Monday, December 31, 2012

Your History: New Years Eve Church Participation

Friday, December 31, 2010

Jonathan Langston Chism, Guest Cultural Resource Commentator
African American Religion Doctoral Student, Rice University Department of Religious
 Studies, Houston, TX

I. Historical Background and Documents  
Numerous African American Christians observe Watch Night in a variety of ways; however, many may not be cognizant of the tradition’s historical roots. The precise origin of Watch Night has been disputed. Did the tradition originate in 1733 with the Methodist Movement or in the 1862 Freedom’s Eve celebrations? Though some African American Methodists can proudly pinpoint the 1733 origin of the tradition, Freedom’s Eve likely has the strongest link to the widespread celebration of Watch Night in several African American Christian churches.   In their denomination’s manuals, African American Methodists can trace the original roots of Watch Night to the Methodist tradition. The first Watch Night service began with the Moravians, “a small Christian denomination whose roots lie in what is the present day Czech Republic” in 1733 on the estates of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf in Hernhut, Germany.1 John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, picked up the tradition from the Moravians and incorporated it into Methodism as a time for Methodists to renew their covenant with God and to contemplate their state of grace in light of the second coming of Christ. Wesley believed that all Christians should reaffirm their covenant with God annually.2 He held Watch Night services between 8:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on the Friday nearest the full moon and on New Year’s Eve.3

The first Methodist Watch night service in the United States probably took place in 1770 at Old St. George’s Church in Philadelphia, a church of which Richard Allen, the founder of the African American Episcopal church, was a member.4 African American Methodists celebrated Watch Night prior to Freedom’s Eve because Allen and other African Americans celebrated Watch Night Meeting services at St. George’s Church and also at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.5

While acknowledging the Methodist starting point, many African American Christians link their celebration of the tradition to December 31, 1862, “Freedom’s Eve.” After the Union Army was victorious at the Battle of Antietam on September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation that declared that all slaves in “any state or designated part of a state . . . In rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”6 Many blacks in the North and South as well as both free and enslaved blacks anxiously waited for Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to become effective on January 1, 1863. The Sunday before that “Day of Days,” Frederick Douglass expressed to his audience at Rochester’s Spring Street AME Zion Church his elation at “the glorious morning of liberty about to dawn upon us.”7 On December 31, 1862, Watch Night services occurred throughout the United States.

Wide alert with anticipation, many blacks dared not and perhaps could not sleep throughout the late night hours because they wanted to watch “the night turn into a new dawn.”8 As they watched, many slaves reflected on their hardships and toils, mourned the memory of their ancestors and loved ones who died in slavery, and exuberantly thanked and praised God for allowing them and their descendants to watch the night of captivity pass.9

Nearly one hundred and fifty years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, many African American Christians continue the tradition of gathering into mainline Protestant churches on New Year's Eve to celebrate Watch Night. During their Watch Night services, many African Americans probably do not specifically celebrate Freedom’s Eve per se in the sense of reflecting on their ancestors’ freedom from slavery. Yet, the direct link between Freedom’s Eve celebrations and Watch Night undoubtedly has both explicit and implicit impact on many African American Christians’ observance of the tradition. Many African American Christians consistently bring in the New Year inside of a church, starting their service between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. On one hand, some African American worship leaders fully honor the Freedom’s Eve tradition during Watch Night. On the other hand, many African American Christians from various denominations including Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches implicitly reflect the spirit of Freedom’s Eve celebrations by bringing in the New Year with jubilation and praise, praying, shouting, and thanking God for allowing them to live and survive another year as they anticipate the fulfillment of their hopes and God’s promises in the New Year.

II. Cultural Response: Watching for Freedom in the Twenty-First Century
Giving his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech one hundred years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Reverend Dr. Martin King began by reflecting on Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. He declared, “This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.”10 He boldly continued to exclaim:

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.11

The chains of poverty, racism, and discrimination have acted as constricting shackles for many blacks throughout the course of the century following emancipation. Being only quasi-free and given the illusion of equality, many African Americans derived hope from the well spring of their faith as they struggled for the realization of God’s perfect will for true liberation and justice.

As I reflect on the historical and contemporary significance of Watch Night for African American Christians, I find myself wrestling with the following questions: should black Christians continue to keep the memory of slavery alive in the twenty-first century? Is there value to entering a New Year by reflecting on how our enslaved ancestors waited and watched for their freedom? One hundred and forty-seven years after the first Freedom’s Eve celebration, do African Americans still need to watch for freedom? How can African American faith communities watch for freedom in the twenty-first century? Throughout African American history, African Americans have offered different responses and continue to express diverse opinions to these types of questions.  

Less than a decade after the first Freedom’s Eve celebration, many blacks had become resistant to celebrating Freedom’s Eve and Emancipation Day.12 Many African Americans wanted “to distance themselves from the more painful and degrading aspect of the race’s collective past,” as they felt that celebrating blacks’ emancipation kept the memory of slavery alive.13 After 1870, and even continuing into the twentieth century, many African Americans advocated halting Freedom Day commemorations.14 In 1876, Theophilus G. Steward, an AME minister, insisted that “blacks would never unite behind a ‘common history’ because the race’s history was centered on slavery, and ‘slave history is no history.’”15 In his series of essays on the social life of blacks in New York City, Steward explained that it was difficult “to find a colored man even from the South who will acknowledge that he actually passed through the hardships of slavery … Men do not like to be referred to slavery now.”16

Despite the early resistance to celebrating blacks’ emancipation, many African American Christians have continued the tradition of gathering in churches for Watch Night services. As the slaves did on Freedom’s Eve, many black Christians offer prayers of thanksgiving, sing praises, shout, dance, and “get happy” as they transition from one year into the next. With high hopes and expectations for bountiful blessings, many watch and pray as the clock strikes midnight. 

However, in my experience and celebration of Watch Night in a Church of God in Christ congregation, a Baptist church, and in a United Methodist church, the emancipation thrust of Freedom’s Eve has had weak emphasis. Unlike enslaved blacks, during my celebrations of Watch Night in the twenty first-century, I must acknowledge that I have not devoted time to prayerfully reflecting on the glorious dawning of freedom for enslaved persons and communities.  Similar to millions of Americans, I have established personal New Year’s resolutions, vowing to liberate myself from unwelcome habits, to clear my debts, to eat healthier and to exercise regularly. I certainly have frequently watched for freedom for myself and my family. But faithfully watching for the coming of freedom for dilapidated African American communities and oppressed persons throughout the world has not explicitly been a point on the agenda of Watch Night services that I have attended. 

As Reverend Steward explained over a century ago, many contemporary African Americans may not feel the need to continue watching for freedom. Some may contend that Blacks are far removed from the evil days of slavery. Dr. King’s position that “the Negro is still not free” is nearly half a century old; and since then, undeniable progress has been made in the struggle for freedom. Black Americans have the freedom to own property and to obtain lucrative wealth in a free capitalistic market economy, to acquire an education, and even to become the president of the United States. To say that black Americans like the well-known Irvin “Magic” Johnson, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan are financially free is an understatement. Black Americans are living the American dream as doctors, lawyers, engineers, college professors, etc. Black Americans have passed through academic halls in both predominantly black and white institutions. Though a minority, blacks are sitting in some of the highest offices in judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. Hence, some persons may question if there are any rational justifications for black churches to continue the African American tradition of watching for freedom. Slavery is in the past, and blacks are free.
Unfortunately, even 147 years after the Emancipation Proclamation there is ample room for blacks to watch for freedom in the United States. There are a number of staggering disparities in healthcare, public and private education, employment, wealth, and the justice system between black and white Americans. Thousands of black Americans are in bondage to drug addictions and substance abuse, including alcohol, marijuana, crack and cocaine. Marian Wright Edelman and many other persons have insisted:

Imprisonment is the new slavery for the black community … Of the 2.1 million inmates today, 910,000 are African American. Blacks make up 43.9% of the state and federal prison populations but only 12.3% of the U.S. population … African Americans constitute 13% of all monthly drug users, but they represent 35% of arrests for drug possession, 55% of convictions, and 74% of prison sentences.17

Furthermore, there is room for freedom for all children, especially minorities. Since 1973, the Children’s Defense Fund has campaigned for adequate health coverage for all children, to protect children from abuse and neglect, to promote equal access to quality education, and to end child poverty and the cradle to prison pipeline that funnels too many youth down the path to prison.18   Certainly African American churches can continue to watch for freedom.  During Watch Night, African Americans can praise God and celebrate the progress that has been made in the freedom struggle, and they can renew their hope and faith in God to face the challenges that lie ahead.  African Americans can watch with anticipation that the complete promise of freedom will be fulfilled. Black Christians can be inspired by the prophet Jeremiah’s words to the people of Israel, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NRSV).

III. African American Traditional Songs

The following traditional hymns can aid African Americans in reflecting on how God has been and remains to be their source of hope in the freedom struggle. Written by Albert A. Goodson, “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” is a congregational hymn that can encourage African Americans to cogitate how far they have come in America from the era of slavery to the present. The lyrics of “How I Got Over,” an African-American hymn written by Reverend C. H. Cobbs, can also inspire African Americans to anticipate victory in the freedom struggle. Cobb imagines one day entering paradise and looking back and pondering, “How I got over?” Not only can getting over be a referent to heaven but it also can be a referent to the realization of earthly hopes and dreams. “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” is an English hymn written by Isaac Watts. The hymn paraphrases Psalm 90, a prayer of Moses. In this Psalm, Moses distinguishes the eternal nature of God from the finite nature of human beings. Moses muses how God has been a dwelling place and source of refuge for the children of Israel for all generations (Psalm 90:1). As they bring in the New Year, this hymn can inspire African American Christians to ruminate how God has been their sustaining power and source of security throughout the ages, their “help in ages past” and their “hope for years to come.”

We’ve  Come This Far by Faith

We’ve come this far by faith leaning on the Lord; Trusting
In His Holy Word, He’s never failed me yet.
Oh, Can’t turn around, We’ve come this far by faith.
Don’t be discouraged with trouble in your life.
He’ll bear your burdens
And move all misery and strife, That’s why we’ve
*(Optional: Recitation)
Just the other day I heard a man say he didn’t believe in God’s Word;
I can say God has made a way, He’s never failed me yet, Thank God,
We’ve come this far by faith.19  

How I Got Over

How I got over (How I got) over, my Lord, and my
Soul looked back and wondered (wondered, wondered) How I got over, my Lord.
The tallest tree (in) paradise, The Christians
Call (it) tree of life. And my soul looked back and
Wondered (wondered, wondered) How I got over, my Lord.
Lord, I’ve been ‘buked (and) I’ve been scorned, And I’ve been
Talked (‘bout as) sure as your’s born. And my soul looked back and
Wondered (wondered, wondered) How I got over, my Lord.
Oh, Jordan’s river (is so) chilly and cold, It will chill your
Body (but) not your soul. And my soul looked back and
Wondered (wondered, wondered) How I got over, my Lord.20  

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!
Under the shadow of Thy throne
still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou are God,
To endless years the same.
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.21  

IV. A Watch Night Poem   Cheryn D. Sutton of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote the following poem which highlights the African American history of Watch Night. The poem can be read during Watch Night services or printed in the church bulletin as a reading.

Watch Night

The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. –Psalm 121:8
We gather
with quiet invocation and fervent shouts
in prayer houses built by our ancestors.
It is the anniversary of freedom’s eve,
the beginning of a new year;
and our voices ache with jubilee songs
our feet moving, our bodies possessed
our spirits remembering.
It was on New Year’s Day long ago when enslaved Africans,
their children,
and their children’s children
became irrevocably free.
On the 1st day
of January, A.D. 1863,
all persons held as slaves
within any State
or designated part of a State
the people whereof
shall then be in rebellion . . .
The freedom words
that were woven into sweet-grass baskets,
hidden in the words of negro spirituals,
preached aloud at campground meetings,
sung to black babies in sleepy-time songs,
would become the law of the land
Praise the Lord.
Then freedom’s eve became freedom’s day
(after 100 days of waiting,
three years of a bloody civil war,
more than two centuries of servitude)
as an answer to the petitioner’s plea:
How long, my Lord, how long
Truly there was a reason why,
so many were gathered
on that new year’s eve in 1862:
skins dark as the midnight sky,
or pale as the sand on a sea island beach,
Truly there was a reason why,
embraced by traditions from across the seas,
our ancestors had the griots
tell those wonderful stories of home.
Truly there was a reason why,
they created drum sounds with their feet,
their hand-claps, and their rhythm sticks;
spoke of a future free of shackles,
waited and watched till the morning came. They trusted the words of Lincoln:
Shall be then, thence forward,
and forever free.
They believed the words of Leviticus:
It shall be a Jubilee for you
and each of you shall return to his possession,
and each of you shall return to his family.
But could they really have faith
(this time)
that the righteous would truly be blessed?
for the comings and goings of life
can never be foretold.
How long, my Lord, how long? There was no word at midnight,
nor at daybreak,
but past dusk on New Year’s Day came a message:
tapped across telegraph wires,
spoken at great mass meetings.
The proclamation had been signed.
Emancipation was forever.
God’s chosen would be free.
It was written:
. . . upon this act,
sincerely believed to be an act of justice
warranted by the Constitution
upon military necessity
I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind
and the gracious favor of Almighty God. Now, more than a century later,
in churches and chapels and houses of prayer,
on the anniversary of freedom’s eve,
on watch night:
we gather
to welcome yet another year;
to bring in jubilee,
Waiting anew for the midnight hour
with whispers and shouts,
singing and silence,
libations and thanksgiving.
Remembering that we were not always

V. Visual Suggestions for Church Programs or Screens  
To assist members in their Watch Night service, the worship leader may place the following in the church bulletin or on the projector screen. This image can be copied from the website on this page or from the 2008 African American Lectionary Watch Night material. Simply go to the Year One archive on the website to print it.   An Image of a Freedom’s Eve Celebration23

An audio visual clip of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” particularly the segment where he discusses the Emancipation Proclamation can also be used.24

VI. Annotated Resources

Some books that can aid African-Americans further exploring Watch Night include:
  1. Abbington, James, and Linda H. Hollies. Waiting to Go! African American Church Worship Resources from Advent Through Pentecost. Chicago, IL: Gia Publications, 2002; Bone, Daniel L., and Mary J. Schifre. Prepare: A Weekly Worship Plan Book for Pastors and Musicians. Nashville, TN:Abingdon Press, 2008.

  2. These worship books provide hymns, gospel songs, scriptures, and images that can help the worship leader prepare for the watch night service.

  3. Kachun, Mitch. Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003; Williams, William H. O Freedom!: Afro-American Emancipation Celebrations. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1987.

  4. These rich academic texts offer historical analyses and interesting illustration and photography of various African American emancipation celebrations including Freedom’s Eve, Emancipation Day, and Juneteenth.

  5. Smiley, Tavis. The Covenant with Black America. Chicago, IL: Third World Press, 2006; Franklin, Robert M. Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007.
  6. Their works contain statistical analyses that pinpoint current challenges and complexities in African American communities and both works also contain strategic plans of action for African Americans to consider adopting and enacting to address black family, community, ecclesiastical, educational, and political breakdowns.

1. “Watch Night.” Online location: accessed 21 July 2009; Podmore, Colin. The Moravian Church in England, 1728-1760. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.
2. “Watch Night Service.” Glossary of Terms. United Methodist Church. Online location: accessed 23 July 2009
3. Sydnor, Calvin H. “Editorial – The Watch Meeting Night Services in Black America Began With the AME Church And Dates Back To The 1700s.” The Christian Recorder Online English Edition 12 Dec. 2008. Online location: 2008/ 12/christian-recorder-online-english_13.html accessed 21 July 2009
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Kachun, Mitch. Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003.  
7. Ibid.
8. Jaynes, Gerald D., ed. Encyclopedia of African American Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005. p. 870.
9. Ibid.
10. King, Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream.” Washington, D.C. August 28, 1963. Online location: accessed 21 July 2009
11. Ibid.
12. Kachun, Mitch. Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915. P. 176.
13. Ibid., 148.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid., 151.
17. Smiley, Tavis. The Covenant with Black America. Chicago, IL: Third World Press, 2006, xiii.
18. Children’s Defense Fund. Online location: accessed 29 July 2009
19. “We’ve Come This Far by Faith.” The New National Baptist Hymnal.Nashville, TN: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1984, 1977. p. 222.
20. “How I Got Over.” The New National Baptist Hymnal. P. 266.
21. “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” The New National Baptist Hymnal. P. 19.
22. “A Watch Night Celebration: New Year’s Eve.”See Behold, a New Thing for “Ideas for Celebrating a Service of Watch Night; The Tradition of Watch Night; How to Explore Watch Night.” Online location: accessed 21 July 2009
23.  Download picture of “Watch Night, 1862.” Hungry Blues. Net. Online location: accessed 16 July 2009.
24. King, Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream” video clip. Online location:   accessed 21 July 2009.

CIA, Other Government Agencies Offer Scholarships for Intelligent Intelligence

Watch what you say: That young intern heading into Washington on the Metro might be training with the CIA.

That's partly because the U.S. intelligence agency offers one of the most generous scholarships for college students — $18,000 a year to successful applicants, with few strings attached.

Besides the requirement of working for the CIA after graduation for one and a half years for every year of scholarship aid received, recipients have to maintain good grades while at school. But even though the CIA is best known for espionage and intelligence, that's not all it or any other U.S. intelligence agency does — and there are quite a few of those agencies. So students with a CIA scholarship can study whatever they want.
Photo: Jason Stitt / Fotolia
Not to be outdone, the DIA, or Defense Intelligence Agency, offers students majoring in everything from international relations to toxicology paid internships or generous scholarships. Seniors in high school can apply for the scholarship, and then have to get their choice of university approved by the DIA.
If a young man or woman thinks they might be interested in a career in military intelligence, this scholarship is well worth it. The DIA not only pays $18,000 toward tuition and fees, but it also reimburses the cost of books and supplies, pays the student an annual salary, and guarantees them a full-time summer job that's related to what they're studying at university.

That's not all, though. The DIA also provides health and life insurance, retirement benefits, and a guaranteed job at the DIA after graduation. And it's not just filing papers: The job is "appropriate to their skills and abilities."

While in school, students must maintain an overall cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.75 for the freshman year and 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (or its equivalent) for each semester/quarter thereafter.
CIA and DIA scholars must also be able to obtain security clearance and must be U.S. citizens. Their families have to be, too. "All members of the immediate family must be U.S. citizens. Permanent resident status is not sufficient," the DIA says. Dual nationals have to renounce their other citizenship to be eligible for security clearance.

The scholarships are aimed at bringing a more diverse, and more diversely trained and qualified talent pool into the U.S. intelligence community.

Another program set up to achieve that end is the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence (IC CAE), which began in 2005. The program falls under the umbrella of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the parent company, if you like, of the CIA, DIA and 14 other U.S. intelligence agencies, including some that might not automatically be associated with intelligence gathering, such as the Departments of the Treasury, Environment and Energy.
Photo: Fotolia
But of course, intelligence gathering isn't all ODNI agencies do. Around a dozen U.S. universities, from Virginia Tech to Howard and Trinity University in D.C., to Wayne State in Detroit and California State, are part of IC CAE. Schools selected to be participants in the program receive a grant from the ODNI and set up their own unique curriculum to avoid producing "cookie-cutter" intelligence officers.

Virginia Tech says its CAE program is aimed at "helping to meet the intelligence community's critical need for diverse personnel who possess the technological, analytic and critical language capabilities needed for the 21st-century world." Students from all majors who are interested in a career in national security are eligible for scholarships and fellowships, including "substantive study abroad experiences," the university's website says.

The State Department, which is part of the same intelligence community as the CIA and FBI, offers language programs that have the added draw of whisking you off to places like Morocco, Indonesia, Jordan, Korea or a dozen other destinations.

Students selected for the State Department's Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program get to take intensive classes during the summer in 13 languages deemed "critical" to the United States. Last year, 631 scholarships were awarded to students of Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bengali, Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Farsi, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish and Urdu.

Language scholars do not all have their eyes on an intelligence career. William Zeman, who studied Turkish as a Critical Language Scholar, moved to Istanbul after he'd finished his studies and is now a copy editor for the Oxford Business Group and a freelance journalist who regularly contributes pieces to Time Out Istanbul. And scholar Damian Harris-Hernandez, who also studied Turkish, produced a short film about the Pink Bicycle Movement, which wants to get more Turkish women and girls on bikes. Harris-Hernandez voiced the film in Turkish, proof that the scholarship works.

About the Author

Karin Zeitvogel is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.
Last Edited on December 27, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

First African-designed smartphone and tablet hit market

By | December 25, 2012, 4:48 AM PST

Verone Mankou  with the Elikia
Verone Mankou with the Elikia
When 26-year-old Congolese entrepreneur Verone Mankou followed up the introduction of the first African-designed tablet with the announcement of the first African-designed smartphone, some within the local tech community looked on skeptically. This was Africa after all, and other tablets and smartphones claiming to be “African” were shown to be little more than Chinese designs with only superficial unique traits.

It also didn’t help that Mankou’s company, VMK, was based in the Republic of Congo.
Speaking at the third annual Tech4Africa conference in Johannesburg last month, Mankou touched on the difficulties of running VMK from Congo. He also stressed, despite the hurdles, why he thought it was important for an African company to invest in the local smartphone and tablet markets. “Only Africans can know what Africa needs,” he said.

“Apple is huge in the U.S., Samsung is huge in Asia, and we want VMK to be huge in Africa.”
His products, the Way-C tablet and Elikia smartphone are part of an effort to take on the technology giants in his own back yard.

The Way-C, or “the light of the stars” in the local Lingala language, is a small tablet roughly the size of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. It measures 7.4″ x 6.7″ x 0.5″ and weighs 13.4 ounces. Wi-Fi connectivity and 4GB of internal memory come standard. While its specs aren’t eye-popping, the price is. At $300, it comes in less than the iPad mini.

The Elikia (”Hope”) is an Android-based smartphone with a 3.5-inch display, rear and forward facing cameras, 512MB of RAM, and a 650MHz processor. It retails for $170 without a contract.

The aim, says Mankou, is to get these products into African hands by making them easier to afford.

There has been some negative reaction on local tech blogs, and much of it seems to come from a belief that these products are made by what is called an original equipment manufacturer, or OEM. A few years ago, Africa’s “first” tablet was found out to be an OEM product available not only in Nigeria, but throughout the world sold under different names. Its claims of being African were shot down, and the company was regarded as just another merchant pushing foreign products on local consumers.

Mankou’s VMK is adamant that this is not the case with its products, even devoting a page on its website to address the accusation.

Brazzaville, the capital city and home base for VMK, is known more for being an entrepôt to the nation’s huge oil reserves than a home for innovative business. The World Bank ranks Congo-Brazzaville as the 183rd worst country to do business in, out of the 185 nations measured. It often takes more than half a year to start a company in Congo-Brazzaville, compared to just 13 days in the States.
But this is where Mankou chooses to do business.

“Congo has the same problems as all sub-Saharan African countries: it’s difficult to get funding, so it’s difficult to create big projects,” he told local technology blog TechCentral.

After spending nearly two years fundraising, Mankou finally had enough to start making African-deisgned tablets and later smartphones for his countrymen.

Some of the first images of Elikia show an engraved “Designed in the Republic of Congo, assembled in China,” intentionally mirroring Apple’s  “Designed by Apple in California.” Much of the marketing behind the Elikia and the Way-C seems like an attempt to ape the products’ Apple counterparts.

The elikia being manufactured in China
The Elikia being manufactured in China

Like Apple, VMK has had to answer for manufacturing its products in China, a country with a higher per-capita GDP than the Congo.

Earlier this year Mankou told the AFP that VMK wanted to keep as much of the phone African as possible, but decided to manufacture it in China “for the simple reason that Congo has no factories and for price reasons.”

Yet some question the wisdom of manufacturing high-priced items overseas and marketing them to what remains a wealthy elite in Congo.

Mankou plans to sell his products outside of Congo in the near future, and has already moved into 10 other West African countries and even Belgium, France and India.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Be a part of history!  Come celebrate the second Inauguration of President Barack Obama!

The All American Ball Inaugural Committee is proud to announce that the 5th All American Inaugural Ball takes place at one of the most prestigious venues in the nation’s capital – the Hyatt Regency, Capitol Hill.   “We have worked on several Inaugural Balls in the past, but this is by far the most exciting”, said Toni Fisher of the AAB Inaugural Committee.  “The electricity generated around this event, and this Ball, is amazing.  We are so proud and so humbled just to be a part of it.  I mean seriously, people will be telling the grandkids about this!”, she added.

America's greatness is personified by those selfless citizens who take up causes greater than themselves and dedicate their lives to pursuing such righteous endeavors.  America is rife with these amazing patriots; and we are inspired by each of their stories.  
The All American Inaugural Ball is a tribute to the myriad of American heroes who sacrifice on behalf of others every day.  At the Ball, we will recognize and honor several especially deserving citizens for their outstanding and tireless work in their respective fields of civic service.  These Honored Guests – “All American Heroes” – represent the very best of America.  They are the heart, soul and backbone of the sublime American spirit! 
Let's party!!  The All American Inaugural Ball takes place on January 20th, 2013, the same night as several other presidential inaugural balls, but with one big difference.  “Twenty years ago we decided to make the inaugural experience more exciting and more guest-friendly”, said Fisher.  “The others (inaugural balls) tend to be over-crowded and provide virtually no amenities.  We determined that we will not oversell this ball and that the tickets will be all-inclusive.  So food and all drinks are included, and service is the top priority. It just makes sense that an evening this special should be spent celebrating in style…not standing in line.”
FOOD & BEVERAGE:  Guests will enjoy a savory reception style buffet and a full hosted bar (all drinks included) of spirits, domestic and imported beers, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. Multiple full open bar stations will be set up throughout the event site all evening, to ensure that guests spend their evening celebrating, not standing in long lines. 
ENTERTAINMENT:  The All American Inaugural Ball is a toast to American culture, featuring multiple areas of entertainment and attractions – representing the diversity and energy of America. Guests will enjoy live entertainment by SIX fantastic bands and Djs on multiple stages, as well as strolling entertainers and other exciting, interctive attractions throughout the magnificently appointed venue.
LIVE WEBCAST: USVets TV (www.USVets.TV), an Internet TV Channel on the TV Worldwide network, is the Official Webcaster of the All America Inaugural Ball.  USVets TV will be producing its fourth consecutive “Enaugural Ball” live from the All American Inaugural Ball, at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, on January 20, 2013. 
A large block of tickets has been set aside/reserved for major supporters, wounded warriors and other honored guests.  The remaining tickets are now available to the public.  Tickets are expected to sell out quickly. Click here to purchase tickets now.
RESERVED TABLE: To purchase a private table with seating email Kaitlyn at
GROUP DISCOUNT: If you have a group of ten or more email Kaitlyn for discount info at
We would like to thank all of the Heroes, guests, dignitaries, staff and supporters who helped make to the All Amercan Inaugural Ball 2009 such an amazingly exciting and special occasion.  Click to see pictures of past All American Inaugural Balls .

* Event details subject to change without notice
Photo credit to: Picture: Getty Images

Friday, December 28, 2012

Could we have a 51st, 52nd, or 53rd State to the U.S.

A 51st U.S. State? It Could Happen

By Stephen Kaufman | Staff Writer | 28 December 2012
People waving Puerto Rican flag from car (AP Images)
On November 6, a majority of Puerto Ricans indicated that they want to change their island’s political status.

Washington — The United States began as a union of 13 former British colonies. The state roster, expanding incrementally through two centuries, now stands at 50, but that could change.

Puerto Rico has functioned as an unincorporated U.S. territory since 1898. Its residents hold U.S. citizenship and can move freely throughout the United States. They are subject to U.S. federal laws and pay U.S. taxes, but lack voting representation in the U.S. Congress. After decades of debate about the island’s political status, 54 percent of Puerto Ricans indicated they were not satisfied with the status quo in a November 6 referendum.

The referendum came in two parts, asking voters whether statehood, independence or “sovereign free association,” which would grant the island more autonomy, would be their preference if the island’s political status was changed. Of the nearly 1.78 million voters, nearly 800,000 ( 61 percent) of those expressing an opinion chose statehood. About 437,000 chose sovereign free association, and 72,560 voted for independence. Nearly 500,000 did not express an opinion.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters December 3 that the results showed “the people of Puerto Rico have made it clear that they want a resolution to the issue of the island’s political status,” and he recommended the U.S. Congress “study the results closely and provide the people of Puerto Rico with a clear path forward that lays out the means by which Puerto Ricans themselves can determine their own status.”

For Puerto Rico to become a U.S. state, it would need a majority vote of approval from both houses of Congress. Article IV, Section Three of the U.S. Constitution states simply that Congress has the power to admit new U.S. states, provided that they guarantee "full faith and credit" to the now 50 states that already exist. That means Puerto Rico would have to recognize the legal contracts, marriages and criminal judgments approved by other U.S. states.

The road to statehood is not an easy one. In the District of Columbia, a majority of residents have repeatedly expressed their desire to gain voting representation in Congress. Unlike Puerto Rico, the district’s status is complicated by the fact that it was established by statute in 1790 as the national capital under the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress. That presents peculiar legal obstacles to statehood that a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico would not face.


The last time a U.S. state was admitted was in 1959, when the territories of Alaska and Hawaii became states. As with both of those states, a Puerto Rican bid for full membership would draw on legal precedents passed by U.S. legislators as the United States expanded westward across North America from the 13 original British colonies.

After the United States gained its independence in 1783, Americans began to settle a large area under U.S. control known as the Northwest Territory. The 670,000-square-kilometer region extended south of the Great Lakes, north and west of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River. With the goal of westward expansion, U.S. lawmakers began clarifying how areas in the Northwest Territory could be admitted as U.S. states, and decided in the 1787 Northwest Ordinance that the first qualification was to have a population of at least 60,000 people.

By the end of 1801, it became clear that Ohio, the easternmost part of the Northwest Territory, would soon meet the 60,000 person threshold, and the U.S. Congress passed the Enabling Act of 1802 (also known at the Ohio Enabling Act) to establish legal mechanisms for Ohio to join the United States as an equal member of the union. It would serve as the blueprint for the future.

Under that law, Ohio residents were asked to elect one representative for each 1,200 people to a November 1, 1802, convention that would decide by a majority vote if Ohioans would write a constitution and form a state government. If the vote was “yes,” the delegates would proceed to “form for the people of the said State a constitution and State government, provided the same shall be republican, and not repugnant” to elected representative government elsewhere in the United States. In other words, would-be leaders of Ohio could not set themselves up as autocrats.

In addition to writing and adopting their state’s constitution, the Ohioans also were asked to set aside a certain proportion of land in each township to be used for schools, and to use 5 percent of revenue from land sales to create roads through their proposed state. They also were allowed only one member of the U.S. House of Representatives pending the results of the next U.S. census, which would be taken in 1810 and create a fairer allocation.

The delegates approved a state constitution on November 29, 1802. On February 19, 1803, Congress determined that Ohio had met the requirements of the Enabling Act and passed legislation declaring Ohio "has become one of the United States of America." The legislation was then signed by President Thomas Jefferson.

The legal process for becoming a U.S. state has not changed much since 1803. A U.S. territory begins the process by demonstrating through local elections that there is a consensus for statehood, and then it formally petitions the U.S. Congress. It must draft a constitution creating a representative form of government and submit it to the U.S. Congress for majority approval. Finally, the U.S. president would sign the bill into law, creating the new state.

If Puerto Ricans, D.C. residents or others are thinking seriously about U.S. statehood, they should be forewarned that it is an irreversible decision. After the 1860–1861 secession crisis and the American Civil War, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1869 that joining the United States is “an indissoluble relation” and the U.S. Constitution does not allow states to leave unilaterally.

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Training Opportunity: New Mexico. CERT T-t-T

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Train-the-Trainer TtT
This course prepares participants to deliver Federal Emergency Management Agency's CERT Basic Training course. This train-the-trainer course focuses on preparing instructors to; Deliver the CERT Basic Training;Convey the messages and intent of the CERT Program (e.g., safety, teamwork, place in overall community emergency operations plan); Assure that students achieve the objectives of the CERT Basic Training; Create a comfortable, yet managed learning environment.
Monday January 7th 2013 8:00am to Wednesday January 9th 2013 5:00pm
No reminder is set
Number of Participants
Event Location
San Juan County Fire Training Room
Address 2
209 S. Oliver
New Mexico
ZIP Code (Number)
Contact Information
NM State Preparedness Network
Contact Information (Name / Phone / Weblink)
Felecia Schreier (505)476-9633

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why Is U.S. Inauguration Day Held in Cold of January?

By Stephen Kaufman | Staff Writer | 27 December 2012
Spectators in cold-weather gear (AP Images)
An estimated 1.8 million people braved temperatures of minus 1 degree Celsius for several hours to see President Obama's first inauguration.

Washington — For nearly 80 years, January 20 has been the day of America’s presidential transition. Because the 20th falls on a Sunday in 2013, President Obama will take the oath of office January 20 in private, and again publicly on January 21 as part of the now familiar inaugural proceedings.

But until 1933, the relatively warmer day of March 4 was the established time of transition, marking the first day the U.S. Congress convened in 1789 and a government began to function under the rules of the newly adopted U.S. Constitution.

The 17 weeks between November elections and a March 4 inauguration were convenient for 18th and 19th century officials, who often relied on primitive means of transportation to reach Washington from their home districts. It was also a 17-week “lame duck” session in which defeated or retiring members of Congress could continue their work, despite the fact that they were no longer answerable to the voters back home.


It wasn’t just improved traveling conditions that ended up moving Inauguration Day. Lengthy lame-duck sessions during times of national crisis were a recipe for indecision and inaction while the country waited for a new president and a new Congress to take charge and lead.

During the 17-week period between President Abraham Lincoln’s election and his March 4, 1861, inauguration, seven U.S. states seceded from the United States. Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan, agreed with the incoming president that states did not have the right to secede, but he also believed it was illegal for the government to reunite the country by force. As a result, by the time of Lincoln’s inauguration, the U.S. government had done little to counter the establishment of the independent Confederate States of America and prepare for what was to become the deadliest war in American history.

In another lame-duck period between Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election and his inauguration on March 4, 1933, the United States was seen to be leaderless for 17 weeks while its economy remained stricken, thousands of banks were bankrupt and one in four Americans looked for work at the height of the Great Depression.

Many prominent politicians and organizations during the 19th and early 20th centuries saw the danger of having such a long period of time between elections and a government’s transition, but any change required an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a process that was made difficult by design.

Opposition to a long lame-duck session also developed because lawmakers who were no longer accountable to the voters were able to decide the winners of the presidential and vice presidential elections in the event that no candidate won a majority or the electoral vote was tied.

The effort to shorten lame-duck sessions received renewed public attention immediately after the 1922 election when President Warren Harding tried to force Congress to pass a bill subsidizing the construction of cargo ships, despite intense opposition by organized labor and farm interests and the fact that American voters had recently rejected candidates who supported Harding’s idea.

In response, Senator George Norris of Nebraska proposed what would eventually become the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, which called for the new Congress to convene on January 3 and for the president to be inaugurated on January 20.

It would take Norris 10 years to get his amendment approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and then ratified by three-fourths of the U.S. states. President Franklin Roosevelt’s first inauguration in 1933 was the last held on March 4. That ineffective lame-duck session during the Great Depression no doubt played a role in speeding up the amendment’s ratification.

Under the 20th Amendment, the newly elected 113th U.S. Congress will begin its work on January 3, 2013, including the task of confirming Cabinet officials and judges President Obama has nominated.


Ratification of the 20th Amendment significantly reduced the duration of lame-duck sessions and aided the American tradition of peaceful political transition, but it also forced presidential inaugurations to be held in the dead of winter.

On average, January is Washington’s coldest month, with temperatures ranging from minus 2 to 6 degrees Celsius. For President Obama’s first inauguration on January 20, 2009, an estimated 1.8 million people stood in the cold for hours to see the oath of office, listen to his inaugural address and watch the Pennsylvania Avenue parade from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. Much to their discomfort, the temperature never rose above minus 1 degrees.

But the previous inauguration date had its dangers too.

On March 4, 1841, President William Henry Harrison was sworn in during an overcast day with cool winds and a temperature of 9 degrees. Refusing to wear a hat, coat or gloves, the new president delivered a two-hour inaugural address — the longest in U.S. history — and is believed to have caught a cold.

He developed pneumonia, and, on April 4, Harrison died, making his presidency the shortest in American history.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Exercise\Training Opportunity: Jan. 2013. Local Supply Chain Capacity in a Crisis: A Regional Recovery Resource Exercise and Planning Summit

Local Supply Chain Capacity in a Crisis: A Regional Recovery Resource Exercise and Planning Summit
Word Cloud

About This Exercise and Summit    

When disaster strikes a community, fast delivery of resources is critical to efficient emergency operations, saving lives and shortening community recovery time. A better understanding of how supply chains operate both in normal and in emergency situations is necessary to continue to improve response and recovery.

Since Katrina, and using the most recent catastrophes and disasters as a guide, we can see that there have been many improvements to how vital resources get delivered post-event.  However, there remain the most difficult challenges, many of which seem un-resolvable.

Expert panelists will lead open innovative discussions between public, for-profit and not-for profit sector event participants to resolve the most difficult recovery resource delivery challenges remaining. The goal of this event is to promote a local supply chain capacity-focused approach to disaster resource planning and based on outcomes of this event to develop a Local Supply Chain Capacity Recommendation Report to guide this focus forward. 

This is a two-day event for emergency managers and professionals, grocers, retailers, financial institutions, medical suppliers and providers, participants in supply chain logistics, non-profit and faith-based resource distributors, and critical infrastructure stewards. 

Host   Arlington Office of Emergency Management

Partners   Northern Virginia Emergency Resource System (NVERS), All Hazards Consortium, and The Infrastructure Security Partnership (TISP)

Funding   Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP)

Event Format (Preliminary)    
This event is an open active exercise and discussion, between panelists and participants, exploring and developing tangible, pre-event remedies to what usually impedes the delivery of essential goods into the community.

Each Day 8:30 AM -3:00 PM 

Lunch Keynote-

Charley Shimanski, Senior VP Disaster Services, American Red Cross

Supply Chain Delivery Inter-Connectivity and Dependency Recommendation Session –

Jill Bossi, Chief Procurement Officer, Infrastructure Inter-Connectivity and Dependency Recommendation Session, American Red Cross

Location Details
Boeing Conference Center, located at:
1200 Wilson Boulevard, 
Arlington, VA 22209
For security and to establish a confidential environment, pre-registration is required. You will need a photo ID and your identity confirmed before you can enter the room.  Please allow additional time to be checked-in. Visitors must present photo identification.

Driving Directions
For your convenience there is a map with a link for directions on the left side of this event page.

Metro Directions
Take the Orange or Blue lines to the Rosslyn Metro stop. The Rosslyn Metro stop is between Ft. Myer Drive and North Moore Street. After exiting the Metro train, take the escalator to the top and go through the Metro ticket check. Then stay left to exit towards N. Moore Street. At N. Moore Street turn right and head towards Wilson Blvd. The Boeing office building is straight ahead at 1200 Wilson Blvd.

Note: Only Boeing Employees can park in the garage at 1200 Wilson. There are numerous public parking garages near the Boeing building.

For Additional Information

Charlotte Franklin

Deputy Coordinator
Arlington Office of Emergency Management
Direct: (703) 228-0593


Gary Lupton, Virginia 1st Group Burke & Herbert Bank

Ron Daly, CEO President,  Digital Mailer Communications  and  Executive Director
NCRFirst Group

• Marlene Roberts, Senior Specialist, Critical Infrastructure Protection, FDIC

Sunday, December 23, 2012





We bring together two seemingly unrelated problems.
First, electronic waste—broken or unwanted electronic assemblies of one kind or another—is threatening to choke our landfills with items that will not have properly biodegraded for thousands of years and contain significant quantities of toxic materials. Unwanted cell phones promise to become a large percentage of this waste and our original effort was targeted on just keeping cell phones out of landfills.
Second, hundreds of thousands of people in this country are electronically isolated from readily available emergency services. They have no convenient way to dial 911. Ironically, the success of cell phone manufacturers has resulted in placing public pay phones on the endangered species list. If you don’t have a phone of your own, you’re cut off from most of the world most of the time.
The solution to both problems was to use one to solve the other. BY LAW, cell phones sold in the United States must be capable of accessing 911 services regardless of their status relative to a carrier. All users of cell phones pay a monthly fee to support this service. If you have an old cell phone that you got from a carrier you no longer have a relationship with, you can still call 911 with that phone if it is charged up.
That’s what we do. We collect old, unwanted cell phones. We inspect them at our home offices in Maryland to select the used phones that work well enough to be reused. We process and package them with chargers so that they can be immediately reused to acquire 911 services. Finally, we ship them out to agencies, companies and institutions across the nation that redistribute the phones to individuals who are not only in need, but at a high risk for needing emergency services.
We never charge a fee for this. We never make demands of any of the groups we work with. Our existence is a function of the continuing generosity and cooperation of the greater community.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Recovery: The QUICK HOUSE. $99,000 - $200,00.00

Adam Kalkin Quik House

Want your own container house?

There's a six-month waiting list for the Quik House by architect Adam Kalkin, who is based in New Jersey. The distinctive Quik House comes in a prefabricated kit, based on recycled shipping containers (in fact a completed house is about 75% recycled materials by weight).

The standard Quik House offers 2,000 square feet, three bedrooms and two and one-half baths, though larger options are also available. The shell assembles within just one day, and all the interior details can be finished within about three months.

The Quik House comes in two colors (orange or natural rust bloom), and the estimated total cost, including shipping and assembly, is $184,000. You can add even greener options such as solar panels, wind turbines, a green roof and additional insulation (to R-50).


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