Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 In Memoriam

We lost a number of significant personalities throughout 2011. Some personal to me, some whose influence has been much more distant but which were, nonetheless meaningful.

These are the ones I noted throughout in the year. Of course there were many, many more. But the absence of those of whom I failed to make mention along with these that I have, were important in very important ways.

I think they're worth remembering as we end the year...

Manning Marable

Sargent Shriver
Peace Corp Founder
Dr. John R.W. Stott
Clarice Taylor
A. Louis Patterson III

Cookie Gilchrist
NFL Player
Kathlyn Gilliam
Joe Frazier
Pro Boxer
Al Davis
Owner, Oakland Raiders
Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth
Human Rights Leader
Dr. Robert H. Wilson
Fred Blair
Dallas Politician
Nickolas Ashford
Paul Mayfield
My Step-Father
Al Lipscomb
Gil-Scott Heron

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dallas is not Alone...Memphis, Tennessee's 'Sea of Poverty'

Hope you've had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a very Happy New Year.

I'm just returning from what has really been a first Christmas vacation - an actual vacation away from home!

I spent Christmas in Southaven, Mississippi with family from there and Memphis, Tennessee and it was great to see everyone. This is a portion of our family we usually don't get to see unless they come here so spending Christmas with them was really special in a number of ways. And, of course, its always good to get away for some R & R!

Of course there were reminders of the work that awaits the end of vacation (which isn't quite over yet!)...

One of my favorite things any time I'm out of town is to read the newspapers in whatever city I'm in. I don't always pour over them carefully, but I pick out articles, editorials and sports to see how life is going in that city. Usually what I find out is that challenges are generally the same there as they are here in Dallas.

For instance, it's probably not a great surprise that Memphis has a problem with poverty...

"Next month, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton is expected to announce a major initiative to deal with poverty. Although no details have been released, Lipscomb said the plan will be a comprehensive effort to lift people out of what he calls the "sea of poverty" engulfing much of the city."
"The problem of concentrated poverty certainly isn't unique to Memphis, but it's much more prevalent here."
"A Census Bureau report this month found that more than 1 in 5 Americans lives in "poverty areas" -- defined as Census tracts with poverty rates of at least 20 percent. That level of poverty, according to some studies, represents the "tipping point" at which neighborhoods can start descending into a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse."
"Because the eight-county Memphis metropolitan area has a poverty rate of 19.1 percent -- highest among the nation's 51 metro areas with at least 1 million people -- it's hardly surprising that the area has large pockets of concentrated poverty."
"An analysis of Census data by The Commercial Appeal found that in Shelby County, more than 366,000 residents -- or about 2 in 5 people countywide -- live in tracts in which the poverty rate is at least 20 percent."
"More than 230,000 people, or one-fourth of Shelby's population, live in tracts having at least a 30 percent poverty rate. And 100,360 residents are in tracts in which the poverty rate is 40 percent or higher."
"In addition to Census Tract 53  [the...blighted area between Kansas Street and McKellar Lake, south of South Parkway, that is home to some of the most concentrated poverty in all of Memphis], there are three inner-city tracts where the poverty rates range from 61 to 75 percent. But they aren't as large as Tract 53, where more than half the 1,506 households have incomes less than $15,000, according to Census estimates."
The point? Dallas has areas - more than pockets - of poverty which are begging for comprehensive solutions, solutions which are frankly not forthcoming. I served as pastor in one of those census tracts (39.02) for more than two decades. And while there are redevelopment efforts going on to address poverty in that area much more needs to be done and it needs to be a major focus of local government. I'll be awaiting Memphis' Mayor Wharton's plan to see if how comprehensive it actually is and if it includes solutions we already know work: permanent supportive housing, job training, innovative, focused education strategies and infrastructure improvements which bring employment to residents of these communities and incentives for economic development. 
And in the meantime, we'll keep working in Dallas to make sure that they are solutions that are employ and expand here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Glimpse of the Christmas Spirit

A most remarkable expression of generosity...

The joy experienced by this family at such an extravagant expression of compassion, begs the question: can't we set aside our obsession with yuletide propriety and the need to celebrate 'the right way' and simply commit ourselves to showing the love of God? To strangers? To friends? To family?
That's the focus of my column in this month in the Dallas Morning News. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

For the Scrooge in All of Us and Among All of Us Pt. 2

"'Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,' said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe,' but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding
from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw.'" 

'"It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,' was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. 'Look here.'"

"From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment."

'"Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.' exclaimed the Ghost."

"They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled  hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread."

"Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude."

'"Spirit. are they yours.' Scrooge could say no more."

"'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.'"

'"Have they no refuge or resource.' cried Scrooge."

"'Are there no prisons?' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses?'"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

For the Scrooge in All of Us and Among All of Us

"Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face."

"'Mercy!' he said. 'Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?' 'Man of the worldly mind!' replied the Ghost, 'do you believe in me or not?'"

"'I do,' said Scrooge. 'I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?'"

"'It is required of every man,' the Ghost returned, 'that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world-oh, woe is me!-and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness.'"

"Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands."

"'You are fettered,' said Scrooge, trembling. 'Tell me why?'"

"'I wear the chain I forged in life,' replied the Ghost. 'I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?'"

"Scrooge trembled more and more."

"'Or would you know,' pursued the Ghost, 'the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!'"

"Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing."

"'Jacob,' he said, imploringly. 'Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob.'"

"'I have none to give,' the Ghost replied. 'It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond out counting-house-mark me!- in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me.'"

"It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets. Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees."

''You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,' Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though with humility and deference."

'Slow!' the Ghost repeated.

"'Seven years dead,' mused Scrooge. 'And travelling all the time?'"

"'The whole time,' said the Ghost. 'No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.'"

"'You travel fast?' said Scrooge."

"'On the wings of the wind,' replied the Ghost."

"'You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years,' said Scrooge."

"The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance."

"'Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,' cried the phantom, 'not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed! Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!'"

"'But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,' faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself."

"'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'"

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Politics of Stereotyping and Shame of Black Womanhood

I'm so behind on my reading list it's not funny! But I keep running across books that I want to read...

One of those books is by Melissa Harris-Perry, political science professor at Tulane University and also seen as fill in anchor on MSNBC. Her new book is 'Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America'. While I haven't read this yet, it is a treat listening to Perry talk about the book as she talks about the stereotypes of black women and how there political ramifications and what those ramification mean for all of us. She is a delightful intellect, humorous and totally engaging.

I know this is an hour long. But seriously, you will miss something that will help inform your perspective on politics, race and how we all contribute to making our society better...

Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Jesus, OWS and Tony Perkins' Bad Theology

The preacher/pastor in me, has his hackles raised by this bit of theological foolishness by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council...

"Here's the direct quote from Luke: "He called his ten servants, and gave to them ten minas, one mina each (a mina today would be worth around $225), and he then told them to 'Occupy till I come.' " (Luke 19:13, King James Version)"
"But just what does Jesus' order to occupy mean? Does it mean take over and trash public property, as the Occupy movement has? Does it mean engage in antisocial behavior while denouncing a political and economic system that grants one the right and luxury to choose to be unproductive?..."
"From a spiritual perspective, the mina in this parable represents the opportunity of life; each of us is given the same opportunity to build our lives, and each of us shares the same responsibility to invest our lives for the purpose of bringing a return and leaving a legacy. Jesus gave equal responsibility and opportunity to each of his 10 servants."
"The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked. When the nobleman returns, after being established as king  a stand-in for Jesus  he calls all his servants together to see what they had accomplished in his absence..."
"...The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed..."
We called this "proof texting" when I was in school. It's the act of 'decontextualiznig' a passage of scripture and force fitting it into an argument in order to prove one's point. 
I've seen Perkins on any number of news shows and heard him in interviews a number of times. I rarely walk away convinced by his arguments, but, for the most part, hardly anyone could accuse him of being intellectually irresponsible. He has a conservative ideology based on his faith. There really is nothing wrong with that. Bringing that viewpoint into the public square isn't wrong either. If you are willing to defend your position with integrity, you have every right to be there. And, Christians disagree with how they see things. After careful study, its entirely possible to arrive at different points of emphasis. 
But Perkins assertion that Jesus is a 'free-marketer' based on this parable is a trivialization of scripture based on a co-opted conservative theological perspective, more American Nationalist Church Thought than  Biblical Christianity. 
Perkins' 'logic' would lead us to believe that Jesus' use of a 'scroll' shows that there is some type of Divine animus towards technology; or that Jesus' parable in which a scoundrel is subtly admired (Luke 16:1-8) suggest that we should take a less dim view of larceny. Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, real Bible study is not free association...
I would argue with Tony Perkins that the Occupy Wall Street crowd is just where you would find Jesus (Luke 7:39, 15:2). He would be among those disaffected by a government where the income and wealth disparity had caused people to question the justice of their society - or to give up hoping (Matthew 9:36).  Jesus was not criticized because He affirmed the materialism of the wealthy, but because He spent time among those whom the 'free-marketers' of His day deemed worthless. He was among those  who were the very ones Tony Perkins speaks of with apparent derision 'those who engage in antisocial behavior'. 
Wasn't it to a 'free marketer' Jesus spoke when He said, 'Sell all you have and give it to the poor...' (Matthew 19:16-22)?  Wasn't it about the 'free marketers' Jesus spoke when He talked about the difficulty of 'the rich' getting into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19: 23,24)?
Perkins shows why I have trouble with some who support his ideology. When Christianity is unable to stand as an alternative reality to a culture's imperialism, when it's legitimacy is gained from its support of the status quo, it loses authenticity and power. It becomes a state religion. God does not sanction American capitalism. God is not a Democrat or a Republican. God is the only True and Supreme Independent. The God of the Bible and the True Christ of the Church is far more free than our political ideologies. He does not sanction as blessed because of the riches alone, or the poor only because of their poverty. True Christianity is more complex than that. Only the most simplistic reading of the Bible draws the conclusion that God is a 'free marketer' because he uses a profit motif in one of His parables. In one of His parables Jesus employs the image of a farmer (Matthew 13:1-9). Does that mean that Jesus' use of the image mean that we are all Divinely intended to be farmers?! 

Jesus will judge any system that does not value human dignity and worth above profit or even the sovereignty of the state. And there is something wrong about our system that will inflame the human inclinations toward greed, foreclose on their homes, seek to shrink if not remove all public supports or provisions for uplift. There is something wrong about a system which will justify poorly educating the young thereby consigning them to lives of economic second class citizenship. There is something wrong with a system that makes equal access difficult, if not impossible for some because it sanctions concentrated poverty. 
And there is something wrong with a religion that actually believes that the God of the Bible supports that system. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

David Brinkley

Journalist, Network Television News Anchor

"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Under-Reported News

These are two items which fall into the category of 'under-reported news' (not unreported). I'd say they are pretty important issues - how about you?
"Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income."
"The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families."
""Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty."
""The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.""
"Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax reduction, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that could also trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending."
"Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far. He said some people described as poor live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs."
""There's no doubt the recession has thrown a lot of people out of work and incomes have fallen," Rector said. "As we come out of recession, it will be important that these programs promote self-sufficiency rather than dependence and encourage people to look for work.""
"Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many formerly middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job."
"President Barack Obama marked the end of the U.S. war in Iraq with a salute to American troops at a military base central to the fight and a pledge to support veterans who are returning home to face a difficult economy."
“As your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I’m proud to finally say these two words,” Obama told soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army Special Operations Command. “Welcome home.”

"The conclusion of the war is “an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making,” he said. “And today, we remember everything that you did to make it possible..."
"The first bombs began exploding in Baghdad in March 2003, leading to more than 1 million Americans serving in Iraq at some time during military action that Pentagon figures show cost almost 4,500 American lives, with more than 32,000 wounded."
"When it passes a fiscal 2012 defense appropriation, Congress will have authorized at least $823 billion for Iraq military operations, $47.6 billion for State Department and Agency for International Development reconstruction and an additional $7.2 billion for Veterans Administration Iraq-related medical issues, according to the Congressional Research Service."
Both news stories with tremendous implications for the future of our  country. Both stories that should have tremendous implications for our politics going forward. 
Both 'under-reported'...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

United States Attorney General Eric Holder on Voter Suppression

"Since January, more than a dozen states have advanced new voting measures.   Some of these new laws are currently under review by the Justice Department, based on our obligations under the Voting Rights Act.   Texas and South Carolina, for example, have enacted laws establishing new photo identification requirements that we’re reviewing.    We’re also examining a number of changes that Florida has made to its electoral process, including changes to the procedures governing third-party voter registration organizations, as well as changes to early voting procedures, including the number of days in the early voting period."  

"Although I cannot go into detail about the ongoing review of these and other state-law changes, I can assure you that it will be thorough – and fair.   We will examine the facts, and we will apply the law.   If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change.   And where a state can’t meet this burden, we will object as part of our obligation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act."  

"As many of you know... Section 5 was put in place decades ago because of a well-documented history of voter discrimination in all or parts of the 16 states to which it applies.   Within these “covered jurisdictions,” any proposed change in voting procedures or practices – from moving a polling location to enacting a statewide redistricting plan – must be “precleared” – that is, approved – either by the Justice Department, or by a panel of federal judges."  

"...Sections 5’s preclearance process has been a powerful tool in combating discrimination for decades..."

"Despite the long history of support for Section 5, this keystone of our voting rights laws is now being challenged five years after its reauthorization as unconstitutional in no fewer than five lawsuits.   Each of these lawsuits claims that we’ve attained a new era of electoral equality, that America in 2011 has moved beyond the challenges of 1965, and that Section 5 is no longer necessary." 

"I wish this were the case.   The reality is that – in jurisdictions across the country – both overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common.   And we don’t have to look far to see recent proof."

" in Texas, just two months ago, the Department argued in court filings that proposed redistricting plans for both the State House and the Texas Congressional delegation are impermissible, because the state has failed to show the absence of discrimination.   The most recent Census data indicated that Texas has gained more than 4 million new residents – the vast majority of whom are Hispanic – and that this growth allows for four new Congressional seats.  However, this State has proposed adding zero additional seats in which Hispanics would have the electoral opportunity envisioned by the Voting Rights Act.   Federal courts are still considering this matter, and we intend to argue vigorously at trial that this is precisely the kind of discrimination that Section 5 was intended to block."

"To those who argue that Section 5 is no longer necessary – these and other examples are proof that we still need this critical tool to combat discrimination and safeguard the right to vote."  

"Over the years, we’ve seen all sorts of attempts to gain partisan advantage by keeping people away from the polls – from literacy tests and poll taxes, to misinformation campaigns telling people that Election Day has been moved, or that only one adult per household can cast a ballot.   Before the 2004 elections, fliers were distributed in minority neighborhoods in Milwaukee, falsely claiming that “[I]f anybody in your family has ever been found guilty [of a crime], you can’t vote in the presidential election” – and you risk a 10-year prison sentence if you do.   Two years later, 14,000 Latino voters in Orange County, California, received mailings, warning in Spanish that, “[If] you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in jail time.”   Both of these blatant falsehoods likely deterred some eligible citizens from going to the polls."

"And, just last week, the campaign manager of a Maryland gubernatorial candidate was convicted on election fraud charges for approving anonymous “robocalls” that went out on Election Day last year to more than 100,000 voters in the state’s two largest majority-black jurisdictions.  These calls encouraged voters to stay home – telling them to “relax” because their preferred candidate had already wrapped up a victory."

"In an effort to deter and punish such harmful practices, during his first year in the U.S. Senate, President Obama introduced legislation that would establish tough criminal penalties for those who engage in fraudulent voting practices – and would help to ensure that citizens have complete and accurate information about where and when to vote.   Unfortunately, this proposal did not move forward.   But I’m pleased to announce that – tomorrow – Senators Charles Schumer and Ben Cardin will re-introduce this legislation, in an even stronger form.   I applaud their leadership – and I look forward to working with them as Congress considers this important legislation..."  

"...there will always be those who say that easing registration hurdles will only lead to voter fraud.   Let me be clear: voter fraud is not acceptable – and will not be tolerated by this Justice Department.   But as I learned early in my career – as a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, where I actually investigated and prosecuted voting-fraud cases – making voter registration easier is simply not likely, by itself, to make our elections more susceptible to fraud.   Indeed, those on all sides of this debate have acknowledged that in-person voting fraud is uncommon.   We must be honest about this.   And we must recognize that o ur ability to ensure the strength and integrity of our election systems – and to advance the reforms necessary to achieve this – depends on whether the American people are informed, engaged, and willing to demand commonsense solutions that make voting more accessible.   Politicians may not readily alter the very systems under which they were elected.   Only we, the people, can bring about meaningful change."

"So speak out.   Raise awareness about what’s at stake. Call on our political parties to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success and, instead, encourage and work with the parties to achieve this success by appealing to more voters.   And urge policymakers at every level to reevaluate our election systems – and to reform them in ways that encourage, not limit, participation."

"Today, we cannot – and must not – take the right to vote for granted.  Nor can we shirk the sacred responsibility that falls upon our shoulders."

You can read the entire speech here
Eric Holder
U.S. Attorney General
At the LBJ Presidential Library
December 13, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We MUST Be Sensitive to Voter Suppression

Are the concerns about Voter ID laws overblown? Clearly it depends on whom you ask...

"“This year there’s been a significant wave of new laws in states across the country that have the effect of cracking down on voting rights,” said Michael Waldman, the executive director of the Brennan Center, who noted that five million votes would have made a difference in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. “It is the most significant rollback in voting rights in decades.”"
"Just how much of an impact the new laws will have is a matter of some dispute. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who held a hearing on the new laws last month, said they “will make it harder for millions of disabled, young, minority, rural, elderly, homeless and low-income Americans to vote.” Republicans note that states like Georgia and Indiana moved to require photo identification from voters and that turnout there improved."
But there is another reason that the prospect of restricting voter access is a particularly touch, troublesome problem - the price paid to secure the right to vote!
A documentary, "10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed the World: Freedom Summer" tells the story of what poor people in Mississippi endured in order to secure the right to vote. The bodies that were broken, the blood shed and the loss of life, ought to make us all squeamish when anything is done that even remotely threatens to inhibit access to the polls. 

The 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America - Freedom Summer - June 21, 1964
Get More: The 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America - Freedom Summer - June 21, 1964

Monday, December 12, 2011

In Memoriam: Kathlyn Joy Gilliam (1930-2011)

Kathlyn Joy Gilliam, Dallas ISD's first female black school board member died yesterday. 

Ms. Gilliam served on the school board for 23 years, during which time she was a fierce advocate for diversity, equity and justice for Dallas children. But her service to her city and community didn't stop there. She was the founder and President of  'Clean South Dallas' an organization dedicated to organizing and empowering South Dallas residents to make changes in their neighborhoods through education, training and community involvement. 

Quite simply, Ms. Gilliam was an icon in Dallas politics and culture. She was a true example of committed service to her people, her community and her city. 

Ms. Gilliam was also an integral part in the work of 'Unify South Dallas', a coalition formed to educate and organize South Dallas residents for effective engagement and participation in the redevelopment taking place in the area. Ms. Gilliam was presence encouraged, challenged and informed those of us involved in the process. 

This year Dallas Independent School District recognized Ms. Gilliam's considerable contributions to public education and her city by naming a newly constructed campus in her honor. The Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy is a fitting tribute to a life of sacrificial service. 

Several years ago, I had the privilege of joining Ms. Gilliam on a fact finding trip to Atlanta, Georgia, to learn more about their experience with the 1996 Olympics and its impact on its low income neighborhoods. She was an inspiration to be around. 

Her memory will be no less inspirational...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Heisman Trophy Winner: Robert Griffin III

It's been a year of probations, investigations and allegations of illegal sex with minor charges as the backdrop of college football.

It's about time something good happened!

Baylor University's Robert Griffin III (RG3, as he's come to be known), is that school's first Heisman Trophy winner. And it appears it couldn't happen to a nicer guy - with the coolest taste in socks I've ever seen!

Congratulations to Griffin and Baylor Nation!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Charles M. Schulz

Cartoonist, Humorist

“In the Book of Life, The answers aren't in the 


Friday, December 9, 2011

Voter ID Laws ARE the Fraud Perpetrated on America

Voter ID fraud...

In Texas, it is such a problem that Texas Governor Rick Perry labeled Voter ID laws 'emergency legislation'. Yet a 2005 investigation by State Attorney General Greg Abbot turned up no instances of the crime that could be prosecuted...none.

So when did the this crime wave take place?

The fact is this became a huge issue when first time voters went to the polls in unprecedented numbers to vote in the 2008 Presidential election.

"...Republican support for early voting vanished after Obama utilized it as a key part of his strategy in 2008. Nearly 30 percent of the electorate voted early that year, and they favored Obama over McCain by 10 points. The strategy proved especially effective in Florida, where blacks outnumbered whites by two to one among early voters, and in Ohio, where Obama received fewer votes than McCain on Election Day but ended up winning by 263,000 ballots, thanks to his advantage among early voters in urban areas like Cleveland and Columbus."

This assault on voting rights says in effect, that there couldn't possibly have been a legitimate way that Barack Obama was elected president. There must have been thousands of criminals perpetrating a fraud on America's electoral system. It couldn't possibly be an unacceptable GOP candidate. The enthusiasm for Obama had to have been so manufactured as to be illegal. 

And so a dozen states have decided to rip the fabric of the American franchise and decide ways to make Americans prove their eligibility to vote at the polling place - an arcane homage to the constant questioning of Obama's citizenship eligibility to hold the highest office in the land. The passage of these laws are ostensibly to prevent voter ID fraud, and to do so over against the inability to prove more than numerically or statistically infinitesimal evidence of such fraud. But the extended consequence of these laws is to place barriers to the ability of past or potential voters who may vote Democratic (i.e. vote for Obama). These laws have also been passed without regard to consistency or logic. For instance in Texas a concealed gun license is accepted ID - but an ID issued by a state university is not!

 Interestingly enough, GOP dominated state legislatures belong to a party which in 2000 presidential election, responded to cries of voter fraud (after George W. Bush won the election after losing the popular vote) with the words 'Get over it!'. 

There are literally more instances of people being struck by lightening or UFO sightings than there are instances of voter fraud. 

So far, the Department of Justice is holding up approval of Texas' Voter ID laws. It will most likely not be ruled upon before the March primary, and probably not before the November 2012 election. 

But there are three things Texans in particular can do who care about the franchise for which people like Viola Liuzzo and James Reeb died. 1) We can make voter registration a serious campaign throughout our state - especially among the young, the poor and the elderly. 2) Make sure that everyone is prepared to go through the process and obey the law that is on the books - just in case 3) in the unlikely event that this law is approved by the DOJ, work to get the law repealed in the 2013  legislative session. Even if approved, just because the state can do something doesn't mean it should do something - Voter ID laws fall in the category of that 'something' that states should not, indeed must not do!

Voter ID laws are the actual fraud being perpetrated on American citizens!