Monthly Archives: July 2012

AKA Foundation Presents Young Hero with $10,000 Scholarship

by (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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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,

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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.


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

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.
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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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African American News


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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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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African American News


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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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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African American Documentary


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Caribbean hotelier wants more African American travelers

Tuesday, July 31, 2012
One of St. Lucia’s popular and classy plantation resorts is putting its efforts into attracting the burgeoning African American market. Eroline Lamontagne, managing director ofSoufriere’s Fond Doux Holiday Plantation, says St. Lucia must continue to diversify and tailor its marketing efforts, by targeting communities of color, especially those who have a voracious appetite for “all things Caribbean”.

“We are serious about this and would like to see our tourism marketers do more to attract Black and Caribbean travelers of means to our shores,” said Lamontagne.

Last month, Fond Doux supported the Associate Member Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) during the organization’s 37th Annual Convention and Career Fair in New Orleans.

The Task Force is for freelance and part-time journalists, journalism educators, public relations practitioners, as well as other media-related professionals of NABJ.

As part of Fond Doux’s sponsorship in New Orleans, Lizabeth Martin, Associate Professor of Communications at Palm Beach State College in Florida, won a three-night stay for two, including full daily breakfast, a couple’s massage, sunset cruise and candelit dinner at Fond Doux.

“Fond Doux Holiday Plantation’s partnership with NABJ’s Associate Member Task Force is important to us, and we are truly inspired by Mrs. Lamontagne’s confidence in the African American market,” noted Dawn Angelique Roberts, Associate Representative.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is an organization of journalists, students and media-related professionals that provides high quality programs and services to, and advocates on behalf of, black journalists worldwide. Founded by 44 men and women on December 12, 1975, in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization of journalists of color in the United States.

Earlier this year, Fond Doux sponsored St. Lucia’s 33rd Anniversary of Independence Gala in Brooklyn, New York, joining the Saint Lucia Foundation, St. Lucians in New York, the government and the private sector to celebrate the milestone.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African American News


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Disney Finds a Cure for the Common Stereotype With ‘Doc McStuffins’

Disney Junior

In “Doc McStuffins,” a new Disney cartoon for preschoolers, the focus is a black girl who wants to be a doctor like her mother. Her first patients are dolls and stuffed animals.


LOS ANGELES — For decades many African-Americans have voiced conflicted feelings about Disney.

Ann Johansson for The New York Times

Chris Nee, right, creator of “Doc McStuffins,” with her partner, Lisa Udelson, and their son, Theo Udelson-Nee. Ms. Nee credits Disney with making the main character African-American.

Ann Johansson for The New York Times

“Doc McStuffins” toys are potential moneymakers.

Many fault this entertainment colossus for being slow to introduce a black princess as a peer to Cinderella and Snow White. (There is one now: Tiana, from “The Princess and the Frog.”) The racial stereotyping in early animated movies like “Dumbo” lives on through DVD rereleases. African-Americans can also bring up “Song of the South,” a 1946 film that Disney has labored to keep hidden because of its idyllic depiction of slavery.

Disney has worked overtime in recent years to leave that past behind, and a surprising groundswell of support from black viewers for a new TV cartoon called “Doc McStuffins” is the latest indication that its efforts may be paying off.

Aimed at preschoolers, “Doc McStuffins” centers on its title character, a 6-year-old African-American girl. Her mother is a doctor (Dad stays home and tends the garden), and the girl emulates her by opening a clinic for dolls and stuffed animals. “I haven’t lost a toy yet,” she says sweetly to a sick dinosaur in one episode.

The series, which made its debut in March on the Disney Channel and a new cable network called Disney Junior, is a ratings hit, attracting an average of 918,000 children age 2 to 5, according to Nielsen data. But “Doc McStuffins” also seems to have struck a cultural nerve, generating loud applause on parent blogs, Facebook and even in academia for its positive vocational message for African-American girls.

“It truly warmed my heart and almost brought tears to my eyes when my 8-year-old, Mikaela, saw ‘Doc McStuffins’ for the first time and said, ‘Wow, mommy — she’s brown,’ ” Kia Morgan Smith, an Atlanta mother of five, wrote on her blog Myiesha Taylor, a Dallas doctor who blogs at, took her praise a step further, writing, “This program featuring a little African-American girl and her family is crucial to changing the future of this nation.”

Dr. Taylor, who noticed “Doc McStuffins” while watching TV with her 4-year-old daughter, Hana, was moved enough to collect pictures of 131 doctors — all black, all women — and publish a collage online under the heading, “We Are Doc McStuffins.” She also started a related Facebook group that now has 2,250 members.

“For Disney to make a cartoon that stars a little brown girl as an aspiring intellectual professional, that’s coming a long way,” Dr. Taylor said in an interview.

Mark Anthony Neal, a professor who teaches black popular culture at Duke University, noted that Disney has sharply increased its emphasis on multicultural characters in recent years, pointing to a cartoon series called “The Proud Family” and “The Princess and the Frog,” released in 2009. But even he is impressed with “Doc McStuffins.”

“My youngest daughter, who is 9 and still has an affinity for stuffed animals, loves the show,” Mr. Neal said. “Part of the appeal for her is seeing herself represented in this space of fantasy.”

Despite a surge in multicultural cartoons, like Nickelodeon’s “Ni Hao, Kai-Lan,” designed to introduce Mandarin vocabulary words to preschoolers, and 40 years after Bill Cosby’s “Fat Albert,” black cartoon characters in leading roles are still rare. It’s considered an on-screen risk to make your main character a member of a minority, even in this post-“Dora the Explorer” age. Networks want to attract the broadest possible audience, but the real peril is in the toy aisle. From a business perspective, Disney and its rivals ultimately make most of these shows in the hope that they spawn mass-appeal toy lines. White dolls are the proven formula.

Encouraged by the reaction to multicultural casting in its live-action shows (“A.N.T. Farm”), Disney figured it was a risk worth taking. The company also spotted a hole in the market. The last major preschool cartoon to have a black focus was Mr. Cosby’s “Little Bill,” which ended five years ago on Nickelodeon. Race may have factored into Disney’s thinking in other ways. “Doc McStuffins” is mostly designed to entertain, a minus for parents of preschoolers, who typically want educational components (like the way Dora teaches Spanish and problem solving). A positive message about racial diversity helps fix that problem, as do messages about health and hygiene.

Chris Nee, who created “Doc McStuffins,” said, “Disney, to its complete credit, looked at my pitch and suggested that we make the characters African-American.” Her original Doc McStuffins was a little white girl.

Gary Marsh, the president and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide, said “Doc McStuffins” reflects a type of hypersensitivity to the power of television on young viewers. “What we put on TV can change how kids see the world, and that is a responsibility that I take very seriously,” he said. “By showcasing different role models and different kinds of families we can positively influence sociological dynamics for the next 20 years.”

Disney executives often bristle when people (read: reporters) dredge up examples of racial insensitivity from the distant past. They maintain that the company has more than proved itself over the years, pointing to It’s a Small World, the musical theme park ride celebrating multiculturalism, or “The Lion King” on Broadway, which features a predominantly black cast.

But race remains a perennial hot button for the company. In June, for instance, Shonda Rhimes, the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy,” publicly assailed a program on the cable network ABC Family (owned by Disney) for its lack of diversity. “You couldn’t cast even ONE young dancer of color so I could feel good about my kid watching this show? NOT ONE?” Ms. Rhimes, who is black, said on Twitter about “Bunheads,” a series about ballerinas.

When it comes to “Doc McStuffins,” Ms. Nee, whose résumé, curiously enough, includes producing Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” just wanted to make a show that was enjoyable and that could help her 5-year-old son, Theo, feel better about his asthma. “I wanted to help him understand that doctors aren’t scary,” Ms. Nee said.

In a nod to Disney’s “Toy Story” movies Ms. Nee gave added some sidekicks that come alive when nobody else is around. There is a hippo named Hallie (voiced by Loretta Devine) and a hypochondriac snowman named Chilly. “ ‘Cheers’ for preschoolers” is one way Ms. Nee describes the show’s mix of personalities.

African-Americans are represented among the show’s writers and animators, according to a spokeswoman, adding that voice actors are ethnic matches to their roles, except for one instance in which an African-American plays a white character.

Disney Junior, which is distributed in about 55 million homes and competes against channels like Nick Jr. and Sprout, recently announced that “Doc McStuffins” would return for a second season. Its ratings have drooped a bit from their strong start, but the series has attracted a surprisingly large following among boys — and related merchandise is already selling briskly.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African American Television


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How Tom Burrell Catapulted the African-American Market in the Media

by Natalie Meade

Burrell Communications


Why should Burrell Communications be on your radar? Because founder Tom Burrell acknowledged “black people are not dark-skinned white people.” Abiding by this statute, Burrell Communications has been able to deliver targeted communications to the African-American community in a manner that is both reliable and valid.


Chicago native and Advertising Hall of Fame Inductee, Tom Burrell was vigilant in his mission to shift the substandard perception of African-American culture.  In 2007 the Publicity Club of Chicago honored Burrell and compiled a comprehensive biography of his influence on the advertising industry:


In 1961, Burrell made his first footprints on the industry while studying at Roosevelt University when he became the first African-American to work at a Chicago advertising agency as a mailroom clerk at Wade Advertising. Mr. Burrell’s tenacity propelled him to earn advanced copywriting positions at agencies in the Chicago area.


In 1971, Mr. Burrell’s entrepreneurial spirit emerged and he co-founded Burrell McBain with Emmitt McBain, who worked at an African-American owned Agency Vince Cullers Advertising. The agency’s start was turbulent; opening at a time when portrayals of African Americans were scarce, stereotypical, and offensive.


In 1971, Burrell and McBain created an urban Marlboro Man for Philip Morris Cos. using research that revealed African-American men’s concepts of masculinity. Findings showed that black men viewed the traditional Marlboro Man as a lonely, rural outcast; Burrell’s vision was family-oriented, urban, & social.  In 1974, McBain left the agency and it was renamed as Burrell Advertising.


Over the years, the agency went on to win multiple awards for creative and influential spots that transcended markets, while adhering to the African-American target.


The African-American community benefited from Burrell’s efforts because it was a voice at a time when their voices were misunderstood and quelled. Before his retirement in 2003, Tom Burrell, is credited with creating the principle of “positive realism” – “a technique depicting African-Americans using consumer products in a manner that is authentic and relevant”, as described in the Advertising Age Encyclopedia.


In 2012, award-winning Burrell Communications upholds the tenet of “positive realism


Adele Lasseur, Media Director at Burrell Communications,  recently spoke with Highbrow Magazineabout the agency and how it targets what she  calls the most powerful and forward-thinking consumer market: African-Americans.


Is there a marked difference between media portrayals of African-Americans today compared to the 1970s or 80s?


Yes, there is. Now [in 2012], I think [there] is an awareness of some degree of sensitivity of how African-Americans are portrayed in the media.


We have come a long way since the 70s and 80s and a lot of the negative portrayals we had [in the 70s or 80s] aren’t as commonplace [today] as they were back then…. It took time to change some of that mindset, and a lot of  that change is attributed  to the result of trailblazers in the industry such as Tom Burrell.   I don’t think we could have started to see African-Americans’ lifestyles being more integrated into the mainstream without first having those early campaigns that really captured snippets of what the African-American lifestyle was.



Based on all of your insights, how is the African-American market different from any other minority market?

The founder Tom Burrell coined the phrase [and] that drove him to serve the target [African-American consumer]:


“Black people are not dark-skinned white people” [meaning,] there is an inherent culture difference between African-Americans and the other markets. This has been our mantra over the years and this is in Burrell’s DNA…


It drives patterns of media consumption and we may use products differently based on… those insights, which is a driving force and inspiration for future campaigns that are developed at [Burrell Communications].



According to, the African-American consumer market is worth  more than a trillion dollars. How do your campaigns target the consumer in a positive light as opposed to something negative in the media surrounding our culture?

We are tethered to the image of the African-American audience and the image that is portrayed of the target because we are a part of that audience. Another phrase Tom Burrell coined was “positive realism”, which means we respect the culture and want to stem the negative stereotypes by telling stories that are inspirational, sometimes funny, or even edgy.


Does advertising have the power to affect outsiders’ perceptions of the African-American community? 

Going back to the ‘70s… we started to have targeted efforts by major advertisers, and more of the African-Americans lifestyles were being portrayed in these commercials. And, if you look at most of the [advertisements], they are snippets of our culture in terms of our fashion and habits of what we do, how we interact with families & friends.


Advertisements must back the programs that we watch. The only way we can get the message out is if it’s in an environment that is going to reach our target.


In order to have more environments that are reaching the African-American audience, programming had to change.  If you look at what’s happening to TV, there are not many [programs today] that do not have an African-American cast member. If it’s not a show that we’re going to watch, guess what? Those dollars are wasted…


Now, you have television shows like “The Game”, “Meet the Browns”, “House of Payne”, and “Common Law” with Michael Ealy. If you look at Fox, it first launched with predominantly [African-American] programming until they transitioned to more sports networking… But, Fox made their existence off of AA programming in the beginning because that’s what they had a lot of; it was thechannel that Blacks were gravitating to.  The same can be said for the UPN, which merged to be The CW.


You can see where advertising made an impact, because without those dollars backing the programming you wouldn’t have the number of African-American actors, writers, or directors that are employed.



A lot of the roles that African-Americans play in the media are not necessarily positive ones.  This highlights a phenomenon Tom Burrell calls the Black Inferiority Complex.  Does advertising combat the demeaning portrayals of African Americans in TV programs?

From an advertising standpoint, most of our clients are Fortune 500 companies, so they’re blue chip and conservative for the most part.  We have a tendency to buy programming that isn’t …controversial. So any program where you may deem the African-Americans characters are portrayed as negative, we probably aren’t buying those programs. Looking specifically at the McDonald’s account … we literally abide by the “Golden Arch Code” meaning we won’t buy any programming that is negative, demeaning, or hurtful. So we tend to shy away from that type of programming.


[The] long term [effect is], most cable and broadcast networks [realize] at some point if the programs aren’t making money, they go away.


You are than familiar with The Burrell Mission Statement “consistently deliver innovative, creative, market-moving ideas.” Based on this mission statement, what are your predictions of the African-American market and how do you plan to adapt?

Social media, mobile, & video are going to be key for our target. The adoption rate from what we’re seeing from our research is explosive in terms of percent increase growth and usage by African-Americans. Down the road, digital and social media is going to be key.  Also, our target, [similar to] the overall consumer market, is becoming [savvier] and they don’t want to be “talked at”, they want to have a dialogue.  So, we are going to have to start generating communications that actually allow our clients [to build a relationship] with our target. That might take the form of more grassroots [efforts], but it is definitely going to [require] digital opportunities to [create that relationship].


[The Millennial generation has] transformed the way we advertise. They have demanded, “I want to know what you’re doing in my community … what are you doing for me, what makes you different from the rest of the companies out there that are trying to court and get my dollars?”


Author Bio:

Natalie Meade is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


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Former Olympian John Carlos on His Fist-Raising Protest

Former Olympian John Carlos on His Fist-Raising Protest

The Root, Question & Answer, Brett Johnson,
There have been countless Olympic moments that are memorable because of sporting achievements, but one stands out for the political statement it made. After winning a respective gold and bronze medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 games in Mexico City, two American track stars — Tommie Smith and John Carlos — shocked the world when they bowed their heads and raised their black-gloved fists in the air while they stood on the victor’s podium. As the national anthem played, the runners’ symbolic gesture was a protest of the social inequality endured by blacks in America and an expression of solidarity with the world’s oppressed peoples.

According to Carlos’ biographer Dave Zirin, events around the world — from the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy to the war in Vietnam and the massacre of hundreds of Mexican students and workers — that year informed the runners’ demonstration. “For them it was a question of how could they not express themselves at that particular moment in time,” Zirin, who co-authored The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, told The Root.

In the run-up to the games, Smith and Carlos had joined the Olympic Project For Human Rights(OPHR), a group of black athletes led by San Jose State sociology professor Harry Edwards who were prepared to boycott the athletic event if authorities failed to meet certain demands. They wanted apartheid countries barred; they called for Muhammad Ali to have his boxing title restored. (It had been stripped away after his opposition to being drafted for the Vietnam War.) They also stood for hiring more African-American assistant coaches, but the most controversial stance was their demand that Avery Brundage, who had a history of being a fascist sympathizer, be removed as head of the International Olympic Committee.

Some of urgency of the boycott relented, however, when Olympic officials excluded South Africa and Rhodesia from the games. When The Root caught up with Carlos, 66, via phone recently, he said he still considered staying home. But it was probably one of the best and hardest decisions he made to eventually attend, win a bronze medal and make history in one of the most enduring images in sports history. Carlos, who once dreamed of being an Olympic swimmer before turning to track, recalled how important it was for a kid from Harlem to make a statement on the world stage, no matter how he was vilified for it at the time.

The Root: I read you first attended East Texas State but left after one year. When did you connect with professor Edwards and his OPHR movement?

John Carlos: I had been reading in Track and Field News about the Olympic Project for Human Rights since I was a student at East Texas State. Everything they were saying I agreed with. I’m saying to myself, these are the people I want to be affiliated with.

After leaving East Texas State, I was back in New York and I got a call from professor Harry Edwards, who invited me to a meeting at the Americana Hotel. In this meeting, Dr. King wanted to let professor Edwards, the SCLC and all those that were involved know that he was coming out in support of the Olympic boycott. After that, I got an offer from professor Edwards to matriculate at San Jose State.

TR: Was the black-glove fist professor Edwards’ idea?

JC: Harry had no idea. He was as surprised as you or anyone else who was walking the Earth that day. I would say collectively, it was Tommie Smith and I. It was our idea together.

TR: Describe your feelings and emotions before the race. Were you nervous about your performance?

JC: The main thing that ran through my mind when we ran the final race, my statement to myself was, “Damn, let’s get it on.” Now the formality is out the way, now we can do what we came to do and that’s take care of business on the victory stand.

My premise for going to the games was to make a statement. I wanted to represent the people from where I came from. It was the first time the Olympic Games was televised worldwide. The first time the Olympic Games was televised in Technicolor. The first time that anyone even cared to step up and make a public statement about humanity.

TR: When did you start planning to use the black glove and walk out without wearing running shoes? There were other items you had as well, right?

JC: I said to Mr. Smith, after we ran our quarter- and semi-final race, that I wanted to make a statement. He was with me on that. Then we came to the next stage — what do you have to bring to the table? Mr. Smith said, “I have some gloves.” Bring ‘em. I had some black beads. Bring ‘em. He had a black scarf. Bring ‘em. I had a black shirt. Bring it. We decided that we would wear black socks, roll our pants cuffs up, go out there barefoot and put the Puma shoe on the victory stand.

The black glove was to say that we want the world to know, although we are here for humanity, we want the world to know that these are black people concerned about humanity. We wanted to represent our blackness through that black glove. My black shirt that I had over my USA jersey was for the shame I had for America: Why do we have to come as second-class citizens to be your warriors in the wars? Second-class citizens in the business world … in the realms of education or housing or employment.

Mr. Smith put that black scarf on his neck to show unity. We put black socks with no shoes to show third-world poverty. Individuals are walking miles a day without shoes to try to get an education and we’re sending spaceships to the moon but we can’t stop poverty in the U.S.

TR: The news media’s reaction was harsh. Time had a distorted version of the Olympic logo on its cover with the words: “Angrier, Nastier, Uglier.” The Chicago Tribune called the act “an embarrassment visited upon the country.” Brent Musburger, then a young reporter at the Chicago American, called you “a pair of black-skinned storm troopers.”

JC: We were ostracized. We had everything pelted against us, we had no means to defend ourselves. We couldn’t make them come and have a dialogue with us about the why, where’s and what’s. Then you had individuals like Brent Musburger calling us neo-Nazis … all across this nation, the major newspapers just decimated us. What vehicle did we have to express ourselves? We didn’t have social media, Twitter or Facebook.

TR: Have you talked to Brent Musburger since then? Do you think he should apologize?

JC: Brent Musburger is a louse, and I don’t care to speak with him. He is going to have to deal with that when he goes before his maker. Between you and I, man, I don’t think Musburger is man enough to apologize. It takes a man to make the right move and it showed where he was by the statement he made. He is not even thinking about an apology.

TR: Reports have said that you and Tommie Smith don’t get along. What’s your relationship with Smith like these days?

JC: I have the utmost honorable love and respect for Tommie Smith. We don’t necessarily see eye to eye on how we deal with the issues. But I always respect and admire him for his courage. I don’t agree with some things he see or do and he don’t necessarily agree with some things that I see or do. But we have honorable respect and love and admiration for one another. We’ll have that for eternity. And Peter Norman [Australian runner who won silver that day] as well. Peter is no longer with us in the flesh but I think about him every day.

TR: What’s your feeling about the Olympics today? Will you be watching or does it represent a sore spot for you?

JC: Don’t get it twisted when I say I’m against the Olympic movement. I’m against the structure of the Olympics. I’m against the power brokers walking away with all the money. I’m for the athletes 100 percent to exploit their talents that God gave them and they perfected and made better to be the best in the world. I don’t want no less for their dreams than I had when I was a young individual. But I just want them to realize that it’s far greater than just the medal. It’s about humanity.

Brett Johnson is The Root’s associate editor.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African American News


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Senator John Kerry Leads Unanimous Passage Of The Legislation In U.S. Senate Urging Federal Research Support To Improve Early Detection Of Prostate Cancer

PR Newswire

 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) led unanimous passage of the Senate Resolution 493 to recognize prostate cancer as an epidemic striking African American men disproportionately, with 250% higher mortality and 60% higher incidence. This bipartisan legislation urges federal agencies to support research for the advancement of diagnostic tools, including novel biomarkers and imaging technologies. Improved diagnostic tools will save lives and assure individualized, the least invasive and the most cost-effective patient care in millions of American men.

Senator Kerry said, “Prostate cancer is an epidemic – it kills every 16 minutes.  This disease killed my dad, but I was lucky to beat it ten years ago, I introduced this resolution in the Senate to bring attention to this silent killer, how it disproportionately affects African Americans, and the need for additional federal investment in prostate cancer research, education, and awareness.  I’ve been through the battle against prostate cancer and I understand the strain a diagnosis places on the patient and their loved ones.  We need to stay focused on research and arm Americans with the tools to prevent, detect, cure and treat this disease, and I’m grateful to my colleagues and our advocates for pushing this resolution through.”

Dr. Faina Shtern, President of AdMeTech Foundation who worked with Senator Kerry and his staff for several years on prostate cancer research funding issues commented, “We applaud Senator Kerry’s leadership in national recognition of prostate cancer as a public health priority and a health care crisis in African American men. This legislation offers hope to millions of men who are left in the state of shock and confusion by the recent recommendation of the US Preventive Services Task Force against PSA screening, the only diagnostic tool currently available for early detection. Ending PSA screening is not the answer to the prostate cancer crisis. The Kerry resolution in support of research to improve diagnostic tools is.”

Prostate cancer is the most common malignancy in the United States, but federal research support is lagging behind, and men do not have reliable diagnostic tools. The impact is sobering: While prostate cancer is curable when detected early, it remains the second most lethal cancer in men, killing over 30,000 men each year.

Boston-based AdMeTech Foundation is a non-profit organization providing international leadership in prostate cancer research, education, and awareness (

SOURCE AdMeTech Foundation

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African American Health


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19th century letters depict African-American lives

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. — More than two dozen 19th century letters have been acquired by the Kentucky Historical Society, which says the handwritten documents offer a look at African-American communities in Lexington and Hopkinsville.

The letters depict the lives of both free and enslaved Kentucky families.

The Historical Society says the 27 letters include news of the Watson and Robinson families about health, activities, church, births and deaths, slavery, the farm and freedom. Besides Kentucky locations, the letters also mention Mississippi City, Miss.; Brandon, Miss.; and Williamson County, Ill.

The society purchased the collection, which has been catalogued and digitized. It’s available online at At that site, click on “Search our Collections,” choose the KHS collections catalog and search for “Watson and Robinson.”

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in African American News


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President Obama Signs New Initiative to Improve Educational Outcomes for African Americans

Executive Order Establishes the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

Last week, during his remarks at the National Urban League conference in New Orleans, LA, President Obama announced he would sign an Executive Order to improve outcomes and advance educational opportunities for African Americans.

The President has made providing a complete and competitive education for all Americans – from cradle to career – a top priority. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will work across Federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students. The Initiative aims to ensure that all African American students receive an education that fully prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers.

In the less than 60 years since the Brown v. Board of Education decision put America on a path toward equal educational opportunity, America’s educational system has undergone a remarkable transformation. Many African American children who attended substandard, segregated schools in the 1950s have grown up to see their children attend integrated and effective elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities. Nonetheless, substantial obstacles to equal educational opportunity still remain in America’s educational system. African American students lack equal access to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools, and challenging college-preparatory classes, and they disproportionately experience school discipline and referrals to special education.

Significantly improving the educational outcomes of African Americans will provide substantial benefits for our country by advancing important outcomes, like increasing college completion rates, employment rates, and the number of African American teachers. Enhanced educational outcomes for African Americans will lead to more productive careers, improved economic mobility and security, and greater social well-being for all Americans.

Advancing Educational Achievement of African American Students

The President has set the goal for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. To reach this ambitious goal, and to ensure equality of access and opportunity in education for all Americans, the Obama Administration is dedicating new resources, through rigorous and well-rounded academic and support services, to enable African American students to improve their educational achievement and prepare for college and career.

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, housed within the Department of Education, will work with the Executive Office of the President and Cabinet agencies to identify evidence-based best practices to improve African American student achievement in school and college, and to develop a national network of individuals, organizations, and communities that will share and implement these practices. It will also help ensure that Federal programs and initiatives administered by the Department of Education and other Federal agencies maintain a focus on serving and meeting the educational needs of African Americans. The Initiative will complement the existing White House Initiative that strengthens the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by working with Federal agencies and partners nationwide to provide all African American students with a more effective continuum of education programs.

To deliver a complete and competitive education for all African Americans, the Initiative will promote, encourage, and undertake efforts designed to meet several objectives, including:

Increasing the percentage of African American children who enter kindergarten ready for success by improving access to high-quality early learning and development programs;

Ensuring that all African American students have access to high-level, rigorous course work and support services that will prepare them for college, a career, and civic participation;

Providing African American students with equitable access to effective teachers and principals in pursuit of a high-quality education, and supporting efforts to improve the recruitment, preparation, development, and retention of successful African American teachers and principals;

Promoting a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools, and decreasing the disproportionate number of referrals to special education by addressing root causes of the referrals;

Reducing the dropout rate of African American students and increasing the proportion of African American students who graduate from high school prepared for college and career;

Increasing college access, college persistence, and college attainment for African American students;

Strengthening the capacity of institutions of higher education that serve large numbers of African American students, including community colleges, HBCUs, Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), and other institutions; and

Improving the quality of, and expanding access to, adult education, literacy, and career and technical education.

The Presidential Advisory Commission and Federal Interagency Working Group to Enhance Educational Outcomes for African American Students

The Executive Order also creates the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, to aid and advise the work of the Initiative. The Commission will advise President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on matters pertaining to the educational attainment of the African American community, including the development, implementation, and coordination of resources aimed at improving educational opportunities and outcomes for African Americans of all ages. The Commission will also engage the philanthropic, business, nonprofit, and education communities in a national dialogue on African American student achievement, and work with the Initiative to establish partnerships with stakeholders from these sectors to achieve the objectives of this Executive Order.

The Executive Order also establishes a Federal Interagency Working Group on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Working Group will be chaired by the Initiative’s Executive Director, and will convene senior officials from the Executive Office of the President and several Cabinet and sub-Cabinet agencies to coordinate the Federal investment in education programs and initiatives aimed at enhancing outcomes for African Americans in early childhood education; elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education; career and technical education; and adult education.



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Waking the World Up to Business in Africa


While Africa is on the move, most of the world slumbers. Why do I say this? In Charlotte, North Carolina, a “new” market for promoting business in Africa, I had the great opportunity to speak about the business potential in Africa on a local radio talk show with Vince Coakley. But I was shocked that the majority of people, who called in, were harsh in their perspectives on Africa, particularly South Africa. This woke me  up to how much the world still needed to be awakened to business in the New Africa.

The callers saw no hope or light. They were mostly truthful about what they had to say about crime, corruption, and security in what they understood. They weren’t vicious, but you could tell they actually believed or felt what they were saying.

I reminded the audience that US history wasn’t so great for human rights and politics in the 1800s. We had one of the bloodiest civil wars in history almost a hundred years into our history. And even though we are supposed to be a beacon for human rights today, we have a lot of problems here in the US.

African democracies are at most 60 years old and places like DR Congo less than ten years. Countries in this stage of development will not have the institutional strength, or strong rule of law in general, as mature democracies yet they grow fast and provide opportunities unmatched elsewhere.

The final point I made was that every country has its problems, but also has opportunities. It’s important to find what works for you in business and be open to possibilities.

This experience re-affirms my opening statement. There is a New Africa, but most of the world is unaware and little is being done to wake them up to the full reality of the Africa of today and of the future.

You probably think that this article is about the callers and people like them, but it’s not.  It’s about the millions of people who know something about the New Africa, but remain silent, passive, or accepting of what is said and propagated. Everyone should have a right to speak and to his or her opinion, but those opinions do not have to go unchallenged or probed.

We who know should be sharing about the things in Africa that do work and how it is progressing. While admitting that Africa has the highest rate of poverty and HIV/AIDs in the world, we should be pointing out that the rate of poverty has slowed and the number of new HIV/AIDS cases is slowing compared to the growth of the continent’s population.

In business, we should be sharing about the low debt levels in many of the countries compared to the West and how investment risk in the West is rising. Also, we should be sharing about the impact African innovation is having on the mobile sector around the world. While this is “old” news to many of us, it is “new” news to most of the world.

It is not about create platforms to change the perception of Africa, even though more are needed. It is about individuals and organizations embedding Africa into normal, everyday, mainstream conversation. If people are talking about interesting news, share a comparative or insightful perspective on what is happening in Africa.

If you are focusing on business and investment in Africa, here are a few tips I gave on “pitching” Africa when I spoke last year at the launch of one of our books at the World Bank:

  • Let Africa sell itself.
  • Watch the terms you use, e.g., wealth creation versus poverty reduction.
  • Be authentic – share realities, successes, and potential.
  • Place Africa in context of what is happening in other global regions.
  • Focus on Africa as an upcoming, emerging region, which already has close to 20 emerging economies.
  • Don’t sell Africa at the exclusion of other global regions, but as part of a global strategy – one of several regions a global business strategy should touch.
  • Explain how Africa can be used to expand markets and extend globally.
  • Show people who have a passion to make a difference in Africa how they can achieve this by  supporting for-profit ventures, or market-based social enterprises, which are more sustainable.

We also need to broaden our engagement. We need to move beyond circles that are familiar with Africa and get into mainstream business and social groups and share about the continent. Go and plant seeds where conversation about Africa in terms of business and investment would be new.

Finally, I do have some good news to share about the close of the recent radio interview. Several callers actually shared positive perspectives.

One caller shared his experience about being in Cote d’Ivoire. He found the people to warm, welcoming, and hard-working. He said Cote d’Ivoirien pineapples were much better than Hawaiian, and if he had the money he would invest there.

This caller represents to me an untapped, deep spring of people that I know exists. We just need to reach them.

And concerning the rest of the world, it’s not up to the world to change its perception of Africa. It’s up to us to create a new perception of Africa.

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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in African News



Anita Baker to release new album, ’21st Century Love,’ on Nov. 9


Grammy-winning R&B singer Anita Baker will release a new album, titled “21st Century Love,” on Nov. 9, according to a statement today from EMI Music.

The music company says Baker’s album will include 10 tracks, including one featuring Snoop Dogg. Video of Baker and Snoop’s recording session for “Give Me Your Love” was posted on Youtube a couple weeks ago.


Baker, who grew up in Detroit but now lives in Los Angeles, is best known for such hits as “Sweet Love,” “Caught Up in the Rapture” and “Giving You the Best That I Got.”

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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Music


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Botswana bushmen win right to access water on ancestral land

In Botswana, Bushmen of the Central Kalahari are celebrating the court decision granting them water rights on their ancestral lands.

In 2002, the Bushmen were evicted from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. While they won the right to return in 2006, the government said they could no longer use a vital water borehole.

Now the Court of Appeal has struck down a lower court ruling that denied them access to the borehole. At the same time, the court described government treatment of the Bushmen as “degrading.”

Fantastic… wonderful
“This is a wonderful ruling from the appeal court of five judges, which basically has found the Botswana government guilty of degrading treatment towards the Bushmen,” says Fiona Watson, field and research director for Survival International.

The ruling, she says, gives the Bushmen access to the borehole, which the government has sealed, and the right to drill new boreholes.

“So this is a fantastic ruling because it completely supports the Bushmen and we really hope that now this will draw a line under what has been several years of total misery and despair for the Bushmen, who have been denied access to water in one of the driest and harshest places in the world,” says Watson.

Watson says it’s unlikely the government has any further legal action it can take to again block access. “This is the highest court in the land, with five judges who come from Commonwealth countries and who were sitting at the Court of Appeal in Lobatse,” she says.

How many?
While Bushmen won the right to return to the game reserve, getting an exact count on how many actually have can be difficult.

Watson says, “Bushmen come and go, partly because it has been so difficult, if not impossible, to access water on their land. But at any one time we estimate there are probably about 300 to 400 Bushmen currently living in the Central Kalahari, but I think now with this wonderful ruling many Bushmen will return to exercise their constitutional right to live on their ancestral lands.”

Finding water
The borehole must be inspected to learn whether it can actually be reopened after being sealed by the government. “Nobody knows what the condition of the borehole is,” says Watson.

Also, drilling new boreholes would be expensive. “Finding water in the Kalahari is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack,” she says.

Survival International says the Botswana government continues to “prevent the Bushmen from hunting for food” in the reserve. The government recently awarded a contract to Gem Diamonds for a $3 billion mine near a Bushmen community.

The Botswanan government had said it relocated the Bushmen to give them better access to health, education and other services.

Source: VOA News

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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in African News



JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending July 27th, 2012


Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the president of the Republic of South Africa, will visit Jamaica during the first week of August 2012. He will be met at Norma Manley International Airport with a Guard of Honor from the Jamaica Defense Force, and then will go on to meet with Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Andrew Holness, leader of the Opposition. He will also attend a state dinner hosted by the Governor General and Lady Allen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence.

Jamaican police torched some 15,000 pounds of marijuana since 2010. The drug was confiscated during raids on marijuana growing operations and trafficking in Jamaica. Most of the 15,000 pounds was seized during operations conducted in 2012. Jamaica is the biggest producer and exporter of marijuana in the Caribbean region.

Gina Tulloch-Adams has started a new magazine entitled “Home Sweet Jamaica.” The magazine’s launch is scheduled to coincide with the nation’s 50th anniversary of independence. The magazine will be published through Sunfloral Jamaica Ltd., Tulloch-Adams’ company. The lifestyle publication will be distributed in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom and highlights the diverse population and culture of Jamaica.

Owen Ellington, Jamaican Police Commissioner, announced that the national security of the island has improved. The number of major crimes committed in Jamaica dropped by 13.3 percent between January and July 21, 2012. This is a significant improvement over the situation noted in 2009, when there were 864 murders on the island. As of July 21, 2012, the number of murders totaled 614.

Dr. Marc Panton, Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture, says Jamaicans could experience a major increase in the price of some agricultural products as the result of higher grain costs in the United States. The higher prices are not likely to be welcomed by local producers and consumers, who are already worried about cost hikes. Severe drought conditions in the U.S. are contributing to the increase in grain products. Jamaican chicken farmers will be especially impacted by the cost rise.

Jamaica has emerged as a major center for global technology. The island has relatively high penetration of high-speed Internet access, and it is leveraging the ability of its population to speak English to do business with North America. Its proximity to both North and South America is also a plus. Over 25 percent of Jamaicans are online, and 4.3 percent of those have access to high-speed Internet connections, compared to 0.8 percent in Indonesia, 0.9 percent in India, and 4.6 percent in Thailand.

Media representatives from Jamaica may be able to access athletes at a pre-Olympic camp at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. The media has been “locked out” of the camp to date. However, Donald Quarrie and Dr. Warren Blake of the JAAA said they would attempt to lift the cloud of secrecy surrounding the athletic camp.

Champion Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has been selected to carry Jamaica’s flag during the opening ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympics. Bolt said it was an honor to carry his nation’s flag and that he would do anything for his country.


A number of young Jamaicans participated the Annual World Open Chess Championship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and won several trophies and cash prizes. Leighton Barrett, 9, of Sts. Peter and Paul Prep school, finished in fifth place in the Under-13 category. Teammates Malik Buchanan, 11, and Jason Lawson, 14, also did well, finishing eighth and first in their age categories, respectively.

Jamaican AIDS activists say that while it is important to target the HIV infection rate among homosexual men, it is also crucial to focus on the incidence of HIV among teens. Jamaican teenagers are receiving increased attention in a Caribbean campaign designed to inform girls and young women about the life-changing  consequences of having unprotected sex. Jamaican girls are three times more likely to be infected with the AIDS virus in Jamaica than other populations.

Many countries allow overseas residents to hold government positions, including the United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic. The matter has been discussed in terms of the Jamaican Diaspora in the past, but nothing has ever resulted from the talks. However, as more nations widen government participation, Jamaica is revisiting the issue. Most Jamaicans believe that those living overseas should be given voting rights. There is strong opposition to giving Jamaicans living overseas representation in Parliament, however.

The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) will showcase products made in Jamaica in Birmingham in the United Kingdom under the “Things Jamaican” umbrella. According to Harold Davis, executive director of the JBDC, the products will be sold in Victoria Station in Birmingham, and most will come from micro-businesses and small entities in Jamaica that would not otherwise have exposure to the UK market.









The publication “Who’s Who in Jamaica Business” is designed to provide exposure for businesses and their leaders to potential customers. The directory is scheduled for launch later in 2012 and will allow companies to showcase what they do. The directory is being published in magazine format and will have a circulation of more than 10,000 large corporations, clients, suppliers, government agencies, foreign embassies, and various commissions.

Dalton Yap, president of the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) in Kingston and a businessman who has conducted business in Asian for many years, is telling Jamaicans to move with caution when dealing with partners overseas. When doing business with China, Yap says, it is important to do due diligence and to “let the buyer beware.” The legal system in China is based on relationships rather than contracts, as is common in the United States.

Gustavo Flamenco, the commercial director for Pepsi-Cola Jamaica Limited, has visited all the parishes in Jamaica over the past two years in his efforts to drive the company’s commercial strategy. Flamenco says that he found the island much less violent than he had expected. He had been told before coming to Jamaica that it was one of the most violent countries in the world, but coming from Guatemala, he said he feels much safer in Jamaica than in his home country.

Digicel Jamaica and LIME Jamaica have changed their rates on fixed and mobile calls to compensate for the new tax on telecoms. Dr. Peter Phillips, Jamaican Minister of Finance, imposed a five-cent per minute levy on fixed line calls and 40 cents on mobile calls from Jamaica. The tax is designed to raise J$5.25 billion to fund the national budget. Both Digicel and LIME have folded the increase into new rates and canceled several packages in response to the tax as well.








Damion Crawford, Jamaican State Minister for Tourism and Entertainment, is encouraging the country to take a stand against what he calls the arbitrary banning of Jamaican performers by member nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Crawford emphasized the need to make sure Jamaican entertainers had free movement throughout the area. He also noted his support for CARICOM overall.

Dancehall superstar Konshens was featured at Reggae Sumfest 2012 in Montego Bay, which attracted an enthusiastic audience that was not disappointed in any of the night’s performances. The concert also featured Baby Tash, Cham and Ophelia “O” Beckett, and Stacious. Sumfest 2012 provided entertainment by the most star-studded list of musicians in all of its 20-year history.

The Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet has traveled to Jamaica and performed for students at Montego Bay’s Mount Alvernia High School. The quintet is based at Western Carolina University and conducted a week-long educational tour of Jamaica meant to encourage the teaching and study of brass instruments in public schools. Six concerts were performed in Kingston and Montego Bay for over 7,000 Jamaican grade school and high school students in total.

Attendees at the Smirnoff Dream Weekend parties celebrating Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee will be able to watch coverage of the Olympics in London via live and delayed feeds from the official Broadcast Center at the Jamaica 50 Golden Jubilee Village. According to Robert Bryan, project director, the organizers want to ensure that those having fun in Negril are not left out of what is happening throughout the world. During the periods of broadcasting, the parties of the Dream Weekend can be viewed all over the world, and the Weekenders can see global events like the 2012 Olympics in return.


Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, Jamaica’s State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, is encouraging Jamaica athletes to get ready for the 2012 Olympics by registering their trademarks and protecting their intellectual property rights. Protecting intellectual property rights and ensuring that Jamaica’s laws contribute to overall economic growth of the nation should be a top priority of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), which represents a major resource for athletes seeking such protection.

Jamaican equestrian Samantha Albert has gained the attention of British media, being the only white Jamaican to be representing the island at the 2012 games. Albert, whose father is British, was born in Canada and based in the United Kingdom, but her mother is Jamaican, so she can compete for that country. Her mother still lives in Jamaica.

Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprint champion, is training in seclusion at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom to get ready for the 2012 Olympic competitions. Bolt holds the world records in both the 100 meter and 200 meter races, and he is the subject of considerable attention among watchers of the 2012 games. No one has been able to watch his training so there is much conjecture as to his condition.

Jamaican Olympic champion Usain Bolt has been declared fit to participate in the 2012 Olympic competitions in London. His Jamaican doctor, Winston Dawes, says he expects Bolt to be in top condition by the time his events begin in early August.








Standing Up for God

When God rewarded the faithfulness of the three Jewish boys by delivering them from the fiery furnace, little did they know their stand and God’s actions would transform, albeit temporarily, the Babylonians’ worship practices.

According to the narrative, after the boys’ miraculous deliverance, “Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Daniel 3:28-29, KJV). In addition, like an afterthought we learn, “Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon” (v. 30).

Have you ever wondered what transformation would take place in our homes, our schools, our churches, our businesses, our nations, if Christians everywhere stood firm on their convictions? Being a Christian can sometimes feel like swimming upstream while everybody and everything else is going downstream. It would be great if God would somehow steer us away from those situations that require having to make those seemingly tough decisions to be fair and honest; to stand up for what is right, just, and true. As societies become more secular and unashamedly opposed to absolute values of right and wrong, Christians are called upon to stay the course, to lift Jesus even higher. To sacrifice all, even one’s life if necessary.

However, God does not always steer or deliver us from challenging situations. As He did with Shedrach and his friends, He allows us to walk these difficult paths to demonstrate His power and His glory in and through us. As someone so rightly puts it, “Sometimes God calms the storm.  At other times, He calms the sailor. And sometimes He makes us swim.” One thing we are assured of is that when He makes us swim, as the fourth man in the fiery furnace was with the boys, we are never alone.

The Jewish boys’ faithfulness produced results – their deliverance, their promotion, and a change in Babylon’s worship practices. What changes does God have in store when you take a stand in your sphere of influence? Do you trust Him enough to find out even if you are the only one left standing?



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CARIBBEAN NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending July 27th, 2012

After Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, the United States took the lead among international donors pledging billions of dollars to help rebuild the nation. However, the results of a $1.8 billion U.S. reconstruction pledge are not evident. Even basic projects like providing for bottled water have not been implemented. According to critics, the reconstruction efforts of the U.S. were flawed from the start, and the plans were impacted by political instability in Haiti and a lack of coordination between Haitian and U.S. leaders.

The United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are working together in the Caribbean Regional Ocean Project to improve the management and preservation of their coasts and oceans. Daniel Galan Kercado, natural resources secretary in Puerto Rico, noted that both of the American territories will share their resources to examine marine ecosystems and to create economic plans to enhance tourism.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) says it is in complete agreement with recent activities of Dr. Kenny Anthony, prime minister of St. Lucia and CARICOM chairman, in regard to the Air Passenger Duty (APD) imposed by the United Kingdom and its effects on the Caribbean region. Anthony has said that the APD would have a negative impact on tourism in the area.

J. Emmett Duffy, professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the College of William and Mary, noted that the social shrimps he had traveled to the coral reefs of Carrie Bow Cay near Belize to study, had virtually disappeared. The shrimp had been a dominant species on the reefs for at least twenty years. Duffy and his researchers are attempting to find a reason for the disappearance of the shrimp.

Raul Castro, president of Cuba, indicated that his government would be willing to discuss various issues with the United States as long as the talks were conducted as a meeting of equals. Castrol made his remarks at the end of a Revolution Day celebration to mark the 59th anniversary of a failed uprising against a military barracks. He said no topic would be prohibited in Cuba-U.S. discussions he envisions as long as the conversation was between nations of equal status, emphasizing that Cuba is “nobody’s colony, nobody’s puppet.”

American archaeologists are continuing their three-year search for evidence of Captain Henry Morgan’s lost fleet near the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama. According to Frederick “Fritz” H. Hanselmann, underwater archaeologist and researcher at the River Systems Institute and the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University, Morgan was one of the most infamous privateers in history. Finding ships lost in 1671 is the major goal of Hanselmann’s explorations. In 2010, the team found six cannon belonging to Morgan, and in 2011, a 17th century wooden shipwreck believed to be one of Morgan’s lost ships.

Dr. Marc Panton, Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture, says Jamaicans could experience a major increase in the price of some agricultural products as the result of higher grain costs in the United States. The higher prices are not likely to be welcomed by local producers and consumers, who are already worried about cost hikes. Severe drought conditions in the U.S. are contributing to the increase in grain products. Jamaican chicken farmers will be especially impacted by the cost rise.

Jamaica has emerged as a major center for global technology. The island has relatively high penetration of high-speed Internet access, and it is leveraging the ability of its population to speak English to do business with North America. Its proximity to both North and South America is also a plus. Over 25 percent of Jamaicans are online, and 4.3 percent of those have access to high-speed Internet connections, compared to 0.8 percent in Indonesia, 0.9 percent in India, and 4.6 percent in Thailand.

Media representatives from Jamaica may be able to access athletes at a pre-Olympic camp at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. The media has been “locked out” of the camp to date. However, Donald Quarrie and Dr. Warren Blake of the JAAA said they would attempt to lift the cloud of secrecy surrounding the athletic camp.

Champion Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has been selected to carry Jamaica’s flag during the opening ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympics. Bolt said it was an honor to carry his nation’s flag and that he would do anything for his country.



CARIBBEAN TECHNOLOGY NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending July 27th, 2012

Dr. Henry Lowe, a Jamaican scientist and the executive chairman of Bio-Tech R&D Institute, has created an energy sports drink and a porridge made of sweet potatoes and yams. He plans to introduce these fortified products at the 2012 Olympics in London. The drink and porridge have already been trademarked and patented. The drink is also made from yellow yam and sweet potato, along with kola nut and is designed to enhance the metabolism to improve sport performance. Lowe says it is the only organic sports drink available in the market.

Digicel, already considered the fastest growing telecom in the Caribbean region, is now making a financial move that could position the company to expand technology for mobile banking throughout the area. M-Via, a mobile banking company based in Silicon Valley, said the Digicel Group is the leader of a US$17 million financing program. After its successful fund-raising, M-Via changed its name to Boom Financial, and according to Colm Davies, chief executive officer at Digicel Group, his firm’s investment in Boom Financial reflects belief in the company’s ability to enhance Digicel’s business in its 31 markets in the Caribbean, Central America, and the South Pacific.

Bio-Tech R&D Institute headed by Dr. Henry Lowe and the Anticancer Biotech (Beijing) Company have developed a partnership designed to explore and develop indigenous plants in Jamaica and handle technology transfer and distribution of products in China and other Asian nations. Lowe has been a life-long researcher in the field of medicinal chemistry focusing on indigenous plants on the island. He has identified bioactive molecules in several of the plants and created nine neutraceutical products and five medicinal teas in his laboratory. The partnership with the Chinese firm will allow Lowe to utilize China’s expertise in leveraging medicinal plants into the creation of wealth.

Samsung of South Korea has successfully been awarded a project to develop liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure in Jamaica. The award was announced by Jamaica’s Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Philip Paulwell. Paulwell also said that Jamaica will auction a new cell phone license and a fiber-optic license to create additional competition in the telecommunications marketplace. Samsung outbid firms from Belgium and Spain to create a floating storage regasification unit.



Ghana’s New Leader Talks Africa’s Future

By: Akoto Ofori-Atta

We caught up with John Dramani Mahama just days before tragedy propelled him into the presidency.

Editor’s note: On July 10 in New York City, The Root was honored with the opportunity to sit down with Ghana’s then-Vice President John Dramani Mahama, who was doing a book tour for his new memoir, My First Coup d’Etat: And Other True Stories From the Lost Decades of Africa. Mahama had written for The Root in the past, and we looked forward to an open and wide-ranging conversation about the lessons he has learned about Ghana’s past and future. During it, he touched on Africa’s “lost decades,” his hope for the region’s future and the role of Chinese investment in that future. As the Republic of Ghana mourns the death of President John Atta Mills, we extend our condolences and share with you a glimpse of the African nation’s interim president, to be sworn in Tuesday evening,  John Dramani Mahama. 

(The Root) — When John Dramani Mahama, who until July 24 was the vice president of the Republic of Ghana, was in class three at an elite boarding school in the late 1960s, he experienced an unforgettable encounter with a bully named Ezra. After slyly gaining the trust of his peers, Ezra, muscular and bold for his age, managed to create a system that required all students in the school to donate their mid-afternoon snacks to his private food collection, one that he would dive into after-hours without sharing. Ezra instilled so much fear in his classmates that no matter how unfair it was, everyone obliged.

Eventually, young Mahama grew tired of the snack confiscation system. He and his friends set out to plan a peaceful revolt. They would scarf down their snacks just before the time came to turn them over to Ezra. They would deliver a thoughtful speech — something about how their fathers pay their school fees, and thus, pay for their snacks. They would stand up for themselves and await the consequences.

Out of fear, his two friends dropped out at the last minute. Still, Mahama didn’t waver in his plan to defect. He ate his cake.

“Ezra released his punishment in one fell swoop. I barely felt the blow, but it landed me on the floor,” he wrote in a chapter of his new memoir, My First Coup d’Etat: And Other True Stories From the Lost Decades of Africa. “He kneed me; he gave me knocks on my head. He really maltreated me, but I did not die. I did not die.”

It was his experience with Ezra that Mahama called a true “microcosm of what was happening all throughout Africa.” From the late 1960s until the 1980s, just after Africa freed itself from the grip of European colonialism, dictators sprouted up as often as new national flags. War and poverty ravished the continent.

“Additionally, because of the economy, hardships and the brain drain of that time, the period wasn’t documented properly,” he told The Root about his reasons for chronicling this time period in his book.

In his debut memoir, Mahama is part novelist, part historian and part ethnographer, weaving his life’s story with the history of Africa’s first independent country. Mahama spoke toThe Root about those “lost decades,” why Chinese investment in Ghana is critical for this period of history, or what he casually called the “found decades,” and why countries in North Africa can learn from their sub-Saharan neighbors.

The Root: What is so urgent about touching on what you coined the “lost decades”? What insights can we glean from that time in history that would apply today?

John Dramani Mahama: A lot of people who have written about Africa write about the precolonial struggle for independence, or postcolonial period. [But the "lost decades"] was the period that set the stage and created a platform for the progress that we’re seeing today. We learned from experiences of the coups d’état, from the droughts and from the brutality of the era. So [now] there is a strong sense of protecting human rights in Africa today. A strong sense of [the value] of a constitutional government. A strong sense of rule of law. So the era was a catalyst for the improvements we’re seeing today.

TR: You write about Ezra, a school bully from your childhood, and how your experience with him served as a microcosm of what was happening around Ghana. How have you resisted other Ezras and bullies in your career?

JDM: At the time, there were really horrible dictators ruling in Africa. I used Ezra’s story to show that in our own little ways, by defying and resisting such bullies, we could create a better society for our people. And that is what began to happen in Africa. Ordinary people — who were normally powerless, helpless and unarmed — resisted. Uganda’s Idi Amin died in exile. Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko had to run and died in exile. People rose up and found their voices again. And when people come together and speak up as a collective, there is nothing that can stop the power of the people. Everybody who has read that story has identified their own bullies in their lives. Everyone has an Ezra in their life, but one must be able to build up courage and say, enough is enough, I won’t take this anymore.

TR: Resistance seems to be a major theme in your book. If we consider what has happened in North Africa over the last year, what do you think the role of resistance will be in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming years?

JDM: Sub-Saharan Africa has made that transition already. People look at the Arab Spring and ask when is it going to happen in sub-Saharan Africa, but it’s happened already. Sub-Saharan Africa has transitioned to democracy, to elections and to good governance as a rule of law. So I think a more accurate question would be what influence has sub-Saharan Africa had on the Arab world?

TR: If it’s not resistance from a political standpoint, are there any social issues that might stir up some resistance? Perhaps with gay, women’s or children’s rights?

JDM: The environment that exists currently makes it impossible for the kind of ruthless human rights abuses that happened in the past to happen again. When you have a situation where people can speak up, where you have a free and independent media, then often even if there is some violation of human rights, people will speak up. Cultures do take a while to change. And so in that sense resistance is advocacy, public education and awareness creation. That’s what you need to change people’s worldviews about certain things.

TR: In your book, you touch on how passionate you are about class struggle, and you’ve long been touted as a champion of the underdog. How does Ghana’s expanding relationship with China aid you in that cause?

JDM: Ghana has received phenomenal assistance from China. Currently, we are processing a loan of $3 billion for strategic investments in key sectors of the economy. For instance, we are expanding the ports in order to accommodate the traffic that is a result of the new oil and gas industry that is growing in the Western region. We are financing the construction of a power plant for power generation. We are building marine-landing sites all along the coast to improve conditions for fishermen.

All of this was made possible by Chinese investment. The money is being invested strategically in the way that not only accelerates the growth of the economy, but also creates jobs to accommodate the teeming of our young people that are just coming out of school at different levels of the educational chain. So especially in terms of creating jobs for people, especially for the youth, it’s a good thing.

TR: What would you say to African Americans who might be concerned about Chinese investment in Africa?

JDM: [I would say Chinese investment] is necessary. Because of the global financial crisis, our traditional partners have been worse. Naturally, we have a relationship with Europe because of our colonial relationship. But because of the financial crisis in the developed countries, the kind of assistance that African countries need to accelerate their economies, they are finding it difficult to get it from the West. If anything at all, you’ll get it in dribs and drabs, and that is not sufficient enough for the kind of investment we need.

And we’re turning not only toward China, but to all the emerging economies. Brazil is one. India is one. Even Russia is one. It’s a matter of necessity. I mean, we need $3 billion for infrastructure development and we just can’t get it from the West. So you turn to where you can get it.

The important thing is proper negotiation with whoever is investing, whether it’s China or America. And certainly I don’t look at the color or nationality of who gives us assistance. The issue is that we need that investment and you must negotiate that investment properly. So that’s what we’ve done. As long as you’re using the assistance productively, then you can use that revenue to pay back the loan over a period.

TR: If the 1960s to the 1980s are the “lost decades,” then what would you call this period?

JDM: The “found decades.” Ha. Africans are more conscious now. They are willing to speak up. There is a strong civil society. So if you juxtapose these two periods, then we have definitely found our way.

Akoto Ofori-Atta is The Root‘s assistant editor and is Ghanaian American.

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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in African News


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Survey Finds Big Drop in Sexual Activity Among Black Teens

But overall, U.S. teens of all racial, ethnic groups as sexually active as a decade ago

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

Black teenagers in the United States have become much less sexually active over the past two decades, and those who do have sex appear to be more likely to use condoms, a new survey has found.

The declines are “dramatic,” said report author Laura Kann, who studies adolescent health for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The numbers don’t disclose anything about why black teens might have changed their behavior. “This tells us what kids do, but not why,” Kann said.

Overall, teens of all racial and ethnic groups are about as sexually active as they were a decade ago. And the rate of condom use by teens — just six in 10 used them the last time they had sex — hasn’t changed much since the 1990s.

By contrast, the numbers for black teens are strikingly different. The percentage who reported ever having sex fell from 82 percent in 1991 to 60 percent in 2011. Kann said the numbers coincide with drops in teen pregnancy and births.

Increased education about HIV/AIDS among blacks, leadership in the black community and a public health focus on black Americans could explain the change, Kann said.

The new CDC teen-sex survey also reveals that:

  • The percentages of students who’ve had sex have remained fairly stable over the last 20 years for Hispanic students (49 percent in 2011) and whites (44 percent in 2011).
  • Overall, 47 percent of all teens surveyed said they’d ever had sex, down from 54 percent in 1991. The rate has barely changed since 2001.
  • About one-third of students said they’d had sex within the past three months, and 15 percent said they’d had sex with four or more partners.
  • The percentage of sexually active teens who use condoms grew from 46 percent in 1991 to 60 percent in 2011, although the number hasn’t changed much in recent years. Black teens are more likely to use condoms: their rate is 65 percent.

The recent stabilization of condom use could have something to do with less focus on HIV, which has largely become a treatable disease, Kann said. Also, “the percentage of high school students overall who have had HIV education has dropped since 1997. That hasn’t helped any either.”

The new survey results come from the CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of students in grades 9 through 12 from both public and private schools. About 15,000 students take the surveys each year.

Jennifer Manlove, area director of Fertility and Family Structure with the Child Trends advocacy group in Washington, D.C., said the survey shows that much of the evolution toward less sexual activity occurred in the 1990s, even among black teens.

“There’s been a little bit more since 2000, but not really that much. The big news in the 1990s was the real focus on the AIDS epidemic and a lot of attention given to that,” she said.

Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, said the study “is a mix of good news and persistent causes for concern.”

Nearly half of teens in this country are still sexually active, “and a third or more (of those) did not use condoms most recently,” he said. “This means that a very large population of our young people remains vulnerable to all of the perils of unprotected sex, HIV included. So this report is not a cause for celebration. It tells of a job that can be done when we address it well, and of a mission far from accomplished that deserves our more devoted attention.”

He added: “No child should get HIV because our society is squeamish about the readily available means of preventing that.”

The survey findings were scheduled to be released Tuesday at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., and published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in African American Health


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Many Colorado Shooting Victims Have No Health Insurance

By Associated Press
Aurora Victims health insurance

DENVER — Some of the victims fighting for their lives after being wounded in the movie-theater shooting rampage may face another challenge when they get out of the hospital: enormous medical bills without the benefit of health insurance.

Members of the public, along with Warner Bros., the studio that released the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” have contributed nearly $2 million to help victims, though it’s not clear how much of that will cover medical expenses. One family is raising money on its own online.

And three of the five hospitals treating victims said Wednesday they will limit or completely wipe out medical bills.

Some of the victims, however, still face a long recovery ahead and the associated Aurora Victims health insurance

medical costs – without health insurance. There’s no exact count of how many of them don’t have insurance but statistics suggest many of them might not be covered.

Nearly one in three Coloradans, or about 1.5 million, either have no health insurance or have coverage that is inadequate, according to a 2011 report by The Colorado Trust, a health care advocacy group.

The highest uninsured rate was among adults between 18 and 34 and many of those injured in the shootings are in that age group.

State officials said they are not sure whether any of the victims qualify for emergency Medicaid assistance available to needy patients. Victims could also get financial assistance from a state program that helps people hurt during crimes, including lost wages and counseling.

Among the uninsured victims of the movie-theater attack is a 23-year-old aspiring comic, Caleb Medley, who is in critical condition with a head wound and whose wife, Katie (pictured above with baby), gave birth to their first child, Hugo, on Tuesday.

His family and friends said they have set a goal of raising $500,000 to cover his hospital bills and other expenses and were over halfway there on Wednesday.

“All the money that is donated is going straight to Caleb, Katie and Hugo to help them with medical bills, getting back on their feet, help with the baby items,” friend Michael West said. “Anything and everything that they need.”

Children’s Hospital Colorado announced it would use donations and its charity care fund to cover the medical expenses of the uninsured. For those who do have insurance, the hospital says it will waive all co-pays.

“We are committed to supporting these families as they heal,” according to a statement from the hospital, which treated six shooting victims.

HealthOne, which owns the Medical Center of Aurora and Swedish Medical Center, also says it will limit or eliminate charges based on the individual circumstances of the patients. Those hospitals have treated 22 shooting victims. However, the company cautioned its policy may not apply to all doctors working in its hospitals.

The other two hospitals, Denver Health Medical Center and University of Colorado Hospital, where Medley is, wouldn’t directly say whether they would assist shooting victims. However, they are the state’s top two safety net hospitals and provided combined $750 million in free care in 2011.

Hospitals are required by federal law to stabilize patients during emergencies without regard to their ability to pay.

“The issue most probably facing the hospitals and patients in a situation like Aurora is what comes after `stabilization,’” said Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and a frequent critic of excessive medical costs.

“Many of these people I assume will need prolonged and expensive rehabilitation after their immediate injuries are dealt with, and that seems precisely what hospitals today are less and less willing to cover out of their own funds, and no law requires that they do so, as far as I am aware,” he said.

Medley is in a medically induced coma, but West said he has been showing signs of improvement, relying less on a ventilator to breathe. Medley’s wife, 21-year-old Katie Medley, gave birth on Tuesday, one floor above his room at University of Colorado Hospital.

Standup comedian Gabriel Iglesias, who has appeared on Comedy Central, planned to headline a Denver fundraiser for Medley next week.

The fundraising might actually make Medley ineligible for some income-related assistance. His family and all other victims are already meeting with victim advocates, the case workers who deal with people hurt during crimes. The advocates determine what services they need and what assistance they qualify for.

“We have individuals who will need a lifetime of care, or a lifetime of accommodation, and our job is to make sure those needs are met,” said Karla Maraccini, deputy director for community partnerships in the office of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in African American Health



Law to protect Congo indigenous peoples

The Republic of Congo is set to become the first country in Africa to provide specific legal protection for its indigenous peoples.

“We are looking forward to the adoption of this law because we know it will change many things, especially with regard to our emancipation,” Jean Ganga, chairman of the Association for the Protection and Promotion of Indigenous Peoples.

Almost seven years in gestation, the government-backed bill was passed by both the senate and national assembly in late December and will take effect once signed into law by the president.

Indigenous people, some of whom are known as Pygmies, make up about 10 percent of Congo’s population and live in almost all regions of the country.

The new law aims to counter their chronic marginalization, manifested in their exclusion from the education system and high levels of illiteracy, and lack of access to state services such as health facilities.

“With this Act, indigenous people will be protected and enjoy the same rights as the Bantu. They will cease to be [treated as] subhuman. In the past the Africans in South Africa experienced a state of slavery, as blacks did in the United States. It was the same for Congo’s indigenous people. The new law will change all this,” said Joseph Kignoumbi Kia Mboungou, a deputy and senior official in parliament.

“This legislation is a major innovation, a revolution in the rights of indigenous people and the Bantu. It corrects the wrongs that were in place,” Valentin Mavoungou, director of human rights at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, told IRIN.

“The law mandates punishment and fines against anyone who uses indigenous persons as slaves,” said Roch Euloge Nzobo, programme manager of the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights (OHCHR).

He explained that the law was so long in the making partly because of certain “prominent people, mainly politicians, who believe that indigenous people should not have the same rights as others and they should continue using them as slaves. But the law prohibits slavery and servitude.”

An independent United Nations human rights expert has also welcomed the new law, calling it a “significant” step in ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples.

“This law is the first of its kind on the African continent, and it provides an important example of a good practice in the region for the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples,” James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said in a statement.

“This marks a significant step in recognizing and protecting the rights of marginalized indigenous peoples of the country, including groups such as the Baaka, Mbendjele, Mikaya, Luma, Gyeli, Twa and Babongo, which collectively have been known as Pygmies,” he added.

Source: IRIN News and UN News 

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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in African News



Curly Girl Collective Sparks Educational Revolution, One Head at a Time

With communal learning around natural hair, Curly Girl Collective is a model for Black communities, organizations.


In spring of last year at Chelsea Modern in Manhattan, Tracey Coleman stood in front of dozens of women to talk about the beginnings of the natural hair bonding and networking organization, Curly Girl Collective. Frizzy strands of her afro looked as if she’d been dancing or — as would have been more likely — as if other women had been running curious, manicured fingers through her curls. It was a seemingly endless email chain between friends, she explained, that spurred the idea to host events for natural-haired women. The friends — who stretched across the U.S. and parts of Africa and Europe  — helped each other troubleshoot issues and give advice.

“We did that all day, everyday, for weeks,” Coleman said at the event, titled Collective Expressions: A Celebration of Textured Beauty. Later she alluded to the volume of questions women have when they cut all their chemically-altered hair off, or transition. “We wanted to find, to connect more people together in a larger setting, hence this event.” And then she waved her hand like a fairy godmother.

In one area of the packed room, a dry erase board with block letters that read “I love my hair because,” drove women to give their testimonials; there were no questions this time. Only affirmations. The transition, so to speak, of the Collective as an email list for questions and answers to a full-fledged network of young women in direct contact with each other, in many ways illustrates natural hair’s increased popularity in the past 10 years.

But perhaps the most significant component of the cultural revolution is a more subtle study in socio-anthropological behavior. What the organization embraces, and what we are witnessing across the ever-expanding spectrum of natural hair, is the democratization of education and learning. For women who straightened and chemically altered their hair since childhood, the prospect of wearing one’s natural look in adulthood can be a daunting one. That’s partially why CGC’s model mirrors the manifesto of Skillshare, the New York-based company that allows anyone to sign up to teach almost anything to anyone who wants to learn it. Its manifesto,”The future belongs to the curious,” means this communal-based education — not traditional institutions — will eventually change the way the world learns.


Sites like NappturalityCurly Nikki and Black Girl With Long Hair offer free information and CGC’s events offer free tutorials and samples to help women on their journey.

What do black women know that other black institutions and communities can learn from?

“For years, a large percentage of women have shied away from the idea of natural hair,” public relations director Charisse Higgins, part of a team seeking to expand CGC’s offerings, programs and corporate sponsorships. “To date, society has still not fully embraced natural black hair. The media has worked its hands into shaping what they believe beautiful is. CGC plans to dispel that stigma [because] celebration of natural hair is at the forefront.”

Compelled Collectively

Six women — Higgins, Coleman, Gia Lowe, Simone Mair, Melody Henderson and Julienne Brown — started Curly Girl Collective. For Brown, natural hair wasn’t an easy sell. Her awakening came when she saw natural styles her friends were wearing that she liked.

“It’s easier to adjust to your hair when you know what it takes,” Brown says, adding that for some women, the temptation to go back to a relaxer is too great. “There’s a huge YouTube community, there are bloggers that share regimens, everyday women documenting their journeys. It’s how you know what to do to help women get through those days to get them off the ledge.”

CGC now reaches over 8,000 women through its network. “The fear is you don’t know what it will look like,” Brown says. “I was conditioned that every 4-6 weeks I would go to the Dominicans to get a wrap. I was dependent on a chemical to be acceptable in the workplace, to peers, to men. That was how I identified beauty.”

A Political Consideration?

Whereas afros and the natural look carried with them something of a socio-political statement in the 60’s and 70’s, most natural-haired black women today enjoy a far more jovial and communal hair experience. You could argue this shift reflects elevation within the social strata, that an embrace of one’s natural beauty and a rejection of the stigma associated with changing one’s appearance to be more acceptable is a political one within itself. Higgins agrees. But she also calls it fun.

“These days, we’d like to think that the decision to wear our hair natural, relaxed, or in a weave is about the freedom of choice, not a political statement,” Higgins says. “But when certain hairstyles can still prevent women from reaching the top of the corporate ladder — you’d be hard-pressed to find a high-ranking politician with dreadlocks — we can’t help but think we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Christine Sanders, a D.C.-based public relations professional who went natural three years ago, says it’s not a political statement for 90 percent of the women who do it. “Before I cut it off I would ask women whose hair I liked what products they used,” she says. “It’s a difficult process women are really attached to their hair and for some it can be a hard adjustment.”

Inclusion (for men, too)

In late summer/early fall, CGC will host an panel comprised of relationship bloggers. The idea, the organization says, it to allow men will have a platform to talk openly about natural hair and other related topics. Organizers say it’s in keeping with their philosophy that ideas and opinions be shared by women and men alike.

“You’ll be surprised to see how many of our friends and acquaintances have become experts on their own natural hair and look fabulous while rocking it,” Higgins says. “That’s the beauty of our community. Women are willing to help and be supportive. It was nerve-racking for many of us to start this journey. It still isn’t the norm, but feeling comfortable and beautiful in your own skin definitely feels empowering and should be celebrated, and CGC provides that platform through its events.

“Our goal isn’t to force women into ‘going natural’ or to change their beauty regimen to meet our messaging, but we want to celebrate women who may have otherwise felt ignored, offer a space that allows these women to interact and to educate them when possible.”

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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in African American News


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‘Masculinity Myth’ Obscures Men’s Juggling Stress

By Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers

WeNews commentators


Work-family imbalance stories focus on women, but men these days are juggling the roles of partner, earner and parent just as much. We need more recognition of this fact to get employers to take this issue more seriously.

Credit: Let Ideas Compete on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

(WOMENSENEWS)–Will we ever get sensible work-family policies on the front burner of American politics and policy?

Not as long as we see this as a “men versus women” or a “women versus women” battle.

Not as long as we pretend that women at work are frantic, exhausted creatures just longing to be home, while men are cool, composed and happy as clams as they work endless hours.

Not as long as we don’t recognize that work-family stress is an equal opportunity plague that hurts men just as much as women.

More, in fact.

Despite the seemingly perennial articles about women opting out of work because it’s just too stressful for them not to be home with the kids, there’s data on men crying out for more attention.

In 2011, the New York City-based Families and Work Institute reported for the first time that American men now suffer more work-life conflict than women.

Even though many women work and contribute to the family income, the report says that “men have retained the ‘traditional Male Mystique’–the pressure to be the primary financial providers for their families.” At the same time, they don’t want to be the distant dads of the 1950s.

“Men today view the ‘ideal’ man as someone who is not only successful as a financial provider, but is also involved as a father, husband-partner and son. Yet flat earnings, long hours, increasing job demands, blurred boundaries between work and home life and declining job security all contribute to the pressures men face to succeed at work and at home and thus to work-family conflict,” said the report.

In a 2008 national survey of 3,500 employees, including 1,298 men, the Families and Work Institute found that 60 percent of men in dual-earner couples reported work-family conflict, up from 35 percent in 1977. Among the roughly equal number of women, the percentages rose much less, from 41 percent to 47 percent.

Updating Gender Images

Since the 1980s women have been seen as the big jugglers of work-and-family roles, but now it’s time to update that gender image. Today men are also juggling the often conflicting roles of parent, partner and earner.

Because the role of the worker is so closely tied to the male stereotype, few researchers have focused on the centrality of men’s family roles to their mental and physical health.

Most studies of the sources of men’s stress-related mental and physical ailments focus exclusively on workplace stressors. But there is also a significant amount of other data indicating that for men, parenting and partnering have at least as much to do with their well-being.

Here is what Rosalind Barnett and her colleagues found in a research sample of 300 full-time employed dual-earner couples:

  • The strongest predictor of the fathers’ physical ailments was a concern about their relationships with their children. Neither problems at work nor concerns about their marriages predicted stress-related health problems. However, if they were having problems with their children, they reported symptoms such as insomnia, lower back pain and fatigue.
  • The quality of the men’s marriages was strongly associated with psychological distress. The better the relationship, the fewer mental-health symptoms they reported. The strength of this association was the same for men and women. Troubled marital relationships are bad for your mental health, whether you are male or female.
  • Rewarding parenting experiences were linked to low psychological distress. Once again, this linkage was as strong for fathers as for mothers. Counter to prevailing stereotypes, there was no evidence that parenting experiences affected women’s mental health more than that of the men.

For fathers, a good relationship with their children is extremely important. Yet, just as for mothers, society is not structured to permit an easy fit between parenting and work. For example, fathers’ wishes to be engaged in their children’s lives often run afoul of rigid school and work schedules. In a sample of 53 employed married fathers, Barnett and her team found that when these schedules meshed well, fathers reported high job satisfaction and few psychological problems. When they conflicted, fathers reported low job satisfaction and many more such mental-health problems.

Search for Flexibility

For many, if not most, fathers (and mothers) rigid workplace hours severely limit the investments they can make in their children’s lives. The search for workplace flexibility is leading some professionals to make novel career choices.

Consider, for instance, the growing acceptance of part-time work about among physicians. In 2011, 22 percent of surveyed male doctors and 44 percent of female doctors worked less than full time, up from 7 percent of men and 29 percent of women in 2005, according to a survey conducted by Cejka Search, a physician search firm based in St. Louis, and the American Medical Group Association, which represents multi-specialty practices.

The survey covered 14,366 physicians in 80 practices of varying sizes. In response to a growing demand for shorter work hours, 75 percent of practice groups in 2011 offered a four-day workweek and 30 percent allowed job sharing.

In 2006 concerns over increased turnover spurred the American Medical Group Association and Cejka Search to survey more than 90 American Medical Group Association groups nationwide. High among the reasons the doctors gave for leaving their jobs was “work pressure and hours incompatible with quality lifestyle.”

Hospitals and practices are learning that offering part-time options is a good strategy for recruiting and retaining good physicians, male and female alike.

All employers will do well to do the same because work-family stress is a fact of life for all employees. If employers want a satisfied work force, they need to offer policies and practices that enable their workers to do their jobs and nurture their family relationships.

Rosalind Barnett is senior scientist at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and Caryl Rivers is professor of journalism at Boston University. They are the authors of “The Truth About Girls and Boys” from Columbia University Press.

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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in African American News


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Nolan Williams, Jr. Tapped by State Department for Cultural Envoy Mission to Cairo

by (Lafayette Barnes)
Nolan Williams, Jr. Tapped by State Department for Cultural Envoy Mission to Cairo


American songwriter, producer and musicologist Nolan Williams, Jr. has been invited by the US State Department to lead an ensemble of nine singers on tour to Cairo, Egypt. The NEWorks Inspirational Voices will represent the United States as cultural envoys singing for the Fifth Annual Sufi and Chanting Festival, an international festival sponsored by Egypt’s Ministry of Culture.


The Sufi and Chanting Festival annually highlights various Muslim and Christian musical traditions from across the Middle East and the wider Muslim world, including India, Pakistan, Spain, Indonesia and Turkey.  The festival will kick off with a spectacular opening ceremony on Saturday, July 29 celebrating the holy month of Ramadan.


According to Williams, “When I first received an email from a State Department official  inquiring if I would be interested in this tour I was absolutely thrilled, to say the least.  I had long hoped to become connected with their cultural exchange programs and had planned to one day apply.  It is gratifying to know the work that I have been doing has raised a level of attention that incited this prestigious invitation.”


Indeed, Williams’ work speaks for itself.  Williams is chief music editor of the best-selling African American Heritage Hymnal and is regarded as a leading authority on African American sacred music.  During the spring term of this year, he served as visiting professor at Dartmouth College teaching a course he designed on these traditions. Last year, Williams coordinated music for the Dedication Ceremony of the MLK National Memorial, including the 75-voice choir formed especially for the occasion.  And, earlier this year, Williams, along with his Voices of Inspiration, kicked off The White House tribute to African American History month in February–marking their fourth invitation to perform at the executive mansion since President Obama came into office.


For the State Department’s Bureau of Exchange and Cultural Affairs [EOC], Williams was a natural selection.  And, he will be joined by an impressive roster of singers including soprano Nova Tate, 2012 Helen Hayes Award winner for Best Supporting Actress in Signature Theatre’s production of Hairspray, Washington National Opera soprano Samantha McElhaney, and Gospel recording artist Vanessa Williams. The full roster of NEWorks Inspirational Voices is: Nova Tate, Samantha McElhaney, Vanessa Williams, Dennis Sawyers, Victoria Purcell, Byron Nichols, Danton Whitley, Iyona Blake, and Joy Swafford.


Together, Williams and the NEWorks Inspirational Voices will be engaged in three major performances during the festival itself as well as multiple master classes, students workshops and media outreach events.  According to the State Department EOC, their visit is purposed to “promote mutual understanding, [building] trust among Egyptians of American respect for Islam (particularly among the newly empowered Islamists who swept the last elections), and [introducing gospel music as] an important and unique form of the American culture.”


In a statement, Rhonda Dallas, Executive Director of the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council, says, “It is part of the mission of PGAHC to support arts programming that fosters inter-cultural understanding.  We are excited to partner with Nolan Williams and NEWorks as the arts organization partner for this historic tour.”


Throughout their tour, Williams and NEWorks will blog and tweet about their experience.  Interested persons can follow them via Twitter @neworkspro and on Facebook at


The envoys depart for Cairo this coming Thursday, July 26 returning August 5.

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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in African American News


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Mercury Levels in Fish

RTWT has been eating a lot of Salmon (3-4 times a week). I was curious if Salmon was on the High Mercury list. It turns out that Salmon is on the lowest. “Enjoy two 6-oz servings per week.” Here is list for those of you interested.

Salmon close-up - Nigiri Sushi, Hosomaki - Uta Sushi BarWe know that fish can be very nutritious and are packed with great nutrients such as omega-3’s, the B vitamins and lean protein. But unfortunately, fish can also have some unhealthy contaminants.Mercury is a contaminant found in fish that can affect brain development and the nervous system. The FDA has released guidelines for children, women who are pregnant and women who are trying to become pregnant. These guidelines state that no more than 12 oz of low mercury fish should be consumed weekly. “Highest” mercury fish should be avoided and “high” mercury fish should be kept to only three 6-oz servings per month.

Find a Nutritionist in your area

What does this mean for women who are pregnant but also trying to get some of their much needed nutrients from the critters of the sea? It is all about moderation. Recent information released in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says that no one should cut fish out of their diet altogether. Fish contains too many healthy nutrients that are essential for growth and development, especially in a pregnant mom and baby. There are 4 types of fish that should be on the list to avoid due to mercury levels. These include: shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish.

For information regarding other types of fish, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released a list of fish and their mercury levels so that people can be informed on what they are consuming. If you want to get more detailed information about mercury levels and how much you personally are consuming, you can also use the mercury thermometer to calculate your totals.

Highest Mercury

AVOID Eating

  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Mackerel (king)
  • Tuna ( bigeye, Ahi)

High Mercury

Eat no more than three 6-oz servings per month

  • Sea Bass (Chilean)
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Mackeral ( Spanish, Gulf)
  • Tuna (canned, white albacore) See tuna chart below
  • Tuna ( Yellowfin)

Lower Mercury

Eat no more than six 6-oz servings per month

  • Bass ( Striped, Black)
  • Carp
  • Cod ( Alaskan)
  • Croaker ( White Pacific)
  • Halibut ( Pacific and Atlantic) Jacksmelt ( Silverside)
  • Lobster
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Perch (freshwater)
  • Sablefish
  • Skate
  • Snapper
  • Sea Trout ( Weakfish)
  • Tuna (canned, chunk light)
  • Tuna (Skipjack)

Lowest Mercury

Enjoy two 6-oz servings per week

  • Anchovies
  • Butterfish
  • Catfish
  • Clam
  • Crab (Domestic)
  • Crawfish/crayfish
  • Croaker
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Herring
  • Mackeral (N Atlantic, Chub)
  • Mullet
  • Oysters
  • Perch (ocean)
  • Plaice
  • Salmon ( Canned, Fresh)
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Shad ( American)
  • Shrimp
  • Sole
  • Squid ( Calamari)
  • Tilapia
  • Trout (freshwater)
  • Whitefish
  • Whiting

Chart obtained from the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC); data obtained by the FDA and the EPA.

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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in African American Health


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Olympic swimmer on mission to reduce drowning deaths among African-Americans

By Jessica Hopper
Rock Center

Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones describes the pool as feeling like “home,” but it wasn’t always that way.  After nearly drowning as a 5-year-old child, Jones learned to swim and has made it his mission to reduce the startling number of drowning deaths among African-American children each year.

“I remember what it feels like to be underwater and I remember what it feels like to be helpless,” said Jones of the time he nearly drowned at a water park.  “I was underwater, I couldn’t breathe…and then I completely passed out.”

Now 28 years old, the freestyle sprinter is gearing up for the London Olympics after winning a gold medal four years ago in Beijing. While Jones’ swimming talent is remarkable, his near drowning experience is not.  A study by the University of Memphis and the USA Swimming organization showed that around 70 percent of African-American children don’t know how to swim, compared to about 40 percent of white children.  African-American children between the ages of five and 14 are three times more likely than other children to drown, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention.

When the African-American Jones first learned these numbers a few years ago, he was shocked.

“I am also one of the statistics, because I almost drowned.  It seems like everything in my life was written on that page,” Jones said in an interview scheduled to air Thursday, July 26 at 10pm/9c on NBC.

Jones still vividly remembers the moment he almost died.  He and his parents had left their New Jersey home for a day of fun at Pennsylvania’s Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom.  But at one point, his inner tube flipped over and he was underwater for 30 seconds.

“So I was holding on to this inner tube and I’m, like, flailing,” he said.

“My parents told me I was clinically dead,” Jones said.  “My mom was in tears.  My dad was trying to console her and the lifeguard was giving me CPR.”

Lifeguards performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to bring Jones back to life.  Jones’ mother, Debra, watched in horror. She couldn’t swim and was unable to help her son.  After nearly losing her only child, she decided to put Jones in swim classes within the week.

Jones now travels the country with the Make a Splash Initiative, recounting his story to minority kids in hopes that he can raise the number of minority swimmers and consequently reduce the amount of drowning deaths.

Study shows fear of drowning keeps African-Americans out of water

 When Jones learned the most common reason African-American children don’t know how to swim, he was stunned.

“We always thought this was an income thing and then we started talking to more and more people.  It’s the fear aspect.  You have parents that have had traumatic instances in their lives and they project it onto their children and then they treat the water life fire-[it’s] hot, stay away,” Jones said.

University of Memphis Professor Carol Irwin conducted the first ever study on minorities and swimming.  When she and her team began their research, she heard many reasons for why some African-Americans don’t know how to swim.  The reasons ranged from the cost of lessons to access to pools to the worry some African-American women have about getting straightened hair wet.

But the overwhelming  reason  was fear of drowning.  According to the study, that fear is keeping many African-American parents from putting their kids in swimming classes and that ultimately puts more kids at risk to drown.

“It has been a legacy of fear.  Parents have passed it down generation after generation and that came out loud and clear in our focus groups because we’d have grandmothers and mothers sitting right next to each other, you know, mother and daughter, and we’d find out that the grandmother didn’t allow the mother to learn how to swim because she was fearful herself,” Irwin said.

Shreveport drowning tragedy a ‘wake-up call’

Tragic drowning incidents, both those seen in the news and experienced personally,perpetuate the fear of water among some African-Americans.

The drowning deaths of six African-American teenagers in Shreveport, La., in 2010 prompted Jones to fight harder in his mission to promote minority swimming.

“When I heard about the Louisiana drownings, I was actually at a swim meet.  It was right before my 50-freestyle and my heart was so heavy that day,” Jones said.

In August 2010, a group of teenagers headed to the Red River to cool off from the Louisiana heat.  Three of the teens, Latrell, Latevin and Ladarius, were Rena and Willie Blalock’s sons.

“All of the kids are really basically close,” an emotional Rena Blalock said.  “They spent a lot of time with each other.”

The brothers went with a group of siblings from another family to the Red River. Rena Blalock was at work and her husband was out of town.

Within minutes of arriving, a friend of the boys went wading into the river, but he got into trouble after he suddenly slipped into deep water.  He panicked.  Each of the Blalock couple’s sons tried to save their friend. They drowned, and so did  three teenagers from another family-Takeitha, JaMarcus and JaTavious Warner.

The Blalocks said that their sons did have swimming skills, but many of the adults present at the river could not swim.

“It’s a wake-up call for people to know how to swim because if somebody is in trouble drowning, maybe you could help and, you know, it’d save another family from the pain that we had to suffer and go through,” said Rena Blalock.

For Jones, what happened in Louisiana serves as a constant reminder of why swimming for him is more than just a sport.

“It is so much bigger.  You’re saving your child’s life by giving them swim lessons,” he said.

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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in African American Health


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African-American Education Office: Obama Announces White House Initiative On Educational Excellence

Africanamerican Education Office

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is creating a new office to bolster education of African-American students.

The White House says the office will coordinate the work of communities and federal agencies to ensure that African-American youngsters are better prepared for high school, college and career.

Obama is announcing his election-year initiative Wednesday night in a speech to the civil rights group the National Urban League as he seeks to rally black voters. Aides say his executive order, to be signed Thursday, will set a goal of producing “a more effective continuum” of programs for African-American students.

The president announced his election-year initiative, the first-ever White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, in remarks to the civil rights group National Urban League Convention Wednesday as he sought to rally black voters.

Aides told the Associated Press that the executive order, to be signed Thursday, will set a goal of producing “a more effective continuum” of programs for African-American students.

In his remarks Wednesday, Obama said he is creating the office “so that 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.” From his speech:

And that’s why we’re pushing all colleges and universities to cut their costs. Because we can’t keep asking taxpayers to subsidize skyrocketing tuition. A higher education in the 21st century cannot be a luxury. It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford. I want all these young people to be getting a higher education, and I don’t want them loaded up with tens of thousands of dollars of debt just to get an education. That’s how we make America great.




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