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Churches Change Strategy for Membership Drive

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By William J. Ford
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

They attended a service in the morning, then, instead of heading home on a recent Sunday afternoon, several dozen members of Turner Memorial AME Church in Hyattsville, Maryland, headed to the basement for a little secular fun.

A jazz duo served up tunes and church cooks portioned out shrimp and grits and jambalaya main dishes and bread pudding for dessert. Members and guests from 18 to 88 shared fellowship and fun at the church’s “Jazzy Sunday” event on Sunday, Nov. 2. Jazzy Sunday was designed to give members an opportunity to fellowship outside the sanctuary, but also to offer a way to draw in new members.

Jazz keyboardist Janelle Gill and drummer Mark Prince provided the entertainment at Turner Memorial AME’s Jazzy Sunday event last November in Hyattsville, Maryland.

“The church is where people should go to find out how to solve life’s challenging issues, such as suicide [and] marriage. The key is you have to package the message in a way [that] is relevant to a person’s life today,” said Bishop Phillip O. Thomas, 56, pastor of Highview Christian Fellowship in Fairfax, Virginia. “You must be creative enough to attract people. Most importantly, however, you must know the Lord.”

Churches around the Washington region are using nontraditional activities to give members — and guests they hope to attract — new ways to spend time in church. The Sunday afternoon church dinners of yesteryear have given way to jazz concerts, game nights, Valentine’s Day dances, yoga sessions and book club events.

Church leaders said after the sermons have been delivered, the hymns sung, the offerings collected and the benedictions said, the recreational events offer wholesome activities and positive interactions in a place where godliness is still the order of the day.

“One of the more celebratory events [in the Bible] is when Jesus went to a wedding. We kind of do those events to help people to live and enjoy life,” said the Rev. James L. Graham, 62, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church in Herndon, Virginia. His church, which has about 2,500 members, hosted a “Jazz & Jeans Night Out” on Saturday, Nov. 15 at the Blue Mountain Café in Leesburg, Virginia.

“These [events] are just done to increase the fellowship among the believers and encourage people to enjoy themselves,” he said. “It is not an aggressive attempt to get new members.”

At Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland, a “Biggest Loser” boot camp, mirrored after the popular NBC television show where contestants exercise, eat nutritious meals and receive coaching to compete for the title and a grand prize, has been popular with members.

But the 10-12 week sessions at Mount Calvary aren’t competitive, according to Natasha Hammond, 43, of Clarksburg, Maryland, who has lost 20 pounds since she started in the program.

“I haven’t [participated] as much as I want because of my job, but I will definitely become more involved,” said Hammond, a certified nurse who tracks the blood pressure and weight of participants.

Besides being a fun way for members to interact, the program encourages healthier living, which is encouraged in the Bible.

Mount Calvary member Alice Barnett, of Silver Spring, Maryland, said members don’t need expensive equipment to exercise. They work out with personal trainer Marsi Fulmer. Recently, Barnett, 66, did push-ups on the church steps.

Elected Black Republicans Not Expected to be a Plus for the Community

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Black Republicans made history during the midterm elections in November by winning in Texas, South Carolina and Texas, but political analysts wonder if the victories will have any long-term impact on the future of the GOP in the Black community.

Traditionally, Black candidates running for elected offices not only need a large Black turnout, but also a majority of the Black vote to win statewide and national races.

Senator Tim Scott made history by becoming the first Black Republican elected to serve in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. He won with just 10 percent of the Black vote and 82 percent of the White vote, according to exit polls.

Representative-elect Will Hurd beat his Democratic challenger Pete Gallego in Texas by a narrow 2.1 percent margin in a predominately Hispanic congressional district (House District 23) to become the first Black Republican from Texas elected to the United States Congress since Reconstruction.

When the next congressional term begins, Mia Love, a Black Mormon and daughter of Haitian immigrants, will represent Utah’s 4th House district in a state where Blacks account for just 1.3 percent of the total population.

Lorenzo Morris, a political science professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., said that the Black community shouldn’t expect much from the Black Republicans during the next legislative session, because they won largely without Black voters. In addition, he said, their rank as freshmen lawmakers will limit their influence within the party.

“Their collective impact, if they are really outspoken, will just be on the plus side of zero, barely zero,” said Morris. “The obvious impact for Republicans is positive only to the extent that it shows visually, if not substantively, an outreach to minorities.”

Scott earned an “F” on the NAACP’s legislative report card during the first session of the 113th Congress from January 2013 – December 26, 2013.

ThinkProgress.org reported that Scott proposed a bill in 2011 to block families from receiving food stamp benefits if one of the adults in the home joined a strike, and as a state legislature Scott supported cuts to South Carolina’s HIV/AIDS budget.

In a 2012 speech, Love accused President Barack Obama of “pitting us against each other based on our income level, gender, and social status” and said that, “His policies have failed.” Love has also pledged to take the Congressional Black Caucus “apart from the inside out.”

If they continue to express views counter to those held by the Black electorate that overwhelmingly supported President Obama with more than 90 percent of their votes in back-to-back elections, Morris said, that their presence could actually hurt that visual image of minority outreach, because it will further distance the GOP from the politics that are overwhelmingly characteristic of Black voters.

Raynard Jackson, a Republican strategist and the president and CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, called Love, “the embodiment of the American Dream” and said that her journey as a first generation Haitian immigrant to become the first Black Republican female ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives is amazing.

“It doesn’t matter what her politics are or what her party affiliation is, if Love’s story doesn’t inspire you, then there is something wrong with you as an American citizen,” said Jackson.

Former congressman Allen West (R-Fla.) said that the Republican Party has to remind Black voters that the conservative principles and values of the GOP are quite consistent with the history of the Black community.

“When you go back and read Booker T. Washington’s writings at the turn of the century, his remedy for the Black community under the stress and strain of segregation and Jim Crow laws were three points: education, entrepreneurship and self-reliance,” said West. “When you look at each one of those individuals Senator Tim Scott, Representatives-elect Mia Love and Will Hurd, that’s what they represent, and those are the three things we must have conversations about in the Black community.”

West compared the overwhelming loyalty that Black voters have for the Democratic Party to an investor that puts all of his eggs in one basket. Just like an investor shouldn’t put all of his money in one fund or one venture, West said, Black voters should also diversify their political capital.

“The people in these majority-minority districts are going to have to look up and say, ‘Why are we still in this situation? Why do we continue to elect the same person and nothing is getting any better?’” said West.

Morris said that if a Black Republican wanted to sway Black voters in any significant way, the candidate would have to talk about social policies and programs in ways that are open and address issues such as income inequality similar to the way a moderate Democrat would. In short: the candidate would have to be a liberal Republican.

“It would take a miracle for a Black Republican to win a majority Black district,” said Morris.

Still Raynard Jackson said that the additions of Scott, Hurd and Love will help the party, if they are properly utilized.

Jackson used a basketball analogy to describe how the Republican Party can continue to win with candidates like Tim Scott, Mia Love and Will Hurd.

“You have to understand the strengths and the weaknesses of each player and you have to know when to put them in the game and when to sit them down,” said Jackson. “You have to understand when to bring a Tim Scott, a Mia Love, a Will Hurd in to speak. You can’t send them everywhere. You have to understand what their message is to best utilize them. That’s what has to be done.”

Jackson added: “Just because they’re Black, doesn’t mean you throw them out there to a Black audience.”

China-HBCU Exchange Program Launched

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In an effort to develop the next generation of global leaders, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, joined, Perfect World, the China Education  Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) and domestic groups focused on building ties between the United States and China to embark on a new student exchange program.

The Zhi-Xing China – Perfect World U.S.-China Young Leaders Fellowship program will offer students and mid-career professionals the opportunity to travel across China, strengthening business and personal networks, and sharing inspirational cross-cultural experiences with their Chinese peers.

Perfect World, an online gaming company, will assist in funding the fellowship initiative, which is open to all educational disciplines and industries, through 2025.

Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a group that advocates for nearly 300,000 students through a network that includes publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), said that after meeting with world leaders in the public and private sector, he found Perfect World to be the perfect partner, because not only were they interested in entry-level opportunities for HBCU students, but they were also looking for mid-tier professionals, as well.

Taylor said that the exchange isn’t just about number-crunchers and programmers, but it also about graphic designers and artists.

Taylor noted that people limit science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions very much, but in reality everyone interacts with STEM every day.

“Everything that we do is about STEM,” said Taylor.

Robert Xiao, the CEO of Perfect World, said through conversations with Taylor, he discovered that they shared a similar vision and a grand goal of changing people in the United States and in China.

“We know a lot of young professionals need to not only grasp the technology part and the art part, but also the culture part,” said Xiao. “You gotta go abroad, you gotta be able talk to different people, you have to understand other nations and other cultures deeper.”

Xiao added that not only will Perfect World benefit from these types of exchanges, but the industry will benefit as well.

The Perfect World CEO said that he wants to expose Black college students to the “the beautiful business from China” while giving Chinese students a modern piece of America and a deeper understanding of the community.

Xiao continued: “That’s what we call an “’exchange.’”

According to the International Monetary Fund, China recently surpassed the United States as the world’s largest economy. Taylor said that it would be senseless not to have relationships with the Chinese, especially with what he called a ‘Chinese American company.’ Perfect World is publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

During a ceremony on Capitol Hill to announce the fellowship program, Hao Ping, the vice minister of education in the Ministry of Education in China, noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping explained that in 1978, during early student exchange efforts, 52 Chinese students were sent to study in the U.S. and eight American students traveled to China. Hao called the exchange “a landmark event in the establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic relations.”

By 2013, more than 400,000 Chinese students were studying in the U.S. and thanks to the 100,000 Strong Initiative, a group that promotes Mandarin language learning and study abroad, Hao said that more that 100,000 American students have the chance to study in China.

The announcement about the Zhi-Xing China – Perfect World U.S.-China Young Leaders Fellowship program follows the launch of a collaboration between HBCUs and the CEAIE, that will provide 1,000 scholarship awards to HBCU students.

David Wilson, the president of Morgan State University in Baltimore, led a delegation of HBCU officials on the trip to Beijing where the memorandum of understanding was signed between the schools and the Chinese government last July.

The Beijing delegation included school administrators from the following HBCUs: Tougaloo College, Hampton University,  Bowie State University, Spelman College, Howard University, Morehouse College, Xavier University, and Morgan State University.

Even though the eligibility requirements and selection process for the Zhi-Xing China—Perfect World U.S.-China Young Leaders Fellowships still needs to be finalized, officials with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund said that students will begin traveling to China for the exchange program in July 2015.

Taylor said that the world is huge and that the most important thing that HBCU students need to know about the program is that opportunities exist not only in the U.S., but also around the world.

“Our students can’t be limited by the job market in the U.S.,” added Taylor. “They have to think globally. Our community has to get on board.”

Obama’s Cuban Revolution: What it Means for Afro-Cubans

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By Karen Juanita Carrillo
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

President Obama’s surprise announcement that the United States will normalize relations with the government of Cuba leaves many questions open about how race relations will fare on the island.

The 51-year U.S. embargo against the Caribbean island was meant to punish Cuba’s government for becoming socialist. But there has long been a belief that the radical government, led first by Fidel Castro and now by Raul Castro—with its emphasis on granting all citizens the right to good health, education, social security and employment— at the very least vastly improved the quality of life for Afro-Cubans.

Socialism did not end social inequality in Cuba, but Blacks advanced markedly in Cuban society from where they had been in 1959. Under the socialist structure, many Afro-Cuban families found themselves with access to education and employment opportunities that had been denied to them in the past. This change took place, in many instances, because after the Revolution, white Cubans fled the island in large numbers. Afro-Cubans were able to take advantage of their absence and had their own “affirmative action” advancements, with access to better jobs than in the past.

Even with the rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba, Raul Castro has made a point of telling the Cuban National Assembly that there are no plans to end the current governing structure on the island. “In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours,” he said.

Still, vast transformations are headed the island’s way, and many people want to ensure that Afro-Cubans share in any growth opportunities.

Afro-Cuban author Pedro Perez- Sarduy is hopeful about the coming changes. He believes they will help his community. “Cuba was a socially stratified society before 1959, which is what I tried to show in my novel, ‘The Maids of Havana’,” he said. “The revolutionary process neutralized that, but the inherited racist prejudices of our recent pseudo-republican past (from 1902 to 1958) were not eradicated completely.”

Perez-Sarduy is co-editor of “AfroCuba: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture” (2002). He notes, “We are very far from having a perfect society and aspire to get to that point. But racism is a disease that is very difficult to eradicate, because it is in the mind and in people’s attitudes… Each country has its own mechanisms for dealing with the scourge of racism, which was a result of the Middle Passage. In the case of Cuba, perhaps we will have to be more consistent in the fight to overcome the disadvantages the Black population faces in Cuba, and we must come up with more original ways of ensuring that balance. We were too complacent in those early years of the Revolution, when many leaders thought that with a few practical measures, racist prejudices would disappear. We were wrong. But since 1959, we have conquered many of the civil rights battles that the Black population in the U.S. has spilled and continues shedding much blood over. Our achievements include the free and universal right to education, health and sport; everyone gets an allowance so that they can attend cultural events; and we don’t need life insurance [because health care is guaranteed].

“We benefit from all of these achievements, these are our civil rights that have been and will be jealously defended. Now with the start of the International Decade for People of African Descent, I believe that for the

Black population in Cuba, the Cuban Revolution, with all its flaws, is our redemption and our ‘service’ (reparation). We will continue to try to perfect it because we don’t have another option, and we are determined to not give up, because our ancestors were killed and massacred so that we could have a future of dignity.”

Families Still Wait for Justice in Unsolved Civil Rights Murders

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By Avis Thomas-Lester
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Juanita Evangeline Moore hates Christmas.

It was on Christmas night, in 1951, when her civil rights activist father, Harry T. Moore, and mother, Harriette V. Moore, were mortally wounded when a bomb placed by racists exploded under their Mims, Florida, home. Sixty-three years later, Moore has given up hope that her parents will receive justice. She waited patiently as local law enforcement claimed to investigate the case immediately after the brutal attack. She kept an open mind in the wake of several inquiries over the years.

>She even grew hopeful a few years ago when she learned that the FBI had reopened the case under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act of 2007. She was praying that four men who were long suspected in the killings would be formally named as suspects when she received a letter from the FBI telling her that investigators had been unable to find anything that would help them to definitively identify the culprits.

Evangeline Moore is seeking justice for her parents 63 years after their murders. (Courtesy photo)

“I haven’t heard from them since. I guess I will never have closure,” said Moore, of New Carrollton, Maryland.

Moore, 84, is among hundreds of loved ones of men, women and children killed in decades-old civil rights cases who still yearn to have someone held accountable for the killings.

In 2007, at the urging of civil rights activists, Congress passed the Till Act, which was named for 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Chicago youth who, in 1955, was brutalized and killed by racists in Money, Mississippi, after he whistled at a white woman.

At a panel discussion Dec. 9 at the National Press Club in Northwest, relatives of civil rights murder victims described their efforts to see done for their loved ones. The event was sponsored by the Cold Case Justice Initiative of the Syracuse University College of Law, one of a handful of university-based programs where law students investigate civil rights murders.

“For years, I didn’t know anything about what happened. I guess my mom didn’t want us to know what went on because we still live in that town,” said Darlene Morris-Newbill, 41, whose great grandfather, Frank Morris, died after he was set on fire by racists in Ferriday, Louisiana, in 1964. The case was investigated by the CCJI and turned its research over to the Department of Justice, which said it was unable to determine or prosecute a culprit.

Speakers urged Congress to extend the Till Act, which is set to expire in 2017. Under the act, Congress appropriated funding to the DOJ to investigate unsolved civil rights murder cases and, whenever possible, to bring killers to justice.

The panel included Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas); Emmett’s cousin, Thelma Edwards, who still remembers the night he was snatched from her parent’s home at gunpoint; Paul Delaney, a former editor at the New York Times who wrote extensively about civil rights murders; and Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald, the Syracuse law professors who co-direct the CCJI.

Jackson-Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which pushed to bring the act to fruition, compared the families’ fight for justice to those of loved ones seeking justice in recent cases, such as the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, by George Zimmerman, and the killings of Sean Bell, Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police.

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BVN National News Wire