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National Urban League to Nike: Just Don’t Do It

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By Marc H. Morial

NNPA Columnist

“The economy continues to fall apart, unemployment rates are through the roof and Nike knows that the kids are strung out. So they just keep mass marketing high-priced cool to those who can’t afford it.”

-- Stephen A. Crockett, Jr., Washington Post

In recent weeks, on behalf of the National Urban League, I have been urging Nike to reconsider its plans to market a new basketball shoe targeted to urban youth that will be priced in the neighborhood of $300.  We understand that adolescence is a time dominated by peer pressure, the emulation of celebrities and the need to fit.  This often leads to equating self-esteem with material status symbols, including high-priced sneakers.   Aside from the misplaced values this represents, it can have devastating consequences for low income urban families.  All of us – from parents and children to corporations –have a responsibility to recognize this problem and do something about it.  On August 24th, I sent a letter to Nike company officials outlining our opposition to the upcoming release of their latest overpriced basketball shoe.  Our objections include the economic exploitation of low-income youth and their families, the promotion of misdirected priorities to our children, and the potential and sometimes real violence associated with this type of marketing campaign.  Following is a copy of that letter.

August 24, 2012

Mark Parker President & Chief Executive Officer Philip H. Knight Chairman of the Board of Directors Nike, lnc. One Bowerman Drive Beaverton, OR 97005-6453

Mr. Parker and Mr. Knight:

In light of the recent news that Nike plans to release a $315 basketball shoe, I ask that you pause to reflect on the implications of your decision during this fragile economic recovery. It’s no accident that Nike is a coveted brand among the nation’s urban youth.  It’s no secret that the frenzy surrounding Nike product launches repeatedly results in eruptions of violence.  Obsession with the Nike brand in poverty-stricken communities, according to published reports has led to muggings, beatings, and worse. With unemployment and its attendant hopelessness and desperation at historic highs in the very communities targeted by Nike’s aggressive marketing, now is the time to step back and consider the true impact of this kind of campaign.  To release such an outrageously overpriced product, designed to appeal to a young, urban demographic, while the nation is struggling to overcome an unemployment crisis is insensitive at best. Nike may well assure itself that it is not responsible for the priorities and values of its customers, but it can choose to address the negative consequences of its own marketing.  In recent years, Nike’s award-winning advertising has promoted a message of personal achievement and self-esteem.  That message is undermined by Nike’s appeal to shallow materialism.

As you are aware, in our public statement earlier this week, we called upon parents to resist the pressure to purchase expensive sneakers when those dollars would best be spent on school supplies, books or computers.  They ultimately are responsible for the choices they make for their children, and for the values they instill in them.  But good corporate citizens and responsible community members should help, not hinder parents in their efforts.

Please reconsider your plans for the LeBron X Nike Plus, and join the National Urban League in our efforts to empower young people to value their own talents – athletic and otherwise – above empty status symbols, and work together for broader access to the economic mainstream.

Sincerely yours,

Marc H. Morial President and Chief Executive Officer National Urban League

Authorities recently confirmed that the identity of a woman

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HYPERLINK "http://temecula.patch.com/articles/body-found-in-french-valley-prompts-investigation"left for dead Friday on a French Valley roadside in the Winchester area of Temecula/Murrieta was that of San Bernardino business owner, Wanda McGlover of Wanda’s Wondrous Works.

McGlover, 68, was found Friday on Brookridge Lane by family members after she did not return from her usual morning walk, according to California Highway Patrol-Temecula area, the investigating agency.

Autopsy results show that McGlover’s injuries are consistent with being hit by a vehicle. As of Friday, CHP was investigating the death as a felony hit and run, something that McGlover’s family states does not seem plausible. From published reports, McGlover would normally leave early for her morning walk and this particular morning, she was on her cellphone speaking with her daughter who lives in Atlanta. Her daughter states that what she heard sounded like an attack and called her brother.

McGlover’s son who lives with her, retraced McGlover’s route and found her unconscious in a ditch and called 911. She was flown to Loma Linda University Medical Center in Murrieta where she was pronounced dead.

Anyone with information pertaining to this investigation are asked to call the Temecula Area CHP office at (951) 506-2000.

The San Bernardino Symphony opens 2012-13 season with a Russian Roulade

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Conducted under the baton of Maestro Frank Fetta, the San Bernardino Symphony’s 2012-13 season, Musical Destinations, is about to get underway. The Symphony opens the series on September 22 with Russian Roulade, a musical journey down the Volga River filled with imagery and life.

Said Maestro Fetta, “Concert-goers will immediately recognize Glinka’s exuberant and rollicking overture to ‘Ruslan and Ludmilla’ which combines both traditional folk music with an imaginative use of Eastern elements. And the overture is utterly spectacular.” Tchaikovsky’s ‘Variations on a Rococo Theme,’ combines the composer’s original piece with historical amendments by the composer’s own concert cellist Wilhelm Fitzhagen. The performance will feature the return of acclaimed cello soloist Marek Szpakiewicz. Described by Yo-Yo Ma as an artist whose "energy, motivation, earnestness and generosity of spirit are evident through his work," Szpakiewicz is also known for his vast suite of film music. His sensitive performance is bound to be a highlight of the evening.

The concert closes with Rachmaninoff’s triumphant ‘Symphony No. 2.’ Presented in the dramatic sequence readily identified with Russian symphonic tradition, the elegant flow of the Symphony’s melody will captivate concert goers and cap an amazing evening of music.

“The last movement will just raise the hair on your arms,” said Maestro Fetta, adding, “I know you will enjoy the evening. The people in the orchestra continue to give you the very best they have to give. Viva the San Bernardino Symphony!”

In all, the 2012-13 season promises a series of breathtaking musical journeys, and immense enjoyment for concert audiences.

November 10, the Symphony will celebrate all things French with Faure’s spectacular ‘Pelleas & Melisande,’ Debussy’s poetic ‘Petite Suite,’ Bizet’s dazzling ‘Symphony in C,’ and Ravel’s ‘Piano Concerto in G Major’ featuring pianist Esther Keel.

The New Year will herald in Treasures of the Americas, the Symphony’s annual afternoon family concert on Jan. 13, 2013. The concert features selections from Copland’s ever popular ‘Rodeo,’ Kubic’s whimsical ‘Gerald McBoing Boing’, a musical adventure based on the popular Dr. Seuss story, Revueltas’ ‘Homage to Garcia Lorca,’ and closes with Copland’s beautiful ‘Appalachian Spring’ accompanied by folk dancers.

Ryanomics Assault on Poor and Hungry Children

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By Marian Wright Edelman

Hungry child, I didn't make this world for you. You didn't buy any stock in my railroad. You didn't invest in my corporation. Where are your shares in standard oil? I made the world for the rich And the will-be-rich And the have-always-been-rich. Not for you, Hungry child. -- Langston Hughes, “God to Hungry Child”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German Protestant Theologian, who was executed for opposing Hitler’s holocaust, believed that the test of the morality of a society is how it treats its children. I agree and am deeply ashamed that the United States of America flunks Bonhoeffer’s test every hour of every day as our policies and priorities permit 16.1 million children – more than 1 in 5 – to live in poverty in the richest nation on earth and 7.3 million to live in extreme poverty according to the new Census poverty data. Children under five are our poorest age group with one in four infants, toddlers and preschoolers – who did not choose their parents – poor during their years of greatest brain development. The U.S. Agriculture Department recently reported that a record number of families in America are struggling to put enough food on the table and that one in five children live in a food insecure household. Millions of Americans, many of them hard working parents, have only food stamps to keep the wolves of hunger from their door. Yet the Ryan budget passed by the House of Representatives not only would do nothing to help or decrease epidemic poverty, hunger and homelessness during this time of economic downturn and parental joblessness, it would increase their struggles by taking away food and other essential supports. Ryanomics is an all out assault on our poorest children while asking not a dime of sacrifice from the richest two percent of Americans or from wealthy corporations. Ryanomics slashes hundreds of millions of dollars from child and family nutrition, health, child care, education, and child protection services, in order to extend and add to the massive Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires at a taxpayer cost of $5 trillion over 10 years. On top of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, the top income bracket would get an additional 10 percent tax cut. Millionaires and billionaires would on average keep at least an additional quarter of a million dollars each year and possibly as much as $400,000 a year according to the Citizens for Tax Justice.

The Ryan budget does not name or touch any of the many expensive tax incentives, tax loopholes or tax subsidies that help the powerful and the wealthy. It doesn’t close tax loopholes or rein in incentives to corporations investing or taking jobs overseas several of which alone could generate $129 billion over ten years. It doesn’t touch the tax advantage for private equity partners which now provides a $15 billion windfall over ten years or the tax preferences for oil and gas companies that cost about $40 billion a year.

Ryanomics widens the already huge wealth and income chasm in our nation and only benefits the richest Americans and powerful corporations while ripping apart already porous safety nets for vulnerable children. Ryanomics masquerades as a fiscally responsible deficit-reducing budget plan to preserve our children’s future; in reality it is Robin Hood in reverse, stealing from babies to benefit billionaires and increasing the deficit.

To come up with a portion of the Ryan budget’s savings requirements, the House Agriculture committee chose to cut more than $33 billion from food stamps but left subsidies to large profitable corporate farms intact. By reducing benefits and changing food stamp eligibility rules nearly two million children would lose benefits, about 22 million children would be in households with reduced benefits, and 280,000 low-income children would lose free breakfast and lunch at school. Ryanomics equals more hungry poor children. Ryanomics has no trouble naming cuts to programs helping poor children and families to pay for massive government handouts for the wealthiest. It:

• Does away with child tax credits for five and a half million low income children, primarily in immigrant families because of a new requirement that taxpayers must include their Social Security number on tax returns to claim the child tax credit. Working families with incomes averaging $21,000 a year would see their taxes raised about $1,800;

• Eliminates the $1.7 billion Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) that funds critical services for the most vulnerable populations, primarily low and moderate income children and adults who are elderly or disabled. SSBG serves roughly 23 million people, about half of whom are children. If SSBG is repealed, four million children would lose child care and child protective services for 1.7 million children and child abuse prevention and intervention for 640,000 children would be disrupted;

• Repeals the Affordable Care Act that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, rescinding coverage when children get sick, and ensures young adults can stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. The repeal would put 14 million children at risk for losing health coverage by ending the maintenance of effort protections that prevent states from cutting children from the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program rolls;

• Turns Medicaid over to the states in the form of a federal block grant and cuts spending by $810 billion over 10 years, giving states the power to slash eligibility, benefits, and payments to doctors and hospitals while raising costs on the poor. Today, Medicaid provides comprehensive health and mental health coverage to nearly 36 million children and has helped to reduce the number of uninsured children as employer sponsored coverage has eroded and families have struggled during the economic down turn.

Ryanomics is not only poor arithmetic, it is also poor morality and gross injustice which turns upside down the requirements of all great faiths to protect the poor and vulnerable. The U.S. Catholic Bishops in a letter to every member of Congress on May 8, 2012 said: “deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people” and declared that the proposed cuts in the House budget ”fail this basic moral test.” The much publicized “Nuns on the Bus,” Catholic Sisters committed to fighting poverty, challenged Ryanomics declaring: “we insist on a Faithful Budget that affirms the life of all God’s children – not just the wealthiest few.” And Albert Camus, Nobel Laureate, speaking at a Dominican monastery in 1948 said: “Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.” He described our responsibility as human beings “if not to reduce evil, at least not to add to it” and “to refuse to consent to conditions which torture innocents.” “I continue,” he said “to struggle against this universe in which children suffer and die." And so must all of us including our political leaders of all parties. Every American who believes in basic fairness must resoundingly reject Ryanomics.


Women Uplift Our Families and Communities

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By Marc H. Morial

NNPA Columnist

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” — Sojourner Truth

At the start of a new school year, millions of women and mothers are working overtime to prepare their children to return to the classroom. I thought this would be a good time to remind ourselves of the many simultaneous roles that women, and especially women of color, play in uplifting our families, our communities and our nation. Women have always been at the forefront of the Urban League Movement. Ruth Standish Baldwin joined George Edmund Haynes in 1910 as founders of this organization. The National Council of Urban League Guilds, under the current leadership of Guild President Frankie M. Brown, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Considered the heart and soul of the Urban League Movement, the Guild was started in New York City in 1942 by Mollie Moon. Through its 85 chapters across the United States, the Guild plays an instrumental role in connecting the League with its communities, and its members contribute thousands of volunteer hours annually. Women are also leading the National Urban League into its second century of service and empowerment. The CEO’s of some of our largest affiliates are women, including Arva Rice in New York, Nancy Flake Johnson in Atlanta, Esther Bush in Pittsburgh, Maudine Cooper in Washington, D.C., Patricia Coulter in Philadelphia and Andrea Zopp in Chicago.

In addition, the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP), our cadre of volunteers aged 21-40, is also headed by Brandi R. Richard. Our NULYP members are the next generation of leaders inside and outside the Urban League movement; and contribute thousands of dollars and volunteer hours to local Urban League affiliates. Brenda W. McDuffie, President and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League was one of 11 “Women of Power” honored at the recent National Urban League Conference in New Orleans. McDuffie has devoted her life to community service and she has led the Buffalo Urban League for the past 14 years. Others chosen as 2012 Women of Power are Louisiana’s United States Senator, Mary Landrieu; Deborah Elam, Vice President, General Electric; Kim Fields, actress and television director/producer; Ohio Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge; April Holmes, athlete and global motivational developer; Debra B. Morton, Senior Pastor, Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church, New Orleans; Natalie Randolph, head football coach at Calvin Coolidge High School and the first female high school football coach in Washington, D.C.; Sally Ann Roberts, News Anchor at WWL-TV in New Orleans; Laysha Ward, President of Community Relations at the Target Foundation; and last but not least, my mother, Sybil Morial. My mother has not only nurtured two New Orleans mayors – her husband, the late, Ernest “Dutch” Morial and me – she has also distinguished herself as an outstanding educator, community activist and businesswoman. Like so many of our Women of Power, Sybil Morial overcame numerous racial and gender barriers to achieve her goals, serve her community and inspire others. There is no doubt, America would not be as strong as it is today and the National Urban League Movement would not be the force for empowerment that it has become without the indispensable leadership of countless Women of Power.

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

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