August 01, 2013
By Valerie Jarrett
President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez met with civil rights leaders, and state and local elected officials at the White House to discuss how to safeguard every eligible American’s right to vote in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on Shelby County vs. Holder.
The Supreme Court’s decision invalidating one of the Voting Rights Act’s core provisions, upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
President Obama acknowledged that for nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans, and expressed deep disappointment about the recent decision. He asked the leaders in the room for their ideas on how to strengthen voting rights, and also encouraged them to continue educating their communities on the Voting Rights Act, and how to exercise voting rights.
We’ve seen much progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while the decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of either our efforts to end voting discrimination, or our basic right to vote.
Since the decision, President Obama has called on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. The Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized repeatedly by wide bipartisan margins in Congress, and signed into law by Republican presidents. In addition, every single American should have an interest in ensuring that every eligible American is able to exercise his or her right to vote. So we remain hopeful that we will find a legislative solution to ensure a fair, and equal voting process.
Yesterday’s meeting was another step forward to protect the vote, and we will continue to do everything in our power to secure this most basic right for all Americans.
Yesterday’s participants included:
• Barbara Arnwine, President & Executive Director, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
• Napoleon Bracy, Alabama State Representative
• Roslyn Brock, Chairman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Board of Directors
• John Echohawk, Executive Director, Native American Rights Fund
• Margaret Fung, Executive Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
• Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
• Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
• Trey Martinez Fischer, Texas State Representative
• Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League
• Mee Moua, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
• Janet Murguia, President & CEO, National Council of La Raza
• Laura Murphy, Director, American Civil Liberties Union
• Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta
• Thomas Saenz, President & General Counsel, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
• Al Sharpton, President & Founder, National Action Network
• Calvin Smyre, Georgia State Representative
• Alan Williams, Florida State Representative
By JOSH LEDERMAN
When is a lunch more than just a midday meal? When the two diners are President Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and inquiring minds want to know who, if anyone, the president will endorse in 2016.
A summertime meal shared by Obama and his rival-turned-ally threw the political speculation machine into overdrive recently, highlighting how closely both are being watched for signs of their intentions in the next presidential race.
For Clinton, it’s a question of whether the former first lady will take the plunge, launching another campaign eight years after she lost to Obama in a hard-fought primary. For Obama, it’s about dueling loyalties to two of his closest advisers who would both covet his endorsement: Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, who is also said to be eyeing the Oval Office.
Such questions set the table for a midday powwow over salad, grilled chicken and pasta jambalaya whipped up by the White House chef and served al fresco on the patio just outside the Oval Office.
Will Clinton tip her hand? Will Obama offer his support? Or will the two dive deep into current events — bloodshed in Egypt, for instance, or a budding new round of Mideast peace talks that eluded Clinton as secretary of state?
In all likelihood, none of the above.
“The purpose of the lunch was chiefly social,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, calling it a “chance to catch up” and adding that Obama had initiated the invitation. “Secretary Clinton and the president have developed not just a strong working relationship, but also a genuine friendship.”
It’s not the first time the two have huddled since Clinton stepped down in February after four years as Obama’s top diplomat. They saw each other briefly in Dallas at the opening of former President George W. Bush’s presidential library in April. And in March, the Clintons shared a private dinner with Obama that wasn't announced publicly until after the fact.
In the meantime, Clinton has kept up a hectic schedule of speeches and public appearances that has provided further fodder to those urging her to run again. A super PAC seeking to create a campaign-in-waiting in case she runs, Ready for Hillary, recently picked up support from some of Obama's most prominent former campaign organizers.
So it’s no wonder that each Obama-Clinton rendezvous is closely analyzed, elating some and prompting eye rolls from others who lament that barely six months in to Obama’s second term, talk about his replacement is already reaching a fever pitch.
“In Democratic circles, it makes people fantasize and engage in all kinds of speculation, when it fact it may just be a tete-a-tete between the leader of the free world and the most important person in the Democratic Party,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who worked on President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election.
So what are the chances that Biden pops in for coffee and desert, a casual reminder that he’s still the one with the office closest to Obama’s?
“I think the table was set for two,” Earnest said.
By Suzanne Gamboa
WASHINGTON (AP) — As members of Congress marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Senate majority leader warned Wednesday that civil rights the march helped to protect secure for disenfranchised Americans are “once again under siege.”
House and Senate leaders from both parties led the ceremony in the stately Statuary Hall to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which helped to pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. The bills won passage in 1964 and 1965, respectively.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, noted that after the Supreme Court’s June decision invalidating a key part of the Voting Rights Act, some states moved quickly to implement voting rules that he considers a threat to the votes of minorities, the elderly, women and others. He singled out Texas.
“Fifty years later, some of the progress made by the civil rights movement, and some of the protections made by the Voting Rights Act, are once again under siege,” Reid said. He urged those who value the movement’s key victories to “take this assault on freedom as seriously as you’ve taken anything.”
His comments drew enthusiastic applause, including from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who sat onstage alongside Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who as a student activist endured a severe beating in the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march in Selma, Ala.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did not applaud Reid's remarks. Boehner turned to McConnell with a questioning glance during the applause.
Boehner spoke of the march with historical references, from Abraham Lincoln, who as a Republican senator from Illinois sponsored a bill to free District of Columbia slaves, to abolitionist Frederick Douglass, NAACP activist Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the march and delivered his signature “I Have a Dream” speech from the Lincoln Memorial.
“This is a story of how a president, a slave, a seamstress and a minister locked arms across a period of time. A story that shakes us forward and shakes us free,” Boehner said.
McConnell recalled that the march inspired him to organize for change in Kentucky, and that he worked to help his boss, a U.S. senator, overcome opposition in Congress to help pass the Civil Rights Act.
The original march took place on Aug. 28, 1963. Congress observed the 50th anniversary early because it falls during its August recess.
The 1963 march drew approximately 250,000 people to the National Mall. Its purpose was to call attention to economic inequality, but it is most remembered for King’s speech.
Lewis, who was a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in 1963, told Wednesday of his meeting with President John F. Kennedy before the march and of Kennedy expressing wariness that the march might turn violent.
Lewis told the crowd that he sees the March on Washington as one of the nation's finest hours and that it helped usher in a spirit of bipartisanship that moved the country forward.
“What would it take for us to come together and make that kind of progress for America once again?” Lewis asked.
David Cohen, 76, of Washington, was among those at Wednesday’s ceremony who attended the march. He said he was employed by a Washington lobbyist who was working on passage of the Civil Rights Act at the time. Banks and congressional offices were closed, the National Guard had been deployed and liquor sales were banned out of fear of violence during the march, Cohen said.
Cohen and his wife hosted several participants in their apartment, to the dismay of his landlord because of the racial mixing, said Cohen, who is white.
Also in the audience were Attorney General Eric Holder and District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray. Grammy award-winning opera singer Jessye Norman roused the crowd with a rendition of “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.”
Civil rights leaders are planning two major events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march: An Aug. 24 march from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial, and an Aug. 28 march that will stop at the Labor Department and the Justice Department buildings. Other activities are planned around the anniversary as well.
The Capitol ceremony Wednesday came as President Barack Obama toured the country to promote his agenda including jobs and economic growth. Obama met with several leaders on the voting rights issue on Monday and pledged his administration would work to strengthen the Voting Rights Act.
By Shonassee Shaver
The United Job Creation Council (UJCC) a nonprofit organization held their annual Mentoring Recruitment Day and Youth Hip Hop Festival on July 20 at the City Refuge Church presiding Bishop Noel Jones in Gardena, California. The UJCC showcased their mentoring program called the Teleion Mentoring Program which empowers ‘high risk’ youth, ages 12 to26 coming out of juvenile camps and prisons.
Los Angeles youth was motivated during the ‘Youth Empowerment Discussion’ which included guest speakers Pastor Isaac Williams of The Word Experience, Jemeker Thompson former “Queen Pin” and founder of the nonprofit organization ‘Second Chance Evangelist Ministries’, Giovanni Stephens, Monet Bagneris a graduate from USC’s Keck School of Medicine and 2012 Miss Los Angeles County, and Zaneta Smith Teleion Mentor Coordinator and Youth Interactive Panel Facilitator.
CAP I Annexx the Mime and Pastor Isaac Williams performs during the Hour of Power Hip Hop Show.
It was also a day of fun for the youth where entertainers including rappers Lady Shofar, Moses the Prophet, gospel artist Du2ce, Christian dance team “Committed Feet” and music group “Authentic People” performed during the ‘Hour of Power Hip Hop Show.’
There was a host of employment partnerships that consisted of the LA Urban League, PVJobs, Southeast-LA Crenshaw Worksource Center and Watts Labor Community Action Committee.
The event’s main focus was to inform Los Angeles’s youth about the importance of mentoring for young Black men and women through Positive Pathways Program (P3) where transitional aged youth are matched with selected mentors. However, recruitment for the Telieon Mentoring Program was the main attraction throughout the event.
“We wanted to recruit more mentors and youth who are unaware of our Mentoring program,” said Jean Franklin, Executive Director of UJCC on their goals for the event. “The goal for this event was to recruit men of color who have a passion to give back to the community.”
The program’s objective is to provide education, jobs, job training, careers and life skills for juvenile offenders in Los Angeles areas Compton, Watts, Gardena, Inglewood and Hawthorne. In efforts to reconstruct the lives of foster and probation youth, they offer pathway coaches.
“We advocate for them,” said Franklin. Indeed, the UJCC Teleion Mentoring Program are advocates for the reduction of gang warfare and incarceration of young Black men. They are active in the community, recruiting kids on the streets of Los Angeles and coming out of juvenile camps. Teleion Mentoring Program is a safe haven for African American youth who are encouraged to persevere beyond their means.
“We are one of the massive movers in the community regarding change, jobs and advocating rights for more jobs,” said Rahab Mitchell. “Franklin organized an initiative in the state of Sacramento which now is a law that requires so much percentage of jobs for local hire be given to youth who are in transition.”
In 2006, UJCC put together a local hire to inform estranged youth about jobs that were hiring regardless of any criminal background. “Construction is one of the few industries where one’s background is not held against them. We are focused on ‘high risk’ youth and ex-offenders who are consider “hard to place” in the job market.”
The UJCC is one of the main resources in the community to provide jobs for youth. They work with an array of industry sectors that appeal to former juvenile offenders. They also have a hand in anti-violence, helping to decrease the violence in the community.
The UJCC is proactive in the church, networking with Pastors who often refer kids to them. They assist with faith based organizations (FBOs) and community based organizations (CBOs). Jean Franklin created ‘Anchor of Hope Re-entry Ministry’ at the City of Refuge which provides holistic services to ex-offenders.
The United Job Creation Council’s ultimate goal is to eliminate recidivism in the community.
By Gary Fineout
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson isn't backing down from comments he made comparing Florida's struggle with the Trayvon Martin case to the civil rights clashes with police during the 1960s in Selma, Ala.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday demanded that Jackson apologize for his comments calling the state the “Selma of our time.” He also said Florida has been an “apartheid” state.
But Jackson, in an interview with The Associated Press, defended his remarks. He cited the state's voter laws and incarceration rates of blacks versus the general population as examples of “apartheid like conditions.”
Jackson made his original remarks while taking part in a protest at the Florida Capitol. He joined a group upset that George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Martin.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday demanded an apology from longtime civil rights activist Jesse Jackson for comparing the state’s struggle with the Trayvon Martin case to the civil rights clashes with police during the 1960s in Selma, Ala.
Jackson spent the night with protesters upset that George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin. They’ve refused to leave the Capitol until Scott calls a special session to have legislators overhaul the state’s self-defense laws.
Jackson called Florida the “Selma of our time” and even compared Scott to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace. While he was governor, Wallace famously stood in the door at the University of Alabama to try to block the entry of two black students.
Scott so far has refused the request and the protest has dragged on for more than two weeks. The protesters have gotten national media attention and won support from celebrities such as entertainer Harry Belafonte and others who have urged people to boycott Florida.
Scott in a release blasted Jackson’s comments as “reckless” and “divisive” and said that he should apologize to residents.
“It is unfortunate that he would come to Florida to insult Floridians and divide our state at a time when we are striving for unity and healing,” Scott said.
But Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH coalition started by Jackson, said there was no need for an apology.
“The governor has a deafening ear to the cries of those asking him to take a moral stand, not a political stand,” Grant said.
Jackson left Tallahassee earlier Wednesday and wasn't immediately made available to comment.
Grant, though, said Jackson made his comments not only in response to the Zimmerman verdict but because of the case of Marissa Alexander.
Alexander, who is from Jacksonville, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a bullet at a wall to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. A judge refused to let her use a “stand your ground” defense.
Grant said that thousands of Floridians support Jackson and agree that the state’s “stand your ground” law is egregious.
But that view isn’t shared by Scott or other Republican leaders in the Florida Legislature. Senate President Don Gaetz earlier this week that while he understands that some people are “frustrated” with the verdict that doesn't mean the law should be changed.
“In our system, a verdict is not then referred to a referendum of the people who are interested in the issue or who are passionate about the issue,” Gaetz said. “A verdict is a verdict.”
The protesters, many of whom belong to a group called the Dream Defenders, want the special session to consider changing state laws to repeal Florida’s “stand your ground” law and to end racial profiling and zero-tolerance policies in public schools.
Protesters this week started their own mock session in the Old Capitol. They also are trying to urge 32 legislators to ask for a special session. Under Florida law, if 32 legislators make that demand, then the Department of State must poll the Legislature. If three-fifths of lawmakers agree, then a special session must be called.
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