Thursday, 18 August 2011

Maxine Waters: Why isn't Obama in black communities?

WASHINGTON -- A prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus ripped President Obama's bus tour for ignoring suffering African-American communities as it rolls through pastoral -- and mostly white -- heartland towns.
"We don't know why on this trip that he's in the United States now, he's not in any black community. We don't know that," fumed Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) Tuesday evening at a jobs forum in Detroit, which is suffering a 12.5 percent unemployment rate, double Iowa's 6 percent.
"We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the strategy is," she continued.

A new Gallup poll put Obama's approval rating for handling the economy at a dismal 26 percent, the lowest of his presidency. A whopping 71 percent of those polled gave his performance a thumbs down.
Waters' frustration came as Republicans zinged Obama for conducting his jobs tour aboard a Canadian-built bus, as The Post revealed yesterday in an exclusive story.
Obama's bus tour has taken him through rural hamlets in Minnesota, Iowa and western Illinois, with picture-perfect photo ops in front of bales of hay and river parks -- but no hard-hit urban areas, as black unemployment holds at a crushing 16 percent nationally.
Henry County, Ill., where Obama spoke yesterday, has a black population of just 2.2 percent.
The black population of Winneshiek County, Iowa, where the president made an earlier stop, is a tiny 0.6 percent.
The criticism, although coming from a lawmaker under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, points to Obama's political bind -- he needs to reconnect with disaffected independent voters in Middle America.
But Obama also can't ignore base voters who supported him in 2008 and often rely on government help.
It's the latest headache on Obama's bus tour.
As The Post reported, the outer shells for each of two shiny black buses, which cost a total of $2.2 million, were manufactured in Canada by Quebec-based Prevost.

Waters, speaking at a freewheeling forum at Detroit's Wayne County Community College, suggested members of the CBC don't pressure Mr. Obama because their constituents are proud to have an African-American president, adding that "if we go after the president too hard, you're going after us."

"The Congressional Black Caucus loves the president, too," she went on to say. "We're supportive of the president, but we're getting tired. We're getting tired. And so, what we want to do is, we want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he's prepared to lead on. We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the strategy is. We don't know why on this trip that he's in the United States now, he's not in any black community. We don't know that."

The unemployment rate for African-Americans as of July was 15.9 percent, and it's significantly higher in Detroit. Waters told her audience Tuesday that when you "unleash us and you tell us you're ready to have this conversation, we're ready to have the conversation."

After Waters told the audience members of congress will act "when you tell us it's all right" to have a conversation with the president about these issues, an audience-member yelled, "it's all right!" After she said she wanted to give the president "every opportunity" to show what his plan is, someone yelled, how long?

Boston University Identifies Contributors To High Breast Cancer Incidence In African-American Women

African American women have higher rates of a type of breast cancer that isn't dependent for growth on the hormones estrogen or progesterone. They also have a higher rate of childbearing than do white American women.

A new study finds there is likely a link between those two facts -- that bearing a baby to term raises the risk for this type of cancer, called estrogen or progesterone receptor-negative breast cancer.

The study also finds that black women who breastfeed their babies can lower their odds of developing this cancer back down again.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, followed a group of 47,000 African American women from 1996 through 2009. Researchers had participants fill out, every two years, a detailed questionnaire assessing a wide range of factors that affect a woman's risk for breast cancer -- including weight, age at which they began menstruating, pregnancies and age of first childbearing, birth control or hormone-replacement use, physical activity and alcohol consumption.

What they found was that African American women who had given birth to more children were more likely to develop estrogen or progesterone-negative cancer than their peers who had not given birth or who had given birth to only one child. But when a woman with two or more childbirths breastfed her babies, that risk declined considerably.

Their study, based on the ongoing Black Women's Health Study, which has followed 59,000 African American women since 1995, found that giving birth to two or more children was associated with a 50 percent increase in the incidence of estrogen and progesterone receptor negative (ER-/PR-) cancers, but only among women who had not breastfed.

ER- and PR-negative results mean that the growth of the cancer is not supported by the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and therefore does not respond to hormonal therapy (such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors). It's the type of cancer "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts was diagnosed with back in 2007 and accounts for 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers -- more than one out of every 10 -- according to

Over the study's 14 year follow-up, 318 women developed ER-/PR- breast cancers, while 457 developed breast cancers with estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR positive).

What was also striking, was that having two or more children was associated with a decreased risk for ER and PR positive breast cancer, a form that is more common among white women. Breast feeding had no influence on that association.

"Our results, taken together with recent results from studies of triple negative and basal-like breast cancer, suggest that breastfeeding can reduce risk of developing aggressive, difficult-to-treat breast cancers," explained lead author Julie Palmer, ScD, MPH, a senior epidemiologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center and a professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health,.

African World Festival highlights

While packing the diverse history and culture of the African Diaspora into a three-day event is nearly impossible, organizers of the annual African World Festival handle the challenge with creative aplomb.
Held at Detroit's Hart Plaza, the three-day 29th annual festival offers music, vendors, ethnic food and more.
The event isn't just an opportunity to have a good time; it also exposes people to the flavors of the African world, brings communities together and puts a spotlight on Detroit's cultural richness, says festival director Njia Kai.
It's also an opportunity to learn more about the festival's presenter, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Kai says.
"It's important for people to be aware of the museum and recognize that it has (grown) and continues to grow, presenting new and exciting educational and entertaining exhibits and special events," Kai says.
The cultural attraction draws more than 300,000 people annually, many of them out-of-towners.
"I have gotten calls from people in Canada, Hawaii, inquiring about the festival," Kai says.
"People will set their vacation time for the third week of August. They expect Detroit to be a mecca for African-American culture and we aim to please."
New this year is the expansion of activities that will ensure that the young will not be restless. Instead of holding children's activities on Saturday and Sunday only, the festival will open the Watoto Village on Friday for the Watoto Celebration for families. Watoto means children in Swahili.
The celebration will include performances by folk singer Ella Jenkins, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
The festival also will be a place for personal discovery.
African plans to roll into town with its We Are Africa 2011 Road Tour where visitors can learn how to pinpoint their ancestry and about the ancestries of local personalities, including Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson and poet jessica Care moore.
Things will take a fashionable turn during the "Detroit Rocks the Runway" fashion design competition on Saturday. The event's special guest judge will be Detroit's own Naima Mora, who won cycle 4 of "America's Next Top Model."
And be sure to warm up your muscles because you will find it hard not to groove with a festival musical lineup that includes performances by headliner Roy Ayers on Friday.
The jazz-funk master is known for classics such as "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and "Running Away."
Saturday, check out "Black Women Rock!" Presented by moore, the event will bring together black female rock 'n' soul singers, musicians, poets and performance artists.
The African World Festival also will celebrate the lives of music icons Bob Marley, Gil Scott-Heron and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Kuti's life is chronicled in the touring Broadway musical "Fela!," which will be at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in February.
Through the collaborative efforts of Music Hall and the Wright museum, festival-goers can explore a multimedia Kuti exhibit at Hart Plaza during the festival.
There will be a special exhibit unveiling Friday, from 5-7 p.m., with Kuti album cover artist Lemi Ghariokwu in attendance.

The Man, the Movement, the Music," a visual and aural exhibit honoring Afro-pop musician and activist Fela Kuti, will be unveiled Friday. Lemi Ghariokwu, the designer of album covers for artists like Kuti and Bob Marley, will speak during the ceremony. 5-7 p.m. Friday.

• A Parade of Nations will depart from Woodward at I-75 and proceed to Hart Plaza. 11 a.m. Saturday, with Hart Plaza arrival at noon.

• Naima Mora, the Detroiter who won "America's Next Top Model" in 2005, will be a guest judge for the "Detroit Rocks the Runway" fashion design competition, which will merge hip-hop with traditional African textiles and design. 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

• Detroit poet-musician Jessica Care Moore will host "Black Women Rock!," a gathering of musicians, singers, poets, spoken-word and performance artists. 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

•'s "We Are Africa 2011 Road Tour" will be on site throughout the weekend, offering information and more about using DNA to trace ancestry. There will be presentations and other events, along with test kits for purchase. More info at .

• Third New Hope Baptist Church will present "Sermon on the River." Noon Sunday.

• The Motown Summer Blast Gospel Explosion will showcase one of the city's most potent musical genres. 2 p.m. Sunday.

• Multifaceted vocalist Rachelle Ferrell will perform on the event's main stage. 7 p.m. Sunday.

Oakland Schools Police Chief's Racist Tirade

SAN FRANCISCO -- Turns out the Oakland schools police chief accused of launching a boozy barrage of racial slurs at an African American sergeant on their way home from a charity golf tournament had actually brought him to the party as part of a "bonding experience."

What's more, the cash-strapped Oakland school district picked up the tab, giving Chief Pete Sarna and the sergeant, plus another sergeant on the command staff, a full day's pay to hit the greens and party it up with fellow cops from around the Bay Area at the $150-a-head event.

"It was classified as a retreat," said one school district source, who asked not to be named because the district is conducting a confidential personnel investigation of Sarna.

The district is looking into accusations that the chief, who is white, let loose July 18 with a half-hour tirade loaded with racist epithets against his two sergeants and a police driver - who apparently was called to the event at the Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland so no one would be driving drunk.

Sarna allegedly told the African American sergeant, who lives in Orinda, that "the only good n- is a dead n- and they should hang you in the town square to prevent any other n- from coming in the area."

The second sergeant, who is white, filed a complaint against Sarna with the district. The sergeant's attorney, Joe O'Sullivan, said the chief had invited his underlings to join him at the event.

As far as we have been able to determine, almost all the other officers at the charity tournament were off-duty.

Although drinking was going on at the gathering, fellow golfers said the chief did not appear to be heavily impaired when he left. What set him off on his alleged rant remains unclear.

"The three witnesses gave the same story. There is no question as to how it happened," O'Sullivan said. "The irony is they all thought he was a great chief."

The district is looking into accusations that the chief, who is white, let loose July 18 with a half-hour tirade loaded with racist epithets against his two sergeants and a police driver -- who apparently was called to the event at the Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland so no one would be driving drunk.

Sarna allegedly told the African American sergeant, who lives in Orinda, that "the only good n- is a dead n- and they should hang you in the town square to prevent any other n- from coming in the area."

The second sergeant, who is white, filed a complaint against Sarna with the district. The sergeant's attorney, Joe O'Sullivan, said the chief had invited his underlings to join him at the event.

"The three witnesses gave the same story. There is no question as to how it happened," O'Sullivan said.

Sounds like the investigation shouldn't be too difficult. If the allegations are true, this is one story that doesn't require the old "Was it racist or was it just a thoughtless and insensitive slip of the tongue?" treatment. And it's even more troubling considering that just this week, protests are under way in response to police brutality against black men by members of Oakland's police department.

Anyone who holds the views Sarna is accused of expressing -- regardless of whether alcohol was involved -- shouldn't be allowed within shouting distance of Oakland kids and certainly doesn't belong in the role of the highest law-enforcement authority in their schools.

What's Really Behind the Arguments Over 'The Help'?

The pretty Viola Davis was on plugging her new movie, "The Help". Viola half-jokingly remarked, " I want to rename this movie 'The Pressure Cooker'". Viola explained there were many critical "eyes" on this movie, from the book audience to the African American audience. The African American audience could understandably be upset about one of its top actresses having to play a "Maid" in 2011. Have we not progressed as a people? Are there not other inspiring stories about our community? These are the criticisms Viola was afraid of hearing. Reel film turned to reality when Viola revealed that her own mother was a maid, moreover, her mother worked on a plantation as well.

African-American life in the Jim Crow South -- the often humiliating experiences of black maids working for white families -- into well-crafted, even uplifting Hollywood entertainment. Then came a backlash of criticism of the film (and, implicitly, of the reviewers who praised it), arguing that the movie was, in fact, a racial whitewash, a perpetuation of old Mammy stereotypes and a trivialization of the actual struggles of black Civil Rights activists that occurred at the time, all filtered through the consciousness of a white heroine (and white filmmakers) and meant to relieve white audiences of their guilt over the racial injustices of the past while letting them off the hook for the persistence of milder forms of racism today.

That's some serious backlash, but now comes the counterbacklash, arguments from essayists that 'The Help' is a lot subtler and more nuanced in its portrayal of race relations in 1963 Mississippi, and in its portrayal of the conflicted feelings of the maids toward their employers and their children, than the movie's detractors give it credit for; that the detractors are conditioned to see racism in any attempt by white writers and filmmakers to address the lives of black foik, especially in that strife-torn era; and that this close-minded, knee-jerk reaction to the film is, in fact, racist.

There's a lot of baggage to unpack, then, in both the backlash and the counterbacklash. But what no one seems to be addressing is why the argument over 'The Help' has become so bitter and why the stakes seem so high. Now, I come neither to bury 'The Help' nor to praise it, but I think I know why everyone is so worked up, and the reason is something both sides of the debate can probably agree upon.

Another controversial question is whether the movie is exploitative or respectful toward the black women it depicts. The Association of Black Women Historians argued the former in a statement, calling the movie's maids a perpetuation of the Mammy stereotype, women who were "asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites." I'm not sure this is fair, since the plot hinges on an outpouring of discontent and disloyalty from the maids, particularly Viola Davis' Aibileen and Octavia Spencer's Minny, the two most outspoken of the maids. Their acts of subversion may be small and done only behind their employers' backs, but there's clearly a difference between these quietly seething women and Hattie McDaniel's Mammy in 'Gone With the Wind' (the most notorious example of the stereotype), who does nothing to imply dissatisfaction with or dissent against the system that keeps her subservient. (It's not a difference in their personal dignity -- McDaniel gave Mammy so much of that that she became the first African-American to win an Oscar -- but in their willingness to assert that dignity, in the face of real danger.)

Still, it's the small nature of those acts of rebellion that has prompted another criticism, that 'The Help' trivializes the actual struggles in the Civil Rights movement going on in Jackson, Miss. (and elsewhere) in 1963. The movie does acknowledge the assassination of Medgar Evers in Jackson that summer, but as Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry noted while discussing the movie last week on her Twitter feed and on MSNBC, it gives the Evers slaying as much screen time as Skeeter's date. To Harris-Perry, 'The Help' seemed to trivialize not only the Civil Rights struggles going on outside the frame, but also the hazards faced by the maids themselves, including threats of violence.

That tiny seed of agreement, I think, leads to what the larger issue is here. Which is: there wouldn't be so much contention over this film if it weren't the only thing on the playing field addressing this particular topic. But mainstream movies rarely do address the Civil Rights era, and when they do, it's almost always through a white-savior narrative. The most egregious example is 'Mississippi Burning,' but there's also 'Ghosts of Mississippi,' or even movies as innocuous as 'To Kill a Mockingbird' or 'Intruder in the Dust.' There was also a forgotten movie about 20 years ago called 'The Long Walk Home,' very similar to 'The Help,' which tells the story of the Montgomery bus boycott not through Rosa Parks (who's not even a character in the film) but through a fictional white housewife ('The Help' co-star Sissy Spacek) who comes to sympathize with the hardships of her maid (Whoopi Goldberg) as she walks back and forth across the city to tend her employer's family and her own. So the historians come by their distrust of Civil Rights movies naturally; it's no wonder they didn't expect 'The Help' to be any better. Similarly, the pro-'Help' critics are aware of Hollywood's shameful history on this score, and it's no wonder they'd yearn for a movie that breaks the pattern. It seems like both the pessimists and the optimists saw in 'The Help' the movie they wanted to see.

It's really not fair for 'The Help' to have to shoulder the burden of so many hopes and dreams all by itself. But the fact that 'The Help' is out there all alone is part of a larger problem in Hollywood, which shies away not just from movies that portray the struggle against racism fairly, but also from movies that portray African-American lives in all their richness and diversity. (To be sure, Hollywood doesn't play up the diversity of American experience for people of any race; when's the last time you saw a mainstream movie about white people who were poor or rural?) Everyone on both sides of 'The Help' debate agrees on the Oscar-worthy quality of Viola Davis' performance, ignoring the fact that she's likely to be one of the few black acting nominees this year. Last year there weren't any black nominees, not because there's any dearth of talented black stars, but because they weren't cast in the juicy dramatic roles that win Oscars. There are similarly few such roles this year -- except in 'The Help.'

There would be a certain irony if Davis, a previous Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress for 'Doubt,' who's been so good in so many supporting roles, finally got a lead actor nomination for playing a maid like Hattie McDaniel did 72 years ago. "What kills me is that in 2011 Viola Davis is reduced to playing a maid," Harris-Perry said. I'm sure Davis and Spencer felt the same way, but if there were more dramas with roles for the likes of these two stars, their 'Help' roles would just be a blip on the résumé, part of a panoply of characters representing the diversity of experience, just as 'The Help' would be just one of many movies revealing all facets of life during an important period in recent history. (Really, it's a wonder that 'The Help' got made at all. I'm sure Davis and Spencer knew they'd get flak for playing maids; that Stockett, Taylor and Green knew they'd get flak for being white people telling a story about black lives; and that DreamWorks knew it could have a hard time attracting ticket-buyers to a touchy story about race with a predominantly female cast.)

What's smart about 'The Help' is that it knows it's just telling one small part of the story of race relations in America. Like Skeeter, the filmmakers seem to know that this one small slice-of-life account isn't going to make all the difference in the world or end racism as we know it. It's just getting the ball rolling as a conversation-starter, not the last word. As long as we don't expect it to be the last word, as long as other movies take up the thread and keep us talking about a subject that's clearly not safely behind us but which remains a sore point, then 'The Help' will have done its job.

City to Pay Out $45 Million, Hire 111 African American Firefighters

New Haven, CT - In a 26 page decision, a U.S. appeals court resurrected new life into a lawsuit many thought was dead.

The court ruled that Fire Fighter Michael Briscoe, an African American, can sue the city of New Haven, Connecticut…after claiming its promotions test for firefighters is biased.

The ruling complicates an issue many legal expert considered resolved by the United States Supreme court.

The lawsuit stems from a 1995 firefighter's entrance exam in which almost 6,000 black applicants lost out on the chance to become firemen because the exam and its qualifying cut-off score favored white applicants. The City claimed the black applicants waited too long to file their lawsuit and appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, who found the City's case lacking.
The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May the City must hire 111 black firefighters and pay damages. Those damages could be at lease $45 million and, since it will cost the city a $500,000 for every month the city doesn't settle the case, it's in their best interests to put it behind them quickly.
Attorney Matt Piers, who was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said signs from the Emanuel Administration pointed toward settling the damages, which could earn every individual plaintiff $5,000, as soon as possible. Those who still wish to become firefighters can do so, provided they pass a pre-employment screening, physical tests, drug screens and medical examinations to be placed on a special eligibility list for the 111 jobs.

Will African-Americans Stand by President Obama in 2012?

According to the O'Reilly Factor, high unemployment numbers plus heavy home foreclosures are leaving the black community struggling in higher proportions than the rest of the populace. These hard hitting economic woes may be responsible for diminishing President Obama's support among African Americans.The latest Gallup poll shows the president is down a whopping 14 points from his once high of 95%.

Amid 17% unemployment for African Americans as well as 11% foreclosures for black homeowners, many think the real surprise is that President Obama's previous astounding 95% black community approval is still a solid 87%.Two of the questions the unexpected drop in Obama's polls raised include

Why is President Obama losing black voters?
Can President Obama win the White House in 2012 with weakened support from the black community?

In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight: According to a new Gallup poll, President Obama's support among African-Americans is down 14 points from its high. Currently he gets support from still an impressive 81 percent, but earlier in his presidency he drew an astounding 95 percent.
So why is the president losing black voters? And can he win the White House without tremendous support from the black community? Joining us now to discuss, two men who supported the president in 2008: Rev. Jacques DeGraff, he's a Fox News contributor who is in New York, and radio talk show host Earl Ofari Hutchinson joining us from Los Angeles.
Let's start with you Rev. DeGraff. Look, you know, 95 percent, I don't know how you can ever maintain a 95 percent approval rating but very impressive. Still 81 percent, but there has been some movement. You are looking at 17 percent unemployment for African-Americans, 11 percent foreclosure rate for black homeowners. What has President Obama, to put it bluntly, done for black Americans?

Well, you know, that's a question that many people are asking. It's a legitimate question, too. Many African-Americans quietly and some not so quietly, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, Urban League they're always challenging, challenging, challenging on that point. But we have to remember a couple of things. No. 1, it is true that there has been a tremendous, over the last few years and especially the last year, downturn in the economy. How much Congress, the White House, corporations, the business community and banks are responsible for that, that is subject to debate. But we do know this: that the president is the man at the top. He gets the blame for it and we're looking at many African-Americans saying Mr. President, as others are saying, you made some promises, some of them, of course, could not be kept given the rules of government but, none the less, we expect you to keep those promises. So how much of that is really a realistic expectation or overinflated expectations…

They are holding him to standards which the president himself said, the president said I don't want people to look at me as an African-American president. I happen to be but I'm the president of all the people. He said that himself. This is what Cornel West said, who is obviously a black scholar and has been on a poverty tour of the United States, the Midwest with Tavis Smiley, who is also a well-known black thinker. Obama's team reached out to West, Cornel West, several times and invited him to meet with the president. Cornel West has declined. He went on to say a beer summit won't help our issues, and he had very strong words to say about his longtime friend and he is President Obama. And he is none to happy about it. Is Cornel West wrong and there just needs to be more time for the all these ideas of the president's to germinate?
Still think it's jobs and the economy. At the end of the day the president or anyone else in elective office is going to be judged on what have you done in terms of a paycheck in my pocket, in terms of my welfare and my well-being. It's going to be the same with the president and it's going to be the same with Congress and it's going to be the same with the candidates running against him. That's not an unrealistic expectation from anyone when you are coming into these communities asking for their support.