Black Millennials Say Student Loan Debt Crippling Their Chances to Advance

Jasmine Hardy, Howard University News Service

Higher Education

For the first time ever, young adults with student debt have a negative net wealth

For the first time ever, young adults with student debt have a negative net wealth, according to a recently released study.  The study says college graduates with student loans owe $1,900 more than than all of their assets.   Photo courtesy Flickr

 

WASHINGTON– When Danielle Douglas began her career after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, things were tough.

Danielle Douglas received a pay raise and a promotion after receiving her
master's degree, but she also is spending $290 a month to pay off a $28,000
student loan, which has hampered her mobility. Courtesy Photo

“I was living paycheck to paycheck, just breaking even,” said Douglas, 27, who began working immediately after graduation at Meridian Charter Public School in Washington. “At first, I was in the ‘hood’ for three years, because I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. Then, I finished my masters and moved to a better neighborhood.”

After receiving her master’s degree in 2016, however, Douglas, was promoted to sports director at Meridian.  Her new income, which was “abundantly

better,” she said, allowed her to move from Southeast Washington, to Silver Springs, Md.

Her new degree also came with a price tag, $28,000 in student loan debt. Now, she must pay a minimum of $290 every month on her student loan, she said, so she has had to cut back on some of her favorite activities, such as traveling.

She said often she pays even more than required in order to retire her debt earlier. 

“I try to pay more than the minimum per month because I’d be paying for 10 years, which I’m not trying to do. It has definitely put a strain on me. There’s no extra money.”

Douglas’ plight is a familiar one for millennials, according to a recent report by Young Invincibles, a non-profit organization in Washington.   Millennials, according to the report, are struggling more than their parent’s generation financially, in large part because of student debt, the study said.  Even as the economy has been improving in terms of wages, home ownership, and jobs, millennials are not keeping up with the trend in terms of net wealth and home ownership, the study said. 

For the first time ever, the study said, young adults with student debt have a negative net wealth, meaning they have more debt than they have financial assets. Their median net wealth today is a negative $1,900 compared to a plus $9,000 in 2013.

Tom Allison, author of the report, as well as deputy policy and research director at Young Invincibles, explained the disparity.

“If [it is] five years after graduation and you’re trying to build assets and save money, it’s so much harder to do that if you have to write a check of $500 every month for college loans,” Allison said. “Your assets are going to stay low and your debt is going to stay high. This gives us an idea of the financial decline.”

According to a report by the Young Invincibles, young adults now have considerably lower net wealth than young adults 25 years ago. Young adults with college debt, specifically, are doing the worst out of all millennials today, being the only category with a negative net wealth according to the chart.    Photo courtesy Young Invincibles

In addition to net wealth, home ownership among young adults with college debt has also declined, the study showed. Between 2013 and 2016, homeownership dropped 3 percent. Veronika Williams, 32, says she accumulated $150,000 in loan debt while at Howard University Law School, an amount so large she said she’ll probably spend much of her life paying it off.

She currently works as an attorney in Washington where she rents an apartment. For now, she said, owning a home is largely outside of her grasp because of her student debt. 

“The issue is a down payment for purchasing a house,” she said. “They want 20 percent. I don’t have the excess income, so I can’t give them $20,000. There are some programs that will pay the down payment, but my income is too high, so I don’t qualify. I’m just stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Williams said she can see the impact of student loan debt when compared to some of the other well-paid attorneys she works with at her law firm. Some of her black and white co-workers do not share the same financial concerns she does because they don’t carry the stress of loan debt, she said.

“I make a decent salary, but I feel like I can’t compete with people who don’t have student loan debt, because I have to consider a $1,300 loan payment per month,” she said. “It limits me financially to what I can and cannot do. I don’t have the luxuries of vacationing and some stuff compared to other attorneys who had doctors and judges as parents [and consequently] don’t have student debt.”

 

Marijuana activists want less restriction in D.C.

Kaylin Culliver, Howard University News Service

The implicit national marijuana "holiday," 4/20, has passed and it’s left some people with a contact high and others with a headache over the District's weed rules.

The National Cannabis Policy Summit was held at The Newseum, and festivalgoers there felt as though the police were overly eager to find a reason to make a marijuana-related arrest. 

According to The Washington Post, arrests for public use of marijuana nearly tripled in 2016. The District decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2015, but it's still illegal to sell it.

However, Pro-marijuana activist and D.C.M.J. (Pro-Cannabis organization) coordinator, Adam Eidinger, took exception to what he characterized as excessive policing and called a town meeting at Petworth Library on April 25.

At the meeting, Eidinger met with other members of the organization and created a list of laws to present to Democratic politicians before the July 25 primary election. 

On that list, Eidinger emphasized the importance of marijuana smoking zones for public housing residents. For people on welfare or Section 8, Eidinger said, “they’re not given the same freedoms as people who aren’t on government assistance. Everyone should have the right to smoke marijuana, recreationally or medicinally, regardless of where they live.”

"If people are permitted to have cigarette zones; which are proven to kill you in the long run. Then we should be allowed to have marijuana zones," said dispensary owner and D.C.M.J. volunteer Leslie Jones. "If not because of equality, because marijuana has been proven to have healing effects and some people do rely on it medicinally.”

Co-coordinator Nikolas Schiller added that it was important to highlight the community discomfort with the overbearing police presence at marijuana events. 

"Police officers scare people away with their presence and they come to bars and pop-up sessions, to try and catch people walking with more than two grams of weed. It’s like babysitting grown people. That is a violation of rights all within itself,” Schiller added.

D.C. police have cracked down on marijuana-related events and parties in the past. Metropolitan police tweeted in March that officers had shut down a "marijuana vendors" event in Adams Morgan.

After the consistent conversation about what to add to the proposal, Eidinger closed the meeting by reminding the organization members that before the primary election, they would be going door to door to ensure people are registered. He stated, “The more people that are registered, the better. If we get enough people to vote, we can pass a bill that provides opportunities for people who live in government-owned buildings, as well as loosen the reigns on how and when we smoke marijuana.

Alexandria black history museum pays homage to past and present

Suzzone McAfee, Howard University News Service

The city of Alexandria, Va., located in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, has many African American historical sites to be seen by all.

One such site is the Alexandria’s Black History Museum. Audrey Davis is the director of Alexandria’s Black History Museum, and she has worked for the city of Alexandria for over 25 years. Davis noted that the museum would be celebrating their 35th anniversary this year.

Davis said, “Right now, we have a painting exhibit that will be up for another month called Before the Spirits are Swept Away."

Lilian Patterson is a retired curator for the museum and now a part-time employee.

 “Before the Spirits are Swept Away is an interesting exhibit. It shows some sites that have existed around the country that are now disappearing,” Patterson said.

The artist of the exhibit, Sherry Sanabria, was a local artist in Alexandria who passed away in 2014. Her family donated the paintings to the museum. The artwork represents different African American heritage sites across the United States.

Davis said, “We are very lucky in Alexandria that we have so much of the original fabric of history in tack.”

These are just a few of the historic African American sites in Alexandria to visit. The city has many more sites to be seen for tourist.

If you would like to visit the Alexandria’s Black History Museum located in Old Town Alexandria, the address is 902 Wythe Street, Alexandria, VA. The museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 4 pm. The museum is closed on Sunday and Monday.

President Donald Trump Meets With Chancellor Merkel at the White House

Tayler Adigun, NewsVision

President Donald Trump and the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, held a press briefing in the White House following a brief meeting in the Oval Office. Among the topics covered during the briefing– the Korean peninsula and friendship between Germany and the United States.NewsVision reporter Tayler Adigun was there.

 

2018 Winter Olympians, Paralympians Visit White House, Speak of American Pride

Chanique Rochester, NewsVision

Photo courtesy Chanique Rochester

Members of the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics visited the White House on Friday, April 27 where they were greeted by President Donald Trump. Several olympians opted out of the trip, including skier Lindsey Von, ice skater Adam Rippon, and snowboarder Chloe Kim. Those who did attend the festive event said now is the time for then to share their American pride. NewsVision reporter Chanique Rochester was there.

 

Does Music Promote Pill Popping?

Acacia James

One night at the popular exotic dancing club in Washington, the song titled Rock Star by Post Malone and 21 Savage began to play. “Ayy, I've been f***in’ h*es and poppin' pillies man, I feel just like a rock star.”

            Within the first few seconds of the song, popping pills was mentioned. A few people danced and rapped along as the song played. Keith Beverly, 37, was one of them. He said he doesn’t take the song literally: “It’s just music.”

            “I don’t pop pills myself,” he said, “but people in that lifestyle probably do and they just want to rap about their life.”   

Drug references in music are nothing new. In fact, the number of drug references in music spiked between 1970 and the mid-2000s, according to www.addictions.com, an addiction help site. But these drug references combined with the fact that the opioid crisis is killing 115 young people each day is raising a number of questions. Does pill-popping in real life influence music, or does pill-popping music shape real life?

            Beverly is one of many people who will enjoy lyrics filled with drug references, but does not live by it. In an interview with Clique Magazine, the rapper Future discussed the drug mentions in his music, saying that his music does not reflect his real life. He said he raps about drugs because it’s what “everybody likes to talk about.”

            Last November, rapper Lil Peep died of a generic Xanax and fentanyl overdose at the age of 21. Lil Peep not only rapped about drugs in his music but specifically mentioned taking Xanax in a song titled “Praying to the Sky.” The use of the pill fentanyl caused the sharpest increase in drug overdoses, according to DrugAbuse.gov.

            In the hit “Mask Off” by Atlanta rapper Future, the song’s chorus focuses on pills with the words “percocets .. molly ..  percosets" repeated over and over. Musicians such as Post Malone, Lil Pump, Lil Uzi, Trinidad James are just a few names that also promote pill-popping in their music.

            Although rap is known for its drug infused lyrics, music lovers might be surprised to find that the most drug references are found in country music, with rap actually coming in last for its drug references (www.addictions.com). Marijuana apparently is the illicit substance of choice in music. It is followed by cocaine, pills, acid and heroin. Although pills are not mentioned as much as marijuana, references to pills have been increasing.

            Of course, being a musician is a form of expression and the artists have a right to be free within their craft to tell their stories. But artists also hold powerful platforms and can influence many young people. But experts say science has has not been proven this correlation.

            Addiction specialist Dr. FIRST NAME Nzinga says that drug references in music, have some correlation to drug and alcohol use, but it is not a simple cause and effect.

            “The literature does not draw a straight line from drug references in music to rates of addiction,” Harrison says.

            It is more likely that the higher rates of exposure to the music and the lifestyle is what helps to fuel addiction, she explained, because it reduces the stigma that comes with using drugs.

            “Consistent exposure to music with references to drug use probably correlates to higher rates of addiction through the mechanisms of decreasing stigma of use and thereby increasing the frequency of use,” Harrison said.

            But the increase of drug references, has pushed more and more influential artists to speak out against glamorizing pill-popping. Rapper OG Maco took to Twitter to criticize Future for te glorification of drugs in his music.

            “I love Future but I also understand Future has destroyed countless lives by making it cool to be a drug addict,” OG Maco tweeted.

            But not all pill lyrics in music promote drug use. Some artists use their music to oppose prescription drug use. For example, “Pill Popping Music” by artist Cognito disses pill popping and the musicians who promote it.

             In the song “Tom Ford,” Jay-Z boasts” “I don't pop molly, I rock Tom Ford.” The musician Russ has worn a shirt condemning the use of Xanax as a recreational drug. These cases demonstrate how music can support remaining drug free.

            In the meantime, the ubiquity of the pill-popping lyrics means that music lovers have

to decide how they feel about it. While pill-popping may be a way of life for some people, club-goer Keith Beverly said, “when it comes to the kids, I think music like that shouldn’t be played.”

            A few feet away, another club-goer who wanted to remain nameless said he does pop pills but he doesn’t think it should be glorified in music. “It’s kind of lame to talk about that in your music,” he said. “Keep it to yourself.”

Does H&M Practice the Feminism it Profits From?

Kai Sinclair, Howard University News Service

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

If you log on to the fast-fashion clothing retailer, H&M’s, website, you may find yourself lost in the digital sea of clothes. Photos of attractive and interesting looking people, adults and children clad in floral print blouses and technicolor trousers break up the blank space between overbearing “20% OFF $100 + FREE SHIPPING” banners.

After stumbling through sales pages of faux-gold jewelry and earth toned home décor, you might find yourself scrolling through thousands of women’s tops. Between the avant-garde-esque tops with tassels and sheer lace, you’ll come across a slew of graphic tees with varying designs about the same theme: feminism.

A heather grey crop top with “It’s Our World,” in orange bubble letters sits two rows up from another grey t-shirt featuring an all-black rose, detailed with white trim and “NOT YOUR PRINCESS” arched over the top in bright pink. “Cosmic Girl,” “Babes Only,” and “FEMME” scroll across the fronts and sleeves of other t-shirts, jerseys, and long sleeves as you scroll down the page.

The store, which was founded in 1947 in Sweden and exclusively sold women’s clothing at its inception, built a reputation of being socially conscious in recent years. In 2013 the company launched its Conscious collection – a line of everyday clothes and special occasion get ups, all spun from organic cotton and recycled polyester – to offer an eco-friendly option at H&M’s usual affordable prices.

As environmental consciousness and social consciousness often go hand in hand, it came as no surprise to some when H&M joined the world’s rise in feminism with its 2016 Autumn Collection commercial. The advertisement, set to Lion Babe’s rendition of “She’s A Lady,” opens with a plus-sized Latina women with long, black hair walking into her bathroom wearing only her berry-colored bra and panties. Images of women with shaven heads, clad in tuxedo-style buttoned shirt and suspenders, and natural afros flash across the screen. In the ad’s one-minute run time, the viewer sees a muscular, black female boxer admiring her frame in a mirror, a women with pink hair and visible underarm hair unzipping her skinny jeans and getting down to the business of eating a burger, a mature Asian woman entering and commanding attention at the head of a business meeting, and a well-known transgender model living her best life, strolling down a city street.

The advertisement came in addition to the retailer’s relatively inclusive plus-sized, maternity, long, and petite collections, and spoke to a class of consumers who were in the midst of the fourth wave of feminism. Worldwide, google searches for terms like “feminism” and “gender equality” have been on the rise since 2012, with a noticeable spike in searches from the summer of 2016 to March 2017.

It appeared as though H&M was doing right by women and had set itself apart from other clothing retailers in the same market, like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, which had been plague with controversies regarding a lack of inclusivity and cultural insensitivity.

 That was until the company came under fire earlier this year for an online advertisement from its British sector featuring a dark-skinned black child sporting an emerald green “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” hoodie. While the company offered an apology for any offense and removed the item from circulation globally, it put the company under a microscope. Is it possible that the company that seemed to celebrate diversity and womanhood fails in both categories?  

 It just might. Although H&M offers plus-size options online, many stores either don’t stock those sizes. Some that did, like New York City’s 11 stores, ended up removing the section in the fall of 2016 (months after the retailer’s acclaimed commercial) to make room for expansions in the home décor, sportswear, and beauty departments. Of the garments that are kept in stock at most store, the largest is still too small for the average American woman who wears between a misses size 16 and 18 according to a 2010 study in The International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education.  

 “The overall goal that H&M wanted to achieve with women’s equality, somewhat falls flat in regards to their clothing. The limited selection of styles and an average range of sizes 0-12 in stores really make it difficult to believe that the store’s values are being utilized effectively,” Bria Good who’s a stylist at a small bridal company and has a bachelor’s or fine arts in fashion design.

On a more inhumane level, female employees further down H&M’s garment supply chain struggle to have basic human needs met. The company, like many others in the garment industry, employ laborers in underserved countries and areas to save money on wages paid to these workers. Cambodia is one of those countries. Women ages 18 to 35 make more than 90 percent of the country’s seven thousand garment workers.

A report by Asia Floor Wage Alliance detailed some of the conditions these women work in through interviews with 201 employees in 12 different Cambodian factories. Workers from 11 factories reported witnessing or experiencing women being dismissed from their jobs during pregnancies, without regard to maternity leave guidelines outlined by the International Labour Organization.

Women that were able to return to their positions after giving birth were often encouraged to work into and through their lunch and breastfeeding breaks, with some women reported working as much as two overtime hours per day. Even with the extra hours worked, the average take home pay was $187.97 per month, when employees estimated that they needed to make at least $230 monthly to “live with dignity.”  

“Fast fashion retailers that print ‘I’m a feminist on a t-shirt are the ultimate oxymoron, especially when the women, and children, making those shirts are paid pennies a day,” Autumn Dalton, a former H&M and fast-fashion shopper said. “They know their workers aren’t being treated fairly.”

The goal of a business is to earn as much capital for its product as possible, but it’s the company’s choice to decide how best to do that. At H&M’s core, the retailer is not one built upon the ideal of equality and inclusiveness of all women, but is it their job to uphold any of the ideal they market to consumers?

“I want to care,” Tierra Brown, a college-aged H&M shopper, said. “It’s easier to just buy the products than it is to do the background research, because then, who would we support?”

As the world sits precariously in the midst of its fourth wave of feminism, H&M’s woman empowerment shirts could be the company capitalizing on a trend – no differently than it takes advantage of the fashion industry’s latest color and pattern trends.

If all we ask of clothing companies to supply consumers with garments to express themselves the way each individual sees fit, is it enough for the H&M’s of the world to produce clothing that allows for the expression of ideas like feminism, even if they don’t practice them?

“Intersectional Feminism” is more than a cute phrase, and Black Women are here to prove it

Kai Sinclair,s Howard University News Service

 

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The sea of twist outs, crochet twists, wash n’ go’s, and afros nodded as snaps of approval could be heard, sending out a nonverbal, “me too, girl,” to Morgan Jerkins. She was the reason nearly 40 people –  some complete strangers, some close friends from college – crowed into the hallway-sized opening, beside the overpriced packs of pens and highlighters, in the Howard University Barnes & Noble.

Almost everyone in the room was black, with the exception of one olive-skinned man and one white woman, and two thirds were women. The one thing every guest had in common was that they all wanted to hear what Jerkins had to say about her new book, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America. The collection of Jerkins’ personal essays comes at a cultural moment where black women are taking their stories from oral and twitter realms, to a more formal literary one.

The 25-year-old Princeton University graduate sat facing the crowd of (mostly) brown faces, clad in a terracotta colored dress with red flowers that matched her lipstick, bright blush, and daring eyeshadow. Her voice was confident and her Jersey accent was easily detectable as she read her own words, printed in the paperback book, vividly detailing her experience of being harassed by a man in a Harlem corner store.  Applause met her upon completion, and she responded with a meek, “thank you.”

Jerkins described her book as, “a culmination of the past three years.” In 2014, she said young women’s voices began to hold much more weight. And in 2016, when the United States prepared to transition from its first black president to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, young women, especially women of color amped up their voices even further.

Leveraging the power of Twitter, black millennial women, Jerkins included, began connecting and having discussions about a topic that hadn’t yet made its way to the mainstream: intersectional feminism. Academics and feminists have been familiar with the concept, which examines how women’s overlapping identities contribute to their oppression and discrimination, for decades. It wasn’t until the most recent presidential election that public interest peaked on the idea, though.

Hillary Clinton seemed to be the living embodiment of white feminism: she benefited from a life full of white privilege, but still felt the sting of being deemed less than because of her gender. While she and her supporters had her sights set on breaking glass ceilings, she had very little to say about non-white, poor, queer, or non-Christian women. The women who didn’t quite fit the white feminist mold found themselves on the outskirts on her rally for president.

The country’s other option, Donald Trump, seemed to be against everything an intersectional feminist would stand for. From his vulgar comments celebrating sexually assaulting women, to his anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric, it is clear to see how he earned such monikers as “He Who Shall Not Be Named” with women like Jerkins.

The tipping point came on Nov. 8, 2016 when the country elected “He Who Shall Not Be Named” to be the 45th president. Women of color, black women in particular became “fed up,” as Jerkins put it, and google searches for “intersectional feminism” peaked to its second highest point ever. It reached its most googled state between Jan. 22 and 28 2017, days after Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington. 

In her book, Jerkins describes the moment that she learned what intersectional feminism is. She was 10 years old and tried out for her elementary school’s cheerleading team. She, four other black girls, and about 30 white girls tried auditioned, and none of the black girls made the cut. She later got into an argument with a darker skinned Filipina friend, who ended up telling her that she didn’t make the cheerleading teaming because they didn’t take “monkeys” like her.

The room full of natural hair and brown skin seemed hurt, but not shocked, by Jerkins’ anecdote as there were no audible gasps, but many shaking heads, disheartened facial expressions, and even a few “yup’s.” It seemed that the only women who sat motionless and speechless was the one white women, Katy Bowman.

“Part of it is just listening,” she said. “I don’t have that experience, I don’t have that background. But a small part of [what I can do] is just being in those spaces and not taking up those spaces.”

Bowman left just as quickly and quietly as she came in (after hugging Jerkins – an old friend from college) whilst a cocoon of black, mostly female Princeton alumni enveloped the author. “Time for a Princeton pic!” one of the women shouted with a smile, scanning the room for old friends as Bowman headed down the bookstore steps.

    

    

 

Is Religion Making Its Way Back to College Campuses?

Acacia James, Howard University News Service

Courtesy: muldelta via flickr

Phil Booker, a minister at a church in Montgomery County finds it extremely important for students to practice religion and spirituality on campus. He says the students here at Howard aren’t only driven to do well in school, but they’re also driven to do well in life and being overwhelmed can cause people to compromise their conviction.

Students at Howard University hold an open bible discussion every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Locke Hall lead by Booker. The purpose of the meetings is to give students a space to freely interpret and study the bible.

Howard University is one of the campus ministries for Booker’s church along with the University of Maryland, George Washington, and Montgomery College.

According to NBC one in three Americans under the age of 30, reported that they are not religiously affiliated. However, when dealing with the stressors that college has to offer, students may need a way to relieve their troubles and spirituality and religion may be the way.

Inside the little room on the second floor of Locke Hall, the table in the back corner held snack foods such as Doritos, chips and salsa. In the center of the room, there consisted a group of no more than a dozen students. Most of the students were female with the exception of three males. One boy I sat next to was the son of the leader of the discussion.

Booker starts the bible discussion with a game. Students sat with the desk positioned in a circle, and played a game in which students turned to each other in a quick manner using funny words and the next person has to keep up.

By the end of the game there was one winner and soon after the laughter came to an end, we began the discussion. It started with Booker asking the group to define hypocrisy. Different student raised their hands explaining what they felt hypocrisy was, and how it was demonstrated in the church.

Soon after, Booker began reading an article he found online which discussed the state of hypocrisy in the church. He followed by jumping right into scriptures surrounding that same topic. Booker asked questions on student’s interpretation of the scriptures and then went on to share what the scripture actually means.

The discussion lasted only an hour, and when it concluded some students headed out while others stayed behind to help clean. This is when I decided to talk with the one of the only men in the discussion.

Taieel Williams, a biology member from the U.S. Virgin Islands has been stepping up his role from attending to being a leader in ministry, saying “Right now I guess you could say I’m like transitioning.”

When asked how did he learn about the open bible discussions, he said he was approached by two guys during his freshman year and they asked him did he believe in God. After answering yes, they began asking questions about his spiritual life and he realized he wasn’t living up to it the way he should. This realization is what caused him to accept their invitation to the open bible discussion.

Although his lack of spiritual life was the cause of him coming, Williams says fellowshipping with his brothers and sisters ending with “I just love being with my brothers and sisters.”

Williams says that having spirituality while being in school is more than being in school itself. “You shouldn’t compartmentalize your life. You shouldn't be a student or an athlete, or a christian. Everything should coincide,” he adds.

Whether you’re going to relieve stress or just to freshen up your knowledge of the bible, I
can attest to these meetings being a great way to meet people and relax your mind for an hour.

President Trump’s first state visit

Tyler Brady, Howard University News Service

President Trump invited French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House, making it the first official state visit his administration.  Some say the two were carrying out one serious bromance during the French leader's state visit. Howard University News Vision Reporter Tyler Brady has more on the story.