Category: Opinion Written by Courier Newsroom
by Fred Logan
We are all very sad to hear that the August Wilson Center is in deep financial trouble and may close its doors. But don’t let anyone try to tell you that the local Black community is to blame for AWC’s plight. The May 11, 2013 Post-Gazette reported that AWC has a multi-million dollar debt and is laying off its staff.
Some fools are bound to argue what they always do: They will also charge that the Black community does this and that with its money but doesn't support black institutions as much as it should. Even if this is true in general, we still, in this case, are not the blame for AWC.
The local Black community at large never pledged or signed an oath that it would take on ACW’s financial burden. It was never polled on support for AWC.
On a very bright, but cold and windy weekday morning several years back, I was at the AWC’s groundbreaking with Aisha White. We stood there trembling in the cold under a great big white tent. Bill Robinson, Dan Onorato, and several other elected officials were on the platform to speak. At the time, Neil Barclay was AWC’s CEO. He said the center had raised $27 million of its $38 million total costs. And it looked to raise most of the $11 million shortfall in the Black community. That was my first time hearing that.
Aisha White stays up on what’s going on around town. So, I asked her if she had heard that before. She said, no she had not. I asked her if she thought AWC could raise the money in the local Black community and she said she doubted it very much. I agreed with her 100 %. A lot of Black people I have talked with since then were also very doubtful. Time has proven us correct.
Richard Adams told me several weeks ago that he was surprised and impressed to hear recently that Black people in Allegheny County have the combined annual income of some $1 billion.
That is a lot of money. But what are the total annual living expenses for Black people in the county? Subtract the basic living expenses, food, shelter, clothing, transportation, education, etc. from that $1 B and what is left, if anything, is the Black “discretionary” money for things like AWC.
A very important financial question to ask here is this. If the Black community had pledged to underwrite the center, did AWC have the staff wherewithal to collect the money? It would be a major labor-intensive task to collect that money which would come in in dribbles from local Black people. We can argue abstractly on what the Black community should do. But the official government statistics have said that Black people in the greater Pittsburgh area are the most poverty stricken Black people in the top 40 US metropolitan regions. That says concretely what we can do.
Fund raising is organization as much as it is commitment. The African American church assemblies its congregation weekly and collects offerings from its members who need what the church provides. It is very difficult to image a more efficient revenue raising mechanism.
In contrast, the local Black community loved the Harambee II Black Arts Festival during the festival’s heydays some 20 years ago, and would have given the festival financial support. But the Harambee organization was over burdened with programming, logistics, etc., and did not have the organization to collect individual contributions. One year, Harambee made donation envelops and forgot to put a return address on them. The late Beverly Lovelace was a staunch Harambee patron. On her own, she sent a donation to Harambee each year during its heydays. I ran into her once and she laughed and told the truth. She said she know you all need the money but are too stretched out to solicit it.
That was Harambee.
Carl Redwood, Dessie Bey, Vernell Lille, Connie Bailey, Vickie Bey, Sam Black, Augustus “Gus” Brown and some other sophisticated Black arts patrons have pointed out to me a variety of important issues to ask about AWC. I will only ask one of these non-financial questions.
I knew August Wilson only well enough to speak when we met. I saw five or six of his plays and read some of his essays on art. I saw his 1989 lecture at the Harambee II Black Arts Festival and a year or so later heard him speak at the Hazlet Theater on the Northside. Based on this and from talking with people who knew August much better than I did, for example Rob Penny, I ask, would August himself preferred, and would the Center be more politically and culturally situated and more financially solvent, if it was located on Centre Avenue in August’s beloved Hill District and not on Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh?
Someone is bound to say the question is based on hindsight. Yes, that’s true, but it is still a valid question to ask.
Since the steel mills left town decades ago, countless multimillion dollar projects have gone belly up, Lloyd and Taylor’s, ad infinitum. In each case, we are told the blame was the local market, a recession, mismanagement or some other systemic economic factor. What you have never heard argued and what you will never hear argued, by Black or White folks, is that the local White community at large is the blame for any of these White led failures because the White community did not support them.
In the face of this, fools will still try to blame the Black community for every Black led project that comes along and fails. We are morally, politically, and culturally obligated to tell them they are wrong, not that this will convince all of them, and defool each and every damn fool.
Your comments are welcome.
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Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 19:46
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder at the 32nd annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service, May 15, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington, honoring law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
by Ruben Navarrette
(CNN) -- "Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. ... My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use." -- President Barack Obama, memo to heads of executive departments and agencies, 2009
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 05:00
Category: Opinion Written by Julianne Malveaux
(NNPA)—When Beyonce Knowles sang the Etta James song “At Last” at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, the song could have had several meanings. At last we have an African-American president? At last, the muscle of the Black vote has been flexed? At last, there is some hope for our country to come together with the mantra “Yes, We Can.”
Watching the President and First Lady Michelle Obama slow dance to the romantic standard reminded us that African-American families have not often been positively depicted. This attractive image of an intact Black family had come “At Last.” Thus, the song was symbolic of what many folks, and especially African-Americans, believed about the Obama presidency.
Some of us blindly believed that with an African-American president opportunity had come “At Last.” Some believed it so fervently that the least criticism of President Obama, no matter how mild and how lovingly conveyed, could cause you to be run out of the race. An alumnus of Morehouse College, Rev. Kevin Johnson, the selected baccalaureate speaker at his alma mater, wrote an opinion piece that was mildly critical of President Obama. As a result, the former director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs and new Morehouse President John S. Wilson Jr. changed the format of baccalaureate to a panel, not one speaker, as is customary.
The purpose of baccalaureate is to have one speaker to focus on the spiritual dimensions of graduation. There is no way that Rev. Johnson would deliver a political speech. Still, he was essentially disinvited from the baccalaureate because of his views.
President Obama is the president of the United States of American, not the president of Black America, we are often reminded. Yet, it seems that African-Americans have been kicked to the curb in terms of focus and attention. Other groups—the LGBT community, the Latino community—have been mentioned explicitly. However, on African-American issues, our president has been silent.
Now, some African-American people are crooning “At Last.” Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has been nominated to serve as Secretary of Transportation. If confirmed, Mayor Foxx, an outstanding and eminently qualified candidate would join Attorney General Eric Holder as the second African-American to serve in a regular cabinet post.
Similarly, the nomination of Congressman Mel Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency is a step forward. FHFA regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and allows Congressman Watt the opportunity to implement some of the Obama initiatives on homeowner recovery from the Great Recession. The raging right has already come after Congressman Watt. The Daily Caller (a political blog) has reported an unsubstantiated claim by former presidential candidate Ralph Nader that the Congressman disrespected him in a letter. Nader has never produced the letter. Thus, the purpose of the claim is to besmirch FHFA nominee Congressman Mel Watt.
If Watt is confirmed, this represents a step forward for both President Obama and for African-American people, and for the entire nation. The issue is, of course, confirmation. Will the White House Congressman, be able to garner the votes Watt needs to be confirmed?
What does the White House gain or lose if Watt is not confirmed. The “At Last” segment of the African-American community will credit the president for making the nomination, even if not confirmed. The more critical segment of the African-American community will view the ways the White House embraces this nominee, and question commitment. Ask UN Ambassador Susan Rice who knows what it feels like to be dropped, when Senate confirmation seemed unlikely.
During President Obama’s first term, his inattention to the African-American community was understandable, though not acceptable. He was busy straddling lines, seeking compromise, and leaving a legacy of health care reform. African-Americans were patient in the hope that “as last” African-Americans would get recognition in his second term. After all, as a lame duck president, he has much to gain, and little to lose in rewarding his most loyal constituency. At last some of us have our disappointment confirmed. Our president’s inaugural speech mentioned every community except the African-American community.
President Obama and his supporters should not be thin-skinned. Philadelphia’s Rev. Kevin Johnson should not be “disinvited” from the Morehouse baccalaureate. Nor should a panel dilute his message, when the tradition is to have a sole speaker. Johnson is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College, who deserves to be treated with respect. His column pointed out realities—President Clinton appointed seven African-Americans to his cabinet, President Bush, four, and President Obama, just one. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, in a letter to President Obama, wrote, “The people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity.
Are the Foxx and Watt appointments a response to criticism? Based on their appointments, should Black folks sing “at last” or “not yet?”
(Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.)
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 15:19
Category: Opinion Written by Louis 'Hop' Kendrick
LOUIS 'HOP' KENDRICK
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column recognizing those Black people, who served in the role of judges at every level. Several people reminded me that I had omitted two Black females and both have served in Wilkinsburg. The first Black magistrate elected in Wilkinsburg was Judge Alberta Thompson and she served until she decided to retire. The second is the incumbent magistrate, Judge Kim Hoots, who currently is serving her second term in office.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 15:20
Category: Opinion Written by George E. Curry
(NNPA)—When some of us saw the first video of Charles Ramsey, the colorful Black dishwasher in Cleveland who is being celebrated as a hero for rescuing three White women captives from horrid conditions in a Cleveland house, we had a flashback to Antoine Dodson, who became a flamboyant Internet sensation after saving his sister from a would-be rapist in their Huntsville, Ala. housing apartment, and Sweet Brown, who barely escaped a fire in her Oklahoma City complex.
But more than any other famous “hilarious Black neighbor” Internet sensation, the coverage of Ramsey—and his criminal past—raises serious questions about how we treat a hero with a troubled past and, yes, how Blacks and Whites look at the same event through different prisms of race.
First, as they say in TV news, let’s go to the videotape.
“I’ve been here a year,” Ramsey said in an interview with WEWS, a local television station. Referring to Ariel Castro, the suspect arrested for holding the women against their will, Ramsey said, “You see where I’m coming from? I barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot and listen to salsa music…
“He just comes out in his backyard, plays with the dogs, tinkers with his cars and motorcycles, goes back in the house. So he’s somebody you look, then look away. He’s not doing anything but the average stuff. You see what I’m saying? There’s nothing exciting about him. Well, until today.”
Ramsey explained that Castro “got some big testicles to pull this off, bro.”
He added, “I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty White girl ran into a Black man’s arms. Something wrong here. Dead giveaway.”
There was plenty wrong, as Ramsey learned when he put down his McDonald’s Big Mac and answered a call for help from Amanda Berry, who had been last seen in 2002 on the eve of her 17th birthday. The two other women were Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, who had been missing since 2004 at the age of 14, and Michelle Knight, who disappeared in 2002 at the age of 21.
While being hailed as a hero, Ramsey was the object of both racism and ridicule.
Though we’re reluctant to publicly admit it, some African-Americans cringed at the sight of Ramsey. His hair, curled in the back like Al Sharpton’s do and as slick as Chuck Berry’s, is interspersed with what we once called post office hair—each nap has its own route. This is one of the few cases where a person’s mug shot looks better than his real life photo.
To put this in context, think back to when Black civil rights protesters dressed up in their Sunday’s best, knowing they were going to get physically assaulted by police and White supremacists. Then, as now, image matters. Especially when one of us appears on TV. Still, there are plenty of people in our community who look like Ramsey and their speech and appearance make them no less valuable than the best dressed and most articulate among us.
Some have suggested than many Whites take delight in seeing Blacks caricatured in the image of Charles Ramsey and Antoine Dodson.
“Perhaps it’s time for the world’s meme artists to stop assuming that any Black dude getting interviewed on local news about a crime he helped to foil can be reduced to some catch-phrase or in-joke,” Miles Klee wrote on Blackbookmag.com. “It’s just baffling that we’re trying to find a way to laugh about what is, in itself, a harrowing turn of events.”
Most of us knew, or at least suspected deep down, that something about Ramsey’s past would surface, causing further embarrassment.
The Smoking Gun website disclosed on May 8 that Ramsey “is a convicted felon whose rap sheet includes three separate domestic violence convictions that resulted in prison terms.”
Blacks instantly asked: Why is something that happened a decade ago—and had nothing to do with Ramsey’s heroism—relevant today? Cleveland’s WEWS-TV, facing a backlash from viewers, apologized for reporting on Ramsey’s criminal past.
“While the story was factually sound, the timing of it and publication of such information was not in good taste, and we regret it,” the station said on its Facebook page.
Normally, I would agree that Ramsey’s criminal past, certainly in this situation, should be irrelevant. But there’s nothing normal about this case. Unfortunately, Ramsey invited the scrutiny when he said he suspected domestic violence because he “was raised to help women in distress.”
In view of that assertion, Ramsey’s domestic violence convictions—hardly a record of helping women in distress—became fair game and should have been reported by the news media. But the reporting should not end there. Ramsey’s ex-wife, since remarried, said Ramsey eventually apologized for battering her and they now interact on “an okay basis.”
In addition, she posted two earlier photos of Ramsey on her Facebook page. She told the Smoking Gun, “For my daughter’s sake I show he didn’t always look hood.”
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the NNPA. He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 15:20
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