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Rev.Jesse Jackson Headlines Leadership Forum and Awards Dinner

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By Yussuf J. Simmonds, Managing Editor, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

(NNPA) This year marks the 13th Annual Rainbow PUSH Citizenship Education Fund awards dinner.

In addition to a Leadership Luncheon Forum focusing on Jobs, Business and the Economy, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH Citizenship Education Fund (CEF) will hold the 13th annual awards dinner to celebrate his 70th birthday and 50 years of service.

Rev. Jackson has often taken the lead in challenging America to do in deeds, what it says in words - to provide positive action to its pretty-sounding words. Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he has sought to be inclusive and to establish just and humane priorities for the benefit of all people together on common ground across lines of race, culture, class, gender and belief.

The consistency of his work, in providing for the downtrodden, is a hallmark of the Reverend and Rainbow PUSH CEF. In addition to his work in human and civil rights, and nonviolent social change, Rev. Jackson believes that education is a leveling force and through the CEF, he helps students to realize their dreams.

According to PUSH CEF's website, "A hallmark of Reverend Jackson's work has been his commitment to youth. He has visited thousands of high schools, colleges, universities and correctional facilities encouraging excellence, inspiring hope and challenging young people to study diligently and stay drug-free." And to that end, CEF is a force in helping accomplish those goals.

The Sentinel spoke with Rev. Jackson about the two upcoming events and he said:

"We've come full circle from where Dr. King left us. Dr. King last movement was about the 'Poor People's Campaign;' we occupied the mall in Washington and we called it ' Resurrection City .'

"Today, they're occupying Wall Street and really, the agenda is the same: economic justice; we're free but not equal. Too few people have too much concentrated wealth made possible by government gifts and breaks. Too many people have too little and are neglected by government policy."

He emphasized the theme of the upcoming leadership luncheon - jobs , business and the economy - and his focus seemed to be a prelude of what's-to-come at that leadership forum.

"There are too many expensive unnecessary wars; plants are closing and jobs are leaving. Therefore, we must now restructure our economic priorities.

"The coming election will be a big deal and will determine whether the nation goes forward or backwards. The right wing is trying to restore the Tenth Amendment about state's rights to undermine voting rights and workers' rights to collective bargaining.

"Meanwhile, the issue of racial justice must be put back on the front burner because Black people are usually the last hired and the first fired. So here we go again - lost the most jobs in the recession; the most foreclosed homes; number one in infant mortality; number one in short life expectancy ... so we must use our strength to fight against these odds."

Then speaking briefly on the possible second term of President Obama, the Reverend continued, "It (the possible second term) must produce some targeted focus on the disparities in healthcare, and employment, and denial of access to capital ... and more of our youth in jail. There must be some targeted focus."

At the upcoming awards dinner, celebrating Rev. Jackson's birthday, the 2011 honorees will include Al Davis (posthumously); Jenifer Lewis - Actress, Aunt from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Soul Food, The Brothers; Hill Harper - CSI New York - actor, motivational speaker and author; Tommie Smith - Mexico City Olympic Champion; and Harry Johnson - CEO King Memorial Foundation.

Let Consumers' Action Go Beyond Bank Transfer Day

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Actions still needed on bank payday, overdraft fees and more

By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) Dissatisfaction with banking practices and policies have irritated, alienated and obligated customers in ways that did not seem fair at all. Although complaints ranged from mortgage lending and servicing to credit cards, the proverbial straw that broke was a new fee for use of debit cards.

In a series of late September announcements, many major banks advised customers of new fees. While some banks preferred monthly fees ranged from $3 to $5, others would test or ‘assess’ fees per purchase.

In the throes of a lingering recessionary economy, high unemployment, growing poverty, and not enough jobs for millions of Americans to be financially self-sufficient, consumers revolted with a coordinated national effort called “Bank Transfer Day”. November 5 was the designated day for consumers across the country to leave their banks and join local credit unions.

Yet many consumers chose to act right away. Before “Bank Transfer Day”, the Washington Post recently reported that over the past month, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions recorded a 350 percent increase in web traffic to its online credit union locator. The portal, www.CULookup.com matches visitors with institutions they might be eligible to join based on affiliations, such as school, employer or church.

According to Bill Cheney, CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), “If all of the people signed up to participate in "Bank Transfer Day" on Saturday do so, and remain credit union members over the year that follows, those consumers will save a combined $4.8 million. Combine that with the $5 per month that they WON'T be paying in debit card fees, and you're up to $5.1 million.”

With consumers everywhere needing to contain costs and stretch dollars further, it would be wonderful if November 5 marked the beginning rather than an end to consumers acting in concert to change bank practices. Consumers clearly understood the new debit card fee; far less clarity surrounds overdraft fees, a nagging consumer nemesis. All too often, consumers do not know of these mounting charges until they receive a bank statement. According to research by the Center for Responsible Lending, bank overdraft fees cost customers $24 billion each year.

Although the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act guarantees that banks can only assess these fees once a customer opts in, there is still something inherently unfair about an average $35 fee per debit card transaction instead of just declining a purchase and avoiding the fee. CRL research also found overwhelming consumer support for the fee-free denial.

Then there is the emergence of bank payday lending. This no-lose proposition for banks, deducts the full amount of an advance deposit loan -- plus fees from a customer’s next deposit. The result for the customer is the same turnstile of debt wrought from storefront payday lenders. Each year, the cycle of debt caused by payday loans – regardless of the lender – costs 12 million consumers $1.4 billion in fees alone.

Whatever results from Bank Transfer Day, one thing is as commendable as it is memorable: Consumers have moved from anger to direct actions in their own defense. The collective power of millions of nameless, faceless consumers was claimed.

Here’s hoping that power will be preserved and wielded to enact more progressive change.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Black Reparations Update: More than Mere Chump Change!

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By William Reed, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) What do you think of reparations for the descendants of slaves? Over the next year African Americans will have an opportunity to illustrate their political priorities. Do you believe African Americans will yield to symbolism of re-electing Barack or rekindle the movement to be paid just reparations?

Who among us can disagree that racial discrimination, slavery and Jim Crow are the reasons for African Americans’ economic inequities? America ’s most contentious issue today is the same as it’s been for 150 years: That the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors’ bondage and unpaid labor. To most Americans it’s unfathomable that reparations be paid for slavery. But, “Slavery” is internationally recognized as a crime for which there is no statute of limitations. Slavery flourished in the United States from 1619 to 1865, in an inhumane deprivation of Africans’ lives under which they were held against their will, treated as property, and forced to work without compensation. American slavery was followed by 100 years of government-led-and-supported denial of equal and humane treatment that included Black Codes, convict lease, sharecropping, peonage, and Jim Crow practices of separate and unequal accommodations that lasted until the 1960s.

During the period of slavery the U.S. Capitol and White House were built for free and the nation became most prosperous in the world. Calculations of many of our ancestors’ coerced and uncompensated labor total more than $700 trillion in today’s money. Millions of contemporary African Americans suffer as a direct result of slavery and Jim Crow; yet Black Americans refuse to engage in conversations about reparations for slavery.

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and chattel slavery descendants continue to be denied their rights of inheritance and full economic opportunities. Mainstream Americans refuse to engage in discussions about reparations despite the fact that American laws and practices continue treating Blacks in unequal manners in virtually every area of life including law enforcement and penal system, healthcare and life expectancies, education and wealth.

More is owed to American descendants of slaves. What can be done to atone for the sustained and heinous crime that occurred? Who among us gained from the capture and sale of human beings? Who were their benefactors? What did past laws have to do with the fact that Black households of today still have barely one-tenth the net worth of White households? A comparison of the quality of life for Blacks and Whites in categories related to economics, health, education, civic participation and social justice shows the overall well-being of African Americans barely three-fourths that of Whites.

In January 1989, Detroit Congressman John Conyers (D) introduced House Resolution Bill 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. The bill advocates for the federal government to undertake an official study of the social, political, and economic impact of slavery on our nation. It is designed to create formal dialogue on the issue of reparations through a national commission established to examine the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans and make recommendations concerning any form of apology and compensation.

As we move toward the 2012 election, the symbolism of having a Black in the White House pales in the light of what the payments of righting the wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow would total for descendants of American slaves. These injustices are the root cause of many critical issues affecting African-Americans today. The question is whether Black Americans will throw their political clout behind post-racial silliness, and not address the subject of reparations or initiate constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present day conditions. Reparations can begin the healing process in a nation that has been divided on the basis of race for centuries.

Blacks need to note how the legacy of slavery and its vestiges contribute to current societal and economic inequality. Hopefully, this will lead more of us to support H.R. 40 and lend voice to demands that any and all political contenders commit to appropriate determination and allocation of reparations.

William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org

Billboards Claim 'GOP Is The New Black'

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Special to the NNPA from the Florida Sentinel Bulletin –

Conservative activist, Apostle Claver Kamau-Imani, who recently said that Democrats are the party of the Klu Klux Klan is the prominent image on two of the four ads, which the group hopes will “stir up a storm on the plantation.”

The signs definitely have people talking. One sign in particular that hangs over Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in East Austin is drawing mixed reviews from residents there. It says: Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican. But this is a controversial claim that has never been substantiated.

Austin NAACP president Nelson Linder said that he feels the signs are disrespectful and that Black voters should vote based on whether issues that affect the community, including unemployment and police brutality, are addressed by either party.

“Martin Luther King was about civil rights and social justice. That’s not the current Republican Party.”

The signs are also up in Houston, Ohio and South Carolina. These are areas where high concentrations of people of color typically vote democratic.

Wealth Disparities Likely to Grow

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NEWS ANALYSIS

By George E. Curry, TheDefendersOnline.com –

(NNPA) A widening gap between the mega-rich and the rest of society, documented in a recent congressional study, is likely to create even larger economic disparities between African-Americans and Whites.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report that stated: “For the 1 percent with the highest income, average real after-tax household income grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007.” By contrast, 60 percent of the population in the middle of the income scale (the 21st through 80th percentiles), the growth in average real after-tax household income was just under 40 percent. For the 20 percent with the lowest income, their after-tax income grew by only 18 percent over that same period.

The 47-page CBO report is titled, “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007.” It showed that the share of after-tax household income for the top 1 percent more than doubled over the period studied, rising from nearly 8 percent in 1979 to 17 percent in 2007.

The most affluent 20 percent of the population received 53 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, an increase of 10 percent over 1979. Put another way: The top 20 percent earned more after-tax income in 2007 than the combined income of the other 80 percent of Americans.

These figures are fueling the heated debate over the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread throughout the country and around the world. But that discussion has virtually ignored the plight of Blacks, who have already seen the wealth gap widen during the most recent recession.

A State of the Dream report issued earlier this year by United for a Fair Economy chronicles African-Americans’ stalled economic progress.

“In 1947, Blacks earned 51 cents to each dollar of White median family income,” the report recounts. “By 1977, Blacks were earning 56 cents on each dollar in White income, a gain of five cents. Most of those gains were made in the 1960s.

“Then, as the backlash took hold, progress slowed – and stopped. By 2007, Blacks earned slightly over 57 cents (57.4 cents) to each White dollar, a gain of just one penny in thirty years. Two years later, as the Great Recession set in. Blacks lost a half-cent, ending at 57 cents to each White dollar of median family income.”

Such erosion has led to the widest wealth gap on record between Blacks and Whites.

In July, the Pew Research Center issued a report that stated, “The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households.” It explained, “These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these groups for two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009.”

The bursting of the housing bubble in 2006 and the high unemployment rates have devastated communities of color.

Median home equity for Whites declined by 18 percent between 2005 and 2009, from $115,364 to $95,000. Meanwhile, Blacks lost 23 percent of their home equity, from $76,919 to $59,000.

Black long-term unemployment was also higher than that of Whites, which is usually the case during a recession. Black unemployment increased from 8.6 percent to 15.6 percent during that period; White employment rose from 3.7 percent to 8 percent.

Black wealth, already much less than Whites, worsened.

“From 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell by 66 percent among Hispanic households and 53 percent among black households, compared to just 16 percent among white households,” the Pew report stated. “As a result of these declines, the typical black household had just $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts) in 2009, the typical Hispanic household had $6,325 in wealth; and the typical white household had $113,149.”

The $5,677 in Black wealth in 2009 was less than half of the $12,124 in Black wealth just four years earlier.

In order to get ahead in the future, clearly African-Americans will need to diversify their financial holdings beyond housing. As the Pew report noted, “Whites and Asians are much more likely than Hispanics and blacks to own financial assets. More than 80 percent of whites and Asians own interest-earning assets in financial institutions, compared with about 60 percent of Hispanics and blacks. Whites and Asians are also three to four times as likely as Hispanics and blacks to own stocks and mutual funds shares…A sizable minority of U.S. households own no assets other than a motor vehicle. In 2009, that was true of 24 percent of black and Hispanic households, 8 percent of Asian households and 6 percent of white households.”

The racial and ethnic wealth gap was already horrendous. Reports of a wider economic divide between the haves and have-nots have shown that the problem is getting even worse.

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