Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Will President-elect Barack Obama Will Save The Day When Wisdom, Honesty, and Judiciousness No Longer Seem to Matter
Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Ph.D.
It has not taken long for the criticism, skepticism, and second guessing to begin. Barack Obama has not even been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and his critics on the so-called progressive left are angry that his cabinet selections suggest a shift to the center or to the right. Meanwhile, critics on the right claim that his actions in response to disgraced Illinois Gov. Blagojevich are politically motivated.
There are few political realities that Obama’s detractors need to appreciate and respect. There is a difference between campaigning and governing. During the primaries both candidates, McCain and Obama played to their bases in order to win their parties nominations. In the general election both candidates had to move closer to the center than their bases preferred in order to have any chance of winning. Many would argue that McCain’s failure to move closer to the center, i.e. selecting Gov. Palin as his running mate to placate the conservative base, cost him dearly.
Now that Senator Obama is president-elect Obama, he has to focus on governing. He can’t effectively govern from the progressive left. America is not as liberal or progressive as the left would like nor as conservative as the right would claim. These political realities are compounded by the practical realities of the housing crisis, banking crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, auto company crisis, etc., etc., etc.
For the most part, president-elect Obama has chosen to fill his cabinet with competent administrators and not ideologues. He seems to be focused on real solutions not theory, conjecture, or philosophy. He is selecting individuals who understand how Washington works and will be able to help structure legislation, pass legislation, and implement effective policy. Obama decided to retain the services of Robert Gates as defense secretary in order to ensure continuity in defense strategy in these very perilous times. While this does not sit well with the progressive left, no one has greater first hand knowledge of the complex issues that face America today.
Granted, not all of the individuals selected have unblemished records. For example, Senator Clinton or “Billary” voted for the war and brings Bill with her. Much to the dismay of progressives, during the Clinton administration Congressman Rahm Emanuel helped to get NAFTA, the Crime Bill, and welfare reform passed. In private practice Eric Holder has represented some questionable corporate clients. In spite of these issues, if president-elect Obama is as strong willed as a president as he was a candidate, these appointees and others will be implementing his policies and not allowing the interests of others to control him.
During the primaries and general election, Barack Obama was criticized by Senator’s Clinton, Biden, McCain and pilloried in the media for not having the requisite experience to “answer the 3:00 AM call” or respond to a real crisis. Gov. Palin questioned his experience as a “community organizer” by saying, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities…" Now that he is selecting experienced and qualified people to serve in his cabinet, including some of his former detractors the criticism has changed from a lack of experience to whether he has abandoned the progressive left. Some progressives are even calling into question his commitment to their issues and his honesty.
As if the attacks from the left are not enough, the right has launched their attack as well. As a result of Illinois Gov. Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat, being charged with conspiring to sell president-elect Obama’s now-vacant Senate seat, political vultures are circling overhead trying to tie him to the scandal.
In spite of the fact that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has said prosecutors were making no allegations that Obama was aware of any scheming; Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia is on record as saying, "The serious nature of the crimes listed by federal prosecutors raises questions about the interaction with Gov. Blagojevich, President-elect Obama and other high ranking officials who will be working for the future president,…" Why does this raise questions when no connection, direct or indirect has been made? Just as in a time of war, America is in such dire straights that now is not the time for partisan “gotcha” politics of past.
In spite of the fact that Blagojevich himself, is on record having said, "they're (the Obama team) not willing to give me anything except appreciation," Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), states "President-elect Barack Obama's comments on the matter are insufficient at best." President-elect Obama has stated, "I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so I was not aware of what was happening" and the U.S. Attorney has made no allegations to the contrary. What else is Obama to say? The truth is its own defense.
Instead of contributing to the media feeding frenzy, president-elect Obama and his team are being measured, judicious, and practical in their approach to this issue. Obama said on Friday, December 12th that he would release the results of an internal investigation into what conversations his aides and advisers may have had with Blagojevich in a matter of days. "What I want to do is to gather all the facts about any staff contacts that may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office," Obama said. Instead of allowing Obama time to determine the facts, Duncan levies criticism by saying, “Americans expect the highest degree of transparency from their elected leaders, rather than promises of openness on the campaign trail." As chairman of the RNC Duncan is the spokesperson of the party and speaks for every Republican who does not say otherwise.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “President-elect Barack Obama's transition team said it had completed an internal review of contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- but wouldn't release its findings until Christmas week, at the request of federal investigators.” In a written statement released by his office late Monday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald confirmed that he asked for the delay, saying he wanted more time to conduct interviews. Conservative journalist Britt Hume says, “It is curious that Obama has been so cautious about it. He is a cautious man, but you do wonder, don't you? Wonder about what? Even though the Obama team does not have to comply with the request, why would they not?
The one thing that president-elect Obama and his team can not do is get caught up in the conservatives questions or the media’s frenzy and start to put out statements that later prove to be inaccurate. They must remain disciplined and not allow the desire for short-term responses to cause long-term problems.
I am in no way trying to insinuate that president-elect Obama and/or his team are above reproach or should not be questioned. Democracy demands that our representatives be held accountable for what they say and what they do. For the progressive left to question cabinet appointments and claim that they’ve been abandoned or betrayed before the first executive order has been signed or the first piece of legislation proposed is premature, reactionary, and some what naïve.
For the conservative right to try and create a story where there is none is just republican politics as usual. This just demonstrates that they have not learned a lesson from the recent election; the American electorate is tired of their politics as usual.
It is important to understand that many of the causes of the countries problems are grounded in flawed ideology designed to consolidate power and wealth into the hands of a few while the majority in this country are left to suffer. The solutions to these problems will not be grounded in ideology; they will require vision, wisdom, honesty, judiciousness, collaboration, and cooperation. All of these are qualities that president-elect Obama has demonstrated through out his life and career. If they were good enough to get him elected president why can’t people be patient enough to see if they will also help him govern?
Ask not what a President Barack Obama will do for you; ask what you can do to help a President Barack Obama address the tremendous issues that this country is facing.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “On With Leon,” a regular guest on CNN’s Lou Dobb’s Tonight, and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: email@example.com.
© 2008 InfoWave Communications, LLC.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I got a phone call today. I get a lot of calls from “observers” (translation: supporters and haterologists), and I appreciate every single one of them. However, being as busy as I am, I usually don’t have time to call anyone back. I call my mama back and if my daughter would call me, she would be at the top of my list. I also call my grandmother. That’s enough to fill the free time at airports or on the way to the office.
If I call you back, I am returning the call because I either love you or respect you. I don’t return calls just because I think the caller is a “big shot”. In this business, everyone is into networking and butt kissing so they can meet this important person or that one. I’ve always felt that life is too short for that crap. For example, my homeboy Marc Lamont Hill at Temple University (one of the top black scholars in America), Al “The Inspiration” Duncan (an amazing public speaker and youth advocate) in Atlanta and Bill Thomason (a top black money manager) are brothers I always call back immediately because I respect their integrity. It’s really that simple for me.
On this day, I had some free time. I was driving to the office and I had a message from a woman named Karen. Karen’s family is full of Syracuse alumni. Honestly, most calls and emails I get from Syracuse alumni are not all that favorable. While I get cheers from the black and latino alums, the reality is that Syracuse has not had a strong historical black and latino presence. This is doubly true on the faculty, where a tenured professor of color is incredibly rare.
But I respect everyone, and I decided to use my free time to call Karen back. I was a little nervous, since I really wanted to talk to my grandmother. The risk was that I would miss a great conversation with grandma just so another alum could yell at me for being an outspoken black man.
But Karen was worth the investment because she was super duper cool. It also turned out that Karen is the daughter of the greatest alumnus in Syracuse University history, the great Jim Brown.
Jim was not amazing for what he did on the field. Yes, he had super human strength and was such an outstanding athlete that they changed the rules to find ways to stop him. But that doesn’t impress me, for black men have always possessed amazing athletic ability. Jim’s intellect impressed me far more than his athletic ability, for he is every bit as intelligent as he was athletic. But truth be told, while his intellect impressed the heck out of me, it didn’t impress the HELL out of me. Don’t get me wrong, he was a smart brother, but there are a lot of smart black male athletes, in spite of what the media tells you.
I have a Trinity of strength when it come to my black male “adopted fathers”. In this trinity, there is Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown. I adopted these men many years ago when I saw my intelligent, highly educated, rich, famous African American predecessors selling out in droves. It seemed that the only black men rising to prominent positions in American society were the ones who most readily allowed themselves to be fully emasculated. Sure, these men might speak big behind closed doors, but out in public, there was a degree of weakness, cowardice and commitment to self-preservation that made me shudder. These were the men who would tell me that speaking out in favor of the poor would get me into trouble. They would tell me to leave behind the brothers in prison and the kids in the educational system because it might jeopardize my chance to drive a Jaguar one day. While I listen to such men respectfully, I found myself having a midlife crisis at the age of 25, wondering if there was a way to have a more meaningful existence.
I miss the days when athletes used their platforms for something other than another McDonald’s endorsement. It is most sad and ironic that the athletes with the most wealth and greatest power also happen to be the least educated and the least willing to become educated. Individuals such as Michael Jordan become about as politically-neutral as a can of spinach, all so he can turn his $200 million dollar fortune into a $300 million dollar fortune. I have always been of the opinion that black prosperity and social activism can go hand in hand. We can all continue Dr. King’s work, whether it is on the streets or in the board room. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
I connected with Malcolm just because he was Malcolm. Malcolm X was clearly the greatest leader in American history. I connected with Muhammad Ali because he is from Louisville, my hometown, and also my second cousin. He taught me that a black man does not have to hold his head down in shame and weakness when the cameras turn on. I connected with Jim Brown because his spirit lives on my campus, Syracuse University. Jim created the path for me to do what I do today, and it was his ability to endure the firestorms of Syracuse controversy that remind me to stay focused in my endeavors.
That is what scholars and intellectual leaders are supposed to do.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
These Presidents made the choices to hide their illness "in the name of the country" but I believe, because once again, been there done that, that there is also selfishness involved. I hid my sickle cell until I could no longer because I wanted to finish college and law school (a dean once asked me why I kept coming back to school if I was ill...not knowing that my alternative was to lay down and die), and then again because I wanted to keep my shiny new law firm job, and I did not want anyone to doubt that I could do it.
Hell, I hid my illness during my grade school to high school years (many of my friends never knew until I was about grown, but now say that it answers a lot of strange things that they were wondering about me...kinda the "OHHHH, so that's what that was about, makes sense to me now") because I did not want others to think less of me, or ask questions.
I hid my degenerative disks in my back and taught my law classes seated or wearing house slippers to avoid my classes being cut back or taken from me. Some days I was in so much pain, I had to go in the bathroom, cry, compose myself, and come back out to teach.
Even now, I am hiding my cancer from my neighbors to avoid the stares, the "pity parties", the questions, and the barrages of bad potato salad, pies, etc. brought to the house like I am dead (my daughter slipped and told one neighbor who told everyone else, I no longer go outside unless I have to). In the beginning stages of my treatment, I hid my cancer from my kids to keep them from worrying, but also selfishly to shield myself from their worry about me.
Sometimes, like the past few days, I even avoid going to the doctor when I am ill because I get tired of being poked and prodded, but also because unfortunately, due to what I believe can only be racism. If a sickle patient needs meds, they are given a speech about narcotics addiction and not given refills on the scrip (which in turn leads to me having to call the doctor for each refill, which makes me look like a fiend begging for drugs). Whereas, since I have been a cancer patient, I can ask for those same exact drugs with no questions asked, no speeches about addiction or questions about if I really need the meds, and there are refills on the bottle. Both are horribly painful diseases, with some of the same symptoms (which is why I believe my cancer was not caught earlier...the docs all thought it was the sickle cell), yet the one that affects minorities only is the one with the drug addict stigma attached to it. To have an illness is tough by itself, but to admit to it is even harder...
Some U.S. presidents have gone to great lengths to hide their physical and mental illnesses. Is that kind of deception necessary—or even possible today?
By Anne Underwood
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 2:05 PM ET May 24, 2008
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, released 1,173 pages of personal medical records this week. Such candor in politicians is a recent development. Dr. Jerrold Post—director of the political psychology program at George Washington University and author of "Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World" (Cornell University Press, 2004)—has studied the history of presidents and their health problems. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Anne Underwood.
NEWSWEEK: John McCain has been candid about his health. Does that represent a break with the past?
Jerrold Post: There has been increasing pressure for candidates to reveal information that was once considered a personal matter. Today, you have to give up that privacy to run for the highest office.
But even in recent years, not all candidates have been that honest. I'm thinking of Sen. Paul Tsongas, who competed against Bill Clinton to be the Democratic nominee in 1992. That was a cover-up. He indicated that he had had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He and his doctor attested that, because of his bone-marrow transplant, his prognosis was as good as anyone else's. But at the time the statement was made, he had already had a recurrence of the cancer that wasn't made public. That kind of information needs to be revealed.
The public is demanding more information today. But are people also more forgiving, now that better treatments exist?
Yes and no. Part of the distinction has to do with what kind of illness it is. Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955, an abdominal operation in 1956 and a stroke in 1957. People were sympathetic after the heart attack, because it was clear that it was mild and he would survive it. But the stroke, which temporarily affected his speech, raised the specter of a president who was unable to communicate. People look to their leaders for wisdom, strength and clarity of speaking.
What about cancer?
In France, François Mitterrand was an interesting example. When Mitterrand came to office, he swore that his would be an open presidency. But on his first day in office in 1981, he called in the presidential physician, Dr. Claude Gubler, and told him that his prostate cancer had spread to his bones. Mitterrand solemnly declared, "We must reveal nothing. These are state secrets." He led for 14 years with the constant and painful companion of metastatic cancer. How could that not have affected his decision making?
What about depression? There used to be such a stigma attached.
Depression is interesting. In 1924, just after Calvin Coolidge's nomination to a second term, his favorite son, Calvin Jr., developed a blister after playing tennis on the White House grounds without socks. He developed septicemia and died three days later [at the age of 16]. This was before antibiotics. Coolidge was called a do-nothing president, but it was probably as a consequence of a severe grief reaction from which he never recovered. After that, he spent 11 hours a day sleeping. His work day shrank. He was irritable and disinterested in affairs of state.
In 1972, George McGovern [the Democratic candidate] chose Sen. Thomas Eagleton as his running mate. But when it was revealed that Eagleton had had electroconvulsive therapy for depression years earlier, it created a huge uproar. There was such a fear of shock therapy and the possibility of a mentally ill president [if McGovern should die in office] that Eagleton had to step down. Interestingly, Eagleton returned to the Senate, where he had an excellent reputation. We can tolerate a history of depression in the Senate, but not in the highest office.
What are some of the more intriguing cases of presidents who have concealed information about their health?
Grover Cleveland [who served as president 1885-1889 and 1893-1897] was brushing his teeth one morning, when he noticed a lump in the roof of his mouth. He called in his dentist, who summoned a head-and-neck surgeon. The surgeon diagnosed the lump as a carcinoma of the roof of the mouth. Cleveland thought it would cause an economic crisis if the information was released that he had cancer, so during the night, he smuggled an anesthesiologist, nurses, his dentist and the head-and-neck surgeon onto the presidential yacht under the guise of a pleasure trip on the Hudson River. During the trip, they removed the roof of his mouth up to his left eye, and inserted a rubber prosthesis internally. People were suspicious, but it wasn't revealed until 15 years after his death what had happened.
In more recent years, after the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, how cheered we all were when he waved from his window at George Washington University Hospital. But what people didn't know was that Reagan was only alert for one hour a day. The nightly news regularly showed clips of a vigorous Reagan in good spirits. But in fact, these moments were carefully chosen. When he went back to the White House—Bob Woodward conveyed this vividly in his book "Veil"—he showed only brief intervals of lucidity and vigor. This was only the beginning of the Reagan presidency, but according to Woodward, his aides were afraid it would end up as a crippled presidency, like Wilson's caretaker presidency.
You're referring to Woodrow Wilson after his stroke. In the fall of 1919, Wilson had a disabling stroke while he was on a train trip across the country to mobilize support for his cherished League of Nations. The public knew he was ill, but they didn't know how ill. Only Edith Wilson, chief of staff Joseph Tumulty and his personal physician, Cary Grayson, were allowed to see him. Issues were brought in, and decisions would come out. We talk today about the possibility of having the first woman president, but we effectively already had one in Edith Wilson. After her husband partially recovered, Mrs. Wilson said, "I don't know what you men make such a fuss about. I had no trouble running the country when Woody was ill."
I guess Franklin Roosevelt would be the most famous example of a president who concealed information about his health. His polio was well known—and it humanized this aristocratic man—but the press was respectful. There were only two or three pictures of him in a wheelchair. What wasn't so well known was how ill he was when he went to the Teheran summit with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in 1943. He came back quite ill. The White House doctor, [Vice] Admiral Ross McIntire, directed cardiologist Howard Bruenn, a Navy [lieutenant] commander, to examine Roosevelt. Bruenn was alarmed at the gravity of Roosevelt's illness. He diagnosed congestive heart failure, hypertension, acute bronchitis and longstanding pulmonary disease. McIntire told Bruenn, you must not tell the president and his family the extent of his illness, and you certainly cannot tell the American public. He issued a reassuring communiqué to the effect that, for a man of his age, Roosevelt was in remarkably good health. But Franklin's son, James Roosevelt, later said he'd never been reconciled to the fact that his father's physicians allowed him to run for a fourth term. It was his death warrant. At the Yalta summit in 1945, Churchill's physician said that Roosevelt looked old and drawn and sat staring ahead with his mouth open. He intervened little in the discussion. He died shortly after the summit of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.
President Kennedy had Addison's disease. Yes, but it was only in Robert Dallek's 2003 biography of John Kennedy that we learned the extent of Kennedy's illnesses, which he concealed and which his family continued to conceal after he was assassinated—colitis, duodenal ulcers, osteoporosis and Addison's disease, which is a life-threatening insufficiency of the adrenal glands, requiring twice daily steroids. By 1950, he had constant back pain from vertebral collapse. From the mid-1950s, he was taking powerful narcotics like Demerol and methadone. He took barbiturates for sleep and tranquilizers for anxiety—as many as eight medications a day. There's some indication that he may have abused amphetamines. Before press conferences, he often required injections in the back to control his pain. Throughout his career, he concealed his illnesses.
If elected, John McCain would be 72 when sworn in. Is age an issue?
The first generalization is that one shouldn't generalize. There are some highly creative individuals who function well into their 90s. Konrad Adenauer [who served as German chancellor until the age of 87] was one. Having said that, the danger is that one may attempt to force a new situation into a template from the past and draw false parallels. With the passage of years, there can also be an increased sense of urgency that makes you want to accelerate the pace of change and fit a political timetable to your own. In China, the Cultural Revolution was related to Mao's realization that his time was short and his desire to fully consolidate the revolution before he died.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
by Demetrius Walker
I’ve never agreed with the American criminal justice system. Point blank, it is wrong and unfair on too many levels. Since a youngster in New York, I have observed how our current system has destroyed more lives than it has protected, reformed, and/or rehabilitated.
To be considered the land of the free, the United States certainly boasts a dynamic air of hypocrisy. We have the HIGHEST incarceration rate in the world. In fact, the International Herald Tribune (owned by the NY Times) recently reported that “The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners (READ HERE).”
Very few people seem to have a problem with this in middle America. More than likely because this alarming figure affects the Black community in widely disproportionate numbers. I would venture to say that most African Americans, myself included, can list someone within their immediate reach that is incarcerated. Yet ALL Americans turn a blind eye to the prison industrial complex that assists young brothers like myself in donning orange jumpsuits. In case you haven’t realized it, there is an entire system set up to fill and build prisons to the economic benefit of corporations and private ventures.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Dr. Boyce Watkins
While I am never one to laugh about someone attacking another human being, I could not help but notice this video showing a man making very accurate and high velocity pitches at the head of the President. But then again, I can understand the anger of directly enduring the arrogant imperialism that the Bush Administration has shown throughout the world.
Enjoy the video!
FYI: Caitlin Powell, a talented 5th grader in the YourBlackWorld family, has decided that she wants to take the bold step of being a role model to other young children. You can see Caitlin's Corner, the first of a series of webcasts that Caitlin is doing to positively impact the Black community. She is in advanced classes, loves to read and is already talking about what kind of college she wants to go to. She represents what our kids should be all about, and I hope you will support her by watching her video, making comments and having your children learn the lessons of educational empowerment.
BTW: To join our Black Money Advice list, please click here.
Dr. Boyce Watkins
If you want to know how I feel about the situation with Jesse Jackson Jr., my thoughts on the issue are below:
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I was concerned to find out that Jesse Jackson Jr. has been asked to defend himself against allegations that he is involved in the scandal plaguing Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. I have spent alot of time with the Jackson family, as I've appeared on the show of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. more times this year than I can count. I have never met Jesse Jr., but I have a tremendous amount of respect for his father, as well as his sister Santita and his brother Jonathon, a fellow Finance guy. Jonathon and I spoke for hours about Economic and Financial empowerment in the Black community, and I was very impressed with what the brother had to say. Santita, whom I know better than the other "Jackson kids", has even given me advice on women, life and politics (this was especially relevant when I dealt with my university's backlash during the Bill O'Reilly situations a few months ago). I will always appreciate that.
At risk of not making everyone happy, here are my honest thoughts on the situation involving Jesse Jackson Jr, Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich:
1) I am not sure who said what and who did what during this scandal, since I don't trust much of what any politician has to say. That goes for Rod, Jesse Jr., Barack and everyone else. Part of the reason I will never run for political office is because you are forced to lie and pander in order to get elected. That doesn't appeal to me. I have a strange habit of being honest, and as my mother used to say "Boyce, your mouth will either make you great or get you killed, I'm curious to see which one."
2) I do know one thing: Illinois politics is as corrupt as a crackhead on payday. Isn't the former governor of Illinois in prison also? The thing that worried me most about Barack Obama was that I am skeptical of any politician who rises to the top of Illinois politics. Like an athlete who dominates a sport riddled with steroids, you can't help but wonder if the winner is a little "juiced" himself. If Blagojevich is auctioning off a Senate seat and everyone knows that, it's not easy to accept the fact that the governor chose the winner because of his integrity and experience. While there was no clear winner of this Senate seat, anyone dealing directly with the governor is going to be under clear and logical suspicion.
3) I was incredibly disappointed by the way Jesse Jackson Jr. left his father hanging out to dry (politically speaking) during the Obama "I want to cut his nutts off" fiasco. Don't get me wrong, the words were highly inappropriate. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. called me the next day and I personally forgave him (after all, they weren't my testicles on the chopping block). I did, however, say that I was surprised that a long-time veteran of the media would make such a mistake and that it is disheartening that our most respected Black leaders still have to go to horrible places like Fox News to get their message out to the Black American public. But I was also saddened to see that his son, for the sake of political expediency, distanced himself as far as possible from his father. When your daddy is bleeding, you don't try to suck more blood out of his body.
I grew up in a world where a son remains loyal to his father, especially when he has done so much for him. So, I had a hard time understanding why Jesse Jackson Jr. would issue a statement detaching himself from his dad, all so he could continue enjoying the benefits of Obama-mania. Now that the "you-know-what" has hit the fan, I wonder how long it might be before Jesse Jr's new political friends start distancing themselves from HIM. No one loves you like family, and any reasonable man should think long and hard before attacking his own relatives in public. I say this as a man with several relatives I'd love to slap. But I have never considered issuing a press release to push the dagger a little deeper in a pre-existing wound of public humiliation.
The lesson I take away from all this is that if you are trying to swim with the pigs, you are going to get covered in slop. Whether Jesse Jackson Jr. is guilty or not, I don't consider him a bad person. The same thing goes for Barack Obama. But chasing the dream and intoxication of power, popularity and American validation can come at a price in this dirty and corrupt game called American politics (especially for Black men). As quick as you rose to the top, you can find yourself at the bottom, so perhaps it is important to remain grounded.
Keep hope alive Jesse Jr., you're going to need it.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of "What if George Bush were a Black Man?" He makes regular appearances in national media, including CNN, BET, ESPN and CBS Sports. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com
Thursday, December 11, 2008
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Some of you may wonder why I do the things I do and say what I say. So, I thought I would make myself an open book so you can understand a bit more about where I come from, and the nature of my world view. In spite of conspiracy theories stating that I get paid to say certain things or have some evil plot to create a new world order, the truth is that I am just a simple brother trying to do something meaningful before I die. Life is shorter than we think, and we should give everything to get as much as we possibly can out of each and every single day.
Frequently Asked Questions about Dr. Boyce Watkins
Q: What do you stand for?
A: I stand for fairness and doing what is right. I am not a Finance Professor who happens to be black, I am a black man who happens to be a Finance Professor. There is a great deal of inequality in America that runs along racial lines. This is due to the fact that our country has built a 400 year social, financial and educational infrastructure that promotes the advancement of one group over the other. It is my job as a public scholar to challenge this imbalance and work to find solutions to these problems. My primary tools of choice are education and economic empowerment. I work hard to teach youth, especially African Americans, the value of being highly educated and the additional value that comes from becoming Financially independent and empowered. Those were the choices that changed my life and gave me the freedom and strength to express myself honestly, creatively and (some think) intelligently.
I also want to challenge the NCAA to rethink the way it treats college athletes. As a Finance Professor, I am not sure how we can justify earning millions for our coaches and administrators, while allowing the sources of labor (the athletes) and their families to live in poverty. This is wrong and unAmerican, for capitalism should give us the rights to freely negotiate our wages. When we engaged in our campaign on CNN, ESPN and CBS to challenge the actions of the NCAA, people thought I was trying to attack them. The truth is that I don't enjoy attacking anyone, I only want to fight for fairness. One thing that my students have always said about me (whether they love me or hate me) is that I am fair. I call it for what it is.
Q: Your work can be controversial, why do you do it?
A: I ask myself that question every single day! Personally, I believe that the role of the black scholar in America is to work hard to uplift our communities. Our intellect is needed, and in addition to engaging in scholarly research that lies in dusty academic journals, we should become active in our communities and throughout the world. I believe strongly in the concept of Scholarship in Action. The thing about Scholarship in Action is that it requires the combination of intellect, creativity, curiosity, commitment, passion and courage that stands at the root of all true genius. I do not consider myself a genius, but I wake up every day thinking "I am one day closer to my last day on this earth. How can I get the best return on my investment?" That is what keeps me going.
Some days are tougher than others, like when people confuse black love with white hatred. I learned from the lives of Martin Luther King and others that people will always confuse the two. For the past 20 years, most of my students and classmates have been white and I spent much of my childhood in a white neighborhood. So, to be honest, I know as much or more about white culture than I do about black culture. So, like Barack Obama, my mixed background helped me realize one thing: We are all human and we all make mistakes. The problem is that in America, the mistakes of black males are interpreted differently than the mistakes made by others. My work has, in part, been meant to point out this contradiction.
Q: Where are you from and what is your background?
A: I am originally from Louisville, KY. My father abandoned me when I was born, and my mother was 16 years old when she got pregnant with me. My mother met and married a man who became my "real father", when I was 3 years old. I struggled through school, getting far more Cs, Ds and Fs than As and Bs. I was not, according to my teachers, cut out for college and my teachers even recommended me for special education and medication for ADHD. What I didn't know at the time is that black boys are 5 times more likely to be placed in special education than kids of other ethnicities. At the age of 18, I discovered this amazing, secret invention called "sex", which led to me having my first child. We all make mistakes, and I have made my share. However, I truly believe that the mistakes you make, if studied properly, can become the tuition that you pay in the school of life. It is by paying this tuition that we gain wisdom and strength during the journey. The year I had my daughter was also the year that I changed my life. I found my way onto campus at The University of Kentucky, where I became a straight A student for the first time. I then continued going to school for another 12 years, earning a few masters degrees and bachelors degrees, along with my PhD. Falling on my face over and over again taught me that being perfect is not the requirement for being a victor. The key is learning how to keep getting back up. Also, my humble beginnings taught me not to look down on those who make mistakes. Instead, I seek to uplift those around me by saying "I am a great man when I do my best, and we can all be great if we try." I don't get much of a thrill from condemning, chastising, or pretending that I am better than anyone else.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Education changed my life. I never did well in school as a child because I did not know what education could do for me. I also did not believe that I could be very good at it. My experience, and what I discovered when I learned the power and freedom of education, is what inspired me to write my first book "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About College". The book was meant for those kids who don't think college is a reasonable choice for them. I am also inspired by the fact that life is short, and I don't want to waste all of that time trying to fit in, or just "get along". My goal is to do all I can to make the world a better place when I leave than it was when I arrived. That is my sole and primary objective, no political games and no B.S. included. Education, economic empowerment and having the chance to change the world keep me pumped up like the Energizer Bunny every single day.
Q: Who are your greatest heroes?
A: My father is #1 (the one who raised me). He is a strong man and although he thinks a lot like Bill Cosby (a man I don't always agree with), I learn from him. Even though he didn't spend a lot of time with me, I always respected the fact that a man who didn't give birth to me was willing to give me the best years of his life. By watching my dad (a police Major and Vietnam vet), I learned how to be strong and focused, and how to look right through the "haters" that we all must endure (sort of like Tiger Woods and his army dad). My father also makes me defensive whenever someone attempts to say that black men are collectively poor fathers and bad role models. Most people don't know what it's like to be a black male in America. Next, there's Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. These are my "adopted dads", who taught me how to manage the challenges of being a black man. When I run into a scenario where the rain is pouring a little harder than usual, I read about their lives and what they went through to find the strength to move on. My other respected colleagues are Michael Eric Dyson and Julianne Malveaux (the ones who inspired me to become a public scholar in the first place), Tiger Woods (for his awesome mental focus, not his politics), and even Kobe Bryant (I did not enjoy the negative allegations against him, for I think he made a lot of mistakes. But I respect any man who hits rock bottom and rises back to the top. Kobe saw his team drop to nothing, all of his endorsements go out the window, and he was hated by the public. However, through consistent play and focus, he rose back to become MVP, carrying his team to the championship again. This is a reminder to all of us that if you keep focused and remain consistent, you will obtain whatever rewards you seek).
Q: Do you ever want to go into politics?
A: No, because I enjoy being honest. Politicians have to lie to pander to a constituency. If you know me long enough, you will eventually disagree with something I say. I am not a liberal, and I am not a conservative. Some of the liberal ideas in America don't make much sense to me. I am also not a fan of many conservative ideals, which sometimes border on the same racist, sexist, classist foundations on which our country was founded. I would say that I enjoy being "the people's scholar" because I want to give a voice to those who don't have one.
Q: You're a Finance Professor - Do you Love Money?
A: As a Finance Professor, I understand money quite well. I also respect and appreciate the power of money. The truth is that we live in a capitalist democracy, and the capitalist part is sometimes stronger than the democratic part. I also understand money well enough to know that it can either be a tool for building or a weapon for destruction. I've seen people sell their souls, their happiness and their integrity for money. That is what led to my book "Financial Lovemaking 101". I've seen the impact of "capitalism gone wild", in which wealth gaps between the rich and the poor serve to destroy the security of a society. I personally feel that one way I can contribute to the advancement of Dr. King's vision is to find ways that Democracy, Capitalism and human compassion can work together to make our country better.
Q: Do you love America?
A: Yes, I do. I feel that America has the potential to be the greatest country in the world. In fact, when we put our best foot forward, we are the greatest country in the world. I also know that there are some things I can say in this country that I could not say anywhere else. Finally, I feel that it is my duty as an American to use my freedoms to speak out if necessary, to help our country heal, improve and overcome the crutches of the past. I've learned that many of the most significant figures in African American history, those who've endured opposition for their efforts, were also the most patriotic Americans. The role of the scholar, in my opinion, is to use academic freedom to engage in intellectual leadership. Leadership doesn't imply that you follow the crowd. Rather, it implies that you lead people where they might not want to go. You must truly love a country if you are willing to suffer to make it better. I want our country to be great.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of "What if George Bush were a Black Man?" For more information, please visit http://www.boycewatkins.com/.
Monday, December 8, 2008
VIGALANTEE: Hunting for Souls
By: Tolu Olorunda
Staff Writer - YourBlackWorld.com
Vigalantee (born Roger Suggs) is no stranger to the underground Hip-Hop scene. Born in Chicago, Vigalantee has always been a fan of Hip-Hop – though a critic, when necessary. In addition to his musical career, Vigalantee is also an arduous community-organizer and activist, whose youth program is touching many young lives across the city of Kansas. As the name suggests, Vigalantee is hunting for more than nice beats or dope rhymes. As a young man, trapped in between the perils of inter-racial animosity and intra-racial hostility, Vigalantee knows how critical it is for young Black kids to find worthy role-models in the communities that shape their destinies.
Vigalantee grew up in Chicago, and experienced, firsthand, the much-referenced tales of gang warfare. Concerned with the emotional toll this reality wreaks on a child, his mother sent him to a relative’s home in Georgia. Vigalantee describes this as the unraveling of another “extreme” living condition. In Georgia, unlike Chicago, it was a more state-sanctioned assault on the integrity of Black people. Vigalantee remembers being smothered in the blood-dripping trenches of racism and segregation in the Peach State.
Watching his “granddaddy walking like a sharecropper,” and living on the fringes of poverty, “influenced” Vigalantee to become the activist he is today. It made him aware of the horrific second-class citizenship-status of Black people in the South, and informed him of how essential a concrete “agenda” for the uplifment of Blacks was.
Vigalantee draws a parallel between his experience in Georgia, and the decision to start up a record label – making music independently. Having witnessed Black men unable to drink from the well of prosperity in Georgia, Vigalantee felt this revelation was a prophetic calling to live a life of dignity and elegance. His choice to “go independent” would also turn out to be financially conducive, as independent artists usually exercise more dominance over their projects, and earn more, per album sold, than their mainstream counterparts. Being independent makes Vigalantee empowered to speak on his agenda, without “censoring” his “stuff for any corporations.” It grants him the “freedom to express myself to the fullest extent.” Vigalantee claims to have been inspired by the entrepreneurship of Master P, Tech 9ne, and Mc Hammer. Though when lyricism comes into play, he has often found solace in the gifts of mainstream acts such as, LL Cool J, Common, Chuck D, Poor Righteous Teachers (PRT), and Canibus.
Vigalantee’s admiration of Public Enemy and PRT has helped a great deal in emulating their ability to entertain, while simultaneously educating listeners. He credits the aforementioned for being able to “bridge the gap” between Art and Activism. The leadership of Public Enemy and PRT enabled Vigalantee in using his music to inspire, as well as motivate the Black Community into action.
Earlier this year, Vigalantee released a single, titled “Emmett Till.” Vigalantee had read the story of Emmett Till, whilst a student in High School. He describes feeling an emotional connection between himself and young Emmett Till who traveled similar paths from Chicago to the Deep South. Vigalantee notes that, while popular artists like Bob Dylan, Kanye West, and David Banner have all name-dropped Emmett Till in their songs, “nobody really told the true story of Emmett Till,” – hence, “young people don’t know nothing about Emmett Till.”
There is a “lack of strong progressive voices in Hip-Hop,” Vigalantee says. He also feels that Hip-Hop has become so “elite and arrogant.” Vigalantee remembers the controversy surrounding LL Cool J’s 1989 “Walking with a Panther” album, and the outrage from the, now-defunct, progressive Hip-Hop community. Although he credits the corporate Executives of big-money record labels for drowning “us [progressive Hip-Hop artists] out, so we can’t be heard,” Vigalantee believes the buck starts with those socially-conscious voices who have “dumbed-down” their music for a mess of pottage.
Vigalantee is, hopeful, however, that his music can fill in the missing blanks at this critical period in Hip-Hop’s history. He has been able to “carve out a niche” for himself, and promote music that “feels right.” His newest album (out December 9th), titled M.I.R.A.C.L.E (“Music Inspiring Real Accomplishment Creating Love Everlasting”) promises to provide spiritual and moral inspiration to those battling with despair at this most emotionally-fragile moment. With a composition of freestyles, poems and ‘regular tracks,’ Vigalantee expects it to be “a hit.”
Beyond his musical career, however, Vigalantee sees the “education of our youth” as top priority.
Vigalantee’s new album will be available at Kansas City Kansas Community College Bookstore, Nebraska Furniture Mart(Village West, Ks), Keepin' It Real KCK. For more, pls. visit: http://vigalantee.web.officelive.com/default.htm