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Youth Will Lead the Way

Thursday, December 04, 2014

There is a saying that youth is wasted on the young.  But that depends on how one’s youth is used.  In recent years, the global community of young people have demonstrated they are willing to use their time, effort, energy and youthful zeal to do some pretty amazing things.


We saw it in 2011 with the rise of the Arab Spring—that revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests and civil wars in the Arab world.


As the Arab Spring began to wind down, a new cause surfaced in the U.S. with the Occupy Movement.  Young people woke up the nation with the message of economic injustice.  Protestors called out the greed of the 1% who pay little if any income tax, ship jobs overseas and profit with the pensions and assets of the middle class.  They drew a clear distinction between the greedy and the needy.


And now, with the civil unrest from the acquittal of Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO, for killing unarmed black teen Michael Brown, we’re seeing it again—a unparalleled demand for change and justice. 


Folks are not backing down anymore.  They are tired of seeing so many unarmed men of color killed by police, and walking away free.  Once again, young people are leading the way. 


The hip-hop culture has been a target of criticism by older generations.  And some of it is justifiable—negative images of guns, drugs, materialism and violence in music videos are detrimental to young people. 


But like most things, hip-hop is a mixture of good and bad.  Out of hip-hop has come a generation of political activists who are changing the face of this nation.  They mobilized youth for the Rock the Vote campaign in 2008.  Their voter registration campaigns had a lot to do with President Obama being elected. The president also won in part because he spoke their language—technology.


Now, with social media and phones that can record anything in a matter of seconds, it’s becoming more difficult to hide injustice.  Anyone with access to a mobile phone literally holds the power in their hands to literally change the world.


Without this technology, the real story behind Ferguson, police abuse toward demonstrators and journalists, might not have been told.  The bold, consistent efforts of Ferguson demonstrators is the beginning of real change.  To those who say the Civil Rights Movement is dead, I beg to differ. It is not dead, it is being reborn.


Ferguson has already changing the way policing is done.  Police departments across the nation are now requiring officers to wear body cameras.  In time, I believe these cameras will be worn by civilians as well, and could be especially useful for those marching on the front lines of social justice.


We are counting on young people to lead the way, and it is up to people in my generation to guide them.  To make sure they have access to education, health care and the wherewithal to become a strong, vital part of our community.


As new classes of graduates come out of our high schools and colleges, they will be looking for opportunities to make a difference.  It is up to us to give them the support and guidance they need to channel their passion and energy in the right direction.


Sometimes it seems injustice will never end.  But I am betting on our young people to change the paradigm. 






Class For Credit?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

I came across some shocking data that stated, according to the California Department of Education, last year less than 29% of our district’s seniors graduated eligible for entrance into a UC or CSU school although 97% of our students graduated.    


 Not only does this speak to UC and CSU enrollment policies, it also shows these students regardless of those policies have a choice to make. So, the question became, how can we incentivize more students to pursue excellence, whether or not they decide to attend a State University? Pass out cash to everyone who does well? Maybe, if we’d like the State to stay in control of our district forever. But what if students were able to improve their credit rating based off of their academic achievements?  


 I had an interesting conversation with some family and friends about how more 18-34 year olds or “Millennials” are either interested in becoming an entrepreneur and/or already taking steps to do so.


Based on a study from the Kauffman Foundation, “…polls point out specific barriers to entrepreneurship, including the inability to access capital needed to get a business going, lack of knowledge needed to run a small business, concerns with overcoming current debt burdens, and few mentors from whom they can learn from. In fact, 65 percent of young people think that making it easier to start a business should be a priority for Congress, with 41 percent saying it should be a top priority. Eighty-three percent of Millennials believe that Congress should, at a minimum, increase the availability of startup loans.”


 If 30% of our students are moving on to 4-year colleges, that means at least 65% of our students are either going to junior college, attending trade schools, immediately joining the workforce right out of high school, or attempting to start their own businesses. Attending these schools often require financial aid in the form of student loans. Many students shy away from student loans because of the horror stories they’ve learned from others who are smothered in debt. Starting a business also requires startup capital and a solid credit history. Unfortunately, recent high school graduates typically have yet to establish a credit history and have to start from the bottom, making it nearly impossible to establish a business right out of high school to generate income for themselves.


 Often in our communities, due to a lack of financial literacy, parents mismanage funds and ruin their credit history before they are able to establish a business or purchase a home, and result in using their child’s name and social security number to get utilities, cable, and or lines of credit. And most of the time, parents never get an opportunity to pay off the debt before their child graduates high school.  The child is then punished with a poor credit rating before they are even old enough to establish it for themselves. This contributes to the disadvantage African Americans and Latinos face as young adults, starting off in life. 


What could prevent this from happening?


 Schools already distribute a credit for passing classes, which accumulates, and based on the total number of credits earned, a student is then eligible for graduation. What if schools awarded individuals who achieve a B or higher credit bonuses that accumulate in the same way, and results in a 660-690 credit score for graduating seniors?


 For one, this could create a worthy incentive for students to achieve more during their high school careers, and result in higher percentages of graduation, and eligibility for UC and Cal State enrollment.


 If students decided to forego college and instead become entrepreneurs, their credit rating is decent enough to begin applying for start-up loans and business credit cards. If a student desired to enter the workforce, they could do so, and find it easier to find an apartment of their own and begin their adult lives.


 As optimistic as this sounds, the preliminary work would obviously be as difficult as convincing Republicans Obamacare is actually a good thing. A curriculum would have to be created that teaches students what credit actually is, why it’s important, and why students should strive to ensure they establish a healthy line of credit.


 In addition, districts would need to implement into the curriculum, entrepreneurial courses that allow students to create co-operatives of their own and pilot them in the community. The curriculum would train student how to function in the work force, from executive levels to physical labor. Piloting student run co-operatives would also instill the communal spirit and foster the desire to give back to the community that gave them their first real job.


  Mayor James Butts during the MLK celebration earlier this year said something that I thought was right on time. He said that this city is going to move forward by creating high-tech industry, through forward thinking and innovation, to create a future for our children. I couldn’t agree more.


 It’s going to take ideas, that not only generate revenue for our city, but ideas that enhance the intellectual capacity of our children, challenge the status quo, dispel cultural stereotypes, and build strong community leadership from top to bottom, bottom to top, and inside out.


 For more Inglewood “On The Positive Side,” visit






President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $263 million to change the way community policing is done, in the wake of recent widespread racial tension and violence in Ferguson, MO.  The shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer, and the officer’s acquittal by a grand jury last week, is indicative of what goes on in communities of color nationwide, Obama said. 


The president wants funding to buy 50,000 body cameras to record events like Brown’s shooting death and support for programs that will build greater trust, accountability and transparency of police. 


Police, clergy, civil rights leaders, and activists met with Obama at the White House to weigh in on racial profiling, abusive policing and the militarized tactics that put citizens at odds with those sworn to protect them. The president also announced the creation of a task force to this end, co-chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and George Mason University Professor of Criminology Laurie Robinson.


Obama’s executive orders for police reform came just two days before another controversial grand jury decision involving the killing of an unarmed black man by a white policeman.


 On Wednesday, a New York City grand jury declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, for the death of Eric Garner, despite a video showing Garner being placed in a chokehold by Pantaleo and yelling "I can't breathe!" and a medical examiner ruling Garner's death a homicide, caused in part by the chokehold.


 Police maintained that Garner’s weight was a factor in his respiratory condition.


A round of protests broke out shortly after the decision.  There was a massive standoff  between police and protestors,  and several arrests made at 47th and 6th Avenue.  Demonstrators blocked the streets of Times Square and held a “die-in” at Grand Central Terminal among other spontaneous events around the city. Protestors laid down on the ground, which is a gesture symbolic of people dying in the street.  Brown laid in the street four and a half hours before Ferguson authorities removed his dead body. 


In a conference call last month, a member of a police watch group in Ferguson said the Brown shooting has morphed into a national movement against abusive police.  “It’s about stopping the black man from being killed or assaulted by a police officer every 28 hours in this country,” he said. 


All too familiar with the mistrust that occurs between police and communities of color—and leaders who have called for change, but done nothing—Obama promised “this time will be different.”


 "Part of the reason this time will be different is because the president of the United States is deeply invested in making sure that this time is different," Obama said. "It violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful even after they've done everything right."


 Protestors in Ferguson and elsewhere have kept the pressure on since Brown’s death in August—marching, chanting, forming community networks and posting numerous stories and photos on social media.


Attorney General Eric Holder announced new Justice Department plans aimed at ending racial profiling and ensuring fair and effective policing.



"In the coming days, I will announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement, which will institute rigorous new standards -- and robust safeguards -- to help end racial profiling, once and for all," Holder said in Atlanta.




Black Friday Interrupted

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Black Friday backlash, combined with civil unrest in Ferguson, MO and other cities nationwide, created a firestorm of protests during Thanksgiving  week.  In a nod to the Occupy Movement, thousands of workers showed up at retailers hoping to give Black Friday a black eye. 


Growing resentment over the economic gap, and disapproval of retailers turning the family-oriented Thanksgiving Day into a cash cow prompted economic boycotts nationwide.  And with the ready-made audience of Black Friday shoppers, protestors marched boldly through malls, chanting and holding signs denouncing the acquittal of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.


Ferguson Won’t Rest


The annual busiest shopping day of the year came on the heels of widespread violence when Wilson escaped grand jury indictment for shooting unarmed black teen Michael Brown.  Angry crowds reacted to the verdict with lootings, fires, and gunshots, which were answered by police teargas.  


The St Louis Post-Dispatch reported 13 injuries including two involving gunshot wounds. Despite the level of unrest, however, Thanksgiving Day was relatively quiet.  By Saturday, Officer Wilson had announced that he would resign. 


Ferguson-related protests broke out in L.A. on Friday at various locations.  Eight people were arrested in Westlake in regard to the decision, for allegedly blocking the streets. 


Walmart Under Attack


Walmart was also the target of massive demonstrations by employees demanding wage increases and benefits.  Strikes and protests were held at 1600 stores in 49 states


Although Walmart, the nation's largest employer, employs 1.4 million people, and pulls in $16 billion in annual profits, workers say they are not paid livable wages.  One worker said he could not afford a car; another said he had not eaten in a day. 


Last year, a report commissioned by Congressional Democrats found that each Walmart store costs taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.75 million per year because so many employees are forced to turn to government aid.


Walmart workers across Los Angeles went on a hunger strike Thursday to protest for better jobs.  Outside the Walmart Supercenter in Long Beach, employees and community leaders began a 24-hour fast at noon .The fast was symbolic of the hunger Walmart associates and their families endure due to the company’s low wages.



On the day before Thanksgiving, workers across the nation walked off their jobs.  However, according to Rachel Wall, senior manager of community affairs for the chain, that was not the case at the Baldwin Hills Walmart:


“All of our associates who were scheduled to come to work today are here, serving our customers," she said.


"What is being shown outside is a stark difference from what we are seeing inside here today. We have gotten great feedback from our associates about holiday pay, about additional 25% discount, about availability of hours and promotional opportunities.”







Holiday Safety

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Black Friday has come and gone.  Small Business Saturday is behind us and Cyber Monday is yesterday’s memory.  While all of these events jump start the holiday shopping season, many of us prefer to shop at a leisurely pace over many days and weeks.  Of course, the bad guys know this and this is their season for serious work.  Following are reminders to keep you, your home, and your purchases safe.


 Out and About


  • Always be ALERT to your surroundings.

  • If possible, shop with a friend.  There is safety in numbers.

  • Park in the well-lit and well-travelled areas of a parking lot.  If you park on a street, try to park    under or near a street light.

  • Have your keys in your hand when returning to your car.  Don’t dawdle – get the door open, packages in, and yourself in the car.  Lock the doors before you put on your seatbelt or start the engine. 

  • Carry only the cash or credit cards you need.  If possible, avoid carrying a purse.  They are easily snatched by the bad guys. 

  • Don’t overload yourself with packages.  It can decrease your view of the parking lot and your range of motion.  If you’ve purchased a lot, make more than one trip from store to car.

  • Try to use ATM machines only during daytime.  If you need them at night, be sure the area is well-lit or better yet, go to a grocery store – most have ATMs these days.

  • Don’t advertise your purchases.  If you are planning a day of shopping, place your purchases in the trunk when you leave each store.  If you are shopping close to home, it’s even better if you can take purchases home between stores.

  • With all the errands and parties during the holidays, it’s especially important to keep your car in good working condition. 

  • Make mental notes along your routes of where there are 24-hour businesses as well as police and fire stations, in case you need them.


At Home


  • Keep your drapes open only partially to display your lovely tree so bad guys can’t see the presents under the tree.

  • After opening presents, place the discarded boxes in trash bags before you put them out for pick up.  The bad guys look for these to know what new goodies you have.

  • Take mail to the post office instead of leaving it on top of your mailbox.

  • If you will be away for the holidays, have the post office stop your mail while you’re gone.  Don’t forget to also cancel the newspaper for that time.

  • Be aware of scams during the season.  The recognized charities don’t solicit door-to-door and no one is looking to purchase new insurance or contract for a new roof during the holiday season.

  • Be a good neighbor.  Keep an eye out for your neighbors and their homes.  They are doing the same for you.  If you see something suspicious, report it to police by calling 310-412-8771 or 9-1-1 if it’s an emergency.


Have a wonderful, warm, and blessed and safe holiday season. 






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