Monday, December 29, 2008

You Can't Fix What you Don't Acknowledge-Can I get an Amen?

I am pleased to present this guest essay from my friend and colleague, Tyrone Nelson. A former school board candidate,Tyrone Nelson is well known in the greater Richmond Community. He is the pastor of the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia,the president of the ecumenical social justice advocacy group, RISC (Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Communities)and serves on the board of the Gilpin Jackson Center, Historic Jackson Ward Association, and the Elegba Folklore Society.

Are We Serious? Some Truth Telling by Pastor Tyrone Nelson

On a recent trip to the barbershop, I overheard a middle aged woman speaking with unbridled passion about the “pay for play” plan to sell the United States Congressional Senate seat of our President-elect. She was amazed at “the level of corruption” and the “It’s all about me and my wallet” politicking that Illinois Governor Blagojevich had been accused of. I have heard a continuous flow of intense conversation and verbal hay making thrown the direction of Governor Blagojevich. As flurries of allegations of crooked politics in Illinois and Chicago continues to threatens and distract from this great moment in American history, one thought continues to cross my mind, “ Do we seriously believe this is just happening in Illinois?"
What would make us think that this behavior is inconceivable? I believe that we can find evidence of corruption in more than a few organizations, religious bodies, non-profits, schools, fraternities/sororities, etc. You may say, “ but Pastor, most people are not asking for $500,000 fundraising gifts, jobs for spouses, and likewise”. You are right, probably not, hopefully not. But, shrewd,perhaps more subtle, but oftentimes unethical politics are found in many organizations. The “pay for play” agenda is defined by the desire to get something back in return for something you have of value and presents itself in many forms. The School Board member who promises to fulfill “a special request” for a certain school if a certain parent rallies around a certain agenda. The City Council/Alderman candidate that promises to erect stop signs throughout a district, in exchange for the support of a Neighborhood Watch president with considerable influence in a heavily populated portion of the district. A church trustee that influences the votes of members of the congregation in hopes that support of a new clergy leader would lead to their agenda moving forward. The manager who posts a job opening knowing he has already preselected for “the person that will carry forth their vision”, regardless of the mission of the company. A parent who offers ice cream, a night at the movies, and toys, in exchange for their child’s “good behavior”. Shrewd politics can be found in many areas of our lives. We have all in some way experienced this type of politicking and “pay for play” philosophy.
Do we seriously believe that none of this exists in Richmond politics? Do we seriously believe that Henrico and Chesterfield politics are exempt from this methodology? Do we think that Amelia, Prince George, Charles City, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, and any city or county in Virginia, are all squeaky clean of this type of agenda? Are we serious? Do we dare to believe that in our presidential elections, congressional races, state legislature races, and even local elections, there were no shrewd, borderline unethical conversations had? Or do we turn our heads until the unethical behavior is staring us in the face? Will we be silent until the elephant in the room stands on our plastic covered sofa?
However, from February 2007 through November 2008, we watched our nation catch the fever of hope, a hope for a fair and just community and society. A hope for “business as usual” to die, and for the same tired way of doing things to hear its committal rites and be buried with the dirt of death. I firmly believe that Barack Obama was elected our 44th president for this very reason. The people of the democracy wanted a new voice from the choices they were given. Yes, he is a minority and that is exciting. Yes, he is an eloquent, passionate pro claimer of hope and that is promising. Yes, he has a great vision and direction for this country. But beyond that, the people wanted something new right now. The people made the choice. Not Congress. Not churches. Not African Americans. All the people of this great country collectively elected him. Democracy at its purest sense is about the people, not preplanned political bartering.
I hope for my city to catch this vision. I hope for Virginia to enter the New Year embracing democracy and understanding the power of the individual vote and voice. I hope for 2009 to be a year where we embrace an inclusive plan to move forward in a manner that speaks to the core of the inner good in all of us. I hope for a plan to eliminate homelessness. I hope for a plan that follows the lead of Crossover Ministries and Bon Secours to provide healthcare to the uninsured. I hope for communities that are not afraid to turn criminals in and rehabilitate our neighborhoods. I hope for a vision-minded leadership model in Greater Richmond and the tri-cities that engages and values everyone. I hope that people will speak up when they see things are wrong. I hope for a people to raise up a new generation of leaders to replace unresponsive leadership. I hope for a community that will care for one child at a time. I hope for parents to commit to attending PTA’s and parent teacher conferences. I hope for a region that would attend community and council meetings to become civilly involved. We can no longer afford to turn a deaf ear toward non-progress in Richmond. Yes, I hope!
I do not share this out of naivete. I know that the "barter system" has long been a part of our culture. We give in exchange for what can be given to us. This system permeates every area of our lives. The challenge of this system is that it does not respect the core principles of democracy. Democracy was created to give the people a voice and a choice. When preplanned agendas set the course through selfish “all for me” bartering we negate and cheat the democratic process. Whether in political office, working for a non-profit, or in the selection process of leadership, prearranged deals stifle and choke out democracy and inclusion.
Are we serious enough to take action? I hope we are. Our future growth and community development depend upon it. We cannot continue to recycle leadership, prearrange or barter political positions, or be apathetic about what is going on, because if we do, we stunt our growth. Let 2009 be the year, the time, the moment in history, when we shift our mental direction and focus on what's fair, honest, and right. I have asked God to forgive me for my role in any unfair process or ideology whether initiated by me or others around me. For every opportunity that was denied a person, because of outside agendas, that did not respect the gifts/talents of others, I sincerely seek forgiveness. Will you follow my lead and fight to end this behavior in 2009?
I love our city. I love our state. I love our country. I love our democracy. My hope is that we capture the essence of the opportunity in our history. A moment of change. A moment of democracy at its best.
Tyrone Nelson
Richmond, Virginia
The DAVISReport

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Foreshadowing the "R" Word- A Day Late and Many Dollars Short

Our Government is finally admitting what seems to surprise only them, that we are in a recession and have been for some time-"Duh"?!
The following is a reposting of a previous entry on this blog originally dated July 11,2008. Read in today's light it seems like a 1,000 years ago and a lot more unsettling....

I just got back from a trip to California, going from Mexico to San Francisco ,and other than the shore line, it is one big brown state. And the smoke, when you see all that dry dessert grass on the mountains, you get an understanding of their fire risk and why that state won't stop burning.
In Mexico I learned two things I didn't know. First California was named by early Mexican natives and it means "hot oven" and second it is a statement of accepted fact there that the US is in a recession. My personal, though admittedly limited, international focus group collection data revealed that our international neighbors throw the fact of our recession around pretty comfortably and seem unaware that our own administration states we aren't in one.
("Oh Amigo, tourism is down due to American recession" ; "The artisans will barter as business is down due to the American recession").Is it important what the rest of the world observes about our economic health? I think so.
But what really got my attention is that Warren Buffet has stated his opinion that by common sense definition we are indeed in a recession. Now that's the straight talk express! Your only as sick as your secrets folks, and its time to review some sad truths.
The British pound is exchanging 1.99 to our US dollar (that a penny shy of two to one!)
The Euro is 1.50 to one US dollar. The Canadian dollar at 1.01 is worth a penny more than us!
Even the Mexican Peso is gaining on us, at 10 cents to the US dollar - its at its highest exchange rate ever.
Oil just hit 150.00 a barrel and we are behind the curve in alternative fuel developement.
Back in 2002 when I was in Europe the Euro was between 90 and 95 cents to an American dollar, the British pound around 1.25-1.30 and the Peso was pennies on the dollar. Currently the Australian dollar, the Japanese Yen, the Swedish Krona, and the Swiss Franc all trending strong.
Here at home the stock market is "correcting" (translation- trending down) and the housing market has birthed a new word-”stagflation” Why?;-Banks and home sales are imploding from loans that should have never been granted and whose legacy was to ”overstimulate” with artificial money, the checks and balances of supply and demand, buyer and seller, that normally drives the housing market which resulted in a bumper crop of overextended homeowners tumbling into foreclosure. A house of cards that has collapsed. Again-Why?-Well… where do I start.? To begin with my financial pundit buddy tells me that since 1985 the US dollar has devalued 48% because our federal reserve has been printing more money out of thin air than all predecessors back to 1913 combined. This means more US dollars chasing less supply. Now this is when the economists jump in and explain why mere mortals don’t understand this isn’t as negative as it sounds. And this is when I filter it through a lens I can understand.
So how did we get here? Ask an Econ Professor, Financial wizard, or CPA and you’ll get macroeconomics, statistical trends, and charts. When you muddle through the dizzying facts you learn there is plenty of bipartisan blame to go around. You learn that like most things stupid, it didn’t happen overnight.
I’m not a financial wizard , but I am fairly well educated, a life long learner, with a doctorate in the school of hard knocks and a PH.D in common sense and my common sense meter is off the chain!
To begin with you can’t just throw money around globally in a big way with unabated bravado and not expect to hit the wall financially sooner or later. We are hemorrhaging money in Iraq to the tune of billions a month. Bush’s Folly is as much an economic nightmare as is the rest of this war.
Add to this the slow drip of money, jobs and resources being taken from our country from outsourcing, unbalanced trade agreements, and unchecked immigration and we are becoming more anemic every day, bleeding from every orifice the life’s blood of our economy. The heart and lungs of our economy are laboring to keep us upright and the strain is getting acute.
Now that gas has hit four bucks a gallon in Central Virginia with no sign of relief,
we need to hunker down and as Bette Davis quiped
"Hold On boys - Its Gonna be a Bumpy Ride"
As far as what to do? Conserve, reevaluate your expenses and portfolio, shop wisely, try not to panic but don't be apathetic,by believing you are helpless. And remember this is a very important election!- VOTE!
Posted by www.EileenDavis.blogspot.com The Davis Report - The Voice of Central Virginia and the Capital City. at 9:58 AM
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