Blog Posts Related to the African American Community
- Posted byon February 28, 2012 at 10:28 AM EST
During Black History Month, we pause to salute and reflect on the contributions African Americans have made to the rich fabric that makes up the United States. There are many untold stories that reveal the best of Americans who stepped up when duty called, broke color barriers, or quietly made their communities better one person at a time.
In tribute, President Obama recently invited six special senior citizens to visit the White House to honor as unsung heroes. These unsung heroes are individuals who strengthen their communities through extraordinary everyday acts of service done with reliability and commitment, but who seldom receive recognition.
Among those who visited with President Obama were pioneers in the struggle for racial equality, educators who changed their communities through the classroom, and people who believe that a lifetime serving others is a life well spent.
- Posted byon February 27, 2012 at 11:09 AM EST
On Thursday, February 16, Mocha Moms, Inc. attended a “Mocha Moms Summit,” a briefing with the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More than 150 leaders of Mocha Moms, Inc., a national non-profit organization that supports stay at home mothers of color, were invited to the White House for a briefing as part of the Administration's celebration of National African American History Month. It was an invitation that we were ecstatic about; one we could not pass up. More than 350 Mocha Moms and their families capped off the experience and were invited to return the next day for an East Wing tour.
The two-day event was a chance to hear a full briefing from White House officials representing a wide range of departments and agencies, including EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, on issues that were important to us. It was an historic milestone for our organization. Mothers packed their signature Mocha pins and splashes of pink and brown and travelled from across the country. Despite economic circumstances, work put on hold, husbands babysitting, and honey "to do" lists written, the Mocha Moms, Inc. made sure to be present.
When President Obama issued his recent proclamation in honor of National African American History Month, he paid special tribute to the nameless African American women who have been, and currently are, the backbones of many communities saying, “…African American women have long served as champions of social and political change.” I would like to think that President Obama might have been speaking directly to us.
Cameras were clicked, mothers were hugged, and business cards were exchanged. A. The energy at the Moms Summit was powerful and when Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, told us that Mocha Moms had been discussed at the senior staff meeting, there was a resounding applause. Panelists shared with us a myriad of programs and policies to help promote fitness and eliminate health disparities. They talked about many domestic policy issues including: initiatives aimed at women and girls; policies to protect the environment; health care; insurance; rising college costs and subsidized student loans. Our mothers asked questions ranging from recess, autism, the mortgage crisis, to workplace flexibility, health insurance, and small business. I moderated a "Mom Chat" with EPA Administrator Jackson. Shushana Vignier, former president of the Essex County, New Jersey chapter and Newark teacher, brought the room to tears while recounting her story of meeting a 5th grader that does not know how to read. That was the type of powerful dialogue that occurred.
Four mothers of color in Maryland founded Mocha Moms, Inc. in 1997. Today, with 100 chapters in 29 states, we continue to support the changing needs of mothers of color in the workplace and at home. Through our partnerships with such organizations as America’s Promise, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, Boys Booked on Barbershops, Be The Match and Donate Life America, Mocha Moms are participating in a wide range of community service.
We hope our trip to the White House continues a much-needed dialog with mothers of color in this country. We are eager to learn more so we can continue to make educated decisions for our families and ourselves. We know the future of the next generation will depend on it.
- Posted byon February 24, 2012 at 11:53 AM EST
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The Commerce Blog
Supporting the growth and global competitiveness of minority-owned businesses is a priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama administration.
And we’re making good on that priority. Last year, the Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) registered the best annual performance in its 41-year history. It assisted minority-owned businesses in gaining access to nearly $4 billion in contracts and capital, supporting the creation of nearly 6,000 much-needed jobs. Over the last three years, our network of 39 MBDA Business Centers, has been largely responsible for generating $10 billion in contracts and capital while helping to create and save nearly 20,000 jobs.
Today, the challenge for MBDA–like so many organizations across the federal government–is to figure out how we build on that record while becoming more efficient. A number of bureaus right here within the Commerce Department are facing a similar challenge, which has led, for example, to consolidating or otherwise cutting several programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), restructuring some units within International Trade Administration (ITA) and shifting the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) emphasis to regional innovation strategies. So how do we meet the President’s mandate to improve services to minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in an increasingly difficult budget environment?
The answer for our Bureau started with looking at the grassroots where MBDA interacts on a daily basis with minority business owners. Our front lines are our 39 MBDA Business Centers and related business development support services. Our plan is to strengthen connections at that level to enhance services and get more for your tax dollar.The centers, operated by local entities, are funded in part by grants from MBDA. The average grant is less than $300,000 and had not experienced an increase in funding in over 15 years. . . until recently. Last year, when we launched a new round of competitions, MBDA was able to increase the size of the grants and extend awards from three years to five years. As a result of earlier streamlining efforts, MBDA was also able to expand its presence to establish new centers in Denver, Cleveland, Boston, Minneapolis and Anchorage in fiscal year 2011.
- Posted byon February 23, 2012 at 10:02 AM EST
Each year America recognizes the month of February as National African American History Month. We reflect and celebrate the heritage and legacy of African Americans and many of their achievements. The theme for this year’s African American History Month is focusing on, “Black Women in American Culture and History.” In his 2012 proclamation, President Obama says, “During National African American History Month, we pay tribute to the contributions of past generations and reaffirm our commitment to keeping the American dream alive for the next generation.”
Yeshimebet Abebe serves as the Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture for Special Projects, where her portfolio includes USDA’s Strike Force Initiative. She recently served as the Acting Chief of Staff for Research, Education and Economics (REE) where her responsibilities included the managing of the daily priorities of the four agencies that comprise REE, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Economic Research Service (ERS), and National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS).
Yeshi also served as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development and the Special Assistant to the Administrator for Rural Utilities Service. Prior to arriving at USDA, Yeshi practiced law in both the private and non-profit sectors, worked in the office of Congressman Bruce Braley and worked on the Obama campaign.
An Iowa native, Yeshi has a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University, a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law, and a Master’s of Arts in International Law and the Settlement of Disputes from the University for Peace in Costa Rica.
What achievements are you most proud of being a successful black woman?
I am most proud to be working for President Barack Obama’s administration under Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on issues that are very important to me. I always knew I wanted to work on development and prosperity building to help those in need. However, I knew that in order to pursue my dream, I needed to build a strong foundation. I studied hard, incorporated my domestic and international experiences, and am proud to have become an urban regional planner and lawyer.
- Posted byon February 22, 2012 at 2:00 PM EST
The theme of this year’s National African American History Month, Black American Women in American Culture and History, recognizes the role African American women have played in shaping the character of our nation and the many unique contributions they’ve made -- and are making -- to our culture and society.
Last year, we featured a series of blog posts from African Americans across the Obama Administration that offered a glimpse into the work they do, including posts from several women serving in the Administration. Below, read the story of Dr. Regina Benjamin, the Surgeon General of the United States, and follow the links at the bottom to read more posts from African American women in the Administration.
As Surgeon General, I am privileged to serve as “America’s Doctor,” providing the public with the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and the health of the nation. I also oversee the operational command of 6,500 uniformed health officers in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. These officers serve in locations around the world to promote, protect, and advance the health of the American People.
I grew up in Daphne, Alabama, and graduated from high school in the nearby town of Fairhope. I received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Xavier University in New Orleans and attended Morehouse School of Medicine before receiving my medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I later obtained a masters’ degree in business administration from Tulane University in New Orleans. After completing my family medicine residency in Macon, Georgia, I established a clinic in a small fishing village in Alabama to help its many uninsured residents. That clinic in Bayou La Batre is still operating today, despite being destroyed by Hurricane Georges in 1998, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and a devastating fire in 2006. President Obama nominated me for the Surgeon General’s post in July 2009, and I was confirmed by the Senate for that position in November of the same year.
- Posted byon February 17, 2012 at 5:08 PM EST
Recently, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, John Wilson, sat down for an interview with the Department of Education's blog. Throughout February, as we celebrate African American History Month, Mr. Wilson encourages us to remember the important role HBCU's play in grooming great African American leaders both past and present.
Read more at the Department of Education's blog.