Nominations are Now Open for the 2019 African-American Achievers Awards

Nominations accepted through Nov. 30, 2018

Nominations are Now Open for the 2019 African-American Achievers AwardsDeerfield BeachJM Family Enterprises, Southeast Toyota Distributors and JM Lexus are now accepting applications for the 27th annual African-American Achievers awards.

The ceremony will recognize four inspirational African-Americans who set an example through community involvement and leadership in one of four categories: Arts & Culture; Business & Entrepreneurism; Community Service; and Education.

The public is invited to nominate someone today who they believe should be honored during the commemorative ceremony on April 24th.

Established in 1992 by Jim Moran, automotive pioneer and founder of JM Family, the African-American Achievers awards program annually recognizes unsung leaders for their exceptional contributions toward building stronger communities in South Florida.

“This is a very important tradition for JM Family,” said Kim Bentley, assistant vice president of Corporate Philanthropy.  “We look forward each year to honoring individuals who are going above and beyond to help their communities. We appreciate this opportunity to recognize those who seek no recognition, but who inspire others through their generosity and spirit.”

Nominations, which consist of a short narrative about how the nominee improves the lives of others, invests their talents and motives future generations, are due by Friday, November 30, 2018.  The awards presentation and ceremony is open to the public and will be held on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at the Broward County Convention Center.

Applications are available here or by calling (866) 516-2497.

In honor of the achievers, JM Family, Southeast Toyota and JM Lexus will donate $10,000 in each achiever’s name to the South Florida charity or charities of his/her choice. An additional $500 will also be donated to the charity or charities of choice for those whose nominee is selected as an African-American Achiever, for a total campaign contribution of $42,000 to local nonprofits. Each person whose nominee is chosen will receive an invitation to attend the evening’s private reception.

Since its inception, JM Family has donated more than $600,000 on behalf of 156 individual African-American Achievers.

For more information, visit the African-American Achievers’ Facebook page.

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AFRO-American Newspaper and Morgan State University Partner to Launch Statewide Polling to Gauge African-American Opinion

AFRO-American Newspaper and Morgan State University Partner to Launch Statewide Polling to Gauge African-American Opinion

N.J.-based Braun Research, Inc. and Morgan’s Institute for Urban Research to Survey and Analyze Attitudes of Black Residents Toward Maryland’s Gubernatorial Race, to Start   

In the run-up to election day in Maryland, Morgan State University President David Wilson and AFRO-American Newspapers CEO/Publisher Frances Murphy Draper have announced a new research collaborative between the Historically Black Institution and the African-American–focused publication, to conduct a series of statewide opinion polls gauging the attitudes of African Americans. Starting with a poll related to Maryland’s gubernatorial race, the effort will expand to research a variety of other issues important to African Americans, such as economics and buying power, quality of life, mortality and law enforcement, with an eye toward polling of national trends in the future. The polling and data collection will be conducted by New Jersey-based Braun Research, Incorporated, with analysis support from Morgan’s Institute for Urban Research. The results of the first poll are expected to be released this later week.

“This is a unique time in our country’s history, and to make sense of some of the things that are transpiring requires a unique understanding, as we strive to give a voice to those who may not feel their issues are adequately being addressed or highlighted. With this partnership, we believe that we can assist in bridging some of the gaps,” said President Wilson. “In the city of Baltimore, no two voices resonate louder within the black community than those of Morgan and the AFRO, and through this research, we want to use our voices to help others know what the important issues are to African Americans throughout the state and nationally.”

“We are excited about this historic collaboration between two of our nation’s iconic African-American institutions,” said Draper, who is also a Morgan alumnus and vice chair of the Morgan State University Board of Regents. “Our goal is to accurately take the temperature of African Americans nationwide on a variety of topics. Morgan and the AFRO have a long history of working together, and we look forward to growing our legacy.”

The polling conducted by Braun will include only Marylanders who identify as African Americans. The pollsters will collect representative samples of registered voters categorized by age, gender, income and education. The initial poll, which will focus on the race for the next Maryland governor, comes during a time when three African-American candidates are vying for governor in three states: Maryland, Georgia and Florida. African Americans represent an important voting constituency in those races.

Beyond the upcoming elections, Morgan and the AFRO look to move more of the research operation in-house and create a panel of pollsters assessing a host of issues in the American-African community, not only statewide but around the country. The polling and research analysis will be housed in Morgan’s Institute for Urban Research and led by the Institute’s director, Raymond Winbush, Ph.D. The finalized data will be available to interested organizations and entities.

“For the first time, an opinion poll conducted by an established black newspaper and an HBCU will sample the opinions of African Americans on a variety of subjects,” said Dr. Winbush. “The Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State is excited about its partnership with the AFRO to sample the opinions of African Americans who are often marginalized by other polling organizations.”

The Institute for Urban Research is the primary social science research and training arm of Morgan State University. The Institute has a core staff of experienced researchers who seek to improve the response of governmental, nongovernmental, private and other institutions to the challenges of poverty, unemployment, poor health, truancy and other urban and regional problems. Through its Community Development Resource Center, Family Life Center and Survey Research Center, the Institute provides a wide range of research and outreach services that include technical assistance to community-based agencies in Baltimore and Central Maryland. The Institute provides many opportunities for students to develop research skills and gain hands-on experience, through stipends, internships and research assistantships. It also assists faculty in preparing grant proposals, designing research studies and analyzing research data.

About the AFRO-American Newspaper

While the AFRO is honored to be designated by a 2014 Nielsen-Essence survey as the #1 source of news for African-American people, being that source is something it’s been doing for more than 125 years. Since its 1892 founding by John H. Murphy, Sr., the AFRO has gathered news from and for black communities throughout the country and beyond. With its own itinerant writers and photographers, the AFRO has sensed value that could or would not be perceived by other journalists and has told every relevant story, recorded every insightful conversation and sent those stories to homes and offices through the hands of paper boys and girls who have grown up to be corporate and entrepreneurial news influencers in their own right. And the work is now expanded through the use of the latest technology and social media as the AFRO enjoys more than half a million Facebook followers and tweets its news on Twitter and its photos on Instagram.

About Morgan

Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 100 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit

Abrams, Kemp spar over voting and immigration in Georgia governor debate

Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp

Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams has called for her opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, to resign as the state’s top election official while running for governor. | John Bazemore/AP Photo

Voting rights and illegal immigration dominated a tense gubernatorial debate in Georgia Tuesday night, as Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams clashed over their visions for the state’s future.

The debate came as Kemp, the secretary of state, defends himself against accusations of voter suppression from Abrams and Georgia Democrats, who have latched onto a report that 53,000 voter registrations, mostly by African-Americans, have been held up by Kemp’s office ahead of the election. Abrams, the first black woman to win a gubernatorial nomination, has made new voter registration a key part of her campaign and career.

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“If you look at the numbers, minority participation is up 23 percent,” Kemp said at the debate. “We have a million more people on our voter rolls today than we had when I took office. We’ve had record turnouts in our last presidential election and we’ve had record turnouts right now. This farce about voter suppression and being held up on the rolls and not being able to vote is absolutely not true.”

Abrams shot back that “under Secretary Kemp, more people have lost the right to vote in the state of Georgia, they’ve been purged, they’ve been suppressed, and they’ve been scared.”

Abrams has called for Kemp to resign as the state’s top election official while running for governor. He was asked if he could impartially serve as secretary of state while running for governor and whether he would recuse himself in the case of a recount. Kemp said he was staying put.

“I’m doing the same thing that Democrat Kathy Cox was doing when she was running for governor. If we have the instance of a recount, that’s automatic by state law if lower than one percent [separates the candidates],” Kemp said. “I have staked my integrity of my whole career on the duty that I have as Secretary of State. I’ve always fulfilled and followed the laws of the state and I’ll continue to do that through the tenure of my service to this great state.”

The debate, which also featured Libertarian candidate Ted Metz, often veered back to voting rights and immigration even when the questions turned to topics like health care or access to state colleges. Asked whether DACA recipients who are paying their taxes should be allowed to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges, Kemp charged that Abrams would radically transform the state.

“I’ve been running my whole campaign about putting Georgians first,” Kemp said. “I think we need to continue to do that. Unlike Ms. Abrams who wants to give the HOPE scholarship and free college tuition to those that are here illegally, I think that is the wrong position to go.”

Abrams quickly responded: “I stand by believing that every Georgian who graduates from our high schools should be allowed to attend our colleges and if they’re eligible, receive the hope scholarship.

Kemp also accused Abrams of seeking illegal votes, bringing up a video that he said “clearly” showed that Abrams was asking for “undocumented and documented folks to be part of your winning strategy. So why are you encouraging people to break the law for you in this election?”

“Mr. Kemp, you are very aware that I know the laws of Georgia when it comes to voting,” Abrams said. “I have never in my life asked for anyone in my life asked for anyone ineligible to vote to cast a ballot. What I have asked for is that you allow those who are legally eligible to vote to allow them to cast their ballot.”

Kemp responded that Georgians should “google the clip” and see that Abrams was clearly talking about urging illegal immigrants to vote for her.

“That is outrageous,” Kemp said. “She knows that if you watch the video yourself you will see it first-hand.”

A Mercury Voter Guide for the November 2018 Election

Michelle Mruk

This year’s general election is centered on fear. Fear of losing affordable access to health care. Fear of unregulated crime. Fear of not having a safe place to call home. Fear of losing hard-earned savings. Fear of money determining elections. Fear of being unprotected against an erratic federal government. Fear of the unknown.

For the first time since 2006, Oregon voters are making a decision on limiting a woman’s right to an abortion. They’ll be considering whether to overturn the state’s 30-year-old law limiting what local law enforcement agencies have to tell federal immigration officials. They’ll choose between keeping a fierce Democrat in the governor’s office or replacing her with a conservative who’s masterfully rebranded himself as a moderate. More locally, voters will decide if they’ll help fund the first tri-county housing bond to create stable housing for the region’s poorest—or hope that the private market solves our crippling deficit of affordable housing.

This local (and national) election cycle is meant to be divisive. If you’ve forgotten: It’s the midterms! The general election that splits a presidential term traditionally features the best table-flipping chaos and petty partisanship that our delightful democracy has to offer.

But despite what the door-knockers and campaign flyers and dramatic Hulu ads and fear-mongering Facebook groups are telling you: Have no fear! We’re here to help you cut through the polarizing bullshit and understand what’s at the root of each measure and candidate on the ballot. We’ll also give you our best advice on who or what we believe you should vote for.

There are a few ballot items we’re intentionally skipping over in our endorsement guide—like unchallenged US Representative seats and nearby races that fall outside the Portland city limits. (But vote yes on the North Clackamas School District levy!)

Whether or not you agree with our recommendations, we’re only asking one thing of you, Portland:


Election Cheat Sheet!

Portland City Commissioner, Position 3: Jo Ann Hardesty
Measure 26-199: Metro Housing Bond—Yes
Measure 26-201: Portland Clean Energy Initiative—Yes
Measure 26-200: Portland Campaign Finance Reform—Yes
Multnomah County Auditor: Jennifer McGuirk
Oregon Governor: Kate Brown
US Representative, District 1: Suzanne Bonamici
US Representative, District 3: Earl Blumenauer
Measure 102: Using Housing Bonds For Public/Private Projects—Yes
Measure 103: Grocery Tax Ban—No
Measure 104: Restrict Raising Revenue—No
Measure 105: Repeal Sanctuary State Law—No
Measure 106: Bans Public Funds for Abortion—No

Portland City Commissioner,
Position 3—Jo Ann Hardesty

This November, voters will make Portland history. Twice. Not only will Portlanders elect the city’s first Black woman to city council, but in doing so, they’ll create Portland’s first majority-female council. The outcome of the race to replace outgoing Commissioner Dan Saltzman is a monumental step forward in a city long ruled by white dudes. But don’t let this seemingly “win-win” election allow you to gloss over this vote. Candidates Jo Ann Hardesty and Loretta Smith couldn’t be less alike in their politics.

Hardesty—a one-time state legislator, a former president of the NAACP’s Portland branch, and a leader in Portland’s activist community—is an outspoken advocate for police accountability, affordable housing, and environmental justice. Smith, a two-term Multnomah County Commissioner and former aide to Senator Ron Wyden, advocates for a larger police force and job creation, and believes Portland’s wealthiest developers will solve the city’s homelessness crisis.

Hardesty’s shown interest in expanding tenants’ rights, helping create a stronger network of homeless villages like Right 2 Dream Too, and is one of the architects of Portland Clean Energy Fund, a measure on the ballot that would tax major corporations to fund renewable energy projects and jobs. Smith has championed a successful program connecting minority youth to summer jobs, but also wants to turn a former county jail into a mass homeless shelter, despite concerns from longtime experts in housing and homelessness.

Both women have fought criticism in their policy decisions and political beliefs. Smith has taken many of these rebukes as a personal attacks, and has responded by gaslighting her opponents rather than pausing to consider differing opinions and seeking compromise. Hardesty, meanwhile, has a record of listening to critics and exploring the nuance of an argument. And in every fight, she’s put the community she represents before her self image.

This is a critical difference.

Hardesty is running for Portland City Council to give a platform to the city’s most underrepresented communities—families teetering on the edge of homelessness, parents who’ve lost children to police violence, small businesses struggling to stay open in gentrifying neighborhoods, young adults spit out by the criminal justice system, and people of color disproportionately impacted by climate change. She’s not running to propel her career forward, but to move Portland toward a more equitable, united future. We believe Portland needs a leader committed to shrinking the disparities among the city’s growing population and willing to make political sacrifices to hold Portland’s power brokers accountable. That’s why we’re endorsing Jo Ann Hardesty for Portland City Commissioner, Position 3.

Hardesty is the voice of criminal justice and police reform currently missing on city council. She has the experience: Hardesty was part of the group that called on the US Department of Justice to investigate if officers in the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) are more likely to use violence against people of color and those with mental illnesses. Recently, Hardesty raised concerns about a city audit that found PPB’s gang enforcement unit had been disproportionately pulling over African American drivers. She’s particularly opposed to police officers acting as responders to mental health crises, and has proposed plans to hand that responsibility over to the Portland Fire Bureau, “where their job is to save lives, not endanger them.” If elected, that’s one of the bureaus she’ll oversee.

Hardesty’s not without flaws. An investigation by OPB found that while she was NAACP president, Hardesty sidestepped procedure to pen a $10,000 check to her own consulting firm without board members’ approval or bids from other consultants. She also did not report that income to the federal government or pay taxes on it. She blames this on not knowing it needed to be reported, but it’s not a good look for someone who’ll be responsible for tens of thousands of city dollars.

In the Mercury endorsement interview, Hardesty was quick to take responsibility and promised to surround herself with smart bureau directors and budget experts to ensure she doesn’t make the same mistake. “I will always admit to what I’ve done wrong,” Hardesty told us.

Shortly after OPB’s story broke in September, Smith issued a press release announcing that Hardesty had embezzled money from the NAACP. Neither her office nor any legal officials have offered proof to substantiate that serious allegation. It’s only one example of Smith’s affinity for old-school smear campaigns. In the Mercury’s interview, Smith hinted that Hardesty may have been dishonorably discharged during her stint in the US Navy. (Military records shared with the Mercury by Hardesty’s campaign show Hardesty had been honorably discharged from active duty in 1979 before continuing in the Navy Reserve until 1984.)

Sure, negative attacks are somewhat expected from a candidate who lost to Hardesty by 25 percentage points in May’s primary election. But this behavior isn’t just reserved for a cutthroat campaign: As county commissioner, Smith was accused of making racially charged remarks about Latinos and Muslims, criticizing a female employee for her weight, and ordering staff to use personal time to attend her campaign events. A 2017 investigation into these allegations found them all to be true, and unearthed new issues with how Smith had mismanaged her office’s finances by spending up to $2,300 on personal expenses. Smith falsely told the public that the report found all of these accusations to be unsubstantiated.

An elected official who’s quick to drop baseless accusations about opponents to improve her standing—while blindly ignoring substantiated and substantial concerns about her own conduct—has no place in our council chambers. We can’t have someone prioritizing her own reputation over what’s best for a community.

Hardesty’s expertise, resilience, and community-focused policymaking belongs in city hall. We’re excited to see what new ideas, conversations, and policies she’ll bring to Portland’s stagnant city council.

Measure 26-199: Metro Housing Bond—Yes

It’s no secret that Portland’s in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Since former Mayor Charlie Hales declared a “housing state of emergency” in 2015, Portland and Multnomah County have thrown their weight behind a number of major shelter programs, low-income housing developments, and new protections for tenants who may be one late rent check away from eviction. But we’re nowhere near closing the housing gap for the region’s poorest, a population that has watched rents rise by more than 40 percent since 2011. It’s also clear that this housing deficit spreads beyond city and county boundaries and has rapidly become a problem for neighboring cities like Gresham and Beaverton.

That’s why we’re entrusting Metro, the regional government that oversees Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties, to roll out a $652.8 million affordable housing bond across the region. The price? An annual fee of around $60 for all homeowners. While the Metro bond certainly won’t solve the housing crisis, it will jump-start a coordinated, regional effort to keep the area’s most vulnerable from slipping into homelessness.

The proposed affordable housing bond promises to fund 2,400 permanently affordable homes for more than 7,500 people in the region. That number will be doubled if Oregon voters pass Measure 102—a statewide constitutional amendment that will make it easier for government bodies to partner with nonprofits to create housing. To make the biggest impact, Metro’s focusing on the most vulnerable renters first. While the metro region currently offers a decent number of rental options for people who are “moderately” low-income, and make 60 to 80 percent of the region’s median annual income (between $49,000 and $65,000 for a family of four or between $34,000 and $45,000 for an individual), it’s facing a severe shortfall of around 48,000 rental units for those making less.

Up to 50 percent of the bond’s funds will go toward housing for people making no more than 30 percent of the region’s median annual income (around $25,000 for a family of four or $17,000 for a single individual), a population that is disproportionately represented by communities of color. No more than 10 percent of homes would be offered to people making 60 to 80 percent of the median family income. Half of the new homes will have at least two bedrooms to accommodate families.

The few opponents to this bond—including Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler—believe Oregon’s affordable housing shortfall is best addressed by giving tax breaks and subsidies to private developers who offer low-income housing. But in Portland, we’ve seen similar programs disincentivize new residential development, and instead encourage developers to move major projects to other cities and states. By now, it’s painfully obvious the private market won’t cure our housing woe­s—and we’re long past the point of waiting to see if it’ll change course.

While Metro, known for managing regional parks, the Oregon Zoo, and waste facilities, doesn’t normally take a role in housing issues, this kind of widespread crisis calls for widespread coordination. And Metro is the only local government agency that has proven success at managing massive, unwieldy tri-county programs. In the words of incoming Metro President Lynn Peterson: “We need to move forward because doing nothing is not an option.”

Measure 26-201: Portland Clean Energy Initiative—Yes

Earlier this month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounded a red alert for our overpopulated planet. Without massive, worldwide changes, the IPCC warned, the already lethal effects of climate change—hotter temperatures, bigger wildfires, and intensifying hurricanes—will include longer droughts, rising sea levels, and climate refugees fleeing widespread starvation. None of those predictions are new, but the timeline for them is shorter than anyone expected: two decades.

If history is any indication, the IPCC’s report will be, for all intents and purposes, ignored. Climate change is so horrific—and fighting it on any meaningful scale is so mind-bogglingly difficult—that it’s easy to pretend it will only affect others, that there’s no way our children will die of thirst or be burned alive. But some of them will, and the very entities that could do something to stop it—our national leaders and the corporations that, in many ways, hold just as much power—choose to do nothing.

No one’s pretending that Measure 26-201, which would establish a Portland Clean Energy Initiative will single-handedly avert our Mad Max future. But it is doing something.

If approved by voters, the initiative will collect a meager fee—a 1 percent “business license surcharge”—to Portland retailers that have annual total revenues of at least $1 billion. That fund would help weatherize Portlanders’ homes, train Portlanders for green jobs, and increase the city’s use of clean energy and our production of locally grown food. Notably, the surcharge won’t apply to the basic goods everyone needs—like groceries and health care—and just as notably, the fund will prioritize helping Portland’s low-income residents and people of color, the very populations most susceptible to climate change.

This is a tiny expense for a larger good, and for anyone paying attention, it’s a no-brainer: Measure 26-201 is championed by a wide swath of environmental and social organizations from the Sierra Club to the Oregon Food Bank, and a slew of forward-thinking politicians and experts, from Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, to Senator Jeff Merkley.

Meanwhile, the measure’s opponents include a cartoonish lineup of the big businesses that can, and should, do more: Amazon, Comcast, Walmart, Standard Insurance, US Bank, Papé, the Greenbrier Companies, Bank of America, and Kroger, the retail giant that owns Fred Meyer.

In the Mercury’s endorsement interviews, the only wobbly opposition to Measure 26-201 came from the Portland Business Alliance (PBA), a lobbying group with a history of fighting common-sense efforts to make Portland more environmentally friendly and healthy, from Better Naito to earned sick leave. PBA’s new president and CEO, Andrew Hoan, vowed that a 1 percent tax on some of the world’s biggest corporations would be directly passed on to Portlanders—but that’s an unproven argument that, in a time of need, encourages people to do nothing.

Don’t fall for it. Do something. Vote yes on Measure 26-201.

Measure 26-200: Portland Campaign Finance Reform—Yes

Given the chance, the smart, likeable nerds campaigning for Measure 26-200 will happily bury you in spreadsheets, lists, graphs, and statistics. (That’s what they spent most of the Mercury’s endorsement interview doing, anyway. These guys really like their numbers.) As with just about everything regarding campaign finance reform, Measure 26-200 can seem complicated.

Yet not only is campaign finance reform incredibly important (as Ann Ravel, the former chair of the Federal Election Commission, puts it, “Whether it be education or tax reform or foreign policy, campaign finance is at the heart of all the policy decisions that are being made”), but once you get past all those spreadsheets? Measure 26-200 actually isn’t that complicated.

The boiled-down version: This measure would limit the amount that individuals and political action committees (PACs) can donate to those running for office in Portland. The cap would be $500—a far cry from Oregon’s current system, which puts no limit on how much individuals or PACs can donate. That drastically favors well-connected candidates favored by well-moneyed individuals. (Look no further than Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who, directly and indirectly has given roughly $3.5 million to Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler.) Measure 26-200 would also require that committees running political ads on behalf of candidates prominently and clearly identify their top donors. Currently, those donors—be they individuals, businesses, or special-interest groups—can hide behind the names of PACs, which are often misleadingly or euphemistically named in order to confuse voters.

Measure 26-200 is similar to a measure Seattle voters passed in 2015, and it’s identical to a county charter amendment that Multnomah County voters approved in 2016, only to see a county judge declare it unconstitutional. While that amendment is stuck in legal limbo, it’s just part of a greater push to bring campaign finance reform to Oregon—a push that now involves Measure 26-200.

And by all indications, campaign finance reform is something Portlanders want: Not only did the 2016 measure pass with a whopping 89 percent of the vote, but the vast majority of Americans favor transparency in campaign financing.

The US Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 ruling on Citizens United v. FEC all but guaranteed that dark money will continue to be used to manipulate elections across the country. We can’t fix everywhere else—but we can make sure that in Portland, campaign donations are limited, disclosed, and regulated in a way that lets everyone know who stands to benefit in each election. That’s information every voter needs. Vote yes on 26-200.

Multnomah County Auditor—
Jennifer McGuirk

Auditors are arguably the most important elected officials in local politics. These are the incredibly busy, incredibly shrewd officials who sift through budgets and databases to decide which areas of the government needs serious investigating. Auditors are the first to point out when government promises aren’t being delivered and the first to call public attention to issues lawmakers may be avoiding.

We made the decision to endorse Jennifer McGuirk during the May primary election—and we’re sticking to it. McGuirk already works within the county auditor’s office, but finds the current, outgoing leadership lacking. She’d like to reinvigorate the auditor’s office with long-overdue investigations into massive county departments like the Multnomah County jail system, mental health programs, and the county’s housing and homeless services. She believes the best audits are conducted “from the perspective of those trying to access the services,” rather than those already inside the system.

To confront equity issues within the county, McGuirk wants to bring back an anonymous hotline meant to help county employees report mismanagement, abuse, or discrimination in their own departments. She’s ready to hold the county’s feet to the flame during a period of massive growth and discontent with systemic issues, and we’re here for it.

Governor—Kate Brown

The United States is currently going through a phase not unlike puberty—full of poorly-planned risks and terribly embarrassing decisions we’ll regret for years to come. In the midst of this instability, it’s important that Oregon has a leader who can safeguard our constitutional rights while keeping state-level programs afloat—and not lose their mind in the process. We’re certainly not in the position to take a gamble on a sophomore politician just to spice up our state’s politics.

That’s why we believe Governor Kate Brown should continue to helm Oregon’s government.

Since Brown entered the governor’s office in 2015—swooping in after a power-wielding scandal ended in then-Governor John Kitzhaber’s resignation—she’s begun weaving a sturdy safety net for Oregon’s future. In 2015, Brown signed into law the country’s most progressive reproductive health care bill, the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), which prohibits insurance companies from charging Oregon women—including undocumented immigrant women—a copay for an abortion procedure. In an endorsement interview with the Mercury, Brown said she created this act to protect Oregonians from any federal-level changes to a woman’s right to chose. (Looking at you, Kavanaugh.)

In 2017, Brown championed a massive transportation bill that would increase public transportation investments, make seismic upgrades to Oregon’s highways, unclog the traffic nightmare around Portland’s Rose Quarter, and introduce sidewalks and crosswalks to the notoriously dangerous (and weirdly state-owned) Powell Boulevard. The bill, which prioritized transportation projects for underserved minority communities, required a heavy lift to get bipartisan support—which Brown did without breaking a sweat.

Brown’s safety net isn’t without gaps. Under her watch, Oregon’s public schools have maintained the lowest graduation rates in the country, and the state’s cash-strapped classrooms continue to shed resources and gain students. In August, Brown announced a new plan to repair the floundering education system—which included longer school years and expanded career technical programs—but didn’t flag any specific funding sources. In her endorsement interview with the Mercury, Brown said it would likely involve some tax hikes. Brown’s opponent, orthopedic surgeon and Representative Knute Buehler, hates tax hikes.

Buehler, who refused an interview with the Mercury without giving any explanation, has used Oregon’s faltering education system to criticize Brown and collect bipartisan support along the campaign trail, and he’s brought up genuine concerns about the future of Oregon’s pension system.

What’s most impressive about Buehler’s campaign, however, is his ability to rebrand himself. Since Buehler began his campaign for governor, he’s aggressively marketed himself as a moderate conservative who will happily empathize with liberals who are critical of Brown’s tenure. He’s called himself pro-choice, talked about tightening state gun control laws, and promised to protect Medicaid from federal cuts.

That’s candidate Buehler. But as a member of the Oregon State Legislature, a job he’s held for only four years, Buehler voted against a bill to expand Medicaid and against a number of bills meant to improve women’s access to reproductive health care and abortion. Most notably, Buehler voted against Brown’s RHEA bill—then boasted about his anti-abortion vote on a conservative talk show.

He’s also held onto some of his socially conservative stances on the campaign trail. Buehler supports Measure 105, an anti-immigrant measure disguised as a public safety issue, and has pitched a “tough love” plan to “solve” homelessness that includes new legislation to give local governments more power to arrest people for sitting or lying down in public spaces.

Buehler’s also against the Metro Housing Bond that has promised to create thousands of new affordable units. He believes giving rental assistance to low-income Oregonians living in privately owned rentals is a better call, and sees the private housing market solving the housing deficit.

Brown, who supports the Metro bond, has doubled the number of affordable homes in Oregon since taking office. She sees value in partnering with nonprofits who can help homeless Oregonians transition into longterm housing—rather than handing them a rental subsidy and hoping for the best.

Despite labeling himself pro-choice, Buehler’s told conservative voters he’s opposed to using state funds to cover abortion costs, except in cases where it is “medically necessary.” That blurry, non-medical terminology only applies to cases where a woman will die if she doesn’t get an abortion.

While Buehler’s done a spectacular job at charming liberal Oregonians with promises that contradict his voting record, we’re not that easily fooled. We’re also not ready to sacrifice women’s health care, immigrant rights, and housing stability by handing the reins over to Buehler. We prefer a lawmaker who is consistent with her politics and has found her place at the top through thoughtful leadership and hard-earned trust. Vote Brown.

Measure 102: Using Housing Bonds For Public/Private Projects—Yes

Oregon’s affordable housing crisis demands as much help from as many entities as possible. In the past, affordable housing projects have seen the most success when both private and public sectors join forces—using their unique understanding of the housing market and tenants’ needs to strike an equitable balance. However, an outdated rule in the Oregon Constitution has kept a lot of these projects from reaching their potential. The constitution currently prohibits local governments from spending affordable housing bond dollars on housing that is not government-owned. Measure 102 would amend that rule to allow housing bond funds to support affordable housing that is owned or managed by a private entity.

We know what you’re thinking: “Why would I want my tax dollars going into the pockets of private property owners? That’s shady as hell, Mercury goons!”

Okay. Take this example: At the moment, all residential buildings funded by Portland’s 2016 Housing Bond must be owned and operated by the city. The city, however, is not the local expert in affordable housing programs and would rather allow nonprofits with decades of expertise in this area, like Transition Projects and Central City Concern, manage these massive public investments. Partnering with these programs would open up new funding sources and guarantee the public’s investment in affordable housing is being used in the most effective and efficient way.

If passed, Measure 102 will allow the Portland Housing Bond to build nearly 4,000 additional affordable units than are currently projected. And if both Measure 102 and the Metro Housing Bond (Measure 26-199) are approved this November, the Metro bond could place a further 4,500 people in affordable housing. Measure 102 is easily the least controversial measure on your ballot. Vote yes.

Measure 103: Grocery Tax Ban—No

Measure 103 aims to protect corporations from regulations that don’t exist. The measure, bankrolled by Oregon’s top grocery and beverage companies, introduces a constitutional amendment that would ban any new taxes on groceries. At the moment, there are no current or pending taxes proposed on the grocery industry in Oregon. This is more of a defensive move by industry leaders who are hoping to preempt any legislative attempts to tax certain types of food—like soda or candy—in the future. It’s no coincidence this measure comes just two years after voters defeated Measure 97, a proposed 2.5 percent tax on the revenue of Oregon’s largest corporations—including those in the grocery biz. Oregon grocers doled out more than $7 million in 2016 to successfully defeat Measure 97.

Measure 103 gives major grocery stores an unnecessary buffer from necessary taxes that may pop up down the road. But we’re even more irked by how sloppily thrown together this particular ballot measure is. The measure defines “groceries” as “raw or processed food or beverages intended for human consumption,” meaning it could effectively ban any new taxes on food sold at convenience stores, farmers’ markets, catering companies, movie theaters, sports arenas, hospitals, hotels, or any kind of restaurant. (This has delighted the restaurant industry, which has put little time or money into lobbying for this measure.) Meanwhile, it will still allow for taxes on non-food items at grocery stores, alcohol, and tobacco products (though some argue its phrasing leaves a loophole for nicotine-only products, like e-cigarettes).

It’s unknown how Measure 103’s vague phrasing and hurried promises will unintentionally impact Oregon industries and consumers. We’re not interested in finding out. Vote no on Measure 103.

Measure 104: Restrict Raising Revenue—No

Measure 104 shares many similarities with Measure 103. Like the grocery tax ban, Measure 104 is a preemptive move by conservative groups defending their business earnings in Oregon. Measure 104’s text is intentionally confusing to anyone who doesn’t closely follow the Oregon Legislature, but it’s not that complicated.

In short, Measure 104 expands what kind of changes to the constitution require a three-fifths—or supermajority—vote to pass in both legislative chambers. In doing so, the measure would make it much harder for lawmakers to pass bills that decrease current tax breaks or increase taxes, which are both important tools to raise state revenue. The measure will add unnecessary gridlock to our already-glacial legislative processes, allowing special-interest groups more time to lobby against tax cuts and fees. By doing so, Measure 104 could waste thousands of taxpayer dollars by drawing out the legislative session to favor the minority party. Unsurprisingly, this measure is backed by conservative-leaning special-interest groups like the Oregon Home Builders Association and Oregon Business and Industry.

We’re not interested in corporate lobbyists or bitter minority legislators holding our tax dollars hostage for their own gains. Vote no on Measure 104.

Measure 105: Repeal Sanctuary State Law—No

If you consider yourself a relatively decent person with a moral compass, voting no on Measure 105—which would invalidate Oregon’s sanctuary law—is a very easy choice. In a nutshell, the sanctuary law, which passed almost unanimously 30 years ago, stops law enforcement from using public resources to track down and arrest anyone whose only offense is being in the country illegally.

Opponents of the law want to repeal it, and it’s no surprise why they’ve chosen this particular moment in time. Inspired and emboldened by Donald Trump’s racist “zero tolerance” anti-immigration stance, Oregon’s far-right conservatives want local law enforcement to assist federal agencies like ICE in arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants—regardless of the horrors they may face in their home countries.

But the passage of Measure 105 also causes further harm—such as increased racial profiling, which the sanctuary law was originally designed to curtail. Documented immigrants, as well as people of color who were born in this country, are already harassed by ICE agents who incorrectly assume citizenship status based on skin color. Wiping out Oregon’s sanctuary law would almost certainly entice bad-apple cops into committing further acts of prejudice.

Communities of color are already distrustful of police, and their suspicions would only intensify if the police were working hand-in-hand with ICE. Law enforcement depends on cooperation from these communities in order to prevent and solve crimes—but there isn’t much of an upside to coming forward with information when the cops may very well turn you over to the feds. Those experiencing domestic violence would be even more wary of contacting police, putting them in further danger.

Measure 105 is steeped in fear and racism: Proponents incorrectly assert (employing Trump’s coded language) that undocumented immigrants bring more crime to their communities, which could not be further from the truth. A number of studies reveal the exact opposite—in fact, undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens, and by a large margin. And while 18 rural Oregon sheriffs, Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler, and groups such as Oregonians for Immigration Reform (which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) have come out in favor of the measure, their suspect concerns have been met and opposed by an overwhelming number of Oregon’s law enforcement officials, district attorneys, mayors, businesses, and faith organizations.

This is a very easy choice. Vote a resounding no on the racially fueled Measure 105.

Measure 106: Bans Public Funds For Abortion—No

The anti-abortion folks backing Measure 106 want voters to believe this is a measure that will simply let Oregonians decide where their tax dollars are headed. It’s not. Measure 106 is a thinly-veiled ban on abortion for state employees and low-income Oregonians.

Let’s break it down: Measure 106 would prohibit public funding from covering the cost of an abortion. That means women enrolled in Oregon’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), and public employees signed up for health insurance would immediately lose abortion coverage. All told, the measure would impact more than 300,000 women.

Proponents argue that pulling public funding isn’t the same as a formal ban on abortion. But forcing low-income Oregon women to pay out of pocket for an abortion—ranging anywhere from $300 to $3,000—is simply a sneakier, crueler way to keep the legal option out of reach. During the Mercury’s endorsement interview, Yes on 106 campaign spokesperson Nichole Bentz told us the campaign “hadn’t considered” the impact it would have on low-income women.

Unfortunately, dozens of other states have given us a preview of how Measure 106 could impact Oregon women. In the 33 states that have adopted the federal model of banning public dollars from covering abortion costs, women are going into debt to pay for the procedure, delaying important healthcare, missing work to drive to out-of-state clinics, undergoing dangerous illegal abortions, or going through with a pregnancy they know they’re not ready for.

To be clear: Getting an abortion is never, never an easy decision. It isn’t a fun decision. It isn’t a decision that comes without consequences and long-term trauma. But it is a decision. And since 1973, women in the US have been granted the freedom to make this extremely personal decision about their bodies, lives, and futures without explanation or apology. Measure 106 will take that freedom away from Oregon women.

Oregon is the only state in the nation without laws restricting a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion. Meanwhile, Oregon has continued to push for policies that expand reproductive health coverage, like the 2017 Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), laying the groundwork for other state-level legislation across the country. States look to Oregon to lead the way to a future where women’s health care is as unregulated as men’s. With a conservative-learning US Supreme Court presenting a new threat to federal abortion policies, we need to hold tight to the few protections our state can offer women of all income levels. Vote no on Measure 106.

Bring Amani to the Bay to be our new Bay View editor

Passing the torch

Introduction by Mary Ratcliff

One evening when Amani wanted to see some sights, we stopped at San Francisco’s palatial City Hall, where we were let in by a friendly deputy, A. Kendall, because we’re press even though it was a little after closing time. He gave us a tour of the Press Room, the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors’ elegant chambers, where he took pictures of Amani in the president’s chair.

On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the first day of the historic National Prison Strike, Democracy Now interviewed Amani Sawari. I knew the name, because that’s who was sending a lot of the organizing info, though I’d assumed the coordinator of a nationwide strike would be a man. Democracy Now is the soundtrack at breakfast every day for Willie – Dr. Ratcliff – and me.

The segment began with an excellent interview with Cole Dorsey of IWOC (Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee), and then suddenly the bright, brilliant, radiant face of 23-year-old Amani filled the screen and a voice of eloquence, inspiration and power filled the room. All it took was host Amy Goodman saying she’s a journalist, and, involuntarily, spontaneously, I pointed at the screen and shouted, “There’s the new Bay View editor!” Anyone who can do what she’s done – and is doing – for the strikers can do what I do.

All it took was host Amy Goodman saying she’s a journalist, and, involuntarily, spontaneously, I pointed at the screen and shouted, “There’s the new Bay View editor!”

Amani and I have been talking ever since, and she came to visit Oct. 8-12. What fun we had, but I’ll let her tell it (keep reading). A Detroit native, Amani currently lives in Seattle. To pass the torch, give the old folks, Dr. Willie Ratcliff and me, a break (we’ll stay involved) and bring her here, we’re raising the money through a crowd-funding site called Patreon: Please be as generous as you possibly can so she can join us SOON!

San Francisco, here I come!

by Amani Sawari, new Bay View editor

I am excited to step into this new role as editor of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. Please give me the opportunity to tell you about myself.

My interest in capturing history began in high school when I proudly took the position as historian for our class yearbook. That interest developed in college when my love of media spread across platforms into radio.

In front of City Hall, the African army in Zak Ové’s “Invisible Man and the Masque of Blackness” elected Amani their leader.

At the University of Washington (UW), I served as UWave Radio’s business director for one year focusing on building relationships with local businesses for underwriting. I was intrigued by the economic function that community building had for the media platform.

Before long I was elected as the station’s manager. In that role, I had the opportunity to develop skills negotiating with chief decision makers at the university in order to advocate for the students’ interests.

Amani Sawari is on the air with Bro. Leonard, host of Prison Focus, with Nube Brown on the line from San Jose, on Oct. 11.

I managed UWave during the delicate time of our online station being awarded the opportunity to expand to a terrestrial FM broadcasting station. I led students in applying for grants, raising thousands of dollars in funding as well as consolidating a board of advisors for faculty support during our transition.

During my studies, I became more interested in activism after the horrific back-to-back state sanctioned murders of Black males in 2016. I realized that media representations of marginalized people play a huge role in how those groups are perceived by policymakers and their treatment in the criminal justice system.

After the show, Amani and Bro. Leonard posed in front of the iconic KPOO sign out front.

In response, I launched the summer after graduating with my bachelor’s degree with a double major in Media Communication Studies and Public Policy. SawariMi became the outlet through which I responded to the injustices that plague the Black community while growing an audience that appreciated my writing style.

Legendary organizer Bilal Mafundi Ali and his partner, Laura Guzman, came to visit Thursday evening.

Before long I was recruited by hurting families and others in need of a writer to appropriately tell their story. Later that fall (2016) I was recruited by a prisoner rights advocacy group to assist with their Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March.

In support of the march I wrote a story for the California Prison Focus newsletter as well as a monthly newsletter for prisoners to keep up to date on the events happening in support of the main march and the sister marches that were being organized around the country. I had the honor of speaking at the main march in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 19, 2017.

More recently, during my work as the spokesperson for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) for the National Prison Strike, I’ve been able to speak to more audiences about the desperately needed changes we must require our criminal justice system to make in order to protect the rights of incarcerated individuals.

As JLS spokesperson, I was interviewed on and promoted coverage by Democracy Now, Vox, The New York Times, Washington Post, London Guardian, NPR, BBC, USA Today, The Intercept and many other outlets. Thankfully the Ratcliffs’ introduction to me on Democracy Now encouraged them to invite me to San Francisco.

The recent trip invigorated me. I had the opportunity to meet some of the Bay View’s main players like veteran writers Wanda Sabir and JR Valrey and webmaster Kali O’Ray, as well as mailing volunteer Barry Hermanson, distribution head Dennis Webb and fundraiser Free Brown.

The most exciting part was having the opportunity to meet the local organizers who lifted heavy loads with me during the strike, such as Nube Brown of California Prison Focus (hear her Thursdays at 11 a.m. on KPOO 89.5FM or and Bilal Mafundi Ali, Black Panther and leader in the Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee. Massachusetts college professor and strong prisoner advocate Victor Wallis stopped by while on a book tour.

There’s nothing like sharing space with people you share passion with; likeminded activists, organizers, writers and abolitionists crossed my path during the few days that I spent brainstorming my possibilities in the Bay Area. Along with this, I was interviewed by Brother Leonard on the historic station, KPOO 85.9FM. (Listen to that show on Soundcloud here.)

It was a special treat for the Ratcliffs to attend Zaccho Dance Theatre’s spectacular “Picture Bayview Hunters Point” with Amani and the pillar of Bay Area Black arts and the Bay View’s two-decades-long arts editor, Wanda Sabir, to be immersed in the heroic history of this fiercest hood in the Bay.

I also surprisingly got a personal tour of City Hall where I sat in the presidential seat in the Board of Supervisors Chambers. I came to the Bay at the perfect time, having the chance to witness the free show, “Picture Bayview Hunters Point,” where I learned some of the beautiful history that created the newspaper’s home. San Francisco deeply impressed me.

We hated to see Amani go on Friday, Oct. 12, and are counting the days ‘til her return for another visit in mid-November, when she’ll have time to meet many more people who want to help her build the Bay View into what Troy Williams called the New York Times of the prison abolition movement.

Now that the national strike dates have passed and I’m back in Seattle, I continue to support prisoner led initiatives and work with the Ratcliffs remotely. I do this as well as work as a hair stylist while studying for a two-year degree in Ministry Leadership at Northwest University in Kirkland.

I’ve always gravitated toward print media because working with words is my gift. I enjoy using my words to support individuals who may have been silenced by forces beyond their control.

The Bay View newspaper does just that by publishing and circulating the experiences of those who may not have a way of spreading their story otherwise. I want to have the opportunity to expand the paper’s reach by working with the people on the ground, contributing to the work of the businesses and organizations in the Bay Area.

I want to do this while also collaborating with groups around the nation who share in the newspaper’s vision, a future of Black liberation and prison abolition. The Bay View has never been afraid to call out injustice, regardless of the status of the perpetrator.

It is a valuable newspaper that documents those histories that might not otherwise be told. The Bay View is a community in print, and I’m excited to be a part of strengthening and expanding this community.

Along with writing I also enjoy playing my acoustic guitar, singing and performing spoken word poetry. My vision for the Bay View is a thriving paper with a strong staff team dedicated to serving its readers and the nation through the content curated by the community it serves.

Amani can be reached at or @Sawarimi or by mail to 14419 Greenwood Ave. N., Ste A #132, Seattle WA 98133. Visit her website,

This is the Democracy Now segment, broadcast the first day of the National Prison Strike, Aug. 21, that introduced Amani Sawari to the Ratcliffs … and the world. She comes on at the 42 minute mark.

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

‘We don’t trust you’ Oracle’s Larry Ellison tells customers, spruiks Gen 2 Cloud

Keeping up the tradition of the last few years, Larry Ellison’s opening keynote at Oracle’s annual OpenWorld conference was littered with catchy soundbites as well as barbed criticisms of rival cloud providers, in particular Amazon Web Services.

The latter got in the way somewhat of the Oracle co-founder and CTO’s actual announcement: the company’s second generation cloud, or Gen 2 Cloud for short.

The release has been many years in the making, Ellison said, and “required a fundamental re-architecture of our cloud”.

“The design goal of Oracle’s Gen 2 Cloud is one secure platform to run everything,” Ellison told the audience at the San Francisco event on Monday morning. “It’s easy to say, very hard to do, to build a secure cloud.”

The aim of the overhaul is to improve security by means of separating customer data in the cloud from Oracle’s cloud control computing.

The shared model of other providers, which up until now had been Oracle’s too, leaves them open to user code being able to access cloud control code: a significant vulnerability, Ellison claimed.

“That means you better trust your customers, you better trust all your customers. If you’re going to let your customers inject code, if you’re going to let customers share that computer – the computer you use to control the cloud – and those customers are smart, they can look at your cloud control code, they can change your cloud control code; they can move from one computer to the other, they can look at other customers’ data, they can schedule the other customers’ data [to be] exfiltrated out of the cloud some place else,” Ellison explained.

“No offence, we don’t trust you” he later joked.

Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Priniski remembers an ‘amazing 50 years’

Photo By Michael Alexander
(Front row, l-r) Hannah Meyer, Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Priniski and Rose Konouock perform some warm-up exercises during the beginning of choir rehearsal at St. Thomas More Church, Decatur. Formerly a resident of Avondale Estates, today Sister Priniski resides in Watkinsville, where she drives nearly 70 miles one way to attend choir rehearsal on Thursdays and Mass on Sundays to retain her connection to the parish.


By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Special to the Bulletin | Published October 23, 2018

DECATUR—Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Priniski, Ph.D., has devoted her life to advocating for the rights of workers and the marginalized, first inspired by a 1971 Vatican synod that declared social justice a constitutive element of the Gospel.

Now in her 50th year of religious life, she perseveres in her labors with new vigor as interim executive director of Emory University’s Aquinas Center of Theology.

She is also coordinator of Gathering for Mission, a five-year project of the Catholic Committee of the South, to realize Pope Francis’ social justice vision.

Sister Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, left, chapter prioress of the Adrian Crossroads Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, shares some words about Sister Mary Priniski, OP, right, just before Sister Priniski renews her vows before the congregation at St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, May 6. Sister Priniski was commemorating the 50th anniversary of her entrance into the congregation. Photo By Michael Alexander

Now 69, Sister Mary celebrated her golden jubilee with a Mass and luncheon in May at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur, where she sings in the choir. She celebrated again with sisters at the congregation’s motherhouse in Michigan.

It’s been a year to remember all her “wonderful opportunities” that came through her vibrant religious community, she said in a recent telephone interview.

“When you are open to what the Divine has in store for you, things just fall into your lap. The ministries in which I’ve been involved have had doors just open. Thus it’s been clear what and where I need to be next,” said Sister Mary.

“If you’re open to hearing the Spirit wherever you find it—which as the pope says is not only within the church but beyond—your life is very full, and it’s been an amazing 50 years,” she said. “If I hadn’t been in the congregation for 50 years, I’d never be doing what I’m doing now or be in Georgia for that matter. Those of us who are members of religious congregations have tremendous opportunities to respond to the needs of the people of God.”

These days Sister Mary travels the Southeast and beyond in her Ford Focus to implement Gathering for Mission. She leads dialogues with all levels of church leadership on Pope Francis’ vision for engagement with other Christian denominations and with non-Christian religions and society at large. Discussions take on new urgency in providing a space to address topics such as the sex abuse crisis in the church and communion of people across cultures and generations.

“The project is engaging church leadership on all levels in the voice and vision of Pope Francis, and I think we have an opportunity now to really help the church in his vision of being a church of the poor and for the poor. In some ways I’ve been doing that my whole life and in some ways having Pope Francis to back me up on that is great,” said Sister Mary, who recently participated in the Atlanta archdiocesan priests’ convocation.

In his apostolic exhortation on evangelization, titled “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis “has laid out a vision for the church,” she said. “It’s very much how do we become a church that reaches out to those beyond our walls, particularly those who are marginalized and on the periphery in our society.”

She remains steadfast as the world spotlights Vatican handling of clergy sexual abuse. Pope Francis “has made mistakes as we all do. He admits when he’s wrong and tries to make amends and change the ways the church handles things,” she reflected. “I would hope that I could be as humble as he has been in admitting when I am wrong.”

Days of dialogue are now underway in five dioceses.

“It’s an exciting time,” she said. “In the places we’ve done them people have been extremely pleased and challenged because dialogue is not easy.”

Inspired by joy

Growing up in Michigan, Sister Mary was taught by the Adrian Dominicans. It was their joyful spirit that inspired her to join the congregation. A graduate of the University of Detroit, she earned a master’s degree in health care mission from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri, and a doctorate in missiology from the Union Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio. Even as she questioned in her 20s whether she wanted to have children, she forged ahead full throttle in her Dominican vocation and persevered amidst the steady decline in religious ranks over the decades since the boom of the 1950s.

She began her first advocacy position in the late 1970s with Southerners for Economic Justice. She garnered community and church support for J.P. Stevens’ textile workers unionizing in South Carolina. She lived in Atlanta from 1993-2001 serving as director of the Glenmary Research Center, focused on mission territories in Appalachia and beyond. Later she became director of their commission on justice in Atlanta and then worked for the Service Employees International Union in Washington for seven years. She laments contemporary “serious attacks on the rights of workers,” starting with “right to work” laws in many states that weaken unions, the near extinction of pensions and the struggle of families for a living wage. Her labors continue a longstanding religious tradition, Sister Mary said.

“Women religious have always stood up for the underdog,” she said. “You know that because they started schools in areas where kids weren’t getting education and they established hospitals and processes for health care in areas where people needed it, so that’s all part of the same tendency.”

“As we have become more engaged in broader political society, we’ve become more articulate about social justice, particularly since Vatican II, when we were encouraged to open up the doors, the windows and let the fresh air in and see what is going on in society,” she said. “The hopes and grief of society ought to be the hopes and grief of the church, and I think we’ve taken that to heart.”

Glenmary Brother Larry Johnson has worked with Sister Mary for nearly 38 years and said that the sharp sister’s polite persistence, genuine charm and giving spirit serve her well in engaging clergy. She builds relationships well, including with those of other cultures and races, having once led a Glenmary ministry with Native Americans, African-Americans and Hispanics.

“She’s very competent, very engaged and smart and meets people well,” he said. “She’s well connected and good with networking and organizing. … Sister Mary is one person if she asks me to do something, I’ll do it.”

Opportunities of faith

After returning to Atlanta in 2009, Sister Mary began serving on the board of the Aquinas Center, founded by Dominicans. Now she leads the center in its mission to bring a Catholic intellectual presence—ecumenical in spirit—to Emory and the archdiocese. The center’s Sept. 18 speaker was Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of both the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.

“It’s an academic setting, so we’re trying to learn about what the thinkers of the church are saying and doing. I find that exciting,” she said.

Program coordinator Alice Cameron said that Sister Mary provides strong leadership and “radiates joy on a daily basis.”

“She is such a thoughtful leader and she takes special consideration of each person’s unique gifts and their strengths when she works with somebody. And she’s intrinsically helpful and she’s very focused and motivating,” said Cameron. “She’s done an excellent job of focusing the Aquinas Center’s purpose and redefining that as we go forward.”

As she engages with people throughout the South, the introvert also treasures quietude and relaxation, having knitted baby afghans for all the children of her 16 nieces and nephews. While there’s only one other Adrian Dominican now serving in Atlanta, she enjoys the archdiocese’s theological and spiritual vibrancy and fellowship.

“For women religious in particular, there are not a lot of us here for the size of the diocese. There’s a lot of camaraderie with the sisters so that’s really good too. And Georgia is a challenging state politically so it brings a level of challenge that is good for us, causes us to be creative in how we engage with people,” she said. “There are so many opportunities for us here as a church to be engaged in the community and to bring the faith to the community of Atlanta.”

Sister Mary believes God still calls women to consecrated life and that the form will evolve as God directs it.

“People join because they are called. There are so many opportunities for personal growth, for spiritual growth, for ministerial growth,” she said. “I wouldn’t change my life. As they say, ‘it’s been a great ride.’”

Medic becomes first African-American Sergeant Major in Iowa Army National Guard

Sergeant Major Jeffrey Lewis.

A 37-year veteran of the Iowa Army National has become the first African-American promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major in the organization. Sergeant Major is the highest enlisted rank you can reach without becoming an officer.

Sergeant Jeffrey Lewis of Johnston has been in the Iowa Guard for 37 years. “I was excited, very excited, I told everyone I talked to it was the most happiest time of my life besides when I joined the military,” Lewis says. “I’m the type of person I don’t want praise for doing my job. I know what my job is, I will do my job every single time I’m out there.”

Lewis is a 54-year-old medic who has worked for the guard full time for 15 years. As Sergeant Major he will now assumes the duties of chief operations sergeant, 109th Multifunctional Medical Battalion (MMB), located in Iowa City. Lewis says becoming the first African-American to achieve this rank is important.

“I think what it does to me, it holds that people of color…either women, minorities, people who have different ethnic backgrounds, different beliefs, can become a sergeant major,” according to Lewis. While he is proud of making history, he doesn’t think it puts any more pressure on him as a role model for others.

“I’ve been a medic for 37 years and my job is to take care of people. So, me becoming a Sergeant Major has no affect on me to put added pressure onto me to do better or do anything different. I am going to do the exact same things I’ve done

when I was a private as a sergeant major,” Lewis says. “And that is to take care of everyone below me and make sure I follow the rules and regulations the military puts out for me.” Lewis has deployed twice, supporting Operation Desert Storm with the 209th Area Support Medical Company and Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 134th Ground Ambulance Company. He says you sometimes see soldiers in the worst of times as a medic — but he finds the job rewarding.

“You see the good and the bad. But the reward is you do see the bad and you see someone and if you save their life and they recover, that is the reward out of it,”Lewis says. Lewis says he has seen the Iowa National Guard improve since the time he first joined in 1981. He has two more sergeant major steps in rank above him and he says he would like to continue up the command chain to one day become the Command Sergeant Major.

Matisse to modernity

In 1863, the French artist Édouard Manet painted Olympia, a reclining nude prostitute, shedding a scandalous light on Parisian brothel culture. But while much of the attention has been on the white model in the painting, Victorine Meurent, the black model beside her, Laure, has been largely overlooked by art historians.

“People have told me, ‘It’s not that I didn’t see the black maid in the painting, I just didn’t know what to say about her’,” said the curator Denise Murrell. “I always felt she is presented in a more stronger light than maids usually are, and I wondered what could be said about her, even though art history said very little.”

This one painting then sparked the exhibition which Murrell has curated, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, opening at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery in New York on 24 October.

From photography to painting and sculpture, as well as film and print correspondence, this exhibit traces how the black figure has been key to the development of modern art over the past 150 years. Many of the artists here bring to light much of what art history has ignored.

“I’m looking for angles that are more relevant than just the standard narrative of the art world,” said Murrell. “I’m giving a number of different narratives that can be discussed around the black figure; there is a wider variety of black models, especially the black female figure, in broader, social roles.”

Henri Matisse, Dame à la robe blanche (Woman in white),1946

Henri Matisse, Dame à la robe blanche (Woman in white),1946. Photograph: Courtesy of Des Moines Art Center

Among the artists in the exhibit, there are works by Henri Matisse, including Dame à la robe blanche (Woman in white), from 1946, showing a black model in a white dress. The painting was made after the artist’s visit to Harlem in the 1930s, where he met local artists as part of the Harlem Renaissance, a black arts movement which celebrated African American culture.

Laura Wheeler Waring, one member of the group, was a painter who made portraits of African American civil rights figures, like author WEB Du Bois and soul singer Marian Anderson.

“It shows the historical weight and significance of what Harlem artists were doing at the time,” said Murrell. “African American slavery or enslaved individuals were stereotyped and caricatured, and one thing Harlem Renaissance artists wanted to do was give dignity to black female figures, or to black figures, period.”

The other Harlem Renaissance painters in the exhibit include William H Johnson, who captured the everyday lives of African Americans, whether it was groups of friends in urban settings to rural families, all of which tell “the critical story of modern portrayals of black figures”, said Murrell.

There are also works by Charles Alston, who was known locally for painting murals in Harlem hospitals, but was also recognized as a painter for his portraits of musicians, groups of cotton workers and family portraits. Alston is widely recognized for his bust of Martin Luther King Jr, which today sits in the White House. “He shows African Americans as the urban middle class,” said Murrell. “All aspects of life, high and low, are captured in his paintings.”

The more recent artworks in the exhibit, made over the past 50 years, are different from those, say, 100 years ago. “It’s more empowered because we now have a presence, artists of color,” she said. “You have black portraits by black artists, which broadens the range of artistic styles and strategies.”

Mickalene Thomas - Din, une très belle négresse, 2012

Mickalene Thomas – Din, une très belle négresse, 2012. Photograph: shootArt Mobile/Courtesy of the artist

There are paintings by female artists such as Mickalene Thomas, who recently captured Cardi B for the cover of W Magazine’s art issue. In Din, une très belle négresse, from 2012, is a portrait of a black woman painted colorfully in retro garb.

“She takes 19th-century black women portrayals, but shows them in expressive ways, with rhinestones, afro wigs and a 1970s look,” said Murrell. “They’re women portrayed as sensual but in control of their sensuality, in a manner that shows a black woman who wants to be herself.

“And it’s not just black women, but women period, as sensual but in control of their sensuality and not just for the gaze of the presumed viewer, the white male,” adds Murrell, “You see that perspective unfolding to a more diverse group of artists and subjects of art.”

The exhibit features works by black female artists like Ellen Gallagher, who has cut up old advertisements of black women to offer her own perspective, which is shown alongside French artist Frédéric Bazille’s Young Woman with Peonies from 1870, showing a black model with flowers, which is a reference to Manet’s Olympia.  

“You can see the evolution as the black figure comes closer to subjectivity, or agency, portrayed by women artists,” said Murrell, “or by showing black women in a way that’s closer to their own modes of self-representation.”

Though the black female figure in art has changed over the past 150 years, there is still progress to be made ahead. “There’s still an underrepresentation of black women artists, and black artists, in the contemporary art world,” said Murrell.

The exhibit is complete in one way, but incomplete in another. “I hope it gives a sense of history to the kind of art we look at today,” said Murrell. “There was a black presence in modern art, we see that in this show and I hope we start seeing more of it.”

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Colorful abstracts at Museum of the African Diaspora

Paintings by Eritrean-American artist Ficre Ghebreyesus, whose colorful landscapes reflect life in his East African homeland, and prints by 15 top contemporary artists of African descent are on view in a pair of visually striking and socially relevant exhibits at the Museum of the African Diaspora.

Both shows continue through Dec. 16.

“Ficre Ghebreyesus: City With a River Running Through” contains more than a dozen acrylic paintings by Ghebreyesus (1962-2012), who was born in Eritrea a year after its 30-year independence war with Ethiopia began. Ghebreyesus left Eritrea as a political refugee in 1978 and eventually settled in the United States.

His work contains abstract and representational imagery and depicts the land, cultures and social realties of the Horn of Africa. His influences also include classical European and abstract American art.

A highlight is “City With a River Running Through” (2011), a large four-panel abstract mosaic-like cityscape. Filled with oranges and blues, the painting vividly suggests urban waterways and human elements.

“Fish” (2004), a fetching work exemplifying Ghebreyesus’ use of aquatic imagery (other paintings feature boats, representing, among other things, migration), contains dozens of differently shaped and colored fish accompanied by a Coptic angel.

A female figure stands by a tree on a landscape that also includes a Yoruba rider and sea life in “Nude With Bottle Tree” (2008).

A young man reading a book advances toward a foreground of seaweed in “Mangia Libro” (2006), another colorful work with a surreal quality.

The other exhibition “Second Look, Twice: Selections From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” features work by 15 major black artists exploring abstraction and the expressiveness of color, and addressing social concerns, through printmaking.

Setting the tone is “Sunday Afternoon” (2000), an etching by African-American printmaker Robert Blackburn, whose New York workshop was an important resource for artists of color.

Sam Gilliam Jr.’s “Snow Lane #33” (Courtesy Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer)

Sam Gilliam Jr., associated with the color-field and abstract-expressionist movements, considers racial injustice through abstraction in “Snow Lane #33” (1996), a multi-layered, collaged relief print containing acrylic gel applied and raked by Gilliam.

Also featured is Kara Walker, known for her cut-paper silhouettes and themes of race and gender. Her intaglio print of curved black lines, from the series “An Unpeopled Land in Unchartered Waters” (2010), suggests a whip.

Lithography by Ellen Gallagher explores racial stereotypes.

Glenn Ligon’s “Warm Broad Glow (Reversed)” (1988), which reads “negro sunshine,” is a photogravure aquatint print of a text-based neon work.

Also on view are multidisciplinary artist Mickalene Thomas’ “Interior: Zebra With Two Chairs and Funky Fur,” aquatint etchings by Gee’s Bend quilters Louisiana Bendolph and Loretta Bennett, woodblock prints by Martin Puryear, and works by Mark Bradford, Willie Cole, Leonardo Drew, Julie Mehretu, Gary Simmons, and Lorna Simpson.

Ficre Ghebreyesus: City With a River Running Through
Second Look, Twice: Selections From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation
Where: Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; through Dec. 16
Admission: $5 to $10; free for children 12 and under
Contact: (415) 358-7200,

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment