- Created on 30 April 2013
“No more hurting people. Peace.” - Eight-year-old Martin Richard, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing
Acts of terror like the ones committed in Boston are reprehensible and without moral or logical explanation. They rock us to our core. They also unite us in common purpose. Victims and their families seem to become our own. We want to ease their pain. We want to do something to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Our togetherness as a nation is often most evident when something happens with the intent of breaking us.
Nearly 12 years after the events of 9-11-2001, terrorism in our homeland still seems a nearly impossible reality, one that none of us want to accept. Still, communities across America are terrorized each day. But rarely do these victims and their families receive national media attention, or better yet, our collective attention. Every year, 100,000 people are shot or killed with a gun in America. Every day, these acts of terror are carried out in homes, on playgrounds, schoolyards, neighborhood streets, even in houses of worship – turning spaces that should represent peace and sanctuary into places that elicit danger and fear.
Two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the United States Senate had an opportunity to act to curb another kind of terror facing our nation by taking modest steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Yet, it voted down a sensible gun background check bill. Never mind that 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of National Rifle Association (NRA) members support universal background checks. It didn’t even matter that a majority of senators (54-46) actually voted in favor of the bill. Because of the Senate’s 60-vote majority rule, along with the distortions and political threats from NRA leaders, the bill went down in defeat. President Obama called it “a shameful day in Washington.” Former Congresswoman and gun violence survivor, Gabrielle Giffords added, “I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep our children safe.”
We share that determination. Whether in Newtown or scores of other communities across the nation, one point is clear: guns in the wrong hands can be weapons of destruction as deadly as a terrorist bomb. Where, we wonder, is the unified purpose in Congress to work towards gun safety to address the reign of terror devastating so many of our neighborhoods?
Let’s be clear: This issue is not about gun confiscation, nor is it an attack on anyone’s rights. We know that this step is not a cure-all for the plague of gun violence in America. But, it is at least a first step towards doing all we can to ensure the safety of our citizens.
Boston and its citizens deserve all of the support and attention they have received in the wake of this horrific tragedy. I just hope that we can elevate our sense of unity, urgency and purpose to do what is right for the millions of Americans whose lives have been forever changed by gun violence. Let’s not forget, in addition to killing with homemade bombs, the Boston terrorists also used guns in killing M.I.T. police officer Sean Collier, and seriously wounding Massachusetts Bay transit officer, Richard H. Donohue. As we pray for the dead, the wounded survivors and their loved ones, we urge the nation to unite against terror – including gun violence – everywhere.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
- Created on 30 April 2013
Ask anyone you know and you’ll find most Americans don’t see the validity of the issue of reparations for Blacks and don’t connect the dots to see how the injustice of the past shapes everyday life in America. The father of America’s contemporary reparations movement was Ray Jenkins, who died in 2009.
In the 1950s, Jenkins earned the name “Reparations Ray” for speaking around Detroit about “the debt” America owed Blacks “for enslavement of their ancestors.” Jenkins found attentive audiences, but reparations never really has taken hold and has been ridiculed as loud in the ghettos as they are among Whites in suburbia.
Since “Reparations Ray” died, octogenarian Robert L. Brock, an attorney and president of the “Self Determination Committee” has become the face of the movement. A legend among reparations activists, Brock first filed a reparations class action suit in 1956. His Ashton vs. Lynn Park case went to the Supreme Court. Brock says, “The wealth of America is our legal property. But we must make our legal claims to get money.”
By 1965, Brock was demanding $500,000 for “each descendant of a slave of African ancestry.” “Claim What’s Yours!!! Find Out How to Make Your Legal Claim” was a banner headline across the pages of Black newspapers during the 1980s and 1990s. The ads were placed and paid for by Brock. Many of the ads procalimed: “Black People in United States have been wondering what they need to do to get paid for the ‘forty (40) Acres’ and ‘a mule’ they never received. Well, it is easier than you think. You must: (1) File a Claim for it (2) To do this, send your name and address, along with $50.00.”
Primarily through Black media and networks, Brock’s campaign produced more than 500,000 filed claims. His activities garnered him the ire of the government and majority media innuendos that he was advocating “tax rebates” for slave descendants. According to Brock, his procedure required slave descendants to 1) get a claim form, 2) fill it out, 3) get it notarized, 4) return it to Brock with $50 for processing and filing with the United Nations and 5) wait to hear back.
Undeterred, Brock worked with the late Johnnie L. Cochran and his reparations for slavery lawsuit against the United States as well as with Randall Robinson on his pursuit of “The Debt.” Brock says “a debt is owed Blacks for the centuries of unpaid slave labor that built America’s early economy and money from discriminatory wage and employment patterns Blacks have been subjected to since emancipation.” He chides Blacks in America for “damping down discussions about reparations during the presidency of a Black man.”
Before being confined by health problems, Brock was holding meetings across America supporting Congressman John Conyers’ H.R. 40 Bill “to form a Commission to Study Reparations for African-Americans.” For almost two decades Brock spoke at forums with Conyers endorsing the concept of a study of reparations for Blacks.
Since becoming House Judiciary Committee chair in 1989 and its ranking member since Republicans gained control of the chamber, Conyers was celebrated as he made a yearly ritual of “submitting” bill H.R. 40 in Congress. Detroit Congressman Conyers perpetrated a 25-year political charade when he asserted that he was submitting reparations legislation every year, but he “couldn’t get it out of committee.” Surprisingly, Conyers now says reparations are “too controversial to pursue at this time.”
Are all Black Americans of the same mindset as Conyers? Have conversations regarding rectifying economic injustices done to Blacks completely died? The vestiges of slavery and segregation continue for Blacks. Yet, the first Black to head the House Judiciary Committee now says reparations are “too controversial to pursue.” What’s going on when Blacks hold high positions and offices that the level of discussion about the absence of wealth, work, educational, and economic equity among them is still muted?
Brock says, “The time is ripe to move the reparations movement to the top of the American agenda.” What say you?
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.
- Created on 26 April 2013
The following is a release from Citizens for Change:
Morehouse College alumni are outraged by the college's decision to disinvite fellow alum, the Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, as the baccalaureate speaker on May 18. After being announced to alumni and the college community as the baccalaureate speaker, Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. contacted Johnson on April 15th via phone to inform him of the decision due to concerns about views Johnson expressed in an opinion editorial in The Philadelphia Tribune and stated that the article was "untimely" given that President Obama is the 2013 Commencement speaker, a day after Baccalaureate.
The article entitled, "A President for Everyone, Except Black People," was published on April 14th and respectfully criticized the lack of African-American appointees in President Barack Obama's cabinet and challenged the lack of policies specifically designed to reduce poverty.
On April 15 and April 16, coincidentally the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Wilson contacted Johnson and encouraged him to resign as the speaker, a suggestion Johnson refused. Wilson then proposed that Johnson agree to be one of three speakers for the event. Johnson refused this offer as well on the grounds that it was a departure from the college's tradition of having one baccalaureate speaker, and all initial representations made to him.
Accentuating the principle of free speech, Johnson said, "I have always been and continue to be a supporter of President Obama. The issue is not about the article in question, but about Morehouse's longstanding history and pedagogy of free thought and free speech. Without free thought and free speech, Morehouse would not have produced our most admired alumnus, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
Johnson submitted a letter to Wilson on April 17th insisting that Wilson honor his original invitation. Instead, President Wilson proceeded to replace Johnson with three new baccalaureate speakers — Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and a graduating senior. The college posted Warnock and Moss' names on its website on April 23rd as the speakers, but quickly removed their names from the site on April 25th after Warnock and Moss withdrew their names.
Growing concern is mounting among Morehouse College alumni regarding President Wilson's handling of this situation. Many regard the college's change of course as an affront to the liberal arts tradition of intellectual freedom and critical thought, and out of step with the institution's academic tradition.
Rev. Delman Coates, Ph.D., Senior Pastor of the Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, MD made his opinions known as well.
"Morehouse College is founded upon the ideals of spirituality, scholarship, and leadership," he said. "The public ministry of Dr. Kevin Johnson is fully compatible with the College's brand and tradition of intellectual inquiry and prophetic moral critique. The idea that Dr. Johnson's views disqualify him as a candidate to deliver the Morehouse baccalaureate address is quite disturbing.
The views expressed in the article in question are consistent with views he has expressed in his monthly columns and national media appearances. If the goal here is to subject potential speakers to an ideological litmus test as a precondition for speaking during this historic weekend at Morehouse, the college administration should have done its due diligence in thoroughly vetting the potential speaker in advance of extending the invitation.
Dr. Johnson represents the best of the Morehouse tradition and the best of engaged political support of President Obama, even if at times critical of the President. Whether one agrees with Johnson or not, the coalition of Obama supporters consists of people with varying viewpoints, and of varying points of agreement and disagreement with the Obama Administration.
Punishing the expression of political dissent is the wrong message to send young African-American men charged with being global citizens in a diverse world."
Dr. Johnson, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College, served with distinction as a Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel Assistant eventually becoming the King Scholar. Later, he furthered his studies as a Union Scholar at Union Theological Seminary in New York and ultimately earning a doctorate from Columbia University.
"Kevin is not just a Morehouse man," said Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, Senior Pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and President of SUNY Old Westbury, "he is a stellar example of the College's rich tradition of producing outstanding leaders in this century who are well-educated, forward-thinking, community-conscious, and global citizens."
Many Morehouse College alumni point to the words of the College's most-celebrated president, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, who said: "We want Morehouse men to develop keen minds, steel girded character, a social conscience, and above all, we want Morehouse men to be free." Morehouse College prides itself on preparing young African-American men to be socially active and leaders in their community.
"If President Wilson turns his back on one of our most distinguished alums because of an exercise of free speech and political commentary, he will have set Morehouse on a dangerous course and departed from the great tradition bequeathed to us," said the Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, Senior Pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco. "In 1947, Dr. King warned that, 'If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, 'brethren!' Be careful, teachers!' We are potentially witnessing the realization of King's greatest fears."
The concerned alumni are demanding that Dr. Wilson reaffirm and honor his April 2nd invitation to Dr. Johnson to be the 2013 Baccalaureate speaker and continue and honor the College's 146-year-old proud tradition of promoting thoughtful leaders equipped to make a positive impact on the world.
Morehouse Alumni Urging Morehouse to Reinstate Johnson:
Reverend Dr. Delman Coates, Mt. '95, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD
Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, '71, The Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem, NY
Reverend Dr. Amos Brown, '64, Third Baptist Church, San Francisco, CA
Reverend Dr. Joseph C. Parker, Jr., '74, David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Austin, TX
Reverend Michael Walrond, '93 First Corinthian Baptist Church, Harlem, NY
Reverend Dr. Jawanza Colvin, '97 Olivet Institution Baptist Church, Cleveland, OH
Reverend DeQuincy M. Hentz, '96, Shiloh Baptist Church, New Rochelle, NY
Reverend Steven Carter, '97 Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
Reverend Dr. David Bullock, '96, Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, Detroit, MI
Reverend Thomas L. Bowen, '90, Shiloh Baptist Church, Washington, DC
Reverend Richard Brown, III, '96, The Rock Church, Toledo, OH
Michael L. Bowen, '95, Wylie, TX
- Created on 29 April 2013
It baffles my mind. There are threats and actual terror hits happening all over the world and we are acting in a very laissez-faire manner. Two homemade bombs exploded right in the middle of the great Boston Marathon, causing mass destruction and the death of innocent Americans. What caused this was an inappropriate protocol by our highest ranking security agencies. It reminded us of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. It didn’t have to be.
An entire family from Chechnya comes over to our land and declares asylum. We immediately accept them and give them refugee status. Some of them go on welfare, get scholarships to some of our finest schools and start living the American Dream. Some would return to their homeland and others would spread out along the East Coast. Two in Boston turn bad. One gets a domestic abuse charge and the other is rumored to have been in the pot business. Russia informs the FBI that the older brother is an Islamic radical. We do a cursory review and decide not to follow up. This brother is on welfare but somehow owns a Mercedes Benz. Then he takes a 6-month trip to Russia. He lands in Moscow and travels to terrorist areas before returning to Boston. The FBI doesn’t know that he left the country and then returned. Homeland Security noted that he left but didn’t detect his return. The tragedy in Boston happens and we all know it could have been prevented. We don’t have a plan!
It is so similar to the Benghazi Embassy murders. They kept pleading for more security and the State Department not only denied an increase, but started to decrease the security. Al Qaeda was all around and they eventually attacked our personnel. What’s worse is that the White House and State Department has attempted to cover it up. Delays, lies and deception were their response to this horror. I’m glad that Congress is standing its ground and will not stop until the truth is told. It is time to get an anti-terrorism plan. Please consider the following.
Terrorism in Nigeria has hit a new high. Remember the Christmas Day terrorist from Nigeria? Now Nigeria has two serious Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups. Boko Haram is killing citizens in an ever increasing manner. No Christian is safe. The other group is called Ansaru, which specializes in kidnapping foreigners and then executing them. They have vowed to kill anyone friendly to Israel.
Libya remains unsafe. The French Embassy was recently bombed It is confirmed that the Al Qaeda faction there possesses thousands of weapons and is distributing them to their factions in Mali, Niger, Syria and other places where there is serious conflict. Our denial of Al Qaeda in Libya is going to cost us via deadly acts of terror. While we hold a “blind eye,” evil is on its way.
President Obama said that if Syria uses chemical weapons on its rebels that would amount to a “red line.” He promises fierce action if the Syrian government goes that way. Well, Israel has confirmed that the government has indeed used chemical weapons on several occasions. Still, we do not move to stop the madness going on around the world or at home. The Syrian government called Obama’s bluff.
By contrast, the Canadian government has just prevented an act of mass destruction. Two Al Qaeda terrorists were planning to blow up a bridge near Toronto when a train carrying New York tourists would be crossing it. The two were being funded and directed by a wing of Al Qaeda based in Iran. The Canadians have their act together and perhaps we can learn from them. Also, it had been believed by our government that there was no Al Qaeda in Iran. We blew it!
There are 75,000 Muslims migrating to the United State each year on student visas. Twenty percent (15,000) of them never go to a classroom. That’s 15,000 per year that are wandering throughout America and we have no clue what their intentions are. There is likely to be some with ill intentions, which makes us at an extreme level of risk. It is becoming very scary because we aren’t prepared or taking enough preventative measures.
President Obama has an affinity for Islamic people. Both his father and step-father were Islamic and he bears an Islamic name. I believe this blinds his thinking. More terrorists are Islamic or Muslim than any other religion. His soft peddling and denial are preventing him from being more aggressive and resolute. The book Art of War stresses that you must recognize the true enemy. Not only do we not recognize the true enemy; we aren’t even looking.
We are going to get through this challenge. The sooner we start dealing with the issue directly, the less lives will be lost.
- Created on 26 April 2013
“Sometimes I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day…But other times, I feel Ben’s presence filling me with courage for what I have to do…”Francine Wheeler, mother of 6-year-old Ben Wheeler, one of the 26 victims of the December 14 Sandy Hook tragedy.
I recently took my children to see the newly released movie, “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson’s courageous struggle to become the first African American Major League Baseball player. The movie also highlights the courage it took for Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to sign Robinson to a major league contract in 1947, marking the end of more than 50 years of all-White teams.
In his first year with the Dodgers, Robinson was subjected to racial taunts and threats from White fans and opposing teams, as well as hostility from some of his own teammates, who objected to sharing the field and locker room with a Black ballplayer. But Jackie Robinson exhibited a rare brand of courage, refusing to lash out as he piled up hits and blazed the base paths on his way to becoming Major League Baseball’s first Rookie of the Year. Robinson went on to have a Hall of Fame career, and until his death in 1972, he was also an all-star champion of civil rights. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once described Jackie as, “… a pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom.”
The life of Jackie Robinson is a profile in courage that has inspired generations of Americans, including millions of young children. I thought about that this past weekend as I watched the tearful plea of a mother who lost her child on December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Just four months after the loss of her son, Ben, Francine Wheeler found the courage to deliver President Obama’s weekly address to the nation. Visibly shaken, she used the opportunity to passionately implore Congress to “come together and pass commonsense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we thought would never happen to us.”
After the Senate failed last week to display similar courage by passing bipartisan measure to expand background checks for online gun purchasers and gun show sales, it is clear that Congress could use some courage.
As the movie “42” makes clear, change occurs when people choose to show courage in the face of adversity. The film demonstrates that it takes the courage of more than one to bring about change and that courage means doing what’s right, regardless of the odds. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball years before Thurgood Marshall argued Brown v. Board of Education and Rosa Parks took her seat on the bus. There was no blueprint for him to follow. But Congress has a blueprint to guide them as they are challenged to enact meaningful legislation to make America safer. It’s time to put the politics aside, and pick up some courage.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.