Jim Graham honored in City Hall ceremony

Members of the D.C. Police and Fire Department honor guard carried former Council member Jim Graham’s coffin into the John A. Wilson Building on June 23, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Members of a D.C. Police and Fire Department honor guard carried a white coffin bearing the body of gay former Council member Jim Graham into the John A. Wilson Building just before noon on Friday as part of a ceremony honoring Graham’s years of service as a Council member and advocate for many of the city’s diverse communities.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, Council Chair Phil Mendelson and many current and former Council members stood at the top of the steps of the main entrance of the Wilson Building, which serves as D.C.’s City Hall, to greet a procession bearing the coffin and Graham’s friends and family members.

The grand entrance marked the start of a ceremony in which Bowser, Mendelson and others who knew Graham during his 16 years on the Council spoke of what they called Graham’s dedication and outspoken advocacy for city residents who often were overlooked and in need of city services.

Graham died on June 11 at George Washington University Hospital of complications associated with an intestinal infection. He was 71.

Graham’s coffin lay in state in the Wilson Building entrance foyer for five hours on Friday as city officials, former staff members and members of the communities for whom he advocated, including a large contingent of LGBT activists and LGBT friends, walked past the coffin to pay their respects.

In a gesture considered appropriate by those who knew Graham, his former Council staff members arranged for a rainbow flag configured into a giant bow tie to be placed over the coffin.

“As we were thinking about all of the different cultures that Jim touched, of course the primary one was the gay community because that’s where he came from,” said Calvin Woodland, Jr., who served as chief of staff for Graham’s Council office.

Woodland said that although everyone knows of Graham’s advocacy for the LGBT community, his staff and many of his Ward 1 constituents know Graham also was a strong advocate for other constituencies, including the African American, Asian and Latino communities.

In her remarks at the ceremony, Bowser noted that Graham welcomed her into the fold of the Council when she was first elected as a Ward 4 Council member. She said she quickly observed Graham’s dedication to his constituents and to providing constituent services, especially for the poor and for tenants, for whom Bowser said Graham emerged as a champion.

Mendelson noted that he and Graham both won election to the Council for the first time in 1998.

“It’s clear from the turnout today that he touched a lot of people,” Mendelson said. “He took pride in his work representing Ward 1.

Among those attending the Wilson Building ceremony was gay former D.C. Council member David Catania, who became the first openly gay person to win a seat on the Council. Graham won election to the Council as an openly gay candidate one year after Catania won his race for an at-large Council seat.

“As Chairman Mendelson said in his remarks today, this is a bittersweet event,” Catania said. “It gives you an opportunity to reflect on all the incredible things that Jim did on behalf of the city,” he said. “What was said today is absolutely true. Jim was a champion, one of the smartest, hardest working, most capable members this body has ever seen.”

A rainbow-colored bow tie adorned the coffin of former Council member Jim Graham inside the John A. Wilson Building on June 23, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jackie Reyes, who served as director of Latino affairs for Graham’s Council office, said Graham became a beloved figure among the large number of Latino immigrants who live in Ward 1. She noted that to become better informed about the needs and problems faced by Latino immigrants Graham traveled to Latin American, including El Salvador, where Reyes is from, to see firsthand the circumstances that prompt so many people to immigrate to the U.S.

“Our community is so indebted to him and we love him so much,” Reyes told the Blade. “It’s a great loss today.”

Others who attended the memorial ceremony were former mayor and current Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray; and former Council members Vincent Orange, Yvette Alexander, Carol Schwartz and Michael A. Brown.

Another one of Graham’s Council chiefs of staff, Teddy Loza, delivered an emotional eulogy telling how Graham became a mentor and close friend to him and his family. Loza’s daughter, Mayari Loza Munoz, sang the hymn Amazing Grace at the ceremony.

Also attending the ceremony was Don Blanchon, the current executive director of Whitman-Walker Health, which was known as Whitman-Walker Clinic during the time Graham served as its executive director from 1984 to 1999. Blanchon said Graham’s leadership of Whitman-Walker during the early years of the AIDS epidemic set the standard for both health care and advocacy for people with HIV AIDS in D.C. and throughout the country.

A funeral service was scheduled to take place for Graham at noon on Saturday, June 24, at All Souls Unitarian Church at 16th and Harvard Streets, N.W. A viewing was scheduled to take place at the church from 10 a.m. to noon prior to the start of the service.

‘So brave, so much integrity’: celebrities congratulate Rebel Wilson

Oh the righteous celebrity!

The bonhomie wrapped around Rebel Wilson when she emerged victorious in her legal battle with those naughty women’s magazines has been truly something to behold.

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Part-time poet and full-time Hollywood star Russell Crowe hit Twitter to tell his 37-year-old pal: “So brave, so much integrity … now ‘f–k off’ back to Hollywood and be your brilliant self. Proud of you.”

It was the sort of endorsement that would melt any celebrity’s heart. Crowe is a man well-versed in the black arts of gossip magazines, having had every detail of his life, from his romance to his marital woes and hotel lobby temper tantrums, documented for the past couple of decades.

And to be fair, out of all the stars who jumped on the social media bandwagon to publicly declare their support and congratulate Wilson, Crowe’s message arguably carried the most gravitas.

Crowe has not been the sort of celebrity to offer up morsels of his private life in return for a fat cheque from a glossy mag.

However, we can only wonder where his career would be if it wasn’t for magazines like Woman’s Day documenting his life in such detail, and helping to cement his star status.

Crowe’s tweet outshone the likes of Shane Warne, who tweeted to Wilson and his 3 million followers: “Woman’s Day has been a disgraceful magazine for a long time, hopefully this makes them report facts & stops the rubbish.”

Presumably that same magazine wasn’t such a “disgrace” back in 2012 when it handed over a rumoured $150,000 payment to Warne and his then fiancee Elizabeth Hurley when the former couple did their first magazine shoot and interview with Woman’s Day and British magazine Hello!

Of course, Warne and Woman’s Day have a long history, and not all of it happy or quite so profitable.

Warne’s ex-wife Simone Callahan has featured prominently several times in the magazine over the years in return for hefty payment.

Lleyton Hewitt was also quick to express his congratulations to Wilson, who told the Victorian Supreme Court she found herself out of work in Hollywood and out of pocket – to the tune of about $6 million – thanks to a series of defamatory articles published in Woman’s Day back in 2015.

Hewitt wrote on Twitter: “Congrats @RebelWilson,” complete with an applause emoji. “They have to be held accountable. Justice is done!”

And it cannot be forgotten that both Hewitt and his wife, the former television starlet known as Bec Cartwright, were hotter than hot about a decade ago when it came to women’s magazines.

When their romance turned into an engagement and ultimately a lavish wedding, it generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in exclusive media deals for the couple from both Woman’s Day and its arch-rival, New Idea.

They also sold exclusive media access to the births of their children, though PS understands their most recent baby news didn’t fare quite so well in terms of dollar value.

For decades, celebrity agents and managers have been working the phones with the people who put magazines like Woman’s Day together, wrangling deals and exclusive access for some of the most personal and normally private moments of an individual’s life, in return for a cheque with lots of zeroes on it.

Those righteous celebrities so quick to applaud Wilson don’t seem quite so righteous when they’re only prepared to talk in return for dollars.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Rebel Wilson verdict: celebrities congratulate Hollywood star in win against women’s magazine

Oh the righteous celebrity!

The bonhomie wrapped around Rebel Wilson when she emerged victorious in her legal battle with those naughty women’s magazines has been truly something to behold.

More Entertainment News Videos

‘I had to stand up to a bully’: Wilson wins in court

Rebel Wilson wins her defamation case against Bauer media. Wilson says the media company maliciously took her down in a series of ‘grubby and completely false articles.’

Part-time poet and full-time Hollywood star Russell Crowe hit Twitter to tell his 37-year-old pal: “So brave, so much integrity … now ‘f–k off’ back to Hollywood and be your brilliant self. Proud of you.”

It was the sort of endorsement that would melt any celebrity’s heart. Crowe is a man well-versed in the black arts of gossip magazines, having had every detail of his life, from his romance to his marital woes and hotel lobby temper tantrums, documented for the past couple of decades.

And to be fair, out of all the stars who jumped on the social media bandwagon to publicly declare their support and congratulate Wilson, Crowe’s message arguably carried the most gravitas.

Crowe has not been the sort of celebrity to offer up morsels of his private life in return for a fat cheque from a glossy mag.

However, we can only wonder where his career would be if it wasn’t for magazines like Woman’s Day documenting his life in such detail, and helping to cement his star status.

Crowe’s tweet outshone the likes of Shane Warne, who tweeted to Wilson and his 3 million followers: “Woman’s Day has been a disgraceful magazine for a long time, hopefully this makes them report facts & stops the rubbish.”

Presumably that same magazine wasn’t such a “disgrace” back in 2012 when it handed over a rumoured $150,000 payment to Warne and his then fiancee Elizabeth Hurley when the former couple did their first magazine shoot and interview with Woman’s Day and British magazine Hello!

Of course, Warne and Woman’s Day have a long history, and not all of it happy or quite so profitable.

Warne’s ex-wife Simone Callahan has featured prominently several times in the magazine over the years in return for hefty payment.

Lleyton Hewitt was also quick to express his congratulations to Wilson, who told the Victorian Supreme Court she found herself out of work in Hollywood and out of pocket – to the tune of about $6 million – thanks to a series of defamatory articles published in Woman’s Day back in 2015.

Hewitt wrote on Twitter: “Congrats @RebelWilson,” complete with an applause emoji. “They have to be held accountable. Justice is done!”

And it cannot be forgotten that both Hewitt and his wife, the former television starlet known as Bec Cartwright, were hotter than hot about a decade ago when it came to women’s magazines.

When their romance turned into an engagement and ultimately a lavish wedding, it generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in exclusive media deals for the couple from both Woman’s Day and its arch-rival, New Idea.

They also sold exclusive media access to the births of their children, though PS understands their most recent baby news didn’t fare quite so well in terms of dollar value.

For decades, celebrity agents and managers have been working the phones with the people who put magazines like Woman’s Day together, wrangling deals and exclusive access for some of the most personal and normally private moments of an individual’s life, in return for a cheque with lots of zeroes on it.

Those righteous celebrities so quick to applaud Wilson don’t seem quite so righteous when they’re only prepared to talk in return for dollars.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

AHF Expands Services in Miami-Dade County to Address Florida’s Increasing HIV/AIDS Epidemic

ahf logo-min

In continuing to address the increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Florida, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) will expand its services in Miami-Dade county, opening a new health care center in Miami’s Liberty City community. Located at 1498 NW 54th Street, Suite C, Miami, the new center will officially open on Saturday, June 24th with a grand opening celebration starting at 12:00p.m., with remarks by AHF Southern Bureau Chief Michael Kahane.

During the grand opening, AHF will be providing an array of resources for the community, including free testing for HIV and Hepatitis C as well as information on pharmacy and health care services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Florida ranks #1 across the country in terms of new diagnosed cases of HIV, with Miami-Dade ranking #1 throughout the state.  The Florida Department of Health’s most recent Miami-Dade neighborhood profile data shows Zone VI, which includes Liberty City, has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the county, with close to 40% of those being out of care.

The CDC further states that nationally African Americans accounted for 45% of HIV diagnoses.   One of Miami-Dade’s most underserved communities, Liberty City is home to one of the largest concentrations of African-Americans in South Florida (95% African American).

The AHF center will provide free, rapid, 1-minute HIV test as well as testing for Hepatitis C.

“Given the statistics nationally and locally that indicate the critical need for access to HIV care and prevention in Liberty City, as well as linkage to care for those living with HIV, we are pleased to be a local partner and provide these services to this community, to shift the trajectory of the current HIV epidemic, and to provide quality care to those living with HIV,” stated AHF Southern Bureau Chief Michael Kahane.

AHF currently provides services at health care facilities across Miami-Dade County at the following locations:

AHF Kinder Medical Group Healthcare Center – Miami

3661 S. Miami Ave.

Suite 806

Miami, FL 33133

AHF Healthcare Center – Jackson North

100 NW 170th Street

Suite 208

North Miami Beach, FL 33169

AHF Healthcare Center – One River Plaza

305 S. Andrews Avenue

Suite 601

Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

AHF Wellness Center – Midtown Miami

2900 Biscayne Blvd.

Miami, FL 33137

AHF Wellness Centers – South Beach

1613 Alton Road

Miami Beach, FL 33139

AHF Wellness Center – North Miami Beach

100 NW 170th St.

Suite 208

North Miami Beach, FL 33169

The Liberty City AHF Health Care Center will be open Monday – Friday from 9:00am – 5:00pm and will provide free, rapid, 1-minute HIV test and testing for Hepatitis C.


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The Perverse Presidency of Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump speaks at Kirkwood Community College on June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

I was mulling, as one does, over this presidency, and something crystallized in my head that I had not quite grasped before. Its policies are best described as simply perverse. The new Senate health-care bill is just the latest shining example. As Peter Suderman explains, it certainly isn’t based on any serious conservative ideas about reforming health care; it has no vision of how it wants health care to be organized; the loss of health care for the working poor will be most intense in Republican districts; and, just as important, a huge amount of it is simply kicked into the future — and could easily be forestalled or nullified by future Congresses and presidents. For good measure, by ending many of the taxes in the bill that make it work, and by removing the individual mandate, it risks sending the insurance markets into a deeper crisis.

So what on earth is the point? For Trump, it seems to me, the whole point is to have a “win.” He doesn’t give a shit about what the bill actually contains. He’ll just lie about it afterward and assume his cult followers will believe him. For Ryan, it’s just a way to make a future tax cut for the superrich more budget-friendly, while pushing the political costs of shredding Medicaid onto some future sucker.

And then you think about those tax cuts Ryan wants so badly. We are told that these cuts will spark so much growth they will pay for themselves — and more. And yet if there is one thing we really do know by now, it is that this strategy has spectacularly failed and failed again to work. Reagan’s tax cuts left the U.S. with an unprecedented peacetime deficit; George W. Bush inherited a small surplus and, after his tax cuts didn’t spur higher growth, handed Obama a Treasury close to bankrupt. In Kansas, the exact same strategy has incurred so much debt that a supermajority of the legislature, led by Republicans, have junked it. To pursue it a third time on a national scale is the definition of madness.

The only theme I can infer is this: Whatever Obama did, Trump will try to undo.

We are also living in an era of extreme inequality. Any responsible politician would be trying to find a way to ameliorate this, if for no other reason than it is deeply dangerous for the stability of our society and the health of our democracy. And yet the policy of the Republicans is to further increase such inequality to levels beyond even the robber-baron era. Again, the only word for this is … perverse.

Ditto, for that matter, the idea that coal is the future of energy, and that climate change is a hoax. There was absolutely no point in withdrawing from the nonbinding Paris Accord — which is why Trump is now lying by claiming, as he did last Wednesday night, that it was binding. It was an utterly pointless way to isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world, and cede leadership to China. There was really no point at all in trashing the modest opening to Cuba under Obama, poisoning relations, and then just fiddling with the details.

Elsewhere in foreign policy, we have just begun a deepening of the war in Afghanistan, the longest in American history, with no strategy in place. We’ve also junked the very careful limits that Obama put on the war against ISIS, leading to increasingly dangerous conflict with the Russians. And we now have a broader Middle East policy that has needlessly junked the core gain of the Obama years. The opening to Iran gave the U.S. far more leverage in the region, balancing out our previous Sunni commitments with a Shiite counterweight. Now Trump has fully committed the United States to one side of an intra-Muslim divide, while trashing Qatar, which houses the most important military base in the entire region. Again: perverse.

And what on earth was the purpose of equivocating about the critical commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, undermining the core underpinning of the Atlantic alliance — and then affirming it anyway? We haven’t even gotten commitments to more defense spending from the Europeans, apart from what Obama had managed to get them to agree to already. But what we have achieved is an unprecedented rupture in relations with most of the key European allies.

It is also, frankly, perverse to ignore Russia’s blatant attempt to disrupt our elections and to keep reaching out to Putin — when the Congress will rightly deepen sanctions anyway, and Putin will pursue his own ambitions regardless. None of this is coherent strategy, and almost all of it counterproductive.

The only theme I can infer is this: Whatever Obama did, Trump will try to undo. The perversity is the flip side of spite.

Nathaniel Frank’s new book on the long fight for marriage equality, Awakening: How Gays And Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America, has one thing going for it: It’s a professional work of history. The only book on the movement we have so far wasn’t. Jo Becker’s hagiography of Chad Griffin, Forcing the Springmy review is here — was an outright attack on everyone who had worked for the cause decades before Griffin tried to pass himself off as the gay Rosa Parks (yes, the book actually called him that). Awakening is therefore by default the best account we have, but it’s also a truly impressive, nuanced, fair account in its own right. It’s astonishing to me that the New York Times and the Washington Post have yet to review it. It relays the lung-filling highs and stomach-churning lows of the long trek toward gay dignity. Better still, it brings into focus the small band of disparate individuals who somehow brought what was unimaginable into reality. Many people think marriage was won overnight. This book proves it wasn’t.

But its chief merit is that it explains for straight people and the younger gay and lesbian generations just how deeply divisive this issue was in the gay world for so long … all the way back to the 1950s, when the story really starts. The core gay divide in the gay world has always been between those who wanted equality and dignity in mainstream society and those who wanted to revolutionize and subvert the mainstream itself. Civil marriage was an issue where this divide was perhaps deepest. You can go back to the old gay magazine, One, published by the Mattachine Society, and see exactly the arguments that erupted later. In 1953, Frank notes, it ran an essay called “Homosexual Marriage?” The question mark was more like a gasp. In a screed against the normalization of gays, it worried that “equal rights means equal responsibilities. Equal freedoms means equal limitations.” A decade later, in 1963, a counterpoint appeared: “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage.” The term homophile itself was an attempt to redefine gay men as more than just sexual. The argument: “It seems to me that when society finally accepts homophiles as a valid minority with minority rights, it is going first of all to accept married homophiles. We are, after all, closest to their ideals.” In some ways, the gay-rights movement has spent the last few decades having that same fight over and over again.

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People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

But it is, of course, more complicated and interesting than that. Marriage equality was both subversive and integrationist. It subverted nascent gay culture and traditional heterosexual assumptions. And yet it was also a uniquely powerful symbol of integration, equality, and a common humanity. It was based on a submerged reality, which was that many gay men and especially lesbians had always been in committed relationships — and that that experience was a vital bridge with heterosexuals, who usually comprised the rest of our families. The proof of that is in the number of gays and lesbians now in civil marriages: around a million.

Nonetheless, for the longest time, the fight for marriage had almost no constituency in the post-1969 gay world — too conservative for some, way too utopian for others — and was kept aloft by a tiny group of activists, lawyers, and writers, who never gave up, despite setbacks at almost every turn. The biggest gay-rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, for example, remained hostile to pushing for marriage all the way through to the mid-aughts. The central figure from the get-go, Evan Wolfson, had to fight the rest of the movement continuously to keep the dream alive. It’s easy, in the wake of victory, to forget that story — but Frank covers its nuances better than anything else I’ve read. And he gives everyone their due. Toward the end of the book, he focuses a little too much on the litigation and not enough on the culture, but this is a small flaw in an otherwise indispensable account.

What resolved the gay divide, in the end, was the religious right. When George W. Bush endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004, as Frank explains, almost everyone in the gay movement realized that something fundamental to our human dignity and civil rights was at stake. Old ideological divisions briefly evaporated in the heat of the struggle, and the fast-rising support for the idea among gays and lesbians themselves turned into a grassroots revolution. The long game eventually, cumulatively brought the breakthrough. What began as as light covering of snow, easily brushed away, became, snowflake by snowflake, a drift, which eventually precipitated an avalanche. We live in the wake of it.

The other day, I managed to see the new documentary by David France, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, at the Provincetown Film Festival. It shines a piercing light on another cleavage in the gay world. And that’s the long tension between gays and lesbians and transgender people. There’s an astonishing clip in the movie of a gay-rights rally for New York Pride in 1973, when a transgender instigator of Stonewall, Sylvia Rivera, forced herself onstage and grabbed the microphone. And as she began her impromptu speech, you can see and hear the crowd booing, shouting, and heckling at the interloper. It’s a riveting and horrifying moment. For all the high-flown talk about the “LGBT community,” the truth is, these three groups have often had little in common — apart from marginalization. Many gay men have sadly long been uncomfortable around transgender people; and many lesbians have bristled at times at the notion that transgender women are truly the same as women who have been physiologically such from birth.

And then there was Marsha P. Johnson, an icon of Stonewall and the lost gay world of the West Village in the 1980s and early 1990s. I actually don’t know quite how to identify her. She dressed as a woman but also as a man. Her family refer to her in the film interchangeably as “he” and “she.” She floated through all these divisions and seemed to belong in every camp. Was she a drag queen? Or transgender? Or a cross-dresser? In the end, I think, her charisma transcended all these identities. She was an individual, and in some ways, a saint. Gentle, African-American, always beaming, bringing outcasts into her home, shimmering through Pride like a vision of divine love, she seemed to have no enemies in an often contentious community. And she died like a martyr, her body suddenly washing up at the Christopher Street piers in 1992, quickly designated a suicide, with only the most cursory of investigations.

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Marsha P. Johnson Photo: Netflix

No one who knew her believed she killed herself. And the movie tries, all these years later, to solve the mystery of her death. Sadly, it doesn’t quite deliver the payoff you want, but you learn so much along the way it doesn’t really matter. As an evocation of a different era, the movie is quite wonderful. I have just two quibbles. There’s an implication that the Stonewall riots were instigated by trans people of color, who were then erased by the white cis middle class. This is far too pat. It’s critical that the key trans figures at Stonewall be recognized. Ditto gay men of color. Putting them front and center on that fateful night is vital for the historical record, and I’m glad this movie exists for that reason alone. But you only have to look at the actual photographs of the riots to see masses of young gay white men as well, lining up on the streets, jumping into the melee. And in some ways, it was the rebellion of those with much more to lose that marked a shift in consciousness.

There’s also a statement in the movie that there was no gay-rights movement before Stonewall. This is just untrue, and it erases the legacy of the early gay rights pioneers in the 1950s, like Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Harry Hay, who founded the movement in the terrifying era of the lavender scare. People who risked their lives and careers marching in front of the White House in the 1950s, who started the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, who laid the foundations for marriage equality, gays in the military, nondiscrimination in employment, and coined the term “Gay is Good,” deserve not to be forgotten. This movie wipes them from history.

But there I go again, I suppose. It wouldn’t be a gay movie without an internal gay controversy. And the internecine fights will never fully end because the accident of homosexual orientation — more than any other —knows no single demographic, or gender, or race, or class. To form a coherent movement out of that massive, random diversity was never going to be easy. Pride Marches this year have been disrupted and halted by groups connected with Black Lives Matter who oppose the mainstream corporate support and openly gay police organizations that so many of us regard as huge achievements of integration, rather than blights. But purist factions have always tried to impose a singular vision on a very non-singular group of people. It has always been that way, from the very beginning. Love breaks through every human identity, and so must a movement rooted in the search for love. And of that divisiveness and contentiousness, spats and feuds, marches and countermarches, and rare, fleeting moments of unity, I am, in some, yes, perverse way, proud.

See you next Friday.

Ramadan in Philadelphia’s African American community

Washington – “The first Muslims to observe Ramadan in America were slaves who sneaked off into the fields to pray,” Qasim Rashad explains from his office at the United Muslim Masjid in Philadelphia, where he serves as the Amir.  

Professor Sulayman Nyang of Howard University is an expert on Islam in the United States and says that 10% of the African slaves brought to the US came from Muslim backgrounds. Other sources say it was as many as 30%.

Today, African Americans make up a large portion of the country’s Muslim community.

A 2011 report by the Pew Research Centre found that 40% of native-born US Muslims are African American. Many of these converted to Islam during the 1960s and 1970s due, in part, to the influence of the Nation of Islam. In the 1970s, Warith Deen Mohammed led the majority of the Nation’s followers towards traditional Sunni Islam.

In Philadelphia’s African American Muslim community, Ramadan is observed as it is anywhere else. Families wake up early for “suhoor”, the pre-dawn meal, and fast for the 16 daylight hours typical of a North American summer. Many local Masjids offer community “iftars” (fast-breaking meals), as well as educational events and classes throughout the month.

Iesha Prime, a well-known figure in the Muslim community in the US, addressed a crowd of hundreds at Philadelphia Masjid during one of these events, saying: “It may look like we’re down and out. It may look like as a community, we’re behind. But in reality – when God created you, specifically – God created your language and your colours for a reason”.

Halal markets, Islamic bookstores, and Muslim fashion are ubiquitous in Philadelphia, and it would be hard to venture into any neighbourhood in the city and not find at least some Muslim presence.

Rev. William Barber is building a new ‘moral movement’ to reach people on race

HARI SREENIVASAN: We hear a lot about how divided our country is along many lines: race, class and especially now our politics.

But in our next Race Matters conversation, NewsHour special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault talks with the co-authors of “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear” about their success in bridging those divides.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In recent weeks, Reverend William Barber stepped down from heading the NAACP in North Carolina to focus on what he calls a national moral revival, updating the Poor People’s Campaign started by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. that linked the civil rights struggle for African-Americans to demands for equality for all poor people.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II, Repairers of The Breach: There was this thing, if you will, called the white Southern strategy.

And the goal of it was undermine black and white fusion coalitions. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to figure out a way to talk that makes poor whites think that they’re losing because black people and brown people are gaining.

And what you do in that is, you make poor whites, who should be allies with poor blacks, think that their problem, their poverty is being caused because black and brown people are acquiring something or taking something from them.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, what led you to try and bridge that gap, and what made you want to do that?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: Dr. King said — back in the ’60s, he said, the only transformative force that could really, fully transform America would be for poor whites and blacks and brown people and working people to come together.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove conversion began when he first met Reverend Barber. Before that, he had been a young conservative who had worked both for the Moral Majority, a political group associated with the Christian right and the Republican Party, and also for conservative South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond.

What was your own attitude about poor black people and black people in general?

JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE, School for Conversion: So, I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church in a sundown town. Until 1983, there was a sign at the edge of our town that told black people they weren’t welcome there after the sun went down.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I have read that you called yourself a racist in those days.

JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: Sure. I didn’t know I was a racist, but Reverend Barber helped me see that I was racist, and, more importantly, that my racism was getting in the way of loving Jesus, which is what I really wanted to do.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Wilson-Hartgrove first heard Reverend Barber some 20 years ago at a meeting called by the North Carolina governor.

Reverend Barber delivered a motivational speech to a gathering of young people. Wilson-Hartgrove was moved by what Barber said and began to understand how racism had been used as a tool to divide. Growing up poor, Wilson-Hartgrove had never before realized what he had in common with poor black people.

JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: We were taught to believe that there were people who were poor because they chose to be poor. And that narrative kept us from seeing the way that our religion was being used to pit us against other people.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Reverend Barber has even taken his message into Appalachia, and up to Mitchell County, North Carolina.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: Mitchell County, North Carolina is a place where, in 1920, all the black people were run out of town over the accusation of a black man raping a white woman. It’s 97 percent white, 77 percent Republican.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Wary, but undeterred, Reverend Barber seized on the invitation of this rural white church.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: I went in and talked to them for about an hour.

And I said, listen, this legislature just cut, denied Medicaid expansion. There are 1,000 people in this county that would get health care, and they can’t be black, because there are no black people are up here. They cut funding for public education. You are losing teachers here. And they have to be white.

Now, you voted for some of the people because of what they told you they stood on prayer in school and abortion and homosexuality, but let’s look at what they are doing, and how it is hurting you.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, basically, what you did was to talk to them about the things that they had in common. And it registered. It permeated their consciousness.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: You talk to people honestly, you talk to them about what it means to be a human being, and you show them the hypocrisy. You know, you show them how they’re being fooled, if you will, that people are saying, I care about your best interests, but those people are actually putting in place policies that are hurting everybody.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What strategy did you use to reach people who had been brought up like Jonathan? What did you do to convince them that this wasn’t right?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: I know that many of my white evangelical friends or many African-Americans who were bought into this kind of a public engagement-type faith really have been introduced to — and I say this sorrowfully — a form of heresy and a form of theological malpractice.

To try to suggest that Jesus was just about a little prayer, a little preaching and a little worship and a little charity — the very Jesus that white evangelicals claim to lift up was a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew whose first sermon was challenging the economic exploitation of the empire.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Reverend Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove have been working together in a multiracial movement known as Moral Monday, weekly protests held on the grounds of the North Carolina state capitol in Raleigh aimed at helping citizens understand their common interest around such issues as health care, voting rights and immigration, also how they are affected by these and other governmental policies, regardless of race or class.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: When we went into the first Moral Monday in a diverse role as clergy, investment, first, some people laughed. They said we were a nuisance.

But then they started seeing more people come, and they looked diverse. They said, that’s my teacher getting arrested, that’s my doctor, that’s a black man and white man walking together. That’s a Jew and a rabbi and a Christian. What’s going on?

So, people began to think — even though they didn’t get arrested, they would come.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The Moral Monday movement is the foundation for Reverend Barber’s latest project that he intends to take to some 25 states.

JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: What can be learned from our experience is that white people need to talk about race honestly. We need to say, of course we’re racist. This is a country that’s built on white supremacy.

You know, it’s not like it’s a personal failing. I inherited this. Racism is about structures that pass on what we inherited, right? Inequalities that we inherited are written into these structures. And when we help white people think about that, I think we’re making it possible to form alliances that we haven’t been able to form.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: And black people can’t be afraid of that.

We have to look back in history. When black and white people came together right after the Civil War, we fundamentally changed this country. When black and white and brown people and Jews and Christians came together in the civil rights movement, it was transformative.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Are you at all optimistic that the kinds of things that you’re doing are going to make a difference in ending racism?

JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: I think racism is the fundamental challenge to the American project. This is a country that was built on the original sin of race-based chattel slavery. It is how the, you know, concentrated capital in this country from the very beginning has maintained power.

But I don’t think that the future of America is possible without dealing with it.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: I’m hopeful. Optimism is a different thing.

I believe we have to be the kind of what I call moral dissenters, moral defibrillators who shock the nation. But we also are seeing something in the wind. You have white people marching with Black Lives Matter.

I had a friend of mine who’s a Sikh, and she put it like this. Quickly, she said, a tomb is dark and a womb is dark, but there’s a difference. A tomb is death, a womb is possibility. It’s dark now.

But if we push and push together and come together, I think this is a birthing moment.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

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