Do we love Michelle more than Barack?

Truth veiled, Michelle Obama: Capitol Women's Power

It was a thrilling event, the unveiling of the bust of Sojourner Truth in Emancipation Hall of the new U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. While it was a decidedly Black affair–organized for the most part by Dr. E. Faye Williams and her troops in the National Congress of Black Women, I also detected what felt like a strong “feminist (if not Suffragist)” sentiment in the room.

First Lady Michelle Obama (whose family was the largest single private donor to the years-long project) was the really big star of the show bar none: which included three of the four most powerful women in America (Oprah was not there) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Oscar-winning actress Cicely Tyson.

Now, I could be wrong about this, but it seems like the ovation for Secretary Clinton was equal to that given to the absent President Barack Obama himself. Hm-m-m.

The late Dr. C. Delores Tucker, founder of NCBW would have been ecstatic!

Larger conspiracy re: ‘executive compensation’

The national debate about executive compensation is woefully inadequate. Most of the talk has been about CEO pay to companies receiving government “bailout” funds. But the problem goes much, much deeper.

Each of the Fortune 1,000 companies has a CEO, right? Plus, a CFO, a CIO, and a COO, right? Not to mention various and sundry Executive Vice Presidents and Vice Presidents. Then they all have boards of directors with upwards of 20 compensated board members each, right? So now, according to my calculations, we have a class of 30,000-40,000 or so individuals nationally with an interest in not having the government regulate executive compensation.

That’s big. That’s a lot of concerned individuals–all of whom have “friends” in Congress and the executive branch and they are spending millions, even as we speak, lobbying the government to keep their interests in mind. That’s more than just a one or two “rogue” CEOs.

Some companies, after receiving government bailout money, straightened out their bottom lines, and then decided to pay the government back, so as to keep the feds from meddling in their companies’ affairs. They seem most interested in keeping the executive compensation issue, out of the public discussion.

It’s not just a few CEOs who have a “nickel in this quarter.”

Let me describe their conundrum in my own version of “Faux Ebonics,” as if spoken by “Big Mama,” the grandmother, matriarch and head of a typical three-generation, inner-city household.

“Honey, I ain’t takin’ no mo’ that Gov’mint Cheese. De’Onte doin’ good now. Him an’ his frien’s down to the Rec Center, makin’ good money now. So we’s givin’ back dat Gov’mint Cheese, cuz we don’ wont none dem Social Wu’kers sniffin’ roun’ here no mo’.”

There’s a lot of “Cheese,” government and otherwise, on these executives’ tables too. A lot of Cheese is on the table.

Deeply Dismayed about Durban II

Back in 2001 I had one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life when I traveled to Kwa-Zululand in Azania–South Africa. There, on the Indian Ocean is Durban, and there, for two weeks, people of the world gathered to successfully address one of the world’s most vexing problems. It was the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Thanks to heroic efforts by the African Diaspora Group of diplomats and committed Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), the conference reached a monumental consensus, declaring (among other important decisions) the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade a “crime against humanity.” Together, the nations of the world reached that consensus.

There’s just one caveat however: by the time the final document was approved, after an all-night negotiating session on the final day of the meeting, the United States had already pulled out of the conference, declaring that the objective of ending racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance was not helped by the meeting’s insistence on concentrating on “the past,” rather than looking toward the future.

Prominently, and by their own insistence, world attention was focused on otherwise unheard of suffering people. The discrimination faced by tens of millions of India’s Dalit people–otherwise known as the “untouchables;” the suffering a centuries of persecution of Europe’s Roma people–otherwise known as the “Gypsies”–are classic examples of previously little-known problems which were brought to light in Durban.

In 2001, I thought the United States missed a golden opportunity to lead the world by example. Continue reading

Somalia: The ‘Real Pirates’ go unpunished

Many times I have walked the beaches of Tripoli in Libya, but I was never once shown the graves of U.S. sailors from the U.S.S. Philadelphia, or graves of the American Marines who marched there across the desert under the command of Gen. William Eaton in 1805. They are memorialized in the Marine Hymn: “…to the shores of Tripoli.”

Marines also earned their nickname–”Leathernecks”–during those Tripolitan battles which ended the tyranny of the dreaded Barbary Pirates, because they wore uniforms which had leather high collars to protect them from sword wounds.

I never imagined when I traveled to Tripoli–first in a 1978 delegation led by former U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, with Presidential brother Billy Carter in the country at the same time; or later after 12-hour boat rides from Malta; or after eight-hour motor caravans from Tunisia with Min. Louis Farrakhan during the era of sanctions–I never imagined that the heroism of those Marines would ever again be a practical example for modern American leaders.

But, lo and behold, the 21st Century world of naval shipping is again bedeviled by and at the mercy of pirates off the coast of Africa. Continue reading

Obama: Shared destiny? Separate destinies?

The elevation of Barack Hussein Obama to be the 44th President of the United States makes for some interesting deliberations. He’s a Black man. That goes without saying, but that fact has meaning beyond its historical “first-ness.”

Brother Malcolm X once said, and the statement still speaks for me: “I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I don’t even know if I’m and American.” President Obama is obviously a Democrat.

The reason that statement is pertinent to me is because of the promise in the Bible: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Now if that promise is also true of nations, then I personally don’t want any parts of the American inheritance for capturing, transporting, and subjugating hundreds of millions of Africans (incidentally murdering tens of millions during the Middle Passage) for more than 400 years; nor do I want America’s heritage for committing genocide against the native Indians; for despoiling the earth’s air and water; and for ruining the world’s economy with America’s thieving brand of robber-baron Capitalism.

But that’s just me. Continue reading