Category: Opinion Written by Ben Jealous
Last week, the Delaware State legislature approved a constitutional amendment to all but remove the last Jim Crow-era voter suppression law from its books.
The amendment, passed at the urging of the Delaware NAACP, allows people with nonviolent felony convictions to vote after their release from prison. This is a major victory for voting rights and a strike against the practice of “felony disenfranchisement.” But it is also a major step forward for a nation still struggling to heal old racial wounds.
Felony disenfranchisement has direct roots in the Jim Crow Era. In the late 19th century, states above and below the Mason-Dixon Line began to find new and creative ways to keep Black voters away from the polls. Banning people with felony convictions was one of the solutions.
For example, in 1901 the Commonwealth of Virginia had 147,000 Black voters on the rolls. But many lawmakers saw this growing political block as a threat. At that year's Constitutional Convention, they hatched a plan to disenfranchise African-Americans through a combination of black codes and felony disenfranchisement. One legislator said on the record that the plan would “eliminate the darkey as a political factor.”
Ninety years later, Kemba Smith-Pradia was an undergraduate student at Hampton University. She got involved with the wrong crowd and found herself behind bars as an accessory to a nonviolent drug offense. President Clinton granted Kemba executive clemency in 2000, six years into her 24 year sentence. She went on to become a college graduate, law student, mother and foundation president—but until 2012, when her rights were finally restored, not a voter.
Kemba’s story is just one example of how the legacy of the 1901 Convention lives on. In today’s Virginia, 350,000 people are still disenfranchised by the 1901 law, and many of them are African-Americans. Nationwide, 48 states allow some form of felony disenfranchisement, and one out of every 13 voting-age African-Americans is affected. In four states—Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, and Florida—disenfranchisement can be permanent.
When Virginia introduced felony disenfranchisement in 1901, they also expanded the list of felony crimes. By raising the penalty for a number of minor offenses, they planned to lock African-Americans in the prison system—and out of the political system. A century later, our drug laws have the same amplifying effect. African-Americans are far more likely to be arrested for minor drug crimes, and therefore more likely to have their vote taken away.
The good news is that Delaware and other states are beginning to turn the tide. In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell has sped up the review process for those who have finished the terms of their sentence. So far he has restored the votes of more than 4,000 citizens. And Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who callously eliminated automatic restoration of voting rights early in his term, is now taking steps toward restoring those rights.
These are certainly steps in the right direction, but there is more work to do. Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, and Florida still allow permanent disenfranchisement, and 44 other states permit some level of felony disenfranchisement. You can learn about the law in your state at www.restorethevotes.org. If you or someone in your community is affected, you can use that information to educate your family, your community and your elected officials about why this is an important issue.
Felony disenfranchisement is an affront to our democracy. Millions of people like Kemba Smith-Pradia—parents, workers, and community leaders—pay taxes, raise families and contribute to society. But they cannot fully participate in our democracy.
If poll taxes, literacy tests, and gumball-counting tests could be outlawed because of their racist intent, then felony disenfranchisement laws from the same era should be overturned today.
(Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 May 2013 15:16
Category: Opinion Written by Ulish Carter
With all the important issues going on in Pittsburgh there’s none more important to Pittsburghers than the Steelers draft. Did it help or hurt their chances of going to the Super Bowl?
One thing is for sure; the Steelers of 2013 will not be the Steelers of 2012. Even though most of the starters will be returning many key players will be gone.
James Harrison, gone. Casey Hampton, gone. Mike Wallace, gone. Rashard Mendenhall, gone. Willie Colon, gone. Keenan Lewis, gone. Ryan Mundy, gone. Will Carter, gone. And even though it’s not official, Charlie Batch, gone. Byron Leftwich, gone.
The draft gave people a break from all the heavy hitting of the mayoral race, the city council races, school board races, and judge races. But people in Pittsburgh are just as serious about their Steelers as they are about who’s going to be in whatever political office.
Jarvis Jones, an outside linebacker who led the nation in sacks from Oklahoma was the first choice. He is being counted on to replace James Harrison. Not this season, however, because Jason Worilds will handle that position in 2013. But don’t be surprised to see Worilds moved to the inside spot in 2014 replacing Larry Foote, to make way for Jones.
Le’Veon Bell is a big running back who many are comparing to Jerome Bettis. He will have to sit behind Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman this season but should move past them in his second or third season.
Markus Wheaton, a wide receiver, went in the third round. With the departure of Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders will join Antonio Brown in the starting lineup. But there will be an all out battle for that third receiver slot and Wheaton should win out before the season is over. Justin Brown, selected in the sixth, will also battle for playing time.
Shamarko Thomas was selected to backup the two aging safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu. With Mundy and Allen gone he will probably see a lot of time and will be looked upon to eventually replace one of them in the near future. He’s an outstanding player and would have gone much higher if it wasn’t for his height, 5 foot 9.
Landry Jones, a quarterback from Oklahoma, was the big surprise of the draft, but it didn’t surprise me. Ben is getting older and it’s time to start looking for a replacement. Lundry is a four year starter for the Sooners and owns every record there is at this football school. He will be the third string quarterback this season with the recently signed Bruce Gradkowski serving as the second string quarterback, but don’t be surprised if he moves ahead of him next season. That means that the two old veterans Leftwich, and Batch are gone.
Finishing out the draft for the Steelers were Terry Hawthorne, cornerback; Vince Williams, linebacker; and Nicholas Williams, defensive tackle.
Surprisingly no offensive linemen were selected, which says the Steelers management must be happy with all the young talent they have acquired over the past three years; so happy that they chose to let veteran Colon go. They do have some very talented young players on that offensive line, but the question is can they keep them healthy? If Ben Roethlisberger gets rid of the ball quickly, yes, if not it’s going to be a long season.
Overall the draft was a very good draft, and if everyone stays healthy the Steelers will be in the playoffs again, in pursuit of another Super Bowl, with eight returning starters on defense, and eight returning starters on offense.
Changing the subject. One of the people here emailed me an article from the Afro American newspaper upset over the fact legendary sports writer Sam Lacey wasn’t mentioned in the movie “42” about Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in Major League Baseball. As I stated in my movie review and column, the movie only dealt with Robinson’s first two years in White professional baseball: his one year in the Dodgers minor league, and his first year up with the Brooklyn Dodgers. That’s all there was time to deal with, and do it justice.
Just like all the complaints about the movie “Red Tails” about the Tuskegee Airmen people wanted the whole story told in one movie and there’s no way that can be done in a two or even a three hour movie.
After World War II a crusade was created in which every Black paper throughout the country fought to integrate baseball, even though they knew it would be the death of the Negro Leagues. The Courier, with by far the largest national circulation, led the fight. Wendell Smith was the lead sports writer for the Courier, but there were others with the Courier as well as Lacey with the Afro American, and a key writer with the Chicago Defender but I can’t recall his name at this time.
These sports writers traveled with their teams all over the country sending back stories to their papers about the great exploits of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell and many others including the young Jackie Robinson. It was the Black Press that fought through its sportswriters, and its editors, and publishers to get the doors opened for Blacks in professional sports.
It was men such as Lacey, and others who were names in the fight. But there was no name bigger than Wendell Smith in this fight, mostly because more people read the Courier at the time than any other Black newspaper.
Maybe someday someone will tell the whole story. Maybe the Black Press will use its influence to get some of the big money people to create follow up movies, telling the stories of these great newspaper people and the fight they forged to open the doors not just in sports but in all walks of life.
Yes, there are many untold stories out there that are begging to be told.
Where are you Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey, John Singleton or whoever? Let’s not hate on each other, let’s try to get the whole story told.
(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 10:33
Category: Opinion Written by Courier Newsroom
A new study shows that the proposed expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) would dramatically boost Pennsylvania’s economy and save the state hundreds of millions but Gov. Tom Corbett remains skeptical and reluctant to support the expansion.
The governor should approve expansion which would provide Medicaid coverage to everyone below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about 542,000 more Pennsylvanians, including 25 percent of those uninsured.
The governor so far has balked at Medicaid expansion.
Christine Cronkright, a spokeswoman for Corbett, said the governor has not made a decision on what to do about the proposed Medicaid expansion. She said he was concerned about whether the federal government would allow continuation of the gross-receipt tax now imposed on managed care organizations in Pennsylvania.
Earlier studies by the Rand Corp. and the Pennsylvania Economy League said Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania could create tens of thousands of new jobs and generate billions in economic activity.
The League report showed that Medicaid expansion would save about $4 billion in state health care spending over the next decade as people receiving state-funded coverage would shift to Medicaid and “uncompensated care” costs covered by the state would significantly drop. The League said Medicaid expansion could save the state $1.5 billion over 10 years.
Now a new analysis by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office, a nonpartisan agency, also projects savings and revenue to the state from the expansion of Medicaid.
The IFO report also concluded that the state would save by shifting medical costs of General Assistance recipients to the federal government, and expanding tax revenues as the result of roughly $3 billion in new federal funds going into the Pennsylvania economy.
State Sen. Vincent Hughes said in a meeting last week with the Philadelphia Tribune’s editorial board that now three separate independent studies have shown that Medicaid expansion would dramatically help the state.
Hughes pointed out how the money saved and revenue created from Medicaid expansion could be a potential source for funds for the financially-strapped Philadelphia School District, job creation and other pressing needs in the state.
As a former prosecutor and Attorney General, the governor should be used to making judgments on the basis of evidence. Based on the evidence presented Medicaid expansion would be good for Pennsylvania.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 17:12
Category: Opinion Written by Marc H. Morial
MARC H. MORIAL
(NNPA)—“No more hurting people. Peace.”—Eight-year-old Martin Richard, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 15:00
Category: Opinion Written by Dr. Boyce Watkins
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
If you’ve never heard of Felicia the Goat, you’ll know about her soon. Felicia the Goat is the main character in a recent Mountain Dew commercial, created in part by Tyler the Creator. The video shows Felicia in a line-up of criminal suspects, all of whom may be charged with a crime
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 06:56
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