Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

April 24, 2014

Conference looks at Obama, democracy

Some of America’s leading public intellectuals, scholars and activists gathered at Tufts University April 16-18 for the fifth annual Barack Obama and American Democracy conference.

Author Michael Eric Dyson’s exhilarating opening keynote offered a rich intellectual and political framework for principled criticism of the Obama administration’s political and moral failures with a balanced appreciation of the president’s special relationship with the black community.

The next two days featured an assortment of panels that critically analyzed the pursuit of radical democracy in the age of Obama and current racial, economic and health disparities, as well as evening keynotes by Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer science professor Fox Harrell on race and digital media, and by Boston University sociologist Ruha Benjamin on race, crime and punishment in the 21st century.

Political change begins in your own backyard. Boston NAACP President Michael Curry and Barbara Dougan, the Massachusetts project director of Families Against Maximum Minimums, each spoke passionately about their local efforts to transform the criminal-justice system at the neighborhood level. Curry has helped revitalize the city’s once moribund NAACP chapter by focusing creative, innovative education and outreach efforts on troubled communities in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan in order to offer new avenues of opportunity and citizenship for poor black and Latino youths.

Dougan’s nonpartisan group boasts more than 3,000 local members, including the families of the incarcerated and ex-convicts advocating for an end to harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Ending mass incarceration will require robust political activism at the local and state levels to amplify the federal government’s recent commitments to more equitable criminal justice in America.

— The Obama administration’s most important legacy will be at the policy level. One of the conference’s most riveting panels featured legal scholar Jeremy Levitt, political scientist Ricky Jones and historian Jeremi Suri, all of whom examined the real-world impact of Obama’s policies at the local, national and global levels. Jones emphasized the need for policy at the municipal level to alleviate poverty, unemployment, youth violence and health care.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Remember the pledge Editor:The county board chairman is not being factual with his recent comments concerning the Public Safety Tax Pledge made by the 2004-2010 County Board.First of all, the debt we were facing was caused by the foolish actions of nine board members of

    July 31, 2014

  • Back to the future for death penalty? The surreal national debate over the death penalty reached a climax of sorts July 23 in a prison execution chamber in Florence, Arizona. Double murderer Joseph Wood was put to death by lethal injection shortly after his lawyers went to the Supreme Co

    July 31, 2014

  • No Headline Provided House and Senate conferees have agreed on a $17 billion bill to address the scandal over poor health-care service at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation is now on a fast track to pass Congress before its August recess, showing that Re

    July 31, 2014

  • Close the tax loophole that sends US corporations overseas Since we last overhauled our federal tax code, in 1986, countries around the world have lowered their tax rates, leaving the United States with the highest corporate tax rate in the developed word. At the same time, the system has become full of inef

    July 29, 2014

  • Israel and the U.S.: Whose survival instinct is stronger? There’s something darkly coincidental in the fact that the latest weapon to be deployed against the survival instinct of both Israel and the United States is an alleged “heartlessness” when it comes to children. The people of Israel are castigated in

    July 29, 2014

  • College cost isn't big problem for poor students To judge by this summer’s banner policy proposals, the most important question for higher-education reform right now is giving students easier access to loans. But evidence from Canada suggests those changes won’t address the greater need: Getting mo

    July 29, 2014

  • Ducks, geese a blessing I would like to respond to the “Geese and ducks causing problems in Veterans Park” article that was published in the Mt. Vernon Register-News on July 16, 2014. I must share that I do understand that at times there have been a great number of the Cana

    July 29, 2014

  • Money not always the answer I really have to stop and think sometimes. I challenge my thought processes when I write these columns. I am having a hard time with this one. It appears to me that every time a governmental agency or any of the entities that spend other people’s mon

    July 29, 2014

  • Teachers unions' destructive behavior You can always count on the national teachers unions to behave badly at their annual conventions, and they certainly didn’t let us down this month. In doing so, however, they let down many of their members, along with students who are working hard to

    July 26, 2014

  • Workers of the world, curb your ambitions A group of Democrats introduced legislation this week to protect low-paid shift workers from last-minute changes in their schedules. The idea fits into an intriguing category of economic activism: Not trying to lift low-paid workers out of poverty, n

    July 26, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks