Friday, February 03, 2012

GOP victory would restore outdated worldview

As I sit here writing this at the kitchen table, I have had to move the computer screen as the streams in over my shoulder. 

Perhaps it’s the spring-like winter we are experiencing here in Cleveland. It has brought the early return of my backyard cardinals and bluebirds.  But for the second consecutive day I am feeling optimistic. Yesterday, it was the signs of community collaboration and engagement on the part of Cleveland’s too-often dormant and disengaged black middle class. Today, it’s the cumulative effect of the Republican effort to find a suitable candidate to take on President Obama. I have swung back and forth between thinking that the Republicans were soaking up all the ink with their relentless — and generally false — attacks on the President, and then enjoying their increasingly savage attacks on each other.

In past election cycles, it’s been Democrats beating on one another while the Republicans watched and waited for the chance to bomb the Dems for being “soft” on defense, appeal to the baser racial instincts of the GOP base, and tout their presumptive superior economic policies.

All of that is at the moment turned on its head.  Gingrich and Santorum have provided great campaign fodder for Obama’s re-election effort against Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee. And Mitt himself continues to show how disconnected he is from the masses of Americans.

So while I never underestimate right-wing willingness to appeal to the fears of its base, I am for the moment feeling pretty good as conservative overreach has stirred up women and even working-class Joes, who, if they are unable to identify with Obama, will nonetheless vote to keep him in office.

Retaining the president is important not only to prevent a rollback to the loot and steal policies of the Bush years, but essential to finding a way to navigate an increasingly complex world. When Bush I proclaimed a “new world order” after the fall of the Soviet Union, he had the right term but the wrong understanding.  He clearly envisioned a world in which the United States would be unchallenged militarily and politically.

The past twenty years have shown just how wrong Bush I and “Mission Accomplished” Bush II were in hewing to American military might and the US as the world’s police force. Both Romney and his main GOP challengers — Gingrich and Santorum — are even further to the right with their trumpeting of “American exceptionalism”.

While the domestic political landscape can change on a dime, what doesn’t change is the need for the President of the United States to have an understanding of the rest of the world.

The pandering of Romney and his rivals to those who long for what is basically a vision of international white supremacy is increasingly out of date in a world that is more intricately colored day by day. Nobody talks about this more clearly than a “colored” American named Fareed Zakaria, about whom I have written briefly before here. Here is his open letter to Mitt Romney:

The world has changed, Mr. Romney
 “Dear Mitt Romney,
… I’d like to call attention to a line you have used repeatedly: “This is a president who fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century.” … [L]et me make sure you know what exactly you are attacking.
 … the age of American unipolarity — which began with the collapse of the Soviet Union — has ended. For a quarter-century after the collapse of communism, the United States dominated the world with no real political or economic competitors. Its ideas and its model — the Washington consensus — became received wisdom everywhere.
Today we are in a different era. In 1990, China represented 2 percent of global gross domestic product. It has quadrupled, to 8 percent, and is rising. By most estimates, China’s economy will become the world’s largest between 2016 and 2018.
… It is not just China that is rising. Emerging powers on every continent have achieved political stability and economic growth and are becoming active on the global stage. Twenty years ago Turkey was a fragile democracy, dominated by its army, that had a weak economy constantly in need of Western bailouts. Today, Turkey has a trillion-dollar economy that grew 6.6 percent last year. Since April 2009, Turkey has created 3.4 million jobs — more than the European Union, Russia and South Africa put together. That might explain Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s confidence and his country’s energetic foreign policy.
Look in this hemisphere: In 1990, Brazil was emerging from decades of dictatorship and was wracked by inflation rates that reached 3,000 percent. Its president was impeached in 1992. Today, the country is a stable democracy, steadily growing with foreign-exchange reserves of $350 billion. Its foreign policy has become extremely active. President Dilma Rousseff is in Cuba this week, “marking Brazil’s highest-profile bid to transform its growing economic might into diplomatic leadership in Latin America,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Brazil’s state development bank is financing a $680 million rehabilitation of Cuba’s port at Mariel.
… I could go on.
This is a new world, very different from the America-centric one we got used to over the last generation. Obama has succeeded in preserving and even enhancing U.S. influence in this world precisely because he has recognized these new forces at work. He has traveled to the emerging nations and spoken admiringly of their rise. He replaced the old Western club and made the Group of 20 the central decision-making forum for global economic affairs. By emphasizing multilateral organizations, alliance structures and international legitimacy, he got results. It was Chinese and Russian cooperation that produced tougher sanctions against Iran. It was the Arab League’s formal request last year that made Western intervention in Libya uncontroversial.
By and large, you have ridiculed this approach to foreign policy, arguing that you would instead expand the military, act unilaterally and talk unapologetically. That might appeal to Republican primary voters, but chest-thumping triumphalism won’t help you secure America’s interests or ideals in a world populated by powerful new players.
You can call this new century whatever you like, but it won’t change reality. After all, just because we call it the World Series doesn’t make it one.”  Source
I couldn’t have said it better. Find the entire column here. 

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Nonprofit Thursday Returns!

Today is a promising day in Cleveland’s nonprofit world. Regular readers in this space are familiar with how underperforming we find so many of the nonprofits whose principal mission is to serve the African American community. But even the local NAACP has at least bestirred itself to address one of the burning issues of the day — the election of the next Cuyahoga County prosecutor. They are sponsoring a debate among the five candidates next Tuesday, February 7 from 7-8:30PM at St. James A.M.E. Church, 8401 Cedar Ave.
The Society of Urban Professionals has for the last several years been one of the brightest lights on our local nonprofit scene. S.O.U.P. knows how to put on a party and how to have fun, but they also put together some top-notch lunches with speakers who address topics of special interests to African American professionals. Now the group is expanding its horizons with the establishment of the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival, set to debut April 19-22 at the Shaker Square Cinema.
The festival will showcase local emerging talent as well as established artists in the world of independent filmmaking. GCUFF’s programming objective is to educate, entertain and highlight the African American experience via films and documentaries that represent the African American journey. They also hope to encourage area students to consider a career in the film industry.
GCUFF’s artistic director is Neal Hodges, a fixture on Cleveland’s arts scene via his work with Karamu and other organizations. Hodges told The Real Deal that Cleveland has given birth to or nurtured much outstanding talent in the movie industry, including Hallie Berry, Terrence Howard, Bill Cobbs, and Kym Whitley. He thinks their success and connections can help foster both GCUFF’s success as well as the development of new local talent.
The Festival is reaching out to film programs in the region’s institutions of higher learning in a call for films for this year’s inaugural event. Festival principals also hope to land one or two nationally known actors for the premiere.
In a prepared statement, co-founder and executive director Donna Dabbs said the Festival has been established itself as a as a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of African American and African Diaspora cinema as well as the education of media arts, said Donna Dabbs of SOUP. The organization's board will consist of community minded citizens and business leaders dedicated to the promotion and marketing of the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival.
Alton Tinker, co-founder of both S.O.U.P. and the Festival, said in the Festival press release that "We are continuing to build our brand and promote our image in Cleveland and the film festival is one more way that SOUP can contribute to building and connecting our urban professionals in Greater Cleveland". Tinker serves as the director of funding and sponsorship for GCUFF.
For more information, contact Neal Hodges at 216-214-6383, email, or visit the Festival website at

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The local chapter of the National Black MBA Association also has some positive initiatives going. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, it will host a webinar on "Sustainable Business 101: Re-Thinking How We Conduct Business in Tomorrow's Economy". Local attorney David E Nash, partner at McMahon DeGullis, an environmental law firm, will present.
To register, visit; for more information contact program and events co-chairs Starlyn Priest or Tammy Monroe at
The chapter also is sponsoring an academic leadership and enrichment   program, Leaders of Tomorrow, to serve area high school students who demonstrate leadership potential. The program offers a special curriculum that focuses on mentoring, cultural exposure, experiential learning, and college preparation.
For more information contact Catrina Palmer at
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One of the strongest and most positive area nonprofits in the black community is the Consortium of African American Organizations [CAAO].
CAAO is now looking for new leadership following the retirement of the one-of-a-kind Connie Atkins.  Resumes are currently being accepted until February 25 for a new Executive Director of the Consortium. Go to the website to see the job description -

If you are passionate about CAAO's mission, energetic, and an excellent communicator (and able to raise money), this may be for you.
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Black History Month at the Maltz Museum

In recognition of Black History Month, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage has announced two special programs related to the Black Experience in America.

On Wednesday, February 8, Cleveland Public Theatre director Beth Wood and members of the cast of Antebellum will talk about and perform selected scenes from this provocative drama that unfolds against the backdrop of a southern plantation, a German concentration camp and the 1939 Atlanta premiere of Gone with the Wind; a play that resonates with the entwining realities of Nazi cruelty and Hollywood dreams. Program beings at 7pm; advance tickets available $10 ($8 Museum members) - call 216.593.0575 to purchase.

The Museum will be open on Presidents Day (Monday, February 20) 11am - 5pm. At 1pm there is a special program, free with Museum admission, featuring portrayals of Abraham Lincoln and four other U.S. Presidents of the past. The performers will tell the audience about their life and times, and be available for questions after the presentation. No reservations required.

Maltz Museum Executive Director Judi Feniger notes, "The core of our work at the Museum is outreach to people from all backgrounds, races, religions and cultures. As The Museum of Diversity and Tolerance, we're always looking for ways to share experiences and foster community collaboration and conversation." The Museum's most recent special exhibition was Hardship to Hope: African American Art from the Karamu Workshop, and for the fourth year it was open free to the public on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, welcoming nearly 1,200 visitors.

The Museum is located at 2929 Richmond Rd.  Beachwood, Ohio 44122
(216). Learn more:, 216.593-0575.

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Nonprofit Directors and Trustees:
If you struggle to manage and retain your volunteers or if you are unsure of how best to use volunteer talent to help your organization grow, then Grassroots Networking Night: Tapping into Talent may be the event for you.
On Wednesday, February 8, 5:30 —7:30 pm, you can meet, greet, ask questions, make connections, and have some fun in a version of “speed dating” with invited presenters who will share tips from their successful real-world experiences building a movement around their organization’s mission.
Featured presenters are Joy Banish, Executive Director of Greater Cleveland Volunteers; Jeff Griffiths, Founder and Executive Director of HandsOn Northeast Ohio; and Ann Kent, Vice President, Services to Nonprofits at Business Volunteers Unlimited.
WHERE:  The Foundation Center-Cleveland 1422 Euclid Ave. Suite 1600, Cleveland, OH 44115
 REGISTER: or call 216-861-1933 x325.
COST:  Free.
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