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Guest Editorials

To Be Equal

“Bridges To Jobs And Justice” Brings Together More Than 13,000 Attendees

“We have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies…only permanent interests.” —Former Congressman William Clay, Sr.

In a sign of the ongoing strength of the civil rights community and the Urban League Movement, more than 13,000 people joined us in Cincinnati last week during our 2014 National Urban League Conference for four power-packed days of diversity and dialogue about where we have been and where we are heading in our search for solutions to the pressing problems facing urban America. We also celebrated the 15th anniversary of the National Urban League Young Professionals, the 25th anniversary of our Youth Leadership Summit and the 10th anniversary of our Women of Power awards. Over the past 15 years, the Young Professionals have changed the trajectory of the Urban League Movement – producing strong, effective CEOs who are infusing a new energy and passionate leadership into our affiliates across the county. This year’s Youth Leadership Summit was held at Cincinnati’s Xavier University where 400 14-18 year-olds were exposed to the college experience and the important skills they will need for success in college, work and life. As a part of the National Urban League’s investment in STEM, we teamed up with GE Aviation in a unique experience day for Youth Leadership Summit participants, titled STEM Rising: Uplifting STEM Learning through Aviation, where they had an opportunity to visit the GE Aviation campus and learn about aviation industry technologies and innovations, as well as developing their leadership and teamwork skills.

A highlight of the conference was Vice President Joe Biden’s keynote address on Thursday, July 24 during which he noted the National Urban League’s role in advancing civil rights and the many economic and social gains for African Americans since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Vice President also touted the Obama Administration’s focus on job creation and infrastructure spending, quoting a National Urban League finding that "Every $1 billion in investment creates 30,000 jobs, 14 percent of which go to African-Americans." The Vice President echoed the National Urban League’s opposition to recent attacks on voting rights, pointing out that, “This year alone, there were 83 initiatives in 29 states to limit access to the ballot box, in the name of preventing corruption where no corruption was found, in the name of preventing widespread fraud where none was occurring.” He added, we should call it what it is—“an attempt to repress minority voting masquerading as an attempt to end corruption.”

In addition to the Vice President’s views, as a non-partisan organization, the National Urban League has always welcomed ideas and dialogue from across the entire political spectrum, and this year’s conference attracted a number of notable voices who were eager to share their ideas and reach out to the African American community. U.S. Conference of Mayors President and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson addressed conference attendees, noting that “Mayors don’t have time to deal with the partisan bickering that goes back and forth between Democrats and Republicans. We’re pragmatic, practical and problem-solvers, and we are with you in the trenches. We are your allies in the movement.” During a session that immediately preceded the Vice President, seven mayors—Akron, OH Mayor Don Plusquellic; Columbia, SC Mayor Stephen Benjamin; Columbus, OH Mayor Michael Coleman; Denver, CO Mayor Michael Hancock; Gary, IN Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Jacksonville, FL Mayor Alvin Brown; and Memphis, TN Mayor AC Wharton, Jr.—participated on a panel that focused on strategies for addressing underemployment, including education and training, transportation, small business development, technology and innovation, and healthcare. The following day, Republican Senator Rand Paul made a strong argument for criminal justice reform, announcing legislation that eliminates any disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, and revealing that he and Senator Cory Booker have teamed up on ideas to overhaul the criminal justice system, including legislation that expunges non-violent felonies from a person's record. While some of these ideas hold merit, there are many others that diverge from the interests of the Urban League Movement including opposition to a raise in the minimum wage and any support of voter ID laws. However, as I’ve previously stated, history has shown us a consistent truth - that it is only by talking, listening and reasoning together that we build trust, end stalemates and transform conflicts into solutions. We don’t have to adopt every view that is presented to us, but we should never devolve to a place where we stop listening to—or worse—respecting each other.

Our 2014 Conference was a resounding success – thanks in large part to the support of our 94 affiliates in more than 300 communities across the nation, the people of Cincinnati who welcomed us with open arms and the dedicated and committed companies who provided their support, including our title sponsors, P&G, Toyota, and Western & Southern. Many lessons were gained during the course of our four days together, but perhaps the most important was the ongoing need for coalition-building to address the nation's many challenges. In order to build bridges to jobs and justice, we must first have meaningful dialogue that leads to action. As former Congressional Black Caucus member William Clay, Sr. famously said, “We have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies…just permanent interests.” I hope our 2014 Conference was an example of the type of respectful and insightful exchange necessary to defend the permanent interests of urban America and lead to lasting change.

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


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Clinical Trials Can Be Life Savers

BY ANA FADICH

If you’re experiencing a serious medical condition and the treatments you’re getting aren’t helping, ask your health provider whether a clinical trial might offer a more effective means to manage or even cure the problem at hand.

Participating in a clinical trial may give you an opportunity to take advantage of new medicines before they’re approved for sale to the general public.

What are Clinical Trials and Why is the Public Allowed to Participate?

Clinical trials are designed to give researchers, clinicians, and the FDA (the agency that must approve all medical treatments before they’re made available to the public) critical information about the safety of a prospective new drug, or valuable insight into how to use an older medication in a new way to produce safer, more-effective treatments.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusion out there about what clinical trials actually are. Some people hear those words and imagine that they’ll be subjected to dangerous medical experiments. Others hear the same words and imagine a magical cure: show up at a lab somewhere, pop some new pills, and come out disease-free. Neither is correct.

Clinical trials are constantly and carefully monitored by the FDA to ensure the safety of every volunteer. Out of every 5,000-10,000 drugs pharmaceutical companies discover, only five ever make it to the clinical trial stage—the point at which the FDA feels they’re safe enough to use on human volunteers; the rest are discarded long before. Of those five, only one will ever be approved. Clearly, no medieval experimenting going on here.

On the other hand, clinical trials are not appropriate for every person or in every circumstance. Volunteers are carefully screened to ensure that they have the disease that’s being studied and that they don’t have any other conditions that might confuse the results or interfere with the way the new drug works. For example, a clinical trial for a new prostate cancer drug would, of course, recruit volunteers who have prostate cancer. But they might exclude volunteers who also have some other health problem that could make it hard to determine whether the new drug worked properly or not. (In certain instances, someone who doesn’t qualify for a clinical trial but whose condition is life-threatening, may still be eligible to participate under what’s called a Compassionate Use Program.). In addition, the volunteer will be carefully monitored to determine whether there are any unpleasant or unforeseen side-effects or the experimental drug is not helping at all.

So could a clinical trial be useful for you? If you think so, start by talking with the health provider who’s treating you right now. Odds are, he or she knows—or can help you find—a scientist, physician, university, or local clinical research center that’s doing cutting-edge research into your condition and may be conducting trials that you might be a candidate for. In addition, the National Institute of Health has an excellent online database www.ClinicalTrials.gov that you can search to find appropriate trials. Unfortunately, using that database requires quite a bit of skill (more than many medical practitioners have), so it’s worth making contact with a reputable patient advocacy group such as Men’s Health Network (www.menshealthnetwork.org) that can help you navigate those murky waters.

Once you’ve found a clinical trial that sounds promising, your work isn’t over. Gather as much information as you can from your provider, the people conducting the trial, and patient advocacy organizations about all of the potential benefits and risks. Then start asking questions. Lots of them. “Participation in a clinical trial is an important decision and you need to do your homework,” advises Cathryn Clary, MD, Head of US Medical and Chief Scientific Officer of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. “The good news is that there is a lot of information available and you should take advantage of it all to make the most informed decision. So, take your time, read about the study, understand how it will work, the background of the study team and site and what participation will involve. Ask a lot of questions. It can be a very rewarding experience but it’s important to be sure it’s the right experience for you.”

Ultimately, of course, the decision is yours alone. And you’ll be asked to sign an Informed Consent document stating essentially that you’ve had a chance to ask questions and that you’re walking into the trial with your eyes wide open.

The Bottom Line—For many boys and men who are not getting better with currently available medications, a clinical trial may be a viable option. There’s a lot more to understanding the clinical trials process than could be summarized in this brief article. We urge you to familiarize yourself with the process, laws, rights of sponsoring organizations and of patients, and any other relevant information you’ll need to make a truly informed, intelligent decision. But don’t do it alone. Talk with your family, your health provider, and a patient advocacy group. Yes, this is about you getting better and managing your condition. However, it’s also about helping society understand new and important treatments.

Visit the Men’s Health Resource Center (www.menshealthresourcecenter.com) for more information about the health and wellbeing of men, boys and their families.

Ana Fadich serves as vice president at Men’s Health Network (MHN). She has been featured as an expert in many print and online media outlets as well as radio and television. Ana has presented at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Federal Government Agencies, American Public Health Association (APHA,) corporate employer sites, and conferences. Ana represents MHN at prostate cancer advocacy, research, and policy meetings.

Ana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, CA, and a Master’s of Public Health degree from the University of Southern California.


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Mother Africa—It’s The land!

It reminds me of the classic Gone with the Wind. A young Scarlet O’Hara was standing in a field with her father. He picks up a handful of dirt and puts it in Scarlet’s hand and replies “Remember, it’s the land Scarlet. It won’t leave you. It can make you rich.” That is so heavy and very true. At the end of the movie Scarlet is down and out in Atlanta. Then she remembers that lesson and says to herself “I am going back to Terra (family farm). Yes, that’s what I will do.”

Land, especially arable land, is potential wealth. For some reason our African nations don’t seem to understand this. We went on a trade mission to Kenya back in 2004. We were given a tour of a textile facility that was supplying Target, Walmart and JC Penney with children’s clothing. To my shock, I noticed all of the cotton which was piled high to the ceiling marked with “Product of China”. The day before we were approached by the Kenya Cotton Growers Association who were protesting about the lack of support the Kenya government was giving them. They were going broke because the textile plants like the one we were visiting were exclusively buying their cotton from China and India. It became clear to me. China was running its cotton through Kenya to the United States to avoid tariffs and a trade imbalance via AGOA credit.

AGOA is the African Growth and Opportunity Act. We certainly supported this when it was going through legislation. But afterwards the textile lobby pushed for the “Third Country Fabric Provision”. This allows a nation from outside of Africa to participate in AGOA for fabric trade to the United States. It has been devastating to cotton farms throughout Africa. Nigeria once had a thriving fabric industry but now it is all but gone. AGOA was written by two white congressmen. But for this big trick they used a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Then for the Central American Free Trade Agreement the same CBC congressman put in an exception for Haiti to be in the deal. Immediately after that China puts a massive textile facility in Haiti. So now China is trading much textile fabric to the United States duty free—pimping off programs meant for underserved Black nations.

Besides under the table money, why are these nations allowing this to happen? I think I just found the answer. An editorial by Isaac Sebakijje solved the mystery. “Uganda Presidential Adviser Rose Zimulinda’s comment... pointed out how the 23rd of State of the African Union was not excited about discussing agriculture.”

“Sub Saharan Africa must stop viewing agriculture as a rudimentary activity. The current harsh reality of poverty can be traced back to lack of agricultural development. There is a misconception that the engines of growth lie outside of agriculture. Non-agriculture enterprises are supposedly the “more important” sectors. Multinational companies conserve more effort in absorbing the workforce in non-agriculture sectors to stimulate growth. It is simply faulty logic to conclude that promoting agriculture confines the poor in a poverty trap especially in East Africa where 75% of the workforce is engaged in agricultural activities. Recent growth in the Asian economic tigers such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and parts of China were typically preceded by, and engineered, agricultural growth.”

Yes, this is it. Instead of developing the agriculture sector through the use of AGOA, they are abandoning that opportunity. Get some under the table cash and buy a textile mill and run as much Chinese and Indian cotton as possible. Ship them duty free with “Made in Kenya” tags or whatever nation is perpetrating the scheme. Go to a Joseph Banks store and look at the men’s suits. Some will say “Made in Haiti” but that isn’t the whole story. The success of any nation starts with its agricultural base. There is a reason why the United States is the most powerful nation in the world. We have the most arable land. Our agriculture sector is the champion of the world and it feeds our other sectors.

Africa has so much potential. Zimbabwe was once known as “The Breadbasket of Africa”. In a racist act they ran out the white owned farms. Now, Zimbabwe is one of the poorest nations on earth. There is plenty of arable land and if it realized its full potential Africa would have over 660 million acres of arable land. That is without irrigation! With a good infrastructure for irrigation they would double that. As cotton once made the South king, it can do the same for the nations of sub Saharan Africa. Leaders of Africa please get busy. Stop playing the games and develop your agriculture potential

Mr. Alford is the president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.