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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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    Conservative Koch brothers make inroads into Black America

    It was a scene that a young, militant Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. could not have envisioned 30 years ago. At the national convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Baton Rouge, Chavis was participating on panel about reforming the criminal justice system with, among others, Mark V. Holden, the senior vice president and general counsel of Koch Industries, Inc.

    The company is owned primarily by Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers known for their strong libertarian views, their major donations to ultra-conservative causes and opposing President Obama’s major initiatives. In fact, a major profile of the two brothers, the New Yorker observed, “In Washington, [David H.] Koch is best known as part of a family that has repeatedly funded stealth attacks on the federal government, and on the Obama Administration in particular. With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars.”

    The article stated, “Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies – from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program – that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.” According to the Associated Press, “With a fortune estimated at $41 billion each, Charles and David tie for fourth on Forbes’ list of the richest Americans, and tie for sixth on Forbes’ worldwide billionaires list.”

    In the strangest of bedfellows, representatives of Koch Industry and Chavis, who served a little more than four years of a 34-year sentence for conspiracy and arson in the 1970s as leader of the Wilmington Ten (the charges were thrown out on appeal for prosecutorial misconduct) and now president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), are working together on reforming the criminal justice system. That irony is not lost of Chavis.

    “Thirty years ago, I probably would have been one of the ones questioning my leaders on why it would be necessary to sit with conservatives,” Chavis said. “But over the years, I’ve matured.”

    He has matured to the point where his focus is on results, not rhetoric, Chavis said. “For me to sit on the stage with the general counsel of Koch Industries, I think, was providential and very fitting because this is the one company that appears to be serious about criminal justice reform,” Chavis said. He said criminal justice reform should be broad-based and include everything from racial profiling to disparate sentencing and prosecutorial misconduct.

    Chavis said, “I don’t think you’re going to be able to reform the criminal justice system with rhetoric. A lot of people over the last several years have talked about criminal justice reform, but haven’t put up any money and haven’t done anything that will create a bi-partisan coalition to make it happen.” Holden, the general counsel for Koch Industries, said the company has been working on criminal justice reform for the past 12 years. “It would be short-sighted for us as a company to just say, ‘Hey, someone made a mistake in the past – don’t even bother applying,” Holden told the SCLC delegates. “You would miss out on a lot of talent, opportunities, and people who could do great things for our company.” He said, “Charles Koch [the chairman of the board of Koch Industries] has already made it clear that this is his key priority this year. Whether this happens or not, we don’t control that – it’s up to Congress.”

    In a Politico column co-authored by Holden and Charles K. Koch, they wrote: “Reversing overcriminalization and mass incarceration will improve societal well-being in many respects, most notably by decreasing poverty.

    Today, approximately 50 million people (about 14 percent of the population) are at or below the U.S. poverty rate. Fixing our criminal system could reduce the overall poverty rate as much as 30 percent, dramatically improving the quality of life throughout society – especially for the disadvantaged.” They said, “To bring about such a transformation, we must all set aside partisan politics and collaborate on solutions.” For many, however, the Koch name has come to epitomize partisan politics. The Washington Post reported, “The filings show that the network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially outpaced other independent groups on the right and, on its own, matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions that serves as one of the biggest sources of support for Democrats.

    “The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups aimed at stopping what its financiers view as government overreach. Members of the coalition target different constituencies but together have mounted attacks on the new health-care law, federal spending and environmental regulations.” Despite their right-wing politics, the Koch brothers have been making inroads into Black America. They donated $25 million to the United Negro College Fund, a move that was roundly criticized by some and applauded by others. Georgia-Pacific, a Koch subsidiary, has been a longtime supporter of SCLC, and Benjamin Chavis has signaled his intention to enlist Koch Industries to advertise in Black newspapers.

    Luke Charles Harris, an assistant political science professor at Vassar College, said, “Now more than ever, it has become clear that organizations that take this sort of money are poor substitutes for the groups that sustained Black people throughout the legal revolution to dismantle segregation in the U.S.” Harris added, “One has to look at the ways that the Koch agenda undermines our battles to fight against structural racism, and the contemporary manifestations of white supremacy. Their track record across the board is horrific on these matters. “They are bad news for poor people, for unions, for people locked in the bottom of the economy, and for voters who want to exercise their right to weigh in in an important way on the issues that genuinely affect them.”

    Chavis acknowledges the Koch brothers conservative politics, but sees working together on criminal justice reform as an opportunity to influence them. “I believe as a result of this movement that’s now emerging for criminal justice reform, I think that there’s an opportunity to have a discussion with the Koch brothers about their politics,” Chavis said. “If you want to change America, we have got to have an inclusive discussion, not an exclusive discussion. Am I saying there’s the potential to have a progressive dialog with the Koch brothers? I believe the answer is yes.” But Harris believes Chavis is being naïve. “The Koch brothers already know what progressive Black folk think,” he said. “And they have spent countless millions of dollars establishing and fueling an agenda that essentially reverses the imperatives that Dr. King gave his life for: imperatives like the right to a fare wage, and the right to vote.”

    Patrick Delices, a Pan-African scholar and professor at Hunter College in New York City, said he understands Chavis’ frustration with slow rate of Black economic progress.

    “Historically and currently, the reality is that liberals at the corporate executive level and the political leadership level have failed to advance considerably the economics, politics, and culture of Black folk. Thus, it is in our best interest to engage with other people and groups who can perhaps offer to us a better deal,” he stated. “With that said, it is up to us to have a clear understanding that when we meet, negotiate, and engage in a business/political transaction with other people our interest/empowerment must come first, not the needs of other people.”

    Regardless of what his critics believe, Chavis is convinced that he is taking the correct path to being effective. “To my progressive brothers and sisters, I would say come and join me in getting the brothers and sisters out of prison,”he said. “Let’s get the question of prosecutorial misconduct resolved. Come join me. Let’s not just wait until the next incident of police brutality happens. Come join me, let’s reform the whole system.”

    By George E. Curry
    NNPA Editor-in-Chief

    ONLINE:blackpressusa.com

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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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