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Civil rights advocates give Kerry 100 percent rating

1/15/2009, 8:38 a.m.

      Civil rights advocates give Kerry 100 percent rating

      The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) recently gave Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a 100 percent rating, its highest possible grade, citing his work on minimum wage and immigration reform legislation, and his opposition to judicial nominees whom the organization says “disregard basic civil rights.”

      “LCCR fights every day for civil rights and equal opportunity, and too often has had to claw and scrape to hold on to the gains of the last 30 years in the face of an unprecedented, systematic campaign by the right wing to take us backwards,” said Kerry in a statement. “I’m proud to have stood up for the freedom and opportunity that makes America great, and I’ll keep up that fight in the United States Senate.”

      Nancy Zirkin, LCCR’s executive vice president, said Kerry’s perfect score “highlights his staunch support of critical civil, social and human rights issues.”

      Kerry is a co-sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 2008, which aims to “increase accountability when civil rights and workers rights are violated … [and] help to restore rights that the Supreme Court has weakened through its flawed decisions over the last 8 years,” according to a Kerry statement.

      He has supported comprehensive immigration reform; backs the DREAM Act, which helps undocumented children attend college and apply for citizenship; led the filibuster against Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s confirmation; opposed the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts; and opposed Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s appointment because of his refusal to deem water-boarding torture.

      Roxbury youth organization to host summer training program

      VISIONS Inc. of Roxbury is preparing to introduce the “Legacy Project,” its first summer training program for young people between the ages of 15 and 25.

      The eight-week training program, funded by a $52,000 grant from the Michigan-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will “give participants an in-depth understanding of multiculturalism, and valuable strategies to lead discussions about diversity issues in cross-cultural settings,” according to a statement from the organization, a 23-year-old nonprofit professing to teach “anti-racism and anti-oppression strategies.”

      Program participants will produce a collaborative community event intended to accomplish two goals: providing safe, positive engagement for local youth, and giving local performers an opportunity to shine. Participants will also have the option of continuing their training and becoming certified VISIONS Youth Consultants.

      “By creating jobs and volunteer opportunities for young people ... we hope to expose them to the importance of community activism,” the organization said.
      Sessions begin June 23 and run through Aug. 23. For more information about the Legacy Project, contact Jamila Capitman at 857-277-2422 or via e-mail at jamila_c@tmail.com. For more information, visit www.visions-inc.org.

      7 Hub companies earn “Inner City Urban Business Award”

      Representatives from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) recently joined Mayor Thomas M. Menino to announce that seven Boston businesses received the 2008 Inner City 100 Award for Excellence in Urban Business.

      The seven companies, who are now finalists for the National Inner City 100 Award, include: ARGUS, City Fresh Foods, Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation, Dancing Deer Baking Company, Roxbury Technology, Suffolk Construction and Tech Networks of Boston.

      Founded 10 years ago by ICIC and Inc. magazine, the Inner City 100 is a program that ranks and publicizes the fastest growing inner city businesses nationwide. Over the years, the list has spotlighted thousands of thriving urban businesses.

      David G. Latimore, president and CEO of ICIC, said the Inner City 100 “has shown the nation how the advantages of inner cities, such as diverse workforces and strategic locations, can combine to create explosive growth.”

      Criteria that companies must meet to qualify for the list include having at least 51 percent of their operations located in an economically distressed urban area and at least 10 employees.

      The national Inner City 100 list will be unveiled at the 10th Annual Inner City Awards Dinner at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on May 1.

      Washington Group Int’l to pay $1.5 million to racially harassed black workers

      The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced a settlement with Washington Group International Inc. (WGI) for $1.5 million on behalf of African American workers who were harassed at their Everett workplace, and then retaliated against for complaining.

      WGI provides planning, engineering, design, construction, technical, management and operations, and maintenance services to public and private sector clients.

      The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that WGI created a racially hostile work environment for black employees and failed to take appropriate action to remedy the discriminatory conduct at the Sithe Mystic Power Plant construction project in Everett, which the company managed from approximately Dec. 2001 through June 2003.

      According to the EEOC, WGI not only subjected black employees to racial graffiti and other forms of harassment, but retaliated against those who complained.

      “Employers must remain vigilant in protecting all employees from racial harassment, especially in today’s increasingly diverse labor force,” said Spencer H. Lewis Jr. of the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Rather than swiftly taking corrective action to remedy the racially hostile workplace, WGI targeted the victims for retaliatory measures, including termination.”

      The EEOC filed suit against WGI in 2004. The consent decree resolving the case was submitted to U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler for approval.

      Under the decree, WGI will pay $1.3 million to be shared among six African American former employees, and $200,000 to be divided among 11 similarly situated individuals.

      Additional injunctive relief includes requiring WGI to conduct anti-discrimination training and implement an anti-graffiti policy; revise its equal employment opportunity policies and procedures; post a notice about the settlement for all Power Unit construction sites for the next two years; and monitoring by the EEOC for two years.

      “Thrive in Five” partnership aims to boost Hub students’ school prep

      A collaborative headed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley recently announced the launch of a partnership intended to stop the development of an educational achievement gap between the next generation of white and minority students before it starts.

      The 10-year initiative, called “Thrive in Five,” seeks to join families, educators, health care and human service providers, private sector contributors, city departments and state agencies to prepare Boston school children for academic success.

      “We have an obligation — scientific, economic and ethical — to focus on our children’s earliest years and provide them and their parents with the tools they need to achieve,” said Menino in a statement.

      Toward that end, Menino announced the initiative has already received $3.25 million in funding commitments. The City of Boston has pledged $750,000, and the United Way $1.3 million. The remaining $1.2 million will come over the next three years from Children’s Hospital Boston, Partners HealthCare and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

      The initiative draws on economic and scientific data compiled by Dr. Jack Shonkoff of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child indicating that brain and cognitive development early in a child’s life have long-term impacts. Trauma and neglect at an early age can negatively influence that development, leading to problems with learning, health and behavior later in life.

      According to the announcement, Thrive in Five will focus on surrounding children and families with school readiness support, raising the quality of early education and care and screening children at younger ages to identify potential threats to healthy development.

      “This is a community effort,” said Michael K. Durkin, president and CEO of the United Way, in a statement. “Families, government, health care, nonprofits, the business sector — we all win when a child is ready to succeed in school and life.”

      For more information, visit www.thrivein5boston.org.

      Applications ready for Mayor’s Youth Council

      The application for Boston youth interested in joining the Mayor’s Youth Council is now available. Applications will be accepted until April 17.

      Menino established the council in 1994 “to provide Boston’s young people with an active role in addressing youth issues,” according to a Mayor’s Office statement.

      The council’s members are volunteers chosen to act as information liaisons between city youth and the Mayor’s Office — they tell their peers about existing opportunities for young people in Boston and take suggestions about how kids think City Hall can improve its youth outreach efforts.

      “The Mayor’s Youth Council is not only a great resource for teens living in the city, it is a great opportunity for these teens to take active roles representing their neighborhoods and dealing with the issues their peers face,” Menino said. “The Youth Council is a way for teens to gain valuable leadership experience … They are my eyes and ears in the neighborhoods.”

      Spots on the council are open to teen residents of Boston who will be entering their junior or senior years in high school or an alternative program this coming September. Knowledge of existing teen programs is preferred.
      Representatives from each neighborhood will be chosen. The time commitment is about 10 hours a month.
      Those interested in applying can visit www.bostonyouth
      zone.com/myc
      .

      Local lawyers to offer free legal advice exclusively to veterans

      The Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) has announced it will hold a free session of its monthly “Dial-A-Lawyer” program dedicated solely to the legal questions of veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
      Veterans interested in discussing legal issues with an attorney are asked to call the Dial-A-Lawyer phone line at 617-338-0610 between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9. The number will only be active during those three hours on that date. If callers receive a busy signal, the MBA asks that they hang up and try again. While the legal advice is free, standard local telephone charges will apply.

      “Veterans’ legal needs are extensive and diverse, and we are lucky to have a talented group of committed attorneys to provide complimentary legal advice to veterans across the Commonwealth,” MBA Executive Director Marilyn J. Wellington said.

      According to Thomas Kelley, secretary of the state Department of Veterans’ Services, many of the nearly 500,000 veterans living in Massachusetts face pressing legal issues, ranging from divorce and child support to landlord/tenant disputes and procurement of benefits.

      “Many men and women who return home from serving our country in the U.S. military have complex or unique [problems] … that require professional assistance,” said Kelley. But, he added, “the costs associated with hiring a lawyer to answer their questions” discourage many from seeking that aid, making the MBA’s free assistance all the more important.