Monday, February 23, 2009

Stop Hitting Me! Domestic Violence and Its Impact on the Family Unit

By Hugh V. Collins and Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

I know everyone is talking about the alleged domestic assault and battery that occurred between Chris Brown and Rihanna during the weekend of February 7 – 8, 2009. Recently, MTV, US Weekly and People magazine did specials or cover stories regarding the incident. Gossip organizations like and all had their spin on what transpired. Many people are expressing outrage and taking sides. Some people have stated that Rihanna must have done something and deserved to get beat by Chris Brown while others believe that Chris Brown had no right whatsoever to lay a hand on Rihanna regardless of the argument between them. Well, domestic abuse is more common and more people in the U.S. and in the world have witnessed some form of domestic abuse in their lives or among their families. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics report in 2005, one in 320 households were affected by intimate partner violence. Also, they report that female victims are more likely to be victimized by intimates than male victims.

So, if we are going to talk about domestic violence, let’s REALLY TALK about it. Not just give a he said, she said viewpoint. This article will explore the historical aspect of domestic abuse, identify the true aggressor, analyze the impact of abuse on the family unit, and list options people can do to minimize the damaging and criminal impact of domestic violence. This article will present both a male and female viewpoint so that both sides are fairly represented. Our goal is to not preach or accuse anyone here. This article is designed to make people aware that domestic abuse is of common occurrence in our society, it is not related solely to Chris Brown and Rihanna’s incident, and give people options to undertake to help minimize the damaging impact of it.

Historical Perspective of Domestic Abuse and Reform Efforts

Most people don’t realize that there is an 1824 Mississippi Supreme Court case, Bradley v. State, that legitimized domestic abuse and what was acceptable in society. The Mississippi Supreme Court stated the following in its opinion: “Family broils and dissentions cannot be investigated before the tribunals of the country, without casting a shade over the character of those who are unfortunately engaged in the controversy. To screen from public reproach those who may be thus unhappily situated, let the husband be permitted to exercise the right of moderate chastisement, in cases of great emergency, and use salutary restraints in every case of misbehavior, without being subjected to vexatious prosecutions, resulting in the mutual discredit and shame of all parties concerned.See Bradley v. State, 1 Miss. 156 (MS 1824).

Examples of moderate chastisement include the wife having bruises, being bloodied, or being raped by her husband. Bradley codified the rule under the old common law (or judge made law in England). Thank goodness Bradley was overruled in 1894 by the Mississippi Supreme Court in Harris v. State. See Harris v. State, 14 So. 266 (MS 1894). But, the lasting impacting of what has been acceptable as moderate chastisement as defined under the old common law and codified in American law seems to show a troubling acceptance of this behavior in American society and around the world. Anybody remember the movie, What's Love Got to Do With It, where Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne reenacted the marital rape that existed between Ike and Tina Turner. Well, as the law identified, marital rape was acceptable under the old common law and in American society. No wonder Tina Turner or any other wife who experiences marital rape from her husband believes they will not be able to find help if this was the law.

There are periods of reform against family violence in American history. From 1640 to 1680, the Puritans of colonial Massachusetts enacted the first laws in the world against wife beating and “unnatural severity” to children. From 1874 to 1890, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC) was created to help battered women and victims of incest. In 1962, five physicians published an article about “the battered child syndrome” in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In the early 1970s, women’s liberation movement analyzed “battered spouse syndrome” and evoked awareness about other forms of wife beating and marital rape. Other types of family violence from abuse of the elderly to sibling violence have come to light as well.

The reason why these distinct periods of reform against family violence occurred in American history resulted as a response to social and political conditions or social movements. In all the reform periods, small organizations and dedicated individuals (ministers, millionaires, physicians, temperance activists, and women’s liberationists) made family violence a social issue that demanded public attention.

Identifying the Aggressor in Domestic Abuse

Everyone has an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in American society. In tort law and in criminal law, people are allowed to be free of imminent harmful or offensive contact. What is considered harmful or offensive contact has changed. As noted earlier in old common law and in America history, it was generally accepted for a husband or man to do moderate chastisement (e.g. get bloody, beat or rape) their wife or girlfriend without fear of criminal persecution. Since the latest reform in the 1970’s, women are now considered to be equal to men under the law. That means women have the right to defend themselves against any type of violence initiated by their partners. Now, I am not sure that most people understand this legal change for women when it comes to domestic violence especially when one in 320 households where affected by intimate partner violence as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics report in 2005.

But let us re-iterate everyone has a right to defend themselves. This is known in criminal law as the affirmative defense of self-defense. The general rule is that a person has the right to use like force in defense of oneself. For example, if a person approaches you with a knife to rob you, you have the right under the law to defend yourself with a similar type of weapon. A knife is considered a dangerous, lethal weapon. So, a person can defend themselves with a knife, a gun or any other type of weapon. What is not considered self-defense is when a person is only verbally assaulted and the person retaliates with his or her fist or a weapon. This example is not an example of self-defense because it is not using like use of force. So, if a person uses their fist when a person is only using verbal assaults, the person using greater force than the initial argument will be considered the aggressor.

Now, if during an argument where it appears one person is retreating and still the other party continues the physical assault, then the person continuing the physical assault will be considered the aggressor even if they did not initially start the altercation. So, the aggressor is defined as the person who acts in a way that would provoke a reasonable person to use physical force for protection. Some people think verbal assaults do provoke a person to use physical force for protection. That is one reason why people justify domestic violence with statements like Rihanna must have done something to have Chris Brown hit her. However, under the law, verbal assaults SHOULD NOT provoke a person to use physical force for protection. If any person does do this, the person (man or woman) has the right to defend themselves or bring civil or criminal charges of assault and battery against you in a court of law.

Domestic Abuse’s Lingering Impact on the Family Unit

Domestic abuse is about a person exerting control over another human being with either mental abuse or physical violence. Domestic abuse is a generational issue that has its origins from children modeling the same behavior that their parents or parental guardians exhibited in their relationships.

Proverbs 22:6 states “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Usually, this scripture refers to parents (or guardians of children) taking heed to train their children to be God fearing, loving and decent representatives of their faith in society. When the child becomes an adult, they usually will keep these same principles they received as from their parents and replicate the behavior towards their children as they rear them. But, what this scripture really points out is that any training you give to your child will result in the child likely replicating the behavior when they become an adult. Hence, if a child sees domestic abuse among their parents (or stepparents), they will likely replicate the behavior when they become an adult.

That is generally what Chris Brown is doing when he beats on Rihanna or any girl as a matter of fact. Chris Brown witnessed either his father or his step-father beating on his mother and in his subconscious mind, he thinks this type of behavior by a man against any woman they are intimate with is the way you should treat a woman. Consciously, Chris Brown has stated publicly that he thinks any form of domestic violence is wrong. However, by his father or step-father continuing to beat his mother and his mother continuing to stay in the relationship for whatever reason, the male child has modeled the behavior of the father figure in his life. The same thing happens to girls when domestic violence occurs in their family unit. If girls witness their mother staying in a relationship that is abusive, they generally will be attracted to men who are abusive when they become adults. Girls think, just like their mothers, if I just do something differently, the abuse will stop. The sad part is that most times the domestic abuse does not stop.

Another illustration is from the movie Men of Honor where the initials "ASNF" were clearly scribed into Carl Brashear's transistor radio given to him by his father, a share cropper. Carl’s father believed that if he was able to teach his son anything, it would be the value of hard work, dedication, and fighting a good fight. Through his earlier teachings, Carl learned these values by watching and learning from his father. The letters "ASNF" which meant "A Son Never Forgets" was later learnt by his nemesis, Master Chief Billy Sunday, whom also came from the tough life of a share cropper. Master Chief Billy Sunday was a man who would do anything in his power to ensure Carl Brashear would flunk out of diving school. Unfortunately for the Master Chief, Carl's early childhood lessons were far more potent and persuasive which allowed him to painstakingly accept his adversity and fight to overcome them. His lessons were so deeply imbedded that not even a hateful Master Chief could break him. In the end, he helped make him better when he realized that his father had taught him lessons a son would never forget.

As a child, I witnessed several incidents of child abuse and some degree of spousal abuse. I also had friends suffer the same fate as preteens. There were factual events that occurred and many I would hope were fictional, but that was not the case.

I clearly remember one particular day that would have me question the meaning of a lot of things to come. The sun had already faded for hours and the stars were bright in the sky. I could hear the banging on the back door of my next door neighbor's house, loud voices screaming and yelling at my friend's father to stop and leave his wife alone. He had to have been in another state of mind because none of his friends could persuade him otherwise, and he was willing to listen to no one.

He continued to sharpen the cutlass, and threaten to take her with him if he had to go down. With a crowbar in hand, he pried the windows open. With four children, three boys and one girl, all less than eight years-old, witnessed and agonized over what was transpiring. I continued looking through my window in disbelief. I though he was going to kill them.

The result of that night was not as fatal as I thought it would be, but I awoke the next morning to hear the tales of how afraid they were, and how they would never want the same thing to happen to anyone they love. However, their actions would later reveal something quite different. Two of the boys would often get into fights with women and often got caned in school. They were very short tempered and did not care who they had to hurt to get what they wanted. Feeling abandoned, stories of that night would often surface, while their faces grimaced and they wished they were older to take revenge on their father. There were several spousal beatings after that night and their mother would hide under the guise of shame and make-up. He was not in the picture much after that. Their childhood fights became more intense as they grew into adulthood. The three younger kids were able to control their aggression towards each other, but the oldest male child grew more rebellious and abusive, verbally and physically.

The oldest male child had another incident of child abuse from his father where he was beaten repeatedly while naked, for fighting with a schoolmate who happened to be the child of his father’s mistress. Imagine yourself getting beaten by your own father for fighting with a child of your father’s mistress all because that child found out about the affair and wanted his father for his own mother.

After witnessing such a personal account of what spousal or child abuse had done to such young children at the time, it brings me back to the point that, regardless of the situation while being groomed as a child, negative or positive outcomes are inevitable because a child will never forget the abuse they have had to endure and live through.

One thing to keep in mind is this did not happen in the United States, this happened in Jamaica. The rules are different as there is very little accountability for one's actions when it comes to the family unit. Many times, law enforcement gets involved when it is already too late. If you are lucky, you will be beaten for most of your childhood and you deal with it by sucking it up, and saying to yourself, "what doesn't kill me will make me stronger."

There are just some things in life one never forgets and it will forever impact the relationships you have with people, whether you realize it or not. It can change who you are and if the wound is deep enough, you may stay that way until you are forced to rest forever. The point I am trying to make is no matter what your situation, as a child in the home, whether stable or broken, you learn the teachings of your parents without realizing you are being taught something you will most likely carry with you for life.

Measures to Take to Minimize Domestic Abuse

A. Psychological Measures

De-programming is the key. Og Mandino wrote in “The Greatest Salesman in the World” the following passage: “Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure. Thus, the first law I will obey, which precedeth all others is – I will form good habits and become their slave. As a child I was slave to my impulses; now I am slave to my habits as are all grown men. I have surrendered my free will to the years of accumulated habits and the past deeds of my life have already marked out a path which threatens to imprison my future. My actions are ruled by appetite, passion, prejudice, greed, love, fear, environment, habit, and the worst of these tyrants is habit. Therefore, if I must be a slave to habit let me be a slave to good habits. My bad habits must be destroyed and new furrows prepared for good seed.”

If you have witnessed or been a part of domestic abuse, each person must take it upon themselves to deprogram their minds into accepting domestic abuse as a way of settling any argument. Usually, domestic violence involves matters of the heart. Someone feels so connected to an individual that they are so enraged that they must use violence to subdue their partner. Well, I have news for men (or women) who use violence to subdue their partners. Slavery or any form of indentured servitude ended with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that abolished slavery in 1865. Also, women are not your property to be hit on. If we truly value the person and believe everyone has a right to self-defense against an assault or battery, then the same rule must apply.

There are many counselors who are available to help cope with domestic abuse for those who are victims and those who are the abusers. In almost every city in the United States, there is a domestic violence shelter for women and children that will be able to provide a safe haven, counseling, and means to take either civil or criminal actions against the domestic abuser. Please contact your courthouse or ask the police department to give you contact information of the domestic violence shelter in your area. These shelters must be kept confidential for fear of retribution by the domestic abuser on the victim of the abuse.

B. Civil Protective or Restraining Order System

Any person who is receiving threats, been abused or has family members such as a child or parent abused can file an Adult Abuse Order of Protection (or Temporary Restraining Order) in the state civil courts. Usually, these petitions are free to file and the hearing occurs within 10 to 15 days. Both parties are allowed to present their sides of the matter. The plaintiff has to prove that more likely than not (or greater than 50%) the abuse happened. The more evidence (e.g. pictures of abuse, witnesses, etc…) a plaintiff has, the more the court will rule in the plaintiff’s favor. Usually a temporary restraining order will range from 6 months until a full year where both parties are prevented from being within the vicinity of the other party. If the defendant violates the temporary restraining order in effect, the defendant can be hauled to jail for violating the court’s order. There is also a Child Order of Protection available as well for minor children who have been abused. Please contact your respective civil county courts for information regarding these petitions.

C. Criminal Justice System

Another avenue available is when the county prosecutor files a criminal charge of assault and battery or the like. Unlike civil proceedings where the victim initiates the action, the county prosecutor files the charge on behalf of the state where the action occurred. Under criminal law, a conviction against the defendant will occur if there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt (or greater than 99%) that the defendant did the alleged crime. In criminal cases, there is a mens rea (mental state of the defendant) and an actus reus (act of the crime) where both have to be proven by the county prosecutor in a trial. Currently, the Los Angeles County Prosecutor is informing the police to get more evidence available on Chris Brown before they feel comfortable that they can get a jury of Brown’s peers to convict him on any criminal charge they present. Usually, the criminal avenue is difficult because evidence is lacking to meet the criminal burden. In domestic violence cases with intimate partners, victims are less willing to cooperate with authorities for fear of retribution by their partners once they get out. But, if the county prosecutor is able to get enough evidence to convict, the victim has a better chance of minimizing the reoccurrence of violence by their partner.

Clare Dalton & Elizabeth M. Schneider, Battered Women and the Law 9-11 (2001).

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Arrest Made in Home Foreclosure Civil Disobedience Program

Monday, February 23, 2009

By Joshua Rhett Miller

Police in Baltimore today made what is believed to be the first arrest in a civil disobedience program aimed at supporting homeowners who refuse to vacate their foreclosed homes.

An activist with ACORN — the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now — faces criminal charges after breaking into a home in southeast Baltimore on Thursday to protest the foreclosure crisis sweeping the country.

"This is our house now," ACORN member Louis Beverly reportedly said after cutting a lock with bolt cutters at the home.

Beverly will be charged with fourth-degree burglary, according to Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police. Attempts to reach his attorney, Justin Brown, were not immediately successful.

Donna Hanks, who owned the home since 2001, lost it in September when she couldn't make her $1,995 mortgage payments. It was not immediately clear whether Hanks re-entered her home last week, but she was not expected to be arrested, Guglielmi said.
Other police departments contacted by said arrests would be made if an individual is determined to be residing at a foreclosed home illegally.

"If they're trespassing and it's not their property, absolutely, there'd by an arrest," a police source in Boston said. "If they were told to leave the property and they didn't, they'd be charged with disorderly conduct."

Pittsburgh Police Spokeswoman Diane Richard said charges would be filed against any individual found living in a foreclosed home, whether that individual had previously lived at the residence or not.

"If someone is court-ordered to vacate and they do not, it would be trespassing at that point," Richard said. "What exactly would be charged depends on the intensity of the violation. It could go all the way up to burglary, which is a felony."

See more, follow the link (,2933,498669,00.html)

Video for viewing pleasure:

Lawyer charged in killings of Curry's ex, baby

Associated Press

Updated: February 23, 2009, 3:46 AM EST

CHICAGO (AP) - A 36-year-old attorney fatally shot the former girlfriend and infant daughter of New York Knicks player Eddy Curry during a domestic-related dispute, according to police and published reports.

Fredrick Goings of Chicago was charged Sunday with two counts of first-degree murder, Cook County State's Attorney spokeswoman Sally Daly said.

Police said Goings was arrested Friday evening as he was getting into his car outside a relative's place in Chicago. Goings has not made any statements to authorities and is not cooperating in the investigation, Lt. Denis Walsh said.

It was not immediately clear who was representing Goings. A message left at his Chicago law office Sunday was not returned. Goings was due in bond court on Monday.

The bodies of 24-year-old Nova Henry and her 9-month-old daughter, Ava, were found in their Chicago apartment on Jan. 24. Both died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Henry also was the mother of ex-Chicago Bulls player Curry's 3-year-old son, who was found unharmed at the scene. Court records show that Goings was Henry's attorney in a paternity case with Curry involving Ava.

According to the Chicago Tribune, records show that DNA tests confirmed Ava was Curry's daughter. Curry, through Knicks spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz, declined comment. Messages left Sunday for his attorney were not immediately returned.
Police said Goings and Henry had "a relationship" and the motive for the shooting was "domestic related" but declined to elaborate.

According to police, Nova Henry let Goings into the apartment on Jan. 24 and the two quarreled.
"What happened inside that apartment will have to come out at a later date," Walsh told reporters Sunday. "There obviously was an argument."

Police said surveillance images and other evidence linked Goings to the case, but authorities declined to give details.

Goings has been practicing law since April 2005, according to state records.'s-ex,-baby?MSNHPHMA

Friday, February 20, 2009

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon Snubbed by Obama

Mayor Sheila Dixon, in her first extended television interview since she was indicted in January, told WJZ that she was "floored" by the accusation that she stole gift cards from needy families and "bothered" that Barack Obama snubbed her during a pre-inaugural visit to Baltimore.
Reporter Adam May said the interview was granted without ground rules, though Dixon told the station that she would not answer specific questions about the 12-count indictment filed against her after a nearly three-year investigation of City Hall corruption by the state prosecutor's office.
Dixon is charged with theft, perjury for failing to disclose gifts from developers and misuse of office. She has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and did so again in the interview.
Dixon said, "I was floored" when accused of taking gift cards intended for low-income families.


Click to read.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Holder’s Statement: Is our country really a “nation of cowards”?

Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, said Wednesday the United States was "a nation of cowards" on matters of race, with most Americans avoiding candid discussions of racial issues. In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder said.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, but "we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

Holder's speech echoed President Barack Obama's landmark address last year on race relations during the hotly contested Democratic primaries, when the then-candidate urged the nation to break "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years" and bemoaned the "chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races." Obama delivered the speech to try to distance himself from the angry rhetoric of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.


Click to read.

Black Attorney Roland Burris Might Get Taken Down for Perjury

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris' admission that he tried to raise campaign funds for ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is prompting calls for his resignation and a perjury investigation.

Burris told reporters in Peoria late Monday that he "talked to some people" last year about holding a fundraiser for the now-disgraced former Democratic governor. At the time, Burris was seeking the appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

ILLINOIS GOP LEADER: Sen. Burris should resign

SEN. BURRIS: Insists he did not change his testimony

Burris did not organize a Blagojevich fundraiser, but his latest statements about contacts with the former governor's brother and other advisers appear to contradict previous public comments, testimony and affidavits he had given to the Illinois General Assembly.

Burris originally told the Illinois House impeachment committee last month that he had no contact with Blagojevich or his representatives before he was approached about the Senate seat Dec. 26.


Click to read.

The President Plans to Stop Foreclosures

His massive stimulus plan now signed into law, President Barack Obama is turning to attack the home foreclosure crisis at the heart of the nation's deepening economic woes.

His goal is to prevent millions of American families from losing their houses because they can't make mortgage payments.

"We must stem the spread of foreclosures and falling home values for all Americans, and do everything we can to help responsible homeowners stay in their homes," Obama said Tuesday as he signed his tax cut and spending package into law.

The ambitious plan he was announcing at a Phoenix high school Wednesday was expected to offer government cash to mortgage companies that reduce interest rates — and therefore monthly payments — for homeowners in danger of default, according to several people briefed on the plan. What remained unclear was how the government will decide who qualifies for relief.

One Democratic official familiar with the plan said it also would allow homeowners to refinance their mortgages if they owed more than their homes were valued. Still another section would give bankruptcy judges more authority to change mortgages. That last provision has been opposed by lenders, who said it would add risk and lead to higher interest rates.


Click to read.

Roland Burris Under Fire

About the affidavit

Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., talks to the media about an affidavit that he filed Feb. 5 with the Illinois House committee. (Tribune photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo / February 15, 2009)

Facing a perjury probe in Illinois and an ethics investigation in Washington, U.S. Sen.Roland Burris pleaded for yet another chance to explain himself after admitting he tried to raise campaign cash for then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking the Senate seat from him.
The junior senator, just a month in office, struggled to maintain a sense of normalcy on a Downstate "goodwill tour" but found no goodwill from fellow politicians. Republicans and even some Democrats in Illinois called for his resignation, and in Washington, senators who had barely begun to accept his controversial appointment chafed at the revived scandal.
Burris tried to stem the political damage by limiting his public comments Tuesday, but his evolving explanations had already set off a cascade of new questions about how he came to be picked by Blagojevich, who was charged with trying to sell the former Senate seat ofPresident Barack Obama for personal or political profit.
"There were never any inappropriate conversations between me and anyone else," said Burris, who took no questions from reporters. "And I will answer any and all questions to get that point across to keep my faith with the citizens of Illinois."

Click to read.


Monday, February 16, 2009

President Barack Obama Angers Supporters by Doing Bush-Like Work

Despite President Obama's vow to open government more than ever, the Justice Department is defending Bush administration decisions to keep secret many documents about domestic wiretapping, data collection on travelers and U.S. citizens, and interrogation of suspected terrorists.

In half a dozen lawsuits, Justice lawyers have opposed formal motions or spurned out-of-court offers to delay court action until the new administration rewrites Freedom of Information Act guidelines and decides whether the new rules might allow the public to see more.

In only one case has the Justice Department agreed to suspend a FOIA lawsuit until the disputed documents can be re-evaluated under the yet-to-be-written guidelines. That case involves negotiations on an anti-counterfeiting treaty, not the more controversial, secret anti-terrorism tactics that spawned the other lawsuits as well as Obama's promises of greater openness.

"The signs in the last few days are not entirely encouraging," said Jameel Jaffer, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed several lawsuits seeking the Bush administration's legal rationales for warrantless domestic wiretapping and for its treatment of terrorism detainees.

Click to read.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Credit Card Companies Using Crisis to Change the Rules

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

In case you weren’t sure, credit card companies are not out to help you. If you are financially illiterate and uninformed, they are going to exploit you. If you are worried about the financial crisis, they are going to prey on your fear to get money out of you. They are also doing exactly what the rest of us are doing: trying to remain protected in a fragile economy.

The stimulus is stymied. The bailout is a failout. The stock market has consistently given a “thumbs down” to every piece of legislation passed in response to this crisis. Our economy is like the sick man who won’t respond to antibiotics. While the results of the latest package are yet to be seen, the truth is that no one is sure what will work. Every company is out to protect their assets and hold on to their cash, which means they no longer have much interest in loaning money to you.

Yes, this is true even if you have a good credit score, which is the ironic part.

Customers are opening their monthly statements to find that credit card companies have started to either ration credit (give less of it) or raise the interest rate being paid on outstanding debt. This doesn’t even count all the dirty tactics used, like using your payments to pay off low interest debt first, quietly getting rid of the grace period or charging interest on your balance from the prior two months vs. the current one. Even when you’ve been making payments on time for years, banks keep raising the bar to maximize shareholder wealth. When liquidity is scarce, those giving out water demand a higher cost per bottle. Additionally, higher default rates have justified the increase in interest rates, but higher interest rates increase the likelihood of default. It’s a nasty cycle, really.

Lawmakers are trying to intervene. Congressional hearings have taken place. Banks are being scolded by senators who keep telling them that this form of business practice is unethical and that they are gouging the American consumer. All this might be true, but what is also true is that you can’t force banks to loan you money. Also, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to legislate a strong economy.

If you have a less than stellar financial history, there is an even greater opportunity for your credit card company to raise your interest rates. If you have defaulted on other loans or are a slow payer in other areas, then they have no problem telling you to pay up or ship out. The days of easy money are long behind us, and companies are dramatically shifting their business practices.

The bottom line is that THEY’VE GOT YOU. They know that you’ve become addicted to the debt they so readily offered in the past, and this debt has become the lifeblood for the lifestyle to which you’ve chosen to become accustomed. They know that they can charge you a higher interest rate because you can’t do anything about it. Like a drug addict who is angry about paying more for his product, you really don’t have any other choice.

Well, maybe you do.

Here is one solution: tighten your economic belt. That means putting together a financial fitness plan today that consists of getting rid of as much debt as possible. I’ve mentioned in prior articles and on our website that paying off debt can be one of the best investments you make with your money. This is especially true if you have a stable job and are paying a high rate of interest to your credit card company.

So, the Dr. Boyce Challenge for this month is simple: Create a budget which includes the steady elimination of credit card debt. That means you should list every single expense you have for the entire month on one piece of paper or a spreadsheet. Don’t leave anything out. Count the money you want to use for getting your hair done, your nails, paying your mortgage, car note, whatever. Count everything. That will be your first step toward obtaining financial fitness.

As you create the budget, allocate at least 10% of your monthly after tax income toward reducing credit card debt. So, if you earn $3,000 per month after taxes,$300 per month should be allocated toward removing credit card debt, not including interest. So, if you owe $5,000 in credit card debt, you can remove this debt in roughly a year and a half. While $300 may seem like a lot of money to find in your budget, it’s there if you look hard enough. In fact, if you spend $10 per day on lunch and/or coffee, you can find the bulk of the money by taking your lunch to work. Make this one of the first bills you pay, not the last. The last bill is the one that only gets paid half the time. It’s easier to negotiate with creditors if you don’t need them so much. Take small steps toward finding your financial freedom.

Next month, we will move to step 2 of the Dr. Boyce Financial Challenge. While I confess that this change won’t be easy, I can promise that it will be worth it in the end. Be strong and remain focused, this is your opportunity to shine.

Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “Financial Lipo 101: From financial fat to fitness”, to be released in April, 2009. For more information, please visit

Senate Finally Passes the Stimulus

The U.S. Senate gave final approval Friday to a $787 billion recovery package that President Obama hopes will help boost an economy in freefall with a combination of government spending and tax cuts and credits.

Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at right on the Senate floor Friday.

Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at right on the Senate floor Friday.

Approved earlier by the House, the plan -- which went through multiple permutations as it bounced back and forth on Capitol Hill over the past week -- now goes to Obama's desk, where he plans to sign it into law by Presidents Day.

Spending in the package includes about $120 billion for infrastructure -- new projects repairing bridges, roads, government buildings and the like -- more than $100 billion for education and $30 billion on energy-related projects that Obama says will create "green jobs."

More than $212 billion goes to tax breaks for individuals and businesses, and another $267 billion is in direct spending like food stamps and unemployment benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that the plan will create between 1 million and 3 million jobs.

Most individuals will get a $400 tax credit, and couples will get $800.

The vote by the Senate took several hours longer than a simple roll call of its 100 members generally would. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, attended a wake for his mother until about 8 p.m. Friday.

Voting began about 5:30 p.m. Then, the Senate chamber sat nearly empty until Brown arrived to vote about five hours later.

He was flown from Ohio to Washington on a plane provided by the White House, which said no commercial flights were available that would have allowed Brown to cast a vote and return to Ohio in time for his mother's funeral Saturday.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

War Crimes? Sri Lanka Government Denies Aid to Citizens in a War Zone

Dear friends:

I am overcome by the following news from Sri Lanka that more than 100,000 of my people are sandwiched between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil militants.

It is a pity that we hear very little in our media about potential human tragedies of this magnitude.

Although not a poet, I have written this poem to express my feelings and to awaken the conscience of the international community.

Please pass this on to people who may be able to do something to save the lives of these innocent civilians. 

Tamil people and a Silent World

When their rights were being taken away, the world was silent.

When their land was being colonized, the world was silent.

When their protests were being ignored, the world was silent.

When their politicians were being expelled, the world was silent.

When their press was being crushed, the world was silent.

When their ladies were being raped, the world was silent.

When their loved ones were being abused, the world was silent.

When their leaders were being bought, the world was silent.

The world was willing speak only after matters reached the two extremes:

The world expressed their sorrow after their people were massacred in 1983.

The world expressed their anger after their youth spoke back with violence.

Of world, do you have eyes to see only the violence of their youth?

Don’t you have eyes to see the prejudice of their government?

Oh world, do you have ears to hear only the lie of their government?

Don't you have ears to hear the cry of the Tamil people?

Oh world, won’t you speak while the Sri Lankan Tamil people are still alive as a people group?

Do you have to wait for another massacre to break your silence?

Alex Thevaranjan

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Monday, February 9, 2009

The History of Faubourg Treme

By Leland C. Abraham, Esq.

Outside of the New Orleans, very few of Black Americans have heard of this historic place. Faubourg Treme (hereinafter called “Treme”) was one of the first communities of black free men during slavery. Treme began as a plantation like any other plat of land during the time. Near the end of the 18th century, Claude Treme purchased the land. Within a few decades of this purchase, a canal was built that split the land. Some developers then began to make the land into neighborhoods. These neighborhoods would go on to house whites, creoles and free people of color throughout the 1800s.

Louisiana was a little different from the other southern states in that blacks could purchase their freedom. In fact, some blacks had their own slaves during this time period. Treme was extremely unique in that it was a precursor to a lot of black history. For example, the first black newspaper publication came from Treme. The Tribune started out as a French language publication but later became bilingual. This was important because after the civil war, the Tribune urged it black readers to “boycott” the rail system until there was equal treatment among the races. This would have been in the latter portion of the 19th Century, well before the “Birmingham Bus Boycott.”

Shortly after the civil war, the federal government sent federal troops to New Orleans. This allowed for an “integrated” society. In fact, Louisiana was very progressive in that blacks could vote during the early years of Reconstruction. Because blacks had the right to vote, the Louisiana legislature was an equal mix of blacks and whites. Louisiana was on the way to great feats in racial relations at a time in which the rest of the country still looked down on blacks. Unfortunately, this society for blacks would not last. About ten years after the federal troops were sent to New Orleans, they were removed with “The Compromise of 1877” and the beginning of what we know as “Jim Crow” began to take effect in the area. Gone were the days of blacks and whites serving together on the legislature and blacks were relegated back to second class citizens. The Tribune still urged it citizens to fight for their rights. The rail system had become segregated again and things were starting to look bad for the black folk of the area.

In a last stand effort, Homer Plessy, a black civil rights activist in Treme, boarded a railcar that was designated for “whites”. Plessy was an extremely light-skinned individual, who could pass for white. When he entered the railcar, he was asked by the conductor whether he was white or “colored.” He replied that he was a “colored” and was asked to go to the “colored” car. When he refused to leave, he was arrested. In the case Plessy v. Louisiana, he argued that he was denied his rights under the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The judge in his case, John Howard Ferguson, ruled that the state had a right to regulate the rail car system as long as it operated within the state. The Louisiana Supreme Court did not give a favorable ear to Plessy either.

He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Plessy v. Ferguson. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Plessy as well. The case would be pivotal for the beginning of the Civil Rights era for Black Americans. The case helped to cement the doctrine “Separate but Equal.” Unfortunately for blacks, southern states did not provide blacks with equal accommodations as their white counterparts. As a result of the case, Homer Plessy pled guilty and paid the fine.

What a history the Treme has had on African American history! From one of the first communities for free men during slavery to the establishment of the first black newspaper to a landmark case that would impact the civil rights movement. Treme has seen it all and it was also pivotal point in the modern Jazz movement.

In the late 1960s, an urban renewal project went underway in Treme. Unfortunately, a large portion of the center of Treme was torn down. In the 1970s, Louis Armstrong Park was created in which Congo Square, a major landmark in Treme is located. Like most of New Orleans, Treme was affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The efforts to rebuild Treme are underway as the locals feel there is too much history to let the neighborhood die. I personally thank God that they are willing to tell its story.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

President Barack Obama Painter Gets Arrested

A street artist famous for his red, white and blue "Hope" posters of President Obama has been arrested on warrants accusing him of tagging property with graffiti, police said Saturday.

Shepard Fairey was arrested Friday night on his way to the Institute of Contemporary Art for a kickoff event for his first solo exhibition, called Supply and Demand.

Two warrants were issued for Fairey on Jan. 24 after police determined he'd tagged property in two locations with graffiti based on the Andre the Giant street art campaign from his early career, Officer James Kenneally said. One of the locations was the railroad trestle by the landmark Boston University bridge over the Charles River, police said.

Fairey, 38, of Los Angeles, is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Brighton District Court, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk District Attorney. Wark said Fairey would also be arraigned on a default warrant related to a separate graffiti case in the Roxbury section of Boston.

Fairey has spent the last two weeks in the Boston area installing the ICA exhibit and creating outdoor art, including a 20-by-50 foot banner on the side of City Hall, according to a statement issued Saturday by the museum.


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Friday, February 6, 2009

Judge in Barry Bonds Case May Toss Evidence

A federal judge says she might toss some of the strongest evidence against Barry Bonds, a blow to prosecutors trying to prove the home run king lied when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said her "preliminary thoughts" were to exclude from trial three 2000-2001 positive drug tests that prosecutors say belong to Bonds unless there is a direct link that the urine samples came from the former San Francisco Giants slugger.

"If there's no testimony to establish that, I don't think any of them work," Illston said.

The only person who can do that seems to be Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who spent more than a year behind bars for refusing to speak to a federal grand jury investigating Bonds. And Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, has said his client will not testify against Bonds at the trial, scheduled to start March 2.

If her preliminary thoughts stand, the government's case against Bonds will suffer a significant blow — but not a fatal one, legal analysts said.

"It hurts, but the government still has quite a bit of other evidence," Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane said.

That includes a recorded conversation between Anderson and Bonds' former personal assistant Steve Hoskins in which they discuss injecting steroids; a conversation Illston said she's inclined to allow at trial.

Illston will issue a formal decision on the evidence discussed Thursday at a later date. She also will hold a separate hearing on whether to allow testimony from expert doctors the government hopes would persuade a jury that changes in Bonds' body were due to steroid use.


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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama and Faith-Based Initiatives

President Obama established his own faith-based initiatives office Thursday, reversing a Bush administration policy that allowed churches to discriminate in their hiring practices.

"Whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together . . . It is, of course, the golden rule, the call to love one another, to understand one another, to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth," Obama said at the National Prayer Breakfast.

"It is an ancient rule, a simple rule, but also perhaps the most challenging, for it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we may not know or worship with, or agree with on every issue or any issue," he added as he unveiled his faith-based agenda.

Obama signed an executive order creating the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Unlike ex-President Bush, churches with hiring policies that discriminate won't be eligible for federal grants under the executive order.


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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

President Obama “I screwed up”

"I don't think Washington wins," President Obama tells NBC's Brian Williams in the interview that the TV network will broadcast this evening -- one of five sit-downs the president did with national news anchors this afternoon.

"The fact of the matter is Tom Daschle pulled out today," Obama continues. "And I'm here on television saying I screwed up and that's part of the era of responsibility; is not never making mistakes; it's owning up to them and trying to make sure you never repeat them and that's what we intend to do."

The networks are sending out excerpts. Highlights from the others we've gotten so far:

• Obama tells ABC's Charles Gibson this was an embarrassing day for his administration, with the collapse of Daschle's nomination as Health and Human Services secretary and Nancy Killefer as chief performance officer.

"We're going to have some glitches," Obama adds, "and I understand that that's what people are going to focus on. And I'm focused on it because I don't want glitches. We can't afford glitches because, right now, what I should be spending time talking to you about is how we're going to put three to four million people back to work. And so this is a self-induced injury that I'm angry about, and we're going to make sure we get it fixed."


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Cheating on the Down Low: What’s Love Got to Do with it?

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

Recently, New York Knick’s basketball player, Eddy Curry, a married father of several kids, received notice of a sexual-harassment lawsuit by his former limo driver, Kuchinsky. Kuchinsky is alleging that Curry tried to solicit gay sexual activity from him while working as a 24/7 chauffer for the NBA hoop star and his family.[1] With the national press coverage of this story, I am reminded of the movie, Cover, which explored the current situation that appears to be facing many black families. Cover is a film about a devoted, churchgoing wife, and mother whose faith is shattered when she discovers that her husband is living a secret double life.[2] Also, there is a 30-minute internet movie, Results, which tackles the same type of betrayal and shows how the couple tackles it in the span of one night.[3] So, as it relates to married men who happen to cheat on their spouse on the down low, I ask, what’s love got to do with it? I understand the question is paying tribute to the hit single by Tina Turner. However, I think people should explore the reasons why married men choose to cheat on the down low and should a wife, who takes a vow of fidelity with her husband, continue in the relationship after discovering the betrayal.

People might ask why a lawyer would write an article on a social topic such as married men who cheat on the down low. Well, a lawyer is considered an attorney and counselor at law. When a wife chooses to get a divorce due to infidelity from their husbands cheating on the down low, it is important for lawyers to understand the origin of the relationship and what caused the heartache to their client so that they can effectively provide legal advice and counseling for their client. In a majority of states, infidelity is just one factor in how marital property is divided between former married couples. Even though a wife might want her husband, who cheated on the down low, to get nothing and pay dearly for the betrayal, the courts in a majority of states will not find fault (e.g. infidelity) a determining factor in the division of marital property. Therefore, it behooves the lawyer to try other methods of counseling to explain the law to jilted married clients.

This article will analyze the meaning of love, the reasons why people get married, and what actions people should take to minimize the potential of being married to men who cheat on the down low.

Meaning of Love

Love has many meanings. Webster dictionary defines Love as a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (e.g. maternal love for a child).[4] Also, love is an attraction based on sexual desires (e.g. affection and tenderness felt by lovers).[5] Love is also an affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests (e.g. love for old schoolmates).[6] Also, love is a warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion (e.g. love of the sea).[7] Love can also be used as a term of endearment.[8] Love is also the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.[9] Love is a sexual embrace.[10] In all, love embraces a form that is erotic, romantic, familial, platonic, and religious.

Similar to Webster dictionary, Christianity embraces four forms of love: Agapē, Philia, Eros, and Storge.[11] Agapē means charitable, selfless, altruistic, and unconditional.[12] It is parental love seen as creating goodness in the world.[13] It is the way God is seen to love humanity and it is seen as the kind of love that Christians aspire to have for others.[14] Philia is defined as the human response to something that is found to be delightful.[15] Also, it is known as "brotherly love".[16] Eros is defined as sexual love.[17] Storge is defined as the needy child-to-parent love.[18]

One thing that is fascinating is the explanation of what Eros is. Eros is a very passionate love, with sensual desire and longing.[19] In the classical world, the phenomenon of love was generally understood as a kind of madness or, as the Greeks put it, theia mania ("madness from the gods").[20] This love passion is best illustrated by a scheme involving “love arrows” or “love darts.”[21] The source of the arrows is said to be the image of the beautiful love object itself.[22] If the arrows arrive at the lover’s eyes, they would then travel to and ‘pierce’ and ‘wound’ his or her heart and overwhelm him/her with desire and longing.[23] This creates an image of an “arrow’s wound” where an oxymoron of pleasure and pain is created.[24]

As illustrated above, love has different meanings. Saying “I love you” to a person can mean a variety of things. The issue for married couples who are dealing with husbands who cheat on the down low is not whether they love their wives. The issue is what type of love does husbands who cheat on the down low have for their wives. In my opinion, this is the heart of the conflict that exists between married couples who have husbands who cheat on the down low. Next, it is important to understand why people marry.

Why People Marry

Marriage is a social, religious, spiritual or legal union of individuals.[25] People marry for many reasons, but usually they marry for one or more of the following reasons:[26]
· legal, social, and economic stability;
· the formation of a family unit;
· procreation and the education and nurturing of children;
· legitimizing sexual relations;
· public declaration of love; or
· to obtain citizenship

In almost all Protestant forms of Christianity, they hold marriage to be ordained by God for the union between a man and a woman.[27] They see the primary purpose of this union to be to glorify God by demonstrating his love to the world.[28] Other secondary purposes of marriage include intimate companionship, rearing children and mutual support for both husband and wife to fulfill their life callings.[29]

Like love, people marry for a variety of reasons. What is extremely interesting is that when protestant Christians marry their primary purpose is for the union to glorify God. One example of the betrayal for protestant Christians is when married men cheat on the down low. This action is not one that glorifies God especially when the bible states that men (or women) who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God.[30] So, the conflict exists and men and women need to be aware of who their partners are before entering into marriage.

The Reality of the Conflict of Down Low Activity with Marriage

Some married men who cheat on the down low believe that down low activity is similar when men cheat with other women. I beg to differ. As these movies illustrate, a woman cannot compete with a man sexually. Women and men are not equal in physical form. Men and women have different sexual features and different purposes of use for these features. I equate the differences between men and women similar to placing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. Do like parts unite or do opposite pieces fit together?

If a married man cheats on the down low, they have a sexual attraction for another man. Sorry ladies. Physically, there is nothing you can do, except do a sex change, to sexually fulfill a man who wants to sleep with other men. A married man might love his wife, but the sexual love a wife is craving from her husband does not exist the way she wants or believes it should exist especially if this type of infidelity occurs after the coupled exchanged wedding vows to be married. There are always signs of men who have a sexual attraction for another man. However, you have to open your eyes and find out who your spouse truly is before you enter into marriage.

Attributes of Counseling Before Marriage

One way to discover whether your significant partner is ready to be married is to participate in marriage counseling. In essence, you are treating your marriage as a long term investment and gathering as much information about your spouse before you enter into marriage. As illustrated above, love has many meanings and people marry for different reasons. Just because someone says “I love you” is not all you need to know to venture into marriage. What a man and woman need to find out from each other is what type of love exists and is it reciprocally felt. If your potential spouse only feels an admiration for you and you feel romantic love for that person, then you need to find this out before you venture into marriage and not get married to the person. Also, what are the reasons why the man and woman are getting married and is it reciprocal. If your potential spouse wants to get married to obtain citizenship and you want to get married for public declaration of love, then you need to find this out before you venture into marriage and not get married to this person.

Ideally, married couples expect their spouses to solely want them only. They believe their spouse will be the complement human being to help fulfill their needs mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. No one is perfect, but the union of a man and woman is expected to be one that works to perfection as seen in God’s light. When married men cheat on the down low, there is an erotic and sexual attraction for people of the same sex that their wife can’t fulfill. A potential spouse needs to know this before hand and not marry the individual especially if they seek their spouse to solely want them only.

Effective marriage counseling will be able to discover the compatibility of the couple. Marriage counseling should emphasize substance over form. The counseling should explore the type of love that exists and if it is reciprocally felt. Also, marriage counseling should explore the reasons why each person wants to marry and whether it is reciprocal. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with doing an extensive background check on people before getting married. When you choose to marry someone, you are making a societal and private contract that this individual is someone you will honor and cherish, to have and to hold, until death do you part. With any type of long term investment, you need to know what you are getting into. This is not to say that marriages will not have problems, but if you choose someone to be married to you, you are making a long term investment in that individual expecting that the good will outweigh the bad. Know what you are getting into so you can minimize suffering betrayals like having married men cheat on the down low.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Banks taking U.S. taxpayers money to bring thousands of foreign workers to the U.S. for high-paying jobs.

AP Investigation: Banks sought foreign workers

Associated Press - February 1, 2009 7:13 AM ET

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - An Associated Press review of visa applications shows banks collecting billions of dollars in federal bailout money asked for permission to bring thousands of foreign workers to the U.S. for high-paying jobs.

The dozen banks have received the biggest rescue packages, worth more than $150 billion. They tried to bring in almost 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years to fill openings that paid an average salary of nearly $91,000.

As the economic collapse worsened last year the numbers of visas sought by the dozen banks in AP’s analysis increased by nearly one-third, from about 3,300 in fiscal 2007 to nearly 4,200 in fiscal 2008.

It’s unclear how many foreigners actually got hired, but it’s likely only a fraction of the requests were approved.

Foreigners are attractive hires because companies have found ways to pay them less than American workers.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.