Dr. Frank Thomas Highlights King Celebration at Governors State

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Rev. Dr. Frank Thomas addresses a full auditorium at Governors State University at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. (Photo: ENEWSPF)

Rev. Dr. Frank A. Thomas was the guest speaker at the 8th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration on Monday, January 15 at Governors State University.  Dr. Thomas, an ordained minister, currently serves as the Senior Pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Church in Memphis, Tennessee.  He spoke to a packed auditorium.

The following are excerpts from his talk.

“The Martin Luther King that we get is the corporate, the acceptable.  We don’t get the challenging King.  We don’t get the King that raised questions about capitalism; about the connection between racism, militarism, and materialism.  We don’t get much about that King.  We get the, ‘I have a dream,’ King.

“But when he died, he wasn’t a very popular King.  They called him “Martin Loser King.”  And they were saying he wasn’t relevant.

Dr. Thomas shared a verse from the Gospel of Mark in the Bible, , “Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God.  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God,”and used that as the basis for his critical remarks of what he called America’s “consumerist culture.”

"I want to ask you this question this morning, can rich people be saved?

"Who then can be saved?  Can rich folks be saved?  I know that you’re probably thinking about whether Oprah, or whether Donald Trump, or whether Bill Gates can be saved.  The average American does not characterize themselves as rich.  But under close inspection, we find another reality.  We discover that we live in consumerist culture. 

"What I mean by consumerist culture is that consumerism is the term that is used to describe the effect of equating personal happiness with the purchasing of material possessions and consumption.  Consumerist culture is an environment or atmosphere where happiness is equated with the purchase of material goods.

"In Economics, consumerism can also refer to economic policies that place an emphasis on consumption, and in an abstract sense, that the free choice of consumers should dictate the economic structure of society. 

"So, after 9-11-01, our president stands up to us and tells us to go shopping.  Because in a free market economy, it is the interest of consumers that move.  And we equate personal happiness with the purchase and consumption of things.

"Consumerism is the glorification of individual choice.  In consumerist culture you define your identity according to which choices you make, and what you ally your self with in the culture.

"For most people, this takes the ritual of purchasing.  By buying things, you ritually surround yourself with tangible objects which symbolize the cultural corporate ideology that you adhere to.

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The New Faith Baptist Church Mens' Choir, directed by Kevon Carter, performs. (Photo: ENEWSPF)

"In other words, we buy stuff with labels like Fubu, and Tommy Hilfinger, and Versace.  And we buy purses with Coach and labels and labels and labels.  And I keep wondering why do we label ourselves, because what has Tommy Hilfinger done for us lately?

"I stood up in front of the congregation after [Hurricane] Katrina and asked, where was Versace?  Where was American Express?  I kept wondering, why do we buy these things?

"So what consumerist culture gets you to do is focus on Bill Gates and Oprah and Donald Trump and others.  Through obsessive glorification consumerist culture forces you to look at the top monetary owners and compare yourselves to them.

"As long as you compare yourself to the ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ you will always see yourselves see yourselves as poor.

"Americans love rags to riches stories.  It is one of the stories that gives our culture meaning.  We love to propagate the myth that in America, anyone can go from nothing to something.  We call it, ‘The American Dream.’

"The American Dream can also be used to cover racism and economic injustice.  From this perspective, consumerist culture says, ‘If Oprah can take her self from the back woods of Mississippi with poverty and abuse, and raise herself up to be one of the most powerful women in the world, stop whining about racism, and make yourself into another Oprah.  Stop whining about economic injustice and raise yourself up by your own boot straps.’

"And you can go from rags to riches in this country, but it is over-glorified, over exalted, and it is the salvation narrative of our culture.  Christians get saved by following Jesus.  You get saved in this consumerist culture by spending money, or by owning things that make it appear like you got money.

"What we have is debt.

"We like to compare ourselves ‘up.’ If we compare ourselves ‘down’, we find out that we’re rich.  Can rich folks be saved?

"Listen, Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population, but consume 24% of the world’s energy.  And we’re amazed that we have to be fighting over the sands in Iraq.  We’re amazed that we intervene in Kuwait.  Somebody once said, if, in 1991 the chief export of Kuwait would’ve been pigs, we wouldn’t even have bothered with them.

"Which means that Americans are addicted to oil.  It’s our addiction that gets us into the sands in Iraq.  It’s addiction to oil that’s getting our soldiers killed. 

"One American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians, and 370 Ethiopians.

"Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day.  That’s roughly 200 billion more than needed.  Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food each day.  People are starving and we throw out. 

“I got in the shower and took an American shower.  The kind where the mirror fogs up.  The host knocked on the door and said, ‘We don’t use water like that in Africa!  Water is more precious!’

"The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by the age 75."

After quoting some figures regarding how much the United States government spends in various areas, he continued, "We got Lance Armstrong on TV begging for more money for cancer, while all the money’s going to bombs and bullets.

"This is what Martin Luther King meant when he said that the great axis of evil was racism, militarism, and excessive materialism.  He said that capitalism as a system was fundamentally and structurally flawed and it would never take care of the poor.  He said, and they don’t play this on television, he said that because we have an interest around the world, we have to send our military to protect our economic interests.  And then we justify that with the kind of racism where the rest of the world is second class.  We even call it the second world, the third world.

"Like it or not, when we compare ourselves with the rest of the world, most Americans are rich.  And how are we going to be saved?

"I want to call you to sacrifice.  We don’t hear that word around America much.  Our president can’t even call us to sacrifice for the war.  This is the first war in the history of our nation where we’re fighting, and we’re not asked to sacrifice.  We’re told to go shopping, while troops and their families bear the brunt.  While I’m not asked to do anything, to give up anything.

"Can you live on 80% of what you make?  I'm talking to you about breaking out of the cycle of consumerist culture.  I'm telling you this:  You cannot get more until you're better stewards of what you have now.  You will not be free until you manage your debt and your lifestyle in a very different way.

"Keep 10 [percent] for yourself, invest, pay cash, build your net worth.  Give 10% to God, and live off 80% of what you make."

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Congress to Send Critics to Jail, Says GrassrootsFreedom.com

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MANASSAS, Va.–(ENEWSPF)– The following is a statement by Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman of GrassrootsFreedom.com, regarding legislation currently being considered by Congress to regulate grassroots communications:

"In what sounds like a comedy sketch from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, but isn’t, the U. S. Senate would impose criminal penalties, even jail time, on grassroots causes and citizens who criticize Congress.

"Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the Senate, would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself.

 "The bill would require reporting of ‘paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying,’ but defines ‘paid’ merely as communications to 500 or
more members of the public, with no other qualifiers.

 "On January 9, the Senate passed Amendment 7 to S. 1, to create criminal penalties, including up to one year in jail, if someone ‘knowingly
and willingly fails to file or report.’

 "That amendment was introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA). Senator Vitter, however, is now a co-sponsor of Amendment 20 by Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) to remove Section 220 from the bill. Unless Amendment 20 succeeds, the Senate will have criminalized the exercise of First Amendment rights. We’d be living under totalitarianism, not democracy.

"I started GrassrootsFreedom.com to fight efforts to silence the grassroots. The website provides updates in the legislation and has a
petition to sign opposing Section 220.

"Thousands of nonprofit leaders, bloggers, and other citizens have hammered the Senate with calls in opposition to Section 220, which seeks to silence the grassroots. The criminal provisions will scare citizens into silence.

"The legislation regulates small, legitimate nonprofits, bloggers, and individuals, but creates loopholes for corporations, unions, and large membership organizations that would be able to spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars, yet not report.

 "Congress is trying to blame the grassroots, which are American citizens engaging in their First Amendment rights, for Washington’s
internal corruption problems."

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Obama Makes It Official – Forms Exploratory Committee

Chicago, IL–(ENEWSPF)– U.S. Senator Barack Obama announced to his supporters today that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee, and plans to make an announcement February 10 on his ultimate plans regarding a presidential run in 2008.

The following is the email Obama sent this morning:

As you may know, over the last few months I have been thinking hard about my plans for 2008. Running for the presidency is a profound decision – a decision no one should make on the basis of media hype or personal ambition alone – and so before I committed myself and my family to this race, I wanted to be sure that this was right for us and, more importantly, right for the country.

I certainly didn't expect to find myself in this position a year ago. But as I've spoken to many of you in my travels across the states these past months; as I've read your emails and read your letters; I've been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics.

So I've spent some time thinking about how I could best advance the cause of change and progress that we so desperately need.

The decisions that have been made in Washington these past six years, and the problems that have been ignored, have put our country in a precarious place. Our economy is changing rapidly, and that means profound changes for working people. Many of you have shared with me your stories about skyrocketing health care bills, the pensions you've lost and your struggles to pay for college for your kids. Our continued dependence on oil has put our security and our very planet at risk. And we're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged.

But challenging as they are, it's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics. America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions.

And that's what we have to change first.

We have to change our politics, and come together around our common interests and concerns as Americans.

This won't happen by itself. A change in our politics can only come from you; from people across our country who believe there's a better way and are willing to work for it.

Years ago, as a community organizer in Chicago, I learned that meaningful change always begins at the grassroots, and that engaged citizens working together can accomplish extraordinary things.

So even in the midst of the enormous challenges we face today, I have great faith and hope about the future – because I believe in you.

And that's why I wanted to tell you first that I'll be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee. For the next several weeks, I am going to talk with people from around the country, listening and learning more about the challenges we face as a nation, the opportunities that lie before us, and the role that a presidential campaign might play in bringing our country together. And on February 10th, at the end of these decisions and in my home state of Illinois, I'll share my plans with my friends, neighbors and fellow Americans.

In the meantime, I want to thank all of you for your time, your suggestions, your encouragement and your prayers. And I look forward to continuing our conversation in the weeks and months to come.

Sincerely,
U.S. Senator Barack Obama

U.S. Senator Barack Obama

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Village Board Considers Smoking Ordinance

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Photo: Mary R. Vogt at MorgueFile.com

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– The village board began its deliberations on a proposed non-smoking ordinance in Park Forest.  Cook County's Clean Indoor Air Ordinance will become effective throughout the county on March 15, 2007. This county-wide ordinance basically bans smoking in all public places and places of employment. This would include such places as restaurants, bars, offices, and other places where people gather.  The Cook County ordinance specifically excludes smoking rooms in a hotel or motel, private clubs (as defined by the ordinance), and private homes, unless the home is used for a licensed day care, adult day care, health care facility, or a home based business that is open to the public. Cook County’s ordinance will apply to all parts of the County unless a municipality within the county enacts legislation which supersedes it.  In other words, the Village of Park Forest can choose to adopt an ordinance which is more or less restrictive than the Cook County ordinance.

Park Forest's Economic Development Advisory Group (EDAG) has been deliberating on a recommendation regarding a non-smoking ordinance for several months, beginning in October 2006, and again in November and December.  Owners of Bixby's and Tattler's were invited to provide input.  At the December meeting, EDAG heard from a representative of the American Cancer Society regarding this issue.

EDAG's recommendations are similar to those of Cook County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, with the following exceptions:

  • A person who owns, manages, operates or otherwise controls a public place or place of employment and who fails to comply with the provisions of the ordinance should be fined in the following manner:
    • $100 for the first violation
    • $100 for the second violation within one year of the first
    • $500 for the third and subsequent violations within one yearo If a fifth violation occurs within one year, in addition to the fine, the business should be closed for a 20 day period
  • Bixby’s and Tattler’s should be given a six (6) month period from the date of adoption of the ordinance to come into compliance
  • Smoking should be permitted in private residences, including those in which a home based business is operated and open to the public.
  • Smoking should be prohibited in those private residences used as a licensed child care, adult day care, or health care facility.

Sam Montella, Chairman of the Economic Development and Advisory Group, noted in a memo to the board noted that "the provision regarding smoking in a private residence was a difficult issue for EDAG and one on which there was not a unanimous decision."  Some members favored a total ban on smoking in private residences in which a home-based business is open to the public.  Such a move would be consistent with the Cook County ordinance.  Others did not want to regulate smoking in private homes at all, regardless of how it was used as a home-based business.

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Village Beginning Strategic Planning Study

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Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Village board members began a discussion at the Tuesday, January 2 board meeting, on a proposed contract for a Strategic Planning Study.  Director of Planning and Economic Development Hildy Kingma reported to the board in a memo dated December 20, "The Plan Commission has been working for a couple of years to develop a scope of work and identify a planning consultant to conduct a planning study for the community. The initial effort,which included a request for proposals issued in November 2004, resulted in proposals that exceeded the funds budgeted for the project. Therefore, in early 2005 the Plan Commission began the process of revising the scope of work for the study and applied for a grant from the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity. A $40,000 grant was awarded from ILDCEO (Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) to supplement the Village funds already allocated to the project."

 

Kingma indicated that the intent of the study was to ensure "that the Village is taking the best economic advantage of the land resources that we have, and is positioned to participate inthe growth that is occurring throughout the Chicago Southland."  The final scope of the work includes the following key study areas:

  • Downtown Gateway – including the 3.5 acres currently for sale and property along Western Avenue that is currently part of the Thorncreek Apartments
  • Western Avenue Annexation Area – to develop a strategy for annexation of the area tothe south of the Village’s current limits
  • Park Forest Business Park
  • The Eastgate Neighborhood
  • Sauk Trail – west gateway into the Village of Park Forest
  • Sauk Trail – east gateway into the Village of Park Forest
  • Sauk Trail – in the vicinity of Rich East High School
  • Norwood Square Shopping Center
  • Residential Infill and Redevelopment

She also noted that there would be several means by which public input would be sought throughout the planing process.  "The consultant will work closely with a Steering Committee to review documents and provide detailed feedback on conceptual plans and implementation strategies.The Steering Committee is proposed to be made up of the Plan Commission, key staff members,and other community representatives. In addition, the consultant and Steering Committee will conduct two Community Workshops designed to obtain public input on the preparation of preliminary development scenarios and on the more refined development scenarios and implementation plans. Finally, the Plan Commission will conduct a formal public hearing on the complete draft Strategic Plan prior to making a recommendation and forwarding the Plan to the Board of Trustees."

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