Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Own Your Politics: Obama's 30 Minutes of Fame

Long day. Long night. 30 good minutes from Obama. Was it worth it? And what does T.I. have to do with it? 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

For Some Young People, It IS All About Obama

(reposted from May 12, 2008 at YoungVoterMag)

As if the Democrats need more constituencies in an uproar over the presidential contest, here’s one more: Youth activists. Recently, youth organizations have been angered by the media’s portrayal of young people as voting in droves simply because of Barack Obama. Youth leaders point to four intensive years of extensive field organizing, creative online outreach tools, issue education, and an impressive increase in political engagement through nonpartisan youth organizations, like the one for which I work.

But the honest truth is that many young people are voting this election simply because of Mr. Obama. And a second truth is even more important: If Mr. Obama is denied the nomination due to superdelegates and back room politics, many young voters will be alienated from the process and less inclined to vote again.

Many of my professional colleagues hope that every single young person who votes this year is doing so because of the great work that we have done. And some indeed are. A wide range of organizations committed to youth training and advocacy have launched or been revitalized since 2004, and have made a tremendous impact. But my community ties assure me that there are a chunk of 18-25 year olds voting simply because they are inspired by Barack Obama.

These young people are not the traditional student activists, the students who rally against sweatshops and volunteered for Howard Dean. These are not the young adults who intern at high profile progressive organizations in Washington D.C. or vote because of a cool online registration tool, an MTV ad, or a Facebook group.

Instead, these are the students who were like me in college – working 40 hours a week, going to school full time, with barely enough time to foster important relationships with my loved ones and community, let alone become a full time or even part time “activist.”

These are the students who, like me, commuted to campus. While my classmates were in protests and door-knocking for Kerry in ‘04, I was stuck in rush hour traffic on I-95. They are the ones that, like me (warning: confession of a liberal sin ahead) didn’t want to lose the wages to take off work and vote in the 2004 primary.

I know these young people, as well as the many who didn’t go to college at all. While I now work every day in downtown Washington , in a sea of politics and CNN, rubbing shoulders on the Hill, and flagging emails from politically savvy youth, I return home to friends who have never heard of the alphabet soup of organizations committed to youth organizing.

They aren’t interested in NAFTA, and chuckled when they heard Rev. Wright’s comments because their grandmother said something just as incendiary last week. They are smart and aware of the issues, but lack the time, money, or inclination to support a cause. They slap me five, are proud of the work that I’m doing, and go back to their everyday lives, far removed from the arcane debates over which of the candidates has a better health plan, because right now they’re not covered at all. They’re uninterested in how the troops will be brought home because their brother is already dead . They are only interested in a candidate who will ensure that they don’t have to take so much precious time away to address said problems. And they now believe that this time, if they vote, they won’t be disappointed.

It is these voters who will be especially turned off from our political process if Mrs. Clinton wins based on superdelegates. And what, pray tell, is wrong with telling that truth? Just as some honest African Americans have dared to say that they are voting for Mr. Obama because he is African American and some women have been courageous enough to admit that they are voting for Mrs. Clinton because of their long battle with sexism, there is nothing wrong with admitting that a candidate has garnered a percentage of votes simply on the merits of what he represents to marginalized, disenfranchised, and disillusioned young people.

One man collected all of the blood, sweat and tears that the youth movement has invested and, in the process of making history, became our most effective advocate.

Of course, the old guard response is that these new young voters should have been engaged long before Mr. Obama and that, if they can be lost simply because of party politics, they are stupid and naive and the youth movement is a failure. Not so. The fact that there is a non-partisan youth infrastructure able to arm these new voters with the tools needed to foster long term engagement is a huge victory. It is a privilege to have a candidate who appreciates, supports, and broadens the impact of this work.

The challenge now will be to keep these new voters engaged for the long haul. I am hopeful that we will. But if Mr. Obama loses the nomination because of superdelegates, my job will get a lot harder.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On Affirmative Action

Spent a lot of time writing an affirmative update for our activist newsletter today, tracking all of the dramatic ups and downs in Colorado and Nebraska this week - lawsuits, signature fraud, shady all had me contemplating the amount of time, energy and resources that affirmative action opponents put into their opposition, yet cling to their adamant profession that affirmative action is responsible for every successful African American outside of sports and entertainment. Condoleeza Rice? Affirmative action. Oprah Winfrey? Affirmative Action. Colin Powell? Affirmative action. Barack Obama - you know the drill. It made me wonder: If they eliminate affirmative action, who/what are they going to blame for black achievement?

I ran across a relevant post today by my boy Ta'Nehisi over at the Atlantic that argues why Obama's rise to the top canNOT be explained away by affirmative action:

"Electoral politics are about showing and proving--no amount of
Affirmative Action can get you to the presidency. You have to
compete and win. If you're the sort of voter who shows up at one
of these dead-end rallies, who likely believes that Obama never
deserved the hype he got, that he was only a big deal because he
was the "black guy," then, yeah, you are liable to be stunned when
he Buster Douglasses that ass. When you're on the canvas searching
for you mouthpiece wondering, How the f***, did I lose to a nigger..."

Well said.

Michelle Obama's Bust: Your Call

Interesting post over at pushback.

Entertainment Wise reports that sculptor Daniel Edwards has debuted an African-inspired bust of Michelle Obama. The sculpture is adorned with Barack Obama-logo earrings and an American flag emblazoned across her breasts (yes, people, there are boobs):

The controversial topless bust of Barack Obama’s wife Michelle Obama was unveiled to the public in New York yesterday.

“The goal is to create a look for Michelle Obama that eliminates excessive comparisons to Jackie Kennedy.”

As with anything else, there are two sides to this. On one hand, I can see how someone would think that this rendering of Obama is endearing and celebratory. I have to say that her face in this sculpture does look proud and regal… and I say that as someone who is semi-obsessed with the famed bust of Queen Nefertiti.

But on the other hand, I worry that this is just another situation where the black female body is being sexualized and made to be overly exotic.

My comments are, at first, in support of the piece:
Good post Loryn. African American women - and all women of African descent in the diaspora - have a particularly long and complicated history of dealing with the hyper-sexualization, commoditization, caricature, and objectification of our bodies. In particular, this piece and the exaggeration of Michelle’s chest reminds me of Sara Baartman. But the artist’s intent makes me give him the benefit of the doubt. It is an extreme depiction -breasts, head adornment, earrings and all - of her blackness. Frankly, I appreciate the resistance to depicting her as the black Jackie O. I know that the comparisons are intended as compliments. But somewhere in there is also the need for America to quickly label a beautiful, classy, clearly African American woman with distinctly African features as a black someone else – validating her unique beauty only by equating it with the icon of European aesthetics…As if the highest honor for her to attain is to look like the mainstream, white cultural ideal. She is black, and while the colorless rhetoric of that campaign would have us ignore that and pat ourselves on the back for not overtly acknowledging that, this piece does a wonderful job of claiming the black identity of this women that is so well respected. The black community has always had a particular investment in “claiming” any celebrity who’s ethnicity or race is in question (i.e. Lena Horne, Halle Berry, Tiger Woods, etc.) Now, I don’t at all think that the breasts are necessary to convey that point, but looking at the craftsmanship and the noble intent of the sculptor, this bust is at its core just a beautiful piece of art. Still, I understand how the society in which we live has made it difficult for it to be seen as that and only that.

But upon googling the artist, seeing his work and the fact that, frankly, he wasn't African American sang a slightly different tune:

Totally forgot who Daniel Edwards is! He’s the guy that did the Britney Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug and Paris Hilton dead and naked holding a dog and a cell phone and Sen. Hillary Clinton in a bra…. hmm…considering a large part of my argument was based on artist intent, let me just give the caveat that IF his intent was other than what I stated above, than he’s an annoying little sensationalistic, fame hungry artist that feeds off of objectifying the bodies of celebrities…and he could be preying off of the idealistic, earnest, desire of suckers like me to justify his work with my above argument.

That's the thing about art - its always open for interpretation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: A Slap in the Face from Wall Street

Seriously? Less than one week after taxpayers like you and me bailed out AIG insurance company, executives from the wall street giant headed to a week-long retreat at a luxury resort and spa in California. And spent nearly $440,000 on rooms, massages, pedicures and other luxuries. Funds are so tight that I had to cancel my next hair appointment and fat cats are rolling like this?

"This unbridled greed," said Cong. Mark Souder (R-IN), "it's an insensitivity to how people are spending our dollars."

I have a few stronger words for them than that. This sort of arrogance and economic disparity says something about the shaky foundation on which this entire country was built: Debt, prosperity, oppression and elitism. Our government sings fairness, justice, and equality on the notes of the national anthem and turns around and spits a quick sixteen of "I Get Money" right on the backs of everyday low income and working class Americans.

Anybody else ready for a change?

Read It: The Green Collar Economy

Definitely worth a read. It comes out today and is written by Van Jones, a groundbreaking environmental justice activist and comrade. Seriously. Get it to understand how this energy crisis can actually be turned around to benefit low-income communities and create a better world for our children.

Josh Howard & the Election

I'm reposting on a friend's request, an old post I wrote over at

The recent story about Josh Howard, forward for the Dallas Mavericks, being caught on video
making an inflammatory remark about black people not singing the national anthem, definitely gave me pause. Not just because I hate the Mavs for firing Avery Johnson. Not just because it’s another example of our TMZ-obsessed culture. The story actually terrified the mess out of me. And that fear deserved some contemplation.

Is it sad that as an African American and a progressive, I am terrified that every time a prominent black person does anything even slightly controversial in public during the next two months, Armageddon is coming to progressives and that as a race we’re going to be set back 50–if not 200–years? Hence my fervent bedtime prayers that the idiot that is O.J. Simpson doesn’t do anything stupid during his
trial this week. Or that Al Sharpton stays hidden in a salon and doesn’t hold any rallies in October (valid and respectable as most of them are). Or that my favorite rappers stop calling themselves “the hood’s Barack,” no matter how hot the track is… even if they are Obama’s favorite rappers. Why are we, in 2008, in such a tenuous racial situation that I live in constant fear that the progress we have made can slip away with one cell-phone video?

The impulse that secretly made me relieved to find out that the Unabomber wasn’t black and horrified to find out that the 2002
snipers were, is the same one that made me a little peeved at the late Bernie Mac and irate at Jesse Jackson, despite being enormously humored by both incidents earlier this year.

This equal parts rational and irrational reaction is exacerbated in a political climate that daily scratches the surface of race like a chicken pox sore–-incessantly, compulsively, and superficially, not realizing that all of the scratching (the
empty questions, the sound bites, the special reports) only make the thing more raw and irritated.

With all of America’s attention now focused on race, when something sticky happens, I not only have to prepare for strangers on the bus looking at me the way they did after Janet Jackson bared her breast next to the obviously innocent and corn-fed Justin Timberlake–I now have to worry about the political implications on a presidential candidate that has become the poster child for black achievement.

Admittedly, the problem isn’t just society. My well-rehearsed bravado and rather healthy ego makes me publicly say, “I couldn’t care less what racist people think of me or Star Jones (slightly embarrassing) or Young Berg (downright insulting). They are who they are and have a right to do or say whatever they want. I am my own person, with my own identity, living my own life. So suck it.” But at the same time, perhaps I should do some soul searching and figure out why I still identify with my race in a way that makes me secretly beholden to the opinions that a racist, mainstream media hold of my fellow African Americans.

In the meantime, please forgive Josh Howard. I’m sure with a little media training he would never have done this… so close to the election.

Donna Brazile Unplugged

Not “over” Jim Crow and the civil rights movement yet? Can’t seem to “get past” segregation? You’re not alone. This a piece of what Donna Brazile had to say when she revealed her thoughts about race and election 2008 in a refreshingly candid, stream-of-consciousness statement during a forum at the New Yorker Festival.

“As a child who grew up in the segregated Deep South, we've come so far in this country....But I remember when I used to get on the bus: my mother would tell me, "Donna, when you get on the bus, you and your brothers go all the way to the back, and don't look at anybody." We have changed. This is a more tolerant, open, progressive society…What is wrong with us?...You can vote against him, but don't ever put me in the back of the bus. I'm not going to the back of the bus! I'm not going to be afraid! My black skin does not make me inferior! And may I add: being a female does not make me dumb!"

Watch the entire video
here. (Donna begins her statement in full at 1:12:10)

The McCain Campaign

Running out of time perhaps?

The Persistance of Memory, Salvador Dali

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Funny....funny....not funny

Daily Show clip of old Jewish people watching last week's debate. Really funny right up until the offensive bomshell at the end. Remind me never to hang out it an old Jewish nursing home during a presidential election. They probably wouldn't like my body.