LSU board votes to rename African American Cultural Center to honor Clarence L. Barney Jr.

Clarence L. Barney Jr. (Source: LSU)Clarence L. Barney Jr. (Source: LSU)


During a Board of Supervisors meeting Friday, a motion was adopted to rename the African American cultural center at LSU.  

The center will be renamed to the Clarence L. Barney Jr. African American Cultural Center.  

“The African American Cultural Center exists today because of Clarence Barney,” said LSU Board of Supervisors member James Williams. 

In the 1980s, Barney helped champion the students’ request to have a center on campus. The center was then developed in 1993. 

“This will give us another naming opportunity where people from all walks will be able to see with pride the commitment that this institution has for its diversity,” said Dereck Rovaris Sr., LSU vice provost for diversity and chief diversity officer. “Now you see more African American students at this university than over 70 historically black colleges and universities … This institution is committed to all of its students, and all those who come through its halls.” 

In addition to his work at LSU, Barney served as the president of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans for more than 30 years.  

Barney died in 2005 at the age of 70.  

The university plans to hold a rededication ceremony for the Clarence L. Barney Jr. African American Cultural Center later this year.  

WAFB’s Carmen Farrish was at the meeting and will have more on this story during our 6 p.m. broadcast.  

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.

theMaven, Inc. (MVEN: OTCQB) | Boyce Watkins, Leading Voice on African American Economic Empowerment, Brings His Entire Digital Media Network and Facebook Pages to Maven

May 05, 2017

OTC Disclosure & News Service

Dr. Boyce Watkins, the highly acclaimed author and scholar focused on economic empowerment and education in the African American community, is re-launching his digital empire of more than 50 properties to the Maven Network (MVEN), the Seattle-based startup launching in beta this month.

This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Dr. Boyce Watkins, leading voice on African American economic empowerment (Photo: Business Wire)

Dr. Boyce Watkins, leading voice on African American economic empowerment (Photo: Business Wire)

Watkins is considered one of the founding fathers in the field of financial activism – with the objective of creating social change through the use of conscientious capitalism – and has written numerous books and articles on finance, education and black social justice. He is a regular guest on CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, BET, NPR and other national networks.

Between social media and subscribers to his numerous websites, Watkins built a regular following of more than four million people.

“I am very excited about this partnership, and have tremendous respect for James Heckman and his team for creating this brilliant, state-of-the-art business platform for independent media brands,” Watkins said. “From the first conversation, he impressed me as a person who wants to use his resources to better all of humanity through cutting-edge technology. I’ve chosen to be a first-mover and leader in this extraordinary project, as we continue our goal of developing black economic and political strength throughout the world.”

Heckman, Maven CEO, calls Watkins an “intellectual giant and brilliant communicator who will amplify his message through our advanced publishing technology, new community platform and seamless integration with social media.”

“Boyce is authentic, smart and more than anything, courageous,” he added. “We will continue to reserve our technology and resources for hand-picked, inspiring, independent content and community leaders. Boyce is all that and more, tackling real issues with innovative ideas and thoughtful social commentary – we’re honored to be his partner.”

Maven provides a select group of content leaders an end-to-end digital media business platform within a cooperative – sharing technical resources, distribution and monetization. Dozens of award-winning journalists, best-selling authors, top analysts, important global causes, and foundations have already joined the coalition.

Watkins plans to organize his numerous websites into four main channels on Maven: Black Wealth, Black Men United, Black Women United, and Black America.

Among his signature initiatives are The Black Wealth Bootcamp, The Black Business School, and The Black Millionaires Of Tomorrow program which introduces young people to finance and entrepreneurship. He also has produced two critically acclaimed documentaries: “Resurrecting Black Wall Street” and “The Secrets Of Black Financial Intelligence.”

Maven is an expert-driven, group media network, whose state-of-the-art platform serves, by invitation-only, professional, independent channel partners. By providing broader distribution, greater community engagement, and efficient advertising and membership programs. Maven enables partners to focus on the key ingredients to their business: creating, informing, sharing, discovering, leading and interacting with the communities and constituencies they serve.

Based in Seattle, Maven is publicly traded under the ticker symbol MVEN. For more information, visit Key members of the team include:

Founder and CEO James Heckman has extensive experience in digital media, advertising, video and online communities for major public companies and several times as founder. He served as Head of Global Media Strategy for Yahoo!, leading all significant transactions and revenue strategy under Ross Levinsohn’s tenure. As Chief Strategy Officer at Fox Digital, he architected the first programmatic social advertising platform, as part of the market-changing, $900 million ad alliance between Google and Myspace and was instrumental in Hulu’s formation. Prior to Yahoo!, Mr. Heckman was founder/CEO of (sold to Yahoo!), CSO of, Founder/CEO of (sold to Fox), Founder/CEO of and (sold to Yahoo!, post tenure and 365-Sports, respectively) and held the position of President and Publisher of NFL Exclusive, an official NFL publication network. Heckman holds a BA in Communications from the University of Washington.

Co-founder and COO William Sornsin ran MSN’s Core Technology team before joining Rivals as co-founder and CTO in 1999, co-founded as CTO/COO; was VP Engineering & Operations at Fox Interactive Media after Scout acquisition. Earlier, Sornsin held a variety of product and program management roles at Microsoft. He holds a BS Electrical/Computer Engineering from the University of Iowa and an MBA from UCLA.

Co-founder and CTO Benjamin Joldersma’s career spans nearly two decades of large-scale platform development, including CTO and chief architect of Ben held the role of Senior Software Engineer, Geo/Imagery at Google, was a Principal Software Engineer at Yahoo!, Chief Architect at 5to1 and held senior engineering roles at aQuantive, and Microsoft. Ben studied Computer Science at University of Puget Sound.

Director Ross Levinsohn is a leading industry figure who has long focused on the convergence of technology and media. He served as CEO at Yahoo in 2012 and prior to that role was Executive Vice President, Americas and Head of Global Media from 2010 to 2012. Levinsohn served as President of Fox Interactive where he helped create one of the largest digital businesses amongst the traditional media companies, and was instrumental in the formation of what is now Hulu. He serves on several public and private media and technology boards, including Tribune Media, mobile advertising marketplace YieldMo, Vubiquity, Zefr, and the National Association of Television Program Executives. He was Executive Chairman and Director of Scout Media, Inc. from 2014-2016, previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of Guggenheim Digital Media and co-founded 5to1 Holding Corp, serving as its Executive Chairman. He co-founded Fuse Capital in 2005 and served as its Managing Director and Managing Partner. He served as General Manager at AltaVista Network and Vice President of Programming and Executive Producer at CBS Sportsline. Mr. Levinsohn received a BA in Broadcast Communications from American University, and is a trustee there.

Copyright © 2017 Businesswire. All Rights Reserved

The above news release has been provided by the above company via the OTC Disclosure and News Service. Issuers of news releases and not OTC Markets Group Inc. are solely responsible for the accuracy of such news releases.

Increase in life expectancy seen in African Americans

By: Emily Lunardo | Health News | Friday, May 05, 2017 – 02:00 PM

Increase in life expectancy seen in African AmericansThe human race has made great strides in increasing our life expectancy. In the 18th century, the average life expectancy was only 35 years, and today it’s about double that. This upward trend is thanks in part to improved living conditions, increased intelligence, and of course, the advancement of modern medicine. The average life expectancy of humans is continually increasing and isn’t showing any signs of stagnating. This increase has been recently documented in the African American population, as a new federal report has stated that black Americans are living longer on average but are still lagging behind the average life expectancy of the Caucasian or white population.

While it is great news that Americans are living longer, it is curious why one race is living longer on average compared to another. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, white Americans live about four years longer than black Americans. However, the overall death rate of black Americans has dropped by 25 percent from 1999 to 2015. Officials at the CDC attribute this decrease in death rate to declines seen in leading causes of death among African Americans like heart disease, cancer, and HIV.

Despite this disparity between the two races, the gap has been closing considerably in years past. Much of this is due to improved health care in the black population, thanks in part to raised awareness of illness and disease at an early age in black communities, promoting healthy behaviors.

The difference in life expectancy seen in black and white populations can also be explained by faster death rate drops in African-Americans compared to white Americans, as in 1999, deaths for any reason stood at 33 percent but fell to 16 percent in 2015. Additionally, looking specifically at the elderly population, the death rate due to heart disease and for all causes among black and whites aged 65 and older closed completely, meaning that life expectancy in old age is essentially the same—a testament to our commitment to health care in the older demographic.

“Deaths from heart disease in blacks 65 and older have declined by 43 percent, and deaths in whites 65 and older have declined by 38 percent. For cancer, deaths decreased in blacks by nearly 29 percent and by 20 percent in whites,” said Timothy Cunningham, an epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Population Health.

However, young black Americans are not seeing similar progress, as it was found that they are more likely to live with or die from medical conditions that usually affect older white Americans, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. This is thought to be partly due to underdiagnosis of chronic health conditions in the younger demographic, like high blood pressure, going untreated. It was also noted that murder rates among black Americans have not changed over the 17 years this study covered.

The researchers go on to say that much of the differences seen between the two races are rooted in poverty and other social conditions that continue to plague the black community. Lower levels of education, lack of home ownership, and unemployment are all factors that limit health care African Americans need.
“Social justice is among the more important determinants of health outcomes, and disparities are very revealing about social justice and equity in public health,” said Dr. David Katz, president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Share this information

People who read this article benefited from…

Related Reading:

Life skills may be more important than we give them credit for

Eating less may increase life span: Study


Popular Stories


Disqus Comments

–> <!–

Facebook Comments


Frederick Douglass, Queen Latifah among images in African American Museum’s first special exhibition

The “More Than a Picture” exhibit at the new African American Museum will include this photo by James Karales, taken March 21, 1965, during the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. (Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, gift of Monica Karales and the estate of James Karales © Estate of James Karales)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will open its first special exhibition next month, featuring photographs of historical figures and key events in African American life.

Opening May 5, “More Than a Picture” will include 150 photographs from the museum’s collection, including portraits of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois and Queen Latifah, as well as images from the civil rights movement and Hurricane Katrina. The show also will feature images of recent protests in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore.

“The power of photographs is not only the ability to depict events but to bring human scale to those experiences,” Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s director, said in a statement. “Photography plays an important role in constructing memory. Images act not only as repositories of memory but also as stimulants and beacons for remembering.”

The museum — a must stop for locals and visitors — has welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors since opening to great fanfare Sept. 24. Crowds are expected to grow during peak spring and summer seasons.

The temporary show will be on view in the Special Exhibitions Gallery on the museum’s concourse level, a space that was not ready when the museum opened.

Winner of University of Texas’ “Miss Black University” receives

… and was the first African-American to appear on the … Williams Crowned the first African American Miss America in 1983, … Vanessa Williams  Crowned the first African American Miss America in 1983, … was immediate backlash. FACING RACISM: Racist flyers pop up … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

To Understand the Cost of the War on Women Look to Mississippi

April, a 24 year old single mother and a central character in Jackson, prepares for the birth of her fifth child.

Few policy areas have been so strongly affected by the first 100 days of the Donald Trump administration as women’s health care and access to reproductive services. Trump promised he would launch an all-out offensive against abortion access protections and organizations like Planned Parenthood, and with the Republican Congress has begun the process. Across the country, emboldened anti-abortion state legislatures have tried to pass a new wave of abortion restrictions.

But in Mississippi, extensive abortion restrictions have been on the books for years. It’s one of a handful of states with only one operating abortion clinic—the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which Mississippi conservatives have fought to close—leaving thousands of women, particularly low-income women of color, with limited access to services. The state has poured resources into more than three dozen crisis pregnancy centers, which offer non-medical services and counsel women against having an abortion. A new crisis pregnancy center opened right across the street from the clinic late last month.

There was a time when what was happening in Mississippi was seen as unique. Now women across the country fear that their state could be next.

Enter Jackson, an award-winning documentary highlighting the realities of living in a state seeking to eliminate abortion access. Released on the festival circuit last June and broadcast nationally on Showtime earlier this week (Showtime Showcase will rebroadcast the film on Friday and it is now available on demand), the documentary offers an intimate look into the lives of three women: Shannon Brewer, the director of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization; April, a 24-year old single mother of four children facing an unplanned pregnancy; and Barbara Beavers, the executive director of the pro-life Center for Pregnancy Choices, a Jackson-based crisis pregnancy center. In following the often intersecting lives of its subjects, Jackson not only highlights the struggles of operating Mississippi’s last clinic, but also explores what life can be like in a state with few options. Filmed over three years and drawing from more than 700 hours of footage, Crow deftly connects the women’s stories to one another and to developments at the state and national level and gives viewers an opportunity to understand the people caught up in the fight for reproductive rights.  

Mother Jones caught up with Crow shortly before Jackson’s national broadcast premiere to discuss how audiences have reacted to the film, what it was like to spend years working with the documentary’s subjects, and what the film means at a time when access to abortion is under an increased threat.

Mother Jones: How would you describe this documentary to someone and how did you decide you wanted to make it?
Maisie Crow: Jackson is a film about the anti-abortion movement’s efforts to dissemble and take apart access to abortion in Mississippi and really across the Deep South. And now it really rings true across the country.  In 2012 I read an article about HB 1390, that was the admitting privileges law that had just been signed by Gov. Phil Bryant. I was shocked—I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, and at the time there was an abortion clinic there. For as much as I knew, there were abortion clinics in every city. To realize that there was a state with one abortion clinic, and there was a law that could close it down, I was totally shocked. I went down to Mississippi shortly after reading that article.

Over time, I built really strong connections with the clinic, including Shannon Brewer [the director of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization] and Dr. Willie Parker [who was providing abortion care there at the time.] I spent a lot of time getting to know them, and then I made a short film called The Last Clinic (released in 2013). And it was in making that film that I realized I wanted to tell a larger story and weave in the anti-abortion movement in Mississippi and what they were doing to block access for women.

[embedded content]

MJ: Two of the women in this film—Shannon and April—are African-American. I’ve done some writing about the unique complexities, women of color, particularly black women, face when it comes to accessing abortion care. Its not just economics, there’s a very specific type of shame that black women can feel for even considering an abortion. How did you navigate telling those stories?
MC: Being a woman who is not from Mississippi, who did not grow up in those circumstances, and who is not a woman of color, I really relied on Shannon to help me understand what that experience was like. I paid careful and close attention to make sure that I was telling Shannon and April’s story in the best and most honest way possible because it was not my experience and so many problems can arise from that.

MJ: How did you first come in contact with April and begin working with her? She seems to be a remarkable example of an everyday woman’s experience in the state.
MC: I think it is risky to say that her experience is an everyday woman’s experience because we all have vastly different experiences in life and healthcare. But once I met Barbara and started filming Barbara, I knew I had to tell the story of a woman who sought care at Barbara’s crisis pregnancy center, and that is where I met April. The day or two after I met April—I was at her house doing an interview—she told me she had consumed Clorox [to terminate a pregnancy]. In the film that’s revealed during a counseling session at the crisis pregnancy center. That was the moment where I was like, this is really scary—for women to feel like they have to resort to drinking bleach because they don’t want to be pregnant. That was something that couldn’t be left out of a film about access to abortion care.

Women’s choices should be their choices no matter what their situation in life. I want women to be educated on what their choices are. And to come to a place like Mississippi and meet women who don’t know what their options are, not because they’re not smart but because they haven’t been given that knowledge or they’ve been misled—that’s alarming to me.

I really felt April’s experience was vital in terms of understanding how these laws and these crisis pregnancy centers and the stigma, how those things work together to affect a woman. April’s story is unique to her, but there are certainly other women that have experienced similar things, whether it’s multiple unwanted pregnancies without access to contraceptives or accurate information about abortion. After the screening in Jackson, Mississippi, several women came up and said, “Thank you for making this, I’ve been to that same crisis pregnancy center and I felt the same shame that April felt.”

MJ: So, as you’re talking to one woman of color in charge of Mississippi’s only clinic with abortion services and another woman of color navigating a very difficult pregnancy, you are also interacting with Barbara, who comes from a strong anti-abortion perspective. How familiar were you with her side of the story going into this?
MC: I was probably most familiar with Barbara’s perspective. I grew up in South Texas, I grew up more in the pro-life movement and the conservative mindset than the liberal community that I am apart of now. So that gave me unique insight into Barbara’s world and I think that helped me understand her and get good access.

MJ: A typical documentary about abortion access often follows a woman who is certain she wants an abortion through the gauntlet she has to go through—from the informed consent information many states require doctors to distribute, to the often required ultrasound and the mandatory waiting period—before she can get the procedure. Why isn’t that the main story in Jackson?
MC: It is important for that voice to be portrayed, but what I felt was missing in the overall discussion was the complexity, the nuance, the gray areas that exist in places especially in the Deep South where there is a layer of stigma and shame associated with abortion. That tends to influence some of the decision-making. So you might have a woman that doesn’t want to be pregnant, who is not being given access to contraceptives, who has not been advised properly on contraceptive use. She doesn’t want to be pregnant, but she feels like she has no options. What is that experience like? That is what I was trying to understand because when I got down to Mississippi I realized that it was not cut and dry.

Woman holds Bible

Photo Courtesy of Maisie Crow

MJ: What was it like for you to film both sides of this issue?
MC: It was weird. You’re filming both sides of this super contentious issue and there are a lot of emotions and passions in it. As a woman I have my own beliefs, I certainly don’t try to set those aside or remove them because it has to do with my healthcare as well. But I worked to not necessarily let that get in my way or allow myself to get angry or frustrated.

MJ: This film is having its national broadcast premiere during a very intense political moment when it comes to reproductive rights and abortion access. How does your film fit into all that? 
MC: I am glad that the film exists at this point in time because I think it is a really scary moment for reproductive rights and access to reproductive healthcare. I think that this film helps people understand the different issues that are woven into a women’s ability to access reproductive healthcare. I hope it really sparks some discussions. We’ve seen at festivals that audiences are really engaged and want to talk about these issues. There is so much to say and so much to talk about and it is my hope that the film sparks these discussions and people can continue them in their communities.  

MJ: Jackson has been on the festival circuit for several months now, and it was screened both before and after the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, as well as before and after the presidential election. Have reactions to the film changed in the months since its first screening?  
MC: Of course! Prior to the election, I think there was a sense of confidence that things were changing and that this country was becoming more progressive and that women’s rights were being treated more fairly in regards to healthcare. The reaction used to be “Oh, look at what’s happening in Mississippi.” Or “Oh it’s too bad that’s happening in Mississippi.” Or “What can we do to change what is happening in Mississippi?”  Now it’s “Oh my God, this is happening in my backyard.” People are really alarmed.

There’s a moment in the film where Dr. Parker is standing in front of the Supreme Court steps and he says, “In November, vote as if women’s lives depended on it because they will.” We partnered with Planned Parenthood for a screening that had been planned before the election, but didn’t happen until a week or two after it. And in that screening, you could hear people crying at that part. The screenings have changed drastically. It’s no longer “What’s happening to the women in Mississippi?” It’s “What’s happening to the women across this country?”

Sponsors of hate today must be held accountable

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

By Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. (President and CEO, NNPA)

Over the next several days, across the United States, people will pause in solemn remembrance of the 49th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. Back then, I was a young, college student and staff member of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in North Carolina on that tragic day in 1968.

There is no question that it has been a long and difficult road for our communities, during the past half century, as we continue to fight for equal rights and to eliminate racial hatred, discrimination and bigotry.

Many in North Carolina may recall my beginnings in activism when, as a 13-year-old, I fought to integrate the public library in Oxford, North Carolina, and was the first African American to successfully struggle to get a library card there. Later, I worked for the SCLC, CORE, NAACP, and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. Today, I proudly serve the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) as President and CEO.

Over the years, our work has taken different shapes and has required many different approaches and levels of intensity to ensure we continually push our leaders and fellow citizens further down the path of freedom, justice and equality.

Under the Obama administration, we were fortunate to have friends in the White House, the Department of Justice and all across the administration, who recognized the historic opportunities and worked with us to maximize them. We saw many advances for our communities and the priorities were rightly on addressing criminal justice reforms, labor, income, education, poverty and access to health care. We did not arrive fully there, but we were well on our way to making more progress for all people in America.

With the rise of the so called alt-right movement and its anti-immigration agenda that many believe helped to elect President Trump, we find ourselves working to maintain the status quo in civil rights rather than advancing this fight. And we have every right to be concerned and frustrated. Yet, as Dr. King believed, we should work to get each President of the United States, including President Trump, to denounce bigotry and hatred, as well as to champion racial equality.

We must tap into that energy to push our agenda and ensure that our nation’s leaders do not support bigotry of any kind and that means identifying individuals and groups that are sponsoring this hate and holding them accountable.

Unfortunately, here in my home state of North Carolina, the Foundation for the Carolinas has spent tens of millions of dollars over the years supporting groups that sponsor hate and advance this anti-immigration and population control agenda that threatens our communities. All immigrants should be treated fairly and equally without discrimination.

Behind a veil of anonymity created by the Foundation, donors who support this organization are able to indirectly fund extremist groups without any public accountability. The Foundation prides itself on—and even advertises—donor anonymity as a reason to contribute to the foundation.

Large donors are assured that Foundation for the Carolinas has “fewer reporting requirements” than private foundations that they might otherwise choose as a vehicle for their giving. This condition, afforded to some of our state’s wealthiest individuals, has enabled patrons of the organization to operate unchecked—making this lack of transparency as a significant liability for your organization.

According to the “Los Angeles Times” and others, one individual in particular, Fred Stanback, has used the foundation to direct his money to extreme causes. Behind the cloak of the foundation, Mr. Stanback has become a leading supporter, funneling tens of millions of dollars, to fringe anti-immigrant groups including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (labeled an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center). It is my understanding that Mr. Stanback is behind several donor advised funds at the Foundation, which afford him this anonymity.

Over a period of more than 10 years, the Foundation has donated more than $20 million dollars to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and to NumbersUSA, a similarly minded and well-known extremist group. These vehicles have proactively disseminated hateful xenophobic sentiment throughout our region and country, ostracizing some of our most vulnerable citizens.

In addition, the Foundation For The Carolinas’ board of directors reserves “variance power,” which authorizes it “to modify any condition or restriction on the distribution of funds if in its sole judgement (without the approval of any trustee, custodian or agent), such restriction or condition becomes, in effect, unnecessary, in capable of fulfillment, or inconsistent with the charitable needs of the area served by the Foundation…” Despite the board’s discretionary power, it chose to support organizations whose agendas were clearly at odds with the best interests of a diverse nation.

As a civil rights and social justice leader, my view is that we should not tolerate this kind of unjust targeting of our most vulnerable citizens by Foundation for the Carolinas’ anonymous patrons. Public accountability for all nonprofits is necessary. It is our duty to fight for justice for all. It’s time for the Foundation for the Carolinas to come clean and stop sponsoring such hate groups. Let’s move our nation forward and not backward.

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at You can follow Dr. Chavis on Twitter @drbenchavis.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Civil Rights, National, Opinion

Trump’s religious liberty order slammed as ‘pretty much nothing’ – Religion News Service

(RNS) President Trump signed a highly anticipated executive order on religious liberty at a sun-splashed Rose Garden ceremony on the National Day of Prayer on Thursday (May 4), basking in the praise of religious leaders who blessed his action as an answer to their prayers.

“It was looking like you’d never get here, folks. But you got here!” a triumphant Trump told the gathering after a series of invocations from Baptist and Catholic leaders, and from Paula White, the prosperity gospel televangelist who is one of Trump’s main religious advisers.

Yet even before the carefully orchestrated event was over, Trump’s grand gesture toward his religious base appeared to falter as a matter of policy, and perhaps as politics: Social conservatives who had been expecting much more, and much sooner, expressed sharp disappointment, and the order itself seems unlikely to have much real impact on current laws and regulations.

“[C]onstitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect,” David French wrote in a blistering analysis in National Review. “In fact, he should tear it up, not start over, and do the actual real statutory and regulatory work that truly protects religious liberty.”

READ: Religious liberty executive order draws mixed reviews

“Woefully inadequate,” wrote Ryan Anderson of the conservative Heritage Foundation and a prominent commentator on religious liberty issues. The order, he added in a tweet, shows that Trump “either wasn’t listening or doesn’t care. Or simply caved to Left’s bullying.”

Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and an expert on religious freedom issues who is respected across the political spectrum, was also unimpressed.

“This is pretty much nothing,” Laycock wrote in an email.

The two-page executive order has three main points, according to a summary that the White House released to reporters:

  • First, it declares that “it is the policy of the administration to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty.”
  • Second, it “directs the IRS to use maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment,” which is the 1950s-era law that threatens nonprofits – including clergy and churches — with the loss of their tax-exempt status if they engage in electioneering.
  • Third, it “provides regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate” — in other words, the requirement that employers provide free birth control coverage.

Critics said the first point was essentially boilerplate rhetoric extolling religious freedom.

More important, they said, the order has no exemptions for religious groups or businesses that object to LGBT anti-discrimination laws — a priority for Christian conservatives — so it provides no relief to bakers or florists, for example, who refuse to provide services for gay couples.

Trump’s order also does not go nearly as far as a draft executive order that had circulated shortly after Trump was inaugurated in January and that had raised the hopes of religious conservatives growing anxious that Trump would not make good on his promise to address religious liberty.

Moreover, the new order itself is carefully hedged in its language on the two points of policy that it addresses, the contraception mandate and the Johnson Amendment.

For example, it asks the secretary of Health and Human Services “consider” issuing regulations to provide relief from the contraception mandate and says it must be done within the constraints of “applicable law” — that law currently being the health care law passed under President Obama.

So the order itself doesn’t really do anything to the mandate and it appears to mean that much would depend on the outcome of the other major Washington story on Thursday, the House’s close vote to repeal and replace Obamacare – a vote that might not be repeated in the Senate.

The same is true for the language regarding the Johnson Amendment.

“All executive departments and agencies shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech,” the executive order says.

READ: What is the Johnson Amendment and why did Trump target it?

At the Rose Garden ceremony, Trump painted a picture — as he has in the past — of religious believers facing virtual state-sponsored oppression under his predecessor thanks to the Johnson Amendment and other laws, saying that any pastor who spoke about “issues of public or political importance” was threatened with devastating financial consequences.

President Trump displays the Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty during a National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., on May 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlos Barria

“The abuses were widespread. The abuses were all over,” Trump said.

“For too long the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs,” Trump declared. “No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors,” he said, adding: “We are giving our churches their voices back.”

In reality, the IRS has only investigated houses of worship for political speech a handful of times. And in the past 60 years only one church has lost its tax exemption for politicking.

Congregations ranging from liberal African-American churches to conservative Catholic parishes have routinely spoken out on political issues and pastors have openly endorsed candidates without fear of retribution from the IRS or any other federal agency.

As Laycock noted, the order’s language on the Johnson Amendment “does not say that churches should be allowed to endorse candidates. It says only that they should not be found guilty of implied endorsements on facts where secular organizations would not be. I have heard no stories of that happening.”

Also, surveys show that an overwhelming majority of Americans – about 8 in 10 – do not want houses of worship engaging in partisan political campaigning and opposition to such electioneering is even higher among clergy themselves.

“For the record, I have no interest in endorsing candidates from the pulpit,” tweeted Denny Burk, a pastor in Louisville, Ky., and a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “And I would be wary of any preacher that does.”

READ: Survey: Evangelical leaders really don’t want to endorse politicians

In short, few believe the Johnson Amendment is much of a problem and many of those who do don’t think Trump’s executive order is much of a solution.

As Laycock said, this all “may lead to good things for believers down the road, but it does nothing immediately.”

Even the ACLU, which initially vowed to file suit against the order, later reversed course because the order had nothing in it that could be challenged. It was, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said, “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”

South L.A. unites to reflect on ’92 Riots

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The mood was festive. The tone of the rally, march and community festival April 29 marking the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots in 1992, was about being uplifting while still being reflective.

Smoke, fire and property destruction was not what hundreds came out on this day for. They came out, instead, to dance, sing, perform the spoken word and to embrace one another and their fellow man. That’s a far cry from what took place 25 years ago on April 29.

Gloria Walton, president and CEO of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), said the South Los Angeles Is the Future Rally and March was a point for those affected by the riots to come out and share their stories from that time period, but also cultivate narratives about what’s happening now in the community.

“We’re a community organization that came out of the 1992 uprising,” Walton said. “We formed, really as a space to galvanize all that anger and frustration into organization and power. All of us South Los Angeles community organizations are coming together to really to tell our own stories and tell our own narratives, and talk about the problems and conditions from our perspective, and more importantly, to talk about the vision and solutions we have for South Los Angeles.”

Twenty-five years ago, Los Angeles experienced an uprising that resulted in 53 lost lives and an estimated $1 billion in property damage. Businesses were destroyed and never replaced. Rundown and empty lots now occupy parts of South Los Angeles as a result of the upheaval that rocked the nation.

Encountering homelessness in and around the community is about as routine as a student walking to school. Economic development has been slow.

But a 10-year, $1 billion initiative (Building Healthy Communities) created by the California Endowment seven years ago to offset health and employment disparities affecting residents in South Los Angeles, is a start.

“Over the past 25 years, the people of South L.A. have developed models of community building to address the root causes of social unrest and health disparities,” said Tamu Jones, program director of South Los Angeles Building Healthy Communities. “They are creative and resilient and self-directed. Their innovation in community organizing is built on the larger social justice movement that folks in South L.A. have been engaged in for decades. It is bigger than the 35 organizations and has great implications for the whole city and even beyond.”

The 1992 Riot began with the beating of white truck driver Reginald Denny, who was pulled from his truck at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Los Angeles.

Members of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) were among the many South Los Angeles organizations that turned out to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

On the 25th anniversary of that incident, members of the South Los Angeles community re-visited Florence and Normandie, now a hub of liquor stores, small vendors and empty lots that once housed thriving businesses.

From there the group marched to 81st Street and Vermont Avenue for a community festival outside the headquarters of the Community Coalition, a group that got its start from the ashes of the 1992 Riots.

Throngs of people took to the streets and attended the festival. This time around, the elephant in the room for the South Los Angeles community was health care and the ability to gain access to it.

The Rev. Lewis E. Logan II, co-founder of the Ruach Christian Community Fellowship, said the explosion of the riots was not a matter of it would happen but when.

“The uprising was only a matter of time,” Logan said. “When you occupy a community with occupational forces like law enforcement officers who disrespect the community, it’s only a matter of time. When you have a judicial system that does not respect human life, especially African-American human life, it was just a matter of time. And when you have deplorable housing [and] no economic investment in the community, it’s only a matter of time.”

Not only was the occasion an opportunity to re-examine the Rodney King beating by four white police officers and the sequence of events that preceded that infamous moment, the march and rally was also a chance for organizers to lift their voices in solidarity against a climate of storied inequity for residents living in South Los Angeles.

“We recognize that a lot of people attribute what happened in 1992, what we call the rebellion, to the acquittal of those four police officers who beat Rodney King,” Walton said. “But for us, we know that our communities have been fed up with all the injustices we’ve been living with for 25-plus years, and that comes from the criminalization of our communities, struggling to make ends meet, no access to health care, privatization, our city officials moving a corporate agenda versus a people-centered agenda.

“So all these organizations are saying enough is enough. That was what the 1992 rebellion was really about. Rodney wasn’t really the offset of the rebellion. He was really the last straw that broke the camel’s back.”