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'Team Obama' Must Desegregate

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By A. Bruce Crawley, Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

If you’re Black and you’ve been feeling marginalized, disrespected and overlooked by all that’s been going on in the Republican primary campaign, trust me, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Wait until you see what the 2012 Obama campaign has in store for Black folks.

Here’s a helpful tip: Be sure to carry a mirror around with you between now and November, and glance into it from time to time to remind yourself that you actually still do exist as a Black voter.

As you do that, also try to periodically remind yourself that you and 15.9 million other Black voters in the 2008 election, which Obama won by 6 percentage points, accounted for 13 percent of every vote cast, and that you gave the “first Black president” 96 percent of your vote to sweep him into office.

But hey, this is 2012, and none of that, it seems, has been factored into the “first Black president’s” 2012 re-election strategy. In a recent Newsweek article, “Yes We Can (Can’t We?),” a reporter named Andrew Romano promised to give the inside scoop on “Team Obama” and the “Juggernaut Reelection Machine” it’s building in Chicago.

Get your hands on a copy. My guess is that you’ll feel highly informed, deeply disappointed, a little bit frightened and finally, outraged by the story.

Highly informed? That’ll be the part where Romano points out that “With ten months to go before Election Day, the president’s job-approval rating is loitering around 46 percent, which is a problem, because the incumbent party has lost the last five times its president started Election Year below 49 percent. Likewise, no president since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 has been reelected when the unemployment rate is as high, or higher, than it is now (8.6 percent).”

Despite a lackluster Republican primary field and deep campaign pockets, 2012 is not shaping up as a slam-dunk for the basketball-loving Democratic president.

Did I say “deep pockets?” Take this from the Newsweek feature: “Obama raised $15.6 million from financial-sector workers through September, more than the entire Republican field.” Add to that the campaign’s expectation that it will raise $1 billion by November, a new record for a presidential election.

A “little bit frightened?” According to Newsweek, Team Obama is currently “tinkering away” on a “micro-listening computer model” that will track every conversation that every single Obama volunteer has, every door they knock on, every action they take.” They’ll use it “to collect online and off-line behavior patterns on individual voters.” I don’t know about you, but this all seems a whole lot more “up close and personal” than I was looking for from a presidential election campaign.

Did I also mention “disappointed?” Go on YouTube and check out “Jim Messina: Paths to 270 Electoral Votes – Obama for America.” As Messina explains it, the “Five Paths” include the West, Florida, the South, the Midwest and the “Expansion.” Sounds reasonable, analytical and geographic on YouTube. Then you read the Newsweek article closely and you see where Messina explains that several of the paths “hinge on the president increasing his margins among Latinos, the fastest growing subset of the electorate.” In fact, Messina went on to say specifically, “The Latino vote will be absolutely crucial in this election.”

Huh?

Break out that mirror, Black folks. If the Hispanic community that sent 9.7 million people to the polls in 2008, and gave Obama 66 percent of that vote, is “crucial,” shouldn’t Black people, who represented 15.9 million voters, in November 2008, and who gave Obama 96 percent of that total, also be “crucial enough” to mention in Newsweek?

All of this leads to why I also said that I was “outraged” by how Team Obama presented itself in the Newsweek story. On page 43 of the magazine was a full-page “Team Obama” organization chart. There was “the first Black president” himself, positioned at the very top, as he should have been, I imagine. But then there were nine other people — six men and three women. Included were, of course, Messina, and the all-powerful David Axelrod, who’s described as “Obama’s long-time message guru.”

Despite the country being comprised about 33 percent by Blacks, Hispanics and Asians, and despite Black voters having consistently been the single most loyal portion of the president’s base, there wasn’t a single Black or African-American face anywhere on the entire page.

Make no mistake, our national elections have evolved to become nothing more than massive brand marketing campaigns. Obama’s the brand; you’re the consumer. Get over it! In that regard, however, would McDonald’s, General Motors or Nike be so naïve as to sit back and assume that Black consumers would continue to buy their products without satisfactory results, and without the input of senior-level, African-American marketing strategists? The answer to that is “No!”

Or is it that Axelrod and his decidedly non-diverse minions simply believe that they “understand Black voters” sufficiently that they don’t even need senior-level Black input to develop their outreach strategies?

Having worked with David Axelrod fairly closely during both of John Street ‘s mayoral campaigns in Philadelphia in 1999 and 2003, I absolutely believe the Obama campaign now feels, as Axelrod believed then, that there is absolutely no reason to spend reasonably significant amounts of time or money reaching out to Black voters. His assumption then, as it probably is now, was that the African-American electorate in the 2012 election simply has nowhere else to go.

In Philadelphia during both elections, Axelrod spent virtually every one of his very-well-compensated “campaign hours” focused on attracting the “white swing voter.” Today, very similarly, he’s focused on the so-called “Independents.” In the Street campaign, he left the cultivation of, and outreach to, the Black vote, to African-American campaign consultants — including D.C.-based pollster Ron Lester, campaign manager Lana Felton Ghee and me, on the advertising and public relations side. Despite attracting less than 20 percent of the overall white vote in both elections — well below the percentage of the city’s white registered voters — Street won in ’99 and ’03 because Black turnout broke records across the city, and because he successfully attracted 96 percent and 98 percent, respectively, of that vote. In fact, if Street’s outcomes had been solely dependent on the Axelrod strategy of attracting “white swing voters,” he would have lost badly both times.

For example, in three predominantly white wards in South Philadelphia, the 1st, 26th and 39th, Street averaged 20.7 percent of the vote in 1999 and 28.2 percent, in 2003. In four predominantly white “Far Northeast” wards, Street averaged 11.7 percent of the vote in 1999, and 15.1 percent in 2003. By comparison, in 1999, Street won 91.3 percent of the vote in eight predominantly Black West Philadelphia wards and, in 2003, he won 96.5 percent of the vote in 10 predominantly Black wards in North Philadelphia. It was just like that all over the city. Do the math.

In 2008, encouraged by Obama’s surprisingly strong showing in the caucuses in overwhelmingly white Iowa, Black voters launched their own grassroots efforts to elect the “first Black president,” Obama won, despite receiving just 43 percent of white voter support nationwide.

The problem in 2012 is that Axelrod and “Team Obama” seem intent on delivering the same basic approach they used in 2008, wrapped in high-tech gadgetry and bolstered by more money than has ever been spent in a presidential campaign.

At its core, however, the outreach strategy, is flawed, and unless the campaign takes steps very soon to ensure African-American senior-level strategic input, and an effort that reflects a healthy respect for Black voters, the “First Black president” will only get to serve one term in office. Maybe it’s time to desegregate “Team Obama.”

A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.

Dr. King's Voting Rights Legacy Under Attack

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No nation can long continue to flourish or to find its way to a better society while it allows any one of its citizens to be denied the right to participate in the most fundamental of all privileges of democracy -- the right to vote. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(NNPA) On Monday, January 16th, America celebrated what would have been the 83rd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The day is marked from coast-to-coast with parades, speeches, and pilgrimages to the new King Memorial on the National Mall. But in the midst of this outpouring of praise, there is a sinister movement afoot to undo one of Dr. King’s hardest fought victories – the removal of discriminatory barriers to voting and the passage of the Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.

In Dr. King’s day, billy clubs, cattle prods and guns kept African Americans away from the polls. Today, new voter restriction laws on the books or in the works in at least 34 states could deny the right to vote to more than 5 million Americans this year. These laws include new photo ID requirements, elimination of early voting, bans on voting by out-of-state college students, and rollbacks of voting rights for ex-felons who have paid their debts to society. Florida has even eliminated voting on the Sunday before Election Day which has traditionally been a day when African American churches organized “souls to the polls” drives for their congregations.

The mostly conservative proponents of these new laws claim they are meant to prevent widespread fraud – the casting of ballots by people who are not legally eligible to vote. But both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments have looked and not found significant voter fraud in American elections. So let’s be clear – the real reason behind this spate of new laws is to suppress the votes of people likely to support progressive candidates and issues – African Americans, Latinos, young people, the elderly and people with disabilities. This is unconscionable. It is un-American. And it dishonors the sacrifices of generations of Americans who have fought and died to extend the right to vote to every citizen.

Fortunately, a growing number of Americans are fighting back. On December 10th, the National Urban League joined the NAACP and a coalition of civil rights groups at a “Stand for Freedom” march and rally at the United Nations to protest this blatant attack on voting rights. Attorney General Eric Holder has also expressed concern about the legality of some of these new laws. Recently, the Justice Department struck down a voter ID law in South Carolina and Holder promises to continue to monitor these attempts and stop them when they violate the law. But beating back these efforts will require citizen vigilance and action.

In a recent speech at the LBJ Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, Holder urged Americans to “Speak out. Raise awareness about what’s at stake. Call on our political parties to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success and… urge policymakers at every level to reevaluate our election systems – and to reform them in ways that encourage, not limit, participation.”

We agree. We must not let the hard-won voting rights secured by Dr. King, John Lewis, LBJ and so many others slip away.

Marc H. Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.

One Hundred Years Later and it Still Doesn’t Work

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(NNPA) There has been such an enormous amount of attention given to the production of Bio-Diesel, Ethanol and other forms of alternative energy. You can drive out in the Midwest or Texas and see windmills twirling all over the scenery. How much of a difference has this made to our carbon “foot print”? The answer is disappointing. There hasn’t been much of a dent made. In fact, there may have been more harm than good.

Windmills are not rocket science. People have been using windmills for water power since the 16th century. Energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens invested many millions of dollars and reached a firm conclusion: It is not the answer. He has decided not to build another single windmill. Besides that, virtually all of the parts that go into a windmill are made in China. There is no significant impact on American jobs or energy output.

The most interesting alternative is Ethanol or bio fuel. This too is an old technology. The history of it goes back to George Washington Carver, the great scientist of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Dr. Carver did an overwhelming amount of development with peanuts. Much of this was due to a contractual arrangement he had with automobile magnate Henry Ford. The auto industry was booming and the demand for oil was growing at an exponential rate. Ford wanted Dr. Carver to come up with a bio fuel to replace the need for oil. The Rockefeller Family and others had the lock on oil and he didn’t want to become overly dependent on them. After years of experimentation on the Tuskegee campus, Dr. Carver and Henry Ford came to this conclusion: It is not feasible to develop bio fuel.

That was over one hundred years ago. The fact still applies yet, environmentalists and politicians have pushed hard to further the development of bio-fuel. It works but not on an economical basis. The less bio fuel you have the more gasoline you will need. However, there is plenty of oil in the world and we just have to develop a cleaner way of using it. That is the better alternative. Food should be eaten as hunger still prevails in many parts of the world.

The rapid expansion of the bio fuel industry has put a big strain on the supply of food crops such as corn, sugar, palm oil and wheat. Not only are these crops directly consumed by humans they are also key ingredients in feed for livestock such as cattle, sheep, chickens, turkeys, etc. In addition to livestock, nearly thirty percent of edible items found in a supermarket have such ingredients in them. Thus, the increased demand for bio fuels has significantly increased the price of groceries which has a terrible affect on the consumer price index and inflation. We all feel this every time we buy food.

Lobbyists and fiscally liberal politicians have been pushing for subsidies as incentives to those manufacturing these bio fuels. Fortunately, the annual subsidies that were given to producers of the bio fuels have ended. This thirty year ridiculous program has now ended and hopefully our grocery prices will start to decrease. Supplies of bio fuel start to decrease. The largest foreign producer of it, Brazil, has started cutting back on its sugar cane to ethanol program as the margins in the production do not justify much of a future. Another, ethanol giant, China, has also started to decrease its activity for the same reason. Gasoline prices alone should drop about 95 cents per gallon as a result of this stupid program’s demise.

Actually, the future of energy stewardship will rely on the great engineering capacity found in energy giants such as Chevron, Shell, Exxon and others. They have the engineers and have invested many millions of dollars in finding ways to produce energy in a cleaner, safer and more economical fashion. It won’t be environmental groups, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Sierra Club, Greenpeace or any other entity that will provide breakthroughs in the economic efficiency and cleanliness in the energy industry. It will be our corporate giants who will lead the way.

This experiment with ethanol has been nothing but a “flash from the past”. It can work in a limited way to replace oil but it comes at a very expensive price. It is imprudent to go down the same road that Dr. George Washington Carver and Henry Ford journeyed more than a hundred years ago. They showed us that it doesn’t work and nothing has changed. Energy efficiency will come as experimentation and research continues. There is no need to fake it as such folly can bring economic harm to all of us.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc(r). Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

My Problem Watching Mainstream News

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(NNPA) I grew up listening to the news on radio, watching it on TV, and reading it in the paper (and in magazines). I have found myself increasingly weary of mainstream news, however. It is an odd feeling. My political beliefs have always led me to question the mainstream news sources but I would still make a point of watching network news programs. Over time something happened.

With the exception of Aljazeera, which offers the most interesting in what can be called mainstream news, we are treated to endless stories about what now seems to be endless electoral/political campaigns. We are treated to stories about the economy that tell us so little about the roots of the current economic crisis. We are then treated to inane stories about this or that celebrity (and who they might be involved with) or stories about some horror, such as a mass murder or environmental disaster.

Think about it: how often do you get a sense as to why anything is actually happening? Instead we are exposed to what feels like a ticker tape of disasters, which has the net effect of making you want to run away and hide. When there are so-called experts speaking, they are more than likely white men, as if there is no one else on planet Earth capable of interpreting reality. But added to that, the spectrum of opinions is so terribly narrow so as to make distinctions difficult to ascertain.

The reality of the bias and intellectual desert that is mainstream news is why it is so critical that two things happen. One, legislative action will need to be taken to break up the oligopoly that has emerged in mainstream news. We need more news channels and we need a variety of opinions. Two, we need to support good alternative media, including but not limited to African American media. With regard to alternative media, as greater attention turns to the Web, we, the consumers of information must realize that we will need to provide support. Good news necessitates more than just opinion but the hiring of capable journalists who have the courage and expertise to investigate and write about the global developments that should be brought to our attention.

I feel embarrassed ignoring the mainstream media, even though I am often relieved that I do not need to hear the nonsense. But I cannot hide; nor can you. My experience is that when you actually speak with regular people about WHY things are happening, or when you hear news programs that treat the viewer/reader as if they are intelligent rather than a moron, the lights go on…and someone is, in fact, home.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of “Solidarity Divided.” He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Century of Struggle: ANC and NAACP

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(NNPA) During the past 100 years, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the African National Congress (ANC) have directly shared in contributing to the attainment of some of the most important milestones in the history of African people, as well as making indelible contributions to the progressive uplift and transformation of all humanity throughout the world. In other words, just to be clear, whenever Black people in Africa or in America, or anywhere in world, have stood up and have fought for freedom, justice and equality, it has inured irrepressible benefits to all people who have also cried out and struggle for freedom and equal justice.

This year marks the 100 anniversary of the African National Congress. We celebrate and take due notice of the historic accomplishments of the ANC in overcoming the racist apartheid regime in South Africa and for leading the way to the continued transformation of South African society into a non racial democracy and economy. We salute the ANC for outstanding achievements in the long struggle of humanity to overcome and overthrow the painful brutality and miseries of slavery, oppression and economic imperialism.

Similarly three years ago in 2009, we observed and celebrated the 100 anniversary of the NAACP. It is so important that we remind ourselves, and in particular our youth, that freedom and equality has required great sacrifice and struggle for decades and centuries. The NAACP is the world’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. We should never take for granted the progress that has been secured as a result of the work, struggle, sacrifice and leadership of the NAACP and the ANC.

We still have much work to do in 2012 and into the future both in America and in South Africa, and throughout the world where Black people and others are still valiantly yearning for freedom and standing up against the so-called post-modern institutionalized systems of racial and socioeconomic oppression and exploitation. This is no time to engage in any historical myths about a “post-civil rights” or a “post-freedom-fighting” era of life. I believe we have not only today a “right” to struggle, but also a “responsibility” to struggle and continue to fight for equality and empowerment.

Today across the United States, various states are attempting to undermine the Voting Rights Act, in particular in those states where Blacks and Latinos have a large percent of the potential statewide vote. 2012 is one of most important election years in our lifetime. Yet it is most unfortunate that some of us have forgotten about the sacrifice of NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers and many others in the NAACP that gave their lives so that we can have the fundamental right to vote. For Black Americans and others the right to vote is blood-soaked with a moral and historical responsibility that should never be taken for granted.

Millions of South Africans and millions of others throughout the world celebrated the first century of the ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation movement and the current ruling party in South Africa. The ANC is the party of John Dube, Oliver R. Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Albert John Lutuli, Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and President Jacob Zuma and millions of freedom fighters who were victorious against apartheid in South Africa. We salute the ANC for all that it has done and continues to do to cause and sustain the liberation and development of Africa. President Zuma stated, “”Our freedom was definitely not free. It was achieved through the blood, sweat and tears of many selfless leaders and cadres of the movement……… As we mark the ANC centenary, this is the right moment to pause and ponder the future of South Africa and of the ANC over the next 100 years.”

ANC spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu, affirmed, ““We have been able to reach 100 years because of the leadership quality that we have had in the ANC………..Members of the ANC, despite the serious onslaught against them and their families — being in prison, in exile, maimed and killed — remained loyal to this organization after over years of struggle.” The future of South African has many promising opportunities under the continued leadership of the ANC.

During the tenure of WEB Dubois and James Weldon Johnson at the NAACP, there was an ongoing mutual and supportive dialogue that transpired between the ANC and the NAACP. We need that same type of dialogue and joint planning today for the future mission for the continued advancement, progress and liberation of African people all over the world. We are all beneficiaries of the successful struggles of the past. The question now before us is how can we build a stronger alliance with our sisters and brothers of the ANC? The struggle for freedom, justice and equality is a global struggle and thus our civil rights organizations need to expand and to build on an international plane in order to meet the global challenges. Long live the spirit of the ANC and the NAACP!

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is the National Director of Occupy the Dream and President of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

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