Voting is a right not ‘entitlement’
Written by Marc H. Morial
(NNPA)—“No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”—Voting Rights Act of 1965
During recent Supreme Court oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, Justice Antonin Scalia called a key part of the Voting Rights Act—Section 5—a “racial entitlement.” Section 5 requires that the Justice Department or a federal court “pre-clear” any changes made to voting procedures by covered jurisdictions to ensure they do not “deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race or color.”
This act was established to fix a broken system, and it remains relevant today. As long as blatant voter suppression measures such as voter ID laws and district gerrymandering are being used to keep certain groups from the polls, the Voting Rights Act—in its entirety—remains necessary. And to clear up any confusion that Justice Scalia has or anyone who found merit in his argument: Voting “rights” are indeed that—a right guaranteed to every citizen of the United States. They are not a special privilege. They are not a gift. And they certainly don’t constitute a “racial entitlement.”
Justice Scalia’s comments are a shameful reiteration of a right-wing political interpretation of the Constitution. The Voting Rights Act was a response to an inarguably unjust and unfair system for voting in this country.
Prior to the Voting Rights Act, millions of African-Americans, primarily in the South, were forced to run a gauntlet of “voting qualifications or prerequisites,” including ludicrous literacy tests, discriminatory poll taxes, and other bureaucratic restrictions. And when those measures failed, Blacks were routinely subjected to intimidation, economic sanctions, beatings and even murder. The 1964 murders of three voting rights activists at the hands of Mississippi Klansmen and the March 7, 1965 Bloody Sunday beating of peaceful voting rights marchers in Selma by Alabama State troopers are horrific examples.
While there has been undeniable progress since 1965, voting rights abuses are still sadly a part of the American electoral landscape. In fact, every presidential election of this new century has been plagued by voting problems—from “hanging chads,” to Tea Party-backed campaigns of Election Day intimidation to new voter ID restrictions. Cut backs in early voting even led to a Florida woman, 102-year-old Desiline Victor, having to stand in line for three hours to vote in November’s presidential election.
The Voting Rights Act, and specifically its Section 5 preclearance provisions, is still needed to protect against such abuses. While Justice Scalia is either confused or misguided in his characterization of the right to vote as a racial entitlement, Congress upheld this basic right in 2006 by overwhelmingly reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. House Speaker, John Boehner said at the time, “The Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy and renewing this landmark law will ensure that each and every citizen can continue to exercise their right to vote without the threat of intimidation or harassment.” We intend to hold Speaker Boehner to those words.
(Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 06:06
Powerball winner resolves $30k child support debt
Written by Associated Press
BIG WINNER-- Pedro Quezada, the winner of the Powerball jackpot, talks to the media during a news conference at the New Jersey Lottery headquarters, in Lawrenceville, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
by David Porter
PATERSON, N.J. (AP) — A former bodega owner who will be pocketing $152 million in lottery winnings has coughed up $30,000 in back child support with a promise from his lawyer he will "do what's right for his children."
Last Updated on Monday, 01 April 2013 20:10
Natural hair offers a new point of view
Written by CNN
by Breeanna Hare
(CNN) -- Embracing the hair you're born with sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world, but for some, it's a huge challenge.
Nikki Walton, a 29-year-old licensed psychotherapist whose own journey to hair acceptance has grown from a passion into a business, knows that hurdle all too well.
As the founder of CurlyNikki.com, one of TextureMedia's hair care websites, Walton now confidently boasts a lush, natural texture that lives up to her online nickname, "Curly Nikki." On her website, she leads the charge for a community of women seeking a resource and a space where they can let their hair down, just as it is, no straightening required.
But Walton can vividly recall the days when straight hair meant beautiful hair, and if she couldn't be seen with it straight, she'd rather not go out at all.
As a young adult, Walton would feel "gorgeous" and "ready" to take on the world when her dark hair's natural twists and turns were straight, sleek and swinging thanks to a stylist's heat tools.
But when that style fell flat and the frizz began to appear, "I would become an introvert; I didn't want to do anything," she said.
Eventually, the boyfriend who was driving her to and from hair appointments -- and who's now her husband and father to their 2½-year-old daughter -- intervened.
"He said, 'This isn't healthy. I don't know if you've noticed, but you need to step back and assess this. You're pretty, and I want you to feel pretty no matter what the condition of your hair is,' " Walton recalled. "And he was right. My hair was running my life. My confidence was in flux with my hair."
That conversation inspired Walton to take action, and she soon found herself researching ways she could work with the kind of hair she was born with. Once she unchained herself from her flat iron, she found not only a more genuine confidence but a new freedom to live her life as she chose -- not as her hairstyle mandated.
"Once you get to that freedom," she said, "you'll be very excited to help those around you achieve that as well."
Walton has been lending that helping hand on CurlyNikki.com for the past four years, and she recently compiled her accumulated wealth of hair care know-how into a book, "Better Than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous, Natural Hair."
Walton describes the guide as a little like "What To Expect When You're Expecting," mixed with the approachable, easy-to-understand wisdom she extends on the Web.
Depending on the person, opting to wear one's hair in its natural state can feel like a rebirth of sorts. Some women may choose to cut much of their hair off -- doing a "big chop," as it's called -- to get rid of heat-damaged or chemically straightened locks. For others like Walton, who opted to wear her hair more naturally but skipped the dramatic haircut, there's still a learning curve to figure out how to wear one's natural hair texture.
"In my house," Walton said, "any time we had somewhere important to go, if it was Easter Sunday (or) Christmas Mass, we had to make sure our hair was pressed and braided neatly. That's what my mom knew, that's what her mom knew, so we didn't even question it."
By the time she was in middle school, Walton would want to "shrink into a hole" at the salon while she waited for a stylist to blow dry her freshly washed hair.
"I didn't want people to see my hair. I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror," she recalled. "I didn't even know what my real texture looked like. ... I just knew that if it got a little bit wet, or if I sweat(ed) a little bit too much, I put my hands into my roots, and it felt terrible."
As a result, Walton had to do both a habitual and a mental shift when she decided that having healthy hair was more important.
That new way involved regularly trimming her hair herself and wearing what she calls "low-manipulation" styles, like buns, which meant she wasn't putting added stress on her hair with constant washing and styling.
Celebrity hairstylist and salon owner Ted Gibson concurs with Walton's careful, routine trimming, which he says is essential whether you chemically straighten your hair or are as natural as can be.
"Sometimes women, when they get a relaxer, they don't want to get a haircut, but that's part of the service for us," Gibson said. "Getting your ends trimmed is essential in growing your hair and making your hair so that it's in better shape. Hair will split after a period of time, and that's sometimes where thinning hair comes from."
It took Walton about a year and a half to get rid of her damaged bits, and at the time, she was simultaneously working on being able to leave the house with her new, natural 'do.
At first, "you have that spotlight effect, because you think everybody's staring at you, because you're very self-conscious," Walton said. "And most people aren't staring at you, and if they are, maybe they're thinking good things, not the negative things you're projecting onto them."
On her site and particularly in her book, Walton emphasizes how necessary confidence is to the process.
"This is your hair, and people have to accept it because you do. And when you exude that confidence, people get that from you and they don't bother you. Often, we have to fake it till we make it, because people will be able to detect that insecurity."
The phrase "natural hair" is thrown around a lot, and it can mean different things to different people. There are those who would agree with celebrity stylist Laini Reeves, for whom being natural starts with the product.
"Being a hairdresser, I look for two things: I look for performance, and I look for ingredients. It's hard to find completely 100% natural hair care that has the performance that you need, but technology is becoming so advanced that the chemists know how to alter ingredients that make it have the performance," said Reeves, who's worked with stars like Amy Adams and Emily Blunt.
For example, if you're a curly, you might want to check out coconut oil to use as a conditioner, Reeves said, in an effort to rebuild the hair and get a softer texture.
"My advice to anybody: Read the label and educate yourself," Reeves said. "I'm not an extremist. I'm not anti this or that; I just like to make more conscious decisions in my life."
Walton, too, cautions against the perception that maintaining natural hair means standing against chemical straighteners or straight hair overall.
"It's all about achieving versatility and achieving healthy hair and achieving the freedom to be able to wear your hair curly or straight," she said. "The goal that I had for myself was to feel just as attractive and just as professional and sexy with my hair curly as I felt when it was straight. I'm there in that place now, and I want other women to be able to experience that too. That level of confidence, we call it genuine self-esteem -- the kind that doesn't fluctuate."
There's also a side benefit to all of that confidence, Walton added.
"Accepting what your hair does naturally will help you attain a better quality of life," she said. "You can straighten your hair and do whatever you want to do, because we're women; we like to change it up. It's that key of getting comfortable in your own skin. My quality of life has greatly improved now that my first thought and consideration is not my hair."
Have you struggled with going natural? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:27
Sisters Place 11th annual Crushed Grapes event
Written by Genea Webb
SISTER MARY PARKS—Executive director speaks about Sisters Place.
Michelle Cowan was so impressed with Sisters Place’s annual Crushed Grapes Wine Tasting Event last year that she decided to lend a hand this year to help the non-profit organization raise money for the homeless families it houses.
“This non-profit organization is a very good fit for me,” said Cowan who served as the volunteers co-chair at this year’s event.
Located in Clairton, Sisters Place has 32 fully-furnished town homes scattered in different places throughout the Century Town homes location in the city. The homes provide a stable, safe place for the families to restart their lives.
“We start our families on a level playing field to reach their life goals, a stable home for their children and a way to support them,” said Sister Mary Parks, executive director of Sisters Place.
“I like Sisters Place because it helps males and females and kids who need help,” said David Spence Jr., who attended the Crushed Grapes event with his father, David Spence Sr.
“We know who the money benefits and helps and I think at the end of the day people have to dig deep (in their pockets) for the cause,” said David Spence Sr.
Sisters Place has two types of subsidized housing: Permanent housing, which is available to women with physical or mental disabilities or drug and alcohol addiction and their children, and Transitional housing, which is open to young parents between the ages of 18-26. Families may live in rent-assisted housing for up to two years.
“Most people like the mission of Sisters Place once they know what the mission is,” said Executive Board member Wilma McNeese. “This event is a two for one because people get to support something that’s worthwhile. The money raised will help a great deal with the organization, which survives off of donations.”
Sisters Place’s enormous mission is what brought out more than 500 people in 2012 to the annual Crushed Grapes fundraiser where participants get to sample great wine and delectable appetizers while raising money for the organization’s mission.
“It’s a great cause raising donations for such a great organization,” said Crushed Grapes first timer Eric Hatchett.
Places like All Occasion Catering Inc.; Eadie’s Catering & Market; Pittsburgh Grille; Ricci’s Italian Sausage; and The Wine Stash contributed food and drink for the occasion.
“This was another fabulous event because of the increase in the number of friends and supporters of the mission of Sisters Place,” said Sisters Place Program Coordinator Jeri Edmunds. “These invaluable relationships help Sisters Place to continue our mission of helping homeless, single parents and children work toward independence and self sufficiency. We can’t thank them enough for sharing our faith helping to make a difference in the lives of the families who participate in our housing program.”
“It’s important for everyone to have a good time. Not many people do that anymore and this is about having a good time for a great cause,” said Tim Seabolt, event committee member for The Wine Stash.
Contributor Eugino Carlo Marotta agreed with Seabolt.
“I believe what Sisters Place does is outstanding and commendable because people need food, clothing and a place to live and it takes a quality person to do that. I like to donate to people who really need it and who appreciate it.”
(For more information on Sisters Place, visit www.sistersplace.org.)
Last Updated on Friday, 29 March 2013 10:01
NEED celebrates 50 years
Written by Debbie Norrell
2013 NEED SCHOLARSHIP RECIPENTS (Photos by Debbie Norrell)
On March 14, at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown, the 50th Annual NEED Benefit Dinner was celebrated. It was an extraordinary evening celebrating 50 years of achievement and paying homage and remembering fondly the late Sylvester Pace— the visionary who led NEED to become a full service college access program. A special presentation of photos of former NEED recipients and organizers morphed into a portrait of the late Sylvester Pace. Pace was the president and CEO of NEED from 2000 until his passing in June of 2012.
The evening included a lot that was new and exciting. Such as, a fabulous VIP reception, where students were presented with NEED medallions and books signed by the keynote speaker Steve Pemberton, child advocate, motivational speaker and author of “A Chance in the World.” Pemberton currently serves as the Chief Diversity Officer and Divisional Vice President for Walgreens. He is the first person to occupy this role in the company’s 111 year history. Pemberton’s message to the students was “figure out what is special about you, find your greatness and bestow it upon others.”
NEED is the oldest African-American scholarship access program in Pennsylvania. Over 22,000 students have been served in over 50 years. One of the founding members of NEED, Rabbi Herald Silver spoke about the humble beginnings of NEED in 1963. The program began after the assassination of Medgar Evers. Back in 1963 their goal was to award 67 students $250 each. On March 14, 20 students received scholarships from $1,000 to $5,000 each.
In closing remarks from Interim President and CEO Claudette Lewis; she thanked the parents of the students and all that made the evening and the last 50 years possible, which included the corporate sponsors and the wider Pittsburgh community for their unwavering support and commitment to the NEED mission—“unlocking the power of education.”
2013 NEED scholarship recipients:
Erika Drain, Aryell Heywood, Fletcher Jones, Canada Montgomery, Natasha Todd, Victoria Bush, Tamara Butler, Drew Buzzell, Kyle Chapman, Janae Fletcher, Campbell Garth, Brea Hogan, Briann Moye, Brandon Nelson, Justin Barnes, Jamel Habboushi, Alexis Lape, Kelsy Miller, Joshua Ombiri and Jerome Watts.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:53
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