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Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

“He was a renaissance black man”

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2009 at 12:59 pm

In a blog I wrote earlier this year, I asked what do renaissance men wear? Can you tell a renaissance man by the clothes he wears? Can you tell a renaissance man by his demeanor, his character, or the words that part from his lips? Exactly what does the renaissance man look like? I would have to say that Percy Sutton was the epitome of such.

Yesterday, Mr. Sutton passed away at age 89. For Philip Bulgar, an assistant manager of Manna’s Soul Food in New York, Mr. Sutton was a “renaissance black man. They don’t make too many brothers like that anymore.” Mr. Sutton was arrested in Mississippi and Alabama during the turbulent 1960s “as a Freedom Rider…[he] once described himself as ‘an evolutionist rather than a revolutionist’ in matters of race. ‘You ought always to keep the lines of communication open with those with whom you disagree.'” Whether politics or media, Mr. Sutton’s influence was undeniable.

But of all his endeavors or causes involved in, Mr. Sutton helped preserve history as well as the future for many entertainers with the renovation of the Apollo Theater in the 1980s. As a youth, the highlight of my weekends centered around “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” a syndicated program where common, everyday folk who had a talent, usually musical, came to display it for the world. But the show also was an avenue for many of the professional entertainers to showcase their talent, their skill. Mr. Sutton was a visionary as well as an historian. He understood the history of Apollo, but he also saw the role the theater could play in the Harlem of the future. In an interview in the New York Times, Rev. Al Sharpton saw Mr. Sutton’s business venture as “the centerpiece of the economic regeneration of Harlem.”

In a tribute to Mr. Sutton, the Apollo’s marquee said what many of us feel: “We are forever grateful.”

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Leadership in Question

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2009 at 10:44 am

It appears the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is trying to stay afloat–in October Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther. King, Jr. and co-founder of the organization, was elected president. Following the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, SCLC has struggled to find its niche. And now the leadership has been removed. As reported in the Clarion Ledger, “Officials with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have removed the organization’s board chairman and treasurer while they conduct an internal investigation into claims of mismanagement.” Chairman of the Board Rev. Raleigh Trammell and the treasurer Spiver Gordon, were removed after an internal investigation revealed possible mismanagement.

The election of King as the first female president and the third King to run the organization was a significant move for SCLC; King was to “revitalise” the base, which now consists of “a sprawling church-based network of 10,000 members in 17 US states.” Click here to read the complete story from The Guardian. Once a staple of African American politics, SCLC is languishing—trying to find exactly where it belongs, while the base is steadily declining in membership and influence. After the election of King and now the removal of the Board’s chairman and treasurer, perhaps now the organization can find its footing moving forward.

Race and Farming

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2009 at 6:08 am

“Hispanic farmers are a piñata to them. They keep beating us and beating us, and then when they hit us down, they still expect us to keep producing and fill their plates.” This is David Cantu’s characterization of his experience, as well as other Hispanics farmers’ experiences in trying to secure loans from the USDA.

With the success of African American farmers’ settlement against USDA (Pigford Case), other minority groups have been encouraged to follow a similar pattern for suit. Native American farmers (Keepseagle Case) have recently entered talks with the Agriculture Department to settle similar claims. Even though Hispanic and women farmers have filed discrimination suits, both “have been denied class certification” by U.S. District Judge James Robertson. “All four groups allege that they were denied farm loans and given loans with impossible conditions because of their race or gender.”

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey believes “Justice dictates that if in fact the government discriminated against a class of people and we recognize that discrimination existed, you don’t use legal barriers — , i.e., opposing class-action status — to shield the government.” Because Hispanics and women have not been granted class certification, individuals would have to challenge the allege discrimination on a case-by-case basis via the courts. However, “the federal government could still decide to treat the cases as classes in a settlement.” At present 110 Hispanic farmers from Texas, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California have filed claims. Attorney Stephen Hill says that if class certification was granted to the Hispanic farmers, there will be many more Hispanic farmers filing claims. Hill adds that the “discrimination followed a pretty distinct pattern. Denying applications, repeatedly discouraging them from submitting applications, refusing to assist the farmer, and if the farmer persisted and filed an application, it would be dragged out for months so they couldn’t get the seed in the ground. And often, for the most flimsy excuses like language problems, they put Hispanic farmers in supervised accounts.”

Click here to continue reading Washington Post’s staff writer Kari Lydersen’s article Minority Farmers seek redress, claim USDA discrimination.

The Jackson State University Tigers Delta Devils Braves

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 10:32 am

There have been many critics to Governor Barbour’s proposed plan to merge the state’s three historically black colleges (Jackson State University, Alcorn State University, and Mississippi Valley State University). According to the plan, the state would save an estimated $35 million. For C. Leigh McInnis of the Jackson Free Press the Governor’s recommendation is not about the “current economic crisis.” McInnis believes this is about finally closing the state’s HBCUs. He continues “In 1970, the state’s first response to the Ayers Equalization of Funding complaint was to close Mississippi Valley State University, merge Alcorn with Mississippi State, and rename Jackson State University as the University of Mississippi at Jackson.”

In an interview with AOL Black Voices, Professor Marybeth Gasman believes the Governor’s plan is ill-conceived. “First, it is silly to merge three institutions just because they are historically black in nature. This assumes that they are all the same and that there is no diversity within the black college context. Jackson State is an urban institution, and Alcorn and Mississippi Valley are rural in nature — a merger would bring together institutions with very different student bodies and missions,” Additionally, Gasman believes “the governor’s recommendation does not honor the spirit of the Fordice settlement, which aimed to bolster HBCUs, not destroy them. Given the history of Mississippi and its extreme forms of racism and segregation, more — not less — should be done for the HBCUs in the state.”

Executive Director of President Obama’s HBCU Initiative John Wilson, Jr., who recently visited Jackson on a listening and learning tour of HBCUs, says that “I don’t have an instantly negative attitude toward mergers. But greatness has to be the result, and here it appears the motivation was financial.”

It is no secret that the Governor’s recommendation may not happen. But in looking behind the proposal, what keeps coming to the fore is the Ayers settlement. “The lawsuit alleged that the state of Mississippi, through its funding process, discriminated against Alcorn State, Jackson State and Valley State. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the state still had vestiges of segregation in its university system and sent the case to the lower courts to arrange a settlement. Under the deal, the Mississippi Legislature agreed to provide $503 million to the three colleges over 17 years.” (Click here to read article in its entirety from USA Today). There are many hurdles that must be addressed before a merger can happen—issues with race, intentions, and whether a merger is at all necessary must be addressed before Mississippi’s higher education system can stem the tide of the current fiscal crisis.

“The $6 Billion Boycott”

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 at 10:28 am

Call it the $6 billion boycott,” according to the AP press release regarding the Congressional Black Caucus walkout. “By boycotting a key House committee vote last week and threatening to abandon support for banking regulations, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) got $4 billion added to a Wall Street regulation bill and $2 billion to a proposed House jobs bill in spending they sought for African-American communities.”

The CBC’s walkout demonstrated a few things, but most importantly, they were able to swing the pendulum of power. For Boyce Watkins, PhD “African Americans are learning a lot about politics in light of the election of President Barack Obama. After being marginalized from the process for 400 years, some of us are just now beginning to truly understand how American politics works.” Furthermore, many of the African American leaders are now demanding that President Obama “do more for minority communities hit the hardest by the recession.” For many of these communities, silence is deafening and political activity is just as silent, and the lawmakers, at least for a time, gave the silent a platform.

Lincoln University’s Battle with Obesity

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

In the past couple of weeks, Lincoln University, an HBCU in Pennsylvania, has been in the spotlight for a three year old controversial policy. That policy required students with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and up to take a fitness course before graduating–this would be a way for the University to take a unique stance against obesity. University officials placed more emphasis on enforcing the policy this year and with that came national attention. Lincoln student Tiana Lawson’s editorial in the student’s newspaper brought light to how this requirement discriminated against those in which they intended to help. Click here to read Lawson’s editorial.

In an CNN interview, chairman of the school’s Department of Health and Physical Education, James DeBoy states “We, as educators, must tell students when we believe, in our heart of hearts, when certain factors, certain behaviors, attitudes, whatever, are going to hinder that student from achieving and maximizing their life goals.” Many legal experts called the policy “paternalistic,” and on Dec. 7 the school rescinded that very policy. According to AOL Black Voices, DeBoy says that “after much discussion, we are no longer requiring students to pass the fitness test in order to graduate. People were asking, ‘How can you, as an HBCU, discriminate against anyone? You are testing students and singling them out.’ Stigmatization can have a harming effect.”

The revised policy would not “require” but “recommend” the fitness class for students battling obesity and then it is up to the student to enroll. Of the new policy, DeBoy states that “Let’s be clear, if recommendations are not honored by students, we will be upset. We will come back with a different recommendation. Helping students monitor their health is really important to us.”

“Dadadada, but…”

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 at 9:37 am

A friend of mine is currently on her rounds–well interviewing rounds for optometry schools. In the past couple of days, she has traveled from Birmingham, Alabama to Bloomington, Indiana. Following her interviews, she would give me a status of how they went—“dadadada, but…” That but was “I was the only minority in the room.” I asked her, where are the minorities? She educated me on how many minorities are actually applying to optometry schools, but her answer was, “I don’t know why minorities are so underrepresented. What do you think?” I couldn’t answer the question.

But I went on a journey through statistics…According to the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, (in looking at advanced degrees) of all Master’s degrees earned in 1996-97 6.8 percent were earned by African Americans, 3.7 percent were earned by Hispanics, 4.5 percent were earned by Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 0.5 percent were earned by American Indian/Alaska Native. Some ten years later, the numbers may have improved, but not by much. Africans Americans jumped to 10.3 percent, Hispanics earned 5.8 percent, Asian/Pacific Islanders earned 6 percent, while American Indian/Alaska Native earned 0.6 percent of Master’s degrees. And the numbers for professional degrees awarded to minorities are grimmer.

According to Aspiringdocs.org “One of the most pressing health care challenges facing the nation is the critical need for more minority physicians. In the next 15 years, the nation is projected to confront an overall shortage of physicians, but the need is, and will continue to be, particularly great for minority physicians.” Furthermore, in 2004 African American Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans made up 25 percent of the population but only 6 percent of practicing doctors were likely to come from these ethnic groups.

The healthcare debates have touched on access to healthcare, and this is a good discussion/debate to have. At the same time, minorities are making up a very small number of those with advanced degrees and of those practicing medicine—this too must be added to the discussion. Whether it’s cultural/social barriers, lack of access, education, whatever the case may be, we must all get to the root of why minorities are not becoming doctors, why minorities are not earning advanced degrees—where are the minorities?

Expansion of Powers

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2009 at 2:23 am

In the spirit of the holidays, the economy is simply just not cooperating. Thanksgiving has come and gone, Christmas is on the horizon, and Republican Senator of Pontotoc and Lee counties Alan Nunnelee predicts Governor Barbour will issue another round of budget cuts in the very near future to make-up for the revenue shortfall. The state was short some $25 million dollars in November, and the Governor has stated that cuts are evident, yet no timeframe was given for these cuts. Furthermore, state law allows the Governor to cut individual agencies up to 5 percent, with subsequent cuts being even across the board. According to the Clarion Ledger’s Laraye Brown, Governor Barbour “wants this statute changed to allow him more flexibility.” Nunnelee supports such a measure and notes that an expansion in the Governor’s powers would come with several restrictions. Such restrictions can be found by reading the Clarion Ledger’s article.