News Briefs May 2009

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Census Stimulus
The U.S. Census Bureau says it will use $250 million of its $1 billion stimulus allocation for partnership and outreach efforts to minority communities and hard-to-reach populations. The efforts are intended to promote participation in the census, which will improve accuracy and facilitate enumeration operations in 2010. Census says it will commit the remaining $750 million to support early 2010 Census operations that will reduce operational and programmatic risks at a critical stage of the census process.
More than $300 billion in federal funds are distributed every year based on census results to support vital local services like health care, schools, law enforcement, transportation and social services.

Development Scale-back
A massive redevelopment project for suburban Yonkers is being drastically scaled back — at least for now. City Council members say the builder now proposes a $500 million project for downtown Yonkers. The figure originally was $1.6 billion. Among other things, about 1,300 apartments would no longer be constructed. A proposed hotel and office building near Yonkers City Hall would be put on hold. The lawmakers say the more ambitious plans could be revived when market conditions improve.

HBCU Sued
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Benedict College, a historically Black liberal arts school in Columbia, S.C., after three white faculty members said they were passed over for jobs or let go  because of their race. Alleging that Benedict College “engaged in unlawful practices,” the EEOC also said the school agreed to pay $55,000 to each of the three former instructors. Under a settlement reached between Benedict and the EEOC, the school also agreed to remind staff about its employment policy prohibiting discrimination, to provide administrators, faculty and staff with training, and to make periodic reports to the EEOC.

End of the Road
The board of the African American World Cultural Center Inc. abandoned efforts to build an African-American cultural center in Milwaukee, saying the recession made it hard to raise money. The board voted to dissolve and shut down April 15. Organizers had been working since 1996 to raise up to $10 million to build a 60,000-square-foot center with space for meetings, banquets, exhibits and businesses. Money already raised for the project will be donated to other cultural organizations. The shutdown comes eight months after a lack of money forced America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee to close.

Graduation Rates
The graduation success rate (GSR) for Black athletes is 62 percent in 2009, up from 59 percent three years ago, according to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. The report also found that African-American athletes are graduating at higher rates than Black college students as a whole. The most recent federal rate for all Black students was 45 percent, compared with 53 percent for athletes. Federal graduation rates for Black athletes improved from 35 percent for students entering school in 1984 to 53 percent for those entering in 2001. The federal rate uses a different formula than the GSR, which takes into account athletes who transfer between schools. A gap remains in graduation rates between white and Black athletes, but the study found it is shrinking. 

Arctic Explorer
A life-sized statue of African-American Arctic explorer Matthew Henson was unveiled outside a former Camden church that one group is trying to turn into a maritime museum. The unveiling in April marked the 100th anniversary of Henson’s arrival at the North Pole. Most often, Admiral Robert Peary gets the credit for finally reaching it on his ninth effort. For decades, Henson rarely received credit for exploring alongside Peary on all his trips into the Arctic and reaching the North Pole 45 minutes earlier. Henson died in 1955 at age 88. In 1944, he received a Congressional Medal of Honor and was honored by President Eisenhower in a 1954 ceremony at the White House.

Application Deadline
AT&T Inc. is accepting proposals for $250,000 in funding to expand the capacity of Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) that provide business assistance to women-of-color entrepreneurs in traditionally underserved communities in California. The funding is available through AT&T’s Micro Enterprise Technical Assistance.
Qualifying MDOs must be non-profit, have 501(c)(3) status and provide services to women of color. Applications must be received by June 1. Awardees will be notified by August 15. Details and an application
can be found online at Black Economic Council: www.blackeconomiccouncil.com.

Slave Trade Exhibit
There’s a new exhibit on the international slave trade at Fort Moultrie on South Carolina’s Sullivan’s Island. During the days of the slave trade, hundreds of thousands of slaves who came to the United States passed by the island and some were quarantined there. The exhibit, “African Passages,” opened in February and was formally dedicated by the National Park Service on March 22. South Carolina poet laureate Marjorie Heath Wentworth was on hand to sign copies of her new children’s book, Shackles, which tells the story of a couple of young boys who dig up a set of slave shackles on the island.

The Worship Experience
An exhibit at Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, Md., titled “Soul Sanctuary: Images of the African American Worship Experience” features 75 pictures from Black churches in 25 states. It’s the result of a 10-year project by Washington, D.C., photographer Jason Miccolo Johnson, who also published a book of the same name.
Johnson covers both rural and urban churches, all with an eye toward capturing the emotions worship can evoke. His research took him to 200 churches from 1995 to 2005, capturing 15,000 images on black-and-white film. 

America’s Third World
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference hopes to mobilize 50,000 people in the Mississippi Delta in a Poor People’s Campaign from June 19 to June 21 to draw attention to the poverty of a region where some Americans still live in homes with dirt floors and brown water flows from their faucets. SCLC Interim President Byron Clay says the efforts would be centered in towns along the soil-rich, resource-poor Delta region. A report published by Oxfam America found that residents in the Mississippi Delta are living in conditions similar to the world’s poorest countries. 

TV Convertor Coupons
People who got digital TV converter box coupons but let them expire can now apply for new ones. The recent stimulus package put more money into the coupon program, letting the National Telecommunications and Information Administration give households with expired coupons a second chance. Each household can apply for two $40 coupons that cover most of the cost of converter boxes. The government also has cleared the waiting list that built up after funding for the coupons dried up in January. That problem led Congress to delay the shutdown of analog TV broadcasts by four months, to June 12. After then, older TVs that aren’t hooked up to cable or satellite feeds will need converter boxes. For details, go to www.dtv2009.gov.

Apartheid Lawsuit
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, U. S. District Court, Southern District of New York, ruled that apartheid victims who accused German automaker Daimler AG, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Rheinmetall Group AG, the Swiss parent of an armaments maker, and IBM Corp. of helping the government of South Africa engage in violent repression to enforce racial segregation in the 1970s and ’80s can go to trial with their claims. The plaintiffs, at least thousands of people seeking unspecified damages, allege the automakers supplied military vehicles that let securities forces suppress Black South Africans. IBM is accused of providing equipment used to track dissidents. Scheindlin rejected assertions by several countries that the lawsuits should not proceed because that might harm relations between the United States and South Africa.        

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