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Health Care Reform in Slow Gear for Hartford

Healthcare reform is coming to Connecticut on Oct. 1.

And with less than a month to go, Connecticut’s congressional delegation was scheduled to meet on Wenesday to help ramp up an awareness campaign in the city of Hartford and the state, hoping to convey the import of this major reform spawn by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Access Health CT, charged with the gargantuan task of setting up an online marketplace to help enroll people, have been traversing the state with informational meetings, sending out press releases to mainstream media, particular ethnic circulars and local gate keepers who traditionally disseminate information to their family and friends network. Access also attended community fairs, concerts and festivals. They are, indeed, aggressively getting the word out about Access Health CT. Last Wednesday, officials said they were ready for the Oct. 1 rollout.

But what it all means for Hartford residents, especially people of color, has yet to be told.

editorialbannerthumbCase in point: at an Aug. 6 block party in the Blue Hills neighborhood, a twenty-something white man approached a black woman sitting at a table. He mumbled something about insurance and was shooed away. When asked about the nature of the man’s spiel, she said she didn’t hear most of what he said, “just something about insurance.”

The Hartford Guardian was present and found it interesting that Access sent a white male into an all-black community to promote the Affordable Care Act. Why not hire someone from the neighborhood?

This health care program, also known as Obamacare, are for people without insurance, who cannot get insurance because of preconditions and a whole host of categories. Most likely, it is for people who are unemployed and underemployed, many of whom are black and Latino.

A recent phone conference with the ethnic press conveyed the importance of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on communities of color and the poor. Several callers wanted to know about resources for community outreach, or for doing substantive stories about the program.  That’s because implementation of Obamacare, as its sometimes called, is a $5 billion industry; and many companies will be cashing in. As usual, not many small and minority businesses have been in that loop during the early stages.

Additionally, many ethnic papers would like to go beyond referring people to a website and instead disseminate substantive information through a cultural lens. And it was evident in the recent conversation, which also illustrated the knowledge gap that will certainly have a ripple effect in communities of color, if not mitigated soon.

With less than 30 days to go, ethnic communities will have to play catch on mountains of information that have accumulated since January. But many also want to make one thing very plain. They are not interested in just being consumers of the health insurance marketplace. They want more.

On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, people of color are asking for not just civil rights but also economic justice.

How the state spends millions of dollars to implement this major healthcare reform will be a significant indicator on the question of equity and whether we will have to march on the Washington Mall again in another 50 years.

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Hartford Unveils Journalism and Media Academy, But for Whose Benefit?

At a time when newspapers are folding, or going digital and local, Hartford Public Schools on Tuesday kicked off the 2013-2014 academic year by unveiling three renovated school buildings, including a state-of-the-art Journalism and Media Academy.

Officials said the Academy offers courses such as social media, sports journalism, television production, radio broadcasting, graphic arts, and mobile app design. The Academy has partnered with the Connecticut Public Broadcast Network and its brand new $3.5 million Learning Lab at the CPBN offices on Asylum Avenue, which also houses WNPR radio and, mostly all-white media entities.

The renovated Academy building on Tower Avenue has “smart” classrooms, large MAC computers, top-shelf sound booths, TV and radio studios and a green room.  All this is in a building much bigger than the former WFSB Channel 3 studio in downtown Hartford. Attracting only 53 students to its incoming freshman class and retaining about 140 students from the Journalism Media Academy in Weaver High School, many classrooms were empty on Tuesday.

No surprise there.

editorialbannerthumbBuilding magnet schools to attract white suburban bodies to Hartford’s 95 percent minority school district is arguably a laudable goal under the Sheff v. O’Neill school integration plan. However, a journalism academy focusing on skill sets that mature on a solid academic foundation will unlikely benefit most high school students in Hartford—if they are thinking of going to college and beyond. Summer journalism programs, yes. But eight years of high school and college journalism courses is nonsensical and impractical, especially for black students.

The irony was evident when Mayor Pedro Segarra stepped in a class with seven black students and a white male teacher. Inside the room, Segarra introduced two white Hispanic communication professionals as the future of journalism. He got it wrong. It’s not the future; it is the current state of journalism, especially in the city of Hartford.

That classroom scene also reflects the issue of newsroom diversity espoused by the Kerner Commission following the 1967 Watts Riots. To those not privy to the historical perspective on the media diversity question, the mayor’s antics unwittingly revealed the same societal problem that existed before the Kerner report and the Civil Rights Movement.

A black journalist is an anomaly at city hall and elsewhere in Hartford. And Segarra reinforced that notion of disappearing black news professionals.

Consider this: The number of black journalists in the news business has been dramatically and systematically decreased in the last decade. According to the 2013 American Society of News Editors (ASNE)’s annual diversity survey, the number of black journalists in newsroom  remained steady in 2013. That’s after ASNE’s previous report showed a decrease from 4.68 percent in 2011 to 4.65 percent in 2012.

ASNE’s goal is to have the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms to reflect the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025.  Currently minorities comprise 37.02 percent of the U.S. population. By 2025, it’s expected to be 42.39 percent.

The implications for the lack of news coverage by black journalists in a “minority-majority” city has been articulated in the Kerner Report, which makes the case for a sincere commitment to racial and ethnic diversity because “the media media failed to report adequately on the causes of and consequences of civil riots and race relations.”

In Hartford alone, there are no full-time black journalists covering city hall or the school district. And since his election to a full term, the mayor has infused cash into the Hispanic media market and has seemingly made it a bargaining chip when doling out opportunities to corporate and nonprofit media.

Most recently, the city of Hartford awarded a grant to one local Hispanic publisher for her new enterprise, the Latino Way. Additionally, the largest newspaper in the state has selectively highlighted the work of other Hispanic media outlets, and WNPR devoted an entire radio show to a new Hispanic online media organization. But they have done very little for black and women-owned media organizations such as The Hartford Guardian.

Additionally, CPBN/WNPR in partnership with Segarra’s administration, received $1 million from the state’s bond commission to build a studio that is expected to  “train students” in the field of communications.

CPBN  is an affiliate of WNPR, which has a 4 percent minority listenership. It buys programming from NPR, a national public radio station. But is not owned by, or beholden to, NPR’s diversity policies, according to an NPR spokesperson.

From our vantage point at The Hartford Guardian, the mayor and his administration’s partnerships with these media organizations to benefit the Latino and white community should be of concern to most city residents. And should be investigated further.

Having a journalism and media academy will not attract smart students to Hartford. It has, and will further, strengthen an incumbent mayor’s alliances with corporate entities,  improve CPBN/WNPR’s outreach to the Hispanic listeners, and serve as a playground for media professionals who like shiny toys.

The $37.45 million renovated Academy will benefit Hartford’s children the least, especially those who crave rigorous curricula for a diverse and global society. Given the state of  media diversity in Connecticut today, to argue otherwise is a farce.

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African and Caribbean Immigrants are Often Forgotten in the Debate in Washington.

By Janelle Ross (The Root) — Lowell Hawthorne’s immigrant tale isn’t exactly a secret.

immigration_reform_320In 2003 Black Enterprise magazine named Hawthorne’s Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill Inc. one of the top 100 black-owned companies in the United States. And when Hawthorne, Golden Krust’s CEO, published a book late last year about his journey from new American to embodiment of the proverbial American dream, newspapers large and small published stories outlining his business struggles and triumphs.

He hasn’t exactly lived in the shadows.

But the same can’t be said for the other 3.5 million immigrants of African or Caribbean descent in the U.S. In many cases these immigrants are invisible, since they aren’t likely to be the first people who come to mind when most Americans think about the conversation going on in Washington, D.C., about immigration reform.

Read More on The

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Marcia Gillespie Urges A Move Toward Real Change

HARTFORD — Marcia Ann Gillespie knows what’s really important in the long Civil Rights Movement toward full citizenship for oppressed groups.

At  Women’s Day at the Capitol  hosted by  Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), the 79-year-old writer and educator reminded the privileged few that we have –for too long–emphasized individual success. Gillespie is a former editor in chief of Essence and Ms. magazines and has been an advocate for examining the complexity confined to the intersection of race and gender. She was the keynote speaker for the annual event and spoke on the theme: “A Reflection of 40 Years of the Women’s Movement.”


Photo Courtesy of PCSW

Using her lens as a highly visible women’s right advocate in the 1970s, Gillespie articulated the need for women to “kinda get sick and tired” of the struggle that seems reminiscent of  struggles in the 1970s. She added that there was nothing wrong with looking at the ceiling. It gives us inspiration. But it behooves those who are “comfortable” to look for change among the masses.

That’s because “real change is what happens among the least of us,” Gillespie said, “not for those who are at the top.”

This was especially apt for many of us in Connecticut as we celebrated black history month and women’s history month in the first quarter of 2013. The PCSW was among several organizations that reflected on the improved status of many blacks and white women in Connecticut. But there is a strong tendency for too many organizations to exclude and marginalize other groups while they advocate for justice and social equality.

Nowhere was that more poignant than at Women’s Day at the Capitol. Of course, it goes without saying that the PCSW has done important work in its 40 years of existence and will continue to do so.

However, Gillespie reminded about 250 attendees that they should also be compassionate and strong advocates for ALL women, especially immigrant women who are among the most vulnerable.

Perhaps on Immigrant Rights Day at the Old State House we’ll see these women on April 10. Maybe then their message about the state of sisterhood in Connecticut will not be so hollow.


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Newtown Shooting Brings Another 9/11 Moment

Dear letterstohartfordguardianEditor:

Perhaps because the victims were mostly children, perhaps because it came on the heels of three other record-setting mass shootings, but whatever the reason, America is ready to replace sympathy and condolences with action.

For the first time in our history, we’re ready to tell the gun lobby that we’ve had enough.

When NRA spokesmen hit the talk shows this week, pleading, “Let’s not get too hasty,” this time, we’re ready to do just that, act quickly and hastily before the next round of shooters can claim anymore victims.

This time, when NRA spokesmen hide behind the Second Amendment, we’ll reach behind it, grab them and hold them accountable.

When they sit smugly on the talk shows and claim, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” we’ll respond no sir, actually, guns kill people.

It is now time for a ban on automatic weapons, increased waiting periods and background checks for gun purchases, or whatever measure it takes so that the next would-be mass murderer won’t have such an easy time getting a weapon.

B. Stephens,

Rolling Meadows, Illinois

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Voter Suppression Laws Cast Chill on Af-Am Community

By Khalil Abdullah, NAM Contributor

As voter suppression laws continue to be debated in states across the country, members of the African-American press and voting rights advocates say the repercussions of that debate are already being felt. The most immediate metric, they note, will be whether voter turnout is reduced.

For some observers, that is a likely prospect.

“Talking about the guys who are not going to vote, four years ago, they took chances,” said Harold Meeks, publisher of the Tell Us USA News Network, an on-line news magazine with bureaus in several cities. “I owe $23,000 in child support, but I’m going out to vote for the black man,” Meeks said, describing a hypothetical Detroit voter in 2008.

“They’re not going to take those same chances again, particularly with these other voices saying that we’re going to scrutinize you,” he continued. “We’re going to see if there are any warrants out for you, so don’t you dare register. It’s that intimidation factor, it’s real.”

Meeks acknowledged that restrictive laws in several states have been rescinded but feels those who sponsored them “have got their point across” and that, in a tight election, those absent votes could weigh on the outcome.

Court victories – most recently in South Carolina and Pennsylvania – have dispensed with the need for photo IDs in this year’s election. Still, the furor over that issue, and the repeated attempts at totally repealing early voting only recently stymied in Ohio, for example, and efforts to purge voting rolls and curtail registration periods, have engendered a spectrum of responses.

Misinformation in Minnesota

Charles Hallman, staff writer for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder in Minneapolis said what he fears most is misinformation.

“E-mails have been sent out to churches telling them that their parishioners might not be eligible to vote this year even though there have been no changes in the registration forms,” he said.

Hallman has taken it upon himself to tell ministers to keep the correct information in the pulpit and has encouraged them to urge parishioners to check with the secretary of state’s office if they have questions regarding eligibility. He added that his paper’s publisher and staff have been consistent in running stories and weekly updates on why voting matters. “It’s not just about the presidential election.”

In November, Minnesota citizens will be voting on two hotly contested ballot initiatives to amend the state’s constitution. One would legally define marriage as between one man and one woman; the other would require a photo ID for future elections.

Hallman said his paper has been neutral on the marriage amendment. On the photo ID law, he says passage would negatively and disproportionately affect a wide swath of citizens. “That’s Native Americans, that’s blacks, that’s Latinos,” Hallman said, pointing to a report showing that thousands of Minnesotans lack the photo ID required under the amendment.

He contends the photo ID amendment is a GOP-sponsored strategy to limit the number of Democratic voters – African-Americans among them. And though Minnesota is considered a blue state, he said, voter attrition through whatever method has electoral consequences.

“We don’t have a big turnout of black people who come out to vote for a number of reasons,” Hallman explained, noting that their relatively low participation in the 2010 election was likely a factor in Republicans gaining control of the state’s legislature.

Young Voters in Old Dominion

While a low turnout of African-Americans in Minnesota might not lose the Oval Office for the Democratic Party, it certainly could in Virginia. With 13 electoral votes at stake, both parties are aggressively courting Old Dominion voters.

Virginia enacted a voter photo ID law this year, one considered by both supporters and detractors as having the least onerous requirements among laws of its type. For Foster Stringer, who has spent time visiting schools as part of a broad-based voter registration drive spearheaded by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, how the state’s young voters will respond has yet to be answered.

“These were majority black and Hispanic kids, very few white children in these schools,” said Stringer, who recently retired as Director of Human and Civil Rights for the American Federation of Teachers. He said that even before the second presidential debate, “there would be this interest in talking about the election. ‘We gotta be talking about Pell grants and student loans. I want to go to college, but I don’t want to get saddled with all that debt.’”

Stringer said he had not anticipated their interest. “After all the negative talk we hear about a lost generation of African-American youth, I was surprised. It was very encouraging for me.”

He attributes that enthusiasm, in part, to the 2008 election of President Obama. “Some of these kids were 13 when Obama was elected and now they’re at an age where they want to be responsible.” He said the speculation that an African-American president would manifest in unexpected ways is being borne out.

In New Orleans, Poverty is Suppression

The picture in New Orleans appears less bright for David Baker, associate editor for the Louisiana Weekly. He says he’s yet to see the kind of eagerness to register described by Stringer.

“I haven’t seen as many 18 or 19-year-olds registering voters outside of grocery stores … like during the last election.” He said he is aware that there were ongoing voter registration campaigns in the city, but added, “New Orleans has been mired in crime, violent murder crime. A lot of people’s focus has been on that issue.”

Baker also expressed disappointment in the failure of both candidates to draw clear lines around what middle class means for different communities. That Obama and Romney would consider a person in the African-American community who even neared earning the $200,000 to $250,000 cap they cite as being middle class is not grounded in the reality of American life, he said.

Poverty, Baker insisted, is the ultimate voter suppression issue. Not only does it impose its own limits on civic participation, but its absence in policy discussions erodes confidence in America’s future.

“I don’t see poverty being debated. That’s the problem that continues to be unaddressed.” Baker said. “I actually heard my grandmother talk about the importance of voting, but then she’ll say, ‘No matter who wins the election, I’m still going to be poor.’”

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U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis Should Seek Answers from DECD, Others

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis’ meeting today with elected officials, political candidates, community activists and residents in the Greater Hartford region should tackle this burning question: Why is there $12 million for minority businesses sitting at the Department of Economic and Community Development in a time when these businesses are bruising from a deep economic recession and a long recovery?

In a region where Latino and black jobless rates dwarf the state’s recently reported jobless rate of 9 percent, DECD has yet to distribute the allocated money to small and minority business owners, who are likely job creators for many Hartford residents.  We hope that besides her roundtable discussion, press conference and other meetings around the state today, she makes a beeline to DECD.

Hartford has the highest jobless rate in the state. The overall unemployment rate for the city is reportedly 17 percent. The Latino jobless rate is 25 percent. The black jobless rate is 27 percent. These figures do not factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work after one or two years of unemployment or underemployment.

Moreover, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra added 14 people to the unemployment line this week, in an effort to balance the city budget.

Besides pontification from pundits and politicians, we need to see leaders taking actions to create conditions that promote economic growth, so that businesses can hire more city residents. Distributing the money to Hartford’s small businesses would allow at least two hires by each company and at the same time help build capacity to provide better services to city residents. It all seems elementary. Yet there is so much malaise in all sections of the city. And the biggest obstacle seems to be the very people who are purportedly community leaders.

Solis must question these community leaders and local officials about their seemingly inability to coordinate efforts to create conditions that help businesses grow so that they can provide jobs.

The $12 million can provide many jobs. News that that much money allocated specifically for minority businesses was just sitting at DECD met puzzled participants at a small business summit for urban business sponsored by the state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other entities. The irony was that the summit provided possible answers to this predicament. It was clear that summit organizers failed to inform local business owners of the summit within a one-mile radius of the Artist Collective on Albany Avenue, where the event was held. The  auditorium was packed with mostly business owners, who traveled from New Haven and Bridgeport. And the few Hartford business owners present heard the news from friends in other parts of the state—not in Hartford.

The one-day summit had so many key people present to help these businesses. It was also unbelievable that more effort was clearly not made to inform business owners about this economic-boosting opportunity right in thier backyard.

How unfortunate.


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Chris Murphy v Linda McMahon

On January 2, 2012,  I was driving to my office in Downtown Milford with my husband when we saw Congressman Chris Murphy walking along Broad Street with his small son Owen. Concerned that they were alone and perhaps even lost, we pulled over to offer help.

“Owen likes trains,” Chris explained, “So every once in a while we take a train to a new town, get out and take a walk, and have some lunch together.”

I was struck by this encounter because here was a very busy Congressman, in a campaign for US Senate, commuting weekly between Washington, DC and Cheshire, CT, taking the time to be with his son. He had a new baby at home and felt it was important to be alone with the older child, and he knew that a (then) 3 and a half year old “likes trains”.

And Linda McMahon? Yes I saw her briefly walk the same sidewalk at the Oyster Fest. Last time I saw her she came to have a rally on City Hall steps and had her handlers indiscriminately cut the limbs off our trees in Doughboy Park to enhance the media’s camera angles.

I know who I am voting for on Nov. 6th.

Tessa Marquis, Milford

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Hartford City Council Ponders Interim Police Chief’s Negotiation On Entitlements

HARTFORD — Only in Hartford.

The not-yet-permanent Police Chief James C. Rovella said on Monday that he wants a guaranteed life-time health benefits package for himself AND his family paid for by Hartford residents, some of whom are unemployed, underemployed, or barely surviving the current economic woes.

None of this socio-economic reality matters, however. Mayor Pedro Segarra and the city council, elected by Hartford residents to make responsible decisions on matters that significantly impact them, want to hire this man. Segarra and others apparently think this man is entitled to the job. Rovella, who currently serves as the interim police chief, didn’t even apply for the job as the permanent police chief, which should be suspect. Usually, employers want people to demonstrate that they want the job.

But not in this case.

Some people are seemingly  skipping down the yellow, brick road to the installation ceremony. A ceremony that was apparently planned by the mayor and his administration that has deliberately kept his public calendar from, well the public, so that savvy reporters cannot detect his maneuverings while in office. This kind of deception observed by The Hartford Guardian has emerged from Segarra’s administration since his inauguration in January. Now, it has manifested itself in the decision he made to hire Rovella. Get this: Segarra hired a staffing agency located in Massachusetts called Strategic Policy Partnership, spent $50,000 on a six-month national search, bypassed a “stellar” candidate who lives in Bloomfield and brought in three candidates from outside the state to meet city residents. Then Segarra called a select group of reporters to announce Rovella’s appointment as permanent police chief. The announcement came so quickly, the administration didn’t have time to write a press release.

Even to the uninitiated, this search process doesn’t represent clear thinking or responsible action.

Of course, we don’t blame Rovella, a cancer survivor, for trying to get as much as he can from the city’s coffers. He served 20 years before he retired in 2000 to work for the state. And, may we add, might soon retire again, only to start another search process. Rovella is already collecting a $60,000 pension from the city. So we have to wonder if he could negotiate this kind of entitlements in Wethersfield or any other city.

This is for the council to ponder because the procedural ball is now in its court. And with this silly thing called fairness in mind, it would be interesting to see if they select Rovella, as if there was absolutely no one else on earth qualified for the job.

The thinking displayed during this search is indicative of what’s to come from the Segarra administration–unless city council members find their spine and  stand up for city taxpayers, who already shoulder some of the highest taxes in the state. Council members should forget the back room deals made during their campaigns and actually show people in Hartford that one of the city’s most educated council in decades can make a difference in how they govern the city.

We didn’t go through a corruption trial and a fairly recent election only to see the same kind of nonsense continue: changing a law to benefit one person who does not live in the city. What?!

Hartford residents voted for change. And they expect change.

The council can start with a change in how the city hires a new police chief.

The featured photo is courtesy of (L to R: Interim Police Chief James C. Rovella, Mayor Pedro Segarra and WFSB’s Dennis House).

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Minority Birthrate Highlights Need for Education Reform

By La Opinión, Editorial

This situation had already been predicted. People can complain as much as they want and long for the past, but demographic changes are irreversible. In reality, this is good news if it is accompanied by the actions needed for generational turnover to be successful.

Right now, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more children younger than one in the United States from racial and ethnic minorities (50.4%) than white (49.5%). The information confirms the aging trend of the Anglo population, which has a median age of 42, compared for example with the Latino community’s median age of 27, their peak reproductive years.

The good news is that there is a potential workforce that can gradually take over as workers retire. In Europe, immigration has been covering this gap, while in our country, the children of immigrants and natives will be the ones doing it.

The problem is that the current track record of educating and preparing minority students to enter the workforce is awful. A college education is the most important tool for a successful and satisfactory career, a good salary, the buying power to contribute to the economy and the ability to pay taxes to help support retirees.

But part of the population is having a hard time understanding the changes. They would like to see the United States as a society frozen in time, without realizing that from its beginnings until today, ours has been a changing, dynamic society of European origins, with Native Americans, slavery, waves of immigration and great economic transformations. The birth rate is a sign that must be understood to be able to take action.

As a case in point, instead of wasting time developing proposals to strip the children of undocumented immigrants of their citizenship, why not think of how to educate them and prevent the high rate of school dropouts that negatively impacts African Americans and Latinos? We need to prepare these young people, the sons and daughters of immigrants who worked hard to contribute to past economic bonanzas, to join the workforce. The history of generations replacing each other is the history of the United States.

In addition to the blindness of the anti-immigrant movement that is swarming around many states, there is a wave to cut investments in education to tackle government deficits. Priorities are misguided when temporary political pressure blocks a vision that goes beyond today’s tax hikes or cuts.

It will take years until minorities become the majority population in the U.S., but the date looms on the horizon. Closing the eyes and ignoring this fact is irresponsible. Wanting to deport these children and deny them opportunities, as happens now with the dreamers of the DREAM Act, is long-term suicide. The future is in our hands, and depends on how we prepare the next generation by giving them opportunities to succeed. Their success will be everyone’s success.

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