Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Standard

michael-jackson-las-vegas

The King of Pop is dead. What an incredibly tragic ending to an epic life.

When TMZ announced Michael’s death I just sat there slack jawed.  I knew it was true because they’re always right, but I didn’t want to believe it.   I had been surfing the web madly for several minutes when I saw it.  From the initial reports I could tell that the end was near.  Now that it is over I am just numb.

The world’s most legendary living entertainer has died at the young age of 50. We admired the showman, the incredible dancer, writer, singer, and composer, but we never really knew him. Behind the entourage, security, screaming fans, and the outlandish and palatial estates, was a tragic and reclusive figure that never seemed to thrive despite his fame and success.  That Michael, the fragile tentative soul that millions never got to know, is gone forever. I mourn for him. Many judged him by the farcical dysfunction and the over-the-top-lifestyle.  Some judged him by the salacious allegations of abuse. Others took his measure by looking at his entire life.  What I saw was a tremendous amount of pain and a hole in his spirit that could never be filled. We never got to see what caused his pain, but we could all see that it was there.   The sweet, shy little boy whose music defined my generation is gone and I will miss him deeply.

While Oprah Winfrey got credit early and often for the more than $300 million she has donated to various charities, Michael Jackson, who was a celebrity before Oprah was in High School, equaled her in his donations to charity making the pair the biggest black philanthropists in U.S. History.   The chief patron of the Heal the World Foundation, which he started, also made the 2000 Guinness Book of Records for being the pop star with the most charitable commitments.  All told, Jackson was a patron to more than 39 organizations:

AIDS Project L.A.
American Cancer Society
Angel Food
Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles
BMI Foundation, Inc.
Brotherhood Crusade
Brothman Burn Center
Camp Ronald McDonald
Childhelp U.S.A.
Children’s Institute International
Cities and Schools Scholarship Fund
Community Youth Sports & Arts Foundation
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)
Dakar Foundation
Dreamstreet Kids
Dreams Come True Charity
Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
Love Match
Make-A-Wish Foundation
Minority Aids Project
Motown Museum
NAACP
National Rainbow Coalition
Rotary Club of Australia
Society of Singers
Starlight Foundation
The Carter Center’s Atlanta Project
The Sickle Cell Research Foundation
Transafrica
United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
United Negro College Fund Ladder’s of Hope
Volunteers of America
Watts Summer Festival
Wish Granting
YMCA – 28th Street/Crenshaw

Katie McKoy of Examiner.com has compiled an impressive list of Michael’s philanthropic accomplishments. Go on over to her page and show that young lady some love.  Try and keep your mouth closed while you read the list.  I bet you can’t, I couldn’t.  It is amazing how one of the most lonely celebrities in the world was able to give back to the less fortunate some of the love and adulation of his fans gave him.  His compassion seemed boundless.  It is all the more amazing to realize that had Michael not given away this massive fortune, he would have been financially secure.  Rather than focus solely on himself, he lavished attention and love on others.

The tragedy of Michael’s life is that his career, family and philanthropy weren’t able to help him heal the deep emotional scars of a lost childhood.   Michael is free now, free from the burdens of celebrity and free from the pain of scandal and loss of innocence.  Mourn his passing but remember the richness of his legacy.   Lift up Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy, Janet,  Mr. Joe, Miss Katherine, and little Michael Joseph, Paris Michael and Prince Michael in your prayers.

Yes, Oprah, I screwed a Negro

Standard

Hat Tip: Frazier Moore, Associated Press

After three decades of keeping mum, Barbara Walters is disclosing a past affair with married U.S. Senator Edward Brooke, whom she remembers as “exciting” and “brilliant.”

Appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” scheduled to air Tuesday, Walters shares details of her relationship with Brooke that lasted several years in the 1970s, according to a transcript of the show provided to The Associated Press.

A moderate Republican from Massachusetts who took office in 1967, Brooke was the first African-American to be popularly elected to the Senate. Both he and Walters knew that public knowledge of their affair could have ruined his career as well as hers, Walters says.

At the time, the twice-divorced Walters was a rising star in TV news and co-host of NBC’s “Today” show, but would soon jump to ABC News, where she has enjoyed unrivaled success. Her affair with Brooke, which never before came to light, had ended before he lost his bid for a third term in 1978.

Brooke later divorced, and has since remarried. Calls to a listing for Brooke in Miami by The Associated Press were not immediately returned Thursday.

Walters is the guest of Oprah Winfrey to discuss her new memoir, “Audition,” which covers her long career in television, as well as her off-camera life. On “Oprah,” Walters recounts a phone call from a friend who urged her to stop seeing Brooke.

“He said, ‘This is going to come out. This is going to ruin your career,’” then reminded her that Brooke was up for re-election a year later. “‘This is going to ruin him. You’ve got to break this off.’”

Winfrey asks Walters if she was in love.

“I was certainly — I don’t know — I was certainly infatuated.”

“Infatuated.”

“I was certainly involved,” Walters says. “He was exciting. He was brilliant. It was exciting times in Washington.”

Barack Obama, a proxy for racial equality

Standard

 

Barack Obama is a proxy for some people for the conversation about race that they have no courage or inclination to have.  At best, he is a denatured Negro and political centrist acceptably black and mainstream to the white power structure chiefly because of his moderate Senate record and because he refused to discuss the incendiary, racial polarization games of Bill Clinton. After sweeping 13 states from coast to coast and running up 7,369,798 votes, 41% of white voters, and 48% of white males, some pundits, like Juan Williams, are still calling Obama, “the black candidate,” a charge I find both ludicrous and offensive.  

What’s the matter Juan, Fox News looking to replace you with a more rabid right wing Uncle Tom?  Wasn’t your recent softball interview with Dubya enough to prove your fealty to the dark side? Somebody else got their eyes on your prized perch of televised Negro servitude?   

All last year, I mined the depths of my ambivalence for Barack Obama, and exposed and explored his politically expedient positioning for this White House bid.  I was brutally honest and as fair as I knew how to be.  The crux of my criticisms, in a nutshell, was his departures from the consensus of black opinion regarding slave reparations, voting to confirm Condoleezza Rice, and voting for tort reform and free trade-which seems like slavery to those ensnared by it.   He is most certainly not “the Black Candidate” and Black voters, not known for reading the fine print, know little about that record.

Instead, Black voters support Barack Obama because of the extraordinary marketing campaign being run by his team and the compelling power of surrogates like his wife Michelle and Oprah Winfrey.   It also didn’t hurt that Clinton surrogates tried to smear Obama with a criminal label and the epithet of “Black Candidate” like Bill Clinton and so many others have tried to do. The brotha makes us proud and lets us hold our heads up high for a change.  

Truthfully, this is as good as it gets.  We won’t have a chance like this again for some time-if ever, we know that, and we’ve fallen in line.  The power structure has allowed this brotha to compete as long as he is clear on a few ground rules:  no material changes will be made to the racist global economic order, Africa will not be liberated from its economic dependence on the World Bank and the IMF, and incremental changes in domestic economic institutions like the health care system will be permitted within certain limits.  

Race and the deleterious effects of institutionalized racism are not on the white power structure’s agenda of sanctioned items for the next President because his very election will be misinterpreted to mean that this nation has moved past race.  It will be up to us to put it on the agenda where it belongs until it is properly dealt with.  We’ve got to be realistic as a community.  A candidate who risks political suicide by having a truthful discussion about race will never be the progressive champion we envision without pressure.

While not hostile to black interests per se, Obama will probably be less than helpful in implementing a “black agenda,” as defined by the esteemed Black Agenda Report.  A President Obama will need to be treated like any other president and held to a high standard by the black community.  

Most of us are hopeful that the example of a black man as President will change things and change people in positive ways.    I am sure that it will but I am less sure that the positive change will be lasting or that he will be able to implement a transformative agenda.   Tom Bradley was Mayor of Los Angeles for twenty years, a mentor to good brothas like Tavis Smiley, and still gangs and drugs are prevalent in our community.  

Ten years ago, Gary Orfield, a professor of Education at UCLA, speaking on a panel with Michael Eric Dyson in Dyson’s Book “Debating Race,” said, “There are tremendous inequities in our society today, [measured] by race and by poverty.  They’re growing. We have the most unequal distribution of income and opportunity of any major democracy.  In the mid 1960’s and 70’s we developed a set of policies to try to make that work better.  We’re now dismantling them on a very large scale under the leadership of a Supreme Court that was constructed by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.”   

“We do not have an alternate plan.  We think it will just work out automatically, and it won’t.  And we have to face up to that.   We have not cured the problems of our history.  We have not achieved equality for even one day, in terms of outcomes in this society.  We can’t deny that, and we have to try to resolve it.  And we have to resolve it, those of us who are white, before we become the minority, and minority rights become not just a theory but something we have to worry about also.”   

Nothing has changed under this President Bush.  His malevolent agenda has made things even worse than those that came before. This week, speaking to my Grandma, I reminded her to caucus this weekend for Barack Obama.  During the course of the conversation, Mama told me that she went to a mall in my Midwestern hometown to have her blood pressure checked.  An older white man from the Carolinas checked her pressure and then broke down crying asking Mama for her forgiveness for all whites had done to our people.  

I was speechless.   

While confession is good for the soul, I don’t know how good that confession really was for Mama.  She had the conversation about race that I wish we all could have but it lacked any discussion of remuneration. I would have preferred that she’d been paid what she was worth as a nurse for 37 years at a Veterans Administration hospital.  

Mama never did make the top pay grade after all that time, a fact I found out when I worked as a nursing assistant at her hospital during college. She would be getting more in retirement now if she had and could rest a little easier. Rhetoric about hope aside, which we desperately need, we still need to get down to brass tacks about the inequity in this society.    

Progressives are being drowned out by opportunistic handkerchief heads like Juan Williams who know damn better. They undermine the consensus of opinion in the black community and make it difficult for savvy and pragmatic politicians like Barack Obama to advance by pushing a progressive agenda.  I have been clear that I don’t like the accommodations Obama made to get to this point, but I realize that his candidacy would be impossible without them.   

The tragedy of our system is that corporate accommodation is mandatory for political advancement and I remain hopeful that the inspiration Obama provides to young brothas and sistahs will mitigate the damage our plutocracy inflicts on their dreams and aspirations for the future.

Women for Obama tour a roaring success

Standard

Caroline started off, Oprah broke it down, Michelle kept it real, and Maria Shriver surprised everybody and spoke from the heart. The Kennedyesque themes of hope and opportunity are reaching people all over the nation and Obama is rapidly closing the gap. Nayayers like Juan Williams believe that Hillary still has a huge advantage, others see that this race is far from over and will not be decided on Super Tuesday.

Senator Obama himself spoke to a crowd of over 20,000 in Delaware while Bill Clinton was banished to the chitlin circuit of Los Angeles black churches to hawk his snake oil for Hillary. CNN described his foray as a “mea culpa tour.” I think its too little and too late for most blackfolk. Clinton is reduced to having Negro surrogates vouch for him and introduce him to African American audiences now. Before he sought to racially polarize people, that would have been unnecessary. He could have gone anywhere to talk to blackfolks and been received warmly. Now, folks have to remember that they are in the House of the Lord and remain polite. Sad.

The one thing that mystifies me is the stasis field a lot of African Americans seem to be stuck in torn between Hillary and Obama. I never thought it would be a tough choice for somebody like Snoop Dog. The Clintons would like nothing better than to diss somebody like him for a 21st century Sistah Souljah moment. I thought the brotha could see that.

The Clintons are so desperate for Negro support now that they will go anywhere and do anything for it. Hopefully folk won’t fall for the okeydoke.

As for the polls, they’re all headed in one direction-toward Obama. The only question is whether there is enough time between now and Tuesday to overcome Hillary completely.

OBAMA GOT GAME: Junior Senator crushes Hillary and Edwards in historic win

Standard

I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.

I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed. God has moved and his hand is clearly on Barack Obama. Iowa, 95% white, has sent the nation and the world a message that in the words of one of Sam Cooke’s signature tunes,”A Change gon’ Come.” And come it has.

Last night, Barack Obama, finally gave us, his people, “a word from the Lord.”

“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

“You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, one people, and our time for a change has come.”

I still have Goosebumps. I could shout right here in this internet cafe. I don’t know about you, but after the almost divine intervention of Oprah, I could feel this tectonic shift in American politics coming.

Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.

I am not taking back the substance of my criticisms because they represent my unvarnished feelings. Today, however, I feel like Patti Labelle and have “a new attitude.” Looking back over last year, I skillfully erected a wall of opposition to Barack Obama as strong as anything in the biblical Jericho because of his various missteps and obvious pandering to the corporate power structure. It got to the point where I could not even hear the brotha speak without picking out how he was telegraphing his mainstream intentions to the establishment and I just tuned him out. He didn’t move me until last night but Michelle and Oprah did, I must admit.

Michelle Obama cracked the walls of my ideological Jericho with her forthright manner in general and her South Carolina speech in particular. I cannot say enough about how attractive, articulate and persuasive a spokesperson she is on behalf of her husband. In February, after hearing him in person for the first time, I made it clear how necessary it was for Barack to give blackfolks, “A Word From The Lord.” He did and I guarantee that Black America will respond by abandoning Hillary Clinton en masse.

For me, however, Michelle Obama had already beat him to the punch with her address to a Orangeburg, South Carolina gathering. Sistah girl nailed it.

Michelle is able to communicate from the heart in a way that is both uplifting and empowering to me. Her spiel serves the dual purpose of communicating to whitefolks her safe middle class bonifides and her commitment to black empowerment. The frank recounting of the reservations she expressed about a presidential bid tells us that the sistah is grounded by the love of her upbringing, and will use those values as a guidepost for the road ahead. For Michelle, the personal is political which is demonstrated by her faith in a loving God and her wholesome commitment to strengthening families, especially the black family. I can think of no other woman I’d rather see become First Lady.

Michelle’s statuesque beauty, effortless style, bottomless grace, quiet intellect and amazing humility are exactly the qualities that America’s trailblazing black First Lady must exhibit and that her husband ought to have at his side.

Oprah, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Being in South Carolina with that massive crowd was almost a religious experience. The walls of my ideological Jericho came down with a mighty shout. I’ve been wrestling with how to tell y’all because I knew when I left the stadium that I would support Obama.

I traveled to South Carolina alone and adopted the lady in line next to me as my play mom for the day. I asked Ms. Johnson how many of her girlfriends supported Hillary. Ms. Johnson told me, “I don’t know nobody supporting Hillary.” I shoulda known then that Obama had ended Hillary’s chances of the nomination. Taking nothing away from the formidable imperial guard surrounding Hillary, I am quite comfortable predicting that Hillary will lose New Hampshire and the nomination to Obama.

Trailblazers like Oprah were way ahead of people like me. Never a true skeptic although she remained aloof from politics, Oprah, a billionaire as a result of her finger on the pulse of this country, knew a winner when she saw one.

Pondering the import of Oprah Winfrey’s whirlwind tour on behalf of Barack Obama has left me seeing the world in a new way and has me viewing Obama’s groundbreaking candidacy through the prism of Oprah Winfrey’s experience. Oprah’s humble yet passionate articulation of Obama’s cause brought the right touch of star power and street cred. Skeptical pundits have been forever silenced by Oprah’s power to help Obama draw weekend crowds of 66,000 in three states.

Both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as Maya Angelou would agree, are phenomenal women, phenomenally. Just like Michelle Obama, I’ve had trouble reconciling Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the phenomenon. Together, Michelle and Oprah helped put it into the proper perspective for me. Let me break it down, it’s all about the O, and I don’t mean Overstock.com.

Examining the arc of her remarkable life from Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois, I am struck by how similar it tracks the same path as another daughter of Mississippi: Ida B. Wells-Barnett. I’ve always believed that although a prominent heroine of black history, Mrs. Wells-Barnett never fully received her due as a result of the bitter Victorian sexism of her time. Mrs. Wells-Barnett more than earned her place in the pantheon of black historical legends like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

Born into slavery in 1862, orphaned at 14 by a yellow fever epidemic and left to raise five younger siblings, Ida B. Wells rose from the grinding poverty of Holly Springs, Mississippi to the highest echelon of black society. A teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, feminist, suffragist and Republican politician (we were republicans then), her significant contributions to our struggle against white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation cannot be exaggerated.

Crusader in Defense of the Black Body

Well educated for a child of slaves, she was educated at Mississippi’s Rust College and Tennessee’s Fisk University, both HBCU’s. By twenty, she moved with her siblings to Tennessee and settled in Memphis. By twenty-two, Wells-Barnett was leading campaigns against segregation in public accommodations. By twenty-four, she was writing editorials and investigative pieces to fight against lynching and white supremacy. She became a crusader in defense of the Black Body and a defender of our lives against the relentlessly racist oppression imposed by Jim Crow.


Crusader in Defense of the Black Spirit


Kosciusko, Mississippi born Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazing journalist, businesswoman, media personality, philanthropist, and child advocate, picked up Ida’s torch and has become a crusader in defense of the black spirit. Nashville’s first Black news anchor, she has used her life to fight a crusade against child sexual abuse, racism, poverty, and neglect. Single-handedly, the victim of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of cousin, uncle and her mother’s boyfriend, she is responsible for federal legislation that she authored to create a national registry of sex offenders to track predators against our children.

A philanthropist of legendary scale, she has given millions to black colleges and universities, is spending more money on rebuilding housing for hurricane Katrina victims than the damn federal government-over $17,000,000 million, despite billions appropriated and not spent by Washington, and is channeling millions of dollars for educational programs and HIV/AIDS programs in this country and worldwide.

An actress of legendary prowess, she came to national attention in her portrayal of Sophia in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” The character Sophia is asked by the wife of the town’s Mayor if she would like to be her maid. Sophia’s reply, “Hell No” is so robust, vehement, and unexpected that it ends up causing a dust-up in which she has to defend herself from a racist physical assault for “sassing” Miss Millie and her white male defenders. Sophia ends up rotting in Jail for years before being re-united with her family and the “kind-hearted” bitch for which she initially refused to work-as her maid.

Domestic servitude in the kitchens of white women is part and parcel of the history of black women in this country and touches upon a raw nerve that exists for black women of multiple generations-even now. Black women’s unjustified allegiance to Hillary Clinton tap dances on that nerve. My maternal grandmother, now in her 8th decade, is a woman of remarkable intestinal fortitude, humor, wisdom, and unassailable dignity. She is the rock upon which our family has relied for nearly 60 years. As a young mother of three and wife of an abusive husband, she found herself having to abandon the marriage and flee to the safety of family a good distance away. Work as a domestic in the homes of white women was what was available to her and she took it and used it to put herself through nursing school.

Mama told me how she was asked by the south Florida matron she worked for if she knew what “elbow grease” was. The woman wanted Mama to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor with a toothbrush like a house slave on the plantation. That vignette has always stayed with me and is like a festering boil that never heals. My grandmama’s story reveals the texture, depth, and authenticity of black women’s struggle in this country. It is something that Hillary Clinton, blinded by her sense of royal entitlement, will never understand and something that the grandson of a British colonial servant does.

Reminding us of the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on the tour with the Obama’s, Oprah echoed Jane Pittman when she famously asked each of the children, “Are you the one, Are you the one that will save us.” He won’t single-handedly save us, but I sincerely believe that he is the one for this moment.

His election as president, should it occur, will not overnight result in a diminution of the world’s oppressive racial order, but it will be a step in the right direction for change. I could never get the image out of my head that Michelle conjured up of her husband taking the oath of office. I don’t think he can single-handedly end white supremacy and the grip of capitalist patriarchy, but I think that he may serve as an inspiration to the child or children who can.

Obama truly got game. He can unite this racially divided country in the spirit of brotherhood as nobody can, and for this reason, he will have my unswerving support.

Bill Shaheen’s Obama flap

Standard

Former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen’s husband Bill, a prominent attorney and former Judge, put his foot in his mouth by his questioning of Barack Obama’s “background.”

According to the Associated Press, “Shaheen, an attorney and veteran organizer, had said much of Obama’s background is unknown and could be a problem in November 2008 if he is the Democratic nominee. He said Republicans would work hard to discover new aspects of Obama’s admittedly spotty youth.”

“It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?’” said Shaheen, whose wife, Jeanne, is a former New Hampshire governor and is running for the U.S. Senate next year.”

“There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome,” Shaheen said.”

Senator Clinton apologized for Shaheen’s racially insensitive remarks Thursday and Shaheen stepped down from his role as Co-Chair of Senator Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign.   I find it interesting that he would reveal his racial tone deafness in this fashion when his former law partner, New Hampshire Congressman Paul Hodes, is supporting Obama.  This week, Hodes’ other New Hampshire colleague in the house,  Carol Shea-Porter, endorsed Obama as well, reversing her stated intention to remain neutral.

Everywhere Obama stumped with Oprah,  his poll numbers improved and the race has tightened considerably.  For those who are buying the media line that Oprah doesn’t matter, the proof of the pudding is in the polls, especially among African American voters in South Carolina.   The Clintonistas are running scared and her so-called inevitability has been dramatically deflated. 

With anymore help like Bill Shaheen’s, he’ll help Hillary right out of the nomination.

The Oprah and Obama show in South Carolina

Standard

The last leg of the Oprah and Obama show will be held today in South Carolina and I am going to gauge the reaction of black folk to this huge celebrity spectacle.  Pray for me, my car is need of service but I just can’t stay away.   I watched animatedly the reaction in Iowa and was amazed by the response.  18,000+ thousand in Des Moines alone.  The horrible weather today in Iowa ain’t nothin to sneeze at.  The event in South Carolina will surely rival that as the biggest crowd of the campaign.    Oprah is a tremendous draw and sistahs hold her in higher esteem than they do Hillary.    We shall see if it does the trick.

Addendum:  I am still writing a post about this experience and trying to fully account for everything that happened.  Stay tuned.

Bynum loves husband but needs to move on

Standard

Hat Tip: D. Aileen Dodd, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Evangelist Juanita Bynum’s lawyer said Monday the pastor is seeking to divorce her husband on the basis of cruel treatment and irreconcilable differences.

The divorce filing states that the marriage has been “irretrievably broken,” said Bynum’s attorney Karla Walker of Valdosta, Ga.

by her husband Thomas W. Weeks III on Aug. 21 in a hotel parking lot near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“She loved her husband,” Walker said. “But she does feel it is necessary to stop the domestic violence and go on with the divorce.”

The divorce paperwork was sent to the Ware County Courthouse early last week, but an error delayed the filing. The legal documents were officially filed on Monday.

Bynum, 48, spent the weekend in California where she attended a fund-raiser for presidential candidate Barack Obama. The party was held at Oprah Winfrey’s estate.

Bynum has said she is moving forward with plans to start a domestic violence ministry. Last week, she resurfaced in the spotlight, saying she had recovered from the alleged attack and would like to serve as an advocate against domestic violence.

Weeks, 40, was charged with felony aggravated assault, felony terroristic threats and two counts of simple battery in connection with the attack. He could face up to 27 years in jail if convicted.

Oprah Obama Fundraiser update

Standard

Hat Tip: Lynn Sweet Blog, Chicago Sun Times 

MONTECITO, CALIF. — Oprah Winfrey opened the high iron gates of her highly guarded estate here Saturday to raise more than $3 million for White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), his biggest single-day haul ever, in a fund-raising spectacle rarely seen in U.S. politics.

“I haven’t been actively engaged before because there hasn’t been anything to be actively engaged in. But I am engaged now to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States,” a source said Winfrey told the crowd just before the concert, starring Stevie Wonder.

Introducing Obama, Winfrey said that “nobody can stand in the way of destiny.”

“It’s unbelievable,” said Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias as the Great Gatsby party scene unfolded before him on Winfrey’s meadow under a gorgeous sky.

Real celebrities mingled with Obama’s best donors and bundlers rewarded for their fund-raising efforts with a star-studded afternoon. Among those present at the event featuring the two most famous Chicagoans in the world: actors Lou Gossett Jr.; Cicely Tyson; Forest Whitaker; Ellen Pompeo; Sidney Poitier; Linda Evans; Tyler Perry; Chris Rock; Hill Harper (who attended Harvard Law with Obama); music producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds; Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, football quarterback Rodney Peete; Winfrey beau Stedman Graham; radio personality Tom Joyner; sports legends Ernie Banks, Bill Russell and Dave Winfield; tennis great Jimmy Connors, and model Cindy Crawford and husband Rande Gerber.

There was a contingent from Obama’s Chicago-based kitchen cabinet, including Habitat honcho Valerie Jarrett and John Rogers, the Illinois finance co-chair.

The most important VIPs got to drive right up to the mansion, with most of the estimated 1,500 attendees who either gave or raised $2,300 shuttled by bus to Winfrey’s from the Earl Warren Showgrounds eight miles away in Santa Barbara.

At 3 p.m., there was Oprah/Obama gridlock on the Highway 101 Las Positas off-ramp leading to the staging area. Two women wearing leis waiting in the traffic jam said they flew in from Hawaii for the event. Judge Greg Mathis, who presides over the “Judge Mathis” show taped in Chicago, was in line, idling in his convertible Mercedes SL500.

Security was tight. The event was closed to the press. At the showgrounds, people dressed out of the pages of Vogue and GQ, despite the admonition to wear “garden attire,” were delivered in limos and sharp cars. Everyone had to give up cameras as they went through security. A reporter trying to interview people on the showgrounds was threatened with arrest.

Inside the fund-raiser, there were separate levels of access, depending on how much money people were raising for Obama, with the most prolific bundlers staying for a dinner.

Food stations offered mini-burgers, corn-on-the-cob on sticks, guacamole and chips; lemonade and vodka; red or white wine, and a full bar.

The Obama campaign’s regional professional fund-raisers brought their best contributors, with the high-rollers bunking at the spectacular Fess Parker resort in Santa Barbara.

Making the entire experience pleasurable for Obama’s best donors; Oprah, Obama and wife Michelle were posing for individual pictures, according to a person at the party.

As the evening wore down a stream of tired-looking but exceedingly well-dressed people, some carrying green souvenir blankets, poured past the wooden doors of Winfrey’s yard, leaving the home she calls “the Promised Land” to board buses to take them back to reality.

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?

Juanita Bynum files for divorce

Standard

Teach Me How to Love You

Hat Tip: by D. Aileen Dodd, S.A. Reid, Atlanta Journal Constitution

National evangelist Juanita Bynum apparently has filed for divorce, more than two weeks after the alleged attack by her husband, Bishop Thomas Weeks III.

A relative on Thursday said that Bynum has filed for divorce but court records were not available early Thursday. Bynum’s publicist, Amy Malone, would not comment.

the alleged beating by Weeks, the pastor and co-founder of Global Destiny Ministries in metro Atlanta.

Bynum called a press conference on Tuesday, a few hours before she hosted an international Christian talk show on Trinity Broadcasting Network. She appeared poised and soft-spoken before news cameras. She wore her wedding ring on her right hand. The pastor has been separated from her husband for more than three months.

Calling herself “the new face of domestic violence,” Bynum is expected to be part of an A-list crowd Saturday at a fund-raiser for Barack Obama’s presidential bid.

The party is being hosted by media magnate Oprah Winfrey at her 42-acre estate in California.

Bynum is part of a guest list that includes celebrities, politicians and other news makers.

“She received an invitation to attend the event at Oprah’s home,” said Malone. Bynum is hoping to talk directly with Obama or members of his presidential campaign team about national domestic violence concerns.

Weeks’ lawyer, Louis Tesser, has said that Weeks “hopes he doesn’t wind up getting a divorce.” On Wednesday, Weeks broke his silence for the first time since the alleged Aug. 21 domestic violence incident by issuing a written statement through his lawyers.

In it, Weeks cautioned against a rush to judgment and said he would share his version of what happened that night at the appropriate time.

Bynum was allegedly beaten, choked, and stomped to the ground in an attack. Weeks was charged with felony aggravated assault, felony terroristic threats and two counts of simple battery in connection to the incident.

Weeks’ appearance in Fulton County Superior Court originally set for Friday has been postponed indefinitely. The case has been reassigned to a different judge. He could face up to 27 years in jail if convicted.

Oprah in talks to play larger role in Obama campaign

Standard

Hat Tip: by Matthew Mosk, Washington Post

The Oprah-Obama ’08 bumper sticker was meant to be only a lark, hawked on the Internet for $3.99 under the catchphrase “Just when you thought there was no hope for the Democratic Party . . .”

Turns out the sentiment, at least, may not be entirely fanciful.

Oprah Winfrey, the nation’s wealthiest African American and host of an afternoon television program, endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in May. Now, she is in discussions with his advisers about playing a broader role in the campaign — possibly as a surrogate on the stump or an outspoken advocate — or simply bringing her branding magic to benefit his White House bid.

On Saturday, Winfrey will host her first-ever presidential fundraising affair on the grounds of the Promised Land, her 42-acre ocean- and mountain-view estate in Montecito, Calif. — an event that is expected to raise more than $3 million for Obama’s campaign.

Although no guests will be permitted to enter Winfrey’s house, a few dozen VIPs will have special access to Winfrey.

The fundraiser may be only the start. The Winfrey and Obama machines have maintained silence on the exact nature of their talks over what her role will be, but the idea of her appearing in television ads and other appeals is very much in play. She offered during a recent interview with CNN‘s Larry King: “My money isn’t going to make any difference. My value to him — my support of him — is probably worth more than any other check that I could write.”

Winfrey met Obama and his wife, Michelle, on the Chicago social circuit before his 2004 Senate bid, and they have remained friendly since. It was two years ago, when the Obamas attended the white-tie Legends Ball at Winfrey’s Montecito home, that Winfrey first broached the idea of doing something she had never done before — hosting a political event.

“I was saying wouldn’t this be a great place for a fundraising,” Winfrey recalled in an interview rebroadcast on her Web site. “I said it jokingly.”

Since then, Winfrey has had the Obamas as guests on her television show, featured them in her magazine and gushed about the senator’s potential to change American politics in repeated public appearances.

“For me, this was the moment to step up,” she said in a recent radio chat with friend Gayle King.

Historically, there’s little evidence that celebrity endorsements have done much to draw voters to political candidates. In fact, there is some consensus among political strategists that while mega-stars might generate an occasional burst of media attention, they are often not worth the downside that a close association with Hollywood can create.

But several political analysts pondered the impact of a full-court press by Winfrey and said they believe her involvement could be different.

“When you think about Oprah’s success in selling books, you can’t laugh off the fact that she can sway many, many people,” said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore‘s 2000 campaign. “She has a very large following — and we’re talking about people who hang on her every word.”

Among the weapons in Winfrey’s arsenal: 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.

More than that, though, the Nielsen tracking data show that her most loyal viewers are women between 25 and 55 — a group that also votes in large numbers in Democratic primaries. National Election Pool exit polling from 2004 showed that women older than 45 represented a third of the electorate in the Democratic primary contests in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

How powerful can an association with Winfrey be? On Sept. 19, 2000, George W. Bush trailed Gore in the Gallup-CNN-USA Today poll by 10 percentage points, and struggled particularly with women voters. Then he sat down on Winfrey’s couch. They talked about his decision to quit drinking, his love for his wife and daughters, his religious faith and the legacy of being a president’s son.

The following week, the same poll showed Bush with a two-point advantage — a statistical tie. News reports called it the “Oprah bounce.”

Winfrey said in an audio Web chat last week that, this year, the Obamas will be her only political guests.

“It would be really disingenuous of me to be sitting up there interviewing other people . . . pretending to be objective,” she said.

Winfrey’s show is not subject to any “equal time” obligations, because Federal Communications Commission rules do not apply to news programs, interview shows and documentaries in which the candidate is not the sole focus.

Obama’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), will not be completely deprived of a daytime audience packed with potential women voters. She landed a slot on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” yesterday and will likely be back.

On Tuesday, former president Bill Clinton made an appearance on Oprah. But the talk show host made clear that Clinton had solicited the appearance himself, and they did not dwell long on politics, instead talking about his new book “Giving” and his global good works.

He said his wife had pointed out that she is 15 years older now during her campaign than he was when he ran. “I said, ‘Well, nobody made you run, girl,’ ” Clinton said.

Oprah asked him what his title would be if his wife were to win.

“I don’t know — my Scottish friends say I should be called ‘First Laddie,’ ” Clinton said. “It’s the closest thing to ‘First Lady.’ ” He added: “I’m not so worried about what I’m called as what I’m called upon to do.”

The possibilities of Winfrey’s fledgling partnership with Obama are immense but uncertain, said Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African American studies at Duke University. They really raise a single, pivotal question: Can Winfrey do for a political candidate what she did for books?

What Winfrey did for books is the stuff of marketing legend.

Between 1996 to 2002, titles recommended by “Oprah’s Book Club” typically resulted in sales of more than a million copies, a staggering number considering that a typical novel might be judged a success with 20,000 sales. Winfrey disbanded the club in 2002, though she later reinstated it, drawing her loyalists to classic titles.

Susan Harrow, author of a book that advises commercial and charitable groups on how to land appearances on Winfrey’s show, said she is convinced a Winfrey pitch will work on voters.

The reason, she said, is that her viewers are more than just a television audience. “They are followers.”

“People trust her opinion, I think, even more than they trust their own,” Harrow said.

Neal isn’t as certain.

“She can deliver a constituency to the marketplace, no question,” Neal said. “People feel very differently about spending their money than they do about casting a vote.”

But the sway over people’s money, at least, will be evident as cars snake up Pacific Coast Highway into Montecito, and vans shuttled the well-heeled donors from parking facilities to Winfrey’s compound Saturday.

If it wasn’t clear to her loyalists how big a step it was for her to offer up this mansion for a fundraiser, she hammered that point in her chat with King.

“To offer it, you’re right,” Winfrey said, “it’s no small thing for me. . . . I’m really not a political person. I believe that he offers a fresh opportunity of hope for America. So that’s why I’m in it. I probably won’t ever be in it again.”

Oprah to host Obama fundraiser

Standard

 

Hat tip: Huffington Post/Los Angeles Times-photo courtesy of AP

Invitations have been sent out for what promises to be a must-attend event for much of California’s Democratic elite, particularly those in the entertainment industry: a Sept. 8 fundraiser for Barack Obama at Oprah Winfrey’s home in the Santa Barbara area.

In the best tradition of Hollywood, the e-mail touting the afternoon gathering doesn’t mince words, promoting it as no less than “the most exciting Barack Obama event of the year anywhere …” And the invite urges haste in responding, saying: “Please get back to us soon before it sells out.”

Getting in the door costs $2,300 — the maximum individual contribution for the primary season. But, as is usually the case at such high-profile shindigs, there are incentives to gain a little extra face-time with the candidate.

Those who can tap friends and relatives for contributions to Obama’s presidential campaign that total at least $25,000 gain entree to a VIP reception; those responsible for at least $50,000 in donations make the cut for a VIP dinner.

The workers at the Santa Barbara airport best rest up before the fundraiser; we’re guessing the tarmac there is going to be packed with private jets.

As The Times’ Tina Daunt wrote in early June, Hillary Clinton — bolstered by Steven Spielberg’s decision to endorse her presidential candidacy — appeared to have beat back an early challenge from Obama for supremacy among the Hollywood crowd. But the Oprah event signals that the Obama camp is not going to cede ground without a fight, which Daunt will report on in Wednesday’s print edition.

Oprah endorsed Obama, who she got to know through their mutual home bases in Chicago, back in the spring — the first time she had ever officially embraced a White House contender. At the time, she told CNN’s Larry King, “I haven’t done it in the past because … I didn’t know anybody well enough to be able to say, ‘I believe in this person.’ ”