America, a year after Trump came to power

America, a year later – STATE – CNN Politics<!– –>

America, a year later

The divided era of politics didn’t start with Trump’s victory. But it has gotten worse under his presidency.


November 2017

One Election Night a year ago didn’t get us to this place.

Long before Donald Trump upset Hillary Clinton for the presidency last year, the nation was facing steadily rising social and political tensions rooted in diverging reactions to the relentless economic, demographic and cultural changes reshaping American life. But the bruising 2016 race between Trump and Clinton widened these divisions to a new extreme. In the starkly contrasting pattern of support each candidate inspired, the election functioned something like a bolt of lighting on a starless night: It illuminated, with sudden starkness, a political landscape deeply fractured along lines of race, generation, class and geography.

One tumultuous year later, and one year before the 2018 midterm election, those fissures look only more imposing.

Far from seeking to bridge these divides, Trump, as both candidate and president, has repeatedly demonstrated he believes it benefits him to widen them. Trump’s willingness, even eagerness, to push at the most volatile fault lines in American life, from race to religion to gender, has created an explosive new reality. The underlying changes remaking America are so disruptive that this would be a tense period no matter who held the highest positions of political leadership. But confronting those changes with a President whose bottomless appetite for both cultural confrontation and personal feuds adds layers of volatility.

“Trump is something of an arsonist: He seems to take delight in burning down rather than building up.”

“What is qualitatively different about Trump than anybody else who came before him is he’s willing, and seems to delight, in lighting the tinder and creating a conflagration, whereas others tried at least now and then to dampen the tinder and to keep the conflagration from happening,” says Peter Wehner, the director of strategic initiatives in the George W. Bush White House. “No one did it perfectly and of course, within a certain range, politicians will get into fights that are to their advantage. What’s really different is Trump is something of an arsonist: He seems to take delight in burning down rather than building up.”

The intensity of emotion Trump has inspired, among supporters and opponents alike, has unleashed destabilizing pressures in both parties and opened a gulf between the places where he is revered and reviled. Trump has riveted many voters in the parts of America, primarily outside of the largest cities, that feel most eclipsed by growing racial and religious diversity and the evolution toward a more globalized and post-industrial economy that relies less on fossil fuels. But he has outraged, even terrified, many voters in the mostly urbanized parts of America that welcome all of those trends.

Each side appears increasingly uncomprehending of the other – and increasingly dubious that it’s possible, or even desirable, to bridge their differences. It is into this pool of combustible tensions that Trump, on issues from whether National Football League players should kneel for the national anthem to whether the Charlottesville protests contained “very fine people” on each side, is routinely dropping matches. “The combination of these underlying factors and Trump’s emotional and psychological state,” says Wehner, “is pretty explosive.” The explosions Trump detonates almost daily have thrust Washington into perpetual turmoil — and promise the same for the 2018 midterm elections that will offer voters their first broad chance to render a verdict on his tumultuous presidency.

The fuel Trump plays with has been gathering for some time.

At the core of America’s modern political divide is a convergence of propulsive changes in demography, culture and the economy. “There’s a lot of things hitting the country at once,” says Robert P. Jones, president of the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute.

Demographically, the nation is living through the most profound transformation since the Melting Pot era at the turn of the 20th century. Almost 40% of the total population is now non-white, roughly double the share in 1980. Among the young, the change is even more accelerated. Kids of color represent about half of all Americans 10 and younger, and since 2014, they have constituted a majority of all K-12 public school students nationwide. William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, has calculated that from 2000 to 2014, not only did whites decline as a share of the under 18 population in 46 of the 50 states – but so did the absolute number of white kids. “The 2020 census is going to show that the under 18 population is majority minority, same as the under 10 population now is, and that there is an absolute decline of white youth in the US,” Frey predicts flatly.

A majority of public school students in the United States are now nonwhite

The percentage of white public school students has shrunk from 61% at the turn of the century, and is projected to fall to just 45% in the next decade.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Department of Education

Closely related to the nation’s growing diversity is the increasing prominence of immigrants. People born abroad now constitute about 14% of all Americans. That’s the highest total since the years around World War I and nearly triple the 5% level in 1965, when Congress replaced the restrictive laws from the 1920s that had severely limited immigration for four decades. Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Institute, projects that under current law, first-generation immigrants will exceed 15% of the population by some time around 2025, breaking the previous record high reached in 1890.

The Share of 1st or 2nd generation immigrants in the United States

More than a quarter of Americans are 1st or 2nd generation immigrants, the highest levels in the United States since 1940.

Source: Pew Research Center, Edmonston and Passel, US Census

More racial diversity has contributed to another tectonic shift: Increasing religious pluralism. For almost all of American history, people who identified as both white and Christian represented a majority of the American population. Through the 1960s, about eight in 10 Americans identified as white Christians. That number had declined to only slightly less than seven-in-10 by the time of Ronald Reagan’s reelection in 1984 and still stood at nearly two-in-three when Bill Clinton won his second term in 1996.

But the steady increase in the non-white population, and a steady decline in the share of Americans who identify with any Christian faith, pushed white Christians below half of the population for the first time around 2012, according to surveys of religious preference by Pew and others. That erosion has continued unabated since: an extensive PRRI poll recently found that white Christians had fallen to just 43% of the population. Non-white Christians account for just over one-fifth of the population while Americans unaffiliated with any religious faith now represent nearly one-in-four.

White Christians no longer make up majority of American people

The share of white Christians has fallen to just four in 10 over the last decade, with dramatic drops across evangelical protestants, mainline protestants and Catholics.

Source: Pew Research Center, PRRI, General Social Survey

Partly because of these shifts in religious allegiance, the nation has experienced a rapid change in cultural mores. Fifteen years ago, same sex marriage was not legal in any state and faced opposition in polls from a significant majority of Americans; now it is legal everywhere, with support from a significant majority. Mixed race marriages have grown more common. Debates over the rights of transgender people have opened a new frontier in the cultural conversation.

And even as these demographic and cultural shifts have rolled through American life, the economy has undergone an equally wrenching restructuring. In 1965, the core blue-collar industries of manufacturing, construction and mining (including energy production) accounted for over one of every three American jobs. Now that number is less than one-in-seven and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects it will fall below one-in-eight in by 2024. Job growth today is driven much more by post-industrial occupations, like health care, education, business services and tourism. Blue-collar jobs accounted for just three of the 30 professions that the BLS recently projected would grow the fastest through 2026. Growth is also concentrating more into large metropolitan areas that are racing into the information economy and integrating into the globalized market for products, people and ideas.

Over roughly the past two decades, attitudes toward these enormous changes have become the fundamental dividing line in American politics. In both presidential and congressional races, Republicans rely on what I’ve called a “coalition of restoration” that revolves around older, blue-collar, and evangelical Christian whites, mostly outside of urban areas, who feel most uneasy about these changes. Democrats mobilize a competing “coalition of transformation” centered on minority, millennial and college-educated white voters (especially women), who are mostly clustered in major metropolitan areas and the most comfortable with the changes.

More explicitly than any other recent Republican nominee, Trump ran as a candidate of restoration. His backward-facing promise to “make America great again” soldered a powerful connection with all those who feel eclipsed by these changes. With her competing message of “stronger together,” Clinton arguably sought even more than Obama did to portray herself as the champion of the transforming urbanized America.

Trump paved a path to an electoral college victory by consolidating his core groups of older, blue-collar, and evangelical whites just slightly more than Clinton consolidated her core groups of minorities, millennials, and well-educated white women. But the brutal competition left the two sides representing coalitions that diverged far more, both geographically and demographically, than the parties did in earlier generations.

The religious divide between the parties offers one powerful example. In the new PRRI study, about three-fourths of Republicans still identify as white Christians, comparable to the nation overall in 1984. In stark contrast, only about three-in-10 Democrats now identify as white Christians. Nearly as many Democrats are unaffiliated with any religion, and just over one-third are non-white Christians. Those two groups, though, each represent only about one-in-every-nine Republicans.

The divide extended to less obvious distinctions. Trump won 26 of the 30 states where the foreign born represent the smallest share of the population. Clinton won 16 of the 20 states where they represent the highest share.

Trump won 13 of the 16 states that produce the most natural gas, 11 of the 15 that produce the most coal, and 16 of the 20 that produce the most oil. In a cumulative measure of reliance of manufacturing and resource extraction, Trump won 27 of the 32 states, almost entirely across the nation’s interior, with the highest per capita levels of the carbon dioxide emissions linked to global climate change. Clinton won 15 of the 18 states with the lowest per capita carbon emissions – most of them largely post-industrial states along the two coasts.

In all these ways and more, the two parties now glare at each other across the divide of what America has been, and what it is becoming.

“It looks like one party that is holding on to a 1950s America’s demographics and increasingly looks like a white Christian party that is going to be perpetually tempted toward nationalist parties around that identity. And then we have a Democratic Party that is following these (demographic and economic changes, and might, on the other hand, be tempted to double down on (pursuing) everyone but white Christians.”

“It looks like one party that is holding on to a 1950s America’s demographics and increasingly looks like a white Christian party that is going to be perpetually tempted toward nationalist parties around that identity,” says Jones, author of the 2016 book The End of White Christian America. “And then we have a Democratic Party that is following these (demographic and economic) changes, and might, on the other hand, be tempted to double down on (pursuing) everyone but white Christians. In a country with a two party system that is a pretty volatile mix: Race, religion and identity overlaid with partisanship.”

Just how volatile that mix can be has been explosively evident since Trump took office. Trump’s presidency has offered a precarious balancing of the unprecedented and the conventional. In style, he has been unlike any previous president, precipitating an unending succession of feuds with a rotating cast of foils and antagonists; regularly delivering false accusations that are easily disproven; and attacking the legitimacy of any institution, from the media to the courts, that he believes can resist him. Parts of his agenda have been equally unconventional, as he’s embraced policies on both immigration and trade far more insular than the GOP has endorsed before.

And yet in other ways, he has proven a much more conventional Republican than he signaled during the campaign. He’s pushed elements of the traditional evangelical social agenda on limiting access to contraception in health care or rolling back protections for transgender soldiers more enthusiastically than almost anyone expected. And after a campaign where he promised to defend government programs that could benefit his older and blue-collar white base, he’s emphatically endorsed the traditional modern Republican goals of cutting taxes, spending and regulation.

“Despite all the attacks on Republican establishment and particular Republican leaders, for the most part he’s really allowed congressional Republicans to define his agenda, especially the details of his agenda.”

“Despite all the attacks on Republican establishment and particular Republican leaders, for the most part he’s really allowed congressional Republicans to define his agenda, especially the details of his agenda,” notes Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.

Indeed, amid all the daily tumult, an informal division of responsibility within the GOP appears to be emerging. The Republican-controlled Congress and executive branch departments, like the Environmental Protection Agency, are systematically advancing the traditional GOP goals of cutting taxes, spending and regulation and funding the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Trump is provoking a procession of twitter-fueled confrontations primarily around cultural issues, many of them (from Charlottesville to the NFL to immigration) with a sharp racial edge. “This is something he is comfortable doing and it has become ritualized,” says Alan Wolfe, a retired political scientist at Boston College who has extensively studied America’s divisions. “It’s like a play and everybody knows the plot.”

The policy agenda “is not something he cares very deeply about and he’s not active in it,” adds Wehner, now a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. “There’s no energy behind it. Most of his energy seems to be directed on cultural divisions, on racial divisions and on creating a more fractious and fractured society.”

Though the strains are evident, this informal division of responsibility appears to be preventing a full-scale break between Trump and congressional Republicans, despite his frequent sniping at them. It’s less clear the GOP electoral coalition can withstand the strain.

Many Trump supporters remain convinced that he is doing exactly what they sent him to Washington to do. But compared to his vote in the 2016 election, Trump has lost support in office from both sides of his coalition: His approval rating today in surveys is consistently lower than his share of the vote last November among both blue-collar and older whites (especially women) and white-collar whites.

Yet Trump’s difficulties with upscale whites look like a greater long-term risk to him and the GOP. The danger that well-educated whites, who usually tilt Republican, will recoil from Trump’s definition of the party has been symbolized by the procession of business leaders who abandoned White House advisory councils after his widely criticized response to Charlottesville, and the unprecedented criticism he has absorbed from the three previous GOP presidential nominees (Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush), each of whom has accused him of promoting racial divisions at home and/or undermining America’s historic international role.

“I think the white working class vote is more loyal to him…and pulling off of him is harder even if the job approval drops,” says veteran Democratic pollster Stanley B. Greenberg. “Whereas the college educated voters, absent Hillary (Clinton) on the ballot, have a lot of room to cast an anti-Trump vote.”

The biggest question looming over the 2018 midterms is how these complex currents of opinion about Trump will affect the contest. In many respects, 2018 is shaping up as a classic collision between an irresistible force and an immovable object.

The irresistible force is the widespread discontent over Trump’s first year. Throughout American history, the president’s party has almost always lost House and Senate seats in the election two years after he first takes office. Indeed, the last three times a president entered a mid-term election with unified control of Congress — Bill Clinton in 1994, George W. Bush in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2010 — voters have revoked it.

Several other signals point to 2018 risk for Republicans. One is a potential intensity gap. Though Trump inspires passionate support, the share of Americans who say they strongly disapprove of his performance is consistently much larger than the share who strongly approve. And Democrats now consistently hold an average lead of about eight percentage points when voters are asked the “generic” question of which party they intend to support in the 2018 elections.

These early advantages in public opinion may prove ephemeral, but they have produced tangible benefits for Democrats. Troubles for a new president almost always encourages more retirements from House members in his party, and Republicans have faced a trickle of high-profile retirements (such as Charlie Dent, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dave Reichert and Dave Trott) that insiders fear could become a flood later this year. As is often the case when a president from the other party stumbles, Democrats have also found it easier than usual to recruit strong candidates. That’s been the case not only in the 23 GOP-held congressional districts that voted for Clinton last fall, but also in a number of places that Trump carried. And the antipathy to Trump has helped several Democratic challengers unexpectedly outpace their Republican opponents in early fund-raising.

With all of these gales blowing, even some leading Republican thinkers are bracing for a blustery mid-term. One is Tom Davis, the former Republican congressman from Northern Virginia and chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who is one of the party’s shrewdest (and most encyclopedic) strategists.

“I felt the day after the 2016 election that now that the Republicans controlled everything they were going to have a tough midterm. I still continue to feel that and I see nothing to change that.”

“I felt the day after the 2016 election that now that the Republicans controlled everything they were going to have a tough midterm,” says Davis, who is now the director of federal government affairs for Deloitte. “I still continue to feel that and I see nothing to change that. If you look at some of these state House seats (around the country) that flipped (from Republican to Democrat) in special elections this year, you are seeing what you would expect — that Democrats are juiced and Republicans are dispirited. And that’s a bad formula going into a midterm.”

Yet all of these seemingly irresistible forces threatening the GOP face an immovable object: The structural advantages Republicans enjoy in the battle for control of Congress, particularly in mid-term elections like 2018.

These start with the electoral map. Analysts across the ideological spectrum agree that Democrats need to win more than half of the total votes in House races to win a majority in the chamber. That’s partly because Democratic voters are overly concentrated in major urban centers, but mostly because Republican control of state governments after the 2010 census allowed them to gerrymander districts that favor them. Some analysts believe Democrats need to win the House popular vote by as much as eight points (roughly their current lead in the generic ballot test) to capture a majority, though others, like Abramowitz, put the number slightly lower. Whoever is right, that imbalance means that to recapture the House, Democrats will likely need to win at least some seats where Trump is more popular-potentially much more popular-than he is nationally.

Democrats face a similar structural disadvantage in the Senate because the Constitution’s allocation of two senators for every state magnifies the impact of less populated, predominantly white and culturally conservative rural states that firmly favor the GOP. This year, the imbalance is especially pronounced. Democrats are defending ten Senate seats in states that voted for Trump in 2016, mostly across the industrial and agricultural heartland, while Republicans are defending seats in only two states where Clinton ran well: Nevada (which she won) and Arizona (which she narrowly lost).

Republicans today are most optimistic about their prospects against Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Bill Nelson in Florida (if GOP Governor Rick Scott runs). But Democrats could also face competitive races in Wisconsin, Ohio, North Dakota, Montana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, all heavily blue-collar states that Trump carried. Meanwhile, beyond Arizona and Nevada, the only state that now seemingly provides Democrats any chance to win the third seat they would need to recapture a Senate majority is Tennessee, if former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen joins the race to replace retiring Republican Bob Corker. And even that would be a steep climb given the state’s underlying partisan direction.

Beyond the map, the usual composition of the midterm electorate also hurts Democrats. The party’s modern alliance of minorities, millennials, and college-educated whites is a boom and bust coalition because the first two groups are less likely to vote in the midterms than presidential elections.

Greenberg recently sounded an alarm that, despite Trump’s unpopularity, Democratic-leaning voters appear no more inclined to vote in 2018 than those who lean toward the GOP. Given Trump’s strong connection with his base, Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson says the party must plan for the possibility the GOP will not suffer the turnout slump that usually afflicts the president’s party in mid-term campaigns.

“If 2006 was energized Democrats and depressed Republicans and 2010 was energized Republicans and depressed Democrats, I’m pretty convinced 2018 will have energized Democrats, but I’m not convinced yet that it will have depressed Republicans,” Ferguson said. “So we may be in for energized vs. energized and I don’t know what that creates.”

This complex ledger of factors has divided election prognosticators. Those who take the micro approach — analyzing races district-by-district, candidate-by-candidate — are generally skeptical Democrats can win the 24 Republican seats they need to recapture the House. Democrats, for instance, are focusing intently on seven Republican held House seats in California that voted for Clinton over Trump last year. But Darry Sragow, publisher of the non-partisan California Target Book, points out that in five of those seven seats, Democrats other than Clinton have won no other races, such as state legislative contests, since the districts were drawn in 2012. “They are not easy pickings,” says Sragow, a former Democratic strategist. “Based on the historic performance of those districts, they are not likely to win most of them.” In all, the respected Charlie Cook Political Report still identifies 228 seats as either safe, likely or leaning toward the GOP.

On the other side are those who focus on the macro factors in elections. They note that wave elections often sweep out incumbents who objectively had no business losing — and they see signs that Trump’s unpopularity could be generating such a wave against Republicans. “It feels to me you may well have the potential for that kind of reaction against Trump,” says Greenberg, the Democratic pollster.

Those plotting the party’s official strategy at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are more cautious: They say swing voters still see Trump as such a singular and unconventional figure that it’s not clear they will punish House Republicans even if they have soured on the President. For that reason, Democratic candidates, in their early sparring, are mostly focusing more on linking their Republican rivals to the unpopular GOP congressional leaders than to Trump.

And yet whether Democrats buy ads tying Republican House members to Trump or not, and whether those Republicans embrace Trump or keep their distance, history suggests that attitudes toward him will cast a huge, potentially decisive, shadow over next year’s congressional election. According to media exit polls, at least 82% of voters who say they approve of the President’s performance have voted for his party’s House candidates in every midterm election since 1994 (except in 1998, when 77% did.) Over that same period, at least 82% of voters who disapproved of his performance have voted for the other party. Politicians can run from a president of their own party — but they can’t really hide any longer.

That dynamic underscores what may be the safest prediction for 2018. Whether or not Democrats win the 24 seats they need to recapture the House, or, less likely, find the three they need to retake the Senate, the election seems probable to further the parties’ demographic and geographic separation.

In the House, the Democrats’ best prospects are the 23 GOP members in districts that Clinton carried over Trump; about three-fourths of those seats are crowded with the kind of college-educated professionals uneasy about the president. Even in a bad overall environment, Republicans in turn could post some further gains in the 12 Democratic-held House seats that Trump carried — most of them largely blue-collar districts outside of urban areas. Similarly, the Senate results could continue the Republican advance in predominantly white, blue-collar and older Rustbelt states (like Missouri and Indiana) while marking further Democratic progress in diversifying and younger Sunbelt states including Nevada and Arizona.

In that way, the 2018 election could further the partition of America into distinct spheres of influence. And that would only intensify the polarization swirling around a tumultuous president whose actions — and the counter-reactions they provoke — harden that separation every day.

“These things reinforce each other,” says Wolfe. “Trump’s actions will cause more protests from African-Americans and minorities, which will then fuel Trump. It is a hard, negative vicious cycle to break. I think we are going to long for the old culture war, because you could find some kind of compromises there. Everybody said you could never resolve abortion. But we in fact did. I don’t see how you reach a compromise about this level of anger and resentment.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the percentage of white Christians in the United States.

Illustration by Lucie Birant

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Obama library heightens debate over promise and peril of development

Seven years ago, Jeanette Taylor moved from the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Bronzeville three miles south to Woodlawn. Her Bronzeville unit was going to be rehabbed, the rent tripling. She needed a more affordable neighborhood.

Now Taylor fears her family may be uprooted again. In 2021, the Obama Presidential Center, an estimated $500 million library campus devoted to the 44th president, is slated to open in nearby Jackson Park, a stroll from Lake Michigan.

“The minute they announced the Obama Library was coming here, I was like, ‘What am I going to do?’” says Taylor, whose fears about the economic impact of the center are echoed by others in Woodlawn.

The angst over a library celebrating the nation’s first black president may seem puzzling to people who don’t live in Chicago. After all, the city—and the South Side, in particular—is very much Obama country. In 1985, a young Barack Obama arrived in the city as a community organizer. Michelle Obama grew up in a South Side neighborhood. The OPC is anticipated to bring a major jolt of investment to that part of the city: According to the Obama Foundation, the center will have a $339 million economic impact during construction, and $177 million annually from the three-building campus once it opens.

But as the project advances, fear of gentrification in a community that is already uneasy about an encroaching University of Chicago to the north has ignited a debate among residents and others about the benefits of the center to Woodlawn. Will it be the villain in another tale of dislocation and gentrification?  Or will it be a national model for how residents can play a significant part in developing a center that welcomes innovative businesses and improves the lives of its neighbors?

The OPC, whose plans were first revealed in May, is the first such presidential library to be sited in an urban, predominantly black neighborhood, increasing the stakes both for the community and the former president. The center will occupy the northwest section of the 543-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Besides the library itself, which will house a digital archive of Obama’s non-classified records, the center will include a museum, meeting spaces, restaurants and a garden.

Obama and his advisers stress its importance as a much-needed catalyst for community renewal. Woodlawn’s population is now at about 24,150, according to a 2015 Census snapshot by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. While that’s a daunting drop (in 1960 the area held 81,279 residents, according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago), there have been recent signs that the community is rebounding, no doubt in part due to the upcoming library. The real estate website Redfin picked Woodlawn as the city’s second-hottest neighborhood for 2017.

The debate over the center has revealed sometimes-conflicting hopes for a pocket of the city that is still shedding the residue of disinvestment, racism and poverty.

For Taylor, education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, it’s important to take a stand against displacement of black residents. For activists like Naomi Davis, it could be the last chance to build a walkable village for African-Americans, reminiscent of the Queens, New York neighborhood where she was raised. For academics like Janet Smith, it’s vital to make the center accountable through a community benefits agreement. And for longtime neighborhood power brokers such as the Rev. Byron Brazier of Apostolic Church of God and the Rev. Leon Finney Jr., founder of the Woodlawn Community Development Corp., it’s an opportunity to provide wisdom gleaned from years of efforts  to revitalize their neighborhood.

Uneasy neighbors: Woodlawn and the University of Chicago

Photo by Marc Monaghan

Obama Library South Side CBA Coalition members camp out on the sidewalk outside Hyatt Regency McCormick Place on Sept. 13, 2017. The Obama Foundation was having a public meeting there the following day.

Taylor is part of a task force pushing for a community benefits agreement (CBA), a legal document that guarantees neighborhood involvement in development projects. Such agreements have worked successfully in urban neighborhoods from Los Angeles to New York City. One recent example: In 2008, the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team built an arena in the Hill District, a neighborhood that was once the city’s black cultural center. The CBA for the project defined wage requirements and required developers to commit to $8.3 million in neighborhood improvements, including a grocery store and youth center.

But the Obama Foundation is opposed to a CBA. In previous public comments, the former president said that a community benefits agreement can be a “useful tool” when for-profit developers are involved, but maintained that, as a nonprofit, “We are bringing money to the community.” Instead, his foundation recently announced a search for a “diversity consultant” to enforce minority contracting and hiring.

Taylor casts a jaundiced eye at the prominent players in the presidential center saga, particularly the University of Chicago, which will run programs with it. “How many times have we been played about everything that comes to this community that’s supposed to be for us, that’s not supposed to push us out?” says Taylor, who attend Mollison Elementary School in Bronzeville.

Photo by Max Herman

Woodlawn resident and Kenwood Oakland Community Organization organizer Jeanette Taylor fears that the Obama Presidential Center will stir gentrification in her neighborhood.

The Obamas have considerable history with the University of Chicago. They own a home in Kenwood, a neighborhood of elegant mansions and low-rise apartment buildings just north of the university where Obama taught constitutional law for almost a decade before he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Michelle Obama joined the university’s medical center staff in 2002. She was vice-president for community and external affairs when she resigned in 2009, shortly before her husband’s inauguration.

But the university’s reputation among South Side communities is decidedly mixed. In “Making the Second Ghetto,” historian Arnold R. Hirsch documents the university’s support of restrictive covenants, designed to limit the number of blacks living near it. Hirsch and other researchers unearthed previous university efforts to keep development inside its Hyde Park boundaries, while economic life was sucked from adjacent Woodlawn.

“There’s been a long history of people from Woodlawn not trusting the University of Chicago,” says Dominic Pacyga, urban historian and retired professor from Columbia College Chicago. “The university was the boogeyman.”

In an email, University of Chicago spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus didn’t directly address the university’s history with Woodlawn or its position on a CBA, but touted the university’s support for affordable housing and economic development through its Office of Civic Engagement and work with groups such as the nonprofit developer Preservation of Affordable Housing. The UChicago Local initiative also works to match area business owners with contracts at the university and its medical center and unemployed and underemployed South Side residents with jobs.

The university was also criticized by neighbors to the north. In 2003, Bronzeville residents accused the university of “stealing” the famed Checkerboard Lounge, once owned by blues legend Buddy Guy and frequented by the likes of Junior Wells and Muddy Waters. At the time, university officials said they were trying to preserve blues on the South Side by offering the club space in Hyde Park. The club closed permanently in 2015. While the university’s intentions can be debated, some saw this incident as another example of its heavy hand in attempting to control the culture and future of the area.

The other finalist for the Obama Center, Washington Park, sits on the western edge of the university’s campus. City planners looked at it as part of its bid for the 2016 Olympics, ultimately awarded to Brazil.

“If I was Obama, I would have picked Washington Park,” said Pacyga, who lives on the South Side. “You have the El there and you’re closer to the Dan Ryan [Expressway]. He speculated that the university’s input may have pulled the project to Jackson Park. “It might have been a more ideal spot because it’s under their control.”

Getting promises in writing 

Photo by José Alejandro Córcoles

Activist Naomi Davis stands in Jackson Park, the future site of the Obama Presidential Center, which she sees as a chance to develop the neighborhood into a walkable village.

In 2010, lawyer and community organizer Naomi Davis moved to Woodlawn with her organization, Blacks in Green, or BIG. It gained influence and publicity by ensuring Englewood residents were fairly compensated when Norfolk Southern Railway expanded it rail yard station; helping to develop green landscaping for Chicago Housing Authority properties and creating a map of West Woodlawn properties that were vacant, for sale or targeted for demolition.

“I was looking for a neighborhood like the one I grew up in,” she said, describing her motivation to start BIG. She loves the idea of villages within a city and realized that African-American communities “where you could walk to work, walk to shop, walk to learn, walk to play, had gone extinct in my lifetime.”

She is focused on preserving and re-energizing Woodlawn, determined that it not go the way of other Great Migration legacy communities such as Harlem that experienced major gentrification.

During the summer, when Davis was not in one of the many community gardens in her neighborhood, she could be found at meetings for a community benefits agreement. The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Southside Together Organizing for Power, Bronzeville Regional Collective, Prayer and Action Collective and the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, also support a CBA. Recently, two large union locals joined the coalition, the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees International Union Health Care Illinois/Indiana.

For Davis, the logic behind a CBA is simple: “If we don’t have a system for recording what people promised, holding them to account for it, then what if they don’t do what they said they were going to do?”

A firm, specific jobs commitment is crucial, according to Janet Smith, co-director and associate professor at the Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“You put in writing a percentage, so that it’s fair to everyone,” Smith elaborated. “You not only get people employed, but you think even further back.”

“What are they doing now to make sure that people in the community can even get employed?” she asks, adding that job training should be preparing workers for positions building and staffing the center.

An economic assessment by the Obama Foundation predicted the presidential center will generate close to 5,000 jobs during construction and about 2,500 jobs after the center opens. The assessment projects an economic impact of $3.1 billion from construction through the center’s first decade.

Smith, a consultant to the CBA network, said residents are smart to be leary of the University of Chicago and the city as watchdogs for neighborhood priorities. In addition to employment and education, she advocates exploring other economic mechanisms in a CBA, including rent stabilization and property tax relief so longtime homeowners don’t get hit with soaring bills as housing values rise.

A project as large as this one raises moral as well as economic questions, she said.

“If it happens in such a way that my taxes go up or my rent goes up and I can’t afford to stay,” Smith said, “then that’s wrong.”

Two views on community benefits agreements

Photo by Max Herman

Longtime Woodlawn resident William Hill is concerned that the effects of the Obama Presidential Center but isn’t sure that a community benefits agreement is the solution.

Artist William Hill lives in the house where he grew up with his parents and grandparents, down the street from Brazier’s Apostolic Church. He is not so sure a CBA is a good idea, even though he shares  advocates concerns about gentrification and displacement. He said some CBA proponents have brought a bitter and divisive tone to his community.

Hill is active in 1Woodlawn, an outgrowth of organizing work at Apostolic Church, which Brazier took over the 18,000-member church from his legendary father, Bishop Arthur M. Brazier, in 2008.

“Woodlawn was creating its own plan before the [Obama] library got here,” Brazier said.

He is quick to note that the church’s efforts in the area have deeper roots than those of some CBA advocates. But the congregation is also geographically dispersed now.

Brazier cites two initiatives to redevelop the community—the Network of Woodlawn, a community development collaborative that started in 2012, and 1Woodlawn, launched in 2015. Both focus on safety, education, and health issues, and both could be used to push for neighborhood priorities in future development.

He advocates using neighborhood power to negotiate with developers, including the University of Chicago. The community’s clout could be used to push for property tax and rent relief, similar to the objectives of CBA proponents, he added.

“The Obama Library is not a developer,” he said. “They’re not going to build one commercial strip. They’re not going to rehab or change one building. They’re not going to do anything (outside the library’s boundaries).”

So while a CBA is being planned and negotiated, he said, “the [alderman] is meeting with real developers.”

Davis contends that the stakes for Woodlawn and other communities in the Obama Presidential Center district are so high that nothing less than a CBA should be accepted. “We know that we want family-supporting wages, that we want these vendor contracts, that we want parity in public investment dollars, that we want ownership of the land,” she said.

The most recent entry into this crowded field of community engagement players is a still-unnamed nonprofit that started last spring with $250,000 from the Chicago Community Trust, a local foundation that also helped fund 1Woodlawn. Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a basketball pal of Obama, and Sherman Wright, managing partner of marketing communication and advertising firm Ten 35, are co-chairs of this 25-person entity, which is designed to ensure the struggling communities surrounding the center benefit from new investments. Some neighborhood activists, however, see it as an attempt to placate them, or even silence their voices.

Davis is also a member of this new committee, chosen by the Obama Foundation, the University of Chicago, the Obama Presidential Center and other stakeholders. She says she’s well aware of community champions who have been co-opted elsewhere—and she vows that she will not waver from her commitment to a CBA.

“They understood what they were getting.”

Suburbs Rebel Against Trump, Threatening Republicans in Congress

In Washington State, Democrats won a special election to take control of the State Senate, establishing total Democratic dominance of government on the West Coast. Democrats took council seats in vote-rich Delaware County, in the Philadelphia suburbs, a perennial battleground for control of the House.

Even in the Deep South, Georgia Democrats captured two state House seats where they previously had not even fielded candidates while snatching a State Senate seat in Buckhead, Atlanta’s toniest enclave.

“Republicans are being obliterated in the suburbs,” said Chris Vance, a former chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. “I don’t think the Republican Party has a future in any state like Washington or Virginia, or Oregon or California, or many other places, where the majority of the voters are from urban or suburban areas.”

Mr. Vance placed the blame squarely on Mr. Trump: “Among college-educated suburbanites, he is a pariah.” In Washington, D.C., congressional Republicans braced for a new wave of retirements just one day after another pair of House members, veteran Representative Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey and Representative Ted Poe of Texas, declared they would not seek re-election. Mr. Dent, channeling the exasperation of his colleagues, suggested an exodus might be imminent.

“Our guys know they’re going to be running into a fierce storm,” said Mr. Dent, a leader of his caucus’s moderate wing who has already announced he will not run again. “Do they really want to go through another year of this?”

Even in the White House, where Mr. Trump’s first reaction was to savage Ed Gillespie, the party’s defeated gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, two advisers acknowledged on Wednesday morning that Mr. Trump was likely to help drive Democratic turnout next year in much the same way his predecessor, Barack Obama, did for conservative voters during midterm elections.

But by Wednesday afternoon, the story had changed. At a White House briefing, aides dismissed the importance of New Jersey and Virginia in either 2018 or 2020. One White House official blamed congressional Republicans, asserting that swing voters last night embraced Democrats because they were frustrated that lawmakers had not moved on the president’s agenda.

In fact, some of the most competitive House races of the 2018 midterms will take place in the two states. In New Jersey, Republicans will struggle to retain Mr. LoBiondo’s seat and will have to protect such imperiled incumbents as Leonard Lance, Tom MacArthur and Rodney Felinghuysen. In Virginia, the district of Representative Barbara Comstock, a Republican, went 56 percent to 43 percent for Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, the Democrats’ triumphant gubernatorial candidate. Mr. Northam also captured 51 percent of the votes in the district of Representative Scott Taylor, a freshman Republican from Virginia Beach.

Democrats were as buoyant as Republicans were dejected. Party leaders gleefully predicted that the Senate, where the Republicans hold a two-seat majority, might now be in play, and they said that their fund-raising and candidate recruitment would take off going into the new year.


Supporters cheered for Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam after he was elected governor of Virginia at his election night party in Fairfax on Tuesday. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

“We’ll get a lot of candidates who are going to want to run, and I think for donors who have been on the sidelines, dispirited for the last year, I’m telling you people are jazzed up,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, the ever-upbeat former national Democratic Party chair.

Democrats still face formidable obstacles in the 2018 election, including some not at work in this week’s elections. If a suburban insurrection might help Democrats take the House, the Senate seats at stake next year are overwhelmingly in conservative, rural states, where feelings about Mr. Trump range from ambivalent to positive. So far, only two Republican Senate seats appear in play, the Arizona seat being vacated by Jeff Flake and Dean Heller’s seat in Nevada.

In House races, Democratic candidates are likely to face Republican attacks tying them to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the unpopular Democratic minority leader, and a range of liberal policies, like single-payer health care, that are causing divisions in the Democratic ranks.

But to many Democrats and, much to their consternation, some Republicans, the results recalled the last time a radioactive Republican was in the White House and voters took out their frustrations on a Republican-held Congress. In 2005, Democrats rolled to victory in Virginia and New Jersey, presaging a wave election in 2006, and inspiring throngs of Democrats to run for office in difficult districts.

Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he had spent Tuesday evening calling potential House candidates and urging them to watch the returns, joking: “I just want to encourage you to turn on the television, if it’s not already on.”

Mr. Luján said the results would embolden Democrats to contest an ambitious list of races in 2018. The party has already been pursuing more than a dozen seats across the states that voted on Tuesday night, including some that overlap heavily with areas in Virginia and New Jersey where Democrats won by landslide margins.

“Democrats down there were very aggressive about expanding their map and recruiting strong candidates, even where they were told they couldn’t win,” Mr. Luján said of Virginia. “We’re going to make our Republican colleagues fight for every inch.”

At the Senate level, too, Democrats are seeking to expand the map. Mindful of their narrow path to a majority, they are strenuously wooing Phil Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor, to run for the seat that Senator Bob Corker is vacating. Mr. Bredesen has been courted personally by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, as well as several former governors who now serve in the Senate, including Mark Warner of Virginia, according to Democrats briefed on the overtures. And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee commissioned a poll aimed at coaxing him into the race.

Mr. Bredesen is in Washington this week for meetings and is said to be nearing a decision.

Democrats won on Tuesday with a historically diverse slate of candidates: Having long struggled to bring diversity to the leadership tier of their party, they elected the first transgender legislator in the country, the first Vietnamese-American legislator in Virginia, the first African-American female mayor of Charlotte, N.C., and the first black statewide officer in Virginia in more than a quarter-century, among other groundbreaking candidates.

Kathy Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant who was elected to the House of Delegates in a Fairfax-based seat that Republicans previously held, said voters in her district had mobilized to rebuke Mr. Trump and his brand of politics. She urged national Democrats to follow Virginia’s example by recruiting candidates from a range of backgrounds for the midterm campaign.

“This was a clear rejection of racism and bigotry and hateful violence,” Ms. Tran said of the elections, adding: “People are hungry for a government that reflects the diversity of our communities.”

County-level results captured the dizzying scale of the lurch away from Republicans: In Virginia, Mr. Northam captured the outer Washington suburbs of Prince William and Loudoun County by 20 percentage points or more. Four years earlier, Governor McAuliffe, a fellow Democrat, won both areas by single digits. In the traditional Republican stronghold of Chesterfield County, outside Richmond, Mr. Northam trailed Republican Mr. Gillespie, by less than 300 votes. And in Virginia Beach, which Mr. Trump even carried while losing the state, Mr. Northam won by 5 percentage points.

In New Jersey, Mr. Murphy carried the densely populated New York and Philadelphia suburbs by staggering margins. He won Middlesex County, a politically influential suburb southwest of New York City, and Bergen County, the state’s most populous locality, by about 15 percentage points each. Eight years earlier, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, carried Middlesex and nearly matched his Democratic opponent in Bergen, strong showings that made his narrow statewide victory possible.

And in Delaware County, Pa., long home to a fearsome Republican machine, Democrats won seats on the county council for the first time since the 1970s thanks to a local campaign that featured yard signs that got straight to the point: “Vote Nov. 7th Against Trump.”

Robert F. McDonnell, the former governor of Virginia, and the last Republican to win a major election in the state, acknowledged on election night that the electorate there had soured on his party. The state, he said, had been swamped by “anger and malaise and vitriol” emanating from federal politics, and Democrats benefited from the electric energy of their base.

“The enthusiastic left showed up tonight in big numbers,” Mr. McDonnell said, “and that really determined the outcome.”

Continue reading the main story

Standing for Justice, Mental Health and Protecting Women, Children and Communities

CBCF Presents President Obama’s Legacy on Fatherhood, Black Men & Boys (Standing up for Justice: Protecting Our Women, Children and Communities)

CBCF Presents President Obama’s Legacy on Fatherhood, Black Men & Boys
(Standing up for Justice: Protecting Our Women, Children and Communities)

Standing for Justice, Mental Health and Protecting Women, Children and Communities

By George D. Taylor

      WASHINGTON, DC – Following opening remarks by Congressman James E. Clyburn, (D-SC), Thabiti Boone, Fatherhood Representative and Liaison to Former President Barack Obama’s White House, opened the Congressional Black Caucus/Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Issues Forum by introducing Host Congressman Clyburn and Grand Basileus Antonio F. Knox, Sr., 40th Grand Basileus of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Grand Basileus Knox presented Congressman Clyburn with an award for his exceptional work on behalf of the people of South Carolina. Knox reminded the audience: “We can never think that our vote doesn’t count. Every vote counts. People died so that we could vote; local elections are important; state elections are important. The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity voter education and registration drive continues,” he said.

Earl Wilson, Co-Chairman of the International Fatherhood and Mentoring Committee of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., made a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the fraternity’s commitment to keeping President Obama’s Fatherhood & Mentoring legacy alive. He cited several Obama era initiatives: Brother You’re on My Mind, Affordable Health Care, Criminal Reform-Reentry, and Mentoring activities that remain active fraternity initiatives.

Boone summarized the charge to the panel. He said we must be, “intentional about our Fatherhood Initiatives. Can we have our men to step up and be fathers? How do we as men protect our women and families.”

Subject matter experts were Devine 9 Fraternity and Sorority members: Dr. David Marion, Psychologist and 1st Vice Grand Basileus, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; Benjamin L. Crump, Esq., Member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; Daryl D. Parks, Esq., General Counsel, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Kevin Powell, Acclaimed Activist, Speaker, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; L-Mani S. Viney, Educator, Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation, Kappa League Mentoring Program; Dr. Stephanie Meyers, Black Women for Positive Change, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; and Jenabu Williams, Educator, International Representative, Sigma Beta Club Mentoring Initiative, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

Thabiti Boone, conference moderator, began the panel discussion with topics: Criminal Justice Reform, Mandatory minimums, 45 redirecting the citizens focus.

Boone asked Attorney Crump: “Where do we go from here?”

Attorney Benjamin L. Crump: “It was bad when they killed Travon Martin in the street. It is bad when our youth are killed in the court room. …can’t get life insurance when you have become a felon. 7% of the prison population is Black. Either all African Americans are criminals or our criminal justice system is broken. Everything is about profit; for profit foster care; over medicated. It is the right thing to do to stand up and fight for our children.”

Boone to Atty Parks: What do you need when you go into the court room to work on our behalf?

Attorney Daryl Parks: As you search for a lawyer and work to save black lives, ask questions of your lawyer. The big question is “what is your experience with black people?”

Boone: How did we get here; where do we go from here?

Kevin Powell: Never let anyone define you. Read, study, travel! You must be prepared for this life! Land and education are primary requirements for life. He said that his father had a slave mentality. We can’t talk about Fatherhood and Mentoring until we know our father. Three things saved his life: 1) Vision – Kevin, you are going to college; 2) Mental health; 3) Education – Most of us don’t know who we are! If you want to change the system you’ve got to be educated.

Boone: How can we help the Black Women for Positive Change movement?

Dr. Stephanie Myers: Fathers are Kings; “You are our Kings,” said Dr. Myers!! “No more violence in the home is a goal for you to consider as you seek to change the culture of America. Women are looking for you to change the world. What is all the violence about? Our youth are saying, ‘We are upset because the adults are stressing us out! We are leaving home because of the fighting in the home. We want a week of non-violence; 60% of young men go to jail,” she said. She ended her remarks by showing the trailer to a film on U-Tube produced by Black Women for Positive Change.

Boone:  Does mentoring replace the father?

E-Mani V. Viney: The effectiveness of mentoring goes beyond talking of social action. A mentor can never replace the father. Don’t put undue pressure on the mentee or the mentor. A mentor is not a replacement for the father. Mentors must speak to issues of social action. National youth leaders need to get together to exchange services.

Jenabu Williams: We must continue to become a brotherhood of conscious men. When men stand up, boys sit down! We must take ownership and responsibility of manhood and Fatherhood. He cited some of the works of the late Omega man Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who was a preeminent educator and author of The Mis-Education of the Negro.

Boone: Given what you have heard from the panelist, how do we keep our minds right?

Dr. David Marion: If you are not mentally healthy, you are not healthy. We think, we behave, we feel! The brain can get sick just like any other part of the body! If incarcerated 30 days, your Medicaid is cut off! We have a program called: Brother You’re On My Mind! It is dedicated to working with the mental state of Black men.

For information contact: George D. Taylor, Ed. D., Marketing and Public Relations Chairman, International Committee on Fatherhood and Mentoring, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.


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Mental Health Watchdog Strengthens Campaign to Protect Children from Unjust Involuntary Psychiatric Examination

Normal Childhood Behavior is not a Mental Illness

CCHR is asking Florida legislators to amend the mental health law so that parents are contacted before an involuntary examination is initiated on a child.

Parents should be contacted before a child is Baker Acted and sent for an involuntary psychiatric examination. To do otherwise is a gross violation of human rights.”

— Diane Stein, President of CCHR Florida

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES, November 8, 2017 / — Encouraged by a change to the mental health law earlier this year that now requires a minor to be examined within 12 hours after arriving at a psychiatric facility during a Baker Act, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) of Florida has strengthened their campaign to restore parental rights and protect children from unnecessary involuntary examination.

The Florida chapter of CCHR, a non-profit mental health watchdog working to expose human rights violations in the field of mental health and dedicated to the protection of children, is asking state legislators to amend the current mental health law so that parents are contacted before an involuntary psychiatric examination is initiated on a child.

The mental health law in Florida, commonly referred to as the Baker Act, is named after Maxine Baker, the former State Representative from Miami who sponsored the Act, after serving as chairperson of the House Committee on Mental Health. While the original intent of this Act was to ensure patient rights and prevent abuse, the Annual Report of Baker Act Data, revealed in March of this year that 32,475 minors were sent for examination during fiscal year 2015 to 2016. Additionally in Florida, it is legal for a child to be Baker Acted without notifying a parent until after a child has already been taken into custody under the law.

Concerned over the surge in the number of children being Baker Acted annually, CCHR completed an analysis of the calls they have received from parents of children in Florida who had been sent for involuntary psychiatric examination over the past eighteen months. This analysis revealed that 70 percent of these children did not meet the criteria for an involuntary examination and yet they were still transported to a psychiatric facility, where up until the change in the law earlier this year, they could be held for up to 72 hours.

“It is our opinion that the parent or legal guardian should be contacted for the purpose of obtaining consent for a voluntary examination before Baker Acting a child,” stated Diane Stein, President of CCHR Florida.

This violation of human rights is happening to children as young as six years of age who are being Baker Acted without parental knowledge. A BuzzFeed investigative news report titled “HOW A 6-YEAR-OLD GOT LOCKED ON A PSYCH WARD” illustrates the abusive use of the Baker Act and the undermining of parental rights in Florida.

According to Florida Statutes, one of the criteria that must be met is that a person has refused voluntary examination after conscientious explanation and disclosure of the purpose of the examination, yet this important step is omitted during the Baker Acting of a child.

CCHR’s campaign to eliminate inappropriate Baker Acting of children educates parents on their rights while providing them with a form they can fill out and file with their child’s school to help protect them from an unjust involuntary psychiatric examination. This form uses existing state law to help protect parental rights and can be downloaded on the CCHR Florida website at Additionally, any person living in Florida who is interested in protecting children from abusive Baker Acting are encouraged to sign a petition to stop the involuntary examination of children without parental knowledge at For more information on this campaign please contact CCHR at 727-442-8820 or visit the center at 109 N. Fort Harrison Ave in Clearwater, Florida.

About CCHR: Initially established by the Church of Scientology and renowned psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz in 1969, CCHR’s mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. It was L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, who brought the terror of psychiatric imprisonment to the notice of the world. In March 1969, he said, “Thousands and thousands are seized without process of law, every week, over the ‘free world’ tortured, castrated, killed. All in the name of ‘mental health.’” For more information please visit

Diane Stein
Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida
(727) 422-8820
email us here

20 Million Kids & Adolescents are labeled with “mental disorders” that are based solely on a checklist of behaviors.

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Andrea Jenkins sees decisive, historic win in 8th Ward

Andrea 5With 73 percent of first-choice votes, Andrea Jenkins became the nation’s first African American transgender woman elected to a major city’s council.

“Wow,” Jenkins said, greeting supporters and family members at her election night party at Curran’s Restaurant.

“I love you, I love this community, I love this city. Guess what, if I take a knee before I play a football game, I love this country,” she said.

Jenkins said she plans to fight for justice and fight for the most marginalized people. The city needs affordable health care, affordable housing and police accountability, she said.

Jenkins urged her supporters to continue showing up and keep her abreast of community issues.

“If we want to see change in this community, it’s not going to come just from me,” she said.

Outgoing Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said she expects Jenkins to “change this city, and honestly change this nation.”

Andrea 4

Jenkins said in a statement that the days of being marginalized are over.

“We don’t just want a seat at the table—we want to set the table,” reads the statement. “At a time in our history when the federal government is undermining the progress that has been made in women’s rights, access to health care, immigrant rights, disability rights, LGBT rights, we must stand up and fight back. Cities are the frontline of defense in these efforts, and I am proud to do this work.”

Andrea Jenkins' supporters watch election results roll in.
Andrea Jenkins’ supporters watch election results roll in.

Jenkins’ Green Party challenger Terry White received 12.8 percent of first-choice votes and congratulated Jenkins in a Facebook post.

Libertarian candidate David Holsinger voiced frustration after seeing 41 percent of second-choice votes cast for April Kane, a DFL candidate who did not run an active campaign.

“A non-existent Democrat almost won out over a Green who campaigned his ass off,” Holsinger said on Facebook. “…Thanks to the voters of Minneapolis for being 100% tribal and voting for a non-existent paper candidate, who almost beat a Green who spent close to $10k and had a massive door-to-door operation.”

Valencia Simmons-Fowler Becomes First African American Woman To Achieve Highest Chief Warrant Officer Rank In The Information Warfare Community

By Kyle Hafer
Navy Recruiting Command

MILLINGTON, Tenn — Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) 5 Valencia Simmons-Fowler is the first African America woman to achieve the highest chief warrant officer rank in the information warfare community, November 3.

Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) 5 Valencia Simmons-Fowler was promoted as the first African-American CWO 5 in the information warfare community on November 3rd. The CWO rank is a technical specialist who performs duties that directly related to their previous rating. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Hafer.

The Chicago, Illinois native started her Navy career at Recruit Training Command Orlando, Florida in March 1988. From there she attended Cryptologic Technician Collection (CTR) “A” School where she achieved the notable accomplishment of honor graduate.

As her list of successes continued, Simmons-Fowler earned the title of chief petty officer in September 2001 while serving aboard USS Bataan. Later, during her tour at Naval Security Group Activity in Norfolk, Virginia she was selected for the CWO program in 2003, beginning her life as a chief warrant officer.

“This was my goal since the beginning of my career,” said Simmons-Fowler. “I have always strived for the next level, the pinnacle profession, and I earned it.”

The historic promotion is the result of hard work and dedication that isn’t achieved alone, but with the help of mentors and shipmates along the way.

“None of us ever gets here alone,” said Capt. Alonza Ross, the director of enlisted distribution at Navy Personal Command and mentor to Simmons-Fowler. “It takes a lot of support from family, friends and shipmates. I certainly understand how significant this achievement is, and I knew she was capable of doing it.”

Inspiration follows this woman who has achieved so much. The protégés that Simmons-Fowler mentors see that they also have the opportunity to achieve just as much, if not more.

“I am extremely proud of Chief Warrant Officer 5 Simmons-Fowler,” said Yeoman 2nd Class Olivia Likely, a protégé of Simmons-Fowler. “Women are pillars of strength and support. To see Chief Warrant Officer 5 Simmons-Fowler achieve this extraordinary goal, I know I have confidence and a voice, to know that not only can I conquer my goals, I can shoot far beyond that.”

Simmons-Fowler explains that being a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Navy requires a person to be more than just skillful in their field.

“You have a lot of leaders out there,” said Simmons-Fowler. “When it comes to chief warrant officers, we are supposed to be the technical experts. So when the commanding officer needs someone to give him feedback on a system, they are going to find the warrant officers, because they will tell them what they need to know, not what they want to hear.”

In the U.S. Navy, the chief warrant officer rank is a technical specialist who performs duties that are directly related to their previous enlisted rating.

“With every successful leader there is always a great team of Sailors that are hard-working, hard-charging and dedicated to completing the mission,” said Simmons-Fowler. “Those are the people doing the work to make sure we succeed as a team. To those people, I’d like (say) thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Gentrification is Not A Good Thing for African American Communities

As a teacher in Third Ward, I see first hand how gentrification affects my students. I was totally prepared to write this article by “playing it safe” as to not step on the toes of the majority (read between the lines here), but as I listened to my students’ conversations last week and replayed the recordings of my interviews, I decided to take a different approach.

My students are displaced from their homes, and as a result, they come to school and cannot function; they are emotionally distraught, and their school work is affected. Then as educators, we are charged with having to reach them—to tear down the brick wall they are erecting to guard themselves against the world of cruel faceless strangers that have caused their undoing. It hurts.

Every day, as an African-American and an educator, I wake up, and it’s a struggle to be black.  We carry the burden of being forced to be a chameleon—what to say and what not to say. I often ask myself how can I make my community—this community better?

The common misconception is that gentrification is a ‘good thing’ and that those who are displaced as a result should be happy that someone on a “white horse” has come to save the day.  They should be grateful someone found their “drug-ridden” “poverty-stricken” community attractive enough to fix it up.

It took me a minute to piece this together because I had to listen to the interviews again to capture the raw, unfiltered emotions. If you’re looking to experience gentrification in its most raw and pure form, you’ve got to check out the Project Row houses installation Round 47—it is here until February 11, 2018. Round 47 is located in the heart of Third Ward at 2521 Holman.

This group of talented artists offers a visual articulation ranging from sculpting, painting, cinemaphotography, choreography, and photography. Each installation captures the effects gentrification has on the residents of Third Ward.

“We make it work! We work with what we got. We are resilient. We can. We do. We are.”, says photographer and cinematographer, Brian Ellison artist of the “We are Enough [Still]” installation.

Brian’s perspective offers affirmations to those who have been traumatized, or who have slowly watched their community change from familiar neighbors to “strangers”. His house serves to let the community know that “You are Enough”. His short film, which plays in one of the rooms of his row house installation, tells a tale of a boys journey through Third Ward which showcases the beauty of this community. “It’s an experience and I encourage everyone to come out to Third Ward and soak up the culture.”

He makes it a point to marry his photography with his cinematography so that visitors can truly capture the essence—the soul of Third Ward and her residents. He notes, “Talking to the older gentlemen around here is like talking to one of my uncles at home—this is home for me.” The feeling of being home to Brian was extremely important, as an African American man because it is at home where he truly feels safe and this is when his vision can truly come to life through his craft.

Brian’s installation reminds us, African Americans, that “in spite of”, ‘You Are Enough’

The outside view of Furi's row home installation. The signs are added to instensify and heighten the senses for the viewer.EXPAND

The outside view of Furi’s row home installation. The signs are added to instensify and heighten the senses for the viewer.

Photo by G. Paris Johnson

Sofia Mekonnen, a native of Eritrea, draws from her traumatic experiences as a result of displacement and colonization in her country, which is aligned with what is happening in here Third Ward as a result of gentrification. Her installation features red fists, dipped in gold. Which as she says, “captures the history and resiliency of African American people before, during, and after gentrification.”  She says, “The gold also represents the royalty that we come from that the media and post-slavery has stripped us of—especially through the media.”

When asked why she chose the capture this through the fist, she replied,”It’s symbolic and it most importantly, captures the transference of energy, strength, unity, and resistance of our people.”Sofia took it upon herself to research the actual word “gentrification” after being commissioned by Project Row Houses.  Her remarks, “it is not the ‘renovation of deteriorating urban neighborhoods by means of an influx of more affluent residents.

If anything [they] are taking communities and dismantling them. Gentrification is not the revitalization of a community, it is the displacement of a people in black communities and their culture.” Which is quite the opposite of what Wikipedia offers as an explanation.  She has deep interests in the post-effects of gentrification and how it has affected people of Third Ward, especially African American people, she says, “…with gentrification ultimately being the displacement of [a] people, it affects minorities not only in Third Ward, but all over.”

Why are they so quick to gentry communities that are predominantly African American? To that Sofia answers, “We have flavor, we are the bomb, we are American culture!”. 

What do you think gentrification means to “them”? “It’s a game.”, says Marc Furi—one of the artists and native resident to the Tre.  Marc passes his vision to his audience through his installation in the form of a Monopoly board.  As he explains his take on how gentrification is relative to the age-old family board game—it all seemed to fall into place. Marc recalls marking the day he knew his neighborhood was changing slowly when he saw a white jogger—he knew then that gentrification was slowly finding its way into his community.

As a homeowner in the Third Ward community, Marc knows first hand how buying property in an area that is considered “prime real estate” and then “improving it” affects everyone—much like in the game of Monopoly, only gentrification is not a game to him or his neighbors; its real. 

The “For Sale” signs outside of his row house installation are there to, “Give people that anxiety.  You know that anxiety you get when a house in your neighborhood goes up for sale, you wonder who will be your neighbors? What will happen to the property? What’s going to happen to my property value.”, Marc says.

He is taking this a step further with his branding of his artistry, featuring “I Love 3W” T-shirts, mugs, and hats. His plan he says, “Even when the installation is over, I want people to have something to remind them of our projects.” True to the Houston’s Third Ward culture, Marc managed to capture what was the “Free Parking” space on the board now reads, “Mayne Hold Up”—with elbows of course.

Nikita Hodge offers more of a solution to gentrifying Third Ward—one that would promote the history of the once thriving predominantly black community, which featured black-owned businesses.  Nikita, a tax accountant by trade, plans on using her platform to provide foundational support for black-owned businesses and businesses owned by women.

Nikita is the proud owner and operator of “TreChic”.  The name she says has a “hint of its Third Ward roots”, and allows for the curious patron to see what lies in her trendy boutique. “My goal is for this area to be a black-owned community. My stance is that a predominantly black-owned community should have predominantly black-owned businesses with owners [who] share the same values as its customers.”

Her reasoning, she says, “There is no reason Third Ward shouldn’t have a thriving shopping district like Highland Village or the Heights.”

Her take on gentrification is not necessarily a ‘bad one’, but, she says, “It can serve as a wake-up call, and if we don’t take action to reclaim and revitalize Third Ward, someone else will and they will do it in a manner that no longer serves or welcomes us.”

All too often, the people forget that gentrification has a psychological and physiological effect on the residents—the point where the subconscious and the conscious meet, where dance, cinematography, and visual artistry collide, you meet the installation that managed to capture the raw emotions of two brave souls who managed to courageously tell their personal experience with the gentrification of Third Ward and the trauma they were left to make sense of.

Guy Harrison, Choreographer; Anthony Suber, Live Installation Creator; and Danielle Fanfair and Marlon Hall, both Cinematographers, all collaborated together to create a space that validates the trauma that the others and myself mention.  “There is a space where the subconscious and conscious meet…and that is what we were able to capture with the live installation and video.  Harrison was able to interpret this space, the pain, and memory into a dance. 

This group of artists captured the stories of Ms.Deborah Floyd, native Third Ward resident who was displaced by gentrification more than once as a paying tenant. Ms. Floyd, much like countless others, received no notice and was forced out of the home she shared with her son. Ms. Floyd chooses to resist with her presence.

Sofia Mekonnen, proud artist of the "For Us" installation.EXPAND

Sofia Mekonnen, proud artist of the “For Us” installation.

Photo by G. Paris Johnson

Michelle Barnes, who is the Executive Director of The Community Artists’ Collective, a non-profit arts organization in Third Ward, her story is all too familiar—after being guaranteed ownership of the organization’s building, the property was locked, secretly sold and demolished with the organization’s equipment and artwork inside.

The pain of not being able to gather their things behind the padlocked doors and then having to stand by and watch their homes each filled with their belongings crumble to the ground after being demolished, and for what—the best price?

On the floor, there are triangles which are symbolic of Ms. Barnes’ struggle. Michelle Barnes was a quilter, and all of her things, valuables, all of her quilting materials—all of the things she carried, gone in minutes. They captured her most vulnerable state, her rawest form—they captured her.

You have to experience this—you have to be in the culture—in the neighborhood.  You have to experience the art with your senses to appreciate its beauty in order to truly understand each narrative. You have to experience Third Ward.

Third Ward is not a drug infested ghetto that so many choose to refer to it as—it’s home, it’s beautiful, and most importantly—it’s black.

Maryland Mesothelioma Victims Center Now Urges a Recently Diagnosed Person in Maryland to Call Them for Instant Access to the Nation’s Top Lawyers for Much Better Compensation Results

Please don’t get shortchanged when it comes to mesothelioma compensation for a diagnosed person in Maryland by hiring an inexperienced or unskilled lawyer”

— Maryland Mesothelioma Victims Center

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA, November 8, 2017 / — The Maryland Mesothelioma Victims Center is urging a person who has just been diagnosed with mesothelioma in Maryland or their family to take their potential compensation very seriously and to call us anytime at 800-714-0303 for an important conversation about a financial claim and the kind of extremely skilled lawyers they will need to get the best possible compensation settlement results. http://Maryland.MesotheliomaVictimsCenter.Com

The Maryland Mesothelioma Victims Center says, “If you have an antique or rare car you probably will want to seek out the best mechanic possible to repair it. If you have mesothelioma in Maryland-you should not hire a local car accident attorney to assist you with a mesothelioma compensation claim. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma in Maryland you will need one of the nation’s most experienced mesothelioma attorneys to assist with your compensation claim-if you want the best possible financial settlement results.

“We are urging a recently diagnosed person in Maryland or their family members to call us anytime at 800-714-0303 so we can explain that the nation’s best of the best mesothelioma attorneys really do get the best financial compensation results for their clients nationwide and they would like to represent you. In addition, the attorneys we suggest make house calls. In other words-these amazing attorneys will travel to meet the diagnosed person in Maryland to discuss how or where they were exposed to asbestos. It is this information that becomes the foundation for a mesothelioma compensation claim as we would like to discuss.

“We might add if you want the best possible financial compensation for mesothelioma it is vital you have a time line of how and when you were exposed to asbestos as well as the names of one or more coworkers who witnessed your exposure to asbestos. Please don’t get shortchanged when it comes to mesothelioma compensation for a diagnosed person in Maryland by hiring an inexperienced or unskilled lawyer or law firm. Before you hire a lawyer to assist with a mesothelioma compensation claim in Maryland please call us first at 800-714-0303.” http://Maryland.MesotheliomaVictimsCenter.Com

The Maryland Mesothelioma Victims Center want’s efforts for people with mesothelioma is a statewide initiative available to a diagnosed victim anywhere in Maryland including communities such as Baltimore, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Bowie, Rockville, Hagerstown, or Annapolis.

For the best possible mesothelioma treatment options in Maryland the Maryland Mesothelioma Victims Center strongly recommends the following heath care facilities with the offer to help a diagnosed victim, or their family get to the right physicians at these hospitals.

* National Cancer Institute Bethesda, Maryland:
* Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Baltimore, Maryland:
* University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center Baltimore, Maryland:

High-risk work groups for exposure to asbestos in Maryland include US Navy Veterans, power plant workers, shipyard workers, manufacturing workers, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, machinists, or construction workers. Typically the exposure to asbestos occurred in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, or 1980’s.http://Maryland.MesotheliomaVictimsCenter.Com

According to the CDC the states indicated with the highest incidence of mesothelioma include Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Louisiana, Washington, and Oregon.

However, based on the calls the Mesothelioma Victims Center receives a diagnosed victim of mesothelioma could live in any state including New York, Florida, California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, or Alaska.

For more information about mesothelioma please refer to the National Institutes of Health’s web site related to this rare form of cancer:

Michael Thomas
Maryland Mesothelioma Victims Center
email us here

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Al Sharpton: I’ve Known Trump for 30 Years. He’s Still a Selfish Blowhard.

As we mark one year since Donald Trump was elected, the nation is reeling from the loss of 26 people killed at a Texas church. These tragic their deaths come almost exactly a week after a suspected terrorist attack in New York that killed eight and about a month after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas killed 58.

In the White House, the President is being investigated for possible Russian ties, two of his former campaign aides are under indictment and he seems more interested in using Twitter to distract voters with talk of “crooked Hillary” than clarifying the situation. Meanwhile, in Virginia a racially tinged gubernatorial race features a Trump-backed Republican candidate running on a platform that includes preserving his state’s Confederate heritage.

And perhaps the worst part is, we knew this was going to happen.

Or at least, we should have known. As a native New Yorker, I have watched Donald Trump’s star rise and fall over the past 30 years. Over my long career as both an advocate and politician, I have spoken with, argued against, and counseled the last four U.S. presidents. I have, to varying degrees, marched, fought and celebrated with the Bush’s, Clintons and Obamas. And the conclusion I have come to is that Donald Trump’s temperament, intellect and emotional health make him wholly unqualified to serve as President of the United States of America.

This is not a new argument, I realize. Many people before me have said similar things. But now we have something approaching definite proof that not only is nothing going to change, this is a man incapable of change.

Whether vehemently disagreeing with President George W. Bush during the start of the Iraq war or pushing back against President Bill Clinton’s welfare reform policy, our arguments were based in subject matter, but never character. It was professional, not personal. In the Trump era, however, the opposite is true.

This distinction is important because while policy ideas may change and evolve, a man’s soul rarely does. America has, in all likelihood, three years (at least) left of this man. We need to realize, and quickly, that he is never going to “pivot.”

I should know — I have been there. I marched against Trump during the Central Park Five case in the 1990s, and I socialized with him when he surrounded himself with black artists and athletes in the 2000s.

Image: Donald Trump, Al Sharpton and Don King attend the
Image: Rev. Al Sharpton, left, and Tawana Brawley in 1990

No matter the scenario, Trump was always a consummate narcissist and self-promoter. But these qualities were not the most disturbing things about him — many politicians and businessmen act in similar ways.

What disturbed me the most was that he never ever showed a different side of himself. There was no loyalty there (except perhaps to his family); he was not driven by ideology or a sense of a broader purpose. He did whatever he could to enrich his coffers and build his brand. This was his main motivation in 1989, and it remains his main motivation in 2017.

Of course, there are other reasons to be considered about Trump’s presidency. Besides his self-centered demeanor, he is incredibly stubborn and refuses to admit even the slightest mistake. On the other hand, he latches onto perceived sleights, never passing up the opportunity to publicly criticize or mock an opponent.

There were hopes last year that the executive office would temper some of this pettiness, but sadly we now see this is not the case. Rather than attempt to grow and learn, Trump has leaned into his role as divider-in-chief. This is exactly the same racially divisive, unapologetic blowhard I knew in New York.


And the results unfortunately speak for themselves. His ugly, contentious presidential campaign has translated into an equally ugly and divisive first year. Whether it’s attacking Congresswoman Frederica Wilson following the tragic deaths of four soldiers in Niger, hesitating to condemn white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, advocating for the firing of NFL players exercising their First Amendment rights, or politicizing terrorist attacks, Trump’s time in office has only made this country more polarized.

Put simply, Trump took America’s existing racial tensions and made them even more toxic.

A year ago, I wanted to believe that there was hope. I wanted to believe that this man who had spent years questioning President Obama’s birthplace might be humbled by his office. I wanted to believe that the gravity of the situation would eventually kick in, and he would work to achieve something admirable with his newfound power. I wanted to believe America was not in the hands of an unyielding demagogue incapable of growth. And I was wrong.

Rev. Al Sharpton has held such notable positions as the youth director of New York’s Operation Breadbasket, director of ministers for the National Rainbow Push coalition, and founder of his own broad-based progressive civil rights organization, the National Action Network (NAN). Rev. He hosts PoliticsNation, which airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment