Archive for April, 2011

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”: Celebrating the Common Good

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Guest Columnists with tags on April 27, 2011 by Gary Johnson

By Timothy Askew, Ph.D., Clark Atlanta University

In 1976 at the Democratic National Convention in New York, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan offered the keynote address.  The title of her speech was, “Who Then Will Speak For the Common Good?” Her resonant voice proclaimed:

Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit sharing in a common endeavor or will we become a divided nation?  We must address and master the future together.   It can be done if we restore the belief that we share a sense of national community, that we share a common national endeavor.  It can be done.  Let there be no illusions about the difficulty of forming this kind of a national community.  It’s tough, difficult, and not easy.  But a spirit of harmony will survive in America only if each of us remembers that we share a common destiny.

Thirty-five years later, Congresswoman Jordan’s words ring and resound in a clarion call for all of us in America to embrace a vision of unity and togetherness that permeates beyond cultural boundaries and even cultural differences.   It is this idea of a national and international spirit that I endorse when I think about the brilliant musical composition, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is widely known as the Black National Anthem and whose interesting history I discuss in my new book, Cultural Hegemony and African American Patriotism:  An Analysis of the Song, “Lift Every Voice and  Sing.”   (www.linusbooks.com). Studying the literary, musical, and cultural history of this song, I offer its stirring words to all America and to the world, not only to African Americans with which the song is generally associated.

As a graduate of Northside High School in 1979, I was fortunate to see the fruits of what Congresswoman Jordan proclaimed that day in 1976.   It was a school replete with brilliant minds and creative energies—from students, faculty, and staff, and because of this wonderful energy of unity and altruism, I have fostered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of the beloved community and the national community about which Congresswoman Jordan speaks.  I wonder, however, have we really overcome the racial and cultural constraints of the past in the way that we interact with each other.  Do we really believe in the kind of color-blind society where all people have the right to celebrate their lives?  Are we the national community that gives voice to individual freedom of choice and mutual respect for each other’s personal views and tastes?  Do we really celebrate ethnic pluralism and diversity enough, as we look beyond our own myopic racial walls in our respective communities?

As I have gone from place to place discussing my book and my research on “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” what I have seen is that many people believe that celebrating  a national spirit means that people should all think that same way, that members of the same racial group must have the same goals, views, and even experiences.   Congresswoman Jordan’s and even Dr. King’s version of the beloved community did not suggest that each person stop being an individual and stop having the right for self-expression.  But their positive outlook for America is that we lift our voices beyond our own races to understand that we are all a part of a national whole, not just a racial whole, even though we should celebrate and extol our own unique cultural heritage and traditions.

Even as a proud African American whose historical heroes are Mary McLeod Bethune, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Mary Lou Williams, and yes, our beloved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I acknowledge that black people are not the only folk in history who have suffered.  I think of the poor whites in Appalachia who struggle daily to survive; I think of our Latino/Latina  brothers and sisters who are also subject to the kind of racial profiling that blacks have experienced.   I also think of the Chinese American brothers and sisters whose history and accomplishments are not recognized enough, along with their own vicissitudes as people of color in this country–people who have made invaluable contributions to the American experience.   All people in this nation have a history of struggle, and our beloved nation is colored by the blood, sweat, and tears of all members of God’s rainbow who live within our borders.  Famous American poet Walt Whitman described this ably in his poem, “I Hear America Singing,” as he proclaimed a democratic, inclusive spirit for this nation, even as people celebrate individuality but also a national symphony of unified voices.

In my research on the beloved universal anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” I offer this song as a symbol of every American voice and of every voice of people in the world who have a history of struggle.  As Dr. King proclaimed the beloved community in his “I Have a Dream” speech, so does the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” proclaim and symbolize the beloved community for all, not just for blacks as a national anthem, but as a song of identity for all who stretch their hearts in eternal hope for a better tomorrow and for the common good of all citizens of America and the world.

About The Author

Dr. Timothy Almon Askew holds a B.A. degree from Morehouse College, Summa Cum Laude with Phi Beta Kappa distinction as a junior-year inductee.  He received the master’s degree at Yale University. Dr. Askew was an NCEA Doctoral Fellow at the University of South Florida. Pursuing an interdisciplinary degree in American Studies and focusing on American Literature and American Music,  he received his Ph.D.degree at Emory University and had the distinction of being the first Ph.D. Marshal at the University.

To learn more about Dr. Askew visit his official web site at:  http://drtaskew.com.

The Bridge: Who’s Gonna Take The Weight? (Parts 1 and 2)

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, The Bridge - Darryl James with tags on April 26, 2011 by Gary Johnson

By Darryl James

Participate in any discussion on relationships and you are likely to see a few things consistently.

First, you’ll see more women than men participating.

Second, you’ll see people passing stereotypes around, instead of seeking the truth with researched data.

And third, you’ll see one side blaming the other, while pretending to be listening in search of enlightenment.

Sad, I know.

But really, men and women are having difficulty talking to each other.

And, while no one wants to take the weight, both sides are to blame.

Men have to take their fair share of the breakdown blame because too many of us believe that it’s cool to tuck our emotions away. Too many men have also decided that it is better to appease women than to speak the truth and have them angry at us.  And too many of us think that having a discussion about feelings is for women and gay men.

Consequently, our voice is rarely heard, except in response to the voices of “those” women who are loud and negative, particularly in the media.

In fact, the media is filled with article after article about what is wrong with Black men.  Even when discussing the difficulties facing Black women, the finger is inevitably pointed at Black men. That’s why it’s confusing to see crazy people who get upset with me when I offer balance.

To the ignorant, balance means that I cannot say anything about women without someone simultaneously saying something about men.

Not only is that ignorant but it is in direct contradiction with the plethora of negative media coverage on men—Where the good ones are; why we are in prison, why we are “down low”, blah, blah, blah…..

At any rate, no one can deny that there is a war brewing between the genders and that unless more strong men stand up and make themselves heard, things will only get worse.

Click here to read the entire article (Parts 1 and 2)

Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.”  James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opens in Los Angeles this Spring. View previous installments of this column at http://www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com.  Reach James at djames@theblackgendergap.com.


President Obama Reaches Out To The Black Community On The Web

Posted in Barack Obama, Black America, Black Interests, Gary A. Johnson, Music and Video Releases with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2011 by Gary Johnson

By Gary A. Johnson

As the President gears up for his re-election campaign, it should be no surprise that the Obama administration recently unveiled a new web site to highlight its work and increase its connection with the black community.  The web site is the administration’s way of reaching out and sharing information of interest to black Americans.  According to the web site:  “Since his first day in office, President Obama has been working to secure the future prosperity of the African American Community through efforts such as increasing access to health care, creating jobs, revitalizing schools, and the development of targeted job creating investments in underserved communities. While much more needs to be done, we are making progress. This site is a tool for you to learn about how the President’s Agenda is helping to win the future among African-American Communities.”

The site has the latest blog post, fact sheets and more.  Click here to visit the web site.  You can even sign-up to receive e-mail alerts, browse through a photo gallery and watch videos such as the White House tribute to The Sound of Young America:  The History of Motown, a panel discussion with Motown Founder Berry Gordy, singer Smokey Robinson and singer John Legend.

The direct link to the White House Web site is:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/africanamericans

Blacks and the Economics of Voting

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Politics with tags on April 16, 2011 by Gary Johnson

By Raynard Jackson

How long will the Black community continue to allow the Obama administration and the Democratic Party to insult them and then blame it on Obama not wanting to be perceived as a “Black” president?

Let me give an example.  You have invested in a business project, Obama Inc.

There were 4 classes of investors:  class W, which comprised 74% of the total stock; class B, which comprised 13% of the total stock, class H, which comprised 9% of the total stock; and class G, which comprised 4% of the total stock.

How would you respond to the CEO of Obama Inc. if he says the rate of return (ROI) payout would be as follows:  those who invested in class W stocks would be paid first, followed by, class G, then class L and the last to be paid back would be class B.

Well, any sane businessman would expect to be paid by order of the largest to the smallest investor.  If you were part of the class W stock (74%), you should be paid first and work your way down to the smallest investor.  This is normal and logical in the world of business.

Only in politics and with the Black community is this standard not adhered to.

In my above example, the class W stock represents the percentage of white voters from the 2008 presidential election (74% of the total electorate, of which Obama received 43% and McCain received 55%); the class B stock represents the percentage of Black voters from the 2008 presidential election (13% of the total electorate, of which Obama received 95% and McCain received 4%); the class H stock represents the percentage of Hispanic voters from the 2008 presidential election (9% of the total electorate, of which Obama received 67% and McCain received 31%); the class G stock represents the percentage of gay voters from the 2008 presidential election (4% of the total electorate, of which Obama received 70% and McCain received 27%).

Despite receiving 95% of the Black vote (who were the second largest shareholders in Obama Inc.), Obama has made a calculated decision to reward the gay and Hispanic communities ahead of the Black community (the smallest and second smallest shareholders in Obama Inc.).  In business, the CEO (Obama) and its board of directors (the Democratic National Committee) would be sued for fraud.  But Obama knows that Blacks will only complain and do nothing.

The gay community stopped giving money to Obama and the Democrats because Obama didn’t deliver on any of his campaign promises to them—recognizing gay marriage, repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and giving spousal benefits to gay couples who are federal employees.

The Hispanic community threatened not to vote for Obama or the Democratic Party if they didn’t get amnesty for those in the country illegally and passage of the Dream Act.

But, when asked what he would do specifically for the Black community, Obama said nothing—“he is the president of everyone and a rising tide lifts all boats!”

Despite being the second largest shareholder in Obama Inc., the Black community cannot point to a specific program or policy directed towards them and their issues.  How do you justify dividend distributions to other shareholders, but not your second largest?

Privately, the supposed Black leaders like Al Sharpton, Marc Morial (Urban League), Ben Jealous (N.A.A.C.P.) all agree with me; but they don’t have the guts to speak out publically because they still want to get invited to the White House and take pictures with Obama.

It took Obama almost 1 ½ years before he met with the Congressional Black Caucus; and what did they do?  They got mad!  Obama has yet to meet with any Black businessmen to discuss the disproportionately high unemployment rate within the Black community.

Just like no one fears angering Obama, no one fears angering the Black community.  Obama has made a political calculation that there is nothing to lose by ignoring the Black community and everything to gain—including white voters!

Obama believes that if he doesn’t do anything specifically for the Black community that somehow people are going to forget that he is Black.

The number 1 rule of politics is to reward your friends and punish your enemies.  I didn’t realize that Blacks were enemies of Obama.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm.  He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com) & U.S. Africa Magazine (www.usafricaonline.com). 

Media Guru Angelo Ellerbee Extols Music Artists To Clean Up Their Acts

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Music and Video Releases with tags , on April 13, 2011 by Gary Johnson

NEW YORK, NY (04/12/11) — Mr. Angelo Antonio Ellerbee has prided himself on being the etiquette coach to the stars and being an advocate for the true development of the artist for the past 36 years.  In 36 years, Angelo has seen and heard it all, from artists who can’t read or write to artists with rude manners and to the simply put, uneducated people that are running rampant nowadays in the music industry.  In recent months, with all of the upheaval caused by Chris Brown, Angelo feels that it is time once again to take on the music industry and challenge its artists to act like artists.Angelo Ellerbee was very public about the big commotion that was caused just two years ago when Kanye West ran up on stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance of her MTV VMA to express his dismay at her winning.  Ellerbee was appalled and said that the industry had been taken back 40 years, to before greats like Berry Gordy invested time in developing an artist, not just to sell records, but to conduct themselves as professionals.  Ellerbee was featured in Out Magazine and said this when asked about teaching celebrities manners as opposed to non-celebrities: “There is absolutely no difference. It is manners. It is respect. It’s just an extension of what their mothers and fathers should have taught them — the difference between right and wrong and how to sit at a table.”

Fast forward two years later and it seems we are back to “artists” who don’t know how to behave.  Chris Brown recently let his anger get the best of him at Good Morning America when he got angry about questions regarding his abuse of ex-girlfriend Rihanna.  In a fit of rage, he trashed his green room and threw a chair through a high-rise glass window, potentially endangering the lives of people walking on the street below.  Something as simple as how to act in an interview seems to have been lost in artist development and this is a prime example of that.  These are things that have to be the foundation of all artists, according to Angelo Ellerbee.  He leaves you with these thoughts on artist development and the lack there of — “Life is not a cup of instant coffee. It’s brewed coffee. It’s brewed over time.  That’s called the development of an artist. You can’t just grab an artist and have them record. This isn’t a part-time job — this is a full-time job! You have to raise the bar across the board. And that’s what we get so afraid of. And then we get afraid of, ‘Is my check going to get cut?’” Ellerbee is here to set the facts straight about the lack of artist development today and where artist development needs to go in the future.

Angelo Ellerbee is a dynamic motivational speaker.  He tells it like it is, period.  His 36 years of experience working with many high profile artists such as Mary J. Blige, Dionne Warwick, Ginuwine and DMX have only strengthened his knowledge of the music industry.  Ellerbee was recently asked to speak at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston to impart his knowledge and wisdom on the up and comers in the music industry, our youth.  There he was received with open minds and ears from the students who, to his surprise, were extremely unfamiliar with the idea of artist development the way it was done in the past.  It was this realization that encouraged Angelo to re-educate the public on the importance of not only artist development, but also being committed to your talent, loving yourself and being an upstanding model citizen.

Mr. Ellerbee is a popular, in demand guest speaker for various seminars, events, universities and schools, where he imparts his insightful wisdom to those ready to listen.

About Angelo Ellerbee

Angelo Ellerbee, the CEO of Double XXposure Public Relations firm is a veteran of the entertainment business, whose expertise in the industry turned into a full service public relations, image consulting and artist development company.  He has represented such clients as Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Mary J. Blige, DMX, Ginuwine, Shabba Ranks, Gang Starr and many others.

If you would like more information on Angelo Ellerbee please visit his site at www.dxxnyc.com or to have Angelo share his wisdom as a guest speaker at seminars, events, universities and schools please contact Double XXposure at 212-629-9404 or email at inquiries@dxxnyc.com.

One Dropout Every 26 Seconds Is A Ticking Time Bomb for Blacks

Posted in Black Interests, Black Men with tags , , , on April 11, 2011 by Gary Johnson

A whopping 40 percent of African-American students don’t graduate from high school. These dismal statistics are creating an underclass of African-Americans who have become unemployable, while also affecting the very fibers of the black family structure.

By Lawrence C. Ross (04/06/2011)

Between the trials and tribulations of the controversial No Child Left Behind law, the growing issue of bullying in schools, and the feeling that parents, teachers and administrators are all searching for a magic solution to the problem that is the American educational system, here comes more bad news.

Recently, President Barack Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan stated that every 26 seconds, a student drops out of high school. But things are even worse for black students; a whopping 40 percent of African-American students don’t graduate from high school. These dismal statistics are creating an underclass of African-Americans who have become unemployable, while also affecting the very fibers of the black family structure.

Marc Williams, a high school music theory teacher at Cesar Chavez Charter School in Washington DC, also works with the school’s retention program. He sees a number of different causes for black students not finishing high school.

“Our (African-American) students are dropping out of school for a number of reasons. Aside from the cookie-cutter answers that most folks give that speak to the lack of support from within the household, the fact that many of our students don’t have a ‘set’ of parents, and the obvious idea that many urban schools lack the fiscal resources that other schools have, there are some other things to consider here,” Williams said.

“We, as educators, are failing our students,” he added. “Independent and charter schools (in particular), in order to meet budgets, are spending less money for newer, inexperienced teachers that come fresh off the stage of graduation and into a situation that is a culture shock for them… It’s a set up for failure.”

When you dig deeper, you find that black boys in particular are in a crisis mode. According to the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation on Public Education, more than half — 53 percent — of black male students drop out of high school without a diploma, compared to 22 percent of white males.

And the problem even extends to elementary school, in one of the best charter school programs in the country. A new study by researchers at Western Michigan reports that 40 percent of 6th to 8th grade black boys in the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools (KIPP) drop out before completing the program.

It is already tough for high school graduates to compete economically with college graduates, with college graduates earning around $297,893 dollars more than a high school graduate during a lifetime. But without a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED), a student basically condemns themselves to underclass status. Individuals without a GED or high school diploma loses about $7,000 dollars per year in comparison to someone with a GED.

And in a modern military, where the ability to understand high tech systems is a premium, dropping out of high school and getting into the military is proving to be an obstacle. Even those with high school degrees are finding it difficult. Thirty nine percent of black applicants with a high school degree are rejected by the military. And those who do make it in are coming into the military with lower scores than white applicants, therefore putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to future advancement.

The real societal cost of a high drop out rate at the high school level is that it attacks the structure of the black family. Black high school drop outs feed a growing black underclass of economically disadvantaged families, making it more difficult to break the cycle of poverty. The state of New York is finding that having a GED helps prevent homelessness, and has created Back to School program in order to get individuals to complete their GED.

But the effects are also found in the college ranks. With black boys struggling to finish high school and go to college, some college systems are finding that when they exclude for college athletes, black male students are a scare commodity. In South Carolina, for example, only 3 percent of the student body at the University of South Carolina, Clemson and the College of Charleston, are black male students. This means that there’s a infinitesimal pool of eligible college educated black women looking for a relationships with men with similar educational backgrounds.

The high school drop out epidemic among African-Americans is not a ticking time bomb, it’s a tsunami that’s swamping the future of black America. State Farm Insurance is working with America’s Promise, the educational organization founded by former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, to fight high school drop outs through a new program called 26 seconds. But unless there are major changes to the current educational trends, look for the nation’s prisons to continue to be repositories for the black students left behind, as they grow more desperate to survive without educational skills.

Phillip Jackson is the Founder and Executive Director of The Black Star Project, based in Chicago.  Its mission is to improve the quality of life in black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.  You can e-mail Mr. Jackson at blackstar1000@ameritech.net.

A Stronger America: The Black Agenda

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Politics with tags , , , , on April 11, 2011 by Gary Johnson

MSNBC’s “A Stronger America: The Black Agenda” had some extremely lively discussion – especially between Dr. Cornel West and Rev. Al Sharpton.  Other thought leaders were featured on this special discussing politics, education, incarceration rates amongst African Americans, and so much more.  If you missed the special you can check out the highlights below.

Clips from “A Stronger America: The Black Agenda”

1. Politics and the black agenda: Have the recent political debates brought to light issues African-Americans care about? Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, Democratic strategist Karen Finney and NAACP’s Ben Jealous discuss.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/42520492#42520492

2. Dr. King’s legacy: If Dr. King were alive today, would he be in the front in the fight for unions? TheGrio.co’s Jeff Johnson, Marc Morial of the National Urban League, and journalist Karen Hunter, talk about Dr. King’s legacy.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/42520505#42520505

3. Closing the education gap for African Americans: NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo shares the stark statistics about how the U.S. education system isn’t working for African Americans. American Federation of Teacher Randi Weingarten, Department of Education’s Russlyn Ali, and director of “Excellent Education for Everyone,” discuss on msnbc.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/42520627#42520627

4. Incarceration vs. education: Why does the world’s richest country spend more money to keep African Americans behind bars than it does to provide them with the education that could lead to success? Panelists for “A Stronger America: The Black Agenda” discuss on msnbc.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/42520689#42520689

5. Jim Brown: Focus on at-risk youth: Football hall of famer and founder of Amer-I-Can Jim Brown, a non-profit that focuses on education of at-risk youth, says addressing family and community issues will also improve the opportunities for young African-Americans.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/42520880#42520880

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