Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”

In My Brother's Keeper on March 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I’m back, really, this time, I’m back. After several months of hibernation and let’s hit the ground running with the relaunch. If you want to know me, know these five things: 1) Love family; 2) Love food; 3) Love television; 4) Love sports; and 5) Love politics. And there are times where all five collide and ***BOOM!*** and there are other times where the combination echoes a beautiful and sweet symphony. 

Music to my ears, and many civil rights activists’ ears, was President Obama’s launch of the “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative. Aaron Dorfman, Executive Director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, says of the initiative “Something major just happened in philanthropy. It is certainly the most significant and strategic development so far in 2014, and it just might prove to be the most important thing that happens in our sector all year.” MBK is a public-private venture to confront and tackle the most pressing issues young boys and males of color face. Ten of the nation’s leading, and as Dorfman describes, “courageous” philanthropic organizations have committed approximately $150 million to improving the lives and opportunities for males of color. La June Montgomery-Tabron, President/CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation noted that “for more than 20 years, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has funded initiatives to improve the plight of young men and boys of color. Eight years ago, a group of public officials, scholars and community leaders known as the Dellums Commission identified public policies around the country that curtailed opportunities, and recommended comprehensive remedies.” The Open Society Foundations “welcome and are heartened by the president’s commitment and recognition that a key part of the effort to increase opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race and gender, is to focus explicitly on helping boys and men of color succeed.”

There have been much criticism to the President and these foundations’ commitment; nonetheless, what is obvious here is that of all, Black and Latino males face significant challenges. Race matters and so does gender. As Jonah Goldberg points out, 1 in 15 Black males are in prison, and there’s something systemically and inherently problematic about the dark statistics – inasmuch that it is no longer a Black or Brown issue, but an American concern. And this initiative should speak to many on the right – I Corinthians 12:26 – “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” 

As for President Obama, who has been excoriated for either not doing enough for Blacks and even not being Christian enough has used such an initiative to address some of his biggest and harshest criticisms through MBK. God, in Gensis 4:9 asked of Cain “And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” Through this program, the government and the private sector have come together, to address a pressing and growing concern. This is not a handout, but an extension of the resources and services that generally evade a people – Black and Brown individuals generally face systemic barriers and challenges and being born in and growing up in an inner city or a rural isolated, under-resourced area should not limit people’s ability to acquire life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Lest we forget, America was not born out of individualism…Thus, whether you are Black, White, Brown, Orange, Purple, Blue, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, etc. if you believe in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, for all of us the response to the question of “Am I my brother’s keeper” is a resounding YES! 


Carpe Diem

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2012 at 2:12 am

Timing and opportunity. When they meet, what a show, an event to remember. Timing and opportunity, there’s much to be said about them. Timing and opportunity. Recall President Obama being heckled during an address to Congress? Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina stated that he allowed his emotions to dictate his actions. Rep. Wilson saw an opportunity to express his frustrations with the President’s policies. Whether the timing was right remains up for debate. What about Tim Tebow? Impeccable timing and opportunity. The sports fanatic that I am, I caught a glimpse of the ESPY’s, of which then Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (now of the New York Jets) and his former wide out teammate Demaryius Thomas won an award for Best Moment of the Year. Last season, the duo hooked up for a game winning touchdown in overtime. Talk about seizing the time or the moment and opportunity. Carpe Diem!

My mentor and political analyst Marty Wiseman often says, “Kesha, politics is a blood sport. It is the game within the game, and I don’t like being apart of it. I want to have tickets for a ringside seat though.” He’s right. There is competition, training, gamesmanship, and strategy involved. Seize the day, take hold of the moment, and that’s exactly what Republican candidate for President Mitt Romney did yesterday at the NAACP’s annual convention in Houston. He effectively got the dialogue focused on race, particularly Blacks and President Obama’s responsiveness or lack thereof, according to some analysts, to Blacks. Specifically, the question has shifted to “Are Blacks better off today than they were prior to President Obama taking office?” The Reagan question, but now posed on a much smaller scale and aimed at Blacks because President Obama is himself Black.

The premise is: First Black president = Black improvement. Representative democracy at its core. I think the greater question should be: How has America fared since President Obama’s election? Romney stated that he is the better choice for President, asserting “If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him…You take a look!”

Candidate Romney took the opportunity to continue the momentum from the revelation that he outraised President Obama again. Romney seized an opportunity to turn the tables on the President. President Obama has not attended an NAACP convention since 2009. Candidate Romney questioned the President’s civil rights report card. Citing education as the civil rights issue of today, Candidate Romney is looking to seize the opportunity to recruit Blacks to the Republican Party at a time where unemployment among Blacks is 14.4 percent, compared to the national average of 8.2 percent. In 2005, Black unemployment under President George W. Bush dropped to 9.4%, which was lower than the average of 10% under President Clinton. Black unemployment rates under those presidents doubled that of whites.

Briefly: through relative economic good times, Black unemployment still is roughly doubled that of whites. And during economic bad times: Blacks and other racial minorities unemployment rates are further exacerbated. Thus, as America struggles, we all struggle; when America succeeds, we all, relatively speaking, experience success.

Candidate Romney encountered boos–the timing and opportunity–well, let’s say, if he becomes President-elect, it is just a warm-up act of possible things to come—boos have no race nor party identification, and clearly the precedent has been set. What has been clear since President Obama’s election, political vitriol has increased, from top to bottom (leaders to citizens). Democracy is not meant for the faint of heart (I wish that statement belonged to me, but see Michael Douglas in the American President), but when we battle ourselves, we further divide. Through heckling and booing, the issues remain, can we take this moment in history to Carpe Diem!?!


In Uncategorized on May 21, 2012 at 8:37 am

I distinctly remember the day that my basketball idol, Magic Johnson, announced that he contracted the HIV virus. That was 1991. In my house, and I suspect many other homes, when I got “the talk,” it definitely did not include HIV or AIDS. But as time would illustrate, HIV and AIDS would take center stage as Ryan White put a uniquely different face to the disease–challenging the notion the disease was a gay disease. As unfortunate as Ryan’s circumstance was, I attribute Ryan White’s trials and struggles to opening that dialogue between my mother and me. And as did Ryan, Magic challenged that dialogue, and again changed the face of HIV and AIDS.

I can recall the television specials, Salt N Pepa’s song “Let’s Talk About Sex,” but it was one Hydeia Broadbent who left an indelible mark on me. I remember wanting to hold her to tell her, it will be “ok,” and that “life was not fair,” and then I got angry and cried my eyes out. But while I saw the pain in her face on that Nickelodeon special, Magic comforted her (and I thought she brought him some peace and comfort with his recent diagnosis) and there I saw the possibility of living and educating others.

Since then, the face of HIV is disproportionately Black. According to CDC’s November 2011 news release, “African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States (US). Despite representing only 14% of the US population in 2009, African Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections in that year. Compared with members of other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease—from new infections to deaths.” And while the statistics keep mounting, more generally, the statistics reflect that behavior is not changing. In an opinion piece, Stacey Latimer asks a very simple, yet poignant question: “The question remains, why does HIV/AIDS have such a stronghold in the African-American community?” His response: “The answer is as complex as the forces that fuel its spread. We live in one of the richest, most powerful countries in the free world, yet we have been absolutely powerless in ending poverty, illiteracy, classism, racism, oppression and ignorance…The weight of the evidence, from my perspective, suggests the virus is spreading due to the dehumanizing force of homophobia. I believe that homophobia is perpetuated by fundamentalist religions which refuse to operate in Agape – a divine, unconditional love…”

And so, for Blacks and Black clergy, where to go now? Is teaching abstinence the best way? Most recently, with President Obama’s announcement in support of same-sex marriage, only to be followed by the NAACP announcing same-sex marriage as a civil right, the dialogue became increasingly complex. At its core, fundamental religious views are brought front and center, from discussing homosexuality, premarital sex, children born out of wedlock, HIV and other STIs, the social and religious context converge to perhaps fuel the next great movement in the Black community, in the Black church in general, not too dissimilar from the Civil Rights Movement–instead march for education, empowerment, and embracing. Would Jesus do that?

Fostering Hope

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2011 at 9:58 am

“The kids have to know that you care before they care what you know”
—President Barack Obama quoting Memphis Booker T. Washington’s Principal Alisha Kiner

Booker T. Washington Warriors. A staple in Memphis. Most notably, I know BTW for producing Claudia Barr, Memphis journalist, who happily wears her school pride everywhere she goes. As the winner of the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, BTW’s 2011 graduating class (and Memphis) welcomed President Obama as its commencement speaker. Commercial Appeal’s Wendi C. Thomas noted, “a small school with its struggles — principal Alisha Kiner said alumni outfitted some grads who couldn’t afford presentable attire — wins a national contest and the first black president speaks at the city’s first black high school to an all-black graduating class.”

In the heart of South Memphis, students at BTW are faced with significant societal challenges, and these obstacles are not checked at the doors of the school’s halls. On April 12, Cleaborn Homes were demolished and this was where many of BTW’s students called home. Crime and poverty also are familiar to the area, and it is not hard to see the challenges to learning. It is not about “these people in the neighborhoods don’t want to learn or care about school.” It is not about “leaving these people to fend for themselves.” It is about how do you survive and thrive at the same time. And President Obama’s speech focused on exactly that. The culture of care, as the President called it, in addition to grit and determination, has resulted in BTW’s graduation rate increasing from 55 percent to 82 percent. This culture of care is what has motivated students to look to the halls of BTW for guidance and a future that at one time may not have included college or trade school. This culture of care is what is needed to save a child, and a generation. The students of BTW have inspired me.

And the President was correct in acknowledging that the hard road does not stop here.

These students have succeeded in the classroom and in their lives outside of BTW. It was and will always be a team effort. These students and their families persevered because of cooperative efforts, largely from individuals they know and many they may not. Success is not about the one who was able to get out and do well for him/herself; success is about those who were able to get out, learn and grow, only to return to sow the seeds for the next generations. To the students of BTW and for those who face similar circumstances–challenges vary, obstacles rest along the course, but continue to hold on to faith, belief/confidence in self, and the wherewithal and willingness to ask for help along the way.


In Uncategorized on December 13, 2010 at 11:05 am

Cam Netwon, the son. The controversy continues, especially after, one Mr. Newton took home college football’s top honor, the Heisman Trophy. Cecil Newton, the father–was not in attendance at any of the award ceremonies, but in his acceptance speech for the Heisman, Newton, the son, acknowledged how important his father has been in his life and career. No matter where you sit on this issue, the victory for Newton, the son was bittersweet. I’m not concerned about what may happen later, but for the here and now, Cam Newton is the best college football player for the 2010 season.

What is in the bittersweet victory? A win is a win, right? What detracts from the victory? How can it be sweeter? For the Newtons, Cam got the trophy, the attention, the fame, but at what cost? Not saying that Newton, the son, is guilty, but there’s a cost he’s paid up to this point. And yet his efforts on the field seem effortless through the turmoil, the breakdown, the aftermath of a scandal.

Gary Grant, “I call it the second bittersweet victory.” Was he talking about Cam Newton???–not close. He’s referring to the second settlement African American farmers have received from the federal government. The 1997 Pigford v. Glickman case, where African American farmers sued the USDA for years of discrimination against African American farmers, was settled out of court in 1999. On December 8, President Obama signed legislation authorizing the payments of the original settlement, to the tune of $1.15 billion (the settlement is separate from the $3.4 billion settlement reached for Native Americans).

Founder of the Black Farmers Association, John Boyd says that “It’s vindication and justice for black farmers. This is what I wanted. I wanted a final restitution from the government so the black farmers can move on.”

So, for African American farmers, this has been long coming; and a victory for those farmers who lost farms and who were, according to the lawsuit, routinely denied loans that their white counterparts received. It’s a victory for the Newtons. The question remains, how long will it take for the sweetness of victories overcome the bitter?

…i’m sorry…

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm

This week has been dedicated to reflection on my older blogs–I can’t remember exactly which blog, but I recall posting that one of the hardest things to do is to admit when we are wrong. Saying “I’m sorry”–those small words can have a significant impact on things to come. Now one would have to question the sincerity of the apology, yet, when sincere, “I’m sorry” is a step toward healing.

Shirley Sherrod, former USDA Director of Rural Development in Georgia, is perhaps one of the most “googled” names since being forced to resign her post for alleged racist comments at an NAACP function earlier this year. What seems to have happened is a premature pulling of the proverbial trigger regarding the comments Ms. Sherrod made. Sherrod was telling a story about “the first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm… He had to come to me for help. What he didn’t know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farmland and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land — so I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough.” These comments were apparently a few lines of a larger explanation, a story that Sherrod was sharing with her audience.

However, after recent squabbles between the NAACP and some members of the Tea Party concerning issues of race, this story quickly ignited and took on a new life before anyone fact checked. And now, much like last summer’s Beer Summit, we are again having a summit regarding race in America. There is a fear that, no matter the race, that someone would be subjected to unfair conditions and treatment. And sometimes “I’m sorry” is not what we need, but “let’s discuss” the origins of our beliefs and why we believe certain things (and why are we so quickly to assume the worst–where is there fear?).

And now the larger story has come out–Sherrod has received apologies from President Obama and the Secretary of Agriculture…and I’m sorry doesn’t seem quite enough, but it’s a start to understanding the knee-jerk reactions to an otherwise compelling story.

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.”

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.

The 21st Century Civil Rights Issue

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 10:40 am

“The average African American public school twelfth grader´s performance on academic measures approximates that of the average white eighth grader.” This is a statement from Drs. Rod Paige and Elaine Witty’s book The Black White Achievement Gap: Why Closing It Is One of Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time. According to Tonya Pendleton, the National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that African Americans children fall behind as early as kindergarten and generally do not make up the achievement gap.

Former Secretary of Education Paige says that “The primary cause of the black-white achievement gap is that low-achieving students have been deprived of the educational essentials which support learning to high levels.” President Obama has recently announced changes to No Child Left Behind. According to Sam Dillion of The New York Times the proposed changes include “how schools are judged to be succeeding or failing, as well as for the elimination of the law’s 2014 deadline for bringing every American child to academic proficiency.”

Paige believes “Rather than continue the age-old controversy about the causes of the achievement gap and rather than continue to look outward and blame racism and discrimination, African-American leaders must look inward and move forward. My goal for ‘The Black-White Achievement Gap’ is to compel African-American leaders to work together and with educators to create a high level of school quality across America, and with service-oriented and faith-based organizations, corporations, policy makers and parents to implement [changes].”

Well, Hello 2010!

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2010 at 1:00 pm

2009 ended as it began: with many questions. Particularly at the national level, many wondered whether President Obama and his administration could turn the dire economic conditions around? Would there be a global victory against the war on terror? How can America regain its confidence in the future? What about the pending congressional elections? More questions…

At the state level, the Mississippi legislature convened today: where would these budget cuts come from? How can we make up for such a decline in revenue? What are the fates of the states three HBCUs, the fates of the Mississippi University for Women, and the state’s community college system? Even more questions…

Even in professional sports: would the Colts rest their starters even if they had the possibility of completing the regular season undefeated? What is going to happen to Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton? Do we really think Boise State could go undefeated again? And Tiger???

The start of a new decade and we still have unfinished business from the old one. My college strength training and conditioning coach would always tell me that all shots are not going to go in, but true character is measured with your will and determination to get in position and to get off the floor quicker than your opponent for that rebound. How will America rebound? How will Gilbert rebound? How will Mississippi rebound from its significant challenges?

These challenges are daunting, but with these challenges come opportunities. Sometimes these opportunities are obvious, sometimes not so much. But just as my old coach said, character will be determined in the end.

“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.