Humans Spread From Africa in One Wave, DNA Shows (NYT)

By Carl Zimmer (NYT)

Did humans flood out of Africa in a single diaspora, or did we trickle from the continent in waves spread out over tens of thousands of years? The question, one of the biggest in human evolution, has plagued scientists for decades.

 

Now they may have found an answer.

In a series of unprecedented genetic analyses published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, three separate teams of researchers conclude that all non­Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population emerging from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.

 

“I think all three studies are basically saying the same thing,” said Joshua M. Akey of the University of Washington, who wrote a commentary accompanying the new work. “We know there were multiple dispersals out of Africa, but we can trace our ancestry back to a single one.”

 

The three teams sequenced the genomes of 787 people, obtaining highly detailed scans of each. The genomes were drawn from people in hundreds of indigenous populations around the world — Basques, African pygmies, Mayans, Bedouins, Sherpas and Cree Indians, to name just a few.

 

The DNA of older indigenous populations may be essential to understanding human history, many geneticists believe. Yet until now scientists have sequenced few whole genomes from people outside population centers like Europe and China. The new findings already are altering scientific understanding of what human DNA looks like, experts said, adding a rich diversity of variation to our map of the genome.

 

Each team of researchers used sets of genomes to tackle different questions about our origins, such as how people spread across Africa and how others populated Australia. But all aimed to settle the question of human expansion from Africa.

 

In the 1980s, a group of paleoanthropologists and geneticists began championing a hypothesis that modern humans emerged only once from Africa, roughly 50,000 years ago. Skeletons and tools discovered at archaeological sites clearly indicated the existence of modern humans in Europe, Asia and Australia.

 

Early studies of bits of DNA also supported this scenario. All non­Africans are closely related to one another, the studies found, and they all branch from a genetic tree rooted in Africa.

Yet there are also clues that at least some modern humans lived outside of Africa well before 50,000 years ago, perhaps part of an earlier wave of migration.

In Israel, for example, researchers found a few distinctively modern human skeletons that are between 120,000 and 90,000 years old. In Saudi Arabia and India, they discovered sophisticated tools dating back as far as 100,000 years.

Last October, Chinese scientists reported finding teeth belonging to Homo sapiens that are at least 80,000 years old and perhaps as old as 120,000 years.

 

Some scientists have argued from these finds that there was a human expansion from Africa earlier than 50,000 years ago. In 2011 Eske Willerslev, a renowned geneticist at the University of Copenhagen, and his colleagues reported evidence that some living people descended from this early wave.

Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues reconstructed the genome of an Aboriginal Australian from a century­old lock of hair kept in a museum — the first reconstruction of its kind. The DNA held a number of peculiar variants not found in Europeans or Asians.

He concluded that the ancestors of Aboriginals split off from other non­Africans and moved eastward, eventually arriving in East Asia 62,000 to 75,000 years ago. Tens of thousands of years later, a separate population of Africans spread into Europe and Asia.

It was a big conclusion to draw from a single fragile genome, so Dr. Willerslev decided to contact living Aboriginals to see if they’d participate in a new genetic study. He joined David W. Lambert, a geneticist at Griffith University in Australia, who was already meeting with Aboriginal communities about beginning such a study.

Their new paper also includes DNA from people in Papua New Guinea, thanks to a collaboration with scientists at the University of Oxford. All told, the scientists were able to sequence 83 genomes from Aboriginal Australians and 25 from people in Papua New Guinea, all with far greater accuracy than in Dr. Willerslev’s 2011 study.

Meanwhile, Mait Metspalu of the Estonian Biocentre was leading a team of 98 scientists on another genome­gathering project.

They picked out 148 populations to sample, mostly in Europe and Asia, with a few genomes from Africa and Australia. They, too, sequenced 483 genomes at high resolution.

David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues assembled a third database of genomes from all five continents. The Simons Genome Diversity Project, sponsored by the Simons Foundation and the National Science Foundation, contains 300 high­quality genomes from 142 populations.

Dr. Reich and his colleagues probed their data for the oldest evidence of human groups genetically separating from one another.

They found that the ancestors of the KhoiSan, hunter­gatherers living today in southern Africa, began to split off from other living humans about 200,000 years ago and were fully isolated by 100,000 years ago.

Earlier studies had estimated that the split between living groups of humans occurred much more recently. The new findings indicate that our ancestors already had evolved behaviors seen in living humans, such as language, 200,000 years ago.

Dr. Reich and his colleagues then investigated whether people in Australia and Papua New Guinea descended from an early wave of humans from Africa. They could find no evidence supporting that idea in the genomes.

The people of Australia and Papua New Guinea descended from the same expansion of Africans that produced Europeans and Asians, Dr. Reich’s team decided

Working with a separate set of genomes, Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues came to much the same conclusion. “The vast majority of their ancestry — if not all of it — is coming from the same out­of­Africa wave as Europeans and Asians,” said Dr. Willerslev.

Dr. Metspalu and his colleagues ended up with a somewhat different result when they looked at the Estonian Biocentre data.

They compared chunks of DNA from different genomes to see how long ago people inherited them from a common ancestor.

Almost all the DNA from non­Africans today could be traced back to one population that lived about 75,000 years ago — presumably a group of Africans who eventually left the continent and settled the rest of the world. That squares with the conclusions of the other two studies.

 

But in Papua New Guinea, Dr. Metspalu and his colleagues found, the story was a little different. They could trace 98 percent of each person’s DNA to that 75,000­year­old group. But the other 2 percent was much older.

Some people in Papua New Guinea — but no one else in the analyses — may carry a trace of DNA from a much older wave of Africans who left the continent as long as 140,000 years ago, and then vanished.

 

The second wave — the one from which the rest of the world descends — departed over 60,000 years later, the researchers suggest. The ancestors of the people of Papua New Guinea interbred with those first pioneers on their way east, which is why their descendants carry remarkable DNA.

 

Why leave Africa at all? Scientists have found some clues as to that mystery, too.

 

In a fourth paper in Nature, researchers described a computer model of Earth’s recent climatic and ecological history. It shows that changing rainfall patterns periodically opened up corridors from Africa into Eurasia that humans may have followed in search of food.

 

Huw Groucutt, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, criticized the new studies as too simplistic. It’s incorrect, he said, to try to split non­Africans into just two distinct groups — one 120,000 years ago, and one closer to 50,000 years ago.

 

He suspects that there were several early waves from Africa, whose descendants combined into a complex gene pool. “It’s probably much more about populations expanding and contracting, fusing and separating,” said Dr. Groucutt.

Luca Pagani, a co­author of Dr. Metspalu at the University of Cambridge and the Estonian Biocentre, said that their findings suggest a population of early human pioneers were able to survive for tens of thousands of years.

 

But when the last wave came out of Africa, descendants of the first wave disappeared. Why?

 

“They may have not been technologically advanced, living in small groups,” Dr. Pagani said of the people of the early wave. “Maybe it was easy for a major later wave that was more successful to wipe them out.”

 

The legendary Carole King @ benefit Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney on 4/7/2016

Follow us on Twitter: @GoAfricaNetwork

We were honored to attend a very special Musical Gala Celebration To benefit Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney Thursday – April 7, 2016  With Special Musical Performance by The legendary Carole King. Proud supporters of Hillary Clinton For President.

 

 

 

 

(Backstage) Jerrod Carmichael Treats His Audience Like Adults

By Benjamin Lindsay | Posted March 23, 2016, 11 a.m.

Jerrod Carmichael Treats His Audience Like Adults

Photo Source: Chad Griffith

“I like art that’s perceived to require thought,” says comedian and actor Jerrod Carmichael over lunch in lower Manhattan. That much is clear even in his small talk. While walking to Felice 15 Gold Street after a photo shoot, he riffs on everything from Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” to John Oliver. (While he cites West as a musical revolutionary, he thinks the “Last Week Tonight” host can do better than #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain.) Now splitting a cheese plate and bruschetta, he hones in on someone else’s thought-provoking art: his own.

“I’m curious about how things affect the world more than just personal exploration,” Carmichael says, turning a grape over in his hand. “When I hear of situations, my mind goes to—in the healthiest sense of the word—the ‘broader’ sense of [how] this is affecting everybody around us.”

Such thought processes are apparent in his socially conscious standup and sitcom. His Spike Lee–directed HBO special premiered in 2014, and more recently, his eponymous NBC series, “The Carmichael Show,” premiered its second season on March 13 after a brief six episodes last August.

“My lawyers are the only reason I say ‘Season 2,’ ” he jokes of the new 13-episode arc. “It’s a deeper version of the same thing.”

For fans of the series, that’s good news. At the tail end of summer 2015, “The Carmichael Show” beat the odds and nabbed an audience over the course of three weeks and six episodes. Its deft blend of familial slapstick and of-the-moment politics ensured Carmichael was a voice worth listening to. He got viewers thinking. In standout episodes like “Protest” and “Gender,” Carmichael brought hot-button issues like the Black Lives Matter movement and heightened visibility of the transgender community to the least likely of stages: the multicam sitcom, live audience and all.

“I actually originally envisioned it as single-cam and they changed it,” Carmichael now admits. “Then I realized that multi was more of a challenge. The narrative of the realm of multicameras is that it’s dying, it’s dead, there’s no true art in it. And what’s more fun than that challenge? [There is] also a connection with the stage performance of it—being a standup comic and knowing that at its best, multicam [gets] that reaction. It elicits this response.”

Luckily, it wasn’t just the studio audience that responded. “The Carmichael Show” Season 1 pulled in NBC’s best ratings for its late summer time slot in over a decade and was promptly scooped up for another round. The series also got a stamp of critical approval. Season 2 has already rolled out buzzed-about half-hours on class and infidelity, gentrification, and most notably, Bill Cosby’s tarnished legacy. After the premiere of the Cosby episode, titled “Fallen Heroes,” Salon went so far as to crown Carmichael “the most important comedian in America.”

“People are much smarter [and] the audience wants more than I think a lot of people behind the camera give them credit for,” says co-creator and Carmichael’s “Neighbors” director Nicholas Stoller of the series’ appeal. “People want to hear the conversations they’re having in their living rooms.”

That’s just where the bulk of “The Carmichael Show” takes place: Carmichael’s childhood living room. Largely inspired by the dynamics of his own family growing up in North Carolina, Carmichael plays Jerrod and is joined by all of the genre’s necessary players: a schlubby, down-and-out brother (Lil Rel Howery); a loud, opinionated father (David Alan Grier); a jovial and equally opinionated mother (Loretta Devine); and Carmichael’s black sheep—and, as the series points out, half-black—girlfriend, Maxine (Amber Stevens West).

Politics of the religious right and bleeding heart left come under one roof while certain events offscreen (a Black Lives Matter protest, for instance) stoke a conversation that is both nuanced and hilarious. More surprisingly, there’s no agenda at play. Audiences can trust that, for better or worse, they will hear all opinions on a matter between the cast’s varied personalities. And while it doesn’t shy away from bits of sobriety, “Carmichael” just as quickly lightens the mood with a laugh-out-loud (if not entirely politically correct) quip. “The laugh that happens after the serious moment [is] just huge because the audience is so relieved,” Stoller says. Look no further than Grier’s take on one character struggling to come out as transgender: “Don’t worry, the woman trapped inside of him will tell the man what to do.” Cue the studio laughter.

“The main thing, I think, that was really important to me and also to Jerrod as we made the show, is that no one’s right and no one’s wrong,” Stoller continues. “I think [that] makes much more interesting conversation and television.”

Carmichael says that much of the series’ content is his perspective as he’s debated with himself and others on these topics. “It’s a completed argument for me,” he summates. “A lot of [Jerrod] is my perspective. Some other characters are my perspective, even the polar opposites. It’s an argument that I’ve had with myself [that’s] harder to do in standup, but with the show, I can fulfill the argument immediately.”

Today, Carmichael credits his analytical humor to his days living in the very home he’s now depicting on prime time. While he’s always rejected the notion of being “just a comedian,” saying it seemed “kind of arrogant” to assume he can make people laugh, that’s exactly what he’s been doing since his days in middle school making comedic topical shorts instead of writing essays. “I have teachers that, years later, tell me they still show some of the videos. My version of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is amazing,” he insists. But even before dreams of becoming a comic, Carmichael recalls wanting a series on NBC.

“This is going to sound like I made it up, but my brother likes to remind me of it: When I was 13 years old, I said, ‘I want a show on Thursday night on NBC,’ ” he says with a sheepish grin. “I wanted a sitcom. That was all I ever really wanted.”

So in 2008, he left to chase the dream and moved to Los Angeles. As any working actor will know, a career’s early years are often the most trying, but Carmichael remembers them with clarity and fondness. He didn’t take for granted that L.A. is a mecca of creativity and Hollywood history. He’d often spend afternoons at the Paley Center watching old TV shows and evenings at open mics.

“Me and a lot of the closest friends I have now even still just wanted to impress each other. We wanted to try new things constantly. We weren’t afraid to fail,” he says.

“Don’t think about it. You just do the work, do the art. At some point in the process, you should do it purely for the love of it,” he advises. “A lot of people jump in and sort of make it a business first, and while I knew [my work] could obviously prove profitable, it was really important for me to view it as art. I try to hold onto that as much as I can, even while navigating the business aspect.”

Surviving the industry’s business aspects, however, can be just as daunting, and having an understanding of Hollywood’s effect on art and vice versa is key to striking gold. Carmichael says success also requires a thick skin and an ability to compromise and collaborate without selling out.

“You have to be stronger than everyone’s collective caution and everyone’s collective fear,” he says. “A show is still a business. There’s a lot of money at stake… [but] audiences recognize when a machine created something and when something is personal and true and close. When it comes to creation, playing ‘the game’ doesn’t apply. When you make something, it needs to be as pure as it can be.”

Time and again, Carmichael proves a voice worth listening to. Are you listening yet?


Keep Standing Up

Even at the height of his success at NBC, Carmichael continues to do standup whenever he can. When he was in New York City earlier this month, he made it a point to do a quick set at the historic Comedy Cellar. “Sometimes when I’m writing the script [for ‘The Carmichael Show’], I’ll go onstage and talk about what we’re talking about in the episode to really explore how I feel about it,” he says. Contrary to popular belief, though, Carmichael says standup isn’t all about the laughs. “I’m looking for feeling, I’m looking for connection, I’m looking for a reaction…. When I think comedian, I think [of] the satire of Mark Twain as much as the jokes of Chris Rock. Obviously, laughs are an important thing and you want to be funny and you want to give [audiences] that experience, but you also want them to feel some type of connection to what you’re saying. I treat my audience like adults.

The article was published in Backstage.

(Daily News) EXCLUSIVE: Ted Cruz knows ‘absolutely nothing’ about counterterrorism in NYC, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton says

BY  | SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2016, 7:18 PM
Ted Cruz speaks during an appearance in Virginia.STEVE HELBER/AP

Ted Cruz speaks during an appearance in Virginia.

There seems to be a widespread belief among certain members of the political class that protecting the country against terrorism is a matter of ideology. According to them, the strong leaders in this area are the ones who are willing to insult Muslims, advocate torture, and engage in various other provocations. They claim that other leaders are paralyzed by political correctness and that they alone have the ideological fortitude to guard against the terrorist threat.

Terrorism is ideologically driven but counterterrorism, like other kinds of police work, has no ideological component whatsoever. It is about stopping the terrorists before they strike. That requires intelligence gathering, analysis and focused investigative work.

In the event of a terrorist attack, police also need the capacity to respond swiftly and with effective tactics. It is a matter of consistent, determined, targeted detective work, of highly trained and well-equipped operational units, and of intelligence analysts who can interpret the data, decipher the chatter and distinguish the real threats from the bluster and the noise.

Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called for police to “patrol and secure Muslim communities before they become radicalized.” We already patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods, the same way we patrol and secure other neighborhoods.

When people call the police, we rush to help them. When people break the law, we move to arrest them. But no, we do not single out any populace, black, white, yellow or brown for selective enforcement. We do not “patrol and secure” neighborhoods based on selective enforcement because of race or religion, nor will we use the police and an occupying force to intimidate a populace or a religion to appease the provocative chatter of politicians seeking to exploit fear.

Bill Bratton holds a press conference in New York City.ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES

Bill Bratton holds a press conference in New York City.

Nor will we accept the fiction of Sen. Cruz’s narrative as presented. Cruz repeated the false reports surrounding the NYPD Demographics Unit and my decision to abolish it because it wasn’t serving any useful purpose. He tried to depict the demise of the unit, as other ill-informed observers have done, as a knuckling under to the forces of political correctness rather than the sensible administrative decision that it was. The fact is that the former administration had allowed the unit to dwindle down to two investigators. Why? Because the work of the unit, which was to map the ethnic makeup of the city to better understand the domain of the New York metropolitan area, was finished. The two remaining detectives simply had little to do.

This sensible move was translated in the bumper-sticker, sound bite language of politics to be one of two extremes. Either transferring the last two detectives out of the Demographics Unit ended an extensive spying program that inhibited religious freedom (it wasn’t and it didn’t) or, we eliminated the key program protecting New York City from terrorists and with it, our undercover operations, informants and surveillance (it wasn’t and we didn’t).

Members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group stand outside NYPD headquarters after a press conference in New York City.ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES

Members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group stand outside NYPD headquarters after a press conference in New York City.

It is clear from his comments that Sen. Cruz knows absolutely nothing about counterterrorism in New York City. We have in this city, without a doubt, the most effective and extensive counterterrorism capacity of any city in this country and virtually any city in the world. Let me count the ways:

—The Joint-Terrorism Task Force, with the FBI, has more than 100 NYPD detectives working full time on counterterrorism investigations. They do not place entire communities under surveillance, but at any given time, based on authorized investigations, they may be watching individuals who have aroused suspicion as to possibly being involved in terrorist activity. Our Intelligence Bureau detectives work with informants, surveillance teams, undercover officers and cyber specialists on investigations that are documented, authorized and regularly reviewed to protect the city from terrorism.

—The Critical Response Command, founded on Mayor de Blasio’s watch, deploys more than 500 highly trained and thoroughly equipped officers to critical sites and potential targets. These officers would be immediately deployable to any attack, or series of attacks, and could engage heavily armed terrorists without delay. Given the pattern of attacks in Europe where terrorists hit multiple sites simultaneously and showed the clear intention to kill as many people as possible, these new units have the mission of engaging the terrorists, as quickly as possible, with equal firepower and superior training to stop the killing as soon as possible. The CRC is backed up by other commands with counterterrorism capabilities, including the Strategic Response Group and the Emergency Service Unit. These NYPD units have the capacity to deploy hundreds of heavily armed officers to any attack site in the city at any time of the day or night.

—The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau, which encompasses both the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Critical Response Command, also houses a wide variety of other capabilities, including a 40-officer bomb squad; a 150-officer World Trade Center Command; radiological detection water vessels and aircraft; an infrastructure unit that hardens targets across the city; and a public-private partnership called SHIELD, with a membership of some 15,000 local property and business owners.

—The NYPD Intelligence Bureau is staffed not only with police officers but highly skilled civilian intelligence analysts, the sort of experts who work in national intelligence. They are continuously vetting leads, hints and rumors to keep the threat picture in New York updated. The Intelligence Bureau also maintains liaison officers in multiple cities around the world who can swiftly report back to us on any attack anywhere on Earth.

—The NYPD Domain Awareness System is one of the most sophisticated networks of cameras, license plate readers and radiological censors in the world, providing real-time information across southern Manhattan and in many other parts of the city.

The dashboard for the NYPD's Domain Awareness System (DAS) is seen in New York.SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS

The dashboard for the NYPD’s Domain Awareness System (DAS) is seen in New York.

So, no, transferring the two detectives we found languishing in the already defunct Demographics Unit did not have any effect on our ability to protect New York City from terrorists. Sen. Cruz’s references to the discontinuance of the Demographics Unit shows he has been hoodwinked by a 21st century fairy tale that refuses to die. He uses it in tandem with his suggestions that the police create a looming presence to intimidate Muslim neighborhoods with a show of force.

In New York City, we protect all communities from crime and terrorism — yes, Muslim communities too — because like us, they are Americans who own businesses, work hard, pay taxes and dream of a better life for their children. Over 900 of them work in my police department as police officers, many of them in counterterrorism and intelligence. Many of them have served in the military and fought for their country. We police our city not by campaign slogans or inflammatory rhetoric, but by an old piece of parchment called the U.S. Constitution and another called the Bill of Rights.

Ted Cruz and others seem to be willing to sideline these principles because what they stand for shifts with the tide of the campaign and the shrillness of the name-calling. But as it has been said, when you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. Sen. Cruz needs to do some homework before he speaks again.

Meanwhile, in New York, we will continue keeping the city safe while policing constitutionally, respectfully and effectively.

Bratton is the commissioner of the NYPD.

The article was published in the New York Daily News.

(Shoppe Black) The Funky Diabetic – Why Phife Dawg’s Death should Spark a Conversation about Diabetes

in Black Thought by

Like many of you, I was greeted by sad news this morning. Phife Dawg of the legendary group, A Tribe Called Quest, had passed away from medical complications caused by diabetes. He was only 45 years old. Phife had been battling diabetes mellitus type 1 since he was first diagnosed in 1990, the year that Tribe’s first album dropped.

56f2c71bac874.imagePhife’s condition was hereditary (his mother had diabetes) and it was exacerbated by his hectic touring schedule which caused him to eat large amounts of fast food.  In a 2010 interview , he said, “I was still waking up to a glass of Quik, you know what I’m saying? Oreo cookies for breakfast, just stupid shit. It didn’t make it any better that we were on the road performing, eating KFC, McDonalds, shit like that and I was going hard when we was younger”. At some point, his kidneys began to fail and in 2004 he started dialysis. Eventually, his wife became his donor and gifted him with one of her kidneys. He drastically improved his eating habits and seemingly regained control over his diabetes before A Tribe Called Quest’s reunion in 2008. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to prolong his life into old age.

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His passing reminded me of the death of Patrice O’Neal, one of my favorite comedians. Patrice was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his early twenties and died at 41.

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I’m 37-years old now, and thankfully, in good health.  So as far as I’m concerned, these guys were way too young to die. Unfortunately, diabetes is one of the most life-threatening health problems plaguing the Black community today. Over ninety percent of people who have the disease suffer from type 2 diabetes. This is largely the result of excess body weight and lack of physical exercise. According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Only five percent of people with diabetes have this form of the disease.

Word cloud concept illustration of diabetes condition

Compared to the general U.S. population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health (OMH)website, “African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. In addition, they are more likely to suffer complications from diabetes, such as end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and lower extremity amputations. Although African Americans have the same or lower rate of high cholesterol as their non-Hispanic white counterparts, they are more likely to have high blood pressure.”

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End-stage renal disease (ESRD) signifies that the kidneys are barely or no longer functioning after about 10-20 years of chronic kidney disease. Without dialysis or a kidney transplant, ESRD leads to death.  According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ESRD related to diabetes is about 170% higher in black men than in White men and about 131% higher in black women than in White women.

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Diabetes isn’t exclusive to the Western world though. This health condition is also becoming more prevalent in African countries. A report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) states that the African continent counts approximately 13.6 million people with diabetes. Nigeria has the highest number of people with diabetes(with approximately 1.2 million people affected).

MCC-treating diabetes in Kenya

In Ghana, a large percentage of the population suffers from type 2 diabetes. According to Elizabeth Denyoh, president of Ghana’s National Diabetes Association, the country has no national diabetes program. Denyou said, “In Ghana, most people diagnosed with diabetes are the poorest of the poor. There is a lot of Type 1 diabetes in rural areas. ” Type 1 diabetes, although still rare in many areas, is becoming increasingly more prevalent. IGT (Impaired Glucose Tolerance) is also becoming problematic in many African countries. This counters the prevailing myth that diabetes is solely a disease of the wealthy west.

ABS_Diabetes

In numerous interviews (3 min mark), Phife mentioned how he used his celebrity as a platform to raise diabetes awareness. He said that he would love it if he could inspire others with the condition and let them know that they can still achieve their dreams and desires despite the hardships that come with diabetes.  Like Phife, there are many other well known individuals who have been affected by diabetes directly or indirectly. Many are using their popularity as a platform to raise awareness.

For example,  Lil Jon raised money the American Diabetes Association during his stint on The Apprentice. His now deceased mother had type 2 diabetes and suffered a stroke while they were the taping a season of the show. He went on to raise $195,000 for the cause.

1361555530_lil-jon-now-560Dennis Coles aka Tony Starks aka Ghostface Killah of the Wu Tang Clan, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1996. In a 2005 interview about his condition, he said “I didn’t know what that shit was.” He went to two doctors before it was detected. “My sugar was mad high, but it was a little relief to know what it was.” His doctor prescribed insulin along with a healthier regiment. “That meant putting down the blunts and cutting back on the alcohol and sweets.” It’s about discipline”, said Ghost. “You can quit the cigarettes and all that other shit but as a diabetic you fiend for sweets. When you sitting at the crib staring at them Oreos, you gonna fuck around and go in. You want those Fruity Pebbles and all that shit. I had to learn how to just chill, exercise, drink protein shakes and monitor my sugar.”

ghostface-killah-comments-on-wu-tang-clan-secret-album

Let me be clear: this isn’t some pathological problem that’s simply impacting our community. Black people are dying and developing poor health, largely because of racism and oppressive systems. There are virtual food deserts in many Black communities across the U.S. Young people consume high amounts of soda and candy and other crap. There are rarely any healthy food options, let alone affordable options in many of our communities.

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Most of us know someone or have someone close to us who are diabetic, if we’re not diabetic ourselves. Eating habits are hard to break, especially considering the fact that sugar is literally in everythingwe consume. The impact of everyday racism and classism have a way of negatively impacting our immune systems and the physiological functions of our bodies.  But to know better is to do better. Let’s all do what we can to prevent another loss like this. If you want to know about some Black owned businesses that are committed to health and wellness, check out our previous post.

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To address this growing epidemic, the American Diabetes Association has created programs and materials to increase awareness of the seriousness of diabetes and its complications among African Americans. Learn more here.

The Busy African

The article was published in Shoppe Black.

(HuffPost) ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Reminds Us That AIDS Isn’t A Problem Of The Past

03/21/2016 05:36 pm ET

Rahel Gebreyes

Editor, HuffPost Live

With about 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, there’s no reason the conversation about the issue should be slowing down. Actor Jussie Smollett, who has been an outspoken advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention, delivered that message loud and clear in a conversation with HuffPost Live last week.

The “Empire” star warned against considering HIV/AIDS to be a problem from “yesteryear.”

“We get attached to these hashtags and it becomes this social media fad,” he said. “But it’s almost as if HIV/AIDS stopped being the thing to talk about before social media came around. We’ve gotta bring that back because we’re not done.”

In recent years, the estimated incidence of HIV has remained stable at about50,000 new HIV infections annually, but gay men and African Americans are still most affected. With new infections still occurring, the actor stressed the importance of knowing one’s HIV status and being open about it.

“Getting tested, knowing your status, being responsible for yourself and other people is so important — being honest with yourself, number one, so you can be honest with everyone else,” he said.

Smollett also shared words of optimism for those who have been infected and are seeking proper treatment.

“We have to remember that it’s not a death sentence. You can live with it and you can live a beautiful, wonderful life with it, but it’s also something that we can prevent,” he said.

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation with Jussie Smollett here

(Medium) The Braiders of Harlem

Christiana A Mbakwe / Medium

Christiana A Mbakwe / Medium

Christiana A Mbakwe | 

There is no décor. The only art on the pumpkin colored walls are vintage posters of bare shouldered black women with elaborate hairstyles. Two women, one from Senegal, the other from the Ivory Coast, split 7 feet of black synthetic hair into sections before they begin to braid.

Behind them is a restless elementary school girl; she swings her legs so vigorously her timberlands thump on the floor. Her hairdresser, Tenin, has tightly wrapped the ends of each braid with string until they resemble sooty bees nests. She dips the ends of the braids in boiling water; acutely aware of the risk involved, the child is finally still. The final step of the three-hour process is simple — Tenin lathers the girl’s head with white mousse.

Aicha Hair Braiding Salon is one of a number of African braiding shops that are clustered around 125th street in Harlem. Much like the Apollo Theatre and Abyssinian Baptist Church, the braiding shops and braiders that work in them are a Harlem landmark.

Hair braiding is a tradition that has been practiced in various African societies for centuries. Across the United States, women from countries such as Senegal, Ivory Coast and Togo, have used braiding as a bridge to a better life. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, entrepreneurial instinct and the ability of braiders to amalgamate traditional braiding styles with hair trends within African-American culture, meant braiding was a secure source of income.

According to Professor Cheikh Anta Babou, an expert in African history and the Africa diaspora, although it was generally confined to the informal economy, braiding was once such a lucrative profession, in the peak season braiders could earn $200-$300 a day. Babou estimates 70% of Senegalese immigrant women in the United States are hair braiders. Braiding is so pervasive it has reshaped and transformed Senegalese life in the United States. For instance, the economic independence women gained from braiding meant patriarchal norms were resisted; consequently divorce has become more frequent within the Senegalese community.

In recent years, however, a combination of demographic shifts in neighborhoods, rising rents and technological disruption, has meant braiding is no longer a trade immigrants can rely on.

“This country’s not like before. You don’t get money like before,” said Tenin, the hairdresser who hails from the Ivory Coast. “It was more busy than this. When tax season comes you’re very happy. But now?” she shakes her head in dismay and returns to her work. Two months ago, Tenin gave birth to her fourth child. The uneven nature of her job meant she had to come back to work. On some days she has no clients, while on other days she has eight. Staying at home was far too risky.

Today, it’s not uncommon to see braiders hustling for potential clients at the busiest intersections in Harlem. Some even wait at subway turnstiles, hoping to find a customer. According to Aicha, Tenin’s mother and the owner of the braiding salon where they both work, the spread of braiders onto the streets hunting for clients is a relatively new development. Aicha has worked as a braider in Harlem for over 20 years. She believes the demographic shifts in the neighborhood and rising rents, has meant they have a smaller customer base and have to fight harder for what’s left. “I don’t like to beg on the street for customers. I used to, but not any more. But I understand why women do” she said.

Aicha is correct in her observation about rising rents and dwindling black customers. A report by the Community Service Society, showed between 2002 and 2014 average rents in Central Harlem rose by 90%. Recent census data showed that Harlem’s black population is the smallest it’s been since the 1920’s and they are now only 40% of its residents. The ramifications of this on the informal braiding market are palpable. A number of braiding stores have been forced to close, and some braiders even left New York in search for work elsewhere. However, there’s another force working against women like Aicha and Tenin — technology. In particular, the proliferation of social networking sites, which have created virtual communities centred on sharing information about black women’s hair and an increase in women finding their hairdressers using the Internet. In an unexpected twist, it seems that immigrants aren’t taking jobs from Americans, instead technology is taking jobs from immigrants.

In 2008, a shift occurred in the black cultural zeitgeist that reshaped how black women decided to style their own hair. According to “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” by Ayanna Byrd and Lori Tharps, the natural hair movement caused a critical mass of black women to stop chemically straightening their hair and wear their hair in its natural state. Historically, there have been other waves where black women have favored natural styles however this was the first in the era of online social networking.

Conversations about black women’s hair are constantly happening on the Internet. They occur in YouTube comments, hair forums and an amorphous subculture within Twitter called “Black Twitter”. The #naturalhair hashtag on Instagram has 7.4 million photos. In theory, this movement should have meant African hair braiders were perfectly positioned to exploit a new and hungry customer base. According to Mintel Black Consumers and Hair care 2015 report, the black hair care market is worth an estimated $2.7 billion — there’s more than enough money to go around. But a cornerstone of the natural hair movement and the digital conversation surrounding it is an emphasis on autonomy and agency. An important expression of this agency is the ability to understand and do your own natural hair.

The emergence of social networking and the fact that the web significantly influences black women’s hair choices, places braiders at an acute disadvantage. The informal and underground nature of the braiding industry has meant there’s a natural and almost instinctive aversion to social media. Despite their presence on the streets of Harlem and Brooklyn, most braiders prefer to be or remain inconspicuous. Some braiders are undocumented or in regular contact with people who are undocumented and this creates a reluctance to create a visible online presence. Very few of the braiding shops have Facebook or Instagram pages, websites are rare and most salon owners don’t respond to reviews on Yelp. Furthermore, in West African culture, privacy is viewed as virtue and openness is a vice. All these things are diametrically opposed to the relentless self-promotion and hyper-exposure the digital age requires. In the meantime, the savviest natural hairdressers are exploiting technology for their benefit and gaining customers.

“I did it in college just for fun, just one video — and it went viral” said Sadora Paris, a popular natural hair blogger. Since Sadora posted her first video tutorial two years ago, her audience has grown to 120 thousand YouTube subscribers and almost 25 thousand Instagram followers. She has leveraged her fan base to become a fulltime brand ambassador for natural hair care lines such as Carol’s Daughter and Shea Moisture. Sadora also earns additional income as a hair coach and beauty consultant.

Sadora views the relationship between the African braiders and their customer base as a complex one that is fractured by generational differences as much as cultural ones. African braiders aren’t the only segment within the black hair industry that struggled to keep up with how technology has transformed it. Many older African-American salon owners who catered exclusively to black women with chemically straightened hair failed to keep up with the times and are also struggling. Additionally, the women she coaches who no longer go to African braiders cite three main factors — saving money, time and their hair. Traditional braiding methods favor tight, neat styles and an aesthetic is valued over the health of the hair. However many black women have concerns about their hair, particularly the perimeter of the hairline referred to colloquially as their “edges”. For Sadora and her clients, the choice to do their own hair is less about the African braiders and more about how they prefer to do their hair.

Dr. Shartriya Collier is an expert in immigrant women entrepreneurs, who has done extensive research on the braiding industry in the United States. While she agrees that technology and other variables have contributed to the difficulties the braiders currently face, she cautions against overstating their significance. In her view, there were no real glory years in the braiding industry– it’s always been a difficult trade. “There was always a tension between African shop owners and their African-American clients,” she said. The intersection of language and cultural barriers meant exchanges between African braiders and their African-American clients have always been characterized by difficulties.

In their economic transactions, most braiders tend to occupy the grey space between legal and illegal activity. Cash is the preferred, and often the only form of payment. Most financial transactions aren’t documented in official records and braiders aren’t paid an hourly wage; instead they pay the shop owner a commission on every client they get. And while technology has had an adverse effect on their cash flow, it’s been advantageous for most parts of the informal economy. Professor Justin W. Webb, of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is an expert on entrepreneurship within the informal economy. In his research, he has observed how technological advances have created more opportunities for entrepreneurs who operate outside of the formal sphere. “Technology is presenting a larger market and in a way they’re able to skirt [legislation]. They’re less visible to those who are monitoring and enforcing them,” said Webb.

In his years of studying informal economies, Webb has frequently come across a phenomena he calls the “stepping stone effect” This occurs when a worker gradually formalizes and legitimizes their trade or they accumulate enough capital and knowledge to leave the informal sphere and work in another part of the formal economy. But braiders face a challenge that impedes this effect — language.

Most braiders come from French-speaking African countries, so if they do speak English, it is often their third language. French or Wolof tends to be the lingua franca inside the hair shop and English is only used while establishing price or in brief exchanges with clients. The lack of English fluency makes it difficult to leave the industry. On the other hand, braiders from English speaking African countries often use braiding as a job on the side, to support them while they attend night school or while they learn a more economically advantageous trade. As soon as these women achieve their goal they stop braiding.

In 2002, Mama (as she calls herself), made the trip from Nouakchott, Mauritania to the United States. At the time she was fluent in Wolof and French, and could speak only broken English. She found accommodation in the Bronx and was embraced by a network of African immigrants. They told her to go to Harlem and start braiding hair. Mama is middle aged and braiding has taken its toll on her body. Some days she works for 12 hours at a time at Barry’s Good Braiding, she has constant back pain but can’t afford the surgery. What was supposed to be an opportunity has become a trap and Mama wishes she picked another trade when she first moved to America. Braiding is so niche that her years of experience aren’t easily transferred to another industry. “It’s not a job I’m doing and love it. I don’t have a choice,” said Mama.

Walk into any braiding shop and you’ll notice the incredible speed at which braiders move their wrists and fingers. No matter how long you stare, this speed makes it difficult to decipher each step of the process. It’s wondrous to watch because the women maintain this speed for anything from 3 to 6 hours. And on a particularly busy day they may braid for a total of 10 hours.

Ask any woman who’s had her hair braided the worst thing about it and she’ll probably mention the pain. Most people don’t think about the pain the braiders endure. The physically taxing nature of the job and the mental strain of hoping for clients mean that braiders often end the day exhausted. Over the years this accumulates and has acute physical manifestations. Back pain, shoulder pain, it isn’t rare to come across braiders with ganglion cysts on their wrists — big bumps that are the evidence of years of strain.

For those that have the option to work in the formal economy, the decision to become an entrepreneur is often an expression of their independence and freedom. But for many of the braiders, with limited childcare options, low levels of education and significant language barriers, being an entrepreneur is the only option, rather than a romantic form of self-actualization. It is a beautiful struggle at best.

The article was published in Medium. 

(National Interest) Senegal: The Linchpin of Security in West Africa

Seth J. Frantzman

Image: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Marine Corps.

Senegalese military personnel are voting in a national referendum on March 13. The rest of Senegal votes in the same referendum on March 20. The military is voting early so that it can be alert during what is hoped will be a peaceful vote. Dakar, the capital of this country of fourteen million, is decked out in posters shouting “Oui”: vote “yes” for strengthening democracy and the rule of law. The referendum concerns reducing the term limit of the presidency and other initiatives. It is a reminder that this is a sub-Saharan African country that is a historically stable democracy, in a region that has seen coups, dictatorship and most recently, Islamist extremism.

A week in this West African state gives an idea of the security challenges it is facing. Dakar port, which is the second largest after Ivory Coast’s Abidjan, is an entree to West Africa and a gateway to Mali, where France intervened to prevent a takeover of the country by Islamist rebels and their allies in 2013. The security here is noticeable, with private security running checks on passengers, and a local police and gendarme detachment. The Senegalese navy is based here and the coast guard does regular patrols from the harbor.

Soldiers have been deployed in districts where there is nightlife in Dakar. Hotels in the capital have also upped security after the attacks on November 20 in Bamako which killed twenty, on Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso on January 15 which killed 30, and in Ivory Coast on March 13. Much of this security seems symbolic rather than necessarily reflecting deep experience or expertise. But there is no doubt that Senegal is taking it seriously and most of those we spoke with felt there was a terror threat and that leaders were cognizant of it.

Senegal’s capital may be 1,200 miles from Ouagadougou, but it feels much closer. If terrorists could slip into that country and attack a hotel, couldn’t they do it here, which is equidistant from Mali or Mauritania where the extremists operate. The U.S. Army’s Flintlock exercise which began on February 8 in the village of Theis an hour east of Dakar, is symbolic of the faith Western powers and regional powers put in Senegal’s influence and its desire to be vigilant against extremism. U.S. Army Brigadier General Donald C. Bolduc said of the thirty-nation exercise that “it is more than a military exercise, we are training together to increase our interoperability and collaboration to counter today’s threats.” Senegal led this year’s exercise.

Aminata Touré, a former prime minister and currently adviser to the president says that one of the great long term threats to security can be youth unemployment. “There is a relationship between instability and youth unemployment. That is the first threat to security and social stability. Of course, we are concerned by security issues, we are surrounded by countries with troubles.” Many Senegalese emphasize that the country was able to prevent Ebola from crossing the border after the outbreak in West Africa in 2014, which points to an ability to close a porous border if necessary.

According to local security analysts the Senegalese army is of a high quality compared to its neighbors. It does not play a role in politics, an issue that has harmed armies in other countries in this region because of suspicion between the presidential guard units and other units. Senegal’s army also has experience fighting in Mali and most recently in Yemen, where it sent 2,100 troops to join the Saudi-led coalition in May of 2015. SO far, more than a dozen Senegalese have joined ISIS and related groups. In December, for example, one medical student at Senegal’s largest university posted on Facebook that he had gone to join ISIS. Four local imams were arrested in November for supporting extremism. A Pew Research Center poll released the same month showed that while 60 percent found ISIS unfavorable there were 10 percent who found it more palatable.

Many local experts say that the tradition of large Sufi brotherhoods in Senegal means extremists have difficulty taking root. Professor Ibrahim Thioub, the rector of the University Cheikh Anta Diop, says that on the fringes of these brotherhoods are figures who are marginalized and punished if they promote extremism. “The brotherhood knows how to discipline these urban youth leaders. But the problem is the Salafists who exist in Senegal since the 1950s. The radicalization in the last years, it is slightly more, but not like in Mali, or Mauritania, because there is something else. The brotherhoods are able to organize and have a strong network.” He argues that even abroad, where Senegalese might be exposed to extremism—in France, for example—these brotherhoods have local chapters and encourage moderation and a very Senegalese version of Islam. Amsatou Sow Sidibé, a former presidential candidate, agrees that the people of Senegal are the strongest asset the country has against the regional developments:

“[Terrorism] is terrible. We must have solidarity both of the people here and of the countries. It’s not good. We haven’t had any acts of terror but we don’t know. It is a possibility. We don’t have eyes to see the future. We must be vigilante, and the public must be educated to be vigilante.”

Part of that vigilance is relying on these local brotherhoods and citizens to inform on any extremists who may be operating. The concept is to rely on human intelligence and the strong social solidarity in Senegal which is different than some of the region’s states whose instability led to the rise of groups like Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and ISIS. In some cases these extremists preyed on tribal, ethnic or religious differences, or perceptions that the government was suppressing local people. Senegal, whose population is 95 percent Muslim, appears to have very strong feelings of social solidarity.

Nevertheless the fact is that Senegal has become a base for many regional embassies, due to the Ebola outbreak in neighboring states and to the country’s relative stability. That means Senegal has a strong foundation of international support but also is a target. Those foreign embassies, foreign nationals, hotels and NGOs can all present a target—like in Bamako and Ouagadougou—where Islamists seek to carry out spectacular attacks to harm the image of a country through mass murder.

So far, Senegal’s decision to send troops abroad has given its army experience, and its hosting of regional security exercises such as Flintlock are a welcome development. The key would be if the country could project its stability to neighboring states, and anchor the West African security system against the threats of extremists.

Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a PhD from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The article was published in the National Interest Online.

(NYT) Carson Endorses the Demagogue

Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump in a news conference at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. (Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

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On Friday, I watched yet another bizarre scene from an already bizarre election cycle: The affable but hopelessly vacant Ben Carson endorsing the demagogic real estate developer who once said of Carson that he had a “pathological temper” as a child and compared him to a child molester.

Carson said in his endorsement speech that there are actually “two different” sides to the front-runner.

What does this mean? Which one is real? Are they both? Is there a Jekyll to this Hyde? It was an exceedingly strange and feeble attempt to diminish the danger that this man poses, but in a way, if anyone could understand this duality, it would be Carson.

This is the same Ben Carson who has inveighed against the “purveyors of division,” who played a video at his presidential campaign announcement in Detroit in which the narrator said in part:

“If America is to survive the challenges of the modern world, we need to heal, we need to be inspired, and we need to revive the exceptional spirit that built America. Never before have we been so closely connected to each other, but more divided as a country.”

This is the same Ben Carson who used this closing statement at the sixth Republican presidential debate in North Charleston, S.C., by imploring Americans to join him “in truth and honesty and integrity.”

Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump in a news conference at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
And yet, on Friday, Carson endorsed one of the most dangerous and divisive demagogues in recent presidential election history, a man for whom “truth and honesty and integrity” are infinitely malleable, and easily discarded, concepts, and whose rallies have been plagued by vileness and violence.

Carson, like so many conservatives, isn’t truly interested in unity as much as silent submission, a quiet in which one can pretend that hostility has been quashed, all evidence to the contrary.

These are folks who view discussions about reducing racial inequity and increasing queer equality as divisive. They are people who see efforts to protect women’s health, in particular their full range of reproductive options, including abortion, and to reverse our staggering income inequality as divisive. Indeed, the very words white supremacy, privilege, racism, bias, sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, and poverty are seen as divisive.

Somehow, they think, these very real oppressive forces will simple die if only deprived of conversational oxygen. In fact, the opposite is true. By not naming these forces and continuously confronting, they strengthen and spread.

Carson’s endorsement further tarnished his already tarnished reputation. He validated and rubber-stamped a grandiloquent fascist who is supported by a former grand wizard.

All Carson’s calls for civility were in that moment proven hollow.

No wonder so many Americans despise politicians and see them as soulless and without principle. And although both these men pride themselves on being political outsiders who’ve never held political office, they are undoubtedly political animals and relentless personal brand promoters who chase a check over a cliff.

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it began to make. Carson and the real estate developer are not so different from one another in this predilection for outrageous utterances, it’s just that one smiles and the other scowls.

This is the same Ben Carson who called President Obama a psychopath who is possibly guilty of treason and was, oh my, “raised white.” He has accused President Obama of working to “destroy this nation” and compared Obama’s supporters to Nazi sympathizers.

This is the same Ben Carson who on a radio show in 2013 said of white liberals:

“Well, they’re the most racist people there are because, you know, they put you in a little category, a little box — you have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?”

This is the same Ben Carson who has compared women who have abortions to slave owners, who said Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery — yes, he’s obsessed with slavery — and that being gay is a choice because people go to prison straight and leave gay. On the issue of whether a Muslim should allowed to be president, he said:

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Carson isn’t the only one. Chris Christie’s endorsement of the front-runner is just as baffling and unprincipled. As The Los Angeles Times put it:

“Christie had spent years curating an image as a policy-focused administrator who reached out to Muslims and Latinos, and he was rewarded with rock star status in the national Republican Party. Now he’s backing a candidate who has insulted minorities, shown a casual disregard for policy discussions and is reviled by the party’s establishment.”

And yet it is Carson’s endorsement that I find more interesting, not because it will have a greater impact, but because he and the front-runner are two sides of the same coin: they are both dangerous, but one is a narcissist who just might win the nomination and the other is a near-narcoleptic who never had a chance.

The article was published in the New York Times.

(Raw Story) How Hillary Clinton cornered the black vote

Democratic Presidental candidate Hillary Clinton has her photo taken with nurses at House of Prayer on February 7, 2016 in Flint, Michigan (AFP Photo/Sarah Rice)

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has her photo taken with nurses at House of Prayer on February 7, 2016 in Flint, Michigan (AFP Photo/Sarah Rice)


08 MAR 2016 AT 09:34 ET

Hillary Clinton is on a roll. If her candidacy ever looked in doubt to an insurgent Bernie Sanders, she’s hurtling towards the Democratic nomination — thanks overwhelmingly to African Americans.

A month after her bruising defeat in New Hampshire, where Sanders won every category of voter except those older than 65 and earning more than $200,000 a year, Clinton has chalked up massive wins.

In Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia she romped to victory, and is tipped to win Tuesday in Mississippi and Michigan, which all have sizeable African American communities.

Black voters have become critical to winning US elections. Without decisive African American turnout in seven states, Barack Obama would have lost to Mitt Romney in 2012, the independent Cook Political Report found.

Four years later with the country embroiled in debate about police violence and systemic racism, blacks are voting overwhelmingly for the former secretary of state, and cold shouldering the white-haired democratic socialist. But why?

Both have called for criminal justice reform demanded by the Black Lives Matter movement, although the group has endorsed neither candidate.

But beyond that, experts say Clinton more than Sanders has talked often about racism, white privilege and the need for more opportunities for blacks.

“I will do everything that I possibly can, to not only do the best to understand and to empathize, but to tear down the barriers of systemic racism,” she told Sunday’s Democratic debate in black majority Flint, Michigan.

– Forcefully –

Clinton raised the specter of environmental racism, questioning whether the lead-contaminated water scandal in Flint would have happened in wealthy suburbs.

“She talks very forcefully about these issues in a way that she hasn’t before and you don’t normally have from presidential candidates,” said Stefanie Brown James, Obama’s African American vote director in 2012.

While Sanders has spent his career in Vermont, where only one percent of the population is black, Clinton was first lady of Arkansas for 12 years, taking on a prominent role in trying to improve health and education.

In the south, she ran legal clinics representing disenfranchised people.

While still a student at Yale Law School, she went to South Carolina to investigate juveniles in adult jails and to Alabama to investigate segregation in schools for the Children’s Defense Fund.

After more than a generation on the national stage, all of this has become common knowledge — particularly among blacks.

In South Carolina, she addressed the nation’s oldest black sorority, dressed in green — a courtesy to an organization whose colors are green and pink.

“That’s the kind of little stuff, the attention to detail that people notice and appreciate,” said Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Right or wrong for a feminist campaigning to become the first woman president of the United States, experts also agree that much of her appeal stems from her marriage to Bill Clinton.

– Race matters –

The Clinton record is not unblemished. Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform and 1994 crime bill are blamed for fanning poverty and record incarceration rates which have hit blacks disproportionately. Both Clintons have since expressed regret, but the former first lady has been called out repeatedly on the campaign trail over that troubled legacy.

Clinton prefers to recall the economic growth during her husband’s 1990s administration as a legacy she will continue.

For more than a generation black Americans embraced the Clintons as a couple who worked against racial prejudice and presided over economic prosperity, at a time when black unemployment fell and incomes rose.

Bill Clinton’s poor southern background and easy manner — playing saxophone on television wearing shades — won him love and admiration from black voters.

He supported affirmative action, appointed a record number of African Americans to his cabinet and was close friends with business executive and civil rights figure Vernon Jordan.

During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Nobel Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison famously dubbed him the first black president by comparing him to the black man always presumed guilty.

While Clinton’s rival Sanders has spoken of being arrested during the 1960s civil rights movement, his plea for votes has focused far more on economic inequality.

“That’s the problem that blacks typically have with white progressives, that they look at everything through class and forget that race still matters, and it’s that type of framing that has frustrated some blacks,” said Gillespie.

African Americans who agonized in 2008 about whether to vote for Clinton or Obama and picked Obama now feel they can do right by Clinton, the woman who has gone out of her way to present herself as Obama’s heir.

The article was published in Raw Story.