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The Laws of Consumer Power in Motion

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By Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, NNPA Columnist –

Let’s give a shout out to English mathematician Sir Isaac Newton who, way back in 1687, developed the Theories of Black Consumer Power. Well, ok, if you want to get technical about it he didn’t name it that. He named it The Three Laws of Motion. But wow, do they explain a lot about your consumer power.

Newton’s First Law of Motion, otherwise known as the Law of Inertia, states “an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force.” The Second Law of Motion essentially says “motion acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass the greater the amount of force needed to move the object.” And the Third Law of Motion is “for every action there is an equal (and opposite) reaction.” Those of you who read this column regularly, immediately, see the connection between Newton’s Three Laws of Motion and your power, right? For those of you who need a little help read on.

Globally, Nielsen measures what consumers like you watch and buy. Our clients -- advertisers, networks, major corporations and retailers -- pay us for this information to help them best determine which programs, services and/or products to provide you. This is a clear case of the Third Law: “for every action (whatever/wherever/whenever you watch or buy something) there is an equal and opposite reaction (companies determine where and whether to provide more or less of a program, product or service or advertising dollars based on your action).

But what if you don’t like how a company is reacting to your actions? For example, African-Americans watch 40% more TV than others (action) but we don’t often see people who look like us or positive images of ourselves portrayed on television (an opposite reaction). Then you should invoke the First Law which says: An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” YOU can be the unbalanced force. Stop watching the programs that don’t portray positive images. Tell your kids to stop watching them too! Speak up when products aren’t in your stores, or when the stores themselves aren’t in your neighborhoods. Unless you do something to throw things off balance they will continue in the same direction.

Nielsen recently released The State of the African-American Consumer Report, a groundbreaking, in-depth, first-of-its kind study developed in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association. It highlights the buying power and areas where Blacks over-index (or use more of) specific products and services.

• We make more shopping trips annually each year (167) than other households
• 1/3 of all African-Americans own a smartphone (that’s 14 million of us ya’ll!)
• We talk more on our mobile phones than whites (1300 minutes vs. 606)
• We tend to be brand loyal But companies may not be reacting accordingly: In the advertising
industry, money spent on television advertising alone reached $69 billion in 2010. But for African-American media? Only $1.9 billion was spent totality for all media buys:
• $916 million on TV
• $704 million on spot radio
• $362 million in national magazines

When it comes to advertising, some companies are doing it right: Procter & Gamble remained number one in African-American media buys, followed by L’Oreal (SoftSheen Carson by the way is a L’Oreal brand), Johnson & Johnson, General Motors and McDonald’s were the top five companies who advertised to the African-American market. Their ads have people who look like us in them and we can find their products and/or services in our neighborhoods.

We have to move other companies in this same positive direction. That’s not always easy. But the Second Law of Motion, which I’ve dubbed The David versus Goliath Law can be helpful. It basically says, the bigger something is the more force you’re going to have to exert to move it. You or I alone may not be able to get more advertising dollars going to Black Media. You or I alone may not be able to get the images changed on the screen. But collectively, with a projected spending power of $1.1 trillion by 2015? Lordy, what a force we can be!

What does it take to get you into motion? Download The State of the African American Consumer Report at www.nielsen.com/africanamerican or look for an excerpt of it as an insert in your local Black newspaper. And then get moving. More power to you.

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com

Equal Credit Elusive for Minorities, Says Assistant Attorney General

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) Federal regulators and lenders convened November 6-9 in Baltimore to review and analyze whether the goals of the nation’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and fair lending laws are being observed. The annual event, now in its 15th year, attracted sell-out attendance to hear a series of expert presenters’ insights and analyses.

For Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, the annual colloquium became the occasion for a keynote address that reminded the audience that for communities of color, fair lending remains elusive. “Regrettably, we have found” said Perez, “that all too often borrowers are judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their creditworthiness.”

As head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division since October 2009, Perez noted that more than half of the 2010 referrals received from other federal lending regulators involved discrimination on race or national origin.

Through the creation of a dedicated Fair Lending Unit at DOJ, over $30 million in direct compensation for individuals whose rights were violated has been secured. Also in 2010, the unit reached settlements or filed complaints in 10 pattern or practice lending cases. Of these ten cases, nine have been settled since last year.

Much of this enforcement, according to Perez, is accomplished in collaboration with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. With representatives from DOJ and other federal agencies, as well as state attorneys general and local law enforcement, the task force investigates and prosecutes a wide range of financial crimes.

“Without a credible enforcement program,” said Perez, “we can never achieve full compliance with the law or fully level the playing field between responsible lending institutions and unscrupulous lenders.”

In 2011, a record number of cases have been filed under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Currently, there are seven authorized lawsuits and more than 20 active investigations involving redlining claims, pricing discrimination, and product steering based on race or national origin.

In an effort to address the devastation of neighborhoods and home values, the Civil Rights Division is including innovative provisions to address the full scope of damage done, in addition to settlement terms stipulating more traditional remedies such as a marketing campaigns or establishing a physical presence in under-served communities.

For example, in a St. Louis settlement with Midwest Bank, the decree calls for assistance to help residents repair their credit and provide access to low-cost checking accounts. Similarly, in the metropolitan Detroit decree with Citizens Bank, the lender must provide home improvement grants to current homeowners living in neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosures. Both Citizens and Midwest agreed to find solutions that would allow them to remedy the harm done while also reaching new customers.

In cases where African-American and Latino borrowers were charged more than similarly qualified white borrowers, the Civil Rights Division examined loan origination practices, guidelines on how fees or interest rates were set, and whether there was any documentation to explain differences in prices.

Summarizing goals for both current and future efforts, Perez called for transparent transactions, prompt decisions, fair lending, and open communication with all borrowers.

“It is the stubborn persistence of race as a factor in the pricing of loans” concluded Perez, “even after you account for relevant creditworthiness factors that we seek to address through our enforcement actions. The disparity grows as you move up the credit score ladder. All too frequently, equal credit opportunity remains elusive for minorities, even upper-income minorities who are creditworthy.”

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

'People's Economic Movement' Shelved Until 2012

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Black banking program was confusing, exec says

By Bekitembe Eric Taylor, Contributing Writer
Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Voice –

ATLANTA – A highly touted black banking initiative, conceived by nationally syndicated talk show host Warren Ballentine as a powerful community development tool, is being shelved until next year, according to the president of the National Bankers Association.

Confusion about the mission, goals and consumer benefits of the People's Economic Movement (PEM) warrant the delay, said Michael Grant, president of the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

"When he (Ballentine) went on CNN stating that the banks would match consumer deposits into a community development fund, some customers felt as though when they deposited $300, they would get $300 added to their accounts," Grant said in an interview with The Atlanta Voice. "No bank can afford to do that."

Repeated attempts to reach Ballentine by email, telephone and via his social networking page went unanswered over the past several weeks.

The program was patterned after a 2010 project at Farmers and Merchants Bank in North Carolina, where for every deposit into a new account, the bank would match the deposits and invest in a community fund. The bank raised $1 million and donated $10,000 of that to North Carolina A&T University.

Ballentine, whose syndicated radio talk show airs daily in 20 top markets – including Atlanta – announced the new partnership with the National Bankers Association in July, touting the banking initiative as a potent community development and economic empowerment tool.

Since then, he has devoted several segments of his show to the project, urging listeners to open accounts in black banks in several of the nation's largest cities – a call that hundreds of listeners appeared to heed.

But as the initiative became more popular throughout the summer, many listeners appeared unclear about how the program would work, Grant said.

Many new customers apparently believed that for every dollar that they deposited into a black bank, that they themselves would receive matching funds in their own accounts instead of accumulating a community fund, Grant said.

Such confusion could not continue, he said.

"I think Warren did an excellent job in announcing our program, but we are going to re-launch the PEM after the beginning of the year," Grant said.

"If that member bank wants to match funds to go to a college in the community or invest in any other way," he said, "we will leave that up to the banks that will participate."

George Andrews, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Capitol City Bank & Trust Company, said he agrees with the goals of the program, but has seen virtually no new business as a result of the People's Economic Movement.

Still, he likes the concept. He said the dire state of blacks economically makes it pivotal for blacks to reinvest in African-American banks.

"The unemployment rate among African-Americans is somewhere around 17-18 percent, which is nearly double the national average of 9.1 percent," he said, "with African-American males accounting for 40 percent of that number."

The key to new investment, he said, is education – especially for young people.

"When you educate the children on how to manage money well through the student banking initiative," he said, "it becomes a tool to attract the parents."

Atlanta-based Citizens Trust Bank, meanwhile, reportedly saw growth from program, Grant said. A bank spokesman confirmed that fact, but could not provide details.

Obama Hosts First African-American Policy Conference

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By AFRO Staff, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

President Barack Obama held the first ever African-American Policy in Action Leadership Conference at the White House on Nov. 9 to coincide with the release of a report, “The President’s Agenda and the African-American Community.”

In front of a gathering that included Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, the president used the conference to lay out his policy achievements three years after winning the Oval Office with the solid embrace of Black Americans.

He also called for “persistence” in the face of tough times. He restated his belief that the 15.1 percent unemployment rate among African-Americans is “way too high” and touted the administration’s accomplishments in spite of the political resistance the administration has faced. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Obama said.

“Now, some of these strategies are longer term -- all the good work that we’ve done, for example, in education,” Obama said in the first White House gathering of his administration to be devoted to policies directly affecting African Americans. “The payoff is not going to be tomorrow. It’s not going to be next year. It’s going to be five years from now and 10 years from now as we steadily see improvement in the performance of our public schools.”

The conference was convened in the wake of a stream of criticism of Obama from Black pundits such as TV talk show host Tavis Smiley and African American scholar Cornel West who say his policies haven’t touched African Americans in the way many Black voters expected.

National Urban League (NUL) President Marc Morial, who was invited to the conference but was not able to attend, hasn’t been part of the chorus of critics of Obama but said a conference of this magnitude should’ve happened much sooner. "Many of us would have preferred it if this had been held earlier," Morial told The Root. "But that's not the most important thing. The most important thing is that there's a commitment by the White House to strengthen the dialogue with a broader group of leaders who are very interested in the direction of the country, and who represent communities that have really taken for the worse in the recession."

Obama says that we’ve been through tough times before though and with a little persistence, America can rise from this recession too.

“Our parents have been through tougher times; our grandparents have been through tougher times,” Obama said. “We know tough times. And what we also know, though, is that if we are persistent, if we are unified, and we remain hopeful, then we’ll get through these tough times and better days lie ahead.”

Unions Rally with Occupy Detroit

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By Eric T. Campbell, Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Citizen –

DETROIT — UAW and AFL-CIO members joined Occupy Detroit protestors during a Nov. 6 march and rally to collect winter supplies. The demonstration highlighted a continuing alliance between the region’s labor unions and Occupy Detroit activists.

According to organizers, more than 500 union members and protesters participated in the rally at Hart Plaza and march to Grand Circus Park. Occupy Detroit Labor Work Group member, Writer L. Bush, told the Michigan Citizen that monetary donations reached almost $5,000. He said a truckload of donated supplies — blankets, gloves, batteries, tarps, flashlights, etc. — allow occupiers to consider continuing their protests through the winter months.

“The rally was extremely successful in terms of getting more labor activists in lockstep with the movement,” Bush said. “The movement cannot survive without labor.”

Beyond much-needed supplies, Bush says the support of labor provides a new group of volunteers and buffers the encampment against police actions.

Chris Michalakis, legislative and political director of the UFCW and secretary treasurer for the metro Detroit AFL-CIO, has spent several nights in Grand Circus Park.

He says labor has supported the Occupy movement from the beginning, but the Nov. 6 rally was a significant indication of solidarity.

“It’s good for the Occupy movement to see labor’s contributions,” Michalakis told the Michigan Citizen. “It’s also good for the labor movement’s rank-and-file members to see the occupation for themselves and see a lot of the contributions being put to good use.”

Labor is part of a wide-ranging coalition, according to Michalakis, and not in a leadership capacity. He says that gives the movement the best chance to grow organically and create positive political change for all working people.

“The camp is the symbolic center of the Occupy movement and the General Assemblies will be going on well into the winter — committee groups are meeting and putting together a lot of great actions,” says Michalakis. “This is really the beginning of what’s going to be a very politically charged election cycle next year.”

Martha Grevatt, member of UAW Local 869, says considering the anemic job market, there is very little distinction between the labor and Occupy movements. She says autoworkers have responded accordingly.

“I work on the auto shop floor, and working people really identify with the fact that people are standing up to the banks,” Grevatt said at the Nov. 6 rally. “They’re standing up to the bosses, they’re saying no more cutbacks, no more givebacks. We demand jobs.”

Grevatt, who also works with MECAWI (Michigan emergency Committee Against War and Injustice), says union participation has graduated beyond pronouncements and vocal support.

“It means everything that labor is involved. There are people who are union members, and union leaders who have been camping out, who have been here every day,” Grevatt said.

AFL-CIO’s Michalakis says observers should refrain from narrowing the political framework of the Occupy movement.

“While this movement isn’t political specifically — it doesn’t endorse candidates and its not about partisanship — we hope they are going to raise a lot of issues that we hope our elected officials take up in the next election,” said Michalakis.

He added that the city, including the police, has been fair in its hands-off approach and he hopes that will continue through the holiday season.

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