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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.”

'Fiscal Cliff' Might Push Poor, Blacks over the Edge

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – If Republicans and Democrats don’t reach a 12th hour deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” many lower-and middle-income families will feel deep pain, according to analysis by economists and respected think tanks.

The Budget Control Act, set to expire at the end of the year, will usher in draconian social spending and defense cuts along with tax hikes on all Americans if lawmakers can’t get a deal done. Much of the impact of such a decision –or non-decision – will come later in the year, some changes will be immediate.

“The most immediate one is the payroll tax,” said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a fiscal policy and public program research group. “That’s going to come right out of your paycheck, your first is one going to change.”

In 2010, President Obama worked with the Congress to continue the “payroll tax holiday” and unemployment insurance benefits.

In an October 2012 brief on the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension, CBPP reported that both were still needed to spur growth in a fragile economy.

The brief stated: “If the payroll tax cut ends abruptly as scheduled on December 31, the paychecks of the average working family will shrink by roughly $1,000 over the course of 2013, putting downward pressure on consumer spending when the economy remains vulnerable.”

The CBPP brief listed a number of examples. A cashier making $20,230 saved $405 as a result of the payroll tax cut, a hair dresser who earned $26,460 saved $529 and an electrician who made $52,910 kept an additional $1,037. Those savings will disappear on New Year’s Day if a deal isn’t reached.

The report noted that the temporary pay roll tax cut could add $100 billion to the economy, twice what the upper-income tax cuts would contribute, “because much of the payroll tax cut goes to low- and middle-income households, whose spending rises more in response to increases in their income than does wealthier people’s.”

The brief also recommended extending unemployment insurance for another year to prop up the ailing economy. Even though, Blacks access the unemployment benefits at lower rates than Whites, more than 1 million Blacks received the help, softening the impact of a double-digit jobless rate (14.1 percent in October 2012) that plagues the Black community.

For many lower-income and middle-income Blacks, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit provided an additional safeguard against poverty.

In a June 2012 study, the CBPP reported that the special credit not only reduced poverty, but helped children succeed in school and increased their potential earnings as adults.

The report said: “Children in low-income families that received an annual income boost of $3,000 (in 2005 dollars) between the child’s prenatal year and fifth birthday earned an average of 17 percent more as adults, and worked 135 hours more annually, than similar children whose families do not receive the added income, according to research by Greg J. Duncan, Kathleen Ziol-Guest of Cornell University, and Ariel Kalil of the University of Chicago.”

Low and middle-income families would not immediately feel the sting of losing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit because they come into play when those families file taxes.

Significant cuts to the federal budget could also harm Blacks who depend on public sector jobs for employment.

According to a 2011 study titled “Black Workers and the Public Sector,” labor economist Steven Pitts found that, “the public sector is the single most important source of employment for African Americans.”

More than 21 percent of Blacks that held jobs from 2008-2010 were employed in the public sector.

“The public sector is also a critical source of decent-paying jobs for Black Americans. For both men and women, the median wage earned by Black employees is significantly higher in the public sector than in other industries,” wrote Pitts.

President Obama’s plan centers on extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut. But Republicans are pushing reforms to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

The Associated Press has reported that President Obama floated a plan to save unemployment insurance, the payroll tax cut and support for homeowners. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers proposed increasing the eligibility age for Medicare and reducing Social Security and Medicaid payouts. Republicans also want to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts, despite studies that showed that there were no significant benefits to the economy and job rate when the wealthiest Americans paid lower taxes.

Wilhelmina Leigh, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an independent research group in Washington, D.C., said that uncertainty about the direction of the country’s economic policy is just as bad the specter of the fiscal cliff, because it becomes harder for businesses, domestic and abroad, and American families to plan for the future.

“You don’t know exactly where the shortfall will hit you,” said Leigh. “It’s going to show up in a lot little ways.”

As the clock ticks down to December 31, some lawmakers remain optimistic about a budget deal.

“I think we’re going to get this done, I’m more positive than most,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said recently during a presentation on proposed solutions to the fiscal cliff showdown at the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan progressive think tank in Washington, D.C.

Durbin said that he didn’t know if there was a mandate that came out of this election, but there certainly was a work order.

He explained, “It said: ‘Get to work and do it together and get the job done.’”

Wilmington Ten Prosecutor Called 'Delusional' for Defending 'Racist' Actions

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By Cash Michaels
Special to the NNPA from The Wilmington Journal

WILMINGTON, N.C – Former New Hanover County prosecutor James Jay Stroud is “delusional” for still defending his “frame-up” of the Wilmington Ten 40 years ago, says Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the leader of the group.

Referring to Stroud’s recent remarks in a local newspaper interview last week, Chavis told The Wilmington Journal: “Stroud’s latest admissions of his zeal to unjustly convict us is just another fact why the Wilmington Ten should be granted a pardon of innocence by Gov. Perdue. Stroud is still delusional 40 years later about basic fairness and equality under the law. I pray that Stroud will one day find it in his heart to repent for the wrong that he has done with respect to the Wilmington Ten.”

Chavis was reacting to Stroud’s remarks confirming for the first time that recently discovered handwritten trial notes documenting the former prosecutor’s attempt to Pick White racists and malleable Blacks for Wilmington Ten jury were indeed his.

In a Nov. 28 Wilmington StarNews interview reportedly conducted in October, but published online only after the North Carolan NAACP’s Nov. 27 press conference in Raleigh calling on Gov. Perdue to pardon the Wilmington Ten, Stroud was reportedly shown copies of his handwritten notes from the June 1972 trial by a reporter, and confirmed their authenticity.

During jury selection for the June 1972 trial of the 10 activists charged with conspiracy in the firebombing of a White-owned grocery store during racial violence a year earlier, Stroud wrote “stay away from black men,” sought only “Uncle Tom type” Black jurors, and numerously wrote “KKK…OK” next to the names of several prospective White jurors.

But the former prosecutor denied that racism, as the North Carolina NAACP maintains, played any role in his jury selection. The “KKK…good” reference Stroud wrote in variations next to several white potential jurors’ names on the legal pad, for example, “…was a strike against the juror because of the potential of a hung jury,” Stroud said.

“I could have had an all-white jury, but I didn’t want to do that,” Stroud told The StarNews. “Why would I leave a KKK on the jury?”

Chavis said, “Facts are facts, and it is an irrefutable fact that all the members of the Wilmington Ten were completely innocent in 1972 of the racially-motivated framed-up charges filed against us by prosecutor Jay Stroud. It is a fact that the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned our unjust convictions on December 4, 1980. Today in 2012, we, the Wilmington Ten, are still innocent of Stroud’s unjust and illegal fabrication.”

Stroud’s negative ratings for potential jurors were unmistakable. Next to several on his list, especially if they had a “B” for blacks written in front of their names or numbers, Stroud wrote, “Leave off” or “stay away from,” but never “good” as he did for the “KKK” jurors he wanted impaneled.

Stroud further told the StarNews that he wanted “conservative blacks” on the jury, later specifying that “Uncle Tom-type” means, “blacks that could be fair.”

Because a jury of 10 Blacks and two Whites was finally impaneled during the June 1972 trial, Stroud, citing “illness,” forced a mistrial to get a jury and judge more to his favor, the state NAACP says. His own handwritten notes on the back of a legal pad, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a mistrial, betrayed his intent, the civil rights organization says.

A reporter for the StarNews said Stroud was asked about his mistrial notes, and while he didn’t deny he did write them, he also claimed that he really did get sick, so the paper never printed his answer.

Even now, if Stroud admitted that he forced a mistrial in the June 1972 proceedings because he didn’t like the mostly Black jury, he could be charged with a crime, legal experts say.

It was in the second trial in September that year –with a jury this time of 10 Whites and two Blacks – that the nine African-American males, led by civil rights activist Rev. Benjamin Chavis, and one White female, were falsely convicted. They were all sentenced to 282 years in prison, some of which they served, before they were released from prison early after immense public pressure.

In the StarNews article, former prosecutor Stroud still maintained that despite a federal appellate court’s 1980 ruling – which not only overturned all of the Wilmington Ten’s convictions, but also cited him specifically for gross prosecutorial misconduct – the Wilmington Ten were guilty, and deserved to go to prison.

“They got more than a fair deal as far as I’m concerned,” Stroud was quoted as telling the Wilmington newspaper. “I think they should have had to serve their sentences like any other convicted felon.”

Ironically in that same StarNews article where Stroud is convinced that the Wilmington Ten couldn’t have possibly been anything but guilty, he adamantly agreed that prosecutorial frame-ups do exist – against him.

When asked about his 12 convictions over the past six years, mostly in Gaston County, N.C. for charges ranging from domestic violence to repeatedly ramming cars because, the former prosecutor told a judge, “Satan was with [the drivers],” Stroud, who lost his license to practice law in 2008 replied, “I am not guilty of any of the charges that were leveled against me as stated in the warrants. All of the charges were false and fabricated.”

Jay Stroud did serve time in jail for several of those charges. He told the Gaston Gazette that he’s suffered from a bipolar disorder since his time in college.

Attorney Irving Joyner, who, along with James Ferguson, the lead defense attorney 40 years ago for the Wilmington Ten, filed the pardon petition papers last May requesting that Gov. Beverly Perdue grant pardons of actual innocence to each member of the Wilmington Ten, was outraged by Stroud’s remarks.

“We have never presented any information regarding the Wilmington Ten case which has not been fully vetted and determined to be absolutely accurate,” Joyner, a law professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, told The Wilmington Journal.

“Jay Stroud did no more than acknowledge the obvious with respect to his authorship of the racially-inspired efforts to prevent African-Americans from serving on the Wilmington Ten jury. In the same handwriting, he also described his successful effort to fake an illness, misrepresent his medical condition to the court, and to deliberately perpetrate a fraud in Court, a criminal offense,” Joyner continued.

“The comments and notes, which Stroud made, speak for themselves, and further support the obvious conclusion that the persecution of the Wilmington Ten was racially inspired and constitutionally deficient.

“It is now up to the governor of North Carolina to determine whether she is going to correct an injustice, or stand on the side of a racist and illegal persecution in the name of the state of North Carolina.”

At the North Carolina NAACP’s Nov. 27 press conference, veteran civil rights attorney Al McSurely told reporters the trial tactics Stroud used against the Wilmington Ten were illegal, and that the State Bureau of Investigation should look into the matter, and then put the former prosecutor in jail.

North Carolina President Rev. William Barber, who blasted Stroud at the press conference for his “unconstitutional” and “racist” tactics to “frame” the Wilmington Ten, found his StarNews comments justification for further condemnation.

“The more we learn the truths about how race polluted and poisoned the unjust, unconstitutional and unethical prosecutorial acts utilized on this case by Stroud, to frame and falsely convict these young people, the more disturbing they are,” Rev. Barber exclusively told The Wilmington Journal.

“We have a crooked prosecutor who fostered a crooked persecution of innocent individuals, who now wants to admit on one hand his actions, and then on the other hand engage in a distressing revisionist rationale as to why he did what he did. North Carolina must see all of these facts for what they are and represent – calculated and sinister racism used in our court system.”

Rev. Barber added, “Only a pardon can begin to cleanse the depth of wrong being further revealed.”

In the Land of Plenty, Many Black Families Still Go Hungry

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As millions of families gather for marathon eating sessions across the nation this holiday season, Black families will worry about where their next meal is coming from at a rate that is twice that of Whites, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While the national rate for food insecurity – defined as “disrupted eating patterns, reduced food intake and skipping meals entirely” – was 14.9 percent, Black households experienced food insecurity at a 25.1 percent rate, compared with White households with a rate of 11.4 percent.

A recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture found that one in four Black households will be forced to choose between paying bills or paying for food and 1 in 10 will be forced to skip meals.

Black children living in food insecure homes also fared worse than other groups. According to Department of Agriculture figures released in September, the national average for children living with food insecurity was 10 percent. For Black children, however, the rate was 14.6 percent – more than twice the rate for White children at 6.7 percent.

Brian Banks, director of Public Policy and Community Outreach for the Capital Area Food Bank, said that he was stunned to see one of his neighbors looking for help at a food pantry in Prince George’s County, Md., the wealthiest Black county in the nation, hit hard with foreclosures during the recession.

Banks said that his neighbor told him after paying all of his other bills, there was simply nothing left to put food on the table.

“You talk about how [food insecurity] can happen to anybody you read these reports that say, ‘It can happen to anybody’ and then you see it happen to a person that you know and it really hits home,” Banks said.

The USDA study reported that only 57 percent of food-insecure families accessed one of the most-used federally funded food programs (WIC, SNAP and free or reduced-price school lunch) and only 56 percent of the families that were forced to skip meals entirely received aid.

“People think the program is for someone else,” Banks said. As the Prince George’s County, Md. example illustrates, the face of hunger is changing as more middle-class families with luxury cars and expensive mortgages scramble to meet their basic necessities.

Bread for the World, a Christian group that fights hunger in the United States and around the world, often leans on lawmakers to craft policies that reduce poverty and provide support to families in need.

Derek Boykins, the associate for African American Outreach at Bread for the World, said that it’s important to realize the power of advocacy. And he said that will become increasingly important as Congress weights making cuts in social programs to avoid going off what is called a fiscal cliff.

“We do have power in terms of using our voice to urge our members of Congress to protect certain programs,” Boykins said.

Banks also urges residents to talk to their legislators and to share their personal stories and struggles with poverty and hunger.

Banks said that lawmakers campaign on the promise to help people. And they need to keep that promise now more than ever.

According to their Web site, the Capital Area Food Bank “distributes 30 million pounds of food annually, half of which is fresh produce; 84,000 pounds of food daily and 500,000 pounds each week.”

CAFB also works with local food pantries throughout the Washington Metropolitan area to offer an array of services including healthy eating courses and help navigating the thorny process of applying for federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

Bread for the World, the Capital Area Food Bank and similar groups push lawmakers to fund programs such as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as essential in the fight against hunger.

Boykins of Bread for the World said: “It’s important to remember the grandmother, the grandchildren our brothers and sisters that have falling on hard times and need our support to help keep them out of poverty, support that will ensure that they have food on their tables and support that will ensure that they are food secure not insecure.”

GOP to Continue Attack on Obama, Panel Says

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“I think you will also see more legislatures passing laws that will prevent states from enacting parts of Obama Care.” – Corey Dade, NPR correspondent

By Stan Washington
Special to NNPA from The Atlanta Voice

(NNPA) ATLANTA – Despite its recent Election Day defeat, the Republican Party likely will continue its battle against the Obama administration and the Democratic Party on the state level, said a national political reporter during a post-election analysis panel at Morehouse College.

With the GOP controlling 30 governorships and 25 state legislatures, expect the Republicans to continue passing more laws around voter suppression and women reproductive rights, said Corey Dade, national correspondent for National Public Radio Digital News. Dade comments came during a post-election analysis panel sponsored by Morehouse College and Syracuse University.“These laws are not going away. They will be in effect probably until the next election cycle,” Dade said at a panel entitled, And the Winner Is: Analyzing the 2012 Election. “I think you will also see more legislatures passing laws that will prevent states from enacting parts of Obama Care.”

Georgia was cited as one of those states considering Gov. Nathan Deal had previous stated that he is “not interested” in implementing the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) in the state.

The Georgia Senate Democrats released a statement harshly criticizing Deal for his “unilateral decision refusing to participate in the state health care exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act.”

“It is unfortunate that the governor has chosen to put politics over the needs of Georgians. He has ignored his own blue ribbon panel’s recommendation to include state health care exchanges,” said Sen. Vincent Fort, whip of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Deal’s characterization of the health care exchanges as a one-size-fits-all proposition contradicts the reality that we are sacrificing any impact the state of Georgia may have in how our exchange is set up, Fort said.

“Regardless of his decision not to set up the exchanges, we urge him to proceed with the expansion of Medicaid so thousands more Georgians can have access to health care, including children and families caring for aging parents,” Fort said.

Much of the panel discussion focused on the demographics of the electoral who voted in this past election.

Although it was noted that President Obama garnered most of the Hispanic, women and black vote, Dade pointed out that the president’s largest demographic was the white vote, even though it was less than Romney’s and less than what he garnered four years ago. Obama received 39 percent of the vote compared to Romney’s 59 percent.

Syracuse Professor Grant Reeher said Obama’s win was amazing in the sense that he won re-election with high unemployment and didn’t receive the majority of the white vote. The Republicans are running around confused on what really happened.

“The Republican leadership needs a candidate that will have a talk with the party like Bill Clinton had with the Democratic Party a few years ago,” Reeher said. “He needs to tell them that we need to think differently about things.”

But a quality candidate won’t be enough to ensure a victory the next time around, said Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and Visiting Professor of Journalism, University of Georgia. Their policies and messages are out of touch with the changing America.

“They should be rethinking the message that they explicitly and implicitly being put out there to voters of color probably for the last 50 years. People of color have become large enough to make a significant difference in a presidential election,” she said.

Added Bryan Monroe, editor, CNNPolitics.com: “The Republican Party needs to decide what branch of the party they are going to be led by. Whether it’s the Rush Limbaugh/ Tea Party wing of the party or the Jeb Bush wing of the party.”

The changing demographics of the electorate don’t necessary lend itself to an Obama or Democratic Party victory, Dade said. The right candidate must also have the right campaign machinery in order to win.

“Many of the pollsters got it wrong too quickly when you consider that many young people and people of color don’t have landlines for example so they were difficult to poll,” he said.

“Young people are the number one users of mobile technology. They outnumber older white voters easily. The number one thing that the Obama campaign did was keep cell phone numbers. Cell phone numbers are like the mother lode of political campaigns. You have to have the machinery and you have to have the right candidate that will get out the vote.”

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