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Korean Comedians Weat Blackface Again: Will They Ever Stop?

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By Steve Han
Special to the NNPA from New America Media via KoreAm

When we saw that Gag Concert, a popular comedy show on South Korea’s state-run TV network KBS, featured comedians wearing blackface makeup (again), we were stuck asking ourselves the same old question.

Will they ever get it?

The June 29th episode of Gag Concert showed two people wearing blackface makeup and costumes that resemble African tribal clothes.

“Your make up was done so well,” one performer says in Korean. “I almost thought it was real. Wow, look how black your elbows are.”

This is the second time this year that Gag Concert resorted to a blackface comedy in its skit. Just this past February, the show’s actors painted their faces in dark colors and wore wigs to portray black characters.

The fact that these skits continue to happen, despite backlash and subsequent apologies, is another sign that racial sensitivity is taken with a grain of salt among many South Koreans. A 2011 skit on Saturday Night Live Korea featured comedians who painted their faces black to depict the Dreamgirls.

Caribbean Steps Up Fight for Payment from Europe

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

Not surprisingly, Caribbean trade bloc leaders, who wrapped up their four-day main annual summit in the small but idyllic eastern Caribbean island of Antigua on the weekend, pressed on the accelerator regarding their demand for payment from European nations that participated in and benefitted from the African slave trade.

Since they first threw their weight behind the Rastafarian Movement and other civil society groups for justice at the Trinidad summit exactly one year ago, the region has become more organized and increasingly determined to make Europe compensate member nations in the form of cash, official apologies and assistance in improving the regional infrastructure for health, education, policing and other key areas.

The final communiqué, issued at the end of the meeting, showed that the leaders, after extensive discussions among themselves and briefings from the regional umbrella body organizing the case of the Caribbean against Europe, decided to ask for a Caribbean-Europe reparations summit sometime later this year or early in 2015.

That meeting, officials said, will be used as the main sounding board to determine whether a negotiated settlement will be arrived at or whether the case for reparations will have to be taken to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.

Britain, one of the key nations that snatched Africans from the continent, put them on slave ships and dumped them on sugar and other plantations, forcing them to work in oppressive conditions without a cent in pay, has already said it will not recognize the case or pay any money.

However, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair might have well weakened the British stance against payment because he had, back in 2007, expressed regret for the “unbearable suffering” caused by the UK’s role in slavery. He did not consider the expression of regret as an apology, though. In 2010, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he had found it necessary to acknowledge “the wounds of colonization” and as a gesture cancelled $56M Euros of debt owed by Haiti.

The leaders think the Caribbean region has a strong case for payment and have taken heart from other international judgments against Europe in this regard. The UK, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal are among nations firmly in the sights of the Caribbean leaders.

To this end, governments have already met and reviewed parts of the arguments with the British law firm, Leigh Day, the firm that won $21.5M in compensation payments for surviving Kenyan Mau Mau fighters who were brutalized and tortured by the British government during an anti-colonial rebellion against oppression in the 1950s and 1960s.

Obama, Dems Lambaste Supreme Court Labor Ruling

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer


President Obama and other Democratic leaders expressed concerns about the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that some government employees do not have to pay fees to the labor organizations representing them.

Obama, who won both elections with the support of organized labor, said that collective bargaining is a fundamental right that helped to build America’s middle class.

“The ability of public servants to collectively bargain is crucial to ensuring both a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work and the high quality service citizens expect and deserve from their government,” Obama said.

The president said that the court singled out home care workers as not being liable for union dues and fees, which he called unfair and used his home state as a model.

“The collective bargaining model in Illinois resulted in fairer pay and benefits for hardworking caregivers as well as improved training, safety and health protections and tools to help those who need care find it,” he said. “The court’s decision will not only make it significantly harder for these dedicated employees to get a fair shake in exchange for hard work, but will make it harder for states and cities to ensure the elderly and Americans with disabilities get the care they need and deserve.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said that the decision is a blow to organized labor and the American worker.

“Many of the basic workplace standards and protections that we take for granted as Americans are thanks to the efforts of organized labor,” she said. “These benefits have been sought and achieved on behalf of all workers, regardless of whether or not they’ve paid union dues. I fear that this decision will seriously diminish the capacity of labor unions to represent the best interests of American workers who have fought for and won significant progress on wages, benefits and working conditions, and jeopardize the progress that has been made over the last century.”

Democratic candidates generally are the recipients of organized labor’s financial and organizational support. Labor supports not only extended collective bargaining rights but increased wages for non-salaried workers, improved workplace protection in terms of employment and on the job site and stronger benefits employment packages for workers such as a comprehensive medical and dental care, tuition reimbursement and time off from the job for essential family activities.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the president and CEO of the National Action Network, also criticized the court’s decision.

“By limiting their [workers] ability to automatically deduct dues, workers will once again suffer while the corporations maintain their own protections and privileges,” Sharpton said.

Guyana: No Politics in Rodney Commission of Inquiry

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – President Donald Ramotar has said that there is no politics in the convening of a commission of inquiry into the death of political activist, Dr Walter Rodney.

“This is purely a Presidential Commission. I responded to the heartfelt cry of Mrs Rodney [widow of Dr Rodney], who is advancing in age, and who wants to get some answers,” the President said Thursday.

Dr Walter Rodney – at the time a leader of the political group, Working People’s Alliance – died in a mysterious bomb blast outside the Georgetown Camp Street Prisons on June 13, 1980.

His widow currently lives in the United States.

Ramotar convened the Commission of Inquiry to probe the circumstances leading to the death of Rodney, in what is regarded by some as an assassination.

“This is not a political issue at all,” he said. “At no time did we discuss the Commission at any level of the [governing] People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C)”.

The hearing before the Commission began on April 28 and is now adjourned to June 23.

The President is confident that the Commissioners, comprising Barbadian, Sir Richard Cheltenham as Chairman, Jacqueline Samuel-Brown of Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Seenath Jairam, are professional and will preside over the Inquiry with judicial impartiality, fairness and professional integrity.

All Students Benefit from Minority Teachers

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent


WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Despite the cry from people of color for more teachers who look like them, both Whites and Blacks benefit from a more diverse teaching force, according to a study by Center of American Progress.

“… A study of the relationship between the presence of African American teachers in schools and African American students’ access to equal education in schools found that fewer African Americans were placed in special-education classes, suspended, or expelled when they had more teachers of color, and that more African American students were placed in gifted and talented programs and graduated from high school,” stated the report.

Teachers of color also have, “an affinity for infusing their classrooms with culturally relevant experiences and examples, setting high academic expectations, developing trusting student-teacher relationships, and serving as cultural and linguistic resources—as well as advocates, mentors, and liaisons—for students’ families and communities.”

A study titled, “Teacher Diversity Revisited” reported in May 2014 that learning from and networking with a multicultural teaching staff is also important for preparing White students for a workforce and society where they will no longer make up the majority.

students to interact with people who look and act differently than they do in order to build social trust and create a wider sense of community,” stated the report. “In other words, the benefits of diversity are not just for students of color.”

CAP researchers said that male teachers of color are more than twice as likely to ditch the classroom for another career than female teachers of color.

Black male teachers also told researchers that feelings of isolation or being the only Black male on the faculty increased their, “desire to leave their current schools.” When male minority teachers get certified in their main subject, they “are only half as likely to leave the field as are other teachers.”

In an effort to address the lack of minority teachers and to retain the ones currently in our nation’s classrooms, CAP report suggested states should “develop innovative approaches to teacher preparation in both university-based and alternative-certification programs.”

Researchers also proposed higher benchmarks for teacher-training programs.

The CAP report also cited the Education Department’s recruitment campaign aimed at preparing 80,000 Black teachers for classrooms across the country by 2015 to provide students not only with high-quality educational experiences, but also to present them with role models with a variety of cultural experiences, as well.

“There is a need for more teacher-preparation programs to embrace calls for higher quality and candidate expectations—indeed, to marry the call for quality and diversity,” stated the report. “Improved preparation will go a long way toward minimizing the number of new teachers that enter our schools ill-equipped and quickly exit through the revolving door.”

The report concluded that policymakers needed to shift their focus to retaining effective minority teachers, while supporting the efforts of minority professionals seeking to enter the field.

“States and school districts have the power to remove barriers to the retention and success of teachers of color. Those that do not address these barriers—by, for example, supporting high-quality teaching and reforming school conditions—will continue to face high turnover, destabilized faculties, and unsatisfactory student achievement levels,” the report stated. “Communities of color must advocate for effective teaching and encourage their children to prepare to enter a rigorous and demanding profession.”

The report calls for “access to not only high-quality education opportunities, but also a high-quality and an equally diverse teaching force.”

The CAP report said that effective teachers play a pivotal role in producing high performance students, and conversely that less experienced teachers often contribute to achievement gaps between Whites and non-Whites.

Minorities account for nearly half of the students in public schools in the United States, but less than 20 percent of teachers are non-White.

According to a 2011 study by The National Center for Education Information (NCEI), more than 80 percent of teachers are White and less than 10 percent are Black. At 70 percent, White females account for the majority of all teachers. Only 2 percent of all teachers are Black men, underscoring the paucity of Black male role models in U.S. public schools.

A 2014 report by the Children’s Defense Fund said that more than 80 percent of Black students can’t read at grade level and in 2010 less than 70 percent were graduating from high school in four years. Black students also received 1 in 6 out-of-school suspensions, compared to their White peers who received 1 in 20 out-of-school suspensions.

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