February 27, 2014
LAWT News Service
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame for her outstanding contributions to the state’s heritage and progress on Monday, February 24, at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in South Carolina.
“I am grateful and humbled to be receiving this great honor from my home state especially with one of my great heroines, the late Septima Clark who fought courageously for equal educational opportunity, teacher pay equity and citizenship rights – especially the votes,” said Edelman.
“I have always felt blessed to be born who I was, where I was, when I was, and with the parents I had. Growing up in Bennettsville, I was richly blessed with parents and a Black community who nurtured me and other children so that we could realize our God-given potential despite many negative messages of the outside segregated world. We were taught that the world had a lot of problems but that we could change them and that those of us who were given much had a responsibility to give back and that service is the rent we pay for living.
“What keeps me going everyday is my belief that we can and will win the fight to make America live up to its ideals in the Declaration of Independence and realize the dream of a level playing field for all. We must confront the structural inequalities of opportunity and outcome that contribute to more than 16 million children living in poverty, almost half of them in extreme poverty. They pose a greater threat to the economic, military and national security of our nation than any outside enemy.
“It is a disgrace that children are the poorest group of Americans and that Black children are the poorest of the poor. Parents, grandparents, youth leaders, women of all races and income levels in our communities must raise an irresistible and persistent voice for new investment priorities of time and resources to rescue voiceless, voteless children from poor and unequal education, ill health, and violence.”
She was honored along with civil rights activist Septima Clark who helped lay the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement and equal educational opportunity in South Carolina and the nation.
“We are pleased to be inducting two strong African American women and civil rights activists —Marian Wright Edelman and Septima Clark — into the official South Carolina Hall of Fame. Marian has been ambassador for disadvantaged people from the Civil Rights Movement until today. She has worked relentlessly to defend children for over forty years and her achievements have helped millions,” said Dr. Leo Twiggs, Chairman of the Trustees of the Official South Carolina Hall of Fame.
The daughter of the late Reverend Arthur Jerome and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright, Wright-Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. After completing her education at Spelman College and Yale Law School, she became the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death.
Under her leadership for the last forty years, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families. The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
She has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, I’m Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.
She is married to Peter B. Edelman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and they are the parents of three sons and have four grandchildren.
February 20, 2014
By Jazelle Hunt
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed race- and gender-based discrimination. Now, 50 years later, Black women still suffer under the double-whammy of race and gender.
Stephanie Coontz, co-chair of Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) and director of Research and Public Education, made that point at a symposium sponsored by the CCF, a nonprofit nonpartisan family research think-tank.
“One of the things we see with African American women is that they’ve actually made bigger gains in terms of their representation in college, in educational gains, and in professional work. The pay gap is lower between Black women and Black men than between White women and White men. All of these are certain kinds of gains,” Coontz explains. “But the other side of it is that the combination of Black womanhood leads to tremendous stereotypes. So there are ways in which Black women have gained in relation to men, but there are ways in which they go through life with the combination of difficulties that are caused by race, but that play out in their gender.”
To use the subject of wages, for example, Black women earn 10 percent less than African American males, and 36 percent less than White men, according to another CCF symposium. (In general, a quarter of the gains made in the wage gap are attributable to a decline in men’s wages rather than an increase in women’s income, according to one of the papers’ authors). At the same time, African American women’s professional success is on the rise, as Coontz points out. Still, these gains are accompanied by drastic losses among African American men.
“…Black and Hispanic men earn so much less than white men that the lower gender gap for Black women and Latinas does not produce economic security,” one paper finds. “Many of the gains that women have made are not as impressive as they seem at first sight. This is especially true for Black Americans, as low-income Black men in impoverished communities have not only experienced dramatic losses in real wages and job security but tremendous increases in incarceration rates.”
The CCF Civil Rights Online Symposium presents a collection of white papers from researchers across the country that examines America’s progress (or lack thereof) on religion-, race-, and gender-based discrimination since the Civil Rights Act.
Discrimination also manifests in a unique way for high-status African American women, says Joan C. Williams, a distinguished professor of law and at the University of California and one of the symposium’s featured researchers. She points out that Black women tend to lose workplace discrimination cases because of their blended experience of gender- and race-based discrimination. (According to Williams, it is difficult to bolster and win a discrimination case involving both race and gender).
“It appears that the experience of gender bias is really quite different as a Black woman,” says Williams, whose paper for the symposium is based on her co-authored book, What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know. Williams identifies four overall patterns of gender bias that high-achieving career women face. The first is dubbed “prove-it-again” bias, in which women are required to show more evidence of competence than men. Unlike the other women in Williams’ research, Black women often attributed this type bias to their race, as opposed to their gender.
There’s also “the tightrope” bias, which Williams describes as the balance between being feminine, attractive and well-liked, versus being masculine and respected, but disliked. Both hinder advancement in different ways. However, Black women involved in Williams’ research had less of a tightrope to walk. This dovetailed with another finding.
“[The Black women in the study] thought the option of being pretty, but not respected, was not an offer for Black women. So their only choice was to be respected,” Williams explains. “If you think about it, that fits…with data that suggests Black women are allowed to behave more dominant, so in a sense they have a little more room. Of course, there’s a sharp limit where, at a certain point, some will say, ‘Oh, you’re an angry Black woman.’ And then God help you.”
One area of discrimination that binds women across class and race is what’s known as the maternity wall. A 1978 amendment to the Civil Rights Act made it illegal for employers to exclude pregnancy and childbirth from sick leave and health benefits. There’s also the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which gives employees 12 weeks per year of paid leave for the birth or foster placement of a child, among other circumstances. But such protections haven’t stopped wage discrimination against mothers.
“The United States is still the only industrialized country that does not guarantee subsidized, job-protected leave for new mothers. As a result, many women are forced to quit or cut back on work when they give birth, creating a lifetime earnings penalty,” Coontz writes. “Even mothers who do not cut back are regarded with suspicion by employers, who are less likely to hire such women, and, if they do, offer them lower wages than other employees.”
Interestingly, new data indicates that men who request or take time to cater to their families face their own professional penalties. One paper suggests that caregiver status may become a new area of anti-discriminatory legislation.
“In government, academia, finances, medicine, law, and many other realms, issues of access and unequal treatment still prevail,” another researcher concludes. “The Civil Rights Act has helped women make many impressive gains, but further changes in policy and attitudes are needed to address these remaining inequalities.”
The issue of inequality affects all women, not just Blacks/
A mid-1960s Gallup poll found that only 55 percent of Americans would vote for a qualified woman president; today, that figure has risen to 95 percent. In 1960, mothers were the breadwinners in just 3.5 percent of homes with children. By 2011, that number had more than quadrupled to 15 percent.
Although women with degrees out earn men without them (which was not the case 50 years ago), women still earn less than their equally qualified male counterparts, despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Civil Rights Act of 1964. In fact, the first bill President Barack Obama signed into law was an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, which revised the statute of limitations for pay discrimination lawsuits.
Until passage of this law, claimants had 180 days from the initial wage decision to discover the discrimination and file a suit. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act resets that 180 days with each discriminatory paycheck.
“It‘s appropriate that we turn last to how women have fared since passage of the Civil Rights Act, because the addition of the word ‘sex’ was a last minute addition to the bill,” Stephanie Coontz of Research and Public Education writes in one introduction. “Women have also made impressive progress in entering high-status fields formerly dominated by men…. But women have not shattered the glass ceiling.”
Special to the NNPA from The Florida Courier
JACKSONVILLE- State Attorney Angela Corey says her office will retry 47-year-old Michael Dunn, a software developer charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and shooting into a vehicle in the November 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis outside a Jacksonville convenience store.
Dunn was convicted of attempting to murder three occupants in the vehicle he shot up, and of shooting into the vehicle. Davis was killed, but the other occupants were unhurt. Dunn faces a possibility of 75 years in prison.
Authorities say an argument over loud music led to the shooting. Davis was parked in a vehicle with three friends outside the store. Dunn and his fiancée had just left a wedding reception and were heading back home when they stopped at the store and pulled up next to the sport utility vehicle that Davis was sitting in.
An argument began after Dunn told them to turn the music down, police said. One of Davis’ friends turned the music down, but Davis then told him to turn it back up.
According to authorities, Dunn became enraged and he and Davis began arguing. One person walking out of the convenience store said he heard Dunn say, “You are not going to talk to me like that.”
Dunn, who had a concealed weapons permit, pulled a 9mm handgun from the glove compartment, according to an affidavit, and fired multiple shots into the SUV, killing Davis.
Dunn told officers that Davis threatened him and he thought he saw someone point a shotgun at him from inside the SUV or maybe it was a stick to make him think it was a gun. Under Florida’s self-defense law, Dunn could fire if he believed his life was in danger.
But police recovered no weapon from the crime scene, and witnesses said they never saw a weapon. There was no surveillance video taken outside the store.
By George J. Bryjak
Special to the NNPA from The Milwaukee Courier
Black Americans have a long and distinguished history of military service.
They participated in every colonial war from 1690 through the French and Indian War (1754-1763) as soldiers, sailors, laborers, scouts, and spies.
Blacks generally served in integrated units and earned the same pay as whites.
Even slaves served in the army and were paid although their enlistment compelled them to surrender some portion of this money to their owners.
In the early Revolutionary War battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, free and enslaved Blacks fought shoulder to shoulder with white patriots.
However, by the summer of 1775, under pressure from Southern plantation owners, General George Washington and the Continental Congress opposed the further enlistment of free blacks and slaves.
Historians James and Lois Horton state that southern planters were “well aware of African- Americans’ desire for freedom, and most feared insurrection should slaves gain access to guns.”
The British were more willing to accept blacks both as soldiers and non combatants.
Historian Kait Picco notes the British saw at least three advantages to channeling the “enthusiasm for rebellion” on the part of slaves: 1) they hoped the very thought of a slave uprising might pacify the colonists; 2) that the desertion of slaves would prove to be a significant economic hardship; and 3) that escaped slaves could be an asset to the British military in its campaign to defeat the rebels.
For example, runaway slaves with an intimate knowledge of the back country were invaluable to the British Army.
Historians estimate that during the war between 75,000 and 100,000 slaves sought freedom via going over to the British.
Most came from Virginia (at least 30 from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation), South Carolina, and Georgia.
Approximately one thousand of these men and women served in the British military with females typically working as nurses and cooks.
On November 7th, 1775, Governor John Murray of Virginia (whose title was Lord Dunmore) issued a proclamation stating that he would free Black and White “bondsmen” (slaves) who would fight for the British.
A slave owner himself, Dunmore offered freedom only to those slaves belonging to rebel planters.
Within a month approximately 300 men had joined Lord Dunmore’s “Ethiopian Regiment” and wore uniforms inscribed with “Liberty to Slaves.”
By the summer of 1776, the regiment had grown to 800 men, most of whom would die of disease (primarily smallpox) on Gwynn’s Island where they were stationed.
Historian Robert Selig argues the slaves who responded to Dunmore’s offer “were not necessarily pro-British; first and foremost they were problack, prepared to support the side that held out the greatest hope for them to improve their lot.
That side was the British…” No doubt many of the slaves who fought for King George asked themselves the same question the great English writer Samuel Johnson posed: “How is it we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?”
This contradiction between the goal of political freedom for the colonies and the reality of black slavery was recognized by many individuals, including Abigail Adams.
In 1774 the future First Lady wrote to husband, John: “It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right o freedom as we have.”
George Washington thought Dunmore’s decree encouraging slaves to fight for the British made him “the most dangerous man in America.”
As a consequence of this decree and some early British victories, on December 31st, 1775, Washington partially reversed his stance and stated that he was permitting the enlistment of free blacks but not slaves.
By 1777, most states either as result of specific legislation or the reversal of existing policies, began to enlist both free blacks and slaves.
A 1776 New York law permitted blacks to take the place of whites who had been drafted.
In 1778, Rhode Island was having difficulty meeting its quota of troops set by the Continental Congress.
The state Assembly voted to allow “every ablebodied negro, mulatto, or Indian man slave” to enlist, and “immediately upon discharge from the service of his master or mistress, be absolutely free…” Slave owners would be compensated by the state for the market value of the slave.
Approximately 140 of the 225 men who enlisted in the First Rhode Island Regiment (FRIR) under this statute were black.
This was one of the few racially segregated military units during the Revolutionary War.
In service for five years, the FRIR was part of Continental forces at the battles of Fort Oswego, Red Bank, Saratoga, and Yorktown among others.
At the Battle of Newport in 1778, reinforcements failed to arrive and the Continental Army retreated under a fierce enemy attack.
The FRIR positioned itself between retreating American units and advancing Hessian mercenary forces repelling three enemy charges.
The all black unit inflicted five casualties upon Hessian forces for every one casualty its members suffered.
When the FRIR was demobilized in Saratoga in June, 1783, its commander, Lt. Colonel Jeremiah Olney praised his troops for their “valor and good conduct.”
Olney stated that he regretted these men for whom he felt “the most affectionate regard and esteem” would leave the military without the pay still owed to them.
After the war Olney fought attempts to reenslave some of his former soldiers.
He also supported claims for the recovery of their back pay and pensions.
Other all black units included two companies from Massachusetts (one called the “Bucks of America”) and one from Connecticut.
These black units were commanded by white officers.
The distinguished African-American historian, John Franklin Hope, notes that by 1778 George Washington had “completely accepted the idea of blacks as soldiers…”
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – If America is ever to end the revolving door of prison recidivism, it needs to ease the re-entry of former offenders back into society by allowing them to vote, Attorney General Eric Holder believes.
Holder announced his position during a recent conference on criminal justice reform at Georgetown University Law Center at Washington, D.C. He called on state officials, state leaders and other elected officials to reform or repeal laws that block ex-felons from voting, more than two million of them Black.
Holder said that some of the laws dating back to the Reconstruction Era were specifically crafted to target Blacks and weaken their voting power, especially in Southern states where most Blacks live.
According to The Sentencing Project, 1 of every 13 African Americans can’t cast a ballot, due to felony disenfranchisement. In Florida, Kentucky and Virginia more than 20 percent of the Blacks are barred from voting.
Last summer Holder announced the Justice Department’s “Smart on Crime” initiative that includes provisions to reform sentencing guidelines, eliminate unfair disparities and reduce overcrowding in prisons by seeking alternatives to prison time for low-level non-violent crimes.
Holder said that felony disenfranchisement laws often undermine the reentry process and defy the principles – of accountability and rehabilitation – that guide our criminal justice policies.
“And however well-intentioned current advocates of felony disenfranchisement may be – the reality is that these measures are, at best, profoundly outdated,” said Holder. “At worst, these laws, with their disparate impact on minority communities, echo policies enacted during a deeply troubled period in America’s past – a time of post-Civil War repression. And they have their roots in centuries-old conceptions of justice that were too often based on exclusion, animus, and fear.”
Civil rights leaders and criminal justice advocates applauded Holder’s call to lift the ban on voting rights for ex-felons.
“The attorney general’s strong leadership in calling for the repeal of felony disenfranchisement laws across the country is an extraordinary signal to states and the American people,” said Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under the Law. “This is the latest in a series of instances in the past year in which the administration has taken great leadership on criminal justice issues. From the statements of Attorney General Holder to the American Bar Association in August, to the implementation of their policies, it shows that they have heard the cries for reforms within the nation’s over-racialized criminal justice system.”
Tanya Clay House, the public policy director at Arnwine’s organization, said that passing the Democracy Restoration Act, a bill co-sponsored by Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in 2009, would restore the voting rights in federal elections to those disenfranchised because of criminal convictions.
“The Lawyers’ Committee advocates for legislative efforts that restore equality to both the criminal justice system and voting rights,” said House. “Congress can answer the attorney general’s call to action, and lead the nation by example, by reintroducing the Democracy Restoration Act. This bill would restore the voting rights in federal elections to those disenfranchised because of criminal convictions.”
During the same conference, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) repeated his support for repealing felony voting restrictions in his state. Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley also expressed support for restoring voting rights for felons who completed their sentences. In 2003, state officials in Alabama passed legislation streamlining the process to restore voting rights for most ex-felons. Nearly 15 percent of Blacks are disenfranchised in the state.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said, there is undeniable bipartisan momentum for criminal justice reform that would update inhumane sentencing laws and return people to society with dignity.
“America is the world’s greatest democracy, yet felon disenfranchisement laws deny almost six million Americans the right to vote,” said Henderson. “These laws serve no purpose but to make it harder for returning citizens to reintegrate into their communities – to work, seek an education, and participate in our democracy. Successful reintegration and smarter sentencing are the keys to ensuring that our criminal justice system is more fair, more humane, and more fiscally responsible.”
In prepared remarks, Holder also addressed states that continue to “restrict voting rights, to varying degrees, even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole.”
In Florida, the state with the highest population of disenfranchised residents, almost 1 in 4 Blacks is disenfranchised and in Mississippi almost 14 percent of the Black population can’t vote because of a prior felony conviction. Iowa’s Republican governor reversed an automatic restoration order in 2011, placing an additional hurdle in the way of returning citizens. Two years later, Holder said less than 12 people out of 8,000 that have completed their sentences during the current governor’s tenure can vote in the next election.
“That’s moving backwards – not forward. It is unwise, it is unjust, and it is not in keeping with our democratic values,” said Holder. “These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed.”
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