October 31, 2013
By Christopher Tidmore
Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly
The official numbers are in, and African Americans have lost aggregate population—and therefore political influence—since Hurricane Katrina.
A study of U.S. Census Bureau demographics by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center shows 103,881 fewer African Americans living in Orleans Parish compared to 2000, with just 14,984 fewer Caucasians in the City. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanics grew by 4,830.
And, Orleans is not alone. Population declines have hit the entire seven–parish New Orleans metro area—Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany—as well as the city.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 1,205,374 residents were living in the New Orleans metro area as of July 2012, a three percent increase from April 2010. However, the metro area has just 92 percent of its 2000 population of 1,316,510.
In Orleans Parish, the share of the 2012 population that is African American — while lower than in 2000 when it was 66.7 percent — continues to represent the majority of city residents at 59.4 percent. The share of Hispanics in the city increased from 3.1 percent in 2000 to 5.3 percent in 2012; the share of Asians increased from 2.3 percent to 2.9 percent; and the share of whites increased from 26.6 percent to 30.8 percent. The percentage differences almost exactly make up the margins of victory of several Caucasian candidates running Citywide in recent years.
Overall, minority populations, Hispanic, Asian, and African-American, have increased as a share of the total population in Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany parishes. In fact, the number and share of Hispanics have increased in all seven parishes in the metro area.
Between 2000 and 2012, the number of Hispanics in Jefferson Parish increased by 24,435, reaching over 13 percent of the total population. Orleans Parish and St. Tammany Parish gained 4,830 and 7,243 Hispanics respectively, such that, by 2012, the Hispanic share of the population in Orleans was 5.3 percent, and in St. Tammany it was 5.0 percent.
The GNOCDC found that as of July 2012, there were 98,992 Hispanics in the metro area representing 8.2 percent of the metro area population, up from 58,415 representing 4.4 percent of the metro population in 2000. Despite these recent gains, the Hispanic share of the population in metro area parishes is far below the average for the United States, which has grown from 12.5 percent to 16.9 percent of the total population over these 12 years.
And the New Orleans Metro population is growing older. The progression of the baby boomers through the age ranks, along with falling birth rates, have brought massive changes to the metro — and indeed the whole country — with many more changes yet to come. Looking at the total population in the metro by five-year age groups for 2000 and 2012, the baby boomers are like a demographic tidal wave. Born between 1946 and 1964, the baby boomers clustered around the 35- to 54-year-old age group in 2000, and around the 45- to 64-year-old age group in 2012.
Meanwhile the share of households with children is shrinking while the share of individuals living alone is growing — both across the metro and nation. As of 2012, 27 percent of households in the New Orleans metro included children, down from 33 percent in 2000. Between 2000 and 2012, the percent of St. Tammany households with children declined from 40 percent to 31 percent; the percent of Jefferson households with children declined from 33 percent to 26 percent; and the percent of Orleans households with children declined from 30 percent to 22 percent.
As households with children have declined, the share of single–person households has grown in the metro and nationwide. The metro area share of individuals living alone grew from 27 percent in 2000 to 32 percent in 2012 — matching the trend for Jefferson Parish. In fact, all three of the largest metro area parishes had growth in the share of single–person households, with the largest jump in Orleans Parish from 33 to 41 percent.
Perhaps it is a result of post-Katrina out-migration, or due to an influx of young professionals, but the metro area, and Orleans Parish in particular, is better educated than it was ten years ago. It is a critical metric, as the GNOCDC authors Vicki Mack and Elaine Ortiz noted since “educational attainment is an important determinant of household incomes, workforce skills, and regional resiliency.”
The proportion of adults 25 years and older with less than a high school education declined across all three of the largest parishes, leading to a metro-wide decrease from 22 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2012. In the city of New Orleans, the share of adults with less than a high school degree fell from 25 percent to 15 percent, nearly as low as the United States average.
The metro area decline in the share of adults with less than a high school degree has been coupled with an increase in the share with a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Orleans Parish, 34 percent of adults 25 and older had a college degree in 2012 — higher than the U.S. average of 29 percent, and up from 26 percent in 2000. The overall metro area share of adults with a bachelor’s degree grew from 23 to 27 percent — lower than the national average.
In another positive note, as Mack and Ortiz stated, “While the Great Recession pushed household income down 11 percent in the nation between 1999 and 2012, the median income fell nine percent in the metro and eight percent in Orleans Parish.” The metro area endured the recession far better, yet we still rank lower than the nation as a whole.
The 2012 median household incomes of $44,379 for the metro and $34,361 for the city are significantly lower than the U.S. median of $51,371. In a sign that population declines are being felt most in the affluent suburbs, in Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes, median household income declined 14 percent between 1999 and 2012, falling to $45,519 and $56,650, respectively.
The rich and the young are leaving, and it is not getting much better for those living below the poverty level. “The economy,” said Mack and Ortiz “is not providing all residents with the ability to meet their most basic needs, including food, housing, and transportation.”
The poverty rate in Orleans Parish declined from 28 percent in 1999 to 21 percent in 2007, but then soared to 29 percent in 2012, such that it is statistically unchanged since 1999. In Jefferson Parish, the poverty rate increased from 14 to 16 percent between 1999 and 2012, and in St. Tammany Parish, the poverty rate rose from 10 to 14 percent. Meanwhile, the U.S. poverty rate grew from 12 to 16 percent between 1999 and 2012.
Like the overall poverty rate, child poverty rates in Orleans Parish and the metro area dropped in 2007 and have since increased again to their 1999 level. The Orleans Parish child poverty rate fell from 41 percent in 1999 to 32 percent in 2007, and then shot back up to 41 percent in 2012. The metro area child poverty rate dipped to 21 percent in 2007, but ended up at 28 percent in 2012 — unchanged since 1999 according to statistical testing. Jefferson’s 23 percent child poverty rate for 2012 is also statistically unchanged from 1999. Meanwhile, the child poverty rate has increased from 12 to 20 percent in St. Tammany Parish, and from 17 to 23 percent nationwide.
Post–Katrina, and perhaps due in part to the storm, people are buying cars. “The share of Orleans Parish households without access to a vehicle has dropped from 27 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2012,” said Ortiz, yet she added, “Nonetheless, at 19 percent, New Orleans’ share is more than twice as high as in neighboring parishes and the nation, indicating the importance of a robust public transportation system and comprehensive evacuation plan.”
New Orleans has always had a foreign born population, once bragging that the metro was the third largest city in Honduras. Post-Katrina, that trend has accelerated. As the GNOCDC writers concluded, “A rising foreign–born share of the population may reflect expanding economic opportunities for both high–skilled and low–skilled workers. That share of the population has grown in all three of the most populous metro parishes since 2000, led by a three percent gain in Jefferson Parish to reach 10 percent in 2012. In Orleans Parish and St. Tammany Parish, the foreign–born share of the population increased by two percent and one percent, respectively, between 2000 and 2012. However, the foreign–born share of the population in metro areas parishes is still significantly lower than the 13 percent average for the United States.”
“Like the foreign–born population, a rising share of the population who moved into the parish in the past year may reflect expanding economic opportunities. The most frequent reason people move long distances, such as from one state to another state, is for job opportunities. In addition, the young and well–educated are more likely than others to move long distances.”
Young people are flocking to the City, and the inner suburbs. In 2012, 8 percent of the population in Orleans Parish had moved into the parish in the past year, up from three percent in 2004. About half of the new movers into Orleans Parish came from outside the state of Louisiana. In Jefferson Parish, the share of the population who were new movers into the parish was five percent in both 2004 and 2012.”
Economic opportunity has also translated into renewed interest in real estate. As Ortiz and Mack observed, “After Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish initially experienced a disproportionate return of homeowners, but as of 2012, both parishes have returned to their pre–Katrina homeownership rates. In St. Tammany Parish, an increase in renters has pushed the 2012 homeownership rate lower than in 2000. With a 47 percent homeownership rate in Orleans Parish, a 62 percent homeownership rate in Jefferson Parish, and a 72 percent homeownership rate in St. Tammany, Orleans lags, Jefferson is on par with, and St. Tammany exceeds the national homeownership rate.”
And, thanks to the multigenerational and aging nature of the population, the New Orleans metro has had fewer foreclosures than the nation, the two analysts suspect. “A high share of such homeowners usually indicates residents living in the same house for long periods of time, and helps shield neighborhoods from foreclosures. The proportion of metro area homeowners without a mortgage has increased from 34 to 41 percent between 2000 and 2012, driven by changes in all three of the area’s largest parishes. The share of homeowners without a mortgage shot up from 33 to 43 percent in Orleans; from 35 to 40 percent in Jefferson; and from 30 to 37 percent in St. Tammany. One reason for the surge may be that homeowners who returned after Katrina used insurance or Road Home proceeds to pay off their mortgage principal. These three parishes received the first, second, and fourth largest number of Road Home Option 1 grants among all Louisiana parishes.”
Yet, thanks to low rental prices, New Orleans before the storm had a reasonable level of affordability. That has changed. As Ortiz and Mack noted, “High housing costs can limit a region’s ability to attract and retain the workforce essential for a healthy economy. Severe housing cost burdens of more than 50 percent of household income indicate a serious problem in housing affordability. In 2004, the share of severely cost–burdened renters in Orleans Parish and the U.S. was 24 percent. In the eight years since, that share has spiked to 36 percent in Orleans while rising to only 27 percent nationally. In Jefferson Parish, the share of renters paying more than 50 percent of household income on housing and utilities has also soared, reaching 30 percent in 2012.”
The surge in the share of severely cost–burdened renters is particularly seen in Orleans Parish. Median gross rent (rent plus utilities) has surged in the city from 2004 to 2012, from $688 to $861–a 25 percent increase. That outpaced the rest of the country where median gross rents increased only five percent, though metro wide there was a 17 percent jump.
Overall, though, in a positive sign, the share of homeowners paying more than 50 percent of household income on their mortgage, taxes, utilities, and insurance is unchanged in metro area parishes since 2004. Meanwhile, that share has increased nationally from 10 to 11 percent.
This article originally published in the October 21, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.
October 31, 2013
By Christian Morrow
Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier
Calling it a “present day form of Eugenics” 45 NAACP branches from Erie to Easton and from McKeesport to Mercer, have signed on to a letter calling on the Pennsylvania State Board of Education to end the newly enacted requirement for high school seniors to pass the Keystone Examinations in order to graduate.
“Attaching the Keystone Examinations to graduation is clearly based on the idea that it is possible to distinguish between superior and inferior elements of society through selective scores on a paper and pencil test,” the letter states. “Pushing masses of students out of high school without a diploma will create a subculture of poverty comprised of potentially 60 percent of our young citizens.”
In addition to the state education board, the NAACP sent the letter to the education committees in both the sate House and state Senate.
To comply with the Obama administration’s Common Core education standards, the Keystone Exams were developed to replace the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exam long used to weigh and compare students, school and district performance across the state. It was first administered during the 2012-2013 school year. Though students in grades 3-8 will still take the PSSA.
In its current form, Keystone Exams test proficiency in Algebra 1, biology and literature, but is slated to add sections on composition in 2019 and civics and government in 2020. Sections on chemistry and American history are also slated for inclusion. The Keystones are more rigorous than both the PSSAs, and Common Core standards.
The graduation requirement, which would first apply to students 2017 — current ninth graders, is also a requirement of Common Core, which states had to adopt as a condition of federal funding.
Students, however, can take any of the exams multiple times in order to pass, and schools must provide remedial work, structured study halls and teacher mentoring. For students who fail after that, the state has developed a project-based assessment that can be taken online with teacher guidance.
As a final option, students, schools and districts can apply for exemptions, which would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Regardless of the remedies, NAACP Pittsburgh Unit President Connie Parker said the policy is unacceptable.
“Our legislative bodies aren’t functioning for the people, and the schools aren’t educating our kids,” said Parker. “They’re just teaching them to pass tests, and not doing that very well. This policy does nothing to help young people of color, and it doesn’t help poor people of any color. It needs to go.”
Calls for comment from the Pennsylvania Department of Education were not returned by Courier press deadline.
October 31, 2013
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A bus driver is being hailed as a hero for preventing a woman from jumping off a Buffalo highway overpass.
About 20 McKinley High School students had just stepped aboard Darnell Barton’s Metro bus Oct. 18 when he spotted a woman who had climbed over a guardrail and stood leaning over the afternoon traffic zipping along the Scajaquada Expressway below.
With cars and an occasional pedestrian continuing to pass by her, Barton wasn’t sure at first that the woman was in distress.
He stopped his bus, opened the door and asked if she needed help, at that moment conflicted between the rules of his job, which required him to call his dispatcher, and his training as a former volunteer firefighter and member of the Buffalo Special Police, which told him that if he made contact, he shouldn't break it.
“It was an interesting situation, knowing what you know and knowing what you have to do,” he said by phone Wednesday. “Dispatch picked up. I remember giving my location and saying, ‘Send the authorities, this young lady needs help’ and then dashing the phone down.”
The bus video system captures Barton, 37, leaving the bus and the 20-something woman looking back at him. Her gaze then returns to the traffic below.
“That’s when I went and put my arms around her,” said Barton, a father of two. “I felt like if she looked down at that traffic one more time it might be it.”
With the woman in a bear hug, Barton asked if she wanted to come back over the rail. She hadn’t spoken up to that point but said yes.
The video shows Barton tenderly helping her climb back over the guardrail and sit down. Then he sits next to her on the concrete. He asked her name and other questions to distract her, he said, learning she was a student.
“Then she said, ‘You smell good,’” he said.
A corrections officer and a female driver who’d been behind the bus came to help, speaking to the woman until police and an ambulance arrived.
“While I was holding her, listening to their questions, I just prayed,” the bus driver said. “Whatever was on her mind, it had her. It really, really had her.”
When the ambulance drove away, Barton got back on his bus —and received a standing ovation from the high school students and other passengers who’d been watching through the windows. He finished his route, wrote up a report and went home.
“Being the humble individual that Darnell is, he didn’t write it in a way that was going to call attention to himself,” said C. Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. “It was: I did it, got back on my bus and continued. That speaks volumes about his demeanor and character.”
Barton wishes he could speak with the woman again to make sure she’s OK.
“Things like this put what’s important in perspective,” he said. “You hug your kids a little tighter, kiss your wife a little bit longer. You’re grateful.
“Things may not be perfect,” he said, “but as we say, they’re a little bit of all right.”
October 31, 2013
By Avis Thomas-Lester
Special to NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Radio One’s Sheila Stewart apparently was involved in a car accident crash on her way to work.
Stewart worked in the D.C. area for more than 20 years. She had recently relocated to Atlanta and was living with her sister.
Since moving to Atlanta, Stewart had continued her radio announcing responsibilities in D.C. while she looked for work there, broadcasting remotely from Atlanta. Co-workers said they were concerned when she failed to make it to the station to do her broadcast.
Radio One employees in the corporate office in Silver Spring, just north of D.C., were notified of her death when they were called into a meeting about 10 a.m.
“There were a lot of tears,” said Michelle Vessels, senior integrated marketing executive for Radio One and a friend of Stewart’s. “Everybody just loved Sheila.”
Friends said they had been looking forward to seeing Stewart this weekend. She was scheduled to fly into town later on Oct. 24 to participate in two events she had supported for several years.
On Oct. 25, she was scheduled to broadcast live from nationally-syndicated air personality and philanthropist Tom Joyner’s Take a Loved One to the Doctor event at Laurel Regional Hospital. The next day, she was expected to participate in the AIDS Walk D.C. event downtown.
Vessels said Stewart had recruited a team to participate in the walk, as she had for several years.
“She had a lot planned this weekend,” Vessels said.
Friends remembered Stewart as a hard-working professional and kind woman who was at the top of her game on the job and always willing to lend a hand to help or a shoulder to cry on.
No matter what she was doing, she always had a minute to chat, call to say “Happy Birthday” or congratulate a loved one on something special that had happened in their lives.
Co-workers took to the airwaves to pay tribute to her. Others held vigils via Facebook, Twitter, texts and emails, expressing sorrow at the loss of such a vital and loved person.
“She was truly Ms. Community in every respect,” said AFRO General Manager Edgar Brookins. “She gave all that she had to everyone who asked, no matter who it was. She was able to connect with people of all backgrounds and all levels. She was always able to bring something to the table by providing media exposure to the various community, church, Greek and social organizations. There is not a group that I know of that didn’t have some contact with Sheila Stewart.”
An award-winning journalist, Stewart’s career included stints in radio, television and print. She received a B.A. in broadcast journalism from Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. Stewart was the only one of several siblings to graduate from college.
Blessed with a deep, sultry voice perfect for broadcasting, the former beauty queen also had an enduring interest in working with children and organizations that served them. She mentored at-risk girls and was an avid fundraiser for organizations such as the United Negro College Fund, the National Urban League, the National Congress of Black Women and the Susan G. Kommen Race For the Cure. She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Stewart was the author of a motivational book, “Faith and the 3 P’s: Overcoming Obstacles With Prayer, Persistence and Positive Thinking,” which she self-published.
Dionne Lewis, program director for Magic 102.3, said Radio One will hold a public memorial service for Stewart, but details had not been worked out yet.
She said Stewart was scheduled to work at 6 a.m. Oct. 24. Within 15 minutes, she was concerned that something had happened.
“That wasn’t like Sheila,” she said.
Colleagues in Silver Spring reached out to Stewart’s sister in Atlanta, who broke the news.
Lewis said she last spoke to Stewart the day before she died.
“We had a daily 9:45 a.m. call and we did that. I talked to her later, because she was flying in today. That was my last conversation with her,” she said.
Her last communication with her friend was via text, Lewis said. ”People who know Sheila know how much she always wanted to reach out and be in touch.”