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Tiniest African Nation Wins Major Leadership Prize

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Judges for the $5 million Ibrahim prize for African leadership have found a winner ending a two year freeze on the coveted award.

Pedro Verona Pires, ex-president of the small island state of Cape Verde, off the coast of West Africa, was selected for stepping down promptly at the end of this term limit without re-writing the rules to hold onto power. Pires was praised for creating in Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony of approximately 500,000 people of mixed Portuguese and African heritage, “a model democracy, stability and increased prosperity.”

The Ibrahim Foundation headed by a Sudanese-born telecommunications magnate, Mo Ibrahim, rewards governance and human rights in Africa. In a congratulatory message, Mr. Ibrahim wrote “It is wonderful to see an African leader who has served his country from the time of colonial rule through to multiparty democracy… The fact that Cape Verde with few natural resources can become a middle-income country is an example not just to the continent but to the world.”

But the awarding of the prize was accompanied by strong warnings about stagnation and backsliding by dozens of countries across Africa, including Western-backed nations such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Senegal, Zambia, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania.

“If economic progress is not translated into better quality of life and respect for citizens’ rights, we will witness more Tahrir Squares in Africa,” Ibrahim said, referring to the Egypt’s street protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak this year.

Select Black Caucus Members Not Happy with Trade Agreements

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

While President Barack Obama was praised by conservatives as Congress approved free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, a select group of the Congressional Black Caucus members cried foul, saying it won’t create the jobs needed right now.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) said the free trade agreements that cleared Congress Oct. 12 will not only create no jobs here, but will actually ship some American jobs overseas.

“I am committed to helping U.S. companies create jobs and export their products overseas, but these agreements fall well short of meeting those goals,” Edwards said in a statement. “Congress should be focused on making investments here at home instead of passing legislation that will cost 214,000 jobs.”

Obama insists the trade pacts open up new markets for the American workforce and makes U.S. products more competitive on a global scale.

“Tonight’s vote, with bipartisan support, will significantly boost exports that bear the proud label ‘Made in America,’ support tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs and protect labor rights, the environment and intellectual property,” he said in a statement. “American automakers, farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, including many small businesses, will be able to compete and win in new markets.”

Meanwhile, Republicans praised the passing of the bill saying it was long overdue. However Congressional GOP members still didn’t pass up a chance to attack Obama saying that despite this agreement, job creators are wary of his business regulations.

“The constant threat of tax increases and the continued threat of excessive regulations coming from this administration sends the wrong signal to our entrepreneurs, our investors and our business people, the very people we need to create jobs,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told the USA Today.

A Black Man, Father of the Cell Phone?

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By William Reed, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) To this point, the economic growth leader of the 21st century is the wireless communications industry. Millions of people regularly use cellular phones. With today’s cell phone, you can talk to anyone on the planet. Inside your cell phone are: a compact speaker, microphone, keyboard, display screen, and a powerful circuit board with microprocessors that make every phone a miniature computer. When connected to a wireless network, this bundle of modern-day technologies allows you to make phone calls or exchange data with other phones and computers around the world.

Jesse Eugene Russell is an African-American inventor who brought the world cell phones. Trained as an electrical engineer at Tennessee State University, at 63, Jesse Russell is recognized globally as a thought-leader, technology expert and innovator of wireless communications. He has over 30 years experience in advanced wireless communications and is the recognized father of digital cellular technology. The Historically Black College and University (HBCU) graduate is former Chief Wireless Architect for AT&T Bell Laboratories and served as Chief Technology Officer for Lucent Wireless. An icon in the industry, Jesse Russell holds over 75 patents in digital cellular technologies, dual-mode digital cellular phones and digital software radio. An American legend, in 1995 Russell was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering for “pioneering work in digital cellular communications technology.”

Russell’s innovations continue to spark the international economy. The globe expects some 2.5 billion smartphones to be sold from 2010 to 2015. The main reason for cell phones’ popularity over the past 20 years is the faster and easier communications it provides. A cell phone is really a very sophisticated and versatile radio. Much like a walkie-talkie, a cell phone receives and sends radio signals. Wireless networks operate on a grid that divides cities or regions into smaller cells. One cell might cover a few city blocks or up to 250 square miles. Every cell uses a set of radio frequencies or channels to provide service in its specific area. In each cell, there is a base station consisting of a wireless antenna and other radio equipment. The wireless antenna in each cell links callers into the local telephone network, the Internet or another wireless network.

African-Americans can take pride in what Russell has achieved in the planet’s business advancements. From being honored by the Clinton administration for his work in cell phones and wireless communication, Russell continues to innovate, specifically in the next generation (4G) broadband wireless communication technologies, products, networks, and services. Rising from a disadvantaged background, Russell's career, and knowledge in wireless technology and standards advanced as he served in numerous high-level corporate positions; Director of the AT&T Cellular Telecommunication Laboratory (Bell Labs), Vice President of Advanced Wireless Technology Laboratory (Bell Labs), Chief Technical Officer for the Network Wireless Systems Business Unit (Bell Labs), Chief Wireless Architect of AT&T, and Vice President of Advanced Communications Technologies for AT&T Laboratories (formerly part of Bell Labs).

Jesse Russell’s early childhood was spent in economically and socially challenged neighborhoods within inner-city Nashville. Russell says a key turning point in his life was the opportunity to attend a summer educational program at Fisk University. It was here that Russell began his academic and intellectual pursuits. Russell continued his education at Tennessee State University where he focused on electrical engineering and received a Bachelor of Science Degree (BSEE) in 1972. An excellent example of “a Black achiever,” Russell was a top honor student in Tennessee State’s School of Engineering and became the first African American to be hired directly from an HBCU by AT&T’s Bell Laboratories and subsequently he became the first African-American to be selected as the Eta Kappa Nu Outstanding Young Electrical Engineer of the Year in 1980. Russell continues his personal and corporate leadership in the industry and is currently Chairman and CEO of incNETWORKS,Inc. a New Jersey, USA based Broadband Wireless Communications Company focused on the next generation of broadband services (4G) Broadband Wireless Communications Technologies, Networks and Services.

William Reed is Publisher of Who’s Who in Black Corporate America and available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org.

Offensive Anti-Obama Signs Spark Anger, Debate About Race

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By Edmund W. Lewis, Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly –

Uptown New Orleans resident Timothy Reily touched off a firestorm of anger and criticism recently when residents throughout the city learned of several signs on his property that portrayed President Barack Obama in a negative light. The signs on Reily’s property include one billboard with an image of President Obama in a diaper, another of the president in a dunce cap and a third that suggests the president is being controlled by George Soros, who the sign describes as a “Puppetmaster, Communist and Antichrist.” That same sign describes Obama as a “Puppet, Socialist and Incompetent Economy Wrecker.”

“It disrespects the nation — and President Barack Obama represents our nation,” longtime community activist Skip Alexander said outside of Reily’s home in the 1500 block of Calhoun Street Wednesday. “He represents everybody, not some people.”

“This is nothing put pure racism,” community activist Raymond Rock told WWL-TV. “This is a disgrace.”

Among those who spoke with Reily in his home at the intersection of Calhoun and Coralie streets were former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who would not comment on what was said in a meeting with Reily, and New Orleans City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who did in fact speak with the media after a conversation with the homeowner.

Guidry, who was accused of being racist last year by an opponent in the City Council District A race, told reporters that she didn’t convince Reily to take down the controversial signs. She added that she planned to research whether the signs are legal and voiced concerns about how the reaction to the signs would impact public safety. She said that whatever steps are taken to resolve the conflict would have to take into account Reily’s free speech rights.

“We have to determine that there is a zoning law that prohibits perhaps the size of the sign, perhaps the way that it’s erected, that it is leaning over onto public property,” Guidry told reporters. “Whatever we can use, we will, but of course, we do have to balance that with First Amendment rights.”

“I think it’s fine. It’s on his property,” Katherine deMontluzin, one of Reily’s neighbors, told WWL-TV. “He can say whatever he wants.”

Radio talk-show host Kaare Johnson, a friend of Timothy Reily, stepped into a hornet’s nest when he showed up at Reily’s home to voice his support for the homeowner’s right to free speech.

“If the community chooses not to accept it and the neighborhood group finds it not appropriate, it will come down,” Johnson told the protesters. “Right now it’s within the law, it’s within the law. Y’all just don’t agree with the opinion.

“I’m taking up for the right for him to have this sign,” Johnson added. “Whether I agree with him or not is irrelevant.”

Johnson was surrounded by angry protesters, one of whom repeatedly called him a “white boy,” “racist” and “peckerwood.”

“We want to find out about his business interests,” community activist C.C. Campbell-Rock told Johnson. “We want to drive him out of business.”

An unidentified protester said that those who disagreed with the way Reily chose to exercise his right to free speech should exercise their right to boycott all products associated with the businessman.

He said that to the best of his understanding, the owner of the sign is related to “The Reily Foods Company that sells Luzianne Coffee, CDM Coffee, French Market Coffee, Luzianne Iced Tea, Swans Down Cake Flour, Presto Cake Flour, Old Dutch Salad Dress­ing, TryMe Sauces & Seasonings, La Martinique Salad Dressings and Blue Plate Mayonnaise.”

“You’re wasting your time,” Johnson told them. “He’s honest, hard-working guy who’s not racist. He doesn’t like the president. He doesn’t like liberals, that’s it. He’s a Republican. That’s his way of sending out the message. It could be Clinton up there.”

“If anybody had swastikas with one of the Jewish rabbis in the same position up there, how long do you think that sign would be up there?” community activist Ray­mond Rock asked Johnson.

“You’re going to compare the president in a diaper to swas­tikas?” Johnson shot back.

“When it happens to Jewish people it’s a tragedy, but when it happens to us it’s not so much,” an unidentified Black woman told Johnson.

“Why do you say ‘us’ like you represent all Black people?” Johnson asked the woman. “I got Black friends — you do not represent them, I promise you.”

“If you’re Black and this doesn’t upset you, you need to check for a pulse,” Ruth Washington, a pharmacist who lives in Gentilly, told The Louisiana Weekly. “This is a wake-up call to everyone in the Black community who has bought into that bull about a post-racial society after President Obama was elected and a colorblind New Orleans.

“Every day we see more proof that white people in New Orleans and across the country are making moves to marginalize and control Black people,” Alexander continued. “The sad part about it is that many of us see it and do and say absolutely nothing about it.”

Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a former Congressional candidate and Internet radio talk-show host, told The Louisiana Weekly that he witnessed a man he believes to be Reily come out of his home Thursday morning and get into an argument with several men standing outside of his home. Reily reportedly got into a heated argument with one of the men, who was Black, and the two men exchanged expletives, Aha said.

Timothy Reily told WRNO Friday morning that he is not a racist and has Black friends. He also said that he has turned over security tapes to determine who removed several posters supporting Black GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain from his property and who attempted to remove the anti-Obama signs. The businessman added that he has the cell phone numbers of several members of the New Orleans Police Department and will use them if he has any more trouble with protesters who cross the line.

“If you look at the location of the signs and you see the area of the city that they’re in, that’s an area of the city that has some of the more influential residents,” attorney Danatus King, president of the New Orleans Branch of the NAACP, told The Louisiana Weekly. “The virulence of the sign, the mockery that it’s making out of the position of the Presidency — that’s something that I haven’t seen (before). I think that there are some racial overtones to it. It tells the city that because the man that put it up felt comfortable enough about putting it up and that there wouldn’t be repercussions from his neighbors and his circle of friends — that tells me that in the broader area maybe other folks might not be saying the same things out in the open but when he’s among his friends and neighbors behind closed doors they have made him feel comfortable enough that he put that up in front of his house. It is indicative of the problems that still exist in this city.

“It’s encouraging that just like that man exercised his constitutional right to put that sign up — and yes it could be classified as political speech, which is a protected area of free speech — those who disagree with his opinion are exercising their constitutional right to make their opposition known,” King continued. “That’s good to see folks out there doing that.

“Hopefully, some of this activism will translate into activism on October 22,” King told The Louisiana Weekly. “From the news accounts, this man has identified himself as being someone with a political party affiliation. If he is indeed someone that has money and his political beliefs are so strong that they have moved him to spend money to put up this billboard, that’s telling me that his political feelings will encourage him to contribute to candidates. And if he’s going to contribute to a candidate, common sense would tell me that he’s going to contribute to candidates that share his political views. Hopefully, folks out here will see that we have people that have such a strong opinion and have money that are going to fuel the candidacies of candidates that share their opinions. In addition to galvanizing us and getting us out on protest lines, hopefully it will also let us see that one of the things that we need to do is look at candidates ourselves and see if they are candidates that share our opinions about issues and help finance their campaigns. We need to let this incident translate into something that will help the community. We can let our emotions burn us up, or we can take that incident and let our emotions drive us to do things in addition to coming out and marching in front of someone’s home.”

“The underlying issue here is a fundamental lack of respect for the Office of the President of the United States,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha told The Louisiana Weekly. “That disrespect is the byproduct of the anger and frustration some white Americans still feel about the fact that a nation intended to be a white, Christian republic controlled by wealthy white men has allowed an Ivy League-educated Black man to rise to the top to become America’s first Black president.

“What this gentleman — and I use the term loosely — and all the others who have attacked President Barack Obama are saying is that it really doesn’t matter if you’re a highly educated, well-mannered elected official or a ditch-digger who can barely read — the color of your skin trumps everything else in America. If you’re Black, you belong at the bottom of society, no matter what.”

The 'Crazy' Life of Rev. Joseph Lowery

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By George E. Curry, TheDefendersOnline.com –

Rev. Joseph Lowery is a civil rights icon. He participated in all of the epic civil rights battles of his day, including the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott, the violent showdown with “Bull” Connor in Birmingham, the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the famous 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. He was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and others.

Lowery presided over the Atlanta-based SCLC from 1977-1997, a tenure as long as the combined time of his two predecessors, Dr. King and Abernathy, and longer than the combined service of all five presidents who succeeded him.

On Sunday, a star-studded gala was held at the Atlanta Symphony Hall to celebrate Lowery’s 90th birthday, which was Thursday, October 6. Fellow civil rights icons C.T. Vivian, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Holiday, the Blind Boys of Alabama and others participated in the celebation.

Joseph Echols Lowery, who was born October 6, 1921 in Huntsville, Ala., always jokes that one has to be a little crazy to practice nonviolence in the face of violence and brutality – but it’s what Lowery calls “good crazy.”

President Obama discussed the concept last month in his dinner speech before the Congressional Black Caucus.

“A few years back, Dr. Lowery and I were together at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma,” Obama recounted. “… And Dr. Lowery stood up in the pulpit and told the congregation the story of Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. You know the story – it’s about three young men bold enough to stand up for God, even if it meant being thrown in a furnace. And they survived because of their faith, and because God showed up in that furnace with them.

“Now, Dr. Lowery said that those three young men were a little bit crazy. But there’s a difference, he said, between good crazy and bad crazy. Those boys, he said, were ‘good crazy.’ At the time, I was running for president – it was early in the campaign. Nobody gave me much of a chance. He turned to me from the pulpit, and indicated that someone like me running for president – well, that was crazy. But he supposed it was good crazy.”

Without the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March that originated at Brown Chapel in Selma, Barack Obama would not be in the White House, a fact the president freely acknowledges.

As much as President Obama has lauded Lowery, from selecting him to deliver the benediction at his inauguration to awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the nation, that’s not where Lowery made his greatest contribution. His greatest impact was breaking down racial barriers in the Deep South and giving African-Americans hope, even hope that one day an African-American family would live in the White House.

I know that from personal experience. Growing up Black in Tuscaloosa, Ala. during the 1950s and early 1960s meant riding in the “colored” section at the back of the bus. It meant drinking from separate water fountains and using “colored” restrooms. America’s version of apartheid didn’t allow African-Americans –actually, we called ourselves Negroes back then – to try on clothes in department stores or eat in the same restaurants as Whites. A decade after Brown v. Board of Education, we attended separate schools and lived in different neighborhoods.

I was thrilled when Lowery, Dr. King, Abernathy, Andy Young, James Orange, Jim Bevel, Harold Middlebrook, Dick Gregory and other civil rights warriors would come to Tuscaloosa to support T.Y. Rogers, the head of our local SCLC chapter. They instilled deep pride in me and thousands like me. We dreamed of a better day and that day was realized because of the work of Lowery and others with an abundance of courage and dedication.

President Obama said at the CBC, “Dr. Lowery – I don’t think he minds me telling that he turns 90 in a couple weeks. He’s been causing a ruckus for about 89 of those years.”

Although I didn’t know it while growing up during that tumultuous period, I would get to know Lowery later in life. In addition to both of us being from Alabama, we also share the same alma mater – Knoxville College in Tennessee. Two years ago, I gave the commencement address at Alabama A&M University, when Lowery was presented an honorary doctorate. As a journalist, I’ve interviewed him dozens of times, but none were as special as the 1-hour conversation we had on Wednesday, the same day Fred Shuttlesworth died in Birmingham at the age of 89. With Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams and now Shuttlesworth deceased, not many old civil rights warriors remain on the scene. Only Lowery, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young and a few other stalwarts remain.

When I asked Lowery how he was able to remain on the civil rights battlefield so long, he replied: “I felt a calling and because I felt God called me to work in the struggle, He would be with me. So, I didn’t feel alone. I worried about my family sometimes. But worry about my own well-being was minimal because I felt I was answering a call. I am thankful that He stayed with me.”

That faith was evident when Lowery and his wife of 64 years, Evelyn, got involved in the case of Tommy Lee Hines in Decatur, Ala. Hines, who at 25 was diagnosed with the IQ of a 6-year-old, was accused of raping three White women in 1978. Hines did not attend school until he was 20 and was unable to assist in his own defense. He was found guilty by an all-White jury and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“Tommy Lee Hines was mentally handicapped,”Lowery explained. “He couldn’t ride a bicycle yet they accused him of driving a car when he raped these women.”

Lowery, then president of SCLC, help lead a protest that summer in Decatur. Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkenson rallied his local forces.

“The news media came and said, ‘The Klan is waiting downtown and they say they’re going to kill you,’” Lowery recalled. “I still went on. I probably should have said, ‘We’re going to go tomorrow.’”

After reaching downtown Decatur, the protesters were beaten and three were shot, though not fatally. Because of the heightened danger, women were not allowed to march that day. Mrs. Lowery followed demonstrators in a car. One bullet pierced her windshield, prompting her to duck. While her head was down, a second bullet whizzed past the steering wheel.

Like her husband, Mrs. Lowery accepted the danger that accompanied ground-breaking civil rights work.

“It was a narrow escape, but I knew that we were all in together,” she told Atlanta Woman magazine. “I was part of the Civil Rights Movement and I became very focused. I knew why God had put me here.”

After being attacked by the KKK in Decatur, Joseph Lowery returned the next day with 10,000 additional marchers.

Of the many civil rights struggles he has been engaged in, Lowery doesn’t hesitate when asked about the one that stands out most.

“If I had to pick one – and you would hold me to it – I would say the campaign for the right to vote,” Lowery stated. Dr. King appointed Lowery as chairman of a committee to present the demands of Selma-to-Montgomery marchers to Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace. However, Wallace refused to meet with Lowery and his committee.

“They wanted to take the demands and give them to the governor, but I wouldn’t give them to them,” Lowery stated. “We had marched 50 miles. I wasn’t going to give them to the secretary.” Wallace met with Lowery several weeks later and received the demands to expand voting rights protection.

The highlight of the 1965 campaign was witnessing President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Southerner, signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act that paved the way for increased voter participation, especially in the Deep South. Borrowing a phrase from a popular civil rights song, Johnson proclaimed, “We shall overcome.”

King lived long enough to see the growth of Black elected officials, but not a Black president.

“I’ve lived long enough to see an African-American president,” Lowery said, still beaming with pride. “When we got the Voting Rights Act passed, we all thought there would be a Black president one day. But none of us believed we would live long enough to see it, I certainly didn’t. The Lord let me live to see it and he let me participate in his inauguration. Then, he gave me the highest award in the nation bestowed on a civilian. I wish so much that people like Martin, Ralph, T.Y. Rogers, Hosea and the others could have lived to see the day we have a Black president.”

When asked how he would like to be remembered, Lowery paused for several seconds.

“I guess I want them to remember that I was a small-town preacher, from a small town in North Alabama, who tried to apply the moral imperatives of the faith to social and political problems,” he said. “That’s all I was trying to do.”

That and being good crazy.

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