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Dr. Wilmer Leon: Voter Suppression in 2012, Past is Prologue

Dr. Wilmer Leon: Voter Suppression in 2012, Past is Prologue

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III In 1870 Congress ratified the 15th Amendment to the Constitution which declared, “The right of citizen’s of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude…“  In response to this […]

White Supremacist Running for Sheriff Says He’s “Just a Concerned Citizen”

White Supremacist Running for Sheriff Says He’s “Just a Concerned Citizen”

Playing the race card in politics in nothing new. In fact, it is widely known that republicans use a Southern Strategy to inflame whites over racial issues as a way of garnering votes. In the 2012 republication nomination process, both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have made comments which malign African Americans as slovenly welfare […]

The Law that May Let Trayvon’s Killer Go Free

The Law that May Let Trayvon’s Killer Go Free

There’s been a lot of talk about Florida’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) Law since the death of Trayvon Martin.  So I decided to take a look at this law (which approximately 20 other states have adopted).  Welcome to the age of vigilantism. Here’s what outsiders might fail to realize: In Florida, the shooter only has to say these […]

The Case of Adolfo Davis: Should Juveniles Receive Life Sentences Without Parole?

The Case of Adolfo Davis: Should Juveniles Receive Life Sentences Without Parole?

Adolfo Davis had been 14 years old for just two months when he made the mistake that changed his life. In October 1990, he was living on Chicago’s South Side with a grandmother who could barely care for him. His father was gone. His mother was a drug addict. He was teased because he often […]

Are Cookies Smarter Than Condoms?

Are Cookies Smarter Than Condoms?

As we suffer through what has officially been dubbed the most partisan era in the history of American politics (next to the Civil War, perhaps?), it seems there is little left that Americans can agree on. Even contraception, which used to be the fallback issue of consensus among those sick at yelling at each other over abortion, has tied if not surpassed that issue in partisan squabbling. So is there anything left that people of different political stripes can actually find common ground on? Maybe just one: cookies. Republican or Democrat, Independent or Libertarian, anyone of any political persuasion who considers him or herself a cookie aficionado holds a special affection for this time of year. Some may call it the dawn of spring, but those of us with a sweet tooth call it Girl Scout cookie time. Throughout the halls of Congress, you will find Republicans and Democrats alike sneaking a Thin Mint or two, or diving into a box of Samoas (my personal favorites). But what you may not know is just how many of those members of Congress used to sell cookies themselves. When it comes to cultivating female leaders, not a single college, university, sorority, or religious organization can come close to the alumnae of the Girl Scouts. The organization, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this month, counts 70 percent of female members of Congress , all female astronauts, and every single female Secretary of State to date as former Girl Scouts. In an interview , Congresswoman Donna Edwards said, “Every skill that I use in the United States Congress right now I know that I learned that through my experience in Girl Scouts.” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison echoed that sentiment: “The Girl Scouts taught me the importance of honesty, fairness and respect for others. I gained confidence and learned skills I value even today,” she said in a statement . When asked if she thinks she would have ever become one of the few women to head a television network had she not spent years as a Girl Scout, BET Chairwoman Debra Lee said simply , “No. Girl Scouts were very important in my life.” But bipartisan support hasn’t stopped some from trying to politicize the century-old organization that many of us consider as all-American as apple pie, or perhaps cookies. Local elected official Bob Morris recently accused Girl Scouts of being a ” radicalized organization” that “sexualizes” girls and functions as a tool of Planned Parenthood. Though he later apologized for some of his rhetoric, if he has strong feelings about ensuring that fewer young girls find themselves in need of the services of organizations like Planned Parenthood at an early age, might I suggest that Rep. Morris buy some Girl Scout cookies? Lots of them. The reason? Because Girl Scouts probably plays an even greater role in teen sex and pregnancy prevention than your run-of-the-mill high school sex ed course. I’ve long been frustrated with how tone-deaf both sides of the sex-ed debate sound. On one side you have conservatives with their heads in the sand, proclaiming that “abstinence” is an effective educational program for preventing teen pregnancy. ( It’s not .) On the other side you have progressives proclaiming that comprehensive sex ed is the most effective method for preventing teen pregnancy. (Well, it’s certainly better than abstinence-only , but that’s not saying much.) What both sides of the argument rarely acknowledge is that either approach fails on its own, with their effectiveness being determined in large part by the support network young people already have in place. That includes parents, teachers, and peers. According to the findings of multiple studies (which you can view here ), the greatest predictors of which teens will engage in risky sexual behavior remain family life and the peers they associate with. Another predictor? Goals. If a teen has a goal — to become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or perhaps a member of Congress — he or she is statistically more likely to make “safer” choices. In other words, it’s not enough to say, “Don’t have sex, because you could get pregnant,” or, “Use a condom, because it greatly decreases your chances of getting pregnant.” The connection has to be made between, “Use a condom because it greatly decreases your chances of getting pregnant, and if you want to go law school, that’s a lot harder to do if you have a child before you’re ready.” While I want to be very clear for the sake of Rep. Morris and his cohorts that this is not the messaging of Girl Scouts, it’s worth noting that the mission of the organization is to instill pride, purpose, leadership skills, and goals in girls so that they grow up to become proud, purposeful women — women more likely to make healthy choices so that they achieve their long-term goals, whether those goals take them to the Halls of Congress or all the way to space, or even just to cyberspace (shout out to my fellow former Brownie troopers!). So if you really care about the health of girls and seeing girls make healthy choices, buy some Girl Scout cookies. You never know. You may just end up purchasing a box from your future member of Congress or your future president. Click here to see a list of famous Girl Scouts, and to see my interviews with members of Congress about how the Girl Scouts shaped their lives and careers. Please feel free to share your own memories of how Girl Scouts shaped your life in the comments section. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com , where this piece originally appeared.

Oprah Helps Obama Raise 5 Million Dollars

Oprah Helps Obama Raise 5 Million Dollars

Oprah may not be front and center for Obama’s reelection campaign, but according to Bloomberg, she’s working hard behind the scenes to help Obama raise money for his campaign: President Barack Obama, turning full attention to his re-election campaign, aimed to raise more than $5 million today with fundraisers in his adopted hometown of Chicago and then Atlanta, […]

Trayvon Martin — Victim of Bias & Gun-toting Vigilantism

I wait for an era when young Black men will no longer have to live in fear. Decades after the abolishment of slavery, we were haunted by the reality of being hunted down, beaten and lynched by both everyday citizens and law enforcement. Young boys like Emmett Till were openly and viciously murdered because of the sentiments of bigoted individuals who believed they had the right to carry out their own brand of injustice. Today, Black (and Latino) youth are routinely targeted, profiled and ‘mistakenly’ shot by those sworn to serve and protect us (i.e. Sean Bell). And now, in what can only be described as the most blatant form of vigilante murder, a 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin loses his life at the hands of self-proclaimed ‘crime stopper.’ But the only crime here is that this killer has ended poor Trayvon’s life under the guise of his own preconceptions and has not been charged, nor arrested. We will head to Florida to ensure that all that changes immediately. On Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m., National Action Network (NAN) and I will convene an urgent rally at the First Shiloh Baptist Church in Sanford, FL. to demand justice for Trayvon Martin. We will be joined by community leaders and concerned citizens from all ethnicities, backgrounds and walks of life that cannot even begin to comprehend this nightmarish situation. A young teenager walking home, armed only with candy and a drink, should never lose his/her life because someone in a gated community feels ‘threatened.’ George Zimmerman, the accused adult shooter, is roaming the earth freely while Trayvon’s mother, father and family members must bury their precious child. It is an atrocious miscarriage of justice, and we demand that authorities in Florida arrest Zimmerman immediately and charge him for the crime of murder. Anyone with sound reasoning cannot disagree. In 2005, the state of Florida enacted one of the toughest ‘stand your ground’ self-defense laws which allowed civilians to use deadly force against ‘intruders’ or anyone they believed was a ‘threat’ to their life. Supported — and in many ways lobbied — by the National Rifle Association, these laws don’t require a person to retreat from the situation, thereby allowing them to even pursue someone who ‘threatens’ them. The legislation not only protects individuals from prosecution, but goes so far as barring them from civil suits in many cases as well. As the model for dozens of other states that now carry similar laws, the Florida self-defense rule creates an environment where anyone at any moment can claim they were fearful of someone as a justification for cold-blooded murder. And that’s exactly what we see here in the tragic case of Trayvon Martin. In the recently released 911 tapes of that fateful day, Zimmerman was clearly told to stand down by authorities, but he didn’t comply. Many eyewitnesses said they heard screams of help, but no one came to Trayvon’s assistance in time to save his life. Zimmerman claimed he had spotted a ‘suspicious’ individual, and as several news outlets have reported, he pursued Trayvon, not the other way around. In a society that still views young men of color as threatening, dangerous and suspicious without cause, these self-defense laws in Florida and elsewhere give free rein for anyone to openly kill those that they may not like or those that make them feel uncomfortable because of their own inherent prejudices. And the race/ethnicity of Zimmerman or any citizen in this type of scenario doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, it is the race of the victim — Trayvon — that does matter. It is his race and his demographic that is consistently depicted as the threat, and negatively portrayed in popular culture. A few years ago, a man in Oklahoma City shot and killed a 16-year-old who allegedly tried to rob the drugstore where he worked. This pharmacist attempted to plea self-defense, but because he shot the teenager in the head, chased someone else out and returned to shoot the kid five more times as he lay on the floor, he was sentenced to first-degree murder. Young Trayvon’s only crime was buying a pack of skittles and walking through the wrong neighborhood. He had his entire life ahead of him and we demand justice without delay. Zimmerman must be held accountable. Join us in Sanford on Thursday as we call for a repeal to Florida’s outrageous self-defense laws. It’s about Trayvon’s life, not supposed self-defense. I’m still waiting for the day that young Black men (and women) can walk freely in any neighborhood without fearing for their lives.

Trayvon Martin: Killed for walking while black

Trayvon Martin: Killed for walking while black

George Clooney arrested in Protest for Africa

George Clooney arrested in Protest for Africa

Police arrested George Clooney, his dad, Nick, and other protesters outside the Embassy of Sudan in Washington this morning. Cute mug shot alert!But seriously: Martin Luther King III, NAACP President Ben Jealous and Congressman Jim Moran were among those protesting with Clooney, according to WUSA TV. The protesters are demanding immediate action to stop Sudans […]

21 States See Rise in Foreclosure Rates

21 States See Rise in Foreclosure Rates

Even though national foreclosure rates have dipped slightly, 21 states have seen an increase in foreclosure rates.  According to a Reality Trac report, markets on the East Coast and Midwest were hardest hit by foreclosure increases. “February’s numbers point to a gradually rising foreclosure tide as some of the barriers that have been holding back […]