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NAACP Report Urges Education Reform

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By Damon C. Williams
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune

The NAACP, in confronting the myriad debilitating issues facing public education nationwide, has released a report that contained four core areas in which the education sector should concentrate its efforts.

Those four areas are pre-kindergarten preparation, increased effective teaching, longer school days and school years and, finally, targeted education spending, where the proceeds from smart investments would go to the neediest students.

NAACP leadership and members of the greater education community publicized the report during a press conference and call-in on Thursday.

“This report is a resource and roadmap for grassroots activists who want education reform in their community; our status as world leader in education is slipping,” said NAACP Education Director Beth Glenn, noting that America has steadily slid down the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s list, in regard to math, reading and science. “We want to improve the education system. If the United States is to remain competitive in the global marketplace, we must have a strong and innovative workforce. To attain that workforce, we need to educate students at a higher level than in the past.”

The NAACP further explained the four-pronged approach in the report. The first element, “Prekindergarten Prep for Achievement,” suggests that higher quality, universal prekindergarten programs that better prepare students for school; the second, “Effective Teaching,” seeks to better prepare teachers and make ensures that only the most qualified teachers lead classrooms.

“More Time, More Learning,” points to both a longer school day and an extended school year, while “Targeted Spending for Widespread Success” points to the better usage of the limited resources schools and school district have.

“If America is going to lead the world in this century the way we did the last, we must lead the world again in education,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “’Finding our Way Back To First’ is the road map for our activists, the communities they serve, and the nation as a whole. Our proposition is simple: if every public school does what the best schools do, every child will be able to get a great education. The NAACP has pushed America toward greatness before, and with this plan as our guide our army of advocates will do it again.”

United States Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan hailed the department’s longstanding relationship with the civil rights organization, and said it is is now beyond the time to act for the sake of children in the public school system.

“We need to approach this with a tremendous sense of urgency. While there are many individual success stories, we really have a crisis on our hands,” Duncan said, adding that the NAACP can play a unique role in advocacy. “A 25 percent drop-rate means a million students leave school for the streets every year, and in the African-American and Latino communities, the rate is 50, 60 percent. It devastates entire communities.

“Folks aren’t going to agree on everything, but our common enemy is academic failure,” Duncan continued. “We have to do this with a sense of urgency, and I am looking forward to a continued partnership with the NAACP.”

New World's 'Richest Black Woman'

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By Ruth Manuel-Logan
Special to the NNPA from the Tri-State Defender

Talk show maven, Oprah Winfrey, who long reigned supreme as the world’s richest black woman, has been kicked down a notch by new kid on the block, Folorunsho Alakija, according to Ventures Africa, an African business magazine and news service.

The newest top-ranking black female billionaire hails from Nigeria: Alakija is a clothing designer and oil tycoon who is worth somewhere in the $3.3 billion range and beats Oprah’s piggy bank savings by $500 million. At last count, Oprah’s media dynasty hovered in the neighborhood of about $2.7 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.

As the founder and owner of Famfa Oil, one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocks, Aliakija, who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, began her career as a secretary for a now-defunct investment bank in Nigeria. The mid-eighties brought about a career turn-around for Alakija, who began delving in to clothing design, after having studied it in England. Alajika’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to start her own clothing line, Supreme Stitches, which catered to a wealthy clientele.

Even though Alajika had established a successful clothing business, she actually earned her windfall in oil.

In 1993, Nigerian President Ibrahim Babangida awarded her company, Famfa Oil, an oil prospecting license, which went on to become OML 127, one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocks. The block is located approximately 220 miles South East of Lagos and 70 miles offshore Nigeria in the central Niger Delta.

At the time, many wealthy Nigerians had been allocated oil blocks and most of them flipped them off to international oil companies for profits – except for Alajika; even though she did not have any expertise in running an oil field, she still opted not to sell her license.

The 61-year-old wife of Modupe Alakija and mother of four sons who helped run Famfa, ran into an obstacle with the Nigerian government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which unconstitutionally acquired a 50 percent interest in her oil block without duly compensating Alakija or her company. Famfa Oil went to court to challenge the acquisition, and in May this year, the Nigerian Supreme Court reinstated the 60 percent stake to Famfa Oil.

If anyone still doubts Alajika’s net worth as compared to Oprah’s, the editors at Ventures Africa also state that Alajika, who has owns more than $100 million in real estate, owns a Bombardier Global Express 6000 private jet that she purchased this year for $46 million.

“We have no idea on how much debt (if any, the company {Famfa Oil} has), but even if we take the high side, and subtract 50 percent of the value of her stake for debt, that still gives her 60 percent stake in OML 127 a market value of $3.2 billion, which makes her (Alajika) richer than the $2.7 billion Oprah Winfrey is worth, according to Forbes Magazine’s last rankings.”

Alajika spends her time and wealth taking care of widows and orphans and giving them hope.

Kudos, Alajika!

Blacks and 30-Year-Old HIV War: Little to Celebrate

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By Charlene Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

(FinalCall.com) – After 30 years of the AIDS pandemic and billions of dollars for treatment, testing and education, Blacks are still disproportionately infected by HIV/AIDS in America.

Blacks make up approximately 14 percent of America’s population, yet account for almost half of those living with HIV (46 percent or approximately 545,000 people), according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Blacks represent nearly half of the country’s new infections each year (44 percent or approximately 21,200 people), according to November 2011 statistics by the CDC.

Part of the problem is while Blacks rank highest in numbers for HIV infections in the U.S., they are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to receiving funding.

“World AIDS Day is a celebration for some and a memorial for others,” declared Tony Wafford of the New York-based National Action Network. As health and wellness director for its “I Choose Life” initiative, he works to develop national testing and prevention and education programs.

Despite advocates’ efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the Black community, the numbers are staggering.

According to the CDC: Approximately one in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, as will one in 32 Black women. Black men account for 70 percent of new HIV infections and Black women 30 percent. Black women account for 57 percent of all new HIV infections among women.

In the early 1980s, people were dying at record rates from AIDS because the government didn’t want to talk about HIV but research and science helped reduce the number of infections for Whites, and Blacks benefitted some, Mr. Wafford said.

For Whites, including homosexuals, who contract HIV, there is cause to celebrate because they’re living longer, have access to more medications, have reduced their number of infections through research and science, and have used HIV as a springboard to address larger issues like gay marriage and social acceptance, according to Mr. Wafford.

Blacks have benefitted, too, but there’s still tragedy, he declared. “The people who don’t have money to afford the medications and are on a waiting list for free drugs are Black people. The fastest number of new infections among women are Black women. The fastest growing number of new infections among men who have sex with other men are Black men, so we have nothing to celebrate,” Mr. Wafford said.

Another obstacle in reducing HIV/AIDS infections among Blacks is a lack of funding for Black service providers, insist advocates like Cynthia Davis, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine and College of Science and Health at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

In 2013, President Barack Obama is allocating approximately $3.3 billion in discretionary funding to the Department of Health and Human Services for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. The aim is to expand access to affordable health care and treatment.

But federal, state and local funding rarely trickles down to Black communities and agencies in a way that allows them to make a very big difference, Ms. Davis said. In February 2011, she gave her staff two week layoff notices because she had no funding—like many other programs in South Los Angeles and so-called minority communities in L.A. County.

“I had no public or private sector funding last year and that was very stressful because the need is so great. The county told me it had no money but I turned to the Black Community Health Task Force that does have some weight, and all of a sudden, the county found some dollars and I didn’t have to shut down,” Ms. Davis said.

She is hoping for more resources so she can offer more HIV screening services and testing, such as the INSTI rapid HIV antibody test. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2010, the test is supposed to be able to detect antibodies to HIV in one minute.

The INSTI Test presents an opportunity for mass testing but a drawback is that a lot of Blacks have reservations about being stuck with needles and blood collection, so they prefer oral swab tests, Ms. Davis observed.

Due to limited resources, Ms. Davis has partnered with a local, major AIDS organization to offer the new test but in January 2013, it will be available through smaller clinics and mobile testing programs like hers.

As she prepares to provide the testing, she remains keenly aware of and prepares to work through the historical problems with Blacks and medicine. Some Blacks simply refuse to get HIV tests but advocates say they understandably attribute that to the “Tuskegee syndrome.”

Blacks’ fear of the dominant medical establishment—whether for examinations, treatment or medical trials—stems from the 1930s experiment in which government researchers allowed syphilis in Black men in Alabama to go untreated to study the effects of the disease. The Tuskegee Experiment lasted for 40 years.

“Not only Tuskegee, but people have valid reasons to be worried about whether or not they can trust the government, given the history of abuses that have occurred in the U.S. against people of color over the last 100 years,” Ms. Davis said.

Many Blacks still believe AIDS is a man-made virus created by the government as a form of genocide. After 30 years, people still raise the issue in education forums and at testing sites, which means there’s a lot to overcome, she continued.

Blacks have more political leaders than ever before and the ultimate, a Black president. So why can’t Blacks make up ground on the pandemic? advocates ask.

On the political front, congressional representatives are very concerned about the plight of Black people and HIV, but the conversation becomes difficult because it often transitions from treatment and care to homosexual behavior and what is normal, Mr. Wafford said.

Politicians don’t want to be accused of stigmatizing people on issues like gay marriage and adoptions, so they avoid the fight altogether, he said.

“Rather than say I’m supportive of testing, treatment, and care—all those things that come with people who are at risk and infected by HIV—but I’m not supportive of two men marrying each other, they will tell you my office is working on literacy, gang violence, homelessness, poverty. They don’t have to fight about that because that’s bipartisan,” Mr. Wafford told The Final Call.

But don’t just put the blame on Black political leaders and heterosexuals, he argued. Black homosexual leadership should raise its voice, too, he urged. “The White homosexual leadership has David Geffen, who spends an inordinate amount of his own money, time and energy around HIV, primarily as it affects gay White men. Elton John has the Elton John Foundation, which deals with HIV, primarily dealing with White men who have sex with other men,” Mr. Wafford noted.

He added, “So out of 43 million plus Black people in this country, why can’t you name me two major self-disclosed Black male homosexuals who are leading the charge and going to government, testifying in Senate and congressional hearings, to the needs of Black homosexuals in this country?”

But in the end, advocates warn Blacks must face up to their level of personal responsibility to beat HIV. That includes admitting to partners they’re engaged in risky behavior and addressing the rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the community.

Advocates note STDs are more prevalent than HIV and are often contracted before the disease, yet not enough people speak out about them.

“We can’t get away from personal responsibility…Pills and protests will not help you. You’ve got to be responsible,” Mr. Wafford said.

HIV/AIDS Take Heavy Toll on Black Youth

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By Maya Rhodan
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Although Black and Latina youth represent only 35 percent of all U.S. teenagers, they accounted for 84.4 percent of all newly HIV-infected teenagers in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Blacks ages 13 through 24 accounted for more than a quarter of new HIV infections in 2010 in the U.S. Of the newly-infected in that age group, 57 percent of those infected are African American males, according to CDC’s most Vital Signs Report titled, “HIV Among Youth in the US.”

African-American teens comprise only 15 percent of all U.S. teenagers but were 70 percent of all news AIDS diagnoses in 20120, according to CDC.

Phill Wilson, the president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“We have known that young African Americans have been disproportionately impacted among young Americans for a long time,” says Wilson. “Young gay and bi (sexual) men are impacted more. The epidemic we see is one of the one worst AIDS epidemics on the planet.”

According to CDC, “About 50,000 people are infected with HIV each year, and 1 in 4 is 13 to 24 years old. Youth make up 7% of the more than 1 million people in the US living with HIV. About 12,000 youth were infected with HIV in 2010. The greatest number of infections occurred among gay and bisexual youth. Nearly half of all new infections among youth occur in African American males.”

CDC found that in 2010:

  • About 1 in 4 (26 percent) of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years. About 4 in 5 of these infections occur in males.
  • Nearly 60 percent of new infections in youth occur in African Americans, about 20 percent in Hispanics, and about 20 percent in Whites.
  • More than half (54 percent) of new infections among young gay and bisexual males are in African Americans.
  • About 87 percent of young males got HIV from male to- male sex, 6 percent from heterosexual sex, 2 percent from injection drug use and about 5 percent from a combination of male-to-male sex and injection drug use.
  • About 86 percent of young females got HIV through heterosexual sex and 13 percent from injection drug use.
  • More new infections occurred among young African American males than in any other group of youth by race/ethnicity and sex.

Especially troubling, CDC officials say, approximately 60 percent of youth with HIV do not know they are infected and therefore don’t receive treatment and can unknowingly transmit HIV to others.

“High rates of HIV and other STDs in many African American and gay communities increase the risk of becoming infected with each sexual encounter,” says Dr. Kevin Fenton, the director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

In 2010, a total of 5,600 Black males were diagnosed with HIV, nearly three times the number of White and Hispanic males. Among young women, African Americans accounted for 1,400 new cases, compared to 280 White women and 290 Hispanic women ages 13-24.

Only 13 percent of all high school students say they’ve been tested for HIV, along with 22 percent of sexually active teens. Among 18-24 year olds, only 35 percent have ever been tested for HIV.

The CDC report says, “Youth who are sexually active can reduce their risk of HIV infection by choosing to stop having sex. They can also limit their number of sex partners, not have sex with an older partner who may be more likely to already have HIV, and use a condom every time.”

Wilson, head of the Black AIDS Institute, worries about what happen after a person tests positive.

“An HIV test is not the same as using a condom. It’s not the same as being in treatment,” says Wilson. “While knowing your status is an important step, but it’s not the end of the road. We need to be committed to making treatment a priority.”

Raniyah Copeland, Director of Training and Capacity Building at the Black AIDS Institute, says: “There are people who still think you have to look a certain way or act a certain way to get HIV–that you have to be gay or you have to be poor or you have to use intravenous drugs, but that’s not the case in the Black community,”

She added, “There’s no face of HIV because we’re all affected by it. Young people are not aware of how much more of a risk they’re at because of their age.”

Blend Capitalism With Service, Actor Tells Local Leaders

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By Kalin Thomas
Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Voice

ATLANTA – Award-winning Hollywood celebrity Blair Underwood is widely known for his compelling acting roles, his directorial credentials and – let’s face it – his captivating good looks, but it is his business acumen that brought him before a group of 200 entrepreneurs here this week to honor entrepreneurs in Atlanta.

Speaking at the Atlanta Business League’s 79th Annual Meeting & Dinner Nov. 27 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Underwood told audience members that while researching his ancestry, he discovered that he came from a long line of successful entrepreneurs.“But I don’t know if I got my love for business from [my ancestors] or if it’s just my good old-fashioned street hustle to survive and provide for my family,” he said with a laugh.

While he enjoys making money, however, Underwood said he understands the importance of blending capitalism with service – something he said black people learned from their ancestors.

“They say when America gets a cold, black America gets pneumonia, but we’ve learned to survive,” Underwood said. “And even through all the years of economic downturns, we still find a way to make money and give back to the community.”

It’s something Underwood said he is doing himself through his new BU (Blair Underwood) clothing line at K&G Fashion Superstores.

“My BU collection is a lifestyle brand that encourages philanthropy and allows nonprofits to fundraise through sales,” he said. “Soon we’ll launch a program where… corporate and community partners will get an ‘affinity card’ with a bar code on the back.

“So when you buy from the BU collection, you’ll get a discount and part of that sale will go back to your organization.”

Underwood, well known for his award-winning roles on television, film and stage, was in Atlanta to help the Atlanta Business League celebrate 79 years of contributions to the business community.

Business league president & CEO Leona Barr-Davenport said the annual event is designed to celebrate entrepreneurs who are making a difference in metro Atlanta.

“This event gives us a chance to reflect on what we’ve done as an organization and toot our own horn,” she said. “And we thought it was significant to have Blair be our keynote speaker because he is an entrepreneur personified.”

Hall of Fame inductees included: Orlando Lynch, president and CEO of Atlanta Peach Movers; Pat Lottier, Publisher of Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine; and Harvey Newton, vice president and CEO of Dove Direct.

At the dinner, outgoing business league chairman and 100 Black Men president emeritus, Thomas Dortch – a longtime friend of Underwood’s – presented the actor with a painting by Atlanta artist, Cecil Bernard. And Barr-Davenport pinned Underwood as an honorary member of ABL.

Underwood called Atlanta one of his favorite U.S. destinations.

“I love Atlanta. I’ve been coming back and forth here for as long as I’ve been in show business,” he told The Atlanta Voice. “We also shot the film “Mama Flora’s Family” here years ago. So I feel like Atlanta is a great place to come home to.”

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BVN National News Wire