The Black Community


Help for the Poor Could Solve Many District Problems
By Courtland Milloy
Washington Post, 2007-09-05

[An excerpt from Mr. Milloy’s opinion piece:]

The vast majority of the violent crime
occurs in [D.C.’s] poorest neighborhoods.
Guns and drugs are a big part of the problem, to be sure.
But even more so is mind-warping poverty.
Closed-circuit surveillance cameras and Shotspotter gunfire sensors
will never stop the carnage caused by
people engaged in desperate struggles to survive.

[I am a white man whose only knowledge of black-on-black violence
comes from what I read in newspapers, especially the Washington Post.
But from what I read there it sounds like,
for a very large fraction of the number of blacks
who are killed or seriously injured by violence,
the perpetrator is not motivated by a “desperate struggle for survival”
but rather purely by anger, over some perceived or real slight.
For examples of this,
see the 2009-12-25 story that mentions
a murder outside of LaVar Arrington’s upscale restaurant,
or the 2010-04-01 (!) story
D.C. police trace shootings that killed 4
through chain of events starting with a man's missing bracelet

(or am I being taken in by an April Fools Story?).]


D.C. Aims to Publicize City's HIV-AIDS Epidemic
By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post, 2008-09-24

The District will embark on
a large-scale “social marketing” campaign to publicize
the facts of its staggering HIV-AIDS epidemic and
the plans to help curb it,
D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said today.

“There have been some setbacks, some things we could’ve done better
in the past 20 months or so,”
Fenty said in response to a local advocacy group’s report issued today that
highlighted the mayor’s failure
to wage a more public battle against the virus.

But he said there are plans for
a “social marketing campaign to make people more aware” of the epidemic,
which is believed to infect one in 20 people in the District.

The District government has improved its performance this year
in battling the HIV/AIDS epidemic,
but the mayor needs to strengthen the city’s public awareness campaign
to combat one of the nation’s highest infection rates,
said the report released today by the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.

“The District must take aggressive action
to address the remaining obstacles to rolling back the epidemic,”
the report said.
“We of course welcome Mayor Fenty’s call
for HIV/AIDS to be his top health priority,

sustained, highly visible government efforts
to broadly raise awareness of the severity of the epidemic
have been absent and reflect a lack of urgency.”

That was something that Shannon L. Hader,
head of the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration, was working on.

“We do know that we have a modern epidemic in the District
and we need a modern response,” Hader said.

The city just signed a five-year contract with a marketing firm
to help spread the word because to make progress,
“we must reduce the ridiculous stigma”
attached to the virus, she said.

In its report,
the fourth since the advocacy group began tracking the District’s HIV/AIDS rate
in 2005,
it portrays
a government that is just beginning to grapple with the scope of the crisis.

It credits the city for making progress in basics such as
needle exchange programs, expanded testing
and education efforts in the schools.

The District is believed to have
the highest rate of new reports of AIDS in the United States
and it has
one of the highest rates of people living with AIDS
among major cities across the country,
according to the D.C. Department of Health.

Almost 12,500 people in the District were known to have HIV or AIDS in 2006,
the most recent year of statistics available.
HIV was spread through heterosexual contact in 37 percent of the cases,
compared with 25 percent of the cases attributed to men having sex with men --
the most common mode of transmission nationally.

New reports of AIDS in the District were coming in at the rate of
128 per 100,000, in contrast to
14 cases per 100,000 nationally.
One in 50 residents is thought to have the disease.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation,
the District has
the highest rate of AIDS among African Americans in the country:
277.5 for every 100,000 people.
It also has the highest rate of new cases reported among Hispanics:
109.2 for every 100,000 people.

In the last three years, the Appleseed report said,
the government has created
a “top-flight” leadership team at the city’s HIV/AIDS Administration
and it has expanded testing programs in city jails.
But it urged Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D)
to embark on a public awareness campaign, particularly in churches,
to reduce the stigma associated with the disease.

“One of the things that I’d like to see is
Fenty frankly speaking out more on this issue,”
said Walter Smith, Appleseed’s executive director.

“A very active mayor
could influence
the faith-based community,
the African American communities,
the Latino communities there.
It’s an issue that a lot people, even now,
are afraid to talk about.”

One reason HIV has remained pernicious in the District is that
most new AIDS cases here are found in
older people who may have been spreading the disease for years,
according to the Appleseed report.

Although Appleseed praised some of the city’s efforts to combat the disease,
it is waiting for new statistics
to determine whether the efforts have had any impact.

Improvements since the third report card, which was issued in December 2007,
include several grade changes:
routine HIV testing went from a B-plus to an A-minus,
syringe exchange services also went from B-plus to A-minus,
substance abuse treatment went from C-plus to B and
AIDS education in D.C. public schools went from D to C.

A tangible change in one area was in the needle exchange program,
which received $650,000 after Congress earlier this year
ended a ban on the city using public money for such efforts.
Needle exchanges often face opposition because of the connection to drug abuse.


A Message From Morehouse
By Colbert I. King
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2009-05-02

Eliminate young African American men,
and what would
police, jailers, social workers, and sports and entertainment moguls
do for a living?

After all, young black men live to get in trouble,
make babies,
act out on stage,
slam-dunk and dance in the end zone.
That, at least, is the mass-media-influenced image
that is accepted as “authentic”
by people who should know better.

Someone who does know better is Robert M. Franklin,
the president of Morehouse College,
the venerable, all-male, historically black Atlanta college
noted for building up and turning out
generations of outstanding leaders such as
Martin Luther King Jr.,
the theologian and writer Howard W. Thurman, and
prominent D.C. lawyer James L. Hudson.

Franklin’s remarks to students at an April 21 town hall meeting on the campus
didn’t make headlines.

excerpts from “The Soul of Morehouse and the Future of the Mystique”
are making the rounds in African American homes and in social settings,
thanks to the Internet and
a communications phenomenon called the “black express,”
which preceded and outlives the Pony Express.

[Perhaps the cited “communications phenomonon” is most effective in
middle-class black society.
But even so, surely the black community, at all levels,
has a very strong internal communications system,
one especially effective at communicating
any hint of actions by whites
that are considered “racist.”]


Amid Criticism, D.C. Plans Big Effort to Spread Word on AIDS
By Darryl Fears
Washington Post, 2009-06-02

On her drives from one end of the District to the other, Anita Hawkins is struck by the rarity with which she sees billboards or bus stop advertisements telling residents that AIDS is a major health threat in the city.

“I live in D.C., and now I don’t see it as visibly as nine years ago,” when the virus was killing mostly gay men and the city government mobilized to combat the disease, said Hawkins, an assistant professor at Morgan State University. “We had this big push, and then what happened?”

Hawkins is on to something. Despite evidence showing that advertising increases AIDS awareness, there’s almost no marketing to inform District residents of the problem’s magnitude.

A report by the city’s HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) says 3 percent of the District’s population has HIV and AIDS, the worst prevalence rate in the nation, easily surpassing the 1 percent rate of infection that makes up a severe epidemic.

The problem is probably worse than the report says. Researchers did not count people who are infected but untested. Shannon L. Hader, the HAA’s director, estimated that the actual rate is 5 percent.

In the fall, the D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice sharply criticized the city’s AIDS awareness effort, saying in a report that it lacked the urgency needed to address such a large epidemic. “You should definitely expect more,” said Phill Wilson, head of the Black AIDS Institute, which works to reduce infection in black communities.

City officials say a sustained social marketing blitz is coming.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s administration -- alarmed by research showing that heterosexuals in highly infected areas engage in unprotected sex under the mistaken belief that straight people are not at risk -- committed $500,000 annually for five years for a marketing campaign, Hader said.

But there’s doubt over whether HAA can mount a meaningful campaign in the expensive advertising market with that small amount. To be effective, advertising experts say, Hader needs millions more from Fenty (D) or more free public service announcements from television and radio stations, billboard companies and Metro.

“This should not be simply a public-health effort,” Hader said. “This should be a community effort helped by the folks who have the space.”

It’s unclear how aggressively the city has sought public service ads. A spokesman for one local television station, WRC (Channel 4), said no one in the NBC affiliate’s advertising division recalls being approached by HAA.

“We feel this is an area where a great deal more needs to be done,” said Walter Smith, executive director of D.C. Appleseed, a nonprofit group that addresses civic issues. “We believe it’s a leadership issue. I mean Fenty, in part, but there’s more than one leader in the city.”

Another activist, A. Toni Young, defended the city, saying an ad campaign by HAA last year played a strong role in calling attention to an underutilized program that provides free medication to people with HIV and AIDS. Enrollment in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program increased by 50 percent after ads aired on television and radio and were posted on billboards and public transportation, said Young, executive director of the Community Education Group, which engages in AIDS-related social marketing.

“It was very effective,” Young said.

Without the support groups and social networks backed by the HAA, advertising would have a short reach, Young said. “To batter HAA has been a fashionable thing to do, but if you took a bus across the river on Pennsylvania Avenue, you would see ads for the Act Against AIDS campaign,” Young said.

The Act Against AIDS campaign was started last month -- by the Obama administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not the city. But a couple of weeks ago, the HAA started experimenting with its marketing approaches.

The agency launched Realtalk, a promotion aimed at youths. A poster tells them to “drop in for some fun at the Freestyle Youth Center,” at 651 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, where they can get free tests for HIV and venereal diseases that can facilitate HIV transmission. They also can get information about other test sites and where to pick up free condoms.

The HAA’s office on New York Avenue abounds with AIDS-related posters that have faded from view: “Know Your Facts,” “Come Together DC -- Get Screened for HIV,” “Sex With One Means Sex With All” and “A Million Ways to Stop HIV: One Million Free Condoms for DC,” a giveaway campaign two years ago.

Next month, the HAA plans to announce a marketing campaign aimed at heterosexual couples, said the agency’s spokesman, Michael Kharfen, who is also in charge of marketing. The promotion will implore sexually active straight couples to get tested and to know their partner’s health status. Heterosexual sex is the fastest-rising mode of HIV transmission in the city, particularly among black residents in wards 6, 7 and 8.

Spreading the word about HIV and AIDS is difficult because of its stigma. Infected people say they feel isolated because of the illness, and straight people say they don’t want to be caught with a prevention brochure or researching the disease on the Internet because it might suggest homosexuality, a taboo in the black community.

The HAA will buy space on billboards and public transportation, but broader marketing will depend on public service ads. “We could wipe out our entire budget by buying a few ads on television and newspapers,” Kharfen said. “We can’t afford it.”

Tina Hoff, vice president and director of Media Entertainment Partnerships for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the foundation has gotten around the expense of advertising by working closely with MTV, Black Entertainment Television and Spanish-speaking Univision to urge minorities and young people to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

The marketing challenge faced by the District reflects a nationwide trend, according to a survey released last month by Kaiser. Americans who said they had “heard, seen or read a lot” about HIV and AIDS in the United States fell from 70 percent in 2004 to 45 percent this year. Those who specifically said they’ve viewed “a lot” of AIDS-related messaging fell from 34 percent to 14 percent.

As she stood at U and 16th streets, District resident Geneen Taylor said she would welcome more information than the few advertisements she has read on buses and heard on radio.

“I’m an African American woman, and we’re the fastest-growing group of new HIV infections,” Taylor said. “It’s always in the back of my mind. It’s frightening.”

Anger Has Its Place
New York Times, 2009-08-01

Cambridge, Mass.

No more than five or six minutes elapsed from the time the police were alerted to the possibility of a break-in at a home in a quiet residential neighborhood and the awful clamping of handcuffs on the wrists of the distinguished Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

If Professor Gates ranted and raved at the cop who entered his home uninvited with a badge, a gun and an attitude, he didn’t rant and rave for long. The 911 call came in at about 12:45 on the afternoon of July 16 and, as The Times has reported, Mr. Gates was arrested, cuffed and about to be led off to jail by 12:51.

The charge: angry while black.

The president of the United States has suggested that we use this flare-up as a “teachable moment,” but so far exactly the wrong lessons are being drawn from it — especially for black people. The message that has gone out to the public is that powerful African-American leaders like Mr. Gates and President Obama will be very publicly slapped down for speaking up and speaking out about police misbehavior, and that the proper response if you think you are being unfairly targeted by the police because of your race is to chill.

I have nothing but contempt for that message.

Mr. Gates is a friend, and I was selected some months ago to receive an award from an institute that he runs at Harvard. I made no attempt to speak to him while researching this column.

The very first lesson that should be drawn from the encounter between Mr. Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, is that Professor Gates did absolutely nothing wrong. He did not swear at the officer or threaten him. He was never a danger to anyone. At worst, if you believe the police report, he yelled at Sergeant Crowley. He demanded to know if he was being treated the way he was being treated because he was black.

You can yell at a cop in America. This is not Iran. And if some people don’t like what you’re saying, too bad. You can even be wrong in what you are saying. There is no law against that. It is not an offense for which you are supposed to be arrested.

That’s a lesson that should have emerged clearly from this contretemps.

It was the police officer, Sergeant Crowley, who did something wrong in this instance. He arrested a man who had already demonstrated to the officer’s satisfaction that he was in his own home and had been minding his own business, bothering no one. Sergeant Crowley arrested Professor Gates and had him paraded off to jail for no good reason, and that brings us to the most important lesson to be drawn from this case. Black people are constantly being stopped, searched, harassed, publicly humiliated, assaulted, arrested and sometimes killed by police officers in this country for no good reason.

New York City cops make upwards of a half-million stops of private citizens each year, questioning and frequently frisking these men, women and children. The overwhelming majority of those stopped are black or Latino, and the overwhelming majority are innocent of any wrongdoing. A true “teachable moment” would focus a spotlight on such outrages and the urgent need to stop them.

But this country is not interested in that.

I wrote a number of columns about the arrests of more than 30 black and Hispanic youngsters — male and female — who were doing nothing more than walking peacefully down a quiet street in Brooklyn in broad daylight in the spring of 2007. The kids had to hire lawyers and fight the case for nearly two frustrating years before the charges were dropped and a settlement for their outlandish arrests worked out.

Black people need to roar out their anger at such treatment, lift up their voices and demand change. Anyone counseling a less militant approach is counseling self-defeat. As of mid-2008, there were 4,777 black men imprisoned in America for every 100,000 black men in the population. By comparison, there were only 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white men.

While whites use illegal drugs at substantially higher percentages than blacks, black men are sent to prison on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men.

Most whites do not want to hear about racial problems, and President Obama would rather walk through fire than spend his time dealing with them. We’re never going to have a serious national conversation about race. So that leaves it up to ordinary black Americans to rant and to rave, to demonstrate and to lobby, to march and confront and to sue and generally do whatever is necessary to stop a continuing and deeply racist criminal justice outrage.

Professor Gates Should Skip the Blather and Sue
By Courtland Milloy
Washington Post, 2009-08-05

Now that our “national debate” on race has ended with beer in the Rose Garden, let’s get serious. If Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates believes that he has been subject to false arrest, racial profiling, harassment and public humiliation by police in Cambridge, Mass., then he should press his grievance in a court of law.

Or he should apologize for taking too lightly a police practice that sends thousands of African Americans and Hispanics to jail each year on trumped-up charges of “disorderly conduct.”

“A lot of people have encouraged him to file a lawsuit, but Skip has not decided whether to do it or not,” Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Gates’s attorney, told me Monday.

So what’s he waiting for?

“Right now, he’s looking forward to other constructive options: public forums on police conduct in minority communities and trying to deal with broader issues of racial profiling,” Ogletree said.

But what better forum than a courtroom -- with Gates, director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, as the plaintiff, represented by Ogletree, director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law?

Talk about a “teachable moment.”


'Stop snitches' campaign could be fatal for enablers
By: Gregory Kane
Examiner, 2009-10-19

A film as lost as the girl it glorifies
By Courtland Milloy
Washington Post, 2009-11-18

[This seems to me, a white man, to be an excellent column.
Here is what again seems to me to be a shocking quote Milloy found:]

Oprah [Winfrey] said:
“I realized that, Jesus,
I have seen that girl a million times.
I see that girl every morning on the way to work,
I see her standing on the corner,
I see her waiting for the bus as I’m passing in my limo,
I see her coming out of the drugstore, and she’s been invisible to me.”

[The [really my] question is:
“Is Oprah exaggerating, or is the black community really that deep in pathology?”
(See Milloy's column for some examples.)
By the way, when Milloy mentions
the rave reviews this movie received in the white media,
an example he rather surprisingly omits is
the feature review it received last Friday from his own newspaper, by Ann Hornaday.
This review also, as of 11-18, does not appear among the links from his column.]

Ex-Redskin's upscale Largo restaurant goes under in red ink
By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post, 2009-12-25

The Sideline opened in January 2008 catering to a stylish clientele.
Managers placed ads seeking attractive women as employees.
Expensive mixed drinks and a dress code added to the air of exclusivity.

But the restaurant's reputation took a hit in March, when
one man was killed and six other people were injured
after an argument ended in a burst of gunfire just outside the main entrance.


New Orleans’s Gender-Bending Rap
New York Times Sunday Magazine, 2010-07-25

Adrian Fenty's snubs of black women
make a win at the polls unlikely

By Courtland Milloy
Washington Post, 2010-08-25


What black women wanted from Fenty in exchange for their support
could not have been clearer ...
Fix decrepit school buildings,
update equipment and supplies,
get disruptive students out of the classrooms and hallways and
find some way to educate them, in spite of their self-destructive ways,
someplace else.

And if there was any way to help those stressed-out, two-job-holding mothers
to get more involved in their children’s education,
they would appreciate it more than he could ever know.

[Would having a working husband around help any?
At one time, the sequence was: first marriage, then kids.
Cf. the post ‘Selling cultural/social decay’.]

Whatever happened to family preservation?
by Jonetta Rose Barras
Washington Examiner, 2010-12-07

More and more the District government has been assuming
the traditional roles and responsibilities of parents,
said Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells.


[T]he District government, through its various public policies,
has undermined and systematically eroded the family structure.

Consider these facts:
Three-year-old children are placed for the entire day
in the care of the public schools.
If they attend after-school programs,
they don’t get home until late evening.
Many receive all their meals -- breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks --
in some nondescript cafeteria.
There are other examples of child snatching by the government.

“The general feeling is the parent doesn’t know best,” Wells told me.
“We’ve decided children are better off with [the government]
than with their parents.”


[Wells said]
“We expect [parents] to work
and we don’t expect them to raise their children.”

Why can’t they do both -- work and rear their children?
My mother did. Lots of people I know do.

Once upon a time, the government respected family.
In fact, in this city during the 1990s
and through Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ first term,
there was an emphasis on preserving and strengthening families --
regardless of any parental handicaps.
Somewhere along the way that strategy lost currency.
The government became surrogate parent.

But studies have shown that
children separated from their real parents too early
experience deep psychological problems.
The separation can be long-term and permanent or it can be episodic.
The results appear to be the same.

The government-as-surrogate-parent is an expensive proposition.
It accounts for the large and ever-increasing costs of entitlements.
The debate Wells has argued should occur in the District
could begin as elected officials look to
the projected 2012 budget shortfall of nearly $400 million.

The discussion can’t simply focus on dollars and cents, however.
The new mayor and council might also explore
the role government should play in protecting children.
They may also consider how to achieve that goal
without supplanting the responsibilities of parents
and weakening the most critical element of a healthy society:
a strong family structure.


Teen pregnancy perpetuates D.C. poverty
By Colbert I. King
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2011-01-08

Let’s take a closer look at
an issue that folks don’t like to talk about
because it means acknowledging an unpleasant truth:
Teen pregnancy in the District is helping to do us in.


Teen pregnancy contributes to a poverty that is measured in more than income.
We’re talking about a destabilizing poverty
that crushes the lives of boys and girls and the babies they create,
not to mention our family structure.
It is the kind of poverty that runs through the fabric of
our schools, courts, social services and the entire community.

So doesn’t it follow that the prevention of teen pregnancy
should be one of the city’s top priorities?
Of course.
But that calls for
acknowledging the relationship between single motherhood among the poor
and many of our city’s social ills.

That’s not a concern you hear expressed very often in city hall.
Neither is it voiced in places where social values are supposed to be taught,
including some of our homes and churches.

Oh, yes, as a community,
we can get all hot and bothered over bike lanes and dog parks.
But we turn a blind eye to neighborhoods filled with single, unwed mothers
unprepared to raise their fatherless babies.
Don’t even get me going on the “father” issue.

Our feigned blindness is doing both them and ourselves a disservice.


Teen pregnancy in D.C.: Treating the aftermath, not the causes
By Colbert I. King
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2011-03-19

Imagine reading that dozens of girls attending the National Cathedral School are pregnant or are raising children. That kind of news would be considered shocking and probably serve as the basis for declaring a state of emergency in our nation’s capital. Not so, however, when news of that nature is confined to the D.C. public school system.

There are two District senior high schools east of the U.S. Capitol where the number of pregnant or parenting teens is “in the range of 80 at each of the two schools,” I was told by a city health provider who asked for anonymity.

And the city’s response? A deafening silence. It’s not because no one knows about the situation. Certainly some of the students attending those schools know about their classmates’ condition. So, perhaps, do some teachers, principals and school nurses. The parents or guardians of those girls know. So, too, the boyfriends and hospital emergency rooms.

But the official response is muted. Maybe it’s because city officials really don’t know the full extent of the teen-pregnancy problem.

The city health department reported 1,083 D.C. females ages 15 to 19 who gave birth in 2008. Are those girls still in school? Did any of them graduate high school? What about their children? Does anyone know? Or care?


The thrust of what we are doing is aimed at helping pregnant and parenting students succeed. Of course we must. The federal Title IX law protects students from being discriminated against because of pregnancy, marital status, having a child or having had an abortion. Schools must, according to the law, provide these girls with the same access to school and to extracurricular activities as they would offer anyone else.

But how about spending time and energy on the prevention of teen pregnancy? Time was, girls got pregnant because contraception was ineffective or not used. They didn’t want to get pregnant. Today, we have a different phenomenon on our hands.

Some of the girls want to get pregnant, health providers and teen-pregnancy experts have told me.

Chalk up the desire to have a baby to low self-esteem and a wish to make the boyfriend happy. Or to the belief that they will be happy if they have a baby. Or to the chance to gain standing among girlfriends who have also had babies. Or to the failure to fully understand the negative consequences of having a child during adolescence. Or to poor parental supervision. Or to all of the above.

The fact is that the direction, support and strong parental connections necessary to help girls navigate their teens are missing.

That is what’s needed most of all. And in this city, that’s what is in short supply.

The 'Stop Snitching' Thing Has Gone Overboard
By Gregory Kane
BlackAmericaWeb.com, 2011-04-01 (Also in the Washington Examiner)