Jul 03 2009
Is There A Black Corporate America?
â€œIn the sense that you (CopyLine) define Corporate America, I would say noâ€ – Dempsey J. Travis, CEO of Travis Realty, aÂ self-made blackÂ multi-millionaire, who died July 1, 2009. (This article was published in CopyLine magazine in January 1991).
by Juanita Bratcher
When the â€œGood Oleâ€™ Boys Clubâ€ network comes together for a game of golf on the greenery of golf courses, or meet behindÂ doors in the luxury of country clubs, some â€œPower Connectionsâ€ are made, powerful deals are cut.
Thatâ€™s the American way in White Corporate America. But what about Black Corporate America? Myth or fantasy? Is there really a Black Corporate America? Are Black businessmen, heads of major black corporations, really a part of the Corporate America picture? What about power plays, power connections, do they really fit into the scheme of things?
â€œIn the sense that you (CopyLine) define Corporate America, I would say no,â€ said Dempsey Travis, ChairmanÂ & CEO of Travis Realty, a self-made multi-millionaire who made most of his millions in the mortgage banking business and real estate development.
Travis, who is Black, is also the successful author of about six books (at his death, he had authored 21 books), all of which at one time or another were on the Best Sellers list. His most recent book is â€œRacism American Style: A Corporate Gift.â€
While the number of Blacks working in the white corporate structure of America has increased, there are not that many Blacks sitting in the boardrooms of major white corporations, and if so, they are certainly not cutting powerful deals at golf courses and country clubs, simply because they have been shut out as members, the same with women and other minorities.
According to Travis, in terms of the â€œOleâ€™ Boys Networkâ€ in Black Corporate America, there is no such thing. And itâ€™s not often that they strike up deals, that environment does not exist. However, many are networking through trade organizations like the minority Black Bankers in Illinois, real estate brokers associations, and other associations, depending on the business arena they are in.
Travis said the only real ties that Black businesspersons have with each other is through their trade organizations because there are no ties through white organizations other than Blacks with Blacks.
Then, too, Travis pointed out: â€œI would think our agendas are somewhat differentÂ (from that of White Corporate America), in that we spend a great deal of our time trying to reach back and pull somebody (else) along. Much of it is training time of people who had little exposure to corporateland, and that being the case, is like you reinvent the wheel. Many times those that are trained end up at white companies.
â€œI trained many of the initial Black mortgage bankers; there were no other grounds for them, and they ended up at white companies. That can also be said of newspaper people. Many work for black newspapers and end up writing for major white media. Seldom that is the reverse case.â€
Acknowledging that he is aware that the reason for this (Blacks leave black firms and go on to white firms) is because of money. Travis said there is merit to that because it also enhances living conditions.
Annually, Travis provides anywhere from 35 to 40 scholarships to high school graduates, those who are in college and runningÂ into financial difficulty. He said if you dig deep enough, you will find that there are otherÂ black businessmen with similar agendas.
His most recent project, the development of Chatham Park Place, theÂ site of luxury townhouses, starting at $230,000, will keep middle-class Blacks in the community, he said. The site encompasses a whole block – 81st to 82nd Streets, Indiana to Prairie. In one weekend alone, about 900 people viewed the townhouses.
â€œOver the years, Iâ€™ve had many young friends say to me that they would love to live in Chicago, if it were comparable to Flossmoor, OlympiaÂ Fields and similar places,â€ he said.
AskedÂ to comment on whether or not black businesses merge as do white businesses, Travis said, â€œThere have been mergers, specifically in the insurance industry,â€ naming some of those as Atlanta Life and Chicago Metropolitan Mutual Insurance companies; Unity Insurance and North Carolina Mutual; and Illinois Central Savings and Service Federal Savings.
Why didnâ€™t black firms or investor groups come forward and bail out Freedom National Bank of New York before it folded? Travis said from what he read, assets and collateral were such that no one wanted to assume those obligations. With each loan, he added, the prospective buyer or investor group would have to look behind the scenes and find out how the loans got on the books.
The Freedom National Bank was founded by Jackie Robinson and other investors in 1964, but folded about two months ago, after bank officials failed to meet a deadline to come up with $7 million in new capital, among other things.
Black banks, he said, end up with bad real estate deals, as with large banks. â€œAnd if they donâ€™t have back-up surplus, they go out of business. A loan doesnâ€™t go bad overnight, butÂ over a period of time. You have to put something in loan loss reserve to take care of it.â€
The issue of whether black firms will merge or not has a great deal to do with personalities and images, Travis pointed out, using as an example, that many business owners look at their businesses as â€œmy child,â€ and it is difficult to let it go. They wonâ€™t give somebody else motherhood and fatherhood. They just want things to be theirs. â€œIâ€™ve enjoyed every damn minute of it (his business).â€
Travis said racism continues to kick those Blacks in White Corporate America out. They, in turn, have a different notion of how business should run, and they will be more giving and exchanging because more endowed with structure of Corporate America.
Because black firms are not really a powerful force compared to White Corporate America – due to them representing a very small percentage – they cannot decide major decisions like White Corporate America – such as who will be president, who will be governor, he said. â€œTo really break it down, probably 75 people in the whole damn country, outside the political arena, will dictate what happens,â€ he said.
Why a book like â€œRacism American Style: A Corporate Giftâ€? Travis said he wrote the book because he saw things over the past 20 years skipping backwards. During the Nixon Administration, â€œI saw the whole country going under a reactionary mode. It was only in the last year that I said somebody had to write about this thing. I knew a lot of people who were making over $100,000 a year, Black guys, getting kicked in their butts everyday.
â€œThe stories they had to tell, I actually thought were mindboggling. I asked could I get somebody to talk. I was able to go from lawyers to doctors, to CPAs, to corporate vice presidents in Corporate America and subsidiaries. There had been no book or revelation done in that fashion. I read hundreds of books on Corporate America, but it was like grits without salt. They never said these people are giving me a hard time and unwilling to open doors.â€
Travis said the first Black CEO of a Fortune 500 company made one big mistake; his picture appeared on the front page of Fortune Magazine â€œand the oleâ€™ boys came out of the woodwork, they didnâ€™t want that, and in six months he was out.â€
However, he noted, maybe in the next 20 to 25 years, there will probably be a Black Corporate America, Blacks doing mostly the same as White Corporate America.
The book has been on theÂ Bestsellers List for more than 18 weeks, and Travis said he has reason to believe that it will stay on that list for another eight or ten weeks. â€œWe are judging from momentum,â€ he said.Â Â Â
Jun 30 2009
The Pop-Culture Iconâ€™s MusicÂ Will Never Fade Into OblivionÂ
By Juanita Bratcher
Michael the singer.
Michael the dancer.
Michael the performer.
Michael the entertainer.
The showmanship Michael.
Michael the whole package dealâ€¦and more.
His careerÂ was like magic, magnificent, magnetic. He was electrifying, energetic, spectacularâ€¦courting a barrage of flashy outfits/costumes that made his performances complete.Â
Michael Jackson, pop-culture icon, was a phenomena, a brilliant singer, dancer, performer.Â
From â€œThrillerâ€ to â€œBeat Itâ€ to â€œBillie Jeanâ€And â€œMan in the Mirrorâ€, Michael Jacksonâ€™s musicÂ will always be an electrifying presence in our lives. Jacksonâ€™s music is classic. He was global. He was a legend. His music transcended race. And although the pop-culture/music iconÂ died June 25, it would be hard-pressed for those who attended his many concerts or purchased his albums and videos, to forget that awesome energy heÂ exhibited onstage, his musical brilliance, his stage dominance,Â andÂ the incredible showmanshipÂ he exhibitedÂ at concertsÂ here and aroundÂ the world.
The images are tantalizing. Fans couldnâ€™t get enough of him, and at times criedÂ out in awe and admiration. HeÂ sang the kind of music thatÂ made its marks in our minds, souls and spirit. Itâ€™s the kind of music that will always be around, and will neverÂ fade into oblivion. Many of the songs are classics already.
Â Jackson was a music genius, super-talented, a kindred spirit, and in a musical class all by himself. During his career, more than 750 million albums were sold worldwide. Once the king of pop put his mark on a song and released it out into the domain, it had staying power and it would be there forever. No matter how old the song orÂ theÂ music, it kept that magic and emotional touch in your heart and mind. There was just something aboutÂ Jacksonâ€™s music; it was soothing,Â electrifyingÂ and played on your emotions.
Michael Jackson, by far, wasÂ the greatest entertainer ever. Other songs that were sheer delight were: â€œI Want You Backâ€, â€œNever Can Say Goodbyeâ€, â€œDonâ€™t Stop â€˜Til You Get Enoughâ€, â€œIâ€™ll Be Thereâ€, â€œOff The Wallâ€, â€œWeÂ Are The Worldâ€, which he co-wrote with Singer Lionel Ritchie; â€œWanna Be Startinâ€™ Somethinâ€™ â€œ, and many many more.
The iconic star grew up right before our eyes.Â He came onto the stage at the age of six, and remained there for more than four decades, until his death. We couldnâ€™t get enough of the man and his music. And we always wanted more.
He was a born entertainer debonaire. He owned the stage. He made an indelible impact on the music industry. His famous â€œMoonwalkâ€, and his enduring music matched his enduring energy and spirit. He was driven. He was king.Â
Not only do we grieveÂ the loss of Jackson, but one wonders what kind of music might have come from this talented music giant if he hadnâ€™t left us so quickly. He had an incredible life and career.
Jackson was a legend, a musical genius. He made a profound impact musically in the lives of so many.Â He leftÂ a great legacy. And that legacy he leftÂ will always be a part of the music world culture. It will never fade into oblivion.
Jun 20 2009
HAPPY FATHERâ€™S DAY!
by Juanita Bratcher
I was blessed to have two excellent fathers – my biological father and a stepfather, although I knew my stepfather much longer than my biological father.
My biological father, Benjamin Pickens, died when I was at a very young age. He, too, was young when he died. So I never got the opportunity or privilege to learn a lot about him first-hand; I had to depend solely on momâ€™s conversations and depictions of him to fill in the dots about what kind of husband and father he must have been.
Dad was an auto mechanic, which ultimately was the cause of his death. One day, while fixing a car at the service station where he worked, the jack collapsed, the car fell on him and he was crushed.
My Mom always talked admiringly about him, describing him as a caring husband and father. Oftentimes, I would study his many faces – pictures of him stationed in various places in our home – the clothes he was wearing, the expressions on his face, as if that would give me more insight about him.
My stepfather, George W. Forte, came into my life when I was about eight years old. He was there through some of my elementary school years, all of my high school years, my marriage, the birth of his four grandchildren (mine and my husband), who were adults when he died. Of course he had another 13 grandchildren through my three siblings.
The man that I married, Neal A. Bratcher, Sr., was also an excellent father for our four children, and an excellent husband to me. He was a caring father, a go-getter, very protective of his wifeâ€™s and childrenâ€™s well-being, and at the same time, provided us a good, solid stable life. Neal died in December 1997. His death left a terrible void in our lives.
Although none of those three brave, caring men is here now, they left some terrific and lasting memories that we will cherish forever. We can still get a laugh or two off something funny they did or said in life, or reminders of serious advice they gave that we still adhere to. Their giving, their caring, and their attitude about life were nothing short of excellence. They gave the best that they could give.
Iâ€™m reminded of a quote Iâ€™ve heard many times in life: Anyone can be a daddy but everyone canâ€™t be a father, especially an excellent father.
So, to all fathers in these United States and across the world: Hereâ€™s to you on Fatherâ€™s Day 2009. We know what you do; sometimes under very difficult circumstances to provide for your families, keep them safe, and serve as guardian protectors. Thank you so very much for that pillar of strength, love and protection you so willingly give to us each day, and something that we certainly look forward to.
HAPPY FATHERâ€™S DAY!
May 30 2009
It is appalling that President Barack Obamaâ€™s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, is being subjected to unwarranted attacks by a bunch of bullies labeling her a â€œracistâ€ and â€œbigot.â€ And many of these amplified, strident and incendiary voicesÂ are coming from people on the sidelines – not from elected officials who will ultimately make the decision to confirm or not to confirm her – but by some who themselves are looked upon byÂ others as racists.
Shortly after U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his retirement, it was obvious that the battle lines wouldÂ soon be drawnÂ for verbal combat over his successor. And no matter whom the nominee,Â there wasÂ bound to be a shootout of words betweenÂ variousÂ factions – pro or con, butÂ certainly notÂ expected to accelerate to the ugly level of name calling it has now come to be.Â President Obama wasted no time in naming Souterâ€™s replacement. That was the beginning of a vicious war of words aboutÂ his nominee on blog sites across the Internet, talk radio and TV.
Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with constructive, valid criticism, butÂ in this case, some have gone beyond the pale. CriticismÂ shouldÂ focus onÂ Sotomayorâ€™s 17-year record on the bench – her judicial career overall – judicialÂ decisions, opinion papers, character, and qualifications. It should never involve name calling, disrespectÂ and bullying.
A lot of the rhetoric is much ado about nothing, just plain political spin talk -Â characterÂ bashing, distorting her words, using selective quotes whileÂ omitting some of the content, orÂ not giving the full quote that was made.Â Â
Then again, perhapsÂ itâ€™s notÂ just about her judicial opinionsÂ or persona. Maybe itâ€™s an issue of racism, that she is not entitled to this post because of her ethnicity. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court and the third woman, coming behind Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor, who announced her retirement in July 2005 and was replaced by U.S. Justice Samuel Alito on January 31, 2006; and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Ginsburg replaced U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White. She was confirmed by a 96-3 vote.Â
Some people just canâ€™t swallow change so easily.
When President Lyndon Johnson nominated Justice Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967, he was the first Black to be nominated for the post. The nomination didnâ€™t sit too well withÂ several southern senators on the Judiciary Committee. His appointment was met with strong opposition from them, but he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a 69-11 vote and was seated on Oct. 2, 1967. Once in an interview, Marshall saidÂ he would serve on the court until he was 110 years old. He died at the age of 84.
Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the 102nd person to sit on that august body, appointmentÂ infuriated conservatives because of her support for the Equal Rights Amendment. However, President Ronald Reagan, inÂ nominating her for the Court, said he saw a sense of fairness in Oâ€™Connor.Â In the end,Â Oâ€™Connor was confirmedÂ by a vote of 99-0.Â Â Â
In her 17 years on the bench, Sotomayor has made many decisions and opinions. These are the things she should be judged by.
When President Barack Obama won the presidency, he vowed that change would be coming to America. And indeed it has in a short period of time. There are some who cannot accept change, and change to them can be a bit hard to swallow. Diversity on the court is ideal, certainly a far stretch from its status of many decades ago.
During President Obamaâ€™s weekly radio and Internet address Saturday (May 30, 2009), heÂ said of Sotomayor: Â â€I am certain that she is the right choice.â€
Sotomayorâ€™s confirmation should be decided on her merit, and not a speech she deliveredÂ in Berkeley, California, in October 2001, where she reportedly stated that, â€œIÂ would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasnâ€™t livedÂ that life.â€
The White House said Sotomayor admitted that sheÂ made a poor choice of words. But even that wonâ€™t stop the bullies from attacking; theyâ€™ll find something else to whine about.Â Â Â
May 30 2009
Protest has always beenÂ somewhat a way of life in America. You can say itâ€™s the American way. Americans will take to the streets and protest just about anything theyâ€™re in opposition to, including â€œunfairâ€ political decisions, unjust laws, unfair labor practices, anti-abortion, abortion rights, loose or insensitive words made by elected or public officials, consumer issues, or to just make a collective statement together about something or send a profound message to government officials.
Protest is healthy. But while protest is healthy, violence is not. Hatred is not.
I welcome valid protests without ill conceived motives, ill conceived notions, hatred or racism. In many instancesÂ protests can be used as a means to open up lines of dialogue and understanding between opposing parties and opinionsâ€¦perhaps resulting in comprimization.
Americans are not alone in taking their protests to the street;Â citizens in other countries, at times, haveÂ utilized the same practice.
But I question the motives of protesters on Tax Day, April 15, 2009, where Tea Bag parties were held in states across the country. Reportedly, one-million tea bags were dumped at a site in Washington, D. C.Â (tea bags were in boxes).
The Tea Bag protest reportedly was about the Obama Administration policies, mostly the Stimulus Package, and the bailouts of the auto and financial industries. However, protests in cities across the country didnâ€™t appear to be a grassroots effort. It was not a mass movement and it seemed to have been inspired by some public and elected officials, alledgedly Republicans, with conservative talk radio hosts and Fox newsÂ serving as PR to get the message out.Â
Was it a valid protest or racism? Was it a legitimate protest or was it more about President Barack Obama?
Mar 18 2009
While the Obama Administration is poised to try and take back the $165 million that American International Group (AIG)Â paid in bonuses to executivesÂ after getting billions of dollars in bailout money from the government,Â some Republican governors are positioning themselves to play politics withÂ unemployment benefits byÂ refusing to take federal stimulusÂ funds that would help the unemployed.Â Â Â
With a large number of people across the country losing their jobs, homes being forced into foreclosure and many on a daily basis trying to figure out a way to make ends meet, Texas Governor Rick Perry and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford – both Republicans – have rejected federal stimulus funds to extend the two statesâ€™ unemployment benefits. Republican Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mississippi Haley Barbour have stated that they will reject a portion of the monies allocated for extension of unemployment benefits to those currently ineligible for benefits.
Nonetheless, big business – the banks, the auto industry – went to Washington with hat in hand asking for bailouts – andÂ wereÂ granted billions of dollars. AIG received more than $170 billion in bailout monies. And shortly after these businessesÂ racked up bailout monies, they tended to continue in their extravagant ways, going onÂ expensive trips and giving out huge bonuses to their executives at American taxpayerâ€™s expense. Yet, these Republican governors have positioned themselves to deny average Americans who have fallen on hard times a few dollars to keep them afloatâ€¦to survive.
Sanford, Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has one of the largest unemployment rates in the country at 10.4 percent. In Texas, the unemployment rate is 6.4 percent. The national average rate of unemployment is 8.1 percent.
No House Republicans voted for the stimulus package, and only three Republicans voted for the measureÂ in the U.S. Senate, but their three votes were crucial in getting the legislation passed.
I venture to say that some of these now unemployed people in Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi voted for one of these elected officials thatÂ are now denying themÂ the right to extended unemployment benefits. Therefore, theyÂ and other fair-minded voters in these states should send those governors – elected officials – a strong message in their re-election efforts. They should work hard to vote them out of office. Because more than anything else, it shows their insensitivity to struggling Americans who are unemployed, that extended benefits being provided by the Obama Administration are eluding them.Â
Mar 10 2009
Rush Limbaugh is one of the most polarizing and demoralizing figures in the history of this country. He comesÂ across as a demagogueâ€¦mean spirited and an emotional jerk.Â For some reason or another, it seems asÂ thoughÂ Limbaugh thinks he owns America lock, stock and barrel (like he owns the Republican Party?), and that the rest of us are just on board for the ride.
Not so. As Americans, we allÂ have a stake in this country,Â and perhaps someone should tell Limbaugh that we donâ€™t all think alike, albeit, how the country should be run. The Democrats have their ideologies about how the country should be run and so do the Republicans, Libertarians, and a few third partyÂ candidatesÂ that tend to crop up from time to time. And Americans (voters) generally rally around those politicians they can most identify with. But the bottom line is: What happens in America ultimately affect all of us.
Obviously, the American people wanted change, and they voted overwhelmingly for that change in its choice of President Barack Obama, after eight years of failed policies and leadership under President George Bush, with backup fromÂ Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate.Â Yet, LimbaughÂ said he hopes the new president fails. If Obama fails, doesnâ€™t that mean thatÂ America fails?
Â Limbaugh engages millions of listeners in his daily radio show. And one wonders, is he the poster boyÂ of â€œrageâ€ for Republicans who have yet to support any of Obamaâ€™s projects?
Not once have I listened toÂ Limbaughâ€™s radio show. There was never an interest on my part to do so.Â But Iâ€™veÂ heard about many of his incendiary remarks reportedÂ in the media, and from comments made byÂ some who listened to his show only to monitor his musings on air.
Recently, while scanning through television programming, there he was, Limbaugh that is, addressing conservative Republicans at their Conservative Political Action Conference. Due to many of his remarks of late, he has become a very controversial figure, and of all things, challenging President Obama to a debate (which I thought ridiculous and outrageous).Â I paused and putÂ aside the remote. I listened to his every word, evaluating them as they were spoken. I couldnâ€™t help but notice how he couldnâ€™t stand stillÂ during his presentation. He was doing the shakes (perhaps to emphasize his points, if there were any). After his speech was over,Â I came away thinking, â€œOh, my, what a jerk.â€
Limbaugh is known for his insensitive remarks; more recently about U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), a strong advocate for health care reform. â€œBefore itâ€™s all over, itâ€™ll be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial health care bill,â€ he stated on his radio program.
In a released statement, Brian Wolffe, executive director, Democratic Congressional Campaign, called Limbaughâ€™s remarks â€œreprehensible,â€ saying Limbaugh had â€œcrossed the line. National Republicans must stand up to their leader, Rush Limbaugh, and tell him that enough is enough.â€
Wolffe further stated that Limbaugh minimizes the â€œstruggle of hardworking Americans without access to affordable health care and demonizes a patriotic senator who has spent his life fighting so that every person has the opportunity to live the American dream.â€
In a February Gallup Poll, 45% of respondents had an unfavorableÂ opinion of Limbaugh while 28% had a favorable opinion.
Republican National Chairman, Michael Steele,Â when appearing on â€œBreaking News with D.L. Hughley (CNN)â€,Â described Limbaughâ€™s radio program as â€œuglyâ€ and â€œincendiary,â€ but hours later apologized for his remarks.
Other Republicans who apologized after making remarks about LimbaughÂ included Georgia Representative Phil Gingrey and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. How many more will hold back their thoughts aboutÂ Limbaughâ€™sÂ incendiary remarks for fear of Limbaughâ€™s venom?
Itâ€™s a sad day when you canâ€™t stand up for what you believe in without fear of repercussion.
But one thingâ€™s for sure – Limbaugh does not own America or its people. And those who listen to his garbage are those interested in his gamesmanship or he makes them feel good about their feelings because their ideology about life is the same as his.
Â Â Â
Feb 28 2009
Farewell, To A Friend
by Juanita Bratcher
â€œGood friends are hard to find.â€ Thatâ€™s an expression you might have heard over and over again. Not in the same day, of course, but over a period of time. I canâ€™t say how many times Iâ€™ve heard that expression;Â but frankly, when you think about it, who goes out looking for friends? It just happens. And every person you meet wonâ€™t end up in the â€œgood friendâ€ category. ButÂ withÂ some people you meet, the chemistry just clicks,Â if not right away somewhere down the road. You feel that you have something in common and you enjoy being inÂ each otherâ€™sÂ company. Thatâ€™s the way I felt about my friend Leon Davis. There were some serious moments in our friendship, but there was so much laughter.
Leon Davis wasÂ a friend toÂ me andÂ my late husband, Neal A. Bratcher. That feeling of friendship was also mutual withÂ his wife, Shirley Pickett-Davis. My friend, Leon, died a few days ago.
As with any loss of family members or friends, one tends to reminisce about the deceased person. And in reminiscing about Leon, there were so many goodÂ moments that transpired during our friendship, which lastedÂ more than 25 years. Leon and Neal had known each other a few years before I met him one-on-one as a news reporter workingÂ for the Chicago Daily Defender. At the time he was running forÂ CongressÂ in the 2nd Congressional District. It was a great interview. He was politically astute and well-known in the Chicago area being that he was an executive at Peoples Gas and had served on many prestious educational boards. He was appointed by Mayor Jane ByrneÂ as a member of the Chicago Board of Education and wasÂ appointed by the governor to sit on the college board of directors. He had a lotÂ to say, and with such authority. He had an articulateÂ voice,Â and whenÂ he spoke, people listened. He was very knowledgeable about the inner workings of politics, governmentÂ and business. And he was never shy about speaking his mind or giving his opinion on any given subject matter. We spent a lot ofÂ time on the telephone talking politics and comparing notes with each other.
When I authored my first book, â€œHarold: The Making of a Big City Mayorâ€, he called meÂ by phone and said heÂ and Shirley wereÂ going to host the book party at their Beverly home. The V.I.P. Book Signing Party, which was by invitation only, had an attendance of over 400 people. Whatâ€™s more, Leon and Shirley hosted many fund-raising eventsÂ for many politicians at their beautiful home.Â They unselfishly served and gave to others, never asking forÂ anything in return.
When thinking about Leon, I couldnâ€™t help but laugh about his insistence on another book that I wrote, â€œLove Me One More Timeâ€, a book about six African-American men who had bonded over the years and held each other in high esteemâ€¦good friends. When I was discussing the book with him, he said: â€œOne of those characters in the book had better be named Leon.â€ I laughed, but one of the named characters in the book wasÂ replaced with the nameÂ Leon.
When Neal was sick with cancer, Leon called almost every day to keep in touch. He would ask, â€œDoes my friend want to go for a walk? Does he want me to take him to the barber shop? What does he need? Anything he wants to do I am available.â€Â When Neal decided he wanted to make another trip back to Mayo Clinic (he had been thereÂ before), Leon called and said, â€œYou donâ€™t have to worry, Iâ€™m going to drive my friend back to Mayo.â€ In the end, Leon was also a victim of cancer.
He was my â€œbuddy.â€ I used to tell him that. But there was much laughter between us when I called another male friend â€œbuddy.â€ He admonished me, jokingly, â€œNo. You canâ€™t have but one buddy. I am your buddy; no one else.â€
After my husband died, Leon called and said he and Shirley were taking me out to celebrate my birthday. â€œDonâ€™t ask where weâ€™re taking you â€™cause Iâ€™m not telling you. You wonâ€™t know until we get there.â€ He was so humorous. When they came to pick me up, he got out the car and rang the doorbell. When I opened the door, he bowed his head in a curtsy manner and said, â€œYour chauffeur is here to pick you up.â€
There are so many similar stories I could share about my friend Leon, but it would take a whole lot of pages to fill.Â But Iâ€™m so happy that he passed my way in life.Â I will never forget the joy and happiness he brought into my life and into my husbandâ€™s life. He was a good man; an honorable man.Â You couldnâ€™t ask for a better friend.
Farewell, my friendâ€¦my buddy,Â Leon.Â Oh, how I wish that I could turn back the hands of time.
Feb 28 2009
Day after day, one politician after the other has urged U.S. Senator Roland Burris to resign from theÂ senate seatÂ he was appointed to by former Governor Rod Blagojevich.Â Itâ€™s not surprising that Republican politiciansÂ would ask for his resignation, thatâ€™s a coveted seat they would like to have placed in the Republican column. But many of these declarations are coming fromÂ politicians (elected officials) withinÂ Burris own Democratic Party.Â Â And much of the rhetoric – if not all – appears to be political in nature.Â Itâ€™s unfair that aÂ tainted medal is being placed around Burrisâ€™ neckÂ simply because he was appointed by impeached Governor Blagojevich; but whatâ€™s fair in politics, anyway? And by asking Burris to resign sends a message to Illinoisans and to the U.S. Senate – whetherÂ directly or indirectly – that somehow he is not worthy of the seat, muddies up hisÂ name in the process,Â and probably, will make it impossible for him to win the seat in the 2010 election.
Many Illinoisans have voiced concernÂ over the way Illinois lawÂ states that a vacant Senate seatÂ should be filled – the governorÂ appoints a candidate toÂ serve outÂ the remaining term; in this case the Senate vacancy left by President Barack Obama. Burris was chosen according toÂ Illinoisâ€™ law.Â Â There was alsoÂ the fiasco in New York in filling the vacant senate seatÂ left by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, just not as controversial as here in Illinois.
That said, the law in Illinois did not call for a Special Election to fill the vacancy, but rather that the appointment be made by the governor. And faced with a shaky economy and the state billions in deficit, Illinois can ill afford a Special Election that will sap-up, by estimates, upward of $50-million. Burris should remain a U.S. Senator until 2010, and then the voters will decide on whether to keep him in the post or choose someone else.
Â But there are whispers going on within the African-American community that are saying â€œenough already,â€ and that those politicians asking Burris to resign just might find themselves in the mist of a political storm and end up on the losing end if and when theyÂ run for re-election; that Black voters will retaliate at the polls.
That scenario played out in 1983 whenÂ blacks decided to oust Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne from office because of herÂ cavalier attitude toward the black community, her appointments to the Chicago Housing Authority, and insult after insult even though blacks had played a pivotal role inÂ her successful win over the Powerful Democratic machine.
At a press conference this week, eight members of the City Council Black Caucus expressed that same sentiment,Â calling theÂ declarations asking for Burris to resign a â€œfeeding frenzy,â€ and warned there would be a price to pay.
Sixth Ward Alderman Freddrenna Lyle who also serves as the city chairman of the Cook CountyÂ Democratic Party, suggested to â€œthose people who seek to run in the wards of the city of Chicago where there are people of color living that they should tone it down because some of us are taking notesâ€¦I canâ€™t go to the residents of my ward and ask them to vote for someone who they feel have disrespected themâ€¦â€
The chairman of the Black Caucus, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), said it was time for the Burris bashingÂ to stop. â€œTo just muck up somebodyâ€™s 30-plus year record of loyalty to the Democratic Party – for all of them to turn on him – we say itâ€™s time for this to stop. And if it does not, we shall remember this at the next election.â€Â Â
Burris has said he wonâ€™t resign. AndÂ regardless of the circumstances under which he was appointed,Â he is an excellent choice for the U.S. Senate. He is a man of integrity, ethical, and a no non-sense politician, capable and certainly able to serve and represent the citizenry of Illinois.
But since being appointed to the senate seat by former Governor Blagojevich to serve out the remaining senate term of President Barack Obama, Burris finds himself in the middle of a fiery political storm, a hornetâ€™s nest.
So those calling for his resignation should be careful what they ask for because they mayÂ face a political backlashÂ in their re-elecion efforts from Black voters when they go to the polls in the next election.
Nov 17 2008
Letâ€™s face it, racism will always have a chilling, schism andÂ debilitating effect on American society, no matter how many Americans wouldÂ likeÂ to move ahead and leave itÂ behind, handcuffed in the annals of time. And anyone who thinks differently or otherwise – thatÂ racism will endÂ simply because America electedÂ its firstÂ African-American president -Â isÂ in for a rude awakening. You canâ€™t change the hearts and mindsÂ of people overnight. Sometimes never.
The election of Barack Obama is indeed a historic moment, a historic timeÂ in American history; and aÂ step forward in the right direction. ButÂ in just a few days, his election has set-off a backlash in the U.S.
According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, â€œAfter Obamaâ€™s Win, White Backlash Festers in U.S.â€, itÂ noted thatÂ the Southern Poverty Law Center stated that more than 200 hate-related incidents have occurred since the election of Americaâ€™s first black president.
On theÂ flip side of the coin, however, there is enthusiasm and elation abound that America saw fit to elect its first African-American president in 2008 and, by an enthusiastically wide margin over his Republican opponent.
Yet,Â the article in the Christian Science MonitorÂ is shrewd reality: that there are those who areÂ determined to put a damper on this celebratory, historic occasion.
Obviously, under an Obama presidency change in some form or fashion will come to America. Change is always inevitable when thereâ€™s a changing of the guard – it happensÂ all the timeÂ when a new,Â incomingÂ presidential administration takes over the White House.Â And thereâ€™s that fear, on the part of some,Â that change, even when unaware ofÂ what change will come about, tend to feel ill at easeâ€¦theyÂ are uncomfortable because they want things to remain the same. But there are others whoÂ tend to think outside the box and welcome change.
So there are both positives and negatives being bombarded over the Internet and through media reports in the aftermath of the presidential election.
Winning the presidency by no means came on a silver platter for President-Elect Barack Obama. Itâ€™s an adventure (running for President) that takes a toll on any candidate that has his/her eyes set on the Presidency, win or lose.
But itâ€™s the negative incidentsÂ that are appalling. Victory came to Obama only after an extensiveÂ travel schedule, travelingÂ to states across the country taking his message of change, sacrificing enormous time away from his loving family,Â an overwhelmingÂ and tiredsome lifeÂ on the campaign trail, making numerous speeches, and working hardÂ in his quest to become Americaâ€™s 44th President.Â And lastly, by making a convincing case to the American people that he had what it takes to be President and Commander-in-chief, and worthy of the post to lead America for the next four years, maybe the next eight.Â Â Â
This commentary, by no means, is meant toÂ take away from the gleanings and profound proudness of President-Elect Barack Obamaâ€™s historical victory; but to be looked upon as a dose of realityÂ in regards to what has been happening in our country over the years, dating back to the days of slavery.
Obama is a bright, brilliant,Â intelligent man, and inÂ the eyes of the majority of Americans who cast a vote for him, the best man suited for the job. HeÂ garnered a commanding mandate from the American people – wrapping up 365 electoralÂ votes, a long way from the 270 needed.
Many Americans are ecstatic over his win; even people in other parts of the world. But thereÂ is alsoÂ the after effect; cyberspace was bombarded with racist, disparagingÂ and negative remarks over Obamaâ€™s win.Â Â
Racism is one â€œtough cookieâ€ to get rid of. And it wonâ€™tÂ vanish or go into oblivion anytime soon. Change can be a hard pill to swallow. Afterall,Â racism and its counterpart, discrimination, have a long history in this country, andÂ theyâ€™re strong enough to survive the slings and arrows of our times, despiteÂ a hue and cry by some who hope that theyâ€™ll justÂ go away.Â But rather than hope for that almost impossible dream, it would be a wee bit wiser for Americans to hope that sanity prevails and we can all get along as Americans.
One only has to go into cyberspace, read newspapers or turn on television sets to be subjected toÂ a quire of racist and stupidÂ remarks – below the pale actions by some who canâ€™t stomach the idea of an African-American president in the White House.
Reportedly, there have been hundreds of hatred incidents occurring in places around the country – death threats madeÂ against the president-elect, effigies turning up in various places, cross burnings, racial slurs and insults, some voicing hope that Obama is assassinated, and negative remarks by some that â€œour countryâ€ is being taken away. How absurd!
Barack Obama is an American. All Americans are Americans. I resent those words (our country) said in such a negative tone.Â This country belongs to all Americans. Who behooves anyone toÂ question the patriotism and love of country by others?
Â The White House and Capitol were built on the back of slave labor. Slaves were not paid for that hard labor they performed. The moneyÂ instead went to their slave owners – $5 per month.
Quotes from the annals of history:
â€œIf this society fails, I fear that we will learn very shortly that racism is a sickness unto death.â€ – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., â€œShowdown for Violenceâ€, 1968.
â€œRacism is a contempt for life, an arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in admissionâ€ – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. â€œWhere Do We Go From Here?â€, Look Magazine, 1958.
â€œRacism is so universal in this country, so widespread and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.â€ – U.S. Congressman Shirley Chisholm, â€œUnbought and Unbossedâ€, 1970.
â€œâ€¦What can we do about racism? We can talk about it, not in an acrimonious way, but in a clinical way. And maybe by talking about it, we can reach a few of those borderline white people who have never consciously thought about racism or prejudice to think about it and maybe want to do something about it.â€ – Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, 1986.
â€œRacism canâ€™t be overcome. It will be there for the rest of your life. There will always be people who donâ€™t like you because youâ€™re Black, Hispanic, Jewish. You have to figure out how to deal with it. Racism is not an excuse to not do the best you can.â€ – Tennis Superstar Arthur Ashe, in Sports Illustrated, July 1991.
Obamaâ€™s election came aboutÂ through a multi-ethnic pool of voters – Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Jews, Asians and others. They deviated from the norm and voted outside the box to bring change to a country that was at the crossroads of history and needed change. Itâ€™s time for all Americans to heed that message of change, realizing that sometimes it can be a challenging endeavor to simmer raw emotions.Â Â Â