March 17, 2016
By Armstrong Williams
NNPA News Wire Columnist
As the proud owner of NBC 25 in Flint, Michigan, it is important for us to understand the community and to become a part of it as much as we can. As a station owner, we have the ability to elevate the needs and concerns of the downtrodden, hold those in power accountable and showcase the resilience of Flint, and it’s a responsibility that we don’t take lightly.
We read about the water crisis facing Flint and the failure of the people in power and were appalled. It was the failure of government that abandoned the most vulnerable, leaving them with many unanswered questions. I even added my perspective on the crisis. But that wasn’t enough; I wanted to feel the emotions on the ground, to understand the crisis through first-hand experience because too often in reporting, the people are ignored for political spin. And after our day in Flint, we can tell you that the personal resilience of the people of Flint is highly under-reported.
When we first arrived on Monday morning February 29, we went straight to city hall where many were there in search of answers. It was at the counter for free water filters’ that we met a young, single mother, who is also a student, and her young daughter. The mother relayed to us a story about how her daughter had elevated levels of lead. She was at a lost for what to do, but she knew she had to get the water filters for her daughter. She was worried about her daughter’s future, what it would look like, and what could she do as a mother to improve her daughter’s chances? We had no answers, but we did have empathy, and we genuinely cared, and it was obvious that the mother appreciated that someone wanted to hear her story. My heart goes out to her and her daughter, and reminded me that this is not a temporary crisis, but one whose effect will reverberate throughout Flint for a generation if not more.
City hall was littered with people who wanted their stories heard. There were women there who had done their own research into the crisis and dug up documents that proved officials knew about the dangers of the lead levels long before the public. All of the people we met in city hall wanted answers, but more importantly, they were there to try as best as they knew how to help the community they love. This is how we started to love the people of Flint.
From city hall, we went to a firehouse where the National Guard was stationed handing out clean water to residents. The men and women of the National Guard were standing outside on a cold, damp day handing out cases and cases of water to anyone who drove up. They did not complain about the weather, or the heavy lifting, or about being on their feet all day. They were there for the community. We watched and even participated in loading the water into cars. We spoke to as many of the drivers as possible. We wanted to hear their stories. Most came daily to pick up multiple cases of water. Many had children who they worried about; most did not have the money to move away. It was after speaking to so many drivers that we came to understand why the National Guard did not complain about being outside in the freezing cold– they were the lucky ones.
After spending time with people at the firehouse, we wanted to see firsthand the living conditions of the city, where 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. It was there that we saw what seemed like abandoned houses on every block. A couple of people welcomed our team into their homes. There we heard and saw firsthand what it was like not to be able to take hot baths, or drink water from the tap. We saw cases upon cases of water stacked up everywhere the eye could see. We heard tales about how it took hours to fill up baths with enough clean hot water so they could clean themselves. A hot bath, something we take for granted, was so precious to them. They also relayed to us how many of their neighbors did not own cars, so they could not go to the fire stations to pick up the water. Instead, the community pitched in. Those with cars drove those without cars, or just picked up a couple of extra cases for the elderly or infirmed.
After witnessing the strength of the people, we headed to a town hall my WEYI NBC25 Flint station was hosting. We had elected officials, doctors, and professors all gathered to talk with the community about the water crisis. The goal was to bring together the community so the citizens could have their voices heard and so the people could learn what they could do to help. So many of the people we encountered wanted to help, but were unable to due to lack of guidance and a lack of answers about what would actually help.
At the town hall, the passion surrounding the crisis was evident. The auditorium was nearly packed and from the first question, it was evident that the residents were sick of excuses and wanted to action. There was blame enough to go around but instead of blame the citizens wanted answers. The time for political buck-passing was over; the time for answers was now. There was a couple of occasions where emotions rose to a fevered pitched and for good reasons. After being in Flint for nearly twelve hours digging into the issue, I found myself getting upset. I saw the pain and suffering the residents were enduring, and at the town hall, I experienced the hopelessness they felt. No one had answers. No one could tell the residents when the crisis would be resolved, how the city was going to deal with the long-term health issues, when they would be able to drink the water, or when the pipes were going to be replaced.
The hour and a half town hall allowed us to hear every side of the issue. When we walked in we expected we would have a better feeling about the crisis facing the residents, but sadly we felt worse. There was nothing we could do at the moment to help, other than listen to the citizens and give them a platform. But we could not change the pipes, we couldn’t fix all of their problems and no one on the stage could either.
The people of Flint deserve better. The elected officials need to stop seeking blame and start seeking solutions. They need to act now, because the people of Flint cannot wait any longer. The government failed them when it created the crisis and is failing now with their lack of response.
After we left the town hall, we came to one conclusion—the people of Flint are resilient, their elected officials are not, but that isn’t stopping the citizens of Flint from trying to save their community.
March 10, 2016
By Deric Muhammad
As the first Black president makes his historic exit at stage right, the applause (as well as the boos) will be deafening. The writers, commentators, shock jocks, barber shop scholars and everyone else with a political opinion are already busy debating whether or not the Obama presidency was a stumbling block or a stepping stone for Black America. I will be honest; in a lot of ways, I’m torn on the subject. However, if I am “4K clear” on anything in this life, it’s how much I love, admire and respectful First Lady Michelle Obama. I know many Black men who quietly feel the same. And yes, I will probably miss her being in the White House more than I will miss her brilliant husband. No shade.
Let’s get something straight. My admiration for Mrs. Obama has nothing to do with her external beauty. You can calm down Brother Barack. As a matter of fact, if we could all be honest, she does not fit the stereotypical mold of what is considered beauty by European standards. As a Black First Lady she has been viciously attacked for not being ashamed of her African features. I’d get more “pi***d off” when they insulted her than when they insulted her husband. But she always bore it with grace, poise, elegance and unwavering commitment to social change. The only time you saw her sweat was when she was deep into one of her epic workouts. Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Eleanor Roosevelt be damned; nobody did it like Michelle Obama. Nobody!
She was an activist in the fight against Childhood Obesity. She was a staunch advocate of healthy eating. She encouraged America to exercise regularly; her fit frame setting the powerful example of how a woman over 50 can maintain a youthful figure the natural way. She encouraged the youth to “Reach Higher” in education beyond high school through vocational training, professional training programs or a four year degree. She wasn’t afraid to link up with Beyoncé and others for a good cause despite what her critics had to say about it. She straight up walked into the White House as “Michelle from the South Side of Chi-town” and it looks like she’s about the walk out just like she walked in. Jay-Z said it best on his epic album “The Blueprint”… “I’ll Neva Change!” Michelle didn’t.
Now, let’s get to the main message. I’ve logged in hours of conversation with Black men over the years about what’s so awe inspiring about Mrs. Obama. Again, it’s not just her external beauty or her “strong sista” energy. Her level of intelligence is the stuff of legends. It is no secret that most women are more intelligent than their significant others. So when your husband was smart enough to outsmart the smartest of the smart in America’s political arena, what does that say about the woman who can handle him even when the best minds on Capitol Hill can’t?
Michelle Obama could be considered a head of state in her own right. She could run for any office in the country and either win or be very competitive. But she is so low-key you could easily miss the greatness of her greatness. She is the greatest First Lady to ever grace 1600 Pennsylvania and I hope she leaves a flatiron, a few bobby pins, Black Barbie dolls and Maze feat. Frankie Beverly CDs behind for the next First Lady to clean up after her. If anybody painted the White House black, it was FLOTUS.
Lastly, but most importantly, the reason we as Black men love Michelle Obama so much is due to her unwavering support of her husband. Despite the fact that her intelligence rivals his, she doesn’t feel the need to become his rival. Unfortunately, we see this too often in relationships. Michelle went from Whitney Young Magnet School to Princeton University to Harvard Law School. She was speaking French in middle school, graduated as salutatorian of her high school class and excelled Barack in many respects academically. While he was smoking weed and reading Frantz Fanon, she was murdering the books. She went on to work at a prestigious law firm, became a power broker at Chicago City Hall and then a decorated dean at University of Chicago as well as other accomplishments. Imagine a woman with this kind of education, intelligence and extensive resumé meeting a scrawny half-White nerdy Negro who is saying he wants to use his law degree to become a community organizer? Many women would have looked at him and said “Negro please.” But Michelle saw in him what others missed.
When Michelle met Barack he wasn’t riding in Air Force One. He was probably catching the city bus. He was smart, but not set. He had potential, but it had not been realized. He had big ears and a cigarette habit. Her father may not have seen him as the ideal for his daughter, but it evidently didn’t matter. SHE BELIEVED! If this article could be summed up in two words they would be, “She Believed.” Her husband had a vision and she subordinated her individual aspirations to help him realize that vision and it paid off. Be clear, there is no Barack without Michelle. One of the 4’s in the historic “44” definitely belongs to her.
At the end of the day, every man wants a woman who will be by his side whether he's worth "2 mil" or just enough to buy "2 meals." Black men love Michelle Obama because she used her intelligence to compliment her man; not to compete with him. I don't know what the future holds for her, but I'm sure it's neon bright. Keep inspiring us Sister Michelle. You will always be FLOTUS in my book.
Now Mrs. Obama is not the only sister out here supporting her husband's vision. And the flip side is that if we as men want that support, we must have a vision and be working towards it. A woman can't support a man who is doing nothing. And we, as men, have to be found being just as supportive. If you have a good man that's going somewhere, try and stick by him. Who knows? You might end up flat ironing your hair on Air Force One.
March 10, 2016
By Nolan V. Rollins
President of the Los Angeles Urban League
Los Angeles has long been a city where great wealth lives next door to chronic poverty. While our economy is gradually recovering from the Great Recession, many of us don’t see it when we look out our window in Crenshaw. Here, hard-working Angelenos find it difficult to make ends meet. While city-wide the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8%, unemployment among black men is still at crisis levels: about 30% of 20- to 24-year-old black men were out of work and out of school in 2014.
For nearly 100 years, the Los Angeles Urban League has been on the frontlines of combating inequality and unemployment in our city. As the nation’s oldest and one of its largest civil rights organizations, we take pride in our innovative job training, job placement, youth achievement, and business development programs.
That’s why we’re excited to launch a new initiative with Uber called Work on Demand -- a partnership to onboard 12,000 new drivers in 12 months in communities ranging from South and East Los Angeles to Crenshaw and Pacoima.
We have tremendous support with the Work on Demand initiative. On March 10, we stood shoulder to shoulder with partners Councilwoman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, PV JOBS, NAACP, CRDC, the Goodwill, the Youth Policy Institute, MCS, Chrysalis, and many other local organizations dedicated to serving the community.
Companies like Uber are game-changers for underserved communities in Los Angeles. Even before we launched Work on Demand, our community felt the positive impact of rides on demand for everyone, no matter who you are or where you’re going. Before Uber, “destination discrimination” was rampant - it could be nearly impossible to hail a cab in certain neighborhoods. With Uber, transportation comes straight to our houses, schools, and businesses to pick us up.
Now Uber is demonstrating that it also wants to be an integral community partner. Their commitment means that 12,000 people will have the opportunity to earn extra money to help pay bills and support their families. Twelve thousand people will have the freedom and flexibility to set schedules and work whenever they need additional income. That’s the beauty of work of demand - work fits your life, not the other way around.
And as a part of their effort to bring on 12,000 new drivers partners, Uber will also be providing skill-building courses and information sessions to pave the way for greater economic opportunity.
The Urban League is proud to be a part of the Work On Demand initiative. It’s creating badly-needed work opportunities here in Crenshaw and beyond. We encourage policymakers to see the potential of this new economic model that is making a difference in communities that need it most. Imagine a world where finding work is as easy as pressing a button. We’re excited to see where this ride takes us.
March 03, 2016
By Raynard Jackson
NNPA News Wire Columnist
Another election cycle, another year of Blacks being sold out by their media-appointed leadership.
Why am I the only one who seems amazed at how Hillary Clinton is so ostentatiously pimping Black folks for her own personal gain? Clinton has spent more time in the Black community in the past three weeks than she has in her entire adult life and has invoked the name of “Obama” more than the sum total of all Blacks collectively.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), like the lapdogs that they are, have almost uniformly endorsed her candidacy; all the media-appointed civil rights groups and individuals have either outrightly or tacitly endorsed her.
Groups like the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), the NAACP, the National Urban League are nothing more than sycophantic supporters of all things Democratic.
I have a few questions for these groups that have blindly sold out the very Black community that they claim to represent. Can anyone name me something specific that Hillary has done for the Black community in her more than quarter of a century in public life? Why has Hillary, the self-avowed feminist who is married to the “first Black president,” not publically demanded Obama nominate or even just consider nominating a Black female to the vacant Supreme Court seat? Why is it that the media-appointed Black leaders are just happy Hillary shows up to meet with them and take photographs?
Isn’t it amazing that she never addresses the high unemployment rate in the Black community? Isn’t it amazing that she never discusses meeting with any Black entrepreneurs? Isn’t it amazing that she never discusses Black-on-Black crime?
All the Blacks she meets with make their living off the negative pathologies prevalent in the Black community. If the Black community actually started solving problems like unemployment, teenage pregnancy, poor schools, etc.; how and where would the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the CBC get their funding or justify their continued service in the United States Congress?
Observing Hillary’s interaction with the Black community, one would conclude that all Blacks are involved in some aspect of the criminal justice system. As shocking as it might seem to liberal Democrats, most Blacks have nothing to do with the criminal justice system; but yet that seems to be all that she talks about relative to Blacks.
Will she ever address how under Obama, the continued existence of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) is in doubt?
The average Black voter has no allegiance to Hillary and the Democratic Party; this is why I am so frustrated with the Republican Party.
The average Black voter is open to Republican solutions to Black unemployment, stronger enforcement of housing discrimination laws, school choice, civil and voting rights legislation, etc.
The Republican Congress must begin to engage with Blacks on substantive policy issues. Republican presidential candidates must begin to discuss Black entrepreneurship, school choice, and racial disparities with an eye towards proffering solutions.
We already know that Hillary and the Democrats will use fear to try to get Black voter turnout up. They know they have nothing of substance to say to motivate Blacks to vote Democrat, but they also know that Republicans are totally inept when it comes to engaging with the Black community.
Democrats will use the usual mantras: Republicans want to suppress the Black vote, they want to repeal civil rights laws, they want to build more jails for Blacks, etc.
Of course, none of these accusations are rooted in fact.
Republicans will reflexively go to all the liberal Black conventions (NAACP, Urban League, etc.) in their bizarre attempt to prove they are not racist; but they never demand any concessions from these groups like they would from a White group.
I have constantly advised Republicans to refuse to speak to any Black conventions unless they agree to put Black Republicans on their various panels throughout the week of their meetings. To my astonishment, their response is, “We can’t do that. We need them more than they need us.”
Let me interpret that statement for you. They are afraid to play hardball with Black groups because they “may” be called racist by the liberal media.
I am amazed at how much of the interactions Republicans have with the Black community is out of fear of being labeled a racist, as opposed to engaging with the Black community based on a set of shared values and interests.
Between both political parties, there have been close to twenty presidential debates; and no substantive discussion on the Black unemployment rate, the decline of HBCUs, or Black entrepreneurship. Why?
Black media, especially Black newspapers, are totally invisible in the presidential debates in both parties. Both parties are tripping over themselves with Hispanic media and addressing issues specific to that community; but with Blacks, not so much.
This despite the fact that Blacks vote at a much higher percentage than Hispanics and Blacks have a much larger voting age population (VAP).
Both parties fear Black people. The Democrats fear that Blacks won’t turn out without Obama being on the ballot; Republicans fear Blacks won’t vote for a Republican. Both are equally wrong.
Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC is an internationally recognized political consulting, government affairs, and PR firm based in Washington, DC. Jackson is an internationally recognized radio talk show host and TV commentator. He has coined the phrase “straticist.” As a straticist, he has merged strategic planning with public relations. Visit his website at: www.raynardjackson.com.