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Friday, June 28, 2013

Quote for today...

"If money had a religion it would be Jewish, but fortunately it doesn't have one, as a result of which it can be venerated by everyone."
Ernesto Pacelli, founder of Banco di Roma, 1880

Thursday, June 27, 2013

South Africa more important than Mandela's abode

SA Kruger Park playing cards
While the world waits and prays for former South African President Nelson "Madiba" Mandela, one must contemplate what significant factor surpasses the country's status as the home of a famous freedom fighter. The word is TRADE.

South Africans have always interested me, and whenever I meet someone who has a somewhat British accent, I ask them where they are from, and when they say South Africa, I immediately think of apartheid and Mandela.

One of the members at church is a white South African, and when I asked him about Mandela, he told me he is wonderful man, a compassionate legend who did not retaliate against the white population after coming to power, much to their surprise.

This nostalgic view needs to be coupled with the knowledge that South Africa has vast riches to behold and trade to develop. Doing research on the most famous diamonds in the world, I found that South Africa has the second richest supply of diamonds, with India being the first. 
White House photo of Michelle Obama with Nelson Mandela in 2011.
On June 29, US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha will visit South Africa, spending three days in Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said his country is hoping to strengthen trading possibilities. The White House said that the visit would, "underscore the President's commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity."

Maybe I should plan my next trip to South Africa and experience it for myself.

For more information about South Africa, go to

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Has end of Civil Rights Movement begun?

Old Ga. state flag - Photo by Tomi Johnson
Are we too afraid to protest - too busy playing video games, worrying about our mortgages, retirement, foreign wars, and our Facebook pages?

Maybe we should contemplate the past. The American Reconstruction Era began in the South after the Civil War. During Reconstruction, former Confederate States were rebuilt under federal government guidance. It occurred on the heels of the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1870 which prohibited denying voting rights to citizen's regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

During this time, many blacks voted, secured land and property, held jobs, and were voted into public office. Violence against black voters was suppressed, however, and the Ku Klux Klan formed and strengthened to counter these rights. This era ended in 1877, and many blacks were disenfranchised.

After much marching, bloodshed and debate, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. looking on. This piece of legislation outlawed discriminatory voting practices against African Americans. In the 21st century, however, many voter ID laws have been proposed to "protect" voting by unauthorized persons.

Then came the Supreme Court decision this week, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General et al. This decision removes the stipulation that certain states have to receive approval from the federal government before any voting laws are amended or enacted. Some civil rights advocates predict voter's rights will be curtailed, black elected officials will lose their seats, and redistricting will take place.

In Georgia, all this comes while several black officials are being convicted, investigated, and removed from office.  In 2004, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was convicted for tax evasion and served two years in federal prison. In March 2013, retired Atlanta School Board Superintendent Beverly Hall was indicted by a grand jury in relation to her role in a cheating scandal as well as several other school officials.

In May 2013, noted civil rights leader and State Representative Tyrone Brooks was indicted by federal authorities for fraud and tax evasion. Brooks claims that the CIA has targeted him for prosecution for his investigation into the lynching of a black couple in 1946. Last week, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted on 15 criminal charges. Do we see a pattern here??? The old guard of the civil rights movement are now elderly or resting in their graves. Will new leaders step in to continue King's dream of a free society, of a Beloved Community?

If black leaders have done something illegal, they should be investigated and prosecuted, but if they are being targeted to cool down advances since passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that's another story. How this movement will be counteracted - whether by boycotts, marching, or strict defense in the courts - will be closely watched by those interested in the political process.

Paula Deen throws stone back at accusers

Calling a kettle "black" or a "spade a spade" could be misinterpreted in today's world.
Did the pot call the kettle black?  Accused of being a racist by her white restaurant employee, cooking star Paula Deen defended herself in a tearful interview on this morning's Today Show by using a well known biblical analogy: John 8:7. Jesus told the accusers of an adulterous woman to let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. I was very surprised that Dean didn't ask her interviewer, Matt Lauer, if he had ever used the "N" word!

If Deen had called me a "nigger" to my face, I probably would have been fighting mad, but I don't know the woman and will probably never meet her. Words can be hurtful, and being caught using the wrong ones at the wrong time can have disastrous financial consequences for celebrities and business people. Sometimes, though, they can have a tendency to make bigmouths more endearing. I hadn't even thought about Paula Deen recently or watched her show lately, and now I'm writing this post about her. Go figure. Remember Martha Stewart and her incarceration in a federal penitentiary for shady stock dealing?  Stewart's net worth last year was $970m!

In Deen's case, she admitted she has used the word "nigger" before, but not in a demeaning way. After that admission, several of her sponsors dropped her, and her famed cooking show has been cancelled. Deen contends that she is not racist and wonders why people think she is a bad person for using the word "nigger" once in her life. Deen may be the kind person she portends to be; who am I to judge.

Looking back at the word's history, the term was used by people who referred to black slaves from Niger as "niggers." This word later was used to connote persons who were lazy. Many Southerners during the mid-20th century bastardized the word "Negro" to "Negra" which was a slap in the face to African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement when blacks were fighting racial segregation. Comedian David Chappelle uses "nigga" all the time, while The Boondock's Aaron McGruder throws it around in his comic strip and TV show.

I remember a comedy skit during that time in which a black man was asked why he was infuriated when whites called him "nigger" and didn't mind when his sweetheart did. "That's because she wakes up every morning, kisses me, and calls me her SWEET NIGGER," which means intent is everything when communicating politically charged words. My maternal grandma use to wake me up in the morning and tickle my toes, saying, "Good morning, my little nigga toes."  I loved my grandmother dearly, even though she was born in the late 1880's in North Carolina where racism left its toll.

Calling someone "Uncle Tom" or "Colored" is looked upon with contempt today, but once these were familial words. Any words which separate us from each other, which make us feel better than someone else, can become hurtful; however, if everyone who has ever spoken the words "nigger", "spic", "slut," "bitch," "fag," "raghead", "kite," or "wetback" were due to be punished, possibly all of us would be under the jail!

Kettle photo: Holger Ellgaar, GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alabama wins Supreme Court case against Voting Rights Act

The South has climbed one step closer to rising again.

Today the United States Supreme Court sided with the great state of Alabama and overturned a key component in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This historic decision has happened while Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama are in charge. 

In her dissent to the ruling, Justice Ruth Ginsburg was joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Ginsburg said the success of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy, in other words, it should have been left alone.

"Recognizing that large progress has been made, Congress determined, based on a voluminous record, that the scourge of discrimination was not yet extirpated," Ginsburg said in her dissent. The Court was persuaded otherwise, and now Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Virginia will not have to pass any changes to state voting laws before federal officials.

States rights in the South have won, and conservatives are rejoicing. It was reported that Georgia Congressman Johnny Isakson said he is proud of the South after today's ruling, a South which has a history of disenfranchising voters. 

Voter's rights are still protected, but we will see what the South's next move to turn the political tide will be. To read the ruling, go to:

Photo by Tomi Johnson

Monday, June 24, 2013

Journalists as targets

Photo by Tomi Johnson
   Do you think journalists and bloggers should be penalized for telling the truth???  
     Once upon a time, I was a reporter for a public television station in Kentucky.  One of my most memorable assignments was uncovering the historical significance of an incident which occurred in Corbin, Ky. It was documented that in 1919, the town’s black residents were herded onto railroad cars and taken away from the place with the “sundown” reputation – blacks were told to be gone before sunset.

     When I got to Corbin, I was labeled a troublemaker and threatened by the Chamber of Commerce president who viewed my investigation into the past bad publicity. Little did I realize that an industrial park was being built there, and the town’s leaders were afraid that potential corporate landlords would view past racial tensions too intense and risky for business development. When I returned to the television station with the story in the can, the operators who had received a call from the CC president forbade me to broadcast the information.
     Today, metadata says and proves all, and it is released feverishly on the Internet by institutional and self-proclaimed journalists.  Journalistic metadata is powerful, but handling it is tricky. An investigative journalist may uncover secrets, but the information may be suppressed by the organization s(he) works for since all such entities have their own political and marketing agendas. The true starving journalist may blog uncompensated but still run the risk of becoming a government or institutional target.
     Case in point: The United Kingdom policy document, Joint Doctrine Publication 3-45.1: Media Operations, was promulgated by the Chiefs of Staff in 2007 and describes instructions on handling military media operations. The policy states that while the entire UK population is usually considered the "principal target", the "most influential target" is “people who hold disproportionate influence on the direction of government and public thinking and policy development."
     Included in this target group are newspaper columnists and journalists who often do more than report news but voice opinions on current affairs. I think bloggers have also been added to this group, for I have been told by a human resources professional that blogging or any type of social media reporting may limit employment opportunities. One question asked on a recent online job application was whether I ever used social media as a reporting vehicle.
     This makes it very disheartening when your craft deals with disseminating information. Mainstream media disarms you, but you feel compelled to tell what you know. Metadata(pen) being mightier than the sword cuts both ways. This is a hard revelation for inspiring journalists, but advice which must be heeded.   

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lamborghini driver spotted in ATL's Atlantic Station

Anyone know who the white-gloved driver of this eggplant-colored Lamborghini is? He was spotted driving away from Atlantic Station around 5 p.m. on June 16.

Other colorful characters spotted at the Station included a woman in a scarfed top and a man in a blue outfit. Any idea who these folks are?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Edward Snowden should have stayed in line...

While waiting to re-enter the building after recess in grade school, another kid broke in front of me. When I told Sister Anthony, someone I respected, I was chastised.

"Don't be a tattletale," she said. The line breaker went free, and I learned a quick life lesson. Although truth-telling is in the blood, you have to be careful and ready for unintended consequences. 

Enter Edward Snowden, the world's latest tragic person who faced an ethical dilemma and was compelled to broadcast what he thought were important secrets. But government spying on citizens is not new, therefore, Snowden's "secret" telling should not be such a big deal. It is, however, and he will probably never be hired again and will have to micro-manage staying alive.

Lesson learned: keep your mouth shut when you see or hear things that you know in your gut are not right. Don't snitch when someone breaks rank. Mind your own business. 

Step back in line.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Black or white? Does it still matter?

"I Said If You're Thinkin' Of Being My Brother, It Don't Matter If You're Black Or White" --Michael Jackson

With Ventra Mapp and Mae Scott Kidd in Louisville, Ky. - 1980's  (Photo by Kurk Johnson)

Do you think being BLACK AND BEAUTIFUL has lost its flavor???

Lately I've been contemplating my views on being African American. I recently found an old photograph of me and the late Kentucky Representative Mae Scott Kidd who once said, ""Most of us, whether white or black, are mixtures of many races and nationalities...Because I was neither completely white nor completely black, I've been stigmatized and penalized by both races." (From the book Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd)

Kidd, however, was one of the legislators who successfully helped get the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery ratified in Kentucky on March 18, 1976. She also served a number of charitable organizations focused on helping African Americans, including the Lincoln Foundation and the Louisville Urban League. Kidd was a graduate of Lincoln Institute, the only school in Kentucky where blacks could get a high school education before integration, and she helped disadvantaged youth.

Should I continue to identify with being Black? My hair still curls when it gets wet. My birth certificate states my mother and father were both Negro.  I was brought up Black, raised on an HBCU, produced "Black" television shows, and write blog posts focusing on African Americans. My husband's birth certificate states one parent was Negro and the other was Colored. My husband's DNA analysis found his ancestors were from Europe, Mexico, Australia and Africa. He recently was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church, an "eastern" religion. Is God's image Black or White?

Recently I had a yard sale, and none of my Black memorabilia sold. "It doesn't pay to be Black," said my brother-in-law recently when discussing my failing to earn a living from focusing on Black contributions to society. He suggested that I take up making balloon sculptures at kid's birthday parties because it would pay more than writing about black accomplishments.

This is really a political AND cultural question: Should race matter? Does it matter if I'm Black or White?