Women in D.C. Face Obstacles at Every Step of Pregnancy and Childbirth

Cover Ebony4Darrow Montgomery

Melissa Esposito walked two miles in the snow to get to her third prenatal appointment. It had been so hard to get a time with the doctor, she was scared to reschedule. 

Danielle Lloyd endured pregnancy in the food and maternal care desert that is Southeast D.C. She worried about the 40-minute drive from her home to the hospital. 

Capri Brown waited two hours to see a doctor after she told a nurse that her water broke. Her epidural hurt more than her contractions.

Renikia Smith was taken aback after she gave birth—her doctor told her that she didn’t have time to do her planned tubal ligation. 

Tara Olson, a doula, is tired of watching doctors squeeze bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo in women’s vaginas as they give birth. 

***

These are common tales of pregnancy from the District of Columbia, one of the worst places in the United States, and in the developed world, to deliver a child. 

Thus far in 2018, D.C.’s rate of maternal mortality—women who die in pregnancy, childbirth, or in the year that follows—is 36.1 per 100,000 live births while the nationwide rate is 20.7, according to an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And internationally, the U.S. is the only developed country to show a steady increase in maternal mortality from 1990 to 2015, according to a 2017 report funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Embedded in these numbers is a yet more sinister fact: Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from childbirth in the U.S. The District is a case in point. Dr. Roger A. Mitchell, D.C.’s chief medical examiner, testified at a December public hearing on maternal mortality that 75 percent of the maternal deaths D.C. recorded between 2014 and 2016 were black women.

As these numbers emerged, D.C. saw the closure of two maternity wards that served predominantly black and low-income women. Providence Hospital in Northeast closed its maternal and infant care department in October of 2017 without so much as a press release. United Medical Center in Southeast, the city’s only public hospital, permanently closed its maternity unit two months later, after reports of improper handling of patients. Among other issues, the hospital had failed to address, with an HIV-positive woman, the risks of vaginal delivery. The closures have left women east of the Anacostia River without local access to care and have stretched other city hospitals thin. 

In late 2017, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen introduced the Maternal Mortality Review Committee Establishment Act. The idea was to form “a multi-disciplinary committee to review all pregnancy-associated deaths occurring during pregnancy, childbirth, or in the year after,” and deliver an annual report based on the findings under the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).

“Mortality is the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Constance Bohon, practicing doctor and assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the George Washington University School of Medicine, at the December hearing, which dealt with the bill. “The morbidity is where we’re going to be able to prevent more deaths, by looking at those numbers.”

Morbidity is “any health condition attributed to and/or aggravated by pregnancy and childbirth that has a negative impact on the woman’s wellbeing,” by the World Health Organization’s definition. 

At its worst, morbidity is a near miss—a brush with death. 

Allen wanted to add morbidity studies to the bill. In the committee print, “severe maternal morbidity” is when a woman receives four or more units of blood products or is admitted to an intensive care unit while pregnant or within one year of giving birth. These women are still alive to talk about their D.C. childbirth experiences. 

But in February, Allen struck “severe maternal morbidities” from the review committee bill, saying “The inclusion of morbidities would expand the MMRC’s scope beyond OCME’s current capacity.”

***

Cover S Brice2Sharnita Brice and her son SevenDarrow Montgomery

Sharnita Brice’s first birth felt like a near miss. She remembers seeing blood everywhere. She had gone into labor at 38 weeks with intense contractions. Then she hemorrhaged, and her son was no longer stirring in her womb—he wasn’t breathing. He had no heartbeat. Somehow, she says, her placenta had detached from the wall of the uterus, cutting off her baby’s oxygen supply and making her bleed heavily. 

“Time froze,” she says. “Time literally stopped.” It was 2015 and she was 24 years old, laying in a pool of blood and waiting for the ambulance to come and get her. She wondered how she’d gotten here and if she’d ever be the same. She wouldn’t. Next time she gave birth, she thought, she’d have different insurance and a much better experience. She didn’t. 

A D.C. resident, she’d planned her first pregnancy carefully. She wanted to deliver at a birth center rather than a hospital because she didn’t want to deal with what she perceived as the culture of hospitals. “In hospitals, you’re on a clock,” she says. “They want to hurry up and get you in and out. The first thought is intervention instead of naturally letting the body go through labor. Our bodies know how to give birth, but they’re quick to give C-sections, inductions, and epidurals. I feel like that’s because there’s money in the business.”

Because she couldn’t find a D.C. birth center that accepted her insurance, she chose one more than an hour away in Arnold, Maryland. But the birth center wasn’t equipped for emergency cesarean sections, so Brice went by ambulance to Anne Arundel Medical Center to have her son, Shiah. She wasn’t able to see him until days later. To quell the depression that followed she’d constantly have to tell herself, “I went through something very traumatic and I’m still here.” 

About two years later, Brice became pregnant with her second child. This time she decided to give birth at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, not far from her home in the Takoma-Brightwood area of Northwest. She was covered by AmeriHealth. 

Right when she hit the 32 week mark, she got a letter from her insurance company. “They sent me mail stating that they were not in partnership with MedStar Washington Hospital Center and that I wasn’t allowed to go there anymore, after I had been seen there my entire pregnancy and now I’m in my third trimester. When I contacted them, they were just like ‘No, we’re not partnered with them anymore, you can’t be seen there.’ But other places wouldn’t accept me because I was too far gone in my pregnancy. They just acted like it wasn’t their concern.”

After that, Brice missed a month and a half of prenatal visits, and she was considered a high-risk pregnancy given her first birth. She kept trying to contact AmeriHealth, and was finally able to continue with her midwife at Washington Hospital Center.

She still planned to have a vaginal birth despite pressure from the hospital’s midwives to schedule a C-section. At 41 weeks, she went into labor. Days passed and she was still laboring, and doctors told her she needed a C-section because there was too much stress on the baby. Completely exhausted, she agreed. They told her all she’d feel was a little pressure and then she’d be able to have skin-to-skin contact with her baby. But when they began operating, she could feel everything. “I was screaming the entire process about how much pain my stomach was in,” she says.

Then something went wrong with her baby. Her son inhaled meconium—the usually dark green substance of a baby’s first bowel movement. They had to rush him out of the room and he ended up in intensive care for days. She says her doctors told her they weren’t sure when it could have happened. Once again, she wasn’t able to hold her child, named Seven.

In a statement, Washington Hospital Center said, “We regret to hear of negative experiences our patients described to [City Paper].” 

She hasn’t gone back to full-time work since birth and doesn’t know when she will. A talented painter, she now stays home with her children and expresses her creativity through her art. It’s been cathartic. She just wants to be home with her children. 

***

Cover S Culver2Sharon CulverDarrow Montgomery

Parsed out, nearly every element of Brice’s story is familiar for pregnant women in D.C. The more than 30 women City Paper interviewed—most of them mothers at each stage of pregnancy and birth, but also doctors, doulas, midwives, and other experts—reported similar hurdles, and many additional ones. 

Problems begin with the most basic of tasks: scheduling prenatal medical appointments. 

When Lexa Lemieux, 37, of Shaw first discovered that she was pregnant she called her OB-GYN to schedule an appointment at GW Medical Faculty Associates, and was told that she could see a doctor in three months. “I discovered I was pregnant on February 15th, and they were like, ‘She can see you for the first time at the end of June, or the end of May,’ or something. And I’m like, ‘I’ll be past my first trimester by the time you can see me!’” says Lemieux. 

Lemieux and her husband decided against seeing her regular doctor due to wait time and instead went to the first person available within the practice. To do that, they had to travel to Bethesda. Following that appointment, Lemieux attempted to make an appointment with the same doctor in Bethesda, but couldn’t get in. She then went to a third doctor within the same practice. 

A limited number of available appointments means high competition for available slots. This also means moms-to-be may have to see whichever doctor is available rather than receiving consistent care from the same physician. 

It snowed on the day of Melissa Esposito’s third prenatal appointment. The city was nearly shut down, but the appointment had been so hard to get that she and her husband decided to walk almost two miles in the wet cold to the office.

Esposito, now 36, had already been through a confusing number of weeks trying to see a doctor. Her insurance company, Kaiser Permanente, told her that it was their policy to schedule her first prenatal appointment eight weeks after she suspected she was pregnant. She finally saw a doctor, confirmed she was pregnant, and scheduled a follow-up appointment. But when they arrived at Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center in the snow for the third appointment, the office was closed.

In a statement, Kaiser Permanente tells City Paper that it often delays the first appointment for two months: “For a low-risk pregnancy, we have general guidelines to schedule the first prenatal visit for the seventh or eighth week of pregnancy. We usually recommend this time period because it optimizes the chance to see the fetal heartbeat.”

When Celia Valdespino, also 36, first moved from Miami to D.C. she was six months pregnant. “I didn’t think it would be very hard to find a doctor,” she says. Her insurance was through her husband’s military job, so she had to see a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It took her three hours round-trip to go to that appointment. “I had to take the bus and then Metro and then walk,” she says. 

She was soon able to switch her insurance plan in order to theoretically have more flexibility in the location of future doctor’s appointments. She attempted to schedule at GW Medical Faculty Associates. “I called GW in December and they said, ‘Oh, we don’t have any appointments until March.’” And I was like, ‘Alright, well, the baby is due March 6th, so what do you want me to do?’ Finally they got me an appointment in the Bethesda office. And that just got me into the system.” 

Esposito, Lemieux, and Valdespino are all financially stable with excellent health insurance for these, their first pregnancies. Yet they were consistently thwarted by confusing and overbooked systems. 

Women who live in the city’s maternity care deserts—including those with good jobs and insurance—face the same scheduling issues, but also deal with increased travel times and a lack of access to healthy food.  

Sharon Culver lives in River Terrace in Northeast but works in Fort Washington, Maryland as a teacher. It’s a struggle for her to get from there to her appointments at Washington Hospital Center, where she plans to give birth. “I do often think about how far it is,” she says. “It’s very chaotic and tricky. Even just coming from my house can be a bit much. If there was something closer, in our ward, that would be beneficial.” She is 31, and due on Oct. 8. 

Danielle Lloyd, 33, had to travel from her home in the Capitol View area of Southeast to get to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Northwest to be induced to give birth to her now 10-month-old daughter, Demi. It’s a 40-minute trip without traffic. “It was scary because if I went into labor at home in the middle of the day, we might have a problem,” she says. 

“It’s not just access to healthcare in wards 7 and 8,” says Lloyd. “I mean, the area in which I live is a food desert.” Lloyd goes to Maryland and other parts of D.C. for groceries, something that she notes is a luxury to be able to do.

She had to do a lot of vetting of doctors and plenty didn’t have availability. It was not her choice to give birth to her child at Sibley, but the obstetrician that she chose only delivered at Sibley. 

It was the same for Kiara Haughton, which is why she traveled from her home in Southeast to Sibley to have daughter Zora in April. “Unless you literally live in Foxhall or off MacArthur Boulevard, there’s nothing convenient to Sibley,” says Haughton, 31. “Those appointments, I’d take the day off or half the day.” It took her more than an hour to get to the hospital when she went to have her labor induced, and she ended up giving birth via an unplanned C-section. 

These are the mothers fortunate enough to have stable housing in D.C. Those who don’t face additional hurdles. Jessica Crawford, who is 28 and gave birth to a daughter, Jazarah, on Aug. 18, lived in transitional housing at Mary Claire House in Northeast through So Others Might Eat, or SOME, a nonprofit that serves the poor in D.C. The scariest aspect about pregnancy in the District for her is what she has found to be a lack of dedicated, quality housing for pregnant women experiencing homelessness and housing instability. 

Now that her daughter has been born, she has to move because the house is only for adults experiencing persistent mental illness. “I should be nesting, but there’s really no way for me to nest or prepare a space for my child,” she said in the last weeks of her pregnancy. 

A caseworker helped her get approved for an apartment, but it wasn’t available until weeks after her due date. “To be moving around after birth and with a newborn is stressful,” she says. “I’m just so grateful that I’ll have housing, so I’m willing to do it.”

Scheduling and keeping doctor’s appointments and travel times have also played hugely into Crawford’s pregnancy. It took her two bus rides in the D.C. summer heat to get from Mary Claire House to MedStar Georgetown for her prenatal appointments. 

“I knew it wouldn’t be easy when I decided to keep my baby, but I don’t believe that anyone should have to give up their children or not have their children because they’re poor or because they’re homeless,” she says. “Having this baby is the best thing that ever happened to me, and I know I’m going to be a good mother if I have available resources. The problem is they can give me job training and education programs but if I don’t have stable housing none of that is going to be helpful.”

Crawford, who is white, adds that experiencing housing instability while pregnant is an issue that she has seen primarily hurt black women. She is frequently the only white person in her programs. “It’s heartbreaking seeing all these women suffering,” she says. “How long has this been going on and why has it continued to go on?”

Cover J Crawford2Jessica CrawfordDarrow Montgomery

Capri Brown, who has also experienced homelessness in the area, says that giving birth to her second child, her now 2-year-old son Dominic, was a nightmarish ordeal at Howard University Hospital. “When I told the nurse to go tell my doctor that I think my water broke, the doctor came in two hours later,” she says. She was then administered an epidural. She hadn’t felt her epidural when she gave birth to her now 7-year-old daughter in Virginia, but she felt this one. “This hurt more than my contractions did,” she says.

Her son contracted an infection post-birth and had to stay in the hospital for 5 days, which Brown says was triggered by the huge delay between when she told the nurse that her water broke and when she actually received care. She and her son both spiked fevers during her 30-hour labor and delivery. She remembers that his heart rate dropped and he stopped breathing for a time. “I was just laying in the hospital bed miserable,” she says. “They were really disgusting and rude. Howard is disgusting.” (Howard University did not respond to several requests for comment.)

Now 27, Brown says she felt that hospital staff viewed her as just another “young, dumb girl in here having another baby.”

Experiences like these contribute to a culture of doctor and nurse mistrust. Congress Heights resident Kaliyma Johnson says she felt pressure from doctors to have an abortion in her first trimester. When the 33-year-old was pregnant with her now 3-year-old son, she says that male specialists she saw for her thyroid condition at George Washington University Hospital told her that due to her thyroid complications, she should terminate the pregnancy and have thyroid surgery instead. If she did the surgery, she wouldn’t be able to have a vaginal delivery ever again. 

She cried for two days after that. “They were super pushy,” she says. Her female doctor was her saving grace. “My OB was like, ‘You have time, you don’t have to make this decision today.’” She couldn’t see herself terminating the pregnancy, so she pushed on.

Before Renikia Smith, 33, of Southeast D.C. delivered her now almost-2-year-old daughter Samantha, she knew she wanted a tubal ligation to prevent future births. Samantha is her sixth child. But her doctor with Unity Health Care in Northwest had other plans for after the birth. “My doctor told me that she would do my tubal ligation the next day because she was going to go do her pilates,” she says. “She was going to go do her pilates, so she’ll catch me in the morning.” 

She went back to Unity when Samantha was due for her 2-month shots. Surrounded by a crowd of women and their babies also in need of shots, she found out that the clinic only had half the shots she needed. “They were like, ‘You have to understand,’” she says. “No, I don’t. This is my child. She needs these shots. I need my child to be immunized before I drop her in daycare.”

Unity responds that it offers free vaccines to children in need through the DC Department of Health’s Vaccines For Children, a federally funded program. “While we do our very best to make sure we always have vaccines in stock, on rare occasions we may run low,” wrote Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Diana Lapp in an emailed statement. She noted that patients can make another appointment or travel to another center to get the shots.

Smith never ended up getting the tubal ligation, and was pregnant again a little more than a year later with her seventh child, a daughter. 

***

Cover T OlsonTara OlsonDarrow Montgomery

Pregnant women walk through a revolving door of doctors, sometimes seeing five or more of them, and with no guarantee that the doctor a mother likes and has chosen to be her personal provider will deliver her baby. A doctor who meets a woman for the first time when she’s in the delivery room will not be aware of all the intricacies of the patient nor have developed a rapport with her family, all of which puts mental stress on the mother, who is in the midst of producing life. 

Sharon Culver says she doesn’t even remember who delivered her first baby four years ago; there were so many people in the room. “You don’t really know what they’re doing,” Culver says. 

Kaliyma Johnson’s delivery doctor was a stranger that she met while in labor at GW. “There was a student shadowing my doctor and checking on me,” she says. “When you’re delivering a child, you want experienced people.” 

D.C. women who can afford it have found a patch to cover the massive gaps in their care: They hire a doula. The existing medical system in D.C. is not likely to give a woman a consistent doctor—someone who knows a woman’s body, medical history, and desires for delivery. A doula can be that person, but it costs anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. 

For their part, doulas see the system in its entirety, over and over again. 

Doula Tara Olson, who has served the D.C. area for 10 years and has four children of her own, says that healthcare functions as a system in this country, and therefore it must be assessed and improved on a systemic level, not simply at the level of individual practices. 

A number of system-wide practices worry Olson. She has seen doctors mistreat mothers’ bodies frequently throughout the region.

“No one is talking about the way doctors manhandle a woman’s vagina,” she says. “I’ve seen doctors stick four fingers in and push, push, push back and forth because they have an epidural and they don’t feel anything. But she’s going to feel it later. Imagine someone doing that to you right now. You would feel it for days.” 

She continues, “Would you squeeze a bottle of baby shampoo up your vagina? That’s what they do. When the baby’s coming out, they squeeze baby shampoo all over the vagina, all over the baby’s head for lubrication. And that’s a standard practice.” George Washington University Hospital, she says, at least uses mineral oil. Either way, most mothers never fully know what has happened to them during birth.

This loss of body autonomy for mothers becomes the elimination of choice. It creates an atmosphere in which their bodies are no longer theirs, but instead completely at the mercy of doctors and nurses and the property of the healthcare system. 

And this is the crux of the cesarean problem: If you tell a woman in labor that she needs to have a C-section, she will have the C-section. The hospital’s power over a woman in labor is nearly 100 percent.

One way for mothers to bypass the potential risks of cesarean surgery is to simply choose a hospital that has a lower rate of unplanned C-sections. But that’s not possible when hospitals aren’t required to report their data.

“C-sections, as anybody who works in healthcare knows, are a really, really big problem in this country,” says Erica Mobley, director of operations at The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit that tracks hospital data, including the rates of C-sections throughout the United States. 

Although some mothers choose cesareans for a variety of medical reasons, it is a surgical procedure that comes with the risks of infection, blood clots, increased blood loss, and potential for complications on future deliveries. A May 2015 report by the CDC states that there is a lower morbidity rate for vaginal births, and that the potential for maternal morbidity increases with the number of C-sections given to a patient. 

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion sets a target rate of 23.9 percent for cesarean sections for first-time mothers giving birth in the head-down position, and Leapfrog has adopted that target. 

The George Washington University Hospital’s C-section rate increased from 15.7 percent to 22.2 percent over the last year, and Howard University Hospital’s went from 24.1 percent to 25.1 percent, according to Leapfrog. Sibley Memorial Hospital’s rate was 32.7 percent last year, and though its 2018 Leapfrog data is under review, it reported to City Paper a current rate of 34 percent.

In a statement, a Sibley spokesperson said that the average age of a woman giving birth there is 35, while the national average is 28. “Sibley Memorial Hospital is committed to lowering its C-section rates, but at the same time, the hospital recognizes that these efforts must also be balanced against the need to protect the health and safety of mother and child,” the spokesperson wrote.

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center didn’t report their rates to Leapfrog this year or last. All hospitals can respond or update their statistics until December 31.

Michelle Cohen is a certified doula who owns a local practice called Savor It Studios. Cohen has seen first-hand how hospitals can influence the possibility of having a C-section. “I have had, over the years, clients births present in similar fashions with similar scenarios, but they are at different hospitals … and the births are managed completely differently,” she says. 

Olson says doctors and nurses intervene in births with C-sections and other intrusions on a systemic level. She sees some doctors explain things logically, and others use fear tactics to coerce women into having the cesarean.

“This is America, we litigate,” says Olson. “I think there’s doctors who are worried about liability, more than a midwife would. A midwife is going to let you have a lot more time, a midwife’s not going to say ‘You need to progress a centimeter every two hours in order to not intervene.’ A doctor’s going to say ‘We need to intervene to make this happen.’ In that sense, there’s a lot of unnecessary C-sections, in which just waiting would have helped. Once you’ve intervened, you’ve intervened. You can’t go back.”

The midwifery program at GW is well known within the region for its comprehensive care. Anna Ravvin, 37, of Cleveland Park had an excellent experience delivering both of her children utilizing the program. “I’m a big supporter of the GW midwives. I think they work,” she says. 

But fitting in to the criteria of the program is another challenge. According to their website, expecting mothers must, “Be in excellent health. Be committed to natural birth. Have partners who are engaged in the pregnancy and natural childbirth process and additional labor support (a doula).” These parameters filter out women who may not have access to healthy food or a supportive partner. GW did not respond to City Paper’s specific questions about its midwifery program in an emailed statement. 

***

Healthcare reimbursement rates in the D.C. area are some of the lowest in the country. 

Dr. Angela Marshall, founder of Comprehensive Women’s Health and board member of the nonprofit organization Black Women’s Health Imperative, says that declining reimbursement rates, combined with the high cost of living, creates a divide in who is receiving exceptional maternal care. 

“It’s caused a lot of physicians to opt out of insurance companies altogether,” she says. “That leaves an access problem for everybody, but especially for African-American women who may not have the disposable income to be able to pay for concierge practices,” such as doulas. 

Most people in D.C. are insured, but that doesn’t mean that the insurance saves them. According to DOH’s Perinatal Health and Infant Mortality Report for 2015-2016, mothers whose births were Medicaid financed were almost two times more likely than mothers with other types of insurance to have a low birth weight baby. 

“Just because you happen to have an American Express card doesn’t mean you have a place to use it,” says Councilmember Allen. “So, if you don’t have a high-quality healthcare provider in your community, you don’t have a trusted primary care doctor, you don’t have the acute care you may need, what does that insurance get you?”

Healthcare guidelines also mean that women are permitted only one doctor visit after delivery. While new parents will have a smattering of appointments to check on the health of their newborns, a 6-week postpartum checkup is the only time that a doctor will see a woman about her recovery. 

It is estimated that more than half of women do not attend that postpartum care visit. A 2016 report by Maternal and Child Health Journal found that women miss this appointment for a variety of reasons, including problems finding childcare, difficulty with work and school schedules, and the hassle of finding transportation. 

Flexibility with insurance and the ability to see a doctor multiple times following childbirth could identify potential health complications before they turn deadly. 

Marshall says that women’s health must become a priority if the city wants to see any progress. “I think sometimes the medical community, the powers that be, really haven’t made black women’s health a priority,” she says. “Women’s health in general has been neglected.” 

***

Cover Ebony2Ebony Marcelle with a client’s babyDarrow Montgomery

D.C.’s maternal care tragedy is not new. CDC data from 1987 to 1996 show that the District then had a maternal mortality rate of 22.8 per 100,000 live-born infants, the highest maternal mortality rate after all 50 states. (The data set compared D.C. against states rather than other large cities, and the District had by far the highest percentage of births to black women.) 

This April, DC Department of Health released its Perinatal Health and Infant Mortality Report for the 2015-2016 year. Black mothers throughout the city—but particularly mothers living east of the Anacostia River—were significantly disadvantaged. Only 52 percent of non-Hispanic black mothers entered prenatal care in the first trimester compared to 86 percent of non-Hispanic white mothers and 64 percent of Hispanic mothers. 

The District’s response continues to be as meager as the data are devastating. 

Councilmember Allen’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee became law, sans morbidity studies, in June. The committee had an initial budget of $88,000 for one full-time employee for the first year, and expects to add a second.

Mayor Muriel Bowser will host a “maternal and infant health summit” with “mayors and leaders from across the country” in September, according to a press release. “We are working every day to ensure that all women have equal access to high-quality health care before, during, and after child birth—regardless of background, zip code, or income,” said Bowser in the release. 

As far as tangible change, Howard University Hospital and Unity Health Care have partnered to open a new Unity health center in Ward 7 in 2019. It will provide prenatal care, but it won’t be a hospital with a functioning maternity ward. George Washington University Hospital, along with Bowser and her administration, has signed a letter of intent to open a hospital that will provide obstetrics, expected to open in 2023 on the St. Elizabeths East campus in Ward 8. 

“If you look at it,” says Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray, “the baseball stadium that was housing the Nationals in the District of Columbia at this stage was done in 22 months, which is far faster than what this timetable is currently for the new hospital.”

“It’s a huge issue that we don’t have a hospital east of the river,” says Ebony Marcelle, the director of midwifery at Community of Hope’s Family Health and Birth Center in Northeast, which primarily serves black women from wards 7 and 8. “UMC wasn’t perfect and they definitely have their drama. I get it. However, for me, a lot of times it was like a gateway for my women in Ward 8. It would be a start sometimes for them. It takes two hours to get across town on a bus to Northwest,” she says. 

“As far as care is concerned, we have a lot of cultural barriers that we’re not really discussing. I keep sitting in these meetings and everybody looks at the ground when I’m like, ‘Can we talk about the generational distrust?’ Let’s not act like things did not happen. I know I’ve got an auntie that was in the North Carolina unknown sterilization project,” she says. “There’s a reason why we are nervous. Then when you add on the complexity of women in poverty who are trying to survive, their bodies, their health is not a priority. You keep asking her to prioritize herself. She doesn’t know how to.” 

***

The bright spots in the morass for the pregnant women of D.C. are friendships and community groups, doulas and midwives. When Marcelle is training midwifery students or talking to residents, she always tells them one thing: “Do not forget how much power you have to impact women’s lives through your care.”

Places like Community of Hope and Mamatoto Village, a maternity support services organization directed by Aza Nedhari, are helping women across the city buck the strains of the healthcare system. Instead of being rushed in and out of medical offices and experiencing doctors who treat them like a cog in a baby-pumping machine, women are getting personal, individualized care from doulas and midwives who are there to advocate for pregnant women. 

Renikia Smith, whose doctor rushed to pilates after she requested a tubal ligation, lives in Southeast near Community of Hope’s Conway Health and Resource Center. She receives prenatal and medical care and participates in pregnancy centering groups there. “It’s like family,” she says. “Once you find someone you can trust and you can actually deal with, you don’t want to let them go. It’s hard to find reliable doctors that you actually like and want to be around.” In her centering group, she and the other women painted casts molded from their pregnant bellies with the help of volunteer doula Stephanie Law.

Sylvie Nguyen-Fawley, who lives on Capitol Hill, says she had a wonderful pregnancy. She gave birth to her daughter, Adeline, at 37 via a planned C-section at Sibley. Nguyen-Fawley contributes her positive experience to a number of factors. “I’m privileged,” she says. “I worked at a very supportive office, had sick leave, and had good health insurance.”

She actively sought out connections with other new moms on Capitol Hill in order to build a network of support. “I leaned so much on people. I asked questions and followed up with my own research.” 

“Care providers, employers, family—all of these things have to work together,” says Kiara Haughton. “And at any point in time in D.C., especially if you’re black and especially if you’re a black woman, any one of those things can not work and can set you in a tailspin situation.” She hired doula Ravae Sinclair to help her through her pregnancy, and sings her praises.  

Jessica Crawford thinks that women should not be punished in their city for having the audacity to be pregnant. “I just want to be a mother,” she says. “I just want the opportunity to focus on what colors I want in my baby girl’s room, to think about things like breastfeeding and where she’s going to go to daycare. I just want to be able to focus on becoming a mother.”

Do you have a pregnancy or childbirth story you want to share? Let us know at washingtoncitypaper.com/pregnancy or email krandall@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Community Talk Radio Program’s Final Broadcast

On Saturday September 1st, 2018 the Community Talk radio program will have its final broadcast on WGLB 1560.

Community Talk is a bi-weeklycommunity affairs radio program that address issues like education, health care, politics, religion etc.

Community Talk was the brainchild of Ms. Cliffie Parris, retired Milwaukee County employee who felt that the admonishment found in Hosea 4:6 that “the people (Community) perish because of a lack of knowledge…” should be heeded and providing a platform for disseminating information to the community was a driver for success of African-American people in the Milwaukee community.

In early 2000 Ms. Parris approached then station manager Mr. Willis Payne of WGLB 1560, an African American owned and operated religious radio station. She was welcomed and COMMUNITY TALK aired its inaugural program on Saturday October 7th, 2000.

In January of 2001, Ms. Parris asked her son Keith Parris to join the program as her co-host to bring his experience in social services, politics, and education. In 2003 the late Mr. Robert Crymes was added as a co-host. In the 17 plus years Community Talk only missed one of its scheduled programs due to the funeral of Mr. Robert Crymes.

Community Talk sponsorships relationships included North Milwaukee Stat Bank, Concordia University and Martha Love and Associates.

Community has had nationally prominent guest like Rev. Jessie Jackson Sr., Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC, local community and political leader:

Scott Walker, Tom Barrett, Gwen Moore, Lena Taylor, Shelia Cochran Latanya Johnson, Gary George, Lenard Wells, Wanda Montgomery, Dr. Trinette McCray, Barbara Toles, etc.

Quotes from Cliffie Parris about Community Talk

We hope the information has been helpful to the community…”

“It was exciting bring in a wide variety of people…

“I will miss Community Talk, but everything has to come to an end, after 17 plus years I feel good that people learned things that was helpful in their lives.

“Information given about the importance of government in the lives of people, how it affected them on a daily basis

“ We stressed the importance of the power of the vote.

“We give God the glory for giving me the vision and the program’s success.

Florida Republican says vote for black opponent would ‘monkey this up’

By AFP
More by this Author

Accusations of racism flared up on Wednesday in the Florida governor’s race after the Republican candidate told voters they would “monkey this up” if they chose a liberal African-American Democrat backed by Senator Bernie Sanders.

The upset victory by Democrat Andrew Gillum, 39, in the Florida gubernatorial primary was the most notable of a slate of party primaries held on Tuesday to decide candidates for the midterm election.

Gillum’s opponent in November will be Representative Ron DeSantis, an enthusiastic backer of President Donald Trump who surged in the polls in Florida, America’s third-largest state, after earning the endorsement of the president.

DeSantis, also 39, landed in hot water within hours of his primary victory, however, with comments to Fox News which were interpreted by some as being racially charged.

Speaking of his opponent, who is seeking to become Florida’s first black governor, DeSantis said “the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”

“That part wasn’t lost on me,” Gillum responded on Fox News when asked about the “monkey this up” comment.

“It’s very clear that Mr DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump,” he said. “In the handbook of Donald Trump, they no longer do whistle calls. They are now using full bull horns.”

DeSantis spokesman Stephen Lawson rejected any racial overtones.

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” Lawson said in a statement. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd.”

In other races, a former air force fighter pilot, Representative Martha McSally, won the Republican primary in Arizona to replace the retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a vocal critic of Trump.

With 52 per cent of the vote, McSally easily defeated arch conservative Kelli Ward, a former state senator, and Joe Arpaio, an immigration hardliner who was convicted of criminal contempt and pardoned by Trump last year.

Trump had mostly stayed out of the race but he endorsed the 52-year-old McSally on Wednesday, saying she was “strong on crime” and “the border.”

McSally will take on Democrat Kyrsten Sinema as Republicans seek to hold on to their slim 51-49 majority in the Senate in November.

Democrats had been hoping for a victory by one of the right-wing candidates — Ward or Arpaio — in a bid to increase their chances of capturing the seat.

A replacement for the other senator from Arizona, the late John McCain, is to be named in the next few days by the southwestern state’s Republican governor and will be up for election in 2020.

Trump welcomed DeSantis’s victory in Florida and criticized Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, the Florida capital.

“Not only did Congressman Ron DeSantis easily win the Republican Primary, but his opponent in November is his biggest dream… a failed Socialist Mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city,” Trump tweeted. “This is not what Florida wants or needs!”

‘Build the wall’

DeSantis’s campaign featured an ad in which he encourages his toddler to use blocks to “build the wall” — a reference to Trump’s border wall with Mexico — and dresses his baby in a “Make America Great Again” outfit.

Gillum, who has called for Trump’s impeachment, is the first African-American to win Florida’s Democratic nomination for governor and his surprise win came against better-funded, more mainstream opponents.

“We were counted out every step of the way,” Gillum said. “My four opponents collectively spent over 90 million dollars. I think our total spending may have been six.”

If elected, Gillum promised to work for universal health care and “common sense” gun laws in a state where there has been a spate of mass shootings.

Sanders, who represents the left wing of the party and came up short in his 2016 challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, welcomed his victory.

“Floridians joined Andrew in standing up and demanding real change and showed our nation what is possible when we stand together,” the Vermont senator tweeted.

Also in Florida, current governor Rick Scott won the Republican Senate nomination and is set to take on Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in November.

Nelson, 75, has represented Florida in the Senate since 2001 but the latest polls show Scott with a slight lead in what is expected to be one of the most expensive congressional races.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for grabs in November along with 35 seats in the 100-member Senate.

The midterm elections in Arizona and Florida are being closely watched as harbingers of how the key states may vote in the 2020 presidential election.

Republicans will make this election all about race. And the 2020 election, too.


(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Opinion writer

August 30 at 12:19 PM

Republicans are in a pickle. The midterms are just two months away, Democrats seem more excited than ever, and the president’s approval ratings are anemic. Faced with the possibility of disaster, what message will they focus on for November? It sure is a mystery. I’ll let the New York Times reveal the answer:

Democratic nominees for governor include three African-Americans, two of them in the old Confederacy, a prospect that not long ago would have been unthinkable. Record numbers of women are competing in congressional races. Elsewhere, Muslims, gays, lesbians and transgender people will be on the ballot for high-profile offices.

That diverse cast is teeing up a striking contrast for voters in November at a time when some in the Republican Party, taking their cues from President Trump, are embracing messages with explicit appeals to racial anxieties and resentment. The result is making racial and ethnic issues and conflicts central in the November elections in a way that’s far more explicit than the recent past.

Who could have imagined that the GOP would choose to campaign on racial resentment? Only anyone who has paid attention to Republican politics in the Trump era.

What’s more, this is the only kind of campaign it can run as long as Trump is president and dominates the party. Republicans may take a different path once he’s gone, or they may not. But any campaign that involves Trump will always be about race.

The primary reason, of course, is that Trump makes every campaign about race because that’s just who he is. There are some positions he adopts insincerely — I doubt he cares one way or another what his administration’s policies on health care or education are — but when it comes to getting rid of immigrants or his belief in the intellectual inferiority of African Americans, he speaks from the heart.

But it’s also because Trumpism as a political strategy rests on stirring up racial resentment among white voters. He turned himself from a reality TV star into a political figure by becoming America’s most prominent proponent of the racist theory that Barack Obama was not born in America; he also insisted that Obama could only have gotten into college and law school because he was an affirmative-action admission who pushed aside worthier white applicants.

Even more important, Trump transformed the GOP’s view on how tricky issues of race should be handled. Until the 2016 Republican primary campaign, the prevailing wisdom in the GOP was that the party had to reach out to minority voters if it was to avoid one electoral disaster after another in the future. It still might be a party primarily of and for white people, but with enough subtlety it could keep its hold on white voters while bringing in enough supporters among rapidly growing minority populations to remain competitive.

Trump went in just the opposite direction, not only not reaching out to minorities but also making an appeal to xenophobia and racial resentment the foundation of his campaign. And it worked better than anyone could have imagined. It’s still true that in the long run the Republican Party can’t just rely on white voters, and white men in particular. But Trump showed that a white-nationalist campaign could win, at least in 2016.

By the time it was over, the Republican cult of personality around Trump was established, and base voters would accept nothing else from their candidates than full-on Trumpism — both pledges of eternal loyalty to Trump himself and, to the greatest extent possible, Trumpian campaigns built on hate and fear directed toward immigrants and racial minorities.

As conservative policy wonk Avik Roy said during the 2016 Republican convention, “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.” There’s also a TV network devoted to reinforcing and spreading white-nationalist propaganda, one the president of the United States apparently watches for hours every day.

Someone like Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is the logical outcome of the Trump takeover. His best-known ad from the primaries showed him teaching one of his children to build a wall of blocks to keep out immigrants, and reading to another from “The Art of the Deal.” When an African American won the Democratic nomination to oppose him, one of the first things DeSantis said was that “the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.” Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee, responded by saying, “In the handbook of Donald Trump they no longer do whistle calls — they’re now using full bullhorns.”

Even if that strategy fails to keep the House in Republican hands or win most of the closely contested races around the country, Republicans will see no choice but to use it again in 2020. Trump certainly will. No matter how good the economy is, he won’t be in the position Bill Clinton was in 1996 or Ronald Reagan was in 1984, able to run on a message that we need to stay the course because things are going so well. Right now unemployment is below 4 percent, yet Trump’s approval barely cracks 40 percent.

When Trump starts the 2020 race at a disadvantage, which he most likely will, he’ll inevitably go to the well of white nationalism, just as he did before. And the rest of his party will follow.

Californians living longer with cancer — some longer than others

As he grew older, Dale Kunitomi paid closer attention to his health — and to his doctor’s advice. When he noticed rectal bleeding in 2010, he went to see his physician, who ordered a colonoscopy.


The diagnosis: colon cancer.


Kunitomi, now 74, underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy — and now he has been cancer-free for seven years. “The things that are said about early detection and living a healthy lifestyle are important,” said Kunitomi, a resident of Ventura County, Calif. “You are foolish if you don’t pay attention.”


Californians are living longer with most types of cancer, due to earlier detection and more effective treatments, according to new research from the University of California-Davis. But racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities persist, the report found.


The study, published this month, shows that 65 percent of people diagnosed with cancer between 2006 and 2010 survived five years or more from the time their disease was discovered, up from 58 percent for those diagnosed between 1990 and 1994. The researchers drew from data on 1.4 million California adults diagnosed with 27 different kinds of cancer. They found improved survival rates for patients with all but five types of cancer.


Non-Latino whites had the highest five-year survival rate for all cancers combined, followed by Latinos — though Pacific Islanders and Asians, like Kunitomi, had the highest rates for 13 of the cancers studied, including breast, colon, liver and lung. African-Americans had the worst overall prognosis.


The California numbers echo a national trend of significant improvement in cancer survival, one also tempered by racial and ethnic disparities. A recent analysis in the journal Cancer, which relied on death rather than survival rates, found a 26 percent decline in cancer mortality in the United States between 1991 and 2015 — translating to nearly 2.4 million cancer deaths avoided. The study showed mortality rates declined for all the major cancers, including breast, colorectal and prostate.


Dale Kunitomi, now 74, underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy to treat colon cancer. He has been cancer-free for seven years.


Dr. Otis Brawley, one of the authors of that report and chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, attributed the improvement to better screening, detection and treatment — and a decline in smoking. He said cancer deaths likely would drop even further if there were more equal access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the UC-Davis data show that poor Californians don’t live as long with cancer as those of greater means. About three-quarters of the patients at the highest socioeconomic level, with all cancers combined, survived five years or more. Just over half the patients at the lowest levels lived that long. Age was also a major factor: The younger patients were at the time of the diagnosis, the better their chance of survival.


Separate research from UC-Davis, published in 2015, showed the impact of health insurance status: Uninsured patients and those on Medi-Cal — California’s version of the federal Medicaid program for low-income people — had worse cancer care and outcomes than people with private insurance.


The research published this month showed the most critical factor in survival was finding the cancer early, which the report said underscores the importance of screening. One hundred percent of breast cancer patients survived at least five years if their disease was detected at stage 1. Only 28 percent of patients lived that long if their cancer was found when it was at stage 4, the most advanced stage. Most types of cancer show similarly stark disparities.


Stages, which depend in part on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread, are a gauge of how serious the disease is.


“The earlier things are picked up, the more likely it is that treatment is successful,” said Dr. Kenneth Kizer, senior author of the study and director of the UC-Davis Institute for Population Health Improvement.


Cancer screening and treatment for African-Americans lag behind other racial and ethnic groups, said Dr. Nancy Lee, who is on the board of Black Women’s Health Imperative, a national organization that seeks to improve the health of black women. Long-standing and sometimes unrecognized bias in the health care system disadvantages black patients in a way that can compromise their medical outcomes, said Lee, who previously led the cancer division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


White women in California are more likely to get breast cancer, the most common cancer among women, but black women are more likely to die from it, the UC-Davis report found.


Bobby Smith’s wife, an African-American, died 13 years ago after her breast cancer moved into her lymph nodes and eventually metastasized to her brain. Smith said he doesn’t believe doctors gave her all the information she needed to make the best decisions about her treatment. “Health care professionals treat and serve people of color differently,” said Smith, who lives in Los Angeles.


The UC-Davis report used data from the California Cancer Registry, a repository of data on cancer patients dating to 1988 that contains information on patient demographics, diagnosis, initial treatment and outcomes.


The rates reported in the study measure “relative” survival, which represents survival in the absence of other causes of death. The study showed patients with prostate, breast, melanoma and uterine cancers had among the highest survival rates: More than 80 percent of them lived at least five years after their diagnosis.


Survival did not improve for patients with some cancers, including bladder, cervical and testicular. And fewer than 20 percent of patients with cancers of the lung, liver, pancreas and esophagus lived past five years.


For breast cancer patients, five-year survival improved from 85 percent among those diagnosed between 1990 and 1994 to 90 percent among those diagnosed between 2006 and 2010.


The patterns were similar for lung cancer, the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in California and the leading cause of cancer deaths nationwide. The disease tends to be diagnosed late, and patients with stage 4 cancer had just a 4 percent survival rate after five years.


Kizer of UC-Davis said new treatments offer great promise for cancer patients, but how much money they have and who their insurers are may well determine whether or not they reap the benefits.


Cancer is hard enough for people with means and education, said Susan Lasker Hertz, 61, a Colorado nurse who was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2009 and then developed leukemia three years later. Hertz, who is now in remission from both cancers, said her knowledge and experience helped her navigate the health care system and get treated quickly after her diagnosis. But it wasn’t easy.


“I am an educated, white, highly knowledgeable health care professional,” she said, “and it is still overwhelming.”


KHN’s coverage in California is supported in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

The Next Generation of Austin Hip-Hop

Teeta, Kenny Gee, and Quin NFN (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

You’re not old enough to buy alcohol, and don’t have enough Hawaiian shirts or blond streaks to attend UT frat parties. You listen to Kendrick and Killer Mike, and (think) you can pull off RompHims and man purses, Chinese topknots, and velvet dresses. You’re too white for black kids and too black for Austin’s vast majority, although you can be any color and hunger for beats.

One day, you click on a Facebook event from a fellow student’s Twitter blast: “MUD DJ set. East or North Austin locale.”

Ultimate democratizer, the internet leads you to a mostly black and brown party where everybody can quote the latest Kanye album and too many Supreme-clad bodies sweat it out to a vaguely personalized RapCaviar DJ set. The patchouli-and-Badu infrastructure names – MUD, Human Influence, Raw Paw – commingle with the lean-laced Gucci Mane ones for the MCs: Kenny Gee, Quin NFN, Teeta, etc.

Many clubs are wary of an underage crowd, especially those sporting chains and wife beaters. One hip-hop pop-up showcased recently at a dubious strip mall in what had almost certainly been a strip club before the roving party moved to an East Austin house. A greasy stand in the back sold 40s and fried chicken.

Younger rappers don’t need venues, bookers, promoters, and they no longer hold down day jobs while waiting on agents. They have SoundCloud and Instagram to sell tickets, after all.

Renting a warehouse or makeshift art gallery is cheap, no liquor license necessary, but such a mixed crowd hyped on late-night testosterone and 808s often ends in bruises and sirens. House parties have the advantage of drawing a more diverse after-hours audience. Button-downs and grills alike flock to wherever has liquor and weed when the club closes.

For the better part of the last decade, Austin hip-hop has bred a raw potpourri of talent, a large pool both benefiting from the local scene’s DIY accessibility and hamstrung by the lack of its larger industry infrastructure (revisit “Hip-Hop on the Verge,” Jan. 16, 2015). From best to worst, one and all jumped through the same hoops (booking, management, radio) behind big-league intentions with the same few promoters and label reps working toward the same shared goal: A record deal no matter how small.

Now, for a whole new generation of truly homegrown ATX rappers, those hoops and hurdles are quickly vanishing.

Lone Wolf Pack

When Leon O’Neal, aka premier hip-hop DJ Hella Yella, hollered at shawties during Huston-Tillotson B-ball games, you the networker had to actually hand the man at the wheels your cassette. Stumbling on to the art of spinning in 2004 as a fill-in at a game and now mixing for 102.3 The Beat while also holding down a residency at Rio, the San Antonio-born O’Neal took home Club DJ of the Year honors in 2010 from both the Austin-American Statesman and the Chronicle. A fervent promoter of homegrown hip-hop via the nationally syndicated radio station, he hosts morning segment Austin Music Mondays wherein he interviews up-and-coming Austin rappers.

“Back then, you were able to network and cross-promote,” says O’Neal. “Now it’s the internet. The younger artists don’t care about how things used to be done.”

In the Nineties and early Aughts, Austin artists and management networked in the same small circles, bumping Saturday night gigs at historic East Austin institution the Victory Grill and buying promoters shots of Hennessy. Hip-hop emerged from the P. Diddy shiny suits era, and the Dirty South rode full-force into the mainstream out of New Orleans and Atlanta on the fledgling trap wheels of Lil Wayne and T.I. The Texas state capital, with its mostly syndicated radio and punk aesthetic, proved unprepared.

“We never had the infrastructure for hip-hop the way Houston or Dallas did,” states O’Neal.

Eventually, Dirty Wormz and League of Extraordinary Gz cracked the I-35 wall between ironic cowboy boots and Wu-Tang logos (see “You Can’t Bury Me,” June 8, 2012), and current Austin institution Riders Against the Storm not only became the first hip-hop act voted Austin Band of the Year in the Chronicle‘s 2014 Austin Music Poll, they went on to three-peat. Nevertheless, the live music capital still reserves its boners for live percussion.

“People don’t understand how hard it was for the people before us, for us, and even the younger people,” notes RAS co-front MC Qi Dada, née Ghislaine Mahone. “That needs to be celebrated. A lot of the rappers who were doing it before us were showmen. They had bands, but doors were closed to them.

“Austin was, and is still a very segregated city when it comes to black art.”

Be that as it may, Austin remains a city of youth, and hip-hop maintains as the young people’s soundtrack. Rap rules as the most streamed genre in America. Everything bounces on a boom bap.

Quick to form loosely knit Wu-Tang-style collectives, the League of Extraordinary Gz, founded in 2009, rap/rock blend Dirty Wormz, and more recently Team Next dispersed into solo and small-band acts. Even the Southern battle rap scene, which used to be headquartered in Austin, is now disbanded. In their stead rises a lone wolf mentality.

Why? Partly because fanbases have become not purely physical. Groups used to coalesce out of necessity; the more rappers, the more tickets they combined to sell. Personal branding now readily available on the internet, tickets can be clicked on far beyond what a lone rapper once had at their disposal.

As such, middlemen can now be cut out, a crucial step in smaller scenes like Austin. Younger rappers don’t need venues, bookers, promoters, and they no longer hold down day jobs while waiting on agents. They have SoundCloud and Instagram to sell tickets, after all.

“Kids these days can do their own thing thanks to the internet,” says Easy Lee of Third Root (re-read “Trill Pedagogy,” Feb. 2). “They don’t have to wait.”

RAS’s Qi Dada is dubious, though supportive, of the longevity of this trend.

“An online following doesn’t necessarily translate to having a career or supporting yourself as an artist,” she shrugs.

Beyond SoundCloud Rap

Over a decade after O’Neal began spinning, Kenneth Jackson threw his first paid house party and quit his day job at a summer camp. Known by his alias Kenny Gee, he grew up in a concrete duplex on the Eastside. The self-styled fashion killa, who unofficially reps local vintage store Monkies, has transcended SoundCloud rap as a premier millennial word syndicate.

“I’m a trendsetter, a leader,” boasts Jackson, who plays mostly a solo game other than teaming up with his half-brother and using Facebook as a press agent. “I’ve been able to live off my music.”

Behind crucial endorsements from local concert promotions biggie ScoreMore, now of Clear Channel conglomerate LiveNation, Jackson capitalized on teenage lust for club environs and grew his warehouse events to a full-blown fanbase. Paying tribute to his native roots in music videos and lyrics, and rapping about his come-up over gyrating behinds at Austin skating rink Playland, he even wields a social media catchphrase frequented in his music: “Ya Feel Me?” SoundCloud tracks from the homegrown spitter vary from 3,000 to 137,000 streams, so he recently ventured to L.A. to take meetings.

This streamlined pace finds even younger Austin rappers accelerating in their own lane.

Quin NFN (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Austin remains a city of youth, and hip-hop remains the young people’s soundtrack. Rap rules as the most streamed genre in America. Everything bounces on a boom bap.

Seventeen-year-old Quinlan McAfee, who raps as Quin NFN, grew up listening to Jackson and put his career on the fast track with a string of rapid-fire trap singles that regularly garner tens of thousands of streams. The high school dropout rhymes with a vicious, foaming-at-the-mouth swagger that slams harder than Bobby Shmurda’s jail bars and blew SoundCloud plays through the roof. Born and raised in East Austin, McAfee says he was weaned on Amy’s Ice Creams and Lil Wayne.

“Kenny Gee inspired me to do my own thing and pursue music full-time,” murmurs McAfee sheepishly, underlining the fact that his tough-talking rap persona pivots 180 degrees from an otherwise shy teenager. “I just like how he plays with words.” As a viral rapper paired with responsible management – young enough to still get an “X” on his hand at the club but with a voice that carries weight in many senses – McAfee supports himself through performance fees and features. That’s admittedly easier as a young adult with no mortgage. Former manager Donny “Ca$h” Shorts, who started out in the League of Extraordinary Gz and saw beyond the chain link fence of “Game Plan Pt 2” into a voice so raw it almost hurts, helped steer McAfee’s almost 200,000 YouTube views into sold-out parties and South by Southwest showcases.

Perhaps no artist embodies the evolution of Austin rap more than Teeta, né Terell Anthony Jackson (no relation to Kenny Gee). Part of A$AP Mob-like collective Team Next, Teeta’s friendly, gold-decked smile remains as recognizable as his eclectic entourage. His first trap beats and Southern cliches were brushed aside by mainstream media, but the 28-year-old continues to hone his craft and polish his strand of “new age pretty boy trap.”

“We came straight from the ground level up,” he says. “We didn’t have a whole bunch of money, just consistency. After you hammer at it for so long, people have to pay attention.”

Since 2012, the dreadlocked Austinite has hosted warehouse parties and dive bar gigs such as the aforementioned strip club showcase, pursuing music full-time since 2016 and graduating to larger shows at Empire. He’s seen the scene grow up and his music with it, evolving from smaller shows of drunk college students, day-one townies, and off-duty strippers, to opening for established artists such as Smokepurpp. His transition from a collaborative music scene, networking within a small orbit of Austin events, to focusing on a solo career and more concentrated self-development is a hallmark of recent artists.

“Austin hip-hop is changing. The reason you wanted to write this article is because you feel it changing. We’re establishing a blueprint,” he states unequivocally.

The Blueprint

Paradoxically to the scene’s lone wolf trend, its nascent master plan currently trends toward infrastructure development and managerial guidance for next-gen MCs.

Public relations specialist Reno Dudley, who manages local R&B soulstress Alesia Lani (see “Meet the Women of Austin R&B,” Sept. 22, 2017), views Teeta’s popularity as symptomatic of a rising urban center. The Southeast Austin native, who snagged a business degree in Chicago, notes “the scene is growing up.” Homegrown artists such as Teeta and Kydd Jones are networking up a storm, and the genre’s growth in popularity (and gentrification) means a metropolis of hungry yuppies waits for their live music capital experience to be translated over trap snares.

Teeta (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

“When a lot of the older cats were first starting out, we didn’t have people who could take us to certain circles like Kenny Gee could,” says Dudley. “There’s more people that you can reach out to now.”

Along with the talent, the business end is maturing too.

“I’m starting to see more actual managers, not just rappers that are like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna be a manager just because my homeboy’s part of a clique,” adds Dudley.

The PR maven is perhaps the symbol of professionalism in beat world, instantly recognizable as a tall, late-20s gentleman who wears an impeccably tailored suit to every event even if most of the audience is swilling beers in tank tops. For Dudley, whose suit is apparently heat proof, he and other Cap City managers are inclined toward professionalism because the internet affords their clients plenty of opportunity to screw up.

“You’re not just managing your artists for interviews and stuff,” he offers. “You’re managing them day-to-day, because with social media and the internet it’s a 24/7 job. It’s like having really grown children.”

Despite growing tangles of professional connections, such as the Bishops’ former manager being an intern for ScoreMore (but ScoreMore not managing them), Teeta’s manager Anthony Lindsay of one-man Wane Management describes Austin hip-hop as nuclear units.

“There’s a big divide that’s going on,” he proclaims in a slight Midwestern accent. “These last few years, who’s poppin’ in the city? Magna Carda, the Bishops, Quin – but they’re all in different circles with their own management.”

Rather than working with larger rap collectives of 10 people or more such as the League of Extraordinary Gz or chasing record deals, managers now focus on fewer, more exclusive clients. Lindsay is one of the new school, moving to Austin from Wisconsin in 2014 after studying graphic design and getting his foot in the water throwing musical events at the UT co-op. Like Dudley, Lindsay’s in his late-20s, harbors an outside point of view, and is eager to see Austin hip-hop grow up.

“It’s the transition between Austin being a giant art class, where there’s so much talent but little viable economic infrastructure, to becoming an actual industry.”

Mrs. President

In 2028, Austin traffic will snarl with self-driving cars. More thirtysomethings will have roommates thanks to high rents. Perhaps Oprah Winfrey will be president.

By then, Kenny Gee will own his own club, YaFeelMe, maybe a string of them, and Quin’s mixtapes will have ushered in a new wave of viral rappers on HipHopDX. Austin rap will sound like further ATX climbers like Harry Edohoukwa, with his melodic rhythms, or Tank Washington’s updated street boom bap, and the Bishops’ ethereal LSD hymns.

Kenny Gee (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

According to KUTX The Breaks co-host Confucius Jones (see “Playback” Aug. 31), a third-generation River City native, Austin rap might still not have achieved a definitive sound.

“Austin’s a city that’s weird,” he says. “So our music is just going to be weird. There’s no one sound. I hope we never get a sound.”

But we will get a system. Art class is over, galleries are closing in, and agents are starting to wear suits. Record label gatekeepers can’t beat Instagram branding and SoundCloud fame, and trying to slide mixtapes to DJs will just garner a confused look since none will own CD players.

“In 10 years we’ll have big-league infrastructure,” says Dudley. “There’s a whole movement going on and it’s beautiful.”

A version of this article appeared in print on August 31, 2018 with the headline: M.A.A.D. City

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Software Estimation Need Not Be a Black Art in 2018

Unfortunately, software project overruns are an all too common occurrence. In fact, more than 50% of software projects are over budget, behind schedule, or both, primarily due to a high reliance on subjectivity in estimation practices. This white paper explains the steps you can take to improve estimation accuracy with the hard data needed to transform your organization’s estimation process from a mystical black art to a fact-based science.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

President tweets Andrew Gillum is a ‘failed Socialist;’ mayor says Trump talk not helpful

James Call and Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat Published 9:56 a.m. ET Aug. 29, 2018 | Updated 10:15 a.m. ET Aug. 29, 2018

CLOSE

One is backed by President Donald Trump, the other has Sen. Bernie Sanders’ support. Nate Chute, IndyStar

President Donald Trump has jumped with both feet into Florida’s 2018 governor’s race to call the Democratic nominee a “failed Socialist.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum scored a stunning upset Tuesday night when he became the first African-American to win the gubernatorial nomination of a major party in Florida.

Trump responded shortly after 8 a.m. with a tweet that Gillum is not what Florida wants or need.

“Not only did Congressman Ron DeSantis easily win the Republican Primary, but his opponent in November is his biggest dream….a failed Socialist Mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city. This is not what Florida wants or needs!, ” the president tweeted from the White House.

The president tweeted from the White House after Gillum made the rounds of cable morning talk shows on CNN and MSNBC.

Mayor Andrew Gillum said this morning President Trump “looms in the shadows” of Florida’s political campaigns, so Democrats must concentrate on winning the votes of disillusioned citizens who don’t trust politicians.

More: 2018 primary election coverage: Analysis of election results for Florida, Brevard

More: Brevard County primary election results for 2018

In an interview on “Morning Joe,” Gillum told former Pensacola Congressman Joe Scarborough he is not concerned about Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis having the president’s endorsement.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

The mayor said he won the Democratic nomination by convincing party members he can improve education, protect the environment and strengthen Florida’s economy — and predicted the same approach will work in the general election.

“We know that Donald Trump looms in the shadows here,” Gillum said. “I’ve got to be able to turn out those voters who are highly skeptical of the political process.”

DeSantis beat Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the GOP primary largely on the strength of Trump’s endorsement. Gillum and other Democrats running for governor stressed their opposition to the president, who carried Florida’s 29 electoral votes two years ago.

In his 7 a.m. appearance on MSNBC, Gillum said continuing to attack Trump won’t do much to motivate voters who are struggling to feed their families and get ahead. 

“We believe that we have to talk to Floridians, and largely Floridians who have chosen not to participate in this political process,” he said. “Talking about Donald Trump and reminding folks about how bad he is, and how unqualified he is for the job he holds, doesn’t do anything to insure that they’re able to make ends meet, doesn’t do anything to assure that they have access to good health care, and a good education system and 21st century transportation, and a clean and good environment.

CLOSE

Andrew Gillum celebrates his victory as he wins the Democratic nomination for Governor Tallahassee Democrat

 

 

 

Read or Share this story: https://on.flatoday.com/2MZuZwQ

US Republican says vote for black opponent would ‘monkey this up’

By AFP
More by this Author

Accusations of racism flared up on Wednesday in the Florida governor’s race after the Republican candidate told voters they would “monkey this up” if they chose a liberal African-American Democrat backed by Senator Bernie Sanders.

The upset victory by Democrat Andrew Gillum, 39, in the Florida gubernatorial primary was the most notable of a slate of party primaries held on Tuesday to decide candidates for the midterm election.

Gillum’s opponent in November will be Representative Ron DeSantis, an enthusiastic backer of President Donald Trump who surged in the polls in Florida, America’s third-largest state, after earning the endorsement of the president.

DeSantis, also 39, landed in hot water within hours of his primary victory, however, with comments to Fox News which were interpreted by some as being racially charged.

Speaking of his opponent, who is seeking to become Florida’s first black governor, DeSantis said “the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”

“That part wasn’t lost on me,” Gillum responded on Fox News when asked about the “monkey this up” comment.

“It’s very clear that Mr DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump,” he said. “In the handbook of Donald Trump, they no longer do whistle calls. They are now using full bull horns.”

DeSantis spokesman Stephen Lawson rejected any racial overtones.

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” Lawson said in a statement. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd.”

In other races, a former air force fighter pilot, Representative Martha McSally, won the Republican primary in Arizona to replace the retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a vocal critic of Trump.

With 52 per cent of the vote, McSally easily defeated arch conservative Kelli Ward, a former state senator, and Joe Arpaio, an immigration hardliner who was convicted of criminal contempt and pardoned by Trump last year.

Trump had mostly stayed out of the race but he endorsed the 52-year-old McSally on Wednesday, saying she was “strong on crime” and “the border.”

McSally will take on Democrat Kyrsten Sinema as Republicans seek to hold on to their slim 51-49 majority in the Senate in November.

Democrats had been hoping for a victory by one of the right-wing candidates — Ward or Arpaio — in a bid to increase their chances of capturing the seat.

A replacement for the other senator from Arizona, the late John McCain, is to be named in the next few days by the southwestern state’s Republican governor and will be up for election in 2020.

Trump welcomed DeSantis’s victory in Florida and criticized Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, the Florida capital.

“Not only did Congressman Ron DeSantis easily win the Republican Primary, but his opponent in November is his biggest dream… a failed Socialist Mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city,” Trump tweeted. “This is not what Florida wants or needs!”

‘Build the wall’

DeSantis’s campaign featured an ad in which he encourages his toddler to use blocks to “build the wall” — a reference to Trump’s border wall with Mexico — and dresses his baby in a “Make America Great Again” outfit.

Gillum, who has called for Trump’s impeachment, is the first African-American to win Florida’s Democratic nomination for governor and his surprise win came against better-funded, more mainstream opponents.

“We were counted out every step of the way,” Gillum said. “My four opponents collectively spent over 90 million dollars. I think our total spending may have been six.”

If elected, Gillum promised to work for universal health care and “common sense” gun laws in a state where there has been a spate of mass shootings.

Sanders, who represents the left wing of the party and came up short in his 2016 challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, welcomed his victory.

“Floridians joined Andrew in standing up and demanding real change and showed our nation what is possible when we stand together,” the Vermont senator tweeted.

Also in Florida, current governor Rick Scott won the Republican Senate nomination and is set to take on Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in November.

Nelson, 75, has represented Florida in the Senate since 2001 but the latest polls show Scott with a slight lead in what is expected to be one of the most expensive congressional races.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for grabs in November along with 35 seats in the 100-member Senate.

The midterm elections in Arizona and Florida are being closely watched as harbingers of how the key states may vote in the 2020 presidential election.

Erin Christovale wraps up exhibition ‘Made in LA’ with Roski Talk

A graduate of the School of Cinematic Arts, Christovale is currently an assistant curator at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, finishing up her popular exhibition “Made in L.A. 2018.” Christovale has previously explored issues like black womanhood in her works. (Grace Steele | Daily Trojan)

In the first of a series of Roski Talks featuring artists, curators, historians and calligraphers sharing their stories, Erin Christovale, a Los Angeles-based curator at the Hammer Museum, spoke about creating spaces for black experiences, and her current exhibition “Made In L.A. 2018.”

Students sat patiently on the ground in front of the presentation room, while others stood crowded in the back.  As a prelude to her talk, Christovale projected playwright Bill Gunn’s letter to the editor, titled “To Be a Black Artist,” a work that has motivated her and influenced her curatorial style. Gunn wrote the letter in 1973, after a white critic from The New York Times wrote a scathing review of his movie “Ganja and Hess,” a black vampiric love story.

As Christovale read the letter, the room erupted with laughter at Gunn’s fiery responses, and his satiric suggestion that “the producers wait anxiously for the black reviewers’ opinions of ‘The Sound of Music’ or ‘A Clockwork Orange.’” The crowd nodded, too, as Gunn’s words resonated: “If I were white, I would probably be called fresh and different. If I were European, ‘Ganja and Hess’ might be ‘that little film you must see.’”

Christovale graduated from the School of Cinematic Arts in 2010, with a desire to create an artistic space for her lived experiences. Recently, she curated the Hammer’s “Made in L.A. 2018” show, a biennial exhibition that explores the contemporary tone of Los Angeles by showcasing local artists. This year’s show featured a wide variety of installations — from E.J. Hill’s endurance performance to Lauren Halsey’s “The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project,” which will become a part of the architecture of South Central L.A.

Titled, “Collectives, collaborations, and the thoughts that surround me,” Christovale’s Roski Talk began with a cheery picture of her and her friends, all but one alumni from different departments at USC. In 2010, the black creative group formed the collective “Native Thinghood,” a nod to Aldous Huxley’s book “Doors of Perception,” in which plants are described as having “been robbed of their thinghood or essence.” Like the plants, Christovale leveled, “[black people] have been commodified and named different things.”

In 2013, she was introduced to Amir George, a Chicago-based filmmaker, and  the pair formed “Black Radical Imagination,” a now-international program that provided a space for black filmmakers and visual artists to display their work. The name is an ode to the idea that there had to be some sort of black imagination in order to ever exist outside of racism and oppression and imagine a liberated future. While Christovale no longer curates the program, she praises it as a “rich point of dialogue that continues to grow.”

In 2014, she explored environmental racism with her show “a/wake in the water”; in 2016, the topic at hand was queer black womanhood with “Memoirs of a Watermelon Woman”; and in 2017, she explored black masculinity with “baby boy.” When asked why she settled down at the Hammer after so long, she joked “the first thing I thought was I need healthcare,” but became more serious when talking about her feelings toward working at a predominantly white museum.

“I’m not here to be a superhero, or be a person who changes an institution,” Christovale said. However, the audience’s unanimous smile made it clear that Christovale’s work continues to be eye-opening and perhaps even revolutionary.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment