Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed in 1986. Check out Marcus Baram's recap of how millions of Americans, led by Stevie Wonder, shamed Congress and President Ronald Reagan into showing Dr. King some love.
While I tend to fall center-right on the political spectrum, I’m sick and tired of all this bull that’s doing down.
The conference featured a who’s who of black radicals, including Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Patrice Armstead, Cornel West, Anthony Monteiro, Angela Davis, Pam Africa and Charlene Carruthers. While they all dropped knowledge, West’s remarks particularly resonated with me. He observed that gospel, blues, jazz and rhythm-and-blues are rooted in our spiritual striving.
West excoriated the black “misleadership class.” He said comparing today's leaders to leaders of the 1960s is akin to comparing Kenny G to John Coltrane.
The misleadership is in stark relief in Philadelphia where we have the spectacle of an elections chief who doesn’t show up for work and doesn’t vote.
Anthony Clark said he exercised his right not to vote. Philly’s black leaders have maintained a deafening silence about this buffoon who dishonors the sacrifices of the civil rights leaders and foot soldiers who fought for the right to vote.
It’s been nearly 15 years since the 2000 Florida presidential election. Under then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s watch, tens of thousands of African Americans were purged from the voter rolls. “Florida” has since become a metaphor for voter disenfranchisement.
I know there are great and lasting things we can achieve together, maybe only together, to keep America faithful to its ideals of equality and justice for all. Your support in that effort is something I will work every day to earn. I welcome your friendship, and I ask for your vote.
He must think African Americans are stupid or have collective amnesia.
Bush certified the contested 2000 election for his brother, George W., who got a measly nine percent of the black vote. As the writer and producer of a documentary about the election debacle, Counting on Democracy, I plan to refresh folks’ memory of how black voters were “Bushwacked” in Florida. There’s also a new generation of voters who have never heard of hanging and dangling chads, or seen a punch card ballot.
By the way, one of the key players in Florida was the legendary dirty trickster, Roger Stone, who I interviewed for the film. Stone is now working for Donald Trump.
Stone must be up to his old tricks. He reportedly was fired by Trump. Stone said he quit.
But I digress.
Counting on Democracy, narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, aired nationwide on PBS in 2002. If you would like to arrange a screening for your school, class, organization or church, email me.
Last week, Congressman Chaka Fattah was charged with racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, bank fraud, money laundering and falsification of records. As I read the 29-count indictment, I thought the ancestors must be rolling over in their graves. The struggle for voting rights was about empowering African Americans to vote for candidates who would represent their interests.
Fifty years after Bloody Sunday, we have an entitled political class that is more interested in advancing their personal interests, and that of their family and friends.
In a Fox29 man-on-the-street interview, a constituent said it best:
He’s [Fattah] supposed to be bringing us up, not taking from us.
And that’s precisely what Fattah allegedly did. Co-conspirator Herbert Vederman allegedly sponsored Fattah’s live-in au pair.
A nonprofit run by a Fattah crony received a $1 million grant from NASA to support a STEM program for members of underrepresented groups. The crony, now co-conspirator, allegedly used some of the funds to repay a political loan.
This scheme should take the steam out of those who are quick to holler that black elected officials are harassed. If your hand is not in the cookie jar, you don’t have to worry about unfair scrutiny.
The allegation that he is the legislative equivalent of a capo didn't seem to impress Fattah, who has been under investigation long enough to repeatedly seek and win reelection regardless. While glibly allowing that the indictment is more significant than "Deflategate" - an airy scandal involving footballs - Fattah answered a disturbingly detailed 29-count indictment by reiterating a general denial and vowing to "try not to have it be a distraction."
In fact, the charges are so serious as to render Fattah's service a distraction. Even if he hasn't serially abused his office, as the charges suggest, he will be a busy defendant. As neither is compatible with his continued service, he should step down.
Such grave allegations, along with the pleas that preceded them, are a blot on what seemed to be a distinguished political career, and the latest in a long line for Philadelphia Democrats. Fattah is entitled to be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. But he is not entitled to his office.
If Fattah doesn’t resign, his trial may a “distraction” for Democrats when they convene in this notoriously “corrupt and content” city for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
I’m a doer. I enjoy spending an afternoon listening to speakers who approach issues on which I focus, including voting rights, civil rights, black culture and community engagement, from the perspective of a scholar. Sometimes scholars drop some unexpected truth.
I can’t count the number of times I have invoked Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech before the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.
There’s just one problem: Sojourner Truth never uttered those words. Nell I. Painter, author of Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, was one of the panelists on “Fashioning the Self: The Image in Black” (Painter is on the far left).
According to Painter, Sojourner Truth never said, “Ain’t I a woman.” She “said things that meant that,” but not those exact words. As for the Southern dialect, more fiction. Sojourner Truth was not a Southerner. She never traveled farther south than Washington, DC.
Sojourner Truth was born and raised in upstate New York. She grew up speaking Dutch as her first language. Truth be told, Sojourner likely spoke with a Dutch accent.
Painter said that Sojourner Truth showed herself as a well-dressed, mannered matron, not as an angry black woman who flashed her breasts at a convention.
The 106th Annual Convention of the NAACP is underway in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
On Friday, South Carolina finally took down the Confederate flag. At the opening press conference, Rosyln M. Brock, chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, said:
What a proud moment it is, not for the state of South Carolina only, but for this republic, the United States of America, when a symbol of hatred and of division and exclusion was brought down. We’re so pleased that the Confederate battle flag has come down from the public spaces and government buildings in the State of South Carolina, but my friends, the issue is much larger than that.
The NAACP was on the forefront of this movement. Some 15 years ago, our South Carolina State Conference instituted an economic boycott of South Carolina. Some followed our lead, many stayed with us, others forgot about us. But the South Carolina State NAACP and the NAACP did not waver. The economic sanctions continue in the state of South Carolina. That sustained energy and momentum, we believe, is what helped, along with the tragic slaying of nine innocent lives to bring down that flag.
But the struggle continues. The Confederate insignia is flying in public spaces and government buildings in Mississippi.
So at the press conference, I asked National Board Vice Chairman Leon W. Russell whether the NAACP will demand that Mississippi redesign its flag. And if it fails to do so, will the NAACP call for a boycott of the Magnolia State? Russell responded:
The Mississippi State Conference will have to call for a boycott of Mississippi. It has already called for a change in the design. We don’t impose on our chapters what they should do in their community. We have a national policy against display of the Confederate flag.
In 1991, the Mississippi NAACP filed a lawsuit to force the state to remove the emblem of hatred. Although the case was dismissed, the chapter has been unwavering in its fight. In the wake of the Charleston church shooting, Conference President Derrick Johnson again called on the state to do the right thing:
We appeal to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to recognize the moral urgency for Mississippi to move without delay towards our next phase of progression. It’s time to write the next chapter of our history. Nothing could ever right the wrongs of yesterday, but we can chart a better course for tomorrow and the next generation of Mississippians as we show the world that we are no longer mired to a tradition of intolerance.
Gov. Bryant said, “Mississippians have already had a discussion about the state flag. It was put to a vote, and an overwhelming majority chose to keep the flag.”
The Knight Foundation issued an open call for ideas on how to get more Americans involved in their communities so that they will have a voice in local, state and national issues. I answered the call and submitted an idea to increase Millennials’ interest in elections, boost voter turnout and jump-start civic participation.
Some background. Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 have the lowest turnout. In Philadelphia, Millennials are not targeted for voter outreach because they are “inactive” (meaning they have not voted in five years or are not registered to vote).
With the cutback in civic education in the schools and no targeted outreach, it’s not surprising that Millennials are not showing up on Election Day. In 2014, turnout for Pennsylvania’s competitive gubernatorial race was 36 percent. That was Philadelphia’s lowest citywide turnout in a midterm election since 1998. By one estimate, youth turnout was 20 percent, the worst turnout in a midterm election since 1940.
The takeaway of the 2008 and 2012 elections is that young people will turn out if they are the target of voter education initiatives. But the dirty little secret about voting is that incumbents have a vested interest in keeping the electorate small. Philly’s political machine spends few, if any, resources encouraging new voters to get involved. The lack of information and the city’s archaic ward system are barriers to participation.
Yo! Philly Votes will bridge the information gap. Our mobile app will provide a calendar of nonpartisan candidate and policy forums, and an Election Day incident reporting tool. The flattening of newsrooms means there are fewer journalists to report on what’s happening at polling places. So we will crowdsource election protection.