Sunday, March 9, 2014

Obama’s “New Jack” Initiative

Getting Around To Historically Disadvantaged America

By Stephanie A. Walker Stradford and Eric Stradford, USMC Retired

AMWS March 9, 2014, Selma, Al – Remnant factions of the American Civil Rights movement returned to Selma, today. Their sojourn demonstrates collective resolve to remember what happened here on that day in 1965 marked by history as Bloody Sunday.

A frustrated Obama Administration has been seeking ways and means to reverse negative outcomes for historically disadvantaged Americans.  Meanwhile, black folk are pretty much sick and tired of waiting for America to heal itself. “There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement,” said President Obama. “And, is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”

Southern Christian Leadership has been “slow-walkin’” the very same issue since the evolution of American Negroes to minorities. The Reverend Leodis Strong, pastor of Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma, AL tracks a trail of blood and tears as far back as Colonial America.

In 1783, Free Africans engaged a nation in healing itself from a great plague of Yellow Fever. Throughout history, the A.M.E. Church has been engaged in human rights, civil rights and economic parity.  In 1955, one humble church member stood for right by taking a seat on a bus. In 1965, trouble met American Negroes on a bridge in Selma. Their struggle for the right to vote has encountered injustice from under white sheets of local justice and, in 2013, from under black robes at the highest court in the land.

That year, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) took a bite out of justice when it ruled portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional. The court ruled in favor of chaos caused by racism, discrimination and outright denial of human rights. In the unprecedented reversal of landmark logic, SCOTUS acknowledged: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting, “an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution.” The court then decided that healing might come from restoring chaos instead of upholding community.

Southern Christian Leaders are marking this year of Jubilee for the Voting Rights Act with a renewed hope that trouble don’t last always. They’ve joined a national partner, Youth Achievers USA Institute, to help leaders and philanthropic investors accurately scope a National Security problem that threatens the lives of Americans. On the road from Selma to Montgomery, sons and daughters of voting rights advocates are reliving a cause that shook the conscience of the nation.  However, it appears that America’s memory is short-lived.

At the same time, civil rights leaders are pressing for added value to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. “The newest twist on an historically disadvantaged reality promotes a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color,” said H. Benjamin Williams, Ed.D.

The SCLC chapter president has been forming circles of diverse neighbors within and adjacent to Cobb County, GA, sharing a common interest in governmental transparency. Williams’ thrust, “Information to Operation,” identifies seven key areas of need from which “effective, inclusive” engagement might connect institutions of means with citizens in need.

Broderick Johnson heads the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Civil rights advocates like Dr. Williams hope that public and private action can compliment efforts already in motion and in need of funding. Both Williams and Broderick believe the Federal Government’s own policies and programs can better support these efforts and better involve state and local officials, the private sector, and the philanthropic community.

Georgia Representative John Lewis serves as a daily reminder of a need to be my brother’s keeper. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Lewis’ personal recollection of Bloody Sunday offers evidence that institutional behavior, as well as individual attitudes, needs to change.  Lewis’ story of student nonviolent intervention offers one best-practice in a portfolio of stuff that can work on Our Street, USA.

The Stephanie Tubbs Jones Assets for Independence Reauthorization Act of 2013, sponsored by Lewis, is just one example of a bill stuck on Capitol Hill, trying to become law of the land. As an economic opportunity program, Assets For Independence is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – an agency focused heavily on a March 31 Affordable Healthcare sign-up deadline.

The President’s new initiative presents a timely opportunity for total recall. Those who choose to remember Bloody Sunday on Pettus Bridge are likely to value voting rights, civil rights and an ongoing struggle for economic security.

Those who choose to forget or devalue Bloody Sunday are less likely to learn from America’s past mistakes. In the 1971 film, New Jack City, actors Wesley Snipes and Allen Payne faced off with the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Payne’s final act was to die at Snipe’s hand.

In fact, the question has been asked and answered in just about every generation since the first family of humanity. Positive Youth Development practitioners here point to a first family issue where the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?

# # #

Talking Points:  Bridge Crossing Re-Enactment and March

Sunday - March 9, 2014

10:00 a.m. -   Sunday Morning Prayer, Praise and Worship

1:30 p.m. – Pre-March Rally, Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church

2:30 p.m. – Edmund Pettus Bridge Crossing

Monday - March 10, 2014

Selma to D.C. Freedom Rides for Voting Rights

8:00 a.m. – Leave Edmund Pettus Bridge – Selma, AL

9:00 a.m. – Montgomery, AL State Capitol

11:00 a.m. – Tuskegee, AL Municipal Complex

3:30 p.m. – Atlanta, GA State Capitol

Tuesday - March 11, 2014

9:30 a.m. – Columbia, SC State Capitol

4:00 p.m. – Raleigh, NC State Capitol

Wednesday - March 12, 2014

9:00 a.m. – Richmond, VA State Capitol

2:00 p.m. – U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, DC

4:00 p.m. – U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC

Wednesday - March 28-29, 2014

Talking Points: My Brother’s Keeper

Morehouse – U.S. Department of Education on African Americans

The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force will work across executive departments and agencies to:

Assess the impact of Federal policies, regulations, and programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones.

Recommend, where appropriate, incentives for the broad adoption by national, State, and local public and private decision makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for boys and young men of color.

Create an Administration-wide “What Works” online portal to disseminate successful programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.

Develop a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education, that will assess, on an ongoing basis, critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color in absolute and relative terms.

Work with external stakeholders to highlight the opportunities, challenges, and efforts affecting boys and young men of color.

Recommend to the President means of ensuring sustained efforts within the Federal Government and continued partnership with the private sector and philanthropic community as set forth in the Presidential Memorandum.

Talking Points: National Learn-2-Earn (Future Corps)

The National Learn-2-Earn Partnership envisions an American future in which citizens of color are valued as equals (vs minorities) and economic means are applied to economic needs.

The partnership invites any family, local or national nonprofit, church, ministry, foundation or agency to engage in boots-on-the-ground intervention for HEALING, FEEDING, HOUSING, LEARNING, EARNING, LIVING and GIVING. An interdisciplinary approach seeks support from Interior, Commerce, Treasury, Transportation, and Homeland Security to augment existing Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP) strategic planning. The L2E demonstration specifically applies to the IWGYP’s definition of POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

· The L2E demonstration invests in a Future Corps of Americans, youth ages 7-24, each of whom will qualify as a Community Asset by writing seven (7) personal goals for interdisciplinary lifelong learning and earning.

· The L2E demonstration engages a whole village of 20 caring adults as economic stakeholders in each Community Asset’s future.

· The L2E demonstration qualifies one of 20 caring adults as a Community Asset Manager through whom resources are managed for each Community Asset and 20 economic stakeholders.

· The L2E demonstration begins an investment of $5 per caring adult stakeholder for an initial deposit of $100 for each Community Asset.

· The L2E demonstration qualifies Community Asset Managers and youth beneficiaries for program task force participation and election as officers of participating nonprofit corporations.

· The demonstration identifies a national 501c3 public charity applicant for federal and philanthropic investment. Philanthropic investment of $5 million USD funds annual operating budgets of $500K USD for 10 years.

· A Microsoft grant provides immediate technical support and sustainable engagement of 24 Community Asset Managers.

· A Merck Foundation grant supports initial partnership development and match funding for quantifying each Community Asset.

· A CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL SERVICE grant (May 2014 pending) outlines an overall Boots-on-the-Ground strategy featuring lessons learned from the American Civil Rights movement, FDIC Financial Literacy and circular capacity building.

· A Kellogg Foundation grant (applied for) identifies matching funds for the CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL SERVICE demonstration. Requested funding supports 6 of 24 Community Asset Manager positions. Support from My brother’s Keeper partners would expedite development efforts.

· An ASSETS FOR INDEPENDENCE grant (requires federal policy action) identifies a federal source for an eight to one (8:1) match towards a Community Asset.

· A CDFI New Market Tax Credit allocation of $150 million identifies a source of philanthropic capital for funding replicable 10 year nonprofit budgets.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Chaos, Community…or Christ?

Where 2.1 Billion Christians Go From Here

By Stephanie Walker Stradford and Eric Stradford, USMC Retired 

PRAYER CHANGES THINGS! Bishop Sarah Frances Davis is the 124th elected, consecrated, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in a succession plan dating back to July 1816. In her temporal economy (Feb. 4, 1948 - Nov. 9, 2013), she practiced Southern Christian Leadership from a uniquely endowed perspective.


AMWS, December 31, 2013, Church Universal – The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States counts 7,095,217,980 humans in the world according to its July 2013 estimates. One of our friends, a former CIA employee, has been hoping to connect with about 33% percent of the world population to tap into what he knows to be underutilized assets measured by a national debt of $17,248,088,481,989.88 .

Leutrell Osborne, Sr., author of the book, Black Man in the CIA, is a veteran of the U.S. Army.  In addition to his now transparent past experiences among “spooks by the door,” Osborne has been reflecting on some past sins such as the infamous “COINTELPRO” that has brought him to self-actualization of his own mortality.  Within a community of some 2.1 billion Christians, Osborne can identify with being “in the world, but not of the world.”

Absolution, the act of forgiving someone for having done something wrong or sinful, is just one value in a vault of Christian beliefs that Americans might discover having twice elected its first African American president. December 31, 2013 affords each of 2.1 billion Christians a chance to win a chance to “Heal America.”

In the process of awakening from a “Dream Deferred,” haves and have-nots are challenged by the choice and question, CHAOS OR COMMUNITY: Where do we go from here? Christians today have gotten far too comfortable attempting to “Google” the truth. There’s nothing wrong with search engines as long as search engineers are committed to truth in the results.

For most normal folks in the world, getting somewhere calls for a point of origin, a destination and a route. But the Christian journey, evidenced in the walk of The Right Reverend Sarah Frances Davis, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Right Reverend Richard Allen, and Pope Francis, suggests that where we go calls for a shared understanding of where we’ve been -- one might add, why it took as long as it did to get to a common starting point.

Pope Francis succeeded His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI not long after The Right Reverend Sarah Frances Davis visited with the Pope. In choosing the basic title, “Bishop of Rome,” Pope Francis may have set into motion a global movement for healing sick folk, feeding the hungry, and reinvesting Christian value into an inclusive vision of the future.

The process of healing nations of believers can be traced back 2000 years to a shared #ReasonForTheSeason. More recently, world leaders got to hear from one practitioner of Southern Christian Leadership. Their memory of her stated beliefs are now etched into the spirit of a global movement.


In October 2012, Bishop Davis, a native of Houston, TX, represented the World Methodist Counci and the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a guest of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI at the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, Italy.

The meeting held under the theme The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, addressed the call of the Church to its original missionary goal and sought to rekindle the original fire in Christians worldwide, according to church sources.

This year in the United States, President Barack Obama awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom to The Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian. As a result, three practitioners of “Southern Christian Leadership” have received presidential recognition for evidence-based intervention.

A team of social entrepreneurs, faith and community leaders are tapping into “Southern Christian Leadership” as an intervention for “Healing America.” A replicable service demonstration, developed in cooperation with the “beloved community” addresses the question, CHAOS OR COMMUNITY: Where do we go from here? 

National Learn-2-Earn (L2E) partners seek to counter economic threats by creating economic opportunity. Any ministry, social enterprise or nonprofit organization of any size can partner on a seven-pillar approach to support their efforts in HEALING, FEEDING, HOUSING, LEARNING, EARNING, LIVING and GIVING where Americans live, learn, work and worship.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Healing Historically Disadvantaged America

Cheney’s “Heart” filled with swift transition

By Stephanie Walker Stradford and Eric Stradford, USMC Retired

AMWS, October 21, 2013, Atlanta -- By now you have heard about Dick Cheney’s “heart issues” and a new book that might help One Nation under God move from affordable healthcare to holistic healing. According to reports, the former vice president under President George W. Bush, at age 37, sustained the first of five heart attacks. He had smoked approximately 3 packs of cigarettes per day for nearly 20 years.  Cheney’s heart issues led to a secret letter of resignation even before some highly criticized Bush Administration policies regarding the War on Terror, NSA Wiretapping and "enhanced interrogation techniques” trickled through for public scrutiny.

The best healthcare available is perhaps credited for keeping the 46th Vice President of the United States from meeting his maker before publicly confessing his fair share of America’s dirty little secrets. More than a few Grand Old Patriots hoped for a confession during the Obama Administration, but not from one they endeared as a political papa figure.

It’s a lot to put on a 73 year old heart patient, but much of the trickling evidence leaves cause for concern that Cheney’s heart issues, perpetuated through recent Tea Party activism, may have delayed if not derailed America’s healing. The timing for promoting his book, “Heart,” shall we say, is “filled with swift transition.”

Despite a political resume including aide to his congressman, White House Chief of Staff, a stint in Congress from 1979 to 1989, an appointment to Secretary of Defense and election to the vice presidency, Dick Cheney, and too many others, never served a day in the United States Armed Forces. But he made quite a bit of money on the backs of America’s heroes.

Unlike Dick Cheney, the late Arthur Lee Stradford, 72, transitioned from The Louis Stokes Veterans Hospital in his hometown of Cleveland, OH. An autopsy requested by the VA might justify treatment for cancer, perhaps resulting from years of smoking. Today, Art Stradford was to be laid to rest at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, Rittman, OH. But a missing DD Form 214 delayed “Papa Art” Stradford’s burial and sparked a congressional inquiry into the after effects of a 16-day government shutdown.

Public Law 112-260 charges the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with ensuring “the expressed wishes of the next of kin or other agent of the deceased veteran are respected and given appropriate deference.” Properly executed, the federal agency serves the need of the veteran’s next of kin. The President of the United States is empowered to execute the Law of the Land.

The Honorable Marsha L. Fudge (OH-11) is responsible to Art’s widow for congressional oversight. Fudge is Mrs. Stradford’s elected representative in Congress. She also chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, a minority group entrusted and empowered to represent the “Beloved Community.”

“In the 21st Century, African Americans and other communities of color continue to be disproportionately and disparately impacted by poverty, environmental, justice and healthcare challenges,” said Fudge. After 140 years, the Black Caucus will be stepping up its historic social agenda to address credible national security threats to historically disadvantaged Americans.

Today, Art Stradford’s 77 year-old widow had hoped for some rest after a six month ordeal of watching and waiting. During her visits to “Heroes Harbor,” Mrs. Stradford asked medical staff and social workers what she might do to prepare. When she did not get the response needed to ease her concerns, she called Art’s brother, a retired U.S. Marine and the only other sibling to have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

In 2001, Art’s brother and his bride published TheEnterpriZe from slaveship to spaceship, a book of first chapters showcasing some ordinary Americans on an extraordinary journey.  Arthur Lee Stradford is one of the Americans mentioned in the book.

In 2011, Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney (born January 30, 1941) published “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” written with his daughter Liz. The timing of Dick Cheney’s new book “Heart,” and the VA’s handling of veteran’s burial benefits invokes memories of “red tape” and emotional wounds still festering from the American Civil War.

Cheney, an American politician and businessman, is often cited as the most powerful Vice President in American history. He will probably not need a DD Form 214 to be buried in a national cemetery. However, his accounting and that of every other politician of this time is certain to reviewed for allegations of disservice to America’s “Beloved Community.”

A line from an old hymn of the church now fuels a cause for VETERANS FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE PROTECTION, a combination of legislative and community efforts, demonstrating that obstacles can be overcome.

That old hymn reveals a truth about human actions and attitudes.  With the blood of America’s sons still fresh in the American Civil War battlefields, writer Jennie Bain Wilson penned the lyrics, “Naught of earth unmoved can stand.”

The line, perhaps best explained as a “Kairos” moment on her “Chronos” timeline, might be translated from preacher talk as “no human is exempt from the frailty and uncertainty of life.” From Wilson’s perspective, whether one was a plantation owner, former slave, merchant, soldier or politician, northerner or southerner—all had to recognize how quickly life could change.

Jennie Wilson’s soul stirring hymn spoke a renewed and poignant truth. It underscores lessons learned by Arthur Stradford, more than a dozen siblings, scores of grand and great grand children, and millions of connected friends through the African Methodist Episcopal Church:  Don’t build hope on your crops, mills, G.N.P., your military, class or political ideas alone, all fortunes which can quickly and unexpectedly change — but build your hope “on things eternal”, and Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

1 Time is filled with swift transition—
Naught of earth unmoved can stand—
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.
2 Trust in Him who will not leave you,
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken,
Still more closely to Him cling.
3 When your journey is completed,
If to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in glory,
Your enraptured soul will view.
Hold to God’s unchanging hand!
Hold to God’s unchanging hand!
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Useless Information?

YouthUSA's Public Facebook Page makes doing something positive for youth 
as easy as one click.

By Eric Stradford, USMC Retired

AMWS, February 27, 2013, Atlanta – Useless information is among the greatest challenges to the self-proclaimed, Marine Corps-trained “information specialist.” It falls somewhere between one’s educational, social and recreational vision of the whole person one hopes to be.

Today’s information-driven society and our sustained economy of haves and have-nots somehow perpetuate the oxymoron, “Digital Divide.” In case the term has not yet germinated in your temporal economy, this figure of speech uses seeming contradictions that threaten the security of anybody on the wrong side of the crack.

The national security threat is just being defined in national political debates. We hear Wall Street Bail-Out, Fiscal Cliff, Debt Ceiling, and Spending Cuts without considering the impact of negative words on the economy. “Economic security” or financial security is the condition of having stable income or other resources to support a standard of living now and in the foreseeable future. In the United States, children's economic security is indicated by the income level and employment security of their families or organizations.

As Chief Information Officer for Youth Achievers USA Institute, my job entails surfing a tsunami of useless information that threatens future generations of historically disadvantaged Americans. For too many of them, navigating Digital Divide is like crossing the middle passage endured by their historically disadvantaged ancestors. Swimming seems to be a logical solution, but getting into the water is a scary first step to take. Among the measurable outcomes are higher percentages of unbanked neighbors, more failed businesses, limited access to employment opportunities, reduced value in educational systems, higher percentages of incarceration, and more folks getting killed because somebody couldn’t see the value in you. At the same time, too many disadvantaged information consumers buy portable devices that barely graze their information needs.

Ordinarily, a volatile issue such as Digital Divide has incited apathy over action. Let’s face it! It’s easier to sweep stuff under a rug than bend over, pick it up, take it to the trash, and put the trash out on the curb for the garbage men to collect.

When the garbage truck came this morning, a mechanical arm picked up the uniformed receptacle, over the top of the truck and dumped the trash into the truck without spilling. The reality of a Digital Divide became ever so clear. Somebody watched the Jetsons cartoon, and incorporated a vision into a reason to learn. The visionary invented something that turned my dream of becoming an uneducated, underpaid garbage man into a nightmare of being unqualified for employment as a deployable refuse retrieval engineer.

As the wheels on the truck went round and round, some seemingly useless information popped in with a childhood memory to disturb an otherwise uneventful day. Come on, you know the song. Sing along.

“Wake me, Shake me, Don’t let me sleep to late. (Bom Bom Bom)
Gotta get up in the mornin’ about a quarter to eight.
I had a dream, had a dream, (Well) I looked over yonder, and what did I see?
I saw two great big garbage trucks comin’ after me.
Ridin’ side by side and I said,
Swing down sweet garbage truck and let your buddy ride

The actual work put off by this momentary distraction was a charitable mission to change the reality of Digital Divide. Today’s task was to reach out to more than a hundred university presidents, chancellors and care-takers for a partnership that targets investments for their students. I’m still struggling to recall exactly when and where this mission became my life’s work.

As a U.S. Marine, I attended the Defense Information School and worked with some of the most creative people on the planet. There was Chas Henry, a combat correspondent who could move information from a battlefield to a radio or television control room without breaking a sweat. I met Henry and career broadcaster Eudith Austin Rodney during my early days as a Military Broadcast Information Specialist. In retrospect, my list of learning assets seems endless.

Just recently, 21st century social media bridged my own information divide between past and present. On Facebook, I ran into Randy “Ranbo” Gaddo, Steve Merrill and Renaldo Keene whose information strategies impacted national news in the Sex for Secrets espionage trial of Marine Sergeant Clayton Lonetree. A Marine photojournalist, known today as Ray Tademy, PhD, captured the essence of a national news media pool that included notable national correspondents George Curry and Joe Johns. Lessons learned from other media professionals remind me of the value in our words. I also connected with my sister Mattie in Mississippi, nephew DeLon in Ohio, and great niece Lakeisha in Florida for a live chat. I’m connecting with kin and cousins I never knew or have since forgotten. My bride, boss, and BFF, Stephanie reconnected with hundreds of friends from her Alma Mater, Philadelphia High School for Girls.

One of the most extensive demonstrations of inclusivity has been a group of connected church members on Facebook. In this particular group 13,432 members from around the world gather when they want, to say whatever comes to mind, and then move on. A conversation started by Richard F. Norris III, spanned four days and drew more than a hundred comments and “likes.” “One of my pet peeves in our church is that I see churches that have an Assistant Pastor, when in fact, in the A.M.E. Church, there is no such thing as an Assistant Pastor,” posted Norris.

The comment came as I weighed my own “pet peeve” against some needs for sweeping institutional reform. Norris’ post stimulated a memory of my late father. Depending on the appointed pastor and the time, The Reverend James Milton Stradford might have been recognized as assistant pastor, associate pastor, pulpit associate, or just Rev. Some folks from Smoots Chapel and Grace Mission AME Churches also knew him as pastor. Co-workers in a West Virginia Coal Mine and at the Chase Brass and Copper foundry called him Jimmy. My nieces and nephews remember him as “Big Dad.” I choose to remember him and my mom daily through The Reverend James and Alma Stradford Fund of YouthUSA.

The Reverend Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor, Editor of the church’s newspaper, inclines an unofficial ear to the dialogue which probably helps people feel better about some historically unmet information needs. Economist and Christian Educator Bill Dickens chimed in, “we indeed do things out of custom. In addition to the practice/custom of Assistant Pastor, note the custom of some churches having a 'co-Pastor'. The BOD (Book of Discipline or Doctrine and Discipline) doesn't sanction this title either.”

Today, Elder Willem S. Hanse, a church leader from South Africa, posted, “I do not know how the Lay Organization does it, but when General Conference comes a couple a questions arise every 4 years: first the channeling of funds question.” Depending on where one sits in church, the “channeling of funds” issue opens either Pandora’s Box or a window for pouring out a blessing.

The elder raised a piercing partnership concern that requires change in our applications of useful information. The Connectional Lay Organization and specifically the Connectional Lay Economic Development Corporation is one of the pressure points between the historic African Methodist Episcopal Church and its constituency of historically disadvantaged Christians. Speaking of an “oxymoron,” how can a true believer in the endless, sovereign power and authority of God Almighty be economically disadvantaged?

Some evidence of the need for change arose in an assertion by Allen University student Carl T. Watson concerning the Historically Black College’s four year graduation rate. A USNEWS online source reported a four year graduation rate of “2,” which astonished church leaders in the conversation. In response, Youth Achievers USA Institute immediately invited 106 university presidents to partner on behalf of their students.

“There is an old saying, If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Too many of our young people are tall timbers in the forest of life and no one is hearing them when they fall, struggle or are hurt. Our young people are falling and no one is hearing or seeing them,” posted Rev. Dr. Grainger Browning.

From Carl T. Watson’s perspective, there’s a need for change, but change agents are challenged by perceived barriers between what they see and what needs to be. “There are a lot of things there that need to be investigated by you Dr. Sydnor…,” posted Watson.

In all fairness, Allen University’s top priority is the student, supported by a vision of outstanding educational facilities, financial support, technologically furnished classrooms, and extracurricular activities, according to the institution’s website. The value in the information available ultimately influences its usefulness as an asset and therefore not a liability.

The truth is, there is no shortage of useful information or resourcesJUST RESOURCEFULNESS.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How To Stop The Pipeline To Prison

By Eric Stradford
clip_image002AMWS, November 24, 2012, Virtual -- America called this week…collect of course. From the right, friends, concerned about higher taxes--from the left, new revelations about enduring economic disparities—in the middle, equal opportunity—thank God for voice mail!

Whether you are hanging from a fiscal cliff or hanging around for your day in court, chances are your action or apathy is feeding America’s Prison Industrial Complex and a mess of unaddressed economic security concerns. Averting the “fiscal cliff” is barely a conversation worth having when someone asks you to STOP THE PIPLINE TO PRISON.

Call it the PIC, call it the #pipeline, but bank on it! There is plenty of money to be made and many jobs to be created. Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) refers to the expansion of the US inmate population, the political influence of private prison companies, and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies. It can be stopped, but not without editing history’s vision of your future.

The “race card,” which so many Americans reluctantly play, intrinsically links itself to the back end of an economically driven and politically charged system dating back to 1712.
Willie Lynch, a British slave owner in the West Indies, is said to have endowed Virginia slave owners with his vision of America’s future. “I shall assure you that DISTRUST IS STRONGER THAN TRUST AND ENVY STRONGER THAN ADULATION, RESPECT OR ADMIRATION. The Black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for HUNDREDS of years, maybe THOUSANDS,” he taught.

The term “lynching,” derived from Willie’s last name, characterizes outcomes of an enduring experiment. The effect of Lynch’s teachings can now be quantified by Census data and economic surveys. Empirical evidence reflects long-term economic effects, sustained by a nation’s failure to address disparities endured by 13% of the population.

In the past, black mothers cried, moaned and groaned as black fathers and sons set out on a quest for “The American Dream.” One in five discoverers today feed an interweaving of penal institutions, profit-driven companies, and politicians. They awaken to a reality that racism and poverty largely determines who is repressed.

Sisters no longer need a man. They’re doing it for and to themselves. In fact, recent studies support fears that black women provide the prison industry with a means to grow…even faster! We’re not just talking about making babies, raising them in depressed environments, and educating them for systematic failure. A “super exploitation” of black women might be measured by the significant influx of women prisoners in the 1980s and 1990s.

Almost every day since America’s 13 percent minority moved mountains to re-elect Barack Obama, some conservative strategist has scratched a balding head wondering what went wrong. The economy was the major issue. It should have been a no-brainer for Americans of means.

The Republican comeback, if there is such a thing, calls for a new look at an old problem. With all the political machinery working full steam, the president shut down his opposition with a simple value. That value, printed on the U.S. dollar bill since 1956, promotes a common value and congressionally sanctioned motto.

Invoked by the nation’s called, anointed, and duly elected leader, the value “In God We Trust” brings into being the full faith and confidence of “One Nation Under God.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower added value to vision on July 30, 1956 by signing Public Law 84-851. The 34th President of the United States warned of a “Military Industrial Complex” from which today’s PIC is said to have evolved.

In reality, every citizen who made the economy a campaign issue also helped to perpetuate the prison pipeline as a tool for governing. Having presented the case in an environment where “All things are possible,” why is it that African Americans are disproportionately represented in America’s prisons? What really defines the problem? And who exactly benefits from sustaining it?

Let’s face it, placing people behind bars means more jobs. The promotion of prison building as a job creator and the use of inmate labor are also cited as elements of the prison-industrial complex. You say you want to STOP THE PIPLINE. Perhaps you should petition The White House….or pray.

The prison pipeline can very well define a network of actors motivated by getting paid. When the prison population grows, a rising rate of incarceration feeds small and large businesses such as providers of furniture, transportation, food, clothes and medical services, construction and communication firms. Inmates and parolees provide both cheap labor and workforce opportunities for corporations that contract prison labor, construction companies, surveillance technology vendors, lawyers, and lobby groups that represent them.

A veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces can find work as a prison guard, a case worker, or even a probation officer. A college-educated officer can run the prison, defend the accused as an attorney or argue for the state in a court of law. A social worker can find all kinds of reasons or resources to recommend solutions within a mechanism designed for rehabilitation that exists as a means of repression.

Just five years ago, the United States jailed more than 2 million people and spent an estimated $37 billion to maintain its prisons. In 2012, the United States prison population grew to 2.3 million, meaning 1 in every 100 American adults are in a prison at a cost of $74 billion per year. If in fact, the desire for monetary gain impacts the growth of the prison industry, then to STOP THE PIPLINE, would require a shift in values and behavior, and perhaps even a redistribution of wealth.

Prisons all over the nation are overcrowded, and people are being incarcerated at an increasing rate, whereas the new prisons cannot be built fast enough. To that end, one might ask, has the prison pipeline served as a quick fix to underlying social problems such as homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy? Or, has America missed an opportunity?

The motto, “In God We Trust,” models inclusive community reinvestment, collective work and responsibility, as well as cooperative economics. By now, we should know, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”