Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Plot Thickens - Secret "Clean Elections" Meeting Part 2

Dear Fellow Taxpayer,

Our intrepid investigative reporter has been hot on the trail of the secret "Clean Elections Legislative Committee" meeting that Assembly Speaker Roberts put together. He has steadfastly refused to reveal the time and place of this public meeting, despite thousands of emails and letters sent by you and other AFP-NJ activists.

It turns out that the meeting actually was held the day Video Part 2 was filmed. State employees either didn't know anything about this welfare for politicians meeting or did know and wouldn't tell us. Remember, this was a taxpayer funded, public meeting. We will continue to try and get to the bottom of this scam and find out what went on behind closed doors.

The so-called "reformers," who say they want to make government more open and accountable, will STILL not come clean on their "Clean Elections" meeting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why Blacks Vote Democrat By: Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu

When a stranger visit an agricultural community and see women selling and buying food items, it is easy to classify the women and their livelihood as traders. This is because the women are seen buying and selling at the market place all day. The truth of the matter is that they are traditional farmers. While their husbands and other family members tend to the crops, the women only come to the market place to exchange goods so that they can purchase what they lack or do not produce. The point here is that people do not pursue what they are have already, but go after what they need even if it is through a different platform.

Black America is still one of the most conservative groups of people in America, especially the older ones. They are God fearing and church going, they are against abortion and homosexuality, they tend to stick to their traditional ways even if it was a method to survive adversity, they still stick to their traditional foods even if they are considered unhealthy, and they still believe in family even though the man maybe absent. If this is the case, why then, do Blacks vote Democrat?

The Republican Party claims to be conservative because they stand for family, God, morality, do not support gay or abortion rights, and believe in tradition and heritage. The difference between their conservatism and Black conservatism is that they have power, wealth, influence, and they do not want any system to change their advantage. The Blacks on the other hand lacks all these things and have no advantage. The only advantage they seem to have is civil rights and affirmative action, which is actually a hand out from the government to make up for their lack and disadvantage. You would expect two conservative groups to be best of friends, but it is not so between the Republicans and the Blacks. The conservatism of the Republicans is to maintain their culture, way of life, and most importantly to maintain their economic and political status. Black conservatism is more religious than cultural, but a little bit of both. They feel that is what the Bible said and so be it. Blacks are the true American conservatives but why do they vote Democrat?

Black America already knew God, they already know morality, they will always reject abortion and homosexuality, they are the conservatives, but they are in search of economic and political relevance. As long as the Republicans are in power and are interested in keeping things the way they are, the Blacks will never achieve economic and political relevance. Despite the fact that the Democrats are a little too liberal on some morale issues, many Blacks perceive them as the vehicle to attaining true freedom, equality, and opportunity. The conservatism of the Republicans helps make laws or create a system that hinders Black progress, while the liberalism of Democrats promotes acceptance and tolerance for various groups to excel, be it good or bad.

Just as it is easy to call trading farmers traders, so it is easy to call Blacks liberals. Blacks are one of the most traditional and conservative people. If the Republican Party can find a way to make laws and systems that encourages Black political and economic relevance, they can be sure to win every election in the United States. Black America will always vote for God, morality, and tradition as long as they do not have to worry about equality and survival. This could be the reason why many Blacks become Republicans when money and influence is no longer an issue. So far, may be the Democratic Party is the way to the relevance Blacks desire because they already have God and morality.

Do schools today kill creativity? (Ken Robinson, TEDTalks)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Policy Talks@Google: Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader visits Google's Mountain View, CA, headquarters as part of the Policy Talks@Google series. This event took place on May 12, 2008.

Friday, August 15, 2008

US: Prison Numbers Hit New High

Blacks Hardest Hit by Incarceration Policy
Washington, DC, June 6, 2008) – New figures showing that US incarceration rates are climbing even higher, with racial minorities greatly overrepresented in prisons and jails, highlight the need to adopt alternative criminal justice policies, Human Rights Watch said today.

The new incarceration figures confirm the United States as the world’s leading jailer. Americans should ask why the US locks up so many more people than do Canada, Britain, and other democracies.
David Fathi, US Program director

Statistics released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a branch of the US Department of Justice, show that as of June 30, 2007, approximately 2.3 million persons were incarcerated in US prisons and jails, an all-time high. This represents an incarceration rate of 762 per 100,000 US residents, the highest such rate in the world. By contrast, the United Kingdom’s incarceration rate is 152 per 100,000 residents; the rate in Canada is 108; and in France it is 91.

“The new incarceration figures confirm the United States as the world’s leading jailer,” said David Fathi, US Program director at Human Rights Watch. “Americans should ask why the US locks up so many more people than do Canada, Britain, and other democracies.”

The new statistics also show large racial disparities, with black males incarcerated at a per capita rate six times that of white males. Nearly 11 percent of all black men ages 30 to 34 were behind bars as of June 30, 2007.

In May 2008, Human Rights Watch released its report, “Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the United States,” in which it documented racial disparities in US drug law enforcement, with black men 11.8 times more likely than white men to enter prison on drug charges, despite the fact that blacks and whites use illegal drugs at similar rates. Although whites, being more numerous, constitute the large majority of drug users, blacks constitute 54 percent of all persons entering state prisons with a new drug offense conviction.

“Decisions about drug law enforcement play a major role in creating the staggering racial disparities we see in US prisons,” said Fathi. “The ‘war on drugs’ has become a war on black Americans.”

The US has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a treaty that requires the US to guarantee, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, “[t]he right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice.” In May 2008, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which monitors compliance with ICERD, expressed its “concern with regard to the persistent racial disparities in the criminal justice system of [the United States], including the disproportionate number of persons belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities in the prison population.” The committee called on the United States to undertake “further studies to determine the nature and scope of the problem, and the implementation of national strategies or plans of action aimed at the elimination of structural racial discrimination.”

Human Rights Watch urges public officials in the United States to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for all drug offenses and to adopt community-based sanctions and other alternatives to incarceration for low-level drug offenders. Human Rights Watch further calls on the United States to enact legislation that, in accordance with ICERD, prohibits policies or practices in the criminal justice system that have the purpose or effect of restricting the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the basis of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin.

Illegal immigration problem not fixed

The illegal immigration problem hasn’t been solved. The borders remain open because the administration doesn’t want to close them. Open borders go hand in hand with plans for a North American Union. Closing them is inconsistent with “integrating” Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Americans were rightly angered early in 2006 when hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, many obviously here illegally, clogged streets of major cities, waved Mexican flags, demanded favors from government, and trashed the Stars and Stripes.

Two separate examples of this type of arrogance roused many into demanding action to stop the flood of illegal immigrants. Their demands succeeded in forcing President Bush to address the nation about the problem on May 15, 2006.

In his speech, Mr. Bush made six major pledges:

1) fix the illegal immigration problem

2) control the border

3) create technological border security

4) add National Guard forces to aid the understaffed Border Patrol

5) confront drug traffic and other crimes resulting from illegal immigration, and

6) oppose amnesty for all the illegal border crossers. His performance on that occasion had to be one of the most dishonest ever given by an American chief executive.

The illegal immigrant problem hasn’t been fixed and the border is not controlled. Some National Guard troops were sent into the area near, but not at, the border. Drug traffic and crime caused by illegal immigrants continue. And the president strongly supported the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive immigration measure that went to defeat in 2007 because it was correctly perceived to be an amnesty program in disguise.

What about the promised technological border security measures? It turns out that Boeing was awarded a contract to produce was has been called a “virtual fence” along 28 miles of the Mexican border south of Tucson, Arizona. After much hoopla, it turns out the project doesn’t work. Its network of sensors situated in high towers with electronic surveillance equipment, radar, cameras and special vehicles equipped with computers and fancy telephones must be completely redesigned. From an announced target date for completion before the end of Mr. Bush’s term in office, the project is not expected to be operational for at least three more years.

Boeing was originally given $20.6 million for the project. As recently as last December, the Department of Homeland Security sent $65 million more to the Seattle-based aircraft manufacturer. Homeland Security officials have now taken over the project which will cost additional hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, the border remains nearly as porous as ever. Each of Mr. Bush’s promises and grandiose plans to deal with the situation have not been delivered.

As one result, throughout the United States, local and state officials have taken the matter of illegal immigrants into their own hands by passing measures restricting the hiring and housing of illegal immigrants.

There is one step that would greatly ease the illegal immigration problem, if not end it completely. All that’s needed is to put a stop to providing a variety of taxpayer-supplied benefits to those who have broken the law to come here. No more education, medical care, food, housing, etc.

No more anchor babies who are then cited as legal justification for family members to be here. Let those who aspire to live and work in the United States aspire to complete the process of legal immigration.

Until this is done, even a working “virtual fence” won’t solve the problem. Illegal immigration isn’t a virtual problem; it’s very real and it isn’t being addressed meaningfully.

Dr. & Mrs. Mike Ritze, Broken Arrow

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Democrats have failed black America

"While Black America has been loyal to the Democratic Party, Black America has been taken for granted by the Democrats ... " — Frank Aquila

Martin Luther King Jr., unknown to most, was a Republican. He believed Black America should strive to achieve the most of each opportunity through a dream of equality.

Most black Americans aligned themselves as Democrats through the social programs created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, although Roosevelt appointed a life member of the Ku Klux Klan, Sen. Hugo Black, D-Alabama, to the Supreme Court, and in 1944, he chose Harry Truman as his vice president, who had joined the Klan in Kansas City in 1922. Prior to Roosevelt’s New Deal, a majority of Black America had been Republican, thanks in part to President Abraham Lincoln’s yeoman efforts to end slavery.

While Black America has been loyal to the Democratic Party, Black America has been taken for granted by the Democrats, using racial divisions and pandering from social dependence of government to maintain the base of Black America without providing any substance in return. Even today, the driving force behind policies like affirmative action is the liberal belief that Black America can’t make it in America without assistance from the left. Such government assistance and lowering of educational standards have only weakened Black America. These lower educational standards, such as Ebonics, where English is mixed with slang, only place black American youths at a disadvantage.

The Republican Party believes in standards of aspiration, provided by education, hard work and a strong family to teach inner values to their children. The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln, the first Republican president. It was formed as the anti-slavery party, which believed in a color-blind society, where “all people are created equal.”

The Democrats? They supported slavery and turned water hoses and dogs on black protesters in the 1960s. Remember Gov. George Wallace? Democrat. Bull Connor? Democrat. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, a Democrat, used wiretapping to spy on King. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has commonly used the “n” word. He was not only a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, he was a Grand Kleagle — an official recruiter who signed up members for $10. He joined because it “offered excitement” and because the Klan was an effective force in “promoting American values.”

Although he no longer is a Klan member, Byrd filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act for more than 14 hours. He also opposed the nomination of the Supreme Court’s two black justices, liberal Thurgood Marshall and conservative Clarence Thomas. During the vote on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 82 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted for it while only 64 percent of Democrats supported it.

As recently as the 1980s, Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., publicly referred to blacks as “darkies” without suffering any punishment from his party.

In 1983, Republican President Ronald Reagan signed into law Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday. However, in 1985, then-Gov. Bill Clinton, a Democrat, signed Act 985 into law, making the birthdates of King and Robert E. Lee, the general who led the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, state holidays on the same day in Arkansas.

For 12 years, Gov. Clinton did nothing to remove the Confederate symbol in the state flag, nor did he make any attempt to repeal a law that designated Confederate Flag Day as the Saturday immediately proceeding Easter. As president, Clinton was hailed as “America’s first black president” and seen favorably in Black America; but what did he do for Black America? On May 5, 1993, he praised ex-Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright, as “my mentor” as he gave the nation’s highest civilian award — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — to Fulbright, who spent the vast majority of his public career and life as a proud segregationist and who voted against the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts.

Republican President George W. Bush has appointed more black Americans to higher positions than any other American president. If President Bush were a Democrat, many, if not most, in Black America would find his record commendable. But since he is a Republican, he gets no credit for the positive initiatives he has undertaken that would benefit Black America, including a voucher program for disadvantaged students in predominately black areas who are mired in underperforming schools, allowing parents a choice where they can send their children to school. However, Democrats have blocked this program.

If anyone in Black America votes or runs for office as a Republican, he or she is characterized as a traitor by the Democratic Party, which often slanders and uses fear tactics to hold on to a base it has taken for granted.

In 2006, Ken Blackwell and Lynn Swann each ran for governor in Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively, while Michael Steele ran for the senate in Maryland. Each faced racism as Oreo cookies were thrown at them, portraying them as black on the outside, but white on the inside.

While there are racists on the right and the left, a Yale University study says white Republicans are more likely to vote for a Republican candidate who is black than white Democrats are likely to vote for a black Democratic candidate.

Does the Democratic Party take advantage of black Americans? Black America cannot gain political leverage if the Democratic Party is not forced to compete. The traditional solutions of the Democratic Party have not truly served Black America. Black Americans should believe that they can do better and achieve the dream envisioned by King.

Secret Assembly Meeting on "Clean Elections" - Take Action Now

Dear Fellow Taxpayer:

I have just learned that the so-called Clean Elections Committee is planning a secret meeting during the next couple of weeks in an attempt to move their taxpayer subsidized election scam forward.

This past June thousands of angry New Jersey taxpayers responded to my call to arms and sent thousands of emails and made hundreds of phone calls to legislators to urge them to vote NO for A-100 the “Clean Elections” bill. This welfare for politicians scheme would spend millions of your money to fund political campaigns.

Now, at the height of summer, they are planning a secret meeting to rejuvenate their miserable plan and THEY WILL NOT DIVULGE THE TIME OR LOCATION OF THIS IMPORTANT MEETING!

The same people who say they want to have “Clean Elections” are planning to hold secret meetings out of public view for one very simple reason: they don’t want the “Public” (i.e.: taxpayers) to know anything about “Public Financing” (i.e. taxpayer money) for legislators' re-election campaigns.

Neither the press, fellow legislators nor voters will be able to know what these people are plotting until it’s too late, UNLESS YOU SPEAK OUT NOW!
Please help me stop them by sending an email to the committee members and telling them to come “Clean” about so-called “Clean Elections.”

Tell them they cannot keep their hearings secret. Ask them what they have to hide.


Yours truly,
Steve Lonegan

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tribute to Bernie Mac

Bernie Mac was born Bernard Jeffery McCullough in Chicago, IL, on October 5, 1958. Becoming a professional comedian when he was 19, Mac performed in area clubs under his original name. He had small roles in a few movies, when, in 1995, he won a part in Chris Tucker's comedy Friday, and got his own HBO special called, Midnight Mac. From there he moved on to a role in Spike Lee's movie, Get On The Bus, and was offered a recurring role in the TV series Moesha. In 2000, he was one of four comedians to do a comedy tour called The Original Kings of Comedy. Mac began to win more substantial parts, including one in the remake of Ocean's 11. He is the star of the successful television comedy, The Bernie Mac Show. He is married and has one daughter.
Bernie's First performance on Def Comedy Jam

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Exlusive One-on-One Interview with Independent Senate Candidate Daryl Brooks

by: Stan Gendlin | August 07

10,000 Children Locked Up and Counting.

I had a chance to interview Daryl Brooks, Independent Senate Candidate and advocate for conservative principles to be brought into inner cities:

“Democrats have been in control of these urban areas for decades, now we have 10,000 kids locked up, these urban areas are still poor, and the liberal ideas have clearly failed.”

That is correct Daryl, liberals keep impoverished people poor, so they become dependent on government programs, continue to vote Democrat, and they get to reap the benefits by staying in power. What a great of despair and dependency Democrats have developed in these inner cities.

Now with liberal programs clearly failing in every urban city in New Jersey, I asked why hasn’t the conservative movement come in then?

“The Republican Party has not tried to get their attention, because Republicans don’t know how to get their message into these inner cities. African community supports Democrats because no one is trying to get their support.”

You hear that Republicans, and more importantly Conservatives, get your message into these areas. Encourage small business to develop in this area, create jobs so people don’t have to rely on crime to make money.

“The hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured in for years to fund these liberal programs and they have been utter failures. We have 40-50% drop out rates and we have 12 year old kids hanging out on the corner at midnight. Our programs in schools are all based on athletics, giving these kids hope they can all turn out like Allen Iverson. But we need more faith-based programs. We need real education programs to tell these kids they can be lawyers, engineers, doctors, architects, and governors.”

I absolutely agree here, with the conditions in these inner cities not getting much better under liberal leadership we are letting an entire generation of kids pass by and many will end up in jail or dead. As Daryl stated, pouring more money into these towns isn’t going to solve problems with dead beat politicians who are out for themselves.

“We have preachers and leaders that have no accountability. You have people going to Church on Sunday morning being told everything is going to be alright, then Monday comes and there is drugs being sold right in front of these same churches.”

It does seem these inner cities have been abandoned by the larger conservative movement in the state. It is sad to see an entire generation of kids end up like this. I hope more leaders in the inner cities rise up like Daryl and bring this real message of “Change” to mainstream America. Not the message of “More of the Same” from Barack Obama; of more taxes, more failed government programs, and more dependency on the system and not in yourself.
Brooks For U.S. Senate
© 2008 CWA-NJ Conservatives with Attitude

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Big Let Down Part 1

Obama Scolds Black Fathers, Gets Bounce in Polls

It’s obvious by now that Barack Obama is treating black Americans like one treats a demented uncle, brought out from his room to be ridiculed and scolded before company from time to time, the old Clinton Sistah Souljah strategy borrowed from Clinton’s first presidential campaign when he traveled the country criticizing the personal morality of blacks and wooing white voters by objecting to what he considered anti -white lyrics sung by rapper Sistah Souljah.

As in Clinton’s case, Obama’s June 14th finger wagging at black men was a case of pandering to white conservative voters. This follows a pattern of using public perceptions of black men fanned by the media and Hollywood to win political favor. Bush One and his sleazy cohorts won votes by depicting black men as dangerous. After the Willie Horton ad, featuring a black rapist, was aired, support for Bush soared to 20% among southern white males, according to Willie Brown, former San Francisco mayor. Obama, by depicting them as irresponsible, saw his poll numbers climb to a 15% lead over McCain, according to a Newsweek poll. With his speech, he received a bounce in the polls that was denied to him after he gained the democrat nomination. He also enjoyed the bounce in the polls from Pennsylvania and Ohio.
According to pundits, the reason he lost these states during the primary was because he couldn’t bowl His Father’s Day speech was meant to show white conservative males that he wouldn’t cater to “special interests” groups, blacks in this case. This was the consensus of those who appeared on MSNBC and other opinion venues of the segregated media on 6/16/2008 even the progressive ones. (Segregated? Not quite. The two percent of African Americans who support Bush all seem to have jobs as pundits, columnists and Op-eders). Michael A. Cohen, writing in The New York Times, June 15, 2008, acknowledging Mr. Obama’s Sister Souljah moment wrote “Indeed, just yesterday, Barack Obama had his own mini- “Souljah moment” as he decried the epidemic of fatherlessness and illegitimacy among black Americans. While it is a message that Mr. Obama has voiced before to other black audiences, speaking unpleasant truths about issues afflicting the black community may provide political benefit for a candidate whom some working-class white voters are suspicious of — just as it did for Clinton 16 years ago. ” ( When is Cohen going to air “unpleasant truths about issues afflicting” his community?).

The talking heads also concluded that Obama’s speech before a black congregation in which he scolded black men for being lousy fathers and missing in action from single parent households and being boys, etc. , was cleary aimed at those white male Reagan democrats, who, apparently, in Obama and the media’s eyes, provide the gold standard for fatherhood, which fails to explain why there are millions of destitute white women, “ displaced housewives”and their children whose poverty results from divorce, or why, according to one study, 90% of middle class white women have been battered , or have witnessed their mothers sisters, or daughters being battered. A smug John Harwood of The New York Times said that Obama was telling black men to “shape up. ” As long as men of Mr. Harwood’s class dominate the avenues of expression, who’s going to tell white men to “shape up?”Judging from my reading American men of all races, ethnic groups and classes need to shape up when it comes to the treatment of women.

Blaming black men exclusively for the abuses against women is a more profitable infotainment product. Hypocrisy is also involved. MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough, who welcomed Juan William’s latest demagogic attack on blacks, printed in The Wall Street Journal , still hasn’t addressed the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of his staffer, Lori Klaustis (http://www. whoseflorida. com/lori_klausutis. htm) who was found dead on the floor of his office or why he had to resign abruptly from Congress. And is Juan Williams, whose career has been marred by repeated sexual harassment complaints against him really one to criticize the personal morality of others? Is Bill Cosby?

According to the Census, a woman’s income on the average is reduced by 73% after divorce in a country in which 50% of marriages end in divorce. Moreover the Times revelation, shocking to some, that elderly whites are taking to cocaine and heroin, a genuine epidemic, hasn’t drawn a response from the legions of columnists and commentators and book publishers who profit from any signs of social”dysfunction” among blacks. Nor has Harwood, George Will, David Brooks, Pat Buchanan, who are always scolding blacks for whatever , commented on the rising incarceration rates of white women. Apparently, Lindsay and Paris are not alone, nor are the Barbie bandits.

Don’t expect Obama to bring up this rampant substance abuse before a white congregation. He had to just about whisper about the values of blue-collar whites, those whom he said clung to guns and religion;he was exposed by a woman who recorded his comments, furtively. Even though the media, which rank ratings above facts, continue to criticize him for these remarks and have made them a campaign issue, sixty percent of Pennsylvanians, according to an April 17, Zogby poll, agreed with him. (The media were also wrong to suggest that Hillary got the worst of it from the press during the primary. A Pew study from Harvard contradicts this. )
Predictably, Obama’s verbal flagellation of black men, who don’t have the media power with which to fight back, was cheered on the front page of The New York Times, which places a black face on every story about welfare, domestic violence and unmarried mothers, and uses Orlando Patterson to parrot these attitudes on the Op-ed page, yet a study published by the Times showed a steep decline in the rate of births to unmarried black women over the decade while the rate among Hispanic women has increased, contradicting what Cohen described as an “epidemic of illegitimacy” among blacks. An indication that the Op ed editors at the Times are so willing to believe the folklore perpetrated by such writers as Cohen that they don’t fact check a writer whose assumptions are at odds with the reports from The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention that they published on Dec. 6, 2007, and at odds with their token black columnist, Bob Herbert, who said on 6/20/08 that illegitimate births have “skyrocketed” over the decades.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What Is Today's News

Today’s is a New Jersey, nonpartisan blog working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications.
Today’s News blog will be launched August 1st 2008 by Generation Change The World and Daryl Mikell Brooks, executive director. Today’s, blog will one of the best media reform organization in the New Jersey, 20 activists and members and a full-time staff in New Jersey.

Our Purpose

Media play a huge role in our lives. TV, radio, the Internet, movies, books and newspapers inform and influence our ideas, opinions, values and beliefs. They shape our understanding of the world and give us the information we need to hold our leaders accountable. But our media system is failing.
This broken system isn't natural. For far too long, corrupt media policy has been made behind closed doors in the public's name but without our informed consent. If we want better media, we need better media policies. If we want better policies, we must engage more people in policy debates and demand better media.
That's why Today’s News blog was created. We're working to make media reform a bona fide political issue in America. Big Media companies have plenty of lobbyists to do their bidding. We're making sure the public has a seat at the table, and we're building a movement to make sure the media serve the public interest.
Today’s News blog believes that media reform is crucial not just for creating better news and entertainment, but to advancing every issue you care about. A vibrant, diverse and independent media is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Harry Belafonte, Incarcerated Youth

A long-time civil and human rights activist, Harry Belafonte has denounced the American justice system for its "prisons filled with victims of poverty." In response to the crisis of incarcerating young people, he created The Gathering for Justice to stop child incarceration.

His many humanitarian efforts have also included serving as cultural adviser to the Peace Corps, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, amfAR board member, R.F. Kennedy Memorial for Peace and Social Justice and founding the Harry and Julie Belafonte UNCIEF Fund for HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. I saw it on a breaking television news story: Ja'eisha Scott, a five-year-old African-American child in a Saint Petersburg, Florida school being forced across a desk by three police officers, her arms pressed behind her back as they handcuffed her. It was incomprehensible, the idea that she was going to be taken to a police station for being "unruly." That was the charge, being "unruly" in the classroom! In the scene being played out on the TV screen there was no one - no teacher, no principal, no social worker to intervene on behalf of this 5 year old. In pursuing the details I telephoned one of the most informed attorneys in America on the subject, Ms Connie Rice, a poverty lawyer with a legal practice based in Washington DC called "The Advancement Project." She had already known of the case and informed me that this case was not unusual. All over America there was growing evidence that this practice of child incarceration was well on its way. My first response was to organize what I called a "Gathering of the Elders." Luminaries of the civil rights movement and community-based social organizations from all over the country came together to exchange views on why, after al the work we have done we had no engagement, no visible response to this tragic circumstance. How could this happen? We all searched for answers.

The United States of America has the largest prison population in the world. As a fact of public policy we build more prison cells than schoolrooms or health care centers. We fill these prisons with a disproportionate number of young Black and Hispanic men and women charged with nonviolent crimes. In fact according to government statistics, of the over two and a quarter million prisoners in our system, only 7% of the prisoners have been incarcerated for violent crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery; the rest typically involved crimes related to property, drugs, immigration violations and public-order issues.
I believe that an infinitely larger number of prisoners should have been directed to social programs and/ or service agencies while they were young and provided with the opportunities for training of skills and academic engagement. Unfortunately, the lack of parenting and the absence of proper counseling in their communities and in schools around the country have forged a pipeline from the cradle to the penitentiary. To compound this tragedy, we are turning over a disturbingly large number of our prison institutions to the private sector, exploiting the labor of the inmates for the profit of special interests. This is not only unethical, it is immoral.

It became apparent that the elders, while groping for answers, could not come to workable solutions without having significant participation of the young people caught in this poverty and incarceration tragedy. We soon realized that our young should not only be taking the baton, they should be leading this movement. I began reaching out to youth leaders from various backgrounds, including those who were once lost teenagers and kids caught up in the criminal culture. The result of this undertaking created The Gathering for Justice, a movement engaging youth of all races, ethnicities and religions to end child incarceration and violence. The birth of The Gathering for Justice ignited the challenging task of embracing the Kingian philosophy of nonviolence in the building of community organizations. The purpose of the Gathering is to bring a moral voice to the table, as Doctor King, Gandhi and Christ all did. They suggested a moral argument that was irrefutable, and beckoned societies to do the right thing. This, too, is our approach.

Participants in The Gathering attend workshops studying nonviolence and its application to issues such as children being arrested, gang violence in our communities, gun control, education and unemployment. They speak directly to their concerns on what is to be done about incarceration and the closing down of our schools. We get two or three communities with different stories talking to one another and soon people begin to cross-pollinate information. When this process starts to happen on a neighborhood-to-neighborhood basis, the neighborhoods then become the city. This growth then spreads to the state, regional and national levels. So far, upwards of six thousand youth leaders from across the nation have come together, committing themselves to the aims of the Gathering.

What can you do to help? First, pull up Then go to our allies, the Children's Defense Fund, The Advancement Project, Barrios Unidos or the United Nations websites; go to any source that talks about child incarceration. Take a look at what you're doing in your community to bring citizen engagement to the table in finding solution, and ask how the rest of the country is faring in this endeavor. Could your business employ youth, even those who have a criminal background who have paid their debt to society? Will you give them the opportunity to learn new skills, develop a stronger sense of self, form bonds within communities beyond the streets and learn that they are of value and have something to offer? Our goal is community, not charity. We need to develop methodology that will help make sure young people have the choices that will take us on the right path to a positive future.

We have a responsibility to overcome the hurdles that have so dangerously inhibited our capacity to expose our young people in knowing who they are, where they come from and the history of the struggle that has brought us to where we are today. In doing so, they will become more engaged in the idea that they can affect change that will make a true and permanent difference. Ultimately, it is only through our common humanity that we can begin to heal our communities. Our human dignity is our common denominator; the one thread connecting us all. As Dr. King has said, "Either we go up together, or we go down together. Let us develop that kind of dangerous unselfishness." With this understanding, let us look upon one another with new eyes. We belong to the human family and disowning one another is not an option. Ja'eisha Scott belongs to us all. The thousands of young people behind bars belong to us all. The soul of this nation belongs to us all. For each of us who dares heed the call to action in the face of indifference, we need only ask ourselves one question, "Am I not my brother's keeper?" Launches Black Bank Initiative (BBI) For Wealth Creation, Financial Literacy, and Community Development

How many of us realize that when we deposit money in a bank we are in effect making a loan to that institution? That’s right, some of us – with only tens of dollars, are loaning money, in a sense, to a billion-dollar corporation.

As odd as it may seem, this is the case because no bank – however large or small – simply watches over your bank deposit, like a security guard, making sure no one touches your cash. In fact it is quite the opposite – a bank takes your deposit and loans or invests it, earning money – hopefully for you and them - until you need to make a withdrawal.

This fundamental understanding of what a bank actually does, is essential to understanding what a bank actually is, and why the relationship between Black America and banks must change, if economic development and growth is to occur at a level of mass prosperity.

To many in Black America, in fact for far too many – discussions of Black economic development are lost in, confused by, or strangled through ideology. Calls to action overpowered by rigid ideology and abstract intellectual debate (among other factors) have rendered previously powerful concepts and phrases like ‘buy black’ and ‘do for self,’ increasingly less potent and effective.

As a result, the science of business, the power of culture, and the principles of economics, which hold the key to improving the socioeconomic condition of millions of people are marginalized and minimized.

And cooperative economics becomes trivialized – as something to be romanticized and idealized, remembered as a history lesson, but rarely applied in a practical or relevant way.

However, every single time we deposit money in a bank we are practicing cooperative economics.

We are pooling our financial resources with people we do not even know, entrusting the proper use of that money to other individuals who we will probably never meet, in an unspoken agreement that leaves all parties involved confident that when they want their money back it will not only be available, but that it likely will be more valuable.

The simplicity of this arrangement is missed by too many of us.

And as a result some of the very same individuals in the Black community who say that we as a people are incapable of practicing cooperative economics, don’t realize that each and every one of us with a bank account is doing just that - often as part of someone else's business model.

It is with that context, and with that insight – that the bank, (with the possible exception of the family unit), is perhaps the ultimate example of cooperative economics - that we at ( are proud to launch our Black Bank Initiative for Wealth Creation, Financial Literacy, and Community Development (

Beyond promoting this cause with words, our Initiative launches with an endorsement of a product offered by a Black-owned Bank - OneUnited Bank's Unity Gold E-Savings Account:

This endorsement is the first of many more to come with interested and progressive Black-owned lending institutions.

With this Initiative we hope to not only promote cooperative economics by encouraging Black Americans to form a closer relationship with their local commercial lending institution of choice, but also we hope to re-define what the concept of a bank is, so that all of us – as members of organizations or kinship systems – families, fraternities, sororities, religious institutions, community groups, and businesses – realize that we can informally pool our financial resources in incredibly powerful ways through such vehicles as investment clubs, and rotating credit associations.

In that sense each one of us can ‘bank’ with one another turning our family reunions, conventions, and gatherings into opportunities to support and create wealth with one another through loans to those in need, investments in our most promising entrepreneurs, and funds to our longest serving small businesses.

Through formal and informal ‘banking’ the possibilities are almost endless in how we can end poverty, create wealth, and develop our communities.

The Black Bank Initiative is not seeking to become another organization, duplicating the work of others.

Our insight is that Black America has enough organizations with the right mandate, message, and membership to accomplish all that we need. We have enough leaders and followers to take care of the business at hand.

What we lack is operational unity and follow-through.

What BBI is seeking to become is a catalyst and conscience for all of those individuals and organizations who know what they should be doing to serve the Black community, economically, and are not.

Through our effort:

- We will work to promote and support efforts to educate Black Americans of all ages into a deeper understanding of finance, business and economics.

- We will encourage Black Americans to ‘bank’ with one another through vehicles and traditions like investment clubs and rotating credit and savings associations, and through forums like family reunions, conventions, and conferences.

- We will work to challenge Black Americans who currently have no relationship with a Black commercial lending institution to form one.

- We will work to encourage our Black-owned banks to provide better customer service, broader services, and more innovative services to their clients, and to become more visible agents of community development in distressed urban and rural areas.

- We will work to make the Black community aware of available and innovative products and services offered by Black commercial lending institutions.

- We will work to encourage our numerous athletes, entertainers, politicians, community leaders, and celebrities who come from the Black community to open savings and checking accounts at Black-owned banks and promote their fans and supporters to do the same.

- We will work to encourage a better and closer relationship between Black entrepreneurs and small business owners and Black-owned lending institutions.

None of the above, however can be accomplished without the individual enthusiasm, will-power, and commitment of not only the members of the ‘Business and Building’ Community, but also that of all of us who sincerely desire change for the better in our struggling communities.

There is no such thing as something for nothing, or living life on a luxury basis, without pain and sacrifice. And there will be no such thing as progress in the important areas of financial literacy, wealth creation, or community development without the same principle at work.

But through unity we have all we need to succeed.

Please get better acquainted with what we are striving to accomplish at our official website:

And let us know how we can serve and work with you.