At an event that felt like a black church service at times, President Barack Obama spoke in deeply personal terms yesterday about growing up without a father and urged the entire country to get behind his newly-launched “My Brother’s Keeper” program to help young black and Latino men. “I didn’t have a dad in the house and I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time,” the president said of his childhood, with 20 black and Latino boys standing behind him in the White House’s East Room.
He added,”I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.” But Obama said he was able to be successful because he had a mother, grandparents and teachers who would “push me to work hard and study hard and make the most of myself.”
As the president delivered a speech that alternated between talking about public policy and simply giving advice to both the minority boys behind him and those he hoped would watch the speech on television, a predominantly black audience of several hundred that included luminaries like Magic Johnson and Colin Powell several times shouted “amen” and “yes sir.”
“Yes, we need to train our workers, invest in our schools, make college more affordable — and government has a role to play. And, yes, we need to encourage fathers to stick around, and remove the barriers to marriage, and talk openly about things like responsibility and faith and community. In the words of Dr. King, it is not either-or; it is both-and,” Obama said.
The event was the formal launch of “My Brother’s Keeper,” which aims to pool resources of the federal government and also raise money and create new initiatives through businesses and foundations to target black and Latino males. Studies show men of color are less likely to graduate from high school, attend college or get jobs than white men or their female peers.
Ira Acree spent two hours passing out fliers in front of the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago, hoping to spread the word about a “Justice for Trayvon” vigil at noon Saturday — one of at least 100 planned in cities across the nation. On the way back to his car, Acree, a pastor, spotted a television in the lobby of the parking garage. A crowd had gathered in front, as if “watching the football game,” Acree said. President Obama was speaking.
In his first comments since a six-woman jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Obama spoke frankly and reflectively, relating his experiences with race and racial profiling. “Trayvon Martin could have been me,” the President said. Obama’s earnest words moved Acree almost to tears. “I just think that the president’s words may help whites across the nation at least understand us,” Acree said. “And be a little bit more emphathetic toward our actions tomorrow.” Acree chairs the board of a social justice group in Chicago called the Leader’s Network, which is helping organize Saturday’s vigil.
The 100-city “Justice for Trayvon” vigils, which the Rev. Al Sharpton announced Tuesday on the steps of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., will be staged mostly at federal court buildings across the country. In California, rallies are scheduled in Los Angeles, Oakland, Palmdale, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco and the Monterey County city of Seaside. Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Martin’s brother, Jahvaris, will attend a rally in New York City, along with Sharpton. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is attending a vigil in Miami.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Trayvon Martin’s parents plan to participate in separate vigils Saturday. Martin’s mother and her son, Sybrina and Jahvaris Fulton, will join Al Sharpton outside New York Police Department headquarters. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is set to be at a similar event at a federal courthouse in Miami. Sharpton’s National Action Network is planning rallies in 100 cities to press for federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. The Justice Department is investigating whether Zimmerman violated Martin’s civil rights when he shot the 17-year-old during a confrontation last year in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman says he fired in self-defense. He was acquitted last Saturday of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
MSNBC yesterday reported a huge increase in their overall ratings, a 20% increase, in 2012, no doubt due to the 2012 Presidential campaign, but also due to a another major factor – Black viewership. The network announced an incredible increase in their already large number of Black viewers – a whopping 60.5% increase during the past year.
That’s compared to CNN, whose Black audience increased last year by 23.7%, while Fox News’ Black audience decreased by the same amount.
No doubt MSNBC’s more progressive leaning approach to the news and their wide array of black hosts and pundits such as Toure, Melissa Harris-Perry, Tamron Hall, Joy-Ann Reid (pictured above and who I predict is headed for her own MSNBC show soon) Karen Finney, Michael Steele, Al Sharpton, Eugene Robinson, Jonathan Capehart, Goldie Taylor and if I’ve forgotten anyone, I’m sorry, have played a large part in the increase in black viewers.
When recently asked about this remarkable development, MSNBC president Phil Griffith said: “I think we made a commitment, we decided, that in order for this channel to succeed, that we had to reflect the country. This meant that we had to be part of the country in ways that the other channels weren’t.”