DETROIT — General Motors (GM) launched its second annual Discover Your Drive diversity journalism program Jan. 7-11, hosting 13 college students and nine professional journalists as mentors from across the country at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Students from diverse backgrounds participated in the program that promoted diversity in automotive journalism and news coverage.
Birmingham Promise Education program exceeded expectations, city officials say
BIRMINGHAM TIMES — The Birmingham Promise Initiative, launched this summer to build pathways into quality jobs for Birmingham City School (BCS) students, came to a successful conclusion last week, said city officials. Last week, 23 BCS students finished their apprenticeships at companies across the metro area and the program had an impact, said Mayor Randall Woodfin and Councilors on Tuesday.
By Erica Wight
The Birmingham Promise Initiative, launched this summer to build pathways into quality jobs for Birmingham City School (BCS) students, came to a successful conclusion last week, said city officials.
Last week, 23 BCS students finished their apprenticeships at companies across the metro area and the program had an impact, said Mayor Randall Woodfin and Councilors on Tuesday.
“There’s now more work to do to make sure that many more high school students can participate in this program, so I’m proud of the success of the pilot but . . . I’m looking forward to engaging parents directly, students directly and employers about these opportunities and so to employers,” Woodfin said.
“Our economy is changing and you all talk about your gaps in workforce, here’s an opportunity to close that workforce gap . . . our parents need to know these options exist before their children walk across the stage and to our children who have the passion, as a city we’re here to support your dreams and make them come true before you walk across the stage.”
Councilor John Hilliard said during Tuesday’s council meeting, “We must change our direction of how we deal with education . . . we have to meet the demand the corporate community is asking. A four-year education is important but it’s not the only way to go . . . I think it’s important we instill in our young people a different type of work ethic and give them the opportunity on the front end rather than the back end to make things happen.”
The seven-week summer pilot is part of the larger Birmingham Promise Initiative, which will offer multiple pathways for Birmingham students to “earn and learn” as they develop skills to prepare for jobs in industries that are growing in the regional economy.
The inaugural apprenticeships involved a vocational education component and work-based learning opportunities that were guided by a mentor. The pilot was complemented by the City of Birmingham’s partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, a national leader in delivering digital education to youth, the Jefferson County Commission on Economic Opportunity (JCCEO) and the city’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity.
Councilor Wardine Alexander said the Birmingham Promise prepares students to be college and career ready.
“When I served on the Board of Education, I had the pleasure to shake the hands of every student who graduated from the City of Birmingham… I think the mayor will remember we had one board member who would always ask the students as they were going through the line, ‘what’s your next goal’ and often students were not able to tell us what their goal was or what they were going to do,” said Alexander.
Birmingham Promise gave students the opportunity to work with Fortune 500 companies, earn a salary and have an idea of what they were going to do, Alexander said.
Council President Valerie Abbott, who attended graduation ceremony for the students along with Mayor Randall Woodfin, Alexander and Hilliard, said she was inspired by the students.
“Just to see those young people, they were full grown adults and doing those jobs, it was very impressive,” said Abbott. “We do need more people in the corporate community, but businesses of any kind can use an intern. It doesn’t have to be a corporation… we have so many students to benefit from that opportunity and only a handful got to participate in this pilot. We need hundreds of businesses to take on these young people so they can learn. I was just inspired by the quality of the young people and how inspired they were and their level of enthusiasm was just wonderful. I think we all need to encourage as many businesses as we can to participate.”
The following employers participated in the Birmingham Promise pilot program this summer:
- Alabama Futures Fund
- Alabama Power Company
- Baptist Princeton
- BIG Communications
- Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Brasfield & Gorrie
- Encompass Health
- HOAR Construction
- Pack Health
- Renasant Bank
- Vulcan Materials
This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.
Committee Chairs Request Information from Consumer Bureau on Efforts to Protect Student Loan Borrowers
NNPA NEWSWIRE — Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.
Chairs Also Request Documents from Education Department, Loan Servicers
WASHINGTON – Today, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), sent a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen Kraninger requesting information and records concerning the CFPB’s efforts to protect consumers from unlawful student loan servicing practices.
In the letter, the Chairs raise concerns that “…the Consumer Bureau has taken actions that weaken its ability to fulfill its mission to protect student loan borrowers,” and that the agency is “…providing potentially harmful and conflicting advice to student loan borrowers.” The Chairs request records from the Consumer Bureau by no later than September 9, 2019.
Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.
The Chairs also sent a letter to Betsy DeVos expressing deep concern over the Education Department’s failure to protect students and families from student loan companies. The letter addresses recent reports that the Department is shielding student loan servicing companies from state law enforcement and undermining the CFPB’s oversight of these companies. In March 2019, an independent watchdog found that the Department failed to establish policies to properly conduct oversight of student loan servicing companies.
“As Chairs of Committees with oversight responsibilities over the student loan industry, we are very concerned by reports that under your leadership, the Department of Education has failed to adequately oversee student loan servicers,” the Chairs wrote. “Reports indicate that improper practices by these servicers—including inaccurate determination of monthly payments, forbearance steering, and other practices—directly impact millions of Americans and have ripple effects on their families, communities, and the economy as a whole.”
In addition, the Chairs sent letters today to federally contracted loan servicers seeking information about their operations, including any strategies or policies that push students into more expensive repayment options.
The full text of the letter to the CFPB is available here.
The full text of the letter to the Education Department is available here.
The full text of the letter to Navient is available here.
The full text of the letter to Nelnet is available here.
The full text of the letter to Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is available here.
Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory Offers Free Music Lessons for Youth
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — It’s no secret that when it comes to under-resourced communities in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods, arts and music education is usually lacking. But the program director of the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory & Youth Symphony, Billy Mitchell, says it’s not because the programs don’t exist.
It’s no secret that when it comes to under-resourced communities in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods, arts and music education is usually lacking. But the program director of the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory & Youth Symphony, Billy Mitchell, says it’s not because the programs don’t exist.
“The problem with under resourced areas is that they very seldom get information on all the opportunities that are out there,” says Mitchell. “There are college scholarships and grants and all kinds of things available.”
One of those programs you should know about in the South Central L.A., Watts and Compton area, is the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory, or WWC, which is now preparing for its tenth year of providing free music classes to youth, ages 6-18.
WWC was established in early 2010 at the Watts-Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club in partnership with the Scholarship Performance Preparatory Academy, also known as SAPPA. The program offers high quality music education and exposure into the world of arts which builds self-esteem, discipline and creativity amongst its youth participants.
“We stress learning music correctly at a very early age so you can create any music you want not only creatively, but effectively,” says Mitchell, a self-taught pianist who has had an affinity for music since childhood. Growing up with that natural inclination for music meant that Mitchell says he, like many students, struggled with the technical aspect of practicing and taking lessons.
“I totally get it, I understand why young people are resistant [of music lessons] and why this is kind of difficult. I did the same thing. But later, as I got back into music, I found myself in a professional setting, and I wasn’t prepared.”
Mitchell went back to school to get professionally trained which he says was much more difficult as an adult. Now, Mitchell has instilled this lesson he learned in his outreach to youth.“It’s so important to learn music as a child. So, I brought that message to young people because once you got it as a child…you got it,” says Mitchell.
“I have been judging music competitions for years and I am always disappointed that a lot of my inner-city students, who I know are qualified and talented, are not showing up. And when they do show up, they are not operating at the level that I would expect them to, and the level that I know they can operate at, because they’ve never had the exposure to these kinds of programs.”
The students of WWC are being prepared to reverse these types of disparities in music. Participants attend one hour classes after school, twice a week. They learn to read music and play symphonic string instruments — violin, viola, cello and bass. These satellite programs are designed to be the network that forms the core of the Watts-Willowbrook Youth Symphony, made up of young people from the South Central L.A. and the Watts/Compton communities. Classes are offered at three locations in the Watts/Compton area, including the WLCAC campus on Central Avenue. Classes are completely free with the exception of a $10 registration fee.
The WWC program is free through the sponsorship and support of The Herb Alpert Foundation, The Ayrshire Foundation, California Community Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Southern California Edison, The Colburn Foundation, The California Arts Council and the Jerry & Terri Kohl Foundation. Still, Mitchell says as with most inner-city music programs, funding remains a continuous need for WWC.
“We’ve been very fortunate from corporate funding, but we haven’t been so fortunate with community funding which has been an issue with me,” says Mitchell. He doesn’t know why exactly that is, but he says its troubling to see so much funding and attention from celebrities and public figures, being invested elsewhere, while the communities they came from are still struggling.
Regardless, the goal of the program remains focused on enriching the youth of South L.A., Watts and Compton with music.
“My goal is to make sure our kids learn music correctly so that they can have control of their careers and control of their lives. I don’t want my hip-hop artists to go into a studio and the engineer has to tell them that there are three beats there, or four beats there,” says Mitchell.
“In any genre we represent, I want us to know all the technical aspects of it so we can control it.”
WWC’s Fall 2019 session begins September 10. Registration and orientation will take place Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 5PM in the City of Los Angeles “Old Library Building”’ at 1501 E 103rdSt., Los Angeles, CA 90002. Applications are available online at www.sappa.net and you can learn more about WWC at wattswillowbrookconservatory.com.
This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.
Miles College welcomes interim president Bobbie Knight
BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Miles College on Thursday prepared to say farewell to one member of the school’s family and embrace another. The institution welcomed Interim President Dr. Bobbie Knight and began a farewell to her predecessor Dr. George T. French Jr. who is leaving the Birmingham area to become president of Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Erica Wright
Miles College on Thursday prepared to say farewell to one member of the school’s family and embrace another.
The institution welcomed Interim President Dr. Bobbie Knight and began a farewell to her predecessor Dr. George T. French Jr. who is leaving the Birmingham area to become president of Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Knight will become the first female president of Miles College in the school’s 121 year history.
“I deliberated long and hard after I got over the initial shock of being asked to consider this opportunity and I have continuously prayed for the wisdom, strength and courage it will take to lead this institution with integrity, compassion and a servant’s heart,” said Knight, during a press conference.
The retired Alabama Power executive who is also chair of the Board of Managers for the Birmingham Times Media Group was named as interim president by the Board of Trustees on July 17.
“During this transition, the job before me is clear; first, to serve the students of Miles College by ensuring they receive a quality education, that they are equipped with the tools they need to be successful here and in the future and that they enjoy a safe and fulfilling campus life. Second, my job is to maintain a fiscally sound institution, I have a business background and my plan is to use business principles and practices to keep this institution financially strong.”
Knight will begin her duties Sept. 1, when French leaves for Atlanta.
Knight said her plans for the college are to continue to encourage students to enroll in Miles and the community to support the school.
The interim president said she will “continue to encourage students to enroll in Miles College. Miles is here, we’re an asset to this community and we don’t want to lose our kids out-of-state or to other colleges when we have a great institution sitting right here.”
The French Tenure
French will end his tenure at Miles on Friday, Aug.16. Miles has been his home for more than 23 years with nine years as Director of Development and the last 14 as president.
“Thank you for the opportunity to lead this great institution for the last 14 years, for the opportunity to lead in having record enrollments of this institution, for the opportunity to raise over $100 million at Miles College, for the opportunity to more than triple the size of our campus,” said French.
The outgoing president said he was grateful for his time in the metro area.
“I say thank you to the Birmingham community; I say thank you to the Alabama community; I say thank you to a governor who has been supportive, to mayors of Birmingham and Fairfield who have been supportive and to a corporate community that has been supportive of this institution, we say thank you,” he said. “Now after 14 years at the helm, it gives me great pleasure to turn over the reins to my friend, a distinguished corporate citizen, a lover of students and of education, the Interim President of Miles College, Bobbie Knight.”
French said he will continue to be a part of the Miles family and looks forward to forming a partnership between the two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
“Clark Atlanta University saw what was going on at Miles College,” said French. “That research institution with 4,000 students was looking at Birmingham. They were looking at the relationship of alums to Miles College. They were looking at how we are turning this world upside down so we look forward to a partnership with Clark Atlanta University and Miles College. I’m looking for my students after they matriculate and walk across the stage with a bachelor’s degree, I’m looking for them to come to Clark Atlanta University for masters and doctoral degrees.”
Keila Lawrence, a senior and President of the Student Government Association at Miles, said the moment is bittersweet.
“Dr. French has been a visionary and I can only emulate and strive to be like him and his leadership because he’s done so much for Miles and it’s been great to work with him,” said Lawrence. “Of course, it’s bittersweet because he’s done so much, but he had the foresight and the board as well to elect Dr. Bobbie Knight and we’re really excited to work with her and it’s a new era for Miles and I’m truly excited to what’s to come in the future and what it holds.”
This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.
Ex-UCLA Employee Awarded Nearly $1.6M in Harassment Suit
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — A Black former UCLA phlebotomist who said she was subjected to racial harassment that included use of the N-word was awarded nearly $1.6 million in damages by a jury.
A Black former UCLA phlebotomist who said she was subjected to racial harassment that included use of the N-word was awarded nearly $1.6 million in damages by a jury.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury rejected Nicole Birden’s claim that she was fired in 2016 due to her race, but the panel determined she was subjected to severe or pervasive harassment because she is black and that her supervisors failed to take corrective actions.
The jury awarded the 48-year-old Birden $500,000 for past emotional distress and mental harm, $800,000 for future emotional distress and mental harm, more than $190,000 for past economic loss and more than $86,000 for future economic loss.
“We are thankful that a diverse Los Angeles jury could come together and give Ms. Birden the justice she deserved after a hard-fought jury trial,” Birden’s attorney, V. James DeSimone, said.
Lawyer Stephen Ronk, on behalf of the UC Board of Regents, argued during the trial that Birden was fired because of a “clear pattern of performance issues.”
UCLA Health issued a statement Tuesday saying it was disappointed in the verdict and reviewing its legal options.
“UCLA Health is committed to maintaining a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation of any kind,” according to UCLA Health. “Ensuring a respectful and inclusive environment is essential to the university’s mission, and employees are encouraged to report any concerns so that they can be reviewed and appropriately addressed consistent with UCLA and University of California policies.”
According to her lawsuit, filed in May 2017, Birden began working at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica’s clinical laboratory in 2015 and was employed on a per diem basis. She was one of about five or six black employees in a mostly Latino department, according to the suit.
According to her complaint, one of Birden’s Latino co-workers used the N-word in her presence by calling her “my n—a.” The language bothered Birden, as did his playing of rap music in which singers used the offensive term, according to the suit, which alleges that other Latino employees called her “lazy,” “dark woman” and “liar” in Spanish.
In addition, some co-workers called Birden “the Black girl with the attitude,” DeSimone told the jury.
“There was a culture of discrimination and harassment unfortunately at the lab,” DeSimone alleged.
Birden was a dedicated worker who drew blood from as many as seven patients an hour, DeSimone said of his client, a single mother of a 28-year-old and 21-year-old twins.
“She was good at her job, she loved her job,” DeSimone said.
He said Birden made numerous reports to management about her alleged mistreatment, but “her complaints fell on deaf ears.”
Birden has suffered financial losses as well as emotional distress, DeSimone said. She now works for Kaiser Permanente, but has fewer benefits, he said.
Ronk told jurors during the trial that Birden never said in her initial complaints to management that she believed she was being treated different because she is Black.
“All of that came after the fact,” Ronk said.
Ronk said it is crucial that phlebotomists immediately answer calls from dispatchers to draw blood from patients because, depending on the situation, it can be a matter of life and death. Some of those dispatchers complained that Birden would “disappear for long periods during her shift,” according to the defense’s court papers.
“The number one goal is to make sure patient care comes first and foremost,” Ronk said.
Birden had a “clear pattern of performance issues” and “none of it had to do with race,” he said.
Birden described the co-worker who allegedly used the N-word “a good guy,” Ronk said.
“He wasn’t doing it to try and offend somebody,” Ronk said.
This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.
School Lunch Could Be Slashed For Thousands of California Children Under Federal Proposal
OAKLAND POST — Thousands of children in California would no longer qualify for free school lunches if a federal proposal to cut the number of food stamp recipients is finalized.
By Zaidee Stavely
Thousands of children in California would no longer qualify for free school lunches if a federal proposal to cut the number of food stamp recipients is finalized.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking for public comment on a proposal to restrict the number of families eligible for food stamps to only those with gross incomes of 130 percent of the federal poverty level (about $33,000 for a family of four) or less. Currently many states, including California, allow families with higher incomes (up to about $50,000 for a family of four) to enroll in the food stamp program if their childcare, housing and other eligible expenses bring their income down to about $25,000 or less.
Families who would no longer qualify for food stamps under the new rule will also lose their automatic eligibility for free school meals. Currently, families enrolled in food stamps are automatically eligible for free lunch, so they do not have to apply separately. If this change is approved, many families that no longer qualify for food stamps could still qualify for reduced-price meals at school, but they would have to submit paperwork to apply.
Confusion is likely to ensue.
Jared Call, managing policy advocate for California Food Policy Advocates, said schools are supposed to notify families when students no longer qualify automatically, but often the notices are not sent, or families misunderstand them or do not apply.
“If they’re cut off and keep getting those meals, they may end up with a bill that their parents don’t understand why or where it’s coming from,” Call said.
It’s not clear yet how many children in California would be affected. The USDA estimates that 3.1 million people nationwide would lose food stamps under the policy change. According to U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott(D-Va.), the USDA also estimates about 500,000 children would lose automatic eligibility for free school lunches, though the department did not include this estimate in the proposal.
About 2 million children in California are in families that receive food stamps. There are no estimates yet of how many of those might lose eligibility if the new rule is approved.
The administration says the change is necessary to prevent fraudulent applications for food assistance.
“Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a press release announcing the proposal. “The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient and to have integrity — just as they do in their own homes, businesses and communities. That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”
Education experts and advocates for low-income families are concerned about how the change could affect children.
“The California Department of Education is very concerned about the Trump administration’s proposal,” wrote Scott Roark, a spokesman for the department, adding that the department is still analyzing the impact.
The proposal would also affect students at schools that serve free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of their household income. Those are schools in which 40 percent or more of students qualify for free lunch either because they are enrolled in a program like food stamps or because they are homeless, foster or migrant children. There are more than 3,000 schools in California that offer free meals to all students.
Call, of California Food Policy Advocates, also is concerned about what he called a “cascading effect” that could affect school funding if a large number of children lose their free lunch eligibility. Under the Local Control Funding Formula, schools receive extra funding for each student who qualifies for free or reduced-price school meals, as well as English learners, homeless students and foster children.
The Trump administration proposal is the latest in a series of attempts to reduce federal benefits for low-income people.
For the complete article, go to https://bit.ly/2yHFlbI
This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post.
Like BlackPressUSA on Facebook
Organization uses art to teach developmentally disabled
‘The Last Word’ Album from the O’Jays Has Multiple Meanings
Gunshot Medley Brings Black Theatre to the Electric Lodge
Birmingham Promise Education program exceeded expectations, city officials say
Meet Birmingham’s Felicia Johnson, President of American Business Women’s Association
Family Awarded $1.1M By Baltimore County
D.C. Health Warns Against Disease
D.C. Activist Leads Search for Solutions to Shootings
Cardi B. Sets the Record Straight about Her Race and Ethnicity
Grizzlies make Niele Ivey NBA’s 9th female assistant coach
Chairwoman Waters Introduces Bill to End Homelessness in America
Black Girls Continue to Disappear but Few Eyebrows Are Raised
The One: Central Park Five’s Korey Wise
The List of Black and Missing Continues to Grow
Trump’s White House hires new director of African American outreach
Pennsylvania Adult Parole and Probation Dept. Bosses Say “As long as there are African Americans, Job Security is ‘Airtight’”
Lee Daniels is ‘beyond embarrassed’ he rushed to believe Jussie Smollett
“Forever First Lady” Michelle Obama Will Headline 25th ESSENCE Fest
Our Black Women and Girls Have Gone Missing but Few Seem to Care
Ebony, Jet fire remainder of staff, may close its doors for good
Angela Rye campaigns for Sawyer with intensity, strong language
FILM REVIEW: Brian Banks
AUTO REVIEW: A throwback to real driving—the Honda Civic Sport!!
Empire Star Taraji Henson Speaks on Suicide and Mental Health on Capitol Hill
Will Packer Drama, ‘Ambitions’ Brings Star Power to OWN
IN MEMORIAM: Cameron Boyce Remembered
FILM REVIEW: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
NNPA Hosts ESSA National Black Parents Town Hall in Cincinnati
Miami Times, Philadelphia Tribune, St. Louis American – Big Winners During NNPA’s 2019 Merit Awards
Juneteenth Reparations Hearing on H.R. 40 Puts Reparations Debate in National Spotlight
#NNPA BlackPress3 days ago
Congressman John Lewis to Receive Thurgood Marshall Award From American Bar Association
#NNPA BlackPress4 weeks ago
VIDEO: Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Dragged Off to Jail — Literally
#NNPA BlackPress4 weeks ago
Colorado Petroleum Council Focus on Enhancing Communities
Community4 weeks ago
County Learns Respond to Top Court’s
#NNPA BlackPress4 weeks ago
If You’re Poor in America, Debtor’s Prison is Real
#NNPA BlackPress4 weeks ago
Philadelphia Fires 13 Officers for Racist Facebook Posts