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Unemployment Rate for Black Women Falls to Single Digits

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – During another slow month of economic recovery, the unemployment rate for Black women 20 years and older fell to 9.9 percent in February, the lowest rate for that group in five years, according to the Labor Department.

Meanwhile, Black men and Black teenagers continue to lag behind other major worker groups.

In March 2009, the unemployment rate for Black men 20 years and over was 15.4 percent. According to the latest jobs report, the jobless rate for Black men is 12.9 percent, the same rate recorded in February 2013.

The unemployment rate for White men 20 years and older was 6.3 percent a year ago and now it is down to 5.5 percent. The unemployment rate for White women was 6 percent in February 2013 and has declined to 5.1 percent in February 2014.

The economy added 175,000 jobs in February and the jobs numbers for December and January were revised up for a net gain of 25,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate ticked up a little to 6.7 percent, most likely because some workers became more optimistic about finding a job and re-entered the labor force, said Bernard Anderson, an economist and professor emeritus at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“The February report is an accurate indication of where the economy is now,” said Valerie Wilson, who was recently named director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute. “We are in a recovery. Things are moving in the right direction, but they are moving very slowly and until we are able to increase demand to a point where employers start hiring again, we are going to continue to see these slow job reports.”

The number of long-term unemployed workers increased by 203,000 according to the Labor Department, accounting for 37 percent of the unemployed. Blacks account for 23 percent of the long-term unemployed in the United States.

“The longer people are out of work their skills erode more and they face discrimination in hiring,” said Wilson. “They have a difficult time getting into the labor force the longer they’ve been out. It’s a matter of labor underutilization. We have people that are willing ready and able to work, but are unable to find jobs.”

Wilson said that increasing the minimum wage and extending emergency unemployment compensation to millions of Americans would likely increase demand and stimulate the economy, two proposals that have come under fire on Capitol Hill.

In a statement on the Labor Department’s jobs report, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a member of the Joint Economic Committee, said that we must ensure that every American has the opportunity to participate in the job market and receive fair compensation for that work.

“It is past time for an up-or-down vote on raising the minimum wage, which would lift hundreds of thousands of Americans out of poverty and help us address the growing economic inequality in our nation,” said Cummings. “America succeeds when we can all earn a livable wage.”

Black Male Initiative Must Address Structural Racism

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – If President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative expands educational and work opportunities for young Black and Hispanic males, but fails to address the burdens of structural racism that threaten their lives, the program might not succeed, some community activists believe.

“Let’s say they do all the right things, let’s say they excel in the classroom, let’s say they are involved in community activities, but then they go out on the street and they are harassed by police, profiled and arrested,” said Walter Fields, executive editor of the NorthStar News a news website that caters to African American. “Or they go to college and they get a degree, then they go out on the labor market and they are discriminated against. How do we control that, after you have told these young men that they have to rise above it and be better, then they run into a system that is designed to cut them down?”

President Obama launched the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative in the East Room of the White House, joined by key players in business, philanthropy and public policy. Philanthropic foundations and private corporations have pledged $200 million dollars over the next five years in an effort to “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential,” the president said.

Obama said that he was inspired to create the initiative following the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, Black teen who was pursued, shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Fla. Martin’s shooting and Zimmerman’s ultimate acquittal of murder, sparked nationwide protests and an investigation by the Justice Department.

Since then, a similar case has been in the news.

Michael Dunn, a White computer programmer, shot to death Jordan Davis, another Black teenager in Florida in the parking lot of a Jacksonville, Fla., convenience store following an argument over what Dunn described as “thug music” playing in the teen’s SUV.

Like George Zimmerman before him, Dunn was found not guilty of a first-degree murder charge in the death of Davis. Unlike Zimmerman, Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted murder.

Jawanza Kunjufu, a prominent educated who has written extensively about Black males, said that he’s in total support of what the president is doing with his initiative, worries that financial support pledged so far will be enough to prevent more parents from mourning the loss of their young sons due to gun violence.

“I don’t know if money could have eliminated what happened to Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis,” said Kunjufu.

While some openly express doubts about the president’s new plan, many others applauded President Obama for raising the visibility of the startling racial disparities that exist in education, the labor market and the criminal justice system that cripple a generation that must shoulder the future economic prosperity of a country that has largely forgotten them.

By the time they reach fourth grade, 86 percent of Black boys are reading below grade level compared to 58 percent of White boys who read below proficiency levels. Even though the national graduation rate for Black males increased from 42 percent to 52 percent from 2001 -2010, according to a report on public education and Black males by the Schott Foundation, “It would take nearly 50 years for Black males to secure the same high school graduation rates as their White male peers.”

According to a 2011 report by the Children’s Defense Fund, “A Black child is only half as likely as a White child to be placed in a gifted and talented class. A Black child is more than one and a half times as likely as a White child to be placed in a class for students with emotional disturbances.”

An overwhelming majority of Black students enrolled in special education programs are males and at the other end of spectrum, White females are least likely to land in special education programs, said Kunjufu. Differences in learning styles between male and female students and an inability of teachers to relate to Black male students contribute to the stigmatization of the group targeted by the president’s new initiative.

According to a 2011 study by The National Center for Education Information (NCEI), a private, non-partisan research group in Washington, D.C. 84 percent of public school teachers are White and 7 percent are Black.

Black males account for 10 percent of Black teachers and less than 2 percent of all teachers, White females account for 85 percent of White teachers and more than 70 percent of all teachers.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), “when out-of-school suspension rates were examined by race, one in five black males and more than one in 10 black females were suspended in 2009-2010—higher than any other race.”

CRDC data also showed that Black students account for 18 percent of national student enrollment and 42 percent of students referred to law enforcement and 35 percent of arrests, compared to White students who account for more than half of all students, 25 percent of law enforcement referrals and 21 percent of arrests.

Kunjufu said that getting more Black male teachers into our nation’s classrooms has to be a part any strategy that seeks to provide better educational opportunities and outcomes for young Black males.

“It’s very important for students to see teachers that look like them,” said Kunjufu. “The question becomes, are school districts and superintendents willing to go the extra mile to recruit African American male teachers?”

Like others who have waited for a targeted program like this from the White House, Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, a group that works for social, political, economic and reform that impacts the Black community, said that the “My Brother’s Keeper” programs have to be multi-faceted.

“It’s not just about mentoring. Mentoring by itself won’t end these problems,” said Daniels. “There will be some who will be able to change their behavior and to escape and to be successful, but to look for [solutions] alone absent structural issues is to virtually take a Booker T. Washington approach: clean up, brush up, paint up have good values look decent and everything will be fine.”

Daniels added: “Well, everything won’t be fine. It’ll take more than that.”

The Black community shouldn’t expect the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to solve those structural issues alone.

Daniels said that Attorney General Eric Holder’s aggressive push to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, to reform mandatory sentencing guidelines, and to reduce the disparities in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine has to work in tandem with the “My Brother’s Keeper.”

Young Blacks continue to be over-represented in a criminal justice system that cost the United States economy $57 billion to $65 billion per year in lost output of goods and services related to depressed wages and underemployment of ex-offenders.

Even as the president urged business and civic leaders, members of the faith community and foundations to support this new initiative he often returned to a “no excuses” message directed squarely at the young Black and Hispanic males as he tip-toed lightly around the structural racism that will likely slow their at success and better lives. It’s a message that has generated eye rolling from Black thought leaders throughout his presidency.

“What the president is saying, in a very coded way is that, ‘Yeah, we know racism exists, but you have to rise above it,’” said Fields. “I don’t know how you rise above it. We’ve never risen above it. We’ve managed it, but we’ve never truly risen above it.”

Fields continued: “The difficulty in offering this critique is that there is so little done for this population that you hate to criticize anything that is done [them]. But when it comes from the most powerful elected official in the world, we have to hold him to a higher standard.”

GOP Quashes Congressional Black Caucus Attempt to Oust Issa

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

The Congressional Black Caucus, upset by the recent treatment of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) as the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee by its chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), sent a letter on Thursday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) calling for Issa be stripped of his chairmanship.

“The American people have the right to expect that their elected leaders be held to the highest possible standards of conduct,” CBC chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said in the letter. “Congressional committee leaders are held to an even higher standard due to their unique positions. The abuse of authority and misuse of the congressional privileges afforded them are an affront to the expectations of the American public.”

On Wednesday, former IRS employee Lois Lerner refused to testify during a committee hearing about the agency’s alleged targeting of tea party organizations, citing the Fifth Amendment. When Cummings was scheduled to speak on the matter, Issa ordered the Baltimore Democrat’s microphone closed and stopped the hearing.

Fudge noted that other members of the committee were also prevented by Issa from commenting and that he violated several House rules and common customs by doing so.

“Mr. Issa is a disgrace and should not be allowed to continue in a leadership role,” Fudge said. “As the speaker, you are responsible for maintaining decorum and appropriate conduct in the House of Representatives and ordering the Sergeant at Arms to enforce House rules. We urge you to take prompt action to maintain the integrity of this body and remove Mr. Issa as chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee immediately.”

House Republicans backed Issa, however, voting down the Fudge-led Democratic resolution to formally censure him regarding the matter. Boehner also tentatively supported Issa, saying the chairman had a right to cut Cummings’s mic.

Grim 'Future City' for Poor Neighborhoods in Detroit

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By T. Kelly
Special to the NNPA from The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Don’t wait for the street lights to come on because they will not — in certain neighborhoods. Nor will there be any kind of infrastructure investment in the neighborhoods written off by Detroit Future City planners.

Instead, there will be forests and storm water retention ponds, limited public transportation, and only those residents who brave it out.

So residents don’t have to worry about being relocated, they can move if they choose, but staying may not be a viable option.

Peter Hammer, a Wayne State University professor and director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University, presented his analysis of the Detroit Future City Plan to 300 residents at a Michigan Coalition for Human Rights forum at Marygrove College, Feb. 25. It was a grim picture for the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Race, regionalism and reconciliation are the three Rs that, Hammer said, guided him in his analysis of the plan.

Race in Detroit is historical, it is the context to explain what has happened not only in the city, but the region over the last six decades, Hammer said. The plan ignores race.

Regionalism puts the city in a regional perspective. However, examine the maps in the 347-page plan and Detroit is shown in isolation, with nothing but white space surrounding the city, he said. “You don’t know Dearborn, Southfield are out there… It portrays Detroit as an island in violation of regionalism. Only the watershed is not portrayed in isolation.”

Reconciliation is how the region could bridge the historic divides that have contributed to the city’s decline and the region’s fractures. Since the plan ignores the divide, it offers no reconciliation, Hammer said. However, divides will not only mark relationships between suburbs and Detroit, but within the city as well.

The plan’s maps depict the current viability of neighborhoods from high occupancy to low. Hammer said the population densities on current maps will determine which of five types of neighborhoods will dot the city 50 years from now. They range from traditional neighborhoods to “innovation ecological.”

Certain neighborhoods deemed viable now will be sustained, maintained and saved for traditional residential purposes: Palmer Woods, East English Village, Boston-Edison, Rosedale and Grandmont. These neighborhoods are colored yellow on the 50 years from now map.

The medium density, moderate vacancy areas will morph into “productive landscapes,” colored in green on the future maps. Areas colored in blue on the future maps will be the land converted from residential now and developed to manage water in the future.

Neighborhoods with high vacancies like Brightmoor, North Corktown, Petosky and Chandler Park will have been replaced with forests and are the areas marked on the maps as green and blue. There will be 550 feet — the length of two football fields — on either side of the freeways planted with trees, or accommodating storm water retention ponds, “further fracturing communities,” Hammer said.

“The logic of the report is of social triage,” Hammer said. “It is based on the idea that we are isolated and there will be no more revenue. They are going to spread money away from less viable to more viable neighborhoods.”

Although these are historic Detroit neighborhoods, nowhere in the DFC plan are any neighborhoods identified.

Hammer notes neighborhoods will be cleared out by attrition, through lack of investment. “It is not a rational assumption of value. The virtue of the blue-green plan is it’s cheap.”

Such thinking, he said, is a failure to think “regionally or out of the box. It is a failure to recognize the historical context of Detroit — race.”

That same failure appeared in Gov. Rick Snyder’s announcements of population loss in the city. “How can the governor not say anything about race” to explain the city’s condition?

A search of the DFC for the word race was unsuccessful; it doesn’t appear, Hammer said. “There is no meaningful look at where we were, how we got here.”

Hammer said the Ossian Sweet trial is an early example of what happened to Detroit. Sweet, a Black doctor moved into a white neighborhood in 1925 and was attacked in his home by a white mob. Those mobs evolved into neighborhood associations in the 1940s and 50s and when the mobs couldn’t control the racial makeup of their block they moved, they left the neighborhood and the city.

State law aided the segregation. “Michigan has inelastic boundaries,” Hammer said. Unlike other areas of the country, annexation is difficult if not impossible. “This permits re-segregation.”

Omitting race and regionalism from the plan leaves neighborhoods open to more isolation. “If you don’t know the nature of the causes, you can’t find the nature of the solution,” he said.

Not spending money in the neighborhoods currently under-populated means you can spend money in other places, Hammer said. Another map, shows in dark colors the areas to be upgraded and maintained. Those areas include downtown, Midtown, New Center.

All the areas on the DFC maps showing current neighborhoods that are colored peach will be “replaced, repurposed, decommissioned. It is a successional road that equals, back to nature,” Hammer said. “What drives this is us in isolation.”

A major element of the plan is storm water run-off. “You would think it is the biggest challenge facing Detroit,” Hammer said. Engineering of the run off is a dominant theme driving investment. Retention ponds are cheap, saving money. But they displace people and neighborhoods. If you flip in the plan to the residential section, you will find an eerie correlation between channeling water and channeling people. …You can control people out of where you don’t want them to be.”

Between the retention ponds to be built and the forests on each side of the freeways, “suburbanites will have a wonderful scenic view” driving into Detroit, he said. Again he referred to the history of those same highways. When they were built, which people got displaced from Black Bottom and which neighborhoods were severed?

“More isolation, more fracturing,” Hammer said. “Look at who’s winning and who is losing.”

One of the starkest parts of the DFC plan is the section on public transportation. There is a map of current D-DOT bus routes that cover the neighborhoods across the city. The map depicting public transit routes 50 years from now show only public transit will only follow the freeways, Gratiot, Grand River, Michigan Avenue, West Six Mile, Jefferson and Woodward. The same map reveals planners expect no more than zero to two people in great swaths of the city.

“If you need public transportation, you’ll have to have someone come get you,” Hammer said.

Mayor Mike Duggan and the DECG are pushing implementation of the plan. Duggan’s development chief Tom Lewand called the plan his Bible.

Former Mayor Dave Bing said there would be winners and losers when he unveiled the plan a year ago after two years of development. The plan sparked much controversy for chaotic public meetings and Bing’s threats to clear out sparsely populated neighborhoods.

Hired by Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, former Councilman Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. started Jan. 1 as executive director of the Future City Implementation Office which opened an office last month at 2920 W. Grand Blvd. Suite 2. Speaking at opening ceremonies was the CEO of the Kresge Foundation, Rip Rapson. Kresge is a large funding source for the plan’s development and implementation.

Cockrel said at the time that his office will begin work on getting the city’s master plan and zones codes changed to accommodate development of the DFC.

Caribbean Countries Named Among Money Laundering Nations

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

(CMC) — The United States has named several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as major money laundering states whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.

In its just released ‘2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report’, the US State Department listed Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, and Haiti as among major money laundering countries and jurisdictions around the world.

In addition to these CARICOM countries, the other Caribbean islands named are the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.

The report also notes that countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Russia, France, Canada, as well as the Dominican Republic, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands had been designated major money laundering countries.

The report which describes the steps taken during the previous year by the governments of nearly 90 countries, to reduce illicit narcotics production, trafficking, and use, as well as money laundering and financial crimes, said that the “complex nature of money laundering transactions today makes it difficult in many cases to distinguish the proceeds of narcotics trafficking from the proceeds of other serious crime.

“Moreover, financial institutions engaging in transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds of other serious crime are vulnerable to narcotics-related money laundering.”

Washington said that, “this year’s list of major money laundering countries recognises this relationship by including all countries and other jurisdictions, whose financial institutions engage in transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from all serious crime”.

The report also notes that Caribbean countries like the Bahamas, Belize, Haiti, and Jamaica had been classified as major drug-transit countries.

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