Volunteer work drives local student into political action

On Tuesday evening, Betty Leake, 43, scrambled to complete her homework while watching Michelle Obama’s speech and taking care of her eight-year-old son. She spent the entire day driving New Mexico Delegation Chairman Javier Gonzales to his engagements around town.

Leake, a resident of West Charlotte, was one of thousands to volunteer in Charlotte this week to ensure the Democratic National Convention ran smoothly by executing tasks like guiding visitors or facilitating sign up tables. She chose to drive around an undisclosed distinguished guest she had never met before; a guest who turned out to be Chairman Gonzales.

As a student at Queens University of Charlotte, she enrolled in a class that required her volunteer with a media or political organization during the week of the Convention for two class credits.

Spending significant time volunteering for political cause is nothing new for Leake. She has worked on local, state and national campaigns, each candidate she claims went on to win their election but will remain unnamed at her request.

Leake mentions serving political leaders as instrumental in learning more about herself. She says, “working in Mayor [Anthony] Foxx’s headquarters office in 2009 helped me realize that I was good with organizational communication and it inspired me to finish my degree.”

Her time observing Gonzales and other politicians has taught her about her responsibility to the community. Leake says, “She realizes that she too has a voice in the process and I need to organize my community. I can organize the community by knocking on doors, making phone calls, doing what I do best.”

This past summer she worked as a field organizer for President Obama’s campaign, going from door-to-door raising awareness about Obama’s efforts and getting people registered to vote. Work President Obama has done to increase financial aid dollars for students made college affordable for Leake, driving her to return and finish her education. Upon transferring to Queens, she changed her major to Communication and now is on track to graduate in May 2013.

After graduating she hopes to rebuild her business so she can pass it off to her son and improve conditions she sees in her community, a task she had not felt prepared for until this week.

When asked whether or not she would ever run for a political position in local, state or national government she said, “I’ve had people encourage me to run for office but it’s a cut-throat business. Ultimately God will determine what road I will take,” says Leake. “I’ve been inspired by this convention. I have a choice whether or not to become an elected official myself.” ~ By William Boyd

Limitless 5ive bring a musical message to the DNC

They met in high school chorus in their hometown of Orlando, Fla, and have been harmonizing ever since — Raheem Brown, Cameron Flowers, Damerius Jones, Stephen Ross and Demetrius Simmons – collectively know as Limitless 5ive.

We met them in Charlotte at the Democratic National Committee, where they came hoping against all odds to meet and perform for President Obama.

They wrote a song called “Let’s Do it Again: Obama 2012” and sampled an old Staple Singers song with a similar title. The outcome is a slick video that has gotten more than 400,000 views on YouTube.

At an event Tuesday they gave an impromptu performance to an enthusiastic audience at the makeshift Google building and met Martin Luther King III

Derek Ross, who mentors the group and is father of Stephen Ross, said he brought the teens to Charlotte to promote their message but also to expose them to the political process.

“They met a lot of celebrities,” he said. “They met some politicians. Just feeling this convention atmosphere and experiencing it has been the most meaningful thing.”

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A button for everyone

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It was barely 10:30 Monday morning, but the man selling Barack Obama campaign buttons had already sweated through his shirt.

“I’ve already put in five miles today, I’m sure,” said the man, who gave us the name Bob McKenzie. “I’m a high-energy guy when it comes to this stuff, and I’ve been waiting.”

With the Democratic National Convention set to kick off in earnest on Tuesday, McKenzie’s wait was practically over. Plus, there was the city’s annual Labor Day parade, another opportunity to sell some buttons — $5 each or five buttons for $20.

McKenzie said he supports President Obama all the way – even went to Denver in 2008, he said, and then to Washington two months later, he said, for the historic inauguration.

McKenzie then let slip that he had just returned from Tampa, where the GOP held its 2012 convention.

So, what was he doing there, we asked. Was he down there selling Mitt Romney buttons?

“Oh, no,” McKenzie insisted, “I’m an Obama man.”

And with that, he was gone. ~ By Glenn H. Burkins

America faces “spiritual depression,” preacher says

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At Myers Park Baptist Church, the Rev. James Forbes climbed into a lofty pulpit Sunday to preach a sermon about what he called the nation’s “spiritual depression,” and he compared the partisan divisions within the country to a bad marriage.

“God has determined: United States, you’re going to counseling,” he said. “It makes no sense for us to dwell in the same house but live in different quarters. We need to talk!”

Forbes, pastor-emeritus of the famed Riverside Church in New York, said he also preached in Tampa – four times — ahead of the Republican National Convention.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2012, he said, the song “God Bless America,” became a national prayer as it was sung at sporting events and gatherings all over the United States.

“After all,” he said, “we see ourselves as a godly nation. Most of us citizens claim to be religious, or at least spiritual. …We were together – atheists, humanists, conservatives, liberals — all of us in singing that song, petitioning God for help in our hour of humiliation and grief. Now as we approach the presidential election for 2012, I think it’s time to pray again with a deep sense of urgency.”

Forbes said that as Americans ask God for a blessing, it’s not enough to simply pray for economy recovery or protection from enemies.

“We need spiritual renewal,” he said, “recovery as a nation of our sense of why we are called to be… We need the rediscovery of what unique mission is ours as a part of God’s plan for the universe.” ~ By Glenn H. Burkins

One man against hundreds

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As hundreds gathered Sunday to espouse what could fairly be called a plethora of left-leaning causes, a lone protestor lurked in the shadows, the message on his placard – “Austerity Now” – in stark contrast to others around him.

Tom Kerr, 24, described his politics as strictly conservative. He said he went to the rally as a counterweight to those protesting in support of liberal causes and was disappointed that more like him did not show up.

“I couldn’t allow a pro-socialist group to protest in my city unopposed,” he told Qcitymetro.com. “So I felt that I needed to come out and make my voice heard…I think we need to get our act together as conservatives and stop letting progressives walk all over us.”

Kerr said he believes in “fiscal responsibility and strong defense,” but he said he breaks with most conservatives by supporting same-sex marriage and “full equality” for gays and lesbians. He then paused for a second and added, “But personally, I don’t believe you can be conservative and pro-choice at the same time.” ~ By Glenn H. Burkins

Three friends get an early peek inside TWC Arena

From left: Macie Riddick, Carolyn Westbrook and Greta Martin. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins) Click image to expand.

The Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) held an open house at Time Warner Cable Arena early Friday so that local residents could see the giant podium that will serve as a backdrop for next week’s convention.

All morning long, the curious trickled in, cameras and video recorders in hand. Some took pictures of the stage; others posed for pictures with the stage.

That’s where we found Carolyn Westbrook, Greta Martin and Macie Riddick.

Westbrook, a native Charlottean, said she simply wanted to be a part of the excitement and appreciate the enormous change that has occurred in her city.

“To see all this going on in Charlotte and knowing where Charlotte was, it is totally exciting,” she said.

All three women are members of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and all have memories of a Charlotte that no longer exists. As a child, Westbrook attended Myers Street Elementary School, which once stood where the uptown aquatic center is now located. Riddick, a retired teacher, said she did her student teaching at the former Second Ward High School.

“We’re just good friends,” Riddick said. “When Carolyn is going somewhere, she calls me. When I’m going somewhere, I call her, and we get together.” ~ By Glenn H. Burkins

The Sandman has cometh

Artists work to complete a giant sand sculpture of President Barack Obama outside the BlackFinn Restaurant in uptown Charlotte (Photos: Glenn H. Burkins for Qcitymetro.com) Click images to expand.

Stephanie Tanzy stood with others outside the EpiCentre entertainment complex Friday morning staring at a giant sand sculpture of President Barack Obama.

“I don’t think it looks like him,” she said. “They tried to come close, but I don’t think it looks like him. If I didn’t know he was coming here next week, if I didn’t see the (presidential) seal in the back, I wouldn’t even think that it was him.”

The sculpture was built along College Street, just outside the BlackFinn restaurant, where the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Congressional Black Caucus will host private parties throughout the week.

We at the Big Q couldn’t help but wonder if that arrangement – Myrtle Beach and the CBC — somehow violated the spirit of the longstanding boycott that some black organizations launched in response to South Carolina’s refusal to remove the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds. ~ By Glenn H. Burkins

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