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Commentary: African American Scientists and Inventors
by Black Kos Editor, Sephius1

Keith L. Black (born September 13, 1957) is an American neurosurgeon specialising in the treatment of brain tumors and a prolific campaigner for funding of cancer treatment. He is chairman of the neurosurgery department and director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California

Keith Black was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. His mother, Lillian, was a teacher and his father, Robert, was the principal at a racially segregated elementary school in Auburn, Alabama; unable to integrate the student body, Black's father instead integrated the faculty, raised standards, and brought more challenging subjects to the school.

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Later in his childhood, Black's parents found new jobs and relocated the family to Shaker Heights, Ohio. Black attended Shaker Heights High School. Already interested in medicine, Black was admitted to an apprenticeship program for minority students at Case Western Reserve University, and then became a teenaged lab assistant for Frederick Cross and Richard Jones (inventors of the Cross-Jones artificial heart valve) at St. Luke's Hospital in Cleveland. At 17, he won an award in a national science competition for research on the damage done to red blood cells in patients with heart-valve replacements. According to Black: "I was working in the lab of a heart surgeon who had developed his own artificial heart valve, and I had a concept that the heart valve might be damaging red blood cells, so I asked to do a research project using a scanning electron microscope at the time. When I was trying to basically learn the technique, I took some blood from the heart-lung bypass machine from patients undergoing heart-lung bypass, and when I incubated the red blood cells overnight, I noticed that a certain percentage of these cells change from their normal discoid shape to one that resembled a porcupine, called an econocyte. What I did was to describe the discocyte-econocyte transformation in patients undergoing heart-lung bypass, as an index of sub-lethal red blood cell damage. The importance being that the blood cells could not parachute through the small capillaries." ......Read More

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                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

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The Supreme Court’s conservatives seem to think the answer is no—and that the Voting Rights Act has outlived its purpose. Slate: Is the South Still Racist?
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f you’re trying to cure an illness, and you get better, but not entirely—say you had a high fever, but now you have the sniffles and a sore throat—does it make sense to keep taking the same medicine? What if your doctor insists?

Justice Stephen Breyer offered the disease analogy Wednesday morning for racist efforts to block the power of black and Hispanic voters in the South during a sharply polarized argument—5 to 4, conservatives v. liberals—over whether Shelby County, Ala., has taken enough medicine from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Congress first enacted the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to deal with massive and violent suppression of black voters in the South. The problem was so entrenched that when federal courts would strike down a discriminatory measure like a poll tax, Southern states and counties would quickly dance around the ruling, enacting new barriers such as a literacy test. So Congress armed the Voting Rights Act in two ways. The first, Section 2, bans any voting practice that discriminates on the basis of race or ethnicity. It applies uniformly, throughout the country, and it has no expiration date. To enforce it, the government, or a group or person affected by the law, has to sue—and has the burden of proof. The second part of the Voting Rights Act, Section 5, relied on data showing a pattern of discrimination at the time to create a category of “covered jurisdictions.” Congress said that for 25 years the Department of Justice had to “pre-clear” any changes to voting rules in those places, or else the state or county had to go to court for approval before the changes could go into effect. The list of covered jurisdictions included most of the South, along with a smattering of counties and cities in other states.

The list of jurisdictions where Section 5 applied remained the same when Congress last reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006. But some of those states say they no longer belong—they’re cured, and that means it’s time for the whole Section 5 formula to go. That’s the question the court was grappling with on Wednesday: In 2006, given the history and the current evidence, did Congress have enough reason to think that the South still suffered from Racist Voting Disease? What’s the test—does every single state, city, and county covered by Section 5 have to be worse than every single state, city, and county in the rest of the country? And what kinds of symptoms qualify for Section 5 medicine—low turnout or registration rates, proof of the old forms of blatant discrimination, or more subtle measures, like moving a polling place out of a minority neighborhood?

The Supreme Court heard a case on Wednesday on whether the Voting Rights Act has outlived its purpose.
                                           Photo by Matt Sullivan/Reuters


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Florida's task force on ‘Stand Your Ground’ ColorLines: Florida Task Force on ‘Stand Your Ground’ Gives the Controversial Law a Vote of Confidence.
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In the year since George Zimmerman followed, fought and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been under national scrutiny. One of more than a dozen similar statues around the country, Florida’s law allows a civilian to use fatal force outside of his or her home if “he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.” Stand Your Ground also authorizes people to use deadly force if they “reasonably believe” that a violent felony is about to happen.

Critics, including Martin’s parents, have called Stand Your Ground laws (contained in Section 776 of Florida Statutes) an invitation for vigilante violence and civilian racial profiling. Despite widespread outrage over Martin’s slaying, a 19-member task force assembled by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has found no grounds to overturn the law.
The findings of the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection report released on February 22nd boil down to this: The problem doesn’t lay with the law but with some people who have tried to use it. From the report:

“The Task Force concurs with the core belief that all persons, regardless of citizenship status, have a right to feel safe and secure in our state. To that end, all persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be.”
The group instead recommended a tightening of standards for neighborhood watch groups and the commissioning a study to examine unintended racial disparities.
For some, the findings did not come as a surprise.

“It’s what I expected,” state senator Christopher L. Smith, a Democrat who assembled his own group to study Section 776, told the News Service of Florida. “[Scott] put together a task force together of people who wrote the bill and full of people who support Stand Your Ground. I knew the task force wouldn’t come up with anything earth-shattering in their final report.”


Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton (third from left), and father, Tracy (fourth from left), raise their hands in prayer during a Florida peace march. Photo: Joe Readle/Getty Images

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A talk wit’ visual artist Karen Seneferu. BayView: Karen Seneferu of ‘The Black Women is God’ visual arts show.
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Karen Seneferu is one of the most thought provoking visual artists on the Northern California scene today. The pieces that I have seen from her collection of work dealt with African psychology after slavery and liberating our minds so that we can arrive at a place of self-realization and self-determination.

She has been featured at a number of galleries in the Bay Area, including First Love Gallery and Betti Ono Gallery – both owned by Black women.

Early on in life, she was fed Black revolutionary politics and art by the Black Panther Party at their free breakfast program. Now she is feeding the community revolutionary art that examines our condition and where we need to go. Karen Seneferu is definitely a name to look out for in the future. Check her out in her own words.




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I guess you can call this a surprisingly good feel-good story. The Grio: How Michelle Obama won over Mississippi on school lunches
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In a country that in recent years has become almost defined by political polarization, it’s hard to imagine more unexpected partners than the deeply red state of Mississippi and Michelle Obama.

And yet, it was Mississippi that early on embraced the first lady’s ideas about healthy food, and was the site where Mrs. Obama kicked off a two day, three-city tour touting the three-year anniversary of her “Let’s Move” initiative, which encourages kids to get and stay fit.

Conservatives like Sarah Palin have attacked Mrs. Obama for her White House garden, her admonition to parents to feed their kids healthy snacks rather than fat-filled sweets, and her star-crossed alliances with pop superstar Beyonce Knowles, and even the Academy Awards. Yet when it comes to Mrs. Obama’s quest to put healthy food on the lunch tables of the country’s school children, Mississippi is very much on board.

Obesity rates in the U.S. have tripled over the last thirty years, with 1 in 3 school kids either overweight or obese as of 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The numbers are even worse for black and Latino children, among whom four in ten are overweight or obese.

Mississippi ranks highest of all the states in adult and childhood obesity, with fully one third of residents being overweight.

Mrs. Obama arrived in Clinton, Mississippi Wednesday to congratulate the state on its progress in beginning to reverse those dire statistics, and to tout the early successes of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which she championed in 2010 with culinary TV Rachel Ray.

The Act, which passed with rare bipartisan support during the lame duck session that followed the Tea Party wave election in 2010, increased federal funding for school lunches by $4.5 billion — the first increase for the Department-of-Agriculture-administered program in 30 years.



First lady Michelle Obama and Food Network chef Rachel Ray discuss lunches with students from the Eastside and Northside Elementary Schools during a "Let's Move!" program at the Clinton, Miss., schools Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. The pair visited with the children and conducted a cooking contest between the schools' chefs. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)


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Less than 1 percent of farms are black-owned in both California and across the nation. Capital Public: Field is Fertile in Delta for Black Farmer.
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Ron Kelley's 50-acre farm skirts the Sacramento River.  Kelley snaps the stems off big, floppy mustard greens that taste like … is that Grey Poupon? Now, Kelley comes to the turnips.

Farmer Kelley: Here's a nice big one right here, I'll just pull it out.

At age 65, Kelley has farmed nearly 60 years. He began as a child weeding his mother's garden in his hometown of Courtland.

Farmer Kelley: That was my first introduction to what has now turned out to be farming a small parcel.

R. Kelley Farms began as a 3-acre patch 19 years ago.

Farmer Kelley: It was something to keep me occupied on the weekends.

Today Kelley's farm is a profitable enterprise. His story is unusual, though. Black agriculture is struggling to reverse a decline in ownership over the past century. Ron Kelley says that for many young urban blacks farming is a reminder of slavery.  

Farmer Kelley: I think the experience of the African-Americans on farms isn't one of  'my grandpa used to take me fishing in the farm pond.' It's 'my grandpa used to pick cotton and get whipped on the farm.'

For many African Americans, the legacy of slavery overshadows pride in farming as a profession.  That's according to Drue Brown. He's the CEO of Blacks in Agriculture headquartered in Sacramento.  

Brown: I notice some students who equate farming with slavery, still today and that's been definitely a deterrent.

Another deterrent was discrimination by the federal government when it came to giving out farm loans to black farmers. The USDA settled a class action lawsuit over this issue in 1999. Glitches in payouts caused more lawsuits. Most recently, President Obama allotted $1.15 billion dollars to black farmers who hadn't been paid in the original settlement.  Brown is counting on black youth to gradually enter farming after exposure to school gardens.


Ron Kelley runs a successful farm in The Delta. As an African American, he's not your typical farmer. Less than 1 percent of farms are black-owned in both California and across the nation.

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In Kenya, progress and dysfunction go hand in hand. Foreign Policy Magazine: The Kenya Puzzle.
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Late last year Nairobi audiences were enthralled by the movie Nairobi Half Life. A German and Kenyan co-production, the film is a rare but successful attempt to break the stranglehold of Bollywood, Hollywood and Nollywood on audiences in East Africa. Received rapturously in Nairobi movie theaters and then at international film festivals, Nairobi Half Life is now doing a brisk trade in the small market stalls selling bootleg DVDs that thrive in towns and cities around the country.

The film's plot is a familiar one. It follows Mwas (Joseph Wairimu) as he leaves his rural home and job -- ironically as one the countless hawkers now selling the film -- to find work as an actor in Nairobi. He subsequently falls into a life of crime while simultaneously playing a criminal on the stage. In its depictions of corruption, violence and crime, the movie offers an unvarnished view of contemporary Kenya. Nairobi is, after all, ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit as better only than Tehran in its most recent index of major capitals and Kenya is only a better place for a child to be born in 2013 than Nigeria. But Nairobi Half Life also warns against binary depictions of what is a dynamic and fluid society.

The audience see Mwas and the city's residents moving across the invisible but all too real boundaries that divide Kenya's capital. They cross the barriers between the informal and formal economies, legitimate trade and criminal activity, and those between the aspiring middle class and the poor. As the film's director, Tosh Gitonga, told journalists, Nairobi Half Life "is the story of a city. We did not exaggerate. It is not about a positive or negative view. It is simply Nairobi."

Fine detail of the sort depicted by Gitonga is inevitably lost when viewed from afar. Seen from the West, Kenya, like so many other countries in the region, seems to veer from boom to bust; in one era it earns praise for a thriving economy, while in the next it's cited for poverty and corruption.


              Foreign Policy Magazine

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Welcome to the porch, where it's always warm, and the conversations are just fine.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Black Kos on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 01:05 PM PST.

Also republished by Black Kos community and Barriers and Bridges.

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