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Archive for August 13th, 2013

Race in America – Past and Present: Deconstructing Reconstruction

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

The tumultuous decade that followed the Civil War failed to enshrine Black voting and civil rights, and instead paved the way for more than a century of entrenched racial injustice.

 

Article V of an 11-Part Series on Race in America – Past and Present

 By Nicholas Lemann

Children in elementary school often come home with the idea that the purpose of the Civil War was to end slavery-but if that were true, then why did it take Abraham Lincoln so long to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and why was it less than universally popular in the Union states?  

If you see the movie Lincoln, you get a much fuller picture of the contingency of emancipation, and of the difficulty of passing the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery completely-but why didn’t Lincoln and the Congress think to address at the same time the obvious question of what status the freed slaves would have after that? After Lincoln’s assassination, Congress and the state governments settled that matter by passing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which gave the former slaves full civil rights and voting rights-but why was it necessary for exactly the same rights to be reenacted, after enormous struggle, nearly a century later, during the civil rights era?  

The answers to all these questions are essentially the same: For most of American history, White America has been highly ambivalent, or worse, about the idea of full legal equality for Black Americans. Emancipation itself was a forced move, an obvious consequence of the war only in retrospect; it happened because in war zones in the Confederate states, slaves left their plantation homes and appeared at Union army encampments (they were known at the time as “contraband”), and somebody had to decide what to do about them; sending them back to their owners would be both morally suspect and a form of material aid to the enemy.

There has always been a debate about what kind of Reconstruction regime Lincoln would have instituted after the war, had he lived; his racial impulses were generous, but he was not an abolitionist until he actually abolished slavery. Reconstruction-the tumultuous decade or so that followed the Civil War-was an enormous shaping force in American history, and not just in the area of race relations. It’s worth recounting in basic outline, because it’s a far less familiar story than that of the Civil War itself, but far more relevant today.

The word “Reconstruction” is somewhat misleading in the American case, because it implies that the main challenge was managing the tension between punishing the South for seceding and getting it back on its feet economically and politically. In this instance the more pressing question was what the lives of the millions of freed slaves in the South would be like.  

Would they be able to vote? To hold office? To own property? To sue White people? Would government undertake an active, expensive effort to educate them and put them on the way to economic self-sufficiency? Merely to say that former slaves were now free turned out to resolve remarkably little.

In the period just after the Civil War, Lincoln’s vice president and successor, Andrew Johnson, was impeached for moving too slowly on these matters, and for being too lenient with the South. Then the fiercely antislavery “radical Republicans” took power, rammed through the Fourteenth (civil rights) and Fifteenth (voting rights) Amendments, maintained the presence of federal troops in the South to enforce those laws, and ran a proto-War on Poverty through a new federal agency called the Freedmen’s Bureau, which was meant to help the freed slaves. Just as the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment were enormously controversial in the North as well as the South, so too – only more so – were these “radical Reconstruction” measures.

The freed slaves never got “forty acres and a mule,” a land-reform idea that has resonated through the years but wasn’t enacted (see “Rumors of the Land”but they did get the basics of citizenship-most importantly, the right to vote. One of the most amazing achievements in the history of Black America was the creation, in just a few years, of an elaborate political machinery-Republican, of course-that produced far higher (in fact, pretty close to 100 percent) voter turnout among freed slaves in the South than the United States as a whole has now. One result of this was that the South elected dozens of Black officials to national office, and another was that state and local governments delivered, at least to some extent, what the freed slaves wanted, notably education at all levels.    

None of this was especially popular in the North and it was wildly unpopular in the White South. Most of the rest of America chose to understand Black political empowerment in the South in terms that are still familiar in conservative discourse today: excessive taxation, corruption, and a power imbalance between federal and state government.  

These arguments were more presentable than simply saying that Black people shouldn’t be allowed to vote, and they built sympathy for the White South among high-minded reformists in the North who were horrified by the big-city political machines that immigrants had created in their own backyard. Good-government reformers hated the idea of uneducated people taking over the democratic machinery and using it to distribute power and patronage, rather than in more high-minded ways. Liberal northeastern publications like the Nation, the Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s Weekly were reliably hostile to Reconstruction, and their readers feasted on a steady diet of horror stories about swaggering corrupt black legislators, out-of-control black-on-white violence, and the bankruptcies of state and local government.

The Ku Klux Klan, which began in the immediate aftermath of the war and was suppressed by federal troops, soon morphed into an archipelago of secret organizations all over the South that were more explicitly devoted to political terror. These organizations-with names like White Line, Red Shirts, and White League-had shadowy ties to the more respectable Democratic Party. Their essential technique was to detect an incipient “Negro riot” and then take arms to repel it. There never actually were any Negro riots; they were either pure rumor and fantasy that grew from a rich soil of White fear of Black violence (usually entailing the incipient despoliation of White womanhood) or another name for Republican Party political activity, at a time when politics was conducted out of doors and with high-spirited mass participation.  

The White militia always won the battle, if it was a battle, and nearly all the violence associated with these incidents was suffered by Black people. In the aggregate, many more Black Americans died from white terrorist activities during Reconstruction than from many decades of lynchings. Their effect was to nullify, through violence, the Fifteenth Amendment, by turning Black political activity and voting into something that required taking one’s life into one’s hands.

All of this was known at the time (the movie Birth of a Nation can be seen as an extended brag about the effects of these techniques during Reconstruction), and there was no mystery about what the remedy to Southern political terrorism was: federal troops. Just as in every “Negro riot” the White militia won, in every encounter between the U.S. Army and a white militia, the Army won.  

The Army was in the South to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteen Amendments, and it became increasingly clear that without its presence, the white South would regionally nullify those amendments through terrorism. But the use of federal troops to confront the white militias was deeply unpopular, including in the North.  

Remember that in the 1870s, despite the Civil War, few Americans thought of their national government as properly occupying an ongoing active presence in their lives. The country had never been entirely for full rights for African Americans in the first place, and it wanted to put the Civil War and its legacy behind it. In January 1875, troops under the command of General Philip Sheridan, the great Union cavalryman, marched onto the floor of the Louisiana legislature to ensure that representatives elected by Black voters would be seated. This incident was denounced by virtually every respectable liberal voice in the North; at a public protest meeting in Faneuil Hall in Boston, most of the leading White former abolitionists demonstrated that they had turned against Reconstruction. It’s a clear example of the idea that the past is another country-it is hard for us to imagine today how abolitionists could support emancipation but not full black citizenship, but many of them did.

President Ulysses S. Grant, perhaps out of conviction and perhaps out of political calculation (Black Southern voters were a big part of the Republican electoral base), placed himself close to the pro-Reconstruction edge of White opinion. Every member of his Cabinet was more hostile to Reconstruction than he was. But he did not feel confident that he could empower federal troops again and again to enforce black voting rights until the South finally accepted those rights. The crucial moment came in the fall of 1875 (election dates were less standardized then than they are now), when Mississippi and Ohio held state elections.  

White terrorists in Mississippi made it clear, by arming themselves and disrupting Republican political activity, that they intended to suppress the Black vote to the point that the Democrats would win. A group of Ohio politicians visited Grant and told him that if he had federal troops enforce the Fifteenth Amendment in Mississippi, it would be so unpopular in Ohio that the Democrats would win there. Grant tried to compromise by sending a negotiator to Mississippi to broker a peace treaty between the Republicans and the White Line organization, but the Democrats immediately violated the treaty, there was a wave of electoral violence in November, and the Democrats swept back to power (while the Republicans held Ohio).

The next year, militia organizations across the South copied “the Mississippi plan” for Black vote suppression, and this was one reason the 1876 presidential election ended in a tie-which was resolved by the Republicans promising to withdraw federal troops from the former Confederacy, in return for the presidency. From that point on, enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in the South grew increasingly lax.  

Whites with guns “called upon” politically active Republicans, Black and White, and urged them to move to the North or drop their political activities-and the advice was frequently taken. By the 1890s the Southern states were able legally to institute the Jim Crow system, which formally rescinded Black civil rights and voting rights, without challenge from the federal government. Through at least the first half of the twentieth century, most White Americans, North and South, understood Reconstruction to have been a miserable failure on its own terms, and even most liberals regarded Jim Crow as an impregnable fortress. In 1957, Congress passed a civil rights bill, and President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to the South to ensure Black Americans’ rights (specifically, the right to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas) – the first time either had happened since 1875.

Once your ear is tuned to hear them, echoes of Reconstruction are all around us today. The distinctive voting patterns of the South are a product of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, and the dramatic switch in the South’s political loyalties beginning in the 1960s is a direct result of the Democratic Party’s aligning itself with the original goals of Reconstruction. Reconstruction was the beginning point for most of our debates about the proper size and extent of the federal government; the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were the first important measures directing the national government to do something affirmatively, rather than forbidding it to do something.

It’s no accident that African-Americans are consistently the group with the most favorable view of government; essentially all of their progress toward full legal equality came as a result of government-specifically, federal government-action. Periods of greater state and local power were periods of at best no progress, and at worst more terror. And psychologically, the yawning gap that still exists between the way Whites and Blacks understand Reconstruction-which, unlike the Civil War and the civil rights movement, has had almost no depictions for popular audiences since the days of Gone With the Wind, but gets communicated privately inside family homes in very different ways-must partly account for what remains of the profound gaps between the races in their perception of the essential nature of the national project.  

 Nicholas Lemann a Washington Monthly contributing editor, is dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and the author of “Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War.” This article, the fifth of an 11-part series on race, is sponsored by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and was originally published by the Washington Monthly Magazine.

U.S. Senator Durbin statement on Drug Sentencing Reform Speech by Attorney General Holder

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

 

Durbin introduced Bipartisan Bill to give flexibility in Drug Sentencing on Aug 1

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after Attorney General Eric Holder announced reforms related to federal sentencing policy. Under Holder’s new policies, some non-violent and lower-level offenders would receive greater flexibility in sentencing. Durbin and Holder discussed the need for reform in federal sentencing last week.

“Mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses have played a huge role in the explosion of the U.S. prison population,” Durbin said. “Once seen as a strong deterrent, these mandatory sentences have too often been unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety. I look forward to working with Attorney General Holder and the bipartisan group of Senators that support reforming outdated laws that have proven not to work and cost taxpayers billions.”

Two weeks ago, Durbin, along with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would modernize our drug sentencing polices by giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing those convicted of non-violent offenses. If enacted, these incremental and targeted changes could save taxpayers billions of dollars.

The United States has seen a 500 percent increase in the number of inmates in federal custody over the last 30 years, in large part due to the increasing number and length of certain federal mandatory sentences. Mandatory sentences, particularly drug sentences, can force a judge to impose a one-size-fits-all sentence without taking into account the details of an individual case. Many of these sentences have disproportionately affected minority populations and helped foster deep distrust of the criminal justice system.

This large increase in prison populations has also put a strain on our prison infrastructure and federal budgets. The Bureau of Prisons is nearly 40 percent over capacity and this severe overcrowding puts inmates and guards at risk. There is more than 50 percent overcrowding at high-security facilities. This focus on incarceration is also diverting increasingly limited funds from law enforcement and crime prevention to housing inmates. It currently costs nearly $30,000 to house just one federal inmate for a year. There are currently more than 219,000 inmates in federal custody, nearly half of them serving sentences for drug offenses.

The bipartisan Durbin-Lee-Leahy bill is an incremental approach that does not abolish any mandatory sentences. Rather, it takes a studied and modest step in modernizing drug sentencing policy by:

  • Modestly expanding the existing federal “safety valve”: Our legislative “safety valve” has been effective in allowing federal judges to appropriately sentence certain non-violent drug offenders below existing mandatory minimums. This safety valve, however, only applies to a narrow subset of cases. The Smarter Sentencing Act would modestly broaden criteria for eligibility. This change, which only applies to certain non-violent drug offenses, is supported by nearly 70 percent of federal district court judges.

 

  • Promoting sentencing consistent with the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act: The bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 – which was authored by Senator Durbin and unanimously passed the Senate before it was signed into law – reduced a decades-long sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses. Unfortunately, because of the timing of their sentences, some individuals are still serving far-too-lengthy sentences that Congress has already determined are unjust and racially disparate. The Smarter Sentencing Act allows certain inmates sentenced under the pre-Fair Sentencing Act sentencing regime to petition for sentence reductions consistent with the Fair Sentencing Act and current law. Federal courts successfully and efficiently conducted similar crack-related sentence reductions after 2007 and 2011 changes to the Sentencing Guidelines. This provision alone could save taxpayers more than $1 billion. More information on the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 can be found here.

 

  • Increasing individualized review for certain drug sentences: The Smarter Sentencing Act lowers certain drug mandatory minimums, allowing judges to determine, based on individual circumstances, when the harshest penalties should apply. The Act does not repeal any mandatory minimum sentences and does not lower the maximum sentences for these offenses. This approach keeps intact a floor at which all offenders with the same drug-related offense will be held accountable but reserves the option to dole out the harshest penalties where circumstances warrant. These changes do not apply to penalties for violent offenses.

The bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act is supported by faith leaders from the National Association of Evangelicals to the United Methodist Church. It is supported by groups and individuals including Heritage Action, Justice Fellowship of Prison Fellowship Ministries, the ACLU, Grover Norquist, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the Sentencing Project, Open Society Policy Center, the American Bar Association, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Constitution Project, Drug Policy Alliance, Brennan Center for Justice, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

 

The Puzzle of the Unemployment Rate

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

 

By William Spriggs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest report on the job market on Aug. 2. It had some good news for African-Americans: The Black unemployment rate in July dipped to 12.6 percent, its lowest level since January 2009.

The BLS also reported that since August 2012 the unemployment rate for adult Black men (those older than 20) remains below its 14.4 percent level in January 2009 and was reported at 12.5 percent in July. More importantly, the share of Black men holding jobs continues to rebound from its record low of 56.5 percent in 2011 to 59.2 percent, almost equal its level of 60.4 percent in January 2009. That was the good news.

The bad news was that the unemployment rate for adult Black women (those older than 20) remained above its January 2009 level (though it did fall to 10.5 percent) and the share of adult Black women holding jobs, at 55.5 percent, is not showing much movement to return to its January 2009 level of 57.9 percent. Since more than half the Black workforce is female, it means the labor market news was mixed at best.

A big puzzle in looking at the changes in the Black unemployment rate is the fact the Black labor force is older now than during past major downturns in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. In 1975, the Black unemployment rate spiked to 15.4 percent. In 1982 and 1983, the Black unemployment rate skyrocketed to above 20 percent for a nine-month period starting in October 1982.

In terms of the overall unemployment rate rise and the drop in the size of the economy, the Great Recession downturn of 2008 was much more severe than both the 1975 and 1982 downturns, and the Black unemployment rate reached 16.8 percent in March 2010. But the Black labor force was much younger in the 1970s and 1980s, and younger workers have the highest unemployment rates (in July the unemployment rate for Black teenagers was 41.6 percent).

Today, the labor force participation of young Black workers is very low, so they do not influence the overall Black unemployment rate as much today. Only 37 percent of Black teens were employed or actively looking for work in July-that is, “in the labor force” and counted in the unemployment rate.

Among Black men, in 1975 and 1983, about one in four of those in the labor force was between 16 and 24. Today, that age group represents about one in six. So, the group with the highest unemployment rate is a smaller factor in today’s data. This downturn has driven the labor force participation of young people to all-time lows. Many have dropped out of the labor force for school (almost one in five African- Americans 16 to 24 is not in the labor force but enrolled in school), but many have just dropped out.

A little more than one in four African-Americans 16 to 24 is neither in school nor employed or looking for work). In 1975, 48 percent of the Black men in the labor force were older than 35. The 1983 downturn chased older workers out of the labor force-many choosing to retire or file Social Security disability claims-so the share of Black men in the labor force older than 35 fell to 45 percent. Today, 60 percent of Black men in the labor force (those employed or actively looking for work) are older than 35. This is the group with the lowest unemployment rate, suggesting the rate today is lower than would have been the case in 1972 and 1983 when younger workers remained a bigger share of the Black labor force. So this complicates comparing unemployment rates across time, making it a paradox that Black unemployment is high with such a high share of older workers.

Part of the resolution of this paradox is that while older workers have low unemployment rates, they get stuck in the unemployment rut. Almost 40 percent of the 2.5 million unemployed African-Americans in July have been unemployed longer than six months. This is another marked feature of the Great Recession. In 1975, the share of long-term unemployed among unemployed workers peaked at 21percent. In the 1982-83 downturn, the long-term unemployed got up to 26 percent of the unemployed. In this downturn, the share of long-term unemployed reached 44.9 percent.

Each month, the BLS also reports on the flow of workers into, and out of, unemployment. The employed can become unemployed or retire, and the unemployed can get a job, or quit and drop out of the labor force, or remain stuck looking for work another month. July continued the pattern that the unemployed were more likely to drop out of the labor force than to land a job, and the majority remained stuck looking for work. Of the almost 12.5 million unemployed Americans in June, 55 percent remained unemployed in July.

People are getting stuck because the hiring rate in the economy-the share of jobs that are from new hires-remains stuck at a low near 3.1percent. So, new opportunities are not being created to clear the backlog of people stuck in the unemployment line. Basically, the employment market is now like a still pond rather than a flowing river. Each month, few people who are employed are quitting and getting another job, and few firms are hiring new workers. In a normal market, things are more dynamic, with firms hiring and workers switching jobs. That “rolling” of the job market creates lots of hiring opportunities.

So while there was some good news in the numbers for African-Americans in the July report, the labor market remains underperforming. At the current rate of job creation, we are still more than six years away from making up the backlog of unemployed and underemployed workers. For young people, that is six years too long.

Members of Congress are back at home in their districts. Republicans appear prepared to return to Washington in September so they can hold up any discussion of generating jobs in favor of cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), and continuing the sequestration and its cuts to Head Start, housing assistance and extended unemployment benefits-programs that put money into the pockets of American workers struggling to survive the worse labor market since the Great Depression.

Despite a reversal in trend from the huge and ballooning deficits that the tax cuts to America’s richest 5 percent from the Republican tax agenda of 2001 and two unfunded wars and the greatest loss of jobs and American household income since the Great Depression, Republicans appear prepared to hold the government and the American people ransom to their fixations on “Obamacare” and the long-run cost implications of Medicare.

The president has been out to rally America so we can focus instead on the immediacy of the lack of jobs and income. Let’s hope Republicans hear the concerns of people outside Washington, not the wealthy lobbyists who want to avoid paying their fair share to clean up the mess of the economy. 

William Spriggs serves as Chief Economist to the AFL-CIO and is a professor in, and former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University.  Bill is also former assistant secretary for the Office of Policy at the United States Department of Labor.

Youth Entertainment Company – Black Streak Entertainment – makes Hollywood Debut

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

 

Youngstown, OH (BlackNews.com) — Black Streak brothers Terry L Raimey (age 27) and Justin Raimey (age 25) debuted their teen book titles and product line at the Teen Choice Awards 2013 pre-party CONNECTED celebrity gift suite that was held last Saturday. The star-studded invitation-only event was held at the legendary AVALON Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

The brothers greeted the celebrities in attendance and introduced their original teen books, graphic novels, and product line to the young stars of music, television and the big screen. The enthusiastic celebrities in attendance took pictures with Justin and Terry, and received promotional gifts from Black Streak Entertainment that included button pins, vinyl stickers, charms, silicone-rubber wrist bands and magnets.

The Raimey brothers also recruited Hollywood backer support for the Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming comedy comic book series My Sweet Lady. My Sweet Lady (or MSL for short) is created by Justin Raimey and is scheduled to publish in the late fall of 2013.

About Black Streak Entertainment

Black Streak Entertainment specializes in publishing books and creating gifts for kids, teens and young adults that are all about fun! Black Streak’s goal is to make the world an awesome place by offering products that appeal to the young and the fun at heart! Learn more about the company at www.blackstreakbooks.com

 

IEMA encourages parents to include Emergency Preparedness in Back-to-School Plans

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

August is School Preparedness Month in Illinois

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Students soon will be heading back to school and parents across Illinois are busy getting their children ready for the new school year.  As part of School Preparedness Month during August, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) encourages parents to include emergency preparedness in those back-to-school plans.

“For many parents, back-to-school planning usually means picking up notebooks, pencils, crayons and other school supplies,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken.  “But the new school year is also a good time to make sure you know your school’s plans for keeping kids safe during an emergency and for providing your current emergency contact information to school officials.”

Monken said no one likes to think about an emergency happening while children are in school or at daycare.  However, the tornado that struck two schools in Moore, Okla., in May serves as a reminder that emergency situations can arise during the school day. 

Back-to-school planning tips include:

  • Know your child’s school or day care emergency plan.
  • Find out where children will be taken in the event of an evacuation during school hours.
  • Ensure your emergency contact information is up-to-date at your child’s school.
  • Pre-authorize a friend or relative to pick up your children in an emergency and make sure the school knows who that designated person is.
  • Have a family communications plan and review the plan periodically with your child.  The plan should include contact information for an out-of-area family member or friend, since local telephone networks may not work during a major disaster.

Many college campuses offer email and text messages to alert students of potential dangers, such as severe weather and other threats.  Encourage your college student to sign-up for such alerts.  Some colleges also provide alert messages for parents so they also are aware of potential dangers at their child’s school.

Additional preparedness information is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.

Perfect Storm of Housing Ills Hits Communities of Color

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Perfect Storm of Housing Ills Hits Communities of Color

New America Media

By Anna Challet

SAN FRANCISCO – Despite soaring home prices in the Bay Area, many homeowners in communities of color are dealing with a perfect storm of housing ills.

“The Bay Area has strong pockets of homeownership by people of color – in Oakland, in Richmond, in the Bayview,” says Gloria Bruce, Deputy Director of East Bay Housing Organizations. But due to the number of foreclosures in recent years, she adds, “there are fewer homeowners than there used to be, and the homes are less likely to be controlled by people who live in the community.”

In 2011, the Center for Responsible Lending reported that homeowners of color nationwide, particularly Latinos and African Americans, were about twice as likely to lose their home to foreclosure as their white counterparts – owing in part to the fact that these homeowners were more likely to have been targeted for subprime loans.

Today, of the 6.9 million California homeowners who have a mortgage, over 2 million of them are underwater according to foreclosure database Property Radar, meaning they owe more on their home than it is actually worth on the open market. Many of the hardest hit areas in terms of home devaluation are in communities of color. Some 46 percent of the homes in the 94607 area code of West Oakland, for example — a historically African American neighborhood — are currently underwater, according to real estate database Zillow.

In addition to losing money on their property, many of these same homeowners are still grappling with the economic recession in other ways. Cheyenne Martinez-Boyette, who leads the Homeownership Program at Mission Economic Development Agency in San Francisco, says that many of his clients are struggling due to “being unemployed or underemployed,” leaving them unable to get back on their feet. Without the income to qualify for a loan modification, many could eventually wind up losing their homes. Ironically, if they did lose their home, many would be unable to afford a rental unit in their neighborhood due to rising property values and rents. For families with children in school, says Martinez-Boyette, relocating is especially difficult.

“We don’t see a lot of affordable rentals,” says Martinez-Boyette. “We have a large base of people who have lost their homes – where do they go to?”

Bruce says that with the elimination of redevelopment agencies under Governor Brown in 2011, which provided for affordable housing projects, places to live are even scarcer.

“There’s increasing concern about what people are going to do,” agrees Kevin Stein, Deputy Director of the California Reinvestment Coalition. “It’s expensive to rent and we have an affordable housing crisis.”

Investors and Cash Buyers

So, who is buying up foreclosed homes? One indicator is the dramatic increase in cash sales, which have recently accounted for over a quarter of the home sales in California, according to Property Radar. In 2007, that number was below 10 percent.

The nonprofit Urban Strategies Council found that in Oakland, investors bought nearly half of the over 10,000 homes that foreclosed between January 2007 and October 2011. Over 90 percent of the homes those investors purchased are in low-income neighborhoods.

“Investors are coming in with cash and crowding out people who want to buy [a] house because it’s affordable and rates are low, and the seller might rather deal with an investor,” says Stein.

Foreclosed homes that are “distressed” — fallen into disrepair or in need of work to bring them up to code – present another challenge for prospective homeowners who rely on loans. Stein says that, for example, if a buyer wants to use a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, he or she can’t bid on a property that doesn’t meet FHA requirements, which many distressed homes don’t. Those same homes are often snatched off the market by cash-paying investors who can afford to bring them up to code. The end result is a diminished stock of affordable housing for buyers who are looking to be owner-occupants.

Foreclosed properties in communities of color are more likely to be in distress and left vacant, as banks and lenders are less likely to maintain foreclosed properties in communities of color, according to an investigation by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

“A lot of local people are really priced out of buying a home,” says Bruce. “People with deep pockets can make cash offers, and the average local home buyer can’t compete.”

“The average middle class family just cannot afford to buy a home that’s decent, let alone low-income individuals,” she says.

Bank Malfeasance and Scammers

Thanks to the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, which went into effect in January, there is one bright spot in the landscape: both Stein and Martinez-Boyette say that they’ve seen a recent decrease in homeowners being foreclosed on while they are in the process of obtaining a loan modification — a practice known a “dual tracking” — which the Homeowner Bill of Rights prohibits.

But the fact remains that the largest mortgage servicers continue to deny loan modifications to homeowners who are qualified to receive them. Over 60 percent of federally certified nonprofit housing counselors and legal service lawyers surveyed by the California Reinvestment Coalition earlier this year said that the largest mortgage service companies continue to do this, while over half of counselors reported that the banks are offering no clear explanations for the rejections.

The same study found that in many cases, clients who spoke little English were unable to speak to their servicers in their native language or through a translator.

Martinez-Boyette also continues to see mortgage loan scams. Recently he’s seen “realtors who are trying to pawn themselves off as lawyers,” and they typically target clients with limited English proficiency.

Martinez-Boyette cites the case of one family that had hired a realtor who had falsely identified himself as a bankruptcy attorney. The realtor was charging the client an ongoing fee to assist with a loan modification, despite the fact that the client was ineligible for a loan modification due to lack of income.

For stories of Bay Area homeowners and tenants who have been helped by free legal advice, see the stories of the Castillo family, the Camelo family, and the Jones family.

Door-to-Door Sales Provides Easy Entry for Scammers, Warns Better Business Bureau

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

(From the Better Business Bureau)

 

CHICAGO, IL – The world has become more digital and consumers are buying and selling more frequently online. However, that does not mean that door-to-door selling is going away.

“Concerns about door-to-door sales abound. From product quality to product delivery there are many issues. History has taught us that door-to-door sales can be questionable because you interact with the salesperson once and never see them again,” explained Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.

“The door-to-door sales tactics are meant to be quick and trigger immediate decisions from customers,” he said. “There are honest and fair door-to-door salespeople but some of the tactics used should cause consumers to be extra wary of any promises and commitments.”

Bernas continued to speak about how research and reading the fine print can benefit consumers when it comes to purchasing products, especially from someone who shows up at your door.

“Checking out a business before making a purchase protects consumers and is exactly what the BBB has been advocating for years,” Bernas said. “Consumers can do this by going to bbbit.org

Two of the most common door-to-door sales are magazine subscriptions and contractors:

  • Magazine subscriptions. Magazine sales account for a major portion of the complaints in this category. The most common involves consumers paying for magazines they never receive. Often, consumers say the sales representative misled them by claiming to work for a local school or charity fundraiser.
  • Contractors. Often, people selling these services come into an area that has been hit by a storm or other natural disaster. Residents who are stunned by the damage left behind want to quickly fix the problems, want to quickly fix the damage and return to their previous way of life are the most vulnerable to door-to-door sales tactics. Homeowners should check with their insurance companies and the BBB about any companies offering services.

A door-to-door scam is likely to include some of these signs:

  • Fast talk: the scammer will speak quickly, giving you less time to think about making a wise decision.
  • Engaging: the scammer will make you feel like they are your friend. Don’t fall for this. Most of the time, scammers are just looking to make a sale.
  • Filling out papers immediately: a scammer will begin filling out papers before you have made up your mind, making it hard for you to say no.

Here are some tips when dealing with door-to-door sales:

  • Research the business. Before making any decisions, take the time to research the business. Look them up on bbb.org and make sure they are legitimate.
  • After researching the business, take the time to read all fine print. Do not feel you must rush to look through any information that you have. Read it all and make sure you fully understand. If you don’t understand, ask questions.
  • If you change your mind, act fast. If you spend over $25, the Federal Trade Commission’s “cooling-off rule” gives you three days to cancel for a full refund.

For more information on scams, please visit www.bbbit.org 

TimeLine Theatre Company opens 2013-14 Season with Intimate Production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun, August 20-November 17, 2013

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

  

A Raisin in the Sun_103 A Raisin in the Sun_101     
For Walter Lee Younger (Jerod Haynes), his wife Ruth (Toni Martin) and their son Travis (Alex Henderson) the dream of a new life in a beautiful home appears just beyond their reach in TimeLine Theatre’s production of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Ron OJ Parson, running August 20 – November 17, 2013 at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave., Chicago. 
 
CHICAGO, IL – TimeLine Theatre Company begins its 2013-14 season with the award-winning play that “changed American theater forever” (The New York Times).

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Ron OJ Parson, runs August 28 – November 17, 2013 (previews August 20 – 25) at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave, Chicago.  

To purchase tickets or for more information,call the TimeLine Theatre Box Office at 773.281.8463 x6 or buy online at timelinetheatre.com.

A Raisin in the Sun brings together an extraordinary array of acclaimed artists from Chicago and beyond to tell the powerful story of an African-American family living in a crowded apartment on Chicago’s South Side during the 1950s. The cast, led by

Greta Oglesby (Phylicia Rashad’s standby for the role of Lena Younger on Broadway and Jeff Award winner for Supporting Actress in a Play for Do Lord Remember Me
at Chicago Theatre Company) as Lena “Mama” Younger and TimeLine Company Member Mildred Marie Langford (TimeLine’s In Darfur and My Kind of Town) as Beneatha Younger, also features Wardell Julius Clark, Justin James Farley, Jerod Haynes, Alex Henderson, Toni Martin, Chris Rickett, Daryl Satcher and Oscar Vasquez.            

“Though written more than 50 years ago, A Raisin in the Sun -arguably the greatest play set in Chicago-has as much to say about our city now as it did in the 1950s, and our team of artists is delving into this classic in a way that intimately brings audiences inside the Youngers’ apartment and struggles,” said TimeLine Artistic Director PJ Powers. “For those who ask why we choose to tackle A Raisin in the Sun now, I point to nearly every local headline that currently dominates our news and say: Because it’s a story about Chicago-then and now and hopefully not forever.”            

A Raisin in the Sun is a poignant drama about the Younger family, who believe that a better life is just around the corner. But they are challenged when their plan to buy a home in the Clybourne Park neighborhood is thwarted by racial intolerance. This award-winning play celebrates faith, courage and the human spirit, even as it spotlights divisions that still plague Chicago more than 60 years after the play is set.            

A Raisin in the Sun had its Broadway premiere at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, and the play was nominated for four Tony Awards in 1960. Resonating across generations, it served as inspiration for the Pulitzer Prize-winning
Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris and for Kwame Kwei-Armah’s new play

Beneatha’s Place, which premiered at Baltimore’s Center Stage in May 2013.            

“It’s hard to put into words what this play means to me, and to be inside of it once again,” said director Ron OJ Parson. “It’s an ‘original’ American classic, which has changed my life forever-not only as a director, writer, actor and artist, but most of all, a human being.”

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE/EVENTS

PREVIEWS: Tuesday, August 20; Wednesday, August 21; Friday, August 23; and Saturday, August 24 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, August 25 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

OPENINGS: Press Opening on Wednesday, August 28 at 7:30 p.m.; Opening Night on Thursday, August 29 at 7:30 p.m.

REGULAR RUN: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through November 17, 2013.

DISCUSSIONS:Discussions are scheduled on Wednesday, September 4; Sunday, September 8; Thursday, September 26; Sunday, September 29; Thursday, October 3; Sunday, October 6; Wednesday, October 9; Thursday, October 17; and Sunday, October 20. For a description of planned discussions, visit timelinetheatre.com.

COMPANY MEMBER DISCUSSION:A free post-show discussion with TimeLine Company members will be held on Sunday, November 10.

BUYING TICKETS

Tickets are $35 (Wednesday through Friday), $45 (Saturday) and $48 (Sunday). Preview tickets are $22. Student discount is $10 off the regular ticket price with valid ID. Special rates for groups of 10 or more are available. Advance purchase is recommended as performances may sell out. To purchase tickets or for more information,call the TimeLine Theatre Box Office at 773.281.8463 x6 or buy online at timelinetheatre.com.

LOCATION/TRANSPORTATION/PARKING/ACCESSIBILITY

A Raisin in the Sun will take place at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave., Chicago. TimeLine Theatre is located near the corner of Wellington and Broadway, inside the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ building, in Chicago’s Lakeview East neighborhood. The location is served by multiple CTA trains and buses. The LAZ Parking Lot at 3012 N. Broadway is the closest parking and costs $6 for 1-5 hours. TimeLine also offers discounted parking at the Standard Parking garages at Broadway Center ($8 with validation; 2846 N. Broadway, at Surf) or the Century Mall ($9 with validation; 2836 N. Clark). There is also limited free and metered street parking. There are two flights of stairs (18 steps) between the street and the theater space, with no elevator.  

PRODUCTION STAFF

The production staff for A Raisin in the Sun includes Brian Sidney Bembridge (Scenic and Lighting Design), Janice Pytel (Costume Design), Joshua Horvath (Sound Design), Nick Jackson (Properties Design), Tierra Novy (Lobby Design), Alexis Jade Links (Dramaturg), Jinni Pike (Stage Manager), Tyla Abercrumbie (Assistant Director), Cordie Nelson (Production Assistant), Ricky Lurie (Costume Design Associate), Austin Pettinger (Costume Design Assistant), Conor Keelan (Sound Design Assistant) and Mac Vaughey (Master Electrician). 

BIOGRAPHIES             

Lorraine Hansberry (Playwright) (1930-1965) was an African-American playwright, author and activist born and raised in Chicago. Her best-known work, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family’s battle against racial segregation. When the play opened on Broadway in 1959, it was the first to be produced by an African-American woman, and Hansberry became the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award. Hansberry’s second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, opened on Broadway in 1963 and closed the night she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 34. After her death, Hansberry’s ex-husband Robert Nemiroff became the executor for several unfinished manuscripts, completing her play Les Blancs, and adapting many of her writings into the play
To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which went on to become the longest-running Off Broadway play of the 1968-1969 season. 

Ron OJ Parson (Director) is a native of Buffalo, New York, and a graduate of the University of Michigan’s professional theatre program. He is the co-founder and former Artistic Director of the Onyx Theatre Ensemble of Chicago, and a co-founder and co-director of Ripe Mango Productions. Parson currently resides in Chicago and is a Resident Artist at the Court Theatre. Since moving to Chicago from New York in 1994, he has worked as both actor and director. His Chicago credits include work with The Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Goodman Theatre,  Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Northlight Theatre, Court Theatre, Black Ensemble Theatre, ETA Creative Arts Foundation and Writers’ Theatre. Acting credits on television and film include ER, Early Edition, Turks, American Playhouse, Vamping, Ali, Barbershop 2, Primal Fear, Drop Squad, and most recently, Starz Network’s Boss.                         

ABOUT TIMELINE THEATRE COMPANY

TimeLine Theatre Company, named one of the nation’s top 10 emerging professional theatres (American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards®), Best Theatre in Chicago (Chicago magazine, 2011) and the nation’s theater “Company of the Year”
(The Wall Street Journal, 2010), was founded in April 1997 with a mission to present stories inspired by history that connect with today’s social and political issues. Over 16 seasons, TimeLine’s history includes more than 50 productions, including nine world premieres and 19 Chicago premieres, and launching the Living History Education Program, which brings the company’s mission to life for students in Chicago Public Schools. Recipient of the Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence and the Richard Goodman Strategic Planning Award from the Association for Strategic Planning, TimeLine has received 47 Jeff Awards, including an award for Outstanding Production nine times. 

TimeLine Theatre is led by Artistic Director PJ Powers, Managing Director Elizabeth K. Auman and Board President Cindy Giacchetti. Company members are Nick Bowling, Janet Ulrich Brooks, Lara Goetsch, Juliet Hart, Mildred Marie Langford, Mechelle Moe, David Parkes, PJ Powers, Maren Robinson and Benjamin Thiem.

Major supporters of TimeLine Theatre include Alphawood Foundation, The Crown Family, Forum Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, The Pauls Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation and The Shubert Foundation. TimeLine is a member of the League of Chicago Theatres, Theatre Communications Group and the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

Photo credit: t. HARRISON HILLMAN

Secretary of State Offices Closed Monday for Labor Day

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that all offices and facilities normally open Monday through Friday will be closed Monday, September 2nd, 2013, in observance of Labor Day.

Driver service facilities that are normally open Tuesday through Saturday will be closed on Saturday, August 31st.

All driver service facilities will be open for regular business on Tuesday, September 3rd.

Individuals can visit the Secretary of State’s website, www.cyberdriveillinois.com, to change an address, register to become an organ and tissue donor or renew license plate stickers by mail.

The Links Foundation, Incorporated launches Legacy Grant program

Posted by Admin On August - 13 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

 African-American Women’s Organization Seeks Fourth One Million Dollar Grantee

 

Washington, DC (BlackNews.com) — The Links Foundation, Incorporated launched the application process for its Legacy Grant Program. Since 1979, the philanthropic arm of The Links, Incorporated has funded transformational programs that impact lives and change communities, contributing more than $25 million to date to non-profit organizations throughout the United States. This award will be the fourth $1 million grant donated by The Links Foundation, Incorporated. Previous award recipients include the United Negro College Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Civil Right Museum.

“We are excited to select our fourth $1 million grantee,” said Margot James Copeland, national president of The Links Foundation, Incorporated and The Links, Incorporated. “The Links Foundation, Incorporated has a deeply rooted commitment to supporting like-minded organizations. It is humbling to be in a position to offer a major financial award to a well deserving organization for the betterment of our people, our nation and our global community.”

Through the Legacy Grant Program, The Links Foundation, Incorporated supports a select group of signature projects across the country, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and in Africa. The grant program is designed to provide $1 million for a large scale project. The grant supports requests for the acquisition and construction of facilities, including new construction and existing property renovation. It also supports major equipment purchases, educational funds, or other cause-related projects, and initiatives that embrace inclusive policy change via analysis, advocacy and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders that have national and international impact.

Non-profit organizations that are addressing the needs of their communities and have a history of sustainable impact are encouraged to apply. The online application is available on The Links national web site – www.linksinc.org. On Tuesday, August 20 and on Tuesday, August 27, at 2 p.m. EDT, The Links Foundation will host a webinar for applicants interested in learning about the Legacy Grant and the application process. Applicants may register for a webinar by visiting www.linksinc.org.

The application deadline is Monday, September 16, 2013 at 8 p.m. EDT. Applicants will be notified no later than December 1.

“The Links Foundation has a long and proud tradition of supporting innovative programs that address problems to be solved or opportunities to be seized that are of regional, national or international significance,” said Teree Caldwell-Johnson, director of philanthropy for The Links Foundation, Incorporated and The Links, Incorporated. “This great opportunity allows The Links to extend its reach into the communities that we love and collaborate with organizations with similar goals and objectives. Collectively, we can heighten our civic engagement and leave a lasting and positive imprint on the world.”

For more information on the Legacy Grant Program, please contact grants@linksinc.org.
ABOUT THE LINKS FOUNDATION, INCORPORATED


The Links Foundation, Incorporated, the philanthropic arm of The Links, Incorporated, has made more than $25 million dollars in charitable contributions since its founding. Working closely with its sponsors and supporters, The Links, Incorporated is focused on creating transformational programming and impacting lives in communities of color in Services to Youth, The Arts, National Trends and Services, International Trends and Services, and Health and Human Services to improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities.

ABOUT THE LINKS, INCORPORATED
The Links, Incorporated has celebrated 65 years as a women’s volunteer service organization committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the cultural and economic survival of African-Americans and other persons of African ancestry. A premier international service organization with more than 12,000 members in 276 chapters located in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, its legacy of friends providing service that changes lives, established by the original circle of nine friends in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1946, is alive and well.

The members of The Links, Incorporated are influential decision makers and opinion leaders. The Links, Incorporated has attracted many distinguished women who are individual achievers and have made a difference in their communities and the world. They are business and civic leaders, role models, mentors, activists and volunteers who work towards a common vision by engaging like-minded organizations and individuals for partnership.

With more than 2 million service hours recorded in the past three years, members regularly contribute more than 500,000 documented service hours in their respective communities annually. For more information, visit www.linksinc.org.

 

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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