Sunday, February 17, 2013

Zora Ball, Youngest Person to Create a Mobile App Video Game

Good morning family. I am going to use this blog to highlight positive stories about African American achievements. Here is such a story. The Grio reports that:

Seven-year-old Zora Ball has become the youngest person to create a full-version mobile video game application.

The Philadelphia native presented her new app at University of Pennsylvania’s “Bootstrap Expo,” reports the Philadelphia Tribune.

Ball attends Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School, located in West Philadelphia.

Harambee is where Ball learned the Bootstrap programming language through the after-school program STEMnasium Learning Academy.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Obama Spoke the Truth in Chicago!

After the death of Hadiya Pendleton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Min. Louis Farrakhan and many other activists urged President Obama to come to Chicago and address the problem of gang violence. Following such calls, First Lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya Pendleton's funeral and invited Hadiya's mother to attend the State of the Union. President Obama wrote a letter to Hadiya's family, mentioned Hadiya during his State of the Union address and traveled home to Chicago to speak about violence and poverty. This is a prime example how the voices of the people can make a difference.

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As the Chicago Tribune reports:
President Barack Obama returned to Chicago for a few hours Friday to address the high-profile gun violence that continues to plague his hometown and suggested the solution is not only more gun laws, but community intervention and economic opportunity in impoverished neighborhoods.  
The president didn't delve into his specific call for an assault weapons ban and other gun control measures, instead choosing to illustrate Chicago's plight by comparing it to the December elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were shot.  
"There was something profound and uniquely heartbreaking and tragic, obviously, about a group of 6-year-olds being killed," Obama told an audience in the gymnasium of Hyde Park Academy High School, less than a mile from his home. "But last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that's the equivalent of a Newtown every four months."  
The president's visit brought a national and international spotlight on Chicago's gun violence. Emanuel sought to make the case Chicago's struggles aren't particular to this city.  
"Like every major city in the country, Chicago faces two critical challenges: the strength of our schools and the safety of our streets. Our streets will only be as safe as our schools are strong and our families are sound," Emanuel said.  
But the president brought the violence issue back to the city's streets, talking about the impact the shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton has had on him and first lady Michelle Obama, who attended the band majorette's funeral last weekend. Hadiya was shot in Harsh Park in North Kenwood after returning from Chicago from inauguration weekend festivities.  
The teen's mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, joined the 700 or so students, politicians and religious leaders in the audience, sitting with a group of other mothers of slain children.
During his speech, President Obama said that:

"No law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child's heart that government can't fill. Only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole...There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don't see an example of somebody succeeding. For a lot of young boys and young men in particular, they don't see an example of fathers or grandfathers or uncles who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected. And so, that means this is not just a gun issue... Nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong stable families. We should do more to promote marriage."

Some progressives take issue with the President talking about fatherhood and marriage. After some reflection, I don't. I strongly sympathized with the President when he said, "I wish I had a father who was around and involved." It may be uncomfortable to hear, but the President is speaking the truth about fatherhood and community. Although the presence of strong fathers in the home is not a solution to all of the problems plaguing the black community, strong fathers and strong mothers together forge strong communities. Please stop pretending that fathers don't matter.

Without love, support and guidance from family and community, all of the government programs in the world will not save our children. Even if the schools have equal funding and resources, students will not succeed if they do not value education. If even if there are jobs available for our young people, without the proper guidance and values, many of them will continue to chose dealing drugs over legitimate lower paying jobs. When the family is absent, many young people turn to gangs to fill that void. Gangs give them that missing sense of identity, brotherhood and manhood. Without strong and positive men in their lives, many young men turned to thugs, gangsters and dealers as role models to emulate.

Today's popular mainstream hip hop music reinforces and perpetuates this self-destructive behavior. Many hip hop songs feed and glorify gangs, violence, drug use and drug selling. Instead of instilling pride and celebrating true African American heroes, mainstream rap idolizes notorious drug dealers like Big Meech, Larry Hoover and Frank Lucas.  That ignorance is epitomized by the controversy regarding Lil Wayne's despicable lyrics referencing Emmett Till. Unfortunately, many young people have more respect for a minstrel like Lil Wayne than they do for the President of the United States.

The broken families and degenerate music are not the only problems in the black community. The churches and mosques have failed our communities as well. Sadly, too many religious leaders are more concerned about building beautiful cathedrals and large congregations than they are about building our communities. Instead of concentrating on enriching their bank accounts, our religious leaders must focus on saving souls and lives. So, yes. The President is correct for stressing the importance of family, community and clergy.

The President also realizes that government is vital to remedying the problems haunting urban areas. Although Obama did not use the words "black" or "African American", that speech focused on the Black Agenda. He described a multifaceted approach to addressing violence and poverty in the black community. He began by urging Congress to pass reasonable gun control laws. Further, the President talked about "building ladders of opportunities for everybody willing to climb it." Then, he talked about reforming child support laws to get more men working and engaged with their children. The President acknowledged that men without jobs will not be present and financially supportive.

Many of us have urged the President to develop targeted plans to specifically ameliorate the problems of high unemployment and poverty in the black community. Last night, Obama made steps in the right direction. He talked about creating tax incentives to encourage businesses to invest and hire in struggling urban communities like Chicago.  Such businesses would bring jobs and opportunities to economically depressed black communities. The President also talked about increasing the minimum wage. Such an increase will substantially benefit poor people who are disproportionately African American. The President talked about creating jobs through construction projects building affordable housing and repairing dilapidated buildings in blighted urban communities.

Finally, the President talked about ensuring that every child receives a quality preschool education. He went on to describe his plan to reform high school education.  His proposed reforms would give students the necessary skills to obtain good jobs upon graduation. In the words of Malcolm X, "education is the passport to the future." Providing quality education is the best way to fight crime.

Instead of wasting precious time debating about marriage and fatherhood, we should join the President and support his education, minimum wage, jobs and gun control initiatives.

This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

African History Before Slavery

African history did not begin with slavery and colonialism. Before the oppressor invaded and plundered our lands, we built magnificent civilizations. Africa is the cradle of the human civilization. We should read books by great African scholars like Ivan Van Sertima, Chancellor Williams, Dr. John Henry Clarke and Dr. Chiekh Anta Diop.

In the National Geographic article entitled the Black Pharoahs, we get a brief glimpse of black civilization's glorious past. The author writes:

Piye was the first of the so-called black pharaohs—a series of Nubian kings who ruled over all of Egypt for three-quarters of a century as that country’s 25th dynasty. Through inscriptions carved on stelae by both the Nubians and their enemies, it is possible to map out these rulers’ vast footprint on the continent. The black pharaohs reunified a tattered Egypt and filled its landscape with glorious monuments, creating an empire that stretched from the southern border at present-day Khartoum all the way north to the Mediterranean Sea. They stood up to the bloodthirsty Assyrians, perhaps saving Jerusalem in the process.

Until recently, theirs was a chapter of history that largely went untold. Only in the past four decades have archaeologists resurrected their story—and come to recognize that the black pharaohs didn’t appear out of nowhere. They sprang from a robust African civilization that had flourished on the southern banks of the Nile for 2,500 years, going back at least as far as the first Egyptian dynasty.

Today Sudan’s pyramids—greater in number than all of Egypt’s—are haunting spectacles in the Nubian Desert. It is possible to wander among them unharassed, even alone, a world away from Sudan’s genocide and refugee crisis in Darfur or the aftermath of civil war in the south. While hundreds of miles north, at Cairo or Luxor, curiosity seekers arrive by the busload to jostle and crane for views of the Egyptian wonders, Sudan’s seldom-visited pyramids at El Kurru, Nuri, and MeroĆ« stand serenely amid an arid landscape that scarcely hints of the thriving culture of ancient Nubia.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#SOTU13, Highlights and Questions

Last night, the President gave his State of the Union address.
My top five favorite moments from the State of the Union address were when:

1. The President said that the Newtown victims, Hadiya Pendleton, Gabby Griffords and other victims of gun violence deserve a vote.

2. The President said that he is going to form a non-partisan commission to address voting problems such as voters waiting in line for hours to cast their ballots.

3. The President mentioned ways to address poverty, i.e. increasing the minimum wage and making sure that quality pre-school education is available to all children regardless of family income. Obama proposed creating high school programs that would enable students to graduate with associate degrees.

4. The President said that he would end the war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

5. The President mentioned proposed legislation to eliminate the wage gap between men and women.

My top five questions for the President and Congress are:

1. Why is the U.S. waiting until the end of 2014 to leave Afghanistan? Al Qaeda is defeated in Afghanistan.

2. Will Congress pass any of the President's bold ideas? For example, President Obama has been talking about rebuilding American's infrastructure and closing tax loopholes for years. Yet, Congress has done nothing.

3. Is the Obama Administration going to continue to use drones to kill Americans without evidence or trial? The President conveniently glossed over that major issue with vague generalities and flowery pleasantries.

4. Does Obama plan to implement austerity measures such as cutting Medicaid and Medicare? The President talked about the need for compromise and about neither party getting everything that it wants. I just hope that he does not compromise too much.

5. Why did Obama deliberately avoid using the words "black" and "African American"? Obama directly addresses the needs of women, LGBTs and Latinos. However, when it comes to his most loyal supporters, African Americans, he has to communicate to us in code language. Why?

Any way, what did you think about the President's State of the Union address?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Our History of Armed Resistance

"Arms and arms with arms, we fight this little struggle." Bob Marley

Good morning family. In celebration of African History Month, lets honor our ancestors, the brave men and women who took up arms to fight for liberation, those who sacrificed their precious lives for the cause, those who had the audacity to hope in the face of hell on earth.  We must cherish our martyrs and remember our battles year around.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Have A Drone: Obama's License to Kill Americans Without Evidence or Trial

"The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within. It's not you who changes the system. It's the system that will eventually change you." Immortal Technique

Yesterday, NBC reported that:
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director. Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”

But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

Michael Isikoff, national investigative correspondent for NBC News, talks with Rachel Maddow about a newly obtained, confidential Department of Justice white paper that hints at the details of a secret White House memo that explains the legal justifications for targeted drone strikes that kill Americans without trial in the name of national security.

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.
The United States claims to be a model democracy, a beacon of light for the world to follow. The rule of law is a fundamental concept in a democratic society. All citizens are supposed to be entitled to due process and equal protection under the law. The accused are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

In the post 9/11 world, America has declared war not only against terrorism. She has declared war against her own cherished values. Under the Bush Administration, the United States lost it standing in the world for several reasons.  The U.S. launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq based upon the false claim that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction.  The U.S. waged war in Afghanistan. Since the beginning of the Afghan war, U.S. has imprisoned many so-called enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay and held them indefinitely without charges or trials. Additionally, America used torture against allegedly terrorists. Finally, the Bush Administration deployed drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan to assassinate alleged terrorists. Frequently, those drone attacks killed innocent women and children. In sum, all of those problems tarnished America's image before the world.

Our first African American President, Barack Obama, was elected based on the promises of hope and change. Unfortunately, Obama has continued and even expanded some of the Bush Administration's reprehensible policies, namely the use of drones. He has used drones far more frequently than Bush. Obama is using drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. As Commander-in-Chief, he is responsible for the deaths of many innocent civilians.

Sadly, most people do not care.  The American people are shielded from the grotesque realities of war.  Too often, we are presented with an abstract, sanitized, video game type image of war.  We do not see the obliterated corpses of innocent women, children and men.  If we did, maybe our attitude about the President's use of drones would change.  As reported on CNN,
U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law calls for a re-evaluation of the practice, saying the number of "high-level" targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low -- about 2%.

In contrast to more conservative U.S. statements, the Stanford/NYU report -- titled "Living Under Drones" -- offers starker figures published by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent organization based at City University in London.

"TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 - 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 - 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 - 1,362 individuals," according to the Stanford/NYU study.

Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of "double-striking" a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.
Instead of ending terrorism, such actions will only breed more future terrorists.

To make matters worst, the Department of Justice's memo basically gives Obama a license to kill Americans without any evidence, trial or proof of an imminent attack. According to news reports, that license is not necessarily limited to use against Americans abroad.  It is possible that the federal government may be able to use such power against Americans here at home. Such power is contrary to America's values. In the words of Kanye West, "no one man should have all that power."

To some people, Obama is like Jesus. They have complete unconditional faith in his judgment. Not me. All men are fallible. We all make mistakes. No one person should be judge, jury and executioner. What about Obama's successors? If we do not act now, it will create a dangerous precedent for future presidents. Imagine if someone like Mitt Romney or some other right wing Republican had that power.  How many more innocent people must die before we end this madness? Where is the peace movement?

When George W. Bush was President, large numbers of progressives marched and protested against war. Many progressives oppose senseless wars and the death penalty.  Yet, with cult like devotion, many of those so-called "progressives" blindly defend the President's right to kill Americans. That is deeply disturbing and disappointing. Now, only a few people are protesting against the Obama Administration's wars. Hopefully, the release of that Department of Justice memo will wake up the peace movement.

Instead of simply marching and blogging, we should join U.S. Representative Barbara Lee's call. We must urge Congress to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force law. It is time to end this perpetual war. No President, even if he is a Democrat, should be given a blank check to launch undeclared wars around the world.

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This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.