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Items filtered by date: June 2017 - The San Bernardino American News

Black Wealth 2020: New Economic Justice Movement Aims to 'Turbo Charge' Black Wealth in America

( - According to the following statistics, the economic condition of America's Black community is in dire straits:

A recent study by Harvard University found that homeownership in the Black community stands at only 42.2 percent in the nation's largest metro areas. That's below the Latino-American community, which is at 46 percent and well below the White-American community, which is at 72 percent.

In addition, the mortgage denial rate for Blacks is more than 25 percent, near 20 percent for Latinos but just over 10 percent for White applicants, according to the Center for Enterprise Development.

Likewise, the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. says the lack of access to capital remains the greatest barrier to the establishment, expansion and growth of Black-owned businesses.

Finally, Black-owned banks, which grant an overwhelming majority of their loans to Black people, continue to climb their way out of the disparate hit they took during the great recession while maintaining their historic role in stabilizing Black communities.

These revelations illustrating the economic struggles of African-Americans are the driving forces behind the founding of a new group that's leading a movement for Black economic justice across America. Black Wealth 2020, formally established only two years ago, aims to lock arms with some of the most historic national civic and civil rights organizations with a goal to impact economic outcomes in Black America over the next three years. The group's three-pronged strategy is to increase the number of Black homeowners, strengthen Black-owned businesses and increase deposits in Black banks by the year 2020.

"This is, in my recollection, the first time there's been a systematic effort to draw our community's attention to these very critical issues related to wealth-building and economi c self-sufficiency. That being the importance of supporting Black banks, the importance of homeownership, the importance of growing Black businesses - those really are the three pillars of economic empowerment," says Marie Johns, former deputy administrator at the Small Business Administration and retired president of Verizon Washington, who is a member of Black Wealth 2020.

"If you have strong business ownership, strong home ownership and strong financial institutions, that's freedom. It's the closest proximity that we'll get," says Johns, also chair of the Howard University board of visitors and creator of SBA's Council on Underserved Communities.

In a nutshell, the seeds of Black Wealth 2020 were initially planted during a fight for economic justice. It started about seven years ago as several like-minded heads of organizations with economic components began regularly discussing the financial plight of Black people.

The group gelled after National Bankers Association President Michael Grant, National Association of Black-owned Broadcasters President Jim Winston and U.S. Black Chamber President Ron Busby joined forces with Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to push for Black business inclusion in a proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal.

Winston had asked Waters, ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, to take action in the situation. Winston then pulled in Grant who pulled in Busby. The Comcast merger ultimately failed. But, "We decided to put together some kind of organizational team," recalls Grant, "So that whenever these issues come up, we'll have a united front and we'll have a lot of organizations. That's how Black Wealth 2020 was formed." The ultimate goal is to "turbo charge" Black wealth, Grant says.

Michael Grant, National Bankers Assoc.

While Black Wealth 2020 is uniquely economic, it aims to work alongside traditional civil rights organizations, including the National Urban League, the NAACP and others, Winston says.

"We have been concerned that for many years the Black civil rights movement had been the only national voice of the African-American community. Those groups do a great job but there are business and economic battles that the Black community has been fighting. And we don't believe that the Black community's voice has been strong enough and effective enough in that regard," says Winston. "And so we are able to strengthen each other in each other's activities as well as our collective voice for the Black community."

Jim Winston, NABOB

Other leaders in Black Wealth 2020 are HomeFree USA President Marcia Griffin; Zenviba Academy of Arts and Science President John Templeton; Collective Empowerment Group National President Dr. Jonathan Weaver; National Association of Real Estate Brokers President Ron Cooper; Enlightened: Beyond Expectations President Antwanye Ford; and Delta Sigma Theta President Dr. Paulette Walker. At latest count, the group has a total immediate reach of at least 3 million people.

Members of Black Wealth 2020 are quick to point to the historic roots of its economic goals. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, he had launched a "Poor People's Campaign," an economic justice movement that had begun in Memphis.

John Templeton, founder of the now 14-year-old National Black Business Month in August, sees the work of Black Wealth 2020 as a continuum of Dr. King's vision. Templeton contends the prophecy spoken by King the night before his death must still come to fruition.

John Templeton, founder, National Black Business Month

"King said he wasn't going to get to the promise land with us. But we as a people will get to the promise land. And people have forgotten that," Templeton says.

Over the past 49 years since the assassination of Dr. King, other Black economic strategies have popped up and fizzled out. For this movement, Black Wealth 2020 members say the strategy for sustainability is built in, including the following elements:

Black America's current state of affairs: "This current administration is going to force us to look internally because we don't have any help coming from outside our community," says USBC President Ron Busby. "It's not about one organization or about one individual leading the conversation, but once the mission was set and the three goals were established we can now go back to our collective constituencies and say this is what's important."

Ron Busby, USBC Inc.

Youth involvement: National Bankers President Grant says the participation of youth is key. Black Wealth 2020 has begun incorporating and mentoring youth economic leaders in their monthly meetings. "In my study of history, going back to ancient times, I can't think of any major movement that was a societal changing movement that wasn't driven by the energy of youth," Grant says.

Dr. Jonathan Weaver, Collective Empowerment Group; pastor, Greater Mount Nebo AME Church

Shared Leadership: "In the past, movements have been tied to one individual. And as soon as there is some issue, and perhaps maybe death, often times what happens on the demise of that individual is the organization goes through a down spin and it in many instances ends up being discarded," says Dr. Jonathan Weaver. "As a result of this, there is no mindset or mentality among any of us that we want to be the one to be glorified or recognized as the so-called leader. That there is indeed shared leadership within this body and because we are so focused and so intentional about it, we really are just very resolute and determined to make this work."

Unique structure: The umbrella structure of Black Wealth 2020 also lends to unity, accountability and sustainability. "This is not just one organization, but this is a series of organizations that have come under one banner and will be about empowering Black people," Weaver says.

Marcia Griffin, HomeFree USA

The urgent need for economic growth: "It's a fact that more than half of all African- Americans in our country rent. It's a fact that a homeowner's net worth is 36 times that of a renter. And it's a fact that the median income for an African-American household is $35,000 compared to the national average of $53,000," says Marcia Griffin of HomeFree USA. "This is an unacceptable situation for our people, and Black Wealth 2020 initiatives are critical in reversing these statistics and rebuilding wealth in the Black community."

Clear and positive vision: "This is not an anti-White movement, this is not a reactionary movement. This is a very positive affirmation about Black love and Black support and it's an acceptance of full responsibility of our economic survival," says Grant.

Despite the name, representatives of the Black Wealth 2020 movement say they have vision well beyond only three years from now.

"One of our founders thought we should call ourselves Black Wealth 2020 and Beyond. While we were definitely in favor of that concept, we felt the name was a little cumbersome," Jim Winston chuckles. "So our goal, of course, is to continue beyond 2020. Building wealth in the African-American community is not an item that has a time line on it or a deadline on it...We just wanted to give ourselves a target where we can see some substantial improvements in that time frame."


Diverse Cops Make the Difference in Policing Hate

Publishers Corner - Clifton Harris - Publisher of The San Bernardino AMERICAN News - Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SAN FRANCISCO – Hate crimes are on the rise nationwide, including here in San Francisco, where the city’s diversity also happens to be a hallmark of the San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) Hate Crimes Unit.

It’s one of just a handful of such units across the country, and officials say its diversity is a key part of its mission.

“I can speak Spanish, I am half Japanese and I'm gay. So this is what I can give you,” said Sergeant Peter Shields at a recent community forum on hate crimes. Shields has led the hate crimes unit for the SFPD since 2012.

Created in 1990, the unit today has a team of six full-time investigators. “We have people that speak Spanish, Chinese and Korean. We have men and women, gay and straight,” said Shields. “At community meetings all of our paperwork is translated into Arabic, Tagalog, Chinese … We try to be as inclusive as the community is.”

Jeannine Bell is with the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and has written extensively on hate crimes and law enforcement. “Having detectives of different backgrounds [and] foreign language interpreters … are key elements” in effective policing of hate crimes, said Bell, who spent months embedded with a hate crimes unit in the 90’s.

Reports of hate crimes have spiked across the country, including in major urban areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where in 2016 there were 39 hate crimes reported to the police, up from 32 a year earlier, according to data provided by SFPD. Between January and May of this year, there were 18 reported hate crimes in the city.

Gay men continue to be among the most targeted in the city, at 30 percent of all reported attacks, followed by Asian Americans (10 percent), African Americans (8 percent) and Latinos (5 percent).

But despite the uptick in hate crimes, relatively few police departments around the country maintain hate crimes units.

According to the Department of Justice, there were close to 15,400 police departments across the country in 2013, the earliest such data is available. Just 10 percent of those employing 100 officers or more, have personnel assigned full-time to hate crimes units. In departments with less than 100 officers, that number drops to 5 percent.

Bell says the dearth in resources committed to investigating hate crimes is one factor in why fewer than half are ever reported. A recent survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that from 2011-2015 more than half of all violent hate crimes nationwide went unreported to police.

“There should be a strong commitment to truly investigating every case,” Bell stressed, noting “if you don't have many boots on the ground,” it can be hard to investigate incidents, reported or otherwise.


Proving hate


Proving a hate crime is an arduous task. Prosecutors must be able to work with victims and witnesses that may be reluctant to come forward. They must also demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that a suspect was motivated by existing prejudices or biases. Finding the evidence falls on investigators like Shields.

“It is extremely difficult,” he acknowledged, noting the process can involve anything from interviews with victims and witnesses, to combing through video footage and even social media posts. “The percentage of cases that are prosecuted or convicted is very low,” he said.

Shields recalls two such cases, one involving a transgender woman who was violently attacked and denied help by onlookers when they saw that she was transgender. The other involved a young boy whose family beat him up and kicked him out of the house because he is gay. Shields said that even with video footage of both attacks courts failed to prosecute them as hate crimes.

“Helping victims is emotionally difficult because they've been attacked for who they are. They can’t or shouldn’t have to change that,” he said, adding, “We try to get therapy for the victims we work with.”

One case that did manage to win a conviction involved an attack outside a gay nightclub in San Francisco’s South of Market district in 2016. Pearly Martin, 30, was sentenced in June of this year to nine years for pulling a knife on five people outside the club.

During trial prosecutors noted she was heard yelling homophobic slurs during the attack, though the public defender alleged that as someone who identifies as bisexual, Martin herself is a member of the LGBT community and that her language was not an indicator of hate.

While the judge dismissed that argument, Shields said it is an example of just how difficult it can be to win a conviction when the defense can use “technicalities to deny that words are racist or full of hatred.”

He also noted that several of the victims were undocumented, a fact left out of a lot of reporting on the case at the time. For Shield’s unit, that meant the added challenge of convincing the victims to come forward. “We helped them to overcome their fears and go to every court date and interview. It took about a year to go to trial.”


Barriers to building trust


SFPD has come under fire in recent years for a series of officer involved shootings where the victims were people of color. Add to this a prevailing political atmosphere that has many communities feeling vulnerable and the result is a widening trust gap with police.

Wilma Gandoy, Consul for Protection and Legal Affairs at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, says in this current climate Mexicans and other Latinos – and especially the undocumented – “don’t feel comfortable speaking to authorities.”

But Gandoy notes her office maintains regular contact with the SFPD and says there is a standing agreement between the two to work with victims of hate crimes regardless of their immigration status. She also points out that San Francisco is a sanctuary city, meaning local law enforcement will not share information on undocumented victims with federal immigration officials.

Staff at the Mexican consulate in San Francisco – as well as in San Jose, Sacramento and Fresno – also received training from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on how to work with victims of hate crimes. Similar trainings were provided to the SFPD.


“While the authorities investigate incidents,” explained Gandoy, “we continue offering services to victims, from therapy to help with documents … buying medicine and food, housing or even payment of funeral services.”


Training officers to recognize hate


ADL trainings involve an intensive 4-hour workshop during which officers learn about the California Penal Code’s statutes on hate crimes, some of the most robust in the country.

According to Nancy Appel, associate director for the ADL’s San Francisco office, a lot of the training focuses on providing “negative examples” of what does not constitute a hate crime.

“We talk about the differences between hate words protected by the First Amendment, hate incidents and hate crimes, bias indicators and hate symbols,” she said. “We teach officers to identify whether there is any extremism element involved in a reported crime.”

For departments with no specialized units, Appel recommends that at least one investigator receive the training, which she says will help departments better “engage in prevention and not just response.”

She notes, “The more officers hear about low-level hate incidents, the better they will be at knowing where to spend resources.”

This story was produced through a partnership with ProPublica's Documenting Hate Project. To report a hate crime, use this form. Reports will be verified before entering a national database that will be made available, with privacy restrictions, to newsrooms and civil rights organizations across the country. The form is not a report to law enforcement or any government agency.


Wounded Veterans Prevented from Potomac Therapy Near Trump Golf Club

President Trump, who often praises America’s soldiers, has left wounded warriors high and dry barring those who paddle along the Potomac as therapy in favor of golf. / Team River Runner

A weekly ritual for wounded veterans consisting of kayaking down the Potomac for exercise, therapy and free barbeque gatherings organized by the local community is now threatened by the recreational outings of President Donald Trump.
According to The New York Times, the man who frequently applauds our nation’s wounded warriors is also the man who stands in the way of their mental and physical healing.
The U.S. Coast Guard has been assigned the task of protecting the president’s rounds at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., which involves plans to regularly close off portions of the Potomac River that once existed to others – including the veterans of Team River Runner, summer campers, Olympic athletes and the area’s leisurely paddlers.
This will leave interlopers subjected to a $90,000 fine.
However, what makes the situation more problematic is due to the nature of war wounds — some physical, some psychological — Washington’s chapter of Team River Runner likes to avoid the crowds in nearby creeks and the more heavily used lengths of the river – which may now become an impossible mission.
“We would feel very overwhelmed,” co-founder Joe Mornini told The New York Times about their lack of privacy. “Veterans need to feel safe. They need to have space. Some of them have come back from Iran and Iraq, and being in large crowds is difficult for them.”
Mornini also expressed specific concerns about the possibility of how members could find themselves stuck in heavily crowded waters, given that the closures are to be announced on marine radio, which few paddlers and kayakers have access to.
“We are very thoughtful about where we paddle, so we don’t go where there will be danger or conflict,” Mornini said. “Our veterans have had enough conflict.”
The two-mile security zone along the golf course’s riverfront includes entry to rapids which are popular among the area’s large kayaking groups, as well as a boat ramp often used by the local community.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, penned a letter to the chief of the Coast Guard this week disapproving reconfiguration plans, according to the Times.
“The president could easily solve this by saying: I don’t have to play golf on the course by the river because I don’t want to be a jerk and inconvenience little kids in camps,” he said acknowledging that authorities are going overboard.
Last year while attending a camp rally, the president promised, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to play golf.”
However, in his first six months in office, Trump has spent a great deal of time golfing on a course — whether playing or in meetings — much more so than his predecessors.
Considering Trump’s pattern of disregard for typical White House traditions, including to forgo the Ramadan dinner, it should come as no surprise that he generally chooses to visit his own Trump courses rather than Camp David or the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va., where security is already built in.
The Coast Guard will accept comments until Aug. 9, but the rule is already in effect.
DeFazio, who is familiar with the Trump property that houses two golf courses, plans to question the Coast Guard further at a hearing next week.


Even more civil rights and consumer protection rollbacks sought

When Barack Obama completed his two terms as America’s President, his legacy was punctuated by two key policy reforms: health care and consumer protection. Although broad news headlines chronicle multiple developments in attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, efforts to rollback consumer protections are just as determined and dangerous.
Only July 12, a public hearing of a House Financial Services subcommittee focused on a range of bills that seek changes in online banking, debt collection and more. But the main event of the hearing was legislation that would strip authority for the current aggressive enforcement that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has forged. If enacted, these measures will reduce CFPB to little more than a paper tiger.
H.R. 2133, The Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory Relief Act, also known as CLEARR is making its third attempt at passage.  According to its sponsor, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, regulatory rollbacks will provide relief for both banks and consumers. As of press time, the measure attracted 25 co-sponsors from 17 states with districts that include portions of Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, suburban Detroit, Houston and Pittsburgh.
“The bottom line is that the Obama-era regulatory environment has stifled growth and hurt local communities,” said. Luetkemeyer. “The pendulum has swung too far and it’s time to return to a common sense, responsible approach to financial regulation that protects consumers from harm without jeopardizing access to the financial protects they need to grow their businesses, invest in their communities, and provide for their families.”
One particularly offensive provision would weaken both the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Housing Act by requiring proof of discriminatory “intent”, rather than the resulting effects of financial practices.  
For civil rights leaders, consumer advocates, researchers and other lawmakers, Rep. Luetkemeyer is the one who has gone too far.
"Requiring intent imposes a barrier for equity,” noted Scott Astrada, Director of Federal Advocacy with the Center for Responsible Lending. “If you are a victim of racism and discrimination, you don't have the privilege of saying, 'what are my feelings' compared to your data collection efforts. Racism is not a cost benefit question."
Other CLEARR Act rollbacks would include:

§  Ending CFPB’s regulation that requires lenders to provide mortgage borrowers three days to review a closing disclosure ahead of a scheduled loan closing;
§  Exempting certain lenders from CFPB mortgage servicing requirements; and
§  Amending the Truth-in-Lending Act to “create a safe harbor” from consumer lawsuits based on a lender’s failure to comply with CFPB’s Ability-to-Repay Rule. This rule prevents lenders from selling mortgages that consumers cannot afford.

Although these and other reforms are presumed to create a more “business-friendly” environment – particularly for community banks, multiple research reports show that small lenders are operating better today under Dodd-Frank and CFPB.
For example, a 2016 Federal Deposit Insurance report determined that by the end of 2015, over 95 percent of community banks were profitable with earnings up 9.7 percent that year.
Also in 2015, according to 2016 report by the CUNA Mutual Group, small lenders with assets less than $1 billion achieved a 37 percent increase in 2015 mortgage loan originations, compared to 2012. CUNA Mutual also found that credit unions alone originated $41.7 billion in first-lien mortgage loans in the fall of 2016, an increase of 22 percent over the same period in 2015.
 Maybe the CLEARR Act is a legislative remedy in search of a problem that simply does not exist.
We can and should recall how not that long ago 7.8 million Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. Or that taxpayers footed a $7 trillion bailout of financial institutions during the foreclosure crisis.
Nor should we forget that communities of color – often Black and Latino – bore the brunt of foreclosures and lost wealth. Clearly, federal laws providing protections from discrimination are still needed.
“Whether by accident or design, discrimination still hurts,” noted Rep. Al Green of Houston, and Ranking Member of the subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit. “When your neighbors deny you what the constitution affords, it can be very painful.”
“There are a good many number of people in this society who will never suffer any pain if we make this change,” continued Green. “But there is a good many number of other people who will be subject to harm if we do so. The only way to combat structural discrimination and exclusion is to have the same opportunities in this society.”


Brooklyn Eatery Sells Black Stereotypes

An “Instagrammable” “boozy sandwich shop” in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section is serving up controversy for its mockery of poverty amid the neighborhood’s gentrification.

About 100 people turned up at the shop on Saturday to protest the owner, Becca Brenna, a Toronto transplant, for touting a bogus “bullet hole-ridden wall” at the shop, and the intent to serve Forty Ounce Rosé in paper bags.

The brand of wine is bottled to mimic 40-oz. malt liquors, such as Colt 45 or Olde English. Malt liquors are beers brewed with sugar for an extra alcoholic jolt. In the late 1980s, the 40-ounce bottle was aggressively marketed to urban Black and Latino communities. Its consumption remains a stereotype associated with low-income minority communities.

Brenna’s choice of serving the 40-oz wine in paper bags “has been criticized at other bars for making light of poverty — an issue Crown Heights and other gentrifying neighborhoods are grappling with,” according to Gothamist.

Protesters gathered on the sidewalk in front of the shop chanting, “Bye bye, Becky!”

That’s not what the neighborhood needs,” Ayanna Prescott, 30, a lifelong Crown Heights resident, told the New York Daily News. “The neighborhood needs child care. It needs schools.

And a ‘boozy sandwich shop’ with fake bullet holes is totally disconnected.”

According to The New York Times, in Crown Heights “the Black population shrank to 70 percent from 79 percent from 2000 to 2010, and the white population almost doubled to 16 percent.”

Brennan was not present at the protest but issued a second apology on Saturday.

I deeply apologize for any offense that my recent comments might have caused,” she said in a statement. “I did not intend to be insensitive to anyone in the neighborhood, and I am sorry that my words caused pain. I made light of serious issues and that was wrong.”

Summerhill opened in June, but on July 17, Brennan sent out a press release to New York publications “highlighting elements of the restaurant that, to anyone familiar with the endless push-pull of neighborhood demographics in New York, read like a checklist of gentrification red flags and worst-practices,” according to Eater.

The press release states, in part:

Summerhill is Crown Heights’ most Instagrammable, ‘let’s just crush on some watermelon cocktails’ hangout. With a boardwalk vibe, and a killer cross-breeze, it’s easy to forget you’re sitting across the street from a Key Food and not the Rockaway Beach.”

It also states: “Brennan was a corporate tax attorney with dreams of opening a boozy sandwich shop until she discovered the perfect piece of real estate around the corner from her Crown Heights apartment: a long-vacant corner bodega (with a rumored back room illegal gun shop to boot).

Yes that bullet hole ridden wall was originally there, and yes we’re keeping it.”

Brennan said the idea to advertise bullet holes came from a comment on the website Brooklynian, where commenters trade gossip and details about new businesses. An anonymous commenter wrote in September, “If I’m not mistaken this was the corner store where you could buy a ‘certified pre-owned’ firearm back in the day.”

It was a rumor Brennan did not fully investigate.

I don’t have any backup to that, but when you think about it as a joke like, yep, that’s a bullet hole,” she told Gothamist.

In regard to her thoughts on the symbolism of the 40-ounce wine bottles, she said:

I’m not an authority so don’t feel comfortable commenting on anything other than my business — a new bar and restaurant that locals (/my neighbors) seem to really enjoy and appreciate.”


Black Publishers Push For Report On Federal Ad Spending

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is set to begin work on a report detailing advertising spending by federal agencies—particularly as it pertains to Black and Latino media companies.
“After several senators joined our request, including Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Shumer, GAO sent us an update in February saying that the request would take about six months of work,” said Benjamin Fritsch, a spokesman for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who first called for the report during a press conference with National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) members and representatives of the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP).
The GAO is a government agency that provides auditing, evaluation, and investigative services for Congress.
Charles Young, the managing director of public affairs for the GAO acknowledged that the request for a new report was formally received in February.
“Staffing was not expected to be freed up from existing work for several months and we now expect to begin the work in August or September,” Young said.
In March 2016, Norton called on the office to issue a report on federal advertising contracts and subcontracts with minority-owned newspapers and media companies.
Norton said that the federal government serves as the largest advertiser in the country, and it’s important that news outlets and media companies owned or published by individuals of color with a primary mission to serve communities of color have the same opportunities as other media outlets, especially as African-Americans and Hispanic Americans continue to grow in number in the United States.
“We believe that this request is particularly timely, because GAO will be conducting an audit of spending by federal agencies on public relations and advertising,” Norton said.
One month after publicly making the request, Norton circulated a letter to members of Congress to support her call to GAO to issue a new report.
In 2007, the GAO, which acts as the authoritative audit unit for the federal government, probed the spending on advertising contracts with minority-owned businesses by five agencies—the Department of Defense, Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The agency found that just five percent of the $4.3 billion available for advertising campaigns went to minority-owned businesses. Thirty-one of Norton’s colleagues in Congress signed the letter, including CBC Chair Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and legendary congressmen John Lewis (D-Ga.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), and former CBC Chair G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
Seven months later in November, a group of Senators, including Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also signed a letter and joined the call for accountability in the federal government’s advertising practices – or lack thereof when it comes to minority-owned news outlets.
Several aides to the lawmakers did note that journalists, who work for Black- and Hispanic-owned media outlets must do a better job of keeping the issue on the pages of their newspapers.
Dorothy Leavell, the new chairwoman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) has vowed to do just that and she said she’s grateful to Norton.
“We are extremely appreciative of Congresswoman Norton for taking the initiative on this,” said Leavell, who is also the publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group. Leavell added that the wait for the GAO report has been long enough. “Anymore delay will not be tolerated.”
Leavell also said that it was unacceptable that federal agencies have largely excluded Black-owned media companies from delivering messages from the U.S. government to the Black community.
“I urge the officials at GAO to start today in their investigation and conclude it immediately,” said Leavell.
However, Young said it typically takes months before a request to the GAO is acted upon.
Also, the change in administration had nothing to do with the length of time this process has taken since Norton’s call about 15 months ago, he said.
“The change in administration does not have an impact, just the various other GAO reviews already underway,” Young said, noting that the GAO did not receive a formal request until February.
Headquartered in D.C. and with offices in several cities including Atlanta and Los Angeles, the GAO was founded in 1921. In a Fiscal Year 2016 report, the agency noted that it had provided nearly 2,100 recommendations to improve government operations.
Approximately 73 percent of the recommendations GAO made four years earlier in Fiscal Year 2012, have already been implemented, thus making any suggestion on advertising with minority-owned media an important step in the quest for Black and Hispanic-owned papers to receive advertising dollars.
“The NNPA anticipates that the new GAO report will once again substantiate what we already know and that is Black American-owned newspapers and media companies are not afforded equality and equity for annual federal advertising spending,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. “This is a serious problem that urgently needs to be rectified by the government of the United States.”


To Be Young, Black, and in Education

In the next week, I will be closing my time as a summer intern at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and beginning my final undergraduate year at Howard University. I've learned more about public education at the National Alliance in two months than I have in the past year.

However, even though I work for a charter school advocacy organization, I do not consider myself pro-charter. I am also not pro-district.

Truthfully, I've heard many arguments that support charter public schools and many that support district schools - all with valid points and facts to back them up.

So, when I began to find myself truly confused, I did what I always do. I looked up what Black people are saying about this. Black opinion + my own thoughts = a solid case to base my life decisions on. While it may not be the most mathematical equation for success, it works for me. I googled "Black leaders charter schools" and felt a small sense of relief come over me because I was going to get an answer.

I wasn't going to have to wonder anymore because the Black leaders in education would tell me what their point of view is, why they have it, where the research came from, and what they are going to do about it.

Looking back on this now, I'm aware that it sounds like I don't use my brain to critically think, but we all do this in some form. In politics, people look up what the standard Democratic or Republican viewpoint is; in media people go to their favorite artist's page to read their view; and in school, students go to their favorite teacher for their opinion.

As I began to read through the articles, I found topics about the NAACP and Black Lives Matter being pitted against Black leaders in education. I was pissed! So, two huge organizations that have Black prosperity at their core are at odds with Black education leaders and parents? I was so irritated that I closed the screen and went to deal with this confusion another day.

Weeks passed and I continued to gain information. I read the letter that had been written and signed by 160 Black leaders in support of charters, I watched clips of the NAACP's special hearings on charter schools, and I researched teachers unions and their disdain for the charter movement. I turned over every rock I could find for some sort of answer.

Despite all the research and opinions, I still could not figure out who was on the right side of history. I could not look to Black leaders in this situation because they are consumed with the politics of the district vs. charter debate, just like many others in education.

This isn't the first time I found disappointment with Black role models - Raven-Symoné was a huge heart breaker - but this is too important to ignore. Every second that is spent focusing on which school is better or what should be the dominant structure is doing a disservice to our children. Our children are the ones suffering without a quality education and are then chastised by society for not meeting "the bar".

I get that money, politics, and power are important, but we can't afford to fight this fight with each other. We have no choice but to be unified. According to the Civil Rights Data Collection, black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. This is something we should be focusing on. If our children don't make it, that not only affects us but it is on us. The white school leaders that are trying to make change will be heartbroken if the years of work they put into improving public schools don't pay off, but we will be crippled.

This is not an attack on Black leaders today, this is a cry for help. I'm a 21-year-old intern, trying to graduate from college. I'm doing everything in my power to change the narrative for our children, but I don't have the power, yet. Black leaders, I'm begging you to use your power to create. Create the schools for our children that also provide jobs for our people. Position it so that Black school leaders have the resources to train up our kids. If you are an organization with the words Black, African American, Negro, or Colored People in your title then this is your duty, this is your fight.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel, just take a page from Pimp My Ride and make it better. At the very least, create a space for conversations to flow freely regarding the schools our children go to. We may never reach a consensus and that is okay. There are multiple different ways to learn, to teach, and to lead. If you can't do it, use your resources to find someone who can. This isn't a conversation I wish to pick up in twenty years when I am in your shoes and we don't have twenty more years to wait. I don't care what structure is used to educate our kids, we just need something that works.

Nicole is a rising senior at Howard University and a Walton-UNCF K-12 Education Fellow.


Aguilar Blasts GOP Efforts to Force Inland Empire Families to Foot the Bill For President Trump’s Border Wall

Washington, D.C. — In a press conference this morning and on the House floor this afternoon, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino) stood up to House Republican efforts to include $1.6 billion to fund President Donald Trump’s border wall between the United States and Mexico in a spending bill that is intended to support veterans, American troops and defense priorities for the fiscal year. The construction of a border wall was a campaign promise of then-candidate Trump, who said he would make Mexico pay for it.

“The bill we’re talking about today should be about providing critical funds to keep our service members safe, take care of our veterans and to support necessary defense programs; it should not be about helping President Trump keep a campaign promise that has no grounding in reality,” said Rep. Aguilar. He continued, “Rather than come to the table and work on meaningful, bipartisan and long-term solutions to fix our broken immigration system, House Republicans would rather give American families’ paychecks to President Trump so he can build his wall. We are here to do the people’s work. Building this wall doesn’t do the people’s work – it soothes the president’s ego at the expense of American families.”

Rep. Aguilar participated in a press conference with Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) earlier this morning to urge his colleagues to oppose legislation that includes the dangerous policy rider that would force Inland Empire families to pay for a border wall with Mexico. Rep. Aguilar is the Whip of the CHC. He also serves on the House Appropriations Committee, the House committee tasked with appropriating funds and spending for the federal government. The press conference was streamed on Facebook Live and can be viewed in full on Rep. Aguilar’s Facebook


Summer Intern Program Gives Special Education Students Valuable Job Skills

With a food handler permit and a radiant smile, Indian Springs High School student Asante Thompson-Lake eagerly serves lunch to dozens of children at Jones Elementary School.
    But 19-year-old Asante is doing much more than ensuring children receive nutritious meals this summer.  In the process, he’s learning valuable job skills that will help him land a permanent job once he graduates high school next year.  
Under the supervision of San Bernardino City Unified teachers Nolly Fuyumuro, Manny Moreno, Barbara Pastuschek, and Martha Gates, special education students like Asante are receiving paid, on-the-job training in food service, custodial, and clerical fields to equip them with the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.  The District’s Summer Intern Program, spearheaded by Board of Education member Michael J. Gallo, is being implemented for the first time by the District’s Student Services and Human Resources Divisions.
For Asante, the Summer Intern Program has given him the skills to work in his school cafeteria starting in August.  Most importantly, it has given him hope that he’ll be gainfully employed once he leaves Indian Springs High.
“I’m learning how to be a good employee, like getting to work on time,” Asante said.  “You have to have a job to have a future.”
The program, which began on July 17 and ends July 28, places students with cognitive and intellectual disabilities like autism in jobs at Jones, Henry, and Roberts Elementary Schools and a District administrative office, where they explore a variety of jobs and work settings to prepare them for potential jobs in the District and the community.
Cutting-edge programs like San Bernardino City Unified’s are not common across the country, where many students with moderate to severe disabilities leave high school with little to no job skills, said SBCUSD Program Specialist Chris LeRoy, who leads the District’s Transition Program, a part of the Special Education Department.
“This program gives students experience and training in jobs that are offered right here in our own District and community,” LeRoy said.  “We’re ensuring that students walk out into the adult world prepared for the workforce.”
As part of the District’s Transition Partnership Program overseen by LeRoy, more than 200 students with special needs have been placed in permanent jobs in San Bernardino and surrounding areas in the last three years, placing them on the path to prosperity.  Some former students now work at the Amazon Fulfillment Center, while others work at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino.
“This gives our students and their families hope because they realize they’re employable,” LeRoy said.  “Some of our Transition students have become managers who have hired other District students.  Every job is a success story.”
Not for publication: Media representatives interested in seeing the Summer Intern Program in action can visit Tuesday, July 25 or Thursday, July 27 at 10 a.m. Please call the Communications/Community Relations Department at (909) 381-1250 to make arrangements. 


Football Legend O.J. Simpson Granted Parole in Nevada

Football legend O.J. Simpson is set to be released from prison on October 1. (Wikimedia Commons)

O.J. Simpson will be a free man on October 1.

On Thursday, July 20, a Nevada parole board unanimously voted to grant the fallen gridiron star parole on his 2008 conviction on armed robbery and kidnapping charges.

Thank you,” Simpson, 70, said, dropping his head in relief.

Although, many media outlets noted how much slimmer Simpson appeared compared to 2014 when the Daily Mail dubiously reported that he tipped the scales at 300 pounds, prison records indicated that, by 2016, he weighed 235 pounds.

Simpson wore prison issued blue pants and a blue top and told the four-member board that he had missed as many as 36 of his children’s birthdays while incarcerated.

He said that he started and led Baptist ceremonies in prison and has “basically spent a conflict-free life.”

When the board asked about his participation in the armed robbery that took place in a Las Vegas hotel room, Simpson said he was unaware that any of the men were carrying guns.

During the hearing that lasted more than a hour, Commissioner Tony Corda asked Simpson, “What were you thinking?”

Simpson said he was simply trying to retrieve items that belonged to him, including personal photos of his children, ex-wife and mother.

I’ve done my time,” he said. “I’d just like to get back to my family and friends. I’m sorry it happened. I’ve said, ‘I’m sorry to Nevada.’ I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it wasn’t worth it.”

Board members held up thousands of letters they said were both in support and against Simpson’s parole. They said they would not consider any letters that asked them to take into account the brutal 1994 slayings of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

Simpson was famously acquitted of the murders of Brown and Goldman, but a civil court jury found him responsible for their deaths and ordered the football legend to pay more than $33 million to the Brown and Goldman families.

According to an article published in The New York Times in February 1997, the criminal court jury and the civil court jury basically heard the same case, with a few key differences.

The criminal case was tried by a predominantly Black jury, and conviction required a finding that Mr. Simpson committed the June 12, 1994, slayings beyond any reasonable doubt,” The New York Times article said. “The civil case was tried before a predominantly White jury, and a verdict required only 9 of 12 votes, with the basic legal standard being that in all probability Mr. Simpson committed the slayings.” reported that Simpson collected between $400,000 and $600,000 from his National Football League pension while he was incarcerated.

He made over $400,000 if he started taking his pension at age 55, and over $600,000 if he started taking it at 65,” the article said, which was based on ESPN’s analysis.

Simpson isn’t required to use his pension funds to pay the Browns or the Goldmans, because NLF pensions are protected by state law, according to

Arnelle Simpson, Simpson’s oldest child, was one of two people to testify at the hearing for Simpson. No one spoke in opposition of his parole.

Arnelle Simpson fought back tears, as she described her father as being her rock.

We just want him to come home, so we can move forward for us, quietly,” she said.

One of Simpson’s robbery victims, Bruce Fromong, also spoke, telling the board he felt Simpson’s 33-year prison term was too long and the nearly nine years he’d already served exceeded justice for the crime committed.

He said he and Simpson had been friends for more than 20 years and, at one point, turned to Simpson to reiterate his support of the one-time Heisman Trophy winner.

O.J., if you called to tell me that you were getting out tomorrow, Juice, I’d be here to pick you up,” Fromong said. “I mean that, man.”

The board took about 30-minutes before rendering its decision that was televised live on several news outlets and on ESPN.

Simpson’s attorney said, with the permission of probation, he’ll return to Florida and lead a quiet life.

The article said that, “If Simpson lives in Florida when he’s released—he lived there before his arrest—he also wouldn’t be forced to sell his house to pay off the civil suit, because of the state’s homestead exemption.”

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