Friday, June 23, 2017

National News

On June 16, President Donald J. Trump traveled to southern Florida to announce what seems to be a partial roll back of the Obama-era policies to normalize  political and economic relations with Cuba.

Supporters of the reforms imposed by President Obama in 2014 say they are relieved Trump did not dismantle all of the reforms.

Departments of the Treasury and Commerce must now write and put into actions Trump’s policies.

Trump’s aim, he said, is to pressure Cuban President Raúl Castro and other communist leaders to allow Cuba’s private sector, especially the country’s tourism industry, to operate more freely.

Dr.  Geoffroy de Laforcade, a Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History at Norfolk State University, is among supporters of the Obama policies.

De Laforcade shared his views on Trump’s efforts with the GUIDE immediately after President Trump made his speech, with Senate and House Republicans at his side, before Cuban American exiles who supported his candidacy in 2016.

“The new policy maintains diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, keeps the embassies open, and does not reinstate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism,” De Laforcade said. “It  does not re-impose the wet foot-dry foot policy that encouraged illegal emigration from Cuba,” he said.

“It does reverse bilateral agreements on anti-narcotics enforcement, cancer research and marine environment protection, curtail air travel or cruises, preserves the resumption of direct mail service, and seemingly leaves the possibilities of expanded cultural, athletic and educational exchanges intact.”

The NSU Professor who has made many trips to Cuba and led student group excursions there said, “Cuban-Americans can still send remittances to their families. In other words, Donald Trump has actually upheld most of the policy changes enacted by President Obama.”

De Laforcade said the new policy cracks down on U.S. travel to Cuba by forcing Americans to go in groups rather than as individuals.

Also, they will be under scrutiny from the Treasury Department (OFAC) another spending will be limited.

“While it purports to restrict their use of government-owned facilities and services,” he said, “it, in fact, makes it impossible for a U.S. visitor to not commit fraud, since even the new private sector in Cuba is dependent on the government in a myriad of ways (not the least of which are credit and wholesale distribution).”

De Laforcade said the  private businesses are also heavily taxed in Cuba, and foreign ownership of property is banned.

“In my opinion, the new policy penalizes American travelers and entrepreneurs much more than it affects Cubans who are benefiting from multilateral investment and from ongoing reforms,” the NSU Professor said.

Cuba’s military, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, has significant control over the country’s economy, especially the tourism sector. And with Trump’s new plan, the president and his administration hope to prevent additional U.S. money from reaching the Cuban military.

The new policy will ban any commercial dealings with the military and security services. Although  Americans can stay in private hotels, Trump’s new  policy prohibits them from using Cuban military-owned ones.

“The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces are not a traditional military,” De Laforcade said.  “The way the state is set up, the ‘property and investment management’ administration that implements joint ventures with foreign governments and corporate entities is the Army.

“A very small private sector – particularly in tourism services – is inevitably linked to hotels, restaurants and food distribution companies that are owned and managed by military (meaning state) controlled firms. The military is under civilian control (the Communist Party), so the political leadership oversees a ‘socialized’ economy, managing assets and capital, especially foreign currency reserves, which are rarefied due to the U.S. ban on international lending and restrictions on foreign trade) that can’t be in private or individual hands.”

DeLaforcade said, in effect, Trump’s policy banning spending by U.S. citizens in Cuban companies controlled by the military or government will force visitors to violate the U.S imposed sanctions.

De Laforcade  said many U.S. businesses (including President Trump’s) “have seen the opportunity for investment in Cuba as a positive development.”

Investments could be lost and thousands of jobs eliminated, he said,  if the Obama-era reforms are reversed.

He explained that investments from Russia, China, and the Middle East have grown rapidly.

“If the U.S. government chooses confrontation over engagement, it will be harder for the government of President Raul Castro and his successor after 2018 (when he will go into retirement) to further economic reforms,” said De Laforcade.

He continued, “So it really is not in the interest of a Republican administration to rock the boat, unless the goal is to strengthen cooperation with a small hard line faction of Cuban-American legislators led by (U.S. Rep. Ileana) Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and U.S. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio.”

De Laforcade said  “the essential difference between  the policies of Obama  and  Trump is  that the former realized regime change could not be achieved through coercion, and the latter believes it can.

“I know for a fact that there is little stomach in Cuba for a surrender to the United States’ demands regarding political and constitutional issues.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

NORRISTOWN
Saturday morning, June 17, Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill finally bent to the will of the jury and declared a mistrial in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case.

“The legacy remains intact,” said Andrew Wyatt, the longtime spokesman for the legendary entertainer. “For Gloria Allred and all those other lawyers, tell them to go back to law school and take another class.”

Wyatt continued: “The legacy hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s intact, [Bill Cosby] feels vindicated.”

Jurors deliberated for more than 53 hours, several times asking to have testimony re-read, before declaring a second time that they were hopelessly deadlocked.

The judge, who seven times previously denied mistrial requests made by the defense, finally gave in and declared the mistrial.

Cosby, 79, had maintained his innocence even rejecting a friendly plea deal offered by prosecutors just before the trial started in early June.

“I’m innocent. I’m not going to plea to something I did not do,” Cosby said, during an exclusive interview with the NNPA Newswire. As he walked out of the courtroom on Saturday, still a free man, he again thanked the Black Press for being fair. “Thank you for everything. Thank you for your fairness. I’m going home.”

Bill Cosby said he channeled Nelson Mandela when prosecutors offered him a deal just before his trial for aggravated indecent assault started nearly two weeks ago, the NNPA Newswire has learned exclusively.

The iconic comedian said he recalled visiting Mandela, years ago, after the late civil rights champion had been released from his Robbins Island cell.

Cosby said he met Mandela at the cell, sat there and thought about what he had went through.

“I’m not guilty,” Cosby said, further explaining why he nixed the offer.

While a prosecution spokesman denied a deal had been offered, Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, confirmed that just before the trial began on June 5, prosecutors approached Cosby with a deal but the “I Spy” legend promptly declined it.

“We still hold to the truth that Mr. Cosby is innocent and this court should declare a mistrial,” Wyatt said Friday, as jurors entered their 49th hour of deliberations.

A source connected with the defense said that the plea arrangement that the prosecution offered to the superstar included probation, registering as a sex offender and wearing a tracking device on his ankle while being forced on house arrest.

Cosby, 79, was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault involving former Temple University employee Andrea Constand. The allegations revolve around an incident that occurred in 2004 at Cosby’s home near Philadelphia.

Cosby’s wife, Camille, released a statement blasting the judge and prosecutors.

“How do I describe the District Attorney? Heinously and exploitive ambitious. How do I describe the judge? Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the District Attorney,” said Camille Cosby. “How do I describe the counsels for the accusers? Totally unethical.”

The judge has asked that prosecutors file a new case within 120 days; District Attorney Kevin Steele said he would.

Camille Cosby also said in the statement that she was grateful for the jurors, “who tenaciously fought to review the evidence; which is the rightful way to make a sound decision.”
Brian McMonagle, Cosby’s lead defense attorney who proved his reputation as one of the best in the business, thanked the jury and judge in court.

After a brief statement that was read by Wyatt, Cosby and his team hopped into a waiting SUV and drove away from the Montgomery County Courthouse, certainly hoping to never see it again.

“Mr. Cosby’s power is back,” said Wyatt. “He has been restored.”

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Contributor

The Trump-Pence Administration is launching an  effort  to weaken the civil rights enforcement mechanisms in the  Department of Justice (DOJ) Offices of Civil Rights (OCR) in each of the federal agencies.

Sounding an alarm, activists and groups  representing Blacks, labor, LGBT, disabled and  women are calling for an effort to fight back against the Trump Administration’s  efforts.
The White  House’s moves would restrict the roles of various federal agencies which monitor discrimination against citizens based on race, gender, sexual orientation on employment or participation in contracting and other issues.

Virginia Congressman Robert Scott, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, said, “Looking at the Trump Administration actions so far and enforcement and budget, it seems civil rights is not a priority.”

Scott said the Trump Administration has curtailed grants which would give funding and technical assistance to local school districts seeking to desegregate their classrooms.

Many schools districts which applied for the grants (totalling $12 million) were told by Trump’s Department of Education that they would not be receiving them, Scott said.

He said he and other Democratic lawmakers are concerned that the Trump Administration is seeking to combine the Labor Department’s Office of Compliance with the EEOC.

These two agencies have different roles, he said. First, the Labor Department’s Office of Compliance is assigned the job of assuring compliance with federal law barring employment discrimination.

On the other hand, the EEOC acts on complaints filed by individuals and then pursues investigation and correction.

Opponents of the Trump Administration note Trump is using political appointees hostile to the purposes of civil rights, along with budget reductions that reduce staffing and other resources needed to achieve their goals.

For instance, the administration has proposed  to disband a Labor Department division which investigates discrimination among federal contractors.

According to the administration’s  2018 budget plan, the move would alter the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

The agency, now home to 600 employees, would be folded into another government agency in the name of cost-cutting.

At the  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), its new leaders have proposed eliminating the agency’s environmental justice program which addresses pollution that poses health threats, specifically concentrated in minority communities.

Recently after  20 years of service, Mustafa Ali,  the senior advisor and assistant for environmental justice for EPA, resigned after the administration’s effort to place tighter reins on his office.

That program provides funds and technical assistance to residents who are confronted with local hazards such as leaking oil tanks or emissions from chemical plants.

In another case, at the  Department of Education (DOE), its Office of Civi Rights (OCR) which has investigated  thousands of  complaints of  racial and gender bias cases over the years in public schools divisions, is being reduced. The OCR also sets new policy for colleges looking into charges of sexual assault and harassment.

The move reduces the number  of investigations   and limits travel to school districts to perform investigative work.

The Trump Administration also has been seeking to curtail the progress the Obama Administration made to help Gay  people.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)  has revoked a rule ensuring that transgender people can stay at sex-segregated shelters of their choice.

The  Department of Health and Human Services has removed a question about sexual orientation from two surveys of elderly Americans about services offered or funded by the government.

Overreach and exceeding authority are two reasons why the Trump policy makers are weakening  the Obama-era DOJ and OCR  enforcement of civil rights laws and protections.

Activists say they are not surprised. During Trump’s initial days, it was made clear  these policies and mechanisms would come under attack  and be dismantled.

Jonathan M. Smith  is the  executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.  He was the Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice from 2010 to 2015.  It was responsible for  law enforcement, correctional, juvenile justice, and mental health and developmental disability agencies.

“These OCRs ensure that  federal policy   and use of  federal funds…tax dollars … by each agency and department complies with the statutes   against discrimination,” said Smith.  “They have worked to fight against  discrimination based on  race, gender or sexual orientation for decades.”

“The Trump Administration claims that the federal government, using the civil rights laws, has overstepped on many issues related to discrimination,” said Smith.  “This is nonsense and is just an excuse to remove  civil rights protections.”

Smith said the funding and thus the powers of these OCRs was “expanded” during the Obama Administration.

Smith noted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been reining in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and its effort  to address police shootings of citizens  and voting rights.

“For Sessions,” said Smith,  “race is at the core of  his policy decisions. He is not straying too far from his  southern roots against civil rights, tightening sentencing guidelines and ignoring police misconduct, especially against Blacks and other minorities. He denies it.  But as the old saying goes ‘we know you by your action.”’

One of the most significant areas that activists are concerned about has been related to excessive force by local police, stemming from incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland.

A review was ordered by new Attorney General Sessions of the various agreements that had come about to reform police departments.

They also cite the Administration’s challenge of the Texas voter identification law which targeted minorities and DOE’s withdrawal of federal guidance allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

Yet, despite complaints and fears from these civil rights activists and groups, the Trump Administration has said civil rights remains a priority.

“The Trump Administration has an unwavering commitment to the civil rights of all Americans,” White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said in an emailed statement.

But activists retort the Administration’s efforts against civil rights are already in play.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

A circular stone wall, open at one section, rises from an open green area of the University of Virginia’s Grounds east of Brooks Hall and across from the Corner. Within this circle, a stone bench provides opportunity for quiet reflection, especially when reading the names inscribed on the interior wall – names of enslaved laborers who worked to build and sustain the University.

This is the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, featuring the “Freedom Ring” designed to commemorate the contributions of enslaved workers.

“Our decision to create a memorial to enslaved workers is an expression of our shared commitment to tell the full story of the University’s past, as we look toward its future,” UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan said.

The design emerged after months of research and public outreach to the University community, alumni and Charlottesville-area residents by the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University.

University researchers continue to delve into the issue, but already estimate that thousands of enslaved laborers worked to build and sustain UVA during its formative years.

“This memorial design is a powerful statement that speaks to the University of Virginia’s full and honest history, and its sincerity in appropriately commemorating that history,” said commission co-chair Dr. Marcus Martin, UVA’s vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity.

The interior face of the wall will be polished stone and bear the names of enslaved workers – nearly 1,000 names from the years 1817 to 1865.

Slavery Commission co-chair and history professor Kirt von Daacke and others estimate the total number of enslaved laborers at the University over that time period probably reaches at least 5,000 people.

By Anne E. Bromley,
Special to the Guide

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
Guests wearing beautiful attire greeted each other warmly as they gathered in the Kristel Room of the Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church. Elegant crystal fixtures hung from the ceiling and the deep purple decor gave an atmosphere of royalty.

The scene at the Saturday morning prayer brunch belied the tremendous hardships that many of the attendants had overcome – including the keynote speaker, Kemba Smith.

“My priority had become this man. This man that I had put before my family, put before my God, put before loving me and my dreams and goals of what I wanted to become,” Smith said. “So my crime wasn’t that I was criminally-minded, my crime was that I chose the wrong relationship.”

It is a story that is nationally known. While attending college at Hampton University, Smith’s life turned upside down after she got into an abusive relationship with local drug dealer, Peter Hall. His illegal drug activity eventually left Smith in the middle of a federal investigation. In 1995, after Hall was killed by homicide, she was sentenced to over 24 years in prison for charges that included lying to federal authorities and carrying cash related to Hall’s drug trafficking.

Although federal prosecutors acknowledged that there was no evidence that Smith used or sold cocaine and she had no prior criminal record, she fell victim to harsh drug mandatory minimum sentencing laws. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal trafficking penalty for first-time offenders involving cocaine – five kilograms or more – is a minimum 10-year sentence. If the offense involved death or serious injury, the minimum sentence is raised to 20 years.

After Smith’s story was featured on the cover of Emerge magazine in 1996, she and her family were offered free legal aid by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to fight for her release. After several failed attempts, they petitioned former President Bill Clinton for clemency, and in December of 2000, Smith was granted freedom after serving six years.
She attributes part of this success to “the pressure from the Black community,” with the streams of letters and petitions supporting her case and the tireless advocacy of her parents, Gus and Odessa Smith.

But, the fight had been tumultuous. She recalled yearning for freedom while imprisoned and pregnant with Hall’s son.

“I remember when I was in federal prison, seven months pregnant, scared to death, wasn’t sure what the outcome of my situation was going to be… I asked God to please allow me to be a voice so that I can prevent other people from going down the same path,” Smith said. “It’s not about me, it’s about saving lives and doing God’s work.”

Shortly after her release, Smith finished her bachelor’s degree in social work from Virginia Union University and went on to establish the Kemba Smith Foundation. Through her foundation, she advocates for the reform of mandatory sentencing laws and influences young adults to avoid illegal drugs, abusive relationships and crime.

“There’s some grown women that don’t want to talk about the poor choices they made – being in a relationship with a drug dealer, him beating me, him killing his best friend. This stuff is not pretty stuff,” Smith said. “But God has blessed me and given me the courage to share.”

That sharing has taken her into places far beyond her imagination in prison. Smith traveled with an NAACP delegation to Switzerland to speak with the United Nations about voter suppression laws in the United States, which largely include convicted felons. She was able to cast her vote in the past two elections, and fights for that same right for other formerly incarcerated people.

On March 30, 2016, she met President Barack Obama in a White House meeting during which he greeted formerly incarcerated individuals who had received commutations. At that time, President Obama President Obama had commuted the sentences of 61 drug offenders. And more than one thousand non-violent drug offenders had their sentences reduced.

Smith currently has power and influence of her own. As a member of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission “I’m sitting in the room with good ‘ol boy, bow tie wearing judges of Virginia and prosecutors and I have a say at the table about certain crime sentences, costs [and] policies,” she said.

With President Donald Trump in office, Smith said things have been “very grim” transitioning into the new administration. In spite of that, she is hopeful.

“It’s our hope to get this administration to continue the commutations and see the importance in that. And one of the things that’s important is sharing the stories,” Smith said. “I, for one, understand the power of sharing a story … Never in a million years would I have thought that me making the decision to say, ‘yes I’ll do this article’ … [would have] launched a movement.”

As Smith closed her speech, she received a standing ovation. The Rev. Cheryl Mercer, an ordained elder of Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church and organizer of the prayer brunch, sponsored by her Women of Worth Fellowship International Ministries, said she is glad attendees were able to enjoy brunch and fill their spirits at the same time. Mercer knows well the hardships of the incarcerated. Professionally, she is a community advocate of social justice who works through the faith based initiatives of the federal Court Services & Offender Supervision Agency known as CSOSA.

“So many of the women I work with have all kinds of situations in life – choosing the wrong people in their life, drugs, alcohol,” Mercer said. “[Smith] has such a victorious story that I knew that if I could get her here, so that those women could hear her and see what God has done, that it could transform [their] thinking.”

To learn more about Smith’s story, she has written a memoir, Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story, available on her website, www.kembasmith.com.

By Alanté Millow

MIAMI
Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest leisure travel company, announced that its CEO Arnold Donald was named the top-ranked global executive for his strong leadership and commitment to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace and for serving as an inspiring role model.

Donald topped the EMpower 100 Ethnic Minority Leaders list and was honored at a ceremony in London, presented by the Financial Times, recognizing the top 100 minority leaders in diversity over the past year.

EMpower 100 celebrates the work of Black, Asian and minority executives committed to workplace diversity and inclusion across businesses in U.S., Canada, U.K. and Ireland
“It is a great honor to be included in this year’s EMpower 100,” said Donald, who grew up in humble beginnings in New Orleans, and who has become one of the travel and vacation industry’s most influential leaders as CEO of Carnival Corporation since July 2013.

“I share this honor with our diverse team of brilliant and inspiring senior leaders at Carnival Corporation and our 120,000 dedicated employees from over 100 countries.

“We take great pride in connecting nearly 12 million annual guests with people, cultures and places from around the world to help foster better understanding and appreciation of each other.”

Carnival is the world’s largest leisure travel company with a fleet of 103 cruise ships visiting over 700 global ports.

Donald added, “We are also very proud of the diversity of our workforce and believe that the power of diversity of thinking drives innovation, which is fueled by leveraging the knowledge and creativity of our rich backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to achieve common goals.

“We salute all of the honorees this year and applaud EMpower’s global efforts to encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

During Donald’s nearly four years as CEO, the company has appointed diverse leaders to serve as presidents of its cruise line brands and in various leadership roles within destination services, human resources, marketing and sales, operations and global procurement, while promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the company and its brands.

During this same time period, Carnival Corporation has expanded innovation in all areas of its business and achieved significant growth, including doubling its earnings since 2013 and recording the most profitable year in its history in 2016.

Suki Sandhu, founder & CEO EMpower, said “Leaders of tomorrow can learn from Arnold the very important lesson that your ethnicity or background should not and will not be a barrier to your professional success.”

In 2016, Carnival Corporation was cited as one of the “50 Best Companies for Diversity” by Black Enterprise Magazine.
In April 2017, Carnival Corporation was named one of the top 100 Best Corporate Citizens for 2017 by Corporate Responsibility Magazine (CRM). The company ranked No. 23 in CRM’s 18th annual survey, highest among firms in the travel and tourism sector and the only cruise company to make the list.
EMpower scored nominees on the influence of their role, impacts on ethnic minority inclusion inside and outside the workplace and business achievements. In its first year in 2016, the EMpower 100, formerly the UPstanding Leaders’ List, honored as top executive Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent.

MONTANA
Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana was recently sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management.

The millionaire Republican was accused of body-slamming and breaking the glasses of Ben Jacobs, a Guardian reporter, on the eve of Montana’s special election for its U.S. House seat, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Gianforte pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge.

After initially sentencing Gianforte to four days in jail, Judge Rick West reduced the penalty. Instead of jail time, Gianforte must perform 40 hours of community service, complete 20 hours of anger management training and pay $385 in fines and fees.

“You accepted responsibility. You apologized,” West said, noting Gianforte’s accomplishments during his sentencing. The judge also said he did not believe the maximum fine of $500 was necessary, according to The Guardian.

Gianforte apologized to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for assaulting him the night before his election, after initially denying that he “body slammed” him.

“I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness,”  Gianforte said in his letter.

In a statement following Gianforte’s sentence, Guardian U.S. Editor Lee Glendinning said the “decision should remind all those in positions of authority that a free press, like freedom of speech, is one of the building blocks of American democracy.”

“The Guardian thanks our colleagues across the whole media spectrum, whether liberal or conservative, for their solidarity and support for Ben Jacobs over the last few weeks,” Glendinning said. “We will continue to pose tough questions on behalf of our readers.”

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
Former FBI Director James Comey, who was hired by President Barack Obama and fired by President Donald Trump, ordered the FBI’s new special agents to visit the Washington D.C. memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a discussion concerning unchecked government power.

As FBI director, Comey kept a memo on his desk written by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The memo described Dr. King as a Communist, and it requested a technical surveillance on the civil rights leader. The 1963 memo was signed by Robert Kennedy, the U.S. Attorney General, Comey said during an interview on “60 Minutes” the newsmagazine broadcast Sunday nights on CBS Television.

Scott Pelley, a 60 Minutes reporter, who interviewed Comey, said, “there is no court order. It was a signature of the FBI director and the signature of the attorney general.”
“Yep,” Comey said.”And then open-ended. No time limit. No space restriction. No review. No oversight.”

A 60 Minutes narrator said: “Some of the worst of the FBI’s history is its investigation of Dr. King. So, on Comey’s orders, FBI Academy instructors now bring new agents here [Dr. King’s statue] to talk about values lost in the pursuit of the man who became a monument.”

The camera then focuses on the face of an unnamed Black woman who said: “Character, courage, collaboration, competence. We have to be able to call on those tools in our toolbox to be able to make sure that we are correcting some of the things that happened in the past.”

“What’s the lesson?” Pelley asks Comey.

“The lesson is the importance of never becoming untethered to oversight and accountability. I want all of my new special agents and intelligence analysts to understand that portion of the FBI’s history the FBI’s interaction with Dr. King and draw from it an understanding of the dangers of falling in love with our own rectitude.

“And the importance of being immersed in that design of the founders with oversight by the courts and Congress so we don’t fall in love with our own view of things,” Comey said.
President Trump fired Comey on May 9th. President Obama appointed him in 2013.

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

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
Former NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, also former Black press executive, is launching a political career.

Perhaps recently best known as a surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jealous confirmed this week that he is running for governor of Maryland. He cited his long record of civil rights and the diversity of the state of Maryland as being to his favor.

“When I was president of the NAACP I learned just how quickly my neighbors here were prepared to move forward on civil rights. In one year, we abolished the death penalty, we passed marriage equality, we passed the Dream Act. I’m running for governor because I believe we’re prepared to move just as quickly in moving forward on our education, on employment, on the environment while continuing to protect civil rights,” Jealous said this week in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. “I’m running for governor because I believe we can do much better by our kids right now.”

Jealous is entering a crowded field of seven other candidates for the Democratic primary to be held June 26, 2018. He believes disaffection for the scandal-laden Trump administration may cause voters to lean back toward Democratic leadership after electing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November 2014. Hogan is eligible to run for re-election.

“Larry Hogan is governor of Maryland because in 2014, we had a high tide of Republican turnout and an ebb tide of Democratic turnout,” Jealous said. He pointed out that Hogan won by 60,000 votes after 125,000 Democrats who had voted in 2010 didn’t show up to vote in 2014.

“In this era of President Trump, they can only remember having a president that is competent to serve. And now they see the impact of having a president that is quite the opposite,” Jealous said. “So long as we turn out Democratic voters who are used to voting in gubernatorial elections, there’s almost no way that he can win.”

The election will be held Nov. 6, 2018. But first Jealous must distinguish himself among the crowded Democratic field. In that regard, he may just have a not-so-secret weapon. If he can win an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders, it may bolster his chances significantly.

“Let’s just see,” was Jealous’ only response when asked whether he expects to receive Sanders’ endorsement.

Sanders won 36 percent of the vote in Maryland’s Democratic presidential primary. If Jealous can win a majority of those voters; plus a significant portion of Maryland’s 45 percent Black vote, he is a strong contender to win the Democratic nomination.

But the key will be to excite the Democratic base to the polls. Jealous believes he has the record to do just that. Maryland has a 45 percent White constituency and 10 percent that encompasses other races. Jealous believes his background and civil rights record could attract a following similar to the “Rainbow Coalition” that was amassed during the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign, for which Jealous also worked in 1988.

Jealous was born in Pacific Grove, Calif. But his parents, a mixed-race couple, had met in Baltimore. His father, Fred Jealous, who was White, helped integrate lunch counters in the South. His mother, Ann Jealous, worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s. As a teenager, Jealous became steeped in civil and voting rights work and spent summers in Baltimore with his maternal grandparents.

“The combination of an activist rooted in the tradition of the NAACP and the civil rights movement and an activist rooted in the Bernie camp, gives us a broad base that looks like Maryland similar to what you saw of Doug Wilder in Virginia after the Jesse Jackson campaign,” Jealous said.

Jealous’ career has been woven with civil rights and politics. Between 2000-2004 he served as executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). Earlier in his career, he’d worked as an editor for the historic Jackson Advocate newspaper in Mississippi.

After NNPA, he became founding director of Amnesty International’s U. S. Human Rights Program. In 2008, he became the historically youngest NAACP president at the age of 35, an office he held until 2012. He later became a venture capitalist with the Oakland, Calif.-based Kapor Center for Social Impact. He also played integral rolls in the presidential races of President Barack Obama.

If he wins, Jealous,44, would become the nation’s fourth Black governor in modern history. The others were Virginia’s Gov.  L. Douglas Wilder, elected in 1989; Massachusetts’ Gov. Deval Patrick, elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010; and New York’s Gov.  David Paterson who served two years after the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2008.

By Hazel Trice Edney

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
NAACP President Cornell William Brooks says he is saddened and disappointed by the board’s decision to not renew his contract at the end of June, but he refuses to be bitter because he believes he gave his all to the civil rights organization that he loves.

“I am saddened by the decision, disappointed by the decision, but I will never be bitter about the decision because I am totally, totally confident in the record of our folks over the past three years,” he said in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire this week. “I think I gave my heart and soul.”

The organization announced in a press release on May 19 that it would not renew Brook’s contract when it expires June 30.

“Keeping with its longstanding history, and legacy, the NAACP Board announced today a transformational, system-wide refresh and strategic re-envisioning. The objective is to best position the respected national organization to confront the realities of today’s volatile political, media and social climates,” the statement said.

“Board Chairman Leon W. Russell and Vice Chair Derrick Johnson, who were elected to their current positions in February 2017, will manage the organization on an interim basis until a new leader is named. Current CEO and President Cornell Brooks, will remain at the organization until June 30th, the end of his current term.”

Brooks had received an advance letter informing him that the board may not renew his contract prior to a board meeting held in Miami May 19. But the second letter with their final decision and then the public announcement still came as a shock to Brooks, who had become known for bringing 1960s style protests, such as sit-ins, into the 21st century with the participation of millennials.

The NAACP release made no direct reference to Brooks’ performance. Only that the 108-year-old organization now faces “additional barriers” that “have been placed in our way in the forms of voter suppression: increased police brutality, over criminalization of black bodies, income inequality and inadequate health care as well as anti-immigrant sentiments.”

The organization announced that it will engage in a “listening tour” of its members for the first time in its history before it hires a new president.

“In the coming months, the NAACP will embark upon a historic national listening tour to ensure that we harness the energy and voices of our grassroots members, to help us achieve transformational change, and create an internal culture designed to push the needle forward on civil rights and social justice,” said Derrick Johnson, vice-chairman of the NAACP board of directors, in the statement.

“These changing times require us to be vigilant and agile, but we have never been more committed or ready for the challenges ahead. We know that our hundreds of thousands of members and supporters expect a strong and resilient NAACP moving forward, as our organization has been in the past, and it remains our mission to ensure the advancement of communities of color in this country,” said Russell, the chair.

Brooks, a Yale Law School graduate and AME preacher, says he has no idea where he will go from here. He easily listed his NAACP accomplishments of which he is proud. They include:
• A membership that has grown annually over the past three years and is currently up 95 percent over last year.
• Online donations up 820 percent.
• Direct mail up 20 percent.
• Social media followers growing 25-30 percent a year.
• A new partnership with Yale Law School to address sentencing and reapportionment issues.
• 10 victories against voter suppression within a year, including unjust North Carolina and Texas laws.
• He says his radical strategies served to energize civil rights activists and advocates. Brooks was arrested twice amidst civil disobedience strategies, namely sit-ins in the office of then ultra conservative Sen. Jeff Sessions. He walked 800 miles in a “journey for justice” two years ago.

“When you walk 800 miles, you sleep in a sleeping bag, talk to millennials and pre-millennials, churches and synagogues. When you have students boo you off the stage in Ferguson … because everybody on stage was old … and then you turn around and march with those same students, you have learned a lot. You learn about the importance of not just saying you’re supporting young people, but showing up. What I’ve tried to do over these past three years was show up,” Brooks says.

Most recently, the NAACP has advocated against conservative nominations by Trump, remained outspoken against police misconduct, involved in the Flint water crisis, and voting rights among other issues. “We’re in the black, we’re visible, we’re vocal,” Brooks said.

Brooks and his wife have two sons, one an undergraduate in college and one a high school senior. Though he is not certain what he will do next, he hinted that he plans to remain in civil rights.

“I don’t like this work. I don’t have an affection for this work. I love this work. And I’m going to do that. Not sure where,” he said. Despite having to leave the NAACP, he says he will not become bitter.

“If you really love an institution, you want the best for it. I want the best for the NAACP. My love for the people of the NAACP exceeds the disappointment of not being able to continue serving,” he said. “This is a painful moment, but my wife and I have prayed about it. It says in the book of Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

By Hazel Trice Edney