April 07, 2016
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA News Wire Columnist
I was thrilled to hear that there would be a hearing on Capitol Hill regarding the human rights situation in the Western Sahara. The “Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission,” co-chaired by Congressman Joseph Pitts and Congressman James McGovern, along with Commission member Congressman John Conyers, hosted the discussion March 23rd. This was quite important in light of the pathetic media coverage of the on-going and illegal Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara and the human rights abuses carried out by the occupying forces. Morocco has occupied most of the Western Sahara, since it invaded the territory shortly after the Spanish withdrew in 1975.
There were two things quite noticeable about the hearing, despite its many strengths. There were four presenters, each of who gave compelling testimony emphasizing the illegality of the occupation and the abuse of the indigenous—Sahrawi—population by the Moroccans. Yet the presenters–Kerry Kennedy, the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group, Francesco Bastagli, the former Special representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara of the United Nations, Eric Goldstein, the deputy director MENA Division of Human Rights Watch, and Erik Hagen, the chair of the Western Sahara Resource Watch—were all White. Don’t get me wrong. The presentations were all compelling and warranted. Yet, I found myself wondering why there were no Africans or African Americans making the case in addition to these white specialists.
The second noticeable feature of the meeting was that the meeting itself, with certain noticeable exceptions, e.g., Congressman John Conyers some representatives and supporters of the Sahrawi liberation movement (Polisario), were very White. Perhaps I should put it another way. There were very few African Americans present in the room. I kept looking for other members of the Congressional Black Caucus to stick their heads into the room as an expression of solidarity, but that did not happen. Perhaps they sent their staff? Perhaps there was something else transpiring? In either case, the lack of an African American presence was more than noticeable, at least to me.
Throughout the history of people of African descent in North America, there has always been a constituency that has concerned itself with developments in Africa. Sometimes such individuals (and groups) have been inspired by religion, while at other times by politics and economics. In the more recent past TransAfrica emerged in the late 1970s as an institution launched through the work of the Congressional Black Caucus as a means of bringing national attention to matters facing Africa and the African Diaspora. Similar organizations, such as those that would in the early 2000s constitute Africa Action, followed a similar path.
Today, the weakness and/or non-existence of such organizations is evident in the void found in hearings such as the March 23rd examination of the situation in the Western Sahara. This is a void that needs to be filled and it needs to be filled by progressive Black organizations and individuals lest it is filled by those who—even in wearing a black skin—have nefarious objectives on the Continent.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. He is also a talk show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.
March 31, 2016
By James Clingman
While Black people are bogged down in shallow and meaningless political discourse, our vaunted Black organizations continue to be M.I.A. except for their time in front of the cameras with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They say they cannot endorse candidates, but we all know that’s a sham.
In an article written by Freddie Allen of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Marc Morial said the nine Black organizations that met with the candidates wanted to “provide to every candidate who is running for president of the United States, be they Republican or Democrat, the opportunity to hear from us on issues of civil rights, social justice, and economic justice in America, today.” Any real demands made on our behalf?
Al Sharpton said, “For the first time in American history, we will watch a Black family leave the White House and we do not want to see the concerns of Blacks leave with them.” So, that’s where our concerns have been hibernating for the past seven years; and all this time I thought Sharpton and the POTUS were taking care of them.
And, I suppose to give comfort to Clinton and Sanders, Morial said the nine historic civil rights organizations represent tens of millions of Americans and that all of their organizations were “multicultural and multi-ethnic.” Multi-cultural and multi-ethnic? That’s strange; I thought they were Black or at least “colored.”
Speaking of colored, let’s look at one of these “Black” multi-cultural/ethnic organizations.
The NAACP, known for “Nonstop Aiding and Abetting in Corrupt Practices,” in my opinion, answered the Ferguson issue by walking 130 miles to the Missouri Governor’s office, followed up by a 1,000 mile stroll from Selma to the steps of the U.S. Capitol in search of justice. Guess they didn’t find it when they got there.
This is the group that practices outright hypocrisy by railing against voter suppression and voter ID laws, while accepting and even promoting those corrupt practices within their own ranks. More specifically, this is the group that has wreaked havoc in Ohio by conducting four elections for State President, two of which were legitimately won by Jocelyn Travis over Sybil McNabb, and two of which were do-overs by the national office via its henchman, Gill Ford, to keep their chosen candidate, McNabb, in office.
In the first corrupt election over which the national office presided, children were allowed to vote for McNabb—yes, children! In the second corrupt election, which just took place on March 12, 2016, again under national supervision, the same corrupt practice used in Cincinnati was used by Gill Ford in Columbus. He suspended Travis three days prior to the election, just as he did the Cincinnati president, whom he suspended the day before the election in an obvious effort to have his chosen candidate run unopposed.
The NAACP’s “Nonstop Aiding and Abetting in Corrupt Practices” is shameful, especially in light of holding themselves up as the national champion for fairness in the voting process. Even more shameful is the fact that only a relative few members, among those who have actually seen these shenanigans take place, are willing to stand up against the NAACP’s corruption.
The good news is that a group of members throughout Ohio have followed the lead of the Crittenden County (Arkansas) and Cincinnati branches by seeking and winning a temporary restraining order against the national office of the NAACP, due to its continued interference in local elections. The results of the March 12th election are being held in abeyance by a Columbus, Ohio judge, who will conduct a hearing on April 7, 2016. You can be sure that all evidence of corruption, voter suppression, and election rigging will be brought forth at that time.
Aside from the obvious hypocrisy displayed by the national leadership of the NAACP, not only in this case, but also in several other branches across the country, their corrupt practices also point to a larger problem. So-called Black organizations like the NAACP, despite their implied social contract with Black folks, can be swayed, bought, rented, or leased with nothing expected in return except a few dollars under the table, a political photo-op, or a nice hotel suite. The NAACP needs to stop abusing its members’ rights before purporting to speak on our behalf.
As for nine Black organizations suggesting they are the repository of Black power, here’s a question: If they have power, why after nearly eight years of a Black President are we, as cited in Morial’s State of Black America Report, worse off now and in “crisis?” As the heads of those organizations now intercede on our behalf, by meeting with presidential candidates, what would make us believe Blacks will get anything specific from the next administration?
James Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His latest book, Black Dollars Matter! Teach your dollars how to make more sense, is available on his website, www.Blackonomics.com.
March 24, 2016
By Charlene Crowell
NNPA News Wire Columnist
Although the former Corinthian Colleges, once one of the nation’s largest for-profit colleges, closed its doors last year, many of the problems incurred by its former students persist. The now-defunct college is the only questionable actor among for-profit colleges.
To date, investigations, and lawsuits have focused on a growing list of other for-profit schools and colleges including but not limited to Computer Systems Institutes, DeVry University, ITT Tech, Marinello Schools of Beauty and Trump University.
With tuition costs higher than many public colleges and universities, many for-profit college students are financially forced to take on private student loan debt at interest rates that exceed those of federal student loans. Others are advised to add related charges to credit card accounts.
One of the worst financial abuses perpetrated are against the men and women who sought to successfully transition from military to civilian life. Many veterans enrolled and even graduated from for-profit institutions, like Corinthian, but now find there are three strikes against them: the promised better careers and high earnings never materialized, and thirdly, educational benefits that underwrote a portion of the so-called educational cost have now been suspended.
In response, eight state Attorneys General have challenged the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to “restore the educational and vocational rehabilitation benefits that thousands of veterans are deprived of due to misleading advertising, or enrollment practices of predatory institutions, such as Corinthian Colleges, Inc.” These Attorneys General (AGs) represent the states of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.
“Most of the student relief flowing from enforcement actions against predatory educational institutions has, however, pertained to student loans – not the hard-earned benefits of our nation’s veterans,” wrote the AGs.
Two taxpayer funded programs, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program are at the heart of the AGs’ concerns. G.I. Bill benefits, funded by Title IV federal student aid, provide up to $21,084 per year for tuition; additional funding covers housing, books and supplies. VR&E benefits are awarded for service-related disabilities that can include job training and education, workplace accommodations and career coaching.
Legally, for-profit colleges may receive up to 90 percent of their annual revenues from Title IV. VR&E assistance is not included as part of Title IV. If both Title IV funds – which also include Pell Grants — are combined with VR&E benefits, taxpayers are almost completely funding for-profit enterprises.
“[T]he VA’s decision to provide funds to Corinthian for student veterans’ attendance at these programs should be deemed an administrative error,” said the AGs. “This administrative error deprived student veterans of their right to use their benefits at an institution that was free of erroneous, deceptive, and misleading advertising, sales, and enrollment practices.”
For the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the apparent lack of actual benefits derived from enrollment at DeVry are at the heart of a lawsuit filed in late January. Its complaint charges that one of DeVry’s key claims was deceptive — that its graduates had 15 percent higher incomes one year following graduation. FTC also cited how DeVry promised that its graduates would find jobs in their fields of study and would earn more than those graduating with bachelor’s degrees from other colleges or universities. In most cases, these promises never materialized.
On March 10, according to FTC, DeVry filed a motion to have the case dismissed. On May 2, a hearing will be held to hear oral arguments from both sides.
“Millions of Americans look to higher education for training that will lead to meaningful employment and good pay,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “Educational institutions like DeVry owe prospective students the truth about their graduates’ success finding employment in their field of study and the income they can earn.”
In at least one case, ‘university’ was used in the name of a for-profit enterprise even though it lacked a required state charter to do so.
According to New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, between 2005 and 2011, Trump University operated as an unlicensed educational institute that promised to teach real estate investment techniques. The office’s investigation revealed that participating consumers paid up to $1,495 for a three-day seminar. While in attendance, they did not receive the real estate training promised but were encouraged to sign-up for programs ranging in costs from $10,000 to $35,000.
In 2005, the New York State Education Department advised the enterprise of its state law violation. The enterprise’s name was not changed until 2010. Through it all, it never received a license to operate in the state.
“More than 5,000 people across the country who paid Donald Trump $40 million to teach them his hard sell tactics got a hard lesson in bait-and-switch,” said AG Schneiderman.
The pending lawsuit filed in Manhattan’s New York Supreme Court, seeks full restitution for consumers defrauded of more than $40 million.
A separate but similar 2010 cased filed in San Diego filed against Trump University is a second class-action lawsuit, and is scheduled for a May 6 pretrial hearing.
As for the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, recent news accounts reveal how the purchaser of the former colleges, nonprofit Zenith Education Group, has failed to correct many of the problem students continue to face. While ownership may have changed and enrollment dropped, other issues like allegations of fraud and mismanagement by the same people who worked under Corinthian persist.
In response the Department of Education confirmed to Associated Press on March 15 that the law firm hired to monitor the college turnaround was fired and further that a replacement will be hired.
Last fall the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) released research that found how high-cost, for-profit colleges make millions each year by targeting students of color. As students of color enroll more often at for-profit colleges, they are also disproportionately harmed.
The quest for financial justice continues….
March 17, 2016
By Armstrong Williams
NNPA News Wire Columnist
As the proud owner of NBC 25 in Flint, Michigan, it is important for us to understand the community and to become a part of it as much as we can. As a station owner, we have the ability to elevate the needs and concerns of the downtrodden, hold those in power accountable and showcase the resilience of Flint, and it’s a responsibility that we don’t take lightly.
We read about the water crisis facing Flint and the failure of the people in power and were appalled. It was the failure of government that abandoned the most vulnerable, leaving them with many unanswered questions. I even added my perspective on the crisis. But that wasn’t enough; I wanted to feel the emotions on the ground, to understand the crisis through first-hand experience because too often in reporting, the people are ignored for political spin. And after our day in Flint, we can tell you that the personal resilience of the people of Flint is highly under-reported.
When we first arrived on Monday morning February 29, we went straight to city hall where many were there in search of answers. It was at the counter for free water filters’ that we met a young, single mother, who is also a student, and her young daughter. The mother relayed to us a story about how her daughter had elevated levels of lead. She was at a lost for what to do, but she knew she had to get the water filters for her daughter. She was worried about her daughter’s future, what it would look like, and what could she do as a mother to improve her daughter’s chances? We had no answers, but we did have empathy, and we genuinely cared, and it was obvious that the mother appreciated that someone wanted to hear her story. My heart goes out to her and her daughter, and reminded me that this is not a temporary crisis, but one whose effect will reverberate throughout Flint for a generation if not more.
City hall was littered with people who wanted their stories heard. There were women there who had done their own research into the crisis and dug up documents that proved officials knew about the dangers of the lead levels long before the public. All of the people we met in city hall wanted answers, but more importantly, they were there to try as best as they knew how to help the community they love. This is how we started to love the people of Flint.
From city hall, we went to a firehouse where the National Guard was stationed handing out clean water to residents. The men and women of the National Guard were standing outside on a cold, damp day handing out cases and cases of water to anyone who drove up. They did not complain about the weather, or the heavy lifting, or about being on their feet all day. They were there for the community. We watched and even participated in loading the water into cars. We spoke to as many of the drivers as possible. We wanted to hear their stories. Most came daily to pick up multiple cases of water. Many had children who they worried about; most did not have the money to move away. It was after speaking to so many drivers that we came to understand why the National Guard did not complain about being outside in the freezing cold– they were the lucky ones.
After spending time with people at the firehouse, we wanted to see firsthand the living conditions of the city, where 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. It was there that we saw what seemed like abandoned houses on every block. A couple of people welcomed our team into their homes. There we heard and saw firsthand what it was like not to be able to take hot baths, or drink water from the tap. We saw cases upon cases of water stacked up everywhere the eye could see. We heard tales about how it took hours to fill up baths with enough clean hot water so they could clean themselves. A hot bath, something we take for granted, was so precious to them. They also relayed to us how many of their neighbors did not own cars, so they could not go to the fire stations to pick up the water. Instead, the community pitched in. Those with cars drove those without cars, or just picked up a couple of extra cases for the elderly or infirmed.
After witnessing the strength of the people, we headed to a town hall my WEYI NBC25 Flint station was hosting. We had elected officials, doctors, and professors all gathered to talk with the community about the water crisis. The goal was to bring together the community so the citizens could have their voices heard and so the people could learn what they could do to help. So many of the people we encountered wanted to help, but were unable to due to lack of guidance and a lack of answers about what would actually help.
At the town hall, the passion surrounding the crisis was evident. The auditorium was nearly packed and from the first question, it was evident that the residents were sick of excuses and wanted to action. There was blame enough to go around but instead of blame the citizens wanted answers. The time for political buck-passing was over; the time for answers was now. There was a couple of occasions where emotions rose to a fevered pitched and for good reasons. After being in Flint for nearly twelve hours digging into the issue, I found myself getting upset. I saw the pain and suffering the residents were enduring, and at the town hall, I experienced the hopelessness they felt. No one had answers. No one could tell the residents when the crisis would be resolved, how the city was going to deal with the long-term health issues, when they would be able to drink the water, or when the pipes were going to be replaced.
The hour and a half town hall allowed us to hear every side of the issue. When we walked in we expected we would have a better feeling about the crisis facing the residents, but sadly we felt worse. There was nothing we could do at the moment to help, other than listen to the citizens and give them a platform. But we could not change the pipes, we couldn’t fix all of their problems and no one on the stage could either.
The people of Flint deserve better. The elected officials need to stop seeking blame and start seeking solutions. They need to act now, because the people of Flint cannot wait any longer. The government failed them when it created the crisis and is failing now with their lack of response.
After we left the town hall, we came to one conclusion—the people of Flint are resilient, their elected officials are not, but that isn’t stopping the citizens of Flint from trying to save their community.