Category: Your Voice Written by Thomas Stallworth
The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC) is ready to work with the Legislature and the governor to ensure that the issues of the state’s urban communities, distressed communities and communities of color are addressed. Michigan’s turnaround won’t be complete unless urban communities share in the jobs, infrastructure and education improvements that the governor talked about in his State of the State address.
The governor talked about working together to get things done, and my colleagues and I are willing to listen. But we need to know that he is committed to the needs of our communities, and that rebuilding infrastructure includes a priority of creating jobs in distressed communities as well as elsewhere in Michigan.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Snyder presented a rosy picture for Michigan in reviewing his dashboard and economic progress. His overview, however, masks the fact that much of Michigan is being left behind. For example, African-American unemployment is double the state rate, more than 35% of Michigan families are living in poverty and that urban students are more than twice as likely to attend high-poverty failing schools. Effectively addressing these issues to ensure equal rights and access to a desirable quality of life for all of Michigan will require transformational leadership committed to addressing the issues of race and poverty with candor, transparency and courage.
Additionally, in laying out the state of the state, the governor was strangely silent on the need for Detroit to make a full and sustainable recovery. With the state’s largest city quickly moving toward an emergency manager, along with numerous other urban centers facing similar challenges, a strategic urban plan is required if Michigan is truly going to reinvent itself. The MLBC is pleased to hear that an emphasis will be placed on some neighborhood initiatives, but a comprehensive plan is required, including capturing opportunities for local revenue generation, business development and cost savings, rather than cost cutting that erodes critical services. The state must assume accountability for contributing to local financial issues through policies such as cuts to revenue sharing and education and failing to pass numerous “population” bills critical to Detroit’s turnaround. We have, in effect, reduced the state’s deficit and increased the Rainy Day Fund on the backs of local communities and our citizens are suffering as a result.
Clearly, repairing Michigan’s roads should be a priority, and the governor did a good job of presenting his business case. However, I am concerned about the call for ‘user fees’ to fund infrastructure improvements because any gas tax or auto registration fee increase is going to be doubly hard on the people my MLBC colleagues and I represent. Our first discussion, when he comes to us with his proposal, should be a business case for closing social and economic racial disparities in ways that make supporting such fees palatable, treat our communities fairly, and deliver a maximum return on their quality of life. If we can justify raising $1 billion a year for roads, we should be able to justify investing in the future of communities of color.
In the coming weeks, MLBC members would address these and other community issues while detailing its policy and budget priorities.
Thomas Stallworth is a state senator from Detroit.
Last Updated on Saturday, 09 February 2013 18:04
Category: Your Voice Written by Harvey Santana
The people of Michigan deserve a government that works for them and makes this state a better place to live. As elected officials, our highest duty is to serve the needs of those people who entrusted us with the power to represent them.
The Lansing political environment has been poisoned by the events of the lame duck session. Some political strategists believe the Democrats should adopt a “just say no” strategy which is the same tactic Republicans in Washington adopted four years ago against President Obama. The results of that was a “do-nothing Congress” with historically low public approval ratings. That strategy is designed to fail. My Democratic leadership has pledged to continue to make serious efforts to work across the aisle to create meaningful solutions. In order to move forward, Democrats must be allowed to move bills that will strengthen Michigan’s economy. In the past two years, Democrats have been shut out of the process.
We should begin the new session of the Michigan Legislature by taking fast action on the many items we can agree upon. Among the items in Gov. Snyder’s State of the State address that I can enthusiastically embrace are the following.
The governor has proposed a $10 billion infrastructure investment into our road system and transportation network. As a person who drives a car, I welcome that proposal. In working towards this objective our challenge is to find a way to fund it fairly and spread the cost fairly across the state. The state which gave us the automobile should not have some of the worst roads in the United States.
Michigan and Detroit have the unique advantage of being in a desirable geographic position enabling us to become the hub of a transportation network including air, land and water. We can bring tens of thousands of jobs to the area and the impact of those jobs will help both business and the employees who work for them. As Mayor Coleman A. Young once observed, “There isn’t a problem in Detroit that a good job with some benefits can’t solve.”
The governor wants to make jobs and improving Michigan’s economy his top priority. I agree. We need to adopt pro-growth policies which help business expand and hire more workers. Our goal as state lawmakers must be to grow the economy. If that is truly our goal then I am excited to continue the work that the people of my district sent me to Lansing to accomplish.
The governor wants to increase aid for military veterans and I support that without reservation. As a veteran of the United States Navy, I have experienced the problems veterans feel when they attempt to transition into civilian life. The governor has asked us to work with him as he looks towards enhancing and expanding programs to help veterans obtain education and job training. Undoubtedly, those are areas we should act upon quickly.
With the Sandy Hook massacre behind us, many are now looking at rebuilding our system of public mental health. I was encouraged to hear Gov. Snyder endorse more funds and more programs in this vital area for all of us. Let’s begin rebuilding a once strong system and let’s do it in a true bi-partisan approach.
Several Detroit legislators have backed a series of proposals known as the Strengthening Neighborhoods and Communities acts. The governor endorsed these in his speech and I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with him in fighting the corrosive effects of slumlords and the destructive impact they have, particularly in the city of Detroit.
My commitment in this 97th legislature is to work across the aisle with Republicans to find solutions to these important issues. Entrenching ourselves in deep ideological beliefs does not serve the citizens of Michigan. Working together is what the people have sent us to do in Lansing and I look forward to this legislative session.
Last Updated on Friday, 08 February 2013 13:41
Category: Your Voice Written by Eddie Conner
People always talk about embracing change. Letʼs be honest with ourselves and afﬁrm that change hurts. I donʼt know about you but it hurts to eat differently, change your old habits, and do what you donʼt feel like doing. How can you heal, if you wonʼt keep it real? Yes, even the truth hurts, but it will set you free.
They say “old habits die hard.” Iʼm convinced that people donʼt like change, because it hurts to break out of your comfort zone and cycle of old habits. Arenʼt you tired of a new year but the same old, same old?
You will remain in a cycle of self-destructive behavior if you donʼt change your mindset and break out of the box. The reason people do wha they do is because of how they think. What youʼre doing and where youʼre going has everything to do with what youʼre thinking.
I wish there was an anesthetic for change, so I wouldnʼt have to feel the peaks and valleys of transformation. Donʼt you just wish you could wake up from the anesthesia and there be no more struggle, temptation, obstacles, or thoughts of negativity? Snap out of wishful thinking, because to make it through this life youʼre going to have to ﬁght to overcome the “inner-me” which is often our greatest enemy.
Since there is nothing to numb the pain of change, youʼre going to feel every stretching point and every bit of discomfort. This is why they call it “growing pains” because it hurts to change and grow. We must get uncomfortable with being comfortable and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Everyday weʼre in a ﬁght between who we were,
who we are, and who we have the potential to become. Donʼt let your past or present become a prison that shackles your future. The past is a prison but your future is freedom!
It takes a changed and charged mindset to break free from negativity. Just like your computer and phone needs to be charged, so too your mind must be charged and connected to a power source. If youʼre plugged into and connected to negativity, you wonʼt have the energy and wisdom to sustain your life. As the days, weeks, months, and
years progress your strength and vitality will be depleted. You will eventually become a product of who and what youʼre connected to. Disconnect yourself from bad relationships, fear, gossip, depression, drama, and negative thinking. Plug into the SOURCE of power, love, strength, peace, joy, hope, and youʼll have all of the RESOURCES that you need to succeed in life.
Yes, “OLD habits die hard” but NEW habits can spring life into your spirit, invigorating you with hope and determination. Want things to change? Change! You canʼt become all that you can be, by remaining all that you have been. Change will never happen TO you, if it ﬁrst doesnʼt happen IN you. This is your time to step into the best and blessed days of your life!
Last Updated on Saturday, 02 February 2013 19:54
Category: Your Voice Written by Zack Burgess
More money. More fame. More freedom. More everything.
Life for the black athlete in America has drastically changed in less than half a century. Yet despite the multimillion-dollar contracts, endorsement deals and free agency, professional athletics suffer from a huge void.
I grew up during the 1970s and '80s with superstars who made our jaws drop — whether they were in uniform or not. They were champions on the field. They were leaders off the field. I don't see anyone out there today who fits this description. Correction: I do. But it's often for the wrong reason.
This came to me as I was watching the Super Bowl last night, a stage so large, where voices can be heard. I couldn't help but be saddened and wonder where the voice of the engaged, passionate and socially conscious athlete had gone. What happened to Muhammad Ali? What happened to Jim Brown?
Ali was more than a physical specimen; he was a winner. He was a personality that created a legacy and spirit of goodness and humanity. Ali was an artistic, unrestricted man of vision and change. But while Ali was as much a political wonder as an athletic one, Michael Jordan was as close to superhero status as any man of our time.
Jordan's was the quintessential image of the '90s, even though his apolitical stance on issues concerning the black community was legendary, and he once went so far as to say, "Republicans buy sneakers too" when asked for an important endorsement of a black Democratic politician. One of the things that people liked about him was that he was ruthlessly unapologetic about who he was as a person. He wore tailor-made suits, played golf, smoked cigars, gambled and talked in the third person. Let's just face it: Despite his shortcomings, Jordan was cool.
But his cool and unapologetic personality seems to have ushered in a new type of modern athlete, and perhaps triggered the extinction of the socially conscious sports icon. He obviously didn't pass along to the top athletes of today what he learned from superstars like Magic and Dr. J. You see, icons are a combination of charisma, social consciousness and media creation, and whether it's Jordan or Joe Namath, they somehow become bigger than life itself.
Derek Jeter has been with us now for more than 15 years and has won a surplus of championships with the Yankees, and yet we still have no idea who he is as a person. After 10 years in the NBA, LeBron James has started winning, but who is he? What does he stand for? Today’s athlete gives the impression of wanting to please the establishment first and foremost. With a Black community in peril it’s almost as if they do not care. Keep in mind…I say this with caution, because I know for a fact that there are some professional athletes that really do care.
What we presently have is a plethora of walking and breathing companies that refuse to come down on the side of any issue, just like a Fortune 500 company that contributes to both political parties, no matter the outcome.
But we also have a generation of athletes devoid of personality, which makes it even worse. I wonder how so many sports stars can live with themselves and consistently ignore the issues of today. Let's do a moral inventory of the problems that have affected, and continue to affect, us globally.
There are still tremendous problems in Haiti. And while Alonzo Mourning has done a wonderful job with his efforts, he seems to be alone. AIDS continues to run rampant in America and Africa. The high school drop-out rate among African Americans is atrocious, poverty is at an all-time high and the mass incarceration of black men is epidemic. The modern athlete represents the worst of the United States today: widespread selfishness and a distressing philosophy of corporate self-indulgence. Obviously, greed has changed the games we love to watch and play.
As the Super Bowl made its way into our living rooms, I couldn’t help but wonder…what will happen to these young men and women after they leave the confines and comfort of professional sports?
Unfortunately, I should be just as embarrassed. Because I have to ask myself what I'm doing to help change the problems that infect our communities. Maybe, just like me, athletes have become overwhelmed with the horrors that our people face.
I'm sure that the athletes and parents who paved the way for us all aren't happy about the situation. At some point, we have to stop being scared and get in the fight. It's the only way that heroes and icons are created. They gave us the blueprint. Don't you think we need to follow it?
Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2013 10:10
Category: Your Voice Written by D. Alexander Bullock
150 years since the emancipation proclamation, African Americans still are trying to make the American Dream make sense. Freedom has opened up new opportunity, new responsibility and old pitfalls. It turns out that slavery and racism were not only personal preferences; they were powerful institutions. They determined the law, the language, the land use and the overall social, political and economic opportunities. The emancipation proclamation and subsequent landmark civil rights legislation mostly outlawed overtly using power arbitrarily. The freedom struggle in American was successful in changing the kinds of words and images that Americans felt were appropriate. However, the underground system of state control over the legal, political and economic opportunities still carries the sludge and stench of second-class citizenship and group disenfranchisement. The movie Django satirizes this truth. The city of Detroit lives this reality.
Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie Django Unchained has recently come under fire from notable filmmaker Spike Lee. Lee thinks the movie is disrespectful to African-American history. The movie is set in the South two years before the Civil War; Jamie Foxx plays Django - a freed slave who is intent on saving his wife Broomhilda. Django Unchained may be disrespectful, but it rings true. African-Americans live in a context ultimately framed by political, economic and social forces beyond our control. In the movie, Jamie Foxx’s character is an ex-slave who can kill white criminals because he is a bounty hunter empowered by the federal government. His bride and other African Americans have no rights and are the property of Mr. Candie according to the laws of Mississippi. Django’s freedom and empowerment and ultimately that of his wife and race rest on the imposition of federal government power over state authority. The persistent problem of African-American economic equality and a successful resolution to the problems of poverty and the creation of a permanent underclass are caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of state government and federal jurisdiction. 150 years after the emancipation proclamation and 50 years after the I Have a Dream Speech, we remain in a tug of war between disenfranchising state governments and an empowering federal government.
Detroit, Mich. is in turmoil many say because of a lack of leadership. The tale suggests that the mayor of the city has little credibility with the citizens and the city council members are already gearing up for their reelection campaign. It is unclear what the county government is willing to or can provide. The truth is there is a lot of leadership in Detroit - the state government. Much like Mr. Candie, a character in Django Unchained, Governor Rick Snyder thinks he can do whatever he wants with his Negroes according to Michigan law. He can put them in the hot box, feed them to the packs of feral dogs running lose in the city, or simply watch them shot each other to death from the comfort of his high chair – the governor’s seat. Indeed, for many, Michigan has become the new Mississippi. Strangely enough, the federal government seems more interested in bigger reform issues like immigration reform, gun reform and health care reform rather than protecting democracy and fighting poverty in the state of Michigan. The state of Michigan has unilaterally restricted the right of local citizens to control their own cities and school districts, it has ignored its duty to ensure that children learn to read in cities like Highland Park, it is apart of a seemingly new national movement to experiment with the electoral college by diluting the voting power of African Americans and other minorities and supports a plan to turn the city of Detroit into a neo-plantation. There is a lot of leadership in Detroit. It is the kind of leadership that intends to use institutional power to keep people poor, uneducated and uninformed. Our empowerment depends heavily on the willingness of the federal government to aid us in fighting state oppression. In the end, Django destroys the Big House. With federal government help, Detroit must do the same thing to the owners that occupy the state capital in Lansing and transform state oppression into opportunity.
D. Alexander Bullock is the senior pastor of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, as a local leader he serves as president of the Highland Park NAACP and president of the Rainbow PUSH Detroit Chapter/ State Coordinator. He is the national spokesperson for the Change Agent Consortium.
Last Updated on Thursday, 31 January 2013 09:16
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