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Foreclosure Crisis Becoming Health Hazard in Queens

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from The New York Amsterdam News –

As the foreclosure crisis continues to sweep across the country, in New York City, Queens has been the hardest hit of the five boroughs. And in the predominately middle-class neighborhoods of Southeast Queens, where many African-Americans live, people are feeling the devastating effects of the financial crisis, the economic downturn and the overall recession, which may have hit their communities even harder than other Queens neighborhoods.

As communities from Far Rockaway to South Ozone Park and Jamaica have been struggling to cope with the economics, City Council Member Leroy Comrie has identified another problem.

Over the last few years, homes abandoned due to foreclosures have fallen into disrepair and become dumping grounds for garbage, debris and drug-related activities-problems these communities have worked extremely hard to minimize in recent years.

Residents recently brought two specific locations to Comrie's attention, and his office reached out to NYC Community Clean-Up to assist with addressing potentially dangerous and hazardous conditions.

"Abandoned homes in Southeast Queens have become a growing quality of life crisis," said Comrie. "As the center of the foreclosure epidemic, this community has seen many homes seized by financial institutions and negligent landlords, who make no effort to keep the properties cleaned and properly secured. This behavior results in the growth of vagrancy, drug dealing and garbage dumping, thereby negatively impacting the quality of life in these communities."

The two homes in Comrie's district that drew attention to the issue in Southeast Queens held by U.S. Bank National Association. Comrie called the practice by financial institutions of leaving properties to decay "outrageous."

"Left unchecked, these foreclosed properties are quality-of-life time bombs in our community," he said. "It contributes to the kind of urban decay that invariably damages neighborhoods and makes them unsafe on many levels. It is my hope that potential federal and state legislation will force these ‘landlords' to be responsible corporate citizens and maintain their properties."

With help from NYC Community Clean-Up, the problem is solved. The citywide initiative is designed to address neighborhood hot spots and eyesores. Using data from a variety of sources-the city's 311 system, foreclosure reports, crime maps-NYC Community Cleanup identifies neighborhoods across New York City that are struggling with visible signs of disorder.

The initiative also puts low-level offenders to work, repairing conditions of disorder or neglect throughout New York City. The goal is to create meaningful community service work-projects that emphasize the values of immediacy, visibility and accountability.

"When these situations are brought to my attention, my staff will reach out to the property owners, who in most cases are unresponsive to verbal and written communications, asking them to clean and secure the buildings," Comrie said. "Therefore, we are left with no alternative but to rely on organizations like NYC Community Clean-Up to address the unsanitary conditions. I want to thank NYC Community Clean-Up for their efforts today in helping these two blocks in Queens to momentarily clean up the blight in their neighborhood."

Philadelphia's FIGHT Organization Teaching HIV Prevention with Music, Dance

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By Ayana Jones, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Philadelphia FIGHT’s Youth Health Empowerment Project is using dance as a way to educate young people about HIV.

Y-HEP is the first to partner with dance4life, a Netherlands-based program aimed at empowering young people around HIV.

The organization joined Victoria’s Secret angel Doutzen Kroes at a press conference to launch dance4life-USA.

“dance4life is effective because it breaks down the inhibitions to learning, helps young people remember the importance of HIV prevention, and is fun,” Kroes said during the press conference held at City Hall.

Kroes encouraged parents to talk to their children about safe sex and condom use.

“We must break the silence and we cannot be afraid to talk to our kids about sex, using condoms, and to answer their questions,” she said.

Y-HEP will take the dance4life program to students at various school and youth organizations throughout Philadelphia where they will encourage young people to take responsibility for their health and decision-making. dance4life Philadelphia has joined 28 countries in offering the global program that provides young people with the skills to join the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“What we have found with dance4life — more than any other program designed to help reach young people transition into adolescence — is that this has been the most successful,” said Jane Shull, executive director, Philadelphia FIGHT.

AIDS Activities Coordinating Office Executive Director Jane Baker hailed the dance4life initiative and said it’s another tool in the arsenal to fight the growing rates of sexually transmitted diseases amongst Philadelphia’s youth.

Last April, Philadelphia’s Department of Health launched a campaign to help combat the rise in STDs amid Philadelphia youth. During that launch, Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz said more than 19,000 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2010, with approximately 45 percent of those cases occurring in youths between the ages of 10 and 19 years, and 33 percent occurring in young adults ages 20 to 24 years. He also noted that 47 percent of the youth who were diagnosed with HIV at the city’s STD clinic had a prior history of gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis.

“Right now we have a public health emergency. This is a crisis. So anything you can do to bring these rates down, to make some impact on the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in Philadelphia, you have to do it. This couldn’t be more timely,” said Baker.

dance4life International Founder Eveline Aendekerk says the organization’s goal is to facilitate a global youth movement of one million agents of change by 2014.

The push to expand the movement comes at a time when half of the new HIV infections are occurring in young people under 25 according to U.N. AIDS.

During the press conference, members of dance4life Philadelphia’s tour team chanted, “Take responsibility for life, let your voice be heard,” while showing off hip dance moves.

The dance4life program has four components, including a heart connection tour that encourages participation through music, drumming, dancing and education; skills4life, a workshop program where participants learn about HIV; and act4life, which encourages involvement in a volunteer project. The fourth component includes celebrate4life, a biannual celebration that is held on the Saturday before World AIDS Day. During the celebration, dance4life participants are connected via satellite where they dance together.

Over the coming months, Y-HEP will work to recruit students and student clubs to participate in the dance4life program, and will stage dance4life interventions in area schools.

Y-HEP is a community-based health and leadership development program for Philadelphia youth.

T.I. Released from Incarceration... Again

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Grammy award winning rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris was released from a halfway house on Sept. 29 to end his federal prison sentence for violating probation.

“He’s out, he’s good,” Jason Geter, who co-founded Grand Hustle Records with T.I., told the Associated Press.

T.I. has found himself in trouble consistently throughout his career. In 2009, he was convicted on federal weapons charges and served seven months in prison.

While on probation, he was arrested in Los Angeles for possession of drugs, a violation of probation. He served 11 months in a federal prison in Arkansas before being released to a halfway house.

His release to the halfway house didn’t go as planned. The rapper traveled to the halfway house on a luxury bus with a camera crew for a reality show. According to the AP, federal authorities claim that was a violation of prison rules and T.I. was sent to a federal prison in Georgia. He was released on Sept. 15.

A video posted by TMZ shows the rapper leaving federal prison with no cameras aside from the one through which he was taped, producers or tour buses. He simply got into a SUV and left.

In 2004, the rapper also spent time in a Cobb County, Ga., prison for a probation violation. He was sentenced to three years but allowed out on a work release program.

Reality TV show 'Keeping up with the Mandelas' to Air in 2012

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“We're definitely not the African Kardashians”

Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Nelson Mandela’s three grandchildren will join the reality show bandwagon, the family announced Sept. 29. The show, which will air in 2012, will show Africa’s “new middle class of intellectuals,” according to one granddaughter.

“The show will be about our lives as young, Black women ... We're not wearing, `I'm a Mandela’ T-shirts," said Swati Dlamini, granddaughter of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The show is supposed to expose the role of the new generation as career women and mothers, Mail and Guardian reports.

Dlamini, Dorothy Adjoa Amuah and Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway said they grew up in the United States, but returned to South Africa for personal and business matters.

“We're definitely not the African Kardashians,” Amuah said.

In case people are wondering whether the reality show may expose the family in a negative light or disrespect the legacy of South Africa’s former president, producer Rick Leed promised good things.

"They clearly have a great love [for each other]. This may be part storytelling, part reality, except the story we are telling is real ... it's not going to detract from the dignity of Nelson Mandela,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.

The grandchildren said they would not feature their parents or grandparents.

Dlamini, 32, is a single mother who would like to set up a foundation.

Amuah, 27, is into the luxury brands market and received a law degree and MBA from Monaco.

Dlamini-Manaway, 34, is a mother with a two kids and one on the way. She plans to launch a clothing line and is involved with Mandela Dlamini Associates.

Commission on Black Males Returns in Philadelphia

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Former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., head of Amachi, to be co-chair

Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Mobilizing the entire city government and allies across the city, Mayor Michael Nutter has re-established the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males.

“The City of Philadelphia is eager to help,” the mayor said in announcing the new commission. “The entire city government, everyone in city government and all of our related agencies will have a role to play, will be tasked to support the efforts of the mayor’s commission.”

The group will eventually be composed of about 30 volunteer members tasked with addressing unemployment, incarceration, a lack of education and health among Black men. They will issue an annual report on the state of African-American men in Philadelphia, along with recommendations for action.

“We must all look at the big picture,” Nutter said. “If a man is uneducated … if they are unemployed, if they are unhealthy, we pretty much know what their life path will be. But, if they are educated, employed and healthy they are a lot less likely to be part of the criminal justice system.”

Nutter signed an executive order creating the commission at a special ceremony last week at City Hall.

He also named its three co-chairs: former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., who first created the commission in 1991 and now heads Amachi, an education non-profit; Bilal Qayyum, president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee Inc. and Jamar Izzard, a radio host at 107.9.

“The plight of the African-American male is a crisis,” Goode said. “Unless something is done, then the future of African-American males looks very, very bleak.”

Goode first created the commission because he had concerns similar to Nutter’s.

“There are ways we can begin to deal with this problem, if we show it attention,” he said, adding that if Nutter hadn’t asked him to be a part of the commission he would have begged to be appointed. “For me, this is my life’s work.”

Qayyum and Izzard echoed Goode.

“We have to challenge ourselves and all the others around us to change their attitude and their behavior,” Qayyum said. “We’re going to make some changes in this city to let folks know that there are more positive Black men in the city doing positive things than there are doing negative things.”

“I’m going to give it everything I have,” added Izzard.

 

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