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Ten Years after Hurricane Katrina: Changing Hearts, Minds and Systems in New Orleans

By La June Montgomery Tabron
America’s Wire Writers Group

NEW ORLEANS – Ten years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, it’s time for midcourse corrections in the restoration efforts. The coalitions of foundations, nonprofits and government should pause to ensure that their investments will improve upon the pre-Katrina conditions in communities of color and that the racial and class inequities that existed prior to the storm are being adequately addressed.

Katrina was an awakening: the racial fault lines had been blurred in the city. Visits to Bourbon Street yielded fine food and music, but failed to paint a full picture of the city. Their communities and their challenges were tucked away from view. But with Katrina, impressions of New Orleans changed dramatically.

When the hurricane struck on August 29, 2005, more than 80 percent of the residents had evacuated, leaving behind the most vulnerable – those with neither the means nor money to flee. New Orleans was predominantly African-American (67 percent) and 27.9 percent of the city’s households were in poverty, including nearly 40 percent of the city’s children. More than 1,800 people died because of the storm, 123,600 people left the city and never returned, and the black population dropped to 60 percent.

The chaos and devastation that unfolded as the surging gulf breached levees designed to protect the city vividly demonstrated the impact of the racial, housing, education and economic disparities.  Many with access to information, transportation and funds for hotel rooms escaped; but those without resources were left behind -- some desperately seeking rescues from their rooftops -- to fend for themselves and depend upon badly flawed public services that failed them at this critical time.     

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, people had to reconcile our perception of New Orleans.  How had we missed the racial inequities for so long? It was so clear that imbalance between haves and have-nots were a major factor in where the blunt of the devastation was felt. Many communities of color were more vulnerable and thus their residents suffered far more.

This fueled the passion within the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to address the inequities.


Key Finding in Kellogg Foundation – Ebony Poll: Parental Involvement Contributes to School Success

By George White
New America Media and
America’s Wire Writers Group

The “lack of parental involvement” is the biggest issue affecting black students’ quality of education.

That is one of major findings in a new national survey of African Americans on factors in their quality of life. The survey, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and Ebony magazine, polled 1,005 African Americans on their mood and on issues related to income, housing, health care, relationships, race and education.

Responses to education-related questions made up a large part of the summary of survey findings. When asked to identify the biggest issues in education, about a fifth of respondents said lack of parental involvement, making it the most frequently cited concern. Other concerns included “overcrowded classrooms” (17 percent), “funding differences among school districts” (17 percent), “quality of teachers” (16 percent), and “students with behavioral issues or special needs” (10 percent).

Of those respondents with school-age children or grandchildren, only 37 percent said the nation was “making progress” in efforts to provide “a quality education.” About a third said the country is “losing ground” in education and 28 percent said that there has been no appreciable change in educational quality.

Conducted in February, the survey results were released after the launch of two new Obama Administration initiatives on behalf of young people of color. In January, Pres. Obama appointed leaders in education, philanthropy and law to serve on a commission for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The president is also seeking support from foundations and businesses for “My Brother’s Keeper,” a campaign he announced on February 27 to improve the education and life prospects of young Latino and African-American males.

WKKF is one of 10 major foundations that have agreed to work with the White House to support the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. However, education has been a priority for WKKF throughout its 83-year history, said Carla Thompson, vice-president of program strategy at the foundation.


Reclaiming the Narrative: A Key Step in Eradicating Racism in America


By Dr. Gail C. Christopher
America’s Wire Writers Group

Just 100 miles from where Trayvon Martin was killed, the slaying of an unarmed black teenager that unleashed intense racial anger and antagonism, there is a new example of the racism and racial insensitivities that continue to punctuate our society.

With Martin’s death still a bitter memory, aPort Canaveral Police Department firearms instructor did the unthinkable – Sgt. Ron King offered paper targets resembling Martin to fellow officers for shooting practice in the Florida town.  King claims the targets were teaching toolsforwhat not to shoot at, but his supervisors deemed his action inappropriate and he was fired last weekend.

Throughout each day, newspapers, the airwaves and Internet routinely crackle with stories like this one, stories demonstrating thatracism and the centuries-old racial hierarchy still exists.  This destructive belief that skin color makes one group of people superior to anotherhas dominated Americanculture, our institutions and our narratives consciously or unconsciously for centuries.

When Roland Martin says race played a role in his firing from CNN, when racial incidents erupt at a high school in Grand Haven, Mich. or when there are a series of hate messages at Oberlin College, all these events are widely reported in the media.  Not much adverse news about racial biasis missed with the 24/7 news cycle, abundant talk radio, social media channels and the ever-expanding blogosphere. 

But do these stories represent the real story about our communities?  


New Voter ID Laws Threaten to Limit Political Clout for Youths and People of Color

By Cathy Cohen and Jon C. Rogowski
America’s Wire Writers Group

CHICAGO - In a democracy, few rights are as cherished as the right to vote.  Yet, in the United States people of color, mainly Latinos, African Americans, Asians and Native Americans, are finding that the more they demonstrate their civic responsibility by voting, the more obstacles that surface designed to weaken the power of their votes.   

Since 2008, when the nation elected its first African American president, there have been numerous efforts in various states to impact ballot access.  Legislatures in 19 states have tightened identification requirements for citizens who wish to vote.  Many of these new laws require citizens to show a state-issued form of photo ID.

The New York University School of Law Brennan Center for Justice warned in 2006 that because identification documents are not distributed equally across the population, voter ID laws would significantly affect voter access for people of color — especially Latinos and African Americans — who possessed photo identification at considerably lower rates than whites.  

That prediction became reality last November.  A study conducted immediately after the 2012 election surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,500 young people between the ages of 18 and 29 with large oversamples of Blacks and Latinos.  Consistent with other national reports, the study sponsored by the Black Youth Project confirmed that a high voter turnout among youth. It also determined that young people of color—especially Black youth—were asked to show identification when voting at considerably higher rates than white youth.



America's Wire Staff

Michael K. Frisby
Nadra Kareem Nittle
Staff Writer
Kimberly N. Alleyne

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