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Students of Color Now Match White School Enrollment

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As the nation’s families head back to school, they may notice that for the first time, elementary and middle school students of color will equal the percentage of White students, according to Department of Education projections.

White student enrollment has steadily declined, as have birth rates among White families. Hispanic-American students have, and will continue to have, the largest presence in public elementary and middle schools. Asian and multiracial student populations have also grown in that time, although much more modestly.

In recent years, Black public school enrollment has remained steady at around 17 or 18 percent of all students. It began to decline in 2006, falling to 15.3 percent of all K-8 public school students in 2011. That’s the most recent actual enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); but the Department of Education predicts Black enrollment continued to decline in 2012 and 2013, will plateau for the next few years, and will begin rising again in 2017.

This year’s “majority-minority” demographic shift is speculation for now – the Department of Education won’t have the actual enrollment figures for fall 2014 until at least 2016. Still, it is a matter of when – not if – schools will be the first sector of society to reflect changing American demographics.

But it doesn’t seem as though public education is in-step with the nation’s steady transformation.

“What’s concerning to me as a consultant is that we have an increasing student population of color and declining percentages of teachers of color,” says Jawanza Kunjufu, a Chicago-based education consultant and author. “Unfortunately, most school districts have one to three days of training for teachers, and most of that is not around multicultural training.”

Less than 7 percent of the nation’s public school teachers are Black. Taken together, teachers of color are only 18 percent.

Kunjufu says that some university education programs, particularly those in urban areas, are attempting to prepare incoming, mostly-White teachers for classroom diversity. But this alone may not be enough to create effective schools that reflect their students.

“We’re looking at 2014 when students are going to be 50 percent White and 50 percent nonwhite, but the curriculum is still Eurocentric. The learning styles are still more left-brained. We still have tracking – the AP, honors, Gifted and Talented, and IB classes are still predominantly White and Asian,” he explains.

Discrimination also remains a problem, despite increased diversity. In fact earlier this year, the Department of Justice stepped in to issue a set of school disciplinary policy guidelines in line with civil rights law. The guidelines were in response to widespread suspensions of Black students of all ages, and also in response to increased law enforcement in school settings.

Under-qualified teachers often end up in Black and brown schools, the same schools that are often underfunded. And there aren’t enough teachers to go around for English-language-learning (ELL) students. In 2012 there were 4.4 million public school students enrolled in ELL programs, or 9.2 percent of all kids. There are only 51,000 ESL/bilingual elementary school teachers—or, a national ratio of one bilingual teacher for every 86 ELL students.

The demographic changes that are now colliding to create this student body shift have been brewing for years.

According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos have been the largest non-White population since 2002, and have continued to increase by 36 percent since then. At the same time, Asians are on par with Latino in terms of growth rate. Between 2012 and 2013, 61 percent of the growth in Asian population was attributed to immigration. In recent years, the growth in Latino population has been from births, not immigration; there have been 9.6 million births from 2000 to 2010, and first-generation Latino-Americans are now becoming adults.

Additionally, public school closures in Black and brown communities are a factor. As student populations are merged across differing communities, the demographics at these schools are significantly altered. These closures have given rise to charter schools. Since the 2001-2002 school year, the number of charter schools has nearly tripled, according to NCES data.

It is worth noting, however, that public charters are only 5.7 percent of all public schools and 4.2 percent of all public school enrollment, as of 2012. On a related note, the student body at private schools remains largely White at nearly 72 percent in 2011 (although pre-K through eighth grade private school enrollment has been on a slow decline since 2002, for all races).

The Department of Education has a few efforts to recruit more teachers of color, particularly through public-private partnerships. It has also taken steps to create state-based teacher training program evaluations.

“We want to recruit that next generation of talent into education…. We also want to make sure that we’re not just bringing great talent, but bringing talent from a diversity of backgrounds,” says Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a February video address. “Increasingly our teachers and administrators don’t reflect the great diversity of our nation’s public schools. And we’re working very hard to bring more Black and Latino teachers – particularly men – into the profession.”

Kunjufu says that in his experience, efforts to incentivize and recruit teachers on the basis of race are often blocked by unions, though unions often support these tactics for teachers who specialize. In lieu of this aggressive recruiting, Kunjufu’s book, Black Students: Middle Class Teachers, advises schools to compensate for the cultural gap through professional development workshops on bonding, raising expectations, and using culturally relevant tools and methods.

“It’s frustrating for me because I’m primarily working with White, middle class, female teachers who did not grow up in communities of color, have not taken and multicultural courses, and are now teaching our children,” he says. “And it’s frustrating for them as well because they’re not being prepared. Yet, there seems to be resistance to making education more multicultural.”

Civil Rights Groups Push Ferguson Residents to the Polls

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNNPA) – In the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, Black teenager by a White police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and the social and political unrest that followed, civil rights leaders have urged citizens of the St. Louis County suburb to transform their community at the ballot box.

The revelation that Ferguson, a town that’s nearly 70 percent Black, was represented by a White Republican mayor and a city council that was more than 80 percent White, shocked outsiders and many believed the lack of political voices contributed to the largely non-violent protests that erupted in Ferguson. Darren Wilson, the six-year veteran police officer who shot and killed Brown on August 9, served on a Ferguson police department that is more than 90 percent White.

“What is troubling about Ferguson is the lack of voting representation of African Americans within that government and that has to change,” said Barbara Arnwine, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law.

Less than 12 percent of eligible voters in Ferguson cast ballots in 2013.

“Turnout is especially low among Ferguson’s African American residents, however. In 2013, for example, just 6 percent of eligible black voters cast a ballot in Ferguson’s municipal elections, as compared to 17 percent of white voters,” according to ThinkProgress.Org.

Even the voter turnout rates for the national midterm elections in 2010, which are usually lower than the turnout numbers for presidential elections, were nearly nine times higher than Black voter turnout in Ferguson, Mo., during the last election cycle.

According to the Associated Press, Blacks outvoted Whites in both 2008 and 2012.

“We are all wholeheartedly committed to making sure that political power, meaning voting, by people of color in the city of Ferguson becomes a vital energetic and strong reality and that the next election, including November 2014, will see a new day in African American voter turnout and participation,” said Arnwine.

After President Obama drew sharp criticism from political pundits on the right and the left for his response to the killing of Michael Brown, and the disconcerting images of St. Louis County police firing rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters,

Pamela Meanes, the president-elect of the National Bar Association, said that President Obama can’t win for losing.

“If he was too passionate, individuals would say, ‘he’s [interfering] with the investigation,’” explained Meanes. “If he’s too calm, people would say, ‘he’s not passionate enough.’”

Meanes added: “The real issue is whether or not his words touched the people of Ferguson. I think they did.”

Last week, more than a dozen civil and human rights groups released a statement and list of recommendations for community stakeholders, law enforcement officials and lawmakers in an effort to address the killing of Black men at the hands of police officers across the nation.

The group called for “an independent and comprehensive federal investigation by the Department of Justice of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager shot by police in Ferguson, Mo.”

The recommendations, crafted by the civil rights groups, included comprehensive reviews of excessive use of force reports and killings by police officers on unarmed minorities and the adoption of national standards on use of force for all law enforcement officers.

“The tragic killing of Michael Brown is not an isolated incident. This is emblematic of deficiencies disparities and discrimination in the American criminal justice system,” said Janai Nelson, the associate director-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “ It’s a system that has been marred by racial profiling, by over-policing by excessive force by law enforcement and the killing and the extreme frustration that we see surrounding not only Michael Brown’s death but the deaths of three other unarmed persons in little over a month.”

A New York City police officer killed Eric Garner, 43, with a chokehold during an attempted arrest in July. On August 5, John Crawford III, 21, was fatally shot by police as he walked around a Wal-Mart talking on his cellphone and carrying a toy gun in Beavercreek, Ohio. Two days after Michael Brown was killed, police shot and killed Ezell Ford, 25, a mentally disabled man in Los Angeles, Calif.

Nelson said, “We call on the Department of Justice not only to conduct a formal and independent investigation, but also to enact much needed structural reform of the United States criminal justice system and to address the pervasive and long-standing deficiencies in police practices and supervision and the widespread failure to deal with issues of racial bias in the criminal justice system, both implicit and explicit that result in the tragic deaths and mass incarceration of Americans of color.”

An Eyewitness Account of Violence in Ferguson, Mo.

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – At noon on Saturday, August 9, Michael Brown, 18, and his friend, Dorian Johnson, crossed paths with Ferguson, Mo. Police Officer, Darren Wilson. By 12:04 p.m., Wilson had fatally shot Brown six times. His body was left out for hours as other officers responded to the scene.

The next evening, his family and community gathered at the site of his death for a vigil in his honor. After a while, they decided to march down West Florissant Ave. to a QuikTrip gas station/convenience store.

After that, the details of what is happening in Ferguson become murky, depending on the source.

“We are on a whole other level now, people don’t even know. Don’t believe what you’re seeing on mainstream TV. We are in a state of emergency here in Ferguson, so the government basically has the right to make the rules up as they go,” says Danie Rae, a St. Louis resident. Rae has been demonstrating on and off in Ferguson since the initial vigil.

On that day, she arrived just before sunset. Rae remembers officers were already in place in full riot gear, trying to constrain the peaceful crowd of about 2,000, by her estimate.

“The police were threatening the crowd, they wouldn’t let us move,” Rae says. “The city limit of Ferguson is Ferguson Ave. [at the intersection of West Florissant Ave.], and maybe they were trying to keep us from going into [neighboring] Jennings, is the only logic I can come up with. But who says we can’t demonstrate in Jennings?”

After nightfall, someone broke into the QuikTrip. Police grew more aggressive, directing the crowd to disperse. At this point, Rae attempted to return to her car to go home.

“When I got to my car, where the police barricade was, there were about 50 or 60 police cars blocking you in,” she says. “So you couldn’t get out.”

According to her, the police then began a methodic advance, with officers firing gas at the front, and armored, gas-masked officers bringing up the rear. No one was allowed to move in the opposite direction of police, even if that was their way home. Anyone caught between the two police groups, would be stuck in the acrid cloud.
Rae was one of those people stuck.

“[Tear gas] burns instantly. It burns your face, your eyes, and your throat when you breathe in,” she says. “You can’t get away because the cops are threatening you. There’s no choice but to go into the tear gas.”

By the end of that first night, 32 people were arrested (some for looting), two officers were injured, the QuikTrip was a charred hull, several stores in the area had been broken into, and West Florissant Ave. was strewn with debris. Starting the next morning, Monday August 11, demonstrations and gatherings resumed, most notably in front of the police department headquarters. The first day of school was postponed for the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

The schools would remain closed for the rest of the week as protests continued. Throughout the week, West Florissant Ave. in general, and the QuikTrip in particular, remained the central meeting point for demonstrations. Several blocks north, the Ferguson McDonald’s served as a relief point.

On Sunday, August, 17, Yaya Bey, an artist and teacher who lives in Alexandria, Va., and Erika Totten, a stay-at-home-mom and activist and former teacher in Washington, D.C., arrived in Ferguson. They had come with a group of three others from the D.C. metro area to help organize and agitate with Ferguson/St. Louis community leaders and social justice groups.

“When we were there, it was like a family reunion at the QuikTrip,” Bey says. “There were activities for the children, people giving away food, people asking people to register to vote…it was a really peaceful protest.”

After dark, she and Totten walked through the crowds to McDonald’s so Totten could call her mother.

“As we were on our way to McDonald’s we passed a line of police with sticks, and I walked up to one and asked, ‘What are the sticks for?’ He said, ‘To beat people.’”

Still, Totten says things at the McDonald’s were calm at that point. But around 8:30, well before the mandated midnight curfew, police attempted to disperse crowds by using force.

“This is when they say some looters smashed the windows, but…they were tear-gassing block by block,” Totten recalls. “People were so caught off guard and didn’t have anywhere to go. Someone just wanted to get in because they were choking.”

At this, she and Bey prepared themselves to leave the McDonald’s and return to the foggy streets to help the injured, “spraying them down” with a milk- or Maalox-and-water mixture said to relieve the burning.

“There were a lot of young people out there, a lot of people from the hood out there, willing to be on the front lines. Not only that, but they’re there without information…didn’t know anything about how to diffuse tear gas,” Bey says. “We ran into two kids, they were 15…[one] said, ‘I didn’t even plan to be here, I was on my way home and got trapped out here.’”

At some point, police began firing into the crowd. No one knew the bullets were rubber. People ran from the gunfire, some hiding in residential yards, garages, and sheds. In the melee, Bey was assaulted.

“I was running from gun shots…running for my life at the time. [Totten] was a few feet in front of me. A White man came in between us, and it took me a while to realize he was running toward me,” she says. “By the time I realized it was too late. He hit me in the face and told me to sit the f— down.”

She clarifies that he wasn’t an officer. Totten adds that there was a group of people down there “not down for the cause,” taking advantage of the chaos to stir trouble.

The following day, Monday the 18th, Bey and Totten attended a peaceful protest at the state building in downtown St. Louis, convened by the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS). It was also the event where 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and activist, Hedy Epstein was arrested. Totten says Epstein chose to lend herself to the front lines of this demonstration, in case police made arrests – which they did.

According to Totten, the OBS attempted to deliver a list of demands, which included: criminal charges against Officer Darren Wilson; the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson; an end to police brutality; and a more diverse police force reflective of the Ferguson community.

Later in the week, police raided St. Mark’s Missionary Church, which had been offering trainings for demonstrators, as well as food, supplies, and shelter for displaced people.

The core group of people protesting were mostly young, mostly Black but with a significant number of White people present, and mostly people from the area. There are also journalists and a handful of elected officials who have inserted themselves into the fray.

“There’s three categories of people,” says Rae. “People who maybe came out because they’ve been affected…they’re angry at how Mike Brown was killed and are sick of the treatment, but they don’t really see the full picture, the structure of racism.

“Then you have the people who are apathetic. It’s easier for them to just go about their day. Not that they don’t care, but they say things like, ‘Oh, we [Black people] are wrong, look at Black-on-Black crime.’ Then you have people like myself who are trying to organize and mobilize. We are the minority. That middle group is the majority.”

Homeowners in the neighborhoods branching off West Florissant Ave. have also been helping from the sidelines. Rae escaped on the first night because a homeowner welcomed her and a few others inside, and then drove Rae back to her car a bit later. Totten and Bey’s group slept at a “safe house” in the area, and were able to hide in yards during police action.

“What I’ve seen is people sitting on their porches telling us to keep fighting. When we had to run, we were able to go into their garages,” says Totten. “I’m proud of the people of Ferguson.”

Currently, school has begun but street blockades, traffic reroutes, and ID checkpoints continue. Rae says that people are still organizing, protesting, and trying to decide next steps; visiting activists and journalists are still in the area. Bey and Totten say they have connected with Ferguson and St. Louis groups, and will return to the area when more foot soldiers are needed to relieve those who need a break.

Trotten says, “I felt like I just came out of a war zone. I feel like I was in a different country. I couldn’t believe this was in the United States.”

Jesse Jackson Will Expand Silicon Valley Initiative to Other Sectors

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. [NNPA] – After he completes his campaign for more diversity in Silicon Valley, Jesse Jackson plans to expand the pressure on technology companies in other regions of the country and then go after other sectors of private industry, including financial services, banking and advertising.

In an interview after speaking at the annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) here, the Atlanta-based civil rights organization co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that gave birth to Jackson’s Operation PUSH and Rainbow PUSH, the civil rights leader was already eyeing other targets.

“As I looked at everybody’s fight for who can make the smallest government, I thought about our being basically a government-created middle class – policemen, firemen, teachers. As you cut down on the civil service jobs, those jobs disappear. Where are the growth industries? Silicon Valley for starters, the automotive industry next, banking next – the whole private sector. You fish where the fish are.”

Jackson said getting high tech companies to disclose their employment data, EEO-1 forms that large companies must file with the federal government, was a major victory.
“We asked for their EEO-1 reports, but most of the big companies didn’t want to deal with that because they have 2 percent or 3 percent minority employment across the board,” Jackson told the NNPA News Service.

When Jackson first announced his Silicon Valley initiative at his Wall Street Project in New York, it was not known if he would follow through, as he has done in other campaigns in the past, or move on to other issues, which he has also done with equal frequency.

He lamented on the lack of Black board representation at Google or Facebook and said he would challenge the absence of people of color.

“One of the myths is that it’s [technology] is so sophisticated that we can’t do it,” Jackson said. “First of all, 70 percent of all of the jobs in Silicon Valley do not require high tech skills – lawyers, ad agencies, marketing, social services or engineering, though we can do that, too.”

He added, “When you look at Facebook’s board, the only engineer on its board is Mark Zuckerberg, its founder. Don Graham [former publisher of the Washington Post] is not an engineer. [Former White House chief of staff] Erskine Bowles is not an engineer yet he sits on the board. It’s just a tight, White circle.”

In March, Jackson sent a letter to 20 companies, including Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Hewlett Packard, Google, and eBay saying, “Technology is supposed to be about inclusion, but sadly, patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day. When it comes to African Americans on Boards – ZERO. C-suites, ZERO. Minority firms in IPOs and financial transactions, advertising and professional services – ZERO. These ZEROES are contrary to the enlightened values exposed by the industry. Rainbow PUSH is seeking meetings with tech leaders to address these ZEROES head on.”

When Jackson met with companies, most initially resisted disclosing their employment data.

“Those companies all filed a lawsuit in court and won – they won the right not to expose their EEO records,” he said. “Their rationale was that if they tell their numbers, they would be giving up propriety information.”

Before going on attack, Jackson did what he always does when he targets a company – he purchased stock so that he could take his case to shareholders at their annual meeting. Then, one by one, the companies began disclosing employment data.

• eBay (61 percent White; 24 percent Asian; 5 percent Latino; 2 percent Black)
• Google (61 percent White; 30 percent Asian; 3 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Black)
• Facebook (57 percent White; 34 percent Asian; 4 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Black)

Twitter resisted until Jackson used Twitter and ColorofChange.org to launch an on-line petition drive demanding that Twitter reveal its employment data. Ironically, Blacks over index on Twitter (26 percent), according to a Pew Research Center study, followed by Hispanics (19 percent) and Whites (14 percent).

Twitter finally disclosed its data on July 23, showing: 59 percent of its staff in the U.S. is made up of Whites; 29 percent Asian; 3 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Black.

On the day Jackson addressed SCLC, Apple released its employment data showing 54 percent of its jobs were held by Whites, 23 percent by Asian, 11 percent Hispanic and 7 percent Black. Its employment of people of color appears to be highest among high tech companies.

“We have not demanded two-way trade and our government has not volunteered to initiate it,” Jackson said. “By now, the EEOC should be holding hearings. It’s so public that they are violating equal employment standards.”

He continued, “We feel diminished by corporate power. If we could fight the government, surely we can fight a corporation. This is just the first step with Silicon Valley. The next steps are for ad agencies, marketing, NNPA, Black lawyers – the whole range of things we do.”

Thousands March on Staten Island for Eric Garner

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By Herb Boyd
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Overwhelmed is a word that was repeatedly uttered by the family members of Eric Garner during the rally on Staten Island on Saturday. “I don’t know what to say,” said Esaw Garner, the widow of the man thousands had marched for, chanting his name and calling for justice. “This is so overwhelming; I don’t know what to say.”

She didn’t have to say anything, the marchers said it all. “I can’t breathe!” echoed from the crowd as it marched from Mt. Sinai Christian Church to Bay Street where the rally was held.

“Hands Up,” a caller screamed. “Don’t shoot!” the audience answered, summoning the recent killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

“If we have to march from Staten Island to Ferguson for justice we will do it,” one speaker told the crowd that stretched more than a quarter of a mile along the waterfront.

“I would say there are about 8,000 out here,” was the estimate from one police officer.

But it wasn’t about the numbers, said Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, one of the chief organizers of the march. “It’s about the struggle for justice,” he said. “We are not having a fit, this is a movement…and we are here marching for the family.”

“This is not about black or white and we are here not against the police, but against wrong,” said Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of Amadou Diallo who was killed by the police in the Bronx in 1999, all of whom were acquitted. “We want this to stop.”

Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said “He was a good son. Never talked back to me and at the moment my heart is so full…I am so overwhelmed.”

Garner, who was affectionately known as the gentle giant, was killed on July 17, when an officer grabbed him from behind in a chokehold, wrestled him to the pavement, while other officers helped him press Garner’s body so hard that he couldn’t breathe. One of the officers, Daniel Pantaleo, who applied the illegal chokehold, was stripped of his badge and gun and assigned to desk duty.

The marchers passed the Staten Island District Attorney’s office, intensifying their demands for justice and the latest news is that a grand jury is in the process of being impaneled but it may take quite a while before they’ve heard all the evidence.

Bishop Victor Brown of Mt. Sinai Church agreed that they were trouble makers and “we will not go away until we have a sweeping reform of the police across the nation.”

Hazel Dukes of the NAACP, activist Lenora Fulani, Rep. Jose Serrano, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, former Governor David Paterson, and George Gresham of 1199SEIU were among the speakers at the peaceful rally.

“We are here by the thousands,” Sharpton declared, “and we are not here to cause violence; because violence has been caused by a chokehold. We are here to help the police get rid of the bad apples so they won’t affect the others.”

It was a very diverse gathering with marchers from all walks of life. Among some of the elected officials and dignitaries making the long trek were Ydanis Rodriguez, Melissa Mark Viverito, Jumaane Williams, Elinor Tatum, Cornelius Ricks, Michael Gartner, Fred Monderson, Shirley Smith, Michael Mulgrew, Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, and countless others.

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