By James Wright
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently toured a District neighborhood known as “The Soul of the City.”
Bowser (D), along with D.C. Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8), local government agency leaders, and staff as well as advisory neighborhood commissioners, on July 17, strolled along Alabama Avenue in Southeast and feeder streets in the Congress Heights neighborhood to hear the concerns of residents and examine the neighborhood’s infrastructure.
“Every month, I conduct these walks in neighborhoods to identify and address issues,” Bowser said. “I have done these walks in all eight wards. All neighborhoods need something.”
Until 20 years ago, Congress Heights had a reputation as a residential neighborhood plagued with criminal activity and abandoned housing. Positive economic activity started when the Congress Heights Metro Station opened in 2001 on the Green Line, next to the St. Elizabeth’s East campus.
With support of the mayoral administrations of Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty, Vincent Gray and Bowser, the neighborhood has seen substantive growth and development.
The Shops at Park Village — a strip mall along Alabama Avenue – offers Giant as the ward’s only full-service supermarket, as well as a collection of clothing stores, barbershops, sit-down and carryout eateries that include Chipotle.
Last year, the Entertainment & Sports Arena opened at St. Elizabeth’s East, steps away from the western side of the Congress Heights Metro. The R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center, also on the St. Elizabeth’s East campus along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, has served several years as a meeting space for community groups.
There are plans for a new mixed development by Redbrick LMD, which will include residential, office and retail space to the extent that residents won’t have to leave the St. Elizabeth’s campus to live, eat, work, shop and play.
Despite the progress, Bowser and her entourage saw places where governmental intervention could make a difference. She walked from Turner Elementary School on Stanton Road, across the street to the sidewalk that rests on the eastern part of Alabama Avenue.
Bowser briefly engaged residents waiting at the bus stop in front of The Shops before proceeding south to the shopping center’s entrance.
Meanwhile, a group of protesters carrying a sign “No New Jails,” walked in front of her but didn’t get close because of the mayor’s security.
Bowser and her team walked into the small, cramped Turner-Parklands branch of the D.C. Public Library to talk to patrons. After that, they moved south on Alabama Avenue, walking past abandoned properties under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.
Bowser asked Polly Donaldson, director of the housing department, about plans for the properties, with Donaldson responding that her department has active plans for its development into productive space.
Upon reaching the Pop -Up Opportunity Center on Malcolm X Avenue, Bowser entered the gymnasium where she observed residents drawing and painting as a part of the center’s activities.
Afterward, Bowser walked to Congress Park Plaza where she spoke at length with resident Alice Peak.
“I told her that something had to be done about crime in the neighborhood,” Peak said. “These young people need jobs, and when they have jobs, they will act better.”
Peak also alluded to criminal activity in her area, saying, “the crimes aren’t solved,” and suggested that a new playground and water park might make a difference in the safety of her neighborhood.
Bowser’s walk included going to the back of Congress Parks Plaza where she heard residents’ complaints about rats. However, administrators at the D.C. Department of Public Works had already received information about the problem and pledged to work with the residents to bring about a resolution.
As the entourage left the Plaza, the wind started to blow hard and rain came down quickly. Bowser briskly walked back to the Pop-Up Center and postponed the rest of the tour that would have ended at Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard on MLK Avenue.
When she reached the gymnasium, Bowser conducted her wrap-up, imploring her staff to tackle the rat problem at the Plaza, as well as graffiti at Turner Elementary and the eyesore of abandoned property on Alabama Avenue.
Despite the last-minute inclement weather, Bowser seemed pleased with the walk.
“The walk went great,” she said with a smile.
This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.
By James Wright
There has been widespread speculation whether D.C. Councilmember Vincent Gray will seek re-election to his Ward 7 seat in 2020. Some political observers say he has grown tired of the District’s political games and may want to do some other things in his life.
Otherwise, while a growing number of young Ward 7 residents clamor for his position and influence, some surmise that the veteran councilmember and former mayor has served his time. However, Gray knocked down those summations on July 18 at Sala Thai restaurant and bar, where he announced his intentions to serve four more years as a city politician.
“I am running again because I want to serve the people of Ward 7,” Gray, who first served as the ward’s councilmember from 2005-2007, said. “I want the ward to prosper and I would like for your help in order to do that.”
In making the informal declaration, Gray addressed an audience of primarily young adults that included Ward 7 activists-Eboni-Rose Thompson, Erica Harrell and Chioma Iwuoha, who-acted as co-roundtable moderators. For his part, the councilmember who was queried on a broad range of topics, also requested a moment of silence on the death Sterling Tucker, first chair of the D.C. Council.
“We have to bring more economic development to the ward and to neighborhoods east of the [Anacostia] River,” he said. “In Wards 7 and 8, we have about 150,000 people and we have only three full-service grocery stores. There are wards west of here that have six, eight or over 10 grocery stores and we have two in this ward and about to add another one and one in Ward 8 and still that’s not enough.”
Lidl, a German grocer, which will anchor the Skyland Town Center site in Ward 7, had made its official announcement earlier on July 18 with Gray and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) in attendance.
After Thompson asked Gray’s view on education, the councilmember stated pointedly that the conversation regarding the ward’s schools needs to change.
“We want people from across the city to come to Ward 7 schools and not for Ward 7 children to go other places,” Gray said, referencing his work on the recently passed budget to get more money for schools in his community.
Afterward, Gray spoke about his signature educational issue: pre-Kindergarten education. When Gray served as the District’s mayor from 2011-2015, he worked to formulate the nation’s first comprehensive pre-Kindergarten education program where three-year-old children start school at taxpayers’ expense.
Gray expressed pride in that achievement and spoke disparagingly of 2020 presidential candidates who want to take credit for his efforts.
“John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado who is now running for president, said he started the first pre-K program in the nation when he was mayor of Denver,” he said. “That’s not true and we are calling him out on it.”
Gray spoke about the need for more police officers in Ward 7 to combat crime and for workforce housing for police officers, firefighters and teachers who work in the District.
Harrell questioned Gray about “when will he pass the baton” so that a younger person can represent the ward. Gray responded that he loved being a public servant and wanted to continue doing so, despite the increased number of young challengers posturing in hopes of taking over his post.
While Veda Rasheed, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for 7E01, has formed an exploratory committee on whether to seek the Ward 7 council seat, Anthony Lorenzo Green, 7C04 commissioner has already declared Gray’s seat.
“Too many times we have leaders that don’t seem to hear them [Ward 7 residents] when they speak, stand up against injustice or be an advocate for solutions to problems that affect us everyday,” Green stated in a post on his Twitter account.
In addition, James Jennings, a political activist in the ward, appears poised to run and Villareal Johnson, a commissioner for 7B05, has been rumored to be interested in as well.
Ambrose Lane Jr., chair of the D.C. Health Alliance Network and a Ward 7 resident, has also been mentioned by political observers as a candidate. There are whispers that former D.C. Councilmember Yvette Alexander, who served on council from 2007-2017, may want a rematch with Gray after losing in 2016.
This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.
Gov’t Agencies Must Demonstrate That They’re Doing Business with Minority-Owned Media
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Beginning later this year when federal agencies submit proposed budgets to one or more of the 12 Appropriations Committees, those requests now must include a line item detailing what they are spending with minority-owned businesses, which include black-, women- and other minority-owned media outlets.
D.C. Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton told NNPA Newswire on July 26, that each of the 12 federal Appropriations Committees have adopted language from her Government Advertising Equity Accountability Act [HR 2576], which mandates all agencies include in their annual budget request to Congress the amount of money they spend to advertise in minority-owned media outlets.
She said today’s developments mean that her measure doesn’t require further action. “This is exactly what we wanted. This is it, we got it,” Norton said.
“We got all 12 of the Appropriations Committees to include the language and, in October, when the bills take effect, it will be the law and these agencies will have to comply,” she said.
Norton asked for an update on a 2007 GAO report that found, of the $4.3 billion available for advertising contracts, five agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, spent only five percent with minority-owned businesses.
A subsequent 2018 report revealed that, of the approximately $5 billion government agencies spent on advertising contracts, just $50 million went to minority-owned businesses and even considerably less to minority-owned newspaper and media companies owned by African Americans.
“This is important not just for the publications but because those publications reach minorities and women in a way that mainstream publications may not,” Norton said.
“We did this because the federal government is the largest advertiser in the United States and this gives it a special obligation to make sure that it is using advertising dollars fairly and to reach all people in the United States,” said Norton, who has served in the U.S. House since 1991.
At the request of officials from the National Newspaper Publishers Association (Black Press of America) and the National Association of Hispanic Publications, Norton ordered a Government Accountability Office (GAO) examination on the spending on advertising contracts with minority-owned businesses.
Norton began a fight to change that.
She gathered support from other members of Congress and then, in May 2019, she crafted H.R. 2576 and continued to work behind the scenes to find more immediate solutions.
During budget hearings on Capitol Hill, Norton spearheaded a bipartisan effort for the 12 Appropriations Committees to place the language in their spending bills.
President Trump also urged Republicans to pass the budget bills – though, he had not specifically addressed Norton’s measure.
By Thursday, 11 of the 12 committees had agreed to include the language with the Department of the Interior being the lone holdout. However, that changed on July 26, when she secured the commitment of the Department of the Interior.
Despite her diligent work, Norton credited minority-owned media with the success of the legislation.
“I didn’t just come up with this out of the blue, I credit Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. [president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association], the Black Press of America, and the National Association of Hispanic Publications because they came to see me about this a couple of years ago,” Norton said.
“They came to Congress to seek redress and I met with them, and then, having heard about what looked like a discrepancy, I needed to see if I could document that. So, I asked for the GAO report,” she said.
Although the legislation does not mandate federal agencies to spend specific dollar amounts with minority-owned media companies, Norton said she believes publishers and owners of those publications ultimately will be pleased.
“Of course, I think they will start advertising because this is a big encouragement to do so,” Norton said. “These are federal agencies under the jurisdiction of the appropriations committees, and they have to come before these committees each year to get their money. When they report back on how many dollars they spent with minority-owned and women-owned publications, they will understand that they will have to do just that and whatever they’ve done before they’ll have to strive to do even better,” Norton said.
“Once again the Black Press of America salutes the effective leadership of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton,” said Chavis. “Her diligence and commitment to diversity, inclusion and economic equity with respect to the Black Press and other minority-owned media across the United States is noteworthy and much appreciated.”
By Black Voice News
San Bernardino – The non-profit BLU Educational Foundation is seeking applicants for several positions including college prep advisors, college success advisors (student positions), a college access coordinator, a program assistant and a public policy/advocacy intern.
BLU works to provide educational and human services programming to youth, adults and organizations in order to build healthy, productive communities by helping to overcome the higher education challenges faced by inland area families with limited income and limited opportunities.
The organization, led by President and CEO Dina Walker, manages several education and civic engagement programs that create a comprehensive approach to attaining its goal of building productive communities.
Visit https://www.bluedfoundation.org/copy-of-blu-scholars learn more about the current job openings and/or how to apply. Interviews are scheduled to begin Monday, July 20. 2019.
This article originally appeared in Black Voice News.
By Daniel Marti
The University of California Digital Library has terminated journal renewal negotiations with Elsevier, requesting the cancellation of campus access to over 2,500 of the world’s leading peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the company and its society partners.
The UC research community relies on these journals to download over 11 million articles a year—nearly one every three seconds.
After six months without a contract, and in light of the Library’s refusal to engage in any further negotiations, the Library’s cancellation request was implemented last week. This did not have to happen.
Elsevier has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with the UC research community. That’s why, over the past several months, Elsevier proposed a series of arrangements that would contain costs, achieve the objectives of the Academic Senate and provide students, faculty, researchers and medical professionals with uninterrupted service to the research platform that supports their work.
The UC Library negotiators rejected all offers and countered with what is, in their own words, a complex and risky restructuring of the research model at UC.
The library’s negotiation team demanded Elsevier implement a publishing plan that shifts costs to the UC researcher community under a default “author pays” model.
The plan is so intricate that one senior UC librarian called it “akin to modernizing the FAA’s air traffic control system–a million planes are in the air at any moment and changing anything can have serious consequences elsewhere.”
A UC Library-commissioned study similarly found the plan “extremely complex, with significant risk on many sides.” If you thought that such a plan would be reworked, or at least scrutinized by university administrators, you would be wrong.
The library’s commissioned study found that a flip from a subscription to a pay-to-publish model would result in a significant funding gap for research-intensive institutions such as UC. The proposed plan would require UC researchers to pay to publish their own output and still obtain access to the vast majority, 85%, of peer-reviewed scientific literature that is subscription-based today.
To solve this funding gap, the UC Library study asks that millions of dollars in grant funding be diverted away from research and used to “top off” library budgets.
When surveyed, this plan drew “extremely negative” reactions from researchers, with the majority of survey respondents indicating that they would not support any research funds from being diverted into a library-led pay-to-publish model. Clearly, there is more work to be done.
As a partner, Elsevier wanted to support UC’s ambitious plan carefully and sustainably. To do so, Elsevier sought to minimize the complexity and much of the risk by offering several solutions to help bridge the UC Library’s objectives with the research community’s needs.
Elsevier agreed to keep subscription costs flat, accounting for inflation, and to fully fund a five-fold increase in open access publishing. This offer would have enabled the UC Library to achieve cost containment goals and materially increase open access publishing at a scale not yet realized by the university.
Most importantly, our offer would have ensured that the research community would continue to be served in an uninterrupted manner. Instead, the library refused to compromise, and researchers are losing out.
In the interest of researcher choice and to serve researchers who want to pay-to-publish so their work can be freely and immediately accessible worldwide, Elsevier has opened over 1,900 of its subscription journals to open access submissions.
Last year, Elsevier published more than 34,000 articles through this model—making Elsevier one of the world’s leading open access publishers.
We applaud the UC Academic Senate’s position to uphold open access principles to “disseminate its research and scholarship as widely as possible.”
As a publisher, dissemination of knowledge is Elsevier’s original mandate and driving purpose. That is why Elsevier offered to support a five-fold increase in open access publishing at UC and advance the Academic Senate’s goals. Meanwhile, the UC Library’s admittedly “extremely complex” plan has failed the needs of the UC research community.
Daniel Marti is head of global public policy at RELX, the parent to Elsevier, email@example.com. He wrote this commentary for CalMatters.
The author wrote this for CALmatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.
This article originally appeared in Black Voice News.
By Dr. Maulana Karenga
In spite of the forked-tongue talk, doublespeak and patently racist ranting of the pretending President Trump and the White supremacist mob-like cheerleaders chanting hatred at his rallies, we must not miss the fresh, air-clearing and uplifting wind that is steadily rising and blowing our way. It is the transforming force of the voice, views and defiant struggles of the courageous four “freshmen” congresswomen: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA); Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY); and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). They come to their position anxious and impressively able to serve the people, their constituency, the vulnerable, and the larger interests of the country with rightful concern for the well-being of the world. And they will not be bullied or silenced by Trump and company, nor accept a party discipline that calls for a compromise of their principles or taking a position that diminishes and undermines their capacity to serve the people as best they can and see it.
Trump’s attacks on these four courageous, committed, knowledgeable and defiant congresswomen of color, not only reflect his commitment to views, policies and practices that are racist, anti-people of color; xenophobic, anti-immigrant and those different; sexist, anti-women; and opportunistic, ever self-promoting and peacocking. These attacks also reflect his reactionary politics and conception of America. It is a politics of White supremacy; predatory capitalism at home and abroad; warmongering; privatization of public wealth and space; and peddling a personalized patriotism based on his astonishing ignorance, multiple insecurities and vulgar interests.
We must constantly expose, criticize and condemn the monster side of America we call Trump and his supporters and enablers, but we must not over focus on him and under focus on the rising movement to actively resist him in Congress, as represented by the initiatives of the courageous four and also in our various communities across the country. To make this mistake would be like over focusing on a devasting fire and the havoc it is wreaking and under focusing on the response and responders needed to control and extinguish it.
Audacious and defiant, these four progressive congresswomen resist and reject Trump’s attempt to impose his deformed and dishonest reactionary conception of patriotism and politics. Indeed, they cannot morally and will not politically accept Trump’s packaged and constantly peddled racist patriotic politics of vicious and varied forms of oppression: apartheid walls here and abroad; corruption and coercion; the savaging of immigrants and the abuse and separation of children from their families; anti-labor and anti-union policies; preference for the rich at the expense and injury of the poor; racial and religious restrictions and preferences; denial of climate change; and his obsessive and infantile attempt to rival and erase everything considered an Obama achievement.
Trump and his allied haters, enviers and detractors can call them names and attribute to them all kinds of social sins, but these courageous, competent and committed women of color congresswomen stand on solid moral and political ground. They are right to criticize and condemn the inhumane detention, conditions and treatment of the refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants at the border as a concentration camp, a site of mass detention, oppression, labor and sexual abuse and exploitation, degradation and death. And such camps were put in place first, not by the Nazis, but by Euro-Americans against Native Americans, whether in missions or so-called “reservations.”
Regardless of the Barnum and Bailey big top circus of smoke and mirrors, dog whistles, and lying as public policy and a way of life from the Trump camp of circled covered wagons, the real issue is what kind of America we want and are willing to struggle, strive and sacrifice for to bring into being at this critical juncture in the history of our people and this country. The struggle is over two concepts of America: whether it is a finished White product or an ongoing multicultural project. In the first version, we are to accept White dominance, defer to policies and practices negative to human life, dignity and development and be grateful to live in the house Jack, the enslaver, segregationist, capitalist and colonizer claims he built, but without rightful acknowledgement that it was built with the enslaved and exploited labor and social and political exclusion of oppressed people. The second concept of America sees it as an unfinished ongoing multicultural project in which each people and person has both the right and responsibility to speak their own special cultural truth and make their own unique contribution to how this society is radically reconceived and reconstructed in the most just and human way.
This conversation that these courageous four are compelling the country to have is a necessary one, and one that builds on and moves forward a tradition of struggle defined by our foremother, Fannie Lou Hamer, as rooted in the a moral imperative to righteously and continuously question America in thought and practice. It is a moral imperative deeply embedded in the Black Liberation tradition and other radical and progressive traditions of this country. It calls for us to question the quality, content and course of American thought and practice, and to measure it by its highest ideals and engage in corrective action where America finds itself in contradiction to these ideals. And it calls on us to even go beyond its best ideals when they are found to be in contradiction with the best of our moral sensitivities, moral reasoning, lived experience, and knowledge-producing practice.
It is right, good and necessary to raise questions about and reject a racial, religious or political protocol that demands agreement with immoral, irrational and unjust policies and practices. We are right to question corporate and big money negative influence on domestic and foreign policy and on democratic governance. It is not our obligation to demonstrate allegiance to or support of a foreign state as part of participating in American government. Nor is it wrong to question and reject any pressure to do so.
It is right to reject the claim of any country, people or person of a right to immunity from criticism and it is right to raise questions concerning the violation of human rights and international law by any country, people or person. And that includes, not only Israeli occupation of Palestine and the oppression of Palestinians; but also American, Canadian and French occupation of Haiti and oppression of the Haitian people; the Chinese oppression of the Uighurs; the Burmese oppression of the Rohingya; and the Saudi and Emirates’ criminal and indiscriminate bombing of the Yemeni people.
Other questions heretofore pushed to the side, buried in conservative, reactionary and even liberal graves of indifference, dismissal and amnesia, must be resurrected, revived and put at the center of national discourse policy and action. And we are not to be grateful or express gratitude for being conceded human rights we had at birth and just by being human. Nor are we to be grateful to self-seeking others for civil rights, freedom and justice which we won in the fire and furnace of righteous and relentless struggle.
This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.
By Tavaris Beal, Kamil Goodman and Jarvis Prewitt
Over the past few weeks, there has been an extensive debate about the merits of the Birmingham Promise Initiative, a new program proposed by Mayor Randall Woodfin. The program launched this summer and is designed to build pathways into quality jobs for Birmingham City School (BCS) students. One of the critically important voices that has been missing from this debate is that of the students.
As students who are in our final week of the pilot apprenticeship program, we believe that we have a uniquely important perspective about this initiative and the city’s decision to invest a portion of its funds in this promise. We hope that by lending our voices to this debate we can provide some clarity about why the Birmingham Promise is not only an important investment, but an essential one that will provide returns that we can only imagine.
It is our conviction that the Birmingham Promise Initiative is a game-changing opportunity to connect Birmingham City School students to the city’s future economy, to improve students’ educational outcomes, and to expand students’ understanding of what is possible in their lives. We believe this not because we have conducted research or consulted experts, but because we have personally experienced it.
This summer, along with 20 other BCS students and graduates, we have been supported and challenged professionally and personally. Each of us has partnered with a dedicated workplace mentor, completed learning modules on one of the most innovative learning platforms in the country, and earned a living wage for our work. Some of us have participated in meetings with executives, some of us shadowed nurses and doctors, and some of us welded for the first time in our lives.
Regardless of how different our work experiences have been, one thing has been the same: we have had life-changing opportunities over the course of just a few weeks. We have refined our career interests through work experience, developed future job opportunities for ourselves, and learned about aspects of our city, including the operations of some of its largest companies, that we knew nothing about when the program started. Those of us who swore we would never return to our city now have a reason to reconsider.
We do not want to be the only students that have the opportunity to experience what we did this summer. We want to see this initiative continue because when we look into our community, we see tremendous possibilities. We see possibilities that demand our participation and involvement.
We have all been members of the BCS learning community since elementary school. Over those years, we have seen and experienced our challenges more personally than anyone else. We’ve witnessed classmates struggle to decide what to do in their careers and where to start and watched our friends work hard in jobs that paid them little in money or experience. Sometimes, the future has loomed as a threat instead of a promise.
We have also seen the potential and the greatness that lies within every school and every classroom in this district. Our peers have the talent and the determination that is necessary to make this city the best version of itself. Helping fully realize this talent will require making targeted and strategic investments, ensuring that students have access to a variety of learning environments, and developing opportunities for students to build professional relationships.
BCS students deserve every kind of investment that can be made in a young person- academic, extracurricular, professional, and beyond. BCS students especially hope for new kinds of investments, those that complement the learning we do in traditional classrooms by giving us greater exposure to the world of work. Even as students with strong academic performance and clearly defined career interests, prior to the Birmingham Promise, we struggled to identify mentors in our field of interest, to access work-based learning opportunities, and to chart a path forward for education and work. Based on our experiences, it is undeniable that there is a need for greater effort among core partners to ensure that every BCS student has a clear pathway to success and a team to support them along the way.
We have no doubt that the Birmingham Promise can fundamentally change the state of the BCS community and our entire city. When we look into the future, we see more young people that are confident about their options in life and about their ability to take advantage of them. We see more students graduating from high school with hope instead of fear. We see entire communities lifted up by an economy that includes us all. We are encouraged and driven by this future.
When we look into our community, at the distance between where we are now and where we know we could be, the question that we ask is not why support the Birmingham Promise, but why not?
Tavaris Beal is a graduate of Woodlawn High School. He will be attending Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical University in the fall. Kamil Goodman: is a rising senior at A.H. Parker High School. Jarvis Prewitt: is a graduate of Huffman High School. He will be attending Alabama A&M University in the fall.
This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.