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    Dialogue necessary to move beyond fear

    The reactions to the Department of Justice’s decision to not charge police in the shooting death of Alton Sterling have divided largely along racial lines. Baton Rouge like many cities was racially segregated at its founding.Although the city has undergone “desegregation,” in the last several decades clear racial divisions exist most vividly with Florida Blvd as the racial dividing line.
    Crump

    Crump

    Many institutions and individuals have either ignored their roles in this continued division or looked for ways to explain it or justify an unacceptable situation.Often people wonder what difference talking about these racial divisions can do to make real lasting positive change. Given our name, we obviously believe that talk/dialogue does change things. It matters though what kind of talking it is. Dialogue done badly likely does more harm than good. We work hard at developing a dialogue that is functional and well-fitted to the difficult conversation of race. One thing we do know is that the dialogue must take place outside of a rush to act or in the mist of highly charged, anxiety filled times. In those times, myths and misunderstandings and old unaddressed issues are bursting through, and the dialogue will be ill-informed.
    Webster states, dialogue “seeks understanding and harmony.” In the educational process we use called the Dialogue On Race Series, we stress understanding; which may or may not lead to harmony.  However better understanding has a powerful impact that can lead to changes; changes that benefit everyone.The attempts to address racism in Baton Rouge have not kept pace with the growing problem.

    The fear of explosion and violence is a symptom that says we all know something is wrong. Instead of looking for ways to explain that “wrong,” we need to look for ways to understand the problem.  What has caused the problem and why have we let it go on so long? We also need to ask why so many have stayed quiet, avoided it, or believed that the problem of race has gone.

    Yes we need dialogue but we need dialogue done well. Dialogue on Race Louisiana’s core program, the Dialogue on race series is not just any conversation. The magic of the Dialogue on Race Series is that it is structured, facilitated, backed with factual information. It is formatted to set a safe environment for open, honest, brave conversation.
    The DOR Series is a highly specialized form of discussion that imposes rigorous discipline on the participants.  The series begins by defining the terms used. You have to have a common understanding of the terms being used.
    When dialogue is done well, the results can be extraordinary; long-standing stereotypes can be dissolved, mistrust can be overcome, mutual understanding achieved, vision shaped, grounded in shared purpose, new common ground discovered, new perspectives and insights gained, bonds of community strengthened.
    When Baton Rouge solves institutional racism, the sharp line of racial division will end. Also protest will not be seen as something to fear, instead it will be recognized as it is meant to be; a tool of a free society.

    By Maxine Crump 

    CEO Dialogue on Race Louisiana
    Baton Rouge

    ONLINE: http://dialogueonracelouisiana.org
    https://www.facebook.com/DialogueOnRaceLouisiana

     

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    LETTER: Ask legislators for more health centers in schools

    Dear Citizens:

    Did you know that there are 63 School-Based Health Centers in 27 parishes in Louisiana? They are medical offices in a school, staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and licensed behavioral health professionals. School-based health centers keep children in school by providing medical and mental health care on campuses. More than 70,000 students have access to health care through these centers. There are many benefits including reducing absenteeism and tardiness, reduction in hospital emergency care, the prevention of suicide and depression, and keeping children in school so that they can graduate. We know that 96 percent of students treated in a center RETURN to class.

    We need more school-based health centers in our schools and in more parishes throughout Louisiana. Yet, today the funding for existing School Based Health Centers is in danger due to state budget cuts to healthcare.

    As the president of the Louisiana School-Based Health Alliance and a health professional, I have spent countless hours working with partners across the state to get MORE health centers in our schools. Why? Because they keep students in school and parents at work. They provide Louisiana children with acute care for minor illnesses and injuries, prescriptions for medications, immunizations, diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases and mental health services. Parents must give permission for their children to be treated.

    Please ask your legislator to fight for School-Based Health Center funding. It’s for children and parents. I encourage you to contact your legislator today and ask him or her to restore funding for School-Based Health Centers.
    Louisiana School-Based Health Alliance

    Tabitha J. Washington, MHA
    President

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  • COMMENTARY: Louisiana needs jobs, not more taxes and lawsuits

    Today Louisianans are facing a risk that threatens our economy and perhaps even our way of life: more job-killing taxes and lawsuits.

    As Louisiana lawmakers count down to the end of the 2017 Regular Legislative Session, Governor John Bel Edwards is still pushing for a variety of tax measures that will likely make it more difficult for businesses and employers to survive in our state. From the proposed tax on every product or service that is bought or sold in Louisiana, to new employer mandates that would wreak havoc on small businesses by exposing them to potential litigation virtually every time they make a compensation decision— the economic landscape Gov. Edwards is cultivating is not one that’s open for business.

    Last year, Gov. Edwards raised our taxes by over $1 billion. Over the same time, he also aggressively worked to expand the state’s role in lawsuits targeting Louisiana’s energy industry, and now the state is suing every major provider of oil and gas jobs in Louisiana.

    These tax-sue-and-spend policies are further weakening our already struggling state economy.

    More than 20,000 Louisiana workers have lost their jobs over the last two years. Today working families are paying $1,500 more in taxes than they did just a couple of years ago. We now have the highest sales taxes in the country and the fourth-worst unemployment rate.

    Wages are down. Unemployment is up. By and large, we are paying more and earning less. Our families are struggling, and yet, the governor continues to focus his agenda on creating more taxes, more lawsuits, and more barriers to economic growth.

    We cannot afford to continue down this dangerous path.

    Now is the time for citizens across the state to call on the governor to refocus his agenda on growing our economy and creating high-paying jobs to get people back to work.

    That’s what he said he would do when he was running for office, and that’s what he should do now! On the campaign trail in 2015, candidate Edwards repeatedly told voters, “I believe the best way to raise revenue is not by raising tax rates, it’s by growing the economy.”

    Now would be a great time to start living up to that promise. We need jobs. Not more taxes and lawsuits.

    By Melissa Landry

    Melissa Landry is executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), a grassroots legal watchdog dedicated to improving the state’s legal climate. Learn more at www.LLAW.org.

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    Mayor Broome to citizens: ‘I stand against hatred, division, and words that divide’

    On May 19, 2017, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome released this letter to residents of East Baton Rouge Parish after seeing racist and bigoted statements posted online.

    At my inauguration in January, I spoke about the fabric of our community and how it could be torn by the challenges of the day. I said that many would look at these challenges and choose to define us by the different and diverse pieces that exist. I stood before this city excited by the opportunity to help lead the unification of our different and disparate pieces of cloth into a wonderful, colorful, distinctive and inclusive quilt that will be the “new Baton Rouge.” I spoke about how we could utilize the common and strong threads of respect, opportunity, fairness, inclusion, equity, and optimism to weave an amazing tapestry of growth and progress that touches every area of this parish and beyond. I had much hope then and I have much hope now.

    I have a profound love for this city, parish and ALL residents. My goal as mayor-president is to unite people around our collective goals of progress and equity. While freedom of speech is one of the pillars that makes this country so beautiful, irresponsibility of such can be used as a tool to separate us as community. As your mayor-president, I stand against hatred, division, and words and actions that only further divide our community. I do not endorse or support the opinions of any individual or media outlet that would attempt to take us down a path of strife and contentiousness. I write to you today to say that this division cannot and will not be the demise of Baton Rouge.

    While this administration has been working diligently to address the priorities that you as citizens have established for Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish, we still have much work to do. This includes but is not limited to: ensuring that all of our children, regardless of their addresses, receive an optimum education; our police are equipped and trained properly not only to be aligned with 21st century best practices, but to also be aligned with the community they serve; we are adequately prepared for natural disasters and recovery; and that all neighborhoods have the tools necessary to make them the safe, progressive places that residents deserve; and that economic growth touches all parts of our city. Lastly, I will continue to work to make peace and justice the standard for our community — not the exception.
    We can accomplish these goals and more if we work together. That is when we are our strongest.

    In closing, I want to be very clear: I reject any efforts intended to create division and strife in our community. The statements that I made during my campaign for your mayor-president and subsequent inaugural address were not just idle words. I meant every word with every fiber of my being when I spoke of the “new Baton Rouge.” Our future is a shared one. We are inextricably bound together in our search for
    a place that we can be proud to call home. And I, for one, refuse to be deterred in our journey.

    Sincerely,
    Sharon Weston Broome

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    Losing healthcare access, Medicaid too risky for Louisiana

    There are very few things, if any, more important in life than our health. As such, it’s important that we as Louisiana residents are mindful of the gains we’ve made through the Affordable Care Act as well as through Medicaid expansion here. For the first time ever, insurance companies are mandated to cover preventative care services and are also prohibited from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

    As the first state in the Deep South to expand Medicaid, Louisiana has positioned itself to be at the cutting edge of healthcare reform. With more than 420,000 individuals who now have health coverage under Medicaid expansion, Louisiana residents are receiving life-saving early detection because of an increase in health screenings and treatment of health conditions including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Sadly, however, many of the gains that have been made over the last few years are on the verge of being lost.

    On May 3, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) signaling the first victory toward President Donald Trump’s repeal and replace agenda. Though this reform impacts the entire nation, it poses significant concerns for poor states like Louisiana which, prior to Governor John Bel Edwards’ decision to expand Medicaid, had one of the highest uninsured rates in the country. A 2017 survey conducted by LSU’s School of Mass Communication noted that, “About three-fourths of Louisiana residents approve of the state’s decision to expand its Medicaid program last year under the auspices of the federal ACA. [However], the public remains deeply divided over the ACA itself, but opinion is shifting in a more favorable direction.” That being considered, it’s highly likely that many Louisiana residents, even those in favor of passing Trump’s AHCA, will be disgruntled to discover its potentially negative impact on Medicaid funding in Louisiana. If the Senate successfully passes the AHCA, those with pre-existing conditions could be forced out of the insurance marketplace into a “high risk” pool. There could be a reduction in the benefits now offered that cover preventative care services. This could have a major impact on the health of Louisiana residents.

    As of May 8, more than 6,400 Louisiana women were screened for breast cancer; 103 were diagnosed with cancer. Additionally, 8,823 Louisiana residents were screened for colon cancer. Of those individuals 2,593 of them successfully averted colon cancer by having polyps removed, and 82 individuals were diagnosed. These statistics make it clear that the issue of protecting the ACA and Medicaid expansion is about saving lives. In order to ensure that our state continues to move forward in providing access to healthcare for all of its residents, we must take action now prior to the U.S. Senate vote.

    Join other advocates and:

    • Stand together for health at the State Capitol. The “Health Day at the Capitol” is May 24 at 9am, hosted by the Louisiana Center for Health Equity in conjunction with the Campaign for Healthcare for Everyone Louisiana and a number of other community organizations. The event will feature a press conference on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol, followed by a display of resources in the Capitol Rotunda until noon. This is an opportunity to stand together in support of health care, showcase your organization and services, network with others, share your concerns, attend committee meetings and connect with legislators. (www.facebook.com/LACenterHealthEquity/).
    • Contact your U.S. Senator now. The Senate is taking up the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Contact your U.S. Senator now. Senator Bill Cassidy and Senator John Kennedy can be reached at (202) 224-3121. Select option “1”.
    • Subscribe to Louisiana Center for Health Equity newsletter. Stay informed about healthcare advocacy efforts and the work of LCHE partners. Go to http://www.healthcareeveryone.org/ and subscribe. The Louisiana Center for Health Equity is a nonpartisan non profit IRS tax exempt public charity 501(c)(3) organization. LCHE works to address the increasing disparities in health and healthcare across Louisiana. LCHE represents the interest of health equity by promoting the elimination of health disparities caused by poverty, lack of access to quality healthcare and unhealthy environmental conditions with a focus on health and wellness.

    By Alma C. Stewart, R.N., M.S
    Founder and President, Louisiana Center for Health Equity
    Convener, Campaign for Healthcare for Everyone – Louisiana
    Host, “Today’s Health Topics,” a weekly radio show on WTQT 106.1 FM.

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    COMMENTARY: #BlackWomenatWork will be respected, not intimidated

    “She can’t be the owner.”

    “Can you be a little less aggressive?”

    “We can only pay you this amount.”

    These are the phrases that echo in the ears of many working African-American women. The sly remarks of their superiors, colleagues, and sometimes, even friends, all cause African-American women to perform daily self-assessments. So, it wasn’t by chance that the moment White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attacked journalist April Ryan and Bill O’Reilly commented about U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, we all fell to our knees in disgust and understanding. It was by chance the first time the feminist voice met the racism cry accompanied by the “Black head nod”. Because, quite frankly, we knew that experience of inferiority and unsolicited comedy, with the focus on us all too well.

    I guess you would think it wouldn’t be such a big deal. How could a hashtag draw so much attention? Well, for the degreed sister, the one who had to climb the corporate ladder alone; the one who consistently holds the Angry Black Woman stereotype under a professional subtle demeanor; the one who over dresses daily and under asserts her authority; the one with the alphabets behind her name or the desire to open that business;  the one who contemplates braids versus a relaxer;  who tries desperately not order poultry at the fancy dinner and commits to ensuring that her colloquialisms are far from connected to the urban area she grew up in…. she finally found relief in seeing the #BlackWomenatWork hashtag. The hashtag meant that she wasn’t alone and neither were her inner most feelings.

    #BlackWomenatWork

    So, for clarity, Black women are not insecure. In fact, we are extremely educated and many times over qualified.  Yet, in the doors of the corporation, African-American women are immediately and unapologetically mistaken for “The Help” and, quite frankly, we’re tired. It is time that every Black woman garner the respect and credibility that we’ve worked hard to achieve. We can’t let a Trump administration infused with misogyny and racism, or the boss that is only succeeding because of your work ethic, or the looks received on your corporate trip from the concierge allow you to give in to the  ridiculous labeling of the Black woman.

    See we admit and concede to the fact that our femininity connects us to the same struggles as our sisters of other races. We don’t down play their struggle, but even Hillary Clinton had to step out in outrage over the attacks received by the Black woman in the public view. Let’s examine the attacks: not one experienced by Representative Waters or Ms. Ryan have been embedded with anything more than focus on physical appearance and gestures. Why is that? It’s because there is nothing else to attack her on. Not her education. Not her qualifications. Not her experience. So, the oppressor resorts to low blows and calls out the things that only an immature bully can get others to see.

    What does this all do to us? Well, we start a fight among ourselves, better known as “double consciousness,” as coined by the great W.E.B. DeBois. We feel so marginalized that our inner fight grows to conducting ourselves to be accepted; and we sometimes silence our voice and accept being underpaid, however, the one thing we do and we do well is keep pushing. We outwork our counterparts. We quit jobs that never valued our work ethic. We start our own businesses. We stay in positions to help the next Black girl get in.  You’ll probably never hear us complain because we’ve learned a long time ago that doesn’t solve anything. But this year, we’ve screamed enough. We’ve banned together with a measly hashtag and demanded everyone realize that #BlackWomenatWork WILL be respected and NOT intimidated.
     Erika Green

    Erika L Green, ESQ

    I’m reminded of a statement written a century ago that summarizes the conflict that the Black woman experiences. Soujourner Truth said, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?” We will continue to work and eat just as much as our counterparts but the lash ends today!

    By Erika L. Green
    Guest columnist

    Erika Green is managing attorney at Law Office of Erika Green  and Baton Rouge City Councilmember District 5. Follow her @erikalgreenesq

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    Many of Medicare’s screenings come at no cost

    How often have you tried to ignore an ache or pain by telling yourself, “Maybe if I do nothing, it’ll go away.” Sometimes, that works. But wishful thinking isn’t the best way to take care of yourself.

    Medicare has put a new emphasis on preventive health care.

    A few years ago, Medicare mostly concerned itself with paying for your treatment after you got sick. Now, it’s also focused on helping you stay healthy and avoid diseases and illnesses in the first place.

    People with Medicare are entitled to a broad range of exams, lab tests and screenings to detect health problems early, when they’re most treatable or curable. Many now come at no out-of-pocket cost.

    Many immunizations are also free.

    To make sure you get started on the right foot, Medicare covers a “welcome to Medicare” visit with your physician during the first 12 months you’re enrolled in the Part B medical insurance program.

    Your doctor will evaluate your health, discuss any preventive services you may need, like shots or screenings, and make referrals for more care if required. There’s no out-of-pocket cost.

    You can make the most of your visit by coming prepared. That means bringing a complete list of your prescriptions, your family health history and your medical records, including immunizations.

    Medicare also pays for an annual wellness visit with your primary care doctor. This isn’t the same as an annual physical, since it isn’t a head-to-toe examination. But it does provide the same opportunity to discuss your health.

    Your doctor will develop a personalized prevention plan to keep you healthy. The visit also includes a review of your medications and routine measurements, like your height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index.

    More than 40 million older Americans with Medicare – including 573,000 Louisiana residents — received at least one preventive service at no cost to them last year.

    Here’s a rundown of some of these services:

    • Cardiovascular screenings check cholesterol and other blood fat levels. Medicare pays for the test once every five years.
    • Blood sugar screenings can determine whether you have diabetes. Based on your health, you may be eligible for up to two screenings each year.
    • Mammograms check for breast cancer. Medicare covers a screening every 12 months for women 40 and older and one baseline mammogram for women 35 to 39.
    • Medicare typically pays for a flu shot once every flu season, a pneumonia vaccination and, if you’re at medium to high risk, a hepatitis B shot.
    • Colonoscopies can find precancerous growths early. Medicare covers the screenings once every 10 years or, if you’re at high risk, once every two years. You pay nothing for the test itself. If your physician removes a polyp, you may need to pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor’s services and a copayment for the outpatient setting.
    • Prostate cancer screenings include a yearly PSA test and digital rectal exam for men 50 and older. The PSA test is free. You pay 20 percent of the cost for the rectal exam, after meeting your deductible.
    • Medicare pays for one depression screening per year. The screening must be done in a primary-care setting, like a doctor’s office, that can provide follow-up treatment and referrals.
    • If you’re a smoker, you qualify for eight free counseling sessions each year to help you quit.
    • Likewise, if you’re obese with a body mass index of 30 or higher, you may be eligible for free counseling sessions to help you lose weight.
    • Medicare pays for HIV screening for people at increased risk for the virus, people who ask for the test, or pregnant women. Medicare covers the test once every year or up to three times during a pregnancy.

    Keeping up-to-date with screenings and immunizations is important, so Medicare encourages you to visit mymedicare.gov and register. There, you can see a description of your covered preventive services, the last date you had a particular test and the next date you qualify for it again.

    By eliminating the out-of-pocket costs for many screenings and tests, Medicare’s new emphasis on prevention not only can save you money, it can help you take control of your health.

    It may even help save your life.

    By Bob Moos
    Guest Columnist

     

    Bob Moos is the southwest public affairs officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. ONLINE:cms.hhs.gov. Medicare Buttons by http://www.hirejon.com/medicare/ 

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    COMMENTARY: Take ‘alternative facts’ in small doses, avoid anxiety

    In a survey released earlier this month by the American Psychological Association, 57 percent of Americans say they are feeling more stress due to the current political climate, while 66 percent were stressed about the future of our nation and 49 percent were stressed about the outcome of the presidential election. In fact, 52 percent of Americans said the Presidential election was a very, or somewhat signi cant source of stress.

    Suffice it is to say that those who voted, and their candidate of choice won, are rejoicing that they participated in the process. On the other hand, those whose candidate did not win, are nonetheless pleased that they participated in the process.

    But the rhetoric has only just begun. Every news station that covers the political climate contributes to the dis-ease of rendering the “good, the bad and the ugly” as they see it. The problem is that the public is left to sift through what is true, not so true, or what is false, and then quell their emotions in the process, so as not to walk out of the door on their way to work, church, shopping or wherever shaking their heads or feeling “some kind of way.”

    So what is the public to do? This is what the therapist says: First, understand in your conscious self that the news must be taken in-the-moment with a recognition of the slant of the person who is delivering the information–or alternative facts. Whatever your opinion, there’s an argument for it.

    This counselor suggests that you take the information in small doses, avoiding an overdose that might cause anxiety, anger, and sleepless nights. Avoid indulging in deep political conversations on the job because it can potentially become devisive. Additionally, keep political conversations light at lunch. Remember, you do have to return to work.

    One of the things that has “made America great” is our ability to express our opinions. Lately, however, it is advised that we should know, more than ever, the company we keep. Less the “company we keep” might become the company that discards and shuts down the ability to express opinions. Opinions are like tires, someone said: at some point in time, EVERYBODY HAS ONE. Stress and anxiety are frequent invaders of our calm and even temperaments. It seems that we find ourselves doing more and more to avoid “flying off the handle” or stepping on someone else’s toes. While there are several causes to which we connect our stress levels, have you noticed that one of the prominent stressors, lately, is the current political climate?

    Here’s what the Counselor suggests:
    • Remember that however we think or feel, there’s a television or radio station that agrees with our slant. You might just want to listen to that station only.
    • Consider limiting your intake of caffeine so you won’t become edgy when someone says something that may cause disagreement or offense.
    • Take deep breaths and think about what you are going to say BEFORE you say it. After you say it is too late.
    • Get enough sleep so you won’t be cranky on the job. Turn in earlier and avoid letting the news or a disturbing movie be the last show you watch.
    • Remember that “opinions are like at tires; everybody has one.” Keep your cool and remind yourself that your opinion is the best one to YOU!

    By barbara w. green

    Certified counselor and minister in Baton Rouge. She is the author of The Parent Anointing and The Great One. Follow her on Facebook or at www. barbaragreenministries.org

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    COMMENTARY: Congress should strengthen safety net

    Our new president and Congress have vowed to stand up and defend the interests of ordinary Americans who feel left behind by deepening economic inequality. But actions speak louder than words.

    More than 43 million Americans still live below the poverty line in this country, and that number would actually be twice as high if not for federal anti-poverty policies. So it’s truly puzzling that some members of Congress are preparing to attack key pillars of our safety net programs; programs their constituents depend on to survive, like SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Medicaid.

    Now more than ever, we need to focus on helping hardworking people across the country make ends meet, not put up roadblocks in their way. We must stand up against schemes to “block grant” health and anti-poverty programs and efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I hope we can count on our elected officials to reject any proposals that undo what we know works.

    By Rachid Ouedraogo

     

     

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    COMMENTARY: Tangipahoa school deseg case should not be downplayed

    Dear Editor:
    Needless to say, the importance of this particular desegregation case definitely should not be downplayed as arguments from every side are well understood. However, there are things that must take precedence as this process continues. Things like the assurance that every single one of our public schools has equitable resources and programs needed to be competitive, for instance, should be a priority. Planning strategically for each school by fairly balancing the clientele it needs to thrive and invigorate the community it services is of equal importance.  Likewise, the life of every single one of the 307 children from the Magazine Street area is even more important.  And, doing what is best for these children (all children for that matter) has to be top priority.
    When considering the latest court report, it is pretty apparent that reflection must take place in all who are involved in the future of our schools and communities. Somewhere and somehow, we seem to have lost sight of what is really important.  Of course, storms can impair vision. Therefore, leaders must strive to ensure all of our children and families are equipped to “weather” the remainder of this storm by practicing sound leadership in the midst. True leaders always acknowledge and stand for what is right. They always stand for what is honorable and just. They always advocate for the underdog. They always fight for those who do not know exactly how to fight for themselves.  And they always love everyone.
    With these same thoughts in mind, at some point we must sincerely question our own motives and leader actions.  By no means am I saying that the actions cited in the most recent court document were intentional. However, I am saying that more consideration regarding the  long term success of all schools, families, and children probably should have been given when engaging in the planning process. This is especially important when considering kids who are already placed at a statistical disadvantage due to various risk factors. Providing children with an opportunity to break family poverty cycles through education is a responsibility that should not and cannot be taken lightly. Think about it.  If the same educational practices and planning that may have very well guided many of these families into poverty for generations in the first place are continued, then it can almost be guaranteed that these same families will continue to remain in poverty for generations to come.  With the dedicated people we have throughout this parish, there is absolutely no excuse for this to continue to be.
    Let’s move forward by planning properly and responsibly for all of our children, schools, and families.
    Patricia Morris
    President
    Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP
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    COMMENTARY: Has the Electoral College outlived its usefulness?

    “No!”  The Electoral College was one of many foresighted policies that the Founding Fathers established though the U.S. Constitution..  How to choose a president through a delicate balance of the individual states and the federal government and between the Executive and Legislative branches of government was the challenge.  The Founding Fathers answer was the Electoral College (Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution).

    The winner take all approach encourages voter apathy, if that citizen is not supporting the “popular” candidate.  The feeling that their vote will not count leads to a diminished interest in participating in the election process.

    The problem is not with Electoral College, but with the implementation at the individual state level. Forty-eight states have adopted a winner take all approach for the awarding of the Electoral Votes.  This is an individual state legislative decision.  Only Maine and Nebraska have developed other plans which can allow for a split Electoral Vote.

    This author suggests that the electoral delegates/votes be assigned by Proportional Representation of the popular vote within each state.  Louisiana has eight Electoral votes. Under a Proportional Representation of the popular vote system for Louisiana’s electoral vote, the votes would be divided by percentage of vote, unless the candidate is represented by less than 10 percent of the popular vote. This would also allow for a meaningful representation of the popular vote.

    In the November 2016 Presidential unofficial election results, Trump had 58.10 percent of the popular vote; Clinton had 38.44 percent; collectively all other candidates had 3.46 percent.

    Trump would be awarded 60 percent of the electoral votes (4.8 of 8 = 5): 5 Electoral Votes and Clinton would be awarded 40 percent (3.2 of 8 = 3) : 3 Electoral Votes.

    Using the Proportional Representation method allows for the voices of the citizens to be heard in a meaningful way in the choosing of our President.  This is within the reach of all citizens, if they are willing to contact their State Legislators and ask that the law be changed on how Electoral Votes are awarded to Proportional Representation of the People.

    The choice is up to US!

    By Jean B. Armstrong, CPC, CED
    Baton Rouge

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  • LETTER: Students need American Courage

    “Well, we better get ready to hop on the ship cause we’re about to be shipped to Africa.”

    “I’m moving to Mexico.”

    “It’s the end of America.”

    These are just some of the ridiculous remarks I overheard throughout the hallways and within the classrooms at my school, directly from the mouths of our intelligent students. These remarks were expressed due to the recent announcement of Donald J. Trump becoming our new President-elect. As a concerned teacher, I allowed students to vent and express themselves concerning the recent election, but majority of the discussion revolved around the negative possibilities of being under President-elect Trump’s leadership. It was also alarming to hear students respond with statements that lacked the fundamental motifs of the American narrative: freedom, hope, and most importantly courage. After being overwhelmed with the various ramblings of hopelessness from the students, our scholars and future professionals, I became frustrated at the lack of courage their remarks possessed. There’s no reason for students to be afraid of being shipped out of the country or have terrifying visions of the apocalypse all because President-elect Trump will serve as our next president. This is a democracy, not a monarchy. The days of the divine rights of the king are over, at least for American citizens. The next generation, and perhaps those from previous generations must revisit the foundational enshrined documents of this great nation which all echo equality, liberty, and the right to be free. However, students, the future defenders of the constitution, are in need of fully understanding and applying the established principals of democracy to continue spreading justice for all. If courage isn’t redefined for our students, maybe the election of Trump is the last chapter of the great American narrative.

    By Billy Gene
    Educator
    Baton Rouge

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  • Metro council candidate, SU student pens letter against tuition amendment

    Dear Editor,

    This is not a time to vote yes on all amendments and acts. There is a proposed act on the ballot for the November 8th election that everyone needs to vote down and send back. This act is Act 680 – SB 80, also known as the second act on the ballot. This will remove the state legislature’s hold on authorizing the tuition rates at universities, and put the responsibility solely on the boards of the universities. Written by Senator Dan Morrish, a republican of course, SB 80 will provide university board members free will to increase tuition costs as they deem fit. This act can create a huge financial mess for universities and threaten affordability for students.

    Currently, according to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, from 2008-2016 the state funding per student has decreased by 39.1%. Therefore, if the legislators are the ones cutting funding, they should not push the responsibility of setting tuition on the board members of universities. This takes responsibility off of our legislators making it look like they do not want to take the heat for college tuition. Also, this could create confusion amongst the university board members because they themselves cannot determine how much comes from the state. Thus, creating more work in setting tuition costs and possibly leading to financial havoc.

    VOTE NOFinally, according to a study performed by Dr. Johnson-Cunningham, a political science professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, examining the voting behavior of public, state-funded university board members, board members consider the fiscal impact on the university before casting their vote. Therefore, if a university has a shortfall, then the first decision to be made will most likely be an increase in tuition. Universities are run like businesses. Costs are formulated with little or no consideration of the consumer, in this case the student. Thus, this act, if passed, can threaten the accessibility and affordability of a higher education for anyone seeking to further their education.

    In conclusion, vote no this election day for the second amendment on the ballot. For the future of this state, the sake of college students, and the university systems, send this proposal right back to Senator Morrish. Let him know that the citizens of Louisiana will not let legislators back out of this responsibility. This is an instance where they have no choice but to do their jobs. Once again, SB 80 cannot pass this election. Vote NO.

    Sincerely,
    Abigail Winget
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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    COMMENTARY: Enough is enough

    There some things I can accept.

    I can accept that some people support candidates no matter what they say or do.

    I can accept some sports teams may never win a championship in my lifetime.

    I cannot accept an educational system that kills the spirit of young children, including far too young black males.

    I cannot accept a system that either sets low expectations or no expectations for young children, especially young Black males.

    I cannot accept a system that takes credit for knowledge children acquired outside of the school setting, while simultaneously refusing to accept responsibility for their failure to effectively teach them in accordance with their specific learning styles.

    Parents should know as much about teaching and learning as they know about their child’s conduct on any given day. Many teachers live outside of the communities they serve, are unfamiliar with diverse populations factors which may impact daily conduct grades. Assigning daily conduct grades to students is virtually unheard of in many school districts across the country.

    I cannot accept (nor should any of us accept) the lack of commitment to an excellent education for all children as evidenced in the examples mentioned previously and many others. School buses with missing back windows are not acceptable. An entire grade in decade old FEMA trailers, substituting as classrooms, do not send a message that a community values education or that the children in certain schools, particularly majority minority schools, are valued.

    The “things” we should not accept are apparent in our schools from pre-k and onward. The things we should not accept have fed a school-to-prison pipeline, crushed the intellectual curiosity and confidence of our children, sent graduation rates plummeting and dropout rates through the roof, led some to propose secession and the creation of new cities, and have caused some parents of color to opt-out of traditional public schools altogether. These are among the very factors so-called education reformers point to in their quest to draw parents and students away from traditional public schools to untested, shiny, new, tuition-free, charter and magnet schools, which enrich their bottom lines placing profits over pupils.

    Free tuition at public colleges and universities will mean very little for students trapped in the types of schools described here. Discussions about increasing the diversity of public school teachers and college faculty will continue to go nowhere as generations of students of color are underserved at a time when their curiosity and ability to absorb new ideas is greatest.

     

    By Lori Martin, Ph.D.

    Lori Martin, Ph.D., is associate professor of sociology and African American Studies. She is the author of Big Box Schools: Race, Education, and the Danger of the Wal-Martization of Public Schools in America.

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    COMMENTARY: Special session, what it brings

    I had the good fortunate of being a part of the Together Louisiana that was invited to set in the balcony and hear firsthand the (Governor John Bel Edwards’) speech as he opened the special session on Sunday, Feb. 14. We were of course in the House of Representatives and watched as they talked with each other hugged and seemed glad to be there. I watched the new legislators including the one from my hometown as they tried to figure out just what to do and who to engage with. It was amazing how many of them are seated close together. Finally the speaker opened the house and had read into the minutes certain pieces of information that no one on the floor paid any attention to, I guess because it was only formality. Then the speaker sent a group of four to announce to the senate that the house had convened and he sent a group of four to announce to the governor that the house had convened. It became evident that the senate had done the same thing because a group of four came and announced that the senate had convened.

    Finally at five the governor arrived with the members from the senate and house as part of his escort team. The colors were presented and an excellent rendition of the Stars Spangled Banner was sung a Capella by a member of the staff.

    The governor began his speech, now it seems as if he has presented in my opinion a bleak state of affairs for Louisiana. He also presented his proposals for alleviating the deficit. His plan does include cutting (160 million) and of course raising additional revenue.

    On my way to the capital, I was walking behind a lady carrying a sign and of course I asked her what the sign was for and she said it had to do with the waivers parents had gotten for disabled children that Governor Edwards wanted to do away with. Then she made the off comment, I wish he had not gotten elected. She set in the balcony where our group set and I wondered if after she heard the speech if she still felt the same. I hope not. It became perfectly clear to me that we have had so many tricks over the last eight years to balance the budget that now the time has come to really reckon with the deficit. No one wants a tax increase, but as I look at the situation I can live with the one cent. I can also live with the tobacco and alcohol taxes especially if they bring in enough revenue to fix the budget.

    I remember last year when the past administration talked about the tax credit for college students and how that credit that brought in no dollars would balance the budget and how the presidents of all the universities with Ph.D. degrees would go along with that particular smoke and mirror screen. I understand the politics of the agreement, because I know the governor could have put pressure on the various boards to get rid of those presidents who did not agree, but for the life of me I still don’t understand how they felt that the universities would have any additional revenue, even an illiterate person could see through that disaster.
    I watched as the governor made his speech who clapped and of course who did not. It was amazing to watch especially the elected state level officials setting behind the podium and there lack of applause. It was also amazing to watch the members of the legislature as some and an awful lot of them chose to not clap even when he mentioned the couple who needed health insurance and had them stand. It was amazing to also watch when the mother of a disabled child stood who had a wavier for her child and who needed the help. I took note of those I knew who were so inclined to dismiss the governor’s plan to balance the budget.

    Now here is where it is interesting, after his speech, one legislator said he cut 160 million that is not meeting us half way, what he did not offer was his solution, just criticism. The governor asked for help and for other options. It also baffled me that one of the great opponents of the Jindal mess was the state treasure who now thinks that we don’t need additional revenue. He must know some of us remember when he was the biggest critic of the Jindal smoke and mirrors.

    So, I wrote before that I caught the breeze of change, after Gov. Edwards’ speech, I am willing to do whatever the governor needs to balance this great mess we are in and hope the legislators will remember they are elected by the people to do what the people want and that the people elected John Bel Edwards overwhelmingly.

    By Linda M. Johnson
    Plaquemine, LA

    Linda Johnson is a former Louisiana BESE representative.

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    COMMENTARY: ‘Mardi Gras, big fat lies’

    Saturday, February 6, 2016, was a historic day in Baton Rouge.  It was also a day filled with contradictions that are characteristic of the State Capital.
    image

    In one section of the city residents gathered to remember the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott with the dedication of a memorial bench by The Toni Morrison Society.

    In another section of the city confederate flags were waving and a float was preparing to parade down public roadways mocking the killings of unarmed Black men and women.

    As shocking as the images were for some—and as predictable as they were to others—what was even more disturbing and revealing were the efforts by some people to justify and rationalize the presence of confederate flags, but especially the float as mere satire. 

    Furthermore, descriptions of the float as a joke that may have gone too far and dismissals of the negative reactions that followed revealed what many people have already known; the idea that we are living in a post-racial or colorblind society is a big fat lie.  Race matters as much today as it did more than 60 years ago when blacks were legally forbidden from owning their own buses lines, saddled with a bus fare increase, and forced to stand while seats reserved for whites remained empty.  Through collective action, the community forced changed.  The change was not necessarily the type everyone in the community envisioned, but it helped move hundreds of thousands of people to renew or establish a commitment to social justice. 

    Now more than ever there is a similar need for people of all walks of life to demand more of their friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues.  Remaining silent about things that matter cannot be a viable option in the face of such offensive and unjust actions.  Mocking a contemporary iteration of a struggle as old as the nation itself is no laughing matter.  We should all feel a sense of righteous indignation when unarmed mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are killed not on foreign battlefields, but on American streets.  In far too many cases, the victims’ families are left to not only mourn but in the case of the shooting of a young man in Chicago and his neighbor, now they also have to ward off l

    image

    awsuits from the very person who pulled the trigger. 

    Sadly, the float during the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade that displayed a brutalized pink flamingo and baton meant to resemble one carried by a law enforcement officer, and bearing the moniker, “Pink Lives Matter,” points to the sad truism that throughout our nation’s history the lives of people of African ancestry have mattered less to some people than animals or even beloved cultural symbols. 

    Mardi Gras season is a time for celebration. Sadly, the season is also a time when big fat lies about race and racism are on parade. 

    By Lori Latrice Martin, PhD
    Guest Columnist

    Lori Martin is an LSU associate professor of sociology and African & African American studies

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    Racial Incidents Highlight Need for Black History Education

    Fourteen cadets at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college, were disciplined after photographs circulated of them wearing Ku Klux Klan-style hoods.

    At a Phoenix, Arizona, high school, six students have sparked outrage with a photograph of the girls wearing gold letters on their shirts spelling out a racial slur.

    In both cases, the young people protested no offense was intended. It’s hard to imagine that well-educated near-adults could be ignorant of how their actions would be perceived. But even taking them at their word, these 20 students represent the desperate need for comprehensive Black history education – and not just during Black History Month.

    The president of the Phoenix school’s Black Student Union said, “Something that used to stop my grandparents in their tracks is now being used in regular conversation. Someone needs to put their foot down and say it’s not OK to say that.”

    Would a white student who was fully cognizant of the nation’s history of oppression against African Americans, of Jim Crow and institutionalized humiliation, casually toss around a racial slur for her own amusement, or wear a costume resembling the uniform of the nation’s most vicious and deadly terrorist organization? Possibly, but it’s far less likely.

    Students who grow up with a clear understanding of American history – all of American history – are less likely to perpetuate the sins of the past and more likely to participate in building a better future.

    By Marc Morial
    President, National Urban League

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    LETTER TO THE EDITOR: It’s the leadership, Stupid!

    D

    ear Editor:

    I read an article in which the individual who the superintendent has responsible for overall district academic performance described the performance this past year as “impressive.” By whose standards? Of course, this would be the evasive response if one’s own job performance is tied to the fact that 19 of our schools declined under his or her leadership. These same individuals are quick to deem teachers and school leaders as being ineffective or emerging when they perform this way. This double standard is probably why talented individuals who know better are leaving our schools in herds.

    It has been well over five years. What do we have to show for it regarding academic performance that is considered impressive from general contractors and businesses points of view or the points of view of families looking to relocate?

    Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We all know that our Parish President and Hammond Mayor would not have to travel and try to recruit businesses to come to our parish and largest city if our district performance would speak for us.

    True leaders do not constantly shift the blame on items like poverty and parents. Nor, do they rely on the belief that money fixes all of our problems. Talented leaders are innovative and dynamic enough to figure a way to move forward in spite of.

    As for poverty, we all understand that poverty plays a role in all things including education. It becomes insulting when some assume citizens do not understand this. We also understand logic and potential. Logic reminds us of the simple fact that there are other districts that are not declining, but inclining (some pretty drastically) even though the poverty rates are high. This proves that our district can also move forward and at a much faster pace. To further bring this point home, logic also tells us that if a school like our beloved Independence Middle, which serves as a microcosm of a district in much worse shape demographically as ours (95% free/ reduced), can make significant gains in spite of, then we must consider that our district can and should be moving at such a pace.

    The issue is leadership. We have often said that we need fresh-minded, innovative, and proven educators to lead our district in making the gains we can all be proud of. I’m old and I get this.

    In addition, somewhere down the road, the current leaders of our school leaders must be held accountable. The individuals responsible for academics must be held accountable and the Superintendent must be held accountable for the leaders he chooses to lead principals. The NAACP does not support individuals simply because they are black. We support individuals who are effective in providing all kids, especially minority children, the quality education they deserve.
    Our record regarding the individuals we have supported to lead our schools proves such.

    My questions for our Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer are:
    1. Is it impressive that we seldom (if any within the last 5 years) have black kids in the 27+ club for ACT?
    2. Do either of you even know how many or what percentage of black seniors scored 27 or above this past year? 18?
    3. Is it impressive that only 13% of black kids are proficient?
    4. Is it impressive that almost every single high school’s end of course test performance declined? Were these exams “tougher”?
    5. Is it impressive that both East Baton Rouge Parish and Orleans (including recovery district) perform better than Tangi?
    6. Is it impressive that there are other districts with similar poverty rates that are inclining in overall performance?

    Again, I am appalled that such a description as “impressive” was made when considering where we are even with the talented teachers and leaders we still have in this parish. I become upset just thinking about the many black doctors and lawyers that could have been but are now in prison or poverty due to this way of thinking. Our kids deserve better. We definitely do not blame our teachers and school leaders. We blame the decisions and lack of vision and direction of their leaders.

    Again, the board has some difficult decisions to make, and we hope that they place children first and not politics.
    Patricia Morris
    President
    Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP

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    COMMENTARY: Dr. King and the gospel of action

    There is no shortage of words in the English language to describe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By now —more than five decades after his fiery delivery of the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.— you may feel as though you have heard them all: leader, hero, visionary, champion, inspiration, pacifist, orator and preacher, to name a few.

    Of all the possible descriptions and titles that have been assigned to Dr. King, history has proven that his legacy endures in our collective American imagination and our national politics not because of what he was, or who he was, but because of what he did. Dr. King changed our society with action. Soaring rhetoric may move our hearts and imagination, but it is action that translates our seemingly impossible dreams into reality.

    Dr. King’s all-too-short life was a monumental one that moved our nation to enact large-scale, course-correcting policies like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, and genuinely contemplate a day when we would “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood,” but he departed from this earth with unfinished business.

    Our nation has made undeniable progress since Dr. King described his dream of an America set free from the bondage of racial animosity, injustice and economic inequality. Today, people of color are achieving milestones that would have been impossible without the decades-long accumulation of constant acts of courage to make change happen. But Dr. King did not dedicate himself to a life of action only to create wealth and opportunity for a privileged few, to diversify the palette of America’s corporate offices, or even the White House. While Dr. King would have likely been proud to live in a country that judged an African-American not on the color of his skin, but the content of his character, and elected him president, he would be disheartened to witness the mounting rollbacks in voting rights, disappointed to stand at the cusp of the ever-widening chasm of economic inequality, and disillusioned at the loss of Black lives at the hands of law enforcement. Progress must not grow into passivity. Complacency will only serve to erode the gains our nation have made and can make under the constant vigilance and activism of its citizenry.

    In his last State of the Union address to Congress, President Barack Obama acknowledged the necessity of every day acts of courage and quiet citizenship to move our nation closer to fulfilling its founding promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all its people. “What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.”

    That better future is what Dr. King saw on the mountaintop. He did not live to get there with us, but his clarion call to justice lives on. We, as the heirs of the change he sought, can make this holiday a more meaningful one by engaging in civic, community and service projects. We can spend the day doing what Dr. King did for a lifetime: serving others. But this is about more than a day. Full, unfettered access to voting will not be restored in one day. Police brutality in communities of color will not end in one day. Economic inequality will not be resolved in one day. It will take days, years, decades and perhaps generations, but if we are wedded to the idea of a more perfect union, it is imperative that we continue Dr. King’s long and worthy climb to the mountaintop.

    Marc Morial
    President, National Urban League
    New York

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    Resolutions that will challenge Black America in 2016

    Whenever we begin a new calendar year, it can be useful to make New Year’s Resolutions to prioritize and focus for the immediate future. Beyond the traditional litany of making very personal and oftentimes private resolutions at the beginning of a new year, Black America as a whole, I believe, should be vocal and public about our determination to keep pushing forward for freedom, justice, equality and economic empowerment.

    What should be our collective goals and strategic objectives over the next 12 months? Recent academic studies by the Dominican University of California on the importance of “goal setting” to overcome individual and social procrastination revealed that writing down your resolutions and sharing your goals with others that you care about will help you work more diligently to achieve those goals.

    Every time I pick up and read a Black-owned newspaper in America during this season of annual proclamation, it is always informative to see a written list of New Year Resolutions that challenge Black America to continue strive for excellence and achievement in all fields of endeavor. I am obviously proud of the trusted impact of the Black Press of America. Check us out at www.NNPA.org and www.BlackPressUSA.com.

    We have another critical election year coming up in 2016 and the Black American vote will have to be mobilized in every primary election and across the nation next November in elections in every precinct in every state, county by county. Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts, therefore, will be a top priority and we must collectively resolve that in 2016 we will ensure the largest voter turnout of Black voters in the history of the United States.

    Remember, we had a record voter turnout of Black voters both in 2008 and in 2012. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “66.2 percent of Blacks who voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic Whites who did so…This marks the first time that Blacks have voted at a higher rate than Whites since the Census Bureau started publishing statistics on voting by the eligible citizen population in 1996.”

    We cannot afford to let the Black vote be taken for granted in 2016.

    Politics and economics are inseparable in the United States. Yet, even though Black Americans spend in excess of $1.2 trillion annually in the nation’s economy, that kind of spending volume has not translated into real economic power: increasing the ownership of global businesses and billion-dollar revenue-generating investments. We still have a long way to go to achieve economic equality and parity in America.

    We should resolve, therefore, in 2016 to improve and expand the economic development of Black American families and communities. Although the American economy continues to recover under the Obama Administration, for Black Americans we have not closed the wealth gap. White Americans today have 12 times the wealth of Black Americans. We must, without hesitation and without apology, be more determined to end poverty and to generate more wealth for Black America. Therefore, we join in complete solidarity with the resolve of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) in the goal of striving to increase Black homeownership in 2016.

    We are very encouraged that the 2016 NAACP Image Awards will once again be broadcast on TV One. We all should support Radio One, TV One and Interactive One. We all also should support The Impact Network and other Black-owned media companies as well as the publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).

    Ending mass incarceration, reforming the criminal justice system, and stopping police brutality are related urgent matters that demand the resolve and activist involvement of Black America. Yes, in 2016 our national outcry will continue to be “Black Lives Matter!”

    The highest quality education for our children and our young adults requires our vocal support and energetic involvement from pre-school to post graduate higher education. At every level of the educational process and journey we must be vigilant in our demands and commitments to attain the best education for our families.

    Thus let’s renew and strengthen our dedication to support the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) as well as work to sustain all of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs). Lastly, we are a spiritual people. All African people are spiritual. We resolve lastly to support and strengthen our religiously institutions: churches, temples, mosques and synagogues.

    I asked the Chairman of the NNPA, Denise Rolark Barnes, who publishes the Washington Informer for her perspective about 2016 New Year Resolutions. She emphasized resolutely, “In 2016, our first priority should be to commit our lives and our dollars to those individuals and institutions that represent our best interests. Let’s strive to be the ones that will make a difference in our own communities. Be mindful that ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’”

    Benjamin ChavisBy Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
    Columnist

    Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis  Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.

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  • Giving, celebrating humanity in the name of Christ

    Merry CHRISTmas!

    Traditionally, for many of us this is the time that we celebrate the beginnings of the extensive life’s journey of the most important man in the earth’s history: the MASS of the CHRIST Jesus’ birth.

    Imagine. More than 2,015 years after His birth, death, and resurrection, millions of us yet celebrate Him and the tremendous Mission His life exemplifies.

    Talk about sustainability!

    Many of us, even those who do not believe in the Divinity of Who He is, perform many acts of kindness in the giving and celebrating of humanity in His Name.

    For me, He is Everything in which I deem Holy and important and worthwhile. He is the Signature Purpose of my existence. But lets not talk about that. Let’s just relegate Him to a place of notoriety that recognizes him as a “good” man. Or even a GREAT man. Why do we give him recognition in the area of greatness?

    Simple.

    It is because He is credited with doing ONLY good. That’s right. That’s EVERYthing for which He is credited.

    He healed sick people; He blessed little children; He was a tremendously persuasive leader; He challenged the leaders of his time and made great arguments for the things in which He believed and for which He stood, and even died for.

    He raised people from the dead and, in the face of adversity, betrayal, and beatings, He yet stood for humanity.

    How many of us would do that? Not a good man, but a great man and some, like myself, would even say, the GREATEST man!

    So, during this Christmas season, as everyone gives others presents that only He should be getting, let’s all remember: not “Happy Holidays” not “Season’s Greetings not Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa but merry CHRISTmas.

    For me, He is the hope of the glory that we shall enjoy, AFTER THIS! And what is AFTER THIS?

    It is the faith fact in which I—and so many others—live and move and have our being: He was resurrected and He is coming back again, for me and all of us who believe!

    By barbara w. green
    Columnist

    barbara w. green is a certified counselor and minister in Baton Rouge. She is the author of The Parent Anointing and The Great One. Her articles are distributed by Jozef Syndicate. Follow her at www.barbaragreenministries.org

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  • Capitalize the “B” in Black when referring to Black Americans. Always.

    Journalist petitions The New York Times and AP Stylebook
    By Lori Tharps

    This is a call to action to capitalize the “B” in Black when referring to Black people in printed material. Specifically, I’m calling on magazine and newspaper editors, as well as book publishers, to always use the uppercase for Black Americans. Currently, the vast majority of media outlets and book publishers refer to Black people in the lowercase.

    This could be viewed as a simple style issue, one that only writers and editors would take seriously, but I’m not looking to start a revolution over grammar. This is about identity and respect. With a mere slash of a copyeditor’s pen, Black culture is reduced to a color. It seems silly to have to spell it out, that black with a lower case “b” is a color, whereas Black with a capital “B” refers to a group of people whose ancestors were born in Africa, were brought to the United States against their will, spilled their blood, sweat and tears to build this nation into a world power and along the way managed to create glorious works of art, passionate music, scientific discoveries, a marvelous cuisine, and untold literary masterpieces. When a copyeditor deletes the capital “B,” they are in effect deleting the history and contributions of a people.

    As a journalist and author myself, I cannot understand how any editor, who understands the significance of an errant comma or a “there” instead of a “their,” can sanction the use of a lower case “b” to signify a culture of people. Latinos get a capital “L,” Asians get their “A,” Native Americans get both the “N” and the “A” in capital letters (even though grammatically speaking, native should not be capitalized), but Black people don’t deserve the uppercase? Even visually, seeing that lower case “b” in a sentence where blacks stand beside Latinos and Asians, reeks of second-class citizenry and disrespect on the page.

    Some like to argue that if we capitalize the “b” in Black than we have to do the same for the “w” in White, when referring to White Americans. I have no problem with that. White Americans deserve their capital letter too, but I’m not here to fight their battles.

    Another problem we’re dealing with is that there isn’t a consensus around this issue. Some publications, mostly academic ones, capitalize Black when speaking of Black people. But most news organizations, including The New York Times as well as any publication that relies on the AP Stylebook (which is most mainstream media outlets), use the lower case for any “racial designations derived from color.” But the dictionary – both Webster’s and Oxford – states quite clearly that when referring to Black people, uppercase is acceptable and correct.

    So, if capital “B” is acceptable, what’s keeping news organizations like The New York Times and The Associated Press from taking a stand for equality on the page? If both are correct, then why not offer a capital “B” as a token of respect if nothing else? Is it inertia or racism? Not for nothing, the editors of the AP Stylebook just recently updated not one but five !!!! of their rules, so we know that change is possible.

    Ironically, W.E.B. Du Bois fought this very same fight almost 100 years ago. Only back then, he and other activists were demanding to have the “n” in Negro capitalized. Du Bois targeted local and national newspapers and like me, viewed the lower case letter as a form of disrespect and overt racism. And he wasn’t wrong. Reportedly, one editor of a Georgia newspaper said he’d never capitalize the “n” because it might, “lead to social equality.” Finally, on March 7, 1930, The New York Times agreed to change their policy and wrote in a stirring editorial, “In our ‘style book’ ‘Negro’ is now added to the list of words to be capitalized. It is not merely a typographical change; it is an act of recognition of racial self-respect for those who have been for generations in ‘the lower case.”

    If The New York Times had the courage and the insight to make that change in 1930, then I challenge them – and the Associated Press – to do the right thing today. Change your stylebooks and capitalize the “B” in Black. Always.

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    Month With Mada: Black Lives Matter Symposium brings youth, adults together

    “The Quality of Life in the Baton Rouge Community regarding all age groups, genders, culture needs to be addressed,” said The Rev. Dale W. Flowers during A Black Lives Matter Symposium, July 6 – July 10, at New Sunlight Baptist Church, 1777 America Street.

    Many Black males have been victims or have lost their lives to police brutality and other others, and this has had a major impact in many communities all over this nation. The symposium presenters discussed a wealth of valuable information ranging from crime, poverty, violence, racism, drugs, education, and healthcare. East Baton Rouge Parish Constable Major Reginald Brown provided the bike giveaways. Gift cards came from local businesses.

    On Monday, July 6, panelists discussed adjudicated property, increase in crime, blighted areas, and first-time home ownership. Attorney Winston Riddick and Nun Judith Brun of Sacred Heart Catholic Church shared tips and techniques for better decision making for teenagers. The smaller age group children had information shared from the Southern University and Louisiana State University agriculture centers.

    On Tuesday, July 7, Chief Administrator George Bell discussed the closure of the Mid-City Baton Rouge General Hospital’s emergency room while Sherry Asberry from Our Lady of the Hospital talked about healthcare. State Representative Alfred Williams discussed funding sources that could have been considered in saving the emergency facility. Other presentations involved HIV/AIDS, Clerk of Court-Identification Cards and Fingerprinting.
    Representation from the Baton Rouge Police Department was given by Riley Harbor focusing on crime prevention, proactive/reactive measures, and the importance of Neighborhood Watch Programs and Civic Organizations. The highlight that added to the session on Wednesday July, 8th along with other topics was Tanesha Craig, a fitness instructor talked about healthy diets and led the group in an exercise fitness class. Terrell Johnson, African American World History Professor from Southern University, also gave a dynamic and profound presentation.

    On Thursday, July 9, the topic was education. EBR School Board member Evelyn Ware Jackson and Liz Frischert discussed assessment and accountability, the importance of having an education, and the Common Core Education Program. Marcus Coleman, Dean of Students at Southern University A & M College, shared college preparatory information, academic readiness for the upcoming school term. Norma Veal gave tips on fire safety, and a representative from the Baton Rouge Constable Office talked about the D.A.R.E. Program

    Finally on Friday, July 10, the culminating sessions wrapping up the Black Lives Matter Symposium included a period of questions and answers.

    Flowers said the primary focus and concentration is to devise a plan to improve the quality of life in the community where we reside, work, and live.

    The Black Lives Matter Symposium reached out to children as young as pre-K toddlers to senior citizens. It was a very informative and a much needed dialogue for alerting and keeping the Baton Rouge Community aware of issues affecting many citizens. This symposium showed the importance of knowing what is happening and going on in today’s society.

    By Mada McDonald
    Drum Columnist

    The Month with Mada column shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge. Leave your comments below.

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  • ,,

    Message to the Community from BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight

    I cannot in good conscience justify spending scarce taxpayer resources for a swimming pool that only five people walked to and used on a daily basis. I am writing to set the record straight about the imminent removal of the Gus Young swimming pool.

    BREC’s 2004 Imagine Your Parks plan evaluated the entire park system and the BREC Commission approved a separate aquatics plan which recommended modernizing some pools and creating an aquatic system that offered more options in strategic locations, including learn to swim pools, splash pads and centrally located Liberty Lagoon Water Park. The plan, prepared by a national aquatic firm familiar with best practices, also included partnering with other agencies to enable us to use resources more efficiently.

    The closing of pools at Baringer, Webb, Jefferson Highway and Gus Young Neighborhood Parks and the renovation of pools at Howell, City-Brooks and Anna T. Jordan Community Parks are part of that plan. The plan recommended having aquatic features only in community parks which serve a much larger population than neighborhood parks like Gus Young. In 2012, BREC was forced to close the 50-year old pool because it did not meet safety and health requirements and could not be repaired.

    BREC places a high priority on teaching children to swim and continues to expand its partnership with the YMCA. Together we offer swimming lessons at BREC and YMCA pools and have created a free water safety program taught to students and parents during the school year. We are proud to say that in addition to teaching more than 475 kids to swim last year hundreds more have signed up for swimming lessons again this summer.

    BREC transports hundreds of children from our summer camps to our pools and to Liberty Lagoon on a daily basis. Outside camps also use those locations. Using cost savings from the closure of neighborhood pools, and working with the YMCA, we created a “Splash Pass” which offers children the ability to swim at YMCA pools at BREC prices during our public swim times. Liberty Lagoon, in its fifth season, continues to thrive, frequently reaching maximum attendance levels and serving people throughout the parish.

    More than that, BREC places a high priority on serving youth and teens across the parish in order to offer healthy, safe, structured activity and protect them from exposure to violence or juvenile delinquency. Here is a snapshot of programs currently offered:

    • BREC on the Geaux serves 35 locations with 29 in the inner city area servicing approximately 8,000 youth and teens since January.
    • BREC offers 61 Recreation classes and programs for youth in the inner city areas and 28 programs for teens.
    • BREC offers 41 summer camps with 17 in the inner city area. 2015 summer camp enrollment has increased by nearly 1,400 children for recreation camps alone.
    • BREC hosted 16 Community Events in the inner city area since January servicing approximately 4,675 people.
    • BREC’s sports leagues such as baseball, football and basketball have served approximately 10,497 youth and teens since January.
    • BREC’s Outdoor Adventure serves 236 youth and teens with programs.
    • BREC’s Golf Department offered 72 programs targeted to youth and teens through the First Tee and other programs.
    • BREC Belfair Teen Center has served approximately 75 teens through a job training program.

    Later this summer, BREC will present several options to replace the 50-year old pool at Gus Young at a public meeting. Community leaders have asked us to consider building a splash pad which would require a significant amount of private funding and Commission approval since it is counter to our Aquatics plan. BREC simply cannot afford to build splash pads or pools in neighborhood parks. If a sufficient amount of private funding is not located, we have ideas on how to enhance this active park and the many events held there now.

    BREC remains committed to serving the entire parish while making the best use possible of limited taxpayer dollars that fund more than 180 parks. We also remain committed to partnering with the YMCA and schools to teach children to swim, offer quality recreation programs for youth and teens during after school and out of school breaks and creating a healthier and safer community.

    Carolyn McKnight
    BREC Superintendent
    cmcknight@brec.org

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    COMMENTARY: When different is the same in EBR schools

    Our Schools Our Excellence, an initiative of MetroMorphosis, which the Rev. Raymond Jetson created in Baton Rouge, is a great example of a different approach to addressing the educational needs of our children. The initiative was founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education.

    Sadly, every child is not getting an excellent education. Students within the same school districts-even students in the same building-are not receiving an excellent education. This is especially the case in magnet and charter schools in districts where many of the traditional public schools are considered “failing.”

    In the East Baton Rouge School District, most of the majority minority schools in North Baton Rouge are considered failing. At the same time, new charter schools are cropping up across the parish. There is a highly sought after magnet school, Baton Rouge Magnet High School, in the district that is popular, in part, because of the many advanced placement course offerings. The school is 38 percent White and about 43 percent Black. About 34% of students receive free or reduced lunch. The school district is about 45 precent Black and over 80 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunch as if October 2014, before recent changes making all students in the district eligible.

    Another magnet school, Lee High Magnet School, which is in year two of transiting from a failed traditional public school to a magnet school, is increasing in popularity because of a focus on science, engineering, and math, and dual enrollment courses with the state’s flagship institution, among other reasons. Traditional public schools either offer no such classes or dual enrollment classes with Baton Rouge Community College.

    As Lee High Magnet continues to transition, many minority students who survived the turbulent first year may get to the mountain top, but seeing the promised land is doubtful. They are in a “different” situation than many in their cohort who were ill-prepared to maintain the required grade point average and were ultimately sentenced to serving out the remainder of their high school careers in failing neighborhood schools. The students who survived will not have access to all the promised technological changes, internships, additional course offerings, etc. as these will be phased in for new cohorts. For example, new cohorts are scheduled to enjoy Chrome Books with e-versions of all required textbooks and older cohorts will continue to haul around heavy and costly textbooks in new aged buildings that don’t have lockers or desks where books can be stored.

    EBR schools are not alone in these regards. Administrators of magnet and charter schools in districts with “failing” schools across the country apparently read from the same script, which requires the repeated use of the term, “different.” Magnet and charter schools, the administrators often contend, will have “different” curriculum, or produce “different” results, when compared with traditional public schools, when in fact, many of these schools represent more of the “same.”

    The schools represent the perpetuation of an unjust system that privileges some people, and is at the same time a continued source of misery and despair for others, especially people of color and the poor. The celebration of “difference” is in many ways an indictment of the quality of education available to communities of color and the poor. It is also an acknowledgement of the existence of a two-tiered system, which prepares some for success and citizenship while simultaneously reminding others of their place in a social institution, and in the broader society, that perpetuates inequality all the while extolling the virtues of fairness and justice.

    It’s time to take off the blindfolds and throw out the pacifier that is privilege.

    According to these administrators of choice schools, considered by some the mouthpieces of a misguided movement to use public schools as a profit generating machine, parents with children in their schools should feel grateful that their children have the opportunity to enjoy a “different” academic experience. On the contrary, parents, community leaders, school administrators, teachers, elected officials, etc. everywhere should all feel the “same” moral outrage. Our Schools Our Excellence got it right. “Every” child deserves an excellent education and no one should turn a blind eye to the injustices that are preventing the initiative’s rallying cry from becoming a reality.

    Lori Martin, Ph.D.

    Lori Martin, Ph.D.

    By Lori Latrice Martin
    Guest Columnist


    Lori Latrice Martin, Ph.D., is associate professor of sociology and African American Studies. She is the author of Big Box Schools: Race, Education, and the Danger of the Wal-Martization of Public Schools in America.

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    Does the education of Black children matter in Tangipahoa?

    The Fight Continues: 50th Years of Moore v. TPSB

    The fight to ensure equality for all children and employees in the school has extended through its fiftieth year. On May 3, 2015, the lawsuit filed by M.C Moore against the Tangipahoa Parish School System turned fifty with no resolution to the desegregation suit. The lawsuit was initially filed on behalf of his daughter, Fannie Moore, who was disenfranchised and not given an opportunity to receive an equitable and fair education, which is guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The name of this case was later changed to Joyce Marie Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School System, and was named after his younger daughter, thus becoming a Class Action Lawsuit with the plaintiffs being the class of Black parents and their children in Tangipahoa.

    Fifty years later, the question remains whether or not education in the lives of Black children matter. The answer is emphatically, yes it does, because the fight continues for equity in this school system. Unfortunately, there is very little resolve towards settling this decades old desegregation lawsuit.

    Moreover, many are keen to talk about or write pieces about what happens or does not happen in the public school system in Tangipahoa Parish. Consequently, I process and attempt to find balance with personal ties to the conflicts in Tangipahoa Parish race relations and injustices found in our school system that have had my attention for decades now.

    As we begin to reflect on the importance of this lawsuit, we think of the lawsuit being filed in 1965. As a result of this filing, Mr. Moore was ostracized. For instance, he and his family were threatened, and his livelihood and means of providing for his family were taken away through his logging business being sabotaged, which resulted in his having to bake cakes to sell to provide for his family. Men guarded his home at night after his home was shot into early one morning. His wife heroically crawled through grass and weeds to a neighbor’s home to call the police because their telephone lines were cut on the outside of their home. Those bullet holes remain in Mr. Moore’s home to this very day. Despite having his life threatened and his livelihood compromised, Mr. Moore pressed on. Thank you, Mr. Moore, for your courage and tenacity in ensuring equality for African-

    American children, and ultimately all children.

    After this case was filed and opened in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, with the late Honorable Alvin Benjamin Rubin as the presiding judge, the Tangipahoa Parish School System was forced to integrate its public schools in 1969. Judge Rubin ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating, in pertinent part, that the Tangipahoa Parish School System was segregated and did not provide equitable educational access to African-American students. As a result, the school board was ordered to reinstate the jobs of all terminated African-American employees as one of the wrongs the Tangipahoa Parish School System committed following forced integration in 1969.

    The plaintiffs’ case was led by Attorney Nelson Dan Taylor, Sr., who is now the Lead Attorney in the Moore Case. This case was Attorney Taylor’s first case as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund.

    Unfortunately, the school system did not comply with Judge Rubin’s order, and the case became dormant following Honorable Alvin Benjamin Rubin’s untimely death.

    The case was later reopened in 2007 at the urging of the Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP because of numerous complaints of the school system’s wronging of African-American children and African American employees. Evidence was provided to prove that the same segregated conditions still exist in Tangipahoa Parish School System. The test case used to reopen the M.C. Moore desegregation case was the case of Coach Alden Foster, who became the first African-American head high school football coach hired in Tangipahoa Parish. Coach John Williams was reportedly the first African-American head high school football coach in Tangipahoa Parish. However, after speaking to several others, including Coach Williams, we discovered that he was not given the position of head football coach at Hammond High School in Hammond, La., despite being appointed by Judge Rubin. Instead, Coach Carmen Moore, a white coach, was named as the head football coach at Hammond High.

    The discourse of this article is too long to write all of what has happened over the past fifty years in the Moore Case, however, a Master Thesis done by Dr. Wayne Brumfield is found in the Southeastern Louisiana University public library.

    As we commemorate the lawsuit’s fiftieth anniversary, let us remember to thank God for the stamina of Mr. Moore, his trials endured, and triumphs he and others made for every child attending school in the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Let us be mindful, as well as thankful for all of the accomplishments seen and unseen in this case having been reopened, because without such, sitting conservative judges would have dismissed this case due to its inactivity.

    While there are some 36 unopened desegregation cases, let us be mindful that the M.C. Moore lawsuit has set a precedent for subsequent desegregation cases. As President of the GTPB NAACP, and as I walk in the shoes of the late Mr. M.C. Moore, I feel his pain many times, and my heart breaks as I continue to witness the disenfranchisement of African-American children in the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Despite the many wrongs of this school system, I am reminded by Ecclesiastes 9:11 that “the race is not given to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor the bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.” With these words in mind, the fight for equality will not end, and it cannot until “justice rolls down like a mighty stream” for every student and employee in this school system. There can be no other way, and no person will be left behind.

    Patricia Morris
    NAACP Tangipahoa Branch President
    Ponchatoula

    Read more »
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    To the Class of 2015: ‘Don’t You Turn Back’

    Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. / It’s had tacks in it, /And splinters, / And boards torn up, / And places with no carpet on the floor-Bare. / But all the time / I’se been a-climbin’ on, / And reachin’ landin’s, / And turnin’ corners, / And sometimes goin’ in the dark / Where there ain’t been no light. / So, boy, don’t you turn back.” – Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son,” 1922

     

    If you are disposed to using the Internet as your guide, a diploma will generally be described as the proof of your successful completion of a course of study, or the bestowal of an academic degree. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that diploma in your grasp, occupying a prominent space on a wall or waiting to be pressed into your eager hand is so much more than the sum of your years-long efforts to be where you are today. Your degree is a key that opens a new door, a new phase of life and a new set of challenges.

    Your life’s journey-and its achievements-does not end here. Celebrate, because you’ve earned it; bask in your well-earned feeling of accomplishment today, because tomorrow you will find that there is much work to be done.

    On the other side of that new door is a staircase, and that staircase may not be the kind fashioned from crystal with smooth, reliable, clear-cut steps. Obstacles may slow or impede your climb. There may be tacks, broken floorboards and torn up carpet that would trip, or at worst, defeat someone without the training you have been so fortunate to attain. There is no shortcut here, no elevator, or bypassing of these difficult steps and turns. There is, however, the choice to apply the perseverance and commitment to excellence you have already shown in your higher education journey.

    On the one hand, there is much to celebrate in our country when it comes to academic achievement in African-American communities. Today, we enjoy the highest high school graduation rates in history. More students of color are in college and dropout rates are at historic lows. But the wealth and unemployment gap between Blacks and whites remains wide. While the Black unemployment rate has finally dipped into the single digits, it stubbornly remains more than twice as high as the jobless rate for whites. As our country’s economy continues to make steady gains after the debilitating 2008 recession, millions in Black and Brown communities are being left behind. In this country-founded largely on the principle of economic progress through hard work-the American dream of upward mobility remains only a dream for too many of its citizens.

    Your education, drive and diploma, may likely shield you from the harsh economic realities experienced throughout communities of color across our nation, but it does not strip you of an obligation to be an actor, rather than a spectator, in our country’s struggle to create one nation with liberty, justice and economic opportunity for all.

    No one gets to where they are on his or her own. You have parents, grandparents, friends and family members who invested in your future success, put you on this path and made sure you stayed the course. How will you repay their commitment to you? Whether your ancestors came here by plane, by train, by ship or shackled underneath the hull of a ship; whether the continent they called home was Asia, Europe or Africa, what they did when they reached the shores of our nation, what they sacrificed-all of it is debt incurred. How will you choose to compensate them for their struggles?

    Among you are the teachers who will lift the standard of education in poor communities and begin to close the achievement gap; among you are the preachers who will heal the wounds of communities torn apart by violence; among you are the elected officials who will institute laws and policies that promote social and economic fairness for all of America’s citizens. Herein lies the answer. The answer our nation has been searching for is you and your talent, put to a higher purpose.

    I cannot promise you that your climb to success in this life will be a crystal stair. You may very well encounter dark corners and obstacles. What I can promise you is that you have been prepared to meet these challenges head on. And more than meet these challenges, you have also been prepared to be an actor in solving so many of the longstanding issues and inequities facing our nation, so “don’t you turn back.”

    By Marc Morial
    Guest Columnist

    National Urban League President

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  • Attack economic racism taking responsibility

    Despite ill-intended efforts to do it for us, Black Americans have a responsibility to define our own reality. It is a fundamental human right recognized and respected by the United Nations. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to define, without apology, the deadly and debilitating manifestation of racial discrimination and injustice as “economic racism.”

    Why are so many Black Americans still mired down in intergenerational poverty, lack of health care, inadequate education, raging unemployment, disproportionate imprisonment, the highest rate of housing foreclosures and housing discrimination, the lowest rate of bank lending and overcall exclusion from access to sustainable wealth generation in every region of the nation?

    How is it mathematically possible for Black Americans to spend more than $1.2 trillion annually in the United States, and yet the overwhelming majority of the companies that make huge profits from the annual spending of Black Americans do nothing more than invest far less than 1 percent of their profits back into Black-owned businesses and grassroots organizations throughout the country?

    Why does the American economy remain racially segregated in 2015? Why are Black Americans consigned to poverty and economic inequality?

    The answer is amazingly simple: It is the reality of economic racism, defined as the intentional racial discrimination against Black Americans and other people of color to prevent economic equality, justice, parity, advancement, and empowerment; it is the systematic racial exclusion of Black Americans and other people of color from economic policy-making at local, state and national levels in both corporate and governmental entities; and, it is economic institutionalization of racial oppression, stereotyping, and profiling coupled with the ignorance of racial prejudice and hatred.

    Yes, this is an admittedly complex definition of economic racism. The matrix of complexity concerning economic racism, however, does not make it impossible to challenge and to overcome. No one is born a racist. We can and will eventually liberate ourselves from all forms of of racial oppression and economic racism.

    We have not concentrated on economic racism as much as we should have because of the overemphasis on politics. But we eventually had to recognize that even our political system is controlled by economics and politicians tend to be more responsive to those who support their campaigns economically.

    The economic liberation of Black America will require establishing more internal unity and more external coalition-building and partnering with those who stand for freedom, justice and equality with their money, words and deeds. Organizing and mobilizing an effective movement to challenge and overcome economic racism is long overdue

    The perpetrators of racial injustice and discrimination are always reluctant to confess or acknowledge the reality of these centuries-old phenomena. In the United States, in particular, there is a historic and contemporary denial of how race plays a determinative role in all aspects of society. As former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) was fond of saying, “Slavery was America’s original sin, and racism remains its unresolved dilemma.”

    And we see that racism manifested in so many ways.

    Today, it now appears that the only way to get people to acknowledge racially-motivated police misconduct against Black Americans and other people of color is to have a video tape of the transgression. Thank God for the recent videotape of the police murder of unarmed Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. Sometimes, as was the case with Eric Gardner in New York City, we can have videotape and rouge cops still escape punishment.

    Racism in all of its oppressive manifestations must not only be consistently called out and challenged, but also we must be vigilant and diligent to make sure that we are effective in the elimination of the undergirding factors that cause racism to exist and persist in the first place.

    In my home state of North Carolina more than 32 years ago, while helping to lead civil rights protests against the digging of a massive toxic waste landfill in predominantly African American Warren County, I coined the term “environmental racism.” Warren County was also the place where Congress of Racial Equality Chairman Floyd B. McKissick Sr., the first African American to receive a law degree from the University of North Carolina, attempted to build Soul City as an economic empowerment zone and a new city for Black Americans and others who considered themselves progressive.

    Environmental racism is the intentional racial discrimination in the deliberate targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of racial minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation. As a result of the definitive work that we did on this issue back in the 1980s, today there are effective and transformative environmental justice movements and organizations across America and throughout the world.

    One day, I hope we’ll be able to look back and say the same about economic racism.

    By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
    NNPA Columnist

    Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc

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    COMMENTARY: What about the fired felons?

    A Look at Apple’s Teachable Moment

    Inclusion inspires innovation. This mantra, featured prominently on Apple’s website, was put to the test last week when the company came under fire for dismissing several construction workers who had been convicted of a felony.

    According to the San Francisco Chronicle, anyone who had been convicted of a felony in the past seven years was banned from working on the construction of Apple’s new Cupertino campus. Apple and its contractor, DPR Construction, also denied employment to people with felony arrests, not just convictions.

    Since then, Apple has taken a step in the right direction by rescinding the policy. But in an industry already notorious for being out of touch with the broader opportunity gap in America, the company’s leadership has an opportunity to do much more: to lead the tech field on inclusion as much as it already leads on innovation.

    Apple’s quick response was encouraging. In a statement, the company noted that its policy “may have excluded some people who deserve a second chance” and that it has “never had a blanket ban on hiring people with felony convictions”. This was an indication that Apple understands the devastating impact of blanket discrimination on the 12 million Americans with a felony conviction in their past. Still, the company’s response leaves too many unanswered questions about the status of the fired workers, the contours of Apple’s internal policy, and the company’s commitment to ensuring that this will never happen again.

    Life is hard for someone with a felony conviction. People returning to their communities not only have a difficult time finding a job. That’s more than 60 percent are unable to find work in their first year out. But also face other challenges that make landing gainful employment even harder. Even someone who served a short sentence for a low-level crime will often run into barriers to stable housing, healthcare, educational opportunities, and public benefits. In 2008, the reduced job prospects of people with felony convictions cost the US economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.

    It is not too late for Apple to right a wrong, prove its commitment to inclusion, and become a leader on fair hiring practices. (For example, The Cupertino campus project, expected to yield thousands of construction jobs, can still provide a unique opportunity for Apple to support the local economy and provide work for an underserved population.)

    Here are three steps that Apple can take in coming days:

    Apple should publicly address the fate of the fired employees.
    Reports have indicated that Apple may have plans to reevaluate or rehire the impacted employees, but it should make this intention publicly clear. The number of workers fired may have been small compared with Apple’s national employee base, but a job is important for any single worker, especially one operating in the context of perpetual discrimination. Apple should clarify its hiring policies and publicly “Ban the Box”.

    In their statement, Apple leaders denied practicing blanket discrimination. But at the same time they acknowledged that workers on the campus project had been victims of discrimination. In order to clear things up, Apple should work with community leaders to develop transparent and inclusive hiring policies that ensure that all applicants are considered regardless of their past mistakes. Crucially, the company should agree not to deny employment to people whose crimes are irrelevant to the job at hand.

    Apple should also follow in the footsteps of large companies in other fields and announce a companywide “Ban the Box” program. The company already claims that it considers all applicants on a “case by case” basis, and it could stand by this promise by removing questions about job applicants’ criminal records from initial employment applications. Walmart and other major companies have already “banned the box”, alongside cities like San Francisco, 15 states and over 100 other cities and counties nationwide.

    Apple should move Silicon Valley forward on second chance employment. Finally, Apple should use its perch as an industry leader to move Silicon Valley forward on fair hiring practices for applicants with criminal records. Apple could convene a Business Leaders Summit to encourage its peers to learn from their mistake. The summit could provide the tools and encouragement for others in the tech industry to commit to fair hiring practices. It could also impart an important lesson to others in the industry: discrimination is not only unfair to qualified job seekers who have made amends for their past mistakes (or been arrested but not convicted). It also means employers may be blindly screening out some of their best and brightest applicants.

    There is a growing bipartisan consensus, echoed by leaders as diverse as Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Rand Paul, that mass incarceration has failed the nation. Seventy million people in the United States, more than 1 in 4 adults, have some type of record of arrests or convictions. These records last a lifetime. This is long after the individual has been held responsible for the crime committed.

    Apple’s policy has already led to the dismissal of employees succeeding in their positions, supporting themselves and their families. This is exemplary of the problem. It is also the way forward. Apple can move closer to realizing its stated vision of a diverse and inclusive workforce where inclusion inspires innovation. With these steps, Apple can ensure that the reality of this vision does not leave millions of Americans with records behind.

    If Silicon Valley is going to achieve its goal of becoming a true meritocracy, it is not enough for us to focus on treating our most privileged workers more fairly. We need to ensure just treatment of the least privileged as well.

    By Ben Jealous and Heather Warnken
    Ben Jealous is partner at Kapor Capital and former president and CEO of the NAACP. Heather Warnken is a program director at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, UC Berkeley School of Law.

    Read more »
  • ,,

    We, the People, are intelligent enough

    Since this is THE DRUM, I want to sound out a message that communicates a crucial warning for us which may have devastating effects on the lives and health of We, The People.

    On Tuesday, March 31, 2015, the doors closed to the emergency room of Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Midcity. On April 15, 2013,  the doors of Earl K. Long Medical Center closed and on  August 5, 2012, Woman’s Hospital moved out of the community and on  August 6, 2012,  opened  at a remote location much further down Airline Highway.  I am not writing this column to allay blame. Quite the contrary, this calls to attention the need of a more responsible and watchful public whose purpose should, at least, make it more uncomfortable for policy makers and business leaders to fail to consider the concerns of all citizens. In the areas of health, politics, and economics, we all must push to have our say.  When the community fails to use its voice, the silence is deafening and dangerous.

    We, the People, can no longer allow our voices to remain silent while we announce that God “is perfecting those things that concern us,” and we do nothing to perfect them ourselves.

    I speak of my own failure to be more vigilant for I am a part of the equation as well. My complacency was driven home with the realization that a T.I.A (mini stroke) caused me to be admitted to a hospital which was open then but not now.

    It is time to become more proactive in the things that could potentially become a matter of life and death.  The “BEFORE” picture is crucial but the “AFTER” picture stands to be tragic when the lives of our families are at stake.

    We, the People, are intelligent enough, sophisticated enough, watchful enough to know who to vote for ENOUGH, to make our stand respected and considered.

    By barbara w. green
    Columnist

    barbara w. green is a licensed professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, ordained minister, and motivational speaker. Her columns are distributed nationally by the Jozef Syndicate. Follow her at www.barbaragreenministries.com.

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    COMMENTARY: Black History Month, Giuliani, Jindal, and the Minimum Wage

    The distinguished contributions of Blacks to the health and wealth of this country should be celebrated.

    Black leaders from Ida B. Wells to Rosa Parks have both written and showed us the best of what America has to offer intellectually and sacrificially. Black scientists like Dr. Ronald E. McNair, who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, help us understand the capabilities of the Black citizens when given the opportunity learn and serve.

    But the deck is often stacked against African-Americans. Four hundred years of the slave trade built America, followed by Reconstruction, every manner of peonage, the convict leasing system, and Jim Crow racism. Even today, rich people fight against raising the minimum wage for no better reason that it will help keep minorities and the working poor down, “in their place,” and without economic power.

    Louisiana incarcerates more men and women than any other state or country in the world, and most of these inmates are Black males. Make no mistake, there is a direct relationship between Louisiana’s stratospheric incarceration boom and its role as one of the major purveyors of American slavery. This is not an opinion. It’s the historical record.

    The struggle for human rights is never over. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a martyr, was hated during his later years. He was hated not only because of his fight for Civil Rights but because he also dared to stand up and demand economic justice for all poor people, and he vigorously opposed the Vietnam War, a conflict that sent poor boys from America to fight poor boys in Southeast Asia.

    Yes, the struggle for justice, human rights, dignity, and integration is never really over. The struggle often times covertly manifests itself in political sideshows.

    For example, last week when former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani attacked President Barack Obama, not out of legitimate disagreements over policy, but because of who the President is as a person. He said, “I do not believe—and I know this is a horrible thing to say—but I do not believe that the president loves America.” Giuliani, stumping for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, continued, “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

    One has to be living in willful ignorance to not know that Giuliani’s remarks were laced with racial overtones and hate of “the other.”

    Not to be left out of the media spotlight for a moment, Gov. Jindal called Giuliani to congratulate him on his retrograde remarks.

    We need not focus outside of our own backyard to see rank racism and injustice. When we witness Earl K. Long Hospital bulldozed, the Baton Rouge General Mid City ER closing for lack of promised state funds, the attack on Louisiana’s public hospital system statewide, and the denial of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion for 250,000 working Louisiana citizens—we understand this is fueled by Jindal’s racism against Black citizens and disdain for the poor.

    Because I believe in justice, the appropriate place to send Jindal and his inner circle is The Hague for a trial. The charges? Crimes against humanity.

    The assault on Black America and the poor among us is not over. Every one of us has a responsibility to speak up and care for “the least of these my brethren,” as Jesus said. Stand up for the voiceless and tell the truth about American history and Louisiana right now.

    By Dayne Sherman

    Guest Columnist
    Dayne Sherman’s new novel is Zion. Signed first editions available from the author. His political blog is TalkAboutTheSouth.com.

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    Month with Mada: ER closure will have to answer to God

    MADA

    Mada McDonald

    It is with all prayers and positive beliefs/convictions from this community that their is a dire need to keep the doors opened to the Emergency Room at the Baton Rouge General Mid-City Hospital. Speaking only for myself, it would be a terrible move not to have an emergency room accommodation to meet the need of the inner city citizens,closed. Everyone does not have durable means of transportation to receive medical care?

    It has been more than enough to accept Governor Bobby Jindal shutting down the Earl K. Long Hospital to facilitate and assist those individuals in health care needs. It is more than enough that pregnant women have to travel almost out of the East Baton Rouge Parish City limits to deliver their newborn baby/other(s) needs to be addressed ? Baton Rouge does not have a bus transit system that can accommodate just not the less fortunate, but many who have health care benefits, durable means of transportation, but must travel far and beyond to to get medical treatment? This is a bit much to accept and receive that closing the emergency room is the final answer. What must we as a people do, what can be done to keep the doors opened?

    It is my belief that problems have solutions. Whomever, whatever has to be done to save the Baton Rouge General Medical Hospital Emergency Room is in my best interest. The next thing to follow will be to close the entire hospital? The fate of our citizens in this city and the fate of health care assistance to carry on as health care patients/providers pay to keep health care services intact and keep on-going concentration as long as we as a people need help from the medical professionals and keep medical areas within the city limits available to all, that is truly a needed service. Most importantly, many people who will lose their jobs, too many individuals will become unemployed and what a way to start a new year? The BR General Hospital’s emergency room closure will have to answer to God.

    I can only hope/pray that the matters will be addressed in good faith and none of us in this community/outline parishes will be affected by the closure, the effect from this situation will be settled and we can keep a much needed medical facility in the inner City of the Baton Rouge Community.

    By Mada McDonald
    The Drum Columnist

    Month with Mada shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge. Leave your comments below.

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    Poised to be the next big thing in music industry

    An interview with gospel artist Anita Jarrell-Robertson

    About 17 years ago, music executive Vivian Scott Chew told me in a telephone interview to be on the lookout for a gifted singer who very few people had heard of but one who was about to take the world by storm with her music. The songstress Chew was referring to was R&B sensation and acclaimed actress Jill Scott.

    It was around 1998 when Chew predicted how big Scott would get. And in 2000, Scott’s debut album — Who is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 — was released. That album made it to the Top 20 of the Billboard albums chart. Scott, also a songwriter, had earned three Grammy nominations for the project, which included the hit “Gettin’ in the Way.”

    Now, nearly 20 years after Chew — who has long provided direction and musical support for new and emerging artists — spoke of Scott’s imminent rise from obscurity to stardom, there is another gifted singer who is on the verge of an accomplishment that’s reminiscent of Scott’s dynamic ascension to prominence in the entertainment industry.

    Her name? Anita Jarrell-Robertson. And she has a voice and a stage presence that command attention. Jarrell-Robertson in July of 2014 released her contemporary gospel album “God is There,” a CD filled with tracks that minister to the core of people’s hearts. The title track — “God is There” — speaks directly to the listener whose life has been thrown into a tailspin by one personal calamity after another.

    On that track, Jarrell-Robertson shares that the Lord is always present, especially in times when He seems most distant.

    “The song, ‘God is There,’ was written during a very tumultuous time in our lives (my husband and my children). At that time we were fighting cancer with my daughter, Jessica. She was only about a year old and she had relapsed with leukemia for the second time, and her doctor had informed us that she probably would not make it,” Jarrell-Robertson said.

    “So, we were facing a lot, we were facing her (conceivably) passing. She was our first child, we already had a second child with a third one on the way. And we were going through tough times in our marriage because of all the stress,” Jarrell-Robertson said. “We had issues with outside family members and friends with their opinions and their judgments, and we just felt alone.

    “We actually had a pastor at that time to tell us that our daughter was going to die, and that we needed to let her go because she was going to die and that’s what (he said) God had told him,” recalls Jarrell-Robertson, whose family moved to Carrollton, Texas, from Baton Rouge, La. “We were told a lot of things during that season but when all that stuff was happening, it was like we were in a whirlwind and I was like, ‘Where are You? What’s going on?’ I remember being in the hospital room by myself one day with my daughter, and I looked around and I looked up and asked, ‘Where are You?’ And He answered me and He said, ‘I am there.’ ”

    God’s response, Jarrell-Robertson admits, didn’t exactly soothe the pain she was feeling as her child faced such a life-threatening disease.

    Jarrell-Robertson couldn’t understand how she could be serving God as passionately as she was at that time and, yet, sill be faced with such a harsh reality.

    “I just didn’t understand,” states Jarrell-Robertson, who said her experience caused her to feel somewhat like Job, whose family was hit with disaster that claimed the lives of his 10 children. “And so the song actually came about because God gave me the song. The whole song was written like a conversation.”

    From her dialogue with the Lord, Jarrell-Robertson said she learned that trusting God and walking by faith don’t come without trials from time to time. She learned that sometimes people go through difficult times as preparation for the places God is sending them in some cases and so that they could have testimonies to help edify other people in other cases. Jarrell-Robertson and her husband, Jesse, now share the profound testimony of their daughter being cancer-free.

    The 12-track album has so many songs on it that are more than capable of capturing and suspending the attention of listeners. One such track is “Even Me,” which is perhaps Jarrell-Robertson’s most widely recognized song.

    “Even Me” sends the message that regardless of how unworthy of God’s grace and mercy a person may feel he is, the Lord’s love is strong enough to cover him.

    “I came to this realization that I can come to the cross even with this, in whatever mess that I’m in, I can still come to the cross with it,” said Jarrell-Robertson, who, with her husband, started Harvest Music, a record label for independent Gospel artists. “Basically, God was not surprised about the condition of my heart. I was, but He wasn’t. His blood was powerful enough to save and deliver ‘even me.’ ”

    The song “God is There” earned Jarrell-Robertson the top 2014 Chosen Voice Awards honor for “Best Contemporary Song.”

    Jarrell-Robertson’s music, which has crossover appeal, can be purchased on her official website, http://www.anitaworships.com. Other places it can be found include: Pandora, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and iHeart Radio.

    By Donald Lee
    Guest Columnist

    Donald Lee is founder-pastor of Kingdom Living Christian Center of Dallas. E-mail him at pastordonjlee@yahoo.com.

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    COMMENTARY: Manage resolutions like the 50-plus group

    I WAS RECENTLY ASKED IF adults 50 years old and older still make New Year’s Resolutions. I laughed and said “yes, but with a mature spin on it”. We, the “aging gracefully” segment of society tend to take New Year’s Resolutions with less of a grain of salt than others, I believe.

    At our age, we tend to take the lighter things of life, lighter. Of course there are some who might argue with me on this because when we are older, we should take things more seriously, I suppose. But, without a doubt, New Year’s Resolutions probably do not rank as high as, say, hugging our family members or kissing our grandchildren.

    The truth is 50-plusers know that we don’t need a December 31st mandate to start a January 1st resolve.

    Here are just a few of the reasons, we 50-plusers smile at the idea of starting over in the New Year but soon “get over it”, when we miss making the goal on or about the third or fourth week. When you are as “seasoned” as we are, you realize that it is never too late to begin…again. As long as we have breath in our bodies, we know we can always start over. You see, we realize that starting over and finishing are two precious gifts that we have the privilege of enjoying. So the New Year and the resolutions we fail to keep are less painful when we know what to do: begin again.

    We are less likely to get all bent out of shape about not keeping resolutions because we recognize that the expectations we have of ourselves should line up with the grace God affords us when we miss the mark.

    When pride beats some of us up when we do not keep the resolutions, my peers will say, “Oh, well, next time”. See, when you are as mature in age as we are, light things remain light and grace to begin again is heavy, in comparison.

    Since we are already weeks into the New Year and may have a few resolutions lingering, evaluate where you are at accomplishing your goals and if you’ve stopped the pursuit, I urge you to follow the 50-pluser lead and let the light things remain light, give yourself grace, and begin again. Happy New Year!

    barbara w. green is a licensed professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, ordained minister, and motivational speaker. Her columns are distributed nationally by the Jozef Syndicate. Follow her at www.barbaragreenministries.com.

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    COMMENTARY: Time to fix the legal, judicial systems from within

    OFFICER-INVOLVED KILLINGS of unarmed Black men–including Oscar Grant, Michael Brown,John Crawford, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice–is not a new phenomenon. Police have used deadly force against Black civilians nearly twice per week between 2005 and 2012, according to FBI records.

    Accusations that Black males like Grant, Brown, Crawford, Garner and Rice would be alive today if they merely complied with police officers’ commands are erroneous–and fail to truthfully acknowledge stereotypes towards Black men that
    are prevalent throughout the legal and judicial systems.

    Black men are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested and given longer sentences than any other demographic group–despite there being no evidence showing that they commit more crimes than anyone else.

    This disproportionate policing has resulted in more Black men being incarcerated or on parole today than were in slavery during the 1850s. Law enforcement is not the only segment of society that racially profiles Blacks. In several academic studies of first-person shooter tests (where participants must rapidly decide whether to shoot individuals holding either guns or harmless objects), civilians taking the tests were consistently more likely to shoot unarmed Black men than unarmed White men. These studies highlight the fact that society is not colorblind. We see color, and we see it clearly.

    Prejudices towards Black men are deeply rooted in stereotypes that are not supported by facts and statistics. But facts and statistics are not likely to change the opinions of people who hold deep prejudices and racial biases towards Black men. Ignorance, bias and privilege tend to obstruct logical reasoning. It is only possible to help someone who wants to be helped. And many people do not want to be helped. But that does not mean society should stop trying to improve the legal and judicial systems.

    One of the most direct ways to ensure that unarmed Black men are not denied justice is by serving on a jury. After all, it was a jury that decided not to indict the police offi cers involved in the deaths of Brown, Crawford and Garner. Additionally, it was a jury that decided to convict the officer who killed Grant with involuntary manslaughter instead of murder, and a jury will determine the faith of the officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

    Since jury pools are culled from voter registration lists and active voter lists, it is imperative that people register to vote and participate in every election–not just the presidential elections. Mayors, city councils, judges, district attorneys and other local elected officials play a significant role in shaping the laws that govern society.
    Ensuring that elected officials are responsive to the community’s needs and demands is of paramount importance.

    The situation in Ferguson, Mo., magnifies the significance of voting in local elections. Ferguson’s population is more than two thirds Black, but the mayor and five of six city council members are White. While Blacks in Ferguson overwhelmingly believe their local government treats them unfairly, very few participated in the most recent election (52 percent of voters were White). To turn the tide, Black voters need to participate in future elections and elect representatives that are willing to respond to the community’s needs.

    History proves that marches and protests (both peaceful and not) have their place in changing society, too. For example,
    the (non-peaceful) Boston Tea Party, the Selma to Montgomery March, and the march on Washington
    to protest the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War have all shaped today’s laws and systems of government.

    Marching and chanting about the importance of Black lives fits within this historical narrative,but it is imperative that advocates for change work to fix the legal and judicial systems from within, too.

    David Gray is a New Orleans native and has spent the majority of his professional career at the nexus of political advocacy, social innovation and community service.

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    COMMENTARY: Is Obama trying to kill Black colleges?

    Is Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, trying to kill Historically Black Colleges and Universities? If he’s not, he’s going to have a difficult time convincing HBCU presidents, trustees and alumni. Surprisingly, Obama has become their worst nightmare.

    George Curry

    George Curry

    Neither President Obama, the First Lady, the Secretary of Education or the president’s closest advisers attended an HBCU and, consequently, are tone death in recognizing what is broadly viewed as sound policy can inadvertently harm our nation’s HBCUs.

    President Obama’s proposal that the federal government pick up the tab for a worthy student’s first two years of community college is a case in point. Without a doubt, a move toward free, universal higher education is an excellent decision.

    But if the president had consulted the major organizations representing HBCUs, he would have heard suggestions on how to tweak his proposal so that it would not needlessly harm Black colleges, which it is certain to do.

    The amended Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.”

    HBCUs enroll only 3 percent of college students yet are responsible for nearly 20 percent of all bachelor degrees awarded to African Americans. In some fields, the figures are significantly higher.

    President Obama noted, “America thrived in the 20th century in large part because we had the most educated workforce in the world. But other nations have matched or exceeded the secret to our success.” And the U.S. can’t afford to lose the valuable contributions of HBCUs.

    HBCUs compete directly with community colleges. Both enroll students who may need some additional tutoring or training before they are college ready. More importantly, students who enroll in community colleges and HBCUs are in dire need of financial assistance. If you make the first two years of college free to community college students – and not to HBCUs – you don’t have to be a rocket or social scientist to see that Black colleges will come out the losers.

    And the bleeding doesn’t stop there.

    If and when community college students decide to continue their education, they may be more inclined to transfer to a state-supported public university, where costs are cheaper than those of a private or public HBCU. In many instances, that state-supported university might accept all of the student’s credits whereas the Black institution might accept some of them.

    Public HBCUs are likely to suffer under this scenario as well. If a Black student has attended a community college in Alabama, for example, he or she may be more prone to enroll in the University of Alabama or Auburn than they would if they had initially enrolled in Alabama A&M University or Alabama State. And given the costs, those students might totally bypass Tuskegee University, Talladega College or Stillman College, all private institutions.

    Colleges such as Spelman and Morehouse, though harmed, can probably sustain the drop in enrollment. But without any adjustments, it could be the death knell for many others, including Miles College, Tougaloo, Paine and my alma mater, Knoxville College, which already has a foot in the grave.

    With Republicans now in control of the House and Senate, it would have been far wiser for Obama to huddle with Republicans – whose presidents have been strong supporters of HBCUs over the years – to come up with a proposal that both sides could support. Going it alone, especially in this environment, virtually guarantees that the America’s College Promise program will go nowhere.

    What should be done?

    As one educator told me, it would have been better if Obama had said the federal government would pick up the first two years at a two- or four-year college. That would be better for most HBCUs. Because public tax dollars probably would not be designated for private colleges, the private and religious-affiliated institutions would still be in a bind.

    As for the Republican majority accustomed to saying “no” to everything when they were out of power, education would be a good thing to say “yes” to. And correcting the blunders made by the White House may even help in reaching out to a broader political base, a goal the GOP claims it wants to achieve.

    In the meantime, this new community college proposal, coming on the heels of the administration dropping the ball on Parent PLUS student loans that caused some HBCUs to lose as much as 20 percent of their student body and a proposed federal rating system that could also disadvantage some HCBUs, has some of Obama’s ardent supporters wondering if this is part of a plan to kill Black colleges. If it’s not, it may have the same sad effect.

     By George Curry
    NNPA Columnist

    George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

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    DRUM CALL: To Be Equal Eric Garner

    Statement from Marc H. Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League, on the Grand Jury’s Decision to Not Indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Chokehold Killing of Eric Garner:

    “There are absolutely no words that can describe the miscarriage of justice that has just occurred in America – yet again. There is no rational or feasib

    le explanation that can ever justify the Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict the person responsible for Eric Garner’s death – a decision which itself defies common sense. Today’s unfortunate outcome – yet another in a tragic series of killings of unarmed Blacks by police officers in just the past six months – further demonstrates that we need a new approach in this nation to police-community relations, the use of excessive force by law enforcement and police accountability for acts of misconduct.

    Eric Garner did not deserve to die. NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo had no reasonable cause to kill him. After repeated review of the facts of this case and what the video clearly shows, what is most ironic is that Eric Garner was being arrested for the misdemeanor of illegally selling cigarettes; yet, the officer who used an illegal chokehold prohibited by the New York Police Department was neither arrested nor indicted. Officer Pantaleo’s actions directly led to the death of an unarmed man who displayed no threatening acts or acts of violence towards him. This cannot continue.

    To Be Equal

    “Every American lives in safe, decent, affordable and energy efficient housing on fair terms.” – National Urban League 2025 housing empowerment goal

    Mel Watt Lowers Mortgage Down Payment Requirement

    NEW YORK, NY – Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt is taking action to turn the American dream of homeownership into reality for many more people. Director Watt recently announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which he regulates and which are linchpins of the nation’s residential mortgage market, will reduce down payment requirements from 5 percent to 3 percent. This will enable many more low-income, but credit-worthy, consumers to become homeowners while helping the nation’s faltering housing market regain its traction.

    We enthusiastically applaud this move and believe that as a result, more African American, Latino and working class borrowers of all races, who face an especially tough time securing mortgages, will have greater access to conventional loans, which are more affordable than other financing options. We are also encouraged that Director Watt’s plan will allow housing counseling in lieu of costly mortgage insurance to be a compensating factor to help make up for low down payments or low credit scores.

    Saving the necessary down payment to purchase a home is one of the biggest obstacles to attaining the American Dream, especially for communities of color. African Americans and Latinos typically have lower incomes and are less likely to receive an inheritance or first-time buying help from their parents than white Americans. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, while it takes the typical white family 14 years to save for a 5 percent down payment, plus closing costs, it takes the typical Latino family 17 years and the typical African American family 21 years to save those amounts.

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    DRUM CALL: The Ferguson Decision highlights a house divided

    On Monday, December 1, 2014, President Barack Obama was forced to, again, weigh in to assert the citizenship and humanity of the African American Community.  Why, in 2014, was that necessary? Well, the immediate answer is because, despite overwhelming evidence of the use of excessive force by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in the death of an unarmed, 18-year-old Black male, a grand jury could not find probable cause to charge Officer Darren Wilson with Michael Brown’s murder.

    The larger question, however, is why is it that police officers believe that they can use excessive force, and even murder unarmed Black people with impunity– in broad open daylight, with multiple witnesses who testified that the victim had his hands up in the universal symbol of surrender?  The simple answer is the believe it because, in practice, police officers literally get away with murder nearly every time they use lethal force on African American people. They know, because of their training that all they have to do is SAY  “I feared for my life”, or that “I  feared that this person would inflict great bodily harm upon me.”  With those few boiler plate words, our court system almost always finds that the use of force was “justified” under the circumstances described by the officer.  That’s it!!! Over and out– officer exonerated!!!

    Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.  US Const, Amt 14

     

    In 1985, in Tennessee v. Garner,(471 U.S. 1), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that: “deadly force may not be used [by a police officer] unless it is necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

    Even when the officer has no reasonable or probable cause to believe that he would be injured, no charges are likely to be brought.  He just has to say that he thought he might be harmed, flash a picture of the dead person, and– oh, let us not forget the third piece of the exoneration process– attempt to destroy the character of the dead person. So, good Lawyers who know that this is a bastardization of the law must keep fighting.

    My condolences, my deepest sympathies, and my apologies to the families of Michael Brown, and to every other person who has been the victim of excessive force at the hands of police officers.  These people who take an oath to protect and serve, act under color of law to mete out what amounts to state-sanctioned street executions without due process of law– and seemingly, without any thought that they might be held accountable. So, good lawyers must keep fighting!!!

    Before anyone starts to believe that there is nothing positive here, as you will often hear me say, I believe that all things work together for Good….  I am heartened by the diversity of the people who have showed up all over the country to peacefully protest the decision of the Ferguson Grand Jury.  There are men, women, young people, seniors, black, brown and white people.  News accounts have shown college professors, journalists, lawyers, teachers, business owners, etc., all express outrage– both at the decision of the grand jury and the inexplicable violence and looting that ensued.

    Many have asked why we are so outraged when a white officer murders one of our children, but seemingly accept it as a fact of life when a young African American male murders someone in our community– generally another young African American male.  The truth is that we are outraged at both.  However, there is a higher expectation in our police officers who are sworn to protect and serve ALL persons within their respective jurisdictions.  Some of the apprehension about reporting Black on Black Crime results not only from fear of the criminals, but also from mistrust of the police.  That mistrust does not happen in a vacuum.  There is a long and storied history in this country of why people of color do not trust police.  It does not help when the lives of people of color are blatantly devalued; nor when we are marginalized and dehumanized on a regular basis in the court system.

    Today, as prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, police officers in the United States may, with impunity, murder members of the public, especially people of color, and to get away with it.  Again, all they have to say is that they feared for their lives. But what is left every time no justice is sought in these cases is a segment of  society that feels  they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands. Citizens have a First Amendment Right to peacefully protest, and good lawyers must keep fighting!!!

    There is no reason that a clearly biased prosecutor like Robert McCullough, in Ferguson, MO, should be in office. In fact, McCullough’s failure to recuse himself from the prosecution of Darren Wilson, his passive-aggressive stance in presenting the evidence, and his failure to even ask the grand jury to indict Wilson, at best denied Michael Brown’s family due process and equal protection of law.  At worst, it was blatant, egregious malfeasance.

    “…Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand….”  Matthew 12:25

    Peaceful protests are good and an integral part of civil disobedience.  It is utilized to bring attention to an injustice, to bring about unity, and to prevent “desolation”.

    The bottom line, however, is that there is a very simple solution for elected officials who refuse to hear our calls for justice.  VOTE THEM OUT!!!  People of good will, including people of color, must vote in every election.  Every Election!!!  No one, including the prosecutor in Ferguson, MO, is concerned about a community that does not vote.

    What McCullough and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (in occupying domestic streets with military force) told the people of Ferguson in handling the Michael Brown case was, if you don’t vote, you don’t count!!!

     By Alfreda Tillman Bester
    The Drum Guest Columnist

    Alfreda Tillman Bester is an attorney in private practice in Baton Rouge, LA.  She serves as General Counsel for the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and Host of Perspective, an interactive community interest radio program which airs on WTQT, 106.1 fm in Baton Rouge every Tuesday from 5:30 -6:30 p.m.  Listen live at www.wtqt.org

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    Month with Mada: Let’s keep it real

    LET’S KEEP IT REAL

    As the election results were announced, it became more and more a concern that President Barack Obama name was exposed.  Our President is the President of this Nation.  He has nothing to do with the present situations in the Senate and House of Representatives.    They have fought against him since day one.  President Barack Obama inherited problems from the Nixon, Reagan, Bush Administrations and all of a sudden the Republicans want to turn deaf ear and act as if these matters had not existed?

    The Republicans have fought against President Barack Obama from day one.  The Republicans show no respect, they work and  try to overpower the first man in office and think because they rule the house/senate it is okay to overrule, but this nation, most importantly, is governed and supported by  our President, President Barack Obama.  Let it be known, he has the final say-so.

    In all honestly, we are not asleep, many of us are  tired of the fight between the House and Senate on Capitol Hill. “Let’s Keep It Real” and come together over the next several years to bring our local, state and national union together for betterment of our communities, state, local and on a national/international component.

    By Mada McDonald
    The Drum Columnist

    Month with Mada shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge.  Leave your comments below.

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    Month with Mada: Free Albert Woodfox

    FREE ALBERT WOODFOX

    On October 4, 2014, in New Orleans, Louisiana, a press conference and Angola 3 Second Line commemorating the one year anniversary of death of Herman Wallace, one of the Angola 3.  The 1pm event began at the Treme’ Center and ended with a Second Line to unveil the Solitary Garden Project, 1651 North Robertson Street.

    For at least 41 years ago, the Angola 3–three young Black men, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King–were put in solitary confinement and have spent a total of more than 100 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. They claimed their innocence and refused to be unheard or silenced;  the fight for justice continues. (Read Amnesty’s report on the Angola 3)

    Robert King, Angola 3 inmate was released in 2001, after 29 years of solitary confinement .  As per Robert,  “I may be free of Angola. But, Angola will never be free of me”.

    Herman was given his freedom last year, but four days after being released, he passed away due to a terminal illness.

    Albert Woodfox remains in Angola. Today, Albert is awaiting word from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as his third overturned conviction will stand.

    A recent article in the Journal of Law and Social Deviance titled “Activism Unshackled & Justice Unchained: A Call to Make a Human Right Out of One of the Most Calamitous Human Wrongs to Have Taken Place on Human Soil,” Southern University law professor and a dear friend of A3 Coalition, Angela A. Allen-Bell argues that the United States government’s repression of the Black Panther Party, (where it all began for the Angola 3), has had a major and significant impact on court proceedings for the Angola 3.  “Terrorism, COINTELPRO, and the Black Panther Party – An interview with Professor Angela A. Allen Bell tells the truth about this overall situation.  “The social movements of the 1960s/1970s remains an open wound for the nation itself”.  “This is more than a national tragedy; this is a human wrong.”

    Since 2009, the Angola 3 news projects has conducted numerous interviews focusing on different entities and aspects of the Black Panther Party. The sole concentrations at this time is to Free Albert Woodfox and abolish prolonged solitary confinement. These efforts are supported by the Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Amnesty International and Amnesty U.S.A. and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

    We come together as a people. We plea and cry out in remembrance of Herman’s life and legacy and continue with prayers and positive hope to fight each and every day for the release of Albert Woodfox.

    Please correspond with Governor Bobby Jindal, the Attorney General’s Office, President Barack Obama and other local, state, and national constituents and visit amnesty.org for further information. To review the film “Land of the Free”  go to www.inthelandofthe freefilm.co.uk or the main A3 website at www.angola3.org/; or www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kot68mrqCI to see The Amnesty International video about Angola 3.

    Most importantly, FREE ALBERT WOODFOX, he has served time for a crime not committed.  It is time for JUSTICE to prevail.

     

    By Mada McDonald
    The Drum Columnist

    Month with Mada shares commentary on community and current events compiled by Mada McDonald, a public relations professional and community activist in Baton Rouge.  Leave your comments below.

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  • Time to regulate Louisiana’s payday lenders

    IN MY SEARCH FOR COMMERCIAL office space in years past, I was shocked to see so many payday loan storefronts in Baton Rouge, many in very close proximity to one another. Indeed, payday lending storefronts out number McDonald’s restaurants in Baton Rouge 4 to 1. I wondered how two identical businesses, some literally next door to each other, could both thrive in the face of competition in such close Quarters.

    It turns out that payday lending is an extremely profitable business in Louisiana. According tot the Center for Responsible Lending, nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting predatory lending practices, Louisianans paid between $181 million and $196 million in fees to payday lenders in 2011.

    Payday loans are generally marketed as quick cash for consumers who need a little extra money to tide them over until their next payday. The repayment period is usually 14 days. However, the profitability of payday lending companies relies on repeat customers getting entrapped in never- ending cycles of debt as they take out additional loans while they struggle to repay existing loans, fees, and their current bills.

    Recognizing the need for payday lending reform, lawmakers have proposed bills in the upcoming legislative session to enact tougher restrictions on payday lending businesses, which, under current state laws, are allowed to charge exorbitant interest rates and fees up to 700%. The proposed legislation by State Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) and Senator Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) would cap interest rates on payday loans at 36% annually. This legislation mimics the Federal Military Lending Act’s 36% cap on loans to active duty military members and their families.

    Advocates on both sides of the issue have begun to weigh in as the March 10 commencement of the legislative session nears. Supporters of reform include organizations that represent the elderly, poor and others on fixed incomes. These supporters argue that the predatory lending practices employed by payday loan companies impose a drain on the Louisiana economy, and result in an increase of negative financial outcomes for consumers, which include an increase in job loss and bankruptcies.

    Opponents of reform argue that payday loan companies provide an essential service to their consumers, who usually have credit problems that prevent them from qualifying for traditional loans at financial institutions with more stringent credit worthiness criteria. It does beg the question, would these companies be able to thrive if there was not a high demand for their services? More importantly, are there viable alternatives for consumers who need quick cash, or who are unable to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck?

    Supporters of reform advocate for alternative options such as seeking short-term financial assistance from family members, churches and social service organizations; asking creditors for extensions on due dates; and enrolling in consumer credit counseling plans, which can negotiate lower interest rates and monthly payments on credit card bills. Employers may also be willing to provide a payday advance or overtime work. If feasible, consumers can seek a second part-time job to increase income, while simultaneously eliminating any non-essential expenses. Additionally, while not an ideal option, most credit cards offer cash advance options, the fees for which are usually still lower than payday loan fees.

    Congress recognized a need for consumer protection from predatory lending for military families, and subsequently enacted the Military Lending Act. Ordinary citizens deserve the same protection. While predatory lending practices may garner large profits for payday loan businesses, we should not let the profitability of a few come at such a detriment to the state economy and its most vulnerable citizens.

    More information on the proposed legislation, House Bill 239 and Senate Bill 84, can be found here.

    Kenesha Antoine, Esq. is owner of the Bluest Ink Notary and Legal Services in Baton Rouge 

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  • SAT changes may narrow socio-economic gap

    The SAT college admissions test is undergoing significant changes in 2016. The SAT has long been associated with the Ivy Leagues, high income and racial majority families.

    Studies show that there is a substantial performance gap on the SAT between low-income, minority students and high- income, majority peers. The College Board—creators of the SAT—have recently debuted drastic changes that represent an attempt to narrow the performance gap and to transform the reputation that precedes the standardized test.

    In its current form, the SAT features writing, critical reading and math sections that tend to support rote memorization and surface level reasoning skills – the redesign encourages more analytical thinking. Therefore, the new SAT will ask students to not only choose correct answers, but also provide evidence to support their choices. The math section will narrow in focus and onlyy assess skills through problem solving, data analysis and core algebra and select advance math topics. In addition, students will no longer lose points for choosing incorrect answers. The essay portion will also become optional.

    Besides the actual redesign of the exam, The College Board will help bridge the socioeconomic gap by providing up to four fee waivers and free test prep through Kahn Academy—a free online homework help site.

    The changes to the SAT are commendable. Modifications are closer aligned to classroom outcomes and expectations.

    It will better assess students’ ability to think critically—a hallmark of higher education. Removal of the penalty may reduce test anxiety associated with choosing an incorrect an- swer. Fee waivers and free preparation increase low-

    income students’ participa- tion in and performance on the SAT.

    The College Board said it hopes that the changes will help the SAT keep up with its competitor—The ACT–that is taken by more students across the nation, especially in Louisiana. Louisiana students may want to consider taking both the ACT and the new SAT to have dual options for gaining admission into their college choice.

    While the SAT modifi- cations have bought atten- tion to the influence of race and socioeconomics on col- lege access, K-16 adminis- trators must continue to fo- cus on effectively preparing students for college and ac- curately measuring college readiness. While ACT and SAT tests show that many American students are not meeting college readiness benchmarks, many argue that these exams are not a great predictor of col-lege success. Hopefully, The College Board’s action will prompt other college stakeholders to re-evaluate current college access and preparation practices.

    Erin Wheeler, Ph.D., is a STEM Learning Strategy Consultant at Louisiana State University’s Center for Academic Success and owner of E_Source Learning Solutions in Amite. 

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  • ,

    Wealth Watchers: 13 solutions for your money resolutions

    wealthwatchers_logo

    It’s the beginning of the year and time for you to think about money. You have been told for years how to handle your money. You’ve been told:

      • “Live within your means”
      • “Pay yourself first”
      • “Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul”
      • “Save for a rainy day”
      • “Don’t bite off more than you can chew”
      • “Pinch your pennies”
      • “Start on your golden parachute”

      The reality is that you must live every day. For most of you, you owe, you owe, you owe, and your credit needs work. For some, your money is tight. You are living “right,” and you just need guidance to the financial light.

      The New Year money solution you seek is known as personal budgeting, and it begins now with some great New Year money tips.

      1. Visit your local credit union or bank and open a Holiday Savings account. Set up for a small amount to be taken out of your account each pay period for 2014 holidays. Use the amount you spent this year and divide by the number of pay periods to determine the amount to save.

      2. Use a portion of your tax returns to get a secured credit card from your local credit union to improve your credit.

      3. If you are a homeowner, visit your local HUD Certified Counseling agency for a mortgage checkup to determine if   you qualify for lower rates or mortgage modification.

      4. Open a vacation account along with your Holiday Savings account. Determine where you want to go and when and start saving towards the travel.

      5. Use a portion of your tax returns to pay off a pay day loan to break the cycle.

      6. Use a portion of your tax returns to catch up your child support payments.
      Decide to pay Peter and Paul on time to avoid late fees.

      7. Live within your means. Try to move to cash only transactions. The less you put on your credit card the closer you get to living within your means.

      8. Pay yourself first. Paying off debt and not making more debt is a modified version of paying yourself first.

      9. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Make every effort to pay off your payday loan and identify a less costly product for quick cash. Check with your local credit union.

      10. Save for a rainy day. Every day is a rainy day for some. Do your best to create an emergency fund.

      11. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You don’t need the biggest television and the most current cell phone.

      12. Pinch penny. Roll the loose change that you find around the house and make it a point to deposit them each month.

      13. Start on your golden parachute. Some people believe that life starts at 65. Meet with someone this year to learn the truth about retirement.

      By Ed Gaston
      Wealth Watchers

      Ed Gaston is vice president of community development for Wealth Watchers Inc. in Jacksonville, Fl. His column is distributed by the Jozef Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter @edsvision. ONLINE:wealthwatchersfl.com

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    • Tis the Season for Smart Shopping

       

      I’ve spent the last three years of this column sharing with you important facts about African-Americans’ consumer power.  And, I know those of us who are certified black-belts in the time-honored martial art of shopping, are fired up for the Black Friday super sales with our artillery of cash and/or credit cards in hand.  But first, let’s breathe deeply and think about this, especially in light of recent allegations of retail establishments questioning purchases made by Blacks, which have brought the very essence of our purchasing power under assault.  Now, more than ever, it’s important for us to understand what it means to be a Conscious Consumer – particularly during the busiest shopping season of the year.

      These are a few important questions you should ask yourself before making any consumer decision:

      1) Did I find this service or product in my neighborhood?
      2) Does this company, network or business hire people who look like me?
      3) Do I see positive images of myself reflected in the content this company or program promotes?
      4) Does this company have a history of supporting causes that better my community?
      5) Am I still willing to spend my limited time or hard earned dollars with this company if the answer to any of the above questions is no?

      With that in mind, Nielsen’s Holiday Spending Forecast expects this shopping season to be financially stronger than last year, with dollar sales up about two percent.  Even though an increase in sales is predicted, 68 percent of shoppers who responded to the survey still feel as though they’re in a recession.  Twenty percent of U.S. consumers say they have no cash to spare.  Forty-eight percent report living comfortably or spending freely.  Fifty-two percent of consumers are only buying on the basics.

       

      Thirty percent of us across all income ranges say we’ll spend between $250 – $500 on gifts this year.  Twenty percent of consumers estimate they will spend between $500 – $1,000, with just six percent predicting that they’ll drop more than $1,000.  How, where and on what are we expected to spend our money?  Dollar stores are expected to enjoy a banner season, with 12 percent of consumers in households earning $50,000 or less, reporting plans to shop in these channels, versus four percent of consumers in households earning $100,000 and up.  Twenty percent of those consumers in the $100,000+ category say they will be shopping more online, compared to 15 percent of consumers in households earning less than $50,000.

       

      The 10 hottest holiday items for 2013 are as follows:

      1. Gift cards
      2. Tech products
      3. Toys
      4. Food
      5. Apparel
      6. Video games
      7. Cookware
      8. Sporting goods
      9. Jewelry
      10.  Alcoholic beverages.

      Nielsen has traditionally been on point with holiday spending projections, successfully predicting five out of five category trends last year.  The information is gathered from consumer surveys of more than 22,000 households of all demographic groups across the country and an analysis of 92 product categories with over $99 billion in sales.  Lots of us enjoy making putting smiles on faces with a little “holiday cheer,” so beer, liquor and wine sales are expected to contribute between $60 million and $70 to the bottom line this season.  Snacks and candy are expected to bring in $199 million and $95 million in sales, respectively.  Sales of holiday treats like cheese, jams and jellies are also expected to jump.  We love our canine-American and feline-American family members; so, pet care is expected to grow by 5.3% and pet food 1.4%.

       

      Now that we’ve talked about this year’s holiday shopping trends, are you among the 22 percent of U.S. consumers who have already begun holiday shopping? Or, do you find yourself among the 60 percent who love the adrenalin rush of crowds and last minute deals – or, just master procrastinators?

       

      African-Americans are frequent shoppers, savvy digital users, high volume owners of smartphones and users of social media and voracious consumers of media – in other words, powerful consumers.  We cannot expect different results if our consumption patterns and habits don’t change.  It’s just that simple; no matter what time of year it is.

       

      So, happy holiday shopping, but remember, the final decision to be a Conscious Consumer is yours to make.   As always, I encourage you to choose wisely.  And, don’t forget to chat with us on Twitter or Facebook so we can keep the conversation going.

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    • The Positive Diva Speaks

      HIV! The Positive Diva Speaks!

      Despite the conversation that HIV/AIDS is a silent killer, I beg to differ. The voice of fear screams loudly, the spread of stigma and ignorance is deafening, the loss of love ones from the virus is real, the grief is our living with the shame and blame is disheartening! How can anyone see the effects of the HIV/AIDS virus in our community pretend that to recognize its impact? Recently, I spoke to a group and said that each one should look in the mirror and see the face of HIV. There is no certain look. It definitely looks like me! I did not have to audition for the virus. It cared not about my race, gender, gender preference, social position, education, or religion. I never went to a physician to get a prescription for HIV. It can happen to anyone. A marriage license, wedding ring, and a mortgage does not protect you from getting infected with HIV.

      As an professional woman, minister, daughter, mother, sister, grandmother, and friend, I must lend my voice to raise awareness to save lives. I must be the face of truth, the good, bad, and ugly regarding HIV. It does not matter how you become infected! The results are the same, stigma, shame, blame, and discrimination become a part of everyday life. You are judged, called bad names, and often told that no one should love you. You are invited to fewer events, receive fewer calls, and sometimes no visits from family or friends. We are social animals and need to be hugged, kissed, laughed with, held, and cried with. We need to be encouraged and supported.

       

      I am more than just a woman living with HIV/AIDS. I am the voice of the silent, the face of those ashamed to disclose, the strength of those afraid, I am wind under the ones that need help to rise. I am an advocate and servant!

      Thank you reading my commentary, get tested,get test results, protect yourself and those you love, get involved, help make a difference!

      Dr. Joyce Turner Keller,

      “The Positive Diva”

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