Thursday, November 6, 2008

President Elect Barack Obama

“Up, you mighty race, accomplish what you will.”
~ Marcus Garvey

Barack Obama is the President-Elect of the United States of America! We have reached a great stepping-stone on our journey towards the Promised Land. We have elected a Black man, with a Black wife, and two Black daughters into the highest office in the world. Things in America have changed, and we now have an obligation to thrust our community to the next level. Barack Obama has taken a sledgehammer to the political glass ceiling of America. Now, we must eliminate – WE MUST ELIMINATE – the poisons that are pumped into our community, and impress upon the world what it truly means to be Black in America.

In April 2007, Reverend Al Sharpton launched the Decency Initiative to eliminate the self-hatred and destruction that have gone on far too long. Given the events of November 4th, will the entertainment most prevalent in the African American community, hip hop, continue to degrade and denigrate our people by calling us “niggas,” “bitches” and “hoes”? Will we continue to hinder the progress of our people and allow the record executives to profit from our continued destruction? Will we continue to allow artists to use the First Amendment as an excuse for being a slave to the industry?

If you voted for change on Tuesday, then live up to your vote. It is not only the economy and the political system that need change, WE ALL NEED CHANGE! We can no longer allow our legacy to be run through the mud by self-slander. We cannot continue to support media that limits us to hate music, violence, and crudeness. We must demand nothing less than decency, decency for ourselves and for each other.

This election has vindicated Rev. Al Sharpton’s message birthed into the Decency Initiative. He challenged the media portrayal of women and African Americans as “niggers” and “bitches.” While the media urged us to remain content with being less than, Rev. Sharpton guided our eyes towards the future, a future in which the legacy of our ancestors is admired and protected, not neglected or used as an excuse for anything less than greatness.

So what is the next step? Maturity as a people that we may reach the heights we were intended to reach. How dare we rest hopes on one man in office? One man cannot eliminate violence in our communities. One man cannot erase the misogyny and degradation of a people. One man cannot fix everything WE have neglected over the years. We must act as one to heal our communities. We must fight to protect our legacy and ensure that we are making progress everyday, not just every forty years!

If we can be successful on a national level, imagine what we could do in Harlem, in Durham, in Atlanta, in Oakland, in Chicago, in Newark, in Philadelphia, in St. Louis, in Dallas, in Columbus, or in any other community across the nation. We have proven to the naysayers just how effective community organizing can be, and now we must prepare to mold our communities to reflect the best of what we have to offer.

We the people, black men and women rich with history, pulled the lever on Tuesday. We voted for our ancestors who endured so much that we could marvel in this historic occasion. You and I are before the Global Village. Let us reclaim our history as KINGS and QUEENS.

Author: Tamika Mallory
National Director of the Decency Initiative
National Action Network

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Taking A Stand

Blog by Attorney Charlie King, Acting Executive Director, NAN

As I stated last week, both the National Action Network and Reverend Al Sharpton are currently neutral on the issue of whether or not to overturn term limits as currently in effect. As I mentioned then, there are a number of meritorious arguments on both sides of the issue.

Reverend Sharpton further stated at National Action Network's weekly rally this past Saturday October 11th that "We should be concerned about the best interests of the people, and that should guide our decision-making."

Not withstanding the meritorious arguments on both sides, one flawed argument raised by opponents of changing term limits is the idea that such an action constitutes the hijacking of democracy and thwarts the will of the people. The reason I oppose such strong language is because if term limits are in fact overturned, I would not want good elected officials seeking a third term to run under a cloud that they are somehow running against the will of the people, or that their candidacies are antithetical to democracy.

Proponents of this argument --some who may subsequently run again-- do not understand the danger of its premise. Those who support a change of term limits do so with the understanding that it will be applied to anyone seeking a third term. Therefore, if the law is changed allowing third terms, I think it is good for democracy and the people if Charles Barron, John Liu, Christine Quinn and others get to serve for a third term. So too for William Thompson, Adolfo Carrion and others if they decide to deviate from their current plans and seek re-election

So let the debate continue but let's not hurt the interests of the people in the long term no matter what the outcome on term limits.

By Attorney Charlie King, Acting Executive Director, NAN

A Real Affront to Democracy
By Kirsten John Foy;
Democratic Strategist

We haven’t finished selecting a President yet the war for City Hall has begun. In, the interest of full disclosure I am a democratic strategist, life long community activist and lifetime member of the National Action Network. I am not currently working for anyone seeking elected office. Having made that perfectly clear let me first speak as a voter and a life long New Yorker.

I am in full support of the referendum which I voted for, which now stands as the guiding rule in New York City election law. That Law states that term limits are to be set at two full terms of four years…unless; the city council amends the law. When I voted for this referendum I was fluent in English. When I voted for this referendum I was legally eligible to vote. When I voted for this referendum I was fully aware that there was an escape clause. I was completely sober and clear headed. I was also fully aware of why the referendum was worded in such a way as to empower the city council to amend the law.

There are times in every society where crises of staggering proportions enthrall us in turmoil. The American Revolution, The Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Cold War, The Civil and Equal Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran Contra-gate, September 1th and now the Bush Economic Implosion. Throughout those periods of turmoil America has always responded by expanding our democracy not contracting it (with the obvious exception of Bush’s policy and legislative response to 9/11)!

The opponents of the Mayor want you to believe that he is somehow circumventing the rule of law, the will of the people, or the spirit of democracy. I say “That is Ridiculous”! What the mayor’s legislation would do is activate that section of the referendum, which is now law, where the people empower the legislature and the mayor, to act in the best interest of the city, by restoring the option to vote for or against the incumbents on a November ballot. What gives certain individuals the right to decide for me who I can or can’t vote for in November? What is the harm in allowing the city to vote for or against Mr. Bloomberg, for a third time? The harm is in politicians who have a vested interest in removing as many barriers to their own political ascension, as possible and doing so at our expense. That violates the very meaning of democracy! That is a real affront to democracy!

What do we face, as New Yorkers, which is insurmountable? NOTHING! However, as a practical matter we are facing the largest deficit in New York’s history, and not as a result of mismanagement or the incompetence of our City’s leaders. We are facing a contracting housing market and commercial real estate market and the steepest declines in stock market generated revenues…ever! New York’s economy is overwhelmingly dominated by three sectors; these are collectively are known as F.I.R.E.: Financials, Insurance, and Real Estate. All three of these sectors are in deep contraction and are in a credit, capital or liquidity crisis…AT THE SAME TIME! We have not seen these conditions in our lifetime, nor have many of our parents!

The big secret that the opponents of the term limits extension are not telling is that many of their campaigns have been financed by our tax dollars. Through the Campaign Finance Board, or the CFB candidates may receive if they qualify, a four to one campaign contribution match. That is to say the taxpayers will cut a check for four times the amount that a candidate raises, up to a certain point. Again, as a practical matter Mike Bloomberg’s campaign would inject hundreds of millions of dollars into New York’s economy. The campaigns of others would cost the city tens of millions of dollars in guaranteed four to one dollar matched, publicly financed campaigns. First, they want to tell me who I can and can not vote for, then they want me to pay for their personal and political ambitions with my over stretched and collected tax dollars. So in essence, these elected officials are trying to sell a life long “Nu Yorka” a bridge?! Better yet they want us to play their shell game. Follow the shell that says Bloomberg when the quarter is under the shell that says publicly financed campaigns. That is a real affront to democracy!

Now, let me speak as a life long community activist and a democratic strategist. If New Yorkers are interested in why all the political uproar and hoopla; here it is. Most of the major opponents of the term limit extension are elected officials. At first thought, you might ask yourself why an elected official would act to limit their own job security, but alas they would not.

Let us examine some specific instances where the most vocal critics of the term limits extension would benefit, and in most cases advance in their political careers. First, let us examine, Council member Latisha James. Ms. James is undoubtedly a fine public servant, a brilliant attorney and fierce advocate, but Ms. James would be one of a hand full of council members likely to remain after the 2009 city council gutting (should the extension plan fail). It is a, well known, fact that Ms. James wants to be the speaker of the city council. The most likely route to achieving that goal is by eliminating all of the otherwise, equally or more experienced council members. Should the extension plan succeed, Ms. James would have far greater opposition to her ascension to speaker. Most of that opposition would, assuredly, come from Christine Quinn.

Let us now examine Council member Bill DiBlasio. Anyone who knows Mr. DiBlasio knows of his passion, his commitment, his intellect and his drive to achieve a more just and equitable society. He fights those good fights, but not simply out of an abstract loyalty to progressive political philosophy. He believes in these causes deep within his core. But, Mr. DiBlasio wishes to become Brooklyn’s next Borough President. For my money Mr. DiBlasio would make an excellent Borough President and Brooklyn would be the better for it! But, Mr. DiBlasio would like to become Brooklyn’s next Borough President without having to defeat current BP Marty Markowitz. Should Mr. DiBlasio have to face Mr. Markowitz in a democratic primary his chances at success are severely impaired, albeit not necessarily eliminated. Mr. Markowitz is currently serving his last of two terms, again, should the extension plan fail.

Here, we come to the most artful of the bunch Mr. Anthony Weiner. Mr. Weiner is a congressman from Brooklyn/Queens. He is, according to many, the protégé of Senator Chuck Schumer. His legislative and deal making acumen is highly regarded, both amongst his constituents as well as his peers. His district has seen no loss in leadership or competency since he succeeded Mr. Schumer. Unlike the other elected officials standing firm against the mayor, and what appears to be the majority of the current city council, Mr. Weiner’s position does not appear to be born, exclusively, out of a need to rid the field of an incumbent but is arrived at by a more nuanced political calculus. Mr. Weiner is elected every two years, those being the even calendar years. All local elections for municipal positions are held in “off years” or odd calendar years. Mr. Weiner wishes to succeed Mike Bloomberg as Mayor of the City of New York. He does not jeopardize his current position by seeking a municipal office, as the local elected officials do not enjoy that luxury. If you are a municipal elected official then you must choose between your current position and running for another position; as one cannot file petitions to be elected to two separate municipal positions in the same year.

Mr. Weiner’s position is congruent to that of Ms. James and Mr. DiBlasio, in this regard; he does not want to have to challenge incumbent mayor Mr. Bloomberg, in order to become mayor. The council members do not want to have to challenge their respective opponents as incumbents either. The nuance exists in the political benefit of being the outsider staking a strong position against the “Billionaire Mayor”. Mr. Weiner has a very successful career ahead of him in the democrat controlled congress and would have nothing, politically, to lose even if he loses an election for mayor. In a very Machiavellian way Mr. Weiner is hoping that the mayor is successful, as to eliminate his competition in the democratic primary, mainly New York City Comptroller William Thompson. Mr. Thompson, by the way has been an overachieving and distinctly successful comptroller! Speaker Quinn is also likely not to run. Mr. Weiner needs Mr. Bloomberg to “clear the democratic field;” of his opponents. If Mr. Bloomberg can “clear the field” of Mr. Weiner’s democrat opposition, Mr. Weiner gets to look like the Democrat Superhero that fought the big bad billionaire and lost. He returns to congress, for two terms, a hero in the New York delegation, a greater fundraising powerhouse and the de facto leader of the NYC Democratic Party….and then next time…..

The most potent and powerful argument against the mayor was leveled by one of the city’s most respected clergyman; Rev. Dr. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hills neighborhood. Rev. Miller contends that Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign pledge, of 2001, to build 65,000 units of affordable housing, was in point of fact, broken. The administration’s claim is that the markets did not have the will to provide the required financing. That the mayor, with his vast and undeniable expertise, was unable to correct this problem, speaks to the mayor’s primary impetus for desiring a third term…that he is uniquely equipped to lead us through this particular period of turmoil. Mayor Bloomberg must address this “Achilles’ Heal” of his mayoralty, should he wish to win a third term and win with a mandate. This argument is largely a political argument that is both valid but premature. However, Mr. Bloomberg must deal with this issue effectively, honestly and quickly, or this political paradox could fester into a huge political quandary. The mayor will need to maintain his relatively good approval ratings to shepherd this term limits extension bill through the council and ultimately win a third term.

I ask…Is the judgment of New Yorkers who empowered the legislature and the executive to act in times of both prosperity and uncertainty, being called into question? Is our intelligence being questioned, how about our ability to properly discern our interests? Or is the issue really that the politicians think that “we got had,” the last referendum we voted for; by the other guy! I guess this time round they want their shot at “getting the schmucks”. “Another referendum?” Now that would be a REAL AFFRONT TO DEMOCRACY!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not This Time

“People who don't vote have no line of credit with people who are elected and thus pose no threat to those who act against our interests.”I share these words from Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund, to urge all young voters to protect their interests and vote. The history of voting in America has been trying at the least. Many people were harassed, imprisoned, and killed to allow all citizens to vote, not just white men. The twenty-sixth amendment was ratified in 1971, giving all citizens eighteen years and older the right to vote. Fifty-one years earlier, the nineteenth amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote. Fifty years prior to that, the fifteenth amendment was ratified, giving all men the right to vote. This generation is lucky enough to have been born with the right to vote. Yet, despite all of these struggles – including the Civil Rights Movement that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 - we still witness disenfranchisement of citizens. In the aftermath of terrorism, we have grown up with laws such as the Patriot Act, proving that right are taken away much easier than they are given. As American youth, we dictate fashion and culture around the world. In addition, we have technological outlets that connect us in a way no other generation has ever been connected. From MTV to MySpace, we could create a global youth movement in a manner of minutes. What if we used this power to truly “Rock the Vote”? Then politicians would have no choice but to listen to our issues. Such as lowering the cost of college tuition, protecting the Social Security system we are currently paying for, and keeping young men in school, off the streets, and out of jail. We are the largest population in the United States and we are just as responsible for its greatness and shortcomings as our parents, our grandparents, and out politicians. We need to begin molding the America we are going to live in. We can only do that by being active and heading to the polls on November 4th.
From the Director of the Decency Initiative, Tamika Mallory

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Taking Attendance

This past Saturday, BET held a live 3-hour voter registration special called “Stand Up, Sign Up, Be Heard” The special was hosted by Toure and Queen Latifah. Other than Latifah, only a small handful of artists showed up including Brandy, Jim Jones and Mary Mary. During this critical time in American history - no doubt it is a critical time for African Americans - only 5 or 6 artists took time to use their talent and celebrity to mobilize and energize the Hip Hop generation to Vote on November 4.

The BET audience is made up of young people that support the Hip-Hop industry. These young people watch videos, buy albums, download ring tones, buy-out concerts and rock urban gear. These young people keep artist paid so they can live in “the burbs” and drive nice cars. Unfortunately, the artists were not available to encourage our youth to stand and be a part of the process. As a matter of fact, the artists weren’t even available to make their position on voting known.

The thing that disturbs me as a part of the hip-hop generation, is many of these same unavailable artists, were available to testify at a congressional hearing in September 2007 to defend their right to call us “niggas,” “bitches” and “hoes” in their music. These same artists have used their albums, radio and television interviews to attack those who have been consistent in standing for justice on our behalf.

Meanwhile, in your hood, Rev. Al Sharpton is on the front line of issues most prevalent to the hip-hop generation. From Sean Bell (23 years old); to the Rutgers Women’s Basketball (teenagers); from the Jena Six (teenagers); to Genarlow Wilson in Georgia (17 years old), Sharpton is the most visible and dependable leader on behalf of hip-hop generation youth who are in desperate need of help. Help that almost none of today’s artist even attempt to provide. Where can these victims contact you in critical times? Should they call the record companies?

Rev. Sharpton made it a priority to attend the BET voter registration special, calling us to meet our greatest potential. He attended this forum during the same week that he was able to pressure Georgia authorities to stay the execution of Troy Anthony Davis, while traveling across the country registering voters and energizing American voter turn-out.

It has been said by these unavailable artists that folks have the right to disagree, and that is absolutely correct. In that same spirit, I am exercising my right to correct and check my fellow hip-hoppers about their lack of responsibility and the lack of respect they have for those who show up for us every single time there is a crisis. I challenge the Lil Wayne’s and David Banners of the world to cut the slave chains from record executives who have them poverty pimping, rather than poverty uplifting!

-Tamika Mallory
National Director of the Decency Initiative

Thursday, March 27, 2008

NAN Decency Initiative: Tamika Mallory

Statement from Tamika Mallory

As National Director of the National Action Network’s Decency Initiative I write to refute statements made in a letter circulating on the internet that completely distort Reverend Sharpton’s position on the Dunbar Village rape case.

First, the National Action Network and Reverend Al Sharpton have advocated against any form of violence or degradation against women since its inception. In fact, in January of this year Rev. Sharpton personally visited Dunbar Village with William Franklyn Richardson, III, president of our Florida chapter, to denounce the living conditions there and the rape and violence that occurred against the victim and her son. He pledged to return and spend the night in Dunbar to hopefully further expose the living conditions that create an environment for such acts of violence to go unchallenged, but due to a storm on the night of his scheduled visit, we have rescheduled the sleep-in to mid April.

Rev. Sharpton’s January visit to Dunbar was widely reported, which is why it is strange to me that anyone would feel that his subsequent statements with the NAACP would be any different from his original statement in January. If there was confusion, one would think a person would at least call us to inquire before jumping to a self serving attack on a position we never took.

Rev. Sharpton was in Florida three weeks ago as part of a tour to make sure the Florida and Michigan delegates of the Democratic Convention, would not be seated since primaries were unfairly held in January. While in Florida, the local NAACP chapter asked him to appear at a press conference where they alleged that since the Dunbar Village incident, the local prosecutor had not held several young whites in a neighboring city who had gang raped a young girl, to the same standard that the assailants in Dunbar are facing. Their point was to underscore how the local prosecutor will not treat whites who have committed a deplorable act the same way they treat blacks. Reverend Sharpton attended and made it clear that he thinks both acts were heinous and deplorable and that both groups should be punished to the full extent of the law. He in no way excused, justified, or called for leniency in the case of the black assailants.

Whether it was Tawana Brawley, several years ago, who many didn’t believe or Meagan Williams, today, who many have forgotten, Reverend Sharpton has stood against women being violated and has supported with resources and his presence our Decency Initiative which is part of his national civil right’s organization. The Decency Initiative has been fighting against the violent and misogynistic language against women. He has done this to the chagrin of many of his supporters and many of his friends in the entertainment industry.

For anyone to distort his position and then attack it without even a phone call and to seemingly and purposely omit the fact that the press conference was about the white kids being treated with kid gloves for the same despicable act is in itself sexist. All women of all communities should expect the law to protect them and we should at least check with those that put themselves on the line for us before we rush to judge a distorted story.

Rev. Sharpton is no stranger to the causes of black women and he should at least be given the benefit of doubt before we accuse him, particularly when it is not true.

I trust that all responsible will correct this misrepresentation…