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President Obama's Critics Compare Him to Martin Luther King

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By Erica Butler, Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

In the midst of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebration, a disgruntled Washingtonian protested in front of the Washington Convention Center—which housed most MLK celebration events—and began to chant anti-Obama idioms.

On Aug. 26, right after the “Table of Brotherhood Project” panel discussion, Hassan Shabazz, 45, stood outside of the Washington Convention Center during the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebration week on Aug. 26 with a poster that read, “America has betrayed Dr. King's dream” and on the flipside, “No Jobs! No second term Obama!”

Shabazz repeatedly chanted, “Obama, you can’t run forever Obama. You better help the poor Obama,” on the corner of New York Ave., N.W. in Washington, D.C.

His reason: To prove that Obama has put King’s legacy to shame. He is part of a growing chorus of Black criticism, and skepticism, about the link between the Obama presidency and Black America.

Some people say that Obama, as the first Black president of the U.S., has fulfilled a dream African Americans did not think they would see in their lifetime.

But Shabazz said that’s the only “dream” Obama has lived up to. He said the president’s policies and actions have not impacted the Black community enough to say he has lived up to King’s dream of economic prosperity.

“What is he doing for the poor? Is that following Dr. King’s dream?” Shabazz said. “All the poor Blacks are getting evicted in S.E. (D.C.) He’s got to come back to the Black community one day.”

PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley and African American scholar Cornel West have emerged as prominent critics of Obama and recently grabbed the public’s attention as the duo conducted a 16-city “Poverty Tour.” On their website, West said the tour is not an “anti-Obama tour,” but a call for the president and Congress to help Americans who were hardest hit by the recession.

“…it would be nice to hear the president say the word ‘poor.’ To say the word ‘poverty,” Smiley told the Associated Press. “We get conversations about the middle class. Well, the new poor are the former middle class. But we can’t get this president or any leaders to say the words ‘poor’ or ‘poverty,’ much less do anything about it.”

What’s Smiley and West’s inspiration for the tour? A quote from Dr. King, which reads:

“I choose to identify with the underprivileged, I choose to identify with the poor, I choose to give my life for the hungry, I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. . .”

In an interview with the Tom Joyner Morning Show this week, President Obama reacted to criticism from African-American leaders and said their disapproval is expected.

“…when things are going good, you get the credit, when things are tough, you get the blame, that’s the nature of the Office. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that. I think about what we can do to get the economy growing faster,” Obama said.

With U.S. unemployment numbers stagnant at 9.1 percent with no added jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, Obama’s criticism may continue to grow. But the White House is pinning hopes for a public opinion reversal on a major speech Obama will give Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. Professor Harley Shaiken from the University of California, Berkley called the speech “critical.”

“It could be the opening of a renewed effort on jobs that really gets labor excited, or it could be too little too late, which really increases the frustration,” Shaiken told NPR. “It's going to be an important speech, and it will define where labor is on Election Day.”

John Earnest, spokesman for the White House, told NPR that Obama’s speech would define a common ground between workers and employers.

“It's the president's view that there are a lot of aligned interests here,” Earnest said, “that there's an opportunity for us to put in place the kind of economic policies that could be supported by Democrats and Republicans, that could be supported by American businesses and American workers, that there are American communities all across the country that could benefit from these policies.”

Shabazz, a laid-off construction worker, said that the president’s financial bailouts for major companies and other policies have led the poor to believe they are not top priority.

“We know Dr. King was a great man, we know what he represented, but [is the Obama Administration] practicing it?

“I’m not for Obama. I voted for him, but not anymore,” Shabazz said.

Ray Baker, talk show host of Howard University’s radio station WHUR and brotherhood project panelist, called a comparison between King and Obama “unfair.” He said the only connection the two have is Aug. 28, Obama’s “I Have a Dream” speech in ’63 and the day Obama accepted the democratic nomination for president in ’08.’

“Let's remember Dr. King was a preacher first, so everything he did had to make complete sense to his moral conscience,” Baker told The AFRO. “Dr. King had no constituency and no one to answer to but his own morality so he was in a position to take on the establishment and critique power in honest and ultimately life threatening ways.”

Baker said he doesn’t think Obama has let down King’s legacy because their works are in “different lanes.”

“President Obama has elected to do his work inside the metaphorical establishment, so he is either unwilling or unable to make those same unfettered critiques of power that Dr. King made,” he said.

As the president gears up for a possible re-election next year, analysts cannot definitively determine if public backlash from Black leaders could impact the “Black vote,” but leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus said Black voters may stay home next year if unemployment rates remain unchanged.

“The worry should be … are people going to be enthusiastic about getting to the polls, or are they not going to be as enthusiastic,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) told the Wall Street Journal.

“I'm frustrated with the president, I'm frustrated with the Senate, I'm frustrated with the House,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), who is also chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The president and his White House team is trying to minimize the discussion of race as it relates to job creation.”

White House Rejects Bid for Marcus Garvey Posthumous Pardon

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By Tony Best, Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News –

A bid to secure a posthumous presidential pardon for Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica’s first national hero, has been rejected out of hand by the Barack Obama White House in Washington.

But the Administration’s rejection is unlikely to end the campaign in and out of the United States, Jamaica and elsewhere to clear the name of the iconic figure.

Garvey, who led the greatest mass movement of Blacks in the United States in the first half of the 20th century and is often credited by historians and other experts with promoting the economic, social and political interests of the ordinary Black person as no other had been able to do for more than half a century, had a following that ran into the millions in the Western Hemisphere. He was convicted in U.S. federal court in the 1920s of mail fraud involving $25 and was incarcerated for almost three years before he was released and deported to Jamaica. He died in London in 1940 and was initially buried there but his remains were exhumed from Kensal Green Cemetery in 1964 and returned to Jamaica where they were re-interred at National Heroes Park in Kingston.

In a letter to Donovan Parker, a Jamaican attorney in Florida, who has been writing to the U.S. President every week requesting clemency, Ronald Rogers, White House pardon attorney, stated that the limited resources of the Justice Department would be better spent on other requests for presidential clemency.

“It is the general policy of the Department of Justice that requests for posthumous pardons for federal offences not be processed for adjudication,” Rogers told Parker in a sharply worded response. “The policy is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the clemency process is better spent on pardon and commutation requests of living persons.

“Many posthumous pardon requests would likely be based on a claim of manifest injustice, and given the decades that have passed since the event and the historical record would have been scoured to objectively and comprehensively investigate such applications, it is the Department’s position that the limited resources which are available to process requests for presidential clemency – now being submitted in record numbers – are best dedicated to requests submitted by persons who can benefit from a grant of the request,” Rogers stated.

In a letter to the White House, Parker described Garvey as a “leading forbearer of the African-American civil rights experience.”

He said that “it is full time that this extra-ordinary human being of humble beginnings and strong moral character be pardoned by the pen of an American President. It would be fitting if both you, Mr. President, and the first lady visit Jamaica for the purpose of signing the executive order pardoning Marcus Mosiah Garvey.”

After receiving the White House rejection, Parker said that he disappointed and urged Pamela Bridgewater, U.S. Ambassador in Jamaica, to join in the call for the pardon.

“I believe there has been no coordinated effort to get this issue in front of the President,” Parker said. “I think if President Obama reads it (the request), he will sign it.”

What has upset many supporters of the clemency application was the tone of Roger’s reply, which Miguel Lorne of the Marcus Garvey founded People’s Political Alliance found unacceptable.

“The language used in the reply was most disdainful. It makes you wonder if Obama actually read the request,” he said. “Obama must know about Garvey, who is the forerunner of the civil rights movement. It is most disappointing.”

Legal experts and other who have studied the Garvey case have long concluded that he was framed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and wrongfully convicted.

Successive Jamaican governments and their leaders, including Edward Seaga, of the Jamaica Labor Party, and Portia Simpson-Miller, the country’s first female Prime Minister, have called for the pardon but it was not been granted by either Republican or Democratic Presidents.

Black Leadership in UK Wants End to Assault on Youth, Community

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By Starla Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

(FinalCall.com) - Black youth are still being unfairly blamed and targeted in the aftermath of the civil unrest and rebellion that gripped the streets of London and other cities in early August, charge UK activists.

Despite media footage that clearly proves White, Asian and Black youth participating in the violence that erupted, Black youth have seemingly been subjected to increased racial profiling by police in light of Prime Minister David Cameron's vow to identify, prosecute and jail all those involved.

Increased racial profiling of Black youth stemming from the unrest is the result and is the biggest issue that needs to be discussed, says Hilary Muhammad, UK representative for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

“Not only are we having racial profiling here, we're also having dress profiling, we're also having age profiling and ethnicity profiling. So with this, if young brothers are walking around with hoodies on and with scarves around their necks then they're being stopped by four to six police officers at a time,” says Muhammad. It is systematic now, he adds.

“Wearing a hoodie is really just a draw to get stopped so they have become very heavy handed in their tactics and the laws that they are enforcing to really prevent young people from assembling more than three or four at a time,” says Muhammad.

Hughie Rose of the UK Chapter of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) says not only are Black youth being pulled over or stopped but for those now facing charges for riot-related offenses, their right to fair and swift legal representation is being questioned.

“They're actually expediting our youth very quickly through the court system without any proper legal advice or anybody watching the case. They're doing 24 hour courts now and shutting off the courts to the public and doing the court cases in private,” Rose told The Final Call. Even though parents and probation officers can be in the courtroom, Mr. Rose is concerned that youth are treated fairly, Black youth in particular.

The NBPP have teamed up with local UK lawyers and other activist groups to formulate a defense campaign to monitor some of the court sessions in which Black youth are the defendants “to see exactly what they're doing with our youth,” says Rose.

When asked if groups of White youth were also being randomly stopped or pulled over by police since the uprising, Muhammad responded, “If they are it's nowhere near the proportion that Black people are being abused and ill-effected by these draconian laws. No, no, no! White people don't have to suffer these kinds of things. These things are reserved for us as a people” says Muhammad.

“What this says to me is that this was planned by government to introduce these types of draconian measures,” he adds.

“There have been increased policing laws. Arresting people right now for having a new pair of trainers (sneakers) on and if you don't have the receipt with it. They're just arresting you automatically … and since they've got the extra policing down here, 16,000 onto the scene they've gone buck wild in the community,” says Rose, also noting preliminary reports that 11 police officers pepper sprayed and assaulted another Black man, Jacob Michaels, resulting in his death Aug. 22 in a predominately White area near Manchester.

This would mark 16 Black men killed by police this year alone in the UK. Reports allege the officers repeatedly beat and kicked Michaels while he was handcuffed and on the ground.

The police shooting of Mark Duggan, another Black man, is what activists say sparked the latest round of unrest.

“If a young person is wearing a hooded top, the police have the right to pull them over, question, search. They have the right to ask you to remove any item of clothing they feel can cover your head or your face. Be it baseball caps, be it hats, be it hooded tops,” says community activist Trevor Hakim Muhammad.

Through how Black youth dress, Hakim Muhammad says, a more extreme level of racial profiling is imminent.

However the UK's grassroots Black activist movement is not taking this issue lightly and refuses to remain silent. The future of Britain's Black youth must be in the hands of parents and concerned and committed community citizens, not the government, says Hilary Muhammad.

Since the unrest, several groups have had town hall meetings and emergency forums to come up with solutions to problems facing Black youth.

Rose says Black organizations in South London, Tottenham and other areas are actively formulating campaigns and are coming together in an effort to join forces in a community-wide effort.

“It has galvanized the community to take a better organized action so that's one good thing that's come out of it,” says Rose.

Another broad coalition of Black leaders and organizations representing differing philosophies but harboring the same goal of taking ownership of their communities gathered recently at the Broadwater Farm Community Center in Tottenham, where Duggan was killed, to discuss problems but more importantly to enact solutions in response to the crisis gripping Black Britons.

Tottenham is significant to Black Brits because of the wave of civil unrest that occurred here 30 years ago, says Trevor Hakim Muhammad. “This was one of the places back in the mid-80s of the first level of civil unrest and uprisings that happened. When the Black community became frustrated … wanting a sense of empowerment to fight back against the establishment, mainly the police who were acting under stop and search laws where they could just stop a young Black person and totally racial profile and arrest you just because they felt they had a suspicion you were going to do something,” he explains.

Some of the most historic uprisings in the UK have taken place at Broadwater Farm, an area Hakim Muhammad describes as the U.S. equivalent of public housing developments or “the projects.”

“The nature of it (the meeting) is to discuss what happened, why it happened and what are we going to do going forward,” says Hilary Muhammad, one of many helping organize and coordinate the historic call to organization and action.

Hilary Muhammad hopes representatives from such groups as the Hebrew Israelite Nation, Pan-Africanists, local leaders, community activists, youth leaders and “every strata of representation in the community” will attend the gathering.

“What has happened has showed us that if leadership is divided then we can't speak to division among our youth who may enter into what's known as youth organizations, what's known as gangs and what-not. Our people are fighting each other over turf and different areas wherein we live and they are deriving such a warped perspective from those of us that are supposed to be in leadership who cannot agree on an agenda that will take our community forward,” he says.

“If the leadership is organized, regardless to language, regardless to faith, regardless to tradition then our young people can extract that example from us of unity. Regardless of dress or labels, then we can unify our youth but it starts with a unified message from the adults” says Hilary Muhammad.

“In order for us to evolve out from underneath the table of the enemy, we must now look toward the leader within ourselves and look toward as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan taught us, God Almighty for the solution to our problem because our problem cannot be solved or resolved on the physical level. Our problem can only be solved and resolved on the spiritual level. The leadership must come together to thrash out ways and means to which we can resolve the problems of the times that we have entered into,” says the Nation of Islam student minister.

Speakers and presenters at the upcoming community meeting include, Student Minister Muhammad; Chairman of the West Indian Standing Conference Clarence Thompson; founding director of Nu-Beyond Ltd: Learning By Choice Dr. William “Lez” Henry; youth activist Mikel Ameen, Uni-Hood; activist Trevor Hakim Muhammad; social intervention specialist Twilight Bey; youth activist Ayeshah Muhammad; Chair of Queen Mother Moor School the Rev. Hewie Andrews; Student Protocol Director for the Nation of Islam Ishea Muhammad and many others who have voiced support of and solidarity with the event.

Congressional Black Caucus Job Fairs Draw Thousands Seeking Work

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By Askia Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - Thousands upon thousands of recession-weary job seekers lined up for hours at a time to attend each of a national series of job fairs and related town hall meetings convened by members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in five cities throughout the month of August.

In Atlanta, job seekers camped overnight wearing business suits in tormenting heat, for an opportunity to meet the 90 employers who attended there, according to a broadcast report. The line of job seekers snaked for blocks outside Atlanta Technical College, creating miles of traffic backups in Southwest Atlanta.

The first job fair and town hall meeting was hosted Aug. 8 by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-MO) in Cleveland. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)—dean of the CBC—and Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) hosted the sessions at Wayne County Community College in Detroit on Aug. 16. The Atlanta sessions were hosted by civil rights veteran Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and colleague Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) hosted two days of sessions in Miami Aug. 22 and 23, featuring Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, and fellow CBC member Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). On the other hand, Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a Black Republican freshman member of Congress and Tea Party favorite, condemned government initiatives on job creation and declined to support the job fair in his state.

“Make no mistake, job creation remains our number one priority,” Rep. Hastings said in a statement on the opening of the South Florida town hall. “Unfortunately, there continues to be a major racial and economic disparity that continues to go unaddressed in the broader discussion of job creation and economic recovery. That is why I am so pleased that the CBC has launched this initiative and is bringing these opportunities to South Florida to help tackle the pressing issue of unemployment and underemployment, especially in minority communities. This initiative puts boots on the ground to help people get back on their feet in these most difficult times.”

“From day one, my focus has been jobs, jobs, jobs,” Rep. Wilson added. “Unemployment in South Florida is no longer a crisis, but an epidemic. It's time to take matters into our own hands and provide real opportunities for people to get back to work.”

For his part, Rep. West insists that only the “free market” creates jobs, and he denounced CBC members such as former CBC Chairman Maxine Waters (D-CA)—who scheduled the final two-day sessions Aug. 30 and 31—as “plantation overseers” because in his view they keep people “enslaved” under government dependence.

Ironically, Rep. West's own brother Arlan West is out of work. When Arlan West called his brother seeking help finding a job, Rep. West told his brother to seek help from Rep. Waters since she was holding a job fair, according to The Examiner.com. Arlan West said he was thankful for the assistance from Rep. Waters, describing the CBC job fairs as a “prime example” of elected representatives serving their constituents. Arlan West described his elected brother's rhetoric as “unproductive.”

“As reported, African American unemployment remains extremely high at 15.9 percent, and the wealth gap between Whites and people of color is the largest it has been in decades,” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said in a statement. “It has become clear that the time for immediate and real action to provide hard working Americans with real jobs is now.

“Our goal remains the same,” Rep. Cleaver continued. “We want to get 10,000 people hired at our jobs events. Washington has finally ended the see-saw game on the debt ceiling and now we can finally focus on real people who are suffering.”

Local job officials agreed. “I believe the recent lack of leadership in Washington is a contributing factor to the overall lack of confidence in the economy,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler told ABC News. “Due to this lack of confidence, we are seeing a business community that is hesitant to make further investments in the economy.”

“The Congressional Black Caucus decided to take matters into their own hands,” Mahen Gunaratna, a spokesman for Rep. Wilson told ABC News. “They are tired of Republicans' inaction that prevents bills from moving forward. This is a real tangible opportunity for our constituents.”

President Obama, who spent 10 days in late August vacationing at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, said he will renew his focus on job creation during a speech slated for early September.

“When Congress gets back in September, my basic argument to them is this: We should not have to choose between getting our fiscal house in order and jobs and growth,” Obama said on Aug. 17, before his vacation began, at a stop in Atkinson, Ill., as he concluded a Midwest bus “listening tour.”

In a preview of Obama's speech, former White House advisor, now Obama 2012 re-election campaign strategist David Axelrod said the president will call on Congress to pass a number of policies aimed at stimulating the economy, including an extension of the payroll tax.

“In the short term, we need to do some things to accelerate the economy,” Axelrod said on CNN's “State of the Union” Aug. 21. “In the long run, we also ought to agree that we need to deal with our debt issue.

“Some will be new. Some we have already talked about,” Axelrod said. “Some he has been asking Congress to do for some time. The only thing that keeps us from acting on many of these things is pure politics.”

T.I. Back in Federal Prison… Again

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Two days after his release, rapper T.I., who was born Clifford Harris, finds himself back in federal prison in a controversy over using a luxury tour bus to report to a halfway house.

“We are awaiting the opportunity to quickly resolve whatever the issue may be that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has with T.I.'s method of transportation, bus, from Arkansas to Atlanta, so that T.I. can return to the halfway house to complete the remaining days of his sentence,” the Grammy-winning rapper’s attorney, Steve Sadow, told E! News.

Therefore, instead of temporarily residing in a halfway house, T.I. is now in prison in Atlanta. Officials told the AFRO they would only confirm T.I.’s whereabouts and his release date but would not comment on why he was sent to prison.

Apparently, the rapper failed to comply with the rules, according to TMZ.com. Prison officials told the website that an incarcerated prisoner in a low or medium security facility is allowed to travel in a private, unescorted mode of transportation. But T.I. told the authorities he would be traveling in a van, not a tour bus with an entourage.

Prison officials also barred the use of video cameras at the facility.

Production had already begun on a VH1 reality series set to follow the rapper. Cameras were already shooting before he was placed back into federal custody.

The rapper appeared to be pleased with his release on drug charges stemming from a September 2010 traffic stop in Los Angeles where he and his wife were found with ecstasy. That charge was a violation of probation for an earlier conviction on weapons charges. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison.

“The storm is over & da sun back out. IT'S OUR TIME TO SHINE SHAWTY!!!!!” he said via his Twitter account after his release. “Welcome to the beginning of our Happy Ending!!!!”

T.I.’s scheduled release date from the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta is Sept. 29.

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