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Obama Needs to Run Against Congress

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By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

NNPA Columnist

If President Obama wants to win in November he will have to run against the Republican Congress. He will actually not need to spend his time on Romney. When you have people like former President Jimmy Carter suggesting that Romney is not that bad, you have a message problem and one that may not be resolvable in the short-term. On the other hand, as a few people have suggested, if the obstructionist, wealthy Republican Congress can be tied around Romney’s neck, it could quite possibly undermine Romney’s campaign.

What does running against the Republican Congress mean? It means taking a message to the public about what sort of economy we need. It means picking up on the themes raised by the Occupy movement and hammering away at the policies of the Republican Congress and their support of the upper 1 percent. It means walking the streets of our devastated cities and speaking with the unemployed, and particularly speaking with those who have been out of work for years, people who fear that they may never be able to work again. Obama needs to become the voice of the voiceless. President Obama needs to remind people about the economic policies that got us into this mess. This is something that the White unemployed and precariously employed need to hear time and again. Too many of them seem to be ready to go one more round in the Republican economic fun-house.

If there was one thing that Obama needs to do, and I am not sure that he is prepared to do it, it is to encourage protests and action among the bottom 99 percent against economic injustice. I don’t particularly care that he did not show up in Wisconsin to support the anti-Scott Walker recall movement. Wisconsin needed to be about Walker, not Obama. That said, the people at the base need to hear from Obama the way that we did in January 2009 when he supported the demands of the workers at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago when they occupied – no pun intended – their factory. When was the last time that we had heard a president of the USA take such a stand? We now ask, why was that the last time we heard this from Obama? We also need President Obama to stop trying to out-Republican the Republicans when it comes to national security. One of the best ways to demoralize segments of his base can be found in the continuing attacks on civil liberties that have been underway during his administration. ”Whistleblowers” have come under attack. Peaceful, non-violent protesters – d such as the anti-war protesters in Minneapolis and Chicago – have not only come under surveillance but also have faced various legal charges. Look, we voted for a president we hoped would expand democracy rather than contract it.

We also voted for someone to end these senseless wars. Well, points go out to President Obama for ending the Iraq occupation, but we are still in Afghanistan and these drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen do nothing but inflame local tensions and create more enemies. To win, Obama needs an “Obama Doctrine” for the 21st century, a clear, non-rhetorical statement that situates his campaign in the hearts and minds of the 99 percent. We do not need any more feel-good speeches. We need change that we can see.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Angela Minniefield Named 2012 “Champion of Health Professions Diversity”

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Los Angeles - Angela Minniefield will be honored by The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) as the 2012 Champion of Health Professions Diversity for her successful efforts to improve the health and wellness of California’s most underserved communities. On June 12, 2012, TCWF honored Minniefield along with two other leaders at its tenth annual “Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award” ceremony in San Francisco. In recognition of her efforts to mentor and inspire students, increase access to higher education and better serve the health and well-being of California’s underserved and disadvantaged communities, she received a cash award of $25,000.

Minniefield worked for 20 years in the state government advancing policies and programs that increase the number of underrepresented students in health professions. Minniefield recently became the vice president of strategic advancement at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. She had previously held several leadership positions at the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, including deputy director of the Healthcare Workforce Development Division. Minniefield states, “Not only is increasing access to higher education imperative in developing and diversifying California’s health workforce, there is also a direct relationship between one’s educational background and his or her own health status.”

The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention. The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women’s health and work and work and health. It also responds to timely issues and special projects outside the funding priorities

Street Culture vs. Church Power

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By Bankole Thompson

Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Chronicle The Rev. Marvin Winans’ remark, “I refuse to be afraid of us,” in the wake of the robbery attack on him by four young Black men at a neighborhood gas station on Linwood and Davison, carries a moral truth.

is a statement deeply rooted in the belief that we cannot throw our children away or become prisoners in our own communities, afraid to go out because  young Black males have become tigers in the hood, on the prowl for their next victims. I refuse to accept the notion that there is nothing else we can do, and that the solution is to dump Detroit and move out as quickly as you can. While such reasoning is politically expedient and the common sense thing to do in a state of fear, it is not the answer to the growing socioeconomic ills facing our community. It is not the answer to halt the violence in our town. To conclude that the best way  to  deal with the escalating violence in Detroit is to move out of the city is a defeatist attitude grounded in a weak notion that, in fact, we can no longer be problem solvers. Therefore, we should run away from the problem. What happened to our resilient spirit?

The carjacking of Rev. Winans, a prominent Detroit minister and nationally celebrated gospel singer who was driving with a suspended license, provides a context for our men and women of the clergy to be engaged in tackling the despicable acts of crime in this city. Just as many were concerned about Winans and his well-being in the aftermath of the carjacking, we should all be equally concerned about the escalating crime rate in our city, and the senseless taking of lives.

We should be concerned about the young woman who was raped in view of her child in broad daylight on Detroit’s west side. Children and adults are dying in horrific numbers, and the perpetrators of the crimes are usually young Black men.

The young men who attacked Rev. Winans did not know who their victim was, despite his being a prominent figure, seen often on television and in the print media. It says something much deeper: how out of touch they are with the real world outside of their own underworld of violence and mayhem.

If those young men had been properly steered on a right, productive path they would not have become carjackers. If properly brought up in a nurturing environment and having the self-confidence to know they can be whoever they choose to be, they would not be lured into a world of crime and drugs. Yes, they must bear personal responsibility, but as a community we also bear responsibility. Churches in particular cannot sit on the sidelines, claiming that parents have all of the responsibility.

What happened to the communal spirit that made each of us responsible for the other? Our brother’s keeper.

What happened to the church that was once the center of our life and thus took a prominent role in the well-being of our children – the future leaders? Truth be told, Rev. Winans’ attack brought the violent crime in Detroit to the doorstep of the church, and has prompted many in the clergy to call for some kind of action, and knowing that they could be the next victim.

The church has long been the center of transformation and at this crucial time cannot ignore its role in the community. The engagement has to reflect a broader embrace of children who are often treated as outcasts.  They need not be. The interest has to go beyond  church members focusing on their own well-being. After all, the church’s Biblical mandate is to go in search of the lost, not the saved. We have lost young Black males walking down the streets like lions looking for someone to devour. They need to be saved and mentored into understanding that they have great potential, they need not rob, sell drugs or kill.

If their homes did not remind or inculcate in them that sense of personal responsibility, the church can help them develop a clear path to the future. Because the Black church historically has been the guiding light for our communities.

If there was ever a time for the church to demonstrate its power, it is now when Black children are dying and adults are  being killed by their own children. To be commended are the group of clergy members, including Bishop Edgar Vann, as well as members of the law enforcement community and other leaders who last week launched an initiative called Detroit Night Walk to fight crime.

We can create change and help those young Black males trapped at the crossroads of drug dealing and carjacking. I believe that we can transform young Black males who believe they have no alternatives and no future.

In the words of the hip-hop icon and street poet Tupac Shakur, we can make these young Black males “the rose that grew from concrete,” because by virtue of being a Black male they already live under the heavy weight of stereotypes just as we saw in the Trayvon Martin case. Our young Black males — and anyone who is raising a Black boy is aware of this reality — are already facing an image battle, and many of them are holding our community hostage. The church can liberate the hostage taker and the hostages.

Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part series on the Obama presidency, including “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published last year. His latest book is ”Obama and Christian Loyalty” with an epilogue written by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. His upcoming books in 2012 are “Obama and Jewish Loyalty” and ”Obama and Business Loyalty.” Listen to him every Thursday morning on WDET 101.9 FM Detroit and every Sunday, 9 to 10 p.m., on “The Obama Watch” program on WLIB 1190 AM-New York. E-mail   HYPERLINK "mailto:bthomspon@michronicle.com"bthomspon@michronicle.com.

Black Businesses Need Proper Planning and Marketing

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By James Clingman

NNPA Columnist

Often we hear that most small businesses fail because of a lack of capital.  We hear the tales of woe, some are quite true, of entrepreneurs who did not make it because they simply did not have enough money to fund their business.  They failed because they could not get a loan from the bank.  They failed because of cash flow problems.

While all of those reasons are legitimate and valid, in many cases small businesses fail because of improper planning and marketing, as well as a lack of adequate research. Too many business owners are unwilling to invest some of their limited resources in the very things that will make them successful.  Further, sad to say, too many of us are unwilling to hire other Black professionals to advise us on things such as accounting, legal, marketing, and other very necessary functions to any successful business.

That’s too bad, but I suppose that is why less than 2 percent of the African Americans are entrepreneurs.  According to the last economic census in 2007, Blacks owned 1.9 million nonfarm U.S. businesses. These Black-owned firms accounted for 7.1 percent of all nonfarm businesses in the United States, employed 921,032 persons (.8 percent of total employment) and generated $137.5 billion in receipts (.5 percent of all receipts).

In 2007, there were 106,824 Black-owned employer firms; these firms employed 921,032 persons and had a total payroll of $23.9 billion, generated $98.9 billion in receipts, but accounted for just 5.6 percent of the total number of Black-owned firms and 71.9 percent of Black-owned firms’ gross receipts. Average receipts for Black-owned employer firms in 2007 were $925,427. In contrast, 1.8 million Black-owned firms had no paid employees.  These nonemployer firms generated $38.6 billion in receipts and accounted for 94.4 percent of the total number of Black-owned firms and 28.1 percent of gross receipts. Average receipts for these Black-owned non-employer firms in 2007 were $21,263.

This scenario, coupled with the rate of failure among Black owned businesses, strongly suggests a need for better management of those businesses.  Just as importantly, the data indicate a tremendous need for growth and job creation among Black businesses. The value of proper marketing and advertising cannot be overstated when it comes to the success of a business, especially a small business.  For some reason we seem to shy away from spending money on advertising, marketing, and research.  In many cases we even fail to allocate money for these services in our initial budgets.  That’s a prescription for failure – or, at a minimum, a business that will not likely reach its full potential.

The handwriting is on the wall for the workers of this country.  Downsizing, rightsizing, re-engineering, or whatever you want to call it, are the orders of the day.  Business ownership and mutual support are keys to the success of Black people in this country.  We must be willing to support one another’s businesses, and we must be smart when starting new businesses. Place high priority on getting the proper assistance with your business plan.  Hire a Black professional to guide you through the maze of research, management, and marketing needs. Yes, we know how to do those things, too.

Advertise your business in the proper medium, and please use Black-owned media to do so, as well as other means of getting the word out about your business.  In other words, do something that will benefit some other Black businessperson. Don’t be afraid of marketing and please don’t deny the opportunity for a Black marketing professional to write your marketing plan and to execute a portion of that plan, if the need arises. Research! Research! Research! before you jump into business.  Just because you are a great cook does not mean you can run a restaurant.  Spend some of your money researching your market to determine the need for your product or service, as well as what your competition is doing. You know the saying: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”  This is a case of many people wanting to be entrepreneurs, but few are willing to do what it takes to be successful.

Let’s create and maintain strong and thriving Black businesses.  Let’s use one another’s strengths and expertise to make our businesses grow.  Let’s work together, cooperatively, to make a better future for our children, teaching them how to make jobs rather than take jobs.  We can only do that through business development — and we can only develop viable businesses by learning more about entrepreneurship. Recognize and understand the rules of the entrepreneurial game, and learn to play them well.  Money follows good planning and good management – no matter what color you are.

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.

Freedom Summer Schools Spur Student Growth

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By Marian Wright Edelman
NNPA Columnist

When Kyla was in the third grade, she failed the state-required end-of-grade tests at her Charlotte, N.C. elementary school. Her grandmother was worried that summer school wouldn’t be fun, but then she heard about the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® program, and she knew Kyla would love the program and learn at the same time. Kyla’s principal agreed that she could participate in the CDF Freedom Schools® program on the condition that Kyla retake her tests in the middle of the summer. When she did, she passed with the highest possible score. Kyla gave her CDF Freedom Schools experience the credit, especially the way the program is designed to foster a love of reading: “The stories we read in Freedom School, I could relate to, and we got to keep our books at the end of each week so I could read them again at home.” Kyla wasn’t alone—an evaluation of Freedom Schools run by HYPERLINK "http://cdf.childrensdefense.org/site/R?i=RQ4Y0vlU3rYQyTWMeRFuGw"Freedom School Partners in Charlotte found summer learning loss staunched for 90 percent of the children served and 65 percent of the children showed gains in reading, sometimes by one or even two grade levels. And Kyla’s success didn’t stop. She returned year after year to the Freedom Schools summer program, and when she “graduated” at the end of eighth grade began training for a Junior Servant Leader Intern position that allows high school student volunteers to spend their summers with Freedom Schools serving as classroom helpers. Kyla will return as a second year Junior Servant Leader Intern this summer.

Francisco had his own transformation: when he began the Freedom Schools summer program he was a very shy fifth grader who wouldn’t read aloud, was reluctant to talk, and would barely raise his eyes to speak his name. But the Freedom Schools instilled a new sense of confidence in him along with a love for books, and by the end of the summer he was volunteering to read aloud. Pauline, one of the adult volunteers at a church-sponsored Freedom Schools site, was Francisco’s school lunch buddy during the year and was thrilled by the difference the program was making for her young friend. Francisco and his mother began attending the church and Pauline and other congregation members who had seen him blossom over the summer were able to continue supporting Francisco after the summer ended. By Christmas, something wonderful happened that would hardly have seemed possible just a few months earlier: Francisco was chosen to play Joseph at the church’s Christmas Eve pageant. He proudly delivered his lines over a wireless microphone at the service in both English and Spanish for the whole congregation to hear and applaud. Kyla and Francisco are just two of the thousands of children for whom Freedom Schools has made an enormous difference. The program provides summer and after-school enrichment that helps children fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning. Children are taught using a model integrated curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: high quality academic enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and nutrition, health, and mental health. More than 90,000 children have had a CDF Freedom Schools experience since 1995. Now almost 12,000 children are about to have their own Freedom Schools summer at 177 sites across the country.

CDF Freedom Schools sites are safe and restorative learning spaces where children are surrounded by caring adults and college students from their community who share their enthusiasm for learning and reading and are committed to serving them as authentic mentors. Each day begins with “Harambee!” a 30-minute activity to celebrate and affirm every participant’s value and prepare for the work and learning ahead. Throughout the summer children read high quality books and are engaged in learning activities that match their developmental needs and interests. The program is free, giving parents access to high quality child care, and children receive two nutritious meals and a healthy snack each day in the summer and nutritious snacks during the after-school program.

CDF Freedom Schools partner with public schools, community-based organizations, faith congregations, colleges and universities, cities, and juvenile detention centers to operate program sites and make these rich experiences possible. The scholars are encouraged to dream about college, set goals for themselves, and cultivate positive attitudes and high expectations; and for many of them, including Kyla and Francisco, the program is a life-changing experience. To learn how to bring one to your area, come to HYPERLINK "http://cdf.childrensdefense.org/site/R?i=zHoPX2CTesEV9qRy-i6waw"CDF’s national conference in Cincinnati, Ohio this summer, visit local CDF Freedom Schools sites in session, and prepare to start a program that will serve the Kylas and Franciscos in your community.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

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