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Power of Black Consciousness in 2011

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(NNPA) Whatever is on your mind or in your spirit and soul, it is an expression of your consciousness. Your state of mind should be governed about how you feel about yourself, family, community, race, tradition, history, humanity, values and principles, and the overall quality of your life in the context of your quantitative ability and capacity to provide for yourself and love ones. Fifty years ago, back in the 1960's, in particular for Black Americans, there was an emerging, self-determined Black consciousness movement that first affirmed the humanity of Black people in America, Africa, the Caribbean and throughout the Pan African world. It is timely, I believe, to ask the question today: "What is the state of Black consciousness of African Americans in 2011?"

Another fundamental purpose of the evolution of the Black consciousness movement was to expose the falsehood, myth and destructive stereotypes of white supremacy, both in its historical and contemporary institutionalized forms. Of course, the Black consciousness movement in the 1960's also had its antecedents in the Pan African movements for Black solidarity, liberation, self-determination, freedom, justice, and equality during the previous 500 years of the systematic slavery, colonization and oppression of African people throughout the world. Any study of the history of Black literature, our writings and spoken words over the last six centuries shows the central theme of the love and passion of Black people for liberation, freedom and justice universally not only for all people of African descent, but also for all people in the diversity of God's creation.

The purpose and focus of this column is simple: Black Americans cannot afford to be idle spectators while others in America have a clear agenda for power, money, prosperity and empowerment, both politically and economically. In other words, we need to be re-awaken to the importance of having a Black consciousness and perspective about all that we do and desire. The truth is we should not be upset with other ethnic and racial groups when they express and organize around their own self interests. The problem is when we as a people appear to be hesitant or reluctant to state clearly and strategically an agenda for the empowerment of the Black community. Each generation of Black people in America and throughout the world must rise to the occasion unapologetically to state our priorities, issues and interests.

The first place to reject the persistent poverty that continues to engulf millions of African Americans is in our own consciousness. Yes, that's right, we have to reject and combat the poverty mentality that exists is too many of our own minds. The fact that poverty persists in the African American community even amidst the current economic recovery across the nation is problematic. But we should not be narrowly convinced by the forces of our oppression that our situation is hopeless and beyond redemption. Our situation can and will change for the better, but it will require much more to raise the consciousness of African Americans with a stronger spiritual fortitude together with an irrepressible sense of self-determination and Black consciousness.

I remember well, and we should never forget Steve Biko and the BCM (Black Consciousness Movement) in South Africa. The youth of South Africa, first through the ranks of the young activists of the ANC (African National Congress), and secondly the youth who joined Biko and the BCM all worked together to raise the level of consciousness among the masses of Black people in South Africa to the point that the weakness of the apartheid was exposed and dismantled. These young people and others had made up their minds that they were not going to tolerate that brutal form of racism any longer. Nothing is more powerful than a mind that is made up. That's the power potential of Black consciousness. Before Steve Biko was beaten to death by officials of the apartheid regime, he wrote a truth that warrants repeating now: "The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Today the Tea Party and other right wing elements are determined to confuse and to destabilize the mind set of Black people. Currently in many states there are acts of voter suppression in an attempt to prevent a large African American voter turnout in the 2012 national elections. Continuous negative campaigning tactics and media advertising are also aimed at dulling the sensibilities of African Americans to sustain a nonproductive syndrome of hopelessness and apathy. Just at the time when we should all be mobilizing and organizing around the core issues that impact the quality of life of Black people and all others that remained oppressed, we appear too splintered, divided and immobilized. This is due partly to the low level of overall Black consciousness among millions of African Americans in 2011. At the end of the day, however, through the use of the Black Press and other progressive media outlets, we can begin to increase once again the level of Black consciousness.

During a recent broadcast of Fareed Zakaria, the scholar David McCullough, who has written extensively on the effectiveness of various Presidents of the United States, was interviewed. Zakaria asked McCullough how President Barack Obama was doing in comparison to other U.S. presidents? McCullough, as a noted historian, said the President Obama was doing an outstanding job thus far given what he inherited from President George Bush in 2009. But what caught my attention more was McCullough's assessment about how presidents and other leaders are to be ultimately evaluated in the eyes of history. MuCullough said, "It is in the power of the spoken and written word." Let's check out where we are today in terms of the quality of the content of our culture in language, art, politics, economics and spirituality? What are our youth speaking about? What's on the mind of our elders? Articulation of the word is a function of knowledge, experience, education, faith and wisdom. Yet, how we speak and write is also a function of one’s consciousness.

Thus, the power of Black consciousness in 2011 and into the future will be measured by how effective Black people and leaders will stay focused and active on the agenda to rid the world of poverty, misery and oppression in the pursuit of liberation, freedom, justice, equality, prosperity and empowerment for all.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation.

Our National Debt Can Destroy Us

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(NNPA) It didn’t take long for us to get into this terrible state of debt. When Bill Clinton left the White House he was so proud that he left the nation with a surplus of funds. Here we are 11 years later with a debt that threatens our very existence as a nation. People this is a very serious matter and we all have to pay attention to it and resolve it. Instead of improving our state of affairs, Congress and the White House are posturing and, in fact, it is getting far worse. At the end of fiscal year 2008 (September 30, 2008) our debt was $5.8 trillion. At the end of fiscal year 2010, the United States had amassed over $9 trillion. We are expected to add another $1.5 trillion at the end of this year.

We don’t even have a budget to work with. This nation has not had a formal budget for the last two and one half years. It is irresponsible! We all have to pay our personal bills or risk going into financial ruin. The same applies for a nation. Our creditors expect to get paid and if we default the whole world will begin to withdraw any confidence in our word and wealth. The United States would become a pariah. There is much precedence. Remember the mighty Soviet Union? It fell not by war or revolution but because they became broke, which is where we are going if we do not get our fiscal business under control.

All it takes is discipline. Governor Mitch Daniels turned the fiscal state of Indiana for the better and he gave this simple explanation: “We spent less money than the money we received.” That sounds pretty simple, but the United States federal government is having a lot of trouble following that simple rule. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that tax revenue will rise from its current level to 18 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That is a problem in that our federal spending will rise to 24 percent. Thus, we will be spending 3 percent more than we make. It is a definite disaster, if we maintain status quo.

What’s even worse is that we may exceed our legal debt limit level. In the past, we just ignored that law by simply increasing the debt limit. That doesn’t solve a thing but, in fact, worsens the situation. Come this August 2, 2011 we will exceed our debt limit. Imagine you going over your Visa or Master Card limit. The card would cut you off and may cease giving any more credit with you forever. The U.S. biggest creditors are China, Japan and Saudi Arabia. These countries have historically been not too friendly with the United States and it is unlikely that they will give us a “pass”, if we default on our debt limit. China has already warned us to get our act together.

Equally troubling is the tenuous state of our AAA credit rating. The big scorer of national credit ratings is Moody’s. Moody’s has already warned us twice to get our fiscal policy in order – have a balanced budget, a positive policy and don’t exceed your debt limit. Our ignoring the warnings is going to have dire effects. For the sake of our national security, will Washington, D.C. act in a responsible manner? Our precious future is on the line. At the rate, we are going within 10 years we will be spending $1 trillion or more per year, just to pay the interest on our national debt.

Raising taxes won’t do it. We already are the second highest nation in the world with corporate taxes which, in the end, are passed onto to us, the consumers. Income and corporate tax increases will kill more jobs and too many Black communities are already suffering from record level unemployment rates. That would only transfer the problem. The issue is to cut the outrageous spending levels that our federal government commits at an ever growing rate.

We should lift the age requirement for Social Security eligibility. The discussion has been going on for at least 30 years. Raise it already! Look at every federal agency and begin reducing the spending. Even for Defense? Especially for Defense! It is almost half of our total budget and is filled with the most unbelievable waste. We could save much without hurting our national security. Let’s run our treasury responsibly and then enjoy our AAA credit rating, and encourage our businesses to again invest in America. Our Fortune 500 companies are holding back trillions of dollars because of our fiscal uncertainty.

Yes America, we have a serious problem and like our great legacy let’s begin to deal with it. Our children, grandchildren and their children are depending on us. There is no more an option to ignore it.

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

Children of Color Count Like Caylee

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(NNPA) Recently, a criminal jury acquitted Casey Anthony of murdering her 2-year old daughter Caylee while convicting her of the lesser charge of lying to police investigators. Ms. Anthony has been released from jail amidst an avalanche of animosity by observers of the case. Whether Casey Anthony was guilty of murdering her little girl has been the subject of a national discussion. Over the past year, the case of Casey and little Caylee has dominated news coverage on many television networks, most notably CNN.

Caylee’s case begs broader questions: Why do little white girls garner so much more media coverage after going missing than little Black girls? Why does the nation know the names of Jon Benet Ramsey and not, let’s say, Diamond Bradley or Yasmine Acree?

In a report by Kathy Chaney, writer for the Chicago Defender, the circumstances of four Black girls in Chicago received little, if any media coverage—local or national.

More disturbing was a Scripps Howard report that examined missing child statistics from 2000 to 2004 reported by Thomas Hargrove and Ansley Haman, in The Capitol Hill Blue. According to the authors, “For a missing child to attract widespread publicity and improve the child’s odds of being found, it helps if a child is White, wealthy, and under 12 years old.” Statistics within the study found:

• White children are only 50% of United States missing children, but 2/3 of Associated Press dispatches
• Missing Children under 12 years old are only 1/6 of all cases in America by 2/3 of national news stories
• White children account for 67% of Associated Press reports, and 76% of CNN reports, but only 53% of the 37,000 cases reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Defenders of the disproportionate reporting statistics cite state laws that differ around how evidence in children’s welfare issues can be released to the public. Such arguments are refuted by the fact that once children are known to be missing White children are disproportionately featured by national media campaigns. If there were more equity in national media reporting missing children of any color perhaps the “Amber Law” may have had a name such as Aisha or Asha.

In the case of Caylee Anthony, CNN “Nancy Grace” has nearly focused solely on the case of Casey Anthony since the 2008 murder of the 2-year old. At one point, a one-hour feature was solely devoted to the case.

As a result of the Casey Anthony case in Florida, “Caylee’s Law” has been proposed to: 1) make it a felony for parents/caregivers to not report the death of a child to authorities within an hour, whether or not the death was accidental; and 2) make it a felony for guardians to not notify police of the disappearance of a child within 24 hours.

While “Caylee’s Law” will help law enforcement in Florida—and potentially around the nation—the disproportionate level of care to the disappearances and deaths of children of color as opposed to White children cannot be legislated.

We as a nation must value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ALL people, regardless of pigment.

Gary L. Flowers is the Executive Director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

No Extortion For Debt Ceiling Vote

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"We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(NNPA) Rarely have the divisions in American politics been more clear - or more onerous. In less than a month, on August 2nd, if Congress refuses to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the United States economy could be thrown into a fiscal tailspin that would eviscerate America's credit rating, lead to sky-high interest rates, rip a giant hole in the social safety net, jeopardize the well-being and savings of millions of working and middle class citizens and result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Majority leaders in the House and minority leaders in the Senate have taken the unprecedented step of linking a raise in the debt ceiling to the debate about deficit reduction and spending cuts. In effect, they are attempting to extort big cuts in programs benefiting working and middle class citizens while protecting exorbitant tax breaks for oil companies, corporate jet owners, and hedge fund managers. They say this is the only way they will agree to increase the debt limit. If they get their way, fiscal experts from Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke warn severe disruptions will occur. Beginning August 2nd, Social Security checks may be halted. Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits may stop. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan may not get paid. And, hundreds of thousands of government workers may be laid off. This is no way to run the most trustworthy and powerful government in the world. And, it is no way to honor the hard work and sacrifices of its people.

It should be noted, that prior to this current showdown, the debt ceiling has routinely been raised almost 100 times since its establishment in 1917. Former President George W. Bush raised it seven times without objection while racking up trillions of dollars of new debt for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and big tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

The Obama administration is not oblivious to the need for spending cuts. For months, Vice President Joe Biden has led bipartisan negotiations aimed at agreeing on a sensible deficit reduction plan. Progress has been made. But, recently several members of the so-called "Gang of Six," walked out of the negotiations because of ideological resistance to balancing spending cuts for the middle class with ending some tax breaks for the wealthy.

As they defend the rights of working-class Americans, I would urge them also to consider the recommendations included in the National Urban League's 12-Point Jobs Plan, "Putting Urban American Back To Work." The creation of Urban Jobs Academies to train the critically unemployed, or Green Empowerment Zones to locate manufacturing jobs in urban areas, could ease the transition to spending cuts.

So far, the President and sensible members of Congress have stood firm in their refusal to give in to ideological extortion. As the President said in last week's press conference, "Any agreement to reduce our deficit is going to require tough decisions and balanced solutions. And, before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children's education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it's only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys." We agree. Raise the debt ceiling, but not on the backs of working and middle class Americans.

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

South Sudan: An African American Opportunity

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(NNPA) Whenever there are advances for African freedom and self-determination, African Americans, in particular, should always be able to define mutual interests, opportunities and responsibilities to aid and assist our brothers and sisters in Africa. The Republic of South Sudan is the newest nation in the world and will become the 193rd member of the United Nations.

Independence Day for the Republic of South Sudan was as recent as this month. President Barack Obama stated, "A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn. Together, we can ensure that today marks another step forward in Africa's long journey toward opportunity, democracy and justice. I am proud to declare that the United States formally recognizes the Republic of South Sudan a sovereign and independent state upon this day, July 09, 2011. After so much struggle by the people of South Sudan, the United States of America welcomes the birth of a new nation." We agree with President Obama's perspective and analysis about the significance of the newly established Republic of South Sudan. But we would like to deepen our memory and perspective on this momentous achievement from an African American perspective.

Too often in contemporary times, Africa is still viewed by too many Americans as that far off place where centuries ago, millions of people were enslaved and forcibly brought to the Americas for the sole purpose of one of the most brutal manifestations of human slavery and economic exploitation that the world has ever witnessed in history. Yet for African Americans we are more and more aware of how our plight here inside the United States of America still involves our long struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. But for the grace of God and the sacrifices, toil, courage and steadfastness of struggle by past generations of Blacks in America and throughout the displaced African world, we would not be able to recognize and celebrate the progress today that African people and all people continue to make toward a more just and empowered humanity.

Our concern and care is for our brothers and sisters in both the Republic of South Sudan and those who remain in the Sudan, to the north of the Republic of South Sudan. The whole of the Sudan and including the Republic of South Sudan ought to be the focus for all who care about Africa. The 50 years or more of deadly, self-destructive civil war has caused so much misery and suffering. It is good now that the civil war, despite some continued violent border clashes, has finally ended with the declaration of independence and sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan being officially recognized by the world community.

African Americans should see clearly that once again there are significant and immediate economic and growth opportunities in this new African nation. Of course, some of the world's economic powers are already lining up to go after the vast quantities of oil and natural gas that are known to be some of the world's largest discoveries located in the Republic of South Sudan. China has just announced that they will invest millions of dollars in infrastructure development for the South Sudan. The U.K., France, the U.S., and other post-industrialized economies have all expressed their desire to work on development projects in this valuable mineral rich nation. At a time of very high unemployment in the African American community, this is a great moment in history for African American business leaders to develop new business relationships with Africa, and in particular with nations like the Republic of South Sudan.

I believe the greatest resource, however, that is in the Republic of South Sudan today is not its oil or natural gas, but it is its millions of people who have high aspirations and hope for a better quality of life. Thus, if Black owned businesses: the Black Press, colleges and universities, churches and other institutions that serve our communities would reach out to the Republic of South Sudan, it would raise the potential for ongoing sustainable economic development and educational joint ventures to be established. Africa awaits Black America. Giving back to Africa will bring a long lasting benefit to our brothers and sisters in Africa as well as to our brothers and sisters in our communities across America.

President Obama in his statement about the Republic of South Sudan reminded us what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said about independence occurring in Africa. The President affirmed, "Decades ago, Martin Luther King reflected on the first moment of independence on the African continent in Ghana, saying, 'I knew about all of the struggles, and all of the pain, and all of the agony that these people had gone through for this moment.' Today, we are moved by the story of struggle that led to this time of hope in South Sudan, and we think of those who didn't live to see their dream realized. Now, the leaders and people of South Sudan have an opportunity to turn this moment of promise into lasting progress." As we salute the Republic of South Sudan, let's extend a helping hand. The future holds great promise.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Educational Online Services Corporation.

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