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'White Folks Forcing Us Out' say Chicago Housing Authority Residents

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By Wendell Hutson, Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader –

Black residents living at the Cabrini Green public housing complex cite racism as the main reason their landlord is evicting them. “White folks are forcing us out. They do not want us here anymore,” contended Norina Rhondes, 37, who was born and raised at Cabrini Green.”

The mother of a 19-year-old son, who is a sophomore at Southern Illinois University, and a 14-ear-old son, who is a freshman at Phoenix Military Academy in Chicago, Rhodes added that she sees her white neighbors stare down from their balconies shaking their heads. “They sit high but look low on us Black folks thinking they are better than us because they have money. One white man had the nerve to drive through here one day, get out his car and said to a group of Black males ‘you guys have been sitting out here all day. Why don’t you go do something productive like get a job,’’ recalled Rhodes, who plans to attend Malcolm X College in January.

The majority of the residents are Black. Race had nothing to do with the evictions, said Chicago Housing Authority officials. They cited crime as the reason at the 73-year-old housing complex at 900 N. Hudson Ave., which spans five blocks. “The levels and nature of criminal activity continue to pose a real threat to the residents of the area, but it is a particularly disturbing threat due to the significant number of children in the old section of row houses,” said Carlos Ponce, interim chief executive officer for the CHA. “This Authority must do what’s right and vacate the property. CHA will take great care in making the transition as smooth and as comfortable as possible for the remaining families.”

According to Matthew Aguilar, a spokesman for the CHA, the non-rehabbed portion of the row houses includes 438 units with only 33 occupied, creating a 92 percent vacancy rate. And the rehabbed portion of the site includes 146 units that were rehabbed two years ago, so those living in these units do not have to relocate. Significant resources have been put towards maintaining the safety of the property, but in spite of these efforts, based on the current data, it was determined that the old sections of the row houses were dangerous and no longer suitable for residents, Aguilar said. Maureen Biggane, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman was unavailable at Crusader press time to verify the CHA’s contention of recent criminal activity at Cabrini Green.

The CHA plans to provide housing counseling and help residents find new housing using a Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called a Section 8 certificate). The Crusader spent all day Tuesday at Cabrini Green, which is surrounded by expensive looking townhomes and condominiums and high-rise office buildings located just north of Chicago Avenue, and witnessed no criminal activity during the day or late at night. Most residents seemed to know one another and stood outside talking while children played and youth kept busy playing basketball at an outdoor court on Hudson Avenue.

Residents gave the Crusader a tour of the rehabbed and old row houses. The rehabbed units included new doors, windows, floors, freshly painted walls, and fine woodwork; while the old row houses had cracked and dirty walls, broken windows, old appliances, and dim light fixtures inside.

Wanda White, 45, of 847 N. Mohawk Avenue, said developers are tired of waiting for what it deems prime real estate. “Developers want this land so they can build condos. The whites that live around here are tired of looking at us and are pressuring the city to get us the hell out,” she said. “They along with whites are tired of waiting and want us out.” White is among the 33 households that were informed by the CHA September 1 that they must move within 180 days. Tamekia Murray, is a 25-year-old single mom, who is White’s niece and lives with her along with her 2 year-old son Rashad. She has been trying for three years to get approved for her own CHA unit but continues to be denied.

“First they said I needed an income. And now that I have one, they are coming up with more excuses,” she said. Unemployed and a single mother as well, White said she is unsure where she will move. But one thing she said she does know is that Cabrini Green does not have an issue with violence. “They (CHA) are lying. Police would be rolling all up and down here if it were as bad as the media has portrayed it. When was the last time you heard on TV an incident occurring here?” she said.

At its peak Cabrini Green housed 15,000 people and in 1980 Mayor Jane Byrne moved into the complex to see first-hand what life was like there.

Invisible Heroes of 9/11: Absence of African-American Stories Prolongs Sense of Being Ignored

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Cynthia E. Griffin, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

Life has gone on since Sept. 11, 2001. In fact, Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of a tragedy that seems as if it only happened a short while ago.

As the nation pauses to remember—10 years away from the cataclysmic events of that morning—there is time to reflect and observe.

And one thing that some people might observe and question is what was the impact of 9/11 on African Americans.

For Atlanta-based psychotherapist Joyce Morely, Ed. D. it was something that is painful and that happens all-too frequently.

“I was watching the television special ‘Children of 9/11,’ and, ironically, I was seeing that the majority of the focus was on White families and White children. There was only one African American, (a) male profiled, and it was from the perspective of how much trouble he had gotten into over time, before he finally pulled himself together last year,” said Morely, who remembers many of her African American clients coming to her office unable to even think beyond what had happened in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

The relative exclusion of Blacks from the coverage of 9/11 remembrances has left their voices, their emotions, their recovery unheard. In fact, Morely, said she has seen Indian families who lost loved ones in the tragedy saying the same thing about their stories being ignored.

“A lot of times when people have latent issues, they so internalize them that if they are not dealt with, they manifest themselves in other behaviors; negative behaviors . . . when your grief is not seen as important and when your grief seems to be minimized as opposed so someone else’s grief, it makes it very difficult.”

Rev. DeQuincy Hentz of Shiloh Baptist Church, in New Rochelle, a bedroom community to New York, recalls many of his members being in shock at the attack and believing that God had protected them going to work that day at the towers.

“A lot of people express how they felt God had protected them. Some people were headed to towers, but were delayed.”

He added that there were no members of his church lost, and they don’t talk about the tragedy much. They sort of relate to it like knowing where you were when Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy were assassinated.

“I think, as a people, African Americans have such a history of tragedy and terrorist acts against us that something within us that is part of our history and fabric helps us to just move on. Now that may not always be good,” Hentz said, adding that in some respects 9/11 enabled Black people to see that contrary to the lynching, cross burnings and other terrorist atrocities aimed at them over the years, there could actually be a equalization of terror; and that hate knows no color, and when unchecked can impact everyone.

There are Black stories to tell. From those who died on the planes, to survivors who walked away without a scratch on their bodies.

Perhaps one of the most poignant is the three 11-year-olds, who were on Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.

Asia Cottom, Rodney Dickens and Bernard Curtis Brown II, had been selected from three different middle schools in Washington, D.C., to travel to the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, Calif., to participate in a National Geographic Society research project called Sustainable Seas Expedition. They were each traveling with a teacher, and two National Geographic staff members accompanied the group. All perished. But in November 2001, the then-mayor of Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the D.C. public schools, the Department of Parks and Recreation of Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Society, the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Earth Conservation Corp. turned the islands of Kingman and Heritage into sanctuaries in honor of the children and their adult companions.

The islands are located in the Anacostia River, which flows through D.C.

And then there was a close friend of Pastor Gregory Robeson Smith of New York’s Mother A.M.E. Zion Church, whose sister was on vacation from her job at the Pentagon, but stopped in that morning to pick up some papers before meeting with her husband for lunch. She never made it.

Marcy Borders too had a story to tell. She had been working only one short month in a bank in one of the towers, when the planes hit. She was led to the lobby of the second tower, where a photographer captured the image of her covered from head to toe in ash and cast in a strange yellowish light.

During the 10 years since the attack, Borders struggled with unchecked fear and paranoia, drug addiction and the inability to work a day.

In April, she checked into rehab, and is working to regain control of her life.

There is also Genelle Guzman-McMillan who laid trapped nearly 27 hours in the rubble of the towers. She said she had an angelic encounter with a man named Paul, who grabbed her hand, called her name and said he was there for her. Once she was freed, neither Guzman-McMillan nor anyone else was ever able to find Paul.

As she lay with her crushed leg awaiting help, the young New Yorker pledged to God, she would dedicate her life to him, if he rescued her.

She kept her promise by joining a church and travels the world telling her testimony through speaking and in her book “Angel in the Rubble.”

Brent Watson literally walked away from his experience at Ground Zero with the same understanding that Guzman-McMillan had developed—life is not promised and must be lived to its fullest and with a profound reverence for God.

Watson, who was then an employee with Merrill Lynch, now Bank of America Merrill Lynch, had gone into work early for a company meeting in World Financial Center 2, a 43-story-high structure that was about 100 yards from the World Trade Center Towers.

“I was in our conference room (which seated about 200 people) that morning, when I heard this sound like a piece of heavy equipment had been dropped on the floor right outside of our conference room,” recalled Watson.

“There was a former Army officer in our management at the time, and he started moving to investigate. I said to myself, ‘if he’s moving, I’m moving . . . .’ All my instincts started to kick in.

“Someone said a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. We assumed it was a single-engine plane or a helicopter because there had been a number of close calls with small planes.”

“Then our risk manager came in, and I’ll never forget her face. She said we are evacuating the building.”

Watson remembers that a ridiculously practical thought about refusing to wait for hours at the New York Department of Motor Vehicles for another license popped into his head. So he went to his desk, retrieved his jacket, wallet, laptop and other personal belongings and headed for the exit. He and his colleagues debated taking the stairs or the elevator, and decided on the elevators.

Had Watson taken the stairs, he like his son’s godfather (who was also in the World Trade Center in 1993, when dynamite exploded in the garage, killing five and wounding at least 1,000), would have seen people falling from the towers. Instead, he and others gathered in a plaza that was about 50 feet from his building and the Hudson River.

“We could see the building burning: white flames, jet fuel. I said that building is not going to be able to sustain itself with that intense heat. I could tell it was going to melt. I felt it might tip over and fall toward us. A few minutes later, here came the second plane. It cut through almost like a knife. That’s when everybody scattered out of fear. My spirit said to me, get as far away as you can.”

Taking about five of his colleagues with him, Watson began walking toward the Westside.

“I kept telling them to stop looking back, and I talked to them about Sodom and Gomorrah. After walking about 18 blocks, the group heard the first tower collapse.

Watson said he knew that the next thing that would happen would be F-16s arriving on the scene.

“Sure enough, shortly after the collapse, you could hear the F-16s traveling at mach [speed]. They were trying to see if another plane was coming.”

Continuing to walk, Watson and his group arrived at Grand Central Station, but the trains were not running because of a bomb scare. He decided not to try for a cab, because he said cabdrivers were gouging people and exploiting the situation by charging people $500 to get out of Manhattan.

Watson eventually ended up in Harlem at a relative’s house after a four-and-a-half-hour walk. “Ain’t no terrorists coming to Harlem,” the wealth management adviser remembers thinking. He also remembers a woman he encountered remarking that he looked like he could walk to Canada.

The 15-year financial veteran credits his strength to an inner spirit honed by a lifetime of growing up in the church and believing in God.

Watson described the first few days after Sept. 11 as a time of shock and questioning how you go on, particularly if you’ve lost someone close to you, and he had.

“ . . A colleague of mine, who had spent time mentoring me, David Grady; he was trapped at the top in Windows of the World. He was there for a breakfast appointment. He only had enough time to call his father and wife to say goodbye. His remains were never found. We have a conference room in our company in his memory. He always had inspirational things to say to me . . . he was one of those guys who believed in what Charlie Merrill said: ‘Put your client’s needs ahead of your needs, and you will be successful.”

Rather than let himself be paralyzed and prevented from reaching full potential in a space where he knew that seeing a Black man working was rare, Watson said he decided to work harder doing things that benefited others.

But he also relied on conversations with members of the male chorus at his church, people in his investment club, a cousin who was a church deacon, discussions with pastors and his own personal relationship with God to sustain him.

“You focus on things bigger than yourself. You dream big,” Watson said. In his case, he is also more aggressive toward things he wants to achieve. “It’s galvanized me to know that tomorrow is not promised and to not be afraid to go it alone.”

Despite Claims of 'Post-Racial' Society, Widespread Bias Continues in U.S.

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By Marjorie Valbrun, Special to the NNPA from America’s Wire –

WASHINGTON—Recent public opinion polls show that more whites than African-Americans believe that the United States has entered a “post-racial” era in which racial bias doesn’t exist. But social psychologists and experts on race relations dispute that, citing wide racial disparities in education, unemployment, housing, health, wealth, incarceration rates and other quality-of-life measurements as proof of persistent structural racism in American society.

“It’s time for us to change our approach to polling,” says Dr. Gail C. Christopher, vice president for program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which promotes the welfare of children and works to strengthen families and communities. She believes that polls about race are overgeneralized and fail to address whether people understand more nuanced questions about what constitutes modern discrimination.

Christopher says most people are unfamiliar with the term “structural racism,” which has been defined as “a system of social structures that produce cumulative, durable, race-based inequalities,” and likely couldn’t define it if polled. However, most people, she says, could answer questions about specific racial barriers to opportunities.

“What we have done in our polling and in trying to educate the public is interview teachers, doctors, social workers, lawyers, people who have the most interaction with children of color,” Christopher says. “They may not know what structural racism is, but they know that there are barriers to opportunities for these children because of the daily interactions that they have with these children.”

Part of the problem is how Americans think about racial discrimination, says Algernon Austin, director of the Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

“One of the legacies of the civil rights era is that we have a very powerful visual image of racism coming from media images of the civil rights movement,” he says.

These images make people look for obvious examples of racism that are no longer commonplace — identifiable and openly hostile and racist characters such as Bull Connor or Ku Klux Klan members in white hoods. “Not the sort of day-to day-discrimination that we have now,” Austin says.

“People look for these hateful angry people, but what’s more important is for people to look at these broad institutional practices,” Austin says. “While we have removed the laws that prevent Black students from accessing integrated, high-quality education, we still have the same type of segregated and unequal schools there were in the 1950s. The same goes for housing patterns and criminal justice practices. While there are no legal barriers, we still have de facto barriers. By law, they have been removed, but by practice they’re still there.”

Austin says articles about race relations today often cite absence of blatant racism as an example of improved race relations but overlook less obvious but pernicious effects of institutional racism.

“It does have policy implications because if you believe there are no obstacles for African-Americans to get ahead, then you're less likely to want to support programs that provide opportunities for African-Americans,” he says. “If you look at the research and look at American institutions, you will find significant and very powerful evidence of continuing discrimination against Blacks.”

This is precisely why the “declarations of having arrived at the post-racial moment are premature,” Lawrence D. Bobo, the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, writes in the spring 2011 edition of Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, of which he has been a fellow since 2006.

“The central tendencies of public opinion on these issues, despite real increasing overlap, remain enormously far apart between black and white Americans,” Bobo writes in “Somewhere between Jim Crow & Post-Racialism: Reflections on the Racial Divide in America Today,” one of a collection of essays on “Race, Inequality & Culture” in Daedalus.

“When such differences in perception and belief are grounded in, or at least reinforced by, wide economic inequality, persistent residential segregation, largely racially homogeneous family units and close friendship networks, and a popular culture still suffused with negative ideas and images about African Americans, then there should be little surprise that we still find it enormously difficult to have sustained civil discussions about race and racial matters,” he writes.

“Despite growing much closer together in recent decades, the gaps in perspective between Blacks and whites are still sizable.”

Andrew Grant-Thomas, deputy director of the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University that is focused on ending racial and ethnic disparities, says those gaps in perspective are based on people’s different experiences and life circumstances.

“Everyone agrees that there is less racial discrimination, but there’s a huge racial difference in opinion on how much racial discrimination there is and how much it matters,” Grant-Thomas says. “White people are more likely to believe that the socioeconomic status of Black people is better than it actually is.

“African-Americans are in a better position to gauge what is happening to African-Americans than whites are, and they certainly bring different perceptions of race to the debate,” he says. “When whites are asked about their views, whites are more likely than Blacks to think the playing field is level, while Blacks will not agree.”

Therein lies the challenge of improving “race relations,” says Dr. Anthony B. Iton, senior vice president of healthy communities for The California Endowment, a private foundation focused on expanding access to affordable and quality health care.

“Race relations, what does that mean?” he asks. “How I get along with my neighbors or my co-workers, or how I understand the relative status of various groups with respect to their economic status, employment status and health status? The concept of racism is an enormous envelope that holds a lot of issues, some of which relate to racial legacy issues and structural issues. In some ways, we do suffer from an inability to express our feelings on this issue.”

Grant-Thomas says the key to bridging the racial divide is not endlessly talking about it or polling people but working together to find real solutions for decreasing or ending structural barriers that have discriminatory results.

“Polls have a lot of problems,” he says. “For one thing, they assume a sort of static opinion or attitude and that people have more or less fixed opinions and I’m just going to ask them what that is. But most of our opinions are fluid. If you ask white people about affirmative action, you’re more likely to get a much different answer than if you ask them about equal opportunity.

“We’re not going to lead to anything by just having conversations. We need policies behind them and to acknowledge specific problems that are there and identify possible solutions and how we can implement those solutions.”

(America’s Wire is an independent, non-profit news service run by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. America’s Wire is made possible by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information, visit www.americaswire.org or contact Michael K. Frisby at mike@frisbyassociates.com.)

Obama's Job's Speech to Congress: Get it Done Right Away!

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By C Stone Brown, NNPA Contributing Writer –

In a joint session to congress last night, President Obama gave his much anticipated speech on his prescription to resuscitate the ailing American economy.

The president’s plan is an ambitious $447 billion stimulus package that would include small business payroll tax cuts, tax credits for businesses that hire new workers, and new construction jobs to repair bridges, build public schools, roads and highways.

If there was a theme in the presidents’ address last night it was the urgency of getting his bill passed “right away,” which he repeated eight times.

“I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republican -– including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything,” said Obama.

It was obvious from the start; the president had two audiences he wanted to address. The American people and congress, and it would be congress that would get the president’s wrath for their inaction and partisanship over the past 24 months.

“Some of you have decided that [our] differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box. But know this: the next election is fourteen months away. And the people who sent us here -– the people who hired us to work for them -– they don't have the luxury of waiting fourteen months. Some of them are living week to week; paycheck to paycheck; even day to day. They need help, and they need it now,” said Obama.

The American Jobs Act has tax credit provisions laden with incentives for small businesses. For example, the plan would give a tax credit of $4000 to small businesses when they hire new workers or raise current worker’s salaries. The president also wants to cut payroll taxes in half for small businesses.

“It's not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that's in this plan. You should pass it right away,” said Obama.

The president plans to pay for his jobs package with an additional $1.5 trillion in spending cuts on top of the cuts the bipartisan Deficit Reduction Commission is expected to review.

“The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about a trillion dollars over the next ten years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas,” said Obama.

However, while the president lost the battle over raising taxes on the top 1 percent to raise revenue during the debt talks last month. He seems to have every intention to revisit the issue. He reminded Congress “Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary –- an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and where everybody pays their fair share.”

While the president made the case that his proposals are in fact, proposals Republican and Democrats have worked together to support in the past. He concluded his speech by firmly defending consumer and environmental protections, and the social safety net that his rivals have opposed.

“I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections [regulations] that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules [regulations] that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients,” said Obama.

C Stone Brown is the former Washington Bureau Chief of DiversityInc and Contributing Editor of Crisis Magazine. He currently lives in Washington D.C. He can be reached at cstonebrown@aol.com

Zimbabwe President Mugabe Has Prostate Cancer, Says New Wikileaks Release

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has cancer and was told in 2008 that he had about five more years to live, according to a newly published United States diplomatic cable.

In one of the so-called ‘wikileaks’ cables released, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono, who is also President Mugabe’s personal banker and a close family confidante, disclosed this news to former U.S. Ambassador James McGee during a private meeting.

McGee was quoted as saying, “according to Gono, Mugabe’s doctor had recommended he cut back on his activities,” adding that “Gono told us last year (2007) that Mugabe was ill and that his doctor had urged him to step down immediately.” Further, “Mugabe told his doctor, according to Gono, that he would leave office after the election.”

Rumors of Mugabe’s illness have been swirling around and they have been further exacerbated by his frequent trips to Singapore, where it is believed he is receiving treatment.

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