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Obama Addresses Homophobia, Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia Among Black Americans (@ MLK's church)
NY Observer ^ | 1/20/08 | Jason Horowitz

Posted on 01/20/2008 2:08:32 PM PST by Libloather

Obama Addresses Homophobia, Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia Among Black Americans
by Jason Horowitz
January 20, 2008

In a speech today at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.served as pastor, Barack Obama talked about the existence of institutional racism, the sensationalizing of race "by the media" and the creeping of race as an issue into the presidential campaign.

But Obama's speech will likely be remembered for his calling on the black community to do its part to fight homophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

Obama says in the speech: "We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them," and "the scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community," and "for too long, some of us have seen the immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity."

And while Hillary Clinton, in her speech honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this afternoon at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, emphasized the importance of "doers of the word," Obama made a point to argue of King's instrumental role in enabling the civil rights movement, "he did it with words."

Here's Obama's speech, as prepared for delivery:

The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho, they could not enter. The walls of the city were too steep for any one person to climb; too strong to be taken down with brute force. And so they sat for days, unable to pass on through.

But God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city, and on the seventh day he told them that when they heard the sound of the ram’s horn, they should speak with one voice. And at the chosen hour, when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

There are many lessons to take from this passage, just as there are many lessons to take from this day, just as there are many memories that fill the space of this church. As I was thinking about which ones we need to remember at this hour, my mind went back to the very beginning of the modern Civil Rights Era.

Because before Memphis and the mountaintop; before the bridge in Selma and the march on Washington; before Birmingham and the beatings; the fire hoses and the loss of those four little girls; before there was King the icon and his magnificent dream, there was King the young preacher and a people who found themselves suffering under the yolk of oppression.

And on the eve of the bus boycotts in Montgomery, at a time when many were still doubtful about the possibilities of change, a time when those in the black community mistrusted themselves, and at times mistrusted each other, King inspired with words not of anger, but of an urgency that still speaks to us today: “Unity is the great need of the hour” is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome.

What Dr. King understood is that if just one person chose to walk instead of ride the bus, those walls of oppression would not be moved. But maybe if a few more walked, the foundation might start to shake. If a few more women were willing to do what Rosa Parks had done, maybe the cracks would start to show. If teenagers took freedom rides from North to South, maybe a few bricks would come loose. Maybe if white folks marched because they had come to understand that their freedom too was at stake in the impending battle, the wall would begin to sway. And if enough Americans were awakened to the injustice; if they joined together, North and South, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, then perhaps that wall would come tumbling down, and justice would flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we’re still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.

We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.

And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.

So we have a deficit to close. We have walls – barriers to justice and equality – that must come down. And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of this hour.

Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we’ve come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We’ve come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily – that it’s just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past, and that if the demagogues and those who exploit our racial divisions will simply go away, then all our problems would be solved.

All too often, we seek to ignore the profound institutional barriers that stand in the way of ensuring opportunity for all children, or decent jobs for all people, or health care for those who are sick. We long for unity, but are unwilling to pay the price. But of course, true unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes – a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.

It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not easy to see past our differences. We’ve all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart – that puts up walls between us.

We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.

So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scape-goating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others – all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face – war and poverty; injustice and inequality. We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.

Because if Dr. King could love his jailor; if he could call on the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time, and bind up our wounds, and erase the empathy deficit that exists in our hearts.

But if changing our hearts and minds is the first critical step, we cannot stop there. It is not enough to bemoan the plight of poor children in this country and remain unwilling to push our elected officials to provide the resources to fix our schools. It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much-needed reforms. It is not enough for us to abhor the costs of a misguided war, and yet allow ourselves to be driven by a politics of fear that sees the threat of attack as way to scare up votes instead of a call to come together around a common effort.

The Scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed. And if we are to truly bring about the unity that is so crucial in this time, we must find it within ourselves to act on what we know; to understand that living up to this country’s ideals and its possibilities will require great effort and resources; sacrifice and stamina.

And that is what is at stake in the great political debate we are having today. The changes that are needed are not just a matter of tinkering at the edges, and they will not come if politicians simply tell us what we want to hear. All of us will be called upon to make some sacrifice. None of us will be exempt from responsibility. We will have to fight to fix our schools, but we will also have to challenge ourselves to be better parents. We will have to confront the biases in our criminal justice system, but we will also have to acknowledge the deep-seated violence that still resides in our own communities and marshal the will to break its grip.

That is how we will bring about the change we seek. That is how Dr. King led this country through the wilderness. He did it with words – words that he spoke not just to the children of slaves, but the children of slave owners. Words that inspired not just black but also white; not just the Christian but the Jew; not just the Southerner but also the Northerner.

He led with words, but he also led with deeds. He also led by example. He led by marching and going to jail and suffering threats and being away from his family. He led by taking a stand against a war, knowing full well that it would diminish his popularity. He led by challenging our economic structures, understanding that it would cause discomfort. Dr. King understood that unity cannot be won on the cheap; that we would have to earn it through great effort and determination.

That is the unity – the hard-earned unity – that we need right now. It is that effort, and that determination, that can transform blind optimism into hope – the hope to imagine, and work for, and fight for what seemed impossible before.

The stories that give me such hope don’t happen in the spotlight. They don’t happen on the presidential stage.

They happen in the quiet corners of our lives. They happen in the moments we least expect. Let me give you an example of one of those stories.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She’s been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and the other day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

So Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons.

Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we begin. It is why the walls in that room began to crack and shake.

And if they can shake in that room, they can shake in Atlanta.

And if they can shake in Atlanta, they can shake in Georgia.

And if they can shake in Georgia, they can shake all across America. And if enough of our voices join together; we can bring those walls tumbling down. The walls of Jericho can finally come tumbling down. That is our hope – but only if we pray together, and work together, and march together.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone. In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone

In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone.

So I ask you to walk with me, and march with me, and join your voice with mine, and together we will sing the song that tears down the walls that divide us, and lift up an America that is truly indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all. May God bless the memory of the great pastor of this church, and may God bless the United States of America.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: antisemitism; blackchurch; dncfalseprophets; mlk; obama; obamahomophobia; politicking; race; xenophobia
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"We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters..."

For the record, I have no gay brothers or sisters.

1 posted on 01/20/2008 2:08:34 PM PST by Libloather
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To: Libloather

How about GOPophobia?


2 posted on 01/20/2008 2:10:24 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: Libloather

Way to go, Barak. Alienate half your base by telling them they are homophobes and xenophobes.


3 posted on 01/20/2008 2:12:03 PM PST by 3AngelaD (They screwed up their own countries so bad they had to leave, and now they're here screwing up ours)
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To: Libloather

What about black racism? Did he condemn black racism against white people?


4 posted on 01/20/2008 2:14:52 PM PST by clintonh8r
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To: Libloather

What about “hating whitey”?


5 posted on 01/20/2008 2:15:35 PM PST by Mamzelle (Maybe Hillary ISN'T worse than McCain)
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To: 3AngelaD

I’m not in his base but perhaps someone who is might be offended. I hope so, as anything that weakens the dems is a good thing.

I find it ironic that a man who regularly attends a church led by a racist pastor seeks to lead others on the issue.


6 posted on 01/20/2008 2:15:56 PM PST by driftdiver
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To: Mamzelle

Obama Hussein is Half Honkey/All Donkey.


7 posted on 01/20/2008 2:16:35 PM PST by teenyelliott (Soylent green should be made outta liberals...)
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To: Brilliant

“How about GOPophobia?”

And Romney-phobia ...

And Border-wall-ophobia ...


8 posted on 01/20/2008 2:18:57 PM PST by WOSG (Proamnesty-antiBushtaxcuts-proCO2caps-CFR-RINO John McCain delenda est!)
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To: clintonh8r

Let’s see if he’ll condemn the hispanic racism against black people that caused/influenced 2/3rds of them to vote for Hillary in NV.

Hmmmmm.


9 posted on 01/20/2008 2:19:55 PM PST by WOSG (Proamnesty-antiBushtaxcuts-proCO2caps-CFR-RINO John McCain delenda est!)
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To: WOSG

I don’t care what he says I am not going to hug a hommo.


10 posted on 01/20/2008 2:20:50 PM PST by TLEIBY308 (I AM PRO CHOICE,I BELEIVE EVERYONE SHOULD CARRY WHAT EVER GUN THEY CHOOSE)
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To: Libloather

Blacks hate sissies.


11 posted on 01/20/2008 2:21:39 PM PST by toddlintown (Build More Highways For Children---Huckleberry Talking Point)
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To: Libloather

translation:

Obama urges black christians to embrace hedonism and socialism.


12 posted on 01/20/2008 2:22:28 PM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Libloather
This won’t sell with all the decent blacks who are Christians. And they are legion. I doubt it will even sell with knuckle draggin’ gang bangers. I don’t think they much like queers.
13 posted on 01/20/2008 2:29:38 PM PST by isrul
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To: Libloather
I think that it is worth noting that he didn't mention hydrophopia,
14 posted on 01/20/2008 2:35:45 PM PST by CarryingOn (Spread the message every day, like your life depended on it.)
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To: Libloather

“We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them,”

I think he just lost some African American votes.


15 posted on 01/20/2008 2:37:00 PM PST by napscoordinator
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To: Libloather

This is not about race BUT there is still racism in this country. The walls of Jericho coming down had to do with faith. He equates it to black solidarity.Barf.


16 posted on 01/20/2008 2:38:16 PM PST by taxesareforever (Never forget Matt Maupin)
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To: Libloather
When Obama plays this tripe to Africans in Kenya, it is TRUE Neocolonialism.

Obama is no better than the white bwanas of Afica before him, imposing his American nationalist politics on the Kenyan "savages."

He does likewise to his countrymen.

17 posted on 01/20/2008 2:38:18 PM PST by Candor7 (Fascism? All it takes is for good men to say nothing.)
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To: Libloather

How come ALL democRATS campaign in Black Churches, won’t the white churches let them campaign in their churches??????
I’ve YET TO SEE a Republican candidate campaign in ANY church, wonder why that is? Do the democRATS think Blacks as so dumb and lazy they can’t attend a regular campaign rally?


18 posted on 01/20/2008 2:42:42 PM PST by tillacum
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To: All

Ok, Barry Hussien made his MLK talk, so when will the hildebeast do her best southern accent revival tribute????


19 posted on 01/20/2008 2:49:32 PM PST by The Forgotten Man (He works, he votes, generally he prays--but he always pays....)
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To: napscoordinator
<“We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them,”

Sure BO...that and a lasting legacy of AIDS and sexual perversions galore. Wonderful contributions to society.

20 posted on 01/20/2008 2:52:00 PM PST by tflabo (Truth or tyranny)
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To: tillacum

“won’t the white churches let them campaign in their churches??????”

That is basically true, for the various “white” churches I have attended over 6 decades. Campaigning from the pulpit or in the church is not something that should take place in a house of God.


21 posted on 01/20/2008 2:55:43 PM PST by CarryingOn (Spread the message every day, like your life depended on it.)
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To: Libloather

I don’t want a government that pretends that homosexuality is normal.

Governments get into trouble when they pretend. The U.S. government used to pretend that black people aren’t people and we had slavery. The Germans pretended that Jewish people aren’t people nad we the holocost. We currently pretend that preborn people aren’t people. We don’t need any more pretending by governments.


22 posted on 01/20/2008 2:56:05 PM PST by libertylover (Liberals: Trying to convert the U.S. into a country the Founding Father's wouldn't recognize.)
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To: Libloather
""We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.."
"...some of us have seen the immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions..."

Oh great. Fudge-packing illegal aliens in the food stamp line, at the bank cashing bogus SS checks, driving stolen cars.

23 posted on 01/20/2008 3:04:48 PM PST by Cobra64 (www.BulletBras.net)
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To: TLEIBY308
I don’t care what he says I am not going to hug a hommo.

Executive order number 69: "National Hug A Homo Day" And a new Department: DOQ - Department of Queers chaired by Ben Dover.

24 posted on 01/20/2008 3:07:58 PM PST by Cobra64 (www.BulletBras.net)
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To: Libloather

The Supreme Count legalized pornography, abortion and homosexuality. What else is coming?


25 posted on 01/20/2008 3:08:28 PM PST by donna ("We can create Kingdom on earth" - Barack Hussein Obama)
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To: Libloather

He’s auditioning for the VP slot.


26 posted on 01/20/2008 3:09:01 PM PST by Crawdad (I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no class.)
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To: The Forgotten Man
so when will the hildebeast do her best southern accent revival tribute????

She's gettin' ready.

Photobucket

27 posted on 01/20/2008 3:12:02 PM PST by Cobra64 (www.BulletBras.net)
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To: Libloather
I'm not a Xenaphobe!


28 posted on 01/20/2008 3:12:05 PM PST by Larry Lucido (Thompson/Hunter 2008)
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To: CarryingOn

Well, Huckabee came pretty close, this is why I find him unpalatable. I hate the hypocracy of the Rats saying there is too much religion in politics — then rushing to Black churches to stir the faithful. I’m all for religion in the public square—as our shared religious values, not as sectarian appeals.

http://youdecide08.foxnews.com/2008/01/13/at-south-carolina-church-huckabee-preaches-about-path-to-heaven/

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Republican Mike Huckabee spoke from the pulpit Sunday, not as a politician but as the preacher he used to be, delivering a sermon on how merely being good isn’t enough to get into heaven.

Huckabee is vying for support from the Christian conservatives who dominate the GOP in South Carolina, which on Saturday chooses a Republican presidential nominee. A former Baptist minister and Arkansas governor, Huckabee is competing for their votes with fellow southerner Fred Thompson.

As in Iowa, where Huckabee won the Jan. 3 caucuses, Huckabee is rousing pastors to marshal their flocks for him. He pitches himself as someone who not only shares their views against abortion and gay marriage but who actually comes from their ranks.


29 posted on 01/20/2008 3:13:39 PM PST by sgtyork (The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom, courage. Thucydides)
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To: sgtyork

Is he a Reverend? If not, can we talk about specific policies concerning the war on terror and immigration? This feel good speech is nothing but a jerk off.


30 posted on 01/20/2008 3:19:53 PM PST by Blue Turtle
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To: Libloather

On behalf of those who can’t spell my nickname, I resent the premise of this thread. ;)


31 posted on 01/20/2008 3:20:50 PM PST by Xenalyte (Can you count, suckas? I say the future is ours . . . if you can count.)
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To: Libloather

Oh yeah . . . and I demand reparations.


32 posted on 01/20/2008 3:21:09 PM PST by Xenalyte (Can you count, suckas? I say the future is ours . . . if you can count.)
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To: Libloather

“for too long, some of us have seen the immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.”

What the he[[ does that mean?


33 posted on 01/20/2008 3:25:20 PM PST by BenLurkin
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To: CarryingOn

You are so right, remember what Jesus did to the people who used the Synogog for a store? Same, same in my opinion.


34 posted on 01/20/2008 3:26:09 PM PST by tillacum
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To: Blue Turtle

Since when is Obama a preacher man? I ask you. He’s been in the pulpit an awful lot lately. So much for the Dem’s much vaunted separation of church and state. And what about the laws against politicking in churches. Oh yeah, that’s right, blacks can do it, whites can’t. So much for equality.


35 posted on 01/20/2008 3:34:38 PM PST by flaglady47
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To: The Forgotten Man
...so when will the hildebeast do her best southern accent revival tribute????

She's got HLK's church booked for tomorrow, the Hollow Day.

She one-uppitied B. Hussein

36 posted on 01/20/2008 3:36:46 PM PST by Syncro
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To: tillacum
I’ve YET TO SEE a Republican candidate campaign in ANY church, wonder why that is?

I have no idea.

Fresh off Nevada win, Clinton heads to historic Harlem church
By KAREN MATTHEWS
Published: Sunday, January 20, 2008

NEW YORK - Fresh off a caucus victory in Nevada and with the South Carolina primary looming ahead of her, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was back in her home state on Sunday.

The presidential contender attended service at a historic black church in Harlem and later gained the endorsement of the church's well-known pastor.

Clinton received a standing ovation from the congregation at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, founded by a group of Ethiopian sea traders more than 200 years ago. Rev. Calvin Butts, a Clinton supporter, introduced her as someone who "has been our friend."

In her remarks, Clinton told churchgoers how pleased she was to be there on the weekend of Martin Luther King Day, and recounted how she had gone with her church youth group to hear him speak.

"It was a transforming experience for me," she said. "He made it very clear that the Civil Rights movement was about economic justice."

http://www.poststar.com/articles/2008/01/20/ap-state-ny/d8u9q9780.txt

37 posted on 01/20/2008 3:41:01 PM PST by Libloather (Do animals pollute the planet by exhaling, too?)
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To: Libloather

Perhaps, Obama should urge blacks to pay reparations to gays. :)


38 posted on 01/20/2008 4:00:52 PM PST by Kuksool (Giuliani avoided the early primaries in the same manner that he avoided Vietnam service)
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To: Libloather

Apparently, Obama never heard the old saying:

“Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

The more heard from and about Obama — the less impressive he becomes....


39 posted on 01/20/2008 4:03:23 PM PST by river rat (Semper Fi - You may turn the other cheek, but I prefer to look into my enemy's vacant dead eyes.)
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To: Blue Turtle

Yes, I believe he has a religious background.

So does does the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton. I think that he is more similar to them that many would think, and that includes his foreign policy and immigration.

I’m not giving him a pass on this play at religious politics. I think it is bad for the health of our political system whether done by Democrats or Republicans. I wouldn’t vote for John F Kerry because he was (NOMINALLY) Catholic but against him because his ideas and history were an anathema.

In the end, cheap religious theatrics will hurt the real, important place of religion in our shared American judeo-christian culture.


40 posted on 01/20/2008 4:11:36 PM PST by sgtyork (The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom, courage. Thucydides)
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To: tillacum

Oh, excellent point. Its treating religion as a means, not an end.


41 posted on 01/20/2008 4:12:44 PM PST by sgtyork (The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom, courage. Thucydides)
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To: Mamzelle
What about “hating whitey”?

Whites are only needed to play the Emmanuel Goldstein role in the post-Western America.

42 posted on 01/20/2008 4:17:54 PM PST by puroresu (Enjoy ASIAN CINEMA? See my Freeper page for recommendations (updated!).)
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To: Brilliant

Obama and his Rezko ties
DAY ONE OF TWO

April 23, 2007
BY TIM NOVAK Staff Reporter/tnovak@suntimes.com
For more than five weeks during the brutal winter of 1997, tenants shivered without heat in a government-subsidized apartment building on Chicago’s South Side.

It was just four years after the landlords — Antoin “Tony’’ Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru — had rehabbed the 31-unit building in Englewood with a loan from Chicago taxpayers.

It was just four years after the landlords — Antoin “Tony’’ Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru — had rehabbed the 31-unit building in Englewood with a loan from Chicago taxpayers.

Rezko and Mahru couldn’t find money to get the heat back on.

» Click to enlarge image “Senator Obama does not remember having conversations with Tony Rezko (inset) about properties that he owned” — Obama’s campaign staff on Sunday.
(Sun-Times/AP)

RELATED STORIESSun-Times’ questions: Obama campaign’s answers Map: Rezmar Corp.’s low-income projects Top recipients of campaign cash Obama’s ex-boss a Rezko partner Troutman dad got rehab deal Rezmar deals involving Davis Miner law firm Sweet blog: Obama’s donor courtship Obama: Election chance for change ABOUT THIS SERIESStaff reporter Tim Novak examines previously unreported government-funded, low-income housing deals involving Antoin “Tony” Rezko, the indicted political fund-raiser.
TODAY | Rezmar kept getting city and state funding, even as earlier projects fell into disrepair and financial troubles.

Rezko and Mahru couldn’t find money to get the heat back on.

But their company, Rezmar Corp., did come up with $1,000 to give to the political campaign fund of Barack Obama, the newly elected state senator whose district included the unheated building.

Obama has been friends with Rezko for 17 years. Rezko has been a political patron to Obama and many others, helping to raise millions of dollars for them through his own contributions and by hosting fund-raisers in his home.

Obama, who has worked as a lawyer and a legislator to improve living conditions for the poor, took campaign donations from Rezko even as Rezko’s low-income housing empire was collapsing, leaving many African-American families in buildings riddled with problems — including squalid living conditions, vacant apartments, lack of heat, squatters and drug dealers.

The building in Englewood was one of 30 Rezmar rehabbed in a series of troubled deals largely financed by taxpayers. Every project ran into financial difficulty. More than half went into foreclosure, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

“Their buildings were falling apart,’’ said a former city official. “They just didn’t pay attention to the condition of these buildings.’’

Eleven of Rezko’s buildings were in Obama’s state Senate district.

Obama, now a U.S. senator running for president, has come under fire over his friendship with Rezko, who was charged last fall with demanding kickbacks on state business deals under Gov. Blagojevich.

Much of the criticism has centered on two real estate deals involving Obama’s South Side mansion. In the first, Obama paid $300,000 less than the asking price for a doctor’s home, while Rezko’s wife paid the doctor full price for the vacant lot next door. Then — a few months before Rezko was indicted — Obama bought part of that lot from Rezko’s wife.

But Obama’s ties with Rezko go beyond those two real estate sales and the political support, the Sun-Times found. Obama was an attorney with a small Chicago law firm — Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland — that helped Rezmar get more than $43 million in government funding to rehab 15 of their 30 apartment buildings for the poor.

Obama role unclear
Just what legal work — and how much — Obama did on those deals is unknown. His campaign staff acknowledges he worked on some of them. But the Rezmar-related work amounted to just five hours over the six years it said Obama was affiliated with the law firm, the staff said in an e-mail in February.
Obama, however, was associated with the firm for more than nine years, his staff acknowledged Sunday in an e-mail response to questions submitted March 14 by the Sun-Times. They didn’t say what deals he worked on — or how much work he did.

“The senator, relatively inexperienced in this kind of work, was assigned to tasks appropriate for a junior lawyer,’’ according to an e-mail from Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. “These tasks would have included reviewing documents, collecting corporate organizational documents, and drafting corporate resolutions.’’

In fact, Gibbs wrote, “Senator Obama does not remember having conversations with Tony Rezko about properties that he owned or any specific issues related to those properties.’’

Rezko and Mahru had no construction experience when they created Rezmar in 1989 to rehabilitate apartments for the poor under the Daley administration. Between 1989 and 1998, Rezmar made deals to rehab 30 buildings, a total of 1,025 apartments. The last 15 buildings involved Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland during Obama’s time with the firm.

Rezko and Mahru also managed the buildings, which were supposed to provide homes for poor people for 30 years. Every one of the projects ran into trouble:

• Seventeen buildings — many beset with code violations, including a lack of heat — ended up in foreclosure.

• Six buildings are currently boarded up.

• Hundreds of the apartments are vacant, in need of major repairs.

• Taxpayers have been stuck with millions in unpaid loans.

• At least a dozen times, the city of Chicago sued Rezmar for failure to heat buildings.

For five weeks, the Sun-Times sought to interview Obama about Rezko and the housing deals. His staff wanted written questions. It responded Sunday but left many questions unanswered. Other answers didn’t directly address the question.

Among these: When did Obama learn of Rezmar’s financial problems? “The senator had no special knowledge of any financial problems,’’ Gibbs wrote.

Did the senator ever complain to anyone — government officials, Rezmar or Rezko — about the conditions of Rezmar’s buildings? “Senator Obama did follow up on constituency complaints about housing as [a] matter of routine,’’ Gibbs wrote.

Did the senator ever discuss Rezmar’s financial problems with anyone at his law firm? “The firm advises us that it [is] unaware of any such conversations,’’ Gibbs wrote.

Turns down Rezmar job
Obama’s friendship with Rezko began with a telephone call.
It was 17 years ago. Obama had just become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Newspapers wrote about him. One story caught the eye of David Brint, a vice president of Rezmar, a new company that had become the Daley administration’s favored developer of low-income housing.

“I just cold-called him,” Brint said in an interview.

Brint said he wanted to know if Obama would come work for Rezmar, developing housing for the poor — something Obama had expressed interest in, according to the story Brint had read. Brint arranged for Obama to meet Rezko, but Obama didn’t take the job.

Obama, who has a law degree from Harvard, subsequently returned to Chicago to lead a voter-registration drive in 1992.

The next year, Obama joined Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland, a 12-lawyer firm that specialized in helping develop low-income housing. The firm’s top partner, Allison S. Davis, was, and is, a member of the Chicago Plan Commission, appointed by Mayor Daley. Davis was also a friend of Rezko. Davis and Rezko would eventually go into business together, developing homes.

Another firm partner, Judson Miner, ran the city Law Department under Mayor Harold Washington, one of Obama’s political idols.

Asked what Rezko cases Obama worked on, Miner told the Sun-Times, “We’ll put together a list of the cases he worked on involving Rezko/Rezmar in the next day or two.’’

That was March 13. He never provided the information.

While at the law firm, Obama spent much of his time working on issues that would help improve conditions in poor neighborhoods, according to his first book, Dreams from My Father, published in 1996.

“In my legal practice, I work mostly with churches and community groups, men and women who quietly build grocery stores and health clinics in the inner city, and housing for the poor,’’ Obama wrote in the book.

Three community groups represented by Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland were partners with Rezmar in the troubled housing deals.

Rezko offers Obama support
Obama had been at the firm for two years when he began his political career, running to replace state Sen. Alice Palmer.
Rezko became Obama’s political patron. Obama got his first campaign contributions on July 31, 1995: $300 from a Loop lawyer, a $5,000 loan from a car dealer, and $2,000 from two food companies owned by Rezko.

Around that time, Rezmar began developing low-income apartments in partnerships with the Chicago Urban League and two other not-for-profit community groups, both founded and run by Bishop Arthur Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God and a powerful ally of the mayor — the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., known as WPIC, and the Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization.

All three community groups were clients of the Davis law firm. Davis himself was treasurer of WPIC when it went into business with Rezmar.

Why go into business with Rezmar? “We thought they were successful,’’ Davis said, noting that little development was taking place in Woodlawn.

At the time, Rezmar had been in business for six years and had become one of City Hall’s favored developers of low-income housing, managing 600 apartments in 15 buildings it rehabbed with government funding. Teaming now with community development groups, Rezmar rehabbed another 15 buildings, with 400 apartments, between 1995 and 1998. Each deal involved a mix of public and private financing — loans from the city or state, federal low-income-housing tax credits and bank loans.

By the time Rezmar started working with those community groups, at least two of its earlier buildings were falling into disrepair — including the Englewood apartment building at 7000 S. Sangamon where the tenants were without heat for five weeks.

The tenants there had no heat from Dec. 27, 1996, until at least Feb. 3, 1997, when the city of Chicago sued to turn the heat on. The case was settled later that month with a $100 fine.

It was during that time that the area’s new state senator, Barack Obama, got a $1,000 campaign donation from Rezmar. The date: Jan. 14, 1997.

Obama works on Rezmar deals
Obama spent the next eight years serving in the Illinois Senate and continued to work for the Davis law firm.
Through its partnerships, Rezmar remained a client of the firm, according to ethics statements Obama filed while a state senator.

Davis said he didn’t remember Obama working on the Rezmar projects.

“I don’t recall Barack having any involvement in real estate transactions,’’ Davis said. “Barack was a litigator. His area of focus was litigation, class-action suits.’’

But Obama did legal work on real estate deals while at Davis’ firm, according to biographical information he submitted to the Sun-Times in 1998. Obama specialized “in civil rights litigation, real estate financing, acquisition, construction and/or redevelopment of low-and moderate income housing,’’ according to his “biographical sketch.”

And he did legal work on Rezko’s deals, according to an e-mail his presidential campaign staff sent the Sun-Times on Feb. 16, in response to earlier inquiries. The staff didn’t specify which Rezmar projects Obama worked on, or his role. But it drew a distinction between working for Rezko and working on projects involving his company.

“Senator Obama did not directly represent Mr. Rezko or his firms. He did represent on a very limited basis ventures in which Mr. Rezko’s entities participated along with others,’’ according to the e-mail from Obama’s staff.

Obama buys Rezko land
Over the years, Rezko, Mahru, their wives and businesses have given more than $50,000 to Obama’s campaign funds, records show. And Rezko has helped raise millions more.
Rezko was among the people Obama appointed to serve on his U.S. Senate campaign finance committee, the Sun-Times reported in 2003. The committee raised more than $14 million, according to Federal Election Commission records, helping send Obama to Washington in 2004.

As a U.S. senator, Obama grew closer to Rezko.

Two years ago, Obama bought a mansion on the South Side, in the Kenwood neighborhood, from a doctor. On the same day, Rezko’s wife, Rita Rezko, bought the vacant lot next door from the same seller. The doctor had listed the properties for sale together. He sold the house to Obama for $300,000 below the asking price. The doctor got his asking price on the lot from Rezko’s wife.

Last year, Rita Rezko sold a strip of that vacant lot to Obama for $104,500 — a deal Obama later apologized for, acknowledging that people might think he got a favor from Rezko. Obama called the episode “boneheaded’’ and a “mistake.’’

At the time Obama bought that strip of land, it had been reported that Rezko was under federal investigation for influence-peddling involving the administration of Blagojevich, whose campaign also received Rezko’s financial support.

Rezko has since been indicted for allegedly demanding kickbacks from companies seeking state business under Blagojevich. Rezko’s trial has been postponed while investigators sort through his finances.

‘Disenchanted with Rezmar’
Rezmar’s final low-income housing deals involving the Davis law firm went bad quickly.
Those deals were supposed to provide affordable housing for at least 25 years. But the first deal Rezmar struck with the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp. collapsed in just six and a half years, when the state sued for foreclosure. WPIC and its sister agency, the Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization, ultimately forced Rezmar to give up control of all 12 buildings they rehabbed together, citing financial troubles and deteriorating conditions of the buildings.

The state foreclosure suit came because Rezmar had stopped making monthly mortgage payments in March 2001 on a state loan to help turn an old nursing home into low-income apartments at 6140 S. Drexel, in Obama’s state Senate district.

“WPIC became disenchanted with Rezmar and wanted to get rid of them,’’ Brazier said. “They thought the buildings weren’t being kept up properly. There were some financial problems.’’

Rezmar and WPIC cut all ties last October, when the Chicago City Council agreed to let Rezmar out of a city loan. Rezmar transferred its interest to The Wolcott Group, a management company run by business partners of David Brint — the man who had introduced Rezko to Obama.

Contributing: Chris Fusco and Art Golab


43 posted on 01/20/2008 4:22:58 PM PST by Dqban22
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To: Libloather
Obama says in the speech: "We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them," and "the scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community," and "for too long, some of us have seen the immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity."

Wow, to a huge segment of his potential voting public, he has just swung for the fence but missed big-time. Can you say "three strikes"?

Of course, even though the speech was given before a black audience during an MLK day celebration, maybe he was speaking in code words that were discounted by his in-person audience because with a wink and a nod they knew that those words were really being addressed to the white-liberal-guilters that may currently be on Hillary's team, and especially to those white-liberal-guilters who are newspaper editors.

44 posted on 01/20/2008 4:24:49 PM PST by The Electrician ("Government is the only enterprise in the world which expands in size when its failures increase.")
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To: Libloather
...scorned our brothers and sisters...

Now why in the world would we ever be inclined to do that? They're good, wholesome people, just like you and me.

Well, you get the idea.

45 posted on 01/20/2008 4:43:14 PM PST by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: tillacum

“I’ve YET TO SEE a Republican candidate campaign in ANY church”

You haven’t been paying attention. I am sure the other candidates have as well, but I have been mostly following Fred’s campaign. Right or wrong, campaigning in churches is pretty common among both parties. The link should take you to a pretty good speech that Fred gave recently.

http://www.blogsforfredthompson.com/fred-iglesia-el-rey-jesus-church-12-9-07


46 posted on 01/20/2008 4:54:33 PM PST by ga medic
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To: Dqban22

It’s difficult to understand how Obama got himself messed up in this given that he virtually did nothing at all as a legislator. I guess the one thing he did turned out to be a crime.


47 posted on 01/20/2008 5:01:20 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: 3AngelaD

You left out anti-semite, which not a few blacks are.


48 posted on 01/20/2008 5:01:58 PM PST by popdonnelly (Get Reid. Salazar, and Harkin out of the Senate.)
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To: Libloather

I’m sure the people in that church were leaving to go straight to the nearest AIDS clinic to tell their ‘gay brothers and sisters’ how much they now embrace anal sex. Any minute now......

And maybe Obama could have called for some of that ‘Scooter Libby justice’ for the husband of her opponent who got justice which makes Scooter look like he got the death penalty. (Scooter, by the way, didn’t ambush and beat anybody in a gang-like assault but rather disagreed with Tim Russert about a meeting three years prior and was convicted by Russerts former co-workers).

Apparently, Republicans are not on the list that the black community should embrace or even tolerate. Nowhere on there did he call for the black community to stop hating Republicans or to treat them like ‘brothers and sisters’. Does this mean that we aren’t worthy?


49 posted on 01/20/2008 5:14:13 PM PST by bpjam (I'll crawl over broken glass to vote against McCain (or the Huck))
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To: ProtectOurFreedom

Thank you for reminding me of why I can never be a LIB.


50 posted on 01/20/2008 5:14:58 PM PST by Lumper20
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