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Romney will not Focus on the Black Vote

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By Raynard Jackson

NNPA Columnist

Now that Romney is the de facto nominee for the Republican Party, I have been reflecting on the state of the presidential race as it enters the final stretch. As a political strategist, I understand the necessity to run to the right during the Republican primary and then migrate to the center during the general election.

It is common knowledge that Romney has no intention of focusing on the Black vote during the general election. From a raw political perspective, I agree with his approach, but from a strategic perspective, I totally disagree. Below I will detail why this is a terrible strategy. There is absolutely no question that Obama will get in excess of 90 percent of the Black vote (in 2008 he received 96 percent). But this time he will receive 90 percent-plus of a smaller number of Blacks; there will be fewer numbers of Blacks voting because they are disillusioned with him. The first Obama run made history, his governing is a mystery when it comes to Blacks. Obama’s recent endorsement of homosexual marriage and support for amnesty for illegals has infuriated the Black community. The NAACP, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, etc. have not represented the views of the average Black for decades. The NAACP will continue to hemorrhage support from within the Black community. Many Blacks are publicly withdrawing their memberships and support from this group.

Under skilled Blacks are livid that Obama wants to legalize more than 1 million new people into the workforce to compete with them for jobs. It’s hard enough competing with Americans for jobs, now you have to compete with those in the country illegally? Who in their right minds feeds the neighborhood while their own children are starving? Nobody, but Obama. These issues give Romney an opportunity, by engaging with the Black community, to reach out to White, suburban, middle-class women voters to let them know that the Republican Party is OK to support. In other words, these are the Independent voters who will determine the outcome of the election.

These voters want to support a candidate and party that are not “perceived” as racist or mean- spirited. So, by reaching out to Blacks, they are signaling to these Independent voters that it is OK to vote Republican.

These voters don’t support homosexual marriage or amnesty for illegals, but they don’t want to see or hear harsh rhetoric, either.

Romney, are you aware that Obama has never met with any Black entrepreneurs to discuss the high unemployment rate within the Black community? When will you meet with Black entrepreneurs to listen to them, not to preach to them?

Romney, when will you sit with Black ministers who are with you in your opposition to homosexual marriage and under-skilled Blacks who will be hurt by giving work permits to illegals? Why are you going to address the NAACP and the National Urban League at their respective annual conventions this summer without obtaining concessions from them? Do you have any Blacks on your campaign or consultants who can negotiate concessions on behalf of your campaign? For example, if these groups want you to speak before their membership, then they must have Black Republicans as speakers and panelists or you won’t agree to speak.

Because Republicans typically have no diversity on their staffs, they don’t know to extract these types of concessions, nor can they afford to send a White staffer to do this. Republicans are the only people I know who will send a White male to speak to a group of women about women’s issues! Romney, when you go before these Black groups, will you also have a White speechwriter to draft your remarks? Anyone can write a great speech, but do they understand the nuances when talking with the Black community? A White speechwriter can’t help you with that. This is why Republicans typically receive tepid responses when speaking before a Black audience. Meanings are in people, not in words. So, what I am saying to you, Romney, is that by engaging with the Black community, you are simultaneously engaging Independent voters. You get a twofer out of this approach and you, being the businessman that you are, should see the potential for a nice return on your investment of time.

I would welcome your thoughts on this approach as a first step towards substantive engagement with the Black community. Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. His website is: www.raynardjackson.com.

“Show Your Papers” Provision is a Win for Harmful Policies and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

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By Gerry Hudson
SEIU Int’l Executive Vice President

For decades, racially discriminatory laws kept African Americans separate and unequal through a system of fear and injustice. Legally sanctioned laws required slaves to show their papers to slave catchers who would then bring slaves back to their masters. Today, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the “show your papers” provision of Arizona’s SB1070 the discriminatory provision that forces law enforcement to request immigration papers of anyone they suspect to be undocumented.

This is not a good day for America. The Supreme Court’s ruling is yet another demonstration of the coordinated attacks on working families, including people of color, who want to contribute to our society and make a better future for their children and generations to come. The provision in Arizona’s law that the Supreme Court upheld allows law enforcement officials to ask for papers if they suspect someone of being an illegal immigrant. Let’s face it. This means if you’re brown, you may be suspect.

Georgia and Alabama also now have laws on the books that specifically target people of color, including Afro-immigrants like the Mathe family in Atlanta, Ga., who sought political asylum from South Africa. There are three million Afro-immigrants and 400,000 undocumented Afro-immigrants across the country who want to become full contributors to our communities. Collectively, there are at least 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. All need national comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship.

No group deserves injustice and inequality. No group deserves to be denied access to the American Dream. Yet, we are in the midst of a brazen intolerance against immigrants and people of color, voting rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights and the civil and human rights of people who want to contribute to our communities and secure the American Dream for their families. Right-wing conservatives are attacking our core values. Their divisive tactics and scapegoating policies have nothing to do with job creation or finding solutions for income inequality and unemployment or making the richest among us pay their fair share. We all agree that the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform that supports economic opportunity for everyone. We all agree that passing comprehensive immigration reform is a job that Congress must take on.

In the meantime, however, we have a job to take on. We must prepare to make our voices heard and move this country forward, not backwards to fugitive laws and legalized discrimination that hurts all working families and our character as a nation. We must send a message to lawmakers that racial injustice on any level is intolerable.

On November 6, let’s show our character as a nation and sound the alarm at the ballot box on “show me your papers” laws and all the other shameless attacks against working families.

Lazy Summer Read

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By Jordan Brown

The year I turned sixteen hasn’t happened yet, but in author Diane Schwemm’s novel “The Year I Turned Sixteen,” four sisters have four unforgettable birthdays. This entertaining novel is heartwarming and fun. It’s definitely not your average sweet sixteen party. The four sisters Rose, Daisy, Laurel, and Lily explore the world of turning the “big sixteen.”

The novel starts out with the eldest sister, Rose; her dreams are moved out the picture when financial problems hit the family because of her father’s death. Huge changes happen when she is sixteen. The next sister, Daisy, tries to change her “goodie goodie” status for her sixteenth birthday. The third oldest, Laurel, has to deal with tragedy and turning sixteen. Being the youngest, Lily has to find herself by herself because her sisters are off to college. The sisters each have their own different challenges no matter what caliber.

Schwemm gave me tears and laughter. “The Year I Turned Sixteen” is the perfect lazy summer daybook. I recommend this book for teens and adults. Schwemm put a spin on the usual sweet sixteen parties. This is a bittersweet story and a great read that will keep you glued to the pages.

Federal Contracting with Blacks has Declined

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By Ron Busby

NNPA Columnist

The timing could not have been more perfect. While we were in the middle of finalizing plans for our second annual United States Black Chamber School of Chamber Management, Bloomberg News reported that federal contracting with African American and Hispanic-owned businesses declined in fiscal Year 2011 for the first time in a decade. According to the Federal Procurement Data System, compared to fiscal year 2010, contracts to Black-owned firms dropped 8 percent to $7.12 billion and decreased 7 percent to $7.89 billion for Hispanic-owned businesses. It’s never good news to learn that federal contracting opportunities for the business men and women we work hard to represent are shrinking, but our upcoming School of Chamber Management (SCM) will provide the perfect opportunity to arm our leaders with the tools to reverse the trend. Based on our five pillars of service – Advocacy, Access to Capital, Contracting, Entrepreneur Training and Chamber Development – the School of Chamber Management will ensure that chamber leaders from all across the country will be more effective advocates for their members on local, state and federal levels. Among other critical issues important to chamber operations, they will learn how important it is to sift through mountains of data and federal, state and local regulations and policies to craft a winning message and approach to business development for their members.

We believe that our first effort at building the knowledge base for Black chamber leaders – held last summer – was a huge success. We are absolutely certain that our second SCM, July 24 – 28 at the Georgetown University Conference Center, will be even better. With a solid line-up of nationally recognized presenters and a growing list of corporate supporters, this year’s school is sure to live up to its theme, “Promoting Chamber Growth, Efficiency & Influence.” In the meantime, as you might imagine, the USBC has received a barrage of requests for comment on the recent Bloomberg report. Well, as I’m fond of saying, “I’m glad you asked…” It is disheartening to learn that prime contracts awarded by the federal government to African American vendors and suppliers have declined. We are still digging through the numbers to learn whether subcontracting dollars followed the same trend. To be blunt, we are not happy. We have diligently maintained contact with (it seems like hundreds of) federal agencies – including the White House – which makes news of this decline particularly disappointing. My service on the SBA’s Council on Underserved Communities has been a great platform for keeping USBC’s agenda on the minds of those charged with expanding access to contracting and procurement. But the numbers don’t lie and clearly there is a need for some solutions. Here are a few of our solutions to address this concern:

Connect with the Black Chamber in Your Community or Region – Chambers exist to support small businesses and have the resources and relationships to help small businesses become more successful.

Leverage Bonding Options to Access More Capital – the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc. recently partnered with an entity that has an innovative national platform with a solid bid management system and bonding program to assist capital constrained contractors. We will officially announce the new partnership at our upcoming conference. Consider Teaming Opportunities – Seek ways to collaborate with other prime and sub-contractors to increase scale, acquisition fulfillment, and sustainability.

I’m sure a good part of our White House Business Leaders Briefing on July 27be spent receiving assurances from administration officials that there is some plausible explanation for the dip in spending with African American owned businesses. We – along with representatives of the Top 100 Black-owned businesses from across the country – will be there to press our case. If America is to reduce the devastating African American unemployment rate, it will occur because African American enterprises have increased business and the money to expand. The 8 percent drop in federal contracting opportunities for African American prime contractors represents about $570 million in sales, or enough to move more than 16,000 folks out of the unemployment line. And while that 16,000 may seem insignificant against the nearly 3 million Black folks out of work, try telling that to one of the lucky 16,000.

All of a sudden, you get the picture… Yes, the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc. is dedicated to improving the performance of local African American business organizations. When we are successful, we will change lives and communities. When Black businesses grow, more African Americans will have the opportunity for improved education and healthcare and housing choices. We’ll buy more groceries and pay more taxes, too. That’s why we’ll be working so hard during our upcoming School of Chamber Management. Advocacy is at the core of what organizations such as ours represent. And while others are content to point fingers and make noise about how dreadful the decline in federal contracting is, we’ll be busy arming business leaders with the tools necessary to reverse the trend, both locally and nationally.

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. If you’re serious, you can join us. As my grandmother used to say, “We could use more hands.”

Ron Busby is president of the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.

A Chance Meeting With Rodney ‘Glen’ King Neckwear designer Don Griggs recalls the bond ignited by a court date

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Chris Levister

The morning after Rodney King’s death, police officers maintained a presence outside his modest Rialto house, mainly to keep bystanders and reporters at a distance. The house is quiet, its curtains drawn. No visible markers proclaim "this is where Rodney King died"; no candles, flowers or makeshift street memorials.

It apparently reflects the way King whose beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was captured on videotape preferred to live, under the radar, after circumstance thrust him reluctantly into the spotlight more than 20 years ago.

Over the years, King struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, was arrested several times and went to prison for robbery once. He ended up on the reality TV show "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew."

Thursday April 8, 1999 King pleaded innocent to three misdemeanor counts in a Fontana court. He was released on $6,850 bail in an incident involving the alleged beating of his 16-year-old daughter and her mother. It was his date with the judge that brought King to the men’s department at upscale Nordstrom’s department store in Galleria at Montclair. “He walked in with his cousin, a young female. He said ‘I need a suit for court – I need it in two hours’.”

That’s men’s clothing specialist and renowned neckwear designer Don Griggs. “I recognized Rodney King but we didn’t go into a lot of introduction. I just remember saying to myself – the clock is ticking – we’ve got to select a suit and accessories have him fitted, get the garment tailored and get him out the door in time for his court date,” recalls Griggs, then manager of the store’s men’s department.

“Knowing who he was and what he had gone through I wanted to make sure we selected a garment that was not only appropriate, but one that exuded confidence and dignity – nothing flashy or trendy.”

Griggs said although King looked familiar, his colleagues and patrons in the store didn’t readily identify who he was. As the threesome scrambled to select a suit, Griggs remembers King’s cousin referring to him as Glen – his middle name.

“From then on I called him Glen which made it a lot easier to serve him while preserving his identity. He seemed to appreciate the anonymity,” said Griggs. “We chose a classic gray suit that he liked very much. He seemed so excited, almost childlike. We hurriedly got him in to see the tailor. My message was ‘we needed this done yesterday’.” Meanwhile Griggs and his charges went about selecting accessories. “It just so happens that Nordstrom carried my signature line of Afro-centric silk neckties,” said Griggs.

“We selected a gray-crimson pattern tie along with a crisp white shirt. We got him outfitted and ready to go with time to spare.” “When he emerged from the dressing room he presented an image of sharp but understated,” said Griggs. “He was happy.” “Fitting”, Griggs said for a man bearing the visible and invisible scars of America’s ugly underbelly.

“During my interaction with him, I could tell he had a few struggles – He walked with a limp. At times he had trouble with attention. His cousin wrote out the check for payment, he signed it.” Griggs said his relationship with the famous man known to him as Glen did not end with that 1999 chance meeting.

“Occasionally he would come in the store. If I was busy he would nod and go to my department, sit down read a magazine and wait for me to finish.” He was a patient, humble man of few words. Griggs said. While the two never talked about the police beating, Griggs remembers the poignant moment when King shared his love for what would ironically become the final stage for his life of tragedy, triumph and final tragedy. “He came in the store one day and said ‘Don I need a shirt’. I said where are you going? He said with a big grin, ‘I’m going surfing’.”

Griggs recalls, “I kind of gave him the look. He said ‘come have a look’. Sure enough he had a surfboard strapped to his sport utility vehicle. He was headed to the beach at Dana Point.” He said, “Don, man - when I get out there in those waves – I’m at peace. I’m away from everybody and everything. It’s just me, God and the water. It’s a beautiful thing.”

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