March 6, 2008 — Vol. 43, No. 30
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Black churches urging members to lose weight as part of challenge

OKLAHOMA CITY — About 15 Oklahoma City churches with predominantly black membership are participating in a weight-loss challenge started by an official at a health care company.

Zora Brown, the director of cultural affairs at Integris Health, said she wanted to challenge the membership of predominantly black churches to address health disparities among blacks by fighting obesity. She said obesity is a risk factor for diseases disproportionately affecting blacks.
Brown issued her challenge during Integris Health’s African American Summit in November. Churches enrolled teams to participate in the challenge between Feb. 1 and March 1. The contest will last through Oct. 31.

Lee Cooper, a preacher at Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, said the weight-loss challenge is a good idea. About 50 members at the church are participating.

“We felt it was the perfect opportunity for us to talk about lifestyle changes within our congregation and our community,” Cooper said. “We’ve always thought of health in terms of the absence of illness, but in reality, if we wait until the illness comes, we’re already too late.”

U.N. experts accuse U.S. of forcing New Orleans blacks into homelessness

GENEVA — United Nations experts weighed in on the debate over public housing in New Orleans last week, accusing the U.S. federal government and local authorities of forcing predominately black residents into homelessness.

The experts say decisions by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and local governments to demolish public housing units violate the human rights of some New Orleans residents.

They say thousands of families displaced by Hurricane Katrina will be affected, and that mostly blacks will be evicted.

The U.N. statement was signed by the global body’s independent experts on housing rights and minority issues.

Head of Md. NAACP chapter removed over complaints about leadership

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The president of the Anne Arundel chapter of the NAACP was removed from his post by the civil rights group’s board because of complaints by members over his lack of leadership.

But Wayne Jearld, 59, accused longtime members of the county’s chapter of conspiring against him and concocting false charges.

Jearld was removed on a technicality of missing more than three consecutive branch meetings.

National board member Don Cash Sr. of Columbia said he did not remember anyone at the meeting last month voting to retain Jearld.

“There have been ongoing problems at the branch for some period of time,” he said.
Jearld alleged that members adjourned several scheduled meetings, and reconvened them after he left.

“I never had a chance,” he said. “They talk about my personality being abrasive and disgraceful. That is a bunch of crap.”

Jearld said he learned of his removal over the weekend from Stansbury. He said he has not heard from the national branch about his ouster, but he said he thought he deserved an explanation. He also said he intends to keep his membership in the chapter.

Cynthia A. Carter, a former Annapolis alderwoman, was pleased to Jearld had been removed.

“You can’t be in these elected positions and not be able to work with the people who put you there,” said Carter, who said she stopped attending meetings because of Jearld’s behavior. “He disrespected people. He hollered. It was just terrible.”

As president, Jearld promised to expand black business opportunities, preserve historically black communities near downtown Annapolis and increase membership from 350 to 3,000, the 64-year-old chapter’s size in its heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s.

But by August, three of the 19 committee members he had appointed had resigned, and the chapter’s executive panel asked the national office to start impeachment proceedings. Members said his abrasiveness and temper had stunted the chapter’s progress by injuring its relationship with other organizations.

Judges rules Conn. death row inmates can challenge death penalty

VERNON, Conn. — A state judge has ruled that Connecticut death row inmates can challenge the state’s death penalty as being biased by race and geography.

Judges have previously denied challenges, citing a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that evidence specific to a defendant, not statistics showing system-wide bias, is necessary to challenge an individual’s death sentence on a racial claim.

Vernon Superior Court Judge Stanley T. Fuger Jr. says Connecticut’s constitution affords defendants greater legal rights than the U.S. Constitution.

Of the state’s death row inmates, four are black, three are white and two are Hispanic. Six of the inmates are from the Waterbury area, leading to the claims of geographical bias.

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