The 2020 election will be decided in my hair salon. Here’s why.

Contributing columnist

January 22 at 7:06 PM

Saturday, after a couple of hours in the hair salon — always a couple of hours — the 2020 election started taking shape for me. Women. Women of color. Black women.

I listened to the banter, a lively combination of speculation about HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” furloughed federal workers canceling appointments, Women’s March politics, President Trump’s wall, and more. One point of agreement: If the White Walkers can breach the mammoth ice wall across the north of Westeros, then a wall along our southern border is surely a waste of money.

My salon, and thousands like it across the country, is where the 2020 election will be decided.

For Democrats, the quest to win the 2020 primary and general elections flows through the vibrant conversations of black women on a Saturday morning — a time and place of unvarnished truth among women of all classes and life experiences. Ask Hillary Clinton: Women of color voted overwhelmingly for her in 2016, including 69 percent of Latino women and 94 percent of black women in the general election, slightly less than for President Barack Obama in 2012. One big problem, though. Turnout was down among African American voters in key states. To reach the White House, Clinton needed more of these women in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee.

Conversely, many white women continue to stick with the GOP. President Trump narrowly won white women in 2016 (it was women of color who gave Clinton her significant edge with women overall), while the parties ran about even with them in House elections in 2018. Democrats did manage to peel away more college-educated white women in the 2018 midterms, some fertile ground for 2020 growth. Since the 2016 defeat, it has been the strength of the black women’s vote that has driven victories in statewide and down-ballot races for Democrats — including the much-celebrated record number of diverse women in the new Congress.

Why are these facts so important for a crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field? Simple — the numbers clearly show that the real juice for Democrats rests with women of color. No candidate can ignore black women in the primary season and still hope to engage them after winning the party nomination — that won’t fly. Black women are the most reliable base of the Democratic Party. To win this base in the primary, and then fully mobilize it in a general election, the candidates will need to listen to the women in the hair salons.

In 2020, some may write off identity politics, but for many women/women of color/black women, identity is politics.

When black women think of the wage gap, they know that they make 63 cents for every dollar compared with their white male counterparts. (For Latino women, it’s 54 cents; for white women, it’s 79 cents.)

When black women consider their health care, they experience that their sisters and mothers die of breast and cervical cancer, heart disease and diabetes at greater rates than white women and that their fertility is impacted disproportionately by uterine fibroids, premature delivery and inadequate access to reproductive care.

When black women look at their economic prospects, they know they stare down over $10,000 more in college debt than white men do — overall, women hold about $400 billion more in college debt than men. In overall wealth, too, black women lag significantly behind. How can you have security when you don’t have income and savings?

These are the politics of a black woman’s identity. Already, Democratic candidates entering the presidential race have acknowledged the importance of women — women of color — black women — in their pathways to victory. With this week’s entry of Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), some candidates may be tempted to write off their chances of capturing the votes of black women. That would be a mistake. These voters are listening. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s announcement framed her economic-populist message to appeal to women, pointing to an economy that has failed women of color. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) made a head-on pitch to women as a mom with a record of fighting for gender equality. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) may soon join the field.

But this work cannot be left to this fine array of female candidates — in 2020, this is men’s work, too. After Iowa and New Hampshire, the road to success in the South goes through the votes of black women. But remember: Women/women of color/black women are not a monolith — they are individuals, and they want to be fought for. Every candidate must wage that battle.

I don’t pretend to know who will win the Democratic nomination. But I do know that if he or she ultimately makes it to the White House, it’s going to be on the strength and support of black women. The time to start reaching out to them is now.

The writer, a member (D-Md.) of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2008 to 2017, is a Post contributing columnist.

Indomitable: African American artists in ‘On Their Own Terms’ at UA Little Rock

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click to enlarge Amy Sherald's "Wellfare Queen." 2012, 54 by 43 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of Dr. Imani Perry, courtesy Monique Meloche Gallery.

  • Amy Sherald’s “Wellfare Queen.” 2012, 54 by 43 inches, oil on canvas. Collection of Dr. Imani Perry, courtesy Monique Meloche Gallery.

The New York Herald writer who said in an article in 1867 that African Americans could not produce art was ignorant of the work of such talents as Edward Bannister, Robert Scott Duncanson, Charles Ethan Porter or Henry Ossawa Tanner.

Even today, African-American artists are underrepresented in the collections of major American museums: An analysis by artnet news published in September found that museum acquisitions of African-American art is less than 3 percent of total purchases. Decades after Bannister, who, fired up over the Herald article, won a spot in an important Philadelphia exhibition, there were museums that still turned blacks away at the door. (Philadelphia exhibitors almost removed the Bannister work when they discovered he was black.)

UA Little Rock is, once again, proving the folly of ignoring African-American art, with the exhibition “On Their Own Terms,” which opened Jan. 17 at UA Little Rock’s Windgate Center of Art and Design.

UA Little Rock gallery director Brad Cushman pulled together 50 works by some of America’s finest black artists — including Bannister, Duncanson, Porter and Tanner — for a show that celebrates the work of fine artists who share an affinity born of life experience.
“On Their Own Terms” is not an investigation into whether there is such a thing as “black art.” That’s a question for philosophers. Black culture and racism is, understandably, central to these modern and contemporary works, as issues of social justice have always found expression in art.

Cushman created “On Their Own Terms” with work from 13 collections, both public and private. The Arkansas Arts Center contributed 16 works, including a graphite work of a drawn and beleaguered woman by the great Elizabeth Catlett, a charcoal portrait of a 19th century figure drawn on a circle of wood by contemporary artist Whitfield Lovell and a tall quilted portrait in pieced indigo denim by Bisa Butler. Darrell and Linda Walker contributed six works; six others are from UA Little Rock’s permanent collection.

The show includes paintings, prints, mixed media works and sculpture. Besides the historical paintings are modern works, including a jazzy expressionist collage by Benny Andrews and serigraph of musicians by Romare Bearden; and contemporary works, such as two large, forceful portraits of steely-gazed men by Alfred Conteh; an amusing crayon and charcoal portrait by African-American identity commentator Kerry James Marshall; a book of silhouettes by narrative artist Kara Walker; a large oil stick drawing of a woman, absent her head, in 19th century garb by Whitfield Lovell; an ironic painting of crowned woman by Michelle Obama portraitist Amy Sherald; and quilt artist Bisa Butler, as well as other stars in the firmament of black American artists.

The Arkansans in the show — retired UA Little Rock instructors Aj Smith, Marjorie Williams-Smith and David Clemons; Justin Bryant of Little Rock and former UA Little Rock instructor Delita Martin (who lives in Texas but is claimed by Arkansas) — hold their own with nationally lauded artists.

In 2009, the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School, Cushman put on the exhibition “Taking Possession,” a show that highlighted black contemporary art by satirical painter Robert Colescott, sound-suit maker Nick Cave, mixed media sculptor Faith Ringgold, photographer Carrie Mae Weems and others. When the show went up, Cushman got a call from Darrell Walker, the former Razorback and pro basketball player and art collector (and now UA Little Rock basketball coach). “He said, ‘You’re putting all my friends in an exhibit and we should be friends,’ ” Cushman said, and the men began an 11-year conversation about art by African Americans.

In 2017, Dr. Lynne Larson, assistant professor of art history at UA Little Rock, told Cushman she was going to teach a survey course on African-American art, and asked if he could curate an exhibition to support it. As it happened, Garbo Hearne, co-owner of Hearne Fine Art with her husband, Dr. Archie Hearne, had asked Cushman if he’d be interested in exhibiting works by Duncanson, Tanner and other early black pioneers at UA Little Rock. “I said, ‘Yes, I would,” Cushman told the Times, “but I’d like to activate that work with modern and contemporary work,’ and Garbo said, ‘Tell me more.’ ” Cushman began investigating the works held by the Arkansas Arts Center, UA Little Rock and Walker.

Along the way, Cushman went to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville to hear a talk by Amy Sherald. He introduced himself afterward and asked if the university could borrow one of her works for the show. Dropping Darrell Walker’s name didn’t hurt; now the show includes Amy Sherald’s “Wellfare Queen,” provided by a private collector from Princeton University.

Mixed media artist Delita Martin was quoted in a recent article in “Pressing Matters” as saying, “I’m very much interested in reconstructing the identity of African-American women, particularly, offering a different narrative to the stereotypes you see in media.” She contributes to the show “The Dinner Table,” an installation of portraits of Martin’s female family and friends done with china marker on plates and hung around a table. The work is undeniably a nod to white artist Judy Chicago, but it is Catlett to whom Martin feels a kinship, she told Cushman.
“On Their Own Terms” is hung to illustrate the tendrils that connect the artists. The first works on entering the main gallery are Catlett’s drawing “Newspaper Vendor”; Sherald’s “Wellfare Queen,” a large-scale painting of a woman in a tiara and purple sash; and the many portraits of women in Martin’s “Dinner Table.”

Cushman has also paired Aj Smith’s larger-than-life and amazing graphite drawing “Faces of the Delta Series: Mr. Q.T., WWII Vet,” with “Portrait of a Model,” a collage of an insouciant fellow by Benny Andrews. Both are images of men, but the greater connection is that it was Andrews who encouraged Smith to move from New York to Arkansas for a job. A third stunning mixed-media work by Alfred Conteh, “Will,” joins the male portrait lineup.

In the small gallery on the first floor, Kehinde Wiley’s “Peter Chardon Study,” a watercolor of a man against a floral field, is paired with David Clemons’ steel caged teapot sculpture “The Trees We Construct to Conceal Our Strange Fruit.” Also in the small gallery, Cushman has grouped Henry Tanner’s quiet drawing “Christ at the Home of Mary” (1905); Robert Pruitt’s in-your-face charcoal and conte crayon “Black Jesus” (2016); and folk artist Bessie Harvey’s “Whore of Babylon” (n.d.), an amalgamation of red-painted wood, glitter and beads from Cushman and husband Bobby’s own collection.

Others who contributed work from their collections are Karen and C.J. Duvall, Pamela and Anthony Vance, Karen and Kevin Cole, Aj Smith, Delita Martin, Dr. Imani Perry, Monique Meloche Gallery and Pierrette Van Cleve.

The opening reception for the exhibition is 5-7 p.m. Feb. 1. Juan Rodriguez of New York, who with Garbo Hearne loaned the many historic paintings to “On Their Own Terms,” will give a talk at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Windgate Center.

Galleries are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. The exhibition will run through March 10.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

What to know about the Ariana Grande 7 Rings controversy

It started off so well. Ariana Grande released her hit ode to her various exes, Thank U, Next, three months ago. The song was an instant hit, dominating the end of the year charts. Grande released Imagine on Dec. 14, 2018, which did well. The song was no instant hit, but it was in the United States Billboard Top 100. Her newest song 7 Rings dropped only 4 days ago, and is already massively popular, however it’s also been highly controversial. Where did Ari go wrong? Here is the hot tea on the Ariana Grande 7 Rings scandal.

Ariana Grande 7 Rings controversy explained

As soon as the song dropped, some fans argued on whether the hit song was cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, this tradition usually involved white people adopting elements of black culture, but it can be about any culture that is exploited. In the case of the Ariana Grande 7 Rings scandal, the music video promo featured Asian lettering with no obvious ties to Grande nor the song.

Many fans speculate it was done for the “aesthetic.” Buzzfeed reported that one fan tweeted it was “exploiting Japanese/East Asian culture.” Grande’s song also includes the lyric,“You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it,” which struck fans as appropriating weaves, a cultural tie specifically done by African Americans.

Black artists such as Princess Nokia, Soulja Boy and 2Chainz accused Grande that her song sounded similar to their own songs. Mine, Pretty Boy Swag and Spend it, respectively. The accusation that Grande is appropriating music from black artists is a particularly sensitive topic, given that stealing music from black artists is where the tradition of cultural appropriation started.

ariana grande 7 rings

Ariana Grande responds to 7 Rings controversy

After the backlash, Grande re-posted a screenshot on Instagram of Aminatou Sow. “You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it, white women talking about their weaves is how we’re gonna solve racism,” writes Sow. Grande interpreted this compliment as genuine, when it was perhaps meant to be sarcastic.

She later deleted her repost, which another Instagram account known as The Shade Room caught anyway. This only exacerbated the problem as many of her fans thought that Grande was inferring that a white woman would solve racism.

Ariana Grande’s apology for 7 Rings

After The Shade Room reposted her photo, Grande wrote an apology. “Hi hi,” the singer writes. “I think her intention was to be like… yay a white person disassociating the negative stariotype [sic] that is paired with the word ‘weave’… however I’m so sorry my response was out of pocket or if it came across the wrong way. Thanks for opening the conversation and like… to everyone for talking to me about it. It’s never my intention to offend anybody.” Her apology garnered different reactions from fans. Some fans thought there didn’t need to be an apology, others found the apology lackluster.

What do you think of the Ariana Grande 7 Rings controversy? Is Grande appropriating or are people overreacting? That is up to you to decide.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Black Southerners are bearing the brunt of America’s eviction epidemic

On a brisk morning in mid-December, Valencia Hicks was running late to the Fulton County, Ga., courthouse in hopes of avoiding eviction.

The 43-year-old mother had been forced out of her home the year before, a process that had uprooted her family from their apartment in East Point. At her new brick split-level, Hicks decided not to pay her $995 monthly rent because her landlord hadn’t adequately fixed broken appliances, preventing the family from enjoying affordable home-cooked meals. The landlord, in turn, filed for eviction.

Like most tenants facing eviction in Fulton County, Hicks is African-American and lacked a lawyer. She planned to tell the judge about her family’s hardships. Not only did she have a disability, reliant on government checks for rent, but she also was raising two boys who each had autism.

Without a favorable ruling, a landlord could move forward with padlocking the door and placing their items on the curb. If she was lucky, she might get her wish of celebrating Christmas there.

A long understudied facet of the American housing market, evictions have hit no area of the country harder than the South, a region home to most of the top-evicting large and mid-sized U.S. cities, according to a list released by Princeton’s Eviction Lab.

Last year Eviction Lab debuted what’s thought to be the nation’s largest eviction database, revealing that U.S. property owners had submitted at least 2.3 million eviction filings in 2016. For housing experts from Louisiana to Virginia, it provided the evidence to confirm what they long suspected: Black renters disproportionately bore the brunt of the eviction crisis.

Eviction Lab found that nine of the 10 highest-evicting large U.S. cities were not only located in the South but also had populations that were at least 30 percent black.

Moreover, the top 25 entries in its ranking of mid-sized cities – including East Point, pop. 35,000 – experienced an eviction rate at least four times higher than the national average of 2.3 percent.

“If you’ve read about the housing crisis, it seems located in New York and San Francisco, but the eviction crisis is happening in cities with a fairly low cost of living like North Charleston, South Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Matthew Desmond, a professor of sociology at Princeton and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Evicted.”

“There’s a lot of questions left unanswered, but the data allows us to see the problem in a way we’d never seen it before,” Desmond said. “That’s allowed the narrative to change in some communities.”

As some Southern legislatures kick off their 2019 sessions this month, many state lawmakers are considering a new slate of bills to curb the larger affordable housing crisis. Following the launch of Eviction Lab’s database, local advocates intend to further raise awareness of the consequences of eviction, a process that can start with a single missed rent payment.

Not only do evicted people face barriers to new housing, studies suggest evictions also are linked to worse health and educational outcomes, according to research respectively from Desmond and the Urban Institute. With evictions often clustered in lower-income black neighborhoods, entire communities can face the fallout of a churn of new neighbors that severs close-knit social networks.

This status quo is often protected and nurtured by politicians and property owners. Landlords in Mississippi routinely file for eviction as a legal way to collect rent, according to an investigation last year by Mississippi Today.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Georgia statehouse have stymied proposals to strengthen tenant rights.

From 2012 to 2016, Republican state Rep. Wendell Willard, then the chairman of the influential House Judiciary Committee, received at least $30,000 from various companies with ties to the housing industry, based on a Stateline review of campaign contributions. No bill to bolster tenant rights advanced out of his committee.

The former chairman of the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Josh McKoon, didn’t grant a hearing to a bill that would have forced landlords to fix “unsafe or unhealthy conditions” in rental units such as mold growth, pest infestation and tainted water.

McKoon says the committee under his leadership granted hearings to any lawmaker who requested one, but that lawmakers sometimes file legislation “to have a broader conversation” about an issue.

“We try to give judges a fair amount of discretion,” said Willard, who said campaign contributions had no influence on his decision-making on the issue. “I think we have a pretty good body of law in Georgia that’s been developed over many decades on dispossessory. But if something needs to be changed, we try to change it.”

Armed with data and heightened public awareness, in part thanks to Desmond’s book Evicted released two years ago, some housing advocates are pursuing changes in law with a renewed energy to decrease evictions, increase affordable housing and reduce disparities that exist for black renters in the South.

While eviction rates have spiked in states like South Carolina, according to Eviction Lab data, Georgia and Virginia have seen their rates trend downward since the Great Recession.

But if the federal government shutdown lasts much longer, housing experts fear evictions could spike nationwide because landlords who rent to low-income tenants might not be able to get rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Evictions are both a consequence of cumulative forces of poverty – and black poverty – and a cause of it,” said Dan Immergluck, an urban studies professor at Georgia State University. “Evictions hurt folks in all kinds of ways. Because evictions are concentrated in black neighborhoods, it impacts whole communities.”

Evictions are the latest in a long line of housing policies that have disproportionately harmed black Americans. Over the past century, well-documented discriminatory practices like redlining, restrictive covenants and predatory lending have denied black people the opportunity to buy homes.

Discouraged from homeownership – and the accompanying wealth-building benefits – many black people rented instead. In 2015, the African-American homeownership rate was about 42 percent, more than 20 points lower than the rate for all groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But a 2018 study found that black people are more likely to pay higher rents than white people in the same areas.

And a Cleveland State University researcher surveying rental agreement laws found that no Southern state had a suite of laws protecting tenants over landlords.

Every week, attorney Jesse McCoy sees this play out inside eviction court in Durham, N.C. The tenants, he said, are mostly black. Many make honest pleas to a judge about their life’s circumstances – which almost always lack legal standing.

McCoy thinks many of those same tenants would have legitimate grievances, from roach infestations to black mold, that might yield a favorable outcome. But without consulting counsel, he said, they rarely raise legal arguments.

“If you don’t understand rights, you can’t advocate for yourself,” said Sue Berkowitz, director of the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, an organization that helps clients in South Carolina, a state with an eviction rate of 8.9 percent, nearly four times the national average.

Housing attorneys throughout the South think that tenants facing an eviction case could have better outcomes in court if they were guaranteed the right to counsel – a right now ensured in select cities such as New York.

“An eviction – even a filing – follows you around,” said Elora Raymond, an assistant professor of city planning and real estate development at Clemson University. “If you get evictions filed against you in Georgia, and move to California, you still have that history.

“If that’s happening more in South Carolina or Georgia,” she said, referring to two states with high percentages of black residents, “and less in Montana or Colorado – there’s a racial implication.”

Virginia Poverty Law Center attorney Christine Marra said tenants who have had rental applications denied are less likely to find safe or affordable housing.

In some cases, those renters often can find housing only farther from where they lived before, potentially impacting other family issues, such as a child’s academic performance. And health care researchers have found that evictions are linked to higher rates of depression, stress and suicide.

Garland Nellom, a 51-year-old mother of three who faced eviction in New Jersey, said she moved to Georgia four years ago after her youngest son, who had asthma and an allergy to the mold she later discovered in their apartment, died. He was 11 years old. Nellom found an apartment in College Park, Georgia, for $745 a month.

Soon, she noticed problems including rodents and mold. She withheld her rent in protest – a practice that in some northeastern and western states can be done legally to force serious repairs from a neglectful landlord, but in Georgia can be grounds for eviction. Her landlord took legal action.

They ultimately settled the dispute, thanks to a lawyer Nellom had secured through the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, and she stayed. This past summer she left for good upon finding exposed wire in her laundry room, which had flooded once again. Given her spotty housing record, landlords wanted her to pay a higher security deposit, which she was unable to do living on disability.

“I was fearful I was going to die,” she said. “I had nowhere to go – nowhere. I put my name on homeless shelter lists. They were full. I had neighbors gracious enough to let me stay.”

Faced with the scope of the eviction crisis, advocates are lobbying for changes to address housing disparities throughout the South.

In North Carolina, McCoy has helped oversee Durham’s eviction diversion program, which pairs Duke law students with unrepresented tenants facing eviction.

South Carolina state Rep. Marvin Pendarvis, a Democrat from North Charleston, is pushing a bill to approve “repair and deduct,” a practice allowed in many states, in which tenants front the costs of repairs if a landlord doesn’t fix the issue, and deduct that amount from a future rent payment.

And in Virginia, which is home to some of the nation’s highest eviction rates, a coalition of lawyers, researchers and activists last year launched the Campaign to Reduce Evictions.

The group has drafted more than 30 proposed changes that would make it easier for tenants to understand the court process for evictions, increase tenant legal rights trainings, pump $20 million into the state’s housing trust fund and expand the state’s low-income housing tax credit.

In response to news reports about Virginia’s high evictions rate, National Apartment Association President Robert Pinnegar recently claimed that “misunderstandings” about evictions have unfairly cast landlords in a negative light.

“Apartment owners do not target evictions for any group or reason,” he wrote in a letter to the Washington Post. “Evictions are a last resort in the rental housing business.”

Housing advocates further recognize that changes can only be effective if they also address the shortage of affordable housing affecting many Southern cities.

Some officials have recognized the need: Atlanta Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has vowed to put $1 billion toward more affordable housing. But low-income housing developers say additional funds or tax credits are needed to build new units.

Policies like inclusionary zoning – requiring developers to make a fixed percentage of rental units affordable in new developments – have received a mixed reception across the South.

“Don’t just build new affordable housing,” Immergluck said. “States and localities need to think about creating their own voucher program that might focus on particular populations like families with kids. I don’t see Southern states funding a permanent voucher program. Maybe it’s short term.”

Short of a universal housing voucher program, something that Desmond has called for, the Princeton professor thinks states could reduce evictions by making smaller policy changes, such as providing additional legal support, wraparound services, short-term financial assistance or better record keeping.

“We might have a referendum on housing in 2020 – and we haven’t had that in a long time,” Desmond said. “I do think we’re in a moment where we could ask for something ambitious.”

Until tenant rights and affordable housing supplies improve, many experts say black Southerners like Hicks will remain vulnerable to eviction. Hicks showed up over 30 minutes late to her Dec. 18 court date. Weary and worried, she said she experienced more traffic than usual.

In a letter to the judge, Hicks explained that she hadn’t slept well because one of her autistic sons had tried to open the upstairs windows of their house late that night. But the judge, offering no explanation, denied Hicks’ request to stay longer in her brick split-level.

According to court records, Hicks’ landlord could have filed for a writ of possession immediately to regain possession of the house. So Hicks called apartment complexes and family members hours away in case she needed to relocate fast.

She desperately wanted a place nearby to keep her boys in the same special-needs program at Banneker High School. But no one she called had immediate availability. She felt disheartened.

“Evictions shouldn’t hurt you after the eviction,” she said. “The laws are more for the landlords and rental companies than the tenants. It’s hurting people. It’s hurting us.”

The day after New Year’s, Hicks was finishing up packing her house, thankful the county marshals hadn’t yet been called to place her possessions on the curb. Her landlord had let her stay through the holidays, but wanted her out in just a few days’ time. She didn’t know where her family would go next. But one thing was certain: She couldn’t stay there.

At Sharpton event, Gillibrand pledges to ‘amplify your voices’

Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, left, speaks during an event celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at the National Action Network NAN’s House of Justice auditorium in New York, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. As Americans commemorated Martin Luther King Jr., Democratic presidential hopefuls fanned out across the country to honor the civil rights leader and make themselves heard on the national stage. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki) | AP Photo

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, speaking Monday at the National Action Network’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, tested some of the themes of her 2020 presidential campaign, pledging solidarity with her predominately African-American audience.

“White women like me must … commit to amplify your voices,” Gillibrand said. “We have to join you on the battlefield for justice for all.”

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Gillibrand focused on the need to address institutional racism and highlighted her Catholic faith and her experience as a mother.

“As a person of deep faith who has been called to public service, I look at Dr. King for inspiration, because his call to action was personal,” she said, adding that “as a person of faith and as a mother, I cannot sit idly by. I will fight for your children as hard as I will fight for my own.”

Gillibrand has been a regular at the event since she became the presumptive replacement for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat a decade ago. It always attracts a star-studded political crowd, which this year included former Mayor David Dinkins, current Mayor Bill de Blasio and five members of Congress.

“One thing I’ve learned is don’t underestimate her,” said the event’s host, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who referred to Gillibrand as “the junior senator and senior candidate for president.”

Her remarks were light on policy specifics, but she referenced universal health care, criminal justice reform and voting reform and the need to push back against the influence of special interests on lawmakers who “write legislation in the dead of night.”

Gillibrand assailed her fellow New Yorker, President Donald Trump. She said he “has chosen to tear this country apart.”

“He has added fuel to a very ugly fire,” she said.

She quoted from a letter from St. Paul to the Ephesians, imploring those assembled to put on “the full armor of God” and “the belt of truth” before preparing for a struggle.

“I feel very called to do what is right, and to fight,” she said.

In freezing cold, marchers find warmth through King’s message

The Woodland Tigers dance team stayed warm with an energetic dance routine performed along the route of the District’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade, now in its 13th year. Held in Southeast Washington along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the annual event is the largest and longest running official Martin Luther King, Jr. event in the nation’s capital. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
January 21 at 6:09 PM


The words were knitted into the men’s black and gold ski hats as they gathered in Anacostia Monday, waiting to join the floats, dancers, and marchers in the Martin Luther King, Jr. peace walk and parade.

It was a fitting slogan for a 21-degree day whose windchill made it feel like 4 degrees. But the phrase, coined by founders of the 113-year-old Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity (which counts King as a member), meant much more.

“We’ll fight till hell freezes over, and then we’ll fight on ice,” said Keithlyn Warner, 55, vice president of one of the District’s three chapters and a regular parade participant. “We use ice as a metaphor for the things that ail our communities that we have to break through — economic, social, educational. We just adopted it and adapted it into our activism.”

Activism was on the minds of many who braved the cold for the 13th annual parade down Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Participants included D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), members of the D.C. Council, the Ballou Sr. High School marching band, and cheerleader groups and nonprofit organizations.

Some jammed inside the storefront of Check It, a social enterprise organization. They wrapped their hands around cups of hot cocoa and tea, or dipped into a box of hand and foot warmers. Young cheerleaders with sparkly headgear and thin coats got a pep talk from an adult: another cheer group was out there dancing, “So you can do it too.”

While elements of King’s dream had been accomplished, participants said, much remained to be done.

Eric Weaver, 49, hoped to raise awareness about the violence still plaguing the streets a half a century after King’s assassination. “Everything he stood for was to be peaceful,” said Weaver, who spent 22 years in prison and is founder and chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens. “There has been some progress, but in terms of unity I think he’d be disappointed. We don’t come together as we should.”

Along the parade route holding a protest sign is Max Rameau, a Haitian born Pan-African theorist and local activist. The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade is now in its 13th year. The parade featured dozens of schools, community and government organizations, marching bands, dance troupes, bikers and walkers. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Parade participants make their way up Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. during the annual parade. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

The Rev. Claudia Harrison of Angels of Hope Ministries planned for the cold weather and wore her warmest coat to the parade today. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

It was Ray Martin’s first time at the parade. After retiring from a career in international development, the 78-year-old McLean resident had turned to helping his own country fight poverty. He was there with the non-profit Poor People’s Campaign.

“Me as an American, as a Christian, I feel like we have to be giving a lot more attention to the economic disparities in this country, and one of the things I can do for this is to show up, be present,” he said.

Noting that King had turned his attention to poverty before he died, Martin said, “The issues he was addressing were the issues that humankind has grappled with for millennia … All of us, white and black, we have to speak out and demonstrate by our words and our actions that we’re not going to let our country slip back to the ugliness of the past – and I’m willing to freeze my ears and fingers for that.”

The parade was smaller than usual, with some participants canceling because of the frigid temperatures. But turnout was “a good amount for the amount of cold,” said Ron Moten, program director at Check It. He stood atop a float as the band Sugarbear E.U. played, even as their trumpet and trombone froze.

Elsewhere around the region, other events celebrated the holiday. At the Bethesda North Marriott, music pulsed, and volunteers gathered around tables piled high with toothbrushes and socks for the homeless. Lines snaked through a ballroom as people waited to pack food for those in need or snip fleece into warm blankets for a hospice program.

Judy Taylor, 61, of Silver Spring, recalled attending segregated schools in southern Virginia, and signing petitions as a teenager to make King’s birthday a federal holiday.

She said she had taken a day off every year to volunteer in honor of King — even before the holiday was established in 1983.

“A whole lot of folks gave a whole lot so I could be here,” she said. “If you forget where you came from, you go back.”

Taylor Mitchell, senior impact manager with City Year, helps distribute paint during the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington, DC. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

From left, Ballou student Ayisha Lee, Ron Brown student Dominic Paris and Isha Lee, special initiatives director for Serve, DC, in the D.C. mayor’s office on volunteerism, paint columns in a hallway. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Tai-Lyn Parboosingh, left, and Franky Acevedo, help to paint a mural on the school hallway. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Carolyn Chung and Kris Poedjosoedarmo, of Rockville, crouched on the floor around the beginnings of an orange and blue fleece blanket with their 8-year-old son, Jay.

It was their first time volunteering as a family, Chung said — and it was rewarding, even if the crush of people was somewhat claustrophobia-inducing.

“We wanted to show Jay what it means to give something, whether it’s time or money or both,” Poedjosoedarmo said.

Chanelle Houston, of Silver Spring, was filling boxes of food for Manna Food Center, a food bank in Montgomery County. “We live in a very affluent, well-off county in Maryland, but there are a lot of neighbors in need still,” she said. “Martin Luther King stood for service and leadership and always doing for others.”

Back in Anacostia, the Alpha Phi Alpha men talked about their work promoting health care, voters’ rights, and education. Warner said he thought King would have mixed emotions if he could see America now.

“We’ve made a lot of strides … but I think he’d be disappointed in what’s going on today. Like the shutdown — I think it trickles down into African-American communities harder than other communities.”

Outside, a group of go-go dancers in black unitards and jazz shoes shimmied by, sockless. “They’ve got to be freezing,” Warner said. “I’m just looking at the weather outside and what they’ve got on, that’s all I’m saying.”

Christopher Drayton, 56, the chapter’s president, laughed. “Our brother Martin Luther King should have been born in April, or something like that.”

Is a Prophet Like MLK Possible Today?

How would a latter-day Martin Luther King be received in today’s America? Photo: Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

On the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday of 2019, it is entirely possible to look back on King’s courage and self-sacrifice as inspirations in especially difficult times. But it’s not as easy to imagine that a miracle like the civil rights movement can recur in the Trump Era.

For those who think of what King and his contemporaries achieved as inevitable and overdue–and now universally praised by everyone this side of open white supremacists–its miraculous nature might seem overstated. But make no mistake, the civil rights movement achieved a progressive breakthrough and a national consensus on an issue–the equality of races before the law–that had divided Americans from the Republic’s very beginning. Indeed, racial equality is still controversial, as evidenced by the furies of resentment that accompanied the backlash to the country’s first African-American president and led to his startling successor.

In his newest published article, medical doctor & researcher William Matzner MD reviews colonoscopy issues

In his newest published article, medical doctor & researcher William Matzner MD reviews colonoscopy issues – African American News Today – EIN News

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Little Library anonymously donated to Ellis County African American Hall of Fame


Just a few weeks ago two gentlemen unloaded a retired Daily Light newspaper rack onto the front porch of the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame. Only it wasn’t for newspapers, nor did it have any inside.

The side of the now-white metal rack reads “Little Library” handpainted in black and it is stuffed full of books.

Dr. Jamal Rasheed, Ellis County African American Hall of Fame executive director, witnessed the men place the box on the property, give it a quick wipe down and leave. It did not dawn on him to ask who they were with because he assumed it was part of the recent collaboration with the Nicholas P. Sims Library.

Even though Rasheed has no idea who is behind the Little Library, he is grateful. “The box out there is to give the kids in the community an opportunity to share and exchange and get free books,” Rasheed explained.

Barbra Claspell, Sims Library director, said she too has no idea where the box came from or who installed it. She assumed it was from another organization that is in the midsts of spreading small boxed libraries around town.

About 20 books for a variety of ages now sit inside the box, ready to be opened and enjoyed. Book titles include, “The Complete Guide to the 50 States,” “Ark of the Liberties,” and “The Rose-bush of a Thousand Years,” just to name a few.

Rasheed has not received any feedback on the Little Library yet, only questions of its purpose. Rasheed said the Little Library is conveniently located near a bus stop around the corner with a significant amount of children. Rasheed will consider relocating the library to the edge of the property so passersby can have a better visual and accessibility to the box.

Claspell said the recent collaboration with Rasheed has been positive.

“We are trying to get over there and see what we can do,” Claspell elaborated. “I think we are going to get over there and do a storytime once a month in January hopefully. We have a lot going on right now, and we are just trying to reach that community as well as keep it going.”

“It is going to help bring the community that we are identifying with to the resources and things that are available at Sims Library,” Rasheed reconciled.

Children reading sessions will be held at the museum, and the annual MLK oratory contest will take place in the Lyceum later this year.

Through the partnership with the library and the museum, the two directors want to encourage more of the Black community to utilize the library as well as bring resources from the library to the museum.

Rasheed is currently working with Nicole Matthews, programming and outreach coordinator for the library, on establishing a section in the library dedicated to Black authors and books about Black history. Rasheed pointed out this could be a universal spot for Black history.

Through a long-term collaboration, a dream of Rasheed’s is for the Sims Library to have the “largest collection of books for and by African Americans in Ellis County.”

“That, in essence, is my goal. To bridge — like I’ve always been trying to do — the current east side of the community to the rest of Waxahachie,” Rasheed affirmed.

The Little Library is available for anyone to utilize or donate books to and is located in front of the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame at 441 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Waxahachie.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450