Friday, December 25, 2009

Latino Internet Use on the Rise

In the Castaneda household, where five people share one laptop, use of the Internet has gone up. “From using Twitter to checking email, downloading music and applying for jobs, everyone I know is using the internet more and more,” Aaron Castaneda told The Final Call. “I’m especially using it more on my phone too since I can get internet on it.”

That’s what a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Internet and American Life Project found. Latino adults are increasing their use of the Internet faster than other ethnic groups.

Between 2006 and 2008, the percentage of adult Latinos in the US who used the Internet grew to 64 percent from 54 percent, according to the survey. Among whites, Internet use increased to 76 percent from 72 percent. Blacks saw the smallest overall gain - two percentage points to 63 percent.

The report found that Latinos who were born in the US were much more likely to go online than those born outside the country. This gap persisted even after accounting for differences in education levels, household income and English proficiency.
Latinos with low incomes went online less than those with higher incomes.

“The survey results come as no surprise to those in my industry,” says John Abbott, CEO of Quepasa Corporation, owner of, an online social network targeting the Latino community that is seven million strong. 

The site recently announced that it is steadily gaining one million new subscribers each month and has generated five million unique visits per month.

“Our impressive growth in membership is attributable to Latinos’ distinctive social dynamics and their strong desire to keep close ties with friends and family abroad or simply across town.”

Read more about this is The Final Call Newspaper.....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Peace Building Relationships at Home and in the World

It’s Saturday and time for my workshop. I am presenting with Mrs. Deepa Ra from India. She’s the Director of the Manford Institute, which helps companies resolve conflict.

I speak first and talk about the need to create cultural cues that help guide youth toward marriage. I tell the story of life in the US where once upon a time there where societal signals that led young people to consider marriage. I shared with them that children used to sing, “Michael and Janice sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Janice with the baby carriage.”

That simple song gave an order to the way things were supposed to go. It told children without telling them that first there was love, then there was marriage and then there was a baby carriage.

Old school music reinforced that idea. Songs by the Temptations, the Supremes, Aretha Franklin and the O’Jays sang of love with responsibility. Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers sang, I am Your Man. “Now my life can begin for I am your man.” Brenda Holloway said, “Baby, I’m Yours.”

American culture supported the institution of marriage and the Black community had high rates of marriage. My audience, a mix of people from around the world, was captivated by what I was saying. It was breaking news for them.

I went on to say that things changed in the late 60’s and 70’s. The cultural cues began to disappear. Sex began to sell everything and the message of sex without responsibility began to take over. The song changed. Today it's first comes sex, then the baby carriage, there is no love and little chance for marriage.

I spoke at Morehouse College November 19 and asked the young men to name a song for me where a Black man is saying to a Black woman that he loves her. They looked at me in amazement. They couldn’t name one, not one song.

I shared this with my audience who were increasingly horrified at our condition. I speak on our plight constantly with mixed reviews but it wasn’t until I experienced the reaction of people from abroad who could not even comprehend such a condition in a people did I realize just how really, really bad our situation is.

Marriage and family are what adults do to build their society and continue their legacy. There are famous families around the world; there are even famous criminal families. These families of note are comprised of husband, wives and children. There are no famous single parent families.

I was asked questions like, what is the problem, why don’t Blacks want to get married, why don’t they understand the importance of marriage and family? The answers were too complicated for them to understand, racism, destruction of the Black man, white supremacy, high incarceration rates and the list goes on and on.

The session made my work even more necessary and important. This is the time and what must be done as Minister Farrakhan has said.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Only

Growing up Black in America many of us are used to being “the only” Black in class, in the school, in the community, in the whatever. It’s a distinct position that my grandmother would code as being “the only fly in the buttermilk”. It makes a difference because if that’s your experience wherever you go you look for others like yourself. I was the only Black girl in my sixth grade class after my parents moved from DC to the suburbs. I am sensitive to being “the only”.

Well on my third day in Manila what stood out most was not my workshop on peace building in the family which went very well, not the concern the participants from various countries had for the plight of Black people who have such miserably low marriage rates but the fact that during a visit to the Mall of Asia (yes, I said mall) our group of four Blacks from the US were “the only” Blacks in this huge mall. Let me be clear, not the only Blacks from the US but the only Blacks from the planet, Africa, Caribbean, or wherever. We were just “the only”.

There were tens of thousands of shoppers in this mall. I mean tens of thousands and we were the only Blacks. It didn’t really occur to me until we were about to leave and were sitting near the entrance waiting for the rest of our group to return. I started paying attention to the people coming and going. I started looking for myself in the crowd.

Well the Mall of Asia is fabulous. It has 5,000 parking spaces, goo gobs of stores, a movie theatre including an IMAX theatre, bowling alley, Olympic size ice-skating rink, an open air Music Hall and a Science Discovery Center. It is the second largest mall in the Phillipines and the fourth largest mall in the word. 200,000 shoppers come there daily. The exchange rate was better than the hotel, the bargains were great and with so many people shopping the recession seems to have skipped Manila.

It seems Black people had skipped the mall too and as I recollect my travels through the city I don’t remember seeing any Blacks in the city either. My group seemed to be “the only” everywhere we went.

More to come…

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Thriller in Manila

I first heard about Manila while listening to my dad talk about the third fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975, arranged by boxing promoter Don King.

Manila is the capital of the Phillipines and has a slightly larger population than Philadelphia. It is the second most populous area in south east Asia, is southeast of Hong Kong and northeast of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The main religion is Catholicism. While many speak English for business and education the main language is Tagalog.

The Ali vs. Frazier bout was called the “Thriller in Manila” and is considered one of the greatest matches of the 20th century. Muhammad Ali would recall, “It was like death. Closest thing to dyin' that I know of," and he was the winner.

Well, I had my own thriller in Manila on day two of my trip. It’s Friday and I journeyed to find The Golden Mosque in an area called Quiapo for Jummah prayer. I am not the adventurous type but today I was. I spoke to the concierge about traveling to the Mosque. How much would the taxi be? Could I get another one there to come back? How far away was it and what was the neighborhood like? I compared what she told me with my internet research. If I was going on an adventure I wanted to have as much information as possible. Finally before I left the hotel, I left a message with Dr. Linda Malone-Colon from Hampton University so someone would know where I was going just in case. Just in case what? I didn’t want to consider the possibilities. I watch way too much tv.

So off I go in the taxi to Quiapo. My driver wasn’t sure where the Mosque was so we stopped twice for directions. After speaking to a police officer he turned to me and asked, “Are you Muslim?” Considering the recent Muslim Christian conflicts in nearby Mindanao I wasn’t sure what exactly he was asking but without hesitation I said, “Yes”.

It didn’t seem to matter because soon I was outside the opening to the Golden Mosque and Cultural Center. He couldn’t drive down the street because so many were headed to congregational prayer. I got out of the taxi and into a jitney (bicycle driven) and was taken the rest of the way.

This was my first Jummah prayer service in a foreign country and followed the women to the entrance. Not a similar entrance for the men like at Mosque Maryam in Chicago or Masjid Muhammad in DC. We went to the back of the Mosque as in the back of the bus.

I entered a world I had only heard and read about. The mothers of civilization, women who rock the cradle and teach the children were behind a wall where they could be neither seen nor heard. But the converse was also true we could neither see nor hear the Iman.

We sat patiently and waited. It was a strange experience that the other women seemed perfectly comfortable with. I was not. I wanted the freedom, justice and equality of Islam that I was used to receiving in the states. I wanted these women to know that Islam had more to offer them than this. I wanted them to know the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I wanted them to hear the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Alas, that was not to be on this day so after prayer I left the Mosque and made my way through the crowded streets of Manila to find a cab back to the Manila Hotel. Careful not to look like the tourist I was, I held my purse close and walked fast. While tempted by begging children, mothers with deformed babies and handicapped men I kept going. I made it to the main street but couldn’t get a taxi to take me to the hotel.

Finally a kind soul told me I was on the wrong side of the street. I made my way through the underpass to the other side and was escorted to a taxi for 40 pesos. I arrived safely back to the hotel surviving my thriller in Manila.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day One in Manila

My trip to Manila started Tuesday morning, December 8. I left via Korean Air from Dulles Airport. It was a 14-hour flight to Seoul, Korea. I thought I was prepared for the long flight. I downloaded three movies from Itunes to watch on my ipod. First it was Inside Man for the second time, then Mr. and Mrs. Smith for the first time and finally Harlem Nights for the umpteenth time. I then had a four-hour layover until my flight to Manila. From Seoul it was another four hours to the Philippines. We were greeted with 79-degree weather at 11:30 pm Wednesday night. My total trip took 24 hours. It felt like it too.

There were other Global Peace Conference attendees on the flight. After clearing customs, we were met by Thomas and Mark Anthony, who guided us to our transportation. I arrived at the famous Manila Hotel at 1:00 am and checked in.

Hours later after trying to recovering from jet lag, I looked out my window at the Manila Bay. I read that this is the same hotel that General McArthur stayed in while he commanded the US Army during World War II.

It is a very beautiful hotel. I spent most of my first day getting acclimated to my surroundings. The internet is free, my room is huge, the bathroom has a tub, a shower, a bidet and a TV. They have 24 hour room service, my meals are free also and the plugs use my universal electric converter. Yeah!

The conference opened with a banquet. It was a welcome not only to Manila but also to the Global Peace Convention. Attendees are here representing 28 nations and various faith traditions. The people are warm and friendly. The women like everywhere are dressed to impress. They even have Halal selections at every meal. Halal is an Arabic word that means permissible. Muslims eat a certain diet that where possible should be prepared by Halal means. I’m eating halal everyday.

The group from the US includes (from right to left) Alan Inman, a consultant from New Rochelle, Dr. Jefferey Johnson, president of the National Partnership on Community Leadership in DC, Dr. Linda Malone-Colon, chair of the psychology department at Hampton University, me and John Breyer from Brazil. His organization is called Service for Peace and he arranges exchanges for students to do service projects in Brazil.

The program ended with the Phillipine dance troupe. Day One is done and I’m headed to my room. More to come.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Obesity: Worse Than You Thought

WASHINGTON, DC – Blacks are digging a grave with their mouths, killing themselves, slowly, and quietly, little by little, every day. They are more overweight and obese than any other racial group and at risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and certain types of cancers.

New research by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) reported November 5, that each year approximately 100,500 cancers occurring in the US can be attributed to excess body fat.

The figure underscores the central role that overweight and obesity are now understood to play both in the development of cancer and in cancer survivorship, said researchers.

"We now know that carrying excess body fat plays a central role in many of the most common cancers," said Laurence Kolonel, MD, PhD, Deputy Director of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii at a press conference. "And it's clearer than ever that obesity's impact is felt before, during and after cancer - it increases risk, makes treatment more difficult and shortens survival”.

Khalilah Ali is a nurse practitioner that travels the streets of Dallas providing home health care to throw away patients that others won’t treat. They are below low income in her words and are 95 percent Black and 65 percent obese.

“When you’re on their territory you get a full picture of their health status. They feel comfortable telling you everything because you’re not just treating an illness you’re treating a person. Poverty and oppression has impacted their lives. Many still eat a slave diet like they are still on the plantation,” she told The Final Call.

“I visit patients weighing 350 pounds sitting on their porch eating a ham sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise and drinking red Kool Aid. I’m the first person to tell them to stop eating pork. We have less cancer than others but we die from it more than others.”

From Dallas get on 20 East and two states later is Mississippi home to the city of Jackson, home to the U.S.'s largest population of Blacks. The magnolia state annually weighs in as America's fattest state.

The prevalence of obesity among Blacks in Mississippi is even greater than the national average for Blacks, especially among Black women. And more alarming, increasing numbers of Black children in the state are being diagnosed with obesity-related illnesses that in the past had been only found in adults.

"I used to be scared to step out there on the issue of Obesity but I realized that I wasn't being fair because I have a public platform and I need to use it for good," said Star Jones, host of the BET News special HEART OF THE CITY: DYING TO EAT IN JACKSON.

"I am not the 'poster child' for a specific weight loss method but I am a true advocate for adopting a healthy lifestyle because with all humility, doing so has saved my life."

HEART OF THE CITY: DYING TO EAT IN JACKSON revealed a perfect storm of socio-economic, cultural, environmental elements and individual lifestyle choices that have caused so many of Jackson's citizens to become obese. Almost one of every three Mississippians has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater -- the dividing line between being overweight and being obese.

Read more in The Final Call Newspaper

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thanks But No Thanks

Be careful when banks offer to do you a favor. It could cost you up to $35 each time they pay a charge you have insufficient funds for. Called “Courtesy Overdraft Services” banks provide this favor as a help to their clients who are either faced with having the charge denied or having it honored.

“If the bank bounces the check, the consumer will pay a fee to the bank; the consumer will likely pay a fee to the person to whom the check was written; the consumer may also face late payment fees and delinquencies if the check was written to pay a bill; and the consumer may also be at risk of violating state laws pertaining to bad checks,” testified Richard Hunt of the Consumers Banking Association before the House Committee on Financial Services, October 30.

“If the bank denies a debit card transaction, the consumer may be faced with a plate full of food or a cart full of groceries and no way to pay for them. With this in mind, it is not hard to understand why consumers generally prefer that their overdraft transactions be honored, even if they result in overdraft fees.”

But consumers are fighting mad about this courtesy. Horror stories abound of people who had to pay the $35 courtesy fee.

“I wish they had just denied the charge,” Sheila Pinkney told The Final Call. “I thought I had the money but was short. Just deny it don’t pay it and then charge me $35 each time I do it. My shopping spree cost me an additional $105. The least they could do is ask me if I want them to do me a favor and I would politely say, no sir.”

Congressional proposals to rein in abusive overdraft practices are long overdue, Center for Responsible Lending executive Eric Halperin also testified.

Mr. Halperin, director of CRL's Washington office, explained that bank overdraft programs, which cost consumers $23.7 billion last year and are among the most predatory lending products on the market.

"Charging people a $35 fee for a small, debit card transaction is unacceptable," he said. "It doesn't save them bounced check fees, it simply skims money from their account and puts them in a bind."

Read more in The Final Call...

90% of Black Children Eat Meals Paid for by Food Stamps

When David Peyton lost his construction job, things looked bad but when his girlfriend Josie Williams lost hers too things got worse. He knew they had hit rock bottom when Ms. Williams went to apply for food stamps.

“I didn’t want food stamps but we really needed them. We have three children and just couldn’t afford everything off unemployment. We needed help. I had lived to be 45 and never had government assistance but times are really hard now,” he told The Final Call.

Nearly half of American children – including 90 percent of Black children and 90 percent of children who spend their childhoods in single-parent households – will eat meals paid for by food stamps at some point during childhood (one year to 20 years old), reports Thomas Hirschl, Cornell professor of development sociology and co-author of a study published in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine

“This is a warning sign that our children are at risk. The ideas of how children are taken care of go back to the times of Ben Franklin with individual responsibility. Children are exposed to risk and suffering because of these outdated ideas,” he told The Final Call.

The report explains that nearly one-quarter of U.S. children will live in homes that receive food stamps for five or more years. Food stamps are important indicators of poverty and risk of food insecurity, “two of the most detrimental economic conditions affecting a child’s health,” says Mr. Hirschl.

Read more in The Final Call

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Education Writers Association Conference

For a new education writer like me the conference was definitely a “Reality Check.” From the new media sessions at the Washington Post to opening remarks by Secretary Arne Duncan, to the incredible workshops, the exhibits and the wealth of information from the speakers and attendees it was well worth the time.

There’s a saying that the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. Well, I second that emotion. While I learned how much I didn’t know about the field of education (reality check) here’s some highlights of what I did learn.

Blogs allow readers to get involved with the story. “Let them in the reporting process,” said Emily Alpert of the Voice of San Diego, “Have a personal relationship with readers.”

Non-profit news outlets are successfully making their mark in the industry. Elizabeth Green of explained that the site was developed by a philanthropist and it’s innovating new models on how to pay for journalism.

Facebook can be used for reporting. Pat Thornton, chief editor of said, “The easier you make it for people to reach you, the more they will.” Twitter is also a good place for research. Lots of news is broken on Twitter. “

“It’s a great way to start a conversation, ask questions and get quotes,” said Mr. Thorton. “Put your blog entry on Twitter and Facebook. Use a tiny URL. Twitter and Facebook can be connected.”

Facebook is a news source he explained. It’s great for education writers because it was started for students. Be social. People get news from Facebook and they give news. Journalism is now a two-way conversation. People are willing to ask questions. Organize a weekly chat. The biggest thing is the interaction between people.

The research about high school dropouts goes all the way back to the 1870’s. Today 1.2 million youth drop out each year. Near 50 percent of Black, Latino and Native American students drop out. It’s called the “Million Dollar Mistake”.

Two thousand schools account for 66 percent of dropouts. By the third grade a student’s attendance, behavior and academic performance can predict whether or not they will drop out.

Denise Levano, 23, an immigrant who came to this country in 2006, spoke about why she dropped out of school and returned. She will graduate next month. “I left to work. I came back because I don’t want
 to be a waitress all my life. I want to do something different. I don’t have my dad encouraging me. It’s just me and my sister.” She’s going to college in the fall.

John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises spoke of the power of a caring adult in the life of a child. Ms. Levano’s counselor was instrumental in getting her back to school.

One size education doesn’t fit all. Some students need early morning classes, night school, and web based. Real life events can cause dropouts. So can boredom in the classroom. Young people start dropping out a year or two before they actually drop out.

The war of words between Marty Nemko, a college consultant and Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust about alternative education versus college readiness programs was an eye opener. Is college for everyone? Ninety seven percent of Black parents think so. But too many Black students are dropping out. Give them another option before they give up, drop out or get pregnant explained Mr. Nemko.

Options are what education writing is all about, so many stories, so little time. That’s my reality check. Tell me yours. Email me at, tweet me @nisaislam or hit me up on Facebook. I’m being social.

Denise Levano speaks at the workshop Dropping Out: Why Kids Leave and What Brings Them Back. The workshop panel included Theresa Vargas, Washington Post, John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises, and Danielle Mezer from the Mayor’s office in Nashville.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Understanding White Privilege

Across America in small cities and large white people are being educated about their privilege.  They are learning that just as their whiteness has led to oppression and institutional racism, the flip side is a set of benefits and privileges that only whites share.

“Understanding white privilege is another framework to combating racism.  It’s another tool in the struggle against white supremacy and racism,” explained Tim Wise, an author and lecturer on white privilege also called anti racist teachings to The Final Call.

“It started with the abolitionist struggle, then the anti segregation movement, then nationalism.  White privilege is a way for white to explore how race impacts our lives.  It’s a framework aimed at liberal and progressive white folks.  We have to get white folks to understand how racism affects us too.  Other than that the work we do to combat it is just charity or patronizing.”

He added, “We have to challenge white privilege, challenge white supremacy and what it does

to us as the dominant group.  It has negative affects and consequences for us as well.”

What is White Privilege?

Dr. W. E. B. Dubois is credited with being the first to identify and discuss White Privilege.  In 1935 he wrote of the “Psychological Wages of Whiteness” in his book Black Reconstruction in America.

“It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage. They were given public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white. They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent on their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness,” he wrote.

“Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them. White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and they cost anywhere from twice to ten times as much per capita as the colored schools. The newspapers specialized on news that flattered the poor whites and almost utterly ignored the Negro except in crime and ridicule.”

The White Privilege Conference

In the 1990’s a young, Black Eddie Moore Jr. was inspired.  “I was always interested in creating a space to have tough conversations like was Jesus Black, should we spank our children and what about burning the American flag.  I was working on my masters when I heard about white privilege.  I felt we needed a larger venue for the conversation,” he told The Final Call.

That larger venue started in 1999 with the first White Privilege Conference.

“It’s about building relationships with people interested in the topic.  I was living in Iowa at the time and white people started attending because of the relationships.  There were 150 at the first one and this year we had 925,” he said.

“The conference has gone beyond conversation to folks making a commitment to be action oriented and to be held accountable.  It’s strong and growing.  We’ve developed relations

hips nationally.  I believe you do the tougher work more effectively when you work with people you love.”

Nearly 1000 mostly white people from around the country gathered in Memphis, city of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, April 1-4, to talk about the challenges of ending oppression and institutional racism at the 10th Annual White Privilege Conference.

 “This conference is about giving people the skills and tools to make change in their lives and in America,” said Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., now director of diversity for Bush College in Seattle, Washington.

For four days adult and youth participants went to workshops such as Discovering White and Male Privilege: The Surprising Journey, The Joy of Unlearning Racism , We Oppose Racism and Unearned Privilege..So, Now What?, and listened to keynote speakers.

Dr. Frances Kendall, a diversity consultant, gave the opening keynote.  “I spoke to the audience about passing the mantle

and calling forth a new generation of change agents.  There is a great deal of work that needs to be done on changing white privilege and institutional racism,” 

she told The Final Call.

Organizers explain that the WPC examines the challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team-building strategies to work toward a more equitable world. 


Author Tim Wise shows his book White Like Me at the White Privilege Conference.

Youth attendees at the White Privilege Conference surround Dr. Tim Moore.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Saviour's Day in Photos

By now you I'm sure you've read lots about Saviour's Day. Here's a short slideshow of pictures to tell the story. Many thanks to Brothers Mikal, Jesse, and Askia for their photos.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Big Event Muslim

That term is an inside joke referring to Muslims you only see at big events. Well my blog may be just as guilty. The last time I posted was at the Democratic Presidential Convention in Denver last summer (a big event) and here I am posting again after Saviour's Day 2009, another big event. Please forgive the delay and I appreciate you reading my posts. I will do much better this time and you can bank on a post at least once a week if not more.

If you missed Saviour's Day you really missed something special. The Minister's address was profound. It needs to be printed and studied. It was a blue print for our success. There were so many new and exciting events this year from workshop titles to new presenters to Mother Tynnetta's Ta Ha Suite, a classical symphonic suite featuring classical ballet and musicians from around the world but in this post I want to tell you about the preshow. A preshow at Saviour's Day? Yes. Bro. Robert, student minister over the Southwest Region based in Houston, and I hosted a brief preshow before the Minister's address to highlight the different events at Saviour's Day. We interviewed Bro. Akbar who talked about international affairs and Sis. Ava who introduced the new Study Guide 21. It was a big hit. If you missed it, you really missed it.

Here's a clip of what you missed. Photos by Bro. Jesse Muhammad.