Fannie Lou Hamer was a poor black woman with a sixth-grade education who spent much of her life working in the cotton fields. Her legacy, however, demonstrates that each of us has an important voice and role to play in our democracy, and as we near the end of Women's History Month, it is a mighty reminder of the real power African-American women have in blazing the path toward true political equity and leadership.
Activist Hamer showed up at the 1964 Democratic National Convention as a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, intent on securing voting rights for African-American people. Her formidable presence and insistence that she, too, deserved a seat at the decision-makers' table rattled the likes of President Lyndon B. Johnson and Sen. Hubert Humphrey and threatened their bid to secure the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidential ticket.
Fifty years later, African-American women are among the country's most politically active citizens. In 2012, 70 percent of eligible African-American female voters went to the polls, providing the highest rate of voter turnout for any group. This statistic highlights African-American women's ability to be defining factors in election outcomes. But despite this growing power, African-American women's electoral heft is not translating into legislation and policies that address their concerns.
The question was, "If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?" My answer: Chris Brown.
During a magazine interview last year, I was asked a series of get-to-know-you questions. What books are you reading? Where do you like to vacation? What's your passion? But my answer to the dinner question prompted a puzzled looked from the interviewer. I'm a journalist, so one might assume I'd say I'd like to have dinner with a world leader, or a famed journalist, or maybe a historical figure.
Clearly, I'm not in Chris Brown's core fan base. I'm not a teenage girl. And though I like some of his music, I've never been more than a casual fan. After his brutal assault on his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, I was done with him. I was disgusted by him and his abusive behavior. I went so far as removing his songs from my iPod because I wasn't comfortable with even that tacit support of a man who would hit a woman.
The Dilemma: A young lady writes, "I met a very distinguished, articulate and fine specimen of a man, who makes me feel like a queen. We have known each other for 17 months and spent a great amount of time together. We have never defined our relationship in words except he says, 'I'm his person.' What does that mean exactly?
"Then last week, I found out he dated a friend of mine 10 years ago and they were serious. Now, I don't know what to do. He knows that we are friends, but he dated her before we became friends. We are both 47 years old. I think she will be mad once she finds out; my girlfriend is married and lives out of town. But I know she's very possessive of her friends, both women and men. What should I do?"
The Response: This is definitely an interesting predicament. You have to weigh your life. This is a hard decision. Do you think this relationship is moving toward marriage? Is marriage is what you eventually want?
In a world that is dominated by men, especially white men, feminism is, for me, an empowering concept. It is a movement, which in the United States, according to Wikipedia, is aimed at "defining, establishing and defending equal social, economic and political rights for women."
It is certainly possible to argue that women have come a long way, but while we out-enroll men in college attendance, we don't out earn them, no matter our level of education. We don't out-represent them in elected office, or even in the higher echelons of employment, such as the Fortune 500 corporations. Women are doing better than we ever did and we still have a long way to go.
The feminist movement shows up differently in the African-American community. Our nation's antipathy toward black men suggests that men of African descent are not the same oppressors that white men are, bearing the burden of oppression themselves.
When I interviewed Marie Johns, then the outgoing deputy secretary of the Small Business Administration, a year ago, she said the SBA does not separate figures by race, though it hopes to do so at some point.
Technically, she was correct in saying the SBA does not separate agency-wide figures by race. But the SBA's 8 (a) program figures can be broken down by race and that's where she was being disingenuous. I specifically asked her twice about the status of black businesses under Obama and twice she was less than forthcoming.
Now, I know why: The Obama administration's record of guaranteeing loans to black businesses is worse than it was under George W. Bush.
Last week, the Obama Administration declared war on one million underserved students pursuing higher education throughout the United States. While the President and First Lady launch their campaign to make it easier for low-income minority students to access college, the Department of Education has launched an unprecedented assault on this same community through a new proposal that will cut thousands of college programs that disproportionately serve poor communities, single working mothers, veterans and other at-risk populations.
At a time when American employers desperately need an educated, skilled workforce to sustain economic recovery, a confused and conflicted White House is hurting the underserved communities it claims to support.
On March 14, the Department of Education published its new proposed "Gainful Employment" rule. The rule is a rehashed patchwork of regulations concocted several years ago in an attempt to prevent abuse of the federal financial aid system. Rejected through legislative process and shot down in federal court only a few years ago, the Administration has nonetheless resurrected the policy and repackaged it in an 841-page proposal that will decimate college programs and career-focused vocational training currently serving one million students.
Just in time for April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, there's a new clip making the viral rounds of an angry black dad wailing on his child with a belt.
In a video partially titled "Father Whoops on His 13-Year-Old Daughter Dressed Like Beyoncé After Missing for 3 Days," a scantily clad black girl is being swung around by her long hair as her father mercilessly beats her in public. The girl, who never cries or makes any noise at all, holds on to her purse and tries to protect herself. There's a woman in the background—hopefully not the child's mother—calling her a "bitch" and a "ho."
Some viewers were shocked to discover that the man doing the hitting was the girl's father. "[This] video is disturbing," wrote one commenter. "This is a bit far. I thought it was a pimp and one of his ladies." If I had not seen the caption before I watched the video, I would have reached the same conclusion.