March 31, 2009

Two-Thirds of America Approves of Obama's Handling of the Presidency

No wonder President Obama is smiling ... his approval rating is 66%. Forty-two percent of the public believes the country is on the 'right track' ... the highest percentage saying so in five years and marks a sharp turnaround from December 2008 when only 15% thought that country led by George W. Bush was on the 'right track'.

My hope is that these numbers will result in support for his proposed budget.

Farewell NPR News and Notes

Top (L-R): Geoffrey Gardner, Drew Tewksbury, Joanne Griffith, Allison Samuels, and Zachary Slobig
Middle (L-R): Sonata Lee-Narcisse, Sasa Woodruff, Sherene Strausberg, [former staffer] Kenya Young, Tony Cox, Roy Hurst and Geoffrey Bennett
Seated (L-R): Christabel Nsiah-Buadi, Nicole Childers and Devin Robins

I was blessed to be a guest on this show a number of times over the past year. I thought that the host, Farai Chideya, was a woman of great character and intellect. NPR made a mistake when they cancelled the show.

I appeared on the Blogger's Roundtable on the following dates: January 14, 2009, August 20, 2008, June 18, 2008, April 9, 2008 and November 14, 2007.

Toy Gun Bill Inspired by DeAunta Farrow Fails to Pass in Arkansas

Villagers may recall the story DeAunta Farrow. He is the 12-year old youngster killed by an Arkansas police officer who mistakenly thought that his toy gun was real.

The Arkansas House has narrowly rejected a bill that would have restricted the sale of realistic-looking toy guns. Rep. Fred Allen says toy guns often are mistaken for actual guns or are used during robberies, and shouldn't be readily available in Arkansas stores.

Allen originally named his bill the DeAunta Farrow Imitation Firearms Act. But Allen agreed to remove the boy's name from the bill after complaints from the family, who dispute police accounts that say DeAunta was holding the toy weapon. The family's civil lawsuit is pending.

We don't allow toy guns in our house. I want my 9-year old son to grow to be an old man. No need to tempt fate. What is your view?

March 30, 2009

Michael Steele is Monty Python's Black Knight

Am I the only one who is worried about the sanity of RNC Chairman Michael Steele? Did you see his interview on CNN this weekend?

Steele said he is "done" talking to the White House, saying he thinks Obama "has got a little thing about me, that I haven't quite figured out what that is." When asked if he was jealous of Obama, Steele was incredulous: "What would I be jealous of?" adding, "I'm chairman of the RNC, so, what’s your point? We both have leadership responsibilities and roles. I'm not equating the two. My point is: you are on your track. I'm on my track. You do your thing. I do my thing."
I realize where I've seen Michael Steele before. He played the Black Knight in a 1974 Monty Python movie. Check it out and see if you agree with me!

What say u?

2nd Anniversary of The AfroSpear

Today is the 2nd anniversary of The AfroSpear. Would you care to share your best memories of the AfroSpear over these first two years?

Investigation and Autopsy of Taser Victim Marcus Moore

Illinois State Police are investigating the death of Marcus D. Moore,who died on Saturday at Rockford Memorial Hospital, after he had been tasered by a Freeport police officer.

Moore was being arrested for allegedly robbing a 47-year-old man.

The police are spinning the story to indicate that Moore's death was not related to the taser attack. However, his family believes he would not have died if police had not tasered him. An autopsy is scheduled today.

My hope is that the Illinois State Police will publish results of their investigation to determine if Freeport police handled the situation in the proper manner. I'm wondering if any of the civil rights organizations in that town are engaged in this process?

Diversity in Science Carnival: Women in STEM - Past and Present

March is Women's History Month. One way that the month is being honored is thru the Diversity in Science Carnival: Women in STEM - Past and Present.

The blog carnival shares timely information on subjects such as:
  • Women in science through history
  • Big ideas
  • Everyday heroes of diversity
  • The lived reality of the scientific life
  • Teachers and role models

I am proud that our blog contributed to this month's Diversity in Science Carnival. The next carnival will be May 20th (there will be no DiS carnival in April), hosted by DN Lee at Urban Science Adventures!, on the topic "Dealing With Diversity - what have you done with it, what obstacles have you faced, what success stories do you have".

Manic Monday: Bird

There is a creative weekly meme known as Manic Monday. Bloggers are challenged to create a post based on a different word each week. This week the word is 'Bird'. My first reaction was to go with the legendary jazz musician known by that name.

However, my spirit was moved in a different direction. Many folks in the current generation don't understand the power of Maya Angelou. Some know her from her inaugural poem when President Clinton came into office. However, in my home she became a superstar with the emotion and images evoked by the following poem.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou is a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature. As a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, she continues to travel the world, spreading her legendary wisdom.

What is your best memory of May Angelou?

March 29, 2009

Taser Death: Marcus Moore (Freeport IL)

It appears that the police continue to abuse the rules laid out in the Continuum of Force policy. As a result, we find another Black man killed by police use of a taser gun. This time it occurs in Freeport, IL.

40-year-old Marcus D. Moore is dead from extra-judicial execution.

Freeport Police say Moore was wanted for robbery. When they tracked him down Thursday night, they say he fought with authorities, causing them to use the taser gun. Shortly after, Moore complained of being unable to breathe. He was taken to Rockford Memorial Hospital and was later pronounced dead.

Freeport police think Moore was on drugs at the time of his arrest and that taser use was warranted. Then again, what else would they say?

Villagers, I accept that Marcus Moore did wrong by robbing somebody. And it appears that he has a history of criminal activity in Freeport. On the other hand, Freeport police have such a poor record of dealing with African Americans that their deputy chief of police felt a need to speak out about recent racist actions.

In any case, Marcus Moore was a citizen of the United States of America. Death is not the penalty for being a petty thief in America ... not even Freeport IL.

Sunday Inspiration: Jill Scott (Golden)

It is good to remind ourselves that we control the way that we conduct ourselves. We wake up each morning with a choice on how we are going to live our lives. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not promised. How are we living our life today?

Sunday Inspirations is the meme created by Sojourner in honor of her Mother. This is just one way to help get us through the week ahead, the trials we may face, and yes, to say Thank Ya and testify! I hope that you participate and share with us your Sunday Inspirations. Your weekly contribution may very well be the inspiration that someone else may need and has been looking for.

The Rules:
  1. Anyone can participate.
  2. You may post a video, poem, religious verse, song, story, picture, ANYTHING that has given you inspiration and the motivation to go on. Just make sure not to offend anyone.
  3. Add your name to the meme list so others can be inspired.
  4. Be and get inspired and be sure to comment.

March 28, 2009

Village Interview: Jose Vilson (The Jose Vilson)

We decided to take a moment to sit quietly under the village's baobob tree to learn more about some of the powerful bloggers of African descent out in the afrosphere.

Our guest today is Jose Vilson. Jose was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, and his style represents that amalgamation of raw introspection and smooth delivery. While he's been writing poetry on and off since the age of 6, he says his style was born when he first met Sonia Sanchez. Upon hearing that he wrote poetry, she told him to forget the poems of old and write new words. Ever since, his style changed to something more natural, strong, and exciting.

His blog is The Jose Vilson (BBR #125). I met Jose through our membership in the AfroSpear. He has been a calming influence through some of the volcanic eruptions in our group. Here is what he had to say...

Q1. What were you like when you were younger?

I was one of the geeks. Definitely. I was insecure, imaginative, and intelligent. It was an interesting mix, really.
Q2. Name a famous historical figure, living or deceased, you would like to meet and tell us why.

Living, Muhammad Ali. For a good year and change, I did so much intense research on that man. He lived life with such passion and fervor, and had an insatiable drive. Dead, Arturo Schomberg. I'd probably ask him some of the questions you're asking me now.
Q3. Name a person in your community who is relatively unknown to the rest of the world, who you believe is significant in some way, and that you would like the rest of the world to know more about.

I'd say Fr. Jack Podsiadlo. Fr. Jack Podsiadlo is a Jesuit priest whose life's work consists of helping underprivileged Black and Latino youth become great men. Personally, I can say he was a father figure for me at a time when I needed that uplift as a youth. He also served as president of the Nativity Network, a collection of schools based on Nativity Mission Center, a small Catholic middle school on the Lower East Side. He didn't found the center, but his efforts to spread the message about that model have translated into hundreds and thousands of young men and women getting the opportunity of a lifetime.
Q4. What are two items in your 'bucket list' ... things you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket?

I'd like to travel across the world, and I'd like to write a really good book. Simple, yes, but not easy.
Q5. Describe your first experience on the Internet?

I want to say my first experience on the Internet was through my public school. We were writing an e-mail on the computer. As a matter of fact, I think it was on a Mac. I remember getting weirded out by this scraping and beeping noise in the background when my teacher told me, "Oh that's just the sound of a connection being made." Ah, the bad old days.
Q6. Tell us about your current blogging career and how you got into it.

I started out in Xanga in 2003 under ComoSeLlama. I first used it as a journal of sorts, jotting down parts of my life that I found interesting. As I started to build an audience, I started ranting on whatever happened for that day. I found myself particularly vested in blogging when I was unemployed and searching for another venue to entertain myself. But as I got a little older (and got a job), I too had to grow, and so I bought up my own domain and started blogging under my own name from 2007.
Q7. Who are the two bloggers you read the most and why? Include their links and tell us why we should subscribe to their feeds.

-checks my Google Reader- I can without a doubt say my two most read blogs are NYC Educator and Electronic Village. NYC Educator has always been my blogging hero, and with his trusty sidekick, Reality-Based Educator, they give you the realest coverage of education topics and financial / politics news you'll read on the web now. Electronic Village has a way of posting the news without sounding too much like they're preaching at me. It's informative, but not over-bearing. That's important.
Q8. Where are you taking your blog over the next 2-3 years?

I'm taking it wherever life takes me. I'm working on a few projects, one of which we'll see the release of in 2010, a book on the future of teaching. Another book, one I'm working on by myself, is hopefully coming out 2011. The blog itself will probably chronicle my life as it changes not just as an educator, but also as a writer. I've always been the writer who tries to fill in the gaps, and that seems to work well for my readers.
Q9. What is your 'killer post' over the past year ... the post you are most proud of?

Oh wow. My proudest post over the last year (counts 365 days back) has to be my post "Howl If You Hear Me," my uber-dedication to Allen Ginsberg in which I asked various bloggers to contribute one line to the first stanza of my remake of his poem. I'm sure to some I made that post look easy, but I probably worked on it all day. Obviously it was also successful in its own right, but it also elucidates the power of collaboration amongst creative individuals.
Q10. What is your 'biggest noise post' over the past year ... the one that you took the most heat over from your readers?

I can never get enough of this "controversial post" business. I have a few of them actually, but if I had to pick just one, I'd pick the "My Ballot or My Bullet" post. In it, I played Devil's Advocate in response to the fandom for Barack Obama. I understood the excitement that Barack generated, but when I looked at the lessons of Malcolm X (who always stirs up some controversy even posthumously), I wondered how much people really thought about what he was saying in response to elected officials. Some people wouldn't even speak to me for a good couple of months. Then again, I generate one of those "I can't even talk to you right now" posts at least once a month.
You can reach Jose on Facebook, LinkedIn Network or Twitter. I hope that you enjoyed this Q&A session with Jose. Share any of your thoughts or remembrances of Jose or his blog if you have time or incination!

President's Weekly Address: Crisis and Service

This week the President dedicates his address to the people of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota as they face down disastrous flooding. He speaks of what the government is doing, but also stresses that times of crisis like this are reminders of the need and opportunity Americans have to keep their dedication to service. He commends the Edward M. Kennedy National Service Act, which passed the Senate this week following similar legislation in the House last week, for helping to rejuvenate this spirit.

"In the Fargodome, thousands of people gathered not to watch a football game or a rodeo, but to fill sandbags. Volunteers filled 2.5 million of them in just five days, working against the clock, day and night, with tired arms and aching backs. Others braved freezing temperatures, gusting winds, and falling snow to build levees along the river’s banks to help protect against waters that have exceeded record levels."

The federal government seems to be handling this flooding situation in North Dakota much better than the Bush Administration handled the flooding in New Orleans. Wouldn't you agree?

March 27, 2009

Old School Friday: Louis Armstrong

The theme for this week's Old School Friday meme is 'When I Have A Bad Day At Work' ... when your boss is being extra foul, or your co-worker got a raise, but you did the work...what song do you play to ease the pain?

Instead of expressing anger at others it is more useful for me to uplift myself. Here is a classic song by a legend Louis Armstrong. It helps me. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Am I Not Human? Genocide Prevention Month

We support the Am I Not Human? blogging campaign that takes place on the 27th of each month. It is our effort to raise awareness of human rights abuse taking place around the globe. My hope is that all villagers will support this effort in some manner via your blog, Twitter or discussions at home or work.

Remarkably, six genocides have major anniversaries in the month of April - a tragic testament to the international community's inexcusable failure to stop inhuman and barbarous acts.

Genocide Prevention Project created a venue for survivors of genocide and mass atrocities, their descendents, and anti-genocide advocates to honor those who were lost and those who survived. Perhaps our collective voices will remind the international community to make its commitment to mass atrocity prevention absolute. Until we do, we are destined to repeat the most shameful chapters in human history.

Villagers are invited to the online premiere of an excerpt from the film 'The Last Survivor' on April 2, 2009 at 8 pm. You can see the premiere on a computer near you.

The Last Survivor, a new documentary by Righteous Pictures, tells the story of four survivors - of the Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur and Congo - who have become anti-genocide advocates. The film will be followed by a podcast of a discussion among survivors and experts about how to end the genocide in Darfur and how to prevent future atrocities.

The Last Survivor extended trailer from The Last Survivor on Vimeo.

You can also connect with Genocide Prevention Month on Facebook or Twitter.

March 26, 2009

Immigration Detention: 'Jailed Without Justice'

I encourage villagers to join with Amnesty International to call on the Department of Homeland Security to make U.S. immigration detention standards enforceable, and to use alternatives to detention in a meaningful way.

Over 30,000 immigrants are detained EVERY DAY. This is triple the number detained just ten years ago. Immigrants can be detained for months or years without any meaningful judicial review - this despite international human rights standards requiring judicial review.

Amnesty International has a 56-page report, entitled Jailed Without Justice that shares horrific stories of detention abuse and mismanagement here in the United States. For example, Mr. N, a Buddhist monk, fled to the U.S. after he was tortured in Tibet for his religious beliefs. When he arrived in New York, he was immediately detained and never had a chance to argue for his case before a judge. After 10 months in detention, he was finally granted asylum.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could issue new regulations that would quickly solve many of these problems. But instead, just three weeks ago, the office in charge of these policies testified before Congress that it plans to detain almost a hundred thousand more immigrants this year than last.

Villagers, please tell Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that this is wrong and that she should take steps to fix this flawed system.

What say u?

'All He Has To Do' - Faylita Hicks, Spoken Word Artist

The issue of domestic violence has been in the news over the past few weeks. Faylita explores the many emotions and decesions a woman makes while in such a terrible relationship. The outcome of the poem is simply one of many possible real outcomes in our world.

Faylita Hicks is my young twenty-something year old cousin whose voice and poetry have been making waves in the Austin and San Marcos community for years now. She attributes her growth as a writer and performer to the diverse community of open mic venues, her family and friends, and of course, other poets.

What did you think about her spoken word on domestic violence?

Winnie Mandela Seeks Political Comeback

The wife of a former president seeks higher office ... no, not Hillary Clinton ... this time it is Nelson Mandela's former wife, Winnie. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is running for parliament in South Africa as a candidate for the African National Congress (ANC). [SOURCE]

She needs to deal with a minor legal problem first.

According to South Africa's constitution, anyone "sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment without the option of a fine" is disqualified from parliament until "five years after the sentence has been completed".

After an appeal in July 2004, Ms Madikizela-Mandela received a three-and-a-half year sentence for fraud - which was suspended for five years.

The Democratic Alliance and Freedom Front Plus parties lodged formal objections to Ms Madikizela-Mandela's nomination, arguing that the sentence was still active.

But in a statement, the electoral commission said: "The candidate is not disqualified from standing as a candidate in the election of 22 April 2009. The objection is accordingly dismissed."

How many villagers remember what television show featured a newborn baby named after Winnie Mandela? [Answer]

March 25, 2009

Urban League Issues 'The State of Black America 2009: Message to the President'

Did you see where the National Urban League issued it's annual State of Black America for 2009? The report seeks to address the issues central to Black America in 2009 by examining Black progress in education, homeownership, entrepreneurship, health and other areas. [SOURCE]

Ordinarily the report is simply issued to the public-at-large. This year the report is specifically addressed to President Obama.

We welcome the new vision the Obama administration brings to Washington and to America. But this vision can only become a reality if we make it so. The State of Black America 2009: Message to the President, is an essential part of the National Urban League’s effort to bring about this vision by working with the new Administration to tackle the nation’s deepening domestic challenges. I hope that it encourages and inspires each of you to join us in working to help President Obama fulfill the promise he made to us last summer “to build a nation worthy of our children’s future.” - Marc H. Morial, National Urban League President & CEO
The 11-page executive summary lays out the basic elements of the full report. The Urban League issues their message to President Obama about race. Of course, President Obama gave an honest answer when asked about race at his press conference the other day. Check it out:

Villagers, I agree with Obama. He needs to focus on fixing the economy for all Americans ... not just African Americans. Our community needs to take some responsibility for dealing with the recommendations laid out in this year's Urban League report.

The 31 specific recommendations in the report appear to be dealt with fairly well in Obama's stimulus plan and budget priorities. Some of the Urban League recommendations included:
  • Ensure that the stimulus package’s green job creation includes poor urban communities.

  • Increase funding for job training and placement for disadvantaged workers.

  • Guarantee full-day schooling for all 3 and 4 year olds.

  • Expand the school day to account for working parents and families without nearby relatives to help with after-school care.

  • Fund mortgage counseling and education programs for African Americans.

  • Implement universal health care and a “comprehensive” system to provide Blacks with health education, prevention and intervention.

I appreciate the work that the Urban League puts into this report each year. I figure that they added the 'Message to the President' in the title of the report so that it would increase sales. In reality, the message needs to be given to each of us. It is time for us to get busy!

Blog Safari #30

I hope that y'all enjoy these blog safaris. I post them every week or so to point out some talented bloggers and creative blog posts to interested villagers. Follow my Rhino-Guide (she needs a name!) on this journey thru the cyber-jungle. Enjoy the flow!!
Let us know if you come across any remarkable posts that should be shared in our next Blog Safari!

Wordless Wednesday: Is This Still Unthinkable?

March 24, 2009

Buy Black Update: Ebony Experiment

Earlier this year we asked villagers whether or not they could 'Buy Black' for a year. John and Maggie Anderson, a couple in Illinois, made a public pledge to exclusively support Black businesses and professionals and buy Black-made products for all of 2009. They hope to inspire a national dialogue about the plight and the potential of Black business.

What are your thoughts on the Ebony Experiment? Are you able to support Black-owned business in your city?

Blogging While Brown Conference * Chicago, IL (June 19-20, 2009)

I am pleased to report that the second annual Blogging While Brown (BWB) Conference will take place on June 19-20, 2009 at the University Center in Chicago. I attended the inaugural BWB Conference earlier this year in Atlanta GA. It appears that next year's event brings more opportunities to network and learn about the issues and concerns that face new media content creators.

The BWB Conference provides an outstanding venue for bloggers of color to meet each other, discuss current issues, and learn about the latest technology. It arose in response to widespread dissatisfaction regarding the lack of diversity in some of the other technology conferences.

Visit the official BWB Conference website to see videos from the first conference (including interviews done by Black Web 2.0), pictures of the conference attendees, reservation information, sponsorship information, and hotel logistics.

A new twist for the BWB Conference is a pre-conference blogging bootcamp aimed at targeting those who still have questions about how to start a blog, how to promote your blog, and how to keep it going. Starting a few hours before the conference, this bootcamp can help any villager who thought that the agenda would only benefit experienced bloggers.

Personally, I hope that BDPA figures out a way to partner with the BWB Conference. Especially in light of the fact that the largest BDPA chapter in the country is located in Chicago.

Anyhow, I plan to attend ... how about you? Click here to reserve your slot!

March 23, 2009

March 22, 2009

Five Items to Keep in Mind When Filing 2008 Taxes

I have less than a month to file my 2008 income tax return. As such, I was glad to come across a post from a former AfroSpear member entitled, 'Five Items to Keep in Mind When Filing 2008 Taxes'. The tax law changes you may want to note before filing your 2008 federal tax return include:

  1. Expiring Tax Breaks Renewed
  2. Standard Deduction Increased for Most Taxpayers
  3. Contribution Limits Rise for IRAs and Other Retirement Plans
  4. Standard Mileage Rates Adjusted for 2008
  5. Kiddie Tax Revised

You can see more details on these five tips here.

Have you filed your return yet? Or do you wait until the last minute as well?

March 21, 2009

President's Weekly Address: 'A Budget Equal to the Task Before Us'

The President reflects on lessons from his time spent outside Washington recently, which only reinforced the core principles in his budget. The budget will be his central focus throughout this week:

"These investments are not a wish list of priorities that I picked out of thin air – they are a central part of a comprehensive strategy to grow this economy by attacking the very problems that have dragged it down for too long: the high cost of health care and our dependence on oil; our education deficit and our fiscal deficit."

Villagers, it appears that our president is trying to make some major changes in the way that the United States does business ... especially in areas of health care, energy and education. Do you think that he can pull it off?

Can We Raise $500 to Support Our Young People?

I have pledged to raise $500 to Stimulate the Interest of Young People in the Fields of Science and Technology.

If you think that our cause is worthy ... make a donation ... even a small one. We need to demonstrate support of our own programs if we expect others to support us.

Won't you help us meet this $500 target?

March 20, 2009

George Lambus is a Black Republican Who Wants to Lynch Criminals in Jackson, Mississippi

The Republican Party is deeply in trouble. We shared the top ten blunders of GOP leader Michael Steele earlier this month. Now we have a member of Steele's Republican Party who wants to bring back the hanging noose. [SOURCE]

George Lambus a 62-year-old, Black Republican mayoral candidate has released campaign flyers that note 'crime can only be alleviated by a noose and a stout tree limb.'

This jerk is someone's grandfather ... but, we are glad to note that his chances of winning the June election are slim: the majority-Black city of about 180,000 is so heavily Democratic that no Republican has won the mayor's race in modern history. Yet, Lambus hopes to stand out in a crowded field by packing a silver pistol and talking bluntly about crime.

"Look at recent history, like in South Africa, when apartheid was abolished," Lambus said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "Blacks went on a crime spree. Other blacks got tired of it ... and they formed vigilantes and they killed people. It brought the crime down."

His pistol nearby as he peered out a window at his decaying Jackson neighborhood, Lambus added: "When you cut your yard, carry a gun. When you go to church, carry a gun. When you go to school, carry a gun."
It is truly a sad state of affairs for the Republican Party that they have a candidate who fails to understand the evil history of lynching in our country.

The fact that this is a Black man is all the more tragic. All the more reason that Black Republicans are so lonely.

Old School Friday: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

The theme for this week's Old School Friday meme is 'Baby'. The idea is to post a song that has the word 'Baby' in it. I considered going with Luther Vandross or Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke. They each had a song that would qualify.

However, there is a song that not only had the word 'Baby' in the title ... it provided a path for our imaginations to run wild.

Some of you young 'uns don't remember Smokey Robinson. Take a moment to check him out!

What say u?

'Back in the Day' - Faylita Hicks, Spoken Word Artist

Meet Faylita Hicks, my young twenty-something year old cousin whose voice and poetry have been making waves in the Austin and San Marcos community for years now. [NOTE: Click on blog title to see the video]

This poem was written while Faylita was a student at the local community college. She wanted to explore the different reasons why some people end up using drugs as a way to escape reality. This poem also explores the long term effects of child abuse.

Villagers, what are your thoughts on Faylita's spoken word?

March 19, 2009

Six Years of War in Iraq

Six years to the day have passed since President Bush launched the invasion of Iraq.

4,260 U.S. servicemen and women and hundreds more from coalition countries have been killed in Iraq since the war began. Tens of thousands have been physically and mentally wounded. In fact, suicides among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans "may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care."

According to Iraq Body Count, nearly 100,000 (maybe more) Iraqi civilians have lost their lives because of the war. Nearly 5 million Iraqis have either been internally displaced or left the country.

The Iraq War can't end soon enough for me. Do you have any thoughts as the 6th anniversary of this war comes and goes?

Aretha Franklin and Her Hat

I enjoyed seeing Aretha Franklin at Obama's inauguration earlier this month. I was glad that she didn't show her cleavage ... and her hat made me smile. Here is video of her inauguration performance of 'My Country 'Tis of Thee':

It turns out that the Queen of Soul wasn't satisfied according to her recent NPR interview.
"I did everything I could to guarantee my voice would be where I wanted it to be, where it should have been, but Mother Nature just said, I don’t think so," Franklin told host Michel Martin.
Sis. Franklin plans to provide the original hat worn at the inauguration to the Smithsonian to be installed in the presidential library. Villagers can pay $179 to order one directly from the hat's creator, Luke Song, who has been making hats for 25 years at Mr Song Millinery in Detroit.

For those who can't afford to spend that much money on Aretha's hat, you can make your own version at home, for about $15, using the instructions from the blog.

It could be that this whole Aretha's Hat phenomenon has gone too far. There is a Facebook group dedicated to the hat with over 103,915 fans. There is even a Twitter page for the silly hat!

I'm not sure that I would have the nerve to sit with a sister that wore that hat out in public. How about you? Would you wear such a hat out in public? Would you buy such a hat as a gift for the woman in your life?

March 18, 2009

Amazing African Photos

The Electronic Village provides a cyberspace experience of village elders sitting at the baobob tree exchanging information and wisdom with others that live and visit our village. However, the White African blog shared these amazing photos of the real deal and I wanted all Villagers to have a chance to check 'em out!

Rush Limbaugh Wants to Debate Me?

March 17, 2009

Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) on Defensive in Fight Over Stimulus Dollars

The online activism against Gov. Mark Sanford continued today.

Hundreds of phone calls are streaming into Governor Sanford's office this week from angry citizens decrying his plan to reject desperately needed funds from the federal stimulus bill. More than 600 calls were made to the Governor on Monday by members of, the nation's largest online African American advocacy group, demanding that he accept the full amount of federal stimulus funding intended to buoy his struggling state's economy. The calls continue today.

Sanford's office was put on the defensive, with callers reporting that aides struggled to explain the Governor's decision in light of its likely effect on South Carolina's education system. They seemed unaware that Sanford's rejection of stimulus funds could lead to thousands of teachers losing their jobs.

Have you made the call to Gov. Sanford's office yet?

Village Interview: LaTonya (Color Online)

We decided to take a moment to sit quietly under the village's baobob tree to learn more about some of the powerful bloggers of African descent out in the afrosphere.

Our first guest is LaTonya. She is the creative genius behind Color Online (BBR #1350). I met LaTonya through our membership in the AfroSpear. Her blog provides a platform for young women to express themselves creatively and to expose them to literature and other art forms that reflect their experiences and aspirations. Here is what she had to say...

Q1. What were you like when you were younger?
I would say I was a strange child. At nine, I wanted to be Dr. King. I wanted to make history. I realize this might come off as arrogant, but I was a sensitive child who could not understand injustice and mistreatment of anybody. While I couldn’t articulate it, very early on I knew I wanted to be involved in civil rights, human rights. When I say I wanted to make history, it wasn’t about personal fame but a desire to make a difference. When the “I have a Dream” speech played each year, I was awestruck every time. I wanted to help realize the dream. I wanted to a lawyer, teacher, writer or activist- any vocation that would allow me to serve others. I have been interested in social justice, diversity, multiculturalism and the arts my entire life.
Q2. Name a famous historical figure, living or deceased, you would like to meet and tell us why.

I am, was, and always will be a catalyst for change. ~Shirley Chisholm

Well, I think I just made it pretty clear who was one of the earliest influences on me. Others would include Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan and Benazir Bhutto. Each of these political figures dared to speak and act on their convictions. I quote Chisholm a lot because her actions and ideas resonate with how I try to live. When I was in eighth grade, my social studies teacher gave me a biography of Barbara Jordan. Ms. Jordan was a force to be reckoned with. She spoke her mind and a Black woman out of Texas? Do I need to say more? Bhutto believed so much in her country and its right to be a free democracy she was willing to die for it. She remained politically active knowing it could cost her life and it did. That is courage and conviction.
Q3. Name a person in your community who is relatively unknown to the rest of the world, who you believe is significant in some way, and that you would like the rest of the world to know more about.

The foot soldiers of grassroots of organizations are folks you can’t google even if I shared their names. I will name an organization that matters to me, and that is Alternatives For Girls. It’s where I run the library. The work AFG does is important and we need all the support we can get. The agency provides outreach services, prevention services and houses a shelter for at risk girls in the city of Detroit.
Q4. What are two items in your 'bucket list' ... things you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket?

Establish and run my own literary arts for youth nonprofit. Establish a legacy fund for young people.
Q5. Describe your first experience on the Internet?

I’ve been online more than a decade. I’ve witnessed the evolution of communities from listserves to message boards to IM messaging, websites to blogs. I dug my roots online with a black poetry site out of Chicago and a diversity forum based out of Florida. I became a permanent fixture in both communities. You’re not a member unless you are truly active in a community.

Q6. Tell us about your current blogging career and how you got into it.

I started blogging in order to teach Color Online members how to use technology to express their art and views, to inform potential supporters about our efforts and to inform readers about writers that they might not otherwise ever learn about or read.
Q7. Who are the two bloggers you read the most and why? Include their links and tell us why we should subscribe to their feeds.

We are a literary community, so the blogs I read most are literature focused. Color Online is also about community service and activism so I read blogs that promote empowerment and activism. Limiting it to two is really difficult. I check in on average fifteen to twenty blogs daily but if you insist, I recommend Fledgling (BBR #1599)written by Zetta Elliot, a Black feminist, writer and educator. I also read The Bottom of Heaven (BBR #1626) written by Claudia and Frieda, two articulate Black women who focus on Black culture.
Q8. Where are you taking your blog over the next 2-3 years?

I’d like to see readership increase, but I’m not interested in being popular as much as my goal is to make an impact. I want to impact young people. I want to spread the message about the importance of literacy. It is beyond me why there isn’t a real focus on getting our kids to read and write. We have all kinds of youth programs and too many of them of missing the mark by failing to stress literacy, and literacy in the broader sense means having cultural awareness. Knowing how to read and write is not what it means to be a literate individual. It is the awareness of the world around you, an ability to communicate your ideas and views effectively. It is a desire to be connected with others. I want Color Online to inspire young people to become active in their communities. I want Color Online to be a literary portal, a place where readers, educators, writers and activists engage one another, share information and support projects and works that empower women of color, which in turn means empowering communities.

Q9. What is your 'killer post' over the past year ... the post you are most proud of?

I don’t think I have a killer post because my aim isn’t a single shot but a cohesive, consistent flow of information that provides readers and educators with works that are relevant to their populations. I think it is important to share with readers that Color Online is a tool I use to promote literacy. In addition to publishing the blog, I run our physical library at a local nonprofit, which means book acquisition, operating the library, soliciting donations, hosting events and workshops and mentoring young women. I also run our online discussion forum. The feature I am most proud of is our Potpourri quiz. It is a fun, easy way for me to provide information about women of color writers and other women who have made important contributions to society.

Q10. What is your 'biggest noise post' over the past year ... the one that you took the most heat over from your readers?

Our blog is still in its infancy stage. While our group was formed in 2005, the blog was created the end of 2007, and we’re just now really getting a solid footing. I’d say I have stirred the pot more on a few occasions as a participant on other blogs. Most recently I expressed an unpopular opinion during a discussion about a book about rape. I criticized the tone and direction of the discussion, which I felt was dismissive and counterproductive. I knew saying so wasn’t going to be well received (there was a barrage of complaints) but that didn’t matter. I felt it was important to speak up. And for me, it isn’t about being right or convincing others of my point of view, it is about speaking up. Audre Lorde wrote our silence does not save us so it’s best we speak our truth. The goal isn’t to convince others to agree with me and I don’t want others’ approval. The goal is dialogue, the exchange of ideas and considering other perspectives. As long as we’re challenging the message and not attacking the messenger, there shouldn’t be any censorship.
Our thanks to LaTonya for taking time to share her thoughts with us. I encourage villagers to participate in online contest by Color Online to promote Zetta Elliot's recent book!
I hope that villagers enjoy this new feature!

March 16, 2009

Class Action Suit Charges Turner Industries (Paris TX) With Racism

Two citizens from Paris TX, the most racist city in America, filed a class action complaint that could lead to a federal investigation. [SOURCE]

The two citizens are both employed by Turner Industries, one of the largest employers in Paris TX. Photographs from inside the pipe fabrication factory show painted confederate flags on everything from protective headgear to cell phones. There are also photos of a hangman's noose and racist graffiti on a restroom wall, most of which is too offensive to show on our family-friendly blog.

Turner employee Dontrail Mathis said, "I've been threatened with job demotions and terminations" for bringing this racism to the public's attention".

Turner employee Karl Mitchell said, "To me, some of the stories remind me of 1950's Mississippi. "It's created what I believe is a plantation like environment; where you walk in the door, you know your place and if you step out of place you will be punished."

Turner Industries responded as follows – "On March 4th, Turner formed an employee task force, made up of a cross-section of workers, to assist in promoting and maintaining a work place that is free of harassment or discrimination. We have zero tolerance for any behavior in the work place that disparages any employee."

Black employees who filed the complaint say the racist atmosphere they've experienced at the plant intensified after two key events – first, the murder of Brandon McLelland and second, the election of President Obama.

Villagers, I'm glad to see that these two Turner employees are taking legal action. I wish them both well. What are your thoughts on the situation in Paris TX?

Online Activism: Call Gov. Mark Sanford’s Office Today

Members of, the nation's largest online African American advocacy group, are scheduled to flood South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's office with phone calls today demanding that he accept the full amount of federal stimulus funds intended to buoy his struggling state's economy.

The effort is set to launch just days after Sanford announced he may refuse nearly a quarter of the stimulus dollars, including those targeted for education, unemployment benefits and other social programs. The group said it expected to tie up the lines at Sanford's office throughout the day with hundreds of calls to drive home the importance of putting economic recovery -- in South Carolina and throughout the country -- before political posturing.

Villagers know my perspective on Sanford. I think he has 'mad cow disease'.

The callers are among more than 28,000 members who recently signed an open letter to Sanford and five other Republican governors who have threatened to reject federal stimulus funds. The letter urges them to put their constituents' well-being ahead of their desire to build their own national profiles within the Republican party.

Sanford, chair of the Republican Governors Association, has said he would accept a portion of the stimulus funds only if he can use it to pay down debt, a position that Executive Director James Rucker called indefensible.

"As people in South Carolina struggle with this recession, Governor Sanford has decided to stand in the way of the help," said Rucker. "It's obvious even to Republicans in South Carolina that this has nothing to do with what's best for the state -- it's all about scoring political points."

"Schools in South Carolina can’t afford for thousands of teachers to lose their jobs, and neither can America’s economy," Rucker continued. "But it seems like Governor Sanford thinks that currying favor with the far right of his political party is more important than stopping the economic bleeding."
The group noted that Black South Carolinians, nearly a third of the state's population, will be hit particularly hard by Sanford's decision to reject stimulus funds. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Blacks in that state are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. The state's jobless rate, at 10.4%, is second highest in the country.

New AfroSpear Member: The Loop

We are proud to introduce you to the newest member of the AfroSpear ... Crystal Smith. Crystal is a member of a blogging team that created The Loop (BBR #1020) on August 25, 2008.

Crystal wrote, "The Loop is a daily news analysis site written from a Black or minority perspective. We cover economics, politics, social and cultural issues and race.

We also have a citizen journalism component called Speak Out in which people can post their opinions and comments about the issues and news in our world today.

We think the goal of The AfroSpear is to engage people around topics that are important to us all - Black progress, race, politics and our history. The group would serve as a platform as well as an information source for news. The Loop would contribute by engaging in conversation and updating everyone on the issues we are writing and talking about. We have special reports in which we write a series of content on a particular issue impacting the Black community. We are all about Black opinion and conversation."
I encourage villagers to take a moment to truly explore The Loop. It has more content than most blogs you will find in the afrosphere. I look forward to future collaboration with Crystal and her partners over at The Loop.

Welcome to the AfroSpear young sista!

March 15, 2009

President's Weekly Address: Reversing a Troubling Trend in Food Safety

In this week's address, President Barack Obama makes key announcements regarding the safety of our nation's food.

"We are a nation built on the strength of individual initiative. But there are certain things that we can't do on our own. There are certain things that only a government can do. And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat, and the medicines we take, are safe and don't cause us harm."
Watch the weekly address below to learn more about the President's measures to make the food that lands on our dinner tables safer.

Sunday Inspiration: The Canton Spirituals

I was driving around town yesterday to do some chores. While I was flipping through the stations to find something to listen to on the radio a song came on that knocked me down. I never heard the song before. I never heard of the group that sings the song. In fact, I came to the channel after the song was already in progress ... so all I had was the song itself.

Through the magic of the Internet I was able to locate the 'Clean Up' song performed by The Canton Spirituals.

I have no idea what you'll think when you hear this song ... I do hope that you'll give a small prayer for me as you listen! [James 5:16]

Your Villager has a wide smile on his face. It is overwhelming to realize that God ain't finished with me yet! [1 John 1:9]

March 14, 2009

Top 10 Michael Steele Blunders

Michael Steele may not be the new face of the Republican Party for much longer. It appears that forces within the GOP are rising up against him.

I always thought that the life of a Black Republican must be lonely, but, I never imagined that the 33% of the Black RNC members would turn on him so quickly.

Most of Bro. Steele's problems are self-inflicted. He holds the world record for the least amount of time between (a) making a public statement on some political issue and (b) publicaly apologizing for making the statement. His political will appears to be made of taffy, not steel.

However, I have to give him credit for one thing. He gives a much more interesting interview than GOP leaders of the past.

Here are the top 10 blunders from Michael Steele randomly selected from his first six weeks in office:
  1. Failure to hire chief of staff, communications director
  2. Flip flop on abortion
  3. Sends 'slum love' to Bobby Jindal
  4. Offensive comments about 'one-armed midgets'
  5. Failed showdown with Rush Limbaugh
  6. Shut down idea for GOP policy think tank
  7. Lack of support for GOP platform position on gay marriages
  8. Sought to give GOP more 'hip-hop credibility'
  9. Thinks he is in the business of ticking people off.
  10. Threatens to withhold RNC Funds from moderate GOP senators
Things are so bad that the Baltimore Public School system wants Steele to apologize!

Villagers ... what do you think? Has Michael Steele been treated unfairly in these first few weeks as the GOP leader? Any estimates on when he will be either removed or forced to resign?

Obama's Personal Efforts to Stimulate Our Economy

March 13, 2009

Does Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) Have 'Mad Cow Disease'? He Compares Obama to Robert Mugabe

Someone needs to remind South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose state has the second-worst-in-the-nation 10.4 percent unemployment rate, that "people who live in glass houses should not throw stones". I suspect that the unemployment rate for African Americans in South Carolina is approaching 20%.

Sanford is a failed Republican politician. He failed to bring jobs into his state ... failed to provide water, sewage, bridges, roads and other infrastructure projects that would attract economic development ... failed to deal with dispair by students in South Carolina. Instead he rants about the Obama presidency.

Sanford has been telling anyone who will listen that he is against the stimulus package passed into law last month. He's made wild comparisons of the United States to pre-Hitler Germany and 1920s Argentina. This week he ramped up his rhetoric when he compared President Obama and other supporters of the stimulus package to the economic policies of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

"What you're doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don't have, send it to different states - we'll create jobs... If that's the case why isn't Zimbabwe a rich place?"..."why isn't Zimbabwe just an incredibly prosperous place. Cause they're printing money they don't have and sending it around to their different - I don't know the towns in Zimbabwe but that same logic is being applied there with little effect."

Sanford is saying that our situation is comparable to Zimbabwe, a nation in the throes of an economic meltdown:
Personally, I think it is time for the citizens of South Carolina to bitch-slap Gov. Sanford. The Democratic National Committee is more diplomatic in their response video:

What is your take on Gov. Mark Sanford?

Blog Safari #29

Every once in awhile we come across some great blog posts that we want to share with others. We use our 'Blog Safari' to point out these talented bloggers and creative blog posts to interested villagers. Follow my Rhino-Guide (she needs a name!) on this journey thru the cyber-jungle. Enjoy the flow!!
Let us know if you come across any remarkable posts that should be shared in our next Blog Safari!