Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT), the Black Community Impact Alliance (BCIA), Byrd Barr Place, and Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), will host a ribbon cutting celebration of the Liberty Bank Building this Sat, March 23 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at its official new residential address – 1405 24th Avenue.
The celebration will reflect the community by bringing together the village that helped this momentous project succeed. Speakers will include community leaders, the partners and funders behind the project, and Mayor Jenny Durkan. The event will also feature live music and performances by Akua Kariamu, DJ Kun Luv, and others. Food will also be available for all attendees.
Liberty Bank, founded in 1968 as a community response to redlining and disinvestment in Central Seattle, was the first Black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest. Until it closed in 1988, Liberty Bank provided critical financial services to the community at a time when African Americans and other minorities were often denied opportunity due to redlining and systemic racism.
“Today is an important step towards a future that is inclusive of the Black community that has called the Central District home for almost 140 years. We celebrate knowing that we have long ways to go to repair the damages that have been done and realize a truly equitable Seattle,” said K. Wyking Garrett, CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust.
According to organizers of the project, the newly-open Liberty Bank Building honors the legacy of the bank that once stood on its site and offers 115 affordable homes for people earning between $13,000 and $65,000 a year, featuring a mix of studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments, as well as affordable retail space for three local minority-owned businesses on the ground floor. New residents began moving in this February.
One of the new residents, Miriam Pratt, is the descendent of civil rights leader Edwin T. Pratt.
“I can hardly find the words to express what Liberty Bank housing means to me. It’s really going to change my life, and I’m now a few blocks from where my parents moved in 1956, when they came to Seattle. I am so pleased to see my father honored by the amazing tributes at the Liberty Bank Building. Historian Quintard Taylor called my father the dean of Seattle’s civil rights establishment. He worked so hard for equality and he would be humbled by this building and the way he is being honored,” Ms. Pratt.
The joint effort of the Liberty Bank Building has been hailed as a template for inclusive development, thanks to the groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the partners to use the development of the site to address gentrification and displacement head-on and maximize empowerment of the African American community. The partners used an array of strategies to achieve this goal.
“This monumental project didn’t just happen, we made plans, visualized, overcame doubts, did the hard things, said no to security, said yes to the unknown and then came LBB,” said Andrea Caupain, CEO of Byrd Barr Place.
The MOU secures long-term African American ownership of the building. Central District-based community partners have the first right of refusal for ownership of the building following the exit of the tax credit investor after 15 years.
Throughout construction, this development also prioritized local and minority subcontractors. Of the $16.7 million available for subcontractor work, more than 30%—over $5 million—is going to Women- and Minority-owned Businesses, substantially beyond the partners’ original 20% goal. Over $2.9 million is going specifically to Black-owned businesses.
Organizers believe that the building reaffirms the Central District as a hub of the pan-African community. It stands as a living marker of community history and resilience. Led by Co-curators Al Doggett and Esther Ervin of Al Doggett Studio, a team of nine local Black artists (Lisa Brown, Minnie Collins, Al Doggett, Esther Ervin, Aramis Hamer, Lisa Myers Bulmash, Lawrence Pitre, Ashby Reed, and Inye Wokoma) developed art installations to honor the legacy of Liberty Bank and celebrate the vibrancy of the Black community in the Central District. Over the course of the project, events were held to promote the artists’ work. The total investment in the building’s art program is over $250,000.
“It’s been an incredible experience to witness and participate in the creation of the Liberty Bank Building as a community asset for the Central District. Its existence honors the legacy of an important institution and ensures that the history that surrounds it will not be erased,” said Christopher Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing.
In conducting the residential lease-up, the partners helped to affirmatively market openings to those who may have been displaced from the neighborhood. For the commercial space, they worked closely together to develop and support Black-owned businesses and ensure affordable commercial space. Three Black-owned enterprises have signed Letters of Intent to occupy the ground floor.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
FILE- This Feb. 15, 2018, file photo shows a Ford logo on the grill of a car on display at the Pittsburgh Auto Show. Ford Motor Co. is repackaging a previously announced manufacturing investment in the Detroit area and now says it will spend $900 million and create 900 new jobs over the next four years. Most of the new workers will build a new generation of electric vehicle at Ford’s existing factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, south of Detroit, which will see an $850 million investment. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Ford repackages factory investment plan, will add 900 jobs
By TOM KRISHER
AP Auto Writer
Wednesday, March 20
DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. is repackaging a previously announced manufacturing investment in the Detroit area and now says it will spend $900 million and create 900 new jobs over the next four years.
Most of the new workers will build a new generation of electric vehicle at Ford’s existing factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, south of Detroit, which will see an $850 million investment. The company also plans a roughly $50 million autonomous vehicle manufacturing center at an undisclosed site near Detroit that will add hardware to existing vehicles.
The announcement comes just after a three-day string of venomous tweets by President Donald Trump condemning crosstown rival General Motors for shutting down its small-car factory in Lordstown, Ohio, east of Cleveland. Trump demanded that GM reopen the plant, criticized the local union leader and expressed frustration with GM CEO Mary Barra.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, wouldn’t directly answer questions about whether Trump’s actions influenced the moves, but said Wednesday that the investment is part of the company’s plans to run its business more efficiently. The timing of the announcement was due to requirements that parts suppliers be notified of manufacturing plans, Hinrichs said.
“We’ve been running our business this way for 10-plus years,” he said in an interview. Hinrichs said Ford is aware that auto manufacturing gets a lot of attention these days, and said he is proud that Ford employs more workers represented by the United Auto Workers union than any other manufacturer. A union spokesman confirmed that statement.
In January of 2017, Ford announced that it would invest $700 million at the Flat Rock plant to make hybrid, electric and autonomous vehicles. Later the company moved an all-electric SUV to a factory in Mexico, freeing more space at Flat Rock to build future electric and self-driving cars and adding $200 million to the investment. At that time, it was promising 950 new jobs.
Hinrichs said that company projections of electric vehicle sales made it clear that Ford needed more space to build them. “We had to change some of our plans,” he said, adding that the new plan is a better use of capital spending dollars.
The company intends to add a second shift at Flat Rock to build an electric vehicle, which Hinrichs would not detail. Ford said production would begin in 2023.
The Flat Rock plant now builds the Mustang muscle car and the Lincoln Continental luxury car, which has a murky future because Ford has announced it intends to stop selling all cars in the U.S. but the Mustang. Last November it transferred 650 workers from Flat Rock to other factories.
Hinrichs said the new autonomous vehicle center will start modifying existing Ford models with plans to deploy them in 2021, as previously announced.
Illinois organizations prepare for important 2020 Census
CHICAGO (AP) — There’s a lot at stake in next year’s U.S. Census, including congressional seats and billions of dollars in federal funding, according to experts in Illinois who are pushing to educate the public about the importance of the count.
An analysis by George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy found that at least $34 billion in federal funding for programs that directly assist Illinois residents is tied to census figures, The Chicago Tribune reported.
The state could also lose up to two congressional seats if the upcoming count finds a population loss, according to a report by the Illinois Complete Count Commission, which was formed in 2017 to help educate communities, organizations and residents about the importance of the census.
Concerns about data privacy and distrust in the government are the main factors that keep people from participating in the census, according to the census bureau.
Jay Young, of the watchdog group Common Cause Illinois, said he’s also concerned about reaching populations that typically don’t participate in the census, such as African-Americans and rural communities.
“I’m worried that not enough thinking is being done for folks outside of the city,” Young said.
The commission is working with various state agencies to educate the public about how census figures influence things including road construction and social services, said Jeanine Stroger, the commission’s designated chair.
“Those kinds of decisions are based on census data and that’s why it’s so crucial to have an accurate and complete count,” Stroger said.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who leads the commission, has launched a grant program to encourage participation in the April 1, 2020, Census. Forefront, a statewide coalition of nonprofits, is also working to fundraise for census outreach initiatives.
Forefront is using different outreach strategies for specific communities, since some groups may respond better on social media, while other will respond more to in-person interactions, said Anita Banerji, the director of the democracy initiative for Forefront.
Forefront also supports a Senate bill in the Illinois General Assembly that seeks to give the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity $25 million to distribute as census outreach grants.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com
EPA bans consumer sales of paint stripper linked to deaths
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER
Friday, March 15
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is banning consumer sales of a paint stripper after personal appeals by families of men who died while using the product.
The final rule announced Friday bars the manufacture and import of consumer products containing methylene chloride. The products have been popular with do-it-yourselfers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the product “extremely hazardous.” The EPA is urging consumers not to use it.
The consumer bans begins 180 days after the rule is published. The EPA says it expects retailers to implement it sooner.
The rule doesn’t affect commercial uses.
California says it’s tracked at least five deaths since 2014 among people overcome by the fumes from methylene chloride.
Families of victims had met with Trump administration officials and lawmakers urging the ban.
Our Green New Deal
By Samantha M., age 12, and Angelica Perkins, age 17
On Friday, February 22, 2019, Sunrise Bay Area, Youth Vs. Apocalypse and Earth Guardians Bay Area Crew gathered together for a rally held outside of Senator Feinstein’s office in San Francisco in an attempt to persuade her to vote yes on the Green New Deal.
We attended the rally at Feinstein’s to show support and help in whatever ways we could as this movement is one that matters to us and our future— we hadn’t planned to talk with Feinstein directly. In spite of this, when the opportunity presented itself YVA and Earth Guardians accepted gladly and were more than excited when we learned that we would actually be allowed into her office to speak to her personally. For us at least, this excitement turned quickly into fear as our peers and Senator Feinstein began to converse.
This fear was not because we felt that we were being “Taught a lesson” or “Told off”. It was because we could see ourselves talking to our future grandchildren about what breathable air used to be like. We could see workers in impoverished communities whose children’s lives depended on risking their own. We were afraid because, at that moment, we could see the world around us shrinking – becoming something small and unimportant, and with it so did we.
However, we only felt this way. As we sit here and write this piece, we know that we are not small and we are definitely not unimportant. Our words speak for all youth, as we demand a future. And that future will only be possible through the Green New Deal. Because as we advocate for the Green New Deal, we are also advocating for the future of our Earth and all of its inhabitants. A promised future. The future we deserve. Because the adults that decide our future, got theirs. So who are they to cancel ours?
We are not fighting for the Green New Deal because we are brainwashed youth or because we are being manipulated and used for political gain. We fight for the Green New Deal because we are in charge of our future, and know exactly what it means. It lies in our hands, only ours. It is our future, whether or not elected officials like that and the only way to protect what belongs to us is through bold and transformative action.
We cannot separate ourselves from all the animals, plants and all other life because we are all interconnected. We are all affected by the destructive aftermath of climate change. Just because we are human, it does not negate the fact that we are also in danger because of our actions. We are in also in danger from inequality and lack of economic opportunity. We can’t leave behind anyone.
That is why we believe in the Green New Deal, and we know what the Green New Deal is. We have read it and we understand it because we know exactly what we have to do to secure our future. Youth have a right to be in this conversation because in the long run, this is more than a debate. It is our life and future.
Samantha and Angelica write for PeaceVoice, are Oakland students and members of the youth-led climate justice group, Youth Vs. Apocalypse. To contact their adult advisor: email@example.com
Designing a Business Plan: Six Ways New Entrepreneurs Can Keep the Environment in Mind
Kate Harveston March 18, 2019
The public has spoken: More people than ever prefer to do business with companies who keep the environment in mind. Fortunately, many young entrepreneurs agree. Since nearly everyone understands the value of going green, how can business leaders make sure their new venture is eco-friendly?
Running a business while keeping the environment in mind doesn’t happen automatically. It takes a variety of steps and means incorporating green practices into everyday company choices and practices. Here’s how to make your brand soar as an industry leader with a solid environmental strategy starting from your business plan on forward.
1. Eliminate Lengthy Commutes
This isn’t 1919 — it’s 2019 — and most people are as connected via technology at home as they are at work. Before declaring that all employees commute to the office for the 8-to-5 grind, reconsider whether it’s necessary for all workers to do so every day.
Obviously, those in the restaurant and retail sector need on-site employees. But these days, even some in the health care industry work remotely at least part of the time, as do many teachers, bookkeepers and call center representatives. Strive to allow for remote work as much as possible.
Why? This not only helps the planet by slashing vehicle emissions caused by commuting — it benefits your bottom line. Most office space rents by the square-foot, so fewer daily in-person workers mean needing less space equaling lower rent payments. You also save a ton in supply costs. There’s no need to buy 30 desks for each staff member when only five or six come in most days per week.
2. Kick the Can
Ah, the ubiquitous vending machine, that lovely 3 p.m. pick-me-up device laden with Funyuns and Fresca. Most every office building has at least one pop dispenser on site, but how many have recycling bins available for the empty cans? While I had a bit of trouble locating precise statistic, I know from personal experience from the last five offices I worked in that if I didn’t provide the bins and run the cans to the center weekly, those cans ended up in the trash.
Terrible, huh? And it’s not just pop cans filling landfills and oceans. The amount of Keurig cups offices go through could circle the globe multiple times, and while today’s cups are made from recycled materials, few office workers properly break down the cup components prior to hitting the bins.
Stick with regular drip coffeemakers. Harness the skills of that former barista on your team to brew the office pot. Invest in a can crusher and a bin for pop cans — as an added plus, a hand-operated can crusher serves as a great stress reliever on tough days!
3. Utilize Recycled Materials
Starting out green makes incorporating other environmentally friendly practices easier. Also, when you’re a business owner, your choice of what suppliers and manufacturers you purchase parts from further bolsters your business as one which cares about protecting our planet.
Partnering with the right suppliers can even result in more revenue. Nearly 73 percent of millennials say that they prefer to patronize sustainable businesses. Your green reputation will indeed proceed you and draw more up-and-coming young adults to your company’s doorstep.
4. Clean Green
Office cleaning products have a notorious yet deserved reputation for leaving those of us with allergies sneezing and even breaking out in hives. Toss chemical cleaners and contract with an office cleaning team that uses all-natural cleaners made from vinegar, baking soda and clear dish soap.
Even if your office uses green cleaning products, other offices in the same building may not. And fumes can drift through cracks and air ducts. Improve the indoor air quality of your workplace by adding numerous houseplants.
5. Save a Tree
The average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper per year. Depending on the size of your organization, that’s a lot of trees! And many offices fail to recycle the paper they use.
Consider making your office as close to paperless as possible by utilizing secure cloud storage to handle documents several team members collaborate upon and secure backup servers to ensure copies of important docs are available in a few keystrokes. Whenever possible, communicate through email, chat and phone rather than sending paper memos.
6. Be Thrifty
Remember going to grandma’s house and having to search through multiple “butter” containers until you actually found the one holding your sandwich spread of choice? The generation who lived through the Great Depression learned to reuse what they had when money for new items grew scarce.
Take a hint from their practices. Re-purpose boxes from reams of paper and use them to hold other items, or even use them as recycle bins. Save packing materials like egg crates to protect future fragile objects from damage during shipment. If you haven’t already established a supply closet protocol, limit keys to only a few designated employees to decrease shrink (we’ve all worked with that one person who treats the office supply closet like their own personal shopping center where every item is marked as “free”).
Green Business Plans Lead to Success and Profit
Business plans designed with sustainability in mind save employers money by reducing overhead costs. Additionally, such plans build repeat customer loyalty, as more and more consumers opt to do business with companies who take concrete measures to protect the planet. Green business plans lead to a more successful, safe and beautiful world.
EarthTalk, a California-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Diets can do more than help you lose weight – they could also save the planet
Updated March 12, 2019
Author: Adrienne Rose Bitar, Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell University
Disclosure statement: Adrienne Rose Bitar does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Fad diets have long been brushed off as selfish, superficial quests to lose weight.
But if you study the actual content of popular diet books, you will discover that most tell a different story. Many inspire dieters to improve the health of their bodies, society and the planet.
It’s a topic I explore in my research, as well as my 2018 book, “Diet and the Disease of Civilization.” More than merely guides for getting thin, diet books tell rich stories that urge people to change their lives to save the world.
Diets inspire change not because one is more effective than another, but because they tell stories worth believing in.
Peel away the nutrition advice and you’ll find that, while most popular diets ennoble seemingly selfish goals, they also insist that individual health is inextricably linked to the larger environment.
A quick review of diet books reveals their grand aspirations. Think of the Paleo diet. Hundreds of Paleo diets describe peaceful prehistoric communities rich with singing, dancing and storytelling. Today, leaders promise that “eating Paleo can save the world.”
Promoters of detox diets make similar claims. Detoxers believe that environmental pollution and toxins cause stress, obesity and other modern ills.
A detox book from 1984 argued that humans cannot “dissociate our fate from the fate of the earth” and insisted that “what we have learned about freeing our bodies from harmful substances must also apply to cleaning up the world.”
Today’s diets go a step further, intimating that if you’re not “eating clean” you could be eating “dirty” foods full of pesticides, toxins and carcinogens. One diet book explains that clean foods are “not only good for one’s health, but equally important for the environment.” “The Kind Diet,” a popular vegan book written by actor and animal rights activist Alicia Silverstone and Victoria Pearson, is subtitled “A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight and Saving the Planet.”
Arguably, today’s food world could use some saving.
The health consequences of how Americans eat have long been cataloged. For example, 2 in 3 Americans are overweight or obese, costing the U.S. economy an estimated US$190 billion a year.
But the environmental consequences of these food choices are just as stark. Agriculture is responsible for about one-tenth of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Farming consumes more than two-thirds of the planet’s fresh water.
And it’s specific dietary choices that are driving these environmental pressures. Animal products, for example, provide just 18 percent of the typical American’s calories yet take up 83 percent of all farmland. Just cutting down on beef would be more effective at reducing your carbon footprint than giving up your car.
The government’s role
This is where the government could learn from popular diet plans and promote sustainable diets for public health and the environment.
In its dietary guidelines, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages Americans to consume a healthy diet that focuses on foods high in nutrients and low in sugars and saturated fats. But despite the recommendation of an advisory committee, it does not include language about food system sustainability or how such diets have a well-established link to human health.
The government is also discouraging other steps toward an environmentally friendly diet. Consider the new technologies of culturing meat from living animal cells – a technology that could cut out 14.5 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the government is bending to industry concerns and enforcing needlessly strict definitions of meat, preventing soy- and lab-based products using the label.
History shows that today’s Department of Agriculture is missing a valuable opportunity. During World War I, the American government used diets to do more than improve individuals’ health. As the head of the Food Administration, Herbert Hoover urged Americans to stop wasting food so the U.S. could use it to prevent starvation in Europe. His efforts are now credited with saving the lives of about 7 million Belgians and 2 million French people.
Popular diets also picked up the humanitarian cause. One 1918 diet included a program dubbed “Watch Your Weight Anti-Kaiser.”
Today’s food authorities could do the same: urge Americans to eat better because the food system is actually a web. Our food choices have a profound impact on our health and the planet.
Terrence Treft: thanks for making these important points, many of which were factors for me when i choose vegetarian eating 30 years ago. but i think we need to change one of our/your principal denominators about eating and our diet, that we choose to eat “healthier foods” rather than “healthy foods”. we are slowly learning about the independent, individual genetic and epigenetic factors that influence our bodies/metabolisms such that two people who otherwise appear to eat and exercise the same can have much different outcomes, health and even body types.
there is a general consensus that sugars/carbs are greatly detrimental to our american lifestyle, yet when, with a few exceptions, one watches the popular cooking shows on pbs, the recipes feature high carbs/sugars and meat. but during pledge drives, the infomercial “health diet” doctors are the featured players.
this is the time for women’s ncaa basketball conference tournaments, and during one game they showed a clip of the first women’s ncaa championship game in the 1970’s. every player was slim, yet today that is not the case. some basketball players, men and women, who exercise strenuously 2-3 hrs a day and have controlled diets, are still overweight. not the case 50 years ago, nor with our general population, either.
something other than diet alone may be a contributing factor to our obesity epidemic. in a “the conversation” article some time ago, a researcher suggested that obese men can epigenetically pass their weight tendencies by way of their sperm to their male offspring. he (or another author) suggested too, that the “battle” for nutrients between mother and fetus (as well as the father’s present dna) may also account for weight gain.
here are two observations, not clinical at all. first, as more men are overweight and obese, the need expands for women to fill their absence in the military. and, as many/most police officers are overweight/obese, the need increases to use firearms to subdue suspects rather than chasing and/or using physical restraint.
thanks again for the article.
FILE- This Feb. 15, 2018, file photo shows a Ford logo on the grill of a car on display at the Pittsburgh Auto Show. Ford Motor Co. is repackaging a previously announced manufacturing investment in the Detroit area and now says it will spend $900 million and create 900 new jobs over the next four years. Most of the new workers will build a new generation of electric vehicle at Ford’s existing factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, south of Detroit, which will see an $850 million investment. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
President Trump speaking Thursday in the White House East Room. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
By Matthew Boxer
Matthew Boxer is an assistant research professor at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies.
March 22 at 10:30 AM
A political organization calling itself Jexodus sprung up in recent weeks, purporting to be a group of frustrated Jews ready to break with the Democratic Party. Organizer Elizabeth Pipko said the name comes from Jewish history: “We left Egypt and now we’re leaving the Democratic Party.” A few days later, as if on cue, President Trump embraced Jexodus, tweeting:
The ‘Jexodus’ movement encourages Jewish people to leave the Democrat Party. Total disrespect! Republicans are waiting with open arms. Remember Jerusalem (U.S. Embassy) and the horrible Iran Nuclear Deal! @OANN@foxandfriends
Republicans may be waiting with open arms, but there’s not enough evidence that Jewish dissatisfaction with Democrats will lead to an “Exodus,” with or without the added “J.” Jews consistently vote Democratic, and the GOP has repeatedly failed to win Jewish voters.
At a glance, American Jews resemble an ethnic group that might be expected to support right-of-center policies protecting their own economic interests. As Milton Himmelfarb somewhat indecorously described it in 1969, American Jews’ socioeconomic status is similar to that of Episcopalians, and therefore Jewish voters “ought to be toward the top of the pro-Nixon set” but instead “voted like the Mexicans of the West and the Puerto Ricans of the East — the poor, the racial minorities.” American Jews remember well what it means to be a lower socioeconomic minority in the United States, and most have taken on political identities that call on them to use the success their group has attained to help ease the way for other less-advantaged groups.
Trump and Republicans may try to convert Democrats by promoting the narrative that Democrats are, at best, hostile to the interests of their Jewish constituents and, at worst, anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israel, but they miss that for most American Jews, a laundry list of progressive priorities, including addressing economic inequality and expanding health care, tend to have more influence on voting behavior than Israel policy. Additionally, accusations that the Democratic Party writ large is anti-Israel are mostly rhetoric; the vast majority of Democrats favor some form of a two-state solution and close ties between the United States and Israel.
And Jexodus’s organizers are less than forthright about any momentum they’ve gathered. Despite Pipko’s pitch in a recent Fox News appearance that “we” are leaving the Democrats, she was already gone: As she told the New York Post in January, she worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Jexodus was launched by a small group of Jewish Republicans to promote a false narrative of burgeoning Jewish affinity for the GOP. “All in all,” as Talia Lavin wrote for GQ, “Jexodus is a whole lot like Blexit,” a similarly portmanteau-named group that presents itself as a wave of black Americans cutting ties with Democrats, though African Americans are one of the few demographic groups that supports Democratic candidates at even higher rates than Jews. In both cases, the proponents fail to acknowledge that while you can always find examples of individual Jewish or black voters throwing their hands up in frustration and leaving the Democratic Party in favor of the Republican Party, the plural of “anecdote” (as I regularly tell my students) is not “data.” There’s no empirical evidence suggesting that Jewish voters are switching parties en masse.
The American Jewish Population Project, conducted by my colleagues at Brandeis University, estimates across thousands of the best-run surveys that 54 percent of American Jews identify as Democrats and only 14 percent as Republicans. Similar estimates were reported in the American Jewish Committee’s 2018 Survey of American Jewish Opinion and the Pew Research Center’s 2013 study of the American Jewish community, which found, respectively, that 51 or 55 percent of American Jews identify as Democrats. Fox News, which you might think of as having an interest in promoting the Jexodus line, assessed that 72 percent of Jewish voters supported Democrats in 2018.
Jewish voters are not monolithic. Orthodox Jews, whose view of the place of conservative religious sensibilities in the public sphere tends to be better aligned with Republicans’ political priorities, lean toward Trump: As the Forward reported in 2017, one American Jewish Committee study found that 71 percent of Orthodox Jews supported Trump at a rate comparable to the 70 percent of Jewish voters overall who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. But most Jewish voters are unlikely to be swayed toward the view that the Democratic Party does not care for them by a party led by Trump, who, as a presidential contender in 2015, apparently thought it was funny to tell the Republican Jewish Coalition, “I’m a negotiator like you folks.” And who, as president, initially balked at unequivocally denouncing participants in the Charlottesville protests, some of whom chanted “Jews will not replace us.”
An almost-Jexodus did happen once, and it didn’t last. In 1980, disappointed with President Jimmy Carter’s policies toward Israel, American Jews considered alternatives. As Stuart E. Eizenstadt wrote in his memoir of the Carter White House, Carter “aggressively” pushed “a peace process in ways that often alienated Israel and American Jewish leaders” because of the perception that he ignored Israel’s security concerns and forced Israel “to take more risks by trading off its conquered lands for . . . a guarantee in which few Israelis would place much trust.” This perception, together with more general dissatisfaction with the Iran hostage crisis and the state of the economy, contributed significantly to Jewish Democrats’ support for Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.) in the Democratic primaries; in the New York primary, Kennedy won the Jewish vote by a 4-to-1 margin.
After Carter won the nomination, The Washington Post’s Robert G. Kaiser wrote, “Of all the groups that make up the traditional Democratic coalition, none is so skeptical of President Carter today as America’s Jewish voters,” speculating that Republican nominee Ronald Reagan or independent general election candidate John Anderson (a GOP member of Congress) could win the Jewish vote. The Christian Science Monitor ran an article on Oct. 3, 1980, with the headline “The ‘Jewish vote’ shunning Carter, moving to Reagan.” Ultimately, although Reagan was elected president, Carter won 44 percent of the Jewish vote to Reagan’s 36 percent and Anderson’s 19 percent, according to Herbert F. Weisberg’s exit poll calculations in a 2012 article for Contemporary Jewry. Given Reagan’s overwhelming victory, the Jewish vote is only a historical footnote. American Jews would have needed to sway the vote for Carter in every one of the nine states where they were most numerous — New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland and Ohio — for Carter to beat Reagan.
But results from 1980 show how difficult it may be for Republicans to change Jewish partisan loyalty: In an election in which Reagan earned 51 percent of the popular vote to Carter’s 41 percent, Jews still preferred their least favorite Democratic nominee in nearly a century by eight points over an overwhelmingly popular Republican.
That was the high-water mark for GOP nominees; no Republican has won the Jewish vote since Calvin Coolidge in 1924, when the Democratic and Progressive Party nominees split the opposition. According to the Pew Research Center, Trump earned only 24 percent of the Jewish vote in 2016, and if the 17 percent of Jewish voters who Pew estimated cast their ballots for GOP candidates in the 2018 midterms are suggestive, he likely won’t do much better in 2020.
But just because there’s no incipient Jexodus in 2019, doesn’t mean that Democrats should assume they will always enjoy robust support from American Jews. The British Labour Party is a cautionary tale: British Jewish support for Labour has not been as strong historically as American Jewish support for Democrats, but as recently as 2010, British Jewish preference for the Labor and Conservative parties was evenly split. In July, though, three Jewish newspapers in the United Kingdom published identical front pages accompanied by editorials calling the prospect of a government led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country” due to rising anti-Semitism within the party. Last month, seven Labour members of Parliament resigned from the party they describe as “institutionally anti-Semitic” for its inability or refusal to deal with members’ engagement in historically anti-Semitic tropes, code words and conspiracy theories, including, notably, blaming Jews for the Holocaust and accusations of dual loyalty against Jewish MPs.
The American parallel is clear. Jews are rightfully sensitive to accusations of dual loyalty, a smear popularized in, among other places, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” propaganda first published in Russia in 1903. The pamphlet claimed Jews would privilege Jewish parochial interests over the interests of the countries where they live. The recent controversy after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) implied that pro-Israel Americans, both Jewish and not, have dual loyalty — and a similar, less-infamous controversy involving an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — provoked justifiable outrage from American Jews and others. It also provided a convenient launchpad for the promoters of “Jexodus.”
Omar, to her credit, has since attempted to clarify her views on the Israel-Palestinian conflict; she has shown that although she may not always be aware of dog whistles traditionally used by anti-Semites to vilify Jews, she is willing to apologize when her speech is offensive; and Democrats hope that the controversy has been, at least for the moment, put to rest. But if Omar — or other Democrats — make future comments using similar tropes, they may provide an opening for Republicans such as those backing Jexodus to drive a political wedge.
The opening exists because Jewish Democrats are aware that the political left sometimes overlooks or minimizes anti-Semitism. Writing for Tablet in the wake of last year’s massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, Carly Pildis described how, when the Jewish community is attacked, the attack is too often addressed as an act of general hate, in “gauzy” “platitudes,” not condemned as violence specifically targeting Jews. More recently, Pildis called out House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) for attempting to explain some of Omar’s comments by offering that her experience as a refugee was “more personal” than the impact of the Holocaust on its survivors and their children.
The whitewashing of anti-Semitism and accusations of dual loyalty are painful, especially for the many Jews whose love for Israel abides even as they share Omar’s critical perspective toward the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. At a time when a great deal of hateful right-wing rhetoric is driven by conspiracy theories about Jews such as George Soros, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, when hate crimes against Jews have become more frequent, and when many Jewish Americans express fear of what they perceive as rising anti-Semitism across all sectors of society, Jewish Democrats expect their party to do more to defend them from anti-Semitism. They also know, however, that American Jews are only about 2 percent of the electorate nationally. Losing a substantial portion of that bloc would not affect Democratic electoral prospects in the same way losing a large share of the black vote would. If Jews begin to feel that the Democratic Party will not live up to its promise to protect and defend them along with other groups facing discrimination, they could leave the party to which they have been loyal for decades.
Even so, it seems unlikely that Jewish voters will soon shift to the current iteration of the GOP. But maybe some will choose to stay home on Election Day, or direct their political energy toward initiatives outside of partisan politics. Jews are an important part of the Democratic coalition, supporting the party for its promise of social justice and equality for all. For now.
After years of flooding, Cassidy, an architect with an office on Buchanan Street, showed photos of the problem to then-Councilwoman Kate Gallego in 2015. Her no-nonsense response: “We can’t have that. We’ve got to fix that,” he recalled.
A few months later, at Gallego’s request, the city and the county’s flood control district moved forward on a project to install a storm drain that could flush out the water on Buchanan Street. Cassidy was impressed. He still isn’t quite sure what Gallego did to solve the problem. “I don’t know how they make the sausage some days in the back room, but it got done,” he said.
Letting the street flood on a regular basis didn’t make sense. After all, the city was trying to reinvent the hardscrabble neighborhood as a center of new development. Gallego understood that, Cassidy said, and saw the need for an infrastructure solution in the neighborhood on the downtown edge of her district. “She found the fix rather than the Band-Aid,” he said.
Draining Lake Buchanan may not register as Gallego’s biggest accomplishment during the years she represented District 8 on the Phoenix City Council. For her most important achievement, she points to the city’s equal-pay ordinance, which passed unanimously in 2015 and changed city law to match the federal Equal Pay Act.
But the episode underscores what Phoenix residents might see during Gallego’s time as mayor, based on accounts from people who know her: a policy wonk’s attention to detail, plus a keen political awareness of what her constituents expect from the city, and, by extension, from her.
Gallego’s quick response to the situation on Buchanan Street was rewarded several years later during her run for mayor.
Cassidy, the chairman of a nonprofit Warehouse District business association, supported Gallego and donated to her campaign. At a get-out-the-vote rally in downtown Phoenix days before the election, Cassidy recited the saga of Lake Buchanan to the assembled supporters.
His underlying message — Gallego the focused, prepared problem-solver — evidently resonated with voters during the special election on March 12.
The 37-year-old Gallego was scheduled to be inaugurated today, March 21, after crushing her opponent, firefighter and former City Council colleague Daniel Valenzuela, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. She is the second elected female mayor in Phoenix history, following Margaret T. Hance, who served from 1976 to 1983. Phoenix is now the fifth-largest city in the U.S., and Gallego stands out as the only woman leading one of the nation’s top 10.
She will have to run again in November 2020 if she wants to serve a full four-year term now that she has won the special election to fill the remainder of former mayor Greg Stanton’s term, which ends in April 2021. Stanton resigned last year to run for Congress and won the open seat in Congressional District 9.
If she wins re-election and remains the mayor for the maximum of two four-year terms allowed by law, Gallego could steer Phoenix for a decade. She may have a long political career even after leaving the mayor’s office. But Gallego is mum on her political future when there are municipal issues she can address today.
“I love local government,” she told Phoenix New Times in late January, during the final stretch of the campaign. “I feel like you’re the closest to the people you represent, and that not only can you get things done every day but you have to get things done every day.”
She contrasted city government to the morass at the federal level, where years can go by before a major piece of legislation advances. At the City Council, it’s standard to vote on 100 items at a single meeting, she said. If the city of Phoenix shut down for 35 days, as the federal government did last year, there would be “chaos,” Gallego said.
“We have to deliver,” Gallego said. “The street system has to work; when you call 911, we have to respond; when you turn the tap, water has to come out.”
People who know Gallego like to say she is “the smartest person in the room.” They describe Gallego with this phrase so regularly, one wonders if they agreed, city-government style, during an open meeting to always use the cliché.
On the other hand, sometimes people reach for clichés because they’re true.
As a member of the City Council, Gallego was known to be attuned to granular policy details. She has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and an MBA from the Wharton School, plus a unique work history: Gallego previously worked for the Salt River Project, where she examined environmental policy, renewable energy, and economic development.
But Gallego will face mounting challenges as Phoenix’s mayor. She will have to juggle public-safety funding, a growing affordable housing crisis, heat and drought, and the city’s multibillion-dollar pension debt. An initiative on the ballot this summer will challenge light-rail expansion. Under the interim mayor, the council’s work has been scattershot. Crucial issues such as the south Phoenix light-rail extension, a water rate increase, and the city’s budget have nearly unraveled.
Gallego can be accurately described as a wonk. In light of the problems ahead, Phoenix may need one.
Kate Gallego declares victory in the mayoral race at a Crescent Ballroom party on March 12.
FROM ALBUQUERQUE TO SRP
Kate Widland was born in 1981 in Albuquerque, one of two kids raised by attorneys Jim Widland and Julie Neerken. As a high school student at the private, rigorous Albuquerque Academy, she played softball as a pitcher and second baseman. In her spare time, Gallego started an environmental club at her school and organized Earth Day projects.
“I don’t think it ever crossed my mind that she would be running to be mayor of Phoenix,” her father said. “I thought she would do something where she showed leadership, it just never dawned on me that she would come to Phoenix and run for mayor.”
As a senior in high school in the year 2000, the EPA recognized Gallego and a classmate with the President’s Environmental Youth Award because of their conservation efforts. A grinning Gallego was photographed for the local newspaper next to a captive hawk the students invited to campus for an Earth Day demonstration. “It’s just really important to me to work for the environment,” Gallego told the Albuquerque Journal at the time.
The same year, Gallego was honored as a Presidential Scholar, got into Harvard, and graduated from high school as the valedictorian.
As an undergraduate, Gallego majored in environmental studies. It was at Harvard where she met her ex-husband, Congressman Ruben Gallego. In a story recounted in print many times, Gallego met Ruben at a fraternity-sponsored date auction for charity. In 2008, he proposed to her in a stunt at the Democratic National Convention in Denver; he had the Arizona delegation hold up signs asking her to marry him. They wed in 2010.
After moving to Arizona in 2004, she got involved in Democratic politics. Gallego worked for the Arizona Democratic Party during the 2004 election, and later worked at the Arizona Office of Tourism under Governor Janet Napolitano.
In summer 2005, Gallego started working for the quasi-municipal utility Salt River Project on renewable energy programs, water rights, and later, economic development and strategic planning.
“She brought some bright ideas to the team,” said her colleague Kathy Knoop, a principal environmental scientist at SRP who used to work at the Agua Fria Generating Station. “And she brought a different way of looking at things — more so than somebody who’d spent their last 12 years at a power plant.”
As part of a policy analysis group at SRP, Gallego evaluated how federal and state environmental legislation, such as proposals to deal with renewable energy or greenhouse gases, would affect the utility and its customers. According to Knoop, Gallego had an ability to take a 360-degree view of SRP’s ideas, like installing solar panels on school buildings. Gallego suggested the program would show students how the technology worked and save money for the schools at the same time.
“I think she had a deeper way of looking at things, and I’m not sure why that was. I think that’s just Kate,” Knoop said.
While working for SRP, Gallego earned an MBA in 2012 from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School on weekends through the school’s remote program based in San Francisco. Her economic development work at SRP gave Gallego insight into what companies value when moving to a new location, especially companies with complicated water and energy needs. But Gallego felt a greater calling for public service which would eventually motivate her to quit her job with the utility.
Gallego could have left SRP for the private sector and earned more money, but instead she chose to pursue a seat on the Phoenix City Council, Knoop said. “She couldn’t really give it her all when she was working here,” Knoop said.
Her years at SRP were also “a time period where I spent a fair amount of time complaining about my elected officials,” Gallego said. Phoenix, she thought, could do bigger and better when attracting new businesses.
“We didn’t need to always settle for a call center with no health-care benefits,” she said. “But could we do high-wage manufacturing in this community, make more things? Could we invest in training programs that would make us competitive when businesses are deciding? Can they grow here – do they have the talent pool of great, educated folks to hire?”
She did the complaining. Then she decided to run for office to see if she could do something about it.
‘YOU CAN’T OUTWORK HER AND CAN’T OUTSMART HER’
District 8 of the City Council encompasses a diverse cross-section of Phoenix. The Council district includes parts of Phoenix’s downtown core, Sky Harbor International Airport, a long stretch of the Salt River, and historic African-American and Latino communities in the neighborhoods that lead to South Mountain.
It was on these streets where Gallego made her first real foray into politics, running to represent the district in 2013.
In a contentious campaign, Gallego outmaneuvered pastor Warren Stewart in a runoff election to replace then-Councilman Michael Johnson, breaking a tradition of African-American representation in the district and becoming the first Anglo politician to win the seat in four decades.
At times, the campaign dynamic was uncomfortable.
“There were a lot of attacks made about her pretending to be Hispanic, when we put her picture on everything. We definitely were very honest and forthcoming,” said Lisa Fernandez, a Phoenix political consultant and Gallego’s 2013 campaign manager. “She got attacked for taking her husband at the time’s name.”
Fernandez met Gallego in 2006 through local Democratic Party politics, and has worked on campaigns for both Kate and Ruben Gallego, as well as Stanton. Fernandez remains a Gallego confidant and friend. She is also part of the Arizona Democratic machinery in her own right, the daughter of House Democratic Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez.
She used vacation days to volunteer her time unpaid for Gallego’s mayoral campaign at the end of the race, Fernandez said. Recently, someone described Fernandez as the head of Gallego’s “kitchen cabinet,” she said, referring to the informal group of advisers who often surround a president.
When they met, Fernandez didn’t expect Gallego to run for office. “I thought Kate was going to run something,” Fernandez said.
Gallego’s intelligence is on display, Fernandez said, when she asks smart questions in response to a policy discussion, clearly thinking five steps ahead. How is Phoenix trying to solve the problem at the moment? Are other cities doing it better? “She’s always thinking,” Fernandez said.
With their respective political careers on an upward trajectory, Kate and Ruben Gallego made an unexpected announcement in December 2016: The political power couple was splitting up. When they announced their sudden divorce, Gallego was pregnant with their first child. Since then, the two have shared no details on what prompted the split. (Ruben Gallego did not respond to an interview request.)
Today, Kate and Ruben Gallego are advancing on separate tracks in the Democratic Party. Ruben has all but announced his bid for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination in 2020. They share custody of a 2-year-old son, Michael, who has made appearances during the mayor’s race and in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. “Our son is by far the most popular Gallego,” she said.
Fernandez said the two have a great approach to co-parenting Michael. The close association with Ruben does not bother Kate, she said. Nevertheless, from her vantage point as a friend to both people, the divorce was difficult to watch.
“You never want to see people unhappy or going through things,” Fernandez said.
Because Ruben won a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2010, Gallego says she faced challenges when launching her own political career three years later. When she ran for City Council, Ruben was already an elected official with his own political profile, but a different political style and priorities.
“I heard from a lot of people that they thought he would just be making all my decisions and telling me what to do, which was really frustrating,” Gallego said. “I feel like I have a lot of expertise in this area and a lot to offer. We are both very different people and I now think people appreciate that, that I have my own record and my own leadership style.”
She paused for several seconds. “But I did feel like I needed to come out of his shadow,” Gallego said, after a brief silence.
During her time on the Council, Gallego sought to expand the public transit system, enact a sexual harassment policy for elected officials, and shed light on groups spending money to influence city elections.
Gallego co-chaired the 2015 campaign backing Phoenix’s Transportation 2050 plan and a related referendum, Proposition 104. During the election, Phoenix voters authorized a sales tax to be used to bankroll the construction of light rail, improve bus routes, build sidewalks, and repair streets.
And last year, Gallego championed a ballot measure to require people or groups spending money to influence a municipal election to disclose donations above $1,000 as a way to fight back against independent expenditure groups that rely on hidden “dark money” contributions. Led by Gallego, the City Council referred the measure to voters as Proposition 419. In November, Phoenix residents approved the change overwhelmingly to amend the city charter.
However, the Arizona Legislature approved and Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a measure last year banning cities from enacting these dark-money ordinances. Because of the state legislation, the fate of Prop 419 is unclear. A spokesperson for the governor said the Phoenix charter amendment remains under review by the office’s legal division.
People familiar with Gallego’s work on the council describe her as a policy maven who listened carefully to constituents and could be bulldog-like when securing resources for people in her district. Gallego’s hyper-focused personality occasionally made life difficult for her staff when they tried to keep up.
“It’s challenging, because you can’t outwork her and can’t outsmart her,” said Gallego’s former chief of staff Geoff Esposito, a lobbyist who worked for her district office between October 2017 and February 2018.
Prior to meetings or council hearings, Esposito would take a long time to prepare in order to be able to brief Gallego on the issues, only to walk into a meeting with Gallego and find she already knew every detail. “It always made me feel good when I could provide something that Kate had not already thought of,” Esposito said.
And although Esposito said Gallego set clear expectations for her staff, she was an agreeable boss.
“She’s very nice, which is not always something that you find in elected officials,” said a former Gallego staffer, who was not authorized to talk about the election by his non-governmental employer.
Despite her intimidating academic credentials, Gallego also happened to be a boss who managed her council office professionally without seeming stilted. Gallego dives into policy work and enjoys the details, even if she might seem wonky compared to other candidates, he said.
“She’s not somebody who is, like, ever gonna get an award for most gregarious politician in the world,” he said. “So folks might read certain things into that, but in reality, she is somebody who, I think, has fun doing the job.”
But, he was careful to note, Gallego’s analytical approach didn’t stop her from connecting with people in the community. Gallego was highly engaged with the refugee community in her district, as well as the Somali Association of Arizona, he explained. “That was not the thing that somebody like me, as a political adviser, should be advising her to spend her time on,” the staffer said. “But it’s absolutely what she spent her time on.”
According to another former Phoenix City Council staffer, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak candidly about the race, Gallego’s command of issues exceeded not only her fellow Council members, but also most of the staff in City Hall. Behind closed doors, Gallego asked thoughtful, tough questions, he said.
“She is exceptionally smart,” the former staffer said. “We have these big packets every week for the council meetings that, you know, can range from 200 to 450 pages long, depending on the meeting. She read every one of them,” he said, laughing as if in disbelief.
Supporters cheer on Kate Gallego at a get-out-the-vote rally on March 7 in downtown Phoenix.
The final days of the mayoral runoff turned nasty as two young, ambitious candidates from the Democratic Party sought to elbow past one another in an ostensibly nonpartisan city election.
The runoff election pitted Gallego against Valenzuela, a firefighter in Glendale who was first elected to the Phoenix City Council in 2011. During the first mayoral vote in November, no candidate secured the majority needed to avoid a runoff. Before the March election, Valenzuela adopted a team of advisers who previously had worked for the late Senator John McCain. He and his allies hammered messages geared toward Phoenix’s more conservative voters.
Valenzuela repeatedly stated his commitment to public safety, and said the city had hamstrung its police and fire departments by not hiring more personnel.
Valenzuela’s supporters in the police and firefighters unions went after Gallego aggressively for her City Council record on public safety. At one point, the Arizona Police Association paid for an advertisement featuring the union president, who said he was begging viewers not to vote for Gallego “from the bottom of our hearts in public safety.”
One week before the election, a mysterious independent expenditure group named Advancing Freedom, Inc. bought two prominent ads in the Arizona Republic encouraging residents to vote for Valenzuela, one above the fold on the front cover and another on a full page, listing his endorsements. A mailer ad from the group referred to Valenzuela as the “conservative choice” for mayor – a bizarre way to describe a Democrat whose positions closely matched those of his opponent — and compared Gallego to Hillary Clinton.
The person or organization behind the dark-money group based in Oklahoma City is still unknown.
When hitting the theme of public safety, Valenzuela and the powerful groups backing him zeroed in on Gallego’s “no” vote on a city property tax increase in 2016. They portrayed Gallego’s vote as a decision to deny new funding needed to hire dozens of police officers and firefighters.
Back then, Gallego argued that Phoenix should look to other sources of revenue, like the Sports Facilities Fund, which uses sales taxes on rental cars and hotels for arena development, before raising property taxes. During the vote three years ago, Gallego did oppose the property-tax increase, but she supported the city budget.
In the mayoral race, Valenzuela criticized the way Gallego framed her position. “It’s very politician-y to say, ‘I support all the great things in the budget; I don’t want to support the funding behind the budget,’” he said in a debate hosted by 12 News.
The issues of taxes and arena funding converged in January, when the Phoenix City Council voted to pay $150 million up front to renovate the city-owned Talking Stick Resort Arena and approved $25 million for future repairs.
Valenzuela supported the arena deal. Among his many local corporate boosters was Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, who contributed $100,000 to a firefighters’ committee supporting Valenzuela. Gallego, again, found herself on the opposite side of the issue.
“I believe that professional sports are among the most profitable enterprises out there and they should pay for their own buildings. We have real challenges in this community. We cannot afford to throw money at everything and we have to prioritize,” Gallego told New Times.
The Suns arena decision marks a setback for this philosophy, though Gallego had already resigned from the council to run for mayor before the vote took place. From her point of view, the vote to approve the Suns arena deal was rushed, Gallego explained. She believes the people who supported the deal wanted the council to move quickly after she clinched about 45 percent of the votes prior to the runoff election, the largest share of the four candidates.
Valenzuela chose to champion “safer issues” on the City Council, Gallego said, but with Phoenix’s form of government, the mayor has to “articulate a vision for the city.” From her perspective, vision means addressing the pension debt, moving to a knowledge-based economy, and supporting more early childhood education.
“I’m not gonna be the mayor who’s out there filling the potholes, but I have to talk big picture about what kind of city we become. And I think that’s where my expertise lies,” Gallego said.
With enormous problems looming on the horizon, Phoenix will need visionary solutions, and soon.
Renovations to the city-owned Talking Stick Resort Arena became a campaign issue in the mayoral race.
Gallego will lead Phoenix at a moment when the City Council is turbulent and divided. To make her job even more difficult, Phoenix faces significant challenges that have not been fully addressed.
In the coming years, climate change will render Phoenix hotter and drier. A warmer city will contribute to the heat island effect, in which rooftops, roads, bridges, concrete, and parking lots soak up heat during the day, and stubbornly refuse to let the city cool down at night. Climate change will also exacerbate water shortages on the Colorado River, which will require Phoenix to find new ways to supply water to a thirsty and growing population.
Additionally, the city continues to struggle with a budget weighed down by a $4 billion pension debt owed to public-safety and civilian employees, what is known as the city’s unfunded liability. Because of the payments owed to the state retirement system, the city budget process, which begins this spring, has grown strained. With the U.S. economy showing signs of a possible economic downturn, Phoenix could face a deeper budget crisis during Gallego’s term as mayor, along with potentially painful hiring freezes or layoffs.
Rental prices continue to rise, contributing to Phoenix’s gap in affordable housing and a Valley-wide homelessness problem.
These issues are often papered over or forgotten because of the positive things driving greater Phoenix. The city benefits from a relatively low unemployment rate and industry growth in attractive fields like health care and high-tech manufacturing. Phoenix remains one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities.
If she doesn’t vault from the mayor’s office to another elected position — “I think I’m a good fit for local government, and that’s really where I’m focused,” Gallego said when asked about her political future — she will be forced to confront Phoenix’s simmering crises.
She flinched at the oft-repeated label describing Phoenix as “the world’s least sustainable city,” the subtitle of a nonfiction book published not long before Gallego first ran for office. All the same, Gallego believes the city should prepare now for drought on the Colorado River system.
She supported a water rate increase of about $2 per month, which the council approved in January after her resignation, amid vocal dissent from the conservative wing. The new investment is meant to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure, bringing water from central and south Phoenix to the northern part of the city, a crucial step in order to prepare for looming cutbacks to Arizona’s water supply from the drought-stricken river.
While also investing in new infrastructure and fixing leaks in the system, Phoenix needs to make water conservation part of the city’s identity, Gallego suggested.
“We need to make sure that sustainable management of water is part of our Phoenix brand,” Gallego said. “If there are national headlines saying we can’t deliver to water to part of Phoenix and pictures of our golf courses, that doesn’t help anyone.”
To combat rising rent prices in Phoenix, Gallego has proposed offering incentives to increase the availability of affordable housing and partnering with nonprofits to develop on city-owned land. The Phoenix City Council recently moved in a similar direction, approving a measure in February to encourage developers to offer 10 percent or more of their units at a reduced rate.
Characteristically, when Gallego worries about Phoenix, she thinks long-term. At the moment, she said, lots of people in Phoenix depend on the types of jobs that are at risk of extinction. The most common field of employment for men in her district was driving and ground transportation, like truckers and taxi drivers, she explained.
“I worry about their economic prospects in 10 years,” Gallego said. “I don’t know if those jobs will still exist, so I think we need to invest in education and diversifying the economy.”
If Gallego wants to solve these problems with visionary, forward-thinking solutions, she will need to work with her peers on the council.
Eduardo Sanchez, 24, holds a sign at a community meeting on light rail on September 17. In the background, from left, are City Council members Debra Stark, Felicita Mendoza, and Michael Nowakowski.
Although the job has some executive responsibilities, the office of the Phoenix mayor is weak. In practice, the mayor is akin to an elevated member of the City Council. The mayor has one vote on the council — the same as eight other members elected from districts around the city.
Under the city code and charter, the mayor controls the policy meeting agenda. The mayor also serves as the ceremonial head of Phoenix and the chief executive officer. But because of Phoenix’s “council-manager” system of government, a city manager serves as the chief administrator of city functions and is responsible for all city employees. The council hires and fires the city manager.
Nevertheless, even under the weak-mayor system, Interim Mayor Thelda Williams noted that council members set the budget, and the city manager serves at their pleasure.
“We are not without control, and have worked always very closely with the city managers,” Williams said. “I’ve been around for almost 30 years, and every city manager listens closely [to] what our priorities are and works with staff to make sure that it’s accomplished. It might not be overnight, because sometimes we’re a little aggressive, but we always end up where we want to be.”
Stanton’s departure started a chain reaction of resignations and elections. Council members selected Williams to serve as interim mayor in the absence of a permanent leader, and ever since, the body’s work has grown more chaotic.
Gallego and Valenzuela resigned to run shortly after Stanton quit, and the council selected new members to replace them in the interim, adding more uncertainty to the council’s fragile dynamic.
Last summer, a group of Central Avenue business owners and residents along the path of a planned six-mile light rail extension spoke out against the project. Their angst about the South Central Extension’s design, which provides for one lane of car traffic, morphed into broad opposition to any light-rail expansion. Around the same time, the council deadlocked during a budget vote and nearly failed to pass the spending package. Councilman Michael Nowakowski initially voted no on the budget, citing the controversy over the South Central extension, which runs through part of his district.
In a surprise move, the Council voted to re-evaluate the design of the extension and conduct new community outreach. The decision came very close to throwing off the delicate grant process required for the city to obtain nearly $600 million in federal funds.
When asked about the apparent chaos on the Council, Williams defended her performance as interim mayor. Working with eight people on the Council, she said, made it more difficult to approve items because they still required five votes to pass. “I think I was handed some of these challenges,” Williams said, “but I’m very proud of the fact that I took them on and successfully got them completed,” never mind that these problems will still exist under Gallego.
The City Council political contests to select permanent replacements for Gallego and Valenzuela in Districts 8 and 5 are heading to runoff elections in May.
Moreover, in Phoenix’s never-ending election cycle, two adversarial ballot initiatives scheduled for an August vote will set the course for the city’s unfunded pension liability and the expansion of light rail.
Conservative Councilman Sal DiCiccio has supported the “Responsible Budgets Act,” which would change the city charter to devote nearly all excess general fund revenue to paying down the city’s pension debt. The initiative would also end pensions for elected officials. Gallego has said she opposes the measure.
Meanwhile, the anti-light rail activists with the “Building a Better Phoenix” campaign gathered enough signatures to put an initiative on Phoenix’s August election ballot. The measure would funnel money originally earmarked for future light-rail extensions into transportation improvements.
Gallego strongly supported light-rail expansion during the mayoral race and during the 2015 referendum on the T2050 transit plan. As a result, Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith said the transit authority is excited by her victory. He said Gallego as mayor means Phoenix has “a leader at the top who is permanent and who has been a champion of transit in general.”
As the city heads toward the vote on the future of light rail, Gallego can potentially use the mayor’s office as a bully pulpit to sway public opinion, he said. If the initiative passes, it will kill the entire program of light rail expansion, not just the extension to South Phoenix, Smith said.
“It’s not just about South Central,” Smith said. “It’s trying to undo what was approved by voters in August of 2015, and Mayor-elect Gallego has sort of a personal interest in that because she was so deeply involved in the election in 2015.”
Gallego’s success as mayor will depend in part on her relationships with others on the council and whether she can muster the votes needed to pass her agenda. Opponents on the council — namely the blustering, name-calling DiCiccio — will no doubt try to stymie Gallego’s liberal priorities, but they will find it harder to do so if she has won over five solid votes, according to the former City Council staffer.
“What she’s going to have to do is build closer personal relationships with members of the council,” the former staffer said. “I’d say that is probably her biggest liability … maybe personally, she isn’t as close with some of the members of the council as she’ll need to be.”
It’s a paradoxical position to be in for a mayor who likes talking about her long-term, strategic vision. In order to silo her opponents, Gallego may have to abandon her reserved, analytical approach and become more of a backslapping politician like any other.
On past projects, Gallego has been adept at managing the interpersonal squabbling of the City Council and working with others to accomplish her goals. When she proposed that the city adopt a sexual harassment policy that would give the council the ability to remove elected officials, Gallego worked closely with Councilman Jim Waring, a Republican, in spite of disagreements on other issues.
“Whereas someone else would think, ‘Oh, don’t even bother talking to them,’ she’ll do it,” Esposito said.
Councilwoman Debra Stark endorsed Valenzuela in the mayor’s race; nonetheless, the day after the election, Stark praised Gallego for her patience and calm demeanor.
There will be tension on the Council because of the upcoming light-rail initiative, Stark predicted, but Gallego’s personality will serve her well. “I think she wants to understand the rest of the Council,” Stark said. “I do think she respects other people’s opinions, and I think that goes a long way. Not all electeds are that way nowadays.”
At Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix on the night of the mayoral election, Gallego’s supporters shook off a gloomy, rainy night as they chatted and sipped drinks. A DJ fiddled with records in the corner of the stage. Other rising Democratic pols — Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — all showed up to the party.
A screen displayed the live results of the election from a city website, which briefly crashed. The page refreshed to reveal Gallego had a sizeable lead. The 18-month race for mayor was over.
After introductions from her campaign manager and father, Gallego walked on stage to cheers. Her son trundled around, hoisting a campaign sign above his head. She smiled. She promised the crowd, “I will work as hard as I can to be your advocate, to listen, and to push Phoenix to the next level to be a city that works for everyone.”
Any supporters holding their breath during the tumultuous last days of the campaign could breathe easier. A woman stepped onto a first row of a set of risers in the back of the room, and did a wiggling, spontaneous dance of joy.
Crescent Ballroom was an apt location for Gallego’s victory event — one of the venues in Phoenix that she and others can point to as evidence of a reinvented downtown, and the emerging sense of cool in the city’s core.
Inside the ballroom, as people posed for photos and congratulated each other, you could almost forget about the grinding issues Gallego will face as mayor: the upcoming city budget negotiation, the string of fatal police shootings, and the persistent drought that could someday scare off future developers.
If she was intimidated by the daunting challenges set before her as mayor, Gallego didn’t show it. Tonight, they would celebrate, she said. Then she would get to work.
Allan Rohan Crite was a notable artist who sought to depict Black people as ordinary American citizens instead of sharecroppers or entertainers. Today is Crite’s birthday.
Crite was born in 1910 in Plainfield, N.J. and raised in Boston’s South End. He developed an interest in art early on by way of his mother, and his father, a doctor and engineer, was also a great influence. Crite was accepted to Yale University but opted instead to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.
After leaving school in 1936, Crite became one of a handful of African-American artists employed by the Federal Arts Project under the New Deal. In 1940, he began a 30-year career as an engineering draftsman but continued to work on his art in the meantime. Crite focused on pieces that showed Black people of all ages in various settings. In an interview, Crite stated that he wanted to show the “real Negro” and not the “Jazz Negro” or “Harlem Negro,” which he felt were images promoted solely by white people.
Along with an honorary doctorate from Suffolk University and was bestowed with the Harvard University Anniversary Medal. Several of his works hang in the Smithsonian in Washington, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Art Institute of Chicago among other places. Crite never married and didn’t have any children according to reports.
Allan Rohan Crite passed in 2007 at the age of 97.
Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o believes the best thing about her upcoming film Us, is its portrayal of a black family, which she says was “refreshing”.
The film, featuring Nyong’o and Winston Duke in the lead, is filmmaker Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his 2017 surprise blockbuster Get Out.
According to Femalefirst, the 36-year-old actor appreciated that unlike Peele’s previous film, the race of the lead characters in Us had nothing to do with its story.
“I loved how unremarkable it was that they were black, because I often feel quite unremarkable. I don’t live my life always considering the colour of my skin and it was nice to have that,” Nyong’o said.
“A family that we could project our own understanding of a family on to no matter what colour our skin is, and that the paradigms to which they were navigating this particular monster had nothing to do with the colour of their skin. Yeah, that’s refreshing,” she added.
The actor, who last seen in Marvel’s Black Panther, also has horror-comedy Little Monsters and Star Wars: Episode IX in the pipeline.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley found herself in a Twitter feud with the people of Finland on Thursday, after she commented unfavorably on their health care system.
Haley, a savvy politician who as President Donald Trump’s United Nations ambassador from 2017 until December 2018, regularly topped opinion polls as the most popular member of his administration, ignited the Finns when she tried to take a swipe at a tweet by Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, who has made universal health care one of his signature platforms, said it costs an average of $12,000 for a woman to have a baby in the United States, while in Finland it costs only $60.
Haley, who is touted as a rising star in the Republican Party and a potential presidential candidate in 2024, shot back that, “Health care costs are too high that is true but comparing us to Finland is ridiculous. Ask them how their health care is. You won’t like their answer.”
It is more likely that it is the former U.N. ambassador who does not like their answer.
The reaction was immediate, with hundreds of people identifying themselves as Finns happy with their health care system offering statistics and anecdotes about how good it is.
While personal income tax rates are very high — 51.60 percent — Finns get many services in return, not just health care. But for new mothers, the system offers comprehensive services.
While the charge to the patient who gives birth is only $60, the government picks up the rest of the cost. In addition, new mothers receive a generous care package with clothes and baby care products. Mothers and their babies also get free medical checkups. Day care is heavily subsidized and mothers get at least four months’ paid maternity leave.
And according to the World Health Organization, Finland has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world.
South Carolina, which Haley governed from 2011-2017 when she left to join the Trump administration, has seen its maternal mortality rates drop slowly, but they still remain among the highest in the United States. There are also wide disparities in who is affected. Many more African-American mothers are likely to die from complications of childbirth than white mothers in the southern state.
Haley’s former counterpart at the United Nations, Finnish Ambassador Kai Sauer, also sent out a string of tweets touting his nation’s health care system. He noted in addition to its strong record on preventing maternal mortality, Finland has the world’s third-lowest infant mortality rate and the second-lowest mortality rate for cancer in the European Union.
Sauer’s tweets came several hours after Haley’s original one and he apologized for that noting, “We were out celebrating our rank as the happiest country of the world.”
Since leaving her U.N. post at the end of December, Haley has been spending much of her time on the social media platform tweeting about lighter fare, including learning how to use the taxi service app Uber, her new favorite lipstick and her beloved dog, Bentley.
She has also set up a new advocacy group, “Stand for America” that will focus on “promoting public policies that strengthen America’s economy, culture, and national security.”
Last month, U.S. aerospace manufacturer Boeing announced that it had nominated Haley to join its board of directors. Company shareholders will vote on whether to give her a seat at their annual shareholders meeting on April 29.
Boeing has recently come under intense scrutiny after two of its 737 Max aircraft crashed in the space of five months, killing all aboard.
Haley, a strong advocate for Israel during her U.N. tenure, was recently honored by having a commemorative coin struck with her image on it by three Israeli religious organizations.
According to the Associated Press, the coin features Haley’s face set with the U.N. building in the background and goes for $65 in silver and $90 in gold.
While at the U.N., Haley was a vocal supporter of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; to slash funding to the U.N. agency that cares for Palestinian refugees; and to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is seen by critics as overly focused on Israel.
Haley is also hitting the lucrative speakers’ circuit. Last week, she became the first woman to give the keynote address at the Society of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and June 3, she is scheduled to be the main speaker in Washington at the Campaign for Life Gala, which advocates against abortion. Last year, Trump delivered the keynote address.
Haley’s post at the United Nations remains unfilled nearly three months after her departure. Trump’s first choice for the post, former State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, withdrew her name from the process. On Feb. 22, the president announced he would nominate Kelly Craft, a top Republican donor and U.S. ambassador to Canada, to the post, but her name has not yet been sent to the Senate for approval.
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts attends the 37th Kennedy Center Honors at the Kennedy Center on Dec. 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images hide caption
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts attends the 37th Kennedy Center Honors at the Kennedy Center on Dec. 7, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
There have been 45 presidents in the nation’s history, but just 17 chief justices. Some of the men who presided over the U.S. Supreme Court were enormously influential. Others, not. The chief justice today, John G. Roberts Jr., has already served for 14 years and, at age 64, he could well serve for another 20.
Roberts remains an enigmatic figure. He is a committed conservative who has been publicly reviled by conservative politicians. He is a conservative who is the last best hope of liberals and moderates who dream, probably in vain, that he will significantly temper the court’s turn to the right.
His public persona is charming, funny, and unrevealing.
Seeking to pierce that practiced facade, reporter Joan Biskupic has written a biography called The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts. It is the fourth biography she has written about a sitting justice, and in some ways, the most enlightening. But she says Roberts was her “toughest subject, start to finish.”
Her eight off-the-record interviews with her subject seemed more like fencing matches where she stood on one side, trying to find out or confirm new information, and he stood on the other, trying to find out what she already knew. As she puts it, “If anybody put little thought bubbles over our heads he would have been saying, ‘I wish she wasn’t asking me these questions,’ and I would have said, ‘I wish you were Antonin Scalia because he gave me 12 on-the-record interviews and he was happy to talk about why he did what he did.'”
Some Colleagues Wary Of Roberts
Roberts, in contrast, is much more reserved, guarded, even “secretive” — traits that Biskupic reports have made his colleagues on both left and right sometimes “wary of him.”
The son of a Bethlehem Steel executive, Roberts was raised in the upper-middle-class, nearly all-white suburbs of Gary, Indiana. He was a golden boy from the get-go — an outstanding student at an outstanding Catholic prep school, who excelled as a Harvard undergraduate and at Harvard Law School. As a lawyer, he argued 39 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Even his appointment to the Supreme Court had a lucky twist. Named to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, his nomination was quickly upgraded two months later when then Chief Justice William Rehnquist died.
In the years since, his record has been solidly conservative. He has voted consistently to undermine voting-rights laws, emasculating even measures enacted by huge congressional majorities; he’s voted against attempts to voluntarily make public schools more racially mixed, against affirmative action in higher education, against laws enacted by Congress to limit the role of big money in congressional campaigns, against abortion rights, against same sex marriage, and for more deference to religious rights.
And yet, he has been roundly denounced by many conservative politicians, including President Trump, who in 2016 called his vote to uphold Obamacare a “disgrace.”
For Trump and other conservatives, Roberts’ original sin was his decisive fifth vote upholding the health care law.
Biskupic tells a complicated tale of how Roberts arrived at the health care decision. She tells how, to the consternation of fellow conservatives on the court, he changed his initial vote — something that is unusual, but hardly unheard of — and she has put together a fascinating look at negotiations inside the court on the final outcome.
Biskupic, who has covered the Supreme Court for decades, has an interesting take on why Roberts voted as he did. Like his fellow conservatives, he thought Congress exceeded its power in requiring health care for everyone. But he viewed the penalty imposed on those who didn’t get health coverage as a tax, and thus a legitimate exercise of congressional power. And that vote saved the economic core of the law.
“Perhaps his vote stemmed from his concern for the Court’s legitimacy,” or his desire not to have the Supreme Court at the center of the 2012 election campaign, Biskupic says.
But in the end, as she said in an interview with NPR, it very likely was also “born of a concern for this important law and the business of health care, which he knew well from his days” as a lawyer representing the industry.
So in the Affordable Care Act case, Roberts’ view was influenced by his experience, his practical understanding of the economics of health insurance. In contrast, his views on race and religion are far more ideological, doctrinaire, and immovable. On these questions, Roberts has “never wavered,” according to Biskupic.
“I believe that there’s this straight line from what he wrote as a young lieutenant in the Reagan years to what he writes now from the center chair of the Supreme Court,” she says.
Maintaining His Position
Indeed, she reports that in the Reagan years, Roberts led the charge to oppose renewal of the Voting Rights Act and strategized on how to limit school desegregation decrees.
U.S. Supreme Court justices pose for their official portrait in the East Conference Room at the Supreme Court building on Nov.30, 2018 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Although he maintained at his 2005 confirmation hearing that the memos he wrote advocating these positions merely reflected the views of his bosses, some of his superiors strongly disagreed with him. And ultimately, President Reagan signed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act into law.
That was a disappointment to Roberts, whose memos show a young man infuriated by what he saw then, and still sees now, as racial preferences in a variety of spheres. Take, for instance, the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that provided federal oversight of any changes in voting rules made by state and local governments with a history of racial discrimination in voting.
That provision was widely seen as the most effective piece of civil rights legislation since the period right after the Civil War. But in 2013, in a case from Shelby County, Ala., Roberts, as chief justice, wrote the court’s 5-to-4 decision striking it down because Congress had not changed the original formula for determining which jurisdictions were covered.
As Roberts put it, “Our country has changed in the past 50 years.” Black and white voters are now voting in roughly equal numbers, he asserted, and advance clearance of voting rule changes is no longer needed.
That proposition was quickly rebutted when many southern state and local governments, once free from the pre-clearance requirement, quickly enacted new laws and regulations that made it harder for African Americans and other minorities to vote — things like closing or moving polling places in minority areas, and limiting early voting.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg all but forecast those results in her dissenting opinion in the case. “Throwing out pre-clearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes,” wrote Ginsburg, “is like throwing away your umbrella in a rain storm because you are not getting wet.”
Author Biskupic says outright that the discriminatory consequences of Roberts’ voting rights decision have been profound on the ground. “I think the consequences of Shelby County have been rather stark,” she says.
If Roberts had any understanding of the practical impact of his decision, Biskupic suggests, it is trumped by his view that the pre-clearance requirement amounted to an unconstitutional racial preference.
Biskupic takes Roberts to task, as well, for disregarding more than a century of legal doctrine on race in order to put his long-held, contrary views, into place. His opinion in the voting rights case, she observes, is based on a “novel constitutional ground.” It invokes the principal of “equal sovereignty,” meaning that the states must be treated equally. But that principle, she says, is “at odds with the usual understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Indeed, she points out that the Reconstruction Act passed by Congress after the Civil War included a provision that barred southern states from re-admission to the Union unless they ratified the Fourteenth Amendment.
Far To The Right On Abortion And Same Sex Marriage
Roberts’ views on other flash point social issues are similarly far to the right. According to Biskupic, at the Justice Department in the 1980s, Roberts was at the forefront of the effort to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 abortion decision. And on the court, he has never voted to invalidate an abortion restriction. That said, Roberts knows that the new conservative court majority doesn’t have to overturn Roe to render it a hollow shell. If the court were to uphold all manner of abortion restrictions enacted in states where abortion is unpopular, the court would ensure that abortion is difficult, or even impossible to obtain in those states.
Similarly in the area of gay rights, while it seems unlikely that the court would reverse itself on gay marriage, the new conservative majority may well side with those who refuse, on religious grounds, to provide services to gay couples. After all, as Biskupic points out, John Roberts not only dissented in the same-sex marriage cases, it was the only time in his tenure as chief justice that he chose to read his dissent from the bench.
“From the dawn of human history until a few years ago for every people known to have populated this planet, marriage was defined as the union of a man and a woman,” he began. “But today five lawyers [justices] have ordered every state to change its definition of marriage to one that matches a new one that they favor. Just who do we think we are.”
Roberts, raised a conservative Catholic, has not changed, Biskupic writes. “At a time when American social attitudes were changing rapidly, John Roberts was not changing. Central to his personality was a certain constancy on many social issues.”
The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy last June, and the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to replace him, means that, as Biskupic puts it, Roberts “has the court he always wanted.” Without Kennedy, Roberts has gained “greater control.”
He is “no longer yoked to a centrist conservative pulling him to the left,” she observes. He no longer “has to woo Kennedy, appease Kennedy, deal with Kennedy.” Rather, “He’s leading the court much more in his own image, and the law will likely be what he says it is.”
From Ella Fitzgerald to Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance was a movement that embraced the reality of black life in America. During the 1920s, an intellectual, social and artistic explosion of black creatives offered new and unique perspectives on the black experience.
The theme for this year’s annual Black and White Ball was an act of homage to this significant period of American History. On March 2 “Haraya’s Playhouse” transformed the way this event has been hosted in comparison to previous years. Students were no longer subjected to wearing shades of white like cream or black, with slight hints of color. This year’s theme was not only was a nod to the renaissance of 1920s Harlem, it was also a way to acknowledge a new wave of black creativity and excellence.
While this annual event signifies the end of Black History Month activities on campus, it also gave students and faculty the opportunity to come together and celebrate their achievements.
With an emphasis on excellence, this event was curated to create a sentiment of the Harlem Renaissance.
“I feel like this year was important to me especially,” Dionté Williams, vice president of activities for Haraya, said. “The world has been showing how they truly feel about black culture and people. Every day I want to communicate and express our power, our excellence, our love, our strength and our intelligence. When I was tasked with spearheading Black and White Ball, I just knew that I wanted to pay homage to everyone before us.”
Every element of the renaissance was tailored to the event. From the elegant fruit display to the bustling “mocktail” hour to the thoughtfully cultivated visual presentation of black art and historical figures, the fourth floor of the D’Angelo Center was transformed into an immersive experience for all of its attendees.
Students were encouraged to reflect the Harlem Renaissance theme through their formal attire as well.
This was a unique phenomenon of this year’s Black and White Ball because attendees were able to really capture the nights essence in their looks.
“I like the themed aspect of the ball,” senior Wyett Woodbury said. “I like that it’s different and people are able to express themselves through fashion. I appreciate the theme for what it was, and it surrounds Black History. I feel like the theme captured black culture and for those that participated in it I feel like it was spot on and they did what they had to do to really show what black culture is and was past and present.”
Many upperclassmen who have attended the Black and White Ball in previous years noticed how this year’s theme stood out from the previous ones. Senior Obono Mba-Madja attended last year’s ball and appreciated the way this year’s theme captured the significance of black success.
“I think it was very fitting to have a Harlem Renaissance theme. Within the past year I feel like black people all over the world have made certain trademarks and broken barriers that we have never seen. We celebrate black excellence all the time, but the Harlem Renaissance was the birthing of all that in the U.S.”
Other students took note of the difference in decoration from last year’s ball to this year. Many could see the shift this theme had on the overall ambiance of the ball.
“The difference I noticed off bat was the decoration,” senior Sieta Leon, who is also the president of the Latin American Student Association, said. “They took the theme and ran with it this year and did a great job embodying the Harlem Renaissance with the music and the centerpieces. I also think keeping it open to wearing any color you want and giving us a theme to experiment with gave people the opportunity to get creative.”
For the years to come, Haraya’s new venture has the potential to spark a renaissance of its own within the St. John’s community. Not only is black excellence being celebrated throughout the world, people are continuing to educate and cultivate new and captivating ways to express their stories. Like the Harlem Renaissance, this year’s ball was a reminder of the ways in which black people continue to create and push the boundaries of popular culture.
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“Studying my heritage and where I come from has directly increased my self-esteem and how I see African American communities,” said Tucker, who is majoring in AAAS and minoring in creative writing. “The biggest reward has been the connections I’ve made with the program’s faculty, students and staff. We are all like family to each other.”
This winter quarter, the Program in African and African American Studies marked 50 years since its first cohort of 13 Stanford undergraduates began their coursework.
The interdisciplinary program offers a major and a minor in the study of history, culture and sociology of African Americans and people in the African diaspora. It is the oldest ethnic studies program developed at Stanford and the first African and African American Studies program created at a private institution in the United States.
Members of the Black Student Union take the stage and microphone during a program following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., April 8, 1968. (Image credit: Stanford University Archives)
“We strive to create a place where students of all backgrounds could have conversations about racial justice, equity and how to make the world a better place,” said Allyson Hobbs, director of the program and associate professor of American history at Stanford.
Hobbs emphasized the importance of studying African and African American history in a time when racial disparities still exist across society, from education to health care and criminal justice systems.
“There is a kind of salience to the study of African and African American studies now given our political climate,” Hobbs said. “Delving deeper into the history and culture of African Americans and the African diaspora can broaden people’s understanding and awareness of our country’s past and current issues.”
Stanford junior Dayonna Tucker celebrates Black History Month with other students at an annual event organized by the Program in African and African American Studies in 2018. (Image credit: Victor Bashorun)
The program’s roots date to the campus gathering in Memorial Auditorium in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April 1968. During the event, 70 members of Stanford’s Black Student Union famously ascended the stage, took the microphone from then-Provost Richard Lyman and read a list of 10 demands that asked the university to boost African American admissions, curriculum and hiring. Shortly after, a committee headed by professor emeritus of anthropology James L. Gibbs developed the program.
The original demands of the students are still at the heart of the program’s mission today, Hobbs said.
Hobbs said her goals include helping Stanford hire more black professors and scholars with a focus on African American studies. She is also helping to bolster the involvement of Stanford graduate students in black studies and she hopes the program could one day provide a PhD track. This year, under her directorship, the program has for the first time hired two postdoctoral researchers.
“We are proud of our history,” Hobbs said. “But there is still work to do as we look ahead.”
Students praised the AAAS faculty and administrators for providing them with opportunities to not only pursue their intellectual curiosities but also to explore their own identity and connect with each other.
“At a huge place like Stanford, it can be easy to feel lost in the crowd,” said Stanford senior Nya Hughes, who is majoring in communication and African and African American studies. “AAAS gave me a home base that’s been really valuable intellectually and personally throughout my undergraduate years.”
Throughout each academic year, students participate in various events and traditions. For example, every Black History Month is kicked off with a night of poetry readings and live music at the Black Community Service Center. Students also go on field trips and connect with their peers over casual dinner debriefings where they talk about their classes and experiences. In recent years, students have visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the California African American Museum in Los Angeles.
As an aspiring political leader and organizer, Stanford sophomore Kory Gaines said his two majors, political science and AAAS, are giving him a breadth of skills and knowledge he couldn’t have obtained another way.
“It’s been incredible to immerse myself in the history, literature and culture that’s at the foundation of how our nation was created,” Gaines said. “I’m proud of being a part of AAAS and part of the legacy of taking back the mic.”