How to stop the killing of all our children

kendrick 600Early last week I found myself on a flight to Atlanta so that I could stand in solidarity, as a father, with the parents of a murdered son. Like the few hundred others who gathered outside the Georgia state Capitol on a chilly Wednesday morning, I believed that I was seeking justice for the yet-to-be-explained killing of young Kendrick Johnson.

As soon as I arrived at the Capitol grounds, I was told that the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and Michael Eric Dyson would not be in attendance. It may have been the weather and it may have been the memorialization of Nelson Mandela, but whatever the reason, it was better that they were not there.

Before you call me a hater or begin to say that I have some commentary on any one of these men's leadership, let me stop you. I have respect for and have been shown support by each of them. My assertion speaks to how often the personalities of our most committed block out the voices of the people.


President Obama’s shift from compromise to confrontation

prez1 600President Barack Obama's appointees to the influential D.C. Court of Appeals are being confirmed. Mel Watt, the North Carolina congressman who the president had tapped to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, was approved by the Senate this week, despite strong resistance from Republicans. And House Republicans are on the verge of approving a two-year budget deal that actually increases some government funding and averts the potential for another government shutdown until 2015.

The president decided to embrace confrontation in the last months of 2013, and it has worked. His refusal to strip away parts of Obamacare, as Republicans demanded, and instead allow a government shutdown in October was vindicated as a strategy this week. The GOP, aware of how its poll numbers plummeted in the midst of that shutdown, are on the verge of approving a budget with little drama, as Obama has long urged, instead of using funding the government as a tool to force the president to abandon parts of his agenda.

And with the support of the president, Senate Democrats last month changed the rules of the chamber to limit the ability to filibuster nominees, leading to the confirmations of the judges, Watt and other Obama picks for key posts in the federal government.


Here’s Megyn Kelly’s Kwanzaa reading assignment

newssanta 600It's a shame that Fox News' Megyn Kelly wasn't on the air Thursday night to explain why she told her viewers Wednesday night that "Santa just is white," so is Jesus, and "those are just facts."

She left that lump of coal in our stockings, and none of her panelists even bothered to question Kelly's "facts"—or to entertain the possibility that maybe, just maybe, when it comes to which box Santa Claus is checking (and checking it twice) on his census form—he might not check "white."

That's because, among other things, she didn't bother to book Slate's Aisha Harris for the show, even though it was Harris' cheerful essay—about reimagining Santa as a cuddly postracial penguin—that was the inspiration for Kelly's strangely emphatic and un-PC screed about the lineage of Jesus and ethnicity of jolly old St. Nick:


At NBCSL, President-elect Pugh is next up

prez 600Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville wraps up the first year of his two-year term as president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators when the group's national convention ends Saturday in Memphis.

He will pass the gavel at next year's convention to President-Elect Sen. Catherine Pugh of Maryland. Her platform will be focused on "generating real economic equity."

"You know what I tell my counterparts? I tell them that there must be equitable distribution of funds to those who are not among the wealthiest Americans," said Sen. Pugh told The New Tri-State Defender.


7 tips to secure employment in a crowded job market

Lester-Headshot 600Looking for a job? Or a better job? Or a second job? A lot of people are these days. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rose to 13 percent for African Americans in August.

In my professional work as jobs specialist and employer, I've found that some jobseekers have little to no knowledge of how to properly search for and secure employment. We do not possess magic wands that open doors to economic prosperity with no research or work required. The job market is an extremely competitive place. The more you can do to help distinguish yourself from other applicants, the more you increase the likelihood that you may be hired.

Here are some simple, but highly effective things you can do to make yourself stand out in the crowd. Over the next few weeks, we'll discuss them in detail in WORKFORCE READY!


Racism linked to infant mortality and learning disabilities

57568377.jpg.CROP.rtstory-large 600On the long list of health disparities that vex and disproportionately affect the lives of African Americans – diabetes, cancer and obesity among them – one of the earliest and, it turns out, most significant, may be just when a black child is born.

A pair of Emory University studies released this year have connected the large share of African-American children born before term with the biologically detectable effects of stress created in women's bodies after decades of dealing with American racism. As shocking as that itself may sound, the studies' findings don't end there.

Racism, and its ability to increase the odds that a pregnant mother will deliver her child early, can kill. There is also evidence that racism can alter the capacity for a child to learn and distorts lives in ways that can reproduce inequality, poverty and long-term disadvantage, the studies found.


Mandela’s challenge for South Africa’s black intellectuals

11998701 600Some years ago I initiated a research program on African identity at the Human Sciences Research Council, which is the largest government-funded social science research institution in South Africa. The highlight of the program was a series of lectures by author and playwright Wole Soyinka, professor and The Root Editor-in-Chief Henry Louis Gates Jr. and professor Cornel West on "the meaning of Mandela," followed by the publication of a book of the same title.

Inspired by what Gates had done with African-American studies at Harvard, I thought we could build a "dream team" of our own on the southern tip of the African continent.

We did not do badly at all. The initial staff consisted of Mcebisi Ndletyana, who is now the head of political economy at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection; Claude Kabemba, who heads the Open Society's Southern Africa Resource Watch; and Pumla Gqola, who is now a renowned author and professor at Wits University.


Obama praises ‘giant of history’ at Mandela memorial

S029435465 600JOHANNESBURG – Presidents and prime ministers, celebrities and royals joined tens of thousands of South Africans to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, in a memorial service celebrating a man seen as a global symbol of reconciliation.

In what has been billed as one of the largest gatherings of global leaders in recent history, world leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba's Raul Castro gathered alongside street sweepers, actors and religious figures to pay tribute to the revered statesman who died last Thursday, aged 95.

Despite the pouring rain, the atmosphere inside Johannesburg's FNB stadium was celebratory, with people dancing, blowing vuvuzela plastic horns and singing songs from the anti-apartheid struggle.



A promise fulfilled

Janet-Holly Blakemore_600NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Janet Blakemore always wanted to get her college degree. But sometimes life throws you a curve and your personal aspirations are put on hold while you take care of the things that are most important.

Such as family.

Janet was a single mom to daughter Holly, who grew up in a home where education was important, especially since some of her relatives attended Tennessee State University, and she witnessed first hand all that the University had to offer.



All-seeing eye: the throwable camera that could save victims’ lives

S029414954 600On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, the world watched in horror as Haiti was struck by a catastrophic earthquake. At least 100,000 people lost their lives in the devastation. In the aftermath, many people around the world sent financial aid to help support survivors. But one young entrepreneur was so affected by the tragedy that he sat down at his desk to try to lend his professional skills to future relief efforts.

Having watched the disaster unfold on TV, Francisco Aguilar, a graduate from MIT Sloan and the Harvard Kennedy School, began working on a tool that could be used to help in emergency response situations around the world.

"If you remember the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, you saw hundreds of thousands of people buried under the rubble. After an earthquake most people die in the first 48 hours. People who are trapped tend to die in the first 48 hours. And the international rescue teams came with their very sophisticated equipment, and did a fantastic job when they got there, (but) they didn't get there for 48 hours. And their tools, their fiber optic scopes, and all the kinds of equipment that they have, cost $50,000, and are very hard to use. So, despite their very valiant efforts, they pulled out a few hundred people, but most of the damage was already done," Aguilar says.


South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower flag in honor of Nelson Mandela

noflyflagsheriff 600A South Carolina sheriff is refusing to lower the American flag in tribute to Nelson Mandela, saying the honor should be reserved for American citizens.

President Barack Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff for the international icon until sunset Monday.

But Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark says not in his department.



South Africans and African Americans bound by struggle

nm 600We often hear about the "special relationship" between the United States and Great Britain – rooted in history and personified by the close personal friendship between President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair during the 1990s. But there's another "special relationship," one less commented upon but equally noteworthy, between the African-American community and black South Africans.

The death of Nelson Mandela last week at the age of 95 offers the perfect context to look back on the relationship that helped bring greater freedom and democracy to two different nations and continents, and forged bonds between them.

America's civil rights struggles helped to inspire South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, and the Sharpeville Massacre, reverberating around the world in 1960 after South African police killed 69 peaceful demonstrators, became a clarion call for civil rights activists in the U.S.


Black Girls Rock! Founder hits back at insulting #whitegirlsrock

blackgirls 600When I heard about the "#whitegirlsrock" hashtag that trended on Twitter, my immediate reaction was, "Well, duh! Of course white girls rock. Are they unaware?" White women's beauty, talent, diversity and worldly contributions are affirmed everywhere: on billboards, on television, in magazines and in textbooks.

However, the breadth and depth of the beauty, intellect, work and legacy of black women is often marginalized. The cultural, intellectual and social contributions made by women across the African Diaspora are a part of human history and should be valuable to all people. The participants in the #whitegirlsrock hashtag, who heralded accusations of reverse racism, fail to acknowledge the history of racism in media including the perpetual absence of diverse stories and representations of black women. They also fail to recognize that this absence impacts the way women and girls of color, around the world, see and value themselves.

As a humanist, I believe that we all rock. My issue is that the commentary that followed the "#whitegirlsrock" hashtag was not even about affirming dynamic white women. Instead, it was about critiquing or even punishing black women for having the nerve, the audacity and the unmitigated gall to love and affirm ourselves!