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Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Click It or Ticket and Something More

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 11:35 am

The season has begun, you know the one: Click It or Ticket! For Mississippi law enforcement agencies, the campaign looks to, according to its Facebook page, “stop the excuses and buckle up Peeps…it’s the law & it saves lives. Same goes for all the LEOs out there…State, city or county…write a ticket if u see someone not wearing their seatbelt, you never know when they may be in a crash and writing a ticket will remind them to always wear their seat belt!!” But the Mississippi Department of Public Safety is also embroiled in another campaign, a campaign to distance itself from an organization that practices discrimination.

According to Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson, “it is obvious that there is a structural problem within the Department of Public Safety as it relates to African American state troopers.” DPS spokesperson Jon Kalahar stated that Commissioner Simpson “stands behind not only the Mississippi highway patrol…but the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board. They backed up the highway patrol’s ruling that he [McField] should be terminated and the commissioner stands with both rulings.” The Appeals Board “found four of five charges against McField justified, including two incidents of failure to respond to accidents…[and] he arrived on the scene late and allegedly was out of uniform, wearing tennis shoes, shorts and a jacket.”

Adam Lynch of the Jackson Free Press reported the “Mississippi NAACP is condemning Department of Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson’s decision to ignore a May 11 finding by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the department fired Horn Lake trooper Michael McField for racially motivated reasons.” The NAACP filed a formal EEOC complaint against DPS alleging “discriminatory practices and racial slurs with the knowledge and approval of Assistant DPS Commissioner (and Highway Patrol Chief) Col. Michael Berthay, or in many instances, committed by him.”

The EEOC’s decision may be forwarded on to the US Department of Justice, to which a separate investigation could be initiated. See also the Clarion Ledger.

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Tradition; what tradition?

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2010 at 10:00 am

“Despite the statistics, despite the divorce rate, despite what others say about marriage…” and the minister continued, “today is a holiday.” A holiday that family and friends come out to celebrate, but a holiday that despite what the statistics say, “today is a holiday that we all believe in.” These words comprised the minister’s introduction to my closest friend, my sister’s wedding. These words actually comforted me because I was having anxiety about “giving” my friend away–you know the proverbial, “I’m losing a friend,” blah, blah, blah. Yet, as I looked on to the altar, as I panned the audience, we all were smiling, because that day, that beautiful May day was truly a holiday filled with love.

My friend and her now husband (my brother) have begun something special, perhaps on the surface an unlikely pair, but a pair that works. Ok, I will admit it, the odd couple. For all intents and purposes, she’s a nerd, the bookworm who likes to socialize and have fun, of course. He’s into internet games, tattoos, and piercings. She’s a veterinarian; he’s a blue collar man who’s employed at an automotive manufacturing plant. But a pair that works. When they started dating, my friend would say, “I don’t need an academic or someone in the same profession; I need someone who understands, who loves me, and who can make life a little less serious.” She has that in her partnership.

She’s not alone. In January the Pew Research Center released its findings that more men are marrying women with more education and who earn more income. The New York Times’ Sam Roberts reported that “the analysis examines Americans 30 to 44 years old, the first generation in which more women than men have college degrees. Women’s earnings have been increasing faster than men’s since the 1970s.” According to Professor Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen State College and research director of the Council on Contemporary Families, “we’ve known for some time that men need marriage more than women from the standpoint of physical and mental well-being. Now it is becoming increasingly important to their economic well-being as well.”

Furthermore, the Census Bureau also reported in January “that among married couples with children, only the wife worked in 7 percent of the households last year, compared with 5 percent in 2007. The percentage rose to 12 percent from 9 percent for blacks, among whom the education and income gap by gender has typically been even greater.” Moreover, “college-educated wives are less likely to have a husband who is college-educated and in the highest income bracket than they were in 1970, and married women are less likely to have a husband who works.”

As for my friend, she has found someone who understands her, understands the demands of her profession, and who knows what it takes to bring the best out of her. She knows what it takes to bring the best out of her husband, she understands the demands and pressures society places on “the man, the breadwinner.” What matters is that they understand and love each other, agree on a partnership that works well with them; so happen, it flies in the face of tradition. But for some reason, women like my friend are not traditional anyway.

The Trifecta

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2010 at 1:06 am

The trifecta. As a basketball player I wanted to hear those words; Kesha Perry pulls up for the trifecta–good! Of course, the days of making the trifecta or three pointers are now reserved for recreational purposes, but today’s trifecta is reserved for other arenas: domestic violence, depression, and those upset with President Obama’s nominee Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Domestic Violence
I will be the first to admit that I am a very casual lacrosse fan. Actually, one of my high school friend’s son is engrossed in the sport. Go D! So while flipping the channels, I landed on the NCAA lacrosse games and couldn’t help but think about University of Virginia’s Yeardley Love. A little later in the weekend, I get my Sports Illustrated (SI–May 17, 2010 issue) for the week and there’s an article by Jon Wertheim with special reporting by Joe Lemire and Andy Staples Did Yeardley Love Have to Die? Love was allegedly murdered by a former boyfriend, also a University of Virginia lacrosse player. “Love’s death puts a microscope on the underreported domestic violence among college students.” Essentially, the article highlights the warning signs that often may go ignored in relationships, these warning signs that Amy Barasch, executive director of New York State’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, says “anyone can be a perpetrator, anyone can be a victim. It’s about power, about people who exhibit controlling behavior…” At a candlelight vigil last week to honor Love, UVA President John Casteen III implored “don’t watch abuse. Don’t hear stories of abuse and stay quiet.”

Depression
While reading that same SI issue, the Point After section by Selena Roberts introduced us to one Jordan Burnham, seemingly a kid who has the world at his feet. But what many did not know–Jordan had an internal battle–the pressures to not disappoint those he loves, remain a competitive golfer, and to keep good grades. And to cope with these pressures and depression, he sought refuge in alcohol. Before he jumped 9 stories, he called his girlfriend to say “I’m sorry for letting you down. I have to go.” He survived, and as Roberts surmises, “Jordan now speaks at schools, trying to help people confront depression. To make the hopeless take a breath in a fit of crisis. To give the distraught pause before they take that final step.” To learn more about Jordan, click here to visit the Philadelphia Inquirer’s series on Jordan’s emotional and physical recovery.

President Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee–The Fallout
My mentor and colleague Lydia Quarles sent me several articles discussing how African American women feel snubbed by President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. (By the way, see Lydia’s blog as well.) Dr. Boyce Watkins of AOL Black Voices writes “the second-class citizenship of African American women has been consistently enforced by our nation, going back 221 years to the date that the Supreme Court was founded. This nomination was especially disheartening for those who felt that the year of Dorothy Height’s death would be the perfect time for the nation’s first black President to do what should have been done long ago and nominate a black woman for the highest court in the land.” The late Dorothy Height was the “founding convener” of the Black Women’s Roundtable, who issued a statement supporting the following position: “we believe it is time for African American women to be represented in all sectors of government – including the Supreme Court of the United States, which in its 221 year history has not had a Black woman nominated to serve on our highest court in the land.”

All three–the trifecta–are important to me. All are intimate subject areas to me. Domestic violence and depression hit especially close to home. Support or not support the Black Women’s Roundtable position, what all three have in common is voice. My grandmother always said that the squeaky wheel gets oiled; speak up when injustice occurs; be strengthen in the fight–whether it’s domestic violence, depression, or the belief that injustice continues–silence perpetuates negativity and harm.

Glinda, the Good Witch

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

“Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather…
Since my man and I ain’t together; keeps raining all the time.”

Lyrics from Lena Horne’s Stormy Weather (1943). Today, many of my friends ask if I have seen this movie or that, and I respond, shyly with a NO. Shock and surprise paralyze their faces. Well, I ask them if they’ve seen Carmen Jones, Cabin in the Sky, Imitation of Life, or Stormy Weather–then I smile, because those truly are classics to me. While celebrating Mother’s Day, the news came that Ms. Lena Horne passed away at 92. Representative Charles Rangel said of Horne, “She was classy. A civil rights activist. A stage star. A movie star. You name it, Lena Horne had it all. She will remain a standard of excellence in all of our hearts.”

Whether it was the Wiz, the Muppet Show, or Sesame Street, Lena Horne was a constant in my household. Growing up I did not question why there were “white” movies or “black” movies. Not until I was older and could comprehend racial history, particularly that of the South, Jim Crow reign supreme, even on the screen. Horne voiced her great displeasure with the role racism played in the entertainment industry. She did not leave it strictly to her profession. According to the National Park Service “during the anti-communist hearings in the U.S. Congress in the 1950s, Horne was among hundreds of entertainers blacklisted because of political views and social activism. In the 1960s, she performed in the South at rallies for civil rights, participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and supported the work of the National Council for Negro Women.”

Lena Horne was an entertainer, an activist, an icon; and her passing marks the end of an era. She was a superstar, and we all have benefitted from her work both on the film/stage and her work on the civil rights front.

And there’s Mississippi

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 8:18 am

Last night the Stennis Institute’s State Executive Development Institute (SEDI) concluded with a banquet with State Treasurer Tate Reeves as the keynote speaker. In his speech to the 2010 graduating class, many of whom are either career public servants or elected officials from across Mississippi, Reeves encouraged and thanked the officials for a job well done despite current economic challenges. Also in his speech, Reeves mentioned what makes Mississippi great. Unlike many outsiders, the state’s value is not easily recognized. Reeves mentioned the October comments of Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. When discussing Michigan’s unemployment rate and raising taxes in her state, the Governor was quoted as saying “what we’re fighting for is for Michigan not to be Mississippi. We’re fighting to make sure Michigan has a diverse economy with educated citizens and protecting people along the way.”

Mississippi will perhaps be the step-child and Mississippi’s faults may always be on display. The goal here is not go toe-to-toe and list the benefits of one state over the other. But in a time such as this, pointing fingers doesn’t help. The White House recognized the need to revitalize urban centers–a year ago the White House formed the House Office on Urban Affairs, which over the next three years will target predominantly African American cities and revitalize these once thriving centers. Detroit is among those in desperate need. According to Michael Cottman, the plan “is an ambitious initiative to spend billions of dollars over the next three years to overhaul predominantly black cities in the areas of education, housing, health care, poverty, transportation, infrastructure and safety.”

Whether it’s Mississippi or Michigan, these United States are facing significant challenges in moving forward. But it seems as long as there’s Mississippi, there will always be comparisons…

A New Season

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2010 at 8:03 am

Last week I was very fortunate to attend the Stennis Center’s Southern Women in Public Service Conference. Women from all walks of public life–appointed and elected–shared their experiences; and shared their views on why more women are not running for public office. Many of these leaders identified that in order to have more women, you must actively recruit more women, young women and mentor them once they are ready to run for a position. Likewise for African Americans and the Republican Party. The Republican Party are now identifiying viable candidates and mentoring them; and now some 32 African Americans are running for Congress, the most since Reconstruction.

According to the New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer “now black Republicans are running across the country — from a largely white swath of beach communities in Florida to the suburbs of Phoenix, where an African-American candidate has raised more money than all but two of his nine (white) Republican competitors in the primary.” Oddly enough, many of the candidates were inspired by President Obama’s race to the White House. But for many, the rise of the African American Republican candidiate is temporary. Tavis Smiley has been very vocal in criticizing the Republican Party for not recruiting and mentoring potential African American candidates and voters. “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

Of the new season of candidates, former house Republican speaker Newt Gingrich says “things have evolved. I think partly the level of hostility to Obama, Pelosi and Reid makes a lot of people pragmatically more open to a coalition from the standpoint of being a long-term majority party.”