All Articles Tagged "President Obama"
Yesterday The White House announced it has hired its first openly transgender employee. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, a notable trans-advocate, has been appointed Outreach and Recruitment Director on President Obama’s staff. Freedman-Gurspan previously worked as a policy advisor for the National Center for Transgender Equality and has publicly challenged President Obama’s policies, charging that said policies need to be enforced on all levels of government rather than simply existing as politically correct legislation that gives the transgender community false hope. Now she’ll have a chance to influence that policy from the inside.
In a statement to The New York Times, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to President Obama, revealed Freedman-Gurspan is committed to bettering the lives of transgender citizens, “particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty [and] reflects the values of this administration.” Freedman-Gurspan was adopted by a Jewish single mother as an infant from Honduras. Initially, Freedman-Gurspan identified as gay while growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, but later transitioned as a woman while living in Norway, during a college study abroad trip.
While Freedman-Gurspan is a White House first, she is not the only openly transgender employee the Obama administration has hired; other members of the trans community have been employed with the Defense Department and Environmental Protection Agency.
Today, The White House debuted their channel on the streaming service Spotify and President Obama is said to have hand-crafted two playlists titled, “The President’s Summer Playlist Day and Night.”
President Obama’s top musical selections for his daytime playlist ranged from artists like The Isley Brothers and Nappy Roots to Bob Dylan and Coldplay. For his evening jams, our President chose vibe-worthy songs from Erykah Badu, John Coltrane, Beyoncé and Frank Sinatra. Currently, each playlist has over 1,500 followers. Interestingly enough, we’re surprised he didn’t release the summer playlists on his friend Jay Z’s Tidal.
After the jump, we included our favorites from President Obama’s playlist. Take a listen.
Opinions vary when it comes to President Barack Obama and his administration. But one thing we can all agree on is his job is not an easy one, especially since he’s doing it without the support of his Congressional colleagues.
The United States has a history of tearing down its political leaders, especially ones of color. However, when they get old or have departed this earth, they then get a holiday, a street named after them, curriculum designed around their speeches and ideologies, and parks and buildings named after them. Similarly, when President Obama completes his term as president, he will grace the pages of U.S. history books and have a presidential library in his honor in Chicago. Thinking about these upcoming honors, as well as the talk about President Obama’s legacy and the continuous criticism, I couldn’t help but reflect. Reflect on the idea that it seems like our Black leaders are more valuable in death to people than they are while living.
Well, I refuse to wait. If you ask me, President Obama is one of the greatest commander-in-chiefs to take office, and he is past due some credit and some respect. Here’s why:
He has drastically cut the unemployment rate. For those who have never been unemployed, consider yourself extremely blessed because it can be one of the most discouraging predicaments to be in. Unemployment has dropped from 10.1 percent in October 2009 to 5.1 percent by the spring of 2015. This translates to more than 12 million new jobs.
He was the first U.S. President ever to visit a federal prison, as his administration is making it a priority to target criminal justice reform. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, weighing in at 2.3 million men and women. Of those millions of men and women, 1 million are African American. Earlier this month, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders. According to CNN, he has commuted more sentences than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson. As President Obama put it, “I believe that at its heart, America is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”
The President has established a clemency initiative that allows commutation for men and women serving prison sentences for outdated laws. One common offense is marijuana possession. Too many of our people are serving major sentences–including life–for minor crimes, and President Obama has started working to make changes for a more fair and effective criminal justice system.
Walking into office, President Obama inherited the mess left over from the Bush administration. The country was in a recession, and we were at war with Iraq. President Obama ended the war, and troops have been steadily removed from Afghanistan. And I know you haven’t forgotten about Osama Bin Laden…
We haven’t had any successful attacks in the United States from international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, aside from the Boston Marathon bombing (the Tsarnaevs were heavily influenced by the group). In fact, our international relations have improved vastly since President Obama took office. Who knew we would ever rebuild our relationship with Cuba?
Obamacare has severely divided parties, but the facts are available in plain sight. About 16.4 million Americans have insurance due to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. That’s 16 million people who can now get care from a physician, pay reasonable prices for their medication, and have the surgery they may need to save their lives. Before, if an uninsured person fell ill and needed emergency room care, taxpayers would have to pay their medical bills. The Affordable Care Act gives people access to the healthcare we need, stabilizes Medicare for seniors, and saves taxpayers billions of dollars.
Gas prices have cut into the budget of every American citizen. “You got gas money?” at one point went from a running joke to a serious plea. Average gas prices a few years ago rose as high as $4.11 per gallon during the Bush administration. A lot of the increase in price was due to the country’s dependency on foreign oil. President Obama has cut that dependency and the U.S. now produces and exports a great deal of petroleum. Whether you want to admit it or not, gas prices are continuing to decrease, with the average for regular grade gas being $2.94 per gallon.
President Obama helped to revive the auto industry; froze White House salaries; bailed out the banks; helped families save their homes; improved the housing market; increased lending to small businesses; saved over 30,000 education jobs; banned “gifts” from lobbyists to the executive branch; reformed Wall Street; ordered execs who took bailout money to pay it back; extended benefits for same-sex couples, legalized marriage for same-sex couples; established a White House Council on Women and Girls; repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”; reestablished a partnership with NATO; released Bush torture memos; banned Bush torture policies; improved veterans’ services; increased student financial aid; reformed the student loan and loan forgiveness program; and oversaw expansion in K-12 schools nationwide. And the list goes on.
Yet in our community you will always hear “What has Obama done for Black people?”
He hasn’t been a perfect president by any means, and there is much to be done about police brutality and other major issues plaguing us. But every program, every initiative, and every piece of legislation the Black community can and has benefited from. Everything from unemployment and healthcare to appointing the most diverse cabinet of men and women of both African and Hispanic descent to make up his administration. But most importantly, President Obama has carried himself with the utmost dignity and respect in the midst of a most vile and egotistical Congress. Something we should all be proud of. If there is something that you want to see happen, don’t wait for it to trickle down from the federal level. Go out into your community and work for your community. And by all means, exercise your right to vote for better city and state level officials, because that’s where change begins.
Again, if you ask me, President Obama should be commended for his tenacity and dedication to serving the very people who disservice him. He is the prototype of what an American president should be. Thank you, sir. For everything.
The trip marks President Obama’s fourth voyage to Sub-Saharan Africa, but he will be the first sitting president to visit Kenya, his father’s homeland. While the trip holds a wealth of personal significance for the first African-American president it is also one focused on economic growth.
Africa has become a key player in global economics and tech entrepreneurship as more businesses create ties with the continent.
“Africa is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and it’s in our economic interest to make sure we deepen our trade relationship. Since I took office, we’ve boosted U.S. exports to Africa, which last year supported 280,000 American jobs, ” wrote the president.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act was recently signed into law by POTUS to ensure these efforts continue. The act will support an increase in trade and create jobs in both Africa and America.
Kenya has been looked at as a new technology hub and start-up center as the president co-hosts a summit during his visit in efforts to expand support for entrepreneurship. The president mentioned his focus is also on young people and women “who can help unleash the next wave of African growth.”
Last month CNN ranked Nairobi, Kenya as one of the “9 African Tech Hubs of the Future.” A tech hub often offers affordable shared office space, reliable internet and electricity which is all found at Nairobi Garage in the country’s capital. Nairobi Garage hosts tech events and workshops to empower entrepreneurs and launch new businesses.
“Twenty-seven years after I first visited Kenya as a young man, it’s remarkable to look back at how far the region—and the entire African continent—has come. This progress is a testament to heroes like Nelson Mandela and to world leaders, including Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who made historic investments in Africa. Most importantly, Africa’s progress is a tribute to the people of Africa who have never stopped working for the future they deserve,” wrote President Obama.
Should we trust well-known conservative funders the Koch brothers when it comes to their interest in prison reform?
It’s a question that some folks are asking after Van Jones, former Special Advisor for Green Jobs for the Obama Administration, and Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries, appeared on “Democracy Now.” The two talked about their partnership to make the justice and prison systems more fair. They were guests on the program to discuss, among other things, the SAFE Justice Act, which seeks to reduce recidivism, reform sentencing and decriminalize certain laws on the books. The bill is currently being considered by the House.
It might come as a surprise to some that in addition to being a union buster and anti-Obamacare commercial funder, Charles Koch, who co-owns Koch Industries with his brother David, also considers himself a prison reformer. According to The Hill, his aims are to help those who are disenfranchised. Some of his stated goals include: returning voting rights to nonviolent felons; advocating for more money and resources for public defenders; and reforming mandatory minimum sentencing. Earlier this year, he pledged to make those changes a priority in 2015; and so far, he has galvanized bipartisan support by way of some of the unlikeliest of allies. That includes conservative politicians and hardline groups like the Heritage Foundation and ALEC, as well as left-leaning groups and activists like the American Civil Liberties Union and Van Jones.
Jones and Holden’s appearance on “Democracy Now” comes as President Obama has aggressively taken on the issue of mass incarceration. In the last couple of weeks, President Obama has reduced the sentences of 46 non-violent inmates who are serving time for various drug offenses. He has made an historic trip to a prison in Oklahoma. And he has given a speech before the NAACP in which, among things, he made a plug for sentencing reform. In the speech before the NAACP, President Obama also shouted out all of the bipartisan support for reform within the criminal justice system.
“This is a cause that’s bringing people in both houses of Congress together. It’s created some unlikely bedfellows. You’ve got Van Jones and Newt Gingrich. You’ve got Americans for Tax Reform and the ACLU. You’ve got the NAACP and the Koch brothers. No, you’ve got to give them credit. You’ve got to call it like you see it. There are states from Texas and South Carolina to California and Connecticut who have acted to reduce their prison populations over the last five years and have seen their crime rates fall. That’s good news.”
That is good news, but what’s the bad news?
As noted by Leon Neyfakh in an article from April 2015 for Salon titled, “The Koch Brothers Want It Both Ways,” the Koch brothers’ interest in reforming the criminal justice system may have less to do with helping the disenfranchised, and more to do with a yet to be identified political strategy, which could possibly bite folks in the behind in the end. His proof is a New York Republican fundraiser dinner where David Koch pledged to spend nearly $900 million of the brothers’ loot during the 2016 election to support Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s bid for the White House. Walker is best known for destroying collective bargaining in Wisconsin, but as Neyfakh notes, Walker has also not been a friend to criminal justice reform.
As Neyfakh writes:
Writing in the Nation in February, Scott Keyes ran through Walker’s record on the issue and concluded that, over the course of his political career in Wisconsin, Walker had passed one law after another that resulted in more people being sent to prison for longer. “In just the 1997–98 legislative session, Walker authored or co-sponsored twenty-seven different bills that either expanded the definition of crimes, increased mandatory minimums for offenders, or curbed the possibility of parole,” Keyes reported.
In addition to supporting a candidate for president with a pretty dismal track record of reforming the criminal justice system for the better, the Koch brothers have also been associated with some pretty contradictory anti-crime legislation. Such legislation hasn’t helped those populations most impacted by the criminal justice system. According to this piece by John Nichols, entitled “How ALEC Took Florida’s ‘License to Kill’ Law National,” it was the Koch brothers who funded ALEC, which would help to take Stand Your Ground laws national. And writer Kathie Halper reported for Salon back in 2013 that Stand Your Ground laws were more likely to help White and particularly affluent defendants than Black people.
So why would the Koch brothers be interested in prison reform now? Perhaps, it is just a matter of good press? As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted back in 2013, this softer, more classic liberal side of the Koch brothers might have something to do with their pet lobbying group’s attempt at reinvention. As Milbank writes:
It reported that the group has lost almost 400 state legislators in the past two years and more than 60 corporations. Its income fell a third short of projections in the first six months of this year. To raise money, the documents showed, ALEC considered expanding its policy portfolio to gambling, and, concerned about potential tax problems with its designation as a 501(c)(3) charity, it is considering 501(c)(4) status, which would allow it to lobby more openly.
Or perhaps there is a financial incentive here, as noted by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig in a recent article for the Republic titled, “Why Conservatives’ Prison Reform Plans Won’t Work.” The Koch brothers’ interest in prison reform might have to do with helping both state, federal and private prisons control the spiraling cost associated with incarceration, particularly as it pertains to locking up those with health and mental problems. As Bruenig states:
Thus, the politics of cost-cutting harms the very people that prison reform should aim to help. It isn’t that prison sentences shouldn’t be reduced, or that mass incarceration shouldn’t come to an end, or that the conditions of prisoners shouldn’t be vastly improved. But poor and mentally ill people who wind up in prison will still be poor and mentally ill even if the prison system is reformed. So the focus shouldn’t be on slashing spending, but improving the lives of people before, during, and after prison.
Whatever is behind their motivation, the partnership between these unlikely bedfellows is really interesting to say the least. I get that we all have to sometimes work with people and groups we don’t agree with politically (or even personally) for the benefit of a bigger goal. But it makes me wonder what had to be traded in order to reform the system?
The angry Black woman stereotype became popular in the 1930s via The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show. Sapphire, wife of George “Kingfish” Stevens, didn’t mind giving her husband a piece of her mind whenever she felt like it, complete with a loud tone, a pointed finger, and major attitude. The stereotype has followed us into the 21st century; it’s just that nowadays, the word woman is replaced with b***h. Black women are consistently battling this and other stereotypes everywhere we go, from the workplace to our churches and in every romantic and platonic relationship we develop. Too often, many Black women don’t want to be placed in this box and seek to prove that they can be docile and quaint, and get along just like anybody else.
I however, can’t conform. No matter how hard I try to suppress my inner Sapphire, she seeps through my pores when I have to deal with nonstop foolishness. So yes, I am an angry Black woman. And yes, Hot 97, I have a major attitude problem. Since we are living in a world where my attitude discredits me no matter what I do, I might as well lay my anger out on the table for you to see. I honestly couldn’t care less if you understand, but today you’re going to find out why I, along with many Black women, am pissed off:
The fact that we have been labeled as angry Black women for years simply for having an opinion and courageously speaking out about it loudly and boldly fuels my anger. If we were White women, you’d call us respectable feminists. While we are on the feminist subject, it is mind boggling and upsetting that even within a movement that allegedly fights for equality for all women, the Black woman is still alienated.
I’m pissed that when we’re characterized as angry, that automatically transitions into being thought of as unapproachable, rude, a lesbian, asexual, and/or sexually repressed. Why is it that every time a Black woman expresses her anger it is a result of not having enough sex? When has sex ever limited injustices, ended war and genocide, exposed the prison industrial complex, or stopped poverty that is rampant from the inner cities of the U.S. to villages in Africa? Go ahead, tell me when. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Stop patronizing us with this sexist rhetoric because we have chosen to let our voices be liberated.
I get infuriated by the fact that Sandra Bland, 28, in Texas to start a new job and begin a new chapter of life, is dead. She was pulled over for a traffic violation, slammed to the ground, and found dead in her jail cell three days later with the said cause of death being suicide. I am outraged that Bland is added to the list of more than 80 unarmed Black men and women who were killed by police and vigilantes alike, all for walking at night while Black, walking during the day while Black, playing in the park while Black, standing on the corner while Black, driving a car while Black, lying down at night while Black, riding a bike while Black, expressing their opinion while Black, whistling at a white woman while Black, wearing a hoodie while Black, having a car accident while Black, sitting in their house watching TV while Black, listening to loud music while Black, and fellowshipping at Bible study while Black. Outraged!
My blood boils at the blatant disregard and disrespect that President Obama has had to endure during his term as the President of the United States, something that no other President has had to endure. We have had presidents procreate with slaves and lie about it, cheat on their wives, start an unmerited war, form a secret army, provide financial kickbacks to federal officials, steal millions of dollars from VA hospitals, and let me not fail to mention Watergate. Yet, out of all of these scandalous “leaders of the free world,” President Obama, who is leading an honest administration, catches the most hell.
This September will mark the 52nd anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. where four little girls attending Sunday School were killed. All these years later, I’m angry because our Black churches are still being burned to the ground. Fifty-two years later, the Black church and congregations are still under violent attacks. The Black church, where women (and their children) outnumber men in attendance.
I’m angry at the audacity of White supremacy, which aims to keep Black and brown people as second-class citizens in the country we built against our free will. Every excuse in the world is used to legitimize slavery. The call for reparations is ignored. The damage and ramifications of the trans-Atlantic slave trade are conveniently swept under the rug and masked by programs that keep us systematically oppressed. White supremacy believes that because we are post-slavery, we have no right to be angry anymore. Well, I am! We were stripped of our identities, treated like animals, separated from our families and cultures and displaced throughout the world. Now we have to swab the inside of our cheeks and send the test off to a lab to find out where we come from.
And I am disgusted by the way some Black men treat Black women, the same as I am with the way some Black women treat themselves. Let’s be clear men. Just because you encounter women who choose to be rude, enjoy being called a bitch, or allow their bodies to be used freely for your pleasure, that doesn’t mean that all women conduct themselves that way. Quit placing us all in one category because of the types of women you have chosen to approach and/or be with. And women, although I would like to say that the way you lead your life has no effect on other people, it does. There is no way we can expect to be valued if we don’t value ourselves.
And you wonder why the hell Black women are mad? Yes, I am angry, and I will write about it, speak about it, march about it, and work through it just as Ella Baker, Dorothy Height, Daisy Bates, Mary McLeod Bethune, Elaine Brown, Shirley Chisholm, Septima Clark, Angela Davis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Claudia Jones, Rosa Parks, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth did so that I could have the chance to live my life the way I see fit. Until something is done to stop this all out war against Black and brown peoples across the diaspora, I will be angry! Deal with it!
In a Huffington Post piece, President Barack Obama announced a new regulation that will extend overtime pay to nearly five million more Americans.
As the law currently stands, employees earning $50,440 or more qualify for time-and-a-half overtime wages. But with the new sweeping changes, which Obama will officially announce on a trip to Wisconsin, the threshold will be lowered to $23,660.
“We’ve got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded. Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve. That’s partly because we’ve failed to update overtime regulations for years — and an exemption meant for highly paid, white collar employees now leaves out workers making as little as $23,660 a year — no matter how many hours they work,” Obama wrote for HuffPo.
The administration has the authority to implement the new rule, without congressional approval, that will “restore the overtime salary threshold to roughly where it stood in 1975 in terms of purchasing power,” The New York Times added.
The President was praised by supporters who pushed for overtime pay expansion.
“The president said he wanted to go big here and he did,” said Jared Bernstein, a ex-White House economist who co-authored an influential paper on the advantages of widening overtime pay. “I can’t think of any other rule change or executive order that would lift more middle-class workers.”
Right-leaning politicians and business groups, on the other hand, are perturbed by Obama’s new rule change. The National Retail Federation, for example, argued that the sweeping changes will threaten job growth.
“NRF believes the proposal would limit career opportunities by ‘turning managers into rank-and-file hourly workers,’ the trade group wrote. “Overtime expansion would […] add to employers’ costs, undermine customer service, hinder productivity, generate more litigation opportunities for trial lawyers and ultimately harm job creation.”
As per Obama’s HuffPo post, he disagrees.
“…It’s good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve — since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren’t,” he said.
This is a policy that could not only benefit low-wage workers with families, but those young people who are saving for things like college or a car. Your thoughts?
By Ashley Monaé
America isn’t so bad. Or is it?
Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question, and with each passing day my answer becomes more and more indecisive. It’s hard to hide a crooked smile and sewn together heart after hearing and reading round-the-clock reports of police brutality and racial profiling. It’s almost like it won’t stop. As I turn on my TV hoping to escape from the world’s harsh reality, I see a brave Kendrick Lamar opening the BET Awards. He is standing on top of a vandalized police car, rapping about our nation’s perturbed state, telling us, “We gon’ be alright!” I wonder: Will we?
But despite society’s shortcomings, I look onward. I refuse to let the wrath of evil energy and White supremacy consume me. Nor have I tossed my faith in America’s ethos of freedom, prosperity, and success in the nearest garbage just yet. Wedged between national tragedies and local heartbreaks lies some good in this country. There is proof of that. As a 23-year-old Black female in America, I can say that I’ve seen some miraculous and inspiring things in my lifetime that I never thought would happen, including a Black president and marriage equality.
In 2009, I was only 17 years old, but I understood what it meant for Barack Obama to beat out his competition in the general presidential election. I knew the significance of watching this man confidently glide his way down the National Mall with his beautiful Black family in tow. Myself along with millions praised his victory–one that is undoubtedly the biggest highlight of our post-civil rights movement era. A Black man winning office meant infinite possibilities for not only the Black community, but others who have been ostracized by the system, too. And when he was reelected in 2012, I felt a strong sense of pride in America’s future. Despite what he has and has not accomplished, I’ve always been proud of him and what his election and re-election meant for this country.
However, I was back to questioning all that recently due to the turmoil and disarray on the TV screen as the news of cruel attacks on Black churches and innocent Black lives played back to me. It felt as though my weariness was reaching full throttle. That is until it was doused with hopefulness all over again. On the morning of June 26, I witnessed yet another historic moment in history. The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution will guarantee the right to marry for couples of the same sex. Letting a brotha run the nation was one thing, but granting marriage licenses to the LGBTQ community was something I wasn’t sure would occur. That Sunday, I thoroughly enjoyed the euphoric scene on the C train as rainbow-colored flags illuminated the ragged car for Pride Day and celebrated marriage equality. In many ways, I felt a sense of easiness and happiness. Peace, however, well, I’m still searching for that.
Sure, the current state of our nation is crippling and cryptic as ever– I won’t put that up for debate. But I try to remain optimistic. Optimistic in the sense that I do believe there are people just like me who do not judge human beings prematurely because of the color of their skin or who they love. I’m not naïve or blind to the facts. In fact, I stay woke and #AliveWhileBlack at all times. But I also don’t assume that everyone has the same notions of equality as I do. While these major milestones won’t undo the injustices that have taken place recently, I still have a little hope and an ounce of inspiration left in me that future generations will rise above the absurdities. I’m not saying that racism and discrimination will be eradicated as a whole, but these accomplishments do represent a change in America’s attitude. And that’s what keeps me going.