Sunday, February 22, 2009

To be an OBAMACRAT

I was asked recently why I refer to myself as an “Obamacrat” when I’m a registered Democrat. And it’s a very good question. From 2000 to 2007, I was a registered independent. During that period, I continued voting for Democrats because I liked their agenda and issues, but I scoffed at the notion of belonging to a party. After all, “issue identification” has always been more important to me than “party affiliation”.

But President Obama really inspired me to change my party affiliation…and ultimately, to believe again. My belief in the concept of the politics of hope has always been strong, but now it's bigger than the boundaries of this planet we inhabit. It was just a matter of time before I knew the word Obamacrat fully applied to me. But it's more than a word, it's a bonafide movement.

Allow me to explain.

To be an Obamacrat is to acknowledge (not dismiss) the color-specific differences that make us unique, while also embracing the color-blind commonalities that bring us together. If you see it this way, then you’re happy that President Obama has assembled a rich, cosmopolitan group of smart people that will advance, improve, and transform lives while "visually reflecting" the diversity of America. In a country of shifting demographics, this is necessary. In fact, Obamacrats will be cheering loudly when President Obama names a Latino and an Asian American to The Supreme Court.

To be an Obamacrat is to recognize that nothing, but nothing, trumps grass roots organizing. President Obama beat Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primary season last year because of his simple community organizing philosophy: city-by-city; block-by-block; person-by-person. But he became the most popular person in the world when he grew his profile using the tools of The New Media: the MySpacing-YouTubing-Facebooking-texting-Twittering component. Obamacrats see this as the smartest way to market your message for a mass audience. And we appreciate how Barack Obama continues to use New Media tools to promote his presidential message.

Obamacrats crave diplomacy, you know, where our country talks to both its friends (like Great Britain and Israel) and its enemies (like North Korea and Iran). In a world that is more connected and inter-dependent than ever before, nations working together can reduce, if not obliterate, the child sex trade; female inequality; global warming; the AIDS epidemic; famine; and never-ending war.

Furthermore, Obamacrats also want a president who can bridge the cultural divide in this country, someone with both BLUE STATE credentials and RED STATE credibility. Indeed, regardless of who voted for him on November 4th, President Obama now represents the evangelical farmer in Montana and the supply-side economist in Mississippi (who probably didn’t support him) as well as the small business owner in California and the union worker in Connecticut (who probably did).

To be an Obamacrat is to believe you can build something as majestic as The Great Pyramids or The Great Wall of China; to believe you can be as historic and life-affirming as P.B.S. Pinchback or Shirley Chisholm; or to believe that regardless of your cultural name (Gupta, Nguyen, Garcia, Omar or, Obama) you can be President of the United States. You know there are limits, but your strong, overpowering belief in the possibilities pushes you, and drives you.

Labeling myself an Obamacrat is a profoundly impressive honor that I take very seriously. I love the fact that President Obama is not only a great communicator, but also an intellectual stud. The Obama Family living in The White House, a building built by African-American slaves, is compelling. Truly earth shattering. But, even more compelling is the fact that slaves also dug foundations, hauled limestone, baked bricks, and cleared timber for The Capitol, where Obama was inaugurated, and for the massive area known as The National Mall, where 2 million people were packed in to witness his swearing in.

Like President Obama, we walk in the spirit of people who championed our rights, who spoke truth to power, and, who even envisioned this great moment in history. Let us all make the most of it.

To be an Obamacrat? Man, right now, nothing even compares to the feeling.

You can follow me at Twitter.com/2morrowknight and friend me at Myspace.com/2morrowknight.

President Obama's LOVE LETTER to American Women - Past and Present

When President Obama signed The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act bill on January 29th, it was an unmistakable Love Letter to American Women - a love letter that ensures women across the country will receive equal pay for equal work. By signing that bill, he is helping to fulfill what millions of women have fought for. Women like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, and Anna Julia Cooper.

When Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress in 1916 (four years before women had the right to vote), she had Equal Pay for Equal Work for women in mind. When Nannie H. Burroughs and Mary McLeod Bethune started The National Association of Wage Earners in the 1920s, they not only worked to improve living conditions for women, but also envisioned Equal Pay for Equal Pay for Women. When Fannie Lou Hamer fought 15 years for civil rights in The South (despite threats by the Klu Klux Klan and beatings by police), I’m sure she envisioned how her efforts would bring about, among other things, Equal Pay for Equal Work. These were brave, pioneering women.

Yet despite their awe-inspiring work, and the work of countless others, gender inequities have never been corrected. According to a study by The Center for American Progress, women may lose $434,000 in income, on average, due to the career wage gap. As it is stands right now, women in general earn 77 to every dollar a man makes for full time year round work. For a black woman it is 67 cents; for a Latina woman it is 58 cents. And as a policy specialist, President Obama is aware of these disturbing figures.

By championing the right of working women to receive fair pay, the paychecks of millions and millions of women (particularly in low wage, non-unionized jobs) can now see a boost. But, with President Obama's love letter comes a strong challenge too. Before the signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, President Obama said: "So in signing this bill today, I intend to send a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone. That there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal—but bad for business— to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability."

New Mexico Govenor Bill Richardson understands President Obama's challenge. He recently signed an executive order requiring his state to study and report it's own pay practices when it comes to gender and race, and it will require the same from private sector companies that want state contracts. Gov. Richardson's motivation is to overcome pay inequity in his state, and he created a task force to implement the necessary changes. Yes, this is awesome! Companies that want state contracts in New Mexico will have to show taxpaxers (who are footing the bill) that their businesses pay its workers fairly. And don't you believe that by doing pay equity analyses, these companies will cut down on discrimination lawsuits because their statistics will be available to employees who will see they're not being shorted? I do.

More work has to be done though. In fact, I would like to see President Obama sign a similar executive order for companies that want federal contracts, and I e-mailed him at WHITEHOUSE.GOV to let him know. E-mail him yourself and let him know your ideas.

President Obama signed not only a love letter, but a declaration of justice and a commitment to fairness for the nameless, faceless, voiceless women who help hold up our economy but are not rewarded for it. So let us rejoice that we have a president who understands the economic realities of American working women, and who understands what needs to be done to boldly address the less than flattering aspects of those realities.

Ladies, President Obama just signed you a Love Letter.

You can follow me at Twitter.com/2morrowknight and friend me at Myspace.com/2morrowknight.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why is Michelle Obama getting slammed for not choosing a Black Designer for her inauguration dress?

When I read about this on the huffingtonpost style page this morning, I shook my head in utter amazement. I couldn't believe it. Yes, the founder of the Black Artists Association, Amnau Eele, slammed Michelle Obama for not picking an African-American fashion designer for her inauguration dress. Here is what she said:

"It's fine and good if you want to be all 'Kumbaya' and 'We Are the World' by representing all different countries. But if you are going to have Isabel Toledo do the inauguration dress, and Jason Wu do the evening gown, why not have Kevan Hall, B Michael, Stephen Burrows or any of the other black designers do something too?"

I believe her criticism is completely undeserved. It really is.

Not because Michelle Obama is above criticism (no one is) but because the First Lady will have 4 full years (hopefully 8 years) to showcase the artistry and radiance of African-American designers. Think of all the State Dinners at the White House. Think of all of the Democratic Party fundraisers. Think of all the international travel to continent after continent. You get my point? She’s going to have 365 chances each year to wear the digs of African-American designers in high-profile settings – and brag about to the press.

I do believe there was an missed opportunity here. Ms. Amnau Eele, who leveled the criticism at Mrs. Obama, could have leveraged her position with the Black Artists Association to be a contact for The First Lady. You know, someone who could consult The First Lady about clothes and styles from both established and up-and-coming designers alike. Michelle Obama has a full staff, and a strong communications team in her office. So why not e-mail her? Why not fax her? Why not send her a nice card congratulating her on her beautiful dress, and letting her know that you’d like to recommend some designers for her next big event?

I just don’t get it.

Also, let me say this too: I really didn’t like the “be all 'Kumbaya' and 'We Are the World' by representing all different countries” part in Ms. Eele’s criticism either. This is a multicultural country. Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans, and Arab-Americans also voted in earth shattering numbers for President Obama. Not just because of him, but also because of his lovely, enterprising wife – a woman of incredible charisma and unimpeachable intellect, and, a woman who walks amongst dignitaries and heads of state without losing that COMMON TOUCH. She resonates with the nameless, faceless, voiceless millions who yearn for an empowered life outside of the shadows and margins of society. Indeed, her agenda (children, education, and military families) is animated by the hopes of the millions who follow and support her - including millions of black designers.

Knocking The First Lady for choosing an Asian American designer and a Latino designer is very, very unfair. I don't believe for one second that the Obamas are going to leave African-American designers out in the cold. No one can convince me of that. I mean, of course Michelle Obama is going to wear dresses from black designers (she wears them throughout the year).

Michelle Obama is going to continue to reach out to different racial and ethnic groups for designers with great styles. She has to. Her position as First Lady of The United States mandates that she speaks to both the color-specific differences that make us unique (because they exists and are real) as well as the color-neutral commonalities that bring us together. The current composition of this country demands it.

But, I can't help wondering how things would have been if Ms. Eele said this instead: “I will continue to celebrate Michelle Obama’s wonderful, awe-inspiring style, and, through my group, and others, consistently suggest ways she can maintain that style through the creative visions of designers, representing the total richness of America’s racial and ethinic diversity. I want to help her in that process."

Why didn’t she say that instead?