Browsing Month July, 2011

One-on-One with Rep. Alicia Reece

By , July 26, 2011 | 2:44 am | 0 Comment

One-on-One with Rep. Alicia Reece

ONUMBA.COM – A conversation with State Rep. Alicia Reece, Ohio House of Representatives, representing District 33

Ike Mgbatogu – Let me start by asking you to introduce yourself to our readers – your hometown, your background, the district you represent, and of course, whatever else you would like to say about yourself. 

State Representative Alicia Reece – My name is Alicia Reece.  I am a state Representative for the 33rd district from Cincinnati, Ohio.  I also have previously served as the Vice Mayor and City Council member for the city of Cincinnati from 1995 to 2005.  My other skill set is marketing and ad promotion.  I worked in my family’s business several years back and also served under the Strickland administration as the assistant director of Tourism for the state of Ohio, rebranding and marketing the state for Tourism.

Mgbatogu – The governor recently signed the $55.8 billion bi-annual budget, cutting funding to education, local government, school districts, and others.  What’s your general take on the governor’s budget?

Rep. Reece –The governor basically balances the budget on the backs of the middle class and other working poor.  They are the ones who are going to absorb all of these major cuts, cuts in Daycare services, cuts in health care services.  We also give a bad impression that Ohio is in trouble because everything is for sale, almost like a yard sale, we are privatizing prisons, selling it without given appraisals for what the prisons are actually worth.  We are talking about leasing out the turnpike, so all of our assets are at risk in this budget.  It is just a bad budget. 

Mgbatogu – Opponents of SB 5 will try to overturn the law in the November Ballot.  How would you assess the chances of SB 5 being struck down by Ohio voters?

Rep. Reece – I think it has a strong chance of being repealed.  I am confident that we are going to have a strong showing.  It is a matter of turnout.  But also understand that it’s going to go up against big money.  So you are going to have what I call David Versus Goliath [fight].  And I certainly think that the will of the people will prevail.

Mgbatogu – Gov. Strickland lost the last election to Republican John Kasich by 2 percentage points.  Strickland being the incumbent, that’s rare.  What happened?  What went wrong?  Why did the governor lose?

Rep. Reece – Turnout.  Too many folks had gotten out in big numbers for the presidential race, we are still clapping our hands, understanding that the presidential race is important, but you also have to have your local government.  And so the job didn’t get done with turnout.  We had a lot of apathy, and quite frankly, folks are experiencing some hard times. 

Mgbatogu – It’s been quite an interesting 100 days for Gov. Kasich.  During the campaign, he did say he would pursue some of the policies he is pursuing today, and yet folks voted for him, including some who are now angry about his policies.  Certainly, the governor did not get a huge mandate, but he won.  What’s your reaction to that, and what message do you have for the people of Ohio in the next election?

Rep. Reece – I think this is a wakeup call, because you are right, Gov. Kasich, when he was running, he told us exactly what he was going to do, and he is doing it.  So, I am not shocked about it.  Citizens should not be shocked about it.  I think it’s a wakeup call.  There were some who voted for the governor who are getting hurt right now, and they are having a change of heart, and then there were some who did not come out and just stayed home, and they are being affected.  So now they know it’s a wakeup call.

Mgbatogu – Ohio law requires the state to set aside 15% of its contracts for minority businesses.  Recently, Kasich hinted he is thing about raising that number.  One thing is very clear.  The goal of 15% is not currently being met.  What should the administration do to meet that goal, which by the way wasn’t met in the Strickland administration, either?

Rep. Reece – One we got to look at having support from the top, that’s number one.  Number two, we have to look at what are the barriers, what are the barriers that are stopping us from getting to these numbers.  I think we also have to expand beyond just construction.  The third component is what I call personal and professional service contracts, these are the things that don’t get out for competitive bids, for example, the gaming component, nontraditional things, like legal, staffing. 

Mgbatogu – Gov. Kasich appointed the first 23 members of his cabinet before naming one African American.  That didn’t sit well with you and the other Black lawmakers.  But since then, he has named two African Americans to the cabinet, Michael Colbert in the Department of Job and Family Services, and Harvey Reed to run the Department of Youth Services.  How would you assess the governor’s mindset when it comes to question of inclusion and diversity? 

Rep. Reece – As you know, OLBC spoke out against this.  We met with the governor.  Since that time, two have been appointed.  I think that he realizes that we are going to be watching this and we are going to be vocal about it.  This is a diverse state with diverse tax dollars.  Therefore diverse people should have an opportunity to lead this state, to be in leadership role in terms of the state and its direction and should be able to get return on their investment.  That’s been my message and that will continue to be my message. 

Mgbatogu – Do you think that a Black person can win a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio?

Rep. Reece – Well, we have an African-American president.  That’s the highest office, which lets us know that anything is possible.  President Obama won a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois where no one said an African-American could not do it.  After Carol Mosley Braun did it, they said it would be tough, but he did it.  And then two, saying there could never be an African-American President.  So my philosophy is, if we can have an African-American president, we certainly can have a U.S. Senator or African-American governor at some point in the state of Ohio.

Mgbatogu – Growing up, did you aspire to be a politician or did you consider going into a different career?

Rep. Reece – No, I did not consider being a politician.  My goal was to start a communications company.  My thought was I would be Oprah one day, not on the TV set, but behind the scene in terms of owing a media house, that was what I thought I would do.  But I got involved, ran into Congresswoman Maxine Waters, she encouraged me to run for office.  I ran for city council and I have been in it and out of out ever since and now back in it. 

Mgbatogu – Outside of folks in your family, who would you consider your hero(s), living or deceased?

Rep. Reece – That’s a tough one.  I would have to say Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Her and Shirley Chisholm, and I had a chance to meet both of them.  They were both very encouraging.  I met Shirley Chisholm before she passed, and I was just in awe of her. 

Mgbatogu – Have you been to Africa?

Rep. Reece – I have not.  I want to go, but I haven’t been.

Mgbatogu – If you get a chance to go, what country would you like to visit?

Rep. Reece – South Africa, obviously.  I would love to one day just rub shoulders with Nelson Mandela, because I feel like this is the closet I would get to Dr, King.  I only can read about Dr. King and his struggles, I only can read about Ghandi and his struggles, but to rub shoulders with someone who kept the faith and had a vision, and is still living, so that would be awesome if I ever get a chance to do that, and experience and smell the air of what I am reading about.

Mgbatogu – Should Blacks do more to acknowledge and salute the life and work of Minister Malcolm X?

Rep. Reece – That’s a good question.  I do think that Malcolm X and a number of others don’t get the just due of where they fit into history.  My philosophy is always that no one is perfect, but I think what we miss as African Americans is that we look for the perfect hero, no blemishes.  We have this, it’s either Malcolm or Martin, or it’s either WEB DuBois or Booker T. Washington, it’s always this either or, and I think we miss out on our history because we do either or.  So I guess I would say that in some regard Malcolm X does not get his just due in terms of his place in history and what he represents.

Mgbatogu – Kind of a curious question.  If Gov. John Kasich decides to offer you a lofty position in his administration, will you accept it?

Rep. Reece – Wow.  That’s a good question.  I don’t see that actually happening.  If he were to come to something like that, then that means that all the pressures we are doing on the outside is working.

Mgbatogu – After this gig, what’s next for you as a politician?  Are you eyeing any higher office?  What’s in the future for you?

Rep. Reece – What I have learned in my life is preparation and prayer.  I think preparation is the key.  For me, if I can contribute something and make a difference, then I am interested.  But if I can’t contribute something, then I am not interested.  So, I don’t rule anything out.  I think now, we have President Obama, the sky is the limit, and any and everything is possible. He made the impossible possible through the grace of what God set out for him to do.  I am just going to keep preparing, do the best job I can right now for my district and the best job I can for Ohio.  If those opportunities were to present themselves, pray about it, and if that’s what God wants me to do, I will do it.

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One-on-One with Rep. W. Carlton Weddington

By , July 12, 2011 | 12:02 am | 0 Comment

One-on-One with Rep. W. Carlton Weddington

ONUMBA.COM – A conversation with State Representative W. Carlton Weddington, Ohio House of Representatives, representing District 27. 

Ike Mgbatogu – Let me start by asking you to introduce yourself to our readers – your hometown, your background, the district you represent, and of course, whatever else you would like to say about yourself.

Rep. W. Carlton Weddington – Thank you Ike for the opportunity to speak with you. I am W. Carlton Weddington, state representative of the 27th House district, here on the near eastside of Columbus.  I am a lifelong resident born and raised here in Columbus Ohio, attended Westerville Public Schools, Westerville North High School, graduated in 1988, and went on to Hampton University where I was a political science major, graduated in 1992.  I first gained my interest in politics when I volunteered to work for Douglas Wilder who was a candidate for governor [of Virginia.]  He in fact won that year and became the first African-American governor of the state of Virginia.  That led me to come back home after graduating and helping on a number of campaigns, one being for mayor for the city of Columbus and that was Ben Espy.  Interned for William Bowen who was a senator from the city of Cincinnati and that just continued my interest in politics and grassroots initiatives.  I worked for Les Wright…and with Charleta Tavares and then later was given the opportunity to work with John O’Grady as a manager in the clerk of courts Franklin Co.  After working at the county, I then decided to run for school board in 2005, elected in 2006, served 3 years.  And then ran to replace Joyce Beatty who was the minority leader and became the state representative from the 27th district.

Mgbatogu – The House recently approved the governor’s $55.6 billion bi-annual budget, keeping intact nearly all of the governor’s cuts, to education, local government, school districts, and others.  The senate approved it, and now it is in the conference committee.  What’s your general take on the governor’s budget?

Weddington – Well, Gov. Kasich had his hands full coming into this administration and the 129th general assembly.  The state had a $6 to 8 billion budget deficit to attempt to balance.  But I am not quite sure that his ideas and perspective is what Ohio needs…you see drastic cuts to local government, you see cuts to education, you see an attack on the middle class through aspects of SB5 that have also been placed in the budget.  You see attack on labor as it relates to prevailing wage.  You see seniors, minorities and children taking hits as it relates to social services and those who are the neediest of our populations are taking the burden and brunt of this deficit, and so while the governor may say he has balanced the budget and in fact House Republicans passed his budget, I don’t think that it is the right budget for the state of Ohio as a whole. 

Mgbatogu – Senate Bill 5, which eliminated collective bargaining laws in Ohio, and recently signed into law by Gov. Kasich, is one of those instances where the governor offered clear hints about where he stood with organized labor when he talked about breaking the back of the unions during the campaign.  You are opposed to this bill.  Why?

Weddington – I am opposed because once again what SB5 does is, it takes collective bargaining and makes it collective begging.  It is an attack on labor as an institution; it is an attack on the middle-class.  It would hurt police, fire, teachers, correctional officers, nurses.  It is part of the Republican extreme agenda, and I think we need to make sure that when we go to referendum, that we defeat this SB5.

Mgbatogu – Opponents of SB 5 will try to overturn the law in the November Ballot.  How would you assess the chances of SB 5 being struck down by Ohio voters?

Weddington – Oh, I think we are well on our way.  They just put forth the signatures, the petitions with three times the amount of signatures needed to be placed on the ballot.  I think that it has in fact galvanized the Democratic base, the independents; it has galvanized even some Republicans, to make sure that this does not hurt the state of Ohio. 

Mgbatogu – It’s been quite an interesting 100 days for Gov. Kasich.  During the campaign, he did say he would pursue some of the policies he is pursuing today, and yet folks voted for him, including some who are now angry about his policies.  Certainly, the governor did not get a huge mandate, but he won.  What’s your reaction to that, and what message do you have for the people of Ohio in the next election?

Weddington – Well, my message to Ohioans, be they Democrats, Republicans, Independents or otherwise, is they have to pay attention to what candidates say; pay attention to their understanding of what it is to move the state forward; pay attention to those that they have surrounded themselves with.  Gov. Kasich today may have won by 2 percentage points, but he doesn’t have mandate.  It was a win and with that win he is able to do what he wants, but it should be within the understanding that half of those who voted didn’t vote for him.  So he still has to balance his interpretation and his ideas with what the other half was expecting out of the governor or expecting in having Ted Strickland being their governor. 

Mgbatogu – Ohio law requires the state to set aside 15% of its contracts for minority businesses.  Recently, Kasich hinted he was thinking about raising that number.  One thing is very clear.  The goal of 15% is not currently being met.  What should the administration do to meet that goal, which by the way wasn’t met in the Strickland administration, either?

Weddington – Well, he has to be realistic.  That would require him to put forth some real effort in reaching those goals.  He can’t just come into a meeting and say, oh, I want to do more than 15%.  Well, you have to start with what you have already set in law, 15%.  Start there.  As you have pushed through many of your achievements, your so called achievements in the first 100 days, do the same thing for this goal.  Honor what’s currently on the books.  Enact the same executive order that Gov. Strickland did.  Have them give you quarterly reports. 

Mgbatogu – Gov. Kasich appointed the first 23 members of his cabinet before naming one African American.  That didn’t sit well with you and the other Black lawmakers.  But since then, he has named two African Americans to the cabinet, Michael Colbert in the Department of Job and Family Services, and Harvey Reed to run the Department of Youth Services.  How would you assess the governor’s mindset when it comes to question of inclusion and diversity?

Weddington – In a cabinet of 25 plus people, he has 2 African Americans, I would say, so what.  What does that really mean?  How is that really showing diversity?  We forced his hand.  He was talking about metrics, about having people that had the same political ideology as he, about people that could move the state forward, that could address the budget ills of the state as if there was no one of color, no one from the African American community or Hispanic community or Asian community or Indian community or whatever other minority population, could assist him.  It’s a good start with the two cabinet positions that he made with two African American men.  [But] You have some mid level positions that could be filled with minorities.  You have people that are surrounding the governor himself that could be filled with minorities.  You only have one woman who is supposed to be the minority liaison, but she is unseen and unheard from.  And so where as you have put someone in a position that says you are the liaison for minority affairs, we don’t know what you do and we haven’t see you do anything.

Mgbatogu – Do you think that a Black person can win a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio?

Weddington – Eventually.  Not yet, though.  As you have seen, all of our African American candidates that have run have been appointed.  Other than Ken Blackwell, who is a Republican, no one has maintained their seat or won their seat outright.  It’s unfortunate.  It wasn’t until Barack Obama who ran for president did an African American win a statewide office on the Democratic side.  Ken Blackwell did it.  Yet when he wanted to run for governor, he did not succeed. 

Mgbatogu – Growing up, did you aspire to be a politician or did you consider going into a different career?

Weddington – Actually, I thought I was going to be a lawyer.  I wanted to be a political science major and go to law school, but as I was going along that path, getting involved led me to being involved in politics.

Mgbatogu – Outside of folks in your family, who would you   consider your hero(s), living or deceased?

Weddington – I would say from a political perspective, it’s the woman who I learned how to be a state person under, and that would be Les Wright.  I think Barack Obama is a hero, how he was able to go from a single parent family not knowing or having spent much time with his father to coming up going to law school, representing in the state legislature, running for the US senate and then running for president.  He is a hero.  I think those are two people that I reflect on.

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Blacks celebrate ‘Juneteenth’ as their ‘Independence Day’

By , July 3, 2011 | 5:53 am | 0 Comment

Blacks celebrate ‘Juneteenth’ as their ‘Independence Day’

ONUMBA.COMThe celebration of the nation’s Independence Day on the 4th of July is only a couple of weeks away. 

In Columbus, it is called ‘Red, White and Boom.’ 

It is often attended by a mammoth crowd.  The downtown festivities are usually bunting with colorful parades, fireworks, patriotic songs and other jingoistic expressions of pride for the nation and gratitude for the ‘founding fathers’ who established it. 

But as the city eagerly awaits the celebration of the birth of the nation, one big Independence Day had already played out last week in the city at Franklin Park on Broad Street.  It is called ‘Juneteenth,’ in celebration of ‘June 19th’, which is the day African-Americans say they were actually freed from bondage. 

“It’s our emancipation,” Rhoda Abdul-Mateen told the Call & Post.  “It wasn’t the 4th of July.  It was Juneteenth, when they found out that supposedly slavery was over, and it came two years later.”

“So, this is our Independence Day,” she said. 

Abdul-Mateen was expressing the feelings of thousands of people, almost entirely African-Americans, who packed Franklin Park to be a part of a gathering that is widely considered the “Independence Day” for Black people.

The historical underpinnings for this event, which is celebrated in more than “200 cities” across the country, is noteworthy. 

Even though President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862, news of the declaration was suppressed in parts of the South, and because of that many slaves were not aware of it.  The consequence was that slaves in parts of Texas remained in their status of servitude two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them.

On the Juneteenth Ohio website, it stated that “June 19th, 1865 is considered the date when the last slaves in America were freed.”  That was the day those slaves became aware of their freedom. 

And that’s why Dorothy Greer, a native of Texas, is a true believer in the Juneteenth celebration.

“This day means freedom,” she told the Call & Post.  “It also means that we can have a reflection, a reflection as to how far we have come.”

Greer spoke of being close to the genesis of all of this.

“I am from Texas.  My father is a 100 years ago.  So, he has seen a lot.  So I have first hand history on how it used to be.  So, it’s very important.”

Jermain Scott also reflected on the importance of the day. 

“It means life, evolution, celebration,” said Scott, noting, “We have come a long way.” 

Black people, said Scott, “Went from chains to freedom, liberty, opportunity, and right now, here at the Juneteenth, we are just maximizing the opportunity, maximizing the moment,” he said. 

“It all comes together in one park to celebrate each other,” he said.

Alisa Mbinakar, a Columbus-based web designer, agreed.

“It means coming together to celebrate our African American history, all of us coming together as a community celebrating Juneteenth.”

Shawn Williams took the same view.

“It’s a celebration of us, a celebration of freedom.  That’s what it means.” 

The event featured plenty of vendors selling food, music CD’s, arts and African inspired jewelry.  Scores of LIVE bands played and music blasted all day as thousands of folks mingled having fun, eating and dancing, on a day that was almost ruined by rain.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.

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One-on-One with Rep. Sandra Williams

By , July 3, 2011 | 5:36 am | 0 Comment

One-on-One with Rep. Sandra Williams

ONUMBA.COM – A conversation with State Representative Sandra Williams, Ohio House of Representatives, representing House District 11, and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC)

Mgbatogu – Let me start by asking you to introduce yourself to our readers – your hometown, your background, the district you represent, and of course, whatever else you would like to say about yourself. 

Williams – My name is Sandra Williams.  I represent the 11th House district of Cleveland, Ohio.  I was born in Cleveland, graduated Cleveland Public Schools, John Hay High School, Master’s degree from Tiffin University and Bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University.

Mgbatogu – The House recently approved the governor’s $55.6 billion bi-annual budget, keeping intact nearly all of the governor’s cuts, to education, local government, school districts, and others.  The senate approved it, and now it is in the conference committee.  What’s your general take on the governor’s budget?

Williams – The governor’s budget, I believe, is an insult to the neediest people in the state of Ohio.  We cut the budget for transportation by 39 percent when it left the House…over 11 percent of Cleveland population use RTA for all their needs, as far as going to work, going to the grocery store, and things like that.  I believe local government cuts and the cuts to the libraries will be harmful to those people who use the services.  The cuts to senior services are horrible.

Mgbatogu – It’s been quite an interesting 100 days for Gov. Kasich.  During the campaign, he did say he would pursue some of these policies, and yet folks voted for him, including some who are now angry about his policies.  Certainly, the governor did not get a huge mandate, but he won.  What’s your reaction to that, and what message do you have for the people of Ohio in the next election?

Williams – Governor Kasich got elected by approximately 77,000 votes.  Clearly that was not a mandate.  I think some of the policies that Gov. Kasich is pushing right now; he made clear during his campaign.  I believe, if nothing else, the Ohio voters should start focusing and paying attention to what the candidates say as opposed to their internal feelings about the persons who are in the office at that time.  And many people were unhappy with the way Democratic leadership was running the state, also at the national level, the way our president is running the country.  But he [Kasich] made it clear that he was going to do these things.  And he is running it, as he said, like a business…turning everything into a business.  We are privatizing most of the assets of the state of Ohio.  I think it’s unfortunate.  I think that the Ohio public will be losing out if we keep him in the office.  He is running the state like a business for business. 

Mgbatogu –Ohio law requires the state to set aside 15% of its contracts for minority businesses.  Recently, Kasich hinted he is thing about raising that number.  One thing is very clear.  The goal of 15% is not currently being met.  What should the administration do to meet that goal, which by the way wasn’t met in the Strickland administration, either?

Williams – As you said, neither our current administration nor our past administration of Gov. Strickland has met the 15 percent set aside law.  The fact that he said he is thinking about it clearly is not good enough.  The fact is that this law has been on the books since the 1980’s.  No governor has completely followed it the way it is supposed to go.  We have worked hard in the Black caucus to try and enforce the law.  We got an executive order through Gov. Strickland.  And while he had not come close to the 15 percent, he at least attempted to do so in the interim.  I think they all could do a lot better.  I think also what they could do to get those numbers up is really start focusing on reaching out to minority businesses who are out there.  Really, it is not hard to find Black businesses that can do the job. 

Mgbatogu – Do you think that a Black person can win a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio?

Williams – Yes I do.  I believe if we put the race aside and just look at credentials, there are a lot of African-American candidates in the state who can compete with anybody else that might run, whether they be Republican or Democrat.  And I think if we look at the presidential election the last time, that’s evidence enough that an African-American can win [a senate seat] in the state.

Mgbatogu – Growing up, did you aspire to be a politician or did you consider going into a different career?

Williams – Growing up, I was always interested in the criminal justice system, from my first year law class at Joseph M. Gallagher on the West Side of Cleveland.  From that point on, everything that I did focused in the area of law.  I wanted to be a prosecutor, and I got here to the statehouse and started working here, and realized that there were so much more to offer to my constituents as opposed to being a prosecutor.  This is a beautiful field and I am glad that I am in it.

Mgbatogu – Outside of folks in your family, who would you consider your hero(s), living or deceased?

Williams – I don’t know that I had a hero.  There are a lot of women that I look up to, like Dorothy Height.  Dr. Martin Luther King.  Rev. Ottis Moss, Jr.,  Joyce Beatty.  There are a lot of people that I admire.

Mgbatogu – Should Blacks do more to acknowledge and salute the life and work of Minister Malcolm X?

Williams – I would say yes.  Malcolm X definitely made a great contribution to this country and to the world as a whole.  I believe we could acknowledge his work a little more than we do.  So, yes.

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