Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rebuilding New Jersey is more important than politics


There’s nothing like a storm to bring proper perspective to the meaning of life.  It’s easy to forget there are more important things to deal with than the quest to win an election.
This past weekend brought greater clarity to what makes me tick.  I was reminded of love while performing the wedding ceremony for Drew Hill and Aidil Ortiz Collins.  Saturday was a day filled with thoughts that left me desiring to leap over the broom.  My day is coming soon.  Life is too short to waste.
Then there’s the storm.  It was hard for me to remain focused.  King, my son, was stuck in Washington, DC on his way to New York City.  Sandy was headed his way.  We talked as I unpacked my bags at the hotel in Richmond, VA.  No matter how old they get, you still worry about your babies.
I was stuck between the celebration of love and the fear of destruction.  Thoughts of the storm intensified as I waited for Connie to make her way to Richmond.  She drove alone.  She was set to arrive near midnight.  She drove in the rain.
I stayed at the hotel as the wedding party went salsa dancing.  My attention remained glued to the television to keep track of the storm.  “This is a record breaking storm,” a meteorologist said. “They will be talking about this one for decades.”
King is safe.  Connie made it to Richmond.  The storm has passed.
Then comes the morning.
Viewing the devastation leaves one numb.  You’re thankful it wasn’t you.  You’re sad for the people impacted by the storm. You’re left wondering what can be done to help them pull from under the rubbish.  Yes, it could have been me.  It could have been my son.  It could have been Connie. 
Knowing that isn’t enough to take the ache away.  Storms connect people.  All divides diminish when the wind and the waves come to pull down trees, destroy homes and take lives.  Storms remind us of things money can’t buy.  They don’t discriminate.  They can’t be controlled by the assumptions of power.
You can’t play games when lives have been lost and people are without utilities and homes.  There’s a job that must be done.
New Jersey Chris Christie understands what matters the most.
“The President has been all over this and he deserves great credit,” Christie said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”.  “He told me to call him if I needed anything and he absolutely means it, and it’s been very good working with the President and his administration.”
When asked if Mitt Romney would visit New Jersey, Christie replied, “I have a job to do. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, than you don’t know me.”
The biggest news in the aftermath of Sandy is Christie’s praise of Obama. Articles have been written that accuse Christie of coming close to endorsing Obama.  Republicans want him to stop all the praise.  Questions have been raised about Romney’s opposition to continued funding of FEMA.  Yes, hurricane Sandy exposes the weakness of Romney’s plan to shift disaster relief to the states, but none of that takes precedent over what concerns Christie.
Christie is faced with rebuilding New Jersey.  Politics has to take the back seat.  He needs the support of the President, and he has received that support.  Not because it’s the politically correct thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do.
Storms have a way of reminding us of what matters the most.  Be it love, the fragile nature of life or how quickly things can be taken away, storms teach us an important lesson.
You can’t play politics when people need a helping hand.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Steve Bocckino's unfair assumption about Omar Beasley


Am I the only person fed up with the rhetoric surrounding the 751 South project? Proponents of the controversial project have made it the litmus test in qualifying those willing to serve on the Durham Board of County Commissioners.  The most recent attack proves that they are willing to win by any means necessary.
Who made them Malcolm X?
Steve Bocckino recently questioned the motives of Omar Beasley after the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black people received an $8,000 donation to help the group push their slate of candidates.  The gift came from Neal and Janet Hunter, backers of the 751 South project.  Boockino claims the gift raises a red flag related to Beasley’s position on development.
“I believe Mr. Beasley would like to keep his support of 751 South  – and vice versa – a secret, but no one is buying it,” Bocckino told the Herald-Sun. 
Bocckino’s attack of Beasley is based on the presence of paid poll workers distributing copies of the Durham Committee slate.  In response, Beasley told the Herald-Sun he is using a combination of paid and volunteer poll workers.
The use of paid poll workers is a common practice.  The People Alliance and white candidates have employed black poll workers to distribute literature to give the impression of black support.  It’s common for candidates to pass out literature with an endorsement.  Bocckino’s comments regarding Beasley are speculative. 
It’s the type of low blow political maneuvering that has plagued this election.  Sadly, the war between the local political action committees is a distraction from the most important election – the Presidency.
Bocckino and members of the People’s Alliance are unfair to expect Beasley to respond to a decision he did not make.  He has promised to review what is placed before him, and to respond in a way that is best for the citizens of Durham.  That’s all that can be expected.  No candidate should be forced to have a platform based on a decision they are not forced to make.
What Bocckino fails to respect is the power of the Durham Committee during a presidential election.  Beasley didn’t need the endorsement of the People’s Alliance.  He gains nothing in hiding a pro-growth agenda.  There are enough votes to win without the blessing of the People’s Alliance.
To imply that Hunter’s contribution to the Durham Committee proves the theory that Beasley is in the pocket of developers is unfounded.  It’s unfair, malicious and has no place in this election.  It’s rooted in speculation and is designed to prevent Beasley from taking additional votes away from Fred Foster.
No laws have been broken.  A donation was made to support the slate of the Durham Committee.  Would the conversation be shifted if Foster was on the Durham Committee slate?  A more important question involves the validity of engaging in a deeper discussion about how growth can be done in Durham.
What is the relationship between developers and government?  Do we want to become like Chapel Hill, and reject any movement toward development? Or, do we assume that developers are the anti-Christ and reject any thought of compromise.
If Beasley decides to have that discussion, does that make him wrong?  Or, does that make him open to new possibilities.  Bocckino and his anti-development thugs should back off the negative rhetoric long enough to give the process a chance to play out. 
With that being said, I am opposed to 751 South.  More conversation needs to be had.  I think that will happen, but it can’t when people are holding a pistol at your head while forcing you to state your claim devoid of any conversation.
Go vote.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Antics of the past two weeks have made the election about race


Today, I’m sitting in the basement at the Bean Traders on Ninth Street.  I normally sit upstairs, but today I have too much work to get done.  I need to focus.  After last night’s Presidential debate, I have a lot on my mind.
I spent most of the night reflecting on President Obama’s dismantling of Mitt Romney.  The way Obama took his shoe and shoved it up Romney’s A-hoe is obvious to anyone with the ability to sing their ABC’s.  It was clear.  No contest. Take your behind back home and come back when you’re ready to play with the big folks.  That’s how I felt.
I woke up unnerved by the obsession of pundits to legitimize Romney’s inability to stand up to Obama.  They honored him for taking on the posture of a peacemaker, while condemning Obama for personal attacks.  “That’s not policy,” he had the nerve to say.
These are the same experts who attacked Obama for taking a vacation during the first debate.  Obama embraced a similar strategy, yet is reprimanded for not attacking, while Romney is commended for not attacking.
That’s why I’m angry today.  What’s most perplexing is how people refuse to see what is obvious to me.  This is the type of racism that keeps me mad, confused and ready to lose my mind, up in here.  I’m sick of the disrespect.  I’m past being done with the blindness that leads folks into buying the garbage that Romney is trying to sell America.  Are people that dumb, or is covert racism so deep that they can’t see past how race is fueling this election.
Is America watching? Are they listening? Did anyone notice when an ad was circulated with Obama in a hangman’s noose with the tag underneath “hang in there”?  Did any notice the white man at the Romney rally with the shirt “Put the white back in the White House”? Was anyone taken back by Ann Coutler’s comment “I’m glad Romney was nice to the retard”?
Has anyone noticed how race has been thrown into this campaign, and it’s not coming from black people.  Considerable attention has been given to justify why white people don’t like Obama.  The Daily News October 19 article, “Obama struggles with white voters: Racism has nothing to do with it” was written to debunk the claim that white people don’t like Obama for reasons other than his natural tan.  So, why all the hard work in making the point that it’s not race? Is someone feeling guilty?
It gets worse.  Critics of Obama are playing that old game – I’m not one, you are one.  The day before the first Presidential debate, the Daily Caller posted a video of a 2007 speech of Obama in Hampton, Virginia. During the speech, Obama makes claims regarding the government’s slow response after Hurricane Katrina. Conservatives used the speech to accuse Obama of using racially charged rhetoric. 
"There's no way you can listen to this speech and not hear it as a deliberately divisive speech that pits Americans against each other and does so largely with racial innuendoes that are very, very clear when you hear the speech," former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said on Fox News, which aired segments of the videotaped speech.
Obama said in the speech that the Bush administration did nothing to defuse a "quiet riot" among blacks that threatened to erupt in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Obama, then a Senator representing Illinois, said the Bush administration "was colorblind in its incompetence."
Sean Hannity, from Fox News, said the speech "contains some of the most divisive class warfare and racially charged rhetoric ever used by Barack Obama."
One conservative blog used the headline “ Obama slandered America as racist using dishonest claims about the response to Hurricane Katrina”. Fox News aired the video to prove their theory that Obama is an angry black man who can’ be trusted to run the country. (http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/10/obama-slandered-american-as-racist-using-dishonest-claims-about-the-response-to-hurricane-katrina.php)
“Barack Obama was already a candidate for president when he delivered the Hampton speech, so this isn’t ancient history,” the blog Powerline argues. “Rather, the speech is a sincere (though factually dishonest) statement of how he really sees America and what he believes must be done in response. In essence, America needs to redistribute wealth from whites to blacks in order to offset, as best it can, the nation’s basic racism.”
“As Stanley Kurtz has shown in his book Spreading The Wealth: How Obama is robbing the suburbs to pay for the cities, the redistribution of wealth from middle class suburbs to the inner city constitutes the core of Obama’s domestic agenda for his second term,” the blog continues. “The sincere outrage Obama expressed in Hampton should leave little doubt that Obama will aggressively pursue that agenda through executive orders, regulations, and coercion if America makes the grave mistake of re-electing him.”
The video was released the week prior to the news of the book written by Arkansas Representative Jon Hubbard. Hubbard wrote that slavery may “have been a blessing” in his 2010 book.
American for Prosperity, the advocacy group funded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, distributed mail praising Hubbard.  The mailing also mentioned Loy Mauch, a representative from Bismarck, Arkansas, who has also written in support of slavery.
Mauch authored a series of letters to the editor at the Arkansas Times that expressed pro-slavery views. “President Abraham Lincoln was a neurotic Northern war criminal,” Mauch wrote.  He also compared Lincoln and Civil War generals from the North to Nazis.
The ad sent on behalf of Hubbard and Mauch praise the two for opposing the Affordable Care Act. The ad features pictures of a smiling white family and a black doctor, and thanks them for voting against health care exchanges in Arkansas, saying they will cost states between $10 million and $100 million a year. The mailers also feature pictures of Hubbard or Mauch and ask readers to call them to "thank them for protecting our health care freedom."
It’s quite telling that Americans for Prosperity is supporting Hubbard and Mauch.  Can you see the theme that has permeated this election?  The issue of race has strategically been placed before voters.  It’s done in a way that hides the intent.  This is why opinion polls shifted so quickly in favor or Romney.  It’s not his policies or his ability to appear Presidential.
Stay tuned in for more lunacy.  Donald Trump has a major announcement about Obama slated for tomorrow. Maybe he’s found a birth certificate from mars.  Why not?  Everything else has been used to discredit Obama.
Or, maybe he’ll tell the world he fathered a child with a white woman.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Herald-Sun article sends the wrong message


The headline for a recent Ray Gronberg article should have been “He’s a bold face liar”.  That’s the message Gronberg conveyed in the article “Leaflet implies false tie to Durham Committee”.
Gronberg, as usual, did a masterful job of telling the story regarding the disbursing of a flier that claims judicial candidate Jim Dornfried received the endorsement of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Back People. The flier reads “the Durham Committee for Black People,” a minor change in the name which could confuse voters.  The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People endorsed Orlando Hudson, the incumbent.

“I always presume the best of people until proven otherwise,” Phil Cousin, chairman of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, was quoted in the article written by Gronberg. “What would the political season be without some chicanery? This appears to be an effort to confuse people. The committee clearly endorses Judge Hudson, and we stand by that endorsement.”

Gronberg reports that Butch Williams, a local attorney who supports Hudson, received the tip regarding the flier from Darius Little and Thelma White. Williams says he later received “five of six (copies) from other sources”.  After raising a clear case for the possibility that Dornfried is behind the shady flier, Gronberg attacks the credibility of the two people who exposed the problem.

“White is a neighborhood activist and longtime ally of former County Commissioner Joe Bowser,” Gronberg writes.  “Little is a convicted felon who’s been trying to make his way into local politics. He ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in 2009,”
One has to wonder about the motivation behind the references made.  Did Gronberg use Whites connection to Bowser to discredit her credibility in the minds of those glad the former commissioner got the ax during the primary?  More significant is Gronberg’s comment about Little.  What does his criminal record have to do with this issue?  How does the mention of that past serve readers, other than to diminish Little’s claim based on his past?  More appalling to me is how the Herald-Sun continues to wave Little’s criminal record before readers as a way to negate his right to engage in the work that is so important to him.
Is Gronberg implying Little and White created the fliers themselves?  It’s a suggestion that could easily enter the minds of those familiar with Bowser’s past and Little’s criminal record.  Could this be Gronberg’s way of saying what he couldn’t say?  Is Gronberg suggesting that voters should be suspicious of anything connected to Little and White?  Why not? One followed Bowser and the other is a criminal. 
Yes, Little has a criminal record.  It’s a matter that has received considerable reporting.  No, Little is not a perfect person.  He, like so many in the public arena, has his share of baggage.  He’s made his mistakes.  He’s paid the price for those mistakes. Give him a break.  Look at what he is doing today.
Rather than mention Little’s role as a member of the Durham Committee of Black People, Gronberg mentioned his record.  He doesn’t mention Littles involvement with People’s Alliance. Little is one of the few people involved with both the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and the People’s Alliance.  Gronberg didn’t mention his work with the Durham InterNeighborhood Council.  He was so quick to throw out his criminal past that there was no mention of the work he has done to make a difference. I’m not holding Gronberg accountable for failing to mention all of Little’s achievements.  I do feel it necessary to weigh the significance of his criminal record against his community involvement.
What Gronberg did to Little transcends an attack on his character.  It raises serious questions related to what it takes for people who have criminal records to gain respect after they have paid that debt to society.  What does it take for us to stop reporting on their past?  How much does Little, and people like him, have to do for us to stop slinging his past in his face whenever they find themselves in the middle of an issue?  How does it feel to read the paper with that line next to your name – convicted felon?  How would you feel after working to contribute in making a difference only to read that you still are responsible for that past?
Gronberg’s mention of that past wasn’t essential to this story.  The only bearing it has is to question Little’s credibility. Readers should hold the press accountable whenever we take a walk done that street.
Little deserves better than this.  He’s working hard. We often disagree, but I give him credit for being active and informed.
Leave the brother alone.  He has the right not to have his past beside his name every time he shows up to make a difference.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Durham's People Alliance fails the fact check


View photo.JPG in slide showWe come to expect negative messages during campaign season.  Those who vote can’t assume everything they hear is true.  The truth is twisted in a way that makes it seem plausible.  We’ve come to expect this from candidates, but not from political action committees.
Durham’s People’s Alliance is tragically misinforming local voters on the position of two candidates for the Board of County Commissioners. Their endorsement sheet and website indicates that Michael Page, Brenda Howerton and Omar Beasley can’t be trusted in protecting the rights of gays and lesbians.  The attack against Beasley lacks any clear evidence to support the PA’s view, and their stance on Howerton fails to consider what she has stated.
Beasley was a strong opponent of Amendment One, and supports his sister who is a lesbian involved in a domestic partnership.  “How could I do anything that would go against my own sister,” Beasley says.
Beasley’s sister is Melody Wilkerson. She and her partner Kifu Faruq co-founded Greenspace Initiatives.  Faruq is known around Durham as the owner of Kukia’s Cookies, those wonderful vegan/organic treats, and recently became a columnist for The Durham News.  Wilkerson and Faruq are strong supporters of Beasley and are leading the charge for gay rights awareness in the black community. 
The PA has unfairly lumped Beasley in the same camp as Page and Howerton.  They assume a pro-751 agenda, something that Beasley has not stated, and his being weak in supporting gay rights.  Beasley’s position on 751 is to give him the chance to do what those on the commission were granted, a chance to explore all angles.  Beasley shouldn’t be blamed for a project he didn’t create.  His role, if elected, will be to maneuver around what has been decided.  He shouldn’t be expected to campaign on a record that isn’t his to own; thi]us, the PA is unfair in forcing candidate to take that position.
Taking a position against Beasely based on 751 is one thing, making assumptions on his stance on gay rights is offensive. It’s simply a lie
The same can be said about Howerton.  The truth is Howerton took a strong position against Amendment One.  “It hits too close to home when you start discriminating against any people,” Howerton was quoted in the Herald-Sun.
The PA’s attack against Michael Page may be warranted, but should be understood within the complex context Page brings to the Board of County Commissioners.  As a pastor, Amendment One presented Page a dilemma that is hard for those standing on the outside of the black church to understand. 
Page never supported the amendment to define marriage as a bond between a man and a woman, but he didn’t stand in opposition.  To his credit, Page did bring a symbolic resolution before the board to reflect the group’s opposition.  That resolution was strapped when GOP activist Dick Ford challenged the legality of the resolution.
The antics displayed by the PA have caused significant damage to race relations in Durham, NC.  At the heart of the matter are assumptions made devoid of clear dialogue with those who seek public office.  The recent actions of the PA are insulting to those running for the Board of County Commissioners.  It’s the type of maneuvering one can expect among candidates, but political action committees should avoid comments rooted in assumptions.
Omar Beasley deserves an apology for being labeled one who can’t be trusted for protecting gay rights.  It’s a lie that must be corrected.
If you don’t believe me, ask his sister.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

President Obama and the Million Man March


It’s fitting that I watched the debate after leading a panel discussion on the Million Man March.  Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the march.  We met at the Hayti Heritage Center to discuss the significance of the event.  It helped that we were surrounded by the amazing photo exhibit of Katina Parker, who captured the essence of all the million march movements. Be sure to check it out.
Participating with me on the panel was Mark Anthony Neal, professor of Black Popular Culture at Duke University, Minister Amon Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, Omnisade Burney-Scott, who is an activist and consultant, and Parker. The size of the crowd was impacted by the event of the night.  All of us wanted to rush home to witness the Presidential Debate. 
Members of the Nation of Islam, the organizers of the march, concentrate more on the need for a separate nation for black people than the American political process.  The Million Man March was about atonement and bringing attention to the ways black people can be empowered to change their own condition.  Although we were not in D.C. to impact changes in legislation, the fact that we were in DC was a political statement.
The failure of the march, in the minds of many, was a lack of understanding related to the meaning of our collective statement.  We left empowered for a day, and went home to continue the lives we brought to the capitol lawn.  The radicalism of that day was swallowed up by a series of events that forced us to remember our place.
“The voice of black youth was Tupac,” Mark Anthony Neal stated. “He was killed after the march.”  Neal noted the relationship between Tupac and Mike Tyson and pondered the difference Tupac could have made in the boxers life.  He shared the frustration carried when black men are killed in the middle of making a difference.  It’s what happened to Sam Cooke.  It happened with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.  It happens so often that time isn’t given to grieve before another is taken away.
“You could feel something change after the Million Youth March,” Parker added.  “The marches that followed felt more like a family reunion.”  Had radicalism died?
“You have to consider how much we have endured,” Burney-Scott shared while discussing the pain of black youth.  “We have been through so much over the years.”
We talked about disappointment rather than the victory of having a black President.  Something is dreadfully wrong with failing to celebrate this moment in history.  Why can’t we celebrate?
It came to me at the end of the debate.  Yes, Barack Obama is our President, but something is wrong with the presidency.  It’s deep and painful.  It hurts to witness what most black people recognize whenever it shows up in conversations about Obama. He’s the President of the United States, yet fails to be respected for what that means.  He has won the right to serve our nation; however, he is treated in a way that dishonors his place in leadership.
Black people are suffering because of how that feels whenever we show up with loads of credentials only to leave feeling disrespected.  How many of us have to fight to be heard only to be reminded that our message lacks credibility?  That’s why we marched that day.  We were fed up with being told we’re not good enough.  We were then, and we are today, sick and tired of having to do twice as much to be validated among those screaming to destroy the integrity of our place in the room.
There was sadness in the room last night.  Most of us felt we failed Obama.  We failed him by not protecting him from the attacks that came. We failed to protect him from those consumed with defeating him by any means necessary.  We watched as an angry Congressman called him a liar, and Paul Ryan and his cronies did all they could to defeat every effort Obama proposed.  We watched the hate, and we felt it deep. 
The sadness in the room was due to being tired.  We’re tired and depressed.  It’s why black people fight whenever a person speaks negatively about Obama.  It’s more than politics.  It’s deeper than policy decisions.  This is personal.  This is history, and the way Obama is treated reminds us of how we have been treated.
We can’t blame those who can’t understand.  We can’t blame them for being unable to understand the fear of having things taken away whenever your blackness is too much for others to contend.  They can’t understand how it feels when you have a man representing you with integrity and strength only to be told he doesn’t deserve to stay.  Yes, that hurts! Yes, that’s painful! Why? Because this is our moment in history!
That’s why I marched on October 16, 1995.  I wanted change for me and my son.  I wanted change for other black men who couldn’t be seen due to the color of their skin.  I marched because I was tired of screaming on my own and being accused of carrying a victim’s mentality.  I marched because I was tired of the treatment.
Now, I’m angry.  I’m angry because my dream for better has been swallowed up by all this hate.  I detest the way people talk about Obama.  I’m sick of the way people hide behind policy agenda’s when it’s much deeper than what they can admit.  I respect a person’s right to vote against Obama.  What I loathe is the covert racism that shapes so much of how people feel.
It’s why we marched. It’s been 17 years, and we’re still talking about the need for people to affirm and respect black men.
Go vote.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Preference based on class: it's not about race


Bob Wilson’s recent column in the Durham News (Affirmative Action: a Cure as Bad as the Disease) is laced with the type of rhetoric that has long hid the truth behind the need for Affirmative Action. People like Wilson are convinced the policy amounts to no more than special privilege based on race. There are special privileges in higher education, but the advantages are given to the rich.
Wilson used his column space to disparage Duke University President Dick Brodhead for two incidents he claims prevented Duke from stepping into the “glow of a post-racial society”.  He begins by ranting about how racial preferences are demeaning to blacks and offensive to others.  I’m often intrigued when white men tell others how they should feel.  What qualifies Wilson to tell a black person what is demeaning?
Wilson then uses his two examples to prove Brodhead deserves a serious talk from the board of trustees. His reasoning left me wondering what the one has to do with the other when it comes to the matter of affirmative action.
Wilson implores the example of Crystal Gail Mangum, the notorious exotic dancer who accused members of the lacrosse team of rape, as evidence that Brodhead has a propensity to side with black people who need to be reminded of their proper place.
“Brodhead deserves singular criticism because he was president of Duke in 2006, when the university’s gutless persecution of its men’s lacrosse team and coach occurred. Brodhead did next to nothing to defend the rule of law,” Wilson states. “The particulars are well known, so suffice it to say that Crystal Gail Mangum, who falsely accused three team members of rape, is now facing trial on a charge of killing her boyfriend.”
It’s baffling that Wilson would use this case to engage in a conversation regarding diversity in education. Mangum’s actions have no bearing on the question on academic performance at Duke, and the 88 faculty members who Wilson states “threw the lacrosse players onto the third rail,” should be commended for having the guts to speak up during a time of hostility based on a culture of insensitivity at Duke.  We are quick to forget people were ready to burn the school to the ground.
The gang of 88 stood for the rights of a Mangum due to the assumption she was telling the truth.  Wilson’s criticism of Brodhead and the gang of 88 are grounded in the advantage of hindsight.  How could Brodhead, the gang of 88 or those fighting for justice, know that Mangum’s credibility should be questioned?  Even more perplexing are the implications of assuming she was a liar based on her race, social status and job when compared to the picket fenced lives of the boys she confronted
Wilson continues his unfounded assault of affirmative action by claiming Brodhead sacrificed economic professor Peter Arcidiacono after the release of his controversial unpublished paper on black enrollment at Duke.  Black students were incensed at the suggestion that black students don’t deserve a seat in the classroom.
Arcidiacono’s data asserted that black students at Duke migrated to academic majors less challenging than those they sought to pursue when they enrolled. Wilson assumes this study affirms affirmative action is no more than a system that offers space to those devoid of the credentials needed to succeed at schools like Duke.
Interestingly, Wilson’s examples bring emphasis to another issue rarely placed on the table when people talk about affirmative action.  Those black students who protested Arcidiacono’s research, and those 88 professors who spoke out that day, did so for reasons that go much deeper than discussions about race.  At Duke, and at universities across the nation, the enemy of education is not race, it preference based on class.
Wilson failed to mention that Brodhead remained silent during the release of a study by Nathan D. Martin, a graduate student at Duke, and Kenneth I. Spenner, a professor of sociology at Duke, in 2006. The study uncovered Duke’s legacy students, a group that collectively have lower-than-expected grades during freshman year, lower SAT scores and do not choose to major in the natural sciences or engineering.
Legacy students are granted admission preferences due to being children of alumni. In many cases at Duke, they are students coming from a family able to make a sizable donation. Over the years, special classes were offered legacy students the summer before their freshman year to prepare them for classes their first full semester.
Duke’s policy of offering special treatment to the rich is mentioned in Daniel Golden’s book The Price of Admission: How America’ Rulin Class Buys its Way into Elite Colleges – and Who Gets Left Outside the Gate. The book concludes that legacy admissions act against diversity in favor of wealth. Legacy students are more likely to be white, Protestant, attended private schools and are “considerably more affluent.”  According to the study, being black is associated with an 80 percent decrease in the odds of being a legacy student.
The study notes that the socioeconomic data about legacy students shows how “an admissions preference for legacies clearly ‘advantages the advantaged.”  The book The Price of Admission alleges that Duke encouraged “development admits” – students whose academic credentials wouldn’t get them in but who were attractive due to the donating potential of their family.
Wilson notes the case before the U.S. Supreme Court as an opportunity to undo “reverse discrimination”.  Wilson fails to get it.  Affirmative action was implemented to minimize the advantages offered those who are white and reap benefits due to class.
Given that class privilege is closely tied to white privilege, it’s imperative that systems remain to secure the goal of diversity. If the Supreme Court wants to consider an unfair system, take a serious look at legacy programs and how they impact people like the white female denied admission at the University of Texas.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"One Million Strong" documents the lives of black people marching


“That’s Rosa Parks,” King, my son, uttered when she walked on the stage.  It happened after a series of speeches from the who’s who among black Americans.  Something was different when she spoke.  My son’s voices cracked to reflect the emotions of the moment.  This was history.
I stood beside my son holding back the tears caused by years of fighting for him to escape the burden I had carried.  “She’s the one who made it possible,” he said as she approached the microphone.  He was right.  We were surrounded by a million men who came to atone for their sins, but it was a woman who made it possible for us to believe.
That moment is what first comes to mind when I think of my experience at the Million Man March. Time stood still in a breath. That breath evoked a vibration from a place deeper than I had ever known.  I exhaled the ache of being a black man.  I allowed myself to trust what I loved more than my own life – my son.
That was October 16, 1995.  On that day, I began to see the genius in my son.  So much had been hidden due to my fear.  That day changed my life.  There are countless pictures taken in my mind from that day.  There’s the rising of the sun that met us as we marched on the lawn to take our place.  There’s the memory of the all male choir singing “It’s time to make a change,” to begin the service of atonement.
Pictures - too many to count - all in my mind. There’s the mental picture of the woman standing next to me with her son.  “They told us not to come,” she said.  “I had to come because of my son.  He had no man to bring him.” 
We all understood.  We gathered around him like a village of men empowered to father him through life.  All of us wished we could stand with him after the day ended.  My son stood by his side like a village uncle.
Pictures – too many to count – all in my mind.  In the crowd was a young female student from Wake Forest University.  It was the beginning of a ten year journey of documenting through photography a series of political/cultural gatherings of black people. The Million Man March was followed by the World Day of Atonement in New York City (1996), The Million Woman March in Philadelphia (1997), The Million Youth March in Harlem (1998), The Million Youth Movement in Atlanta (1998), The Million Family March in Washington, DC (2005) and the Million More Movement March in Washington, DC (2005).
Katina Parker was at each of them, taking pictures.  The pictures of these movements are on display at the Hayti Heritage Center. One Million Strong is a traveling photo exhibit that captures the emotions of those who braved the way to march.  There’s a picture of a baby with a tear drop budding from the eye socket.  There are pictures of senior citizens standing in pride.  The past and the future held in a delicate balance exposing the road traveled and the way paved for those too young to understand.
“I was so engrossed in taking pictures that I didn’t realize what was happening around me,” Parker said when asked about the potential violence at the Million Youth March in Harlem. There’s a picture of police snipers positioned on top of a building waiting for orders to open fire.
They say a picture is more than a thousand words.  The walls at the Hayti Heritage Center are screaming to be heard.  Each picture has a different message.  They range from pride to rage.  Millions of people marched to unleash years of hostility.
What have we learned over the years?
On Tuesday, October 16, a panel called Long Live the Spirit: Reflections on the 17-Year Anniversary of the Million Man March s convenes. I will moderate the panel.  Panelist are Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University, Omisade Burney-Scott, Principal and Founder of Ananse Consulting, Amon Muhammad, minister with the Nation of Islam and Katina Parker.
Other events will follow on alternating Tuesdays.  A pre-election town hall meeting takes place on October 30, a post-election strategy session will be held on November 13 and Catch the Fire: A Night of Conscious Words and Music, concludes the series on November 27.
For those who were there, it’s a time to rekindle memories.  For those who watched it on television, it’s a chance to learn more about what happened that day.  For those who missed it, it’s a chance to explore a moment in history. 
Those pictures have so much to say.  Come and listen.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Campaign signs stolen in Durham's race for the Board of County Commissioners


Candidates vying for the five spots on the Durham Board of County Commissioners are faced with tough battles.  Each works tirelessly to convince local political action committees they are the best for the job.  Candidates have to raise money to advertise their bid for office, and they have to stray from all appearance of evil.  In Durham, that means not rubbing elbows with a person with dirty laundry.  The impression of evil is often viewed as proof of guilt.
Durham, like all cities, has its share of mudslinging. Listen close and you will overhear a person talk about your mother.  Things can get rude in local politics. Rumors are spread to destroy credibility.  Look close and you will find people looking under rocks to find secrets to end a person’s bid for office.
Yes, Durham is a tolerant city, but politics is messy in a place known for being bullheaded.  That’s why I’m not shocked at a common campaign strategy in Durham.  It’s illegal.  It’s mean.  It’s disgusting and needs to be stopped. 
Candidates for local office are forced to contend with people stealing their campaign signs.
“There are a few areas in the city where my signs get stolen as soon as I put them out,” Brenda Howerton, incumbent on the commissions says.  “Signs are expenses.  I’ve spent $1,000 on signs alone.”
Howerton is not alone in having to deal with stolen campaign signs.  “It disturbs me when I see my signs taken in an area with other candidates and their signs aren’t taken,” Omar Beasley says.  “It makes you wonder about who is behind it all.” Beasley is making a serious run for the Board of County Commissioners after a successful petition drive to be placed on the ballot.
“My signs are removed all the time,” says Wendy Jacobs, candidate for the Board of County Commissioners. “It is really hard to know if it is people who don’t want me to win, people who are mowing and remove them or people who just don’t like campaign signs blighting the landscape. It is probably a combination of all three.”
So, who are the people behind the sign theft?  Is this a battle over turf? 
Those campaign signs are all over the city.  It’s not unusual to see more than one in the same location as if competing for the attention of those making their way home.  “Hey you, look at me, look at me.  I have pretty colors and check out my unique design,” one can imagine after watching all those signs bunched together like soldiers in an army.
They all look the same until you get accustomed to the small details distinguishing them from the rest.  Some have pictures.  Many of them would be better without pictures.  Most use red, white and blue.  Some take risk with color schemes that leave you wondering why they even bothered.  After a few weeks of viewing them, they take on the personality of the people they represent.
Some have bold personalities and like the way they look.  Others are laid back and are content with simply stating their name.  Many reflect a desire to step outside the box.  How else can you explain a person with a green sign?
I’ve wondered about why they show up at certain locations.  I’m sure it’s because they all want to be found in an area where they can be seen.  The people who select locations seem to be unconcerned about the other signs waving for attention.  These signs don’t lack confidence.  They’re certain they will be noticed more than the half dozen others bunched together on the side of the road.
Or, maybe that's why some get stolen.
It’s political turf war. Can you hear the signs screaming, “Hey dude, this is my corner!”  It would be nice if the signs would say what was felt when someone placed them next to the competition. “I’ve got this corner.  Find your own place.”
Those signs are like the politicians they represent.  Each is fighting to be noticed, and in the world of local politics they fight for attention.  When someone attempts to steal a candidate’s position, you knock them down, get in front of them or find a way to remove them from the competition.
“I can’t even tell you how often and where because it is so frequent,” Jacobs says. “The latest I noticed yesterday is a candidate whose signs have recently been placed directly in front of mine in many places.”
There’s no way of knowing who is stealing the signs.  Maybe it’s part of the game to win public office.  Those signs speak beyond the colors and print promoting the people they represent. They are fighting to determine who owns the block.
Come to think about it, politics has a lot in common with gang warfare.  Just like those Crips and Bloods, each is fighting for a place on the corner.  Gang members kill each other.  Candidates steal signs.
Sometimes I hear the voice of my first grade teacher, “children, children stop fighting, and don’t steal his toys”
What can you say? It’s hard to grow up when you’re fighting to win.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Where was Obama's knock out punch during debate?


Will someone tell me where was Barack Obama on last night?  Was that a stunt double on stage standing in as Obama went on a date to celebrate his wedding anniversary with Michelle?  I have to ask.  He didn’t show up last night.
It could have been fatigue or problems with the formant.  It’s possible that Obama was out of sync due to the flip flopping taking place by Romney.  It’s hard to stay on focus when your adversary changes his mind more than a bachelor in a room of single women.
Obama supporters have to admit that Romney won this one.  Romney came out aggressive, something Obama should have expected, and made a number of comments that set him up for a few uppercuts to the chin.  Obama could have knocked him out easily, but refused to counterpunch when Romney left himself wide open.
“Knock him out Prez,” I wanted to shout after Romney made a comment about tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas.  “You got him now.  Take him down!”
“You said you get a deduction for getting a plant overseas. Look, I’ve been in business for twenty-five years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant,” That was an open shot.  It was a chance for Obama to shift the conversation to Romney’s role as head of Bain Capital.
“So, what were the advantages of your shipping jobs overseas?  How did that benefit middle class Americans?”  That’s what I wanted to hear.
Romney left himself wide open when he started talking about cutting funding for PBS. With all the negative programming on the airwaves, Obama could have talked about the generations of youth who have benefited from Sesame Street.  The nerve of Romney to use axing Big Bird as an example of how he plans to trim trillions from the federal budget while PBS support represents 0.012 percent of the federal budget.  Is that the best you have Mitt.  Come on man!
Obama rope-a-doped Romney the entire debate – vintage Ali versus Foreman style.  He stayed on the ropes blocking the jabs thrown at the integrity of his Presidency.  “Get off the ropes,” I kept yelling.  “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!”
I wanted Obama to talk about the forty-seven percent of Americans that Romney labeled moocher of the system. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” That’s what Romney said in that video that exposed the way he thinks about folks on Social Security and Medicare.  When Lehrer asked the question about the role of government, Obama should have pushed Romney with government not being limited to the fifty-three percent Romney represents.
“Punch him for thinking we’re stupid,” I wanted to scream.  “Come on man, hit his ass!”
“So if you’re sixty or around sixty or older, you don’t need to listen any further,” Romney said, after claiming that those people wouldn’t see their benefits change. So, let me get this straight, the rest of us can take a break.  No biggie, right!  I’m there for the people who are set to receive it, but the rest of you may need to get vouchers.  That’s supposed to make us feel better.  Once again, come on man!
Hit him with comments he’s made. How does a young person borrow from their parents to go to college when their parents have no money?  What did you mean when you told people to take the sick to the emergency room?  How will your changes impact women? Stick and roll Obama! Stick and roll!
There were numerous opportunities to stuff Romney’s mouth with a fist large enough to stop the flip in the middle of the flop.  It felt like Obama was biting his tongue.  It felt like he was taking the high road by saving the whip ass for another day.  Why?  What is it all about?  Is Obama too weak to punch, or was it all a rope-a-dope strategy to set Romney up for another round?
Maybe Obama would rather tell his story while Romney rants about the failures of the President.  In other words, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…,” you know the rest.  Maybe Obama is more intent on telling his truth, and less interested in exposing the flip flopper on the other side of the ring.  As much as we want to see a knock out, it could be that Obama is more concerned with simply telling his story.
It takes a bigger man not to fight back.  It’s hard to turn the other cheek.  As for me, I’ll turn the cheek long enough to sucker you in for a punch.
Then I’m putting you on the canvas.  Knock out after a few rounds. 
Knock him out Prez!  Get off those ropes and swing!
Show him how the forty-seven percent fights back.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Durham Committee on Affairs of Black People endorse Omar Beasley instead of Fred Foster


In a move that shifts conversations related to the upcoming election for Durham’s Board of County Commission, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People has endorsed Omar Beasley over Fred Foster.  Beasley enters the election with endorsements from the DCABP and the Friends of Durham, while Foster is left depending on the strength of the People’s Alliance to win a seat on the board.
The DCABP also endorsed incumbents Michael Page and Brenda Howerton, but failed to give a nod to two candidates to fill the five seats on the commission.  There was speculation that the DCABP would endorse Wendy Jacobs as a compromise for the endorsement of one of the black candidates they supported.  That became complicated once leaders within the DCABP moved to support Beasley over Foster.
The People’s Alliance also endorsed only three candidates for the Board of County Commissioners – Foster, Wendy Jacobs and Ellen Reckhow.  The People’s Alliance website clearly states the agenda of the PAC. 
“In the Durham County Commissioner race, the threat to progressive values is not from Republicans, but from candidates who are beholden to shadowy developer super-pac money and who are not reliable on equal rights for gay and lesbian people,” the website states. “PA-PAC encourages you to override your straight democratic vote in this race by voting specifically for Foster, Jacobs, and Reckhow only. This will not affect your straight ticket vote in other races. You will still need to FLIP YOUR BALLOT and vote for progressive Judges. This is the best way to secure a progressive Durham, a progressive North Carolina, and a progressive United States.”
Those comments have further alienated Durham’s black leadership, and have seriously impacted the possibility of future collaboration between the two PAC’s.  In assuming ownership of Durham’s only authentic progressive voice, the PA has entered a war zone that may shape politics in Durham for years to come.
The loser in the war is Foster, who lost his endorsement with the DCABP due to his allegiance with PA. It was logical to assume the DCABP would endorse the four black candidates, with the assurance that Foster would win due to the endorsement from both the PA and the DCABP.  The PA rolled the dice on posting comments that labeled the DCABP in a way that negates the history and mission of the group.  Put another way, those were fighting words.
Given the lack of support from the DCABP, Foster will be hard pressed to win in a Presidential election.  The DCABP will not struggle with getting blacks out to vote, and many will lean heavily on the endorsements of the DCABP in selecting members of the commission.  In addition to the support of the DCABP, Beasley benefits from the endorsement of the Friends of Durham.
By making this election a one issue race, the PA has dug a ditch that may be hard to climb out from under over the next few years.  They have developed an adversarial relationship with the DCABP.  They have claimed ownership related to what defines a progressive political agenda.  They have spread rumors of commissioners getting paid by developers, making decisions to support the 751 project about personal gain versus how candidates feel about the project.
They have attacked the character of candidates and the credibility of an organization that has served Durham as the voice of black people.  They have bullied the process by refusing to compromise, and have used Foster as an example of legitimate black leadership.  They assumed he would be endorsed by the DCABP, and that he would serve in promoting their agenda.
The DCABP people took that away by endorsing Beasley over Foster. Now it’s strength versus strength.  It all comes down to who can get out the most votes now – power versus power.  Maybe the PA likes their odds, but something tells me they barked up the wrong tree.
Compromise could have saved the day, but folks on the PA closed the door by defining what progressive looks like in Durham.
Who wins in this type of battle?