March 28, 2013
By Edith Billups
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Audri Scott Williams walked thousands of miles to promote peace, now she’s on the move again, this time to bring attention to the environment.
Williams, 57, is a little more than two weeks into a six-week walk from Washington D.C. to Tuskegee, Ala., her home. She struck out with a group of supporters March 1 from the Martin Luther King. Jr. Memorial in Northwest Washington. She expects to conclude the walk on April 13. She is collaborating with the Heal the Atmosphere Association, a Tuskegee-based organization, to raise environmental awareness.
“We want to raise awareness of the damage being done to the planet through pollution. We also want to shift the consciousness about Mother Earth so that all realize that we are in relationship with her and all things,” Williams said.
From 2005-2009, Williams, a former Maryland resident, led seven others in a walk around the world in the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk. They traveled to 17 countries. The current walk, dubbed the Out of Washington Comes RESPECT (Real Environmentally Safe Practices—Embracing Change Together) Walk. Two members of The Trail of Dreams World Peace team, Karen Watson, 62, and Tony Shina, 51, are joining Williams. Other walkers include Charles and Harriet Davis, founders of The Heal the Atmosphere Association; students from Tuskegee University. The youngest walker is 6-year-old Elijah Sims.
A grandmother of 12 who holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a master’s in indigenous science, Williams resigned as dean of continuing education and community services from Charles County Community College in 1993 to fulfill a greater calling—walk for peace, healing and reconciliation.
“In 1993, I had a heart attack,” she said. “The cardiologist said I was lucky. He said I was here to do something and I needed to figure what that was if I wanted to be here. I knew what he meant. After the heart attack, I made a commitment to follow the path of my dreams. My dreams led me to walk to affect peace and healing in our relationships because how we are in relationship to ourselves, our families, our communities and mother earth will determine the fate of humankind,” she added.
Williams noted that in 12 years, she estimates that she has walked more than 50,000 miles. Because of the young walkers accompanying the group, the walkers are covering eight to 10 miles a day, “but our goal is 40 miles a day,” she said.
Along the way, the group will stop to give talks on peace and the need to protect the environment.
“We are walking in solidarity and bringing attention to environmental issues that impact poor and indigenous people around the world,’ she said.
Her experiences have taken her on four life-changing journeys, including The Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk for Peace on six continents where she visited sacred sites, engaged in sacred ceremonies, and connected with communities, Williams said. She noted that leaders throughout history, including Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandi and Harriet Tubman, have used walking to inspire change. The walk route includes Richmond, Va., Greenville, N.C., Atlanta and Montgomery, Ala. Organizers invite community groups to provide food and sleeping accommodations.
“Walking is powerful and transformational,” she said. “I walk because the power of love is present and it sweeps away the lies that keep us blind and brings us face-to-face with our deepest truths—about ourselves and the world around us. I choose to engage and change the world, one step at a time. If one person’s life is healed or transformed because they walked with us then my prayers are answered because they very well may be (the) leader the world is waiting for.”
For more than a decade, The Heal the Atmosphere Association has offered “green education,” officials said. In Tuskegee, it created Shanti Villa, a model green community that attracts young environmentalist and artists who are committed to healing the planet. The organization also has been leading small walks in the community for years to raise environmental awareness, authorities said.
“From my standpoint, our survival as a human species depends on us recognizing and honoring Mother Earth,” she said.
Williams said the Davises, who founded Shanti Villa with their three sons, inspired this latest journey. “We all were talking about environmental issues and decided to start our walk in D.C. because it symbolically represents the political powers of our country and we wanted to connect with that to make a statement,” she said.
March 28, 2013
By Ayana Jones
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
Appointed in 2008 at the age of 35, Jealous is the youngest person to lead civil rights organization. As president of the NAACP, Jealous opened national programs on education, health and environmental justice. He has increased the organization’s capacity to work on economic and voting rights issues.
He began his career as a young community organizer in Harlem in 1991 with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund while working his way through college.
During his lecture Thursday evening, Jealous highlighted how he utilizes his previous career experiences to lead the NAACP.
“As an organizer, one of the things that you learn about leadership is you cannot lead unless you can listen. Your job as an organizer is ultimately to discern not just what the problems are, but what the people believe the problems to be – what they want to change,” Jealous told the group who packed the event, held at University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Hall.
Jealous addressed the importance of having courage in leadership.
“Leadership without courage is dead. You cannot lead a movement, you cannot lead a corporation (and) you certainly cannot lead a start-up without courage. You’ve got to be able to slow down and listen,” Jealous stressed.
“If you want to be a CEO, you got to know how to raise money. People give money to brands that are led by people they can believe in and they won’t believe in you unless you can listen to them. They won’t believe in you unless you have the courage of your conviction, unless you really believe what you say and you can back it up with a plan to deliver what you promised them.”
Jealous said a combination of the skills he learned as an organizer, the ability to take risks and form partnerships helped boost the NAACP’s revenue stream.
He took over the organization’s helm at a time when its revenue had fallen from $44 million to $20 million.
“We’ve been able to take this organization and increase its revenues by 10 percent or more, five years in a row. Last year the increase was 21 percent,” he said.
The NAACP’s donor base has increased from 16,000 individuals per year to more than 120,000. The organization’s membership has increased three years in a row for the first time in more than 20 years and its online activists have swelled from 175,000 to more than 600,000.
Jealous is a graduate of Columbia and Oxford University, the past president of the Rosenberg Foundation and served as the founding director of Amnesty International’s US Human Rights Program.
While at Amnesty, he authored the widely cited report “Threat and Humiliation – Racial Profiling, Domestic Security and Human Rights in the United States.”
Over the past two decades, Jealous has helped organize successful campaigns to abolish the death penalty for children, stop Mississippi’s governor from turning a public historically Black university into a prison and pass federal legislation against prison rape.
In 1993, after being suspended for organizing student protests at Columbia University, Jealous went to work as an investigative reporter for Mississippi’s Jackson Advocate newspaper.
His journalistic investigations have been credited with helping to save the life of a white inmate who was being threatened for helping convict corrupt prison guards, free a Black farmer who was being framed for arson and spur official investigations into law enforcement corruption.
Jealous is a fifth-generation leader of the NAACP who hails from a long line of American freedom fighters. His mother, who descends from two Black Reconstruction statesmen, desegregated Baltimore’s Western High School for Girls in 1954 as a member of the NAACP’s Youth and College Division. His father was one of a small number of white men jailed during the Congress of Racial Equality’s efforts to desegregate Baltimore’s downtown business district.
He is married to Lia Epperson Jealous, a civil rights lawyer and professor of constitutional law.
Jealous’ address was part of Wharton’s Leadership Lectures Series, which provides a forum for senior executives to address leadership issues and to share their insights with Wharton students.
March 28, 2013
By Trenton Daniel
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – One of Haiti’s biggest shantytowns, a vast expanse of grim cinderblock homes on a mountainside in the nation’s capital, is getting a psychedelic makeover that aims to be part art and part homage.
Workers this month began painting the concrete facades of buildings in Jalousie slum a rainbow of purple, peach, lime and cream, inspired by the dazzling “cities-in-the-skies” of well-known Haitian painter Prefete Duffaut, who died last year.
The $1.4 million effort titled “Beauty versus Poverty: Jalousie in Colors” is part of a government project to relocate people from the displacement camps that sprouted up after Haiti's 2010 earthquake. The relocation has targeted a handful of high-profile camps in Port-au-Prince by paying a year's worth of rent subsidies for residents to move into neighborhoods like Jalousie. The government is now trying to spruce up these poor neighborhoods and introduce city services.
“We’re not trying to do Coconut Grove. We’re not trying to do South Beach,” said Clement Belizaire, director of the government’s housing relocation program, referring to Miami neighborhoods. “The goal that we are shooting for is a neighborhood that is modest but decent, where residents are proud to be from that area.”
While most residents welcome the attempt to beautify Jalousie, a slum of 45,000 inhabitants, critics say the project is the latest example of cosmetic changes carried out by a government that has done little to improve people’s lives in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.
“This is just to make it look like they’re doing something for the people but in reality they are not,” said Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, an outspoken critic of President Michel Martelly, arguing that the money could have been better spent.
Others wonder why Jalousie was chosen for the makeover, though officials say they plan to expand the project to other Port-au-Prince shantytowns.
Jalousie is unique in that its mountainside presence makes it visible to people living in the wealthy district of Petionville. Critics have suggested that the choice of Jalousie is as much about giving the posh hotels of Petionville a pretty view as helping the slum’s residents.
Belizaire said he welcomes controversy, adding that the project’s visibility is important. It’s a concrete accomplishment for the government and he contends that it does indeed help Jalousie residents.
“People are sitting on the balcony, having a beer, smoking a cigarette — whatever — and you have all of Port-au-Prince at your feet, and you’re living in colors,” Belizaire said, sitting in his office.
Jalousie, perched above rich Petionville, has become a flashpoint for class controversy in Haiti recently. It is among many slums that have sprawled across the hills of Port-au-Prince in recent decades because governments past and present have failed to provide affordable housing and basic services. Many of the homes crash down the hills every year during the country's rainy seasons.
Haiti’s class divisions spilled into the streets last year when more than 1,000 people from Jalousie protested in central Port-au-Prince. They threw rocks at a luxury hotel and criticized rich Haitians, threatening to burn down Petionville if the government followed through with a plan to demolish their homes. Officials had wanted to tear down the homes next to a ravine to build a flood-protection project. During heavy rainfall, rocks from the ravine clog the entrance to a private school for the children of diplomats and wealthy Haitians.
The demolition never happened.
These days, most people in Jalousie chalk the protests up to a “misunderstanding,” and talk about the project with pride.
“It’s beautiful. Jalousie is not the same anymore,” Resilia Pierre, a 53-year-old wife and mother, said as she waited at a well to buy water. “We don’t have the means to do it ourselves. I would like to say ‘thank you’ to the people who did that.”
The government’s goal it to eventually paint 1,000 homes and other buildings.
Workers hired by three companies began two weeks ago by putting concrete finishes on the ash-colored facades of the slum’s cinderblock houses. Then they paint over the finish with bright colors using rollers, standing atop wobbly ladders next to buckets of paint. The entire effort is supposed to take six months.
Duffaut, one of Haiti’s most famous painters, was born in the country’s south in 1923. He studied at the Centre D’Art in the late 1940s and his work, appearing in museums worldwide, has long been a source of national pride.
While the project in Jalousie may be inspired by Duffaut, when completed it will still require a bit of imagination by the viewer to see his psychedelic cities in the sky, with their dazzling colors and surreal tiers that seemingly hovering in the air.
What residents will have in their neighborhood high up on a mountainside will be a lot of bright colors and a love of the artist.
“The people of Jalousie,” said Jamesson Misery, a coordinator of the project who lives in the slum, “we plan to honor Prefete Duffaut.”
March 28, 2013
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA and RUKMINI CALLIMACHI
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The president of the Central African Republic fled the country for Cameroon after rebels overran the capital of the impoverished nation long wracked by rebellions.
South Africa said Monday that 13 of its soldiers were killed in fighting with rebels, prompting criticism about why its forces had intervened in such a volatile conflict.
Ousted President Francois Bozize sought "'temporary" refuge on its territory, the Cameroonian government confirmed Monday.
Central African Republic's new leadership appeared fragmented, with a split emerging in the rebel coalition that seized the capital.
The African Union on Monday imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on seven leaders of the rebel coalition, known as Seleka, and said their advance had undermined prospects for a lasting solution to the crisis in the landlocked country. It urged African states to deny "any sanctuary and cooperation" to the rebel chiefs.
The United States is "deeply concerned about a serious deterioration in the security situation" in Central African Republic, said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement Sunday.
"We urgently call on the Seleka leadership which has taken control of Bangui to establish law and order in the city and to restore basic services of electricity and water," the statement said.
The rebel groups making up the Seleka alliance agreed they wanted Bozize out. Some of the rebels complained of broken promises of government jobs and other benefits. Others cited the deep impoverishment of the country's distant north despite the Central African Republic's considerable wealth of gold, diamonds, timber and uranium.
Africa has a fraught history of foreign military missions, whether for humanitarian or political purposes, or some combination of the two, in times of conflict. The central part of the continent, repeatedly buffeted by interlocking rebellions, is particularly treacherous for countries with an activist foreign policy.
In addition to the South African troop deaths, another 27 soldiers were wounded in the country's worst loss in combat since nine soldiers died in Lesotho in 1998.
"I think South Africa realized right from the beginning that there will be casualties," said Johan Potgieter, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, in Pretoria, the South African capital. "If you want to be in peacekeeping, and you don't want body bags, you should get out of there."
South Africa's losses point to the challenges that the country faces as it tries to project continental leadership amid questions about the adequacy of its resources and the clarity of political direction from Pretoria. It has participated in peacekeeping in regions including Burundi and Darfur in Sudan.
South African troops served as trainers for the national army in the Central African Republic. But more troops were sent to protect those trainers as security deteriorated, and critics questioned the collaboration with Bozize, who came to power in a rebellion a decade ago and whose commitment to the terms of past peace deals was in doubt.
This week was meant to be triumphant for South Africa, which will host Brazil, Russia, India and China at the "BRICS" summit. South African President Jacob Zuma gave a speech on Monday that was supposed to celebrate the summit, but he devoted his first remarks to mourning for those killed in the battle in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.
Some 200 South African soldiers were deployed at the Bangui base. Estimates of the size of the rebel force that attacked them ranged from at least five to 15 times bigger, raising questions about the security precautions and reconnaissance abilities of the South African contingent.
South African troops "fought a high-tempo battle for nine hours defending the South African military base, until the bandits raised a white flag and asked for a cease-fire," Zuma said. "Our soldiers inflicted heavy casualties among the attacking bandit forces."
Gen. Solly Shoke, South Africa's military chief, said 3,000 rebels armed with mortars and heavy machine guns took part in the fighting. The bulk of the fighting occurred Saturday, though rebels contacted South African forces early Sunday to arrange and "uneasy truce," the military chief said.
South African authorities were working to identify a body, raising the possibility that the death toll would increase to 14 if it is determined the body is that of the missing serviceman.
The rebels' invasion of the capital came two months after they signed a peace agreement that would have let Bozize serve until 2016. That deal unraveled in recent days, prompting the insurgents' advance into Bangui, where French troops moved to secure the airport.
Defense analyst Helmoed Heitman said on South Africa's Radio 702 that the South African force in the Central African Republic was lightly equipped and had no aerial support. In the past, he said, South Africa turned down a deal for military transport helicopters because it could not afford them.
The Democratic Alliance, an opposition party in South Africa, said the government should explain why South African forces were deployed "in the middle of what amounted to a civil war, with so little military support."
The government of Cameroon said Bozize would be leaving for another unspecified country. There were reports of looting in Bangui amid the specter of continuing unrest.
Michel Djotodia, one of the leaders of the rebel coalition, said he considers himself to be the new head of state. Another rebel leader, Nelson N'Djadder, said he does not recognize Djotodia as president.
"We had agreed that we would push to Bangui in order to arrest Bozize and that we would then announce an 18-month transition, a transition that would be as fast as possible — and not one that would last three years," N'Djadder told The Associated Press by telephone from Paris. "I have enough soldiers loyal to me to attack Djotodia. I am planning to take the Wednesday flight to Bangui."
N'Djadder said rebels —not those under his command — had pillaged homes in Bangui, including those of French expatriates.
The U.S. State Department said it was concerned about the security situation and urged the Seleka leadership to establish order and restore electricity and water.
The rebel success in the nation of 4.5 million suggests the possible backing of neighboring nations. There has been speculation that either Chad or Sudan or Gabon had provided the rebels with arms and logistical support. Djotodia rejected that claim.
The overthrow of Bozize could affect the hunt for Joseph Kony, said the commander of African troops tracking the fugitive warlord. Bozize was a strong supporter of African efforts to dismantle Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.
Ugandan Brig. Dick Olum, speaking from his South Sudanese military base in Nzara, said Monday he is concerned by past rebel statements that all foreign troops must leave the country. Some 3,350 African troops are currently deployed against the LRA in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. The U.S. also has anti-Kony military advisers in the Central African Republic.
Central African Republic has suffered instability since obtaining independence from France in 1960, including at least three coup plots in 2012, according to a December analysis by Alex Vines of the London-based Royal Institute for International Affairs. He said the European Union had spent more than 100 million euros on peace missions there since 2004.