Alabama New South Coalition holds Fall Convention

ANSC new state officers: L to R: Debra Foster, President, Everett Wess, First Vice President, Sharon Wheeler, Treasurer and Patricia Lewis Corresponding Secretary
ANSC Healthcare Panel: Rep. Merika Coleman speaking, Norma Jackson, Sen Malika Sanders Fortier and John Zippert ANSC past president.

On Saturday, November 2, Alabama New South Coalition held its Fall Convention at the RSA Activity Center on Dexter Avenue in Montgomery.
More than 200 delegates from around the state attended this 34th. annual convention of the predominately Black and progressive political and social change organization. The theme of the ANSC Fall Convention was “ Lifting our Values, our Voices and our Votes”.
The convention had three workshops on important voting issues; two mayors – Mayor Gary Richardson of Midfield and newly elected Mayor Tim Ragland of Talladega – addressed the luncheon. U. S. Senator Doug Jones also addressed the group about his service in Washington D. C. and plans for the upcoming 2020 election.
The members of ANSC approved a report from their Nominating Committee for new state officers for a two-year term beginning at the end of the Convention. Debra Foster of Calhoun County was elected President, Everett Wess of Jefferson County elected First Vice President, Ivan Peebles, Greene County, Second Vice-President (youth), Sharon Wheeler, Montgomery, Treasurer, Matilda Hamilton of Tallapoosa County for Recording Secretary and Patricia Lewis of Mobile for Corresponding Secretary.
The Healthcare Workshop heard from Rep. Merika Coleman of Jefferson County, Senator Malika Sanders Fortier of Dallas County and Norma Jackson of Macon County.
Rep. Coleman said, “Working people in Alabama deserve healthcare that is why we have been working to expand Medicaid for those whose income is up to 138% of the poverty level. This impacts over 300,000 people from all parts of Alabama. Governor Ivey promised that after we passed an increase in the gas tax that she and the Republican leadership in the Legislature would revisit the issue of Medicaid Expansion but they have not followed through. This is because they know it would involve an increase in the budget, which would have to be paid for with increase in taxes or some other changes.”
Senator Fortier, said, “Without Medicaid Expansion, 340,000 people in Alabama face terror in securing health care. They are one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. Our state is 5th worse in the nation, in our rate of infant mortality which is preventable with expanded healthcare coverage.” Fortier says she has been working with other Senators of both parties to find a solution to expand Medicaid. “ We need $158 million for year one and $30 million each year thereafter to fund Medicaid expansion in the state of Alabama. The Federal government provides 90% of the cost, under the Affordable Care Act and the state must match with 10%. We can find this money to cover 340,000 working adults, provide 30,000 new jobs in the healthcare field, keep hospitals, especially rural hospitals open, and improve the general health and wellbeing of our people in Alabama.”
Norma Jackson, Chair of the Macon County ANSC Chapter said, “We have a sickness-care system in Alabama not a health care system. We need to do more to take care of our own health alongside doctors, hospitals and others.” She suggested five steps: “eat fresh foods, drink clean water, breath fresh air, do exhilarating exercise and have rejuvenating rest for better healthcare that we can take responsibility for ourselves.”
The panel on Criminal Justice and Economic Development featured three speakers including Rep. Chris England of Tuscaloosa, County Commissioner Sheila Tyson of Jefferson County and Robert Avery of Gadsden.
Rep. England said, “Conditions in Alabama’s prison system are so overcrowded and bad that inmates are condemned to cruel and unusual punishment worse than the death penalty.” He said, “ The solutions lie in reducing the use of the system as a debtors prison, for those who cannot pay fines; more restorative justice, where prisoners are taught a skill in prison that they can use to make a living when they come out of prison, pay correction officers a fair wage, to attract better people and building more prisons to replace existing out of date and overcrowded prisons.”
Commissioner Tyson spoke to removing barriers to people to get workforce training and jobs with new industries. She said that she worked to change bus routes to go in low-income neighborhoods to increase participation by poor people in workforce training for new jobs coming into her district.
The third panel on Voting Rights was moderated by Faya Rose Toure and included: Robert Turner of Bullock County who stressed that a voteless people are a helpless people; Sam Walker of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma; Senator Bobby Singleton, who spoke to the issue that half of the registered Black voters in Alabama, do not turnout to vote; and Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, who spoke on his efforts to encourage people in jails, prior to trial and conviction, who are eligible to vote, to vote absentee and helping to restore the voting rights of previously incarcerated felons, under Alabama’s new Moral Turpitude Law.

University of West Alabama holds Summit on Rural Workforce Development; announces $2.5 million dollar grant from DOL and DRA for 10 county workforce development effort

Panel speaking at UWA Summit on Rural Workforce
Development

On Friday, November 1, 2019, the University of West Alabama held a Summit on Rural Workforce Development at the Bell Conference Center in Livingston. As part of the program, Dr. Tina Jones, UWA Vice-President for Economic and Workforce Development announced a $2.5 million grant from the U. S. Department of Labor and the Delta Regional Authority for a regional workforce development program serving ten counties in the western Alabama Black Belt.
The three hundred attendees at the Summit heard from three panels of industry, education and state government officials with responsibility for basic education, job training and workforce development in the state and in our west Alabama area. There was also an interesting luncheon keynote from Jay Moon, President of the Mississippi Manufacturers, on future trends in work and preparing people to work in the future economy.
Nick Moore, Governor Ivey’s advisor on Education and Workforce stressed, “there is no wrong door to enter the state’s workforce development program. No matter your entry point, the state’s education and workforce agencies and programs will assist you where you are, with the education you have, and the skills and experiences you have and want to develop to go to work with any industry and employer.”
Donny Jones with West Alabama Works followed this up by saying that the workforce system will help you no matter your literacy and math skills. “We will help you get a GED. We will help you get basic skills; we will work with you to overcome barriers of transportation, childcare, and other problems. We are looking at people now that were previously incarcerated and trying to give them the skills and awareness they need to be productive members of the state’s workforce.”
Fitzgerald Washington, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Labor indicated that unemployment in the state is at a record low level of 3%. We still have 66,000 people who are officially unemployed. We also have 41.6% of our eligible adult population that have opted out of the labor force. “We need to use these workforce and training initiatives to bring more people back into the labor force and give them the education, attitudes and skills necessary to work in to our growing economy.”
Nick Moore said, “We must be aware of the ‘benefit cliff’ that some persons who have opted out of the workforce will experience when they come back into the workforce. Some people loose so much in SNAP, Medicaid, childcare and other benefits when they move into a job that they are reluctant to make the transition. We have to find ways to ease this ‘benefit cliff’ for people and seamlessly transition them into the workforce.”
The Summit provided important insights into the current status and position of workforce development in the state. The announcement of the $2.5 million grant to UWA will help enhance the practical follow-up to this meeting.
“We are immensely appreciative of this grant award from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Delta Regional Authority that will allow UWA the opportunity to expand our economic and workforce development efforts for a 10-county rural area that we serve,” said UWA President Ken Tucker.
 “As a regional university whose mission includes improving the quality of life for the region, we have long seen education as an engine that drives economic and workforce development, and this nearly $2.5 million will have a transformative influence on the people of west Alabama and beyond for many years to come. We have an outstanding team in UWA’s Division of Economic and Workforce Development working daily to establish the partnerships and innovative initiatives that will strengthen the impact of this generous investment for our region and rural Alabama.”
The grant will fund a UWA Division of Economic and Workforce Development initiative known as LINCS: Leveraging Interconnected Networks for Change and Sustainability.  LINCS is designed to help develop a regional workforce based on industry-recognized standards, credentials and identified needs in order to strengthen the economy and skill levels in a 10-county west Alabama rural region.
 “We are grateful for the many partners who have come together to assist UWA with the development of the LINCS proposal,” said Dr. Tina Jones, vice president of the UWA Division of Economic and Workforce Development. “By tapping into existing workforce systems that have a proven record of success, our goal is to address current barriers and gaps in the workforce pipeline.”
 “We want to improve remote delivery and access to relevant workforce training in our rural areas, strengthen connections to employment opportunities, and yield a workforce ready to step into Alabama’s growing advanced manufacturing environment,” Jones said.
 “We believe that offering customized, economic-responsive curricula designed around the needs of regional commerce through a University-industry partnership will help create a region rich in jobs, with better educated citizens earning more at their jobs, thereby improving lifestyles and bringing in more resources for our region and the State,” Jones explained.
The stated goal of the LINCS project is to increase advanced manufacturing employment skill sets in the underserved rural counties of west Alabama. The awarded grant will implement a three-pronged approach to address current barriers and gaps in the workforce pipeline in collaboration with other existing agencies and employer-driven organizations.  These include: 1) development of employer-driven curriculum and fast-track certificate programs; 2) recruitment and placement of new entrants into the workforce and promotion of incumbent workers to retain or advance current employment; and 3) establishment and expansion of rural apprenticeship initiatives.
LINCS will be designed to be a customized development program in advanced manufacturing skills and technologies in concert with existing partners, employers, and stakeholders.  The project will: 1) fill identified gaps by connecting all levels of education and skills with training and employment opportunities; 2) increase accessibility to training; 3) deliver a better prepared workforce; and 4) provide systemic change yielding a higher level of economic impact for the region.
 “This is collaborative effort built on partnerships,” Jones said.  “We are excited that UWA will be joined by major industry groups, and key essential workforce development groups throughout the region and Alabama to make LINCS a reality, including existing regional workforce development councils such as West Alabama Works, Central Alabama Works and Southwest Alabama Works.”

 For more information on the LINCS initiative or other projects of UWA’s Division of Economic and Workforce Development, call 1-833-UWA-WORK.
 

Newswire: British Museum – the World’s largest receiver of stolen goods, says author of new book

Nov. 4, 2019 (GIN) – An outspoken human rights lawyer in a new book is calling for European and US institutions to return treasures taken from subjugated peoples by “conquerors or colonial masters.”

In the new book by Geoffrey Robertson, the British Museum is accused of exhibiting “pilfered cultural property” and urged to ‘wash its hands of blood and return Elgin’s loot’.

“The trustees of the British Museum have become the world’s largest receivers of stolen property, and the great majority of their loot is not even on public display,” Robertson charges.

His views appear in the book, “Who Owns History? Elgin’s Loot and the Case for Returning Plundered Treasure.”

Along with a distinguished career as a trial lawyer, human rights advocate and United Nations judge, Robertson has appeared in many celebrated trials, defending Salman Rushdie and Julian Assange, prosecuting Hastings Banda and representing Human Rights Watch in the proceedings against General Pinochet.

In his just released book, he scores the British Museum for allowing an unofficial “stolen goods tour”, “which stops at the Elgin marbles, Hoa Hakananai’a, the Benin bronzes and other pilfered cultural property”. The three items he mentioned are wanted by Greece, Easter Island and Nigeria respectively.

“That these rebel itineraries are allowed is a tribute to the tolerance of this great institution, which would be even greater if it washed its hands of the blood and returned Elgin’s loot,” he wrote.

He accused the museum of telling “a string of carefully-constructed lies and half- truths” about how the marbles “were ‘saved’ or ‘salvaged’ or ‘rescued’ by Lord Elgin, who came into possession of them lawfully.”

He criticized “encyclopedic museums” such as the British Museum, the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan in New York that “lock up the precious legacy of other lands, stolen from their people by wars of aggression, theft and duplicity”.

“This is a time for humility,” he observed, “something the British, still yearning for the era when they ruled the world do not do very well. Before it releases any of its share of other people’s cultural heritage, the British Museum could mount an exhibition – ‘The Spoils of Empire’.”

Advocating the return of cultural property based on human rights law principles, Robertson observes that the French president, Emmanuel Macron has “galvanized the debate” by declaring that “African cultural heritage can no longer remain a prisoner of European museums”.

“Politicians may make more or less sincere apologies for the crimes of their former empires, but the only way now available to redress them is to return the spoils of the rape of Egypt and China and the destruction of African and Asian and South American societies,” he writes.

“We cannot right historical wrongs – but we can no longer, without shame, profit from them.”

Newswire: Gwen Ifill immortalized with Postal Service Forever Stamp

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Stamp honoring Gwen Ifill

The 43rd stamp in the United States Postal Service’s Black Heritage series honors Gwen Ifill, one of America’s most esteemed journalists.
The stamp features a photo of Ifill taken in 2008 by photographer Robert Severi and designed by Derry Noyes, according to the Postal Service.
Among the first African Americans to hold prominent positions in both broadcast and print journalism, Ifill was a trailblazer in the profession.
Ifill was born on September 29, 1955, in New York.
Her father, O. Urcille Ifill, Sr., served as an African Methodist Episcopal minister who hailed from Panama. Her mother, Eleanor Husbands, was from Barbados.
According to Ifill’s 2012 biography and interview with The HistoryMakers, her father’s ministry required the family to live in several cities in different church parsonages throughout New England.
Those stops also included Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York, where the family resided in federally subsidized housing.
Ifill’s interest in journalism was rooted in her parents’ insistence that their children gather nightly in front of the television to watch the national news, according to The HistoryMakers.
In 1973, Ifill graduated from Classical High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Four years later, she received her B.A. degree in communications from Simmons College in Boston.
“During her senior year, she interned at the Boston Herald American newspaper,” the biography reads. She later worked at the Baltimore Evening Sun, the Washington Post, and the New York Times before moving over to NBC News.
In 1999, Ifill became the first African American woman to host a prominent political talk show on national television when she became moderator and managing editor of PBS’s Washington Week and senior political correspondent for The PBS NewsHour.
Ifill died at the age of 61 on November 14, 2016.
“She was the most American of success stories,” Sherrilynn Ifill, a law professor, director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Gwen Ifill’s cousin told NBC News. “Her life and her work made this country better.”

Newswire : Black teen suicide reaches historic highs

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

Black teen walking along train tracks
Suicide prevention workshop

African American teenagers in the United States historically have had lower suicide rates than their white counterparts – until now.
A new study analyzing suicide among American teens by a team led by researchers at the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University have uncovered several troubling trends from 1991 to 2017, among Black high school students in particular.

Researchers discovered that between 1991 and 2017, there has been an increase in the number of African American teens who said they had attempted suicide in the past year. Suicide rates for teenagers of other races and ethnicities either remained the same or decreased over that period. The researchers did not cite a reason for the trend.
Bill Prasad, a licensed professional counselor with Contemporary Medicine Associates in Bellaire, Texas, cited what he believed are some reasons. “Lack of accessibility to mental health care, the inability to pay for medications and healthcare coverage, the lack of acceptance of mental illness among some members of the Black community, and the availability of firearms,” Prasad stated. Prasad was not among the researchers involved in the study.
Frank King, the so-called “Mental Health Comedian,” called the problem a ‘cultural phenomenon. “Young people in these groups are less likely to share their issues surrounding depression and thoughts of suicide with friends and family than youth in other racial and ethnic groups,” King stated.
Among the answers is starting the conversation on depression and suicide in high-risk groups,” he said. “A partial answer is giving young people permission to give voice to their experiences and feelings, without recrimination, such as ‘If you were stronger in Christ this wouldn’t be happening,’ or ‘What do you have to be depressed about, we’ve given you everything. Your father and I started our life with nothing,’ and so forth,” King stated.
Researchers in the NYU study noted that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teens from all demographics. They found that only accidents kill more young people than suicide.
The study also revealed that, in 2017, approximately 2,200 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 died by suicide.
Researchers gathered information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 198,540 high school students from 1991 to 2017.
Among high school students of all demographics, 1 in 5 said they were thinking about suicide, and 1 in 10 said they had made a plan to end their lives.
CNN Health reported that the study is in line with earlier research that has shown African American boys, especially younger boys between the ages of 5 and 11, have experienced an increase in the rate of suicide deaths. In black children ages 5 to 12, the suicide rate was found to be two times higher compared with white children, according to CNN Health.

The study authors found “an increased risk in reported suicide attempts among African-American teens between 1991 and 2017, and boys saw an increase in injuries related to those attempts. That might mean that black teens were using more lethal means when attempting suicide.”
They found a decline in attempts overall among teens who identified as white, Hispanic, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
Reasons for suicide explored
“As an African American woman, suicide is prominent in our community for two reasons: we often do not know how to handle it amongst our families, and the pressures on our culture are rising,” said Sabriya Dobbins of Project Passport LLC, a company that encourages getaway retreats centered around three mental wellness areas: reflection, community and personal.
“Oftentimes when a black family member says they want to take their life, the family may resort to church, belittle their response and tell them to stop overreacting, or simply assume it is not a big deal,” Dobbins stated.
“African American families are taught to be tough and to hold it together because it is already ‘us against the world.’ We are taught to put our heads down and work hard to get those degrees and move up in our careers.
“This causes expectations to be too high, then depression and anxiety are heightened. Not only are black youth trying to satisfy their families and be strong, but they are trying to fight their way through a world that is not always accepting. A world where they are dying in alarming numbers in senseless crimes. It is a double edge sword.”
Parents should be on the lookout for risk factors, such as a recent or severe loss like death or divorce, said Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent.
Dr. Walfish also counts as a regular expert child psychologist on CBS Television’s “The Doctors,” and she co-stars on WE TV’s, “Sexbox.”
“Parents should take heed when they observe specific warning signs like changes in behavior, including difficulty concentrating, difficulty focusing on school or following routine activities, researching ways to kill oneself on the internet, increasing the use of alcohol or other drugs, and acting recklessly,” Walfish stated.
Included among other signs are changes in personality, appearing withdrawn, isolating to their room, irritability, extreme mood changes that are more than typical moodiness, exhibiting rage or talking about seeking revenge, Walfish added.
Other alarms include changes in sleep patterns, insomnia, oversleeping, nightmares, talking about dying, going away, or different types of self-harm, she said.
“Teaching problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, building a strong connection to family, friends, and community support are ways to help,” Walfish stated.
“Restrict access to highly lethal means of suicide, such as firearms, and provide access to effective mental health care, including substance use treatment. Talk to your child. Many people are fearful that talking to their children about suicide will increase their risk of suicide. This is a myth,” Walfish said.
How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or 1-800-432-8366. You can also visit http://teenlineonline.org.

Newswire: Rep. Chris England of Tuscaloosa elected new chair of Alabama Democratic Party at Saturday meeting; infighting likely to continue

By: Associated Press and Montgomery Advertiser

Rep. Chris England

Rep. Christopher England, of Tuscaloosa, received 104 of 171 ballots cast at the Saturday, November 2 meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee, the state party’s governing body. This comes after months of in-house bickering about the party’s leadership.

But the election may not settle the ongoing battle between two factions of the party over governance and leadership, as the previously elected chair said she would not step down.

“Elected officials had to stand in the gap and create the platform the party did not have,” England said before the vote. “You’ve seen me stand for the issues that matter to us.”

The vote came after the approximately 175 members of the SDEC voted 172 to 0 to remove Chair Nancy Worley and Vice-Chair Randy Kelley.

After the vote, Worley said she was reelected in 2018 and she intends to continue leading the party.“The true SDEC members did not elect two new officers in our places today,” Worley said in a statement. “Randy and I look forward to continuing our leadership roles.”

But the meeting represented a win for a group of Democrats opposed to Worley, who has chaired the state Democratic Party since 2013, and the Democratic National Committee, which ordered the state party in February to hold new elections and revise its bylaws to provide greater diversity on the SDEC.

England, 43, a city attorney for Tuscaloosa, has served in the Alabama Legislature since 2006. He has been at the forefront of attempts to change the leadership and direction of the party and pledged before the vote to work to “leave no stone unturned” in rebuilding the party. He promised to rebuild local county organizations and staff up the state party.

“As we kick the old folks out, the new folks are coming in,” he said. “We want to seize on that energy. We’re going to raise money, money like you’ve never seen.”

Former Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, was elected vice-chair.
Worley has previously accused the DNC of sending contradictory instructions and of trying to dilute the strength of African American voters in the party. The DNC said Worley missed deadlines and was nonresponsive to instructions.

Without the orders implemented, the DNC refused to ratify the state’s delegate selection plan and warned that inaction by the state party could prevent Alabama from being seated at next year’s Democratic National Convention. That would effectively invalidate votes cast in next March’s Democratic presidential primary.
A group of SDEC members, backed by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, drafted a new set of bylaws that were approved by the DNC in September. The members then got a majority of the SDEC to vote to hold a meeting to ratify those bylaws on Oct. 5. At that meeting, the members set leadership elections for Nov. 2.

Worley proceeded with her own meeting on Oct. 12, which ratified a second set of bylaws — not approved by the DNC — and set elections for Nov. 16. On Wednesday, Worley and Kelly sued to stop the meeting of the Democrats.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin blocked the meeting in a decision late Friday, ruling that it would cause “chaos and confusion.” But the Alabama Supreme Court stayed the order about two hours later, allowing the gathering to proceed.

The new party bylaws preserve the Minority Caucus to nominate African Americans to the SDEC. But they also create new caucuses to nominate Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ individuals, youth and those with disabilities. Approximately 68 people were seated from the youth, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander caucuses on Saturday.

Newswire : African leaders and Russians sign nuclear deals in a ‘winning week for Putin’

Russian TU 160 bomber delivered to South Africa

Oct. 28 2019 (GIN) – Taking advantage of the Russia-Africa summit and the presence of dozens of African leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin advanced his goal of expanding Moscow’s geopolitical clout.

At the two-day summit in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, the Russian president resurrected old bonds forged by the Soviet Union with the result that arms shipments are now flowing from Moscow to Algeria to Mozambique. Consultants are assisting embattled strongmen with election strategies and development plans for natural resource projects.

As the summit opened, Russia landed two nuclear-capable bombers in South Africa on a training mission. The two Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers touched down at Waterkloof air force base in Tshwane, the South African National Defense Force confirmed.

Praising what it said were strong diplomatic links between the countries, the South African body added: “Our relations are not solely built on ‘struggle politics’, but rather on fostering mutually beneficial partnerships based on common interests.”

Rwanda is the latest African country to sign a nuclear deal with the Russian state atomic company Rosatom.

The deals between Russia and several African countries have raised concerns among environmentalists who say nuclear energy is not always clean and does not come free.

“Rosatom is prepared to help our African partners in creating a nuclear industry,” Putin declared, with “the construction of research centers based on multifunctional reactors.”
The nuclear pacts come despite an African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty – also called the Pelindaba Treaty – which obligates Parties not to develop, manufacture, acquire, or possess any nuclear explosive device. Parties may engage in peaceful nuclear activities but must conclude safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Opened for signature in 1996, it came into force in 2009 with 40 countries signing on.

Other new military deals include Nigeria which will receive 12 Russian-made Mi-35 attack helicopters, according to the RIA Russian news agency.

Rosatom is also in talks with Ethiopia to build a nuclear power station there, Interfax quoted the Russian company as saying.

Putin has called for trade with African countries to double over the next four to five years, adding Moscow had written off over $20 billion in African debts.

Michael Gatari, the head of nuclear science and technology at the University of Nairobi, said African countries can pursue nuclear technology but must get their own people to manage the nuclear reactors.

Russia was seeking business in Africa, not giving away gifts, he observed.

“Africa is not going to get a free reactor… They’re selling their technology… Of course, there is a component of ‘we will train your people, we’ll do this,’ but if you calculate the cost, it’s we who cough. So the African countries should move into it with a business vision.”

Newswire : Master of comedy Dave Chappelle receives ‘Mark Twain Prize for American Humor’

Dave Chappelle receiving award at Kennedy Center

By Lauren Poteat, NNPA Newswire Washington Correspondent

On Sunday night, Dave Chappelle, the legendary, no holds barred comedian, was awarded the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Gifted with a spirit of perseverance, determination and extreme creative intelligence, the award recognizes Chappelle as one of the world’s greatest humorists.
Bestowed only on a select few, including comedic geniuses Eddie Murphy, David Letterman and the late Richard Pryor (who received the inaugural award), Chappelle emphasized the importance of the genre, while also paying tribute to the late Pryor, during his award at the Kennedy Center.
In honor of Chappelle’s brilliance and ability to convey more than one thought-provoking message within a single joke, the event brought out a slew of a-list celebrities, all eager to support the clever comedian and his work, including Morgan Freeman, Bradley Cooper, Marlon Wayans, Tiffany Haddish, Keenan Thompson, QTip, Sarah Silverman and Saturday Night Live (SNL) creator, Lorne Michaels, who recounted Dave’s 2016 anticipated hosting debut on SNL.
“I knew when the moment came, [Dave would] be ready to perform, yet small doubts about his appearance still lingered until, [he sat down] beside me and everyone in the room and asked if he could read a quote by Toni Morrison,” Michaels reminisced, as he delivered the first official remarks of the night.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal,” Michaels recited. “I knew then, we’d be ok.
A Washington, D.C. native and former student of the Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts (located in the Northwest quadrant of the District of Columbia), Chappelle recounted his love for the arts and an even bigger appreciation for those cultivating those same skills within the youth.
“To be on a list with Richard Pryor is unfathomable, like nobody would actually feel worthy enough,” Chappelle reflected during an interview prior to the award ceremony. “And not just Richard, you’ve got George Carlin, Lorne Michaels—that really shaped my imagination, my life… and I hope that one day, somebody will look at me the same way and literally stand on something that I’ve built on, that wouldn’t fall apart.”
“There’s something divine about artistry, it’s like the god-like part of a person that can write a song or tell a good joke, it’s the best part of our nature,” Chappelle said.
“Life without art would be miserable. If I could never laugh again at a great joke, hear no beautiful music, or only see bare walls, what kind of life would that be?” Dave went on. “You touch a higher part of yourself, you connect with people on a more profound level and society is better with good art, so it should be protected and cultivated, and the youth should be encouraged to express themselves in every way.”
Chappelle earned his bearings as a stand-up comedian from many platforms, including Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam (1990’s), Eddie Murphy’s “The Nutty Professor” (1996), and Martin Lawrence’s “Blue Streak” (1999).
However, it was Chappelle’s 2003 Comedy Central show, aptly titled, “Chappelle’s Show,” that cemented his place in history.
Challenging race relations with controversial skits like “Ask a Black Dude,” Black White supremacist “Clayton Bigsby,” and his spoofs of celebrity icons Rick James, Prince and Wayne Brady — the segmented show earned three Emmy nominations and became the best-selling TV show in DVD history.
In a special recorded interview presented during the awards ceremony, Eddie Murphy heralded Chappelle as one of the most intellectual comedians ever. As the ceremony was coming to a close, the former host of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart, took to the stage to share his appreciation and admiration for Chappelle.
“I met Dave in the early ‘90s, a 17-year-old kid cutting his teeth in the toughest comedy clubs in the country and he was shockingly formed. This young prodigy. This young Mozart,” Stewart said.
“But he didn’t become a legend to me until 2005. I was at ‘The Daily Show’ and he was at ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ …Comedy Central offered him $50 million to just give us one more [season]. He walked away. It was at that moment I remember thinking, ‘Comedy Central has $50 million?’ …Dave left, but I knew that money was going to need a home. I want you to know that I raised that money like it was my own.”
Like the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain, Chappelle is among the small group of people whose humor has been able to have an enduring impact on American society and culture.

Chappelle shared that maybe the only thing second to being able to make people laugh is having the right to do so. “There’s something so true about this genre when done correctly,” Chappelle said. “That I would fight anybody that isn’t a true practitioner of this artform’s way, because I know this is the truth and you are obstructing it. I’m not talking about the content. I’m talking about the artform.”
The show will air on Jan. 7, on PBS.

Newswire : Former Congressman John Conyers has died at 90

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By Frederick H. Lowe
Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from NorthStarNewsToday.com

Cong. John Conyers

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – John Conyers, Jr. the longest serving African American member of Congress and co-founder in 1969 of the Congressional Black Caucus, died Sunday in Detroit. He was 90 years old. The cause of death has not been revealed.

Mr. Conyers served 53 years in Congress and was once fondly known as the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus which he helped found in 1971. He was the sixth longest serving member of Congress before he resigned in 2017 amid sexual harassment allegations. During his tenure, he represented the 1st, 14th and 13th Congressional Districts in Detroit and the suburbs.

A graduate of Wayne State University and Wayne State University School of Law, voters elected Conyers to Congress in 1964. He took the oath of office in 1965 during the Civil Rights struggle. He befriended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and he hired Rosa Parks to work in his Detroit congressional office when no one else would give her a job. Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the great civil rights victories, when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a White man. Her refusal sparked the more than one year long Montgomery Bus Boycott that ended segregated seating on the city’s buses.

Conyers introduced the 1965 Voting Rights Act under President Lyndon Johnson, and he succeeded in establishing a national holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. King.

Conyers was chair of the House Judiciary Committee from 2007-11. As the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, he joined other committee members in 1974 submitting Articles of Impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon. However, Nixon resigned from office before he could be impeached.

Conyers was also chair House Oversight Committee from 1989 to 2004. The late Elijah Cummings held the same position when he died.

In addition, Conyers introduced in every Congress starting in 1989, legislation that would set up a commission to examine the institution of slavery in the nation and its colonies. The legislation recommended appropriate remedies.
He also pushed for a single-payer or government-directed health care system.

Conyers was the son of John Conyers, Sr., a labor lawyer. He was born in Highland Park, Michigan, on May 16, 1929. He served in the Korean War.He is survived by his widow and two sons.

Tributes from civil rights and Democratic leaders had begun to pour out this week.

“From co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus, to advocating for the creation of Martin Luther King Day, some of the most important civil rights victories of the last half-century would not have been possible without the enduring leadership of Rep. Conyers in Washington,” said Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP. “As a Detroit native, I can attest to what John Conyers meant to his beloved Detroit community, and we are eternally grateful that he fought for justice on behalf of the entire nation with the same commitment and perseverance he showed his beloved hometown. Today we have lost a trailblazer for justice, a titan of the movement, and a true friend and ally to the NAACP.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said, “Congressman John Conyers was a civil rights warrior, a lifelong public servant, and a stalwart Democrat. Over the course of his public service career, which spanned more than half a century, Rep. Conyers led groundbreaking fights that advanced the course of history, including introducing the first bill to establish the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, he changed the face of leadership in the halls of Congress and blazed a trail for future leaders of color.”
The Trice Edney News Wire contributed to this article.

Newswire : HBCU funding blocked by Senate Education Chair

By Charlene Crowell

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Each year as families beam with pride at seeing a son, daughter or another relative graduate from college, that achievement is nearly always the result of a family’s commitment to higher education. And when these institutions are among the more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), that pride is magnified by the history of how our forefathers overcame what once seemed to be insurmountable challenges.

According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, between 1861 and 1900 more than 90 HBCUs were founded. From the first HBCU, Pennsylvania’s Cheney University, established in 1837, ensuing years led to even more educational opportunities that today include institutions spread across 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

So when federal legislation is blocked that would extend and preserve funding for HBCUs, such actions are not only an affront to today’s college students, but also to a history that has led to only 3% of the nation’s colleges and universities educating nearly 20% of all Black graduates. The success of HBCU graduates is even more noteworthy considering that 70% of students come from low-income families.

On September 26, the damaging action taken by Tennessee’s Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee blocked HBCU funding. Even worse, Senator Alexander made this move just days before funding was set to expire on September 30.

The bill sponsored and introduced on May 2 by Alabama Senator Doug Jones and co-sponsored by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, was named the FUTURE Act,an acronym for Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources Act. It began with bipartisan and bicameral support to extend critical HBCU and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) funding through 2021 for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

“Alabama is home to 14 outstanding HBCUs that serve as a gateway to the middle class for many first-generation, low-income, and minority Americans,” stated Sen. Jones. The FUTURE Act will help ensure these historic schools and all minority-serving institutions continue to provide excellent education opportunities for their students.”

Senator Scott agreed, adding “We all have a role to play in making the dream of college a reality for those who wish to pursue their education. The eight HBCUs in South Carolina have made a significant impact in our communities, creating thousands of jobs which translates to over $5 billion in lifetime earnings for their graduates.”

By September 18, a total of 15 Senators signed on as co-sponsors, including eight Republicans representing the additional states of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Other Democratic Senators signing on represented Arizona, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Montana, Virginia and West Virginia.
On the House side, two North Carolina Representatives, Rep. Alma Adams and her colleague Mark Walker introduced that chamber’s version that quickly passed in just two days before Alexander’s actions on the Senate floor.

So why would the HELP Committee Chair oppose a bill that had such balanced support – in both chambers as well as geographically and by party?

“Congress has the time to do this,” said Sen. Alexander on the floor of the Senate. “While the legislation expires at the end of September, the U.S. Department of Education has sent a letter assuring Congress that there is enough funding for the program to continue through the next fiscal year.”
Alexander concluded his comments by using his remarks to push for a limited set of policy proposals that would amend the Higher Education Act piece by piece.

His comments prompt a more basic question: Why is it that Congress has failed to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) for so many years?

Competing HEA legislative proposals with different notions have been bandied about since 2014. Most of these ideas were variations of promises for improved access, affordability, and accountability, simplified financial aid applications and appropriate levels of federal support.
Yet for families faced with a financial tug of war between rising costs of college and stagnant incomes, Congress’ failure to act on higher education translates into more student loans, and longer years of repayment.

The same day as Senator Alexander’s block of the bill, Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education at The Education Trust, a national nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families, reacted with a statement.
“The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is of vital importance to millions of students who currently struggle to afford college, lack adequate supports while enrolled, and are underserved by a system that perpetuates racial inequity,” said Pilar. “Students need a federal policy overhaul that addresses these issues and acts to close racial and socioeconomic equity gaps, and they can’t afford to wait any longer.”
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Charlene Crowell is the Deputy Communications Director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.