Civil rights activists denounce prominent Obama critics

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imageA small crowd holding “Obama 2012” campaign signs stood on the sidewalk outside talk show host Tavis Smiley’s headquarters today. They were there to denounce Smiley and Author Cornel West’s call to challenge the president in 2012.

West and Smiley have been critical of President Obama’s economic policies, arguing that the president hasn’t done enough to help the black community, which has been hit particularly hard by the recession. The two went on a national “poverty tour,” highlighting the plight of poor communities across the nation.

Najee Ali of project Islamic hope insists that today’s demonstration was not a protest against Smiley and West.

“I have respect for Cornell West and Tavis Smiley, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them on their opinion on the president of the United States,” Ali said. “You don’t speak for us. We support president Obama and his policies.”

Ali called the Smiley-West poverty tour “nonsense” and said that if the two men were serious about addressing poverty, they’d get behind president Obama and his jobs bill.

Claire Gentry showed up to support the president. She says criticism of this administration by two leading black figures is unproductive.

Unless they have actually run something themselves “a complex entity such as the United States of America, they have no idea how difficult the situation is. It’s the most difficult economic environment since the 1930s.”

Smiley, West, and others said they’re seeking progressive primary challengers who can debate Obama on policy issues. Ali and others see their efforts as divisive to the black community.

“We cannot turn against each other,” Ali said. “We have to lift each other up. That’s our message to Tavis and Cornell West. Lift the brother up. Stop tearing him down.”

A spokeswoman for Tavis Smiley declined to comment on the protesters’ criticisms.

California provides a golden opportunity for presidential fundraising

imagePresident Barack Obama spoke to an enthusiastic audience last night at Hollywood’s House of Blues, where he promoted his jobs bill, urged the crowd to stay motivated, and dealt with the odd heckler. But with tickets starting at $250, the focus of the event was fund-raising.

The president is just one of several candidates to hit the Golden State. Earlier this month, Mitt Romney also stopped by for a breakfast in Southern California, and Rick Perry attended six fundraisers across the state. (Track 2012 candidates’ events at Politico.)

“Whether you’re Barack Obama or one of the Republican primary candidates, it doesn’t hurt to talk to California voters, but what you’re most interested in is California donors,” said Dan Schnur, the director of USC’s Unruh Institute and a former GOP campaign operative.

Wealthy Californians have long made the state a hub for fundraising efforts. In 2008, Barack Obama raised $77.8 million in California, more than any other state.

But fund-raising prowess doesn’t necessarily translate into electoral influence. California’s 2012 primary has been delayed until June, meaning GOP primary voters will likely head to the polls too late to be decisive in choosing a Republican nominee, and California’s continuing status as a solid blue state renders it unlikely to prove decisive in the general election. Schnur said Californians’ wallets may speak louder than their ballots.

“California’s very relevant in terms of fundraising,” he said. “California’s very relevant in terms of the message the state sends to the rest of the country. But it’s tough to see the state mattering in how the GOP picks its nominee. And it’s difficult to see the state making a difference in the general election.”

That doesn’t mean courting voters isn’t important. A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California puts the president’s approval rating among likely California voters below 50 percent for the first time since his election.

Dean Bonner, who conducted the poll for the PPIC, said even people who don’t approve of President Obama’s performance might cast a vote for him, but that the numbers illustrated an enthusiasm gap which could hurt fund-raising efforts.

“In a place like California, [the president] is still able to come here and raise money,” he said. “It might not be as much as it was in the past. People in 2008 were very happy to donate to the president, both donors who were big and small, because people showed a lot of enthusiasm.”

Bonner said major donors, including Democratic bundlers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, are likely to stay involved in the Obama campaign. The remaining question is whether the millions of small donors who contributed to the 2008 election are still willing to say, “Yes, we can.”

South Los Angeles residents rally for Obama’s job bill

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imageThe activist organization “Good Jobs LA” waved signs and handed out leaflets to passing cars on an overpass of the 110 freeway this morning in support of president Obama’s American Jobs Act.

The activists are residents of the South LA community and gathered on the overpass that is structurally deficient. If passed, the jobs act would provide funding for such projects.

Pamela Hall says the act would connect unemployment worries with infrastructure needs.

“Today we’re here in our first demonstration to show that this bridge needs to be fixed and create jobs and get jobs back to our community,” Hall said.

If passed, the act will save or create over 51 thousand jobs building California’s roads, highways, bridges and mass transit.

Jacob Hay said that passing the act would benefit the entire community.

“Well the condition of our country and our city, the roads, schools, bridges, it effects all of us,” said Hay. “LA traffic is the most congested in the nation. Potholes on the road contribute to the need for car repairs and accidents and creates dangerous conditions. And of course the unemployment crisis, that impacts everyone as well.”

Obama has been traveling around the US with the same message to gain support for the bill.

Unemployed workers hopeful on president’s job plan

Around 50 unemployed people gathered in Mercado La Paloma just off the Figueroa Corridor to watch President Obama speak about his American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress on Thursday. The event featured two viewing areas where attendees could watch the speech in English or Spanish.

Larry Taylor, a former security guard now on disability hopes the plan includes an extension on unemployment benefits.

Many came with friends or family members. Larry Taylor came to watch with his union, United Service Workers West. Before the speech began, Taylor, a former security guard now on disability, said he hoped Obama would offer an extension on unemployment benefits and a jobs package with new growth in construction jobs, as well as better opportunities in the arts and sciences.

“We need people with good brains to be paid to use them,” Taylor said. He also shared his frustrations with Congress. “I’m tired of this obstructionist attitude. Now is the time to come together.”

He’s not the only one who felt that way. Once the speech began, people clapped when the president said it was time to stop the “political circus” and put Americans back to work. But the biggest reaction from the crowd at Mercado La Paloma came when Obama addressed some of the inequities in the current tax and income structure. Viewers shouted and applauded in agreement.

Paul Villegas expressed on concern on the growing social and wealth disparities in the U.S.

For John Paul Villegas, this is an argument that defines the social inequality in this country. “The people at the top are making so much more than they used to,” he said. “But the people at the bottom are still making next to nothing. How can anyone ever catch up?”

Villegas liked what he heard in the speech, especially the promise of tax relief that would provide a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, but part of him worries that it’s too good to be true.

“It sounded so good, but it’s up to the people to re-elect him. If he doesn’t win in 2012, the whole plan could be out the window,” Villegas said.

Rosa Gudiel, about to lose her home, is looking to the president to create jobs and help homeowners.

For some, the evening presented a chance to talk about an issue closely related to jobs – housing. Rosa Gudiel, speaking through translator Peter Kuhns, said she was in the process of losing her house, but was determined to fight to the very end to save it. “I hope that the president really can create more jobs,” she said. “Then maybe we could really help the economy by helping homeowners.”

The gathering at Mercado La Paloma was one of nearly 200 “job speech viewing parties” held in homes, community centers and parks throughout South Los Angeles hosted by community organization Good Jobs LA. The South LA-based non-profit organized the events to emphasize how unemployment is “the number one issue” affecting local communities.

VIDEO: South LA adult students speak out for immigration reform

ESL Adult School students in South Los Angeles speak out with messages for President Obama and the nation. Escuchan las voces de los obreros!

The students’ identities and the school are not revealed because of the sensitivity of the issue and the ruthlessness of xenophobic people (particularly on the internet).

Many of these students are factory workers, garment district workers, and after a long days work go to class at night to take English as a Second Language classes.

This video contains their messages for President Obama and all of us in the United States:

Birth certificate controversy exemplifies racialized politics

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image “I hope this settles once and for all this ridiculous accusation that he was not born in the country and that he’s somehow less American than any other president we’ve ever had,” University of Southern California law professor Ariela Gross said.

Gross, a civil rights and legal history scholar, said the controversy regarding President Barack Obama’s birth is an example of racialized politics in society.

“I don’t think we would be seeing these accusations about President Obama if his father had come from Europe and rather than Africa,” Gross said. “I think there’s become quite an ugly tone to the kind of politics we’ve seen around this kind of conspiracy theory movement.”

Special education lawsuit against Compton Unified reaches U.S. Supreme Court

imageA suit brought against the Compton Unified School District has reached the U.S. Supreme Court and, on Monday, the Obama administration.

The U.S. Supreme Court reached out to the U.S. solicitor general’s office for its views on a negligence claim brought against Compton Unified.

The suit was brought on the basis that the school district failed to identify a high school student’s disabilities, which the plaintiff argued violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

According to Education Week, during the student’s 10th grade year, teachers became concerned about the nature of her school work. She was referred to a mental health counselor, who recommended an evaluation for learning disabilities. The district failed to heed this recommendation and promoted the student to 11th grade.

Only when mother of the student argued for an individualized education program for her daughter did Compton Unified determine the student was eligible for special education programs.

The mother filed an administrative claim under IDEA, arguing the district failed under the law’s “child find” requirement to adequately and promptly identify the learning disorder.

The administrative judge found in favor of the plaintiff.

Compton Unified appealed its case, arguing that if the family won, students would be able to file “educational malpractice” suits against school districts. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided once again with the plaintiff.

The appealed case, Compton Unified School District v. Addison, remains in the high court. The request for an opinion from the solicitor general’s office is expected to take months.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Advocates, citizens, leaders celebrate first birthday of health care bill

By: Julia Deng and Candice Winters


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Lawmakers and advocates for health care revision joined voices and sliced into a large white birthday cake to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The auditorium at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center hosted a panel of speakers. Some spoke about how the act helped them. Others advocated continuing support for President Barack Obama and the law.

Dave Jones, California’s insurance commissioner, doesn’t see how anyone could not support the act.

“The money that we want to go toward our physicians and our nurses and our hospitals and our community clinics, the insurance companies view as a loss,” Jones said. “This law, the Affordable Care Act, makes sure they’re putting more of the money they’re collecting from us and our employers into provisions for health care.”

image The law was signed by Obama one year ago and will be phased in over a span of three years. For Nina Sharky, the act brought about a change in heath care coverage, but it wasn’t one she’d hoped for.

“The coverage that I have now is a shell of the coverage that I bought 20 years ago,” Sharky said. “And there are no laws that prevent them from changing coverage whenever they feel like it. Unfortunately, there is a wonderful provision in the ACA that can’t help me because it doesn’t come in until 2014. There are 800,000 people just like me.”

The act eliminates the clauses that exclude children who have certain medical conditions from being offered health insurance. Los Angeles congresswoman Karen Bass says this act has met opposition from republicans in Congress. They say with the federal and state budgets in such dire straits the country cannot afford to pay for it. Although there are some who are excluded from ACA benefits, Bass says it does more good than any available alternative.

“This is something that effects all of us,” Bass said. “I spent two and a half years in this hospital, coming to this hospital day in and day out with my step-daughter going through chemotherapy for leukemia. She’s now gonna be 20 years old, in great health. The reason she will have health care coverage today, is because we’re celebrating the one year anniversary of the affordable care act.”

Bass says that most Californians don’t know enough about health care. She hopes these events will change that.

Obama Administration official visits Crenshaw High School garden

Story by: Kevin Rivera, Crenshaw High School Digital Media Team

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region IX Director, Herb Schultz, recently visited the Mother Of Many garden partnership program at Crenshaw High School. The visit began with a meeting in the library where the Crenshaw Digital Media Team and the Cooking Live with Dorsey High culinary team members, teachers, parents and Mother Of Many supporters introduced themselves to Mr. Schultz. After introducing himself and telling us to call him Herb, he mentioned a lot about his profession and his main objective of helping First Lady Michelle Obama get students involved with healthy eating and exercise. Digital Media Team member Bryce Bailey found Herb to be “shockingly a cool person” after learning about his Health and Human Services background.

After all the introductions, my fellow peers and I shared our experiences about our Journey to the White House project and actually going to Washington, D.C to visit the White House and the Let’s Move team in person. To me, going to Washington D.C and stepping foot inside the White House was a dream to never be forgotten. When I saw the look on my peers’ faces, I knew that being there was no joke at all. We all deserved to make it inside the White House and we feel phenomenal about enjoying our time meeting the First Family’s personal chef, Sam Kass, and interacting with President Obama’s new media team.

Crenshaw Digital Media Team member and landscaping student Esual Parra presented Herb with our signature Destination: Change t-shirt as a welcome gift. Herb put it on right away to show his support for our Change What You Eat, Change How You Feel healthy eating campaign. Esaul also asked Herb if Let’s Move only partners with elementary schools. Herb’s response to Esaul’s question gave us all hope that the Mother Of Many Crenshaw and Dorsey partnership could be the first Let’s Move high school model.

“I have a very strong interest in seeing Let’s Move come to high schools, middle schools and that’s something that [Let’s Move Executive Director] Robin Schepper and the whole team is sort of talking about. You certainly have my commitment that I will be talking with the First Lady’s office, with the President’s Office, with the Secretary [of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius] about trying to expand,” said the Health and Human Services Region IX Director.

After hearing this everyone encouraged Herb to tour the garden. Wowed! by what he saw, the very down-to-earth Schultz planted some tomatoes and cabbage in the garden with us. We also treated Herb to a healthy 3-Bean-Turkey-Chili-Delight lunch prepared by our Dorsey high school culinary partners. The Dorsey team also served Herb breakfast during his tour of the school’s state of the art kitchen.
At the end of the day Herb sat down with Intersections South LA reporter Sarah Golden and talked about his visit with Mother Of Many students, teachers, parents and supporters at Crenshaw and Dorsey high schools.

Click here to see how much fun Herb had with us:

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Former Obama supporters might vote Republican in next week’s elections

Listen to highlights from Obama’s speech Friday:


Groups that supported President Barack Obama in his bid for presidency two years ago are now swaying to vote for Republicans, according to a new CBS/New York Times poll released today.

Women, Independents and even low-income citizens are now more likely to vote for Republicans this mid-term election. But in the last weeks, Obama has traveled the states campaigning for Democratic candidates, attempting to convince voters to stay the course and repeat that the change he campaigned for in 2008 does not happen overnight.

Obama landed in Los Angeles last Friday to rally voters to head to the polls for Senator Barbara Boxer and the Democratic slate, drumming the same message. Boxer and an array of Democrats including candidate for governor Jerry Brown, candidate for state attorney general Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Obama at the University of Southern California.

With the backdrop of sunny skies, and an audience of 30,000 people, Obama addressed the crowd with the charisma and message of hope and change that launched him into the White House two years prior.

“You think, boy, we are not moving as quick as we want,” said the president amid cheers. “I understand that, but don’t let anybody tell you that our fight hasn’t been working. Don’t let them tell you that we are not making a difference. I need you to keep on believing. I need you to keep hoping. And if you knock on some doors and make phone calls and keep marching and keep organizing, we won’t just win this election. We are going to restore the American dream, for not just some, but for every, every, everybody in this great land.”