Black Children Face The Most Barriers To Success In America, Asians The Least

From birth, the average black child in America is at a relative disadvantage, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation study released Tuesday.

While more than 92 percent of white, Latino, American-Indian and Asian and Pacific Islander babies are born at normal birth weight, that number for African-Americans only reaches into the high-80s. The pattern of disadvantage for black children continues into elementary school and through high school in the form of standardized testing scores and high school graduation rates. Only 66 percent of African-Americans graduate from high school on time, while more than 90 percent of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders do.

As America becomes increasingly diverse, the Casey Foundation report looked at how five racial groups fare against a dozen milestones in stages of life from birth to adulthood, including the number of eighth-graders with math proficiency and the number of young adults who are in school or working. The report, titled the Race for Results, finds that while no group perfectly meets every milestone, Asian-Americans fare the best and African-Americans do the worst.

“We found that the gaps sort of start out relatively small and get bigger over time,” Laura Speer, Casey Foundation associate director of policy reform and advocacy, told The Huffington Post over the phone. “Look at the early childhood measures: The gaps between African-Americans, Latinos, whites are relatively small. But in the early childhood years, even a small gap can have a big impact in the long run.”

The report measures each group’s success toward the milestones on a 1,000 point-scale. Asian-Americans and whites scored best, with 776 and 704 respectively. American-Indians and African-Americans, on the other hand, scored in the 300s. Gaps between groups’ achievements start small in early childhood milestones, like percentages of babies born at normal birth weight, and children enrolled in pre-K, but the differences widen in neighborhood milestones, like percentages of children living in low-poverty areas.

The report uses data from the latest census that shows differences between states. American Indians in Texas and California, for example, appear to be faring significantly better than American Indians in Montana and North Dakota, according to the report. African-Americans face the greatest barriers in Michigan, Wisconsin and Mississippi, the report says.

The report comes after a recent government study found that students of color are routinely discriminated against in school, with harsher discipline and less access to the best teachers than their white peers.

The Casey Foundation suggests further study to pinpoint what’s causing the racial disparities and programs to eliminate them.

“Too often, the resources of public systems serving children and families are spent on programs that lack evidence and without input from the families and communities they are intended to serve,” the report says.

Speer said several Obama administration initiatives will help, including the My Brother’s Keeper, designed to increase opportunity for boys and men of color.

“The kids of color in our country are absolutely critical to the future success of the United States,” Speer said. “They are going to be the majority of our work force and we can’t afford to lose the talent they have and could have in the future behind. We need them to be successful.”

How Medellín Went From Cartel Center To Urban Superstar

The Medellín Cartel, headed by Pablo Escobar, perhaps the only drug lord to become a worldwide household name, transported billions of dollars worth of cocaine, which had surpassed coffee as Colombia’s leading export by 1982. Arriving on U.S. shores, the exploits of cocaine cowboys made Miami the murder capital of the world in the early ’80s, an ignominious title Medellín itself stole in 1991, when it topped out at 381 murders per 100,000 residents, 40 times what the United Nations considers “epidemic.” That rate, if translated to New York City, would equal an unfathomable 32,000 murders annually.

In 1993, Escobar was killed by Colombian special forces, and a decade later, in 2004, the city’s first Metrocable gondola line opened, inaugurating Medellín’s now celebrated urbanismo social (social urbanism) agenda. Now, ten years after that gondola first connected the city’s poorer hillside neighborhoods to its bustling central business district, Medellín finds itself on the global stage once again, this time as a city basking in the glow of admiration for pioneering a new type of urbanism. The city’s newfound fame will be on full view for attendees of next week’s UN-Habitat World Urban Forum (WUF).

Confronting Cesar Chavez’s Stance On Illegal Immigration

While Cesar Chavez has become one of the most iconic Latino civil rights leaders in U.S. history, his stance on the issue of illegal immigration didn’t always reflect the dominant attitude among today’s Hispanics.

As a union organizer, Chavez worried that that employers would recruit undocumented immigrants to break strikes. By the 1980s, however, Chavez had become a supporter of immigration reform and backed the 1986 bill signed by President Ronald Reagan that legalized the status of nearly 3 million people.

As people throughout the country commemorate the labor leader on Cesar Chavez Day, HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont asks what Chavez would say about today’s immigration debate. Chavez’s fellow union leader Dolores Huerta joins the conversation, along with Cesar Chavez Foundation Communications Director Marc Grossman.

Watch the full length Cesar Chavez segment below.

Latinos Benefit From Green Jobs: Dirty Energy Industry Looks Green With Envy

We are in the midst of an epidemic of devastating oil and coal spills. In recent weeks, we have witnessed oil spills in the Mississippi River, on the Galveston, TX, coast and in Lake Michigan, among others. We have also seen terrible toxic coal spills in the Dan River, NC, and the Elk River, WV. It will take hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up these disasters.

And they claim dirty energy is cheap!

On the other hand, when we have a sun spill, we call it a nice day. And that is precisely what I want to talk to you about today, the huge economic and environmental benefits that clean energy brings to Latino workers and the whole country.

“Creating all this energy that is much needed at this time, without burning our fossil fuels and without damaging our environment, to me is a win-win situation no matter how you see it,” says Alfonso Carmona-Jiménez, a Calexico electrician working in the installation of solar and wind projects in California’s Imperial Valley. “Finally we have started taking energy from the sun, and I hope we will continue this way after polluting the earth for so long.”

Alfonso and thousands of other Latino workers are benefiting from a historic clean energy bonanza taking place across the country, but especially in California. The Great Recession punished this part of the state with special harshness, leaving Alfonso and thousands of workers like him jobless.

“And now it’s a great relief that I don’t have to ask the government for anything and not having to worry about where the next paycheck will come from,” proudly says Alfonso, who is now working on a solar project for the State University of San Diego at Brawley.

Alfonso is benefiting from the clean energy professional trainings for unemployed workers that unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are conducting in California and other parts of the country.

“The union is doing a great thing for all of us here,” says Alfonso. “They provide good jobs for us, they train us, they get us benefits and health insurance, they defend us when we have issues with employers.”

California is the nation’s solar energy leader and also a world leader on its own merits, recently beating two generating records in consecutive days. On March 7th, it generated 3.9 gigawatts (GW) of electricity, and on the following day, 4.1 GW, enough to power 3 million homes or 18 percent of the overall power demand.

California already boasts almost 1,700 solar companies that employ more than 47,000 workers, thousands of them Latinos. In 2013, it added 2.7 GW of solar power, and today it has 5.6 GW of installed energy, making it the world’s seventh solar power, if it were an independent country.

Also, this clean bounty does not punish the health of Californians, unlike coal or oil. Just ask Domingo Reyes, another Calexico electrician who works on solar projects and, like his 10-year-old son, suffers from asthma.

“Here in the Imperial Valley we have some of the worst air quality in the nation. Pollution worsens our asthma. But wind and solar power is helping to lower these pollution levels,” he says.

Indeed, this is a win-win situation, as Alfonso puts it. He proudly tells the story about his first job installing a wind turbine almost 300 feet tall: “My six-year-old really got a kick out of the photos of me working on the turbine, looking so small compared to the size of the turbine, and when I told him that was me, he said with his eyes wide open, ‘really?'”

The dirty energy industry would look at the photo green with envy.

Pro-government Gunmen Aggravate Venezuela Protests

VALENCIA, Venezuela (AP) — The masked gunmen emerged from a group of several dozen motorcycle-mounted government loyalists who were attempting to dismantle a barricade in La Isabelica, a working-class district of Valencia that has been a center of unrest since nationwide protests broke out last month.

The barricades’ defenders had been hurling rocks, sticks and other objects at the attackers, who included perhaps a dozen armed men, witnesses told The Associated Press. Lisandro Barazarte, a photographer with the local newspaper, Notitarde, caught images of several of the men shooting into the crowd while steadying their firearms on their palms.

“They were practiced shooters,” Barazarte said. “More were armed, but didn’t fire.”

When it was over, two La Isabelica men were dead: a 22-year-old student, Jesus Enrique Acosta, and a little league baseball coach, Guillermo Sanchez. Witnesses told the AP the first was shot in the head, the second in the back. They said neither was at the barricades when he was killed.

Similar shootings across Venezuela by gunmen allied with the socialist-led government have claimed at least seven lives and left more than 30 people wounded since the anti-government protests began in mid-February.

President Nicolas Maduro has done nothing to publicly discourage the violence by armed pro-government militants, loosely known as “colectivos,” which are also blamed for scores more cases of beatings and intimidation in multiple cities. That includes a March 19 incursion into the architecture academy at the Central University of Venezuela in the capital in which some 40 masked men and women identifying themselves as government defenders bloodied at least a dozen students.

In fact, since the protests began, Maduro and his vice president have each welcomed pro-government “motorizados,” or motorcyclists, to separate events at the presidential palace — a Feb. 24 rally and a “peace conference” on March 13.

At the latter gathering, Vice President Jorge Arreaza told his guests, “If there has been exemplary behavior it has been the behavior of the motorcycle colectivos that are with the Bolivarian revolution.” He claimed the CIA was behind a propaganda campaign to discredit the colectivos.

Maduro has blamed the violence on the other side, telling supporters on March 9, “There are violent armed groups in the streets, and they are all from the right.”

Colectivos have long been a fixture in poorer neighborhoods that became strongholds of the late President Hugo Chavez during his 14-year reign. They organize cultural events and community services such as youth summer camps but have also included armed motorcycle-riding militants who have long menaced opposition activists, blocking their marches and roughing up peaceful protesters.

Those violent tactics escalated when anti-government protests surged in mid-February. Fatalities since blamed on colectivo aggression have mostly involved university students, including a prominent student leader, Daniel Tinoco, shot in the chest March 10 in the western city of San Cristobal, where the unrest began amid student outrage at alleged police indifference to an attempted sexual assault.

Most were manning barricades, as were the two students in the western city of Barquisimeto wounded the following day by gunmen who pierced their university’s perimeter and set fire to several cars inside.

During the attack in La Isabelica in Valencia, Acosta was hit by a bullet while he was inside an apartment with a friend near the barricades. Sanchez, 42, was out walking to buy a paint brush when the bullet that claimed his life tore into his lower torso.

One of Sanchez’s neighbors, who spoke on condition he not be identified for fear of retribution, said the pro-government gang grabbed the wounded Sanchez and dragged him down the street, beating him.

“The police never came. There was no (National) Guard,” the neighbor said. “It was the Wild West.”

Daniel Wilkinson, managing director for the Americas for the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch, said such colectivo violence is nationwide.

“This is just one example of a practice we’ve seen across several states, of security forces not only tolerating armed groups of civilians who attack peaceful protesters, but even collaborating with these gangs when they commit beatings, arbitrary arrests and other abuses,” Wilkinson said.

Video and still images chronicling apparent colectivo abuse, mostly shot by private citizens, have been widely posted on social networks in a country where, according to international press freedom groups, independent journalism has been under steady government assault for years.

In many images, the gunmen are seen menacing people and removing barricades set up by protesters as police and National Guardsmen stand idly by.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last month accused the Maduro government of wielding “armed vigilantes” against peaceful protesters, and the European Parliament passed a resolution on Feb. 27 calling on the government to “immediately disarm and dissolve the uncontrolled armed pro-government groups and end their impunity.”

Spokesmen for Venezuela’s colectivos deny perpetrating anti-opposition violence.

“No one has been able to offer proof (of abuses) because they don’t have them,” said Jose Pinto, secretary general of one of the biggest colectivos, the Tupamaros, which has been around since the 1970s. “Our only weapon is our conscience.”

Such groups gained strength and multiplied under Chavez, with the Tupamaros becoming a political party after a failed 2002 coup attempt against the government.

Pinto denied that members of his group are armed and said the opposition simply fears the Tupamaros because the organization is growing stronger politically, winning two mayors’ offices and 63 city council seats in December municipal elections.

Antonio Gonzalez, a sociologist and former university vice rector who advised a government committee that studied disarming loyalist vigilantes, said armed leftist militant groups have existed for some four decades but are marginal in influence and are being used by the opposition as a scapegoat.

“It’s the perfect excuse to discredit the masses and Chavista organizations as violent,” he said.

An attorney who has studied the groups as part of a commission formed by the MUD opposition alliance disputed that characterization.

Armed colectivos exist in at least 110 of the country’s 1,136 communities, according to the attorney, Fermin Marmol Garcia. Their members were “at one point municipal or national police officers and who also may have at one point served in the military.”

Some have day jobs in the government, working as bodyguards for top officials, said Alejandro Velasco, a New York University assistant professor who spent a year and a half from 2004-2005 living in the Caracas colectivo stronghold of 23 de Enero. He estimated that in the entire district of 150,000 residents about 500 people were involved with colectivos.

They identify themselves, said Marmol Garcia, as “guardians of the revolution” and are sometimes involved in resolving disputes in their barrios or in protecting small businesses.

Opposition leaders have been complaining about them for years and Maduro himself presided over a ceremony last August in the 23 de Enero district in which 100 firearms were destroyed, according to the official newspaper Correo del Orinoco.

Yet a week into the protest wave, Maduro said his government would not accept “the campaign to demonize Venezuelan colectivos,” which he said “have organized to protect their communities.”

That’s certainly not what the masked attackers who identified themselves as colectivos were doing when they corralled about 40 male and female architecture students in a first-floor hall at the Central University of Venezuela for nearly an hour on March 19, ordering them at gunpoint to disrobe and robbing them of their belongings.

“They put a pistol in my face and said they were going to kill me,” said Jhonny Medrano, a 21-year-old student, describing how he and several classmates were beaten with sticks, pipes and pistols by the attackers, whom he quoted as saying, “We are the ones who are defending the government. We are Chavez. We are Maduro.”

The students said they were made to walk through a line of attackers, some of whom wore university firefighters uniforms, while they were beaten. As they left, the attackers filled the building with tear gas.

“This can’t keep happening,” architecture professor Hernan Zamora told the AP, crying inconsolably as he recalled the terror he felt. “This can’t keep happening.”

___

Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez reported from Valencia, and Frank Bajak from Caracas. Christopher Sherman contributed from Caracas.

Latino Obamacare Workers Arrested, Claim They Were Racially Profiled

Two young men going door-to-door to spread the word about the Affordable Care Act’s Monday deadline on Chicago’s West Side were arrested last week in an incident their employer described as “racist profiling.”

The two men — Felipe Hernandez, 20, and Kevin Tapia, 19 — were arrested in the city’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood last Tuesday after a resident called 911 to complain about what they reportedly suspected was a scam targeting the elderly, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The two men were detained for several hours and charged with soliciting unlawful business, a misdemeanor, because police say officers were not aware at the time that the two were working with the Grassroots Collaborative community group. A police spokesman told the Chicago Tribune on Sunday they expect a judge will dismiss the men’s case.

“I never would have thought informing people about Obamacare would get me in handcuffs,” Hernandez said at a Sunday news conference, according to the Sun-Times.

In reaction to the arrests, Grassroots Collaborative executive director Amisha Patel called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to apologize and “institute anti-racist training for all Chicago Police officers” in a statement.

“We will continue to outreach to Chicago residents and we will continue to stand against policies and police tactics that attempt to criminalize youth, criminalize people of color, and criminalize community organizing,” she added.

According to the statement, Grassroots Collaborative had received funding to conduct outreach for the Affordable Care Act to low-income Chicagoans.

Patel’s group also launched an online petition calling for the charges to be dropped and that the racial profiling incident be investigated.

A CPD spokesman denied to the Tribune that the men were targeted because of their race.

The two are expected to appear in court on May 16.

Spike Lee Takes On ‘Lame’ NYTimes Film Critic In Ongoing Gentrification Battle

Spike Lee’s war with the New York Times over gentrification isn’t going away any time soon: after the paper’s head film critic AO Scott took on the subject through a cinematic lens, Lee fired off an epic riposte through social media.

Scott’s article was just the latest in an ongoing conversation centered around gentrification in Brooklyn, dialogue that was thrust into the forefront anew after Lee was recorded publicly railing against a previous piece in the Times that suggested gentrification has spurred positive effects for the borough. That audio was first published in The Daily Intelligencer and went viral.

On Sunday, Scott published what Lee took to be a dig. “Whose Brooklyn Is It Anyway? Tracing Urban Change in Brooklyn From ‘Kotter’ To ‘Girls'” read, in part:

What’s the saying about people who live in glass brownstones? Nearly everyone who brings up gentrification is implicated in some way, and accusations of hypocrisy on Mr. Lee’s part were not long in coming. In a Daily News op-ed article, Errol Louis noted that Mr. Lee currently lives in the old-money oasis of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and also that when he lived in Brooklyn, he was both an agent and a beneficiary of the gentrification he now decries. Mr. Lee’s presence in Fort Greene in the 1990s — as an artist, an entrepreneur and a celebrity — contributed in no small measure to that area’s cachet. Fort Greene was colonized by successive waves of interlopers: bohemians and creative class types; recent graduates and fledgling families; bankers and lawyers.

The director’s open letter, which was published the following day via the social media platform WhoSay to — to eschew outside edits, Lee said — criticized Scott’s piece as a “lame, weak, not really thought out” argument that attempts to portray Lee as a hypocrite.

You stated in your Article that because I live in The Upper East Side and I’m talking about Gentrification that makes me Hypocrite. The fact is where I live has nothing to do with it. Your argument is OKEY DOKE. If you did your research you would see I’m a product of The New York Public School System, from Kindergarten to graduating from John Dewey High School in Coney Island. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and my Family moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn when I was Three. The Lees were the 1st Black Family to move into the predominantly Italian-American Brooklyn Neighborhood of Cobble Hill. My Parents bought their first home in 1968, a Brownstone in Fort Greene, where my Father still lives. Did you know his and a Next door Neighbor’s Brownstone were vandalized by Graffiti after my remarks on Gentrification at Pratt Institute? Curious you left that out of your article.

Since Lee’s post was published on Monday, Scott took to Twitter to respond:

.@SpikeLee thanks for this but I was not accusing you of anything, just reporting (and critiquing) someone else’s accusation.

— a. o. scott (@aoscott) March 31, 2014

Scott’s piece did largely paraphrase another article published in The New York Daily News, in which it was actually NY1’s Errol Louis who took aim at the director for calling out gentrifers, when Scott himself had moved to the affluent neighborhood of the Upper East Side.

Nevertheless, Lee’s letter concludes with an exhortation to Scott: “Mr. Scott, please learn ‘SPREADIN’ LOVE IS THE BROOKLYN WAY.’ WAKE UP WE BEEN HERE.”