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Archive for November 26th, 2013

“Juanita’s Perspectives”: A New Column Premiering in CopyLine Magazine

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

(Editor’s Note: This Editorial was published in the First Issue of CopyLine Magazine, November 1990)

By Juanita Bratcher

Author, Editor & Publisher of CopyLine Magazine

It’s hard to remember many of the things that occurred during the early stages of my life. But I have a vivid memory of what it was like as a kid growing up in Georgia when I would read the newspapers or magazines or turn on the television or radio. It was a feeling of discontent, a feeling of anger, and sometimes a feeling of outrage, to see just how Blacks were projected in the media.

And never in my wildest imagination, at that time, did I entertain the thought that one day I would be part of a “Medium” that I so detested. The reason being, perhaps, was my one-woman opinion that the media engaged in stereotypical, lopsided and imbalanced reporting of the Black experience in America.

I knew – as a kid growing up in Georgia – as well as numerous others, that there were many Black role models in our community, and many “Unsung Heroes”. But the mainstream media, more often than not, focused on the criminal aspects – robberies, burglaries and murders; letting the positives go begging, whether intentional or not.

During that time, very few Blacks were seen on the “happy medium” television screen. Nat King Cole, a very talented Black entertainer, was a victim of racism when his nationally televised show was abruptly canceled.

Cole, the first Black to have his own nationally televised show, was dropped from the airwaves because of white protest. Sponsorships were canceled.

Today, however, the television industry has changed somewhat in that regard. There are many more Blacks in television roles, mainly sitcoms, but certainly more change is needed.

I can wholeheartedly relate to the first editorial that appeared in the first Black newspaper published on March 16, 1827, although it was long before my existence.

The editorial, published in Freedom’s Journal, stated: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”

In January 1859, the Anglo African magazine stated that in order for Black people in the United States to maintain their rank as men among men, they must speak for themselves, that no outside tongue, “however, gifted with eloquence, can tell their story; no outside eye, however, penetrating, can see their wants.”

Reportedly, the founding of the first black published newspaper in the United States was spurred by the New York Enquirer. A few freedmen had become adept at oratory, poetry, and autobiographical writing that had produced moving accounts in book form of what it meant to live as a slave. Some freedmen had seen their articles or letters published by white editors in the mainstream press. But then a vicious attack was made on some Black leaders by the editor of the New York Enquirer, and thus, the founding of the first black newspaper.

It is obvious that the same scenario is taking place today. Imbalance news reporting of the black community is still a stark reality. Black leaders are being attacked on every front; some deservingly so, yet many undeserved.

Between 1827 and 1865, 40 struggling black newspapers sprung up, all dedicated to the anti-slavery abolitionist movement.

Over the years, voices from the black community have criticized the mainstream media’s unfair reporting of the black community, the small percentage of minorities working in the industry, and the fact that very few minorities are in key decision-making positions. However, very little change, if any, has been made.

While the media have put Corporate America under close scrutiny for discriminatory practices against minorities – which is commending – it has failed to place its own industry under the same kind of scrutiny.

The Kerner Commission report, released in March 1968, reported that “Along the country as a whole, the press has too long basked in a white world, looking out of it, if at all, with white men eyes and a white perspective.”

The report also stated that “It is no longer good enough,” that “the painful process of readjustment that is required of the American news media must begin now.”

Perhaps the advice fell on deaf ears, because 22 years later, things have not changed very much.

In a published report some years ago, Carl Rowan, a renowned Black journalist, said that Black America is being “shafted” by the media, which does not employ blacks adequately, and which Blacks do not exploit to their best interest.

In that assessment of the media, Rowan alluded to a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Report which stated that minorities and women are misrepresented on the television screen and under-represented in jobs behind it.

In a 1984 study conducted by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), it was revealed that the news industry was still largely segregated – that more than 60 percent of the daily newspapers in America employ no minority journalists; less than six percent of journalists working on daily newspapers are minorities; 92 of the nation’s newspapers have no minorities in news-executive positions; and only 13 percent of broadcasting professionals are minorities.

Four years later (1988), ASNE conducted yet another study of the news industry. Statistics showed that very little, if any improvement was made in regards to minority hiring practices in the mainstream media.

The 1988 report found that 54 percent of daily newspaper newsrooms in the United States do not employ one minority professionals, that minorities make up only 7.54 percent of 56,200 newsroom professionals, and that the total industry employment of minorities is 16 percent.

The news industry is a powerful entity. It has a “Profound” impact on public opinion.

Former Vice President Spiro Agnew, a constant critic of the media, once stated: “No medium has a more profound influence over public opinion” than network television over which the three networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) have a “virtual monopoly.”

Critics of network television argue that news the public will see is determined by a handful of people, responsible only to their corporate employers who wield a free-hand in selecting, presenting and interpreting the great issues of the nation with broad powers of choice over which news pictures to select and which to reject.

Further, this small group of executive producers and correspondents can, by selecting the news, “create national issues overnight,” can make or break an individual, group, corporation or whatever; can elevate men from obscurity to national prominence, and can give national exposure to some, and ignore others, critics said.

The black community has long been victim of “selective” news reporting. And, it appears that things won’t change anytime soon. That’s why it is important that black publications, black radio, and black television, for that matter, take their rightful places within the news industry to try and fill the “balanced void.”

As for CopyLine Magazine, we will work toward balancing the imbalanced.

Juanita Bratcher is an Award-Winning Journalist, the Publisher of www.copylinemagazine.com and the author of several books, songwriter and poet. She has been a Journalist for more than 37 years covering politics, education and a wide-range of other topics.

Madigan: AT&T, Sprint & T-Mobile to stop billing for cell phone ‘Cramming” Charges

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined with 44 other attorneys general to announce that three of the nation’s largest mobile phone carriers – AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile – will stop charging their customers for premium text messages and effectively put an end to practice of cell phone “cramming” that racks up unauthorized third-party charges on mobile customers’ accounts.

The announcement is a breakthrough in the fight by Madigan and other states to put a stop to cell phone cramming. Commercial Premium Short Messaging Services, or PSMS, accounts for the majority of third-party charges on cell phones and for the overwhelming majority of cramming complaints reported to Madigan’s office.

“This development is a major victory for consumers,” Madigan said. “Eliminating charges for premium texts will go a long way toward preventing scammers from illegally profiting by sneaking unauthorized charges onto our monthly cell phone bills.”

Cramming happens when third-party vendors use people’s phone numbers much like a credit card. Vendors add charges to phone bills for bogus products or services, such as celebrity gossip items, horoscopes and joke-of-the-day offerings, which consumers and businesses never requested – and never used. But because the charges are unauthorized, consumers rarely, if ever, detect the scam, allowing the scammer to illegally profit for months at a time.

Wireless cramming has become an emerging source of consumer fraud, much like it did on landline phones before the practice was banned in Illinois. In 2012, Madigan drafted and negotiated a law that banned unauthorized charges on landline phones, making Illinois only the second state in the nation to ban the practice on wired phone lines. But as more people use cell phones as their primary phones, scam artists are now migrating to wireless billing schemes, prompting the need for stronger consumer protections.

The Attorney General’s office has filed 30 lawsuits against crammers. Among the most glaring targets for these scams was cited in Madigan’s 2009 lawsuit against US Credit Find Inc., a Venice, Calif.-based operation, which crammed a Springfield public library’s dial-a-story telephone line.

Attorney General Madigan has been an outspoken advocate for a nationwide ban on phone bill cramming, having testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on the matter and calling on the Federal Trade Commission to address the growing problem of cell phone “cramming” as it conducts a national examination of trends involving unauthorized charges on mobile phone bills.

For more information on how to protect against phone bill cramming or to report being scammed, contact Attorney General Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Hotlines:

Chicago 1-800-386-5438
Springfield 1-800-243-0618
Carbondale 1-800-243-0607

AARP introduces free Health Care Costs Calculator for Retirement Planning

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Only One Third of Americans Close to Retirement Age Have Taken Steps to Save for Major Expense

WASHINGTON, DC -  AARP launched a free online Health Care Costs Calculator, a major addition to their Ready for Retirement suite of planning tools. In a survey accompanying the release of the calculator, AARP found that just one third (36 percent) of older Americans have taken any steps to save for out-of-pocket health care expenses, though multiple studies show that such costs often reach significantly more than $200,000 for a retired couple.

The new tool is available to all at www.aarp.org/healthcostscalc.

“The free Health Care Costs Calculator can play an important and often overlooked role as families and individuals plan for retirement,” said AARP Vice President for Financial Security Jean Setzfand. “Health care costs can have a significant impact on retirement savings. With this calculator, AARP aims to help more Americans confidently plan for and achieve retirement goals.”

The Health Care Costs Calculator estimates health costs in retirement by utilizing a database that includes $136 billion in costs from actual health care claims. Individuals can select from 82 medical conditions to estimate how much they may need to spend on out-of-pocket health care costs. The calculator also assumes that individuals will be eligible for and select Medicare Parts A, B and D.

After estimating costs with the calculator, users can create a customizable action plan to help save for health care in retirement and make impactful changes in their lives that include planning, saving, and making healthy changes. For example, if a person has “get to a healthier weight” as a goal, the tool will offer possible next steps for pursuing that goal.

The Health Care Costs Calculator requires no registration and collects no personal data on any user. To learn more about the tool visit http://www.aarp.org/healthcostscalc.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates.  The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org

Chicago police officer charged in connection with 2012 off-duty shooting

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

A Chicago police officer has been charged with Involuntary Manslaughter and other felony offenses in connection with an off-duty shooting of a 22-year-old south suburban woman near a park on Chicago’s West Side in March of 2012.

Dante Servin, 45, of Chicago, is charged with Involuntary Manslaughter, Reckless Discharge of a Firearm and Reckless Conduct in connection with the shooting death of Rekia Boyd, who was walking with a group of friends near Douglas Park when she was shot by Servin in the early morning hours of March 21, 2012.

The charges were announced today by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez following a lengthy investigation by the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).

Servin turned himself in to authorities this morning and he appeared in bond court at the George Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago where his bond was set at $75,000. Servin’s next court date is December 16th. Servin, who is a Detective, has been employed full time as a Chicago police officer since December of 1991.

“It is a sad and difficult day for law enforcement when an incident such as this occurs and criminal charges are warranted,” said State’s Attorney Alvarez. “But this defendant’s reckless decisions and conduct in opening fire in an occupied alleyway caused the violent death of an innocent woman whose life was cut far too short by this senseless tragedy.”

Servin, who lived in the vicinity of Douglas Park near 15th and Albany, was going home on March 20 at approximately 11:45 p.m. when he observed a large crowd of people congregating at or near the park. Servin, who was off duty and in plain clothes, entered his home and called 911 from his cell phone, reporting that there was a “…huge party, drinking, fighting, smoking drugs. There are 200 -300 people and I’m afraid that something bad is going to happen.”

According to prosecutors, Servin then left his home at approximately 1 a.m. to get something to eat. At the time, he was carrying an unregistered, fully-loaded Glock 9mm semi-automatic in a holster on his right hip.

At about the same time that Servin left his home, Rekia Boyd walked out of Douglas Park together with three individuals and the group began walking south on Albany.

According to prosecutors, as Boyd and her companions neared an alley near 15th Place, they encountered Servin, who was driving by with his window down. Servin slowed his vehicle as he neared the group and admonished them to be quiet. A male member of the group shouted back at Servin as the off-duty officer continued to pull his car out of the alley and began to turn the vehicle onto the street. The other male member of the group held a cell phone in his hand and also shouted at Servin and waved the cell phone in Servin’s direction.

According to prosecutors, Servin, while still seated in his car and either stopped or moving very slowly, pulled the weapon from his holster and pointed it across his body over his left shoulder and out the window, firing five rounds in the direction of the man with the cell phone and the other three individuals.

Rekia Boyd, who had her back to Servin’s vehicle and was continuing to walk across the alley, was struck by one round in the back of her head. Another one of the shots fired by Servin struck the right palm of the male who had been holding the cell phone.

After firing the shots, Servin exited his car with his gun still drawn and used his cell phone to call 911 at 1:05 a.m. to report the shooting. Boyd was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital where she died the following day as a result of her injuries. The male with the cell phone was treated and released for a graze wound to his hand.

The public is reminded that criminal documents contain allegations that are not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the state has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

State announces a multi-million dollar settlement with Midland

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Illinois Department of Insurance led the investigation that resulted in settlement

CHICAGO, IL – Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) Director Andrew Boron  announced an agreement with Midland National Life Insurance Company and North American Company for Life and Health Insurance (collectively “Midland”) as part of a multi-million dollar settlement with several states regarding its use of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF). Under the settlement, Midland will pay $3.3 million dollars to states that are a party to the settlement.

DOI served as the principal lead in this investigation, with support of insurance regulators from Florida, California, New Hampshire, Iowa, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Under the agreement, Midland will implement business reforms to promote a timely and efficient search for the beneficiaries of both its in-force life insurance policies and annuities using the DMF.

“I am pleased that another company has stepped forward to do the right thing and to timely locate and pay benefits owed under its policies. We will continue to aggressively pursue these examinations on behalf of consumers in Illinois,” said DOI Director Boron.

The settlement with Midland is the latest result of multi-state market conduct examinations (investigations) of the forty largest life insurers regarding the timely payment of proceeds to beneficiaries of life insurance policies and annuities. These life insurers and the other smaller insurers who have settled, which represent more than 50% of the market, will regularly match all of its insureds and annuitants against the DMF to help promptly identify when an insured has died, to locate and make payment to beneficiaries.

A copy of the Midland settlement agreement is available at http://insurance.illinois.gov/Home/ImpLinks.asp. Consumers who have any questions regarding this settlement, or who have any questions or concerns about their insurance, may contact DOI’s Consumer Division on the website at http://insurance.illinois.gov or by calling 866-445-5364.

5 things you must do to have a profitable bodacious business

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Karen Taylor Bass, PR Expert/Strategist to Celebrities, Talks PR Tips


New York, NY (BlackNews.com) — According to TheRoot.com – African Americans starting a business grew 3 times the national rate, however, the challenge was staying in business longer than a year. Entrepreneur magazine says, “Karen Taylor Bass, PR Expert, can take a brand from a whisper to a scream.”

“Most of us prepare to launch a business however we don’t create a plan to stay in business and compete. It’s my passion to teach a client the magic of gaining media exposure and growing their brand on a shoestring budget,“ says, Karen Taylor Bass, PR Expert.

Taylor Bass has created media campaigns for Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott, Mariah Carey, D’Angelo, NBA stars Ray Allen and Chris Webber to name a few. Jill Scott says, “KTB has taken me from relative obscurity to notoriety starting with my first album, Who Is Jill Scott? Also, Taylor-Bass’ best-selling book, You Want Caviar But Have Money for Chitlins: A Smart Do-It-Yourself PR Guide for Those on A Budget ($15.95, Amazon) offers public relations and branding tips from writing a press release to pitching the media on a budget.

Karen Taylor Bass’ signature strategic PR coaching session to analyze one’s business, devise a plan, and stay accountable for 90 days is her most requested service. A coaching session with Taylor-Bass is $250, 1 hour via phone. Her clientele include small businesses, entrepreneurs, and corporations. Emmy-Award winning journalist, Sherrie Johnson, CEO of SAJ Media, says, “I really enjoyed my coaching session with Karen. She opened my eyes to new things for my company, SAJ Media LLC. Another client, Al Johnson, commented, “If you want to take your brand to the next-level, give her one hour on the phone.” To reserve a coaching session – visit www.thebrandnewmommy.com/blog/293-2/.

Karen Taylor Bass, PR Expert, has been featured and quoted in numerous media outlets: Entrepreneur magazine; NBC Today New York; BET; ABC-TV; CNN.com; Fox; Black Enterprise; Essence; Ebony; The Grio.com; Philadelphia Daily News; Madamenoire; New York Daily News; and countless others.

Here are some sure-fire ways to get your brand noticed and market one’s business to STANDOUT:

1) Create a plan. When you think big, you get big.

2) Know your niche. Understand what makes you different and sell it.

3) Talk the talk. Devise a winning elevator pitch and practice it until it sticks.

4) Set your price and get paid what you deserve. No explanation needed.

5) Hire a PR Coach. Reserve a 1- hour coaching session with Karen Taylor Bass, PR Expert and watch your brand grow in 90 days.

To learn more about Karen Taylor Bass, PR Expert and schedule a coaching session to take your brand to the next level, contact TaylorMade Media, 516-537-8591, prexpert@taylormademediapr.com; visit www.thebrandnewmommy.com/blog/293-2/ to book your session today!

Visit www.karentaylorbass.com and www.taylormademediapr.com.

Photo Caption: PR expert Karen Taylor Bass (right) was recently featured on ABC-7 to talk about marketing and PR

Paulus – A Spiritual Tug of War

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Motti Lerner’s PAULUS - A World Premiere, now playing through December 15th

Set between 58 A.D. and 64 A.D., PAULUS imagines the Apostle Paul, who bridged Christianity from a Jewish sect to a global religion. Framed as an intra-Jewish debate, Paul’s quest to universalize monotheism provokes strong opposition from the Jewish Establishment, the Jerusalem Church, the Emperor Nero, and a skeptical 62 year old Jesus.

Tickets are $35 each.  Groups of 10 or more receive 40% discount ($21 per ticket only!).  To purchase tickets and to learn more, visit www.silkroadrising.org or call 312-857-1234 x201.

Performances are Thursdays through Sundays.  All performances held at Silk Road Rising’s permanent theatre venue in Pierce Hall at The Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W Washington St, Chicago.

The location is easily accessible by major RTA and CTA routes.  If driving, take advantage of $8 parking arrangement with Self Park, 230 W Washington St (building with Cosi restaurant).

Kerry Reid of Chicago Tribune writes, “Call it The Last Temptation of Paul…a fantasia that combines loose historical context with intense religious debate…the philosophical context of Lerner’s show is fascinating.”

Tom Williams of ChicagoCritic.com concurs and says, PAULUS “is daring, provocative and enticing work…I found it theatrically appealing…it sure challenges us to think, analyze, and consider the nature and essence of our beliefs.”

Hedy Weiss of Chicago Sun-Times adds, PAULUS “is receiving a richly atmospheric production… artfully directed by Jimmy McDermott, the cast is strongly led by Daniel Cantor as the brutally abused Paulus, with Anthony DiNicola as his sweet, Sancho Panza-like attendant.”

Michael J. Roberts of Showbiz Chicago agrees, “Director Jimmy McDermott has brought together a first rate cast to tell the story, especially with this leading man, Daniel Cantor who turns in a complex and emotionally riveting performance as Saul.”

Lauren Whalen of Chicago Theatre Beat appreciates the design of PAULUS: “Rebecca A. Barrett’s lighting is gloriously moody, a perfect match for Peter J. Storms’ original score, an innovative blend of traditional Jewish and Christian musical forms and American shapenote singing.  Dan Stratton’s set and Jesse Gaffney’s props incorporate PVC pipe in incredible ways, and Paulus’ bright red garb speaks well to costume designer Hiltner.”

What does all the praise add up to?  As Bonnie McGrath, ChicagoNow, says, “If you’ve ever wondered what life was like in Judea/Rome after the Resurrection, during the time of Paul’s Apostolic journey, you MUST see Silk Road Rising’s PAULUS asap! You won’t believe how creative and interesting this play is…”

Greening the Hood: Is Clean Energy Reaching Poor Communities?

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Greening the Hood: Is Clean Energy Reaching Poor Communities?

Oakland Local/New America Media
By Eric K. Arnold

Above photo: Grid Alternatives installed solar panels on Oakland resident Adama Mosley’s house after she qualified for 100% financing.

Ed’s note: Consistently ranked among the “Greenest Cities in America,” Oakland is known for its commitment to sustainability, its green businesses, and numerous environmental and community organizations. But how far has the green revolution extended to low-income residents, who live in the city’s pollution hotspots? In part one of this two-part series, Oakland Local reporter Eric K. Arnold examines the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy for low-income residents, as well as the challenges to more widespread adoption.

OAKLAND, Calif. — For Adama Mosley, a resident of the West Oakland neighborhood known as “Ghosttown,” having solar panels installed on her home was “a dream come true.” Mosely had long been concerned about pollution from freeways and nearby brownfields (contaminated former industrial sites), contributing to the area’s high levels of asthma.

“I wanted to … do something to help clean up the neighborhood,” she said.

She also wanted to save money. A grandmother who is raising three adolescent grandchildren, Mosley’s electric bill consumed a disproportionate amount of her monthly income—as much as a quarter, she says. Paying the bill each month took a sizeable bite out of her fixed income. Mosley says she had a solar installer look at her property a while back, but was put off by the high costs.

For a typical household, a complete solar system runs between $15,000—$20,000, not including roof repairs, which can add another $10,000 to the cost. In Mosley’s neighborhood, the annual household median income is under $26,000, making solar all but impossible for most residents.

Solar seemed out of reach for Mosley until one day four years ago, when she was contacted by Jahahara Alkebulan-Ma’at, the Bay Area outreach coordinator for Grid Alternatives, a national nonprofit that does solar installations for low-income households.

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Alkebulan-Ma’at says he often goes door-to-door in neighborhoods like Oakland’s Ghosttown, visiting residents to see if they qualify for Grid’s services. When he told Mosley she might be eligible for no-cost solar installation, she said she felt elated.

“I couldn’t believe that someone was actually doing something,” she recalled.

Unlike some of her neighbors, Mosley owned her own home, wasn’t facing foreclosure, and had a roof in good condition.

“Solar by itself won’t do it all,” Alkebulan-Ma’at explained. “We’re not gonna put solar on a bad roof,” he said, noting that roof repairs are often needed in low-income communities.

Mosley diligently filled out the extensive paperwork required to become a Grid client, and qualified for 100% financing, which the nonprofit cobbled together through a state rebate and a grant from a neighborhood group, the West Oakland Project Area Committee (WOPAC).

The power generated from her solar panels practically wiped out her monthly electricity bill – which dropped from about $350/month to $5/month. The cost savings help, but she adds, the big payoff for her was being able to reduce her carbon footprint and break “a circle of pollution.”

Mosley’s investment in solar panels reduces her electricity costs and comes from a source that doesn’t make the air in her neighborhood – which already has pollution problems – worse.

Clean energy can reduce pollution

In nearby East Oakland, the Hegenberger Corridor is a major transportation route — including diesel trucks — with over 218,000 vehicle trips a day. Combined with the area’s many industrial sites, residents here are burdened with high levels of pollution, contributing to soaring asthma rates that are as much as 200 percent higher than that for Alameda County.

The state EPA has placed East and West Oakland in the top 10 percent of the most polluted neighborhoods in the state, according to its Enviro-Screen tool. Residents in these communities, who are mostly black, Latino, and low-income, have fewer resources to deal with the pollution and, studies show, poor people pay a disproportionate amount of their income for utilities.

Reducing energy use through increased efficiency and getting more energy from cleaner, renewable sources does much to reduce pollution; it also can bring potential energy savings. Despite the benefits, minority and low-income residents face barriers in pursuing green energy options.

“Solar is not really affordable for folks that live in low-income communities,” explained Nehanda Imara, the East Oakland coordinator for Communities For a Better Environmentwww.cbecal.org/, a non-profit environmental organization. “In deep East Oakland, I’ve seen one, maybe two houses with solar in the flatlands,” Imara said.

In contrast to more affluent areas of Oakland or nearby Berkeley, rooftop solar installations are uncommon among East and West Oakland flatland residents. This isn’t surprising, considering that the median income in one heavily polluted corridor in the Hegenberger area is under $33,000 annually.

Vien Truong, environmental equity director for the Berkeley-based Greenlining Institute, which advocates for communities of color, says that “solar financing is out of reach” for low-income households, who often don’t qualify for home improvement loans. “Even if you own your own home, you can’t put that much investment” into solar energy, Truong says, an expense which, she notes, “takes years to recoup.”

Little help from the private sector

As rooftop solar has become more popular among homes and businesses, installation costs have fallen, decreasing by almost 30 percent since 2007. Yet even with the lower cost, solar is still too costly for many homeowners and business owners. And, while there has been a boom in solar installation companies in California in recent years, most do not target low-income households.

At a street fair this past July in North Oakland, A1 Sun, a Berkeley-based solar installation company whose motto is “power for the people,” greeted passers-by, extolling the benefits of solar power for homeowners. Yet when asked if A1 Sun’s services were available for low-income customers, CEO Larry Guistino bluntly stated that his company is too small to offer discounts, referring this reporter to larger companies like Sungevity and Solar City.

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Will Craven, PR manager for Solar City’s Redwood City office, says that his company’s “entire mission is geared around making solar electricity as affordable as possible.” However, he conceded that the company does “not have a specific program for lower-income customers.”

‘Community-building’ through renewable energy

Grid Alternatives is one of the few community organizations bringing solar to impoverished neighborhoods in Oakland. The nonprofit, which serves as program manager for the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Single-family Affordable Solar (SASH) program, partners with municipalities, state agencies, and affordable-housing developers such as Rebuild Together and Habitat for Humanity to offer solar installation for zero or little cost to qualified applicants. Homeowners like Mosley, whose income is less than 50 percent of the area household median, can qualify for no-cost installation, while those whose income is less than 80 percent of the area household median can qualify for substantially-reduced-cost installation.

According to Mary Biasotti, Grid’s Bay Area regional director, to date the organization has performed 171 installations in Oakland, mostly in West and East Oakland. That represents 376,000 kilowatts of solar, which she says is equivalent to the air quality benefits of planting 260,000 trees.

One of the challenges impacting wider adoption of solar power in low-income neighborhoods, Biasotti says, is convincing residents “they can be part of the green movement” – a privilege often perceived as reserved for affluent homeowners.

Sometimes, trying to sell low-income residents on solar means appealing to their pocketbooks.

Jahahara Alkebulan-Ma’at has been working with Grid since 2008, doing outreach in communities like West Oakland’s Ghosttown, Richmond’s Iron Triangle, and San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point – neighborhoods collectively referred to as the “Toxic Triangle” by environmental justice advocates. His pitch to residents of these communities usually involves projecting the savings in utility bills from solar installation (“mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money,” he says); he’s been known to reference Teddy Pendergrass’ 1979 hit “Turn Off the Lights” to drive home the message of energy efficiency.

More than just offering energy savings and utility relief, Alkebulan-Ma’at says, “the result of our work has been community-building.” Last year, he notes, Grid hosted a “solar-thon,” where over 300 volunteers participated and 10 installations were completed in one day. Besides helping to educate people about the benefits of renewable energy, he says, collective installations bring “positive energy to the community.”

Bayporte Village is one such community. Formerly known as Acorn Village, the West Oakland residential area was rife with open-air drug sales and other rampant criminal activity, before being redeveloped by the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation in 2000. Today, Bayporte Village is a quiet residential area with much lower crime.

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Numerous studies have examined the impact of blight reduction on crime in neighborhoods. A 2011 study from the University of Michigan noted “Beautifying and maintaining” vacant or blighted property “can be an effective crime prevention strategy.”

Bayporte’s 71 units were styled with a quaint, suburban look; solar panels installed by Grid Alternatives are visible from numerous rooftops throughout the development, serving as a symbol of the transformation of the neighborhood from a blighted area to a revitalized community.

Residential solar funding programs at capacity

Residential solar projects represent a win-win scenario for low-income residents: they save on energy costs, clean up the environment, add to property values, and can help communities shed the stigma of crime and blight.

In 2004, then-Governor Schwarzenegger called for the construction of a million solar homes by 2017. In recent years, there has been a statewide push to bring affordable solar to low-income communities. In 2007, the CPUC launched the California Solar Initiative (CSI), which put $2.3 billion toward incentive programs and subsidies for solar installation for both single-family and multi-family homes, as well as businesses.

Yet while the CPUC touts CSI as a success—more than 135,000 solar installations have been completed since it launched —low-income communities of color continue to be underserved. Just 10 percent of the CSI budget went to low-income residential households and multi-family dwellings.

As of June 2013, CSI’s Multi-Family Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program has completed less than 300 projects statewide – a drop in the bucket, compared to the millions of residents in multi-family housing; Almost 100 MASH projects are pending, and there is currently a waitlist for new applicants.

The SASH program’s residential solar component is also at capacity, and while it’s done 3,200 rooftop solar installations statewide in low-income households – about 500 applications have been wait-listed, Biasotti says.

Solving the energy equation

Energy advocates say significant challenges lie ahead if affordable renewable energy and widespread adoption of energy efficiency are to become a reality in low-income communities of color. By far the biggest hurdle to solar in these communities is the lack of home ownership; in multi-family residences, landlords typically don’t pay utility bills.

Programs like MASH and SASH were developed with good intentions, but without “adequate resources to impact what’s needed,” said Al Weinrub of the Local Clean Energy Alliance, an Oakland-based grassroots advocacy organization.

In Vien Truong’s view, solving the energy equation for low-income communities is a complex problem that needs to be addressed with economic as well as environmental factors.

“How do we solve property and pollution at the same time?” she said. “How do we improve air quality in West Oakland?… How do we get [residents of these communities] into a career-track job?”

While there are no quick and easy answers to those questions, there are some encouraging signs. The SASH and MASH programs were recently extended for another five years, ensuring continued access to affordable solar for low-income communities, at half the cost of the previous initiative.

And the CPUC is addressing the multi-family residence issue by rolling out a pilot program in 2014 which provides incentives to landlords for energy efficiency measures — including rooftop solar, reducing asbestos and lead-based materials, and more efficient windows — as well as roof repairs for low-income families.

Even so, some advocates say, those programs won’t meet the needs of all the low-income residents who could benefit from them.

“If you’re going to have programs and policies that are gonna work, they’ve gotta work for that segment of the population,” Weinrub said. “None of this stuff works unless the community is engaged.”

This work was supported by a 2013 New America Media Energy Reporting Fellowship in collaboration with SoundVision Productions’ Burn: An Energy Journal.

PurchaseBlack.com, the new home for African American Online Shopping, is launching its marketplace on Black Friday, November 29, 2013

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Purchase Black is launching its African American focused online marketplace on Black Friday, making products from multiple Black owned & Black servicing businesses available through webstores on its ecommerce marketplace


Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — PurchaseBlack.com, the home for African American online shopping, is launching its online marketplace on Black Friday, Nov. 29th, 2013 featuring products from Black owned & Black servicing businesses. PurchaseBlack.com will host multiple webstores offering products focused on African American customers in categories such as hair care, skin care, art, decorations, gifts, and accessories.

“Our vision is to be the home for all African American online shopping,” says PurchaseBlack.com founder, Brian Williams. “We connect online customers with businesses that cater to African Americans by offering webstores where those businesses can sell their products.”

Purchase Black, similar to Amazon or EBay Marketplace, is always accepting applications from Black owned and Black Servicing businesses to sell on the website. A seller need not be African American, but their products must appeal to African American customers.

Williams adds, “We are going to launch with a handful of great webstores on what we are calling Black Business Friday, November 29th, 2013, and we will grow as more businesses apply to sell with us.” PurchaseBlack.com is capable of hosting thousands of businesses, and the company hopes to use that capability over time to create the largest selection of African American products and businesses anywhere on the internet. It is launching with the hashtag #BlackBusinessFriday to gain support from customers who want to buy Black this holiday shopping season.

Williams is an engineer and graduate of the MBA program at The University of Texas – Austin, where he developed the company. “McCombs allowed me to incubate this idea, and gave me the tools to explore what makes a business successful. I hope to embody what I have learned there to make Purchase Black reach its full potential,” he says.

Businesses, regardless of the background of the owner, who are interested in starting a Purchase Black webstore can learn more by clicking “Become A Seller” at www.PurchaseBlack.com. Purchase Black has opened its customer accounts before the website goes live on November 29th on its website for excited customers to get involved early.

Williams comments, “We have discovered, to our surprise, that customers share our enthusiasm about PurchaseBlack.com. So in appreciation, we want to give them a way to get involved sooner!”

For more information about PurchaseBlack, visit www.PurchaseBlack.com, their Facebook page, @PurchaseBlack on Twitter, YouTube, or on Google Plus.

Madigan releases Annual Holiday Safe Shopping Guide

Posted by Admin On November - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Attorney General’s Guide Details Dangerous Products of 2013

CHICAGO, IL – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released her annual Safe Shopping Guide highlighting recalled toys and household items to help Illinois families create a safe environment for the holidays.

The 2013 holiday resource guide includes detailed descriptions and photographs of the nearly 100 different children’s products recalled in the past year. This year’s edition also includes and warning for parents and caregivers about the risks of shopping online at resale sites where previously recalled toys and children’s products are still being sold.

Popular websites such as Amazon, eBay, Craigslist and eCrater are serving as a secondary market for products that have been featured in previous editions of the Safe Shopping Guide, which has been in publication since 2007. Madigan’s office conducted an informal survey of the annual guides and found multiple items for resale that had been previously recalled for dangerous defects, such as the Fisher-Price Little People Play ‘n Go Campsite figures, which pose a serious choking hazard to young children, and McDonald’s Shrek-themed glasses that were found to contain a dangerous level of the toxic chemical cadmium. Both products were found actively for sale online in spite of their recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2010.

“We produce this guide each November to help provide parents a little peace of mind about the toys they’re giving their children for the holidays, but as we all know, the recall process is never entirely failsafe, so it’s critical that parents and caregivers remain vigilant not only at this time but throughout the year,” Madigan said.

When a defective or dangerous product is recalled, retailers and manufacturers are required by law to remove the unsafe products from store shelves and alert consumers of the dangerous or defective component. But, Madigan said, online retail sites are continuing to serve as an unsafe destination for shoppers who are purchasing products from sellers who may not be aware of the dangers that caused them to be recalled through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The Attorney General detailed several additional products that have been previously recalled and included in the Safe Shopping Guide but are can still be found for sale online:

  • Summer Infant Inc. Video Baby Monitors – Recalled in 2011, the cords on the monitors can pose a strangulation hazard to infants and toddlers if placed too close to their cribs. The CPSC received reports of two infants who died from strangulation associated with the cords.
  • Harry Potter Bookends – Recalled in 2008, the paint on the bookends contains high levels of lead.
  • Gund Baby Paperboard Books – Recalled in 2010, the foam used to fill the book binding can detach and pose a choking or aspiration hazard to infants and young children.
  • Chicco Polly High Chairs – Recalled in 2012, a child can fall on or against the pegs on the rear legs of the high chair, causing laceration or bruising.
Madigan’s 2013 Safe Shopping Guide details these products and many more. Consumers can view and download the Safe Shopping Guide at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov or by calling the Attorney General’s Recall Hotline for a print copy at 1-888-414-7678.

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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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