Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bill Cosby's Famous TV Sweaters Up for Auction

Some of Bill Cosby's legendary patterned sweaters from his long-running television hit "The Cosby Show" will be auctioned off next month to benefit a charity set up in memory of the actor's late son. Never available to the public before, three of the sweaters worn by Cosby's character, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, on the show in the 1980s and '90s will be sold on eBay's Giving Works charity listing arm from June 2-12. Opening bids will start at $5,000 per item on

The proceeds will benefit the education charity Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation, which was established in 1997 by the Cosby family to continue the legacy of Cosby's son Ennis after his murder in Los Angeles. "My mother and father were going through a storage closet, and I happened to be there and pounced on these sweaters," explained daughter Evin Cosby, who is a board member of Hello Friend. "I told them that the price of what some of these sweaters might sell for could make a big difference in the lives of thousands of children."

"The Cosby Show" was one of the most popular sitcoms on U.S. television, airing on NBC between 1984 and 1992 and my 14-year-old grandsons still love to watch the reruns.

Obama Expects to Clinch Nomination Next Week

Senator Barack Obama said on Wednesday he expected to become the Democratic U.S. presidential nominee after next after the last two primaries in Montana and South Dakota and that the general election race will begin in earnest against Republican Senator John McCain. Talking to reporters on his plane from Denver to Chicago, Senator Obama was asked if he will be the winner of the Democratic nomination at that point, he said, "I believe so." He predicted he would be in a "pretty strong position" to clinch the nomination after a Saturday meeting by party officials and Tuesday's votes. On Saturday, Democratic officials will work on a compromise over disputed nominating contests in Michigan and Florida. Senator Obama said a resolution on how to seat those delegates would be important to "put the Michigan/Florida issue behind us."

"At that point all the information will be in," he said. "There will be no more questions unanswered. I suspect that whatever remaining superdelegates will be able to make their decisions quickly after that. We're only a few days away." Senator Obama is leading in pledged delegates, and more and more superdelegates are announcing their plans to endorse him and help him surpass the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination.

In another sign that he believes he will be the Democratic Party’s nominee is that Senator Obama is planning an overseas trip this summer that may include a visit to Iraq. "I just don't want to be involved in a political stunt," Senator Obama said when asked about Senator McCain's invitation to visit Iraq together. "I think that if I'm going to Iraq, then I'm there to talk to troops and talk to commanders, I'm not there to try to score political points or perform. The work they're doing there is too important." Aides to Senator Obama have been quietly discussing a foreign trip for weeks, but the prolonged battle with Senator Clinton has delayed making firm plans.

Senator Obama, who says he would remove U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, visited Iraq in January 2006 as part of a congressional delegation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Allyson Felix: From Chicken Legs to World Champion

Allyson Felix, the current World Championships in Athletics 200 meter champion, was born November 18, 1985 in Los Angeles, California. She is the daughter of an ordained minister and professor of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. Allyson herself is a devout Christian and sees her running ability as a gift from God, "My faith is the reason I run - it calms my heart and makes everything feel like a lift. My speed is definitely a gift from Him, and I run for His glory. Whatever I do, He allows me to do it."

Felix attended Los Angeles Baptist High School in the San Fernando Valley where she was nicknamed "Chicken Legs" by her teammates; the majority of the five-foot-six, 125-pound sprinter's body is a skinny bottom half. But her slightness belies her strength and speed - she can dead-lift 360 pounds and power-clean 150 pounds. Allyson didn't discover her gift until she tried out for track in the ninth grade. Just 10 weeks after that first tryout, she finished seventh in the 200 at the state championships; in the coming seasons, she became a five-time California high school state champ. As a senior, Felix finished second in the 200 at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships. A few months later, in front of 50,000 fans in Mexico City, she ran 22.11 seconds, the fastest in history for a high school girl. In 2003, at age 17, she ran the 200-meter in 22.51 seconds to break Marion Jones’ 11-year-old record.

Felix graduated from high school in 2003, making headlines by foregoing college eligibility to sign a professional contract with Adidas. Adidas paid her an undisclosed sum and picked up her college tuition at USC, where she majored in elementary education.

Felix has also shown that she can overcome adversity. During her junior year of high school, she pulled a hamstring at the state championships and re-injured it a few weeks later at the U.S. Junior National Championships. By the time she made it to the World Juniors in Jamaica, she had lost her edge and ended up in fifth place. News articles said Felix had choked, but she kept her head up. "That was an extremely hard time," she said. "I had to depend on God."

At just 18 Felix finished as silver medalist in the 200 meters at the 2004 Summer Olympics, behind Veronica Campbell of Jamaica; in doing so set a World Junior record with her time of 22.18. She became the youngest ever gold medalist sprinter in the 200 meters at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland in 2005 and then defended her title at Osaka, Japan two years later. At Osaka Felix caught Jamaican Veronica Campbell on the bend and surged down the straight to finish in 21.81 seconds, lowering her own season-leading time by a massive 0.37 seconds. Does that sound like a choke? After the final she stated that "I feel so good, I am so excited. I have been waiting for so long to run such a time, to run under 22 seconds. And as for the future "My next goal is not the world record, but gold in Beijing. I might consider doing both -- the 200 and the 400 meters -- there." She also has plans for the 100m. "I like the 100m but it didn't quite come together this year. I haven't reached my potential because I have problems with my start. But I haven't given up on it. I'm still excited to work on it." In 2007 she became only the second female athlete to win three gold medals at a single World Championships in Athletics. What’s next: Perhaps a gold medal (or two) at this year’s Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Felix is coached by the legendary Bobby Kersee - husband & coach of Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Douglas Wilder: First Elected Black Governor

Lawrence Douglas Wilder was born January 17, 1931 in Richmond, Virginia. He was inaugurated as the first Black elected governor in U.S. history on January 13, 1990 in Virginia. The first Black governor of a U.S. state was P. B. S. Pinchback, who was not elected, but became Governor of Louisiana on December 9, 1872 upon the removal of his predecessor from office. Deval Patrick, the Governor of Massachusetts, is the second African American to be elected governor, and became the third African American governor overall. And David Paterson recently became governor of New York after the resignation of his predecessor.
Wilder, the grandson of slaves, took the oath of office in Richmond, Virginia’s capital and the former capital of the Confederacy. The state had once denied him admission to its White schools. He served from 1990 to 1994. He graduated from Virginia Union University in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

Wilder then served in the Korean conflict, earning a Bronze Star for heroism. After his service, he attended Howard University School of Law under the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1959 and co-founding the law firm Wilder, Gregory, and Associates. He was elected a state senator in 1969, becoming the first Black to serve in the Virginia Legislature since Reconstruction. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1985 making him the first Black elected to statewide executive office in the South in the twentieth century. He served as lieutenant governor until he won the governorship. In recognition of his landmark achievement, the NAACP awarded Wilder the Spingarn Medal for 1990. He currently serves as mayor of Richmond.

Mayor Wilder was named after poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and abolitionist, speaker and author Frederick Douglass. Wilder is a life member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
On October 11, 1958, Wilder married Eunice Montgomery. Before divorcing in 1978, they had three children: Loren, Lynn, and Lawrence Douglas, Jr.
During his tenure as governor, Wilder granted a controversial pardon to basketball star Allen Iverson. Iverson, then a popular high school sports figure, was convicted after being accused of assaulting a woman in bowling alley and sentenced to 15 years in prison. However, after Iverson had served just five months, Governor Wilder granted Iverson clemency and released Iverson from his prison sentence.
Wilder left office in 1994 because Virginia does not allow governors to serve successive terms.

Wilder declared himself a candidate for President in 1992 and briefly considered running for the U.S. Senate in 1994. Since his tenure as governor, Wilder has declared himself an independent.

On May 30, 2004, Wilder announced his intention to run for Mayor of Richmond. Until recently, the Richmond City Council chose the mayor from among its 9 members.
On November 2, 2004, Wilder received 79% of the vote; Wilder is the first directly elected Mayor of Richmond in sixty years. Upon winning the election in November, Wilder communicated his intentions of aggressively taking on corruption in the city government by issuing several ultimatums to the sitting City Council even before he took office. He was sworn in on January 2, 2005.

In 2008 Wilder voiced support for the construction of a Black theme park in Richmond.

In 2004, Virginia Commonwealth University named its School of Government and Public Affairs in honor of L. Douglas Wilder. Wilder serves as an adjunct faculty member at the school. The Virginia Union University library, Norfolk State University's performing arts center and a Hampton University dormitory is also named after Mr. Wilder. Wilder also received an Honorary Doctorate from Arizona State University in 2004.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Marian Anderson: The Voice that Challenged a Nation

Acclaimed opera singer Marian Anderson is perhaps best remembered for her performance on Resurrection Sunday, 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 27, 1897, (Marian Anderson always claimed she was born on 17 February 1902, however her birth certificate is reported to give her birth date as 27 February 1897). Marian Anderson was the oldest of three daughters born to John and Anna Anderson. Her two sisters, Alice (aka Alyce) and Ethel, also became singers. Ethel Anderson was mother to world renowned orchestra leader James DePreist.

Marian Anderson joined a junior church choir at the age of six. Before long, she was nicknamed “The Baby Contralto.” When she was eight, her father bought a piano from his brother, but they could not afford any lessons so Marian taught herself. She applied to a White music school after her graduation from high school in 1921, but was turned away because she was Black. The woman working the admissions counter replied, "We don't take colored" when she tried to apply. She continued her singing studies with a private teacher. Four years later she debuted with the New York Philharmonic on August 26, 1925 and scored an immediate success. In 1928, she sang for the first time at Carnegie Hall. She spent 1934 and almost all of 1935 touring Europe with great success. She visited Eastern European capitals and Russia and returned again to Scandina, where "Marian fever" had spread to small towns and villages where she had thousands of fans.

The famed conductor Arturo Toscanini told her she had a voice "heard once in a hundred years." In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Marian Anderson to sing in Constitution Hall which they owned. The District of Columbia Board of Education declined a request to use the auditorium of a White public high school. As a result of the ensuing furor, thousands of DAR members, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned. The Roosevelts, with Walter White, then-executive secretary of the NAACP, and Anderson's manager, Sol Hurok, then persuaded Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes to arrange an open air Marian Anderson concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On April 9, 1939, she performed the historic concert which became a landmark in civil rights history, The concert, commencing with a dignified and stirring rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" attracted a crowd of more 75,000 of all colors and was a sensation with a national radio audience of millions. Several weeks later, Marian gave a private concert at the White House, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt was entertaining King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Britain.

In 1943, Marian performed at Constitution Hall, at a benefit for Chinese relief. She insisted the DAR suspend its segregated seating policy for the concert. The federal government continued to bar her from using the high school auditorium in the nation’s capitol. In July 1943, Marian married Orpheus H. Fisher, a Delaware architect she had known since childhood. The couple purchased a 100 acre farm in Danbury, Connecticut three years earlier in 1940 after an exhaustive search throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Many purchases were attempted but thwarted by property sellers due to racial discrimination. The Danbury property transaction was initially disputed by the seller as well, after he discovered the couple was Black. Through the years Fisher built many outbuildings on the property that became known as Marianna Farm, including an acoustic rehearsal studio he designed for his wife. The compound remained Anderson & Fisher's home for over 50 years. Ms. Anderson symbolized the civil rights movement with dignity and grace: In Europe, she was welcomed into the finest hotels and restaurants, but in the U.S., she was shifted to third- or fourth-class accommodations. In the South, she often stayed with friends. Simple tasks as arranging for laundry, taking a train, or eating at a restaurant were often difficult. She would take meals in her room and traveled in drawing rooms on night trains. Early on, she insisted on “vertical” seating in segregated cities; meaning black audience members would be allotted seats in all parts of the auditorium. Many times, it was the first time blacks would sit in the orchestra section. By 1950, she would refuse to sing where the audience was segregated.

[On prejudice]: Sometimes, it's like a hair across your cheek. You can't see it, you can't find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating.
-- Marian Anderson

On January 7, 1955, Marian Anderson became the first Black American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera. 1958 she was officially designated delegate to the United Nations, a formalization of her role as "goodwill ambassador" of the U.S. she played earlier, and in 1972 she was awarded the UN Peace Prize. She sang at the inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957, as well as President John F. Kennedy’s in 1961. In 1963, she sang at the March on Washington for Job and Freedom. On April 19, 1965, Resurrection Sunday, Marian gave her final concert at Carnegie Hall, following a year-long farewell tour.

However, she continued to appear publicly, narrating Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait, including a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1976. Her achievements were recognized and honored with many prizes, including the Springarn Medal in 1939, given annually to a Black American who “shall have made the highest achievement during the preceding year or years in any honorable field of endeavor.” In 1941, she received the Bok award, given annually to an outstanding Philadelphia citizen. She used the $10,000 prize money to found the Marian Anderson Scholarships; the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978 and a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1991. In 2001, the 1939 documentary film, Marian Anderson: the Lincoln Memorial Concert was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 1963 she was one of the original 31 recipients of the newly reinstituted Presidential Medal of Freedom (which is awarded for "especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interest of the United States, World Peace or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors"), and in 1965 she christened the nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine, USS George Washington Carver. On January 27, 2005, a commemorative U.S. postage stamp honored Marian Anderson as part of the Black Heritage series. Anderson is also pictured on the U.S. $5,000 Series I United States Savings Bond. She is a recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by the Boy Scouts of America. In 1980, the U.S. Treasury Department coined a half-ounce gold commemorative medal with her likeness. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan presented her with the National Medal of Arts.

She was the first Black person to be named a permanent member of Metropolitan Opera Company and was a frequent performer at the White House. During the World War II and the Korean War, Marian Anderson participated by entertaining the troops in hospitals and bases. By 1956 she had performed over one thousand times. Marian Anderson died in 1993 at the age of 96 in Portland, Oregon at the home of her nephew, conductor James DePreist.

The Marian Anderson Award is given to an artist who exhibits leadership in a humanitarian area. The award was first given in 1998. Recipients include: Harry Belafonte, Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, and Sidney Poitier.

Queen of the Hill Country

The term "hillbilly" originally referred to Northern Ireland Protestants in the 17th century, supporters of King William ("Billy.") Later the term gained its modern usage as being descriptive of people of the Appalachian region (West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Kentucky and a large portion of Ohio) who are viewed as unlearned, unsophisticated and unwilling to accept new ideas and new ways of thing.

Senator Hillary Clinton, through her dad, is a descendant of British Protestant immigrant forebears who settled in the Appalachian region. Between that background, and her time as First Lady of Arkansas, which includes part of the Ozark Mountains, Hillary Clinton has a natural, built-in base that essentially makes her Queen of the Hillbillies.

The political critics, pollsters and general population have it all wrong. Senator Barack Obama doesn't have a "working-class White" problem; Hillary has a non-hillbilly problem. Since February 5’s, Super Duper Tuesday, Senator Clinton has won exactly two states that were NOT infested with hillbillies; Tiny Rhode Island on March 4 and a narrow victory in Indiana.

Recent polling shows that Senator Obama has actually closed the gap between himself and Senator in what had been considered her core supporters. Among Whites they are tied at 47% and, shockingly, virtually tied (47% Obama to 46% Clinton) among voters with no college education. Most tellingly, he has surged to a 7-point preference among Latinos. Oregon exit polls confirm these trends, where he won among Whites 57% - 42%, among women 52% - 48% and among those making less than $50,000 54% - 45%.

So, clearly, the conventional wisdom about a national preference among "working-class Whites" for Senator Clinton is a myth. The reality is that, if it weren't for the Appalachians and the Ozarks, this race would have been over two months ago. The huge showing she's had in those areas has allowed her to maintain the illusion that she is a strong national candidate. But the truth is that she only beats up on Senator Obama in counties that vote Republican in the general, anyway. In an article at Talking Post Memo (TPM), Josh Marshall laid out a map of the Appalachian region against a map showing the counties across the U.S. where Senator Clinton has won 65% of the votes and they match up to a Tee. The effect is clear in states that she's won, like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arkansas. But if you compare the county-by-county results, you'll see that even in states where Senator Obama has won, she still wins the hillbilly country.

The bottom line is that, for the last 15 weeks, Clinton's only remaining strength is among voters like Granny Clampett, Ma Kettle, Snuffy Smith Li'l Abner and Archie Bunker. She's the Queen of the Billary Hillbillies and almost no one else.

6000 Miles on Horseback

Miles Dean, a 52-year-old fifth-grade social studies teacher at Chancellor Avenue School in Newark, New Jersey, climbed on a horse in New York, New York and rode all the way to Los Angeles, California to show young Black students how to set a goal and how to reach that goal.

The 6000-mile ride through 13 states took more than six months to complete. Mr. Dean says the adventure was also intended to heighten awareness of Black cowboys and other Blacks who helped forge American history.

Mr. Dean left the African Burial Ground in New York City in September 2007 and had hoped to finish his coast-to-coast trip in February in honor of Black History month, but the ride took longer than expected. He arrived in Los Angeles in April 2008 at the California African American Museum. The long trek also took a toll, with Dean taking a four-day break at a Texas ranch to rest his aching body and weary horses.

Dean explaining the mission of his journey said, “The textbooks in our public school system do not do enough to give African-American children a knowledge of self that will allow them to build their self-esteem.” His school and students kept track of his travels posted on the Web site He stopped at schools to talk about the role the Black cowboy played in American history. “My journey was to draw attention to our ancestors in the 1500s and the 1800s when the horse was the only mode of transportation,” said Dean.

Dean encountered some tough going along the way, especially through mountain trails in West Virginia where one of his horses developed an abscess on his foot that required medical attention. He also said he dreaded the long, monotonous ride through the prairies of Texas. The more than 800 miles in that one state took 40 days.

Taking two horses for the excursion, the 9-year-old Arabian stallion, Sankofa, and a 12-year-old palomino named Blaze, Dean was accompanied by a driver, a horse trailer with living quarters. Lynndell V. Johnson, a math and science teacher at Yosemite High School in Merced, California, served as road photographer. Dean also spoke to her class during his trip.

Dean said that at times it became difficult not only to step into the saddle but difficult and hurtful to ride in the saddle. He said his kidney and back were hurting and his horses were hurting. But that he was determined to reach the goal.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Barber-Scotia College

Barber-Scotia College is the second in our series on historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU). The school is located in Concord, North Carolina, approximately 25 miles from Charlotte. It was founded as Scotia Seminary in 1867 by the Reverend Luke Dorland. It is a four-year entrepreneurial and business college. The school is a United Negro College Fund (UNCF) member school.

Reverend Dorland was tasked to found the school by the Presbyterian Church (USA)to prepare young Black Southern women (the daughters of former slaves) for careers as social workers and teachers. The institution changed its name to Scotia Women's College in 1916, merged with Barber Memorial College of Anniston, Alabama in 1930, and in 1932 changed names to Barber-Scotia College. In 1954, the college began allowing men to enroll, and it was admitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The college maintains close ties to the Presbyterian Church (USA). The school's motto, Lumen Veritas et Utilitas, means "Knowledge, Truth and Science".

In June 2004, the college lost its accreditation, due to what the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools said was a failure to comply with SACS Principles and Philosophy of Accreditation (Integrity). The loss of accreditation makes the college's students ineligible for federal aid, and an estimated 90% of the school's students depend on federally funded aid. In October 2004, the Board of Trustees of Barber-Scotia College approved a proposal to make entrepreneurship education its single academic focus and authorized its new President to begin a planning process to move the College in that direction.

The college suspended operations after the 2004-2005 school year and enrolled no students in 2005-2006. In February 2006 a committee of the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to continue the denomination's financial support for Barber-Scotia, noting that its physical facilities were "substantial and well-secured" and that the school was undertaking serious planning for the future. In May 2006 it was reported that Barber-Scotia would rent space on its campus to St. Augustine's College to use for an adult-education program and that alumni were working to raise money to revive Barber-Scotia as a four-year liberal arts college. In July 2006 school officials announced that Barber-Scotia would resume operations in fall 2006. The school is now seeking re-accreditation and to reorganize offering only a Bachelor’s program in Christian education, as a better fit based on its past history, through volunteer ministers who are willing to teach.

The campus, near downtown Concord in the historical district, consists of twenty-five-buildings. These buildings include Faith Hall, Bethune and Boulware Dormitories. Mabel Mclean Student Union, and The Saber Den (Student Lounge).

The Mighty Sabers are a member of the NAIA and compete in men's basketball, track & field and cross country, and women's basketball, track & field, cross country, volleyball and softball.

In the 2003-2004 semester the school began organizing its first football team. The head coach of the school's first football team was Johnson C. Smith Alumni and Former NFL Player of the New York Jets Timothy Newman. The team would start its first year as a club team to establish itself to be eligible to compete in the 2004 NAIA season. When the school lost its accreditation on June 24, 2004, all operations of the fledgling program ceased. Although unconfirmed by current board members it is a strong possibility that football will return to Barber-Scotia College in the near future. Depending on both alumni support and outside interest the football program will return once all other academic support is restored to the school.

Noted alumni include:
Mary McLeod Bethune (1894), founder of Bethune-Cookman University.
Mildred Mitchell-Bateman (1937), first Black person to hold a high office in State of West Virginia government -- Director of the Department of Mental Health for the State of West Virginia.
Dr. Katie G. Cannon (1971), First Black American Woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (USA).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sheila Robinson: San Francisco Bay Area’s No. 1 Gospel Show

For the past 30 plus years, the San Francisco Bay Area's #1 Gospel Show has been hosted by Sheila Robinson. Her ability to uplift, encourage and render the best in contemporary and traditional Gospel Music, has made her the #1 Religious Announcer throughout the greater Bay Area.

Sheila Robinson began her career as a religious announcer and Director of Religious Programming in 1977, was the first with the original KSOL at 107.7 FM. She maintained her #1 position even after new ownership by Crescent Communications took KSOL to 98.9 FM. Only when new ownership of KSOL made a format change to Spanish speaking radio, did Ms Robinson, conclude her 19 year career with the station. Since December 1997 she has hosted her gospel program at 98.1 KISS FM where she remained #1 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ms. Robinson has taken her popular Sunday morning show into syndication. Ms. Robinson is soon to be in a town near you delivering the finest in Gospel Music, words of inspiration and ministering to those that are lost.

She was born Sheila Ford in Long Branch, New Jersey. She grew up in New Jersey, went to college in New York, married, had two sons and moved to California in September of 1976. She began my radio career the next year as a Gospel Music Announcer. Completely unfamiliar with radio broadcasting or announcing, she says she “made her way through every Sunday morning broadcast with fear and trembling for about the first two months on air. Because my listeners were kind and tolerant; and I was determined not to expose my timidity, but mainly because God walked with me through the process of learning an entirely new skill.” She managed to succeed and became the number one Religious Radio Broadcaster.

Ms. Robinson has received numerous awards throughout her many years of broadcasting. Six times, she's received the Bay Area's Best Religious Announcers Award from the Gospel Academy Awards, 5 of which were consecutive. She was also inducted into the Academies Hall Of Fame. She also is a poet and author with books Memoirs of a Broadcaster and Just Poetry, A Classic Collection.

Sheila Robinson was co-founder of the Bay Area Religious Announcers Guild, served as the Guild's first President and was re-elected 2 consecutive terms thereafter. Ms. Robinson is soon to be in a town near you delivering the finest in Gospel Music, words of inspiration and ministering to those that are lost.

Sheila Robinson is currently the senior associate pastor at Bible Way Christian Center in San Jose, California, pastored by my long-time friend Dr. Oscar Dace. Bible Way Christian Center is one of the fastest growing churches in the Bay Area. She sits on the executive board, is director of the ministerial staff, and teaches at the church school of ministry.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

“Kip” Ward leads New U.S. Africa Command

General William E. "Kip" Ward, the U.S. Army’s only Black four-star general is Commander, U.S. Africa Command, and the first officer to hold this position. General Ward previously served as Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command. General Ward was commissioned into the infantry in 1971. He holds a M.A. in Political Science from Pennsylvania State University and a B.A. in Political Science from Morgan State University. His military education includes the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced courses, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and U.S. Army War College. His military service includes overseas tours in Korea, Egypt, Somalia, Bosnia, Israel, two tours in Germany, and a wide variety of assignments in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. He assumed his current assignment on October 1, 2007.

Prior to assuming his current position, he was the Deputy Commanding General/Chief of Staff, US Army Europe and Seventh Army. While in this capacity he was selected by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to serve as the United States Security Coordinator, Israel - Palestinian Authority where he served from March 2005 through December 2005.

The newly formed U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the acknowledgment of the emerging strategic importance of Africa, and recognition that peace and stability on the continent impacts not only Africans, but the interests of the U.S. and international community as well. The creation of AFRICOM enabled the Department of Defense (DoD) to better focus its resources to support and enhance existing U.S. initiatives that help African nations, the African Union, and the regional economic communities succeed. The creation of AFRICOM does not mean the U.S. military will take a leading role in African security matters, nor will it establish large U.S. troop bases. Rather, Africa Command is a headquarters staff whose mission entails coordinating the kind of support that will enable African governments and existing regional organizations, such as the African Standby Force, to have greater capacity to provide security and respond in times of need. AFRICOM builds on the many African-U.S. security cooperation activities already underway, yet will be able to better coordinate DoD support with other U.S. government departments and agencies to make those activities even more effective. I would just like to know why is the U.S. Africa Command headquartered in Germany? If you want to help put some bodies on the ground with money in their pockets.

Black Baroness

Baroness Valerie Amos was the first Black woman to serve in the British Cabinet. She was appointed Secretary of State for International Development on May 12, 2003. Later that year she made history again when she was appointed the first Black woman to head the House of Lords, the highest chamber in the British parliament. She held the post until 2007. Ms. Amos was born in Georgetown, Guyana. Prior to taking her Cabinet post, she served as the government’s international development representative for the House of Lords and as Foreign Office Minister for Africa. Baroness Amos was created a life peer in August 1997 as Baroness Amos for her political service to the Labor Party. The Peerage is a system of titles of nobility in the United Kingdom, part of the British honors system. Life peers are created members of the Peerage whose titles may not be inherited. Nowadays life peerages are entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as age and citizenship. The legitimate children of a life peer are entitled the prefix the Honorable. In the House of Lords she was a co-opted member of the Select Committee on European Communities Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs). Ms Amos is used to being the first. In high school she was the first Black deputy Head Girl at Bexley Technical High School for Girls. She went on to receive a degree in sociology at Warwick University in 1976, a master's degree in cultural studies from Birmingham University in 1977 and doctoral research at University of East Anglia.

After working in Equal Opportunities, Training and Management Services in local government in London, she became Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission. In 1995 Amos was an adviser to the South African Government on public service reform, human rights and employment equity.

Baroness Amos was made Leader of the House of Lords on 6 October 2003 following the death of Lord Williams of Mostyn, which meant that her tenure as Secretary of State for International Development lasted less than six months. Prior to her appointment as Secretary of State for International Development, Baroness Amos was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs on June 11, 2001, with responsibility for Africa; Commonwealth; Caribbean; Overseas Territories; Consular Issues and FCO Personnel.

Baroness Amos was the principal spokesperson in the House of Lords on International Development as well as one of the Government's spokespersons in the House of Lords on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. She was previously a spokesperson on Social Security, International Development and Women's Issues.

Baroness Amos is one of three Black peers that sit in the House of Lords. She is on the list of Great Black Britons.

Jones Hoping to Turn the Tide

The water park looked so fun, so exciting. All those rides and inner tubes. And the water. Look at all the water! Cullen Jones was 5 or 6 years old when he saw the aqua Disneyland at Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His mom, Debra, didn't like the idea. Cullen was too little. He was even small for his age. He didn't know how to swim. His dad, Ronald, was all for it, though. "He's strong enough," he said. Little Cullen got on the inner tube at the top of the slide and promised his dad he wouldn't let go. The inner tube flew down the slippery slope and Cullen laughed all the way. But at the bottom he flipped upside down. He still held onto the inner tube. And he passed out. He was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR.

It is 18 years later, and Jones is a world champion, a world-record holder and stands a good shot at becoming the second Black American male to make a U.S. Olympic swim team.

"When I came to," he said, "the next thing I said was, 'What's the next ride I'm getting on?' “Within the week, his mother enrolled him in swim lessons. Taking the torch from his mom, Cullen Jones is teaching inner-city minorities how to save themselves. He has joined forces with the "Make a Splash" initiative to teach them how to swim. "Especially get more African-Americans and Latinos into the water," he said here at the U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit last month. Approximately six out of 10 Black American children are unable to swim, nearly twice as many as their White counterparts, according to a national survey released last week by USA Swimming. Similarly, 56 percent of Hispanic and Latino children are unable to swim.

Maybe if Jones makes a splash in the Olympics in Beijing this August, that could change. He will not be the first. Many casual fans don't know the first Black American male swimmer was Anthony Erwin, who won the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. Few know because Erwin was only half Black, had a very light complexion and didn't enjoy discussing race. Jones does. Born in the Bronx, he grew to 6-feet-5 and laughs off the questions about which basketball team he plays for.

Jones blossomed on the world scene when he became first Black American swimmer to break a long-course world record. He won the world 50 freestyle title last summer in Melbourne, Australia, and helped the U.S. 400 freestyle relay team set a world record. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know what it's like being a Black swimmer.

It hasn't always been easy. His mother would hear other mothers complain, "I can't believe he beat my son so bad." His mother told him that they're upset because you're different. Sometimes different scares people. That pushed Jones to Olympic levels. So did a fan's blog on after he won the 2004 Atlantic Coast Conference title for North Carolina State and bombed at the Olympic trials. The blog read, "Cullen Jones is a choke artist. He doesn't swim at international swims and no one should pay attention to him. He is a nobody."

In his first international race, in Izmir, Turkey, he dropped half a second off his 50 time. Yet no matter what happens at the Olympic trials in Omaha in July, no matter if he medals in Beijing, to hundreds of minorities whom he helped learn to swim, Cullen Jones is still a winner.

He swims five to six hours per day, six days a week. He is also working with "Do Tell Productions" on a documentary about the Flaherty Dolphins, a swim team from Boston that is made up mostly of kids of color.

First Ladies in Waiting

The contest between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain presents the U.S. with one of its starkest choices ever, between old and young, Black and White, conservative and liberal and someone born into privilege against an opponent raised by a single mother on food stamps. An equally sharp contrast can be observed of their spouses. The backgrounds of the two aspiring First Ladies are even further apart than their husbands.

Mrs. McCain was born into wealth as the daughter of an Arizona beer baron whose company, Hensley & Co, became one of the country’s biggest distributors of Budweiser. When he died in 2000, Mrs. McCain inherited control of the business. While she leaves day-to-day management to others, Mrs. McCain plays an active role in strategic planning. It is not known how much of the company she owns but analysts believe her stake is worth at least $100 million. In spite of this, Mrs. McCain comes across as a traditional politician’s spouse (trophy wife). At campaign events, she introduces her husband with a glowing account of his qualities as a father before standing dutifully to his side as he gives his stump speech. Dressed invariably in an expensive pantsuit without a strand of blond hair out of place, she nods in agreement and laughs at his jokes. Friends say Mrs. McCain did not relish the prospect of her husband making a second run after his bitter defeat to President Bu$h in 2000, when opponents waged a dirty tricks campaign during the South Carolina primary. A leaflet was distributed showing a picture of Senator McCain with a dark-skinned baby it claimed he had fathered illegitimately. In fact, the child was the McCains’ daughter, Bridget, whom they adopted from a Bangladeshi orphanage. Like Laura Bush, Mrs. McCain displays no ambition to play a policymaking role. “I think the American people still truly want a traditional family in the White House,” she said last year.

That might disqualify Michelle Obama. A working Black mother-of-two from an unflashy Chicago background, Mrs. Obama is in many respects as self-made as her husband. Majoring in sociology from Princeton and going on, like her husband, to study law at Harvard, Mrs. Obama gives speeches with a command that has won over many voters. In Iowa, which staged the first contest in the primary season and which Senator Obama won, his campaign dubbed Michelle “the [deal] closer”. Unlike Mrs. McCain, who prefers to be out of the limelight, Mrs. Obama follows a separate schedule of between two and four days a week, depending on whether the two young daughters are off from school. She has also retained her $320,000-a-year job as a community and public relations officer for Chicago University Hospitals. Michelle likes to interact with small gatherings of voters and have free-flowing exchanges of views. But Mrs. Obama’s very ease of conversation has also landed her in hot water. Opponents have focused on her observation that America has become a “mean-spirited country” in which most people are struggling to make ends meet and her statement “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country, not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”

Some fear the election could descend into racial overtone in much the same way that Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic contender and then governor of Massachusetts, was targeted by the infamous “Willie Horton” attack ad, in which a Black offender in his state committed rape and murder when on furlough. It has already started. In an insulting commentary, Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News anchor, responded to Mrs. Obama’s “pride” remarks by saying: “I don’t want to send out a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s hard evidence that this is the way she really feels.”

It is hard to imagine Cindy McCain generating as much abuse or adulation as Michelle Obama. Yet she has her vulnerabilities. There is her drug episode in the 1990s when she became addicted to painkillers after back surgery in 1989 and fed her habit by stealing pills from a medical charity she had founded. She confessed to her husband after the Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation into her charity and became a regular at Narcotics Anonymous. (Sure she is not a politician, confessing after you get caught.) There has also been scrutiny of the McCain marriage, after The New York Times published allegations of a close relationship between Senator McCain and a female lobbyist. But the most enduring focus is on Mrs. McCain’s refusal to disclose her tax returns. “This is a privacy issue,” she said recently, explaining that she and her husband had always kept separate finances. “I am not the candidate.” Many compare her stance to that of Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wealthy spouse of the 2004 Democratic candidate, John Kerry, who was eventually persuaded into disclosing her returns. Questions have also arisen about Senator McCain’s use of his wife’s corporate plane; a loophole that allows candidates to reimburse only the cost of a first-class fare.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spike Lee Criticizes Eastwood for Lack of Black Troops in WWII Films

Spike Lee criticized Clint Eastwood over his two recent Iwo Jima movies, saying that Eastwood overlooked the role of Black soldiers during World War II. Lee, who’s World War II film, opens this fall, “Miracle at St. Anna", the story of an all-Black U.S. Army division fighting in Italy during the war, said Eastwood’s 2006 movies “Flags of Our fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” whose next film is this fall's "Miracle at St. Anna," the story of an all-black U.S. division fighting in Italy during the war, said Eastwood's 2006 movies "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" were whites-only affairs.

"He did two films about Iwo Jima back to back and there was not one Black soldier in both of those films. Many veterans, African-Americans, who survived that war are upset at Clint Eastwood. In his vision of Iwo Jima, Negro soldiers did not exist. Simple as that. I have a different version," Lee said.

Due in theaters in October, "Miracle at St. Anna" centers on four Black Americans, played by Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso and Omar Benson Miller, in the Buffalo Soldiers division in Tuscany.

Of course, Spike Lee is right, but Clint Eastwood is right also, because the military was segregated at during that time frame. And Eastwood’s movies like Lee’s center around individuals inside a larger group. Black veterans who survived that war, as well as other Blacks need to get pen in hand and write their story. Directors and producers get most of their stories from written form.

Senator Obama Closes in on Democratic Nomination

Senator Barack Obama pulled within shouting distance of the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday. Senator Hillary Clinton won the Kentucky primary and Senator Obama fared better in the Oregon primary. The split decision left Senator Obama needing just 64 delegates from the 2,026 needed to secure the nomination. Senator Obama had a total of 1,962 delegates, including endorsements from party and elected officials known as superdelegates. Senator Clinton had 1,779 delegates. Three primaries remain, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota, with a total of 86 delegates at stake. Senator Obama cannot win enough of those delegates to clinch the nomination because of the proportional way in which the Democrats award delegates. But he can come close. He also secured a majority of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses; a milestone that could help him persuade more superdelegates to endorse him.

There are a little more than 200 superdelegates still left to be claimed by the two candidates. Senator Obama has added more than 50 superdelegate endorsements in the past two weeks, while Senator Clinton has picked up 10. He added two superdelegates Wednesday, Representative Joe Courtney of Connecticut and Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Dowdy. She picked up one, Ohio superdelegate Craig Bashein. Senator Obama picked up another big labor endorsement, from the United Mine Workers of America.

Senator Obama is now abundant in his praise of a Democratic rival who engaged him fiercely and often bitterly over six months. In his Iowa rally Tuesday night, the man close to becoming the first Black Democratic presidential candidate paid tribute to Senator Clinton's historic effort to become the first female president, saying she "has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age, and for that we are grateful to her."

Senator Obama won Oregon with the support of men and young people, but also found plenty of votes from blue-collar workers who were the staple of Clinton victories in other states, according to surveys of voters. As a group, only those making less than $30,000 a year and those over 65 favored Clinton. Women were evenly divided between Obama and Clinton, but men voted for Obama 2-to-1.

So, Senator Obama scored a solid win in a heavily White state, a rare achievement in recent races in which blue-collar Whites have powered his rival. It is not about the blue-collar! The media is afraid to say what everyone else knows, and that Senator Clinton is winning in the same area of the country that is arguably the most racist in the U.S. She won Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky where when you leave the larger cities in those states it is like you are back in the South of the 1960s.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)

Each week we will highlight an HBCU school and we begin with:
Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University

Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, also known as Alabama A&M University or AAMU, is a public, coeducational school located in Normal, Huntsville. It was established in 1875. AAMU is a member school of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund. Dr. Beverly Edmond is the interim president. The school has an enrollment of 6,047 of which 1,000 are postgraduates.

School History:
1873: Alabama State Legislature pass bill for establishment of the "Colored Normal School at Huntsville"; to be devoted to the education of Black teachers.
1875: William Hooper Councill founded Alabama A&M University. May 1, school at Huntsville opened with 61 pupils, and two teachers.
1881: Moved to first school-owned property on West Clinton Street.
1882: Shop courses introduced into curriculum (e.g., carpentry, printing, mattress-making, horticulture, sewing, etc.)
1885: Name changed to State Normal and Industrial School of Huntsville.
1890: Students numbered 300; teachers, 11. School site became known as Normal, Alabama. Students were called "Normalites."
1891: the present site of 182.73 acres was purchased. The school expanded to include agriculture and home economics; Palmer and Seay Halls were built with student labor.
1893: First night school was held. First alumni meeting held.
1894: Trade education diplomas authorized. First trade certificates were awarded.
1896: Name changed to The State Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes.
1901: First honorary degree awarded.
1903: Blues great W.C. Handy resigns as band director.
1909: School's motto, "Service is Sovereignty," introduced;
1910: American football began.
1912: First baseball game.
1927: Joseph Fanning Drake becomes president and institutes a massive building program.
1939: State Board of Education gives authority to offer course work on the senior college level.
1949: Name changed to Alabama A&M College.
1963: AAMU becomes fully accredited. Intercollegiate soccer began.
1969: Name changed to Alabama A&M University.
1977: Volleyball for women began.
1981: Desegregation case began.
1985: AAMU signs memorandum of understanding with Kansas State University/USAID.
1986: Former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm addressed "Women's Week" activities. University announced approval of Ph.D. program in physics. Department of Mathematics received NASA research grant.
1992: First AAMU Athletic Hall of Fame induction held.
1994: First Black American Ph.D. recipients in physics.
1995: Master of Social Work Program accepts first students.
1996: Football returns to campus at the new $10 Million Louis Crews Stadium.
1997: Patrick Grayson makes USA Today All-USA Academic First Team. Filmmaker Spike Lee visits. AAMU joins Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).
1999: AAMU Research Institute started.
2001: AAMU’s fundraising efforts earn it the distinction of lead institution in the Tom Joyner Foundation/HBCU program.
2003: New School of Engineering and Technology Building opens for classes in January. Fourth doctoral program in Reading/Literacy announced. AAMU researchers study volcanic ash in Montserrat. Normalite Ruben Studdard named “American Idol.”
2005: The men's basketball team won its first SWAC regular season and tournament Championship.
2006: The football team won its first SWAC Championship.
2007: The Alabama A&M University Choir became the first HBCU Choir to be invited to attend the American Choral Festival in Germany
On January 2, 2006 the Alabama A&M University marching band, known as the Marching Maroon and White-Showband of the South, marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade. In May 2008, the Alabama A&M University Choir was slated to participate in the American Choral Music Festival in Leipzig, Germany.
Alabama A&M University is the licensee for National Public Radio affiliate station WJAB-FM 90.9, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week on campus.

The first library on the campus was built with funds from the Carnegie Foundation in 1904 for $12,000, and was named for its benefactor, Andrew Carnegie. In the 1940s, it was remodeled at a cost of $70,000. The library was two stories tall, and with a little over 4,000 square feet; it served several purposes and housed the offices of the President, Business Manager and Treasurer, Home and Farm Demonstration Agents, the U.S. Post Office at Normal, and on the second floor, living quarters for male faculty.
In 1931, Lucille A. Love, a graduate of the Library School at Hampton Institute, became the first professional librarian.
In 1947, the library was enlarged 5,000 square feet, which reflected the college's growth. So rapid was the college's student growth that they even outgrew the nearly 10,000 square foot library, and in 1962, a new Reference Annex was added. In January 1968, a new 60,000 square foot library was completed and occupied and was named in honor of Dr. Drake. It was designed to house 300,000 volumes and 1,000 students.
In 1972, the Educational Media Center and the Library merged to form the Learning Resources Center, which incorporates interactive and multi-media.
In 2002 the competition of the latest renovation saw the [LRC] become a 75,000 square-foot structure now housing over 400,000 volumes, digital research sources and other student oriented services.

Famous Alumni
Howard Ballard - former National Football League right tackle for the Buffalo Bills; 2 time Pro-Bowler; 4 time Super Bowler.
Cleon Jones - former Major League Baseball player
Brick Haley - Defensive line coach for the Chicago Bears.
John Stallworth - National Football League Hall Of Famer & former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and four time Pro-Bowler
Ruben Studdard - American Idol winner
Barry Wagner - Arena Football League wide receiver for the San Jose SaberCats & Orlando Predators; set many Alabama A&M school football records
Robert Mathis - current National Football League Defensive End

Senator Obama Closing in on Nomination

Senator Barack Obama needs only 16 more pledged delegates to reach a majority with 103 on the table tomorrow in Oregon and Kentucky, though the threshold is a purely symbolic milestone.

He added endorsements from another three party officials or "superdelegates" Monday, and is now less than 120 total delegates away from the total of 2,025 needed to secure the nomination. In a symbolic moment, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a 90-year-old Democratic giant who has spent half a century in the Senate, backed Senator Obama, despite his beloved home state voting overwhelmingly for Senator Clinton last week. Byrd was briefly a member of the Ku Klux Klan but long ago renounced his early racist leanings, and his support of Obama bolsters the Illinois senator's calls for reconciliation as he tries to become the first Black U.S. president.

Senator Obama leads Senator Clinton in every mathematical equation of the Democratic race: pledged delegates, superdelegates, and the popular vote of certified nomination contests. Senator Clinton is expected to win in Kentucky while Senator Obama is expected to win in Oregon. Senator Obama spoke to an estimated crowd of 75,000 in Portland, Oregon yesterday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards Endorses Obama

In another sign that the Democratic Party establishment is embracing the likely nominee, John Edwards is endorsing former rival Senator Barack Obama, even as Senator Hillary Clinton refuses to give up her long-shot candidacy. Mr. Edwards appeared with Senator Obama in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as the Illinois senator campaigns in the critical general election battleground state. The endorsement comes the day after Senator Clinton defeated Senator Obama by more than 2-to-1 in West Virginia. The loss highlighted Obama's work to win over the "Hillary Democrats" — White, working-class voters who also supported Edwards in large numbers before he exited the race.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and the 2004 vice presidential nominee, dropped out of the race in late January. Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton immediately asked him for his endorsement, but he stayed silent for more than four months. A person close to Edwards, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he wanted to get involved now to begin unifying the party. Senator Obama also signed on to Edwards' anti-poverty initiative, which he launched Tuesday with the goal of reducing poverty in the United States by half within 10 years.

Edwards didn't even tell many of his former top advisers when he made his decision, because he wanted to make sure that he personally talked to Senator Clinton to give her the news, said the person close to him. This is perfect timing for Senator as the story now in the Edwards’ endorsement and not the West Virginia loss. Edwards was considered Obama and Clinton’s strongest contender, even though he was always outshone by the historic nature of Senator Obama possibly being the first Black nominee and Senator Clinton the first woman nominee.

Edwards promoted progressive policy ideas and came in second to Senator Obama in Iowa before coming in third in the following three contests and dropping out in New Orleans, the location a reminder of his attention to poverty. This leaves Senator Obama just 139 delegates short of the 2,026 needed to clinch the nomination. Now we shall see in the Democratic Party can come together to win the White House.

Senator Clinton vowed to remain in the presidential race until the last primaries next month, but she hinted that the lingering contest with Senator Obama would end shortly thereafter. "You don't walk off the court before the buzzer sounds," Clinton said on CNN. "You never know, you might get a three-point shot at the end." She has stopped the negative campaigning over the last week, so maybe she will support the nominee when this is over.

Three Former SEC Chairmen Endorse Senator Obama

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama picked up the endorsement today of three former chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission, two of whom were appointed by Republican presidents. Arthur Levitt, who was appointed Bill Clinton; William Donaldson, who was appointed by George W. Bush; and David Ruder, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, issued a joint statement saying Senator Obama can provide the best leadership during times of monumental economic challenges. ``We believe Senator Obama can provide the positive leadership and judgment needed to take us to a stronger and more secure economic future,'' they said. The statement also was signed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who previously endorsed Senator Obama.

The four men said they appreciated Senator Obama's support for ``balanced regulatory reform. We believe that such a constructive approach can be extended broadly in the economic area as well as elsewhere.'' Levitt, in an interview today on Bloomberg Radio, said their backing was prompted in part by Senator Obama's opposition to a summer gas-tax holiday advanced by Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton and Republican Senator John McCain. Senator Obama called the idea a ``gimmick'' because it would save the average driver less than $30. ``Obama alone opposed this as being political and so over the top and we agree with that,'' Levitt said. ``We felt that Obama's position on this particular issue was fair and balanced.''

In a written statement, Senator Obama said he was honored to have their support. ``They understand the depth of our current economic problems and that we need to rise above the old politics if we are to build a stronger, more secure economic future,'' Obama said. ``I look forward to working with them.''

Senator Barack Obama also won the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion rights advocacy organization that has supported rival Senator Hillary Clinton throughout her political career. The organization was set to announce the endorsement of its political action committee on Wednesday. "Pro-choice Americans have been fortunate to have two strong pro-choice candidates in Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, both of whom have inspired millions of new voters to participate in this historic presidential race," NARAL president Nancy Keenan said in a statement. "Today, we are proud to put our organization's grass-roots and political support behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Senator Obama."

NARAL officials said the decision wasn't intended to be a snub of Senator Clinton. They said the board decided to back Obama over Clinton because he is overwhelmingly favored to win the nomination and to heal what the organization viewed as a growing rift between Black voters and White female activists that the prolonged Clinton-Obama contest may have caused.

Senator Obama he picked up three more superdelegates after the West Virginia loss, offering fresh recognition from Democratic leaders that he is likely to secure the nomination. His campaign announced the support of Representative Peter Visclosky of Indiana and Democrats Abroad chairperson Christine Schon Marques, who will get only a half vote at the national convention because the Democrats Abroad send double their allotted superdelegates and give them each a half vote. A third superdelegate, College Democrats vice president and University of Wisconsin-Madison student Awais Khaleel, also announced Senator Obama is his choice in a video posted on YouTube.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Clinton Wins West Virginia; Obama Gains More Superdelegates

Senator Hillary Clinton coasted to a large but largely symbolic victory in working-class West Virginia on Tuesday, handing Senator Barack Obama one of the worst defeats of the campaign yet scarcely slowing his march toward the Democratic presidential nomination. She coupled praise for Senator Obama (something new – maybe she is going for vice-president after all) with a pledge to persevere in a campaign in which she has become the decided underdog. "This race isn't over yet," she said. "Neither of us has the total delegates it takes to win."

Senator Obama, in the mean time, looked ahead to the Oregon primary later in the month and to the general election campaign against Republican John McCain. "This is our chance to build a new majority of Democrats and independents and Republicans who know that four more years of George Bush just won't do," Obama said in Missouri, which looms as a battleground state in November.

With votes from 69 percent of West Virginia's precincts counted, Senator Clinton was winning 66 percent of the vote, to 27 percent for Senator Obama. Her triumph approached the 70 percent of the vote she gained in Arkansas, her best state to date. It came courtesy of an overwhelmingly white electorate comprised of the kinds of voters who have favored her throughout the primaries. Nearly a quarter were 60 or older, and a similar number had no education beyond high school. More than half were in families with incomes of $50,000 or less, and the former first lady was wining a whopping 69 percent of their votes.

Senator Clinton won at least 16 of the 28 delegates at stake in West Virginia, to seven for Obama, with 5 more to be allocated. Senator Obama leads with 1,875.5 delegates to 1,712 for Senator Clinton. It takes 2,026 to clinch the nomination at the party convention in Denver this summer, a total raised by one to reflect the election of Democrat Travis Childers to Congress in a special election in Mississippi during the evening.

Senator Clinton's contended that her strength with blue-collar voters, already demonstrated in primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania, makes her the more electable candidate in the fall. That is fine if one section of the country is all it takes to win the nomination (Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, Southern Indiana, West Virginia and it will be the same in Kentucky – low income, old female, Archie Bunker-types). But, I think they count everything. Senator Obama has won more primary/caucus contest 30 to 21; he leads in superdelegates, the popular vote and over delegates. What? And he is only 143 delegates away from the clinching number 2026 to gain the nomination. About 250 superdelegates remain publicly uncommitted. But there have been a study number of them endorsing Senator since his win in North Carolina.

The delegate tally aside, the former first lady struggled to overcome an emerging Democratic consensus that Senator Obama effectively wrapped up the nomination last week with a victory in the North Carolina primary and a narrow loss in Indiana. Even though he lost West Virginia, he picked up four superdelegates during the day, including Roy Romer, former Democratic Party chairman. "This race, I believe, is over," Romer told reporters on a conference call. He said only Clinton can decide when to withdraw, but he added: "There is a time we need to end it and direct ourselves to the general election. I think that time is now."

Only five more primaries remain on the calendar, beginning next week in Kentucky and Oregon, then Puerto Rico on June 1 and Montana and South Dakota two days later. There's another important date on the calendar, though, the May 31 meeting of a convention committee that will hear Senator Clinton's appeal to seat the delegations from disputed primaries in Florida and Michigan. Senator Clinton has long argued to have the delegates seated — a decision that would cut into Obama's delegate advantage — even though the primaries were held so early in the year that they violated Democratic Party rules. And all the candidates, including Senator Clinton, agreed to not seat the delegates from both states. That is the only piece of hope she has left.

In recent weeks, Senator Obama has signaled a willingness to compromise on the issue as he has become more confident of his ultimate victory in the fight for the nomination. Both candidates shook hands on the Senate floor Tuesday after interrupting their campaigns for a few hours to vote on energy-related bills. In the days since close to 30 superdelegates have swung behind Senator Obama; evidence that party officials are beginning to unite around the Illinois senator who is seeking to become the first Black to win a major party presidential nomination. Three of his new supporters formerly backed Senator Clinton, who surrendered her lead in superdelegates late last week for the first time since the campaign began.

Senator Obama had said several days ago he expected Senator Clinton to win by significant margins in West Virginia and then in Kentucky, which holds its primary next week. He devoted more time to Oregon, which also holds a primary next week, and announced plans to campaign in several other states that loom as battlegrounds in the fall against Senator McCain. Among them are Florida and Michigan, two states that held early primaries in defiance of national Democratic Party rules. The two combined have 44 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, and Senator Obama has not yet campaigned in either. Senator Obama has thus signaled that he is the Democratic candidate and is now campaigning against Senator McCain.

Monday, May 12, 2008

From Prison to the NFL

He has Bible scripture tattooed on his left arm. He reads Psalms 91 every morning before he brushes his teeth. He also spends some of his free time reading the Bible. The key word is free. Faith and prayer carried Marcus Dixon through prison and gave him a second chance and the opportunity of a lifetime.

Even if Dixon doesn’t make the Dallas Cowboys’ roster – an undrafted free agent is a long shot – he knows he’ll be successful. Anything less would be disservice to the many people who helped him reclaim his life after trumped up charges in Lindale, Georgia resulted in Dixon spending nearly 15 months in prison after being convicted of statutory and child molestation as an 18-year-old high school senior.

Life has always been a struggle for Dixon. His father left when he was a youngster, and his mother battled drug addiction. His grandmother, Glenda Reynolds, raised him until he was 10. That’s when Dixon asked Ken Jones, who had been his Little League all-star coach, if he could move in with Jones and his family – wife, Peri, and son, Casey. Dixon had become good friends with Casey Jones that summer.

The Joneses are White. When it comes to race relations for small southern towns stuck in the 1950s, that is a combustible mix. “This is just a little redneck country town,” his long time friend since middle school said.

Dixon was a grade A student at Pepperell High School and excelled on the football field to the point where he had been offered a full scholarship at Vanderbilt University, but due to his court case and conviction he was unable to take on this opportunity. “I always felt like it was cool to make all A’s and B’s,” said Dixon, whose high school GPA was close to 4.0. “I never thought it was cool to fail classes. I treated school like it was a football game.”

Four days after signing with Vanderbilt, a 15-year-old White classmate accused him of raping her in an empty classroom. He said it was consensual sex. Prosecutors charged Dixon with rape, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, sexual battery, statutory rape and aggravated child molestation. Dixon represented by a public defender who was handling his first defense case, was acquitted of rape, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and sexual battery. All of that indicates the jury believed Dixon. But according to state law, the girl was underage, and the jury found Dixon guilty of statutory rape and aggravated child molestation. Statutory rape is a misdemeanor; aggravated child molestation is a felony that carries a mandatory 10-year prison sentence.

Dixon believed his life was over. And it might have been without people like Atlanta attorney David Balser, who took Dixon’s case pro bono after reading about it. And Reverend Terrell Shields, who led a protest and raised money for Dixon’s defense team. And Hampton University president William R. Harvey, who enrolled Dixon in his school after Vanderbilt, had rescinded its scholarship offer and other schools stayed away. “I was told it was a slam dunk case against him, but after going to court and listening to the evidence, I found that not to be true,” Reverend Shields said. “I spoke to the district attorney, and she really lit a fire under me when she said, ‘A person born at risk is destined to fail.’”

The story made national news. It was featured on Oprah, HBO’s Real Sports and ESPN.
Dixon was imprisoned until the Georgia Supreme Court, ruling 4-3, said Dixon should have been prosecuted solely on the statutory rape charge, which carries a maximum of one-year sentence. He was immediately released.

Upon his release from prison Dixon enrolled at Hampton University with a football scholarship. Hard work has always been part of Dixon’s profile. He was a regular on the dean’s list at Hampton. He became a starter midway through his freshman season and ended his career as a three-year captain.

Dixon, 6-4, 294 pounds, attended the NFL scouting combine and repeated his story to any coach or general manager who inquired. Most scouts figured he would be a late-round draft choice or a priority free agent. But, with NFL teams placing so much emphasis on character these days, Dixon knew it was possible he might not get drafted. On April 27, 2008, Marcus signed a three-year, $1.1 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. “For a young man, he has seen a lot of life,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I know he wouldn’t recommend it for anybody, but I’ve always thought that I’d rather be in a foxhole with people who’ve had some hard times.”

Dixon enjoyed every aspect of his first mini-camp weekend with the Cowboys. He spent a portion of the first day taking pictures of the locker room on his cell phone and e-mailing them to his mom. In a couple of months, training camp will begin and Dixon will officially go about the business of making the team. Perhaps, then, it will be an even bigger story.

He Got Game

Hillary may have Bill. But Barack's got game. For most of this campaign season Senator Barack Obama has kept his love of the game under wraps, but suddenly basketball became center court as a political strategy. “I do think you can tell something about people by the way they play basketball," he told HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" this month. Hours before losing Pennsylvania's primary to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Obama played a pickup game at a YMCA in Pittsburgh with several aides, friends and two reporters. No cameras were allowed in that game — part of a private voting day ritual — but he wasn’t so shy when the campaign moved to Indiana and North Carolina, both basketball-crazed states.

He played pickup games in Kokomo, Indiana with the game tied to his voter registration drive. With cameras trained on his every 46-year-old move, Senator Obama scrimmaged with the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Very smart politics. We're a very sports-loving country and it would be unusual if our president was not sports connected in one way or another. President Dwight D. Eisenhower played golf. President John F. Kennedy played touch football with the youthful vigor that defined his 1960 campaign. President Richard Nixon bowled, badly, as he brought blue-collar voters into the GOP fold. The sports strategy has its limits. If not, former Senator Bill Bradley would have been elected president in 2000. The Hall of Fame basketball player shot hoops on the campaign trail also.

Growing up in Hawaii, Senator Obama considered basketball as a way to find his racial identity in a diverse community. "Here is a place," Obama told HBO, "where Black was not a disadvantage." Now, it's a place for a break from the campaign. Dribbling a ball during warm-ups on the court in Pittsburgh, Senator Obama said he and his pals played the day of the Iowa caucuses. "We won the caucuses then came New Hampshire and we didn't play. We were too busy," he said. "That won't happen again. I am superstitious."

He's confident and competitive, superstitious and silly, admits his mistakes, shares credit and always in control. That's Barack Obama on the basketball court, the hardwood hideaway that helped him adjust to a white world as a racially mixed teenager — and now stands as a sweaty platform for his Democratic presidential campaign.

Obama picked the teams in Pittsburgh, giving himself five of the best players and two of the worst and immediately took charge of the play, bringing the ball up court and dishing soft bounce passes. He kept score and called fouls, including one on himself. Senator Obama is extremely confident with his game, for good reason. He glides more than runs, with graceful strides that put enough space between himself and his opponents to launch a solid left-handed jump shot. The Illinois senator usually plays with younger men because he says he's a step too fast for most his age.

Beyonce to Portray Etta James in New Movie

Superstar entertainer Beyonce will play three different roles for her next movie: actress, singer and producer. The 10-time Grammy Award-winner will play legendary singer Etta James in Cadillac Records. In addition to acting in the starring in the movie, she has also signed as executive producer on the project.

The 1950s period piece is based on the Chicago record company Chess Records, its founder Leonard Chess and the lives of the music legends on the label. Other cast members include Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon, Columbus Short as Little Walter and Adrien Brody as Chess.

Beyonce, who received two Golden Globe nominations for her last movie, Dreamgirls, will also record four songs for the soundtrack. According to her representative, a portion of her fees for the film will be donated to recovering addicts through her family’s charity, The Survival Foundation.

Jenna Bush Wed by Obama Backer Kirbyjon Caldwell

On Saturday afternoon, the Hager family, Jenna Bush’s in-laws, hosted wedding guests at a barbecue in Salado, Texas. The wedding, which began at 7:30 p.m., took place on the Bu$h ranch, before a white limestone altar erected next to a man-made lake. Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell of Houston, Texas officiated at the ceremony. Pastor Caldwell, a longtime religious adviser to President Bu$h, is Black. The fact Pastor Caldwell is Black is not a surprise to me. Well, maybe I am a little surprised. President Bu$h has lots of Black advisors and friends. The fact that Pastor Caldwell has endorsed Senator Barack Obama to me is a total surprise. I was sure that any advisor or friend of his would have a Bush philosophy.

Yes, the influential minister who has long been a spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush said Saturday that he will endorse Senator Barack Obama's bid for the presidency. Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell is senior pastor of the 14,000-member Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston. He said that he is backing the Illinois senator because of Obama’s "character, confidence and courage."

Pastor Caldwell said that his support is personal and not connected to his role as pastor of the 14,000-member church. However, Caldwell told his congregation that Senator Obama may pay a visit to the church.

Pastor Caldwell, whose relationship with the president began when Bush was governor of Texas, introduced President Bush at the 2000 Republican National Convention and gave the benediction at both of his inaugurations. Pastor Caldwell said he called President Bush to inform him of his decision to support Senator Obama and that the president was "OK" with it, adding that the minister's presidential choice would not affect their relationship.

I don't know about the rest of the country, but I have friends, family, people I work with, people I go to church with, etc., who have points of view that differ from mine. Some of their viewpoints are radically different, points of view that I detest. But if I got rid of all the people in my life that didn't completely agree with everything I believe, then I'd be standing here all alone. So President Bush -- or Senator Obama -- have good friends who have a different point of view, so what.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eugene Bullard: “The Black Swallow of Death”

Eugene Jacques Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1894 and went on to become the first Black American fighter pilot. He was loosely protrayed by Abdul Salis in the 2006 movie Flyboys. In an interview Mr. Salis discussing the notion of doing an entire movie on Eugene Bullard revealed that director Dean Devlin had said on the shoot, “of the characters, Eugene’s story alone is the only one worth a film in its entirety.”

And it really is a story -- his dad, “Big Chief Ox” was a slave; his mother was a Creek Indian. Bullard stowed away on a ship headed for Scotland to escape racial discrimination (he said that he witnessed his father’s narrow escape from a lynching as a child). While in the United Kingdom he became a boxing champion and also worked in a music hall. On a trip to Paris, he decided to stay and joined the French Foreign Legion upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914. He was wounded in the 1916 and awarded the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War") which is given to individuals who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces.

Bullard transferred to the Lafayette Flying Corps – better known as Lafayette Escadrille -- (composed largely of American volunteer pilots flying fighters. He flew some 20 missions and shot down two enemy aircraft. But, with the entry of the United States into the war the US Army Air Service convened a medical board in August 1917 for the purpose of recruiting Americans serving in the Lafayette Flying Corps. Although he passed the medical examination, Eugene Bullard was not accepted into American service because Blacks were barred from flying in U.S. service at that time. Bullard was discharged from the French Air Force after fighting with another officer while off-duty and was transferred to the 170th (French) Infantry Regiment on January 11, 1918, where he served until the end of the war.

Following the end of the war, Bullard remained in Paris. He began working in nightclubs and eventually owned his own establishment. He married the daughter of a French countess, but the marriage soon ended in divorce, with Bullard taking custody of their two daughters. His work in nightclubs brought him many famous friends, among them Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong and Langston Hughes. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Bullard, who spoke German, readily agreed to a request from the French to spy on German agents frequenting his club in Paris. After the German invasion of the France, Bullard took his daughters and fled south from Paris. In Orléans he joined a group of soldiers defending the city and suffered a spinal wound in the fighting. He was helped to flee to Spain by a French spy, and in July 1940 he returned to the United States.

Bullard spent some time in a hospital in New York for his spinal injury, but he never fully recovered. During and after World War II, when seeking work in the United States, he found, like many Blacks that became famous in Europe that the fame he enjoyed in France had not followed him to New York. He worked in a variety of occupations, as a perfume salesman, a security guard, and as an interpreter for Louis Armstrong, but his back injury severely restricted his activities. For a time he attempted to regain his nightclub in Paris, but his property had been destroyed during the Nazi occupation, and he received a financial settlement from the French government which allowed him to purchase an apartment in Harlem.

In the 1950s, Bullard was a relative stranger in his own homeland. His daughters had married, and he lived alone in his apartment, which was decorated with pictures of the famous people he had known, and with a framed case containing his 15 French war medals. His final job was as an elevator operator at Rockefeller Center, where his fame as the “Black Swallow of Death” was unknown.

In 1954, the French government invited Bullard to Paris to rekindle (together with two Frenchmen) the everlasting flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe, and in 1959 he was made a chevalier (knight) of the Légion d'honneur. Even so, he spent the last years of his life in relative obscurity and poverty in New York City where he died of stomach cancer on October 12, 1961. He was buried with military honors by French officers in the French War Veterans' section of Flushing Cemetery in the Queens, New York.

In 1972, his exploits as a pilot were published in the book The Black Swallow of Death: The Incredible Story of Eugene Jacques Bullard, The World's First Black Combat Aviator. This book is part of the Bullard display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio. On 23 August 1994, 33 years after his death, and 77 years to the day after his rejection for U.S. military service in 1917, Eugene Bullard was posthumously commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

His Medals include:
• Knight of the Légion d'honneur
• Médaille militaire
• Croix de guerre
• Volunteer's Cross (Croix du combattant volontaire)
• Wounded Insignia
• WWI commemorative medal
• WWI Victory medal
• Free French Medal
• WWII commemorative medal

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Senator Obama Overtakes Lead in Superdelegates for First Time

Senator Barack Obama erased Senator Hillary Clinton's once-imposing lead among superdelegates Saturday when he added more endorsements from the group of Democrats who will decide the party's nomination for president. He added superdelegates from Utah, Ohio and Arizona, as well as two from the Virgin Islands who had previously backed Senator Clinton. The additions enabled Senator Obama to surpass Senator Clinton's total for the first time in the campaign. He had picked up nine endorsements Friday.

The milestone is important because Senator Clinton would need to win over the superdelegates by a wide margin to claim the nomination. They are a group that Clinton owned before the first caucus, when she was able to cash in on the popularity of the Clinton brand among the party faithful. Those party insiders, however, have been steadily streaming to Senator Obama since he started posting wins in early voting states. Superdelegates are key because neither candidate can win the nomination without them. Nearly 800 superdelegates will attend the convention. Senator Obama has endorsements from 276, according to the latest tally by The Associated Press; Senator Clinton has 271.5.

"I always felt that if anybody establishes himself as the clear leader, the superdelegates would fall in line," said Don Fowler, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "It is perceived that he is the leader," said Fowler, a superdelegate from South Carolina who supports Senator Clinton. "The trickle is going to become an avalanche."

Many of the superdelegates who endorsed Senator Obama in the past week said it is time for the party to unite behind him. Senator Obama is coming off a big win in North Carolina's Democratic primary Tuesday. Senator Clinton narrowly won Indiana's primary the same day, but Senator Obama did better than many expected. Senator Obama has added 21 superdelegates since and Senator Clinton has had a net increase of two. Senator Clinton started the year with a 106-delegate lead among superdelegates, a margin that started to shrink after Obama won the Iowa caucuses in early January. Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant who is not aligned with either candidate, said the Democratic National Committee was filled with superdelegates who had long supported Clinton and her husband, the former president. That gave Clinton a built-in advantage. "The DNC was her turf, and she was the candidate of the insiders," Backus said. "Normally the party activists march lockstep with the establishment candidate," Backus said. "They didn't do that this time." Kevin Rodriquez of the Virgin Islands said in a statement that he switched from Clinton to Obama because he thinks Obama has brought energy and excitement to the party. "He has shown he can connect with Democrats, Republicans and independents across this country, whether we live on the mainland or an island," Rodriquez said.

Even during Senator Obama's toughest stretch of the campaign, when his former pastor's comments dominated the headlines, he kept churning out superdelegate endorsements. And when Senator Clinton posted a big win in the Pennsylvania primary, Senator Obama collected still more. Senator Clinton picked up the pace of her endorsements after Pennsylvania, adding 11.5 superdelegates in the following two weeks. Senator Obama countered by adding 22.

A little more than 200 superdelegates remain undecided, and about 40 others will be named by state parties at state conventions and meetings throughout the spring. Senator Obama has a 163-delegate lead among the pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses. That means Senator Clinton would have to generate an identical lead among superdelegates to catch him. There are 217 pledged delegates at stake in the remaining six primaries. Senator Obama is on track to secure a majority of the pledged delegates on May 20, when Kentucky and Oregon vote.

In the overall race for the nomination, Senator Obama has 1,864.5 delegates and Clinton has 1,697. He is just 160.5 delegates shy of the 2,025 needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

Ohio labor leader Dave Regan, who was selected as a superdelegate Saturday, told the AP that Senator Obama is "the candidate that can unite the country and move beyond the divisiveness and gridlock that we have today. Obama is looking like a stronger and stronger candidate," Regan said. "I think it's very likely he will be the nominee." Besides Regan and Rodriquez, Senator Obama added endorsements from Carole Burke of the Virgin Islands, Kristi Cumming of Utah and Representative Harry Mitchell of Arizona.