Civil rights leaders say Obama makes the grade, 26 April 2009

Hazel Trice Edney/NNPA Editor-in-Chief
Issue date: 4/26/09 Section: Cover

Sunday, April 26, marked the 100th day since the inauguration of America's first Black president. Civil rights leaders seem elated with the direction in which the new president is leading the nation. President Barack Obama's initial accomplishments have included:

1. His immediate confrontation to the nation's failing economy amidst which he now sees "glimmers of hope";

2. The reversal of a string of anti-union executive orders issued by the Bush Administration;

3. The establishment of the Middle Class Working Families Task Force;

4. The closing of the controversial Guantanamo Bay lockup for alleged terrorists;

5. His tour of Europe with First Lady Michelle Obama, which raised good will for America abroad during the G-20 economic conference;

6. His trip to Mexico with hopes of stopping violent drug cartels and preventing them from entering the U. S.

7. His reaching out to Cuba for the renewed relationship, supported by the Congressional Black Caucus.

8. A new commitment to pour millions of dollars into the prevention and awareness of HIV/AIDS in America.

But, specifically, how is the new president doing on issues pertaining to African-Americans from a civil rights perspective? Pointing out that 100 days is simply not enough time to tell, some civil rights leaders give him an A so far; most also noting an 'incomplete' on the grassroots economy.

"There are some A's and a couple of incompletes," says the Rev. Jesse Jackson in a phone interview from Thailand. "I think the position against torture, an A." Jackson noted that President Obama put a credible face on America's foreign policy at the G-20 conference building trust capital in an environment where Bush had trust deficit disorder.

Jackson also listed Obama's reaching out to Cuba, Venezuela and the overture toward Iran as all A's along with his dealing with the student loan industry, which Jackson described as a "$95 billion a year rip off." But, the incompletes - mainly in the area of economics - are clear, he says.

"There's an incomplete on the stimulus because it must be more targeted to get to the bottom. As the states get it, they're using the term 'shovel- ready'. But, shovel-ready for those who don't have a shovel because of the lack of capital and lack of credit means they may not be ready. That could be seen as boot straps without the boots."

To be fair, Jackson conceded that the President could only demand that the money gets out of Washington. "But, we must demand that the states get it down to where the people are," he said.