Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Political Observations


Since I last posted a week ago, we are now at war with Libya. The President says our military engagement is a “humanitarian mission” to aid the rebels from Khadafy’s violence. Really? We have watched for over a year several Middle Eastern countries rulers beat and fire upon their citizens protesting in the street. What made Khadafy’s violence against his people any different than what in Iran a year ago or Egypt a month ago? That is not being explained thoroughly in the punditry world of cable news. And very few minority media outlets are informing their audiences about the issues surrounding the decisions to use military force against Libya. Surprise.

On the morning talk shows, several women guests have questioned why the United States have not intervened in the Congo where genocide, rape and violence against women and children are the preferred government’s weapons of choice to squash rebels fighting dictators. The panels of usually former male government insiders go silent or change the conversation and ask why the “lefties” are not screaming out more about the President’s decision to “aid the rebels” in Libya. In the Congo, rescuing women and children from warring rapists would be way too much “humanitarian aid” for our country to give under any administration whether it is led by a Republican or Democrat President. No oil, not humanitarian aid.

When it comes to Republican or Democrat politicians, being a hypocrite seem to be an absolute requirement to hold office. Getting elected by keeping voters angry with any controversy necessary helps keep the focus off what was promised on the campaign trail and what is being delivered once an office and staff are acquired in Washington, D.C. The President is proving to be no exception to the rule. Our newly minted Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is also serving up a mouth full of contradictions. After speaking into every microphone for over a year about “jobs, jobs, jobs”, he has shown us that the last thing he is doing is creating jobs. His tears that were once on auto pilot are starting to dry up. More legislation time is being given to women reproduction rights (or wrongs depending where you stand on the issue). “Jobs, jobs, jobs” creation is getting the least amount of the Speaker’s emotional teary eyed political rhetoric.

Political rhetoric is not limited to subjective tears. We can rarely go a week or two without an “ism” overflowing from the heart to the mouth that reveals more about a candidate running for office. This is so common place now that it is becoming acceptable on the campaign field. Take Congressional candidate Jack Davis who is replacing disgraced shirtless, picture taking, Craigslist infamous seeking woman ad cruiser, New York Congressman Chris Lee words that has been under the radar for a few weeks until recently:

Congressional candidate Jack Davis shocked local Republican leaders in a recent interview when he suggested that Latino farmworkers be deported — and that African-Americans from the inner city be bused to farm country to pick the crops.
Several sources who were in the Feb. 20 endorsement interview with Davis confirmed his comments, which echo those he made to the Tonawanda News in 2008, when he said: “We have a huge unemployment problem with black youth in our cities. Put them on buses, take them out there [to the farms] and pay them a decent wage; they will work.”

When Davis repeated those sentiments in the recent interview, the Republican leaders — who later delivered the party endorsement for the vacant seat in the 26th Congressional District to Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin of Clarence — said they couldn’t believe what they were hearing.
“I was thunderstruck,” said Amherst GOP Chairman Marshall Wood. “Maybe in 1860 that might have been seen by some as an appropriate comment, but not now.”

Davis spokesman W. Curtis Ellis acknowledged that Davis’ comments “may not be politically correct and … may not be racially correct.”
Geez.

If Jack Davis is sharing these golden nuggets on the campaign trail, imagine what is going to come out once he takes office. No in-depth coverage of this is on cable news channels and very few minority outlets have even raised an eyebrow. At a conference meet up, it was all the online community was talking.

Contradictions that leave you scratching your head are not regulated to a political party or a certain group. This week’s actions by some members of Tennessee Black Caucus are examples of saying vs. doing. Several weeks ago, the Chairperson of the Black Caucus, Senator Harper, arranged a forum with students and the community at Tennessee State University (TSU) to educate the community how the caucus supports TSU's educational mission. The HBCU campus, based in Nashville, has been on a steady rebound from internal issues that stemmed from public grievances of some with the previous administration. The Tennessee Black Caucus was one of the groups that heard from disgruntled academia regularly.

The well attended assembly was highly anticipated. Elected officials, students, staff, faculty, and the community came prepared to be engage with solutions to take the university to the next level. You could feel the excitement in the air. As a parent, I was enthusiastic because this was the first time I was aware that the Black Caucus had a meeting of this type at TSU. I came with my mommy-blogger hat firmly on my head.

The meeting started on time (yeah) and TSU’s diversity was on full display. But one could not help but notice that Black Caucus was short on members. To my dismay, it was announced that the Governor had dinner planned for the Black Caucus and several members of the Black Caucus would be leaving for the dinner. Almost half did not attend the forum and the ones who did attended cut their time short to leave early to dine with the Governor. Huh? Senator Harper apologized profusely to the students and the administration. You could feel and hear her disappointment. But she promised to come back and give the students and the community a chance to ask probing questions.

Representatives present were Joe Armstrong, Tommie Brown, Karen Camper, Barbara Cooper, John DeBerry, G.A. Hardaway, Larry Miller, Antonio Parkinson and Joe Towns. Senators Jim Kyle, Lowefiney and Andy Berke were also present.

As I write often, young people look at our actions not what we say. Those who spoke gave insightful information regarding legislation that was impacting the students. Hearing from those who actually fight to keep money at TSU will be a lesson many will not forget. Caucus members discussed healthcare legislation that will allow students to stay on their parents insurance while they are in college and SB1360 that is being proposed so that students may vote using their student id card. Several other legislative bills were also discussed. These were important issues for college students to hear firsthand from the legislators. Several of the Black Caucasus members praise their interns that were TSU students and reminded the students that in years gone by, there were no Pell grants or HOPE scholarships to aid one’s pursuit of an education. These forms of financial assistance can be taken for granted by young people who are not aware of the history that took place to get financial aid for them to attend college.

Overall, the meeting was a good for TSU and the Black Caucus. Since Senator Harper stayed behind to meet with students, I had to asked about the scheduling conflict and why not a full turn out from the Black Caucus. “They are having dinner with the Governor,” I was told with a pointed glance. “Is that where you are headed”, I asked quickly. She gave me a look only a Diva who was not taking any sass from me could give and said, “No, I am meeting with students from OIC.” Well, she set me straight, huh?

What was more vital, dining on “chicken wangs” with the Governor or following through on commitments to discuss significant education legislation with students at TSU? In 2012, who do you think the Black Caucus members are going to ask to help campaign and vote for them? I hate to inform folks but the Governor will not be campaigning for them in 2012. Meeting with the students had far greater value on many levels. The Governor’s dinner could have been rescheduled, I am sure of it. When will folks learn? Here’s another political observation that resembles chicken wing with hot sauce and prayers on the side!

Article first published as More Politcal Observations on Blogcritics.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Observations From The Road


I am blogging from the road again. Being a guest speaker, I get to speak the truth in love while everyone smiles knowingly grins and nod sheepishly. I have gotten quite a few “preach it sister” and a very loud “shame the devil” the other day. I am sure if some of the things I have said to several organizations were told by a local member, mayhem would have ensued. What I am learning from my road trips; no matter where you go, there you are. Our stuff is the same from city to city. The clichés and the groups’ dynamics maybe different but folks are pretty predictable. Most of the audiences have been very diverse with education and economic empowerment questions dominating the Q & A time. But when I am in the front of my own people, the question that is asked at every single event is, “Why are black people becoming our own worst enemies?”


From New York to Houston, the question has been asked. In Houston, women wept openly about the savage rape of an 11 year girl by 15 or more Black men and high school boys in a trailer that was videotaped on cell phones and shown at her school. When I arrived, my driver was giving me the word on street version of the horrific event. He warned me not to be surprised because the topic was being discussed everywhere. The November incident has made national news but it was the talk of the Houston area before being picked up by mainstream media. The mug shots of the men and teen boys were all over Houston. Instead of my prepared words about Black Women Trailblazers, we had a town hall meeting of sorts to allow folks a chance to vent. I asked the group to use their anger as a wakeup call. I suggested cutting back on galas and fund counseling for the young girls that have seen the videos. (You know I am not going to leave a group of people with hearts bleeding without mentioning counseling). Anyway, I also suggested partnering with men organizations to teach men how to become protectors of women and girls and not ferocious predators. The well-heeled women were in obvious shock. The title sponsors agreed to put up money for counseling and mentoring activities for girls at the elementary school. This incredible act of generosity was met with a member giving an I-am-the president-elect speech along with the by-laws surrounding the pledged donation. Yep, she did. Pitiful.


My whirl wind month of March is becoming book material fast. The story above had a very obvious teachable moment; put the children first, your title and agenda could have waited. But how often have we seen the sugar taken out of a sweet act of kindness with sour words? I did not bother to hide my disappointment with the “president- elect” and neither did others. How do these folks get elected anyway?


Speaking of elections, Memphis was one of my stops. The state of Memphis City schools was all everyone was talking about at recent meeting. There was no shortage of stories pro and con about the aftermath of dissolving the city school charter. Criticisms were passed around like a collection plate in church. Folks were up in arms about what was going to happen. You would have thought the world was coming to an end because of the deep passion. My suggestion to that group was to put their passion into action by organizing rides to the polls to make sure folks voted. I told the group, “Getting Black folks to stop speculating about what’ they say’ and actually vote for decent leaders is the key to addressing many issues in our community. Black folks must get loud and proud again about voting!” Ninety percent of the dialogue in Memphis the day of my visit was peppered with “they say”. I suggested to several business owners to rent vans for the organization and I volunteered to contact the press to highlight their company and organization efforts. When I left, everyone was excited about getting the word out to vote.


Why was I surprised when I read only 17% of registered voters showed up to the polls? All the meetings, talk, distrust, and infighting about how the merger will help or hurt Black children, very few Black folks even bothered to vote. Memphis as a whole was heavy on emotion and sound bites but after a yearlong discussion about the school system did very little to show that education was valued by the very community that needs it the most. White kids are enrolled in excellent public schools in the suburbs or in private schools that keep their fees high and restrict admission. When you view what is happening with public school systems around the country, Black kids dominate the school rolls. Yet, we continue to complain and not vote. God help us.


After the elections, I called to check about rides to the polls. I was informed that they had an education committee meeting scheduled on Election Day and were unable to get the vans. I am still staring at my cell. Pray.

In Atlanta, I was asked about ideas to engage younger women to become more involved in historical Black organizations. The topic was a follow up to remarks about Rev. Bernice King declining the presidency of SCLC which was co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I pondered my response slowly. My grandmother (Mother) taught me that discussing Dr. King should be done respectfully, so I treaded with thoughtfulness. I leaned on an earlier conversation with Mother to explain my perspective. Mother felt strongly that Bernice King was chosen because of the history that came with her name. “She’s his daughter but she has her own mind. Folks think she is going to quote her father speeches all day”, Mother said in hushed tones. “When she gets to talking about babies having babies, babies killing babies, and babies can’t read or write, they are going to tune her out”. Hmm. Bringing older established groups current with the issues of the day while upholding the legacy of a group, is often met with blank looks or outright disdain. The Black community has used up much needed capital on protesting things that were reactionary, airing grievances in the white media that reflected badly on a group while not dealing with accountability with each other and sat on the sidelines snickering at other folks fall from grace while becoming clowns in a parade. Those actions have come back to haunt the Black community politically and economically.


“We have lost clout politically and economically because we are not using our social and professional positions to bring clarity, civility, and accountability to the table. Many of our organizations are viewed as outdated because of long winded meetings with no substance, leaders who have not always listened to their members, and very little training for younger leadership with outside the box thinking. The old teaching the young is biblical”, I said after sharing my grandmother’s words. Surprisingly, everyone clapped! This is happening in the Black communities around the country and in Nashville. Geez.

There is much to tell; with so little space. Hopefully, by sharing my encounters from the road, it will help us to be more insightful. Do our social groups actually serve the community with service above self mindset? Do we talk about the importance of public schools but are absent when it truly matters the most? Do our older brand groups teach history while embracing change? Are elders willing to teach the young folks leadership skills by more action and few words? Hmm. Our young folks are watching. And waiting!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I really, really, really, love Southwest Airlines


During the month of March and April, I travel heavily speaking at various events around the country. This year, I am booked for twenty two engagements. March is Women History Month and April is National Pest Control Month. This post comes to you from the road. Being a woman of color in the pest control industry keeps me talking about glass ceiling issues. There is no glass ceiling over my head but this topic seems to be associated with women who work in non-traditional fields. I give groups what they want with clarification of how I view the glass ceiling.

I originally planned to blog about women in business figures but I was side tracked with my original thoughts with my travel adventures that started at the Nashville Airport. When you are a frequent traveler, you learn to just be a trooper and get to your destination. Everything else will work itself out, I tell myself to keep me pumped. I usually fly Southwest Airlines who are by far the best deal for my traveling budget. When speaking at conferences, they usually have a conference sponsored airline. I have learned to work my way out of them if all possible if I can get Southwest as an option.

Last week, I flew Delta. I felt trepidation early on and could not shake my thoughts that the next week of traveling was going to be awful. That emotion hung over me and my feelings of dread was birthed into reality. After preparing for weeks for life on the road in twenty two cities, I left Tuesday headed to the airport to catch my five o’clock flight to New York. I got there an hour ahead since I did not fly Delta regularly. “A quick trip to New York and back”, I thought to myself. A piece of cake, right? Wrong. My smugness came to an abrupt halt before my trip even got started.
The gentleman at Delta’s curbside check-in took about twenty minutes with two women ahead of me. I waited patiently by spending my time tweeting and fidgeting with anything that was not really something. When my turn came to check in, he pulled out a red tarp and started to lock down his stand. Stunned, I started tripping over my words trying to ask a question as if English was my second language. “What’s going on,” I managed to ask without sounding too alarmed. Without hesitation he said, “My shift is done.” Just like that, he walked away. In total disbelief, I checked my watch and rushed inside and that is when things went from awful to downright disastrous. Enter Richard W. (That was the name on the badge that is burned into my memory.)

Richard W. started with a “You are not going to make your flight.” No, “now let’s see what we can do for you” or a “wait let’s call the gate”. Not even a status check of the flight. He started with a no and he never left that mindset. It was “no” from the beginning and he was running the show. I tried not to sound too agitated but I asked, “Could you check to make sure the flight is on time?” Skeptically, he looked at me and then at my mink coat in my hand, insulted that I asked him a question and said, “That’s not fair to have others waiting on you.” Damn, I should have left the mink coat at home. Richard W. was not feeling me or my mink in Nashville with the bright sun shining. I brought my coat because my New York weather reports were forecasting snow.

I wishfully glanced down at the Southwest counter and wondered if Shirley was on duty but my ticket was booked by my agent and I needed to get on the flight so I stayed put. Richard W. sensing my pondering using another airline started searching flights. He mumbled a few words every few minutes and had to check with his supervisor several times because something was “not working”. I stood quietly knowing that if I showed out with this guy who was showing a lack patient with his own equipment, my butt would be sitting in Nashville another night. Stick with me; I am getting to a point.

As Richard W. went through several Delta employees for help, he bumped heads with a “Nigerian fellow” behind the counter who was not as patience as I was trying to be. The Nigerian sent over his supervisor to straighten out Richard W. She asked Richard W. if he could have handled whatever occurred between the Nigerian and Richard W. three kiosks down better. Richard W. was not having any of that check your attitude talk. Right in front of me, Richard W. gave his thoughts about his co-worker. His thoughts were very ugly.

Yep, Richard W. was ready for a strait jacket after an hour of banging on his computer keyboard. No doubt about; his issues kept coming. His printer did not work. He had no change and he did not know what to do about putting me on a flight that would not put me in first class. My mink would have clashed with the folks in first class, I assumed from Richard’s demeanor. Richard W. was a piece of work for sure. Two hours and $75 later, I was rerouted to tour the US’s other 49 states. What was supposed to be a night of prepping me for my media blitz with my agent was spent on one flight after another one. Thank you, Richard W.

I made it to my New York hotel at one in the morning. By the time I was able to catch my breath, emails for a story I had promised a publisher once I landed in New York was being sent with my epithet attached. Jennifer, a graphic designer, who was covering for me about my delayed story was wondering how long she was going to keep making up excuses for me. As for those waiting for me in New York, their concern prompted two phone calls home that sent everyone into frenzy. I am very adamant about checking in when traveling alone. I also missed two radio interviews. Ooy. Loving that Richard W., huh?

So what’s my point, you are wondering? We are living in crazy times. I don’t know what was going on with Richard W. but something was definitely out of sync with him. One person’s bad day can have a ripple effect. And when you are in the business of traveling as part of your living, you are always at tipping point. I kept reminding myself not to become drawn into the negative energy that was swirling around me at every turn at the counter. I thought about how many people who are in need of jobs right now who would have sold an arm to stand behind the counter at Delta. I thought about all the protests happening in the Middle East and the number of people in our country that were protesting to hold on to their jobs and livelihoods and the last thing I wanted to do was to add toxic fuel to the energy that is permeating the air globally.

Instead, I found myself trying really hard to focus on why I needed to be grateful. Being able to travel to share about things I am passionate about in life is manna from heaven. Meeting people from around the world and being able to sit at the table with others who care about the little things that go unnoticed but are important to how we perceive the world we live in is a blessing to me. Looking for the good and not allowing someone else’s really, really, really bad day pull me down is growth for me that I recognized immediately while standing captive at Delta’s counter. I could visualize me in days gone by throwing a hissy fit few years ago and taking the toxic energy from one airline counter to another one.

I took to twitter on Wednesday morning, to share with others about my eventful day with Richard W. that left others laughing and sharing their travel experiences. I hope next week is not as eventful and my decision to not participate with Richard W. in his moments of madness gave me time to think about the energy that we send out to others. On my way return trip home, I encountered Janet Soto at the Delta counter at LaGuardia. Her day was just as bad as Richard W. By the time I made it back to Nashville, I had written several thank you notes to Southwest Airlines.

I really, really, really love Southwest Airlines.


Photo Credits: Southwest Airlines Collen C. Barrett - President Emeritus and Gary Kelly, CEO

Author note: This story was originally published in The Tennessee Tribune Newspaper
P.S. I have read every book written about Southwest Airlines published and I believe Ms. Barrett is the ultimate case study for Women in Business!

Friday, March 18, 2011

National, State, and Local Political Observations


With all the turmoil over Japan’s tragedy, many political stories have been knocked off the radar, but within the online community those conversations are alive and ongoing. Often, when visiting other cities I attend meet-ups with other bloggers and Twitter enthusiasts. The info shared from social media platforms usually scoops mainstream press nowadays. Most stories, unfortunately, are rarely reported in ethnic media outlets. This week, many discussions about the number of politicians who ran on the taking-back-the-country mantra and gave President Obama a "shellacking,” are appearing to be worse than the politicians that were ousted last November.

A blogger from Wisconsin sent me several stories about Wisconsin state Senator Randy Hopper's wife, who informed a group of protesters that Hopper is living with his 25-year-old mistress in Madison, Wisconsin. The morally righteous public servant ran his campaign on family values while shacking up with his girlfriend in a house that is not in his district. Bloggers had a field day with this story when it broke. The scandal was reported by mainstream media two weeks later.

While the mainstream media was giving us endless clips of Charlie Sheen "winning”, folks were discussing whether Sen. Randy Hooper actual lived in his district at all when he ran for office last fall. This was not a Democrat vs. Republican or Governor Walker vs. worker’s rights storyline for me. What I found more intriguing about the Sen. Hooper hoopla is that many are admitting they knew he was living with his girlfriend for nearly a year while he was running for office and no one in his community challenged him publicly about his dual residence. The anger against the White House had blinded everyone to overlook the obvious. Now that Hooper has voted for a bill that the majority of the state workers including both Republicans and Democrats hate, his personal life is now on the ballot box. Cheating is okay until you vote crazy. Interesting. No, not judging, just an observation.

In Tennessee, political observations are always interesting. The birther legislation has hit the Volunteer State with a thud. In several states, the birther legislation has been introduced but has gotten little traction. Mother Jones gave the online community a golden nugget that sent bloggers to mixing drinks at what transpired when this news item below, published in Mother Jones, went viral:

Last month, Tennessee state Sen. Mae Beavers introduced SB 1091, a bill that would require presidential candidates to present a long-form birth certificate in order to qualify for the ballot in the Volunteer State. Beavers, a Republican, is in good company: Nearly a dozen states have now introduced similar legislation—part of national campaign mounted by the birthers, those conservatives who believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. To date they haven't had much luck; a bill proposed in Arizona looked the most promising but was scuttled in committee; on Wednesday, New Hampshire GOPers knocked down a similar proposal.


Law makers introducing bills that do not create “jobs, jobs, jobs” are becoming the norm but the head turner to this story was Sen. Mae Beavers’ actions after she introduced the bill. Wanting to strut her stuff and show her passion and zeal, she went on a Blogtalk internet radio show, Reality Check, to discuss protecting our country from a Manchurian candidate who could harm our country by running for President. Have mercy.

Below are excerpts from the transcript of the show that make the entire state of Tennessee look like everyone repeated 4th grade twice:

RC: What are the specific requirements in the bill?

MB: That they have to have the long form birth certificate.

RC: What is the long form birth certificate?

MB: Now, you're asking me to get into a lot of things that I haven't really looked into yet.


(Sen. Mae Beaver was promoting a bill that affects how we vote but did very little research about her own bill; its gets better or worse depending on what you are drinking!) Keep reading.

The host then asked the obvious follow-up: why put a term into the bill, if you don't know what it means? Beavers responded, "Well, we are following some of the bills that have been filed in lots of other states, and you know how it is, you file your bill and, you know, you prepare before you go to committee."

File first, understand later? Dumb.

Beavers went on to state more clearly, "I'm not entirely sure what long form means." She seemed genuinely surprised by the news that not all states even print long-form birth certificates anymore. "I only know about Tennessee," she explained. As for her motives for introducing the bill, Beavers didn't declare herself as an outright birther, but she noted, "I think people have raised questions about [Obama's birth] enough to make everybody wonder." Although the state of Hawaii has produced a certificate of live birth for Obama that has been widely distributed, Beavers said proof of Obama's citizenship must have gotten buried in her inbox: "I get emails all the time with things in them, you know; I can't honestly tell you that I read all of them, because I get so many." Geez.

Whether you are love or hate the President, electing officials with this kind of intellect to public office should be illegal.

Speaking of criminal behavior, is it a crime to ask legitimate questions of those who are running for office locally? In an effort to not make anyone look bad, Nashville-Metro Council members are not being challenged about their voting record. All members of the Black Caucus hemmed and hawed and voted against a multi-billion construction project, May Town, that would have been built with private funds in favor of the Mayor’s blessed and highly favored Music City Convention that was funded with taxpayer dollars based on property taxes.

Yes, local elected officials who represent the poorest residents in Nashville voted to fund a project to bring visitors in a down economy with tax payer dollars based on property taxes when a large number of Nashvillians have lost their homes to foreclosure. Brilliant!

The MCC Project has had its share of controversy which is being swept under the rug now that 2011 elections are around the corner. We are being given the three-piece-chicken-and-biscuit-special speeches while ignoring what the community of color has really gotten from the project. A wing, a dash of hot sauce, with prayers on the side. “We are getting 20% in minority spending”, I have heard a few potential candidates say lately. No one has asked the obvious follow up, “20% of what actual dollar amount?” Please.

The Mayor’s chief cheerleader for the MCC, Walt Baker, was revealed as a racist, at least in his emails. The PR firm debacle was all over the place. And very recently, Metro Finance Director, Rich Riebeling, one of Mayor Karl Dean's top advisers, failed to disclose fully personal business dealings with a prominent attorney and a local engineering firm, which have both won large contracts for the downtown convention center project. Wonder if any color folks bid on those contracts? There have been protests about hiring locals on the nightly news, yet, we allow council members off the hook by not questioning them about any of this. Why? Are accountability questions felonious? No one is perfect, but we should not dodge the obvious. For some, running for office is a hobby. Folks love to talk about what they have accomplished but no politician, Republican or Democrat, Black or White, long or short form supporters, should have an expectation of not being challenged about legislation they supported or bills they voted on, especially when it was not in the interests of the very people who voted for them.

In a media environment where followup questions have become obsolete, very little research is done on conflicts of interests in government dealings, and the cost of elections keep skyrocketing; politicians will say whatever it takes to get in and stay in office. This hurts the voting public, breeds voter apathy and puts out the fire of the next generation of voters who can really make a difference. I am just a blogger, but like it or not, I am going to do the unpopular thing; ask questions. Asking questions is desperately needed, especially in the color community, because a hot wing and prayers will not bring “jobs, jobs, jobs” to the communities of color in Tennessee.


Article first published as National, State and Local Political Observations on Blogcritics.