We are beginning the new year during very perilous times for children and for our nation and world, but in the face of overwhelming challenges and threats to safety and well-being, this is also a new chance to fight back against depression, fear and despair and determine to keep pushing forward. I share again an adapted version of Madeleine L’Engle’s poem “First Coming” (used by permission in my book “Guide My Feet” as published in “Imagining the Word”):
God did not wait till the world was ready,
till … nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
God came, and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
These words are once again a reminder and encouragement for all we must and will do in the new year. As the holy season comes to a close and the time for new beginnings emerges, let’s commit to moving forward together with purpose, determination and hope.
Edelman is founder and president emerita of Children’s Defense Fund.
It is way past the time for serious Black folks in this country to resolve that in 2021 we are focused all of our attention on identifying, analyzing and building upon our strengths as individuals and as a group.
This will do much more to protect our economic, cultural, political, educational, health, legal, technological and self-defense interests than using our meetings to tell can-you-top-this horror stories about the latest actions of white supremacists. If we build upon our strengths, it will send a clear message to those whose goal is to keep us in a permanent position of second-classhood.
Contrary to popular propaganda and beliefs of our enemies and, unfortunately, too many Black people, we do have strengths. Only a strong group of people could have survived the physical and psychological attacks that have been inflicted on us in a basically white supremacist society.
That’s why one of the first things we should do is put together a national conference during which we will have divisions in the above listed arenas of economics, culture, politics, health, education, legal, technology and self-defense. Each division would be required to come up with plans of action in their field that will advance our group’s interests in their particular field of action. If a hostile move is made by proponents of white supremacy against us in their arena they should be able to provide us with concrete guidance on how to deal with it.
Believe me, I am well aware that what I am proposing is not going to happen overnight. But I do believe that there are enough serious Black folks in this country to begin laying the groundwork in 2021.
I share the belief expressed by the great journalist-historian Lerone Bennett Jr., who noted, “Given the way we are forced to live in this society, the miracle is not that so many families are broken, but that so many are still together. That so many Black fathers are still at home. That so many Black mothers are still raising good children. It is the incredible toughness and resilience in Black people that gives me hope.”
Those of us who share Brother Lerone’s hope most definitely must walk the walk in 2021.
“Anyone with decent vision can see from the parking-lot video of the shooting that the claim that Loehmann was able to repeatedly warn Tamir warrants incredulity. In less than two seconds, Garmback screeches to a halt in the cold mud, Loehmann pops out of the passenger door, and he fires the shot that eventually killed Tamir. He’d have had to be speaking like one of those speed readers dictating legal disclaimers on radio advertisements. However, despite that common-sense view of things, Fishman and Reddick reportedly encountered tension within the DOJ. You see, they had to write a memo requesting a grand jury to subpoena documents and testimony from witnesses, and that memo needed approval from a deputy assistant attorney general who works alongside Trump political appointees within the DOJ. And no one responded. … Quite simply, the DOJ let the clock run out on accountability for two cops involved in killing an unarmed Black child.” — Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone
The decision not to charge the officers who shot and killed a Black child on sight encapsulates everything that is wrong with the Department of Justice under the current administration. Once again, it has protected the powerful at the expense of the powerless. Once again, it has failed to seek justice for a Black life.
Tamir Rice was a child playing with a toy. It would have taken Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback only a few seconds to ascertain that he posed no threat to anyone. But they didn’t bother to spend even those few seconds because all they needed to see was the color of Tamir’s skin to decide he was a threat.
They didn’t even bother to stop their car completely. As Judge Ronald B. Adrine wrote in his ruling that probable cause existed to charge the officers, “This court is thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly. … the Zone Car containing Patrol Officers Loehmann and Garmback is still in the process of stopping when Rice is shot.”
The toy gun wasn’t even in Tamir’s hands when the officers shot him. The video “does not appear to show him making any furtive movement prior to or at the moment he is shot,” Judge Adrine wrote. Tamir’s arms “do not appear to be raised or outstretched.”
A grand jury declined to indict the officers in 2015, calling the killing a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes, and communications by all involved.” However, because grand jury proceedings are shrouded in secrecy it’s unknown what evidence the grand jurors heard or what recommendations the prosecutors made. After a judge granted grand jurors in the Breonna Taylor case permission to speak publicly, the public learned that prosecutors had not given them the opportunity to bring homicide charges against the officers. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron falsely claimed the grand jury “agreed” that the shooting was justified.
The city of Cleveland last year settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Tamir’s family for $6 million.
This brutal year of COVID-19 has seen armed protesters storm state capitols, threatening lawmakers and even menacing police, and not one was harmed. The armed protesters were white.
In Kenosha in August, police nonchalantly allowed accused killer Kyle Rittenhouse, armed with a AR-15-style rifle, to walk by them even as witnesses shouted that he had just shot someone. Rittenhouse is white.
The same week as the Kenosha killings, police in Utah arrested an unharmed Richard Grant Lees after he fired shots at the officers with assault rifle. Lees is white.
Time and again, Black people are considered a threat just for existing, while violent white men are cosseted.
A Justice Department that does not consider Tamir’s death a crime is a Justice Department that has decided that white officers must never be held accountable for taking Black lives, under any circumstances. Among those recently pardoned by President Trump were a white police officer who unlawfully ordered her police dog to attack people of color, a Border Patrol agent who brutalized a Latino man trying to cross the border, an immigration agent who illegally harassed Latino store owners, and a sheriff who defied a court order to stop racial profiling and who once said it was “an honor” to be compared to the Ku Klux Klan.
It may be too late for the incoming Biden Administration to re-examine this case. But we expect the new Attorney General to be committed to police accountability, and to pursue such cases with a sincere motivation to seek justice for the victims rather than to protect their killers.
Morial is president/CEO of the National Urban League.
I remember the commonly accepted phrase, “All politics is local.” The obvious understanding is that the individual politician and his/her constituents are best served when the interests of the “local” constituents, not partisan interests, are paramount in policy decisions.
Then, it was not uncommon for votes in the U.S. Senate and House to cross party lines as well as the development of deep and abiding cross-party friendships which are unthinkable today. Those who speak of those days frequently refer to the friendship between late Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). Although in opposition on many issues, they were known as best friends, dedicated to achieving policies that benefitted the majority of Americans.
Their friendship notwithstanding, from the time they joined the Senate until their final appearances there, an erosion of collegiality and willingness to separate partisan politics from the interests of Americans occurred. Whatever the source or reason you choose, it has crippled the ability of legislators to achieve their greatest constitutional mandate to “create a more perfect union.” Rather than seeing their political opponents as differing in opinion, they now view them as enemies whose ideas and interests have to be crushed into the dirt of political preference — nationwide. Sadly, those who vote for them accept the same enmity.
Until there is a willingness to revert to the attitude of “doing what is best for all or most citizens,” we will be mired in a swamp of conflict and discontent. This we see in the current COVID-19 economy. While a select number and class of Americans prosper and billionaires increase their wealth exponentially, larger numbers of Americans face imminent eviction, food insecurity and a myriad of problems associated with looming or absolute poverty. Small business owners who have spent their years, effort, and meager wealth to serve their communities are witnessing their efforts evaporate.
For eight months, our Republican-led Senate refused negotiations or acting on a relief package for the average American. Proposals offered by the House of Representatives have been gathering dust on the desk of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has single-handedly held the majority of Americans dangling on a string of economic insecurity. In the eleventh hour, he and his Republican caucus have agreed to negotiate a miserly relief package that will not meet the real needs of those who have suffered since May. As the Grim Reaper to Democratic policies, his singular interest has been in shaping the federal court system with conservative — and, in many cases, unqualified — judges who will legislate conservative causes from the bench.
All is not lost! As has been done in our short national history, citizens can act in concert to achieve legislation that does not extend the hand of preference to the wealthy or industrial class. Our challenge is to abandon the belief that our only concern is what is happening in our own city, county or state.
As most voters know, the state of Georgia has two unresolved Senate races that have scheduled runoff elections. The result of these elections will determine control of the Senate. Because the election outcomes have a broader impact on the nation, we MUST broaden our view of how we can affect the outcome.
If we are Georgia residents who are registered to vote, we must evaluate the candidates who best represent our interests and the interests of those we value. We must then VOTE! It’s that simple!
If we are not Georgia residents, we cannot vote, but we can encourage the Georgians we know to get out the vote and we can contribute! Political campaigns run on money. Presently, for many, money is scarce, but we must consider the chaos another McConnell term as Senate leader will cause!
Williams is national president of the National Congress of Black Women and host of “Wake Up and Stay Woke” on WPFW-FM (89.3).
The United States of America is broken beyond repair.
The 244-year-old experiment called the USA, which declared at its birth that it was self-evident that “all men are created equal;” that nation, is fast becoming a failed state, beyond hope of redemption.
Historians will confess that the country’s independence was hastened by the British movement to outlaw slavery before abolition spread to the colonies, and that the revolutionary, egalitarian Declaration of Independence, was revised so-to-speak, by the conservative, hide-bound Constitution which first declared the lowly, enslaved Africans to be just three-fifths of a person — without rights any white man was bound to respect — declared a Senate which gave Southern slave states equal power as the densely populated Northern, free states; and established an Electoral College which gave those same slave states equal (really superior) power in choosing a president.
The system worked well enough until the Southern insistence in holding on to the “Peculiar Institution,” as slavery was known, became the fuse that detonated the first Civil War. It was known then as “The Lost Cause.”
The treasonous Confederate rebels reckoned that the enslaved Africans would maintain their loyalty to their white, chattel slave masters and fight with them to preserve their own bondage. Instead, more than 200,000 Blacks fled to fight for their freedom, joining on to Union in units of U.S. Colored Troops.
But the movement to create a “More Perfect Union” stumbled when a Confederate sympathizer murdered President Abraham Lincoln. The defeated rebels then regrouped to wage guerilla warfare.
Lincoln’s successor vetoed legislation that would have given each freed male slave a start in the form of “40 acres and a mule.” Indeed, the Reconstruction was upended and the land which had been confiscated from the treasonous Southerners was given back to them, federal troops which had protected the Black Freedmen, were withdrawn from The South, and masked, night-riding white terrorists, known as the Ku Klux Klan emerged to violently put Black people back “in their place.”
The Reconstruction was crushed! Darkness again ruled the day.
Nearly a century later, the civil rights movement — the Second Reconstruction — emerged in the Deep South, the belly of the beast. Aided by the federal government and the courts, the Jim Crow “separate but equal” system was officially beaten back, until, that is Richard Nixon — the Original Donald Trump — took the White House with a racist, so-called “Southern Strategy” which transformed the white, segregationist Democratic Party into the white segregationist Republican Party.
Then, with the emergence of Barack Obama — the first African American president — a solid, Black wall of resistance and hope united with a body of enlightened white voters, and the Third Reconstruction was born.
But soon, when it became apparent that the mere symbol — a Black face in the highest office in the land — was not sufficient to quell Black demands for full and complete equality, wealth equality, health equality, full equality; when it became apparent that Black demands and the demands of other marginalized groups and individuals were not going to be addressed, and that now “suffering” white folks were tired of what they perceived as “losing ground” to the undeserving Black hordes; out of that backlash was born the Real Donald Trump, Trump-ism, and calls for a new Civil War.
Of course, just like every time before — including the 20th-century European stab at similar hatred, xenophobia and U.S. eugenics, behind Adolf Hitler and the “superior” Aryan Nazis — the white tribalists/nationalists cannot succeed this time.
White Americans don’t get it. They think that oppressed Black folks should consider it an honor and a privilege to be oppressed by them; lifted up into “higher civilization” if you will. Wrong!
And so, here we are today. Ready to breathe a sigh of relief when The Donald is finally frog-marched out of the White House kicking and screaming on Jan. 20. But Trumpism, white nationalism in U.S. thinking, will remain.
Despite the fact that this inveterate liar, philanderer, business cheat, and all-around grifter was impeached, making him the most unqualified human being imaginable to be president, Dude received 74 million votes — more than any president in history. The only hitch is that 81 million voted for his opponent.
The failure of this nation and its forfeiture of its future comes in the fact that two-thirds of those 74 million white people believe that the other 81 million votes are fraudulent and that maybe if they used that three-fifths formula again, the white tribal choice could remain in power.
Therein lies the downfall of the USA. Many of those 74 million are armed with tiki torches and guns from Walmart and are willing to fight another bloody Civil War in order to have their wicked wishes prevail.
That “deplorable” system is broken, and cannot be fixed.
No matter how you slice it, 2020 will go down as a year replete with news that shocked the world and events which few could have predicted. The operative word describing the past year remains, without question, “unprecedented.”
And while some Americans, led by a president prone to denying the advice of experts in order to make room for his own revisionist history, have embraced the more insular, nationalist perspective that guided Donald Trump in his first bid for the presidency, “Make America Great Again,” we have seen the absurdity of such a policy.
While it may have once been feasible to close our borders, to deny immigrants entry to our country and to live as if we were the only people on Earth, those days are long gone. We now live in a global village, interconnected in almost every aspect of life. But we’ve known this for some time, despite the last-ditch efforts of those who long for a return to “the good old days – one final gasp of air and the indulgences of a society founded on the premise of “white privilege.”
We can learn a lot about which decisions may be beneficial to the world’s millions of inhabitants and which are best if left alone, if we only take the time to look back at history. Of course, that requires the willingness to accept history without revising it to suit and support our own desires, prejudices or fears.
As an example, the devastation that America and the world have experienced due to COVID-19, may well have been avoided – or at least minimalized – if those in charge had simply considered what happened in 1918 when an influenza virus first emerged that would kill more people than either the Black Plague or HIV/AIDS.
But with denial or ignorance of the past we would witness the inevitable – an explosion of infections and deaths in numbers that could have been avoided both in the U.S. and in many other countries. Indeed, history can be instrumental in teaching us how to avoid past failures while preparing for a fairly-predictable future.
As for the surge of protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement, America has remained insistent in its refusal to come to terms with its own racist and sexist ideologies since the founding of this nation in 1776. James Baldwin’s prediction of “The Fire Next Time” has gained greater credence given the events that have transpired before and since the murder of innocent Black men and women like George Floyd or Breonna Taylor earlier this year.
I have made the best of a year in which I have been unable to see my children or grandsons, have stayed mostly home alone with only my two “best friends” – my dogs – to keep me company and relatively sane. I have had to refrain from enjoying my favorite forms of entertainment: attending the theater, shopping, taking trips and relishing in the beauties of nature.
But as history shows us, this, too, shall pass.
Even with the results of the recent presidential election whose outcome provides for new “firsts” with the choice of a woman of color as the nation’s first vice president, we see the significance of both embracing and learning from history. Further, we realize how those in power can use their influence to refute or revise history, if given the opportunity.
Years ago, when I first began to study theology at Emory University, I learned a song that informed me that while I may not know the future, I can be confident in whose “hands” the future is held. That song continues to guide me and give me hope, no matter how dark the present may seem to appear.
We stand on the precipice of a new year and soon, will usher in a new president to guide our misguided nation. We stand at the intersection of life and death with COVID-19 still maintaining its hold over our lives and the future. But we’re still here. The sun has not failed to come out each tomorrow.
And hope continues to spring eternal.
We made it! That’s reason enough to celebrate!
I was blessed as a young girl growing up in the nation’s capital to have parents, although divorced, who shared their wisdom as lessons to help me maneuver my way into adulthood. One edict my father reinforced every time I left his front door could not have been more instructive or defining for me nearly 40 years later.
He would remind me to make sure I always had $1.00 and one quarter tucked away in my pocket or wallet. (I can imagine many of you nodding your head as you read this.) The dollar was for bus fare and the quarter allowed me to use a payphone. It was my emergency cash, stashed away separately from my spending money and meant only to be used in case of an emergency. As a single woman, the older I got, the more he reminded me (and the more money I needed) while subtly reinforcing what also became his mantra, “If it is to be, it is up to me!”
My dearly beloved father is no longer here, yet 26 years since his death, his words stay with me as if he spoke them just yesterday. And throughout 2020, his wisdom directed me all year long.
2020 has been a heck of a year – one that will shape and redefine how we live our lives forever. We entered 2020 with genuine optimism as most new years do, providing space for us to reflect over the past, give thanks for the present and maintain hope for the future. Yet, the ongoing reality of economic inequality, social injustice, educational inequities, health disparities, and a never-ending political circus kept us distracted, as it always does, and unprepared for the emergency that loomed ahead.
Individuals and corporations alike were ill-prepared for what 2020 would bring. The Washington Informer was already facing threats of economic decline like so many other media companies across the nation. The advent of digital media transformation essentially meant a migration by advertisers to digital platforms that we had yet to perfect. Ad dollars were drying up and we were not moving fast enough to keep up with the trends.
Still, we had local and national elections to cover – one of the most important in U.S. history – and we needed to ensure that our readers in our communities were counted in the 2020 census.
Meanwhile, we witnessed our fellow Americans, and the world, being chased down by an unknown yet deadly virus that would lead to the nation being shutting down within the first three months of the new year.
Like so many, we pondered the impact of this pandemic before being labeled as such. And, in which pocket, I asked myself, did I tuck that dollar and that quarter? Because of COVID-19, there was nowhere to go, so our resources were used for emergency calls and outreach to our advertisers and friends to let them know we were still in business, ready to serve them and willing to do more to help ensure their health and survival. We also issued a call for help because we knew that emergency cash might not last long.
We are grateful to those who came through and helped sustain us while we waited in line for government-supported PPP and EIDL loans. And, we fiercely applied for grants, winning a few that allowed us to keep our team intact.
Media lives for dramatic scenes and we saw many of them this year. We covered the demonstrations following the wanton killings of young Black men and women by police and by members of their communities. We covered long lines of early voters who ousted President Trump and elected the first woman, the first African American, and the first Asian American vice president. We covered the bodacious renaming of a portion of 16th Street to Black Lives Matter Plaza by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. And we were there for one of Rep. John Lewis’s final moments as he stood next to the mayor, Wakanda-style, continuing to lead the charge for racial justice. We also covered the rise of millennial thunder by the Don’t Mute D.C. movement facing down gentrification. And we sadly said goodbye to far too many who died this year.
The dramatic scenes that truly impacted us included our coverage of hundreds who stood in long lines for food, paper goods, including toilet paper, and disinfectant germ killers. We also captured students’ mournful faces who could not return to school and the confused visage of each parent trying to deal with distance learning while worrying about losing their jobs and realizing $1.00 and a quarter were not enough. We captured the glaze of more than one overwhelmed nurse and front-line workers who put their lives on the line day after day in efforts to keep the rest of us safe, healthy and alive.
2020 taught us a lot but the biggest lesson was the need to prepare today for the next emergency that will come tomorrow. 2021 will be much better, I hope!
EDITOR’S COLUMN: All I Wanted for Christmas Was Good Health — ‘It’ Arrived Early by Special Delivery
When sharing their lists of special requests for what Santa should leave under the Christmas tree, several creative songwriters have suggested things like “my two front teeth,” “a hippopotamus” and “you.”
Of course, children have their own lengthy lists which include toys, high-tech gadgets or envelopes filled with crisp dollar bills. Meanwhile, those who have long abandoned the youthful notion of a jolly old man delivering their heart’s desire on December 24th, the “All I Want for Christmas” list often bears a much bigger price tag: diamonds, furs, a sleek new car, a trip to a sun-drenched tropical paradise — even a new home or a partner with whom one can build a beautiful future.
Some of the hot ticket items I’ve mentioned above, I must admit, have been on my personal list in the past — sometimes even being featured repeatedly after my dreams failed to come true.
But this year, the gift which God gave to me — one which I certainly asked for and which I cannot say with assurance that I deserved because I had earned it — was good health.
This time last year, I went back home to Detroit for the Christmas holiday. It was trip to which I looked forward for several reasons: my firstborn child’s graduation ceremony during which she received her master’s in education; playing with my loveable grandson — a precocious little boy who started school this year; reviving friendships with those I hadn’t seen for far too long; and recalling memories of my recently deceased mother with my sister and others whose lives had been touched by Momma.
However, during my travels back home, I became suddenly and violently ill with what I thought at the time was simply a case of an intense mutation of the flu. But in the few hours between packing and preparing to board a flight back to the District, I became so cold, weak and confused that I would require a wheelchair, several thick blankets and plenty of fluids just to remain conscious.
In fact, during the flight, the senior flight attendant, after speaking with the pilot, said that they thought I should consider allowing them to turn the plane around and getting me to a hospital as quickly as possible. I continued to pretend that I was feeling better. I just wanted to get home.
It would be nearly two weeks later before I began to feel well enough to get out of bed and resume my hectic schedule. It would take even longer to regain my strength and recover the 10 pounds I had lost.
Many months later in early November, my greatest fears would be confirmed. I learned that the virus which I had contracted just before Christmas last year was more than just a bad case of the flu — I had been stricken with COVID-19.
Of course, the American public had no knowledge that even as early as last December, this new virus was already in our midst. It would not be until March that the medical community would sound the clarion call, warning of a new and deadly force that has since been responsible for the deaths of over 300,000 people.
During my illness, I did what I usually do when I come down with the flu — something which only happens to me every two or three years: I drank a lot of herbal tea, sipped on heaping bowls of chicken noodle soup, ate fresh fruit whenever I could stand it, took plenty of hot baths and slept for long periods of time.
So, it’s one year later and Christmas is almost here. This year, I’m alone — well actually, I have my two little companions with me: Baby Girl and Duchess who are keeping me busy and grateful for life, health and strength.
On my list for gifts that I want, I suppose I should say that I put in my request a lot earlier than usual. All I wanted for Christmas was good health — something that cannot be purchased at the shopping mall or ordered online. I didn’t realize how close I may have come to death. But the experience reminded me to take each day and make the best of it, to use my gifts and talents for good as if it were my last day on Earth and to be an obedient child of the King.
Yes, my Christmas gift — or blessing — came early this year.
In fact, it arrived special delivery on the wings of angels.
What is the distance a good deed can travel? What does a warm bowl of soup mean? What does a warm bed mean? A new bike or a kind gesture from a stranger?
All these things are small in and of themselves, but the smallest gesture to someone in need can move all the markers. If you are cold and someone offers you a warm sleeping bag, is there a measure for that? If you are hungry, and someone gives you a warm meal, how far does that go? To anyone who has suffered, who has been in need or has seen their children go hungry, how far does a helping hand go? I would say it reaches all of us — it goes all the way to making the world a better place.
As we go into the holiday season in the long and unimaginable year that has been 2020, I would like to reflect a bit on the small kindnesses we can show one another and, when you add them up, how far we have traveled. This holiday season, I want to reflect on our collective journey. On our union’s long trek across time to make where we live a decent and better place. To reflect on a UAW that steps up when our brothers and sisters are suffering and in need.
We saw it in the early ’30s when people were going hungry as this nation suffered through the agony of the Great Depression. We saw it in the late ’30s and ’40s, when solidarity was the only thing we had to rely on as we stood up to the mega-powerful auto bosses and demanded — through blood, sweat and tears — that they respect our workers and sit at the table to negotiate the first contracts.
We saw it in the ’50s and ’60s as our communities were torn apart by racial inequality and my UAW sisters and brothers stood strong, stood courageous with only the idea of what was right on their side. And we marched before the world.
We saw it through the dynamic ’70s and well into the ’80s when the UAW led the way in following in our fallen leader Walter Reuther’s footsteps, and soldiering on to build and solidify America’s middle class, while building prosperity and mobility and a better way of life for so many.
When our courageous brothers and sisters stood together in 1990 alongside Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years of his life in prison fighting to end apartheid in South Africa. Upon his release, he came almost immediately to Detroit to thank our union members in person for taking a real role in his human rights struggle for justice and telling those assembled at Local 600, “Sisters and brothers, friends and comrades, the man who is speaking is not a stranger here. The man who is speaking is a member of the UAW. I am your flesh and blood.”
And our values held fast as we stood by one another in a changing world with automation and globalization and anti-union politics challenging our gains, making them harder to come by, but not putting a dent in our determination, in our solidarity or in our support for one another and for all of America’s workers.
Brothers and sisters, look at us in the early 2000s, moving forward together to save the auto industry by making enormous sacrifices for the greater good. And here we are again just last year, mounting the biggest auto strike of the past 50 years, with UAW men and women marching side by side across this nation — 49,000-plus — in heat, rain, sleet, and snow to once again tell an auto boss, “NO! We will take no more concessions as you make billions on the backs of the products we build.”
And, in all these instances, we were on the good road. In all these instances, we made the world a little bit better place. We reached out to one another, we took care of one another and we marched in solidarity for every working man and woman in this country. As we have always done. As we will always do. It is in our DNA.
So, here we are in 2020 and going through the teeth of a virus that has not begun to let go, that has taken so many from us, that affects the way we work, live and learn. It has been a year of terrible loss, of tremendous social upheaval and unimaginable grief. But here we are once again closing ranks, pushing on through it, helping one another.
Our UAW family was, as always, among the first to step up when our nation was in need. Our sisters and brothers volunteered to go back into the plants to make the critical life-saving personal protective equipment needed to fight this pandemic. We started food banks and community support projects, served on the front lines of this crisis in health care facilities and public safety, and got to work in our living rooms and kitchens making masks. And once again, we stood together and with the strength of our solidarity, told the companies that the safety of our members comes first as we looked to get our nation back to work last spring.
This holiday, I want to recognize every hardworking woman and man in this country, especially our UAW family and fellow labor union families, and remind us all of how far we have come and what we have achieved. I am proud to say that we are all on this road together and I cannot imagine better traveling companions.
Wishing each and every one of us a safe and happy holiday.
Curry is secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers, an American labor union that represents workers in the United States and Canada.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Pennsylvania political prisoner who spent more than 20 years on death row and who remains on lockdown for a crime I do not believe he committed — and which he and thousands of his supporters all around the world insist he did not — recently moved closer to exoneration and freedom.
I am one of the legions of supporters who have maintained that he was framed in the murder case by crooked cops and a crooked prosecutor, and tried by someone nicknamed the “hanging judge” simply because he was an outspoken and effective opponent of police corruption in a city at a time when such evil practices were common.
I even protested in 1995 on these pages against the silence of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) when Mumia was scheduled for execution on the anniversary of the birthdate of the Black World newspaper publisher, the Rt. Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, while the NABJ was convening and partying in Philadelphia.
That execution date was stayed, as were all others, until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his death penalty was unjustly obtained, and rather than fight to execute him, the state dropped its death penalty appeal, which might have led to a possible new trial of his unjust conviction itself.
Well, on Dec. 16, after two years of litigation, the state’s Supreme Court dismissed a challenge by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and Maureen Faulkner, the widow of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner who was killed on Dec. 9, 1981, ruling that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas must review several boxes of compelling new evidence of bribery and discrimination in jury selection discovered in the case.
There were boxes, on top of boxes of suppressed evidence discovered that former District Attorney Ed Rendell and his allies suppressed for decades. They will now, finally be examined in open court. Evidence which could result in a finding of innocence.
“They were allegedly found in the back room behind a stairwell in a mid-level floor in the DA’s Office,” Dr. Johanna Fernandez, associate professor of history at Baruch College CUNY and an authority on Abu-Jamal’s case told this writer.
“These boxes have potentially exculpatory evidence: a letter written by one of the key witnesses of the prosecution literally asking, ‘Where’s my money?’ And a series of documents suggesting that the prosecutors were tracking the race of the jurors, (revealing) that they were attempting to illegally discriminate in the jury selection.”
Abu-Jamal was convicted by an all-white jury, and his former prosecutor served on the state Supreme Court, unjustly dismissing several of his appeals of those injustices. You can’t make this stuff up.
“There was judicial bias in this case, and because there was judicial bias, that a prosecutor turned judge should’ve recused himself in Mumia’s case, but didn’t,” Fernandez continued, Judge Leon Tucker ordered the courts “to open up all of the appeals in Mumia’s case, going back to the 1990s, because this judge sitting in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed and denied all of Mumia’s appeals because he had a dog in the fight, and he had prosecuted Mumia, so of course he wasn’t going to impartially review the violations.”
The defense insistence, going back 39 years, that Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed, that the witnesses were bribed and intimidated and that he is, in fact, innocent of the charge for which he was convicted have much more weight after this latest series of court rulings. He may finally be able to prove in court that he is indeed innocent.
“Correct. That’s the most important thing right now before us,” said Fernandez. “The review of evidence that suggests that witnesses were bribed, and the jury was selected carefully, so as to convict him because of its prejudices. It was an all-White jury, to ensure conviction.”
The just ordered evidentiary hearing is the first step to a new trial. Abu-Jamal’s legal team has consistently argued since he was arrested that he was really convicted of being an outspoken, pro-Black journalist, and not because he committed murder.
“Mumia has always said that he will be in prison until the people won’t accept his imprisonment anymore,” Noelle Hanrahan, founder of the Prison Radio Project, one of Abu-Jamal’s earliest defenders said in a statement to this writer.
“We must demand that corruption be revealed, and that the voices of its victims must be heard. We know that Mumia was imprisoned because he was a Black Panther, and we know that is unjust, and we cannot allow the truth to be buried, or for voices like Mumia’s to be silenced,” Hanrahan said.
Mrs. Faulkner, the dead officer’s widow, “has stated on the record that she believes Mumia Abu-Jamal will be freed if he ever gets a new trial,” a fair trial, Hanrahan continued.
The FOP’s strategy is to get the state attorney general to prosecute the case and to file every imaginable petition against Abu-Jamal and his defense team to forestall his inevitable release.
“The original trial was so outrageously corrupt at every stage that there is little hope for a win in retrial. They simply want to delay a new trial until Mumia dies in prison,” she said.