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President Meets with Black Civil Rights, Political and Religious Leaders

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By Shantella Y. Sherman
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

President Obama met with African-American civil rights and faith leaders to provide an update on the administration’s priorities as described in the State of the Union. The meeting was also an opportunity to have a dialogue with the leaders about the issues facing their communities, including criminal justice, education, health care and economic development.

Participants included Sherrilyn Ifill, of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Marc Morial, of the National Urban League; the Rev. Al Sharpton, of the National Action Network; and, Maryland Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore, Majority Leader, Maryland State Senate, District 40.

In addition to highlighting the upcoming release of a special report from the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, President Obama acknowledged the Feb. 28 anniversary of his My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and continuing efforts to reduce restrictions to voting.

Pugh, who is also the President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, said, “Our agendas – the president’s and mine – are right in line with each other. I was elected by a very diverse population in Baltimore; one thing we want to do is be more inclusive [with] opportunities available to help to improve the lives of all of those for whom we are responsible,”.

Citing her own diligent work to push forward the “Healthy Working Families Act” legislation that allows family members necessary time off with earned paid sick leave, Pugh said it compliments Obama’s push for better, more accessible health care. Achievements can be found in the fact that 31 percent more Americans now have health care through Obamacare, as well as the increased number of programs designed to help improve African-American neighborhoods.

Pugh said that it was important to use the president’s readout as a gauge for African-American social advancement since the Civil Rights Movement. Pugh described Obama as the “most disrespected president ever,” and encouraged the nation to view the film Selma to gain a larger understanding of his efforts to solidify economic and social equity.

“Everyone needs to go see the film Selma because often we forget the struggle Blacks faced in this country. We were enslaved here. The Declaration of Independence talked about freedom and justice for all – but these were laws that did not apply to us,” Pugh said. “It is important not to make the same mistakes made in the past.”

America’s Record of Black Lynchings Worse Than Previously Thought

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By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Almost 4,000 Blacks—about 700 more than previously reported—were lynched in 12 Southern states during the period between Reconstruction and World War II, according to a new report by the Equal Justice Initiative.

“Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” is the result of five years of research and 160 visits to sites across the South. The report makes the argument that these killings were a form of racial terrorism aimed at subjugating the Black community and maintaining Jim Crow segregation.

“We’re focusing on lynchings of African-Americans because when Whites were lynched it was really more about punishment — it wasn’t sent to terrorize the White community, it was intended to actually make the White community feel safe,” said Bryan Stevenson, director of the Alabama-based nonprofit in an interview with National Public Radio. “The lynching of African-Americans, on the other hand, was really a direct message to the entire African-American community — it was designed to traumatize and terrorize.”

To put in a modern-day context, the number of Blacks who were beaten, burned and ultimately hung while picnicking Whites cheered, is more than twice the number of Americans who died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11, more than twice those who died in the anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan and comparable to the number who died in Iraq.

And these acts of terror against Blacks were often state-sanctioned killings, Stevenson added.

“In most of the places where these lynchings took place — in fact in all of them — there was a functioning criminal justice system that was deemed too good for African-Americans,” he said. “Often these men were pulled from jails and pulled out of courthouses, where they could be lynched literally on the courthouse lawn.”

The inequalities reinforced by lynching has left its mark on the Black community and on public policy as seen in policies of mass incarceration, racially biased capital punishment, excessive or disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, and police abuse of people of color, the report concluded.

“We cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted during the era of racial terrorism until we tell the truth about it,” Stevenson said in a separate statement. “The geographic, political, economic, and social consequences of decades of terror lynchings can still be seen in many communities today and the damage created by lynching needs to be confronted and discussed. Only then can we meaningfully address the contemporary problems that are lynching’s legacy.”

Civil Rights Lawyer Barbara Arnwine Launches Talk Radio Show

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Outspoken civil rights leader Barbara Arnwine is taking to the airwaves with a weekly news talk radio show on Radio One’s WOL 1450 AM, which airs in the Washington, D.C. area, beginning March 3.

“Igniting Change with Barbara Arnwine” is meant to serve as a catalyst for change. The show will feature“provocative and empowering” information and discussion to inspire people to act to bring about racial and social justice, and equality.

“I am honored for the opportunity to expand my civil rights outreach in such a significant manner as I continue to touch lives across the country and around the globe,” said Arnwine in a statement. “Activism at every level is indeed critical in advancing race relations and I endeavor to engage, challenge and equip listeners as activists as I feature guests, information and resources to foster justice and equality for all, particularly people of African descent. My show is designed to answer those questions lots of people have after hearing about a major issue, [such as] ‘What Can Be Done About This?’ [and] ‘What Can I Do?’”

Arnwine has served as the president and executive director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law since 1989. She is renowned for her instrumental contributions to passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the 2006 reauthorization of provisions of the Voting Rights Act. And, she continues to be a leading voice on civil and racial justice issues worldwide, in the areas of voting rights, housing and lending, criminal justice reform, employment, education, environmental justice and much more.

“WOL welcomes Barbara Arnwine to the Radio One family,” said Karen Jackson, general sales manager for Radio One’s D.C. stations, in a statement. We look forward to her enthusiasm and expertise in encouraging our listeners to actively participate in effecting change.”

The show will broadcast live on Tuesdays, 12-1 p.m. EST, on WOL 1450 AM and is accessible by listeners worldwide via the Internet (BarbaraArnwine.com and woldcnews.com) and the free Tune In app.

Critics Say GOP Education Reform Would Hurt Poor and Black Students

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By Freddie Allen
Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As the Republican-led Congress prepares to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), civil rights groups, educators and student advocates fear that current proposals leave many poor and Black children behind.

According to analysis by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington, D.C. –based progressive think tank, the bill submitted by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), eliminates accountability for low-performing schools, lowers academic standards, and abolishes targeted, state-level graduation goals for students of color.

A White House brief on the ESEA reauthorization bills said that the proposal being considered in the House of Representatives will cap spending on the ESEA for the next six years at $800 million lower than it was in 2012, eliminates “guarantees that education funding reaches classroom,” and “some especially high-poverty school districts would see cuts as large as 74 percent.”

In her weekly column, Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, said no ESEA bill would be better than the one now making its way through Congress.

She wrote, “H.R. 5 also removes strong accountability provisions required to make sure the children who need help most will actually be helped. It is morally indefensible and extraordinarily expensive that we have 14.7 million poor children in our country – 6.5 million of them living at less than half the poverty level. All of these poor children exceed the combined residents in all 50 state capitals and the District of Columbia.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a network of more than 200 national research and advocacy groups, said that the ESEA reauthorization proposals currently pending in Congress would strip millions of students and their parents of the protections and resources that have helped them to hold their schools accountable for equitable funding and treatment.

“For the students we represent, students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students, a strong ESEA is vital to ensuring that states and school districts are living up to their obligation to provide a quality education for all on an equal basis not just for the most privileged or wealthy,” said Henderson.

On a recent call with reporters, Henderson said that the coalition of 34 national civil rights and education groups supported annual statewide assessments to evaluate student progress, transparency of the test results and additional data that empowers parents to advocate on behalf of their children.

Chanelle Hardy, the executive director and senior vice president for policy at the National Urban League, said that the legacy of the Black community’s commitment to education stems from the days of slavery when Blacks learned to read in secret and at risk to their own lives.

“This is not a conversation about how we need to convince our community to care about achievement,” said Hardy. “This is about our nation’s commitment to a system of education that prepares every child for college work and life. This is a fundamental civil rights principle and a fundamental principle of justice.”

William Hayes, the principal at Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy in the Glenville community of Cleveland, Ohio, also expressed concerns about the Republican proposals for reforming the ESEA, which was last updated more than a decade ago through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) under President George W. Bush.

“This vote is about equity and accountability, yet everyday my students face the brutal reality that they live in a society that has not achieved its promise for a more equitable distribution of outcomes and opportunities,” said Hayes.

Hayes said that 98 percent of the students at his school are African American, 100 percent qualify for free lunch and 28 percent receive special education services.

One of Cleveland’s wealthiest subdivisions borders Glenville to the north and the city’s cultural center with museums, botanical gardens and the Cleveland Institute of Music to the south, Hayes said. The Cleveland Clinic, perennially ranked by as one of the best hospitals in the nation, is just a 15-minute walk to the east of Glenville.

“Surrounded by so much prosperity and bright images of the American Dream, my students could easily be forgotten, were it not for our federal government ensuring that communities remain accountable,” added Hayes.

Hardy said that civil rights groups were extremely concerned about resource equity and ensuring that low-income students at majority-minority schools have access to early childhood education and high quality teachers.

Researchers at CAP found that school districts spent $733 less at schools that were 90 percent minority compared to schools that were 90 percent White. That money could be spent on veteran teachers, school counselors and laptop computers.

“It’s no secret that more than 50 years after Brown our communities and schools are still very much segregated however the concentration of poverty has become more exacerbated as affluent families of color have left our communities to go elsewhere,” said Hayes.

Nancy Zirkin, the executive vice president of the Leadership Conference, said that no one can deny that NCLB has room for improvement, “but the proposals in front of Congress now throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Zirkin explained, “These proposals bend over backwards to accommodate state and local entities that have both failed our children and avoided any real accountability for their failures.”

NCLB was characterized by high stakes testing that led some school districts to trim physical education and arts programs to make room for more rigorous reading and math course work. Educators railed against “teaching to the test” and questioned the need for multiple assessments throughout the school year.

Hayes said that he wasn’t naïve to the unintended consequences of the “accountability movement” that came with NCLB, including the narrowing of the academic curriculum and the over-testing of students linked to controversial teacher evaluations, but he still didn’t believe the shortcomings of the law warranted a complete hands-off approach from the federal government.

Hayes said he was frustrated at the thought of a federal government willing to step away without stepping back to the table to help to fix NCLB.

Hayes added: “As a school leader I can’t imagine a time where my administrative team could ever see a problem with our students and say to teachers, ‘It didn’t work so I’m just going to let you figure it out by yourselves.’”

But in the eyes of some educators and civil rights leaders that’s exactly what the Republican proposals do.

“We can’t go back to a time when these schools were ignored,” said Zirkin.

Hardy agreed.

“We can’t assume that we have good information on student achievement based on socio-demographic factors,” said Hardy. “We have to do our part with our federal tax dollars to concentrate those resources where they need to be.”

Black Women Endure Menopause Longest

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By Elaina Johnson
Special to the NNPA from Howard University News Service

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Sarah Finney, 57, said she gets hot flashes throughout her body at least once an hour. She even wakes up in the night with so much perspiration that she looks like she just left working out at a gym, she said.

“Hot flashes are very annoying,” said Finney, a married mother of two who declined to use her real name. “A surge of heat goes through my body, sometimes accompanied by nausea. As the energy builds, I begin to sweat from my hair, neck, chest and underarms.”

Finney, a vegetarian, said she hoped eating healthy and her intense daily routines as a marathon runner would alleviate the symptoms, but no luck.

Finney, who lives in Alexandria, Va., is experiencing the results of menopause, a natural decline in reproductive hormones that affects millions of woman annually when they reach their 40s or 50s.

For women going through menopause, just one day of hot flashes can be too much. Imagine 14 years. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a medical journal of the American Medical Association, found that women could experience hot flashes for up to 14 years, and that African-American women like Finney typically experience the symptoms longer.

Finney has been going through it for 10 years.

The 17-year study of 1,449 women across the U.S. found that while on average, the women endured the symptoms for about seven and a half years, Black and Hispanic women experience hot flashes for significantly longer than White or Asian women. The median was 10 years for African Americans, nearly nine years for Hispanics, six and a half years for White women, about five and a half years for Chinese and nearly five years for Japanese.

“This is the only study that has looked at a very diverse population, ”said Dr. Ranit Mishori, associate professor of Family Medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

“No one knows for sure why African-American women are at risk for a longer duration of hot flashes. There could be a relationship between hormone levels, genetic differences, body mass index, the number of children you have or the age you began having children.”

Though the study’s results may not give the quick relief women hoped for, but it allows doctors and medical professional to give patients realistic expectations and find ways to help alleviate the hot flashes.

“This is not a fun thing for the doctor or the patient to realize,” Mishori said. “However, there are ways to manage the symptoms including hormone replacement therapy.”

Hormone replacement therapy is medication containing female hormones to replace the ones the woman’s body no longer makes after menopause.

This method can be a good choice for certain women, depending on their health risk, Mishori said. Women who consume estrogen pills are alleviated from hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, she said.

The down side is that hormone therapy has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease for some women.

Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, may help some women, health officials said, and there are also non-hormonal medication and supplements that can help. These things may not shorten the duration of hot flashes, but it may lessen the affect and intensity of them.

If the symptoms are unbearable, health officials suggest you consult with your doctor.

Finney said she is resigned to the day-to-day struggle with the condition.

“Menopause is just something we have to deal with as women,” she said. “We all must continue to move forward. This is a part of life.”

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BVN National News Wire