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Julianne Malveaux

The Audacity of Voting

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(NNPA) I love voting. Every time I go into the booth, I see little girl me, pigtails and all, plaid skirt, white blouse and green sweater, part of my Catholic school uniform. Most of my relatives were Democrats, though my grandmother voted Republican a time or two because “Lincoln freed the slaves.” In 1960, I had the privilege of pulling the lever to elect John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the candidate that the nuns at Immaculate Conception Elementary School rhapsodized over.

On the way back from the polls, my mom told me that Negroes (as we were called then) didn’t always get to vote, and she shared facts about grandfather clauses and poll taxes. I’ll never forget that moment, which may have sown the seeds of my activism. Indeed, when I went to school the next day, and the nun asked if everyone’s parent had voted, I took the opportunity to share that Negroes did not always get to vote. I was sent home with a note at the end of the day, and got an admonition from my mom about keeping my big mouth shut. I guess I didn’t learn my lesson.

I guess everyone doesn’t like voting as much as I do. Only a quarter of those eligible to vote in the District of Columbia did so. Some blamed the earliness of the primary (only Illinois had an earlier date, on March 26, and some states have primary elections as late as September); others spoke of the inclement weather the weekend before the election as affecting voter turnout. But when I am reminded that Fannie Lou Hamer was almost beat to death because she registered voters, and Medgar Evers was killed because he worked to secure voting rights for Black people, I am infuriated by those who take a pass on voting. How does a little snow on Sunday keep you from going to the polls on Tuesday? The fact is that too many African Americans play into enemy hands whenever they fail to vote.

Now the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law (www…lawyerscommitt.org) has produced a “Map of Shame” that highlights more than a dozen states that engage in voter suppression, either by requiring picture ID, consolidating polling places so that people have to travel further to vote, or passing other restrictions on voting.

Unsurprisingly, most of these states are in the South, but Northern states such as Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania have also made it more difficult for voters. North Carolina is so bad that Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, has been leading hundreds outside the state capitol weekly for “Moral Mondays” design to draw attention to the immorality of voter suppression. In a recent decision, the Supreme Court has now made it easier to purchase votes on First Amendment grounds, with the amount that the wealthy can give increasing exponentially. In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the court ruled that the limit on contributions is unconstitutional. McCutcheon is not shy about explaining why he wants to spend more money. He wants to ensure that the law embraces conservative principles.

It is interesting that the McCutcheon decision comes in time to influence this election cycle. With this decision, the Supreme Court has made it easier to purchase an election. With limits on PAC money lifted, the court has created a well-funded monster. There is more than one way to suppress the vote, and this court is determined to silence citizens any way they can. They have nullified a key section of the Voting Rights Act. They’ve made it possible to pour money into campaigns. In many ways they have attempted to shut people up, or at least skew the playing field in favor of the wealthy.

Rev. Jesse Jackson says that the hands that picked peaches can also pick presidents. We can’t pick anything if we don’t get to the polls. Voter suppression and well-funded opponents are obstacles to voting. Still, we impose some of the obstacles on ourselves.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

An Attention Span Beyond Flight 370

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(NNPA) If you missed the news about the disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 over the Indian Ocean, you must have been buried in sand. For three weeks, we have been bombarded with theories – was it terrorism? Pilot error? Something else? Now the story has evolved. Were pieces of the plane found? Is everyone dead? How do the families of the presumed dead feel? (This is a really stupid question. How does the clueless reporter asking such a question think the people feel?)

CNN may well have been called MPN – the Missing Plane Network. An evening of watching covered the same angle with a different host and guests. Some of the focus was certainly understandable, but other networks managed to find news of things going on that did not involve Flight 370. Still, the prevalent and relentless emphasis on the missing plane was excessive.

Couldn’t some of the airtime granted Flight 370 have been used for equally critical matter? There were 239 people on that plane, and there were more than 300 killed in 2013. I’m not suggesting an equivalency in the two types of tragedies, but I am suggesting that the media might focus more on gun violence, its sources and possible solutions to end senseless violence. Of course, that might anger the National Rifle Association whose specious slogan – guns don’t kill, people do – ignores the harm done by the proliferation of guns in our nation.

President Obama has challenged our nation’s educators to increase the percentage of young people attending and graduating from college, so that we might better compete with other industrialized countries. People applaud at these sentiments, but these educational goals get little media attention. Yet, such coverage would raise an important issue and, perhaps, push us toward solutions.

I do not begrudge the extensive coverage of Flight 370. The disappearance of a plane is both a mystery and a tragedy. But the excessive coverage of Flight 370 reminds us of the power of the media. If something is repeated enough, and repeatedly enough, it wiggles its way into our consciousness. Thus, the pilots have been tried and convicted by media speculation, without anyone actually knowing what happened.

What if such repetition were used to highlight some of our nation’s most serious social and economic challenges. What if we could get a couple of networks, just for a week, focus on reading proficiency, or the environment, or poverty and inequality? Perhaps we can’t focus on these issues because we can’t agree on their causes, not when the likes of Rand Paul are running around excoriating the poor and the unemployed every chance he gets. Or with, despite this long and frigid winter, the global warming deniers won’t give any ground.

The media is used to rivet attention toward an issue or challenge. Unfortunately, it has rarely been used for good, although it could be. What if viewers demanded that there is some focus on essential issues? What if there were a media campaign to encourage children to read more, and encourage parents and teachers to encourage this reading. Such a campaign might include paid advertising, but much of it might be driven by news stories.

May I have your attention please? Might I have your attention about poverty and unemployment? May I have your attention about the status of our young people? What about the literacy issue? The paucity of open space in some cities?

May I have your attention about the importance of getting out the vote? I want your attention about the effectiveness of standardized tests. I need your attention on the automobile manufacturers who sell defective cars and take a whole three years to recall them.

In the wake of the Flight 370 tragedy we will learn, undoubtedly, about those who lost their lives because of the tragedy. Only rarely, however, will we learn about the most recent victim of gun violence. May I have your attention? Please.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

A Proud Black Feminist

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(NNPA) In a world that is dominated by men, especially White men, feminism is, for me, an empowering concept. It is a movement, which in the United States, according to Wikipedia, is aimed at “defining, establishing and defending equal social, economic and political rights for women.”

It is certainly possible to argue that women have come a long way, but while we out-enroll men in college attendance, we don’t out earn them, no matter our level of education. We don’t out-represent them in elected office, or even in the higher echelons of employment, such as the Fortune 500 corporations. Women are doing better than we ever did and we still have a long way to go.

The feminist movement shows up differently in the African American community. Our nation’s antipathy toward Black men suggests that men of African descent are not the same oppressors that White men are, bearing the burden of oppression themselves. At the same time, who rapes and beats and Black women. Dare I say that the oppressors of African American women are likely to be African American men? Do I dare say that sisters need to step up and raise their voices without risking the inevitable backlash that comes from Black men? When African American women embrace the title “feminist” we are somehow seen as attacking Black men. Actually, we are simply standing up for ourselves and for our communities.

African American people can’t fight the war against racism if half of the army is disabled. We can’t fight for our boys and, yes, our girls unless more of us speak up, stand up, and surround our babies with tender loving care. We can’t build whole and healthy communities unless the needs of both women and men are addressed. President Obama has addressed “My Brother’s Keeper. Who will be my sister’s keeper?

When African America women, and especially our young girls, see attention focused on Black men, won’t they wonder, “What about me?” All of our young people are under attack, but while Black men explode into riveting headlines, Black women implode eating too much (obesity among us is nearly 50 percent), giving too much, and not taking care of self at all. Who takes care of these women and reminds them that it is ok to stand up for themselves?

That’s why through it all, I stand firm on my feminism. I want women to know that they are enough. I tell young women that men are like icing, and women like cake. You can have cake without icing, but not icing without cake. Nobody is kicking our brothers to the curb, and women need the affirmation that they are okay, partner or not, child or not. And that we, women, can lean on our sisters, and ourselves when other support is not there.

Of course, we are inextricably intertwined, the women and the men and the children who must support each other and live out our dreams in tandem. These dreams only work in tandem when the dreamers consider themselves equal partners in this game called life. The same patriarchy that allows White men to oppress women shows up in a twisted form when Black men, with much less power than White men, oppress women.

During this Women’s History Month, I write in the name of Maria Stewart, a sister who, in the early 19th century, spoke about women’s rights and supported the anti-slavery movement. She was the first American woman who spoke to a mixed audience of men and women (according to Wiki and other Internet sources) and the first African American woman to speak about women’s rights. She started her professional life as a maid, and ended it in Washington, D.C. as a teacher and a matron at Freedman’s Hospital. In the middle, she shook it up, earning both the respect and the ire of her colleagues.

If you stand on the shoulders of Maria Stewart, you are undergirded by this amazing feminist who took to the stage before the White Grimke sisters did. What price did she pay? How was she affected?

Even as we passionately support Black men we must, in the name of Maria Stewart, embrace and support Black women. We lift as we climb. Let’s lift us all!

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Obama Keeps Promise to Use 'Power of the Pen'

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(NNPA) During his State of the Union address, President Obama promised to use the power of his pen to achieve the policy objectives that Congress continues to block. After advocating fairness and being rebuffed by Congress, the president chose to use the power of his pen to require federal contractors to pay workers at least $10.10 per hour, or $21.800 per year. That puts a single parent with two children below the poverty line.

Now the president is using the power of his pen to ensure that workers receive overtime pay. Currently, the only workers required to receive overtime pay are those who earn $445 a week, about $11 an hour or $23,000 per year. The president has proposed that that amount be raised to somewhere between $550 and $970 a year. Splitting the difference means that those who earn about $760 a week or $39,500 a year would be entitled to overtime.

Already the business lobby has said that both a higher minimum wage and mandatory overtime cuts into their profits. Already they have talked about cutting the number of workers they will employ, and the number of hours they will employ people. These greedy corporate giants fail to note that while wages and salaries for the top one percent soared by nearly a third in the past three tears, the wages of those in the remaining 99 percent rose by a fraction of one percent in three years. A worker earning $30,000 a year saw her wages rise to $30,300; someone earning $300,000 a year saw his wages rise to $396,000.

Clearly, those who earn $30,300, if not poor, are a stone’s throw away from poverty. These are the folks who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, who make decisions about whether to buy their children new shoes or pay the cable bill. These folks aren’t trying to purchase luxuries, and they aren’t looking for handouts. They just want to live decently, with enough food on the table, with bills paid, and with a little breathing room. These are folks who don’t take vacations. Luxury for them may mean a couple of days off to visit neighborhood parks. Summertime, when the living is easy for children, may be a burden to those parents who can’t afford childcare.

With his effort to reduce income inequality and improve the lives of those at least the President is moving in the right direction. Unfortunately he can’t get enough members of congress to follow, because they are committed to obstructionism. Aren’t there poor people in these republican districts? Are they willing to sacrifice the well being of their constituents to hold fast to party principles? Researchers should look at the levels of poverty in each Congressional district and shame these miscreants into doing the right thing.

Republicans forget, and some Democrats fail to argue, that increasing the economic well being of those at the bottom improves the nation’s economic status. Those at the bottom will use added wages to pay bills, to buy some of the things they’ve put off purchasing, to pump money into the economy. In contrast, those at the top are likely to save their money or invest it, failing to spend enough to trickle down their spending to benefit those at the bottom.

It is said that a rising tide lifts all boats. But some folks are riding a luxury yacht, while others are struggling to survive on a raft. The rising tides argument only works for those at those at the top who have seen their wages grow dramatically. Those at the bottom are barely floating on a tottering raft that has dozens of holes, as evidenced by their small pay increases, low wages, and lack of overtime.

To the extent that President Obama has the power of the pen he can both improve the lives of those at the bottom, but also remind us of the meaning go fair labor standards. This is a conversation our nation has not had in awhile. We have been content to let the wages of those at the bottom continue to drift downward, while using tax policy and fiction (rising tide) to enrich those at the top. What does it take to sensitize those at the top to the plight of those at the bottom? The Occupy movement looks better by the day.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

(Black) Women's History Month

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(NNPA) Do you know about Elizabeth Keckley? Maggie Lena Walker, Sarann Knight Preddy, Gertrude Pocte Geddes-Willis, Trish Millines Dziko, Addie L Wyatt or Marie-Therese Metoyer?

What about Ernesta Procope, Dr. Sadie Alexander, Or Dr. Phyllis Wallace? What about Bettiann Gardner, Lillian Lambert, or Emma Chappell? What about Ellen Holly, Mary Alice, or Edmonia Lewis?

If we knew anything about these women, it might cause all of us, African American men and women, to walk a bit more lightly, hold our heads a bit higher, and revel in the

March is Women’s History Month, so it’s an ideal time to celebrate Black women who often get overlooked by other women as well as their own race.

History belongs to she who holds the pen, she who will speak up, speak out and tell the whole story. If the names of the sisters listed above aren’t as well known as others – like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Mary McLeod Bethune – it is because no one has chosen to tell their stories.

There are a thousands of unsung heroines for every one we lift up and know, women who have made phenomenal contributions to the arts, literature, money, finance, and economic development.

Why write this now? African American History month (February) is usually about notable Black men. Women’s History Month (March) is usually about notable White women.

A book edited by Gloria T Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith is titled, But Some Of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men: Black Women’s Studies,

As the title suggests, some of us are brave – and our young girls need to know that.

What difference would it make to our daughter and nieces if they knew about Septima Clark or Claudette Colvin? Had they read Lucille Clifton’s poetry, would they find it easier to breathe life into their words?

It pains me to watch Black Women’s History so swallowed that we are almost invisible. The most benign interpretation of this phenomenon is that those who lift history up are too myopic to consider African American women. Is there is a sinister interpretation? Is it that both racism and patriarchy combine to swallow Black women’s history?

International Women’s Day was March 8. Annually, the United Nations sets a theme for the commemoration. This year it was, “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”

According to the UN, countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women “means progress for all.”

We can’t make progress if we bury our history. We can’t put Melody Hobson in context if we don’t understand Maggie Lena Walker. We can’t truly celebrate women’s history unless we celebrate Black women’s history. Black women’s history is women’s history, too. It should be realized that both the African American community and the world community cannot progress if any segment of that community is relegated to the sidelines.

The place African American women hold in our history celebrations is quite similar to the space we occupy in contemporary life. We can get tens of thousands or more folks to turn out (as they should) in response to the massacres of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, but the killing of unarmed Renisha McBride has caused much less of an outcry. Theodore Wafer, the White man (yes, race matters) who shot young Renisha, will be tried for second-degree murder in June. Will we remember this effrontery in the same way that we rallied for Trayvon and Jordan?

The sidelining of Black women is one of the reasons that the late C. Delores Tucker worked tirelessly for more than a decade to ensure that a bust of Sojourner Truth be placed in our nation’s capitol. And why not? Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are there. The fight to get Sojourner Truth to the capitol was led by Tucker, a lifelong leader and a founder of the National Congress of Black Women, Unfortunately, she did not live long enough to see the fruits of her labor. Wondering who was Delores Tucker? That’s be a whole column by itself.

If you know nothing about the women I’ve mentioned, Google them, or check my website, www.juliannemalveaux.com for more information.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

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