It’s a cold day at McPherson Square, the location of the “Occupy DC” protest movement. The wind bites and pulls leaves off the trees, but protesters, commonly referred to as “occupiers” have not left their post. . The wind bites and pulls leaves off the trees, but Occupy DC has not left its post. The gathering set up on I and 15th is just of the many Occupy movements all over the world. They range everywhere from its birthplace in New York, to Albuquerque, to London. Encampments have popped up in Gexto, Spain; Islamabad; and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. There have even been outbreaks of violence between police and protesters at the Oakland and Los Angeles sites. And though it’s caught on nationwide, people still aren’t sure of the movement’s ultimate goal.
The first people I met affectionately refer to their grouping as “Southeast.” It’s predominately black and male. Lando – most occupiers won’t disclose their last names – walked to the district from Zuccotti Park after it was shutdown. “The walk was about educating people. People don’t really understand what’s going on in America right now. The social structure is falling apart. There are homeless people sleeping in front of the White House.”
Antonio, a participant who works for a homeless shelter in the city, believes there needs to be more focus on domestic problems: “You can’t solve problems abroad without taking care of home first.”
The amount of people of color at the DC site is surprising, considering that there have been reports and criticism about the lack of black people that participate in Occupy. Jason, a Howard University School of Business alum doesn’t think enough African Americans are involved, but thinks that their participation in the movement is needed. “There aren’t enough black people in the cause,” he said. “And it’s sad because we can be so effective.”
While the movement has attracted a large amount of support from the homeless and unemployed, Americans that currently have jobs and homes have been vocal about supporting the movement as well. Ian, a supporter who is currently employed by a lobbying firm, expressed similar frustrations with the way the government is run. “I think we should close the corporate loop holes, extend the payroll tax, and pay for it with a 3% tax on the rich,” Ian said. “The tax cuts for the rich cost more than both the wars combined. It makes no sense at all to extend them.”
But Ian also expressed that he is not completely ready to join the Occupy movement. “I’m looking to get involved, but I’m looking for a jumping off point,” he said. John, a fellow employed occupier agreed, “We’re just looking for some cohesion.”
They aren’t the only ones waiting for the right moment to get involved. Jiri, a husband and father, would like assurance that the risk in participation will be worth it. “It just needs to be focused,” he said. “I have a wife and kids. You can be proud of daddy – that he’s a part of this movement. But food supersedes that.”
Recent reports of the movement have placed an emphasis on the outbreaks of violence between police and protestors at the Oakland and Los Angeles sites, but at the Occupy DC site, protesters have a set up a library filled with books ranging on topics from education to spirituality, provide food that is shared by all staying at the site, and even established little “neighborhoods” among the tents. People at the site can also been seen laughing and joking with one another, riding around on their bikes and scooters, and playing a game of chess, a far cry from the media’s portrayal of a rowdy gathering of frustrated Americans.
Through it all, occupiers and their supporters are all aiming for the same thing: making a difference.
“Do I feel I’ve made a difference?” Antonio asks himself, as that November wind blows an American flag perched on a tent. “I do, simply through the people that I’ve met.”
See an interactive timeline on Occupy DC here
Recent comments by Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain have thrown the often-debated topic of abortion into the spotlight in a new way – its relationship with African Americans. In late October, Cain appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation claiming that Planned Parenthood supports a form of genocide, stating , “[Planned Parenthood founder] Margaret Sanger…did talk about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.”
Cain’s opinion is a common, though not often discussed, one throughout the black community. As early as the 1960s a pamphlet published by the Black Panther Party of Peekskill, NY, imploring black women to stay away from “genocide” – abortion and birth control. There is also an organization dedicated to the idea: LEARN, or Life Education And Resource Network. Established in 2003, its website states that 78% of Planned Parenthood’s clinics are in minority communities and that blacks make up over a third of all abortions.
Planned Parenthood’s history with the black community is a complicated one, but for a much different reason. Rather than encourage birth control in minority communities as many critics claim, in the past these were the demographics that were most ignored by organizations like Planned Parenthood during the days of their conception. According to a report by the Washington Post, Sanger’s comments are often quoted out of context; there is a question of whether her statement meant decreasing the amount of black babies born, or the amount of black babies born into poverty. As for the number of abortions black women have: they do have the highest rate, at 35 percent. However this information is put in perspective with the fact that black women are more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than any other demographic; in fact black women are more likely to carry their babies to term than any other ethnic group.
This is just one instance of the abortion debate being thrown into the spotlight recently. In November, Mississippi voters shot down Amendment 26 – a law that would have defined “personhood” as the moment of conception. The law would not have only outlawed abortion, but it also would have affected in-vitro fertilization, as well as morning-after-pill use. The inevitable challenges the law possibly faced could have set into motion a review to the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.
When asked about the issue, most Howard University students didn’t have a problem with Planned Parenthood or the option of abortion. For them, the issue lies in the fact that unplanned pregnancies are preventable. Stanford Fraser, a junior history major believes that there isn’t enough focus on the causes of abortion, “To me, it’s just an example of our society treating the symptoms and not the disease. People need accessibility to birth control and the knowledge to use it properly. Another question is why are we so over sexualized as a society? It’s a twofold issue.”
“I believe it’s better to have an abortion than have a child you can’t afford,” said Shamela McClain, a sophomore film major. “If a baby is born that you don’t want, and that the father doesn’t want, then there’s a child that’s growing up and can’t take his place in society because he wasn’t wanted or planned in the first place.”
Laura Meyers, the CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Planned Parenthood, believes that it’s important to remember that abortion is not the organization’s sole service. “We serve over 27,000 people in the DC area, and 90 percent of those services are preventative,” she said. “One of the things Planned Parenthood tries to do is break down the barriers for women who face multiple barriers in getting health care.
“Our education department is focused on HIV prevention,” she continued. “We take our role in prevention very seriously to do whatever we can to outreach to those young men and women to prevent HIV/AIDS.”
Meyers also spoke about the challenges facing the African American population in particular when it comes to sexual health. “Recently there was a study released that one in four young women carries an STD. One in two women of color has one. African Americans are more likely to be uninsured and have delayed care because of lack of resources. Mr. Cain is willfully misinformed about what Planned Parenthood does.”
See an interactive timeline on Planned Parenthood and the history of birth control here
To see what others are saying on this controversial issue, see the accompanying Storify.
If you go to one of the many parks in Ward 7 or Ward 8 on a Saturday morning, you’ll see something common in playgrounds all across the country: children gathering together to play organized sports. However, there’s something special about these games. They are organized by the Health Services for Children with Special Needs, and they provide a way for the children to develop team skills.
It’s one of many set up through Health Services for Children with Special Needs. HSC, as the 16-year-old program called by its members, is an organization with many legs; a therapeutic pediatric center, homecare, and community outreach that falls under one foundation for young people aged 25 and under. They currently serve over 5,000 young people in the DC Metro area. The program is set up specifically to benefit those with special disability benefits. Members have access to programs like the Newborn Project, which educates parents on childcare. The program does more than medical care though. Cecil Doggette, the director of Outreach Services, believes that there’s more to the job. “Medical needs are what we’re tasked to do under the contract, however there’s more. For instance, we know that families won’t go to the doctor if they’re hungry or if they have these other social issues. So we partner with other organizations in the area to provide those services to our members. It involves not just the children, but the families as well,” he said.
The outreach leg – which runs the therapeutic sports and other community events of the organization, has its office nestled on Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave and W Street Southeast. “We’re actually located here strategically,” said Brittany Wellington, an outreach representative for HSC. “This is where most of our members reside – between Ward 7 and Ward 8.”
According to Doggette, the majority of those they serve are from low income neighborhoods. “What we were doing is trying to be in a place where we’re more visible to the community that we serve,” he said. “This is actually the best place we could’ve found.”
Community is a theme that runs throughout the program. The office has a warm and homey feel. The kitchen where they offer tea and coffee to those visiting houses a kitchen table where the male caretakers support group gathers regularly to have dinner. Staff members communicate with a comfortable sense of familiarity, and refer to the children in the program as their kids. They partner with the DC Parks and Recreation to find locations in close proximity to the young people involved. It’s a familiarity that makes initiatives the sports program so effective.
Therapeutic sports was originally designed strictly for the children of parents in the support group, but HSC soon found that other children needed the opportunity to play as well, Wellington said. “Parents will tell us when we do our enrollments that they feel they don’t have a place where they can take their children to get the physical activity.”
Children of all abilities participate in the year long program, learning the basics of sports like soccer, flag football, basketball, and golf. Kids in wheel chairs are pushed down the field by volunteers to make touchdowns. Children with autism work on game plans with children that don’t have special needs. All participants receive trophies and certificates at the end, commending them on a job well done. It’s an opportunity to see them work and play and problem solve together when they wouldn’t have otherwise. “We know that there’s an interaction missing for children with challenges. Inclusion has been a precedent-setting situation for us. We want to make sure our children interact with children with all abilities,” Doggette said.
Wellington spoke on the care they take with the kids, “We want to help enhance their lives,” she said. “Any other program isn’t going to have that holistic approach that we have, and have that compassion that we have for our children.”
For information on how to get involved with HSC, go to www.hscsn-net.org.
For an audio snippet of the interview, go here.
Twelve students and one professor were arrested yesterday at a protest for the clemency of death row inmate Troy Davis. After news of the arrest hit social networks, the group was referred to as the “Howard 13.”
According to Sgt. David Schlosser of the U.S. Park Police, 12 were arrested for violating a lawful order and one was arrested for crossing a police line. “We were simply enforcing demonstration regulations,” he stated.
Those arrested were taken to the U.S. Park Police holding center, where they were later released and fined $100 each.
Police arrested them after asking the protesters to stop sitting in front of the White House. All but the 12 students that were taken into custody got up. Dr Tony Medina crossed police lines to be with the students.
Dimen Clark, a junior legal communications major was one of the arrested students. “I personally thought about my aunt who was murdered and the fact that no one stood up for her,” she said. “Troy Davis should know that someone cared; that someone stood up for him. We just thought, ‘If we don’t stand up, who will?’”
Still, Clark doesn’t want the hype to distract from the point of the protest. “Honestly, I don’t like the name ‘Howard 13,’” she went on to say. “The bigger issue is the death penalty. This was just a catalyst. It’s up to us to make sure we stay active. If we don’t, it will turn into just another Howard trend.”
Medina, who says he was the only faculty of Howard University to attend to the protest, hopes that this will lead to more proactivity, “I think the brave students that did get arrested set a good example. Hopefully it will inspire more students to stand for what is right. It’s in the Howard tradition.
“We didn’t plan on being arrested, but given the opportunity to bring more attention to the case, we couldn’t turn it down,” he went on to say. “When we were coming back from jail, people on the Metro recognized and congratulated them. Protests have sparked all over the world. We should be proud.”
Students also weighed in on the arrests. Senior legal communication major Amber Meeks was moved by the actions. “It was an unforgettable experience,” Medina said. “The demonstration of courage, selflessness, and solidarity by my peers did and will continue to inspire me.”
And though a sizable and vocal number of Howard University students supported the call for clemency, there are some that don’t feel that way. “I do feel sorry that he’s getting the death penalty, but I do think it’s deserved. There is some doubt to his guilt, but at the same time the man is not innocent,” junior political science major Travis White said.
Protesters gathered around the flagpole at noon for the demonstration, where they rallied around Howard University Student Association President Brandon Harris.
The movement sparked from Twitter, after Harris contacted the head of HU Reaction, Antoine Griffin.
From the flagpole students marched from Yard, down Georgia Avenue, and onto the White House, standing outside and chanting.
Davis was convicted for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in August of 1991. Of his 20 years on death row, the execution has been delayed four times after receiving appeals.
He was put to death at 11:08 PM September 21, 2011.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not harder for educated Black women to find men, according to a new study.
When researching the number of Black males in prison versus Black males in college, researchers found that one subject in particular kept popping up again and again: black marriage and dating.
Dr. Ivory Toldson, an associate professor in the School of Education at Howard University, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education, recently released a study about education and the black man in America along with Bryant T. Marks, director of Morehouse College’s Male Initiative.
They will join political and educational leaders to discuss their findings at the “Presidential Symposium: Beyond the Stereotypes—Academics, Athletics, Character and Black Male Achievement,” Sept. 7, as part of a series of events leading up to the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic between Morehouse and Howard.
The study debunks highly popularized theories about the lack of marital options for Black women. For example, the research cites a story from ABC that states only 54 percent of Black men would be considered “adequate to marry” taking into account the Black men who lack a college education, are in jail and are unemployed. In his study, Toldson points out that such reports don’t take into account overlapping of this data.
This “phenomena” of the single and successful black woman as well as the crumbling of the Black family has been covered by many news outlets. MSNBC, NPR, the Washington Post and countless bloggers have had stories with headlines such as “Marriage Alludes High-Achieving Black Women,” “Black Women: Successful and Still Unmarried” or “Marriage Is for White People.”
Many assumptions on Black dating are based on misinformation, according to Toldson. Even on the small scale of a university, inflated numbers are considered common knowledge. For example, Toldson debunked the ratio rumor on Howard’s campus.
“At Howard University, a competitive university, the ratio of females to males is a little bit more skewed towards females,” he said. “If you go to the average Howard student and ask what the ratio is, you’ll hear things like 10 to one or 15 to one. That’s nowhere close to the truth. The actual ratio at Howard is just two to one.”
But even though there are more Black women in college than Black men, men still bring in more money than women, laying to rest claims that Black women are having trouble finding men in the same socioeconomic bracket, Toldson added.
“Black women do outpace men in graduation,” he said. “Black men still get paid more than Black women. Those extra degrees have not brought about economic parity.”
Money continues to be a major factor in marriage and relationships. More and more Americans are getting married later in life to save for and afford a certain lifestyle. Black Americans are no different. Eighteen was an appropriate age to begin calculating marriage rates back in 1960, but now that practice may be dated.
“The reality is that cities like D.C., New York and Atlanta are very expensive to live in,” Toldson said. “In reality, it would take a quarter of a million dollars to achieve that living standard in a city like New York.”
Although marriage rates in general are lower, Black women in particular have received the brunt of media coverage. According to Toldson, this is because throughout history whites have been seen as the “norm.” “When we look at show like ‘Sex in the City,’ they’re talking about this issue,” he says. “They’re talking about four women that are very successful, and their success seems to be competing with chances of finding love. But it was never discussed as a white issue.”
Overall, Toldson hopes that this dialogue will open a door for discussion, rather than add to more panic about the state of black love. “We need to really start challenging the information that is brought to us.”
In addition to Toldson, panelists at the symposium will include actor Isaiah Washington, author and talk show host Michael Eric Dyson, Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, and Presidents Sidney A. Ribeau and Robert M. Franklin of Howard and Morehouse, respectively. The symposium is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Cramton Auditorium at Howard University.