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 24, 2013
By Ashley N. Johnson
Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier
A judge has decided to delay his ruling and give the defense more time to present their case at yesterday’s requested hearing to dismiss criminal charges against a then teen, who was shot by Pittsburgh police and left paralyzed.
Judge Donald Machen gave the defense attorneys for Leon Ford, 20, thirty days to submit a brief explaining their claim of how officers created a zone of danger in this case. “It’s a first step and equivalent to fighting with your hands behind your back and winning the case,” Fred Rabner, Ford’s attorney, said in a statement after the hearing. “Our story is yet to come out and when it does, it will be devastating to the prosecution’s case.”
Ford was shot four times by police last November during what many are saying should have been a “routine” traffic stop on Stanton Avenue in the Highland Park area. Ford, who is accused of dragging a police officer, is charged with reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and escape, which was added just before the morning’s proceedings.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin and was present at the hearing, claims that this was an incident of racial profiling, and is asking the district attorney to look at the statements and affidavits made by police for false statements, along with why there have been no charges against the officers who committed crimes against Ford.
“Judge Machen was fair and unbiased. I’m hopeful that (he) will dismiss the charges, providing (Ford’s) attorney gives an argument to sway the judge’s decision,” said Brandi Fisher, of the Alliance for Police Accountability, who was also present and helped to organize a rally and press conference held outside of the city-county building prior to the proceedings.
Latonya Green, Ford’s mother said, “We are standing up for Leon because the Pittsburgh police paralyzed my son and now he cannot stand up for himself and will never walk again.
A federal lawsuit was filed in September against the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, officers David Derbish, Andrew Miller and former Pittsburgh police officer Michael Kosko, former police chief Nate Harper and acting police chief Regina McDonald accusing them of using excessive force, unlawful search and seizure and violation of due process.
The judge’s ruling is expected to be made in two months.
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.”
October 24, 2013
By Glenn Townes
Special to the NNPA from The New York Amsterdam News
In what many expected, Newark Mayor, Cory Booker, nabbed the coveted U.S. Senate seat in a hotly contested race against Republican hopeful Steve Lonegan at a special election on Wednesday in New Jersey. The gregarious mayor becomes the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate since President Barack Obama.
Booker, 44 made his acceptance speech just two hours after polling centers across the state closed and put the new Senator-elect with more than 56 percent of the vote—with about 75 percent of all precincts reporting. Booker eventually garnered about 710,000 votes or about 55 percent compared to Lonegan’s 579,000 or about 44 percent with nearly all precincts reported. Booker will fill the vacant Senate seat of longtime politico Frank Lautenberg, who passed away earlier this year.
Delivering a fire and brimstone acceptance speech to a standing room audience at Booker election campaign headquarters at NJPAC Center in Newark, the gregarious and charismatic outgoing mayor paid homage to his modest beginnings; paid tribute to his father, Cary, who passed away last week and hinted about some of his plans as the Garden state’s newest senator in Washington. “I will join Senator Menendez in moving the people of New Jersey ahead,” he said. “But make no mistake, we have work to do!” The mantra of “work to do” has long been a staple in dozens of Booker’s speeches—including one of his first speeches after becoming mayor in 2006.
Lonegan conceded defeat in a telephone call to the Booker camp shortly after the Associated Press predicted a Booker win. In a brief concession speech at Lonegan headquarters at the Marriott hotel in Bridgewater, the former mayor of the small town of Bogota, said he will move into the private sector and acknowledged his supporters—including Governor Chris Christie. Throughout the campaign, Christie was criticized by members of the Lonegan camp for not being more vocal and participatory in the Republican’s senate bid. “Outside of running along the street placing campaign signs, I don’t know what else the governor could have done to help my campaign,” he said.
Lastly, once the election results are certified, Booker could be sworn in as senator within the next 30 days. Newark City Council President Luis Quintana is expected to be appointed interim mayor once Booker departs for Washington.