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When It Comes to Health, Place Matters

By Brian Smedley
America’s Wire Writers Group

WASHINGTON-The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is an achievement Americans can be proud of. Making sure that all our brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, have proper health insurance makes us a stronger, more prosperous nation.

Amid this important change, however, we cannot ignore the work that remains to be done, especially in communities of color. Insurance cards are not enough.

To become a society with better health—not just better health coverage—we must also look at the role “place” plays in the lives of minority communities.

Where we live, work and play is surprisingly predictive of lifespan. Within the city of Boston, for instance, people in some census tracts live 33 years less than those in nearby tracts. In Bernalillo County, N.M., the difference is 22 years.

Researchers are releasing “Community Health Equity Reports” at the Place Matters 2013 National Health Equity Conference on Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C.  Data from Baltimore, Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, New Orleans and other cities demonstrates that where you live is a powerful determinant for how long you’ll live.

“Health equity” may sound like a jargon term, but it’s really a simple and just concept: all people should have equal opportunities for good health.

Unfortunately, in conversations, people often reduce health issues to questions of access to health care or to behavior; in other words, if people only ate right, exercised, or saw a doctor regularly, health inequities could be eliminated. 

Integration Ambassadors: Hartford Area Magnet Schools Provide Integrated Education

By Susan Eaton
America’s Wire Writers Group

“Who's the real ambassador?
Certain facts we can't ignore
In my humble way I'm the USA
Though I represent the government
The government don't represent some policies I'm for.”

Some six decades ago jazz great Dave Brubeck collaborated with the iconic Louis Armstrong on a musical called The Real Ambassadors. The satire skewered the mid-century government practice that sent black jazz musicians as emissaries to other nations amid rampant racial discrimination in the United States. Though it starred Armstrong himself, The Real Ambassadors, performed only twice, has been largely overlooked and critics agree it was probably too far ahead of its time.

But in a crowded, high-ceilinged room in Hartford, Connecticut’s public library, recently, the racially diverse group of teenagers who sang the musical’s title song finally found its perfect audience.

“These young people are incredible,” said an exultant Elizabeth Horton Sheff, the lead plaintiff in a long-running legal effort to reduce school segregation in one of the nation’s most unequal states. Horton Sheff, along with fellow members of a grassroots organization called The Sheff Movement, had organized the evening’s “Celebration of Progress” to bring attention to the success of the schools and programs created here in response to the 1996 court ruling that required the state to remedy school segregation throughout the region.

The student performers offered a stunning example of that success. The singing group, calling themselves The Real Ambassadors, attend the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. GHAA is one of about three dozen magnet schools that attract a diverse student body by enrolling students from Hartford and the more than two dozen cities and towns that surround it.

 

Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon Works to Improve Strained Race Relations in Hazleton

By Chris Echegarary and Susan Eaton
America’s Wire Writers Group

HAZLETON, PA -At the end of the Major League baseball season a few years ago, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon returned to the former coal mining community of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he’d grown up. He sat on a child-sized folding chair at a holiday potluck party hosted by a Dominican mother of three who ran a day care out of her house. Spanish conversation flowed. Children ran around, weaving between adults who talked, laughed and shared cuisine from the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Peru. Merengue music blared.

Joe Maddon is a colossal, sought-after celebrity in the sports world.  So, you might think he would want privacy when he came back home to visit with family at Christmas. But he’d come to this particular party on purpose. Curious and concerned, he’d asked his cousin, Elaine Maddon Curry, to introduce him to the Latino community that had been moving to Hazleton since the early 2000s. A few years back, Maddon Curry and two Latino fathers had founded an organization called Concerned Parents that provides an array of services mainly for immigrant families.

 

Tough Standards, Diversity are Assets for Military

By Jamie Barnett
America’s Wire Writers Group

This month (July) marks the 65th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order that led to the racial integration of America’s armed services.

We’ve come a long way since that time, and leadership at the Department of Defense (DoD) asserts that recruiting the widest possible pool of talent is not only the right thing to do, it is also a national security issue. As stated in the Department’s recent Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2012-2017, “It is critical that DoD strive to have a Total Force that not only possesses the diverse backgrounds and experiences to meet the complex challenges of the future global security environment, but that also reflects the face of the nation.”

This makes sense because the dedicated men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces are the backbone of our national security— even more so than its ships, aircraft, tanks and weaponry. The United States military maintains rigorous eligibility standards because it needs competent, healthy and educated young men and women to fill the ranks of the most professional, respected, and technologically-advanced military in the world.

Unfortunately, many young Americans who want to join cannot. Startling statistics from the Department of Defense show that 75 percent of young people ages 17 to 24 are currently unable to join. The most common barriers for potential recruits are inadequate education, obesity, and/or a criminal record.

Why the Obama Administration Must Do More To Help Working-class Families on Housing

 

By Brent Wilkes
America’s Wire Writers Group

WASHINGTON-By many accounts, the economy is prospering again and the housing market is on the road to recovery. But, reality is nowhere near as comforting as fiction, and the facts point to a very different reality faced by working familiesand minority communities, especially in the barrios. 

The Great Recession pushed millions of willing workers off the labor force, put many others in lower paying or multiple jobs, and communities are still reeling from assets lost.  At a time when we should be discussing how to stimulate our economy and job growth, many policymakers seem to only want to discuss how to mimic European austerity measures.

The regressive nature of our economic recovery has not gone unnoticed in our communities. We hear it every day from friends and family members, and in Washington D.C. we see it in reports like the one issued by Joseph A. Smith, who heads the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight.  Mr. Smith oversees the agreement between 49 state attorneys general and the nation’s largest lenders to provide up to $25 billion in relief to borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure.  Yet, his report shows that many lenders are instead pushing homeowners to sell, resolving subordinated debt entanglements to drive owners toward short sales, and avoiding principal modifications at all costs.

More recently, attorneys general detailed how lenders grossly underreported the extent of their fraud and misdealing.  There is no shortage of scathing reviews that show lenders dragging their feet on modifying mortgages, and regulators fumbling their responsibilities while trusting those very same lenders to police themselves.

Interrupting The School-To-Prison Pipeline

By Judith Browne Dianis
America’s Wire Writers Group

ASHEVILLE, N.C.–Salecia Johnson, age 6, grew frustrated in her Milledgeville, Ga., kindergarten class last year and erupted into a temper tantrum. Unfortunately, it’s something that mothers sometimes must confront with raising young children. But what happened next was not routine, nor should it be happening to Salecia or any other children.

Creekside Elementary school called the police, who said they found Salecia on the floor of the principal's office screaming and crying.  Police said she had knocked over furniture that injured the principal.  The African American child was handcuffed, arrested and hauled to the local police station. She was held for more than hour before her parents were notified and charged with simple assault and damage to property, but didn’t have to go to court because she is a juvenile.

But the ordeal has severely impacted the child. Her mother, Constance Ruff,  says Salecia istraumatized, having difficulty adjusting back to school and maynever recover. Salecia, she says, has awoken at night screaming, “They're coming to get me!” Sadly, her case is not an anomaly. 

Across the country, young people are being arrested for behavior that used to be solved through a trip to the principal’s office or the intervention of a counselor.  In Florida, a 14-year-old was arrested and charged for throwing a pencil at another student and spent 21 days in jail.  In New York, a 12-year-old was arrested for doodling, ‘I love Abby and Faith on her desk.’  In Chicago, 25 children, some as young as 11, were arrested for engaging in a food fight.

Innovative Nebraska Program Brings Diversity To Some Highly Segregated Public Schools

By Susan Eaton
America’s Wire

OMAHA - Fifth-grader Alyx has trouble naming  the “absolute coolest” thing about Wilson Focus School, part of an innovative educational model called the Learning Community that provides students opportunities to attend diverse schools in highly segregated areas.

Alyx says it’s not just the snakes and other reptiles, not just the “totally amazing and beautiful” Australian blue-tongued skink caged in her classroom. It’s not just her teacher, Mr. Mitchell, “who is so great, who is the best.” And it’s not just her friend Nolan who is “funny and kind.”  But Alyx, who is white and lives in the suburbs, and Nolan, who is African American and lives in Omaha, agree that one of the “coolest” things is as Alyx says, “There are kids from all over. Everywhere.”

Well, not quite everywhere. But unlike the typical school in this highly segregated region, or the typical school in many still-segregated communities across the country, WilsonFocusSchool reaches across two counties to bring together students from a mix of racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.  Yet, even with its well-documented successes, the Learning Community is being threatened by public officials who question the value of the diversity it brings.

Wilson offers the standard diet of mandatory reading time, science reports and oral presentations. However the schools’ specialized leadership, communication and technology curriculum nudges kids into constant negotiations with each other. Each day, students must solve problems collectively, acknowledge and negotiate differences and learn how to balance individual desires with community needs.

Dr. King’s Unfulfilled Dream of School Integration for America’s Children

By Greg Groves and
Philip Tegeler
America’s Wire Writers Group

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in the transformative power of school integration. He would be dismayed by America’s present day paradox: the rapidly expanding racial diversity of our society accompanied by the increasing segregation of our urban schools.

Dr. King’s commitment to school integration was ultimately animated by the desire to transform this nation into a “beloved community.” His vision of the beloved community is often associated with the elements of inclusivity, interrelatedness, love, justice, compassion, responsibility, shared power, and a respect for all people. The concept of the beloved community was originally articulated by 19th century theologian-philosopher Josiah Royce. As opposed to “natural communities” which are ruled by selfishness and the destruction of others, Royce proposed that the ideal “beloved community” is ruled by loyalty and truth. Royce’s theory was prominent in the curriculum of Dr. King’s Alma Mater, the Boston University Theological Seminary.

 

Literature Can Help Bridge Racial Divide

By Paul Young
America’s Wire Writers Group

COMMENTARY

PORTLAND – As America re-elected President Obama, it sent a comforting and positive message about our society, a message of progress in racial healing.  A majority of voters were willing to give the first African American President of the United States a second term, a second chance to complete his mission of bringing change to this country.

What’s most striking is that this seems like a normal course of action. President George W. Bush was sharply criticized, but he won two terms. President Bill Clinton faced impeachment, but stayed in the White House for two complete terms. It is this concept of normalcy that interests me: is this nation reaching a maturing stage where people of color can be treated just as everyone else?

To be sure, more progress must be made.  Even the election results tell us that, as one party relied on votes almost exclusively from whites, the other, the majority, was a multi-racial collage that looked much more like America.  How can America take the next step, ensuring a level playing field and equal opportunities for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference?

I’ve always believed that our cultural indulgences, such as the entertainment we seek, play a critical role in shaping our faith, perceptions and values. The evolution and transformation of our souls is impacted by environment, including the television and movies and art we watch as well as the museums we visit, the music we listen to and books we read.

 

America’s Twentieth Century Slavery

The horrifying, little-known story of how hundreds of thousands of blacks worked in brutal bondage
right up until World War II.

By Douglas A. Blackmon

A cry for help: Having exhausted all other options, a desperate young woman named Carrie Kinsey wrote this letter directly to President Theodore Roosevelt asking him to help her brother, who had been taken to a forced labor camp nearby. “Let me have him,” she writes. “He have not don nothing for them to hase him in chanes.”

On July 31, 1903, a letter addressed to President Theodore Roosevelt arrived at the White House. It had been mailed from the town of Bainbridge, Georgia, the prosperous seat of a cotton county perched on the Florida state line.

The sender was a barely literate African American woman named Carrie Kinsey. With little punctuation and few capital letters, she penned the bare facts of the abduction of her fourteen-year-old brother, James Robinson, who a year earlier had been sold into involuntary servitude.

Kinsey had already asked for help from the powerful white people in her world. She knew where her brother had been taken—a vast plantation not far away called Kinderlou. There, hundreds of black men and boys were held in chains and forced to labor in the fields or in one of several factories owned by the McRee family, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in Georgia. No white official in this corner of the state would take an interest in the abduction and enslavement of a black teenager.

Blaming the Victims in Their Own Voices: Phi Delta Kappan Does Disservice to Blacks

Commentary

By Amy Wilkins
America’s Wire Writers Group

WASHINGTON—Tracey and Abby Sparrow, one a teacher and the other a nonprofit’s vice president, both white, recently took to the pages of Phi Delta Kappan, a magazine for educators, to explain what stands between black males and academic success. The writers’ methodology is questionable. They selected 10 black young men and boys as their storytelling devices. The end product is powerful, with bursts of compelling, almost tabloidesque narrative, accompanied by riveting photographic portraits. But the probable impact is devastating.

 

Foster Care, Uncertain Futures Loom For Thousands of Immigrant Children

By Marjorie Valbrun
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—More than 5,000 children of immigrants are languishing in state foster care nationwide because their parents were living in the United States illegally and were detained or deported by federal immigration authorities.

These children can spend years in foster homes, and some are put up for adoption after termination of their parents’ custody rights. With neither state nor federal officials addressing the problem, thousands more are poised to enter the child welfare system every year.

 

Busy Bees Help to Create Permanent Jobs For Prisoners, Ex-Offenders in Chicago

By Joshunda Sanders
America’s Wire

CHICAGO—Some people see a bee and want to swat it. Brenda Palms-Barber sees a bee and thinks about products it helps to produce and jobs it creates.

Palms-Barber is executive director of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) in Chicago. The nonprofit organization partners with about 100 agencies to help low-income people, primarily former offenders, find and keep jobs.

In 2004, she launched Sweet Beginnings, a company that makes honey locally and sells natural, honey-based beauty products in local stores and businesses. Assisted by grants from organizations such as the Illinois Department of Corrections and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Sweet Beginnings is creating jobs for the unemployed.

Shell Oil Presses Supreme Court to Deprive Torture Victims of Justice

Former Somali General Was Held Liable for War Crimes

By Bashe Yousuf
America’s Wire Writers Group

COMMENTARY

WASHINGTON-Will victims of distant genocides and crimes against humanity be allowed to continue using U. S. courts to seek justice against their persecutors, as well as the individuals and corporations that helped facilitate human rights violations across the globe?

In a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Shell Oil is sending a shocking message: victims of mass atrocities should have no standing in our nation’s courts.

The case, Kiobel v. Shell, concerns a group of Nigerian refugees living in the United States who sued Shell for helping Nigeria’s former dictator torture and kill environmentalists.  Rather than simply deny the allegations, Shell is trying to deny the plaintiffs—and all victims of foreign human rights crimes—the right to seek justice in U.S. courts.  Our courts, Shell argues, are powerless to hear claims that a foreign government slaughtered its own people in its own territory—even when the defendants who committed or financed these crimes find refuge in this country.

For victims of human rights abuses, the stakes couldn’t be higher.  For decades, U.S. courts have given survivors what repressive regimes back home denied them:  a chance to confront their abusers, seek truth, and obtain a measure of justice.  I know because I am one of these survivors.

 

Jungleland? New Orleans Community Activist Rejects NY Times Depiction of Ninth Ward

COMMENTARY

By Jenga Mwendo
America’s Wire Writers Group

NEW ORLEANS—The New York Times Magazine recently ran a story on my home, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, a place one of the most powerful newspapers in the world insensitively dubbed a “Jungleland.” Contrary to the article, residents of this community are not reconciled to life in the wilderness and we don’t live in an untamed mess of overgrowth or in a forgotten wasteland. We are not resigned to anything; we are fighting to revive our community. 

While the article cites the city government’s futile attempts to improve the neighborhood, it barely mentions the overall lack of government support before and after Hurricane Katrina and the hard work by committed citizens to improve the community. Yes, many parts of the Lower Ninth are overgrown and neglected, but what the article missed is that many are not. Moreover, the untold story is how city, state and federal government abandoned this community.

The Times probably had good intentions — document the bad situation so our community can get help. But while writing about broken people, vacant lots and weeds may be sexy journalism, the community needs the outside world to understand how implicit and unconscious bias caused by a history of racism pummeled us.

 

Profiling Black Males, Use of Excessive Force: From Rodney King to Trayvon Martin

By Sylvester Monroe
America’s Wire

LOS ANGELES—Rodney Glen King’s apparent accidental death at age 47 has prompted a flood of media punditry about the legacy of a life rife with misfortune.It was young Glen, as he was called, who had discovered his father’s body in the family bathtub. Rodney Sr. reportedly drank himself to death when Rodney Jr. was in high school.

Following his father’s penchant for alcohol, the younger King made a fateful wrong turn at age 25—drinking and driving, and leading Los Angeles police officers on a high-speed chase that thrust him into an ill-fitting celebrity he never wanted or wore very well.

King’s brutal videotaped beating seen around the world years before the advent of YouTube changed the course of his life. It also triggered events that altered how law enforcement and government officials handle complaints of excessive force and police brutality.The initial impact ofthe beating in March 1991 was to shine light on a dark realm of routine police misconduct in Los Angeles and other cities.

 

 

Law Enforcement Gaps Leave Native Women Vulnerable to Rape and Domestic Violence

By Kimberly N. Alleyne
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—A gap in law enforcement on Native American lands creates an environment in which Native women suffer a higher rate of violence than any demographic in the United States, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Census Bureau and advocacy organizations.

The Justice Department has found that Native women are victims of violent crime at 3-1/2 times the national average, with advocates saying the actual figure is much higher because many victims mistrust authorities and don’t report such crime.The department says 70 percent of sexual assaults are never reported.

 

MLK's Leadership Would Be Welcomed Today

Children of Color Disadvantaged
By Structural Bias in America


ALL GOD'S CHILDREN


 

By Dr. Gail C. Christopher
America’s Wire
Commentary

WASHINGTON—In an often expressed dream for a better America, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called upon Americans to honor “all God’s children” and their rights to equality and justice. His powerful voice and leadership would be welcomed in the turbulent world around us.

Forty-three-years after the March on Washington, Dr. King’s dream of equality for all remains unrealized – the impact of racism persists and children of color still live with the consequences of the racial divide embedded in American society. Our leaders face mounting fiscal challenges, yet we urge the nation not to abandon children in need. As the struggling economy brings fear and despair to families and communities, America must marshal its resources to assure that our children have opportunities to thrive.

There is an intersection between Dr. King’s dream and efforts by government, non-profit advocates and communities working to improve the quality of life for vulnerable children.

U.S. Department of Education Investigating Record Number of Civil Rights Complaints

By Nadra Kareem Nittle
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Education is seeking to improve the quality of education for minority and poor public school students by aggressively launching civil rights investigations aimed at preventing district administrators from providing more services and resources to predominantly white schools.

Faced with public schools more segregated today than in the 1970s, the department is using the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to improve the quality of education for students from minority and low-income backgrounds. The department has outpaced the Bush administration in initiating civil rights probes.

Health Disparities Cause Financial Burdens for Families, Communities and Health Care System

 

By Kimberly N. Alleyne
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—Health disparities are creating economic burdens for families, communities and the nation’s health care system. Across the country, infant mortality and chronic diseases continue to affect people of color at rates far higher than those for whites.

In recent years, the focus has increased on the impact of disparities on minority communities, with public officials, community activists, civic leaders and health care experts proposing ways to improve access to medical care and raise awareness of positive benefits of preventive care. But health experts say the economic toll of health disparities and substantial costs associated with lost productivity are being overlooked. 

Experts Attack Manhattan Institute Study Claiming End to Segregation in U.S. Cities

 

By Marjorie Valbrun
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—A recent report by the Manhattan Institute about the extent to which segregation may have declined in the last century has triggered a heated debate, with many social justice advocates rejecting its finding that segregation has virtually ended in U.S. cities.

The controversial study, “The End of the Segregated Century: Racial Separation in America’s Neighborhoods, 1890-2010,” has exposed sharp division among these advocates, scholars and researchers over whether the country has reached a major racial milestone or the study merely uses its data to mask disparities still plaguing people of color, especially African-Americans. 

Expanding Age Gap Between Whites and Minorities May Increase U.S. Racial Divide

By Teresa Wiltz
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—A generation gap in several states between older whites and younger Latinos and African-Americans has race relations experts concerned that age differences in the population are influencing spending and public policy in areas such as education, transportation, immigration and infrastructure.

 

Educators Alarmed: Black, Latino High School Students Perform at Levels of 30 Years Ago

By Teresa Wiltz
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—Educators are expressing alarm that the performance gap between minority and white high school students continues to expand across the United States, with minority teenagers performing at academic levels equal to or lower than those of 30 years ago.

 

Minority Female Attorneys Find Happiness as Corporate Counsels

By Nadra Kareem Nittle
America’s Wire

NEW YORK, NY— When Fania Washington had an opportunity to leave Winston & Strawn LLP in 2004 to work for MTV Networks, she didn’t hesitate. Washington had tired of handling cases that trickled down from the international law firm’s partners, and she sought more formidable challenges.

Widespread Bias Continues in America Despite Claims of Post-Racial Society

By Marjorie Valbrun
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—Recent public opinion polls show that more whites than African-Americans believe that the United States has entered a “post-racial” era in which racial bias doesn’t exist. 

Black Migration From Cities Changes Political Landscape

By Nadra Kareem Nittle
America’s Wire

LOS ANGELES—African-Americans once were clustered so heavily in urban areas that the terms “black” and “inner city” came to be used almost synonymously. According to the 2010 U.S. Census results, that time is history.

Housing Shortage Forces Native Americans to Use FEMA Trailers

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America’s Wire

Lack of adequate housing on Native American tribal lands has become so critical that tribes have been acquiring mobile homes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The shelters, meant to be utilized during disasters, are being converted into living quarters for Native American families.

Lessons of Jacksonville Mayor’s Race Could Aid President Obama

By Craig Kirby
America’s Wire
Commentary

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama has seen better days. But it would be a mistake to conclude that he can’t win re-election, despite his dismal poll numbers.

At the moment, the president is quickly discovering that for every foreign and domestic policy issue, there can be a political consequence. In the Middle East, he seeks to craft a policy fair to both sides, but that leads to attacks at home that he has abandoned Israel. He tries to act responsibly and reduce the federal budget deficit, but that looks like “selling out” to many who are in his Democratic base and still reeling from the recession.

 

 

Study Shows Mortgage Lending to Minorities Drops Significantly as Fewer People of Color Purchase Homes

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON, DC—Since the housing market collapsed, mortgage lending to African-Americans and Hispanics has plunged precipitously—by more than 60 percent, according to a new study of loan information that banks submit to the federal government.

 

Minority Lending Didn’t Cause Crisis

Conservative Republicans and commentators have frequently blamed the housing crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which encourages banks to make loans in the low- and moderate-income areas where they operate.

 

Latinos Praise Fed Hate Crime Investigations

By Marisa Treviño
America’s Wire

site_pics_med_marisa.jpgThe U.S. Department of Justice won a recent conviction in a Pennsylvania courtroom that sent a powerful message to Latinos nationwide—the government will not tolerate hate crimes against immigrants, even if they are not U.S. citizens.

The federal government could easily have taken a hands-off approach after a state court jury acquitted Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak last year of serious charges in the July 2008 beating death of Eduardo Luis Ramírez Zavala in Shenandoah, about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Documentary on Slavery Spurs Racial Healing

Helps Whites, Blacks Talk
Openly About Painful Legacy

By Marjorie Valbrun
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—Katrina Browne and her critically acclaimed documentary, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” are helping Americans talk more openly and honestly about race and race relations. The film is a well-researched account of her New England ancestors’ status as the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. It is also a moving story about racial healing and redemption, the very issues she wants to help Americans embrace.

Hospital Closings Jeopardize Care in Poor, Urban Communities

By Marjorie Valbrun
America’s Wire

CLEVELAND—Escalated hospital closures in urban communities are raising concern about whether minorities can receive quality health care, especially trauma treatment, when emergency care facilities are miles from their neighborhoods.

Food Stamp Bans Under Review; Many States Seek Prison Savings

By Marjorie Valbrun
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—When the landmark welfare reform law was enacted in 1996, the political rallying cry was “ending welfare as we know it.” Today, a move is underway to rescind some of the law’s punitive measures, such as provisions that permit states to deny welfare benefits and food stamps to people convicted of felony drug crimes.

Educators Give Failing Grades to Federal No Child Left Behind Act

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America’s Wire

Nearly a decade after the No Child Left Behind law was enacted, studies have shown little progress in reducing the number of teachers of low-income students who are inexperienced or teaching classes outside their subject areas.

Minority Youth Media Consumption May Be Hampering Academic Achievement

By Nadra Kareem Nittle

America’s Wire

LOS ANGELES—Krystal Murphy received her first cellphone at age 13 and she used it solely to keep her parents in the loop about her activities. Four years later, her use of the phone has changed dramatically. Now 17, she relies on it to text friends, surf the Internet and send messages on Twitter.

“I’m on my cell all day, every day, as soon as I wake up and until I go to bed,” says the African-American teen from South Los Angeles.

Researchers Puzzled by Rising Death Rates for African-American Women in Childbirth

Risk of Pregnancy Deaths Four Times Greater

By Marjorie Valbrun
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON—High rates of obesity, high blood pressure and inadequate prenatal care cause death from childbirth more often for African-Americans in the United States than for whites and other ethnic groups. Worsening this trend are the increasing numbers of cesarean sections nationally. These procedures can result in deadly complications for women dangerously overweight or suffering from hypertension or other ailments.

Nationally, blacks have a four-times greater risk of pregnancy-related death than whites—a rate of 36.1 per 100,000 live births compared with 9.6 for whites and 8.5 for Hispanics, according to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People of Color Needed for Important Genetic Research

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America’s Wire

A Stanford University geneticist, Carlos D. Bustamante, is leading an effort to include more Hispanics and African-Americans in genetic research critical to determining root causes of many diseases. He has been critical of such research that has often focused largely on white populations.

Civil Rights Commission Questioned: Does It Have a Purpose?

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America’s Wire

WASHINGTON-Halfway through his term, President Obama is moving to wrest control of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from Republican appointees, but questions are being raised about its future and its ability to create a better America for victims of discrimination.

Loans to Minorities Did Not Cause Housing Foreclosures

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America’s Wire

Conservative Republicans and commentators have frequently blamed the housing crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which encourages banks to make loans in the low- and moderate-income areas where they operate. But a study to be released this week and a bipartisan commission, conclude that the federal law had little impact on the crisis.

Counting Minorities in Rural Prisons Looms as Census Issue

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America’s Wire

Political redistricting based on last year’s U.S. census has triggered a campaign by activists to persuade state legislatures to change the standard practice of counting prisoners where they are incarcerated rather than where they last lived.

California AG With New Ideas on How to Fight Crime

By Marjorie Valbrun
America’s Wire

Kamala Harris’s recent election as California attorney general may not interest many people outside the state, but her efforts to address judicial policies and practices that have a harmful effect on communities of color are sure to have an impact beyond the state’s borders.

As San Francisco district attorney, Harris has been among a current crop of black DAs who are transforming the way crime is addressed, people are prosecuted and punishment is meted out. Her innovative approaches for being “Smart on Crime,” instead of simply “tough on crime” are popular in many quarters but derided by some conservatives.

Young Blacks Unlikely to Rally Behind Democrats

By Cathy J. Cohen
COMMENTARY

CHICAGO—When record numbers of young African Americans turned out to vote for Barack Obama nearly two years ago, political pundits predicted the start of an important and positive trend. Socially marginalized young blacks buoyed by the election of the nation’s first black president would supposedly begin to see themselves as newly politically empowered and engaged. They would become as invested in, and optimistic about, their future as their young white counterparts.

States Easing Restrictions Against Ex-Convicts

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America's Wire

States across the country are passing laws intended to make ex-offenders more likely to find jobs and, as a result, less prone to commit crime again. Behind the legislative trend is an unusual combination of budget-conscious officials seeking to trim prison populations and activists opposing “structural discrimination” against applicants with criminal records.

Residential Segregation Contributes to Health Disparities for People of Color

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America's Wire

While most Americans are unaware of the nation’s health disparities, those who are may well think that racial and ethnic minorities become sicker and die more often because they lack medical insurance, tend to be poorer or have unhealthy lifestyles. Or, as a few sophisticates may know, because minorities receive unequal treatment from the medical system, regardless of economic status and insurance coverage.

Conservatives Blame the Poor for Being Poor

By Marjorie Valbrun
America's Wire

When the U.S. Census Bureau recently released its annual report on the economic status of American households, few people were surprised that black and Hispanic households showed the highest increase in poverty rates. The two groups were hit harder by the economic recession and had higher rates of unemployment than white and Asian households, so news that poverty rates for them surpassed 25 percent in 2009, though troubling, was not entirely unexpected.

Tim Wise : White Crusader Against Racism in America

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America's Wire


Tim WiseFrom his earliest experiences in a classroom, Tim Wise was primed to be a different kind of white guy. He attended a preschool in the South where almost everyone was black. The very idea of integrated schools was still being contested in courts when his mother made that unconventional choice, an unmistakable expression of her commitment to the ideals of the civil rights movement.

In Q & A, Shirley J. Wilcher Says Affirmative Action Is Still Needed

By Kenneth J. Cooper
America’s Wire

Since 2005, Shirley J. Wilcher has directed the American Association for Affirmative Action, a professional organization that is based in Washington, D.C., and has 1,000 members. During the Clinton administration, she ran the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, a Labor Department agency that enforces a legal mandate that government contractors practice affirmative action.

Black Males Missing From College Campuses

By Marjorie Valbrun
America's Wire

Walk the campuses of many black colleges, and you are bound to notice young female students strolling and talking, clusters of women having lunch together, classrooms filled mostly with women. It’s impossible to miss the dearth of male students and not worry about that.

America's Wire

The news media in the United States have been a guardian of the public’s interest. Our nation’s history is filled with episodes during which enterprising reporting, often by the bravest of journalists, has altered the course of public policy for America, and at times, changed our society.

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