Tag Archives: American

President Obama Selects Pete Rouse ~ First Asian-American Chief of Staff

Posted by: Audiegrl

WhoRunsGov~As White House staffers praise incoming chief of staff Pete Rouse as a fixer, Asian American bloggers are taking heart from his appointment for another reason: Rouse’s mother, born Mary Mikami, is the daughter of Japanese immigrants to America.

Blogger Jeff Yang at Asian culture and politics blog Original Spin praised Obama’s selection of Rouse as yet another example of the president’s “clear comfort with and respect for Asian Americans as colleagues and key team members.”

“While Rouse has not emphasized his Asian American roots during his political career, neither has he denied them — and given that his mother grew up speaking only Japanese, and his maternal grandparents were interned during the War, he certainly has critical narratives of the Asian American experience deeply embedded in his personal history,” wrote Yang.

Yang’s item was picked up by other Asian culture blogs, which also hailed the pick. “If I’m not mistaken, that makes Rouse the White House’s first Asian American chief of staff. All things considered, this is quite awesome,” wrote the blogger behind Angry Asian Man.

“I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty dang cool to see so many Asian Americans breaking through the political glass ceiling in Washington,” said Jenn Fang, who wrote for Asian Americans for Obama during the campaign, at her blog ReAppropriate.

Thursday’s Anchorage Daily News provides some background on Rouse’s family history:

The story of Alaska’s connection to Obama’s inner circle begins in 1915 with the arrival of Goro (George) and Mine Mikami in Seward, where construction of the Alaska Railroad was under way. Three years later the immigrants from Japan moved to Anchorage. Their daughter, Mary, entered school speaking only Japanese and went on to become valedictorian at Anchorage High School. In 1934, Mary graduated with honors from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in Fairbanks (the year before it became the University of Alaska), then moved on to Yale, where she earned a Ph.D. and met her husband, Irving Rouse.

(George and Mine Mikami retired and moved to Los Angeles just before World War II, and were sent to a Japanese internment camp in Arizona during the war. A scholarship in their name, endowed by their four children, is given at the university in Fairbanks today.)

The Cook Inlet Historical Society, which tells the history of the Anchorage area, has a page devoted to the Mikami family:

Cook Inlet Historical Society portrait of The Mikami family, circa 1917, prior to moving to Anchorage. Father George, mother Mine, daughters Mary and Alice and son Harry

George Mikami was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1864 and immigrated to the United States in 1885, landing in San Francisco, California. In 1910 he returned to Japan to marry Mine Morioka, who was born in Tokyo in 1884. Together they returned to the United States in 1911. With two children, Mary, born in 1912 and Alice, born the following year, they moved to Seward, Alaska in 1915 and spent the next two years there.

In 1918 the family moved to Anchorage, and here George opened a tailor shop on 4th Avenue between B and C Streets. By then they had added two more children; Harry, born in Seward in 1915 and Flora, born in Anchorage in 1919. The four children all did their part in the family business, with George and Mine handling the heavy alterations and tailoring.

Daughter Mary Mikami Rouse had two children, Peter and David Rouse.

Other chiefs of staff also have been ethnic minorities. John Sununu, chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush, was of Lebanese descent on his father’s side, making him the first Arab American in the post. Kenneth Duberstein, who served as chief for President Ronald Reagan, was the first Jewish chief of staff. Joshua Bolten, who served under President George W. Bush, was the second and departing Obama chief Rahm Emanuel was the third.

There has yet to be a female or African American chief of staff in the White House.

Please check out Rouse’s WRG profile, for more information…

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Filed under Asian/Pacific Islander, Change, Obama Administration, Pres. Barack Obama

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Tape Special Message for American Idol Charity

Posted by: Audiegrl

President Obama and First Lady Michelle sat down on Wednesday for a taping with “American Idol” as part of the hit show’s fund-raising event set to air next week.

Idol Gives Back” is a two-hour charity performance that has already raised more than $140 million in contributions for global organizations. This year’s beneficiaries include Children’s Health Fund, Feeding America, Malaria No More, Save the Children’s U.S. Programs and the United Nations Foundation.

In previous years, Idol Gives Back has welcomed President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former President George W. Bush, Brad Pitt, Bono, Reese Witherspoon, Miley Cyrus, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Annie Lennox, Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani, Josh Groban, Pink, Celine Dion, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller and others.

This year’s special will feature performances and appearances by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars as well as a few surprises. The special episode will air on Wednesday, April 21 at 8 p.m. ET.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

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President Obama: Strengthening America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Posted by: Audiegrl

President Barack Obama signs an executive order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Friday, Feb. 26, 2010, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama signed an executive order strengthening the capacity of and increasing the access to Federal funding for the nations historically black colleges and universities.

Obama says these schools have felt the pain of the recession most acutely because they enroll a higher proportion of low and middle-income students. He’s calling for increased funding for historically black colleges in his proposed budget.

President Obama says historically black colleges and universities still play a vital role and their success is crucial to a better future for all Americans. He’ll speak at the commencement ceremony for one of these institutions, Hampton University in Virginia, this spring.

The executive order is below:

Promoting Excellence, Innovation, and Sustainability at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Members of Virginia State University's Trojan Explosion Marching Band carry their drums through the Grand Foyer before performing at the White House. The band then watched as President Barack Obama signed an executive order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Feb. 26, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Recognizing What Historically Black Colleges and Universities Mean to America

Written by William Jawando, Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement (cross-posted from WhiteHouse.gov)

“As I stood watching the Virginia State University drum-line perform in the White House this week (likely the first time an HBCU drum-line has ever performed at the White House), I was reminded of how far we have come as a nation and hopeful about where we are heading. The nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have served our nation since 1837. They educated freed slaves, giving them the priceless gift of a mind filled with world’s possibilities. Today, this noble goal of our HBCUs continues as they unveil for their students the world of possibilities for themselves, their communities and our nation.

Guests attending this White House event left with a glow not unlike that of January 20, 2009, but they also left with a resolve to do the work that will be necessary to ensure all students have access to a high quality education and armed with the tools they need to reach for the American Dream.

When the President reflected on some of the legends that have matriculated through HBCU’s – Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King, WEB Dubois -I thought about how important and critically necessary these institutions have been to the fabric of our nation. I was reminded of the tremendous legacy of HBCUs and that when we invest in our young people at these schools we are preparing the way for the next King, Marshall, and Dubois.

President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to these institutions not just with this event, but also through his budget. The 2011 budget calls for $98 million in new money for HBCUs, including a commitment of $850 million over ten years. These are resources the schools can use however they see fit to build their capacity to deliver a quality education to their students. For the students, this year’s budget calls for an increase in the Pell Grant program, raising it to $5,710 annually. More than 50 percent of the students attending HBCUs qualify for Pell Grants and other forms of support. This is important because, as President Obama said, one in two students at HBCUs are the first in their family to attend college, and HBCUs continue to educate many students who often times would not be able to go to college for financial reasons.

The HBCU presidents and other guests present nodded in agreement as the President talked about the need to increase access and completion at HBCUs and the critical role they play. President Obama believes we must continue investing and supporting HBCUs as part of meeting his mission to develop a world-class education system in America. This is not just for the benefit of African Americans, but as we work to compete with our neighbors around this globe, it is to the benefit of all Americans.

Often in Washington we get mired in partisan debate and lose track of what’s really important. Education. Access to opportunity. A fair and living wage. These are things that matter and can make a difference in the lives of people no matter who they are, what they look like or where they are from. We were reminded of these truly American values this week, and for that I am eternally grateful. Now let’s get to work!”

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Filed under African-Americans, Education, HBCU, Pres. Barack Obama, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, Video/YouTube, Young Men, Young Women

Little-Known Black History Fact: Mary Alexander & Coca-Cola

Posted by BuellBoy

Mary Alexander in Coco-Cola in 1955

Mary Alexander in Coco-Cola ad in 1955

The year 1955 was like a dream come true for Mary Alexander of Ocala, Florida. She was a junior at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia concentrating on her studies when her dorm mother insisted that she go to a local audition for a Coca-Cola promotion on campus. Little did Alexander know that she would become the first Black woman to be featured in a Coca-Cola ad – the first non-athlete, that is.

Coming to the city of Atlanta from her meager farmhouse beginnings in Ball Play, Alabama, Alexander never thought she could compete against the candidates from Spelman and Morris Brown College.

Alexander’s first ad was published in Ebony magazine that same year, along with several black newspapers. She would continue working with the company, shooting another 15 ads. Overall, Alexander would earn about $1,500 modeling for Coke, even though no one knew her name. By the way, she finally gained her father’s approval when she brought a check home for $600.

It was only because a family friend who saw the ad in her home took a copy back to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta that Coke found their black beauty. After all these years, a name would be put to the face.

Coca-Cola recognized Alexander for being a pioneer in the company’s efforts to reach more African-Americans. Several of the ads she appeared in are on display in the new World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta. They also held a reception in her honor.

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Filed under African-Americans, Black History Month, Civil Rights Movement, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Fashion, Georgia, HBCU, History, Holidays, Magazines, Media and Entertainment, News, Photography, Pop Culture, Students, Uncategorized, US, Women's Issues

Little-Known Black History Fact: Molly Williams

Posted by BuellBoy

Drawing of Molly Williams pulling fire pump through snow storm

Drawing of Molly Williams pulling fire pump through a snow storm in 1818

A slave named Molly Williams was the first known female firefighter in the United States. Little is known about her life, but female firefighters know her heroic story.

Owned by a New York merchant named Benjamin Aymar, Williams became part of the Oceanus Engine Company firehouse in 1815 and would be known as Volunteer Number 11. The members of the house credited her for being as tough as the male firefighters. She would fight amongst them in a calico dress and checked apron.

Besides the bucket brigades, Molly pulled the pumper to fires through the deep snowdrifts of the blizzard of 1818 to save towns. On December 27, 1819, the Fire Department reported that the fire buckets were rapidly being superseded by the use of hose, so the era of fire buckets ended.

Even as a slave, Williams had gained the respect of her fellow firefighters. Her story and strength paved the way for other women, including one the first paid Black female firefighters and the most tenured in the country – Toni McIntosh of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who served for over 11 years.

Today there are many African-American women working as career firefighters and officers in the United States, along with a number of counterparts in the volunteer ranks. The African American Fire Fighter Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, conserving and sharing the heritage of African American firefighters.

The Museum is housed at old Fire Station 30. This station, which was one of two segregated fire stations in Los Angeles, between 1924 and 1955, was established in 1913, to serve the Central Ave community.

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Filed under African-Americans, Civil Rights Movement, Culture, History, Holidays, Uncategorized, US

Little-Known Black History Fact: Lois Mailou Jones

Posted by BuellBoy

Lois Mailou Jones in 1936

Lois Mailou Jones in 1936

Textile artist Lois Mailou Jones was a Harlem Renaissance artist; in fact, she was one of the longest living members of the Harlem Renaissance.

Jones found her inspiration in Martha’s Vineyard as a teen. As her interest grew, she decided to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1937, learning textile design.

Though a cultured profession, textile artists of her day were not excluded from racism. Sometimes she was required to clean the studio in order to us it. At one point, Jones saw her textile work hanging in a boutique. After introducing herself as the creator of the design, the owner told her a colored girl could not have possibly made such a beautiful design. After enduring more discrimination, Jones found herself in Paris, where she was accepted. It was there that she worked with Josephine Baker, Albert Smith and Emile Bernard.

Lois Mailou Jones

Lois Mailou Jones

Wishing to find her place in America, Jones entered “whites only” art contests using the face of her white colleague to make a name for herself. She connected with greats like with Mary McCleod Bethune, Arthur Schomburg, Alan Locke, Zora Neale Hurston and Danny Glover.

She took her expertise to an HBCU – the one place she was allowed to teach – and taught at Howard University for 47 years.

Before she died in 1998, Jones presented her work to President Bill and First Lady Clinton. She now lays to rest in Martha’s Vineyard, where it all began.

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Filed under African-Americans, Art, Artists, Black History Month, Civil Rights Movement, Culture, Entertainment, History, Holidays, Presidents, Uncategorized, US, William (Bill) J. Clinton, Women's Issues

Little-Known Black History Fact: Selena Sloan Butler

Posted by BuellBoy

Selena Sloan Butler

Selena Sloan Butler

Selena Sloan Butler was the past president of Georgia Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers 1919-1926. Following the success of the National Congress of Mothers PTA, African-American teacher and Spelman College graduate Selena Sloan Butler heard the call, so on May 7, 1926, the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) was formed, with Sloan holding the title of its first national president.

Butler was dedicated to teaching. When her community lacked a kindergarten for black children, she held classes in her living room.
Butler’s goal was to create an organization that held interest in all children, regardless of color or social status. The first local chapter was at Yonge Elementary school in Atlanta in 1911 and grew from there. However, because of segregation, the Colored Mothers PTA would work independently of the larger National PTA until 1970.

Young Street Parent Teachers Association Atlanta 1919

Young Street Parent Teachers Association Atlanta 1919

An activist in the community, Butler co-founded the Spelman College Alumnae Association, organized the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the Atlanta YWCA and was the first president of the Georgia Federation of Colored Women’s Club. From 1929 to 1930, she served under President Herbert Hoover’s cabinet on the Child Health and Protection committee.

Yonge Elementary was renamed in honor of her husband, Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler, and Selina Sloan Butler’s portrait now hangs in the Georgia State Capitol building.

Selana Butler died October 1964.

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Filed under Black History Month, Children, Civil Rights Movement, Culture, Education, HBCU, Herbert Hoover, History, Holidays, Presidents, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, US, Women's Issues, Young Men, Young Women