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Minority-Owned Networks Sign with Comcast

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

Comcast Corporation has announced agreements with four new minority-owned independent networks.

After evaluating more than 100 proposals, Comcast selected four networks — two of which are majority African American-owned, and two that are majority Hispanic American-owned and operated and programmed in English. The networks will be distributed on Comcast Cable systems between April 2012 and January 2014.

“We are thrilled to work with such talented individuals to launch these new networks that will bring exciting and fresh content to consumers,” said David L. Cohen, executive vice president, Comcast Corporation.

“Comcast is committed to delivering programming that reflects the interests of our customers, and we look forward to integrating these great networks into our rich programming lineup.”

The two networks in the African-American category are Aspire and REVOLT.

Spearheaded by NBA Hall of Famer and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson in partnership with GMC TV, Aspire will deliver enlightening, entertaining and positive programming to African-American families, including movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, visual and performing arts, and faith and inspirational programs. The network will launch by summer 2012.

“Aspire will be a network that encourages and challenges African Americans to reach for their dreams and will appeal to all generations,” said Johnson.

“Aspire will celebrate our heritage, our groundbreaking achievements and the fearless talent that has shaped American culture. I’m most excited about Aspire creating opportunities for the new voices, new visions and the next generation of storytellers.”

Proposed by superstar entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs and MTV veteran Andy Schuon, the REVOLT network is designed to have programming inspired by music and pop culture. The network, which launches in 2013, will include music videos, live performances, and music news and interviews, and will incorporate social media interaction for music artists and fans.

“REVOLT is the first channel created entirely from the ground up in this new era of social media,” said Combs.

“We’re building this platform for artists to reach an extraordinary number of people in a completely different way. REVOLT will be live, like all great moments in television history. REVOLT will also be immediate, like today’s social networks. We know it was a highly competitive process and we want to thank Comcast for this opportunity to truly change television with REVOLT.”

The two networks in the Hispanic category are El Rey and BabyFirst Americas.

Proposed by Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures executives John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa, El Ray is designed to be an action-packed, general information network in English for Latino and general audiences that includes a mix of reality, scripted and animated series, movies, documentaries, news, music, comedy and sports programming.

The El Ray network will include programming that features Hispanic producers, celebrities and public figures. The network has entered into an agreement to launch by January 2014.

“This partnership with Comcast signals an important moment for the Latino community in this country — we are passionate about creating a wildly entertaining destination that we can be proud of by appealing to both Latino and mass market audiences,” said the principals of El Rey.

“We are engineering El Rey to address a burgeoning opportunity to deliver unique, high-quality and compelling content to a hard-to-reach demographic, and are excited to bring more opportunities to generations of talent, storytellers and dreamers through this special partnership.”

Proposed by Spanish language television veteran Constantino “Said” Schwarz, this network is designed for infants, very young children and their parents and emphasizes the importance of early development of verbal, math and motor skills. The network will launch by April 2012.

“We are thrilled to partner with Comcast and commend them for recognizing the importance of quality education for young children,” said Schwarz.

“BabyFirst Americas aims to bring the essential academic building blocks for kindergarten readiness into the home, making it accessible for families all across the U.S.

In 2011, Comcast made a series of public interest commitments in connection with the NBCUniversal transaction, one of which is to launch 10 new independently owned and operated networks over the next eight years.

Of the 10 channels, four will be majority African American-owned, two will be majority Hispanic-owned and two will be operated by American Latino programmers. These criteria were established based on several agreements Comcast entered into with leading diversity organizations.

Each of the 10 networks will be added on select Comcast systems as part of the digital tier of service.

NAACP National President Stresses Need For Adult Action To Help Children

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African American Network at FedEx delivers with mentoring-power forum

By Tarrin McGhee, Special to the NNPA from the Tri-State Defender –

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The African American Network at FedEx is determined to give back to the community by impacting young lives through mentorship. That commitment was the underpinning for “The Power of Mentoring Forum” the group recently hosted at FedEx World Headquarters.

The annual event is designed to increase cultural awareness, and to encourage FedEx employees and event attendees to learn more about the power of mentoring.

Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), keynoted the 2012 forum (Feb. 22), which saluted four heavyweights for enriching the lives of youth, and for notable public service achievements.

Posthumous salutes went to former University of Memphis basketball star player and coach, Larry Finch, and to Lt. Colonel Luke Weathers, a Memphis-born member of the Tuskegee Airmen whose exploits are detailed in the movie “Red Tails.”

Memphis civil rights activists and icons, Dr. Maxine Smith and the Rev. Samuel Kyles, were lauded for their consistent involvement and commitment to advance the civil rights movement and their local community.

The NAACP’s 17th president and chief executive officer, Jealous is the youngest person to hold the position in the organization’s100-plus year history. He reminded forum guests of the long and hard road traveled by those before him to ensure that African Americans of his generation and future generations would have opportunities to succeed. He also discussed what it would take for children in the U.S. to prosper in the 21st century.

“It’s possible to get what you’re fighting for and lose what you have all at the same time,” Jealous began. “When I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, my generation was treated like a bit of an exception. We were told that fighting was optional…your job is simply to reap what we have sown.

“That worked pretty well for many of us, it’s worked pretty well for me, but I dare say it didn’t work well for most of us,” he said.

Jealous described the important roles that all adults and mentors can play in helping to confront the challenges of war, crime, poverty, incarceration rates and, most importantly, the condition of the nation’s economy and education system.

“The state of affairs (in the U.S.) has real bearing on our role as parents, as adults, community leaders and as mentors,” Jealous said.

“Mentoring isn’t just about passing on lessons to children, it’s about fulfilling your responsibility as an adult in this country to make sure that the country you leave them is better than the one that you inherited. We have done that for generations in this country, in some ways it defines what it means to be a citizen of this United States.”

Jealous expressed concern about what awaits children if adults don’t take action to get involved now to protect the interests of all children.

“Our young people may be the first to be born more in debt than our parents were. They may be the first to be born with less net worth than their parents had, may be first to be born more likely to go to prison than their parents were, and less likely to go to college,” he said.

“Our responsibility right now is greater because the challenges are higher too.”

According to Jealous, outside of mentoring there are additional opportunities to address the challenges that children in America are confronting, opportunities to prevent roadblocks to children’s success, and ultimately the country’s success. To start, he believes that adults should be willing to talk about things that they don’t want to talk about, such as decreasing incarceration rates and the need to improve the country’s education system.

“We as a society have to make a choice to invest more in our aspirations for our children than our fears of other people’s children,” said Jealous.

“People ask how do we catch up, how do we bridge the (education) difference with us (the United States) and Japan? It’s simple. Just stop acting like we can afford to be so different,” he said. “Japan educates their children 230 days a year. In this country we’re lucky if it’s 180.”

Asked how to get adults to recognize the importance of doing what is right for all children and looking beyond what they need to do for their own, Jealous said that a big part of it is changing how we talk about education.

“The reality is that the biggest struggle in our country right now isn’t to make sure that black children can compete with white children, but that American children of all colors can compete with children of all colors from all countries on the planet. That’s what we have to get focused on,” he said.

Jealous concluded his keynote by sharing the NAACP’s plans to introduce an agenda this year that will focus on putting America back on track to being first in the world on issues of education, job creation and innovation. The agenda includes four main pillars that the organization will advocate for starting this spring: more time in the classroom, high quality teachers in every classroom, universal Pre-K and improving public health conditions for children across America.

Jury Convicts Dennis Mahon, Frees Twin in Scottsdale Bombing

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Lack of Hate Crime Leaves Victims Puzzled

By Floyd Alvin Galloway, Special to the NNPA from the Arizona Informant –

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Don Logan following the verdict in the 2004 mail bombing of his office, which injured him and two co-workers. Logan was bewildered by the jurors decision that the attack wasn’t a hate crime. “I can’t understand why they chose not to include race as a factor in the case. This was a hallmark case as a hate crime.”

Logan said he would move on. The emotionally and physically exhausting ordeal’s end was a relieve to Logan and his family. This has not deterred him in his work of promoting diversity and tolerance. “This proofs there is much work still needed in this state and country. You would think in 2012 we would have moved passed issues like this because of a person’s race. To attack a person simply because they are a different color is proof there is still a problem in this country,” said Logan following the verdict.

“I appreciate the guilty verdict for Dennis Mahon but I’m disappointed with the jury’s position that there wasn’t enough evidence to treat this attack as a hate crime,” a puzzled Logan noted.

Logan, 56, African American, was Scottsdale’s former diversity and dialogue director and his secretary were injured in the blast. Logan suffered hand and arm injuries when he opened the package in his office. The way he opened the package is credited with saving his life and the life of others.

After several years of delays in the case, an all white jury heard testimony in the trial that lasted six weeks. Judge Donald Campbell removed one juror for violating his instructions of not talking about the case during the trial.

The twin brothers were arrested in 2009 on their parent’s farm just outside of Rockford, Ill., on suspicion of conspiracy to damage buildings and property by means of explosives. Daniel was found not guilty of the charge.

As Daniel celebrated with his attorneys as his verdict was read, his brother looked solemnly and sternly at the jurors following his verdict. The two brothers hugged as they were escorted from the room by marshals.

Dennis also received additional charges of malicious damage of a building by means of explosive and distribution of information related to explosives. The Mahons are suspected members of W.A.R., White Aryan Resistance, an organization headed by white supremacist Tom Metzger.

“I believe in justice so much,.. it will be ok,” said Logan’s mother, to her son to comfort him. Surrounded by his wife, mother, friends and former co-workers, Logan noticeablelly upset by part of the jury’s decision stated, “this was a textbook case for a hate crime.”

Logan was appreciative of the job done by the U.S. attorneys prosecuting the case. “I should be hugging you for the great job you did,” Logan told Assistant U.S. Attorney John Boyle

Boyle was also surprised by the jury’s conclusion that the attack was not a hate crime, he was congratulatory of the jury’s dedication. “I’m appreciative to the jury and the six weeks they devoted to hear the case and the three days they spent deliberating on the verdict.”

Asked why he felt the jury didn’t see race as a factor in the attack, Boyle had no comment.

Bill Straus, regional director of the Arizona Anti-Defamation League and a friend of Logan, was also shocked the jury didn’t convict Daniel and race was not a factor. “It’s hard to believe they didn’t factor race in their decision,” said Straus.

Dennis Mahon is scheduled to be sentenced on May 22. He faces up to 100 years in jail and fines of up to $500,000.

Verizon Celebrates Black History Month

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By Kelsie Bonaparte, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Verizon Wireless is celebrating Black History Month with education, positivity and prizes. Verizon Wireless, provider of America’s 4G LTE network, has initiated “A Day in the Life of a History Maker” for high school students.

The program is in partnership with UNCF, Get Schooled and Teacher Planet.

“Verizon Wireless is committed to the African-American segment and we love celebrating Black History Month with the community,” said Fernando Molinar, director of multicultural marketing at Verizon Wireless.

The program was designed to motivate and inspire high school students across the New York metropolitan region by teaming up with today’s most powerful African- American history makers.

“Yes, it’s about celebrating the past, but it’s also modern-day… [there are] a lot of key African- American history makers now. We wanted it to be relevant for the students,” said Molinar.

On Valentine’s Day, Terrence J, co-host of BET’s show “106 and Park,” visited the Verizon Wireless Harlem store to meet and take photos with students in the community. “It’s very important to celebrate Black history.

I think when you look at from where we have come as a race, it’s very admirable and we have a long way to go. When you have programs like this and big companies like Verizon that want to support it, I think it’s important that we come out to support our communities.”

Students who want to participate in the program are asked to submit a 500-word essay by March 31 to www.verizoninsider.com/blackhistory explaining how they plan to make history.

There will be five winners who will meet and spend a day in the life with Amber Riley, star of the hit TV series “Glee.”

Students can also nominate their high school and vote to win a visit from Riley until Feb. 29. The school with the most votes will win, and voting is unlimited.

“I think as people who are in the public spotlight, it’s very important to give back, anytime I can lend my talent to do something positive I always try to do that inspire others,” said Terrence J.

For more information on the contest, follow Verizon Wireless on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.

Smiley Works to Put, Keep Poverty on Nation's Radar

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By Barrington M. Salmon, Staff Writer
Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer –

Four years ago, Tavis Smiley said he watched with amazement as Republican and Democratic candidates crisscrossed the country in search of the presidential nomination and not once did he hear anyone talk about poverty.

Now, in the midst of another election year, Smiley vows that this time will be different.

“Poverty threatens to tear this country apart,” he said during opening remarks at a symposium on poverty held at The George Washington University in January. “Unapologetically and with humility, I say we need to confront this problem; we need to gain some traction. I want not to just reduce poverty but I want to be bold and eradicate it.”

Taking Up the Battle Against Poverty

Smiley assembled a distinguished panel of guests who he described as “experts and long-distance runners dedicated to eradicating poverty.” Seated on stage with him included Princeton University professor and author Cornel West; personal finance expert Suze Orman; Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Michael Moore; Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America; community economic specialist Roger Clay; urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter, and Vicki B. Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America.

Smiley and his guests spent almost three hours in front of a packed house of more than 1,500 people at GW’s Lisner Auditorium in Northwest. The panel engaged in an energetic and vigorous conversation about the pervasive spread of poverty and how best to reduce and eradicate it, around the theme of “Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity.” The consensus was that nothing less than a radical and systemic change of the current political and economic paradigm is needed to bring America back from the abyss.

“We have to change this system which is unjust, unfair and undemocratic,” said Moore. ” … Here’s a poverty project people of all stripes can get behind: Jobs. We need a Roosevelt-style jobs program now!”

” … We need a renaissance of compassion,” West agreed. “A revolution against the oligarchs must be across the board … it will take a fundamental system change. How it comes about, nobody knows.”

An Economic Wasteland

Smiley referred to a white paper commissioned by him and produced by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The report found that many Americans are poor and at-risk of becoming poor because of the recession, and they continue to struggle during the recovery.

According to the report, titled “At-Risk: America’s Poor During and After the Great Recession,” 46.2 million people – 15 percent of the U.S. population – live below the poverty line, with poverty highest among Hispanics and African Americans, children, and households headed by women. It has increased most significantly among working-age adults, especially people between the ages of 18 and 34. The recession’s impact on the poor would be worse if not for the 2009 stimulus package of which $250 billion targeted and protected low-income Americans.

“With the perennially poor, near poor and new poor that is about 150 million people,” said Smiley as he asked each panelist how the situation got so bad.

“It’s been an idea for a long time that the poor are some kind of special group, some special demographic, they’re over there somewhere,” said Ehrenreich. “Now we have to face the fact that we’re not talking about someone else. You’re talking about almost half of America, the people who are struggling from the senior citizens who can’t make it on Social Security, its young people who can’t pay their student loans and low-wage workers at Walmart. It’s a massive phenomenon.”

” … The theory coming not just from the right but from some Democrats is that there’s something wrong with your character, that you’ve got bad habits, you have a bad lifestyle, we’ve made the wrong choices but I’d like to present an alternative theory which is that poverty is not a character flaw, poverty is a shortage of money and the biggest reason for that shortage of money is that most working people are not paid enough for their work – and we don’t have work.”

Ehrenreich suggested unions are an instrument for upward mobility. But recently there have been sustained attacks on labor and collective bargaining.

“People got ahead by sticking together,” she said. “(Unions) have been significantly weakened but the lesson is people standing in solidarity can take on that 1 percent.”

Half a Nation Left Behind

West, who traveled with Smiley on an 18-city, 11-state Poverty Tour last summer, said the poor are trapped in an odious, man-made system.

“Each person has a dignity that has to be affirmed,” he said. “What we saw was a system in place that has been driven by corporate greed from the top with oligarchs ruling and politicians rotating, with money coming from the big banks, big corporations pushing working people to the margins and rendering poor people superfluous …”

” … How could it be that the top 400 individuals have wealth the equivalent of their 150 million fellow citizens? There’s something sick about that. Then how could it be that poverty hasn’t become the biggest moral and spiritual issue of our time? Because our leaders lack courage and independence. They’re too tied to big money!”

And while the prison-industrial complex expands, West said with $300 billion allocated to build jails and prisons within the criminal justice system, and then politicians claim that there is not enough money when it comes to “money for schools, money for housing, and money for jobs with a living wage.”

“It’s a warped system. We’re here because Martin Luther King Jr. said America is a sick society, but it doesn’t always have to be sick if Americans rise up the way the Occupy Movement has been talking about, and talk about these issues seriously,” West said. Clay agreed with West that poverty is color-coded saying that other segments of American society are just now encountering what blacks have lived with for a while.

“Black folks have been hurting for a long, long time now but no one paid attention to it because we look at the unemployment rate for everybody and not for the various populations,” said Clay. ” … I think it’s just a good example of what happens when looking at a lot of problems hitting minorities. If it doesn’t hit the white community, it doesn’t happen. But you have white folks who have fallen out of the middle class, or are in danger of it, and now it’s a problem.”

Devastated Middle Class

One audience member said she sees what Clay and others talked about being played out around her every day.

“Everybody I know is affected. People with Ph.Ds are out of work and regardless of people’s level of training, many are out of work,” said Nana Malaya Oparabea, a history, culture and art teacher at Tree of Life Public Charter School in Northeast. “My sister is a graphic designer who used to make $60,000 to $70,000 a year. She hasn’t seen that in five years. No job she’s had matches that salary. She has cleaned people’s offices, worked at a law office, distributed books.”

“Other highly-skilled people have lost their jobs, too. But people are being creative, tutoring here, teaching there. Everyone is pretty much in the same situation.”

What she sought to take from the discussion was concrete ways to effect change, Oparabea said.

“To know that the official unemployment rate for black people hadn’t changed in 40 years was mind-blowing,” she said. “I’m looking for points about what people can do. Discussions are one thing, actions are another …”

Moore electrified the crowd with his honesty, his analogies and pointed criticisms of the predatory capitalism that has stalked this country, and the level of frustration Americans feel.

“Some people have called this class envy. (Mitt) Romney used that phrase. This is a war perpetrated by the rich on everybody else,” he said. “Their boot has been on our necks … they conned and scammed poor people.”

“They took jobs overseas, took homes … Tavis kept asking when is the revolution going to start? When they take away people’s things: their homes, vacations and the ability to send their children to college. Now there’s hell to pay.”

Orman was as blunt in her assessment of the economic mess in which Americans find themselves.

“Years ago, I kept saying to everybody, ‘People be careful.’ You heard me say the rich were getting richer, the poor were getting poorer and that the middle class would no longer exist,” she asserted. “People who called into The Suze Orman Show, which started 11 years ago, used to be middle class. I’m here to tell you, they are all now in poverty. The face of poverty has changed; the face of poverty is the person sitting next to you. It is every single color and what keeps us in poverty is that there’s a highway into poverty and there’s no longer even a sidewalk out.”

“To get out of poverty you have to have a source of income, you have to have the ability to generate money so that you are not poor. It is not brain science, but you can’t make money if there isn’t a job for you to have … everything is set up that once you are poor, they have you exactly where they want you.”

Orman said she doesn’t give the Wall Street crowd as much credit as Moore and other people do.

“I don’t think they’re smart enough to know what they did,” she explained. “They go after money and we don’t know what to do because we’re not educated in money. They told us to sign here and told us we could have the American Dream. We believed them because you want more for yourself and why would they lie to you? But they did everybody.”

“There is only one person who can get you out and that’s you. You’ve got to take your own power, giving power to your voice, and stop sitting down not saying anything and just settling for less. If you act like you’re less, you’ll be less.”

Veterinarian Jane Laura Doyle drove from West Virginia to sit in the audience.

“I’m fired up. It was excellent. It was wonderful to see that group of people put their heads together,” she said. “The message Smiley gave us is the best present we could get.”

With regards to her business, Doyle said she’s “just trying to get by.”

“West Virginia was already kind of down when we got hit (with the economic downturn). Why can’t we have the Civilian Conservation Corps?” she asked.

“There are all kinds of things we can do,” interjected Larry Yates, who described himself as “an activist by nature” and who attended the symposium with Doyle. “What Moore said about being out here by ourselves is true. Activists can’t do this until regular people come in or they’ll be no hope. Nothing replaces people.”

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