Tag Archives: African Americans

African American pride in St. Albans Queens

The work of photographer Elias Williams is featured in the New York Times. The photos were taken in the Queens neighborhood of St. Albans where Mr. Williams grew up. While the neighborhood is mostly black and middle class, like many communities across the country, it’s been hurt by the 2008 foreclosure crisis.


The result of Mr. Williams’s work is a growing collection of portraiture, documentary and street photography that shows legacy and pride.

“There’s a whole bunch of stories to tell from the people who lived there,” he said. “I feel there are too many photos of black people who struggle in America and there’s not much else.”

There is a quietness in Mr. Williams’s photos, but also the steady strength of day-to-day life. The photos are images of what makes a community home.

You can follow Elias Williams at Instagram.

African American broadband use increases

The number of African Americans using broadband at home has increased by 22 percent from last year.  Overall the use of broadband increased by only a few percentage points from last year but it’s black folks who are seeing the largest increase. That’s good news.

African American Adoption of Broadband Surges

By: Mark Hachman

Although the percentage of Americans using broadband at home increased just slightly from last year, the number of African-Americans reporting access to broadband at home surged by 22 percent, a report said Wednesday.

According to a report compiled by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 66 percent of Americans said they had broadband access at home in 2010, versus 63 percent in 2009. Ethnically, 67 percent of whites reported home broadband; English-speaking Hispanics reported 66 percent; and blacks reported 56 percent.

A year ago, however, 46 percent of African-Americans polled by the organization reported broadband at home, a gain of 10 percentage points, or 22 percent in absolute numbers.

Pew polled 2,252 adults by phone between the end of April and May, including 744 reached via a cell phone. Users were asked to state whether they connected to the Internet via a dial-up landline, or with some form of broadband, including a cable modem, DSL, or wireless, according to Aaron Smith, research specialist with Pew.

When asked why African-Americans reported such a large jump, Smith said that Pew’s research didn’t examine the reason. “But we’ve been picking up on it for a couple of years now; not necessarily with broadband, but with higher levels of engagement with the Internet in general,” he said.

You can read the entire article here at PC Magazine.com.

Wanted: Ebonics translators

Do you speak or understand Ebonics, which is also known as African American Vernacular English/African American English? Well the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) wants you. According to CNN.com, the DEA is looking for nine people to translate conversations picked up on wiretaps.  According to the article:

“DEA’s position is, it’s a language form we have a need for,” Sanders said. “I think it’s a language form that DEA recognizes a need to have someone versed in to conduct investigations.”

The translators, being hired in the agency’s Southeast Region — which includes Atlanta, Georgia; Washington; New Orleans, Louisiana; Miami, Florida; and the Caribbean — would listen to wiretaps, translate what was said and be able to testify in court if necessary, he said.

I remember during the 1990’s there was some controversy over the Oakland, CA School Board wanting to teach Ebonics to black students.

The term “Ebonics” — a blend of “ebony” and “phonics” — became known in 1996, when the Oakland, California, Unified School District proposed using it in teaching English. After the school board came under fire, it voted to alter the plan, which recognized Ebonics as a distinct language.

The revised plan removed reference to Ebonics as “genetically based” and as the “primary language” of students. The board also removed a part that some understood to indicate that African-American students would be taught in Ebonics, although the board denied such intentions.

My problem with teaching children Ebonics as their primary language is how will they function in the real world? With the exception of the DEA soliciting Ebonic translators, how many companies are looking to hire folks who speak Ebonics?  If you work in customer service how are folks suppose to understand what you’re saying?  Young blacks, especially young black males have enough strikes against them.  If you want to speak Ebonics in your home amongst family and friends who don’t have a problem with it that’s fine.  Not all black folks speak Ebonics.  But it’s a whole different world when you step outside your comfort zone.

Check out this video from Newsy.com which talks about the DEA controversy.  Thanks to Kyle from Newsy.com.

Pontchartrain Park

August 29th marks the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  CNN.com has an interesting article about families in the Pontchartrain Park section of New Orleans who are banding together to save their historical community.

(CNN) — “This can be yours,” the black-and-white newspaper advertisement promised above an image of a tree-lined ranch home in Pontchartrain Park.

At the bottom, it said “Available to Negroes.”

It was the 1950s in segregated New Orleans, Louisiana, and the promise of a slice of suburbia for black Americans lured hundreds to the new community.

That included Meldon Woods, an Air Force corporal who had been given a home loan for his military service through the GI Bill. He and his wife, Audrey, a schoolteacher at the time, purchased a two-story home in 1957 where they raised their four children.

Fifty years later, he was forced to evacuate that home as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans on August 29, 2005.

Actor Wendell Pierce, who starred in the HBO series The Wire and currently stars in the HBO series Treme is one of many long time residents who’s helping to rebuild Ponchartrain Park.

Pierce staged a massive effort to get the city of New Orleans to start rebuilding the neighborhood’s blighted and abandoned properties.

Only 30 percent of the neighborhood’s rsidents had returned two years after Katrina — the second slowest rate of return in New Orleans behind the city’s devastated and impoverished Ninth Ward, according to Pierce.

Ponchartrain Park, a neighborhood in New Orleans was one of the first suburban style communities developed by African Americans for African Americans. It was developed after World War II.  Ponchartrain Park was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina.

On August 21 and 22 CNN has a special titled New Orleans Rising.  The show will feature the residents who along with Wendell Pierce are helping to get Pontchartrain Park back on it’s feet.  The special will air at 8:00 ET.

When I read about the history of Ponchartrain Park, it reminded me of the neighborhood I grew up in when I was living in Atlanta.  During the 1960s my family and I lived in the Collier Heights neighborhood of Atlanta.  Collier Heights was the first community in the United States built by African Americans for African Americans.  You have to remember that like Ponchartrain Park, Collier Heights was developed and built in the South during the days of racial segregation in the 1950’s.  We eventually moved from Atlanta to Silver Spring, Maryland in 1968.  You can read more about the history of Collier Heights here and here.


While checking out my google alerts I saw an item about a new website aimed at African Americans called TheGrio.com.  But as one of the Grio team members states: the site is for anyone and everyone who has an interest in its content.


NBC Universal launched TheGrio which focuses on news and video. The site will gather content from NBC News, its own NBC affiliates and MSNBC.   According to the TheGrio.com site:

TheGrio.com is the first video-centric news community site devoted to providing African Americans with stories and perspectives that appeal to them but are underrepresented in existing national news outlets. TheGrio features aggregated and original video packages, news articles, and blogs on topics from breaking news, politics, health, business, and entertainment, which concern its niche audience.

TheGrio is brought to you through the cooperation of NBC News and the production team that brought you the documentary film, Meeting David Wilson.

The goal of TheGrio is to be the news portal that satisfies the desire of African Americans to stay informed and connected with their community. TheGrio’s editorial mandate is to focus on news and events that have a unique interest and/or pronounced impact within the national African Americans audience.

Yes they can live in perfect harmony

I was reading the Washington Post Express during my lunch break today. One of the sections I love reading is the B.I.O.(By Invitation Only) section which features upcoming weddings and union.  I enjoy reading about how different couples met. Well one couple in particular caught my eye. You see they’re both black but he’s a Republican and she’s a Democrat. In the black community if you admit you’re a Republican it’s like you slapped someone’s mama.  Check out the article below.  Even the title is cool.


I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the part about how they both pushed back away from the table and she was close to showing him the door before the relationship even started. I’m glad to read that they got over their political differences. 🙂

Anyway Jonathan Johnson and La Dale Felton are getting married on June 20 so congrats to the happy couple.

Wells Fargo Bank and their ghetto loans

A federal lawsuit was filed last year in Baltimore accusing Wells Fargo Bank of intentionally steering black home buyers, including those with good credit, towards high interest subprime mortgage loans.  The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun have articles about this fiasco. According to one former Wells Fargo loan officer:

As she describes it, Beth Jacobson and her fellow loan officers at Wells Fargo Bank “rode the stagecoach from hell” for a decade, systematically singling out blacks in Baltimore and suburban Maryland for high-interest subprime mortgages.

Beth Jacobson also admitted other predatory lending practices:

Another former bank employee, Elizabeth Jacobson, a top Wells Fargo subprime loan officer, outlined techniques she and others used to turn prime borrowers into subprime borrowers, including talking them into borrowing the full amount even if they could afford a large down payment.

And another former loan officer has stated the following:

Former loan officer Tony Paschal said Wells Fargo targeted black communities for bad loans by focusing on African-American churches, using black employees as its public face, and using software to translate marketing materials into various languages, including something called “African American.”

He also said that other employees called subprime loans in predominantly minority neighborhoods “ghetto loans” and used racial slurs, including “mud people.”

It’s amazing to read about the mess that went on behind the scenes that led to the foreclosure crisis.  Both loan officers mentioned above stated that the bank provided bonuses to loan officers who referred borrowers who would have normally qualified for prime loans to the subprime loan division. Beth Jacobson earned $700,000 one year for her stagecoach from hell predatory practices.

The New York Times article mentions that Wells Fargo specifically targeted Baltimore, southeast Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland.  I guess that explains why Prince Georges County has one of the highest foreclosure rates in Maryland.

Check out Bank Accused of Pushing Mortage Deals on Blacks and Ex-employees claim racism in Wells Fargo subprime loan push.

Los Angeles couple promote increase in African American marriages

With all the talk about gay marriage and seeing an increase in some black folks becoming more outspoken against gay marriage, a Los Angeles couple is seeking to increase marriages amongst African Americans. La Grande and Sonja Mason teach marriage education courses through their nonprofit group Helping Angelinos Live Optimistic (H.A.L.O.).


L.A. Couple Seeks to Increase African American Marriages



The right to marry is the talk of California, if not the nation, right now. But as the gay community fights for marriage access, African Americans have routinely been singled out for not marrying as frequently as other ethnic groups do.

About 42 percent of black men and 41 percent of black women are unmarried, compared to 27.5 percent of white men and 21 percent of white women, according to the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative, a campaign of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To boot, African Americans divorce at higher rates, live in more single-headed family households, and have more out-of-wedlock births than their white, Hispanic and Asian counterparts, the marriage initiative found.

The Masons have also hosted the annual Black Marriage Day celebration in Los Angeles. They’re now involved in a new campaign called “Divorce is Unacceptable,” which aims to keep black families intact.  The Masons feel that we need to go back to the days when divorce isn’t an option and talk about the numerous benefits to marriage.  Though I agree that marriage has its benefits I wouldn’t want to go back to the days of divorce not being an option.  If you’re married to someone who’s abusing you or your children why should you stay in that marriage?

“I really want people to understand we have to get back to those days when (divorce) wasn’t really an option,” Sonja Mason said. “People simply worked things out. The system has made divorce so easy. They even advertise quickie divorces.”

She said marriage is vital because it’s the foundation of the family. She and her husband say the benefits of marriage are numerous.

La Grande Mason, a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, says that children raised in two-parent families are less likely to get involved with gangs or drugs and are more likely to go to college and have successful marriages themselves. His wife added that life expectancy is longer for married people and financial situations are better. A school administrator in her day job, Sonja Mason said that she’s seen firsthand how divorce damages children.

The Masons don’t believe in cohabitation due to the level of commitment that marriage has over cohabitation. The Mason also believe that even though some black folks might prefer to stay single, some singles come to regret being alone.

Of course, some people simply don’t want to marry. They appreciate the single life. Sonja Mason said that, while she and her husband aren’t imposing marriage on everyone, they believe that many singles come to regret a life alone. They ask themselves, “Is this really how I want the rest of my life to go?” she said.

Others shy away from marriage because they didn’t have proper role models and, thus, fear repeating their parents’ mistakes, the Masons say.

But Sonja Mason admitted that marriage isn’t for everyone. However, part of being a marriage advocate is to show those who would benefit from marriage that they, too, can have a thriving union.

“Marriage doesn’t (mean) you lose your individuality,” La Grande Mason said.

You can check out the entire article here.

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