Thursday, 18 August 2011

Maxine Waters: Why isn't Obama in black communities?

WASHINGTON -- A prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus ripped President Obama's bus tour for ignoring suffering African-American communities as it rolls through pastoral -- and mostly white -- heartland towns.
"We don't know why on this trip that he's in the United States now, he's not in any black community. We don't know that," fumed Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) Tuesday evening at a jobs forum in Detroit, which is suffering a 12.5 percent unemployment rate, double Iowa's 6 percent.
"We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the strategy is," she continued.

A new Gallup poll put Obama's approval rating for handling the economy at a dismal 26 percent, the lowest of his presidency. A whopping 71 percent of those polled gave his performance a thumbs down.
Waters' frustration came as Republicans zinged Obama for conducting his jobs tour aboard a Canadian-built bus, as The Post revealed yesterday in an exclusive story.
Obama's bus tour has taken him through rural hamlets in Minnesota, Iowa and western Illinois, with picture-perfect photo ops in front of bales of hay and river parks -- but no hard-hit urban areas, as black unemployment holds at a crushing 16 percent nationally.
Henry County, Ill., where Obama spoke yesterday, has a black population of just 2.2 percent.
The black population of Winneshiek County, Iowa, where the president made an earlier stop, is a tiny 0.6 percent.
The criticism, although coming from a lawmaker under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, points to Obama's political bind -- he needs to reconnect with disaffected independent voters in Middle America.
But Obama also can't ignore base voters who supported him in 2008 and often rely on government help.
It's the latest headache on Obama's bus tour.
As The Post reported, the outer shells for each of two shiny black buses, which cost a total of $2.2 million, were manufactured in Canada by Quebec-based Prevost.

Waters, speaking at a freewheeling forum at Detroit's Wayne County Community College, suggested members of the CBC don't pressure Mr. Obama because their constituents are proud to have an African-American president, adding that "if we go after the president too hard, you're going after us."

"The Congressional Black Caucus loves the president, too," she went on to say. "We're supportive of the president, but we're getting tired. We're getting tired. And so, what we want to do is, we want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he's prepared to lead on. We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the strategy is. We don't know why on this trip that he's in the United States now, he's not in any black community. We don't know that."

The unemployment rate for African-Americans as of July was 15.9 percent, and it's significantly higher in Detroit. Waters told her audience Tuesday that when you "unleash us and you tell us you're ready to have this conversation, we're ready to have the conversation."

After Waters told the audience members of congress will act "when you tell us it's all right" to have a conversation with the president about these issues, an audience-member yelled, "it's all right!" After she said she wanted to give the president "every opportunity" to show what his plan is, someone yelled, how long?

Boston University Identifies Contributors To High Breast Cancer Incidence In African-American Women

African American women have higher rates of a type of breast cancer that isn't dependent for growth on the hormones estrogen or progesterone. They also have a higher rate of childbearing than do white American women.

A new study finds there is likely a link between those two facts -- that bearing a baby to term raises the risk for this type of cancer, called estrogen or progesterone receptor-negative breast cancer.

The study also finds that black women who breastfeed their babies can lower their odds of developing this cancer back down again.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, followed a group of 47,000 African American women from 1996 through 2009. Researchers had participants fill out, every two years, a detailed questionnaire assessing a wide range of factors that affect a woman's risk for breast cancer -- including weight, age at which they began menstruating, pregnancies and age of first childbearing, birth control or hormone-replacement use, physical activity and alcohol consumption.

What they found was that African American women who had given birth to more children were more likely to develop estrogen or progesterone-negative cancer than their peers who had not given birth or who had given birth to only one child. But when a woman with two or more childbirths breastfed her babies, that risk declined considerably.

Their study, based on the ongoing Black Women's Health Study, which has followed 59,000 African American women since 1995, found that giving birth to two or more children was associated with a 50 percent increase in the incidence of estrogen and progesterone receptor negative (ER-/PR-) cancers, but only among women who had not breastfed.

ER- and PR-negative results mean that the growth of the cancer is not supported by the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and therefore does not respond to hormonal therapy (such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors). It's the type of cancer "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts was diagnosed with back in 2007 and accounts for 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers -- more than one out of every 10 -- according to

Over the study's 14 year follow-up, 318 women developed ER-/PR- breast cancers, while 457 developed breast cancers with estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR positive).

What was also striking, was that having two or more children was associated with a decreased risk for ER and PR positive breast cancer, a form that is more common among white women. Breast feeding had no influence on that association.

"Our results, taken together with recent results from studies of triple negative and basal-like breast cancer, suggest that breastfeeding can reduce risk of developing aggressive, difficult-to-treat breast cancers," explained lead author Julie Palmer, ScD, MPH, a senior epidemiologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center and a professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health,.

African World Festival highlights

While packing the diverse history and culture of the African Diaspora into a three-day event is nearly impossible, organizers of the annual African World Festival handle the challenge with creative aplomb.
Held at Detroit's Hart Plaza, the three-day 29th annual festival offers music, vendors, ethnic food and more.
The event isn't just an opportunity to have a good time; it also exposes people to the flavors of the African world, brings communities together and puts a spotlight on Detroit's cultural richness, says festival director Njia Kai.
It's also an opportunity to learn more about the festival's presenter, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Kai says.
"It's important for people to be aware of the museum and recognize that it has (grown) and continues to grow, presenting new and exciting educational and entertaining exhibits and special events," Kai says.
The cultural attraction draws more than 300,000 people annually, many of them out-of-towners.
"I have gotten calls from people in Canada, Hawaii, inquiring about the festival," Kai says.
"People will set their vacation time for the third week of August. They expect Detroit to be a mecca for African-American culture and we aim to please."
New this year is the expansion of activities that will ensure that the young will not be restless. Instead of holding children's activities on Saturday and Sunday only, the festival will open the Watoto Village on Friday for the Watoto Celebration for families. Watoto means children in Swahili.
The celebration will include performances by folk singer Ella Jenkins, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
The festival also will be a place for personal discovery.
African plans to roll into town with its We Are Africa 2011 Road Tour where visitors can learn how to pinpoint their ancestry and about the ancestries of local personalities, including Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson and poet jessica Care moore.
Things will take a fashionable turn during the "Detroit Rocks the Runway" fashion design competition on Saturday. The event's special guest judge will be Detroit's own Naima Mora, who won cycle 4 of "America's Next Top Model."
And be sure to warm up your muscles because you will find it hard not to groove with a festival musical lineup that includes performances by headliner Roy Ayers on Friday.
The jazz-funk master is known for classics such as "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and "Running Away."
Saturday, check out "Black Women Rock!" Presented by moore, the event will bring together black female rock 'n' soul singers, musicians, poets and performance artists.
The African World Festival also will celebrate the lives of music icons Bob Marley, Gil Scott-Heron and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Kuti's life is chronicled in the touring Broadway musical "Fela!," which will be at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in February.
Through the collaborative efforts of Music Hall and the Wright museum, festival-goers can explore a multimedia Kuti exhibit at Hart Plaza during the festival.
There will be a special exhibit unveiling Friday, from 5-7 p.m., with Kuti album cover artist Lemi Ghariokwu in attendance.

The Man, the Movement, the Music," a visual and aural exhibit honoring Afro-pop musician and activist Fela Kuti, will be unveiled Friday. Lemi Ghariokwu, the designer of album covers for artists like Kuti and Bob Marley, will speak during the ceremony. 5-7 p.m. Friday.

• A Parade of Nations will depart from Woodward at I-75 and proceed to Hart Plaza. 11 a.m. Saturday, with Hart Plaza arrival at noon.

• Naima Mora, the Detroiter who won "America's Next Top Model" in 2005, will be a guest judge for the "Detroit Rocks the Runway" fashion design competition, which will merge hip-hop with traditional African textiles and design. 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

• Detroit poet-musician Jessica Care Moore will host "Black Women Rock!," a gathering of musicians, singers, poets, spoken-word and performance artists. 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

•'s "We Are Africa 2011 Road Tour" will be on site throughout the weekend, offering information and more about using DNA to trace ancestry. There will be presentations and other events, along with test kits for purchase. More info at .

• Third New Hope Baptist Church will present "Sermon on the River." Noon Sunday.

• The Motown Summer Blast Gospel Explosion will showcase one of the city's most potent musical genres. 2 p.m. Sunday.

• Multifaceted vocalist Rachelle Ferrell will perform on the event's main stage. 7 p.m. Sunday.

Oakland Schools Police Chief's Racist Tirade

SAN FRANCISCO -- Turns out the Oakland schools police chief accused of launching a boozy barrage of racial slurs at an African American sergeant on their way home from a charity golf tournament had actually brought him to the party as part of a "bonding experience."

What's more, the cash-strapped Oakland school district picked up the tab, giving Chief Pete Sarna and the sergeant, plus another sergeant on the command staff, a full day's pay to hit the greens and party it up with fellow cops from around the Bay Area at the $150-a-head event.

"It was classified as a retreat," said one school district source, who asked not to be named because the district is conducting a confidential personnel investigation of Sarna.

The district is looking into accusations that the chief, who is white, let loose July 18 with a half-hour tirade loaded with racist epithets against his two sergeants and a police driver - who apparently was called to the event at the Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland so no one would be driving drunk.

Sarna allegedly told the African American sergeant, who lives in Orinda, that "the only good n- is a dead n- and they should hang you in the town square to prevent any other n- from coming in the area."

The second sergeant, who is white, filed a complaint against Sarna with the district. The sergeant's attorney, Joe O'Sullivan, said the chief had invited his underlings to join him at the event.

As far as we have been able to determine, almost all the other officers at the charity tournament were off-duty.

Although drinking was going on at the gathering, fellow golfers said the chief did not appear to be heavily impaired when he left. What set him off on his alleged rant remains unclear.

"The three witnesses gave the same story. There is no question as to how it happened," O'Sullivan said. "The irony is they all thought he was a great chief."

The district is looking into accusations that the chief, who is white, let loose July 18 with a half-hour tirade loaded with racist epithets against his two sergeants and a police driver -- who apparently was called to the event at the Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland so no one would be driving drunk.

Sarna allegedly told the African American sergeant, who lives in Orinda, that "the only good n- is a dead n- and they should hang you in the town square to prevent any other n- from coming in the area."

The second sergeant, who is white, filed a complaint against Sarna with the district. The sergeant's attorney, Joe O'Sullivan, said the chief had invited his underlings to join him at the event.

"The three witnesses gave the same story. There is no question as to how it happened," O'Sullivan said.

Sounds like the investigation shouldn't be too difficult. If the allegations are true, this is one story that doesn't require the old "Was it racist or was it just a thoughtless and insensitive slip of the tongue?" treatment. And it's even more troubling considering that just this week, protests are under way in response to police brutality against black men by members of Oakland's police department.

Anyone who holds the views Sarna is accused of expressing -- regardless of whether alcohol was involved -- shouldn't be allowed within shouting distance of Oakland kids and certainly doesn't belong in the role of the highest law-enforcement authority in their schools.

What's Really Behind the Arguments Over 'The Help'?

The pretty Viola Davis was on plugging her new movie, "The Help". Viola half-jokingly remarked, " I want to rename this movie 'The Pressure Cooker'". Viola explained there were many critical "eyes" on this movie, from the book audience to the African American audience. The African American audience could understandably be upset about one of its top actresses having to play a "Maid" in 2011. Have we not progressed as a people? Are there not other inspiring stories about our community? These are the criticisms Viola was afraid of hearing. Reel film turned to reality when Viola revealed that her own mother was a maid, moreover, her mother worked on a plantation as well.

African-American life in the Jim Crow South -- the often humiliating experiences of black maids working for white families -- into well-crafted, even uplifting Hollywood entertainment. Then came a backlash of criticism of the film (and, implicitly, of the reviewers who praised it), arguing that the movie was, in fact, a racial whitewash, a perpetuation of old Mammy stereotypes and a trivialization of the actual struggles of black Civil Rights activists that occurred at the time, all filtered through the consciousness of a white heroine (and white filmmakers) and meant to relieve white audiences of their guilt over the racial injustices of the past while letting them off the hook for the persistence of milder forms of racism today.

That's some serious backlash, but now comes the counterbacklash, arguments from essayists that 'The Help' is a lot subtler and more nuanced in its portrayal of race relations in 1963 Mississippi, and in its portrayal of the conflicted feelings of the maids toward their employers and their children, than the movie's detractors give it credit for; that the detractors are conditioned to see racism in any attempt by white writers and filmmakers to address the lives of black foik, especially in that strife-torn era; and that this close-minded, knee-jerk reaction to the film is, in fact, racist.

There's a lot of baggage to unpack, then, in both the backlash and the counterbacklash. But what no one seems to be addressing is why the argument over 'The Help' has become so bitter and why the stakes seem so high. Now, I come neither to bury 'The Help' nor to praise it, but I think I know why everyone is so worked up, and the reason is something both sides of the debate can probably agree upon.

Another controversial question is whether the movie is exploitative or respectful toward the black women it depicts. The Association of Black Women Historians argued the former in a statement, calling the movie's maids a perpetuation of the Mammy stereotype, women who were "asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites." I'm not sure this is fair, since the plot hinges on an outpouring of discontent and disloyalty from the maids, particularly Viola Davis' Aibileen and Octavia Spencer's Minny, the two most outspoken of the maids. Their acts of subversion may be small and done only behind their employers' backs, but there's clearly a difference between these quietly seething women and Hattie McDaniel's Mammy in 'Gone With the Wind' (the most notorious example of the stereotype), who does nothing to imply dissatisfaction with or dissent against the system that keeps her subservient. (It's not a difference in their personal dignity -- McDaniel gave Mammy so much of that that she became the first African-American to win an Oscar -- but in their willingness to assert that dignity, in the face of real danger.)

Still, it's the small nature of those acts of rebellion that has prompted another criticism, that 'The Help' trivializes the actual struggles in the Civil Rights movement going on in Jackson, Miss. (and elsewhere) in 1963. The movie does acknowledge the assassination of Medgar Evers in Jackson that summer, but as Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry noted while discussing the movie last week on her Twitter feed and on MSNBC, it gives the Evers slaying as much screen time as Skeeter's date. To Harris-Perry, 'The Help' seemed to trivialize not only the Civil Rights struggles going on outside the frame, but also the hazards faced by the maids themselves, including threats of violence.

That tiny seed of agreement, I think, leads to what the larger issue is here. Which is: there wouldn't be so much contention over this film if it weren't the only thing on the playing field addressing this particular topic. But mainstream movies rarely do address the Civil Rights era, and when they do, it's almost always through a white-savior narrative. The most egregious example is 'Mississippi Burning,' but there's also 'Ghosts of Mississippi,' or even movies as innocuous as 'To Kill a Mockingbird' or 'Intruder in the Dust.' There was also a forgotten movie about 20 years ago called 'The Long Walk Home,' very similar to 'The Help,' which tells the story of the Montgomery bus boycott not through Rosa Parks (who's not even a character in the film) but through a fictional white housewife ('The Help' co-star Sissy Spacek) who comes to sympathize with the hardships of her maid (Whoopi Goldberg) as she walks back and forth across the city to tend her employer's family and her own. So the historians come by their distrust of Civil Rights movies naturally; it's no wonder they didn't expect 'The Help' to be any better. Similarly, the pro-'Help' critics are aware of Hollywood's shameful history on this score, and it's no wonder they'd yearn for a movie that breaks the pattern. It seems like both the pessimists and the optimists saw in 'The Help' the movie they wanted to see.

It's really not fair for 'The Help' to have to shoulder the burden of so many hopes and dreams all by itself. But the fact that 'The Help' is out there all alone is part of a larger problem in Hollywood, which shies away not just from movies that portray the struggle against racism fairly, but also from movies that portray African-American lives in all their richness and diversity. (To be sure, Hollywood doesn't play up the diversity of American experience for people of any race; when's the last time you saw a mainstream movie about white people who were poor or rural?) Everyone on both sides of 'The Help' debate agrees on the Oscar-worthy quality of Viola Davis' performance, ignoring the fact that she's likely to be one of the few black acting nominees this year. Last year there weren't any black nominees, not because there's any dearth of talented black stars, but because they weren't cast in the juicy dramatic roles that win Oscars. There are similarly few such roles this year -- except in 'The Help.'

There would be a certain irony if Davis, a previous Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress for 'Doubt,' who's been so good in so many supporting roles, finally got a lead actor nomination for playing a maid like Hattie McDaniel did 72 years ago. "What kills me is that in 2011 Viola Davis is reduced to playing a maid," Harris-Perry said. I'm sure Davis and Spencer felt the same way, but if there were more dramas with roles for the likes of these two stars, their 'Help' roles would just be a blip on the résumé, part of a panoply of characters representing the diversity of experience, just as 'The Help' would be just one of many movies revealing all facets of life during an important period in recent history. (Really, it's a wonder that 'The Help' got made at all. I'm sure Davis and Spencer knew they'd get flak for playing maids; that Stockett, Taylor and Green knew they'd get flak for being white people telling a story about black lives; and that DreamWorks knew it could have a hard time attracting ticket-buyers to a touchy story about race with a predominantly female cast.)

What's smart about 'The Help' is that it knows it's just telling one small part of the story of race relations in America. Like Skeeter, the filmmakers seem to know that this one small slice-of-life account isn't going to make all the difference in the world or end racism as we know it. It's just getting the ball rolling as a conversation-starter, not the last word. As long as we don't expect it to be the last word, as long as other movies take up the thread and keep us talking about a subject that's clearly not safely behind us but which remains a sore point, then 'The Help' will have done its job.

City to Pay Out $45 Million, Hire 111 African American Firefighters

New Haven, CT - In a 26 page decision, a U.S. appeals court resurrected new life into a lawsuit many thought was dead.

The court ruled that Fire Fighter Michael Briscoe, an African American, can sue the city of New Haven, Connecticut…after claiming its promotions test for firefighters is biased.

The ruling complicates an issue many legal expert considered resolved by the United States Supreme court.

The lawsuit stems from a 1995 firefighter's entrance exam in which almost 6,000 black applicants lost out on the chance to become firemen because the exam and its qualifying cut-off score favored white applicants. The City claimed the black applicants waited too long to file their lawsuit and appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, who found the City's case lacking.
The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May the City must hire 111 black firefighters and pay damages. Those damages could be at lease $45 million and, since it will cost the city a $500,000 for every month the city doesn't settle the case, it's in their best interests to put it behind them quickly.
Attorney Matt Piers, who was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said signs from the Emanuel Administration pointed toward settling the damages, which could earn every individual plaintiff $5,000, as soon as possible. Those who still wish to become firefighters can do so, provided they pass a pre-employment screening, physical tests, drug screens and medical examinations to be placed on a special eligibility list for the 111 jobs.

Will African-Americans Stand by President Obama in 2012?

According to the O'Reilly Factor, high unemployment numbers plus heavy home foreclosures are leaving the black community struggling in higher proportions than the rest of the populace. These hard hitting economic woes may be responsible for diminishing President Obama's support among African Americans.The latest Gallup poll shows the president is down a whopping 14 points from his once high of 95%.

Amid 17% unemployment for African Americans as well as 11% foreclosures for black homeowners, many think the real surprise is that President Obama's previous astounding 95% black community approval is still a solid 87%.Two of the questions the unexpected drop in Obama's polls raised include

Why is President Obama losing black voters?
Can President Obama win the White House in 2012 with weakened support from the black community?

In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight: According to a new Gallup poll, President Obama's support among African-Americans is down 14 points from its high. Currently he gets support from still an impressive 81 percent, but earlier in his presidency he drew an astounding 95 percent.
So why is the president losing black voters? And can he win the White House without tremendous support from the black community? Joining us now to discuss, two men who supported the president in 2008: Rev. Jacques DeGraff, he's a Fox News contributor who is in New York, and radio talk show host Earl Ofari Hutchinson joining us from Los Angeles.
Let's start with you Rev. DeGraff. Look, you know, 95 percent, I don't know how you can ever maintain a 95 percent approval rating but very impressive. Still 81 percent, but there has been some movement. You are looking at 17 percent unemployment for African-Americans, 11 percent foreclosure rate for black homeowners. What has President Obama, to put it bluntly, done for black Americans?

Well, you know, that's a question that many people are asking. It's a legitimate question, too. Many African-Americans quietly and some not so quietly, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, Urban League they're always challenging, challenging, challenging on that point. But we have to remember a couple of things. No. 1, it is true that there has been a tremendous, over the last few years and especially the last year, downturn in the economy. How much Congress, the White House, corporations, the business community and banks are responsible for that, that is subject to debate. But we do know this: that the president is the man at the top. He gets the blame for it and we're looking at many African-Americans saying Mr. President, as others are saying, you made some promises, some of them, of course, could not be kept given the rules of government but, none the less, we expect you to keep those promises. So how much of that is really a realistic expectation or overinflated expectations…

They are holding him to standards which the president himself said, the president said I don't want people to look at me as an African-American president. I happen to be but I'm the president of all the people. He said that himself. This is what Cornel West said, who is obviously a black scholar and has been on a poverty tour of the United States, the Midwest with Tavis Smiley, who is also a well-known black thinker. Obama's team reached out to West, Cornel West, several times and invited him to meet with the president. Cornel West has declined. He went on to say a beer summit won't help our issues, and he had very strong words to say about his longtime friend and he is President Obama. And he is none to happy about it. Is Cornel West wrong and there just needs to be more time for the all these ideas of the president's to germinate?
Still think it's jobs and the economy. At the end of the day the president or anyone else in elective office is going to be judged on what have you done in terms of a paycheck in my pocket, in terms of my welfare and my well-being. It's going to be the same with the president and it's going to be the same with Congress and it's going to be the same with the candidates running against him. That's not an unrealistic expectation from anyone when you are coming into these communities asking for their support.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

African-American Commission Will Examine Racial Disparities In Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law forming a new commission that is "aimed at researching disparities in the African-American community."
Members of the bipartisan commission will be joined by directors of several state agencies and will look into a wide variety of community topics including employment and education. The committee will have until the end of 2013 to report its findings to the Illinois General Assembly. Gov. Quinn deemed the formation of the commission a necessity and is taking responsibility to make sure that the state is paying attention to what's going on in African-American communities:
“We know that disparities exist within the African-American community, preventing some from achieving their full potential,” Governor Quinn said. “In Illinois, we want everybody in, and nobody left out. We won’t shy away from examining the root causes of inequality, and working to correct them.

We know that disparities exist within the African-American community, preventing some from achieving their full potential,” Governor Quinn said according to a press release issued by his office. “In Illinois, we want everybody in, and nobody left out. We won’t shy away from examining the root causes of inequality, and working to correct them.”

The Commission to End the Disparities Facing the African-American Community will be comprised of a bipartisan group of legislators from both houses of the General Assembly, as well as the directors of the Department of Human Services, Healthcare and Family Services, the Department of Corrections and other state agencies. The Commission will also include the Executive Director of the Illinois African-American Family Commission and up to 10 other individuals with research backgrounds representing African-American communities statewide.

Representatives Monique Davis and Mattie Hunter, both Democrats representing Chicago, proposed the bill, which went into effect immediately.

The Commission must hold one or more public hearings and will present its findings with recommendations to the General Assembly before the end of 2013.

Recruiters at Black Colleges Break From Tradition

TIMERY SHANTE NANCE is an African-American woman who has a thing about her hair. “I don’t use chemicals or straighteners,” she said. “It’s just my natural texture, and I wear it in a normal-looking puff.

Now she wonders, as some other black women evidently do, whether the Transportation Security Administration also has a thing about their hair. Ms. Nance is the second black woman I’m aware of within a month who says she was racially profiled when a T.S.A. officer insisted on publicly patting down her hair after she had already gone though a full-body scan without setting off any alarm.

Ms. Nance was departing from the airport in San Antonio in late July. After she passed through the body scanner, she said, a female T.S.A. screener told her to stand facing her possessions. “You’re good to go, but first I have to pat your hair,” the officer told her, she said.

“I’m like, pat my hair? O.K., I guess,” Ms. Nance said.

But it wasn’t O.K. Ms. Nance, who had been visiting her husband at the Air Force base where he is stationed, was deeply embarrassed as other passengers stared at her, “as if I’d done something wrong.”

She asked the screener why her hair was searched while others, including white women with ponytails or bushy hair, were simply waved through. “Is it just African-American women with natural hair who get the hair search?” she asked.

The screener said no, “but if you have certain kinds of ponytail or bun, you have to get your hair patted,” said Ms. Nance, who is 30.

Now, as I said, this is the second such recent incident. On June 30, a young African-American woman, Laura Adiele, said that a screener at the Seattle-Tacoma airport insisted on patting down her hair, which was also natural and curly, even though the body scan had not set off an alarm. Ms. Adiele said in various interviews that she thought the search had been racially motivated.

The T.S.A. denies that. “All passengers are thoroughly screened coming through the screening checkpoint,” said Kristin Lee, a spokeswoman. “Additional screening may be required for clothing, headgear or hair where prohibited items may be hidden,” she said.

The agency says it never uses racial or ethnic profiling — and I totally accept that assurance, as a matter of agency policy. But when I spoke to Ms. Nance, she seemed to see also a cultural issue, rather than a strictly racial one.

In what has become a mutually beneficial relationship for schools and students, many of the nation's 105 historically black colleges are increasingly wooing non-black students. The goals: to boost lagging enrollment and offset funding shortfalls.

Some black colleges are stepping up recruiting at mostly white or Hispanic high schools and community colleges. Delaware State University is bringing 100 Chinese students to its Dover campus this fall for cultural and language training. Other colleges are showcasing unique programs. Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens promotes its chorale, which backed Queen Latifah in the 2010 Super Bowl, for example.

Even top-ranked black schools such as Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Spelman College in Atlanta, are recruiting more aggressively in the face of intensifying competition for top African-American students.

About 82% of students at the nation's 105 black colleges are African-American, a percentage that has been fairly constant over the past 30 years, according to a data analysis for this column by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a New York nonprofit. Increases in Hispanic and Asian students have offset declines in whites, partly because of cuts in federal- and state-scholarship programs that encouraged white students to attend historically black colleges, says the fund's president, Johnny C. Taylor Jr. He predicts growth in white, Hispanic and Asian enrollment, as black colleges cast a wider net.

Ms. Daugherty was looking for a school that offered flexible schedules. As a teenager, she lost interest in college after three semesters, dropped out and went to work. In time, she became interested in city planning and decided to go back to school. Tennessee State's downtown Nashville campus enabled her to combine a full-time course load with her job as a supervisor at a nonprofit performing-arts center. As at many black colleges, its cost—at $2,400 a semester—was low as well.

She quickly found her professors and fellow students friendly. Race would sometimes enter the conversation. In one class, she says, her sociology professor looked out at the 40 students, most of whom were black, and asked rhetorically, "When did you first become aware that you were black?" She says she locked eyes with one of the two other white students, laughed and mouthed the words, "Today, I guess!"

After graduating last weekend, Ms. Daugherty regards her experience as a big plus that prepared her to live in a diverse society. "It has expanded me as a person."

Tennessee State's interim president, Portia Holmes Shields sees its mission as a public university to provide a quality education to students of all races, she says. While some older alumni are uneasy with the increasing diversity, younger grads embrace it, says the former dean of education at Howard University.

Michael Sorrell, president of tiny Paul Quinn College in Dallas, says black colleges must stay committed to their historical mission as "beacons of light" for students who need resources and support. "My difference is, I just don't assign a race to that."

After being hired in 2007 to help solve the school's financial and accreditation problems, Mr. Sorrell told alumni that the campus would soon "look dramatically different," he says. "It doesn't mean that we've turned our backs" on the college's historical constituency. "It means we've expanded our mission and our definition of who will benefit," he says. No alumni have objected, he adds.

Part of his strategy is to recruit top students of all races to serve as campus leaders, by offering personal mentoring, full $20,000-a-year scholarships and a post-graduation job guarantee. Among these 20 hand-picked "presidential scholars," six have been white or Hispanic. This fall, African-American enrollment among Paul Quinn's 200 students will likely drop to 85% from about 94% last year.

Some black colleges, of course, are doing relatively well financially. Headed for 43 years by current president Norman Francis, an adroit fund-raiser, Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans has more than doubled its endowment since 2005 to nearly $134 million, larger than that of many black colleges.

Many schools have track records in producing top African-American professionals. Xavier sends more black students to medical school than any other U.S. college and is among the top-three producers of African-American pharmacists with doctorate degrees.

With just 7,000 undergrads, Howard produces more African-American graduates who go on to earn doctorate degrees in science and engineering than any other college in the country, the National Science Foundation says. Second is Spelman, with about 2,100 students.

"They do it by really nurturing students and providing role models—not by fostering a competitive cutthroat environment," says Marybeth Gasman, professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education.

Black colleges do a good job by another measure, in educating students who enroll with less money and lower college-entrance test scores, on average, than incoming freshmen at other schools. Historically black colleges and universities enroll 16% of all black undergrads, but award 25% of the bachelor's degrees received by African Americans, Dr. Gasman says.

New anti-abortion billboard targeting African-American leaders unveiled

Another new campaign produced by black pro-life advocates says African-American political leaders have betrayed the black community with their support for abortion, which has destroyed millions of black Americans.

Catherine Davis, founder of the Restoration Project, has joined with other pro-life African-Americans to launch a new billboard today in downtown Atlanta. The “Betrayed” billboard calls attention to the pro-abortion views of many African-American leaders. The billboard is posted on the corner of Spring and Marietta Streets and is linked to

“Something is wrong,” Davis says, “when those elected to protect the interests of their constituents turn a blind eye to the horrific impact that abortion is wreaking on the black community. In New York City, for every 1,000 black babies born alive, 1,489 are aborted. In Washington, D.C. for every 100 black babies born alive, 165 are aborted. Something is wrong.”

Davis was instrumental in implementing another successful billboard awareness campaign in collaboration with Ryan Bomberger of the radiance Foundation and Georgia Right to Life.

Day Gardner of the National Black Prolife Union is also on board with the new project and asks: “Can’t we at least ask the hard questions about these numbers?”

“Pro-abortion groups cry racism when black pro-life leaders point out the depopulation effect of abortion,” she lamented. “I say yes racism is a factor, not on the part of pro-lifers, but on the part of those who want us to continually stream into the clinics to kill our children. All black leaders should help stop it or stay home.”

Star Parker from CURE is a member of the black pro-life coalition of leaders sponsoring the billboard.

“When you look at the data on what is occurring in our urban communities, you find that one out of every two and a half pregnancies is being terminated,” the nationally syndicated pro-life columnist says. “It is imperative that our leaders examine what we know is the targeting of black women and children. We don’t need to wait until it is too late like we did with the Tuskegee study, later looking back to ask why somebody didn’t do something.

Billboards have become de rigueur for the anti-abortion community, and have cropped up across the country, from California to Jacksonville. Like the recent campaign spearheaded by the Radiance Foundation, the Atlanta ad is part of an effort to denounce black leaders for what groups see as their failure to take a stand against abortion in the African-American community. The groups sponsoring the ad, which include the Restoration Project, CURE and Priests for Life, claim that more babies are aborted than are born in communities like Washington, D.C., and New York City. #

“Can’t we at least ask the hard questions about these numbers,” said Day Gardner, of the National Black Prolife Union, in a press release. “Pro-abortion groups cry racism when black prolife leaders point out the depopulation effect of abortion. I say yes racism is a factor, not on the part of pro-lifers, but on the part of those who want us to continually stream into the clinics to kill our children. All black leaders should help stop it or stay home.”
In addition to taking aim at African-American leaders, the groups are also again pointing the finger at Planned Parenthood — which they often accuse of racism. “In its 2008 tax filing, Planned Parenthood acknowledged their mission is to achieve a ‘US population of stable size.’” said Connie Eller of Missouri Blacks for Life, in the release, “What that means to black people, is they will continue to prey upon black women and children. We say no more, no way.”
Planned Parenthood has disputed claims of racism in the past, and its representatives argue that more clinics are placed in lower-income neighborhoods because of the lack of health care for women of a certain demographic — lower income, African-American and Latina — that often relies on Planned Parenthood for health care services.

Race Riots in America

You've damaged your own race," said Mayor Michael Nutter to the black youths of Philadelphia whose flash mobs have been beating and robbing shoppers in the fashionable district of downtown.

"Take those God-darn hoodies down," the mayor went on in his blistering lecture. "Pull your pants up and buy a belt, 'cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt."

And the mayor had some advice for teenagers looking for work.

"You walk into somebody's office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back and your shoes untied and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won't hire you?"

"They don't hire you 'cause you look like you're crazy."

Nutter is African-American and the first leader to speak out about the racial character of the flash mobs attacking people in one American city after another. And where are our other leaders?

At the Iowa State Fair last August, black thugs beat a white man so savagely he was hospitalized. Police only began to look into the possibility of a racial attack and hate crime after fair-goers said the thugs were calling it "Beat Whitey Night."

After Memorial Day, Chicago cops had to close a beach when a flash mob formed, attacked people and knocked cyclists off bikes.

In Miami Beach, there were beatings and shootings that same weekend. In D.C., flash mobs of black youths have turned up a half-dozen times in stores to loot clothes and merchandise and flee.

The media almost never identify the race of the thugs. Their reticence would disappear were a white mob in some Southern city to be caught beating up on black shoppers at a mall.

But the flash mob scourge hitting U.S. cities has been eclipsed by the pillaging and burning of London and other British cities in the worst violence visited on that nation and its capital since Goering's Luftwaffe executed the "Blitz.

In the past two years, Philadelphia has been tormented by several flash mobs composed of poor black teens who decide to meet at predetermined locations and then commit assorted acts of mayhem. The latest event, which took place in late July, saw 20 to 30 youths descend on Center City after dark to punch, beat and rob bystanders. One was hospitalized with a fractured skull after being kicked savagely in the head. Mayor Michael A. Nutter recently imposed a 9 p.m. weekend curfew on all minors in an attempt to curb the ongoing problem posed by these flash mobs. Nutter, who is African-American himself, then issued some tough talk to the black teens in his city, telling them that their actions had “damaged” the reputation of their own race.

It is human nature that creates prejudice, jealousy, envy, competition, strife, vanity, lust, greed, resentment and all the evils that always end up leading to violence. This means that race relations will continue to deteriorate as the economy worsens.

During the height of the American civil rights movement, the renowned educator Herbert W. Armstrong wrote from a unique perspective—not white or black, but based on the eternal truths of the Holy Bible. Mr. Armstrong taught the way to true peace and correctly identified the problems plaguing race relations. Yet, he also understood what the Bible prophesied for the near future. Basing his predictions on these prophecies, he wrote in the October 1963 Plain Truth: “Make no mistake! This is no light matter to pass over casually! Race war is coming! Racial tensions, passions and hatreds are being deliberately stirred by organized planning. It will explode into mass violence that will stagger the imagination! It will be whipped into an accelerating crescendo until human blood runs like rivers.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Help: Top-notch cast and a movie of substance

The Help, based on the 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett, is a story about three courageous women who come together to expose the unjust way in which African American housemaids were treated in 1960s era Jackson, Mississippi.

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is a young, aspiring writer who lands her first assignment after returning home to Jackson after attending college. Since the assignment is a cleaning advice column, (a subject that Skeeter knows nothing about), she enlists the help of an expert: African American housemaid, Aibileen (Viola Davis). After witnessing the cruel way in which Skeeter’s white, childhood friends speak about and treat their black housemaids, however, Skeeter soon realizes that there is an important story to be told, here-- that of the lives of the maids working for white households. After much convincing, Skeeter recruits Aibileen to help her in this endeavor and the two women risk job loss, social exile, arrest, and worse in order to secretly meet and record these stories. Despite all of this, Aibileen’s best friend and fellow maid, Minny (Octavia Spencer), soon joins the cause, as do many other maids. What results is a quiet revolt in the form of a collection of writings that turns Jackson’s social structure on its head.
Eventually, this endeavor becomes much more than an assortment of tales exposing the prejudices of a few white households. It transforms into an important movement that has a legitimate chance of facilitating change in Jackson, Mississippi and beyond. The journey also serves to bring change to the individual women involved in the project, imbuing each with a feeling of power over their lives and a renewed sense of hope for the future.

Performances: Emma Stone tends to shine in everything she’s in and this movie is no different. She is fresh, yet determined in this film, and her sweet and honest performance holds our hearts throughout. (In the scene where Skeeter’s mother reveals the truth about Constantine, the family’s maid, Stone’s performance causes the audience to suffer along with her and want to comfort her, all at the same time). Viola Davis is wonderful as Aibileen, gifted enough to convey both extreme pain and cool indifference with a simple look, and Octavia Spencer’s Minny is comical, merely through her display of straightforward honesty. But perhaps the most memorable performance was the one given by Bryce Dallas Howard as “Hilly”. Hilly is the head of the white, social group in Jackson and makes sure to remind everyone of this. An obviously unhappy person, Hilly scrutinizes every step the housemaids and even her own friends make, waiting for her chance to pounce on any type of defiance. Howard plays this part perfectly. Although Howard’s “Hilly” is more of a caricature of this type of persona than a realistic, understated character (such as Davis’ “Aibileen”), you end up disliking Hilly so much (even after you leave the theater), that it is obvious Howard has done a good job in portraying her.

Written and directed by Tate Taylor, this Dreamworks film stars an almost all-female cast, including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Bryce Dallas Howard. It is based on the bestselling debut novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett. Staying quite true to the book, The Help focuses on Skeeter’s observation of the inconsistent treatment of the African-American help - how they are allowed to raise white children, yet are considered as “contaminated” and frequently humiliated. Somehow, these women still continue to work, teach, and love.

Set in the 1960s, Emma Stone stars as aspiring writer Skeeter Phelan, who is fresh out of college and returning back to Jackson, Mississippi to land a job at the local newspaper and reunite with her Southern socialite friends. This includes the prejudiced and self-righteous queen bee Hilly Holbrook (Howard), who later on uses her position to pass a sanitation initiative against the help and to ostracize those who cross her. Three women’s tales weave together as Skeeter decides to write a book about the help and first enlists Aibileen Clark (Davis), the housemaid of the Leefolt family who, although gifted in raising white children, is still struggling with the death of her only son, and Minny Jackson (Spencer), a feisty maid and talented cook (specialties: fried chicken and pies) who experiences a change in her work as she is hired by Celia Foote, a clueless newcomer who is desperate to be accepted by the other gals in town and to learn how to cook. Two stories gradually transform into over a dozen as more of the help are emboldened to step forward and tell their stories.

It is the four actresses who play the three protagonists and antagonist of the film who bring this heartwarming tale to life. Stone is like a breath of fresh air; in the way she portrays Skeeter being enlightened, she inspires the audience as well. Howard does Hilly Holbrook justice - if anything, it is the character herself who seems to symbolize nothing but racism and evil, and endures a large dose of retribution in the end (a bit too much, in fact). The amount of hatred the audience feels toward Hilly can only be praise towards Howard’s depiction. Davis and Spencer are especially to be commended for giving superb, if not Oscar-worthy, performances. Spencer infuses The Help with well placed remarks and actions, as well as the “Terrible Awful” that had the audience rolling in their seats with laughter. Davis is a compelling force and holds the movie on her shoulders; her final scene will bring tears to the watcher’s eyes.

Face it, it hasn’t been an impressively substantial summer for films. This is the kind of movie that will warm hearts and touch souls. Modern society is filled with horror at how anyone could have allowed this sort of treatment to take place fifty years ago, wonder at the strength that the help possess and the love they have for the white children they care for, and compassion forSkeeter, Minny, and Aibileen, who are all complex characters with journeys of their own. The Help is beautifully adapted from the book to the big screen, and for anyone who understands the racial tensions during the Jim Crow era, it is an uplifting movie that will not be forgotten.

Boston Irish pub refused to serve blacks says Attorney General

A group of friends went to Peggy O’Neil’s Pub and Grille for a winter birthday celebration, but the fete quickly soured when some in their party were banned because of the color of their skin, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office alleges in a civil rights lawsuit.

The people left standing outside in December were African-American, Hispanic, and Cape Verdean, said the suit, announced yesterday. The birthday celebrant, who was white, was already inside. She came out and tried to intervene, but her efforts were in vain. Owner Caron O’Neil, the suit said, refused to let the other guests come inside.

“When it became clear that they were not going to be allowed into Peggy O’Neil’s to celebrate their friend’s birthday, the friends left the bar feeling hurt, confused, and embarrassed,’’ according to the suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office alleges that the Dorchester establishment engaged in a discriminatory and unlawful pattern of not admitting minorities. The diverse birthday party arrived in two groups that were turned away separately. A third group of black women was allegedly denied entry in April.

The suit seeks monetary damages, civil penalties, antidiscrimination training, and the creation of an antidiscrimination policy.

“No one who lives, works, or visits Massachusetts should be subjected to discrimination,’’ Coakley said in a statement.

The O’Neil family denied the allegations, insisting that bias and inequity are not tolerated on the bar’s premises.

The Attorney General’s charges detail how a group of locals went to Peggy O’Neil’s to celebrate a birthday but the black and minority people in the group were not allowed in.

The people left outside were African American, Hispanic and Cape Verdean said the lawsuit.

The birthday celebrant, who was white, was allowed in and she tried to get her friends to be allowed inside with her but the owner, Caron O’Neil refused.

“When it became clear that they were not going to be allowed into Peggy O’Neil’s to celebrate their friend’s birthday, the friends left the bar feeling hurt, confused, and embarrassed,’’ according to the suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit alleges that such incidents occurred on three different occasions at the bar.

“No one who lives, works, or visits Massachusetts should be subjected to discrimination,’’ Coakley said in a statement.

However Caron O’Neil is taking strong exception to the lawsuit.

“Absolutely, we do not discriminate against anybody...We’re a Dorchester neighborhood bar. That’s our customer base,’’she told the Globe.

Peggy O’Neil’s has been a fixture in Dorchester for over 50 years and is named after family matriarch, Irishwoman Peggy O’Neil who died last May.

The law suit also alleges that Amilton Baptista and an African-American friend were discriminated against on December 17th last.

The waited outside as ten white people were allowed in but they were refused.

Eventually owner Caron O’Neil allegedly came out and asked them if it was their first time there and advised them to leave.“We don’t want any trouble tonight. I don’t know you guys, and you should try to find another place to go” she told them according to the lawsuit.

Baptista’s brother was also refused entry and watched as dozesn of white people were allowed entry.

“Many of those same Caucasian patrons who were allowed into Peggy O’Neil’s appeared to be intoxicated and were dressed more casually,’’ the suit alleges. “The friends also saw the bouncer reprimand a Caucasian patron for a problem with her identification card, telling her she could ‘get in trouble,’ and proceeding to allow her into the bar.’’

When Caron O’Neil came outside, the suit alleges she told the group: “We don’t like people of your kind here. We’ve been doing this for a while and it’s been working fine and we don’t want any problems. . . . I’m not letting you people in.

Appeals court reinstates African-American firefighter suit

New Haven, CT - In a 26 page decision, a U.S. appeals court resurrected new life into a lawsuit many thought was dead.

The court ruled that Fire Fighter Michael Briscoe, an African American, can sue the city of New Haven, Connecticut…after claiming its promotions test for firefighters is biased.

The ruling complicates an issue many legal expert considered resolved by the United States Supreme court. In that case, that started in 2003, white New Haven firefighters, who grossly out performed minorities sued to have their test scores reinstated after the City of New Haven attempted to have them thrown out under pressure from Minority groups.

In 2009, the conservative US Supreme court ruled in favor of the white firefighters. But in Monday’s decision the lower appellant court ruled the city can’t hide behind the Supreme court ruling because Briscoe’s suit was filed separately from the 2003 class action.

“He was very gratified to know he was going to have his day in court" said Briscoe's attorney David Cohen. "The New Haven Fire Department has a long history of struggle with discrimination and efforts overcome discrimination”

The New Haven lawsuit is one of many legal cases across the country in which black fire fighters claim they are aggressively discriminated against either in practice or in policy.

In May the courts ordered the city of Chicago to hire more that 110 African Americans who were passed over for jobs. The city was also ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars in restitution.

The case dates back to 2003, when New Haven sought to discard the results of a firefighter promotion exam where white firefighters significantly outperformed minorities. That act prompted a group of white firefighters and one hispanic firefighter to challenge the decision and sue New Haven.

The Supreme Court took up the case, Ricci v. DeStefano, in 2009. The court sided with the firefighters, ruling that New Haven had not shown sufficent evidence to prove that keeping the test results would have made it subject to disparate-impact liabity. Disparate impact laws were cemented under Title VII of the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights law.

Normally, that decision would have ended further litigation. But because Briscoe brought his claim separately, Jacobs ruled he had standing to sue New Haven, in spite of the conflicting Supreme Court decision.

In his opinion on Monday, Jacobs said that New Haven could not use the Supreme Court to shield it from Briscoe's disparate impact claims, and that the high court's opinion did not preclude him from suing.

"I think the opinion is essential to maintaining the vitality of the disparate impact theory of liability under Title VII," Briscoe's attorney, David Rosen, said.

Title VII, Rosen said, protects "against the arbitrary use of selection devices that continue to be barriers to employment for well-qualified workers across America who happen not to be good at the particular pencil and paper, multiple choice-format quiz that some employers still insist on using."

"At the end of the day, the City of New Haven believes that the U.S. Supreme Court held that certification of the promotional exams at issue in the Ricci v. DeStefano case should not result in disparate impact liability by African American firefighters after the fact," said City of New Haven Corporate Counsel Victor Bolden

The 2003 New Haven firefighter test at issue was 60 percent written and 40 percent oral. Briscoe in his lawsuit said that under a 30 percent written, 70 percent oral test he would have been promotable.