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To Be Equal

Ruby Dee Exits The Stage But Remains In Our Hearts

“The kind of beauty I want is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within: strength, courage, dignity.” —Ruby Dee

In the past several weeks, two remarkable African American women artists took their final bows. In the midst of mourning the May 28 passing of Dr. Maya Angelou, we learned that last Wednesday, June 11, the great actress and activist Ruby Dee died at her home in New Rochelle, New York. Both Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee used their incomparable talents to reshape our notions of beauty, womanhood and race. They also inspired millions of people around the world with their extraordinary wisdom and dignity. Everything about Ruby Dee was an expression of a lifelong dedication to human rights, racial equality and social justice—from the roles she portrayed to the causes she championed, even to the man she loved and was married to for 56 years, actor Ossie Davis. Though her physical presence is no longer with us, the larger than life impact Ruby Dee had on the stage, screen and the public consciousness will live on forever.

Known widely for her 1959 Broadway and 1961 movie roles as Ruth Younger, the wife of Walter Lee Younger, as played by Sidney Poitier, in “A Raisin in the Sun,” Ruby Dee’s acting career spanned more than six decades and earned her numerous awards, including an Emmy, a Grammy, an Obie and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2008, she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Mama Lucas, the mother of Denzel Washington’s character, Frank Lucas, in “American Gangster.” In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded her and Ossie Davis the National Medal of Arts. She also won widespread acclaim for her 1950 portrayal of Rachel Robinson, the wife of the first Black major league baseball player in “The Jackie Robinson Story.” She and Ossie Davis also had notable roles in several Spike Lee films including “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever.”

Ruby Dee’s elegant and tenacious presence radiated as much off the stage and screen as it did on. She and Ossie Davis, who died in 2005, were civil rights and social justice activists who supported and worked alongside Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. This unique husband-wife team even served as master and mistress of ceremonies for the historic 1963 March on Washington. They were both long-time members and supporters of numerous civil rights organizations. In 1970, the New York Urban League honored Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis with its prestigious Frederick Douglass Award. In 1986, the National Urban League presented them both our Equal Opportunity Day Award, and in 1985 at the National Urban League’s 75th anniversary Founders Day program, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis served as key program participants, sharing poetry and reflections of Urban League history.

In 1998, the couple published a joint autobiography titled, “With Ossie & Ruby: In This Thing Together,” an epitaph that will adorn the urn that will hold both their ashes. According to the Washington Post, in 2008, Ruby Dee described the epitaph to Jet magazine: “If I leave any thought behind, it is that we were in this thing together, so let’s love each other right now. Let’s make sense of things right now. Let’s make it count somehow right now, because we are in this thing together.” That was not only the key to the remarkable marriage of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis; it is a lesson for us all.

Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.


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Mortgage Complaints Top CFPB’s 2013 List

BY CHARLENE CROWELL

In mid-March, the monitor for the National Mortgage Settlement announced that participating banks had completed terms of the agreement affecting 49 states. Collectively, Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo provided over $20 billion in borrower relief to more than 600,000 troubled homeowners.

Of these monies, at least $10 billion was used to reduce principal owed on homes with market values lower than their mortgages and others that were either delinquent or at-risk of default. Another $3 billion benefited borrowers who were able to refinance their homes at lower interest rates than their original mortgages. The remaining $7 billion assisted a variety of programs from service members who were forced to sell their homes at a loss, to anti-blight efforts, short sales and transitional assistance.

Despite these positive steps, the housing crisis is still not over for far too many households. New data released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reveals that mortgages remain the number one complaint category for the second consecutive year. In 2013, mortgage complaints filed with CFPB grew to 60,000, compared to 19,250 complaints the previous year.

Speaking to the newly-released data, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said, “At a market level, complaints give us insight into what is happening to consumers across the country, right now. They are also our compass and make a difference by informing our work and helping us identify and prioritize problems for potential supervisory, enforcement and regulatory action.”

When CFPB analyzed consumers’ mortgage concerns, loan modification, collections and foreclosures accounted for nearly 60 percent of those received. Other mortgage complaints included loan servicing, payments, escrow accounts, mortgage brokers and origination.

The irony of the continuing mortgage saga is that the national settlement called for new servicing standards that would correct the kinds of conduct that harmed consumers in recent years. The settlement also included explicit servicing requirements to remedy key problem areas:

*Providing a single point of contact for borrows to call when seeking information about their loans and adequate staff to handle calls;

*Requiring servicers to evaluate all available option to homeowners before beginning foreclosures;

*Stopping past consumer abuses such as lost paperwork and improper documentation; servicers were to end the practice of robo-signing foreclosures and instead ensure a full review prior to those filings; and

*Restricting banks from foreclosing while the homeowner is being considered for loan modifications that would make mortgage payments more affordable.

CFPB’s complaints highlight a harsh reality of our country’s economy. Its findings can and should serve as a bellwether for continued policy reforms that address yet unmet needs.

However while CFPB can tally its complaints, the anguish that homeowners continue to suffer cannot be calculated. The American Dream of homeownership became a nightmare during the housing crisis and continues to be so for large numbers of homeowners. It is also relevant to note that for many troubled borrowers, the decision to purchase a home remains the single largest investment of their lifetimes.

Since the financial crisis that began in September 2008, approximately 4.9 million homes were lost to foreclosures as of January this year. Additionally another 1.9 million mortgages were in serious delinquency, 90 days or more past due. These data points were tallied by CoreLogic, a firm specializing in financial analysis.

The 600,000 homeowners helped by the national settlement began important remedies to the crisis. And it is still too soon to measure the effectiveness of CFPB’s new mortgage rules that took effect in January.

It is therefore clear that more important work remains before America’s housing market returns to full health. Communities of color that were targeted for predatory mortgage loans have endured the brunt of foreclosures and lost wealth. Even for neighbors who remain in their homes and are current on their mortgages, reduced property values affect their home investments as well.

No community—especially those that were financially preyed upon—should be left out of the nation’s recovery.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.


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NHSA Healthy Start Fathers—Real Life, Real Dads

BY KENN HARRIS and ARMIN BROTT

We all know (or at least we should know) how important fathers are in their children’s lives. Children with involved fathers get better grades and are more likely to graduate high school. They’re less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or to get involved in criminal activity. They’re more independent, manage their emotions better, are less violent, and have higher levels of empathy than kids whose dads aren’t involved. Boys with involved dads learn how to treat the women in their lives, and girls with involved dads learn what they should expect from the men in their lives.

But none of this happens if dad isn’t around—a scenario that’s especially common in low-income communities where families tend to be younger, unmarried, less educated, and resource deprived. Most of the services available to these families (prenatal care, new parent classes, and so on) are actually targeted at mothers and for the most part, completely exclude fathers. Dads get the message that they have no role in their children’s lives. Too many take that message to heart and simply back away.

The National Healthy Start Association (NHSA) is committed to changing that dynamic and to giving men the tools and support they need to become the fathers they truly want to be—and their children need them to be. We know from our research that men don’t access services in the same way as women do, and that men and fathers experience great challenges in navigating systems that weren’t designed for them, systems, which traditionally have ignored them.

Recognizing the need to help fathers overcome those obstacles, NHSA developed the Core Adaptive Model© (CAM©) to reach fathers across urban, rural, border, and tribal communities. Building on lessons we’ve learned after 20 years of implementing the federal Maternal Child Health (MCH) program, the goal of our fatherhood programs is to ensure the creation of father-friendly environments that respect the diverse needs (cultural, financial, emotional, and otherwise) of the men and fathers we serve.

One of the most important elements of NHSA Fatherhood programs is training providers and staff about how to approach, engage, and serve men and fathers. Putting a few sports or car magazines in the office waiting room helps but isn’t nearly enough.

NHSA Fatherhood programs are race- and culturally responsive and are designed to promote impactful engagement and focus on inclusion, involvement, investment, and integration. Most importantly, our programs view each father as a unique and valued member of a family, and emphasize his roles and responsibilities across the life-course (before, during, after, and beyond pregnancy). One of our interventions, “Dads and Diamonds are Forever,” is an 11-week curriculum that aims to restore a man’s sense of value to himself, his child(ren), the mother of his child(ren), and his community.

But since fatherhood is just one facet of men’s identity, we also educate our fathers (and their partners) about “men’s health,” in the broadest sense, including mental, physical, social, emotional, and financial. A man’s health influences his ability to successfully engage with his family, and we know that the healthiest fathers—the ones who take charge of their own health, who support their children and the mothers of their children—have the potential to be the best fathers, and to become the most positive contributors to their communities.

To help us achieve our goal of meeting the needs of at-risk fathers nationwide through best-practice and evidence-based programming, we often partner with other organizations that share similar goals and whose expertise complements our own. June is Men’s Health Month, and as men’s unique health needs become more widely known and documented, we’ve partnered with Men’s Health Network (the organization responsible for helping pass the legislation that created National Men’s Health Week) to increase the health literacy of the men NHSA serves and the health providers who deliver those services.

We also recently partnered with MrDad.com on a “Texting with Dads” program that delivers engaging, educational messages about pregnancy, infant and child development, family planning, age-appropriate activities, partner support, and men’s health directly to the dad’s cellphone.

So this week, the National Healthy Start Association and our partners wish each and every father a happy, healthy Father’s Day. We recognize that most dads today aren’t Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best), nor are they Cliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show). And we recognize that although many dads today face tremendous obstacles—cultural, educational, financial, and legal—to being as involved as they’d like to be, they care about their family and love their children just as passionately as those idealized TV fathers do. And all of us need to do everything we can to support them.

To learn more, go to:

National Healthy Start Association—www.nationalhealthystart.org

Mr. Dad—www.mrdad.com

Men’s Health Network—www.menshealthnetwork.org

Men’s Health Month—www.menshealthmonth.org

Men’s Health Resource Center—www.menshealthresourcecenter.org

By Kenn Harris—National Healthy Start Association, Dads Matter Initiative

Armin Brott—Mr. Dad