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Cast your Fears Aside: Find The Hero Inside Of You ( Black History)

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Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, America continues the battle, with 48.8 million people stuck below the poverty line as Congress argues about how much to cut food stamps and stops unemployment checks to millions of the long-term unemployed.

Need and poverty continue to be familiar to many.

“We must now fight to make poverty illegal,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in an interview with The Blade last week. “The reason why you have such a radical gap between wealth and poverty [is] we stepped away from the war on poverty and extended the subsidy to the wealthy.”

To fight poverty today, Mr. Jackson said in the telephone interview, President Obama “needs to address income and equality. If you enforce the law of compliance and affirmative action, you’ll have a fairer distribution of resources and contracts. The government itself must enforce its own law of a fair distribution.”

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The Rev. Robert Culp, pastor of Toledo’s First Church of God, one of the largest African-American congregations in the city, said that 50 years ago the fight against poverty and racism was a fight against the system.

“The laws of the land permitted, allowed, almost encouraged racism and the kinds of discrimination and prejudice that happened,” he said. “The real progress of these last 50 years has been primarily changing the law.”

Mr. Jackson agreed: “The key to change is the law. After all, slavery was legal. Jim Crow was legal. Denying people the right to vote was legal. We had to fight to change the laws.”

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty in his January, 1964, State of the Union address a few months after a speech by Dr. King. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty in his January, 1964, State of the Union address a few months after a speech by Dr. King.

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Mr. Jackson’s work toward economic justice dates from the inception of the war on poverty. An ordained Baptist minister, he is a civil rights elder — one of those closest to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., from 1965 until his assassination in 1968. Dr. King gave a speech in August, 1963, on poverty, and then President Johnson declared war on poverty in his January, 1964, State of the Union address.

The war on poverty “opens in Athens, Ohio, in Appalachia,” with President Johnson speaking there, Mr. Jackson said. That helped to “remove white-based fear. He deracialized the debate,” Mr. Jackson told The Blade, pointing out that President Johnson’s “next speech was affirmative action, to include women and people of color.”

The Rev. Robert Culp, pastor of Toledo’s First Church of God, one of the largest African-American congregations in the city, said that 50 years ago the fight against poverty and racism was a fight against the system.

“The laws of the land permitted, allowed, almost encouraged racism and the kinds of discrimination and prejudice that happened,” he said. “The real progress of these last 50 years has been primarily changing the law.”

Mr. Jackson agreed: “The key to change is the law. After all, slavery was legal. Jim Crow was legal. Denying people the right to vote was legal. We had to fight to change the laws.”

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty in his January, 1964, State of the Union address a few months after a speech by Dr. King. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty in his January, 1964, State of the Union address a few months after a speech by Dr. King.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
Mr. Jackson’s work toward economic justice dates from the inception of the war on poverty. An ordained Baptist minister, he is a civil rights elder — one of those closest to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., from 1965 until his assassination in 1968. Dr. King gave a speech in August, 1963, on poverty, and then President Johnson declared war on poverty in his January, 1964, State of the Union address.

The war on poverty “opens in Athens, Ohio, in Appalachia,” with President Johnson speaking there, Mr. Jackson said. That helped to “remove white-based fear. He deracialized the debate,” Mr. Jackson told The Blade, pointing out that President Johnson’s “next speech was affirmative action, to include women and people of color.”

Mr. Culp will speak on the topic at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 at the McMaster Center in the Main Library, 325 Michigan St., as part of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s Raising Awareness Black History Month celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He is the co-chairman of the Toledo Community Coalition, which, along with The Blade, is sponsoring the “Changing Minds & Changing Lives: Combating Racism” community forums.

Opportunities

“Equal educational opportunity and equal adequate economic opportunity are important,” Mr. Jackson said. Even today, “people feel a sense of desperation, with the scapegoats and people manipulated by fear. Many whites fear if you have affirmative action, your jobs will go from men to women, from white to black.

“Our jobs did not go from male to female, they went from here to yonder. [It’s] because of cheap labor, it comes back to cheap labor abroad. There are products made in those markets and sold back here. The truth is, the largest employer was General Motors. Now it’s Walmart. The shrinking does not come from racial injustice and inequality; it comes from economic forces.”

“I certainly agree that it’s economic,” said Sister Virginia Welsh, director of the Padua Center in Toledo, which, among its activities, works with children in trouble “so they have other options, to keep them in school, keep them educated so they can get a job.”

“There is institutionalized racism,” she said, racism that keeps people of color in poverty. “They can’t get jobs. Education in the center city schools is below par and the kids are not going to get a job, and that keeps them in the cycle of poverty.”

Role of racism

Injustice and inequality are present in racism today, Mr. Jackson said. And, he said “there’s no doubt” that sentiment against President Obama in the country and in the Republican Party is based in racism.

“Some of it is not even subtle, challenging his character, challenging his religion, challenging his birthplace, the attempt to make him marginal, the attempt to deny him legitimacy — ‘You’re not one of us.’ — Of course, it is fueled by race. Look at the states most fervent against him; they were against the civil rights law,” he said.

There is great irony, Mr. Jackson said, in the race-oriented objectors who, he said, “are beneficiaries of the civil rights law. Without the law, you wouldn’t have the New South, high-tech industry [there]. Without the civil rights law, you wouldn’t have the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons. You wouldn’t have had the Olympics in Atlanta.”

“The whole South changed because of success in removing barriers of fear,” Mr. Jackson said. “Now people are living out the new law, and their worst fears were never realized.”

Johnson’s impact

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed the law and society, Mr. Jackson told The Blade, crediting President Johnson for leading the legislative effort.

“One must not dismiss Lyndon Johnson. If Dr. King only had the dream, minus the new law, it would have become like vapor, like the wind. Lyndon Johnson fulfilled the dream with the new law,” he said. “His intervention changed the application of racist law.

“We couldn’t rent a hotel room in the Holiday Inn; we couldn’t enter Howard Johnson through the front door,” Mr. Jackson said. “It took us nine years to get to a civil rights law, driven by Lyndon Johnson. King raised the issue of righteous indignation, and Lyndon Johnson brought forth the legislation to match the indignation.”

The battle ahead

Fifty years after the expression of Dr. King’s dream of an equal America, “the real battle presently to me is moral and spiritual,” Pastor Culp said.

“The majority do not realize that racism is in the very fabric of America, and no matter how hard we scrub it, the stain may not be removed — it’s another generation or two ahead of us,” Pastor Culp said. “We’re beginning to really see the source of our American dilemma. We’ve been treating the symptoms. The real deal is racism.”

The Toledo spiritual leader said the issues of race and poverty come down to the nature of man. “He’s got to feel equal or superior to his fellow man, and you cannot deal with that on a legal basis. It has to become the will of man that has to be impacted and changed.”

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Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.’s forward motion for a world that works for all

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The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, was tackled by six Capitol police officers after he tried to enter the Petraeus hearing on Monday. Rev. Yearwood was injured in the incident taken to hospital. He was later charged him with felony assault of a police officer.
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In what was billed as “the largest climate rally in history,” thousands of people rallied to gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, Feb. 17 to call for a definitive shift in the nation’s energy policy. The “Forward on Climate Rally” will urge President Obama to once and for all reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and take steps to reduce carbon pollution. The historic gathering will call on the president to translate the strong comments he made about tackling the climate crisis in his recent inaugural address-“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations” — into a far-ranging set of policies and executive orders for global sustainability in his second term.

The demonstration’s three major sponsors — 350.org, the Sierra Club and Hip Hop Caucus — are betting that integrating grassroots momentum, historic longevity and a commitment to move beyond traditional, predominantly white environmentalism is key to making the breakthrough that will be crucial to dealing full-on with this accelerating crisis.

The demonstration’s three major sponsors — 350.org, the Sierra Club and Hip Hop Caucus — are betting that integrating grassroots momentum, historic longevity and a commitment to move beyond traditional, predominantly white environmentalism is key to making the breakthrough that will be crucial to dealing full-on with this accelerating crisis.

350.org has played a dramatic role in building the movement for climate safety through grassroots organizing, online networking, social media and a series of coordinated national and international action campaigns. It launched the Keystone XL pipeline campaign, which took off after more than 1,200 people were arrested engaging in nonviolent civil resistance at the White House in 2011, and recently organized a 22-city “Do the Math” bus tour where it spread the message of rising carbon emissions — and what we can do about them — to sold-out halls across the U.S.

The Sierra Club, founded by pioneering environmentalist John Muir 120 years ago, is the oldest and largest environmental organization in the U.S., with 1.3 million members. Its board recently broke with its long-standing prohibition against nonviolent civil disobedience by authorizing the organization’s participation in a “Forward on Climate” civil disobedience action to be held separately from the rally.

Hip Hop Caucus is a national civil and human rights organization that mobilizes, educates and engages young people on “the social issues that directly impact their lives and communities.” It has tenaciously set out to bridge racial, class and political divides by tackling police brutality, the disastrous federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. war in Iraq, youth violence and widespread, systematic attempts to prevent people of color from voting. It has been working on eco-justice and the climate crisis for years, including helping to organize the Green the Block campaign and the Green the City Summit.

Hip Hop Caucus’ president, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., has been a tireless advocate for connecting the dots between poverty, racism, violence and environmental destruction — and for taking nonviolent action to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. For him, there are no silos separating social issues.