November 14, 2013
By Stacy M. Brown
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer
Republican senators who blocked the confirmation of an African-American congressman to lead a key federal agency should brace themselves for a major fight with Democrats and numerous minority agencies that support President Barack Obama’s nominee.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has joined others in the Democratic Party as well as a number of black and minority leaders in denouncing the Senate in its vote against the appointment of Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to the post of director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
“The conversation on rules changes can’t come fast enough for me,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “The failure to confirm Watt is a government shutdown by another tactic,” said Murphy, 40.
While Murphy and others have sought to change the rules on confirmations, senior Democrats said they were hesitant to do so out of fear they would regret it when Republicans gain control of the Senate.
The Senate voted 56-42, on Oct. 31, to end the blockade against Watt, falling four votes shy of the 60 needed to prevail and secure confirmation.
“What happened has only occurred once in the history of this Congress,” said CBC Chair Marcia Fudge. “This is a disgrace to this body and a disservice to the American people,” said Fudge, 60.
Prior to the Senate vote, several political and civic groups voiced concern that the GOP would not give Watt a fair shake.
Many said the congressman had already proven that he deserved confirmation.
“If Watt is not confirmed, it would set a disturbing new precedent for our nation,” Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, located in Northwest Washington, D.C., said one day prior to the vote, on Oct. 30.
“No sitting member of Congress has been successfully filibustered since the Civil War,” said Henderson, 65, during a conference call, which included officials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the National Urban League.
The CBC organized the call in which participants answered questions from various national media outlets.
Watt, 68, has served for 20 years as a congressman from North Carolina.
Republicans claimed that Watt lacked the expertise for the job that includes overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the government sponsored housing corporations, which control the vast majority of the U.S. mortgage market.
Supporters maintain that Watt is not only qualified, but has a history of promoting legislation that would have averted the recent housing crisis.
“It is virtually unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress to be rejected by the U.S. Senate,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. “I urge his immediate confirmation,” said Waters, 75.
Rep. Caleb Cushing (D-Mass.), who served in Congress from 1835 to 1843, had his bid blocked by the Senate when President John Tyler nominated him to become Treasury secretary. It’s the last time the Senate blocked a nomination of a sitting member of Congress.
Born in Mecklenburg County, N.C., Watt graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1967 with a degree in business administration.
November 14, 2013
By Dr. Barbara Reynolds
"TEAR DOWN THAT WALL" was once the cry of former President Ronald Reagan to tear down a barrier between East and West Germany that walled in hatred for one another.
That wall did come down. Pastor Jynona Norwood carries a similar hope that a wall commemorating those involved in the murder and forced suicide of more than 900 innocent people, including 305 children ranging from ages 3 months to 18 years, will also come down. The innocents died in a South American jungle of Guyana upon the orders of Rev. Jim Jones, who had promised a socialist paradise that turned into a slave camp; then a death trap.
In 1979, Norwood organized the first community memorial in San Francisco amidst a standing-room-only crowd of bewildered and shocked San Franciscans and dignitaries. From walk-a-thons to prayer vigils a dedicated committee continues their valuable work in remembering the children who were there through no fault of their own.
Every year, they pause to reflect at the mass gravesite, where 406 bodies lay, including 40 infants in Oakland. Norwood has dogged determination to ensure that we never forget Jonestown and never forget that Jim Jones has been honored on the children's sacred final resting place by his followers and family.
Pastor Norwood calls the current memorial the "Wall of Shame" as it places Jones alongside the innocent children. With the support of more than 100 celebrities and political leaders, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the House, the impassioned pastor envisions a new memorial that cherishes the memory of the children.
In a recent letter to Pastor Norwood, Pelosi said, "Cherishing the Children Memorial Wall will provide a place of comfort and solace to the Children's relatives and loved ones as well as to those who wish to honor the memory of Congressman Leo Ryan and all those who lost their lives."
This memorial would honor the innocent victims, including Rep. Leo Ryan, who was also murdered in the Jonestown massacre and not the shameful perpetrators, Norwood said.
In addition to Pelosi, she has garnered the backing of many other notables over the years.
"My special gratitude goes to Dr. Jynona Norwood for her remarkable compassion and determination to gather the funds and resources needed for your memorial," wrote then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif) applauded Norwood for her perseverance. "Thank you for all of the work you are doing to create this memorial and your commitment to those in our community most in need."
Norwood is pastor of Miracles of Action Faith Center, which is formerly Family Christian Cathedral in Inglewood, Calif. Four decades ago, the young evangelist had a warning dream of tragedy awaiting those who would follow Jim Jones from his California churches to Jonestown.
She vigorously warned against making the trip to Guyana. Her warning went unheeded and 27 loved ones in her own family, including her beloved mother with her 3-month-old Charles Garry Henderson, perished. Fortunately, she kidnapped/rescued her son who was being raised by her family while she traveled as a minister, forcing him not to go to Jonestown with their family, a courageous move that saved his life.
Shortly after the massacre, Norwood started a campaign and a fundraising drive to honor the 305 children and Congressman Ryan. Her plans were sadly interrupted when, in her words, "A shameful wall that includes the name of the perpetrator of these horrors, alongside the names of the innocent children was erected at Evergreen, the mass gravesite where 40 infants and most all of the 305 innocent children lay in their final resting place. All public donations went to Evergreen's vendor as ordered by Evergreen. Not one penny ever went to a private individual."
In an effort to keep public attention and public pressure on erecting the new wall and honoring the children who are the true victims of Jonestown, Norwood is releasing a book called Remember Me Today, Look at me Tomorrow on November 18th, the 35th anniversary of Jonestown.
The new book is the first of a 10 volume series which, through interviews with their parents, children and other loved ones, look to the future of who the children might have been and what they could have accomplished had they been allowed to live. Would they have been scientists, teachers, preachers, athletes, a Nobel Peace Prize winner or the President of the United States of America? To stress the point of their future even further, Norwood's book also features age progressions, which are enhanced photographs of the children of how they aged and would look today if they had lived and fulfilled their destinies.
Norwood said, "The book will examine what lessons can be learned from their lives. What lessons can be learned from their death? Some actually saw the abuse before their family left for Jonestown but were either unable to communicate it to their families or were ignored when they did. This book includes family friendly resources on how to keep your children safe, who to call and information that will lead your children to safety when in dangerous situations."
Norwood appropriately contrasts the murders in Jonestown with the more recent deaths at Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Imagine - if you will - that a memorial was erected to the victims of Sandy Hook and Columbine shootings, and that the names of the shooters were included on the memorial to the victims as victims themselves? Would you not be outraged? This is exactly what has happened in Oakland at the site of the memorial to the victims of Jonestown.
Pre-ordering of the Children's Tribute Edition, Look at Me Today, Remember Me Tomorrow,will start on the 35th year anniversary, November 18th, on the website www.305ICANR.com. The first 1,000 pre-orders will receive the book at retail price and the DVD version at a discounted rate of $10.00 on December 8. The E-Book version will be released before December 8th. Supporters will gather at the official 35th Annual Jonestown Memorial for the 305 Innocent Children, Congressman Leo Ryan and the over 900 victims on Monday, November 18, 2013 at 11 a.m. at the Evergreen Cemetery, 6450 Camden Avenue, Oakland, Calif. Fraternities, speakers, singers, dancers and children will be performing to honor and remember the true victims.
November 14, 2013
By CARLEY PETESCH
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Nelson Mandela’s family is no stranger to the public eye — its successes and trials have been aired for decades in films, books and the news media.
Granddaughter Zoleka Mandela’s story, perhaps, is the one that no one saw coming. The 33-year-old launched a book in South Africa Tuesday, “When Hope Whispers,” that recounts her family’s involvement in the fight against South Africa’s white minority regime, her struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, the loss of two of her children and her fight against breast cancer.
The book’s publication comes as Nelson Mandela, 95, is in critical but stable condition, under intensive medical care at his Johannesburg home, after being discharged in September from a lengthy hospitalization.
“There’s a social responsibility, I can’t run away from, and instead I feel I embrace it,” Zoleka told The Associated Press about being a Mandela. “One of the things I learned so much about my grandparents is that you always have the power in you to make a difference in somebody else’s life despite your own challenges, and I think that's what I’m trying to do.”
Through her detailed accounts, Zoleka said she hopes to inspire women going through chemotherapy, addicts looking for silver linings and parents struggling with the loss of their children.
Zoleka’s childhood was anything but ordinary.
“By the time I was born, on 9 April 1980, my mother (Zindzi Mandela) knew how to strip and assemble an AK-47 in exactly thirty-eight seconds. She was twenty years old, trained in guerrilla warfare and already a full-fledged member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (the armed wing of the African National Congress),” says the book's opening line, describing her mother's participation in violent struggle against apartheid.
Before she was a year old, her grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, had already smuggled her into Robben Island prison so her grandfather could see her. Zoleka recounts a story told by her mother and grandmother of a time they said she helped her grandmother by hiding a hand grenade in her school bag, where police didn't look, though she still saw her grandmother arrested.
Her childhood brashness turned to teen rebellion when she abused alcohol and drugs. She writes of hiding drugs in her bra, smoking marijuana, drinking too much alcohol, doing lines of cocaine daily and the relationships that fueled her drug use and the suicidal thoughts that haunted her.
The book reveals that Zoleka was hospitalized after a suicide attempt in June 2010 when her 13-year-old daughter Zenani died in a car crash on the way back from a concert that opened the World Cup soccer tournament.
“I hadn’t seen my daughter for 10 days before her passing, and I hadn’t because I chose to use drugs. That’s obviously a reminder that I chose my addiction over my kids and I have to live with that for the rest of my life,” she said with a heavy sigh, her large brown eyes cast downward.
“I’m sincerely hoping that it’s seen as a cautionary tale to a lot of other parents,” she said. “I got myself clean, but it doesn’t bring her back.”
She lost another child days after he was born prematurely in 2011. Zoleka has one son, Zwelami, 10.
Following successful rehab, Zoleka now glows in sobriety.
The book also recounts her battle with breast cancer — she had a bilateral mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy.
“For me, what hurt me the most was I was losing my breasts. And my breasts was my connection to my kids,” she said.
She finished her chemo early in 2013 and said she wrote the book and will release video journals to encourage cancer survivors.
“My childhood wasn’t normal, my childhood wasn’t sheltered,” she said. “I’ve had these challenges in my life, these unbearable circumstances that have happened in my life and I’m using my own life experience to help somebody else that is struggling on their journey.”
November 14, 2013
By ALAN FRAM
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans blocked another of President Barack Obama’s picks for one of the nation’s top courts on Tuesday, the latest skirmish in a nominations battle that has intensified partisan tensions in the chamber.
The vote derailed Obama’s selection of Georgetown University law professor Cornelia Pillard to fill one of three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The roll call was 56-41 in favor of ending GOP procedural delays that have blocked Pillard from winning confirmation — four short of the 60 votes Democrats needed.
The D.C. circuit court is considered one of the nation’s most powerful because it rules on administration orders and regulations and because some of its judges ultimately become Supreme Court justices. The D.C. circuit’s eight current judges are divided evenly between Democratic and Republican nominees.
Democrats used Tuesday’s vote to assail Republicans for opposing female nominees to the D.C. circuit. Republicans have blocked votes on two other Obama nominees to the same court this year, attorneys Patricia Millett and Caitlin Halligan.
“Women are grossly underrepresented on our federal courts. So what kind of message are Senate Republicans sending by refusing to even allow a vote on three of the most qualified female attorneys in this country,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, top Republican on the Judiciary panel, called such arguments “offensive,” adding that Democrats’ “last line of defense is to accuse Republicans of opposing nominees based upon gender or race.”
Tuesday’s vote prompted Democrats to threaten anew to unilaterally rewrite Senate rules to make it harder for the chamber’s minority party to block nominations. Democrats could do that by curbing a minority’s ability to require 60 votes to end procedural delays called filibusters.
“Republicans are inching closer and closer to that line. I’d hope they’ll turn back,” said No. 3 Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
It is unclear that Democrats have enough votes to force such changes. Some senior lawmakers have long warned that it would boomerang against them should the GOP recapture the Senate majority and the White House.
In a sign of shifting attitudes, Leahy — a senator for nearly four decades — said he now backs a rules change because blocking judges for political reasons “destroys the integrity of the federal judiciary.”
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only two Republicans to vote “yes” on Pillard. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was the only Democrat to vote “no,” allowing him to stage the vote again.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the Pillard vote “a political exercise designed to distract the American people from the mess that is Obamacare,” a reference to major enrollment problems with the 2010 health care law. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Republicans were making “cynical arguments in an effort to maintain an ideological edge” among judges on the D.C. circuit.
Republicans have accused Obama of trying to tilt the court's balance in his direction to protect the fate of his administration’s policies. They say the D.C. circuit has a lighter caseload than other districts, and have proposed legislation eliminating one of its vacant judgeships and moving the two others to busier circuits.
Democrats say the GOP objections are purely political and that Republicans did not object to filling D.C. circuit vacancies when George W. Bush was president. They cite other statistics to argue that the D.C. circuit’s workload has changed little in recent years.
Pillard worked twice in the administration of President Bill Clinton — at the solicitor general's office, which handles Supreme Court cases, and later in the Justice Department. She’d previously worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court.
Another Obama nominee for the D.C. circuit, U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins, is expected to be considered by the Senate in coming days and seems likely to be blocked.