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Writers Push Obama on Black Unemployment

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

At 17.6% for Black Men, President's Strategy Challenged

New Yorker Offers Interactive Black History Feature

Pittsburgh Police Upset by Cartoon on Teen's Beating

Janice Min Says at Home, Money Isn't Power

Nashville Station Teases Viewers on Terrorism Tie

Intrepid Reporters Hang Out With Tea Partyers

"For Love of Liberty" Honors "America's Black Patriots"

Juan Gonzalez Warns About Re-Engineering of Cities

Short Takes

A bronze bust of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is visible in the foreground as President Obama meets with senior advisers in the Oval Office last week. (Pete Souza/White House) 

At 17.6% for Black Men, President's Strategy Challenged

"With a surge in African-American joblessness - currently hovering above 15 percent - as a backdrop, three prominent black civic leaders journeyed to the White House for a face-to-face meeting with [President] Obama on the topic. NAACP President Benjamin T. Jealous, National Urban League President Marc H. Morial and National Action Network President Rev. Al Sharpton all journeyed to the White House to address what they called the 'disproportionate' burden urban communities are bearing during this jobless recovery," Javier E. David wrote Wednesday for

"But if the collegial tone employed by the men after their meeting was any indication, the president's ineffectual economic policies may continue unchallenged. That would be regrettable, because the very people who ought to hold him accountable appear more interested in positioning themselves as his chief apologists."

David's is only one opinion, of course, but it follows alarm expressed by other African American columnists over the black jobless rate and renewed discussion over Obama's response to it as the nation's first black president.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote of Obama Monday for the New York Times, "He is using his platform to advance racial consciousness, even as he has steered clear of putting race front and center in his administration.

"It is a balancing act that has frustrated some black leaders and scholars, who are starting to challenge Mr. Obama's language and policies."

One of those consistently sounding the alarm has been Bob Herbert, an African American columnist at Stolberg's newspaper:

"The point here is that those in the lower-income groups are in a much, much deeper hole than the general commentary on the recession would lead people to believe," Herbert wrote on Monday. "And none of the policy prescriptions being offered by the administration or the leaders of either party in Congress would in any way substantially alleviate the plight of those groups.

"We talk about the recession as if all of its victims were suffering equally, and all will be helped by some bland, class-and-category-neutral solution.

"That is so wrong."

Interview subject is education.In the black press, Ron Walters has echoed Herbert: "I have said this before, however, it bears repeating, the Economic Policy Institute projects by year's end, if the unemployment rate continues to climb, the poverty rate for Black children, now at 30 percent, could reach 50 percent. That prospect alone calls for a 'toughness' by Black leaders in the face of a possible freeze on governmental assistance," Walters, a political scientist, said in his column for the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

Joel Dreyfuss, managing editor of, agreed Thursday that such numbers haven't received the attention they deserve. "When the U.S. reported January jobless figures had dropped to 9.7 percent, higher rates of black unemployment - 16.5 percent overall and 17.6 among black men, (12.6 percent among Hispanics) - drew little media attention. But they caused the alarm in the black community," he wrote.

Dreyfuss went on to interview Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson, who told him, 'If I were advising the President, I would advise the Administration to acknowledge the racial differences and point out the substantial increases that have to be addressed.'

DeWayne Wickham, columnist for USA Today and Gannett News Service, interviewed Morial. "In November, the National Urban League urged the White House and House and Senate leaders to create a new $168 billion stimulus plan that would target job creation in 'communities with the highest rates of unemployment and the long-term unemployed who often face the greatest barriers to getting a job the longer they are without one,' he wrote.

"Then in December, National Urban League President Marc Morial met with Lawrence Summers, head of the president's National Economic Council, to push that idea." But Morial said he has had no substantive response.

Dreyfuss concluded, "A President warding off critics from right to left is unlikely to offer them another bulls-eye. Instead he will fall back on the old truisms that a rising tide lifts all boats. The nagging detail is the number of people in the water without life vests."

Obama has his defenders, and maintains high approval ratings among African Americans.

"The truth is Obama may never speak out on behalf of African-American citizens as often as some black activists would like, but his policies and immediate actions could help millions of black people during his tenure as president, Michael H. Cottman wrote for

In Stolberg's piece, Dorothy Height, who has counseled every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt on matters of race, pleaded for Obama to be left alone.

" 'We have never sat down and said to the 43 other presidents: 'How does it feel to be a Caucasian? How do you feel as a white president? Tell me what that means to you,' " Dr. Height said. 'I am not one to think that he should do more for his people than for other people. I want him to be free to be himself.' "

Meanwhile, Essence magazine announced that its March issue features a conversation with Obama.

"In his first interview of 2010, he talks tough with ESSENCE editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray, Deputy Editor Tatsha Robertson and Washington Correspondent Cynthia Gordy about holding teachers accountable, closing the education gap between Black and White students, how he and First Lady Michelle Obama encourage daughters Malia and Sasha to love learning, and how you can do the same with your own children," the magazine said.

New Yorker Offers Interactive Black History Feature

Charlayne Hunter-Gault   (Credit: Platon for the New Yorker)Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the veteran journalist who with Hamilton Holmes integrated the University of Georgia  in 1961, is part of an interactive Black History Month project in the Feb. 15 and 22 issue of the New Yorker.

Hunter-Gault, who now reports from Africa, offers a reflection on her time at the university.

Over three months, photographer Platon "travelled across the country to photograph some of the iconic figures of the civil-rights movement, many of them revisiting the sites of their moments in history," the New Yorker said.

"Among his subjects are the Little Rock Nine, the nine students, now in their sixties and seventies, who, in 1957, integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, photographed in front of the school; surviving leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Black Panthers; Myrlie and Charles Evers, the widow and brother of Medgar Evers; and the daughters of Malcolm X."

David Remnick, the New Yorker editor, introduces the package with an essay.

"The black freedom struggle defines the American experience," he writes. "It is a struggle that has applied prolonged moral and political pressure to the promises of the Constitution and America’s self-conception. Its culminating drama was Southern, nonviolent, and religious, and centered largely on [Martin Luther] King and his times — from 1954 to his assassination, in 1968. But the struggle, which remains unfinished, is immensely more diverse and complicated than the schoolbook version.

" 'One thing that I think the history books, and the media, have gotten very wrong is portraying the movement as Martin Luther King’s movement, when in fact it was a people’s movement,' Diane Nash, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, said.

" 'If people understood that it was ordinary people who did everything that needed to be done in the movement, instead of thinking, I wish we had a Martin Luther King now, they would ask, "What can I do?" Idolizing just one person undermines the struggle.' Indeed, the struggle began with slave rebellions and fugitive churchmen; it has encompassed integrationists and nationalists, nonviolence and armed uprising, churchwomen and secular Third World liberationists, sharecroppers and intellectuals, heroes and eccentrics."

Other observations this Black History Month have come in an essay by Nicole Y. Dennis, "A Black Immigrant’s Experience with Coming to Terms with Race Relations in America," in which Dennis, a native of Jamaica, writes for thedefendersonline, "Many immigrants of color, in looking forward to coming to the U.S. and being in the U.S., simply do not recognize that racism will affect them, at least initially. They see racism as something that is limited to U.S.-born blacks (and perhaps Latinos), but not to those who have no 'history' here. They’ve drunk the Kool-Aid." She writes that she learned otherwise.

In the Los Angeles Times, Erin Aubry Kaplan tied black history to the discussion over whether "Negro" should be included as a census option. "The real problem is not names at all, but the imperiled status of black people that persists from one age to the next, from one 'acceptable' term to another," Kaplan wrote.

There was also the perennial debate over whether Black History Month is still needed.


Pittsburgh Police Upset by Cartoon on Teen's Beating

"Editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has drawn the ire of local police with a strip that suggests the beating of a local black teenager by authorities was racially motivated," Shawn Moynihan wrote Thursday in Editor & Publisher.

"In 'Brewed on Grant,' a Post-Gazette editorial cartoon in which he tackles local issues, Rogers on Feb. 3 offered a dialogue between a diner patron and a waitress over events that took place Jan. 12. Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old high school student, had in late January been subdued by three plainclothes policemen after a confrontation and hospitalized with facial bruises, swollen eyes and hair ripped from his scalp after being arrested on charges of aggravated assault.

"In Rogers' cartoon, it's suggested the three officers accused of beating the teen got their training from 'The Racist Skinhead Etiquette Handbook.'

"Dan O'Hara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, objected to the characterization, claiming the cartoon paints the entire police department as racists.

"Rogers told E&P, 'What I'd been hearing from a lot of people on the street was that it seemed over-the-top for the treatment of somebody, even if he did run. So I thought that asking the question, 'Was it racially motivated?' was fair.

" 'As a cartoonist it's my job to exaggerate to the degree where you get a gasp,' he continued. 'And that, to them, was a blanket statement that all police are racist skinheads. That's not what I was saying at all. I wanted to direct some attention to this incident — isn't this a little over the top?' "

Janice Min Says That at Home, Money Isn't Power

"Janice MinJanice Min reportedly made $2 million-a-year as editor-in-chief at Us Weekly, while her husband was a full-time dad. She tells why, even if a woman has it all, she still has to deal with grocery shopping and screaming babies," the New York Post wrote last week over a story headlined, "Confessions of an Alpha wife." 

In the first-person account, an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Min says:

"I told a few women in the office the story of how when I was 27 I actually had refused to wear an engagement ring. Some of the women looked at me like I’d drowned their kitten; others were filled with awe. I explained that at that time in my life, I found something objectionable about how women judged other women by ring size ('poor so-and-so, her diamond’s so small' translated into 'sucker, she’s marrying a poor guy'); and that the whole proposal and wedding ritual was, dare I say, a little sexist. (Grown men asking fathers’ permission to marry their grown daughters is a nice tradition, but honestly, it kind of gives me the creeps.)

"Now I look back at that decision and realize what I was really resisting was the idea of turning over my independence — financial and otherwise — to someone else. It wasn’t my style. But it has never shaped my worldview. I dare you to find another editor in New York who has assigned more stories and photo shoots involving rings, wedding dresses and romance than I. I am a staunch believer in love, marriage and family, but not that a woman can’t out-earn a man or that a man shouldn’t change the diapers. . . .

"Some might think that because I made the bulk of our family’s money that I have the upper hand, or the rights to call all the shots. But our relationship isn’t like that. It’s more a partnership than a dictatorship. I don’t think either one of us equates money with power, or finds its pursuit an essential part of living our lives. (Granted, we have that luxury after having so much income for so long.) When I was contemplating leaving Us Weekly last year, I made sure my husband was on board with the decision before making my move. 'No brainer,' he said. 'It’s time for something new.' "

Nashville Station Teases Viewers on Terrorism Tie

"Well, that's a relief," Jeff Woods wrote Tuesday for the Nashville Scene alternative newspaper. "After teasing viewers for days about its big exclusive report 'Inside Islamville: Is a Local Muslim Community Tied to Terrorism?' Channel 5 finally gave us the answer last night: No."

"It's a new low in broadcast journalism in this city. Based on the unfounded accusations in a crackpot video titled 'Homegrown Jihad,' Channel 5 devoted two nights' segments to this so-called investigation. On the first night, we heard all about the video. Channel 5 knew then that none of it was true, but didn't tell viewers. For that, we had to wait until last night. With camera crew in tow, Nick Beres appeared unannounced at the Muslim 'compound,' just like Mike Wallace on a 60 Minutes' ambush, and here's what happened:

" 'We were met at the entrance by two men who agreed to allow us onto the property asking only that we not show any faces or conduct any interviews. There was not much to see. "It's kind of like going into any trailer park out in the country," says Sheriff Vinson.' "

"We hope Channel 5 managed to goose its ratings a little bit with this garbage. Otherwise, Beres succeeded only in inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments."

The Tennessean reported Thursday that "The words 'Muslim go home'' and several crosses were spray-painted in red on the exterior" of a local mosque, "and an expletive and hate-speech filled note was left at the youth center, according to a board member of the mosque.

Salaad Nur, the board member, "said this was the first time the mosque was vandalized, and even after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when backlash against Muslims was rampant, they never had a problem like this.

"Elias Feghali of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition blamed media reports and talk radio hosts who fan the flame against Muslims in Tennessee for the vandalism."

Intrepid Reporters Hang Out With Tea Partyers

"The movement is almost exclusively white. The fact that its agenda is informed by issues of race and its ranks infected with racism is undeniable, but the driving force behind it is clearly much more complicated," Gary Younge said in "Dropping in on the Tea Party: Beneath the Radar," written for the March 1 issue of the Nation.

"If Condoleezza Rice were president they would probably love her. And if [President] Obama were half as liberal as his base thinks he is, he would spark opposition regardless of his race," wrote Younge, Alfred Knobler Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute, New York correspondent for Britain's Guardian newspaper and a black journalist.

". . . This movement's leadership is in the media. In the absence of Republican leadership it has been stoked by Fox News and talk-radio. Every Tuesday at a nonalcoholic Bar None in Lexington [Ky.], a 9/12 Project group meets.

"This is Fox presenter Glenn Beck's initiative, aimed at returning America to the values it embraced the day after 9/11 — not the outpouring of gratitude toward government workers, like firefighters and police but the flag-waving patriotic and religious unity that ostensibly engulfed the nation. Fourteen showed up the night I was there. A straw poll revealed that they blamed the entire establishment, not Obama alone, for leading America in the wrong direction. Half believed Obama is a Muslim, just one thought he's a Christian and the vast majority thought he was a communist, socialist and Marxist. None believed he was born in America; most said they did not know."

Mary C. Curtis, who went to the Tea Party's Nashville convention for Politics Daily, confided this in her "Reporter's Notebook": "A side effect of the wall-to-wall coverage: I've been stopped by several journalists anxious for reaction from a black Tea Party member. The guy from CNN looked so disappointed when I told him I was a working journalist, too."

"For Love of Liberty" Honors "America's Black Patriots"

The buzz is growing about "For Love of Liberty," a PBS documentary airing this month about black contributions to the U.S. military.

"Much more than a collection of historical facts & figures, 'For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots' is a story of heroes," according to the publicity material. "At its heart are the emotional, first-hand accounts of the men and women who were in harm's way. . . . these memories of those long gone resonate through time via dramatic readings by Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby, Susan Sarandon, Lou Gossett Jr., John Travolta, Ossie Davis, Robert Duvall, Danny Glover, Sam Elliot, Delroy Lindo, Walter Cronkite, Isaac Hayes, Cliff Robertson, Kris Kristofferson and many others." Halle Berry hosts, Colin Powell introduces and Avery Brooks narrates.

Powell calls it a story "the press did not write about enough."

"It is always . . . enlightening to be lectured on love of country by those whose heritage includes no paradox. One hopes a few of them will chance upon this program, syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote on Sunday.

"One hopes they will see the stories of valor, linger upon the tombstones, watch American Marines denied seating at a table to which even Nazis are welcome, and marvel at the sheer love of country this bespeaks. Not love for the country as it is, but love for what it could someday be.

"One hopes they will understand how much such love it takes to defy the paradox. Black men, it asks, will you defend America? Leave skin and blood in foreign lands fighting for ideals that do not include you? And always, the answer has been the same.


Check local listings for times. TV One's "Washington Watch" also plans a story on the documentary on Sunday.


Amy Goodman presents award to her "Democracy Now!" co-host, Juan Gonzalez, at Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund' gala. (Credit: video by Sree Sreenivasan.)

Juan Gonzalez Warns About Re-Engineering of Cities

Juan Gonzalez, New York Daily News columnist and co-host of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" said Thursday that his recent columns, read as a group, will demonstrate that the American city is being re-engineered for the benefit of the wealthy and the middle class. Gonzalez received the 2010 Justice in Action Award from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York, an honor presented by his "Democracy Now!" co-host, Amy Goodman.

Gonzalez, a past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said the takeover was being facilitated by decisions about land use and tax breaks that have the effect of pushing the poor to the cities' outskirts. "Who will stand up against this?" he asked. (Video)

Short Takes

  • "A coalition of leading international journalists‚Äô, writers‚Äô, and publishers‚Äô organizations today launched a campaign to press the government of Iran to release their colleagues imprisoned in the wake of last year‚Äôs disputed presidential election," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday. "CPJ, PEN, Reporters Sans Fronti?®res, Index on Censorship, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the International Publishers Association have joined forces for the campaign out of what the groups have called 'a sense of shared, urgent concern for the welfare of journalists, writers, and bloggers and a profound alarm over the situation for free expression in Iran.'‚Äù
  • It isn't only journalists of color who notice when a nonwhite perspective is left out of the conversation on political talk shows. A black woman named Lynn called into National Public Radio's "The Diane Rehm Show" Friday to take the journalists' panel to task in the show's weekly news roundup after the panelists dismissed the possibility that racism played a role in criticism of President Obama. A black man had called in to suggest the possibility. Panelists were Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, Ron Elving of NPR and Christopher Rowland of the Boston Globe. The show originates at Washington's WAMU-FM.
  • The PBS programs "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement," which aired Thursday, and "Faces of America," a Henry Louis Gates Jr. program in which celebrities traced their roots, will be available for viewing free of charge online, a PBS spokesman said. "In Performance" is available at and Wednesday's "Faces of America" can be seen in its entirety online at "Faces" is a four-part show, airing Wednesdays from Feb. 10 to March 3 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time. Subsequent episodes are to be available online the morning after their broadcast premiere.
  • Sportswriter Jerry Bembry won second place in the 2009 Best Writing Contest of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association for a piece he wrote for ESPN The Magazine, "Tyrone Hanson: Could've been worse." Since Bembry was laid off from ESPN in May, he has been freelancing for magazines and radio and completing a book, he told Journal-isms.
  • Since the Sunday Times in Johannesburg broke the story Jan. 31 that South African "President Jacob Zuma has fathered a child with the daughter of powerful soccer administrator and long-time friend, Irvin Khoza," South African media have been decrying the effect of Zuma's behavior on their country's reputation. "Africans do colonials' dirty work" read the headline over an opinion piece Monday by Simphiwe Sesanti in the Johannesburg Star. In the United States, columnist Rose Russell of the Toledo Blade wrote Saturday, "Even in South Africa, pols' private affairs are people's business."
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New Yorker Black History Feature

Your quote of Diane Nash's comment is worth repeating: "Diane Nash, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, said. " 'If people understood that it was ordinary people who did everything that needed to be done in the movement, instead of thinking, I wish we had a Martin Luther King now, they would ask, "What can I do?" Idolizing just one person undermines the struggle.' Indeed, the struggle began with slave rebellions and fugitive churchmen; it has encompassed integrationists and nationalists, nonviolence and armed uprising, churchwomen and secular Third World liberationists, sharecroppers and intellectuals, heroes and eccentrics." She is SO on-target. It's why we used the 13-Part radio documentary series "Then I'll Be Free To Travel Home" to give it the proper depth and breadth. Visit and learn more about that long, powerful and inspiring struggle for freedom and first-class citizenship.

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