Madonna and Africa’s ‘celebrity saviors’

andrew mwenda-160So finally, Madonna's honeymoon with Malawi has ended with a spat. Malawi's minister of education accused Madonna of "bullying officials" and exaggerating the extent of her charity in the country.

Trouble started when the government withdrew her VIP status and she therefore had to wait in line like everyone else to go through immigration. President Joyce Banda said that Madonna felt her charitable work meant that Malawi should "be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude."

For her part, Madonna described the reports as inaccurate, and says they are the result of a spat with the president's sister, Anjimile Mtila Oponyo, who was fired as president of Madonna's charity Raising Malawi and is suing for wrongful termination.


‘Obamaphone?’ Give me a break

Julianne-malveaux-160The right wing seems determined to associate President Obama with any government program that helps people on the bottom. Thus, the term Obamacare was used to attack the health care program that President Obama fashioned and worked with Congress to approve. While Obamacare is not perfect, it brings more people into the health care system, and further solidifies the safety net that many have attempted to fray.

Now these folks are running with the term "Obamaphone," which speaks to the fact that President Obama has simply extended a Lifeline plan that was authorized by Republican President Ronald Reagan when it was clear that those who were either isolated by poverty or by their rural status needed telephones to connect themselves to the world.


Retire the myth: black men, jail and college

black-man-college-400"There are more black men in jail than in college" is a line that has transfigured our understanding of persistent problems among black men in the United States. Many activists and scholars recite it to invoke urgency to fight unjust social structures, while culture critics say it to condemn the social failings of black men.

The line is memorable, immutable, provocative and piercing, but as I revealed last week, it is not true.

This realization creates a sense of reprieve and ambivalence among many black people. Since the first article was released, many have argued that the rate of graduation among black males is still too low, and the rate of incarceration is too high – assertions I will not dispute. However, the natures of these issues are different and should not be contorted to produce a pedestrian soundbite.


Jay-Z, Beyoncé Embarrass White House – again

jayzbeyonceopenletter-500Having previously shared my thoughts on the first couple's close association with hip-hop's first couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, I vowed not to address the issue again, since I'm not a fan of treading over the same territory in my writing. But I relented at the behest of a TV producer.

While I didn't have a lot to say about Jay-Z and Beyoncé's vacation itinerary, I do have an opinion about the rap legend's newly released rap on the matter.

On Thursday, the gossip site TMZ posted a clip from Jay-Z's new song, "Open Letter," in which the rapper rails against the lies of politicians and waxes poetically about Havana, where he and his missus vacationed recently, despite a U.S. travel embargo against the country. (Full disclosure: I've also been to Cuba, on a student visa when I was in college, as part of a conference.) Then the world's greatest rapper drops the boom, saying the following: "Obama said, 'Chill, you gonna get me impeached ... We don't need this s--t anyway, chill with me on the beach.'"


Don’t be offended by ‘Accidental Racist’

LZ granderson-160In 2009, Brad Paisley released the song "Welcome to the Future" from his album "American Saturday Night."

In it, he sings about all the cultural changes he's witnessed in his life, including the evolving demographics of the country. He includes glowing references to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The election of Barack Obama inspired him to write it.

It's important to keep all of that in mind because for some, Paisley's latest song, "Accidental Racist," is making him look like an intentional one. I am reminded of an adage (but with a twist): No good ditty goes unpunished.


African leaders avoid African Americans

obama african leaders-400Two weeks ago, President Obama met with three African presidents – Koroma (Sierra Leone), Sall (Senegal), Banda (Malawi), and Prime Minister of Cape Verde Jose Maria Pereira Neves. This was the White House's way of rewarding these leaders for their examples of good governance. Receiving an invitation to the White House is one of the most sought after invitations in the world, especially for foreign leaders.

African leaders constantly complain about how they are negatively portrayed in the U.S. media, about how African Americans don't invest in Africa, and about how there seems to be a disconnect between Africans and African Americans.

My response has always been quite simple – It's your fault!


Healthy eating – a guard against unhealthy drugs

Chef Timothy Moore-160CHEF TIMOTHY We can put a man on the moon, elect an African American as president, legalize same-sex marriage and smoke pot in some states without breaking the law. But we have not reined in the high cost of healthcare, even though President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

Tens of millions of Americans have some type of medical ailment – such as stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer. We continue to get sicker and fatter as a nation because of unhealthy diets, dehydration and a lack of physical exercise.

The skyrocketing healthcare prices we are paying each year are mind-boggling. We're spending over $2.6 trillion annually on healthcare, and that amount is increasing daily.


Unemployment and the economics of Dr. King’s agenda

Ben Jealous-600Coming the day after the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the new unemployment numbers show that unemployment is still high – and remains much higher for African Americans.

One thing hasn't changed in the last half century: if you're a person of color, you're more likely to be unemployed. Even though the black unemployment rate fell by .05 percent this month, it still sits at nearly 13.3 percent, nearly double the overall rate.

This gap in employment has led to an economic divide between the richest and the poorest in America that is about as bad as in the divide in Rwanda and Serbia. The top 20 percent of Americans earn 50.2 percent of income, while the bottom 20 percent earns just 3.3 percent. Yet Congress continues to do nothing to directly address unemployment.


Rick Ross needs to learn lesson from Steubenville rape case

rick ross-500William Leonard Roberts II is a clown.

He's a clown who has made a very good living pretending to be a notorious international drug dealer surrounded by guns, henchmen, champagne and women. He is the prime example of just how unreal hip hop has become.

The stories Roberts tells under his rap moniker Rick Ross are likely true stories about Rick Ross. They are not, however, stories about William Leonard Roberts. Roberts is a fake, a phony, an imposter. He began his career rapping in the first person about hustling, murder and a multi-million dollar, crime-fueled lifestyle that he saw on television.


Eat This List: 5 ways YOU delay your meal

If you have never had the pleasure of working in a restaurant, you may not be familiar with the term, "in the weeds." First off, allow me to congratulate you on never having worked in a restaurant.

"In the weeds" is what we restaurant folk (we're similar to "circus folk" except we smell like fajitas and honey mustard instead of cotton candy and clown tears) say when we are very behind in getting everything done that needs to be done.

One is thrown "in the weeds" for a variety of reasons: the dish guy hasn't run the silverware through the machine when tables need to be reset, the hostess is extremely adept at seating multiple parties at once, or maybe the restaurant is short-staffed because two servers called out sick to go to an audition.


Hopping on the gay rights bandwagon

lee-a-daniels-160You can call it the "bandwagon effect," or "political opportunism," or, the "wake-up-call effect," or, less cynically, an old American tradition. Whatever you call it, in the last month it seems everybody and their momma in the political arena has been expressing support for gay rights and same-sex marriage.

The support has come from opposite ends of the political spectrum: from Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who also revealed that his son is gay, to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said she was free to speak her mind now that she has left office. Even the Republican National Committee seemed in its white paper exploring the causes and implications of the Party's decisive defeat last November to call for a softening of the GOP's hard line on gay rights and same-sex marriage lest it find itself in "an ideological cul-de-sac."

Martin Luther King, Jr., whose commitment to justice for all got him killed 45 years ago this month, would be pleased. We do know which side this man, who was becoming ever more "militant" in his willingness to challenge the country's fierce dynamic of exclusion, would be on today.


Why men should share equally in housework


by Anne York
Special to CNN

(CNN) – Equal Pay Day was established in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay
Equity as a way to bring attention to the gender wage gap. Since women earn about
three-quarters of what men earn on average, it is set to be commemorated Tuesday to
symbolize that women have to work one year and a bit more than three months to earn
the equivalent salary that a man earns in one year.

There are a variety of causes of the gender pay gap, including differences in occupational
distribution, with women tending to congregate in lower-paying occupations; differences
in the accumulation of human capital; and intentional and unintentional discrimination
against women.

But even if we are able to magically fix the employment prospects between men and
women such that none of these economic issues is a factor, we would still have one
cultural issue that greatly affects the gender pay gap.

Women spend a greater number of hours doing household and caregiving duties, which
decreases the number of hours they can work for pay. Even for full-time workers, men
worked on average 8.3 hours per day while women worked 7.8 hours per day in 2011.

The differences in the daily activities that men and women perform are captured by the
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. The survey has 12 major
categories of how we use our time, and women dominate eight of the 12 categories.

In 2011, the latest year available, we see the expected gender division in time use with
women spending an average of two more hours per day than men doing the activities of
personal care; household chores; purchasing goods and services; caring for and helping
household and nonhousehold members; organizational, civic or religious activities;
telephone calls, mail and email; and other activities not classified elsewhere in the

How did men allocate their time? They spent an average of an additional 40 minutes per
day on sports and leisure compared with women, four additional minutes on eating and
drinking, two additional minutes on educational activities, and 1 hour and 16 minutes
additional time working and performing work-related activities.

The two of the areas with the largest deficits for men were 47 fewer minutes per day
on household activities and 22 fewer minutes on caring for and helping household and
nonhousehold members.

There is also a large difference in the share of men and women who are engaged in these
activities per day: 82.5 percent of women versus 65 percent of men were engaged in
household activities and 41.6 percent of women versus 30.4 percent of men were engaged
in caring for and helping household and nonhousehold members.

When women are not working for pay, these statistics show that they are spending
relatively more time on the so-called “second shift” of household and caregiving
activities while men are enjoying relatively more leisure time. Other than breastfeeding
and lifting heavy objects, there are no household and caregiving activities that have to be
defined by one’s gender.

It is only our cultural norm that is defining who does which task.

We all only have 24 hours per day to divide amongst our various activities. To achieve
greater equity, men will need to reallocate their time toward housework and caregiving
activities so that women can gain more time for working for pay and leisure. However,
by doing some household activities together for greater efficiency, they both can gain
more time for other pursuits.

Our choices for how we use our time need to be evaluated to ensure we are being
equitable. Are brothers spending as much time caring for elderly parents as their sisters
do? Are husbands washing and folding the clothes while their wives stay at work late
to finish a project? Are fathers giving the children their baths while wives watch their
favorite TV show? Do sons and daughters take turns doing certain chores so they both
learn to be proficient in all household activities?

Fortunately, the time use trend has been moving in the direction of more equality. In
2003, the first year of the America Time Use Survey, women spent an extra 1.42 hours
performing activities in the household and caregiving categories versus 1.17 hours in

Just as Equal Pay Day brings attention to the disparity in pay for men and women, it
could be useful to also establish an Equal Housework Day to benchmark the progress
men are making performing household and caregiving tasks.

Those 1.17 more hours per day that women spend on household and caregiving activities
translates to 18 days per year. So we could set January 18 as Equal Housework Day to
show that it takes men over 12.5 months to do what women do in 12 months.

As we achieve a cultural transformation regarding household and caregiving activities,
then Equal Housework Day will eventually occur on December 31. And we would no
longer need to commemorate Equal Pay Day as late as April.

Anne York is an associate professor of economics at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.

Obama comment sexist? I call it a compliment


by Roxanne Jones

Special to CNN

“Thank you, Mr. President, you’re not such a bad-looking guy yourself.”

That would have been my response if I were California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who finds herself in the middle of a media dustup after President Obama introduced her as: “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country,” at a fundraiser last week.

Harris is a beautiful woman. She’s also super intelligent and accomplished, which the president also noted. In fact, he lauded her professional merits first. So, I say take the compliment and move on. Or, if you’re slightly embarrassed by the comment, give it back and move on.