Posts Tagged ‘African American children’
from menelik charles on facebook
‘Blue-Black’ has typically been…
A phrase which suggested one was ‘ugly’ in Black America. But I have a much better interpretation of the phrase: ‘beautiful’.
Can I get a witness?
(c) Menelik Charles.
Nathan Hare Witness. Witness.
BLACK LYNCHING IN 2014,NORTH CAROLINA !-BLACK BOY DATED A WHITE WOMAN AND GOT LYNCHED FOR IT!-FROM HUFFPOST’S THE BLOG ATI IACENTER.ORGFebruary 10, 2015
The Life and Death of Lennon Lacy: Strange, Still
The animus for Time Magazine’s “song of the 20th century” was a photograph of a Southern lynching. A Southern lynching would often draw an entire region of spectators together for a day of socializing. Small children were even present in the crowd, lifted high upon shoulder for an uninterrupted view of the day’s fatal proceedings. It was a strange, albeit frequent Southern spectacle, one that claimed many Black lives.
Given the frequency of this horrid practice, and the abundance of lynching photographs in circulation, many that doubled as postcards, it is unclear why one particular photograph troubled, then inspired Abel Meeropol, a New York English teacher and poet. Yet, it did. Unable to free his mind of this troubling image over several days, Meeropol sought consolation through his pen. As ink dried upon its canvas, its residuum formed words that have haunted generations, words etched into our collective memory as lyric by the incomparable Billie Holiday:
“Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”
Now seventy-six years removed its initial recording, there is still cause to sing this sorrowful song.
On August 29, 2014, another Black body was added to the crowded annals of those swung by Southern breeze. In a cruel twist of irony, the body of seventeen year-old Lennon Lacy was not found swinging upon a Southern tree, but upon a Southern swing set – a fact only beginning the strangeness surrounding his death. Authorities in Bladenboro, North Carolina, abruptly ruled Lennon’s death a suicide, declaring that he was depressed, and closed the case in five days.
Still, many questions remain.
Why did authorities fail to place bags over Lennon’s hands to prevent contamination and preserve DNA from a possible struggle?
Why didn’t authorities take any pictures at the scene of Lennon’s death?
Why were the shoes found on Lennon’s feet not the same shoes that he departed from home wearing?
Why were the shoes found on Lennon’s feet a size and a half smaller than his foot size?
Why were those same shoes removed from the body bag between the time his corpse was placed in the body bag and the time the body arrived at the medical examiner’s office?
Strange, still, is an independent examiner’s conclusion that declaring Lennon’s death a suicide is virtually impossible given Lennon’s height, weight, and the items found at the scene.
The circumstances surrounding Lennon’s death, however, begin to lose some of its strangeness when the fact that he was in an interracial relationship with a white woman in an area still ripe with racial tension, and where the Ku Klux Klan has an active presence, is brought to the fore. History has taught us time and time again that when authorities move too quickly to close a case, a cover-up is afoot. With so many questions surrounding Lennon’s death, the move to close his case remains startlingly strange, and it is cause for great concern. Thankfully, the FBI is now investigating the case.
Strange, still, is how justice for so many Black lives remains so fleeting.
Strange, still, is how swiftly certain tragedies that befall Black lives are swept under the rug.
Strange, still, is the spectacle of a Southern lynching upon a swing set, a symbol of youthful euphoria now rendered the site of a Black youth’s strangulation. Of Meeropol and Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” the late jazz writer Leonard Feather penned that it was “the first significant protest in words and music, the first unmuted cry against racism.” The very nature of a lynching is to render the victim forever mute — asphyxiating in suspended space — the violent snapping of the neck. While Lennon Lacy is forever muted, we who love justice must become for him as Meeropol and Holiday: an unmuted cry.
We must continue to pen Lennon’s story.
We must continue to sing Lennon’s song.
We must continue to seek answers to strange circumstances.
We must continue to seek justice for another Black life, a life, strangely, still, gone too soon.
This post is part of the “28 Black Lives That Matter” series produced by The Huffington Post for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will shine a spotlight on one African-American individual who made headlines in 2014 — mostly in circumstances we all wished had not taken place. This series will pay tribute to these individuals and address the underlying circumstances that led to their unfortunate outcomes. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #28BlackLives — and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.
Follow Michael W. Waters on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RevDrMikeWaters
OBAMA!-THIS BLACK BOY HAS STOOD UP FOR ALL OTHER BLACK BOYS WHO HAVE LOST THEIR BLACK MOTHERS DUE TO POOR HEALTH CARE SERVICES FOR THE MASSES!-MARCELAS OWENS WE SALUTE YOU IN YOUR PROUD BLACK MANHOOD FOR BEING A FIGHTER!-HE WAS PRESENT WITH OUR BLACK PRESIDENT OBAMA AT THE HEALTHCARE SIGNING!March 24, 2010
Boy witnesses healthcare bill’s signing on behalf of mom
By Kim Murphy
March 24, 2010
Reporting from Seattle – He has been dismissed by the right as a prostitute for healthcare reform whose mom “would still have died” even with the newly passed healthcare legislation. But 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, who stood quietly next to President Obama on Tuesday as he signed the long-debated legislation, has kept the jitters at bay, friends say, by pretending his mom was sitting in the front row.
She wasn’t. She died three years ago of pulmonary hypertension, largely untreated because she lost her health insurance when she lost her job as an assistant manager at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Seattle.
“It’s tough not having my mom around,” Marcelas, a fifth-grader at Seattle’s Orca elementary school, said at a news conference with Senate Democratic leaders this month. “But she’s been with me in spirit every time I talk.”
Plenty of American families have succumbed to a combination of illness, unemployment and debt. Marcelas’ mother, Tifanny, fell ill in 2006 at age 26 with the crippling condition that causes abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.
“If she still had her healthcare, she’d probably still be here,” Marcelas’ grandmother, Gina, told reporters.
The family’s troubles began when Tifanny Owens started missing work because of her illness, said Joshua Welter, who worked with the family at the Washington Community Action Network. Jack in the Box “let her go after she missed so much work,” Welter said.
Jack in the Box spokesman Brian Luscomb said the only Tifanny Owens in their records was a team leader, the equivalent of a shift supervisor, who resigned “for family obligations” in 2006. “She was not involuntarily terminated,” he said.
With no income, Owens couldn’t afford transitional health coverage. Owens would occasionally go to the emergency room, and in one visit, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which cannot be cured but can often be treated.
She was admitted to the University of Washington Medical Center in June 2007, and died a week later.
Marcelas, a plump-cheeked, soft-spoken youngster, became a celebrity of sorts after Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) began talking about his family on the Senate floor.
His prominence has attracted a backlash from conservative commentators, who accuse reform advocates of prostituting and exploiting him as he tells his mother’s story.
Marcelas isn’t paying much attention. He lives with his grandmother, along with his two younger sisters. The local PBS station, KCTS, filmed them one night gathered around the kitchen table in prayer.
“Mom, we miss you and we love you, and we hope you’re having a good time,” Marcelas said. “And I hope you’re getting a lot of rest.”
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
BLACK PEOPLE/AFRICANS!-SPEAK ONLY AFRICAN LANGUAGES TO YOUR CHILDREN IN YOUR HOUSE IF YOU WANT AFRICAN CHILDREN WITH AFRICAN BEHAVIOUR AND VALUES!-FROM ALL ALLAFRICA.COM WITH AFRIFebruary 15, 2010
Daily Independent (Lagos)
Nigeria: Enforcing Indigenous Languages in Homes
14 February 2010
Lagos — The National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation appears to be set to encourage the use of indigenous languages in Nigerian homes.
The institute also frowns at the mode of dressing of most Nigerian children, which it described as ‘near nudity,’ blaming this on the nonchalant attitude of Nigerian parents and the lack of respect for Nigerian culture. It has therefore assured that it would use its medium to address the total emancipation of Nigerian cultural details and encourage its proliferation. This would, according to the institute, help to market the value of Nigerian culture, home and abroad, when the essence and awareness of the culture is encouraged.
Apparently, the recent visit of the executive secretary/chief executive officer of NICO, Dr. Barclays F. Ayakoroma to Lagos office was primarily designed by the institute to gear up arrangement to start off the new academic session of its cultural institute. It was during the visit that Ayakoroma, in his chat with the media, unveiled plans to take Nigeria culture to all the nooks and crannies of the country and to ensure that it yields positive results than ever. NICO was established by Decree 93 of 1993.
The Institute has the primary responsibility of harnessing Nigeria’s cultural resources to meet the challenges of social integration, peace, unity and national development. It also serves as vital force for promoting Nigeria’s programme of Cultural Diplomacy and energising the various cultural establishments in the new direction advocated by Nigeria’s Cultural Policy and the World Decade for Cultural Development (1988-1997) declared by the United Nations.
NICO has a vision to be the apex and leading Cultural Training Institute in Nigeria and Nigeria’s contribution to world progress and civilisation through research and documentation, cultural assets and services, both tangible and intangible.
NICO is also committed to train cultural development officers, motivators and communicators who would be grounded in Nigerian cultural realities, philosophy and practices that are essential for national integration, peace, unity and development in a multi-ethnic nation.
It would be recalled that the institute has presented for graduation, the first set of students in the Certificate, Graduate and Diploma in Cultural Studies. By November 2009, registration processes started for the second set. Ayakoroma visited Lagos to ensure the successful take off of the new academic session. According to him, he was satisfied with the current academic programme and expressed hope that sooner, the training school will be in its rightful place in the culture sector. The vision of NICO is to run a school that will produce graduands that will occupy strategic position in various cultural institutions.
“Just like the Federal Training School trains clerical officers all over the country, ASCON trains administrative officers, and NIPS trains top government officers in the civil service and the military, we are positioning ourselves to train cultural workers at the middle and top level of cultural administration,” he said.
The secretary observed that NICO would only gain its relevance in the scheme of things when it comes out with some programmes that will impact the lives of the generality of the people. At the national level, according to him, there are programmes lined up, but specifically, the indigenous language programme appears to be a strategic option. With the notion that many Nigerians are not intact, language wise and that most of Nigerian children find it difficult speaking indigenous language, because of inter-tribal marriages and so on, NICO has developed a programme that will encourage the speaking of the indigenous languages.
“If these children are given the opportunity to learn indigenous languages, they approach them with every sense of commitment. This programme has gained ground to some extent. In the last long vacation of Nigerian primary and secondary schools, the programme took place in the six zonal offices of NICO.”
The institute has set up an agenda to introduce a programme entitled ‘Language in the Barracks’ to support its vision to immortalize indigenous languages. This is with the intention of taking indigenous language training scheme to police and military barracks. It was discovered, however, that among some military or police families, the wives might be Yoruba while the husbands, Igbo. It boils down on the challenge of the particular language that the children will be disposed to speak. NICO therefore believes that with this programme, parents as well as children will have the opportunity to learn those languages. The institute has also concluded plans, according to the executive secretary, to start a television programme called ‘WAZOBIA Quiz’. They are looking at a scenario whereby the parents and their children come for a quiz programme based on culture such as ‘Nigerian People and Places’. Such segment will be in the three Nigeria major languages.
“If the father is speaking Yoruba and Hausa for example, and the wife is Igbo, we expect that one of the children that will appear with you for the programme will also speak one of the languages. We believe it will be an interesting programme and it will enhance or energise the study or interest of Nigerian languages,” he said. This, to an extent, might help improve the readiness of Nigerian families to cherish the more the indigenous languages. NICO declared its intention to encourage the speaking of indigenous languages at homes and offices in Nigeria and not having English as lingua franca in respected homes. Other roundtable programme of the institute include annual roundtable conference, workshop on ‘Repositioning Cultural Workers for Improved Productivity’, World Culture Day celebration in May among others. The secretary also intimidated the media about the plan of the institute to start cultural club in secondary schools. This will be taking to secondary schools to catch the young ones culturally, like the debating and literary societies. The intention of the institute is for the children to appreciate every area of Nigerian culture, be it music or dressing.
He expressed his disappointment on how Nigerian parents are showing lackadaisical attitude to the dressing mode of most Nigerian children. According to him, some of these children go on the street almost in nudity. “It is very worrisome. The jeans, T-shirts, and the type of short sketches that our children wear in the name of fashion are really worrisome. That is why we are also looking at organising a programme called ‘Nigeria’s Dress Culture’. We want to look at aspect of dress culture.”
Some Nigerian universities have been observed to institutionalised dress codes. Ayakoroma therefore appealed that such institutions should be encouraged, because if the students are allowed to dress the way they want, “very soon we will begin to see nude boys and girls on our streets in the name of fashion.”
NICO has vowed to step up actions on the creation of awareness on the essence and importance of culture in Nigeria. Culture, according to him, is what makes a man. He therefore warned that with the level of richness of Nigerian culture, it would be very unfortunate if Nigerian parents failed to carry their children along and sell them to the western world in the name of civilisation.
He also significantly pointed out that for Nigeria to move forward, there is a need for Nigerians to cooperate with the institute to appraise the level of corruption in Nigeria from cultural point of view.
Obama’s brother is in Bracknell
By OLIVER HARVEY
Chief Feature Writer
Published: 26 Jul 2008
HE may be living in a Bracknell council house, but soon he could be dining with his brother at the White House.
The Sun was the first newspaper to track down and speak to Bernard Obama, 37.
And he said of Democrat candidate Barack: “I’m very proud of my big brother.
Back Row L-R: Unknown, Barack Obama, Obama’s half-brother Malik, Unknown, half-brother Abo, half-brother Bernard. Front Row L-R: Half-sister Auma, step-mother Kezia, step-gran Sarah,
“It’s quite a funny feeling that he might be the next President of the USA.”
Muslim Bernard – an avid Manchester United fan and Sun reader – is staying with his bingo-loving mum Kezia, 67, who has lived in the Berkshire new town for six years.
He was glued to the TV news in the modest suburban bungalow last night as Barack, 46, was due to arrive in Britain.
Bernard leads a quiet life, running a car parts firm in Nairobi, Kenya.
But he is a regular visitor to the UK to visit Elvis fan Kezia.
She married Barack Obama Snr in Kenya in 1957 when she was a teenager.
He later left for the US and went on to meet Ann Dunham, who gave birth to his now widely acclaimed son.
Obama Snr, a Kenyan goatherd who became a leading economist in his east African homeland’s government, was killed in a car crash in 1982.
Barack Jnr was 21 and Bernard 12. He said: “Our father passed away when I was young and I didn’t get the chance to get to know him very well.
“When you lose your dad at such a young age, that’s when you really miss him.”
Bernard smiled when he spoke of his famous half-brother. He said:
I was around 17 when I first met Barack.
He was visiting Kenya and it was obvious from the way he spoke and his charisma that he was going to be a success.
He is charming, very good company and very charismatic.
I’ve met him since with his wife Michelle in Kenya. She’s very nice, a very strong and intelligent person. I don’t think we will see him on this visit to Britain. It’s official business and he’ll be very busy.Close_quote
Bernard is remaining with Kezia for the next month as she recuperates from illness.
Barefoot and dressed in cream shorts and red T-shirt, he said: “I love coming to Britain because I love football and I like reading about it in The Sun.
“I’m a big Manchester United fan but I think Barack’s more into basketball.”
Bernard converted to Islam 18 years ago. The dad of one said: “I’m a Muslim, I don’t deny it. My father was raised a Muslim.
“But it’s not an issue. I don’t know what all the hullabaloo is about.”
Barack is a staunch Christian. A recent cartoon in the New Yorker magazine caused a furore by portraying him as a turban-wearing Muslim and his wife as a terrorist.
In February, photos emerged of Barack in traditional Somali robes during a trip to Kenya in 2006.
But Bernard dismissed jibes about Barack’s religion and said there was no significance to the photos.
Barack Obama’s stepmother Kezia
He added: “If you go to Japan or Nigeria you put on the traditional dress. People are trying to look for ways to tarnish him.”
In his biography, Dreams From My Father, Barack told of meeting Bernard in Kenya.
He wrote: “That sweetness, the lack of guile, made him seem much younger than his 17 years.
“As we stepped into the street, Bernard draped his arm over my shoulder. ‘It’s good to have a big brother around,’ he said, before waving goodbye and vanishing into the crowd.”
The pair’s dad left Kenya in 1959 when he took up a US scholarship. Kezia, then three months’ pregnant with daughter Auma, already had a year-old son Malik to look after.
Barack Snr met Barack’s mum Ann in Hawaii, and she gave birth to the now presidential hopeful in August 1961.
The Democrat’s dad returned to Kenya in 1965 and Kezia subsequently gave birth to two sons, Abo in 1968 and Bernard in 1970.
Barack’s former brother-in-law Ian Manners, 55 – divorced from Bernard’s and Barack’s sister Auma – is writing a book about his in-laws.
Daughter Akinyi, 11, spent Christmas with Barack in the US. She said: “I asked him if I could meet Beyonce. He smiled and said he’d see what he could do.”
Barack Obama and wife Michelle with Ian’s sister Diane Meisl and nephew Julian Meisl at Ian and Auma’s wedding reception in Wokingham in August, 1996.
Barack attended Ian’s 1996 wedding to Auma and famously ran out of a pub in Wokingham, Berks, during Ian’s stag bash when a raunchy dancer took to the stage.
Businessman Ian said: “We were having a few drinks, then a stripper dressed as a St Trinian’s schoolgirl appeared.
“She was no Miss World and it was the last thing I wanted. As soon as Barack saw what was about to happen he made a hasty retreat.
“He was in politics already and left the pub immediately.”
Ian added: “I played a couple of rounds of golf with him in 1997.
“We had to go to a municipal course because golf clubs wouldn’ t have been keen on a black man playing on their course back then.
“He is very competitive and beat me both times. It was obvious Barack was going to get to the top.”
Bernard agreed, saying: “Barack is going to win the election, definitely, and I want to be in the US for his inauguration.
“He will be a breath of fresh air for the world.”
Frank SchaefferNew York Times best-selling author
Posted: October 8, 2008 02:45 PM
Obama Will Be One of The Greatest (and Most Loved) American Presidents
Obama is one of the most intelligent presidential aspirants to ever step forward in American history. The likes of his intellectual capabilities have not been surpassed in public life since the Founding Fathers put pen to paper. His personal character is also solid gold. Take heart, America: we have the leader for our times.
I say this as a white, former life-long Republican. I say this as the proud father of a Marine. I say this as just another American watching his pension evaporate along with the stock market! I speak as someone who knows it’s time to forget party loyalty, ideology and pride and put the country first. I say this as someone happy to be called a fool for going out on a limb and declaring that, 1) Obama will win, and 2) he is going to be amongst the greatest of American presidents.
Obama is our last best chance. He’s worth laying it all on the line for.
This is a man who in the age of greed took the high road of community service. This is the good father and husband. This is the humble servant. This is the patient teacher. This is the scholar statesman. This is the man of deep Christian faith.
Good stories about Obama abound; from his personal relationship with his Secret Service agents (he invites them into his home to watch sports, and shoots hoops with them) to the story about how, more than twenty years ago, while standing in the check-in line at an airport, Obama paid a $100 baggage surcharge for a stranger who was broke and stuck. (Obama was virtually penniless himself in those days.) Years later after he became a senator, that stranger recognized Obama’s picture and wrote to him to thank him. She received a kindly note back from the senator. (The story only surfaced because the person, who lives in Norway, told a local newspaper after Obama ran for the presidency. The paper published a photograph of this lady proudly displaying Senator Obama’s letter.)
Where many leaders are two-faced; publicly kindly but privately feared and/or hated by people closest to them, Obama is consistent in the way he treats people, consistently kind and personally humble. He lives by the code that those who lead must serve. He believes that. He lives it. He lived it long before he was in the public eye.
Obama puts service ahead of ideology. He also knows that to win politically you need to be tough. He can be. He has been. This is a man who does what works, rather than scoring ideological points. In other words he is the quintessential non-ideological pragmatic American. He will (thank God!) disappoint ideologues and purists of the left and the right.
Obama has a reservoir of personal physical courage that is unmatched in presidential history. Why unmatched? Because as the first black contender for the presidency who will win, Obama, and all the rest of us, know that he is in great physical danger from the seemingly unlimited reserve of unhinged racial hatred, and just plain unhinged ignorant hatred, that swirls in the bowels of our wounded and sinful country. By stepping forward to lead, Obama has literally put his life on the line for all of us in a way no white candidate ever has had to do. (And we all know how dangerous the presidency has been even for white presidents.)
Nice stories or even unparalleled courage isn’t the only point. The greater point about Obama is that the midst of our worldwide financial meltdown, an expanding (and losing) war in Afghanistan, trying to extricate our country from a wrong and stupidly mistaken ruinously expensive war in Iraq, our mounting and crushing national debt, awaiting the next (and inevitable) al Qaeda attack on our homeland, watching our schools decline to Third World levels of incompetence, facing a general loss of confidence in the government that has been exacerbated by the Republicans doing all they can to undermine our government’s capabilities and programs… President Obama will take on the leadership of our country at a make or break time of historic proportions. He faces not one but dozens of crisis, each big enough to define any presidency in better times.
As luck, fate or divine grace would have it (depending on one’s personal theology) Obama is blessedly, dare I say uniquely, well-suited to our dire circumstances. Obama is a person with hands-on community service experience, deep connections to top economic advisers from the renowned University of Chicago where he taught law, and a middle-class background that gives him an abiding knowledgeable empathy with the rest of us. As the son of a single mother, who has worked his way up with merit and brains, recipient of top-notch academic scholarships, the peer-selected editor of the Harvard Law Review and, in three giant political steps to state office, national office and now the presidency, Obama clearly has the wit and drive to lead.
Obama is the sober voice of reason at a time of unreason. He is the fellow keeping his head while all around him are panicking. He is the healing presence at a time of national division and strife. He is also new enough to the political process so that he doesn’t suffer from the terminally jaded cynicism, the seen-it-all-before syndrome afflicting most politicians in Washington. In that regard we Americans lucked out. It’s as if having despaired of our political process we picked a name from the phone book to lead us and that person turned out to be a very man we needed.
Obama brings a healing and uplifting spiritual quality to our politics at the very time when our worst enemy is fear. For eight years we’ve been ruled by a stunted fear-filled mediocrity of a little liar who has expanded his power on the basis of creating fear in others. Fearless Obama is the cure. He speaks a litany of hope rather than a litany of terror.
As we have watched Obama respond in a quiet reasoned manner to crisis after crisis, in both the way he has responded after being attacked and lied about in the 2008 campaign season, to his reasoned response to our multiplying national crises, what we see is the spirit of a trusted family doctor with a great bedside manner. Obama is perfectly suited to hold our hand and lead us through some very tough times. The word panic is not in the Obama dictionary.
America is fighting its “Armageddon” in one fearful heart at a time. A brilliant leader with the mild manner of an old-time matter-of-fact country doctor soothing a frightened child is just what we need. The fact that our “doctor” is a black man leading a hitherto white-ruled nation out of the mess of its own making is all the sweeter and raises the Obama story to that of moral allegory.
Obama brings a moral clarity to his leadership reserved for those who have had to work for everything they’ve gotten and had to do twice as well as the person standing next to them because of the color of their skin. His experience of succeeding in spite of his color, social background and prejudice could have been embittering or one that fostered a spiritual rebirth of forgiveness and enlightenment. Obama radiates the calm inner peace of the spirit of forgiveness.
Speaking as a believing Christian I see the hand of a merciful God in Obama’s candidacy. The biblical metaphors abound. The stone the builder rejected is become the cornerstone… the last shall be first… he that would gain his life must first lose it… the meek shall inherit the earth…
For my secular friends I’ll allow that we may have just been extraordinarily lucky! Either way America wins.
Only a brilliant man, with the spirit of a preacher and the humble heart of a kindly family doctor can lead us now. We are afraid, out of ideas, and worst of all out of hope. Obama is the cure. And we Americans have it in us to rise to the occasion. We will. We’re about to enter one of the most frightening periods of American history. Our country has rarely faced more uncertainty. This is the time for greatness. We have a great leader. We must be a great people backing him, fighting for him, sacrificing for a cause greater than ourselves.
A hundred years from now Obama’s portrait will be placed next to that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Long before that we’ll be telling our children and grandchildren that we stepped out in faith and voted for a young black man who stood up and led our country back from the brink of an abyss. We’ll tell them about the power of love, faith and hope. We’ll tell them about the power of creativity combined with humility and intellectual brilliance. We’ll tell them that President Obama gave us the gift of regaining our faith in our country. We’ll tell them that we all stood up and pitched in and won the day. We’ll tell them that President Obama restored our standing in the world. We’ll tell them that by the time he left office our schools were on the mend, our economy booming, that we’d become a nation filled with green energy alternatives and were leading the world away from dependence on carbon-based destruction. We’ll tell them that because of President Obama’s example and leadership the integrity of the family was restored, divorce rates went down, more fathers took responsibility for their children, and abortion rates fell dramatically as women, families and children were cared for through compassionate social programs that worked. We’ll tell them about how the gap closed between the middle class and the super rich, how we won health care for all, how crime rates fell, how bad wars were brought to an honorable conclusion. We’ll tell them that when we were attacked again by al Qaeda, how reason prevailed and the response was smart, tough, measured and effective, and our civil rights were protected even in times of crisis…
We’ll tell them that we were part of the inexplicably blessed miracle that happened to our country those many years ago in 2008 when a young black man was sent by God, fate or luck to save our country. We’ll tell them that it’s good to live in America where anything is possible. Yes we will.
Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. Now in paperback.
Follow Frank Schaeffer on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/frank_schaeffer
The Quiet Revolution
October 22, 2009
A few weeks ago, “Saturday Night Live” teased President Obama for delivering great speeches but not actually bringing change. There’s at least one area where that jibe is unfair: education.
When Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan came to office, they created a $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund. The idea was to use money to leverage change. The administration would put a pile of federal money on the table and award it to a few states that most aggressively embraced reform.
Their ideas were good, and their speeches were beautiful. But that was never the problem. The real challenge was going to be standing up to the teachers’ unions and the other groups that have undermined nearly every other reform effort.
The real questions were these: Would the administration water down their reform criteria in the face of political pressure? Would the Race to the Top money end up getting doled out like any other federal spending program, and thus end up subsidizing the status quo? Would the administration hold the line and demand real reform in exchange for the money?
There were many reasons to be skeptical. At the behest of the teachers’ unions, the Democrats had just shut down a successful District of Columbia voucher program. Moreover, state legislatures around the country were moving backward. They were passing laws prohibiting schools from using student performance as a criterion in setting teacher pay.
But, so far, those fears are unjustified. The news is good. In fact, it’s very good. Over the past few days I’ve spoken to people ranging from Bill Gates to Jeb Bush and various education reformers. They are all impressed by how gritty and effective the Obama administration has been in holding the line and inciting real education reform.
Over the summer, the Department of Education indicated that most states would not qualify for Race to the Top money. Now states across the country are changing their laws: California, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Tennessee, among others.
It’s not only the promise of money that is motivating change. There seems to be some sort of status contest as states compete to prove they, too, can meet the criteria. Governors who have been bragging about how great their schools are don’t want to be left off the list.
These changes mean that states are raising their caps on the number of charter schools. When charters got going, there was a “let a thousand flowers bloom” mentality that sometimes led to bad schools. Now reformers know more about how to build charters and the research is showing solid results. Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University recently concluded a rigorous study of New York’s charter schools and found that they substantially narrowed the achievement gap between suburban and inner-city students.
The changes also will mean student performance will increasingly be a factor in how much teachers get paid and whether they keep their jobs. There is no consensus on exactly how to do this, but there is clear evidence that good teachers produce consistently better student test scores, and that teachers who do not need to be identified and counseled. Cracking the barrier that has been erected between student outcomes and teacher pay would be a huge gain.
Duncan even seems to have made some progress in persuading the unions that they can’t just stonewall, they have to get involved in the reform process. The American Federation of Teachers recently announced innovation grants for performance pay ideas. The New Haven school district has just completed a new teacher contract, with union support, that includes many of the best reform ideas.
There are still many places, like Washington, where the unions are dogmatically trying to keep bad teachers in the classrooms. But if implemented well, the New Haven contract could be a sign of perestroika even within the education establishment.
“I’ve been deeply disturbed by a lot that’s going on in Washington,” Jeb Bush said on Thursday, “but this is not one of them. President Obama has been supporting a reform secretary, and this is deserving of Republican support.” Bush’s sentiment is echoed across the spectrum, from Newt Gingrich to Al Sharpton.
Over the next months, there will be more efforts to water down reform. Some groups are offering to get behind health care reform in exchange for gutting education reform. Politicians from both parties are going to lobby fiercely to ensure that their state gets money, regardless of the merits. So will governors who figure they’re going to lose out in the award process.
But President Obama understood from the start that this would only work if the awards remain fiercely competitive. He has not wavered. We’re not close to reaching the educational Promised Land, but we may be at the start of what Rahm Emanuel calls The Quiet Revolution.