Amazon Data Center Threatens a Century-Old Black Va. Neighborhood


More than a few outraged citizens turned out this weekend to protest the fact that behemoth company Amazon, via its lackey Dominion Virginia, is attempting to seize 50 acres of land belonging to a mostly elderly African-American Northern Virginia community that dates back to slavery.

The move would pave over residents’ homes and build power lines in Haymarket, Va., negatively impacting the semirural Carver Road community’s environment and economy.

The World Socialist Web Site reports that last month, Amazon subsidiary VAData, local government agencies and Dominion announced plans to construct 230,000-volt power lines running through Carver Road in order to power nearby internet data centers.

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Protesters against Amazon

In June, the State Corporation Commission authorized Dominion to seize the land for the towers. WSWS reports that the state of Virginia has awarded Amazon millions in tax breaks and grants to construct its warehouses and data centers. Because really, which one do you think the capital of the Confederacy is going to cape for—a multibillion-dollar company or a working-class black community?

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Two Sisters Launch New Sunscreen Product Line Specifically for Black Skin


Many people believe that if you are Black, you are not susceptible to sun burn and skin damage. But the truth is that the sun affects Black skin as much as White skin. That is why two Nigerian sisters, Chinelo Chidozie and Ndidi Obidoa, have introduced a new skincare product line called Bolden USA – made specifically for people of color.

Rich in antioxidants, one of their products — Bolden Shea Oil — is a brilliant multi-tasker, moisturizing both dry hair and skin, while combating the effects of sun damage and aging. It contains a sunblock that goes on clear with no white streaking.


Many Blacks think the sun doesn’t affect their skin.

Both sisters agree that the Black community needs to be educated about the dangers of not using sunscreen. Sadly, many Blacks do not use sunscreen because they don’t think the sun poses a danger to them.

However, Chinelo explains, “Even though skin cancer doesn’t affect people of color as much as it affects people with White skin, that makes it more dangerous because it’s often not caught until it’s in an advanced stage.”

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Heart of the City Farmers Market


Heart of the City Farmers Market is a uniquely independent, farmer-operated, nonprofit farmers market located year round on Sundays and Wednesdays in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza. Many aging and poor residents rely on it for access to fresh and cheap produce. The market opens on Sundays 7am to 5pm and Wednesdays 7am to 5:30pm year round, rain or shine. Heart of the City has been a leader in serving vulnerable communities by accepting EBT, EatSF, WIC (including Fruit and Vegetable checks), Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons, and now VeggieRX coupons in partnership with Fresh Approach.

Below are some of the images taken by NAM’s intern, Mokoto Takahine.






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Black CEO Quits President Trump's Manufacturing Council After Charlotteville Protest


Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. Inc., a Kenilworth, N.J., pharmaceutical firm, today resigned from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council to protest the president’s refusal to denounce a rally organized by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The rally turned violent, and one counter-protester was the victim of a vehicular homicide perpetrated by a white supremacist.

“Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs. America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American idea that all people are created equal. As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” Frazier wrote.

In an earlier photo, Trump and Frazier sat next to each other at the White House and shared a laugh, but the congeniality is over.

CEO Kenneth Frazier with President Trump in happier times.

Trump angrily tweeted, “Now Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from the President Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Trump has come under savage criticism from almost everyone except one group for his tepid response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, during which Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman, was murdered by James Alex Fields Jr., a Nazi sympathizer from Maumee, Ohio.

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Memphis teen creates subscription box to inform, inspire African-American girls

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Whenever 17-year-old Journi Prewitt and her relatives spend time together, she always gravitates toward caring for the younger children. That earned her the nickname “Mother Hen.”

“I would go out of my way to do anything for the little people around me,” said the Memphis, Tenn.-based teen. “That’s when I noticed how much making a change in children’s lives mattered to me.”

Prewitt put this passion into action by creating a subscription box service for African-American girls ages 5 to 19, called Black Butterfly Beautiful. Her goal was to inspire young black girls to read, learn more about their history and culture, and build up their self-esteem.

“I wanted to make something to inspire little girls because I didn’t have anything like this growing up,” said Prewitt, who started the business in June 2017. “I was picked on for being dark-skinned and for having natural hair. If I had something like this growing up, I would have been more self-aware.”

Each monthly box has a timely theme, is curated based on subscriber age and features a book with African-American characters, products from black-owned businesses and other items with uplifting words and imagery.

Items in the box feature sayings like, “‘Your brown is beautiful,’” Prewitt says. “The sole purpose is to help with self-worth and really knowing who you are before anyone else can tell you different.”

Subscriptions can last three months, six months or 12 months, with prices depending on the length of service. A one-time box is also available.

One past box focused on three generations of black female activists; another highlighted award-winning African-American actresses.

“I want girls to see that there are a variety of things in the world for them to do.”

The idea for Black Butterfly Beautiful grew out of the books and gifts Prewitt would give her 6-year-old cousin, who she says is like a little sister to her. It was Prewitt’s godmother who encouraged her to make the boxes available to all girls.

“My godmother helped me to understand that all girls in the world should have somebody that’s supporting them and in their corner.”

In that spirit, one of her next goals is to donate boxes to homeless girls in Memphis.

“Not only do they need someone to be there for them and care about them, they also need someone rooting for them just like anybody else. Donating a box to them would be really powerful.”

After a conversation with her younger brother, Prewitt decided to make bimonthly boxes for boys. She calls those boxes “Black Dragonfly.”

“My little brother saw my cousin getting a box, and he wanted one too,” she said. “I created the boys box to teach boys that being an athlete, actor or reality show star isn’t the only option for success. I wanted them to know that they can be CEOs and billionaires.”

Prewitt heads to college in the fall and plans to broaden her business.

“When I go to college, I want to start a new piece for college students called ‘Butterfly Destination’ that will have things college students need, like coupon books for food and groceries. I also want to start a nonbinary children’s box and call it the ‘Firefly Box.’ It will center around children who do not identify with the gender they were given at birth.”

Prewitt credits her mother, Shauntay Hampton-Prewitt, with teaching her the value of service.

“My mom instilled in me to create change, no matter what avenue,” Prewitt said. “As a teenager, it’s an amazing thing having a business that impacts people’s lives.” She wants to be seen as “a 17-year-old that’s doing something positive — yes, for herself — but more so for her community.”

Twitter @christenadot_

Related: Marley Dias, the brains behind #1000BlackGirlBooks, is touring with a book of her own »

10-year-old’s blessing bags for homeless capture Barack Obama’s attention »

Why parents need to talk to their kids, and celebrate, Black History Month »

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UN: Human Rights Declaration Still Relevant

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The United Nations is embarked on a year-long campaign to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Campaigners say the declaration is as relevant today as it was when drafted seven decades ago.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted in Paris in 1948 by a diverse group of countries under the leadership of former first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt. The Declaration was designed to prevent the repetition of the horrific human rights violations that were committed during World War II.

The common thread in the Universal Declaration is that of anti-discrimination; the belief that everyone is equal and everyone has the same rights. U.N. Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville says many of the world’s human rights violations and problems stem from the failure to uphold that principle.

“I think in the current climate a lot of those issues are really crystallizing. You look at the #Me2 Movement,” he said. “So, even with all the advances there have been on women’s rights over the past 70 years, and there have been huge advances on women’s rights, nevertheless, suddenly you get the #Me2 Movement. And suddenly everyone realizes all sorts of ghastly stuff is going on affecting women, even the most privileged women in the most democratic and well-established countries.”

Colville notes human rights are not a given. He says it is a continuous struggle to get them and once that has been achieved to keep them.

Human Rights advocates believe in the Universal Declaration’s resilience. But they acknowledge this essential document will be challenged in the years ahead by new complex issues including rights to privacy and freedom of expression in the Internet age and the threat climate change poses to the right to life, food, water and housing.

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Obama jokes about ears, gray hair as official portrait unveiled

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Former U.S. President Barack Obama stands between painted portraits of himself and that of former first lady Michelle Obama during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

U.S. President Obama attends Obamas’ portrait unveiling at the
Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Barack Obama joked
about his ears and gray hair and praised his wife Michelle
Obama’s “hotness” at the unveiling of the couple’s official
portraits at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery on

The Obamas tapped artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald for the
paintings, which will be added to the National Portrait Gallery’s
collection of presidential portraits.

Wiley and Sherald were the first black artists ever commissioned
to paint a president or first lady for the Smithsonian.

For his portrait by Wiley, Obama is depicted sitting in a brown
chair with a backdrop of bright green leaves and colorful
flowers. Michelle Obama’s painting shows her sitting with one
hand under her chin and the other draped across her lap, while
wearing a long flowing dress decorated with geometric shapes.

Obama, who was the first African-American U.S. president,
complimented Sherald for her portrait of Michelle.

“I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace and
beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman that I
love,” Obama said.

He quipped that Wiley, who painted his portrait, was at a
disadvantage because his subject was “less becoming.”

“I tried to negotiate less gray hair and Kehinde’s artistic
integrity would not allow him to do what I asked,” Obama said. “I
tried to negotiate smaller ears — struck out on that as well.”

The Obamas both expressed awe at their portraits, noting that
they were the first people in their families to ever sit for an
official painting.

Michelle Obama said she hoped the portrait would have an impact
on young girls of color in the years ahead.

“They will look up and they will see an image of someone who
looks like them, hanging on the wall of this great American
institution,” she said. “I know the kind of impact that will have
on their lives, because I was one of those girls.”

The Portrait Gallery’s tradition of commissioning presidential
portraits began with President George H.W. Bush. Other portraits
were acquired as gifts, bought at auctions or through other

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and Roberta Rampton; Editing by
Kieran Murray and Susan Thomas)

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Warriors Accused of Benching Small Business Owners in Construction of New Billion Dollar Arena

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Construction for the roughly billion dollar Golden State Warriors arena in San Francisco continues to fall short of a city-instituted hiring goal aimed at increasing jobs for small businesses.

In key redevelopment areas of San Francisco, construction firms are required to make a “good faith effort” to dole out at least 50 percent of the work on their projects to small businesses. The policy was part of the deal the Warriors struck in deciding to move across the bay from Oakland.

With roughly 85 percent of construction already assigned for the Warriors arena, small businesses only account for 18 percent of the work, according to data from the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the agency tasked with enforcing the city’s small business hiring policy.

Of the work that’s assigned to small businesses, less than half went to San Francisco-based companies, which are supposed to receive preference during the bid process.

Less than 2 percent of arena work has been awarded to minority-owned small businesses. With the vast majority of construction already assigned, nearly $850 million worth, the Warriors have little room to improve their figures moving forward.

“They Could Have Done Significantly Better Than They Did”

“It’s a very large and complex project,” said Mike Hardcastle, who owns a small fire protection business in San Francisco. “I’m not sure that it is possible to obtain 50 percent [small business] participation, but I am sure that they could have done significantly better than they did.”

Hardcastle was originally selected as a subcontractor to help install sprinkler systems on the project. Just before construction began, however, Hardcastle said his small business was benched.

“We’re perfectly capable of performing portions of that project and we do work like that every day,” he said.

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit viewed an email from Mortenson/Clark, the prime contractors on the arena. That email, sent to some of the large companies already hired to work on the project, noted the Warriors decided not to pay the extra money needed to hire small businesses for portions of the arena’s construction work.

The Warriors organization, which declined multiple interview requests for this story, acknowledged the memo, but said in a statement, “The email reflects neither our approach nor the reality of how [small business] participation on the project has been achieved.”

Hardcastle said soon after that email went out, his small business was cut from the Warriors arena project, costing his company between $250,000 and $300,000 in profit. Currently, there are no small businesses doing any work on the arena’s sprinkler system, a contract valued at more than $13 million, according to city records.

Hardcastle acknowledges that hiring small businesses can be more costly because larger companies can buy materials cheaper, but he said that cost of doing business is what the Warriors agreed on when the team chose to move back to San Francisco.

“I don’t know how they could not have anticipated there would be a cost involved in it from day one,” he said.

Mike Hardcastle, owner of H & M Fire Protection Inc., said his small San Francisco based company was shut out of doing work for the new Warriors arena (Nov. 2, 2017).

Photo credit: NBC Bay Area

Warriors Defend Record

Last January, in the midst of the team’s celebratory groundbreaking on the arena, Warriors President Rick Welts told NBC Bay Area the team would meet the city’s hiring requirements.

“We have confidence that the city’s guidelines are going to be completely focused,” he said.

Despite the Warrior’s inability to meet the city’s hiring goal, the team maintains it has complied with San Francisco’s hiring policies since it believes it went above and beyond in attempting to achieve the benchmark.

“Our construction team, led by Mortenson/Clark, a joint venture, has implemented good faith efforts and is clearly exceeding [the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure’s] requirements.”

Click here to view the Warriors’ complete explanation of the team’s “good faith efforts” to hire small businesses.

“I’m Disappointed”

“I’m disappointed to find out that their numbers are this abysmal,” said Matthew Ajiake, President of the San Francisco Bay Area Small Business Council.

Ajiake said an organization that has been so spectacularly successful should be able to figure out how to increase the amount of small businesses working on the project.

“You took a team that had floundered for many years and you strategically placed them to where they are the world champions right now,” he said. “You have the wherewithal to figure out a way to get 50 percent small business participation. It’s not rocket science.”

Ajiake, who also serves on the board of the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce, said he is especially disappointed the Warriors hired minority-owned small businesses to complete just 1.4 percent of the arena’s construction work.

During a 2013 meeting between the Warriors and the African American Chamber of Commerce, Ajiake said a team lawyer assured him the Warriors were committed to partnering with small and minority-owned businesses.

With roughly 15 percent of the project still unassigned, Ajiake hopes the Warriors will commit to hiring more small businesses.

“There is an opportunity to do better,” Ajiake said. “Especially since their motto is stronger together. You cannot be stronger together and you’re leaving small businesses out of the stadium when small businesses and their families will be paying to attend the games.”

The Warriors are not the only entity failing to meet the city’s small business goal. According to data from the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, developers consistently fail to meet that threshold. Across all current construction projects in San Francisco subject to those hiring goals, small businesses only account for 35 percent of the work.

The hiring policy, which has been in place since 2004, is supposed to help small businesses compete against major construction projects in the city’s key development areas, such as Mission Bay and Transbay.

Increasing their involvement in major construction projects allows small businesses to gain experience while also growing their companies, according to Ajiake.

“Imagine if San Francisco small businesses participated in this great economic boom that we have in construction,” Ajiake said. “They can venture out and do the same things in other regions, while still having their business in San Francisco and paying their taxes in San Francisco. It’s a great win for everybody.”

Matthew Ajiake, President of the San Francisco Bay Area Small Business Council, said the Warriors assured him they were committed to partnering with small businesses (Feb. 5, 2018).

Photo credit: NBC Bay Area

No Punishment for Developers

NBC Bay Area made several interview requests with the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, but the agency declined.

In a statement, the agency said it monitors whether developers actually make a genuine effort to meet the city’s hiring goal.

“If OCII disputes a contractor’s good faith efforts and a remedy was not agreed upon, OCII would issue a notice of non-compliance and this would be resolved by arbitration,” a spokesperson for the agency said in an emailed statement.

During arbitration, a company can be hit with fines of up to $50,000 or have its contract suspended if it’s determined the company did not comply with the city’s policies.

However, the agency says it has never taken any such disciplinary action against a company for failing to make a “good faith effort” to meet the city’s small business hiring goal.

Playing By the Rules

“By allowing that to occur over and over and over again, the city has created a culture of failure,” Hardscastle said. “They’ve unlevelled the playing field,

He fears small businesses will never be given a fair shot unless San Francisco takes stronger action against developers who consistently fail to meet the city’s own goals.

“I’m a big believer that if you make the rules, then play by them,” Hardcastle said. “If you don’t like the rules, then change the rules, but don’t leave them in place and ignore them.”

Ajiake said he’d like to see the mayor and board of supervisors consider fining developers who don’t meet the 50 percent hiring goal. That money could then be used to help small businesses.

“We need something in the ordinance that says if you don’t meet your goals, you should be fined,” he said. “And that money shouldn’t go to the general fund, it should be going somewhere like a sustainable growth fund where you use that money for all the capital improvement projects in the city but designated strictly for small business participation.”

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Johnson Sirleaf Wins Africa's $5M Mo Ibrahim Leadership Prize

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, has been awarded the $5 million Mo Ibrahim prize which recognizes excellence in African leadership.

Johnson Sirleaf stepped down from office last month, the first democratic transition of power in Liberia since 1944. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was Africa’s first female elected head of state. She served two six-year terms, but was not eligible to run again for the office, according to Liberia’s constitution.

Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, the chair of the prize committee said in announcing the award that Johnson Sirleaf “took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institutions.” He added that “Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings,” but nevertheless Johnson Sirleaf “laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former U.S. ambassador to Liberia, said Johnson Sirleaf “left the country in a much better state than she found it,” adding there is “still a lot of work to be done.”

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was founded by Sudanese telecom tycoon Mo Ibrahim who said upon learning that Johnson Sirleaf had been awarded the prize: “I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim Laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond.”

The $5 million prize is handed out over 10 years with another $200,000 annually throughout the winner’s lifetime.

James Butty contributed to this report.

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