Friday, March 24, 2017

Local Voices

On 28 February President Donald Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress. Trump, reading from a teleprompter, sounded what some say Presidential. But many felt that upon examination of the narrative of his presentation it was filled with lies and promises that seem to be impossible to accomplish. He received a standing ovation from Republicans on almost every promise but few Democrats were impressed.

Disturbing to me was the embarrassing moment when Trump commented on the death of a Navy Seal and gave tribute to William Owens who was killed in a raid against terrorists in Yemen. Trump used Owens’ death in his speech to promote the President’s own political agenda.

It was reported that Trump ordered the raid without having a serious conference with his intelligence security professionals. The raid was bungled and, in addition to Owens being killed, three other military personnel were injured. To gain sympathy and support for his deadly mistake, Trump invited Owens’ wife to be in the chambers for his speech. He introduced her to Congress and she received a five-minute applause during which pain of her grief was written on her face. How embarrassing!

I wondered what many of my military comrades and the families of the deceased must have felt when they heard Trump’s bragging about the heroics of Owens’ death. Many of our soldiers, marines and other military personnel are killed daily in battle somewhere. Therefore, for Trump to make such revelry about one military person killed in battle breeds some suspicions.

In his praise of Owens’ life-sacrificing death, he said the raid in Yemen was a success. He said that important information was gained from the raid. We as citizens have not and will likely never hear or see the information and we will be told it’s secret data and cannot be shared with the public. Therefore, confirmation of Trump’s assertion that the raid was a success will never be revealed.

I was intrigued when I heard how Van Jones, an active commentator and critic of Trump, was taken by Trump’s tribute to Owens. I have been a follower and supporter of Jones since he served as Special Advisor to President Obama on Green Jobs. Filled with emotion, Jones said Trump’s tribute to Owens was “one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period” and it was the moment Trump “became President of the United States.”

I really got upset at Jones and felt he had been duped by Trump’s attempt to gain support for his goof-up in Yemen. His first attempt of blaming Obama for the failed Yemen incident did not work so he was trying a new tactic. I lost some of my zeal as a supporter for Jones. I thought he would have seen through the act. Then I thought perhaps Jones has never served in the military and witnessed other members of the military being killed, so it may have been easy for him to get emotionally caught up in Trump’s rhetoric.

Jones and others who were emotionally moved by the tribute should have know what several people who have been interviewed on TV, including psychiatrists, say: that Trump is narcissistic and therefore conniving.

If Trump did not need to recognize Owens to cover up the blunder in the Yemen raid for his personal political benefit, he would not have mentioned him in his address to Congress.
If Trump is a narcissist, he wears a mask and rebuffs any information about him that he doesn’t like. I see why his supporters stick by him. He may not help their causes but he does give them a show.

Shedrick Byrd is a frequent contributor to the New Journal and Guide, and a retired U.S. Navy veteran.

By Shedrick Byrd

As a 76-year-old African-American male, I believe myself to be an “Elder of the Village.”  In that regard, I put forth the following ideas, thoughts and (possible) solutions to an “ongoing village crisis” that is threatening and debilitating to our community-society at large.

With the recent rash and upsurge of primarily Black youth violence (assaults, shootings, killings, etc.), something needs to be done…now…immediately.  This chaos and disaster cannot be allowed to exist in our (civilized) midst. These perpetrators and instigators are a danger to themselves and to the society at large.  They are profoundly at risk and/or endangered, especially as measured by everyone else’s status and situation. 

For example, according to almost every national survey and statistical report, young Black males trail young Black females in almost every educational-economical category.  Among other things, this “gender-gap” has troubling implications, as Black women will find a shortage of compatible Black men to marry and with whom to build solid families and communities.

Unfortunately, these dire circumstances reveal that these Black men continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, inadequately educated and insufficiently employed, among other things.  These particular Black youth continue to be debilitated by criminal activity, substance abuse, sexual irresponsibility, and poor health habits, overall.  Saliently put, this represents a bleak futuristic outlook for too many of our young Black males.

Despite this bleak outlook, I sincerely believe these particular youth can be empowered and uplifted.  However, they must believe in the truism, “If it is to be, it is up to me!”  They must exert a willingness and enthusiasm to be(come) all that they can. They need to understand the required discipline and sacrifices are well worth the eventual benefits and rewards.  A spirit of “can do” and “will do” is required of them. Otherwise, these youth need to understand that failure to have a “life’s plan” will bring them shattered dreams, broken promises and hopeless futures.

More poignantly, these youth need to understand that real manhood and true fatherhood are the grass roots and bedrock of family, community, survival, and destiny.  It should be understood manhood and fatherhood are intelligence, competence, responsibility commitment, investment, ownership, and empowerment; manhood and fatherhood are head, heart and guts – all located above the waistline; manhood and fatherhood are respecting and protecting your young, your elderly, your family, and your community.

Our young Black males have to show a willingness to know something, to be smart, to be curious, and to be willing to learn and accomplish a lot more.  While the world they inhabit may not be all fair or just, they must be willing to try. They must learn to give life their all. They must be willing to be “chance-takers” and “opportunity-seekers.”

Somehow we must get these disenchanted youth to believe that sound choices and hard work will bring them personal, familial and professional success.. They must be made to understand they are important to our overall society and are a positive force in our national future.

All of this will require lots of hard work and smart work. To be sure, it is an awesome struggle that lies before these youth; however, nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished or gained without a struggle.  As Malcolm X so eloquently stated: “To help yourself, you must respect yourself, educate yourself. Attachment to drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, material goods, and short-term rewards are just a new form of slavery. Liberation comes with health, education, responsibility, financial independence, family stability, and community service …”

Basically, it will require a grass roots approach for empowering young African-American males.  In its beginnings this needs to be an in-house and self-help movement. To paraphrase Paul Robeson, “You cannot expect someone else to do those things for you that you should do for yourself.”  Frederick Douglass put it even more saliently, “A man may not get all that he pays for, but he must certainly pay for all that he gets.”

Accordingly, these disillusioned youth need to be encouraged to perform and achieve at their maximum potential.  They need to have a more comprehensive understanding of the “forces and realities” that frustrate and debilitate them. While many of these “obstacles” are challenging and complex, they can be overcome.

In summary, I profoundly believe our young African-American males are brave enough, strong enough, determined enough, and smart enough to get the job done.  All they need to be successful are their “roots of responsibility” and “wings of wonderment.”  Enough said.  Let them (and us) now do what needs to be done. 

John L. Horton resides in Norfolk and is a frequent contributor to this newspaper.

Don’t impeach President Donald Trump! Not yet! Trump is bad enough but the thought of having Vice President Mike Pence as President gives me the creeps. Pence is a much more savvy and evil politician than Trump and therefore more dangerous to the country. I know you say “more dangerous than Trump?.” I say yes. Pence would have the ears of the far right Republican party more than Trump does and he would set the country back 50 years. You know what that means for Black people. Fifty years was one number of years one of Trump’s supporters suggested.

Trump has done enough damage to the country since being in office to be impeached or at least have impeachment proceedings started. Had it been former President Barack Obama, the Republican-led Congress would have already started impeachment proceedings. Trump’s behavior makes me wonder if he thinks he is above the law. Except for the justice system stopping him from implementing the Muslim Travel Ban Executive Order that barred Muslims from seven different Arbs Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, I have heard little from Congress to challenge him on any of his other Executive Orders.

Being President is more than Trump can handle, it seems to me. I don’t think he has the interest or knowledge for the job. His counterparts in other countries are noticing his behavior and see a weak President and could be preparing to take advantage of those weaknesses to do us harm. At different presidential functions, I notice he seems to be very uncomfortable in his role as President.

It is obvious that Trump was in cahoots with Russia and that he received help from the Russians in his election campaign. Recently his security secretary General Michael Flynn was called out by the press for talking to the Russian ambassador about lifting sanctions that President Obama had levied against Russia for their hacking into the election campaign. Flynn was accused of lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russians saying he did not mention sanctions during those discussions. He was also accused of lying to the President, Vice President and other Presidential staff personnel about his conversations with Russia.

Following some of the incidents and events that have gone on in this administration it is hard for me to believe that the President and Vice President did not know what Flynn had discussed with the Russians. In support of Flynn, the Vice President went on TV vowing that Flynn did not discuss sanctions with the Russians. After Flynn was caught lying by the FBI, the President and Vice President say they were told by Flynn that he did not discuss sanctions with the Russians. Trump is such a pathetic liar it’s easy for me to believe that he instructed Flynn to tell the Russians that the sanctions would be lifted once he was in office.

I certainly believe that Flynn told Pence he had discussed sanctions with the Russians. If Flynn starts talking, it could be the end of President Trump and maybe Pence. There is no precedence for a President and a Vice President being impeached at the same time.

I hope the Democrats continue to insist on investigating Flynn. I’m not sure it will reveal anything since Trump has surrounded himself with legal policy makers that will block any chance of convicting Flynn of a crime. He is surrounded by a spineless attorney general, and a Congress is not going to force any actions. They seem to fear him.

This is a golden opportunity for Democrats to take advantage of the chaos. If the Democrats would select worthy candidates who have the backbone to fight for people’s rights rather than campaigning for the next election to hold on to their seats that they are doing nothing with.

For the security and safety of our country it is time and necessary for the Congress to put aside their political wrangling and come together in a non-partisan way to keep America strong. This is real!

Shedrick Byrd is a regular contributor to the New Journal and Guide.

By Sean C. Bowers

The new President’s nominee for Secretary of Education has never attended a public school, nor have any of her children. She has volunteered at a public school which is not even the equivalent of letting a teacher’s assistant become the person in charge of all schools and of America’s educational system. U.S. education’s DeVos, is all our loss!

How could such an unqualified individual even be considered, let alone confirmed? She was chosen because she is so pro-charter schools, which is exactly what the Republican Party platform both wants and demands. Why? The Right’s long-range goals are to cloak their real intentions of de-funding, de-stabilizing and ultimately destroying public school education completely- all in the name of “charter school choice.”

Their reasoning, on the surface, is that parents should have more choices- the best options of where to send their children for an outstanding education. The Right always points to schools they call “bad, crime-infested, underperforming” …  There are both good and bad public schools the same way there are both good and bad charter schools. So why the push to challenge public education and eventually replace it with charter schools?

First, public education has always been the backbone of every American citizen’s path to upward mobility. Republicans, mostly rich and white for the majority, know they can limit average Americans’ ability to raise themselves up to higher earning, educational and employment levels by crippling or ruining the public school system by de-funding it.

The Right tells bold-face lies that the choice of charter schools outweighs the existing system’s health and very existence. By breaking the educational system so badly, the warped logic of the Right assumes that Americans will eventually have to support a mass move to all privatized for profit charter schools (that feed into the existing US prison industrial privatized penal complex, making’em mo and mo money.)

This brings us to the “Big Lie.” Just because you have a choice of schools does not mean all Americans can actually afford ALL the costs. The Right will never talk about how the charter school vouchers’ system in nearly all cases, does not, and will never completely cover school tuition, books, board, transportation, food, sports equipment, supplies, incidentals and uniforms. Why?

The Right rarely send their children to the very public schools they seek to shutter and close. The Right has the money (now) to give their children the best charter school educations. They know most middle class and poorer Americans don’t have the money to pay all of the charter schools’ costs. Sadly, most parents don’t realize or understand just how expensive the “public-to-charter” changes will be until they are neck deep with no options. Our entire American educational system is destabilized every day with every transfer.

By de-funding both public school education and Planned Parenthood (under the guise of opposing abortion,) the power party gets the real “two-fer” combo result they want. They get more poor middle class people having more children locked into a life-long subservient lower class that they can rarely climb out of or escape. Keeping people uneducated, dumb, poor, barefoot and pregnant, pumping out more workers for the bosses’ children who are being educated at the best of the most expensive white charter schools, is a version of white management’s “SLAVE PLANTATION,” reincarnated in 2017.

In their future, 4/5’s of Americans will work for the 1/5 “Trumps” of the American landscape. Poor and middle class children deserve to be educated equally as well as the richest and whitest of America’s children at their Harvard-like schools.

Public education is the most important first rung of the ladder out of poverty. Pull up the ladder, deny the right of a quality free education to all, and the wealthy elites have their future hard labor minimum wage workforce to profit from, permanently.

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide for eighteen years. His book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available via email at V1ZUAL1ZE@aol.com and he does make large-scale solutions presentations upon request.

By Sean C. Bowers

Once upon a time when the truth and basketball were graceful, when facts were the rules of the game, when true talent flew unimpeded and where some form of mutual respect had always been, that’s where we officially stood on the eve of January 20, 2017.

Basketball mirrors society in many ways. In most of the game’s storied past, the sleek, athletic players roamed the court’s plains unencumbered. In the 1980’s steel cage death matches featured Pat Riley’s New York Knicks battling the Detroit Piston’s Bad Boys. The game and history forever changed when man-to-man defense became hand-to-hand combat. Defenders from both teams employed a new, rougher, more violent form, based less on correct footwork, and more on thuggish wrestling and upper-body-strengths-man-ship.

Both teams, like politicians of any day, took inventory of the current landscape. They counted the numbers; five on our team, five on their team, and only three officials to referee the game. The new defensive strategy became this: all five defenders foul all five opponents all game long because the three refs can’t see and won’t call all the fouls; there were just too many to catch and blow the whistle for every foul committed. Ten guys cannot be completely watched by only three referees with six eyes. Since that time basketball has had to have numerous rule changes to reverse the continuous hard fouling damage being done.

Politics has now become a fact-free world. Why? Because if you cry “foul” on every day about every story, every event, every issue, over time, everything (including the facts) is up for debate and thus is in danger of being brought down to the level of “Alternative Facts.” News networks are mouthpieces for perspectives, positions and proselytizers. The Fox News Network tells their version of what they want to be the truth, without any proof. Other networks program to counter that ALT-“IT’S NEVER BEEN OUR FAULT,” RIGHT.

When questioners try to lead the answerer into a limited area or perspective, it reduces one’s truthful responses. When cornered, answers morph into slogans, platitudes and talking points based on the appeal to viewers, ratings, and whatever ideological narrative the networks try to dictate. By trying to debate every (and I mean every) news story, every day, all day, the truth gets lost in the hard fouling argument. The Right attempts to force their so called “truths”- (beliefs-wanna-be realities, wishful thinking and repetitive deaf babble) at escalating volume into reality. The Democrats and the Progressive Left have yet to figure out how to counter fake news with the swift, unrelenting audacity of the Right in their laughable attempted white victim-hood power positioning.

So where does that leave our nation of over 300 million people? Where will we get our truthful news? How are we to become the educated public citizenry our founding fathers warned we would have to become? Interpreting “mis-spokes” has now replaced the news and we all have to become bilingual multi-tasking fact-checkers to understand all sides of the stories. We must now speak, understand, write, read, watch, tweet, post, blog, broadcast, translate and now interpret all incoming information no matter the source, and especially in those cases of conjecture (considering the sources, or lack thereof.)

Basketball has somewhat corrected itself, moving back to the free-flowing beautifully artistic game it was designed to be. We can do the same with current politicizing of the facts and truth. The media cannot swallow their whistles and has to be the watchdogs they are supposed to be when they are obvious lies, or the facts are grossly misrepresented.

When members of either side try to conflate the issues and make the media their enemy, that is our first important sign that they are not speaking the truth; they are manufacturing what they want to be a new “alternative truth.” If the “rules” are not changed, the truth and all of us become victims.

Sportsmanship and citizenship both consist of agreeing to the overall rules of engagement and good sportsmanship, not hard fouling the refs or mauling the media because you don’t like the calls to get your way.

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide for eighteen years. His book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available via email at V1ZUAL1ZE@aol.com and he does make large-scale solutions presentations upon request.

By Sean C. Bowers

Only 123 million of a total 300 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote 63 to 60 million votes. That means roughly 20 percent or 1 in 5 Americans voted for Donald Trump. The unarguable math shows 80 percent or 4 out of 5 people in the nation are not on-board with the U.S.S. Trumptify’s maiden voyage on his “Death, Dismemberment and Destruction” world cruise down old (white) people’s memory lane.

America and the world proclaimed over the inauguration weekend that the Donald will not be just a’ grabbing away at women and women’s rights with protests doubling to tripling the numbers of people who came to support the incoming “Predator-and-Chief’s” inauguration. The point is that women, their shot at equal pay, their reproductive choices and optional rights, Planned Parenthood, Roe VS Wade and the Supreme Court’s balance, are all under attack and taking conservative Republican fire, from only that 20-30 percent SLICE/SLIVER of Americans.

That loony-toon 1/3 section of America has shown over time their willingness to play loosely with facts, numbers, the truth and science, if at all. It was further evidenced in (that 1/3’s) new President disputing the comparative numbers of the noon Washington National Mall aerial photos. The photos clearly show the National Mall Friday during the 16-minute Trump tirade with 1/3 of Obama’s 2008 or 2012 attendance ceremonies. Yet, Trump boldly stated that the media did not accurately report the attendance numbers, as if they had been caught in some sort of lie. How IRONIC! Clearly he and members of his base are living in their own Fantasia fantasy world which is now on a collision course with our real world. Two-thirds of the National Mall was not photo shopped; Trump’s over exaggerated numbers of supporters, were simply dressed as empty malls grounds, blending in.

You, Sir, are misstating when you imply you have any sort of majority or mandate from the real numbers of Americans, which is only 20-30 percent at best. You, Don, don’t have anything close to a majority, so don’t act like you do. Day 1, the first shot was fired, by you, Sir. The fact that your press secretary would not take questions about the smaller crowds of your inauguration does not, nor will it ever, make the facts disappear or go away.

Get ready for articles and interviews with actual reporting disclosing facts that will come up over the next four years. You, Sir, and your triple-speak campaign translators don’t get to pick the topics, questions or issues that are raised: you all work for US. You also don’t get to ignore the topics or questions or act as if “We the People,” and the (our) “watch dog press” are the lying crazy ones when we point out that the emperor (he wants to be) is naked and wearing no clothes. We all can plainly see, you’re nuts. We can all see with our own eyes, your ridiculous money grab.

Your nominees for instance, collectively have more net worth than the bottom third of all Americans. Know that each time you ignore, lie, stretch, embellish, or disregard the truth and facts, we will be right HERE! Housewives, those working 2-3 jobs, and women- led household breadwinners will be HERE, collectively making our voices and opinions known.

We, the minorities of America, living in those places you never even drive through on your way to the airport, will be HERE- still rising up from not-so-distant still-smoldering ashes of slavery and Jim Crow demanding our Civil Rights. We progressives, who can’t stomach your regurgitated old (white) boys’ network mantras of trickle-down, are now doubling down on our ability to tell and be on the right side of the real proven truth, longer than you and your newfound (adopted – at gun point) Republican freak show family can. WE ARE ALL HERE, US, the 70-80 percent of Americans who didn’t vote for you.

We are here to keep you in check. We will keep you from harming yourself or US. We will be praying for you, that you finally get it before you try to cross US and do something that attempts to irrevocably break America. We will not end up broke or be broken- we’ve come too far-and we still have too far to go- to reach the Promised Land.

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide for eighteen years. His book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available via email at V1ZUAL1ZE@aol.com and he does make large-scale solutions presentations upon request.

By John Horton

WE ARE the children and descendants of the great African empires of Mali, Songhay and Old Ghana.
We are Estevanico, an African who accompanied Spanish explorers through the Arizona and New Mexico territories in 1538.
We are the slave Phillis Wheatley, who in the 1770s wrote poetry that has been read throughout the world.
We are Jean Point du Sable, a Negro trader who founded and helped to settle Chicago in 1779.
We are 5,000 slaves and free Blacks who served in the Continental Army and Navy between 1776 and 1781.
We are Black abolitionists Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, and rebel slaves Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner.
We are the Black scout George W. Bush, who led white settlers into the Oregon Territory in 1844.
We are James Beckwourth, Nat Love and countless other Black cowboys, pioneers, settlers, and “buffalo soldiers,” who helped to scout and settle the Old West during the mid-late 1800s.
We are the many countless and faceless Blacks who served with distinction and honor in the Union Army during the Civil War.
We are Jan Matzelinger, who in 1883 invented the first machine that manufactured an entire shoe.
We are Daniel Hale Williams, who in 1893 was the first licensed physician to perform successful open-heart surgery.
We are Mathew Henson, who accompanied Commander Robert E. Peary on his North Pole expedition in 1909.
We are Madam C. J. Walker (Sarah Breedlove), entrepreneur and philanthropist and the first female self-made millionaire in America.
We are George Washington Carver, who developed over 300 products from the peanut and sweet potato, and who is the first African-American to have a National Memorial.
We are the budding legends and giants of the Black Renaissance during the 1920s through the 1940s: James Weldon Johnson, Richard Wright, Paul Robeson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith, Lena Horne, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, Hattie McDaniel, among others.
We are Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, educator and civil rights leader, who co-founded Bethune-Cookman College (Daytona Beach, Fla., 1941), and was a charter member of FDR’s “Black Cabinet.”
We are Dorie Miller, American hero of World War II who shot down four Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
We are Ralph Bunche, first Black to be awarded a doctorate in political science at Harvard University, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in 1950.
We are some of the Black legends and superstars of the modern sports world: Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Rafer Johnson, Wilma Rudolph, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Charles Sifford, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, among others.
We are Emmett Louis Till, African-American 14-year-old teenager, who was lynched on August 28, 1955, in Money, Mississippi, after reportedly flirting with a white woman.
We are the four Black North Carolina A&T college students (David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., and Joseph McNeil) who sat down at the lunch counter inside the Woolworth Store in Greensboro, N.C. on February 1, 1960.
We are the four Black girls (Addie Mae Collins, 14; Cynthia Wesley, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Carol Denise McNair, 14), who were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963.
We are Mildred Loving, a Black woman who was banished from Virginia for marrying a white man (Richard Loving), whose landmark Supreme Court ruling led to overturning state miscegenation laws on June 12, 1967.   
We are Edward Brooke from Massachusetts, the first Black person since Reconstruction to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
We are Thurgood Marshall, former U.S. solicitor general and the first Black to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
We are Shirley Chisholm, U.S. representative from Brooklyn, the first Black to formally run for president, in 1972.
We are the several hundreds of thousands of African-American men who participated in the Million Man March on the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1995.
We are the several hundreds of thousands of African-American women who participated in the Million Women March on the Benjamin Franklin Park Way in Philadelphia, PA., on October 25, 1997.
We are the hundreds and thousands of African-American architects, inventors, engineers, aviators, scientists, physicians, lawyers, educators, politicians, activists, preachers, entrepreneurs, actors, media personalities, government officials, military leaders, and important others who have made significant and lasting contributions to all mankind.
We are Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, A. Philip Randolph, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young Jr., Roy Wilkins, Barbara Jordan, Patricia Harris, Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and other names forever enshrined in memory and history.
We are our ancestors and forebears of times past; we are our men and women of today; we are our boys and girls of tomorrow. We are a beautiful and noble people.
We are a vehicle of heritage, culture and pride on a journey of love, understanding and acceptance. Yes, that is who we are.

John Horton is a Norfolk resident an a frequent contributor to this newspaper.

By John Horton

President Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos, a multi-billionaire heiress to the Amway fortune, as leader of the U.S. Department of Education. DeVos is a strong proponent of charter and private schools, and she has no substantive experience within the public schools system.

DeVos has said that “parents should be able to use public funds to send their children to whatever private, religious, charter, online or for profit school they choose, including schools run out of the home.

Critics and opponents to include many teachers, unions and most democrat politicians say DeVos’ agenda would come at the expense of traditional education by draining funds from precarious public schools throughout the nation, especially in disadvantaged and at-risk communities.

President Trump, who has campaigned on the promise of passing a $20 billion federal voucher program, has advocated for and supported DeVos’ agenda on the national front.

Furthermore, it should be noted that while the U.S. spends more than $600 billion annually on public K-12 schools, less than 10 percent comes from the federal government. Therefore, it would require (collective) states to come up with another $110 billion, or more. Accordingly, this contribution by the states would substantively withdraw monies from the already strained national education budget.

Recent reports released by the U.S. Department of Education, American Federation of Teachers, and other reliable sources show that charter schools are not faring any better overall than their public schools counterparts.  In some cases, the charter schools are struggling to keep up with public schools.

Just recently, the U.S. Department of Education announced it is awarding $157 million to create and expand charter schools throughout the nation.  The Obama administration approved this action, despite criticisms by its inspector general in the past that the agency has done a poor job of overseeing federal dollars sent to charter schools.

Interestingly enough, in the past several weeks or so, this topic of “charter schools” has been in the local media…specifically talking about the one in Virginia Beach (Green Run Collegiate).  

Charter schools – generally defined as publicly financed entities with flexible hiring rules and curriculum standards – have increased in numbers and enrollment. Presently, there are nine charter schools operating throughout Virginia: (1) Murray High School – Albemarle County; (2) The Albemarle Community Charter School – Albemarle County; (3) Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts – Richmond; (4) Richmond Career Education and Employment Academy – Richmond; (5) Middlebury Community Charter School – Loudoun County; (6) York River Academy – York County; (7) Green Run Collegiate – Virginia Beach; (8) Hillsboro Charter Academy – Loudon County; and (9) Metropolitan Preparatory Academy – Richmond.

When the socioeconomic data is similar for the students and families being serviced, charter schools perform at about the same standard as public schools.  Surprising even to supporters, charter schools have not proven to be the “magic formula” or “silver bullet” that they are sometimes hyped to be.  In most cases, charter schools have done no better in educating their children, especially those most at risk and/or disadvantaged along socioeconomic lines.

I have never been a big proponent of charter schools.  In my opinion, they put a bandage over the real problems and provide window dressing for what truly ails our public education system.  I have always disagreed with the notion that charter schools could turn out better students than the public schools already in existence.  On paper and in theory it looks good, however, in practice and reality, the “public education issue” is more complex and vexing.

Based on my experience, there are five major areas that need special attention and preferential treatment before anything meaningful can occur: (1) effective parenting skills; (2) pre- and post-natal services; (3) preschool accessibility; (4) elementary school empowerment; and (5) parental involvement and support.

It is as if no one truly wants to talk about the “root causes” and “real reasons” that frustrate our efforts in resolving the deficiencies and inadequacies that challenge and debilitate our public schools.  There’s an old African saying, “He who conceals his illness cannot expect to be cured.”

For us to be cured, I believe that solutions to our public schools dilemma begin with attendance, behavior, academic performance, teacher competence, parental involvement, administrative oversight, community support, and adequate financing.  There are no quick fixes or silver bullets.  Only honest dialogue, collaborative effort, hard work and courageous leadership can resolve the public schools dilemma that we have created for ourselves.

Unless all of these objectives and goals can be accomplished satisfactorily, charter schools will not prove to be an education panacea. And, they should not be substituted for our present public schools, for nothing will have changed substantially for our (at-risk and disadvantaged) students in their quest for education excellence.

John Horton is a Norfolk resident an a frequent contributor to this newspaper.

By John Horton

Well, as they say, “Here we go, again.”

Just in recent days, “marches” (demonstrations, protests and rallies) have been announced in response to Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States. Among these are: (1) Nationwide healthcare protests and rallies in favor of the Affordable Care Act, beginning January 15, 2017;  (2) Filmmaker Michael Moore, actors Mark Ruffalo, Alec Baldwin, and other “celebrities” will be holding a massive demonstration and rally in front of Trump International Hotel, January 19, 2017, against Trump’s election; (3) Women’s March on Washington, supporting women’s and minorities’ rights, January 21, 2017.

As aforementioned, there are “Marches” in major cities and metropolitan areas protesting President-Elect Donald Trump. It has been reported that many of these so-call “Millennials” and protestors did not bother to vote, voted for third party candidates and/or voted for write-in candidates.

If any of these actions were taken, I feel strongly that the right to “protest” the election of Trump as president is misguided.  Let me be perfectly clear, I voted for Hillary Clinton and a straight democratic ticket. I/we “lost” this particular election. Now, “we” should suck it up, and abide by the election results. For now, there is no reason to “protest,” especially if there were no efforts or actions taken to cast a vote for Clinton, whom some seem to be protesting in favor of. It is now too late. And, for now, maybe a “lesson well learned.”  

Again, I find that many of our leaders, influencers and advocates are promulgating “Marches” as the answer and resolution to our myriad of societal issues … especially those that pertain to our children, families, communities, schools, and the nation as a whole.  Many of these “Marches” are the culmination of grass roots activism and (mostly) Black leadership to get the ball rolling in order to address the various crucial needs and shortcomings in the Black community.

Marches. demonstrations, protests, sit-ins, and gatherings will fall short and eventually lose their meaning and effectiveness if we fail to do the “hard and smart work” that lies ahead for us to truly overcome our shortcomings and deficiencies.  We must clearly understand that these “Marches” are only the preliminaries for what needs to be done.  The lower portion of the iceberg lies before us, and we must figure out how to safely and competently navigate around it.

There are some debilitating predicaments that face us as we head into the 21st century.  Many of these struggles and challenges will be centered around the cornerstones of familial, social, political and economical amelioration.  Simply put, we must learn how to coalesce and compete as we move forward in the new millennium.  As Paul Robeson saliently stated over 50 years ago, “We cannot expect others to do those things that we should do for ourselves …”

In that regard, I offer some basic advice and viable suggestions.  Admittedly, it will not be an easy task, but it can be done.  However, it will take immense self-discipline, tenacity, persistence and lots of hard and smart work.

First, parents and other adults have to accept collective responsibility for making a positive difference in the lives of their children and communities.  Others – schools, agencies, organizations, governments, etc. – cannot “make it happen” for us, if we do not want to “make it happen” for ourselves.

Second, to empower our families and communities, our children must learn to be(come) successful in school.  This achievable feat has three basic components:  (1) attend school daily; (2) behave properly; and (3) do the work (classroom and homework).  This will require significant parental involvement, for the school, alone, cannot do this for our children.
Third, as many leaders, influencers and advocates have been saying all along, our youth must learn to practice self-discipline and prioritize their goals in life:  (1) finish at least high school; (2) get a job(s); and (3) become adults and get married before having a family.

Fourth, as adults and parents, we must vow that not another generation of Black children will live in communities of poverty, ignorance, violence, apathy and abuse.  We must give our children a safe, sound and stable environment in which to grow and flourish.  Otherwise, we will have betrayed them and ourselves with broken promises and unfulfilled futures. 

If as a cohesive and competitive people, we begin to instill these kinds of values and priorities, then all the “Marches” will not have been in vain.  There will have been “substance,” as well as “symbolism,” especially when the spotlight has been turned off and the crowd has gone.  It will have been well worth the effort, time and expense.  The “messages of the Marches” will have reached home.  For, it is now time to get the job done for our children, families, communities, schools … and the nation as a whole. 

John Horton is a Norfolk resident an a frequent contributor to this newspaper.

By Sean C. Bowers

When I was five-years-old I found myself in Foster Care where I developed a sense of toughness. It was fostered by an angry edge, through the lack of care shown me by the host family’s excuse-for-a-Mom.

This change in my spirit was part of what always drove me in my athletic career as I practiced four to six hours a day for fifteen years. This internal drive intensity allowed me to become a college basketball full scholarship player and excel on both the East & West coasts and in the Mid-west.

Early on, I realized there would always be players who had some kind of advantage on me. They might be bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, or better athletes than I. That meant I had to create my own advantages where I could find them. I had to become more versatile, play all five positions, and be able to guard anyone, especially the other team’s best scorer. My training staples became running, biking and conditioning as I sought to forge my body and mind into a lethal basketball weapon that could out-hustle, out-deny, out-work, out-last, out-heart, out-think, out-fundamental, out-execute anyone I faced on the courts.

My goal was to be the best-ever distance running player so that in the fourth quarter I would never tire or be winded. That physical edge won me the respect of my teammates and, more importantly, my coaches.

Instead of running with slower big men in practice for wind sprints, I ran with the guards, pushing them and myself on every sprint to be the first one in, every practice and every day of my career. In the off-seasons I ran hills, mountains, beaches, sprints, and hurdles, carrying extra weights. Often, I would train alone like the prize (life) fighter I felt I was.

My motivation at five was to not end up like my dad in jail. As the oldest grandchild, I was determined to overcome what anyone said or thought about what I could do or become. Other people’s negative input or perceptions about me became my engine’s fuel.

I took the role of being my family’s’ first college graduate very seriously. It meant that in spite of growing up poor, in a one-room garage apartment, I could be a difference-maker. I would set records and write my own history. Only I, with God’s blessings, controlled my training, my end-results, my salvation, my redemption, my destiny.

By refusing to allow others to ever define me, I never bought into their short-sightedness, when it came to my abilities and my overall potential. On the courts, each underestimation of my game was at someone else’s peril.

Eventually, all the things I sought came into focus and I was justly rewarded for all those thousands of hours of training, dedication and pain. While the championships and records were sweet and can never be taken away from me, they paled in comparison to fulfilling my true academic and athletic potential my Mother instilled in me from the beginning. Making Mom’s face beam when I earned those scholarships and graduated with both my AA and a BA degrees was the real prize.

In retrospect, that foster witch lit a fire that still burns brightly now in each Guide article, written by an (older) kid who once graduated his fourth high school with four D’s and a C. Perhaps I went the furthest with that relentless drive to prove her wrong.

For every reader, parent, person within listening distance or reading sightlines, my message to you is this: “You and only you are the captain of your ship. Choose your course wisely, or someone else will try and choose it for you.”

P.S. (Let’s just hope our new President has the same ability – to make something out of nothing.)

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide the last seventeen years. His recent book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available at V1ZUAL1ZE@aol.com and he does do large scale solutions presentations.

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