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Black Entertainment, Money, Style and Beauty Blogs - Black Voices

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    The U.N. Security Council approved a no-fly zone over Libya Thursday as Muammar Qaddafi's military jets bombed the airport in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

    Qaddafi proclaimed that the "hour of decision has come" and "there will be no mercy or compassion" for those who resist as he troops advanced to the besieged city.
    "The matter has been decided... we are coming," he said in a telephone call to state television.

    Qaddafi announced the assault as the U.N. approved the no-fly zone, which was sought by Washington to strike at Qaddafi's forces on land, sea and air.

    "The future of Libya should be decided by the people of Libya," said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice. "The United States stands with the people of Libya in support of their universal rights."

    The measure would open the way for a no-fly zone and authorizes "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from attacks by Qaddafi's men.

    The council voted 10-0, with Russia, China and Germany among the five abstaining.

    In recent days, Qaddafi's forces have pounded the rebels, using rockets, artillery, tanks and warplanes.

    On their way to Benghazi, Qaddafi's troops encircled the city of Ajdabiya. Some were believed to have advanced toward Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city and the headquarters of the opposition's leadership.

    Source: NYDailyNews

    Kevin Eason is a freelance editorial cartoonist and illustrator from New Jersey. His brand of satire covers news events in politics, entertainment, sports and much more. Follow him on Facebook.


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    Kensley Hawkins: Asked to Pay for Incarceration with Jailhouse Earnings

    Kensley Hawkins (pictured) was sent to prison in 1980 for the murder of one man and the attempted murder of two police officers in Chicago. He had an 8-year-old daughter and was going to be in prison for a very long time.

    During his time in prison, Kensley earned $75 per month building furniture in Joliet, Ill. Somehow, he was able to save $11,000 during his stay in the penitentiary as a small tribute to his daughter, who is now nearly 4 years old. But the state of Illinois is not satisfied and has asked that Kensley be required to pay for the costs of his incarceration.

    The state is arguing that Mr. Hawkins owes them $455,203.14 for the cost of keeping him in prison. The case has now reached the Illinois Supreme Court.

    "The reason you want Mr. Hawkins to keep his money is because he's gonna get out of prison some day, and when he gets out of prison, we want him to have saved his money so that he can take care of himself; you don't want the public to have to pay for him," Hawkins' attorney, Ben Weinberg, told Fox Chicago.

    The state of Illinois typically pursues those with more than $10,000 in assets, and by saving his money, Hensley is now eligible to have it all taken away. The Department of Corrections is allowed to extract three percent of the wages that inmates earn during their time in prison, even though many of them earn roughly a day's pay for every month that they work.

    In her very telling book, 'The New Jim Crow,' Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander goes into detail about how the racism of the old South has been replaced by a system in which those who've been convicted of crimes are allowed to be treated as less than human.

    The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, supposedly abolishing slavery, actually says that slavery is still legal for those who've been convicted of a crime. This has provided a convenient loophole that allows the state to extract either free or shockingly cheap labor out of a segment of the population, with most of the individuals being African American.

    To see the Kensley Hawkins situation as a casual outside observer, the idea that a man has been forced to work for $75 dollars per month already argues that the state owes him hundreds of thousands of dollars for paying him a salary that is even below the wages paid to illegal immigrants (which are nearly as horrible).

    The half-million or more in wages and interest that have been extracted from Mr. Hawkins is more than enough to cover the cost of his incarceration. To charge him again would be adding a punishment on top of a punishment.

    We've also got to ask ourselves just how productive a justice system can be when it is designed in such a way that our fellow Americans are given a life debt that they simply cannot pay. Rather than making the world safer, the criminal justice system has been effectively designed to create more criminals.

    The racial implications are written all over the walls, since African Americans are the ones most likely to fill up the penitentiaries, with many of them being incarcerated because they could not afford an adequate legal defense.

    This problem is especially pervasive in the state of Illinois, where one story after another has come out about police torturing inmates into a confession or putting men on death row who never killed anyone.

    Rather than being rehabilitated in any way, many of these men and women find themselves in the streets without the right to vote, the ability to work or the chance to obtain an education. So, we effectively give the inmate and his/her family no way to properly re-integrate into society, other than wishful thinking.

    The system is designed for (mostly black) families to fail and to maintain a permanent underclass in America.

    Mr. Hawkins is not eligible for parole until the year 2028, so his rehabilitation is the last concern of the state of Illinois. What this case tells us, though, is this society is one where we've decided that anyone given the label of "criminal" should have all of his/her human rights stripped to the core.

    That is a dangerous and slippery slope, for the way we treat our inmates is a reflection of our values as a society. Kensley Hawkins should be allowed to keep his money and at least some of his integrity, for the state has been compensated many times over already.

    Watch Kensley Hawkins' story here:

    Illinois Wants Inmate to Pay for Prison:

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    Keri Hilson attended the BMI Honors in Atlanta last night wearing a saucy sheer leopard top and leather mini skirt.

    Instead of opting for a traditional tuck, she knotted her shirt artfully at the bottom, offering a slight peek of her flat stomach.

    Accessories included gold door-knocker earrings, a black knit cap and $620 chain detail boots by Giuseppe Zanotti.

    What do you think of Keri's outfit?
    Was it chic or weak?


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    Census: More Blacks in South Moving to SuburbsPolitically speaking, America's Republican stronghold is the deep South, where vast suburbs surrounding cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Richmond and Charlotte are decidedly white and often politically conservative.

    But population trends -- revealed in the last U.S. census -- show blacks and Latinos moving in to southern suburbs in high numbers, which threaten the notion of Republicans enjoying a safe harbor in southern states for much longer.

    Census estimates show a 58 percent increase in the number of blacks who moved to the suburbs, compared to 41 percent for the rest of the country. This increase is up 52 percent from 2000.

    Unless there is a large voting shift in black folks, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, the population shift could prove to be a bonanza for the Democratic party with an infusion of Democratic votes in traditionally Republican-leaning districts.

    The news isn't much better for the Republican party when it comes to Hispanics, who also tend to vote more consistently for Democratic candidates.

    Hispanics represented a larger portion of southern population gains than blacks did in 13 of the 16 southern states in the last 10 years, according to the census. Hispanics were a larger portion in just seven states from 1990 to 2000.

    So as greater racial and ethnic integration come to America's South, greater numbers of black and brown faces in southern cities and suburbs could bring an end to a longtime GOP-voting advantage and shift the nation's political landscape.


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    Nigerian author Chika Unigwe marks her debut in the United States with 'On Black Sisters Street,' a masterful sketch of four women from Africa who make their way to Belgium in hopes of building better lives for themselves. Unfortunately, they end up working on Antwerp's Zwartezusterstraat as prostitutes, lured there by false promises and empty hopes.

    Unigwe draws a rich tapestry of arresting characters that will remain with readers long after they cease reading the pages. One character, Sisi, was coaxed to Zwartezusterstraat, or Black Sisters Street, by a Belgian businessman who made her an offer she couldn't refuse. Full of hope and expectations, she leaves the dreary and destitute streets of Lagos only to find the same and worse in Antwerp.

    Unigwe, who lives in Turnhout, Belgium, with her husband and four sons, spent years researching the novel and even dressed in skimpy clothes and thigh-high boot to gather details for this must-read story.

    BV on Books caught up with Unigwe recently via e-mail to discuss her novel, what it was like to walk alongside the women on the cobblestone streets of the red-light district and what she's up to next.

    BV: Are you excited about your U.S. debut novel?
    Cnika Unigwe: I am very excited. America is an important market, and I feel very privileged to be published there and by Random House, no less.

    BV: How did you come up with the idea for 'On Black Sisters Street'?
    CU: From the first time I saw the women behind their display windows, and learned that a majority of the African ones were Nigerian, I wanted to know what their stories were. 'On Black Sisters Street' was written in answer to my questions.

    BV: You were so curious about the lifestyle that you bought clothes and thigh-high boots and spent two years among women in the red-light district. What was that like? Would you do it again and would you recommend it for others?
    CU: I spent two years researching and writing the novel. I went to the women because I had no idea about their lives as prostitutes, and because I wanted to know what it felt like to walk those cobbled streets of the red-light district. I wanted to feel what it was like as a woman to be on that street, and to be looked at as a possible worker. It was only by doing that that I could somehow, in a very small way, inhabit the skin of my characters and write them truthfully. It was awkward at the beginning. Would I recommend it to others? I think as long as one is comfortable doing it, that sort of research helps more than any literature.

    BV: Did any one person stand out? What was she like? Do you keep in touch with any of the women?
    CU: There was a very assertive one in a cafe out of which mainly illegal prostitutes work. She was one of the first I spoke to. She was honest, very brutally so. She was also surprisingly forthcoming, and had a joie de vivre I envied.
    No, I am not in touch with any of the women for many different reasons. I remember asking one for her phone number because I wanted to keep in touch and she flat out refused. It is normal, I suppose. They were very gracious, and answered my questions, even when they were dumb questions.

    BV: How did the experience help you develop your richly drawn characters?
    CU: Just being with the women, for short periods at a time, talking to them, being in that space, gave me a sense of empathy with them that I could never have gotten otherwise.

    BV: What's next for you?
    CU: I am working on a collection of short stories, and a novel set in the 18th century and based on the life of Olaudah Equiano. Also, 'Sin Eater' is coming out next year.


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    Will Smith Helps Philly School Replace Stolen Computers

    Mega-celeb Will Smith is giving back to the community where he was born and bred by helping a West Philadelphia school replace some 30 computers that were stolen last month.

    The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation and Charlie Mack Cares philanthropic organization will be donating 29 Apple laptops and one desktop on Friday to the West Philadelphia High School.

    Charlie 'Mack' Alston is a local community activist and longtime friend and business partner of Smith, who paid a direct tribute to his buddy on the song "Charlie Mack (1st Out the Limo)" on the hit 1988 album 'He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper.'

    Mack plans on delivering the goods to the school sans the blockbuster film star, Smith, who has another commitment elsewhere.

    When the high school was robbed in the wee hours on Feb. 21, according to investigators, 58 laptop computers, two desktops and one LED projector -- equipment valued at between $80,000 and $100,000 -- was stolen. Police have only been able to recover half of the laptops and the projector thus far.

    Since then, two 17-year-old students have been caught, arrested and charged with burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and related offenses. The break-in was the second at West Philadelphia High this year and the latest in a string of thefts from Philadelphia public schools, where nearly 350 computers have been stolen, totaling half a million dollars in equipment.


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    I'm dating a very intelligent, progressive, attractive single parent who has been through a lot in life and knows what she wants with a no-nonsense attitude nor time to waste. She's quite comfy in her zone, but insecure in being alone. She seems very eager to move on with life; I feel she is "racing against her biological clock." I, on the other hand, am laid-back and take the time to get to know as much about a woman as I can.

    In the beginning, while getting to know one another, she mentioned a "timeline" where she made it quite clear that she wanted to be either married or engaged within three years, and that after six months, she could tell if a man was serious or just wasting time and playing games. Two years later, she wanted to be married and in a house.

    We've both been married before (to other people), and it didn't turn out well for both of us. We are, however, willing to work through problems that have made us reluctant to move forward at times. There have been times that I feel like she's self-centered and uncompromising, but other times I have felt like the "missing piece" to her puzzle of life.

    Out of respect for her kids and herself, she refuses to have a man sleeping in her bed without some sort of commitment (we don't live together for this reason). I believe that a man should put a ring on a woman's finger when he's comfortable and ready to do so and not for convenience, and that there's no time limit as to when to do so.

    She's repeatedly stated that I wasn't ready for a relationship because my plate was too full with other things, that I was "afraid" to move on with my life, and that I was "stuck." Recently, we argue almost to the point of breaking up, but when we're in each other's company, all is well!

    I love her more than she knows. Recently, I feel like because I'm not going along with the plan, she's losing interest. Extracting the emotions from the relationship and looking at things realistically, I feel like maybe I'm just not the right one for her... I'm just not quite sure!

    Brian, Washington, DC

    When one person rigidly conforms to a plan in a relationship, they leave no room for life and love to happen organically, but at this point it seems like you're both way past the plan. The timeline she gave you was two years and you're pushing three, so you can't really blame her and say that she has been rigidly sticking to it.

    When you first started dating, she let you know that she was looking for marriage and a real commitment. She was clear about her intentions, what she wanted and what she expected from a partner. You accepted her terms and entered into this relationship with your eyes wide open, so why are you surprised that after three years of dating she wants to know if you're serious?

    Your girlfriend is a planner, and that means she will try to be prepared for everything in life. This can be a good and bad trait depending on how she handles spontaneity. Planners are extremely efficient and manage day-to-day life successfully, but the problems arise when life deviates from the plan or when someone changes it without warning. Planners typically want things done their way, and they can come off as stubborn and self-centered in the process. They need to know what's going on so they can emotionally prepare, and when their plan is threatened, fear and insecurity arise.

    She is feeling insecure because she doesn't know where you stand when it comes to this relationship. She doesn't know if you want to marry her, and that is scary. Her fear is driving her fight-or-flight response. When she tells you you're stuck, she's fighting for the relationship, and she's losing interest because she recognizes that if you haven't already figured out that she is the woman for you, then you must not want what she wants.

    It seems that you are waffling, and you don't know if you want to be married to this woman. Obviously, she is getting the message, and it's making her insecure. She is translating your reluctance to get married as a sign that there is something wrong with her. She has spent years in a committed relationship, and she has made it clear that she wants to marry you.

    Making the statement that "I feel like maybe I'm just not the right one for her" is hiding behind the real questions: "Do I want to get married again? Is she the woman for me? Do I want to call her my wife?"

    Marriage is a big step, and you had an unsuccessful experience in the past, so it's understandable that you don't want to rush into anything. That being said, you have to self assess what you want and face what is holding you back from having it. If you decide she is the one, then you need to let her know, and then ask her to give you the time and space to work out when and how you want to pop the question.

    Rebecca Brody is a relationship coach and columnist in NYC. She hosts, and works with private clients. Send your questions to or visit her at


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    Christina Milian appeared on the red carpet for the 'Miles From Home' DVD release party in a simple, spring-ready outfit.

    She paired a classic white T-shirt with a peach pencil skirt and accessorized with colorful pink sandals and a blue string of pearls.

    If you'd like to recreate her look, we found four recession-friendly options.

    Left to Right: Delia's April V Neck Tee, $19.50; Adam Crepe Pencil Skirt, $78

    Left to Right: Forever 21 Crackle Bead Necklace, $5; Topshop LUMINATE Grey Ankle Strap High Heeled Sandals, $145


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    The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan is now jumping into the debate on whether the NCAA's business practices actually make sense. The Education Secretary is responding to a call by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to strengthen the academic requirements for eligibility in the March Madness basketball tournament. He is also asking the NCAA to reconsider the way it distributes hundreds of millions in revenue to member institutions.

    The commission's results were connected to a report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics at The University of Central Florida. The institute's recent study found that 10 of 68 teams in the NCAA men's tournament did not meet the NCAA's required academic progress of their athletes. These schools did not have at least half of their players on track toward graduation. The NAACP backs the statements by Secretary Duncan, who says that schools that don't graduate players should not have the right to participate in the tournament.

    "If you can't manage to graduate half of your players, how serious is a coach and the institution about their players' academic success?" asked Duncan.

    As it stands, each conference receives $1.4 million for every win that one of its member schools has in the NCAA tournament. Roughly 44 percent of the revenue distributed by the NCAA to various conferences went to schools that did not meet the necessary academic threshold.

    NAACP President Ben Jealous says that he plans to visit every school with graduation rates that are below the standard. He has also mentioned "unconscionable" disparities in the graduation rates between white and black players. This year, the gap in graduation rates between white and black men's players rose to 32 percent, ringing alarm bells for those with a concern for racial equity. The disparity is made even more interesting by the fact that most of the players earning the lion's share of NCAA revenue are black, while the individuals (coaches, commentators and administrators) receiving the money are white.

    "Shame is a great motivator," Jealous said. "Right now we tolerate coaches that are preparing their athletes for success on the court, but failure in life... Word has to be going down the line that we expect all their athletes to graduate and that the schools will help them to."

    President Jealous is correct to get involved on this important issue, for the NCAA's exploitation of black families is one of the more significant civil rights issues of our time. While most families do not have a relative who plays college sports, most black American families have at least one black boy who involves himself in athletics. The exploitation of these young men starts as early as middle school, as the powers-that-be have started to realize the tremendous economic value of the blac- male-athletic commodity.

    As a result, the NCAA now earns post-season revenue on par with (and actually exceeding) major professional sports leagues, such as the NBA and Major League Baseball. This results in a massive wealth extraction from the black community to the tune of roughly $1 billion dollars per year. Added to the lost billions is additional lost productivity in the black community coming from athletes leaving college without an education (I've seen athletes get a degree without ever learning to read beyond a 5th grade level). Not only are many of these men not graduating, but many of the graduates aren't actually being educated.

    Given that uneducated college athletes must eventually return to the black community to become husbands and fathers, it becomes critical that the NAACP and other organizations advocate for these athletes to have the chance to become productive members of black America. Part of the reason black athletes have a lower graduation rate than whites ones is because black athletes represent the bread and butter of many athletics programs. They are the ones who score most of the points and the reason that the corporate sponsors pay hundreds of millions in ad revenue each year. Therefore, they are also the ones who are going to have the most pressure put on them to perform on the court or field, which makes it most difficult for these men to get an education. Even Jalen Rose from the Fab Five at Michigan joked that the white guys at the end of the bench were on the team partly to keep the average GPA up. But in my experience, Rose's assertion is not all that far-fetched.

    When it comes to the NCAA, the bottom line is this: All black civil rights leaders should become involved in this issue. The experience of the black male is typically (and unfortunately) defined by hip-hop, sports and the criminal justice system. In order for us to build a better black male in America, all three of these institutions must be directly confronted. I am glad that Arne Duncan has taken up the cause. Perhaps he can convince the high-powered black males in the Obama Administration (President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder) to back him up. Black men must stand up for black men and not wait for other men to come and save us.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    If anyone ever thought about increasing their IQ by taking a pill and accomplishing a month's work in a day, or even hours, here's a whimsy film that gives an answer along with the consequences.

    Directed by Neil Burger and starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Johnny Whitworth, and Abbie Cornish, 'Limitless' is a fast moving, fantasy fun ride full of thrills.

    Based on the novel 'The Dark Field' by Alan Glynn, the film starts with Eddie (played by Cooper), a divorced struggling writer who hasn't started the page of a book and loses his working girlfriend Linda (played by Cornish) because she's tired of putting up with downward slope of confidence, as well as his lack of funds.

    Enter his former brother-in-law (played by Whitworth), who sees how messy Eddie's life has become and offers him a strategy to be perfect in everything. We're not talking about being an average guy who makes due with what's in front of him, but the opportunity to open his mind to endless possibilities.

    When given the untested drug NZT that will give him 100% access to his brain at a quicker rate, Eddie is reluctant at first, but after giving it some thought, he takes the pill and all of a sudden, he's an Einstein, or better yet, he's omnipotent.

    Not only does he changes his slacker, dirt poor appearance for the better, but he's finished his book in record time, and sets his sights on the Wall Street world, becoming a self-made millionaire. With his newfound status as the "smartest man in the world", he earns the respect of the most powerful men in the field, including a powerful financial magnate (played by De Niro). But there's one catch. The process to being brilliant is short-term and Eddie has to figure a way to sustain this ability before the side-effects leave him and others, who are looking for his stash of supply, at death's door.
    Cooper, with a winning charisma, makes the film interesting to watch and leaves you wanting a pill to swallow. De Niro, the icon that he is, did something similar with 'Awakenings.' As he takes a back seat to Cooper, he's frankly is a bit underused in his role. Cornish is appealing given that her role isn't as predictable as one would think.

    As imaginative as 'Limitless' is, the film is an entertaining fantasy that's a joy to watch.


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    I wasn't quite sure what to expect with the recent interview between Tiger Woods and Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America. I have a great deal of respect for both Woods and Roberts, but as with most Americans, I'm never quite sure what to expect next out of Tiger Woods. The man who was a consistent beacon of greatness seems to be determined to become a tired old man right in front of our eyes.

    During his other interviews, I've always wondered if Tiger used a Barack Obama-like carefulness to ensure that he never appeared "too black" at one time. America has a nasty way of judging black athletes and black men in general, so the corporate and political strategy is always one that is polluted by an uncomfortable racial fickleness. Athletes end up saying things that make them sound weak and dumb, or apologizing when they did nothing wrong. It's actually quite humiliating.

    I'll admit that I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw from both Tiger and Roberts during the interview. Not only was the black athlete being interviewed by a black host, but they also featured a group of kids from the Tiger Woods Foundation, all of whom appeared to be African American. There was no awkward window dressing, throwing in a white or Asian kid for every other black kid, or desire to make Tiger appear to be "post-racial." The interview was just a bunch of happy black people talking about golf.

    This is not to say that having a non-black person in the interview would have tainted the experience. It's just to say that it's rare that a man with such a mixed public brand and persona would not go out of his way to continue groveling to a country that has yet to forgive him for being a sex addict. Whether it's calling for the death penalty during Michael Vick's dogfighting trial, or suggesting that Terrell Owens get psychiatric help, America loves to define the black male athlete as a dysfunctional, unethical sociopathic menace to society. Tiger and Roberts were as cool as two cucumbers in the freezer section, talking sports, fatherhood and laughing their way to a great interview. I loved it.

    During the conversation, Tiger talked about the joys of fatherhood. He also did a good job of promoting his new video game, "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters." The game has a neat way of allowing you to actually pretend to play golf by swinging the joy stick. Obviously, Tiger's video game sales took a significant hit after the controversy with his wife, and his brand has yet to recover completely.

    Finally, Robin went into the least comfortable part of the interview, where she mentioned the fact that this is the first year since he was 11 years old that Tiger has gone the entire season without a single win. The man who once exceeded the greatness of both Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan has been reduced to a laughing stock for the haters who once couldn't stand him. He is no longer the number one ranked golfer in the world, which is a position he held for nearly a decade.

    Tiger has won 14 majors, just four less than the "untouchable" record of 18 majors held by the great Jack Nicklaus. Some wonder if Tiger can ever get it together and make another charge at the record. I personally believe that he can do it, but for some reason, I'm starting to doubt it.

    Great achievements sometimes require an internal hunger that can never be satisfied. For example, Michael Jordan never had enough championship rings because he always seemed to feel that no matter how great he became, he was still never good enough. His Hall of Fame speech was a great example of this fact, where he spent the entire time degrading the men he'd played with for years. Jordan's extreme arrogance and narcissism appeared, to some, as a flawed effort to hide a set of deep-seated insecurities.

    When Tiger first started playing golf, he was the hungriest beast known to man. He didn't want you to win anything, and he didn't want you to even think that you could compete with him. If you had one win to his ten, he'd murder you to take the one victory you had. He was also anxious to position himself among the gods of golf, something he'd dreamed about for years.

    Since that time, money, women and the trappings of fame seem to have stolen Tiger's edge. He's not a young, angry warrior who desires constant domination over his surroundings, but instead has become an old, reflective, rich guy with bags under his eyes. I hope that I'm wrong about Tiger, for nothing gave me more inspiration than watching another black male dominate the country clubs that would never have allowed his father to become a member. Seeing Woods fall to the wayside broke my heart, the way I felt while watching Muhammad Ali take a beating from Larry Holmes back in 1980. We all want to believe that the great ones will remain on top, but the cost of being a world beater can sometimes be too high. Even if he never wins another tournament, Tiger Woods will always be a legend, and we must all forgive him for suddenly becoming human.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who made an "offensive and inappropriate" reference to the Ku Klux Klan while presiding over a robbery trial involving two African American defendants was publicly admonished Wednesday by a state agency overseeing judges' discipline.

    Judge Harvey Giss of the San Fernando Courthouse made the comments in July during an off-the-record discussion with attorneys about a possible plea agreement in the case, according to the state Commission on Judicial Performance.

    Neither of the defendants was present, but a family member was in the courtroom, according to the commission. Giss told the commission he remarked that the only thing that would make the defendants agree to a plea was for the judge to "come out in a white sheet and a pointy white hat," according to the panel's statement of facts.

    Two days later, when the defense asked the judge to recuse himself because of the remark, Giss conceded that he had made a "bad statement" but added, "People don't have a sense of humor anymore," according to the statement of facts.

    Giss, a former deputy district attorney who has been on the Superior Court bench since April 2001, eventually withdrew from the case.

    Source: LA Times

    Kevin Eason is a freelance editorial cartoonist and Illustrator from New Jersey. His brand of satire covers news events in politics, entertainment, sports and much more. Follow him on Facebook.


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    A survey taken this week at has revealed that 88.5% of all African-American respondents believe they have been victims of workplace racial discrimination at some point in their careers. The results were nearly uniform across men and women. A small percentage (5.5%) said they do not believe they've ever experienced racial discrimination in the workplace, and a similar percentage (6.1%) claim they are not sure.

    The results are interesting in light of the well-documented economic struggles among African Americans, including unemployment rates that are nearly double those of white Americans. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, black unemployment stands at 15.3%, compared to just 8% for white Americans. Black public figures and political leaders have been calling on the Obama Administration to use targeted economic policy in order to alleviate racial disparities in wealth and employment, but to no avail thus far.

    Within the black middle class, there is a pervasive, yet untold story about the challenges that many African Americans feel, educated or not, as they attempt to navigate their way through predominantly white institutions. While many are quick to blame the black community for their plight, without regard to the effects of 400 years of slavery and Jim Crow, the truth is that there are millions of African Americans who work hard, abide by the law, get as much education as they can and try to do the right thing. In fact, this represents the majority.

    What is sad is that those within our community who are working hard to do the right thing and play by the rules still see far too many cases where the white man down the hall gets breaks that we would never receive. In academia, I've seen countless universities turn down dozens of qualified black faculty and then tell us that we're not being hired because we're simply not good enough. In nearly every industry in America, it is not uncommon to see companies that have never hired an African American to certain positions, with such glaring disparities receiving barely a peep from public officials.

    This year, the Obama Administration has taken stands to improve workplace rights for women and the gay community. It is hopeful that our nation's first black president and attorney general will take a look at the abundance of issues that relate to racial disparities as well. The silent majority of black Americans experiencing workplace discrimination should not continue to remain silent forever, and we must push our elected officials to speak up.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    Long before Hurricane Katrina laid bare New Orleans' deep social wounds, the relationship between the city's police force and its black citizens had been deeply troubled.

    African-American residents have long complained of frequent abuses at the hands of police. Katrina only intensified the sense of grievance, given the prosecution of several police officers that shot unarmed civilians, sometimes fatally.

    This week, the seething anger directed at the police and an enduring sense of injustice gained a powerful surge of affirmation, with the release of a scathing report from the Justice Department.

    The 115-page document, which details the findings of a 10-month-long investigation, reads like an indictment of nearly every area of the department's operation, from the recruiting, training and supervision of its officers to its tactics of policing.

    The findings describe a pattern of unconstitutional conduct and violations of federal law, rampant use of excessive force and unwarranted stops and searches, as well as discrimination based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The wide range of abuses also includes gender-biased policing and a systematic failure to investigate sexual assaults and domestic violence.

    The document "is as damning a report as you could possibly imagine for any institution where people are allowed to carry weapons," said William P. Quigley, who is a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans and the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "If this was a business, I think it would be declared bankrupt. If New Orleans was a foreign country, I think this would be enough to constitute a no-fly zone."

    Quigley added: "What this shows is that the people who are supposed to be serving and protecting are actually a serious threat to the people of New Orleans."

    Several calls placed to the police department in an effort to secure an interview with Chief Ronal Serpas went unreturned.

    No one would argue that the New Orleans police force has an easy job. For decades, officers have grappled with stubbornly high murder rates, a particularly ruthless variety of criminal activity and communities steeped in drugs and violence. But in neighborhoods hit hardest by crime, some of the most feared people have not been the criminals, but the police.

    "When you have the type of brutality that has happened in our community, going on from generation to generation, from white police committing atrocities, to blacks committing them -- and often being more brutal then the whites -- it leaves a traumatic impact," said Malik Rahim (pictured above), an activist who has long decried police brutality and violence in the city. "But what can you do? You can't do nothing. If you do something, you risk getting shot or killed. And then it's like, who cares?"

    Federal and city officials will soon begin negotiations toward a consent decree that would formally place the department under federal oversight and create a strategy to implement specific systematic reforms.

    "The challenges confronting the New Orleans Police Department are serious, systematic, wide-ranging and deeply rooted," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division, in a letter to Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans. "As devastating as Hurricane Katrina was, our investigation has revealed that these serious deficiencies existed long before the storm."

    The Justice Department report focuses on officer conduct during the past two years, using much of the NOPD's own data, as well as interviews with a number of community leaders and police officers. Several current investigations and prosecutions of officers related to misconduct during Hurricane Katrina were deliberately kept out of the report.

    The findings are at once alarming and expected: Despite the severity of the conduct the report describes, it merely adds the imprimatur of official conclusion to charges that local residents have been leveling against the police department for a long time.

    "This report validates what many in the African-American community had been saying all along," said John Penny, a criminologist at Southern University of New Orleans. "Their voice is finally being heard after years of silence. I think that now there's a confirmation, so something has to be put in place so that integrity is the heart and soul of the Orleans Parish police department."

    Some experts dismissed the report as methodologically flawed and unfair to the police department, arguing that a few bad incidents were being used to unfairly impugn the integrity of all officers. Those holding such views argued that the nature of crime in New Orleans is so severe that an intense police response is required, inevitably leading to problems -- a context they assert is missing in the Justice Department's report.

    "There's no mention that we are in the middle of the battle of the bulge here, that we are approaching 50 murders in two and a half months," said Peter Scharf, a criminologist at Tulane University. "It's a rough town. This town is incredibly violent. Every criminal is packing. There seems to be absolutely no sensitivity to the cops in this city."

    Scharf said the likely effect of this report on rank-and-file officers could be devastating, and perhaps create an even more hostile environment.

    "Fear-based organizations don't do well over time," he continued. "If I'm a cop on the street and I read this report, am I willing to go on the street, where things turn from okay to crap in a second?" he said. "You have to balance the civil rights of the people you are to protect but, again, recognizing the difficulties of police officers in this environment. It should not be a question of how do you come out pristine, but how do you turn the corner."

    As in perhaps all social issues in New Orleans, and any large metropolis, complicated dynamics of race and class, power and money are all at work. Many city services, such as health care and education, are inadequate for much of the city's poor, black and immigrant communities. These are the places of greatest friction, where the people and the police often collide.

    Rahim, the activist, and other residents say police brutality and abuse have been common for as long as they can remember. They recount stories of minor arrests that ended up getting whole families evicted from public housing; of men and women being stopped and frisked for no reason; of beatings in police custody; and of drug dealers being stopped by police and stripped of their money and jewelry.

    Quigley concurred, emphasizing the treatment of blacks by the police has resonated differently in different communities, a schism divided most often by race.

    "In the white community, the whole thing is sort of puzzling. They knew that the police were bad but they didn't think it was that bad," said Quigley. "The truth is, I honestly don't think the white community was all that disappointed in what the police were doing, they really see them as trying to take control of the African-American and poor communities. They see it as if they had to bend the law and break the law; well, sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette."

    Larry Preston Williams, Sr., was a police officer in New Orleans in the late 1960s and '70s. He says many of the issues highlighted in the report were some of the same issues that confronted the department back when he was on the force.

    There has always been an "unofficial practice" of officers looking the other way when it comes to excessive force, unjustified shootings and lax accountability for officers who broke the rules, he said, calling that "the blue law of silence."

    "I think, as a matter of custom, there are some incidents that go back years and years that police have abused citizens, black citizens," he said. "It has been a practice that has been tolerated for a long time."

    Williams said that while lectures on good policing and lethal force as an option of last resort were delivered in the academy, once an officer got in the field, much of what they learned came from veterans with bad habits.

    "The higher-ups who have gone through the ranks, captains, lieutenants and sergeants, they understand that excessive force and unnecessary force is going on, and they don't necessarily discipline officers because they are part of that fraternity," said Williams. "It would be unpopular for a supervisor to come down on an officer.

    "It was hard to ignore the violent interrogations to elicit confessions," continued Williams. Complaints by black females that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted were common. And simply asking for an officer's badge number could get you arrested.

    Before leaving the police department to become an investigator in the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office, Williams said he and a group of black officers formed a group called the Black Organization of Police. The group was formed to speak out against police brutality and to encourage the hiring of more minorities and women, which they all assumed would lead to a more harmonious relationship between the police and the people.

    In 1973, he and a group of six other officers filed a lawsuit against the city -- Williams v. City of New Orleans -- challenging the department's biased hiring, disciplining, promoting and assigning practices.

    The group won the lawsuit and the department was legally forced to make changes under a consent decree, including hiring more black officers.

    "I don't know if that worked at all," Williams said, of the black officers being a buffer. "Apparently, it didn't. To say simply that it is an issue of black and white is superficial. It goes beyond race. It's a failure of a command structure to deal with the behaviors that lead to brutality," Williams further explained. "It's more complicated than black and white; it's a mentality that you have when you become a police officer, and you suddenly have power over an entire group of people."


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    Boris Kodjoe has been cast in the ABC pilot 'Georgetown,' an ensemble drama about young staffers on Capitol Hill.

    The hour-long project, written by Will Fetters, is described as a sexy soap centered around the young people behind the power brokers of Washington, D.C. It centers on Andrew Pierce (played by Jimmy Wolk), an effortlessly charming and brilliant Yale graduate and the youngest presidential speech writer on record who was once idealistic but is now cynical as he sees how compromise has eroded the administration's promise.

    Kodjoe will play the Democratic president's fiercely intelligent senior adviser, stated

    Kodjoe's last TV series, the J.J Abrams' NBC spy drama 'Undercovers,' which paired him with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, was canceled in 2010 after low ratings. Only 11 of 13 episodes aired.

    Also cast in 'Georgetown' are Katie Cassidy, who will play Nikki, a smart and quick-witted junior staffer in the White House Communications Office with connections to the first lady; and Daisy Betts, who will play Samantha, an idealistic young staffer with the Democratic president, and daughter of a political dynasty who shares a romantic history with Andrew. Joe Mazzello, who was recently featured in 'The Social Network,' plays Peter, another junior White House staffer who lives with his best friends, Andrew, Nikki and Sam, while Condola Rashad, daughter of Phylicia Rashad and Ahmad Rashad, is an ambitious lesbian journalist reluctantly working the style segment of Website when she'd rather be covering harder news. Kevin Zegers will play Monty, an incredibly wealthy stockbroker from a well-connected family and an old rival of Andrew's, who has just proposed to an ex girlfriend of Andrew's. Wendy Crewson is Senator Caroline Wallace, the GOP minority leader.

    This is the third TV series Kodjoe will be in. For five seasons (2000-2004), the Austrian native and former fashion model played courier-turned-sports agent Damon Carter on the Showtime television drama series 'Soul Food,' opposite his wife, Nicole Ari Parker.

    Parker will also be returning to television in the A&E hour-long pilot 'Big Mike,' which stars Greg Grunberg as a plus-size detective with the San Diego Police Department. Parker will play lieutenant Grace Peterson, Mike's boss.


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    Relationship management, brand-building and communication are critical to the success of nearly any interaction or endeavor. Whether you're talking about making things work with your significant other, dealing with a difficult boss or building your own company, these principles are part of the universal infrastructure to personal and corporate success. It is for this reason that Charlotte Purvis, a respected communications consultant, is today's Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight on AOL Black Voices:

    What is your name, and what do you do?

    First, I want to thank you for this opportunity. My name is Charlotte Purvis, and my company is Purvis Communications Incorporated. I am a communication coach, corporate consultant, and speaker.

    What is your educational and professional background?

    I was fortunate to have parents who were passionate about education. I was educated in the public schools of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and graduated from Stillman College Upward Bound Program. I earned my B.S. and M.S. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    You started your own business: Purvis Communications Incorporated. What challenges did you face as an entrepreneur, and what word of advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs?

    THE CHALLENGES: I have a great story to tell about how Purvis Communications got started and hope to share it with your audience one day. For now, this may be hard to believe but I faced few challenges. That's partly because I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't have a formal business plan, and I hardly ever thought about sales and marketing. I did focus on client relationships. This has paid off. Since 1985, Purvis Communications clients have been responsible for bringing in nearly 100% of the business through their referrals and repeat business. THE ADVICE: The takeaway for me - and the advice I offer to other entrepreneurs - is that above all, enjoy what you do and be intentional about developing long-term relationships with your clients. With your passion and a positive attitude, you can build from there.

    As a communication coach, you offer a variety of programs. Please share how your services are superior to those of your competitors and where the AOL Black Voices audience can find out more information.

    PROGRAMS: Presentation coaching, coaching for interviews, customer service training, coaching to support high performance behaviors, custom coaching programs for corporate managers and leaders, and keynote speeches.

    MOTTO: "Communicate. Grow. Succeed."

    LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS: Having long-term relationships with clients is key to the success of a business. For example, I have been a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) business partner since 1997 when I became the communication coach and customer service consultant for the GSK Response Center. In 2010 (13 years after the partnership began), GSK outsourced a function to Purvis Communications, a first for us.

    BUILDING A BRAND: The Purvis Communications brand is to gladly go above and beyond what clients expect. One of my favorite examples is the privilege I had to arrange housekeeping and support services for a client facing health challenges.

    THE EXTRAS: I enjoy surprising my clients, taking them to new places, and introducing them to new activities. Just recently I took a client on a "field trip," so she could experience customer service at an award-winning restaurant. In 2010, I surprised a client when I went to a high school football game where her sons were playing. FOR MORE INFORMATION, please email me at:

    Do you have any advice for aspiring young African Americans who wish to follow in your footsteps?

    TO ASPIRING YOUNG AFRICAN AMERICANS: Communication is the #1 skill employers seek and a top skill for your success. Focus on your written, verbal, and non-verbal communication. Ask for feedback about your communication style. Pay attention to the communication styles of people you consider successful and learn from them.

    It's important to get help and not try to do everything required to manage a business. Remember: Do what you do best, and get help with the rest.

    Is there anything else you'd like to share with our AOL Black Voices audience?

    Yes, I'll share what I call "The 3 F's":

    1. FAITH - Whether you're employed, self-employed, under-employed, or unemployed, do something everyday to build your faith.

    2. FEARLESSNESS - Take action on something you've been dreading: Speak up. Write a letter. Confront a wrong. Clear out clutter. Delete email messages. Apologize. Challenge a thought pattern. Self-correct.

    3. FUN - It's important to have balance in your life. If you work hard and aren't having fun, there is lack of balance. BEST WISHES - I send best wishes to everyone in the AOL Black Voices audience. I'm optimistic about what's ahead and wish for all of us more faith, fearlessness, and fun.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the bookBlack American Money To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To suggest a subject for a Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    For those who think there are limitations to what people can achieve, you should probably have a conversation with Anthony Robles. Robles, who was born without his right leg, is now the NCAA wrestling champion in the 125-pound weight class. Robles won the title after defeating Matt McDonough from Iowa in the title match.

    Robles finished seventh last year at the NCAA championships and fourth two years ago. This year, he dedicated himself to winning the title and went 36-0 for an undefeated season. The 17,099 people in the stadium gave Robles a standing ovation after the win.

    What one has to love about the Anthony Robles story is that it goes beyond what we've seen in standard black athletic achievements. Michael Jordan, LeBron James and other black athletes are fascinating to watch, but no story compares with Robles'. Anthony is unique for two reasons, one being obvious and the other being not-so-obvious: Winning the title with one leg is enough to grab a headline. What's equally interesting is that Robles represents a growing number of African American men who are seeking to excel in sports outside of the basketball and football.

    Black males love to play sports, and it's OK to do so, as long as we continue to teach the importance of balancing athletic achievement with our academic endeavors. It makes no sense to be a genius on the basketball court and a dunce in the classroom. Additionally, by spreading into other sports such as tennis, golf, wrestling, etc, we can avoid the dangers of football and the talent bottleneck of basketball. Everyone can't be the next Carmelo Anthony, but there's plenty of room for the next Serena Williams.

    What's most fascinating about Anthony's achievement is that he serves as a reminder to all of us that we are only limited by our desire when it comes to achieving our goals. By being committed to your purpose and possessing a willingness to sacrifice in order to get ahead, there is almost nothing you can't do. Now that Anthony has conquered the feat of a lifetime, I sincerely hope he can give a thousand speeches and cash in on his success. Way to go Anthony, you've inspired us all.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    A fourth-grade student, who attends Washington D.C.'s Strong John Thomson Elementary School, decided to share with his classmates some bagged cocaine he found in his step-dad's car trunk on Thursday instead of sharing his lunch. The unidentified child was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

    Although the boy was scheduled to appear in court Friday, the hearing was canceled. The D.C. Office of the Attorney General decided not to prosecute the young child.

    According to police reports, after being dropped off at school, the boy gave the drug to at least five classmates. Four of the children either sniffed or swallowed the cocaine and immediately fell ill. The children were rushed to a nearby hospital emergency room. All of the 8- and 9-year-old youths are reportedly in good condition.

    The case has now taken a different turn. Police and detectives from two local counties descended upon the home of the child in question on Thursday night. The investigators searched the residence looking for further evidence of narcotics. Officials are not releasing the names of the boy's parents until further developments.

    Jason Cannon, a next-door neighbor of the family in question, who just happens to be a kindergarten teacher, was interviewed by a local news station. He is just taken aback by the recent turn of events involving the boy and his parents. "I'm astonished," Cannon said. "How can this happen?"

    Sources say that the boy's parents could now face criminal charges.

    Meanwhile, the boy and another sibling have been removed from their home by the Child and Family Services Agency and have been placed in foster care.

    A neglect hearing has been scheduled for Monday morning in D.C. Superior Court to determine whether or not the children will be returned to their residence.

    Officials at the elementary school have decided to hold drug education counseling services for the students on Monday.


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    Media superstar and modeling-model Tyra Banks recently announced that she's headed to the Harvard Business School. While it's still not clear if she's getting an official degree (I assume it's a short-term executive education course; I can't imagine someone with her experience and schedule taking too much time off for school), one has to be impressed with her decision to continue educating herself. Some might think that education is simply a thing you tolerate long enough to make money to support yourself. Nothing could be further from the truth, since learning should be a lifelong process.

    "I started last summer, and I didn't really talk about it. It was very incognito, my name and everything, but I decided to talk about it [now]. I think it's a positive thing, especially for girls to see that you can still continue to educate yourself, and you can still be fabulous and fierce and celebrate your femininity," Tyra said to MTV News.

    To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if Tyra were making the move (at least partially) for promotional reasons. She has a new book called 'Model Land' coming out this fall and is also promoting a new fashion Website. But the value of her gesture for the black community and young black women is quite powerful, since she reminds us that young girls can be both brilliant and beautiful.

    As it stands, Banks' company, Bankable Productions, is reportedly worth over $90 million. Tyra continues to redefine the word "boss" within the entertainment industry, as she always understood that her beauty should only be a tool for greater things, rather than her sole reason for being. Honestly, I'm not impressed with Tyra's wealth, for there are quite a few wealthy black folks in Hollywood. What impresses me the most is that she has fully embraced her status as a role model for young women, especially black girls who are sometimes taught that you are only as valuable as the shape of your body parts.

    Given that Tyra is only 37 years old, I fully expect that the best is yet to come for this empowered young woman. Not only will she one day be a billionaire, she will probably have an impact on the world that far exceeds the boundaries of Hollywood. Other black entertainers should follow her lead, because there is more to life than getting rich, going to the club and having lots of 'shine.' It's one thing to make money and another thing to make a difference. We should be trying to do both.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    Wyclef Jean is now in a hospital recovering after allegedly being shot in his hand. Jean's publicist, Cindy Tanenbaum, said that the artist was shot Saturday in Port-au-Prince, the day before the runoff vote for the Haitian presidential election. According to Tanenbaum, Jean is doing well.

    Gerry Andre, Jean's spokesperson in Haiti, also said that the artist was shot in the hand when getting out of a car to speak with him.

    "He heard a gunshot, then he saw his right-hand palm was bleeding," Andre told CNN.

    It is not yet clear if Jean was an intended target of the alleged shooting. The efforts of police are being thwarted because Jean has refused to speak to them thus far. Garry Desrosiers, the spokesman for the Haitian National Police, is claiming that Jean has not cooperated with their investigation. The police are also saying that Jean wasn't shot at all, and instead cut his hand with a piece of glass.

    Jean was in Haiti to support the presidential campaign of Michel Martelly, a musician who is running against former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

    "It was nothing," said Damien Merlo, a Martelly spokesperson. "He's fine and out and about getting out the vote for us."

    Upon hearing that Wyclef had been shot, the headline obviously sent off alarm bells for millions around the world. Jean's towering presence within Haiti, along with the volatile political atmosphere likely lead some to wonder if Jean had been the target of an assassination attempt. The story is further complicated, however, by the fact that police are saying that Jean was never shot at all, which may explain why Wyclef didn't cooperate with their investigation:

    "We met with the doctor who saw him and he confirmed Wyclef was cut by glass," said Vanel Lacroix, police chief in Petionville, where Jean is staying.

    One could hardly imagine a political figure within the United States not cooperating with police after being shot on the campaign trail. I hope it's not the case that Jean made up the story about being shot, perhaps to bolster support, sympathy or attention for the Martelly campaign. If it is discovered that Jean has deliberately misled the public, his credibility could be permanently and irreparably damaged.

    Whatever happened this weekend, I am glad to see that Wyclef is safe and recovering. He was supposed to be a guest on our AOL show a few months ago, but had to bail out after a turn of events during his own presidential bid. My hope is that Wyclef will continue to be a strong ambassador for Haiti, which is a nation that needs his leadership now more than ever before. While it is unfortunate that he might have nearly lost his life this weekend, I am sure Wyclef understands (as any strong leader should) that his mission in Haiti is more important than the life of any one person. He must keep marching forward.

    As far as the inconsistencies in the stories about what happened to Jean, well, I'll deal with that bridge if I need to cross it. I hope he wasn't just being dramatic.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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