwinners in 40 percent of households.

“[T]here are also some differences in the way the public weighs the roles of mothers and fathers, especially when it comes to being an income provider,” says one report. “Just 25 percent of survey respondents say this is an extremely important role for mothers, compared with 41 percent who feel that way about fathers.”

Interestingly, public policy doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the times, according to Garrow.

“Our social system is not making it particularly easy for fathers to receive assistance, for example, if they’re the single head of their household. And a lot of our fathers have complained…when there’s custody disputes, their input or response is not considered by judges,” he says. “But when we bring fathers back into their child’s lives they are sharing roles in raising their child. It’s always collaborative.”

Black Women are Taking Care of Business

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Instead of breaking the glass ceiling, Black women have increasingly started making their own. According to the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan progressive institute, Black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the country.

“Today, women of color are the majority owners of close to one-third of all women-owned firms in the nation,” stated the report. “Increased access to business capital – including microenterprises, venture capital- funded firms, and crowd funding – has helped the number of women entrepreneurs grow substantially.”

Traditional careers often come with cultural and structural roadblocks that devalue the work of women, especially Black women.

Black women made 64 cents and White women made 78 cents for every dollar that White males made. Black women brought home about $600 a week compared to White women who earned a median of $722.

“From 1997 to 2013, the number of female-owned firms in the United States grew by 59 percent – one-and-a-half times the national average,” stated the report.

The number of businesses owned by Black women skyrocketed by 258 percent over that time period. In 2013, more than 1.1 million Black women owned businesses. At 13 percent, Black women also hold the largest share of businesses owned by minority women.

According to the CAP report, “African American women are starting businesses at a rate six times the national average, and their 2.7 million firms are currently generating $226.8 billion in annual revenue and employing almost 1.4 million people.”

As the country grows more diverse, the success of businesses owned by minorities, specifically women of color, will take on a greater role in American economy.

“A 2009 Center for Women’s Business Research study found that the 8 million U.S. businesses that are majority owned by women had an economic impact of $3 trillion annually that translated into the creation and/or maintenance of more than 23 million jobs, a total that made up 16 percent of all U.S. jobs,” stated the report. “Given the rates of growth among women of color businesses, these positive impacts to the nation’s economy stand to grow even further.”

That doesn’t mean it’s easier for minority women to start and own businesses. They often encounter the same hurdles in entrepreneurship that they face climbing the corporate ladder, including “limited access to mentors and “exclusion from elite networks.”

Minority women don’t often possess the personal wealth that allows men and White women to invest in their own businesses. The report said that Black women with children possess zero median wealth.

Women often turn to credit cards (63 percent), business loans (13 percent) and personal loans (11 percent) to fund their start-ups.

Once they get their businesses off the ground, minority women achieved varied levels of success, with companies owned by Black women earning about 74 percent less than the average for all women-owned firms, according to the CAP report. Businesses run by White women made 9.5 percent more than the national average.

The report explained that the chosen industry often contributes to the difference in earnings. Black women often start companies in the health care and social assistance, “one of the lowest-grossing industries among women-owned firms in terms of average receipts,” the report explained.

Women-owned firms in the professional, scientific and technical service industries earned significantly more, which means that getting more young women of color interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) an economic imperative.

“While better access to funding streams, diverse industries, and networks are in short supply for women of color, the entrepreneurial spirit is not,” stated the report. “Women, and women of color in particular, face a wide array of work-related obstacles, but their participation as employees, business owners, and consumers is fundamental to the success of not only their own families but also to the success of the U.S. economy.”​

Murder Probe of Civil Rights Activist Walter Rodney to Resume

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

A commission of inquiry probing the June 1980 assassination of Caribbean and American civil rights activist Walter Rodney is to resume hearings after a short break later this month. However, it has become quite clear from emerging testimony that the party that Rodney had led in his native Guyana was on a collision course with the then administration of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.

Various witnesses who have testified at the hearings have indicated that Rodney, the man best known for the book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” had made up his mind that the only way to rid the country of Burnham and the then governing People’s National Congress (PNC) was to stage a revolution, and that might have led to his death.

Barbadian jurist Sir Richard Cheltenham is leading the three-person commission of Caribbean attorneys probing the bomb blast that killed Rodney and seriously injured his brother, Donald, as they drove near the main city jailhouse in Georgetown June 13, 1980.

The Working People’s Alliance, which Rodney had cofounded with other radical academics in the 1970s, immediately blamed the PNC and state agencies, such as the military and police, for his death, but it is unclear whether the hearings will conclusively determine how he ended up with a two-way radio bomb in his lap.

Former army sergeant Gregory Smith, aka Cyril Johnson, the man who is supposed to have best known how Rodney was killed, himself succumbed to cancer in French Guiana a few years back. He had moved there after Rodney’s death but blamed Rodney’s own party for stashing him there after realizing that the plot to bring down Burnham’s regime had gone terribly wrong.

At least three witnesses, including Walter’s older brother Eddy, have testified that he had grown increasingly disenchanted with the policies of the Burnham administration at the time and had come to the conclusion that the only way to effect change was through armed revolution, “by any means necessary.”

Smith had argued in a book he wrote before his death that he was asked to pack explosives into two-way radios to sabotage various state agencies, such as the radio station, to undermine Burnham and trigger a popular uprising.

However, others have alleged that the military and police were used to infiltrate the WPA, plant listening devices and sell them guns, and then snitch on them and, in the end, double-cross party activists on behalf of the state. The book has been accepted as evidence.

Rodney and senior party functionaries had never disputed the fact that they had possessed a stash of two-way radios but had argued that the radios were being used to build an alternative communication system to get around planted listening devices. How a bomb ended up in the radio Rodney had in his lap on that fateful night remains the big question for the commission.

Rodney had been active in the U.S. civil rights movement and had taught in East Africa and the Caribbean. Boston University has an academic chair in his name. He was only 37 years old when he died.

New Yorkers/Nigerians Host Panel on State of Girls in Nigeria

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By Nayaba Arinde
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

The kidnapped 276 Nigerian girls have not been returned to their homes in Chibok, Borno State, but neither have they been forgotten. While mothers, men and young people have gathered up their meager resources to trapse through the dense and deadly Sambisi Forest, where the abducted school girls were thought to be held initially, and the military tries to coordinate an adequate retrieval effort, people in other parts of the world are doing their part to keep the genuine #bringbackourgirls movement going.

Twice a week, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and his Interfaith Clergy group hold a daily prayer vigil at the United Nations. On June 26, the Rev. Cheryl Anthony will be among a group of clergy heading to Nigeria to address the issue.

On Monday, June 9, Nkechie Ogbodo, president of Kechi’s Project, presented a forum with a host of organizations, individual activists and everyday people, gathered at 777 United Nations Plaza to discuss the “State of Girls in Nigeria.”

Kechie’s Project is a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to the education of Nigerian girls and is at the forefront of the effort to rescue the missing girls of Chibok. This forum addressed why Nigerian girls are under attack not only from the likes of Boko Haram but also from other cultural, religious and social entities that, Ogbodo said, keeps them perpetually at risk for situations such as “forced underage marriage, sexual and domestic abuse, the likelihood of becoming a victim of human trafficking, higher infection rate of AIDS/HIV and other STDs and little or no access to education.”

Featured panelists were guest speaker Stacey Scarpone, executive director, Women’s Fund of Long Island; our own Nana Brew-Hammond; Rahama Kassim of Civil Society of Nigeria (who flew in from Kano that same day); Nana Afsou-Randal of Voices of African Mothers; Dahiru Tahir Biu (with at least one Boko Haram family member) of the Nigerian American Leadership Council; and Bobby Diggy of Island Voice (Staten Island). It was a riveting and informative presentation and discussion.

“At our panel discussion events, we are about collective processes to get things done, one young girl at a time, both in Africa and internationally,” Ogbodo stated. “It was such a good thing to get together to be inspired as we did today. We are not asking for favors from the Nigerian government, but we only try to tell the truth about the Chibok girls and beyond. Truth is not politics, as we have all seen. Politics is just a means to an end but not always the desired end.”

With issues such as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 re-election bid being bandied about as a possible cause for a calculated destabilizing effort, to the speculation as to possible underhanded international collusion in the funding and supplying of the notorious Boko Haram, Ogbodo stresses that Kechie’s Project is not about politics. “We are about movements, changes and working together. We promise to fight on until the Chibok girls are found.”

Professor Stella Okereke, chairperson of Daughters of Africa in Diaspora, spoke on how to move Nigeria forward. She emphasized her organization’s priority: “To increase the awareness of gender wrongs and advocate action for essential human progress, transformation that adds value to life and puts a lid on unjust policies and discriminatory acts aimed at retarding the girl-child.”

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