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New NAACP President Derrick Johnson Speaks on Education and Moratorium on Charter Schools

LOS ANGELES - Equitable education is a top priority for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which re-emphasized its call for a moratorium on charter school expansion during its California Hawaii 30th Annual State Convention at the LAX Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles Oct. 26-29.

The NAACP contends that charter schools divert already-limited funds from public schools, without the same levels of oversight, civil rights protections, and transparency. It wants stronger oversight in governance and practice in the system.

In California, of the 175,000 Black students who took the math test for 2017, six percent exceeded state standards, 13 percent met standards, 25 percent ‘nearly' met standards, and 56 percent did not, according to the California Department of Education.

In English/Language Arts, 44 percent of the 175,000 Blacks tested did not meet state standards, while 25 percent nearly passed, 22 percent passed, and 9 percent exceeded them.

During an invitation-only stakeholders meeting on Oct. 26, CBM sought new NAACP President Derrick Johnson's thoughts on calling for a moratorium on charter schools, when some families are finding success in these schools.

While not all traditional schools are failing, Black children are suffering greatly in traditional schools, not just from a lack of education, but from criminalization through various disciplinary measures (such as random backpack searches, suspensions, and expulsions), CBM noted.

"The NAACP will continue to advocate for quality education for our children. We began to notice a trend with charter schools. We're clear that anytime you put a profit motive behind the delivery of education there are individuals who would put profit above people," Johnson replied.

As a result, he said the organization's position is clear. It is calling for a moratorium on charter schools, because of the privatization of schools and the lack of transparency in their operations.

Particularly, Johnson said, the NAACP is looking at the impact of how charters operate across the country, which varies under state laws.

"You have scenarios like in Detroit, where the authorizing board, you have 16 of them. There is no standardization. There is no transparency in their governance. And in some cases, we found that schools would open up, receive resources, and close, and parents are left holding the bag," Johnson stated.

He said that level of instability is found in the majority of Black, Latino and poor neighborhoods.

Johnson said there might be some best practices across the country with charter schools, and the NAACP knows there is not a perfect system with public schools.

That said, it has long advocated for quality education in the public school sector, but the 15-year emergence of the privatization of education is also a problem, he stated.

"We will not be consistent with our mission if we didn't speak out as strongly against what's taking place in the privatization process of delivering education in the same vein that we have historically spoken out against the lack of quality in the public setting. That's why we've taken the position that we've taken," Johnson stated.

Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the National Action Network Los Angeles Chapter agrees with the NAACP that equity in the overall funding of students per pupil is a worthy fight.

Though his own children attend a charter school, Tulloss advocates for a cap, because he feels the Black community is too flooded with the sites. He said he is also against a two-tier system that pits charter vs. traditional, because every child matters.

"I don't particularly agree with the NAACP stance in trying to point out the discrepancies of charter schools, because, when you do that, you talk about my children who attend charter schools. As a parent, I chose charter schools, because there's not a one-size-fits-all system," Tulloss said.

"My child, I feel, is doing a great job in a charter school, Watts Learning Center, which is 70 percent African American students there," he added.

On the political front, CBM also asked Johnson how he thinks the NAACP's switch from a 501(c)(3) non-partisan status to a 501(c)(4), allowing it to lobby or campaign politically, may impact its ability to not fall prey to the highest bidder.

He replied the NAACP is a membership-based advocacy organization, with strength in its local units across the country.

They are already 501(c)(4), which means very few restrictions on policies, positions, how they inform the community, and political advocacy around certain measures, Johnson said.

"The NAACP also has an internal policy that we don't endorse political parties or individual candidates," he said. But the national office has been restricted and limited on the type of support it could give to state conferences on certain ballot positions.

"In order for us to have consistency, we're creating a (c)(4) so we'll have better alignment with our local units as they advocate for public policy, but we will retain our (c)(3) at the same time,” Johnson concluded.

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Award-winning Actor Robert Guillaume Dies at 89

Family members, friends and fans are grieving the loss of television and stage icon Robert Guillaume, who died on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Guillaume, 89, is survived by his second wife, Donna Brown, a son and three daughters.

“He was a pioneer and what he did with his role as [Benson DuBois] was give him integrity,” said actor, director and producer Shiek Mahmud-Bey, who wowed critics earlier this month at a New York Film Festival with his proposed new television series, ‘The Inner Circle.’ “What could have been just another servant or symbolically subservient minority, a butler role, he gave the world an extraordinary insight and exposed us to a human being. The invisible became viable and we all loved it.”

Anyone who watched “Soap” knew the brilliance of Guillaume, said Mariann Eperjesi-Simms, who hosts the Facebook page, “The Classic Movie Group.”

“‘Benson’ wasn’t exactly as brilliant as ‘Soap,’ but most things in this world aren’t written to that much perfection. He was a fantastic actor who deserved a lot of recognition,” Eperjesi-Simms said.

Born Robert Peter Williams in St. Louis in 1927, Guillaume began his acting career in the early 1970s when he made guest appearances on “Good Times,” “Sanford and Son,” and “The Jeffersons.”

However, his recognition and place in popular culture was cemented when he portrayed Nathan Detroit in the first all-Black version of “Guys and Dolls,” which earned him a 1977 Tony Award nomination.

Later, Guillaume earned the distinction of becoming the first African American to sing the title role of “Phantom of the Opera,” doing so alongside a mostly, all-White cast.

Still, it was his role as Benson DuBois in the soap opera satire “Soap,” which also starred Billy Crystal, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Robert Urich, that made Guillaume a legend.

“The minute I saw the script, I knew I had a live one,” Guillaume said in a 2001 interview. “Every role was written against type, especially Benson, who wasn’t subservient to anyone. To me, Benson was the revenge for all those stereotyped guys who looked like Benson in the 40s and 50s [movies] and had to keep their mouths shut.”

The character’s popularity grew so much that it led to a spinoff called, “Benson,” which lasted eight seasons and earned Guillaume an Emmy Award.

“I always wanted kids of any background to understand the characters I’ve portrayed were…that the solutions they found were true and possible,” he said on his official website. “It has always been important to me to stress that there was no diminution of power or universality, just because my characters are African American.”

That resolve has always been appreciated by his peers and those who followed his career.

“I remember the ‘head [n**ger] in charge’ scene with Morgan Freeman, where he didn’t use his position to castrate another Black man on film,” Mahmud-Bey recalled of the 1989 hit movie, “Lean on Me,” that starred Guillaume and Freeman. “There was a disagreement and they got it out and agreed to disagree without division. That scene spoke volumes, because it makes you see how silly and easy you could lose someone important in your life over ego and small things.”

Mahmud-Bey continued: “As artists, we have a responsibility to be honest, not different, and that’s what Robert Guillaume gave us and we loved every bit of it.”

Guillaume, who won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for his role as the voice of “Rafiki” in “The Lion King,” steered clear of Hollywood’s demeaning Black stereotypes and sought quality roles in which he could evoke his characters’ humanity, according to his obituary at Legacy.com.

Though today he’s remembered widely as a comedic actor, it was the musical theater that was Guillaume’s first love and gave him his entry into the acting world, the Legacy.com obituary said.

That entry took place in Cleveland, Ohio, where, after completing his education in the music school at Washington University in St. Louis, he joined the Karamu Theatre and debuted in their production of “Carousel,” Legacy.com reported.

In the audience for one of those “Carousel” performances was Oscar Hammerstein II, the critically acclaimed playwright, who penned the book and lyrics for the musical.

According to Legacy.com, “It was an auspicious start, and Guillaume soon made his way to Broadway, where he both toured and appeared on the Broadway stage.”

Later, Guillaume would portray Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie “Prince Jack”; he also starred as Frederick Douglass on the TV miniseries “North and South.”

“In 1992, Guillaume and his wife, founded the Confetti Entertainment Co., creating read-along books for children with Guillaume’s voice as narrator,” the Legacy.com obituary said. “In 1995, the Confetti Entertainment books were transformed into the HBO series ‘Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child.’ Narrated by Guillaume and featuring a cast of other stars, the series’ 39 episodes retold classic fairy tales with a multicultural focus.”

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Colin Kaepernick Signs Million-Dollar Book Deal with Random House Imprint

*Colin Kaepernick has finally signed a contract.

The free agent NFL quarterback, who is still jobless after launching the current movement of NFL players protesting social injustice during the national anthem, has inked a book deal worth just over $1 million with Random House imprint One World, Page Six reports.

One World’s headed by Chris Jackson, who also published work by Jay-Z and Ta-Nehisi Coates. He launched One World last year.

Page Six previously reported that Kaepernick had been seen “taking meetings with publishers in the New York offices of WME” to shop the planned book.

He’s repped as an athlete by agent Carlos Fleming, and the book deal.

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