Monday, January 31, 2011

An Update on the Kelley Williams-Bolar Case: She Meets with Jackson and Sharpton

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I figured that I would share an update to the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the mother of two who was given jail time for sending her kids to a school outside of their home district.  This week, Williams-Bolar met with both Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev.  Al Sharpton about her case, appearing with me and her attorney on Rev. Jackson's show this past week.  Rev. Sharpton and I are planning a rally for Kelley in Ohio soon, but the rally is not focused on just one person.  Instead, the focal point is on the educational system in its entirety and why there are millions of moms across America being forced to break the law in order to help their children get access to a quality education.

I heard about Kelley's case through one of my Facebook friends.  Her case had been in court for years with no resolution, and not enough people had heard about what this woman was going through.  I wrote about Kelley's case in a few venues and called national media contacts, hoping that this important issue could be brought forth for public discussion.  I am not in the business of doing individual crusades when it comes to the criminal justice system, since I don't have the resources to help with every case that comes across my email inbox.  I get several cases in my email every single day, and while I wish I could help everyone, it's impossible without significant amounts of funding (I still have my day job, so I'm certainly not in this game for the money).  I chose to grab Kelley's case because it has clear national implications about a failed public school system that continues to destroy the futures of our children on a regular basis.  In fact, I dare say that if the only person who is helped in all this is Kelley Williams-Bolar, then we have failed ourselves, our children and our country.

Click to read.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kelly Williams-Bolar Case on AC360: Boyce Watkins, Soledad O’Brien Analyze

Click to watch Dr. Watkins on AC360 discussing the case of Kelly Williams-Bolar, the black mother sent to jail for sending her kids to the wrong school district.  The case continues to move on.  To read more about the case against Kelley Williams-Bolar, please click here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

University of Texas Signs $300M Deal off the Backs of Its Athletes: The Irony of it All

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

The University of Texas just inked a $300 million television rights deal for a 24-hour network that will broadcast Longhorn athletes and games. ESPN is the partner in the deal and will distribute the network via satellite in Texas and other states around the country. The network is expected to launch in September.
Given that college athletes are serving as the foundation for massive wealth being generated by schools like the University of Texas, it is time that we consider allowing these athletes to have the same labor rights as other workers who generate wealth around the nation. The United Steel Workers Union has actually spoken out on behalf of NCAA athletes, stating that they should have the right to unionize to ensure that their families can benefit from the wealth being created in these massive financial deals.

Click to read.

National Media Gets Involved in the Kelley Williams-Bolar Case

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Most of us at Black Voices are familiar with the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Ohio mother of two who was sent to jail for sending her children to the "wrong" school district. Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail, three years probation and community service for using her father's address in order to avoid sending her kids to the school she considered to be dangerous and inadequate. At AOL Black Voices, we were one of the first to hit the issue nationally, and fortunately, other media outlets are starting to take notice.

In addition to being sent to jail, Williams-Bolar and her father are being charged with fourth degree grand theft of school services. As a consequence of her conviction, Williams-Bolar can never use the teaching degree that she is working on right now. The judge also made it clear that she was sending Williams-Bolar to jail as an example to be shared with any other parents thinking about doing the same thing.
The case sparked a firestorm of national controversy and conversation about educational inequality and the notion that a mother had to break the law in order to give her daughters access to a quality education. Millions of parents around the nation expressed support for Williams-Bolar, for they too could recall their own parents making the same sacrifices for them. There have been Facebook groups created to support Williams-Bolar and has created a petition on her behalf to have her record expunged. The petition drew nearly 20,000 signatures over a three day period, and is growing by the second.

Click to read.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Prof Wilmer Leon Analyzes Obama’s Big Speech

by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon

President Barack Obama was under pressure to satisfy many different constituencies in his second State of the Union address last night. Some liberals wanted the president to support government-matching 401(k) contributions in order to promote saving; others wanted him to address gay-rights legislation; still others urged a ban on large gun clips, or deep cuts in the defense budget.

Instead the president chose to set a tone rather than an agenda. Other presidents have been able to unveil sweeping policy initiatives in the annual address. But President Obama is faced with an ideologically driven opposition that has made clear its intention to oppose him at every turn. At the same time, the president is also facing a historic shift in technological and global economic realities that is remaking the world as we have come to know it.

Click to read.

Flava Flav and His Fried Chicken and Liquor Franchises

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Last year, at the "Measuring the Movement" forum, hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network, I had a chance to sit next to Chuck D from Public Enemy. I found Chuck to be as impressive, interesting and intelligent as he is on television. He also didn't give off the mind-numbing, stomach-turning, arrogant celebrity vibe that I see all too much. I was thoroughly impressed.
While I feel that I have some understanding of Chuck D, I simply cannot say the same for Flava Flav. Flava almost seems to come out of a different time, place, and perhaps even another planet, from the rest of us. He would have been great in the 1920s, when black performers could make a fortune by embracing ignorant stereotypes and engaging in ridiculous behavior. Flava seems to relish his role as the cultural clown, reminding all of us of exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King did NOT want our children to become.

Click to read.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Terry Harrington: Former High School Standout Does 25 Years for a Crime He Didn’t Commit

Click to watch the video about the case of Terry Harrington, a former highschool football standout who served 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.



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Monday, January 24, 2011

Dr Boyce Watkins Spotlight: Juan Gilbert Leads Black Scholars into Computer Science

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

While many of us know who the leading black basketball and football players happen to be, we are rarely exposed to the leading Computer Scientists, Mathematicians and Physicists. Most importantly, most of us don't know that there is an entire organization of African American male PhDs called "Brothers of the Academy" who do scholarly work in a multitude of important fields. The media would be quick to feature these men if they were committing crimes, busting rhymes or dunking basketballs, but black males should be more readily celebrated when we are hitting the books, working our butts off and establishing sustainable institutions within the black community.
Ladies and gentleman, meet Professor Juan Gilbert. I've observed Juan as President of Brothers of the Academy for the past several years, and I can say with complete certainty that he is one of the most focused, dedicated, reliable and capable leaders in black America today. Juan not only runs BOTA, but he has also raised millions to fund his own computer science lab at Clemson University and at even before the age of 40, has served as the "academic father" for a large number of black Computer Science PhDs. It is for that reason that Professor Juan Gilbert is today's Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight on AOL Black Voices:

Click to read.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Can MSNBC Even Consider a Black Replacement for Keith Olbermann?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Apparently, eight years has been enough for both MSNBC and Keith Olbermann. The network announced Friday that this is the end of Olbermann's tenure with the network and that he is moving on immediately:
"MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract," according to a statement issued by the network. "The last broadcast of 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors."
Olbermann addressed his departure from the network on air, starting off with a story about his time with ESPN many years ago:


Click to read.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Black People May Want to Hear from President Obama’s State of the Union Address This Week

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Next week's State of the Union Address to be offered by President Barack Obama comes at a time when our nation is especially divided, and our future as a country is foggier than it has been in recent memory. The event that will be on everyone's mind is the attempted assasination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from an assassin's bullet in the hospital right now. The Giffords shooting has slowed down the most extreme Republican rhetoric for the moment, but it certainly has not ended the animosity shown toward President Obama.

While President Obama must contend with the Republicans, he must also deal with a wide variety of special interest groups, all expecting something in return for their loyalty. With well over 90 percent approval ratings, no group has been more steadfast and committed to President Obama than the African American community. Therefore, as we seek to determine what our community should expect from the State of the Union address being given this week, we have every right to demand what is best for us.

Click to read.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Republican Michael Steele Says His Party “Needs a Few More Brothers”

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has continued to be outspoken in the name of the Republican Party. On a recent appearance on MSNBC, Steele went out of his way to note that he feels that he's helped to increase diversity within the ranks of the Republicans.
"What I tried to do [as chairman] was to broaden the landscape over which we could play, go into neighborhoods where we needed to be in, but hadn't been in generations, and I think it made a difference," he said. "I'm very happy with what we got done."
Matthews noted that he rarely sees African Americans gathering together at Republican conventions, and Steele responded by saying, "We could have used a few more brothers in the house, there's no doubt about that."
Steele was not reelected as the chairman of the RNC this week, being replaced by Reince Priebus after seven rounds of balloting. Steele believes that his fellow Republicans will work with President Obama if he leaves the door open to do so. "I really believe they will run with him on certain issues," Steele said.

Click to read.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dr. Laura Won’t Stop Talking about the N-word- She Needs a Reality Check


Diagnosing Dr. Laura: Host has 'silver spoon' sickness

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is at it again. Appearing on The Today Show this morning to promote a book about revenge, she dug up her infamous n-word controversy from last August. For those of your who don't remember, Dr. Laura repeatedly hurled the n-word several times at a black caller who was clearly offended by what she was saying. She then told Today Show host Matt Lauer that the controversy was a "blessing", because she is now on Sirius/XM, where she can use the word all day long and not be sanctioned for it. Good for her.

Adding further insult to injury, Dr. Laura seized an opportunity in a later segment to irrationally compare herself to the comedian Bill Cosby. She claims an unnamed "they" (presumably progressive African-Americans) "Uncle Tom'ed" Cosby because he spoke out in favor of traditional values.

I watched the interviews on The Today Show and again listened to her n-word rant on the radio to get a take on Dr. Laura and her concept of a double standard. During the rant, Dr. Laura seemed angry about the fact that black people can use the word and she cannot. She also comes off as a self-righteous, incredibly arrogant demagogue who believes she possesses a degree of moral authority that trumps everyone else. Maybe that's why her network likes her, but I certainly do not.


Click to read.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King and the Dangers of Hero Worship

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

When I was a little boy, my mother used to make me put on a suit and recite the "I have a dream" speech in her bedroom. She even had me wear a burnt cross necklace around my neck to emulate Dr. King. It was an uncomfortable process for me, but I'm sure my parents got a kick out of it. Either way, the first stamp on my brain had been made and it stayed with me for life.

As I got older and studied the life of Dr. King, I quickly realized that his life was very different from my own. He accomplished far more at an early age than I did. He had far more respect than I did. He was a better student than I was. How could I ever match up to that?

But it was OK that I couldn't match Dr. King, primarily because it had been confirmed to me in one celebration after another that I couldn't be anything like that man even if I'd wanted to be. He was superhuman, and I was not. So, rather than having the confidence to continue his legacy, I figured that I would just sit back and enjoy the celebration like everyone else. Why try to match up with perfection?


Click to read.

Friday, January 14, 2011

ESPN Panel on the State of the Black Athlete: How Did They Do?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I was sitting in front of my TV set flipping through one channel after another, and I found something that both intrigued and concerned me: An ESPN special about the image of the black athlete. I was curious to see what they had to say about black athletes, especially males, since that's something I think about nearly every single day of my life.

The panel consisted of Jalen Rose, John Calipari, Randy Shannon, Spike Lee, Robin Roberts and others. I was hopeful that the panelists would not succumb to the temptation of taking the paternalistic viewpoint that black male athletes are somehow destined to be ignorant and need to be told what to do. For example, unlike any other sport, men's basketball and football are the only ones in which there are age limits before the athlete can become a professional. The reasons for these regulations are driven primarily by the argument that the men are too young to go out and support their families by doing what they do for the NCAA without being compensated.


Click to read.

Is College Always a Good Investment?


Click here to listen to Dr. Boyce Watkins discuss whether or not college is a good investment during a recession.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight: Meet the Rev. Jesse Jackson

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I've always had a special admiration and appreciate for Rev. Jesse Jackson. While most of us know Rev. Jackson as a public figure and prominent Civil Rights leader, most of us don't know about the difficulties he's endured while fighting for African Americans over the past 40 years. There were days when money was tight and death threats were at his front door, but he continued to push on.

In fact, there was a time when Rev. Jackson was listed as one of the top three human beings on earth most likely to be assassinated. This was right after the murder of Dr. King, so you can imagine the pressure one would face from loved ones to give up the struggle and instead aim for self-preservation. But that wasn't what he did, as he persevered and stood strong for his community. So, love him or hate him, you must admire anyone who is so consistent in his role as a public servant, for I assure you, the job is not easy by any stretch and the sacrifice is tremendous.


Click to read.

Delta Sigma Theta Has Big Money on Founders Day

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action

I never joined a fraternity during college. My sister and brother pledged, but I was too broke to afford the expense of joining any organization other than the "Broke Negroes of America" club. Also, I was concerned that spending six weeks being mistreated, awakened in the middle of the night and yelled at would cause two unfortunate outcomes: 1) My GPA would drop, and 2) I'd end up going to jail for issuing a couple of beat downs.

But even though I chose not to pledge during college, I gained a degree of respect for many of those who decided to do so. Quite a few members of the African American community are proud of the black greek tradition and find it to be one of the cornerstones of cultural, economic and political power within our society. While the college students get a bad rap for using their greek identity as an excuse to wear matching clothes and have more parties, there are more mature members who see their involvement as an avenue for political and social engagement.
Black America is in consistent need of organizations designed to pursue our collective purpose. Our community lacks the economic and political infrastructure necessary to lift us from the bottom of America's racial caste system. Delta Sigma Theta is part of that tradition, as are other African American sororities and fraternities.

click to read.

Mass Incarceration and the Marriage Market for African American Women

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

In a very compelling article, The Economist Magazine stepped away from its standard delivery of international political updates to dig deeply into the experience of the African American woman. In the article, economists analyze dating for black women as a market, where men and women enter the market to search for a suitable mate.
The author starts off with a simple example to help make his point. He says "IMAGINE that the world consists of 20 men and 20 women, all of them heterosexual and in search of a mate. Since the numbers are even, everyone can find a partner. But what happens if you take away one man?"
Then, citing the work of Tim Harford, an economist in England, the author says that because one out of the 20 women faces the possibility of never finding a husband, she tries harder to get a man, perhaps by dressing more seductively or doing things the other women might not do. She may even steal a man from someone else. This then affects what other women do to find and keep their own men, and also the behavior of the men themselves.


Click to read.

President Obama’s Tucson Speech Captivates the Nation

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

President Barack Obama has done it again. Like Michael Jordan in the Eastern Conference Finals with 10 seconds left on the clock, the president sank the speech that would help to shape his presidency for much of 2011. Utilizing his opportunity to address the nation after the unfortunate shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Obama speech in Tucson was reflective of the decency that allows our president to transcend the pettiness of his adversaries. He stood his ground without fighting his enemies, and reminded the country that "we can all do better."
The president encouraged those listening to communicate "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds." The Obama speech also conceded that there is no way to know who was responsible for the shooting that killed six and injured 13 others. But he did say that our nation's polarized political conversation can be handled in a way that is respectful and productive.

Click to read.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dr. Boyce Watkins on NPR to discuss the obama Presidency

Dr. Boyce on NPR: What Obama Needs to do For Black People

Click the link below to listen to Dr. Boyce Watkins on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” addressing what President Obama must do for the African American community as it pertains to education, economic inequality and mass incarceration.  

Dr. Boyce on NPR: What Obama Needs to do For Black Peopl- Click here

Auburn Wins Titles at the Expense of the Black Community

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action

When I saw the final score of last night’s NCAA championship game where Auburn University defeated the University of Oregon, I sent a tweet to my friends that said, “Congratulations.  Your plantation was the strongest tonight.”

As the southerners who love Auburn football celebrate their championship, they may want to take a second to absorb a couple of sobering realities.  First, the school got $21 million just for winning that one game.  Auburn’s coach, Gene Chizik is due for a multi-million dollar bonus and millions will flow into the pockets of administrators, coaches, commentators, and corporate sponsors, almost none of whom are black.


Click to read.

Monday, January 10, 2011

From CNN: Is College Athletics a Sweatshop?

A view of the court where Purdue played Illinois for the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament March 14, 2009 in Indianapolis.


On Monday night, with millions of fans watching every play, Auburn will take on Oregon for the national championship of college football.

If you're viewing at home, you may notice the same thing you can observe each season at every massive college football stadium or glistening big-time college basketball arena:

Everyone working in the place is being paid: the hot dog vendors, the television broadcasters, the guy peddling game-day programs, the person who manufactured the university-logo jerseys and caps that are for sale at the souvenir stands, the employees changing lightbulbs in the tunnels. ...

Everyone except the people who are most responsible for putting the fans in the seats and in front of the TV screens at home: everyone except the players on the field.


Click to read.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Scott Sisters Case Was Nice, but Broader Reform is Necessary

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I spent some time this week with NAACP officials analyzing the Georgia Prison Strike that occurred last month.  The fallout has been unbelievable, as some of the inmates were reportedly beaten with hammers for choosing to participate in the work stoppage.  One of the inmates allegedly has brain damage and is in a wheelchair as a result of the beatings.  Perhaps that’s what happens when you simply ask for basic human rights, which we’ve denied prison inmates for far too long.

Seeing what happened to these brothers and sisters after this incident was a cold, stern reminder that there is an infinite amount of work that needs to be done to clean up our criminal justice system.  Most of us think that prison has nothing to do with us, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  One out of every three black boys born this decade is expected to spend time in state prison, federal prison or local jails.  Also, the United States puts more people in prison than any country in the world, and most of us are only God’s grace or one bad situation away from ending up in the big house.  Additionally, there are millions of black folks who’ve seen their fathers, brothers, sisters or cousins negatively impacted and traumatized by this system, even when they were innocent.  The experience of prison is bad enough and only made worse by not being able to get a job for life, losing the right to vote, and not having access to housing or education.

Click to read.

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson Gives Obama a C- on Black Economic Issues

Did This Cornell Prof Have Ill-Intent When He Referred to Two Students as “Black Bitches”?

Written on the blog Ebonymompolitics

“It has been two months since Cornell University Africana professor Grant Farred called two of his graduate students “Black bitches,” inciting upset among students and faculty of the program over the matter. According to the “Cornell Daily Sun,” Farred invited two female students, who have not been mentioned by name, to join him at a conference on February 5 and 6 at the University or Rochester. Farred’s advisees arrived late to the event. After the panel discussion the professor thanked the grad students for attending the conference. What he said next shocked the women. “When you both walked in, I thought, ‘Who are these Black bitches?’” he told them in a low voice. “  The students were visibly upset when he made the remark and he subsequently apologized. The university has been investigating the matter, but my question is should the professor be fired?

Click to read.

The Shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Appears to be Linked to Racism



Short note from Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik says anger, hatred and bigotry are getting out of hand in this country.  If you read between the lines, you can see that the sheriff is trying to say that racism may have been part of the reason that Giffords was shot.  Perhaps the Republicans will reconsider their rhetoric, since lives are being put in danger by their consistent commitment to capitalizing off the racial hatred of our country.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Duchess Harris: The Black Scholar You Need to Know

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

The role of Super Woman in Black America can be readily applied to a woman who can balance the relentless pursuit of academic achievement, professional success, and outstanding motherhood, all at the same time. Miriam Harris (a.k.a. Duchess) is a textbook example of what we all want our daughters to become. She is a mother of three, and has both a PhD and a law degree. The Ivy League educated supermom is not only "about her business," she is deeply committed to the business of using her vast intellect to make the world a better place for both women and people of color. In other words, she's not just a Black PhD, she is actually a "Ph-Do." AOL Black Voices was able to catch up with Professor Harris for the Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight:
1) What is your name and what do you do for a living?

My name is Duchess Harris and I am an Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College.
2) What is your area of expertise and what made you pursue this particular area of study?


click to read.