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Inspired by the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords, Puerto Rican Activists Launch Centro De Apoyo Mutuo

Inspired by the Black Panthers and The Young Lords, Centro De Apoyo Mutuo, a group of community activists in Caguas, Puerto Rico offer aid to residents in need. Centro De Apoyo Mutuo (CAM) means Center for Mutual Help.

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By Tatyana Hopkins (NNPA Newswire Special Correspondent)

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico—The last thing you would expect to find in the central mountain range of Puerto Rico is the influence of the 1960s Black Panther Party. But there it was.

The tenets of the revolutionary group, founded in 1966 in Oakland, Calif., by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, were mixed with stewed pork chops, rice, beans and healthcare on a 90-degree winter day, 20 miles south of San Juan in the city of Caguas.

Volunteers with Centro De Apoyo Mutuo (CAM) prepared meals and provided services to residents in an abandoned building “rescued” by a group of local activists.

Black Panther Principle No. 4: “We Want Decent Housing Fit for The Shelter of Human Beings.”

Emilu Berrios moved through the kitchen and then out to the clinic area, all the while making clients comfortable and seeing to their needs. Berrios is co-founder of the Centro De Apoyo Mutuo (CAM) and she made it abundantly clear what drives her and the organizers.

“We are influenced by the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords,” she said. The Young Lords was a lesser known Puerto Rican organization that launched in Chicago in 1968 that became a national civil and human rights movement in nearly 30 cities.

Daniel Orsini, another co-founder, explained the connection.

“The Young Lords saw the Black Panthers trying to get justice for Black people, and they knew they needed to do the same thing,” Orsini said.

Black Panther Principle No. 9: “We Want Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace.”

Centro De Apoyo Mutuo (CAM), which translates in English to the “Center for Mutual Help,” is the brainchild of a group of Puerto Rican activists, who have modeled their efforts on the service portion of the Young Lords and the Black Panthers.

While the groups were known for their radical tactics—the Black Panthers encouraged Black Americans to police their own neighborhoods carrying loaded firearms—they also introduced numerous service efforts to aid Black and Puerto Rican communities, like the free breakfast program that was eventually emulated in America’s schools. The Panthers started the breakfast program first and the Young Lords followed their lead.

Centro started by serving food to those left destitute following Hurricane Maria, which smashed into the island and left historic destruction in its wake. Homes, government buildings, hospitals and other facilities were destroyed. When the center started its work, running water was unavailable. The vast majority of the island was without power and some residents still are, six months later.

Today, the center serves 150 meals—breakfast and lunch—every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

But the food is not free, Berrios said.

“Here, we operate on solidarity, not charity,” she said. “That means in order to get something, you must give something.”

Recipients of the center’s health, food and social services can pay for them in three ways: money, donations of food that the organization uses to make meals or by volunteering their time at clinics and by restoring the group’s building.

The center is located near the town’s center in a former social security building that had been abandoned for 30 years. The group took over the building, shortly after the storm.

“Our building is a ‘rescued’ building,” Berrios said. “I say ‘rescued.’ We don’t say ‘occupied.’”

The facility’s purpose now, she said, is “the complete independence of the people from the government.”

The organization is still repairing the long-vacant building. A group of Howard University students with the school’s Alternative Spring Break program were there to help. The students scraped peeling paint, cleared trash and helped prepare meals.

On Tuesday, March 14 the students traveled 90 minutes from their campsite in Arecibo to Caguas, a city of 136,000 located in the largest valley in Puerto Rico. Caguas is known across the world as the home of the Criollos de Caguas baseball team, considered one of the greatest squads in all of Latin America, has won more than a dozen Puerto Rican national titles and five Caribbean World Series titles

Rescue and recovery efforts in the Caguas were hindered by its size and location.

“Federal and local government efforts were slow,” Orsini, 36, said. “Within eight days after Maria, we were serving the community.”

Nichole Villegas, 26, whose home is two blocks away from the center, said she was without electricity and other power for about two months. Some days, she said, the center served the only meal she ate.

“After Maria, they started serving food, and so, I started coming here to eat,” Villegas said. Since the hurricane, she said, she has eaten lunch at the center every day it is open, because she does not have enough food at home.

Carmen Cruz, 48, comes to eat three times a week, as well. Cruz, who lives in the mountains, said she didn’t have electricity until March 5. Sometimes she walks to town, which takes an hour. Other times, she gets a 15-minute bus ride. She came initially for the food, she said.

“I didn’t have lights,” Cruz said.

Now, she and others come for something the Young Lords and the Black Panther Party also offered—acupuncture. The groups introduced what they called “liberation” acupuncture in 1970 when they founded the Lincoln Detox Center in the South Bronx in New York City after occupying part of Lincoln Hospital. They provided acupuncture that focused on points on the ear to help drug users overcome their addictions. They also opened a school to teach the medical technique, which was developed in China, for treatment of a variety of other ailments.

Centro, following the example set by the Panthers and the Lords, offers the same acupuncture care.

“Acupuncture is not a part of our culture,” Orsini said. “It’s a new idea to us. When we get sick, we go to the hospital and get chemicals that we call ‘medicine.’”

Villegas now comes every Tuesday to receive acupuncture to treat hip and back pain. The treatment is only offered on Tuesdays.

[/media-credit] Carmen Cruz (right), 48, talks to another acupuncture patient following her treatment at the Centro De Apoyo Mutuo (CAM) in Caguas, Puerto Rico. (Tatyana Hopkins/NNPA)

“I don’t like pills and medications,” she said. “Before this, I used marijuana [for pain].”

Since Villegas started acupuncture, she said, she’s in less pain and sleeping better. Cruz is also getting acupuncture at the center.

“I started last week to treat depression and pain.” she said. “I already see a difference, and I am sleeping through the night. I will be here every Tuesday”

The founders of the center hope it will become a community space for activists, protestors and organizers to mobilize their efforts and spark a new movement among Puerto Ricans that will hold their government accountable, as well as become less dependent on the federal government.

Puerto Rico is a protectorate of the United States. Though its residents are citizens, they cannot vote, nor do they have representation in Congress. Some Puerto Ricans have called on independence from the U.S.

“We don’t want to need anything from the [federal government], because they have failed to meet our needs,” Berrios said.

Berrios and other Centro members argue that the island’s dependence on the federal government has made it unable to meet the needs of its citizens.

Kevin Ortero Rivera, 19, who goes to the center, daily, agrees with the organization’s philosophy. He only received electrical power a month ago, and his family in Thomas de Castro, still does not have electricity, he said.

Rivera added: “Whether we are a state or not, we need to come together and do something for ourselves.”

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U.S. House Prepares Historic Session on Reparations Legislation

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and on society.

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“The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
“The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, April 14, plans to hold the first-ever markup of H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.

The 10 a.m. session on Capitol Hill will help advance legislation first introduced about three decades ago that establishes a commission to examine slavery and discrimination in the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.

“Why is this significant now to have a markup in this historic moment in our history? The bill was introduced a year after the Civil Liberties Act that provided reparations for our Japanese-Americans, and we as African Americans supported it,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) said during a news conference with African American media members.

“The bill would allow the country to finally confront the stark social disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions,” Jackson-Lee, the bill’s lead sponsor, stated.

The historic markup of H.R. 40 is intended to continue a national conversation about how to confront the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism that remains endemic to American society today added House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

“Long after slavery was abolished, segregation and subjugation of African Americans was a defining part of this nation’s policies that shaped its values and its institutions,” Nadler remarked.

“Today, we still live with racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, insurance, employment, and other social goods that are directly attributable to the damaging legacy of slavery and government-sponsored racial discrimination,” Nadler remarked.

“The creation of a commission under H.R. 40 to study these issues is not intended to divide, but to continue the efforts commenced by states, localities and private institutions to reckon with our past and bring us closer to racial understanding and advancement.”

While a specific monetary value on reparations isn’t outlined in the bill, it does focus on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.

The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans.

The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and on society.

“Since its introduction in 1989 by the late Chairman John Conyers, and now through its continued introduction, H.R. 40 has galvanized governmental acknowledgment of the crime of slavery and its continuing societal impact,” Jackson Lee maintained.

“The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals.

“Through this legislation, we will finally be able to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions.

“By passing H.R. 40, Congress can also start a movement toward the national reckoning we need to bridge racial divides. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future.”

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Historians Celebrate the Black Press ahead of NNPA Annual Convention

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The Black Press has been able to survive – and thrive – at least since 1827 because of its remarkable ability to speak to the immediate needs and interests of the constituency that it represents: African Americans,” stated Gerald Horne, an American historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, and who authored the book, “The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett’s Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox.”

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Registration for the 2021 convention is free, and those interested can sign up at www.virtualnnpa2021.com.
Registration for the 2021 convention is free, and those interested can sign up at www.virtualnnpa2021.com.

This is the first in a series about the Black Press of America.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Dr. D’Weston Haywood did not hesitate when asked about the value of today’s Black Press of America.

The historian of 20th century American history with research and teaching interests in Black protest and protest thought, Black masculinity, Black power, and intersections of Black culture, Black politics, and Black public spheres, Dr. Haywood is himself a trusted voice.

He said the 194th anniversary of the Black Press of America and this year’s National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) summer convention theme – Black Press Matters: Trusted Voice, Resilient Vitality, and Transformative Vision – is fitting.

“The Black Press has remained a resilient, trusted voice, heralding a transformative vision for nearly two centuries precisely because, since its inception, it has remained invested in truth-telling, expanding democracy, and exposing and critiquing the limits of both unapologetically,” remarked Dr. Haywood, who authored the 2018 book, “Let Us Make Men: The Twentieth-Century Black Press and a Manly Vision for Racial Advancement.”

The NNPA, the 81-year-old trade association representing the 230 African American-owned newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America, will host its annual convention from June 23 to June 26.

While the conventions regularly occur in cities throughout the country, the pandemic has forced the NNPA to hold the event virtually for the second consecutive year.

This year’s theme highlights how significant the Black Press remains, its vitality in the many communities it serves, and the transformative vision that has helped keep the millions of subscribers informed.

“The Black Press has been able to survive – and thrive – at least since 1827 because of its remarkable ability to speak to the immediate needs and interests of the constituency that it represents: African Americans,” stated Gerald Horne, an American historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, and who authored the book, “The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett’s Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox.”

From Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm’s Freedom’s Journal to Frederick Douglass’ North Star to John Abbott’s Chicago Defender, African American-owned newspapers have sparked fires for truth and equality that have burned with the passion of fighting for freedom throughout history.

March 16, 2021, marked the 194th anniversary of the Black Press of America, whose global impact remains undeniable.

It all began with Freedom’s Journal, the first African American newspaper which in 1827, announced its presence with a front page that contained these words:

“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”

The 4-page edition included stories about the struggle to end the horrors of slavery, lynching, and social injustice.

It also informed the African American community of international news of particular interest like Haiti and Sierra Leone events.

The newspaper featured biographies of African American men and women, schools, jobs, and housing opportunities.

Those who have made contributions to the Black Press include Douglass, WEB DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, and former NNPA Chairman Dr. Carlton Goodlett.

“Over the course of its storied history, The Black Press of America has stared down government suppression, defied mob violence, and resisted many a Post-Truth era before it ever had a name, all to report, cover, and construct stories that might move the public, institutions, and historical zeitgeist to forge America into what it should be,” Dr. Haywood concluded.

Registration for the 2021 convention is free, and those interested can sign up at www.virtualnnpa2021.com.

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COVID-19 Pandemic Leads to Drop of Maternal Health Care in Africa, Raising Fears of Increased Mortality

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Globally, and in many African countries, women have borne the brunt of the harmful effects of the pandemic. They have had limited to no access to essential maternal and child health services for a significant time period as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and scarce resources in already overstretched hospitals and health centers,” Eden Ahmed Mdluli, Senior Technical Officer for Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health at Project HOPE, wrote in the release.

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Project HOPE calls on countries to strengthen qualitative data collection to identify the exact cause(s) of death during pregnancy and childbirth recorded during the pandemic. (iStockphoto / NNPA)
Project HOPE calls on countries to strengthen qualitative data collection to identify the exact cause(s) of death during pregnancy and childbirth recorded during the pandemic. (iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

While almost every country has experienced disruption to its health services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, several countries in Africa have been severely impacted, leading to the suspension of maternal, neonatal, and child health care.

Project HOPE, the nonprofit that has worked to save women and babies’ lives worldwide since 1985, issued a news release warning that decades of progress made to prevent maternal complications and deaths across the continent could be reversed.

The organization calls on countries to develop public health responses that ensure women’s health services during times of emergency.

“Globally, and in many African countries, women have borne the brunt of the harmful effects of the pandemic. They have had limited to no access to essential maternal and child health services for a significant time period as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and scarce resources in already overstretched hospitals and health centers,” Eden Ahmed Mdluli, Senior Technical Officer for Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health at Project HOPE, wrote in the release.

In 2020, the United Nations announced that about 10,000 health workers would receive training to support mothers and newborns in Africa.

The training would occur through a partnership between the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and Laerdal Global Health, the nonprofit arm of a Norwegian company that provides innovative training, educational and therapy solutions for emergency medical care and patient safety.

The five-year program aims to improve maternal and newborn health in some communities with the highest mortality rates in Eastern and Southern Africa.

UN officials said it would start the program in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya and later expand to other countries in the region.

According to UNICEF, despite recent and promising progress in maternal and neonatal health over the past decades, maternal and newborn mortality rates in the Eastern and Southern Africa region remain alarming.

In 2017, roughly 70,000 women in those regions died due to complications during pregnancy and birth, while in 2019, more than 440,000 newborns died in the first 28 days after delivery, UNICEF officials noted.

Project HOPE officials noted that while more data is needed to fully document the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on women and children across Africa, some preliminary numbers have shown a drop in utilization of essential reproductive, maternal, and neonatal health services.

According to findings by the Global Financing Facility, the number of women who attended the recommended medical visits during pregnancy dropped by 18 percent in Liberia, and the initiation of women seeking medical care during pregnancy fell by 16 percent in Nigeria.

Additionally, a recent modeling study across 118 of the world’s countries estimated that between 8.3 percent and 38.6 percent more pregnant women could die each month.

In countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, this would add 1,280 and 6,700 maternal deaths to the already staggering 16,000 and 67,000 respective maternal deaths each year, Project HOPE officials noted.

“These numbers echo a recent warning from the World Health Organization in Africa, which reported a rise in maternal deaths in 10 countries with the highest increases recorded in Comoros, Mali, Senegal, and South Africa,” the officials wrote in the release.

They reported that in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, curfews imposed in certain African countries made it difficult for pregnant women to reach clinics and/or hospitals after curfew time.

Many health centers, which offer free or low-cost services, also closed during the pandemic, especially if the virus had infected one staff or more.

Many hospitals also had to rearrange their units to accommodate COVID-19 patients. In many cases, it meant diverting resources for existing medical needs to COVID-19 needs, leaving pregnant women and new mothers without access to adequate care.

“People are extremely vulnerable during a pandemic. That’s why it is even more critical to ensure the continuation of quality and safe women’s health services during times of emergency. Countries must develop a public health response that ensures maternal and child health services in such critical times. Pandemics should not present either-or propositions,” Ahmed Mdluli stated.

Project HOPE also calls on countries to strengthen qualitative data collection to identify the exact cause(s) of death during pregnancy and childbirth recorded during the pandemic.

The organization noted that such action would help ensure the proper steps are taken to prevent similar deaths in the future.

“Before the pandemic, significant strides were made in ensuring healthy lives and reducing some of the common killers associated with maternal and child mortality,” Ahmed Mdluli continued.

“Today, the world’s ability to meet the important Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 requires taking stock of the challenges faced during the pandemic and ensuring equitable health care access for the most vulnerable populations.”

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Motown releasing hip-hop album to mark 100th anniversary of Tulsa race massacre

ROLLING OUT – The 21-track collection gets to the truth of what happened in 1921 from May 31 to  June 1 when a White mob descended on the streets of Greenwood — then a prosperous Tulsa neighborhood known as Black Wall Street — and burned down the business district. The massacre destroyed roughly 1,500 homes, killing hundreds and leaving thousands of Black Tulsans homeless.

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By Michael “Ice-Blue” Harris

Motown Records is releasing a compilation hip-hop album called Fire in Little Africa commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race massacre in 1921.

The 21-track collection gets to the truth of what happened in 1921 from May 31 to  June 1 when a White mob descended on the streets of Greenwood — then a prosperous Tulsa neighborhood known as Black Wall Street — and burned down the business district. The massacre destroyed roughly 1,500 homes, killing hundreds and leaving thousands of Black Tulsans homeless.

Fire in Little Africa, an album of original material, written and recorded by a collective of Oklahoma hip-hop artists, will be released on May 28 by Motown Records/Black Forum in partnership with Tulsa’s Bob Dylan Center and Woody Guthrie Center.

“Fire in Little Africa is a powerful and timely project that provides a platform and outlet for the incredibly talented and thriving music community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am honored and feel privileged to have Motown Records/Black Forum partner with Dr. View, the Bob Dylan Center and Guthrie Center to release this impactful hip-hop album,” Motown Records Chairman and CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The album was recorded in Greenwood over a five-day period in March 2020. Studios were set up at the Greenwood Cultural Center and other locations, including the former home of 1921 massacre mastermind and Ku Klux Klan leader Tate Brady. The house is now owned by former NFL first-round draft pick and Tulsa native Felix Jones.

Fire in Little Africa has evolved into a communal hip-hop movement, and we’re excited that we get to share the flavor, history and legacy of Black Wall Street with the world, in collaboration with the amazing leadership of the Motown [and the] Black Forum family,” Stevie “Dr. View” Johnson, Ph.D., the manager of education and diversity outreach at the Woody Guthrie Center and Bob Dylan Center, told The AP.

“We’re grateful for Ethiopia’s foresight in providing us an opportunity to share our important stories with the world,” added Johnson, who also serves as an executive producer on the project. “There are Black Wall Streets across the diaspora, and we unequivocally know that Fire in Little Africa will inspire many people. In the words of Steph Simon, ‘everything is us.’ ”

Located in the Tulsa Arts District, the Woody Guthrie Center opened in 2013. The Bob Dylan Center is expected to open on the same block within the next year. Both are projects of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the primary funder for Fire in Little Africa. The album is chronicled in a documentary film, which will be released later this year as well.

The post Motown releasing hip-hop album to mark 100th anniversary of Tulsa race massacre appeared first on Rolling Out.

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COMMENTRY: The Floyd Case May Change The Worldview Of America

FLORIDA STAR — America is not immune to police misconduct. Since the Rodney King videotaped beating in 1991, the camcorder, now the (Cell Phone) has been critical in showing questionable police tactics throughout the country. There has been an outcry from black communities for decades that this is normal behavior by police when dealing with minority suspects. But video recordings have somewhat leveled the playing field of evidence.

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The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.
On May 25, 2020, Officer Dereck Chauvin was recorded with his knee in the neck of a handcuffed, face down George Floyd for over 9 minutes, while two other officers assisted in the restraint and one stood to watch.

By Reginald Blount

The George Floyd case is not just a case against officer Dereck Chauvin, it’s a case that could redefine how America is viewed across the globe. On May 25, 2020, Officer Dereck Chauvin was recorded with his knee in the neck of a handcuffed, face down George Floyd for over 9 minutes, while two other officers assisted in the restraint and one stood to watch. Several bystanders including medical professionals were pleading with the officer to allow Floyd to breathe. Chauvin continued with his knee on Floyd’s neck even after he appeared unconscious. The incident sent shock waves throughout the world. Paramedics arriving on the scene attempted to feel for a pulse in the unresponsive Floyd while Chauvin continued with his knee in Floyd’s neck.

America is not immune to police misconduct. Since the Rodney King videotaped beating in 1991, the camcorder, now the (Cell Phone) has been critical in showing questionable police tactics throughout the country. There has been an outcry from black communities for decades that this is normal behavior by police when dealing with minority suspects. But video recordings have somewhat leveled the playing field of evidence. It would appear that police and their legal teams have adjusted to recorded evidence by demonizing the victim’s credibility with the common explanations that drugs were in the victim’s systems giving them unusual superhuman strength or the Police feared for their life, thus causing further police aggression to control or kill the suspect.

The U.S. Supreme court’s 1985 decision that the perception from a police officer to use deadly force is squarely in the hands of that officer. This has proven problematic in the use of deadly force and has further complicated any reasonable means of justice for victims and their families by police actions.

An exoneration of Dereck Chauvin could have worldwide implications as America may be viewed as a nation of unfairness, unjust laws, and rules of engagement stacked heavily against its citizens, especially people of color. Evan a guilty verdict will not erase what the world saw on that May 25th evening, as a handcuffed defenseless George Floyd died in real-time at the hands of law enforcement.

Reginald Blount is a former city council candidate, retired military veteran, public policy analyst for the newly formed National Frontline (Jacksonville), and Adjunct Professor at FSCJ. He holds a master’s degree in public policy and is a graduate of the Naval Post Graduate School SSDCO program.

The post The Floyed Case May Change The Worldview Of America first appeared on The Florida Star | The Georgia Star.

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U.S. Supreme Court Sounds Ready to Pay Student Athletes

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The business of college sports, which includes millions in television contracts and sponsorships, resulting in a world of lucrative payouts for everyone other than the players, may have met its match at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The argument over whether “student athletes” should be paid has gone on for decades with the NCAA arguing that pay would mean the end of the “student” athlete. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
The argument over whether “student athletes” should be paid has gone on for decades with the NCAA arguing that pay would mean the end of the “student” athlete. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor
@LVBurke

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh called the NCAA’s practices “disturbing.”

“The antitrust laws should not be a cover for exploitation of the student-athletes. To pay no salaries to the workers who are making the schools billions of dollars on the theory that consumers want the schools to pay their workers nothing,” he said, seems “entirely circular and even somewhat disturbing,” Kavanaugh said.

On March 30 the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of NCAA v. Alston, which is a class action case, first filed in 2014. The NCAA is an organization with over 1,000 member colleges and universities. As millions are made from the talent ion college athletes and colleges pay millions in salaries to coaches, college athletes remain unpaid. Under the NCAA’s rules, paid athletes become ineligible to play sports.

The main plaintiff in the case is Shawne Alston, a former West Virginia University running back, who says he and other athletes were exploited.

The business of college sports, which includes millions in television contracts and sponsorships, resulting in a world of lucrative payouts for everyone other than the players, may have met its match at the U.S. Supreme Court. Several court members sounded skeptical of the NCAA’s arguments that the current set up is fair. A federal district court in California gave athletes a victory. It ruled that the NCAA could not limit income to athletes.

“It just strikes me as odd that the coaches’ salaries have ballooned,” said Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. “They’re in the amateur ranks, as are the players,” Thomas added.

“Why does the NCAA get to define what ‘pay’ is?” asked Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

“Antitrust laws should not be a cover for exploitation of the student-athletes, so that is a concern, an overarching concern here,” added Associated Justice Kavanaugh.

Judge Sam Alito went even further. Alito said athletes, “face training requirements that leave little time or energy for study, constant pressure to put sports above study, pressure to drop out of hard majors and hard classes, really shockingly low graduation rates. Only a tiny percentage ever go on to make any money in professional sports.”

“So, the argument is they are recruited, they’re used up, and then they’re cast aside without even a college degree. How can this be defended in the name of amateurism?” Alito added.

If the questions and comments from members of the Court were a guide change could be coming soon. The argument over whether “student athletes” should be paid has gone on for decades with the NCAA arguing that pay would mean the end of the “student” athlete.

But with the level of revenue that colleges and universities make from athlete performance it is becoming increasingly difficult to argue that arrangement is nothing more than big business that benefits from revenue from a never-ending unpaid workforce.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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