News Briefs

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Redistricting
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. (LDF) launched a “Redrawing the Lines” public education program to promote African-American participation in the upcoming round of redistricting based on 2010 Census data. Redistricting will determine political representation for the next decade and officials will need to redraw lines that comply with the one-person, one-vote principle and with the central requirements of the Voting Rights Act. The LDF program features an information and resource Web site, www.redrawingthelines.org, and a manual providing information on  the legal and policy framework for redistricting, and how communities can participate in the redistricting process, keep the line drawers accountable and help ensure that the voting strength of minority communities is not unjustly weakened.  

Colored Troops

Noted historian and author Bennie J. McRae Jr. donated his archives on the African-American military experience to Hampton University in Virginia. The centerpiece of McRae’s collection is the history of the Union Army’s United States Colored Troops that served in the Civil War. The collection chronicles the active service of Black soldiers and sailors, beginning in 1862, and the fascinating histories of the female and male Black contrabands who served as spies, guides, scouts, nurses and cooks in the Union Army. The Bennie McRae Jr. archives will be accessible to historians, researchers and the general public. McRae’s donation to Hampton University is believed to be one of the world’s largest repositories concerning the history of the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War. 

Minority Insurance Services 
Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies, launched RLJ Insurance Services L.L.C. in a strategic alliance with AV International L.L.C., a minority business insurance. Johnson said the alliance aims to create the nation’s premier minority controlled “managing general underwriting” services company. RLJ Insurance Services expands AVI’s reach and capabilities in the stop-loss market, which provides protection against catastrophic or unpredictable costs. Under a stop-loss policy, the insurance company reimburses the employer for legitimate health claims that exceed certain limits. RLJ Insurance Services will market its core product, stop-loss insurance, for self-insured employer health plans directly and through agents and brokers with specific attention on state governments, municipalities and other corporate clients.

Senior Unemployment 

Joblessness among seniors aged 65 and older has nearly doubled to 6.2 percent since the recession began in December 2007, hovering close to its historic high, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (not seasonally adjusted). The jobs outlook is even worse for adults age 55 and over, for whom unemployment has more than doubled in the same period, to 7.2 percent. Of this age group, African-Americans and Hispanics have been disproportionately affected. Hispanic men are the worst off with an unemployment rate of almost 13 percent for individuals aged 55 and older. Economic pressure from the recession is causing more seniors to re-enter or stay longer in the work force, and those who lose a job tend to face longer periods of unemployment than younger workers do. The National Council on Aging has responded with economic security and work-force development programs. 

Public Charter Schools

Achievement First, a charter network operating 19 public charter schools in low-income communities in New York and Connecticut, announced a $1 million grant from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to expand the number of its schools to serve an additional 6,500 students in the two states and Rhode Island. The grant follows recent funding from the Walton Family Foundation, which provides $250,000 for each new Achievement First school opened, and $1.7 million over two years from a U.S. Department of Education grant to replicate and expand high-quality charter schools. Achievement First will open 14 new and two expanded public charter schools, totaling 35 schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island by 2017. Ninety-nine percent of enrolled students for the current academic year are African-American or Latino.

Building Green
The United Negro College Fund’s Institute for Capacity Building awarded 23 Green planning grants totaling $240,000 to minority-serving colleges to assist with institutional sustainability planning. Grant recipients will establish campus climate action plans and sustainability committees, and take at least two tangible steps toward reducing campus carbon emissions. They will share accomplishments and best practices during the National Building Green Learning Institute in Atlanta, April 7 – 9, 2011. Working in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and Second Nature, the UNCF’s Building Green at Minority-Serving Institutions Initiative seeks to ensure that future campus construction is certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, an internationally recognized Green building certification system. 

Black Farmers
The U.S. Senate voted to fund a settlement for Black farmers reached in the Pigford v. Vilsack class action lawsuit, hailed as the largest civil-rights suit in U.S. history. The settlement provides a total of $1.15 billion to African-American farmers who suffered racial discrimination in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s loan program. The case was settled out of court 11 years ago when the department found that Black farmers had to wait three times longer for loans and subsidies and were losing their land in the process. A federal judge determined that qualifying farmers could receive $50,000 each from the settlement. The U.S. House of Representatives also approved the measure and is now waiting to be signed by President Barack Obama.

Shopsalamander.com
Sheila C. Johnson, a founding partner of Black Entertainment Television and founder and CEO of Salamander Hospitality, launched a retail Web site www.shopsalamander.com featuring gift items and apparel from Salamander Hospitality’s resorts and hotels; the Salamander Touch lifestyle store in Middleburg, Va.; and from Market Salamander, the company’s gourmet market with locations in Virginia and Florida. Visitors can purchase golf apparel and memorabilia from Innisbrook, Salamander’s golf and spa resort in Florida; home goods; and bath products from Mistral, in which Johnson is a partner. Johnson is vice chair and owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals.