Monday, June 29, 2009

Lester Spence: Time to Hold Fraternities and Sororities Accountable

by Lester Spence

Since Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1906 the nine major black fraternities (Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma, Iota Phi Theta, Omega Psi Phi) and sororities (Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta. Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho) have been trailblazers, at the forefront of the fight against racism and at the forefront of the fight for African American empowerment. But over 100 years after their founding, are these organizations still doing the work that they set out to do?

To the extent that individuals have criticized these organizations from without they've attacked their membership practices--more specifically the practice of hazing. Almost all of the "Divine Nine" have had to deal with not only hazing allegations, but hazing related deaths over the past few decades.

But more recently members have severely criticized their organizations for their financial practices.

Most recently a case filed by a member is wending its way through the Nebraska courts alleging that the executive board of Alpha Kappa Alpha gave its International President an illegal stipend in the amount of $250,000, in violation of its Constitution and Bylaws, and without consulting the membership.

The case has not been decided, and the sorority is countersuing the plaintiff. However, this is not the first time in recent years that allegations of financial impropriety have been made against one of the "Divine Nine".


Click to read.

Black News: White Firefighters Overcome their “Oppression”

Firefighter Frank Ricci

In a 5-to-4 decision, made along ideological lines, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the white firefighters in their racial discrimination case. This is a direct reversal of Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor's previous decision and is sure to be an extended topic of discussion during her upcoming confirmation hearings.

I've always been wary of the way the city of New Haven handled the results of its now infamous firefighter promotion test. It never made sense to me. When test results came back, and no black firefighters had scores high enough for immediate promotion, New Haven decided to throw out the results of the test on the grounds that the test itself may have been discriminatory and that the black firefighters might sue the city for discrimination. New Haven was not being altruistic in its concerns about "racial fairness."

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Your Black News: Pastor Prays for Obama to Die?

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From the Baltimore Afro-American:

A well-known minister of a denomination that once supported slavery and is firmly against a woman’s right to an abortion said recently that he is praying for President Obama to die.

The Rev. Wiley Drake, a former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Fox News Radio earlier this month that he was practicing “imprecatory prayer” or seeking a divine curse that would cause the president to die.

“If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death,” Drake said in an interview with Fox’s Alan Colmes, according to the Associated Press.

Click here to read more.

Your Black News: Obama Says Almost Nothing about Jackson’s Death

Al Sharpton said it best: "Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of color. Way before Tiger Woods, way before Oprah Winfrey, way before Barack Obama, Michael did with music what they later did in sports, in politics and in television."

If there is such a thing as 'post-racial', Jackson was probably the first and most visible international post-racial figure that this country has ever produced. He made history uniting not only Americans, but the world through his music, much in the same way Obama has done with his campaign.

It's surprising therefore, that a day after the news of Michael Jackson's death and with the nation deep in mourning, President Obama has not personally acknowledged a man who helped paved the way for his election.

Although the president released a brief statement through his press secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday afternoon, much was left unsaid. He was characteristically cautious, aiming to strike a political balance when he called Michael Jackson a "spectacular performer" whose life was "sad and tragic."


Click to read.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Meeting Dr Jeremiah Wright: He’s Not What Bill O’Reilly Tells You

Rather than letting Fox News sound bites define Jeremiah Wright for you, take a look at his bio.

Life, Love and Legacy

Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. is a man of faith, a homiletic genius, a theological scholar and a pastor’s pastor. He is a family man who enjoys spending quality time with his wife, children, grandchildren, extended family and friends.

Steeped in Family Tradition and Educational Achievements

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Wright is a son of the parsonage and hails from a family steeped in educational achievements. A third generation family member to matriculate at Virginia Union University, Dr. Wright followed in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather, Dr. Hamilton Martin Henderson who graduated from Virginia Union with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the late 1800s and finished seminary at Virginia Union in 1902. His father, Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Sr., also graduated from Virginia Union with two undergraduate degrees and from the seminary with a Master of Divinity degree in 1938. The senior Wright also received a Master of Sacred Theology degree (S.T.M.) from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Dr. Wright’s mother, Dr. Mary Henderson Wright, also graduated from Virginia Union and earned her first master’s degree before age 19 from the University of Chicago. She also earned a second master’s degree and her doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Foundational Strengths

With four earned degrees, a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from Howard University, a Master of Divinity from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary, Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. grew up in a home where reading books was a daily way of life. Wright read a wide range of sources from the Greek philosophers and Shakespeare to African American authors such as Carter G. Woodson (the Father of African American History) to Sterling Brown (one of the Harlem Renaissance artists), as well as one of Dr. Wright’s college professors.

Click to read more about Jeremiah Wright

Your Black News: The Latest from The Grio

The 'Mikaeel' Jackson you didn't know?

The 'Mikaeel' Jackson you didn't know?

By Keosha Johnson

7:02 AM on 06/27/2009

A music legend. An icon. A controversial figure. Media outlets around the world have widely reported on Jackson's travels in and out of countries, his suffering and recovering from various rumored illnesses, even informing the public about his visits to bookstores and antique shops. But there is one topic the mainstream...

full story


  • ACLU: Mich. zero-tolerance law unfair to black students

    By theGrio via AP

    9:50 AM on 06/27/2009

    Schools are not using enough discretion under Michigan's zero-tolerance expulsion law and are disproportionately kicking out black students who ultimately end up behind bars, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

    > MORE

  • Filipino 'Thriller' dancing inmates stage a tribute to Michael
    Filipino 'Thriller' dancing inmates stage a tribute to Michael

    By theGrio via AP

    7:29 AM on 06/27/2009

    The Filipino inmates who shot to global fame with a Youtube video recreating the "Thriller" dance swayed and stomped again Saturday in a behind-bars tribute to their idol, Michael Jackson. After being told of Jackson's death Thursday in Los Angeles, the 1,500 inmates...

    > MORE

  • Five members of Jena Six plead no contest
    Five members of Jena Six plead no contest

    By theGrio via AP

    5:58 PM on 06/26/2009

    Five members of the Jena Six pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor simple battery and won't serve jail time, ending a case that thrust a small Louisiana town into the national spotlight and sparked a massive civil rights demonstration...

    > MORE

  • Audio of emergency call for Michael Jackson released
    Audio of emergency call for Michael Jackson released

    By theGrio via AP

    2:45 PM on 06/26/2009

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- An emergency caller from Michael Jackson's home says he wasn't breathing or responding to efforts to revive him. The Los Angeles Fire Department released the emergency call Friday. The caller reported that Jackson was on a...

    > MORE

  • Jackson's music flying off the shelves
    Jackson's music flying off the shelves

    By theGrio

    12:44 PM on 06/26/2009

    Michael Jackson's music is flying off store shelves. Gloria Washington loaded up on Jackson's hits at Best Buy hours after his death. "I'm devastated. I'm totally devastated. I'm a true Michael Jackson fan," said Washington. "I was there at his...

    > MORE

  • Hundreds gather outside Jackson's boyhood home in Gary, IN
    Hundreds gather outside Jackson's boyhood home in Gary, IN

    By theGrio

    11:44 AM on 06/26/2009

    Residents of Gary, Indiana are mourning the loss of their most famous native son. Hundreds gathered outside of Michael Jackson's boyhood home as news of his passing spread through the town where his musical career began. Jackson died in Los...

    > MORE

  • The King of Pop is dead
    The King of Pop is dead

    By theGrio via AP

    9:51 AM on 06/26/2009

    Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop" who once moonwalked above the music world, died Thursday as he prepared for a comeback bid to vanquish nightmare years of sexual scandal and financial calamity. He was 50. Jackson died at UCLA Medical Center after being stricken at his rented home in Holmby Hills...

    > MORE

  • Kid saves Superman
    Kid saves Superman

    By theGrio

    9:24 AM on 06/26/2009

    Hakeem is a student at P.S. 36 in Brooklyn. He hopes to one day become a doctor, but in the meantime he's happy to be a hero to a super-hero. "Hakeem saves Superman by pushing the kryptonite into the crevice...

    > MORE

  • Fans remember Michael
    Fans remember Michael

    By theGrio

    8:49 AM on 06/26/2009

    All over the country people are remembering, and celebrating the life of music icon Michael Jackson. In Los Angeles mourners gathered all over the city as news spread about the pop star's sudden death. In Jackson's hometown of Gary, Indiana is was a mix of grief and celebration...

    > MORE

  • Jermaine Jackson speaks on behalf of family
    Jermaine Jackson speaks on behalf of family

    By theGrio

    10:00 PM on 06/25/2009

    Michael Jackson's family has issued their first statement on the passing of the entertainment legend. Jackson's older brother Jermaine spoke briefly to reporters at UCLA Medical Center on Thursday, just hours after Michael's passing. "This is hard," he said tearfully...

    > MORE

ACLU: Michigan Schools Expelling too many Black Students

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Schools are not using enough discretion under Michigan's zero-tolerance expulsion law and are disproportionately kicking out black students who ultimately end up behind bars, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The study by the ACLU of Michigan was released Wednesday. It identifies a school-to-prison pipeline it says has been created by suspension policies, cultural stereotypes, referrals to law enforcement for school fights and factors such as not requiring expelled students to get an alternative education.

Michigan's 1995 zero-tolerance law requires an expulsion for possessing any "dangerous weapon," and the ACLU says it is broader than required by federal law. The ACLU wants state law to be eased so only firearms possession is subject to mandatory expulsion.

The ACLU's report says students were disciplined for bringing a toy gun, novelty lighter and eyebrow archer to school.


Click to read.

Black Politics: Obama Needs To focus on Black Unemployment

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

8:33 AM on 06/25/2009

Obama's not good enough on black unemployment

In America, there are essentially two types of power: Political power and economic power. African Americans, relatively speaking, have always had very little of both. What's worse is that we tend to squander the little bit of power we have by giving it away to any sweet-talking candidate who makes us feel good. Obama has been that candidate, not because he is a "sell-out" or a "swindler"; but because he is a politician.

Obama's apparent lack of desire to create targeted policies for African Americans is driven by the fact that we "gave it up" without critically analyzing or challenging his commitment to our issues. No other candidate could have gotten away with this. Our commitment to political style over substance is similar to materialistic distractions toward "blinging, balling, flossing and shining" which lead many of us into bankruptcy. I say this as a supporter of Obama, but also as a man who'd like to see him do more.

I watched President Obama give one of the most uncomfortable press conferences he's ever had to deliver to the American people. The honeymoon is slowly ending, and "the chosen one" is now being forced to answer to angry Americans looking to stab their pitchforks into whatever politician they can find. President Obama has been spared this anger, in large part because he has presented himself as the man who can guide the country out of this crisis.

I still believe he can but the kryptonite is taking effect. President Obama's unemployment forecasts have gone from "nothing above 8%" to "surely above 10%". African Americans are even more concerned about the pinch, as our unemployment rates are expected to rise as high as 20% by the end of the year. The black family is additionally threatened by tangential issues such as mass incarceration, which serve to further undermine our social infrastructure during these difficult economic times.

Click to read.

The Great Jim Brown Tells the Truth about Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan

For years different people have always grumbled about the lack of activism and social change involvement of professional athletes. Specifically our most successful athletes like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Tiger Woods. In a recent interview with HBO's Real Sports, former NFL great Jim Brown went in on the lack of activism for social change from both Tiger and Jordan in recent years.
"There are one or two individuals in this country that are black that have been put in front of us as an example," Brown told Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel. "But they're basically under a system that says, 'Hey, they're not gonna do a certain thing.' Yes, that

Click to read more.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Rapper Performs for the LA State Legislature?

Hurricane Chris was asked to perform “Halle Berry” before the Louisiana State Legislature?  Now that’s some ghetto ass shit.  Now, Louisiana has officially become the most ridiculous state in the country.  You don’t give commendations to doctors, lawyers, professors or activists, but you give them to rappers who make silly songs. Wow.  You can see the performance by clicking here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dr Boyce Watkins: What Michael Bay Did Wrong

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I came to the latest release of "The Transformers" looking for what I saw in the first film: Jaw-dropping special effects and a story just interesting enough to hold you over until the next explosion. I didn't go to the film looking for racism or embarrassing minstrel shows. My "racial bias glasses" are designed to weed out harmless, inadvertent racism, which comes with living in a society that spent 400 years thinking that black people were less than human. But when racism is thrown in my face repeatedly in the form of ridiculous and disgusting stereotypes, that's when I start to get mad.
Michael Bay is one of my favorite directors, next to the Hughes Brothers (where are they by the way?). He's damn good at what he does. But on this occasion, Bay simply missed his creative target and I'm not the only one who's noticing.

Meet Skids and Mudflap, two Transformers who may as well have been called Lil Wayne and Random Black Male idiot. One of them actually has a gold grill, and neither of them can read. They are bungling buffoons and cowards with barely an ounce of intelligence. One of them rides around as an Ice cream truck with the words "suck my popsicle" on the side, yelling "get your ice cream bitches" to those who might want to buy from his dirty little truck. They also remind you in every other sentence that you are a "punk ass bitch" and that they want to "bust a cap in your ass."

Click to read.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pres. Obama Signals More Rights for Gay Workers

President Obama signaled to gay rights activists Wednesday that he is listening to their desire for greater equality in "a more perfect union." But he did not give them even close to everything they want, bringing anger that has been growing against the president to the surface.

The president's critics saw the incremental move to expand gay rights as little more than pandering to a reliably Democratic voting bloc, with the primary aim not of making policy fairer but of cutting short a fundraising boycott.

DISAPPOINTMENT: Jubilation muted on gay marriage anniversary

"We all have to acknowledge this is only one step," Obama said in his Oval Office, where he signed a memorandum extending some benefits, such as visitation or dependent care rights, to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

"When a president tells you he's going to be different, you believe him," said John Aravosis, a Washington-based gay activist. "It's not that he didn't follow through on his promises, he stabbed us in the back."

Click to read.


Elliot Millner On Trusting the Police

By Elliot Millner, J.D.

In the past several weeks, there have been numerous incidents involving the police and Black people, that have resulted in serious injury and death on both sides. This includes several recent incidents in Oakland, California; in Seattle, a 15-year old girl brutally beaten for being mouthy and kicking a shoe; an off-duty Black New York police officer being gunned down by a white officer; and other incidents in places around the country.

These are some of the most recent and extreme examples of a problem that, in one form or another, spans the length of U.S. history. The reality is that police forces, in varying forms, have been traditionally used as a tool to preserve and promote white supremacy, and to keep Blacks (particularly those in impoverished communities) "in their place". The idea of "protecting and serving" as it relates to policing, had as its root and initial goal the same objective as most other laws and statutes enacted in this country: To protect the interests of property-owning white males. There are few areas in the United States(if any) where the police in some form or fashion have not actively participated in violating the rights of Black people, utilizing any methods deemed necessary, including murder. Although some things have changed, it is naive (to say the least) to think that the legacy upon which the idea of policing was built in this country(white supremacy and Black oppression) has been erased from its method of operation.

Click to read more on Your Black Attorneys

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Black News: Government Map Shows HIV Rates Growing in Black Communities in the South

AP Medical Writer

ATLANTA (AP) - A new Internet data map offers a first-of-its-kind, county-level look at HIV cases in the U.S. and finds the infection rates tend to be highest in the South.

The highest numbers of HIV cases are in population centers like New York and California. However, many of the areas with the highest rates of HIV _ that is, the highest proportion of people with the AIDS-causing virus _ are in the South, according to the data map, which has information for more than 90 percent of the nation's counties and Washington, D.C.

HIV infection rates are higher in African-American communities, and high minority populations in the South help explain the finding. While that's not surprising, the high rates seen throughout states like Georgia and South Carolina were, said Gary Puckrein, president of the National Minority Quality Forum, the nonprofit research organization that put the map together.

Of 48 counties with the highest prevalence rates for HIV that had not yet progressed to AIDS, 25 were in Georgia, according to the map. Those were counties in which more than 0.7 percent of the population was infected with HIV.


Click to read.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dr Boyce Watkins Supports Obama’s New Plan

Obama's financial regulatory reform risky but necessary

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor Syracuse University

I have a friend who broke both of his legs climbing a dangerous mountain in Southeast Asia. This friend has nearly died 8 times, been chased by bears, and has had food poisoning too many times to count. After his latest injury, we presumed that he would understand that taking such risk simply doesn't pay. But he rebuffed our intervention, stating that the risk is what makes his life worth living. My friend seems to believe that pursuing and living the dream might be worth enduring the occasional nightmare.

The current financial crisis is certainly the worst of economic nightmares. Job losses have been enormous and the stock market has shrunk faster than Lindsay Lohan's dress size. A report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week reported that in May jobless rates were higher in all 50 states and in the District of Columbiathan they were a year ago.

The Black community has had a double dose of economic drama, as our unemployment rate is nearly double that of White Americans, standing at 14.9% according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Black urban centers such as Detroit have been hit especially hard.

Click to read.

Santita Jackson: Black Fathers Are Not the Demons We Think

by Santita Jackson

To paraphrase Caesar, as he stood over the gallant Marc Antony, I come not to bury our Fathers, but to praise them, on this "Father's Day." Now, more than ever before, it is time to tell the truth about African American fathers.

I think of my own my father, who in my worst moments always made me feel as if I were the best thing that ever happened to him. He said it. I felt it.

I arrived in my parents' lives when they were college coeds and, although little more than children themselves, they made the very adult sacrifice and decision to marry and have me as well as my two brothers who arrived less than two years later. Still a student our father waited tables, stood in the food line at our church---in short, he did all that he could to provide for his growing family. And he and Mother took us everywhere.
I can recall one morning, before my father stepped into the pulpit to preach, being beckoned from my seat to sit with him and, as he scribbled the final touches on his sermon, he leaned over and said, "I love you, Sandy Boogie." I smiled as he kissed me and waited for...well, something else. I could not wait to get back to my seat as I was mortified to be before the entire congregation. I looked at him and said, rather quizzically, "Daddy, is that all you wanted to tell me?" His reply, as he smiled was, "Baby, saying 'I love you' says an awful lot." I nearly cried, having felt ashamed of my own insensitivity, and he simply smiled, kissed me again and had the usher lead me back to my seat.

His expression, even in that most public of venues was no surprise---it was a given in my life. My experience, though, is not unique. It has been replicated countless times in the African American community. Yet, every day we are fed a laundry list of the shortcomings of African American men; rarely, however, do we tell the society, or each other, of their triumphs.

We are told from the loftiest perches and the lowliest assignations that they must "Step up!" and "take up their responsibilities as men." All the while these critics ignore the myriad ways in which they must and do swim upstream against the strongest of currents. Currents which threaten and, too often, do sweep them into the undertow of our society. By ignoring their reality we turn our backs on a history, which has treated them with contempt. They are incarcerated more frequently, fight longer odds and live shorter lives; and yet and still, they remain strong, willing to love, survive and thrive. And so, on this "Father's Day", I'd like to expound upon their triumphs and contextualize their struggles. Any discussion which does neither, fails us all.


Click to read.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Note on Law Enforcement: How do we protect those who testify?


Photo: Elliot Milner, Attorney at Law

Many of us have read about the traumatic beating of a woman in broad daylight in an Oakland beauty salon.  The woman chose not to testify, in part because she feared retaliation from her attackers.  The protection of witnesses is a serious issue and solutions are necessary.  Elliot Milner, an attorney, had this to say:

“This is a complicated issue, and there is no easy solution. Most police departments only provide protection in the most extreme cases, and this is usually a very rare occurrence. I am a proponent of self-help. I'm not speaking about vigilante justice, simply saying that if people in urban(and any other) communities want to make sure that their neighbors who speak out against those who commit crimes are not harmed, then it is necessary for people in the community to take the initiative to let it be known that they will not tolerate harm being done to innocent citizens who simply seek to have those doing wrong held accountable.

I completely understand that is easier said than done. However, community intervention is a must. The police(in Oakland or any other city/town) are not going to protect you. Even if they have the desire to, most police departments do not have the funding or personnel to accomplish that. In several cities, groups of men in urban communities have taken to policing the streets of their neighborhoods. It is imperative that people in the community show that they are not afraid and will not be imprisoned in their own homes, as is the case in some neighborhoods. Also, participating in dialogue with individuals who may be "in the street" or committing crimes is a must. The more you isolate a person or group of people, the more likely they are to react negatively to you.”

The Troy Davis Case: Things you need to know

by Elliot Milner, JD.

" I have faced execution and the torment of saying goodbye to my family three times in the last two years and I may experience that trauma yet again; I would not wish this on my worst enemy and to know I am innocent only compounds the injustice I am facing."- Troy Davis, from Georgia's death row, on facing a fourth possible execution date.

For those who are unaware, Troy Davis has been on Georgia's death row for about 18 years, after being convicted of murdering police officer Mark McPhail(Mr. Davis has maintained his innocence from the very beginning).

It would take pages to give all of the details of Troy Davis' case, however I will say that there was no physical evidence found(including a murder weapon) connecting Troy Davis to the killing of Officer McPhail; he was convicted largely on the basis of inconsistent and often contradictory eyewitness testimony. The vast majority of those prosecution eyewitnesses have since recanted or changed their testimony implicating Mr. Davis, and one of those who hasn't is Sylvester Coles, the main alternative suspect presented by the defense during Troy Davis' trial. In addition, there have been multiple allegations of police coercion and the usage of unethical interrogation techniques.

(For additional information on Troy Davis' case, or to get information on how to act, check out and

Troy Davis' ordeal has been going on for nearly two decades now, and is nearing its end, one way or the other. He has had numerous appeals denied(most recently in April 2009), habeas corpus petitions denied, stays of execution granted and expired, and also had one request for clemency denied by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles(the same board that would decide any future request for clemency regarding Troy Davis).


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Your Black News: Civil Rights Groups Issue Statement on Financial Reforms


WASHINGTON, June 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A group of prominent civil rights organizations -- including ACORN, Center for Responsible Lending, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, NAACP, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), National Council of La Raza, National Fair Housing Alliance -- joined together today to applaud the launch of the financial reform effort by Americans for Financial Reform. Americans for Financial Reform's broad array of financial experts and advocates are joining together in an unprecedented campaign to reform our financial system and rebuild our economy.

Statement by civil rights groups:

"We applaud the work of Americans for Financial Reform, and are proud to join the effort to restore economic security by ensuring that financial institutions are accountable for their actions and promising that all Americans, no matter their race, ethnicity, disability, sex, age, or other protected class, are treated fairly. For years, the civil rights community has denounced the discriminatory business practices of financial industry players that have forced underserved borrowers to pay more for financial services while receiving less value and assuming enormous risks. As we modernize the financial regulatory system, we must ensure that the current two-tiered financial system is replaced with a transparent financial system that allows all Americans to build wealth equitably and fairly. When implemented, the strong recommendations made by Americans for Financial Reform will begin this important transformation."

Black Scholars and Politicians: Dr Boyce Watkins on Obama vs. Dyson

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

When I heard the controversial and heated comments about President Obama that were made by my respected colleague Michael Eric Dyson, I felt like a 2nd grader running outside to see the fight between two middle school kids. Both Barack and Michael are men I've grown to appreciate, and I love them for their strengths as well as their imperfections. Michael was the reason I became a public scholar during graduate school, as I would watch the words flow out of him like an MC in the booth dropping his hottest album. The man is good, damn good.

Barack Obama needs to listen to the words of Michael Eric Dyson. In fact, he should give Dyson as much, or more respect than he gives me or any other black public intellectual in America. Dr. Dyson, no matter how you perceive his critique of President Obama, represents a form of insight that you are not going to find in politics, the pulpit or anywhere else. At the same time, I will confess that his words may also come from an impure place that lies within the darkest part of our souls. In other words, Dyson, Tavis, Barack, Jesse and every other ambitious man in America is always going to be tempted by the "Demon of Playerhaterology". Men are naturally competitive, and no man likes to be disrespected. Obama, as a condition for his employment, is often asked to disrespect other leaders across America who represent the essence of meaningful black thought. That's going to create a long list of enemies.

Click to read more.

Read more Black Politics at

Rethinking your retirement plan

From our Black Money Blog.  For more black wealth advice, please click here.

They grew up during a time of cultural change, and now are being forced to redefine retirement at midlife.

The 77 million Americans in the Baby Boom generation face an economic storm: The Wall Street meltdown trampled their retirement nest eggs more than any other group. After losing jobs during what they thought would be some of their peak earning years, many are struggling to get back into the workforce. Health care costs are rising, and declining home values mean they might not be able to count on home equity to guarantee an easier retirement.

SAVE EARLY: Tips for building a solid retirement plan

"This generation will be sobered by their experience," says John Coyne, president of Brinker Capital, an investment management firm. "They may not have as extravagant a vision of retirement as they did last July."

The confluence of events has an even bigger impact on a subset of the Baby Boomers known to analysts as the Sandwich Generation. Those Boomers are putting money toward their children's college education and their aging parents' long-term care, as well as their own retirement savings.


Click to read more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Inmates Handcuffed While Giving Birth

Former Chicago inmates Simone Jackson and Danielle Bryant are seeking to file a class action lawsuit against the Cook County Sheriff's Department. Both claim they were forced to give birth while shackled and handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Jackson said, "It's dehumanizing. It's degrading. It's immoral." Jackson and three other former Cook County inmates described how they felt when they gave birth while imprisoned.

"I couldn't have family there," Bryant said. "Nobody to support me, help me. The nurses were in and out. All I had was the police officer."

Jackson and Bryant were being held on theft charges when they went into labor and were transferred to Chicago's Stroger Hospital to give birth.

Bryant's restraints were removed right before the actual birth. But Jackson says her restraints never came off.

"It is not even feasible to run when you are actually going to have a baby," Jackson said. "There is no way to do that."

Click to read.

Click here to read more Black News.

Congressman William Jefferson’s Trial Set to Start

Prosecutors say a Louisiana congressman was more than $60,000 in debt during the time he is accused of concocting a series of bribery schemes.

Opening statements started Tuesday in the trial of William Jefferson, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans. Federal agents found $90,000 in cash in his freezer, and he is charged with soliciting bribes, money laundering and other crimes.

Click to read.

Read more black political news at

Monday, June 15, 2009

The perfect Economic Storm: America’s Coming Retirement Crisis

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor at Syracuse University

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But then again, it must not bother me very much, since I am going to give you a big pile of bad news right now. Given that I earned a Masters Degree in the "morbid science" of statistics, I figured I would start the day by fulfilling my occupational expectation.

The first piece of bad news is that you are going to die. One day, your heart will stop beating and the 2.5 billion breaths you'll take during your lifetime will come to an end. Hopefully, it won't be painful, but I can't guarantee that. The truth is, however, that death might not be the worst part of it all.

The toughest news is that before you die, you are likely going to experience a long, slow period of physical and psychological decline called "old age". In conjunction with this decline, you are going to see your financial resources dwindle as quickly as the muscles in your body. Not only will the scale of your resources decline, but your expenses will likely mount as you go to one doctor's visit after another, all with the hope of delaying the inevitable. That period of life is called "retirement", and most Americans are not financially prepared for it.

Now that you are sufficiently depressed (there's no point in lying to you, I'm not very good at that), I will give you some facts to chew on. I also hope that in light of these realities, you will engage in something that the rest of America is not doing: preparing for retirement. While retirement planning has always been important in the past, it has never been more important than it is for you right now. The Perfect Economic Storm is coming, one in which all the scary clouds merge together into one big ball of fiscal devastation that can only be created by God himself. When your financial meteorologist (me) gives you that information, it's your decision to get your family prepared. Let's break down the components of the storm, shall we?


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Black News: Michelle Obama Compared to a Gorilla

GOP activist Rusty DePass is in hot water over comments about First Lady Michelle Obama.

Would you accept the apology from Rusty DePass after he likened First Lady Michelle Obama to an escaped gorilla?

Yes. He seemed sincere and contrite.

No. His comments were racist and unforgivable, and his explanation didn't make any sense.

A prominent South Carolina Republican killed his Facebook page Sunday after being caught likening the First Lady to an escaped gorilla.

Commenting on a report posted to Facebook about a gorilla escape at a zoo in Columbia, S.C., Friday, longtime GOP activist Rusty DePass wrote, "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless."

Busted by South Carolina political blogger Will Folks on his FITNEWS blog, DePass told WIS-TV in Columbia, "I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest."

Then he added, "The comment was hers, not mine," claiming Michelle Obama made a recent remark about humans descending from apes. The Daily News could find no such comment.

"'Humor' like this is nothing new for South Carolina Republicans - even as the party claims to be focusing on 'outreach' efforts to minorities," said Folks, a former gubernatorial spokesman and widely read blogger. "The fact that Palmetto [State] Republicans don't get that this is a serious problem for them baffles us."

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Black Health: What’s Wrong with Health Care?

Despite spending more money than any other country on health care, the United States does not lead the world in life expectancy, a long-known fact that some experts say could raise more questions in the health-care reform debate.

A study found that better-educated doctors increase the growth rate of life expectancy.

The United States ranks 50th out of 224 nations in life expectancy, with an average life span of 78.1 years, according to 2009 estimates from the CIA World Factbook.

Some argue part of the problem stems from the privatized nature of the U.S. health care system, whose reform is being vigorously debated on Capitol Hill.

"What we are able to find in the industrialized world is that life expectancy will be influenced in a beneficial manner to the extent that health care expenditure is publicly financed," said Harvey Brenner, professor of public health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and Johns Hopkins University. "The higher the government expenditure on health care, the lower will be the mortality rate."

In countries where individuals pay for their own care, people often don't get treatment until their symptoms have become serious, Brenner said. There is also less emphasis on preventative care in those countries, he said.

Click to read more on Your Black Health

Sotomayor and America’s Racial Hypocrisy

Wilmer Leon, Ph.D.

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

Howard University

On Tuesday May 26th, President Obama nominated federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Before the President announced his selection he stated he was not just looking for someone with just “ivory tower learning”; he wanted “intellectual firepower” as well as a “common touch” and a “practical sense of how the world works”. He also used the word “empathy” several times. It did not take long for the critics to weigh in and challenge the nomination.

What is troubling about the criticism is that most of it is intentionally not directed at judge Sotomayor’s record as a jurist and opinions that she has rendered. Most of the criticism is deliberately based upon select statements made in speeches or lectures, as was the case with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. They have been contextualized in the most inflammatory way possible in order to scare white people.

Click to read more on our Black Scholars Blog.


Your Black Money: Tavis Smiley Called to Accountability on Wells Fargo

by Genma Holmes

This is the third in a series of posts about Tavis Smiley and Wells Fargo, sponsor of the State of the Black Union (SOTBU). Everyone is in uproar about Wells Fargo employees calling loans to black mortgage holders “ghetto loans” and the disdain they showed for the customers they made the most profit from. But the media, especially black media, has been very silent about the role Tavis Smiley played in helping stack this ill fated deck of cards that has plagued the black community in several major cities.

When Mr. Smiley first partnered with Wells Fargo in 2005, he was a TEACHER of economic empowerment and assembled seminars around the country as the keynote speaker for wealth building. Press releases filled every major news outlet inbox and black newspapers were infected with faxes stating Mr. Smiley’s desire to teach the principles of home ownership as the key for breaking the cycle of poverty in the African American community. All this knowledge was given at no charge to trusting black folks. This was the golden ticket to obtaining the elusive piece of the pie via Mr. Smiley’s recommendations. Surely the intentions of all involved were pure and Mr. Smiley had vetted Wells Fargo thoroughly. Or so we thought. My granddaddy would say often, “Be wise when someone wants to give you something for free, there will be a price to pay later.”

Here’s what Mr. Smiley and Wells Fargo said in 2005 according to a widely circulated press release:

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Joins With Tavis Smiley to Offer Free Wealth Building Strategies Seminar in Washington, DC Tavis Smiley and a Host of Financial Experts Share Information About Building Generational Wealth and Family Financial Security

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the nation's leading originator of home loans to ethnic minority customers, has joined forces with talk show host and author, Tavis Smiley; and several financial affairs experts to provide free Wealth Building Strategies Seminars in eight cities across the country, including Washington, D.C. Additional seminars featuring other popular panelists also will be offered in 12 more cities, nationwide.

Click to read more on the African American Money Blog

Mississippi Justice Falls Short for Jamie and Gladys Scott

The families of Jamie and Gladys Scott feel that they were victims of a wrongful incarceration in Mississippi.  They’ve written this letter asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the case.  Please feel free to copy this letter and send it in yourself.

For more information on this case, please visit:


Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

The Honorable Attorney General Holder:

I am writing to request that you investigate the case of Jamie and Gladys Scott. The Scott Sisters were given double life terms each in October of 1994 for armed robbery in the state of Mississippi. No one was injured or murdered. One witness states that about 11 dollars was netted in the armed robbery. All witnesses and victims of this crime have testified that the Scott Sisters were not involved in the robbery. Witnesses testified that they were coerced and threatened to lie on the Scott Sisters. Three post trial affidavits also state that the sisters are innocent.

A 14 year old witness testified that he signed a statement which was prepared for him before he entered Deputy Sheriff Marvin Williams' Office. This statement was signed by the 14 year old without an attorney present. He was told that he would be released from the local jail the next morning if he signed it. He was not released.

This is an egregious wrongful conviction and the Scott Sisters have suffered now 14 years 8 months of double life terms each.
Jamie and Gladys Scott are housed in Pearl, Mississippi. Their ID numbers are Jamie Scott #19197 and Gladys Scott # 19142.


(Your Name)

Can Capitalism Enslave Black People?

Dr Boyce Watkins – Syracuse University

I recall giving a speech at a university in Upstate New York. We were talking about wealth building for the Black community and how Black folks can remove themselves from the underbelly of American capitalism. I'd heard this school had a reputation for strong liberalism and I was looking forward to addressing the audience. A young white female in the back of the room raised her hand to ask me a question. She said "How can you support a system that enslaves people?"

The woman was clearly offended by my mere presence as a financial expert and apparent supporter of capitalism. I could immediately tell, that no matter what my answer was, she was going to hate me and wish death upon my children. She didn't realize that I am not just a Finance Professor, but also a closet socialist in many contexts. While I am not one who wants to live in a socialist society, I do understand that capitalism and socialism must balance one another in any society that alleges to embrace human compassion.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Black Professor Speaks on Tavis Smiley Sponsor Wells Fargo: Did they discriminate?

Dr. Christopher Richardson

Dr. Christopher Richardson, one of the world’s leading experts on predatory lending and banking, comments on a recent report that Wells Fargo, one of the sponsors of the State of the Black Union event held every year, is being sued by several government agencies due to accusations of financially exploiting and deliberately misleading the Black community.  Dr. Richardson’s comments are below:

Click to read on African American Money.