Serving Richmond and Hampton Roads since 1985
July 30 -Aug. 5, 2014
How one company sues soldiers worldwide By Paul Kiel PRO PUBLICA -- Army Spc. Angel Aguirre needed a washer and dryer. Money was tight, and neither Aguirre, 21, nor his wife had much credit history as they settled into life at Fort Carson in Colorado in 2010. That’s when he saw an ad for USA Discounters, guaranteeing loan approval for service members. In military newspapers and magazines, on the radio, and on TV, the Virginia-based company’s ads shout, “NO CREDIT? NEED CREDIT? NO PROBLEM!” The store was only a few miles from Fort Carson. “We ended up getting a computer, a TV, a ring, and a washer and dryer,” Aguirre said. “The only thing I really wanted was a washer and dryer.” Aguirre later learned that USA Discounters' easy lending has a flip side. Should customers fall behind, the company transforms into an efficient collection operation. And this part of its business takes place not where customers bought their appliances, but in two local courthouses just a short drive from the company’s Virginia Beach headquarters. From there, USA Discounters files lawsuits against service members based anywhere in the world, no matter how much inconvenience or expense they would incur to attend a Virginia court date. Since 2006, the company has filed more than 13,470 suits and almost always wins, records show. “They’re basically ruthless,” said Army Staff Sgt. David Ray, who was sued in Virginia while based in Germany over purchases he made at a store in Georgia. Timothy Dorsey, vice president of USA Discounters, said the company provides credit to service members who would not otherwise qualify and sues only after other attempts to resolve debts have failed. As for the company’s choice of court, he said it was “for the customer’s benefit.” In Virginia, the company isn’t required to use a lawyer to file suit. USA Discounters’
savings on legal fees are passed on to the customer, he said. “This company is committed to ensuring that the men and women who serve and sacrifice for our country are always treated with the honor and respect they deserve,” Dorsey said. The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, was designed to give active-duty members of the armed forces every opportunity to defend themselves against lawsuits. But the law has a loophole; it doesn’t address where plaintiffs can sue. That’s allowed USA Discounters to sue out-of-state borrowers in Virginia, where companies can file suit as long as some aspect of the business was transacted in the state. The company routinely argues that it meets that requirement through contract clauses that state any lawsuit will take place in Virginia. Judges have agreed. “This looks like somebody who has really, really researched the best way to get around the entire intent of the SCRA,” said John Odom, a retired Air Force judge advocate and expert on the SCRA. Courts are required to appoint attorneys for service members if they are sued and can’t appear. But the law says little about what those lawyers must do. Some companies have taken advantage. Once a judge awards USA Discounters a judgment, the company can begin the process of garnishing the service member's pay. USA Discounters seizes the pay of more active-duty military than any company in the country, according to Department of Defense payroll data obtained for this story. Consumer advocates say the strategy cheats service members who may have valid defenses. It’s “designed to obtain default judgments against consumers without giving them any real opportunity to defend themselves,” said Carolyn Carter of the National Consumer Law Center. To investigate USA Discounters’
LaShonda Bickford, 32, of O’Fallon, MO, bought furniture from USA Discounters while in the Army and eventually fell behind on what had become a large debt. Now, years later, the company is garnishing her pay from her civilian job, making it difficult for her to support herself and son. PHOTO: Sarah L. Voisin/WP
practices, for this story, 70 of the company’s contracts for service members and non-military borrowers were reviewd, all of which had been filed in court. A reporter also identified 11 recent court cases against active-duty service members to examine their treatment. The same courts in Norfolk and Virginia Beach are favored by two similar companies headquartered in the area - Freedom Furniture and Electronics and Military Credit Services - that offer high-priced credit to military clientele. Together with USA Discounters, the three companies have filed more than 35,000 suits since 2006. Officials with Freedom and Military Credit Services did not respond to repeated phone calls and e-mails. USA Discounters opened its first store in 1991 in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, where more than 70,000 military personnel are stationed. Many sailors start their careers at the sprawling Naval Station Norfolk, “bringing
their pay and their naiveté,” said Dwain Alexander, a senior civilian attorney with the Navy in Norfolk. USA Discounters, which is privately owned, now has 31 locations, including seven free-standing jewelry stores that go by the name Fletcher’s Jewelers. While the company does not exclusively lend to service members, it has a location just a short drive from each of the country’s 11 largest military bases. The company’s showrooms are packed with bedroom sets, TVs and tire rims, but that’s not the main draw. “You’re not selling the furniture. You’re not selling the appliances,” said one former sales employee. “You’re selling our financing program.” The former employee, and others quoted in the story, spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared USA Discounters could adversely affect future employment. Younger soldiers such as Aguirre are See “Suing
soldiersˮ on pg. 2
2 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
Contractor accused of race discrimination in Richmond Property Maintenance Company Cyprexx neglected foreclosures in AfricanAmerican and Latino neighborhoods in Richmond, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Orlando, according to a complained filed last week. Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and Fair Housing Continuum filed a federal housing discrimination complaint against Cyprexx, a Florida firm contracted by Fannie Mae to maintain its vacant foreclosures, also known as Real Estate Owned (REO) properties. The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleges a clear pattern of neglect by Cyprexx of homes in AfricanAmerican and Latino neighborhoods as compared to homes in White neighborhoods in Richmond, Baltimore, Kansas City, Kan./Mo., and Orlando. The allegations of this complaint are the latest in an ongoing investigation into the failure of Fannie Mae’s field service vendors to properly maintain vacant foreclosures in neighborhoods of color nationwide. NFHA and its partner agencies filed a series of complaints beginning in March 2013 against two other Fannie Mae contractors, Safeguard Properties and Asset Management Specialists, Inc., alleging a similar pattern of discrimination based on the racial composition of the neighborhoods investigated. Though, the Cyprexx filing is the first in Richmond. As of December 2013, Fannie Mae’s single-family REO inventory was 103,229 homes. Fannie Mae owns more foreclosures than any other institution. Today’s complaint addresses the failure of Cyprexx to maintain homes in communities of color in Richmond, Va , Baltimore, Md., Kansas City, Kan./ Mo., and Orlando, Fla. In all four cities surveyed, investigations found lawns littered with trash, invasive plants, unsecured doors and windows, and open holes in the structures of homes in communities of color. Homes maintained by Cyprexx in white neighborhoods were rarely neglected. In Richmond, 61 percent of REO properties serviced by Cyprexx in predominantly white communities had zero deficiencies, while only 23 percent of REO properties in communities of color similarly lacked zero deficiencies. 36 percent of REO properties serviced by
Cyprexx in communities of color had 3 or more deficiencies, while no REO property in a white community had more than 3 deficiencies documented. “Fannie Mae is allowing its contractors to treat homes in communities of color very poorly,” said Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “Cyprexx is required by federal law to maintain foreclosures without regard to the racial makeup of the neighborhood, but the evidence we uncovered flies in the face of that obligation. Unfortunately, this complaint addresses merely the latest in long pattern of discrimination by Fannie and its contractors.” Failing to maintain homes based on the racial or ethnic composition of a neighborhood is a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and has a toxic effect on the health and livelihood of entire communities. “In addition to blight, substandard maintenance creates a host of problems for the surrounding community. As property values fall, so does tax revenue for local governments. Money for schools, parks, recreation facilities, and redevelopment dwindles as homeowners watch poorly maintained REOs drag their home values down,” continued Smith. “Cyprexx must bring its practices in line with the Fair Housing Act and resolve this complaint immediately by providing compensation for the neighborhoods harmed.” “Our homes are where we take refuge from the hustle, bustle, and stress of work and public life. They are supposed to be peaceful places where we share meals with family and friends. Our home is a base from which we search for jobs, find good schools for our children, and put down roots to make our communities.” said David Baade, President and CEO of Fair Housing Continuum. “It’s a shame to see Cyprexx allow homes in Orlando communities to get to this state. Cyprexx simply has to do in communities of color exactly what it does in White neighborhoods—mow lawns, remove trash, secure doors and windows, fix broken steps and handrails and cover holes to keep vermin out.” Cyprexx is contracted by Fannie Mae to cover eight maintenance issues, including emove accumulation of trash or debris; mow overgrown grass and remove leaves; trim or remove overgrown or dead shrubbery; remove invasive
plants (covering 10 percent or more of the structure); secure unsecured or broken doors; secure unsecured or broken windows; cover unsecured holes in the structure; replace or fix broken or missing steps and handrails. “Cyprexx claims that its goal is to maintain vacant homes so that they are indistinguishable from owner-occupied properties. Why, then, do we see homes in communities of color with broken windows, trash and leaves accumulated in the yards, overgrown lawns and unlocked doors?” said Heather Crislip, President and CEO of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia. “The racial make up of the neighborhood should never determine the quality of maintenance it receives. Fannie and Cyprexx need to put in place quality control measures that work. Richmond deserves better.” NFHA and its member fair housing
organizations have similar complaints pending against Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, and US Bank. Many of the neighborhoods investigated in these complaints overlap. Therefore, the blight and damage to property values and health inflicted in these neighborhoods by these banks and preservation management companies are compounded. Health and safety risks increase because of accumulated trash and overgrown lawns attracting rodents and insects and broken windows and doors inviting vandalism. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status, as well as the race or national origin of residents of a neighborhood. This law applies to housing and housing-related activities, which include the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing, and selling of homes.
Suing soldiers from page 1
goods was higher than big-box retailers with greater buying power. As for the addons, he said they are clearly disclosed as optional. The company’s typical interest rate is “less than 20 percent,” he said. The final tally on the loans can be staggering for some young service members. On every active-duty service member’s contract examined, just below various disclosures, it says the buyer “is subject to the jurisdiction of the state courts of the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA.” To receive financing, customers must agree. Such a demand is “abusive” and is not typically found in contracts involving consumers, said Carter of the National Consumer Law Center. The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits such suits if they are filed by a third party, such as a law firm. Because USA Discounters uses a company employee to file its debt collection suits, the law doesn’t apply.
drawn in by the guaranteed credit something not offered by cheaper big-box stores. “A lot of the time, this would be the first time they get a paycheck over $1,000,” said a former store manager. The company can confidently extend credit to such customers, former employees said, because the loans are almost always repaid through the military’s allotment system. Part of the service member’s paycheck automatically goes to the company every month. On top of these costs, the loans typically are layered with fees for a warranty and a program that cancels the debt under certain circumstances. The plans are optional, but are included on the vast majority of loans, former employees said. Dorsey, the USA Discounters executive, said the company’s cost of purchasing
July 30 - Aug. 15, 2014 • 3
Langley eliminating 742 jobs By Jordan Crawford The Air Force plans to eliminate 742 two jobs at Air Combat Command (ACC) at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton. In total, nearly 3,500 positions will be eliminated at Air Force headquarters both in the U.S. and overseas as part of a service-wide reduction plan. The move, directed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, is designed to save taxpayers $1.6 billion over the coming five years. Captain Erika Yepsen at Langley said these are not layoffs, but “position eliminations” affecting both active duty personnel and civil servants. “What we’re looking to do is reduce some of the redundancies that we have so we can focus all of our efforts on the war-fighter, and making sure we don’t have excess in our headquarters, where we’re not actively engaged,” she said. Deborah Lee James, secretary of the Air Force, strives to give citizens more bang for their buck, so to speak, when it comes to their security. “I will work to ensure the world’s best Air Force is the most capable at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer,” said James. “Everyone knows our economy is still not where it should be; we have a responsibility to ensure that every dollar adds value to the taxpayers and our national defense.” James says the majority of the ACC cuts will take place between now and Sept. 30,
the end of the current fiscal year. These changes result from an effort to reduce overhead costs, increase efficiencies, eliminate redundant activities and improve effectiveness and business processes. The Air Force’s website states after the reorganization, the Department of Defense’s directive to reduce costs and staff levels by 20 percent can more easily be met. To minimize the effect on civilian personnel, the Air Force will initiate Voluntary Early Retirement Authority programs and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay to foster voluntary reductions before pursuing involuntary measures. As part of ongoing efforts to responsibly shape the force, military members were offered a variety of voluntary incentive programs. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was unhappy to hear of the news. “While I appreciate the Air Force’s efforts to find savings by consolidating headquarters functions, I am deeply concerned about the impact this potential cut would have on Joint Base Langley-Eustis’s hard-working airmen and civilian work force,” he said in a statement. “While it appears that many of these reductions can be accomplished through attrition and eliminating unfilled positions, I have requested a briefing from the Air Force where I can ask tough questions about this proposed plan. I also urge Air Force leadership to consider locating its consolidated headquarters at Langley,
where they could enjoy proximity to the Pentagon and other defense organizations.” Sen. Tim Kaine (D- Va.) also weighed in. “The decision by the Air Force to consolidate headquarters and eliminate positions at Joint Base Langley-Eustis and in the National Capital Region will impact Virginia families, but we understand the impact is lessened because most of the positions are not currently filled,” he said in a statement. “Our service members and defense civilians are a critical aspect of our military, and I will advocate for new opportunities for them to continue their service. As the Air Force considers locations for the Air Force Installation Mission Support Center (AFIMSC) and Air Force Intelligence Surveillance
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and Reconnaissance Agency (25th Air Force), I strongly urge consideration of the unmatched infrastructure and dynamic environment offered in Virginia, particularly at Langley.” In all, military officials say in addition to the cuts, the Air Force will continue to reduce contract spending, operating budgets and travel expenditures. “We are aggressively pursuing reductions within the first year, rather than spread them out over five years as allowed by DoD,” said Secretary James. “It’s better for Airmen because it provides them predictability and allows us to re-stabilize our workforce sooner. It also allows us to harvest the savings earlier so that we can plow it back into readiness and some of our key modernization programs.”
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Norfolk car dealership off limits to military members By Jordan Crawford All military branches are now prohibited from visiting Victory Lane Motors, the Norfolk used-car lot at the center of a Department of Motor Vehicles investigation. Last month Rear Adm. Dixon R. Smith, the commander of Navy Region MidAtlantic, issued an order barring area Navy personnel from visiting the dealership on Virginia Beach Boulevard after learning
that dozens of service members had reported being ripped off. The Joint Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board for Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina added Victory Lane Motors to its list of establishments that are off limits to all military personnel. More than 50 complaints have been filed against the dealership. The dealership was placed on the off-limits list in August 2013
3rd Street Bethel Honoring the Legends of Bethel A.M.E. Church Pastor: Rev. Reuben J. Boyd Jr. To the Legends of Bethel, we honor you Through your hard work and dedication you are able to pull our congregation through Standing on your shoulders Keepers of the flame Faithful choir members Melodious words you proclaim The name of Jesus Christ Thank you for all of your prayers over our lives You were and still are our community leaders When we needed mentoring You were always there to teach us Ushers boldly ushering us to a another place Providing dedicated service and encouraging us to keep the faith To the Legends of Bethel we thank you We appreciate all that you do We stand firm on the Word of God just like you And on this day, we honor you…
but was taken off the list in November after taking steps to reform its business practices. The disciplinary control board had found that the dealership had engaged in unfair business practices, including “bird-dogging”—the illegal tactic of paying a third party to generate successful sales leads. In some cases, dealerships have hired service members to drag their buddies down to the lot. The board is an investigative committee tasked with identifying conditions that could adversely affect the “health, safety, welfare and discipline” of the armed forces. Businesses can be removed from the list by presenting evidence of corrective action. According to military.com, eight other local businesses remain on the off-limits list for members of the armed forces. They include: • Hampton Pipe and Tobacco, 86 W. Mercury Blvd., Hampton; • Hampton Pipe and Tobacco, 15435-B Warwick Blvd., Newport News; • Hampton Pipe and Tobacco, 4796 George Washington Memorial Highway, Hayes; • Lazy Dayz, 731 J Clyde Morris Blvd.,
Ste. B, Newport News; • Lazy Dayz, 839 W. 21st Street, Norfolk; • Mellow Smoke Tobacco Shop, 1948 Diamond Springs Road, Virginia Beach; • Outer Edge Gifts, 760-B J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News; and • Blazin Herbs, 85 W Mercury Blvd., Hampton. “The JAFDCB needs to make these scam businesses off-limits for at least a year rather than the on-again-off-again manner they’ve been subscribing to,” said Norfolk resident Martin Harris. “If longer off-limits periods would probably sufficiently motivate these scam dealers to run respectable businesses, especially in this military community.” Kim Johnson of Norfolk believes longer off-limits periods would be somewhat effective, but realizes that such businesses can easily close and re-open under new names and continue with their shady practices. “It could turn into hide-and-seek… service members, both young and old, should be educated about what to be aware of so they can avoid such frustrating and even embarrassing situations.”
Thank You The family of Jack J. Green has been deeply touched by your words and actions of condolence during our time of loss. We are thankful that you are there for us at this difficult time.
July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 5
Promoting the benefits of breastfeeding with RVA Latches On!
For the third consecutive year, RVA Latches On! is encouraging nursing mothers to come together with their children and babies to participate in synchronized breast-feeding. This year’s RVA Latches On! event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 2 in Richmond, Capitol Square Bell Tower, at the intersection of 9th and East Franklin streets. Participants should arrive at 10 a.m. for registration. RVA Latches On! is sponsored by the Richmond Health Action Alliance, a Healthy Communities Action Team (HCAT) funded by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and administered by the Richmond Healthy Start Initiative, a division of the city of Richmond Department of Social Services. According to insiders, the Richmond Health Action Alliance seeks to reduce childhood obesity in Richmond through policy, infrastructure and environmental changes that promote a breastfeedingfriendly and physically active community. RVA Latches On! is supported through partnerships with VCU Medical Center, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, HCA Healthcare, Anthem Healthkeepers Plus, Capitol Area Health Network, William
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event with its health care colleagues. “We all want what is best for our infants and mothers, and breastfeeding is the most effective prevention, boosting babies with antibodies that will fight infection and promote health from the earliest days and beyond,” said Dr. Gauri Gulati, a pediatrician and board certified lactation consultant who provides comprehensive breastfeeding support through the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
6 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
Reading Rainbow soars free By Joel Schlosberg The extraordinary success of Reading Rainbow‘s Kickstarter campaign — with a record-breaking hundred thousand donors chipping in over $5 million for distributing Reading Rainbow‘s literacy material as widely as possible to children, particularly those in greatest financial need — demonstrates how crowdfunding may shape up as something more than what The New Republic dubs “the world’s No. 1 solver of First World problems.” Paying up-front for both the fixed costs of developing Reading Rainbow and programming its software platform for an array of devices, plus the marginal costs of distributing it to schools, many of which would be unable to pay for it otherwise, the campaign is a spectacular example of voluntarism funding a public good. Literacy education is often held up as the public good that could only be adequately supplied by the very involuntary means of the state. Milton Friedman summed up both the mainstream assumptions and the evidence pointing against them: “At one time I thought a strong argument could be made for compulsory schooling because of the harm which the failure to school your child does to other people. … But the work which Ed West and others have done on the actual development of schools makes it abundantly clear that in the absence of compulsory schooling there would nonetheless be a very high degree of literacy – that self-interest would be sufficient to yield a degree of schooling which would satisfy the social need for a literate society.” George Carlin countered the notion that reading is something kids have to be forced to do: “Kids who want to learn to read are gonna learn to read. Much more important: To teach children to question what they read.” Which institutions that depend on unquestioned obedience won’t do, but was the basis of the literacy education in the
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Ferrer schools whose namesake was put to death by their governmental enemies. Of course, Reading Rainbow had the enormous advantage of its widelyremembered original public television incarnation. And Seth MacFarlane would not have a cool million dollars to spare for the project (or the clout to get a Cosmos revival back on the air) without his commercial media empire built on the industry’s expertly managed monopoly revenue streams. But such piggybacking on the existing broadcast media infrastructure, while helpful, is unnecessary in a network age. Just as the public schools’ literacy education is a gutted travesty of Ferrer’s, the PBS/NPR model was always a watereddown imitation of the listener-sponsored model of private stations like KPFA, whose founder Lewis Hill was among its radicals who spent WWII in conscientious objector labor camps. Alternative media and attempts to make private Ferrer-like education available to poor children — like George Dennison’s First Street School “that worked and yet failed to survive“ (as Herbert Kohl’s New York Times review of Dennison’s account The Lives of Children put it) — have languished in the interstices of a centralized economy whose elites have the power to marginalize them. But if given a chance, their successors will soar higher than a butterfly.
Marlene Jones Executive Manager
The voice of black America
To publish a document is to establish a permanent record for the future. To publish a newspaper is to preserve an official record of the news and perspectives of a particular period, which is useful today and in the future. The Black Press has been around since the publication of the first black newspaper. Freedom’s Journal, in 1827, which had as its motto: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.” But black protest has also been in the form of pamphlets. The most famous was published by David Walker, issued two years after the nation’s first black newspaper. What was it about Walker’s publishing his ‘Appeal to the Coloured People of the World’ that made slave masters in 1829 so fearful and uncomfortable? It was Walker’s inspiring use of the printed word that stirred the very soul and spirits of the enslaved masses of African people to rise up at all cost against the “evils” of slavery. Walker’s publication, often referred to as David Walker’s Appeal’, gave the antislavery movement a resolute, charismatic voice for grassroots resistance by those held in the “clutches of slavery.” Walker, a native of Wilmington, N.C., had relocated to Boston, in his quest to escape the overt brutality of chattel slavery in southeastern North Carolina. According to the David Walker Memorial Project, “Many historians now regard the Appeal as one of the most important social and political documents of the 19th century. Nothing like it had been published before. It remained a rallying point for African Americans for many years after Walker’s death. And it informed the thinking of generations of Black leaders, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.” In the preamble to the Appeal, Walker emphasized, “I am fully aware, in making this appeal to my much afflicted and suffering brethren, that I shall not only be assailed by those whose greatest earthly desires are, to keep us in abject ignorance and wretchedness, and who are of the firm conviction that Heaven has designed us and our children to be slaves and beasts of burden to them and their children. I say, I do not only expect to be held up to the public as an ignorant, impudent and restless disturber of the public peace, by such avaricious creatures, as well as a mover of insubordination – and perhaps put in prison or to death, for giving a superficial exposition of our See “The voiceˮ on pg. 7
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July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 7
Eric Garner’s Amargosa
In the city of Amargosa in Brazil, citizens took to the streets after a stray bullet fire by a local police officer struck and killed a one-year-old girl. But they didn’t stay in the streets. They quickly took the police station, freeing prisoners, jacking state-owned weaponry and burning the station and police vehicles to the ground. In the end, no one was seriously harmed and the message was sent: We won’t accept your institution’s “collateral damage” any longer. We are taking it, we are burning it, we are taking the weapons of the police for ourselves. Eventually, this “riot” was quelled by neighboring police forces, but in the Battle of Amargosa 16th of July 2014, the victors were the citizens. And what of the state officials most likely to face the wrath of these fierce, enraged individuals? Like the cowards they are, they held up inside a local hotel. Take note, The very next day, in a very different city, in a very different country, Eric Garner gasped out his last breaths as gang members repping the New York Police Department colors piled on and choked him after he broke up a scuffle the NYPD were slow in responding to. His crime? Garner was a known holder of contraband, which you might know as loose cigarettes. Despite no evidence that he was selling or even had said contraband on his person, after a brief verbal quarrel between Garner and the police, he was put into a chokehold, held on the ground and pounced on by several more NYPD gang members. His last words, the words of an innocent family man to these “peace officers?” “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” No riots occurred that day. Passersby did thought of their self-preservation and looked the other way. No agitators, no dissent. Just another dead black man on
the New York City streets … only this time with a video. With the power of these images, of Garner’s last cries for mercy, the proud American people who value independence so highly were capable of summoning an Internet outrage. I even hear that Al Sharpton is involved. As of now Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who initiated the chokehold, has been relieved of his gun and sentenced to the harsh world of desk work. Meanwhile a few miles away, a mother and six children deal with the sadness, the horror and confusion of having their husband and father taken from them. Eric Garner is dead and nothing will change because of that. At most, we will see a policy shift discouraging chokeholds (will of course not be abided by). Tomorrow or next week, there will be another Eric Garner. There will be another Eric Garner because there is still an NYPD precinct that wasn’t razed. Ryan Calhoun
“Back in the hands of the people”
I am encouraged by business owners, family and friends to seek the 16th District seat on Nov. 4. Equally important as the encouragement of others, I feel a great sense of obligation to my fellow neighbors and business peers to seek a productive avenue for change.
For more than 30 years, I have lived, worked and owned businesses in the 16th District. My business experience, coupled with a strong record of community commitment, strengthens my ability to serve as an effective senator. My life experiences over a period of 30 years have provided a significant part of my education. These experiences include travel, starting and maintaining several businesses, entertaining, and exposure to many cultures. I am an energetic, hardworking, nononsense Richmond businessman. My success has come through hard work and trial and error. My practical experiences have helped me develop a good work ethic. I’m long on ideas, short on excuses. I accept challenges and am undaunted by perceived obstacles. As a results oriented person, my ability to zero in on a problem is acute. I do not mill over a matter for weeks, study it to death and then offer a confused opinion. I have no personal agenda; only seek to contribute to the community. I look forward to the opportunity to serve the constituents of the 16th District. It would be an honor to be the voice of the people of Richmond, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Hopewell and Petersburg that make up the 16th Senate District. Preston T. Brown
The VOICE welcomes opinions from our readers. Letters should be typewritten and include your full name, address and telephone number where you can be reached during business hours. Send your letters to: 205 E. Clay St., Richmond, Va. 23219 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The voice from page 6 miseries, and exposing tyrants.” When the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) boldly asserts that we are “The Voice of Black America,” it is both to reclaim the courageous intellectual substance of a David Walker, and at the same time, continue the path charted by Freedom’s Journal. Interestingly David Walker also served at one time in Boston as subscription sales agent and as a dedicated writer for New York-based Freedom’s Journal. Walker died mysteriously in 1830, one year after publication is his Appeal. For 74 years, the NNPA has been publishing and distributing the printed words of liberation and news that have helped to sustain the steady advancement of the interests of Black America. As the Black Press of America prepares to cover the upcoming U.S. – African Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C, Aug. 4-6, we are reminded of how far we have come since that September in 1829 when David Walker published his Appeal. I believe that Walker was able through his faith in the God of freedom and liberation to envision a future time when a son of an African would become the president of United States. Of course our struggle for liberation and equality has not ended. We still need a strong articulate “Voice of Black America” as the steadfast printed press complemented by the digital press to ensure that our struggle continues with effectiveness and efficiencies. The writer, Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., is the Interim president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached email@example.com.
8 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
FAITH & RELIGION
Poll: Americans feel good about evangelicals By Jeff Brumley ABP - Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians finished in that order in a “feeling thermometer” poll released recently by the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project. Viewed with a cold, or more negative, attitude were atheists while Muslims came in last. Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons were sandwiched in between. The findings, which were surprising to some more than others, raise interesting questions for the members of each of those religions, and certainly for those evangelical Christians who believe they are increasingly persecuted in a post-Christian, post-church culture. Baptists interviewed about the survey of 3,217 American adults ranged in opinions of its value, if any. Some said any research asking about feelings should be taken with a grain of salt. “People are notoriously bad at expressing
their feelings, and feelings bring a lot of baggage with them,” said Ronald Crawford, president of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. On the “thermometer” reading, Jews came in at 63 degrees, followed by Catholics at 62 and evangelicals at 61. By comparison, Buddhists were at 53 degrees, Hindus at 50 and Mormons at 48. Atheists and Muslims were at a chilly 41 and 40 degrees, respectively. Crawford said the poll may be more valuable in a couple of years when two sets of data can be compared. “For example, the feelings about Muslims may rise on the feeling thermometer as people learn more about Islam,” Crawford said. Demographic influences The Pew data itself reveals several biases among those surveyed, many of whom are members of the traditions listed. It said
that Catholics accounted for 20 percent of the survey sample, and evangelical/bornagain Christians 32 percent. Both of those groups rated themselves highly (in the 80s, temperature-wise) and also gave high marks to Jews (in the 60s). In terms of age, older Americans feel stronger about Christians and Jews while younger people view other faiths, including Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, more favorably. Data on other demographics, including race and political affiliation, was also provided. Evangelicals were rated much higher by Republicans (71 degrees) than Democrats (53 degrees). But taken as a whole, the findings resulted in an overall warm feeling for evangelicals that did not surprise several Baptist Christians – though for different reasons. Animosity toward Christians’ Floridian Troy Dixon said he’s heard
conservative Christians complain about how they’re viewed in society, but he’s rarely encountered that negativity himself. That’s why the Pew Thermometer poll didn’t really surprise him. “I encounter apathy toward the church, but I don’t encounter much hostility toward it,” said Dixon, pastor of Normandy Bark Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Jacksonville. Unchurched Americans are tiring of the “cultural Christianity” that simply adheres to the norms of society, Dixon said. Instead, they’re hungry for a faith that provides an experience of the “authentic, living gospel” and in which they feel “loved on.” That may be the perspective that informed the Pew research, he said. But there are some who will have a hard time See “Evangelicalsˮ on pg. 9
Former lt. gov nominee: New executive order attacks religious liberty
E.W. Jackson, minister and former Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, has said that President Barack Obama is undermining the First Amendment Rights of Americans to advance the LGBT agenda. Jackson made his statements in a Staying True to America’s National Destiny (STAND) press release. President Obama recently issued an executive order barring federal contractors from practicing what he describes as “discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. “The real discrimination,” said Jackson, “is against Christians and other believers who are under assault for trying to be true to their faith. Our rights under the First Amendment were not given to us by the president or any branch of government, and government has no legitimate power to take away those rights. This is a gross abuse of executive authority under the Constitution.” Jackson said that LGBT activists are using the power of government to intimidate Americans into embracing same sex marriage. “This administration has come to the radical decision, completely outside the mainstream of American culture
and thinking, that religious convictions about sexual morality are not welcome in America, and that the thinking of the 1.6 percent that identify as ‘sexual minorities’ should dominate the other 98 percent,” said Jackson. “Apparently, the government grants you permission to believe whatever you want to at home or in church, but will punish you if you dare apply those beliefs to how you do business. And if you are foolish enough to stand up for your Godgiven rights, be prepared to lose your business, your job or to be investigated by the IRS or some other agency of government.” The president’s executive order could affect Christian daycare programs, schools, nonprofit community development organizations and a host of services provided by Christian organizations through contracts with the federal government. “The president’s executive order has far reaching implications,” Jackson said, “not only for businesses but all kinds of nonprofit faith based organizations.” Jackson is preparing to launch a Petition For First Amendment Freedom and organizing Pastors, Churches and Christians’ nationwide to stand against the rising tide of hostility against Christianity.
July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 9
Keeping the Faith
The man behind the curtain What do Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have in common? Besides the fact that they are both splendid, waterfront communities, probably not much. Except this: Seventyfive years ago this week, these towns were Ronnie McBrayer the first public release points for one of the greatest films ever. “The Wizard of Oz.” Few movies have had such a prolonged, impactful history. It is consistently voted into the top ten of any “Greatest Movies” list, has been preserved by the Library of Congress and the National Film Registry, and contains some of the most recognized one-liners of any film ever made. Generations of people have said in times of confusion, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” They have dropped their bags at the front door and collapsed onto their couches with the shibboleth, “There’s no place like home,” falling from their lips. Who has never said, in a moment of being cornered, “There are lions, and tigers, and bears!” And of course, the Wicked Witch has her place in the conversation: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” still terrifies children (and her cursed flying monkeys still terrify me). But my favorite line from the film is spoken by the Wizard himself. The scene is iconic; Dorothy and her friends return to Oz’s throne room with the Witch’s broomstick, confirming that their assignment is complete, and the Wicked Witch is indeed, dead. But the Wizard rebuffs them. He is about to break his promise of sending Dorothy home, and about to renege on the handing out of brains, hearts, and courage. Then, in the midst of booming voices, thunderclaps, and lightning bolts, Toto scurries over to a mystical shower stall and pulls back the curtain where a mere mortal is pulling levers and speaking into an amplifier. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” the Wizard warns. But the game is over. There is no great and powerful Oz. There is only Oscar
Zoroaster Diggs from Omaha, Nebraska. It was all, quite literally, smoke and mirrors. Why do I love this quote, this scene, so much? Because it reveals the truth on so many levels. There is nothing to be afraid of – especially when it comes to God. We have been taught and told that God, the “Wizard” for my purposes, is more terrifying than all the dangers of the world. We have been told that to enter the presence of this “Great and Powerful” is to take our lives into our hands. Like the Cowardly Lion, we know we need God and all that he offers, but we might as soon throw ourselves out his palace window to escape his terrors than to remain in his presence. Yet, this is all smoke, mirrors, curtains, and megaphones. Jesus has done something even the legendary Toto could not accomplish. He doesn’t just pull the curtain back, he tears it asunder, showing us a God who isn’t playing a game or hiding his true identity. This God is no imaginary Wizard. He is a compassionate, loving, heart-sick parent who refused to keep his distance from us, who decided he would no longer allow his name or his reputation to be misrepresented, but would represent himself as a mere mortal, that he might enter the sufferings of his creation and undo the chaos of his creation. The coming of Jesus into the world was the coming of God into the world. And the cross of Jesus, in all of its foolish glory, did not change God – he has always been in love with humanity – it changes us. We begin to see clearly that so much of what we have been told simply isn’t the truth. With no heavy curtain obscuring our perspective, we see that God is more gracious, more wonderful, more welcoming, and more loving than we previously imagined; there is no reason to be afraid of him. This is not a fanciful measure of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” It is the place we call home, and there’s no place like it. Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www. ronniemcbrayer.me.
Evangelicals from page 8 accepting the high ranking evangelicals are given in the survey. “A segment will not believe it because they feel there is animosity toward Christians and toward evangelical Christianity,” Dixon said. ‘Good experiences with Christians’ The poll findings suggest that some in society are rejecting the negative portrayal of Christians in the media, said Luke Smith, pastor of Linden Heights Baptist Church in Staunton, Va. “A lot of media sources cover more of the scandalous than the praiseworthy,” Smith said. “A lot of people aren’t persuaded by that coverage.” The positive view many have of evangelicals results from those Christians and churches who live virtuously and promote values such as self-control and justice, he said. That way of life is noticed by others who are in turn inspired by the example being set by some Christians. “It generates good feeling” toward evangelicals, Smith added. “A lot of people are having good experiences with Christians.” ‘Live and let live’ But the popularity of born-again Christians likely has less to do with morality and more to do with worship and generational issues, scholars said. “We cannot reduce ethics and morality down to a few sexual issues, such as abortion or homosexuality,” said J. Gordon
Melton, distinguished professor of American religious history at Baylor University. However, the rising popularity of evangelical Christians on display in the Pew poll may in part be generated by their penchant for providing lively worship services, he said. “They have put much more time and effort to make worship a meaningful experience,” Melton said. Then there is the influence younger evangelicals are having on their faith and its perception, Crawford said. Younger evangelicals are expressing a more live-and-let-live attitude toward current social issues, including gay marriage. That is one reason the face of evangelicalism is changing, Crawford said. “The definition of what is an evangelical is changing,” Crawford said. “In this survey, evangelicals got a bump up because young people make them more palatable to a larger segment of American society.”
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10 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
EDUCATION & OUTREACH
Teens awarded summer jobs and leadership opportunity
Jamiesha McCarthy and Philip Maxwell from Hampton Roads, pack care kits. Bank of America Student Leader Malcolm Stewart from Richmond along with other Student Leaders, volunteer at the American Red Cross to help pack more than 3,000 care kits to be delivered to homeless veterans.
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation recently five high school students from the Richmond area have been selected to take part in the 2014 Student Leaders program, which annually awards more than 220 high school juniors and seniors from around the country with paid eight-week summer internships at local nonprofit organizations.
By Jordan Crawford School Board Chairwoman Martha Mugler recently announced that she is “disappointed” by criticism from PTA President Pamela Croom regarding raises for members of the school division’s leadership team. “I’m just disappointed we didn’t have an opportunity to address it with her directly,” Mugler said of the email Croom sent to members of the PTA. “I understand the perception that people have when they look at it at face value,” Mugler said of the raises. “There’s a lot of layers and details to making decisions like that.” As the school division made drastic cuts to balance its fiscal 2015 budget, including outsourcing janitorial staff and reducing supplements to National Board Certified Teachers, several members of the division leadership team received what the board calls “equity adjustments.” The board unanimously voted for the raises in a June 4 meeting in its consent agenda, without any discussion of the raises. “Occasionally, adjustments like these occur, particularly when there are some shifts in positions,” Mugler said. “We had two retirements, two new hires and, as a result of some of that shifting, the structure of pay was out of sync.” “If you compare our upper-tier
board members and Superintendent Linda Shifflette. Some of the pay raises were also discussed during closed-session meetings of the board, she said. “Dr. Shifflette’s our chief executive officer. We rely on her to make reasonable decisions and recommendations. In this particular case, the board felt it was justified,” Mugler said. School Board member Linwood “Butch” Harper, however, said it might be time for more oversight of division administration. “Ms. Croom has a legitimate concern about everything that has transpired. I think overall the School Board has to ... look more in-depth at things,” Harper said. As frustration over the raises continued to rise Monday, Croom said she talked with Mugler but remained opposed to the raises for the administrators. In response to Mugler’s comment that she wished they had to a chance to discuss the issue directly before the letter was sent to PTA members, Croom said, “That opportunity should have taken place during the June 4th vote.” “That was their opportunity to forego any perception the community may have had, any misunderstanding the community may have had on their regular business practices,” Croom said. “That was their opportunity. They need to be more transparent about those types of decisions.” More criticism came from the Hampton branch of the NAACP. “It’s clear that they’re not being fiscally responsible,” said branch president Gaylene Kanoyton.
PTA letter “disappoints” Hampton School Board chair
Hampton School Board chair, Martha Mugler
employees’ pay to our neighboring communities, we’re not that competitive,” Mugler said. “There’s been quite a lot of concern that the janitorial staff was outsourced ... and some of them are receiving lower pay as a result. Essentially what we’ve really found out from that, we were paying above-market wage for a lot of those staff members. If you want to compare it that way, is it right that we are paying abovemarket wage for one set of employees and below for another set?” Mugler said the pay raises were discussed in one-on-one meetings between
“They’re holding our kids’ education hostage in the classroom to pay administrators. It’s not fair, it’s not right. It’s not good for the morale of the current Hampton City Schools staff,” Kanoyton said. “They’re just dancing around the issue instead of addressing it was wrong.” City Councilman Donnie Tuck said the raises have created “an awkward situation.” “I don’t want to be critical of the School Board,” Tuck said. “But I just know I expended a lot of effort talking to the city manager trying to come up with creative ways to preserve some of the jobs.” “I don’t know all of the ins and outs or whys — why they were so underclassified or undercompensated,” Tuck said. “Even last council meeting we voted to give them a $500,000 advance on tax money we expected to get…The timing I think is awkward.” “When it comes to an expenditure of public funds, the public really doesn’t like to find about things after the fact,” said Megan Rhyne, director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. She said while the board might have valid reasons for giving the raises it would have been better if they discussed them openly. “When they do it in such a way that looks sneaky, that shakes the whole process because it creates suspicion,” Rhyne said. “It makes it very hard for the government to come back and explain there’s a reason for it.”
July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 11
Virginia’s popular back-to-school sales tax holiday returns
Are you thinking about preparing for the upcoming school year – kindergarten, college, or somewhere in between? Or maybe you’ve finished school, but want to refresh your wardrobe or stock up on office supplies? If so, you may want to make a list because Virginia’s most popular sales tax holiday is just around the corner. For the ninth straight year, many clothing items, footwear, and school and office supplies will be sales tax-free during the first full weekend in August, which is Aug. 1-3 this year. It’s a great time to buy what you need while saving some money. During the three-day event, most school supplies that cost $20 or less each, as well as clothing items and pairs of shoes priced at $100 or less each will be exempt from Virginia’s 5.3 percent state and local sales tax. You’ll save even more in most Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads localities, where the sales tax is 6 percent. For example, if you spend $500 on qualifying items during the sales tax holiday, you’ll save $26.50 on exempt purchases. You’ll save $30 in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
The list of tax-exempt items is the same as last year. It includes, for example, pens, pencils, loose leaf ruled notebook paper, scissors, binders, backpacks, construction paper, sneakers, hats, shirts, dresses, jeans, bathing suits, diapers, T-shirts, and many other items. There is no requirement that the purchases be made for school purposes. All retailers who sell the exempt items are required to participate. “This is the most universal of Virginia’s three sales tax holidays, so it’s been very popular among both consumers and businesses in Virginia,” said Tax Commissioner Craig Burns. “Returning to class is an exciting time for students, but it can also be a stressful time for their parents. Foregoing the sales tax on some necessary purchases is especially beneficial to large families who are sending multiple children back to school.” The tax-exempt items are available to anyone shopping in the state and there is no limit on the number of products you can buy tax-free as long as each one qualifies under the guidelines. If you can’t get out to the stores, but still want to shop and save, online purchases
of qualifying items are also tax-exempt during the sales tax holiday. During this sales tax holiday, retailers may also choose to save taxpayers even more money by absorbing, or paying themselves, the sales tax on items that are not eligible for exemption. In past years, many stores have taken advantage of this opportunity and some have sold everything in their stores tax-free.
An all-inclusive list of school supplies, a list of exempt clothing and footwear items, guidelines for shoppers and retailers, and answers to frequently asked questions are available on the Department’s Sales Tax Holiday Information Center online. Virginia’s other two sales tax holidays are for hurricane preparedness in May, and for energy-efficient appliances and watersaving items in October.
Hampton University named 2014 HBCU of the Year
Hampton University was named the HBCU of the Year at the fourth annual HBCU Awards ceremony. The award was one of three for Hampton, which also won top honors for research and women’s athletics. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the Hampton University community,” said Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey. “I commend the HBCU Awards and HBCU Digest for highlighting the positive impact that Hampton University and other HBCUs are making in higher education.” Also at the ceremony, the Hampton University Minority Men’s Health Initiative was presented the best research center award and the Hampton Lady Pirates Basketball Team was presented the female team of the year award. “Hampton University is among the most distinguished brands in higher education, and particularly in historically Black higher education,” said Jarrett Carter, founding editor of the HBCU Digest.
“This year, the institution was able to cultivate attention in the areas of public health with the Minority Men’s Health Initiative, athletics with a historic fifth consecutive conference championship in women’s basketball, and advocacy with Dr. Harvey’s continuing presence on matters of access and affordability for all students.” The awards ceremony was part of the 2014 HBCU Media Week Presented by Dillard University. The two-day conference drew more than 40 HBCU communications executives, faculty members, presidents, alumni officers and vice-presidents from HBCUs around the country. Highlights from the event included a remote Q&A sessions with Craig Melvin, host and correspondent for MSNBC, and Roland Martin, host of NewsOne Now on the TV One network. “In an era where the public narrative on HBCUs continues to trend negatively, Hampton has been an exemplary model for what HBCUs should be and can be,” said Carter.
Top: Juliana Badgett. This fall Juliana will attend Virginia Wesleyan College as a freshman. Bottom: Samantha Haynes, is a rising sophomore at Thomas Nelson Community College and plans to specialize in forensics when she finishes her four degree from another university.
Two Newport News students received a $1,000 academic scholarship from the Virginia Sheriffs’ Institute (VSI). As a VSI member, Sheriff Gabe Morgan had the honor of presenting the checks. According to the VSI, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Scholarship program was established to provide an opportunity for young people across Virginia to pursue an education in criminal justice. Accordingly, the Board of Directors has established the application process for students to receive scholarships to assist in their educational endeavors. The scholarships are available only to students in jurisdictions where sheriffs participated in scholarship fundraising efforts. This program is limited to students attending Virginia colleges and universities.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
12 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
Whitney Houston family doesn’t support Lifetime biopic
YaYa DaCosta (left) has been cast to play Whitney Houston (right) in a Lifetime movie.
Lifetime’s “I Will Always Love You: The Whitney Houston Story” faces opposition from the late singer’s other family member. Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy, is pleading with the cable network to cancel the biopic that will focus on Houston’s tumultuous relationship with former husband, Bobby Brown. “Lifetime has chosen to go ahead with the movie about Whitney in spite of my family’s objections,” Cissy told reporters. “In the two years since Whitney’s death, many people have stepped forward to speak about their close relationship with her. “I find it difficult to believe people who knew and supposedly loved her would participate in a movie about her done by folks who didn’t know her. We are exhausted by the continuing misinformation and comments offered by people who did not know her. Please, please let her rest.” The biopic’s director Angela Bassett said she did reach out to Houston’s family
before the movie went into production. “Of course we’re not going to do the movie and not say anything to them,” Bassett said. “We paid our respects and let the conversation be had, just to get their okay.” Bassett, who is making her directorial debut, said she would respect Houston in the movie. “I have such regard for both Whitney’s and Bobby’s amazing talents and accomplishments; and I feel a responsibility in the telling of their story. Their humanity and bond fascinates us all. I’m beyond excited to have this opportunity to go behind the camera and into their world,” she said. Recentyly, Houston’s only child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, blasted Bassett for not considering her to play her mother in the biopic although she had uttered her desire to take up the role. YaYa DaCosta was cast in the main role instead. Footage of DaCosta and Arlen Escarpeta in action as Houston and Bobby Brown has landed online in behind-the-scenes video obtained by ET Online.
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Ask Alma Alm
Little brother is working my last nerve Dear Alma, My little brother is getting on my last nerve. He is 32 and can’t seem to get it together. He is always calling me telling me how his water is about to be cut off or his car broke down and he doesn’t know how he’s going get to work. I get so tired of hearing about his money problems and I don’t know why he thinks I’m supposed to fix it. I have loaned him money forever. I save my money for emergencies and that’s what he should do, too. I just don’t know what to do. If I don’t help him, he will probably become homeless, lose his car and then his job and it would be worse. Sometimes I feel like all I do is fix his problems and I don’t even think he appreciates me. What would you suggest I do to make him more mature? TiaMarie, Houston, Texas TiaMarie, He is much more mature and smart than you’re giving him credit for. He’s so smart he has you under his spell, dry-begging you towards feeling obligated to repair his despair, with your hammer, tool-belt and all. He nudged you step, by step down that diving board and before you gave it a second thought, you opened your mouth and – bounce – dived right in. Once again, nominating yourself to be the one who’ll “fix” his problem.
Oh wait, and now on top of all that, you’re angry at him for accepting your offer. Why? You’ve rescued him, again, albeit through his silently solicited salutations. Nothing will change until you say no, returning his responsibilities to him on a silver platter. Trust me on this one. After that first no, it gets easier. You might not like it, but I’m removing you from “Jesus” status. You’ll thank me later. I understand you’re doing what you think is best, but consider this – there’s a possibility you could be blocking his blessings, stunting his growth. If you’re the one always holding up an umbrella while yawl are walking in the rain, there’s no need for him to check the weather forecast. You get what I’m sayin? I know you love him, but do your brother a favor and exercise a spoon full of tough love and reel it in. Given the chance, he’ll find some “I can do it” nestled down in his own back pocket. ***** Want advice? E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma *****
July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 13
Access denied: BET Awards not a positive experience for members of Black Press By Brandon Brooks & Jennifer Bihm NNPA -- “At a black event [like the BET Awards], there is no reason that a black photographer shouldn’t be there,” said Valerie Goodloe, who has done large-scale photo shoots for more than 12 years. A group of veteran photojournalists and media professionals in Los Angeles have joined their colleagues across the nation in outrage at the recent rejection of legendary photographer Bill Jones at this year’s BET Awards. The incident, they said, was the most egregious so far in a long line of insults to the black media at this and other red carpet events organized by majority public relations firms like Slate PR and giant photo outlets like Getty Images. They, along with Jones, suffered through hassle and runaround, not only at this year’s event but hundreds of events in years’ past. “Enough is enough,” said Robert Torrence, who has been a photographer in Los Angeles for 40 years. “Here Bill Jones is 83 years old, everybody respects him not as a black photographer but just as a premiere photographer; period. All the celebrities know and love him. To me, [Bill being rejected] was like the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Now, they are speaking out, they said, hoping to uncover insidious practices that include putting black media professionals in bad locations on the red carpets and in the shows, continuously and unnecessarily checking access passes or flat out denying credentials to black-owned media while giving other media all access. “On behalf of the National Newspapers Publishers Association, the unfortunate denial of basic professional respect to an iconic photographer who is not only well known but well respected in the AfricanAmerican community… BET should be awarding people like Bill Jones. And if BET is going to [hire contractors], they should be African-American so this can’t happen again,” said NNPA President Ben Chavis. What happens in Goodloe’s and the others’ opinions is that “big fish” photo services like Getty and Wire Image intend to monopolize the black photography pool in Los Angeles and across the country. “For example, you go to a red carpet,
and the first thing they want to know is if you’re from wire or if you’re on a different wire service or if you have the ability to put something on the wire,” Goodloe explained. “Nine out of 10 black photographers shoot for small black publications. They shoot for maybe their own websites and stuff like that. Sometimes they don’t have access to a wire service.” Finaimage photo agency founder Malcolm Ali had been denied award credentials via email but had hoped to be able to assist Jones with his red carpet gig. He was with Jones when he was denied his BET credentials. “In my opinion, for them to deny Bill Jones, it’s an organized conspiracy to slowly eliminate all black media photographers from these events; and the conspiracy is coming through Getty Images,” Ali said. Meanwhile, Lynn Allen Jeter, president of PR firm Lynn Allen Jeter and Associates, said BET should be embarrassed for denying Jones and the other “outrageous stunts” they pulled on June 29. “As far as the Bill Jones rejection, as well as veteran Tanya Hart’s rejection (Hart covers the Oscars and the Grammys) and for BET to reject either one of these veterans is really unacceptable,” she said in a recent interview. Jeter felt that Slate PR, hired to replace BET’s original corporate communications group who made room at past events for both giants like Getty and small media outlets alike, orchestrated the setup so that black media were underrepresented. When she got there, she, like Torrence, was bounced around from one location to another, trying to get passes for clients like actresses Lisa Raye and Margaret Avery. “My client Margaret Avery, who plays the mother of Gabrielle Union on the show, was so mishandled and so mistreated by BET’s crew and staff that a woman who is a very peaceful lady started cursing…” “For many years, black photographers have been the backbone of the black press,” said Los Angeles Sentinel Publisher Danny J. Bakewell Sr. “I find it totally unacceptable that any organization which would undermine their value
Jones, left, once said that actress Halle Berry, right, has been one of his many clients. Asked if he knew she had star potential, he replied: “No doubt about it.” PHOTO: HP
or deny credible professionals access, particularly at an event where the subjects are predominantly black, is not going to be
tolerated.” BET or its CEO, Debra Lee, has not responded to calls for comment.
Marvel unveils black Captain America From wire reports LOS ANGELES — The new Captain America will be an African-American. Marvel superhero Sam “The Falcon” Wilson will take over as the patriotic Avenger in an upcoming installment of the long-running comic book series, Marvel Comics chief creative officer Joe Quesada said during an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” Wilson first appeared as winged superhero Falcon in 1969 and was one of the first African-American superheroes. The change will come this November in “All-New Captain America” No. 1. The character was recently portrayed by actor Anthony Mackie in the film “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort said in a statement that former Captain America Steve Rogers will be a mentor to Wilson as he takes on the new role. “Steve’s spirit is as willing as ever, but his body is no longer up to the task of being Captain America, so he’ll employ his skills as the new Cap’s remote strategic adviser,” Brevoort said. “He’ll also tutor Sam in how to throw the shield, a skill that’s deceptively difficult for the new Cap to master.” It’s not the first time an African-
Marvel superhero Sam “The Falcon” Wilson will take over as the patriotic Avenger
American character has portrayed Captain America in the comics. Several characters have taken up the shield for Rogers over the 73-year-old history of the character, including an African-American character named Isaiah Bradley in the 2003 series “Truth: Red, White, and Black.” Marvel has announced several superhero shake-ups this week, including that hammer-wielding Thor will now be portrayed as a woman, and Tony “Iron Man” Stark is relocating to San Francisco and releasing a new app.
14 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
Hidden salt: The worst foods for high blood pressure In America, 67 million adults are quietly living with high blood pressure—that’s one in every three adults. Approximately 30 percent of American adults have prehypertension—a condition that puts them at great risk of developing high blood pressure. It’s a practically invisible disease with a few subtle symptoms. And even after you’ve been diagnosed, it can seem pretty harmless and easy to ignore. But, if not properly cared for, its progressive effects can put you at risk for heart disease, stroke even kidney disease. African Americans develop high blood pressure more often, and at an earlier age, than whites and Mexican-Americans. More African-American women have high blood pressure than African-American men and they have higher rates of hospitalization. What causes high blood pressure? Research shows that high salt and sodium intake plus low potassium intake—due to not eating enough fruits and vegetables— and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to developing high blood pressure.
Adopting a child? The benefits of going private For many married couples, there comes a time when having children becomes the first priority. Often, the urge to create life and see it into the world becomes overwhelming.But that urge can put many couples on an unpredictable journey, especially when they decide that their love, time and resources can be best put to use through adoption, says award-winning singer-songwriter Gary Chapman. He and his wife, former “Nashville Wives” star Cassie Piersol Chapman, say they were open to whatever God had in store for them. “We knew it was time to give our hearts to a child,” says Gary, 56, a five-time Grammy-nominated and seven-time Dove Award-winning artist. But, while the decision to have a child was made, conceiving was taking awhile. Gary, who had reversed a vasectomy and is 23 years older than Cassie, has three grown children. “During this period, I got a call from a friend telling me about a woman who
DASH to a better diet For that reason, lifestyle changes such as those in the DASH eating plan have been shown to significantly help control high blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. In fact, the DASH eating plan is recognized was four months pregnant and looking for a suitable adoption family,” said Cassie, who is proactive in multiple charity groups which facilitate a legal alternative to going through an agency. “It was as if God knew where this child needed to be after the birth. I immediately understood that this would be our path.” Through private, or independent, adoption, the Chapmans received their blessing, a baby girl they named Eva Rose. Here are some benefits involved in private, or independent, adoption. • Parents can begin bonding with their child more quickly after birth Private adoption allows for the newborn infant to bypass foster care, which is typically required by state-run agencies. Most babies adopted between private parties go home from the hospital with the adoptive parents. “In our case, the birth mother had a 10day grace period starting from time of Eva’s birth,” Cassie said. “While that was tough, I think it offers more peace of mind for birth mothers.” See “ Going
privateˮ on pg. 19
as the diet of choice for preventing and managing high blood pressure in African Americans. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products, and is low in fats and cholesterol. Theoretically, DASH should be an easy fix. But according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center, DASH is easier said than done—at least for African Americans. In a recent study, Duke researchers were interested in determining what factors predicted who would adhere to the DASH eating plan. AfricanAmerican participants in the study were less likely than white participants to follow the DASH eating plan. Why? Because traditional AfricanAmerican food choices and cooking methods weren’t taken into consideration. The good news is, if you can’t phantom the idea of giving up your traditional food
there are still steps you can take to lower sodium in your diet. How salt makes you fat Ditching the salt shaker is an obvious and great first step, however “contrary to popular belief, the salt shaker is the least of your worries,” says Marisa Moore, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, “77 percent of sodium in the diet comes from packaged and restaurant foods,” she adds. According to Tammy and Lyssie Lakatos, authors of “The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat”, processed meat, frozen pizza and Chinese food are the worst offenders when it comes to making your blood pressure go up. And that’s not all. “Salt makes you hungrier, thirstier and See “Worst
foodsˮ on pg. 17
In Va., gun deaths outpace car deaths for 3rd year in a row
Gun deaths outpaced motor vehicle deaths in Virginia in 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive nationwide data is available, a new analysis from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) finds. Overall in 2011, gun deaths outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 14 states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington State, as well as the District of Columbia. Data is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and is the most recent available to compare death rates for both products. This is the third year the VPC has issued its annual report comparing gun deaths to motor vehicle deaths by state. Previous VPC reports found there were more gun deaths than motor vehicle deaths in Virginia both in 2009 and 2010. Gun deaths include gun suicides, homicides, and fatal unintentional shootings; motor vehicle deaths include both occupants and pedestrians. More than 90 percent of American households own a car while little more than a third of American households have a gun. Americans’ exposure to motor vehicles vastly outweighs their
exposure to firearms. Yet in 2011, there were 32,351 gun deaths and 35,543 motor vehicle deaths nationwide. In 1999, there were 28,874 gun deaths and 42,624 motor vehicle deaths nationwide. Firearms are the only consumer product in America not regulated by the federal government for health and safety. Meanwhile, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline, thanks to decades of public health-based injury prevention strategies and proven consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury. “Gun violence is a public health crisis with an unacceptable toll on human life,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “To reduce gun death and injury, firearms must be regulated for health and safety just as we regulate motor vehicles and all other consumer products.” “We didn’t put up with a free-for-all on our highways, and it’s time to end the gun violence free-for-all in our schools and neighborhoods,” states Sue Hornik, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. The report includes specific recommendations on how the federal government should regulate firearms to reduce gun death and injury.
July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 15
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16 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
CALENDAR & EVENTS
Paws to Read
Adults, teens and children in Newport News can read books, win prizes and participate in fun and educational programs, through Thursday, July 31 -- all for free. Children ages 0-11 and teens ages 12-17 may sign up anytime at any library to receive a reading log to keep track of books read. Ages 0-5 and beginning readers may participate by having someone read to them. Children ages 0-11 get a prize after reading five books and 10 books. Teens ages 12-17 get a prize for completing each column on their reading log. Those who complete the program receive a certificate and a free book. Adults may enter prize drawings. All prizes are subject to availability. Registration is not required for programs, unless otherwise specified. Call any library or library administration at 757926-1350 for more information.
The largest species of reptile in North America will make its public debut at the Nature Center at Maymont on Saturday, Aug. 2. The American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, can grow to a length of 10 to 14 feet and weigh 500 pounds or more, but Maymont’s five young reptiles won’t be quite so menacing. The new additions are one to two years old, measuring approximately eight to 30 inches long. They will live at Maymont at least one year, growing up to 12 inches in 12 months. Two alligators will be on view in a newly-renovated space in the Nature Center galleries, and the others will make appearances during environmental education programs for the public and schools. American alligators live in freshwater habitats in the southeastern United States from North Carolina to Texas. They aren’t native to Virginia, so why are they joining Maymont’s native Virginia wildlife exhibits? “One of our goals is to help guests understand issues that might impact Virginia ecosystems,” said Buz Bireline, Maymont director of Habitats and the Nature Center. “American alligators are fascinating creatures, and their lives are greatly impacted by temperature. Since alligators live so close to the Commonwealth’s southern border, this exhibition will give guests opportunities to consider how climate change could expand the range of the alligator into Virginia.” The public premier for the alligators at Maymont will be Saturday, Aug. 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to a first peek at the new American alligator exhibit, guests can enjoy close encounters with the smallest, educational alligators throughout the day as well as fish and turtle feeding demonstrations at 12 p.m. and otter training at 2:30 p.m. Guests can also see lined seahorses, Hippocampus erectus, a species native to the Chesapeake Bay that is also new to the Nature Center animal family. Admission to the Nature Center is $3 for adults and youth ages 13 and older; $2 for children ages four to 12 and seniors ages 60 and older. Admission is free for Maymont members. Maymont is a 100-acre American estate, an extraordinary gift given to the community by James and Sallie Dooley. Whether strolling in the gardens, touring the mansion or watching river otters play, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The Robins Nature & Visitor Center is located at 2201 Shields Lake Drive in Richmond. For more information, call 804-358-7166, ext. 310 or visit maymont.org.
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Jazz and food festival
Saint Elizabeth’s Church hosts its 6th Annual Jazz and Food Festival, Saturday, Aug. 2, from noon until 7:30 p.m. This annual summer-time community event in Highland Park represents a fun-filled day focusing on family, food and entertainment. This well established event for both the young and young at heart has become a highly anticipated family outing in the North Richmond Community. The festival will take place on the church park grounds of Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church 2712 Second Ave.. There will be favorite food items and local vendors with jewelry, skincare, organic, religious goods and other items for sale; there will be activities for children and adults, to include raffle drawings. Enjoy the blend of live traditional and contemporary jazz featuring the smooth sounds of Carlton Ayles, Nicky McMullen, Curv Appeal, JTucker & The Krewe, Glenroy Bailey & Company, along with music mixed by DJ Mike. This year’s guest kostess is news personality, Antoinette Essa. Several non-profit organizations and community vendors will be on site with helpful information on housing, health awareness, senior citizens’ needs, community issues and other topics. The Saint Elizabeth Church building was erected in Highland Park in 1925 and has a parish with a rich and proud history that provides support and outreach to its parishioners as well as members of the Highland Park community and others abroad. For more information visit www.steliz3c.com or call 804-329-4599.
Asset Based Community Development training
Do you see things in your neighborhood that you would like to see changed but don’t know who is a neighborhood leader that can help you? You can be that neighborhood leader. On Friday, Aug. 8, 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 9, 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. a free, two-day workshop will help you to develop the neighborhood leader skills needed to promote that change. The two-day workshop will be held at the Warwick Memorial UMC, 38 Hoopes Road in Newport News. Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is an inclusive approach to community development. Learn how to focus your efforts on discovering and mobilizing the resources that are already present in your community. When people become more productive together - they exercise their power to address problems and realize dreams! • Learn to tap the potential of your neighborhood. • Discover how to build more community engagement and involvement. • Be challenged to be a great neighbor. The interactive dialogue and introductory training combines theology, theory and practical tools and skills around engaging our communities. The training will provide guidance into how to discover your city faith, how to look for the assets and signs of hope in your neighborhood, how to be a champion for the people in it and how to be a catalyst of hope and transformation in your community. Professionals and community workers are also invited to attend to learn about the ABCD model and how to become involved in the ongoing work. For more information, contact Traci Snell, Department of Human Services, 757-3696808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Megan’s Law Helpline & Sex Offender Registration Tips Program
Call (888) ASK-PFML (275-7365)
July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 17
Route 659 Bridge Over Flat Swamp Creek Southampton County Willingness to Hold a Public Hearing
Worst foods from page 14 it increases cravings. Plus, it seems that [salt] may cause your fat cells to hold more fat,” says the Lakatoses, also known as the Nutrition Twins. Reducing sodium is as good for your waistline as it is for your blood pressure. So get started today! The eight worst foods Processed meats: Any meat preserved by smoking, curing, salting or with the addition of chemical preservatives fit into this category, including ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and luncheon meats. “In a three-ounce serving of most of these meats it’s easy to swallow 1,200 mg of sodium,” say the Nutrition Twins. And if you have high blood pressure you’ve already almost met your daily quota for sodium, which should be less than 1,500 milligrams per day. Advice: Steer clear of these meats or at least opt for reduce sodium varieties.
Frozen pizza: “The combination of salty foods spells trouble for blood pressure. The dough, tomato sauce, cheese and then processed meats added on top can cause an individual serving of frozen pizza to clock in at close to 2400 milligrams sodium,” say the Nutrition Twins. Advice: Make your own with low-fat cheese, lean meat and extra veggies. Chinese food: The sauce in Chinese dishes is loaded with sodium. “ Something as innocent sounding as beef with broccoli can have 3,752 mg sodium,” say the Nutrition Twins, and “that’s thanks to things used in the cooking like soy sauce and teriyaki sauce that have about 1,000 milligrams of sodium in just a tablespoon.” Advice: Order your sauce on the side and use it sparingly. Ready-to-eat boxed meals and side
dishes: Along with the convenience comes a hefty dose of sodium. A 5-ounce frozen turkey and gravy dinner can have 787 milligrams of sodium. Half of a 16.5 ounce chicken pot pie can pack 800 milligrams of sodium. Advice: Look for brands with less sodium. Sugar-sweetened beverages: “We tend to associate excess sugar with higher blood sugar and diabetes” says Moore. “However, excess sugar intake has been linked to high blood pressure levels as well.” Advice: Keep added sugars at a minimum. You can do this by avoiding sugary beverages like soft drinks, iced tea and fruit punch. Canned and pickled vegetables and vegetable juice: While a great substitute when fresh is not available, canned and pickled vegetables are typically laden with preservatives or sauces and seasonings that add extra sodium. A cup of canned creamstyle corn may contain 730 milligrams of sodium. Advice: Read the nutrition facts panel. Look for descriptions such as “no salt added” and “reduced sodium.” Bouillon, canned and instant soup: On average, a cup of canned chicken noodle soup contains as much as 760 milligrams of sodium. Eat the entire can—which makes two-and-a-half servings—and you’ll get 1,800 milligrams of sodium. Advice: Look for brands with reducedsodium or no salt added. For instant soup or oriental noodles, reduce the sodium by using half of the seasoning packet. Canned tomato products and tomato juice: One cup of tomato juice contains 680 milligrams of sodium. One serving of spaghetti with meat sauce has more than 1,300 milligrams of sodium. Advice: Look for low- or reducedsodium options.
Find out about the proposed bridge replacement at Route 659 (Vicks Millpond Road) over Flat Swamp Creek in Southampton County. The project limits are 235 feet extended from the east end and 378 feet extended from the west end of the existing bridge for a total project length of approximately 637 feet. The bridge will be closed during construction, which is estimated to take six months to complete. Review the project information and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation in the form of a Programmatic Categorical Exclusion (PCE) at the Virginia Department of Transportation Hampton Roads District Office, 1700 N. Main Street, Suffolk, VA 23434, 757-925-2500 or 1-888-723-8400, TTY/TDD 711, or at the VDOT Franklin Residency Office, 23116 Meherrin Road, Courtland, VA 23837, 1-800-367-7623. Please call ahead to ensure the availability of appropriate personnel to answer your questions. If your concerns cannot be satisfied, VDOT is willing to hold a public hearing. You may request that a public hearing be held by sending a written request to Mr. Peter Reilly, P.E., District Preliminary Engineer, VDOT, 1700 N. Main Street, Suffolk, VA 23434 on or prior to August 15, 2014. If a request for a public hearing is received, notice of date, time and place of the hearing will be posted. In compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 and 36 CFR Part 800, information concerning the potential effects of the proposed project on properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places is provided in the environmental documentation. VDOT ensures nondiscrimination and equal employment in all programs and activities in accordance with Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For more information or special assistance for persons with disabilities or limited English proficiency, contact VDOT’s Civil Rights Division at 757-925-2500 or TTY/TDD 711. State Project: 0659-087-577, P101, R201, M501, B665 Federal Project: BROS-087-5 (023), UPC: 93079
“First Lady of Children’s Music”
No Smithsonian Folkways release has been more popular than Ella Jenkins’ 1995 album “Multicultural Children’s Songs”, a selection of her favorite melodies learned from cultures around the world. In celebration of Jenkin’s 90th birthday on Aug. 6, Smithsonian Folkways will release More Multicultural Children’s Songs’ on Aug. 5. The album is her 40th title spanning 57 years and features 20 classics from her prolific catalogue. The album presents a selection of the Grammywinning artist’s favorite songs learned from cultures around the world, inspiring respect and rejoicing in the traditions of others among children of all ages. For a three-song streaming audio preview, visit http://www. folkways.si.edu/radio/more_multicultural_childrens_songs_preview/
18 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
Black southern voters poised to play a historic role
By Nate Cohn NYT -- Southern black voters don’t usually play a decisive role in national elections. They were systematically disenfranchised for 100 years after the end of the Civil War. Since the days of Jim Crow, a fairly unified white Southern vote has often determined the outcome of elections. This November could be different. Nearly five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black voters in the South are poised to play a pivotal role in this year’s midterm elections. If Democrats hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters. The timing — 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and 49 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act — is not entirely coincidental. The trends increasing the clout of black voters reflect a complete cycle of generational replacement in the post-Jim Crow era. White voters who came of age as loyal Democrats have largely died off, while the vast majority of black voters have been able to vote for their entire adult lives — and many have developed the habit of doing so. This year’s closest contests include North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia. Black voters will most likely represent more than half of all Democratic voters in Louisiana and Georgia, and nearly half in North Carolina. Arkansas, another state with a large black population, is also among the competitive states. Black voters in the South have played an important role in a handful of federal elections since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed. In 1976, Jimmy Carter won the presidency with the help of black voters in the Deep South. Democrats also won many competitive Senate seats in the South in 1998. Black voters have even played a decisive role in some states that will be crucial this November: They represented about half of Sen. Mary Landrieu’s supporters in Louisiana 2002 and 2008; and in North Carolina in 2008, nearly half of President Barack Obama’s supporters were black. But there has not been a year since Reconstruction when a party has depended so completely on black voters, in so many Southern states, in such a close national contest. President Carter, for instance, won by a comfortable margin in most of Dixie, with strong support among white voters. In
1998, Senate control was not at stake, and Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina was icing on the cake. If Democrats win this November, black voters will probably represent a larger share of the winning party’s supporters in important states than at any time since Reconstruction. Their influence is not just a product of the Senate map. It also reflects the collapse in Southern white support for Democrats, an increase in black turnout and the reversal of a century-long trend of black outmigration from the South. State-level Democrats performed fairly well among Southern white voters in the decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. A majority of white voters were still self-identified Democrats who formed their partisan allegiances when white supremacist Democrats ruled Dixie. As a result, Southern Democrats did not usually depend on black voters, who generally turned out at lower rates than white voters. That era has come to an end. Today, the overwhelming majority of voters, white and black alike, reached voting age after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Southern politics are now defined by the post-Civil Rights era: The old generation of Southern white Democrats has almost entirely departed the electorate, leaving white voters overwhelmingly Republican. Obama won about 15 percent of white voters in the Deep South in 2012. Democrats lamented low black turnout for decades, but Southern black turnout today rivals or occasionally exceeds that of white voters. That’s in part because black voters, for the first time, have largely been eligible to vote since they turned 18. They have therefore had as many opportunities as their white counterparts to be targeted by campaigns, mobilized by interest groups or motivated by political causes. Obama is part of the reason for higher
Black voters were systematically disenfranchised for 100 years after the end of the Civil War
black turnout, which surpassed white turnout nationally in the 2012 presidential election, according to the census. But black turnout had been increasing steadily, even before Mr. Obama sought the presidency. In 1998, unexpectedly high black turnout allowed Democrats to win a handful of contests in the Deep South; in 2002, Landrieu won a Senate runoff with a surge in black turnout. The Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act unleashed a wave of new laws with a disparate impact on black voters, including cuts in early voting and photo-identification requirements. These laws will disenfranchise an unknown number of eligible voters, but probably not so many as to have a big effect on election results. In Georgia, where a voter ID law has been in place since 2007, the black turnout rate has increased to nearly match that of whites. The post-Jim Crow era also led to the end and eventual reversal of the Great Migration, the exodus of blacks from the South to escape racist laws and seek better economic opportunities. The South was home to about 90 percent of the nation’s African-Americans until the beginning of the 20th century. By 1970, 53 percent of blacks lived there.
This trend reversed in the decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today, 57 percent of black Americans live in the South; more than one million black Southerners today were born in the Northeast. Nowhere has the remigration done more to improve Democratic chances than in Georgia, where Democrats have a chance to win an open Senate seat this November. Since 2000, as the black population has risen, the share of registered voters who are white has dropped to 59 percent, from 72 percent. The Democratic nominee in Georgia is Michelle Nunn, a candidate symbolic of generational change in her own right. She is the daughter of Sam Nunn, a former conservative Democratic former senator from rural, downstate Georgia who was first elected in 1972. If Nunn wins this November, it will be with only a handful of the rural, Southern white voters who adored her father. The state’s growing black population will give her a chance to win with less than one-third of the white vote, a tally that would have ensured defeat for Democrats just a few years ago. Her pathway to victory would be unrecognizable to her father, who never won re-election with less than 80 percent of the vote.
July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 19
Illinois limits use of criminal background checks in hiring
By Brady Cremeens CHICAGO (INN)– Employers in Illinois can no longer access criminal background checks on potential hires until after an interview is conducted. Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law last week a bill that prohibits private employers from asking applicants about their criminal history prior to determining if they are qualified for the job. “Everyone deserves a second chance when it comes to getting a job,” Quinn said in a press release. “This law will help ensure that people across Illinois get a fair shot to reach their full potential through their skills and qualifications, rather than past history. It will also help reduce recidivism, fight poverty and prevent violence in our communities by putting more people back to work.” The governor’s action is, according to his statement, an effort to “ensure all Illinois’ workers are treated fairly,” and follows last year’s executive order stipulating the same consideration for applicants for state employment. The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, also referred to as the “ban the box” bill in reference to the box on many application forms asking applicants if they are a convicted criminal, makes Illinois the fifth state to restrict preinterview criminal background checks. Jay Shattuck is the executive director
of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Employment Law Council, and said while the bill does create a bit of a burden for employers, it’s a reasonable attempt to give some applicants who would otherwise be ignored a chance. “A lot of times an employer may consider an individual who was convicted of a crime many years ago but who are otherwise qualified and have a gone straight since,” Shattuck said. “This gives the applicants who do receive an interview a chance to explain what happened and make their case for being hired.” Making it to the interview process may be the extra opportunity these former criminals need to get back on their feet, according to Shattuck, even if it means some extra work for employers. “It does add a little bit of a burden to employers looking to fill a vacancy,” Shattuck said. “If they can’t automatically look at the box and throw out applications from ex-cons, they’ll have to do more work and take more time when choosing who to interview. They’ve lost the ability to weed out the applicant list by that one box.” The new rule only pertains to businesses with more than 15 employees on the payroll. State Sen. Dale Syverson, R – Rockford, disagrees with the intent of the legislation, and says it will just create more work for employers and lead potential employees
Going private from page 14
dynamic doesn’t exist in the more common state-run agencies. “I think some folks actually prefer a more anonymous approach,” said Gary. “Let’s admit it – these can be some of the toughest decisions in a woman’s life, and she may not want a relationship with adoptive parents.”
While the law does not apply to jobs which require employers to exclude persons with criminal histories, such as a daycare worker, it would appear to apply to an employer seeking to hire a cashier from checking to see if the person has had problems handling money in the past.
• It allows for more control, more collaboration and more choice Independent adoption gives all parties greater autonomy in making important choices about the baby and each other. For many, the opportunity for the birth mother and adoptive parents to meet adds reassurance that decisions are being made in the best interest of the child. This
• Better access to information What’s the child’s background? Should
Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois
on. “Many companies already have rules in place,” Syverson said. “This isn’t going to cause them to change their rules, but it will cause them to have to go through a lot more interviews to hire or not hire the same people they were going to anyway.” Syverson argued that companies should have the freedom to determine their hiring rules and procedures on their own. “By allowing applicants to undergo the interview process without being judged as unfit for employment because of their background, we will help individuals get back to work, pursue a higher education and become the responsible residents that our state thrives on,” State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, said in a statement. “I believe this legislation will improve the lives of many residents and give them the opportunities they were previously unable to strive for.” Waukegan sponsored the bill in the House, while State Sen. Antonio Muñoz, D-Chicago, was the primary Senate
sponsor. “Everyone should have the opportunity to be considered for employment,” Sen. Munoz said in a press release. “This legislation protects people with criminal records from discrimination, gives deserving people a second chance and allows them to be evaluated based on their suitability for a position.” Quinn’s office said in a statement that this move is part of a broader agenda to “give people of all ages a second chance in life.” The office cited recent legislation signed by the governor that automatically clears arrest records for less serious, nonviolent juvenile cases, and legislation that increases the number of felonies that are legally sealed and inaccessible without the court meeting strict criteria. The legislation does not apply to jobs where employers are legally obligated to exclude applicants with criminal history, and therefore exempts some construction jobs, emergency medical jobs and security jobs. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2015.
you anticipate medical issues down the road? What if a child wants to know more about his biological mother and father, including their spiritual background? Private adoption allows for direct communication between the two parties. “Birth mothers may not even know if they’ll want contact with their child 20 years later,” said Cassie. “If adoptive families go this route, they ought to collect as much relevant information about the child’s birth parents as they can.”
• Adequate safety measures Like other types of adoption, private adoption is governed by state laws. In addition, if a child is brought from one state to another, then the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children apply. “Folks should understand that private adoption isn’t like the Wild West; it’s just a less bureaucratic method of adoption,” said Gary.
20 • July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014
Small businesses owners: Raising minimum wage makes good business sense By Freddie Allen WASHINGTON (NNPA) – More than 60 percent of small business owners with employees favor increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in three stages, according to a new survey. The poll, sponsored by the American
Sustainable Business Council, an advocacy group that represents more than 200,000 businesses and Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, described on the group’s website as “a national network of business owners and executives who believe a fair minimum wage makes good business
Center for Responsible Lending applauds Justice Department’s settlement with Citigroup
By Frederick H. Lowe TEWire - The Center for Responsible Lending praised the U.S. Justice Department’s $7 billion settlement with Citigroup Inc., which ended a government probe into the bank’s subprime lending. Citigroup’s abuses helped spark the subprime mortgage crisis that began in 2008. “We are gratified that the people and institutions responsible for the 2008 financial crisis are being held responsible for their actions; we applaud the Justice Department as they continue their important work in finding and prosecuting these offenders,” Debbie Goldstein, CRL’s executive vice president, said in a statement. "But in the meantime, too many American families are still struggling in the aftermath of the historic housing crisis--too many consumers are still stuck in unaffordable loans, too many families have already lost their homes. As CRL research has shown, the effects of the housing crisis disproportionately impacted the communities most vulnerable to financial shocks---many still in the throes of crisis.” The Center for Responsible Lending published in 2006 “Losing Ground,” a comprehensive study of subprime
mortgages. The organization predicted the subprime-mortgage crisis. The center encourages home ownership. Recently, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Citigroup, one of the largest banks based on assets, agreed to pay $7 billion to resolve the subprime mortgage scandal. The resolution includes a $4 billion civil penalty, the largest penalty levied to-date under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act. In addition, Citi agreed to provide $2.5 billion in relief to those homeowners and communities affected by the bank's fraudulent activities. “The Center for Responsible Lending looks forward to tracking how this relief will assist consumers and communities hit hardest by the mortgage crisis,” Goldstein said. “Unlike with previous settlements, we hope the settlement monitor will make detailed data available to the public to ensure that those borrowers and communities impacted by the crisis will receive their just benefits from the relief that is provided.” CRL has offices in Washington, D.C., Oakland, Calif. and Durham, N.C.
Sherry Stewart Deutschmann
sense.” The results from the poll conducted in June, showed that nearly 60 percent of small business owners say that raising the minimum wage would increase consumer purchasing power. Blacks disproportionately work in lowwage jobs, accounting for 11 percent of the total labor force, but more than 14 percent of low-wage workers. Roughly 57 percent of low-wage workers are white. More than half of those surveyed also agreed that “that with a higher minimum wage, businesses would benefit from lower employee turnover and increased productivity and customer satisfaction.” Six percent of the business owners in the survey were black and roughly 80 percent were white. Ninety-nine percent of all African American businesses don’t have any employees. Sherry Stewart Deutschmann, founder and CEO of LetterLogic in Nashville, Tenn., said that because her employees earn well above the minimum wage, they have more money to spend with other businesses. “With our starting wage of $12 my employees have more money to spend at other businesses. We don’t count on other businesses and taxpayers to subsidize our profits by underwriting food stamps and other safety net assistance for our employees,” said Deutschmann. “Why
should I be subsidizing the profits of companies that pay wages their employees can’t live on? A minimum wage raise is overdue.” The strongest support for raising the minimum wage came from respondents in the Northeast, where 67 percent of small business owners favored a higher wage. By contrast, less than 60 percent of small business owners in the South said they were in favor of an increase. For proponents of a higher federal minimum wage, the poll results undercut the argument that raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses. Researchers have also dispelled that myth that many workers who get paid at or near the federal minimum wage are teenagers living at home and supported by their parents. Low-wage workers are more educated than they were four decades ago (about 30 percent have some college experience) and older (less than 15 percent are teenagers). Earlier this year, the AFL-CIO reported that, “More than 2.2 million single moms would benefit from raising the minimum wage. One out of four of the workers who would benefit—and 31 percent of the women workers who would benefit—are parents with children.” A recent report by the Center for American Progress, a progressive, Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found that the stagnated federal minimum wage presents barriers to economic mobility for two key demographics. “First, slightly more than 47 percent of people earning the minimum wage or less are Millennials between the ages of 20 and 34,” said the report. “More than 39 percent of people earning the minimum wage are people of color.” The report also noted that today the minimum wage at $7.25 is worth less now than it was 50 years ago when more than 250,000 Americans marched on Washington for jobs and freedom in 1963. “Unless there are significant policy changes, the rising population of young people of color will mature in a society that is not structured for their success,” said the report. “It is critically important that we address these issues now – before the inequality that disproportionately affects communities of color compromises our nation’s economic future.
July 30 - Aug. 5, 2014 • 21
‘Power grab’ claimed in campaign against Tenn. Judges By Hazel Trice Edney TEWire- An attempt to unseat three judges in an upcoming Nashville, Tenn. election is nothing less than a “raw power grab” by right wing special interests using big money to buy control of the courts, said the head of a non-partisan organization of lawyers last week. “It is a raw power grab is what it is. Their campaign against these justices are based on a series of lies, half-truths, misstatements and material omissions,” said Charles Grant, president of the bipartisan Nashville Bar Association (NBA), which has endorsed the retention of the judges. “It has huge implications nationally because if they can do it here, they can do it anywhere.” The situation involves three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices Cornelia A. Clark, Sharon Gail Lee and Gary R. Wade, all up for retention on the court by the vote on Aug. 7. They were originally appointed by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. Opposing the judges are namely Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and other Republicans backed by wealthy political operatives, some from outside the state, including the billionaire Koch brothers of Wichita, Kans., according to widespread media reports. Among Ramsey’s tools is a 30-page Power Point that attempts to scare voters by claiming - in part - that the three judges are soft on the death penalty and “anti-business”. Grant said the claims in the Power Point are blatantly false and undermines the integrity of the process. “It is chock full of misstatements, it’s misleading, it has substantial omissions, sometimes it attributes to these judges opinions that were written by the Court of Appeals for example. And when confronted with all of this misleading information that he is putting out to the public about the quality of these justices’ work, he will come right out and say, It’s not my job to tell their side of the story,’” said Grant, the NBA’s first black president. “What is it that they hope to accomplish? They hope to control the court. That’s what they hope to accomplish. They don’t want independence. They want control.” In Tennessee media reports, Ramsey has defended his conduct by saying, “I’m
telling my side of the story and they’ll get to tell their side of the story. Every campaign tells half of the story...They tell their side of the story and the people decide.” Adding to the difficulty of clarifying their records is the fact that judges can’t speak out to defend themselves in the same manner as someone running for a political office. Because of codes of conduct, they must appear impartial at all times and avoid public confrontations that could warrant a conflict of interest later. They can’t speak publicly on specific cases. Neither can they ask for financial contributions. Voters would need to research deeply to unearth the real facts pertaining to the three judges, Grant says. For example, though Ramsey contends they are soft on the death penalty, they have actually affirmed 90 percent of the death penalty cases before them, Grant said. As for the “anti-business” charge, “It is not the justices’ jobs to be leaning one way or the other. That is not what we want them to do. We want them to decide the cases based on the facts and the law without favor, without prejudice to one side or the other.” The historic principles that have allowed for major progress in America are also at stake, Grant said. “If Supreme Court judges had been subject to special interests, we would never have had Brown verses Board of Education. We would never have had the landmark decision that dismantled segregation and state-enforced discrimination through laws like Jim Crow and racially restrictive covenants and red-lining by banks and all of those things that enforce racism and racial oppression. So we need to have some kind of check on this power to make sure the basic constitutional rights and the bill of rights are protected.” In a nutshell, the 40-year-old “merit selection” process by which judges are chosen in Tennessee is quite common in states across the U. S. Candidates are intensely vetted through a bi-partisan ninemember judicial evaluation commission, which then recommends three judges to the governor for any vacancy on the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court.
Charles Grant, center, president, Nashville Bar.
When the eight-year term is up, the judges are re-evaluated by a commission which then makes a public recommendation on whether the judge should be retained. If the commission decides against the retainer, the judge is subject to a popular election. If the commission decides for the retainer; then the judges go on the ballot for the public to review their record and to review the recommendations and to determine whether or not they should be replaced. After this rigorous process, Clark, Lee and Wade were all recommended for retainer by the commission of non-partisan lawyers and citizens. Yet, the judges are now under a partisan attack. With the rigorous campaign to unseat and replace them, Grant fears the judges’ retention bids could realistically fail because of the potency of the smear campaign and the money that is backing it. “It is about buying influence. They are going after these justices because these justices do not cow tow to special interests. They do their jobs. They call the balls and strikes as they see them,” Grant said. “When a special interest or group wants to target a judge, it’s kind of easy to identify, to take one of their one hundred opinions or whatever, to misstate the facts or misstate the law or completely mislead.” Grant and the NBA are not alone in their advocacy for fairness in the process. On
July 15, a bi-partisan group of district attorneys came forward to support the three judges saying they have outstanding records and deserve to be retained. Also, Republican Mickey Barker a former chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, has been quoted as calling the antiretention campaign “frightening” because it would turn the Tennessee Supreme Court into a “partisan branch of government.” Trial lawyer Lew Conner, also a Republican, recently held a fund-raiser of his own to assist the judges in their retention bid. “This is about a system being wrongfully attacked, and Ramsey is the attacker,” Conner was quoted in the Tennessee Watchdog. Grant said the bi-partisan outrage is simply due to the knowledge that a politicized judiciary could lead to a rogue court which could make decisions based on political whims and allegiances instead of the facts of the cases before them. “Lawyers don’t want judges beholding to special interests,” he said. “None of us do. Lawyers don’t want to walk into court thinking that the scales of justice are already tilted toward one party before we’ve had an opportunity to present our case. “The only way to win is to educate the population. If you want an independent judiciary; you have to understand when it’s under attack by partisan special interests.”
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MBE/ESB SUBCONTRACTORS WANTED TO BID Crowder Construction Company is preparing a bid for the CSO No. 14 Solids and Floatable Control Regulator project. We are soliciting in Richmond, Virginia and surrounding areas for pricing from subcontractors for: SCOPES of WORK (including, but not limited to): asphalt, clearing & grubbing, concrete, demolition, environmental remediation, excavation, erosion control, hauling, hazardous waste removal, metal fabrication, paving, sewer line cleaning, stone & riprap, and underground utilities Bid Date: August 13, 2014
Historically Underutilized Businesses including Minority and Emerging Small Business Enterprises and all others are encouraged to participate. Bid Proposals will be received at the following address: Crowder Construction Company 1111 Burma Drive Apex, North Carolina 27539 Telephone: (919) 367-2000 Fax: (919) 367-2097 Contact: Randy Damm Please be advised the above bid date and time is the deadline for the General Contractor’s bid. We encourage you to provide us your “Scope of Work” at least 24 hours prior to this date and time so that we can clearly understand and evaluate your bid to us. We request MBE/ESB companies include a copy of their MBE/ESB certificate with their quote. Complete plans and specifications may be viewed at Crowder Construction Company at the address listed above. Contact us at the above phone number for a list of other locations where plans are available.
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NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN THAT THE CITY OF RICHMOND BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS Will hold a Public Hearing in the 5th Floor Conference Rm., City Hall, 900 East Broad St., Richmond, VA on Auguts 6, 2014, to consider the following under Chapter 114 of the Zoning Code: BEGINNING AT 1:00 P.M. 06-14: An application of Castle Kanawha 1508, LLC for building permits to erect three (3) single-family detached dwellings at 3020 RUGBY ROAD (a reconsideration of approval granted on April 2, 2014). 18-14: An application of Virginia Commonwealth University for a building permit to construct mixed use building containing student housing, university-related offices and uses and two (2) commercial (restaurant) spaces at 1225 & 1235 WEST BROAD STREET. 19-14: An application of Scott Coleman for a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for a restaurant at 805 NORTH DAVIS AVENUE. Copies of all cases are available for inspection between 8 AM and 5 PM in Room 511, City Hall, 900 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219. Support or opposition may be offered at or before the hearing. Roy W. Benbow, Secretary Phone: (804) 240-2124 Fax: (804) 646-5789 E-mail: Roy.Benbow@richmondgov.com
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Grant applications are being accepted from Virginia localities to address encroachment of military or security installations. These grants are being supported with $4,361,600 in the Virginia Federal Action Contingency Trust (FACT) Fund. Virginia localities that have had or have pending identifiable or measurable negative impacts caused by encroachment upon military or security installations are eligible to apply for these grant funds. The deadline for the receipt of applications is July 31. Applications are available at http:// finance.virginia. gov/agencyinformation/factfund/.
RRHA – PHA PLAN ANNUAL PLAN AMENDMENT NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING July 30, 2014 Notice to the Citizens of Richmond, VA Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority Amendment to the Annual Plan for Fiscal Year 2015 (2014- 2015) As directed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) submitted the 2014 -2015 Annual Plan. RRHA has 4047 Public Housing Units in the City of Richmond, Virginia. The proposed amendment is as follows: The RRHA hereby amends its flat rent policies to comply with the statutory changes contained within, Public Law 113-76, the Fiscal Year 2014 Appropriation Act. The RRHA will set the flat rental amount for each public housing unit that complies with the requirement that all flat rents be set at no less than 80 percent of the applicable Fair Market Rent (FMR) adjusted, if necessary, to account for reasonable utilities costs. The new flat rental amount will apply to all new program admissions effective October 1, 2014. For current program participants that pay the flat rental amount, the new flat rental amount will be offered, as well be offered, as well as the income-based rental amount, at the next annual rental option. The RRHA will place a cap on any increase in a family’s rental payment that exceeds 35 percent, and is a result of changes to the flat rental amount as follows: • Multiply the existing flat rental payment by 1.35 and compare that to the updated flat rental amount; • The PHA will present two rent options to the family as follows: o The lower of the product of the calculation and the updated flat rental amount; and o The income-based rent. A copy of the proposed Amendment to the Annual Agency Plan documents will be available. Monday, July 28, 2014 through Friday, September 12, 2014, for public examination at the RRHA’s Administrative Offices located at 901 & 918 Chamberlayne Parkway, Richmond, VA and all public housing management offices between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and on the website at www.rrha.com. All interested agencies, groups or persons wishing to comment on the proposed amendment to the Annual Plan may submit written comments to the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Attn: Annual Plan Amendment, 901 Chamberlayne Parkway, Richmond, Virginia 23220, by Friday, September 12, 2014. A public meeting to receive comments on the proposed amendment to the Annual Plan will be held Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. at the Calhoun Family Investment Center, 436 Calhoun Street, Richmond, VA, 23220. The public meeting will be wheelchair accessible. A sign language interpreter or other accommodations will be provided upon request. Please contact RRHA four (4) days in advance of the public meeting at 804-780-4200 or TDD-Dial 711. RICHMOND REDEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING AUTHORITY IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY /AFFIRMATIVE ACTION EMPLOYER (M/F/H) The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, handicap, disability, or familial status.
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