Vanessa Braxton is the owner and CEO of Black Momma Vodka, a company that offers various unique flavors of handcrafted, gluten-free vodka. As the first African-American woman to own a nationally distributed vodka, she stays true to her motto of making vodka for women… but still strong enough for any man.
Braxton, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, earned a degree in Construction Management/Civil Engineering. She had a 20-year professional career in the field within the government sector where she has overseen over 350 million contracts and worked with clients around the world.
Though her business seems far-fetched from her study and previous experiences, she said it actually helped her create a successful brand and business for it pushed her to love doing something extraordinary. In her case, that is being a Black woman in an alcohol industry dominated by men.
The vodka Braxton herself developed is an all-natural, preservative-free, gluten-free vodka distilled and filtered 5 times from corn. It has a signature smooth taste and comes in different flavors. It is now being distributed in 32 states in the United States, in Hong Kong, and in the United Kingdom and can be requested at local restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, and distributors.
Black Momma Vodka is a product of her dreams and imagination. As a child, her parents and grandparents, who were business owners themselves, taught her to believe that she can do anything regardless of her gender or race.
Braxton said in an interview, “If your gut is telling you to do it, then do it. Believe me, everything will fall into place if it’s right and meant to be.”
Article taken from HERE
More Africans than non-Africans live in Israel, claims radio DJ Avishai Tzaghon Baruch. “If we take all of North Africa — Algerians, Moroccans, the Tunisians, Ethiopians, Egyptians — we have a substantial group.”
Tzaghon Baruch, together with stand-up comedian Shlomo Shmuel, presents a new and unique radio program in the Israeli entertainment sphere, called “Afrikan” – which places the spotlight on African culture and its affect on Israeli society. They broadcast a mix of popular music from Ghana, Mali, Zimbabwe and northern African countries such as Morroco, interview young Israeli artists of Ethiopian origin, and explore the cultural connection (or plagiarism) linking Western music and African artists.
“‘Afrikan’ breaks many stereotypes and myths that people have about Africa, such as that there’s only poverty, hunger and backwardness there,” says Shmuel. “It’s a rich continent that was robbed, but it is still full of culture and art that many in the West also draw from. For example, Beyonce and Jay-Z are now doing their On the Run tour, the promotional poster for which was inspired by a 1973 Senegalese movie.”
Both of them claim to have a split identity: Tzaghon Baruch was born in Ethiopia and moved to Israel with his family at the age of two. He now creates documentary films and children’s animation for the IETV channel (the Israeli Ethiopian Television). Shmuel was born in Be’er Sheva 31 years ago and grew up in the southern twon Ashdod.
“I present myself as a proud African,” says Shmuel. “In the end, it’s pretty clear that I am African. It’s impossible to escape that. Although we feel Israeli, I need to say that I am Israeli for them to know that. I don’t need to declare my African identity.”
Tzaghon Baruch says that he “prefers African culture over Western culture,” adding: “If you would suggest that I go to hear an African band or a [classical music] concert, the choice is easy. I didn’t grow up in a household listening to Mozart and Bach and Beethoven, but instead music with a lot of beat.”
Shlomo, your stand-up is very socially oriented. In it you express a powerful and funny outcry over the treatment that Ethiopians receive in Israel.
“Yes, because that’s reality. Stand-up is a kind of tragedy. If something works perfectly, there isn’t much to laugh about. My stand-up is filled with social issues, and I present my Ethiopian identity in it. Even if it’s a disadvantage, let’s laugh about it.
“People often tell me that I go too far talking about racism. Then I tell them that they hear a 20-minute monologue from me, but I have lived it for 31 years. I deliver it to you in humorous fashion, but when I went through it, it wasn’t funny at all.”
Tzaghon Baruch adds: “I need to prove all the time that I’m Israeli, but no one disputes my being African. It’s the first thing they see. Young Ethiopians feel it all too well, and because of that, many are restoring their Ethiopian names. You have a lot of non-Ethiopian friends before the army, yet somehow, when you get out of the army, all the non-Ethiopian friends disappear,” he says. “Suddenly you understand what racism is. You understand that you want safe surroundings.”
Don’t ask us to express our pain
Israeli radio, like local television, has started making a progress in recent years when it comes to presenting the Ethiopian community. In addition to the success of bands and artists such as Cafe Shahor Hazak (aka Strong Black Coffee), Axum and Avior Malasa, the television series “Nebso,” that focused on Israeli Ethiopians, was renewed for a second season.
Even some actors are making a name for themselves, such as Ruti Asarsai and child star Oshrat Ingedashet. Still, many of them avoid discussing the distress of the community.
“There is a demand of sorts that Ethiopian artists express pain and anger in what they are doing, but it isn’t fair,” says Shmuel. “It’s as if the economic situation weren’t good and I asked every young performer to sing about it. We want this freedom. A black person lacks absolute freedom and enjoys only limited liberty,” he says. “Europeans can now wear African dress, and it will be cool, but if I wear Western clothing, then I am becoming Ashkenazi. It is something that I will need to fight my whole life. It’s the most concealed level of racism – the expectation to behave in a certain way.”
Tzaghon Baruch provides another explanation: “It’s very hard for Israeli society right now to digest an Ethiopian singer who will give all that he has in the critical sense,” he asserts. “Those who do it won’t make it to the stage. On the other hand, if someone would open the door, he would create an opening for other Ethiopian artists. When Cafe Shahor Hazak started, there weren’t too many [such artists], but today you see many young guys with YouTube clips.”
Shmuel says Ethiopians study acting but don’t get noticed. “It’s important that Ethiopians write [their own television] shows because it’s important which side tells the story. You have to go and do it, so there will be more actors and screenwriters. These are professions that are economically risky, and because of that they are reserved for people of a relatively high economic status.”
Tzaghon Baruch: “There isn’t a lot of Ethiopian representation in children’s programming either. And let’s not talk about commercials.”
Shmuel: “When I studied advertising, I studied psychological perceptions of the field, and I realized who is perceived as a trustworthy person. The person doing casting is not the problematic one. He is just doing what everyone expects of him. The problem here is much deeper. It is a matter of education.” On children’s shows, he adds, it’s clear that the children are not highly trained actors “so there is no reason not to take Ethiopian children.”
“I believe it will happen,” says Shmuel, who asserted that the United States is a country with more highly racist attitudes than Israel, but where blacks have made a breakthrough. “They reached a situation in which they dominate culture and sport. Hip-hop is fashionable. They gave them an opportunity and look where it led. Israel is very small and trying to survive. Any hatred or racism comes out of fear. [Israelis] fear what is different, the unknown.”
“Israeli society has become the most intolerant in the world in recent years,” says Baruch. “If a decade ago I somehow stopped hearing the word “nigger” (“kushi” in Hebrew) in the streets, then in the past two years, I have heard it all the time. Our government is letting this happen. People are less tolerant today even toward Ethiopian immigrants. It is no coincidence that the community protested in 2015,” he said, referring to protests that erupted over police violence directed toward members of the Ethiopian Jewish community.
Shmuel: “We have become a very unhealthy, egotistical society. Politics are probably dividing us. Because of this, it is so important to provide a program like ‘Afrikan.’ People at the top need to understand this value — of being together.”
Kweli.tv aims to be the go-to streaming media platform for black filmmakers all over the world to share their content and make money from its distribution. KweliTV handpicks all of its content, with 98 percent of the content having been official selections at film festivals worldwide.
“There are a lot of really great filmmakers out there globally,” KweliTV founder DeShuna Spencer told me. “For us, we’re offering an avenue for filmmakers of color to make money off of their work and be celebrated for the work they do.”
Perhaps, more importantly, KweliTV wants to be a source of authentic storytelling of the black community from the black perspective. A recent study showed the mainstream media (news and opinion media) offers a consistently warped view of black people and black families. For example, black families represent 59 percent of the poor in mainstream media even though they make up just 27 percent of low-income people, according to Color of Change. Meanwhile, white families make up just 17 percent of low-income people while they officially represent 66 percent of the country’s low-income population.
Kweli, which means “truth” in Swahili, aims to tell all sides of the black experience. In order for content to be featured on KweliTV, the the main character needs to be of African descent and “not the sidekick, the friend of the fairy godmother,” KweliTV founder DeShuna Spencer told me. “The black person has to be the main character.”
An example of some KweliTV content is a film called Something Necessary. Created by Kenyan filmmaker Judy Kibinge, Something Necessary explores life after the civil unrest in Kenya following the 2007 elections through the eyes of a woman named Anne. In 2013, the film was nominated for audience choice award at the Chicago International Film Festival and screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
There are currently 200 titles on the platform, with KweliTV adding about three titles a week in the categories of documentary, shorts and full-length features. Subscribers can watch KweliTV on the web or via Roku, Apple TV or Google Play. Unlike Netflix, the goal is not to have an endless library of content. Instead. KweliTV wants to keep it intimate with no more than 500 titles at a time.
KweliTV, which launched out of beta just a few months ago, currently has 2,000 paying subscribers. By the end of the year, the goal is to hit 30,000 paid subscribers. An annual membership costs $49.99/year and a monthly one costs $5.99.
As a value-add to the streaming content, KweliTV partners with other black-owned businesses to offer discounts and other perks to its subscribers. Subscribers can access discounts at companies like Heritage Box, Black Card Revoked, African Ancestry and others.
In alignment with Spencer’s desire to keep it intimate, KweliTV is going to start hosting in-person events for its members to connect with each other. The first event will be next month.
“We really see Kweli as being a community more than a streaming service,” Spencer said. “Our customers are asking us to be more community-oriented.”
KweliTV is a bootstrapped company in the traditional sense, meaning it hasn’t raised funding from any angel investors or VCs. The company has, however, won $65,000 from a couple of startup competitions.
“It’s a full-time job to raise money,” Spencer said. “That’s not to say we’ll never raise but today, my focus is on revenue.”
One of KweliTV’s competitors, Afrostream, shut down last August, despite raising $4 million in capital. Spencer pointed to Afrostream as a bit of a cautionary tale of trying to grow too quickly.
Instead of becoming a unicorn, Spencer sees her company as a zebra. Unlike unicorns, zebras a profitable and work to improve society, and KweliTV is achieving both of those requirements.
I was a budding journalist nervously going over my iPhone notes for my first red carpet interview when I noticed it. I was proudly standing on the HelloBeautiful place marker waiting for the behind-the-scenes chaos to begin, when I spotted around my feet the strategic placements of almost every other Black outlet in the space. It doesn’t take a veteran to realize the Black press cluster at the end of red carpet lineups makes Black reporters susceptible to the brush-by of celebs and publicists who politely quip, “sorry, ran out of time” as they scurry out of view. Black media often receives rushed statements, or no comment at all, even though that same Black celebrity stopped for E! Online just moments ago.
The strategic cafeteria table-esque segregation of Black press on red carpets is one of many micro-aggressions we face as Black journalists. And while being placed at the tail-end of a carpet is more indicative of the predominately White media system and its value assessment of Black press, these oversights are even more hurtful when they come from your own people. The fact is, too many of our Black celebrities are simply not supporting us.
Most, if not all, Black celeb power seeds in our communities. The dominant corporations and media powers-that-be mine our talent and resources for the “next big thing.” And Black media celebrates when our people are plucked out of our silos and make it. We cheer as they float up into mainstream heaven with the hopes that, as they ascend, that they will still feel our loose grips on their balloon strings and tug back.
But all too often, that mutual support just isn’t felt. In many cases, once a celebrity passes a certain status, they completely forget about those same Black media outlets who were among the first to cover them and their talents.
We live in an age where social capital immediately translates into monetary capital. Re-tweets and shares translate into clicks, which drive traffic and advertising dollars and revenue. That’s the reality of our business model. So when small teams of Black journalists take the time and effort to profile a Black celebrity with a large reach and that content isn’t shared with the influencer’s audiences, the impact reverberates through us all.
Just a simple scan of some of your favorite Black celebs Twitter and IG feeds and you would discover links to and RTs of interviews they did with White outlet after White outlet, while Black-owned, Black-run press is often omitted from the conversation.
I don’t write this with the intent to say the erasure is entirely malicious or even conscious. The lure of White validation is something we’ve all been conditioned to seek. In 2016, Very Smart Brothas writer Damon Young, unpacked how he, and many other Black people, subconsciously value “the attention of the mainstream platforms more than the Black ones”–even if they don’t show us the same love back. We still throw up our hands in outrage when we lose Oscars and Grammys and Golden Globes to mediocre White talent, when in reality those systems were never created to celebrate us in the first place.
After Beyoncés “Lemonade” album of the year Grammy snub in 2016, Solange echoed this sentiment urging black folks to “Create your own committees, build your own institutions, give your friends awards, award yourself, and be the gold you wanna hold my g’s.”
Black press was born from that same place of urgency. Early 19th-century Black newspapers like the Freedom’s Journal, the North Star and the Frederick Douglas Papers sought to inform Black people from Black perspectives during a time when literacy rates were dismal among our people.
After thriving for a century, many Black newspapers folded, unable to attract advertising dollars in the midst of economic crisis.
Fortunately, the spirit of those early Black media outlets were reincarnated digitally, with outlets like The Root, Ebony, The Grio, Blavity, Black Voices, Madame Noire, Essence, and HelloBeautiful’s own parent company iOne Digital now carrying the torch and commitment to telling our stories our way.
In a time where the press and freedom of speech are under attack more than ever before in modern history, the support from our communities and our celebrities is indispensable. When we say Black Lives Matter, we have to talk about this statement beyond the clutches of police brutality: behind every one of our bylines is a Black life. Black jobs matter. Black families matter. Black POVs matters. Black ownership matters. #BlackPressMatters.
And when you have a company, like iOne Digital, which is one of the few remaining Black-owned media companies in the country, snubbed or not acknowledged for our coverage and support of Black interests, it eats away at the foundation of success that keeps our communities alive.
So Black celebs, my brothers and sisters, I urge you to pay attention to the Black journalist at the end of the carpet nervously holding her recorder waiting to snag a quote from you. Tell your publicist that you want to give equal time to People Mag and MadameNoire. Google your name and make a note to retweet or share the latest article from the small Black women’s website that can’t get enough of your style choices. When breaking news happens, make it a point to share coverage from the black perspective as well as the big headline from CNN. After you complete an interview, post that photo inside our small studios and don’t forget to tag our brands.
We’re all in this together. And nobody wins when the family forgets.
Keyaria Kelly, staff writer and producer for HelloBeautiful
Counterfeit drugs are a grave problem in Nigeria. Vivian Nwakah, a co-founder of healthtech startup Medsaf, knows this too well. Four years ago a friend of hers died after taking fake malaria medication.
The counterfeit drug crisis in the West African country came to a head this week with police carrying out raids on several street markets.
On Monday, Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control called on Nigerians to assist the agency in its fight against counterfeit drugs by coming forward and reporting any forms of illegal drug production.
“I felt that that could have been anybody, it could have been me,” said Nwakah (pictured above), who lost her friend to counterfeit drugs.
She said that during the time, those who could were bringing “suitcases of medications” for their families and friends from outside the country.
After the loss of her friend she set about talking to drug manufacturers from around the world on their thoughts on the counterfeit drug crisis in Nigeria. She was particularly interested to know why these pharmaceutical companies weren’t providing drugs directly to the country.
“I talked to hospitals and pharmacies across the Lagos area to understand what their challenges were, if any, around purchasing or procuring medication,” she added.
Solving a disjointed supply chain
She discovered that underlying problem was one of a “disjointed chaotic supply chain issue”.
“Manufacturers have trouble getting their medication across the country, they have trouble with the lack of transparency and distribution, they have trouble with being able to control their brand and just being confident that their medication will not be adulterated with,” said Nwakah.
Hospitals and pharmacies also battle to secure medications. “They are working with 10, 20 sometimes over 70 or 100 various wholesale distributors to get all of the medication that they need,” she said. This ends up making the procurement process more expensive than it ought to be.
“You see leakage everywhere, so there really isn’t a really standardised way to control for quality. You don’t know where that medication you purchased actually came from,” she said.
In 2014 she founded Medsaf — a curated medication platform that connects pharmacies and hospitals with safe, cost effective medications — with Temitope Awosika, who has a background in industrial and clinical pharmacy.
Medsaf customers receive about $400 worth of medication per average purchase. The startup is currently generating between $15 000 and $20 000 per month.
“That’s just with about 50 or 60 hospitals that are purchasing from us. We have over 300 pharmacies and hospitals that have signed up to use our platform,” she said.
The startup’s biggest challenge has been raising money. Initially the founders ploughed in their own money. “A lot of the problems we do face, you can trace them to the lack of capital,” she said.
To date the startup has raised about $100 000 in funding and Nwakah and Awosika are looking to raise a further $150 000 to $200 000 to fund the platform.
Nwakah said the additional funding will be used towards improving the platform’s tech, systems and for on-boarding of more clients.
She said the success of the startup hinges on relationships and collaboration with drug manufacturers, hospitals and pharmacies, this she said has entails understanding how their stakeholders operate.
She believes the platform makes it easier for hospitals to provide better care to their patients and assists pharmacies to generate more sales.
“We are basically saying here’s an absolutely new way to distribute your medication in a way that nobody is really doing in Nigeria.
“We will actually help improve some of the things you struggle with, like making sure that your medication (is) the right price, making sure that they (medication) are reaching the end consumer in the correct manner,” she said.
Not just a Nigerian problem
She said the aim now is to expand the platform to other countries. While she mentioned Kenya as an attractive market, she is keen to focus on expanding to the rest of West Africa.
“The open drug markets of Nigeria they actually supply up to 60% of West Africa. So, we know that this problem is not just a Nigerian problem,” she said.
Ventureburn was a guest of Seedstars at last week’s Seedstars Africa regional summit which took place in Maputo, Mozambique.
Featured image: Medsaf co-founder Vivian Nwakah.
Rachael Akidi Okwir, Head of East Africa Languages, is based in Nairobi, Kenya and oversees services in Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Somali, Swahili and Tigrinya.
Head of West Africa Languages, Toyosi Ogunseye, is based in Lagos, Nigeria will be starting in January 2018 where she will be managing Afrique, Hausa, Igbo, Pidgin & Yoruba.
Rachael was the Editor of the flagship radio programme Focus on Africa. She joined the BBC World Service as a producer in 2002 and has worked across various platforms and programmes including Network Africa, The World Today, Focus On Africa TV and the website bbcafrica.com
In recognition of her leadership qualities and potential, Rachael was selected for the inaugural BBC News Leadership Programme. Born in Uganda her career in journalism started as a freelance contributor to Ugandan newspapers and radio stations whilst a student at Makerere University.
Rachael says: “I am deeply honoured to be leading the BBC’s expansion and digital transformation in the East and Horn of Africa. The media landscape in the region is rapidly evolving. It is a vibrant, challenging and competitive market, but with massive potential and opportunities. I am excited to be part of the team that will be at the forefront of this transformation.”
Toyosi Ogunseye was the Editor of the Sunday Punch, one of Nigeria’s most widely read newspapers. She was the first female editor in the 45 year history of the company. An award winning journalist with a passion for investigative reporting, she has won over 30 awards and was the first Nigerian to win the prestigious Knight International Journalism award.
Toyosi is a fellow of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative and currently sits on the board of the World Editors Forum. She holds an MSc in Media and Communication and is currently studying for a PhD in Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester.
Toyosi says: “It is a huge honour to be appointed Head of West of Africa for the BBC. I’m excited about this new role and I look forward to working with BBC’s amazing journalists in the region. I have no doubt that we will continue to produce the quality journalism that our audiences love us for.”
Solomon Mugera Regional Editor for BBC Africa says: “Rachael and Toyosi are talented journalists, each with an impressive track record of strong editorial focus and inspiring leadership. They are passionate about original journalism and finding creative ways of engaging with the audience.”
It’s just after 6.30pm at the Ross Reserve in Noble Park in Melbourne’s outer south-eastern suburbs, and players from the Sandown Lions Football Club are arriving for training.
They train three times a week, even during the off season. Each arrival is greeted with a round of handshakes and a wary glance at our camera.
During a week in which prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was “very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria”; federal health minister Greg Hunt said “African gang crime in some areas … is clearly out of control”; and home affairs minister Peter Dutton said people in Melbourne were “scared to go out to restaurants” because of “African gang violence”, the team is understandably cautious about media attention.
It won the state league division five south premiership in 2017 and boasts some of the most talented players in the league, but that’s not the reason journalists like us come to visit. We’re here because the club – from its 40 members to its executive board – is of South Sudanese heritage.
And, according to Victoria police deputy commissioner Shane Patton, so are the “young thugs” who make up the “street gangs” that have dominated media coverage in Melbourne over the traditionally quiet Christmas and New Year period.
It has been a frustrating week, says club secretary Maji Maji.
“We don’t have to prove that we are good people,” he says. “We are just a soccer club.”
Media reports about crimes committed by “African gangs” have led to increased scrutiny of the community. Ever since the brawl at the Moomba festival in March 2016, the club leadership says, they have been stopped more frequently by police and accused by people of being gang members.
Even the team has been profiled, facing racial taunts on and off the field. One player received a five-year ban and a $5,000 fine during a previous season for kicking a bin as he walked off the field during half-time after players from the opposing team made racist remarks. There have also been times when they have received up to $10,000 in fines for similar low-level infractions. With no government funding or corporate sponsorship, the club is one big penalty away from folding.
Yet it is providing exactly the kind of activity that police and the Victorian government say is needed to keep young men of Sudanese background off the streets and engaged in the community.
“They’re here three or four times a week, they go home, they’re too tired to act out,” Latjor Reath, one of the club’s managers, says. “They [the government] should be supporting us, not trying to start new programs from scratch.”
Criminals by association
People born in Sudan and South Sudan account for just 0.14% of Victoria’s population. Many of the teenagers linked to the now defunct Apex gang, which was blamed for the Moomba brawl, and its successor Menace to Society (MTS), were born in Melbourne and are Australian citizens.
National media coverage of crime in Melbourne, elevated over three high-profile events in December, created the perception that gang violence was rampant and growing. Neither of those assertions are true, Victoria police say. While there is a real problem with young people of African appearance committing crimes in the city, there has been no discernible increase in the level of criminal activity and people of the African diaspora are responsible only for a fraction of the crime in the state.
But by identifying groups such as MTS as a gang, a category Patton reluctantly agreed to on Tuesday when he said a small group of “young thugs” were on certain occasions “behaving like street gangs”, the problem seems bigger and all-inclusive.
Richard Deng, a spokesman from the Sudanese community in Melbourne’s western suburbs, says there’s a tendency to assume that any group of people of Sudanese appearance is a gang.
“These are teenagers, they’re 14, 13, who are just going about in a number,” he told Guardian Australia. “Sitting in a park, completely with nothing, we call them a gang. That is not right.”
He gestures to our group of three, sitting on a couch in the foyer of the office block where he works as a federal government bureaucrat.
“Are we a gang?” he says. “We’re not a gang. But if we were seeing three young Africans walking together, automatically we would say they are a gang … we should not be defining a group of young people going together on a school holiday as gangs, that is too much.”
Buomkuoth Bol, an emerging hip-hop artist under the name BK Lawd, who has converted one room of the Noble Park home he shares with his brothers into a recording studio, says media reports of violence involving people of African descent often assume a relationship between people who just happen to be in the same place.
“I go to St Kilda beach and when I go there, I don’t know every African person that I see,” he says. “So we’re not a gang. We just say ‘hi’ to them and shake their hand because that’s our culture … if I see a group of white people sitting together, I don’t assume they all know each other. I don’t assume that’s a gang.”
He and Jeremiah Chuol, a volunteer youth mentor who coached for the Black Rhinos basketball program in Dandenong, say they are frequently targeted by police.
It was worse about 10 years ago, they said, before the police lost a racial profiling case against two African-Australian men and developed cultural awareness policies and training to interact with the Sudanese people.
They recall a party in Springvale in 2010 when “hundreds” of police, including riot police and the dog squad, arrived after a few revellers got into a fight.
“All you could see is dogs coming through the smoke [from police flares],” Chuol said. “I was thinking: these dogs are not on leashes, who are they here for, who are they here to arrest? Everyone was just running, girls were pepper sprayed, it was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.”
Compare that, he said, with the response to an out-of-control house party thrown in 2008 by then 16-year-old Australian teenager Corey Worthington, who went on to become a media sensation, appeared in season eight of Big Brother, and is said to be returning to reality TV in the coming season of Australian Ninja Warrior.
The party that made Worthington famous happened just down the street from Chuol in Narre Warren. He says the idea that a similar out-of-control party at his house would be embraced as an example of Australian larrikinism is laughable.
Victoria police commander Russell Barrett said the police were working hard to build relationships with the South Sudanese and cultural awareness among officers, and were holding regular forums to meet with community leaders.
In a statement to Guardian Australia, Barrett said the police understood that some groups had been affected by the recent media coverage about youth crime, and acknowledged the work done by African community leaders to “tackle the drivers of offending.”
“The vast majority of the African community, irrespective of their ages, are respectable and law-abiding people,” he said. “A small number are operating as street gangs. We acknowledge that the African-Australian community is just as shocked as the broader community in relation to the incidents we’ve seen recently.”
Victoria Police has 10 multicultural and emerging community liaison officers who work with the Sudanese people and others, and had a “zero tolerance policy towards racial profiling”.
Some South Sudanese, such as Nelly Yoa, say the “politically correct” approach taken by the police is not working.
Yoa says police and the Andrews government have “hidden” from the issue of gang violence, and “the issue would have been solved” if a more hardline approach had been taken earlier.
Yoa wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax Media on Tuesday, criticising the police for their reluctance to call groups such as MTS a “gang” (it has subsequently been claimed that parts of the piece were plagiarised, which Yoa denies).
“We have a problem,” he told Guardian Australia. “We have to solve it, and we have to solve it without falling into political correctness. At the end of a day, a spade is a spade and we need to call it as it is. We need to be honest for the good of the South Sudanese community.”
But despite assurances from the police, Yoa says being racially profiled by them has become “the norm” even for law-abiding people of South Sudanese descent.
Officials and players at Sandown Lions say they have learned not to react when they feel they are being unfairly targeted by police, or when white workmates comment on their new car by saying, “did you steal it?”.
“You are black, you are violent, you are a thief,” one player says.
“When we are doing something good, we are Australian,” Reath adds. “When we are doing something bad, we are Sudanese.”
‘Send them home’
Reath has been in Australia for 10 years. Many of the young men at the soccer club, who range from 16 to 30 years of age, were born in Australia. He considers himself Australian – or would, if people didn’t keep telling him he was Sudanese.
“How long do we have to be here to be considered Australian?” he says. “30 years? 40? If our kids are born here, are they still Sudanese?”
Nyadol Nyuon arrived in Australia as an 18-year-old in 2005 and works as a commercial litigation lawyer at Melbourne law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler.
Her children and her sister’s children consider themselves Australian, she says, because they are. They have not known anywhere else.
“They see themselves only as Australians; they happen to be black,” she says.
She says the conflation of people of South Sudanese descent with gang crime is hurtful because it not only associates people who look like her and her children with criminality, but also draws a line between them and the rest of Australian society.
“It isolates community members and makes them think they are not part of the society, and actually that they can never become part of the society, because somehow their citizenship or their stay in Australia is constantly up for negotiation,” she says. “You are an Australian until a South Sudanese person commits an offence and then you are a South Sudanese-Australian, who is likely to be a potential criminal.”
Deng says labelling children born in Australia as Sudanese or South Sudanese is “not helpful”.
“They are Australian,” he says. “Their mothers are here, their families are here. They don’t know much about Africa, but we call them African.”
Nyuon and Deng have received racial abuse after speaking up in support of their people. Deng has had calls to his office, telling him that as a public servant he should not criticise comments made by senior federal ministers.
After appearing on ABC panel show The Drum on Tuesday, Nyuon stayed up until 2am “just blocking people who were saying really very racist comments”.
“The online racism – it’s so bad it’s overwhelming,” she says.
Each new report of apparent African gang crime brings forth a wave of social media commentary calling for suspected gang members and their families to be deported, dealt with by vigilante groups, or even lynched.
“Anytime that I choose to speak, every time that I want to say something publicly, I have to decide whether I am ready to deal with the bigoted and the racist backlash,” Nyuon says. “It is stifling.”
Back at Ross Reserve, the players are packing up. They made it through the 2017 season without a red card and are aiming to hit the same target in 2018.
“We have said to them, if a rival player threatens you, we would rather you were replaced by another player than respond and do something,” club president Dech Top says. “It doesn’t matter who starts it, it will always be blamed on the Sudanese player. It’s not worth it.”
- This story was amended on 8 January 2018 to remove material relating to Nelly Yoa that could not be independently verified, and to note the allegation that his opinion piece contained plagiarism.
In 2016, avid sneaker collector Javaris Neely had a desire to do mission work and decided to turn his own love of footwear into a business that benefits others.
The entrepreneur and owner of Tiki Clothing Company wanted to create a quality sneaker that was also affordable for those less fortunate and looking to budget their money. From that idea, Neely created the WaveRunners — a simple, lightweight sneaker with a unique look.
To get started, Neely sold his own pair of Kanye West YEEZY 350 boost “Turtle Doves” to raise capital for manufacturing and production costs for WaveRunner I’s. Design and manufacturing took about six months and Neely released the WaveRunner I’s at a retail price of $50 in February 2016. Without any huge branding, Neely still managed to sell 150 pairs of his sneakers. He now has a whole warehouse of them and recently released the WaveRunner II’s for a retail price of $65.
“All you need is drive. With drive comes the hustle, dedication & commitment. That desire and mindset alone will make you more creative and more resourceful, and that will help you get further in life faster,” he said.
The WaveRunner II’s are 6.8 oz, making it one of the lightest sneakers on the market. Neely said his focus for the latest model was on cause, function, fashion and fun.
“I believe the sneakers will bring our customers inspiration to everyday life. If you dream it, you can achieve it,” Neely explains.
Neely successfully turned his passion into a business and is also giving back to the community. For every WaveRunner II purchase, Tiki Clothing Company will donate percentage of footwear & apparel sales to local charities that fight poverty. Along with the donation, the company will also donate sneakers, clothes and more to families in need.
Kim Godwin is a sponge for positive input. When her kindergarten teacher told her she could be anything, she believed it. When a high school teacher told her she was a good writer, she owned that too. And when FAMU journalism professor, Phil Keirstead, saw something in her as a college freshman that made him say she’d make a good producer, Godwin ditched her pre-med plans and changed the course of her life.
Now, as the newly installed first African American woman vice president of news in the history of CBS TV, the Emmy Award-winning Godwin says she owes much of her success to good parenting and those great teachers. But a deep dive into her résumé’s backstory shows that the real key has been her consistent eagerness to do what many women don’t: Godwin asks for what she wants.
In a recent conversation with Black Enterprise, Godwin—who is also executive director for development and diversity at CBS News, another role she openly sought—talked about where the courage to raise her hand comes from, and the enormous responsibility she feels to preserve the value and integrity of the news while developing diverse new voices to mine and present it.
Here are some highlights that offer a roadmap to her success we all could use:
Seeing is believing.
I was not one of those kids who grew up watching the news, wanting to do that. Margarita Pool, a CBS news producer, came to our career fair at FAMU. I asked her if I could visit her at work and, watching her, I could not believe there was an African American female in charge of stuff! I thought, ‘I want to do that.’
Free work can pay off.
I had a professor who was the producer for a local ABC newscast and I asked to volunteer. I started talking my way into doing things—ghost rundowns, then rundowns. I talked my way all the way into the control room. I started doing the lineup and learned how to edit. When my professor quit, the news director called and offered me the job. So, my first full-time job was as executive producer.
Choose to be empowered—by everything!
In West Palm Beach, I was on the air and realized I wanted to be in the room where they were making decisions. So, I went to the news director and basically said, ‘I want to be you.’ He laughed. I had to decide to either be devastated or empowered. I knew there would be many steps to get there, but I was more determined than ever. Years later, I was a news director competing against him in the same market—and winning.
Own your inner (and outer) boss-ness!
We have thousands of people [at CBS] who cover the news every day. My job is to choose which stories to cover, where we cover them, how we cover them. I love the responsibility for that decision making, talking about how we do things, and trying to get all the right minds around the table to make sure we do the best job possible, every time.
The world has changed, but the vital role of journalists and what defines excellence has not.
I approach every story the same way. What I think does not matter; what matters is getting at the truth. I am really a stickler for questioning, are we getting the full story? Are we being fair? Did we cover every angle and do all we could? Everything’s not entertainment. We need more people in real newsrooms who really know how to cover real news. News is the cornerstone of democracy, so we have to be really good at it. If we’re not good at it, there’s no democracy.
Earning it is good. Asking for it is great. Being prepared for it is key.
There is so much more we can teach women about asking. But you can’t just ask. Be prepared to do it.