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The Diamond Monologues Tour Sparks Discussions on Women Empowerment, Community Building

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The Diamond Monologues Tour Sparks Discussions on Women Empowerment, Community Building

LOS ANGELES, CA---(March 31, 2017)--- As a creative, our passion is to create. But as a creative who is meant to inspire, the work that is put out will take time to perfect. This is how the process went for San Bernardino native author and playwright T’ana Phelice when she had the idea to bring her books to the stage two years ago. She would audition girl after girl only to find out that they weren’t as serious and that they just didn’t have that “it” factor.

It’s been a long process, but Phelice has finally found her DREAM TEAM of six amazing women who are not just passionate about their craft, but believe in Phelice’s production, The Diamond Monologues. Each dynamic, millennial woman that is in the play has been touched and inspired by the character that they play which makes it easier for them to bring her to life.

"There’s so many women including myself, that go through similar things that are acted out within the play and it’s not talked about or it’s ignored unless of course we’re talking amongst each other,” Asia Smith, who plays Tia, explains.

To give those a brief of what to except from the play without giving too much away, the audience will definitely walk away feeling changed! You will cry, laugh, and nod your head in agreement as you listen to the story of each girl. The stories are our real life testimonies that we go through as women. From relationships, careers, family life, and friendships—I can guarantee you that you will hear your story in The Diamond Monologues.

The Diamond Monologues finished two successful and sold out shows in Ontario, California and now they are headed to Los Angeles, California on Saturday, April 22 where they will debut their play and change lives at the Little Casa Theater located at 2101 E. 1st Street in Los Angeles at 6 p.m. Beverages will be served and Lady Adrienne Braxton from "Braxtons Back" on StudioW Buzz will be opening up the stage play with some words of encouragement and her personally testimony how she overcame great barriers that made her the strong woman that she is today.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.tanaphelice.com. Space is limited.

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New Report Calls for the Elevation of Black Women’s Leadership in Progressive Organizing and Social Justice Movements

Advocates to Release Curriculum at Black Worker Centers Nationwide

Community/Education News

Los Angeles—To close Women’s History Month, the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, and affiliate of the National Black Worker Center Project (NBWCP), released a pilot project report, “Black Space for Women: From LA Practice to National Model for Sister Empowerment,” that reveals what Black women experience as barriers to leadership in progressive organizing. The report also offers a set of seven curriculum-based activities, including Letters to My Sister, Focus Groups and a Wellness Wheel, to address the health and wellness of Black Women in the labor and social justice movements.

Findings show that inequities in areas including education, housing, healthcare access and wages, challenge the capacity of Black women to fully exert leadership. In LA County, for example, Black women struggle through a widening gender gap, as well as a racial wage gap. There, Black women represent 14% of low wage workers, which is higher than all white male and female low-wage workers combined. There is also a $5,000 race wage gap between Black women who hold managerial positions and work professional roles compared to their white counterparts. These are oppressive economic obstacles that limit professional and social mobility.

“Historically, Black women have been hardest hit by economic and social crisis,” said Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, UCLA Labor Center Project Director and LABWC co-founder. “Our legacy of leadership has inspired generations to fight, but most of the Black women leaders who participated in the Black Space for Women workshops had stories of backlash to their leadership ambitions.”

The report, an assessment of the Black Space for Women project, is a compilation of more than two dozen interviews, focus groups, workshops and research by the UCLA Labor Center. It is also part of a local and nationwide effort to transform current norms and practices into supportive pathways to Black women’s leadership.

The national goal is to develop a collective plan with the National Black Worker Center Project (NBWCP), a national network of nine Black Worker Centers in Baltimore, the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, LA, Mississippi, New Orleans, North Carolina, and Washington, DC, dedicated to addressing the multi-dimensional Black work experience.

“Enhancing Black women’s leadership incorporates the crucial mission of NBWCP’s recently launched #WorkingWhileBlack program,” said Tanya Wallace-Gobern, executive director for the NBWCP. “We have every intention of exposing the impacts of racial and economic injustice in the workplace, across the economic strata, regardless of geography, profession, skills sets, or income level.”

The report also cites unquantifiable barriers. During interviews and focus groups, participants answered a series of questions for discussions around personal experiences, involvement in social justice work, historical influences, role of Black women in the movement, life balancing, mentorship, and advice for sustainability in the work. They also described recent events that required healing. Several themes recurred including the LA jobs crisis, poverty, public perception, defying stereotypes, access to wealth and lack of trust among black women.

“I would like to see people go out there and regain what was took from us,” said Terri Green, LABWC leader activist and merchandiser. "There are so many things that we have done and accomplished that we do not get credit for. It is just time for us to get our rightful dues.” Green participated in the assessments for the report.

While the project initially centered at the LABWC, which is at the forefront of advocating for Black women in Los Angeles, the goal of Black Spaces for Women is to develop partnerships with women leaders at allied organizations to further understand these unique obstacles, advance strategies to overcome barriers, and grow Black women's leadership. Current partners of the LABWC effort include: SEIU Women and African American Caucuses and Summer Institute on Union Women.

“What we learned speaks directly to the challenges Black women face and why creating spaces for them to heal and gain support for their leadership ambition is imperative to elevating existing Black women leaders and developing new Black women leaders,” said Smallwood-Cuevas.

The next steps for the Black Spaces for Women includes fundraising to help refine the SPACEs model and sharing the curriculum with allies through the NBWCP affiliates across the country.

“Black Worker Centers play a critical role in grassroots progressive community organizing. Because Black women continue to be at the center of so many social justice movements, there should be dedicated spaces for them to heal, for fellowship with other Black women activists, and to help fulfill their ambitions to lead,” said Smallwood-Cuevas.

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Mortgage officials sentenced to federal prison and fined for fraud

Perpetrators in a mortgage fraud scheme that targeted Black consumers in the Los Angeles area have been sentenced to federal prison and fined. On October 24, United States District Judge S. James Otero sentenced Paul Ryan, a former mortgage loan officer and mortgage broker Chester Peggese for illegal activities that operated from early 2007 until March 2010.

The sentencing concludes a multi-agency investigation that combined efforts and resources from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Office of Inspector General.

As a result, Peggese was ordered to pay $4.2 million in restitution to Broadway Federal Bank and serve one year and one day in federal prison. Ryan will pay $353,925 in restitution to Broadway Federal Bank and serve 18 months. Two years ago, Ryan pleaded guilty to one count of receiving bribes and rewards as a bank employee.

According to court documents, Peggese acted as a “consultant” who targeted Los Angeles-area churches with promises of new mortgages to purchase property or refinanced mortgages from Broadway Federal Bank. Between 2007 and 2009, Peggese met with representatives of churches and obtained financial information required for the loan applications.

Others involved manipulated financial information to make it appear the churches were more financially sound than they actually were. Peggese caused these false loan applications to be submitted to Broadway Federal Bank.

During the time that Ryan worked as a loan officer, Broadway Federal Bank paid rebates to brokers who brought loans applications to the bank. Ryan also “demanded from the brokers that all or part of that rebate amount be paid to him...intending to be rewarded and influenced in his processing and approval of these church loans,” according to the sentencing memorandum filed with the court.

Ryan worked with brokers and provided a template for presenting financial information for the churches that ensured the loan applications would be approved. Based on the false information concerning the financial status of the churches, Broadway Federal Bank issued loans to the churches.

“This bank insider accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in a scheme that led his employer to suffer millions of dollars in losses,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “After investigators began looking into the scheme, Ryan encouraged another bank employee to lie about the fraudulent loan applications, which further complicated but did not deter this investigation.”

“Banker Paul Ryan abused his position of trust and caused losses at TARP recipient Broadway Federal Bank by knowingly allowing borrowers to use inflated financial information in loan applications,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

“In this mortgage scheme aimed at predominately African-American churches, he demanded more than $350,000 in bribes from brokers,” continued Goldsmith Romero. “When investigators closed in Ryan tried to cover up his crimes by telling a conspirator to lie on his behalf. Broadway Federal, which received and has not yet paid back $15 million in TARP funds, suffered more than $5 million in losses as a result of this scheme. SIGTARP stands united with our law enforcement partners to bring justice to bank officials and their conspirators who commit crime.”

With all due respect to participating law enforcement officials, Black America is also due its fair share of financial justice too. Across a range of financial markets and predatory products designed to rob families of their earnings, mortgage fraud has the largest effect on our quality of life and our ability to build wealth.

This recent case of mortgage fraud illustrates the inequities that Black California consumers and others across the country continue to face. Recent research on mortgage lending in California by the Center for Responsible Lending revealed even more financial obstacles:

§ Nearly half – 49 percent -- of Black borrowers had incomes greater than 120 percent of their area median income or AMI;

§ Black borrowers received approximately 3 percent of home purchase loans in California that were first-lien and owner-occupied; and

§ From 2001-2012, the number of home purchase loans dropped 54 percent.

"The communities that lack access to mortgages post-crisis are the very same communities that were disproportionately affected by foreclosures and lost wealth during the housing crisis," said Sarah Wolff, senior CRL researcher and the report’s author.

Mortgage fraud only worsens an already disheartening Black experience in seeking the ‘American Dream’. The strong likelihood is that this same scenario is repeated across the country with other consumers of color.

And so -- our collective struggle for financial justice must continue.

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