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Current Events & News.

Guns ‘key’ to African American equality: NAAGA

NAAGA Vice President Douglas Jefferson believes gun violence should be remedied with a 'holistic' approach [Photo provided by NAAGA]
NAAGA Vice President Douglas Jefferson believes gun violence should be remedied with a ‘holistic’ approach [Photo provided by NAAGA]

The United States’ recent history is filled with mass shootings and a lack of political will to initiate reforms to curb gun violence. The past two months have seen two of the deadliest shootings in the nation’s history.

As of November 24, there had been 321 mass shootings in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks gun-related violence. October saw the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history in Las Vegas, when Stephen Paddock killed 59 and injured more than 500 concert-goers at the Mandalay Bay hotel.

On November 5, Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 and injured 20 at a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the deadliest shooting in a place of worship in the US’ history. These tragedies have energised calls for increased gun control legislation.

Simultaneously, the far right has seen a surge in support after the election of Donald Trump, whom they view as sympathetic to their cause. US hate crimes have risen for the past two years. Minorities have taken to arming themselves for self-defence as a result.

Gun control has been used to limit African Americans self-defence groups in the past, most notably the post-Civil War “Black Codes”, which disarmed African Americans, and the 1967 Mulford Act, which was supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and attempted to inhibit the gun rights of the leftist Black Panther Party .

Al Jazeera spoke with Douglas Jefferson, the vice president of the National African Americans Gun Association (NAAGA), a Black alternative to the NRA, about their view on mass shootings, public perception of African American gun ownership and how responsible gun control could be achieved.

Al Jazeera: What approach does the NAAGA take towards gun violence tragedies like those in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, as compared with an organisation like the NRA?

Douglas Jefferson: [The] NAAGA addresses issues of gun rights in a holistic manner, particularly in regards to African Americans. The recent spate of mass shootings are just as tragic as past shootings. However, the reflexive response of many people is to blame the guns used to perpetrate such tragedies. This is a mistake in that this response does not actually solve the issue of mass shootings in a meaningful manner.

In the case of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, laws were in place that should have actually prevented this shooting. The issue was that mechanisms of the current laws did not function properly. Adding more laws and restrictions does not solve that issue. In the case of the Las Vegas shooting, the shooter had no history of arrests, mental illness, or violent behaviour in addition to keeping his plans to himself. That kind of individual is very hard to detect and interdict without laws that violate the civil liberties of the average citizen.

Al Jazeera: The African Americans community has a long history of gun ownership in its struggle to achieve equal rights. In response, conservative politicians have signed gun control laws that targeted the rights of African Americans. How do you view modern gun control legislation?

Jefferson: Gun ownership in the black community has been key to achieving many of the gains that we enjoy today. The marches of the Civil Rights Movement and the accompanied voting registration drives in the Jim Crow South would have been impossible without the Black people from those towns who hosted the out of town marchers in their homes and protected those same marchers with firearms against domestic terrorist attacks from [Ku Klux] Klan members and white mobs. While some of the current gun control laws were well intentioned and others weren’t, I don’t think that the current gun control law structure has had the desired effect of reducing gun violence.

This is [because] gun violence is not looked at holistically. There are many factors that contribute to the level of gun violence that we see, and the presence of the firearm itself is the smallest factor. Since firearms do not operate themselves there is a human element that must be contended with. Also, one must look at the differences between street crime-related gun violence and mass shootings.

Though the outcomes of the two instances are the same (injuries and death), the two phenomena are created by different conditions with structural poverty being the primary driver of street crime-related gun violence and a lack of societal mechanisms to identify and address individuals with mental illness or emotional instability in the case of mass shootings.

Al Jazeera: Is there a way to achieve responsible gun control? If so, what would be necessary?

Jefferson: While there are measures that could be instituted to curb gun violence, there is no one broad-based policy that addresses all gun violence without severely impeding on the rights of individuals who are unlikely to ever commit such crimes and such policies do not focus on the gun itself.

There is also the question of weighing the cost of prevention policies against the rights of the greater majority who do not commit gun violence. We have to remember that with every law there has to be an enforcement mechanism for when the law is violated. Our current legal system tends to lean toward draconian punishments for crimes and, given this fact, I am not inclined to believe that a slew of new gun control legislation would be much different. Given the history of the US, I can see a situation developing where black people are unfairly targeted by such laws. It has happened before in this country and it continues to happen to this day, particularly in the case of drug crime prosecutions.

Al Jazeera: The past few years have reportedly seen a rise in gun ownership in the African Americans community. What do you think is behind this?

Jefferson: There are multiple factors contributing to the rise in black gun ownership. One factor is the level of crime [experienced] in a number of our communities. People are concerned about their safety and realise that the police are not always able to respond in time to protect them. They want to be ready and able to protect themselves in the event that someone attempts to victimise them.

Another concern is the increase in violent rhetoric and acts from hate groups like the alt-right, KKK, and Neo-Nazis. There is a history in this country of such groups violently attacking members of the black community. The past has shown us that armed self-defence is a practical response to such instances where the state cannot be there to protect you due to physics (time and space), or won’t be there due to incompetence, moral cowardice, or outright malice.

Al Jazeera: NAAGA was founded in February 2015 as an alternative to the NRA for the African Americans community. Why did the African Americans community need an alternative? What did the NRA’s advocacy lack?

Jefferson: NAAGA seeks to address 2nd Amendment rights (those that guarantee gun ownership in the US) in a holistic fashion in regards to the African Americans community. When most people think of what a gun owner looks like, African Americans don’t come to mind. Generally, this is true even amongst African Americans. NAAGA seeks to change this reality by educating African Americans on the rich history of the black tradition of arms in this country, which has been integral to every moment of African Americans self-determination which created conditions for African Americans to live as fully fledged citizens of a country that historically has not recognised us as full citizens.

Al Jazeera: How does being a gun owner inform your identity as an African Americans?

Jefferson: I am proud to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights because I know that practice comes from a long and proud tradition of arms within my community. From escaped slaves who took up arms to maintain their freedom against slave catchers to Civil Rights leaders who defended their homes and families against Klan nightriders – who would terrorise them at night after the marchers had gone home, there are countless examples of African Americans affirming their rights as citizens and human beings by embracing the 2nd Amendment. I see myself and NAAGA as continuing that tradition and bringing to life the stories of many of these individuals that have been forgotten.

READ MORE AT:  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/guns-key-african-american-equality-naaga-171124140652472.html

 

America’s shadow war in Africa

The U.S. has deployed at least 1,500 troops to the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions, with little public debate and what experts call an unclear strategy.

 

Soldiers carrying remains are pictured. | AP Photo

America’s little-known war on terrorists in Africa is becoming more perilous as the U.S. deploys growing numbers of troops to the continent’s most lawless regions, including the part of Niger where four special operations soldiers died in an ambush last week.

The escalation is occurring with little public debate — and, some military experts say, too little attention from top decision-makers in Washington. The U.S. military presence in the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions has grown to at least 1,500 troops, roughly triple the official number of American troops in Syria, according to Pentagon and White House figures.

As with Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the dispatch of hundreds of additional U.S. troops to countries like Niger, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Uganda and South Sudan is another instance where President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric hasn’t kept his administration from being drawn deeper into far-flung war zones. And the U.S. lacks a comprehensive strategy for pursuing its mission in Africa, military and intelligence experts told POLITICO.

“I don’t think there is any congressional oversight in this,” said Michael Shurkin, a former CIA analyst specializing in Africa who is now a researcher at the Rand Corp., a Pentagon-funded think tank.

He also pointed to vacancies in top policymaking posts in the State and Defense departments, saying they’ve left military operations such as Africa Command and its special operations component “pretty much doing their own thing.”

“It is not that there is a good policy or bad policy,” Shurkin said. “There is just no policy. It is inertia.”

Last week’s deadly attack has thrust into the limelight a series of dangerous military deployments that normally receive scant attention compared with the far larger military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A central focus of the mission is the vast desert nation of Niger, nearly twice the size of Texas, which has been a magnet for jihadists of many stripes, including those recruited locally and so-called foreign fighters drawn from North Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

In June, the official number of U.S. troops supporting Niger’s military as it fights the militant groups was 645, up from 575 in December 2016. But now it’s at least 800, according to the Pentagon.

Many of the troops are Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders, but officials said the reinforcements have mostly been Air Force personnel who are there to manage a surge in surveillance flights by unmanned drones and manned spy planes.

That’s a significant jump from the 100 troops that then-President Barack Obama deployed to Niger in 2013, notes a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress. “This trend has coincided with sizable increases in U.S. security assistance for African countries over the past decade, of which Niger has been a major beneficiary.”

Plans are also underway to accommodate more forces, including $50 million that the Air Force requested to construct an air strip in the northern city of Agadez, considered one of the most volatile areas of the country.

The U.S. military presence has also been expanding elsewhere in the region.

As of June, another 300 U.S. troops were operating in neighboring Cameroon, up from 285 in December, according to the White House notifications to Congress required under the War Powers Act.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Maj. Audricia Harris, confirmed the increase in American troops in Niger but did not respond to inquiries about more up-to-date U.S. troop levels elsewhere in the region.

U.S. intelligence has warned in recent months about the growing Islamic militant threat in the region that stretches from Mali in the northwest to South Sudan and Uganda in East Africa — and a number of countries in between.

“In North and West Africa, al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) escalated its attacks on Westerners in 2016 with two high-profile attacks in Burkina Faso and Cote d’lvoire,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, reported to Congress in May. “It merged with allies in 2017 to form a new group intended to promote unity among Mali-based jihadists, extend the jihad beyond the Sahara and Sahel region, increase military action, and speed up recruitment of fighters.”

Current and former military officials say the distinction between advising and combat is blurring as U.S. troops expand their footprint and increase the patrols they conduct in terrorist sanctuaries alongside local allies.

“You’re damn right they’re in harm’s way,” said a former military officer with direct knowledge of the Africa operations who was not authorized to speak publicly, “because we are accompanying the indigenous forces and those forces are fighting an active, thinking enemy there.”

The level of danger to U.S. troops had been on display even before the deadly ambush in Niger last week.

Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee, said after the attack that “this was the first attack on U.S. forces on the ground in Niger.”

But two military officers — one current and one former — with direct knowledge of the operations in Niger told POLITICO that troops had previously been injured by an improvised explosive device or mine, though it remains unclear whether Americans were deliberately targeted in that incident.

The ill-fated patrol last week was an Expeditionary Forces mission, in a part of the country where troops are trying to hunt down and disrupt convoys of smugglers who travel through Niger’s open brush land from Mali and Chad to Libya carrying arms and terrorist funds. It is one of several areas in the broader Lake Chad Basin where advisers accompany the Expeditionary Forces and other local units.

While the Americans “stay back from actual raid,” the former military officer related, sometimes advisers have been under fire.

“We would go to the last covered and concealed spot” when going along with partner forces on a combat mission and then stay back from the actual raid, the former military source said. “But of course there’s no concealment out there” in an arid landscape with little vegetation to hide behind.

But as the military effort ramps up, so have concerns that the Trump administration lacks a comprehensive strategy for the region. Such a strategy would also emphasize more non-military tools such as economic aid and cooperation with allies to strengthen democratic institutions in some of the world’s poorest nations.

“There is a tendency to militarize things by deferring to the military,” Shurkin said, adding that the military effort “should be part of a larger strategy that will include other types of assistance.”

“You will end up with this piecemeal approach — focused on military stuff but in a very narrow way,” he added, noting that the U.S. military is only training a few elite units in these nations.

A senior State Department official on Wednesday told Congress that the administration is seeking to do more to assist countries hardest hit by the scourge of terrorist groups.

Donald Yamamoto, an acting assistant secretary of state, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that the the administration’s $5.2 billion foreign aid budget next year will give priority to Mali, Nigeria and other African nations where Islamic terrorist groups have gained strength.

He called promoting these fragile states “a critical priority for the United States in Africa.”

But Congress received a warning last week that the larger U.S. military presence, along with that of other allies like the French, may already be angering local populations prone to the jihadist message.

“The growing foreign military footprint in the country appears to have fed a local backlash against both the government and Western countries,” the Congressional Research Service report said.

“One risk is that it is ineffectual and we are wasting money,” Shurkin said of the African counterterrorism mission. “We can also make things worse. Mucking around you bound to inflame things, exacerbate problems. We have no idea who these people are, which could be very, very dangerous.”

Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, who oversees all Army special operations forces, pledged in an address Wednesday to the Association of the United States Army in Washington to get to the bottom of what happened to the troops killed in Niger last week.

“I think we owe that to the American people, we owe that to the mothers, fathers, and wives of the fallen, to look critically from every echelon to see if we can do our job better,” Tovo said. “I think it highlights the fact that really every mission around the world that we’re undertaking has got elements of risk.”

Both military sources with knowledge of the Niger operations questioned just how much the missions are accomplishing.

“I would be hesitant to say we and the Nigeriens are having significant effects in that part of Niger up near Mali,” said the former officer.

“We’re having an effect,” he added. “Is it going to win the war? No, because the war will never end.

 

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/12/niger-shadow-war-africa-243695

The healthy D.C. economy is leaving behind longtime black residents, new study finds

The booming and increasingly dynamic D.C. economy is leaving the city’s longtime black residents behind, according to a study released Thursday that examines African American employment, population and housing trends in the nation’s capital.

The Georgetown University report, which culled data from several recent studies, found that more than half of all new jobs in the District between 2010 and 2020 will require at least a bachelor’s degree, although only 12.3 percent of black residents in 2014 had graduated from college. It noted the average white household in the region has a net worth of $284,000, while the assets of the average black household are just $3,500.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said before the findings were presented to city leaders and residents.

According to the report, the median annual income for white D.C. families is $120,000, while it is $41,000 for black households. Between 2007 and 2014, the median household income in the District increased by about $10,000 but remained flat for black households.

While striking, the findings largely mirror those of other recent studies. As the city becomes wealthier, younger and more affluent residents are moving in, raising housing prices and pushing longtime black residents out of the city. In 2015, the population of black residents in the District — which garnered the nickname “Chocolate City” — dipped below 50 percent for the first time in 60 years.

The Georgetown report traces the inequities in the District today to discriminatory practices that once kept black residents out of the economy. It also provides recommendations for the city to help strive for greater equality.

“One of the contributions of this report is how much it puts in one place both the history of the city and redlining and school segregation, and connecting it to how those impacts play out today,” said Ed Lazere, executive director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, whose work is extensively cited in the study. “That half of all black households in D.C. have assets of $3,500 or less — that’s virtually nothing, and it’s probably a reflection that housing discrimination years ago kept them from owning homes.”

The report indicates that one of many reasons black Washingtonians are being left behind is that after the devastating 1968 riots, many businesses opted to move to the suburbs. It also notes that black residents were often “redlined,” the practice of banks and loaning institutions refusing to lend to business owners in communities with large minority populations.

“Aspiring black businesspeople were unable to fill the vacuum simply because they could not secure a line of credit to open and maintain small businesses, stores, dry cleaners, restaurants and other outlets,” the report states.

The report recommends that the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and city agencies create a database of minority businesses that would “outline opportunities and procedures for small-business loans and training aids.” Local universities, the report says, should offer courses in the “how-tos of minority business development.”

Maurice Jackson, a Georgetown history professor and chairman of the city’s Commission on African American Affairs, stressed the need to invest in education and training programs so D.C. residents have the skills needed to meet modern job demands. Jackson, the report’s lead author, also suggested that the city invest in apprenticeship and job programs for residents returning to society after serving jail time.

Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) said that as mayor, he invested in vocational and career programs in high schools that focused on IT, hospitality and other trades.

“Why those curricula?” he asked. “Because that’s where the jobs are. That’s where they’re emerging.”

The report also traces the history and effects of gentrification, noting that it has led to a dearth of affordable housing. There are 43,000 D.C. residents who qualify as “extremely low-income,” which means a family of four making less than $32,000 a year. (Ninety-one percent of “extremely low-income” families are African American.)

Beginning in the 1950s, wealthy and middle-income families started fleeing cities, including the District, for suburbs and largely left poor people by themselves in city centers.

“This suburbanization led to economic downturn within several major cities, such as Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, creating fiscal crises due to shrinking tax bases,” according to the report. “To alleviate this problem, many city governments pursued policies to attract new investments in the city, bring in wealthier residents to increase taxable income and housing sales, revitalize retail activity and raise sales tax revenue.”

Now that wealthier residents have moved back to cities, rent increases have left longtime residents unable to afford their homes. The report recommends building more affordable housing in newly expensive neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights and NoMa. And, it says, the city should intervene before poorer neighborhoods become unaffordable for longtime residents.

“In these communities, policies should offer a path to eventual homeownership, enabling individuals to eventually purchase a unit at an affordable price,” the report states. “Rent-to-own housing is beneficial because it creates personal equity for individuals and helps lift residents from poverty.”

Black lawmaker condemns Trump, kneels in Congress to honor NFL players

Washington Post

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, decried President Donald Trump‘s comments about NFL players as undisguised racism during an impassioned speech from the House floor Monday night.

At a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday, Trump mused: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired.’ ”

Jackson Lee, who represents central Houston, demanded to know which NFL player’s mother Trump was insulting.

“That is racism,” Jackson Lee said during a special order of the Congressional Black Caucus. “You cannot deny it.”

Then Jackson Lee took a knee.

“I kneel in honor of them,” she said. ” . . . I kneel because the flag is a symbol of freedom. I kneel because I am going to stand against racism.”

Virtually all NFL players who appeared on the sidelines Sunday locked arms, some standing, some kneeling, in response to Trump’s campaign to “fire or suspend” players who kneel during the national anthem and, on Sunday morning, his call to boycott the NFL entirely. The president’s stance — which he adamantly defended Monday on Twitter — has been widely rebuked by the league, owners and players.

He also pushed back against the idea that his opposition to the NFL and its kneeling players was about race.

On Monday, Jackson Lee and the Congressional Black Caucus joined the chorus of criticism. Jackson Lee previously called on Trump to resign following his sexist attack on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, who he said was “bleeding badly from a facelift.”

“There is no basis in the First Amendment that says you cannot kneel on the national anthem or in front of the flag,” she said. “There is no regulation that says these young men cannot stand against the dishonoring of their mothers.”

Civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus, also spoke out against Trump’s comments on Monday, saying that “young people kneeling today are following a long tradition,” referencing civil rights leaders’ tradition of kneeling in protest.

“During another period, we knelt,” Lewis wrote in second tweet. “There is nothing wrong with kneeling down to stand up against injustice. It’s protected by the Constitution.”

Earlier Monday, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, condemned Trump’s attack on the NFL and Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who began kneeling during the 2016 preseason to protest police treatment of African Americans.

Richmond also called for a stronger rebuke of the president. He said he had read more than a dozen statements from owners and coaches about Trump’s “petty and prejudiced attack,” but none of them addressed the root cause of Kaepernick and others’ protest.

“They are taking a knee to protest police officers who kill unarmed African-Americans — men and women, adults and children, parents and grandparents — with impunity,” Richmond said. “They are taking a knee to protest a justice system that says that being black is enough reason for a police officer to fear for his or her life.”

In the NFL, he said, 70 percent of players are black, which means they and their families and friends have “experienced racial profiling by police that leaves too many unarmed African Americans injured or dead.”

 

READ MORE: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-rep-sheila-jackson-lee-kneels-nfl-20170926-story.html

Angry parents disrupt classes over ‘black principal in coloured area’

RACE ROW: Pupils from Klipspruit-Wes Secondary School were prevented from returning to school after the holidays because parents say they want a coloured principal, not a black one. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha

Klipspruit-Wes Secondary School pupils were forced to miss the first day of the third term yesterday when angry parents barred them from class in a protest against the appointment of a black principal.The race row over the new appointment led to parents, mostly from the coloured area, locking the school gates and vowing to disrupt learning unless the Gauteng Department of Education rescinded its decision.

School governing body member Henry Charles said the racial tension was triggered by the community demanding the appointment of a coloured principal. The community claims there is a lack of representation from coloured people in school leadership positions.

Charles, who was part of a panel which interviewed applicants for the position, said: “During the process, we were asked what criteria are we going to use with race. I stood up and said I would score five for coloureds and I’ll score four for black people.

“They said coloureds and blacks are the same and I said but this is a coloured area and they said I am being racist. We want a coloured principal cause this is a coloured area.”

The department’s spokesperson, Oupa Bodibe, said: “The department has learnt the disturbing news that the community in Klipspruit West has rejected the principal because of skin colour. This action is strongly condemned, as it runs against the non-racial principles of our society. Educators are appointed on the basis of qualification and experience.”

The school is set to reopen today following a heated meeting between the governing body, Education Department officials, the SA Teachers Democratic Union and parents.

It was decided that the department needs to re-look the new appointment and that a caretaker principal be appointed.

Speaking on behalf of four community organisations, Sharice Pretorious, said the appointment was questioned based on irregularities that occurred during the selection process.

Last year, a similar incident occurred at Roodepoort Primary School after a dispute started in 2015 when parents claimed the principal was unfairly appointed ahead of a better qualified teacher.

Read more:http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/news/angry-parents-disrupt-classes-over-black-principal-in-coloured-area-10451659

“Time For An Awakening” with Keidi Awadu.

“Time For An Awakening” for Friday 1/27/2017 at 8:00 PM (EST) 7:00 PM (CST)

“The Conscious Rasta.” Bro.Keidi Awadu joined us. Reviewing Pres. Obama’s policy impact on Black America, and some strategies to move us forward was the topic with our guest.

Time for an Awakening with Genealogist Antoinette Harrell

 

 

Activist, Researcher and Genealogist, Antoinette Harrell joined us in conversation. Ms. Harrell discussed teaching others how to research their African American Genealogy; along with her other important work of over 20 years that has unearthed thousands of state and federal documents relating to peonage that resulted in the Antoinette Harrell Collection.

 

 

AAFCA Partners With Largest Black-Owned Bank For #BankBlack Financial Literacy Program

Los Angeles – January 16, 2017 – OneUnited Bank, the largest Black owned bank in America, has partnered with the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) and BMe Community (BMe) to bring a powerful series of financial literacy videos to Black America that will underscore the importance of financial literacy, buying Black, banking Black and the genius of collective economics. Topics will include the importance of saving for the future, how to power up your credit score, millennials and money, banking based on your valued and how the #BankBlack and #BuyBlack movement can create jobs and support community development.

The series launched on Facebook, YouTube and OneUnited Bank’s website on January 13, 2017.

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