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Community: 'Obama, can you hear us now?'

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 2/13/2013, 1:55 p.m.

"Struggle is something Dr. King knew very well, something that he lived. He fearlessly challenged the status quo, and while he was peaceful, he was not a pacifist. He understood that it takes agitation to combat injustice, something understood by those who carry his mantle today. From the immigrants on our southern border to the laborers across the Midwest, from the encampments of Occupy Wall Street to the streets of East Flatbush, that desire to agitate for a more equal society lives on and waits for more of us to join the cause," Williams said, concluding with "Happy birthday, Dr. King. Godspeed, Mr. President."

Speaking at the 17th annual Political Prisoner Tribute Dinner at the Martin Luther King Jr. (1199 SEIU) Labor Center, Iyaluua Ferguson told the Amsterdam News that Obama should acknowledge the sacrifice of incarcerated activists like Mumia Abu-Jamal.

"Several of the political prisoners changed the whole fabric and thinking in the United States," explained the founder of the tribute dinner commemorating the families of U.S. political prisoners and leading member in the Jericho Movement. "The advancement of a little clique of Black people, culminating with a Black president of the United States being elected, is a tactic used in order to calm us down and keep us controlled," he added. "President Obama cannot--and I know he does not--understand how much he owes to the Jalil Muntaqims, the Russell Shoats and Mumia Abu- Jamals of our land. Because they are the people who put fear into the hearts and minds of white folks. They have these Black people who have been employed to keep us in check, and keep us from the rebellion and revolution that they know should come from us."

As the Obamas walked the parade route at Freedom Plaza, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu said in a statement, "It is with tremendous joy and sincere congratulations that I applaud President Barack Obama on his inauguration for a second term as president of the United States. On this historic day when we take time to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is fitting that we also pause to salute President Obama, who embodies so many of Dr. King's hopes and dreams, as he embarks on his second term as president."

"I would ask the president to ensure greater access to mental health services, so that problems can be identified and intervention can take place before it's too late," said Terrie M. Williams, mental health advocate and author of "Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting."

Specifically, she said: "We must dramatically expand our investment in mental health services--a proper diagnosis should and often starts in our schools, yet we continue to cut funding for school counselors, school social workers and school psychologists. States have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, with schools taking a particularly hard hit. Counselors are often the first on the chopping block during education budget cuts.