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Obama and Kenya: 1st Trip to Father’s Homeland as President

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In this Thursday, Feb. 5, 2008 file photo, a photograph of Barack Obama Sr., father of President Barack Obama, hangs on the wall of his step-grandmother Sarah Obama's house in the village of Kogelo, near the shores of Lake Victoria, in Kenya. On Friday, July 24, 2015 Obama is due to arrive in Kenya, the country of his father's birth, for the first time since he was a U.S. senator in 2006, and the first stop on his two-nation African tour in which he will also visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

In this Thursday, Feb. 5, 2008 file photo, a photograph of Barack Obama Sr., father of President Barack Obama, hangs on the wall of his step-grandmother Sarah Obama’s house in the village of Kogelo, near the shores of Lake Victoria, in Kenya. On Friday, July 24, 2015 Obama is due to arrive in Kenya, the country of his father’s birth, for the first time since he was a U.S. senator in 2006, and the first stop on his two-nation African tour in which he will also visit Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

JULIE PACE, AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Barack Obama visited Kenya for the first time nearly 30 years ago, he was astonished that an airport worker recognized his last name.

It was a striking experience for a young man — and future American president — struggling to understand how a country he had never seen and a Kenyan family he barely knew had shaped his identity.

“My name belonged and so I belonged, drawn into a web of relationships, alliances, and grudges I did not yet understand,” Obama wrote in his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” about the airport encounter.

This week, Obama will make his first visit to Kenya as U.S. president, a trip that will bear little resemblance to the 1988 one, when he arrived aboard commercial flight and his luggage got lost. Now, Air Force One will take Obama to a country where children, roads and schools now bear his name, and the world leader is seen as a local son.

Yet traveling with the trappings of the presidency appears likely to diminish the fulfillment of a trip to his father’s homeland.

“I’ll be honest with you, visiting Kenya as a private citizen is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as president because I can actually get outside of a hotel room or a conference center,” he said last week, adding that his trip still would be “symbolically important.”

Security concerns and the logistics of presidential travel will keep Obama at a distance from most Kenyans. He will skip a visit to Kogelo, the rural village in western Kenya where his father was born and buried, and where his stepgrandmother and other family members still live.

Obama’s two days of events will be confined to Nairobi, the capital where he will meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and speak to civil society leaders. On Sunday, he will go to Ethiopia.

Despite the limits on Obama’s movement and interactions with the Kenyan people, his visit is highly anticipated in the East African nation. Even as a U.S. senator, he was greeted by cheering crowds when he made his last visit to Kenya, in 2006.

Ahead of Obama’s arrival Friday, some Kenyans have adopted a rousing segment of an Obama speech as their cellphone ringtone. U.S. and Kenyan flags lined the road leading from Nairobi’s main airport.

Obama’s visit is like “a brother coming back,” said Nelly Ngugu, customer relations manager at a Nairobi cafe.

Before Obama’s travel plans were announced, there had been some disappointment that the U.S. president who has written and spoken emotionally of his Kenyan roots had not returned since taking office. Analysts questioned whether America’s first black president was missing an opportunity to give Africa more prominence in U.S. foreign policy.

Much of Obama’s international focus in his first term was on strengthening ties with Asia and trying to reset U.S. policy in the Middle East. His only visit to sub-Saharan Africa during his first four years in office was a short stop in Ghana.

At the time, there was persistent and inaccurate speculation that he was born in Kenya, not the United States. Some political opponents tried to use the rumors to undercut Obama’s eligibility for president. As late as 2011, a CBS/New York Times poll showed that one-quarter of all Americans believed Obama was not born in the U.S.

Obama’s re-election raised renewed hopes for a visit to Kenya, but the political situation there complicated those plans.

Kenyatta, the son of the country’s first president, was elected president in 2013, but faced charges in the International Criminal Court stemming from his alleged role in stoking ethnic violence following Kenya’s troubled 2007 election.

“The timing was not right for me as the president of the United States to be visiting Kenya when those issues are still being worked on and, hopefully, at some point resolved,” Obama said of his decision to pass over Kenya in favor of South Africa, Tanzania and Senegal during a 2013 trip to Africa.

The charges against Kenyatta were ultimately dropped, clearing the way for Obama to finally visit his father’s home country as president. With his arrival now imminent, the earlier disappointment appears to have faded, overtaken by anticipation and national pride.

In Kogelo, the Obama family’s home village, the family’s aging matriarch said even she would not feel bad if the president did not visit her. Sarah Obama, who Obama referred to as “Granny” in his memoir, said the president was coming to Kenya “to discharge his duty.

“He is a son here,” said the elder Obama, who was the second wife of the president’s grandfather. “I cannot be angered by him not coming to see me.”

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Associated Press writers Christopher Torchia in Nairobi, Kenya, and Fred Ooko in Kogelo, Kenya, contributed to this report.

___

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Coronavirus

Colin L. Powell, former Secretary of State, 84

Colin L. Powell, the first Black man to serve as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and first Black Secretary of State, died Monday of complications of COVID-19. The 84-year-old was also diagnosed with and being treated for a form of blood cancer and Parkinson’s disease. 

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United States Army General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/ Wiki Commons

Colin L. Powell, the first Black man to serve as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and first Black Secretary of State, died Monday of complications of COVID-19. The 84-year-old was also diagnosed with and being treated for a form of blood cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

A four-star general who also served on the National Security Council, Powell was born in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican immigrants in 1937. He attended public schools in the Bronx, where he grew up, and would graduate from City College of New York before joining the armed services in 1958 as a second lieutenant because of his participation in ROTC.

He was a professional soldier for 37 years, including two tours in Vietnam, rising steadily through the ranks until achieving 4-star general status in 1989 and, later that year, became the youngest and the first Afro-Caribbean to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.

Powell was an exceptional military leader.  He earned the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Soldier’s Medal for heroism.

A moderate, the lifelong Republican was well liked by both political parties, but he ultimately decided against running for public office himself.

He was selected in 2000 to be Secretary of State, transforming General Powell from soldier to statesman.

He became known for persuading the American public and world leaders that Iraq was creating weapons of mass destruction when he ultimately agreed with President George Bush’s administration determination to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. 

It would turn out that the allegations of weapons of mass destruction were not true and Powell would consider the war and loss of life a blot on his record the rest of his life. He returned to private life in 2005 and became an acclaimed speaker in high demand.

He broke rank with his fellow Republicans when he supported then-candidate Barack Obama’s bid for president in 2008. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice.

Powell earned the trust of U.S. presidents, foreign leaders, diplomats, and the American people.

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of General Colin Powell. I send my sincere condolences to General Powell’s wife, Alma, his family, his friends, and all of his loved ones” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

“General Powell was a trailblazer, serving as the first Black Secretary of State,” Lee continued. “I was fortunate enough to travel with General Powell during my early days in Congress to monitor elections in Nigeria and was moved by his kindness and expertise. I witnessed the close friendship between the late Congressman Ron Dellums, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and General Powell.

“Their relationship was a powerful example of a mutual admiration and respect between public officials despite their different opinions on policy. Despite our disagreements on some issues, General Powell was steadfast in his commitment to racial equity, diversity and our democracy. General Powell served this country with decency, integrity, and showed respect to everyone he encountered.

“May he rest in eternal peace and power,” Lee concluded.

Powell is survived by his wife, Alma, and three children.

Sources for this story include various news sites, Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s press office and Wikipedia.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

 

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Community

California Black Caucus Gives Thumbs Up to Law Reforming Courtroom Sentencing

The new law marks a correction to a ruling that was only meant to last two years but ended up lasting 14.

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Protestors raising fists high above heads. Concept of protest, human rights, fighting.

Members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) are applauding a new law Gov. Newsom signed on October 8 that modifies the state court sentencing procedure for crimes.

Senate Bill (SB) 567 requires judges to only hand out sentences with lengths that match a number of years that reflect the median point of the possible term.

Moving forward, according to the new law, sentences will only exceed middle term after circumstances presented to a jury are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We are now in a period of reckoning that requires us to confront the reality and interconnectedness of racism, inequality, and injustice which have permeated our institutions and deprive people of liberty, without the fundamental standards for fairness in our processes,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), who is chair of the CLBC

The new law marks a correction to a ruling that was only meant to last two years but ended up lasting 14.

In 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held in Cunningham v. California ruled that California’s determinate sentencing law was unconstitutional. The court found that California law impermissibly allowed judges to impose an upper/maximum term based upon facts that were never presented to a jury and deemed to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. This was a violation of the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution right to a trial by jury, according to the SCOTUS.

Later that year, a temporary law was put into place allowing judges to impose any of the three sentencing terms as long as they stated a reason for giving them. The law allowed judges to apply a maximum sentence without granting defendants the opportunity to have a jury determine if the reasoning for the sentence was true or not. The law was supposed to last until 2009 when a review of the sentencing process could determine a long-term solution.

However, the mandate ended up lasting until Gov. Newsom signed the law a little over a week ago.

Bradford was a lead proponent of SB 567 as part of this year’s criminal justice reform efforts.

“SB 567 makes our criminal justice system more credible and is a step in the right direction for criminal justice reform. I am grateful to Governor Gavin Newsom for signing the bill and appreciate the support of my legislative colleagues who voted for the bill because, only together, can we create a system that gives the public more confidence,” he said.

The bill was also sponsored by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice and supported by organizations such as Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and San Francisco Public Defender.

“SB 567 is a huge step forward in the fight for true justice in the courtroom. The impact of long sentences on individuals and families should not be taken lightly or subjected to arbitrary terms. As a lawyer and someone who has been impacted by the loss of loved ones to incarceration, I find this bill a worthy step in the right direction,” said Joanna Billingy, policy manager for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

SB 567 will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

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