Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
While millions of people across the United States and throughout the world will continue to affirm, discuss, or respond in various ways to the last State of Union by America’s first President of the United States who is an African American, there are still priority issues that challenge African Americans going forward Of course, as one would expect and predict, President Barack H. Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address was a message to all people in the U.S., as well as the global community.
President Obama’s leadership will be judged by history and his legacy will be the subject of focus for generations to come. One thing, however, is for certain concerning the executive success of the Obama Administration in the face of unprecedented political opposition from the very first day that the Obama family moved into the White House.
But, in truth, the success of the President Obama is indisputable in leading the steady recovery of the economy of the U.S. with the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that has enabled millions of people to acquire health care insurance, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act that has protected millions of people from predatory financial schemes, and the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act that has helped thousands of African Americans in particular avoid preventable home foreclosures across the nation.
Yet, there is a need, I believe to first say thank you to President Obama respectfully for his outstanding national and global leadership. Today, we are obligated to issue an independent African American State of the Union.
For more than 45 million African Americans, the State of the Union is a complexed set of realities, challenges, and opportunities. The reason why the “Black Lives Matter” movement has taken a front position in the consciousness and support from the vast majority of African Americans is because fatal police brutality has become once again too prevalent in too many of our communities. Prosecutorial misconduct that has worked to protect and shield the perpetrators of police violence demands louder outcries of national protest.
Today we remain disproportionately incarcerated in America’s jails and prisons: women, men and young juveniles are overflowing behind bars. There is an urgent demand for criminal justice reform without further delay or debate. Mass incarceration is a reality for Black America that needs to be challenged and ended.
The spending and annual consumerism of African Americans continues to exceed $1.2 trillion. Our “State of the Union” indicates glaringly that we are big spenders, but we are not big savers or investors. The economic development of our families and communities is really in our own hands. As we begin 2016, there is no greater urgency than for all of us to do more to attend to how to advance the economic sustainability of our communities.
The high quality education of our children has to be at the top of our priority list for next year and beyond. Yes, also “Black Minds Matter.” I highly recommend that you take the time to read and get an update about an ongoing study in the state of California that I believe will have a significant impact on national education policies and programs that are focused on the education of African American children and others who still have to grapple with inequality and inequities in the nation’s educational system.
“Black Minds Matter: Supporting the Educational Success of Black Children in California, examines how the nearly 1 million Black youth in California are faring from preschool through college and reveals the distressing disparities that newly released state and national data show persist at all levels of their educational journey. The report also highlights the groundbreaking efforts underway to reverse these trends in California and close achievement and opportunity gaps for African American students.” We need a national study done based on the model developed in California.
The State of Union for African Americans simply means we have to continue to struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. We have to build alliances and coalitions to achieve progress and to maximize our continued presence and contributions to make the nation and the world a better place. But it all starts not with the government or with some outside benevolent factor.
It starts with African Americans. It starts with each one of us taking more responsibility for the improvements of our families. Yes, we have made progress! Yes, there is still much to be done. But there is many more opportunities than there are problems to move forward. The glass is not half empty, it is half full. A Luta Continua!
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.