For Immediate Release
For Immediate Release
For the general public, a scandal ends as soon as the newspapers and websites stop making stories about it. Headlines shift to the next big controversy, heady Facebook debates find fresher topics. But for the human beings at the center of those juicy stories, the repercussions echo long after their names disappear from print.
Rachel Noerdlinger is lucky in that sense. Her “Where is she now?” story has a silver lining. She has a brand new job in the private sector and her teenage son is enrolled in college and has an enviable internship.
Noerdlinger, who worked with Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network for over 15 years before becoming the chief of staff to New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, was at the center of a volatile media storm in the fall of 2014. Between September 25th and November 18th, the New York Post alone published over 40 articles about Noerdlinger, all of them negative.
Click here for full story.
by Kyle Harvey
Reverend Lennox Yearwood is a man of faith who’s been in hip hop‘s corner since its inception.
Yearwood is the current president of the Hip Hop Caucus, a youth empowerment organization based in Washington, D.C. Yearwood is responsible for such campaigns as Diddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign in 2004 along with Jay-Z’s “Rock The Vote” movement in 2008. His new passion is bringing light to how climate control is impacting urban communities.
Rev. Yearwood sat down with theGrio.com’s Kyle Harvey to discuss hip hop’s activist spirit and the artists he thinks are using their platforms for change.
For full article click here.
This may not be the prevailing view in the Black community, but I don’t think Jay Z should drop out of his upcoming holiday collaboration with Barney’s. Now before you unleash a barrage of nasty criticism in the comment box, just hear me out.
Barney’s has come under fire because of two incidents of racial profiling that recently came to light. Back in April, 19-year-old Trayon Christian went to the highend retailer’s Madison Avenue flagship store to purchase a $349 Ferragamo belt. After making his purchase with his Chase Bank debit card, the New York City College of Technology student was stopped by two undercover NYPD detectives a block from the store. In an interview with the NY Daily News, Trayon said the detectives told him they had stopped him because someone at the store reported his debit card as a fake. The detectives then peppered him with questions like “How could you afford a belt like this?” and “Where did you get this money from?” Despite showing the cops two forms of identification (a school ID and driver’s license), Trayon was handcufffed and taken to a precinct stationhouse where he was detained for two hours, according to the discrimination lawsuit he filed against Barneys and the New York City Police Department last week.
Brooklyn resident Kayla Phillips had a similar experience at Barney’s in February when she splurged on a $2,500 Celine purse with money she received from a tax return. Having just opened an account with Bank of America, Kayla used a temporary card given to her by the bank to make the purchase. After leaving the store with the designer bag, she was confronted and grilled at a subway station by multiple undercover police officers who wanted to know how she could afford the bag and why she paid using a card that didn’t have her name on it. At some point during their exchange, Kayla presented the officers with her official debit card and a letter stating that she had not yet activated it. Kayla plans to sue the NYPD because of the incident, and has already filed a $5 million notice of claim informing the city of her intent.
Not surprisingly, these two controversial events have attracted the attention of community acitivists and civil rights groups, including Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN). Rachel Noerdlinger, a representative for NAN, said in a statement, “National Action Network will immediately demand a meeting with the Barneys New York CEO.” The organization plans on picketing the store if “the pattern of racial profiling is not immediately rectified.”
As for Jay Z’s role in this saga, the hip-hop mega-mogul has a deal with Barney’s to introduce a collection called “A New York Holiday”. According to the company’s website, Barney’s and Jay Z “have partnered with some of the most prestigious fashion houses in the world–Balenciaga, Balmain, Lanvin, The Elder Statesman, En Noir, Hoorsenbuhs, Just Don (coming soon!), Proenza Schouler, Rick Owens, Stutterheim, Acne Studios, and Cutler & Gross–to create exclusive, limited edition products inspired by New York City.” In the wake of the racial profiling incidents, an online petition has been created to convince the Brooklyn native to terminate his relationship with the retailer, and many have called for Jay Z to back out of the deal. I disagree.
Where some see this as an opportunity to use Jay Z to punish Barney’s, I view this as an opportunity to utilize Jay Z’s relationship with Barney’s to bring about change at the highest lever at the storied retailer. Having him in the corner suite where day-to-day decisions are made is far more effective than his dropping out of the deal. He has the potential to be an informed and articulate spokesperson on how destructive it is for a company like Barney’s to engage in such racially laden behavior. The platform of his massive fame allows him to influence the higher ups at Barney’s to do better. You can injure Barney’s in the short term by boycotting and refusing to shop there, but the most effective way to have a long term influence is through education. The overall idea is to use his power to educate. Picketing attracts attention and may make Barney’s lose a couple of zeroes in their bottom line, but a more thoughtful and strategic way of combatting this type of ignorance is through education and understanding. Jay Z is uniquely situated to accomplish both. The significance of working on the inside versus shouting on the outside cannot be underestimated.
In the days since this controversy emerged, Barney’s has issued a press release stressing their zero tolerance policy on discrimination and stating that they will review their “practices and procedures as they relate to these matters to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment to fairness and equality.” To that end, the company will work closely with civil rights expert, Michael Yaki, and the National Action Network. Over the weekend, Jay Z released his own statement about the racial brouhaha. In the carefully worded statement posted on his website, Jay Z takes issue with his being criticized for not immediately speaking out and terminating his relationship with Barney’s. He concludes his statement by expressing his hope that this controversy brings forth a dialogue to effect real change. It is up to Jay Z himself to now recognize the role that he can play by using his platform and leverage with Barney’s to effectuate that dialogue.
By KAREN MATTHEWS
NEW YORK — NEW YORK (AP) — The Rev. Al Sharpton threatened Saturday to boycott luxury retailer Barneys if the department store doesn’t respond adequately to allegations by black shoppers that they were racially profiled there.
“We’ve gone from stop and frisk to shop and frisk, and we are not going to take it,” the black civil rights leader said. “We are not going to live in a town where our money is considered suspect and everyone else’s money is respected.”
Two black Barneys New York customers, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, said this week they were detained by police after making expensive purchases.
Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April.
Barneys said Thursday that it had retained a civil rights expert to help review its procedures. The CEO of Barneys, Mark Lee, offered his “sincere regret and deepest apologies.”
Kirsten John Foy, an official with Sharpton’s National Action Network, said he would meet with Barneys officials on Tuesday to discuss the racial profiling allegations.
“The only theft that took place at Barneys was Barneys’ stealing the dignity of these young people,” said Foy, who joined Sharpton at his weekly rally at the organization’s Harlem headquarters.
Sharpton said black New Yorkers should put shopping at Barneys “on hold” if the retailer’s response is inadequate.
Macy’s was also hit with a lawsuit alleging racial profiling this week.
A black actor on the HBO drama series “Treme” said Friday he was stopped by police because of his race while shopping at Macy’s flagship Manhattan store.
Robert Brown said in his lawsuit that he was detained by police June 8 after employees contacted authorities about possible credit card fraud.
Macy’s didn’t comment on the litigation but said in a statement it was investigating.
Some Sharpton supporters who attended Saturday’s rally said they had been profiled in stores, too.
Shane Lee, 51, said he went to the high-end store Bergdorf Goodman to buy shirts last year and the sales staff would not assist him.
“Instead of helping me, they were staring at me,” said Lee, who is black. “I felt so uncomfortable that I just left.”
A Bergdorf Goodman official did not return a call seeking comment Saturday.
A conservative group is calling for the boycott of Ritz Crackers because its parent company sponsors Reverend Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show, and because Sharpton used the term “cracker” in a speech 20 years ago.
Ben Shapiro of TruthRevolt, a right-wing group launched Monday with the aim to “unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases,” called for the boycott of Ritz in a lengthy statement on the group’s website. In the piece, Shapiro criticized Sharpton for his stances on the death of Trayvon Martin and the Tawana Brawley rape case hoax. He also cited a 1994 speech given at Kean College in which Sharpton used the term “cracker.”
“Sharpton doesn’t dislike all ‘crackers,’” Shapiro wrote, noting that Mondelez International runs ads on Sharpton’s “PoliticsNation” for its Ritz Crackers. The company told TruthRevolt it chooses to advertise on programs that “serve a wide range of local communities,” are “tasteful” and “believable” and are mindful of “generally accepted social or community standards.”
Alas, TruthRevolt found fault. The group has asked boycotters to reach out to Mondelez “[i]f you disagree with Ritz Crackers that Sharpton’s program is ‘tasteful,’ ‘believable,’ and generally acceptable in terms of social or community standards — if you do not think that Sharpton’s brand of divisive racism ought to be sponsored by Ritz Crackers.”
The issue is not only with his use of the term “cracker,” however.
“Those who express outrage over Ritz sponsoring Sharpton’s MSNBC program are doing so because of Sharpton’s long and continuing history of racial divisiveness and propagandizing,” Shapiro told The Huffington Post in an email Monday. “Our post cites several significant examples of such behavior going back decades and forward until today. The fact that he used the word ‘cracker’ at Kean College is just another mark on his long resume of race-baiting, and is indicative of a racialist mindset that undermines the essence of American unity.
A petition on the website had more than 700 signatures Monday afternoon.
As for why TruthRevolt is drudging up comments from 20 years ago to use as part of a protest Sharpton today, Shapiro told HuffPost: “We made this decision because Al Sharpton is the most obvious symptom of one particularly terrible mainstream media disease: granting despicable figures the patina of legitimacy. Sharpton’s history is clear and should trouble any fairminded person.”
Representatives for Mondelez International and Sharpton could be immediately reached for comment.
Back in June, when speaking with George Zimmerman trial witness Rachel Jeantel, Sharpton admitted to using the term “cracker” as a youth but said he doesn’t necessarily approve of the word.
“You know, I’ve always been against young folks, including my daughters, using the ‘n- word’ and ‘cracka,’ although I used it when I was younger,” he said, referring to Jeantel’s testimony that Martin had used the word “cracker” to describe Zimmerman. “But we understood that wasn’t trying to make a race statement, that’s just the way some of y’all talk, though we kind of tell y’all not to.”
by Mary C. Curtis
As Ben Jealous prepares to step down from his leadership post at the end of this year, there is no question that he brought stability and visibility in his five years as the president and CEO of the NAACP.
Now, as members and observers give Jealous a proper celebratory sendoff, they are also looking to the future of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. How is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded in 1909, tackling 21st-century challenges and what is its relationship with other civil rights organizations?
There is still much work for the NAACP in a nation where, with its help, progress has been made but where inequality remains. Many issues look familiar. For example, at this year’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, voting rights and income inequality battles topped the agenda in 2013, as in 1963. However, some tactics and players had changed.
At the Aug. 24 “Realize the Dream” event the weekend before the official anniversary with President Obama in attendance, tens of thousands gathered on the National Mall to hear speeches by Jealous and others.
It was, however, the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network (NAN) – a host alongside the NAACP and others – center stage at the Lincoln Memorial. Sharpton walked arm in arm during the march with U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia — a young SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) leader when he spoke in 1963 — and Martin Luther King III.
The two organizations with different histories have worked together on events. Both have weighed in on racial profiling, recently in the response to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting.
In a Miami rally that was part of 100 NAN-led events across the country, Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin’s father, appeared with Bishop Victor Curry, president of the South Florida chapter of NAN and director of the southeast region. In the past, Curry served two stints heading the Miami-Dade NAACP, the last term ending about a year and a half ago, he told theGrio.
“I have nothing but respect for the NAACP,” Curry said, praising its longevity. “Being around over 100 years, that says a lot about the organization. But I think sometimes a discouraging aspect of working with an organization that has been around that long, sometimes it becomes top heavy.”
He said, “Before you can get things done in your local branch you go through so many different layers of leadership, and by the time you get approval from everybody the situation you’re dealing with on the ground has almost passed.”
“That was what was refreshing with me from Reverend Sharpton,” Curry said. “He gives his chapter presidents a lot of leeway to deal with what’s going on in their communities.”
In his first time as head of the Miami-Dade NAACP, Curry, who pastors two Baptist churches and is president, general manager and talk-show host at a radio station, said the national sent him a letter telling him to “cease and desist” his on-air criticism of the organization’s position — in the aftermath of a rash of police shootings — not to reconsider a decision to hold its convention in Miami Beach.
“We needed the NAACP to think about not coming,” he said. “Instead of them wanting me to discuss it they told me to shut up. I’m on the ground; I’m having to bury these young men. For the national to do that that kind of hurt me.” When the federal government subsequently indicted 11 police officers, Curry felt a measure of vindication.
National Action Network, founded in 1991, says in its mission statement that it “works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda.” Curry said he favors that “preacher-friendly” tradition, “birthed out of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
Curry said he spoke with longtime friend Sharpton about working together. Sharpton’s MSNBC show Politics Nation provides a Monday-to-Friday cable megaphone. Though NAN has chapters throughout the nation, its personality is tied to Sharpton, its founder, and his swift reaction to controversies.
“You don’t try to stifle that,” said Curry. “You ride the wave. You strengthen the organization so that when it’s time for these others chapters to fly, they can fly.” He said, “I believe NAN is strong enough and has enough strong chapter leaders.”
Mississippi Field Secretary Medgar Evers was murdered for his civil rights organizing in 1963; his widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, became the third woman to chair the NAACP in the 1990s. Some say it is time for another woman to lead the group.
“Most people don’t understand what the NAACP has always understood, and that is that movements come from the bottom up, not from the top down,” Rev. Dr. William Barber, North Carolina NAACP president, told theGrio. The organization initiated and has led “Moral Monday” demonstrations — noted for the diversity of the thousands who participated — which continue to protest a conservative wave of legislation enacted by Republican super-majorities in the state legislature.
“When you become president of the NAACP, you don’t have to field an organization in North Carolina, you have one. You don’t have to field an organization in Mississippi, there already is one, with leadership that gives their lives to this work voluntarily. … That’s been the power and the consistency of it,” he said. “President Jealous was able to put forward a vision to expand on an already strong foundation.”
“Sometimes people mistake deliberation for slowness,” Barber said. “The NAACP is deliberate when it gets involved in an issue. We’re not a helicopter organization; we don’t just pop in and pop out. In North Carolina, we didn’t just have a march, we started a movement.”
He said the North Carolina group’s activism goes back years, when Democrats were in office, “pushing through same-day registration, early voting and Sunday voting and the Racial Justice Act, more money for education, standing up against voter ID when it first came up, suing over redistricting and building relationships with our coalition partners.”
After arrests at the first Moral Monday, “it sent a signal to people we already had relationships with — over 13 weeks, 1,000 arrested. That didn’t happen because a William Barber popped into North Carolina, gave a speech and popped out. It happened because the NAACP has a history of grassroots, branch-up work.”
Barber said, “No human organization is perfect. But very few organizations can look at its [sic] track record and say every major victory we’ve ever won on the national and the state level bettered America.” After Jealous, “whoever is CEO,” said Barber, “male, female, young, old, whomever God sends, first thing is they become not so much a CEO but the leader of the largest volunteer civil rights program in the world.”
In telling its history, which includes the names W.E.B. Du Bois, Rosa Parks and Charles Hamilton Houston, the NAACP acknowledges occasional friction with groups that advocated more direct action. “Although it was criticized for working exclusively within the system by pursuing legislative and judicial solutions, the NAACP did provide legal representation and aid to members of other protest groups over a sustained period of time,” the group’s website says.
Curry, of NAN in Miami, said, “I’m not naïve. I know back in the day, all of the civil rights organizations weren’t always on the same page. They were mature enough to put aside their difference for a greater cause.” He said, “I think it’s going to take all of the organizations working together in order to keep the powers that be [with their] feet to the fire.” He also said he is a big William Barber fan.
Barber, who has been a guest on Sharpton’s MSNBC show, said, “The true reality of the first March on Washington is that Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph insisted and demanded that people not be stuck in their egos — whether it be organizational ego or whether it be personality ego. What we must understand, particularly in the south, is you cannot have social, political and economic victories without fusion politics.”
As was the case 50 years ago, when leaders of a host of civil rights groups, from the National Urban League to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP and others shared the stage and the job of challenging the country to live up to its promise of equal rights for all, the job is still big enough to keep different organizations plenty busy.
For now, those organizations are planning their next steps, separately and together.