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First Lady Michelle Obama: “The surest path to progress here in America runs straight through the voting booth”

Over the weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the graduating class and guests at Jackson State University, an historically black university in Jackson, Mississippi.

(Jackson State University YouTube: Michelle Obama’s Speech at 2016 JSU Spring Undergraduate Commencement)

Michelle Obama:

Now, back in 1950, when this stadium was built, it was one of the finest stadiums in the country, quickly became the pride of Mississippi. But the story of this beautiful complex also has a darker side. For years, it stood as a steel and concrete tribute to segregation, because Jim Crow laws meant that only white teams and fans were allowed through these gates.

Back in 1962, during an Ole Miss football game, this stadium became the site of what was essentially a pro-Jim Crow rally, with fans waving Confederate flags and singing a song called “Never No Never” to protest the admission of an African American student to their university. […]

That game was just one small moment in a struggle of civil rights that enflamed this entire country, but often burned hottest right here in Mississippi, the state where a 14-year-old boy named Emmett Till was beaten and murdered. Where NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated. Where Freedom Riders overflowed the jails. Where gunshots would ring out here on your campus, killing young people and littering one of your dorms with bullet holes still seen today.[…]

Several months ago, I was meeting with a group of teenage girls from Washington, D.C., and one of them asked me, “Well, what do you think Dr. King would say about everything that’s going on today?” And I told her that none of us can really answer that question. But I said that Dr. King would probably answer it with a simple question –- and that is: “Did you vote?” (Applause.) Did you vote?

Dr. King understood was that one of the surest paths to progress here in America runs straight through the voting booth. That’s been the key to every single stride we have ever taken in this country –- from fighting discrimination to passing health care. It all starts with the ballot. […]

If we fail to exercise our fundamental right to vote, then I guarantee that so much of the progress we’ve fought for will be under threat. Congress will still be gridlocked. Statehouses will continue to roll back voting rights and write discrimination into the law. We see it right here in Mississippi — just two weeks ago -– how swiftly progress can hurtle backward, how easy it is to single out a small group and marginalize them because of who they are or who they love.

Full transcript below.

Weekly Address: President Obama – Building a Fairer and More Effective Criminal Justice System

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President discussed his continued efforts to build a fairer and more equitable criminal justice system. The Department of Justice has designated the week of April 24-30 as National Reentry Week, during which the Administration will highlight how strong reentry programs can make our communities safer. In support of National Reentry Week, the President said his Administration will take additional steps to ensure applicants with a criminal history have a fair shot when competing for a federal job.

Additionally, the White House will call on businesses to commit to hiring those who have served their time, and it will issue a report on the economic costs of high incarceration rates in this country.The President emphasized that this is about more than what makes economic and practical sense – it’s about ensuring we live up to our Nation’s ideals.

On researching Black and Brown communities

 photo 03990105-d192-4fc8-9595-f5bdface9b39_zpsiuhbd98o.jpg

Dr. Yasser Arafat Payne, Social-Personality Psychologist and Associate Professor of Black American Studies at the University of Delaware.

As more and more issues affecting communities of color, like police violence, and incarceration are highlighted in the media, due in part to the protests generated by groups like #Blacklivesmatter and the Dream Defenders, we are also inundated with research data and statistics. A lot of that data is generated by academic researchers who are not part of the communities they study, and those under study are “subjects” of the research and have little or no say or participating in or framing the studies.

Though I often reference research data in what I write about here, I have rarely discussed “research methods” and my own thoughts about the best theoretical approaches to doing sociological and anthropological research in our neighborhoods. I am a staunch proponent of what is called “Participatory Action Research (PAR) which engages researchers and community members as equal members of a process involving both study and taking action.

Weekly Address: President Obama – Ensuring Our Free Market Works for Everyone

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President discussed important steps the Administration has taken to encourage competition – the most essential ingredient in a healthy free market. Right now, too many companies are engaging in behaviors that stifle competition, stacking the deck against consumers, workers, and small businesses. The President emphasized that this isn’t fair – and that’s why he is doing everything he can to reverse this trend and to promote more competition. The President said that’s also why his Administration is encouraging the FCC to open up set-top cable boxes to competition, which will allow for companies to create new, innovative, higher-quality, lower-cost products – because it’s good for workers, businesses, and our economy.

President Obama: “I’m not here just to say we SHOULD close the wage gap. I’m here to say we WILL close the wage gap.”

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