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Monthly Archives: July 2012

AKA Foundation Presents Young Hero with $10,000 Scholarship

by drowley@washingtoninformer.com (WI Web Staff Report)
AKA Foundation Presents Young Hero with $10,000 Scholarship

Promising Student Sustained Massive Injuries Saving Relatives’ Lives

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation (EAF) has contributed $10,000 toward the college education of a promising young man who risked his life to save his relatives in a tragic hit-and-run accident.

Matthew Brown, from Chicago Heights, Illinois who sustained massive injuries that resulted in his left leg being amputated, was officially presented the check by Alpha Kappa Alpha’s international president Carolyn House Stewart during EAF’s luncheon that was held during the Sorority’s biennial meeting in San Francisco. The check is a “President’s Scholarship” that Stewart presents to those whose heroism and achievements are extraordinarily remarkable.

The scholarship is being set aside for his college education and will be used to pay Matthew’s expenses at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, where he plans to major in criminal justice.

In making the announcement, Stewart applauded Brown for his rare courage and will to continue to excel despite the massive injuries he sustained.

The tragedy that led to Brown’s hospitalization took place on March 17 when a driver came barreling down a Chicago street. Seeing that his relatives were in danger, Matthew pushed them out of harm’s way. In committing this act of bravery and love, he took the full force of the impact. In the aftermath of this tragedy, his right leg was amputated.

The tragedy was heightened because the driver never stopped and remains at large.

Matthew underwent several operations and will continue to endure months of rehabilitation. However, in a show of determination and indomitable courage, he worked, pushed and endured pain and grueling physical rehabilitation so he could achieve his ultimate goal: to attend his high school graduation from Bloom Township High School just eleven weeks after his -accident. As he mounted the stage in his wheelchair to receive his diploma, the audience erupted in applause.

When AKA’s international president learned of the tragedy, she directed Barbara Sutton, EAF’s executive director, to explore ways the Sorority could help ease his hardships and help him realize his dreams.

After talking to Brown and his mother, the pair indicated that he wanted to realize his dream to attend Prairie State College to pursue an associate’s degree in criminal justice and to later earn a bachelor’s degree. His ultimate dream is to become a crime scene investigator.

When they learned of his wishes, President Stewart and Sutton put plans in motion to grant the scholarship. As a show of love, they visited with Matthew at Hope Children’s Hospital in Chicago to announce the award and to wish him good cheer. They were heartened that he was in good spirits and that he was grateful for the scholarship that will substantially help in underwriting his college expenses.

The formal announcement of the scholarship was made at the Luncheon that 1,000 members of the Sorority attended.

Because of his injuries, neither Brown nor family members attended the luncheon. However, they expressed their appreciation through a pre-recorded video.

“Matthew Brown is the very embodiment of the word ‘hero’”, declared Stewart. “His singular act of courage has earned the admiration of all who have heard his story. By establishing this Scholarship Fund, Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation, Inc. is helping to assure that he receives the assistance to attend college. Alpha Kappa Alpha will continue to follow his progress and will continue to be a source of uplift and support as he continues his journey to recovery.”

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Inspirational

 

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How the private sector didn’t solve Ghana’s water crisis

Judith Amanthis

2012-07-26, Issue 595

Government investment, rather than privatisation or international aid, offers the best solution for water services in Ghana.

Seventy percent of Ghanaian homes don’t have a WC or a pit latrine. Piped water, if you have it at all, is intermittent, so water in your tap depends on whether you can afford a domestic reservoir. In 2005, the World Bank secured a private sector solution to the water crisis in Ghana – the first independent sub-Saharan African country, and one of the first to be economically adjusted for corporate benefit. But Ghanaian campaigners had different ideas for their taps and toilets.

A remarkable turnaround in Ghana’s water sector occurred in June 2011. After five years of managing Ghana’s urban water services, Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd, a Dutch South African water corporation, failed to renew its contract with the government-owned Ghana Water Company Ltd. Ghanaian opponents to water privatisation had won a resounding victory. They effectively wrong footed the World Bank, private sector advocate and major funder of Ghana’s water sector.

In Accra, you’re unlikely to have a WC plus individual cesspit unless you’re in the elite minority, and pit latrines are largely rural. You therefore have a few options. You can defecate in a bucket or a pan and pay for your ‘night soil’ to be taken, probably manually and illegally, perhaps twice a week, to a cesspit whose contents are then emptied by sewage tankers. You can walk to and then queue for a public latrine, most likely a subhuman hangover from colonial days where you pay for a bit of newspaper to wipe yourself and where there may be six stalls serving 1,000 people. You can defecate in a plastic bag and deposit it in the storm drains that line your street. You can defecate in a storm drain. You can defecate on the beach. Men often urinate in drains. Women sometimes put a bucket under their skirts. The only area with underground piped sewers is the ex-colonial enclave, round Osu, where the president lives and Ministries are located. At the wittily-named Lavender Hill, near some of the poorest areas in town, sewage tankers squirt raw sewage into the sea. A World Bank and Ghanaian government funded treatment plant is said to be in the pipeline at Lavender Hill.

If you have piped water, it’s not safe to drink, however rich or poor you are. If you can afford it, you buy either sachet water or bottled water to drink. Bottled water is expensive, on average GHc2 (US$1.9) a litre when the minimum wage is GHc4.48 (US$2.66) a day. The media periodically report sachet water scams. In any case, your tap will be dry perhaps 75% of the time, depending on your topological relationship to the local pumping station. If you can afford it, you install a huge polytank (a cylindrical plastic container) on a tower in your garden, plumb it into your domestic system, and fill it up when the taps are running. If you can’t afford it, you store water in jerry cans wherever you have room. You might seek professional help to fix your water meter, illegally. If you don’t have piped water, and you’re not paying bills to the Ghana Water Company, you might employ a professional to plumb you into a mains water pipe, illegally. If you don’t, you must buy from a water tanker, or from a stand pipe, which is more expensive than tap or domestically stored water. Fetching three buckets of water a day can cost you between 10% and 20% of your daily income. Thus, the poorer you are, the more you’re likely to pay for water in absolute terms.
Despite these huge problems, in January 2011 the World Bank was confidently stating that Ghana was ‘making steady progress’ towards the United Nations 2015 Millennium Development Goal for safe drinking water.

Water privatisation in Ghana goes back decades. The 1980s and the Rawlings regime saw external funders, especially the World Bank and the IMF, direct the restructuring of the Ghanaian economy as a condition for receiving desperately needed loans. Water reforms in the 1980s included sacking staff in the publicly owned Ghana Water and Sewage Corporation, attempts to curb non-revenue water and an emphasis on ‘cost recovery’ – as opposed to improving access to sanitation and clean water.

By 1999, the GWSC had been replaced by the Ghana Water Company Ltd. While 100% state owned, it’s responsible neither for rural water services nor for sewage disposal. Sewage generates life and plant growth as well as death and disease, but not profit.

In the same year, the World Bank’s plans snarled up on the issue of national sovereignty: the government objected to the accusation of corrupt tendering practices, and the World Bank withdrew its US$100 million loan – but with an eye to elections the following year. And indeed, the new New Patriotic Party government, far keener on the World Bank’s ‘reforms’ than Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress had ever been, ‘quickly organised an international tender for the [public-private partnership] lease contract, and in 2001 they short listed nine [multinational] companies…’ [1]

At this point, the opposition to the proposed water reforms consolidated. The National Coalition Against the Privatisation of Water was established at an Accra forum in 2001. Members of South Africa’s Anti-Privatisation Forum and Municipal Workers’ Union participated, as well as an activist from Bolivia’s Cochabamba water struggle. They ‘shared their experiences of water privatisation, and the adverse impacts it had had on their communities.’ [2]

Independent research in 2002 found ‘… that implementation of a plan for full cost recovery and automatic tariff adjustment mechanisms [in the water sector] will be a condition for the completion of the IMF’s fifth review of Ghana’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan. Further, ‘Conditions attached to World Bank lending led to a 95 percent increase in water tariffs in May 2001.’ [3]

By early 2011, the anti-water privatisation coalition had been organising pickets, meetings, and media campaigns for 10 years. It had survived splits and government witch hunts, and had received some (but not nearly enough) international media exposure. NGOs which had previously backed water privatisation were working alongside it. Ghana’s Public Utility Workers Union was now openly campaigning against the renewal of the Ghana Water Company Ltd’s contract with Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd. The Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing began dropping hints that the contract would not be renewed.

But why? Surely the private sector, with its performance, efficiency and revenue targets, could tackle the huge problem of non revenue water? Non revenue water is any water supplied by the water company that isn’t paid for, because of unpaid bills, water leaking from pipes, or water connected illegally. In the late 1990s, Ghana Water Company Ltd’s non-revenue water stood at 50-51%, way above the World Bank’s 15% target.

On all major contractual obligations, however, Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd failed, a contract, furthermore, that they had got on the cheap because it required no investment on their part whatsoever; it was a management contract, not a lease contract. Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd failed to decrease non-revenue water, they failed to increase the production of water, and they failed to improve bill collection. Service delivery (not surprisingly) failed to benefit from reducing the number of workers, i.e. cutting the cost of wage bills.

Five days after Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd’s contract wasn’t renewed, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing announced the setting up of the 100% state owned Ghana Urban Water Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the Ghana Water Company Ltd, to replace Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd, with a one year tenure ending in June 2012.

Leonard Shang Quartey co-ordinates the Essential Services Programme at The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), the campaigning NGO which spearheads the anti-water privatisation coalition. ‘This whole idea about Ghana Urban Water Limited, I don’t think it’s necessary,’ Quartey said in June 2011. ’We have to focus our efforts on GWCL [Ghana Water Company Ltd] and make it workable.’ And it’s not as though Ghana doesn’t have water – the mighty Volta Lake is one of the world’s largest reservoirs.

June 2012 and what happens next? The interim Ghana Urban Water Company Ltd still exists. According to Quartey and Oxfam GB’s Alhassan Adam (telephone interviews June and May 2012), the World Bank is pressurising the government to return to the privatisation option. But, Quartey said, any form of privatisation is unacceptable to the anti-water privatisation coalition. They want a strengthened and restructured Ghana Water Company Ltd, that is, a public water authority charged with the provision (as opposed to the cost recovery) of clean water. The issue has very little to do with management, as Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd’s failure proved. ‘The bulk of the problem,’ Quartey said, ‘lies in financing.’

It’s worth remembering that during colonial occupation, African economies were organised primarily for the extraction of raw materials to their northern ‘masters’. Political independence did not bring economic independence, and the advent of IMF and World Bank economic restructuring from the 1980s onwards, driven by conditions on loans and grants, has maintained extractive exploitation. According to Quartey, Public Private Partnership, as in the Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd debacle, is still the World Bank’s preferred privatisation vehicle.

What solutions are there? Quartey and the coalition want increased government spending: the water sector is more than 80% donor funded. But Ghanaians can finance their water sector themselves. Since 2010, the country has produced oil. It’s one of the world’s leading gold and cocoa producers. Taxation needs to be properly regulated, in particular corporate tax loopholes blocked. Last year’s increase in corporate tax on mining companies was a step in the right direction, Quartey said.

Ghana is a wealthy country, as is Africa as a whole. The Ghanaian government, with a little help from the anti water privatisation coalition, need not submit to World Bank pressure. And then there’s China.

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* Judith Amanthis is a freelance writer and journalist based in London.

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END NOTES

1. Alhassan Adam , ‘Urban Water Policy Reforms in Ghana: Power, Interest and Performance’,
Dissertation for Masters in Public Administration, June 2011

2. ibid

3. Report of the International Fact-Finding Mission on Water Sector Reform In Ghana, August 2002, http://cesr.org/downloads/factfindingmissionGhana.pdf

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African News

 

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How the Calabar Carnival Can Attract Thousands of Foreign Tourists

By Michael Chima Ekenyerengozi
 Ghana must not only be seen as a collection of tribes but also as a nation.

By: FRANCIS TAWIAH(Duisb

How the Calabar Carnival Can Attract Thousands of Foreign Tourists

For instance at the stadium yesterday (during the carnival), a seat at the governor’s booth sold for N25, 000 and I think that we made more than N5 million ($35, 000). So there are products that we think we can generate revenue from and we are hoping to get to a stage where we can concession it whereby somebody comes in and says I want the governor’s booth and pay for it then market it. The same on the carnival routes, vendors on the routes are registered and pay for space.

Only God knows how much in billions of naira the administration of Senator Liyel Imoke of Cross River State has spent so far on the so called Calabar Carvival dubbed as “Africa’s Biggest Street Party” and as the governor confirmed the carnival is presently in debt, because the state government is not generating much revenue from the billion naira investment in a month long carnival of music, dance and drama with the glitz and razzmatazz of over 50,000 costumed revelers and 2 million spectators in the coastal city of Calabar staged to boost tourism.

But why is the Calabar Carnival not yet a bankable event and not yet the biggest international tourist attraction in Africa? Because the so called “Africa’s Biggest Street Party” is not Africa’s biggest tourist event. The Reed Dance of Swaziland attracts thousands of foreign tourists and makes more money than the budget, but the Calabar Carnival makes less money than the amount spent on it.

 


Swaziland’s annual ‘Reed Dance’ is a traditional show of virginity by thousands of maidens. This year around 60,000 bare-breasted girls, some as young as 10, presented reeds to the queen mother while they danced before King Mswati III. Although Mswati already has 13 wives, the “Reed Dance” presents an opportunity to add another spouse to his family.

 

The Calabar Carnival is a good concept of immediate past Governor of the state, Donald Duke who started it in 2004, but it has been mismanaged by opportunistic jobbers and political contractors like the other equally mismanaged Tinapa with an ultra modern film studio that has attracted more lizards and spiders than filmmakers.

Personally I like carnivals, but only when they are not bacchanalian feasts of debauchery of orgies of sex by hordes of “dogs” in heat.

The most famous carnival is the Brazilian Carnival which originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 when the city’s bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, later absorbing and “creolizing” elements derived from Native American and African cultures. Carnival celebrations are believed to have roots in the pagan festival of Saturnalia.

The Calabar Carnival begins on every 1st of December and lasts till 31st , with almost copycats and replicas of the Brazilian carnival on parade.

Last December, the different bands Masta Blasta, Seagull, Freedom, Bayside and Passion 4 competed to interpret the theme of the Carnival, which was “Endless Possibilities”, but might as well also mean the endless financial liabilities of the jamboree with many useless events like the football competition and wasting money on foreign entertainers like Nelly, Kirk Franklin, Sean Kingston, Rick Ross, Akon and even the defunct American bands like Midnight Star, Sky, Cool and the Gang and others specially resurrected for the Calabar Carnival and get paid what they would never have earned playing in New York.

There are some niche events in the Calabar Carnival that will be enough to attract thousands of foreign tourists than the indigenes and make millions even in a week without stretching them unnecessarily for one month of monotonous activities repeated by the same bands every year. The Boat regatta, Christmas Village and live music concerts and Governor’s Masked Ball should be strictly for paying audiences.

You don’t need one month to do a great street carnival, except it is a conduit for sleaze and public graft and a colourful camouflage for an annual government racket.:)

 


The famous Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival does not last more than a week and last year’s edition started on Saturday, February 18th and ended on Tuesday, February 21. In 2011, attracting over 4.9 million people, of which only 400,000 were foreigners.

 

The Calabar Carnival should just be reduced to a one week panorama of the tourist attractions of Cross River State and Nigeria and don’t waste tax payers money on the importation of American hip hop artistes, because they have little or no attraction for the foreign tourists who are more interested in seeing the awesome displays of our cultural heritage than gyrating or shay shying to American hip hop musicians they have already seen many times over at live concerts in America and Europe and on TV. Moreover, the Calabar Carnival should look more original and unique and not a Nigerian imitation of the Brazilian carnival. The only way you can make the Calabar Carnival an international tourist attraction is by offering something new and something original that will be a fantastic kaleidoscope of the rich culture of Cross River and Nigeria which foreign tourists cannot see outside Calabar.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African News

 

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The Annual African Festival of the Arts 2012

http://africanfestivalchicago.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/22480_230236584849_707619849_3069573_3714600_n-277x300.jpg

The Africa International House USA, Inc. (AIH) produces high quality cultural programs that represent arts and cultures of the African Diaspora. Our intent is to promote and preserve African-based cultures, educate the public about Africa and its cultural contributions to humanity, and continue to contribute in a significant way to the cultural and socio-economic survival of African immigrants in Chicago.

The Annual African Festival of the Arts (AFA) is a spectacular celebration of arts and culture from across the African Diaspora.

It is the largest neighborhood festival in Chicago, and said to be the largest of its kind in the U.S.
Thousands of people from around the world come to Chicago’s Washington Park, Labor Day Weekend for this authentic African experience. They are transported to African villages across the Diaspora with vibrant drumming, storytelling, dancing, interactive demonstrations, historical artifacts, colorful and rich fabrics, informative health and wellness workshops, as well as fascinating entertainment.
This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the festival and a perfect opportunity for Reflections of Our Culture…this year’s 2012 theme.As we reflect, …we must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward and understand why and how we came to be who we are today.

 

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Obama’s education initiative will help save HBCUs

Obama proposes New White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans during the National Urban League’s annual convention.
Credits:
NY Daily News
Obama proposes New White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans during the National Urban League's annual convention.

During the National Urban League’s annual convention in New Orleans, La., President Obama delivered a speech that could be a significant turning point for local HBCUs, Morgan and Coppin State University, who are suffering tremendously from low retention rates.

In a crowd of approximately 3,700 supporters, Obama proposed his new executive order, which seeks to improve educational achievement for African Americans at all levels. Referred to as the “White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans,” the new order will combine with federal agencies and partnerships nationwide to create a more efficient variety of educational programs available for African American students.

To enable the accessibility of these programs, President Obama has allocated funds within the federal budget to compensate for the resources needed to initiate the order. Obama explained in his speech, “A higher education in a 21st century cannot be a luxury. It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford.”

In his speech, Obama highlighted the discrepancies between dropout rates for African American students and the dropout rates of other students nationwide. He noted 8 percent of African American students, between the ages of 16 to 25, drop out from college. The impact is evident in the 14.4 percent rate of unemployed African Americans, which exceeds the national percent rate of 8.2 unemployed Americans.

Likewise, Morgan and Coppin State University mirror these tragic retention rates. With Morgan State reaching an 11 percent graduation rate in a four-year span and Coppin State just at 5 percent, the need for such a reform in African American students is more prevalent than before.

With respect to his initiative, Obama has diagnosed the low retention rate as a myriad of issues, some of which include the expensive costs and the lack of preparatory materials for higher education. He noted the new initiative will exist so, “every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career.”

The Department of Education, the Executive Office, and other cabinet agencies are identifying effective education practices and will incorporate them into the new programs. Once the budget is established for each program, Obama will then officiate the new White House Initiative.

 
 

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African-American swimmer wins second Olympics medal

Cullen Jones helps U.S. swim team to first medal of the 2012 Games

Cullen Jones, the African-American swimmer who won a gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle as part of the U.S. men’s swim team at the 2008 Olympics, helped the U.S. team win a silver medal in the same event Sunday, the team’s first medal of the 2012 Games. The Bronx native was enrolled in swimming lessons after nearly drowning in a childhood accident. Now, years later, he is set to debut in his first Olympics as a competitor in individual swimming events. Jones will swim in the men’s 100 free final Wednesday night, and the 50 free final this Friday.

 
 

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Why Ball Players Can Hug And Kiss Each Other, But Other Men Can’t

By Sylvia A. Harvey

Watch Documentary Here

In the Black community, men who express even a passing, friendly physical affection toward each other are often subject to ridicule and homophobic attacks.

But on the basketball court, the sight of men kissing, hugging and patting each others’ backsides scarcely draws a comment.

Why is that? In “OUT OF BOUNDS” — an exclusive NewsOne documentary — journalist Sylvia A. Harvey explores the strange double-standard that allows Black men to express intimacy on the basketball court, but keeps a tight lid on those feelings and actions off the court.

Harvey explains how the documentary came to be:

The mini-doc, “Out of Bounds,” was born out of a fight over the TV remote, which I lost. Slowly descending into the world of clock shots, blocks, and turnovers, I started to anticipate Ray Allen’s three-pointer, Kevin Durant’s quick release shots and Blake Griffin’s dunks. NBA games showcased breathtaking plays and hard fought victories. But most compelling was the quiet backdrop that spoke louder than any winners or losers – the players’ behavior on the court.

When a player made that unimaginable shot or game saving free throw, yelling, chest pounding, mid-air chest bumps and high-fives ensued. But alongside this bravado came rare public displays of intimacy between black men—intimacy that if recognized could challenge traditional boundaries of black masculinity.

I set out to ask: What gave these men the license to hug, kiss, and slap each other’s backsides unapologetically in front of millions of spectators? Why hadn’t that license been granted to black men everywhere, and why was that license seemingly suspended once the game ended?

Many recreational ball players with whom I spoke ascribed the intimacy to the quirks of sports culture, but admitted an unspoken rule prevents this behavior from carrying beyond the court. That unspoken rule is explored via the influence of hyper-masculine hip-hop culture and heteronormative privilege

 

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