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Kamala Harris Officially State Attorney General

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By Yussuf Simmonds, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

After a long-fought and bruising battle to be the state’s top law enforcement official, Kamala Harris has prevailed to become the next attorney general of California. She will be the first woman and the first African American to be elected to statewide office in more than three decades. A career prosecutor, Harris embarked on a campaign that many thought was insurmountable, but she overcame all the obstacles and barriers that were thrown in her path – and like her campaign slogan stated, she is not only “Smart On Crime,” she is smart.

More than three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Sentinel declared victory on behalf of D.A. Harris in the race for state attorney general, amidst a premature victory press conference call by D.A. Steve Cooley. But, apparently the subsequent counting of the mail-ins and absentee ballots forced Cooley to concede, and he did, recently as he trailed by more than 50,000 votes in what was one of the closest statewide races in California history.

His concession means that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris will be transitioning to the post of California’s next attorney general. And now California Democrats can claim a clean sweep of California statewide offices in the 2010 midterm elections.

Cooley issued the following statement: "While the margin is extremely narrow and ballots are still being counted, my campaign believes that we cannot make up the current gap in the vote count for Attorney General. Therefore, I am formally conceding the race and congratulate Ms. Harris on becoming California's next Attorney General.”

Congresswoman-elect Karen Bass said, “I think this is a wonderful day for the state of California to have an attorney general who focuses on being smart on crime instead of the policies that we’ve had over the last few decades that relied on incarceration in a disproportionate manner to African Americans.”

Assemblyman Mike Davis, a stalwart in the Harris campaign said, “This was a necessary and wonderful struggle to make California what it ought to be. This is a state of a majority of minority culture and we need to have leadership in the state that reflects the people being served. We had two outstanding candidates, who ran for attorney general; both of whom would provide excellent service. But, the uniqueness of what Kamala Harris brings to the table is to give to California the opportunity to have women, and minorities such as African Americans and Indian Americans to demonstrate their ability to be included in the criminal justice system of California in a significant way.”

Former Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, who himself was the last statewide elected office holder said, “The election of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris to the office of California Attorney General is historic. She set an example of running a "smart" campaign by appealing to the public with an intelligent approach, and not demagoguery. She defeated the big money interests of the country, and all Californians could be justly proud of her accomplishments. She will make a great Attorney General.”

Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., executive publisher of the Sentinel and Chairman of the NNPA, a strong supporter of Harris was exuberant in hearing the news of her victory: “This is a great day for California and for African Americans. Kamala Harris has demonstrated that she is ready, willing and able to reform the state’s criminal justice system and bring it more in line with the will of the people. Her historic rise from prosecutor to district attorney and now to attorney general is a culmination of her campaign slogan, “Smart on Crime.” She has an innovative approach to fighting crime and has been an advocate for significant changes in current outdated system. She will be an excellent attorney general.”

Chariss Bremond Weaver, president and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, issued the following statement: “California cannot thrive unless its communities are equipped to raise healthy, responsible, productive, and joyous children. The challenges facing California’s urban communities are a major hindrance to the achievement of this goal. While there are a lot of people who claim to be “working on” these issues, there are very few of us who are actually working “in them”. Kamala Harris is one of those people. Her understanding of the need for more prevention, redemption and second chances is keenly tempered by her ability to still effectuate prosecution and ensure the guilty are resolved to appropriate consequences. This is a great day in the State of California because we’ve elected an attorney general that equitably represents the needs of all Californians and can effectively transition those needs into action.”

It is important to note that Wilson Riles was the first Black statewide office holder; he was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1971.

And former Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke laid the groundwork for Harris’ victory as she too had run for the office of attorney general of California in 1978.

Maya Angelou's Rainbow Returns to St. Louis

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By Kenya Vaughn, Special to the NNPA from The St. Louis American –

An icon who transcends genres and traditions, Maya Angelou began her evening in St. Louis onstage discussing her early years – spent in the very city where she was presenting her sold-out conversation at the Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri.

She discussed the childhood trauma made famous through her best-selling book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was familiar territory, but there was something special about hearing it first-hand. She talked about being raped as a child by her mother’s boyfriend and how that led her to refrain from verbal communication for several years. “The only person I told was my younger brother Bailey,” Angelou said – almost appearing to relive the conversation she had with him. “He said I had to tell him the name of the rapist,” she said. She told her nine-year-old brother, “He said if I told, he would kill you.” She said her brother told her, “I won’t let him kill me. So I told him, of course,” she said.

Her rapist ended up in jail. A few days later, he would be dead. Angelou felt responsible. If her words had the power to take a man’s life, she no longer wanted them. “I thought if I spoke, my voice might just go out and kill people, so I stopped speaking,” she said.

Frustrated with her daughter’s state as a post-traumatic mute, her mother sent her to live with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. How ironic that her words would make her an ambassador for self-empowerment and humanitarianism – and she would credit the very city that served as the setting for an act that could have ruined her life as a source of personal joy.

“I want you to know, St. Louis, that you are the rainbow in my clouds,” she said. She offered affirmation to her birthplace, as she discussed the events in her life. “Mama would sit me down on the floor the way old ladies still braid Black girls' hair in the South,” Angelou said. “Mama would bend her hand like that and put it behind my neck so she wouldn't break my neck by accident. She would say, ‘Sister, Momma don't care that you don't talk. Momma don't care that these people say you must be an idiot or a moron. Sister, Mama don't care. Sister, you know what? Mama know when you and the good Lord get ready you going to be a teacher – and you are going to teach all over the world.’” Angelou reflected, “I used to sit there and think, ‘This poor ignorant Mama.’ But here I sit, all these years at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, with more than 60 degrees.”

Her testimony alone was inspiring enough, but true to form the audience would leave the hour-long event with enough in their spirit to fuel a movement of gratitude, inspiration, and commitment to making the world a better place.

“When it looked like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in my cloud,” Angelou sang in a weathered voice. Minding her poetry business “I’m about the business of being a poet, and being a poet is no small matter,” Angelou said. “Estimates say there are 50 million Black people in the United States, and plenty say that is a modest number. Some say there are 50 million Black Baptists … and that’s not counting the backsliders, AME, CME, and the four Black atheists.”

Angelou said that it was her beloved art form – one that has become synonymous with her name – that served as the ultimate survival mechanism from 1619 until now.

“When you think about our experience, many people wonder, ‘How did they survive?’” Angelou said. “I believe that it was poetry.” She then recited mostly humorous excerpts from the Black experience and beyond to a delighted crowd. “‘My woman is chocolate and bad to the bone. And, every time she shakes, a skinny woman loses her home,’” Angelou recited. “And that was from the 19th century.”

She name-dropped greats such as James Weldon Johnson, Anne Spencer, Langston Hughes, and Nikki Giovanni. “‘Where have you gone with your confident walk, your crooked smile, the rent money in one pocket and my heart in another,’” Angelou recited Mari Evans’ 1970 poem Where Have You Gone. “You need to know that someone was there before you, and poetry does that,” said Angelou.

Courage in the rainbow

“Courage is the most important of all of the virtues because you can’t practice any of the others with consistency without it,” Angelou said. “You have to have courage enough to say, ‘Yes, and so what.’ If in fact you have a chance to better your lives and someone else’s life, you are being courageous.”

She had the courage to move beyond her circumstances of racial inequality, childhood sex abuse, and being a teenage mother. Her courage began an ascent that led to greatness beyond measure. “You should be ashamed to die before you’ve done something magnificent for humankind,” Angelou said.

“Always rush to say yes to the good thing. And, then pray about it. My prayer for you tonight is that you look at yourself and see how blessed you are and you all remember the rainbow in your cloud. Who can say where your influence will reach?”

Nation Mourns Museum Founder: Legacy of Dr. Margaret Burroughs Lives on at DuSable Museum

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By J. Coyden Palmer, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –

As word spread about the death of national and international Black historian Dr. Margaret Goss Burroughs condolences poured in from the White House and throughout Chicago. Extolling Dr. Burroughs as one “who was widely admired for her contributions to American culture as an esteemed artist, historian, educator and mentor, President Barack Obama said “Dr. Burroughs’ legacy will continue throughout the world.” Dr. Burroughs, who co-founded Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History with her late husband Charles Gordon Burroughs in the living room of their home in 1961, continued to serve as director emeritus of the museum until her death. She died at her Chicago home with her family at her bedside. Dr. Burroughs was 95.

President Obama also lauded Dr. Burroughs as one “who was also admired for her generosity and commitment to underserved communities through her children’s books, art workshops and community centers that both inspired and educated young people about African-American culture.”

“Michelle and I are saddened by the passing of Dr. Margaret Burroughs. Her legacy will live on in Chicago and around the world,” President Obama said.

Dr. Burroughs, poet, visual artist, educator, and arts organizer was born on November 1, 1915. She attended school in Chicago, including Chicago Teachers College and received a Bachelor’s Degree (1944) and a Master’s (1948) of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mayor Richard M. Daley joined a host of others who sent their condolences to Dr. Burroughs’ family, stating “the city has truly lost one of its iconic figures in the art world.” Daley said the loss of one of the city’s most prominent members who can never be replaced will be balanced out by the thousands she helped personally and millions she influenced around the world. “Chicago is a better place because of Dr. Margaret Burroughs,” Daley said. “Through her artistic talent and wide breadth of knowledge, she gave us a cultural gem, the DuSable Museum of African American History. But, she herself was a cultural institution. She spent a lifetime instilling a love of arts and culture in people young and old. She will be deeply missed.” U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Il, called Dr. Burroughs “a keeper of history. With her passing she attains the distinction as ancestor and leaves behind a formidable imprint of struggle, triumph and hope,” Rush added.

“Dr. Burroughs was a historian for a lost and often disregarded people, and a champion for those whose voices often go unheard,” Rush said. “Over the years I have appropriated nearly a million dollars to the DuSable institution because it is just that important—it is an important landmark in American history.” U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Il, added that (Dr.) Burroughs was not a typical artist. He said her works were all socially responsible and forced people to question their own values and attitudes about the African Diaspora.

“She was an artist with a conscience, equally committed to her creative work and her social activism,” Jackson added. “Dr. Burroughs was deeply committed to everything she did. When Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia and the first woman head of state of an African country, visited Chicago and spoke at the DuSable Museum, Dr. Burroughs prepared a special presentation of one of her paintings. But, Dr. Burroughs was not there to present it herself because the event occurred on the day she had set-aside each week to spend with people who had been incarcerated. Even on such a special day, Dr. Burroughs would not step away from the important work that she did.” In 1985, Dr. Burroughs was appointed by Mayor Harold Washington as a Commissioner of the Chicago Park District. She also founded the South Side Community Arts Center, a community organization that has served as a gallery and workshop studio for artists and students for 70 years. Although Burroughs has worked in sculpture, painting, and many other art forms throughout her career, she is best known for her work as a printmaker.

Burroughs believed establishing the DuSable Museum would be her legacy. “Every individual wants to leave a legacy; to be remembered for something positive they have done for the community,” said Burroughs. “Long after I’m dead and gone the DuSable Museum will still be here. “ A lot of Black museums have opened up, but we’re the only one that grew out of the indigenous Black community. We weren’t started by anybody downtown. We were started by ordinary folks.” She said the museum gives young African Americans a chance to see themselves in a different light than what many have been taught. “A museum shows children they can be somebody,” Burroughs once stated. By emphasizing the cultural and racial roots of Black people, Burroughs hoped to teach young people that not only could they be somebody but that they came from a proud and strong Black heritage.

Burroughs said the DuSable Museum is different from any other African American museum in the country because it started and grew from within the community. Attorney Cheryl Blackwell Bryson, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees stated, “Dr. Burroughs was a true renaissance woman, a visionary and a role model for all. She was a prime example of someone who lived ‘The Golden Rule,’ you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” One of Dr. Burroughs’ former students spoke of what it was like to be a student of an icon. Howard Brookins Sr., father of Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. said Dr. Burroughs was his division and art teacher at DuSable High School. He described Burroughs as an attractive woman whom all the school boys loved. He remembers Burroughs as one of the first women he had seen wearing an Afro and said she was a visionary.

“Dr. Burroughs gave her all to her students and she encouraged us all to achieve through school and she followed us and remained as counsel to us as we went into our respective professional careers,” Brookins said. “I will miss her but never forget the memories we shared and all the physical gifts she gave me, and we must continue her legacy of leadership in providing support for the sustaining and growth of The DuSable Museum as well as institutionalizing her leadership and public service training to a new generation for generations to come.”

Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Crusader Newspapers – Chicago and Gary, said that Dr. Burroughs had a long and rich relationship with the Crusader Newspapers. It was in the late 1950’s and 1960’s that she and her first husband, Bernard Goss curated an “Exposition of the Negro in Business and Culture” featuring some 150 paintings of distinguished and historically significant Blacks and dioramas depicting the rise of Blacks in America from their native Africa, under the leadership of the late Balm L. Leavell, Jr., founder of the Exposition and newspapers. The paintings were a part of Chicago’s Sesquicentennial in 1976 and displayed at The Daley Center, among other venues in the city. The collection is now housed at the DuSable Museum of African American History, donated by now publisher Dorothy R. Leavell. “Someone of Margaret’s dedication, foresight and tenacity comes along once in a lifetime. Her legacy shall be forever preserved in the institutions she founded,” Leavell concluded.

Highlights of Dr. Burroughs career include: Director and Founder, DuSable Museum of African American history, 1961-1984; Art Teacher, DuSable High School, 1946-1969; Professor of African American Art and Culture, Elmhurst College, 1968; and Professor of Humanities, Kennedy King College, 1969-1979. Dr. Burroughs has also made a distinctive contribution as a poet and as an editor of poets. The majority of her poems are published in the volume What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? (1968) and Africa, My Africa (1970).

At the request of Dr. Burroughs there will be no funeral services. Instead there will be a public memorial at a later date.

Rousing Support for Embattled Rep. Rangel

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By Herb Boyd, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

While Congressman Charles Rangel awaits a decision from members of the U.S. House of Representatives, a strong contingent of supporters gathered in front of Mother Zion church in Harlem, each taking a turn to praise him and to admonish his colleagues in Congress.

“We are urging the House to vote no,” charged Assemblyman Keith Wright, who moderated the lineup of speakers. A “no” vote would mean a mere reprimand sentence for the embattled congressman who was convicted of violating 11 House ethical rules and regulations.

There is a general consensus that believes he will be censured, but to what degree is of grave concern to his constituents. “He did nothing illegal,” said Councilmember Inez Dickens, “maybe a little sloppy, but nothing illegal. We are united here and we believe this is a civil rights issue and we are asking the House exercise due diligence in their judgment.”

Former Mayor David Dinkins hoped a recommendation from his colleagues would be “sanctions less than censure.” He believed there still may be time to turn the situation around for a “representative who has over his long career been extremely helpful to people. He has been punished enough.”

“What we need now is for the other 434 members of the House to do the right thing,” said the Rev. Gregory Robeson Smith, the pastor of Mother Zion church. He recalled Rangel’s unwavering fight against apartheid in South Africa and his being arrested in the stance against police brutality. “In this case, justice has already been served,” he said.

City Comptroller John Liu said the people of the 15th Congressional District had already voiced their support on Nov. 2. “They made it loud and clear that he was their choice by re-electing him,” he said. This fact was echoed by the Rev. Jacques De Graft, the Imams Conate and Pasha, Walter Edwards of the Harlem Arts Alliance, and State Senator Adriano Espaillat. “Thousands of constituents don’t want to be disenfranchised by a hasty action,” Espaillat said.

Assemblyman Wright insisted that Rangel’s reputation has not been soiled, “in fact, it has been enhanced.”

“I completely agree with all that’s been said,” Cheryl Pahaham, who was among the spectators at the press conference. “Like so many others in the district, I voted for him.”

Political consultant Simeon Banister said that ordinarily he refrains from speaking to the press, “but I feel a need to say something about this situation, though. Look at the cases of James Traficant and Charlie Wilson. These were clear instances of impropriety, but Congressman Rangel has committed no crime, no charges of corruption. The worst he should get is a reprimand,” Banister concluded.

As Rev. De Graft delivered closing remarks, the crowd began singing “We Shall Overcome.”

New York Times Report: Obama Could Prevail in 2012

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By Dorothy Rowley, Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers –

Despite marginal success with his foreign policy and attempts to reduce unemployment, and the recent loss of Democratic control of the House of Representatives, President Obama still seems to be on the path for a successful 2012 campaign bid, according to a recent New York Times report written by Jeff Somner.

In addition, economists like Yale University professor Ray Fair predict that by 2011, the economy may have rebounded, and that Obama will likely face a weak opponent.

In the Times article, Fair forecasts a landslide victory for the first term commander-in chief based on progress in the economy, the same strategy employed in 1992 by James Carville, which propelled Bill Clinton to the White House.

Fair also claims the state of the economy has a dominant influence on national elections. “In recent columns I’ve explored how elections – and Wall Street’s beliefs about them – affect the markets and the economy, Sommer wrote. “Professor Fair has studied the flip side: how the economy helps to determine elections.”

Sommer wrote that while Fair was updating his 2002 book, “Predicting Presidential Elections and Other Things,” he calculated that the likely outcome of the 2012 presidential election is “an Obama victory, regardless of whom he runs against [and that] if my model’s right, it couldn’t look better for Obama.”

Meanwhile, Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been talked about as a possible candidate to run against Obama. But while she has remained popular with many Republicans, her favorability ratings are low among the rest of the electorate, according to national political analyst Matt Lewis, who said Palin stands a decent chance of winning a GOP nomination but “claiming the presidency would be dramatically tougher.”

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