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.
Donald Trump impeachment trial: Moment Mike Pence fled for safety during Capitol riots shown to Senate
Chilling footage of Mike Pence, the former US vice president, being evacuated from the Senate chamber as a violent mob approached on January 6 was played to senators for the first time at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday.
The footage, taken from the Capitol’s CCTV cameras, showed a group of Secret Service agents rushing Mr Pence and his family away from the Senate floor as rioters drew nearer and chanted threats. One agent could be seen carrying the nuclear football as they made their escape.
The graphic footage showed the rioters spreading through the halls of Congress even as Mr Pence was swept to safety. Some in the mob shouted “hang Mike Pence”.
Democrat prosecutors played the footage for the first time as they argued Mr Trump had “summoned the mob” behind last month’s riot and “channelled the rage” in a violent attempt to steal the election for himself.
“The mob was looking for Vice President Pence because of his patriotism, because the vice president refused to do what the president demanded and overturn the election results,” Stacey Plaskett, one of the Democrat prosecutors, told the Senate.
Ms Plaskett also detailed how the mob had attempted to find Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker and the third in line to the presidency.
Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt Jr, the self-described “smut peddler who cares” who used his pornography empire and flair for the outrageous to push the limits of free speech, has died at the age of 78, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The newspaper said Flynt’s brother Jimmy Flynt confirmed his death but did not cite a specific cause. Flynt suffered from a variety of health problems since a 1978 assassination attempt that left him a paraplegic.
Flynt loved to aggravate his critics with stunts such as wearing a diaper made from an American flag to court and was involved in a number of legal battles.
In the most famous, the US Supreme Court made an important First Amendment ruling in favor of Flynt in a libel battle with evangelist Jerry Falwell.
His life was the basis of the 1996 movie The People vs. Larry Flynt, which starred Woody Harrelson and was based in part on Flynt’s Supreme Court case.
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!
Prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, are investigating Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the Southern state’s 2020 presidential election results, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday, in the second criminal probe faced by the former president.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has sent a letter asking state government officials to preserve documents, including those related to then-President Trump’s call to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to “find” more votes.
“This matter is of high priority, and I am confident that as fellow law enforcement officers sworn to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and Georgia, our acquisition of information and evidence of potential crimes via interviews, documents, videos and electronic records will be cooperative,” said the letter dated Feb 10.
“This letter is notification that all records potentially related to the administration of the 2020 General Election must be preserved, with particular care being given to set aside and preserve those that may be evidence of attempts to influence the actions of persons who were administering that election.”
Representatives for the county prosecutor’s office and for Mr Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Monday, Raffensperger’s office opened its own probe into Mr Trump’s Jan 2 phone call pressuring him to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 victory in the state based on unfounded voter fraud claims, saying any further legal efforts would be up to the state’s attorney general.
New York prosecutors have also opened criminal and civil investigations into Mr Trump over his businesses.
The New York Times first reported the investigation.
Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, for inciting a violent insurrection on the US Capitol, will move ahead today after senators rejected the defence’s claim that the proceedings are unconstitutional.
Democrats, who hold the balance of power in the Senate, won a 56-44 vote on Tuesday allowing opening arguments to begin. Six Republicans backed the motion.
Yesterday, after a shocking 13-minute video showing the violence on January 6, Democrat prosecutors argued that Mr Trump was America’s Founding Fathers’ “worst nightmare come to life.”
The prosecution will make their opening statements at about 5pm UK time.
Follow the latest updates below.
Donald Trump was “borderline screaming” at his lawyer’s “disorganised” performance in the Senate, as his impeachment trial defence team praised a graphic video attacking the former President.
Holed up in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the 74-year-old was reportedly infuriated at Bruce Castor’s opening argument, in which he admitted that he was supposed to speak second, but that the legal team “changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers’ presentation was well done.”
Two sources close to the former President told CNN that he was “deeply unhappy” and “borderline screaming” at his television while his lawyers argued that an impeachment trial for a non-sitting president would be unconstitutional.
His team lost the argument, with the Senate voting 56 to 44 in favour of proceeding to trial – six Republicans backing the motion.
The Democrat prosecutors, led by Jamie Raskin, presented a slick 13-minute video, cleverly splicing Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, in which he told supporters to “fight like hell,” with the shocking, deadly violence which then ensued.
Donald Trump’s impeachment trial has begun in Washington.
Mr Trump is the first former president to face an impeachment trial and the first to be impeached twice.
The charge relates to a provocative speech delivered by Mr Trump ahead of the Jan 6 assault on the US Capitol – an address Democrats argue incited the riots.
If convicted, the trial could bar Mr Trump from running for, or holding, public office again.
What has happened so far?
On the trial’s first day on Tuesday, the Senate voted on whether it was constitutional to impeach Mr Trump.
As expected, this vote passed. Democrats and a couple of Republicans voted 56 to 44 in favour of continuing with the impeachment proceedings. Six Republicans crossed the floor to back the trial – but many more will need to be convinced of Mr Trump’s wrongdoing if prosecutors can have any hope of convicting him.
Earlier, the prosecution and defence teams made brief opening statements. The Democrats posted a slick video which featured harrowing footage of the attack on the US Capitol.
Read more: Senators vote for ex-president to face ‘insurrection’ trial