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Conservatives Blast Obama as a Race-Baiter for Trayvon Comments

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As Blacks lauded President Obama for speaking so frankly about what it’s like to be Black in America, conservatives used the president’s comments, delivered in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin, to deny racism exists and to portray Obama as a race-baiter.

Appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor,” the National Review’s Heath McDonald deplored the “myth” that racism is “the thing holding Blacks back.”

Breitbart’s John Nolte tweeted, “I like living in a country where a black president elected twice complains about racism.”

Conservative columnist Jeffrey Kuhner, who in the past has accused the president of having “Black nationalist sympathies” and unleashing “class hatred and racial hostility,” couldn’t pass up another opportunity to depict the biracial president as a racist.

Writing in the Washington Times, he said: “Mr. Obama claimed that he ‘”could have been’ Trayvon 35 years ago. Moreover, at a hastily convened news conference, the president wallowed in self-pity, decrying that he had been ‘profiled’ as a young black man in department stores and elevators. In short, Mr. Obama portrayed himself as a long-standing victim of white bigotry. The spectacle was not only politically perverse, but morally revolting.”

What’s morally revolting in the view of many of the president’s supporters is that White conservatives deny that racism exists. And any attempt to address that reality is met with contempt.

In his recent press conference, President Obama said, “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

The president continued: “And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”

On his conservative talk radio show, right-wing political commentator Sean Hannity said: “Now the president is saying ‘Trayvon could have been me 35 years ago,’ Oh, that’s – this is a particularly helpful comment, is that the president is admitting that…I guess because, what? He was part of the ‘choom gang,’ and he smoked pot, and he did a little blow? I’m not sure how to interpret that, because we know Trayvon had been smoking pot that night. I’m not sure what that means.”

Like other conservatives and talk radio host that work on the far-right, Hannity focused on racial stereotypes rather than bridging the divide between millions of his listeners and the hard conversations that President Obama encouraged Americans to have among themselves.

Emily Miller, senior opinion editor for the Washington Times, tweeted: “Obama is the most irresponsible president in history. Now we’re having national debates about hypotheticals? #standyourground.”

Mark Levin conservative talk radio host said, “This president doesn’t stand for anything that I stand for. Nothing. He talks about an America that doesn’t exist.”

Levin added: ““I’m ashamed of this president. I think he’s a disgrace. I’m ashamed of this Attorney General. I think he’s a disgrace. They have no respect for you. I don’t care what your color is. They have no respect for this country.”

There were some reasonable voices in the media, though not from right-wing outlets.

Jill Lawrence, national correspondent at National Journal, said that “Obama had to say something about Trayvon Martin” and that “It would have been a missed opportunity—a huge missed opportunity—if America had not heard firsthand from its first black president at a moment like this.”

Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman and conservative talk show host on left-leaning MSNBC called Hannity out, echoing accusations that others have made that Hannity was inflaming race relations to increase viewership.

“Sean Hannity has been ginning this up so badly that Michael Savage, Michael Savage has been saying that he has been irresponsible and the he’s been using race to gin up his ratings in way that’s bad for America,” said Scarborough, comparing Hannity to Savage, a staunch conservative, who once called President Obama the most dangerous, most divisive, most evil president in the history of America.

Later, Hannity dismissed Scarborough’s criticism knocking the MSNBC’s talk show host for his middling ratings and so-called liberal views.

As right-wing political pundits attacked Obama and each other Lawrence implored “Americans to listen to Obama on race.” Lawrence explained: “Yes, he has roiled the waters and reopened a raw conversation. But if not now, when? And if not him, who?”

Black Human Remains Buried Under Playground

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By Trenae V. McDuffie
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune

There are two jungle gyms, a row of swings and slides — what you’d expect to see on a typical playground. Even the amenities of a full sized tennis court and recreation center do not overshadow the discoveries of thousands of African Americans buried beneath South Philadelphia’s Weccacoe Playground.

Six years ago, while working as a historical consultant on a film project, Terry Buckalew came across the mentioning of a cemetery named Bethel Burial Grounds (BBG). Unfamiliar with the site, the historian later discovered that these grounds were once owned by Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

After a tedious process of identifying approximately 1,500 people who had been buried at the grounds, Buckalew hauled his research and contacted Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel, community groups and city council about his findings.

As a property of the City of Philadelphia, Weccacoe Playground is located at 400 Catharine Street and sits on the burial site. Slated under the Green2015 initiative, a city-wide greening project, renovations to the playground were recently drawn up. Families will look forward to additional trees, benches, a water structure for children and new surfaces for the tennis court and other play areas. These renovations need access to water, gas and electric lines.

“You have a historic burial ground that was preserved by actually covering it over,” Buckalew explained. “It’s sealed. They could have built houses here. Now, if they built houses here, they would have dug the foundation and all the remains would have been dug up and destroyed.”

Senior archaeologist for URS corporation, Douglas Mooney, directed the excavation earlier this year to confirm Buckalew’s research that the bodies were not removed. Using ground-penetrating radar in a test pit, several anomalies — possible individual burial areas — were found. Traces of decayed coffin wood were identified as well.

“We didn’t actually see the coffin,” Buckalew said. “They stopped several inches above the coffin. It was a very emotional and moving experience. I was right here with them when they did that. This is meaningful and has social impact, but it was a solemn occasion.”

Mooney presented the Phase I findings to Mother Bethel, and later did a public presentation explaining the discoveries at Weccacoe.

“It was unfamiliar to me,” Tyler said. “I began to ask around with some of the older members and some of the former pastors. They did know that Weccacoe Park had been at one time Mother Bethel’s burial ground, but acknowledged that there had never been anything done to mark or commemorate the location. As a result, the story just faded from public memory.

“But it did come as a big surprise especially since I know the playground very well. My kids have played there before.”

The second phase of the archeological surveying finished over a five-day period this past week. Four trenches were dug during the excavation to determine how far BBG extended and how deep were coffins buried. The remains of 30 people and one headstone belonging to a woman named Amelia Brown, 26, were found. The headstone is being preserved and returned to Mother Bethel.

“Sadly, her name is not on that list,” Tyler said. “There are persons whose last name is Brown that are on the list that we have as the persons identified as being buried there, but hers is not one of the Brown’s listed, and we don’t have a record of her being a member of the congregation. It’s really a mystery right now.”

“It’s a very exciting process to watch the archeological dig,” Carla Puppin, executive director of Queens Village Neighborhood Association (QVNA) said as she described her experience looking at the site. “We saw the original edges of the wall of the cemetery.”

In 1810, the property was purchased by Rev. Richard Allen and Trustees of Mother Bethel for $1, 600. During this time, Blacks could not be buried with whites.

On his blog, preciousdust.blogspot.com, Buckalew gives a detailed chronological timeline of BBG’s history. In doing so, he describes the racial pressures felt by the African-American community. From riots and torching of property, Blacks of this neighborhood were subjected to lives of horror and vulnerability. Several diseases inhabited the area as well, resulting in many deaths.

“The individuals buried here were the pioneers,” Buckalew said. “During apartheid, they were a colony — not only survived — but persevered. These people won’t have plagues.

“Talk about history repeating itself, I read an interview that an African-American man who was just lamenting, ‘I can’t protect my children.’ And then the whole thing with Trayvon. How do you protect your child?”

Buckalew found that about one-third the bodies buried at BBG were of children two-years-old and younger.

Despite the racial tension, the people buried at BBG were entrepreneurs and skilled in trades. Buckalew called them “the soldiers.”

Through tedious investigation, he identified 1,500 people by looking at cemetery returns, also known as death certificates. He found names, ages and dates of death. For some he uncovered their occupations and where they lived.

So if the property was once owned by Mother Bethel AME Church, how could the sacred grounds of the final resting place of thousands disappear?

According to historical pamphlets found by Buckalew, Rev. Allen would offer funeral fund loans to working poor Blacks and those seeking assistance to bury loved ones. Not all buried were members of the church. This lending practice and paying for the church mortgage could have contributed to the church’s later financial difficulties.

The grounds were soon rented for $500 per month in 1869 to be used for the storage of wagons and other equipment. At this point, BBG had dilapidated and not been kept.

Therefore, in 1889, Mother Bethel sold the grounds to the City of Philadelphia for $10,000. These appropriations went toward repaving the area, even though it was reported that the burial site had existed. The site is then renamed Weccacoe Park.

Now owned by the city, the site became a school garden in the early 1900s — similar to the urban farming in today’s neighborhoods. Youth and community members cultivated the land. A playground was also created and used by the children of the neighborhood.

By the 1920s, a neighborhood association was established. Presently, Friends of Weccacoe Playground — a committee of QVNA — volunteers maintain the playground grounds.

Jeff Hornstein, president of QVNA, has lived in this community for eight years. He said he was surprised about the archeological discoveries, his neighbors — not so much.

“I think it adds another layer to a very rich history in the neighborhood,” Hornstein said. “I think it’s really important that we commemorate this very important site, but we’re going to follow Mother Bethel’s lead on this because it used to be their graveyard.”

Through the efforts of QVNA, Friends of Weccacoe and Councilman Mark Squilla — who worked with the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation and the Philadelphia Water Department to secured $535,000 to fund the renovations at the playground — support the site renovations.

Hornstein anticipates Phase II of the archeological surveying will be released around mid August.

“It’s my understanding that it’s really not going to impact the project at all,” Hornstein said. “We saw the Phase One archeological study. It was mainly to verify the historical boundaries of the burial ground. The renovation is mostly a surface [one] except a few boundary areas.”

The sentiments expressed by both Tyler and Hornstein were to honor those buried with more than a plague. For Tyler, he wants to protect BBG from any intrusion, commemorate those buried and decipher the history uncovered.”

“This burial ground coming back to the forefront gives us an opportunity to do what is rare, and that is a chance to redo history,” Tyler said. “Most times in life you don’t get a chance to do something to correct something that you missed the first time.

“We want to interpret the site, so that this burial ground becomes an important story in the life — not just of Mother Bethel and Philadelphia — but really it’s an American story. There’s a powerful story about the way this country struggled with race in the early 1800s, and how we’re still struggling with race in the 21st century.”

North Carolina: Ground Zero for Voter Suppression

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By Cash Michaels
Special to NNPA from the Wilmington Journal

RALEIGH, N,C. – If there was any doubt about Republican confidence in staying in power in the North Carolina General Assembly, those doubts were dashed last week when the GOP passed what many observers say is the most restrictive law in the nation governing voter rights.

The North Carolina NAACP and others had been fighting the prospect of a voter photo ID requirement, something that state House Republicans, and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, said was needed to maintain the integrity of North Carolina’s election system, and combat voter fraud, even though voter fraud in the state has been virtually nonexistent.

Black leaders and Democrats, on the other hand, countered that the bill was just another GOP attempt at voter suppression, aimed specifically at the traditional Democratic base – African-Americans, Hispanics, college students, the elderly and the poor.

But in an apparent horse trade with House Republicans, the state Senate last week, during the final four days of the legislative session, shocked everyone by introducing a 57-page omnibus elections package that not only included a voter photo ID bill, but also:

  • Eliminates seven days of early voting, same-day voter registration, ”Souls to the Polls” Sunday voting, provisional voting if you’re in the wrong precinct, straight-ticket voting and pre-voter registration of 16- and 17- year-olds;
  • Authorizes vigilante poll watchers to challenge a citizen’s right to vote in any jurisdiction in the state;
  • Prevents a county from adding one hour to the time for citizens to vote on Election Day if lines get long;
  • Eliminates a requirement that campaign ads must be endorsed by candidates and increases contribution limits to $5,000;
  • Lifts corporate campaign contribution limits and
  • Prevents college students from using their college ID’s to vote.

Only three of the 57-page omnibus elections measure actually addressed voter ID’s. The Republican-majority in the Senate passed the bill 33-14 before sending it to the GOP-led House, where it passed 74- 41. Gov. McCrory indicated in a press conference afterwards that while he hadn’t read the whole bill, he would sign it into law.

House Democrats – Black and White, were livid.

“I want you to understand what this bill means to people,” veteran Black lawmaker, Rep. H. M. “Mickey” Michaux, told his GOP colleagues. “We have fought for, died for and struggled for our right to vote. You can take these 57 pages of abomination and confine them to the streets of hell for all eternity.”

House Republicans replied that every provision in the elections bill protected North Carolina voters, and streamlined the system, but Democrats weren’t buying it.

“What does [stopping Souls to the Polls Sunday voting] have to do with voter ID?” asked state Rep. Garland Pierce, chairman of the North Carlina Legislative Black Caucus, reminding all the Black churches traditionally bring their congregants by vans to vote after service during these early voting periods. “This is not about voter ID,” Rep. Pierce said. “This is about voter suppression.”

The head of the state NAACP, who has been leading weekly “Moral Monday” protests attracting tens of thousands of protesters to the state legislative building since April 29, resulting in 926 arrests thus far, agrees.

“This latest voting rights attack represents the most comprehensive attack on the right to vote that this state has enacted since the institution of Jim Crow laws in the 19th century when federal troops pulled out of the South,” said North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William J. Barber II. “Extremist members of the General Assembly viewed the Supreme Court’s ruling [striking down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act] as once again federal protections being removed, thereby giving them the freedom to undermine and disenfranchise the poor, African Americans, and all people of color.”

The remarks of U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. last week before the National Urban League Conference in Philadelphia, where he vowed that despite the Supreme Court’s ruling crippling the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Justice Department would still vigorously pursue Texas, and other states where the voting rights of African-Americans have been hindered, was welcomed by Barber.

“The NC NAACP commends the Department of Justice for taking action to address clear discrimination in Texas,” he said in a statement. “Just as in Texas, the omnibus bill awaiting signature by our governor is based on nothing but a bare intent to discriminate against African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, women, students, the poor and other minorities in North Carolina. “If this bill is signed into law, in response to these drastic, immoral, and race-based enactments, the NC NAACP will use every legal, organizing, and communications tool available to uphold and defend both the letter and the spirit of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the North Carolina Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution,” Rev. Barber continued. “And we will win.”

U.S. Pushes 'Secret War' in Somalia While Oil Companies Fish for the Gold

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Special to the NNPA from GIN

In a good week, reports from the Horn of Africa couldn’t be more upbeat. “Somalia is a good news story for the region—for the region, for the international community, but most especially, for the people of Somalia itself,” declared Johnnie Carson, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs last October.

This year, however, the news picture went from upbeat to grim. Foreign Policy magazine reported that the U.S. has upped its aid to Somali intelligence agencies allied against al-Shabaab, the country’s Islamist insurgency. Training camps were preparing Ugandan peacekeepers to fight Somalia militants, and Predator drones, fighter jets and nearly 2,000 U.S. troops and military civilians were being parked at a base in neighboring Djibouti.

Despite billions in U.S. aid being spent on Somalia to, as President Obama observed, “strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace,” a new U.N. report confirms that “the military strength of al-Shabaab, with an approximately 5,000-strong force, remains arguably intact in terms of operational readiness, chain of command, discipline and communication capabilities.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. is pulled deeper into this costly and seemingly unwinnable war, Western oil companies from Canada and Norway are trolling Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions—Puntland and Somaliland—for potentially enriching oil exploration contracts.

In some cases, Somaliland and Puntland have awarded licenses for exploration zones that overlap.

The UN Monitoring Group warns: “Potentially, this means that exploration operations in these blocks, conducted by both DNO [Norwayand Africa Oil [Canada] under the protection of regional security forces, its allied militia or private forces, could generate new conflict between Somaliland and Puntland.”

“It is alarming that regional security forces and armed groups may clash to protect and further Western-based oil companies interests,” the U.N. report said.

Major Political Test for Trinidad Government

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the New York Amsterdam News

Next Monday, electors in a key governing party stronghold in central Trinidad will vote to fill a parliamentary seat left vacant by the resignation of former National Security Minister Austin Jack Warner. While this is no general election, critics say the poll serve as a key litmus test on the performance of the corruption-tainted governing People’s Partnership (PP) coalition midway into its five-year term.

The seat in Chaguanas West, a traditional stronghold of the Hindu-led coalition, was previously held by Warner before he quit the cabinet and party chairmanship in virtual disgrace in April over alleged misuse of funds during the decades that he had served as the vice president of FIFA, the world governing body for soccer.

A bit miffed that he was let go amid public calls for his head by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Warner decided to form his own Independent Liberal Party and run for the very same seat against the very coalition that he is credited with largely putting together to win government in May 2010—the one he so heavily financed from personal funds and millions through donations.

The move has triggered warnings from the prime minister that his real aim “is an attempt to bring down your duly elected government. Mark my words,” the prime minister said at a recent public meeting.

Race has also jumped into the campaign with disaffected former Justice Minister Herbert Volney accusing the prime minister and members of being part of what he says is a “Hindu cabal” that is running Blacks and non-Hindus from the Cabinet, and of appealing to race to ensure Warner is beaten, destroyed and finished as a political force in the oil-rich twin island republic with Tobago.

Warner is an Afro-Trinidadian. He is 70.

Volney argued that certain words being used by Indo PP campaigners are meant to appeal to race. “Contextually, the ‘protect dharma’ injunction was meant to be a mantra to vote for the Hindu party, and it would in turn keep you covered, nothing more.” He has since joined forced with Warner.

The partnership is desperate to hold onto the crucial safe seat to avoid the embarrassment that will result if Warner and his band of supporters manage to defeat an entire government in a traditional stronghold. A loss may also signal that the coalition will face an uphill task at winning upcoming local government elections, expected by October, and general elections in two years.

It is already under pressure for widespread corruption and faces criticism about the emergence of a class of very rich people who are close friends and family of the ruling elite since it came to power.

Whatever the outcome of next week’s elections, one thing is clear: Warner would have inflicted serious damage on the Partnership and will likely continue to be a political opponent for the foreseeable future.

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