From The Final Call Newspaper

Boycotts, ‘buycotts,’ & Black dollar power

By Charlene Muhammad National Correspondent @sischarlene

Annual Black spending strategies designed to support demands for racial justice and end police violence are kicking in as 2019 ends and reports of major store closures emerge.

Retailers with high hopes for Black Friday spending have offered deals earlier this year to help spike holiday sales. But activists have kicked in with Black Friday boycotts and “buycotts” just as early this year.

In the run-up to the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March, Justice Or Else! in Washington, D.C., Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan called for Blacks to pull their money from the U.S. economy by not spending money during the holiday shopping season.

Minister Farrakhan quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often in the run-up to the 2015 gathering in the nation’s capital saying, “We have to find a way to redistribute the pain.”

A protester holds a sign in Chicago, Nov. 24, 2017, during a demonstration billed as a “march for justice” on Black Friday. Photo: AP Nam Y. Huh

“We have to now withdraw our economic support, so that those who give us pain can receive some pain in return,” Minister Farrakhan added.

He was inspired by Dr. King, Jr.’s desire for a 1963 Christmas boycott after the White supremacist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four little Black girls.

And, in his final speech in Memphis on April 3, 1968, Dr. King talked about using Black economics in the fight for justice. He was assassinated the next day.

“We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles,” said Dr. King in some of his last words. “We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, ‘God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.’

“And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy—what is the other bread? Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. …

“But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen Black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a ‘bank-in’ movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. … Put your money there. You have six or seven Black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an ‘insurance-in.’ Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts.”

The lack of opportunity, injustice, race-related and police killings of Blacks has continued.

Black people were 25 percent of those killed despite being only 13 percent of the population, according to Blacks were three times more likely to be killed by police than White people and 21 percent of Black victims were unarmed compared to 14 percent of White victims, according to Mapping Police Violence.

Beyond dangers faced by Blacks, holiday stress is affecting people across America. According to a November survey, “More than 6 out of 10 people told Bankrate they feel pressure to overspend on either presents, travel, social outings or charitable donations during the holiday season.”

“About half (51 percent) of survey respondents told Bankrate they feel pressure to spend more than they are comfortable with on gifts during the holidays. The percentage was significantly higher than those worried about breaking their budget for charity (30 percent), social gatherings (28 percent) or holiday travel (24 percent),” reported.

Nathaniel Dyer carries a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest near Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta, Sept. 24, 2016, in response to the police shooting deaths of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla. and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C. Photo: Branden Camp

“Consumers are expected to spend almost $1,048 on average during the 2019 holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, a rise of 4 percent from last year. The national trade organization forecasts holiday retail sales during November and December reaching a total of $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion,” said

Sixteen percent of those surveyed by said they were considering “skipping or boycotting gifts altogether.”

Most people (31 percent) told Bankrate they start worrying about holiday costs in November as the holiday displays start to go up and Black Friday appeals bombard everyone. Twenty-three percent of respondents worry about how much the holidays will cost in October, while 20 percent of people don’t start stressing until December.

“The end of the year can be a tricky financial time for families even before considering holiday costs. Colder temps often mean higher heating or energy bills or expenses to winterize cars and homes. Charities and other programs help some families struggling to juggle end-of-year expenses,” observed.

WalletHub, a personal finance website, reported that despite near-record credit card debt levels, some 35 million Americans still have credit card debt from last holiday season, and nearly one-third of consumers will spend less on holiday this year than last year.

“That indicates people are just treading water financially and have been unable to use the past 12 months to prepare for the next recession, the arrival of which is just a matter of time,” warned WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou.

“The fact that nearly one-third of consumers plan on spending less this holiday season than they did last year could be either good or bad news. It depends on whether people are recognizing the need to cut back and save before it’s too late or simply beginning to falter financially.”

Up with Jesus, down with Santa

“You’re either going to treat us right, or we’re going to withdraw from you our economic support,” said Min. Farrakhan. “We intend to boycott Christmas but not Jesus. We choose not to spend dollars on Black Friday, Black Saturday, Black Sunday, Black Monday. We are not going to spend our money for the rest of that year with those companies that we have traditionally spent our money on,” the Minister added.

“If you love Christ, then to hell with Santa! Up with Jesus! Down with Santa!” Minister Farrakhan reiterated during Part 2 of his Justice Or Else! address delivered on Oct. 11, 2015 at the Washington, D.C. Marriott Marquis.

Last year, Minister Farrakhan called on Blacks to be kind and loving to each other; to be the gift, instead of spending money on children and giving the credit to a mythical Caucasian. “Let love break out in the ghetto,” said Minister Farrakhan, as he offered an alternative Holiday approach that reflected the Holy Quran’s 107th Chapter, “Acts of Kindness.”

“I thought it was prophetic, providential … As we know, God always calls his prophets to a place of warning the people before devastation comes,” said Pastor Dinah Tatman of St. John African Episcopal Church in Kennett, Mo., and CEO-founder of Greater New Visions Ministries, Inc. of Minister Farrakhan’s call.

It came in a timely manner, said Rev. Tatman, also co-convener of “No Justice, No Profit” boycott.

She started the campaign with other leaders in St. Louis to not only boycott businesses, including Target, US Bank, Burger King, Shell, Schnucks grocery chain, Gap, Inc., Goldman Sachs, and the St. Louis Galleria Mall, but to encourage Blacks to spend with one another. “I recognized that if Black people withheld our money, we could get anything we want,” said Pastor Tatman.

Among things they wanted at the time No Justice, No Profit launched on November 2, 2017 was justice in then-officer Jason Stockley’s fatal 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. The cop’s acquittal set off a new wave of outrage and protests.

The community and the country were already in turmoil over the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., by White male officer Darren Wilson in 2014 and the failure of state and federal authorities to charge the cop in the 18-year-old’s death.

“If we can recognize the power that we have, and use it, and stop begging, kings and queens don’t beg. Yet we beg the masters to take care of us when we take care of everybody else, except for us. When we recognize us, things will change. So, I love Brother Minister Farrakhan, because he’s not afraid to stand on the greatness, and the justice, and the righteousness of God and speak what God has told him to speak unabashedly, and not be afraid,” stated Pastor Tatman.

In addition to No Justice, No Profit, groups like the Chicago-based Black Mall and Houston-based Shrine of the Black Madonna, have consistently worked on two fronts. Their efforts began locally but have grown to inspire support nationally.

Nailah Nelson, executive director of the Shrine of the Black Madonna’s Shrine Cultural and Event Center, observed that five years after Justice Or Else! Blacks are still experiencing injustice, police brutality, and injustice. People cannot let up, she said.

“We started this movement as a response to the brutality with Michael Brown, following the Justice Or Else! movement with the Honorable Minister Farrakhan. We did it in an effort to raise consciousness and to recirculate the dollars into the Black community,” Ms. Nelson said.

“It is a boycott movement empowering our people, and the only way that we could effectively do this is to join together and boycott the stores, put our dollars back into the Black community, because Black businesses are the largest employers of Black people. So, this is for our own economic development that we seek to push our movement,” Ms. Nelson told The Final Call.

The Shrine’s Buy Black Market started on the first Saturday of every month but has grown to include the third Saturday of the month as well. What began with approximately 30 vendors has grown to a list of over 620 across the country, according to Ms. Nelson. She is hoping the group will launch an online component to its economic movement in mid-December.

“We joined with the Justice Or Else! under Minister Farrakhan and we’ve been doing it effectively since then, giving small Black businesses an opportunity to grow their business,” Ms. Nelson said.

‘Retail apocalypse’ hits U.S. stores

“More than 9,100 stores are closing in 2019 as the retail apocalypse drags on,” reported Business Insider in November. The story looked at statistics for record-breaking store closures.

Charlotte Russe, Family Dollar, and Chico’s announced more than 1,100 store closures in a span of 24 hours at one point. Payless ShoeSource, which filed for bankruptcy in February, is closing 2,500 stores, amounting to the largest retail liquidation in history. The Gap is closing 230 stores over the next two years. Walgreens plans to close 200 stores, and GameStop is closing 180 to 200 stores.

Sears, Kmart, Party City, Walgreens, and Barneys are among the retailers that recently announced store closings. Forever 21 expects to close 350 stores globally, including 178 in the U.S. after filing for bankruptcy. Sears planned to close 175 stores, and Walmart is closing at least 17 stores across the U.S. and Canada.

“Anybody who would just do their research since 2015 and go back and look at Minister Farrakhan’s Saviours’ Day address in 2016, he laid out the stats during his message, and it has only increased since them,” said Jesse Muhammad, social media director for Minister Farrakhan. “That’s one thing that can’t be overlooked … and it has not stopped.”

Big box stores including Sam’s Club and Walmart reported closures, as well as everything from vitamin and health stores, to cookware stores, children’s clothing and toy stores, and electronics stores.

Some mainstream analysts blame tax reforms, lingering effects of the U.S. government shutdown—Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019—and severe, unmerciful weather for the decline of brick-and-mortar stores. But Black activists and some Black leaders say the tsunami store closings are also tied to strategic withdrawal of Black dollars as a weapon against injustice.

“Right now what’s really awesome is that our efforts were not in vain,” said Casseopia Uhuru, co-founder of The Black Mall, based in Chicago. “There are more people buying Black than ever! So, actually, this particular year, we’re not having our usual, annual Buy Black holiday event, because there are so many people now heading up their own small business markets and fairs that are featuring Black-owned businesses all over. We don’t want to create any type of competition,” said Ms. Uhuru.

She is so excited about Black business engagement and commerce with The Black Mall online (, and a South Side storefront, using it’s platforms to highlight many businesses. The Black Mall plans to release a Holiday Gift Guide, and daily info about great Black-owned businesses for an economic “buycott,” Ms. Uhuru told The Final Call.

The call for justice has raised awareness and interest, so Blacks are looking at ways to strengthen their own communities, she said.

No easy victories

There have been some small victories in getting police brutality indictments, but they’re not sufficient, added Ms. Uhuru, who cited the second-degree murder conviction last year of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald to death.

He was found also guilty on all 16 counts of aggravated battery—one for each shot he fired into the teenager in October 2014. Activists say he received a “slap on the wrist” sentence, which was a slap in the face. Mr. Van Dyke could have faced a maximum sentence of 96 years, but prosecutors sought 18 to 20 years.

Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced the killer cop to 81 months, less than seven years, in state prison, on the second-degree murder conviction only. The ex-cop could serve a little more than three years in prison with time served and enjoy the possibility of parole in two years.

“Now we know if this happens again, we need a stronger prosecution, and longer terms and being more knowledgeable of the actual judicial system itself and how if you don’t actually convict on the correct charge, then literally, somebody could get away with murder!” said Ms. Uhuru.

“I think what’s happening is that one aspect of awareness is helping us to be more knowledgeable in the other areas that we need to be more knowledgeable in, like the judicial system, like the political system, and how we are living in a capitalistic country and politics is directly connected to corporations and how they work,” said Ms. Uhuru.

Just a beginning of the fight

While there have been victories with the Justice Or Else! economic boycotts, activists are under no illusion that justice has won the day.

Former Fort Worth Officer Aaron Dean, who was supposed to be responding to a neighbor’s well care call, shot 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in her own home, in front of her 8-year-old nephew on Oct. 12.

Convicted White female former officer Amber Guyger is serving 10 years in prison for fatally shooting 26-year-old Saint Lucian native Botham Jean inside his Dallas home on Sept. 6, 2018. She claimed she mistook his apartment for hers, felt threatened and fired her weapon.

In Arizona, Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier placed Deputy Manuel Van Santen on administrative leave following violent arrests of a 15-year-old quadruple amputee, with no arms or legs, and a teenager who recorded the Sept. 26 incident at a Tucson group home.

The 15 year old was upset and knocked over a trash can, prompting the call for police, according to media reports. Disorderly conduct charges against him were dropped after an explosive video of the incident surfaced in November. The other teenager, a 16 year old, was still facing charges at Final Call press time, media reports indicated.

“What it’s really doing is it’s waking us up in a really grand way, understanding how nations work. Period. We’ve just been bystanders. We’ve just kind of let it gloss over us and done lots of unfortunate, just complaining, but not really understanding how we can get to the root of these issues so we can fight back in the most effective way,” Ms. Uhuru said.

(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Riveting testimonies, partisan bickering mark impeachment hearings

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor

WASHINGTON—Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is now only the fourth president in U.S. history to face public impeachment hearings. As the hearings continue, the contentiousness and bitter partisan politics have been on full display before the country and the world.

For hours and hours, three witnesses testified before the House Intelligence Committee Nov. 13 and Nov. 15: George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state; William Taylor, a former ambassador and the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine. More witnesses are scheduled as the proceedings unfold.

Mr. Kent and Mr. Taylor both said President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine in an attempt to pressure the country to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. Ms. Yovanovitch revealed a shocking account of her ouster and condemned foreign policy in the Trump era, while Mr. Trump attempted to intimidate her and other potential witnesses, condemning her on Twitter, even as she sat testifying in the relative security of the U.S. Capitol.

The first testimony “corroborated evidence of bribery” by President Trump in his dealings with Ukraine, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Her use of the term “bribery”—one of the crimes the Constitution cites as an impeachable offense—suggests that Democrats have in mind a specific set of charges that could be codified in articles of impeachment.

After countless scandals from the day Mr. Trump was elected—including the convictions and resignations of more than a dozen top White House officials—what’s at issue now is whether or not Mr. Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of Congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine in order to force that country’s newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce a corruption investigation into the business dealings in Ukraine of former Vice President Biden’s son Hunter.

That conduct came to light after a CIA whistleblower complained of improper attempted coercion of Mr. Zelensky by Mr. Trump in a July 25 telephone call.

“If we find that the president of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calfi.) told reporters, “must we simply get over it? Is this what Americans should now expect from their president? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

Mr. Schiff began the hearing itself with a somber note in his opening statement. “The president has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore congressional subpoenas for documents. He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear. And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies.

“These actions will force Congress to consider, as it did with President Nixon, whether Trump’s obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment. If the president can simply refuse all oversight, particularly in the context of an impeachment proceeding, the balance of power between our two branches of government will be irrevocably altered.”

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), dismissed the entire impeachment process. In his opening statement he was blunt. “We should not hold any hearings at all until we get answers to three crucial questions the Democrats are determined to avoid asking. First, what is the full extent of the Democrats’ prior coordination with the whistleblower, and who else did the whistleblower coordinate this effort with?

“Second, what is the full extent of Ukraine’s election meddling against the Trump campaign? And third, why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden, and what did he do for them, and did his position affect any U.S. government actions under the Obama administration? These questions will remain outstanding, because Republicans were denied the right to call witnesses that know these answers. What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats,” said Mr. Nunes.

Republicans want the whistleblower whose complaint prompted the impeachment inquiry to testify and be publicly identified, claiming that he was compromised because of his contact with the staff of Rep. Schiff, and because he did not hear the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s president firsthand. Mr. Trump’s allies have said the president should be able to face his “accuser,” despite the whistle-blower’s entitlement to anonymity.

Rather than defend the president’s innocence of the charges, the Republican strategy is to discredit the impeachment process itself. They “are going after the whistle blower,” one New York City news analyst named Ms. Taylor said in an interview with WPFW-FM in Washington during a hearing break. “They are defining this process and calling it a coup and treating it as such and avoiding compliance with it in every way they can.

“And then when they are participating, it’s this: de-legitimize it. So, number one, I think that there is no reason to believe and expect that they will play by the rules, and it is an extraordinary and unlikely situation where (Mr. Trump would be) voted to be found guilty in the Senate.

“Number two, it is unlikely. I think that the Senate, the Republicans are not going to vote to convict absent something that’s been missing up until now, which is a third force, the masses of people in the streets in a different way,” Ms. Taylor continued.

Absent a “third force” protesting against Mr. Trump’s government in the streets she said, the mounting evidence presented in these hearings appears to many observers to be extremely unflattering, but not necessarily destructive of the Trump presidency.

“What the Democrats have done that’s really smart through all the smoke and bluster is that they made it very simple that the president of the United States tried to get a foreign power to intervene in the 2020 elections on his behalf. And that is a very, fundamental takeaway I think that they want to present,” Dr. Clarence Lusane, professor of international relations and former chair of the political science department at Howard University told WPFW.

“Well, what I think it will do, and I think one of the objectives of the Democrats broadly, is just to get it on the record and help hold this president accountable because he’s basically existed his entire life and certainly for his tenure as president in a way (where he’s) not been held accountable because he’s been protected by Republicans in Congress and by a Justice Department that refuses to acknowledge what he’s done. So, this is really the only opportunity to really hold him accountable.

“I think it lays the groundwork then for what they would do in the Senate as they bring (an impeachment) trial into reality. And Trump cannot escape that. I doubt that there are 20 Republicans who are willing to cross the line and vote against the president. I just don’t see it,” Dr. Lusane continued.

“And I think this, to go back to your original question about the interest of the people and how many different kinds of crimes against the people, against the environment, against immigrants, against women and LGBTQ; the White supremacy that’s been whipped up, all of this that goes along with the Trump/Pence regime that has not found a home in these impeachment hearing,” said Ms. Taylor.

“All of that gets expressed only if the people act independent of the impeachment hearings. The opening for (the removal of the President from office) to go forward, what could change the hand of those Republicans in the Senate? What could tip the balance of them and others, is whether people themselves act.

“So, with the impeachment, it’s high stakes. It’s very damning,” she continued. “There’s every ground in what we’ve heard so far for the man to be removed from office. But whether that goes forward or not, it does depend on whether people get rendered as spectators to this (as) cheerleaders; to this feeling that the job is being done, or whether people see this as an opening to act and to take history into our own hands and seize on this fight at the top to move in a way that the interests of the people do get asserted.

“So, I feel it’s unwritten, and the main factor that could swing the hand is still too much sitting on the sidelines,” she said.

Mr. Trump’s election and controversial presidency and subsequent impeachment has continued to divide a country already split among party and racial lines. The president still enjoys overwhelming support among Republicans and bitter opposition among Democrats.

Seventy percent of Americans think President Trump’s request to a foreign leader to investigate his political rival, was wrong, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds. “A slim majority of Americans, 51%, believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. But only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely,” the poll notes.

“In addition to the 51%, another 19% think that Trump’s actions were wrong, but that he should either be impeached by the House but not removed from office, or be neither impeached by the House nor convicted by the Senate. The survey also finds that 1 in 4 Americans, 25%, think that Trump did nothing wrong,” continued the poll which surveyed 506 adults Nov. 16-17.

“The unfolding political drama between congressional Democrats and the White House reveals a polarized populace, with Democrats more united in their belief that Trump should be impeached and convicted than Republicans are in their belief that the president has committed no wrongdoing: 85% and 65%, respectively,” ABC News/Ipsos concluded.

As the hearings moved into the second week of public testimony—heading perhaps for a full House vote on an impeachment resolution possible by Dec. 15, another new witness emerged—a State Department official in Kiev named Suriya Jayanti—who will be able to describe the overheard phone call that Mr. Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified about.

On that call, the President and Gordon Sondland, the Oregon hotel magnate and mega-donor whom the President made the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, discussed the political investigations Mr. Trump sought from Ukraine. Mr. Sondland is also set to testify publicly. (Final Call staff contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Life, death and doctors: How, why race still matters when it comes to your health

By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent-


LOS ANGELES—Blacks still struggle to get proper medical care and are paying a heavy price, sometimes financially and other times with their lives.

The problem has surfaced even with artificial intelligence alongside a consistent lack of culturally competent doctors and other health professionals, access to treatment, and some say, a lack of self-care.

“Studies have shown that when you factor out variables such as income, employment status or level of education, Blacks still have the worse health outcomes. This demonstrates that the issue in this country is race and racism,” said Dr. Oliver Brooks, president of the National Medical Association, which represents Black physicians and their patients in the United States.

“For example, studies have demonstrated that Black women are three to four times more likely to die within one year of giving birth, known as maternal mortality, regardless of these other factors. Racism still exists in America; and it has a direct effect on Black lives,” Dr. Brooks, chief medical officer of Watts HealthCare Corporation in Los Angeles, told The Final Call.

In addition, Blacks tend to live in areas where environmental toxins such as lead and air pollution are at higher levels, stated Dr. Brooks.

“Some of this can be traced back to redlining policies that have had us living in specified neighborhoods. Higher levels of these environmental toxins have led to respiratory illnesses such as asthma, and lead exposure leads to delayed development in our children. Racism or a lack of cultural sensitivity also leads to Blacks not being offered life saving treatments such as heart surgery or other procedures related to vascular disease, or as stated more advanced cancer treatments,” continued Dr. Brooks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, racism has been linked to low birth weight, high blood pressure, and poor health status. Further, Blacks received worse care than Whites for about 40 percent of quality measures such as person-centered care, patient safety, healthy living, effective treatment, care coordination and affordability, according to the 2018 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report.

The death rate for Blacks is generally higher than Whites for heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, according to the Office of Minority Health.

Railroad to death?

Race and its impact can even surface in seemingly unlikely places, such as data driven programs. New York state is investigating UnitedHealth Group, Inc., for using a data analytics program that significantly underestimated health needs of Black patients.

Between 2013 and 2015 flawed algorithms, or calculations, used by the program Impact Pro “ranked healthier white patients as equally at risk for future health problems—and therefore in need of more intensive healthcare intervention—as black patients who suffered from far more chronic illnesses,” said state officials late last month. They cited a study of the system published Oct. 25 in the journal Science.

Based on the algorithms, which were marketed to health insurers and healthcare providers, Black patients’ health concerns were deemed less significant than White patients, the officials told UnitedHealth in a letter.

Linda Lacewell of the New York State Department of Financial Services and Dr. Howard Zucker, a commissioner with the New York State Department of Health, chided UnitedHealth. Discriminatory results, whether intentional or not, are unacceptable and unlawful in the state, they said.

Citing America’s long, troubled history of racism in healthcare, the officials called on the company to immediately investigate and show the algorithm is not racially discriminatory or stop using Impact Pro or any other data analytics program if UnitedHealth could not prove it doesn’t rely on racial biases or perpetuate racially disparate impacts.

It’s well documented that Blacks endure longer wait times than Whites when seeking treatment, and Black claims of pain are taken less seriously than Whites, so Black medical histories are less likely to reflect their true medical needs than Whites who have historically been given greater medical attention, observed Ms. Lacewell and Dr. Zucker.

“New York will not allow racial bias, especially where it results in discriminatory effects that could mean the difference between life and death for an individual patient and the overall health of an already-underserved community,” they said.

Ill, ignored and misunderstood?

Another recent study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Texas Southwestern found racial disparities in culturally competent cancer care.

Non-White cancer survivors are less likely than Whites to be seen by cancer specialists who share or understand their culture, and the disparity is likely due in part to a low representation of minority physicians in cancer subspecialties, said the study’s authors.

One of the first nationally representative studies to examine patient-reported preference for, access to, and quality of provider cultural competency among cancer survivors, the study published Oct. 31 in JAMA Oncology.

Almost half of non-Whites—49.6 percent—said it was somewhat or very important to be treated by doctors who understand their culture. Non-White patients were also less likely than Whites to receive treatment from health providers who understood their culture, by a difference of 65.3 percent to 79.9 percent.

And 12.6 percent of minority patients said they were never able to see physicians who shared or understood their culture—compared with four percent of Whites, according to the study.

“To us, it was definitely a little shocking. The numbers are pretty clear. The numbers almost flipped between disparities between how important it is to minority cancer survivors to have this care and their inability to,” said report author Santino Butler of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

“The most shocking thing was also that when these people were asked how are their providers doing on a specific basis—such as how often do they get respect, easily understandable information, asked about their opinions—all those didn’t show any disparities between racial minorities and non-Hispanic White cancer survivors, so that was also pretty surprising, because that’s the discrepancy,” said Mr. Butler.

“You’d think that if minority cancer survivors are 15 percent less likely to see these providers, that maybe these providers are less likely to provide certain types of care, but that wasn’t the case. That’s not what we saw,” he said.

Mr. Butler told The Final Call one explanation might be that those three factors aren’t all-encompassing or capturing all that it takes to be a “culturally competent” provider.

“There’s probably a lot more that goes into that and just because a provider checks off those three check boxes or a couple of check boxes, doesn’t mean that they’re providing the patient-centered care and getting the trust and the other factors that go into their patients considering them doing a good job in terms of being culturally competent,” Mr. Butler explained.

Dr. Brooks offered a once long-held, but difficult to achieve solution: Increase the number of Black doctors and other health professionals.

“A study out of Oakland, Calif., found that when Black men were treated by Black doctors for heart disease, their outcomes were better than when they were treated by others. At present about 1 in 8 Americans are Blacks but only about 1 in 15 doctors are Black,” said Dr. Brooks.

“The second solution is not simple or easy: reduce the systemic racism that is at endemic proportions in America. This can be done by elevating the level of cultural awareness of the majority population and along with implicit bias training. That is a steep climb, but we’ve seen over the mountaintop, and there is always hope ahead, however hope without a plan is folly,” Dr. Brooks added.

Educate and advocate

For Charles Mattocks, award-winning filmmaker, celebrity chef, author and health advocate, the key is to educate and inform. As he went about doing that through a 2013 national RV tour, providing free diabetes testing at major sporting events, shopping malls, churches, and state fairs, he realized people knew nothing about diagnoses they were receiving, especially Black men and women.

“They would just get a prescription, and that was it. They didn’t have any other information. They didn’t have any, per se, real follow up or other experts to go see. They just got a prescription, and was sent home,” Mr. Mattocks told The Final Call.

From Black churches to other Black institutions, education and information about Black health care from prevention to treatment simply was lacking, said Mr. Mattocks, who suffered himself with Type 2 diabetes.

“We seem to be undereducated and under informed, and we also don’t seem to ask many of the questions that we need to ask. We know that White males live approximately seven years longer than African American males, and White women live more than five years longer than Black women,” Mr. Mattocks told The Final Call.

That is due to not just disease prevalence, but also the severity of diseases plaguing Blacks, and some are preventable, experts noted.

Part of the problem is also cultural, Mr. Mattocks observed. His father died from cancer.

“This is a man who had an amazing career as a union welder, so he had all the access to doctors, tests, whatever you want, and he literally died overnight, per se,” said Mr. Mattocks.

According to Mr. Mattocks, his father didn’t go to the doctor, and didn’t get recommended exams for Black men at age 50, such as a prostrate exam or colonoscopy, which tests for abnormalities in the large intestine and rectum.

“He didn’t know he had cancer until literally he got it and then no more than a few weeks later—dead,” said Mr. Mattocks. He urged Blacks to get early and proper testing and an understanding of drugs and healthcare.

“We just seem to be a community that once the doctor gives us some medication, we take it without question and we’re on 4, 5, 6 different medications from blood pressure to cholesterol, diabetes. And we also fail to at times, let’s face it, we fail to take into consideration our diet and our health,” said Mr. Mattocks.

His father’s ordeal and desire to help people have led him to, create a cancer TV reality show “Eight Days with Charles Mattocks.” It takes viewers inside individual cancer patients’ journeys through their treatments and their compelling stories. His aim is to inspire and educate people in their living rooms.

Matthew Knowles, father of singer BeyoncĂ©, is executive producer of the show, which is scheduled to air January 4, 2020 on A&E’s FYI channel.

“He’s dealing with breast cancer, which almost no minority male understands that a Black man or minority can get breast cancer. We really need to check ourselves, to speak up for ourselves,” said Mr. Mattocks.

Sheila Muhammad and her husband Elroy Williams of Houston spoke up when they felt doctors were trying to have him undergo unnecessary chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer.

According to Ms. Muhammad, who retired three years ago as a medical assistant professor at Houston Community College, despite a successful surgery, being in remission for five years and positive results after extensive and expensive tests, doctors insisted on radiation treatment.

“I just think it’s a money thing, because he has insurance, and he is doing fine. The doctor that recommended the test didn’t stay in the room with my husband no more than five minutes. They already had set up his payment plan and everything for chemo, although he told them, ‘I can’t afford this.’ But they had set it all up before he had even agreed,” Ms. Muhammad stated.

From The Final Call Newspaper

Driven by high winds, fire and distress plague the West Coast

By Charlene Muhammad National Corespondent @sischarlene

LOS ANGELES—Raging wildfires peppered with fire tornadoes that have gripped California for several weeks are the latest manifestations of Allah (God’s) prophesied and promised divine judgment of the United States.

The raging inferno struck both Northern and Southern California simultaneously, causing mass evacuations. At Final Call press time, 2019 had seen 6,190 fire incidents. Three people had died, and damages topped $160 million as of Nov. 1. The fires incinerated approximately 200,000 acres of land and destroyed over 700 structures, according to state officials.

“And what for?” one television reporter near tears asked as she described the scene of a Southern California home burned to the ground and next door, one standing only as a black, hollowed frame.

But these disasters plaguing America are not by happenstance. They are connected to scripture.

“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan are two divine warners from Allah to America and the wicked of the world. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that we’re living in the days of Allah, that we’re living in the time of God’s judgment of the wicked. And he taught us that Allah (God) would visit America with Four Great Judgments: rain, hail, snow and earthquakes,” said Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, national assistant to Minister Farrakhan.

The unusual and unprecedented weather witnessed by those in America and seen around the world are fulfillment of scripture and fulfillment of the warning that the two men gave, he continued.

According to Min. Ishmael Muhammad, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the 89-year-old Nation of Islam, prophesied that the judgment would start on the West Coast and the fires are a sign of that warning.

“Fire is mentioned in both the Bible and the Qur’an of what Allah has reserved for the wicked. California is a major state of agriculture and the fires are interfering and shortening the food supply, the produce that that state produces for the American people and around the world. So, famine is on the horizon, which is also prophesied,” warned Min. Ishmael Muhammad.

“America you are reaping now what you have sown. You can’t fight the natural disasters that are coming. Way back in the ‘60s, Elijah Muhammad said, ‘America would suffer from unusual rain, unusual snow, earthquakes unusual.’ Then the forces of nature, hail, sleet, snow, cold, fire. Now, look at America,” said Min. Farrakhan who has repeatedly warned about the judgements taught by his teacher, Elijah Muhammad, in lectures and in monumental books, “The Fall of America,” “Our Saviour Has Arrived,” and “Message to the Black Man in America.”

“God has said you have to reap now what you’ve sown. You’ve destroyed cities and towns in Europe and Africa, in the Middle East. Things that you didn’t want, America destroyed. Now, look at your cities. They’re under water; your farmland being destroyed; fire burning the lands of California and the West; tornadoes, hurricanes,” he said in a previous article published in The Final Call.

“This is ‘just’ the beginning and that is what I wanted to say about whoever will be our president. If you’re not dealing with that which has incurred the wrath of God, then you can’t make America great again and you can’t bring America back from the abyss that she’s falling into. Within the next few years, the dollar that we kill each other for will be devalued into nothing.”

“There is a power and in one that is called Mahdi, M-a-h-d-i. That’s the guide that the Islamic world has been expecting, and Massi or Messiah which the Christian and Jewish world have been expecting. And this Mahdi when he comes, his number one aim is to set justice in the earth and remove every tyrant. And set up a government of peace. That’s his aim. That’s the aim of the Messiah, the Christ. Now, what we are looking at, these are not spooks and spirits that come out of space. These are human beings anointed with power and wisdom to do exactly what they purposed to do,” said Min. Farrakhan.

California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities, and over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in the state, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

California is the leading U.S. state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value, said the agency. Its top producing commodities for last year include dairy products, grapes, cattle and calves, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, and oranges.

“So these fires represent the anger of God, the wrath of God, the judgment of God, so we have fires on the West Coast. We have record rain and flooding in other parts of the country. And then the Honorable Elijah Muhammad told us that the worst is yet to come,” Min. Ishmael Muhammad told The Final Call.

At one point, there were 10 active fires across California, according to officials, but the numbers come and go, said Scott McLean, deputy chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

In 2017, over 1.6 million acres burned in California. Over 1.8 million acres burned in 2018. The highest amount of acreage burned prior to that was 1.5 in 2007, all according to Chief McLean.

“This year right now, we’re probably looking at, as you and I are talking, probably just over 100,000 acres as well, and in this same time period last year, we were looking at 632,000 acres, so we’re dramatically lower due to the moderate climate I feel we’ve seen this year in the state,” Chief McLean told The Final Call.

He attributed that to a good winter, good snowpack, and mostly 80-90 degree temperatures with no winds. Though things dried up in the summer, nothing happened that really propelled the region to be that dry until fall came, he stated.

“With fall weathers in the North, we saw a lot of winds all of a sudden come up and just dry everything out that much more and then the Santa Anas down in the South doing the same,” said Chief McLean.

Santa Ana winds are those which come off the desert and contain very dry air. They travel over the Santa Ana Mountains in Southern California which accelerates air speed and combine with the hot dry air to increase and spread fire hazards, according to weather experts.

California’s seven-year drought ended in early 2017, yet the fires fueled in part by dried-out vegetation spread very dangerously due to the winds, which moved at hurricane-force speed and created the perfect storm for fires.

“Predicting is really hard to say. It depends on mother nature and what the winds are doing and how soon we can get that moisture,” Chief McLean stated. “We’re still in that point where anything can happen at any given time. The grasses, the brush and the trees are still very volatile as far as being receptive to fire. It just takes one spark, as we’ve seen all along, so everybody needs to remain very, very cautious and very, very careful,” he said.

“Ninety-five percent of wildfire starts are human caused and that’s usually by a spark caused by something mechanical or parking your car over dry gas, a myriad of different things. So even though our weather is definitely getting cooler, the humidity’s still down and if the winds continue to pick up, we’re still in for a few more weeks of susceptible weather.”

Strong winds fanned new Southern California wildfires on Oct. 31, burning homes and forcing residents to flee their homes in a repeat of the frightening scenario already faced by tens of thousands across the state.

The latest blazes erupted in the heavily populated inland region east of Los Angeles as strong, seasonal Santa Ana winds continued to blow with gusts of up to 60 mph.

A fast-moving fire spread into the northern neighborhoods of the city of San Bernardino, forcing the evacuation of 490 homes, about 1,300 people, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said.

On Oct. 28, basketball star LeBron James was among evacuees as a fire that erupted early that day grew to more than 70 acres.

The Los Angeles Lakers player tweeted just before 4 a.m. that he was trying to find rooms for his family after having to “emergency evacuate” his house, calling the fires “no joke.” He later tweeted that he found accommodation, said he was praying for those affected and advised people to get to safety.

Evacuation orders were given for communities as the fire moved westward, affecting communities including the affluent Mandeville Canyon, Mountain Gate, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, and Topanga State Park.

Even earlier that morning, a fire erupted on a hillside near the Getty Center museum in Southern California. Videos posted on social media showed the fire burning along the southbound side of Interstate 405, just a few miles north of LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), and near the University of Southern California Los Angeles (UCLA).

Evacuation orders were expanded to parts of Santa Rosa as firefighters struggled to beat back a wind-driven wildfire that had started in Northern California’s wine country on Oct. 23.

Authorities issued the order as historic winds fueled the fire overnight and prompted the state’s largest utility company to shut power to 2.3 million people to prevent additional wildfires.

Santa Rosa was hit hard by a wildfire that destroyed thousands of homes and killed 22 people two years ago. The evacuation order affected the northwestern section of the city.

California fire officials say the Kincade Fire, that began on the evening of Oct. 23 has burned approximately 78,000 acres and was 68 percent contained at press time.

The National Weather Service said at one-point wind gusts topped 90 miles per hour in California’s wine country.

Northern Californians were not only affected by the flames, but also by the infrastructure of power companies, including Pacific Gas & Electric Company, which is responsible for several of the wildfires that spread through the area, said Student Minister Abdul Sabur Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 26B in Oakland.

A few years ago, San Francisco area residents sued PG&E after their neighborhood was burned due to fires started by sparks from company equipment.

PG&E power lines may have started two wildfires in the San Francisco Bay Area, the utility has admitted. The fires persisted despite widespread power shutoffs to prevent downed lines from starting fires during dangerously windy weather.

“Unfortunately, that has meant that millions of people have spent some days without power in response to those who are concerned that they are paying regular PG&E bills are now left without power. PG&E has now actually stated it would refund some of the power bills of those who have been afflicted, however, they’ve spoken of somewhere between $100 and $250 in response,” said Min. Abdul Sabur Muhammad.

But that only covered utility bills, not other losses, such as spoiled food and other damages suffered by businesses who thought their power would be out for brief, limited times, he observed.

In addition, Min. Abdul Sabur Muhammad stated, the hotel industry in Northern California began hiking prices to accommodate evacuees during the fires. “So rooms normally already over-priced at $200 a night went up as high as $1,500, saying to the poor, you may as well pitch a tent if it doesn’t blow away in the wind, because you’re not coming here to these major hotels that are now hiking prices to take advantage of the need of the suffering people that were afflicted by black-out and by fire,” he said.

“All of this should quicken in us to do the things that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad asked us to do so that we will not suffer from these calamities and that we would prepare ourselves sufficiently in our homes for the times that we are living in,” Min. Ishmael Muhammad said. “So what we need to do is follow the divine instructions of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.”

“This verse comes to my mind: ‘Whenever Allah sends a Messenger, He seizes the people with distress and affliction.’ God does not want to kill the people. He comes to save them from the consequences of their evil and if we do not heed to the warning of God’s servant then we suffer the consequences of our own rejection and rebellion to God,” he continued.

The chastisement is in greater intensity and severity, because the rebellion to God and the rejection of God’s servant in Min. Farrakhan has become willful, said Min. Ishmael Muhammad.

“It’s blatant. The offenses of the people and the sins that are being committed are not out of ignorance. It’s knowingly. So when the people’s sins, and as it’s written in the Bible that in the time of Noah, the imagination and thoughts of the people were continually on evil and then the people became so hardened in their hearts and so rebellious, they told the prophets of God to bring down on them what he threatened them with. … So what is left for God to do than for the people to now taste and suffer the consequences of their own blatant, willful rebellion against God, because they haven’t listened to the warner?” asked Min. Ishmael Muhammad.

But, he added, it’s no time for the believers in God, working to obey him, to fret nor fear. “When you see all these things happening, Jesus said in the Gospel, lift up your head. Your redemption draws near … This is what God said would happen and the Believer will be delivered from the chastisement of Allah, but it doesn’t mean that some of us will not be touched with some of what is now being visited among the disbelieving people and the wicked.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.