Trump Wonders Why US Civil War Occurred

U.S. President Donald Trump, in an interview Monday, asked why the Civil War, one of the country’s seminal events, occurred in the 19th century.

The history of the bloodiest war on U.S. soil is taught to school children across the country, but Trump remarked, “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?

“Why could that one not have been worked out?” Trump said in the interview with the satellite radio carrier Sirius XM.

The U.S. Civil War, often called the War Between the States, was fought from 1861 to 1865, largely over the issue of slavery, with 11 southern states, where plantation masters owned slaves brought from Africa to work their fields, seceded from the United States in opposition to free northern states without slavery. The war ended with the defeat of the Confederate southern states and freedom for the slaves.

But the issues over civil rights for African-Americans resonated for a century into the 1950s and 1960s, when blacks were granted full voting rights and legally, racially segregated schools were outlawed, but often only after bloody street clashes.

To this day, questions of racial equality play an important role in American public life and its national political scene, all stemming from the history of the Civil War.

President Andrew Jackson, the 7th president on the U.S. is shown in an undated portrait.

President Andrew Jackson, the 7th president on the U.S. is shown in an undated portrait.

Trump made his Civil War comments as he compared his presidency to that of Andrew Jackson, a rough-hewn 19th century populist whose rise to power as the seventh U.S. president bears some resemblance to Trump’s unexpected ascendancy to the White House in his upset victory last year to become the 45th U.S. leader. But Trump, who earlier this year placed a wreath at Jackson’s grave site in the state of Tennessee and hung a picture of him in his office, seemed ill-informed about the timing of Jackson’s life.

“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” Trump claimed about the president who at his death owned 150 slaves. “He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said. ‘There’s no reason for this.’”

But Jackson, who was president from 1829 to 1837, died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War erupted.

Trump, who over the weekend marked his first 100 days in office of his four-year term, has sat for a number of interviews in recent days to tout his accomplishments.

He has claimed that no president has accomplished more than he has in the first months in office, although Congress has yet to approve his bid to repeal the national health care reforms that were the signature legislative achievement of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, and U.S. courts have blocked his efforts to curb immigration from majority-Muslim countries.

Trump won Senate approval for a new conservative justice on the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, and has asserted new American military might overseas, launching missile attacks on Syria within days after a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria and dropping the biggest non-nuclear bomb ever on an Islamic State hideout in Afghanistan.

But Trump continues to face questions about his debunked claim that Obama wiretapped his Trump Tower headquarters in New York during the presidential campaign.

In an interview Monday with CBS News in the Oval Office of the White House, Trump was asked whether he still stood by the wiretapping claim, which U.S. national security officials and congressional investigators have said did not occur.

“I don’t stand by anything,” Trump said, then adding, “I just– you can take it the way you want. I think our side’s been proven very strongly. And everybody’s talking about it. And frankly it should be discussed. I think that is a very big surveillance of our citizens. I think it’s a very big topic. And it’s a topic that should be number one. And we should find out what the hell is going on.”

CBS journalist John Dickerson, then asked, “I just wanted to find out, though. You’re– you’re the president of the United States. You said (Obama) was ‘sick and bad’ because he had tapped you– I’m just—”

Trump responded, “You can take– any way. You can take it any way you want…. I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.

Moments later, Trump abruptly ended the interview, saying, “Okay, it’s enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.”

Is Smoking Weed While Pregnant Really That Bad?

Pregnant women know drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes is never good for an unborn baby’s health. However, when it comes to marijuana, some expectant moms will admit it helps alleviate their morning sickness.

Now, researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute, Western University and Brescia University College in Canada have found smoking weed while pregnant can almost triple the odds of having an infant with low birth weight. The team found maternal amphetamine use, chronic hypertension, and maternal marijuana use were the top risk factors linked with low birth weight.

The researchers included live births between February 2009 and February 2014 in their analysis; those with a birthweight of less than 5.5 pounds were classified as low birth weight; while preterm birth was defined as a live birth before 37 weeks of gestation. A total of 15.6 percent of women reported smoking during pregnancy. Prenatal smoking was responsible for 6.4 percent of low birth weight and and 9.7 premature birth. The rates are comparable to those reported by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in 2010-11, which found 6.6 percent of infants in Canada had low birth weight, and 8.1 percent were preterm births.

“Low birth weight and preterm birth are serious public health problems. Both are associated with a higher risk of infant mortality,” said Dr. Jamie Seabrook, principal investigator, a Lawson associate scientist and professor at Brescia University College, in a statement.

Read More: Smoking Weed While Pregnant Linked To Low Birth Weight, Stays In Intensive Care

Currently, the World Health Organization estimates more than 1 in 10 babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks of gestation). Common causes of preterm birth include genetics, age, nutrition, prenatal care, and smoking. However, the new study, published in the Journal of Biosocial Science, has found marijuana use has a stronger effect than other factors, like socioeconomic status, on the adverse birth outcomes.

Seabrook and his colleagues’ main objective sought to determine whether socioeconomic status had an influence on birth outcomes. Previous research has confirmed infant mortality rates are highest among mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, a 2010 study found infants born in low socioeconomic areas had the worst infant mortality rates and the highest racial disparity, specifically in the city of Milwaukee among African American infants. These infants were at three times greater the risk than white infants for adverse birth outcomes.

Woman smoking Smoking weed throughout pregnancy can triple the odds of having an infant with low birth weight. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, Public Domain

The researchers believe the link between socioeconomic status and low birth weight was not seen because of universal healthcare in Canada compared to the lack thereof in the U.S.

“It’s possible that Canada’s universal health care system provides a larger safety net for these mothers and their children,” said Seabrook.

Read More: Women Who Use Cannabis Through Week 20 Of Gestation At Higher Risk Of Preterm Birth

Contrastingly, a study on pregnant mothers in Jamaica before and after pregnancy, found those who used marijuana to remedy their morning sickness did not have infants with low birth weight or compromised neurological development. In fact, these babies showed better social skills than the babies who were born to mothers that didn’t use marijuana.

However, improvements are not linked to marijuana itself. Rather, the researchers conclude it’s due to how the babies were raised. The researchers believe a mother’s lifestyle influenced the health of her baby. For example, mothers who used marijuana were also vendors of ganja, meaning they were home most of the time after birth, allowing them to be more attentive to their child’s needs.

There have been many studies that analyze the effects of marijuana on a developing fetus, but there’s still more research to be done. Studies tend to rely on the mother’s self-report on marijuana use, which can lead to under-reporting usage for personal reasons. Researchers need to devise better methods to measure maternal use of weed during pregnancy.

We do know smoking weed is a modifiable risk factor.

Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should understand the possible effects it can have on an unborn baby to reduce the risk of adverse birth outcomes, like low birth weight or premature birth.

Source: Campbell EE, Gilliland J, Dworatzek PDN et al. Socioeconomic status and adverse birth outcomes: A population-based Canadian sample.” Journal of Biosocial Science. 2017.

See More:

Marijuana Use Before Pregnancy More Than Doubles the Risk of Premature Birth

Marijuana Use While Pregnant Could Hinder Growth Of Important Connections In The Baby’s Brain

Commentary: (M)Alice Through the Looking Glass: The liberal black community and President Donald Trump

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By Tiberiu Dianu

1. Introductory Remarks


Many people, because of convenience, lack of time and the like, limit themselves to read, listen, and watch – in a word, to check for – the media that reflects their own points of view and philosophy of life.

I, for one, have been in the habit of checking for the (adverse) liberal media even before the 2016 presidential elections. However, after the elections, I have to confess, my browsing through the mainstream and local media (most of them, essentially, liberal) has been bringing me cherished and enchanting moments of entertainment.

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Tiberiu Dianu has published several books and over 100 articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC, and can be followed on Medium. https://medium.com/@tdianu

Not only because the media keeps on referring ecstatically to Obama in their articles. But also for the distorted projection of reality, which the same articles purport to describe, creating a Lewis Carroll’s looking-glass type of effect. And all these articles “strike down upon” Donald Trump “with great vengeance and furious anger” in the Samuel L. Jackson’s Pulp Fiction style.

Come to think of it, Obama was so bad throughout his presidency that he managed to turn the Democrats into total losers on all fronts. By losing in a row the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the presidency for his successor in 2016, he got the perfect “triple whammy” for a politician. So much for his “legacy”. And still, the media considers him a genius. Isn’t this entertaining?

The Left, who was “left” out of power (and “left” only with the media) has been in constant denial and tries to impute to the guy who actually WON (Donald Trump) all the possible evils. You can have a better chance detecting spots in the sun than finding positive things about Trump in the liberal scribblers’ op-eds.

I am a long-time resident of Washington, DC, a city run in perpetuity by Democrats, so what I browse (as if I had another choice) is the leftist local media. Which, except The Washington Times and Washington Examiner, is either liberal or radical left (in translation: “moderate” or “progressive”). In a city dominated by the African-American minority I guess that I, as one of the 36% non-Hispanic whites and 4% conservatives, can claim I am a “minority,” too. But I digress.

Taking into account that on November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected for president by 57 percent of white non-Hispanics, 28 percent of Hispanics, and only 8 percent of blacks, I think it is fair to say that the president is not exactly the African-American community’s cup of tea. More about tea, a little later.

Having this non-optimistic perspective in mind, I took some time to figure out what exactly has dented the black community’s enthusiasm for President Trump.

Therefore, I would like to address a series of op-eds published in The Washington Informer, the April 5 (online)/April 6 (paper), 2017 edition. The Informer is a female-owned weekly newspaper, targeted at the African-American population of the Washington metropolitan area. The journal has a circulation of 50 to 60,000 copies, which, for a city of over 800,000 residents and a predominantly black population, shows that there is still room for improvement.

The newspaper publishes a number of six opinion pieces per issue and, with the readers’ indulgence, I would go briefly through them in order to make my point. The debated issues are: judiciary, health, labor, press, housing, and racial divide. Let’s take them in order.

2. Judiciary


Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), opposes Gorsuch nomination and requires the US Senate to do that, too.

He claims that appointing Judge Neil Gorsuch in a position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court would have serious consequences for all Americans, and especially African-Americans, since the judge has displayed hostility to the rights of minorities, women, people with disabilities, and workers.

Richmond recites the liberal mantra that the judicial branch has the power to interpret the laws of the land and the “Constitution is a living and breathing document that is meant to evolve with our society and it should be interpreted as such”. In translation: since the Democrats have been completely stripped out of power in the US Congress, they don’t have the votes to pass anything.

So, the only way to dodge the constitutional prerequisites is to give a judge or panel of judges in a local court, or five justices in the Supreme Court, the power to “interpret” a “living and breathing document” outside the original meaning of its creators. In other words, the “living and breathing document that is meant to evolve with our society” can be, in actuality, a new law, masqueraded as an “interpreted law.” Employing this successful technique, liberal judges have created new laws of the land by “interpreting” provisions inexistent in the Constitution and creating “rights” out of the blue, such as: the right to abortion, the right to universal health care, and the right to marry a member of the same sex.

Fortunately, on Monday, April 10, 2017, the Senate employed the nuclear option (since the Democrats were threatening with the filibuster), and confirmed Gorsuch as Supreme Court Justice with a simple majority of votes of 54 to 45.

In the near future, Gorsuch’s vote might prove important in cases related to President Trump’s travel ban (the president’s second travel ban executive order), religious freedom impacted by providing services to same-sex couples (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission), and the right to carry concealed weapons in public (Peruta v. San Diego).

3. Health


Jesse Jackson, the famous political figure and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, advises Trump to form a bipartisan coalition in order to get “true reforms.”

More precisely, he refers to the American Health Care Act, deemed to replace Obamacare (The Universal Health Care Act), which was torpedoed by a right-wing Freedom Caucus faction of the Republicans in Congress for being too soft a version.

Yes, Reverend Jackson, by all means, a “bipartisanship coalition,” pretty much like the one his predecessor created, right? Wait a minute, was there any? It is notorious that Obama “cared” a lot about “bipartisanship” when he forced an unpopular health care law on the back of the Americans with just a slim majority in Congress. And when he lost that majority (because of the same infamous law), he has become famous for ruling by executive orders until the end of his second mandate.

Let’s remind to everybody here the fact that on September 28, 2016, President Obama’s veto against a bill that allowed legal action against Saudi Arabia over the 9/11 attacks was overridden by Congress for the first time in his administration (with the votes of his fellow Democrats).

Now, Reverend Jackson urges President Trump “to fulfill his campaign pledge by reaching out to Democrats and forging a new majority to make health care a right in this country”. By the way, health care is not a “right”, it’s a “service” and Jackson just acknowledged that in his last phrase.

4. Labor


Julianne Malveaux, the well-known progressive political commentator, decries the fact that Alexander Acosta, the president’s nominee for secretary of labor, got a narrow approval from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions by a 12 to 11 party line vote.

In her view, Acosta was “slippery” when he was asked if he would “stand up for workers” because the Labor Department should take care of “the little person” and not “take care of corporations.” Mrs Malveaux is terribly upset that the president has proposed a 21 percent cut in the department’s budget, potentially eliminating some programs dear to Democrats, such as the Senior Community Service Employment Program, Job Corps Centers, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Women’s Bureau, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration unproven training grants.

On the other hand, she laments that President Obama proposed that the overtime ceiling (according to which workers qualify for time and a half under a certain salary limit) be doubled, from the current $23,660 to $47,320, while Acosta indicated that he would prefer “something in the $33,000 range.” Question for Mrs Malveaux: who stopped President Obama to raise the overtime ceiling? Now it’s a bit late for lamenting and criticizing. Because – don’t we all know? – “elections have consequences.”

Although Acosta is the first Hispanic on the Trump cabinet, a Harvard undergraduate and has law degrees, he is already described as “a disappointment for workers”. The fact that he is an “anti-regulation” guy (in translation: less bureaucracy), pretty much like his boss, President Trump, seems to give chills to Mrs Malveaux.

5. Press


Austin Cooper, president of Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc., a lobby group, is preoccupied that the White House press secretary for President Trump, Sean Spicer’s briefings have become “nationally televised verbal saunas of stress.”

Why is that? Because the presidency “is constantly at war with the media”. I just love the fact how Democrats, famous in offering you a flawed premise to debate, start later on to corner you and force you to accept that you are wrong and they are right.

Take any example. Here’s one: we should accept the “undocumented” (in translation: illegal) immigrants because they are “also” immigrants (like the legal ones) and America is “a country of immigrants.” Here’s another one: transgender people have “the right” (not in the Constitution yet, but a liberal judge will make sure to “interpret” this accordingly) to select a restroom of their choice (despite the fact that the person has not changed his sex in court, according to the law). Here’s a more recent one: I don’t have to pay taxes since President Trump does not reveal his taxes (is this an obligation?).

The employed technique consists in causes and effects being reversed. In reality, it’s not the president who is at war with media; it’s the media who is at war with the president. And this has been the case since Day Number One, when Trump announced his candidacy, until now. Has been there any break in this war, Mr Cooper? Not that I know of.

However, for Mr Cooper, this has been already a stressful situation. He, as a journalist, is stressed that the media starts the war against the president, and the president hits back. Unbelievable! Maybe we should impeach him.

Another reason for “stress” is the access for media to the president. Why? Because the administration “always feels that the press is looking for a scandal, focusing on the wrong thing and only wants to trip up the president.” Oh, my goodness! So many reasons for real concern, and all of them true, right?

And from here, another false premise for another comparison dear to Democrats: Trump is like Nixon who, also, “was a monomaniac on the stump, obsessed with enemies lurking within”. The subliminal message of all these Trump-Nixon comparisons, used here and elsewhere by the liberal journalists is that sometime Trump might be impeached. Which is Maxine Waters’ mantra and “best hit”. Only that she doesn’t have the votes to put it in the Top Ten Chart.

6. Housing


Charlene Crowell panics that “the future of our country’s commitment to housing is in jeopardy” since the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) becomes smaller, and that many HUD programs with “bipartisan support” will end.

Case in point: the HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program would absorb $3 billion of HUD’s proposed $6.2 billion agency cut, which is almost half, according to the White House Budget Blueprint. Other programs listed on a proposed $1.1 billion in cuts include Choice Neighborhoods and the HOME Investment Partnerships.

Choice Neighborhoods program provides funding and technical assistance for “distressed public,” while the HOME Investment Partnerships program focuses on creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income families. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which is part of HUD, insures mortgage loans, with down payment as low as 3.5 percent for families who cannot afford a large down payment for a conventional loan.

The author admits that “in recent years, FHA-backed loans are the most used by black and Latino consumers.” She also forgets what happens when the real estate bubble breaks: financial crises like the one in 2007-08. That was a result of a real estate bubble that had begun during the 2000s (more precisely, during President Bill Clinton’s second mandate).

And she also forgets about the $13 trillion debt held by the public, created by Obama, a debt that keeps growing. Like a preacher in the desert, Mrs Crowell psalms about more programs that “deserve to be supported and funded” and asks for Congress to restore the $6 billion in HUD funding. In translation: zero cuts.

The author doesn’t seem to care too much about gentrification, which, in areas like Washington, DC, surges as a visible and intense phenomenon. Nor about the positive effects that gentrification brings to the poor areas and their residents, described at a short interval of time by The Afro-American, another African-American journal from the DC Metropolitan Area.

7. Racial Divide


Askia Muhammad, a senior editor for The Final Call newspaper and a Washington Informer contributor, approaches the issue of racial division in the country, which has been old and still visible.

Mr Muhammad attempts to make some points, according to which, while he was visiting his hometown in Mississippi, in the Delta in particular, and in the South in general, although some curiosities happened (like white children being reared in black neighborhoods “down south” or some black families moving in white areas, “on the north side” of the towns, “where neighborhoods have paved sidewalks and manicured lawns”), not much has changed really.

The author seems to reminisce about the times when on one side of the highway were fast-food establishments with black staff and black managers, while on the other side were businesses (like banks, pawnshops, hardware, auto, and loan stores) managed by whites with black workers. Those times have remained unchanged.

Also, he reminisces about the last year’s NCAA tournament day, when the Mississippi State University’s black female basketball player, Morgan William, brought victory for her team against University of Connecticut. Which makes me reminisce, too, about why White Men Can’t Jump.

The author is candid enough to admit the fact that in the area the segregationists were the Dixiecrats. And that was before President Nixon’s (“here you go again!”) “Southern Strategy” punished the Democrats in the South for President Lyndon Johnson’s support for civil right legislation. The Ku Klux Klan is mentioned, too, but the author does not remind us that the organization was formed by Southern Democrats after the Civil War.

In retrospect, I remember how obfuscated was once Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones, Obama’s former “progressive” (in translation: Marxist) Special Advisor for Green Jobs. In a CNN show during the presidential elections, Jones was totally displeased that members of the white nationalist groups would support Trump (as if they were less American than Van).

When conservative commentator Jeffrey Lord confronted him with the historical fact that the Ku Klux Klan was formed in the post-Civil War years by Southern Democrats, Van blew up: “I don’t care about history!” Of course you don’t, Van, unless history serves your racial narrative.

In the end, Mr Muhammad complains that the “Trump Revolution” would “reestablish that “natural order” of things where white folks are in charge – right or wrong, win or lose” but he admits that nothing much has changed in the “deep, deep” South.

It is unclear from the article what the author’s expectations about the Southern communities are. With a plethora of Democrat presidents – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Obama – one would have hoped for racial problems to have been fixed already in the direction desired by the author. Is it Trump’s fault that he “solidifies” what has been almost unchanged for decades? And if some people had frustrations over this, they should re-direct them toward the aforementioned presidents.

8. Concluding Remarks


Apparently many in the liberal black community have been trapped in Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole and see everything distorted, like in Alice’s looking-glass. The only difference is that Alice was acting candidly, while the black leaders are in denial and act with malice.

Such op-ed pieces embark the reader on a journey in Lewis Carroll’s symbolic world, populated with mirror-like opposite themes. In this surreal world good is bad, big is small, fast is slow, forward is backward and, not in the least, the visible becomes invisible.

The liberal black leaders do know they will be stuck with Trump for a four-year round, and possibly for a second one. Lewis Carroll’s two books reflect two worlds – Wonderland and The Looking-Glass – mirroring each other. And “the trader” of the story, The Mad Hatter, is a returning character, appearing in both books.

From now on, it all depends on how crafty the black leaders will be when they respond to Mad Hatter’s “Tea Party” invitations. For his first invitation, at his Inauguration Day, part of them chose not to attend. That was not a smart move.

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In the near future, The Mad Hatter may invite them again: either in Wonderland, in order to enjoy a fine cup of “Tea” and biscuit, and play a nice game of cards, or in The Looking-Glass, where he can engage them to a much longer, complicated, and stressful, game of chess.

NEW YORK (AP) – A South India sensation, a Hispanic-focused comedy and the highest-grossing film ever directed by an African American made up the top three films in North America on a culturally diverse box office weekend.

NEW YORK (AP) – A South India sensation, a Hispanic-focused comedy and the highest-grossing film ever directed by an African American made up the top three films in North America on a culturally diverse box office weekend.

As expected, it was another runaway weekend for “The Fate of the Furious,” which took No. 1 for the third straight week with $19.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Universal Pictures release also throttled past $1 billion globally, and passed its predecessor, “Furious 7,” to become the highest-grossing imported film in China with $361 million.

The “Fast and the Furious” franchise, the latest of which is helmed by F. Gary Gray, has always been held up as a model of the diverse blockbuster, given its cast led by Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. But the smaller films that trailed it over the weekend also reflected the box-office might of often underserved audiences.


In second domestically with $12 million and drawing an overwhelmingly Hispanic crowd was Eugenio Derbez’s comedy, “How to Be a Latin Lover.” The film is easily the biggest success yet for Pantelion, the Latino-oriented joint venture of Lionsgate and Grupo Televisa.

“How to Be a Latin Lover” co-stars Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell. But its top draw is Derbez, whose “Instructions Not Included” was the highest-grossing Spanish-language film in North America in 2013. The audience for “How to be a Latin Lover” was 89 percent Hispanic.

In third was “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” a so-called Tollywood (Telugu language) film from South India, which pulled in a remarkable $10.1 million despite playing on just 420 screens. (“The Fate of the Furious” played on more than 4,000.)





“Baahubali 2” even bested a pair of Hollywood’s biggest stars in Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. Their terribly reviewed thriller “The Circle,” distributed by STX Films on behalf of EuropaCorp, opened with $9.3 million.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, said such global weekends at the box office will become more common.

“In what is a slow and would otherwise be unremarkable weekend, this is a really interesting lineup of films,” said Dergarabedian. “This is the final weekend before the summer season kicks off and the blockbusters hit theaters. But this weekend is marked by an incredible amount of multicultural content. It reflects the world that we’re living in.”

“Baahubali 2” follows the 2015 original that set box-office records in India, a breakthrough for a non-Hindi film. The 2015 film grossed $9.3 million in the U.S. and more than $100 million worldwide. With $1.8 million on domestic IMAX screens, a record for a foreign language film on IMAX, “Baahubali 2” may break more records.

Its success isn’t surprising to everyone.

“We were expecting exactly the numbers we’re seeing right now. We’re happy our expectations were right,” said Soma Kancherla of the film’s North American distributor, Great India Films. “I know for a few people they’re like, ‘Wow,’ but to break even, we needed to make that kind of money.”



The summer movie season begins next week with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” With the Marvel behemoth on deck, few new films were released in an otherwise quiet weekend.

Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequel began its international rollout over the weekend, opening in 37 territories ahead of its North American debut. It earned an estimated $101.2 million, a promising start for what’s expected to be one of the summer’s biggest hits.

“Guardians” will likely be the third $1 billion movie in 2017, following “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Fate of the Furious.” Disney said “Vol. 2” is running 57 percent ahead of the pace of the original, which made $773.3 million in 2014.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “The Fate of the Furious,” $19.4 million ($68.4 million international).

2. “How to Be a Latin Lover,” $12 million.




3. “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” $10.1 million ($3.7 million international).

4. “The Circle,” $9.3 million.

5. “The Boss Baby,” $9.1 million ($15.5 million international).

6. “Beauty and the Beast,” $6.4 million ($17.2 million international).

7. “Going in Style,” $3.6 million ($3 million international).

8. “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” $3.3 million ($11.7 million international).




9. “Gifted,” $3.3 million.

10. “Unforgettable,” $2.3 million.

___

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” $101.2 million

2. “The Fate of the Furious,” $68.4 million.




3. “Shock Wave,” $24.2 million.

4. “Battle of Memories,” $21.8 million.

5. “Beauty and the Beast,” $17.2 million.

6. “The Boss Baby,” $15.5 million.

7. “Love Off the Cuff,” $13.7 million.

8. “This Is Not What I Expected,” $12.3 million.







9. “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” $11.7 million.

10. “The Mayor,” $5 million.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP


















Why most black Sacramentans still can’t buy a home eight years after Great Recession

When Time magazine named Sacramento the most diverse city in America in 2002, African American families living here still participated broadly in the American dream of owning a home and building wealth.

It was a long-standing pattern. For 45 years starting in 1960, around 40 to 50 percent of African Americans in Sacramento County owned their homes, census figures show. By the turn of the century, the black homeownership rate in Sacramento County was higher than the statewide average and higher than other California urban centers such as Los Angeles and San Diego.

Those days have passed.

Just 27 percent of black householders in Sacramento County owned their homes in 2015, down from 43 percent in 2006, according to the latest U.S. Census figures. By comparison, 62 percent of whites and 43 percent of Hispanics in the county owned their homes in 2015.

Blacks are also losing ground elsewhere; their homeownership rate fell nationwide from 46 percent in 2006 to 41 percent in 2015. But the trend is particularly severe in Sacramento. Only 13 of the largest 100 counties in the United States had a lower black homeownership rate than Sacramento County in 2015, census figures show.

“The (2008) financial crisis hit black families the hardest,” said Vedika Ahuja, economic equity interim director at the Greenlining Institute, which advocates for communities of color. “More than half of their wealth was wiped out.”

Multiple factors explain the declining numbers. Blacks in Sacramento County tend to have lower incomes than other ethnic groups, a growing hardship as housing prices rise. A disproportionate number also took out subprime loans during the boom and subsequently lost their homes during the bust. Many still have poor credit as a result.

At the same time, banks have tightened lending standards. The supply of affordable housing and down payment assistant programs have dwindled.

Rosalinda Jackson moved from Oakland to Sacramento a couple of years ago, hoping to escape crime and outrageous home prices while taking advantage of a down payment assistance program. She’s still trying to get into that program – and still renting.

“I know the importance of home ownership,” said Jackson, 54. “I want to leave my children with something. I want to have somewhere where I can bring my grandchildren and they will be safe.”

Jackson and thousands of others would likely be wealthier today if they owned a home.

A large portion of household wealth in Sacramento County is tied to real estate. Median home prices have nearly doubled in the last five years and are approaching levels seen at the height of the housing boom. Many black families have lost those financial gains to investors who bought their homes after foreclosure.

At the same time, rents have jumped in Sacramento and across California. Since so many blacks pay rent today instead of a mortgage, they have been hurt the most by rent increases.

Beyond economics, falling homeownership rates can have larger societal impacts, such as a loss of neighborhood pride or the motivation to make a home look its best.

In a neighborhood full of renters, “things go unmanaged, and it starts to deteriorate over time,” said Pamela Smith, a longtime Sacramento real estate agent and president of the Sacramento Realtist Association, an industry group.

“When someone owns a home, you are part of the community,” she said. “You can protect your community. You protect your house. You protect your neighbor’s house. By protecting it, you have less crime, the entire neighborhood is clean.”

Foreclosures hit hard

The loss of homeownership status among black residents of Sacramento can be traced to the housing bust of 2007 and 2008. Sacramento County’s black residents back then lost their jobs at a higher rate than other groups. Subprime lenders also targeted black households when marketing their loans, which carried high interest rates and often required balloon payments.

John and Norma Cranshaw took out a subprime loan on their south Sacramento home in 2006 after John was laid off from his job in a drug rehabilitation clinic. The representative for their lender told them the high loan payments were not a problem, given that rising home prices would keep increasing their equity, John Cranshaw said. (The lender got out of the subprime business a few months later as home prices began to collapse.)

“They said they would be there to help us,” said John Cranshaw, 69. “Once they got the money, they were gone.”

The Cranshaws held out as long as they could after taking out the loan, not wanting to lose the home they had owned since the 1980s. But the payments were too high.

Their home sold at auction to an investor in 2008 for $68,000, public records show. John Cranshaw remembers the investor knocking on his door before the auction, asking if he could see the place. Cranshaw said no, but the investor promised that he would let the Cranshaws rent their home after he bought it. John relented. The investor saw a home in great shape, with multiple recent updates.

Less than two months after purchasing the home, the investor flipped it for $130,000, almost double its auction price, public records show. It is valued at roughly $250,000 today, according to real estate tracking firm Zillow.com.

The Cranshaws rented from the new owner for about a year, and now live in a rented apartment in Natomas. “I think we probably would have stayed there if all the different things hadn’t happened,” said Norma Cranshaw, 73. “We didn’t really want to move. An apartment is limited space.”

About 44 percent of loans sold to area blacks during 2005 were subprime. That’s nearly twice the rate of subprime loans sold to all other races.

Within a few years of the origination of those loans, Oak Park, Valley Hi, Lemon Hill and other minority-dominated areas became the epicenter for local foreclosures, converting scores of owners to tenants.

Homeownership in Sacramento’s Oak Park

Many single family homes in the neighborhood, an area with a high concentration of black residents, are owned by investors.

Map of home ownership in Oak Park 

Source: Bee analysis of parcel data from Sacramento County

The Sacramento Bee

Those who defaulted on their high-interest loans saw their credit ratings shattered. Without their primary source of wealth, many blacks have struggled to rebuild credit, making it hard to get a new mortgage. Lenders have proven reluctant in the years since the recession to make loans to low- and middle-income families without stellar credit.

“These things stick with you,” said Sheryl Pardo, spokeswoman for the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute. She pointed to 2001, just before the boom, as a benchmark for when banks gave out loans at a sensible pace. “It’s twice as hard to get a mortgage today as it was back then.”

Many local blacks aren’t even trying.

The Sacramento region’s black households applied for about 1,700 loans to purchase homes in 2015, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. That’s about 11 applications per 1,000 black residents – barely half the application rate among non-blacks.

After applying, local blacks were denied home loans about 40 percent more often than nonblacks, federal data show.

Rising rents

Many black families don’t apply for loans because they don’t have enough saved for a down payment. Even with good credit, an FHA loan requires a 3.5 percent down payment. On Sacramento County’s median-priced home, that equates to about $11,000, not including loan closing costs. For buyers with poor credit, a 10 percent down payment is required.

A veteran and former correctional officer, Rosalinda Jackson can afford to pay up to $1,000 a month on a mortgage, but doesn’t have the cash necessary for a down payment. She applied to take part in a program through NeighborWorks that enlists residents to build their own homes in lieu of a down payment. But she doesn’t know if she will receive approval due to income limits on the program. She doesn’t qualify for programs that help veterans because she did not serve long enough.

Jackson believes she would need about $25,000 for a down payment without assistance.

“I don’t think I would make it,” she said.

The median household income of blacks in Sacramento County was about $39,000 in 2015, about 20 percent lower than their median income in 2006, after adjusting for inflation, census figures show. (The 2015 median income for the county’s white residents was $67,000.)

While black families are making less, home prices continue to rise. A typical black household with good credit would need to spend half its gross income on a mortgage and property taxes to afford the median-priced home in Sacramento County.

“It’s very hard for people,” said Pam Canada, CEO at NeighborWorks Sacramento Region. “There are not enough homes in the affordable price ranges.”

Even as blacks own fewer homes, they spend more of their income on housing. That seeming paradox is largely due to rising rents: Median rent for a two-bedroom unit in Sacramento County has risen by about $300 in the last five years to $1,400 a month, according to Zillow.

About 30 percent of local blacks spend more than half of their gross household income on housing each month, leaving little for food, health care, transportation or other essentials of living, census figures show. In 2000, about 22 percent of black householders spent that much.

Money spent on rent disappears into the pocket of a landlord. Alternatively, a portion of the money spent on a mortgage builds equity in a house.

Local black families who went from owning a home to renting one have collectively lost millions in household equity during the last decade.

The Cranshaws spent a large portion of their disposable income on their home before they lost it – a likely reason why the investor who bought it was able to sell it within eight weeks for a 90 percent profit.

“We put a new roof on it, new door, put a fence all around it,” John Cranshaw said. “We put our heart and soul into that house.”

Much will need to change before black Sacramento residents like the Cranshaws again buy homes at a quick pace, several experts said.

Pardo, with the Urban Institute, said that in the short term, banks need to loosen lending standards for low- and middle-income buyers. FHA loans, in particular, are designed to help low-income buyers but “those are very hard to access,” she said. “Lenders lost certainty about how they can safely initiate loans.”

In the long term, communities in Sacramento County need more affordable housing, especially single-family homes in low-income areas that aren’t immediately snatched by investors paying cash, several experts said. “There is a big gap right now in supply of homes, period,” Pardo said.

Finally, until income and education gaps are closed between blacks and other ethnic groups, low homeownership rates in the black community will persist, Pardo said. “The big long-term solution is safe and healthy neighborhoods, high-quality education, access to good jobs and health care,” she said.

Dig If You Will The Picture: Funk, Sex and God In The Music of Prince

DON’T worry, he won’t hurt you; he only wanted us to have some fun. We’re afraid of clowns because we don’t know whether the smile conceals malign intent. Prince was the great clown of popular music. His latest biographer acknowledges a sense of humour, but doesn’t run with the idea, which is a pity, because it’s probably the best clue to the “real” man. Like everyone who’s tried to write about Prince, before or after his death, Ben Greenman, an experienced “ghost” writer of musical autobiographies, accepts that there is a hard barrier to understanding his huge body of music: we never knew quite what Prince was thinking, and he wasn’t telling. When he spoke at all, his words were gnomic, contradictory, tricksterish. He used to claim that his mother was Italian (she was played by a Greek actress in the quasi-autobiographical Purple Rain movie) when both parents were African-American. He and his wife Mayte went on television after the death of their newborn son Gregory (a wholly unexpected concession from a microphone-shy artist) and then spoke about the boy as if he was still alive. Prince preached sex but he also preached God; practised libertinism but knocked on doors as a Jehovah’s Witness; he shocked Tipper Gore enough to make her design a Parental Advisory sticker for CDs that was meant to warn grown-ups but proved to be positive catnip to kiddies; he was male and female; he was Camille and he was Spooky Electric (aka the Devil); and for a long time, he didn’t have a name, just a squiggly symbol. He didn’t want to hurt us; he only wanted us to have some fun: but he said it, at the start of the breakout 1999 album in a deep, processed voice that was either cod-scary, or properly scary; the kind of voice that comes on the phone in a teen slasher movie.

Greenman’s title also comes from a song line. It’s the opening lyric from “When Doves Cry”, the song that most easily represents Prince’s bold departure from the basic principles of black funk, which usually relies on a full back line, or at least a thudding bass. Prince straddled (sometimes literally) funk, white rock and r’n’b. He showed a marked sensitivity to jazz and the blues, having grown up (unhappily) as the son of a jazz piano player who named the boy after his group, the Prince Rogers Trio. That seemingly casual gesture positioned Prince in a long line of Sirs, Counts, Dukes and Kings in African-American music and provides a useful reminder of how close his creative strategies were to some of those great predecessors. Though early Prince albums were put out with a credit that told us the music was “Conceived, composed, arranged, performed and produced by Prince” (he also played all 27 instruments on his debut album For You) he was in essence a collaborator, who simply borrowed or stole from his compeers, claiming most or all of the credit in the process. In this, he is little different from Duke Ellington, whose compositions were often patchworks of solos created spontaneously and without credit or copyright by his hand-picked sidemen. And he is strikingly similar to Miles Davis, with whom he flirted unproductively for several years before the trumpeter’s death; Miles’s “New Directions in Music” were usually the ideas of his latest group members, bundled up and claimed by the leader as his own.

Greenman is smart enough to recognise all this and to recognise that no chronological account of Prince and his supposed “contradictions” leads us even approximately to the truth. He has the advantage, poignant as it is, of writing posthumously, which means that Prince’s promise to write a song a day for the rest of his life is arrested, albeit leaving a vast archive of finished and in-progress material that will doubtless be argued over, in the courts and in public, for years to come. So, sensibly, he approaches the subject thematically, always with his own engagement with Prince’s life, and his death in April 2016, clearly in view. We hear about Prince and religion, perhaps the knottiest theme of all; his particularly close collaborations with women, notably Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, but also the Bangles, Sinead O’Connor and wur own Sheena Easton, for whom he either wrote songs or handed them over; there was an attempt to record something with Kim Basinger, which notoriously involved getting honey all over the mixing desk, or so the tabloids had it. There is a particularly interesting section on Prince’s shaky but not atypical upbringing, and an illuminating account of Prince’s deeply ambivalent and sometimes small-minded attitude to the internet and to the new file-sharing culture. Like many black artists before him, his deepest fear was being ripped off, which is why he changed his name and wrote “SLAVE” on his face in eyebrow pencil.

There had been one-man-band acts in pop before: Prince owed a particular debt to white rock star Todd Rundgren, who went as far as giving solo shows to backing tapes; Stevie Wonder to a certain degree; even the almost forgotten Jimmy Castor, but there has never been a pop auteur quite like Prince. He belongs in the same enigmatic company as Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, but also Little Richard and, even less probably, Joni Mitchell. The work’s out there. The man isn’t. Nothing can hurt his reputation or the serious fun his music gives.

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Still Has No Idea What to Make of Black Art

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Snoop Dogg and T.I. perform during Tupac’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall/Getty Images

The 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which airs tonight on HBO, opens with a tribute to the god of the institution: Chuck Berry. Forgoing the usual jump into the evening’s routine of speeches alternating with performances, the Hall instead memorialized the late rock pioneer at the start of the show with a short documentary and a performance from ELO’s Jeff Lynne (an inductee that night). Berry’s immeasurable contribution to rock history — he invented its aura and attitude — was writ large in the footage. But as one of the few people of color attending the event that night at the Barclays Center, I found the irony permeating the room glaring: Berry’s blackness had been almost entirely erased from the narrative by the Hall, which was built on the back of his career. With rock music, it’s easy to rewrite history. Black artists like Berry and Sister Rosetta Tharpe — who’s still not a Hall of Famer, while Berry was inducted the inaugural year — gave the genre its legs. Then white artists walked away with it.

This year, the Rock Hall inducted two more black artists into its canon, giving Nile Rodgers the Musical Excellence consolation award (after snubbing Chic 11 times) and inducting Tupac Shakur the traditional way. But unlike Berry, and so much of the black art accepted by the Hall, Rodgers and Shakur made disco-funk and hip-hop, two genres that white artists have historically struggled to co-opt. It’s the first time since 2013 that more than one black act has been inducted into a single Rock Hall class; and Shakur is also only the sixth rap act to ever be inducted. To anyone at the show’s taping earlier this month, it’s evident rock’s gatekeepers still haven’t figured out what to do with a genre they didn’t foresee but would one day demand to be acknowledged.

Following his own induction, KISS’s Gene Simmons made clear his thoughts on who the Hall shouldn’t be for: “If you don’t play guitar and you don’t write your own songs, you don’t belong there,” he said. He then went to war with N.W.A, who were inducted last year, telling Ice Cube, “Respectfully, let me know when Jimi Hendrix gets into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. Then you’ll have a point.” It’d be simpler to think of Simmons’s comments as the isolated opinions of an aging rock star out of touch with both the music that blossomed alongside his own and the genre that dominates music today, both commercially and critically, if it didn’t also stink of racism. And to do so would ignore the reality: Simmons’s opinions align with too many involved with the Hall.

I watched act after act take the stage at the ceremony this year, from ELO to Joan Baez, and, with every folk and rock star of yesteryear, the applause grew. The mood changed when a montage about Tupac began to roll. Snippets from his famous interview with Tabitha Soren played on the big screen, followed by flashes of his booming voice on “California Love,” and the other hits from his tragically short career. It should’ve been a moment of reverence — a rap titan who had changed the face of hip-hop by the time he was 25 years old, was being awarded one of music’s great honors. Instead the moment was met with a mass exodus. Throngs of people in the audience, particularly those seated in the sold-out Barclays stands, bolted for their first bathroom break of the night, just as Pac’s voice echoed through the arena in the clip’s first seconds.

The reception only worsened when Snoop Dogg walked onstage to induct his late friend and Death Row Records brethren. To Snoop, whose line of vision probably best met the celebrities in front of him, it might’ve sounded like a warm welcome. His peers in the front stood and cheered, as did many others at the tables on the floor and in the high-priced stands. Widen the scope a bit and put a spotlight down the sides and toward the back, however, and he might’ve seen that the crowd had visibly thinned. For the first minutes of his speech, Snoop was drowned out by the racket of people spilling out between the tables in the rear to chat over his speech. According to another Vulture writer who spent the night in the press room, the reaction there was the same: A predominately white sea of men and women — but mostly men; this is the Rock Hall, after all — were disinterested in the blackest moment of the night.

In his speech, Snoop unknowingly nodded to this hypocrisy, taking umbrage with the way Pac’s legacy has been distorted in death. How he’d become a thug deity, an image on a Forever 21 T-shirt instead of the multifaceted black man that he was in life. “While many remember him now as some kind of thugged-out superhero, Tupac knew he was only human,” Snoop reminded the crowd. He humanized Pac by sharing colorful stories of how they defied societal expectations for black men by relishing their wealth and freedom with oddly normal frivolities like parasailing. Had an older white journalist at my table — one of the few nearby who came prepared to cover rap — not shushed the clusters of loudmouths surrounding us, we might’ve missed Snoop tell one of the best stories of the night.

Alicia Keys was the first to perform in Pac’s honor, singing a medley that included “Changes” from her usual seat at the piano. The bathroom-goers who’d since returned knew her well enough. Their interest, though, still wasn’t piqued. Bringing respected West Coast rap newcomer YG on next didn’t help either. It was then that my otherness started to show — against my better judgment, I stood up and danced. I outed myself as a fan. If any of the other white men at the table — save for the one who previously hushed the unruly audience members — had a clue who YG and, later, Treach and T.I. were, they did a good job of playing dumb. Those nearest turned to the only black girl in sight and started asking me to ID the rappers onstage for their reviews of the ceremony when furious Googling failed them.

Unfamiliarity with unannounced guests isn’t a crime. But if we’re going to induct rap into the Hall, then the Hall and those it invites to witness the ceremony ought to dignify the art first. Nile Rodgers, whose speech was also talked over, had to put dollar signs on top of his résumé to prove his worth (“I’ve sold over 300 million albums and 75 million singles,” he said.) For all the others among his class, the accolades were assumed; their history isn’t allowed to be ignored. If we’re to hold up the Rock Hall as a time capsule containing all the artifacts of music’s past that we’d like the future to remember — and that does appear to be its logical purpose — it matters whose culture we’re preserving, and how. If the only black art that Hall purists care to see has to look like Chuck Berry’s, we’re in trouble.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Has Trump Helped Black America in His First 100 Days?

“Today and every day of my presidency I pledge to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African-Americans and for every American…We’re going to bring this country together.”- President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump has offered grand gestures, questionable policies, and a litany of promises to skeptical African Americans.

He promised to rid inner cities of crime. He promised to invest in education for black public school students and historically black colleges. He promised to rebuild boarded-up urban neighborhoods. He promised to heal a racially polarized America.

When Trump toured The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. last month, he pledged to confront racism and create a bridge of unity for what he called a “divided country.”

Related: 100 Days of Civil Rights in the Trump Administration

But 100 days into Trump’s chaotic presidency, there are few signs – at least publicly – that Trump is focused on racial healing or any of the pre-election commitments to the nation’s citizens of color.

“President Trump’s promises to African-Americans were nothing more than vapid campaign promises,” Neil Foote, a journalism professor at North Texas University and Editor of PoliticsInColor.com, told NBCBLK.

Consider Trump’s position on criminal justice: Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to stall a federal review of police departments where racial profiling, excessive use of force and racially discriminatory police practices have been exposed.

Image: Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference in Washington Image: Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference in Washington

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington on March 2, 2017. Yuri Gripas / Reuters

During the Obama Administration, the Justice Department began 25 investigations into police departments and sheriff’s offices and resolved civil rights lawsuits filed against police departments in more than 15 cities.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Sessions has a legal obligation to investigate troubled police departments.

“He can’t just cherry pick the cases he wants to investigate,” Ifill told NBCBLK.

Ifill said the Trump administration threatens progress to criminal justice reform, education, health care and a myriad of social programs that are on Trump’s chopping block.

“Our first priority is voting rights,” Ifill said. “Voting ensures that African Americans fully participate in the political process—and not just during presidential elections.”

Related: Congressional Black Caucus to Highlight Trump Admin’s Racial Problems With #StayWoke Campaign

But Katrina Pierson, a spokeswoman for America First, a conservative organization that supports Trump’s legislative agenda urged black folks to give Trump a chance.

Pierson said Trump will help improve the quality of life for African Americans through education, jobs, health care – and building the border wall to crack down on crime, drugs and human trafficking.

“Illegal immigration impacts the black community,” Pierson said. “When illegal immigrants settle in the United States, they don’t settle in gated communities, they settle in black communities and poor communities. You can’t have an honest discussion about illegal immigration without talking about the cost of illegal immigration, financially, socially and culturally.”

Civil rights organizations take issue with Pierson and her conservative views. They believe Trump’s policies are detrimental to the prosperity of African Americans and they are distrustful of black conservatives.

Marc Morial, president of The National Urban League, said Trump wants to cut social programs that benefit black Americans instead of making good on his campaign promise to rebuild urban communities.

“We will resist any effort to cut funding for human programs,” Morial told NBCBLK. “This is not good public policy to gut these programs and shift funding to the military. We will resist cuts to community development programs, housing programs, workforce programs. These are job killers and dream killers.”

Morial said he believes there is a great opportunity to create a bipartisan jobs initiative.

“People – blacks, whites, Latinos – are all dealing with wage stagnation and a jobs initiative could unite America,” he said. “It’s a challenge for urban America. It’s a challenge for rural America.”

This week the Congressional Black Caucus released a report, What Did Trump Do? The First 100 Days #StayWoke List, to make sure African Americans stay informed about the Trump administration policies that impact citizens of color.

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US President Donald Trump meets with the Congressional Black Caucus Executive Committee at the White House in Washington, DC, March 22, 2017. JIM WATSON / AFP – Getty Images

“In general, “stay woke” or “stay awake” means to stay focused on what is really being said and done to and around you, especially as it relates to police brutality and other elements of African-Americans’ years-long struggle to fully achieve the American Dream,” Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, said in the report.

Highlights from the CBC report pull out key budget cuts that would:

  • “… cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget by $6 billion. HUD is responsible for providing housing assistance to extremely low-income families and the homeless, and reinvesting in America’s cities and counties.”
  • “… eliminate programs that help limit children’s exposure to lead paint. According to the CDC, African-American children are three times more likely to have elevated blood-lead levels.”
  • “… eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency, which funds a nationwide network of business centers to help minority-owned business stay competitive and create jobs.”

Related: Black Women’s Roundtable Releases Annual Report

The Congressional Black Caucus has also underscored how racially polarized America has become since Trump won the White House. While Trump promises a new order for black America, hate groups have risen across the nation. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that more than 400 incidents of harassment or intimidation against blacks, Jews, gays and Muslims occurred in the early days of Trump’s presidency.

Image: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks during an event with Governors where U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on education at the White House in Washington Image: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks during an event with Governors where U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on education at the White House in Washington

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks during an event with Governors where President Donald Trump signed an executive order on education at the White House in Washington on April 26, 2017. Carlos Barria / Reuters

Many civil rights activists are also concerned about Trump’s attempts to roll back education initiatives designed to assist students of color.

Trump has pledged to make education a priority for black Americans but Besty DeVos, his Secretary of Education, has been criticized for her steadfast support for privatizing public schools.

Two weeks ago, DeVos further angered educators and parents by appointing Candice Jackson as the acting head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights. Jackson, as a student at Stanford University, once complained of racial discrimination because she is white. She said affirmative action promotes racial discrimination.

Critics of the Trump administration question how Jackson can objectively oversee claims of racial discrimination from African Americans and other people of color.

Tracey Winbush, the Ohio Republican Party Treasurer, said DeVos is simply trying to fix underperforming schools – many of them, she said, are located in low-income black communities. She said most African Americans are being overly critical of the president instead of trying to work with him.

“President Trump is doing his best to reach out to all people and especially African Americans,” Winbush, who is African American, told NBCBLK. “The president is making good on his campaign promise to move the African American community forward and get the black community out of its present situation.”

Winbush said too many African Americans “are hating on Trump because he’s a billionaire.”

“As an African American Republican, I don’t mind that Trump is a billionaire and his cabinet is the wealthiest cabinet in history, they know how to make money and we can learn from them,” Winbush said. “We have been taught to hate success. Trump is trying to reach out to African Americans but they don’t want to talk to him. We’re losing political clout. Are we moving forward or backward?”

Related: ‘What Do You Have to Lose?’: Trump Meets With Black Caucus

Black conservatives insist that black America is moving forward under Trump’s leadership and they are quick to remind critics that the president only took office 100 days ago.

Kelley Eubanks, Managing Partner for KEE Concrete and Construction, Inc., a woman-owned engineering, construction and construction management business, said she became a Trump supporter because she appreciates Trump’s approach to job creation, economic growth, and his focus on acknowledging the financial burdens facing small businesses.

“President Trump is bringing his business acumen to government and I’m encouraged by the Trump administration and what it means for African Americans, especially from the perspective of an African American business owner,” Eubanks told NBCBLK.

Eubanks said she is aware that her point of view is not shared by all black voters, but she still plans to support Trump’s economic agenda.

“I know there are African Americans who do not feel their voices are being heard,” Eubanks said. “The president is creating is a path for job opportunities in inner cities and that’s good for black Americans.”

Image: Ben Carson speaks to employees of the Housing and Urban Development agency Image: Ben Carson speaks to employees of the Housing and Urban Development agency

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks to employees of the agency in Washington on March 6, 2017. Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Still, Trump has a serious credibility problem with many African Americans. The president has only appointed one African American to his Cabinet: Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who Trump asked to help lead the mission to revitalize urban America.

Carson has been criticized by civil rights advocates who say the former neurosurgeon is out of touch with the African American community. As an example, the CBC mentioned Carson in its report about Trump’s first 100 days.

“On March 6, in his first speech to Department of Housing and Urban Development employees, Secretary Carson called slaves “immigrants” even though they came to America involuntarily,” the CBC said.

Trump, meanwhile, recently appointed another African American to a prestigious job in his administration. Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams was selected as the nation’s next Surgeon General, but on an interim basis.

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Omarosa Manigault, White House Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, January 23, 2017. AFP/Getty Images

And Trump also asked Omarosa Manigault, the former reality television star, to join his inner circle. Manigault, one of the most high-profile African Americans in the White House, serves as a liaison between Trump and the African American community.

This week, Manigault defended Trump before a not-so-accepting black audience during the annual conference of The National Action Network, headed by Rev. Al Sharpton.

“I am looking forward to partnering with you, continuing to work on behalf of the National Action Network in Los Angeles but more importantly, the President of the United States,” Manigault said to groans from spectators.

“Oh I’m ready,” Manigault added, when the crowd grumbled after she mentioned Trump’s first 100 days. “I know what I came into and I’m not scared.”

While black conservatives said Manigualt should get credit for speaking at Sharpton’s politically liberal event, Winbush pointed to Trump’s recent White House meeting with black college presidents as an example of Trump reaching out to African Americans.

But Morehouse College President John Wilson Jr. described the meeting with White House aides as “troubling.”

Related: OpEd: Trump Must Make Good on his Promises to HBCUs

Wilson and other black college presidents were hoping that Trump would set aside additional funding for historically black colleges. Instead of a substantive meeting, some said, black college presidents were lured into the Oval Office for a hastily arranged photo-op with Trump.

“Showing up and sitting at the table doesn’t always mean you get what you want,” Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorofChange.org, told NBCBLK. “Every invitation isn’t necessarily an invitation that you want.”

“There is a deep threat to civil rights policies and we have to respond differently,” Robinson said. “These folks are dismantling the ideals of American democracy. We can’t wait for meetings at the White House.”

Trump, who received eight percent of the black vote during the presidential election, has tried to convince black Americans that he is a champion for their concerns. [Trump fared a bit better than Mitt Romney, who only garnered six percent of the black vote when he ran for president in 2012.]

Meanwhile, Ifill, from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Trump is signaling that he plans to oppose progressive civil rights achievements.

“We won’t take these challenges lying down.” she said.

Follow NBCBLK on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Milbank: Trump moves in right direction with Holocaust speech

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. Email: danamilbank@washpost.com.

I’ve written a million columns critical of Donald Trump, give or take. This one is in praise.

His campaign was a toxic stew of dog whistles to white nationalists and at times overt anti-Semitism. He continued during his first weeks in office to flirt with the racist fringe; his administration excised any mention of Jews from a statement on the Holocaust; he suggested that the rise in anti-Semitic threats and violence since his election might be a false-flag campaign orchestrated by Jews; he repeatedly hesitated to disavow anti-Semitism; and his spokesman perversely claimed that the Jews Adolf Hitler gassed weren’t “his own people.”

But give him credit for this: Trump’s speech in the Capitol Rotunda this week for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Yom Hashoah remembrance ceremony was spot-on. Some highlights:

“The survivors in this hall, through their testimony, fulfill the righteous duty to never forget and engrave into the world’s memory the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people.”

“For the dead and the living we must bear witness. That is why we are here today, to remember and to bear witness, to make sure that humanity never, ever forgets.”

“The Nazis massacred 6 million Jews. Two out of every three Jews in Europe were murdered in the genocide. … Yet even today, there are those who want to forget the past. Worse still, there are even those filled with such hate, total hate, that they want to erase the Holocaust from history. Those who deny the Holocaust are an accomplice to this horrible evil.”

Yes, he was reading from a teleprompter a speech somebody wrote for him. His delivery was prosaic and he occasionally repeated a phrase he liked as if reading the speech for the first time, which perhaps he was. So what? At least he gave the speech.

A change of heart?

I don’t pretend to know whether Trump has changed in his heart. His campaign was so laced with bigotry toward African-Americans, Latinos and immigrants that the anti-Semitism was just one outrage. But his Holocaust speech and similar words in a video and a White House statement suggest that Trump has the capacity to adjust. And that’s welcome news.

His first 100 days have been a disaster: No health care reform, no travel ban, a passel of unmet promises, international confusion, historically low support. He has resorted to creating a fake sense of momentum with executive orders — the kind of governing he and his allies decried when President Barack Obama did it.

But Trump has never been a man of consistent principles, and he has shown that he’s willing to jettison his campaign program, changing his positions on China, trade, the debt, and others. He has apparently backed down from his promise to build a wall, to avoid a government shutdown.

I don’t expect some broad transformation, but if he’s moving even tentatively or temporarily in the right direction — in this case, shifting from his courtship of Steve Bannon’s alt-right nationalists — he should be encouraged.

The Hill absurdly criticized Trump’s Holocaust remembrance proclamation for using “similar wording to the Holocaust Museum website.” But the White House should be praised for echoing the museum’s description of the Shoah.

After a campaign that trafficked in the filth of anti-Semitism — tweeting an image showing a Star of David atop a pile of cash; retweeting messages from white supremacists; refusing to condemn anti-Semitic threats against Jewish journalists; and using an ad showing prominent Jews juxtaposed with warnings of an international banking conspiracy — Trump needed to speak clearly.

This week, he spoke. “Today, we remember the 6 million Jewish men, women and children whose lives and dreams were stolen from this Earth,” he said. “… We remember the hatred and evil that sought to extinguish human life, dignity and freedom.” And, crucially, he added: “Today we mourn, we remember, we pray and we pledge: Never again.”

Well said, Mr. President.

Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, first African American on New York’s top court, found dead in Hudson River

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on New York’s top court, was found dead in the Hudson River. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on New York’s top court, was found dead in the Hudson River on Wednesday, police said. She was 65.

The body of Abdus-Salaam, a native of Washington, D.C., was found fully clothed in the river in Upper Manhattan at 1:45 p.m., a day after her husband had reported her missing, according to the New York Police Department. There were no signs of trauma or injury on the body, and the cause of death is still under investigation.

It is not yet known how Abdus-Salaam, who lived in Harlem, ended up in the river, or how long her body had been there. Her death shook the New York legal community, prompting responses from colleagues, judges, and state and local political leaders.

Abdus-Salaam, an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals, was described by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) as “a humble pioneer” and by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) as “a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”

“Through her writings, her wisdom, and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come,” Cuomo, who appointed her to the state’s Court of Appeals, said in a statement.

Abdus-Salaam was born in 1952 to a working-class family of seven children in the District, where she attended public school. As a teenager, she was inspired to enter the legal profession after an encounter with civil rights attorney Frankie Muse Freeman, according to a 2013 news release from Seymour W. James Jr., attorney-in-charge of criminal practice of the Legal Aid Society in New York City. He commended Cuomo for nominating Abdus-Salaam to the State Court of Appeals, calling her an “ideal choice” based on her vast experience.

“Justice Abdus-Salaam has followed her inspiration by serving the public throughout her distinguished career as an attorney and jurist,” James, then president of the New York State Bar Association, wrote.

Before her nomination to the State Court of Appeals, Abdus-Salaam served as a justice in the First Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, and for 15 years as a State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan. She graduated from Barnard College in 1974 and from Columbia Law School in 1977, and spent time working with indigent clients as a staff attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services. She also served as an assistant state attorney general.

Throughout her career, Abdus-Salaam’s colleagues have hailed the judge for her clarity as a writer and fairness as a decision-maker. Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, said in a statement Wednesday that “her personal warmth, uncompromising sense of fairness, and bright legal mind were an inspiration to all of us who had the good fortune to know her.”

“Sheila’s smile could light up the darkest room,” DiFiore added.


Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, center, receives applause after her confirmation to serve on the New York State Court of Appeals. (Mike Groll/AP)

In one of Abdus-Salaam’s most significant recent decisions, this summer she wrote the ruling on Brooke S.B. and Elizabeth A. C.C., expanding the definition of what it means to be a parent, particularly for same-sex couples. The existing definition, she wrote, had become “unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships.” She ruled that “where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody.”

When Abdus-Salaam was formally sworn in as the seventh member of New York’s top court, then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Albany to honor her, his former classmate at Columbia Law School four decades earlier.

“Sheila could boogie,” he said before a courtroom packed with Abdus-Salaam’s legal colleagues, family and friends. “I read that during her confirmation process, Judge Abdus-Salaam received a standing ovation every time she appeared in public before members of the Legislature. Now, as someone who has appeared a number of times before Congress, I can tell you just how extraordinary that is.”

In announcing his nomination of Abdus-Salaam for Court of Appeals, Cuomo called the judge one of the state’s “most respected and experienced jurists” and praised her for having risen from “working-class roots.”

At a 2015 event in Brooklyn celebrating Black History Month, Abdus Salaam credited her mother’s efforts raising her and her siblings in Washington.

“If my mother wasn’t such a smart and resourceful woman, I might have ended up in foster care or worse,” Abdus-Salaam said. “Although she dropped out of school, my mother realized that a good education would help us escape the poverty that we were trapped in.”

In the wake of the news of her death Wednesday, Judge Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, said the court “has suffered a terrible blow.”

“It’s just so shocking,” Lippman said, adding that she was “a lovely lady and judge. That’s why is makes it even more difficult to understand.”

Correction: This story has been corrected to say that Sheila Abdus-Salaam was the first African American woman to serve on New York’s highest court. An earlier version of the story also reported inaccurately that she was a Muslim. That also has been corrected.

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