Serving America: In What Context?

In 1735 when the French colonists of Louisiana pursued the Natchez War against Native Americans, they mustered free and enslaved African Americans into two military companies that came to be known as the Corps D’Afrique.

The soldiers of the Corps D’Afrique fought against Indigenous People as well as against Africans who had fled slavery to live in freedom among the Natchez.

The paradox of Black folk in America standing on both sides of a conflict where white supremacy plays a part spans the entire history of this nation.

During the American Revolution, Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment, comprised mostly of freed slaves, fought on behalf of the British, while John Glover’s integrated Marblehead Regiment and the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, also known as “The Black Regiment” because of the large number of Black soldiers in its ranks, fought against the British.

In the War of 1812, the British Colonial Marines – comprised of Black men who had escaped from slavery – burned down the White House and were in the vanguard of the British forces at the Battle of Bladensburg where the Americans were routed. During that same war, the Corps D’Afrique fought on behalf of the United States against the British in the Battle of New Orleans. General Andrew Jackson, who commanded the American forces at New Orleans, even wrote to then-U.S. Secretary of War James Monroe that it was a “free man of color” in the Corps D’Afrique who shot and killed the commanding general of the British forces. Both Jackson and Monroe were slave holders.

During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, Black combatants fighting for Britain were motivated by a promise of freedom, while those in America’s ranks were fighting for a country they knew would continue the practice of enslaving Black people.

When the American Civil War broke out, the Corps D’Afrique was organized in 1861 as the 1st Louisiana Native Guard to fight on behalf of the Confederacy. But when Union forces captured New Orleans, the unit was disbanded, and it is reported that as many as 10 percent of their number enlisted in the Union Army to fight against the Confederacy.

The involvement of Black folk in the violent history of the United States is complicated and complex, with many aspects that are unseemly today. In the Black community, there is still a huge compilation of human detritus left over from the American War in Vietnam – men and women broken in body and spirit from a war of white supremacy against people of color half a world away minding their own business.

There were reasons why African Americans took part in the War in Vietnam, but it can hardly be said that those reasons were justifications. No African American who took part in that war can say that they had “no choice.” Choices were evidenced by Black folk who left the country to avoid the draft, or who, like Muhammad Ali, simply refused to take part in a racist war.

To many Black Vietnam vets, the words, “Thank you for your service,” ring hollow because there was no service for the good of our community, or our loved ones or even for this country. In fact, our participation was only in service of a global agenda of white supremacy.

African Americans must keep in mind that our actions should be taken on behalf of governmental policy only when we understand the context in which our participation is situated. This understanding is required not only for our participation in the military, it is required for our participation in law enforcement as well – and then, perhaps even more so.

Soon, the courts of justice will judge Alex Kueng, the Black former Minneapolis police officer, for his participation in the death of George Floyd. But the Black community is judging him now. It was Kueng who held down George Floyd’s back while Floyd, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was pressed against the pavement with Derek Chauvin’s knee in his neck. After only three days as a full-time police officer and only his second day on the street, Kueng forever will be associated with the public lynching of a Black man in broad daylight on a street in Minneapolis.

It has been reported that Kueng had said he wanted to be a police officer in order to protect people of color from police abuse. His reasoning was that diversity could change the Minneapolis Police Department, which has a long history of demonstrated racism. Now, because of his participation in George Floyd’s murder, Kueng has been confronted by hostile strangers while grocery shopping and his sister reportedly has said that she plans to change her last name out of embarrassment over what he has done. But most significantly, he is facing the very real possibility of a murder conviction and spending many years in prison.

Alex Kueng’s dilemma, as painful as it is, can be a valuable teaching moment for people of color in America. For more than 400 years, we have thirsted for justice. We have ached for it. And often, any glimmer of hope that we can move our country towards becoming a more just society creates a very strong attraction to satisfy that thirst. But without consideration given to the context in which our actions will be taken, we may be rushing towards a mirage in a scorching desert and will only end up with sand in our mouths.

We need to accept that we must fix this country before we can truly serve it in the name of justice. Given all the wars in which Black folk have bled and died, this country has barely inched down the road of fairness, equality and respect for all human life and dignity. For all the Black men and women who have donned police uniforms to serve their communities, and all too frequently lost their lives, too many Americans still believe Black Lives Do Not Matter.

Whether you grieve for Alex Kueng or despise him, we all must push hard to heal the society that has brought him to this point. We cannot blindly agree to participate in the agencies of America’s violence without weighing the consequences.Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.

ASK RUSTY: Will taking 401K distributions affect my Social Security benefit?

Dear Rusty: 

I’m 63 and retired from work, but not drawing Social Security. I have accumulated just over $300,000 in my rollover 401K IRA. My wife is still working full time, so we have medical, dental and vision coverage. I have a few questions: 

1) When I take IRA distributions throughout the year, do those dollar amounts get reported to Social Security as income? 

2) If not, will my SS benefit change (will I be penalized?) for not working and having zero income as I continue to withdraw investments and show no income? 

3) If my benefit will drop because of the last few years of no income, would it be advisable to start drawing Social Security now? 

Signed: Planning Ahead

Dear Planning Ahead: 

Whenever you decide to claim Social Security, they will compute your benefit amount from your lifetime earnings history. They will adjust your earnings for inflation in all years prior to the year you turned 60, find the 35 years in which you had the highest (inflation-adjusted) earnings, and use that “average indexed monthly earnings” (AIME) amount to determine your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is your benefit entitlement at your full retirement age (FRA). From there, your age when you claim determines your final Social Security payment amount. Born in 1958 your FRA is 66 plus 8 months, and that is the age at which you will get 100% of your PIA. If you claim benefits before your FRA, your payment will be reduced; and if you wait until after your FRA to claim your benefit will be increased. If you wait until you are 70 to claim, your SS payment will reach maximum (about 27% more than your FRA benefit amount). Now, to your specific questions: 

1) Distributions taken from your 401k or IRA are not reported to Social Security as “earnings” and do not count toward your Social Security benefit entitlement. 

2) If you have already retired from working, having zero earnings now won’t further affect your final SS payment amount because your benefit will be based upon your 35 highest-earning years. However, if you have a recent benefit estimate from Social Security, that estimate assumed that you would continue to earn at the same level you most recently reported to the IRS until you reached your FRA. So, if you got the estimate while you were still working (or shortly thereafter), the estimate is higher than your actual benefit will be. If you received the estimate a year or more after you stopped working, the estimate is more accurate. In any case, your 401K withdrawals will not count as SS earnings. 

3) Claiming now would result in a permanently reduced SS benefit amount because you haven’t yet reached your full retirement age. But claiming now wouldn’t be a hedge against your current lack of earnings, because your benefit will be based upon the highest earning 35 years over your lifetime. 

If you don’t already have a full 35 years of SS-covered earnings they will still use 35 years in the benefit calculation, adding $0 earnings for enough years to make it 35. If that is the case, you could offset some of those zero years in your lifetime history by returning to work now, thus increasing your benefit when you claim. If you already have at least 35 years of earnings, enjoy your retirement! 

One last thing to consider: if you predecease your wife, at her FRA she will be entitled to 100% of the benefit you were receiving at your death (if that is more than her own). In other words, when you claim your benefit will affect the amount your wife can get as your widow. The longer you wait to claim, the higher your wife’s survivor benefit from you will be.

Senator Randolph Bracy and Pastor Tye Tribbett Host Farm Share Food Distribution Today

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State Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) and Pastors Tye & Shante Tribbett will host a Farm Share Food Distribution today at LiVe Church, 4655 Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32811. If you or anyone you know can benefit from this free food distribution, it all begins at 10:30 a.m.

ASK ALMA: Too many grown people living in mom’s house, rent free

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by Alma Gill

Dear Alma, I’m going through an extremely difficult time with my son, his girlfriend and her mom. They all live in my house with their two children. The problem is that they live with me at my expense – room and board, electricity, water, cable and gas.

The two ladies refuse to get jobs and they stay on the third floor of my house all day, running the air-condition non-stop. My son works, but he has to pay for the car, insurance and cellphones, plus spending money for his girlfriend and her mom. He doesn’t give me a red cent!

The girlfriend doesn’t clean or help out at all and her mom caters to her all day, cooking and taking food up to her.

Cussed out, threatened

I gotta evict them and their two dogs, but they threaten to take my grandchildren away, which would devastate my son, knowing they would be homeless. We are both caught between a wall and a hard rock.

The worse part of this horror is that the girlfriend curses me out constantly with foul language and I haven’t told my other three children to avoid a huge fight, but I am on the verge of calling my kids to help me get them out.

I gave them a time frame for leaving, but my son keeps looking for excuses to keep them here. My choices seem to be to wind up living alone and scared or live in this inferno. Please help.

Sincerely,  Margie

Dear Margie,

Girl, you ain’t in charge or livin’ large, but your house guests surely are. Your son isn’t married to her and she ain’t kin, demonstrated by the way she acts. If she was respectful, it would be a different story.

Your son and his other family are holding you hostage in your own house and using your grandkids as collateral. That’s crazy and you know it. Your son is using you and allowing his “girlfriend” and her mother to mistreat and disrespect you too.

How and when did it get to the point that your son has no regard for you, your feelings or well-being? Let’s start with that. You’re a different kinda mother than I am Margie, because I ain’t never gonna be overwhelmingly disrespected in my own house.

Deal with son

Seems to me, you’re mad as Methuselah towards the wrong people. This foolishness reclines at the foot of your son. Deal with him. You are responsible for teaching him about life and, so far, you haven’t done a good job.

Simmer down, no worries, you still have time. It’s gonna be hard and it might break your heart for a minute, because your self esteem is shot and you’re afraid to be alone. Girl, please. That’s why the good Lord made books and volunteer programs.

Your son will never be the man he needs to be as long as you’re treating him like a child. Unfortunately, he and the other adults in your house have tapped into your weakness and know they don’t have anything to worry about.

Why move when you’re perfectly happy living in a comfortable home rent-free?

Kick them out

Put on your big-girl granny panties and kick them all out. Stop feeding this monster, Margie, and get your house in order. The best and only thing you have available at any time to offer and assist them is prayer. Get them out and get on your knees.

Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and The Washington Post. Email questions to: alwaysaskalma@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.

Part of the Vaccine “Wait and See” Crowd? This is for you.

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You see the news reports and you hear that infections– and deaths– are continuing to mount. You’re curious about the vaccine, and you think you might need to be vaccinated, just to be safe rather than sorry, but you have chosen to instead adopt the “wait and see” approach. You think that maybe if you just hold out a little longer, and “wait on it,” you’ll either hear something that will change your mind– or you’ll breeze through this whole pandemic thing without anything ever happening to you. After all, nearly 98% of the people who get infected fully recover.

Most people in the “wait and see” crowd prefer to wait because they are suspicious of the vaccine. The U.S. government and the whole healthcare industry in this country have a sketchy history of experimenting on people without their informed consent. Particularly black people. So this skepticism is well deserved.

In 1932, the Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study— probably the most egregious example of the “physician do no harm” conundrum. Blacks were not told the problem was a general disease and were not given penicillin once it was developed as a treatment in the 1930s. Instead, doctors watched the disease progress and ravage their patients bodies for a period of 40 years.

Other examples of black medical mistreatment exist, but this one cannot be disputed.

Small wonder, then, that black people in particular, prefer to “wait and see.”

And while that might seem at first glance like a safe position to take, the anecdotal evidence is clear: there are documented disproportionate rates of COVID-19 illness and death in black communities all across America. While you’re waiting, keep in mind that people of color are more likely to become infected, and to die if they do. You can find their names among the nearly 600,000 people who didn’t recover from their infections.

“Wait and see” might be a much better strategy if it were not for the healthcare inequities blacks face.

Clearly, the Trump administration– with its constant dismissal of the virus as a hoax and a non-issue– did nothing to make healthcare equity a medical priority. Why would they? For them, the pandemic did not exist. President Biden, thank God, has taken a vastly different approach. But don’t take my word for it.

The Black Coalition Against Covid (BCAC) is hosting a Town Hall Meeting tonight, April 28, 2021, from 7PM to 8:45PM in collaboration with BlackDoctors.org (Facebook.com/BlackDoctors.org and Youtube.com/BlackDoctors.org). All the questions you have– and probably some you haven’t thought of yet– will be addressed by people who have fought hard for the health of the black community.

Facebook.com/BlackDoctors.org and Youtube.com/BlackDoctors.org. 7PM tonight.

COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy: What Expecting Moms Need to Know

By Dena Vang

Pregnancy and childbirth are among life’s most cherished moments. While many women count on a healthy pregnancy and delivery, complications tend to arise, especially among Black women. Prior to the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that Black women were three times more likely than Hispanic women and 2.5 times more likely than white women to die from causes related to pregnancy. COVID-19 has only further amplified the disparities and challenges that Black women face, including implicit racism within the healthcare system and socioeconomic factors that impact their ability to access care.

A recent KFF survey and research analysis found that compared to other racial and ethnic groups, 41% of Black women say they will “wait and see” how the vaccine is working for others before getting vaccinated themselves. The survey also reported that one in five Black women say they “definitely will not” get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Many Black organizations have been addressing hesitancy and concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that all Black Americans have the most accurate information to make an informed decision. One organization that is keeping Black communities up-to-date about the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines is the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 (BCAC).

The BCAC has hosted several Facebook Live events to help Black Americans make informed decisions about COVID-19. During the“Making It Plain: Black Women and COVID-19: The Virus, the Variants, and the Vaccines” Town Hall Meeting, Dr. Valerie Montgomery-Rice, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine, and Dr. Melissa Clarke, expert in population health and co-founder of BCAC, shared insights on a range of women’s health topics, including pregnancy.

“The absolute risk for severe COVID-19 is lower for younger women of childbearing age,” Dr. Clarke said, “but know that pregnancy itself is a risk factor for having severe COVID illness, possibly ending up in the ICU and even possibly dying. The risk, of course, is not just to the mom; it’s also to the baby. A woman with severe COVID symptoms has a higher chance of having a preterm birth, uncontrolled high blood pressure and bleeding around the time of birth. Just as with the general population, African American women who are pregnant have disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death. That’simportant to remember.”

Initially, there was limited data on whether the COVID-19 vaccines were safe and effective during pregnancy, but new research shows encouraging evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines offer strong immune protection for women who are pregnant. A recent study published by The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective in pregnant and lactating women. These women can also pass down antibodies to their newborns.

The study involved 131 participants whose blood samples were taken at the time of the first and second doses of the vaccine and again after six weeks. The data showed that the level of antibodies for participants in response to the vaccine were higher than those in participants who were sick with COVID-19 during pregnancy. Antibodies were also found in umbilical cord blood and breast milk.page1image928736624page1image928736896page1image928737168page1image928737440page1image928737776

As vaccine eligibility for mothers-to-be open up across the United States, pregnant women are facing an important decision about vaccinating for two. Both Dr. Clarke and Dr. Montgomery-Rice are encouraging pregnant women to protect themselves and their newborns by getting vaccinated.

“When we have compared the risk of COVID in pregnant women to age-matched non-pregnant women,” Dr. Montgomery-Rice stated, “we see those that are pregnant are having a higher risk of ending up in ICU and ending up on a ventilator. That is concerning to us. We know that if a woman is a diabetic, or obese and pregnant, she also has a higher risk of ending up needing mechanical ventilation. We need pregnant women to not get COVID. The only way we know you can do that, of course, with all the preventative health measures, washing your hands, watching your distance, and wear your mask, but also taking the vaccine.”

The CDC recommends the following measures to stay healthy during pregnancy:

• Keep all your healthcare appointments during and after pregnancy. Visit with your healthcare provider for all recommended appointments. If you’re concerned about going to your appointments because of COVID-19, ask your healthcare provider what steps they are taking to separate healthy patients from those who might be sick, or ask about telemedicine options. If you need help finding a healthcare provider, contact your nearest hospital, clinic, community health center, or health department.

o Talk to your healthcare provider about how to stay healthy and take care of yourself and your baby.

o Ask questions you have about the best place to deliver your baby. Delivering your baby is always safest under the care of trained healthcare professionals.

o You should also talk to your healthcare provider if you think you are experiencing depression during or after pregnancy.

• Get recommended vaccines during pregnancy. These vaccines can help protect you and your baby.

o Get a flu vaccine every year. Others living in your household should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and you.

o Get the whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine during pregnancy to protect your baby against whooping cough, which can have similar symptoms to COVID-19. The CDC recommends that all women receive a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.

Consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions.

  • Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your pregnancy or if you get sick or think you may have COVID-19.
  • Do not delay getting emergency care because of COVID-19. Emergency departments have steps in place to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care. If you need emergency help, call 911 right away. Tell them that you are pregnant and are having an emergency.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you experience any urgent maternal warning signs and symptoms. These symptoms could indicate a potentially life-threatening complication.“All women have concerns about going into their doctor’s office and potentially exposing themselves to COVID,” Dr. Clarke said. “I want to assure everyone that the protocols that are in the doctor’s office are

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designed to protect you. If you’re masking, distancing, washing your hands, and following the protocols in the doctor’s office, it’s important to make sure that you stay on course for your prenatal visits.”

For more information about COVID-19 and upcoming events, visit Black Coalition Against COVID-19, a key health resource for African Americans.

Black Doctor.org, the world’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource, is specifically targeted to African Americans.

For more information about COVID-19 news, head to the CDC website at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Fraud Alert: How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Scams

By Dena Vang

As America continues to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, prioritizing and educating the most at-risk populations about vaccines is crucial to tackling the pandemic. COVID-19 has further exposed the racial and ethnic health inequities in the United States. According to a KFF report, people of color, including older adults and others on Medicare, account for disproportionate rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Reaching higher vaccination rates in Black communities will play a key role in mitigating the disproportionate impacts of the virus for people of color and prevent widening racial disparities.

The increased demand for COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States, along with the need to educate various groups and communities about the vaccine, has also created opportunities for fraudulent activity. Scams related to COVID-19 have become increasingly common. Scammers are using telemarketing calls, social media, texts, and door-to-door visits for monetary gain. Seniors and those with a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 are being targeted in an attempt to bill Medicare for fraudulent tests and treatments and illegally collect money and Medicare numbers.

The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 (BCAC) is an organization that is keeping African Americans up-to-date on the pandemic. The BCAC has hosted several Facebook Live events to help Black Americans make informed decisions about COVID-19. During the “Making It Plain: A Town Hall on COVID-19 Vaccines for the Dedicated People Working in Aging Services,” Dr. LaShawn McIver, director of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services Office of Minority Health, addressed the scams related to COVID-19 and how to protect seniors who are more likely to be targets of fraud.

“Medicare covers the vaccine at no cost to you,” Dr. McIver stated, “so if anyone asks you for your Medicare number to get early access to the vaccine, you can bet that that’s a scam. Here’s what you need to know. You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine. You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine.”

Dr. McIver assures us that even before the COVID-19 vaccine was available, Medicare payment rates were established for the vaccine administration so providers can bill Medicare immediately when the COVID-19 vaccines became available.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Health and Humans Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are urging the public to be aware of potential indicators of fraudulent activity. Common indicators include the following:

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon a deposit payment or fee
  • Requests asking an individual to pay out of pocket to obtain a vaccine or to put their name on aCOVID-19 vaccine waiting list
  • Offers for additional medical testing when obtaining a vaccine
  • People offering to sell or ship doses of a vaccine in exchange for a fee
  • Unsolicited e-mails or phone calls from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurancecompany, or COVID-19 vaccine center to determine eligibility
  • Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms

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“We’re asking that people please don’t share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or e-mails you, promising access to the vaccine for a fee,” Dr. McIver said. “We want to be clear; you should take your red, white, and blue Medicare card with you so your insurance can be billed like with other services, but there’s no cost to you. We’ve also heard that some places are charging fees. This should not happen. There should be no money exchanged when someone is going to get their vaccine.”

To protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19 scams, remember the following:

  • Do not give your personal, medical, or financial information to anyone claiming to offer money or gifts in exchange for your participation in a COVID-19 vaccine survey.
  • Be mindful of how you dispose of COVID-19 materials such as syringes, vials, vial container boxes, vaccination record cards, and shipment or tracking records. Improper disposal of these items could be used by bad actors to commit fraud.
  • Offers to purchase COVID-19 vaccination cards are scams. Valid proof of COVID-19 vaccination can only be provided to individuals by legitimate providers administering vaccines.
  • Photos of COVID-19 vaccination cards should not be shared on social media. Posting content that includes your date of birth, health care details, or other personally identifiable information can be used to steal your identity.
  • Be vigilant, and protect yourself from potential fraud concerning COVID-19 vaccines. You will not be asked for money to enhance your ranking for vaccine eligibility. Government and state officials will not call you to obtain personal information in order to receive the vaccine.
  • Beneficiaries should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their personal, medical, and financial information. Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 related products, services, or benefit reviews.
  • Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately.
  • Do not respond to or open hyperlinks in text messages about COVID-19 from unknown individuals.
  • Ignore offers or advertisements on social media sites for COVID-19 testing or treatments. If you make an appointment for a COVID-19 test online, make sure the location is an official testing site.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone claiming to offer HHS grants related to COVID-19.
  • Be aware of scammers pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number or financial information, or attempt to set up a COVID- 19 test for you and collect payment information for the test.If you suspect COVID-19 healthcare fraud, report it immediately online, or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447- 8477).For more information about COVID-19 and upcoming events, visit the Black Coalition Against COVID-19, a key health resource for African Americans.Black Doctor.org, the world’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource, specifically targets African Americans.

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For more information about COVID-19 news, head to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

The Census, Redistricting and The Repubican Conspiracy

By Dr. John E. Warren, Publisher, The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint.

Forty years ago, those who wanted to amend the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, along with any other provisions that extended democracy to “we the people,” were calling for a Constitutional Convention. Today, that approach is no longer necessary since those who still want to make those stated changes have found new ways to accomplish the same old goals.

Thomas Jefferson was always about “States Rights” with less Federalist (or federal government influence). Today, the Republican Party is carrying out Jefferson’s vision with three approaches: (1) Voter Suppression legislation, which is now in 43 of the 50 states and with over 500 bills pending, collectively, to make it harder to vote; (2) Former President Trump’s efforts to change the Census 2020 count by questioning whether people in households were legal; and (3) The resulting loss of Congressional seats in at least 6 states, including the one seat from California (a Blue state), and the addition of 2 seats to Texas (a Red State). Texas happens to be one of the states with a complete Republican legislature and governor with major voter suppression legislation pending.

The bottom line is that the Census determines the number of seats in the Congress per state. Since the Congress is fixed at 433 seats, seats are reallocated following the ten year census. Now the change in number of seats requires a change in how congressional districts are drawn up in each state. The drawing of those boundaries to strengthen one party’s voter influence over another is called “gerrymandering”. Where republicans control state legislatures, they will also control the appointment of the people who draw the boundaries. Such boundaries can determine the allocation of voting precincts and equipment. The whole idea is to ensure that never again do we have the kind of democratic vote among “we the people” that put President Biden in the White House.

The Republican conspiracy against democracy can only work if we sleep and become inactive during this multifaceted efort. We must prepare now for 2022 by: (1) Boycotting the corporations that refuse to support “Black Votes Matter” and who continue funding legislators that give to those state legislators engaged in supporting voter suppression; (2) Finding candidates now that we can run and finance against the very republicans supporting and sponsoring voter suppression legislation; and (3) Watching very closely the Redistricting Commissions charged with redrawing political districts so that the votes of people of color are not weakened. We must attend Redistricting Commission meetings whether on Zoom or in person. The damage they do will last for another 10 years.  

“We The People” can defeat the Republican conspiracy on all fronts if we get started now and stay vigilant. It is ironic that Thomas Jefferson was the one who said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Are you willing to pay that price?

Black Business Leaders Are Energizing Corporate America On Voting Rights

by Marc Morial, TO BE EQUAL

In the long arc of the nation’s history of racially-motivated voter suppression, 2021 will stand as a clear and distinct moment that changed everything that came after.

Whether it will symbolize the demise of such suppression – or its shameful entrenchment – remains to be seen.

Certainly, racially-motivated voter suppression is nothing new. The right of Black men to vote wasn’t even constitutionally-protected for the first 94 years of the nation’s existence, and the terrorist regime of Jim Crow blocked most Black citizens in the South from voting for the next 95 years. 

But the surge of restrictive voting laws that began after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act with its 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder became a tsunami in the backlash to the historic Black voter turnout in 2020.

The long-overdue moment for corporate America to take a stand is upon us. And it has been brought about by its most influential Black members.

Led by Kenneth Chenault, the former CEO of American Express; Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co.; former Xerox Holdings Corp. CEO Ursula Burns, and William M. Lewis Jr., chairman of investment banking at Lazard, hundreds of corporate executives signed an open letter opposing voting limits that ran as a two-page advertisement in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other publications Wednesday.

The powerful – and deeply patriotic – statement reads, very simply:

A government of the people, by the people.

A beautifully American ideal, but a reality denied to many for much of this nation’s history.

As Americans, we know that in our democracy, we should not expect to agree on everything. However, regardless of our political affiliations, we believe the very foundation of our electoral process rests upon the ability of each of us to cast our ballots for the candidates of our choice.

For American democracy to work for any of us, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us.

We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.

Voting is the lifeblood of democracy and we call upon all Americans to join us in taking a nonpartisan stand for this most basic and fundamental right of all Americans.

The CEOs and other top executives of 300 companies, along with law firms, nonprofit leaders, academics and celebrities, signed their names to the letter.

“These are not political issues,” Kenneth Frazier told the New York Times  “These are the issues that we were taught in civics.”

The statement does not address specific states’ election legislation.  Since the election, state legislators in 47 have introduced a shocking 361 voter suppression bills. The total represents an increase of 108, or 43 percent, just in the last month. As appalling as the proposals to restrict voting are, even more alarming are the proposals to that seek to disregard the results of elections entirely.  A bill pending in Arizona would allow the state legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election, even after the count is formally certified by the governor and secretary of state — and even after Congress counts the state’s electors.

Kenneth Chenault, Kenneth Frazier, Ursula Burns and William M. Lewis Jr.– all trailblazers in their industries – are longtime advocates for corporate social responsibility and civic engagement.  In a prelude to Wednesday’s statement, they organized a full-page advertisement in the  New York Times on March 31, headlined “Memo to Corporate America: The Fierce Urgency is Now,” that was signed by 72 Black executives.

“We think now that corporate America, Black Americans for sure, but anyone who has values in their corporation that talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, any company that has a values statement about valuing their employees has to stand with our statement,” Ursula Burns told CBS News. “Because their employees — Black, White, Hispanic, women — literally are going to be affected by this type of suppression.”

Kenneth Chenault told CNN, “What we’re calling on corporations to do is not just say they believe strongly in the right to vote. It’s to publicly and directly oppose any discriminatory legislation and all measures designed to limit any individual’s ability to vote.”

In a historic act of solidarity, hundreds of corporations did just that. Whether states will heed their call isn’t clear. But it will be remembered as a moment when standing on the sidelines was – at long last — no longer an option.

Housing Gains Could Grow Black Wealth More Than $500 Billion in a Decade

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Black-owned home values have also grown just over one percentage point faster than White-owned home values each year for the last three years. In February 2020, Black-owned home values were up 4.6% from a year earlier, while White home values were up 3.6%. In February 2021, Black home values were up 10.9% from the previous year, while White home values were up 9.7%. This faster appreciation among Black-owned homes narrowed the overall home value gap from 16.7% to 15.9%.

By BlackPressUSA

A new Zillow analysis finds Black households saw modest progress narrowing the racial wealth gap during the pandemic, and that housing factors will largely impact whether that gap grows or shrinks throughout the next 10 years.

  • The typical Black household has only about 23% of the wealth of a typical White household
  • Zillow analysis finds home value and homeownership rate disparities directly account for almost 40% of the $3 trillion wealth gap[1]
  • If the typical Black-owned home was worth the same as the typical White-owned home, Black wealth would more than double (from $931 billion to $2.1 trillion)

SEATTLE, April 26, 2021 – Incremental increases in homeownership rates and home values among Black households would help shrink the current $3 trillion racial wealth gap by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade, according to a new Zillow analysis.

Today’s typical Black household has only about 23% of the wealth of a typical White household, down from 34.6% before the Great Recession. Housing factors — including lower home values and rates of homeownership — directly account for nearly 40%[2] of that gap, with assets like investments in stocks and bonds and retirement accounts making up the rest.

“Housing will be a prominent factor determining the course of the racial wealth gap over the next decade,” says Zillow economist Treh Manhertz. “The issues caused by historic discrimination won’t be solved quickly, but addressing things like increasing access to credit, more-equitable lending standards and reducing exclusionary zoning could make buying more accessible and bring significant strides toward closing the wealth gap. In the most optimistic scenario, Black millennials could see housing equality in their retirement, and finally pass on some real wealth to the next generation.”https://servedbyadbutler.com/adserve/;ID=168170;size=728×90;setID=329915;type=iframe;click=CLICK_MACRO_PLACEHOLDER

About 42% of Black households own their home, compared to 72% of White households, and Black-owned homes are typically worth about 18% less than White-owned homes. Zillow estimates that if Black homeownership rates and home values rose to match those of their White counterparts, Black wealth would more than double (from $931 billion to $2.1 trillion).

Zillow analyzed home value growth and homeownership rate changes for Black households under five different scenarios through 2031. In the most optimistic, Black wealth would grow by more than half a trillion dollars — from $931 billion to $1.46 trillion. In the most likely, it would increase to about $1.18 trillion.

In that most likely scenario — which projects Black home values growing 5% faster than home values generally and Black homeownership growing at 0.5 percentage points per year — equality in housing wealth wouldn’t come until 2183. If Black home values grow 15% faster than home values generally and Black homeownership grows at 1.5 percentage points per year — the most optimistic scenario explored in the analysis — the timeline for housing wealth equality is moved up to 2066.

Opposite of the disproportionate hit taken during the Great Recession, Black households saw modest progress in narrowing the wealth gap during and leading up to the pandemic, a small start toward reversing trends that helped widened the gap over the past decade. This was largely due to housing gains. For example, the Black homeownership rate grew about one percentage point between early 2019 and early 2020, while the White homeownership rate stayed flat.

Black-owned home values have also grown just over one percentage point faster than White-owned home values each year for the last three years. In February 2020, Black-owned home values were up 4.6% from a year earlier, while White home values were up 3.6%. In February 2021, Black home values were up 10.9% from the previous year, while White home values were up 9.7%. This faster appreciation among Black-owned homes narrowed the overall home value gap from 16.7% to 15.9%.

Further, the analysis shows that Black homeownership rates and home values contribute equally to the housing portion of the overall wealth gap. If the Black homeownership rate increased by five percentage points the wealth gap would decrease by $74 billion. If home values increased by five percentage points the reduction would be $31 billion. Combined, alleviating these two disparities could cut the wealth gap by about 40%, to $1.9 trillion.

Lenders deny mortgages for Black applicants at a rate 80% higher than that of White applicants. The relationship between housing factors and the racial wealth gap underscores the urgency of efforts like expanding access to credit and other initiatives that break down color barriers to homeownership.

“It’s abundantly clear that this issue won’t solve itself naturally or quickly. The problems run deep and perpetuate inequality,” said Manhertz. “Intentional, targeted and dedicated policy is necessary to repair this broken system.”

Black – White Wealth GapHome values based on Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI)

Home values based on Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI)

[1] In order to paint a picture of the majority of the population and not have our analysis swayed by the extreme wealth of the nation’s billionaire class, we measured the median wealth gap, tallying what the total wealth difference would be if every household had the typical wealth for their race and age group.

[2] Based on Zillow’s analysis of the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances and ZHVI, home value and homeownership rate disparities combined account for an estimated 38.4% of the overall racial wealth gap.

[3] In order to paint a picture of the majority of the population and not have our analysis swayed by the extreme wealth of the nation’s billionaire class, we measured the median wealth gap, tallying what the total wealth difference would be if every household had the typical wealth for their race and age group.

About Zillow Group:

Zillow Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z and ZG) is reimagining real estate to make it easier to unlock life’s next chapter. 

As the most-visited real estate website in the United States, Zillow® and its affiliates offer customers an on-demand experience for selling, buying, renting or financing with transparency and nearly seamless end-to-end service. Zillow Offers® buys and sells homes directly in dozens of markets across the country, allowing sellers control over their timeline. Zillow Home Loans™, our affiliate lender, provides our customers with an easy option to get pre-approved and secure financing for their next home purchase. Zillow recently launched Zillow Homes, Inc., a licensed brokerage entity, to streamline Zillow Offers transactions.  

Zillow Group’s brands, affiliates and subsidiaries include Zillow®; Zillow Offers®; Zillow Premier Agent®; Zillow Home Loans™; Zillow Closing Services™; Zillow Homes, Inc.; Trulia®; Out East®; StreetEasy® and HotPads®. Zillow Home Loans, LLC is an Equal Housing Lender, NMLS #10287 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).