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Obama Won Nobel for His "Transformative Spirit”

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Marc H. Morial
"For his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." - The Norwegian Nobel Committee

There has been such a whirlwind of analysis, criticism and even some derision among certain segments of the chattering class about President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize that I decided to go to the source for some answers.

First of all, let me say that I was just as shocked as anyone, including the President himself, to wake up to the surprise announcement two weeks ago. After all, the President has only been in office for nine months and many of the problems he inherited, both domestic and foreign, are far from being solved. But in choosing Obama, the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee reaffirmed the importance of America in the world and recognized the transformative spirit of both our new president and these times. Here’s how they put it: “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.  His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

The Committee’s decision was influenced in large part by the dramatic change of course in American foreign policy since Obama took office. This includes the President’s commitment to end the war in Iraq, his concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament, his outreach to the Muslim world, his work for Middle East peace, his repudiation of the use of torture and his determination to act decisively on issues like the global economic crisis and climate change.

Every eye on the planet looks to America for leadership in these areas.  President Obama not only understands that fact, he is personally leading the charge for change. From Berlin to Cairo to Ghana, he has consistently emphasized that there is much more that unites the people of the world today than divides us.  The Nobel Committee specifically cited the words from his recent speech before the United Nations General Assembly:

“Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

While it was a tremendous surprise for President Obama to win the Nobel Peace Prize, it is not unprecedented. He joins Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter as the fourth American president to win the award. And he stands alongside Ralph Bunche and Martin Luther King, Jr. as the third African American Peace Prize winner.  The President said he was “deeply humbled” by the honor. And seeming to sense the storm of questions to come, he acknowledged that “throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific accomplishments, it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action…for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.” We share that hope and we applaud and congratulate President Obama on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a win for the nation and reaffirmation to refocus America’s foreign policy on diplomacy and dialogue.

Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Documenting Limbaugh's Racist Comments

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George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist
Supporters of Rush Limbaugh, including Fox commentator Juan Williams and Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association, have targeted two undocumented quotes attributed to Limbaugh to prove, in Rice’s words, the “phony charge of racism” was used to deny Limbaugh’s bid to become part owner of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams.  They point to a purported quote widely circulated on the Internet: “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back, I’m just saying it had it merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

The other supposed quote from Limbaugh: “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the convicted killer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.].”

So far, no Limbaugh critic has proven that these words were uttered by Limbaugh. In the meantime, Limbaugh and his backers have, shall we say, rushed to pounce on them.

Rice issued a statement charging, “One more nail was hammered deeply into America’s freedom coffin when a group of private sector entrepreneurs were intimidated by race hustlers into ousting talk show host Rush Limbaugh from the consortium formed to buy the St. Louis Rams. He claimed “demonstrably false charges of racism” were used to derail Limbaugh.

Subbing for Bill O’Reilly on Fox, Juan Williams not only agreed that trumped up quotes were used to deny Limbaugh partownership of the Rams but that the Obama administration was behind the effort. The video clip from the Oct. 16 edition of Williams hosting The O’Reilly Factor is posted on media matters.org.  By placing so much emphasis on what might well be phony quotes, Juan Williams and Frances Rice hope to divert us from a long list of documented racist remarks made by Limbaugh.

On its site, media matters not only documents the following comments, but provides the relevant audio:

Responding to a news report that a majority of young Blacks feel alienated from the government, Limbaugh said on Feb. 1, 2007: “Why would that be? The government’s been taking care of them their whole lives.”

On Jan. 19, 2007 the talk show host said: “Let me put it to you this way. The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There I said it.”

Limbaugh was forced to resign his job as a commentator on ESPN because of what he said about Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb. He said, without any proof, “…the media has been very desirous that a Black quarterback do well.”

On June 4, Limbaugh said of President Obama, “He’s angry; he’s going to cut the country down to size. He’s going to make it pay for all the multicultural mistakes that it has made – its mistreatment of minorities. I know exactly what’s going on here.”

Fairness and Accuracy in the Media (FAIR), another media monitoring group, provided the following documented quotes from Limbaugh:

Limbaugh admitted to Richard Gehr of Newsday [Oct. 8, 1990] that as a DJ in Pittsburgh during the 1970s, he told a Black caller, “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

On his defunct TV show, he reacted to Spike Lee urging Black schoolchildren to take off from school to see his film Malcolm X. Limbaugh said on October 29, 1992: “Spike, if you’re going to do that, let’s complete the education experience.  You should tell them that they should loot the theater, and then blow it up on their way out.”

Reacting to a report of Black students assaulting a White student on a bus, Limbaugh said on Sept. 15: “In Obama’s America, the White kids now get beat up with the Black kids cheering, ‘Right on, right on, right on.’”

Newsday reported on Oct. 8, 1990 that Limbaugh said, “Have you noticed how all newspaper composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

Limbaugh praised Sen. Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 on a segregationist platform. On his TV show aired Sept. 1, 1993, Limbaugh said of Thurmond, “He’s not encumbered by being politically correct…If you want to know what America used to be – and a lot of people wish it still were – then you’d listen to Strom Thurmond.”

As is often the case, Limbaugh even sees “reverse racism” where none exists.  During the 2006 Democratic primaries in Ohio, he commented on Paul Hackett’s decision to withdraw from the contest for state senate against state Rep. Sherrod Brown. Limbaugh said, “And don’t forget, Sherrod Brown is Black. There’s a racial component here, too.” What Limbaugh forgot – or did not know – was that Sherrod Brown is White. If there was a racial component, he made it up.  When it comes to racist statements by Rush Limbaugh, there’s no need to make any up. They are all there in black and white.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at twitter.com/currygeorge.

The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of the Baby-Boomers

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The United States Census Bureau considers a Baby-Boomer someone born during the demographic birth boom between 1943 and 1964.

Therefore today’s Baby-Boomers are between 45 and 66 years old. The Baby-Boomer generation had its heyday and now begrudgingly passes the baton to the seemingly irresponsible Hip-hop generation – not that most Baby-Boomers were responsible in their youth because that’s not the case.  However, Baby Boomers were the first generation to declare Women’s Liberation and experience the birth control pill. Baby-Boomers were first to experience breast implants, socially acceptable single motherhood, socially acceptable marijuana use, and to invite homosexuals out of the closet.

However the rah, rah, rah, of the Boomers toned down with the arrival of their retirement years and social security checks, yet they are still setting standards. Today male Baby-Boomers are the first group of older men to use unashamedly talk about impotency and their female counterpart are the first group of older women to publicly swing to a TV commercial jiggle declaring, “When I grow up I want to be an old woman,” as they come to grips with their mortality.

The thought of being a senior person no longer give seniors the jitters as in the days when older people were considered only fit for a rocking chair.

Baby-Boomers refuse to silently cower in corner of the society that they created.  Most Baby-Boomers are even comfortable with the idea of being single in their sunset years. Later this year, I will be 63-years-old, and though there’s no longer a blazing flame in my groins there is a flickering pilot light and as the gospel song goes, “This lil light of mine, I’m going let it shine.” I see myself as an ex-athlete may see himself.  For example: The Oakland A’s owners would not pay a hundred dollars in Monopoly money to have 63 years old Hall-of-Fame inductee, Reggie Jackson back-at-bat; however, Jackson surely realizes that he is a valuable source of baseball wisdom.  Seniors must realize that although we have indeed depreciated in physical agility, our intangible assets are priceless.  A 50 or 60-year-old bottle of wine or a 50 or 60-year-old automobile could be a priceless or worthless item, partially depending on its condition but mainly on its history. A senior with an extraordinary and/or accomplished past would forever have solidified value. If a $10 dollar bottle of wine were discovered in the cellar of the Titanic, it would be worth tens of thousands of dollars at an auction house because of the history. The X-100 1961 Lincoln that JFK was assassinated in though nearly a half-century-old is priceless.  Most seniors are valuable cornerstones of society and have overcome great odds. Seniors should proudly yet humbly stand on the knowledge of their charitable deeds, personal accomplishments, and exemplary examples set and roads paved for society. Only a powerful soul can afford to be humble.  If we are weak, then we become arrogant.  If we are empty, we take; but if we are filled, we automatically give to all. That is the nature of progress and eternal life.

Website: www.richardojoneslive.com

Only a Few Generations That Separate Michelle Obama From the Shackles

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Rev. Al Sharpton
They say you won’t get anywhere in life until you know where you’ve come from. But for the countless number of African-Americans in this country, the simple act of knowing one’s history is a complicated and painful notion. Painful in the sheer sense that through the bondages of slavery, we have been literally stripped of our roots, and can only trace back to an era of America’s past that most of us would prefer to believe never existed. But it did exist, and it was ugly, and it’s about time we start facing that reality.

A little over two years ago I sat down with Megan Smolenyak from Ancestry.com as we began to track my own personal lineage. In what was one of the most shocking and revealing experiences of my life, I discovered that my own great-grandfather was a slave in rural South Carolina. But what was even more troubling than this horrid confirmation was the fact that my great-grandfather ‘belonged’ to the family of Senator Strom Thurmond. A United States Senator whom I have interacted with, has his family ties with ownership of my own family. What an astonishing concept.  Last week, Ancestry.com released an even more shocking discovery. It too contained a complex story of people sold as property, treated as objects and violated in every sense of the word. But what this newly released research also portrays is the irony and potential for progress in our country if we begin to embrace our past. It’ the remarkable story of our first lady Michelle Obama and her greatgreat-great grandmother Melvinia Shields – a woman born into slavery, valued at $475 and most likely forced to give birth to three ‘mulatto’ children.  Despite the despicable, vile constraints of slavery, one of Melvinia’s children eventually went on to own a carpentry business, his own home and established two Churches. And in a final twist of irony, this son passed away 14 days before a descendent of his was born. This descendent is now the First Lady of the United States.

Mrs. Obama, like her trailblazing husband, has not shied away from proudly acknowledging her African- American heritage. And at the same time she has openly discussed some of the nuances and struggles we as Black people have endured and continue to battle. During the days of the campaign she was actually attacked for highlighting some of these blatant issues. But this is a reality that we cannot continue to deny.

The ramifications of slavery - including mental oppression, unequal access to fair housing, jobs and education – cannot be dismissed.

Yes, we have achieved greatly. Yes, we finally have a Black first family. And yes, we are progressing daily. But let’s not forget that there are only a few generations that separate Michelle Obama from the shackles of enslavement. Just as I was amazed to discover my own incredible past, we should all collectively study our nation’s true historical saga so that we may continue to progress beyond it.  And progressing beyond it means openly and honestly tackling the plethora of ramifications that it produced so that we may counter produce more Michelle Obamas for years to come.

Afro-Latino Heritage Must be Highlighted

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By Nicole C. Lee, NNPA Columnist –

This month is Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration to recognize the lives and contributions of people from Latin America and Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries in the U.S. This is an important month but how it is celebrated in the US leaves many African-Americans not fully understanding the important stake we have in this month.  That is because so often celebrations of this month very rarely highlight the important, vibrant Afro-Latino population living and working in every Latin American country. Every country - Yes, even Mexico and Argentina.

Without a doubt, the experiences of some communities, including Afrodescendants and Indigenous, have historically gone unrecognized. The inclusion of Afro-descendants in mainstream conversation rarely happens but it is necessary in order to understand the truth of history and present. African- Americans have a stake in ensuring that these conversations recognize the commonalities within our experiences and in highlighting race as a factor in Latin America.  Working in Latin America with women’s groups, youth and political organizations, I am heartened by numerous cultural similarities between African-Americans and Afro-Latinos. In culture, style and experiences we are in many ways the same people. I have said many times before our ancestors didn’t get to chose whether the slave ships stopped in Charleston, South Carolina or in Rio de Janiero; it is only geography and language that separate us.

U.S. policy makers focused on Latin America, rarely focus or even acknowledge race as a major factor in Latin America. Unsurprisingly, both predominately White institutions and many Latin American governments reinforce each other’s apathy and ideological perspectives.  Afro Latinos, however, have not waited for policy wonks or their government to change on their own. They are changing there societies from within.  The numbers of people of African descent in Latin America are astounding.  There are 150 million Afro-descendants in the Western Hemisphere. Brazil has more people of African descent then any country in Africa except Nigeria, making Afro Brazilians the second largest population of Afro-descendants on the planet.  The US has the second largest population in the Hemisphere but it is quickly followed by Colombia, a country embroiled in a civil war with severe racial dimensions.  Rarely do we hear about the racial aspects of the war in Colombia on the evening news. Countries like Cuba and the Dominican Republic have formidable Afro-descendant populations but so does El Salvador, Honduras, Bolivia and Venezuela. Shockingly, anytime these countries are in the news, the coverage seems to “whitewash” the population implying this notion that racism is just an American construct.

These images rarely reflect the reality of racial diversity within these countries and give little space for heterogeneity of these communities. The few times we do see Afro-Latinos represented they are exoticized or regulated to the same stereotypical roles that African Americans have been struggling against.  Our own immigration debate in the US is a very important area where Afro-Latinos have been rendered invisible.  Immigration from Latin America is not a black brown conflict. It is a result of unfair economic and political practices on both sides of the border. These practices disfranchise both African Americans and our brothers and sisters in the whole hemisphere. While immigration discussions explicate issues of alienation, race is rarely directly addressed as a factor in the movement of poor people into the U.S.

One thing that remains apparent is the similarity within our experiences.  Regardless of country, we know that Afro-descendants throughout the Americas have less access to quality education, healthcare, housing and job security.  Unfortunately, racism remains a reality throughout the world and Afrodescendant issues and priorities remain marginalized among U.S. foreign interests in Latin America.

I applaud U.S. policy-makers who are prioritizing these conversations. During this year’s Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Donald Payne led a panel to discuss and address these issues that face Afro-Latinos. We need to take those unique dialogues challenge not only our own knowledge but the media and our policymakers to give voice to a population that is 150 million strong but so often go uncounted.

Nicole C. Lee is the Executive Director of TransAfrica Forum.

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