STEM Forum Panels Says 2M Engineers and Computer Scientists Needed in Next Decade
Palo Alto, CA – A prestigious panel of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) thought leaders assembled today at HP headquarters in Palo Alto called the looming shortage of U.S. engineers, the “New” American Dilemma. Business, education, and government leaders in attendance echoed the sentiment, saying it is a national imperative that companies act now to increase the number of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in STEM fields; otherwise, the nation’s ability to compete globally will be compromised.
The HP/NACME STEM Leadership Forum: Confronting the “New” American Dilemma was convened to discuss the NACME STEM Integration Model and offer solutions aimed at addressing the engineering shortfall facing American companies.
The panel grappled with the reality of the underrepresentation of minorities in science and engineering and conceded that the problem will only get worse if we don’t act now.
“The problem isn’t new, but it is urgent,” says Dr. Irving McPhail, President and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME). Dr. McPhail’s research, the 2011 NACME Data Book, demonstrated the egregiously low number of minorities in high school taking rigorous science, technology, and mathematics courses, making them unprepared to enter college engineering programs.
To frame the dilemma in statistical terms, in 2011, less than 14 percent of all engineering bachelor’s degrees were awarded to URMs, yet they represent 31 percent of the population. By ethnicity, the numbers paint an even grimmer picture. Latinos make up 16 percent of the population, but only 6 percent of the engineers; African American make up 12 percent of the population, but only 5 percent of engineers, and American Indians who are 1 percent of the U.S. population account for only 0.4 percent of all engineers.
“This is clearly a dilemma for U.S. companies, many of whom are looking overseas to fill critical engineering positions,” stated McPhail during remarks at the Forum. “That said, working with business, education, and government leaders here at home we have developed the NACME STEM Integration Model which we strongly believe to be the right solution to confront this problem and will result in better outcomes for URMs.”
The NACME STEM Integration Model provides a pathway through leveraged partnership agreements with negotiated outcomes for students to move along the education to employment continuum – from selected middle and high school programs to community colleges and universities, to on-the-job-experiences at major corporations that, ideally, lead to successful graduation outcomes and entry into the engineering workforce.
NACME and its university and industry partners are convinced this approach will produce more minority engineers to meet the demands of the engineering workforce in the U.S. Page 2 of 2
Silicon Valley companies like HP agree. HP is amongst the largest technology companies in the world employing over 330,000 people and doing business in more than 200 countries or territories.
Sue Barsamian, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Group Sales, Enterprise Group, HP and a member of the NACME Board of Directors explained, “HP creates technology that positively impacts consumers, governments, and businesses worldwide, and our success relies on a robust workforce of talented engineers. One way we’ve taken action is to invest vice presidents and directors to sit on the advisory boards of Academies of Engineering throughout the United States.”
Academies of Engineering (AOEs) are small learning communities (schools-within-schools) designed to help all high school students – especially women and minorities – focus on careers in the STEM fields. The AOEs, are part of the National Academy Foundation’s (NAF) network of more than 500 career academies nationwide. They use curriculum from Project Lead the Way, prepare students in urban high school districts to enter college engineering programs fully competent in STEM subjects in order to ultimately help meet the increasing demand for a qualified high-tech workforce. NACME partners with academies across the U.S. in cities such as New York, Elizabeth, N.J., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Houston. NACME, NAF, and Project Lead The Way (PLTW) are founding partners in establishing 110 academies of engineering across the nation.
Moderated by Jessica Aguirre, Anchor, NBC Bay Area News, the Forum panel members were:
James Plummer, Ph.D., Dean, School of Engineering, Stanford;
Theresa A. Maldonado, Ph.D., Division Director, Division of Engineering Education and Centers, Directorate for Engineering, National Science Foundation;
Bernadine Chuck Fong, Ph.D., Senior Managing Partner, Community College Programs and National Expansion, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching;
Ramon Baez, VP and Global Chief Information Officer, HP;
Carl Guardino, President and CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group; and,
Irving Pressley McPhail, Ed.D., President & CEO, NACME.
The STEM Leadership Forum will be followed by an ongoing national discussion at the NACME Symposium in Washington, D.C. later this year. The ultimate goal for NACME and its board member companies is to grow a strong and talented science and technology workforce that looks like America.
Since its inception in 1974, NACME has stayed true to its mission: to ensure American resilience in a flat world by leading and supporting the national effort to expand U.S. capability by increasing the number of successful African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.
NACME alumni hold leadership positions in industry, medicine, law, education, and government. With funding from corporate, foundation, and individual donors, NACME has supported more than 22,000 students with more than $124 million in scholarships and other support, and currently has more than 1,300 scholars at 50 partner institutions across the country. The NACME STEM Integration Model Linkage Strategy is being implemented in New York, New Jersey, Texas, and California. The regional model facilitates a comprehensive pathway for underrepresented minorities to engineering careers beginning in middle school. For more information, visit us at www.nacme.org.
By chris Bardwell
What do a supermodel turned entrepreneur, a counterterrorism expert, and engineer/ project manager have in common?
They are among the successful professionals who report using THE BLACK COLLEGIAN to launch their careers!
Tyra Banks, American media personality, former supermodel turned television personality/producer and business
entrepreneur, New York, N.Y.
Jacques Sawyer Battiste, supervisory special agent, Counterterrorism Division, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau
of Investigation, Washington, D.C.
Lona Hankins, engineer project manager and director of capital improvement, Recovery School District New Orleans, La.
THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Magazine and THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Online are valuable resources that students should
know how to use effectively if they want to gain a competitive edge in today’s turbulent job market. Between the magazine
and the Website, there are just loads of valuable information available for collegians on how to focus on a job search
and ultimately gain the career success they desire.
This article will help you develop a strategy to launch your career using the “treasure trove” “power packed” and “mother
lode” of resources found in the magazine and online. But first, let’s see how the magazine featured in the successful
career launch of the three individuals listed. Also featured are recruiters who have used the magazine in their recruiting
programs. The article will share strategies that show you how you can use the magazine as a resource to launch your
career. Let’s get started!
In the October 13, 2008 issue of NEWSWEEK Tyra Banks reported on her life in front of and behind the camera. In recalling her early beginnings as a model, she said, My first modeling job was for a magazine called BLACK COLLEGIATE,” she said, referring to the November/ December 1989 issue of THE BLACK COLLEGIAN. “I was so excited because there was a little picture of me on the cover, above the title.” And, as the old adage goes, the rest is history!
Battiste,45, employed with the FBI in the Department of Justice for 14 years, was initially employed as a Special Agent and assigned to work fugitive recovery, bank robberies and international terrorism. Currently as supervisory agent with the FBI’s Strategic Operations Unit, he is program manager over the Africa and Southeast Asia regions.
A graduate of Xavier University of New Orleans with a dual bachelor’s degree in chemistry and political science in May, 1988, he attended Southern University School of Law in Baton Rouge, La. and received a Juris Doctorate degree in May 1991.
“While enrolled at Jesuit High School, I attended a college fair at Xavier University, where I met a young lady at THE BLACK COLLEGIAN kiosk. After a brief conversation, I subscribed to the magazine in preparation for college choices. I continued to subscribe and receive the magazine well after graduation from law school and it was when I was employed at the Law Offices of Raby and Stafford, in Alexandria, Va., that my mother forwarded my mail to me (which included the latest issue of THE BLACK COLLEGIAN). I flipped through the magazine and was drawn to a full page ad and a feature article about the FBI and the opportunities available. It was then that I made a decision to change my career objective from attorney to federal law enforcement.”
Battiste offers the following guidance to help collegians launch their careers using the magazine: “Foremost, it is critical to complete your college education, get a degree, and to read TBC magazine. The job force has become more intrinsic in hiring individuals and it’smore difficult to break into various arenas of employment. ”
Hankins, 45, is currently Director of Capital Improvement, Recovery School District, New Orleans, La., where she has been employed for two years. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Southern University, Baton Rouge, La., in May 1988. She is also certified as a Project Management Professional.
She reports using THE BLACK COLLEGIAN to launch her career as follows: “I was a senior in high school read the magazine regularly to get a feel for college life. The annual engineering issue was very intriguing. The magazine pointed out starting salaries, types of work experiences to expect, and potential employers. This was helpful when making my decision to pursue a degree in engineering. I also referred back to the magazine when I was faced with selfdoubt about doing he work required to complete the degree program. ”
To use the magazine to launch their careers, she offers Black collegians the following guidance: “Reading the magazine in high school also introduced me to the concept of a summer internship. The interview tips were also helpful. I was able to intern most of my summers. I worked for Martin Marietta, Natural Gas Pipeline and Amoco Oil Company. Because of my summer internships and leadership skills exhibited as president of National Society of Black Engineers, upon graduation I had five job offers to choose from in 1988.”
Kim Wells Wells is currently the Director of the Office of Graduate Programs in the Howard University School ofBusiness Washington, D.C., which includes oversight of the nationally recognized MBA and Executive Education programs. He reports his experience with helping students launch their careers using THE BLACK COLLEGIAN as follows: “I often refer students at Howard University and other students from around the nation — even globally — to THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Magazine, and TBC Online. I think it is important for students to remain current in the leading-edge best practices in the new marketplace and particularly within the context of the unique dynamics and resources available to today’s African-American student. Things have changed drastically within the last year in the global marketplace, and our students need to stay connected with the emerging subject matter experts, and other students that can provide examples and inspiration in successfully navigating these changes.”
He has been involved with THE BLACK COLLEGIAN going back to the ‘80s. “As an ambitious undergraduate at the College of New Jersey and later I continued my connection with TBC as a graduate student at Howard University in the mid 90’s. I must have held onto every word from TBC and the examples of my peer students around the country. We were all gearing up for the ‘Next phase of the Civil Rights Movement’ of Black Leadership entering corporate environments and leadership in numbers that had never been seen before—and unfortunately often facing “corporate push back” some thought was behind us all. TBC gave us a rallying point, strategies, and role models that encouraged us all to take the next steps in pursuing the equal opportunity and success our parents and predecessors fought so hard for. We were the generation who are now 40-somethings, seen reflected today in President Obama.”
Wells also reports that he “loved the articles by Ed Bullock (Diversity Director at L’Oreal) and Sam Hall (former Placement Director at Howard – now retired) in the late 80’s and 90’s. Mr. Bullock later became a great friend and mentor as I ascended up the ranks in both my corporate and higher education roles over the years. To this day Ed still has been a great influence on my life and career. Mr. Hall would later be involved in my recruitment as his successor in leading the next generation of career programs and services at Howard. I think TBC was a real connector between the civil rights generation of professionals, and the next generation of emerging Black professionals following in their footsteps.”
Brown, Executive Vice President of State Farm Insurance Companies in Bloomington, Ill., reports that State Farm has advertised in THE BLACK COLLEGIAN for 37 years. “As an employer, THE BLACK COLLEGIAN was an excellent source tool to learn about historically black colleges. We were able to learn about the school curriculum, history of the schools and their students. It was an excellent recruiting tool through our recruiting ads. The schools and students learned who State Farm was and what we were all about. Students learned of the career opportunities at State Farm and all of the cities and states where we were located. We used THE BLACK COLLEGIAN to launch the State Farm Summer Minority Intern Program in 1972. The program was an outstanding recruiting tool to help us identify and hire African Americans.”
Brannon, currently retired and former Assistant Vice President in Human Resources with Liberty Mutual, a Boston-based international company, recalls, “It was our desire to increase our minority population and in deciding how to do it we made the decision to advertise in THE BLACK COLLEGIAN. The results were overwhelming as we not only talked about employment opportunities but we highlighted some of our successful minority employees. Some of the responding students inquired about co-op and intern opportunities, and while that had not been our original focus, we engaged the idea and executed a broader co-op program. Hiring students for co-op assignments put us in position to gamble on a few people that perhaps would not have been considered for permanent employment at that time. ”
Your career launch & how to use THE BLACK COLLEGIAN as Your Personal career coach
Think of THE BLACK COLLEGIAN (and its on-line version) as your personal “career coach” in printed and virtual versions. What does a career coach do? Think about the role of a coach on a sports team – that individual is responsible for leading the team to wins. A career coach can help you:
• Understand and research your
• Find the right or “best fit” career
• Create a plan to get you where you
want to be.
• Stay motivated and energized along
• Learn how to advance on the job
once you get one.
Similarly, reading the contents in
TBC exposes you to insightful articles
on key job search and career advancement
topics such as how to:
• Perform a self-assessment to
determine what your dream job
• Write an outstanding “stand out
from the crowd” resume.
• Find employers who are seeking
• Get and prepare for interviews both
on-campus and off campus.
• Evaluate a job offer.
• Make a successful transition from
campus to career.
The magazine includes advertising from employers who are actively recruiting Black collegians. Employers are also identified in the Mother Lode of Career Opportunities, the Top 100 Employers, the Top Diversity Employers, and the Diversity Registry. You have a large selection of employers to consider.
You can refer to back issues and to THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Online (www.blackcollegian.com) to review past issues (back to 1997). In looking at the past three to four issues you will become more aware of the depth and breadth of information contained in the issues. For example, in its last four issues the covers of TBC highlighted the following themes:
• First Semester Super Issue
(September) 2009 – Career Planning
and Job Search Issue
• Second Semester Super Issue
(January) 2009 – Top 100 Employers/
African-American History Issue
• First Semester Super Issue
(September) 2008 – The Career
Planning and Job Search Issue featuring
the Top 100 Ideal Employers
• Second Semester Super Issue
(January) 2008 – Top 100 Employers/
African-American History Issue
This is excellent research that will assist you immensely in your career planning. Take a look at the variety of areas covered and see exactly what might be important as you put together your career strategy.
For example, check out the top 10 employers on TBC’s list of the Top 100 Employers. Are any of these employers you’d like to work for? Look at the recruitment ads. Are there any employers you’d like to join? Is your major among the areas for which they are seeking candidates? In The Mother Lode of Career Opportunities, TBC offers you the most comprehensive source of employers actively recruiting. Some are also recruiting interns. Does the career you’ve chosen match any of these entry-level opportunities?
The Diversity Registry is the quick and easy reference to advertisers who are committed to recruiting a diverse workforce. It lists the name of the advertiser and the URL of their career/ diversity page on their website where you can learn about their career opportunities and their diversity initiatives. Are you interested in an employer that values diversity?
Read the magazine from front to back as well as the Website for specific content. In scanning the articles for topics of interest as they relate to your career goals remember to organize yourself by placing post-it notes so that you can flag pages with articles of interest, employers that you’re interested in pursuing and ads that attract your interest.
The first step in the career development process is self-assessment. This allows you to gather information about yourself so that you can make informed career decisions. What do you really want to do? What is your ideal dream job or career? Why have you chosen this as an area of interest? Who employs graduates in these areas? Are there internships or part-time jobs that you can take in this area now? What openings may be available once you graduate? Because of the investment you will be making in your career, you need to make sure you have some idea of your interests so that you hopefully begin your career with some type of direction. Your career planning and placement office will be instrumental in helping you with this process along with the information you gather from THE BLACK COLLEGIAN. The more information you have about yourself, the easier it will be for others to help you with your career goals.
Remember that the 21st century workplace is driven by minds and information. Competencies are specific knowledge, skills, abilities, characteristics, and behaviors that enhance job performance. Here are some business competencies that are important to the success of any organization: analytic thinking, results orientation and accountability, self management, project management, team work, ethics, organizational understanding.
In the area of communication, competencies such as interpersonal communication, presentations, listening and writing are essential. Similarly, in the area of technology/ office automation competency areas include: maintaining personal computer, implementing technology applications, implementing information management, maintaining electronic work products and performing document management. How do you presently stack up in relation to some of the competencies listed? Some of them may be foreign to you, but you can work with your career services office to determine what skills you currently have. The staff there can also work with you on skills that you need to develop based on your career goals. In today’s economy, employers are also seeking talented candidates with both life and career skills.
There are myriad sources of job leads: networking, print advertisements, Internet and on-line job boards, informational meetings with people who know people or people at the company you’re interested in joining, recruiters, career expos/fairs, networking contacts in and outside of your chosen industry, student chapters of professional organizations. All of these will help you expand your network and lead you to that ultimate job offer that you desire.
Look at your experiences, skills and education and ask yourself: Where do I want to spend the next 5 – 10 years of my career? Once you have determined what you want to be doing, research potential employers and participate in on-campus and on-site interviews. Throughout the process, use TBC as your coach in developing your career strategy.
TBC provides access to employers, internships and information and guidance in uncovering and preparing to pursue job opportunities. Take a look at the recruiting ads. You’ll be happy to see that employers feature individuals who are in key positions within their organizations. These photos are testament to the fact that you also can one day possibly be on the pages of the TBC.
Your resume serves as your marketing piece for the purpose of generating job interviews. Your resume has to be compelling so that it conveys your skills, traits and accomplishments in a manner that a recruiter will be interested in flagging it for consideration. TBC offers guidance on how to prepare resumes that will make you stand out from the crowd. Take a look at back issues and flag the articles in this area. Remember to tailor your resume to the specific job to which you are applying. It’s important to use the language/ specifications found in the ad and information about the needs of the specific industry and company. Employers are looking for skills, and experience, that indicate you can be an asset to their organization. To review your resume, put yourself in the recruiter’s place. Look at your resume and answer the following questions: Do I have the skills to do the job? What about my technical and academic qualifications? Are there typos and grammatical errors in this resume? What about the appearance? How does it look? Is there adequate spacing? Polish and refine your resume so that it conveys that you should be included in the pile that says “Schedule an interview – good candidate!”
In interviews both on-campus and on-site you have the opportunity to give and receive information that will be vital in your deciding whether the employer is one that you’d like to work for. Research the various articles that will help you prepare for these most important career interviews. Also remember to follow up interviews with thank you notes (electronic or snail mail is acceptable). Practice answers to the most common interview questions. TBC includes articles on the job search process including the importance of good eye contact and public speaking skills. Other tips are included such as the importance of business attire, good grooming, business cards and a standard email address with first.lastname@ hotmail.com (no Ms. Finething@ hotmail. com) on your resume. You also need a professional message on your voice mail that is business like in tone and presentation.
Refrain from hip hop music playing in the background and long pauses before you begin to speak. Also remember that social networking is a good thing, but remember that employers are also checking these sites to learn more about candidates. Make sure whatever you include on your social networking page is going to reflect positively – not negatively – on you.
The magazine includes articles that explain the important aspects to consider once you are offered the job. In addition to the job title, salary, sign-on bonus (if offered), benefits and other perks, you’ll want to make sure the job offer you’ve received fits within your long-range career plans. Look at the key points covered in TBC on how to evaluate job offers. The on-line archive of articles featured in past issues will be helpful to you in looking for this information. The main thing you will want to remember is to determine whether this job fits you.
Great! Now that you have a job offer and have accepted you’ll begin your transition from campus to the world of work. We want your transition to be a successful one! Employers are interested in ensuring that they have the best skills to perform their current work and beyond. You were hired because your current competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities) are important to your company’s bottom-line.
When you report for your first day at work you’ll go through an on-boarding (orientation) process. Learn as much as you can through that process as well as make sure that you establish a positive working relationship with the number one person who will influence your career success: your manager. Next come the members of your team and finally others in the organization who will be key to your performing your job responsibilities effectively. Learn as much as you can and ask as many questions as you can so that at the end of the day you feel that you have accomplished much and are not stressed about your new job.
We asked those we profiled earlier for tips on how they succeeded as they progressed in their careers. Here is what they had to say.
Jacques Battiste reflects on his progression with the FBI starting with his first position: “I was able to navigate through the FBI requirements checklist for new agents quickly and engage in a myriad of different violation investigations which helped to cultivate my career and aspirations. I was able to become a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) within five years of being hired, due in part to prophetic direction offered by my mentors SSA Gerald Jackson and SSA James W. Rice, II.”
“I attribute my success with the FBI to my faith in the Almighty [which] has helped me to achieve each level of success in my life. With the critical nature of the work I do with the FBI as a crisis responder, I have to maintain a strong faith base. My mother and father provided me with the template to success, by being role models for me and pushing me to be my best at whatever I chose to undertake. One of the key things my mother taught me early in life was ‘don’t follow a trail others have blazed, blaze a trail for others to follow!’ My wife Renee’ and son Evan (who I love more than life itself) have always been my biggest fans and supporters of my job and life surrounding the Bureau, thus without their support I could not work soundly to make the world safer for them to live in. The numerous friends, agents, support and administrative staff and fellow law enforcement officers have always been amenable to working with me and helping me to reach desired goals.
Finally, my time spent at the Law Offices of Raby and Stafford helped me to be a better analyst, orator and writer. Attorney Bobby B. Stafford and his family were tantamount in bringing me to Washington to work in their firm; which inevitably opened another door for me to join the FBI. With the world’s politics changing daily, growing terrorist concerns facing the Homeland, and the question of future economic stability, each person must live their life to the fullest every day and remember that ‘yesterday is a cancelled check, tomorrow is a promissory note, there is only today –seize it!’”
Battiste’s final words for our interview: “I wish to thank TBC Magazine and staff, the FBI, Gwen Hubbard and my DTSOS management for allowing me to share my thoughts with the readers and hopefully help to impact positively on their futures.”
Lona Hankins reports that when she looks back over her career she attributes her career success to: “A willingness to work in a variety of backgrounds before deciding what specialize in. I spent 19 years working in corporate America. After I became a parent, I became involved in education through the PTA and civic engagement. When Katrina hit, I like many others in New Orleans said no longer on my watch. I left corporate America and took my current job. Getting up in the morning is no longer a chore. This is the job I was meant to do, sometimes a risk is necessary to find your place and passion.”
Kim Wells states, “I think THE BLACK COLLEGIAN also had great influence in my choosing graduate school at Howard, where I later returned after working in the corporate realm to lead the Career and Professional Development operations and now direct our MBA and Executive Education Programs in the School of Business. Black Collegian has always done an amazing job at highlighting the successes of students at both HBCUs and majority institutions, providing students with a more complete picture of (not only) the strategies, but also the leading universities, and corporations that were supporting and launching the successes of Black students. Preston Edwards and his staff have been leaders of social, educational and business change in our nation. I am thankful that they have stayed faithful to their mission and our emerging young leaders over the decades. I am personally indebted to TBC for the great impact and guidance the magazine and its staff have had over the decades in guiding and inspiring my career.”
In closing, we have focused on helping you to develop a strategy to launch your career using THE BLACK COLLEGIAN. We provided resources and tips from those who have been successful with their careers as well as those who have used the magazine to recruit talent. We hope this information has been helpful. Here’s wishing you much success in your career endeavors!
Chris Bardwell is a career coach,
founder and head of The Career
Connection, a Chicago-based career
development and consulting
organization. She can be reached
at (312) 203-7882.
Reprinted with permission from, “Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Threats to the Common Good,” A Catholic Charities USA, Poverty in America Issue Brief.
We are pleased to present this document to you. It grew out of our 2006 policy paper: Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good. In that document we called for policy changes to reduce by half the number of Americans living in poverty by 2020. Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Charities agencies across the country are aware that we cannot responsibly address the issue of poverty without addressing the impact of race. In our Vision 2000 statement, we recognized the connection and interplay between these issues when we stated that Catholic Charities USA needs to be “a leader in eradicating racism which permeates our society and its structures.”
Never has the urgency to address the issues of poverty and racism been so visible and paramount than during and after Hurricane Katrina. As a nation we were shocked, appalled, and embarrassed as we watched along with others from around the world the life and death consequences of being poor in America. What Americans and the world witnessed, however, was not a surprise to Catholic Charities USA and its member agencies. Everyday we observe poverty and racism as we serve a disproportionate number of people of color who are poor. When the tragedy in the Gulf Coast occurred, we were hopeful that finally America would be moved to action – to develop solutions that would result in our nation finally addressing poverty and racism to ensure that never again in our history would we experience the tragedy and suffering that took place in the Gulf Coast.
But as fast as the winds of Katrina blew in and the flood waters rose, the will of the people and the political will in Washington, D.C. receded. Two years later, the issue of poverty and racism remains unchanged. Therefore, it now requires our collective attention. This document is being presented to assist us in advancing this long overdue conversation. In order to adequately and seriously address poverty in this country, we must have a candid conversation and subsequent action that changes the impact that race has on poverty. This is not an easy conversation, one that many of us might like to avoid. The document itself may evoke a range of emotions in each of us that may cause us to be very uncomfortable. Whether it is anger, sadness, guilt, or denial, this document will touch us each in a very personal way.
This document helps us begin a process for change by first educating us, then causing us to reflect on our own personal experiences, and finally moving us to recommit ourselves to addressing the issue of racism and poverty in our lifetime. For some, the discomfort may cause inaction or polarization. We must not let that happen because for all of us this is a call to action. We ask each of you to join us in cutting poverty in half and in making our country whole.
Part of what makes racism such a difficult issue to address in our nation’s public discourse is that most Americans lack an adequate understanding of how “persistent and destructive” this evil continues to be in contemporary society. Many believe that racism is a matter of the past, conveyed on the grainy images of black and white films. No one disputes that acts of blatant insensitivity still stain our social fabric. Most grant that occasional acts of callous bigotry still occur. But Americans tend to believe that these are isolated incidents and tragic exceptions to the climate of racial decency which now prevails among the majority of Americans in general, and white Americans in particular. At best, this thinking is naive. At worst, it is a delusion and an evasion of reality.
We do not dispute that much has changed in race relations since the abolition of slavery and the legal exclusion of persons of color, but we believe that in America we have too often confused the symptoms for the disease and focused on appearances rather than substance. We are convinced that what has happened all too often has been only a covering over, and not a fundamental change in, the racial dynamics of our society.26
Racism has never been solely or principally about insults, slurs, or exclusion, as demeaning and harmful as these are. These are but the symptoms of a deeper malady.
We believe that the United States, despite the undeniable changes in racism’s manifestations, still remains a “racialized society,” that is, “a society wherein race matters profoundly for differences in life experiences, life opportunities, and social relationships.” We are a nation “that allocates differential economic, political, social, and even psychological rewards to groups along racial lines; lines that are socially constructed. “27 At its core, racism is a system of racially conferred-and denied-privilege, advantage, benefits, and status. This inequality of status and benefit endures today. Thus, “racism today remains what it has always been: a defense of racial privilege.” 28
Racism entails more than conscious ill-will, more than deliberate acts of avoidance, exclusion, malice, and violence perpetrated by individuals. We acknowledge that members of any racial group can-and, in fact, do-act unjustly toward those they consider racially “different.” But such individual acts cannot alter the fact that in the United States, one racial group is socially advantaged, and the others endure social stigma. Racism describes the reality of unearned advantage, conferred dominance, and invisible privilege enjoyed by white Americans, to the detriment, burden, and disadvantage of people of color. This network of racially conferred advantages and benefits has been termed “white privilege.” 29
“White privilege” refers to the reality that in U.S. society “there are opportunities which are afforded whites that people of color simply do not share.”30 These advantages range from greater ease in hailing a taxi and moving into whatever neighborhood they can afford, to easier access to positions of social influence and political power, to the presumption that their race will not work against them when seeking employment and in other social situations. Being racially advantaged might be unwanted or undesired by individual white Americans. In fact, some white Americans are distressed when they become aware of the reality of white privilege. Regardless of an individual’s desires, an “invisible package of unearned assets” is enjoyed by white people because of the racial consciousness which is subtly pervasive in our social customs and institutions.31
“White privilege” may be a new and even troubling concept for many in our nation and church. Most of us are trained to see how racism disadvantages or burdens people of color. We are not so accustomed to see how racism results in unfair advantages or benefits for the dominant racial group. “White privilege” shifts the focus from how people of color are harmed by racism to how white Americans derive advantages because of it. White privilege is the flipside and inescapable corollary of racial injustice. Racial injustice comes about to preserve and protect white privilege.
“White privilege” results when pervasive beliefs about the inadequacies of people of color become expressed by or entrenched in our society’s institutional policies, social customs, cultural media, and political processes. Thus, there arises a mutually reinforcing relationship between personal prejudicial beliefs and common social practices:
People who assume, consciously or unconsciously, that white people are superior create and sustain institutions that privilege people like themselves and habitually ignore the contributions of other peoples and cultures. This “white privilege” often goes undetected because it has become internalized and integrated as part of one’s outlook on the world by custom, habit, and tradition. It can be seen in most of our institutions: judicial and political systems, social clubs, associations, hospitals, universities, labor unions, small and large business, major corporations, the professions, sports teams, and the arts.32
This insight leads to two further observations. First, racial privilege operates in ways that are often outside of conscious awareness. Second, racial privilege is not “natural”; it is a human creation.
For the most part, white Americans do not think of themselves as “white” or as belonging to a “white culture.” When asked what their racial or cultural identity is, many whites state an ethnic background (e.g., a hybrid of German/Irish) but then relate that this ethnic background is not a significant part of their personal identity. Most whites describe themselves as “American” – which is significant because if “American” is their specific cultural identity, what does that make Americans of color? Very few spontaneously describe themselves as “white.”33 As Joe Feagin and Hernan Vera conclude, “Apparently, for most whites, being white means rarely having to think about it.”34 To put this another way, most whites do not see themselves as racialized, as having a racial identity or status.
This means that white Americans are often oblivious to white privilege and how deeply embedded racial advantage is in our nation unless those who are “other” challenge their understanding of reality.35
Thus many white Americans – and Americans of color as well – are unaware of how deeply affected they are by their racial framing and cultural conditioning. We are conditioned to not see white privilege; we are socialized to see white advantage and benefit as “normal” and just the way things are. Racism, then, is much more complex than the typical understanding acknowledges. It is far more than deliberate acts of exclusion, bias, and bigotry. Racism is a way of understanding and interpreting skin color differences so that white Americans enjoy a privileged social status with access to advantages and benefits to the detriment, disadvantage, and burden of persons of color. Racism, in all of its forms and permutations, is at its core a defense of racially-based social privilege
26 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Brothers and Sisters
to Us, 1.
27 Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith:
Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New
York: Oxford Press, 2000) 7.
28 David T. Wellman, Portraits of White Racism, (New York:
Cambridge U. Press, 1993) 4.
29 The seminal essay on the reality of white privilege is by Peggy
McIntosh, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal
Account of Coming to See the Correspondences through Work
in Women’s Studies.” This article can be found in many anthologies,
including one edited by Richard Delgado and Jean
Stefancic, Critical White Studies: Looking behind the Mirror
(Philadelphia: Temple University, 1997) 291-299.
30 Bishop Dale J. Melczek, Created in God’s Image: A Pastoral
Letter on the Sin of Racism and a Call to Conversion (Gary, IN:
Diocesan Chancery, 2003) 22. Available at www.dcgary.org/
31 McIntosh, “White Privilege,” 291.
32 Francis Cardinal George, Dwell in My Love: A Pastoral Letter on
Racism (Chicago: Catholic New World Press 2001) 12-13.
33 “How Whites See Themselves,” in Richard Delgado and Jean
Stefancic (eds.), Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997) 1. They note,
“Most whites have not thought much about their race. Few,
upon being asked to identify themselves by attributes, would
name whiteness among their primary characteristics.” See
also the work of Joe R. Feagin and Hernan Vera who similarly
observe: “Relatively few whites think reflectively about their
whiteness except when it is forced on them by encounters with
or challenges from black Americans” See White Racism: The
Basics (New York: Routledge, 1995) 139.
34 Feagin and Vera, White Racism, 139.
35 Hear the following perceptive observation offered by a white
woman: “White is transparent. That’s the point of being the
dominant race. Sure the whiteness is there, but you never think
of it. If you’re white you never have to think about it. . . . And
if white folks remind each other about being white, too often
the reminder is about threats by outsiders – nonwhites – who
steal white entitlements like good jobs, a fine education, nice
neighborhoods, and the good life” (Bonnie Kae Grover, “Growing
Up White in America?” in Delgado and Stefancic, 34).
By Hanes Walton, Jr., Josephine A. Allen, Sherman C. Puckett and Donald R. Deskins, Jr.
n November 4, 2008, the American voters elected Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., an African American, as the 44th president of the United States of America. This was the 56th presidential election held in the nation since its founding in 1788 and all previous winners had been white males. This makes the 2008 election historic in more ways than one. Obama became the first person of his race ever to win a major political party nomination. Secondly, he beat a former first lady and senator from New York, who had her husband, former President William J. Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, vigorously campaigning on her behalf during the presidential primaries.
In the general election, he beat both a genuine American hero, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had initially run in the 2000 Republican primaries. Moreover, he broke a Republican lock on the White House known as the Red State and Blue State divide, which guaranteed more states and Electoral College votes to the Republican party than to the Democratic party. This political geography made it impossible until 2008 for any northern Democratic presidential nominees like Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and even a southerner like Al Gore, to win the presidency. All of these things were swept aside, as the senator in his very first term became the victor in the nation’s 56th presidential election. The glass ceiling for African-American candidates was finally shattered after 225 years. And to ensure this victory, Obama ran nearly flawless primary and general election campaigns. Nothing like this has ever been seen. It was such a model campaign that it is sure to become the standard.
THE IDEA OF VICTORY
Born as a strategic politician, Obama, while he was still a state Senator, described himself as a human being who was imperfect in his book, The Audacity of Hope. One of these imperfections he characterized as chronic restlessness. He attributed this disposition to his desire to both live up to his father’s expectations and make up for his father’s mistakes. He goes on to explain in The Audacity of Hope the ways in which he has followed the path of most politicians who invariably experience the caution associated with seeing younger versions of themselves succeed where he had failed, moving at a faster pace, and getting more accomplished. The pleasures of politics, including working the crowd, connecting with voters and potential supporters, and engaging in heated debates with a range of opponents, swept him from his safe state Senate seat into a losing congressional campaign and on to a successful race for the U. S. Senate. In turn, this laid the foundation for a model race for the presidency.
Of his drive to be a “great president,” his Kenyan half sister, Auma Obama, reports that her brother is driven by the same perfectionism and ambition that overtook their father’s life. His Indonesian half-sister, Maya Soetoro- Ng, declares that her ambitious brother was compelled to leave Hawaii, in part because of the isolated atmosphere of the Pacific Islands. And his first biographer, journalist David Mendell, has called attention to Obama’s abundant confidence and carefully describes his innate drive to reach the top in politics. Thus, from all of his up-close and personal observers, along with his own self-evaluation, we learn that politics is something at which he could not only succeed, but also excel. But this is nothing new because all of the major academic and scholarly studies on politicians and ambition have long since the sixties discovered that ambition is an inherent quality that drives successful politicians.
Nevertheless, ambition is not all personality and outstanding people skills. There is also the political context variable. Ambitious politicians must find a way into the electoral and political arena. Eventually, they must acquire a constituency within some political base. Interestingly, once out of Columbia University, Obama began working at the grass-roots level by becoming a community organizer. There he learned from watching the first African-American mayor of Chicago about how important a law degree was as well as a top political office. Thus, upon the sudden death of Mayor Washington, he decided upon Harvard Law School. This degree and high-profile elite education would give him a chance to build his political base against machine politicians, if the opportunity ever arose.
After graduating from Harvard Law, Obama returned to Chicago, with his mind set on running for Mayor. He took his first six months back in this city to direct the Illinois’s Project Voter, which was designed to register and educate the city’s low-income black population. Under his leadership and supervision, by 1992 the Project registered nearly 150,000 voters who helped in that year to elect Clinton to the presidency and the first African-American woman, attorney Carol Moseley Braun to the U.S. Senate. As a consequence of these new community-organizing skills, this recently minted lawyer came to be known as a political progressive and in turn was introduced to several up-and-coming African-American city politicians, notably state Sen. Alice Palmer. Making connections with key political elites and community activists was the first step in establishing an essential political base.
By 1995, Palmer asked Obama to run for her state Senate seat with her endorsement while she ran for a congressional seat. However, she lost her congressional bid in November 2005 to Jesse Jackson, Jr. She then had her political operatives ask Obama to give her old state Senate seat back. He refused. And she responded by filing with the state election board to be a candidate against Obama in the March 2006 Democratic Primary. Obama’s campaign team challenged her 1,600 petitions from the standpoint of each one having the correct signatures. He also challenged the other candidates in the Democratic primary and legally prevailed against every one of them simply because many individuals printed their names on the petitions instead of signing them. While this action (his legal challenge) angered and stirred up several community activists as well as Palmer, it was too late for a viable response. Consequently, Obama was the only candidate on the ballot in the Democratic primary. Although he faced a Republican and a third-party candidate in the general election, he won with 82.2 percent of the vote due to the fact that both the city and his state Senate district are heavily Democratic. Thus, with these two victories, Obama established his initial political base.
With his state Senate reelection bids in 1998 and 2002, he had no primary opposition and won with the entire vote. In the corresponding two general elections, he faced opposition in 1998 but none in 2002. Both times he won significantly, each time improving on what he received in his initial general election in 1996. However, these six successful state Senate elections do not tell Obama’s entire electoral story because in 2000, he ran for the 1st Congressional District seat held by fourterm U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush. Illinois’s state law allows elected officials to hold their seat while running for another position. Obama’s ambition pushed him to challenge this incumbent due to the fact that Richard Daley had soundly beaten him two years earlier in the mayoral race. Nevertheless, despite this major defeat, Rush had substantial political connections and relationships, including serving on the city council before his mayoral run and as a Black Panther member in this community prior to that time. In addition, once Obama challenged Rush, all of the key community activists and supporters of former Sen. Palmer now coalesced around Rush. Immediately, state Sen. Obama’s chances for victory in the Democratic primary declined.
In that primary election, Obama lost by a 2-to-1 margin to the incumbent and Obama attributed part of the reason for this “drubbing” to the fact that with less than a month before the election, Rush’s oldest son was shot by two drug dealers in a drive-by shooting in front of Rush’s own home. This act brought a great outpouring of sympathy from the community for Rush. Nevertheless, Obama came out of that defeat with a larger electoral base and greater name recognition than before. These results may account for the fact that in his third reelection bid for his state Senate seat in 2002, he received his largest primary and general election votes ever.
Two years later, in 2004, state Sen. Obama entered the race for the U. S. Senate seat and beat seven candidates in the Democratic primary, in part because he had campaigned while in the state Senate in the southern part of Illinois and had gotten the chance to win over a large number of white rural and farm voters. In the general election, the Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, had to withdraw because of a sex scandal and the party eventually brought in the African-American conservative Alan Keyes at the eleventh hour. Keyes had run two unsuccessful senate campaigns in Maryland as well as an equal number of unsuccessful Republican presidential campaigns. With this string of successive defeats, it came as no surprise that in the race against Obama, he would suffer his fifth defeat, capturing less than one-third of the state’s vote.
The point of this overview of Obama’s electoral contests prior to running for president is that his powerful ambition and drive was further enhanced and enriched with the winning of four (three state senate general elections and one U.S. Senate primary election) out of his five electoral attempts. Clearly, with these two forces operating for him, the psychological and the electoral, he thought that he could win because everything inside him and in his political context combined to tell him that he would win. Eventually, these dual forces would be combined with a powerful third force, the push and support from national political party elites and voters, to enter the 2008 presidential primaries.
Obama’s brilliant senatorial victory in the Democratic primary came just prior to the Democratic party’s 2004 national convention. By 1968 the Democratic National Committee had lost its long-held power to select a presidential nominee due to the rise of binding primaries and caucuses. To partly fill this lost power vacuum, the DNC and its leading presidential candidates would give the keynote address to some upand- coming elected officials like Governors Mario Cuomo of New York and William Clinton of Arkansas, former U.S. Reps. Barbara Jordan of Texas and Harold Ford, Jr. of Tennessee and District of Columbia Shadow Senator Rev. Jesse Jackson. But none of these individuals achieved the instant and overnight national celebrity that was Sen. Obama’s. Just prior to his 2004 speech at the DNC, he was interviewed by the national electronic and print media, and in each case, he was well received. After an electrifying convention speech, he went back to Illinois and won the general election with 70 percent of the vote. He now had both statewide and national exposure. And to keep his high media profile and national celebrity, his senate staff developed a “plan” to accentuate his media attractiveness. In addition to the ever-increasing number of magazine covers, the publisher of his first book, Dreams From My Father, re-released it due to a growing number of requests. In 2006, Obama traveled to South Africa and made a third trip to his father’s homeland, Kenya. Like the earlier African trips of Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1966 and President Clinton in 1998, this one immediately raised Senator Obama to international stardom. Upon his return from Africa, the Senator began planning for a potential run for the presidency in 2008.
His new book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream, came out in October 2006 and launched a national tour for him. It was while he was on this national tour that people from all walks of life urged him to run for the presidency. He heard it every day, all day long from large crowds that stood in long lines to get his autograph and photos with him. The national book tour ended with Obama and his wife appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show. At that time, Winfrey promised to endorse and work for him if he decided to run for president. Earlier in 2006, leading liberal and conservative columnists including Maureen Dowd and David Brooks urged him in their columns to run and advised the Democratic Party to stand behind him. Another signal to run came when his huge book sales exceeded those of Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and John Edwards, D-S.C., on the New York Times best sellers book list. Another major signal to go forward came when he visited Iowa, and thousands of people paid to see and hear him. In fact, so many came that Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and former Virginia
Gov. Mark Warner decided to drop out of the 2008 contest. In the middle of this rising grassroots and elite support, the Chicago newspapers released the story of the Rezko financial link to the purchase of his home. Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a political fundraiser, was convicted last June of fraud, money laundering and abetting bribery. Obama was not charged with any offenses in connection with Rezko’s case. However, the national planning for a 2008 campaign continued.
In 1968, as mentioned earlier, the major American political parties lost their ability to choose the party presidential nominees through conventions because a significant number of states had set up presidential primaries and caucuses, making it possible for candidates to capture enough delegates to win the nominations before the national conventions took place. National Conventions simply ratified what had already been decided in the primaries and caucuses. Another feature that further accentuated this candidate-centered system, which replaced the long-standing party- centered system, was the rise in 1988 of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, when numerous states—25 in 2008— held their primaries and caucuses on a Tuesday in February, giving the frontrunners in each party so many delegates that they could potentially secure the nomination early in the primary season and not have to wait until the summer conventions. Thus, without these two developments, it would have been difficult for any African-American candidate to secure a party nomination. In fact, none ever had!
Then, in 1982 came another major institutional reform. The Democratic Party decided to change its delegate system from a winner-take-all of the delegates to a propositional system, whereby both the winner and the losers would get some delegates. Hence, if even a newcomer and upstart with little name recognition could meet a threshold of fifteen percent of the vote, he or she would garner some delegates. Such a system would help the underdog in the presidential primaries. It helped Obama win the nomination.
Beyond these institutional changes, there were important changes in the electorate. In the midterm elections of November 2006, the Democratic Party won 30 congressional seats and six Senate seats to retake control of Congress from the Republicans. Given the dissatisfaction with the Bush war in Iraqi, numerous Republican Party scandals, and a sinking economy, voters were spurred to shift power in Washington from the Republicans to the Democrats. This advantaged the political neophyte and newcomer Obama, who had criticized the war while he was still in the Illinois State Senate. In addition, U.S. Sen. Obama and his staff read the mood and sentiment of the country extremely well and captured it in their campaign theme: Change. And they undergirded that theme with the idea of hope. All other candidates responded with their theme of experience. But the well-worn theme of experience never replaced the need for hope and change. Obama now had the advantage for the primary and caucus contests.
Next came the tactics and strategy for the primaries and caucuses. The Obama team decided to concentrate their focus on the difficult caucuses where careful organization was paramount. The Clinton campaign gave low priority to the caucuses because of these organizational difficulties. In the end, Clinton won 21 primaries to Obama’s 22, and Obama won 14 caucus states to Clinton’s two. The caucus victories gave Obama a commanding delegate lead that Clinton did not and could not overcome.
Next, there was the matter of money– campaign dollars. Sen. Clinton entered the pre-primary contest with more than $100 million, the majority of which came from large donors. Sen. Obama’s, Political Action Committee (PAC), Hopefund, had raised more than $2 million in 2005 and raised it via the Internet. This new political tool, first exploited by candidate Howard Dean in 2004, was implemented to perfection by the Obama team. By the end of the 2008 electoral season, the Hopefund raised more than $750 million, an unprecedented sum, which allowed Obama to outspend all of his competitors combined and to get out his message of hope and change. This phenomenal amount of cash eliminated the former first lady and senator, who had been the initial frontrunner and presumptive nominee. Her campaign went broke in the waning days of the historic 2008 presidential primaries, which she ultimately lost. With his commanding lead in regular delegates, the super delegates gave the nomination victory to the first African American in June 2008.
Finally, there was the shift of the African- American electorate. Prior to the Obama victory in the nearly all-white state of Iowa, Clinton had a commanding lead over Obama in terms of the support and endorsements of African-American elected officials, particularly in the Congressional Black Caucus and within the African-American electorate generally. All of this changed after the victory in the Iowa Caucus and President Clinton’s somewhat disparaging comparison of Obama to Rev. Jesse Jackson on the eve of the South Carolina primary. Beginning with the vote in South Carolina and thereafter, the African-American electorate turned out in unprecedented numbers and voted overwhelmingly for Obama over Clinton.
Obama Wins the Presidency: The Fall Of The Red And Blue State Divide
Obama beat McCain in the historic 2008 presidential election due primarily to two major factors. On September 23rd, Wall Street melted down and the economy replaced the Iraqi war as the most important issue for Americans. Prior to the dramatic rise of the economic issue, McCain had introduced the Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin to strengthen his relationship with the conservative base of the Republican Party, which he had not been able to attract, and to try to woo the low-income rural white voters in the Democratic Party. Although Obama chose his vice-presidential candidate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, partly on that basis, neither vice-presidential pick completed these specific linkages for their party nominees. However, the Wall Street collapse and the rise of the economic issue eventually strengthened the Democratic base and eroded the Republican base.
The second major factor in making Sen. Obama the 44th president of the United States of America is the large shift of red states held by the Republican Party to blue states held by the Democratic Party. Most people felt that this was impossible but the Obama campaign ran a 50-state campaign and did not have to rely on victory through one state shifting on election night as Gore did in 2000 with Florida and Kerry did in 2004, hoping for Ohio.
Nine of the ten red battleground states which were normally Republican switched and went Democratic this time. Three of these red states were in the South, including Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, and all three had been in the eleven states of the old Confederacy. They left the Republican Party electoral brigade, and realigned as blue Democratic states simply by virtue of the very high and heavy African- American voter turnout and voter support in each. Their turnout set records and placed an African American in the White House for the very first time in the nation’s history.
Overall, from beginning to end, Obama ran a model campaign. It is a campaign for the history books because it was nearly flawless and it proved all of the conventional wisdom wrong, including the standard political science expertise about how to run and win presidential campaigns. First and foremost, the experts have argued that an African American could not win a presidential election because African- American candidates could not raise the kind of money that one needs to even become a viable presidential candidate. Conventional experts also have argued that caucus states are too difficult to organize and they do not have enough delegates to matter in primary elections and that no African-American candidate can attract the team that would make them a viable candidate. These experts have suggested that the African- American electorate will split so badly among the primary candidates that they will be ineffective in influencing and impacting the outcome. And the final argument was that no African-American candidate will be able to span the racial divide to put together a winning multiracial coalition in America. Thus, all of the books on presidential primaries, political party nominations, campaign management and financing now need to be rewritten as a consequence of this model campaign that placed Barack Obama in the White House.
This article was prepared by:
Hanes Walton, Jr., Professor of
Political Science, University of
Josephine A. Allen, Professor of
Social Policy and Welfare,
Binghamton University and
Professor Emerita of Policy,
Analysis, and Management,
Sherman C. Puckett, Wayne
Donald R. Deskins, Jr, Professor
Emeritus, University of Michigan
By Charlayne Hunter-Gault
It should be the goal of every person who aspires to have a good life to have a good friend in it like Ed Bradley. In my own case, it was less good planning than good fortune that I met Ed as I was coming into my own – as a mother, a partner for the love of my life, and as an African-American woman determined to take my rightful place in a professional world still trying to come to terms with me and all those who looked more or less like me. It was a time as exciting as it was challenging, especially as we traveled without a roadmap.
As part of the first wave of African Americans to enter mainstream media after the Kerner Commission indicted a “white” media for the riots that rocked America’s cities in 1968, Ed and I walked in the door determined to be the best that we could be, as representatives of and for our long left-out people, but also as the first-class human beings those same people taught us we were – even when they, themselves, did not possess first-class citizenship. In those early days, the strain of proving oneself to oneself might have been enough, but we had the added factor of what W.E.B. Dubois referred to as the “two-ness”…in his words, an American, and a Negro… two warring souls in one dark body. And yet, Ed and I walked that road together, with Ed instinctively understanding the importance of embracing life to the fullest in order to be all that he could be.
His instincts were honed by a mother who passed on values that triumphed over the means streets of Philadelphia and a father who, even when he was not the most communicative, passed on to Ed the strong will to prove himself, if only to his elusive father. And so he pursued his journalism with a passion – local news and the Knicks and the Vietnam Peace Talks in Paris. On the battlefields of Vietnam, he covered the story with his growing confidence, skills and intuitive talent, but the human being in him also reached out to carry in his arms terrified Vietnamese who otherwise would have drowned as they struggled from turbulent waters to make it to safety on shore. He was sharply criticized in some quarters at the time for abandoning his professional distance, but I know that despite all that, he would do it all over again, because of the human being that he was.
At the time we were growing into the award-winning professionals we later became, our trust in each other’s counsel helped us survive other stormy seas. Being able to share our professional ups and downs, as well as to offer advice and constructive criticism, were life-lines we created for each other and held onto as the years went by. If Ed were to tell me to get my hair fixed or to get rid of an unflattering dress or change a verb in a script, I would listen because I knew it was advice without malice, but with an investment in my success, as I had in his. We basked in each other’s glory. Everybody needs a friend like that.
Moreover, throughout his career, no matter how much fame was attached to his name, he worked as hard on his preparation as he did when he first started. Additionally, his understanding of his job as a journalist never eluded him, whether he was interviewing a hero or a villain or Lena Horne, in a class by herself. Ed was there not to make Ed Bradley look good – though he LOVED to look good – but he was there on behalf of a public he believed deserved to have the best information they could get, and he got that information from people who also trusted him to tell their story because he made it theirs and not his, even when theirs was hard to swallow.
Ed also was very much a part of helping me and others to appreciate that as much as we loved our jobs, there was more to life than work. As a Pied Piper of Soul, Ed led us on treks to New York’s Lower East Side to take in Nina Simone and Richie Havens and Isaac Hayes; to New Orleans to watch him perform on stage as the “Fifth Neville” playing his tambourine with abandon, living up to the Teddy Badly nickname he cherished from Jimmy Buffett, which was not necessarily a comment on his performance.
Ed’s wife Patricia chose India.Arie’s “Complicated Melody” to be sung at the service celebrating his life. And among the many perfect lines was, “If he were a car, he’d be a long stretch limousine with room for all of humanity inside.” Among the many good examples from Ed’s life was his quiet generosity that helped countless numbers of friends and acquaintances during their times of need. As close as Ed and I were, I knew very little of this largesse because he only talked about it with those with whom he shared it.
And finally, one of the greatest moments of my life came when Ed and Patricia asked me to perform their marriage ceremony in their beautiful home in Aspen. I was so blown away by the moment that when it came time for me to utter the words “I now pronounce you man and wife,” I burst into tears. Fortunately, I recovered and got them hitched.
As much as I have come to appreciate that death is a natural part of living and that living a good life, as Ed did, guarantees life in eternity, I miss having him on the other end of the phone or my emails. We loved sharing email jokes and the other day, I found myself getting ready to copy to him the latest good one I had just received. For a moment I felt a deep, hollow sadness, until I realized he was there beside me, laughing and daring me to cry.
La Jolla, Calif.
WHAT do people really know about
Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?
The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L’Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840′s, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.
This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all “have or have not” in this strange and beautiful city.
Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged. Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city’s European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deeppitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.
Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.
The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city “the Big Easy” because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it’s not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man’s music, or the music of the oppressed.
Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy. Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north.
They didn’t want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn’t want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn’t want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn’t want to leave a place that was theirs.
And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely – home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick’s Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph’s altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city’s civic affairs.
Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn’t do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920′s couldn’t do. Nature had done what “modern life” with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn’t do. It has done what racism couldn’t do, and what segregation couldn’t do either. Nature has laid the city waste – with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.
I share this history for a reason – and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. “Why didn’t they leave?” people asked both on and off camera. “Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?” One reporter even asked me, “Why do people live in such a place?”
Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds. Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?
Well, here’s an answer. Thousands didn’t leave New Orleans because they couldn’t leave. They didn’t have the money. They didn’t have the vehicles. They didn’t have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do – they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.
What’s more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.
And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.
And it’s true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That’s my question.
I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew moreabout love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.
They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.
But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us “Sin City,” and turned your backs.
Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.
There is no question about Mrs. King’s position as first lady. She was a proud homemaker, mother and wife. While obviously excelling in her work at home, she became a leader in her own right. As founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, she sought to continue the work of Dr. King and pass on his legacy to succeeding generations. While passing on MLK’s legacy, her own legacy was greatly enhanced. So we have known her as devoted mother and wife, but her legacy will also include the stamp of leader and innovator.
Coretta Scott was born April 27, 1927 in Heiberger, (Perry County) Alabama. Her father was a truck farmer who challenged the stereotype of Black inferiority. He refused to sell the family’s successful farm and subsequently their home was burned to the ground. Harassment of Black families who chose to “get out of their place” and question the status quo was not unusual. The Scott family could be so categorized. Coretta finished high school in 1945 and attended Antioch College in Ohio. Antioch was a noted white liberal institution that encouraged equity and justice for Black people. She received the Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and music. In 1951, Coretta was attending the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston when she met an aspiring young doctoral candidate in attendance at Boston University. She married Martin Luther King Jr. on June 18, 1953. They moved o Montgomery in 1954, and history showered down upon them.
Although Coretta was a celebrated vocalist, her most difficult and most rewarding accomplishment was raising four beautiful children. While being a mother, homemaker and wife, she did not disappear from her career, or from the Movement. She was creative enough to develop methods and resources that contributed to the building of the Movement.
Although usually in the background, Mrs. King traveled extensively. She produced several “Freedom Concerts,” where she used her talents and the talents of others to raise funds for SCLC. She went to Ghana for its Independence celebrations in 1957. She traveled to India, where Dr. King spoke on his use of nonviolent action in the American Civil Rights Movement, and she sang spirituals that were warmly received. She traveled to Oslo, Norway when Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Through these journeys, she developed an international perspective on life. After Dr. King’s assassination, she stepped onstage in her own right, and led the Memphis sanitation workers in their protest against oppressive working conditions. She had been instrumental in Dr. King’s eventually coming out against the Vietnam War, and continued that clarion call by participating in an anti-war rally in New York shortly after MLK’s death. In addition to establishing the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, she also participated in the development of the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta.
In the 1980s the establishment of a national holiday that honored the life of Dr. King became a major goal. Many thought that Dr. King had positively impacted 20th century America more than any other individual and deserved this type of recognition. Mrs. King was a leading force in this effort. The U.S. Congress was dragged kicking and screaming to establish the Federal Holiday Commission and Mrs. King was elected chair. The holiday became official in 1986.
Just as slavery and segregation in the American South debilitated the nation’s potential to fully develop, apartheid did the same in South Africa. Mrs. King joined the anti-apartheid movement by speaking and demonstrating her concern. She traveled to South Africa and met Winnie Mandela, the “Mother of the anti-apartheid struggle.” Upon returning to America, she lobbied President Ronald Reagan to be supportive of the movement against the racist white South African regime. Coretta Scott King graciously accepted her role as helpmate for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Making a home out of circumstances that included personal attacks and bombings was no small accomplishment. This alone would qualify her as the first lady of the Movement. Though “first lady” connotes only a supportive role, Mrs. King’s life-works preclude such a limiting role. She was “first lady,” but with her many personal accomplishments, history will recognize her as much more substantive than just an appendage. The numerous tributes to her legacy evidence her stature in America and the world community. Oprah Winfrey said, “She leaves us all a better America than the America of her childhood.”
One of the 42,000 mourners who viewed Mrs. King’s body lying in state at the Georgia Capitol said, “It was like the torch was passed when I walked past her. I felt empowered. I’m gonna step up now. That fight’s not over.” The fight is not over, but because Mrs. Coretta Scott King passed this way, the pendulum will never swing back as far as it has swung in the past.
Dr. Horace Huntley is director of The
Oral History Project at the Birmingham
Civil Rights Institute.
Paul SylveSter Jr.
It indeed looked like the end of the world when everyone was fleeing the city. It started Friday night, August 26, when I heard on my car radio that Katrina had entered the Gulf of Mexico and the hurricane model showed it heading towards New Orleans. It was far away and traveling very slow (seven miles per hour)—no need to worry now. Saturday brought concern because Katrina was growing in strength, and New Orleans was in its path. People were gassing up and leaving town. Saturday night the Mayor announced that the Governor told him that the weather service predicted that Katrina would do major damage and everyone should evacuate the City of New Orleans. The Mayor said that the Superdome would be the shelter of last resort.
Delta and United cancelled all of their flights out of New Orleans on Saturday. My wife and I had previously made reservations to leave on a vacation, which was planned months in advance on an 11:45 a.m. U.S. Airways flight. My sons left on Saturday for Birmingham, Alabama to their grandmother’s home. Sunday morning traffic was bumper to bumper to the airport and beyond. The parking garage was full but I managed to find a spot on the roof. The airport was packed with anxious travelers, some stranded by airlines that had cancelled flights and others who were hoping to push up their travel and leave on stand-by.
Our flight left at 11:45 a.m. Sunday morning. It was the second to the last flight out and it felt like leaving Rwanda. We were so relieved when the plane took off and our hearts went out to the people we left in that airport.
Sunday night, we learned that Katrina has been upgraded to a category 5 hurricane and it was barreling towards New Orleans with 175 miles on hour winds. We were afraid that this was the “big one” that we were vulnerable to. Our one hope was that the last few hurricanes that came our way turned East before landfall. Early Monday or late Sunday we learned that Katrina was downgraded to a Category 4 and that gave us some hope.
Monday morning, hurricane Katrina was televised live and in color on CNN and the other networks. We and millions of others witnessed the destruction of our beloved New Orleans. While it looked pretty bad, the worst was yet to come. Water is always a problem when a hurricane hits New Orleans because it pushes water out of the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi river into Lake Pontchartrain where it can flow over the levee as long feared. Will the water actually breach the levee in several places?
On Tuesday morning, the flooding was televised – live and in living color for the nation and the world. Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded. “Oh God” and a couple of other words I won’t repeat. “What have they done to us, our city, our businesses, our communities? In the last big hurricane, Betsy in 1965, we suspected that the levees were breached intentionally to divert the flooding from the downtown to the lower ninth ward in the middle of the night where unsuspecting poor Black people were asleep. Was this one intentional??? The jury is still out, but there is no doubt that the Federal government, specifically the Corps of Engineers knew that our levees would not protect the City of New Orleans from a hurricane stronger than a category 3 storm. They built a levee system that would protect the city from a category 3 storm, but they would not build a levee system to protect us from a category 5 storm because that would be too expensive. Too expensive, we, the people of New Orleans, were not worth protecting. They did not want to spend the money to protect our city, our families, our businesses, our schools, or our churches. Eighty percent of the city was flooded with as much as 10 feet of water in some neighborhoods. The city was destroyed. Entire neighborhoods, thousands of homes have been destroyed; thousands of cars, thousands of lives, and thousands of careers have been destroyed.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been scattered around the nation, many of our employees are all over the south. The Federal government’s response was totally inadequate. Every American ought to be ashamed of this. It was bad enough that the government allowed the city to be vulnerable, but the government showed the same benign neglect in providing assistance to the victims. It was like the Federal government and the president were on holiday and they would deal with the worst natural disaster in the history of America in due time. Did they not see the women, the children and the old people in waist-deep water screaming for help? They expressed outrage toward the crimes committed by the looters, but there was no outrage towards the crime committed against our city.
Now the Federal government said they will spend billion of dollars in rebuilding the Gulf coast, including New Orleans. But, the people whose lives have been destroyed will get only a pittance because of inadequate or no flood insurance, and no homeowners insurance protection; because the homeowners insurance companies claim that the damage was done by the flooding which is not covered by the homeowners insurance. The flood insurance covers the flooding and the flood insurance coverage is substantially less than the homeowners coverage, because New Orleans is in a flood zone. So we the citizens of the City have irreparable damage while the “Fat Cats” like Halliburton will make a bonanza rebuilding another city devastated by our government.
Our city looked like a war zone. The degree to which the infrastructure crumbled is mind boggling, unimaginable, and unbelievable. One day we are living here engaging in the hustle and bustle trying to survive and succeed and now we are simply trying to survive. The city did not have drinkable water for five weeks. After six weeks, we have not been able to get back to our homes and when we do, we must wear protective gear because of the mildew and possibly toxic mold. The Post Office won’t be back in full operation until April and Bellsouth said they do not have a date for the restoration of high speed internet service in our downtown New Orleans. Our schools are shut down, commerce dried-up, families separated, and communities in diaspora.
I can go on and on, but pictures are worth thousands of words, and we have some pictures in this issue and on our website: www.blackcollegian.com.
So, where do we go from here? There is so much confusion, so much is out of order, and so much to do. It goes to show you how quickly life can change. I left home on a planned vacation and I returned to a destroyed city. Life can change on a moment’s notice. It can be caused by a hurricane, an earthquake, an accident, a fire, a heart attack, a robbery, a plane crash, a terrorist attack … We can’t foresee nor control these things. Anything can happen to anyone at anytime. How do we prepare ourselves for these misfortunes? How do we recover? We have to understand that this is not the end of the world, but it is the end of the world as we knew it. What happened was the will of God, and he has protected us through all of this, and He has taken us to a new place, a new world, a new life, a new beginning. We must understand that we do not control these things, and we must move on trusting that God’s will be done. We must surrender to His will and trust in Him. This is how we should live. This is how we should move forward. Katrina interrupted our plans for our 35th Anniversary Publishing Year and our First Semester Super Issue, but we are rising out of the rubble of New Orleans. We have seen a great deal of destruction and suffering. The little children have given us hope and the old people have given us determination. We will rebuild our beloved New Orleans, our homes, our business, our lives, and they will all be better. If you know what it means to love New Orleans, you know why we need to rebuild, and we will!
GUIDE TO GRADUATE AND PROFESSIONAL STUDY
By Shirley J. wilcher, esq.
The on-going debate about affirmative action is a powerful reminder of the continued importance of African-American lawyers in the defense of civil rights. Among the outstanding members of the bar who defended the University of Michigan’s Affirmative-Action program was John Payton, a partner with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C., who represented the university before the United States Supreme Court. Theodore “Ted” Shaw, director-counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., represented minority students who intervened in the case. These lawyers continued the legacy handed down by Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, Constance Baker Motley and a host of others.
Civil rights law is not the only career option for Blacks entering the legal profession. Opportunities abound, from corporate law to trusts and estates. Holding a Juris Doctor also opens a vast array of opportunities for those who have no desire to be corporate lawyers and work for a large law firm. Those seeking to “make a difference” can benefit from having a law degree when seeking positions as counsel for congressional committees, the White House and executive branch agencies or for comparable positions in state and local governments.(n1) Others may enter academia as professors or university counsel, practice public interest or criminal law, work as in-house counsel for corporations, become CEOs of their own companies and firms or, like Barak Obama, join the ranks of elected officials.
A law degree enabled me to join a women’s rights advocacy group, work as associate civil rights counsel for a congressional committee, serve as a lobbyist for a college association and head a federal civil rights agency during the Clinton Administration. In every instance, the opportunity to have an impact on federal law and policy was immense and none of those positions would have been as attainable without a law degree.
Practicing law can be financially rewarding as well. In a survey of Black Harvard Law School graduates the average salary of 1970s graduates in private practice who responded to the survey was $221,862.(n2) For 1990s graduates, the average salary was $116,015.
PreParing for Law SchooL The decision to pursue a law degree should be reached after much thought, research and a clear vision about the “end game.” Anyone who has not seen the movie “The Paper Chase” should view it, if available. Even the movie, “Legally Blonde,” while a lighthearted comedy, can give you a glimpse into the law school experience.
The law school curriculum is designed to challenge your intellect and your resolve. You should be prepared for the intense competition from your peers as well as the scrutiny from your professors. The mental preparation is, therefore, as important as the intellectual preparation. Never forget, however, that you, too, are among the best and the brightest. Having confidence in yourself is half the battle.
The legal profession demands good writing, critical thinking and communications skills. In addition, if you have or would like to develop good negotiation and advocacy skills, the legal profession is a potentially good option.
Undergraduate majors in the arts and humanities, natural sciences, or social sciences can prepare you for law school. According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), more vocationally-oriented programs may not be as helpful if you seek to attend law school. “What counts is the intensity and depth of your undergraduate program and your capacity to perform well at an academically rigorous level” notes the LSAC.(n3) As important, successful law students and lawyers are those who understand the importance of thorough preparation. Developing this habit before law school will immensely benefit you later.
1. Research law schools by visiting their websites and, if possible, visiting their campuses and consulting with alumni. Also consult your prelaw advisor. This is an important source of information about the law school application and admissions process.
2. Decide what kind of law school environment appeals to you. Law schools range between public and private, urban and rural, large in student body size and smaller. If diversity is a consideration, pay attention to efforts to recruit a diverse student body and faculty, university statements in support of diversity and other factors. Law schools have different academic strengths (e.g., some emphasize clinical programs) and some are more successful than others in graduating students who pass the bar examinations on the first attempt. Also consider where you would like to practice law. Nationally-recognized law schools provide more flexibility of movement in your early career. However, regionally known schools may suffice if you plan to remain in one location. Remember that the reputation of the law school does matter, especially as you seek employment in the first years after law school.
3. Apply to more than one law school. In this highly competitive environment, the LSAC reports that the average law school applicant is applying to four or more schools. If you need financial assistance to submit multiple applications, seek a fee waiver from the law schools to which you are applying for admission. Remember the application deadlines of each of the schools. Also refer to LSAT/GPA profile grids to gauge your chances for admission.
4. Take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a standardized test required by 202 accredited law schools. It measures reading and verbal reasoning skills and is offered four times a year.(n4) Law schools may also require registration with the Law School Data Assembly Service. It is strongly recommended that you take the LSAT early during the academic year. It is also strongly urged that you take an LSAT preparation course in order to be competitive for this examination. You can also take sample tests and purchase previously administered tests in order to practice. The goal is to obtain as high a score as possible in order to be considered for admission to the law school of your choice. To register for the LSAT online, go to https://os.lsac.org/Release/logon/ logon.aspx. You can also apply for a fee waiver for the LSAT. See http:// www.lsac.org/LSAC.asp?url=lsac/ download-forms-guidelines-checklists. asp to obtain information on fee waivers and to download forms. This page also provides a sample LSAT and other important information.
5. Do not rely on affirmative action programs to give you an advantage. Remember that even with affirmative action, you are competing with other students of color who may have similar or better academic records than you.
6. Law school preparation programs can provide important information about the law school admissions process, including financial aid, opportunities in the legal profession and issues of concern to minority students. The Law School Admission Council’s website has information about the dates and times of regional Law School Forum workshops. The LSAC also sponsors the Minorities Interested in Legal Education (MILE) program, which provides information regarding the law school application process. The Council on Legal Education Opportunity(n6) provides prelaw recruitment, counseling, placement assistance and training for minority and low income students seeking legal careers. CLEO’S program assists students to navigate the “Road to Law School” from the undergraduate freshman year through the bar examination after law school. CLEO has sponsored residential law school preparation programs for undergraduates and intensive prelaw programs for students who have been accepted to law school.
7. You will need letters of recommendation and the law school application may include essays that you will have to complete.
8. Apply for financial aid if needed. Law school tuitions at private colleges and universities can exceed $30,000 per year, according to the LSAC. Approximately 80 percent of law students receive loans to finance their education. In addition, grants and scholarships are available. Check with the schools to which you are applying to obtain information about the financial aid possibilities. Most schools participate in the Federal Family Education Loan Program.(n7) Private loans and workstudy programs are also potential options. Remember that a professional school degree is an investment in your future. While the cost may appear significant, it will yield substantial dividends later.
9. While an undergraduate, find opportunities to work for a legal services agency or law firm in an area of the law in which you have an interest. For example, if you are interested in practicing criminal law after graduation, seek an internship with a public defender service or a U.S. Attorney’s office. If your interest is civil rights law, seek a job with a public interest law organization. This experience will be helpful when you apply to law school.
1. After you have celebrated the fact that you are heading for law school, take the time to prepare for the experience before you begin. Unless your parents or relatives are lawyers or judges and you understand the difference between a tort and a contract, it behooves you to become familiar with the first year curriculum of your law school. In most instances, you will be required to take courses in Torts, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure and Property. Research these areas of law. As important, become familiar with reading and analyzing cases, as most law schools will use the case study approach to teaching. Perusing law school texts to become familiar with the language of the law is highly advisable.
2. Develop your note-taking skills and learn to outline or to “brief” a case. Several first year law school courses encompass the entire school year and you will need those notes in order to prepare for your exams.
3. Join a study group. Don’t go it alone! By working with others you can share information and test each others’ knowledge of the law.
4. Practice taking law school examinations. While you may be familiar with writing under strict time constraints, the challenges of applying the law to given factual situations in an intensified environment may be new to you. Work to improve your legal writing skills. This is very important. 5. Learn to discipline yourself to study and to stay on top of the coursework. It will be much easier during exam time.(n8) If you survived in undergraduate school waiting until the last minute to study, you’re in for a rude awakening! There is absolutely too much information conveyed in law school classes to master the night before an exam.
6. Remember that your grades may determine where you will work during the summers after law school and in your first and possibly subsequent jobs after graduation. 7. Once you have mastered the pace and demands of law school during the first year, the second and third years will become easier to navigate. Join a law review in order to enhance your legal writing and editing skills and consider participating in clinical programs to provide a “real world” experience in the law. Consider joining the National Black Law Students Association as well.(n9) It can serve as an excellent source of support.
8. Unless you are attending a Historically Black law school, i.e., Howard, North Carolina Central, Southern University Law Center, or Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Florida A&M School of Law (Orlando), Miles College School of Law(Birmingham), you will enter an environment in which issues of race and diversity may arise. Before enrolling, you may want to meet with Black students and alumni to discuss the environment and ways to succeed in it. Law schools are microcosms of the national culture and you may encounter racism and the perception of “white privilege” that goes with it. However, you should seek support from organizations such as the Black Law Students’ Associations and from informal groups in which you can study and encourage each other.
9. Your summer jobs between law school years are important because they may lead to positions after law school. Choose carefully. Especially if you decide to begin your legal career working for a law firm, it helps if you have worked for and performed well for such a firm during the summer after your second year. A fortunate few are offered permanent positions in these firms at the end of the summer. In the fall of your third and final year of law school, your job search will begin in earnest.
After the graduation ceremonies and your family has returned home, you have one additional task: taking and passing the state bar examination. Once you have determined the state in which you will first practice law, you will want to enroll in a bar examination review course. Normally, the bar examination is scheduled several times a year including the summer, approximately six weeks after graduation. This examination encompasses the law of the state in question and usually, the law of each state is not taught in national and regional law schools. Thus, you must master the law of that state in six weeks. Devote as much time as possible to studying for the bar exam. Treat bar exam study as if it were a full-time job. Some students remain on campus and work in study groups with others taking the same state’s bar examination. If at all possible, do not begin a job until you have taken the bar exam. Your future may depend upon it!
The practice of law can be very rewarding and challenging, both personally and professionally. While African Americans remain a distinct minority in law firms and among partnerships in such firms, the legal profession is cognizant of the importance of diversity and has begun to address the issue.(n10) The American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession offers information and programs to encourage African Americans and other persons of color to succeed in law firms.(n11) And, for the first time in the history of the American Bar Association, the ABA has an African- American immediate past president, Dennis Archer, and current president, Robert Grey.
(n1) For a list of potential career options after law school, see http://www.apsu.edu/careers/majors/majors/ law.pdf. See also http://www.forfutureblacklawstudents. com/, a website dedicated to preparing black students for law school. (n2) “Harvard Law School, RepoRt on tHe State oF BLack aLumni, 1869-2000,” 2002, at 39.
By Martin Luther King III
was only five years old the day my father gave his “I Have a Dream” speech before more than 200.000 participants in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Even though my daddy was famous, when I was five, my mother, Coretta Scott King, went out of her way to provide my sister Yolanda and me with “normal” childhoods. Therefore, when people talk about that great day, I have no first-hand knowledge of it, but I do know that my father was more than a dreamer and that redeeming the bad check that America had given African Americans was his number one dream.
The glorious dream my father shared with us on August 28, 1963 was not just an exercise in eloquent speechmaking. We need to remember that Martin Luther King, Jr. was first and foremost a minister of action who didn’t just talk that beautiful talk. He walked the walk, unbent and unbowed, from Montgomery, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee, from civil rights to human rights. Be assured that he intended his dream as a challenge to the nation he loved, a challenge we must accept to rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed and make America a beloved community.
Forty years later, we have lots of work to do to create the beloved community of his dream, for despite the progress we have made during the last four decades, people of color are still being denied a fair share of employment and educational opportunities in our society. They still experience incidents of racial violence. Forty years later we have yet to end racial oppression in the criminal justice system. We have yet to end selective prosecution and discrimination in sentencing. And we must abolish racial profiling and the death penalty. Forty years later, we must challenge racial injustice against people of color; we must support social and economic decency for people of all races. Right now in America, 15 million of our white brothers and sisters live below the poverty line. That is an injustice that must also be rectified if we are serious about building the beloved community that my father fought for.
Forty four million Americans have no health insurance, and many millions more have health insurance that doesn’t cover serious illnesses. We yet need to establish a health insurance system that covers every person and every illness. Nothing less is acceptable for a great democracy. The terror of unexpected illness must be stopped. We cannot and must not allow history to record that America’s greatness was bombing and killing untold innocent women and children to stop terrorism and institute democracy. Air and water pollution are not only important environ-mental issues, but critical health concerns as well. So we must begin globalizing a nonviolent movement to end the poisoning of mother earth.
America’s senior citizens who built this country with their sweat and toil are seeing their hard-earned retirement assets being ripped off by corrupt corporations. Our lesbian sisters and gay brothers are still being subjected to persecution, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation.
Homophobia is a form of fear and hatred that has no place in the beloved community. Human needs are being neglected here at home, while our nation is spending one billion taxpayer dollars every week on the continued military occupation of Iraq. We yet have American who are jobless and underemployed workers. We have millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America impoverished by the unjust debt their nations owe to western countries.
African countries, for example, pay 38 percent of their budgets to service this debt, a loss of billions of dollars urgently needed for health care and education. We are here to call on our elected officials to use America’s leverage with the international monetary fund and the World Bank to persuade them to cancel the debt of the poorest nations.
The time has come to create a revolution at the ballot box. In the last election, just over 38 percent of eligible citizens went to the polls. This is something we must change, if we want our democracy to serve America’s working people, instead of the privileged elites. True election reform must begin with voter turnout, and not with incumbent democrats or republicans, who do not want to be turned out. As my father once said, “the most important step we can take is that short walk to the ballot box.” He also said, “a voteless people are a powerless people” – voters must end our powerlessness. Something is very wrong when women, who are 52 percent of the population, are less than 14 percent of the U.S. Congress. This is a major reason why the concerns of women and the needs of children and families are being neglected to subsidize tax-cuts for those with privilege and power. We need more women at the polls in November 2004, but we also need more women on the ballots. So I want to encourage more of our sisters of all races to run for office, and more of our enlightened, progressive brothers to support their campaigns. I must also warn women to not continue to repeat the sins of too many politicians of color. They were successful in changing the color of the elected, but fail miserably in changing the character. In short, sisters, don’t make becoming one of the boys your goal, if the boys are not right.
Lastly, we must launch a new era of hope and healing through increased nonviolent activism for social change. Lest we forget, the great crowd that gathered 40 years ago was inspired by the courageous leadership of a relatively small number of activists willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring greater freedom and justice to America. May we, heirs of this visionary vanguard, have the courage, strength, and wisdom to carry forward the nonviolent struggle to fulfill the dream in the 21st century. With this faith and this commitment, we will witness the birth of a new America and a new world in which people of all races, religions, and nations can live together in peace and harmony as brothers and sisters in the beloved community.