March 31, 2011

Black Farmers Ongoing Struggle for Justice

Soulclap to Black Politics on the Web for bringing us this commentary by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III.

In 1997, Timothy Pigford and 400 other African American farmers filed suit against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for discrimination, Pigford v. Glickman or Pigford I. They alleged that the USDA treated Black farmers unfairly when deciding to allocate loans and subsidies. For example, the USDA on average took more than 380 days to process a loan application from an African American farmer while processing an application from a white farmer in less than 30. Also, the top ten percent of corporate and white farmers received on average $1M per year in farm subsidies while African American farmers received on average $200.

On April 14, 1999, Judge Paul Freidman approved a settlement agreement and consent decree in Pigford I. The consent decree established a two-track dispute resolution process (Track A and Track B) for farmers seeking relief. Track A provided a monetary settlement of up to $50K plus relief in the form of loan forgiveness and tax liability. Track B allowed those seeking actual damages to pursue relief provided they could meet a higher standard of proof by supporting their claims by a preponderance of the evidence.

According to the Congressional Research Service, “The deadline for submitting a claim as a class member was September 12, 2000. A court appointed Oregon based facilitator, (Poorman-Douglas Corporation) was selected to notify known and potential members of the class that a settlement had been reached, to receive and screen potential class members’ claims to determine whether they met the class definition, and to assign the claims to the adjudicator and arbitrator for action.

Poorman-Douglas’ core business is software development not claims administration. As a result of their inexperience in necessary processes compounded by their geographical distance and unfamiliarity with the affected class; more than 70,000 African American farmers were not notified in a timely manner of the Pigford I settlement. Failure to notify all of the potential claimants and not allowing those affected individuals to file timely claims resulted in the need for the Pigford II case.

Over 25,000 additional African American farmers were certified as a new class of litigants, Pigford II. On February 18, 2010, Attorney General Holder announced an additional $1.25B settlement in the case of Pigford II. Under Pigford II, claimants can seek Track A payments up to $50K plus debt relief, or pursue Track B payments for damages up to $250,000.

As the court works through the final details of what has become the Pigford II settlement Epiq/ Poorman Douglas’ (formally Poorman-Douglas) is again being considered as the Claims Administrator. This is causing great concern among the Pigford II claimants. Also, no minority businesses have been provided the opportunity to participate in the processing or administration of the claims process. Why is the company that dropped the ball in Pigford I being considered for a second opportunity in Pigford II?

Steve King (R-IA)
Also, why are individuals such as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) calling for hearings to investigate these settlements after they have been adjudicated in US Courts and stating the Pigford settlement “is full of fraud” and “amounts to paying reparations to Black farmers in America. We don’t do reparations in America.” There is absolutely no proof that any “fraud” has been found in claims submitted in Pigford I and no claim’s have even been submitted as a result of Pigford II. Why should African American farmers be treated any differently than the Native Americans in the Cobell case who were awarded $3.4 billion over claims that they were cheated out of royalties overseen by the Interior Department for resources like oil, gas and timber.

It is important to understand that redress under Pigford I or II does not make the victims whole. These remedies merely allow the impacted farmers to walk away from these cases of government sanctioned discrimination with some sense of redress.

If Rep. King is correct and “We don’t do reparations in America,” why did President Reagan sign The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 to redress $20,000 to Japanese American detainees for damages caused for wrongful interment during WWII? Also, in 1992, an additional $400 million was awarded Japanese American detainees and George H. Bush issued another public apology in accordance with the amendment to the act.

Why do members of Congress continue to treat African Americans in a different manner than other Americans? The same mentality that caused the problems for African American farmers with the USDA is now impacting their ability to expeditiously administer the court sanctioned remedy. Failing to allow competent minority owned businesses that are tied to the affected areas and can relate to the affected class to participate in the management and administration of the Pigford claims would be an additional slap in the face to the African American community above and beyond what has been done to America’s Black Farmers.

Even while celebrating their victory in court, America’s Black farmers struggle for justice.

Well, villagers ... what say u about the issues faced by our nation's Black farmers?

March 29, 2011

Momentum Builds for Recall of GOP Legislators in Wisconsin

There is a strong effort to recall eight of the Republican leaders who supported Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) in passage of state law that strips collective bargaining rights from most public sector unions. If at least three of these folks get recalled .. then it is possible to put an end to Walker's legislative majority. Here is a video that is being shared in Green Bay and other places inside of Wisconsin.

Elections have consequences. It would have been so much easier to combat these GOP initiatives last November during the mid-term elections. We need to ensure that we register and vote each and every time we have a chance to do so.

March 28, 2011

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal by Troy Davis

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, clearing the way for the state to resume planning for Davis’ execution.

The justices refused to order the federal appeals court in Atlanta to examine Davis’ case and they declined to do so themselves.

In 2009, the high court ordered a federal judge to examine evidence Davis said would show he was innocent of the 1989 killing for which he has been sentenced to death.

But the judge decided last year that Davis had failed to clear his name. At the moment, executions are on hold in Georgia after federal agents seized the state’s supply of a key lethal injection drug.

March 27, 2011

Taser Lawsuit: Family of Audrecas Davis File Wrongful Death Lawsuit vs. DeKalb County Police

DeKalb County police killed 29-year old Audrecas Davis with multiple shots from their taser guns on May 9, 2010. An internal police investigation cleared the officers involved of wrongdoing. The DeKalb medical examiner ruled the Taser shocks did not directly cause Davis’ death, and that he had medical problems, including hypertension and heart disease. An autopsy determined he died from cardio-respiratory arrest.

Davis' parents aren't buying it. Davis' family filed a wrongful death suit against DeKalb County police. [SOURCE]
"It doesn’t make sense. It’s just what they did is wrong. It’s plain wrong," said Anne Davis.
Police officers, responding to a call from paramedics, arrived on the scene just in time to electrocute Davis six times. The police report said two officers used their 50,000-volt weapons when Davis resisted being handcuffed to a stretcher, became combative and flailed his arms.
"My son was not a threat to them at all. There was no crime involved. He was sick, he truly needed medical attention," said Davis. "I want them held accountable so they can see how they erred in their procedures, and this won’t be committed again."
The suit seeks unspecified damages.

March 25, 2011

Coroner Says Hanging of Frederick Jermaine Carter Was 'Not a Suicide'

It appears that Mississippi is still burning. Villagers may recall that 26-year old Frederick Jermaine Carter was found hanging from an oak tree in Greenwood, Mississippi late last year. The local authorities tried to cover-up this lynching with the idea that Carter committed suicide.

The story didn't make sense. Why would a young Black man go into a predominantly white community in a small Mississippi town and tie a rope around a tree to hang himself? Many villagers joined us in questioning authorities on this matter.

Well, it turns out we were right! The deputy medical examiner for the state of Mississippi confirms that Carter did not commit suicide.

We need to continue to agitate for a full and complete investigation into the lynching of this young man. We need to make sure that the people of Mississippi clearly understand that we will never again allow lynching to run rampant in this country as it did back in the day.

March 24, 2011

25 Writers Shaping My World

Originally Posted: 3/23/2009
Sojourner and Raw Dawg Buffalo tagged me with a unique meme that requires me to list 25 writers who have influenced me. Below are my 25:
  1. Na'im Akbar
  2. Scott Alexander
  3. Robert G. Allen
  4. Derrick Bell
  5. Octavia Butler
  6. Agatha Christie
  7. Jim Clingman
  8. Ralph Ellison
  9. Melvin Gravely II
  10. John Grisham
  11. Arthur Haley
  12. Robert Heinlein
  13. Napoleon Hill
  14. Kyra Hicks
  15. Robert Kiyosaki
  16. Louis L'Amour
  17. Tim Lahaye
  18. Robert Ludlum
  19. Og Mandino
  20. Walter Mosely
  21. Larry Niven
  22. Barack Obama
  23. Robert J. Ringer
  24. Ralph Wiley
  25. Richard Wright
I'm not sure that villagers will even know half of these authors. Feel free to ask me about any of them. I've enjoyed books from these authors throughout the course of my life.

A few of my AfroSpear colleagues have talked about starting a book club. However, we haven't moved very far with that idea. Maybe this meme will get us going.

The rules say that I'm supposed to tag 25 others. I am interested to see the 25 influential authors listed by La Shawn Barber, Necole Bitchie, Julius Clark, Mike Collins, Cheryl Contee, Kai Dupe, Milt Haynes, Karen, Danielle Lee, Los Angelista, Ajuan Mance, Marenda, Kevin Myles, Tariq Nelson, Keith Owens, Daryl Plummer, Monica Roberts, Cliff Samuel, Pam Spaulding, Baratunde Thurston, Urban Scientist, Jose Vilson, Shawn Williams, Oliver Willis and Womanist Musings.

The act of creating the list of influential authors makes me want to read more over the coming days and weeks. I'm currently reading 'Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You With the Bill)' by David Cay Johnston. What are you reading now?

March 22, 2011

Good News Tuesday: Melvin Givens Earns BDPA/Oracle Scholarship

BDPA recently announced that 11 students from around the nation were BDPA/Oracle Scholarship winners this year. Melvin Givens, a BDPA Baton Rouge student member, is one of those scholarship winners.

Melvin Givens
Melvin is an active participant in the BDPA Baton Rouge computer training class. In fact, during the summer of 2010, he became one of the youngest people in the state of Louisiana to to earn his A+ Certification as a Computer Technician.

Melvin began on his list of impressive achievements at a young age. He began playing soccer at age 7, and continues to do so. At age 8, he won the state wrestling championship. He received multiple football awards during his school football career, which began in 2nd grade and continued until he opted to retire after his junior year to focus more on academics.

Melvin has been quite busy academically, as well. In the 8th grade, he was presented the Student of the Year award at Crestworth Middle School in Baton Rouge. He is a member of the National Honor Society, has been presented the Most Outstanding Award in Algebra II, the Most Outstanding Award in Advanced Math I, an Engineering Award, and maintains a 4.3 GPA. Earlier this year, he earned the honor of 'valedictorian' of his senior class at Scotlandville Magnet High School.

While keeping busy with sports and academics, Melvin has not neglected his community. He is a member of the Team Spirit at school, a group whose goal is to assist in the prevention of underage drinking, the use of drugs, impaired driving, and violence on campus. He is an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Explorer, which allows him to assist paramedics in providing medical services, and volunteered at the Helouin Veterinarian Clinic during the summer of 2010.

Melvin does currently have unfinished business. In addition to facing graduation and a valedictorian speech, Melvin has been recommended for Louisiana State University’s La-STEM Research Scholars Program. The purpose of this program is to examine those factors which contribute to the success of high ability students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics areas. He is currently awaiting news of his acceptance.

And, finally (for now), Melvin is a member of Scotlandville Magnet High School’s Moon Buggy Team. The team created a two-member vehicle to be used in NASA’s moon buggy competition. This is a competition in which high school and college students across the country build two-man vehicles to use on an obstacle course provided by NASA that is supposed to simulate the moon. The main point of the competition is to see which team can complete the course the fastest. High school and college participants are separated into two categories and each vehicle must be operated by a male and female. He leaves for NASA on March 30, 2011 with his team for this, his second, competition. We wish them luck!

As you can see, Melvin keeps busy and excels at all he does. It is the belief of BDPA Baton Rouge chapter that he is very deserving of this $5000 BDPA/Oracle scholarship. Melvin, though his plate is full, is a very committed member of BDPA. He attended last year’s BDPA Technology Conference in Philadelphia, and is making plans to go to Chicago this year. Melvin is one of BDPA’s bright and shining stars, and we are very proud of him!

NOTE: You can help us raise college scholarship money for Melvin and other students in our BDPA Baton Rouge chapter by clicking here --!

This blog will continue to seek out Good News stories about people of African descent and share them with you each Tuesday. We need to tell the positive and upbeat information about OURstory. We can't depend on others to do it for us. Please pass along any Good News story that comes your way. In the case of bloggers ... we want you to join our Good News parade every Tuesday.

March 20, 2011

Mississippi Coroner Signs Off on Frederick Jermaine Carter's Autopsy Results

Dr. Adel Shaker
Soulclap to W.E. A.L.L. B.E. for breaking news about the imminent release of the autopsy results in the hanging death of Frederick Jermaine Carter.  Dr. Adel Shaker, the Deputy Medical Examiner for the state of Mississippi, says that he will be mailing the autopsy results to the Carter family tomorrow morning.

March 19, 2011

Our Politicians Ain't Post-Racial Yet -- Just ask Jack Davis (R-NY)

Jack Davis
Unemployment is terrible in the Black community. So, I was ecstatic when I learned that an independent candidate for Congress in New York was willing to explore unique ways to get jobs for inner-city African Americans.

Of course, my joy at this uplifting news was immediately drained when I heard the rest of the story ...

It turns out that some rich businessman ... Jack Davis ... who is running for congress up in Buffalo (NY) suggested that Latino farm-workers be deported out of the country so that Black folks from the inner-city could be transported to replace them in farms. [SOURCE]

Davis, who has made several runs for the House as a Democrat and Republican, made similar statements in 2008. "We have a huge unemployment problem with black youth in our cities. Put them on buses, take them out there [to the farms] and pay them a decent wage; they will work," he said then.

The special election for congress is set for May 24. I tend to think that Davis won't get much electoral support from the Black or Latino community in this election.

March 18, 2011

Truth in the Death of Billey Joe Johnson - Suicide or Murder-by-Cop?

Billey Joe Johnson
Soulclap to African American Pundit for informing us about the murky circumstances regarding the death of 17-year old Billey Joe Johnson. Billey was a star football player with a bright future in December 2009 when he was stopped for a traffic violation by George County (MS) deputy sheriff Joe Sullivan. At this point we only have one side of the story -- Sullivan's patrol car did not have a camera and the young victim in this story is dead.

The George County Sheriff’s Department claims that on that fateful morning, Billey Joe attempted to break into the home of an on-again, off-again girlfriend in the nearby city of Lucedale. According to the sheriff’s department, he left the scene and ran a red light at 5:34 a.m. After a 1½-mile pursuit, Billey Joe got out of his truck, met sheriff’s deputy Joe Sullivan and handed over his license. Then Billey Joe returned to his truck, put a 12-gauge shotgun he used to target deer to his head and committed suicide. It was 5:40 a.m.

Billey Joe’s friends and family don’t believe the story. His father is convinced someone forced Billey Joe on his knees, shoved the shotgun barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. [SOURCE]
They must’ve tortured my baby,” Billey Johnson, Sr. says.

Community members (and others)are renewing their efforts because Johnson’s death and subsequent investigations leave more questions than answers. Given the long history of corruption and cover-ups in George County law enforcement, many community members feel law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office colluded to execute a wide spread cover-up. Community members also point to what they call a pattern of racial profiling and the use of fear and intimidation on behalf of law enforcement.
Law enforcement’s investigation left a lot of holes and many of us believe there was foul play. Because of the amount of discrimination we experience every day, we have little faith in the local justice system,” said Mr. Bobby Perryman of Immaculate Heart Community Development Corporation.
Johnson’s family is calling on the Lucedale community to come forward with information about the case and believe many have stayed quiet for fear of retribution or being shunned by friends and family members.
Nobody wants to tell on their neighbor, but the fact is that a young man was killed and his family and this community need closure,” said Pastor Garrett of Prince Garrett Ministries
George County is a very small community and is still very segregated. A few large families and their extended networks own most of the businesses and play influential roles in city and county government. George County, where the incident occurred, is 89% white with very few Black residents.
We know there are good folks in George County who have knowledge about the incident. We know you are afraid but we need you to come forward. Black or white - none of us are free when there is a suspicion of murder,” Garrett added.
“We are tired of the corruption, the cover-ups and the abuse we suffer at the hands of police,” said Ms. Lucy Wilson, President of the Human Rights Taskforce of George County. The Human Rights Taskforce was established as a result of the travesty of justice felt by many around the Johnson case as well as growing tensions between the Black community and law enforcement.

The young teenager died over a year ago ... and yet there still isn't closure for the family or the community.  This blog is hopeful that a true investigation would sort out fact from rumor. But we can't be sure that Johnson's family will get the investigation it deserves. In the case of the Jena 6 we saw a District Attorney and a judge incapable of carrying out justice in a racially charged environment. In the recent case of the murder of Oscar Grant by police (and many like it), we see how unlikely it is for District Attorneys to do their job when the suspect is an officer of the law. But in both these cases, public pressure has made all the difference by shining a spotlight on local authorities.

In the case of Billey Joe Johnson, we're looking for the truth and for justice.  I encourage all villagers to take a minute of your time to help ensure his family get both.

Please let us know if you learn of any new information.   Suicide?  or Murder?

March 17, 2011

What is Mississippi Hiding in Frederick Jermaine Carter Lynching?

Soulclap to Ronald Herd for pointing out some tangible action that villagers can take to support the family of Frederick James Carter. Carter is the 26-year old African American found hanging from an oak tree in Greenwood, Mississippi back in December 2010. Prior to his death, Carter’s stepfather, a painter, said he and Carter were working in Greenwood and that Carter wandered off after he was instructed to go and get some tools.

The county sheriff ruled the death a suicide and most white folks in Mississippi agreed with him. These folks note that Carter had spent eight months in the state mental hospital in 2008, and tried to kill himself by drug overdose and cutting himself.

Most Black folks in Mississippi disagree. After all, Greenwood is about 12 miles from Money, Miss., the place where 14-year old Emmett Till was lynched after he allegedly made remarks to a white woman.

I don't know the truth. I do know that it is not a good sign to learn that the autopsy of Carter's body has not been publicly released yet. The first autopsy was completed by a local political hack -- Leflore County coroner Debra Sanders. The second autopsy was completed by a competent medical examiner from out-of-state. The second autopsy cannot be released to the public until the first one has been released.

What is Leflore County and the state of Mississippi hiding from us? If the death was truly a suicide then you have to wonder why they aren't releasing the autopsy results to the public?

Here is where 'villagers' come in.  Please let Gov. Haley Barbour know you want the first autopsy results officially released so that the truth can finally come out:

1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150
Mailing address:
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
Also contact the U.S. Department of Justice:
By Mail:
Correspondence to the Department, including the Attorney General, may be sent to:
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
By Phone:
Department of Justice Main Switchboard - 202-514-2000
Office of the Attorney General Public Comment Line - 202-353-1555

Please visit for future updates.

March 15, 2011

Good New Tuesday: Dr. Ashanti Johnson (University of South Florida)

Black Enterprise shared the story of five 'Women in STEM'. We need to tell OURstory whenever we can. Otherwise we will forever remain stuck with HIS-story and that one will whitewash us out altogether.

It is with pleasure that we share with our 'villagers' the good news about:

Ashanti Johnson, Ph. D.
Chemical Oceanographer/Geochemist
University of South Florida,
College of Marine Science

Studying soil and sedimentation of rivers, estuaries, and beaches, Ashanti Johnson’s work as an aquatic radiogeochemist was instrumental in decoding the environmental effects of potentially hazardous incidents throughout Puerto Rico.

Johnson can be found scouring the beaches of Rincón, where a nuclear power plant operated until the 1970s, or collecting soil samples in Vieques, where depleted uranium residue remained for years following an artillery firing range run by the U.S. Navy. “These problems have been investigated very little,” says Johnson. “It takes a lot of dedication and is really labor intensive. You get muddy, you get wet, and at the end of the day, you’re happy to have processed your samples.

Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in marine science and a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from Texas A&M University. Her Ph.D. work helped assess whether nuclear waste released in the Arctic by the former Soviet Union migrated toward the Alaskan coastline. She also spent a short time working at Exxon as a geochemist before venturing back into teaching at Georgia Tech and Savannah State University.

Acclaimed for her mentorship, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring by President Barack Obama in recognition of her work bridging professional development activities for underrepresented minorities. As the executive director of the Institute of Broadening Participation, Johnson has helped 159 students achieve a Ph.D. in earth system sciences.

I appreciate the work that Dr. Johnson is doing with IBP as I'm with a group that created an event, BDPA IT Showcase, to encourage more African Americans students to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science.  Perhaps some BDPA students will one day see Dr. Johnson as their role model in their educational and career journey!

This blog will continue to seek out Good News stories about people of African descent and share them with you each Tuesday. We need to tell the positive and upbeat information about OURstory. We can't depend on others to do it for us. Please pass along any Good News story that comes your way. In the case of bloggers ... we want you to join our Good News parade every Tuesday.

March 14, 2011

Spokeo is a Spooky Application That Threatens Your Privacy

My cousin sent me a warning yesterday about a website called Spokeo. It is essentially a 'Big Brother' version of the old fashioned Yellow Pages. You input the name of anyone that you know ... and Spokeo responds with basic contact information, information about your real estate property, satellite photo of your house, estimates your net worth and pulls in photos and comments from various social media platforms.

Spokeo had two entries for me. One was from a work address and the other was from my personal address. I took the steps needed to have my name removed from the Spokeo directory ... and I suggest that all villagers do the same.

Spokeo gives away almost everything about you to any Tom, Dick or Harry that wants to learn about you. All of your private information and net worth along with location of your home, complete with contact information and your social network can be made available for as little as $2.95 per month for all of the sophisticated bill collectors, crooks, degenerates and robbers out there. Not cool.

Removing your name from Spokeo is not difficult:
  1. Search for yourself on Spokeo
  2. Find and copy the URL to your Spokeo page
  3. Click on the 'privacy' link at the bottom right of the Spokeo page
  4. Follow the privacy instructions to remove your information from Spokeo
  5. Paste the URL, your name and type the security phrase.
  6. Then go to your e-mail (might go in your junk e-mail) in-box and confirm (or validate) your removal request.
Spokeo may be spooky ... but, I do appreciate the ease in which they allow you to remove your information from public view.

March 12, 2011

Taser Lawsuit: Derek Jones (Martinsville, VA)

Villagers know that I've been tracking taser-related deaths. The very first victim on my list is Derek Jones. He is the 17-year old youngster from Martinsville (VA) who was killed by Officer Ronnie Wray on January 8, 2009.

Wray was cleared of any wrongdoing by a State Police investigation. An autopsy could not determine whether the taser electrocution caused the teenager's death.

The teenager's family could not find justice in the criminal justice system. They hope to do better in civil courts. The family filed a $17 million wrongful death lawsuit against Wray, the city of Martinsville and Taser International. [SOURCE]

March 11, 2011

6 Resume Builders for Recent Law School Grads

This post was written by guest blogger John Steamost who also writes for, a great place to find free online courses

It seems as if many law school graduates are playing a losing game. When you started law school you began with dreams of a prestigious job, financial security and maybe a nice retirement years down the road. Now you're tens of thousands of dollars in debt and that degree is starting to feel like it's not worth the piece of paper that it's printed on.

Though it's hard right now in the legal job market, there are ways to get an edge. That law degree may not be able to open as many doors for you as it once might have, but that doesn't mean that you should start trying to hand it back to the university.

Here are six ways that you can get an edge in this legal job market and finally find yourself employed.
  1. Attend bar association events in your area. Get out there and meet people who are in your situation or get to know the big wigs who are still seeking associates. A law degree on your resume is not the automatic in it used to be and so the only way to get noticed is to make sure that the people doing the hiring know your face. Local bar association functions are a great way to meet other lawyers so that when it comes time to hire a new associate, they remember your stellar smile.
  2. Work for a non-profit. This may not be why you went to law school, but non-profits are still hiring with much more frequency than the big law firms. One of the reasons is that non-profits pay much less than a big firm, but a paycheck is better than no paycheck and it's a way to get your foot in the door and pay off those student loans while you look for something else.
  3. Work at a university. My mother-in-law runs a legal foundation through New York University's Law School and she has recent law students clamoring to work for her. That's because she is one of the only people in the legal world hiring. She doesn't pay as well as the big firms, but she knows all the men and women at the big firms, and she also knows members of the media and people in government and working for her means having a chance at some face time with them.
  4. Start a blog. It seems to be the go-to for any person struggling with their career, look to the internet, start a blog, but if you are dedicated to your blog, if you make it interesting enough, a blog will help you market yourself for a job. A blog like Gen Y J.D. might get you noticed in this market and it's a great way to connect with others in similar situations.
  5. Help a professional with their pro bono work. While you can't help a big time lawyer with his or her job at the firm, you can help them with their pro bono work. Contact an established lawyer you know is working on a welfare or custody case pro bono and ask to unofficially help with that. There are limits to what you're legally allowed to do, but you can file papers and do some research, or get them coffee. If you do a good job, they'll be sure to remember your work and your initiative come hiring time.
  6. Start a practice. It seems like quite a leap, especially in this market, to go out on your own, but there are ways to start a practice that are not all out career suicide. Get together with some of your unemployed law school grad friends and start up a niche practice. If you fill a need that hasn't been fulfilled, like perhaps dealing with online contracts or copyright issues, your practice might thrive. 
Thinking outside the box and by visiting sites like Guide to Career Education  can also help you in your search.

    March 10, 2011

    National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

    Although men make up the majority of HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S., the number of women and girls living with HIV continues to grow. On March 10, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, groups across the country will hold events aimed at encouraging women to get tested and seek treatment if necessary, and highlighting the gaps in access to care that many American women still face.

    Overall, women account for 27 percent of new HIV infections each year and represent 25 percent of those living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Women of color are disproportionately affected: the rate of new infections among African American women is nearly 15 times higher than that among white women, and among Latinas it is four times higher than among white women. Young women, particularly those of color, are especially at risk.

    Biologically, women are more susceptible than men to HIV infection through heterosexual sex. And women are often subject to social and economic factors—such as discrimination and poverty—that place them at greater risk. Research has also shown that HIV-positive women face gaps in access to treatment and care compared with men, often due to financial constraints or the responsibility of caring for children and other family members.

    National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day offers an opportunity for community groups, government agencies, and healthcare providers to raise awareness of women’s vulnerability to HIV and the challenges faced by women living with the virus.

    I took up the challenge and created a Groupsite for those who seek to increase their HIV/AIDS Awareness.

    March 9, 2011

    Empowering Leadership Alliances Seeks High School Students of Color Interested in Computing Fields

    In conjunction with Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the Empowering Leadership Alliance (ELA) is starting an initiative to reach out to high school seniors interested in computing fields before they matriculate on their respective university campuses.

    ELA is an NSF-funded program that engages underrepresented minority (URM) students in computing disciplines at research institutions in a nationwide network composed of leading universities including Rice University, UC Berkeley, and UT Austin.

    Their mission is to increase the number of students from groups with long-standing under-representation that receive undergraduate and graduate degrees in the computing disciplines.

    We are asking villagers to inform minority high school seniors who are interested in pursuing computing-related fields about EL Alliance. Ideally they should register with the online EL Alliance registration form.

    After students register, they will be contacted by ELA staff who will invite them to:
    • Ask questions about computing or classes or university academic life
    • Participate in university student-led teleconferences where college students would answer the high school students’ questions,
    • Be matched with a current college student,
    • Participate in mentoring teleconferences, among other possibilities.
    We think that CSTA and EL Alliance can help bridge the fragile pipeline from high school through college and graduate school so that our nation can benefit from these future minority leaders in computing. If you have any questions about the EL Alliance, please contact Alice Fisher.

    March 8, 2011

    Good News Tuesday: Dr. Aprille Ericsson (NASA)

    I am a lifetime member of BDPA. BDPA has some remarkable African American women in its ranks. We boast Nubian queens with outstanding skills operating within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields ... from the classroom to the boardroom ... from young 'uns like Brandee Lyles to full-blown technology divas like Stephanie Lampkin or Lydia Barron or Diane Davis.

    However, there are many obstacles for African American women in the IT industry. African American women earned only 0.34% of Ph.D.s in computer science and 0.58% in engineering, as of 2006, according to the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

    There are many reasons for this under-representation, including social and economic factors as well as gender bias. However, strides have been made and a select few have persevered: researching, innovating, mentoring, and paving the way for other African American women (and men) to follow in their footsteps.

    Soulclap to Marcia Wade Talbert for making the effort to shake up our imaginations by interviewing female role models who don’t just work in some of the world’s most innovative fields ... they excel in them.

    Aprille J. Ericsson, Ph.D.
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Dr. Aprille Ericsson
    As the deputy instrument manager for the ATLAS Instrument team at NASA, Aprille J. Ericsson leads development of an instrument to house satellite-based lasers used to measure the topography of ice sheets from space in order to measure global climate changes.

    Ericsson, who holds a master’s of engineering and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in aerospace from Howard University and who earned a bachelor’s of science in aeronautical/astronautical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was previously one of the lead engineers on the concept study report for GEMS, or the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer. The unmanned observatory, which is scheduled to launch no later than April 2014, will be the first to measure polarized X-rays to study super massive black holes and magnetars. Ericsson’s work was influential in winning $105 million of funding for the project in 2009.

    Ericsson was also the project engineer for LOLA, a lunar orbiter laser altimeter, which created an unprecedented topographic map of the moon’s landscape in late 2009.
    High school students need to be encouraged to do summer programs. If they have an interest in engineering or science they need to apply at field centers at NASA and NOAA so they get a feel for what they want to do,” says Ericsson, who did the same at a young age. “It’s really important to have [hands-on lab] exposure as early as freshman and sophomore year. They perform better with their course work because they learn in an applied atmosphere.”

    Black Enterprise shared the story of five 'Women in STEM'. We need to tell OURstory whenever we can. Otherwise we will forever remain stuck with HIS-story and that one will whitewash us out altogether.

    This blog will continue to seek out Good News stories about people of African descent and share them with you each Tuesday. We need to tell the positive and upbeat information about OURstory. We can't depend on others to do it for us. Please pass along any Good News story that comes your way. In the case of bloggers ... we want you to join our Good News parade every Tuesday.

    March 7, 2011

    Detroit: City on the Move (1965)

    Soulclap to Tonya for sharing this remarkable archive video promoting the Detroit that existed in 1965. Did you know that Detroit was the American city considered for hosting the 1968 Summer Olympics? That is one of the things you'll learn from this archive video.

    Do any villagers have favorite memories of Detroit that you care to share?

    March 6, 2011

    Sunday Inspirations: Keep the Faith

    I'm no different than most villagers. I rise and grind each day with hopes that my children will follow the right paths and examples that I've set and overlook or forgive the mistakes and missteps that I've made in my life.
    Scripture tells me, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." – Hebrews 11:1
    Sometimes, the path is not so clear. It is at those times that He places a thought in my mind that moves me forward. Today that thought came in the form of a song shared by a friend. I hadn't heard this song before today ... but, it was right on time.

    For others who may have missed this one ... it was initially recorded by Michael Jackson in 1991 on his Dangerous album.

    This blog will continue to seek out Sunday Inspirations, a meme inspired by Sojourner's Place. Sunday Inspirations is just one way to help get us through the week ahead, the trials we may face, and yes, to say Thank Ya and testify! I invite you to participate in this weekly meme as your contribution might serve as an inspiration to someone in need.

    March 5, 2011

    Weekly Address: Cutting Waste, Investing in the Future

    In his weekly address, President Obama called for Democrats and Republicans to come together on a budget that cuts wasteful spending without sacrificing job-creating investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure. Noting that his administration has already proposed specific cuts that meet congressional Republicans halfway, he said that he is prepared to do more and that the job can only be finished by working out the differences and finding common ground. You can read the transcript if you prefer.

    What is your view of the President's comments this week?

    March 4, 2011

    Young Black Ohio Elementary School Student Forced to Play the 'Slave' in a Classroom 'Slave Auction'

    Most people with commonsense would know that it is a bad idea to have young Jewish children role-playing as Holocaust victims as part of a social studies lesson. However, for some reason white teachers don't use that same commonsense when they are trying to teach young people about the peculiar American policy that condoned the enslavement of African people for centuries.

    It happened a few years ago in Caldwell, New Jersey. It happened again this past Wednesday in Gahanna, Ohio.

    Nikko Burton
    Ten-year-old Nikko Burton was assigned by his Chapelfield Elementary School teacher to play an enslaved Black person for a social studies lesson in his fifth-grade class. To his credit, Nikko refused to take part in the simulated slave auction and was sent back to his desk.
    "I ended up being a slave," said Burton, 10. "At first I didn't care, but after people were bidding on people it kind of made me a little mad and stuff."
    Burton said that the students who were playing the part of master were told to feel the students playing slaves to see if they were worth buying.
    "The masters got to touch people and do all sorts of stuff," Burton said. "They got to look in your mouth and feel your legs and stuff and see if you're strong and stuff."
    His mother, Aneka Burton said that her son was humiliated.   She says the school should be more sensitive. School principal Scott Schmidt called her to apologize for what happened to her son. Schmidt said no harm was intended.

    Burton says she appreciates the apology, but the exercise was inappropriate. The school district said in a statement Thursday that officials acted promptly once the concern was raised.

    Nikko's teacher still hasn't apologized or shown any remorse for the lesson.

    The problem is that white teachers and principals don't have any problem with assignments to market a pro-slavery message or to simulate a slave auction. I suspect that they would think twice if they had their precious little white children play-acting as the 'master' during a re-enactment of the many slave rebellions by folks like Nat Turner. Ya' think?

    Old School Friday * Gil Scott-Heron

    At some point I am going to need to introduce my children to Gil Scott-Heron. The same way that my father introduced me to The Blues on the reel-to-reel tapes that he kept up in his study. Gil Scott-Heron is a griot in every sense of the world. He is a word-magician who first recorded 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' over 35 years ago.

    I suspect that Gil Scott-Heron would be at or near the top of a list of my favorite musicians of all time. Rappers today have lyrics that rarely stand the test of time. Scott-Heron has lyrics that will last for generations. That is why I decided to use him as the inspiration for today's Old School Friday post.

    What is your favorite song or memory of Gil Scott-Heron?

    March 3, 2011

    First Lady and Secretary of Education Take Time to Read Dr. Seuss to Children

    I remember reading quite a bit when I was a kid. I loved Dr. Seuss and all of his wonderful characters. During the summer I would be a frequent visitor to the Pio Pico Public Library in Los Angeles. After all, they would give you a certificate of accomplishment based on the number of books you read during summer vacation!

    As an adult, I've rediscovered my love of the public library and regular reading. I recently gave me daughter a Kindle as a gift. So, it goes without saying that I feel very good that First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan found time yesterday to read the Dr. Seuss classic 'Green Eggs and Ham' to about 250 local elementary school students.

    Duncan told the children gathered at the Library of Congress that his parents didn’t allow television in his house when he was growing up, which helped him develop a love for reading and learning. The event was held to mark Read Across America Day.

    The children also listened to stories from celebrities including actress Jessica Alba and Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, who read from his own children book, 'Quickie Makes the Team.'

    Next time I need to get the First Lady to read the children book, 'Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria' to the young 'uns!

    March 1, 2011

    Good News Tuesday: 13-Year Old Stephen Stafford Succeeds at Morehouse College

    Our Good News Tuesday post this week is focused on an amazing 13-year old African American student, Stephen Stafford. This young squire is a mathematics and science prodigy who was home-schooled by his mother before being accepted into Morehouse College. He is currently in his second year and doing quite well. [SOURCE]

    Even at age 11 when Stafford started at Morehouse, he got the highest score in his pre-calculus class. “He breezes through whatever I throw at him. If it’s an hour lab, he can do it in 20 or 30 minutes,” said one of his Morehouse professors.

    Stafford said he isn’t nervous about studying with students much older than himself.
    I just do what I always did. I show up, I do the work, and I go home,” he said.
    When talking to Stafford, it’s easy to forget his age. But his age shows when he’s playing video games or even at dinner, where he eats while also trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Still, Stafford finds it hard to relate to teens his age.
    I relate better to [my Morehouse classmates] ... most kids my age don’t know when to stop playing around and when to be serious,” he said.
    Just think how many stories we've seen about the lack of academic performance of African American youth. Sometimes you have to flip the script!