Illinois state senator and Harvard-trained civil rights lawyer Barack Obama is one step closer to claiming a U.S. Senate seat (see Newspoints, February 2004). Obama won his state’s Democratic nomination, beating six opponents and upping the stakes in the race for Senate. If elected, Obama would become just the fifth African American U.S. Senator in history. Obama, 42, who won with 53% of the vote in the March primary, will face off against Republican millionaire Jack Ryan in November.
While athletes have sold signature shoes for years, a venture between Bryan “Baby” Williams, and Lugz Shoe Company underscores the growing trend of footwear companies developing products around hip-hop artists. Williams’ signature sneaker, “The Birdman,” retails for $70. John Shanley, a managing director at Wells Fargo Securities who analyzes the footwear industry, points to Reebok as a pioneer in the blending of hip-hop and footwear. “They’ve got 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and a number of other music artists they’ve built product lines around,” he says. Shanley anticipates more products tied to hip-hop artists to be introduced, but says the most important ingredients for success are still style, price, and brand.
Young blacks are registering but not voting. In the first couple of months of 2004, nearly 200,000 people registered to vote through the Rock the Vote (www.rockthevote.com) youth voting initiative. But while registering to vote via BET and MTV proved convenient for many, the real task is getting the mostly 18- to 30-year-olds to actually show up at the polls. According to U.S. Census data, in the 2000 presidential election, only 33.9% of African Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 voted, although 48% of that population was registered to vote.