Category: Community Written by Roz Edward, National Content Director
By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Ph.D.
In a petition circulated online, change.org minced no words, "NAACP: Hire the First Woman President in the NAACP's 104 year History."
Seventy percent of the respondents agreed that it was time that the NAACP elected its first permanent woman president in its history to lead the organization. The petition, and the clamor for a woman president of the NAACP came virtually within moments after current NAACP President Ben Jealous announced that he was stepping down at the end of the year. This is hardly the first time that there's been a loud clamor, and an even louder criticism of the dearth of female leaders at the top of the major civil rights organizations.
The litany of civil rights groups past and present has been earmarked by two things. One is that throughout the history of the best known major civil rights organizations, the Urban League, SCLC, CORE, SNCC and of course the NAACP, there have been no women at the top spot in any of them. The sole exception was the SCLC, which in its markedly declining years finally elected its first woman head, Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s daughter, in 2009. But that breakthrough was short-lived when King could not reach agreement with the SCLC's male-dominated board regarding the terms of her presidency.
The second thing that has been an earmark of civil rights organizations has been the number of prominent Black women who played pivotal roles in the fight for justice and equality. They are well-known: Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Gloria Richardson, Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark and Dr. Dorothy I. Height, to name a few. They had to wage two fights. One was for civil rights, and one was against the blatant sexism and male dominance among the rank and file and leadership of the civil rights organizations. The men frequently denigrated and minimized women's role and importance, or pigeon-holed them into so called women's roles—typists, receptionists, general gofers and just plain flunkies for the men.
In some cases, they sexually exploited and abused women. The most blatant example of this was Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver's frequent admonition that the only position for women in the movement was "prone." This ignited a firestorm of criticism and condemnation from female Panther members, and among women activists in various other civil rights organizations. Though Cleaver took much deserved heat for his insulting and outlandish digs at women, he reflected the quiet sentiment of far too many men that sans their view of women, were otherwise regarded as some of the most advanced, forward thinking, and progressive in their social views and activism.
The Achilles Heel of the civil rights organizations remained the quiet and destructive sexism within their ranks. This history burst into public view in the run-up to the 50th anniversary commemoration and celebration events of the March on Washington this past August. A number of Black women took dead aim at the 1963 MOW organizers for what they considered the deliberate exclusion of women from a major role in the planning, organizing and deliverance of any of the keynote speeches at the March. They didn't stop with a nostalgic glance over the shoulder critique of the events 50 years ago, but openly wondered how much had really changed within major civil rights organizations today.
Apart from the towering roles that women played in past civil rights battles as activists and organizers, radical women such as Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis and Hamer showed by their courage and example that they could more than hold their own—and even surpass most men, including men that were considered the movement leaders, in terms of vision, passion, energy and steel like dedication to the fight for economic and social justice. Yet, in spite of the power of their leadership and example, they still had to struggle against marginalization by male leaders.
Despite their prominence and name recognition, they constantly bumped up against the intrinsic and galling reality that when it came to leadership and decision-making in organizations, the hard edge of traditional and ingrained male domination and female marginalization continued to be the order of the day. While many applauded an Angela Davis, and rallied to her defense, she was still seen by many men as a woman first, second and often last, and not a Black leader. Even so, just as in the past, there were powerful examples of women as activists and leaders in the civil rights movement. There are even more women today who are fully capable of being not only the visible face of a major civil rights organization, but one of its leading decision and policy makers as well.
The NAACP has legions of women in local decision and policy making roles in their various chapters, any one of whom could step into the top presidential spot. There are also prominent women outside the organization that BlackAmericaweb.com named who could assume the president's mantle. They include: Stefanie Brown James, former NAACP youth and college director; Aisha Moodie-Mills, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and counsel-director, NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The appointment of any one of them to head the organization would signal that the NAACP has shattered the glass ceiling at the top within this organization, and would send a powerful message that the fight for gender equality and against sexism is seen as just as potent and compelling as the historic and continuing fight for racial justice and equality. The NAACP has a golden opportunity to open the door of its male only room at the top, to women. It's an opportunity that it and no other civil rights organization that purports to call itself a champion of civil rights, should blow.
Originally published in the November 30th edition of The Chicago Defender/www.chicagodefender.com.
Chicago Defender columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Ph.D. is an author and political analyst. His newest ebook is America on Trial: The Slaying of Trayvon Martin (Amazon). He is an associate editor of New America Media, a weekly co-host of the "Al Sharpton Show" on American Urban Radio Networks" and he is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles, KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: @earlhutchinson.
Last Updated on Saturday, 02 November 2013 12:07
Category: Community Written by Donald James
Maybe it’s a secret to some people, but for millions more, Detroit-based Heritage Optical Center, Inc. and Heritage Vision Plans, Inc. have resonated with excellence for decades in the field of vision care and optical vision benefit plans. Heritage Vision Plans has built a massive network of more than 20,000 locations in the United States. It serves a broad base of clients through companies/corporations, school systems, government agencies, unions, and automotive, medical, gaming and other entities. Very few African-American owned and operated companies in Detroit — if any — or across the nation in any industry, can present a portfolio of services that is inclusive of customers in all 50 states.
As a trailblazing company, Heritage Vision Plans became the first African-American Tier I Healthcare Vision Supplier to service Ford Motor Company in the automotive giant’s 100-year-plus history. A partial list of other clients includes the City of Detroit (employees and retirees), Detroit Medical Center, Motor City Casino, MGM Grand Detroit Casino, Greektown Casino, Detroit Public Schools, Johnson Controls, Inc., Wayne County Community College District, and the University of Detroit Mercy. Nationally speaking, Heritage Vision Plans, Inc. has been embraced by such national optical chains as America’s Best, Henry Ford OptimEyes, K-Mart Optical, Meijer Vision Centers, Pearle Vision, Sam’s Club Optical, Sears Optical, Target Optical, The Vision Center (inside of Wal-Mart), Texas State Optical, and the many more.
Heritage Vision Plans got its start in 1991 under an Alternative Financing Delivery System (AFDS) Certificate of Authority from the state of Michigan, granted to Heritage Optical Center. The Certificate of Authority allowed Heritage Optical to offer managed vision care plans and fully covered vision care programs.
To put this accomplishment in perspective, Heritage Vision Plans, Inc. is the only African-American minority-owned entity to have an AFDS license.
In 2006, Heritage Optical and Heritage Vision Plans decided to function as two separate, but related companies. Heritage Optical would be the retail arm of the company, while Heritage Vision Plans would serve as the vision management entity.
“What we found was the license (Alternative Financing Delivery System Certificate of Authority from the State of Michigan) under Heritage Optical Center was confusing people about the differences between Heritage Optical Center, Inc. and Heritage Vision Plans, Inc. Therefore, by having two separate companies, we could have a distinction for our customers to better understand the services of each company,” said George P. Barnes, Jr. who heads the companies.
Heritage Optical Center, Inc. opened its doors in 1975 as the state’s first African-American full service optical dispensary. It is also believed to be the first Black-owned optical dispensary in America. As with all successful companies, especially ones with a strong national presence, there is a visionary and savvy leader at the helm.
Barnes opened the first Heritage Optical Center on the corner of Chene and Lafayette in downtown Detroit. He credits then-Mayor Coleman A. Young with giving great support to help Heritage Optical grow in its early days.
“Mayor Young allowed me to participate with another union company to do business with the City of Detroit,” recalled Barnes, who serves as chairman of the board for Heritage Vision Plans and president and CEO of Heritage Optical Center “That was my first time having a large client. From the City of Detroit, I picked up the Detroit Board of Education; both were major springboards for my company to grow.”
Heritage Optical currently has three locations in the city: Chene Square Center (Jefferson Ave.), on Livernois Ave. (near Seven Mile Rd., and in the Compuware Center (downtown Detroit), all of which serve Detroit-area corporate, government and other customers and entities.
To truly appreciate these companies, it is imperative to know the history of their founder. Barnes, a native Detroiter, graduated from the fabled Eastern High School in 1961. After completing high school, he was told by a White optometrist that there were no Black optometrists in Detroit. Thus, seeing opportunity, Barnes enrolled in the Opticianry Program at American Optical, where he was the only African-American student. After a stint in the U.S. Army, where he furthered his studies in the field, Barnes returned to Detroit to complete his training as an optician.
Following an 18-month internship in opticianry at the old Metropolitan Hospital, located at Tuxedo and Woodrow Wilson on the city’s west side, Barnes stayed on as a staff optician. In 1975, after a six-year stay at the Metropolitan, Barnes made a bold decision that would forever shape his life and career.
“I was passed over for a position at the hospital,” said Barnes. “They chose someone from the outside, although I was well qualified and well suited for the position. After being passed over, I knew that it was time for me to go, so I left. People were always telling me that I was knowledgeable enough in the field to start my own business. Being passed over turned out to be a true blessing for me.”
After leaving Metropolitan, Barnes began to do minor eyeglass repairs and adjustments, mostly at senior citizens’ homes. Word of mouth of his professional work created a buzz in the Black community. Barnes knew that beyond the buzz, there was a great need for a Black-owned optical dispensary facility that could give complete eye exams, fill prescriptions for ophthalmic lenses, dispense eyeglasses, fit contact lenses and offer other related services. Thus, Heritage Optical Center became the brainchild of Barnes.
While both Heritage Optical Center, Inc. and Heritage Vision Plans, Inc. have achieved high levels of success, Barnes believes there’s room to service more corporate customers.
“There is a lot of business in Michigan and throughout America that we should be doing,” he said. “Many companies are not taking advantages of our outstanding services and experience; they can’t say that we can’t do big jobs for major corporations as it relates to offering and managing vision plans and benefits, because we’ve been in business a long time and our finances are in order. While we are an African-American owned and operated company, we continue to provide excellent service to Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies.”
Barnes admits, however, that every day is a battle to stay atop and serve the more than 20,000 providers in all 50 states. However, his philosophy is simple: “We never give up. I have some Muhammad Ali boxing gloves that he autographed and gave me many years ago which always remind me of the fight in this industry.”
For more information regarding Heritage Vision Plans, call 1.888.322.0919, or visit www.heritagevisionplans.com. For more information regarding Heritage Optical Centers, please call 313.863.9581.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 09:25
Category: Community Written by C.L. Price
The American Educational Research Association has studied the advantages of “whole brain” learning over the past 20 years and endorses its proven instructional models which are successfully employed at schools like Southwest Detroit’s Clippert Academy, where learning is fun. -Editor
At their teacher’s urging, every student in Ms. Emma Howland- Bolton’s 5th grade class, eagerly grabbed two markers from their pencil boxes. But the Clippert Academy students had no intention to write with them.
On cue, a table of three smiling students in the back corner of their colorful classroom kicked off what appeared to be a familiar ritual with the plastic casings of the markers by tapping them rhythmically on their table in a steady beat, twirling the markers in the air, clapping their hands across the tables, and then launching into the first stanza of a rap song that would be handed off -- in a similar fashion -- table to table throughout the room.
Rapping is just one of the many methods Howland-Bolton uses to engage her students in learning throughout the class day. Whereas a lesson on ecosystems could otherwise be a boring textbook study of the food chain, her room is a constant buzz of chatter, hand motions, clapping, experiments, discussion and interaction. “I use a couple of different strategies,” Howland-Bolton said. “One is whole brain teaching, which is a cognitive instructional approach where I’m trying to reach all parts of the students’ brains during class. I did some research and found out that 5th graders on average have about a six-minute attention span – and that’s on the upper end -- so they need to have constant interaction.”
Howland-Bowlton’s interactive classroom is only one example of how Clippert’s teachers and their award-winning school use creative teaching methods and differentiated instruction all day long in every classroom with the goal of reaching students on multiple levels of their brains. “I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful staff that is always looking for opportunities to do new things with the children that will increase their achievement,” said Principal Kim Gonzalez, who has led Clippert Academy for the past eight years.
“I leave my door open so that they come in and approach me with those ideas, and then we work together to make those things happen.” Their strategy clearly is working. Defying some of the barriers that might limit achievement,
COMMUNITY CLASSROOM EXHIBITS: Through the Living Arts El Arte program, local Artist Lisa Luevanos, and 5th grade Teacher Emma Howland- Bolton, Mexicantown’s popular Café Con Leche coffee shop on Vernor Rd. hosted Clippert’s ‘Cool Nerds’ photo exhibit; Teacher Emma Howland- Bolton plans to continue to collaborate with local artists annually. Today, Artist Luevanos’ studio contains a window gallery of Clippert’s inspiring photo work.
BLOGGING BUILDS SKILLS The Bearded Dragon in Kathryn Meloche’s class has her “own” blog, which the students take turns writing. And the dragon, named Sepharia, has even dabbled in art in teacher Ruth Goldfaden’s class, creating some colorful “claw prints” that adorn the wall in Meloche’s classroom. To learn more visit: http://kathrynmeloche.wordpress. com/
Clippert Academy in Southwest Detroit is recognized as one of the top 5 percent high-achieving schools by the Michigan Department of Education. Innovative teaching methods spur student growth at Clippert Academy including a high poverty rate and a heavy population of Latino students who speak English as their second language, Clippert Academy in Southwest Detroit is recognized as one of the top 5 percent high-achieving schools by the Michigan Department of Education.
Clippert, which houses grades 5-8, also has been honored as one of the top 20 elementary- middle schools by Excellent Schools Detroit; has been named among the state’s top-performing schools by the Mackinac Policy Center; and has been recognized by the Skillman Foundation. The school also has an abundance of partnerships to support the school, including with Strategic Staffing Solutions, Southwest Solutions, Inside Out Literary Arts, Living Arts El Arte, Cranbrook Horizons Upward- Bound Program, Mercy Education Project, Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, and the Skillman Foundation.
“I can’t say enough about my staff,” said Gonzalez, adding that their open, collaborative relationship allows their team to bring tons of creativity to their teaching. Science teacher Kathryn Meloche, math instructor Zachery Taylor, social studies teacher Brendan Mullane and Art Teacher Ruth Goldfaden all employ the method in their classrooms, which seem to be constantly abuzz with excitement. And that’s what makes Clippert Academy a standout among Detroit’s Public Schools.
Editor’s Note: Clippert Academy is located at 1981 McKinstry Street, Detroit. To learn more call: 313.849.5009 chooseHAP.org Before
Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 09:22
Category: Community Written by Michigan Chronicle Staff
Since the August 3, 2012 opening of the McDonald’s restaurant on Mack Avenue near Moross, 18-year-old twin sisters Kaylah and Kaliyah Jetton woke up at 6 a.m. to catch two busses to get to work. Getting to work on time was just one of the important qualities they learned at their job. As they headed off to begin their freshman year Michigan State University (MSU), they reflected on how working an after-school job has been beneficial to them.
Knowing the sisters were looking to raise money for college, a fellow church member and manager at McDonald’s told the girls of a beautiful new restaurant that would be opening. Shorty after applying, they were excited to find out that they would be on the team that opened the store.
“It’s an honor to work here. You know you’ve been chosen because you are the best,” said Kaliyah.
Both sisters enjoy working at McDonald’s. They have learned skills such as multitasking, customer service, crew training, time management and much more that they know will help them in college and in their future careers.
“One of the best things about working for McDonald’s has been the people that I met everyday,” said Kaylah. “Having this job has furthered my interest in helping people and was a big reason why I decided to study public relations in college.”
At a young age, the twins were enrolled in Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies program offered by Detroit Public Schools. The K-8 program is one of the only public immersion programs in the state, offering dual-language, partial-immersion programs in French, Spanish, Japanese or Chinese. By their freshman year at Cass Tech High School, the Jetton sisters were fluent in Japanese. The young ladies hope to travel to Japan for a study abroad program during college to see the country that they studied for many years.
During the school year, their goal was to keep school first. The flexible schedule at McDonald’s allowed them to work only on the weekends so they could concentrate on their studies. When they graduated this past June, they were able to increase their work hours and still have a schedule that gave them time off to enjoy their summer before entering college.
“What has been really great about working at McDonald’s has been the interest in our futures that managers and owner, Errol Service, and others have taken in us,” said Kaliyah. “We were given recommendation letters to help us find jobs at the McDonald’s near campus and we can rejoin our team here at the Mack Avenue restaurant next summer when we are on break from school.”
Based on a 2012 survey, more than 60 percent of McDonald’s owners began as crew members.
“McDonald’s offers a tremendous amount of growth opportunities for employees. It can be a stepping stone into a management or corporate position,” said Service.
Coworkers at the store feel that the twin sisters really exemplify McDonald’s crew members. Many of the crew remarked on the sisters’ positive outlook, great customer service, calm demeanor, and willingness to help wherever needed, adding that these qualities can really push a person forward in their career.
“We really enjoy being members of the McDonald’s family,” said Kaylah. “The opportunity for growth, flexible schedule and access to health benefits are not always available at part-time jobs.”
If interested in a career at McDonald’s, please visit www.McMichigan.com. Kaylah noted that it is important to show initiative, following up with the restaurant after submitting an application. Kaliyah recommends visiting the store and getting to know the managers because it helps you stand out.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 09:22
Category: Community Written by Michelle Matthews-Alexander
by Michelle Matthews-Alexander
Are you a student attending a Historically Black College and University who’s interested in giving back to both your community and your university? If so, Ford is inviting you to enter the Ford Community Challenge Competition for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The competition, which was developed in partnership with Ford Motor Company and the Ford Motor Company Fund will award up to $75,000 in scholarships, university and community grants to the first-place student team and its project.
The Ford HBCU Community Challenge is an extension of one of the Ford Fund’s signature educational programs, The Ford College Community Challenge. The new program, conducted in partnership with the “Tom Joyner” and “Rickey Smiley Morning Shows,” encourages HBCU students to design community projects that address pressing local needs. The program’s theme is “Building Sustainable Communities.”
As part of the program, students are encouraged to creatively address a tangible, unmet community need that touches at least one of these four areas: Mobility, Alternative Energy, Sustainability/Water and Systematic Approaches to Meeting Community Needs. Scholarships will be awarded to the student team, and community grants will be awarded to nonprofits to support implementation of the winning projects.
The four teams with the best ideas will be flown to Ford World Headquarters in December to present their ideas for final judging.
“We are thrilled to be able to continue in our efforts to support students attending HBCUs with the launch of this program,” said Shawn Thompson, manager, Ford Multicultural Marketing. “This program will allow students to make a difference in their education, schools and ultimately their communities.”
“Ford Fund is committed to empowering future leaders through community programs,” said Pamela Alexander, director Community Development, Ford Motor Company Fund. “We are truly excited to partner with the Tom Joyner and Ricky Smiley morning shows to bring this new and innovative initiative to the HBCU community. We are eagerly looking forward to receiving and reviewing the ideas this fall. ”
So, what are you waiting for? Be sure to enter the competition today.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 17:19
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