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Op-Ed

Take a Page from Gay Rights Activists

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Lauren Burke
By Lauren Victoria Burke
NNPA Columnist

 

When it comes to the issue of gay rights in America, sometimes you can see the tide of a movement change in front of you. There was a time not so long ago when gay advocates were laughed out of the room. Their agenda was stalled during the presidency of George W. Bush and legal and legislative victories were nonexistent the decade before. Now the Supreme Court is five months away from deciding whether state laws against gay marriage are illegal.

Many of the victories for gay advocates were won in the courts. But several, such as the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and President Obama’s executive order on ENDA, were won legislatively. Victory was realized with the persistent belief by gay activists that they could win. That basic perseverance and lack of apology for what they were fighting for could serve as a model for African American activists.

“I believe we will win,” Phil Agnew, executive Director of the Dream Defenders, often says. That is no small self-affirmation. Over the past few years, the gay lobby “believed they could win” and they did. Contrast that with the 2-year long discussion at the start of the Obama presidency by several Black leaders on whether there even should be a Black agenda. That’s an unthinkable discussion for other advocates in the political arena.

As it is the case with so many other winning political activists and advocates, gay advocates rarely marched. They rarely held panel discussions on their issues. They almost never had summits re-repeating their policy concerns. What they did do is target a few issues at a time that they cared about and proceeded to raise money and vote accordingly.

Now think of this: 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus traveled to Ferguson, Mo. on January 17 and 18, and what was the main goal? To encourage the citizens in Ferguson to register and vote. One would think they wouldn’t have to make a trip with that theme.

Why?

Because in 2014, no one should have to encourage voter registration. Though voting isn’t the end all and be all, it’s the first of all. When details of the voter registration numbers in Ferguson hit the press, it was embarrassing. How could a town that’s 67 percent African American have a White mayor and only one Black member of a 6-person city council? Producing systemic change isn’t easy. But it is easy to register and vote.

Only four months after a Ferguson police officer, who would be photographed hours after the incident without a mark on his face, shot at an unarmed teenager 12 or 13 times — hitting him eight times and killing him — getting people to register shouldn’t be a problem. At some point, the activism has to convert into a detailed strategy focused on removing the current “leadership” in Ferguson from power.

St. Louis County non-prosecutor of police Bob McCulloch, the poster boy of mechanical bias, is a Democrat. And he ran unopposed. That’s in a county with a significant Black population. There is something wrong with that.

What did Brown family attorney Ben Crump say after McCulloch did exactly what everyone in the world knew he would in failing to indict Darren Wilson? In the understatement of the decade, Crump said, “We said from the very beginning that the decision of this grand jury was going to be the direct reflection of the presentation of the evidence of the prosecutor’s office.”

In a city like Ferguson, no one should be waiting for someone to return down the mountain with tablets. Ferguson has a City Council race in early April. If that isn’t the next focus of protest activism what is? In Ferguson last Sunday at Wellspring United Methodist Church, Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana, one of the youngest members of the Congressional Black Caucus, said: “Where do I start? How about undefinable frustration? It seems we can’t even catch breath from our first tragedy before being hit by another gut-punch from a second, third, and fourth. The names Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice.”

At the same service, Rep. Lacy Clay, who represents Ferguson, said, “We should be upset and angry. We need to be outraged when local law enforcement and the justice system repeatedly allows young, unarmed Black men to encounter police and then wind up dead with no consequences. Not just in Ferguson, but over and over again across this country. That shouldn’t happen in America.

“These tragedies have illuminated, with the harsh light of truth, the deep divisions and very real disparities that we have yet to overcome as a nation, and in this community as well. Not the least of which is the complete failure of local authorities here in St. Louis County to honestly pursue justice for Mike Brown’s family.”

Let’s see what happens in April.

 

Lauren Victoria Burke is freelance writer and creator of the blog Crewof42.com, which covers African American members of Congress. She Burke appears regularly on “NewsOneNow with Roland Martin” and on WHUR FM, 900 AM WURD. She worked previously at USA Today and ABC News. She can be reached through her website, laurenvictoriaburke.com, or Twitter @Crewof42 or by e-mail at LBurke007@gmail.com.

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Activism

Conversations About Cancer Screening Should Be Priority This Holiday Season – It Can Save Your Life

Now is the time to start having conversations about cancer screening and having them often. Be an example for your friends and family. It’s OK to say, ‘Hey, as your buddy, I want us to be together 20 years from now. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. That includes going to the doctor and getting screened for cancer.’ It may be a tough conversation to have, but you may be the one that could make a lifesaving difference.

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David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor.
David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor.

By David Ford

The holidays are a time to gather with friends and family for food, fun, and great conversations. But imagine those conversations not going as planned and the joy of being with your loved ones has been overshadowed by someone sharing that they have cancer.

You may not have been ready to have that discussion, yet it was happening. And you may not be prepared to talk about screenings with your loved ones, but it’s necessary. As someone who has had two different cancers in my life, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting screened.

It was 2015 when I first heard those earth-shattering words, “it’s cancer.” I thought back to a conversation with my doctor just a few months earlier when they recommended a routine colonoscopy screening.

Instead of getting it done right away, I kept putting it off. My life was busy. I had a family and was in the midst of a successful career. It just wasn’t a priority for me, and all the while, I was unknowingly putting myself at risk. Then flash-forward to a critical moment with my doctor. It was too late; surgery was needed to treat my cancer.

If I’d gotten my colonoscopy, a screening for colon cancer, when it was recommended, it’s possible that I could’ve avoided surgery, treatment, and the emotional toll I put on my family.

Even though the treatments saved me, I had to learn the hard way not to take unnecessary risks with my life. So, three years later, when my doctor recommended screening for prostate cancer, I did not wait. I completed the screening immediately, and we were able to find and treat my second cancer at an early stage. Now, I am once again cancer-free and sharing my story to help others understand why they should be getting screened.

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, yet the discussion of cancer screening remains taboo in our community.

Now is the time to start having conversations about cancer screening and having them often. Be an example for your friends and family. It’s OK to say, ‘Hey, as your buddy, I want us to be together 20 years from now. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. That includes going to the doctor and getting screened for cancer.’ It may be a tough conversation to have, but you may be the one that could make a lifesaving difference.

Cancer wasn’t something I was prepared to factor into my life. But through my experience, I learned some tough lessons. It is important to listen to my doctor. I need to take the time to share with others, so they don’t make the same mistake. It’s necessary to go to the doctor on a timely basis. It’s OK to have scary conversations about health with loved ones. And if a doctor recommends cancer screening, get screened.

Through my work with the American Cancer Society, I have seen that cancer doesn’t discriminate. It’s not just older people getting cancer; anyone can be at risk. This is the reason why it is so important for you to talk to a doctor about the type of health care and screening you may need.

You can’t play around with your life. It’s more than just a cancer screening, it’s a way to help ensure that we will be around for our families. The longer we are around, the more opportunities we have to live our dreams and to see our loved ones achieve their goals.

As we prepare to gather for the holidays, whether it’s a large gathering or with immediate family, I encourage you to have a conversation with your loved ones about regular cancer screening.

I hope that you take the steps yourself to schedule an appointment to get screened. If you need cancer screening recommendations, resources, as well as tips to start the conversation visit cancer.org/get-screened. A small discussion can make a lifesaving difference, so please don’t wait.

David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor, Senior Government Relations Manager at Southern California Edison, and member of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Board of Directors.

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Activism

Nonprofit Launches Effort to Support Immigrants Seeking Early Childhood Education Careers

Upward Scholars is introducing an academic and career support initiative called TeacherUp, which will help residents enroll in college, connect with employers and receive wraparound support, like stipends. 

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The County of San Mateo, California logo. (San Mateo County via Bay City News)
TeacherUp will bring real solutions to early educators who can benefit from our track record of delivering academic and career support for adult immigrants from low-income households.

By Olivia Wynkoop | Bay City News Foundation

A San Mateo County-based nonprofit announced on Nov. 17 that it is launching a program to support immigrants seeking careers in early childhood education.

Upward Scholars is introducing an academic and career support initiative called TeacherUp, which will help residents enroll in college, connect with employers and receive wraparound support, like stipends.

The program builds on the 2018 workforce development pilot called the Teacher Pipeline Project, developed by the organization Community Equity Collaborative to address the shortage of early childhood educators across the Bay Area’s peninsula. It was backed by local community colleges, schools, nonprofits and policymakers.

The project also successfully prompted state legislation to increase awareness on the challenges and financial barriers residents face when seeking careers in early childhood education, which disproportionately affect women and people of color.

Executive director at Community Equity Collaborative Dayna Chung said now is the time to invest toward an equitable learning workforce amidst the worsening educator shortage.

“Early childhood educators are an essential ingredient in the human infrastructure that supports healthy families and strong, local economies,” Chung said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 revealed and exacerbated systemic inequities, including poverty wages that drive the early educator shortage and force roughly 1 in 3 parents to take time off or leave their jobs.”

TeacherUp plans to also provide students with tutoring, scholarships, laptops, food vouchers, transportation assistance and other services from Upward Scholars’ other programs, like NannyUp.

“With its roots in the Teacher Pipeline Project and its future with our organization, TeacherUp will bring real solutions to early educators who can benefit from our track record of delivering academic and career support for adult immigrants from low-income households,” said Upward Scholars Executive Director Linda Prieto.

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Advice

From the 1800s to Today: Empowering Veteran Business Owners

Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military, including his grandfather, father, and brother (pictured right), and subsequently to their communities when they returned home.

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Three generations of McKindras pictured from left to right: Alex Jr. (West Point, Air Force), Q.R. McKindra (Alex Jr.’s grandfather, WWII veteran), Alex Sr. (career Army officer), and Marcus (Alex Jr.’s younger brother, Air Force Academy) (Courtesy photo)
Three generations of McKindras pictured from left to right: Alex Jr. (West Point, Air Force), Q.R. McKindra (Alex Jr.’s grandfather, WWII veteran), Alex Sr. (career Army officer), and Marcus (Alex Jr.’s younger brother, Air Force Academy) (Courtesy photo)

From JPMorgan Chase

From his years of service in the military to his current work helping former soldiers build their own businesses through JPMorgan Chase’s veteran initiatives, Alex McKindra Jr. is a veteran success story.

Moreover, as we celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, Alex’s story is a uniquely American one that veterans and members of the military community across the country can relate to. But, as he is the first to admit, his success story, like many, has a long history tracing back through generations of his family in the small town of Union Chapel, Arkansas.

Becoming a Cornerstone of the Community

In the late 1800s, Alex’s great-great grandfather, Reuben Frank McKindra, moved his family to Union Chapel, a town originally settled by freed Black slaves.

Working on their family farm, the McKindras made a name for themselves by demonstrating their resourcefulness and aptitude for hard work. Namely, the family utilized mentorship programs, as well as public and private funding, to not only start but grow their family farm.

Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military, including his grandfather, father, and brother (pictured right), and subsequently to their communities when they returned home.

“I would not be in the position I am today if not for the opportunities that mentorship provided,” says McKindra. “The farm my family was able to start, through the support and mentorship of others, has helped to educate and put clothes on every generation of my family since the 1880s.”

Honoring a Legacy

McKindra chose to honor his roots by joining the service himself. He graduated from West Point in 1993 and then completed a tour of duty serving across the U.S. as Captain in the United States Air Force. He worked as a procurement officer, including on the B-2 Bomber Program, which allowed him to travel across the country, learning from and serving others. During that time, he also spent his nights and weeks pursuing an MBA from the University of Southern California.

Armed with the life experience and knowledge he gained from the service—and a freshly-minted MBA and banking internship under his belt— McKindra dove into the world of corporate finance. Quickly building a reputation for his intelligence, reliability and kindness, he rose through the ranks. Today, he works as a Managing Director for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking in San Francisco

Paying It Forward

Alex didn’t want the chapter in his family’s story to end with commercial success.  He wanted to help those who—like his great-great-grandfather Reuben—had risked their lives for the country and were now seeking to put down roots as civilians. With that in mind, he decided to co-lead JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking’s veteran initiatives alongside Army veteran, Terry Hill. Alex, Terry and their team across the firm share a passion for mentorship and community building. Through various programming, they tap into their military backgrounds to connect with aspiring and current military-connected entrepreneurs to help them access the resources they need to be successful over the long-term.

For example, McKindra worked with JPMorgan Chase to partner with Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit that supports the ventures of veterans and military spouses, to build programs to help veteran business owners.

Today, JPMorgan Chase is powering Bunker Labs’ CEOcircle, a monthly peer accountability group for growth-stage companies looking to scale. Through this program, veteran business owners and their families gain access to the guidance and resources they need to succeed, including education, networking, and one-on-one financial coaching. This year, CEOcircle welcomed 71 new individuals to the program including Office Libations from Alameda.

The program uplifts businesses that will support military families for generations to come — businesses like the McKindra farm.

“If I’ve learned one thing from my family’s history, it’s that hard work and preparation aren’t always enough. Sometimes we need to create our own opportunities as well,” Alex says. “That is what we are hoping to do with CEOcircle, to create the opportunities and provide the support veteran entrepreneurs need to help them overcome systemic obstacles to business and professional growth.”

Generational Impact

Less than an hour north of Little Rock, the McKindra’s family farm still stands in Union Chapel. Today, the manicured green fields and trees remain a testament to the effort, determination, and community it takes to create a successful business.

“If my great-great-grandfather were here today, I would want him to know that what he built didn’t just support our family, it also instilled the values in us that would seed the acceleration and growth of hundreds of other veteran-owned businesses in the future,” McKindra says. “I know he’d be proud of that.”

If you are a veteran or know someone who is and want to learn more about how JPMorgan Chase support veterans whether through career advancement or small business support or anything in between, please visit: https://www.jpmorganchase.com/impact/people/military-and-vets

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