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Watson has been a strong critic of how Mayor Ray Nagin and other

governmental officials handled the crisis surrounding hurricane Katrina.



Books by Jerry W. Ward  Jr.

Trouble the Water (1997) / Black Southern Voices (1992) / The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)  / The Katrina Papers

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Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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Tom Watson Running for Mayor of New Orleans 

Voting Essential to Right of Return 

Legislature agrees to emergency elections plan for New Orleans


New Orleans, La., The New Orleans Agenda -- Tom Watson has scheduled a press conference for 11:00 a.m., on Friday, February 17, 2006 at the Renaissance Arts Hotel, 700 Tchoupitoulas Street to announce his entry into the April 22, 2006 mayor's race in New Orleans. Watson's announcement will be the first by a major African American candidate to challenge New Orleans' current mayor.

Running under the theme, "Unmatched Leadership for the New Orleans Renaissance" Watson said that "no other candidate can match my seven levels of leadership." Commissioned by the United States Army Academy of Health and Science, Watson argues that his 13 years of military service have prepared him for the leadership role required of New Orleans' next mayor. He also expects that his thirteen years of administrative experience in city government will be an added advantage.

Tom Watson is the founder and pastor of Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries in New Orleans. He also serves as President of the Greater New Orleans Coalition of Ministers, a group of 180 plus ministers representing more than 40,000 members with a stated mission to impact and improve the spiritual, social, educational, economical, and political disparities in the Greater New Orleans Community.

Watson has been a strong critic of how Mayor Ray Nagin and other governmental officials handled the crisis surrounding hurricane Katrina. It is expected that his platform will include a powerful message that advances the "Right to Return" to New Orleans for every hurricane Katrina survivor.

A mastered degree in social work with a concentration in community organization and social planning from Tulane University in 1979, Watson could have the built-in network to ignite and organize minority voters.

With eight announced white candidates in the race, political observers look for Watson to directly challenge Nagin's perceived lack of support in the Black community and other cultural sensitive coalitions, thus increasing his chance of earning a spot in the runoff. In 2002, Nagin was elected with only 40% of the African American community giving him their support.

Last year, Watson took on several public official following the death of Levon Jones at Razzoo's Bar on Bourbon and an incident in Jefferson Parish where deputies fired more than 100 shots to kill a 16-year- old black man. He has also lead the fight in challenging Mayor Nagin on issues such as the battle to maintain 'a residency requirement' for New Orleans Police Officers, participation of minority in city contract awards, and other race related issues.

Watson's formula for victory could get disturbed should Bernard Charbonnet Jr. decide to enter the race. Charbonnet has served as the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans and is a leader of the 7th-ward base COUP political organization. Charbonnet’s expertise in construction law may serve appealing to voters looking for a leader to help them recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Well liked in most circles, Charbonnet could likely put together a broad base of business and political coalitions. Supporters say that Charbonnet is close to making a decision.

Source: The New Orleans Agenda (2/13/06)

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Voting Essential to Right of Return

By Melanie Campbell

Executive Director, NCBCP


Washington, D.C. -- Over 5 months ago, as the world watched in disbelief the meltdown of our nation’s government and disaster relief agencies in responding to the most horrific natural disaster in modern day history in the United States of America---Hurricane Katrina---the civic, business, labor, religious, civil rights and non- profit sectors boldly stepped in to fill the void. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), in collaboration with the Black Leadership Forum (BLF), responded to this national outcry and swiftly engaged its membership, state and local affiliates and networks, in an unprecedented coalition effort to help provide disaster relief and recovery to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina and shortly after, Hurricane Rita.

Pre-Katrina, the U. S. Census reports that New Orleans had a population of nearly 500,000. Over 300,000 of those residents, mostly Black, were displaced after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. New York Times reporter Clifford Levy stated in his article on November 17, 2005, New Orleans Vote Near, but Who Will Go?, “since the hurricane, most of the estimated 60,000 to 100,000 residents who have returned to New Orleans are white and middle class, changing the city’s racial composition, which had been two-thirds black.”

Levy reported that there are roughly 219,000 New Orleans evacuees that are voting age [over the age of 18], estimates that 70 percent of those are black, which represents 153,300 black voters who won’t have access to the ballot in the 2006 elections. “This is voter disenfranchisement by attrition” states Levy.

The right to vote is arguably the most important right of citizenship in a democratic country. Since the passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870, Americans have enjoyed the legal freedom to select those in charge of governing the country without regard to race or color. Yet exercising this civil right has been a struggle for Black Americans. Black citizens have needed courage to stand up to violence and intimidation and the fortitude to confront poll taxes and literacy tests in order to exercise their democratic right to vote.

The New Orleans Mayor’s Race of 2006—rescheduled from its original date of February 4, 2006 to April 22, 2006--is shaping up to be a modern day litmus test and the poll tax imposed on the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will be finding a way to have barrier- free access to the ballot by their government when many are struggling to survive in over 40 states across the country.

The New York Times reported that New Orleans residents who wish to vote in the 2006 Mayor’s race “will either have to make their way back home to town or rely on absentee ballots, a method of voting that has had a checkered record across the nation in recent years.”

One obvious solution that seems to be escaping federal, state and local government officials is that our nation has the ability to resolve the issue of access to the ballot for our military personnel who have been deployed oversees to vote in federal, state and local elections through the Uniformed and Oversees Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

Further, our government found a way to provide access to the ballot for Iraqi citizens living in America to vote and established multiple polling locations all across the country to vote for a new leader in Iraq without blinking an eye. It begs to question, why is it so difficult to provide access to the ballot for American citizens who have been displaced in their own country to vote in a local mayor’s race in New Orleans? The NCBCP’s analysis is that our government doesn’t have the will to do so.

For example, the Louisiana State Legislature has the power to remove many of these barriers, such as requiring those who registered for the first time before the catastrophes by mail to show photo ID when they vote for the first time. Many of these first time voters would be young people who had just become legally eligible to register when they turned 18 years old.

During the current Special Legislative Session they also have the opportunity to provide victims of Hurricane Katrina better access to the ballot by allowing all first time voters who registered by mail to vote in the 2006 elections by absentee ballot. NCBCP also fully supports the creation of satellite voting centers in areas of the country where large numbers of evacuees have relocated.

Congress has the opportunity to provide access to the ballot by passing the Congressional Black Caucus Omnibus Bill HR 4197 [the Hurricane Katrina, Recovery, Reclamation, Restoration, Reconstruction & Reunion Act of 2005]. A key provision of the bill is Title VI – Voting Rights which provides Katrina evacuees the same absentee ballot provisions available to military personnel and authorizes up to $50 million in grants for restoration and replacement of election supplies, materials and equipment damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

As the country grapples with ballot access issues, there continues to be growing concern and discontent in the Black community that many victims displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita who want to return to their communities will not have the access or the ability to return to their communities based on economic and political realities, as well as the uncertain time frame of how long it will take to rebuild their communities, lack of economic opportunities and many other external factors.

The NCBCP is committed to utilizing its unique role and ability to build coalition tables that unite organizations and create an atmosphere for collective action to assist the survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in rebuilding their lives while also protecting their right to vote in the 2006 elections.

The National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, a non-profit was founded on May 6, 1976 on the premise of fulfilling the promise of a full democracy. For over 29 years, the National Coalition, through its 80 member organizations, 12 state and local affiliates, and strategic partners, has served as an effective convener and facilitator at the local, state and national levels of efforts to address the disenfranchisement of African Americans and other marginalized communities. 

Source: The New Orleans Agenda (2/13/06)

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Legislature agrees to emergency elections plan for New Orleans

By Melinda DeSlatte


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Lawmakers overwhelmingly agreed to Secretary of State Al Ater's emergency elections plan for New Orleans — keeping the elections for mayor, city council and sheriffs on track for April 22.

The emergency plan, which includes beefed-up absentee balloting and the creation of "mega-polling" sites in New Orleans to replace those damaged by Hurricane Katrina, still needs approval from the U.S. Justice Department. Federal officials were waiting for legislative approval before they could consider the elections changes, according to Jennifer Marusak, Ater's assistant.

Katrina scattered thousands of city residents and elections workers and destroyed hundreds of New Orleans polling places. Gov. Kathleen Blanco postponed the elections, which were originally scheduled for Feb. 4, after Ater said it was logistically impossible to track down voters and stage elections so soon after the Aug. 29 storm.

Blanco set an April 22 primary election and May 20 runoff after Ater constructed the emergency plan, which includes bulk mail-outs and media campaigns to notify evacuees of their voting rights and the way to receive absentee ballots.

The House voted 86-9 for Ater's plan and the Senate agreed in a 33-3 vote under ballots opened at a public meeting Monday by the House clerk and the Senate secretary. Nine members of the House and three senators either didn't vote or turned in their ballots too late to be considered.

Critics of plans to hold April elections say voters will be disenfranchised because there won't be enough time to reach out to citizens and that some would-be candidates will be locked out because they won't have enough time to campaign.

Lawmakers meeting in a special session have been debating proposals for expanding the voting options for displaced New Orleans residents.

A sharply divided House rejected a bill Monday that would allow evacuees to vote at satellite voting centers in 10 parishes outside of the city, even though a similar measure had the backing of the Senate. The bill by Rep. Jalila Jefferson, D-New Orleans, failed in a 46-53 vote.

Supporters said Jefferson's bill would make it easier for thousands of people who evacuated New Orleans to cast ballots. Opponents said it could foster voting fraud and jeopardize the outcome of elections that are critical to New Orleans' hurricane recovery.

Rep. Charlie Lancaster, R-Metairie, said Louisiana had never tried setting up outside polling places for municipal elections.

"We're basically going to take one of the most important elections ... in many, many years in the city of New Orleans, and we're going to turn it into a pilot program," he said, opposing the legislation.

Lancaster said displaced New Orleans residents will be able to vote by absentee ballot, and he noted a proposal nearing legislative passage would allow voters who have registered to vote by mail to cast absentee ballots even if they have never voted in person as is usually required. The House and Senate both have approved versions of the absentee voting change.

Rep. Willie Hunter, D-Monroe, said evacuees needed as many ways as possible to cast ballots in the upcoming elections.

"Now is the time to try something different," said Rep. Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday.

13 February 2006 The Associated Press

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Legislators charge racism in N.O. election bill

By Marsha Shuler


Black lawmakers walked out of the Louisiana House on Monday and said their colleagues’ refusal to let New Orleans evacuees vote at satellite locations around the state amounted to “blatant racism.”

After losing the vote on the election bill, the 23 House members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus attempted to immediately end the special session four days early. When that move failed, the black caucus — comprising roughly 20 percent of the 104-member House — walked out of the chamber.

“This session has been very divisive, very ineffective,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, the New Orleans Democrat who heads the caucus, whose membership includes some of Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s staunchest allies.

The fracas over the election bill was another setback for Blanco, who called the special session of the Legislature to promote recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Also in trouble were:

A proposed regional levee board to oversee flood protection all around lakes Borgne, Pontchartrain and Maurepas. Blanco’s bill was still stalled Monday and the House approved legislation that merges only some levee operations.

A housing package that is supposed to repopulate the greater New Orleans area by helping storm victims repair or dispose of damaged homes or relocate to other neighborhoods. The senator handling the bills for the governor couldn’t answer questions about them and delayed a vote Monday.

A proposed shrinking of local government agencies in New Orleans. None of the bills to eliminate some elected positions advanced Monday, and some appeared dead.

Caucus members said they would return to participate in legislative proceedings today although they made it clear they were unhappy about the lack of progress on issues near and dear to them, such as housing.

House Bill 14 would have let New Orleans evacuees vote for a new mayor, City Council and other offices in satellite locations in Baton Rouge and nine other Louisiana major metropolitan areas. Early balloting would have taken place from April 10 to April 15.

HB14 needed 53 votes for passage but received only 46.

“It was an embarrassing display of racism clouded behind some arguments that didn’t make any sense at all,” Rep. Jailia Jefferson-Bullock, D-New Orleans, sponsor of the legislation, said after the bill’s demise.

Leading the opposition were Republican lawmakers.

House and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Charles Lancaster, R-Metairie, said the state has gone as far as it should go with a “liberalized” absentee voting plan.

Lancaster referred to legislation nearing final approval that would allow some people who registered by mail to vote absentee. Present law requires voters who registered by mail to cast ballots the first time in person so their identity can be confirmed . . .

Source: Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus Newsletter,   14 February 2006

posted 14 February 2006

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#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
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#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
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#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 31 January 2012




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