- Created on 22 March 2013
On March 4 Oberlin College in Ohio, which has always had an outsized role in the history of Black higher education, cancelled classes for a day and instead held a “Day of Solidarity” in response to a month-long series of hate speech being scrawled on various buildings, doors, and posters throughout the campus.
The words of hate were directed at Black, gay, and Jewish students, and students of Asian descent. According to Oberlin College officials, swastikas were drawn on some buildings and walls, “nigger” was written on some Black History Month posters, a note with the words “nigger + faggot center” was found in the college’s Multicultural Resource Center.
College officials said they made the decision to cancel classes for a day after a person wearing clothing – a robe and hood – that appeared to be similar to Ku Klux Klan garb was seen early that morning near the college’s Afrikan Heritage House. The action was taken, according to a statement released by the college, in order to undertake “a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks.”
Some, however, disagreed with the college’s cancelling of classes. For example, John S. Wilson, in a widely-circulated essay, criticized the decision. He said that it sent students the wrong message.
“By canceling classes and generally overreacting – let’s face it, racism and baseless discriminatory scrawls on posters and walls will never go away – Oberlin is only sheltering students instead of assisting them to overcome adversity, an action that would truly fortify their character,” Wilson wrote in an opinion piece for CNN.com. “What example does this set for students, many of whom will soon be in the workforce? If a supervisor or co-worker offends them, who will be there then to host their day of solidarity?”
Although college officials, the local police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have yet to determine the source of these incidents, no more have occurred since the “day of solidarity.”
Nonetheless, at first thought, what happened at Oberlin College early this month, and the reaction to it may seem like “old news” now.
But it’s still very much worth discussing – because what happened at Oberlin and the reaction to it is never old news, especially in racial terms. Quite the contrary: it represents both a specific reaction to the current demographic transformation of the United States and – especially for Black Americans – one of the continuing themes of their existence in America.
This is why Wilson, whose essay shows him fully aware of American society’s persisting dynamic of discrimination, is wrong to describe Oberlin day of solidarity as meaningless, or even harmful.
For one thing, the hate-speech incidents, admittedly few in number, had been occurring for a month. In a close-knit college community the size of Oberlin – its enrollment is just 2,800 students – and in a small town in which the Oberlin campus literally sits in the town square, were these incidents targeting select numbers of Oberlin’s students to continue to be ignored?
The answer is no. Oberlin’s founding in the 1830s as a progressive institution led it to almost immediately begin regularly enrolling African Americans. So, in historical terms, Oberlin had a special duty to stop for a day its “normal” conduct of business and re-affirm its principles of tolerance.
That’s the Oberlin-centric context justifying a day of solidarity.
The broader scope takes in what is happening in the country at large – which was reflected in the very breadth of the hate-speech attacks at Oberlin itself.
Oberlin is not the only college in the land where such hatred against the presence of Black students, or Jewish students, or gay students, or students of Asian descent, or … — you get the picture – have occurred. Nor have such attacks been limited to furtive scrawls by persons unknown. We’ve seen them on placards carried at conservative political rallies. We’ve heard them from conservative politicians in high and low places. We’ve read them in scurrilous e-mails denigrating President Obama and the First Family.
The nation is changing; and there are, still, some significant number of people who don’t like the fact that all sorts of Americans who once had to be content with second-class status are now surging to claim their full-citizenship rights, their freedom.
As for Wilson’s worry that Oberlin’s “day of solidarity” will make students less able to deal with the discrimination they’ll face in the workforce, I say look to the Black college graduates of predominantly White colleges of the past 40 or so years. Many of them endured similar experiences during their undergraduate years. Many of them took part in “days of solidarity” or the like against such actions.
I think very few of them, if any, would say their ability to cope with the discrimination they subsequently found in the workplace was weakened by studying at an early age the various ways one can respond positively to acts of bigotry.
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.
- Created on 21 March 2013
Morehouse College, one of the most distinguished historically black colleges — with graduates like Dr. Martin Luther King, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, film director Spike Lee and others — literally shut down for spring break this week. As its 2,000 students took their break, every member of the faculty and staff was furloughed without pay as the college struggles to balance its books.
The crisis at Morehouse, which will hit other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) even harder, results from the combination of foul economic times and continued cuts in support for students and colleges at the federal and state level.
African-Americans have dramatically less wealth than white families. To pay for advanced education, students piece together grants, work, family contributions and loans. Morehouse lost 200 students, part of 10,000 students in HBCUs affected, when the Department of Education suddenly tightened eligibility requirements for Parent Plus Loans that lend to eligible parents to help pay for their children's college costs.
The average Plus loan at Morehouse was $22,000 in 2010-11. Add to that the fact that college costs are rising, while the level of Pell grants is not, and colleges and faculties will be hit by the across-the-board "sequester" cuts at the federal level.
Morehouse is like the canary in the mine — an early warning signal. Student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion dollars, greater than credit card debt. A quarter of African-Americans graduate with debt over $30,000, along with 16 percent of white students. Student debt can't be erased in bankruptcy, or because of loss of a job.
About half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. In worse shape are the 30 percent of college students with loans who fail to graduate, often because they can't afford to continue. Student loans can be deferred, meaning that no payments are due, but the interest keeps building up. Eventually, they must be paid back, although defaults are rising.
Burdened with debt, graduates find it hard to pay for a car, a place to live and health care. They find it virtually impossible to save anything for the future.
President Obama understands that educating the next generation is vital to this country's future. In his first address to Congress, he pledged that "by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world." He then signed into law the largest increase in student aid since the GI Bill at the end of World War II.
But since then, rising college costs and declining federal and state support have pushed more costs onto students and their parents. Advanced education or training is increasingly imperative and unaffordable.
We will pay far more in the future for failing to educate this rising generation than we will save in cutting support for them.
We need a National Commission on College Affordability to review the rising costs of and the declining support for colleges and advanced training programs. It should recommend how the rise in college costs can be slowed and how to ensure that students are not priced out of the education they need nor condemned to debt servitude to get it.
That good students are forced to drop out of a distinguished school like Morehouse because they can't afford it is a warning sign. The furlough of Morehouse employees is a wake-up call. We need action before good schools fail and more good students are locked out.
- Created on 20 March 2013
The Black Women's Expo (TBWE), the number one national destination event for African American women in the Midwest, will return to McCormick Place April 5 - 7. The Expo is now in its 19th year and expected attendance is over 30,000. State Farm is serving as the title sponsor for the three-day exposition designed to empower, enlighten and educate women and girls of all ages. TBWE features informative seminars, insightful workshops, motivational speakers, bestselling authors and a variety of sponsored exhibits and pavilions. Walgreens will serve as the Presenting Sponsor of the 2013 event.
"The Expo's primary emphasis for 2013 event, as it has been for the past 18 years, is on the aspirations, opportunities and challenges of African American women", said Merry Green, president and CEO of MGPG Events and creator of the Expo. "Moreover, we are extremely excited about the power of our partnership with Real Times Media to further explore these themes".
In a unique partnership with Real Times Media (RTM) TBWE will now reach audiences across the nation. RTM is a multimedia conglomerate that oversees print, news, directories, media, digital, events and entertainment holdings in some 25 markets and will help extend the reach of TBWE to new markets across the country. The goal of the partnership is to leverage both organizations unique expertise in engagement marketing and event production and demonstrated success with large-scale multi-market events including the hugely successful "Who's Who" franchise.
"RTM has both the reach and resources to increase the visibility of TBWE, as the MGPG team continues its relentless focus on content and quality", says Hiram Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media. "Real Times Media has always realized the significance of the African American consumer, even more so we recognize the influence women have over household buying decisions. This partnership with MGPG Events and The Black Women's Expo is a match with unrivaled potential."
The Black Women's Expo continues to offer the perfect venue for small to mid-sized businesses and large corporations to reach the all-important African American consumer. African American consumers are over 42 million strong with an annual buying power of nearly one trillion dollars. At the Exhibitor Marketplace, businesses and corporations have the opportunity to reach out and touch this valued consumer segment at the grassroots level and expose them directly to their products and services through sales, distributions, and personal interactions.
As in previous years, TBWE will feature national experts in a variety of fields to address topics that are particularly important to African American women. Health and wellness, financial literacy, careers, business ownership, female-male relationships, green living, children's health and much more will be addressed in
a variety of settings. Expo Pavilions include Kidz Korner, Health & Wellness, Literary Café, Natural Hair and Relax & Renew. Additionally, TBWE will be announcing their live entertainment line-up shortly.
TBWE has introduced a number of innovations for 2013, sure to be a hit with attendees and vendors. As in past years The Black Women's Expo will host its Phenomenal Woman Awards Gala on Thursday April 4.
Follow the conversation using #theblackwomensexpo
About The Black Women's Expo
The Black Women's Expo is a three-day consumer exposition designed to enlightening, educate and entertain. This premier event for African American women and their families draws more than 30,000 attendees from across the
Midwest. Staples of the event include live entertainment and educational forums on health and wellness, financial literacy, careers, business ownership, relationships and children and family concerns. For more information and tickets you may visit the Expo on line at www.theblackwomensexpo.com, follow them on
Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/blackwomensexpo or connect on Twitter using the hash tag #theblackwomensexpo.
About Real Times Media
Real Times Media, based in Detroit, Michigan, owns multi-media interests, both print and on-line, including the Chicago Defender, the New Pittsburgh Courier, the Michigan Chronicle, The Michigan Front Page, the Tri-State Defender in Memphis, TN. and the Atlanta Daily World. RTM also owns Who's Who Publishing Company and their directories are produced annually in more than 25 cities across the country. These top-quality books feature pictures and biographical data on a significant number of distinguished African-American leaders from various career disciplines and serve to record, inspire, and memorialize the next chapter of our history.
- Created on 21 March 2013
Atlanta District 2 City Councilmember Kwanza Hall released the following statement this morning concerning the Monday, March 18 Council vote on a resolution authorizing the use of the city's hotel/motel tax revenues to partially fund a new professional sports stadium:
The proposal before us this Monday was one of the most significant pieces of legislation that the Council has considered since I took office in 2006. I was looking forward to reviewing it with the seriousness that it deserved.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 13, copies of the proposal were first delivered to our offices. This was less than 24 hours before my colleague, Finance/Executive committee chair Felicia Moore, was to convene our first work session on the proposal. At the conclusion of the Thursday, March 14, work session, Councilmember Moore scheduled a second work session for today, Thursday, March 21.
On Monday, March 18—five days after my colleagues and I first received the proposal--a resolution was introduced with the intent of forcing a Council vote that same day.
In its original form, the proposal was primarily a document committing $200 million generated by the city's hotel/motel tax for the purposes of constructing a new multipurpose sports facility. There was no community benefits plan in the proposal, and there was no provision to protect the City's General Fund from expenditures related to the stadium.
Over the course of Monday's Council meeting, a number of amendments to the proposal were introduced that improved the proposal greatly, including measures to protect the General Fund and a commitment, without details, to a community benefits plan.
I declined to support Monday's vote out of deference to Councilmember Moore's scheduled work session for today and because I wanted my constituents to have an opportunity to consider the many new features of the legislation which were introduced in rapid succession during Monday's Council meeting.
I was particularly interested in protecting and hearing from my constituents in Castleberry Hill, the Marietta Artery, and Downtown, the neighborhoods in District 2 that are most impacted by major new developments and events in the greater downtown area.
These residents and small business owners were top of mind for me because over the past few years District 2 constituents have borne the brunt of two previous Council decisions that, in retrospect, could have benefitted from more time for Council deliberation: the details of the contracts for Park Atlanta and General Growth Properties.
With appropriate time for considered review, I might have been in a position to support this proposal.
My record of supporting growth and development within the City of Atlanta is strong. As a result of my convening the Old Fourth Ward community for a master planning process in 2007-2008, the Old Fourth Ward is currently a boomtown.
My support of the Atlanta BeltLine, the Atlanta Streetcar, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the College Football Hall of Fame demonstrate my commitment to projects destined to transform Downtown Atlanta. But: Decisions on those legacy projects, as well as the Council's recent revisions to pension plans for City of Atlanta employees, came after serious collegial discussion and careful deliberation.
I have the greatest respect for Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons, and I am grateful for the innovative philanthropy of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which has supported a number of projects in Council District 2, including the ground-breaking Wheat Street urban farm in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood.
Now that the Atlanta City Council has approved this proposal by a vote of 11-4, I look forward to working with the Blank Family Foundation and Invest Atlanta as we flesh out the details of the community benefits plan for the neighborhoods in the area.
Throughout our work together, the residents of the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the new stadium will be foremost on my mind and first in my prayers.
- Created on 20 March 2013
As a result of Ohio’s Republican Senator Rob Portman’s declaration last week that he now supports homosexual marriage, I am once again compelled to ask: Why are Christians and conservatives constantly apologizing for what they believe?
Portman said he changed his position because his son told him that he was homosexual. Typically, I would not write about someone’s family issues. But, in this instance, I want to come at this issue from a somewhat different perspective. I want to use Portman’s renunciation of his Christian beliefs to have a more broad discussion of morals and values.
You should know that Portman is one of the most decent people you will ever meet. It’s almost impossible not to like Portman. People like Portman makes me want to stay engaged in politics. Throughout his decades of public service, he has made it perfectly clear that he is a Christian conservative, who believes in the sanctity of life and marriage being between a man and a woman.
In a column he wrote last week, Portman said, “…My position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.
“I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”
I am somewhat confused that Portman seems to be asserting that somehow his son can’t “lead a happy, meaningful life” without his father accepting his son’s personal lifestyle choice.
What makes me uncomfortable about Portman’s about face is the implication that in order to love his son, he must turn his back on “my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.” How does his son being homosexual change what the Bible has to say on this issue? Portman stated that his values were based on his Christianity—which is based on the Bible.
Since the Bible didn’t change, does that mean Portman no longer believes in the Bible? If his daughter told him that she was pregnant and wanted to have an abortion, would he also change his view on that issue in order to show his daughter that he loves her?
One can love a family member and yet be totally in disagreement with his or her lifestyle choices. I can appreciate Portman being in an uncomfortable situation. But why Portman feels the need to renounce his Christianity to accommodate his son is beyond my comprehension.
There is right and wrong; black and white; up and down. I don’t have to change my morals or values to be accepting of someone with whom I disagree – even if that someone is my son. To love him doesn’t mean I must always agree with him.
Portman ends his column with, “I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples. As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage.”
Well, I, for one, am not part of the millions Americans that have renounced my Christianity to accommodate a family member. I will not apologize for my belief systems nor will I allow the pro-homosexual lobby to label me as anti-anything.
I am heterosexual, so are homosexuals willing to give up their beliefs to accommodate me? Of course we know the answer is no. So, they want me to give up my moral convictions to make them feel good, but they are not willing to respect my Christian beliefs by giving up their value system. Why should this be a one-way street?
Portman is doing what most parents would do—support their child. But he would be supporting his child even more by telling him that he totally disagrees with his personal lifestyle choice, but loves him anyway. That way, he would abandon neither his son nor God’s word.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.