All Articles Tagged "poverty"

Paradise Lost: Must See New Film Explores The Reality Of White Women And Sex Tourism With Black Men in Kenya

April 26th, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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In the Paradise trilogy, Australian director Ulrich Seidl divides contemporary European womanhood into three parts: Love, Faith and Hope.

As delightful of a premise as it sounds, this series of films is no Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, most startling, and controversial of the narrative is “Paradise: Love,” a film which follows the sexual misadventures of Teresa, a 50-year-old white Austrian single mother, who explores Kenya through – and on the bodies of – young African men. Unsurprisingly, the film has hit a nerve for some as it highlights another side to the real life sex tourism industry, in which young men in mostly the Caribbean and parts of Africa earn their livings from the fetishes of older and wealthier folks, and in this case, white women. While it is unknown for sure how pervasive this side of the sex trade has become, this article in Reuters suggests that as many as one in five single women visiting Kenya from rich countries are in search of sex: “Emerging alongside this black market trade — and obvious in the bars and on the sand once the sun goes down — are thousands of elderly white women hoping for romantic, and legal, encounters with much younger Kenyan men. They go dining at fine restaurants, then dancing, and back to expensive hotel rooms overlooking the coast.”

The old adage is that money can’t buy happiness, however, in Paradise: Love, we are shown how the subversive nature of capitalism can turn entire countries and its inhabitants into mere commodities for someone else’s attempt at happiness. Teresa, along with three of her other middle aged girlfriends, arrives in Kenya and are welcomed aboard a chartered bus, which will take them from the airport to their beach resort. It is in route to the hotel that the women are taught by an enthusiastic, smiling older Kenyan guide a few key Kiswahili words, which will make their stay in the tropical “paradise” more pleasant: “Djambo,” which means “hello” and “Hakuna Matata,” which we all recall from The Lion King, loosely translates into “no worries.” A few hours after their arrival (as well as some drinks at the bar with her girlfriends and a quick wardrobe change into a swimsuit), Teresa finds herself alone on the beach, surrounded by barefoot hustlers carrying cowrie shelled necklaces, hand-woven bracelets and pocketbooks. The young men rush her, shoving their goods in her face, while vocally clamoring over each other with sell pitches peppered with the familiar salutations of “Djambo” and “Hakuna Matata.” The situation is very well-known to anyone who has traveled outside of the Western World, particularly to places which are economically marginalized. The hard sell. It is chaotic, unnerving and very bothersome. Yet at the same time, being surrounded by extreme poverty – even in places deemed as paradise – can bring a certain level of empathy and understanding. In a country like Kenya, where 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and is classified as low-income by the World Bank, everything is a hustle and everything is for sale.

Yet Teresa is not as empathetic or unfazed by the dire circumstances of the hustlers, and actually follows a couple of them back to their homes for paid sex and romance. The romance part is purely subjective. While the Kenyan men guide her around town, teaching her how to do the local dances, treating her to local edibles and whispering expressions of undying love in her ear, the reality is that the men she encounters don’t know how (or want) to be romantic. In one awkward scene, Teresa tries to instruct her partner for the night the proper way to caress her breasts. “You have to first see through me to my heart,” she tells him. But the Kenyan man looks on confused about what exactly she means. Teresa is annoyed but plays into it; mainly for the adventure, which is illustrated by the scene in which she takes a picture of the young man’s private parts as he sleeps. After their late night romp, Teresa falls asleep undressed under a mosquito net. Her young Kenyan lover stands around, smoking a cigarette, watching and waiting for her to rise.

The waiting game is probably the most striking element of the film. In one of the most haunting scenes in the film, Teresa and her girlfriends join a line of middle age white Europeans bathing in the sun on the beach. They lay mostly still and silent out on chaise lounges, half unclothed with their pinkish, pale skin glistening in the sun from a combination of sweat and whatever oily application they applied to get a more even tan. They are massive and look like beached whales. Their size is most marked when compared to the throng of young Kenyan men who stand at attention waiting to serve them. The men stand on the other side of a diving rope, which is guarded by an older Kenyan man in an oversized military uniform. They stand silent and undisturbed, waiting. Like servants dutiful to their masters, they wait. Or like patient hunters stalking their prey. It is really hard to tell at this point who is being exploited here: the people looking for cash or those looking to purchase fulfillment? But we do know that only when the white Europeans rise from their sun-basking do the men come alive again.

This same scenario is repeated several times in the film, including in one scene, which transports the once sun-bathing white Europeans into the resort’s lounge. Now fully dressed, they sit around small nightclub tables, smiling eerily as they listen to a Kenyan band play them some traditional local music. The band, whose members are dressed in matching Zebra stripes, in turn clash horribly with the Zebra striped stage curtains. The music is both beautiful yet performed with little emotion. It is that scene, which reminds me of a childhood birthday party I once had at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I stood around continuously feeding a bunch of quarters into a machine, which when fully compensated, would make the Animatronic robot mouse band come alive and play a birthday song for me. I remember being a kid feeling amused and then eventually disenchanted as once the time on my money ran out, the stage lights went dim, the music stopped, and the once smiling and chipper robotic mouse band slumped over into motionless inanimate objects again. In Paradise: Love, Kenya is Chuck E. Cheese’s and its inhabitants will sing, dance and cater to your every whim – just as long as your quarters don’t run out.

In the ’90s, French filmmaker Laurent Cantet released Heading South, a film about wealthy white women and their hired Haitian suitors (for those interested in watching, this film is currently streaming on Netflix). One of the most compelling characters in Cantet’s film is Albert, the head waiter at the resort. He is from a long line of Haitian patriots who fought probably against the American occupiers, for whom he called animals. In one part of the film, Albert is discussing the shame his long deceased grandfather would feel if he found out that he was serving whites. However, as he poignantly states of his dire situation, “This time the invaders aren’t armed; but they have much more damaging weapons than cannons: dollars!”

The ending of Paradise: Love is not as jaded as Albert in Heading South. I won’t spoil it for you (because I do think it is well worth the watch), but it’s clear that there are some things that money and privilege can not afford. Moreover, even through oppression, the oppressed do have their limits and will exercise their right to resist.

For those in the NYC area, the Paradise trilogy is now screening at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam). Tickets can be purchased at both the box office and online at


‘If A Woman Tells You She’s 20 And Looks 16, She’s 12:’ Chris Rock’s Most Hilarious Quotes

February 7th, 2013 - By Iva Anthony
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Happy birthday to Chris Rock who turns 48 today. In honor of one of the funniest, most thought-provoking comedians of our generation, we take a look back at some of Rock’s most memorable and hilarious quotes.

In 2005, Rock snagged the job as host of the Academy Awards ceremony. During the opening monologue and throughout the show, Rock poked fun at many of the famous movie stars that were in attendance and Nicole Kidman wasn’t safe from Rock’s wrath:

“The only acting you ever see at the Oscars is when people act like they’re not mad they lost. Nicole Kidman was smiling so wide, she should have won an Emmy at the Oscars for her great performance. I was like, ‘If you’d done that in the movie, you’d have won an Oscar, girl.’”

How Financially Secure Is Your Mother? More Older Women Live in Poverty

January 29th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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If you are like many, you worry about your parents as they grow older. The future may not be so rosy for mom.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts poverty for mothers in their elder years, reports Forbes. The OECD is an international economic organization of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.

In a press release, the organization takes a closer look at the earnings of mothers in many countries, including the United States. The wage gap between men and women, according to the OECD will leave many women unable to take care for themselves after they retire. In the U.S., the wage gap between men and women without children is seven percent. After women have children,  the wage gap increases to 23 percent.

Women typically retire on lower pensions, yet live an average of six years longer than men. As a result, says OECD, “[W]omen over 65 are today more than one and a half times more likely to live in poverty than men in the same age bracket.”

According to the latest Census Buerau data, more single mothers are living in poverty– a 31.6 percent poverty rate, or 4.7 million women in 2010. The numbers are more disheartening for elderly women. “Growing numbers of older Americans are spending their retirement years in poverty, according to a recent Employee Benefit Research Institute study. The proportion of older people living below the poverty line has been growing steadily since 2005,” reports U.S. News & World Report. Medical expenses seem to play a large part of  increase rate of poverty.  And again, women are hit the hardest. “Poverty rates for women were nearly double that of men in almost all years between 2001 and 2009. In 2009, poverty rates were 7 percent for men and 13 percent for women,” writes the magazine.

Are you concerned about your mother’s retirement?

Census Shows 27.6 Percent Of Black Americans Live in Poverty

September 13th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Image: Job seekers waiting for unemployment benefits in Buffalo, NY. AP Photo/David Duprey

Disturbing news from the U.S. Census Bureau, which has just released a report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for 2011. According to the report, 27.6 percent of black Americans, or 10.9 million, live in poverty, where poverty is defined as a family of four earning less than $22,811. That’s up by .2 percent, or 183,000 from the previous year.

The median income for black households also dropped by 2.7 percent to $32,229 in 2011. Of course, this all ties in to the news we reported the other day about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s finding that 25.1 percent of black households in this country were food insecure in 2011.

With all of the talk about unemployment, jobs and the middle class, the reality of poverty tends to get ignored. Speaking to The Root, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, authors of the new book The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, said, “Poor people have not in any way been a priority in the Obama administration … and of course we know poverty would be very low on the totem pole in a Romney administration.” They’re currently spreading the message about this issue on the “Poverty Tour 2.0: A Call to Conscience,” which will be stopping in Ohio, Chicago, Florida and Pennsylvania through the 15th.

A senior White House official told the site that poverty rates usually go up and incomes go down in the couple of years following a recession. “Everything suggests that what we’ll be looking at is historical data and that if you go up to 2012, all of the economic indicators suggest we are now starting to dig out in incomes, and they’re starting to rise.”

Still, the amount of attention being paid to middle class survival is warranted. Research over recent months from the Pew Research Center shows that 85 percent of the middle class say it’s harder for them to maintain their lifestyle. And 84 percent of those in the lower class say they have to make cuts to the household budget.

For black Americans, the number of people living in poverty was already above the 10 million mark last year. The concern over the fate of the black middle class is very high and very real. The tenuous hold that middle class blacks have on their socioeconomic status is threatened by the pressures of bad mortgages and the lack of jobs.

According to the Center for American Progress, this “is the second time on record that our economy grew, yet low and middle-income families did not share in the gains.” However, if there is some good news to be taken from the report, it’s that tens of millions of more people would be in poverty if not for programs that fall inside “the social safety net” like unemployment insurance. Earned income tax credits and food stamps have also been a godsend to those in need.

Overall, the Census found that 15.7 percent of Americans, or46.2 million, are living in poverty, statistically flat when compared with last year. Median income dropped 1.5 percent to $50,054. And the number of people without health insurance fell .6 percent (about 1.34 million people) in 2011. The number of uninsured is still about 48.6 million.

More on Madame Noire Business!

Going Hungry: Many African Americans Struggling to Put Food on the Table

September 10th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Image: Photodisc

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a report showing that 25.1 percent of black homes were food insecure in 2011. Food insecurity comes about when there isn’t sufficient access to food because of a lack of resources, including money.

Overall, 85.1 percent of the U.S. population was food secure while 14.9 percent of the population have trouble providing adequate levels of food for themselves and their families. So the black population exceeds the level of food insecurity for the general population by about 10 percentage points.

The percentage of food insecure only went up by a small amount (from 14.1 percent in 2011), so the USDA says it’s not “statistically significant.” Nearly six percent of the population had very low food security, meaning they went without meals for a few days at some point over the course of seven months during the year.

“For households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, and Black and Hispanic households, rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average,” the report says. Hispanic households experienced food insecurity at a rate of 26.2 percent.

With a quarter of black houses experiencing problems simply keeping enough food on the table, the problem is critical. According to reporting from the Washington Informer, if not for government food programs the number would be even higher, a very scary thought.

“African-Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by unemployment and poverty, and there is a strong correlation to food insecurity rates,” Rev. Derrick Boykin told the paper. Another source, Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, called it a “moral obligation” for Congress to keep these food programs away from budget cuts.

The Senate has already passed a plan in June that would lower the funding for food stamps. The use of food stamps reached a record level that month; 46.7 million people were using food stamps. Spending on food stamp programs also reached a record $75.7 billion. As far as we’re concerned, this is money well spent.

More on Madame Noire Business!

MN Exclusive Part II: Jenifer Lewis Reflects on Her Struggle & Gives Advice to the Younger Generation

July 19th, 2012 - By MN Editor
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In part two of our interview with Jenifer Lewis, the veteran actress talks about growing up hungry, how she was able to persevere despite obstacles and what advice she would give to young people who are trying to find their purpose.


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Q&A: Kezia M. Williams of Capital Cause Talks About Keeping Millennials Engaged in Philanthropy

June 29th, 2012 - By Blair Bedford
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Kezia M. Williams of Capital Cause

During a time when many might doubt the motivation and engagement of young people in philanthropy, Kezia M. Williams of Washington D.C. based non-profit organization Capital Cause is putting that stereotype to the test. As a part of the upward and well-mobilized millennial generation herself, Williams is changing the landscape of how young adults give back, meeting them where they are through popular social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Williams’ commitment and dedication to summoning a whole generation of future philanthropists to use their resources as a way to give back is revamping the landscape and stereotypes of service to the community. Williams and her team at Capital Cause are making philanthropy young and popular again for a whole new generation looking to find a fresh way to change the world.

Madame Noire: Capital Cause will be hosting their premier event, The Young Philanthropists Industry Brunch, in Washington D.C. June 30th. How did the event do last year, and what is your overall goal for the brunch this year, themed after poverty to raise awareness and money for the national and global issue?

Kezia M. Williams: Capital Cause is elated to be able to host the 2nd Annual Young Philanthropists Industry Brunch this year.  Last year’s event attracted 250 young philanthropists, trailblazers and changemakers who were interested in connecting with senior level leaders in their industry over brunch.  Guests at the 2011 brunch included industry representatives from Booz | Allen | Hamilton, the White House, Politico, and the Washingtonian to name a few.  Attendees at the brunch selected two nonprofits doing work to reduce the educational disparity gap as beneficiaries of two grants.  This year we plan to follow the same format; however we will increase the giving component and award three grants instead of two.

Annually, we ask our Young Philanthropist members to choose the cause that Capital Cause will donate its gifts of time and money to for the duration of the fiscal year.  Last year, our members choose education and collectively worked to award five grants and donate 400 hours to local nonprofits.  This fiscal year, in under six months, our Young Philanthropists members have donated $25,000, awarded five grants and contributed 3300 service hours to help end poverty, hunger and homelessness in the Nation’s Capital.

MN: What misconceptions have you received from others by working with millennials (for example, they are lazy, not motivated, do not care about the community, etc.), and how do you combat that as an organization?

KW: Capital Cause has witnessed our members deconstruct the myth that young people don’t care about philanthropy or giving back.  They have proven this by demonstrating the power of small gifts by coordinating low-dollar, high-grossing giving campaigns, deconstructing the myth that only large donations and large donors count.  They have demanded that Capital Cause plan more service events that show high and measurable impact in communities, deconstructing the myth that young people want less and give less time. Though we’ve only supported the DC Metropolitan Area, we believe their desires are representative of a larger millennial group that has been misrepresented and ill-defined when it comes to philanthropy.  Young people aren’t disinterested in service; they are disinterested in participating in outdated service-based activities that don’t consider millennial interests.

They’ve Got a Story To Tell: Celebs Who Went From Top Ramen to Top Dollar

June 25th, 2012 - By MN Editor
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By Nicole Thompson


Despite what we may think, many celebrities started out just as broke as the rest of us. Sound impossible? It isn’t. There is a list as long as my arm of actors, singers, song-writers and producers who began their careers in their basements or in garages, while chowing down on ramen noodles or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Before some of the ladies on this list were raking in millions if not billions, they went through their share of struggles (including discrimination, living in poverty, drug use and more) just like everyone else.

Why are blacks being shunned in the job market?

December 28th, 2011 - By whodges
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A few months ago, an estimated 5,000 unemployed souls braved the unrelenting, Dirty-South to attend a job fair in Atlanta where ninety companies were reportedly present. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent.

The black unemployment rate is nearly double at 15.5 percent, down from 16 percent in October – this includes 17 percent for black men, 13.8 percent for black women, and (gulp)… 39.9 percent for black teens.

Remember the unemployment rate doesn’t take into account those individuals who are either underemployed or have conceded rejection. So, in reality, black joblessness is somewhere along the lines of 30 percent. Why are so many African-Americans being shunned from full-time employment?

What do employers see or not see in us?

What’s our motivation for trying to embark upon a new career when every statistical number says blacks are being ignored in the job market?

“You got children, you got kids, you got bills,” said Derric Clayton, a former security guard with three children whose been seeking work since May. “You’ve got to stay somewhere. You don’t want to be homeless.”

In giving reasons for non-hire, a Chicago-based employer let the cat out the bag recently by citing a plethora of racial stereotypes in describing blacks as “uneducated,” “unskilled,” “unstable,” “illiterate,” “dishonest,” “lack initiative,” “unmotivated,” “involved with gangs and drugs,” “don’t understand work,” “lack charm,” “have no family values,” and are “poor role models.”

Now, those of us with common sense understand such racial stereotypes are completely untrue.

After all, the job market is saturated with legions of intelligent African-Americans equipped with college degrees and ample work experience. Still, perception is typically construed as reality. To bring about positive economic change, it’s imperative we take the steps necessary to invert our professional reputation.

We can start the correction process by condemning commercial forces that advocate and profit from the perilous sale of gangsta rap, misogyny, excess tattoos and all other filth counterproductive to landing gainful employment.

In addition to the aforementioned stereotypes, we can’t underestimate the rising economic power associated with globalization and outsourcing. With so many jobs being shipped overseas, labor intensive positions that once paid $20 per hour are now offering only $10. Without a college education, it’s very difficult to secure above average wages.

Compounding matters is the disturbing fact black dropout rates have skyrocketed in recent years while college enrollment has subsequently descended; specifically in the case of black men.

If morale isn’t low enough, studies have shown African-Americans equipped with college degrees are hired at a far lower rate than their white counterparts; regardless of GPA and/or experience.

Then there’s the theory claiming some employers simply refuse to interview candidates with black-sounding names. Imagine that? The Tyrones, Chiquitas and Alfonsos of the world don’t stand a chance.

High prison rates among people of color have played an even bigger role in the decimation of Black America as ex-convicts receive no love from employers.

The Single Mother Economy

December 11th, 2011 - By whodges
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By Wayne Hodges

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody. I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat…we must find each other.” – Mother Theresa

The passage above, quoted by one of nature’s finest, Mother Theresa, basically summarizes our nation’s rising epidemic of single-parent homes; more specifically young mothers. And boy, the statistics don’t lie. According to the Single Parent Center, there are roughly 14 million single parents in the U.S. today; responsible for raising approximately 21.6 million of our nation’s children.

And the correlation between one-parent homes and financial despair is even more dire with 27.7% of custodial single mothers living in poverty.

Before I proceed, the intent of this column is not to cast a vote of judgment against anyone. Instead, I’d just prefer to relay the following message to the parents of our community: OUR CHILDREN NEED YOU!


Yes, this statement is probably a tad bit redundant. But, who cares? When it comes to the topic of child development, anything is worth repeating twice. And the young fathers and mothers of our community, quite frankly, must come to understand its importance.

There’s no question the morality of today’s youth is significantly different than the “Brady Bunch” days of 40 years ago. For this futility, I point the exclusive finger of blame at parents, corporate America, MTV, BET and VH1 for their careless and irresponsible contributions.

First, let’s start with latter.

In an effort to boost television ratings, the aforementioned networks have made a sick hobby of portraying our men and women as a bunch of money-grabbing, violent, unethical malcontents. See “Basketball Wives.” Even worse, too many boys have bought into the “Get Rich or Die Trying” mentality that permeates urban communities. Speaking from personal experience, like many, I too shouldered the ponderous burden of growing up in a fatherless environment. My mother raised yours truly, my brother and sister on one income; while pursuing a college degree part-time. Even though mama did one hell of a parenting job, the atmosphere at home was far from stress free.

After all, the daunting task of trying to ‘make ends meet’ with moderate income and three mouths to feed is bound to wear a person down sooner or later, right?

But, here’s where the trouble begins; particularly in the case of young black men. To break confinement from the ghetto, too many boys feel obligated to become the “man” their father never was; thus causing them to resort to a series of “quick money” tactics as a means to financially support the home.

Of course, quick money is usually dirty money; which often leads to residency inside a 6′ X 8′ concrete block cell laced by iron bars with a stinking toilet embedded to the floor. Not convinced? Let peek at some more statistics. The Separated Parenting Access & Resource Center (SPARC) reports 85% of youths in prison grew up in fatherless homes. Other studies have shown fatherless children to be customary victims of poor mental health, unsatisfactory educational performance and substance abuse.

Although today’s feature is single mothers, I’d like to shift some attention to dead-beat daddies for just a moment. Guys, the madness has to stop. Children don’t ask to be here. As fathers, it’s absolutely critical we maintain some form of regular contact with our children, regardless how vulgar the socioeconomic conditions. This includes stressed relationships with the biological mother, inadequate finances and substandard education.

Apologies, to be candid, are not good enough. Neither are excuses. Gentlemen, as a byproduct of our laziness, too many children have gone without. To enact positive change, it’s imperative we abstain from leaving these women alone to raise our kids.

Now, back to ladies. In an effort to discourage young women from making poor economic decisions, organizations such as the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Kansas City have set up a variety of educational workshops in the areas of home-ownership, child development, finance, building self-esteem, budgeting and college prep. Charlzetta Hall, the Director of the WRC, believes it’s time for women to take control of their lives. And it starts with confidence.

“Too many women are desperate to have a man, and it impedes their progress,” said Hall. “The primary goal of the WRC is to help these ladies understand their inner-beauty first, then everything else will fall into place.”

Wayne Hodges is the editor of

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