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OP-ED: Commemorating our past, starts with cementing our present-day legacy

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The obstacles put in place by those that wish to see us disenfranchised – from the Census to the ballot box – only prolong the inevitable changing tide and sentiment of this country. We, the people, have the power and ability to create the change we want to see. It starts with becoming civically engaged and demanding those in power act in our interest by creating policies that bring about fair and equal access to the ballot box and beyond.

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This month is not only about commemorating our history but cementing and shaping our present-day legacy for future generations. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP

We find ourselves at the beginning of a new Black History Month (BHM) in a distinctive decade during one of the most polarizing times of our lives. Our collective journey to this moment has undoubtedly been challenging. Still, we’ve been victorious on many fronts to advance our culture, agendas, and narrative on a national platform.

As we come off the heels of celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who died for acting on his convictions of an equal America, we enter into a critical season of ensuring our vote and voice count. As a people, not long separated from the bondage of slavery, we were once only counted as 3/5 of a person. Without question, the lingering effects of being valued as less than a whole person still exist today through racist ideologies, discriminatory politics, and inequitable policies.

Combating these ills begins with ensuring we fully engage without pause in the 2020 Census, which starts on April 1, 2020. The Census is a cornerstone of American democracy, which is built on the backs of our ancestors. The data collected is used to determine representation in the United States Congress and planning for the future of all communities across the country. $882 billion will be allocated annually in federal funds to state, local, and tribal governments. Programs and services at risk include schools, hospitals, community centers, roads, transportation, and public safety departments. Marginalized communities will suffer if residents go uncounted. All communities must participate, but specifically, communities of color, as our neighborhoods are often the most overlooked. Our interest, as a people and culture, is tied directly to being counted in the 2020 Census. It would be a disservice to our neighborhood and our children if we opted to not engage in the 2020 Census.

At a time when our rights, explicitly voting rights, are under attack, and public officials are more concerned about remaining in power than uplifting societies most vulnerable, we must take every step to protect our households and communities. In 2020, preserving our democracy starts with being counted and voting in the presidential primary. At the least, these two activities send a message that we are paying attention and are actively involved in the trajectory of this nation. Further, it allows us to wield political and social power in a system that historically has shut us out. 2020 is the first year that the Census will be online.

The obstacles put in place by those that wish to see us disenfranchised – from the Census to the ballot box – only prolong the inevitable changing tide and sentiment of this country. We, the people, have the power and ability to create the change we want to see. It starts with becoming civically engaged and demanding those in power act in our interest by creating policies that bring about fair and equal access to the ballot box and beyond.

In December of last year, the NAACP, along with other plaintiffs, won a critical appeals court ruling, which reinstated our federal suit challenging the federal government’s inadequate plans for conducting the 2020 Census after the district court erroneously dismissed it. This ruling will help aid efforts to ensure that the 2020 Census properly counts all people, including historically undercounted communities of color, who are at risk of being missed under the Census Bureau’s current plans.

This month is not only about commemorating our history but cementing and shaping our present-day legacy for future generations. The dream didn’t die with Martin, nor did the fight. It is every one of our responsibilities to bring about the change we wish to see. Each day, fueled by our supporters, we at the NAACP are working to make the modern-day civil rights movement possible, carrying on the vision of those that came before and creating space for generations that are to come. Together, people of color can move to the forefront and ensure we are counted and heard. If you wish to volunteer with us and help get the word out about the Census, sign up here. The 2020 Census is the first year that the form will be able to be completed online. Visit 2020census.gov to find out more.

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COMMENTARY: Prayer is Your Power

Terrible things happen to good people often. We live in an unjust world with people making decisions that are informed more by profit than people. We cannot take those principles into our relationship with God. We must believe that “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

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Prayer is about faith. It is believing that God hears us.
Prayer is about faith. It is believing that God hears us.

Faithful Utterances

By Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew | Texas Metro News

This week, a friend informed me that she was following the ambulance to the hospital with her husband. Her husband was going through a major health crisis. She wasn’t the only one who reached out—a friend’s mother had unexplained pain and another friend contacted me about her friend’s son who was hospitalized with pneumonia. Each of them asked that I pray for them.

I consider it an honor to pray for others. Prayer is powerful and I love that I have a group of friends who I can turn to that I call the “prayer warriors” that when I send a text to lift up the concerns and issues of others before God, they go into battle mode.

Prayer is a weapon and I think many of us don’t understand its power until we need it. For many of us, it’s a routine, something that’s more about religion than it is about relationship. We have gotten prayer twisted as some exchange solely for stuff. God is not a celestial Santa Claus dropping off gifts. Prayer is an opportunity to go before to God sincerely in relationship. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.

Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:5–8)

Prayer is about faith. It is believing that God hears us. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) I realize that my prayers are even more powerful when I am in relationship with others seeking God: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). It’s dangerous when we see prayer as a way to manipulate God into doing what we want. There is nothing wrong with bringing your requests before God but it’s important to check our motivation and intention. It’s also important to know that just because God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way that we want does not mean that God doesn’t love us.

It doesn’t mean that God does not hear us. It does not negate the omnipotence or goodness of God, either. We must believe that God is able. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) It’s easy to blame God when things don’t go the way we want them to—”the rain falls on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

Terrible things happen to good people often. We live in an unjust world with people making decisions that are informed more by profit than people. We cannot take those principles into our relationship with God. We must believe that “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) …. God is concerned with our hearts, with people and cares for us even when things don’t go the way we’d like. I can report that all of the individuals we prayed for had excellent results.

God is good! Yet, I realize that this isn’t always the case. Prayer is powerful. God wants us to have this daily form of communication. 1 John 5:14, tells us: “And this is the boldness we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Don’t use prayer just when you need something. Just as all relationships require consistent communication for growth and results, the same is even more important in our relationship with God. Prayer is a powerful partnership with God that can move mountains when we believe!

Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry Podcast and the author of three books for women. She is also the Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. To learn more, visit drfroswa.com.

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Big U.S. Cities Fail to Provide Data for New FBI Hate Crimes Report

“The Justice Department is committed to prioritizing prevention, investigation, and prosecution of hate crimes,” Associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated. “The FBI’s 2021 Hate Crimes Statistics are a reminder of the need to continue our vigorous efforts to address this pervasive issue in America.”

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According to the report, more than 7,000 single-bias incidents were recorded involving more than 8,700 victims.

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

Critics immediately threw cold water on a new FBI 2021 Hate Crime Statistics Act Report released by U.S. Department of Justice officials on Monday, Dec. 12.

Margaret Huang, the president, and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said while underreporting of hate crimes to the FBI remains an ongoing problem, the failure of state and local jurisdictions to report data makes the new report worse.

Over one-third of the nation’s 18,000 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies failed to report data to the FBI.

In 2020, the number of agencies reporting was 3,300 fewer than in 2021.

The latest reporting year counted as the first in which the FBI required every agency to report all crimes, including hate crimes, through its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

Huang said that even though the FBI provided technical assistance and funding for its new requirement, many jurisdictions were unable or unwilling to report through the new system.

She said the result is dramatically incomplete.

It needs more data from major population centers, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, and the entire states of Florida and California.

“While the FBI’s annual Hate Crime report has been the nation’s best available snapshot of hate violence in America, this year’s data is woefully incomplete, inaccurate, and simply cannot be trusted – certainly not to compare to previous years. Victims and communities affected by hate crimes deserve better,” Huang asserted.

“The failure of thousands of police agencies across the country to participate in this report is devastating for the individuals and communities harmed by these crimes and our ability to understand and prevent them,” she said.

Huang added that accurate, comprehensive national data is integral to addressing the root causes, designing prevention strategies, and providing support to victims and communities.

“There may be a temptation to draw conclusions from this woefully incomplete and flawed report about the rate of reported hate crimes, especially those targeting Black and AAPI communities, Sikhs, and LGBTQ people,” Huang continued.

“But comparing this piecemeal national data to previous years would be wrong. This first NIBRS reporting year data is simply too unreliable.

“We cannot outlaw hate, but we can do more to support victims of hate violence by ensuring they are heard and to confront the problem by measuring it accurately.

“As the transition to NIBRS continues, SPLC and our coalition partners will be urging the Justice Department and FBI to focus attention and resources on community-based prevention and response strategies.

“And, until legislation requiring hate crime reporting can be enacted, federal funds to law enforcement agencies should be conditioned on credible HCSA reporting, or meaningful community hate crime prevention and awareness initiatives. We can and must do better.”

The latest report found more than 7,000 hate crimes committed in 2021.

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “committed criminal offense which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias(es) against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, called the report “woefully inadequate.”

He said 35 major U.S. cities failed to report hate crimes in 2021, while the country’s two largest cities, New York, and Los Angeles, did not provide data.

The third-largest, Chicago, reported zero, according to the FBI’s report.

According to the report, more than 7,000 single-bias incidents were recorded involving more than 8,700 victims.

Sixty-five percent of victims were targeted because of the offender’s race, ethnicity, or ancestry bias; 16% occurred because of prejudice against the individual’s sexual orientation; 13% was religious bias; 4% gender identity; 2% disability; 1% gender bias.

The report further found 188 multiple-bias hate crime incidents involving 271 victims, and more than 5,700 hate offenses were classified as against persons, with 44% intimation, 36% simple assault, and 18% aggravated assault.

Officials classified nine murders and 13 rapes as hate crimes.

The statistics revealed that nearly 56% of the offenders were white, and about 21% were African American.

Since January 2021, the United States Department of Justice said it had taken several actions in response to a rise in hate crimes and incidents.

Some of these actions include aggressively investigating and prosecuting hate crimes as the department charged more than 60 defendants in over 55 different cases and secured more than 55 convictions.

DOJ also designated a Deputy Associate Attorney General as the first-ever Anti-Hate Crimes Resources Coordinator, and announced that all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices would host a United Against Hate program over the next year to help improve the reporting of hate crimes by teaching community members how to identify, report and help prevent hate crimes, and to provide an opportunity for trust-building between law enforcement and communities.

“The Justice Department is committed to prioritizing prevention, investigation, and prosecution of hate crimes,” Associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated.

“The FBI’s 2021 Hate Crimes Statistics are a reminder of the need to continue our vigorous efforts to address this pervasive issue in America.”

Gupta added that the Justice Department continues to work with the nation’s law enforcement agencies to increase the reporting of hate crime statistics to the FBI to ensure they have the data to help accurately identify and prevent hate crimes.

“No one in this country should be forced to live their life in fear of being attacked because of what they look like, whom they love, or where they worship,” Gupta insisted.

“The department will continue using all the tools and resources at our disposal to stand up to bias-motivated violence in our communities.”

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San Francisco Committee Recommends Massive Reparations Payout for Black Residents

A reparations task committee was established by the state of California last year, and its report from that year detailed the incalculable harm that slavery had caused to African Americans. After George Floyd was murdered, the District of Columbia City Council announced it would create a task team to investigate compensation.

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The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.
The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.

‘Centuries of devastation and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies, and Black communities should be met with centuries of restoration’

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

Each Black inhabitant of San Francisco, including those arrested during the racist war on drugs, should receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of $5 million from the African American Reparations Advisory Committee.

Assuming the city council approves the proposal, it would be the largest payment of reparations in American history.

In a study released this week, members of the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee noted, “We have ultimately established that the repercussions of numerous programmatic and policy actions by San Francisco’s administration have been generational and overlapping.”

Committee members asserted that most prominent period that illustrates how the city and county of San Francisco as an institution contributed to the depletion of Black wealth and the forced relocation of its Black inhabitants was the period of urban renewal.

Further, the committee concluded that “public and private entities facilitated and coddled the conditions that created near-exclusive Black communities within the city, limited political participation and representation, disinvested from academic and cultural institutions, and intentionally displaced Black communities from San Francisco through targeted, sometimes violent actions”

(San Francisco’s African American population grew rapidly between 1940 and 1963).

To address what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “a national racial reckoning,” the Board of Supervisors established the AARAC committee in December 2020.

According to the Chronicle, what happens next “will demonstrate whether San Francisco lawmakers are serious about tackling the city’s checkered past or are merely pretending to be.”

The committee’s investigation determined that segregation, structural oppression, and racial prejudice developed from the institution of slavery had a tremendous impact on the development of the city, even though California was never formally a slave state.

Throughout the 20th century, the Chronicle reported, “San Francisco was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, prohibited Black people from residing in particular districts, kept them out of city employment, and bulldozed the Fillmore,” a historically Black neighborhood and commercial center.

AARAC chair Eric McDonnell told the newspaper, “Centuries of devastation and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies, and Black communities should be met with centuries of restoration.”

A tale of two cities emerges when one examines San Francisco, as one observer put it.

This committee’s actions are consistent with those of other jurisdictions, where similar bodies have advocated for reparations for African Americans.

Residents must have self-identified as Black or African American on public documents for a minimum of ten years and be at least 18 years old when the committee’s plan is approved to receive the compensation.

Additionally, individuals may be required to show that they were born in San Francisco between 1940 and 1996, have been residents of the city for at least 13 years, and are either a former inmate themselves or a direct descendant of a former inmate who served time during the war on drugs.

The Chronicle said that “to put that in context,” the state reparations task panel believes Black Californians may be awarded $569 billion for housing discrimination alone between 1933 and 1977.

Evanston, Illinois, voted to pay $400,000 to select African Americans as part of the city’s vow to spend $10 million over a decade on reparations payments shortly after the San Francisco committee was founded.

The government of St. Paul, Minnesota, has apologized for its role in institutional and structural racism and formed a committee to investigate reparations.

A report detailing the committee’s proposed financial compensation for African Americans was subsequently made public.

A reparations task committee was established by the state of California last year, and its report from that year detailed the incalculable harm that slavery had caused to African Americans.

After George Floyd was murdered, the District of Columbia City Council announced it would create a task team to investigate compensation.

Legislators in both Maryland and Virginia have expressed an interest in researching reparations.

Meanwhile, there has been no movement on a federal level on a bill by Texas Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to establish a committee to investigate reparations.

The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.

As an added measure, the city would establish a public bank framework and provide citizens with extensive financial education to ensure that those without bank accounts have access to equal opportunities, including increased access to credit, loans, financing, and other means of managing their money.

The committee also seeks to pay for a broad debt cancellation plan that wipes out all types of debt including student loans, personal loans, credit card debt, and payday loans.

“Given the history of financial institutions preying on underbanked communities — and especially given the vulnerability of subsets of this population such as seniors and youth — this body recommends putting legal parameters and structures in place to ensure access to funds and to mitigate speculative harm done by others,” the committee concluded.

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