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CHS to Run Exhibit on Blacks and the Struggle for Citizenship


The Connecticut Historical Society will run an exhibit that highlights 50 years of struggle for citizenship by black Americans.

The exhibit, Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, is a new traveling show from the New York Historical Society that explores African Americans’ struggle for full citizenship and equal rights. Connecticut will be the first stop on a national tour.

The exhibit, which will run from March 27 to Sept. 14,  focuses on the transformative 50 years after the Civil War, using art, artifacts, photographs, silent films and other types of media to tell the story of reconstruction, black advancement and the backlash that was manifested in segregationist “Jim Crow” laws.

The traveling exhibit will also include details and documentation on lynchings and other heinous crimes and acts of terrorism against black Americans during this time.

The showcase will end after World War I, when more than 350, 000 African American men fought.

In addition to the original exhibit, the CHS also included Connecticut-themed items to the exhibit, providing local context to the national story.

Objects that will be on display include a letter from Frederick Douglass written in 1863 to Edwin M. Stanton, which recommends George T. Downin for Bridgade Quarter Master of Colored Troops. Also on display will be a Poplin dress belonging to Rebecca Primus, circa 1868. Rebecca Primus was born in 1836 in Hartford to a socially prominent black family. She completed high school and became and educator. During the early years of Reconstruction, Primus moved south to Royal Oak, Maryland to establish and teach at a school for previously enslaved African Americans under the sponsorship of the Hartford Freedman’s Aid Society.

The lives of Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells and W. E. B. DuBois are also explored along with many lesser-known but impactful historical figures who each contributed positively to America’s story.

For more information about the exhibit, visit, chs.org.

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Planned Parenthood Backs Free Testing in Hartford on Black AIDS/HIV Awareness Day


NEW HAVEN – Planned Parenthood of Southern New England will recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb 7  by raising awareness of the disproportionate impact of this epidemic on African Americans and by supporting free HIV testing in New Haven and Hartford.

African Americans account for almost half of all HIV infections in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  An estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection in their lifetime, said the PPSNE announcement

“National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community and unite in the fight to increase access to health care for all Americans,” said Judy Tabar, president and chief executive officer of New Haven-based PPSNE.

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PPSNE is supporting the following community efforts to educate and raise awareness on HIV/AIDS on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Friday:

Hartford – Community fair with free HIV and STD testing, 2 to 5 p.m., Liberty Christian Center International, 23 Vine St.

New Haven –  Free HIV testing and Affordable Care Act enrollment, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.,  New Haven Public Library, 133 Elm St.

Under the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, preventive health care services, like HIV testing, is covered without a co-pay. Additionally, no one can be denied coverage or charged more because of pre-existing conditions like being HIV-positive.

In 2012, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England provided more than 16,500 HIV tests in the Connecticut and Rhode Island – including rapid HIV testing. Last year, Planned Parenthood conducted close to 700,000 HIV tests nationally.

“We are proud to help more people access a wide range of critical preventive health care services, including HIV testing,” Tabar said.

For more information, visit ppsne.org.

Please join in for a National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) Twitter chat/”town hall meeting” on Friday, February 7, at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

 

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Don’t Forget Blacks in the Deficit Struggle


By Dr. Wilmer Leon, Contributor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Proposed cuts to entitlements will hit African Americans especially hard.

Republicans have linked the issue of raising the debt ceiling to the deficit and are using the debt issue as a hammer to repeal three important social entitlement programs to which several conservative Republicans have been ideologically opposed from their inception. Since these programs became law in 1965, many of those Republicans have disliked the government-run social insurance system (Medicare) and the government-run program for people and families with low incomes and resources (Medicaid). Since the administration of George H.W. Bush, Republicans have also wanted to “privatize” Social Security.

It’s very important to understand the disproportionate impact that proposed cuts to these entitlement programs will have on African Americans. Even though Social Security is supposed to be one piece in a retirement plan or strategy, it is the sole source of retirement income for too many African Americans because of a lack of income from pensions and other assets.

According to the National Committee to Save Social Security and Medicare (link), “71% of African-American beneficiaries rely on Social Security for at least half their income, compared to less than two-thirds (64%) of all beneficiaries. 47% of African-American beneficiaries rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income and 40% of African-American beneficiaries rely on Social Security for all of their income.” Social Security can pay benefits for the next 25 years at current funding levels; it has nothing to do with the debt or deficit.

A disproportionate number of poor African Americans rely on these benefits. According to the Kaiser Foundation (link), of the estimated 41.8 million Medicare beneficiaries in 2002, 33.1 million were white and 3.9 million were African American. But of those African Americans, 64 percent had incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), as compared with 32 percent of white beneficiaries.

These disparities in Social Security and other entitlements are compounded by the even larger chasm of wealth disparity. Wealth is defined as tangible assets (home, stocks, cash, etc.) minus debts. According to the most recent Pew Research Center report (link), based on 2009 data, “The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households.” These are the largest disparities since Pew began publishing the data more than 25 years ago.

“The typical black household had just $5,677 in wealth … in 2009, the typical Hispanic household had $6,325 in wealth and the typical white household had $113,149 … Moreover, about a third of black (35 percent) and Hispanic (31 percent) households had zero or negative net worth in 2009, compared with 15 percent of white households.” The ability to accumulate wealth enables an individual or family to better deal with economic downturn and is critical to the ability to pass on wealth to future generations. In this time of a supposed “postracial” America, disparities measured by race are growing at historic rates.

Last week, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared, “The gulf between the two parties now is about policy. It’s not about process, it’s not about personalities.” Boehner was wrong then and is wrong now — it’s not about policy. It’s about ideology and has everything to do with personality (and race).

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) clearly made it about personality when he stated (link) in 2010 that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” It’s not that Republicans can’t compromise; they won’t compromise with President Barack Obama.

Programs that provide retirement security, both financial and medical, should be sacrosanct in America. Republicans are using a real debt crisis with a simple solution to attack programs to which they have been always ideologically opposed.

Boehner has been negotiating with President Obama and is hamstrung by the members of the Tea Party Caucus and their uncompromising ideological stance for a constitutionally limited government. The vote that was scheduled for Tuesday has been pushed back because Boehner can’t convince 218 Republicans to support his own plan. He can’t even control his own caucus, and he says the president needs to lead?

A Call to Action

Now is the time for organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League to come to the forefront. NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous and members of the Congressional Black Caucus need to lead the charge. They should be publicly articulating a unified agenda to improve the economic conditions of African Americans.

National Urban League President Marc H. Morial needs to be out front rallying public support for the Urban Jobs Act and other measures in the league’s 12-Point Plan for Job Creation. It’s one thing to meet with the president and hold summits to discuss these issues, and another to be publicly rallying the troops and creating a groundswell of public sentiment that will bring about change.

Republicans are attacking the financial and medical safety nets for a lot of hardworking Americans, and African Americans will be disproportionately affected if they are successful. If the GOP wins this debate, America loses, and the harm to African Americans will be catastrophic.

When elephants battle, the weeds suffer.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the producer-host of the call-in talk radio program Inside the Issues With Wilmer Leon on Sirius/XM 128. He teaches at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter and contact him by email.


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Black Urban Flight Changing America’s Political Face


LOS ANGELES –A decade ago it was odd to see young (and not-so-young whites) walking their dogs, jogging and attending community meetings around my neighborhood in the western section of South Los Angeles. That’s not the case anymore.

Young and not-so-young whites are now a fixture in the neighborhood—and in many others. The black population of Los Angeles has shrunk from nearly 20 percent of the city’s overall population in 1970 to less than 10 percent today.

The population shift has happened in parts of every major city from Oakland to Washington, D.C., including cities that at one time were either exclusively or predominantly black. The latest U.S. Census figures more than confirm that America’s urban racial and ethnic demographics are fast changing.

Washington is a near-textbook example of the change. African Americans now make up a bare majority in a city that only two decades was one of the blackest cities in the United States—if not the blackest. If current trends continue, blacks could make up a minority in the nation’s capitol in the next decade.

Gentrification Only One Reason

Several factors have been cited for the emerging ethnic demographics of some inner-city neighborhoods. The most common is gentrification, that is, whites buying up homes, apartments and lofts at bargain rates in inner-city neighborhoods. There’s some truth and some exaggeration to that.

A 2008 study by researchers at three universities (University of Colorado, Boulder, University of Pittsburgh and Duke) compared census data from more than 15,000 neighborhoods across the United States in 1990 and 2000. They found that some low- and many middle-income blacks moved from inner-city neighborhoods in significant numbers. The study also showed that more college-educated whites were moving to these neighborhoods.

According to this report, a large percentage of those moving into gentrified areas were better-educated and higher-income blacks.

Other factors leading to the shifts have been that inner-city neighborhoods are potentially high-value property areas that are close to downtown and commercial centers. These neighborhoods have seen more than their share of developers bulldozing whole sections of deteriorating and abandoned homes and converting them into upscale, boutique-style apartments, condos and townhouses.

The lure of relatively affordable homes and apartments for blacks in the outlying suburbs has also been a factor.

Then there’s the large number of African Americans, who have migrated back to the South to retire or seek better employment opportunities. They have bought land and suburban homes at bargain-basement prices compared to prices in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco or Chicago.

Black Leaders Worried

The out flight of blacks from urban neighborhoods and the increasing number of whites, Hispanics and Asians that have relocated into these areas, have plainly worried some African-American leaders. They see the falling numbers as a potential threat to diminish black voting strength and political power.

A quirk of segregation was that exclusively or majority-black neighborhoods provided steady, reliable and concentrated African American votes that fueled the leap in the number of black elected officials during the past quarter century. Black leaders fear that the drop in those numbers will result in a decline in the number of black elected officials.

And it’s a fear based in fact. In recent years, blacks have lost some mayoral offices in such cities as New Orleans and Oakland, and come close to losing the mayorship in Atlanta.

The ethnic change has forced blacks to scramble and sharply broaden their campaign pitches, appeals and promises to other ethnic groups. It’s almost mandatory that African American elected officials now have diverse campaign staffs and representatives to service their multicultural constituencies. That’s especially true for majority or near-majority Hispanic constituencies in districts that previously had solid black majorities.

The next major challenge is to forge effective coalitions within the increasingly multiethnic inner-city areas to fight for, demand and insure quality services, neighborhood schools, business development and crime reduction.

A significant reason blacks have fled the inner cities was not just to find affordable housing and jobs, but to locate neighborhoods with quality schools, businesses and low crime rates. Sadly, they could only find those quality-of-life needs in the suburbs.

Black flight to the suburbs, along with the quantum growth in the Hispanic and Asian population in major cities and rural areas, will seriously affect national politics in 2012 and beyond.

Redistricting almost certainly will result in an increase in the number of Latino elected officials, nationally and locally, and the suburbanization of blacks will also force both parties to tailor their campaign pitches and appeals to the growing black population in what were once all or mostly white suburban districts.

Black flight, then, is a double-edged social and political sword changing the face of urban America and American politics for good.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts the national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles (ktym.com) and WFAX Radio Washington, D.C., (wfax.com), as well as his Internet TV broadcast, thehutchinsonreportnews.com. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson.

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