Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Trayvon Martin & Countless Others: Where Do We Go From Here?

Hands Up Dont Shoot

First of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to the mother, father and family of Michael Brown. There are no words of comfort that can ease the loss of your beloved child. Though we did not know Michael, we are grateful for his life, and certainly his death is not in vain. Our hearts are broken as a nation and the world watches on.

There is no turning back the clock on the outpouring of anger and emotion that has swept across our streets and homes, particularly in Michael’s Ferguson community. There is also no turning back the clock on the demand for a change in the tactics of some law enforcement around the country. Countless young men and women have lost their lives arguably because they were instantly judged and sentenced to death merely by the color of their skin.

In 2014, this trial by skin color must change, and we are the ones here to change it. Many people through the years have asked what happened to the revolutionaries? Who among the people today will stand for a cause? Will the children ever know what generations past went through to give them the freedoms afforded today? I believe we are witnessing the answer. Crowds of youth refuse to go unheard. Children barely old enough to walk are marching along with their parents in Ferguson. The unchecked killing, harassment, disrespect and brutality of our young people across the nation IS the civil rights issue of our time.

So where do we go from here? While much media attention has been paid to what happens in Ferguson after dark, during the day, thousands exercise their first amendment right to peacefully assemble. Countless others across the nation march in solidarity, write letters in solidarity, sign petitions in solidarity, and get organized in solidarity.

Where do we go from here? We are living the answer. May our nation become better as a result.

May all life become valued as a result.

What are your thoughts on the Ferguson protests, and protests that are happening around the nation?

- Contributing Editor – H. Muhammad

Seeking Nominations: UN GEM-TECH Award

UN Gem-Tech Awards

Is someone or an organization in your community worthy of the GEM-TECH Award?

Women’s digital empowerment and their full participation in the information society is a key objective of UN Women and ITU. ITU (International Telecommunication Union) is the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Through the GEM-Tech Award, both UN bodies seek to create a platform for advancing women’s meaningful engagement with ICTs and their role as decision-makers and producers within this sector.

“In considering “gender equality mainstreaming” we are looking not only at ICT, government and development actors that are mainstreaming gender equality perspectives within their work, but also ICT and gender advocates that are seeking to “mainstream” gender equality into a larger context.

UN Women has prioritized women’s digital empowerment within all aspects of its work and the ITU Council at its 2013 session, adopted the ITU Gender Equality and Mainstreaming Policy (GEM). Realizing these goals presents many opportunities as well as challenges. While the potential is great and there are many examples of progress, there are also gaps and a need for increased attention, visibility, understanding, investment and action.”

Please note that this award is applicable for both women and men. For more information, please visit.

Who are you nominating? Let us know and we may feature your nominee on the People’s Place.

US-Africa Leaders Summit: Investing in the Next Generation

US Africa Summit

Have an interest in emerging markets?

You are not alone. In fact, countries across the African continent are in the process of reaping the benefits of emerging market investors. Governments around the globe have also raced to strengthen partnerships. Toward this end, over the next few days, President Obama will welcome leaders from across the African continent to the Nation’s Capital for a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the first such event of its kind.

The US-Africa Leaders Summit marks the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government. It builds on the President’s trip to Africa in the summer of 2013 and seeks to strengthen ties between the United States and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing regions. Specifically, the August 4-6 Summit will advance the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people. At the same time, it will highlight the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent, advance our shared priorities and enable discussion of concrete ideas to deepen the partnership.

To view the program of events, and even watch some live via real-time streaming, visit here.

Do you agree that a summit of this kind is necessary at this time? What do you think? As always, we want to hear from you.

Women in Leadership Series: Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

The Women in Leadership Series seeks to shine a light on women both in leadership positions and on the rise. Spotlights will be shined on women from all sectors of society from non-profit to government to the corporate arena.

Today’s spotlight is on Kamala Harris.

In 2011, Harris was sworn in as the 32nd Attorney General of the State of California and is running for re-election this November. She is the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian to hold the office in the history of California.

Recently Harris has gone on record calling the surge in young immigrants a humanitarian crisis, and also explained that she is helping secure lawyers to represent minors from Central America during immigration hearings.

Harris is definitely a leader to watch in 2014 and the coming years. Do you agree? Tell us what you think.


Kamala Harris

As chief law enforcement officer for the state, Attorney General Harris has focused on combating transnational gangs that are trafficking guns, drugs, and human beings throughout California. She has worked to increase the adoption of technology and data-driven policing to assist law enforcement in the efficient investigation and prosecution of crime, and has traveled to every region of California to expand partnerships with local law enforcement.

As chief lawyer for the people of California, Attorney General Harris has led a bold response to the state’s foreclosure crisis. She has expanded prosecutions of mortgage-related fraud and crime by establishing a multi-divisional Mortgage Fraud Strike Force. On behalf of California homeowners, she secured an estimated $18 billion from the nation’s banks as part of the recent National Mortgage Settlement, including $12 billion in principal reductions. To restore transparency and fairness to the mortgage and foreclosure system, she wrote the nation’s most comprehensive package of foreclosure reforms—the California Homeowner Bill of Rights—and fought successfully for its passage through the California Legislature and saw it signed into law.

Attorney General Harris has aggressively defended the rights of consumers. She has forged innovative agreements with the technology industry to improve privacy protections and strengthen online safety for consumers across the country and has established new prosecutorial teams dedicated to fighting piracy and crimes committed online. She has also fought to preserve California’s natural resources, ensure marriage equality for all Californians, and defend the Affordable Care Act.

A career prosecutor, Attorney General Harris served two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco. Defeating a two-term incumbent, she was first elected DA in 2003, and was overwhelmingly elected to a second term in November 2007.

Attorney General Harris began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, where she specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases. In 1998, she joined the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, where she led the Career Criminal Unit. She also served as the head of the San Francisco City Attorney’s Division on Children and Families.

Born in Oakland, California, Attorney General Harris is a graduate of Howard University, America’s oldest historically black university. She received her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Attorney General Harris is author of the book Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer.

Projection: 90,000 Unaccompanied Children will hit the US Border by Year End

Familes and Children Held In U.S. Customs and Border Protection Processing Facility

The number is astounding, and begs the question, “why kids?”

In a recent interview with the National Journal, Leslie Velez, senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, explains why tens of thousands of children are fleeing El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—some of the most dangerous places in this hempisphere. On Capitol Hill, the numbers have increased the debate over border policy, and led the Obama administration to declare “an urgent humanitarian situation”, prompting emergency response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Statistics released by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveal that 47,017 unaccompanied children ages 17 and younger have already been apprehended at the border during the 2014 fiscal year, a 92% increase over FY2013. But the question still remains…“why kids?”. Brian Reslick from the National Journal posed the question to Velez.

“The kids are vulnerable because they are children. And they are being targeted. We liken the situation very much to the situation of the recruitment of child soldiers on other continents. Children are particularly vulnerable, they are susceptible to harm, they are easily terrorized, and the very fact that they are children is the single factor in the harm that they are experiencing. They are specifically being target to be recruited. They are the ones who are being bullied.”


FEMA will coordinate with several agencies that play a role in apprehending and caring for the children, including the departments of Health and Human Services, State, Defense, and the General Services Administration to provide housing, care, medical treatment and transportation.

Do you believe that these children should fall under protections guaranteeing them refugees status in the US? What do you think of FEMA’s involvement? As always, we’d like to hear from you.

For a link to the full article click here.

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Student Loan Relief: The Presidential Memoranda

Pay as you earn

Are you paying off student loan debt?

If you are like millions of Americans across the country, the answer is yes. Monday, President Obama signed a student loan memorandum enabling an increased number of borrowers to receive student loan payment relief.

There are five key actions as outlined in the memorandum:

– Expanding the Pay As You Earn Plan to More Federal Direct Loan Borrowers. Within 1 year after the date of this memorandum, the Secretary of Education shall propose regulations that will allow additional students who borrowed Federal Direct Loans to cap their Federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.

- Improving Communication Strategies to Help Vulnerable Borrowers. By December 31, 2014, the Secretary of Education shall develop, evaluate, and implement new targeted strategies to reach borrowers who may be struggling to repay their Federal student loans to ensure that they have the information they need to select the best repayment option and avoid future default.

- Encouraging Support and Awareness of Repayment Options for Borrowers During Tax Filing Season. By September 30, 2014, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Education shall invite private-sector entities to enter into partnerships to better educate borrowers about income-based repayment plans during the tax filing season in 2015.

- Promoting Stronger Collaboration to Ensure That Students and Their Families Have the Information They Need to Make Informed Borrowing Decisions. By September 30, 2014, the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, shall develop a pilot project to test the effectiveness of loan counseling resources, including the Department of Education’s Financial Awareness Counseling Tool.

You can read the Memorandum here.

How are student loans affecting you or your family? Do you believe the actions outlined above will in fact provide relief?

As always, we want to hear from you!

My Brother’s Keeper: The Task Force Report


Have you been following the progress made on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative?

“There are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.” – President Obama’s remarks upon announcing the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

Recently the task force charged with investigating the roots of the problem and recommending solutions, published its first report. Before we share those with you, we would like to share an excerpt from a recent article published by the New York Times, This Fugitive Life. The article shines a light on the depth of the problem that threatens us as a nation – the highly functioning and systematic mass incarceration of our young men and boys of color. They are routinely collected, much like a city’s trash, and ushered into the lucrative (for private investors), yet life-damning (for the young men and boys) “correctional” system. An excerpt from the New York Times article came be found below:

“Tim’s first arrest came at age 11. One of his older brothers, Mike’s friend Chuck, was driving Tim to school in his girlfriend’s car, and when a cop pulled them over, the car came up as stolen in California. Chuck had never been to California and had no idea which one of his girlfriend’s relatives had stolen the car. The officer took both brothers into custody. Down at the police station, they charged Chuck with receiving stolen property and they charged Tim as an accessory to the crime. Later, a judge in juvenile court placed Tim on three years’ probation.”
– Excerpt, This Fugitive Life, published by the New York Times.

Three years of probation for an 11-year old on his way to school? Not to mention the disruption to his psyche, time away from school while waiting to be sentenced, followed by the consequences of probation. Do you know any 11-year olds? How would their lives be altered by this same type of justice?

The effect the My Brother’s Keeper initiative will have remains to be seen. What is encouraging is the conversation and action toward change stemming from our highest levels of government. A few of the task force’s recommendations can be found by clicking here.

Leaning into Love: A Tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou


This week the planet became a little less poetic as we witnessed the passing of the iconic and incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou. For her son, Guy, my beloved friends, colleagues and others who were members of her immediate and most intimate extended families, please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Having spoken to some of you this week, I know you miss her deeply and seek the way to find comfort in her words, counsel and the memories of her big-hearted love for each of you and humankind. For the countless others who claim association through her writings, speeches, presentations and bigger than life as we know it presence on the planet, her passing presents an opportunity to lean into and lean on all she had to share. Love. Wisdom. Compassion. Beauty. Grace. Hope.

I recall the times I had an opportunity to meet her and work on causes and with people she loved deeply — Bennett College for Women, efforts related to diversity and inclusion, equal rights, humanity generally and children particularly. Today, I especially cherish receiving an autographed copy of her book, Letters to my Daughter, delivered to me by Dr. Gloria Herndon after she attended one of Dr. Angelou’s Thanksgiving gatherings that are legend amongst her family and closest associates. I didn’t get to attend one of those holiday gatherings, but word is, they were a truly special coming together in communion and in celebration of the best life has to offer — good people, good food and libations, invigorating conversation, fun, laughter and love. Name calling and intolerance for others was not tolerated, and persons who crossed that line would be asked to leave. My. My. I can only imagine.

Interestingly, several years ago, I had the honor of accepting an award on behalf of Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, President Emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College for Women. The award was being given to Dr. Cole by the Maya Angelou Charter School (See Forever Foundation) located in Washington, DC. David Dominici and James Forman, Jr. founded the school to help at-risk youth, with an initial focus on those in the juvenile justice system. Vivid images of the award ceremony now come to mind. Dr. Angelou sitting in a box near the stage of the historic Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC, located in the historic African American Shaw neighborhood, right next door to Ben’s Chili Bowl. It was an incredible celebration in support of the school and the youth who attend it. Beloved Angelou confidant and friend, charter school board member, Robby Gregg, moved about adroitly to ensure that the program was engaging and on time. Many dignified folks and celebrities participated. In fact, the co-founder of BET, Sheila Johnson, also received an award that evening along with other Washington notables. But honestly, the memorable and magical moments I recall most deeply are of looking around the theater and seeing the hundreds of African American students, many of whom were once at-risk, but whose life trajectories were now changed indelibly because of the school. The other most profound and soulfully extraordinary moment that is permanently etched in my spiritual DNA is what Dr. Angelou had to say. Her remarks were not a part of the program, and she never left her box. But, she let the organizers know she had something she wanted to say, and they gave her the mic — but of course.

My. My. Before she spoke, she took a breath. With one breath, the room fell silent. Absolutely silent — and still. A stillness that connected each of us, one to the other, accompanied by a quiet that connected us to a place where there was no time and space, only truth. And then, she spoke — not from her head, but from her heart and the depths of that soul space where genius is born and faith is rooted. The auditorium was suspended in the now and consciousness was awakened as one body comprised of many parts. The essence of what she said cannot effectively be shared within the parameters of a quote. But her message that evening is part of our charge today. What she said, paraphrased, is this: “These children, each of these children, all of them belong to us. Black, white, brown, rich, poor, bitter, buttressed, broken or displaced, they are our responsibility. Whether they are from the hills of Appalachia, villages of Africa . . . these are our children. We must love them, care for them and provide the opportunities that allow them to soar. This is a responsibility from which we should not and cannot run. It is a responsibility we must embrace and run toward.” With the completed enunciation of the very last syllable of what she had to say, the auditorium took a slow, collective silent breath, as the essence of what she said settled into the essence of our beings. With that deep inhaled breath, we accepted the charge.

Dr. Angelou’s love for children is undeniable, and her love for all people of every race, hue and persuasion are the lasting lessons that connect each of us to her and a piece of eternity. Let us move forward boldly, leaning into and on the memories, words and legacy emanating from that which she shared, that which is true and good.

This is just a little slice of what I want to share about one incredibly brilliant and beautiful woman that blazed a trail big enough for a world of people to fill. For those who love her deeply, the loss may have created a void for now. In time, her legacy and love for humanity will reveal itself as a portal of knowledge and opportunity that’s more extraordinary and phenomenal than we currently understand, but will grow to know in the most expansive parts of our minds and the deepest parts of our souls.

Do you have any thoughts or memories you would like to share about Dr. Angelou? How are you choosing to honor her legacy? What are you doing in your life to help others, or someone other than yourself? Take a moment and share your thoughts here.

200 Kidnapped Children: A Cause for Us All

Bring Back Our Girls

Is #BringBackOurGirls losing momentum?

While #BringBackOurGirls began as a way to show support for the girls abducted from their school, their families and the many working behind the scenes to bring them home, it became a way for millions to make their voice heard.

As day 48 comes to an end, our girls are still not rescued. It’s important that we continue to support the efforts to bring them home. Use the tools in our sidebar to contact your states Congresswomen and Congressmen. No child deserves to be discarded. Let’s keep the pressure on!

Do you believe the federal government is doing enough to help these young women? What additional action would you like to see. As always, we want to hear from you!

Reading Rainbow: Cutting Across the Rainbow of Love and Experience


Remember Reading Rainbow?

“Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high. Take a look, it’s in a book, a reading rainbow. I can go anywhere, friends to know, and ways to grow, a reading rainbow…” These are well-known lyrics from the theme song of the popular children’s series that first aired on PBS in 1983. For over two decades, the series and host Levar Burton, encouraged children to read and expand their imagination in the process.

This week, Reading Rainbow made history with its Kickstarter Campaign.

In under twelve hours, the show had reached its $1 million dollar goal.
No matter where you went, adults who grew up watching the show were singing the theme song, and spreading the word!

Reading Rainbow cuts across the rainbow of experience. No matter white, brown, purple or red, many of us are transported back to the days of being not only entertained, but educated by the power of the written word – the power of imagination.

Kudos to Burton for his work then, and his imagination now! At $3.2 million raised as of the writing of this entry, Reading Rainbow is sure to be back, helping a new generation of children expand their imagination – and fall in love with reading.

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