Nobody needs to tell Black Americans that progress toward an inclusive democracy is often met with brutal resistance. We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t “let nobody turn us ‘round.” And right now, we need to send that message to the people we put in power in the White House and Congress.
Our democracy survived former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. It survived the violent attack on Congress that Trump and his allies incited, which left five people dead and many more injured. We won great victories at the ballot box in Georgia, yet our progress — and our democracy — are still at risk.
We cannot let the forces of bigotry and backlash stop us from fixing the mess Trump left behind, giving people the help they need, and protecting our democracy itself.
Here’s what’s going on: After an election in which Black people’s votes made the difference in so many races, state legislators have already introduced more than 100 bills to interfere with voter registration, limit mail-in voting, and make it harder to vote. They want to turn us around and shut us out.
That’s why we need Congress to pass the For the People Act. It would strengthen and protect voting rights. It would limit big money’s ability to corrupt our politics. And it would stop state legislators from drawing lines on the map that give unfair power to the right wing and leave Black people and progressive voters underrepresented.
The biggest barrier to passing protections for voting and democracy is the same barrier to getting relief money to hurting people, families, and small businesses: Senate Republicans and their intention to stop progress dead in its tracks.
And that’s why we need Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. It would put some teeth back into the Voting Rights Act that conservatives on the Supreme Court knocked out just after former President Barack Obama’s reelection.
One reason people were so motivated to elect Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff was to keep Sen. Mitch McConnell from having the power to stop President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris from doing what they were elected to do.
When Georgia voters elected Warnock and Ossoff, it gave Democrats control of the Senate — 50 votes with Vice President Harris as the tie-breaker. But McConnell refused for days to relinquish control, and it took weeks before he stopped holding up the vote to recognize the shift in power and put Democrats in charge of Senate committees.
McConnell operates in bad faith. Senate Democrats need to act quickly to do away with the filibuster rules that let him get away with it. Our country’s needs are too urgent to let McConnell and his unprincipled power plays stop us from taking action.
Don’t forget that McConnell and his Republican colleagues are also trying to sabotage the impeachment trial that would hold Trump accountable for the deadly insurrection he incited with his lies about Black voters. They don’t want us to learn more about what happened and who energized the anti-democratic forces that tried to overturn the election. So they tell us to forget about it and move on.
We know better. The history of lynching and other racial violence is clear. Active participation or complicity by law enforcement and politicians protected those who carried out the violence. And when no one was held accountable, the violence continued.
We know that the far-right forces energized by Trump’s lies about a stolen election are planning more violence. And we know that right-wing politicians are using those same lies to justify attacks on our voting rights.
Don’t believe people who say that holding Trump accountable will prevent us from focusing on the other work that needs to be done.
We can and must do both. We must hold Trump responsible for his attacks on democracy. And we must move forward with all the urgency our situation demands.
Ben Jealous, the former president and CEO of the NAACP, is president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation.
“There are some politicians that are very concerned about the historic turnout that we saw in the 2020 election and are determined to put barriers in front of the ballot box to try and give themselves a job security play. There are some politicians who are trying to manipulate the rules of the game so some people can participate and some people can’t.” — Myrna Pérez, director of voting rights and elections, the Brennan Center
No matter how many lies politicians tell about nonexistent voter fraud, someone always manages to blurt out the truth.
“They’ve got to change the major parts of them [voting laws] so that we at least have a shot at winning,” said Alice O’Lenick, chair of the board of elections in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
Black Americans voted in record numbers in Georgia and other states in 2020. White politicians are hard at work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Using “The Big Lie” of voter fraud as a pretext, state senators in Georgia this week introduced nine bills designed to make it harder for people to vote, eliminating automatic voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and mail ballot drop boxes, banning third-party groups from sending mail ballot applications, and prohibiting people who move to Georgia after the general election from voting in runoff elections.
Every one of these proposals would affect Black voters disproportionately.
In a bit of sad irony, the bills were introduced the very same day the news broke that voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams was nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her work to promote nonviolent change via the ballot box.
Georgia’s avalanche of racially-motivated voter suppression legislation isn’t even close to the worst in the nation. Of the 28 states where a total of 106 voter suppression bills have been introduced, pre-filed or carried over, Pennsylvania leads with 14.
Pennsylvania also is unique in that it is the only state where legislators are trying to reverse voting reforms they themselves brought about. A bipartisan majority in the Pennsylvania General Assembly in October 2019 overwhelmingly voted to relax registration deadlines and make voting by mail available to all voters.
In Arizona, where a majority of voters have cast ballots early in a system that has existed for more than a decade, lawmakers are pushing several bills to curtail or end early voting, including eliminating the list of voters who are automatically sent mail-in ballots, and requiring signatures on early ballots to be notarized. Other proposals would dramatically shrink the number of polling locations. The state’s largest county, Maricopa, would have only 15 instead of the 100 it had in November.
But the most breathtakingly anti-democratic bill introduced in Arizona — and possibly anywhere in the country — can hardly be called voter suppression as it seeks to bypass voters entirely. Rep. Shawnna Bolick has introduced legislation that would allow the legislature to disregard the results of a presidential election and appoint electors of its own choosing to the Electoral College. Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts called the bill “the most arrogant power grab I have ever witnessed.
Fortunately, there is a way to put an end to racially-motivated voter suppression at the state level. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would require any state with a history of voting discrimination within the past 25 years to seek federal approval before making any changes to its voting procedures. Further, it would mandate that any state, regardless of its history, receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C., before making any changes that would disproportionately burden voters of color, such as strict voter ID laws or closing polling places in areas with large numbers of voters of color.
As President Lyndon Johnson said when he signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, “Men cannot live with a lie and not be stained by it.” The Big Lie of voter fraud has stained the nation. Passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act can redeem it.
Morial is president/CEO of the National Urban League.
Beyond the headlines of DC Public Schools opening for in-person learning is the reality of what opening has meant to me, educators, students and families at my school.
I’m the principal at Hart Middle School in Ward 8, leading the school community for the past seven years. Last week, my team proudly opened the school building for students to learn in-person for the first time in nearly a year.
At Hart Middle School, more than 100 students can come for in-person learning one day per week. We prioritized special education students and general education students who need extra support. Our goal, by the end of the school year, is for all students to be given the opportunity to learn in-person and fully reopen in the fall.
The health and well-being of students and staff are our top priorities. Last Wednesday, students and staff arrived and followed our DC Health and CDC-aligned health protocols: wearing masks is mandatory; everyone completes a COVID-19 symptom check before coming into the building; and there is frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, among other safety measures.
This is true at Hart Middle School and true at all other DCPS buildings across the District.
As we return from a lengthy time away from classroom-based instruction, we are working hard to meet students where they are, being sure to give them the specific support that they require to thrive. To that end, students receive a special, personalized folder each Wednesday morning, created by their teachers. It outlines goals for the day, assignments they may have missed and what to look for the following days when they learn virtually.
With in-person learning, students can get individualized mini-lessons from their teacher or do the kinds of hands-on learning that they love, like science lab demonstrations, instead of learning on a screen. Critically, students will have access to all of their teachers and build a deep engagement that has been missing for some. In just one day of in-person learning last week, we are already seeing those relationships flourish.
While, for good reason, we cannot hug students or give high fives when students come in the door — students were immediately happy to see their teachers and classmates. Some students told me they could focus more just being in the same room as their teacher.
Of course, we must make in-person learning stronger, help ensure that attendance increases and see that every student is learning every day, whether in school or at home.
But we are also a school that believes in doing what is best for students, so we had to make in-person learning work and to do it in the safest way possible. Here is how we did it.
First, our staff planned together to make in-person learning work so that all staff members were comfortable returning in-person. As outlined in our school-specific plan, we were provided ample personal protective equipment – “PPE” – as well as any special PPE for staff positions that required it. We also created a learning model where every staff member has the opportunity to come in-person at some point during the school year.
Our staff made a commitment to one another and to our community to follow all health and safety measures recommended by public health experts, so we can make our environment as safe as possible. As public school educators, I and my team had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but we still must protect our families and our community.
For our families, we provided the support and answers on how in-person learning looks. We call and send reminders on requirements for returning in-person. We also use these opportunities to check-in on how all of our students are doing — regardless of where they are learning.
While our North Star remains expanding in-person opportunities safely and responsibly, every family and student situation is different. Some families are choosing in-person learning; some are not yet ready to make that choice. As I remind myself and my team, we must have compassion and grace as we all try to best navigate these unprecedented challenges.
I hope, by the end of the school year, every student has the opportunity to come into our building for in-person learning. Even in these times, I want our families and students to feel like they have been taken care of.
We know families experienced tragedy and trauma over this past year. Through this tragedy, Hart Middle School continued to meet their children’s educational and social-emotional needs, including love, when needed.
No matter the challenge, in-person or remote, Hart Middle School brings the heart to our work every day.
Charlette Strickland is the principal of Charles Hart Middle School in Ward 8.
It has been almost a year since life as we knew it, both here in the U.S. and across the globe, changed in dramatic proportions with the news that a mysterious health pandemic was within our midst: COVID-19.
As many recall, America’s leaders, most notably then President Donald Trump, assured us that our shining nation on the hill was immune to this virus.
We were told that this 21st-century version of Edgar Allan Poe’s mysterious, contagious disease, as told to readers of his masterful short story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” was something that could never extend its talons from China to the U.S.
We were assured that we had nothing to fear and that things would return to normal in record time.
“Trust me” we were told.
Of course, history has shown that we were fed a quiver of lies, misstatements and conclusions based not on scientific evidence but on wishful thinking.
For me, as a father of two adult children and a grandfather of two Black boys, 6 and 18, I remember feeling powerless in ways that I had never felt before. While I could speak with my children and grandchildren on Facebook Live or Zoom teleconference calls, my plans to visit them in their respective cities of New York, Detroit and Atlanta were suddenly both impossible and improbable.
Still, given the reports from the White House in those early days, I, like many others, held fast to the rhetoric that this too would pass, as my mother used to say — and that it would pass swiftly.
As the days became weeks and weeks became months, I fought to avoid becoming like a growing number of Americans who began to allow depression, anxiety and fear to overwhelm them. As best I could, I put on a brave front for my children — but especially for my two grandsons.
But when left alone, I cried for them — for the experiences that would elude them and my opportunity to be with them as they took those traditional steps toward adulthood.
As my youngest grandson, Jackson, began first grade, I could only witness this significant step in his development by watching videos that my daughter had taken. Even then, he would not have the chance to forge a memory that I will never forget when I first started elementary school at Louis Pasteur on the Westside of Detroit more than 50 years ago.
His first day would be a virtual event without the heart-warming trappings of playing with new classmates, meeting his first-grade teacher and getting a warm hug, how to stand in line before bathroom breaks or as lunchtime approached, writing his first poem for Daddy or drawing Valentines with his friends for their Moms and Grandmothers.
Further, I was not so naïve as to believe that after looking forward to finally starting his educational journey, that he wasn’t more than a little disappointed. I know I would have been devastated.
I then remembered my four years at a college preparatory, all-boys Catholic school in Detroit where I matriculated and received my high school diploma. Every day at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy was a day of discovery and wonder. I remember arriving early every morning for band practice and staying late each night for a plethora of extra-curricular activities.
Even without the joys or distractions, depending on how you looked at it, of our school being bereft of girls, we were kept so busy and required to work so hard that I cannot remember ever missing them — at least not much. (Still, I made up for lost time once I moved on to college).
Closing my eyes, I can see the Saturday night dances when our campus became coed for the evening and we danced away the hours to the sounds of Chicago, Stevie Wonder and Parliament/Funkadelic.
I remember the hayrides at apple orchards that took me and my classmates miles away from the city. I smile as I think about our basketball team taking the Catholic League title as the varsity team warmed up to “We Are the Champions.”
I recall how proud my parents, my sister and many other family members were as I crossed the stage with my classmates to accept my diploma with honors.
I want all of this and more for my oldest grandson, Jordon. But I don’t see how he’ll ever have the chance to celebrate in the numerous ways in which I was so fortunate.
Somehow, he seems to be keeping a stiff upper lip — my young warrior. But I cannot help but wonder what thoughts are really pervading his young mind as he attends classes virtually or attempts to be slightly mannish while flirting with a young lassie on social media.
After all, you can’t get your first kiss by placing your lips on a cold screen, can you?
When my parents were alive and I was just a teenager anxious to become an adult, my mother would often tell me that some experiences were better gained through vicarious means. In short, she wanted me to understand that we can get a sense of the joy or pain of the world by “witnessing” such events through the eyes of others instead of actually experiencing them and that sometimes it was for the best.
In many cases — most in fact, she was far from wrong.
But for my little man and my young man-child, first grade and senior year in high school just aren’t meant to be experienced in any other way but live and in living color.
Somehow, with God’s grace and given my creative mind, I will discover ways to help them get a sense of what they have been unable to experience — what they have tragically been denied by no fault of their own.
Somehow! Some day! Some way!
The hallmark of mother wit or many of the “old folk’s sayings” is simplicity. “The elders” had the talent of using the simplest statements to express depth and importance in their communication. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve heard “don’t let a hard head make a soft behind,” or “what happens in the dark always come to light.” Easily blown off as insignificant, these sayings were usually valuable as cautionary admonitions.
I often weigh situations against the catalog of the old folk’s sayings I have accumulated during my lifetime. I use this practice as I assess the possibilities of the Biden-Harris administration. Contrary to some assumptions, I don’t give carte blanche acceptance to political entities, even those with whom I agree. Instead, I hold them more accountable for competent and responsible conduct.
I have had few reservations with President Biden’s Cabinet choices or his numerous executive actions. Not surprisingly, I’m pleased that his initial actions hold true, or attempt to hold true, to campaign promises. My greater concern is the unlikely, but possible, onset of forgetfulness. To that possibility, I echo the admonitions of The Elders saying, “Don’t forget to dance with the one who brung you!”
It is true that in the past, Black people have given our full support to politicians who forget the importance of our votes. There are innumerable candidates who, during campaigns, have fought for pulpit space in Black churches on Sundays, but, after successful elections, pretend unfamiliarity with our interests or issues.
The Biden-Harris administration has identified “four converging crises — economic crisis, climate change, racial inequity, and COVID-19.” Not only is there convergence in these crises, there’re also significant overlaps. President Biden has promised swift action to combat these challenges. In doing so, he MUST NOT forget his promised support to the Black community.
My readers understand the economic disparities/hardships in communities of color. According to Forbes Magazine, in May 2020 the jobless rate for Blacks was 16.8% while for whites 12.4%. The median worth of Black households in 2016 was $17,150 while for white households was $171,000. Other statistics are reported, but the bottom line for Blacks is there are barriers that deny the accumulation of wealth. President Biden acknowledges these barriers and has pledged to address them.
He also acknowledges the critical impact of climate change and pledges direct and immediate action. Hurricane Katrina is an example of a dramatic environmental disaster affecting a centralized community of color. These communities are disproportionately located in proximity to industrial areas where exposure to biotoxins is the norm or, in the case of Katrina, where they’re located in environmentally unstable areas. I hope the president’s cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline permit is indicative of his recognition of the disproportionate impact of climate change/environmental issues on people of color.
Racial inequity is a problem older than the nation. Naysayers believe it will never be resolved. President Biden has established credibility in communities of color and pledged practices which will have a positive impact on law enforcement/judicial process, economics and education. Although we’ve seen nothing major, we will observe and hope.
COVID-19 has been a matter of grave concern in communities of color, especially ours, and is made more difficult by histories of unprincipled medical treatment. I have long felt that baseless assumptions are the greatest fault in cross-cultural medical treatment. Rather than exasperation, medical professionals must learn the nuances of cross-cultural competence and communication.
Tackling these converging crises individually is a tremendous task. Tackling them simultaneously is nearly impossible, with many potential missteps. We will closely monitor the Biden administration with hope, but will firmly hold him to promises made. We will enthusiastically work to achieve President Biden’s agenda, but will not accept his benign or unintentional neglect. Let’s dance!
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.
As we enter Black History Month 2021, it’s time to call out those who consider themselves Malcolmites and those who consider themselves Martinites who have too often talked the talk but not walked the walk when honoring the legacies of the two great warriors in the war against white supremacy.
Fifty-six years after the assassination of Brother Malcolm and 53 years after the assassination of Brother Martin, we have done little, if anything, to follow their guidance about the crucial need for Black unity. In a 1963 letter to eight civil rights leaders, including Brother Martin, Brother Malcolm wrote the following: “A united front involving all Negro factions, elements and their leaders is absolutely necessary. … If capitalistic Kennedy and communistic Khrushchev can find something in common on which to form a united front despite their tremendous ideological differences, it is a disgrace for Negro leaders not to be able to submerge our ‘minor’ differences in order to seek a common solution to a common problem posed by a Common Enemy (emphasis his). On Saturday, August 10th from 1-7 p.m., the Muslims are sponsoring another giant outdoor rally at 116th Street and Lenox Avenue. There will be no debating, arguing criticizing or condemning. … This rally is designed not only to reflect the spirit of unity but it also gives you a chance to present your views to the largest and most explosive elements in metropolitan New York.”
Brother Martin was equally forceful about the need for Black unity. This is clear in the following excerpt from his 1967 book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”: “Too many Negro organizations are warring against each other with a claim to absolute truth….This plea for unity is not a call for uniformity. There must always be healthy debate. There will be inevitable differences of opinion….This form of group unity can do definitely more to liberate the Negro than any action of individuals (emphasis his). We have been oppressed as a group and we must overcome that oppression as a group.”
The strong appeal for Black Unity by Bro. Malcolm and Bro. Martin were ignored (except by the FBI) at the time. They are still basically being ignored, by most of us, as of February 2021. If we continue to do so, especially those who consider ourselves Macolmites or Martinites, we will continue to be unworthy of the supreme sacrifice made by the two great warriors and other 20th century ancestors who fought in the war against white supremacy.
Funny thing about neoliberal orthodoxy in 21st-century American politics: Its white-biased fecklessness has permitted an armed mob to infiltrate every rung of political power in this country and threaten the very fiber of the U.S. government, while it bludgeons innocent Black victims into corners of shame.
The inveterate liar who is this country’s Twice Impeached Private Citizen (TWIMPRIC) now living in Florida is the leader of a frenzied and growing throng, whose sheer rumored presence has turned Washington, D.C., into a ghostly slum. The U.S. Capitol is a fortress surrounded by nine-foot-high fences topped with razor wire. D.C.’s fancy downtown banks and law offices are now trampy facades covered with cheesy plywood. And 16th Street, the 77th global Prime Meridian, with its “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” approaching the now fortified White House presidential “mansion,” has become a grimy back alley.
These lawless — the Oath Keepers, 3 Percenters, Proud Boys and Boogaloo Boys — are able to reign supreme on the streets of Washington because they openly boast of being armed. The established law enforcement agencies can’t (or won’t) control them. And they are defended by an equally treasonous pack of Confederacy-loving senators and congress members who call themselves the Freedom Caucus, and who also carry arms on their person, literally in the halls of Congress. Just who do they think they are “protecting” themselves from on the House or Senate floor?
These scoundrels berate and harass their fellow Congress members, and threaten to physically fight them without fear of any consequences. One such gun-toting member —freshman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — “liked” a comment on her Facebook page which said that the quickest way to get rid of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was with a “bullet in her head.” No consequences! No consequences!
The wicked, armed right-wing bullies and would-be assassins are not only anti-Black to the Nth Degree, they are virulently anti-Semitic. Greene for example claims that school massacres are fake, yet was rewarded by the right-wing GOP leadership with a position on the House Education Committee. She says without censure, that Jews “in space” caused California’s wildfires.
In a Facebook post, Greene postulates that the “Vice Chairman of Rothschild Inc, international investment banking firm” may have used “space solar generators … beaming the sun’s energy back to Earth” to fire a “laser beam or light beam coming down to Earth” to “cause” the 2018 camp fire in California in order to manipulate the stock market and line the pockets of Rothschild Inc, Solaren and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum.
No problema, congresswoman — you just go about your merry way, make sure you’re locked and loaded.
On the other hand, if Hall of Fame football player and sports analyst Shannon Sharpe is to be believed, a famous celebrity can hardly even mention the name of Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan —who, unlike the Jan. 6, 2021, melee, brought 2 million Black men to the U.S. Capitol for the Million Man March and left the Mall cleaner than it was when they arrived — without rebuke.
Sharpe cites, as an example of the hypocrisy, 10-time Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady’s affection for the TWIMPRIC, and the arm’s length which the whole celebrity world keeps from the Minister.
Quoting Sharpe: “For argument’s sake, let’s just say LeBron James says. ‘My friend Minister Farrakhan.’ How would America react? You see, Blacks have always had to be very, very quiet about who their friends are. A prominent Black athlete can never say, ‘Minister Farrakhan is my friend.’ They’ll try to cancel anybody with just the mere mention of Minister Farrakhan’s name.” It’s blatant hypocrisy.
The right-wing, white nationalists behave like a pack of thugs at a middle school, pushing around the student body, taking their lunch money every day, and threatening the teachers to look the other way. These Repugnikkkan bullies dominate the news media as they urinate on the shoes of the neoliberals, while they tell the world it’s just raining.
The new president, Joe Biden —elected with an unprecedented outpouring of support from Black voters, who endured and overcame much to elect him and then delivered him two crucial Georgia Senate seats in post-election runoffs — is making nice with the GOP leadership who hate everything he stands for, while he puts Black aspirations on the back burner.
Today’s chief liberal captains, Biden and his “ace,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, call their failed technique “bipartisanship.” Naw, they can’t get away from their attachment to white superiority. It’s the hypocrisy Trump’s wildest dreams are made of.
As we approach the 55th Super Bowl next Sunday in Tampa, Florida, amid the continued national spread of COVID-19, I believe that the time has come for the close-knit group of team owners in the NFL to take the necessary steps to open the door to African American business leaders who hope to join that exclusive club of owners.
Given the large number of outstanding African American players today on NFL teams and the growing racial and ethnic diversity of NFL fans and supporters in all the cities where NFL teams are located, the ownership of NFL teams should begin to become as diverse as its fan and support base. Today, nearly 70% of NFL players are African American but there are no African American NFL owners. I see this as an opportunity for the leadership and owners of the NFL.
I speak not only as a fan of professional football but also as someone who has a direct interest in helping the NFL fulfill its laudable and historic commitment to building a diverse and equitable league for players, coaches, owners and the thousands of others who make professional football one of the most popular sports in the world.
Indeed, the NFL recently became a trusted partner and sponsor of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which represents 230 African American-owned newspapers that deliver news to our communities across various platforms, including print, digital and social media formats.
Our member publications cover the news, sports, entertainment, and culture pertaining to our excellence of performance in all aspects of human endeavor in the United States and throughout the world. And the NFL’s sponsorship will help enable our media properties to continue serving our communities at a tumultuous and confusing time when there is a great need for honest and accurate reporting.
For that support, we at NNPA are profoundly grateful.
But there is more that could be done to advance the cause of social justice, particularly on the question of opening the NFL’s Owners Club to African Americans.
We have a unique opportunity to address this matter, given that America is focused on the inequalities in our culture — from economy to the delivery of health care — that the pandemic has laid bare for all Americans to see.
In this context, the NFL, a sports business giant, should begin taking steps toward diversifying the ranks of NFL team owners. More than that, the league should leverage the current debate about social justice to ensure greater diversity and inclusion in all aspects of American corporate life.
It does appear that the NFL is slowly making some progress on the hiring of African Americans and other persons of color in the top executive positions of NFL general managers and head coaches.
I know, for example, that Rod Graves, former general manager of the Arizona Cardinals and current executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, is working hard on this issue of inclusive executive hiring. Brother Graves is to be saluted for his consequential work.
I am also aware that overall, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have stated their resolve and commitment to social and racial justice, and as well to leading the NFL forward on the issues of diversity and inclusion. We wish them well.
Yet, if I have learned anything during my long, 60-year career in civil rights and in the freedom struggle in America, it is that the issue of equity requires ownership and investment in order to sustain social transformation.
I also know that if given the genuine opportunity from the NFL fraternity of owners, there are African Americans who are financially endowed and desirous to become NFL team owners. One such person who comes to mind is Robert F. Smith, the chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, who in 2019 pledged to donate $34 million to pay off loan debt for 400 students who graduated Morehouse College that year.
But there are plenty of other capable African Americans whom the NFL can tap for those positions. The point is that if the league makes this a priority, the opportunity is here to open the doors of this elite club to people from historically underrepresented groups.
Chavis is president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and executive producer and host of “The Chavis Chronicles” on PBS. He can be reached at [email protected]
I voted for the first time in 2020. After four years of Donald Trump’s divisive presidency, I was determined to make change with my vote. But in November, I was crushed to learn that my vote may never be counted.
My name is Trajae Lackland, and I’m a 23-year-old student at the University of Iowa. I’m also one of the 22 voters fighting to make sure my legal vote is counted — especially in the closest federal contest in nearly 100 years, the race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.
Last fall, a friend and I voted early on campus to accommodate our class schedules and avoid the stress of Election Day in the middle of a pandemic. When we arrived at our polling location, I was given my ballot, and I marked it and put it in the official envelope. I specifically remember the experience of licking the glue on the envelope, pressing it shut and locking in my first vote. I was proud. Then I put my ballot in the collection slot and went about my day. For the first time, I’d used my voice to pick my community’s leaders.
Days after the election, I received a message saying my vote hadn’t been counted. My initial reaction was, “How can that be?” I voted in person. I remember sealing the envelope and submitting it. Despite following every rule, my ballot had been rejected because an election worker claimed the envelope was “not properly sealed.”
I immediately thought about the men and women before me who fought for my right to vote and the rights of Black Americans like me. Learning that my first attempt to take part in our democracy was unsuccessful hurts my heart. My disappointment has grown as I watch some in Iowa — including those who represent me — do everything in their power to keep my vote from being counted.
All politics aside, I have been awestruck watching Republicans in our state fight to keep my vote from being counted. Politicians like Mariannette Miller-Meeks claim that all of the votes in this race have been counted. If anyone knows that not to be true, it is me.
In fact, at least 22 people like myself legally voted, yet our votes haven’t been counted.
Whether or not my vote gets counted is now up to the U.S. House of Representatives. The only person fighting to have my vote counted, Rita Hart, has filed a petition under the Federal Contested Elections Act to make sure every Iowan’s vote is accurately counted. While counting our votes should be an easy decision, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, along with Republicans who have never met me, is doing everything in her power to prevent our voices from being heard.
This is a historic opportunity for the U.S. House of Representatives to show that every vote matters. If this was your vote, wouldn’t you want our leaders to make sure your voice was heard? It’s time for them to do the right thing.
I want my vote to count.
Trajae Lackland is a 23-year-old resident of Iowa City, Iowa. He is currently studying recreational therapy at the University of Iowa.
It took only one day, one inauguration, for the shift between pessimism and optimism. Just one day to anticipate new opportunities, new possibilities. The skies opened up on the day that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris of the inauguration, and the sun of truth and light shone in.
I had a mixtape running through my brain. The Fifth Dimension, “Let The Sun Shine In”; Nina Simone, “Here Comes the Sun”; Nina Simone, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”; McFadden and Whitehead, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.” You could not have wiped the grin off my face if you had a Brillo pad. The inauguration met my expectations. Biden spoke hope and reconciliation. Harris spoke history and healing. The highlight of the inauguration for me, though, was young Amanda Gorman, the Poet Laureate, at 22, the youngest poet laureate ever.
There have been many times in the last few years when I wished that Dr. Maya Angelou was alive. Sometimes it’s personal — I’d like her advice, her words, her soothing. Sometimes it’s political — I’d like to know what she thinks. But on Inauguration Day, I wanted her to see a brilliant young lady stand on her shoulders, to watch Amanda Gorman recite her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” It is a complex, hopeful, alliterative and aspirational poem that declared that our country “is not broken but unfinished.” What shone through her appearance was not only her bold words but also her shining presence. Nina Simone. To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
While the substance of inauguration was most important, those of us who are fashionistas had plenty of eye candy. Jill Biden’s light blue outfit. Kamala’s purple (a combination of blue and red), Michelle Obama’s bold maroon with a striking belt, and the monochromatic look that many of the women rocked. The presence of women, especially Black women, was also notable. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was part of the Presidential Inauguration Committee and opened the ceremony. Firefighter Andrea Hall spoke and signed the Pledge of Allegiance. Black girl magic was in the house. My mixtape is running through my head.
The symbolism was stunning, but it was far more critical that President Biden hit the ground running, and he did. He signed 17 executive orders, reversing some of the most onerous declarations of his predecessor. He dissolved the 1776 Commission, an odious truth-erasing propaganda body charged with developing “patriotic education.” Replete with lies, peppered with quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, neither of whom would have cosigned the report, the previous administration had the utter audacity to release this madness on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday holiday. One of the final slaps in the face from the deranged “leader.”
Hours before Biden offered his stirring and hopeful speech, the previous president, who defied precedent and declined to attend his successor’s inauguration, the former president slunk out of Washington, designing his departure with a 21 gun salute and an exit on Air Force One. It was a pitiful party, sparsely attended and suffused with gloomy moods. The former president’s deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, described the departing ceremony as “a funeral” and said, “In many ways, the country died.”
No, Hogan, the country was reborn with hope and joy, and a commitment to turn the hope and enjoyment of the inauguration into a reality.
What a difference a day makes. We have gone from a history-denying administration into a history-affirming one. We have moved from an administration that attacked workers and the environment to an administration that fights for them. To be sure, the Biden-Harris administration is walking a legislatively narrow tightrope, with a narrow margin in the House of Representatives and just a one-vote margin in the Senate.
Suppose Biden can work the bipartisan magic he promised to attempt. In that case, there will be more vaccines into arms and more relief for those whose economic status has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
These early days of the Biden-Harris administration are hopeful, inspirational days. They must also be workdays. There is much that must be done, many obstacles to clear. The previous administration did lots to cement their gains with last-minute executive orders and appointments. Many of these obstacles can be removed. The Biden-Harris team has, so far, been productive and resilient. They must continue that relentlessness moving forward. What a difference a day makes! Oh, happy day.
Malveaux is an economist and author.