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Sunday,  Jan. 11,  2015
In This Issue
It's Critics of 'Selma' Who Are Distorting Civil Rights History
Marc Morial: A Public letter to Congressman Steve Scalise
NAACP Bombing Shows Failure of Mainstream Media
Schools respond to black male achievement gap
Richard Wright Public Charter School Creates Powerful PSA to Highlight National "Save Our Sons" Night
Leslie Jacobs: Charter schools help improve special education in New Orleans
Chicago gave hundreds of high-risk kids a summer job. Violent crime arrests plummeted.
Mayor Landrieu Announces 43-Year Historic Low in Murders for New Orleans
Marc Morial : This Is Why We March
Black Lives Matter in the Best Films of 2014
Broadway World Reviews: Theatre Works Explores Why WE LIVE HERE
A Note from Charles Rice
Sandra McCollum: How My Family Became African American
James Baldwin: A Letter to My Nephew
Captivating Crown...Virgin Hair Boutique
Kemberley Washington: Teaching yourself to stick to a budget
"N-formed About the N-word"
Liberty Bank & Trust
Liberty Bank Freedom Effect

It's Critics of 'Selma' Who Are Distorting Civil Rights History 

The attacks on the film Selma not only distort the actual relationship between King and Johnson, they distort the film's portrayal of the relationship. LBJ is not the villain of the movie; the movie presents him as a complicated figure who under prodding accomplishes something great. 

by Jim Naureckas
Selma poster FAIR BLOG - Even before it was released on Christmas Day, Selma was under attack. In Politico's "What Selma Gets Wrong," (12/22/14), LBJ Presidential Library director Mark Updegrove charged that the fictional film's depiction of the epic voting-rights battle in the Alabama town "misses mightily in faithfully capturing the pivotal relationship-contentious, the film would have you believe-between [Martin Luther] King and President Lyndon Baines Johnson." This served, Updegrove scolded, to "bastardize one of the most hallowed chapters in the civil rights movement by suggesting that the president himself stood in the way of progress."
Johnson adviser Joseph Califano struck next in the Washington Post (12/26/14), complaining that the film "falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr." "In fact, Selma was LBJ's idea," Califano asserts. He asks of the filmmakers: 
"Did they feel no obligation to check the facts? Did they consider themselves free to fill the screen with falsehoods, immune from any responsibility to the dead, just because they thought it made for a better story? 
You even had Post columnist Richard Cohen (1/5/15) lamenting that Selma is "a lie that tarnishes Johnson's legacy to exalt King's. This story needed no embellishment-and in my movie, King himself would've protested the treatment of Johnson. The greatness of King never depended on the diminishment of others.
This is the same Richard Cohen who a little more than a year ago (11/11/13 [5]) wrote that "people with conventional views must repress a gag reflex" when thinking about the interracial family of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. It's fair to say there are other people who can better judge what Martin Luther King would have to say were he alive today.
Now, Selma is a work of fiction, not a documentary, as a disclaimer in the film's credits goes out of its way to explain. Screenwriter Paul Webb  and director Ava Duvernay  do adjust certain historical events to tell a more powerful story; for example, the murder of the four girls in the Birmingham church happened in September 1963, not in late 1964, as the movie suggests. Such alterations are considered normal and unobjectionable in shaping history into a dramatic fictional narrative.
Op-eds, on the other hand, are supposed to stick to the actual facts. And the ones attacking Selma do far more to distort the reality of King's relationship with Johnson than the fictional film does.
Take the idea that Johnson was never less than an enthusiastic partner of King in pushing for voting rights. Cultural historian Louis Menand (New Yorker, 7/8/13) described their actual relationship as a complex one, rooted in a Cold War context:  
"No elected official relishes having to deal with a charismatic popular leader; the usual forms of leverage are not effective. [John] Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson did not especially like dealing with King. But they needed him, because they needed a hero whose vision the democratic system could realize. The triumphalist narrative demanded it.
Menand's account of LBJ and MLK's conflicting priorities will sound familiar to anyone who has seen the film-and jarring to anyone who took Updegrove and Califano's op-eds at face value:
"Johnson recognized the need for additional voting-rights legislation, and he directed Nicholas Katzenbach, soon to be his attorney general, to draft it. "I want you to write me the goddamnest toughest voting rights act that you can devise," is the way he put it. But then progress slowed. Johnson had the most ambitious legislative agenda of any President since F.D.R. (his idol), and he explained to King that he was worried that Southern opposition to more civil-rights legislation would drain support from the War on Poverty and hold up bills on Medicare, immigration reform, and aid to education. He asked King to wait.
"King thought that if you waited for the right time for direct action (as nonviolent protests were called) you would never act.
Nor are the sometimes bitter tactical divisions an invention of the filmmakers. Here's an account by Bruce Hartford in The Selma Voting Rights Struggle & March to Montgomery, which notes that the attempt to lead a voting-rights march from Selma to the capital in Montgomery was happening at the same time Johnson was first sending ground troops to Vietnam:
"Behind the scenes, President Johnson pressures Dr. King to cancel the Tuesday march.... stories and images of Marines wading ashore to "defend democracy" in Vietnam clash with images of real-life American democracy in action on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Johnson is furious, and he wants no risk of any repeat violence on Tuesday that might compete with his public relations strategy, or continue to give the lie to his "freedom" rhetoric.
If Johnson was actually the architect of the Selma strategy, as Califano asserts, you might wonder why civil rights activists were staging sit-ins at the Justice Department and the White House to protest the Johnson administration's failure to protect marchers. These sit-ins were not invented by the filmmakers, nor was the anger LBJ expressed in response to them. Here's Johnson afterwards telling his aide Bill Moyers what should be said to King-not from the movie script, but from a tape made by the White House recording system:
"I would take a much tougher line than we're going to with him. I think that it's absolutely disgraceful that they would get in the Justice Department building and have to be hauled out of there. And I don't care if we never serve another hour. They're going to respect the law while they do. He better get to behaving himself or all of them are going to be put in jail.... I think that we really ought to be firm on it myself. I just think it's outrageous what's on TV. I've been watching it here, and looks like that man's in charge of the country and taking it over. I just don't think we can afford to have that kind of character running. And I'd remind him what he had said and take a very firm line with him.
Threatening to throw Martin Luther King in jail-that's rather "contentious," wouldn't you say? The words of someone who is "at odds" with King?
The part of the film that seems to have most riled Johnson's defenders is the film's suggestion-not directly stated, but implied-that Johnson authorized FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to use secret tape recordings of sexual encounters against the civil rights leader. Cohen calls it a "profoundly ugly moment" that "a bevy of historians say...never happened."
What about Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Nick Kotz, who wrote Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America? There he quotes from a memo written to Hoover by one of his top aides, Cartha DeLoach, who had just delivered a summary of a particularly incriminating tape to Johnson's chief assistant, Walter Jenkins.  DeLoach said Jenkins told him he would pass on the material to the president, adding:
"Jenkins was of the opinion that the FBI could perform a good service to the country if this matter could somehow be confidentially given to members of the press.
The thing about the attacks on the film Selma is that they not only distort the actual relationship between King and Johnson, they distort the film's portrayal of the relationship. LBJ is not the villain of the movie; the movie presents him as a complicated figure who under prodding accomplishes something great. (The speech he gives in support of the Voting Rights Act near the end of the film is an emotional high point.) But he's not the moral center of the film-that's King.

And that seems to be the problem that some of the critics have. In USA Today (1/7/15), Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund wrote a response to the complainers:

"Any effort to hijack the attention this film richly deserves because of its portrayal of LBJ reflects everything that has been wrong with most civil rights films from Mississippi Burning to The Help-films that concern themselves principally with the heroism of white people in a movement that was created, driven and shaped by black people.

Johnson is the character most clearly intended for white audience members to identify with; no doubt like many of them, he starts out admiring King but not really understanding him, and over the course of the film he comes to realize on an emotional level why King says he cannot wait for political justice. In other words, he's a white man who has something to learn from a black man. Fifty years after the events portrayed in Selma, that's still evidently something some people don't want to see. 

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas. 




A Public letter to Congressman Steve Scalise from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the National Urban League signed by officers Wade Henderson and Marc Morial.


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

1629 K Street, NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20006 

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

National Urban League


January 6, 2015

The Honorable Steve Scalise
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Scalise:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations working to protect and advance civil and human rights, and the National Urban League, a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization founded in 1910 dedicated to economic empowerment in historically underserved urban communities, improving the lives of tens of millions of people nationwide through direct service programs implemented by its 95 Urban League affiliates in 36 states and the District of Columbia, we write to express our deep concern regarding your acknowledged 2002 speech before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) (i), a white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and neo-Nazi organization classified by the Anti-Defamation League (ii) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (iii) as a hate group. Participation in the 2002 EURO conference by any member of Congress would be troubling. However, it is of particular concern to us that a member chosen to be part of the Majority's leadership team in the House of Representatives, whose responsibilities include protecting the interests of all Americans, would legitimize the existence of such a group.

We are writing to request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss ways to work together for the good of all of the Americans that you represent, regardless of race or religion, in order to help move forward after the serious and legitimate concerns that your participation in this event has raised.

As you undoubtedly know, our nation has a long and troubled history of racially polarized politics in which "wink and nod" gestures of affinity with racial segregationists and anti-Semites are used to divide Americans along racial lines and to appeal to our worst instincts. In that regard - and not withstanding your explanation - there is a question about whether your 2002 speech to EURO was a subtle "dog whistle" of affinity to David Duke's group of supporters. While we would prefer not to believe this, as you might imagine, we believe the questions surrounding the current controversy deserve further clarification.

We acknowledge and appreciate your condemnation of the views of the group and your statement that you "reject that kind of hateful bigotry." (iv) To be candid, however, it seems implausible to us that, as a state representative with national aspirations at the time, you would not have heard about the Louisiana-based EURO, which was already a well-known hate group led by America's most famous white supremacist, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. While you indicated that, had you known of the affiliation, you never would have accepted an invitation to speak to a David Duke-sponsored group, you have also stated that the invitation to speak came from Kenny Knight, a long-time associate of David Duke and one of your neighbors. (v) As you might imagine, it is difficult to fathom how you would accept an invitation from a Duke associate to speak to a group that you do not know, and yet, ask no questions about the engagement.

In addition, awareness of the group and its beliefs was well-known and widely condemned at the time. Newspapers reported that a minor league baseball team from Iowa had changed hotels after learning that the 2002 Euro conference would be held where the team planned to stay, (vi) and the management of the conference hotel distanced itself publically from EURO's ideology while honoring its contract for the event. EURO's activities in South Carolina and Virginia around that time were also reported in USA Today and the Washington Post. The organization and its conference were a much reported controversy. (vii)

Our concern over your participation in this event is that, in some instances, it might indicate a genuine affinity with some positions taken by EURO or Duke himself. Substance and symbolism, in that regard, are important. For example, in 1999 - three years before you spoke to EURO - Roll Call reported that you were said to embrace "many of the same conservative views of Duke," but were "far more viable." In fact Roll Call quoted you as saying that "Duke has proven he can't get elected, and that's the first and most important thing." (viii) Later that year, you voted against making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a state holiday - one of just three state representatives to do so, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. And in 2004, two years after the EURO conference where you spoke, you were one of six to vote against the holiday.

You apparently took a similar position involving the naming of a U.S. Post Office for Louisiana civil rights icon, the Honorable Lionel Collins, a pioneering civil rights lawyer and the first African-American judge in Jefferson Parish, La. Judge Collins, who died in 1988, is greatly revered and remembered annually with a New Orleans dinner in his honor. As we understand it, HR 5933 (110th Congress) was co-sponsored by five members of the Louisiana House delegation. However, your refusal to co-sponsor the bill prevented the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), from proceeding because of the Subcommittee's requirement for unanimity for such efforts.

By themselves, your votes on the symbolic initiatives of the King Holiday and the Collins USPS facility were disappointing. Combined with the current controversy, however, they raise serious and legitimate questions about whether, in your new role as a member of the House leadership, you can be fair to all of the interests you will be charged to represent. The Boston Herald has similarly suggested that, without fully addressing this controversy, your position in leadership raises concerns. (ix)

We are requesting, by way of this letter, the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these concerns and related issues regarding the leadership agenda for the 114th Congress. Most specifically, we wish to discuss your position regarding efforts to repair the Voting Rights Act, the most important civil rights act since the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and which was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013). We also wish to discuss your views on legal efforts to overturn President Obama's executive action on immigration reform and congressional efforts to invest in our public transportation systems, rebuilding roads, bridges and public facilities as a mechanism for job creation.

As you have stated "Those who know me best know I have always been passionate about helping, serving, and fighting for every family that I represent." (x) We look forward to working with you on ways that we might work together to do that.

Thank you in advance for considering our views and our request. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the questions we've raised and these important issues for our nation. If you have any questions, please contact either of us or Lisa Bornstein, Legal Director for The Leadership Conference, ( at 202-466-3311.

Wade Henderson
Marc Morial
President & CEO
President & CEO
The Leadership Conference on
National Urban League
Civil and Human Rights
Chair of Governance Committee for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Note: Copy of the original letter is available by contacting the National Urban League or The Leadership Conference on Human Rights.

i  EURO archived website. "White Civil Rights: The Website for Europeans and Americans Wherever They May Live."

ii  Anti-Defamation League archived webpage. "Extremism in America: David Duke: Affiliations."
iii  Southern Poverty Law Center. "Extremist Files: EURO."

iv  Costa, Robert. "Scalise Releases New Statement of 'Regret' for 2002 Speech; Boehner Backs Him." Washington Post. December 30, 2014.

v  Costa, Robert. "Former KKK Leader Says His Political Advisor was 'Friendly' with Rep. Scalise." Washington Post. December 30, 2014.

vi Thompson, Catherine. "Iowa Baseball Team Avoided Hotel Where Scalise Spoke To White Nationalists." December 30, 2014.

vii Costa, Robert and O'Keefe, Ed. "House Majority Whip Scalise confirms he spoke to white supremacists in 2002." December 29, 2014.

viii  Lesniewski, Nels. "What Scalise and Vitter Told Roll Call About David Duke in 1999." December 29, 2014.

ix  Boston Herald, Editorial, "A Time to Stand Aside." Jan 4, 2015.

x Costa, Robert. "Scalise Releases New Statement of 'Regret' for 2002 Speech; Boehner Backs Him." Washington Post. December 30, 2014.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights



Judith L. Lichtman, National Partnership for Women & Families

Vice Chairs
Jacqueline Pata, National Congress of American Indians

Thomas A. Saenz, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 

Hilary Shelton, NAACP


Lee A. Saunders. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees

Board of Directors
Barbara Arnwine, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Cornell William Brooks, NAACP
Lily Eskelsen García, National Education Association
Marcia D. Greenberger, National Women's Law Center
Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign
Linda D. Hallman, AAUW
Mary Kay Henry, Service Employees International Union
Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP
Michael B. Keegan, People for the American Way
Elisabeth MacNamara, League of Women Voters of the United States
Marc Morial, National Urban League
Mee Moua, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Janet Murguía, National Council of La Raza 

Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families
Mary Rose Oakar, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Terry O'Neill, National Organization for Women
Priscilla Ouchida, Japanese American Citizens League
Mark Perriello, American Association of People with Disabilities
Anthony Romero, American Civil Liberties Union
David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Shanna Smith, National Fair Housing Alliance
Richard L. Trumka, AFL-CIO
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers

Dennis Williams, International Union, UAW  

Policy and Enforcement
Committee Chair

Michael Lieberman, Anti-Defamation League

President & CEO

Wade J. Henderson

Executive Vice President & COO

Karen McGill Lawson 




Even with the world's attention focused on the tragic events in Paris, the failure of the mainstream media to cover the bombing of the NAACP office in Colorado Springs is nonetheless a glaring example of the U.S. media's treatment of social movements. Colorado Springs residents had to learn of the NAACP bombing through social media. 

NAACP Bombing

By Ben Branstetter


THE DAILY DOT -  On the morning of January 7, news junkies like myself woke up to a plethora of shocking and tragic stories, be it the bombing of a NAACP office in Colorado or the massive terrorist attack which claimed 12 lives at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The last of those understandably received the most coverage. The attack, likely carried out by Muslim fundamentalists angry at the newspaper for depictions of Muhammad, comes just a few weeks after an Iranian cleric held a Sydney cafe hostage amidst a storm of threats and calls to action from ISIS. That said, one cannot imagine that an attempted bombing at an NAACP office did not even deserve a mention from most mainstream media outlets, cable news in particular. 

Employees of the advocacy group heard a loud explosion Tuesday morning, walking outside of their office to find an ignited IED and a large canister of gas which, had it successfully exploded, could've made the attack far worse. While the FBI has not ruled whether the attempted bombing is a hate crime, they've gathered from eyewitness reports that their lead suspect is a middle-aged, heavy-set white male.

While the body count and international implications of the Paris attack are far larger-making the incident inherently more newsworthy-than the Colorado Springs bombing (which took no lives and inflicted minimal property damage), one of the many benefits of a 24 hours news cycle is all major stories can get their due. Of course, it's a benefit few cable networks choose to take advantage of. MSNBC-supposedly the most progressive of the three major cable networks-spent the entirety of its morning coverage in Paris, not mentioning the Colorado Springs bombing once.

What makes this disparity all the more shocking is the heavy coverage the Colorado Springs attack has attracted via social media. As the Daily Dot's Patrick Howell O'Neill points out, much of the chatter about the Colorado Springs incident on Twitter expressed outrage at mainstream media outlets for largely ignoring the incident. In fact, the hashtag #NAACPBombing held its own amid topics directly related to the Paris attack, including #CharlieHebdo and #IamCharlie. Even Colorado Springs locals were shocked to have to learn about such a major incident from social media.

Especially in the last half of 2014, Twitter has largely driven the conversation on race forced by the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and too many others. Throughout much of the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and across the nation, Twitter supplanted traditional news outlets as the headquarters for coverage with networks left to follow the leader. As activist Shelley Krause points out, Twitter beat the mainstream media to the story in Ferguson and has largely beaten it to this new story in Colorado Springs.

Despite this, the complete lack of coverage of the NAACP attack shows that mainstream media is ready to move past "Black Lives Matter" and the movement that surrounds it. This is typical of the media's treatment of social awareness campaigns: Once the theatrics of tear gas and riot gear have evaporated, so, too, do the news cameras. This is why the continuing protests in NYC has largely been replaced within the media by the ongoing dispute between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio, and not even that would see much coverage if it wasn't happening in the media's hometown.

They're ready to move past it so much, in fact, that the historic importance of the attempted bombing seems to lend it no value as a news story. It reeks of the same schema of the infamous actions of the Philadelphia police against the black activist group MOVE-which ended up burning down an entire neighborhood-and even reminded ThinkProgress of the 1963 church bombing that killed four young black girls. In fact, cable network AMC has optioned a drama about that time in Birmingham, which will be called "Bombingham," meaning threats on black lives matter more to the folks behind The Walking Dead than they do to a cable news room.

It's a solid case study in why cable news ratings have been falling steadily while engagement with social media as a news source is consistently growing. Events like the Paris shooting-or even the Colorado Springs bombing-don't require multiple hours of coverage. You could have learned more from ten minutes on Twitter or Facebook about the Paris attack than you could in three hours of Morning Joe. Compared to the all-encompassing rapidity of social media, cable news is too often redundant in the face of quick-moving stories like those of this week.

 Which should be an existential crisis for cable news. I'm sure from the inside of a large news agency, it's easy to see Twitter as inherently reactive and little else, only able to respond to the reporting of traditional journalists. And to an extent, this is correct-original reporting on Twitter is too often unreliable and built more upon haste than the truth. But when a news story CNN is ignoring is demanding the attention of millions of Americans on another format, those millions might start to question why they need CNN.

The events in Paris are a real tragedy not just for France but for all who benefit from the fearless devotion to free speech exhibited for decades by the staff of Charlie Hebdo and publications like it. These shootings are the largest terrorist attack in France of the past two decades and demand top billing from any news outlet. That said, an act that stands to escalate already tense racial relations in the U.S. should at least earn a mention from cable news. If the media continues to abandon such a relevant story, viewers may make traditional media irrelevant by turning their backs on it.

[Follow Ben Branstetter @Ben Branstetter]





Schools respond to black male achievement gap 
Michael Walker often finds himself in classrooms in Minneapolis
Michael Walker often finds himself in classrooms in Minneapolis, Minn., comforting and counseling students in the wake of growing outrage over the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York. Kim Palmer / The Hechinger Report
MINNEAPOLIS - Michael Walker stood in front of the nine-member Minneapolis school board on a recent snowy night and told it that change must come to this Midwestern city, a place where black students are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their white peers, and where educators are struggling to close one of the widest achievement gaps between the two in the nation.


"There is a larger system working against our black males," said Walker, a 38-year-old former high school principal and basketball coach who became the head of the newly formed office of Black Male Student Achievement last July. He asked the board for $1.2 million to help boost test scores, reduce suspensions and improve graduation rates - and said it would also take new attitudes.
"We need beliefs to change," Walker said, adding that too many black male students don't see academic success in their future. Overall, just 15 percent of Minnesota's black eighth-graders were considered proficient on national math tests in 2013, compared with 54 percent of their white peers.
In the 36,000-student Minneapolis district, less than a quarter of black students passed state reading tests in 2014. More than three-quarters of white students did so.
The creation of Walker's office is one response to renewed concern about how far black students - particularly boys - lag behind their white peers, a concern heightened by growing national outrage over the decisions of grand juries not to indict the white police officers involved in killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City.
In the roughly six months since he started, Walker has tried to address the glaring gap while playing a role he didn't anticipate: comforting and counseling students upset by the decisions in classrooms and on street corners.
"The issue for these young people is they just want to be heard," Walker said. "They want a place to express their emotions and their feelings. One student (a black male) told me: 'Wherever we go, we are looked at as monsters.' "
Walker, a father of four partial to bow ties and immaculate suits, urges calm and encourages students to stay in school and gain the power to influence laws and policies. He's become a calming presence at intersections and highways where protesters lie down in streets to show their anger and dismay. And he's quick with specific advice about what black males should do when stopped by police.
As indignation over the killings grows across the United States, and protests follow, urban school districts will need role models such as Walker, said Christopher Chatmon, an educator who leads the nearly five-year-old Office for African-American Male Achievement in the Oakland Unified School District, in California. Oakland became the first district with an office devoted entirely to improving bleak statistics for black boys, who are as likely to be killed as they are to graduate from high school ready for college.
"I see this as a critical moment, a tipping point for the nation," said Chatmon, who visited Minneapolis last spring and urged school leaders to support Walker and the new office. "Our president has acknowledged that this nation needs to recalibrate and figure out ways to support boys of color. What better time to introduce this work, now that (protests) are shutting down bridges and closing highways?"
Nationwide, black students are three times more likely to be suspended than white students, according to federal data. That disparity and the lagging performance of African-American boys have become priorities for President Barack Obama, who's solicited over $200 million in private donations for a series of events, tutoring programs, school discipline restructuring programs and other initiatives around improving their chances and opportunities. His My Brother's Keeper initiative has since been expanded to include Latino, Native American and Asian-American boys.
Yet uncertainty remains about how much the initiative and, in particular, offices such as Chatmon's and Walker's can truly close achievement gaps, warns education professor and researcher Pedro Noguera, the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University.
"Several districts have created offices like these, and it's not clear if they will have a positive impact on the broad array of challenges facing black males," Noguera said. "Ultimately, what matters most is for schools to find ways to improve the learning environment, reduce punitive approaches to school discipline and provide greater social and emotional support. Anything less is just window dressing."
Walker has a range of ideas and plans, but his office came with a budget of just $200,000 for the first year, largely to explore and identify potential solutions. It won't pay for the cultural training he wants for teachers, along with a new mentorship and leadership program for students to reduce suspension rates and boost the representation of blacks in advanced placement classes.
He may also be hampered by the abrupt resignation in December of Minneapolis schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, who'd been under fire for slow academic process and high suspension rates but who supported Walker and his office.
Johnson listened intently to Walker during his first report to the Minneapolis school board, in November, when he introduced 17-year-old ShahmarDennis, a high school senior who said he was living proof of the disdain that young African-American males feel is part of their destiny in the public schools here.
Dennis told the board he's tired of overcoming the stereotypes of African-American males that have dogged him throughout his childhood, such as: "They are dumb, they swear a lot, they have to be part of the game, they aren't interested in school, that's why they sag their pants,'' he said. "Many teachers think I fall into that category. I have to work harder to show teachers that I really want to get an education from my class. This should not be the case."
In Minnesota, it too often is. Dennis, a senior at Roosevelt High School, said he'd been discouraged from taking tougher courses, and he recounted what had happened when he told a physics teacher back in ninth grade that he wanted to enter a tough International Baccalaureate program.
"He gave me the weirdest look,'' Dennis told the board. "He said, 'You? You wanted to do the IB program?' He looked a little bit shocked. I replied yes, and he asked again, 'YOU want to do this?' I replied yes again, getting a little annoyed."
What Dennis and others are up against in changing those perceptions: Although the state has made some progress in narrowing the achievement gap on national assessments in recent years, black students still face daunting odds. For example, in 2014, just 24 percent of black students passed the state's science exam, while 61 percent of white student did.
Walker hopes his presence in the district and the existence of his office make a statement that such treatment is unacceptable. At November's board meeting, he also had at his side a woman whose son was suspended in 10th grade who'd learned about Walker's office, called him and filled him in on the situation. Walker returned the call and explained suspension policies.
For Walker, support from the community, as well as a new board and superintendent, will be key, as will raising additional money that the cash-strapped district doesn't have. While he isn't promising to solve the achievement gap, he thinks public awareness of his mission is a crucial first step for Minneapolis - and the country.
"I look at my role as a coach who has to create a team of key stakeholders,'' he said. "Everyone has a part to play. It can't be just Michael Walker making this happen."
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news website focused on inequality and innovation in education.







The Links, Incorporated, New Orleans Chapter: 27th ANNUAL NEW ORLEANS SPELLING BEE  TO BE HELD SATURDAY, MARCH 14

New Orleans (LA) Chapter of The Links

Winners to compete in national competition in Washington, D.C.

Contact: Verdie F. Richburg
504.451-9839 or 504.888-3663 
NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans (LA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and The Times - Picayune  invite eligible students in the fifth through eighth grades to participate in the 27th Annual New Orleans Spelling Bee.  In order for students to participate in the Bee, they must attend school, public or non-public, in one of the Louisiana parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist or St. Tammany. Home schooled students are also welcome to participate.
The Bee is scheduled for Saturday, March 14, 2015 and will be held on the campus of Xavier University (1 Drexel Dr., New Orleans, La, 70125).  Schools can register up to eight (8) spellers for the bee. The winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip for two (2) to the Washington, D.C. area for competition in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, courtesy of The Times - Picayune. Prizes will be awarded to the top three spellers, including a Merriam Webster Dictionary.
In addition to improving students' spelling skills and increasing their vocabularies, local bee coordinator, Verdie Richburg, says "the Bee also helps students develop correct English usage and it provides a valuable experience in developing poise--- a necessary skill for success in public speaking and the performing arts."  
In order for students to participate in the New Orleans Spelling Bee, they must do so through their school and each school must enroll directly with the Scripps National Spelling Bee is a$205 enrollment fee and schools can register with Scripps until January 29, 2015.  Interested schools should go directly to to register. 
About the New Orleans Chapter of The Links, Incorporated 
Since it was chartered on November 20, 1957, chapter members have engaged in implementing program services through the four National Program Facets: Services to Youth, International Trends and Services; National Trends and Services; Health and Human Services; and the Arts.  The chapter's major initiatives include co-sponsoring the local competition for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee; a partnership with Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School; and Law Day, in which Bethune students are trained in legal proceedings and participate in a mock trial.  The main focus areas are: education and youth activities to assist youth in fulfilling their intellectual potential; addressing issues affecting the African American community through health and wellness projects; fostering cultural appreciation through the arts; and collaborating with other Link chapters to provide services and assistance to global friends.  Verdie Farmer Richburg is the president of the chapter.
About The Links, Incorporated
The Links, Incorporated is an international, women's non-profit, social welfare and service organization of over 12,000 members in 270 chapters across the United States, and the Bahamas. It was founded in 1946. From its inception, the organization's members have been developing and implementing programs that target issues affecting its members and communities. Community service has been the corner stone of the organization's outreach with members contributing more than 500,000 documented hours of community service annually. For the past 60 years, The Links, Incorporated has been internationally known for its programs that are focused on topics such as health, economics and education, youth, and policy efforts. Please visit for more information.




Richard Wright Public Charter School Creates Powerful PSA to Highlight National "Save Our Sons" Night

Leading national nonprofit for the promotion of Responsible Fatherhood, Fathers Incorporated, announces partnership with Richard Wright Public Charter School for first National Save Our Sons Night

Save Our Sons
Save Our Sons

WASHINGTON, DC -  On Friday, February 6, 2015, the first annual NATIONAL SAVE OUR SONS NIGHT (NSOSN) will take place. Across the country, various local, national and international partners will be organizing to encourage fathers to find ways to spend quality time with their sons and to model healthy behaviors for them. Organizations from educational, faith-based, national and local nonprofits, as well as individual families and community members will be engaged and mobilized for this historic event. At present, there are 30 organizations (8 national) in 31 cities registered as official NSON partners with the list of participants expanding daily.


In the wake of the protests and activities around the country involving Black males, students at Richard Wright Public Charter School created a public service announcement (PSA) ( to bring attention to individuals who have lost their lives. The PSA is a riveting testament to how violence and the loss of life affects young men all across this country. "It is a pleasure to see our students give voice to their feelings through this creative process," says national filmmaker and teacher at the school, Janks Morton.

Richard Wright Public Charter School, located in our nation's capital, is one of the most recent organizations to sign up for NSOSN. The charter school has been recognized on several occasions by national and local media outlets, as well as receiving multiple invitations from First Lady Michelle Obama to participate in White House sponsored symposiums. "Being able to contribute to the National Save Our Sons Night in this manner speaks to what our school stands for and what our youth care about," says Dr. Marco Clark, CEO.

If you would like to join this national movement and plan an activity in your community for our sons, visit for further information and to be listed as a partnering organization.

For more information on National Save Ours Sons Night and other affiliated events, visit or email

About Fathers Incorporated (FI)
Fathers Incorporated (FI), a not-for-profit organization, serves as a leader in the promotion of Responsible Fatherhood and Mentoring. Its international, national, and local focus raises awareness about, and combats the impact of father absence. Fathers Incorporated works to change the current societal and cultural definition of family to include fathers. To learn more, please visit

About Richard Wright Public Charter School For Journalism and Media Arts
Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts' mission is to transform students in grades 8-12 into well-versed media contributors by providing a student-centered environment that connects them to the classics and modern languages and a curriculum focused on strong writing skills and vocabulary. Learn more at




Charter schools help improve special education in New Orleans
Op-Ed, by Leslie Jacobs 
Leslie Jacobs
Leslie Jacobs
NEW ORLEANS -  In fourth grade, James, a special needs student at John Dibert Charter School, was struggling academically and behaviorally. He was making daily trips to the dean's office for disruptive behavior and emotional outbursts. James is now on honor roll in eighth grade, scored mastery and advanced on state tests and is applying to Ben Franklin High School.

Zaria transferred to Arthur Ashe Charter School at the beginning of second grade as a special education student, reading at kindergarten level.  By the end of fourth grade she scored mastery in English.
Zaria and James are two of the many students who have benefited from the city's improvement in serving students with special needs.
Our schools must educate every student who enters their doors, no matter his or her physical, emotional or mental challenges.
New Orleans has historically done a poor job of delivering on this mandate. We did not do a good job educating students with special needs before Hurricane Katrina, and we did not do a good job in the early years after the levees broke.
The recent settlement agreement between the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) marks a historical step forward.
In 2003, only one in 10 children with special needs left our high schools with a diploma.
Today, nearly half (48 percent) of ninth-graders with special needs will graduate with their peers in four years. New Orleans' graduation rate for students with special needs now surpasses the state average by 11 percentage points.
Growth in academic achievement for students with disabilities is equally impressive, climbing from 18 percent proficiency in 2008 to 44 percent in 2013.
What has driven this improvement?
First, the Recovery School District (RSD) focused on equity in access.  The OneApp enrollment process, implemented in 2012, is a single application for all but eight public schools in Orleans Parish. Prior to the OneApp, some schools avoided enrolling students with special needs.  By centralizing and monitoring enrollment, students with special needs are now guaranteed equal access to the school of their choice.
Educate Now! Centralized enrollment, along with the recently implemented citywide expulsion process, creates rules that prevent students from being pushed out of schools due to their disabilities.
Secondly, the RSD focused on getting schools the funding needed to provide the extra services required for students with disabilities. RSD schools now get up to three times more money to serve students with the most significant needs.
Additionally, the OPSB and RSD developed the Citywide Exceptional Needs Fund for schools serving particularly high-cost students. OPSB seeded the fund with $5 million and will provide $1.4 million each year.
These changes improve access and funding, but even more importantly, schools have improved the quality of services provided to special needs students. One of the advantages of charter schools is the autonomy to innovate and respond to needs quicker and better.
ReNEW Schools offers a program for students with moderate to intensive emotional disturbance and related disabilities.  Collegiate Academies has a Special Education Transition Program to support job-skill development for students with intellectual disabilities.
FirstLine Schools offer a therapeutic gardening program for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. The winner of | The Times-Picayune's education entrepreneur contest, Vera Triplett, is starting Noble Minds Charter School, which will work with children who struggle with emotional and behavioral challenges.
And more innovation is in the works. Next fall, in collaboration with OPSB and Tulane Medical School, the RSD will open a therapeutic program for students with mental and behavioral health needs that affect their ability to succeed in a traditional school setting.
Looking at the progress we have made in the past five years, New Orleans' system of schools has been able to work collaboratively and rapidly to implement these innovative solutions. Our improvement has truly been a citywide effort that has RSD, OPSB, charter school operators and educators working together to improve educational opportunities for students with disabilities.
Schools across the country are continually striving to better serve students with special needs, but improvements tend to be incremental and implemented at a snail's pace.  The responsiveness of our system of schools to address the historical shortcomings in special education has truly been remarkable.

Leslie Jacobs, who formerly served on the Orleans Parish School Board and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, is founder of Educate Now! 




Chicago gave hundreds of high-risk kids a summer job.  Violent crime arrests plummeted.  


Police Line
Source image
CHICAGO - In a year full of distressing stories - especially about race, crime and violence in urban neighborhoods - this one points to some hope. Earlier this December, we covered a summer jobs program in Chicago that appeared to lead to fewer teenage arrests for violent crime. Our original story, republished below, also reminds us that policy solutions are possible - and possibly even inexpensive.
A couple of years ago, the city of Chicago started a summer jobs program for teenagers attending high schools in some of the city's high-crime, low-income neighborhoods. The program was meant, of course, to connect students to work. But officials also hoped that it might curb the kinds of problems - like higher crime - that arise when there's no work to be found.
Research on the program conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and just published in the journal Science suggests that these summer jobs have actually had such an effect: Students who were randomly assigned to participate in the program had 43 percent fewer violent-crime arrests over 16 months, compared to students in a control group.
That number is striking for a couple of reasons: It implies that a relatively short (and inexpensive) intervention like an eight-week summer jobs program can have a lasting effect on teenage behavior. And it lends empirical support to a popular refrain by advocates: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job."
Researcher Sara Heller conducted a randomized control trial with the program, in partnership with the city. The study included 1,634 teens at 13 high schools. They were, on average, C students, almost all of them eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Twenty percent of the group had already been arrested, and 20 percent had already been victims of crime.
Some of the students were given part-time jobs through the program, working 25 hours a week at minimum wage ($8.25 in Illinois) with government or non-profit employers. They worked as camp counselors, office assistants, or in community gardens, among other places. Other students in the treatment group worked 15 hours a week at similar jobs, but also received 10 hours a week of "social-emotional learning" time, where they learned skills to manage their emotions or behavior that might get in the way of employment. All of the students in the program received mentors as well. The teenagers in the control group participated in neither part of the program.
Heller used Chicago Police Department data to follow what happened to all of the students in the 16 months after the program began. In the crime data, there was no difference between the students who got the counseling and those who did not, suggesting that the group working 25 hours a week may have acquired some of the same social-emotional skills on the job. There was a big difference, though, in the violent crime arrest data between the teenagers who got jobs and those who did not: 
Click to see graphic.
A lot of things could be going on here. Teenagers who might have committed crime to get money would no longer need to when they have a job. If their added income allowed parents to work less, they may also have gotten more adult supervision. It's also possible that students who were busy working simply didn't have idle time over the summer to commit crime - but that theory doesn't explain the long-term declines in violent arrests that occurred well after the summer program was over.
Heller, in fact, found that most of the decline came a few months later:
That long-term benefit suggests that students who had access to jobs may have then found crime a less attractive alternative to work. Or perhaps their time on the job taught them how the labor market values education. Or maybe the work experience may have given them skills that enabled them to be more successful - and less prone to getting in trouble - back in school.
This one study can't identify exactly why a summer jobs program might change the trajectory of teens at risk of becoming violent. It also raises the possibility that teenagers with summer jobs might have more money to spend on drugs (drug arrests for the treatment group were slightly higher than for the control). These results do suggest that cities could get a lot of payoff for the minimal cost of a summer-jobs program - particularly if it targets teens before they drop out of school. As Heller writes:
The results echo a common conclusion in education and health research: that public programs might do more with less by shifting from remediation to prevention. The findings make clear that such programs need not be hugely costly to improve outcomes for disadvantaged youth; well-targeted, low-cost employment policies can make a substantial difference, even for a problem as destructive and complex as youth violence.
Emily Badger is a reporter for Wonkblog covering urban policy. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities.






Attributes Reduction to NOLA FOR LIFE Efforts; 

Pledges to Continue Tackling Crime in 2015 

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, City of New Orleans
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, City of New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (1/2/15) - Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and City officials announced that the number of murders in New Orleans reached a 43-year low in 2014. At 150 - the lowest number of murders since 1971 - the downward trend represents the third consecutive year that murders have declined in the city and the lowest murder rate in over a decade with 39.6 victims per 100,000 people. Under the direction of the Mayor, the City will continue to implement NOLA FOR LIFE, its comprehensive murder reduction strategy, in 2015 and will use every available resource to reduce crime across New Orleans.
"When we launched NOLA FOR LIFE in 2012, I asked all New Orleanians to join me in making murder reduction our number one priority because every life matters," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "In 2014, we saw murder continue its downward trend to a historic 43-year low - the lowest since 1971. NOLA FOR LIFE is a comprehensive 'all-hands-on-deck' approach to murder reduction, and we are seeing strong results thanks to our brave NOPD officers and our community and faith-based partners across the city. However, we still have a long way to go, and I remain fully committed to continuing our progress on murder while doubling down on our efforts to reduce overall crime, increase opportunities for our children and create more jobs so that we can make our great city even greater."
Launched in May 2012, NOLA FOR LIFE implements 35 initiatives to strategically reduce the number of murders in New Orleans. From prevention to intervention, to enforcement and rehabilitation, these initiatives are grouped in five main categories: Stop the Shooting, Invest in Prevention, Promote Jobs and Opportunity, Strengthen the NOPD and Get Involved and Rebuild Neighborhoods.
Enforcement continued as a primary focus for NOLA FOR LIFE in 2014 with key initiatives like the Multi-Agency Gang Unit, hot-spot policing and community policing serving as catalysts to help reduce murder in New Orleans. Since launching in 2012, the NOPD-led Multi-Agency Gang Unit, through coordination with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, has indicted 106 individuals from 11 gangs across the city.
"We are working together better than ever before to target the individuals responsible for the violence in our city and bring them to justice," said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison. "The progress we've made over the past three years is real and measurable, but we have a long way to go. In the coming year, we will work aggressively every day to build on this progress and to continue to reduce murder and violent crime across the city. Our goal is to ensure that every neighborhood in New Orleans is a safe neighborhood."
Murder Rate New Orleans

"The final numbers in 2014 show a sustained and historic reduction in murder across New Orleans and highlight the challenges that remain," said Charles West, director of the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team. "After three consecutive years of murder reduction, we now have the lowest number of murders in 43 years and the lowest murder rate in over a decade. Data clearly shows that progress is being made, and we will build on this momentum in 2015 by taking the necessary steps to continue reducing murder across our city."
Additionally, group-member involved murders and group-member involved shootings were both down 8 percent over 2013, which City officials attribute to its Group Violence Reduction Strategy - a key NOLA FOR LIFE initiative.
NOLA for Life

The Group Violence Reduction Strategy, pioneered by criminologist David Kennedy, is designed to target geographic areas of high crime and the groups that commit violent acts. In 2014, NOLA FOR LIFE conducted three call-ins, reaching 76 individuals associated with the groups and gangs responsible for the majority of violent crime. During the call-ins, participants hear from law enforcement, community members and social service providers and those who no longer wish to engage in violence are given the opportunity to make different choices for their life. For those who choose to stop the violence and accept support, there is a network of 15 service providers coordinated to provide jobs, education, housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment.              
"The decline in murder once again demonstrates that NOLA FOR LIFE is working and that last year's historic drop in murder was not an exception," said Judy Reese Morse, deputy mayor of citywide initiatives. "NOLA FOR LIFE's comprehensive approach is designed to create pathways away from violence, especially for young men ages 16 to 24. We're gaining real progress in making our community safer thanks to the dedication of partners at every level across the city. From day one, the Mayor said this was our top priority and that we need to tackle this issue comprehensively, and that's exactly what we're doing. We will continue to have a laser focus on reducing murder and overall crime in New Orleans as quickly and as comprehensively as possible."
Last year, in response to President Obama's My Brother's Keeper Community Challenge, nearly 400 leaders from neighborhood organizations, social service agencies, the local business community, philanthropic, education and faith-based institutions joined Mayor Landrieu at the NOLA FOR LIFE Symposium. Citizens explored and set actionable goals to address the broader issues contributing to the homicide rate in New Orleans - race, equity, education, income inequality and the criminal justice system.
"In 2015, we look forward to building on our success and expanding the strategy by implementing the newest components of the NOLA FOR LIFE's Invest in Prevention pillar, including NOLA FOR LIFE Mentoring and the Restorative Approaches Project," said Health Department Director Charlotte Parent. "As we continue to work toward preventing violence in our community, it is absolutely critical that we provide guidance and support to young men who are most at risk. NOLA FOR LIFE considers violence to be a threat to public health requiring both prevention and intervention, which is why our strategy focuses on both."
The NOLA FOR LIFE Mentoring Initiative provides guidance and support to 15 to 18-year-old males in New Orleans who are most at risk of becoming involved in violence. In addition, the City of New Orleans Health Department and NOLA FOR LIFE, in partnership with the New Orleans-based Center for Restorative Approaches, launched a new project in 2014 to promote conflict resolution in schools. Recognized as a best practice by President Obama's Supportive School Discipline Initiative, the restorative approach has been shown to reduce suspension rates and improve school climate. Restorative approaches are an alternative discipline strategy that emphasizes the reparation of harm and relationship-building over punitive discipline.
In 2015, NOLA FOR LIFE will continue its strategic focus on prevention and rehabilitation efforts by strengthening key initiatives launched in 2014. In addition to its enforcement efforts, the City will create pathways away from violence and toward prosperity through initiatives like the Economic Opportunity Strategy and NOLA FOR LIFE reentry and mentoring initiatives.
"Despite our marked progress on murder reduction, public safety continues to be a major challenge for our city and will remain our number one priority. We are using every resource we have to address violent crime. To reduce overall crime, we are focusing on beefing up our police presence such as increasing the use of overtime, utilizing reserve officers and task forces in hot spots, and moving officers from behind desks into the street," said Chief Michael Harrison adding, "On the longer-term issue of recruitment and retention, we have passed a 5% pay increase to retain experienced offers and make our salaries even more competitive. We cut the amount of time to process an application by 33%, by making tweaks to the process from beginning to the end. We have tripled the number of applicants through smart advertising and outreach and through eliminating the residency requirement.  We will announce new changes to baseline requirements early this year to widen the pool of potential officers.  Additionally, we now have a recruitment incentive in place for our officers-- they receive $1,000 for every recruit they successfully mentor through graduation from the academy." 

The FBI unified crime report for the 4th quarter of 2014 and 2014 year end totals will be made public once final numbers have been reported to the FBI.
For more information about the Mayor's NOLA FOR LIFE strategy, visit



Marc Morial - This Is Why We March 


National Urban League
  Marc Morial - President & CEO, National Urban League
To Be Equal #49
December 17, 2014


Marc H. Morial
President and CEO

National Urban League  



 "It's just so overwhelming to see all who have come to stand with us. Look at the masses - Black, white, all races, all religions...We need to stand like this at all times." - Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, at the "Justice for All" March in Washington, DC on Saturday, December 13



NEW YORK, NY - Few times in a nation's history is the conscience of its citizens shocked and awakened - across racial, economic, generational and even ideological - lines.  Times when the collective consciousness of a people screams - and demands without apology - that it's time for a change, that things must be different and that it must start today.

So, when people ask, "Why do we march?," I tell them we march because of the views expressed, concerns shared, and pain felt by all the people who took to the stage to speak and the tens of thousands who marched and chanted for "Justice for All" on Saturday in Washington, DC.  We march for the millions more across America who know that what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" more than 50 years ago is still true today: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." 

In this catalytic moment driven by cataclysmic circumstances, what we have witnessed across America since the non-indictments of officers in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner may be new to a generation, but it is not new to a nation.
Catalytic moments birthed by cataclysmic circumstances - the horrific beating and murder of Emmett Till, the killing of four little Black girls in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing and the murders of civil rights workers Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney.  These events shocked our nation into more than awareness.  They shocked us into action - action that resulted in the passing of the most comprehensive and sweeping civil rights laws our nation has seen in its history.

That is why we march - because Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and others did not deserve to die; because Marlene Pinnock did not deserve to be viciously beaten and Levar Jones did not deserve to be shot for complying with a trooper's request; because the excessive use of force - deadly force - by law enforcement against unarmed African Americans has no place in the land of the free and the home of the brave; because police should not fear the communities they have sworn to protect and communities should not fear those who serve to protect them; and because we - as a nation - must and can be better.

We marched in Washington - as we have so many times before - as a multicultural band of historic civil rights organizations united with legislators, clergy, everyday Americans and young people who have committed ourselves to working for the change we want to see and to peaceful, nonviolent advocacy, activism and change.  Everyone committed to that mission - no matter age, race, religion or background - is and has always been welcome.  The challenges before us are big enough that we all have a role to play in the solutions.
We have been here before - and we can change a nation again.  That is why we and our partners - the National Action Network, NAACP and Black Women's Roundtable - marched in DC this past weekend along with many others.  It's also why we will continue to be in communities across America every day, doing the work that the National Urban League has consistently done for 104 years to ensure a better America for all citizens.

We marched in our nation's capital to protest injustice - and most importantly to put forth a plan of action - a plan that will help ensure that no other family in America ever has to feel the pain of the mothers, fathers, wives, daughters and sons who stood with us that day:

10-POINT JUSTICE PLAN: National Urban League Police Reform and Accountability Recommendations

1) Widespread Use of Body Cameras and Dashboard Cameras
2) Broken Windows Reform and Implementation of 21st Century Community Policing Model
3) Review Police Use of Deadly Force Policies and Adopt a Uniform Deadly Force Standard
4) Comprehensive Retraining of All Police Officers
5) Comprehensive Review and Strengthening of Police Hiring Standards
6) Appointment of Special Prosecutors to Investigate Police Misconduct
7) Mandatory, Uniform FBI Reporting and Audit of Lethal Force Incidents Involving All Law Enforcement
8) Creation and Audit of National Database of Citizen Complaints against Police
9) Revision of National Police Accreditation System for Mandatory Use by Law Enforcement To Be Eligible for Federal Funds
10) National Comprehensive Anti-Racial Profiling Law



Black Lives Matter in the Best Films of 2014 


By Jordan Flaherty 
Selma CHICAGO - More than 100 years after the birth of cinema, it sometimes feels like every story has been told. But the best films of 2014 dared to break out of their genres, explore new ways of filmmaking, and inspire viewers. Some of them even provided tools for popular understanding of our current political moment. This year, Selma, Tales of the Grim Sleeper, and Out In The Night all told stories of a criminal justice system harming Black communities, while Dear White People used satire to address racist power structures. Documentaries like The Great Invisible and Citizenfour attacked government and corporate malfeasance, science fiction films like Snowpiercer helped imagine future revolutions, and Pride delivered a lesson in movement solidarity.


Below are my top 14 films of the year. As always, many of them didn't receive the distribution they deserved, but will no doubt live on as more audiences discover them online.
14 - Dear White People - After months of hype and viral videos, Dear White People had a lot of anticipation to live up to. While the film focused narrowly on life at an elite, mostly white, college, it managed to pull in a wider range of issues and themes. This fresh and original film served notice that writer/director Justin Simien, and his talented young cast, are rising talents to watch.
13 - Whiplash - Damien Chazelle's Sundance award winner was a tense, brutal drama about a young man and his mentor/teacher. Or, as Barbara Herman called it, the "best homoerotic S&M film about jazz drumming you'll see this year."
12 - Coherence - This film slipped under most critic's radar, but filmmaker James Ward Byrkit's debut about alternate realities is a smart and challenging low-budget sci-fi mind-bender. It's the kind of film you want to watch again right after it ends, to keep unlocking its puzzles.
11 - The Babadook - Writer/director Jennifer Kent's debut is the scariest movie I've seen in years. In a genre often dominated by male filmmakers and sexist tropes, Kent's film is a breath of fresh air, and a truly terrifying balance of psychological and supernatural horror that keeps you in the dark, jumping at shadows.
10 - Edge of Tomorrow - It's not often that a Hollywood blockbuster starring Tom Cruise makes my list, but Doug Liman, director of Bourne Identity and Go, among other films, is a filmmaker who knows how to make an old genre come alive. Edge of Tomorrow is a rare find; a smart and exciting Hollywood sci-fi thriller.
9 - The Great Invisible - So much has been written and filmed about the BP Drilling Disaster of 2010, that it's shocking to find stories that haven't been told. But filmmaker Margaret Brown (who also went behind the scenes of Mobile, Alabama's racially segregated Mardi Gras in 2009's The Order of Myths) has given this disaster the documentary it deserves, with stunning access to both families on the Gulf Coast, and to men with money and power who work within the oil industry.
8 - Selma -Ava DuVernay's last film, Middle of Nowhere, made my 2012 best-of list with a moving story of families affected by the prison industrial complex. That it's nearly unprecedented for a Black woman filmmaker to make a big budget Hollywood film shows how far we haven't come, and this film gives a glimpse of what we've been missing. While Selma may not give enough weight to the grassroots activists of SNCC, and (despite the cries of certain historians) may be too respectful to President Johnson, ultimately this is a powerful document of an important historical moment.

7 - Tales of the Grim Sleeper - Before seeing this documentary, I'd never heard of the Grim Sleeper, an alleged serial killer arrested in South Central Los Angeles in 2010. This film presents a case that the race, gender and class of the victims meant the news media and police were not interested in stopping the killer. Over a period of more than two decades, scores of women, almost all of them Black street-based sex workers and/or drug users, were raped and killed while the police and media turned a blind eye. Veteran documentarian Nick Broomfield talks to a coalition of Black women activists in South Central LA who worked to pressure the police and media to pay attention. He also talks to women on the street who encountered (and narrowly escaped) the killer. One woman gave police a sketch of the man, and led officers to his block more than a decade before he was caught, but the LAPD apparently did nothing with the information. Other women Broomfield finds were afraid to even talk to the police. This film is a disturbing and difficult companion the Black Lives Matter movement.

6 - Out in the Night - The Jersey Four, a group of young African American lesbians who were vilified in the media and aggressively prosecuted after they fought back against a hate crime, is an incredibly important story. And filmmaker blair dorosh-walther has created a powerful and urgent film that captures the lives and families of these young women, and shows a criminal justice system more interested in attacking them than protecting them. This film needs to be widely seen.
5 - Citizenfour - Filmmaker Laura Poitras was already making a film about (and had been a victim of) US government surveillance when Edward Snowden came to her. Long before this film came out, she had already made history by helping bring Snowden's revelations to a worldwide audience. All this film needed to do to secure its place in history was to be a record of those revelations. But Poitras chose instead to make a film that takes the viewer inside a historical moment, making this not just important for what it tells, but also an example of bold and creative filmmaking.
4 - Snowpiercer - Reportedly, a clash between Korean director Bong Joon-ho and distributor Harvey Weinstein kept this stunning film from wide release. Snowpiercer is a thrilling allegory of class struggle in a dystopian future that puts The Hunger Games to shame.
3 - Pride - If you like uplifting films about inter-movement solidarity and class struggle, this British crowd-pleaser from Matthew Warchus is perfect for you. A moving, funny, charming, film based on a true story of gay activists in the 80s that built an alliance with striking miners in Thatcher's Britain.
2 - Boyhood - Enough has been written about Richard Linklater's bold and wise film that there's no reason to add my praise. But even without the concept of watching actors age over a period of twelve years, this film feels like the culmination of what Linklater has been building towards throughout a career that started with the formal experimentation of Slacker and continued to push against narrative boundaries from Waking Life to A Scanner Darkly, Before Sunrise, and Fast Food Nation.
1 - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu announced himself as a talent to watch with his debut Amores Perros, but nothing in his career to date comes close to the triumph of this film. Behind the film's play within a play storyline lies a filmmaking tour de force that succeeds on every technical level and leaves the viewer breathless, with no wasted moment or misstep.
Among other notable films this year: Jodorowski's Dune, directed by Frank Pavich, documents a brilliant film that almost existed, but even without being made proved itself more influential than most films ever can hope for. Gareth Evan's The Raid 2 (part one made my 2012 list) continued to beat all of Hollywood action films at their own game. Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler was as creepy as its name, and can be read as a blistering attack on both local TV news and capitalism. David Fincher's Gone Girl was either built upon misogynist stereotypes, or a comment on stultifying roles of patriarchy. Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the Iranian feminist vampire film, is moody, clever and surprising.
Jordan Flaherty is a TV news producer on The Laura Flanders Show and the author of the book Floodlines: Community and Resistance From Katrina to the Jena Six. You can see his work at



BWW Reviews: Theatre Works Explores Why WE LIVE HERE
Broadway World 
by Joseph Baker, Broadway World

MEMPHIS, TN  - I like the title of Harold Ellis Clark's WE LIVE HERE, winner of the NewWorks@TheWorks playwriting competition hosted by Playhouse on the Square and now playing at Theatre Works. If you emphasize the word WE, it offers two different interpretations: (1) It could refer to the racist white characters in the play, who don't relish the idea of ceding part of their predominately white neighborhood in Metarie to the black characters who have had the questionable luck of winning a post-Hurricane Katrina lottery; or (2) it could refer to the black characters themselves, who defiantly (and rightly) have planted their feet on new, if rocky, turf. In fact, any of the three words in the title could be emphasized and, consequently, offer a new facet inviting a different interpretation.


In point of fact, WE LIVE HERE is a variation on a theme initially raised in Lorraine Hansberry's 1950's "Great Grand Daddy" of such plays, RAISIN IN THE SUN. Despite the artistry of that play and its astute casting (it's sad that the great Claudia McNeil's "Mama," so powerful and iconic in the film version, wasn't even Oscar-nominated), one would hope that its "social relevance" would now seem no longer as potent; alas, as the past year's numerous racial disturbances (is there anyone who will ever hear the words "Ferguson, Missouri" and not give a sad shake of the head?) have shown, this oft-resurrected theme still has its lessons to teach.
Curtis C.
Actor Curtis C., who plays Rev. H. Thomas Todd in the play
I have mixed feelings about theatre offerings that are redolent with the earnestness of a classroom lesson. I never know whether such fare will yield a powerful theatrical experience or wag its righteous finger in a "you'd better learn from this" social studies lecture. The good news here is that the former holds sway. Not only is Mr. Ellis' writing both perceptive and timely, but the intuitive direction of John Maness (long a strong local presence both on- and behind- stage in such intimate productions) and the excellent performances (particularly by Jerry Rogers and Claire Kolheim as the displaced couple) insure a thought-provoking, dynamic experience.
The play opens with dramatic fireworks, as the new black neighbors have detained a young man (Gabriel Corry) who has broken an upstairs window and, evidently, left defamatory evidence on the lawn. The vocal pyrotechnics here are startling, and the actors have to perform on all cylinders. Then, in short order, there are appearances by a conscientious, challenged police officer (nicely and firmly played by Michael Corry) and, subsequently, the grandparents of the youthful miscreant, played by the always welcome Karin Barile and Michael J. Vails, trying with little initial success to make amends for their wayward grandson.
Ms. Barile's sympathetic and kind "Barbara" doesn't take long to win over Ms. Kolheim's sensible and wary (and very pregnant) "Francine." The women bond relatively quickly. The men, on the other hand, require a little more time. While Mr. Vails' "Richard" seems unaware of his prejudices, he is basically a good man trying to do the right thing, and Vails' sweetly oblivious characterization is laced with comic grace notes. J. Jerome Rogers' mistrusting, distrustful "Calvin," on the other hand, is probably the adult character in most need of change. Both his present and past experiences create a distance between him and those around him; he even welcomes the intervention of the media-savvy "Reverend H. Thomas Todd" (an entertaining Curtis C.), who sees the incident as a means of staging a publicity-ripe protest. This, in turn, causes the spousal relationship with "Francine" to bristle.
Mr. Clark has written a fairly entertaining piece (it isn't without humor, despite the seriousness of the proceedings). I particularly like the way that the role of the policeman unfolds (there's a real surprise toward the end of the play). In light of recent, racially charged events involving young victims and the police, it's refreshing to see a positive spin on such a character. I also like the interactions in the one-on-one scenes that make us see these characters as "real people" (even the "Reverend," in his final scene, reveals a parental insight that saves him from being a stock character). If I found any opportunity missed, it might involve the unrepentant youngster who has to be prodded into apologies. (I would have liked to see a healing scene between him and the imposing "Calvin.") Yet, as an alternative to the requisite holiday fare that stakes out the Memphis stages with holly during December, WE LIVE HERE is a brisk reminder that "we ALL live here" - and need to make the best of it. In a way, it's sad that plays like this still must be written to address racial issues; but it's comforting that writers like Mr. Clark and a company of actors such as these have the talent to bring them to light. The sparse scenic design is by Phillip Hughen; the original music, by Zachary Badreddine. Through January 25.




A Note from Charles Rice; President and CEO of Entergy New Orleans


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Charles Rice, President and CEO
Charles Rice, President and CEO
Hi, I'm Charles Rice, president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans. I hope each of you had a very happy Thanksgiving with family and friends. Like me, I'm sure you're gearing up for the season's festivities and the new year as well.
But before we look forward to 2015, I'd like to take a few minutes to look back at 2014. Entergy New Orleans continued to play an integral role in the rebuilding of this great city and making a difference in the community. >From our economic development efforts to our sponsorships and contributions, we were glad to give back.
Let's take a closer look:
  • Secured a $2 million expansion by Agrico Sales, a manufacturer of conveyor systems for ship loading.
  • Sponsored the Super Tax Day events that helped nearly 3,000 qualified New Orleanians receive more than $5.6 million in federal Earned Income Tax Credits.
  • Assisted in growth of the University Medical Center and VA Hospital, as well as assisted in the opening of the New Orleans East Hospital - a $130 million, 80-bed facility that employs 150 people.
  • Sponsored the 59th Annual New Orleans Home and Garden Show at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
  • Participated in the national LIHEAP Action Day in Washington D.C. in an effort to secure federal assistance funds for qualifying low-income customers.
  • Assisted the Port of New Orleans in locating a $2.6 million Chiquita ripening facility here in the Crescent City.
  • Sponsored the 8th Annual Dillard University Housing and Home Improvement Fair.
  • Assisted in the opening of two new Wal-Mart stores.
  • Sponsored the Second Harvest Food Bank's "Second Line to Health" Resource Fair.
  • Participated in the Mayor's annual Town Hall meetings in all five city council districts.
  • Sponsored the New Orleans Council on Aging's Senior Fest held at the UNO Lakefront Arena.
  • Sponsored the annual Celebration in the Oaks holiday light festival in City Park.
  • Donated much-needed toys to the annual Toys for Tots campaign.
  • ... and much more. 
In addition, we worked with Entergy Corporation on sponsoring many more worthy causes, and I'm proud to serve as this year's campaign chair for the United Way of Southeast Louisiana - an organization that does so much for all of us here in New Orleans.
Last year, Entergy shareholders, employees and retirees contributed more than $800,000 to help United Way agencies serving the Greater New Orleans region provide critical programs and services for individuals and families in need.  And since Hurricane Katrina, Entergy shareholders have committed more than $8 million to support public education and school transformation in Orleans Parish.
I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season, and a very happy new year! I'm looking forward to a great 2015!
Until next time -
  Charles Rice 








Sandra McCollum: How My Family Became African American  


Sandra McCollum, Guest Columnist 
Sandra McCollum and family
Sandra McCollum and family

I recently read with great interest Raven Symone's rejection of the term African American as a label and of her desire to be called American.


We are all Americans, but, many groups resonate with their culture of origin often expressed as Japanese Americans or Italian Americans or Native Americans to name a few. Terms like African American celebrate our connectivity to one another and our relationship to a land of ancestry.
Recently, I had my DNA analyzed. I am a combination of 16 distinct regions of the world with which I have no familiarity. These include 2 percent Finland/Northwest Russia, 1 percent Scandinavia and 3 percent Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers. Though these exotic and obscure ethnicities may course through my DNA, my identity is African American. It is my identity by law and by choice. All of us are a mixture of many ethnicities, but our identities define us as who we are.
To my further consternation, in recent years I have had numerous persons ask me if I am mixed. What does that mean in a global society?  What is more puzzling is that this question is most frequently asked by African Americans. Being mixed is not an identity. On occasion, persons from other ethnic groups have asked me the same question even after I identify myself as African American. If I say "yes" does that make me less African American?  Referencing "mixed" as a racial description implies that it has some biological significance. Race is a socially constructed designation and has some historical relevance. What is happening?  Are many of us denying our blackness and or our connection with Africa, the source of our unique essence?
President Obama appeared on "The View" in 2010. Barbara Walters asked him why he doesn't describe himself as bi-racial instead of Black. President Obama, through his writings and in personal appearances, has addressed this question by stating that he sees himself as African American. Many with public faces have clarified the issue of their personal mixed racial heritage, such as Melissa Harris-Perry and Halle Berry. Halle Berry identifies as "Black." She further asserts that her mixed race daughter is Black, supported by her belief in the one drop rule. Melissa Harris-Perry self identifies as Black also.
Both my parents had roots in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, the historical site of the book and the movie "Twelve Years a Slave."  My father used to tell me how lucky we were to live in New Orleans because of its racial tolerance at that time. Rapides Parish, he said, was the worst place in the world. Nestled in the center of the state, it was an icon of racial oppression.
My great grandfather Willie Smith was born in Rapides Parish in 1851. His father was a Caucasian planter of historical note in the area. According to family lore, his mother was a full bloodied Native American captured in Virginia and forced into slavery in Louisiana. When he was about nine years old, Willie traveled freely between his father's plantation and the plantation where his mother was a slave. One day while he was visiting his mother, he saw the plantation mistress and her two daughters dressed in their finest outfits. The Sunday Surrey awaited them. The driver was dressed in fancy livery attire. He admired the mistress and her two daughters, entranced by the beauty of their lavish pastel dresses adorned in lace and ribbons. He watched them ride away in the surrey until all he could see was the dust churning on the road. He wondered with great curiosity about their festive destination.
Suddenly, he saw his mother run from the master's house in such fervor her long waist length hair flew backwards as if propelling her forward. She was completely naked. The master followed in hot pursuit yelling in agitation for the overseer to catch her and beat her. The slaves were called from the field and cabins to come and witness the beating. She was tied to a post. Her body shivered in anticipating the sting of the lash. Willie watched his mother's back turn scarlet with blood and her hair became matted in the broken flesh. He felt as if all of the air had been removed from the earth. He found it hard to breathe. He broke through the crowd of onlookers and climbed on his mother's back to protect her from the whip's lash.
The master ordered the overseer to stop. He warned the slaves that if any of them untied her or tended to her wounds, they would also receive a lashing. That night, the slaves defied the master and untied his mother and took her into a cabin to nurse her wounds. She died before morning.
When my mother first told me this story, I had many questions. Now that I am an adult and reflect on it, I think that Willie was probably traumatized for the rest of his life. My mother said that he rarely spoke. He was so quiet; often he was not noticed.
When Willie Smith married my great grandmother Cecelia Andrews in 1875, she still lived on her father's and former slave owner's plantation. Willie told Cecelia that he wanted to live as a Black man among Black people. He was adamant about his choice because Black people had exercised human compassion and endangered their own lives trying to save his mother's life. This decision would later pose a psychological separation for Cecelia from her brother and sister, as they chose to live as White. Some African American and former free people of color selected to live as White because of the economic barriers that limited their progress as Black people.
Unfortunately, over generations, this conflict divided families further and further apart. My family accepted blackness as the only honorable identity to choose. We were taught to embrace our unusual mixture of ethnicities, but to celebrate our Blackness.
Long before the "I'm Black and I'm Proud" movement permeated the psyches of African Americans, I remember how my parents and others cheered loudly when Joe Louis, "The Brown Bomber," became the Heavy Weight Champion of the world. When Jackie Robinson stood at bat ready to hit the ball, African Americans around the globe swelled with pride as another Black man had led us all to victory in another arena. From those of us who had "one drop" to those who could boast of being the blackest berry, we turned out in droves to see and hear Billie Holiday, or Marion Anderson, or Count Basie, or Cab Calloway, not just because they were superb performers, but because they were Black like us and they made us proud. We are African Americans and we are proud to be so.




James Baldwin: A Letter to My Nephew 
James Baldwin
James Baldwin was an essayist, playwright and novelist regarded as a highly insightful, iconic writer with works like The Fire Next Time and Another Country.
Editor's Note: In light of the protests around the country demanding a stop to police brutality and changes to a racist justice system, we are reprinting one of James Baldwin's most famous articles published in The Progressive magazine, from December 1962. (Baldwin later adapted it in his essay collection, The Fire Next Time.) Senior editor Matt Rothschild remarked today, "This might be the greatest piece we've ever published."
Dear James:
I have begun this letter five times and torn it up five times. I keep seeing your face, which is also the face of your father and my brother. I have known both of you all your lives and have carried your daddy in my arms and on my shoulders, kissed him and spanked him and watched him learn to walk. I don't know if you have known anybody from that far back, if you have loved anybody that long, first as an infant, then as a child, then as a man. You gain a strange perspective on time and human pain and effort.
Other people cannot see what I see whenever I look into your father's face, for behind your father's face as it is today are all those other faces which were his. Let him laugh and I see a cellar your father does not remember and a house he does not remember and I hear in his present laughter his laughter as a child. Let him curse and I remember his falling down the cellar steps and howling and I remember with pain his tears which my hand or your grandmother's hand so easily wiped away, but no one's hand can wipe away those tears he sheds invisibly today which one hears in his laughter and in his speech and in his songs.
I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it and I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. One can be--indeed, one must strive to become--tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death, for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we have heard of war; remember, I said most of mankind, but it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.
Now, my dear namesake, these innocent and well meaning people, your countrymen, have caused you to be born under conditions not far removed from those described for us by Charles Dickens in the London of more than a hundred years ago. I hear the chorus of the innocents screaming, "No, this is not true. How bitter you are," but I am writing this letter to you to try to tell you something about how to handle them, for most of them do not yet really know that you exist. I know the conditions under which you were born for I was there. Your countrymen were not there and haven't made it yet. Your grandmother was also there and no one has ever accused her of being bitter. I suggest that the innocent check with her. She isn't hard to find. Your countrymen don't know that she exists either, though she has been working for them all their lives.
Well, you were born; here you came, something like fifteen years ago, and though your father and mother and grandmother, looking about the streets through which they were carrying you, staring at the walls into which they brought you, had every reason to be heavy-hearted, yet they were not, for here you were, big James, named for me. You were a big baby. I was not. Here you were to be loved. To be loved, baby, hard at once and forever to strengthen you against the loveless world. Remember that. I know how black it looks today for you. It looked black that day too. Yes, we were trembling. We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other, none of us would have survived, and now you must survive because we love you and for the sake of your children and your children's children.
This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that for the heart of the matter is here and the crux of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do and how you could do it, where you could live and whom you could marry.
I know your countrymen do not agree with me here and I hear them. saying, "You exaggerate." They do not know Harlem and I do. So do you. Take no one's word for anything, including mine, but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear.
Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words "acceptance" and "integration." There is no reason for you to try to become like white men and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them, and I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love, for these innocent people have no other hope. They are in effect still trapped in a history which they do not understand and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men.
Many of them indeed know better, but as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case the danger in the minds and hearts of most white Americans is the loss of their identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shivering and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one's sense of one's own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man's world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar, and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.
You don't be afraid. I said it was intended that you should perish, in the ghetto, perish by never being allowed to go beyond and behind the white man's definition, by never being allowed to spell your proper name. You have, and many of us have, defeated this intention and by a terrible law, a terrible paradox, those innocents who believed that your imprisonment made them safe are losing their grasp of reality. But these men are your brothers, your lost younger brothers, and if the word "integration" means anything, this is what it means, that we with love shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it, for this is your home, my friend. Do not be driven from it. Great men have done great things here and will again and we can make America what America must become.
It will be hard, James, but you come from sturdy peasant stock, men who picked cotton, dammed rivers, built railroads, and in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity. You come from a long line of great poets, some of the greatest poets since Homer. One of them said, "The very time I thought I was lost, my dungeon shook and my chains fell off."
You know and I know that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too early. We cannot be free until they are free. God bless you, James, and Godspeed.
Your uncle,



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#KemCents: Thursday's Money Tips
 by Kemberley Washington, CPA   
Teaching yourself to stick to a budget 


NEW ORLEANS AGENDA - We hear it all the time...we must stick to our budgets. But what does that really mean? 


Many people spend aimlessly without sticking to a budget and as a result, they usually come up short in their financial goals.  Trust me, I know. There have been many times in my life I figured I would just "wing it" or spend according to my feelings. However, this type of attitude got me nowhere. It wasn't until I taught myself to stick to my budget that I obtained victory over my finances.
Here are ways I learned along my path to stick to a budget.

Let your budget inspire you

We all know that budgeting sometimes can be a bit overwhelming.  At least it was for me.  After trying many times to stick to my budget, I finally had an "aha" moment.  I realized that I needed a budget that truly inspires me!  I call this my inspirational budget.
My inspirational budget includes the desire of what I want my future budget to be.  I believe everyone has an inspirational budget but most do not put it on paper.  For me, it was a budget without credit card debt and of course, more income.  I created my inspirational budget and posted it in my home where I was able to see it daily.  It provided me the inspiration to stick to my budget when I desired to purchase another pair of shoes or a glamorous handbag!
Not only has this exercise helped me to stick to my budget, but it provided me with the inspiration to eliminate a significant amount of credit card debt.

Make it simple
Also, I learned over the years that your budget does not have to be complex.  Creating a simple and less time consuming method can really help you stick to your budget.  As a working professional and a person that is always short on time, I knew I needed a simple way to stick to my budget.  As a result, I created a method called the ABCs to budgeting.
At each payday, I utilized three steps to stick to my budget -- A, B and C.
My first step is A - automate my savings.  I determine what amount I need to set aside each payday and have this amount automatically transferred into a savings account.  Next step is B - budget for my bills.  After setting aside a certain amount for savings, I determine the total amount needed for my monthly bills.  This amount remains in my checking account to cover bills included in my budget.  Lastly, my final step is C - cash for everything!  After saving and paying bills, I utilized the cash remaining to pay for anything else my heart desires!



Remember: your choice, your future!


Kemberley Washington is a professor at Dillard University and certified public accountant. Check out her eBook Let your budget inspire you!  She is also the author of The Ten Commandments to a Financial Healing. 


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"N-formed About the N-word"

by CeLillianne Green; Guest Columnist  

Copyright © 2014  


"CeLillianne Green's That Word is an informative and inspirational masterpiece and a must read for anybody grappling with the true nature and ugliness of the N-word. This outstanding book has inspired the FPA to stand strong as to why That Word should be eliminated from the NFL playing fields." - John Wooten, Chairman  

That Word
"That Word" is an inspired work of poetry.
WASHINGTON, DC  - I commend the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation ('FPAF") for its call to past, present, and future National Football League ("NFL") players to "respect the dignity of your teammates, fellow players, officials, coaches, fans, and yourselves," by not using the 'n-word'. I hope the NFL appreciates the wisdom of the FPAF and joins in their call for action. To do so, recognizes human dignity and is a reminder of good sportsmanship. Moreover, it would be a sound business practice to minimize hostile work environment claims, particularly since hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment. This is a moment for education and for the maturation of our nation. Indeed, the NFL is in a position to serve as an example for the nation and the world by educating its players and making known that hate speech, in all its forms, has no place in athletics.


The n-word is a word of absolute hate. Those who claim otherwise are misinformed about a word steeped in a history of pain and degradation inflicted upon Africans, who were forcibly transported to America to be enslaved due to the color of their skin. Institutionalized enslavement of Africans and their descendants in America spanned nearly two and half centuries, plus a century more of de facto enslavement in the form of legalized discrimination and racism. These facts must be understood as the reality for millions of people who were forced to live and die with indignity of the n-word hurled at them. In some instances, these people used their oppressors' words to denigrate themselves. An elementary understanding of the Stockholm syndrome helps to explain why traumatized and oppressed people accept the words of their oppressor to identify themselves. 


The generations of trauma from institutionalized slavery has yet to be fully addressed, let alone healed in the psyche of our nation. Of course, I applaud how the film, "12 Years a Slave" shed light on slavery in America. Yet, this Oscar-winning film only focused on the life of one man, Solomon Northup. He was born a free man, educated, and was able to write about his capture and enslavement. Northup's enslavement and that of millions of others, who were legally banned from learning to read or write, was a nightmare. Their nightmare cannot be converted into a dream by a contemporary notion of changing definitions. To claim otherwise, is to disrespect them and the collective history of America. 


While everyone may not share a deep connection to the history and legacy of enslaved people and their enslavers in America, the fact and impact of slavery must not be minimized. Education allowed Northup to write his 1853 memoir about the horrors of slavery. In 2014, more education is needed about the pain inflicted from the n-word. I have had the opportunity to contribute to that education in That Word, an inspired work of epic poetry, in which the "Council of Elders" in the "Circle of Truth" reminds some and teaches others why the n-word is profane. From the spirit realm, the Elders in That Word lament to their descendants: 


"We knew who created that word and why 
That word was to perpetuate the lie
The lie of our inferiority 
To promote our oppressors' lie of superiority
Now we're compelled to leave our graves 
As we hear you saying it like you're slaves
That word was created to denigrate us and our descendants too 
Under no circumstances, should we hear it from you" 
Like the Elders in the Circle of Truth, I implore those who do not know history, to learn, to heal, and to respect the pain and legacy of those who were enslaved and their descendants.  Continued use of the n-word and variations of it represent the back door referred to in The Miseducation of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson. Mis-educated people build back doors to use even after signs directing them to do so have been removed. It is time to remove those signs from our minds. It is time to stop building back doors.


CeLillianne Green
CeLillianne Green

CeLillianne Green is a poet, an attorney and a freelance writer. She is the author of That Word, the e-book Marching Orders & She Rose, and other poetry.





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for Your Communication Needs"
Sylvain Solutions is a full-service media and public relations consulting entity headed by Vincent Sylvain practicing in the areas in governmental relations, community outreach, alternative media, political consulting, corporate communications, faith-based groups, and arts and cultural affairs.  
- Internet Marketing
  - Media Relations
  - Press Kits
  - Political Campaign
  - Public Policy
  - Entertainment Promotion & Special Events Production
  - Community & Neighborhood Relations
  - Earned/Free Media Placement   
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Contributing Writers
 Kemberley Washington, CPA and former IRS Special Agent
Kemberley Washington
Thursday's Financial Tips
 by Kemberley Washington, CPA 
Yolanda Rodriguez
Yolanda Rodriguez
Land Use & Planning; 
Zoning Information from The Allied Planning Group 
CeLillianne Green
CeLillianne Green

Poet, attorney, writer, teacher, and mediator