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POOR GET SOME HELP GRASPING THE LAW

The poor and disenfranchised often find themselves in legal situations with little understanding of how the law actually works.

That causes inequities in our judicial system, but just complaining about it won't help the system function in a more equitable manner.

The NAACP Hillsborough branch is stepping forward Saturday with a Legal Redress Community Workshop to help meet the challenge. The organization is teaming with the George Edgecomb Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union to provide a daylong series of seminars ranging from real estate/foreclosure law to employee discrimination to commercial litigation.

Alec Hall, a federal public defender and chairman of the bar association's legal redress committee, said education can be one of the most effective tools in helping citizens.

"There's a lot of distrust," Hall says. "They don't understand how it works. Hopefully, we can help clear up the misconceptions.

"No one is saying it's a perfect system, but they can better understand how the system works."

If you go

Hillsborough NAACP branch community legal workshop

Saturday at St. John's Progressive Baptist Church, 2504 E Chipco St., Tampa

Schedule: Continental breakfast: 7:45-8:45 a.m.; employment discrimination, 9 a.m.; personal injury, 10 a.m.; family law, 11 a.m.; commercial litigation, 1 p.m.; juvenile law, 2 p.m.; real estate transactions, 3 p.m.; estate planning, 4 p.m.; criminal law, 5 p.m.

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AIDS kills more black people worldwide than any other disease, yet awareness of its devastating impact on the African-American community remains woefully low. Many have an "it can't happen to me attitude" about contracting AIDS.

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and it includes a candlelight vigil from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Well Pavillion Ministries (1605 E Hillsborough) to celebrate life and remember the people who have passed. Testing is available, a needed tool for those too scared to undergo a screening.

"There's a stigma attached to testing," said Shanucey Dinkins, co-director of the Youth Advisory Partnership, one of the groups staging the event. "People think it's better not to know than to know.

"We're trying to educate not only black people but basically the Tampa Bay community about being aware of AIDS and any STDs. We're promoting, 'Get tested, get involved and get treated.'"

The group also will have testing at the same location on Feb. 23, and the previously tested can get results at that time.

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People are still buzzing about the keynote speech Hillsborough Community College history professor Keith Berry gave at last week's city of Tampa Black History Month celebration. Touching upon lessons from the past and challenges for the present, Berry proved both inspiring and thought provoking.

"Too often, we praise people in our community for being rich rather than responsible," Berry said. "P. Diddy has created a fantastic empire, but he has five kids out of wedlock and has the nerve to sell a fragrance called 'Unforgivable.'"

As a friend of Berry's, I can tell you he speaks often with such force. It doesn't surprise me at all that more than one person asked him about seeking public office after the speech.

That's all I'm saying.

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