Posts from the ‘politics’ Category

Bye Bye, Dez.

I have a webcam and a working microphone now, so expect more short videos.

This one is bidding Desiree Rogers a farewell after the news that she is stepping down from her post as White House Social Secretary.

DC is going to be a little less fabulous.


How You Can Help Haiti. Right Now.

Cross Posted from Rosetta Thurman:

Yesterday, I made my very first donation by text. Tears rolled down my face as I punched in each number on my cell phone. I couldn’t stop crying because I wanted to do more. So much more.

As you all know, on January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. As a result, the country is in ruins, and more than 100,000 are feared dead. Up to 3 million people could be affected by this earthquake, the worst in 200 years. Given the recent events and devastation brought upon Haiti, I cannot think of anything more important that we can do right now than to lend your voice, efforts, and money to our brothers and sisters in Haiti who are in such desperate need now and will be for the long term. For right now, aid officials are asking folks NOT to collect donated goods as there is no on the ground capacity to distribute unsorted random goods and won’t be for some time. The devastation is such that they also don’t want people going down there independently as roads are closed and not passable. So, the best thing to do right now is to give cash. The quickest way to give is by mobile giving through your cell phone. Here’s how:

* SMS text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts
* SMS text “YELE” to 501501 to Donate $5 to Yele Haiti’s Earthquake Relief efforts (Yele was established by recording artist Wyclef Jean)
* Canadian folks can text the word “Haiti” to 45678 (Canada only) on behalf of the Salvation Army in Canada

Your donation goes to the recipient charity, and the donation appears as a charge on your carrier bill. You or your organization can also make a gift to any of these charities that are on the ground providing assistance. The Washington Post has compiled an even more comprehensive list of charities to support.

If you cannot give money, please give your thoughts and prayers to the people of Haiti during this tragedy.

If you cannot give money, please show your support on Twitter or Facebook. Many folks are looking for ways that they can help right now. Please consider updating your status message with something like this:

* Text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts. (Facebook)
* Text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts. #Haiti (Twitter)

If you are in the midst of planning any events to support the relief effort, please consider collecting MONEY instead of supplies. Governments worldwide are responding to the current disaster by sending search and rescue teams as well as goods. Relief organizations are also ramping up their efforts and sending out calls for support. The best thing we can do from the U.S. right now is to send our thoughts, prayers, and money.

“Yele” means a “cry for freedom.” Let’s please do our part to let them know we hear their cry.

If you’re in Washington, DC, here are a few ways to get involved with relief efforts:

Helping Haiti from the Hill
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Hawk ‘n’ Dove
Upstairs bar
329 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20003
Please join us for a happy hour fundraiser to support the emergency relief efforts that are severely needed in Haiti. Each contribution makes a difference, not matter the amount. Donations will be made to the Red Cross and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti.Helping Haiti from the Hill
Helping Haiti from the Hill

Thursday, January 14, 2010, 6:00-8:00pm

Hawk ‘n’ Dove
Upstairs bar
329 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20003

Please join us for a happy hour fundraiser to support the emergency relief efforts that are severely needed in Haiti. Each contribution makes a difference, not matter the amount. Donations will be made to the Red Cross and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti.
Crisis Camp Haiti

Saturday, January 16, 2010 from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

This Saturday, CrisisCamp will bring together volunteers to collaborate on technology projects which aim to assist in Haiti’s relief efforts by providing data, information, maps and technical assistance to NGOs, relief agencies and the public. This event is free and open to the public. You don’t have to be technical to volunteer time. Please visit the event page for registration, logistics, and more information as the planning unfolds.
January 20 Fundraiser for Haiti

The Black Professional Network DC will be hosting an event to raise funds for the victims of the recent 7.0 earthquake in Haiti where an estimated 100,000 lives may have been taken. Renowned singer Loide Jorge and her band will be performing. 100% of raised funds and goods will be provided to Yele, a nonprofit founded by Wyclef Jean that provides relief efforts in Haiti.

When: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:00pm-1:00am
Where: Liv, 2001 11th Street NW St (11th and U St) Washington, DC

Please post any events, fundraisers or other organized relief efforts that you know of in the comments. Are the Young Nonprofit Professionals Networks doing anything? Please let me know!

Precious Part 2 – When “feel good” branding goes wrong

My second post devoted to the movie Precious was going to be about how Tyler Perry should consider leaving the director’s chair alone for a while and funding more smaller projects by black directors other than himself. It could really show Hollywood the real scope of his power.

Then I started seeing the new cut for the Precious Ad. I couldn’t find a video to show you all (but if you can find it hit me up!), but in summary it is basically a mashup of all of the main character’s happy daydreams with Mary J’s “Just Fine” playing in the background.


Now I understand the idea of marketing and doing whatever it takes to get more people to pay money and see the movie, and I realize that it’s the way that business works.

But what I didn’t understand was the complete 180 that was made in the marketing of this movie. I read Push well before watching the film so I knew not to expect a lot of happy moments. What I worry about are people who have never read the book nor know much about the movie seeing these new ads and expecting the movie to be a happier, more hopeful story. It’s pretty misleading if you ask me.

Some of you know that I’m a PR/media professional by day, and so the media geek in me is wondering if this move by the movie marketers was a good one. Sure, it might get more people to the box office, but what good is it if some folks won’t be informed enough to know not to expect a happy, more hopeful film? To me, this makes as little sense to me as Lee Daniels recent comments.


Some guy came up to me at a screening that I was at recently and he told me that he, um, was sexually abusing his 14-year-old daughter,” said Daniels. “That’s what he told me. And he was crying. To me, that is the award. There is no award on this earth that can get a man to admit that. So to me, that is my award. My award is healing. You know what I mean? I want to be acknowledged or whatever, but I’m happy with people healing.”

There was one thing that was severly lacking from Daniels’ little story: the part where he reported this man to the police. What sense does this make? I hate to think that Daniels was so immersed in his own ego that he didn’t think to do the right thing and PROTECT THAT CHILD.

One criticism of the movie I agree with is that they didn’t give enough space in the film to talk about the social and political implications of WHY Precious lived the way she lived. Why did she think lighter skinned people were more beautiful with lives worth living? Why was she obese? Why did her mother abuse her and allow for her husband to rape his own daughter? None of these questions were answered through a sociopolitical lens, and that to me is a bigger marketing fail than the ads I’ve discussed earlier in this post.

It’s World AIDS Day

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of days, you’d know that today is World AIDS Day. I decided to try something this time and do a short series of posts talking about my experiences with protecting myself, getting tested, and losing people I care about to the disease.

The next two posts will be dedicated to Damon Eskridge, a family friend of mine who shared his story about living with HIV to me and other young people years ago at my church back home in Los Angeles. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I talked about how Damon influenced me and informed what I know about HIV and AIDS along with other STD’s. Damon passed away in December 2000 after a long battle with AIDS.

I am remembering Damon today as I write these next few posts. Thank you, Damon for sharing your story and your light. You are loved and missed.

For those of you in DC and wanting to get tested for HIV today call 202.442.9152 to find the nearest testing location.

Those of you tweeting on twitter about World Aids Day, the official hashtag for world AIDS day is #WAD09.

Shout out to the Red Pump Project, who raise awareness about HIV and AIDS 365 days a year.

BET actually does it right and remembers Black celebrities we’ve lost to AIDS.

Lastly, did you know that trans women are most impacted by AIDS? Get familiar. Many times we forget that more than Black cisgendered women* are trans women who are the most impacted by the disease and yet served the least…because trans women are often rendered invisible by the status quo. Some food for thought.

A few words: White House Party Crashers

I’ll make this brief and get right to the point as it will sum up all that I feel we need to know about the White House Party Crashers:

They’re rich and white. Therefore, they looked the part and got away with being as close to the President as they are in the above pic. Ain’t nothin else on it.

Now I know I might get told I’m playing the race card here, and I’m prepared for that. But I absolutely believe that if this couple were working class and perhaps not white, if this couple looked more like me and my fairly-new partner–young Black people with natural hairstyles (another topic in its entirety)–they wouldn’t have even seen the inside of that State Dinner. Like, at all.

I’m not saying that the CIA is racist or that there was racially-charged intent in their actions–all they’ve admitted to so far is they “made a mistake” (no sh*t sherlock) and that’s all we can really accept for right now. What I am saying though, is that the Salahi’s ability to get away with crashing a White House dinner speaks to their class and their level of white privilege.

From Anovelista:

I am having major issues with the White House State Dinner crashers, Tareq and Michaele Salahi. The first description of Michaele Salahi referred to her as a “glittering blonde decked out in a red and gold sari” and I knew we were in trouble.  Even at the White House, the automatic assumption about a “glittering blonde” is why of course she belongs! She looks the part, right?

My point exactly. My friend Wise told me a great story that further illuminates this point. A few years ago, Wise went to a VIP party a professional colleague of his threw in the Hamptons. While he had every right to be at the party as anyone else, Wise was hassled by security because he doesn’t “look the part”: a tall brotha in a suit with a smallish afro. They questioned his being there, asked to see his ID, the whole nine, simply because he didn’t seem like he”belonged” there. What message does that send about how we feel about class and privilege and who gets to “own” high levels of such things?

In any case, the White House Dinner Crashers don’t tell us anything else, and it doesn’t get any more complicated than this. They were white, they were rich, and they got over on the CIA because they looked the part. Open and shut case of what is afforded to people who are at the top of the class ladder.

What to do about failing schools

The New York Times had some pretty solid advice for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan–make schools with the highest dropout rates a priority:

Mr. Duncan has said from the start that he wants the states to transform about 5,000 of the lowest-performing schools, not in a piecemeal fashion but with bold policies that have an impact right away. The argument in favor of a tightly focused effort aimed at these schools is compelling. We now know, for example, that about 12 percent of the nation’s high schools account for half the country’s dropouts generally — and almost three-quarters of minority dropouts. A plan that fixed these schools, raising high school graduation and college-going rates, would pay enormous dividends for the country as a whole.

Mr. Duncan can use his burgeoning discretionary budget to reward states that take the initiative in this area. But Congress could push the reform effort further and faster by granting the education department’s request for two changes in federal education law. The first would be to come up with new federal school improvement money and require the states to focus 40 percent of it on the lowest-performing middle and high schools. The second change would allow the secretary to directly finance charter-school operators that have already produced high-quality schools.


The secretary should focus intently on the dropout factories, the relatively small number of schools that produce so many of the nation’s dropouts. Efforts at especially difficult schools will need to include social service and community outreach programs, modeled on those already in place in the Harlem Children’s Zone in Upper Manhattan.

I certainly think that this could be a great start to improving education and also closing the achievement gap. Too often the poorest-performing schools are the ones whose population are largely Black and Latino.

More importantly, though, is the emphasis on the role of community organizations and social services. I believe it takes more than good schools to provide better opportunities and futures for our youth. We have to create safe spaces for youth as well, and a lot of social services that the last administration neglected would be one way to address that.

I can only hope that education remains a policy priority overall during the Obama administration. With so much talk about health care and green jobs, I am wondering how much attention can and will be given to education this year or even this term. When  you think about it, all three of these issues are very much connected to one another. Let’s see if this administration connects the dots successfully.

The Audacity of Spirit: Lessons from a New Modern Woman

June 20th marked World Refugee Day. Here in Washington there have been events throughout the month to bring awareness to the issues that refugees face here and abroad.  Ihotu Ali, a Center for Progressive Leadership New Leaders Fellow, talks about the images of refugee women here in America. I had the pleasure of meeting Ihotu at a Message Development training a few months ago and of course,  she is yet a another smart, fabulous black girl blogger.

After a college degree and several months of working in the political capitol of the Western world, I know a bit about power. Daily, I experience the power of crisp black suits, sleek cars, and boldly colored heels clicking their own new rhythms into the echo of marble halls.

However, Washingtonians may encounter an affront to this idea of power, through the advertisements of CARE, a nongovernmental refugee organization. In its trademark public campaign, CARE portrays a refugee woman, very young or very old, dressed in the tradition of her country and looking deep into the camera’s eye. The universal caption: “I Am Powerful.” In the midst of Washington, D.C., this may seem more a wistful ideal than reality. Reality teaches that even the most educated and top-earning women only make 72 cents on a man’s dollar, and that women around the world are most vulnerable to illiteracy, poverty, domestic abuse, and a lack of access to the handbag of characteristics which we call “power.” Yet these women stare out evenly from photographs and billboards to silently declare that they, even in a displaced state, are powerful.

A refugee woman may actually be the most powerful being you will ever meet. Whether she walked in tatters or designers, reality tells that she likely walked past dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people whom she left behind. People who didn’t make it out, and yet people exactly like her. She may recall their stunted journeys with every step. And yet she continues to walk. You might be unaware of the expression on her face. She may not disclose how many different lives she led, from fear to hope to indifference to ferocity. Reality provoked her to emotions of such nuance and contradiction that one would think humanity had not discovered them, before inhuman circumstances broadened the capacity of her human face. What you may see is blind faith, or a steeled persistence. You may have never seen what power it took to keep eyes so willing to remain open to new sights, a mouth so willing to continue to speak and engage and a face turned toward a new, possibly terrifying reality.

You may not see all this. Or you may equally see it in the faces of fellow American women who struggled for their power. But take a moment to look deeply into the power of these women. They may not have the traditional trappings of wealth or fame. And they may not vie to be recognized among the masses, nor do they wield their strength like a sword to bring others beneath them as they rise. Instead, consider their power as a catalyst, with which we all regard one another and ourselves with more clarity and humanity. This is a power of faith, hope, and resilience despite the most dire of circumstances. These women are not unbreakable, but they never allow brokenness to be a permanent state. They teach others the power to learn, to forgive, to accept and adapt.

As a friend and family member to such women, I often visualize their faces when I want to embody that power. What we all in Washington could learn from these women is not just the power to win the war or survive the battle. We already know this. They teach us the power to thrive, with an audacity of spirit, in the face of reality.