GARY, Ind.: Black leaders urge economic empowerment

With Katrina exposing America’s dirty secret of the life-and-death meaning of poverty and African American households worth one-tenth of white households, hundreds of Black leaders revived the historic 1972 National Black Political Convention here to chart the movement for economic equality.

Convened by William Lucy, international secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the 2006 convention focused on a long-term economic strategy.

“This is the next stage of our struggle,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, one of the organizers. “The first stage was to end slavery. The second stage was to end legal Jim Crow. The third stage was the right to vote. The fourth stage is the access to capital.”

In the 34 years following the National Black Political Convention, which zeroed in the right not only to vote, but to win elections, the number of African Americans elected to office at all levels of government grew from less than 900 to 16,000.

The March 25 PWW will carry a full report of the Gary meeting.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Three students charged in church fires

Three students at Methodist-affiliated Birmingham-Southern College were arrested and charged March 8 in a spree of church burnings that began “as a joke” and escalated to nine church arsons.

Jim Cavanaugh, who led 250 investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the motive was “excitement” and “thrill.” Federal investigators ruled out hate crime charges and civil rights violations. The churches were all Baptist with Black and white congregations.

Russell Lee DeBush, 19, Nathan Moseley, 19, and Matthew Lee Cloyd, 20, could be poster children for the All American success story. DeBush was on scholarship in the theater department. Moseley was a theater major with starring roles in campus productions, whose father is an elected constable for Jefferson County and a Center Point Fire District board member. Cloyd was a pre-med major whose father is a physician at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Birmingham-Southern has suspended and barred all three from campus and has pledged to provide resources and labor to rebuild the churches. If convicted, the three face five to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Other federal and state charges are pending.

“These young men had great potential,” said the Rev. Jim Parker, pastor of one of the burned-out churches. “Our hearts are broken for the families and were deeply saddened for these young men. They can’t escape this. Somebody’s going to want a justification for all the federal resources spent on this case. A slap on the wrist is not going to get it done.”

SAN FRANCISCO: Supervisors say, ‘Impeach Bush, Cheney’

In a 7-3 vote, the governing Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging members of Congress representing the city to call for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

The resolution cited the administration’s lies leading the American people into the Iraq war, its the authorization of torture, its failure to respond to Katrina and its defense of illegal wiretapping.

Municipal governments in Santa Cruz and Arcata have passed similar resolutions.

RICHMOND, Va.: GOP spikes labor leader’s appointment

When Virginia Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine named Virginia AFL-CIO President Daniel LeBlanc as Secretary of the Commonwealth, he thought he had the best man for the job. The state Senate agreed, but the nomination crashed in the Republican House of Delegates on a party line vote, 55-42.

Republicans objected to LaBlanc’s opposition to the state’s “right to work” (for less) law and his criticism of corporations.

A visibly angry Kaine said, “I view it as not just an affront to me and to the Senate and to Danny (LeBlanc), but I view as basically spitting in the face of regular people, regular working people, who had Danny as their champion. They’ve taken a huge leap way past any degree of partisanship that has even been shown in this Commonwealth. And they have decided that Washington-style or kind of McCarthy-style politics is going to be the way they want to practice here in the House of Delegates. They’re going to regret it.”

Kaine has appointed Republicans to serve in his administration, including the wife of his opponent.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Marilyn Bechtel and Roberta Wood contributed.