The Caramel Bella is Going to the Inauguration of Barack Obama

capitol-building-inauguration-bleachers

Yes, I am going to the Inauguration 2009. And I must confess. I am feeling a little under-excited. And I honestly don’t know why. (Maybe it is the cold weather, the large crowds, the tremendous logistics involved, the financial expense, etc.) This is probably THE most historic presidency of my lifetime – at least that is what I am being told by almost everyone around me. And a part of me believes this statement. Whenever people super-hype things, I always take a teeny step back. (Maybe it is because I personally believe I will witness tons of firsts – including a woman elected president, other people of color as president or global leaders in addition to the greatest thing of all – world peace and an end to terrorism.)

With that being said, I will probably become swept up in the moment once I arrive to DC (via two planes..sigh). The presidency of Barack Obama is something truly worthy of celebrating. The United States has a chance to change course.

So why the sense of trepidation about this fantastic moment? Well, I can’t help but think of the costs of this super Inauguration spent by myself, others and the United States government while this country is in a serious recession/depression. And I am trying to remember the thousands of people that are losing and have lost their jobs during the economic fallout.

But I guess I’m digressing from the beauty of the moment.The Obama electoral win shows that the United States has (at some level) shifted its consciousness to a place where people are being judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, which was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. There is no coincidence that Obama was elected during this time in history and will assume the presidency the day after MLK’s birthday. There are no coincidences.

This consciousness shift is the main reason I am getting excited. I am getting pumped up to witness this incredible moment in history.. IN PERSON. Yes, I will be there on the U.S. Capitol steps (I can’t believe I actually got a ticket!) watching the ONLY 2008 presidential candidate I believed in become the leader of our country.

Okay, I’m getting excited writing this post. Stay tuned on my adventures back to DC (my home) to participate and observe in this tremendous time in history. (I will be twittering it too. Follow me on Twitter.)

Yes, I’m tingling a little bit now. An intelligent, hopeful, trustworthy, compassionate man – who happens to be a man of color – will be our next president in three whole days!! Woo hoo!

Getting excited,
The Caramel Bella




Charlotte Say Hello to Uptown Magazine

Uptown magazine is expanding their local edition publishing efforts. In addition to their national publication, they will begin publishing a Charlotte version the first week in February. Uptown is a luxury, lifestyle publication geared toward influential African Americans within the ages of 25-44. The fabulous publication has local editions in New York, DC, Chicago and Atlanta. Hey Uptown, where is the Los Angeles version!!! We’re waiting…

Check out Keija Minor on Uptown.




A Browser for Black People, Huh?

Yes, it’s true. It’s called Blackbird (powered by Mozilla) and it was designed by African Americans for African Americans (kind of like FUBU). The free browser was developed with these Pew Internet 2004 findings in mind: “(1) there are 20 million African Americans online who need tools to build and foster community now more than ever, (2) 85% of African Americans prefer online news and information from the Black perspective, and (3) African Americans are twice as likely to be among the first to discover new trends and use advanced technology compared to the general population.”

Blackbird’s goal is to make it easier for black people to find African American news and relevant content online, interact with members of the African American community, share stories and comments, and watch videos through the browser.  The video section features content from online TV sites like DigitalSoulTV, NSNewsTV, UptownLiveTV and ComedyBanksTV. To me, the best part of the browser idea is the ‘Give Back’ program, which gives donations to several nonprofit organizations. Blackbird also plans to give 10% of its 2009 revenues to their nonprofit partners, which seems pretty generous.

This browser opens up an interesting conversation around “what is black content?” Is the content provider black? Or is it content written with black people in mind? And by the way, who is considered black? Will content by and for people of multi-ethnic and bi-racial backgrounds be included? Hmmm..

In addition to the questions surrounding a “black browser,” I’m not entirely convinced black people needed a “separate” black browser. (Maybe I just love my Firefox one.)  Who knows? It might be just what my life was missing.




Gay Marriage Supporter: It’s Not Too Late For Civil Rights

Cabrera at San Francisco City Hall Protesting Prop. 8

Although the United States made history on Nov. 4 by electing its first African-American president, supporters of California’s No on Proposition 8 (a ban on gay marriage) suggest that American prejudice and discrimination still run deep.

After the ban on gay marriage was passed, members of the gay community have come out in cities across the country to protest. (Meanwhile, gay marriages were legally passed in Connecticut last week.) They seek respect, dignity and their civil rights, which to them means the ability to marry who they love regardless of gender. Since the election results on the measure were released, members of the gay community are troubled by the fact that blacks and Latinos voted disproportionately against the measure. And the No on 8 supporters also “estimate that members of the Mormon Church gave more than $20 million to the effort to pass the measure, though that is difficult to confirm because records of campaign donations do not include religious affiliation.”

Pop + Politics caught up with No on Proposition 8 supporter Carlos Cabrera, 26, of San Francisco, Calif. Cabrera is a single gay man who is openly concerned about the future of gay marriage in California and across the nation. Although the measure passed on Nov. 4, Cabrera and others have spent their time protesting its passage at rallies, including one this past Saturday at San Francisco’s City Hall. He has also talked to numerous family members and friends about the issue.

There are several reasons why proponents of Prop 8 don’t want gay marriage or condone homosexuality. For some people, homosexuality goes against God and other religious beliefs. While religious groups continue to question whether homosexuality is genetic or if it is a chosen lifestyle, Cabrera says that he was born this way.

“I knew I was different from the time I was a little boy around five years old. I remember having dreams (non-sexual) about men, and feeling something about them. I couldn’t place a label on it until I was a teenager, and even then, only reluctantly. Growing up in a Catholic, Latino household I was very repressed growing up. We never talked about gays.  And whenever the topic was mentioned it was either quickly dismissed or my parents would ridicule them. As a result, when I was about 14 and knew for a fact that I was “gay” it was very traumatic for me, internally. I couldn’t face this reality, nor could I accept myself as gay until I was nearly 19. That was when I started college, and I met other gay people who showed me that the stereotypes that existed on television (i.e., extremely effeminate gay men who got AIDS and were rejected by their families) weren’t reflected in their lives. In fact, they all seemed “normal” to me by most societal standards; they just happened to be gay. Later on, I gained the courage to join my school’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual people) club, where I later became president and found it much more comfortable identifying openly as gay.”

P+P continued the conversation with Cabrera about his thoughts on Prop. 8.

Why is Prop 8 so important to you?
Well, it’s important to me because I believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love. It’s an issue of civil equity, not of privilege. And the passage of Proposition 8 saddened me because it’s discriminatory against a certain group of people who are doing nothing wrong. Moreover, it troubles me that Prop 8 was such a “wedge” issue for the religious right. Their adamant support for the measure imposes their religious beliefs on others, which I think is just plain wrong and offensive.

(more…)




President-Elect Barack Obama’s Victory Speech – “Change has come to America”

Just in case you missed President-Elect Barack Obama’s victory speech given on Tuesday, Nov. 4th, here it is. (Or if you are like me and want to hear it again and again.) It is as inspiring 3 days later as it was on the day it was given. America will never forget these words and this historic day.

Smooches,

The Caramel Bella




Election 08: How Race Sways the Vote in New Orleans

Obama-Biden sign at Vaughan’s Lounge located in Bywater neighborhood – in the 2nd Congressional District

With less than a week before the election, the latest polls and projected electoral counts show that Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama is leading Republican John McCain. If Obama wins, many will claim he was able to transcend race and reach the hearts and minds of the American electorate.

However, in other parts of the country, especially New Orleans, race is still partially or fully the voting decision-maker.

“White people will never vote for a black person in Louisiana,” said William Everette, Political Science Lecturer at Xavier University of Louisiana, a Historically Black College & University (HBCU). “We talk about the same thing with the Obama election.”

As the first African American Democratic Party presidential nominee, Obama’s historical bid for the United States presidency has highlighted the nationwide issue of race and politics. As this election season has shown, there are still areas of the country where racial prejudice prevents people from voting for Obama. A September 2008 AP/Yahoo poll confirmed that race is an issue: “If there was no racial prejudice among voters, Sen. Barack Obama would retrieve about six percentage points more support.”

Nothing reveals the pitfalls of voting along racial lines more than the current New Orleans democratic contest for the 2nd Congressional district between incumbent William Jefferson and broadcast journalist-turned-politician Helena Moreno.

One of New Orleans’ most powerful politicians, Jefferson is Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction and a nine-term incumbent. He faces Moreno, a journalist, who moved to New Orleans to take a reporting job with TV station, WDSU-TV, eight years ago. She worked as an anchor and investigative news reporter until she resigned in March 2008 to run for Congress.

Although the race between Jefferson and Moreno is viewed as black versus white, many city residents don’t even know that Moreno isn’t white.

“Moreno is Hispanic,” said Darrin M. Hanson, who is a white Political Science professor at Xavier University of Louisiana. “A lot of the white people and black people who I talk to don’t realize that she is Hispanic.”

“She made the run-off because she was the only candidate close enough to white,” said Everette.

Political art featuring Obama at Xavier University of Louisiana

Jefferson and Moreno are campaigning to win a district that is approximately 62 percent black, and includes the majority of New Orleans. The area contains the 9th Ward, Gentilly and other low-lying areas, which were greatly damaged from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

This district’s congressional leadership has been Democratic since Reconstruction. And the Voting Rights Act of 1965 turned this area into a “Majority-Minority” district to guard against racially-motivated gerrymandering, thereby ensuring minority voters the equal opportunity to elect congressional representatives.

With a predominantly black congressional district, many political insiders knew that Moreno would have an uphill battle due to race and other issues. And in order to win, Moreno would need a significant black “crossover” vote. Most New Orleanians assumed she would get the white vote.

“If [white people] get a chance to not vote for a black person, they don’t vote for them,” said William Everette, Political Science Lecturer at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Before the 2006 congressional election, Jefferson’s support diminished due to federal charges that he had $90,000 in alleged bribe money in his freezer. Although Jefferson still won the election, he was removed from his powerful House Ways and Means committee post. He was also indicted in 2007, and will go to trial in December on bribery, money laundering and other charges.

Yet despite Jefferson’s alleged corruption, he received 25 percent of the vote in the October election with Moreno garnering 20 percent. Although New Orleans residents may disagree as to the merits of re-electing Jefferson, most agree that the election was heavily decided based on race.

Hanson, who is a white Political Science professor at Xavier University of Louisiana, explains the run-off between Jefferson and Moreno.

“The problem with the previous election was that there was Jefferson and five young African-American males,” said Hanson. “They were all well-qualified. The five young male candidates cancelled each other, but together they had 55 percent of the vote. If the black vote had consolidated behind one person, Jefferson or Moreno would have been knocked off.”

On Nov. 4, New Orleans residents will vote for the next president and several state and national congressional seats, including the 2nd Congressional district. Most experts agree that both Jefferson and Moreno won the first election because the vote was splintered by race.
The Times-Picayune staff writer, Stephanie Grace said, “If voters often talk about choosing the lesser of two evils, this is one election where that saying really does fit the mood.”
Grace along with several others in New Orleans predicts Jefferson will win. The numbers and race are in his favor, as well as having Obama on the ticket.

“Jefferson is running the same day that Obama is running, said Hanson. “People are going to vote for history. They are expecting a 95 percent African American city-wide turnout.”

And if the 2006 election proved anything, Jefferson can be re-elected with federal investigations and alleges charges of corruption hanging over him.
For radio host, CJ Morgan, of WBOK 1230 AM’s show “Talk Back, Talk Black,” the Jefferson race is “very much a reflection of the racial polarization of the city.” Whites vote predominantly for whites and blacks vote for blacks.
Xavier University of Louisiana student Jayson Williams, 23, explained Jefferson’s support from the black community.
“The reason why they are supporting Bill Jefferson is because he has seniority as a representative,” said Williams who is a Political Science major.  “He has served a lot of time and been on boards. And he’s given us streets, lights and money. He helps his district. That’s all that really matters to me.”

Yet despite Jefferson’s congressional track record and Katrina efforts, the alleged charges against him weigh heavily in some minds.
“Although there are people who want to elect Jefferson, I was kind of shocked because of what’s going on and what’s in the media,” said Alysha Smith, a senior Political Science major at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Dr. Lance Hill, the Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University, claims there are logical reasons why many African Americans in New Orleans support Jefferson.
“Bill Jefferson defended the black community, prevented it from being demolished, went to Congress, and used his power of the Black Caucus to get funding to rebuild the homes of black homeowners when the Republican establishment turned its back on New Orleans,” said Hill, who is white.

Considered an expert on race, prejudice and tolerance, Hill co-founded the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane in 1993. The Institute uses the Holocaust and Civil Rights Movement case studies to teach students about prejudice. The organization boasts that it has “the most comprehensive tolerance education program” of its kind in the South and trained more than 3,600 teachers.

“It’s no question that even stripped of his committee assignments that he has been able to leverage more change and more benefits for Katrina victims, white and black alike, than probably any other member of Congress,” said Hill.

Early Voting Event attendees- photographer: Jeremy McLean

And although Katrina occurred more than three years ago, it has affected the politics of New Orleans. It brought New Orleans problems to the surface, said Mike Flores, President of GCR Consulting.

Even though Mayor Nagin claims that 75% of New Orleans has returned after Hurricane Katrina, many residents say the city is not the same.

After Katrina, the demographics of New Orleans have changed, said Bruce Nolan, reporter for The Times-Picayune.

“The underlying concerns and fears are still there, said Nolan. “Black folk are still utterly convinced, utterly persuaded that the powers-that-be used Katrina as an excuse to lock them out of town. I mean that’s embedded. And that legacy is carried forward into our politics of today, even though it’s less black than it was before.”

Several blacks viewed the post-Katrina rebuilding plans like “Bring New Orleans Back” and the Master Plan or “Green Space” plans as a way for a portion of the white constituency to prevent poor, low-income blacks from returning to New Orleans, said Hill.

These post-Katrina demographic changes have resulted in a majority white city council and school board in New Orleans, said Hanson who considers himself a part of the group of whites that arrived in New Orleans after the storm.

Thus, many blacks feel their generations of political leadership are being stripped away by the white minority. Jefferson is using this fear to his advantage in the race against Moreno, explained Hill.

Although the Green Space plan has been abandoned, Jefferson’s use of the term the “greening of New Orleans” has been a strong campaign message against Moreno.

According to Hill, Jefferson makes claims, in political ads on black radio and in appearances, that Moreno is supported by the people who tried to prevent blacks from coming home, and is trying to turn their community into “green space.”

The Jefferson v. Moreno race points out politically strategies based on racial identity and in some cases racial misgivings. It also shows the strategy of power retention according to race.

“We want to keep our person, by our person, I mean racial identifier, in office. Moreno is not us, we can’t lose our seat,” said Hanson who described the sentiment of African Americans voting for Jefferson.

Hill agreed that the black community doesn’t want to forego its political influence.

“Jefferson said, ‘Look if I get elected you have the same kind of power and influence in congress that you’ve had in all the years that I’ve served. If I’m convicted of a crime, there will be a new election. And you will get somebody that represents you,’” said Hill.

For many New Orleans voters, the 2nd Congressional district and presidential races may all come down to race and the re-opening of prejudicial wounds. And it remains to be seen if Barack Obama can transcend the issue of race nationally.

Yet, it appears that racial politics of 2008 may boil down to one simple statement. As Obama said in an interview in July 2008 with Brian Williams about being viewed as a political risk, and as CJ Morgan said about the politics of New Orleans: “The devil that you know is better than the devil that you don’t know.”

Note: also posted on Pop+Politics




What if Sarah Palin was black?

What if Sarah Palin was black and from Brooklyn instead of white and from Alaska? Would she be taken seriously? One of my favorite personalities, Abiola Abrams, along with the folks at Black Planet’s NewsOne created a skit on the black Sarah Palin. Notice the way she answers (or doesn’t answer) the questions, uses God as her reason for running for office and her colloquial speech. Check it out.

The Caramel Bella




Skinhead Plot to Assasinate Obama Stopped

For many Obama supporters, Monday’s arrest of two white supremacist skinheads accused of planning to assassinate Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama was too close for comfort. After Senator Hillary Clinton’s comment about the possibility of assasination during the Democratic primaries and Obama’s need for protection from the Secret Service very early into his campaign, this arrest has reminded many Americans about the real and constant threat to his life.

In addition to their plot to kill Senator Obama, Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman 18, of West Helena, Ark. were also planning to shoot or decapitate 102 black people in Tennessee, according to the Associated Press. The court documents obtained during the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigation revealed the two men met over the internet.

According to the latest Reuters report:

“The men stole guns from family members and also had a sawed-off shotgun. They planned to target a predominately black school, going state to state while robbing individuals and continuing to kill people,” said an ATF agent in the affidavit.

The suspects, Cowart and Schlesselman, have been criminally charged with “making threats against a presidential candidate, illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun and conspiracy to rob a gun dealer.

Reportedly, the men charged are neo-Nazi skinheads who incorporated the numbers 88 and 14, which are symbolic among white supremacists, into the racially motivated killing plan. The number 8 is said to refer to the eight letter of the alphabet, H. And a double 8 (88) stands for “Heil Hitler” according to James Cavanaugh, an ATF special agent in charge of the case.

Even though the men were not successful in their racist assassination plot, this recent attempt may remind many voters of an original fear of Obama’s assasination. During the Democratic primaries, many African American voters had expressed reservations about voting for Obama because of this very concern. So, fear along with this very real attempt on his life (just a week or so before the election) could be a reason (or excuse) to not vote for Obama on Nov. 4.




Caramel Bella in the Big Easy

If you read my site regularly, you may have noticed that my posts have been pretty slow this week (read: hardly any). It is because yours truly is in New Orleans for a reporting project on race, religion and politics. I hope you have been following my twitters on the site because they should have kept you up-to-date on my Big Easy adventures. Although I’ve enjoyed my stay immensely in New Orleans, I must say it has been an emotional rollercoaster. For me, seeing the Hurricane Katrina devastation has been very sad and depressing but it’s been balanced by the beauty and warmth of the N.O. people. And the food and partying is beyond compare. Thank you New Orleans for giving a me a lifetime of wonderful memories and allowing me to experience your wonderful city. Stay tuned for more posts and tweets from N.O.L.A.

Smooches (especially to New Orleans),

The Caramel Bella




Black Muslim Says Race, Not Religion, Is the Issue

He looks like most Americans (well, African Americans). And you definitely can’t tell he is a Muslim by his appearance. So, it would be difficult to target him based on his religion.

“I look like a regular black man in Washington, DC,” said Omari West, a 35-year old American Sunni Muslim. “Do I get targeted as a black man, now that’s another case?”

Although West acknowledges that religious bigotry against Muslims exists in the United States, he believes the primary issue is still race.

Some Americans still “cling” to the inaccurate beliefs that Sen. Barack Obama is a Muslim or was sworn into Congress on the Koran instead of the bible. And as shown in a recent McCain rally, there is a portion of the American population who believes Obama is an Arab. And they’ll shout it as an insult to prove it.

West, who was born into his Islamic faith, says the Arab slur is a cover for their true beliefs.

“It’s no longer politically palatable for people to openly admit that they don’t favor a candidate because of his skin color. [African Americans] have gone through a long hard battle in this country to win the right of dignity and respect, at least in the public square.”

West attributes the veiled use of the word, Arab or Muslim, as a code word for “other” or an even more derogatory word used against Black people.

“It’s more convenient and less controversial for someone to call Obama a Muslim then it would be to call him the n-word.” That’s how the coding works.

West explained how that process occurs in multiple unconscious, yet subversive, psychological steps.

First, to tarnish Obama’s reputation, his enemies use his name Barack Hussein Obama to distinguish him and thereby paint him as an “other.” In the senator’s case, all three of his names are easily associated with the Islamic faith, said West.

“The name, Barack Hussein Obama, is of east African derivation,” said West. “It’s Arabic.”

West says the next stage is “to paint him as an enemy by associating him with Arabic and Muslim extremists.”

Obama’s middle name has received a lot of media attention because of its similarity to the notorious Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Hussein, who committed violent acts against his own people, was a Sunni Muslim.

“All of the Arab talk is code word for his skin color and voicing disapproval as a form of racial bigotry, which can’t be openly discussed,” said West.

West, who is an American-born Muslim, thinks that the veiled Arab attacks against Obama are working. He thinks the focus on race can be shown in Obama’s wavering support among union workers despite their leadership’s endorsement.

West, a graduate of Columbia’s law school and its undergraduate journalism school explained:

“Usually democrats are pro-labor because of the economic issues. They push for higher wages, unionization, etc. As a result, union workers generally vote Democratic. There is a question now whether the rank and file members will follow behind the union leaders and vote for Barack. The argument could be made that people care more about racial and cultural issues than economic.”

A recent New York Times article points to race as a reason for Obama’s lack of support from union members.

“I think race is playing a major part,” said Mac Davis Slade, a political activist with the painters’ union, to the NYT. “I think that’s why some people say, ‘Isn’t he a Muslim?’”

Although race and religion are being used against Sen. Obama, West said it is part of the reason he is supporting him for president.

“I do think those reasons – his race, culture, name and experience – go into making him the person that he is today. They are not separate from what he brings to the table. However, the most important reason is I think he’s the most competent person for the job,” said West.

The owner of his own international economic consulting firm, West explained that Obama was his choice because of his leadership on several issues like the war. He also admired the Senator’s qualifications as a legislator and his impact on international relations if elected.

In terms of overall voting patterns for Muslims, West thinks they historically lean right on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage. However, in this election people of all religions will have to consider a hierarchy of issues, which include national security, education, civil rights and civil liberties. And on these political issues, West said Muslims lean left or Democratic. A 2007 Pew study confirms that only 11% of Muslims lean right or consider themselves Republican and 63% identify with the Democratic party.

“It’s not because we’re any less pro-life or in favor of gay marriage from a faith standpoint. There are other factors that our lives depend on in this race,” said West.

He hopes the next president sets a tone of tolerance, and encourages a sharing of ideas and strengths among people of difference. This leader would point to how the variation among faiths and traditions all come from the same source, God.

Quoting from the 49:13 verse in the Koran, West states, “We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other.” For him, this statement means we learn more about ourselves by encountering and understanding the “other.”

“We are all brothers and sisters under God,” says West, “we’re all viewed as equals.”

Note: also appeared on HuffingtonPost.com and PopandPolitics.com




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My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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