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Memorial Day: NNPA Celebrates Profiles in Courage 365 Days Each Year

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Today, our nation proudly honors the sacrifices of its heroes. “From the first African-American Medal of Honor recipient to current day Soldiers, individuals have made their mark within the history of this nation with their courage, leadership and honor,” reads the lead-in to the Profiles in Courage salute to African Americans on goarmy.com.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Unlike Veterans Day, when we honor all who have served, Memorial Day is when Americans honor persons who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association of more than 200 African American-owned newspapers and media companies around the country, celebrates the sacrifices of all of our men and women in uniform, as well as their families, on Memorial Day and every day.

We are especially proud to honor our Black veterans; whose sacrifices and accomplishments went beyond the field of battle to include the fields and lots adjacent to where they lived, worked and worshipped.

For generations, African Americans returning home from service too often faced discrimination, disrespect, violence, and even death, according to the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative.

For instance, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps, a precursor of the U.S. Air Force, according to the History Channel.

Trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, they flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II and their impressive performance earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, helping to encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces.

However, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, white supremacy was the law and custom throughout the nation, and many whites feared that Black soldiers who had experienced the pride of military service would resist the disenfranchisement, segregation, and second-class citizenship that still characterized the African American experience.

In August 1917, U.S. Sen. James Vardaman of Mississippi warned that, once a Black soldier was allowed to see himself as an American hero, it would be “but a short step to the conclusion that his political rights must be respected.”

Bringing Black soldiers home to the South with expectations of equality, he predicted, would “inevitably lead to disaster.”

For Sen. Vardaman, Black soldiers’ potential as community leaders was terrifying, and the “disaster” would be a mass movement for African American rights, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Indeed, many African American soldiers returned determined to fight for their freedom and equality at home. Veterans like Hosea Williams and Medgar Evers played central roles in what became the civil rights movement. For Evers, the battle for freedom would eventually cost him his life.

The effort to suppress the prospect of potential leadership made Black veterans targets, and many suffered brutal violence for protesting mistreatment or simply wearing their military uniforms.

In August 1898, a Black Army private named James Neely was shot to death by a mob of white men in Hampton, Georgia, for protesting a white storekeeper’s refusal to serve him at the soda counter.

In Hickman, Kentucky, a recently-discharged Black soldier named Charles Lewis was lynched in uniform in December 1918, just weeks after the end of World War I.

Black veterans of World War II also faced violence for the most basic assertions of equality and freedom.

In August 1944, the white owner of a small restaurant in Shreveport, Louisiana, shot and wounded four Black soldiers he claimed, “attempted to take over his place.”

He faced no charges, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

In June 1947, a Black Navy veteran named Joe Nathan Roberts, studying at Temple University through the G.I. Bill, was visiting family in Sardis, Georgia, when a group of white men became upset because he refused to call them “sir.”

Later that night, the men abducted Mr. Roberts from his parents’ home and shot him to death.

In November 1942, while stationed at Camp Polk, Louisiana, Private Merle Monroe wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier describing the Black soldier’s struggle to maintain a sense of patriotic pride in the face of lynching.

“Paradoxically enough,” he wrote, “our country spends millions annually in effort to build up Negro morale, both in and out of the army, yet, foolishly, destroys the blue print of its program by tolerating brutal killings without even a pretense of a fair trial.”

Today, our nation proudly honors the sacrifices of its heroes. “From the first African-American Medal of Honor recipient to current day Soldiers, individuals have made their mark within the history of this nation with their courage, leadership and honor,” reads the lead-in to the Profiles in Courage salute to African Americans on goarmy.com.

African Americans have proudly served all branches of the armed services. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice in support defense of our freedoms.

Crispus Attucks, a former slave, was the first casualty of the American Revolutionary War when he was killed during the Boston Massacre.

On Sept. 28, 1918, while serving as squad leader of Company C, 371st Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Freddie Stowers went above and beyond the call of duty when his company led the attack at Hill 188, Champagne Marne Sector, France.

First Lt. Vernon J. Baker received a Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism in action near Viareggio, Italy, during World War II (at the time, holding the rank of second lieutenant). Baker demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in destroying enemy installations, personnel and equipment during his company’s attack against a strongly entrenched enemy in mountainous terrain. The federal government later acknowledged that racism was the reason he didn’t receive the medal until 50 years later.

Pfc. Milton Olive III was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor for saving the lives of four other U.S. Army soldiers during a battle early in the Vietnam War. Milton used his body to cover a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. “It was the most incredible display of selfless bravery I ever witnessed,” the platoon commander later told a journalist.

In partnership with the NNPA, Wells Fargo remembers and honors African American service members this Memorial Day.

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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