Monday, March 31, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama "A More Perfect Union"

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.


Monday, March 17, 2008

State Rep. Wayne Ford Announces Re-Election Bid

For immediate Release:
For more information - 515-720-3495

Des Moines, Iowa – Iowa State Representative Wayne Ford of Des Moines recently announced he will be seeking another term in the Iowa House of Representatives. Ford is a Democrat and represents House District 65, which covers north-central Des Moines. Ford has served in the Iowa House since 1997 and is the longest-serving black state legislator in the history of Iowa.

“In the 12 years I have served in the Iowa House of Representatives, I believe we have made progress in the areas of education, health care, and job opportunity, but more needs to be accomplished. I am also seeking re-election to make sure that we continue to make progress that will help the people of my district and the state of Iowa.,” said Ford.

My platform emphasizes my involvement in and support of environment/health issues, economic development, and equity for all Iowans.

Ford indicated he was especially proud of several of his personal accomplishments in the legislature. “After years of working on issues that Iowans face in regards to lead paint, we’ve passed my bill which was considered to be landmark legislation.” HF 158 was a bill that required all children in the state of Iowa receive a lead blood test by age six or prior to enrollment in an elementary school. If not detected early, lead paint poisoning can cause brain development and physical problems, including death. “The next step must be to develop programs to help repair the homes and apartments that contain lead paint. I have been working with other local and state officials since last fall on this aspect of the problem,” Ford said. "I've been working with officials at every level to find ways to fund what I think is one of the most challenging issues facing our state."

“I am also proud of my work improving the state’s Targeted Small Business program to help businesses owned by minority members,” Ford said. “After serving on a special task force created by Governor Vilsack, I introduced legislation last session to change the program to make it more effective. The program has been on the books for years, but was not very effective. Legislation passed last session is making this program work, helping more minorities get their businesses off the ground, and improving opportunities for minority businesses owners to obtain state contracts for goods and services. “I am pleased that Governor Culver has included the T.S.B. program in the state budget this session.” Ford also said.

“Also in this session, I have sponsored legislation that would make it a requirement that any state agency which distributes funds through a grant or contract require a Minority Impact Statement as part of the application process.” HF 2288 will require the application to include three types of information: whether the proposed activity will have a disproportionate or unique impact on a minority population in the state; a rationale for the existence of the activity if it will have a disproportionate impact on a minority population; and evidence that the applicant has consulted with representatives of the affected minority community, or communities, if there is such an effect on minority persons.

I have received a lot of positive feedback and look forward as we get ready to debate this bill in the House Chamber.

Like many Iowans, I am not proud of the state's being number one in America when it comes to the incarceration of blacks. “Although we still have a long ways to go, I have worked and will continue to work on why a disproportionate number of African-Americans are in Iowa prisons. HF 2227 is a bill for an act relating to the preparation of a correctional impact statement. This statement will look at the impact of certain legislation on racial and ethnic minorities. This legislation will make sure that, when we increase penalties on certain crimes, we do not inadvertently discriminate against African-Americans or other minorities, causing even more of our youth to go to prison.” Ford said. The Sentencing Project, based in Washington, DC, has work with Ford on this legislation. Sentencing Project Executive Director, Marc Mauer, has said that, if passed, it could be the first law of its kind in America.

I am also concerned with disproportionately high minority dropout rates and disproportionately low minority high school graduation rates in our schools. I have been working at every level to address these problems in our schools and communities and will continue to do so.

Ford currently serves as Chair of the Community Outreach Subcommittee of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee, Vice Chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, and sits on the House Economic Growth, and Human Resources Committees.

Ford played football at Drake University and graduated with a degree in Education. He has done graduate work in public administration at Drake University and in the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Iowa.

In 1985, he founded Urban Dreams, a United Way agency created to serve the needs of Des Moines’ inner-city residents. Ford has served as its Executive Director since its inception. Urban Dreams has evolved into a statewide organization and is working with Simpson College to develop an Urban Institute to deal with the challenges facing Iowa as it continues its rural to urban transition.

Ford has received national acclaim for the Brown & Black Presidential Forum, which is the oldest minority Presidential Forum in America. He and his Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Mary Campos, created the Forum in 1984.

Ford has been profiled in the Washington Post, the Washington Times and nationally in Parade Magazine about his rise from Washington, DC’s inner city to the Iowa Statehouse. He has also been profiled nationally on BET and HDNet TV. Representative Ford is also included in a book called “The American Dream,” written by former CBS News anchor Dan Rather.

Ford has been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame including Rochester Community College’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 1994, Drake University’s Double-D award for athletics and civic involvement in 1995, Des Moines B’nai Brith Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Iowa State African-American Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2007, he received the University of Iowa Black Law Students Association's Alexander G. Clark Jr. and Sr. Award. In 2008, the Iowa Commission on the Status of Blacks presented Ford with it’s first ever Harold Washington Pinnacle Award during this year’s state of Iowa’s Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Ford and Mary Campos were finalists for The Des Moines Register's Iowa Star Award and Urban Dreams was a finalist for The Register's Aurora Award in 2008.

Wayne is married to Romonda Belcher Ford, an Assistant Polk County Attorney. He has one son, Ryan Ford, who resides in Los Angeles, CA. Ryan graduated from Roosevelt high school in 1995 and is currently Executive Editor of The Source Magazine.

Help Keep the Harding Hills Hy-Vee Open!

Another door closed???

Not if we can help it!

The Importance of Keeping Harding Hills Hy-Vee Open

What: CCI members and supporters have asked that Hy-Vee representatives meet with us to discuss the closing of the Harding Hills Hy-Vee.

Why is this important? It has been reported that the Harding Hills Hy-Vee is not profitable. Hy-Vee claims that a mega store would better serve our community even if we have to travel further to access their services. Should they close their current location, Hy-Vee will not allow another grocer to move into the location to prevent competition with the new store. This will leave many families without access to a local grocery store. Representatives have stated there hasn’t been enough concern expressed from families in this area.

What do we want? If you are concerned about the relocation of Harding Hills Hy-Vee to the Beaverdale neighborhood (which already has a grocery store) Let your voice be heard starting Monday, March 17, call CEO Richard Jurgens at 267-2800 and tell him he needs to meet with the community that has supported the store for over 30 years. Or you can e-mail Richard at

When? Starting Monday, March 17th please call and e-mail Richard Jurgens. Tell your friends and family that care about this issue to do the same. Let Hy-Vee know they need to meet with us. Don’t wait, contact Richard Jurgens today!

For more information contact CCI at 255-0800.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Good Friday Service in Waterloo

Seven "Anointed" Women of God
"The Seven Last Words of Jesus at Calvary"

Good Friday Service
March 21, 2008 at 5:00pm

At Faith Temple Baptist Church,
415 Walnut Street, Waterloo, Iowa

Come Join Us For An Afternoon of Divine Inspiration

Sis Vergestene Cooper - Antioch
Rev Evette Fantroy - Faith Temple Church ABC
Rev Patricia King
Rev Verna Dedrick - Payne AME Church
Pastor Belinda Creighton-Smith Faith Temple Church ABC
Rev Shara Adderley
Pastor Mary Robinson -All Nations Church, ABC

"When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion!" African Proverb

Faith Temple Baptist Church, ABC
415 Walnut Street, Waterloo, Ia 50703

Do You Know What School Employees Are Saying to Your Children?

By Coy Bundy

A ninth-grader was in the hallway walking with a vice-principal and a student was on his cellphone, the vice-principal said, "Put it away or go home." The kid responded,"Okay. Okay." The vice-principal said "Get your butt to class and stop being an a**hole."

A Des Moines ninth-grader told me this. After this, the vice-principal and the student kept exchanging words. Do you know what these teachers, advisors and principals are saying to your kids?

This to me is an outrage. It is very inappropriate for teachers or anybody in the school district to speak to our children in this manner. Another instance happened in a middle school. A kid reported to me that a teacher bet a kid $500 they wouldn't make it past the seventh grade. Wow, I wonder why the majority of our minority students struggle in academics? Why should they try if their teachers are already condemning them to be nothings?

In another instance, an eighth grader was having a dispute with the teacher. The teacher told the student if we were outside it would be a different story. Implying that if they stepped out of the school they would be fighting. This was a child, somebody's child. Do all the school's employees speak like this or is it just the urban community? It is hard to believe that all this is happening right under our noses. We as parents need to listen to our children when they tell us an adult was disrespectful to them. Our children have rights, and we have the right to voice our concerns about how our children are treated.

Another instance is a vice-principal telling a student that he overrules her mother's decisions. What exactly does that mean to us as parents? Does this mean that the school can just tell us what they are going to do with our children and talk to our children any way they feel? We have a voice. They are our children. We pay their wages through our taxes. We have more say than they want us to believe. We do not bow down to the schools, we raise up and defend our children. I'm not saying that they have to let our children speak to them in any form and fashion. I just want them to be the adult and show it by example. If I called their child out of their name and bet them they couldn't make it to the next grade, would they like that? I think not. If we don't talk to our children like this, why would we want some total stranger to speak to them like this?

Parents if your child comes home and tells you that they were spoken to in this manner, this is what you have the right to do:

1. You have the right to call the Vice Principal at the school to report the abuse and get a follow up.
2. If this does not work you have the right to have a meeting with the Principal, Vice Principal and teacher who offended your child.
3. If this does not work, you can call the Superintendent's office for your school district at 515-242-7911 (Des Moines.)
4. Usually this is the last stop because the Superintendent's office is really good at listening to the concerns of parents (I know from experience).
5. If all else fails you can go above that office and request to speak to the supervisor.
6. Go to the school board meeting to complain. Call or email school board members.

Please don't turn your ear to your child when they report this to you. This behavior toward your student can affect them in their future. They will have difficulty trusting teachers and they will loose academic self-esteem.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

DSM: School Board of Cowards?

By Les Cason Jr.

The School Board Of Cowards: Dick Murphy, Patty Link, Connie Boesen, Ginny Strong, and Nancy Sebring. It is easy to gang up and attack Jonathan Narcisse who is doing his job, who is keeping his promise to the people who elected him to the School Board! It is easy to overlook Graduation Rates, Poor Academic Scores, and High drop out rates, and take your frustrations out on Jonathan Narcisse. It is easy to avoid asking questions about how taxpayer money is spent! It is easy to avoid how Connie Bossen's Brother-in-Law received $130,000 dollars for land Des Moines Public Schools never used! However, it is hard to stand up to the questions and challenges Jonathan has put on the table. If Nancy Sebring has the academic credentials, Nancy would welcome Jonathan's challenge with open arms. With the data and budget book at hand, if Dick, Connie, Ginny and Patty believed Jonathan's information was wrong! Instead of putting on a show for the public they would have made it a point on Tuesday to have their information ready to challenge Jonathan!

Reasons you've seen the display of ignorance and immaturity from the Coward Of Five, because they are not being forthright, they are hiding information from the public which they do not want you to know. Everyone is pointing the finger at Jonathan Narcisse, however if you attend a School Board Meeting you will see Jonathan do two things, ask questions and demand answers! Which the last I looked was not a crime unless you are AFRICAN AMERICAN AND IN A POSITION OF INFLUENCE!

The last couple of weeks, I have witnessed some of the most RACIST REMARKS AND BEHAVIOR FROM THE SCHOOL MEETING TO THE DES MOINES REGISTER BLOGS! I have yet to have one person tell me what Jonathan did was wrong, from the School Board meeting to his radio program, no one has yet pointed out what did Johnthan did was wrong! Yet many on the Des Moines Register Blogs have DEFENDED JOHNATHAN NARCISSE WHICH MAKES ME PROUD! The ones against Johnathan Narcisse have yet to tell me what has Jonathan done wrong.

So you mean to tell me asking questions and raising issues is a crime? If one goes to the School Board Meetings, listens to the radio or watches the meetings on TV will see this is all that Jonathan is doing. Jonathan is doing what he said he would do during his campaign,so now people are surprised? Jonathan has not sold out unlike other members of the African American Community. Jonathan has set out and demanded the truth about Drop Out Rate, how the Board Spent Tax Payers Money, Poor Academic Scores. The Reason African Americans are doing so poorly in Academics and Attendance. Why African American students have the highest Suspension Rates Among a Majority White population!

However according to Dick Murphy, teachers are doing a fine job, in fact Dick made sure to make this point clear to a concerned parent who dared to criticize Teachers at Merrill were his children attend. Because his Children attended Merrill all the Teachers at Merrill are doing a good job. This Parent saw it differently and Dick Murphy made sure she felt his rage! However this was never posted on the web site. You do not have the opportunity to see this on the Internet. However they made sure, the people saw the attack on Jonathan Narcisse. Now you have individuals trying to destroy his character and question his credentials.

However I wonder why individuals who are questioning Jonathan's credentials are not Questioning Nancy Sebring, Dick Murphy, Patty Link, Ginny Strong and Connie Bossen' Credentials? Is it because the individuals feel their Credentials are legit and do not need to be checked? Or is it because They are White and Individuals who are raising the question feel Jonathan has no business challenging the status quo?

What the School Board of Cowards needs to do is to figure out why Des Moines kids are graduating at 79% second worse graduation rate in the state of Iowa! Dick Murphy told me Des Moines Public Schools has the best teachers, however the district has a graduation rate of 79.5%. You tell me what went wrong and why is Dick, Connie, Ginny, Patty and Nancy are attacking Jonathan about irrelevant issues when our kids in Des Moines Public School are failing? The Five Cowards got on the radio and attacked Jonathan Narcisse, however could not DISPROVE Jonathan's ARGUMENT! When Dick and Ginny ran for school board they made a promise they would make sure Des Moines Public Schools education is back to the top of the national class where it once was! Two years later it dropped further behind the National Class. States we used to dominate are now dominating us. Instead of working with Jonathan they'd rather show their immaturity and make a fool of themselves.

This is what I have to ask, since the Five Cowards disagree with Jonathan and they feel his numbers are not correct. Where is their evidence, how do they plan on bringing Des Moines Public School back on the map? What is their plan on raising the Graduation rate and getting Des Moines Public Schools from the Second Worst with 79.5 percent back to 100%. Problem is the five Cowards are too busy hiding and worrying about Test Scores and Mismanagement of Money! Rather than worry about how can the Board improve test scores and graduation rates. For if they do not all ready know the rest will be exposed with in due time any way!

Les Cason, Jr.

Editor's note:
So what do you think? Does Les have a point? Or is he totally off base? Post your thoughts by clicking on comments below.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Butt Out Iowa Legislators!!!

By Coy Logan

Oh my gosh, you have got to be kidding me! They seriously want to pass a law to tell us we can't smoke in public places. Well, that is not what is actually bothering me about the whole thing. It is actually the fact that they raised our cigarette prices, so now I'm paying $6.00 per pack and I can't smoke em. This is ridiculous.

I'm already can tell you that when I go to the casino (Prairie Meadows) instead of spending $300 per visit, I'm going to spend $20 since I'll have to leave the property all together to smoke. Don't you know that is such an inconvenience? The smoking section in the casino is completely separate from the non-smoking section. We don't bother the non-smokers and they don't bother us. So, do you honestly think I'm going to call a floor attendant to hold my machine while I go have a half-an-hour smoke break? NO! I might as well leave. I'm not going to spend my money somewhere I can't relax.

If you guys are trying to get me to stop gambling and save my money for my carton of cigarettes, thank you. First of all, at the casino there are only adults. Who are we influencing to smoke at the casino? If the kids are there to see the races they aren't supposed to be on the Casino floor anyways. Next thing you know, I won't be able to go on my back porch to light a cigarette. Oh wait, will that still be legal?

I can't believe that they are treating us smokers like second hand citizens. Get it? We bowed down and paid the extra taxes on our cigarettes. I agree that it's polluting the air and affecting others but so is smog in California. Are we going to shut down all the companies that pollute our air, which is killing the ozone layer? No. That's where the dollar bills are. How can you tell me what to do so easily and where to do it at? Where are my rights? Why do I feel as though you are spending more time giving us a hard time than illegal immigrants in Iowa. A couple of years ago my mom's car was totalled and she was injured by an illegal immigrant who was driving with no insurance and no license. If you put this much effort into something worth the while then I would support it. There's repeat offenders out there that are still raping, robbing, embezzling and stealing. Of course, we as a state have no time to deal with those not so serious problems. But we need to crusade against the SMOKERS. Am I not an Iowan too? Am I not an American? When you cut me don't I bleed? And when I bleed isn't it red just like yours? I feel offended that I would even feel as though my freedom will change so drastically. I am not able to go to the casino for long periods of time any longer because I can't smoke there. Now what? I already couldn't go to some restaurants.

There's no chance that my $13,000 a year to the casino is going to continue. I will be honest with you my fellow Iowans. Those nice new schools that were built and those nice new freeways...that's all over. You are not getting my contribution any longer. It's already bad when you can't win at the casino, now I can't smoke to calm my nerves because I gave up $13,000 for the better cause. Well, where's my cause?

EDITOR'S NOTE: So what do you think? Does Coy have a point? Or is she off base? Post a comment.