By Gerald Britt on March 31, 2009
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By Gerald Britt on March 30, 2009
My column in the Dallas Morning News this month is about a bill in the Texas State legislature which would provide an alternative to closing low performing schools. It reads in part:
"The Austin group Save Texas Schools says that closing low-performing schools, which are almost exclusively in poor neighborhoods, is an unproductive strategy. This coalition of parents, students, teachers and community leaders is standing together to improve schools, instead of closing buildings. Among the group's work is urging support for HB 1238, which provides effective alternatives to school closure or "reconstitution."
This is a very real issue in Dallas, where 10 schools have finished two or more years rated academically unacceptable. Most immediately, Spruce and Samuell high schools could be closed if too many students fail the TAKS test this spring."
By Gerald Britt on March 29, 2009
I thought this was a brilliant analysis and exchange by Dr. Zibignew Brezinski on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' the other morning.
Brezinski contextualized the anger on the part of many regarding executive compensation, bonuses and excessive wealth in our country.
It has been wealth not obtained by production and manufacturing, but built on a fiscal house of cards propped up just enough for you and I to be able to participate as consumers, with flat wages, more accessible credit and relatively low interest rates.
The most insidious part of the the culture has been perpetrated by representatives of the 5% of Americans in control of 85% of the country's wealth. They became highly skilled at getting themselves defended by those whom they deluded into believing that when 'their ship came in' they could be just like them! And that those who weren't benefiting were either lazy, incompetent, unlucky or unmotivated.
By Gerald Britt on March 28, 2009
John Hope Franklin
1915 - 2009
Scholar, Author, Educator, Historian
By Gerald Britt on March 27, 2009
The D.R.E.A.M. (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, would provide certain immigrant students who graduate from an American High School, are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency. The students will obtain temporary residency for a lapse of six years. Within the six year period, a qualified student must attend college, and earn a two year degree, or serve in the military for two years in order to earn citizenship after the six years period. If student does not comply with either his/her college requirement or military service requirement, temporary residency will be taken away and student will be subjected to deportation.
By Gerald Britt on March 26, 2009
The following are excerpts from a resignation letter written by Jake DeSantis, now a former employee of AIG.
I heard it was 'brave' of him to write this open Edward Liddy, the current CEO of the now infamous insurance company whose credit default swaps have helped cause the near collapse of the nation's economy.
In reading it, I couldn't help think that there are many sides to this tragic story. I also thought that it doesn't make much sense to really believe that the impersonal forces of the market are to remain unchecked and unfettered.
By Gerald Britt on March 25, 2009
What does it take to get an institution to try something different?
Admittedly, that's hard work. Institutional culture and traditions die hard. But crisis can make pioneers out of us all!
Unless you are the Dallas Independent School District.
In that case you simply tinker around the edges and overlay a few long implored techniques over the existing infrastructure, throw a few more dollars at it and hope for the best. Take for example the latest suggestion for schools in DISD that are threatened with closure should test scores not improve...
By Gerald Britt on March 25, 2009
It seemed like a rather routine Sunday morning at our church. Our congregation had made the decision the previous year to go to two services and I had just finished preaching the early service, when I received word that one of my members was not only in the hospital, but has on a ventilator and the family was waiting to make the decision to take her off of the machine and let her die. Her husband, also a member, wouldn't make the decision until I arrived.
After 22 years as a pastor, this was a first. Anita, the woman, was one of the most beloved member of our church. She had been a member there virtually all of her life and was in her late 50's. I performed the wedding ceremony in which she married Raymond, some years before. She had not only raised her children, but her grandchildren. She sung in the choir, she was a member of the Women's Ministry, she was a faithful and loyal church member.
By Gerald Britt on March 24, 2009
Whatever one may think of the AIG bonus scandal, one thing is clear - America is paying attention (well, when it comes to Congress, maybe not close attention, but attention nonetheless)!
There are still more than a few questions about how the TARP money is or is not spent and why it credit markets haven't loosened up. Apparently its irritating some bank executives, to the point that they are complaining about the scrutiny!
Daniel Gross of Slate Magazine has an very practical solution: if you don't like the strings attached to the bailout dollars, just give money back...
By Gerald Britt on March 23, 2009
Of course I thought as the country really began to feel the impact of the economic crisis this past fall, that people who had stereotyped and denigrated the poor would realize that poverty can happen to anyone. I've decided that far too many are so locked in their ideologies and misguided ideas about individualism, that they probably can't be reached.
But there are any number of people who understand that poverty impacts real people.
These children are real. Their stories are real. They're not just our future. They are our present. And the solutions we employ, have to make their lives better and give them hope.
They really are us...
By Gerald Britt on March 23, 2009
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."
Albert Einstein, 1879 - 1955, Physicist, Nobel Prize Winner, Author
By Gerald Britt on March 21, 2009
Do you know anyone who is 'addicted' to unemployment insurance? Not chronically unemployed, I mean somebody who won't look for a job because they love collecting unemployment check? Not welfare, not disability - unemployment?!
Evidently that's a real danger in Texas! Governor Rick Perry has rejected $555 million in unemployment insurance benefits available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus package). He's afraid that Texas' antiquated policies means that extending unemployment to part-time workers, the three month extenuation in benefits and the additional $25 a week that the unemployed would receive, will end western civilization capitalism as we've come to know it (and we all know how bad that would be!).
But there's another inherent danger that we've all never considered...
By Gerald Britt on March 19, 2009
After reading this, I was trying to figure out whether I could have stated America's racial problem better. I can't!
White people don’t talk about racial history. When we do we emphasize the great strides we have made. Our ancestors made some big mistakes, no doubt; but all wounds have now healed, all wrongs have been righted, every valley has been exalted, and all’s well in the world.
By Gerald Britt on March 18, 2009
There's a great deal of anger being expressed over the AIG executive bonus scandal (I'm sure someone will dub this 'AIG-Gate'!). It's understandable, but I'm beginning to wonder how much of this is projected anger?
To those of us novitiates, its really hard to imagine that no one saw something like this coming - either Congress last year in approving the bailouts, or even the Obama administration this year. Didn't anyone go over the books and see what was due to be paid out in executive compensation?!
AIG was rescued, being given $170 billion because it was 'too big to fail'. If the company was that big, did no one figure in an age of huge executive bonuses, that AIG had some outstanding 'bonus bills'?
Of course some of this is a political posturing (especially Senator Chuck Grassley's call for AIG executives to commit Hari-Kari). But there are those whose angst is real and it suggests to me at least three things...
By Gerald Britt on March 18, 2009
"Never confuse movement with action."
Ernest Hemingway, 1899 -1961
Author, Journalist, Adventurer
By Gerald Britt on March 17, 2009
Increasingly the people falling into the ranks of the poor are those who previously were classified as 'middle class'. In what I believe to be a type of individualistic protectionist posture, many still wish to stereotype those who are poor as being those who 'choose' not to make it. Even in this recession, the fact that unemployment among African-Americans is nearly double that of whites (at 13.4%), is confirmation for some that this is not an issue of the economy as much as it is an issue of 'will' and determination.
Barbara Ehernriech, in her book Nickel and Dimed, really warned of the danger of income inequality in our nation. In an effort to simulate the plight of middle class/working class Americans, she took low wage to middle income employment to show how difficult it was, not just to get ahead, but simply to make ends meet.
Adam Shepherd, young college graduate, challenged the premise of Ehrenriech's book with a simulated study of his own. He published a book based on his own experience, Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream. Shepherd takes $25, a relatively low wage job and graduates to a used truck and an apartment.
By Gerald Britt on March 17, 2009
We all have to remember that each of us have the right to argue our religious convictions passionately. We have the right to try and persuade others that our points of view are valid and deserve space in public debate.
But all of us must remember that self righteousness and pomposity can undercut the message, no matter how valid. Especially when it drifts into incivility and disrespect.
By Gerald Britt on March 13, 2009
If Texas would change the way it calculates when a person is eligible for unemployment insurance, it would be eligible for $185 million in unemployment benefits.
By making that change, Texas becomes eligible for an additional $385 million in unemployment insurance. Fail to do either and Texas forfeits the $555 million...
By Gerald Britt on March 12, 2009
The issue of child homelessness, has a very simple solution - provide support and easier access to support for parents of poor children.
For instance, according to The National Center on Family Homelessness, Fair Market Rent for a two bedroom apartment is $781 a month. A single mother making minimum wage ($6.55 an hour), would have to work 92 hours a week to afford rent. To afford an apartment at FMR, means that a single working adult would have to make at least $15 an hour. The typical homeless family in my state, Texas, is a single mother on public assistance and receives less than $713 a month (less than 50% of the Federal Poverty Level. The answer (or at least an answer): Texas should take advantage of its flexibility in providing child care vouchers, giving priority to the children of homeless parents, allowing them to participate in job training programs that prepare them for jobs that pay a living wage.
By Gerald Britt on March 11, 2009
Homelessness is easy for most people to distance themselves from.
It happens to 'other people'. They are people who are irresponsible, who need to 'take care of their business'. They are frightening, lazy, criminal, public health nuisances. Those are the adults.
But then there are the children. It is (or it ought to be) much more difficult to dismiss the children of parents who are homeless through no fault of their own. It happens because of illness, divorce, domestic violence, financial misfortune that can result from the repossession of a house or eviction from an apartment. There are 1.5 million of these children in our country and they are rarely thought of when people opine about how the homeless ought not be the responsibility of the rest of us.
By Gerald Britt on March 10, 2009
These children are disproportionately African-American and Native-American. They suffer from emotional and physical diseases, such as asthma, traumatic stress and emotional disorders.
By Gerald Britt on March 8, 2009
I've not posted a reply on Dallas Morning News Texas Faith Forum for a few weeks. No problem in particular, just been busy and forgetful. This week's question has to d0 with whether or not we are our brother's keeper, in line with Genesis 4:9 and in light of the Obama administration's plan to help bail out people behind in their mortgages (a gross overstatement and oversimplification of the plan, as I understand it).
That's not an easy question to answer. On one hand the answer is a resounding 'Yes'. Especially when it comes to certain individual applications and to our response to people who are truly vulnerable. But as a collective, as a society, what obligation do we have to people whom we believe were either greedy or just plain gullible? Are we to simply let them 'stew in their own juices'? 'Lie in the bed they've made'? Is it easy to discern between those who were taken advantage of by unscrupulous lenders and brokers, and those who knew what they were doing, but thought that they had the business acumen to make astute decisions before it was too late?
By Gerald Britt on March 8, 2009
"In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these."
Paul Harvey, 1918 - 2009, Journalist, Radio Host, Commentator, Cultural Icon
By Gerald Britt on March 4, 2009
Okay, I admit it. I've been a little over optimistic. Not so much naive, but way too hopeful.
After watching Michael Steele at the State of Black America on Saturday, and Rush Limbaugh at CPAC on the Saturday night C-SPAN re-broadcast, I was hopeful that Steele as the head of the GOP, would provide his party with a sane, rational role as the loyal opposition, to the Democratic Party and Barack Obama.
No, I'm not disenchanted with the President. I believe the country will be better in the long run.
But after Limbaugh's rant on Saturday, he said the following of CBS Sunday Morning...
By Gerald Britt on March 3, 2009
TV host, commentator and author, Tavis Smiley has for the past 10 years sponsored an outstanding event called 'The State of Black America'.
It is a conversation among politicians, activists, academics, young people, artists like, Na'Im Akbar of Florida State University, Cornell West of Princeton University, Randall Robinson, founder and former head of the TransAfrica Forum and Van Jones, environmentalist and president of Green For All. The conference, broadcast every year on C-SPAN and is about the plight of African-Americans in this country and what we should be doing for ourselves and what public policy is most effective for our communities. Yes, there can be what some would refer to as Republican bashing, and as usual when you get this many public figures together there is a lot of speech making. But so much more is the admonishment and exhortation for black people to do what black people need to do for themselves. And there are, believe it or not, diverse opinions.
This year was special, because of the 10th anniversary but of course because of Barack Obama. This was no Obama love fest altogether. Obviously proud, what predominated the conversation was how to hold Obama accountable while being supportive of him.
By Gerald Britt on March 2, 2009
"Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place."
Zora Neale Hurston, 1891 - 1960, Folklorist, Playwrite, Author
By Gerald Britt on March 1, 2009
"Oh, how those people prayed for freedom!" recalled Susie King Taylor of Georgia. "I remember, one night, my grandmother went out into the suburbs of the city to a church meeting, and they were fervently singing this old hymn: 'Yes, we all shall be free / When the Lord shall appear." Sam Clement recalled that the dark clouds of slavery would pass away, and they would be as free as their mistresses and masters.
"Some believed they'd get freedom and others didn't," Laura Abromson recalled. "They had places they met and prayed for freedom. They stole out in some of their houses and true a wash-pot down at the door." According to Edie Dennis, the pot was intended "to keep the sound of their voices from 'escaping' or being heard from the outside. Then the slaves would sing, pray, and relate experiences a night long. Their great, soul-hungering desire was freedom - not that they loved the Yankees or hated their masters, but merely longed to be free and hated the institution of slavery. Everyone felt the spirit of the Lord," and just before daybreak, after chanting "for fifteen or twenty minutes, all would shake hands again and go home: confident in their hearts that freedom was in the offing."
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This is an archive of blog entries written by Gerald Britt in March 2009.
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