While watching the Iowa caucus this past Tuesday and all the analysis that ensued, I had a random thought:Â I wonder how many Black women live in that state? SEE ALSO: Did Romney Have 20 Incorrect Votes? College Kids Boo Santorum In a vastly conservative part of the country, how many Black women are Republicans and how many participated in the famed caucus?Â As the focus now shifts to the New Hampshire primary, I realize more and more that my thoughts arenâ€™t random at all; they are actually very relevant.Â As the GOP attempt to â€œdiversifyâ€ and branch out (so they say), whose issues are they really addressing?Â Do we ever hear poor peopleâ€™s concerns, womenâ€™s issues or young folksâ€™ apprehensions ever answered?Â The answer is a definite, â€œHell, no!â€Â But, the real question is, who is to blame? Growing up as a Black woman in a multicultural city, I was exposed to differing viewpoints and ideas at an early age. What I quickly grasped as a young kid is the notion ofÂ â€œa closed mouth wonâ€™t get fed.â€Â If you donâ€™t speak up, raise your concerns, let your voice be heard, nobody will pay attention and nothing will change.Â Silently going along with the status quo and accepting unfair practices will get you nothing but more injustice and frustration.Â You must make your issues a priority if you intend on seeing a different result going forward.Â Thatâ€™s a vital lesson that Iâ€™ve carried with me throughout my work at National Action Network and in my everyday life.Â If you do not make others recognize and respect your grievances, things will remain the same forever.Â Â And thatâ€™s precisely the concept we must remember when it comes to politics, the 2012 election, and our future. Over the last several months, I carefully observed the Republican debates to see what these candidates were discussing and more importantly, whom they were addressing.Â Never did I hear concern for the poor, or policies that would improve the lives of the impoverished.Â Instead, what I consistently heard was talk of more tax breaks for the wealthy and improvements for big business.Â Â Never was there a mention of African Americans (forget about Black women specifically) and the unjust hurdles facing us.Â And never did I hear any concise solutions for this nationâ€™s youth and how we could improve their possibility for a stable tomorrow.Â After these past few months of campaigning, the GOP has made it abundantly clear that they are not concerned with my issues, nor that of the next generation. Now as these candidates head to the next primary, we must ask ourselves, how can we make our issues a priority? How can we get them to acknowledge us and address our concerns in a respectful manner?Â To all the Black Republicans out there, I say raise your voice and try to shed light on some of the Black communitiesâ€™ issues.Â Thatâ€™s the only way we will truly see if all the talk of â€œinclusionâ€ is a reality.Â Letâ€™s hold all of the contenders accountable and letâ€™s watch if they really have the backbone to match their rhetoric. SEE ALSO: Why GOP Candidates Keep Talking Race Black Couple Donates Priceless Art Collection
Whether youâ€™re blessed with stability or struggling to make ends meet, those of us with a conscience understand that the fight for civil rights continues until all of us can live at ease. Last Saturday, we at the National Action Network (NAN) were joined by tens of thousands as we collectively marched for jobs and justice in Washington, D.C. And on Wednesday evening in New York City, key figures in the arts, entertainment and sports industries gathered with us as we honored their work and commitment to the community. From the streets to the suites, the fight for justice wages on. During a weekend that marked the official Martin Luther King Jr. dedication in the nationâ€™s capital, NAN conducted our annual rally and march for jobs and justice. At a time when millions of Americans are without work, foreclosure rates are through the roof, entire families are finding themselves homeless every day, wealth disparity is expanding, unequal access to education is plaguing impoverished communities and people have all but forgotten about the poor, we assembled to ring our voices in unison. We marched for livable wages, employment equality and a level playing field just as Dr. King did decades earlier. As we recognized our progress from the emancipator to the liberator, we rallied and marched for the injustices that still remain. While some entertainers and power players stay focused on their own advancement, others understand the significance of empowering the next generation and uplifting the people that propelled them to success. At our 2nd annual Triumph Awards, NAN recognized Tyler Perry, Judge Greg Mathis, Chris and Malaak Rock, Marva Smalls of Nickelodeon and Viacom, Californiaâ€™s Attorney General Kamala Harris, Maurice Cox of Pepsi-Cola, Jimmie Lee Solomon of the MLB and Tina Thompson of the LA Sparks. Through their respective fields and lifeâ€™s work, each one of our honorees understands the importance of creating opportunities for the traditionally marginalized and volunteering their time and energy towards helping others. It is through this notion of sacrificing for the common good that these remarkable folks and others like them continue to champion justice. As our society evolves and momentous gains are achieved, we cannot forget to acknowledge inequities that still persist. This past week, I had the honor of addressing both the rally in Washington and our Triumph Awards in NY. As the youngest female national director of NAN, I do not take these tremendous moments lightly â€“ for I know that I have been blessed with a great duty. Standing in unity with all those that grasp the significance of paying homage to our great leaders of the past and recognizing our modern day champions, Iâ€™m proud to watch NAN and our fearless leader Rev. Sharpton continue to take the streets to the suites â€“ and bring everyone along in the process. RELATED: Why We Are Marching For Jobs This Saturday Do Black Women Get What They Deserve?
Iâ€™m thirty-one years-old and have been marching since age 10 with my parents, Reverend Al Sharpton, and community members from across the country. My parents were founding members of the National Action Network and even as a teenager, I, and the other youth members of NAN, one of whom was musical sensation Alicia Keyes, had a better sense then some of my peers today about why itâ€™s important to march. Letâ€™s start with this premise: We must march for jobs and justice because we are in catastrophic times. My peers are jobless. Our elders and the working class and poor are under attack in extraordinary and systematic ways. And we are living in one of the most unpredictable and capricious times in our nationâ€™s history. Many of my peers seem to only know of segregation through stories of relatives or by reading it in the history books and appear disengaged from the process. When you have an African American president, elected officials from all backgrounds, people of color in various businesses, a society where open discrimination is illegal and the reality of a diverse mix of entertainers in the limelight, a lot of them have difficulties seeing beyond the surface. But while there are clear advances we have made, the remnants of institutional barriers are as thick as ever. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was delivering his infamous â€œI Have a Dreamâ€ speech, his fundamental call to action was for everyone â€” Black, white, brown, yellow, purple â€” to unite in an effort to secure social and political equality across the board. It was his work for civil rights and labor rights that made him the historic figure he has become. It was near the grounds of his monument that will be unveiled this weekend that he was planning a tent city for poor people when he was killed. Decades later, that core vision is sadly unrealized. When students of color and the poor still receive inadequate education, we have not realized the dream. When thereâ€™s a staggering 50 percent unemployment rate among young Black men in many cities across the nation, we have not realized the dream. When gun violence is rampant and more of our children are dying unnecessarily each and every day, we have not realized the dream. When the imprisonment rate for minorities is disproportionate to our percentage in society, we have not realized the dream. And when people continually attempt to dismantle unions and attack American workers, we have not realized the dream. This weekend in Washington, D.C., the National Action Network, under the leadership of Rev. Al Sharpton, will once again convene our annual MLK march for justice. This yearâ€™s theme is titled: â€œFrom the Emancipator (Abraham Lincoln) to the Liberator (MLK Jr.): The Collective Journey of Civil Rights to be Reaffirmed.â€ As we welcome the support of esteemed individuals like Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, and Lee Saunders, Secretary Treasury of AFSCME, we call on everyone concerned about the plight of this nationâ€™s disparity to join us. We will conduct a rally at noon on Saturday and then march â€” yes march â€” along Independence Ave. In the spirit of our ancestors, in the spirit of Dr. King, and in the spirit of all those that died for freedomâ€™s cause, we will march. We will march for some of my peers who are disengaged and we will continue marching until every man, woman and child truly has an equal shot at this American dream â€” for that is, after all, the dream each and every one of us should have. RELATED: Time For Black Journalists To Stop Criticizing Rev. Al Sharpton How The Murder Of My Sonâ€™s Father Inspired Me To Fight