Apr. 1, 2019 (GIN) – Environmental groups in Ghana are waging an eleventh hour battle to stop the government of Ghana from opening the Atewa Forest Reserve – a crown jewel of biodiversity and a source of three rivers – to commercial large-scale bauxite mining.
“We don’t want it,” said Chief Nana Larbikrum, 79, from a tiny settlement on the fringes of Atewa, in an interview with Equal Times, a website of social justice activists based in Belgium. He and other farmers who grow and sell cocoa and plantain are especially worried. “They will come and scrape off all the trees, and there won’t be any rainfall or windbreaks for us,” the chief says.
But a contract with the Chinese company is reportedly on the table. To secure a US$19 billion infrastructural loan from the Chinese government, the Chinese state-owned Sinohydro Group has been invited to build roads, bridges and rural electrification projects worth US$2 billion.
In exchange, the company will be paid back from the proceeds made from mining Ghana’s abundant bauxite reserves in Atewa and Nyinahin, another forest reserve in the Ashanti region.
A Rocha Ghana and Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape are fighting back, insisting the forest reserve should be designated a national park, which could generate additional income for the country.
The Atewa Forest is critical to the livelihood of humans and biodiversity, they say. Designated one of Ghana’s 30 Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas in 1999, it has the highest diversity of butterflies of any site in West Africa, at least 1100 plant species including 56 threatened with extinction, and thirteen threatened and near-threatened birds.
The U.S.-based Conservation International echoed their concerns.
“Atewa forest is unique,” wrote Okyeame Ampadu-Agyei, Conservation’s Country Director, on the group’s website. “It has excellent biological resources and distinctive upland forest vegetation which unfortunately is under threat by commercial bauxite mines.
The bauxite deposits will eventually be exhausted,” he signaled, “but the forest is a renewable resource which, if protected now, will be appreciated centuries hence long after all the bauxite has gone.”
Ghana has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in West Africa and lost 13 per cent of its forest cover between 2001 and 2017, according to Global Forest Watch. In 25 years, Ghana could lose all of its forests, scientists warn.
Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from Institute of the Black World 21st Century
Dr. Ron Daniels
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC) applauds several presidential contenders for their recent expressed interest in reparations and calls on all the candidates to prioritize reparatory justice as an issue of importance to Black voters in the weeks and months ahead. NAARC is also calling on all 2020 candidates, as well as other lawmakers, to support HR40, the reparations bill authored by former US Cong. John Conyers, which has languished in Congress since 1989. HR-40, which was reintroduced in the 115th Congress, was developed in consultation with NAARC. It calls for establishing a federal commission to study reparations proposals for African-Americans that would repair the horrific socio-economic damages caused by the enslavement and generations of racially exclusive/discriminatory policies and practices post-emancipation. The current reparations conversation, namely being forged by candidates Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, is especially relevant in light of the fact that 2019 marks the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of Africans in chains in Virginia, which opened the era of slavery, one of the most sordid chapters in U.S. history. “In general, the recent statements by presidential candidates are a positive development,” said Dr. Ron Daniels, Convener of NAARC and President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW). “They reflect an increasing body of scholarship that definitively draws the connection between the enslavement of Africans and the persistent wealth-gap and underdevelopment of Black America.” Candidates are also responding to the growing, multifaceted reparations movement in this country and to the fact that in recent public opinion polls, reparations now enjoys the support of a majority of African-Americans as well as from a growing percentage of young White millennial voters. “NAARC stands ready to educate and orient candidates and legislators on the definition, background, process, internationally accepted norms and historical precedents for reparations to repair damages inflicted on peoples and nations. Hopefully, this will enrich the public dialogue on this vital issue,” added Dr. Daniels. NAARC was established in April 2015 at a National/International Reparations Summit convened by IBW in New York City. The nonpartisan Commission is comprised of distinguished Black leaders from across the U.S. in the fields of law, education, public health, economic development, religion, labor, civil and human rights. For decades, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) has been a leading force advancing the struggle for reparations in the U.S. Kamm Howard, National Co-Chairperson of NCOBRA and a NAARC Commissioner, welcomes the surge in support for reparations by the presidential candidates but insists that the discussion and debate be centered around reparations as full repair. “The international standard holds that reparations ‘must wipe out all consequences’ of the wrongful acts committed against enslaved Africans,” said Howard. “To get us to full repair, policies programs and practices must be developed to produce the following outcomes: cessation and guarantees of non-repetition, restitution, compensation, satisfaction, and rehabilitation. These are the intended outcomes of HR 40. The candidates, some of whom are Senators, should craft a Senate companion bill. This can be done now if they are serious about their support for reparations.” To help frame the public discourse and as a guide for action by governmental and private entities, NAARC has devised a comprehensive and detailed 10-point reparations program that addresses the issues of repair and restitution. The creation of a National Reparations Trust Fund is among the proposals outlined in the NAACRC Reparations Program. The Authority would receive funding grants, scholarships, land and other forms of restitution to benefit the collective advancement of Black America. It would be comprised of a cross-section of credible representatives of reparations, civil rights, and human rights, labor, faith, educational, civic and fraternal organizations and institutions. The Authority would be empowered to establish subsidiary trust funds to administer projects and initiatives in the areas of culture, economic development, education, health and other fields as deemed appropriate based on the demands of the Reparations Program (https://bit.ly/2T0MhZt). To increase public awareness of the Program, NAARC has convened initial Hearings and Town Hall Meetings in Atlanta and New Orleans and plans to hold additional sessions in a number of cities across the country.
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Every budget defines priorities and values. To put it another way, what’s really important in life gets supported financially. For many families, having a home, food, and utilities usually rank pretty high. Then there are other budgetary concerns like saving for college or having a ‘rainy day’ fund to cover less frequent costs that can be much higher than the size of the next pay check.
Government budgets, built on taxpayer dollars, also reveal priorities. At the federal level, budgets are proposed by the executive branch, but it is the legislative branch that passes and funds budgets. What is in the best interest of the nation is supposed to be the guiding force in government budgets.
But as Sportin’ Life sang in the folk opera Porgy and Bess, “It ain’t necessarily so”.
The White House’s FY 2020 proposal cuts Education funding by $62 billion compared to that of FY 2019. Even worse, as the cost of higher education continues to climb, federal student aid would be seriously slashed while other programs would be totally eliminated.
Some of the most disturbing college federal cuts affect programs that lessen the amount of student loans that need to be borrowed for every academic term. As rising college costs have worsened the financial challenge faced by many Black and other low-wealth families, the availability of grant programs that do not have to be repaid and/or work-study programs are key sources for many college students and their families.
Among its many revisions, the Trump Administration stands ready to risk a sizeable portion of the proposed $7.25 billion in Pell Grant funding next year. This program is the single largest source of grant aid for low-income households for post-secondary education.
On March 26, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Education budget was the focus of a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-Health and Human Services-Education. Secretary Betsy Devos delivered testimonythat expanded upon previously released materials from the Trump Administration.
“Since President Trump took office, Congressional appropriations for U.S. Department of Education programs have increased dramatically – in spite of the Administration’s call to slow spending,” said Secretary DeVos. “We are not doing our children any favors when we borrow from their future in order to invest in systems and policies that are not yielding better results.”
In response, Connecticut’s Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the subcommittee chairwoman did not mince words. “This budget underfunds education at every turn”, said DeLauro who added “This budget inflicts harm.”
Even Rep. Tom Cole from Oklahoma who serves as the subcommittee’s Ranking Member viewed the White House proposal as “short-sighted”.
Representatives DeLauro and Cole were absolutely correct.
The Work-Study program that brings campus-based jobs to students would suffer a double blow. Its monies would be reduced by 55 percent and remaining funds would be shared with proposed pilot program that targeted to private sector employers for workforce development of nontraditional and low-income students. That’s the window dressing on these cuts.
The Work-Study program that received over $1.2 billion in 2019 would be cut to $500.4 million. Secondly, instead of students working on campus, they would need to figure out how to reach employment at private business.
Not every student has a car. Nor is public transit always available near college campuses. These businesses would supplement their revenue streams with public monies but the profits derived would still be private. Previously, Work-Study was jointly funded by the federal government paying 75 percent of hourly wages, with the remaining 25 percent paid by the college employer.
What for-profit business wouldn’t want the government to pick up 75 percent of its labor costs? Seems that the private business – not the student – is the greater concern with this budget.
“Betsy DeVos has some explaining to do – her disinterest in prioritizing quality and affordable education for students is disheartening and erodes the confidence the public has in the Department of Education,” said Debbie Goldstein, an EVP with the Center for Responsible Lending.
Currently, the formula-based Pell Grant award averages $4,251 per participating student. Next year as proposed, the program’s average award will be slightly less at $4,149 and traditional grant recipient students would be forced to share those funds with others enrolled in workforce development training that does not accrue credit hours or traditional academic terms.
Regular readers of this column may recall, many career and technical training institutions are also for-profit entities that in recent years have either failed to provide the training promised, or the earnings assured by admissions personnel – or both. In the worst-case scenarios, tens of thousands of students have been enrolled at the time of closures that came with little or no notice.
The Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant is need-based and financially helps low-income, undergraduate students. For the past two fiscal years, this program was funded at $1.7 billion. If the Trump Administration’s proposal holds, no monies will support this program next year.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are available to students whose parent or guardian was a member of the Armed Forces and died as a result of their military deployment in either Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. In FY 2019, the average grant in this program was $5,293. In FY 2020, the White House would end it with no appropriation.
These are only a few of the cuts proposed to higher education at a time when education is more important today than ever before. The global economy requires a highly-skilled and knowledgeable workforce. It seems so ironic that this White House keeps placing businesses before the needs of people.
“Instead of punishing for-profit institutions that have deceived students and encouraged them to take on unaffordable levels of student debt, Secretary DeVos will defend President Trump’s proposal to extend taxpayer money to finance unproven short-term programs, many of which will be offered by these very same for-profit college,” added Goldstein.
Here’s hoping that Congress will hear a loud outcry on gutting federal financial aid. Enacting a budget that represents the needs of people should and must prevail.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia
While every Census faces challenges and even controversies, the count remains important because it’s the federal government’s very first responsibility to the U.S. Constitution, the cornerstone of the nation’s representative democracy and America’s largest peacetime activity, said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant to many census stakeholders and former staff director for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Census and Population. However, Lowenthal believes the 2020 Census is heading into “a perfect storm.” “I think of unprecedented factors that could thwart a successful enumeration – one that counts all communities equally well,” said Lowenthal, who consults on The Census Project, a collaboration of business and industry associations; civil rights advocates; state and local governments; social service agencies; researchers and scientific societies; planners; foundations; and nonprofits focused on housing, child and family welfare, education, transportation, and other vital services. “The risks include cyber-threats foreign and domestic, IT failures, weather events that have become more extreme, disinformation campaigns, and the unknown consequences of adding a new, untested citizenship question,” she said. The official kick-off to the 2020 Census begins Monday, April 1 in Washington where the U.S. Census Bureau will host a live operational press briefing to mark the one-year out milestone from the 2020 Census. Bureau Director Dr. Steven Dillingham and others in leadership plan to brief the public on the status of operations and provide updates on the success of the integrated partnership and communication campaign. Lowenthal said the unknown consequences of adding a new, untested citizenship question are among the growing challenges facing the 2020 Census. This question is before Federal courts and will be resolved before next year’s Census. She noted other challenges including consistent underfunding and President Trump’s budget request for next year, which is well below the amount needed; distrust of government at many levels; and fear among immigrants that their census responses will be used to harm them and their families. “An inclusive, accurate census is especially important for Black Americans and other people of color,” Lowenthal said. “The census determines the distribution of political power, from Congress, to state legislatures, to city councils and school boards, and guides the allocation of almost $9 trillion over the decade in federal assistance to states and communities for hospitals, public transit, school facilities, veterans services, Medicaid, school lunches, and many other vital services,” she said. Unfortunately, advocates say the census is not an equal opportunity enumeration. Scientific yardsticks since 1940 reveal that the census misses Black Americans at disproportionately high rates, especially Black men ages 18 to 49 and Black children under age five. “At the same time, the census over-counted non-Hispanic Whites in 2000 and 2010. And because the people who are more likely to be missed do not live in the same neighborhoods as those more likely to be double-counted, some communities get more than their fair share of political representation and resources, while others get less than they deserve and need,” Lowenthal said, adding that we then must live with those results for the next ten years. The Census is a civil rights issue with huge implications for everyone, particularly people of color, added Beth Lynk, the director of the Census Counts Campaign at The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “Census data are used to draw congressional district lines and help determine the amount of federal funding communities receive for programs like Head Start and SNAP,” Lynk said. “Communities that are missing from the census lose out on what they need to stay safe and healthy. Unfortunately, Black people and Latinos are considered to be harder to count, and accurately counting these populations takes a focused effort,” she said. Lynk added: “That’s why it’s critical that local governments and community organizations educate their own constituents and members and encourage them to be counted.” Census data are inherently personal; the data record and codify individual stories, and help to paint a mosaic of rich racial, ethnic, cultural, and geographic identities, said Jason Jurjevich, Assistant Director of the Population Research Center, a research institute in the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University in Oregon. “Telling the story of diverse communities, including individuals of color, requires a fair and accurate count,” Jurjevich said. “As with any census, an all too common obstacle is that some individuals are excluded, resulting in an undercount. In the 2010 Census, considered one of the most accurate censuses in recent American history, 1.5 percent of Hispanics and 2.1 percent of African-Americans were undercounted,” he said. Jurjevich added that among African-American men, ages 30 to 49, the undercount was much higher, at 10.1 percent. The decennial census is the one chance, every ten years, to stand up and be counted, Jurjevich added. Also, he noted that Census 2020 will offer the first-ever online response option, which could improve census response rates and, at the same time, numerous challenges and barriers will likely make it more difficult to count Americans in the 2020 Census. “This means that communities will need to organize and address on-the-ground challenges like the proposed citizenship question, increasing public distrust in government, growing fears among immigrants about the current sociopolitical climate, the first-ever online response option and concerns around the digital divide and security of personal data, and inconsistent and insufficient federal funding,” Jurjevich said.
By: Herbert G. McCann and Sara Burnett, Associated Press
Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago
CHICAGO — Former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot defeated a longtime political insider Tuesday to become Chicago's next mayor, the first black woman and openly gay person to lead the nation's third-largest city.
Lightfoot, who had never been elected to public office, easily defeated Toni Preckwinkle, who served in the City Council for 19 years before becoming Cook County Board president. Preckwinkle also is chairwoman of the county Democratic Party.
Lightfoot promised to rid City Hall of corruption and help low-income and working-class people she said had been “left behind and ignored” by Chicago’s political ruling class. It was a message that resonated with voters weary of political scandal and insider deals, and who said the city’s leaders for too long have invested in downtown at the expense of neighborhoods.
Chicago will become the largest U.S. city to have a black woman serve as mayor when Lightfoot is sworn in May 20. She will join seven other black women currently serving as mayors in major U.S. cities, including Atlanta and New Orleans and will be the second woman to lead Chicago.
Lightfoot, 56, and her wife have one daughter.
Thursday, March 21, 2019 the Greene County Sheriff Department reported a total distribution of $372,455 for the month of February, 2019 from the five licensed gaming operations in the county. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System). Greenetrack, Inc. gave a total of $65,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $5,000.
Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, Greene County Health System, $7,500.
River’s Edge (NNL – Next Level Leaders and TCCTP – Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $73,125 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, and the Greene County Health System, $13,125.
Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $99,330 to the following: Greene County Commission, $4,620; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $36,960; City of Eutaw, $27,720; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,620; Greene County Board of Education, $4,620 and the Greene County Health System, $11,550.
At Tuesday night’s meeting on March 26, 2019, Mayor Raymond Steele and the Eutaw City Council remain divided over major issues. In response to the written agenda passed out for the meeting, Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter asked to place two additional items on the agenda, including a request for an Executive Session on a personnel issue and a follow-up to the council’s resolution on check signing. Mayor Steele was visibly distressed and said that council members should bring their agenda suggestions to him before the meeting so that they can be reviewed and the staff can prepare a response and provide information that is needed. The Council added these items to the agenda over the Mayor’s objections. After a short eight minute Executive Session, the Council reconvened and asked the Mayor if he had implemented a resolution they passed at the January 22, 2019 meeting, which removed the Mayor as the signatory on most city bank accounts and made Councilmembers Joe Lee Powell and LaJeffrey Carpenter along with City Clerk, Kathy Bir as the designated signatories on these accounts. Mayor Steele said he had not implemented the change because he had not been given reasons for changing the signatories. “ I am in charge of the day to day business of the City, it is critical that the Mayor be able to sign checks. I do not have any problem with adding other signatories to the accounts. You will not tell me why you don’t want me to sign – This is not right.” Councilwoman Latasha Johnson asked City Attorney, Zane Willingham, to prepare written instructions for the City Council as to “what to do when the Mayor does not implement policies and actions decided and approved by the Council.” The Council in a resolution approved these instructions. Councilwoman Latasha Johnson also indicated that the Mayor had not implemented the policy, also adopted in the January 22, 2019 meeting, that cash would not be accepted to pay water bills and other obligations to the City. Johnson said, “Cash is still being accepted, no signs have been posted as we requested. The Mayor has decided on his own not to implement this policy on taking cash approved by the City Council.” Councilwoman Sheila Smith questioned the Mayor about problems with the water bills. “Too many residents are paying the minimum water bill of $38.58 for residences and $58.38 for businesses. The water meters or the water meter reading system is not working properly and we are loosing money we need to pay for the water system and operate the city.” Mayor Steele said that all of the new meters have been checked and are working properly. He said that he would review this problem again and try to find a solution.
The Council was given a detailed report on bills to be paid for the month of March. Several Councilmembers objected that they we given the information about the bills late and did not have time to study the expenditures. Payment of the bills was tabled until the next meeting to give the Council members time to review.
LaJeffrey Carpenter asked Mayor Steele why he had only re-paved the roads in Branch Heights, while the roads in King Village, Carver Circle and other parts city also needed similar repairs. The mayor in exasperation answered, “ You know we agreed to the roads in Branch Heights as a special project. We do not have enough money at this time to do all of the roads or make all of the repairs that the Council is requesting.”
The Mayor indicated that he was trying to get some disaster relief funds allocated to the City of Eutaw for street repairs since the recent rains had eroded some of the streets.
Mayor Steele said he was still working on an audit which was necessary to secure funding for new police cars and construction equipment from USDA Rural Development.
“The equipment we have is worn out and more than ten years old. We have no new tax base and limited funds to pay for needed improvements to the City. When we start earning new taxes from the Love’s Truck Stop, then we may be able to afford the repairs and improvements needed by the City,” said Mayor Steele.
Councilmembers responded that this was why they were asking for a budget and audit so they could understand and project the City’s finances to pay current obligations and plan for future expenditures.
In other actions, the Eutaw City Council approved a retail beer and wine license for Love’s truck Stop and publication for four week’s of the City’s request for Sunday alcohol sales, which will generate some additional revenues.
The Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce presented awards at its annual membership meeting and Sue Vance Memorial Dinner on Thursday, March 21, 2019, held at the LAW Center. Among the award recipients were: (L to R) Rev. Christopher Spencer, Pastor of St. Matthew Watson Baptist Church for Religion, Mayor Raymond Steele of Eutaw for Government, Dr. Marcia Pugh, CEO of Greene County Health System for Health Care, Dr. Carol and John Zippert, Co-Publishers of the Greene County Democrat for Communications, Beverly Gordon, Chamber President, Dan Williams, WestRock Paper Co. for Business, Nancy Cole for Education, District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne for Community Service, Delphine McKenzie for the Sue Vance Service Award. Not shown Luther ‘Nat’ Winn, Greenetrack for the Leadership Award. Before a delicious dinner of Italian food specialties, the group heard an inspirational address by Attorney John Stamps III of the Black Belt Law Center in Bessemer, Alabama, who also co-sponsored the event.
Mar. 25, 2019 (GIN) – Since Cyclone Idai roared into the Mozambican port city of Beira on Mar. 14, devastating losses are mounting exponentially yet international aid has been slow to reach all survivors.
Severe flooding produced by Idai’s strong winds and heavy rains caused the rivers Pungwe and Buzi to break their banks. In the district of Buzi, thousands clung for their lives on trees and rooftops, as their villages turned into an ocean. Even as the rains have subsided and the waters are receding, the risk of flooding remains, as dams upstream reach full capacity.
At least 656 people have died across three countries, according to local estimates.
Dire shortages of food, water and other necessities were reported by the head of a South African rescue operation. Around 15,000 people are still missing, Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia said just before last weekend.
But delays in the arrival of assistance were fueling anger and desperation, acknowledged Connor Hartnady, rescue operations task force leader for Rescue South Africa.
“There have been three security incidents today, all food related,” he told his team, without giving further details.
The U.N. has made an emergency appeal for $282 million for the next three months to help Mozambique start rebuilding their communities.
But help has been coming in dribs and drabs – especially from those with the most resources. U.S. military personnel, for example, were en route to Mozambique on Monday, over a week after the cyclone hit, to assess damage and plan a relief mission aided by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
The Pentagon has authorized AFRICOM to expend up to $6.5 million in relief funds to provide logistics support for up to 10 days. The military’s role will be to assist the U.S. Agency for International Development in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Two Portuguese Airforce C130 transport planes were due to depart Thursday to the region. The first one was taking 35 soldiers, medical personnel and a disaster relief team from the National Republican Guard.
Mozambique is home to thousands of nationals from Portugal. Santos Silva said that 30 of the country’s citizens had not yet been contacted.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said funds for cyclone victims are starting to come through, including 29 million dollars from the United Kingdom, but this is far exceeded by the need.
Finally, ExxonMobil, which earned $6 billion in quarterly profits from African oil, is donating $300,000 for disaster relief. “The devastation has been widespread,” the company tweeted, “and this funding will help provide relief during a difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone affected.”
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia
National Sickle Cell Advocacy Day 2019 is a great time to focus on key legislative issues that are important to individuals and their families who are living with the blood cell disorder, including promoting stable funding for research, better healthcare access, expanded programs and increased education and awareness for the Sickle Cell Disease community and programs throughout the country. Lori Luck, the global medical director for Pfizer Rare Disease, joined Beverley Frances-Gibson, the president and CEO of the SCD Association of America; and Angie Snyder, a professor at Georgia State University, to discuss the latest in Sickle Cell Disease advocacy during Black Press Week in Washington, D.C. The discussion came ahead of National Sickle Cell Advocacy Day, which is actually held over two days on April 8 and April 9 at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University in Washington. The event features advocacy training and meetings with legislative champions and a collaboration of federal partners, as advocates attempt to raise awareness to the disease which affects about 100,000 Americans and occurs among nearly 1 out of every 365 black or African American births. According to researchers, the illness occurs among about 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic American births and about 1 in 13 black or African American babies are born with sickle cell trait, meaning that the individual has inherited the sickle cell gene from one of his or her parents. “We’re educators and we’re not only educating internal clients but external as well,” said Luck, who noted that Pfizer has partnerships with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other organizations. The company also has a partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a trade association of more than 200 African-American–owned community newspapers from around the United States. The partnership is a collaboration to raise awareness of sickle cell disease, a lifelong and debilitating genetic disorder that affects red blood cells. People with rare diseases, like sickle cell disease, have unique and complex challenges and the Pfizer partnership provides an opportunity for NNPA to inform and educate readers of Black-owned newspapers in more than 70 markets across the country on sickle cell disease, which NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., said is an often misunderstood disease that has a profound impact on the health and well-being of those affected. “Together with Pfizer, we look forward to providing sickle cell disease education that can underscore the importance of improving quality of care in the community,” Chavis said. Snyder, whose work at Georgia State University includes researching and advocating for the sickle cell disease community, said it’s important that everyone is educated. “We have to continue to study on what works and doesn’t work for people,” she said. Francis-Gibson said conversations must take place in and outside the home. “Sickle Cell Disease is personal for me because I have a family member who died from sickle cell disease when I was in high school,” Francis-Gibson said. “We never discussed it and when I was offered my current position I knew it was my calling because if my own family isn’t discussing sickle cell disease, I knew that other families weren’t discussing it either,” she said. In December, a bi-partisan bill aimed at fighting sickle disease was signed into law by President Donald Trump. The Sickle Cell Disease and Other Heritable Blood Disorders Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2018 was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., in February 2018 and passed in the Senate in October. The bill also reauthorizes a current sickle cell disease prevention and treatment program for nearly $5 million each year over the next five years. “Even though sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in our country, research and treatment lags behind that of other chronic illnesses,” Booker said in a statement. “Our legislation will help find new ways to improve the lives of people suffering from sickle cell disease. It’s time we start treating sickle cell disease as a serious and debilitating illness and allocate adequate resources to monitoring, researching, and treating it,” he said. Francis-Gibson said advocacy for funding the bill is still needed. “It’s important everyone comes out during National Sickle Cell Advocacy Day and join me on Capitol Hill because when I’m speaking to the legislators, it’s much better when they look and see all of the people behind me,” she said. __