Category: Prime Politics Written by Patrick Keating, Chronicle Staff Writer
“The State of the Black/Jewish Socioeconomic Alliance” is the theme for the inaugural launching of the Black/Jewish Forum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 7 p.m. at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills. Several leaders in Southeast Michigan are expected to participate.
The forum was conceived by two men who touted their friendship and the closeness of their families as the catalyst for what is to become an important ongoing event in metro Detroit — to revisit the historical ties between Blacks and Jews and looking ahead into the future. Arthur Horwitz, publisher of the Detroit Jewish News, and Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle, over the last three years have developed a close friendship that has been extended to their families, resulting in family visits.
“Black/Jewish relations are part of America’s dream and America’s soul. We share common pain and common triumphs, and nowhere is that bond celebrated more keenly than at Temple Beth El, Michigan’s oldest Jewish congregation.” — Rabbi Daniel B. Syme, Temple Beth E.
The Black/Jewish Forum, according to Horwitz and Thompson, is critical to bringing two communities together with longstanding socioeconomic and political ties. “Over the past three or four years, Bankole and I have gotten to know each other very well as friends and as people who care about the future of Detroit and the Detroit metro area,” Horwitz said.
The two have had several opportunities to collaborate, ranging from being on panels together to writing articles that touch on both communities.
For example, in June of this year, the influential Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) in New York, the national public affairs arm of the organized American Jewish community founded in 1944, invited Horwitz and Thompson to serve as keynote speakers at the opening dinner of the JCPA conference in Detroit.
“Blacks and Jews in America once formed an important relationship in furthering the cause of a more just society. Not that it was perfect and there were certainly differences but, in all honesty, our two communities were as strong as any two could be in fighting against oppression and economic injustice. What is surprising is that today we continue to pursue similar goals and yet do very little together,” said JCPA CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow.
Gutow said our challenge in the years ahead is to find those common threads and reestablish the connectiveness that allowed our communities to be the strong forces they once were in fighting poverty and achieving civil rights. “Any Black/Jewish forum should look for ways to work together to better America and to find the common ground that we both once stood upon,” Gutow said. Horwitz said not only did he and Thompson get to know and understand each other, but the two realized they shared a passion for Detroit and the region. For the past few years, whenever he and Thompson go out for lunch every two to three weeks, their conversations center around looking for ways to bring “the historically strong, but currently not so strong” Black/Jewish alliance closer together.
“It was really through those conversations, through getting to know each other, through getting to know our families that Bankole came up with the concept of a Black/ Jewish Forum,” Hortwitz said. “But not something that would be sterile. Not something that would be one and done. Not something that would be from organization to organization, or institution to institution. But, rather, we both felt the real power in re-energizing the Black/Jewish alliance.”
The forum, he pointed out, would create “ways people could engage each other on a personal level, their families, and understand and identify the shared interests they have, of which there are many.”
Thompson agreed that the forum shouldn’t be another “feel good” town hall meeting or panel discussion. Instead, the Black/Jewish Forum will be a continuous conversation on issues that will be held three times a year, every four months, with leaders and up-and-coming leaders from both communities.
“We plan to matchmake the guests that are coming to the forum,” he said, adding that leaders in the two communities will be paired with other leaders in similar roles. “Part of our vision here is to not only make this forum a national model showing that metro Detroit is more than the unflattering image that’s out there, but also a very important conversation platform for leaders locally, nationally and internationally,” Thompson said.
“Arthur and I recognize that we cannot change the world overnight, but we can contribute in our own way to making our community a better place for our children.” Horwitz expects forum participants to not only engage with each other and develop unique friendships, but also identify common areas of interest and work to build on them to create socioeconomic transformation. Thompson agrees.
“We realize there have been conversations and efforts in the past to strongly link the Jewish and African American communities,” he said. “The Black/Jewish Forum is an addition to what existed. Formalizing this past relationship into a permanent forum enhances the collaboration.” The concept of the Black/Jewish Forum instantly caught the attention and piqued the interest of many leaders in Southeast Michigan who have vowed to attend the inaugural launching.
“The response has been great. In fact, most of the people coming have been asking what role they can play. Some have said they are honored to be part of this event,” Thompson said. “If anything is going to be changed, it will be by those who are called to serve.”
Rabbi Daniel B. Syme of Temple Beth El applauded the effort and the spirit behind the October event, saying, “Black/Jewish relations are part of America’s dream and America’s soul. We share common pain and common triumphs, and nowhere is that bond celebrated more keenly than at Temple Beth El, Michigan’s oldest Jewish congregation.” “Temple Beth El has been, and will always be, in the forefront of struggles to achieve Tikkun Olam – healing our world. And one day, all the hands that reach ours in hope will touch in blessing.”
Horwitz wants the forum to be the standard bearer for partnerships that have at the core of their mission bettering the lives of people in African American and Jewish communities in Southeast Michigan and beyond.
“Ultimately, what we hope we’re doing is modeling behavior, because this is a region that we know is very diverse and very segregated,” Horwitz said. “What we’re hoping is that what we do here and the success we hope to have will show other groups in and around Detroit, that there are opportunities to link, to partner, to find and share a common agenda that’s good for them individually, good for their respective communities, and good for Detroit and the region overall.”
Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2011 16:38
Category: Prime Politics Written by Michigan Chronicle
You cannot build wealth without health, according to Gov. Rick Snyder, who recently introduced a bold plan to improve health and wellness across the state.
And what is the condition of Michigan’s health?
Critical, according to most published reports.
CAUSE FOR ALARM
Currently, 67 percent of Michigan adults are overweight or obese, consuming an average of 2,700 calories per day, an increase of over 500 calories more than 40 years ago.
While the obesity rate in America is more than double that of many European nations, our response has been paltry in comparison to our counterparts who have initiated aggressive policies to stem obesity rates through a so- called “fat tax” on fast and highly-processed packaged foods.
And although efforts to establish a “traffic light” coding system to help consumers separate good foods (green light) from bad (red light) failed in Europe, the initiative forced many manufacturers to reformulate packaged food products and introduce healthier food options.
While LivingWELL magazine and the Michigan Chronicle newspaper agree that it’s important to support healthier food choices, it does not endorse policies that absolve consumers of self-responsibility.
We are hopeful that Gov. Snyder’s aggressive stance to create “people powered” programs to stem rising obesity rates, based on taking responsibility for our lifestyle choices, will result in the type of programs capable of becoming a model for other states.
Gov. Snyder called for a Sept. 21 summit (Michigan Call to Action to Reduce and Prevent Obesity) to begin to address obesity concerns. The event was expected to attract key stakeholders, as well as serve as an important barometer of public concern.
FAT CHANCE IS NOW A CERTAINTY
“Every Michigander has a role to play in improving health and wellness,” said Gov. Snyder, who is encouraging Michigan residents to accept personal responsibility for their health.
“While medical advances can address many problems, all Michiganders have the power to improve their own health. This is critical because many of the chronic conditions we face, from diabetes to coronary heart disease, are greatly influenced by our lifestyle choices.”
We can and should make better decisions in regard to our lifestyle, according to the governor who advocates embracing positive habits such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting an annual check-up and not using tobacco.
If we don’t, officials worry that our health will deteriorate and healthcare costs will continue to climb, creating a major obstacle for the reinvention of our state.
“With 12.4 percent of our youth now obese, it’s particularly important that we stem the rising obesity tide,” stated Olga Dazzo, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, who is concerned that, left unchecked, the obesity epidemic will create the first generation of Michiganders that will not live as long as their parents.
Officials at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan report that obesity-related health care costs now total $3 billion, with 70 percent of medical expenses directly related to this epidemic, and are expected to climb dramatically if left unchecked.
The company has proven that health insurance plans can be leveraged to get people to engage in improving their own health. Blue Cross’ Healthy Blue Living health plan, launched five years ago, demonstrates that people respond well to financial incentives to quit smoking and adopt healthier lifestyles contained in innovative plans.
Improving access to healthcare is among the governor’s top priorities.
For too many individuals and small businesses, cost has put healthcare coverage out of reach, according to the Snyder administration. The Health Insurance Exchange, mandated by federal health care reform legislation, is an attempt to change that.
The Affordable Care Act requires states to establish a health insurance exchange by 2014. Snyder worries that if Michigan does not create its own exchange, the federal government will impose one.
He has asked lawmakers to pass legislation creating the MI Health Marketplace before Thanksgiving, which is an online based health insurance exchange based on free-market principles and a competitive marketplace.
SAVING OUR KIDS
When the American Heart Association asked parents what their number one healthcare concern was earlier this year, it was not surprised to discover that childhood obesity topped the list, over drug abuse and smoking.
We are raising a generation of kids addicted to bad foods and averse to activity.
The governor has proposed including Body Mass Index (BMI) information in the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, which tracks childhood immunization records, to increase obesity screening rates and improve treatment of childhood obesity.
The proposal is an important start toward addressing escalating obesity rates.
Even more promising is the governor’s pledge to work with Michigan’s farmers to alleviate the state’s obesity problem. The consumption of more Michigan produce will help the state of our economy and our health.
The governor’s efforts are generating praise from healthcare providers like Blue Cross.
“Blue Cross applauds Gov. Snyder for elevating the public focus on the childhood obesity epidemic in Michigan,” said Andrew Hetzel, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s vice president for Corporate Communications. “The prevalence of obesity among Michigan’s children is a health crisis that has the potential to rob our next generation of adults of a quality life and to drive healthcare costs to unaffordable levels.”
The obesity epidemic is a fight we cannot afford to lose. Join in the conversation at www.michigan.gov/snyder.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 20:04
Category: Prime Politics Written by Michigan Chronicle
The Washington Post is reporting that President Obama is facing uncomfortable questions from the Black community and Black lawmakers like those in the Congressional Black Caucus.
Obama’s initial strategy of distancing himself from the Black electorate when campaigning in order to appeal to a broader group of Americans is now backfiring amidst the downturn in the economy, including disproportionate levels of joblessness impacting Black communities.
The White House is now adjusting this strategy because it appears that President Obama may not be able to count on the Black vote without directly addressing the Black community. The White House dispatched top official Don Graves to participate in a Congressional Black Caucus jobs forum in Miami that had been scheduled in part to pressure the White House.
Graves, the executive director of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, told Black lawmakers that the president would consider taking executive action to enact at least parts of jobs-related measures they have introduced to no avail in the Republican-led House.
“You may not feel like the president is listening to you, but he hears you loud and clear,” Graves told the lawmakers before an audience of hundreds crammed into the pews of the Mount Hermon African Methodist Episcopal Church.
According to the Pew Research Center 95 percent of Black voters, 67 percent of Latinos and 62 percent of Asian-Americans went for Obama over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. The outreach project is looking to retain those numbers with Project Vote.
A statement from Obama for America said the campaign will combine grassroots organizing with digital outreach and voter registration to “expand the electorate” and “maximize participation from crucial constituencies.”
According to The National Journal, the Obama campaign will have to contend with a new slate of voter ID laws and other restrictions at the state level that will affect the very demographic groups Project Vote aims to reach. As many as 12 percent of eligible voters nationwide do not have a government-issued photo ID, and seniors, minorities, low-income voters and students are particularly likely to lack the correct documentation, the Brennan Center for Justice has found.
Obama strategist David Axelrod called the wave of voter ID legislation and other restrictions “calculated strategy” by Republicans to “hold down voter turnout,” USA Today reported in June.
“The reality is that Team Obama has lost significant ground with every constituency and they are scrambling to shore up those losses with Project Vote,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 August 2011 17:30
Category: Prime Politics Written by Frederick Cosby, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Rep. Allen West, the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is threatening to quit the group over what he considers racially divisive rhetoric by some of its members.
West, no stranger to fiery and controversial rhetoric himself, is miffed over statements by Reps. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) that were critical of the Tea Party, which helped West get elected last year.
Carson told an audience at a recent CBC event in Miami that “some of these folks in Congress right now would love to see us as second-class citizens,” adding “Some of them in Congress right now with this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me hanging on a tree.”
Waters has been equally disdainful of the Tea Party. At a recent CBC event near Los Angeles she maintained that “the Tea Party can go straight to hell.”
This was all too much for West, who fired off a letter to Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo), chair of the Black Caucus, demanding that he condemn the remarks.
“It’s unconscionable when a fellow CBC member, Congressman Andre Carson, comes to South Florida and claims that some in the Tea Party would love to see Black Americans ‘hanging from a tree,’” West wrote to Cleaver. “As Chairman of the CBC, I believe it is incumbent on you to both condemn these types of hate-filled comments and to disassociate the Congressional Black Caucus from these types of remarks. Otherwise, I will have to seriously consider my membership within the organization.”
Cleaver could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
Carson, one of two Muslim members of Congress, didn’t back down from his Tea Party assessment. Jason Tomcsi, in an e-mail to Politico, said Carson’s comment reflected the “frustration voiced by many in Miami and in his home district in Indianapolis regarding Congress’ inability to bolster the economy.
“The Tea Party is protecting its millionaire and oil company friends while gutting services that they know protect the livelihood of African-Americans, as well as Latinos and other disadvantaged minorities,” Tomcsi wrote. “We are talking about child nutrition, job creation, job training, housing assistance and Head Start, and that is just the beginning.”
Carson and Tea Party members have some history. In March 2010, he was walking with Cleaver and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) when they were accosted by angry demonstrators near the Capitol during a health care bill protest that was attended by thousands of Tea Party supporters. The black lawmakers said they were spat upon and called the N-word by protestors.
And West, a retired Army officer, has a history with volatile rhetoric. During his 2010 campaign, he claimed that he had a higher security clearance than President Barack Obama, a claim that the fact-checking web site PoltiFact gave its “Pants on Fire” rating.
In July, Cleaver said he intended to talk to West after the Florida freshman sent a scathing email to Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz after she challenged West’s commitment to Medicare on the House floor.
“Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a fight, I am happy to oblige,” West, a retired Army officer, wrote in the e-mail. “You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up.”
The comments about Wasserman Schultz who, ironically, is West’s congresswoman because he lives in her district, is some of the gentler stuff he’s said since coming to Capitol Hill.
In a July post to a Republican website, West wrote, “I must confess, when I see anyone is with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.” Speaking on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” West likened himself to Harriet Tubman, who helped slaves escape to freedom.
“So I’m here as the modern day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the Underground Railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility,” he told Bill O’Reilly.
Though he bristles at Carson’s lynching analogy, West had no problems backing conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham’s assertion last month that Black Caucus members like Waters and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) function as a “plantation boss.”
Lee’s office shot back to West’s words.
“Congressman West’s comments are absurd on their face,” said Kristal DeKleer, a Lee spokeswoman, “and are simply another in a long stream of incendiary comments designed to fan the flames of the extreme right while they continue to do nothing to create jobs and address the tremendous disparities we face in this nation.”
West is considered a star within the Tea Party. Some Tea Party supporters wanted him to run for president and have even urged Republican presidential candidates to consider West for vice president.
But the West bloom fell off the rose for some Tea Partiers when he backed a deal that paved the way for Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling and avoid defaulting on its loan obligations.
Not surprisingly, West had some choice words for fickle Tea Party people who jumped off his bandwagon.
“One minute they’re saying that I’m their ‘Tea Party hero’ and what, three or four days later, I’m a ‘Tea Party defector,’” he said. “That kind of schizophrenia I’m not going to get involved in.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 September 2011 16:36
Category: Prime Politics Written by Michigan Chronicle
Driven by a single-year surge of 24% in Hispanic enrollment, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds attending college in the United States hit an all-time high of 12.2 million in October 2010, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of newly available Census Bureau data.
From 2009 to 2010, the number of Hispanic young adults enrolled in college grew by 349,000, compared with an increase of 88,000 young Blacks and 43,000 young Asian Americans and a decrease of 320,000 young non-Hispanic Whites.
As a result of these shifts, young Hispanics for the first time outnumbered young Blacks on campus, even though young Black college enrollment has also grown steadily for decades and it, too, has surged in recent years. In 2010, 38% of all 18- to 24-year-old Blacks were enrolled in college, up from 13% in 1967 and 32% in 2008.
The Hispanic enrollment increase has been even more dramatic than the Black enrollment increase because it has been spurred by a mixture of population growth and educational strides.
High levels of immigration and high birth rates have made Hispanics the nation’s biggest minority group, comprising 16% of the U.S. population as of 2010. In 1972, just 5% of the nation’s 18- to 24-year-olds were Hispanic. By 2010, that share rose to 19%.
However, population growth accounts for only a share of the 24% young Hispanic college enrollment spike from 2009 to 2010. During that same period, the total population of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics grew by 7%.
Rising educational attainment is an important driver of these enrollment trends, over the long term as well as in recent years. The rate of young Hispanics enrolled in college rose from 13% in 1972 to 27% in 2009 to 32% in 2010.
Young Hispanics are disproportionately enrolled in two-year colleges. They comprised 22% of two-year students but only 12% of four-year students.
Young Hispanics continue to lag other groups in completion of four-year college degrees. In 2010 32% of 25- to 29-year-olds had attained a bachelor’s degree, in comparison to 13% of Hispanics of the same age.
These findings are based on an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s School Enrollment Supplement of the October 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS), supplemented by historical time series based on the CPS. The CPS is the standard source for national rates of college enrollment and has collected college enrollment information in a consistent manner since 1947.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 August 2011 17:24
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