- Created on 27 February 2013
Throughout our history, Black women have drawn strength from a deep well inside them to overcome injustices, and wield power and influence to improve people’s lives. Take Rosa Parks, for instance. She was a quiet woman, an introvert. Not the kind of person one would expect to take a stand that would energize protesters and change the course of a movement. But one fateful day she found her voice and said ‘No.” That simple but fearless refusal to bend to segregation became a game-changer in the movement for racial equality.
Ms. Parks and other women from her generation seem to have been anointed with super human strength and an unflappable resolve to fight the status quo. But I believe that what dwelled in these women lives in countless other women right here in Chicago. Unfortunately, too often, we fail to tap into the leadership potential of Black women. And when we don’t we miss out.
Empowered women are game changers. As we transition from Black History Month to Women’s History Month in March, it’s worth reminding ourselves that there are women in our communities, churches, families and workplaces who have game-changing potential and proclivities. Yet, 13 years into the New Millennium, corporations, governments, political parties, clergy and yes, even some civil rights groups, continue to leave Black women out of the conversation.
Black women want to lead. Whether it’s in their homes, their communities, their churches or in the business world, modern women want their shot at the big chair, and it’s time we give it to them.
Chicago is a city in crisis with escalating gun and gang violence, high dropout rates, and no immediate solution to the high jobless rate among teenagers and young adults. During Women’s History Month, we’ll be reminded of influential Black women whose lives and legacies challenged the nation to live up to its principles. Three women come immediately to mind: Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz and Myrlie Evers-Williams. These women shared a similarly tragic fate in that each was married to a charismatic civil rights leader, became a widow when her husband was assassinated and continued to work for the movement and wield whatever influence she had to change oppressive laws and policies.
These women drew on their own sense of self- preservation – and each other- to keep husband’s legacies alive. But they also became leaders in their own right, finding their unique voices as they pursued justice and social change.
Another woman recently thrust into the national spotlight by tragic circumstances also comes to mind: Cleopatra Cowley- Pendleton, whose 15-yearold daughter, Hadiya, was killed Jan. 29 in a senseless shooting. Since then Ms. Cowley-Pendleton has emerged as an activist in the anti-violence movement. It is not a role she sought but neither has she run from it, adding her voice to those advocating for tougher gun laws.
“It’s my job to keep talking,” she has said in recent weeks.
It’s essential that we acknowledge the women whose shoulders we stand on, who dared to challenge the status quo and inspired change. Were it not for them, I would not have had the opportunities that I’ve had. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that gives women great leadership opportunities. More than one-third of the chief executives at Urban League affiliates across the nation are women. Many of them lead Urban Leagues in major urban centers like New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. And I’m glad to serve in Illinois with sisters in the movement like Theodia Gillespie and Laraine Bryson who head Urban Leagues in Aurora and Peoria, respectively. These women were identified, valued, selected and empowered to make a difference.
Being an empowered woman does come with great responsibility but great outcomes. Among the business benefits of empowered women in leadership roles: increased organizational productivity, better financial results, and greater growth potential. Women are also risk takers. Studies have shown that women investors, for instance, take no fewer risks than their male counterparts and in certain business settings, women, in fact, are greater risk takers than men.
Today, our communities face major challenges including underfunded schools, violence in our streets, and the lack of job opportunities. Now, more than ever, we must continue tapping into the deep pool of talented women who have shown, throughout history, that they are more than willing to step up to the plate.
At the Chicago Urban League, we are committed to supporting and encouraging Black women to pursue leadership and to empower them through business ownership and career development to be the game changers history teaches us that they can be.
Andrea L. Zopp is president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League
- Created on 20 February 2013
I have written about this previously but I am getting more and more concerned that the Postal Service will go the way of the dodo bird. Like virtually every other part of the legitimate role of government, the Postal Service is and has been under attack by conservatives. The perpetrators of the assault are the same crew that have been trying to privatize everything that is standing.
Organizations such as the right-wing Cato Institute and their allies in Congress wish to see the US Postal Service weakened to the point that it ceases to exist. Then they would have the mail handled through privately owned operations.
There are many reasons that we should be concerned about this attack. First, postal delivery is actually a Constitutional right. It is there in the Constitution. Now, our conservative friends will throw their hands in the air and exclaim that they are not challenging the Constitution. Rather, they will argue, mail delivery can, allegedly, be handled more efficiently by private outfits. There is no particular reason to believe that private companies can handle the mail more efficiently than the USPS.
With the USPS we are guaranteed that everything of a certain weight gets delivered to specific sites in the U.S.A. for a given price. In other words, a letter weighing one ounce does not cost more if it is mailed from Baltimore to Spokane or from Baltimore to New York. With privatization we can be guaranteed that the cost of mail would vary according to where the mail is being sent.
A second reason for concern has to do with the workforce. The Postal Service has been an important employer of African-Americans and it has provided employment at good wages with good benefits.
- Created on 22 January 2013
Exactly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and 50 years after the March on Washington, President Barack Obama delivered a progressive and stunning speech centered around the notion of equality on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before thousands.
SPECIAL INAUGURAL REPORT
Naming each of the turning points of watershed moments in American history and emphasizing repeatedly the Declaration of Independence that "it is self evident that all men are created equal," Obama challenged the nation to be more forward thinking in his historic inaugural speech after his reelection.
Specifically addressing voting rights, women's rights, gay and lesbian rights, immigration reform, health care reform and global climate change, and mentioning Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Obama's remarks reached out to both Democrats and Republicans alike to seize this moment together.
"Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they've never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth," Obama said. "The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed."
Obama said through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, "We learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together."
"Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play," Obama said. "Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune."
Reminding the nation of the battles that were fought for the dignity of every person Obama put it bluntly, "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."
With rhetorical ingenuity Obama anchored his speech on the theme of the 57 inaugural celebration "Faith in America's Future."
"It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," Obama said to the thunderous applause of more than a half million people. "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
The president went on as his speech was numerously interrupted with applauses.
"Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country," Obama said.
Zeroing on the urban safety crisis and the debate on gun control, Obama specifically mentioned Detroit.
"Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm," Obama said.
Re-echoing a campaign theme about the future of the middle class Obama said, "For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class."
The president went on "We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."
After the inauguration the Obamas stopped at the Capitol Rotunda to pay homage to Dr. King's bust.
During the parade Obama waved to floats of Dr. King and the Tuskegee Airmen.
Bankole Thompson is a Senior Author-in-Residence at Global Mark Makers Publishing House in Iowa where he is writing a groundbreaking six-part book series on the Obama presidency. His book "Obama and Black Loyalty" published in 2010 follows his recent book "Obama and Christian Loyalty" with a foreword by Bob Weiner former White House spokesman. His forthcoming books in 2012 are "Obama and Jewish Loyalty" and "Obama and Business Loyalty." He is the first editor of a major African American newspaper to have a series of sit-down interviews with Barack Obama. Thompson is also a Senior Political News Analyst at WDET-101.9FM Detroit (NPR Affiliate) and a member of the weekly "Obama Watch" Sunday evening round table on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut.
- Created on 22 January 2013
So many in my parents' generation – and ours – never thought we'd see an African-American elected president of this country. Now, not only have we been blessed to see that day, but on Jan. 21, we will witness the president accept a second term on the same day that our nation pauses to acknowledge the contributions of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What a tremendous honor it is to witness this moment in history. On the one hand, we are celebrating the legacy of someone who gave his blood, sweat, tears and life to make a better future for generations unborn. And on the other, we have someone who personifies the very substance of Dr. King's dream taking the Oath of Office for a second time.
This is much more than a footnote in the history books. In fact, as a man of faith, I am compelled to believe that this is not a mere coincidence; rather this is a seminal moment for us all.
This is an opportunity for this generation to be inspired by the aspirations of those who came before us.
There is still much to do, and President Obama remains uniquely positioned to help our nation achieve the tenets of humanity and equality of which Dr. King could only dream.
I hope that the Congress will work with President Obama to change our national discourse during his second term.
We must refocus our conversation and our efforts on what really matters – creating jobs; increasing and expanding access to effective, efficient and affordable healthcare; and strengthening our education system so more of our children can succeed.
This isn't about agendas. This isn't about Republicans versus Democrats. This is about doing what's right because no people – no matter what their race or station – can survive and thrive in the absence of healthy systems of economic development, healthcare and education.
I also hope that the president will resist changes to Social Security benefits and Medicare in his second term. Many Social Security beneficiaries – particularly those from black and poor communities – have only Social Security benefits on which to live. They have no pension, no savings, no 401(K), and now, thanks to the recession, some of them don't even have a house or a job.
When we add to that a lack of health care, increases in the cost of living and Medicare premiums, as well as decreases in access to quality care, what we have is a group of people marching toward their senior years who will lead shorter, sicker lives.
Instead of protecting the future of our senior citizens, there are some looking to make the country solvent on their backs. We must do better.
Finally, I hope that all Americans who cherish democracy will be vigilant. Our 21st century civil rights movement to expand and preserve our voting rights has just begun.
Last November, a months-long campaign to suppress the votes of the elderly, the poor, students, Hispanics, and African-Americans came to a head when record numbers turned out to vote.
Many voters of all ethnicities withstood remarkable odds just to cast their ballots for President Obama. Long lines, hours-long waits, and state-imposed restrictive voter ID laws all threatened to rob many of their votes.
A strategic, nationwide campaign to remove early voting opportunities was launched, attacking the bedrock of the African-American voting tradition. Early voting hours in many states, like Ohio and Florida, were all but eliminated. Where they weren't successful, it appeared that organizations like True The Vote stepped in with aggressive poll monitoring techniques to support the Republican agenda.
Now is not the time to become complacent in our efforts to fight voter suppression. We can do better as a nation in upholding this fundamental Constitutional right – and with the president's leadership, we can preserve this key right for generations yet unborn.
In April 1960, Dr. King gave the Founders Day address at Spelman College. He closed his remarks, "Move From This Mountain," by reading Langston Hughes' poem "Mother to Son" and offering this appeal: "If you can't fly, run; if you can't run, walk; if you can't walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving."
Dr. King and our forefathers and mothers passed the baton to President Obama and all of us. It is up to us to continue to stand up for what's right. We must not drop the baton. We must continue moving forward.