Historians question Trump’s ‘heroes’ for new national monument

Among the combative and unusual way President Donald Trump chose to celebrate Independence Day, some historians were particularly puzzled Saturday by his announcement for a new monument called the “National Garden of American Heroes” populated by a grab bag of historical figures chosen by his administration.

The garden, Trump explained in a Friday night speech at Mount Rushmore, was part of his response to the movement to remove Confederate statues and racially charged iconography across the country.

“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” Trump said. “This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped.”

In response, Trump said he plans to build “a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live.” Among the statues to be erected in the garden – spelled out in an executive order – are evangelical leader Billy Graham, 19th century politician Henry Clay, frontiersman Davy Crockett, first lady Dolley Madison and conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.

“The choices vary from odd to probably inappropriate to provocative,” said James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association.

“It’s just so random. It’s like they threw a bunch of stuff on the wall and just went with whatever stuck,” said Karen Cox, a history professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, after struggling for several minutes to describe the order outlining the proposed monument. “Nothing about this suggests it’s thoughtful.”

Perhaps worse than the scattershot nature of the selected heroes is the apparent political motivations behind the monument, said Cox, who is writing a book on Confederate monuments. “It doesn’t address the reality on the ground, the real debate and turmoil going on in this country,” she said, including the anger and ongoing protests about systemic racism and inequality.

In his executive order, Trump rails against those who have pulled down or vandalized some statues as well as localities that have removed others. Several cities and states have decided not to honor the Confederate leaders who fought against the United States to preserve slavery.

“My administration will not abide an assault on our collective national memory,” Trump says in the order that stipulates that the garden should include “historically significant Americans.” Among them would be presidents, Founding Fathers, religious leaders and “opponents of national socialism or international socialism.”

“It seems like a pretty naked attempt to seize on a cultural conflict to distract from other issues,” said Grossman. He noted Trump’s executive order establishes a task force and gives it 60 days to submit a report detailing locations and options for building the new garden monument.

“There’s no rush here. The only real emergency is that there’s an election coming up,” Grossman said.

To hurry such work defeats the whole purpose of erecting statues, he said. Monuments are exercises in reflection, he said, a chance to plumb our collective memory and reflect on who we are as a country, what we value most and want to honor and pass down to future generations.

“For starters, you might want to consult different communities about who their heroes are and not just choose your own,” Grossman said. “You might also want to consult professionals, like actual historians.”

Trump’s list of “heroes” includes five African Americans, but no Latino and Hispanic figures such as labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez.

While Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – well represented by existing monuments – and Republican heroes Ronald Reagan and Scalia made the cut, the list doesn’t include a single Democratic president such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson.

Adam Domby, a historian at the College of Charleston, noted the lack of any Native Americans on Trump’s list, even noncontroversial ones such as Sitting Bull or Sacagawea. The oversight is particularly galling, Domby said, given Trump announced it at Mount Rushmore – a monument that sits on land considered sacred to Native Americans and found by the Supreme Court to have been taken illegally from them.

One hero who made it onto Trump’s hero list, however, was frontiersman Daniel Boone, who fought Native Americans in wars and skirmishes throughout his life.

“This list they put together, it raises so many odd historical questions,” Domby said. “Why did they choose Gen. [George S.] Patton but not [Dwight D.] Eisenhower – because of the movie ‘Patton’? They include some African Americans, but only ones that might be considered ‘safe’ or ‘comfortable’ like Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. Where’s W.E.B. Dubois? Where’s Malcolm X?”

One of the more puzzling selections is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Union officer in the Civil War. Domby suspects Chamberlain was included because his character appears in the 1993 movie “Gettysburg,” or maybe perhaps because Chamberlain ordered his Union soldiers to come to attention and show respect to Confederate soldiers as they surrendered.

Other figures named in the executive order include: John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, James Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Audie Murphy, Betsy Ross, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and Orville and Wilbur Wright.

The proposed monument drew derision from critics, who saw it as an attempt to capitalize politically on the divisive cultural debate over Confederate monuments.

“Trump, your Garden of Heroes is sleight of hand. You want to focus on monuments, but your policies have undermined voting rights, health care, immigrant justice & protections for the American people, esp poor & low wealth,” William Barber, a reverend and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said in a tweet.

If Trump believes so strongly in history, “how about a national monument to opponents of southern secession? And to abolitionists?” Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Douglas Blackmon said on Twitter. “There are no Asian American heroes. Like Sadao Munemori who attacked two machine gun emplacements in Italy, then gave his life diving on a grenade to save his unit. He’s not a hero? Wrong color?”

“The tragedy is an undertaking like this could actually be a good idea if serious,” said Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University. “You could engage artists who are hurting for work right now. You could be innovative and really rethink the idea of what it means to memorialize things and how we do that. You could even break out of the whole classical/neoclassical forms we’ve been stuck in when it come statues. But I don’t think that’s what Trump has in mind.”

In the executive order, Trump says all statues will be lifelike or realistic, “not abstract or modernist representations.”

The order calls such statues “silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal.”

But that misunderstands the nature and function of such statues, said Cox, the historian in North Carolina. “Monuments are much more a reflection of those who put them up. They aren’t so much about the past as they are a reflection of our values and ideals in the present,” she said. “That’s why they’re often so problematic.”

Racism: the scourge continues

BAR HARBORRacism in the U.S. has existed since the colonial era and has involved practices that restricted the political, personal and economic freedoms of African Americans. While racial discrimination was largely denounced by the mid-20th century, extensive evidence of racial discrimination in various sectors of modern U.S. society, including criminal justice, education, business, the economy, housing, health care and media, still exists.  

Among the current overt efforts to limit the rights and opportunities of Black Americans are symbols designed to remind and frighten those citizens of the physical and psychic offenses administered to them and their forebears. Confederate flags, monuments honoring rebel leaders, and the names of several military bases honoring southern officers are now under attack.

Fred Benson

Fred Benson, Seth Singleton and Nat Fenton will address the points of view surrounding these relics during a virtual talk with the Jesup Memorial Library on Tuesday, July 14, at 7 p.m.   

Benson will present brief histories of how and why 10 U.S. Army installations were named for Confederate generals, and describe why some oppose removing them on historical grounds. Singleton will look at how others have tried to confront the sins and symbols of their history, and why historical ghosts are never quite laid to rest, with tales from Russia, Vietnam, China and South Africa. And Fenton will make the case that these intimidating relics must be removed from public lands. They must be removed not to hide history but to create our own history consistent with our centuries-old self-evident truth “that all Men are created equal.” 

Benson has been engaged in national and international government affairs activities in the White House, the Pentagon and with Weyerhaeuser Company. He also served in the U.S. Army with responsibilities including senior positions in the offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army as well as aviation and ground command assignments in Korea, Vietnam and Alaska. He was selected as a White House Fellow and subsequently served as a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Nat Fenton

Singleton is professor of international relations, most recently at the University of Maine. He studied Russian history at Harvard and political science at Yale. He lived in Russia during its revolutionary upheaval in 1991 and 1992, in Tanzania shortly after its independence and in Vietnam as one of the first postwar U.S. Fulbright Scholars, in 1999-2000.  

Fenton was educated in Bar Harbor elementary schools, St. Mark’s School, Bowdoin College and Cornell University Law School. He came back to Bar Harbor and practiced law from 1972 to 2019. 

Registration is required at https://jesuplibrary.org/event/july14talk/ or email [email protected] 

American independence, African lesser beings

The Herald

Ranga Mataire

Writing Back

July 4 is a very important day in the life of every American. It is a day when Americans commemorate their Independence Day. It is a day when Americans from all their diverse backgrounds show patriotic pride in their country.

As a people who bore the brunt of colonial subjugation, we always wish the Americans hearty celebrations on a federal holiday that marks the day in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, signalling the official separation of the colonies from Great Britain.

July, 1776 is considered America’s “birthday” and this year the country marked 244 years of independence.

According to the Library of Congress, it wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that July 4 was celebrated across the new nation. Congress passed a law making Independence Day a federal holiday on June 28, 1870.

Americans are known for their outlandish lifestyles and pageantry and the day was sure marked by parades, fireworks and parties, though much of the celebrations were subdued due to the coronavirus pandemic.

You see, the United States appears on face value a very aspirational country. A country that seemed certain of itself; a nation conscious of what it is doing, interestingly free of that anything-can-happen existential uncertainty.

But on closer look, America is no longer the same. This is so because some of its leaders seem to have trodden the poetry in the nation’s founding philosophy.

A country born from an inkling for self-determination seems to have fallen in the hands of unstable demagogues.

It is difficult today for anyone to discern policy from mere bluster. The unpredictability is astounding. Things that were at the margins of America’s political discourse overt racism and glaring misogyny have since crept into the centre making some of its nationals to question the real meaning of independence.

On July 4, BBC’s video journalist Matt Wareham spoke to some black Americans about the meaning of America’s independence to them.

Arielle Gray, a journalist from Boston, argues that the story of American independence is “historically inaccurate” because slavery in America continued for another 89 years after July 4 1776.

“We have to stop celebrating myths. Fourth of July Independence Day is a myth,” added Quintez Brown another black America.

Quintez and Arielle say the story taught to them in school was misleading as Juneteenth, which celebrates the official end of slavery in America, on 19 June 1865 is more appropriate holiday for black Americans to celebrate.

As Africans, we indeed commiserate with our black brothers in America for we know what it means to live in chains. We had hoped that over the years, particularly in post-colonial Africa, America would find it more appropriate to identify with the continent for they understand the brunt of living under colonial conquest.

We had hoped for a new amenable approach when it comes to engaging Africa, but it appears the relations are generally conflictual in nature with America seeking to perpetually entrench its hegemonic influence.

Yet common sense would have demanded that in the post-colonial, post-Cold war and post-communist containment period, relations between Africa and the US should surely be informed by the need for a New International Economic Order based on mutual respect and the sanctity of independence.

It is sad to note that the US foreign policy towards Africa has not evolved from being omniscient to humanistic moving away from its obsession with blackmailing and blacklisting any “deviant” state through imposition of sanctions or waging regime change wars.

Yet with the full knowledge of its cockeyed foreign policy, especially when juxtaposed with China’s multi-polarity and non-interventionist approach, the US has continued with its headstrong intrusive and fatally destabilising attitude.

Most African nations have readily welcomed China because its presence represents a mix of political and economic incentives, which creates a win-win situation for both sides. China also believes in the sanctity of national sovereignty.

The US has on the other hand not moved from immortalising its elongated self-importance in world affairs. As early as 1782, six years after declaring independence, its writers and poets were waxing lyrical about the US being the “fist nation”.

Ralph Waldo Emerson viewed the formation of the United States as a “last effort of the Divine Providence on behalf of the human race”, and Herman Melville considered his countrymen a “peculiar, chosen people, the Israel of our times; we bear the ark of liberties of the world”. Nothing seems to have changed since then.

The Big Brother thinks he has every right not to respect the independence of other second-rate nations and does all he can including installing pliable regimes in “obstinate” countries.

There is no doubt that African leaders are keen to engage economically with the US, but the leaders are not stupid. There are not blind to America’s obduracy.

Until America re-modifies its domestic policies that promote institutional and systematic marginalisation of black people including remodelling its foreign policy particularly towards countries in the South, July 4 will continue being sneered at not just by outsiders, but its nationals as well.

We are not lesser beings. America must promote global tolerance and diversity as reflected in its racial and ethnic composition.

For Black Tennessee artists, protests are a lifelong pursuit

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – There are more paintings than furniture in Omari Booker’s studio in Nashville. His works are bursting with color, illuminating images of family and Black men. One painting, “The Black Bird,” captures his time in prison.

“That’s what a lot of days look like – sitting, reading a letter,” says Booker on a recent tour. “I wanted people to be able to feel like they were really interacting with someone in the space of a prison cell.”

Booker says his talents were born through a mix of education and life experiences, many of which were rooted in racism and engaging with police as a young Black male.

“This thing that became popular and hashtag-worthy in the past month … Is the reality I had since I was 4, 5, 6 (years old).”

Now, at 39, Booker is part of a long line of Black artists whose works respond to injustices, from sculptor Augusta Savage to jazz legend Miles Davis.

In the 1930s, Savage rose to prominence for blending art with racial issues. One piece, The Harp, was inspired by “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black national anthem. Before that, Savage was known as a self-made Black woman who paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance.

Then there’s Davis, whose now acclaimed 1971 soundtrack album paid tribute to Jack Johnson, the heavyweight fighter whose win against a white boxer sparked a series of race riots in 1910.

Black music, especially hip-hop, has become an inspiration for Booker and the way he views his paintings.

“People might look at a Mos Def or Common and Talib Kweli. You could put those artists in 2020, (along with) all of their albums from 1998,” says Booker. “Or take a Marvin Gaye from 1970, all of that is just as relevant today because (protesting racism through music) is such an old problem.”

But in Nashville, some artists are taking a new approach to protest music. They’re also seeking to use their platforms to do even more for the cause.

‘Black Music Matters’

At a recent protest on Music Row, billed as “Band Together For Justice,” Nashville’s Black music advocates sought to bring light to discrimination in the city’s music industry while shedding light on police brutality.

“There’s hip-hop, pop, R&B;, soul, funk, gospel, jazz … right here in Nashville,” says Thalia Ewing, founder of Nashville Is Not Just Country Music, an organization that works to make Nashville an equitable music scene.

For Black musicians, fighting racism and brutality can track back to slavery. One example is the spiritual “Wade In The Water,” a song believed to be used by abolitionist Harriet Tubman while leading men and women to freedom.

In today’s era, Black music still represents a fight for freedom, with artists using it as a motivation to use their platforms to do even more for the cause. For some that means becoming involved in public protests or politics.

“My cousin, Daniel Hambrick, was shot and gunned down two years ago by Officer Andrew Delke. We’re still fighting for justice for that,” says Samuel Hambrick. “I’ve been grinding since day one and hopefully we’ll get justice soon enough. Until then, I’ll keep marching, protesting and doing what I have to do.”

Hambrick’s been active in the hip-hop community since childhood. He says he’s happy to see other artists coming out to rallies, because he sees Black music and protests going hand-in-hand.

“On the music side and the political side … this couldn’t be a better time to incorporate what’s going on in the country today,” Hambrick says. “As far as … Black Lives Matter and getting justice, equality and unity, everything is coming together (because of Black music).”

Doing More For The Cause

Nashville hip-hop artist Mike Floss is one of the many Black musicians who’s experienced police brutality firsthand.

“I know what it’s like to be assaulted by the police and end up getting arrested and catching charges for assaulting them – when all I was doing was standing outside,” says Floss.

In 2017, Floss, who often raps on bass-filled but smooth beats, released “Black Wildflowers” as a candlelight vigil for victims of police brutality. He also released “Peach Soda,” which hints at the Black experience when it comes to policing.

He says despite his own encounters with police, he’s been fortunate to have never been seriously injured. He also says he’s been lucky to have never been caught up in the criminal justice system.

“To come out of those experiences and be able to talk about them is definitely what I think about a lot lately,” says Floss. “It could have went a lot worst.”

Floss says he’s at a point now where he doesn’t quite know what to do to end racism, but he knows that he wants to do more.

“When it’s hip-hop, we’re pretty much just speaking about (how) we don’t like the police,” says Floss. “Maybe we can start talking about the process of how to change this system.”

He says the next step may be for artists to get involved in politics and put people with ties to the community in city council seats.

But he also says Black men need to do a better job of protecting and elevating the voices of Black women who want to lead the movement for racial justice. Floss says the more voices that are involved, the better the changes will be for everyone.

“I think their voices are massively important,” says Floss, “and oftentimes more valuable than ours.”

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Florida Conservative: ‘Beyoncé is not even African-American’ and song ‘Formation’ is a secret code

In a bizarre Twitter rant, conservative congressional candidate K.W. Miller decided that poet, popstar and humanitarian Beyoncé is no longer an African-American. He has decided that she is Italian instead.

“Beyoncé is not even African American. She is faking this for exposure. Her real name is Ann Marie Lastrassi. She is Italian. This is all part of the Soros Deep State agenda for the Black Lives Matter movement. BEYONCÉ YOU ARE ON NOTICE!” he tweeted in an Independence Day thread.

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“You all do know that Beyoncé’s song ‘Formation’ was a secret coded message to the globalists I certainly hope?” he continued. “The song clearly admitted that she was demonic and that she worshipped in the Satanist churches located in Alabama & Louisiana. She keeps Satanist symbols in her bag. In the Satanist ‘Formation’ song Beyonce shouts out a ‘Black Bill Gates in the making’. Consequently, in 2020 we see Black Lives Matter terrorizing the country at the same time as Bill Gates pushes a COVID vaccination. She was getting the ladies in formation 4 years ago. Why?”

“Looking more into Beyoncé’s coded globalist messages. Who is ‘Becky With The Good Hair’ who she encourages people to call while apologizing? Oh…. a Soros operative? Interesting. All goes through London.”

According to the information that came out when the album “Lamonade” did, Beyoncé’s “Becky with the good hair,” was the revelation that Jay-Z had an affair and that was the “Becky,” a name sometimes used as an insult. Jay-Z admitted to it and apologized publicly in his 2017 album “4:44.”

Somehow this indicates the couple is part of the Illuminati, according to conservative conspiracy theories.

It’s unclear how Miller decided that the pop-icon is Italian since Beyoncé was born in Houston, Texas and her mother Tina Knowles was born in Galveston, Texas. Mrs. Knowles’ mother Agnéz Deréon and father Lumis Albert Beyincé were both from Louisiana. Deréon was the inspiration behind the House of Deréon, the ready-to-wear fashion line that Beyoncé and her mom founded.

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The conspiracy theories seemed to have originated from Q-Anon, which invents various pieces of fake news that ultimately makes believers look foolish.

Miller went on to allege that “Patti LaBelle is another Illuminati globalist puppet.”

You can read the full Twitter thread here.

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Godiva Festival 2020: The five biggest acts in recent years

Godiva Festival 2020 was set to take place this weekend – before the coronavirus pandemic saw the event cancelled.

Though the cancellation does not come as a surprise, it is still a big blow to music fans, as the region has lost one of its highest profile and accessible events.

No longer a free festival, it still represents an opportunity to see big name musicians at a reasonably low price of admission.

And if that isn’t enough, many of the lesser known acts at the time have gone on to big big things – which shows the value of turning up to see the early acts of the day.

And while this year’s event is no longer going ahead, we’re taking a trip down memory lane, and looking at five of the biggest acts to take to the stage at Godiva Festival in the last decade.

Of course, big is subjective, and some of you might think that acts like Ronan Keating or The Charlatans are bigger than any acts that we feature below.

Feel free to disagree, and let us know what acts you think are the biggest to grace the stage on our dedicated Facebook pages below.

Coventry Facebook pages and groups

Busted

We kick things off with the most recent headliner to perform at Godiva – Busted.

Closing the show on the Sunday of 2019, Busted reminded us of the mid-2000 glory days of pop rock.

Thousands of people flocked to the main stage at War Memorial Park where Charlie, Matt and James played their hits, belting out the catchy choruses that we may have forgotten for years.

Some of their newer songs fell a little flat, but the classics were well received by all.

And it is fair to say that the sunny weather helped.

The Selecter

Coventry 2-tone royalty, The Selecter have appeared at the festival on more than one occasion (and even performed the same field when the BBC Biggest Weekend came to town), and are a treat to watch every single time.

Most recently performing in 2019, Pauline Black, Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson and co brought a real energy to the main stage, reeling off hit after hit.

Active on and off for decades, the group has a huge global following, but no sight is more special than seeing the group in front of their hometown crowd.

Hopefully, Godiva Festival will be back in 2021, and if so, there’s very few acts we’d like to see more than The Selecter.

Frank Iero and the Future Violents

Rounding off our 2019 offerings, this is a bit of a left field selection, but a big name in his own right.

Headlining the Rock Tent on the Friday night, Frank Iero’s solo project was literally rocking – to the extent that it could be heard from the front of the main stage.

Frank Iero
(Image: Mitchell Wojcik)

Probably best known as the rhythm guitarist for My Chemical Romance, Frank is part of one of the biggest emo bands ever.

Since impressing us at Godiva, Frank has joined his MCR bandmates in reuniting – though their return show in the UK at Milton Keynes was postponed due to the pandemic.

Rearranged for 2021, it is one of the most hotly anticipated gigs of the year.

Scouting for Girls

They might not be to everyone’s taste, but Scouting for Girls are a bit of a later Busted – releasing catchy pop rock tunes from the mid 2000s onwards.

The London based band headlined the festival in 2016, having released four successful albums by that time.

With thousands stood in front of the stage watching, the band certainly delivered, with our reviewer declaring the set “the highlight of another exceptional Godiva Festival”.

If you thought those words were lofty, the strength of the setlist backs up the bold claims.

The music may not be the most complicated, but hits like This Ain’t A Love Song and She’s So Lovely got the seal of approval from the crowd.

Scouting For Girls perform at Godiva Festival 2016

Jake Bugg

To celebrate the festival’s 20th year, organisers went big – bringing in Jake Bugg to headline the Friday night of the festival.

After all, what says big name star quite like an artist who has literally been the shirt sponsor for a football team?

Bugg burst onto the scene in 2012 with his self-titled album, which charted at number one.

And while he was spotted at bigger festivals at his peak, he proved to be worth the wait for Coventry, wowing crowds with his performance at Godiva Festival 2018.

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MJ Hegar, Royce West fighting to become Democratic Senate champ against GOP incumbent John Cornyn

With the nation gripped by the coronavirus pandemic and calls for social change, MJ Hegar and Royce West insist they are the candidates for the moment.

The runoff opponents are trying to convince Democratic voters that they’re the best choice to deliver on issues like health care and social change–and beat Republican incumbent John Cornyn in November.

Uncharacteristic of recent Democratic statewide primary races, the contest has featured bitter exchanges over race and ethics, signaling a potential fracture when a nominee emerges against Cornyn.

Hegar of Round Rock is a former Air Force helicopter pilot who says she’s the change agent needed in an environment dominated by lawyers.

West of Dallas is a longtime state senator with a record of tackling issues related to education, health care and criminal justice.

“From the economic and public health fallout from COVID-19 to horrific racial injustice and a broken immigration system, Texans across the state are excited to elect a servant leader and a get-sh**-done Texas mom with a proven track record of bringing together a broad coalition to accomplish the mission,” Hegar said.

“We’re getting more and more support across the state,” West said. “I’ve done the work in the Democratic Party to ready myself for this particular office. The voters see me as someone who has achieved results in the past and will continue to get things done.”

The July 14 runoff will test if voters are engaged or hindered by fears of catching COVID-19.

“I don’t think that anyone of them has communicated much past their bases of support,” said Matt Angle, a political strategist who directs the Democratic research group called the Lone Star Project.

Angle said West is strong in Dallas, Houston, and Fort Worth and anyplace where he can lure Black voters to the polls. Hegar is most powerful in central Texas and the suburban rings around major cities.

“It’s still a regional race,” Angle said.

Two months ago Ed Espinoza, the executive director of a liberal group called Progress Texas, gave Hegar the edge over West because of her pronounced fundraising advantage.

But now he’s not sure who will emerge as the nominee against Cornyn.

“It’s totally unpredictable,” Espinoza said. “It’s hard to predict which voters will show up at the polls.”

During the past week Hegar and West have had contentious exchanges related to qualifications and experience.

Hegar, 44, is a decorated combat veteran who has run only one campaign. That was in 2018, when she ran a close but unsuccessful race for Congress against Republican incumbent John Carter of Georgetown.

FILE - In this July 1, 2019, file photo, Air Force veteran MJ Hegar poses for a photo in Round Rock, Texas. Hegar is the choice of Senate Democrats' campaign arm to take on Republican incumbent John Cornyn in 2020, picking up a key endorsement Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, in a crowded and widely unknown field of challengers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
FILE – In this July 1, 2019, file photo, Air Force veteran MJ Hegar poses for a photo in Round Rock, Texas. Hegar is the choice of Senate Democrats’ campaign arm to take on Republican incumbent John Cornyn in 2020, picking up a key endorsement Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, in a crowded and widely unknown field of challengers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)(Eric Gay / AP)

After the near miss, she opted to challenge Cornyn. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee backed Hegar in the 12-person primary, causing a backlash from some local Democrats who wanted the group to remain neutral.

West has questioned Hegar’s party credentials.

At the KVUE-TV Austin debate Monday, he criticized Hegar for voting in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, a vote she said she cast for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. He also questioned why in 2011 Hegar gave a campaign contribution to Cornyn, now her potential opponent.

Federal Election Commission records reveal that Hegar, through a political action committee called VoteSane, gave a $10 donation to Cornyn. Hegar has also contributed to the campaign of then Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is now the U.S. Ambassador to NATO.

“People can believe the excuses about the Republican voting if they want to. I find it a bit thin,” West said in a news release.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Texas Senator Royce West, left, and Veteran Air Force Pilot M.J. Hegar, are appearing Sunday moring at 8:30 AM on NBC5 week's Lone Star Politics with NBC5's Julie Fine and The Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers. (NBC5 screen shot)
Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Texas Senator Royce West, left, and Veteran Air Force Pilot M.J. Hegar, are appearing Sunday moring at 8:30 AM on NBC5 week’s Lone Star Politics with NBC5’s Julie Fine and The Dallas Morning News’ Gromer Jeffers. (NBC5 screen shot) (NBC5 screen shot)

Hegar’s rise to political prominence was due in part to her military experience. She received a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Flying Cross for her service.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of career politicians condescending to me that my 12 years in uniform bleeding for our constitution on foreign soil, five years working in health care or my experience as a mom of a 3- and a 5-year-old are not important enough to consider,” Hegar said during an explosive exchange with West during the KVUE debate.

Hegar then unloaded on West.

The bond attorney has done work for cities and school districts in Texas, which is legal. Personal financial disclosure reports show that in 2018 West collected over $1 million in legal fees.

“We have politicians frankly, like you Royce, who become millionaires in office, and have spent their time legislating in their own best interest instead of the interests of their constituents,” Hegar said at the debate.

West, 67, has been a lawyer since before entering politics. And he said his law firm has employed numerous workers and fellow lawyers. He chastised Hegar for calling him a rich lawyer that doesn’t have the interest of everyday Texans at heart.

He recently dropped an email to supporters about his origins as a lawyer in southern Dallas.

“So many people are conditioned to question the achievements of a minority person,” West wrote. “We as a nation are waking up to systemic racism and the filters or screens it creates through which we see others. I think Hegar’s screen needs a little cleaning.”

State Sen. Royce West, center in white, joins in a group photo following a rally of the Greeks United for Change for Juneteenth at Dallas City Hall on Friday, June 19, 2020. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
State Sen. Royce West, center in white, joins in a group photo following a rally of the Greeks United for Change for Juneteenth at Dallas City Hall on Friday, June 19, 2020. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)(Smiley N. Pool)

That prompted a pointed response from Hegar, who said she hoped West would stand with her against corruption.

“Far too often we have seen lifelong politicians use their office to benefit themselves, which is why I pointed out State Senator West’s refusal to ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks, place his robust financial portfolio in a blind trust, and increase transparency and accountability in elected officials’ business dealings,” Hegar said in a statement. “Texans deserve to know that their elected leaders are looking out for the best interests of the people they represent, not their own stock portfolio and bottom lines.”

When Hegar slammed West for not agreeing to put his holdings in a blind trust, West said he hadn’t been asked to do so.

West has cast himself as the candidate with the background to tackle topical issues like criminal justice reform. He’s worked in civil rights law and in the Legislature has authored numerous bills on criminal justice reform.

“The question is whether you need a true Democrat in office, and whether you want someone at this moment in our history, where we really need to have someone that has the experience to deal with the issues of Washington, bring fresh ideas,” West said during the debate.

In her television ad that began running across Texas Tuesday, Hegar also said she is a social justice warrior and would fight against systemic racism and family separations at the border.

Titled “We Are Texas,” the commercial closes with the tattooed Hegar riding a motorcycle.

“We won’t let families be ripped apart at our border any longer,” she says in the ad. “We stand together against the systemic racism that’s hurt Black Americans for far too long.”

Many Democrats say Cornyn will lose to Hegar or West.

“Texas demographics, along with the horrific republican leadership this state has been subjected to, have shown voters across,” said Ira Bershad, president of the Frisco Democratic Club. “Texas that it’s time for a change.”

Hegar has pointed to her superior fundraising over West as a reason she should be trusted to take down Cornyn.

She has $1.6 million in the bank for the runoff against West. She’s raised about $6.5 million over the entire campaign.

Cornyn has more than $12 million in the bank, and will be ready to pelt the eventual Democratic nominee with a flurry of negative campaign ads.

“Because of the fundraising, MJ is in a strong position,” said Democratic strategist Lillian Salerno.

But Salerno added that West benefits because he has the support of most of the state’s Democratic Party establishment, including nearly all of the Democratic lawmakers in the Texas Legislature.

Last Thursday U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, joined the parade of elected officials backing West.

“If there’s a large election turnout, MJ Hegar will probably win,” Salerno said. “If there’s a small turnout and most of the voters are Democratic Party regulars, it’s going to be Royce West.”

Cornyn’s campaign aides have been active in the Democratic race. Hegar’s supporters say the incumbent would rather run against West because of Hegar’s strength with suburban women. Others say Cornyn would prefer West because of his ability to appeal to minority voters. The Cornyn campaign has gotten into spats with both candidates, including an instance when Cornyn’s campaign dubbed West “Restful Royce,” a moniker that the African American leader deemed offensive.

An April poll by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler showed potential soft spots for Cornyn, including a high percentage of Texans undecided – 34% – on Cornyn versus either Democrat,

What’s more, President Donald Trump runs six percentage points better against Democrat Joe Biden than Cornyn does against either of his less well-known challengers.

Bershad said Democrats would unify against Cornyn, no matter who won the nomination.

“Donald Trump and John Cornyn succeeded once in fooling Texas that they would “drain the swamp,” he said. “Turns out, they are the swamp”.

Restore or replace? Community reckons with what’s next for Capitol’s fallen statues

Some say the empty pedestals where the statues once stood are a sore sight, while others see them as a portent of change: As protests against police violence and racism continue to roil the city, they serve as a stark reminder of the conflict over the city’s ideals.

“Forward,” which has come to represent women’s rights and the state’s motto, and Heg, an immigrant Union Civil War colonel who died fighting to end slavery, were both torn down in what protesters said was a “strategic” move to bring attention to the state’s racial inequities.

Michael Johnson, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, has since proposed that state leaders erect a statue at the state Capitol honoring Vel Phillips, an African American activist and politician who marked many firsts for Wisconsin and the nation.

Brandi Grayson, founder and CEO of Urban Triage, which has been involved in many of the Madison-area protests, said she supports the proposal. Referencing Phillips’ legacy as a civil rights leader, she described her as “the epitome of Black womanhood.” Phillips, who was elected secretary of state in 1978, was the nation’s first Black woman elected to a statewide office.

Downtown Madison Inc. president Jason Ilstrup also backed the recommendation for a statue of Phillips, saying the organization would be supportive of more statues that honor diversity in the community.

But others differ on what should be done with the Capitol statues, and the process to install a new one is complex.

Johnson sent his request on Monday in a letter to state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, who chairs the State Capitol Executive Residence Board, a bipartisan committee responsible for the maintenance and decoration of Capitol grounds.

The board’s policies restrict new plaques or monuments from being added to the Capitol without the removal of an existing one, according to state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, who is also a member of the board.

In order for a new statue to be considered by the committee, she said Risser and the Department of Administration’s Division of Facilities Development and Management would need to add the topic to the board’s agenda. It must then be approved by the 16-person board.

Though Loudenbeck said she opposed permanently removing the “Forward” and Heg statues, she said she would be open to discussing adding a statue of Phillips with other board members.

In a guest column for the Wisconsin State Journal, UW-Madison emeritus history professor John Sharpless wrote that protesters who pulled down the Heg statue “were essentially spitting on his grave.” David Mollenhoff, a Madison historian and former member of the city’s Landmarks Commission, also disagreed with the protesters who brought down the statues.

“Clearly, the statues need to be restored and replaced on their pedestals,” he said, “and when they are, we should have a special program to note the ideals they were designed to capture.”

Mollenhoff further questioned protesters’ intentions to remove the statues, referencing their representation of anti-slavery and women’s suffrage. Tearing them down, he said, was antithetical to the Black Lives Matter movement.

But even a statue with good intentions can still be problematic — especially when its backdrop is inconsistent with the sculpture’s message, say those involved in Black activism.

“While it was disheartening to see symbols of abolition and women’s suffrage at the state Capitol destroyed, neither of the statues were actually consistent with the diversity of our community,” said J.R. Sims, vice president of the 100 Black Men of Madison organization.

No artwork by Black artists is currently featured in the Capitol or on its surrounding grounds. According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Inventory of American Sculpture database — which provides information on art by American artists in public and private collections worldwide — only three of 161 sculptures listed in Madison fall under the category of “African American.”

Bianca Gomez, a staff member of Freedom Inc., another group that has been involved in the protests, said the lack of Black sculptures is telling of which people are deemed “worthy” of celebration and honor within the state.

“We don’t want another colonized statue or a statue of a white savior,” Gomez said. “We want a statue that represents our struggle for liberation, and if we’re committed as a community to supporting Black people, this is just one drop in the hat that could happen easily.”

Gomez said anger directed at protesters for tearing down the statues is misdirected.

“People were more upset and outraged about these statues being torn down than they were about black bodies being torn down,” Gomez said. “I think we really have to assess what our priorities are and what we value because the statue represents a lot of things, but it’s a material object — it can be replaced. Black lives cannot be replaced.”

Still, objects can be powerful, according to Christian Overland, director and CEO of the Wisconsin Historical Society. He said statues can spark meaningful conversations that may make them worthy of preservation.

“Objects are history and objects have stories,” Overland said. “Taking care of objects like statues and restoring them allows people to have a dialogue about what has happened in history and what it means for us today.”

The Wisconsin Historical Society is currently working with the Department of Administration to restore the “Forward” and Heg statues, Overland said, but the State Capitol Executive Residence Board is responsible for making the final decision on whether they will return to Capitol Square.

Some community leaders, however, say Madison’s Black residents must have a say in the matter.

“Based on my experiences, most erected statues are placed without the benefit of extended thought or consideration of unintended ramifications,” Sims said. “To rely on the observations or recommendation of one person or group would do a disservice to all that merit consideration (of a statue) and to the residents of our state.”

As those in Madison and across the nation face a reckoning on racial inequity, he said state officials should recognize the contributions of Black Wisconsinites.

“It is high time that we as a state and a nation recognize and collectively celebrate the many contributions of African Americans and other people of color to our history and culture,” Sims said.

Gomez said a new statue should be the result of collective decision-making. Though Freedom Inc. would like to see a statue of a Black, queer, feminist at the Capitol, Gomez said “people power” comes first.

“I think now is the time for Black people to take a leap,” she said. “Now is the time for our children to see images of themselves. Now is the time for the community to decide.”

___

© 2020 The Wisconsin State Journal

Visit The Wisconsin State Journal at www.wisconsinstatejournal.com

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Kanye West wants to become America’s first African American President

Kanye West

After months of courting controversy by publicly aligning himself with Donald Trump, alleging that African Americans are partly responsible for slavery and current oppression, a boastful claim about finally making millionaire status, controversial entertainment mogul, Kanye West finally made good on his earlier promises as he announced his US presidential bid on Saturday evening,

Ensuring a memorable fourth of July, the Black-American singer took to Twitter to announce his intentions to run for the office of United States President just four months to the general elections in November. 

In his statement, he declared that “We must now realise the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future”; capping off the tweet with “#2020vision” which many believe is his campaign slogan. He, however, did not attempt to provide any further details on his campaign plans and commitments. 

Kanye had previously declared his intentions to run in the 2020 elections but had publicly retracted that stance in 2019 saying he wanted nothing to do with a political career, after his political alignment with Trump. It seems tides have now turned. 

Tech giant, Elon Musk, quickly endorsed Kanye’s announcement, responding in a tweet saying Kanye had his full support.

Nevertheless, this can’t be said of many others as people took to social media to voice strong opinions on the development. Some stated that both President Trump and Kanye West were making the United States into a laughing stock. Nigerians also confidently alluded this stance saying the USA was more of a joke than Nigeria.

A need for caution was also expressed as many declared that people should not vote for Kanye as a joke or otherwise because it would further divide the votes available to his running mate, Joe Biden. They went further to say this was a ploy to ensure the incumbent US President, Donald Trump gets a second term in office. 

Many laid emphasis on how it was a truly terrible idea to vote Kanye West into power, sharing screenshots of  earlier ludicrous statements he had made such as “Slavery is a choice” amongst many other things. They questioned his ability to properly advocate for people of colour, ridiculed his obsession with Donald Trump and shared their worries about his naked ambition. 

Many even took time to point out how absurd it would be if West wins the seat and eventually becomes President, making  Kim Kardashian a First lady. With many implying that she was incapable of taking up the position. 

Notable comedic personality, Tiffany  Haddish took to Twitter to tweet a parodical copy-cat tweet, in light of Kanye’s announcement, that she too would be running for president. Several people are following suit, and have resulted in joking about the latest development. 

Still, some have expressed a desire for Kanye to succeed in his race for a presidential seat and have thrown him full support. If Kanye wins, he would become the first African American president to be elected into office, separating him from Barack Obama whose father was a first generation Kenyan immigrant and who had Kenyan citizenship and African half siblings. A significant part of Donald Trump’s rise to power and was built around questioning the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s claim to an African American heritage. 

Toluwanimi Onakoya is a spirited writer, creative and videographer. Her biggest drive is to connect with people and depict tales using various forms of media.

Toluwanimi is available on Instagram and Twitter @nimi_onaks

Damned Designs to launch Kickstarter Campaign to help grow support for their new safe touch tool

Damned Designs to launch Kickstarter Campaign to help grow support for their new safe touch tool – African American News Today – EIN News

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