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Post-Mandela South Africa is a nation on edge

Jacob Zuma_600That an embattled African National Congress won the latest round of South African elections was not at all surprising. However, this particular election was a curious inflection point in the post-Mandela era, presenting a number of alarming transitions for what was, up until very recently, Africa's most powerful and stable democracy.

In the wistful wake of legend Nelson Mandela's passing, South Africa reveals troubling signs. The country is not really the relative oasis of continental modernity and democratic self-control that it's hyped itself to be since his historic 1994 presidential win. The elections, in which an entrenched ANC machine barely avoided a split government, injected gloomy uncertainty into South Africa's future, and refractured what little sense of reconciliation there was in the postapartheid era. Such unease threatens to push a fragile country deeper into poverty and resets questions on whether or not its black majority will recover and eventually prosper from years of brutal segregation.

The once hopeful post-colonialist story of South Africa is now battered by crime, poverty and HIV/AIDS, forcing an uncomfortable re-examination. Contemporary South Africa isn't playing out like a feel-good Invictus group hug. Rampant corruption—South African ranks 72 out of 177 on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index—has always been a tell-us-something-we-don't-know fact of life in the nation of 50 million, as has bribery and laughingstock leadership in the form of current President Jacob Zuma.

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We can care about Solange and the Nigerian girls at the same time

solange 600I'm so tired and weary of the people who are currently guilting anyone who is sharing light news and celebrity scandal in the place of constant posts about #BringBackOurGirls.

Some people are all on Facebook and Twitter saying "WHY DO YOU CARE ABOUT SOLANGE WHEN 200 GIRLS ARE STILL MISSING IN NIGERIA?" and I am here to tell them to relax and go have a seat somewhere. It's spring. Park benches are now available so people can go #OccupyaSeat.

Are we all so simple and basic that we only have the brain capacity to care about one thing at a time? We are not. Our brains are not Windows 95. We can keep more than one program going at once, and the assumption that our interest in the gist and gossip of Elevator-Gate makes us care less about the 300 girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria is pretty disrespectful.

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Time to end predatory career college loans

Charlene Crowell-160Are you tired of complaining to family and friends about things you feel powerless to change? Or, as college costs continue to climb and student loan debts increase, do you or someone you know feel helpless that your opinion could make a positive change?

If you answered yes, know that the federal government is giving you a chance – now through May 27 – to speak up during an important public comment period. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) wants to learn more about the quality of career education programs. These programs, offered by a variety of for-profit colleges, have raised concerns about greater student debt and poor employment outcomes. These schools are also large beneficiaries of federal student loan dollars.

If enough collective voices – organizations, educators, consumers and others – speak in support of consumer protections, for-profit colleges' 'rules of the road' can and will change for the better.

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A better way to compensate college athletes

George Curry-160Athletes at Northwestern University shocked the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body of college sports, by taking steps to unionize student-athletes. Surprisingly, NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell, former NFL great Jim Brown and Harry Edwards, who organized a human rights protest at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City that culminated in Tommy Smith and John Carlos giving a clenched fist salute when they mounted the winners platform, do not support the idea.

It's not that Bill Russell, Jim Brown or Harry Edwards have mellowed – they have not. Rather, they think there's a better way to help athletes who generate $500 billion a year to major universities, athletic vendors and others.

"I am totally against the unions in college," Brown said. "I don't like the NCAA. I think it's a greedy organization, a dictatorial organization, an organization that's totally unfair to the players...But on the other hand, I think we have all gotten away from the value of an education."

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Gay, black and leading the way in sports

michael sam_600Vince Pryor has written a very moving and compelling piece for Outsports about black gay men breaking barriers in the sports world.

Pryor, a former standout linebacker for TCU in the early 90s, came out to his teammates before the team's bowl game against Texas Tech his senior season. He went out and set the school sack record in TCU's 24-17 victory.

Pryor tells theGrio.com that, as a black man, watching Jason Collins, Michael Sam and Derrick Gordon make history in their respective sports makes him proud and able to better reflect on his own journey:

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