We all should well remember that in the aftermath of President Nelson Mandela winning the election in South Africa in 1994, there soon began a growing list of cynics and political pundits who mistakenly believed that President Mandela was compromising too much with the political forces of opposition at the expense of paying attention to the socioeconomic needs of the core of his base constituency in the African National Congress.
Today, some of us are hearing similar misplaced remarks and accusations about President Barack Obama, in particular from some African-American leaders and critics. It was just three years ago in November 2008 that our votes for freedom were felt and celebrated all over the world with the election of President Obama. People were literally dancing in the streets.
Historic elections of Black people to national and global positions of political and economic power never occur solely in a vacuum. Mandela’s and Obama’s elections respectively, I believe, represented the evidence of the God-factor that ultimately helps to determine the successful outcome of long protracted struggles between those that are oppressed and their oppressors.
The aspirations and struggles of African people for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment have helped to advance the cause of freedom and justice for all people throughout the world. The most brutal forms of slavery, genocide and apartheid for centuries never extinguished or eliminated the God-given humanity of African people across Africa, nor across the Americas.
Today we must not allow ourselves to get lost in the desert of despair and hopelessness because of the persistence of poverty, unemployment, and injustice even though we have Black presidents in many nations today including the United States. But we should not take what progress that has been made for granted.
The fact of the matter is that both Mandela and Obama not only achieved historic and monumental political victories, they both, with their own unique intellects and outstanding leadership abilities, have helped to shape the world community to better advance the cause of liberation, freedom and empowerment. The truth is there is more opportunity today for African Americans to move forward than ever before if we would work harder together, pool our trillion-dollar resources, and raise up another young generation of freedom fighters, entrepreneurs and institution-builders.
Thus, I stand firmly for the re-election of President Obama without reservation. We cannot afford to become cynical and hopeless. Real social change does not happen overnight or in three to four years. But time is on our side because God is on our side if we do the right things at the right times at the right places not just for ourselves but for all people.
Don’t worry, this is not a sermon. It is, however, a sober reminder to those of us who may succumb to some malignant cases of social amnesia or to those who are addicted to that self-destructive disease known as “The Willie Lynch Syndrome.” Yes, there are ample reasons to express concerns and criticisms about the continuing plight of millions of our brothers and sisters in our communities who are crying out for a better quality of life.
But engaging in efforts to derail the re-election of President Barack Obama is foolhardy and counterproductive to the overall interests of the African-American, Latino-American and other progressive constituencies in the United States.
I like to quote old African proverbs because they are so universally relevant to both the contradictions and opportunities that we face today as we prepare to enter into the 2012 national political season. A wise man from the Congo once said, “Don’t be fooled by those who want you to exchange your soul for a trinket — for the eternal is more valuable than a thing that may look good only for one moment in time.” W.E.B Dubois reminded us that the soul of Black people should never be for sale on the auction block of political expediency. Do not let the tea party sell you a cup of politically contaminated brew. Stay sober and conscious of what is happening.
Remember Willie Lynch. The 2012 elections in the United States will be the most important elections of our lifetime. This will be a referendum on going forward or going backward. In many states there have measures put in place to discourage and to suppress the Black and other minority vote. We must challenge these repressive voting policies in every state and community.
Be careful what you pray for because our prayers will be answered. That is why I am optimistic. I believe President Obama will be re-elected. But we must not rest as if this is a done deal because it will be a struggle and another historic contest. Don’t miss or forsake your chance and responsibility to participate in civic action. Vote and make an important difference.
Yes, every vote will count if you vote! We are at another pivotal time. Watch closely how the U.S. Congress will handle the next vote on the deficit. Watch the economy turn around to the positive in the face of all the negative commentators. Watch how President Obama will continue to take the high road during the presidential debates.
I am writing this piece for the NNPA from Johannesburg, South Africa where I am reminded that our struggle for freedom is constant. The entire world is watching America and the success of President Barack H. Obama. No, it will not be the X-factor, but it will be the God-factor that will ultimately win. — (NNPA)
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and president of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.
You’ve seen the disturbing images on the local nightly news. Upon sentencing in court, too many young people of color are often unfazed, even proud, of going to prison. Shackled hand and foot, they shuffle defiantly from the courtroom, head held high. It is a badge of honor — a way of establishing street credibility.
They may not hold their heads quite as high when they find out the corporations who run America’s vast for-profit prison industry see them another way: as slave labor.
Tough drug sentencing policies in the 1980s swelled the number of prison inmates in the U.S. to two million in a decade, and about 2.5 million today. African Americans comprise 40 percent of people either in prison or under the supervision of probation or parole. That represents a nearly limitless labor pool, with many more inmates entering the system than leaving it.
As we all learned in history class, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids slavery, but less well known is the clause in that amendment which allows involuntary labor as a means of punishment for convicted criminals — and here is where some legal experts, social scientists and others see a problem. Prisoners work at manufacturing textiles, building furniture, assembling electronics components, even operating telemarketing boiler rooms, for 15 to 25 cents an hour in some facilities.
For-profit prison management has become a multi-billion dollar business, and industry leader Corrections Corporation of America has put up $250 million in an offer to 48 states to buy their state prisons as a means of increasing cash flow to state treasuries. Ohio has already said yes, and Louisiana is looking at the offer.
Call it modern-day peonage, or indentured servitude, or even 21st century slavery if you like. It’s all perfectly legal, and 100 percent constitutional. In the coming weeks in our news section, Philadelphia Tribune staff writer Larry Miller will be examining this phenomenon of penitentiary-as-plantation, including what goods and services those inmates are providing, and who profits from all that nearly-free labor.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s new poverty data for the states show millions of families struggling mightily to keep their heads above water in the wake of the Great Recession. Fourteen states saw statistically significant increases in their child poverty rates, 26 states saw small increases, and nine states and the District of Columbia saw small declines in child poverty rates last year. But the morally scandalous bottom line is clear: 16.1 million children are poor in our rich nation with more than seven million living in extreme poverty, too often scared, hungry and homeless.
Although there are more poor White than Black or Hispanic children, Black and Hispanic children suffer most. In 25 states and the District of Columbia, at least 40 percent of Black children were poor; in four states, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, and Ohio, 50 percent or more of Black children were poor. Thirty-three percent or more of Hispanic children were poor in 32 states.
In 2011, more than one in five children were poor in over half the states and the District of Columbia. In half of these states more than one in four children were poor. Children are the poorest age group in America, and the younger they are the poorer they are. More than one in four children under six were poor in 21 states and the District of Columbia during their years of greatest brain development. In 30 states and the District of Columbia, 10 percent or more of infants, toddlers, and kindergarteners lived in extreme poverty which means an annual family income of less than $11,511 for a family of four.
The 13 states and the nation’s capital with child poverty rates 25 percent or higher are:
New Mexico 30.7
District of Columbia 30.3
South Carolina 27.8
West Virginia 25.8
North Carolina 25.6
These shameful child poverty levels call for urgent and persistent action. Citizens must demand that every political leader state what they will do now to invest in and protect vulnerable children from hunger, homelessness, and poor education and to prepare them to be competent future workers. It’s way past time to eliminate epidemic child poverty and the child suffering, stress, homelessness, and miseducation it spawns.
A number of leading economists and researchers agree that investing in children today is the best way to prepare and create a strong America tomorrow. As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told participants at the Children’s Defense Fund’s national conference in July:
“Economically speaking, early childhood programs are a good investment with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return on the funds dedicated to these programs estimated to reach 10 percent or higher. Very few alternative investments can promise that kind of return. Notably, a portion of these economic returns accrues to the children themselves and their families, but studies show that the rest of society enjoys the majority of the benefits, reflecting the many contributions that skills and productive workers make to the economy.”
Do most Americans really want our children to get poorer while the rich get richer and to allow our budget to be balanced on the backs of poor babies while millionaires and billionaires receive hundreds of billions in more huge tax cuts they do not need? If you do not, speak up and vote for a more just America for every child.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
As long as I can remember, Philadelphians have laid claim to being a “City of Neighborhoods.”
When you ask people in the largest city in Colorado, where they live, they quickly say “Denver.” When you ask people in the largest city in North Carolina, where they live, they proudly say “Charlotte.”
On the other hand, when you ask people in Pennsylvania’s largest city, where they live, they are likely to say “North Philly, South Philly,” or “West Philly.”
In Philadelphia, you see, we’ve always taken our neighborhood roots very seriously, sometimes more seriously than we have taken our overall municipal identification.
That cuts several different ways.
For one thing, it can “bend us out of shape,” unnecessarily, when we see racial and ethnic shifts in housing patterns that affect our old notions of who actually owns one of our beloved “neighborhoods.”
In that regard, I recently noticed that New York City’s legendarily African-American Harlem community has experienced a 400 percent increase in white residents, since the year 2000, and is no longer a majority Black neighborhood.
Over the same period, Bedford-Stuyvesant, that longtime Black, residential stronghold in Brooklyn, has seen its own white population increase by an astounding 633 percent, while its Black population has declined to 60 percent and its real estate prices have doubled.
That news sent me back to the June 2011 report by Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative that disclosed that Philadelphia’s white population had declined by 31.9 percent (263,254 people), over the past twenty years or so, and that there is clear evidence that demographic shifts very much akin to the Harlem and Bed-Stuy experiences have also occurred in certain sections of the “City that Loves You Back.”
For example, over that period, the greatest white population increase in the city was a seven-zip-code-area that includes western North Philadelphia (49.1 percent), Brewerytown (270.7 percent), North Philadelphia/Yorktown (55.8 percent), Fairmount South (16.5 percent), Washington Square (38.2 percent), Society Hill (40.3 percent), and North Philadelphia/Northern Liberties (103.5 percent), all neighborhoods that had been predominantly African-American, over 50 previous years.
So, while the overall number of whites in the city declined about one-third, the white population in the recently gentrified areas actually increased by an average of 82 percent.
The report also indicates that the Black population count increased by only 3.3 percent, over the last twenty years, as hard as that may be to believe, while the number of Hispanics increased by 110.3 percent, and the number of Asians rose by 126.6 percent.
The flip side of the gentrification issue, of course, is the question of where Black Philadelphians move to, after they are displaced from their “traditional” neighborhoods. As their numbers dropped in the city’s “historically Black” communities, Pew points out, African Americans fled to far-flung areas in the city and near suburbs, where real estate was cheaper, property taxes were lower, and which had previously been overwhelming white. The actual numbers are quite shocking. The Black population, over the period, dropped by 35.2 percent in Fairmount North (zip code 19121), by 23.4 percent in Kingsessing/South West Philadelphia (zip code 19143), and 26.1 percent in Northern Liberties (zip code 19123).
At the same time, the Black Philadelphia presence increased from 1.2 percent to 16.1 percent in Tacony; from 0.3 percent to 21.5 percent in Mayfair/Oxford Circle; from 0.6 percent to 19.7 percent in Fox Chase; and from 8.7 percent to 30.5 percent in Frankford.
Who would have thought?
Let me say, at the outset, that what is happening here — this sweeping demographic shift, wherein the most desirable, most accessible-to-work, most well-built-homes and neighborhoods are being gentrified — is just the most recent manifestation of economically and racially based housing pattern shifts that have routinely taken place in our city, and in other cities, north and south, over the past 100 years, or so.
Thirty and forty years ago, the recently gentrified sections or North Central, South Central and West Philadelphia’s “Bottom,” (now called University City) were overwhelmingly African-American neighborhoods.
In the main, that was the case because ethnic whites — Italians, Jews, Irish and Germans — who previously “owned” those communities and raised their families there, left in droves, fleeing the northern migration of Blacks from the South. They also left Philadelphia, and other cities, to take advantage of racially discriminatory FHA and commercial bank residential mortgage policies.
That didn’t happen so long ago, but it was far enough back that too many Black folks now mistakenly believe that Strawberry Mansion, right near beautiful Fairmount Park, was always predominantly Black; that the stately mansion-style homes in West Philadelphia, that were built for wealthy whites, from about 34th Street out to 63rd Street, were always predominantly occupied by Black people. Many of them also mistakenly believe that formerly bustling urban shopping districts, such as parts of Ridge and Wadsworth Avenues, had always been situated in Black communities.
Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong, again.
The truth is that those and many other neighborhoods became Jewish, after the Irish and Germans left for the suburbs and for the edges of the city. Only when the Jewish residents subsequently left, did those communities turn predominantly Black.
As young Black people, we, naively used to wonder whose “bright idea” it had been to locate so many Jewish businesses in the middle of our “Black” community, in North Central Philadelphia. What we didn’t appreciate is that those businesses didn’t move into those neighborhoods to serve us, at all. They were there; in the first place, to service the specific needs of a resident Jewish clientele. They just happened to be among the last of their community to leave what had, over time, become “our” neighborhood.
Indeed, many Black families in North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, or Lower Germantown have members who clearly remember being the “first Blacks on their street” and then, sadly, having to witness the disappearance of their new white neighbors, virtually overnight.
Well, they’re b - a - a - a - c - k!
If we have perspective, a sense of history and good common sense, we will begin to grow comfortable with the realization that, even though we’ve lived in those communities, as Black people, for at least five or six generations, now, they aren’t now and, really, never were, “ours.”
We have no “right” to them that transcends an ability to purchase a property. Never have.
In my opinion, African Americans shouldn’t get overly nostalgic or possessive about neighborhood identification. On the other hand, we should develop our political and economic leverage, so that we can live wherever we choose, including being able to afford the new prices and increased tax rates in what had been our old neighborhoods. That’s a “change” in approach we’re going to have to master.
At the end of the day, Barack Obama’s use of the “change” slogan in his campaign for U.S. president, in 2008, has proved to be just that — a slogan.
Regrettably, his “handlers” never took the time to help us understand that we should be preparing ourselves for so much more than an ad campaign, or for more than the simple “change,” from a white U.S. president, to one who happens to be non-white.
As Alvin Toffler, author of “Future Shock,” warned his readers many years ago, “Change is not merely necessary to life — it is life.”
On the other hand, too many African Americans mistakenly came to believe that the “change” we needed had effectively been completed, once the last vote had been counted in 2008.
Maybe now we will realize, as Toffler pointed out so clearly, that “change” is never-ending, and that it is certainly something that we, ourselves, will have to learn how to manage.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
I am generally reluctant to call out my fellow members of the media for several reasons: First, I understand that all forms of informational media — newspapers, cable news television, news magazines and such — are a convenient scapegoat upon which to blame all of society’s ills, and I refuse to add my own voice to that cacophony of aimless noise.
Second, I know how the media works, and I know how difficult it can be to walk the fine line of getting the story first and getting the story right. I tend to give editors and reporters the benefit of the doubt, knowing — or at least hoping — that they’re doing the best they can and are ultimately only interested in the public good.
But once in a while, I am forced to admit I understand completely why people so vehemently hate the media. This is one of those times.
Over at www.philly.com, the people who bring you the online versions of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the reader comment section of their online stories has long been a repository for the foulest, most racist vitriol I personally have ever read.
Every crime story with a Black perpetrator will get a comment section filled, and I do mean filled, with hate speech. “Savages,” “animals,” “the usual suspects,” “urban trash,” “ghetto gorillas,” … I mean, they don’t even bother to code it anymore.
At first, I was surprised. Surprised that there were that many overt racists in Philadelphia, and surprised that they’d happily spew their poison in a public forum.
But that’s part of the anonymity of the Internet. Any craven coward can post whatever vile hated they want, knowing their real names won’t be found out — essentially hiding behind their keyboards. This false courage allows them to say things online they would never think to say to any Black person’s face — ever. That post about shipping all the jungle apes back to Africa could have been written by the guy who sits next to you at work.
Until recently, I blamed this phenomenon on the posters. Vicious racists that they are, I reasoned, they would have found a forum for their hatred whether philly.com published their rants or not. Besides, a newspaper (even an online version) has some obligation to allow their readership the opportunity to speak their minds, no matter how objectionable. The First Amendment was written, after all, not to protect speeches about love and understanding, but to protect speech we can all agree is offensive by nature.
As a newsman, I understand these things. But I also understand that a news organization has an equal obligation to community standards. Like most news outlets these days, The Philadelphia Tribune also has a comments section attached to many of our stories online. But if someone posts something over-the-top offensive in that comments section, we have the right, and the duty, to take it down as soon as possible.
I don’t see that happening at philly.com. In fact, considering the stuff that remains up on the site, I wonder how offensive the language has to get before a “comment removed” tag is issued.
And here’s where I officially snatch away the benefit of the doubt. On crime stories on philly.com with white perpetrators, there’s almost never a comment section allowed. In other words, someone over there in the Tower of Truth at Broad and Callowhill decides which stories get commented on and which do not — and melanin seems to be a criterion.
Don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. Three white guys charged with having sex with a 15-year-old (complete with a photo of the glassy-eyed, meth addict suspect), no comments section allowed. Trial begins in the ballpark beating death last year by some drunken white guys — no comment section.
Three killed in grocery store robbery, Black perpetrators suspected — all the racist comments you could ask for. “Thugs,” “scum,” “savages,” calls to arms and defense of white decency from the dark hordes, and always, always the umpteenth rehashing of John Street’s “brothers and sisters are running the city” comment from a decade ago.
This is just one day’s example, but it’s a pretty good example — and a pretty accurate one.
It would be easy to hide behind the racist posters themselves, but someone over at philly.com has to enable, allow and encourage the behavior to continue.
I guess that defense is that they aren’t burning the crosses — they’re just supplying the matches.
I’m often asked, what’s wrong with our children? Too often we focus on the negative without celebrating young people who, despite the odds unfairly stacked against them, overcome great adversity, demonstrate academic excellence, and give back to their community and country. Each year, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) takes time to honor examples of these inspiring youths through our Beat the Odds® scholarship and leadership development program. Each student receives a $10,000 scholarship, a laptop computer, guidance through the college admissions process and an invitation to join CDF’s leadership training programs — putting them on the path to college, successful adulthood and sustained child advocacy. Beat the Odds celebrations are held annually across the country. On November 15, we will honor five high school students from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia; on December 1, five in Los Angeles; and on December 14, five in New York City. All are succeeding and moving on to college despite overwhelming challenges. This year, CDF’s state offices honored 19 resilient students in Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and New Orleans. Since 1990 when CDF began Beat the Odds celebrations, about 700 youths have won scholarships, and I could not be prouder of them. They are lawyers and educators and college professors and teachers and Peace Corps volunteers, and outstanding citizens. They make clear that no one has a right to give up on any child and that all of us lose when we waste the fine minds and great potential of millions of children every year. Their lives also make clear what a difference one or a few caring adults can make.
Thurman Anderson’s mother, a high school dropout, rarely worked. To provide for his siblings, Thurman sold candy and then drugs while still in elementary school. When he was nine years old, Thurman and his siblings were removed from their home and separated by the foster care system. Four years and five foster home placements later, Thurman met Jon and Nia West-Bey, who became his adoptive parents. He described them as the first people who could “provide a home where I could finally find my place and where people wanted me.” Thurman is now a student at Washington Latin Public Charter School where he is passionate about being a leader and mentors fellow students. Thurman is excited that he will be the first in his biological family to attend and graduate from college.
Andrew Finein came into the world facing daunting odds. He was born mute, unable to utter a sound until he was two and a half years old. Diagnosed with a host of mental and physical problems, doctors told his mother he would never be able to care for himself. Andrew’s early years were spent in therapy learning to speak and to do basic tasks like tying his shoes. But years of hard work and therapy paid off, and today, 17-year-old Andrew is already taking several college level classes and excels academically. Adults who know Andrew marvel at his positive attitude and strong work ethic.
As a child, Leland Kraatz’s home life was filled with anger and despair. His alcoholic father terrorized the whole family. When Leland was 10, his father was arrested after Leland’s two sisters revealed he had been abusing them. Leland’s mother became severely depressed and struggled to make ends meet. Home-schooled for years, the children were left to educate themselves. By the time Child Protective Services intervened, Leland had never had formal schooling and was years behind academically. He and his sister, Chelsea, moved in with their aunt and uncle. “For the first time in my life I was truly part of a real, functioning family the way it should be,” said Leland. Since then, he has worked extremely hard to adjust academically and socially. Although he entered formal school for the first time in ninth grade, he has maintained a 3.82 grade point average, tutors other students, and is thriving in his new life despite his tumultuous childhood.
Anh Luong is the youngest of five children born to Vietnamese immigrants. She grew up in extreme poverty in an unstable home with parents who battled substance abuse. When Anh was nine years old, she was assaulted by a family friend. She stopped going to school and failed fourth grade. She and her two older brothers then bounced back and forth between foster care and their parents’ home for the next few years. She remembers vividly the fear and despair she felt during this time. Anh said she wanted to “give up on life. I began thinking that my life was cursed.” But she didn’t give up, and today, Anh is a hard working senior on the path to college. “I have learned that if I share my story and share the struggles that I’ve been through, then I can reach out to others and help them to overcome as well,” she said.
When Mustafaa Nuraldin’s teachers describe him, they paint the picture of an ideal student — thoughtful, serious and polite — but just a few years ago Mustafaa was failing most of his classes. A precocious child, Mustafaa learned to read early and excelled in elementary school but a hostile environment in a new middle school disturbed him. He described it as “rowdy and violent, so much so that metal detectors were necessary. In addition to the crazed student body, there were a number of teachers who didn’t do their job.” Mustafaa started skipping school, choosing to read at a local bookstore. After his mother and grandmother enrolled Mustafaa at Washington Latin Charter School where teachers have encouraged his love of reading and creative writing, his attitude toward school changed completely. He plans to study philosophy or creative writing in college and is described by one of his teachers as “an old soul, a wise young man, a student with perfect moral pitch.”
All of the stories over the years including this year’s Washington, D.C. Beat the Odds scholarship recipients described here show the remarkable resiliency of children and the power of determination and hard work. They also show how much a caring adult can make a difference. Beat the Odds celebrations send a clear message to young people that we see and care about their plight, and understand what it takes to succeed in school and life when faced with huge obstacles. Millions of children struggling against the odds can succeed if each of us reaches out to and celebrates them rather than write them off as failures. To learn more about how you can support young people at Beat the Odds events around the country, go to the Children’s Defense Fund website. In a Thanksgiving season when many Americans pause to count their blessings, it should also be a season of giving back and sharing with those less fortunate. You can also help by being a voice for voiceless children. Tell your Senators and Representatives that you want children protected from budget cuts and you want Congress to invest in their health, education, and well-being. Together as a community of caring adults we can and must change the odds for all children. — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Under her leadership, the CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.
Sooner or later, we all make mistakes.
Our fates and fortunes are often measured not by those mistakes, but by our reaction upon discovery of our error. Those who run away from their mistakes — or engage in efforts to cover up those mistakes, or worse, blame others — reveal only their own shallowness of character and hinder their self-improvement. The more enlightened among us acknowledge their mistakes to themselves and others, and make a concerted effort not to repeat the same mistake.
This newspaper made a mistake in 2008 when we endorsed John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, business manager for electricians’ union Local 98, for the state Senate seat vacated by Vince Fumo. First District Sen. Larry Farnese, who by all accounts has done an outstanding job in his short tenure, won that election.
Concerning that endorsement, one could say in hindsight we were duped, or that we believed what we wished to believe; or that we simply failed to take the long view. We’ll take that.
We had our reservations at the time, questioning Dougherty’s commitment to Philadelphia’s Black community. His union, like far too many of the building trades in our city, does not reflect the city’s diverse population. The conspicuous absence of Blacks and other minorities among Philadelphia’s working union trades cannot be passed off as coincidence.
Our mistake was in buying Dougherty’s promise to remedy the situation: that he would train and apprentice unprecedented numbers of minority candidates, who would go on to secure family-sustaining union jobs. Taking advantage of a construction boom which continues to this day, Dougherty swore to put Black Philadelphians to work in his union, often rebuilding their own neighborhoods.
We believed it, and we endorsed him. And now, we’re sorry as hell.
The construction boom continues, and work sites are buzzing with activity all over the city. Look at the racial makeup of those work crews. Sadly, they are as overwhelmingly white, and overwhelmingly non-Philadelphian, as they always were.
Black laborers, many well qualified, continue to battle unemployment while watching white construction crews with New Jersey plates on their trucks rebuild houses in their own communities. Long-promised apprenticeship programs fail to produce even barely acceptable numbers of Black building trades unionists.
Ask Johnny Doc how many Black electricians are full-time working members of Electricians Local 98 compared with five or ten years ago. Chances are you won’t get a straight answer, because the truth is that his union has failed to diversify — and that effort is deliberate.
He further insulted the Black community through a vicious, unprovoked attack on Ameenah Young, CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center and a woman whose commitment to her community through her work as an entrepreneur and business executive are beyond reproach, and who serves as a mentor and shining example to young Black girls not just in Philadelphia, but nationwide.
John Dougherty is an ambitious politician whose quest for power demands he maintain working relationships with select members of the Black community. By being overly generous to the few, he hopes to ignore the many. He is not the first politician to employ this strategy, and not the first to be successful at it, but we hope to make him the last.
It is possible that in our 2008 endorsement, we were so focused on creating a level playing field that we overlooked a snake in the grass. It is a mistake we will not repeat.
We will work diligently to force Dougherty to live up to his empty promises and failed attempts at inclusion in his union, and all Philadelphia building trades unions. We will follow up on every commitment, we will keep hammering, we will never give up fighting for our communities, especially for the most vulnerable among us.
We will maintain a watchful eye on Dougherty, and on those in elected positions that he sponsors, whether Black or white. We will hold liable those Black politicians who gladly take his money while keeping silent on his abysmal record of inclusion and minority relations. We will question those white politicians who blindly accept intolerance and injustice as the price of his sponsorship.
We will ensure that the power of public office and the power of positive change remain in the hands of the people of Philadelphia.
Flipping through the channels Tuesday night, I stumbled upon the Republican presidential debate, live from Las Vegas, of all places. Being the fifth such debate in six weeks, I had forgotten all about it. But I also didn’t expect the party of pious morals and upright family values to hold a serious political event in a place known as Sin City.
Turns out though, that Vegas — America’s entertainment capital — was the perfect venue, because that debate had more sheer entertainment value than all the others combined. I’m glad I tuned in — it was comedy gold, worthy of being saved for posterity and the benefit of future generations of Americans who may want to pinpoint the exact moment the Republican Party officially went off the rails.
Business guru Herman Cain, the newly crowned GOP front-runner, found himself in the crosshairs early. Mitt Romney, the man of the perfect teeth and the empty suit, joined Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the man of the empty head, in hammering Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan.
Cain’s idea would set income and corporate taxes at nine percent, and add a nine percent federal sales tax. Sounds simple, but a study released by the Tax Policy Center this week said that Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal would raise taxes on 84 percent of Americans, with low- and middle-income families being hit hardest.
Cain tried to defend himself, countering that only lawyers, lobbyists and his ignorant onstage colleagues would argue in favor of the present tax code, which he called “a million word mess.” But between Romney and Perry ganging up on him, coupled with the incoherent babbling from Newt Gingrich and punctuated by occasional condor-like screeches from Michele Bachmann, Cain never had a chance.
The part that got me, though, was that even while bashing his proposal, Perry more than once referred to Cain as “brother.”
I don’t know about you, but few things make me want to punch a white man in the mouth more than that patronizing, condescendingly familiar way they call you “brother,” or even worse, “my main man.” Sometimes I think they do it because they don’t actually have any Black acquaintances and this is their awkward way of being friendly; and sometimes I think they do it just to see how far they can push you before you haul off and punch them in the mouth.
In Perry’s case though, I suspect the reason was overcompensation — a feeble attempt to clear up the recent controversy surrounding the former name of his hunting ranch by publicly reaching out to the only Black man he knows who isn’t one of the domestic help.
Even kooky old Ron Paul showed he still has a few chuckles left in him when he spoke in favor of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, defended the middle class from the excesses of the super-rich, and — get this — freely admitted that the recession, and the resultant lousy economy, is a direct byproduct of the short-sighted policies of the Bush administration. You can imagine how well that went over with the GOP faithful, but the oblivious Paul clearly has no idea that his chances of the nomination fade a little more every time he completes a sentence.
The best part, though, was when Perry and Romney grew tired of attacking Cain and turned on each other like a couple of pit bulls.
Perry brought up the illegal immigrant story that haunted Romney during the 2008 primary, calling it “the height of hypocrisy.” Several years ago Romney hired a landscaping company whose managers weren’t too vigilant about checking employees immigration status, and it’s hung around his neck like an albatross ever since.
Romney countered with a dismissive line about how Perry should be forgiven because he’s been losing ground with each successive debate, and the rumble was on.
Back and forth they went, the volume — and the tension — rising with each snide interruption and catty retort. I thought for a minute there it might come to blows, and found myself sitting on the edge of the couch eagerly anticipating the first wild left hook.
That punch was never thrown, but plenty of equally damaging verbal shots landed cleanly, with Perry once again forced to repudiate his friend, the pastor who called Mormonism a cult, and Pennsylvania’s own Rick Santorum once again forced to justify his own relevance.
I sure hope President Obama was watching. Seeing the caliber of the best that the GOP hopes will unseat him must be quite comforting — and funnier than anything else on television.
The way America has been “saving Africa” is racist, heavy-handed and condescending. When will African Americans put a stop to practices that carry all the tenor and tone of an “imperialist power” taking the locals to the cleansers?
We need a re-set from the paradigm put it place over the last 15 years by predominately-white Christian and Jewish coalitions. Their practices have resulted in more than 3 million lives lost and a formal division of Africa’s largest country into what is now Sudan and Southern Sudan. Leading up to South Sudan’s succession, President Barack Obama offered the North full diplomatic ties, lifting of economic sanctions, and the removal of from the list of countries labeled as “sponsors of terrorism” for compliance in the referendum. Helping to father the world’s 193rd country may come back to haunt President Obama.
After the South’s vote, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti sought out U.S. officials to lift the sanctions. “We have delivered what we promised…and want all sanctions to be lifted,” Karti said. But, it seems that he is going to find it difficult collecting on the Obama promise. The North’s problem is the image it has allowed the people “saving Sudan” to spawn for them. The Khartoum government has been accused of every evil atrocity against mankind, including slavery practices, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Now, the Obama team is saying that Khartoum is the source of bombings of refugees and camps in South Sudan; so, it’s no surprise that Obama, and his staffers trot out the same old tripe: “Khartoum’s policies had not yet improved enough to warrant their removal.”
Sanctions are “an act of war,” and Obama has shown he plans to continue that haughty attitude with the Sudanese. The debate is an old one; a result of two civil wars between the North and South for all but 15 years of Sudan’ independence. Ostensibly to “save” starving Africans, coalitions of predominately white humanitarian and religious groups have engineered numerous “interventions” in Sudan. These “interventions” have mostly involved getting lots of land with oil on it. Sadly, many African Americans bought into the flim flam. Before being prove fraudulent, the Sudan Slave Redemption Industry deception garnered millions of donations “to obtain freedom for fellow human beings.” The “slave redemption” trick mobilized a “pariah” public opinion status for Sudan and billions of dollars and legislation to continue the conflicts in its borders. The Congressional Sudan Caucus has had great success passing legislation benefiting rebels in the South.
For Black Americans, there are two conflicting currents in the issue of Southern Sudan. Many African-American Muslims espouse a religious solidarity with the government of Omar Hassan al-Bashir and say, “Western forces are conspiring to undermine Islam.” On the opposite side is mainly Black Christian leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton and talk-show host Joe Madison, who’ve advocated overthrow of the North since the 1990s.
So who among us is going to push the Obama administration to lift sanctions? Even Southern Sudan officials want the U.S. to remove the economic sanctions so that the south’s oil exports won’t suffer financially when they move through northern Sudan’s oil pipelines. Obama’s current order maintains several sets of U.S. sanctions imposed since 1997 that restrict trade and investment with Sudan.
As would be expected, Sudan’s foreign ministry condemns the extension of the sanctions. Foreign Minister Karti said he’d hoped the peaceful conduct of the succession vote would provide an opening for economic opportunities for his country. "The sanctions imposed by the U.S. administration are political sanctions and are aimed at damaging Sudan’s vital interests by hindering development ambitions,” says Karti.
The African-American impact on Africa should be better and more positive. The African-American U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has been biased against Khartoum for decades, and is a well-known opponent of President al-Bashir. Rice and Obama head a racist American practice toward Africans that deploy a coercive type of diplomacy, one full of threats, unrealistic demands and promises of incentives that revive images of old colonialists. — (NNPA)
William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org
“I just want to help somebody’s child go to college” — Oseola McCarty, recipient of 1995 Presidential Citizens Medal
The Black “Twittersphere” and “blogosphere” are abuzz with talk about ways to engage more African Americans in the “Occupy” movement. There are even social networks forming under the banner: “Occupy the Hood.” From Zuccotti Park in Manhattan to Westlake Park in Seattle, the participants in Occupy events tend to be overwhelmingly young, white and middle class. This is the case even though the ills the Occupy Movement have identified — income inequality and the corrupt and predatory actions of big banks — are hitting communities of color the hardest.
In pondering the potential reasons for this disconnect, I thought that maybe the stress of unemployment and lack of opportunities are so draining in the “hood” that there simply isn’t enough time or energy to join a rally. Or maybe with more of a focus on racism’s role in structural inequality more people of color would join. But then I thought about a woman named Oseola McCarty from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
In 1995, at the age of 85, Ms. McCarty, an African-American woman who earned a living washing and ironing other people’s laundry, donated her entire life-savings, $150,000, to the University of Southern Mississippi to give Black children the chance she never had — to attend the previously segregated university. Her actions inspired many and led President Clinton to award her the Presidential Citizens Medal. Osceola McCarty’s only wish was that she be allowed to attend the graduation of the first recipient of the McCarty Scholarship. She developed a friendship with that student, Stephanie Bullock, and died a few months after Stephanie’s graduation in 1999.
I tell that story because it reminds us of the legacy of community service and philanthropy that have always been at the heart of the Black community. There is no way we could have survived the hardships of slavery, Jim Crow, the Great Depression and the Great Recession without leaning on one another — whether that meant assisting travelers on the Underground Railroad, or sharing food with an out-of-work neighbor. Giving back has always been front and center in the African-American experience.
The Black church has led the way. Community “Giving Circles,” where individuals collectively pool their resources and decide what projects to fund, are on the rise. And for years, philanthropic organizations such as the National Urban League, National Black United Fund and the United Negro College Fund, have been providing critical and in some cases, life-saving, assistance to millions of African Americans. A new generation of African-American philanthropists is also making a difference — people like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby and Alphonse Fletcher are empowering the most vulnerable to dream and create better tomorrows.
As we enter the holiday season, we should draw strength from that well-spring of compassion. And we should remember, while public protest has its place, African Americans who have walked through the doors of opportunity and achieved economic success, as well as all of us, have an absolute responsibility to make a difference and to give back. You don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be a college graduate. And giving back can be in the form of time and talent as well as money. Occupy the Hood with whatever gifts you have. As Oseola McCarty put it, “If you want to be proud of yourself, you have got to do things you can be proud of.” — (NNPA)
Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.