Friday, August 29, 2008
By: Tolu Olorunda
Barack Obama, having been born to a Kenyan Father, must be accountable to Africans, Africa and its descendants. His life story seems to have gripped the hearts and minds of millions around the world, but a much darker cloud hovers around the man known to many - both Black and White - as the 'Change machine.' Whether Obama's fans and supporters muster up the courage to admit this fact or not, not much can be deducted from the reality that the Illinois Senator has numerously spat in the face of Africans, African Americans, South-Americans and Palestinians. If Sen. Obama is not pressured by the African-American Community into re-thinking his policies vis-a-vis Africa, Sen. Obama would, knowingly or unknowingly, incorporate the identity of what the grand-educator, Dr. John Henrik Clarke described as, "Brown Skin White Men." Africans in Africa have, for an extended period of time, experienced the phenomenon of dark-skinned presidents with Eurocentric interests and sensibilities. The only difference between what has been, and what might become, is the vehement disapproval and dissent from amongst the oppressed constituency which has historically set a precedent. Unfortunately, what many African-Americans are failing to realize, is that this moment in history would mark a rare occurrence in which a Black Man with a record of anti-African ideologies, gets elected president. This would inevitably further the already established rift between Africans and African-Americans -- as Africans would look over the horizon and see the perpetrator of oppression and repression in Africa as a Black man, courtesy of a 90% approval rating amongst the Black American Community. Obama knows this, but callously proceeds with his mythical call for inter-racial and inter-ethnic unity. He has chosen to walk a path that overwrites his African Ancestry. As a Son of Africa and America, Obama understood, more than most, that there comes a time when one must shed the cloak of double-play, and pick a side to fight for, and on behalf of. It is at this point, unequivocally clear, which side Obama is rooting for.
As the well-packaged NBA playoffs ad went, "There can only be one." It is virtually impossible for any sitting president to straddle the fence between good and evil. In the wildfire sport of American politics, it is imperative that one pick what team to play on. This reality became increasingly obvious, when Dennis Kucinich was openly refused podiums at 'Democratic' debates, in spite of the illegality involved. It also played out in the John Edwards campaign -- as many saw 2008 as his year and moment to finally clinch the Democratic Party presidential nomination after two unsuccessful attempts in the past. Little did John Edwards know, that running on a platform which strived to pick up where Dr. King left off vis-a-vis poverty, would automatically handicap any such political endeavors. Barack Obama, much to the oblivion of his fan base, has chosen to play the field for the most egregious lobbyists and serial-capitalists this nation - and really the world - has to offer. It will be a shame if the efforts of Margaret Kimberly, Glen Ford, Paul Street, Bruce Dixon and Adolf Reed Jr. fall short of the intended mark: resurrecting the millions of Obama zombies who clap and chant at his every word. His many supporters argue that Senator Obama's historic presidential bid is a lasting inspiration for young Black and Brown kids who have been relegated to hopelessness and despondency at the thought of being underrepresented - if at all represented - by the former and present presidents of their country. I respectfully disagree.
Black and Brown kids are not dumb or incapable of political analysis. They are well aware of the back-bending, tap-dancing and circus-clowning that Barack Obama has had to execute to make White folks feel comfortable enough to vote for him. They have witnessed his relentless extrication from "Black" and "Brown" and "Native-American"-specific issues, and his constant willingness to pursue and publicly tackle those "white only" subject-matters. They have heard his unforgivable remarks after the verdict in the Sean Bell case, and his condescending comments hurled at Black parents who are financially-disempowered and unable to provide nutritional meals for their kids, so therefore feed their kids the remnant from the previous night's fast-food snack (He used Popeyes as an example). They also witnessed his thundering remonstration against Black Men in his infamous "Father's Day Speech," in which he claimed that Black Men were somehow predisposed to sitting in the house and watching "SportsCenter all weekend long” -- notwithstanding the fact that in a previous interview, he admitted to “Monday Night Football” being his "favorite TV Show" and watching "a lot of SportsCenter — for better or worse.” Black and Brown kids are well informed about his unabashed endorsement of Africom -- a clear militarization, pulverization and westernization of African soil and oil. Black and Brown kids don't need CNN to decipher Obama's naiveté, and the exploitation of it by Washington Insiders and political-sophists (also known as strategists). They can also decode the science behind Rev. Jesse Jackson's vulgar but veracious condemnation of Obama's vicious disposal towards Black Americans, and the immediate and detectable difference in Obama's rhetoric afterwards. They view Rev. Jesse's conduct as a God-given right to forcefully push Sen. Obama in the direction of righteousness. Many Black and Brown kids are not inspired, but inhibited.
On August 1, in a campaign rally at St. Petersburg, Florida, something timely happened: Obama was, for the first time in a long time, doused with a dose of reality. Like the biblical tale of the 'three wise men' who overcame numerous hurdles in favor of fulfilling a prophetic mission, three young Black men from the Uhuru Movement - under the leadership of Chairman Omali Yeshitela - stood up, with great candor, and challenged Obama to a roll call of 'Black and African specific Issues.' One would imagine that the once-community-organizer would excel exceedingly well in a field he has occasionally boasted to have 'majored-in.' But what ensued for the next 5 minutes, could only be described as a singular coherent-line of "I think you are misinformed," and a marathon of stuttering that would make Moses blush. Barack Obama's concertgoers were being introduced to another side of him that they - quite obviously - weren't prepared to see. To shield their precious Obama from this unusual moment of embarrassment, his supporters drowned the cry, compassion and cause of Diop Olugbala - the lead protester - in emotional chants of "Yes We Can." The crowd's display was reminiscent of the very first episode of the animated political-show, "The Boondocks," in which the lead character, "Huey," at a Garden Party, spoke pejoratively and disparagingly of Ronald Reagan, Mel Gibson and White people in general -- much to the adoration and admiration of the nearly all-white listening audience. Explaining this phenomenon to his Granddad, he said, "They love me. These people aren't worried about us. They're not worried about anything. They're rich. No matter what happens, these people just keep applauding." Senator Obama, in a very disturbing way personifies this character -- as the man in their eyes, who can do no wrong. At the incipient of the Uhuru protest, one witnesses certain White members in the crowd, who leaped from their sit to silence the activists, and upon Obama's immediate censure of the heckling, their applause and chants only accelerated.
When the issue of the Green Party is raised and how Cynthia McKinney - with the assistance of Rosa Clemente - can be an exceptional asset in exerting progressive pressure upon Obama's candidacy, many - including Renowned poet, Amiri Baraka - deplore the very thought. But how else is Sen. Obama to answer the clarion call of the Black Community if no threat to his rigid fan base within that very community is established? With this reality, I'm compelled to believe that not only are the bulk of Obama's supporters unwilling to face the truth, but they have become de-synthesized to the crisis and potential failures that could erupt from his presidency -- based on the political platforms and proposals he has, thus far, tabled. The disciples of Barack Obama claim – with much delight – that one of the incentives of an Obama Presidency is the readiness of Barack Obama to be held accountable. This farce was, of course, drafted to convince progressives into perceiving the potential candidacy of Obama as a resource worth tapping into. Regrettably, if Barack Obama truly hopes to be held to the highest standard of accountability, he wouldn’t have failed the first preliminary test so easily. Regardless of the millions who demanded that Mr. Obama not support the FISA legislation he once denounced, Obama proceeded to cast a vote in support of retro-active immunity for the companies which knowingly abetted illegal and corrupt activities. This can’t possibly a good sign of what’s to come. Obamamites choose to disagree, but one thing remains indisputable and irrefutable: If ALL of Obama's supporter-base was, today, awoken from their slumber and sleep-walking, Cynthia McKinney would be the 44th President of the U.S., with Rosa Clemente as her V.P. For Obama's campaign managers, there seems to be a vested interest in keeping his supporters asleep.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Interview with Financial Literacy Expert, Portfolio Manager and Author, Bill Thomason, by Tolu Olorunda.
William Thomason is a finance expert with nearly 20 years worth of experience. In his tenure as a financial-analyst, he has been quoted by well-known publications, such as, the Wall Street Journal, Barrons, Smart Money, CNBC, and other financial press. He was once named by Ebony Magazine, as "One of the Nation's 50 Leaders of the Future." His 2006 book entitled, "Make Money Work for You – Money Lessons from a Portfolio Manager," lays out patterns and examples worth following, in favor of accomplishing financial-liberation. Of all his acquisitions and feats, Thomason favors his dedication to the education of Black and Brown kids as most essential. He founded a program called, "Wall Street Wizards." Wall Street Wizards was primarily founded to be "a non-profit organization established to bring career opportunities and financial literacy to urban youth." I had the pleasure of speaking with Bill Thomason on his background, the concept and impact of financial illiteracy, the lessons of the recent Subprime mortgage crisis, financial-empowerment, and much more:
Thanks for joining us, Bill Thomason. Can you describe your path toward becoming a Financial Literacy Expert, and why you decided to pursue a career in finance?
Well, I’ve been in the investment business for close to 20 years. Within those years, I’ve been an investment manager, a portfolio manager, author of a book, and I also worked in private equity. It came down to me realizing that I am a Black man in an environment where there aren’t many people of color. I’m from an environment where people struggle financially every day. I was talking to a guy today, and he told me of how he went to a car dealership to buy a car, and he asked the salesman why he was advertising on a Black radio show. The salesman replied saying, “Those are the people who are dumb enough to come in and I can sell them whatever I want.” When you look at the Subprime mortgage crisis, that’s a result of people signing their name on something they had no idea about. That is financial illiteracy. They paid for houses they knew they couldn’t afford. So why am I doing this? That’s why. The Black and Brown people are the ones who get taken advantage of. I am about trying to create and teach Black and Brown people the ethics of money, investing and finance, so they can better take care of themselves.
As a result of that, do you think most African-Americans are financially illiterate?
Yep; and I say that because the statistics bear it out. We have high bankruptcy, 'jacked-up' credits, and all other symptoms that classify financial illiteracy. The symptoms of financial illiteracy are bad credit, stress, untimely deaths etc – and we have them. A lot of times, you can’t get a job if you have poor credit, and that breeds the stress which leads to the untimely deaths.
Can you explain the value of investing, and how one can begin investing, even at the lowest increment of income?
Well, I think we need to start putting money into investment vehicles; and there are plenty of them, such as stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and real estate. Historically, stock markets have done well; so history is on the side of the investor.
At what age can one realistically begin the investing procedure?
The truth is that the parent should start before the children are even before. But realistically, as soon as a child is old enough to ask for gifts, the child is equally old enough to learn about financial-literacy. We already have a lot of challenges in front of us as Black and Brown people; so we have to learn how to invest and put money aside -- just to survive.
You founded the program "Wall Street Wizards." What is its objective?
Well, it’s to teach inner-city kids about mathematics, finance, economics, investing and money-management; and to bring financial literacy to our community, so our kids can learn how to be financial stewards. We’re also giving them a lot of other skills in this program; I like to say it’s ‘a life-skill program disguised as a financial literacy program.’ We‘ve got about 60 kids total, in San Francisco and New York. We have two programs operating in both San Francisco and New York. We try to expose them to career opportunities such as, investment bankers, portfolio managers, venture capitalists and private equity.
Your 2006 book was “Make Money Work for You – Money Lessons from a Portfolio Manager." How can the meager wage earned by the majority of our people work for them?
Well, that’s why I wrote that book. In the very last chapter, I tell the story of a woman who started when she was 40 yrs old, and put away portions of her income till she was 80 yrs old. At 80 yrs old, she had amassed $23 million buying stocks. She bought stocks that she knew, and invested in them on a regular basis. There is something called dividend-reinvestment, that shows you can buy stocks without ever paying a commission, and then, the dividends become reinvested to buy the investor more stocks. The woman in particular had a 1-bedroom apartment in New York. She was making a decent living, but wasn’t rich. So putting away $10, $15, $50 or $100 a month would go a long way.
Do you profoundly believe that if Black people took the route you delineate, they can actually liberate themselves from financial-disempowerment?
Yes. The front page of my website says “creating financially empowered individuals and communities." When you’re financially empowered, you can help uplift your community. The statistics, according to 21cf, prove that the Black Community - on an individual basis - is more philanthropic than any other ethnic group. We are philanthropic by nature, but we don’t invest wisely.
Was this financial illiteracy you speak of, revealed in the calamity of Hurricane Katrina and the inability of Black people to rescue their own kinfolk?
That’s such a deep question, and just like in the tragedy of 911, there wasn’t much financial-stewardship and accountability to ensure the donations reached the victims. A lot of people received the funds allocated to them, but a lot of people also didn’t get nothing. My family is from New Orleans, and so, I’m well aware of this reality. When you watch some of the documentaries that were filmed after the flood, and the gross-mistreatment of the New Orleans residents, you’re startled. Financial literacy is an all encompassing value that must be taught to those who intend to manage their financial lives, and put their financial life together. Our community predominantly goes to check-cashing venues to cash their checks, but those places take out a percentage of their earnings.
You spoke earlier about the shortage of Black and Brown financial experts. Can that be looked upon as indicative in the recent financial mortgage meltdown?
Well, I think there is a shortage. I say, go to Wall Street and find out how many Black people are walking up and down the aisle; and that’s just an example. So yes, I think it played a part.
How can the recent mortgage meltdown be avoided next time?
Read. Unfortunately, the old saying goes, “If you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book.” We need to read; study and educate ourselves. If you’re well educated, you don’t listen to someone who tells you to put your name on a document you know you can’t afford. We also need to pay our bills on time, and live within our means.
Lastly, what is the most important advice that you hope to extend to the Black Community at-large?
In the 1960s, we realized it was about our Civil Rights – we needed to be able to vote, live where we wanted, and receive equitable wage vis-à-vis our white counterparts – and now we have to fight for our Economic Rights. With Economic Rights, we would become confident enough to own companies. Every kid in my program – Wall Street Wizards – owns stock in Coca Cola. They also go to Shareholder meetings. We now have the right to invest, own stocks and build businesses, and we have to claim that Right.
To donate to the righteous cause of Wall Street Wizards, pls. visit: http://wallstreetwizards.org/