Posts Tagged ‘AMERICA’


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A bizarre tale: An unexplained cop shooting of Black man killed in his home brings tears, fears and questions

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Jeremiah Wright: “God Damn America”
A longer reel of the famous “God Damn America” sermon from President Obama’s former pastor,…
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Image result for images of police killings of black menPOLICE KILLINGS OF BLACK MEN ON GOOGLE SEARCH
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September 12, 2013

Saviours’ Day 2013

Front Page

The Final Call | National News
America’s New Slavery: Black Men in Prison
By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent- | Last updated: Mar 20, 2008 – 4:56:00 PM
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Photos: AP/Wide World PhotosAdvocates note that the constitution’s 13th amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery in the United States, but provided an exception in cases where persons have been ‘duly convicted’ in the United States and territory it controls, slavery or involuntary servitude can be reimposed as a punishment.
( – A new American slave trade is booming, warn prison activists, following the release of a report that again outlines outrageous numbers of young Black men in prison and increasing numbers of adults undergoing incarceration. That slave trade is connected to money states spend to keep people locked up, profits made through cheap prison labor and for-profit prisons, excessive charges inmates and families may pay for everything from tube socks to phone calls, and lucrative cross country shipping of inmates to relieve overcrowding and rent cells in faraway states and counties.

Advocates note that the constitution’s 13th amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery in the United States, but provided an exception—in cases where persons have been “duly convicted” in the United States and territory it controls, slavery or involuntary servitude can be reimposed as a punishment, they add. The majority of prisoners are Black and Latino, though they are minorities in terms of their numbers in the population.

According to “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008,” published by the Pew Center on the States, one in nine Black men between the ages of 20-34 are incarcerated compared to one in 30 other men of the same age. Like the overall adult ratio, one in 100 Black women in their mid-to-late 30s is imprisoned.

“Everyone is feeding off of our down-trodden condition to feed their capitalism, greed and lust for money. They are buying prison stock on the market and this is why they want to silence the restorative voice of Minister Louis Farrakhan, because he is repairing those who fill and would support the prison system as slaves,” said Student Minister Abdullah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam Prison Ministry.

The report states that the rising trend stems from more than a parallel increase in crime or surge in the population at large, but it is driven by policies that put more criminals in prison, extending their stay through measures like California’s Three Strikes Law.

Prisoners from the Limestone Correctional Facility do a trash detail along I-65 in North Alabama near the Tennessee State line while working on a chain gang.
Atty. Barbara Ratliff, a L.A.-based reparations activist, said the prison industrial complex’s extension of the slave plantation plays out in a pattern of behavior that Black people must study in order to survive. “I’m not talking about behavior of the individual incarcerate, but the pattern of treatment that digs into institutional racism. Corporate profit from prisons is no different than how slave owners received benefit from their labor, and that impact remained even after slavery. For instance, freed Blacks were arrested and put on chain gangs for their labor which continued to benefit slave owners, so this is no accident,” she said.

Inmates produce items or perform services for almost every major industry. They sew clothes, fight fires and build furniture, but they are paid little or no wages, somewhere between five cents and almost $2.

Phone companies charge high amounts for collect calls and inmate care packages can no longer be sent from families directly. Inmates must purchase products from companies to be sent in, which feeds capitalism, activists charge.

Although the costs of prisons is skyrocketing and consuming state budgets, money continues to be spent to push more Black youth into prison, activists assert. Many education and prison advocates charge there is a plot to populate U.S. prisons based on the dumbing down of America’s youth. Figures show those most likely to be incarcerated and to return generally have the lowest level of education. The report said, “While states don’t necessarily choose between higher education and corrections, a dollar spent in one area is unavailable for another.”

U.S. spending on prisons last year topped $49 billion, compared to $12 billion in 1987. California spent $8.8 billion on prisons last year and 13 states spend more than $1 billion a year on corrections.

The chain gang was re-established in 1995. Becoming one of the first convicts in perhaps a half-century to break rocks, William Crook, 28, of Gadsden, Ala., takes a swing with his 10-pound sledge hammer. Shortly after sunrise, 160 inmates at the Limestone Correction Facility marched a half-mile in leg irons from their dormitories to the rock pile.
Data from the National Association of State Budget Officers indicates:

• Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware spent as much or more on corrections than on higher education;

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Alaska spent 77 cents on corrections;

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Georgia spent 50 cents on corrections;

• On the average, all 50 states spent 60 cents on corrections for every dollar spent on higher education; and

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Minnesota spent 17 cents on corrections.

Between 1985 and 2005, Texas’ prison population alone jumped by 300 percent.

“All we have to do is follow the logic to see this connection between prisons and enslavement. When you look at prison costs and they say it cost $45,000 to house one prisoner, where does that break down? There’s only three square meals a day. The prisoners make their clothes and bedding in sewing factories and about 90 percent of the items they use in the prisons,” said Nathaniel Ali of the National Association of Brothers and Sisters In and Out of Prison (NABSIO).

He believes the majority of prison costs support guard unions and pay enormous base and overtime salaries of prison guards and other staff.

“They receive these exorbitant wages regardless of their education and training. You don’t have an I.Q.; all you have to have is the ability to be brutal” to command these wages through this new slave system, he said.

Mr. Ali said the public school system has become the feeder to prisons and their slave populations by increasing the heavy presence of school police and sheriffs on middle school campuses and penalties students face for often trivial offenses, other activists added.

Prison watch groups note corporate-owned prisons feed job-starved communities where businesses have disappeared. By incarcerating so many people, America deals with warehousing them and not finding out why they are incarcerated in the first place, advocates said.

“The fact is, it’s a business and a readily accessible, ‘free’ workforce removes prisons’ incentive to rehabilitate, especially those that are owned by corporations,” Atty. Ratliff said.

Laini Coffee, a self-described “unity activist” said, “At current trend, we could very well see the number of so-called free Blacks rival to the same number of those that are incarcerated. The answer is simple: Unity.”

Related news:

The impact of high Black male incarceration rates (FCN, 11-07-2007)

Follow the Prison Money Trail elected officials (In These Times, 09-04-2006)

Profits fuel prison growth (FCN, 03-03-2002)

Black incarceration rates tripled during Clinton Presidency (FCN, 03-06-2001)

The Prison Industrial Complex: Crisis and Control (CorpWatch, 1999)

Private Prisons for Dummies (Paul’s Justice Page)prison-slavery


white amerikkkan Agenda TO Exterminate BLACK PEOPLE!

February 27, 2013


US government-funded groups exterminate black people: Randy Short

Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:18PM

Interview with Randy Short

So there is a total assault on us from Planned Parenthood which is a government-funded group that its mission is to exterminate our population and they are funded by the government and like I said, we have something live Depo-Provera which is killing women all over our country; remember Israel just outlawed on January 28 and yet 84 percent of the people … in the United States were black. So it is destroying us; we are being wiped out. He is just one publicized example of what is happening to us in this society.”

An American activist tells Press TV that the government-funded groups and the high rate of discrimination against black people in the United States is destroying them and wiping them out in the society.

People have taken to the streets in Sanford and New York City to mark the first anniversary of the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer. On February 26, 2012, the 17-year-old Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman in Orlando, a suburb of the city of Sanford, Florida. People held a candlelight vigil and a moment of silence in memory of Martin in Sanford on Tuesday. In New York City’s Union Square, people also held a candlelight vigil.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Randy Short, with the Dignity, Human Rights and Peace Organization from Washington, to further discuss the issue. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Now a year on, how far do you think the American public has come in solving its problem of racial profiling specifically ones that have been institutionalized in its law enforcement?

Short: Compare it to America’s advancement in dealing with Iran, considering the Oscar being given for the film ‘Argo’. It is analogous. Noting has changed. The power relationships that allowed this man to be killed and one killed in every 24 to 36 hours since he got shot a year ago.

So in reality, what would change the society? Certainly not the election of Obama who did not deal with it. So nothing has changed. Things are more or less the same. It has opened a season on black people and brown people and it is America. That is what we have been doing for 400 years, either killing or stealing from people of color.

Press TV: How many Trayvon Martins are we going to see before the American public as well as law enforcement injustices wake up and realize what is actually happening and what needs to be done to tackle it?

Short: I will answer it differently from how you have asked me. I am in a campaign to try to get Depo-Provera outlawed. It is a carcinogenic contraceptive that literally kills people and the government still pushes it although they have known it has been deadly since the 70s.

So they have not changed and in fact push it all over the world. So in relationship to the value of the lives of the people of African descendants in this country, I do not think we really matter. We have to make ourselves matter. The time is now for a movement, for self-determination, sovereignty and self-respect and a movement to enforce our human rights.

It will not come from the state and it certainly will not come from the police forces which are nothing but fascistic occupational gangs that terrorize our community.

Press TV: So you are saying that change needs to come from bottom up and that there is no political will per se to bring a change in reality?

Short: You have understood me. The black leadership is either bought off, corrupt, co-opted or behind bars. We need a new movement; we need a Black Spring; we need something that changes.

Our people have been on the lockdown since Martin the King’s assassination. 45 years ago, this April 4 made no substantive moves and the state have been repressing us for at least 50 years to covert actions like COINTELPRO operation marking group. We can go on and on.

So we have got over a million people in jail; drugs brought in here through intelligence agencies; we have got these crazy groups like Alec that made the Stand your Ground Law where they can shoot us all over the country and while this is happening, this gun control is really, if you ask me, a way to take weapons from us to prevent us from defending ourselves.

So there is a total assault on us from Planned Parenthood which is a government-funded group that its mission is to exterminate our population and they are funded by the government and like I said, we have something live Depo-Provera which is killing women all over our country; remember Israel just outlawed on January 28 and yet 84 percent of the people … in the United States were black.

So it is destroying us; we are being wiped out. He is just one publicized example of what is happening to us in this society


January 31, 2012

Former Black Panther patches together purpose in Africa exile

In America, Pete O’Neal was an angry man, an ex-con who found a kind of religion in 1960s black nationalism. In a Tanzania village, he’s been a champion of children.

Many of the young orphans gather round to watch, and lend their support, as Pete O’Neal has fresh ink applied to his fading black panther tattoo. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

By Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times

January 29, 2012

Reporting from Imbaseni, Tanzania — The fugitive shuffles to his computer and begins typing out his will. He is about to turn 71, and it is time. “My life,” he writes, “has been a wild and wicked ride….”

All Pete O’Neal has amassed fits on two pages: A small brick home with a sheet-metal roof. A few road-beaten vehicles. A cluster of bunkhouses and classrooms he spent decades building, brick by scavenged brick, near the slopes of Mt. Meru’s volcanic cone. Everything will go to his wife of 42 years, Charlotte, and to a few trusted workers.

He prints out the will late one Saturday morning and settles into his reclining chair to check the spelling. He signs his name. Then, to guarantee its authenticity, he finds an ink pad, rolls his thumb across it, and affixes his thumbprint to the bottom of the page.

“I think that’ll do it,” he says.

Map: Imbaseni, Tanzania

Photos: A former Black Panther in Africa exile champions kids

When last he walked America’s streets, O’Neal was a magnetic young man possessed of bottomless anger. He was an ex-con who’d found a kind of religion in late-’60s black nationalism, a vain, violent street hustler reborn in a Black Panther uniform of dark sunglasses, beret and leather jacket. With pitiless, knife-sharp diction, he spoke of sending police to their graves.

This morning, he sits in his living room uncapping medicine bottles. A pill for high blood pressure. Another for the pain in his back and his bad knee. An aspirin to thin his blood. Time is catching him, like the lions that pursue him implacably through his nightmares, their leashes held by policemen.

He pushes through his screen door into the brisk morning air. A slightly stooped, thickset man with long, graying dreadlocks, he moves unsteadily down the irregular stone steps he built into the sloping dirt. He makes his way past the enormous avocado tree, past the horse barn with its single slow-footed tenant, Bullet, past the shaded dining pavilion.

His four-acre compound bustles with visitors, many of them preparing for a memorial service for Geronimo Pratt, a former Panther who died in his farmhouse down the road, his affairs untidy, his will unfinished, his death a sharp message to O’Neal not to put off the paperwork any longer.

Most of O’Neal’s big dreams have faded over the years, or come to feel silly. Like beating the 42-year-old federal gun charges that caused him to flee the United States. Like the global socialist revolution that he was supposed to help lead. Like returning home to the streets of his Midwestern childhood. Like winning citizenship in his adopted African country, and the prize that’s eluded him on two continents: the feeling of belonging somewhere.

This is what’s left: the shell of a 20-year-old Toyota Coaster bus that bulks before him in a clearing. It’s a stripped-and-gutted 29-seater that he bought for $11,500 after years of squirreling away money. It came with dents, a cracked windshield, a peeling paint job, rotting floorboards, frayed seats.

Still, it seemed like a good deal until he found the engine had to be replaced, costing an additional $4,000. He’s hired mechanics and craftsmen to rebuild the bus nearly from the chassis up, and a few of them are milling around now, informing him in Swahili of their progress.

He rarely leaves home anymore. Crowds jangle his nerves; traffic makes his hands shake. Yet nothing feels more urgent than readying this bus for an improbable 300-mile trip to the edge of his adopted continent.

A group of American high school students, mostly white, is gathering in the dining pavilion. They’ve been coming by the busload for years, many drawn by the intrigue of staying with a former Panther. They pay him $30 a night for a bunk. The money — together with sporadic donations from sympathetic friends here and abroad — pays the bills.

Pete O’Neal in his Black Panther days. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

The students pause before the big poster featuring O’Neal as a fierce young militant, rifle in arms, Charlotte at his side. It’s hard to reconcile that image with the grandfatherly host who greets them in Swahili as if they were old friends, booming, “Karibu!” Welcome!

He asks where they’re from. A girl says Missouri, which happens to be his home state, and he hugs her theatrically. Everyone laughs. “All of you are welcome,” he says, “even if you’re from strange places.”

He plants them before documentary footage about his life. It’s easier than explaining the whole story himself. Where would he start? His childhood in segregated Kansas City, Mo., where the amusement park admitted black kids once a year, a day so cherished that they went in their Sunday best? Should he start with the stabbings and shootings in the projects where he grew up?

“I lived in the streets,” he says. “I didn’t have time to be happy.”

After one arrest, he was given a stark choice: reform school or the armed services. The Navy threw him out after he plunged a butcher knife into another sailor’s chest over an insult, nearly killing him. He drifted in and out of lockup. He pimped girls in three states. He wore $300 Italian suits and a blond wave in his processed hair.

To the FBI, the Panthers were homegrown terrorists who romanticized lawbreaking with overheated Marxist rhetoric. To O’Neal, who founded the Kansas City chapter of the party in early 1969, it represented a lifeline out of an abyss of drugs and aimlessness. He blazed with purpose: End racism and class inequality, fast.

“I would like very much to shoot my way into the House of Representatives,” he declared in a televised interview, angry at a congressman who was investigating the Panthers. Pressed to clarify, he added: “I mean it literally.”

He stormed into a Senate subcommittee hearing in Washington, screaming accusations that the Kansas City police chief was funneling weapons to white supremacist groups.

Shortly afterward, a federal judge sentenced him to a four-year prison term on a conviction of transporting a shotgun across state lines. Out on bail, he decided to run. He and Charlotte fled in 1970 to Sweden, then to Algeria, and finally, in late 1972, to Tanzania, whose socialist government welcomed left-wing militants.

The O’Neals had $700. After a few years they bought a patch of inhospitable brush and volcanic rock in Imbaseni, a cobra-infested village of thatched-roof shacks in the country’s remote northern interior. They were up before dawn, dancing with Al Jarreau on the tape deck, gathering locals for the day’s work. Their two young African-born children, Malcolm and Stormy, carried bricks and water buckets.

Soon they had four walls, a roof, and little else. Plastic hung over the windows. No toilets

Soon they had four walls, a roof, and little else. Plastic hung over the windows. No toilets. It was the back-to-Africa experience so many black Americans talked about, minus the option of escape. They learned to grow corn and raise chickens. He jarred pickle relish, smoked sausages and bottled barbecue sauce for sale to local shops.

His temper was thunderous. When he heard something in Swahili that sounded offensive — such as wa-negro, a neutral description of black Americans implying no malice — he would scream, ready to fight.

“We were cowboys then,” says Ikaweba Bunting, 63, a Compton-raised college professor who arrived in Tanzania in the 1970s and stayed for years. “We were big and hard-walking and hard-talking, and ready to beat people up — the whole street culture.”

Exile was supposed to be temporary. O’Neal corresponded with other Panthers and planned to return home to help lead the revolution. He watched from abroad as the party collapsed from infighting, arrests and an FBI campaign of surveillance and sabotage. People stopped talking about revolution. Radicals found new lives.

O’Neal’s exile became permanent. His fury abated. Some of it was age. Some of it was Tanzania, where strangers always materialized to push your Land Rover out of the mud, and where conflicts were resolved in community meetings in which everyone got to speak, interminably.

“It is so laid back, so reasonable, that to be otherwise makes you look, even to yourself, like a damn fool,” O’Neal says.

Around that first crude brick structure, the fugitive improvised a little island of hope. He built a small recording studio for musicians and a workshop for artists. He gathered castoff computers and invited locals to come learn. He sank a well and opened the spigot to the village. It was, as he saw it, in the spirit of the free breakfast program he’d run as a Panther.

“He’s had a chance to grow in a way that very few people get here,” says his brother Brian O’Neal, 58, who lives in Kansas City.

Had he stayed in the States, Pete O’Neal believes, he’d be long dead from a shootout or street fight.

If exile saved him, it has also meant a life in which the sense of being a stranger never goes away.

“There’s always a feeling of not being completely part of this culture. I know I am of a different tribe,” he says. “People like me here, they love me, but I’m always other than.”

Back in his house, he relaxes with a few shots of Jim Beam. He keeps a shotgun for snakes and a wall full of books. In mock-stentorian tones, he ridicules his early blood-soaked rhetoric. He puts a hand over his face, like an actor reminded of an embarrassing role, and says, “That was a man who was trying to find himself. He was trying to shed his skin, and emerge brand-new. I think he overstated and overacted.”

For his radicalism itself, however, he won’t apologize, even if — as he suspects — it is the one thing that might gain him safe entry back into the States.

“They will never convince me in my life,” he says, “that what I was doing wasn’t right.”

All the orphans get a razored haircut — both boys and girls — and wash off the loose stubble under cold water at the tap. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

A few years back, an ambition seized him. The village had scores of destitute children, orphans from dirt-floor shacks and subsistence farms. He collected donations and built a concrete-block bunkhouse down near his tomato and pepper garden.

He spread word that he had room for a few kids. More than 100 appeared at his door, many shoeless. He had to send the majority away. The most desperate, a couple dozen, he informally adopted.

Now, they roam his grounds in lively packs, playing four square on the basketball court. They sleep in rows under malaria nets. Volunteers and a few staff members watch over the children and give them English and computer classes.

They call him Babu. Grandfather.

How big is the ocean?

So big you can’t see across it.


So big you can go for weeks and never see land.

He shows them a globe.

See how much more ocean there is than land?

So is it bigger than Tanzania?

American high school students gather around Pete O’Neal in his compound’s dining pavilion. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

The American high school students have questions, so he takes a seat before them. It’s late, and he’s weary, but this is his living. They want to know what country he belongs to, exactly.

He has no passport, he explains, and the Tanzanian government has rebuffed his efforts to become a citizen. “I’m not sure where the hell I belong at this particular point,” he tells the students.

For years, he sought a way home. He found American lawyers willing to work for free to fight the gun charges. He would like to see his 91-year-old mother in Kansas City one last time.

His longing for the States comes at funny moments, as when he sees shrimp sailing through the air in Red Lobster commercials. He still dreams about the Kansas City he knew as a child, the bakeries and the public swimming pool and the ladies with their hats. But the city seems wrong, somehow, becoming weirdly unrecognizable.

In other dreams, he finds himself fleeing from things he can’t see or name, urging his wife, “Charlotte, you gotta run!”

He regards his complex of bunkhouses, workshops and classrooms as “socialism in microcosm,” he tells the students, though doctrinaire Marxism left him disillusioned. People, he concluded, are basically selfish.

Have his views on violence changed?

“I don’t have the particular type of courage that would allow me to turn the other cheek.”

One fresh-faced girl says she’s been in Tanzania a week, and thinks it might be neat to move here. Does he recommend it?

Patiently, he replies: “It ain’t that kind of party.”

Of late, he tells the students, he’s been haunted by the deaths of other exiled Panthers. One died in France last February, another in Zambia in October.

Then there was his close friend Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, the Panthers’ former field marshal, who spent 27 years behind bars on a murder conviction before a California judge overturned it.

In 2002, Pratt bought a big farmhouse nearby with his false-imprisonment settlement, and O’Neal felt as though he’d rediscovered a lost brother. They drove through the village listening to Richard Pryor CDs, laughing until they wheezed and tears rolled down their cheeks.

Pratt was hospitalized with high blood pressure in May. He hated any confinement. He pulled out his IVs and went home. Days later, O’Neal found him on his side, dead in bed, just 63. His memorial would be tomorrow.

“People are dropping, man,” he tells the students. He doesn’t say that his thoughts were circling his own mortality so relentlessly that he couldn’t sleep last night, and climbed out of bed to tally up what he would leave behind.

Pete O’Neal’s four-acre compound bustles with visitors, some of them preparing dance routines for the memorial service for Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, the onetime Black Panther who died in his farmhouse down the road. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Hundreds gather for Pratt’s memorial service. O’Neal sits on the stage under the avocado tree and tells a few stories about their friendship: How Pratt always told him his toes were ugly. How they joked endlessly about who was the bigger hayseed.

Amid the prayers and the singing and the tributes, he manages to steal away for a few moments to inspect the bus. The seats are lined up in the dirt, ready to be scrubbed and resewn. The windows are taped up so the painting can begin. Panther colors: black and light blue.

He remembers discovering the ocean.

He was in his late teens, a heartland kid who believed his fearful precinct of Kansas City was the absolute center of the world, its ugliness and bigotry a true picture of the world. It is why, to his mind, violent revolution looked logical and inevitable.

Then he arrived in California to report for duty in the Navy, and turned his head and saw the Pacific. His breath was caught short by the immensity of it, all that blue stretching out into other lands, other stories. It was the start of a decades-long lesson that the world is bigger, more complicated and interesting than his little plot of bitter experience had led him to suspect.

His orphans have never left this inland region of cornfields and malarial swamps. They’ve never tasted salt water, or felt hot beach sand between their toes.

“They have no idea — no idea — what the ocean is,” he says.

Nights and weekends, they pile into his living room and watch documentaries about sea life. He tells them about whales, giant squid, blind fish in the lightless deep. He regales them with shark stories.

Will they eat me?

If they’re hungry enough, they’ll try.

Because they don’t like me?

No, it’s the natural order of things.

Now and then he indulges in what he calls “Kansas City exaggeration,” and even the majestic sea gets some burnishing. The sharks in his stories grow bigger than houses.

The kids study the TV. The sharks don’t look that big.

OK. But they do have sharks bigger t


October 9, 2011

Loyal black base craves a fighter in the Oval Office

But debate rages: Has Obama done enough to help African-Americans?

By Tim Funk and Celeste Smith,

Posted: Sunday, Oct. 09, 2011

It’s the lunch hour, and President Barack Obama is live, talking jobs, on a big TV screen at No Grease Exclusive Barber Shop in uptown Charlotte.

Along with the NBA labor troubles and the sour economy, the country’s first African-American president is a hot topic in this shop, which cuts the hair of about 400 customers every week.

So Jermaine Johnson, who co-owns No Grease with twin brother Damian, has heard it all in what’s become a raging debate over whether Obama is doing enough to help a hurting African-American community whose enthusiasm and high turnout were crucial to him winning North Carolina and the White House in 2008.

“They talk about the (difficulty) he’s having in passing any new ideas that will help stimulate the economy,” Jermaine Johnson, 38, says of the chatter from his customers. “The word on the street is that the Republicans are turning down anything he puts forth.”

But barber-chair pollster Johnson also is hearing something else: If Obama expects the black community to be there for him in equal numbers in 2012, he needs to become more of a fighter.

“We would like to see a little more bravado from this president – the cowboy going in there to make it happen,” says Johnson, whose shop is a few doors down from Time Warner Cable Arena, where Democrats will nominate Obama for a second term next year.

“He’s been doing what’s expected in politics – crossing lines and trying to get the parties together … But I think he’s over-exhausted it. He’s done it too long. It’s time to stand up for what you believe.”

Apparently, the president has been getting the same advice from political advisers who are concerned about his declining poll numbers, including among his base in the black community. A Washington Post-ABC News Poll last month found that 58 percent of African-Americans had “strongly favorable” views of Obama – down from 83 percent in the spring.

In recent weeks, Obama has been barnstorming the country, promoting his $450 billion American Jobs Act and leading town hall chants for Congress to “pass this bill now.”

He plans to bring his case to North Carolina the week of Oct. 17 as a part of a bus caravan that also will take him to Virginia, another 2012 swing state.

With this new tone, says Urban League of Central Carolinas President Patrick Graham, Obama is going back to his roots: “You’re seeing more of the community organizer.”

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., a former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, says it’s about time.

“A lot of people have been frustrated that he’s bent over backwards (to work with Republicans),” says Watt, whose district includes much of Charlotte. “Now he’s starting to draw lines and differentiate himself. It’s what people have been looking for.”

‘Our people are hurting’

The president’s new populism comes after weeks of criticism from some high-profile black leaders, who have said that Obama was not addressing the needs of the African-American community, where unemployment is much higher than the national rate.

Among blacks in Charlotte, the jobless rate is more than 19 percent. In August, Charlotte’s overall unemployment rate was 9.8 percent.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., wondered aloud why a previous Obama bus tour over the summer made stops in the rural Midwest, but not in, say, urban Detroit.

“We’re supportive of the president but we’re getting tired, y’all,” she said at an August jobs fair in Detroit that was sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. “We want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he’s prepared to lead on. But our people are hurting.”

PBS and radio talk show host Tavis Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West also have taken shots at Obama. In their “Poverty Tour” bus trip in August, they charged that Obama has failed to stand up for the poor. (The show airs on PBS this week.)

Former Charlotte Bobcats owner Bob Johnson last week blasted the president from the other side of the ideological spectrum, saying he should “recalibrate” his targeting of the wealthy in his tax proposals and rhetoric.

“You don’t get people to like you by attacking them or demeaning their success,” said Johnson, one of the country’s wealthier Democrats.

But this heated debate over the first black president’s record and tactics as election year nears also has drawn plenty of Obama backers.

Other prominent radio and TV personalities – including Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey and the Rev. Al Sharpton – have defended Obama and attacked West and Smiley.

The president got an enthusiastic reception at a recent Black Caucus dinner even as he invited members in a fiery speech to stop their complaining and “put on your marching shoes. …We are going to press on.”

And most African-Americans who’ve been heard from – the famous and the rank-and-file – couldn’t disagree more with Johnson’s plea to go easier on the rich and try yet again to compromise with the GOP on Capitol Hill.

Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt says he would advise the president to stay in the bully pulpit “instead of pulling back and allowing the Congress to make certain decisions and then stepping into the fray. He’s really got to tell the American people what he wants.”

Claude Mayse, 57, a Charlottean who’s unemployed and has been unable to find a sales job, likes the tougher Obama. On everything from the shape of the health reform plan to the size of the economic stimulus package, Mayse says, “I felt like (Obama) compromised too much.”

Now, Mayse adds approvingly, “he’s circumventing (the Republicans) and going straight to the people.”

Enthusiasm is the key

No one is predicting that the frustration out there will cause black voters to cross over en masse and back Obama’s GOP challenger. Not even Herman Cain, an African-American businessman who’s a hit with a surging number of mostly white Republicans, generated much interest among local black voters interviewed last week by the Observer.

The latest breakdown from Public Policy Polling found that 87 percent of North Carolina blacks approve of Obama – down from the 90-plus percent support he received at the polls in 2008, but still very high. (Among all Americans, Obama’s favorability rate now averages 46 percent; among all North Carolinians, 44 percent.)

But polls don’t always measure enthusiasm. Turnout numbers do, and in 2008, black turnout increased by almost 5 percent nationally, while white turnout slightly declined.

If the excitement level for the president is only so-so come Election Day 2012, many black voters may not bother to go to the polls, worries Joel Ford, who was Mecklenburg County Democratic Party chairman when Obama was elected in 2008. That year, Obama carried one westside precinct, 639 votes to 8 – 98.6 percent.

“There is a possibility that some will stay home, and a possibility that some won’t stand in lines,” Ford says. “The president’s got work to do.”

Barber shop co-owner Jermaine Johnson says he and his brother have a lot of “newly unemployed” people among their clientele. And though these customers don’t look to Obama to single-handedly solve their problem, Johnson says, “when you have a president who looks like you and he still can’t push the envelope for you, you get some frustration.”

On the other hand, Johnson says, frustration in the black community also has given rise to, perhaps, a more realistic view about the limits to what one person – even the president of the United States – can do.

“I think it’s still going to be a big (African-American) turnout (in 2012),” he says. “But I don’t think it’s going to be a lot of ‘rah rah’ … because, during his first term, a lot more people have gotten educated on what he can and cannot do.”

There’s also a growing sense that Obama inherited maybe the toughest plate of problems, national and international, since Franklin Roosevelt, who took office during the Great Depression. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were draining money and troops. And the financial meltdown that rocked Wall Street and threatened banks just weeks before Election Day 2008 were causing mass job losses.

“A lot of people are having a reality check,” says veteran Charlotte radio personality Beatrice Thompson, news and public affairs director and talk show host for WBAV and WPEG. “I don’t think anyone truly understood what condition the country was in. … I have to admire (Obama) for not losing his cool given what he had to work with.”

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx says Obama’s seriousness in trying to deal with those big challenges will eventually win over many voters – black and white – who may now feel ambivalent about the president.

“He’s had a tough hand dealt to him, and he’s had to make some tough calls,” says Foxx, who spearheaded the campaign to bring Obama’s 2012 convention to Charlotte. “When the story is told, I think many, many, many people will come back and support him.”

Still, Foxx and others acknowledge that there’s been some complaining that Obama has not paid enough attention to the needs of an African-American community that was there for him in 2008.

Gantt says that same tension was there in the 1980s, when he became the first African-American to be elected Charlotte’s mayor.

“That’s a touchy thing for an African-American president,” he says. “You still have to convince a lot of your electorate – because of your skin color – that you’re there to support the cause of all Americans.”

Johnson C. Smith University senior Kirsten Anderson Hall, an aspiring city manager who’s 20 and will be casting her first presidential vote next year, says she agrees – and disagrees.

“It’s the United States of America, not the United States of America and black people,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean he needs to displace us and forget about us.”

The debate goes on

Back at No Grease, the challenge for Obama is evident from this conversation between customer Jason Vicks, 37, who owns a restaurant and real estate agency, and his barber.

Vicks: “Obama is not doing the hiring. Obama is our president. He can only do what he is able to do…. Obama does not own the restaurant up the street or any business (where) he could employ African-Americans.”

Damian Johnson: “He can create the opportunities for us to hire (black people). If we’re ever going to have an opportunity as a people – black people here in America – this is our prime time to do it, with an African-American president. … He needs to stand up to the powers that be.”

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