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Open Thread: What's on Your Mind?

Open Thread

We've been focused on Marion Jones' steroid scandal to a degree, but there are plenty of other issues making headlines.

Here's your space to start a conversation about the other topics and news stories on your radar.

In case you need a tutorial, check out last week's thread sparked by Moji.

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What is on my mind? I will tell you. African American children.

As a recent first time father I have found myself overcome with emotion, not just for my child, but for children in general. I am greatly concerned about the many issues black children have to deal with. While the 70% out of wedlock birth phenomenon is spoken on quite frequently I hear very little solutions. After spending years working with youth in inner city Los Angeles and other areas in the metro I realize there is only so much outside organizations can do to shape the development of children. Frederick Douglass has a great quote about raising children:

"It is easier to build strong children then to repair broken men."

What can we actually do as a community to get this ridiculous out of wedlock rate down? Every study shows a two parent home is so much more productive than a single parent home. With all things being equal a child coming from a two parent home has a leg up on child from a single parent home in every way. Can we do anything as a community? Or is this strictly a personal decision issue? If so our collective personal decisions are having a grand effect on the next generation.

Lastly, I will tell you one of the most heartbreaking realizations that come with working with inner city children. It is when you realize that for all of your time, effort, and care the conditions at home outweigh your impact MOST of the time. If we want to change our children we have to create relational change in the homes they are living in.

Any thoughts?

Sent by TR | 5:43 PM | 10-5-2007

What's on my mind? Why there's a problem of Blacks thinking and acting with an "Us First" mentality. As I listen to talk shows and read articles on the subject on what could and should be done to "fix" our condition it disturbs me that it seems we have to justify our actions of self-correction first.

For example, with the murder rate as high as it is in Baltimore and 80 - 85 percent of those being murdered are Black, why should a police chief have to explain a solution that involves using solely Black men? One of the first questions Farai asked the reported from a local newspaper there was what he thought the (implied negative) impact of having the Nation of Islam involved would be (and no I'm not a member or a Black Panther), I thought "wait, what does that have to do with solving 85% Black murder rate in what I believe is her hometown. The reporter when on to state that wherever the NOI are, they bring drama with the fact that they are who they are. I really didn't get that Farai. Nor did I get the police chief having to rename the project from 10,000 Black Men to just 10,000 Men because some people other than the 85% Black murdered were offended! Wow! That in and of itself is insane to me.

It's as if we have an unwritten set of rules that say "You can fix yourselves as long as others (whites, asians, etc...) are not offended." and I didn't say negatively affected, I said just "offended" What's really going on here? Have we been that effectively terrorized or trained to act like that? I can't see Asians being concerned about Blacks being offended by some self correcting measures they were taking.

Anyway, its just what was on my mind

Still Love you though Farai

Sent by Anthony Stewart | 6:36 PM | 10-5-2007

I feel you. So far as solutions, we need to address the root of the problem or I should say one of the roots which is the negative perception young Black males have (and are continuing to receive) of young Black females!

Having a "baby mama" and a baby daddy has become not only a social norm but is somewhat fashionable. We have to reverse that thought process. A lot of Music Videos portray young Black females as sex kittens. So what do young Black men who watch those videos religiously do? They try hard to sleep with them and also follow the lead of their Rap heros by dumping them, "We don't love dem Ho__s!" This is not an attack on all rap music but if you "Tell a story" as rappers have said that's all their doing, and in your story, the PIMP or the DRUG DEALER is the star and hero then young males are conditioned to be that type of hero.

Young men ride around in cars, with the windows rolled all the way up, blasting lyrics demeaning Black females and women in general. The car becomes like a womb where the "baby" inside is feeding off the umbilical cord of Filth. Inside the car (womb) to the sweetest beats ever produced he and she are conditioned to be a pimp, drug dealer, hoe, thug, and other forms of antisocial characters.

And why so much love for this type of music? Why are the songs rapped and sung with so much passion? Why do people dance sooo hard to this music? Because IN their present life, in the here and now, they are suffering daily. What are they suffering from?

The inability to express their unique purpose in such a way that it brings happiness and satisfaction with who they are. Now do they realize that in those terms? Of course not, but they do know that something is wrong. That life is not supposed to be like this. And out of frustration, a conscious and for many, unconscious stress and anger, they lash out flailing desperately like a drowning man for something to keep them from going under.

Sometimes it's rap music that saves them by pulling them away from THIS reality and taking them to a place where there's a happy ending for their existence. I once asked a female why she liked Lil Wayne so much (I was his personal videographer for 3 years) and her answer was this:

"Wayne is real...he speak to me, he makes me feel good about being me...he got a song called Project Chick, in it he says he wants a Project Chick, a hood rat.... Now he got all this money and fame but he want a project chick...HE WANT ME!" Now maybe she shouldn't see herself as lowly as she may, but the fact is Lil Wayne, in her mind, made her feel good about the negative situation she's in and sees no way of ever escaping.

We have to help the young and the not so young see that they have a purpose, a unique and beautiful purpose and that it can be found. And, that in finding it and then the journey in expressing it can be far greater than singing and bragging about killing one another and demeaning females.

We need to show them examples by being examples of happy, healthy, progressive and financially fit individuals. We need to be honest with them early on about society and how it came to be this way AND how though it may seem hopeless there is a functional solution through loving self and others enough to study self and others to be patient though firm and resolute with self and others. You and I have to help the find another focal point. One they can grab hold to right now and see the benefit.

I hope that was something in the way of an answer

Anthony Stewart

Sent by Anthony Stewart | 7:55 PM | 10-5-2007

What's on my mind?
I just heard online the story with Americans for African Adoptions.

Moving? Yes. I also think more should be said concerning the celeb-adoption issue and how it impacts "Western" perceptions of Africa. There is so much to say positively about the continent and about orphan care.

There are also African-based alternatives. Allow me to mention our own story.

My wife and I have a small home in the Luwafu area of Kampala, Uganda. She is Ugandan. I am a white American. While we were still colleagues, as educators in Africa, she was taking in children into her one-room flat, at a pay of $35 a month (sometimes with no pay at all) starting with her own nieces when her sister died of AIDS. One niece was born HIV+.

Through this beautiful niece, we know daily what that means for a child and a family with infected children.

Currently, we have eight children with us. Our home is like any other in this part of Kampala. Our income is of modest means. (In case the reader thinks we have created some kind of unreal Disney World environment)

We are raising these children there (rather than in the USA) for a purpose. It is this: that they stay connected with their clans, their country, and, their continent.

Why? Africa's future is being shaped by how its children are being raised today - orphans, street children, the most vulernable included.

My wife and I also believe and prayerfully encourage our children (mostly girls) to become self-reliant, strong, Ugandan women. Their future IS the future of Uganda.

Our role as parents is to make sure the children stay in school, are healthy, are open to being compassionate with those suffering with AIDS (as their "sister" is teaching them in our home) and that through her positive outlook on life, these sibblings refuse to buy the lies of the stigma against infected children.

We also are there, like any parents, to encourage the children to find out what God wants them to do in life - what skills and talents they possess - and how they can be used for their own self-support (so as not to rely on so-called "sugar daddy" older men) and how they can be used by God to influence postivively their neighborhood - however that is defined - and for Africa, in their own ways.

Africa needs this generation of African children to become its next leaders, its next parent generation, its next community and village elders, and teachers, doctors, business persons, and government officials.

Out of this generation, from among the orphan and vulnerable child population, one day will rise the next Mandela, Tutu, and, even greater African leaders.

Street kids and abandoned orphans know how to survive. The challenge is to THRIVE!

We learn daily from our children. From their beautiful eyes on the world, on how they, as unrelated, yet very connected, young people re-define "family."

Their nightly prayers are sermons to us on himility and hope.

We are learning how to model healthy husband/wife, male/female relationships and parenting.

When you think of it, orphans abandoned to the streets or "orphanages" become adults without any parenting role models.

I have nothing against the family that was interviewd by Farai. Americans willing to adopt (with proper counseling, screening, and orientation), are needed.

Children don't need "saviors" - only people who are there for them, at all costs, no matter what. In this case, people who believe the children in their care ARE the FUTURE of AFRICA!

Prime Minister Winston Churchill once described Uganda as "The Pearl of Africa." We believe the children of this great continent of Africa are its pearls. Its real treasures beyond all price and position.

Thank you, "News and Notes!" Keep the stories from and about Africa going. Even more frequently. Outside the BBC, we are depending on you for the connection. Other media sources don't seem to care, unless it "more bad news from Africa." Stay focused! Stay real!


Sent by Dale Wamujje Dieleman | 2:44 PM | 10-10-2007

Hi Anthony and Dale... thanks for writing.

Dale, we definitely are going to stay on our Africa coverage. If you have anything to suggest, post it or email us (go to the "contact us privately" icon on the bottom right).

Meanwhile Anthony... the whole idea of "do we make it a black thing" vs. "do we make it a (crime/education/poverty) thing" is something we deal with every day as we craft the news. It's only natural we here will ask the questions.

Most of us, maybe all of us, are a cross-section of different realities and demographics. I grew up in Bmore as what I think of as "intellectual working class"... i.e., not much cash but lots of books and a worn-out library card. Now I have more money and have traveled the world, but my upbringing laid a fundamental foundation for how I approach the world. And part of that upbringing was constantly looking at how African-Americans fared in local and national politics; in economics; in culture.

A lot of this is about coalition building. If you, as a police chief, want men to walk the street, do you frame it as black men (which may draw stronger community loyalty) or all men (which may, depending on the situation, dilute the call or broaden the base)?

History has yet to be written... keep us up on your perspective.

Sent by farai | 10:50 PM | 10-10-2007

What's on my mind...

I was glad to see N&N focus in on breast cancer in black women. Unfortunately, the effort does nothing to educate these women on a critical opportunity to save their lives. The story focuses upon the estrogen receptor negative propensity among black women and how this limits their treatment options for cancer, once diagnosed.

What the story fails to reveal is that the same mammary tissue that contains the cells that are estrogen receptor negative also contain vitamin D receptors (VDR's) that are critical to the immune system's ability to regulate wayward cells.

Additionally, the story fails to reveal that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta states that up to 42 percent of black women in the US are deficient in vitamin D, a pro-steroid hormone. It is this deficiency that compromises the breast tissue of black women and elevates the occurrence, severity and mortality from cancer.

So black women must continue to wait for this life saving message. Another missed opportunity.

Sent by Jim Collier | 2:04 AM | 10-11-2007

I want to respond to the whole Hispanic vs. Latino debate. The assumption that non-Latino people are unaware of this debate is ridiculous. As a member and National President of a sorority that brings women of African descent together, we have done significant work on fostering and studying the African/Latino/Indigenous connection. Many people I know are clear on the fact that "Hispanic" often refers to a romanticized colonial past that privileges all things Spaniard and "white" while the term "Latino" at least attempts to recognize the indigenous roots of our brothers and sisters.

Sent by Takiyah Nur Amin | 12:01 PM | 10-11-2007


How does the term "Latino" recognize indigenous roots of, say, Mexicans? I do not ask to be sarcastic, I am really curious. "Latino" is spanish for Latin. Latin refers to the Romans and the various cultures they spawn. It is the language they spoke. The Romance languages are direct descendants of Latin.

If there is any indigenous group that "Latino" refers to it is the indigenous people of the Italian penisula.

I do believe we need a more accurate term. However, I am not sure "Latino" is any more accurate than "Hispanic."

Sent by TR | 5:45 PM | 10-12-2007

"Sister, are you with us?"

Now, truth to tell, I'm getting (have gotten) immensely cynical about this election cycle (and, joy, there's so much more to go). Hillary is isn't man enough, Barack isn't Black enough and the host of swaggering Republicans (oh, yeah, and the remaining Dems) are so white they glow in the dark. No one is questioning their racial or gender pedigree.


Now, I'm hearing this disturbing question more and more, with white women and Black men both posing it. "Sister, are you with us?" White women, long suspect for their tendency to ignore Black women's needs in the Women's Movement until it served their interests (racism is a white, male thing, right?) are now wanting to cozy up to every sistah on the block to ensure that they can "count on (our) vote." Black men, assuring us that "they'll use your vote and then when she gets in office, they'll drop you like a bad habit." Hold up a minute, these are the self-same Black men who call Black women "two-fers," demanding that we "give up" the Affirmative Action "benefits" we seem to so readily obtain from being counted statistically as both women and minorities on AA plans. Side note for you Black men: we do in fact count for two--we get to be called both "nigger" and "bitch."

But wait: There's more!

This past weekend, I read an interesting article in the New York Times that just scratched the surface of the dynamic tensions felt by Black women as they ponder to whom they'll pledge their electoral troth. When the white reporter cornered the Black women at the beauty shop (note: If I saw a white woman at a Black-centered beauty shop, it would be like a sighting of the Yeti, and just as disturbing).

The women intereviewed commented on their varied beliefs:

+ If we get Hillary, we get Bill back in the White House,
+ If Barack gets elected, they'll kill him,
+ The Bible says women aren't supposed to lead over men (help men, Jesus!).

According to a poll reported on CNN of Black registered Democrats overall, Sistah Clinton has a 57 percent to 33 percent lead over Brotha Obama. This is up from 4 points for Clinton and down 3 points for Obama over a poll taken in April. When examined by gender, the found that, according to CNN political analyst Bill Schneider, "Black women don't just vote their black identity," he said. "They also vote their identity as women." Democratic political strategist, Donna Brazile remarked "the 'sistah' vote is paying off handsomely for Hillary Clinton." She went on to say, "It's not only getting her the women's vote. It's also getting her the black vote."

Sent by Lalita Amos | 12:30 AM | 10-19-2007


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