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EXCLUSIVE OP-ED — Sen. Chuck Schumer and Stacy Abrams, ‘It’s Time to Fight Back!’

NNPA NEWSWIRE — This Saturday marks the 55th anniversary of one of the most significant moments in the history of our democracy. On the morning of March 7, 1965, nonviolent activists, including a young John Lewis, set out on a 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery to bring national attention to the plight of African-American citizens who were being denied their constitutional right to vote by the racial terror of the Jim Crow South. At the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, marchers were met by state troopers and county possemen who hurled tear gas and attacked them with billy clubs and police dogs. Spectators cheered. The horrific events of this day, which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” shocked the conscience of the nation, and compelled President Lyndon Johnson and a bipartisan majority in Congress to enact the Voting Rights Act (VRA) less than five months later.

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Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader, and Stacey Abrams. Abrams served for eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Democratic Leader. In 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, winning more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history.

Voting Rights are Under Attack

By Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader, and Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight, an initiative to ensure every American has a voice in our election system

This year’s presidential election will propel many issues into the spotlight: the economy, health care, foreign policy, our education system and much more. One issue that gets far too little attention, often mentioned as just another item on a long list of priorities, is voting rights. We write to argue that voting rights in America should be at the top of that list in this election. It is from the right to vote that all our other rights as Americans derive. And today, in 2020, that fundamental right to exercise the franchise is being challenged and, in many cases, eroded, in states across the country.

It’s time to fight back.

This Saturday marks the 55th anniversary of one of the most significant moments in the history of our democracy. On the morning of March 7, 1965, nonviolent activists, including a young John Lewis, set out on a 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery to bring national attention to the plight of African-American citizens who were being denied their constitutional right to vote by the racial terror of the Jim Crow South. At the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, marchers were met by state troopers and county possemen who hurled tear gas and attacked them with billy clubs and police dogs. Spectators cheered. The horrific events of this day, which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” shocked the conscience of the nation, and compelled President Lyndon Johnson and a bipartisan majority in Congress to enact the Voting Rights Act (VRA) less than five months later.

The VRA provided the federal government with the tools to finally uphold the 15th Amendment’s guarantee that no citizen can be denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin. For half a century, the law stood as a powerful force to prevent the type of racial discrimination in voting that plagued our nation’s history for generations. In the decades after the VRA, both parties in Congress worked to defend voting rights. The law originally passed with leadership from both the Republican and Democratic parties and was reauthorized under Republican presidents on four separate occasions: President Nixon in 1970, President Ford in 1975, President Reagan in 1982, and President Bush in 2006.

Only in the past few years has that bipartisan consensus around voting rights collapsed. In 2013, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority in Shelby County v. Holder gutted critical provisions in the VRA that until then had allowed the federal government to prevent states with a history of discrimination from implementing changes to their voting rules without pre-approval.

The response to Shelby was sharp and immediate. Republican-led state legislatures rushed to pass new laws and drew new legislative districts with the explicit purpose of disenfranchising minority voters. Texas legislators immediately re-imposed the strictest voter-ID requirement in the United States. North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature passed a wave of new laws designed to limit access to the ballot box, including a new photo-ID requirement, drastic cuts to early voting, and the end of same-day registration. Federal courts deemed these laws intentionally discriminatory, finding that, in North Carolina, the GOP efforts “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

In Georgia, then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp oversaw the closure of 214 voting precincts across the state from 2012-2018. According to an analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, these closures, most of which occurred after the Shelby decision, likely prevented an estimated 54,000 to 85,000 voters from casting ballots in the 2018 election. The AJC found that the impact was greater on black voters, who were 20% more likely than white voters to miss elections as a result of these closures.

Today, in state after state, Republicans are working to purge voter rolls, draw partisan district lines, and limit the impact of minority voters. Democrats have to fight back in every possible way. We must challenge these insidious attacks on our democracy in the courts and in Congress and out in the country.

The Democratic House has already passed H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which restores federal oversight of voting changes in states with a demonstrated recent history of repeated voting rights violations. Senate Democrats are advocating for the implementation of nationwide voter registration and an end to voter roll purges, and continue to pressure the Republican Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, to bring the Voting Rights Advancement Act up for a vote in the Senate. If Democrats retake the majority in the Senate this fall, voting rights legislation will be one of our first priorities. Outside of Congress, non-profit groups like Fair Fight (led by one of the authors of this piece), are signing up new voters, educating voters, and fighting voter suppression whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.

This is a fight that must be waged on many fronts. It is a moral travesty that support for voting rights has become a partisan issue. The ability to participate in free and fair elections is a birthright given to all Americans, something that generations of Americans have marched and fought and died to exercise, expand, and ultimately guarantee. Efforts to protect that birthright should be embraced by both of America’s major political parties. Voting rights are not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. But until that day comes, candidates up-and-down the ticket, leaders at every level of government, and above all, the American people, must make voting rights a priority in this election.

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Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.
The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

The documentary She Had A Dream by Tunisian filmmaker Raja Amari premieres on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series tonight at 8 p.m. EST on WORLD CHANNEL. Season 14 of the acclaimed documentary series captures Black artists and activists shaping and reclaiming culture, advocating for change and mobilizing for brighter futures. She Had A Dream offers an intimate portrayal of one young Black Tunisian woman’s quest for political office and her fight against racism and oppression in a society that often seeks to overlook both.

The documentary follows Ghofrane, a 20-something Black woman from Tunisia as she walks the path of self-discovery of young adulthood while running for political office in a homeland where many still view her as an outsider.

Watch the trailer below:

A dedicated, charismatic activist and a modern, free-speaking woman, Ghofrane in many ways is the embodiment of contemporary Tunisian political hopes still alive years after the Arab Spring. She Had A Dream follows Ghofrane as she works to conquer her own self-doubts while attempting to persuade close friends and complete strangers to vote for her. As audiences follow her campaign, they also follow the dichotomies of her life as a woman striving for a role in politics in the Arab world and as a Black person in a country where racism is prevalent, yet often denied.

“The 14th season of AfroPoP shines a light on the collective power, strength and resilience of Black people and movements around the world,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, AfroPoP executive producer. “Viewers will see artists use their platforms to push for progress and human rights and see ‘ordinary’ people do the remarkable in the interest of justice.”

Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.

She Had A Dream airs on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Monday, April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org at the same time.

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is presented by Black Public Media and WORLD Channel. For more information, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena.
The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BBC Africa is reporting Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing a water shortage because of changing weather patterns and aging water facilities. The article reports, “Residents in informal communities like Kibra pay private vendors for water, meaning they now control the supply and access to water in the community.” The privatization of water access has led to an increase in the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for water.

“Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena. Check out the 2018 ANEW documentary short below:

The water crisis and the sexual exploitation of girls and women as a result of the water crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

To read more about this crisis, visit BBC Africa‘s series of articles and videos on Kenya’s water crisis and the Water Integrity Network’s (WIN) study on sextortion.

This news brief was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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#WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright

THE AFRO — Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.
The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Maya Pottiger, Word in Black

It’s no surprise that we’re living through difficult times. After two years, we’re still in a global pandemic, which has predominantly impacted people of color. In addition, Book bans, attacks on critical race theory, and partisan political fights target everything from Black youths’ sexuality, to history, to health.

And we’re seeing the effects.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.

For a variety of reasons — ongoing stigma, lack of insurance, most accessible — Black students often rely on the mental health services offered at school.Outside of a mental health-specific practice, Black students were nearly 600 times as likely to get mental health help in an academic setting compared to other options, according to 2020 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In fact, mental health services in schools have been steadily gaining popularity among students since 2009, before dropping slightly in 2020 when the school year was interrupted, according to the SAMHSA report. As a result, the rate of students receiving mental health care through school decreased by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

So how are schools changing the way they address and prioritize mental health — and the specific needs of Black students — since 2020?

The Renewed Focus on Mental Health

For school-aged people, the majority of their time is spent in a school building — about eight hours per day, 10 months out of the year. To help address mental health during academic hours, schools are trying to focus on social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. This includes teaching kids how to be in touch with their emotions and protect against adverse mental health outcomes.

But it’s been difficult.

Though there’s been more conversation, the implementation is challenging, says Dr. Kizzy Albritton, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. There was already a shortage of school-based mental health professionals before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated, as have mental health issues. In addition, though schools clearly recognize the importance of mental health, they aren’t always provided adequate resources.

“Unless there are more resources funneled into the school system, we’re going to see a continued catch-up issue across the board,” Albritton says. “And, unfortunately, our Black students are going to continue to suffer the most.”

In a survey of high school principals and students, Education Week Research Center found discrepancies in how principals and students viewed a school’s mental health services. While 86 percent of the principals said their schools provided services, only about 66 percent of students agreed. The survey did point out it’s possible the school offers these services and students aren’t aware. The survey also found Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to say their schools offered services.

Dr. Celeste Malone, the president-elect of the National Association for School Psychologists and a Howard University associate professor, says she hasn’t previously seen this degree of attention to mental health in schools.

“I see that a lot in my role for a school psychology graduate program: the outreach and people contacting me with openings where they didn’t exist previously,” Malone says. “With this increased push in funding to hire more, that’s definitely a very, very positive movement.”

Mental Health Is Not One Size Fits All

Just like with many aspects of health, Black youths need different mental health support from their peers of other races. They need a counselor who understands their lived experiences, like microaggressions and other forms of discrimination or racism, without the student having to explain.

For example, in order to best address the specific mental health needs of Black students, districts need to provide information breaking down mental health stigmas; focus on hiring Black counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; and fund anti-racist and trauma-informed mental health practices, according to the Center for American Progress.

While she hears a lot of talk, Albritton says she isn’t seeing widespread evidence of these solutions in practice.

“There needs to be a willingness, first of all, to understand that our Black students, their needs look a lot different,” Albritton says. School officials need to understand where Black students are coming from — that their families and households experience systemic and structural racism, which are known to trigger anxiety and depression. The effects of the racial wealth gap also play a role, from the neighborhood kids are living in, to the schools they can attend to the impacts on their health. Students might be bringing worries about these challenges to school, which could be reflected in their behavior. This is why, Albritton says, it’s crucial to also work with students’ families.

The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .

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