Yearly Archives: 2012

2012 Elections: Black Turnout May Have Surpassed White Turnout

As the ongoing post-election analysis begins to emerge, it’s becoming apparent that something remarkable happened last month in the presidential election: For the first time in history, blacks appear to have voted at a higher rate than whites, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

While the conclusion still isn’t final because post-election analysis is ongoing, it seems likely that all the Republican efforts to suppress black voter turnout had the opposite effect, motivating blacks to flock to the polls at such a high rate that they actually surpassed their portion of the electorate.

Blacks made up 12 percent of the electorate this year but accounted for 13 percent of all votes cast. While this “over-performance” was a repeat of what happened with the black vote in 2008, this year early analyses seems to indicate that the black turnout rate exceeded the white turnout rate for the first time ever.

This is likely why all the polls that predicted an extremely tight race were so wrong, as Obama wound up beating Romney by 4 percentage points, 51 percent to 47 percent, while most pre-election polls showed the margin would be under 2 percent. When pollsters are estimating their margins between the candidates, they have to use formulations that predict what proportions of the electoral groups will show up. Because blacks have customarily underperformed as a percentage of their population, pollsters pegged the black turnout to be much lower than it turned out to be. (Atlanta Black Star)

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State Dept. Warns Americans About Haiti Travel

The State Department has issued a revised Haiti travel advisory, warning Americans planning to travel to the Caribbean island nation about robbery, lawlessness, infectious disease and poor medical facilities.

“U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender or age,” the department said.

The new travel warning was released Friday to replace a less strongly worded advisory issued in June.
In recent months, travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince, the capital and largest city, on flights from the United States have been attacked and robbed after leaving the airport. This year, at least two U.S. citizens were shot and killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents, the State Department said. (Yahoo! News)

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Watch Nights mark Emancipation Proclamation 150th

As New Year’s Day approached 150 years ago, all eyes were on President Abraham Lincoln in expectation of what he warned 100 days earlier would be coming — his final proclamation declaring all slaves in states rebelling against the Union to be “forever free.”

A tradition began Dec. 31, 1862, as many black churches held Watch Night services, awaiting word that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would take effect amid a bloody Civil War. Later, congregations listened as the president’s historic words were read aloud.

The proclamation would not end slavery outright and at the time couldn’t be enforced by Lincoln in areas under Confederate control. But the president made clear from that day forward that his forces would be fighting to bring the Union back together without the institution of slavery.

Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, after the Battle of Antietam, announcing that if rebel states did not cease fighting and rejoin the Union by Jan. 1, 1863, all slaves in rebellious states or parts of states would be declared free from that date forward.

This year, the Watch Night tradition will follow the historic document to its home at the National Archives with a special midnight display planned with readings, songs and bell ringing among the nation’s founding documents.

The official document bears Lincoln’s signature and the United States seal, setting it apart from copies and drafts. It will make a rare public appearance from Sunday to Tuesday — New Year’s Day — for thousands of visitors to mark its anniversary. On New Year’s Eve, the display will remain open past midnight as 2013 arrives.

“We will be calling back to an old tradition,” said U.S. Archivist David Ferriero, noting the proclamation’s legacy. “When you see thousands of people waiting in line in the dark and cold … we know that they’re not there just for words on paper.

“On this 150th anniversary, we recall those who struggled with slavery in this country, the hope that sustained them and the inspiration the Emancipation Proclamation has given to those who seek justice.”

The National Archives allows 100 visitors at a time into its rotunda, where the Emancipation Proclamation will be displayed along with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. On the busiest days, 8,000 people file through for a glimpse of the founding charters.

Performances and re-enactments are scheduled to continue throughout New Year’s Day. The U.S. Postal Service will unveil a new Emancipation Proclamation stamp as well.

This special display is just one of many commemorations planned in Washington and in churches nationwide to mark the anniversary of Lincoln’s actions to end slavery and end the Civil War.

President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, where the 16th president spent much of his time and where he began drafting the proclamation, is displaying a signed copy of the document through February. It also will host its own New Year’s Eve celebration.

The Library of Congress will display the first draft handwritten by Lincoln. It will be on display for six weeks beginning Jan. 3 in the library’s exhibit, “The Civil War in America,” which features many personal letters and diaries from the era.

Also, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture just opened its newest exhibition, “Changing America,” to recount the 1863 emancipation of slaves and the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights. It includes a rare signed copy of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that ultimately abolished slavery.

The Watch Night tradition also continues at many sites Monday night.

In Washington, the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, where abolitionist Frederick Douglass was a member, will host a special 150th anniversary service.

History lovers say this is a chance to remember what the Emancipation Proclamation actually signified.
Lincoln wrote in part: “I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward, shall be free.”

He went on to say the military would recognize the freedom of slaves, that freed slaves should avoid violence and that freed slaves could enlist in the U.S. armed forces. It did not immediately free a single slave, though, because Lincoln didn’t have the power to enforce the declaration in the Confederacy. Still, many slaves had already been freeing themselves, and the document gave them protection, said Reginald Washington, an archivist of African-American history at the National Archives.

“It was a first, important step in paving the way for the abolishment of slavery with the ratification of the 13th Amendment,” he said.

It also brought “a fundamental change in the character of the war,” Washington said. “With the stroke of Lincoln’s pen, a war to preserve the union had overnight become a war of human liberation.”

The proclamation became a symbol of hope for nearly 4 million slaves and a confirmation that the war should be fought to secure their freedom, said Washington, who is retiring from the Archives after nearly 40 years. Some historians and scholars have come to view to proclamation as one of the most important documents in U.S. history.

The final proclamation has been rarely shown because it was badly damaged decades ago by long exposure to light. After it was signed at the White House, it was kept at the State Department for many years with other presidential proclamations. In 1936, it was transferred to the National Archives.

Records show it was displayed between 1947 and 1949 in a “Freedom Train” exhibit that traveled the country. Then it was shown briefly in January 1963 to mark the 100th anniversary of its signing.

It wasn’t until 1993 that the Emancipation Proclamation has been shown more regularly to the public. In the past decade, it has been shown in 10 other museums and libraries nationwide for no more than three days at a time to limit its exposure to light. A 2011 exhibition at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., that was open around the clock drew lines amounting to eight-hour waits to see the document.

Conservators rotate which of the five pages are shown to limit their light exposure. In Washington, they will display pages two and five, which is Lincoln’s signature page. High-quality copies are shown in place of the other original pages.

“It’s rarely shown, and that’s part of our strategy for preserving it and making it accessible,” said Catherine Nicholson, an archives conservator. “Our goal is to keep its current condition so that it can be enjoyed not only by people today, but by future generations.” (AP)

San Francisco works to combat black infant mortality

After an agonizingly long fight to reduce the high death rate of African American newborns, California is beginning to make progress against a century-long racial disparity.

The state’s infant mortality rate among blacks fell 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, the last two years for which data is available, with particularly strong declines in Los Angeles and Oakland. Although the African American death rate is still more than twice that of whites, it nevertheless has reached the lowest level on record.

But in San Francisco, home to sweeping public health programs and an affluent population, the story is different.

Health officials here are struggling to reduce a black infant mortality rate of 16.2 deaths per 1,000 births, compared with the white rate of 2.5. That sixfold disparity is one of the largest in the nation, and the largest for any county in the state. (San Francisco Chronicle)

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Blacks falling behind in science education

Forty years ago this month, with the successful completion of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission, humans took their last steps on the moon. Since then, the power of science and technology that took us there continues to cross new frontiers.

In our time, there is an increasing awareness of the importance of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — as the driver of human progress. Accordingly, society increasingly is prepared to pay more for these skills.

Today, careers as civil engineers, computer programmers and data analysts rank at or near the top of the best jobs in the lists compiled by Money Magazine, Forbes and CNN.

Sadly, however, our nation is not fulfilling its potential in these emerging high-growth fields.

As an educator for 13 years, I am struck by the fact that African-Americans earned only 1.6 percent of all physical science doctorates awarded in our nation’s universities, according to research by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. The figure for advanced engineering degrees was a similarly disappointing 1.8 percent. Obviously, this is a far cry from African-Americans’ 13 percent share of the total population. (Washington Examiner)

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Hillary Clinton hospitalized with blood clot

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital Sunday after the discovery of a blood clot stemming from the concussion she sustained earlier this month.

Clinton’s doctors discovered the clot Sunday while performing a follow-up exam, her spokesman, Philippe Reines, said. He would not elaborate on the location of the clot but said Clinton is being treated with anti-coagulants and would remain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital for at least the next 48 hours so doctors can monitor the medication.

“Her doctors will continue to assess her condition, including other issues associated with her concussion,” Reines said in a statement. “They will determine if any further action is required.”

Clinton, 65, fell and suffered a concussion while at home alone in mid-December as she recovered from a stomach virus that left her severely dehydrated. The concussion was diagnosed Dec. 13 and Clinton was forced to cancel a trip to North Africa and the Middle East that had been planned for the next week.

Clinton was also forced to cancel Dec. 20 testimony before Congress about a scathing report into the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The report found that serious failures of leadership and management in two State Department bureaus were to blame for insufficient security at the facility. Clinton took responsibility for the incident before the report was released, but she was not blamed.

Some conservative commentators suggested Clinton was faking the seriousness of her illness and concussion to avoid testifying, although State Department officials vehemently denied that was the case.

Lawmakers at the hearings — including Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed Clinton — offered her their best wishes.

The former first lady and senator, who had always planned to step down as America’s top diplomat in January, is known for her grueling travel schedule. She is the most traveled secretary of state in history, having visited 112 countries while in the job. (AP)

Greens confront own need for diversity

The Republican Party isn’t the only political force that has a diversity problem.

Environmental activists say their own movement needs to step up its game if it wants to play much bigger in Washington.

The green movement dreams of pushing major bills through Congress on the scale of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law and the immigration overhaul expected to begin next year.

But those issues enjoy something the green movement does not: wide and deep support across key Democratic groups, including Latinos and African-Americans.

“You should fish where the fish are biting,” said Van Jones, the former green jobs adviser to Obama. “All causes that want longevity need to look to influence the emerging majority, which will be a nonwhite majority.”

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Many African-Americans deem mental care inaccessible

Annmarie Desravines didn’t take phone calls from family, cried “at the drop of a dime,” and said she was barely getting up in time for the first of her two part-time jobs as a cook.

After she lost her health insurance and then was diagnosed with lupus, “I got to the point of where I would go to work, come home and get in my bed. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to drink. I didn’t want to do anything,” said Desravines, 41, of Central Islip. “I knew I was depressed.”

Three months passed before Desravines, an African-American woman, sought a therapist.

“I think it starts with pride,” she said of cultural barriers to seeking mental health treatment. “We’re so strong that we are afraid for people to see the weak side of us.”

African-Americans’ access to mental health care can be affected by lack of financial resources, and their approach to such care is influenced by deep historical underpinnings, including stigma, suspicion of medical professionals and reliance on religion, experts say. (Newsday)

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The Legend of Lincoln Unchained

Ezrah Aharone

– While Django Unchained is stirring controversy, Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln, has unchained the Legend of Lincoln to new mythic heights, without due challenge.  Just as organizations like the NAACP denounced conservative-revisionist textbooks in Texas in 2010, they should denounce liberal-bent historical accounts that either ignorantly or deliberately fail to concede that “Abraham Lincoln did the right thing for the wrong reasons.”  Or as Lerone Bennett aptly conveyed in the title of his book, Lincoln was in effect – Forced Into Glory.

Nevertheless, the fictions of Lincoln enrich the commercial and moral value of Americana more than the facts of Lincoln.  As Bennett writes, Lincoln “is a national industry involving hundreds of millions of dollars a year . . . and the thousands of people who profit materially and the millions who profit psychologically and culturally are not going to stop.”

So what really happened with Lincoln and the Civil War?  Considering the racism that abounds today, it’s inconceivable that 3 million Whites would fight gung-ho and 600,000 would unselfishly die for a “Black cause” way-back 150 years ago.  And if Lincoln factually wrote the Emancipation Proclamation to genuinely “free Africans” after 2½ centuries, its contents would seemingly be more etched into African-American minds.  But if you ask around, it would be a near-miracle to find anyone (Black academics and leaders included) who can even paraphrase any portion of it, much less clarify its contents.  Isn’t that strange?

An unlikely but well-accredited vetting source of the Legend of Lincoln is President Obama himself, who as a senator in a 2005 Time interview remarked: “I cannot swallow whole the view of Lincoln as ‘The Great Emancipator’ . . . I am fully aware of his limited views on race. Anyone who actually reads the Emancipation Proclamation knows it was more a ‘Military Document’ than a clarion call for justice. Scholars tell us too that Lincoln wasn’t immune from political considerations and that his temperament could be indecisive and morose.”

Neither due justice nor the ambiguousness of the real Lincoln can be condensed here, but his “racism” or “limited views on race” as Obama diplomatically cites, is evidenced in a 1858 speech when he candidly said he was not “in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races . . . and I just as much as any other man am in favor of the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Examples of his “crudity” or not being “immune from political considerations” as Obama intimates, is found in his letter to New York Tribune editor, Horace Greely in August 1862 stating: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”

The following month, the real Lincoln proposed a shrewd Preliminary Proclamation to emancipate Africans in Confederate areas.  The caveat though was that Confederate states could retain slavery, providing they complied to return to the Union by January 1, 1863.  However, should the war have ended beforehand, the deal would be rescinded and Confederates would lose both the war and slavery.

In terms of the Emancipation Proclamation being a “military document,” Obama is corroborating Lincoln’s strategy to employ the document as a war measure to disrupt the South’s stability and slave-economy ($4 billion in human capital alone in 1860’s dollars) and offset the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (which federally mandated that fugitive Africans be returned or abettors faced treason).  It only “theoretically” freed Africans in Confederate states where he lacked enforcement.

Lastly, the moral notion that Lincoln waged the Civil War “to end slavery” is negated by his swift removal of General John Fremont for “freeing Africans” in Missouri in 1861, expressing: “We didn’t go into the war to put down slavery, but to put the flag back . . . for I never should have had votes enough to send me here if the people had supposed I should try to use my power to upset slavery.”

In this microwave society with 10-second attention spans, fictional characters like Django are short-lived.  But here to stay is the Legend of Lincoln, who like many of his predecessors was gigantic in ambition but miniature in morality. Obama was diplomatic, but the open masquerading of Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation that he insinuates, reflects a need for concerned Black people and institutions to converge and confront such distortions and profiteering that are unchained at our historical and ancestral expense.

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Ezrah Aharone is an adjunct associate professor at Delaware State University, and author of two acclaimed political books: Sovereign Evolution: Manifest Destiny  from Civil Rights to Sovereign Rights (2009) and Pawned Sovereignty: Sharpened Black Perspectives on Americanization, Africa, War and Reparations (2003).  He can be reached at Ezrah@EzrahSpeaks.com

Sigma Gamma Rho & The Girl Scouts Help Girls Imagine Engineering Careers

Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has joined forces with Sigma Gamma Rho, one of the nation’s largest African American sororities, to help build awareness of career possibilities in science, technology, and engineering among girls and parents in the African American community.

Working with local Girl Scout councils around the country, Sigma Gamma Rho’s alumnae chapters have made GSUSA’s Imagine Engineering program, funded by the National Science Foundation, a focus of the sorority’s annual National Youth Symposium.

“Girl Scouting and Sigma Gamma Rho have the same goal: to build the nation’s future leaders by helping girls dream big and accomplish much today,” said GSUSA Chief Executive Officer Anna Maria Chavez. “We are delighted to be part of this partnership to help girls do great things in critical fields such as science, technology, engineering and math.”

“Response to Imagine Engineering has been terrific,” said Sigma Gamma Rho National President Bonita Herring. “We surveyed 250 girls who took part in the program, and more than two thirds of them said they now understood how ‘someone like me’ could become an engineer.”

For more informationon GSUSA’s Imagine Engineering program, visit:www.girlscouts.org/imagineengineering/

“We will not only expand our efforts with this program, but we will reach out to girls nationwide in our communities with a combination of our own healthy living program, Project Reassurance, and the Girl Scouts’ program for middle-school girls on healthy relationships and bullying,” Herring said. “Through this continued partnership, we are going to do great things together for girls.”