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  • A noose hangs over Tangipahoa schools not just on Whitlow’s post

    A few people in the African American community have expressed their surprise by our position concerning the social media post by Tangipahoa School Board representative Mike Whitlow. (Whitlow posted a photo of a hanging noose with the sentence, “If we want to make America great again we will have to make evil people fear punishment again.”)

    To be clear, there is a real noose. It has been in existence for a very long time. The huge noose that exists around the neck of the Black community of Tangi is evident in a system’s persistent efforts to keep strong-minded and talented Black educators from leading the system and bringing out the best in our children. The noose was evident when a system zoned piles of Black kids who struggle academically together in Greenville Park and Woodland Park. How does a school drop over 30 points in a single year? Something is wrong with this. What happens to uneducated Black children?

    As we have said before, images like these are hurtful to many, but they do not even come close to comparing to the aforementioned. From the sidelines, many of us have watched a system successfully lynch our kids by robbing them of an adequate education. Do we not see that the demographics of just about every school’s in-school suspension room mirror the demographics of our own parish jail? The NAACP’s concern far surpasses an image. We never aim to ruin a person’s life as a result of something like this. It is not the right thing to do. Has the Board Member voted in favor of decisions that are in our kids’ best interests? This is what we look at.

    Here is what I have come to understand and respect: The Plaintiffs Attorney has been single handedly fighting for all of us behind the scenes for years. He has been doing this by himself. Why? He has been a true hero in all of this. His support for us is documented and is still being documented in court records. It is real. He has been the one who speaks up for us in court when our system deals blows that are not in the very best interests of our children. This is the real untold story.

    So, it is time for us to finally do our part to stand with him in standing for our kids. I see good coming from all of this. For years, I have been here at almost every board meeting speaking out against injustices because I could not stand to see him carry this cross alone. Now, I am so glad to see so many African Americans united at school board meetings to help him along the way. I really want us to use this energy to join him in focusing on something meaningful– the future of our children. Let’s focus on holding our system accountable for making decisions that are good for our kids. We surely don’t want Black people in leadership roles just because they are Black. And we don’t want White people in leadership roles who do not know how to educate Black children. We want people who we know have our kids’ best interests at heart. We want the best for them. This is where I believe our focus should be.

    By Patricia Morris
    President, Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP

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    COMMENTARY: FBI’s behavior is classic deja vu

    It’s a classic case of déjà vu. The FBI’s counterterrorism division has identified a supposed new threat: “black identity extremists” (BIE). The FBI claims that BIE’s “perception of police brutality against African Americans has spurred retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement.”

    In a time when white supremacists march down city streets toting loaded weapons and shouting racist taunts, it comes as a great shock that the FBI would decide to target black identity groups protesting police brutality and their right to exist free of harm.

    Sadly, this news comes as no surprise from an administration that has flaunted its disregard for the civil rights and liberties of people of color and blamed the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville on “many sides.” President Trump and his allies have exuded a lack of compassion and historical understanding that increasingly infects our government and our society.

    It’s up to us to stop the true sources of hate in this country online at action.naacp.org you can join our call to Congress to support the NO HATE Act of 2017, sign the pledge to vote for representatives who know where the true threat to safety and democracy lies; and donate the NAACP to help us defeat hate and advance justice.

    In solidarity,

    Derrick Johnson

    Interim President and CEO, NAACP

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    COMMENTARY: New healthcare bill the wrong choice for African Americans

    In 1954, Thurgood Marshall and a team of NAACP attorneys argued the landmark civil rights case, Brown v. Board, before the Supreme Court. They demonstrated to the Justices that segregated schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause — that separate was and would always be unequal.
    Our representatives are on the brink of instating a health care plan that epitomizes separate and unequal. Thirteen U.S. Senators — all white men — sat behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. and crafted a replacement to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
    Their proposed bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), based off of the House’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), would only benefit people like themselves — healthy, wealthy white men — and quarantine the rest of the country into the confines of high cost, low quality health care.
    The Senate’s inequitable protection plan would disproportionately hurt the sick, the poor, the elderly, women, and people of color. It would make healthcare more expensive for seniors and people who are already sick, increase out-of-pocket costs for doctor’s visits, slash subsidies to help low-income people pay for health insurance, and cut Medicaid support to states by three-quarters of a trillion dollars.
    In more than twenty years as a health and social policy professional, I have witnessed the dire consequences of African Americans living without health care, and I have watched the ACA repair some of the most egregious inequities in our health care system. If the Senate bill passes, the impact will be devastating, and, in many cases, lethal.
    The current version of the Senate’s health care plan is projected to cause some 22 million people to lose their coverage by 2026, including 15 million next year. It also proposes to cut more than $772 billion from the Medicaid program over ten years and phase out additional funding for its expansion. At the same time, the bill proposes tax cuts of $700 billion that will largely benefit high-income individuals and big businesses — especially profiting the top one percent of earners. In effect, cuts to Medicaid for the poor and to premium subsidies for low-income people will serve to refund the rich.
    The Senate’s plan grants several allowances to states that hold the potential for serious harm. The plan permits states to opt out of providing essential health benefits that made coverage under the ACA more comprehensive, such as maternity and mental health care. States that opt out of providing these essential benefits would receive their share of $112 billion over ten years to help offset the states’ cost for covering those who need care most and likely set up high-risk insurance groupings. This provision would incentivize states to mark up the cost of coverage for people with certain needs, ostracizing them to their own costly risk pool.
    But the sick are not the only ones that the Senate plan puts at risk: under the new bill, low-income families and individuals would also be significantly hurt by the cuts to Medicaid. Proposed changes to Medicaid would make it more likely that states will reduce much-needed services or cut back enrollment. The resulting increased cost of care would be hurtful to elderly Americans, most of whom experience a decline in income, but they would be especially crippling to African-American seniors, who experience poverty at twice the rate of their white counterparts.
    The ACA cut the uninsured rate for African-American adults by almost half between 2010 to 2015 and eliminated the inequity in uninsured rates between African-American and white children. For the first time in history, thanks to the ACA, a Black child is no longer more likely to be uninsured than a white child. The new bill threatens to undo all of this progress. Suddenly, health care and insurance will once again be out of reach for many African Americans, nearly a quarter of whom were living below the poverty line in 2015.
    Further, the BCRA is an assault on the health of women of all races. The bill would prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding for at least one year, including Medicaid and Title X, despite its status as a source of care for services that women need, such as contraception and screenings for cancers and STDs.
    Our nation does not need a new health reform law. The ACA is the most comprehensive legislative effort to improve and democratize health care access in our nation’s history. We need to bolster the ACA’s promises of progress, not regress to conditions that were unacceptable then and are indefensible now. We need Congress to develop policies that help prevent illness, better manage disease, and facilitate health and well-being in our society overall. Our government’s focus should be on repairing and strengthening the ACA, not replacing it–much less with a dangerous, divisive alternative. It is time to put all of America first.
    By Marjorie Innocent
    Guest Columnist
    Join the NAACP on social media with the hashtag #BeInTheRoom. Dr. Marjorie Innocent is senior director, NAACP Health Programs. Contact: Malik Russell, director of communications, mrussell@naacpnet.org, 410-580-5761 (office)
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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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    La. NAACP denounces racist overtones in Secretary of State’s race

    Leaders of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP have taken up issue with LA Secretary of State Tom Schedler following several blog and social media posts on Schedler’s campaign website that the organization and others said are racist and troubling. NAACP state president Ernest Johnson sent this letter to Schedler and NAACP members:

    The last place Louisianans want or expect to see racist overtones and the denial of the history of voter suppression is in a race for Secretary of State- the official who is responsible for overseeing fair and impartial elections.

    We are concerned that this scenario is playing out in the campaign of Tom Schedler, our current Secretary of State. First, an article on Mr. Schedler’s website titled “We Now Have a Campaign Issue in the Secretary of State Race” takes pains to point out that Chris Tyson is a “Black Democrat” who should not be taken seriously in running against a “Republican incumbent.”

    In a separate and even more troubling article,“Tom Schedler Reflecting on the Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act”, Schedler defies logic by asserting a commitment “to the spirit of the Voting Rights Act WITHOUT the need for Federal oversight and intrusion.” 

    As recent events with the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, Bogalusa City Council, and West Feliciana Parish Council clearly show, without federal oversight, Louisiana will revert to voter suppression tactics clearly designed to destroy representative government.

    The Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP is calling upon Schedler, the top elections official in this state, to curb this divisive rhetoric and to focus on legitimate issues of the campaign- that is, focus on an inclusive process that maximizes voter participation.

    Ernest L. Johnson, Esq. President

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    BR NAACP recognizes leaders

    NAACP Annual AwardThe Baton Rouge Chapter of the NAACP hosted its annual Freedom Fund Brunch, Oct. 4, honoring four community leaders and public servants. Chapter president Michael McClanahan (pictured at left) and chapter members recognized Markita Sweet with the President’s Award, Ronald Marshall with the Public Sevice Award, State Senator Sharon Weston Broome with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Howard White with the Entrepreneurship Award. The event took place at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church and Darrin Goss, president of the Capital United Way was the keynote speaker.

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