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When the past is present…

 

On Race and Taxes, Both Parties Insist Upon Speaking No Evil

By Imara Jones, Colorlines

Our current national argument over taxes, debt and the fiscal cliff is nominally about balancing spreadsheets and the arcana of economic formulas, but it’s actually about race. And the fact that those on either side of the budget conversation—both Democrats and Republicans—will not acknowledge as much prevents us from having an honest conversation about what’s at stake….

…The fact that America won’t acknowledge the debate over taxes is a proxy for one over race is not a surprise. That’s been true since before its founding, before there were such things as Democrats and Republicans. Northern colonies had asked to leave the British Empire for years over the issue of taxes; the South would have none of it, until an English court ruling threatened slavery. Since the beginning, America’s quest for independence was declared to be about taxes, but it was animated by race.

Read the full article here.

 

How Many Slaves Work for You?

If you lived in America from 1660 to 1863, you would have fought against slavery, right?

If you dare to discovery just how many slaves support your individual lifestyle today, take the survey “How Many Slaves Work for You” on the navigation bar of Made in a Free World.

Forty-four slaves work for the average American. Take the slavery footprint survey to find out exactly how many work for you.

 

Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s Food Stamp Challenge

By Sarah Parnass, ABC News

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics,” Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker tweeted Sunday night, not knowing that his reference to the Greek historian [Plutarch] would prompt an online spat over governing philosophies and lead him to challenge a stranger to match him in living on food stamps for a week.

Newark NJ mayor Cory Booker is an activist and hero who ran into a burning home to save residents. He regularly communicates with constituents through social media – and is a partner in Waywire, a start-up.

More than 415,000 families received assistance from NJ SNAP, New Jersey’s food stamp program, in September. Almost 15 percent of those families live in Essex County, where Newark is located. Essex had one of the highest increases in the state in demand for SNAP benefits that month, with the number of families participating rising 9.1 percent in the year ending in September.

@MWadeNC, a user who identifies herself as a “Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR), fighting against any and all forms of socialism/communism.. Army Veteran, Army Daughter, Army Wife,” responded to Booker, “nutrition is not a responsibility of the government.”

Booker said it was a shared responsibility, to which @MWadeNC asserted that food stamps should be enough to enable a family to afford breakfast.

“Lets you and I try to live on food stamps in New Jersey (high cost of living) and feed a family for a week or month. U game?” Booker tweeted at @MWadeNC.

“sure, Mayor, I’m game,” she replied.

[On November 21st] Mayor Booker tweeted that he would participate in the SNAP challenge from Dec. 4-11 and report back about the experience on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Waywire.

[Rucha Gadre, director of a food bank,] took the food stamp challenge earlier this year and said it was “very difficult.”

“I think [Booker] will understand that the minimum benefit of $16 or trying to live on $30 for the whole week is not sufficient,” Gadre said. “There’s no way you could eat nutritious food.”

Even if Booker sticks to the dollar limit, Gadre said the experience still might not replicate the exact experience of surviving on food stamps, because low-income families might not have the luxury of searching for the cheapest grocery stores.

The average food stamp user receives $5 a day ($35 a week) to buy groceries. Here’s what Representative Bob Brady of Philadelphia bought during his participation in the city-wide challenge.

“If you have a car and you have the ability of driving around…then that makes it easier,” Gadre said. Not all of the families she encounters have their own cars and spending $2 or $3 on a bus doesn’t always make sense, Gadre said.

Other mayors who have tried limiting their grocery money to food stamp levels include Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

In his food diary for the week, Mayor Stanton ran into trouble on day four when he forgot to pack his lunch from home.

“I’m facing a long, hungry day and an even longer night getting dinner on the table, which requires making EVERYTHING from scratch on this budget,” Stanton wrote. “It’s only for a week, so I’ve got a decent attitude.  If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant.”

Read a critique of Booker’s food stamp experiment here.

Want to take the challenge yourself? Find out who is taking/has taken the Food Stamp Challenge in your area. Get tools for simple ways to  initiate a community campaign, like the Paper Plate Campaign. Let ABHM know how it goes for you by writing a comment below.

 

Meet the Nation’s Next Civil Rights Leader

Sherrilyn Ifill, the new president of the NAACP LDF, shares her vision of justice.

By Jenée Desmond-Harris, theRoot.com

The NAACP announced this week that attorney and law professor Sherrilyn Ifill will be the LDF’s (Legal Defense Fund’s) next president and director counsel [beginning in January 2013].

Sherrilyn Ifill, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, will chart a new course for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as its new head.

Perhaps best known for its role in the landmark school-desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, LDF has worked for decades to expand political participation, forestall injustice in the criminal-justice system, broaden avenues of educational opportunity, defend economic freedoms and further the nomination and appointment of fair-minded and diverse judges through impact litigation and advocacy.

“LDF changed America,” Ifill told The Root. “But too many have been left behind, and the opening of the door is getting narrower and narrower….

We can no longer assume that generations of Americans understand the importance of racial justice and equality, or even what those words mean. We cannot assume that even all of the judges we face understand the history, intended purpose or effect of our civil rights laws and statutes on the individuals they were designed to protect.

And we are confronted with the task of identifying civil rights problems that look very different from those in the past but have the effect of perpetuating racial inequality.”

Read the full interview here.

 

 

 

Biracial versus Black

By Patrice Peck, theGrio.com

“If I’m lucky enough to have children, I won’t tell them that Barack Obama was America’s first black president.”

Thus began columnist Clinton Yates’ piece, Barack Obama: Let’s not forget that he’s America’s first bi-racial presidentPublished on The Washington Post website two days after the 2012 election, Yates’ piece explores the notion that singling out President Obama’s African heritage alone has resulted in an incomplete narrative of his identity.

“As a black man who plans to eventually start a family with my white girlfriend, I’m going to tell [my future children] that Obama was the first man of color in the White House and that America’s 44th president was biracial,” writes Yates. “What would I look like telling my kids that a man with a black father and a white mother is ‘black’ just because society wants him to be?” Yates’ stance on President Obama’s racial identity points to an on-going, complicated debate surrounding the president’s race and how he chooses to identify himself….

[W]e asked some of the nation’s leading authorities on biracial and multi-racial issues to share their thoughts on the president’s self-identification as black, and the possible stakes of not addressing his bi-racial identity more directly. These leaders offer interesting and at times surprising perspectives on what it means to have not only a black man, but also a biracial man in the White House.

Here is what they told theGrio about this historic first. How do you think President Obama’s bi-racial ancestry influences the nature of his presidency?

 

Happy Birthday, Scott Joplin!

From the African American Registry

Scott Joplin was born on this date in 1868. He was an African-American composer and pianist, one of the most important developers of ragtime music.

Born of a former slave and his free wife, Scott Joplin learned to play the piano as a child. In 1976, he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his special contribution to American music.

Born in Texarkana, TX, Joplin taught himself piano as a child, learning classical music from a German neighbor. In his teens he became an itinerant pianist in the low-life districts that provided the chief employment for black musicians. He settled in St. Louis in 1885. In 1893, he played at the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago, and in 1894 he moved to Sedalia, MO., where he published his “Original Rags” and “Maple Leaf Rag” and opened a teaching studio.

Scott Joplin moved to New York City in 1907 and four years later at his own expense, he published his ragtime opera “Treemonisha,” a work intended to go beyond ragtime to create an indigenous black American opera. Staged in a concert version in 1915, it failed with the audience, leaving the composer’s spirit permanently broken.

He died in 1917, not aware that eventually, his music would undergo a great revival after some of his compositions, including “The Entertainer,” were used as the background music in the film “The Sting” and “Treemonisha” was staged with great success in 1975 by the Houston Grand Opera.

Read more here.

Listen to the familiar Maple Leaf Rag and the more unusual Stoptime Rag

Listen to the Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin

 

Race, Class and Schools

By Kevin P. Chavous for the Huffington Post

For most African-Americans, the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision is like the Holy Grail….

deseg classrm

A newly desegregated classroom following the Supreme Court’s 1954 “Brown v. The Board of Education” decision.

The primary thesis of Brown back in 1954 was that segregated schools exacerbated the inherent second class treatment of African-Americans that was a natural by-product of slavery. To address this problem, the Brown Court reasoned, the U.S. government had a responsibility to end segregated schools and the states were ordered to integrate their schools with “all deliberate speed.”

But, what do you do when the blood, sweat and tears of your history clashes with the realities of today?…

The average white child in America attends a school that is 77 percent white, and where just 32 percent of the student body lives in poverty. The average black child attends a school that is 59 percent poor but only 29 percent white. The typical Latino kid is similarly segregated; with a school population made up of 57 percent poor and 27 percent white. But increasingly, a growing educational gulf exists between the haves and have nots in our country, irrespective of race….

Does forced integration of races and classes in our schools today have a role in helping us get better educational outcomes for all?

An integrated classroom in 1978.

Read more here.

What do YOU think? Has the Brown decision outlived its usefulness or should we pursue it farther and harder? Please comment below.

Other food for thought: Was school segregation a “natural” by-product of slavery as the author claims?

 

Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson Doc ‘Bad 25′ Set To Make Broadcast TV Premiere This Thursday

By Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act

Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson documentary, made in collaboration with the estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music, titled Bad 25, is scheduled to air on ABC, this Thanksgiving Day, Thursday (November 22), from 9:30pm to 11pm Eastern.

Bad 25 shares fresh insights into the King of Pop’s creative vision that resulted in his landmark Bad album, marking its 25th anniversary this year.

The film promises rare and never-before-seen footage, and the first ever in-depth, behind-the-scenes film project to chronicle a Michael Jackson album and tour.

Included will be numerous interviews conducted by Spike Lee, including Jackson’s confidants, choreographers, musicians and collaborators.

Here’s a 1-minute preview of what to expect:

 

Jim Clyburn: Susan Rice Attacks Are Racial Code

By Luke Johnson, the Huffington Post

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said attacks on U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, an African-American woman who is a top candidate for secretary of state in the second term of President Barack Obama, used racial code words.

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, may replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, when Clinton retires in the next few months.

The House member was asked directly on Tuesday whether there was a racist or sexist component to the criticisms of Rice’s appearance on Sept. 16 Sunday television, during which Rice said that the Sept. 11 Benghazi attacks were based off an incendiary anti-Muslim video, rather than a terrorist attack.

Clyburn took issue with legislators calling Rice “incompetent” in the wake of the interviews.

“You know, these are code words,” said Clyburn on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “These kinds of terms that those of us — especially those of us who were grown and raised in the South — we’ve been hearing these little words and phrases all of our lives and we get insulted by them.”

Read more here.

 

On This Day in History, Sarah Jane Early Was Born

On this date in 1825, Sarah Jane Early was born.

Sarah Jane Early was the first African American woman educator to become a college professor – in 1858!

She was a Black teacher, abolitionist, and feminist.

Sarah Jane Woodson Early was born in Chillicothe, OH. Much of her feminist and Black community involvement took place through the African Methodist Church (AME) and a number of Black educational institutions.

In 1856, she earned an L.B. degree from Oberlin College, becoming one of the first Black women to receive a college degree. From 1859 to 1860, while working at Wilberforce University, Early became the first Black woman college faculty member.

Read more here.