In the final days leading up to the election, Former President Barack Obama spoke at a drive-in rally in Philadelphia on Oct. 21. (AP Photo/ Matt Slocum)By Alexandria Jaffe and Bill Barrow
Former President Barack Obama blasted President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, his culpability in national discord and his overall fitness for the job on Wednesday as he made his first in-person campaign pitch for his former vice president, Joe Biden.
With less than two weeks before Election Day, Obama used a drive-in campaign rally in Philadelphia to assure voters that Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, can mend a fractured country. He lauded the merits of democracy and citizenship as “human values” that the United States must again embrace.
“America is a good and decent place, but we’ve just seen so much nonsense and noise that sometimes it’s hard to remember,” Obama said, after spending much of his 35-minute speech upbraiding Trump as “incapable of taking the job seriously” and interested only in himself.
“I’m asking you to remember what this country can be,” Obama said. “I’m asking you to believe in Joe’s ability and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and help us build it back better.”
Obama’s visit to Philadelphia underscores the significance of Pennsylvania, the Rust Belt state that helped deliver Trump the White House four years ago. Pennsylvania is the battleground state that Biden has visited the most this campaign season. Trump has prioritized the state as well, aware that his path to victory would narrow considerably without the state’s 20 electoral votes. The president on Wednesday was in Erie, one of a handful of Pennsylvania counties that Obama won twice before it flipped to Trump.
Obama paid heed especially to disillusioned voters, including Black men and progressives wary of Biden. He urged them not to sit out the Nov. 3 election, warning that complacency from some liberal voters is what helped Trump get elected four years ago.
“What we do these next 13 days will matter for decades to come,” Obama said. “The fact that we don’t get 100% of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote.”
As with his Democratic National Convention speech two months ago, Obama pulled no punches on his successor. This time, though, he employed humor, sarcasm and outright incredulity befitting the trappings of a campaign rally. Tieless and with his sleeves rolled up, Obama stood on a stage facing car-bound supporters watching him on screen and rewarding his attack lines with a cacophony of honking horns.
Beneath the scorn was a defense of his own record.
“I never thought Donald Trump would embrace my vision or continue my policies, but I did hope for the sake of the country that he might show some interest in taking the job seriously,” Obama said. Trump “wants full credit for the economy he inherited and no blame for the pandemic he ignored.”
He disparaged the GOP’s “shameful” attempts to gut the 2010 Affordable Care Act while always promising a replacement. “It’s been ‘coming in two weeks’ for the last 10 years. Where is it? Where is this great plan to replace Obamacare?” he asked. “There is no plan. They’ve never had one.”
Noting Trump’s penchant for insulting “anybody who doesn’t support him,” Obama vouched for Biden’s “empathy (and) decency,” and he argued the distinction matters beyond style.
“Why would we accept this from the president of the United States, and why are folks making excuses for that?” Obama said. “There are consequences to these actions. They embolden other people to be cruel and divisive and racist.”
Four years ago, Obama delivered Hillary Clinton’s closing argument in Philadelphia — at a rally for thousands the night before Election Day on Independence Mall. With his reprisal for Biden, Obama reminded voters of 2016, when Trump upset Clinton narrowly in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to forge an Electoral College majority despite losing the popular vote nationally.
“I don’t care about the polls,” Obama said. “There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn’t work out because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not this election.”
The roundtable was a personalized version of the same message, with the nation’s first Black president urging Black men not to give into apathy. The host city, Philadelphia, is among the Democratic bastions in key battleground states where Black turnout four years ago fell off from Obama’s 2012 reelection in large enough numbers to tip the election in Trump’s favor.
Obama said he understood young voters’ skepticism and disinterest. “I’ll confess, when I was 20 years old, I wasn’t all that woke,” he said, adding that young Black men are “not involved because they’re young and they’re distracted.”
But he said not voting gives away power because politicians respond to and reflect the citizens who cast votes.
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“One of the biggest tricks that’s perpetrated on the American people is this idea that the government is separate from you,” Obama said. “The government’s us. Of, by and for the people. It wasn’t always for all of us, but the way it’s designed, it works based on who’s at the table.”
Despite the smaller scale, Democrats say Obama remains perhaps the party’s greatest campaign asset, including for Biden, given their personal ties.
Full Coverage: Election 2020
Obama already had hosted virtual events geared to younger voters and lent his name to texts and emails encouraging supporters to register to vote and donate money to the campaign. He has also been a big money draw for the campaign. One virtual fundraiser he headlined with Biden in June brought in $7.6 million, and he’s raised money and appeared in ads for down-ballot Democrats.
He is also planning to campaign for Biden in Miami on Saturday.
Obama said the future of the country is at stake.
“We’ve got to vote like never before,” he said in Philadelphia, “and leave no doubt.”
Daniel Smith, 87, poses for a portrait with photos of his parents at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)By Virginia Van Zandt
As one of the few living children of a slave, 88-year-old Daniel Smith has a unique perspective on race relations in America.
Smith’s father, Abram “A.B.” Smith, was born into slavery in 1863 and was 70 years old when he had Daniel, his sixth child, in 1932. Smith, who grew up hearing stories from his father about America’s most shameful period, would go on to build a remarkable life and witness momentous events in the ongoing struggle for racial equality.
“When the [Ku Klux Klan] bombed the church [in Birmingham, Ala.], that finally got the ministers and the clergy to join Martin Luther King,” he said. “They finally came. Today, Black Lives Matter — after George Floyd was killed, it galvanized everyone. Everyone watched someone die on TV.”
Smith was born and raised in Winsted, Conn., a small town with a population of 10,000 that included only about 20 African Americans at the time of his birth. Smith grew up with four older sisters and one older brother, and his family of eight made up nearly half of the town’s Black population.
Though Daniel Smith was just 6 years old when A.B. Smith died, he still has vivid memories of his father. “My father was a real gentleman. He was always a good provider on his salary of $16 a week. When he went to work, I was still in bed. When he came home, I was in bed,” Smith said. “We would have these big Sunday dinners —a step down from Thanksgiving dinner.”
Smith recalls hearing firsthand accounts of slavery during his youth, primarily from his father.
Daniel Smith poses in uniform at Camp Pickett in Nottoway County, Va., on an unknown date in 1952. (Courtesy: Daniel Smith)
“I used to get out of bed, sneak into my parents’ room, and put my head at the bottom of the bed, listening to their conversations. My father used to tell stories about the whipping posts, the hanging tree,” he said. “On Sundays, we would go to church, and you would hear people talking about similar things, but they had worse stories.”
Smith was the only African American at his high school, but he had a good experience there.
“I was very popular primarily because I was the only Black, and I was a novelty,” Smith said. “I had no problems with the girls, but they couldn’t publicly acknowledge any type of relationship with me.”
After graduating from high school, Smith served in the U.S. military as an operating room technician and a scrub nurse in the Korean War. He was also sent for certification as a Red Cross water safety instructor and worked as a lifeguard at one of the three concrete swimming pools in Korea during the summers.
When his military service ended, Smith came home to Winsted, which suffered a hurricane-induced flood in 1955. Smith remembers seeing water rushing down the main street, taking cars and houses with it, and humbly recalls saving a drowning man during the flood. Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey documented the event for the New Yorker.
“They identified me as Danny Smith, the Negro hero of the town,” Smith said.
When Smith ran for student council president at Springfield College in Massachusetts, his winning campaign slogan was “Vote for Dan, the man with a tan.” He continued his pursuit of higher education at the Tuskegee Institute School of Veterinary Medicine. But after the Klan killed four young Black girls in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala, Smith felt compelled to leave school and join the civil rights movement.
Soon Smith and a White friend, Barry Fritz, found themselves in a crowd at the March on Washington, where they saw Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis speak at close range.
“I was reluctant to go at first because I didn’t want to get beat up. I thought there was going to be a big rise. I’m not a coward, but I’m not a fool,” Smith said.
But, he added, the risk was worth it: “The march was just unbelievable, especially when Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. You couldn’t find a dry eye. I was crying.”
Later that summer, Smith moved to Hayneville, Ala., where he experienced many of the kinds of injustices that he said made Alabama “a hotbed for the civil rights movement.”
In 1965, he accepted a position as executive director of the Lowndes Christian Movement for Human Rights organization and began directing a program to teach migrant seasonal farmworkers how to read and write. He could not get electricity or a telephone line set up in the church building he worked out of without a White sponsor. After a judge by the name of Judge Hammon helped him, 24 of Hammon’s Black Angus cows were poisoned. Smith said there is “no doubt in my mind” that this was a message from the Klan.
Smith’s anti-poverty program was not popular with the Whites in Alabama or with then-Gov. George Wallace, a conservative who infamously supported, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Smith recalls being confronted by an intimidating lieutenant of Wallace’s who told Smith that Wallace considered him “an outside agitator from Connecticut.”
Shortly after, Smith’s church building was burned down. He was undaunted, however, and continued to run the program from a trailer on the charred property.
“Oddly enough, I had anticipated that there would be some destruction to my building,” he said. “I had carefully made a copy of all my records and kept them at home.”
One night after work, Smith was driving the 40-mile commute from Hayneville to Tuskegee on an unlit highway when a car of White men rear-ended his car.
“They came around the side of my car and said, ‘Pull over, Black coon!’ And I thought, ‘Not me, not me,’” Smith said. “I sped as fast as I could and made it to the gas station. That’s why I’m here today.”
Smith moved to Washington, D.C., in 1968, where he developed neighborhood health centers. He got hired to direct a $60 million program at the National Institutes of Health in 1972 but faced “all kinds of discrimination and battles with the government.”
After retiring in 1994, he began to volunteer at the Korean War Veterans Memorial and serve as head usher of the Washington National Cathedral. As head usher, Smith escorted sitting presidents for three decades, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.
In his age of retirement, Smith has high hopes for the newest generation of activists.
“They have done a tremendous job of putting the problems that America has in your face,” he said. “I support them with money and with voice.”
Smith resides in the District with his wife, Loretta Neumann, and has two children from a previous marriage. He wed Neumann at the National Cathedral in 2006, under the same arches where he walked alongside presidents.
Smith is currently writing his life memoirs.
(Edited by Emily Crockett and Natalie Gross)
Tiffany Hoyd won an Emmy for her participation as one of three MLB Network’s Sports Emmy Award winning studio show teams. (Courtesy Photo)By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Tiffany Hoyd arrived at Howard University in 2015 anything other than a baseball fan. The southern California native wanted to be announcer and was also an analyst for many of the Bison football games that were mostly less than competitive. However, she worked hard and never wavered from her passion to work in sports media.
Hoyd, a 2019 graduate, is now officially one of the “Hidden Figures” in baseball journalism. She was part one of three MLB Network Sports Emmy Award winning studio show teams for 2020, which flew under the radar thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hoyd earned her Emmy as an broadcast associate for the network’s signature news program’s production “MLB Tonight”.
“This truly is a blessing and I can’t say I saw it coming,” Hoyd told the
AFRO. “I’m super blessed to have been there.”
MLB Tonight is a highlight driven studio program which is the 24-hour baseball network’s version of ESPN’s Sportscenter. Hoyd was never really passionate about the sport and previously interned with the Los Angeles Rams in hopes of working within the National Football League upon graduation. However, her initial postgraduate opportunity came when she and the fledgling young network came together through her HBCU networking while at Howard.
Hoyd earned ESPN’s Rhoden Fellowship, named after Morgan State Graduate and former New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden, which gave her the chance to expand her circle of contacts in a sport where diversity has always been challenging and opportunities of color were virtually nonexistent. Major League Baseball’s history of prejudice, segregation, and sexism is as much a part of it’s legacy as tobacco juice and pine tar. The sport was segregated for nearly a half century on the field. News agencies were traditionally reluctant to give women an opportunity to cover it’s games.
“I must admit the network was truly committed to diversity,” Hoyd said. “A lot of my peers were from HBCUs and there were a lot of people who looked like me among the younger generation behind the scenes in broadcast operations.”
However, before graduating, Hoyd met Hall of Fame baseball writer Claire Smith in a chance encounter at Howard. Smith was the first Black female baseball beat writer when she started covering the New York Yankees for the Hartford Courant in 1983. She would later become a baseball writer and columnist for the New York Times, which was unheard of as late as the 1990s.
“Hats off to the ancestors,” Hoyd said. “To sit across and listen to her stories and words of encouragement was amazing. I will always remember her telling me to keep your head down and don’t look up and keep moving forward.
Hoyd has always been unassuming choosing to stay behind the scenes while matriculating at Howard. She found her niche working in the sports information department led by its Hall of Famer former director Ed Hill. With her Emmy in hand Hoyd is looking to break another ceiling in sports, though now on sabbatical while in law school at North Carolina Central University as she works towards becoming a sports executive in the future.
“I don’t want to see it stop here,” Hoyd said. “I’d like to see more people moving in the direction of executive producers and management to really become influencers.”
Matt Talley opened Cool Kids Vinyl in collaboration and on top of Maketto on H Street Northeast. (Courtesy Photo)By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down and limited services at many Washington D.C. establishments, Matthew Talley and his new venue Cool Kids Vinyl persevered. The venue is not only newly opened, but offers a safe, socially distant experience that offers fun vibes for intergenerational crowds.
Cool Kids Vinyl is located on H Street Northeast, on the top of and in collaboration with well-known local hotspot Maketto, where Talley works as a manager.
While Cool Kids Vinyl is a new venture, Talley isn’t new to H Street or curating experiences. Talley, along with legendary D.C. disc-jockey DJ Alizay, hosted the successful Diggin’ Through the Crates events, which is an interactive party and exhibit curated by the guests, who would literally hand the DJ vinyl albums and take part in creating the vibes and experience.
Music appreciators can find classic and new records at Cool Kids Vinyl on H Street Northeast. (Courtesy Photo)
“Before COVID we did a five-city tour which included New York, Miami for Art Basel, D.C., so it was a really, really good exhibit. We got a lot of good responses nationwide from it. We did L.A. a few times as well. Because of COVID, of course it’s slowed down a bit, but it kind of led us into eventually what we were trying to accomplish in the first place, was a particular space for this experience,” Talley told the AFRO in a live interview.
The limitations of COVID-19 opened the possibilities for the brick and mortar that is Cool Kids Vinyl.
“A place where you can come, grab a cup of coffee, a $10 t shirt, a $5 Stevie Wonder record and kind of re-garner that community of people that are not just eclectic, but are in that space and energy. Almost like a Hip Hop Starbucks, if you will- a coffee shop that is meant for us and us meaning like-minded people. People who have great musical taste, people who have great taste in movies- we play VHSs everyday,” Talley explained. “We have an extensive comic collection, we have Jet Magazine, so we have that time capsule almost that puts you in that 70s, 80s, 90s realm, where the music we just appreciated a bit more.”
However Cool Kids Vinyl is not only for the vintage lover, but arts appreciators of all ages.
Cool Kids Vinyl Founder Matt Talley pops in a video, as VHSs play throughout the day at the H Street Northeast store and cafe, which offers nostalgic and arts vibes for people of all ages. (Courtesy Photo)
“A lot of people when they think records, they think, ‘Oh these old O’Jays records or Earth, Wind & Fire.’ When you come to Cool Kids Vinyl, we have Future on vinyl, we’ve got the O’Jays on vinyl- we have something for the old and new, and that’s how you create that knowledge-based community. [You’ll find] like ‘Oh, that’s where Future sampled Musiq SoulChild… You just go down this rabbit hole of Black music and Black culture and you just learn so much,” he said.
While streaming music might be the most popular way audiences digest music, Talley contends Cool Kids Vinyl offers a different experience.
“It’s just a different process than streaming,” Talley said. “And you just get a better listen on vinyl.”
The entrepreneur also underscored the significance of ownership when purchasing vinyls for one’s personal collection.
“I always emphasize the importance of ownership,” Talley said. “Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal can be deleted tomorrow at the click of the button, but I still have that Prince record, I still have that Aaliyah record. For example Aaliyah’s music isn’t on streaming services, but I have her albums. When Prince passed his music wasn’t on streaming services. I think Tidal was the first to have it, but for a good couple weeks all his records were sold out, all his CDs were sold out, because if you didn’t have a radio or they weren’t playing Prince it’s nowhere for you to hear this music, so the fact that you own that record, it speaks volumes.
The Rev. Dr. Unnia Pettus, who has overcome many challenges in the past, is currently fighting breast cancer among other illnesses, yet keeps her faith in God and remains an active, giving and ministering member of the community. (Courtesy Photo)Interviewed By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
The Rev. Dr. Unnia L. Pettus is an educator, minister, and a cancer, stroke and domestic violence fighter and advocate.
AFRO: Please tell us about this bout with cancer and what are some ways it is different than your previous cancer diagnoses considering the COVID-19 pandemic?
UP: I’m currently still dealing with the impact of the Gastrological surgery, the renal carcinoma surgery and metastatic breast cancer. I’m now in 2020, I started on chemotherapy in December of 2019 and completed that [at] the end of May 2020, and I also started immunotherapy when I started the chemotherapy and this immunotherapy is known as a wonder drug called Herceptin. Unfortunately it has a bad side effect of impacting your heart, which has caused the other health problem that I have call cardiomyopathy and therefore stages of heart failure A, B, and C When I first started the chemotherapy I was in stage B, but my heart failure has yet worsened so now I’m in stage C. Stage D is where you would need a heart transplant, so I’m in stage C . I am constantly in the hospital going through painful biopsies, tests, ultrasounds, pet scans, MRIs. Also I’ve had three brain tumors microadenoma, pituitary gland from 2010 to current they’ve been recurrent they’ve been benign I had a stroke in 2012 and was paralyzed on the right side I was in a wheelchair stay in the wheelchair for approximately about a year or so and I still have right side weakness throughout all of this. I am similar to a chat with Boseman. Most people didn’t know I was going and dealing with these cancer things unless they actually saw me lose weight. I was in the hospital frequently, but they did not know the magnitude of what I was battling and neither did I until I had genetic counseling…
AFRO: What do you want people to know you’ve accomplished?
UP: Despite it all I want people to know that I’ve always been positive and a hard worker. I have had many accomplishments, I’ve had my own public relations firm since 2005, May of 2005… My first client was Johnnie Cochran, my mentor Ofield Dukes recommended me and I helped him open up the Johnnie Cochran Firm. I also worked with Mr. Dukes on the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinners and National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) award judging, helping him coordinate the papers, the judges and the entries. I also worked with him on Bethune Cookman dinners and we did a lot of things with our National Council of Negro women.
I want to say that I’ve been able to also work through my ministry of “Nobody But God Ministries,” which is an outreach ministry focusing on women and children who have been impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. It’s based in Washington, D.C., but I do a lot of work with the Maryland and Virginia advocates in the DMV. We’re a team and we pretty much confidentially help victims and survivors get to safe houses, temporary living, get restraining orders, get protection orders, change their names, move away, whatever they need for them to be safe… During this pandemic the domestic violence has been rising because people have been stuck [at] home with their abusers and have lost their jobs and income so a lot of things have been happening behind closed doors…
I’ve been able to teach at Howard off and on for more than 10 years in the capacity of teaching Public Relations on an undergraduate and graduate level, as well as Business courses and Entrepreneurship on the graduate level. I’ve been an award-winning adjunct teacher, which I’m very proud of… In addition I am a preacher. I’ve had the pleasure of not only having my own ministry, but being affiliated with wonderful congregations in which I’ve served in various capacities… to preaching and teaching on the radio to doing pro bono public relations for the churches and doing a lot of political interaction between the president’s local community leaders, who want to come visit churches and being kind of the go-to person for it. So I’m always doing public relations, I’m always doing ministry and it seems like I’m always doing something with politics that’s been my life now the three P’s.
I’ve taught at Howard University, Bowie State and actually started teaching at Howard two years before I received my doctorate so I started in 2001.. My first full-time job teaching at Bowie had a two to three year contract, but I contracted colon cancer, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish it out, but the Lord blessed and opened up doors for me to go back to Howard. I’m also currently part of the staff of Strayer University, teaching Master of Business courses for graduate students, a lot of international civilian and military students. I have not been able to teach or work since June the day before my gastrological surgery.
AFRO: How can people support you during this time?
UP: I do have a Go Fund Me: https://www.gofundme.com/f/v8yw5u-help-unnia-pettus-fight-cancer.
It is hosted by “Friends of Unnia,” directed by a lady that was a colleague, a professor in New York, named Shelly Spector Zuckerben. All the funds go directly to medical expenses- from co-pays to transportation back-and-forth to the hospital, to doctors appointments, to holistic treatment, as well as treatment that has not been fully covered because they cover 80 percent, but then you have to pay 20 percent with your healthcare. I do hope the Affordable Healthcare Act will not be overturned by President Trump, because I do have many pre-existing conditions now and insurance is already ridiculous as a choice between insurance, rent or chemo- and you’re really just living on the brink. I have no funds. I have been able to go through all of my savings, 401(k), all of my items of value have been sold or pawned, so I’ve really been in financial dire straits. I am down to my last penny and grateful for anyone who can help.
I pray that there is someone who can just be a sponsor of the book that I want to write, which is an updated memoir. My first book was called Nobody But God: A Journey of Faith From Tears to Triumph,” and I now want to write a book called “Faith Strong: An Overcomer’s Journey From Hospice to Healed. So I want to write that book to encourage people that it does not matter what your diagnosis is, your destiny is what is determined by God and nothing will happen to you that He has not allowed or sent and He has the final say.
The Mayor’s Arts Awards on Sept. 30 allowed for a host of celebrities and D.C. creatives to gather virtually and celebrate their contributions and accomplishments to the local arts community. (Courtesy Photo)By Lauren E. Williams
Special to the AFRO
“Born and raised in the city, D.C.’s own so she got it going on. Putting in work for this District, encouraging our people to keep going strong,” proclaimed Be’la Dona, who kicked off the 35th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards on Sept. 30 with their Go-Go inspired “Mayor’s Anthem” dedicated to Mayor Muriel Bowser. The upbeat song set the tone for a special broadcast night of surprises, celebrating arts, culture, creativity and vitality in the nation’s capital.
Native Washingtonian and world-renown comedian, Tommy Davidson served as emcee for the awards show. “I grew up in D.C., and as someone who has had the opportunity to showcase my talent around the world, I know firsthand the enormous amount of creative ability and artistry that exists in D.C.,” said Davidson. “The culture and diverse talent in all eight wards makes us a world class city.”
“2020 has been a challenging time as we all have found ways to keep ourselves and families safe and healthy, creatives in D.C. as well as across the country are finding new and innovative ways to keep the arts alive and thriving,” Davidson added.
Joining Davidson were a list of well-known local entertainers and other famous members of the creative community. In fact, the first award of the night, the Excellence in Creative Industries, was presented by D.C. native and Howard University alum, actor Laz Alonzo. Other celebrity appearances included Wale, Mya, Joe Clair, and DJ Heat.
The show displayed diversity in its truest form – across age groups, sexual orientation, disabilities, disciplines and genres. Students from the world’s only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hearing students, Galludet University, offered a visual clap and sign presentation, the Gay Men’s Chorus provided a musical interlude, and youth rapper Fly Zyah dropped a few lyrics on the current state of D.C. and the world.
“All lives are supposed to matter, Black lives too, you just can’t forget that factor,” said Fly Zyah as she stood in front of an artistic rendering of Michelle Obama.
Like last year’s event, members of the public were invited to vote for their favorite artists via the internet between Sept. 10-15 for presented awards. Votes could be cast for as many categories as selected, but only one per category.
“The Mayor’s Arts Awards allow us to showcase and celebrate the diverse artistic and creative communities in Washington, DC,” said Mayor Bowser in a press release. “This year, I was proud to present the Award for Distinguished Honor to Virginia Ali. For decades, the Ali Family has been there for DC residents – not only serving up delicious half smokes, but also building our community and uplifting the culture of local DC.”
Other awardees included:
Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor: Virginia Ali, Ben’s Chili Bowl Award for Excellence as a Community Arts Advocate: Ron Moten Award for Excellence in Arts Education: Rain Young Award for Excellence in Media Arts: Icy the Artist Award for Excellence in Performing Arts: DC Black Broadway Award for Excellence in Visual Arts: Rodney Herring Award for Excellence in the Creative Industries: Nelson Cruz Award for Excellence in the Humanities: Joy Ford Austin Award for Excellence in the Nightlife Economy: Hendres Kelly Award for Visionary Leadership: Tiara Johnson Emerging Creative Award: Artbae
The 35th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards was produced by DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME) and the DC Creative Affairs Office and held virtually for the first time. Washingtonians were also invited to view the show, first come first serve, at Park Up DC drive-in located at RFK Stadium.
Georgetown paid tribute to beloved coach John Thompson Jr., with a virtual memorial on Oct. 3.By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
The biggest basketball hall of famer of Georgetown University was remembered during a virtual memorial service on campus Oct. 3.
The service was non-traditional and hosted by his former broadcast partner and talk show host Rick “Doc” Walker. Thompson, who died on Aug. 30, was remembered for a life of coaching people hard with tough love and preparing them for life athletics, while becoming contributors to society.
“John always worked hard, never took breaks and expected the same from the people around him,” Walker said.
Thompson was praised as a coach, mentor and life changer by a host of prominent national figures and former players spanning generations. He was a towering figure who gained notoriety around the country through the expansion of cable TV into the days of social media including “Big John’s” presence as an ambassador to former President Barack Obama.
“To know him is to respect him,” Obama said in a recorded presentation. “He recognized how important it was to build talented basketball players into men. We now see this through the examples during this new golden era of activism today.”
Phil Knight, founder of the Nike shoe company, praised Thompson for being a vital contributor to the success of it’s brand. Knight made Thompson the first Black member of the company’s board in 1980 and the Georgetown merchandise became one of it’s most popular college brands. The former CEO remembered that initially the coach wasn’t “affable” when they met, but his perspective on urban culture was invaluable to the overall growth and success of the company. During a video the company produced to honor him that was scheduled to have been released this month to celebrate their 40-year relationship with Thompson, the former coach was remembered for “a soft quiet voice that echoed.”
“John proved to be a great board member,” Knight said. “He brought great insight on society in general to the company.”
However, it was his impact on the young people on and off the basketball floor he coached or counselled during and after his career that were what the hour-long ceremony proved to be about. Thompson coached during a remarkable era, but impacted generations at Georgetown through mentorship of students that stretched beyond just men’s basketball players.
“He used to watch everybody practice from that old chair in McDonough [gym],” said former women’s basketball player and current ACC Network broadcaster Monica McNutt. “He literally gave me contacts and talked to people on my behalf who helped me catch my break.”
Coach Thompson was also remembered by his four Hall of Fame former players and several others who still seemed bewildered by his passing. To those who played for Thompson during the peak of his career, he was a second or surrogate father.
“When I got the news that he’d passed it was like losing my second father,” said current Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing. “I know he is somewhere in heaven right now cussing me out, but looking out for me at the same time.”
Students from Friendship Collegiate Academy’s Collegiate for Change club held a voter registration event on Sept. 26 in Northeast, D.C. (Courtesy Photos By Friendship Collegiate Student Dezirae Gross)By Donna Lewis Johnson
Special to the AFRO
With Election Day coming up on Nov. 3, a group of civic-minded high schoolers took to the streets of D.C. on Sept. 26 to register voters, hoping to boost voter participation in the national and local elections.
Brucionna Cook, a senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Northeast, joined her schoolmates in canvassing Minnesota Avenue N.E., sweetening the call to action with hot dogs, soda and chips.
“We set up a table of food and drinks in front of the school for the community,” Cook said.
Cook, 17, is a member of Friendship Collegiate Academy’s “Collegiate for Change” club that emerged this past summer in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests taking place across the nation.
“So many troubling things were happening in our community that our students needed and wanted a voice,” said Jazzmine Ellis, dean of students of Collegiate’s lower school, “So, we formed Collegiate for Change.”
The new student club aims to foster youth activism in response to urgent social issues, including policing in schools, voter suppression, and the coronavirus pandemic.
“In July, we held a virtual open forum for students, their families and community members to discuss how to get students involved as participants and leaders in social justice causes,” explained Ellis. “A number of Black organizations joined the forum and gave their support, including representatives from Collegiate’s Alumni Association, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and Howard University.”
Twelfth-grader Cook saw the opportunity to register local voters on the Saturday afternoon in early autumn as a chance to inspire positive, measurable change in her community. “I made a spot for everyone else who couldn’t go anywhere else to register,“ Cook said, explaining that not all voting-eligible D.C. residents have signed up to cast a vote on Election Day.
Some twenty or so students participated in Collegiate for Change’s first-ever voter registration drive, successfully signing up nearly ten D.C. voters or updating their vital information.
Union Pub on Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington D.C. (Courtesy photo)By Jeremy Wright
Special to the AFRO
Here at the Union Pub on Massachusetts Avenue NE, the socially distanced audience became quiet and trained their eyes and attention to a 32- inch projection screen and two 24-inch TV sets.
The Sen. Kamala Harris vs. Vice President Mike Pence debate was calm and thoughtful, unlike the verbal cage fight last week between President Donald Trump and challenger former vice president Joe Biden.
After Moderator and USA Today Washington Editor Susan Page introduced the candidates and announced the rules of engagement, her first question about the coronavirus pandemic and what was Biden administration’s plan to subdue it was directed to Harris, the Democratic senator from California. She answered the question gracefully. Once Harris answered and questions volleyed between Pence and Harris, while numerous patrons began to lose interest.
The debate continued, and some people began side conversations and talked about what they thought, based off of the answers provided by the vice-presidential candidates. Personal feelings and opinions were developed and lines were drawn as the audience began to pick sides.
Yet, all in all, there appeared to be no overtly partisan sides. People seemed genuinely interested in the debate, looking to get clarification in order to plan for the future. The debate gave the local and nationally televised audience a clear glimpse into the true character of the vice-presidential candidates.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, Page said that audience members were required to wear masks.
At Union Pub, the management required mask wearing and social distancing. A reporter was even told that he could not walk up to patrons and interview them.
So instead, this reporter observed people’s body language and chatter from a distance.
The writer is a student at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication
Millennials are looking forward to watching the candidates debate hot topics including healthcare, the wage gap and the possibility of a second economic stimulus package. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)By Tyler Medley
Special to the AFRO
After watching the brawling first of three U.S. presidential debates on Sept. 29, young voters are extremely interested in the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7.
Students at local Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Morgan State University, have been using social media to express their concerns about the upcoming debate.
The vice presidential debate will air on all major cable networks at 9 p.m. EST Oct. 7, and last for 90 minutes without commercial interruption. Students everywhere say they will be keeping a close eye on the spectacle.
Malaika Geffrard, a senior sociology major from Atlanta by way of Haiti, said she was extremely disappointed with the presidential debate.
“It was tacky and distasteful. I was not shocked or surprised by Trump’s child-like behavior,” said Geffrard. “He was rude to not only Joe Biden, but the mediator as well.”
Geffrard believes the chaos of the debate was President Trump’s plan all along.
“At this point, his tactic of hijacking the debate worked because in the end, he controlled the tone of the debate. I find it sad quite frankly, that this is the state we are in as a Nation.”
Students are looking forward to watching candidates Mike Pence, incumbent vice president, and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., debate hot topics including healthcare, the wage gap and a second economic stimulus package.
Kayla Jackson, a junior political science major and president of Morgan State University’s section of Black Girls Vote, said she was looking forward to the nine scheduled topics that are to be discussed.
“I wish for them to acknowledge women’s rights and discuss the injustice of the black lives lost and how we can stop or decrease police brutality,” said Jackson.
“I want statistics. I want to examine what they desire to implement efficiently, but how are they going to do it?”
Jackson was also hoping that this debate upholds a sense of decorum.
“I hope that while discussing their nine topics, they can stay on track, but they stand on what they declare. I like hearing the passion and crackle of their voice when you speak in regards to our country.”
“With Vice President Pence being such a quietly-kept individual and Sen. Harris being a robust speaker, I hope this debate will be more dignified than the presidential debate.
“I hope it will be calm after the storm, in a sense.”
Jada Grant, president of the Morgan State University section of the National Council of Negro Women, is hoping that the vice-presidential candidates use the platform to discuss their backgrounds.
“Their past records will probably be brought up, and I want to hear how Kamala will respond,” said Grant.
Young people are watching, and are already forming their opinions for the upcoming election. Regardless of which candidate they choose, young people will be voting.
Said Jackson, “If we want to change, we must be changed. We must continue to utilize our voice and vote. We must universally hold everyone accountable. This is our civic duty.”
The writer is a student in the Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication