Roland Martin: Oprah could be a kingmaker

Standard

 

Hat Tip: By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor

(CNN) — It’s big news that the goddess of talk, Oprah Winfrey, is throwing a huge shindig for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at her California estate that is expected to bring in $3 million.

art.martin.cnn.jpg

Oprah Winfrey should go all out in her support for Sen. Barack Obama, says Roland S. Martin.

That is more than what Hollywood honchos Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and others raised in separate fundraisers for Obama and his chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

No one knows for sure what the effect will be with Oprah backing Obama because she has never thrown her full support behind a political candidate.

The Washington Post made it plain as to her influence on the general public, courtesy of her massive media platform: “the television program that reaches 8.4 million viewers each weekday afternoon, according to the most recent Nielsen numbers. Her Web site reaches 2.3 unique viewers each month, ‘O, the Oprah Magazine,’ has a circulation of 2 million, she circulates a weekly newsletter to 420,000 fans and 360,000 people have subscribed to her Web site for daily ‘Oprah Alerts’ by e-mail.”

Although Oprah is a billionaire, by law, all she can contribute to the Obama campaign is $4,600 — $2,300 for the primary, and if he wins the nomination, he can use the other $2,300 for the general election campaign. Video Watch analysts talk about Winfrey’s influence »

On CNN’s “Larry King Live,” she said that her support is bigger than any check she could write.

Not quite.

Although The Post reported that Oprah is in talks with the Obama campaign about taking an active role — appearing at rallies or cutting campaign commercials — she could instead choose to launch her own 527 political group that wouldn’t have any spending restrictions.

Imagine this scenario: Oprah chooses to create the “O for Obama” 527 group. She then seeds it with $5 million, and plans a series of radio and TV ads touting Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Arizona.

In Iowa, she might shoot a commercial in a cornfield. In New Hampshire, the setting might be outside the state capitol. How about the Geechee islands in South Carolina? And for Arizona, the infamous — only because of its sheriff — jail in Maricopa County.

She could tailor each ad for residents of that state, and flood the airwaves as Obama is doing the same.

Now, the laws says the 527s can’t coordinate their messages with the campaign, and there are other restrictions. But it could be a huge boost to a campaign lagging Clinton in national polls.

You don’t think they matter? Ask Sen. John Kerry. The Swift Boat Veterans launched a 527 group that developed devastating ads that helped derail his message, and the campaign.

Oprah may get some heat for trying to buy the election, but many rich benefactors have used their money for partisan purposes.

The talk show diva has been on record that Obama is the first, and likely last, candidate she publicly backs. If that’s the case, why not simply go all out?

Rapper Foxy Brown gets locked up

Standard

Hat Tip: Samuel Maull, Associated Press, Yahoo News.

Foxy Brown was sentenced to one year in jail Friday for violating probation stemming from a fight with two manicurists in a New York City salon.

Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson sentenced the rapper at a probation hearing for Brown, 28.

“I’m not going to give you any more chances,” the judge told Brown. “I hope you turn your life around and never again have to stand in a court of law.”

Brown was also indicted in Brooklyn Friday on charges that she smacked a neighbor with a cell phone.

Brown, whose real name is Inga Marchand, was on three years probation for assaulting two manicurists at a Manhattan nail salon in August 2004.

Just before her hearing began, Brown, in handcuffs and wearing an elegant gray pantsuit, asked the judge for yet another chance at freedom and promised to straighten out her life.

“I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to change,” Brown told the judge. She said she had made a lot of mistakes before Jackson jailed her. “I realize that’s not where I want to be. It’s humbled me in ways I never imagined.”

Jackson replied, “Ms. Marchand, it’s too little, too late. I’m glad you’re learning something; that’s a positive.”

Jackson rejected a deal in which Brown would have gone to jail for nine months in exchange for a misdemeanor guilty plea. The judge had said the defendant knew she would face a year in jail if she violated probation.

A Probation Department lawyer, Matilda Leo, read four violations the Probation Department filed against Brown. She said Brown had twice left New York without telling the court or Probation Department; that she had changed her address from Brooklyn to Mahwah, N.J., without permission; and that she had failed to tell the court she had received seven traffic summonses in New Jersey.

The Jena 6 Movement

Standard

 

Hat Tip: by Marisol Bello, USA Today

A grass-roots movement is spreading across black America in support of six black high school students charged with attempted murder for beating a white classmate in the small Louisiana town of Jena.

On black radio, black college campuses and websites from YouTube to Facebook, the young men known as the Jena 6 are being held up as symbols of unequal and unfair treatment of blacks in a case that evokes the Deep South’s Jim Crow era, complete with nooses hanging from a tree.

“People are fed up,” says Esther Iverem, 47, a Washington, D.C., writer who runs a website called Seeingblack.com, which has featured articles about the Jena 6. “It’s another case of young black men railroaded unjustly. We do not want to see this happen to young boys who got involved in a school fight.”

Tenisha Wilkerson, 20, of Chicago, posted a page on Facebook supporting the Jena 6. It has attracted 35,000 members.

“Why is this kind of thing still going on?” she asks.

Symbolism evokes outrage

The events in Jena have caught the attention of national civil rights activists. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III have marched on Jena in protest.

“The case plays to the fears of many blacks,” Sharpton says. “You hear the stories from your parents and grandparents, but you never thought it would happen in 2007. I think what resonates in the black community is that this is so mindful of pre-1960 America.”

For a year, Jena (pronounced JEEN-uh), a poor mining community of 3,000 people, has been embroiled in racial tensions pitting the black community against white school officials and a white prosecutor. It began last August when a black student asked at an assembly if black students could sit under a tree where white students usually sat. The next day, two nooses hung from the tree.

Black parents were outraged by the symbolism, recalling the mob lynchings of black men. They complained to school officials. District superintendent Roy Breithaupt and the school board gave three-day suspensions to the white students who hung the nooses, overruling the recommendation of then-principal Scott Windham that the students be expelled.

Breithaupt and current principal Glen Joiner did not return calls for comment.

In November, an unknown arsonist burned down part of the high school.

Over the next three days, fights erupted between black and white students on and off school grounds. Police arrested a white man for punching a black teen. He pleaded guilty to simple battery.

The skirmishes culminated with a fight in which the six black teens, star players on Jena’s champion football team, were charged as adults with attempted murder. The white student they’re accused of beating, Justin Barker, 17, was knocked unconscious and suffered cuts and bruises. He was treated at an emergency room but not hospitalized.

Mychal Bell, 17, was convicted in May of a reduced charge, aggravated second-degree battery, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Since then, charges against two youths have been reduced.

Reed Walters, the LaSalle Parish prosecutor who brought the charges, did not return calls for comment.

The anger fueled by the case shows no sign of letting up. More than 1,500 people, including California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, rallied at Howard University in Washington on Wednesday. Rallies are planned in Chicago and Boston.

Civil rights groups, including the NAACP and Friends of Justice, plan to rally at the Jena courthouse on Sept. 20, the scheduled date of Bell’s sentencing. Their websites anticipate busloads of marchers from across the country.

The black students’ supporters say the white teens in Jena were not punished as severely as the blacks.

“The question here has always been about fairness and equal justice,” says Tony Brown, a Louisiana radio host. “The bottom line is that there is a two-tiered judicial system. If you’re black, they want to lock you up and throw away the keys. If you’re white, you get a slap on the wrist and get to go home with your parents.”

He points to a case in nearby Bunkie, La., in which three white teens were charged this spring with the minor crime of battery for beating a white teen, who spent three days in the hospital for brain swelling and bleeding.

The case of the Jena 6 has launched “a modern-day civil rights movement,” Brown says.

Tired of the attention

Blacks are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. A 2007 study by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency found that blacks are 17% of the nation’s juvenile population, but 28% of juveniles arrested are black.

“I don’t think you grow up black and think this kind of thing doesn’t happen,” says Maliza Kalenza, 19, a Howard University sophomore from Minneapolis.

Donald Washington, the U.S. attorney for Louisiana’s Western District, says his office investigated the events in Jena but did not find evidence to support a criminal case in the noose hangings. He says black students had sat under the tree where the nooses were hung, too, and he found no evidence that the noose incident led to the fights three months later.

The tree was cut down this summer.

Washington’s office is reviewing the history of Jena school district punishments of black and white students but so far has found nothing inappropriate.

Some people in Jena don’t appreciate the attention.

School board member Billy Fowler says the year’s events have been blown out of proportion. On the other hand, he says, in the unlikely event that another student hung a noose, the incident would be taken more seriously. He also notes that some of the original charges against the six teens, which he says were excessive, were reduced.

“I feel like my town has been raked over unmercifully,” Fowler says. “I’m tired of hearing how racist my town is and it’s just not so. … And the outsiders are not helping any with this.”

Bishop Weeks seeks reconcilliation with Juanita Bynum

Standard

 

Hat Tip: D. Aileen Dodd, Atlanta Journal Constitution 

A lawyer for Thomas W. Weeks III said Friday that the bishop is looking to reconcile with his wife or at least end their marriage amicably if she has filed for divorce.

In a statement released by attorney Louis Tesser of Kessler, Schwarz and Solomiany, Weeks says he still hasn’t received notice that a divorce filing has been made by his wife national evangelist Juanita Bynum.

“The Bishop Thomas W. Weeks has hoped and still hopes that the marriage can be reconciled,” Tesser said. “If that is possible he is committed to working things out amicably and will only litigate as a very last resort.”

Word of the pending divorce spread after Bynum spoke of it on a news broadcast. A relative also confirmed the divorce filing Thursday.

Tesser said if Bynum has a divorce attorney he is ready to meet with the lawyer and discuss the matter privately.

Amy Malone, Bynum’s publicist, said she had no comment on the issue.

Bynum has resurfaced in the public spotlight calling herself “the new face of domestic violence,” referring to the alleged beating by her husband. The minister told police Weeks beat, choked and stomped her in a hotel parking lot on Aug. 21.

Weeks, 40, was charged with felony aggravated assault, felony terroristic threats and two counts of simple battery in connection to the incident. His appearance in Fulton County Superior Court originally set for today has been postponed indefinitely.

The case has been reassigned to a different judge. Weeks could face up to 27 years in jail if convicted.

Is this Negro for real? Doesn’t he know that he’s going to jail?