Category: Your Voice Written by Amber Bogins
As a people, our history in America has been both disheartening and inspiring. No one can deny the atrocities of slavery and the subsequent years leading to and during the Civil Rights Movement. Yet through seemingly insurmountable odds we have triumphed and excelled, surpassing the expectations of those who saw us only as property—as 3/5th human. Now, our President is black. We are the true embodiment of the American Dream.
But does that mean that our stories and our histories can only be retold as dramas, where we are victims—fearful yet determined to carve a better future for ourselves in a country that simultaneously needs and despises us? Can we handle a revenge plot where a free slave/bounty hunter endeavors to rescue his wife and take down his former master and the gruesome reality of slavery is shown merely to enhance the setting and not as the focal point?
With the recent release of Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained, it seems Hollywood is saying, “Yes”. This film has been a hit with critics and won two of the five Golden Globe Awards for which it was nominated. The cast is pretty evenly divided and Tarantino clearly wasn't interested in B-rent actors. Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Waltz are undeniably skilled actors. Tarantino has a style all his own that is generally respected. Django Unchained is just another Tarantino action film right?
Spike Lee took to Twitter the weekend the movie was released to show his displeasure with the film, tweeting that American slavery was a holocaust, not a “Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.” He says he will not see the movie on principle.
American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stole From Africa. I Will Honor Them.
December 22, 2012 10:18 pm via Twitter for BlackBerry® Reply Retweet Favorite
However the film’s star Jamie Foxx feels differently. According to an interview with the Guardian this month, Foxx admitted to having some reservations about the script, but was reassured by the director’s reputation and the supporting cast. He went on to say that if there are elements of Django Unchained that make you uncomfortable then so be it. “They’re supposed to.”
The questions really become how long will we hold onto the ghosts of the past? Will we ever be able to be uncomfortable and still enjoy the ride? Are we ready to let go of the past?
Follow Amber L. Bogins on Twitter @AmberLaShaii
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 10:17
Category: Your Voice Written by Eddie Connor
The meaning and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life is simple, whatever obstacle you’re facing, you can overcome it. The life of Dr. King reminds us that the greatest leaders are the greatest servants. Let us reflect upon the commitment of Dr. King to the advancement of humanity, in the midst of challenging times. As we look through the lens of life, we are truly living in challenging times. More than ever before, we must be analytical and critical thinkers. We must think critically in the chaotic times that we live in.
There are a myriad of pressing issues pervading our world today: the economy, health care, poverty, gun control, and violence to name a few. Yet education remains preeminent because as our education system goes, so goes our nation.
The question that we must ask ourselves is “what can I do to make the world a better place?” Not just presently but for future generations. There indeed is a great work for all of us to do. We must labor in order to reap a plentiful reward. There are no shortcuts in life, if you take shortcuts you will get cut short. We must understand that there is power in our productivity!
The Greek philosopher Aristotle declared, “we are what we repeatedly do.” What are you doing on a daily basis to repeatedly be successful? Who are you surrounding yourself with? Your relationships and friendships have a direct
impact on your future. I can tell the outcome of your future based on your present friendships. What words are you saying? Are you speaking negativity to yourself and others? You can create or destroy your future by the words that you use. Speak life and begin to empower yourself and others.
It is said that in Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s early life, he would spend hours reading books. While growing up in Atlanta, Georgia he literally drove adults crazy because of his curiosity that always evoked questions. Even as a young boy, he worried about people who didn’t have enough to eat. King was an extraordinarily intelligent individual who graduated high school at the age of fifteen.
Even at a young age, Martin had a strong sense of destiny. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College at the age of nineteen. He went on to earn a Theology degree from Crozer Theological Seminary and spent time in the state of Massachusetts attending Boston University, earning his Doctorate
degree in Systematic Theology. It is evident that the life of Dr. King was accelerated beyond his peers and young years, because little did he know that he only had 39 years of life to change a generation.
None of us know how much time we have. It’s imperative that we live each day on purpose, with purpose, and for a purpose. Just like Dr. King, you are on a crash course with destiny. It’s time to unearth and dig up the greatness that’s on the inside of you. You are special, you are significant, you are gifted and valuable. You are a red box and gold bow, because you are a gift to the world. Everyone of us is gifted, but the tragedy is that some people never open their package.
The best of you and me resides in the power of our psychology, the power of our mentality, spirituality, and the enormity of our destiny. We must expand the parameters of our minds and think BIG. If your vision, if your idea, if your dream is affordable, then you’re not dreaming BIG enough.
Why try to fit in, when you were born to stand out? It’s time to embrace your uniqueness. You’re too extraordinary to be ordinary, so manifest your destiny. This is your day to pursue your purpose, overcome obstacles, and become a preeminent voice for your generation.
We must bridge our differences and embrace the power of our diversity to learn from one another, grow together, and overcome every adversity. We must see strength in diversity, rather than weakness and adversity in diversity. Our diversity should unite us, not divide us.
Our communities are at an intersection and it’s either education or incarceration. Maybe not physically, but it can be a psychological imprisonment. We must empower our youth to recognize and realize that prison is not a rights of passage. Our youth don’t have to serve 4 years in a prison house, but they can graduate in 4 years from Morehouse...not prison but Princeton.
We have become so connected and interconnected today in our wired and wireless world, that we have adopted an “all about me” mentality. The names of technology devices reflect our selfish mindset, to where it seems as if everybody has an Ipod, Ipad, or Iphone in addition to a FACEbook and YOUTube. We have more but we do less with it.
Dr. King never had an email address, cell phone, Twitter account or access to other technological amenities, yet he still mobilized a movement with his mind. What resources will you use to uplift the masses? Don’t tell me that you don’t have the power to empower yourself. You have power in your mind and hands, how will you use it? You are your greatest resource. Everything you need is inside of you because there’s a King inside of you.
For to whom much is given, much is required. You have been given much and much more is required of you to enhance our world.
Whether Black, White, Asian, Hispanic or any other ethnicity, regardless of background, we are American and the last four letters in the word American is “I- Can.” You can move forward. You can achieve success. You can uplift the lives of others. You can think outside of the box. They will put you in a box when you're dead, so while you’re alive you might as well think outside of the box.
This is the year and this is the time to expand the parameters of your mind. Begin to think outside of the box and approach every obstacle with dogmatic determination, as a stimulus to reach the apex of opportunity.
It’s argued that no one did that more in the last 50 years than Dr. King. He was one who believed in justice and freedom for all. He also believed in establishing the beloved community, where love and peace are the governing norms and guiding principles of society.
Regardless of anyone’s race, Dr. King stood for truth, justice, liberation, and freedom as the governing norms of society. He always talked about non-violence and expressing love in spite of hate. You can’t talk about Dr. King without emphasizing non-violence, you can’t talk about King without emphasizing the beloved community, and you can’t talk about him without talking about the dream that he had. It was more than just a dream because he was not just a utopian dreamer, but he was a dreamer who believed in the relevance and reality of equality. He was one who challenged America. He challenged the governmental construct and the conscience of society.
Dr. King became the moral conscience of America. He challenged our nation and even the world in a greater context, to “learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” He proclaimed that “the true measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of crisis, challenge, and controversy.”
We must understand that Dr. King was not just for black people but he was for the oppressed, underserved, overlooked, and underrepresented. He was for everybody, whether it was poor Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. He spoke out against the Vietnam War on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was killed, saying “these Vietnamese people have not done anything to us and yet these innocent people are being killed for no other reason, other than to make America rich.”
Dr. King talked about the triple evils of society: war, poverty, and violence. He talked about racism and that’s why he launched a war on poverty saying “how can America be the richest nation in the world, yet people literally go to sleep hungry every night, how can America boast of being the richest nation in the world and yet we have folks sleeping on park benches and people not getting a good education, how can we go about as the richest nation in the world and not take care of our own people?”
Dr. King never attacked people personally, he attacked their policies and the issues. He went to the root of the problem and the heart of the matter. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. empowered others and stood up for equality and ethics,
so can YOU!
There’s a King inside of you to challenge the systems of society, there’s a King in you that will expand the parameters of your mind and the minds surrounded by you, there’s a King in you that will dream and not only dream but take action. There’s a King in you that will uplift education, do something good in your neighborhood, and empower surrounding communities. There’s a King in you
that has compassion for the least of these, those who are impoverished and disadvantaged. There’s a King in you that will invent, invest, and imbibe power and purpose into the lives of others. We must dream, we must strive, we must succeed and we must do it so well that the living, dead or unborn, couldn’t do it any better.
As we remember Dr. King and his dream, I encourage you to press on and keep on pressing. As Dr. King declared, “if you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl.” Whatever you do maximize every moment, live through dying places, see impossible as I’m possible, delete the letter “T” from the word can’t and transform it into CAN. It’s your time to turn every stumbling block into stepping stones, transform haters into elevators, use every bit of negative steam to power your dream, transform every hurt into healing, think positive in negative situations, and keep your mind on your mission.
Be relentless, be radical, be revolutionary, be resilient and birth the King that’s inside of you. This is your time to bless the world with your gifts and talents. Go for it!
Eddie Connor http://www.eddieconnor.com
Last Updated on Sunday, 20 January 2013 12:07
Category: Your Voice Written by Stacy Swimp
Michigan, January 16, 2013- Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, delivered his 3rd State of the State Address, accentuating the economic condition and direction of the State of Michigan.
After sharing a moving story about his visit to Kuwait and giving thanks to our men and women in the military, Governor Snyder began his speech by inquiring: “How is the economy?”
He then shared qualitative and quantitative results, highlighting some of the outcomes of his administration’s policies;
• Michigan has the 6th fastest growing economy in the nation
• Agribusiness has seen sugar and wheat experience record production
• In the Auto industry, 2.5 million units have been assembled In Michigan
• Tourism has netted a half Billion dollar increase
• The personal income growth in Michigan is the 9th fastest in the nation
• Michigan has gained 177,000 jobs since 2009
• There has been a 10 percent increase in home sales in Michigan
State Representative, Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson, MI) weighed in on the accomplishments highlighted by Governor Snyder:
“With his leadership we have transitioned from getting our balance sheet in order thru making Michigan more attractive to long term, sustained business investment. Now it's time to focus on making Michigan more attractive to "families and ALL taxpayers"....and that's exactly what he laid out tonight in his State of the State.”
Governor Snyder suggested several Reforms that will help Michigan continue to head in the right direction.
• Personal Property Tax Reform
• Unemployment Reform
• Regulatory Reform (There are 10 rules eliminate for every rule created in Michigan)
• Tort Reform (Snyder said Michigan has the best such reform in the nation)
Represent Shirkey, elaborating on Snyder’s speech:
"I continue to be encouraged with Governor Snyder's commitment to take on tough, long standing issues without retreat. He is not afraid to step up and face current realities despite opposing inertia of status quo advocates. We have some tough hurdles yet to overcome. But if we stay focused on reinventing Michigan's future we will find the strength and fortitude to overcome politics."
Governor Snyder articulated his commitment to build a bridge: “We are moving on with the bridge.” said Snyder, standing by his promise that the bridge will not involve any tax dollars.
Snyder spoke of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) which he says will drastically improve transportation in Metro Detroit.
Developing and cultivating trust relationships in struggling Michigan communities and leading by example appears to be very important to the Governor.
An initiative his administration created, which addresses the above-stated, is called: “Pathway to Potential”, where government employees are encouraged to leave government offices and spend their time working in Flint, Detroit, and Saginaw, Michigan.
“It is important to go to the customers and show them success”. Snyder said.
Snyder continued to emphasize, throughout his speech, the economic progress of the State of Michigan, explaining how Michigan had experienced 44 years of economic downturn prior to his administration.
However, not everyone was as impressed as the Governor might have hoped for.
Scott Hagerstrom, Executive Director of Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, called into question some of Governor Snyder’s narrative:
"Governor Snyder's Keynesian solutions of higher taxes are not welcome news for struggling Michigan families. As Governor Snyder noted, 1965 was a high-water mark for the Michigan economy. What Snyder fails to recognize is Michigan's implementation of the state income tax in the late 1960s was a primary reason for our economic decline. Michigan is competing with nine states that do not tax work. This is why Louisiana and Nebraska Governors are looking to eliminate their state income tax."
Hagerstrom concluded: "While AFP-MI applauds the Governor for his support of Workplace Freedom legislation in December, it is time to surpass other states through additional groundbreaking reform for Michigan - the elimination of the state income tax."
Governor Snyder offered a bleak analysis of Michigan’s educational system.
• Only 17 percent of the State are college graduates
• 60 percent of the students in local community colleges are taking remedial classes because they are not college ready
The E.A.A. (Education Achievement Authority of Michigan - Education Achievement System) is a part of Snyder’s solution to gradually fixing Michigan’s broken education system.
The longer school year, Individualized learning centers and “no grade system” of the E.A.A. appears to be making great progress within the pilot programs Governor Snyder has created in urban communities.
Snyder was noticeably excited when he announced the creation of a new agency which has been created to focus solely upon assisting Military veterans with finding gainful employment, particularly in skill trades
Skill trades are an issue the Governor expressed as among his priorities. He noted how Michigan has numerous jobs in skill trades that are available, but are not being filled.
Governor Snyder has, throughout his administration, been vigilant in working to remove barriers to skill trade jobs being filled by Michigan residents. Banning the discriminatory, anti-open merit shop labor policy, Project Labor Agreements, is one the steps he has taken.
Unfortunately, Labor Unions have not been supportive of the Governor’s efforts to help create a level playing field where all Michigan skill trade workers have an opportunity to work, union and non-union alike.
Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman and former State Rep., Dave Agenda, had the following to say about the Governor’s speech:
“The Governor and the legislature have done an outstanding job of making Michigan a better place to do business, which helps job creation. However, the breakdown of the family in our state has caused crime and entitlement dependency which must also be addressed.”
“As a conservative”, Agema added, “I'd prefer to see a prioritization of all spending before any taxes, fines or fees are raised. Moreover, I would like to see necessary changes in our laws to prevent illegal immigration and foreign laws from entering into our courts, causing our citizens to lose their constitutional rights from trans-national judges. We must defend our constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. Thus far, we have not done so.”
Overall, Governor Snyder focused strictly upon the gains of the State, praising those who have played a significant role in those gains, concluding his speech by promoting a bipartisan message:
“We must work hard to find common ground where we can work together’.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 January 2013 11:13
Category: Your Voice Written by Britney Spear
We knew it was coming. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the issue of gun control has taken on a life of its own, with people from all walks of life jumping in on the discussion. You have witnessed it in one form or another. Perhaps most notable and frequent are CNN host Piers Morgan' ongoing debates with a few of the biggest proponents of the National Rifle Association, perpetuating an endless fight over what do about concealed weapons.
The shocking and senseless death of twenty innocent, bright-eyed first graders has placed tremendous pressure on the government to react. Many feel that in light of the recent episodes of violence across the country, folks in Washington must do something to at least curtail the possibility of events like mass shootings.
But, what is the real solution? Is it gun control, or are there bigger issues, ones too complex to tackle at this time? Perhaps, the quickest form of action is to focus on the weapons at the center of this recent spike in mayhem as seen in places like Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO, and even at Virginia Tech.
One thing that cannot be denied is the country has been watching intensely to see how President Barack Obama will respond to the issue of gun control.
On Wednesday, he signed 23 executive actions that did not require approval from Congress. This update not only strengthens existing legislation but also considers issues such as mental health and school safety. New laws will require background checks on persons purchasing guns and ban certain assault weapons with high-capacity magazines. Obama is taking specific measures to address what can be controlled and to some extent accounted for by the law. Government has a responsibility to do all it can to protect its citizens.
Time will reveal the extent to which the new plan will affect gun violence. There's a well known phrase that 'guns don't kill people; people kill people". New laws won't solve all our problems. Nevertheless, our President's recent action is a step in the right direction.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 January 2013 09:04
Category: Your Voice Written by Mark S. Lee
In the late hours of New Year’s 2013, the House approved a deal which helped the country from going over the “fiscal cliff.” The House voted 257-167 to approve the business, meaning 98% of U.S. taxpayers will not see tax increases while extending unemployment benefits. Additionally, a sweeping round of tax increases and government spending cuts were avoided — for the time being.
In other words, the Bush-era tax cuts will remain in effect permanently and will now become part of the United States tax code.
Conversely, the top 2%, individuals and families earning over $400,000 and $450,000 will see tax increases.
Bottom line: This will help generate revenue to fund various federal programs in the future.
However, this sets up another political showdown in March. This new “March Madness” debate will focus on spending cuts and on raising the nation’s limit on borrowing.
In other words, potentially debating the debt ceiling crisis — or, essentially, how much the government can borrow to fund federal programs.
With this as a backdrop, how does the deal approved last week affect entrepreneurs or small business owners?
According to the Washington Post, it appears the deal will garner mixed reactions from the small business community. The paper states various compromises as part of the package will most likely include stipulations generally to assist and potentially hinder entreprenuers, depending on your situation.
The paper cites critical measures which will most likely impact start-ups and/or small businesses:
• Overall Taxes: If you’re a small business with a pass-through income of over $450,000 and $400,000 for families or individuals, respectively, expect your tax rates to increase. With income levels less than those amounts, don’t expect an increase.
• R&D Investment: Tax credits were extended and reinstated retroactively for 2012, As an employer, you qualify for tax breaks ranging from 6 percent and 14 percent of the businesses R&D expenditures.
• Section 179 continued: According to the Post, “…Congress renewed for another year the maximum deduction levels for bonus depreciation and Section 179, which give tax breaks to businesses that purchase or lease software and equipment — both provide a boost for small employers planning to invest back into their firms in 2013”.
• The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC): Tax incentives for firms that hire widely underemployed groups like youths and veterans will be extended and you can expect breaks for renewable energy technologies and retail/restaurant improvements, which were extended through 2013.
• Payroll taxes increased: Expect payroll taxes to increase to 6.2 percent—up from percent for all Americans. The lawmakers in Washington did not address this issue as part of the recently negotiated deal. Economists warned the move could cripple consumer spending — a bad sign for small businesses who have already been complaining of low customer demand.
• Capital gains rates increased: While dividend rates didn’t tick up nearly as much as the White House had hoped, capital gains and dividends did slightly increase to 20 percent for high-income earners, which entrepreneurship advocates fear could deter some investments in new and growing firms.
The bottom line is if you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re encouraged to stay on top of this deal and do your research. Do your due diligence and try to understand, as much as possible, potential implications to your business.
Additionally, I encourage you to review and, where appropriate, adjust your short term and longer term business plan, including your financials. This will enable you to manage your business in an effective manner.
Again, this is a critical piece of legislation and I encourage you to stay on top of this developing story.
Last Updated on Monday, 14 January 2013 10:05
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