Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Obama Makes it Clear that the Iraq War is Over

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

He came, he saw, he conquered. Well, sort of. President Obama took the nation's attention for about 20 minutes tonight to deliver a speech about the end of America's military involvement in Iraq. Sitting in the Oval Office with pictures of his family in the background, President Obama effectively told America that the last eight years are over. He thanked the troops, thanked the American people, and reminded the Iraqis that we still support them. He was being presidential, as he normally is.
The president worked to build bridges with Americans who disapprove of his performance. He mentioned how the high cost of the war reduced the nation's ability to sustain its middle class. He talked about how patriotic Americans both approved and disapproved of the war, and even mentioned an earlier conversation he'd recently had with President Bush. He also reminded the American people that by ending military operations in Iraq, he was keeping one of his most significant campaign promises.


Click to read.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why Was This Honor Student Beaten by Police?

by Dr. Boyce WatkinsScholarship in Action 

Jordan Miles is a black teenager in the city of Pittsburgh. Miles also attends one of the city's most prestigious performing arts schools. On a cold winter night earlier this year, Miles claims he was assaulted by three plain clothes police officers. According to the lawsuit Miles' attorneys have filed against the city, the officers assumed that Miles was a drug dealer and conspired to file false charges against him to create a story to cover up their actions.
Miles says that he was walking to his grandmother's house when officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing approached him. Miles claims that the officers proceeded to chase him, kick him and beat his face into the ground. The damage to Miles' face was extensive, and the officers allegedly pulled one of his dreadlocks from his head.


Click to read.

Obama Tries to Comfort the Gulf Coast: Does It Work?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University Scholarship in Action 

I still remember when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans five years ago. I'd just attended the Essence Music Festival the year before, only to hear that the very same streets I'd visited were now flooded with water. It was also the week of my first confrontation with Sean Hannity on the air. Donald Rumsfeld had come on the show right before me, and Hannity and I were arguing about why it seemed that the government spent more time planning to shoot "looters" than actually saving the people in the flood. Rarely before Katrina had we witnessed such a gross dehumanization of our fellow American citizens.
President Obama sought to commemorate the anniversary of Katrina by speaking in New Orleans this weekend. He told the students at Xavier University that he plans to stand with the community when it comes to making sure they know the Federal Government is behind them in the on-going quest for full recovery.
"My administration is going to stand with you, and fight alongside you, until the job is done," Obama said.


Click to read.

What Fantasia Teaches Black America about Poor Educational Choices

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University, Scholarship in Action 

One of the most magnificent voices in all of music is owned by Fantasia Barrino, the singer out of North Carolina. Most of us know that Fantasia attempted suicide recently. Of course the suicide attempt led to instant national media attention, and she was all over the news telling her story. Her management team, understanding the value the incident could have for her brand, pushed out the Vh-1 special before you could say the words "publicity stunt."
Now, I'm not here to say that I know what happened to Fantasia or whether the suicide attempt was genuine. But one thing that remains fundamentally true is that she'd been highly upset over the decline of her career. Also, we know that the television specials and additional PR from the incident have put Fantasia in the limelight in a way that far exceeds what she had access to last month. The final thing we know is that Fantasia is working furiously in the studio to get an album out in order to profit from the re-establishment of her celebrity status. Unfortunately, her team may be looking to replicate the experience of Jennifer Hudson after her difficult experience last year.

Click to read.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins: Is Alveda Really MLK’s Niece?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is not making many friends this week. Her decision to join forces with Fox News host Glenn Beck during his bogus March on Washington is likely one of the most shocking and extraordinary political events in recent months. Alveda is being called a traitor for her actions and probably has old uncle Martin turning over in his grave.
But here's the dirty little secret that most of us are not willing to accept: Alveda King actually represents millions of church-going African Americans. Also, her views are not nearly as outlandish as some would lead you to believe.
Alveda King is opposed to gay marriage, just like my mother. She doesn't believe in abortion, just like many members of my own family. She believes strongly in old school family values, similar to Bill Cosby. She is clearly a product of the traditional black church and represents a section of black America that liberals don't like to talk about. Many African Americans, whether we want to admit it or not, would agree with Alveda King on nearly every single issue.

Click to read.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Computer Programs Used to Predict Would-Be Criminals

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Scholarship in Action 

It is being reported that law enforcement officials in Washington DC plan to use a new computer program that claims to be able to predict which citizens are most likely to commit crime. The concept conjures up images of the Tom Cruise film, "Minority Report," in which agents were able to predict "pre-crime": Crime that hasn't happened yet, and is set to occur. But far from science fiction, this program is based on reality.
The program was developed by Richard Berk, a professor at The University of Pennsylvania. The first version of the program was used to predict future murders among parolees, but it is being argued that the software can be used for all kinds of crime.
"When a person goes on probation or parole they are supervised by an officer. The question that officer has to answer is 'what level of supervision do you provide?'" Berk told ABC News.
The program could have real implications, including determining the amount of a person's bail or how long they are to remain in a halfway house upon their release from prison. The program works by using a large database of crimes and other factors, including geographic location, age, prior offenses and the criminal record of the person being considered.

Click to read.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

African American Valedictorian Shocks the World with His Speech

by Lawrence WatkinsGreat Black Speakers

When Justin Hudson gave his valedictorian speech at his Hunter College High School graduation, he made it one that people will remember for decades. In the speech, Hudson went beyond providing vague advice or encouragement for his classmates. Hudson instead chose to use his opportunity to push his high school school to end a flawed admissions policy that keeps Hunter College High School from developing adequate racial diversity.
"I feel guilt because I don't deserve any of this and neither do any of you," Hudson said in his speech, as reported by Diverseeducation.com. "We received an outstanding education at no charge based solely on our performance on a test we took when we were 11-year-olds or 4-year-olds."

Click to read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why does the DEA Need Ebonics Translators?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Scholarship in ActionSyracuse University 

The Associated Press is reporting that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is considering hiring translators to help agents understand the language of drug dealers. Apparently, the agents are having trouble interpreting the words and sentences being used by suspects during wiretaps. The agency reached out to some translation services companies to find someone to help them with the problem. No, this is not a joke.
"They saw a need for this in a couple of their investigations," Special Agent Michael Sanders said. "And when you see a need - it may not be needed now - but we want the contractors to provide us with nine people just in case."
Yes, this story is making me laugh as much as you are. When I heard that the DEA was considering such a move, I could almost appreciate their intentions, but I think they might be a bit misguided. The first thought that came to mind was whether or not they are presuming that drug dealers speak a dialect of English which matches that of the rest of urban black America? Sure, there are going to be similarities, but most of my urban friends don't understand drug dealers either. Dealers don't just sound like rappers, but actually structure a variation of language and sophisticated codes that nearly anyone would have trouble translating. Rather than hiring an ebonics expert to understand the lingo of drug dealers, they'd be better off hiring a former drug dealer.

Click to read.

Julianne Malveaux: Detroit is America’s Ground Zero

by Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President – Bennett College

Only one in four young black men graduates from high school in Detroit. The rest are lost and left out, swallowed by a city where urban blight, industrial desertion, and educational failure define daily life. Detroit is ground zero, exemplifying the absolute worst of urban life. It had a passionate champion in Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who recently lost her bid for reelection. But as passionate as Cheeks Kilpatrick and Senator Debbie Stabenow have been about Detroit, this is a city that won't bounce back without revolutionary intervention.

Government has intervened for Detroit, bailing out General Motors (now Government Motors) to the tune of billions of dollars. The bailout has yet to trickle down. Instead, we have seen schools closed, hours curtailed, and a man who is more bureaucrat than educator placed in charge of that city's educational system. Across the nation, millions of students are going back to school. What are they going back to in cities like Detroit? With budget cuts defining everything that is done, are they going back to fewer hours, broke down schools, and chaos? In going back, are they being embraced or repelled by those city administrators who place a higher priority on balancing budgets than educating young people.

The Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation has released a report that speaks to the ways that so many states are failing black male students. Michigan's black male graduation rate, at 47 percent, is at the US average, and higher than the rate in Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Hawaii, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, DC, Ohio, Nebraska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida and New York. New York's rate is an abysmal and frightening 25 percent. Aaaugh. Inner cities in several states do extremely poorly, like Detroit. The Schott Foundation report ought to raise alarm among educators and policy makers and raise questions about the work we must do to properly focus on African American students, male and female.

This week, Rev. Jesse Jackson has taken his team on the road to the state of Michigan, with stops in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Detroit. The purpose is to lead up to a Saturday march for Jobs, Peace and Justice, 37 years after Dr. Martin Luther King's pivotal March on Washington. It is so appropriate that Rev. Jackson is taking it to Detroit, with the help of allies in the labor movement and the civil rights movement. Indeed, to go to ground zero reminds us how important Detroit has been for working class African Americans, and how many ways those who were willing to work were once embraced in a manufacturing economy. Now, willing workers, in the millions, languish waiting for opportunities, while we have exported them in our global economy.

Those who are unemployed are unable to support themselves. How many underwater mortgages are there in Detroit? Who much abandoned housing? Which services have been curtailed because the city simply can't afford to provide for seniors, children, library users, hungry people, all of that? The deindustrialization of Detroit has led to a colossal urban crisis, and government stimulus has simply bypassed that city. It is important and exciting to gather in Detroit on august 28, both in commemoration of Dr. King's 1963 march, and in recognition of the fact that politics and policy are both local and global.

What would happen if the Obama administration were as kind to Detroit as it has been to automakers? What would happen if someone decided to make Detroit a "model city" and to see how government programs could not only improve lives in a city described as "ground zero" but also model work in other cities? What would happen if there were a renaissance and rebirth in Detroit, one that presaged other urban renewals?

Once upon a time, urban renewal meant black folk removal. Now, the revival of cities will necessarily improve African American economic fortunes. When Rev. Jesse Jackson and thousands of others march in Detroit they spotlight one of our nation's urban failures. The spotlight must be followed by a focused effort to turn this failure into success. If Detroit can rise up out of its ashes, increasing graduation rates, entrepreneurial engagement, industrial development, and social service efficiency, so can every other challenged American city.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Black Athletes May Have Options Reduced by the NCAA

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University Scholarship in Action 

Mark Emmert, the new president of the NCAA, plans to endorse a system for collegiate athletics that disallows players to play one year and head to the NBA. Instead, Emmert wants a system in which the age limit is removed (which is what kept players like Carmelo Anthony from going pro right out of high school) with players being forced to decide whether they wish to declare for the NBA draft or go to college. If they choose to go to college, they are not allowed to play in the NBA for either three years or when they turn 21, whichever comes first. In the face of the new rule, players are pushed to make the decision sooner, and are locked into that decision for at least three years.
Bethlehem Schoals and Tom Ziller of Fanhouse.com write on the racial dimension of this issue in the following way:


Click to read

Dr. Boyce Watkins – Now I know Why Wyclef Cancelled our Meeting

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University Scholarship in Action 


I just returned from Haiti, a country that continues to be devastated by the recent earthquakes that rumbled the soil in it's capital, Port-au-Prince. Haitians lived under an umbrella of tragedy long before the earthquakes took place, and the suffering has only intensified since the media has left its shores. One thing that most of us believe, including myself, is that Wyclef Jean loves Haiti. His candidacy for president of Haiti was met with open arms by some, and folded arms by a few others. The evidence of disdain was presented to me personally when Wyclef had to cancel an appearance on my show due to the number of death threats he'd been receiving.
The mixed response to Jean's announcement reflects the multitude of perceptions that various stakeholders have when it comes to the idea of Wyclef becoming president. I have spoken privately to friends in hip hop who've assured me that Wyclef has an infinite supply of love for his home country and wants to do what's right. But I've also met with friends who feel that Wyclef is a beacon of self-promotion who cares far less for Haiti than for his own bank account.


Click to read.

Friday, August 20, 2010

No, Wyclef Cannot Run for President of Haiti

Wyclef Jean not eligible to run for Haiti presidency

Hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean said Friday that he accepts Haiti elections officials' ruling that he is not eligible to run for president. "I respectfully accept the committee's final decision, and I urge my supporters to do the same," Jean said in a statement. FULL STORY

Black Jewish Man Dies Protecting Girlfriend from a Robbery

Yoseph Robinson, Former Hip-Hop Exec Turned Orthodox Jew, Murdered in Robbery

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University – Institute for Black Public Policy, Scholarship in Action 


Yoseph Robinson was a good man and role model. He'd converted to Judaism after his fight with drugs and often reminded others of the importance of being morally strong. He upheld these values until his last moments when he died protecting his girlfriend from a robbery.

Lahava, a woman helping Yoseph write a book, was laughing and joking with a man when he suddenly demanded her money. Robinson told the man to leave her alone, and that's when a struggle broke out. Yoseph was shot several times in the arm and chest and died on the scene. The robber got away on foot in the Brooklyn area.

Before his untimely and unfortunate death, Yoseph Robinson served as a role model for neighborhood children. Everyone loved him, and he was writing a book on his transformation out of drugs and into a more productive life. As he died, he told his girlfriend to tell his daughter how much he loved her.


Click to read.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

AG Eric Holder Gets Confronted on Prison Rape

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Black Scholarship in Action  - Syracuse University 

Community advocates recently accused Attorney General Eric Holder of "dragging his feet" on the issue of prison rape. The AG has been asked to set national standards to keep inmates from being subject to sexual abuse during their time in prison.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 4.5 percent of all prison inmates report being victims of sexual assault during their time in prison. It is also reported to happen to roughly one out of every eight juveniles who are incarcerated.
Pat Nolan, Vice President of Prison Fellowship, argues that setting standards would be a good way to reduce the problem of prison rape. He mentions that increasing the lighting in the prisons, screening staffers and having independent supervision of facilities can make a tremendous difference.

Click to read.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Black Scholar Side of Tanaja Stokes: We Need to Mentor Our Children

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

Steshawn Brisco is one of the men who will likely be charged in the shooting ofTanaja Stokes, an 8-year old girl in the South Side of Chicago. Most shocking is that Brisco said that he "didn't care" that there were children in the area when he began firing and that he "let the whole .40 clip go."
Tanaja's cousin was also injured in the shooting.
A second suspect is being sought by police. The person in question is allegedly a juvenile who is well-known throughout the community. "I am begging you, turn yourself in. End the circle of violence that hurts this great community," said Police Commander Keith Calloway.
The death of Tanaja Stokes is part of the continuous nightmare that refuses to wake us up as a community. The cycle of violence in Chicago is out of control, and other cities across America are faced with similar tragedies on a regular basis. The cold reaction of the alleged perpetrator in this crime adds a more disturbing element to this already alarming situation.


Click to read.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins: What is Scholarship in Action?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University  - The Institute for Black Public Policy

I’ve made it clear in the past that I support the notion of Scholarship in Action.  While some know the Syracuse University interpretation of this concept, I have found that in some cases, African American scholarship is left in the margins of academic work.  Therefore, I felt the need to expand on this concept with what I call “Black Scholarship in Action,” which is based on the idea of black scholars becoming engaged with the world and doing what is right for our communities.

Here are some thoughts on what Scholarship in Action means to me as an African American Professor:

1) Re-connecting with our communities and using our expertise for the greater good.  We have too much brain power and too many problems to allow our greatest intellectual resources to be locked away writing research papers that hardly anyone is ever going to read.

2) Being courageous enough to honestly share our insights with the world, even if they are not popular.  Capability without courage makes you socially impotent.

3) Following up our rhetoric with assertive action.  There is nothing more to say about that.  Talking about something is not the same as actually doing something.  We have to make sure we know the difference.

4) Confronting consistent discrimination within academia.  Too many universities consistently deny hiring and tenure to African American scholars, and this has to stop.  Universities must be held accountable to their data, and if a campus has any department that has not tenured an African American in more than a decade, they should be sued for racial discrimination, especially if it can be proven that African Americans with strong credentials are applying for positions in that department.

Again, these are the Dr. Boyce Watkins perspectives on what it means to be a high action scholar, so your views might differ from my own.  But it is my firm belief that The Age of the Black Scholar has arrived, especially if we decide that it’s going to arrive right now.  No one can stop us, but us…..so let’s define our own destiny.

HUD Intervenes in Black Comedian George Wilborn’s Discrimination Case

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Black Scholars United


Serious charges of racial discrimination have been laid out against a Chicago couple for refusing to sell their home to a black comedian and his family. Apparently, the family's real estate agent informed government officials that the couple chose not to sell their home to the comedian because he is black.
George Wilborn is not only the victim of the couple's discrimination, he is also a co-host of The Michael Baisden Show. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on August 10 that they will charge Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia, as well as their real estate agent Jeffrey Lowe with violation of fair housing laws.
According to HUD, the family and their agent stalled negotiations with Wilborn and even took the home off the market in order to avoid selling it to him. Wilborn and his wife Peytyn offered $1.7 million for the house, which was the highest offer the couple had received in two years. Lowe, the real estate agent, admitted that the couple did not want to sell the home to the Wilborn family because they are black.

Click to Read

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dr. Julianne Malveaux: Five Years After the Levees Broke

BEH cover

On August 29, we will commemorate five years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and since subsequently levees broke, drowning the city in feet of water. Five years ago our nation exhibited some of the most profound indifference to human beings as thousands of New Orleaneans were stuck without food, water, or sanitation in the Super Dome. In the aftermath of those five years, those divisions of race and class have determined which individuals have recovered from Katrina and who has not. Five years after the levees broke, the City of New Orleans is still bruised from the tragedy of a natural disaster, a man-made disaster, and an indifferent government.


Click to read.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins: Why Cornel West is Annoyed with President Barack Obama

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

Dr. Cornel West apparently has a bone to pick with President Barack Obama. Over time, the good Dr. West has become increasingly vocal in his critique of Obama, and even went as far as to say that Obama treated him "like a cub scout," when refusing to address his concerns about the administration's behavior.
"Well, I'll tell you, I had not talked to my dear brother since the Martin Luther King gathering in South Carolina, and very briefly Super Tuesday. But he did come and make a beeline to me after his speech on I think it was Thursday morning in Washington, D.C. I hadn't seen him for two and a half weeks, and he made a beeline to me, though, brother, and he was deeply upset. He talked to me like I was a Cub Scout, and he was a pack master, you know what I mean?


Click to read.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Should The Fashion Editor at Essence Be a White Woman?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, TheLoop21.com

It seems that the world has grown irritated with Essence Magazine for hiring a new white fashion editor. Michaela Angela Davis, a former employee, has blasted the organization for effectively betraying its constituents with the non-traditional hire. She cites mass discrimination that has historically occurred within the fashion industry and seems disappointed that “our space” no longer belongs to us.

I certainly empathize with Davis’ point. Davis is a strong and direct black woman (I had her on my show), one who has very little tolerance for those who deviate from what she perceives as righteous ideology regarding women and minorities. Her passion for the issues that affect us seems to come from a genuine place, like a black woman who has seen enough and refuses to allow herself or anyone like her to be victimized by a clearly racist and sexist society. 


Click to read.