October 10, 2013

By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press

 

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's capital has long been proud of its nickname, "Mother of the World" — a metropolis of 18 million throbbing with the vitality and fun of other great cities, even if at times it seemed unmanageable and chaotic.

But Cairo's spirit has been deeply scarred by 32 months of turmoil and bloodshed from two "revolutions," constant protests and crackdowns, and a military coup.

Residents talk of an unfamiliar edginess. People are more suspicious of each other, whether because of increased crime or constant media warnings of conspiracies and terrorism.

Families are split by bitter ideological differences. Fights are sparked by a word or a gesture seen as supporting either the military or the Islamists who were ousted from power by the armed forces.

The mood goes beyond ideology. With police battered by the upheaval and rarely enforcing regulations, many people flout laws with no thought of the consequences — whether it's the cafes that take over sidewalks or thugs who seize plots of land.

A curfew in place for nearly two months has put a damper on Cairo's nightlife. It has been eased to start at midnight, but that was usually the hour when streets and parties were just getting lively.

Political violence has killed more than 2,000 people in the city and wounded many others, starting with the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. That was followed by demonstrations against the military rulers who replaced Mubarak, the protests during President Mohammed Morsi's year in office, and the June 30 "revolution" that prompted the July 3 coup against the president.

"Political differences have made some people lose their humanity," said Shaiymaa Awad, a 32-year-old Morsi supporter.

Awad said she was in a bus recently that drove past Rabaah el-Adawiya, the mosque where hundreds of Islamists were killed in August when police cracked down on a sit-in demanding Morsi's reinstatement.

When she broke down crying, "other passengers looked surprised, but none of them understood why," Awad said.

The Rabaah mosque is not the only city landmark now more famous for one of the violent incidents of the past 2½ years. Others include:

— A historic bridge over the Nile, once a favored romantic spot for couples, that was the site of a battle between police and anti-Mubarak protesters.

— The towering Nile-side state TV headquarters nicknamed "Maspero," now known for the army's killing of more than 25 Christian protesters.

— Moqattam, once simply the rocky plateau overlooking the city where couples went to steal kisses, now remembered for a bloody street fight between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents.

New neighborhoods joined the list Sunday, when Morsi supporters and police clashed, killing at least 40 people. With more streets strewn with debris and blackened by fires, Cairenes fear the city is turning into a Baghdad or a Beirut at their most violent.

"Blood is everywhere," said Belal Fadl, a popular satirical columnist and scriptwriter.

"It is good that life goes on after every episode of bloodshed, but it is terrible from a human perspective," he said, adding that people now react to violence "as if they are watching it on a silver screen."

Cairo has long been an unruly, tough place — densely populated, heavily polluted and choked with traffic. With few parks or green spaces, and almost no street entertainment, residents have few public outlets for escape.

Yet it also was the place where all Egyptians — rich, poor, intellectuals, laborers and migrants from the countryside — were jammed together, forced to get along by smoothing over their differences with a sense of humor.

There was no contradiction seen between deep religious piety — another Cairo nickname is the "City of a Thousand Minarets" — and raucous street weddings with beer and belly dancers.

The city has gone through rapid lurches. The anti-Mubarak uprising saw an idealistic, "revolutionary" optimism. Under Morsi, conservative Islamists were emboldened, scolding the public to adhere to "God's law" and vilifying Christians and secular Egyptians.

Now the mood is defined by a media blitz demonizing the Islamists, idolizing military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and intimidating critics.

One recent morning, a police officer shouted at a man whose car had broken down on a busy overpass. The man had a beard — a hallmark of an Islamist — and the policeman angrily accused him of intentionally trying to snarl traffic.

Later the same day, workers in one of the city's country clubs berated a bearded colleague for putting worship ahead of work. "You cannot be at the mosque all day while we do all the work," one barked.

The Aug. 14 crackdown near the Rabaah mosque left perhaps the deepest scar. The bloodshed gave Islamists a strong sense of martyrdom — but much of the rest of Cairo's population showed little sympathy, embittered by Morsi's presidency.

While the largely pro-military media hardly mention the deaths of Morsi supporters, the Sept. 19 killing by Islamic militants of a police general led to an outpouring of emotion for his widow and children. The interim president received them in his palace, and the education minister personally escorted two of the general's children to school on the first day of classes.

The curfew imposed during the anti-Mubarak uprising was openly ignored, but uncustomary discipline has marked the nighttime restrictions put in place since August. Many say they are doing so to aid the crackdown against Islamists.

Mahmoud Ziad, a 23-year-old student who regularly takes part in protests of the coup, said he is haunted by seeing friends shot to death Aug. 14. He has other friends who used to oppose military rule but now support el-Sissi.

"I ask them how can they be happy after all those who were killed. How can they support the killer?"

The other legacy is a seemingly constant state of rebellion. Residents always found ways around rules imposed by overbearing force and bureaucrats. Now they simply break them.

Double- and triple-parked cars clog the streets. Drivers blithely go the wrong way on one-way roads. Police, if they ever show up, are challenged with much bravado.

"The line that separates freedom from criminal chaos has disappeared in Cairo," said Mohammed Hashem, a veteran activist and publisher who transformed the city's literary scene in the past decade with his patronage of young, experimental novelists.

In a city that was once extremely safe, crime has become more frequent.

Ahmed Mokhles, a 32-year-old doctor, said a youth on a motorcycle snatched his $450 mobile phone out of his hand while he was talking on it. The motorcyclist was slowed down by traffic, and Mokhles nearly caught up with him. But two men on another motorcycle — accomplices, Mokhles believes — blocked him, and the thief escaped.

Everything can conspire to build up stress — a blazing hot day, rising prices, unmoving traffic, family woes.

Allam Oudah, who earns $180 a month as a security guard and drives a taxi to make ends meet, described rushing his daughter to the hospital when she got diarrhea, not just for treatment but also because of mounting diaper costs if she wasn't quickly cured.

When asked to turn on the air conditioning in the taxi, he broke into a sarcastic rant: "For 10 pounds, I'll point all the fans at you. If that's not enough, I'll fan you myself."

Fadl, the satirist, said that despite its recent problems, there is a resilience in the city.

"Give Cairo a little respite from its troubles, and it will quickly regain its old spirit," he said.

Mustafa Ibrahim, a poet, noted the true meaning of the capital's name — "al-Qahira" — Arabic for "the conquerer."

"Cairo conquers its own residents as well as anyone who thinks he or she is bigger than the city," he said. "Cairo can crush you, but it maintains its charm and spirit," he said.

By Leon Jenkins

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

October 10, 2013

By Kenya King

Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily World

 

A one-way ticket to anywhere in the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina brought a vast number of displaced New Orleanians to the hotbed of the South – Atlanta – where Black political power precipitates African-American entrepreneurship, and where a cultural melting pot begets the crux of artistic expression from Mozart to hip-hop.

Even since the 1970s, and still today, Atlanta has been Christened as the Black Mecca and for many and is a city where African Americans are believed to have the best opportunities for prosperity or for reinventing themselves. Fifty years after of the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech, what has Black Atlanta achieved, and is it still a place for African Americans to thrive?

“It’s no doubt about it,” said Herman J. Russell, chairman and founder of H.J. Russell and Company, which is a 50-year-old construction and real estate empire based in Atlanta. Russell started his construction business at 16 years old and is one of the living icons of Black business. “Atlanta is still the anchor for Black entrepreneurs,” said Russell. “Just for all phases of Black leadership. To be in education, to be in contract business, or to just be a doctor – whatever you may [want to] be. Atlanta is one of the greatest cities in the world to have your enterprise.”

For decades, educational and employment opportunities have historically drawn African Americans to the Bible Belt South. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of African Americans in the Southern region increased by 18 percent from 2000 to 2010, bringing in an additional 3 million, and in 2010, the State of Georgia ranked fourth for the highest number of African Americans in the United States.

President of Clark Atlanta University Carlton Brown agrees that education continues to play a key role in luring people to Atlanta. He also stated that Clark Atlanta, the only independent graduate institution in the entire Historically Black College and University network, frequently has Fortune 500 companies from all over the world visiting the institution looking for employees with a firm mindset toward diversity.

“We have them coming all the time,” he stated. “The range of talent that arrives here is very, very strong. Of course [Atlanta has] 100,000 college students in the city — that’s never a bad thing — and the proportion of them that are African Americans is increasing, particularly with the focus of the Atlanta University Center with Clark Atlanta, Spelman and Morehouse.”

Atlanta, the bedrock of the Civil Rights Movement and birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also attracts African Americas who want to stay connected to the “Black experience.” Elder Bernice A. King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and CEO of The King Center, which serves thousands of visitors each year, concurs that Atlanta’s unique history of African-American life and culture, especially related to civil rights, is a magnet for people color.

“I think when people come here they find progressive-minded people,” said King. “They find a hodgepodge of creative and gifted individuals who are doing substantial stuff. I think because I think it has a lot to do with the history and the spirit that emerged from Auburn Avenue in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, and I believe it’s a carryover from all of that and the fact that there are a number of African Americans in important places in leadership, although we still have a great deal of work to do in terms of power, leveraging true power in Atlanta.”

None the less, more than 40 years after Dr. King made strides to improve the social, political and economic conditions for the poor in America, Atlanta seems to have experienced a seesaw effect in its seat among progressive cities as people moseyed in and out of the city when the recession came in its purview.

In 1996, the Olympic Games brought Atlanta unarguably its highest level of visibility on an international scale, and Atlanta was the place to be regardless of race. During this time and the years following, Atlanta’s business sector reached a solid financial footing and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce reported that the Olympics made a $5 billion impact on the city.

Untouchable – Business Oppor­tun­ities for African Americans

Businessman and entrepreneur Tommy Dortch, who is CEO of TWD Inc. and founder of the Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, said that in spite of Atlanta’s challenges, it is still one of the best a places for African Americans to reach success.

“I’ve traveled to every state in the U.S. except for two and I’ve been in all of the urban centers and I have worked with so many different people. It’s a city where people work together. There are many people who have a difference of opinion. Once you leave Atlanta, you know the difference. When you look at [Washington] D.C., when you look at New York, when you look at Chicago – they don’t have the kind of cohesive coming together that we have,” he stated.

Dortch also stated that based on the track record of entrepreneurial success among African Americans in Atlanta, one has to admit that Atlanta is likely the number one “Black Mecca” in the nation, not only in the South. In addition, Atlanta has had an African-American mayor for nearly 40 years, starting with Maynard Holbrook Jackson in 1974.

“When you look at the legacy that Maynard Jackson left us, there is not another city in this nation that has a commitment to diversity and inclusion. For African Americans in this city to gain almost 38 to 40 percent of all the procurement opportunities in this city, there is not another place in this nation. When you consider this point, we’ve done almost $6 billion in the expansion of Hartsfield-Jackson [airport]. One billion [dollars] of that $6 [billion] has gone to African American-owned businesses. There is not another city that can touch that,” said Dortch.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s view parallels Dortch’s premise.

“Atlanta has an undeniable legacy and long-standing tradition of supporting urban entrepreneurs. Many of the world’s greatest business ideas and ventures started here in Atlanta, which was named by Forbes magazine as the No. 1 city in the United States for minority entrepreneurs,” said Reed. “That’s a sign that opportunities for emerging urban entrepreneurs and women and minority-owned businesses in Atlanta remain unparalleled. I don’t believe there is any place better than the city of Atlanta to help develop and nurture talented and innovative African-American business owners, and minority and women-owned businesses.”

James Bronner of the world-renown Bronner Brothers, who helps run the International Bronner Brothers Hair Show, recalls how his friends who moved to other places continue to view Atlanta as a great place for opportunities.

“It’s still true, but you still have to work hard and be excellent at what you do in order to make it in Atlanta,” he said. “It’s not just a shoe-in. You still have to be innovative and push the envelope to succeed because of the economy. No matter what city you’re in now, you really have to be doing something extraordinary to be at the level you used to be.” In 2012, Bronner Brothers celebrated its 65th anniversary in business with the second generation of Bronner brothers in charge.

Dortch contends that while people “love to hate” Atlanta and that at times, it’s a “tale of two cities,” when looking at the top five places for African Americans in the U.S., Atlanta far exceeds the others, especially when considering the level of generational success. “You look at the leaders like a Herman Russell, whose family now is a second generation, really almost a third generation,” said Dortch. “You look at the Bronner Brothers, you go down the line, and you look at what happens in this city. There’s nothing like it.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

October 03, 2013

By Jennifer Bihm

LAWT Staff Writer

 

“If this makes you angry, that’s because it should. This behavior from some Republicans in Con­gress is as irresponsible as it gets,” said Jon Carson, a spokes­person for President Barack Obama.

“These aren’t just games. Speaker Boehner is letting one faction of one party in one chamber of Congress sabotage our economy. They shut down the government, and now some of them are ready to push us past the brink by refusing to do something every American does — pay their bills…”

Carson’s statement echoes that of many politicians and community leaders weighing in on the government shutdown, which began October 1 over a disagreement between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House over the recently passed Affordable Care Act.

“Today is a sad day not just for hundreds of thousands of government workers, many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck, but for our veterans, senior citizens, and average hardworking Americans,” said Congresswoman Janice Hahn.

“The Republicans have decided that their obsession with the Affordable Care Act is more important than the rest of the government—more important than paying FBI agents, more important than keeping the Wall Street watchdogs on the job, more important than keeping the lights on at the Environmental Protection Agency, more important than researching a cure for cancer, and more important than indefinitely furloughing, without pay, 800,000 of our fellow Americans.

 “I’d say I believe that the suffering caused by a shutdown will be enough to change my Republican friends’ minds, but this is the same group of people who proudly voted to slash food stamps by 40 billion dollars when nearly 47 million Americans are still struggling to feed themselves without help. I am deeply disappointed that our nation has been forced into a government shutdown. There’s no reason for us to be at this point. I hope the Republicans will listen to the American people and allow us to vote on a clean bill to end the shutdown immediately.”

About 800,000 government employees deemed “non essential” were furloughed as of October 1, being put on indefinite unpaid leave and according to news re­ports, the Capitol was a “ghost town, run by a skeleton crew.” Also, government entities like Centers for Disease Control and the Con­sumer Product Safety Com­mission could not function. How­ever, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration, which are funded by long-term or mandatory appropriations, were largely unaffected.

“The irresponsibility of the Republican Party cannot be overstated,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters on Tuesday.

“As we slowly emerge from the worst economic crisis in over 70 years, I am saddened that ideological extremism has led to another self-inflicted wound that could have dire consequences for our fragile recovery. Even a short shutdown threatens job creation, harms small businesses, and leaves families with uncertainty and instability. Some agencies will be forced to drain reserve funds, while others will close entirely. The SBA will stop approving loans and loan guarantees for small businesses. Housing loans to low and middle income families in rural communities will be put on hold, as will start-up business loans for farmers and ranchers. This will not only harm those seeking these loans, but the small banks that offer them, slowing business and leading to potentially large backlogs.

“Republicans are gambling with the American economy to make an ideological point. Each day this shutdown continues risks further irreparable damage to our financial system, our economy and our middle class. It must end now.”

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Karen Bass was offering answers to frequently asked questions about the shutdown like, “how will my benefits be affected,” on her website.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

October 03, 2013

By David Stokes

Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Inquirer

 

Evelyn Gibson Lowery, a civil rights activist and wife of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) co-founder Joseph E. Lowery, died in her southwest Atlanta home Thursday morning from complications from a stroke. She was 88 years old.

The founder and board chair of SCLC/WOMEN (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now), Inc. was admitted to a local hospital Sept. 18. She was discharged Wednesday after physician concluded there was nothing else they could do to preserve her life. Joseph Lowery, who turns 92 on Oct. 6, said in a statement, “My beloved Evelyn was a special woman whose life was committed to service, especially around issues of empowering women.  She was a wonderful mother and wife, and I thank God that she didn’t suffer any pain, and that I was blessed having her as my partner, my confidante and my best friend for close to 70 years.”

He continued, “I will miss her each and every day, but as a man of faith, I know that she is with her God.  My entire family has been overwhelmed by the continuous outpourings of love, support and prayers that have come from across the country, and we ask for your continued prayers over the next few days.”

For more than 50 years, Mrs. Lowery assisted in advancing the cause of women, the African-American family unit, as well as people, in general. She was a regular fixture at the side of her husband during the Civil Rights Movement, beginning with the  Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott.

But Mrs. Lowery carved out her niche in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s as she  championed women’s rights within the movement as well as worked with her husband with the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Among her signature achievements were creation of SCLC/WOMEN’s annual “Drum Major for Justice” awards dinner, held every April 4, the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The awards, established in 1980, recognize individuals advancing justice, equality and peace.

Another landmark achievement was the Evelyn Gibson Lowery African-American Civil Rights Heritage Tour, held the first weekend in every March. Mrs. Lowery served as a guide to students touring major civil rights sites in Alabama.

Funeral arrangements were pending at press time. The family asks that contributions in Mrs. Lowery’s name be sent to SCLC/WOMEN, Inc., 328 Auburn Avenue, N.E. Atlanta, Ga., 30312.

Some of the donations will go toward the group’s upcoming event, Pampering For Peace, an activity to support women in local domestic violence shelters.

Although her husband, Joseph, retired in January 1998 as the longest serving president of SCLC, Mrs. Lowery wasn’t ready to retreat from public life.

“There is much more to be accomplished; so many successes have taken place over the years, yet, so many more are still coming,” she said 15 years ago. “We must remain on course, stand and work vigilantly, and witness the rewards of our labor for the cause of freedom, justice and peace.”

Mrs. Lowery was the mother of three daughters: Yvonne, Karen, Cheryl as well as a loving grandmother and great-grandmother — and friend to all who supported and worked for the cause of peace, justice and equality.

 

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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