Spring Madness in Charlottesville

mj78432March Madness is the common reference to the NCAA basketball post season. But the madness in Charlottesville, Virginia is another kind of spring madness. Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents arrested third-year University of Virginia student Martese Johnson after being denied entry into a bar near the campus. Johnson was beaten by agents and later required 10 stitches from the attack, which was caught on a cell phone from a witness. In the interest of full disclosure I am the parent of a UVA alum.

Police violence seems to be more common than any of us really understood or realized. The case in Charlottesville strikes too close to home for every college student of color. Is it possible that an officer of the law can bludgeon a student because “because a determination was made” to arrest him apparently without reason. What words or actions would justify this kind of treatment? It shouldn’t matter that Johnson is majoring in Italian and media studies and holds several leadership positions in campus organizations and has no criminal record.

Did the ABC officers miss or flunk the part of their training that included mediation, negotiation, and deescalating tense situations? These are ABC officers near a college campus, where there is likely to be alcohol, so what kind of alcohol arrest warrants this level of violence? I can’t accept the notion that police and security do a better job of keeping the peace by resorting to violence. Somehow everyone including law enforcement agencies have to come to grips with the unbridled use of violence. As a young college student I listened to the radicals in the civil rights movement as much as I listened to the nonviolent principled leaders. I grew to believe the use of violence would cause even more violence. We have little hope of a civil society if chiefs of police, sheriffs and other law enforcement commanders don’t get their troops properly trained and motivated to keep the peace without uusing or threatening violence. It is time for the leadership of law enforcement to take responsibility for enforcing the law without causing reckless harm to those they pledge to protect and to do so without targeting for violence and abuse African American and Latino men. The balance between enforcing the law, using common sense and protecting the public may be difficult in some circumstance but it is possible. The officers and the public they pledge to protect must be safe. It is not too much for the public to expect for law enforcement leaders in every city, town or village to take responsibility for eliminating police violence and police abuse of power.

ELECTION DAY: Today Georgia Democrats can be decision makers

gavoterToday is Election Day, so let’s recap the political landscape. There will be tons of post election recaps however Blogging While Blue would like to get in front of the election chatter. Democrats, the Party, Independents and everyday folks have made a huge dent in the perception that Georgians are somehow satisfied with things under the Gold Dome, in Congress or in their personal lives.

National media has latched onto the implications of race in Georgia politics but I think one key storyline has been nearly ignored. A significant number of Georgia voters are worried about their jobs, how much they earn to support their families, their children’s current and future education goals, healthcare options and their immigration status.

For the first time in a long time Georgians are considering the prospect that their votes might actually count. The overwhelming turnout during the 18 days of early voting give hope in a sense of renewed political engagement across the state.

What exactly has been going on in Georgia this election cycle?

Georgia Democrats have offered superior candidates for office in Michele Nunn, Jason, Carter, Valerie Wilson, Greg Hecht, Connie Stokes and others. Each one brings relevant experience and a network of people who know them and their work, they appeal across party lines, communicate effectively and address contemporary issues by using facts rather than fiction.

Michele Nunn and Jason Carter have superior statewide and national name recognition that reflects their families’ political traditions and reputation, integrity and a clear understanding of contemporary issues.

Their campaigns have been exceptional. Michele Nunn and Jason Carter are exceptional leaders. 

The Democratic Party of Georgia has unified under the proficient leadership of Dubose Porter these last few years. Porter, a long time legislator from Dublin, Georgia has rejuvenated the Democratic Party with his business acumen and savvy political skills. He’s brought most Democratic leaders together and worked hard to be inclusive. Even when there was public debate about whether the party had any chance of winning statewide offices, Porter kept his cool and did the hard work of building the party base county by county.

Georgia Victory 2014/ the Coordinated Campaign Get Out The Vote (GOTV) plan was enhanced by independent voter registration, voter education and grassroots outreach across the state.  The Georgia Victory 2014 is a coordinated field campaign enhanced by an extensive network of independent robust targeted initiatives including the New Georgia Project, Souls to the Polls, Georgia Equality, GALEO the Latino Vote organization, the People’s Agenda, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, college NAACP chapters and numerous other organizations from Sparta to Athens to Vidalia to Augusta, Savannah and Atlanta. Each has had success and together these initiatives have ignited excitement among voters across the state.

The top ticket campaigns have combined the experience of national and local political consultants with thousands of committed volunteers joining in. The combined value of the local, national and grassroots political efforts is greater than the sum of the parts. Very few recent top Georgia races have had the foresight and courage to manage campaigns this way.

Whether the midterm elections will be an upset or not will be for the voters to decide on Tuesday. Some are already predicting runoffs in the top ticket races. Some are reporting calculations of how much they have accomplished or contributed. Others have claimed victory already.

Wednesday morning the election results will be known and for Georgians who are tired of the gridlock in Congress and are concerned about jobs, healthcare and their children who are in a state that is stuck at the bottom for employment, educational investment, transportation and environment, we remain convinced our coordinated efforts will prevail because many Georgians are worried about gridlock in the nation’s capital in Congress and partisanship that closed downed government in and stifles innovative policy making and decision making on immigration, on tax reform, on tax reform and minimum wage, on national security and environmental policy and are concerned about their jobs, their health and their children in a state stuck at the bottom for employment and investment in smart transportation, sustainable environment and top quality public education.

Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t change the results!

It is time to change the state’s leadership.

NunnCarterAs Election Day, November 4 nears the pressure is on Georgians to distinguish fact from fiction. My intuition tells me even with Politifact Georgia and media exposure too many Georgians might miss a few of the important facts surrounding this year’s elections.

Georgia’s economic recovery lags the nation in almost every measure. Even the most recent federal reports confirm what thousands of Georgia families know…. our unemployment rate is awful. Georgia has the HIGHEST unemployment rate in the US. That means 49 governors are doing a better job than our governor in creating jobs, retaining jobs and employing its residents. On Governor Deal’s watch, his economic recovery plan of corporate tax cuts, refusing to expand Medicaid and balancing the state budget at the expense of education hasn’t worked! It is time for a change. Jason Carter has the guts to advocate for refocusing Georgia on investing in education. This is the surest method to improve Georgia’s growth in business opportunities and economic expansion. It will insure Georgia’s long-term economic health.  The days of starving education and expecting economic growth are over. In the 21st century a first-rate innovative education plan from cradle through college including technical school are essential to meet the educational needs of Georgia’s children. We all benefit when our neighbors are working too. Those who are unemployed need more than the Governor’s quarrels with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lip service that “statistics don’t matter” is a disservice to unemployed Georgians. They need job training and access to education.

In the U.S. Senate race to replace Saxby Chambliss, too many attack TV ads make it seem as if President Obama is running to be Georgia’s next senator. He isn’t. In fact, Michele Nunn’s career has been far from partisan. She is on a first name basis with four former presidents, George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter as well as President Obama. She is a bridge-builder who has worked to break down barriers that keep us from working together. In 2009, she worked with Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to pass the Serve America Act, which gives small grants to volunteers for service projects in their communities.  From her Hands on Atlanta experience to CEO of President’s Bush’s Points of Light Foundation, Michelle has worked to seek full civic engagement of everyday folks that empowers neighborhoods to help themselves. Nunn’s experience and record reflects her ability to work with Republicans and Democrats, which is why her donors also include both Republicans and Democrats. Her top priority is to create jobs and economic opportunity in Georgia – and not outsourcing Georgia jobs to China.

It is time for change in Georgia – it is time to vote for Jason Carter for Governor and Michelle Nunn for the U.S. Senate!

 

The University of Texas-Austin Victory is a Win for Diversity

UTA

UTA

Whether the 2-to-1 ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans decision to allow the University of Texas-Austin to use race in college admissions to achieve diversity will have an impact on other higher education institutions is not known. Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote. “It is equally settled that universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity.”

The decision is the result of a lawsuit filed by Abigail Fisher, a white Texan who sued the university after she was denied admission in 2008. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court said the federal appeals court should take another look at case. After the Supreme Court ruling, there was speculation that use of race in admissions policy at the University of Texas might be stuck down. Instead the Appeal Court upheld the decision. The University of Texas “10 percent” admissions rule states that Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes can earn automatic admission. For the other 90 percent there is a combination of factors in the evaluation process and race can be one of them.

University President Bill Powers said in a statement, “We remain committed to assembling a student body at the University of Texas at Austin that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students. This ruling ensures that our campus, our state and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events and in all aspects of campus life.”

This decision might provide a moment of comfort for colleges and universities that use race as one factor or criteria for admission but the moral obligation to admit diverse students in academic institutions will not likely be won, if it has to battled in court from state-to-state.

Let’s Stand With Jada

A recent national survey from more than 300 colleges and universities reflect serious problems in responses to student reports of sexual violence. It also indicates that colleges and universities across the nation are violating federal law by failing to investigate sexual assaults on campus.

Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) plans to use the findings for legislation that she is writing with bipartisan support that includes Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). The bill is scheduled to be released this fall when students return to campuses. Schools are required by law to investigate when they ARE  made aware of a sex crime on campus. But more than 21% of “the nation’s largest private institutions” surveyed conducted fewer investigations than they reported to the Department of Education.

It is good that sexual assaults and the reporting of those assaults is now being addressed by higher education and by government. It is critical that the safety and protection of girls be taken seriously no matter what academic stage they are in. Which brings us to the rape of 16-year oljadad girl last week in Houston. Jada is the teenager who attended a house party with a friend who knew the host her rape was recorded and shared on social media. Once the video started to circulate online and her friends began to call her, Jada knew something horrible had happened. The video went viral but that did not shame or stop Jada from telling her story to a local Houston television station. “There’s no point in hiding,” she said. “Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.” Jada was allegedly drugged and passed around by several men who raped her.

One of Jada’s perpetrators mocked her on social media by calling her a snitch and other derogatory phrases, which has encouraged cyber bullying. A disgusting social media trend has users posting photos of themselves bottomless and passed out mocking Jada. Recent reports from the ongoing investigation indicate that there may be other young girls who may have been victims. The police are asking for the publics’ help by asking young girls to call into the station if they see themselves in any videos online.

Jada’s case has gotten some very high profile help from actresses Mia Farrow and Jada Pinkett Smith. Jada Pinkett Smith recently posted on social media,”This could be you, me, or any woman or girl that we know. What do we plan to do about this ugly epidemic? #justiceforjada” Jada Pinkett Smith has also been a vocal public advocate for victims of human trafficking.

There are 237,868 reported rapes every year in America, every two minutes there is a sexual assault, 40% of the victims are under 18 and two-thirds of the attacks are by someone the victim knows. Here is how we can help Jada and every other victim of sexual violence. Acknowledge the facts. Pay attention to the reports of rape. Insist community leaders use the power of their influence to encourage training for schools and colleges and make the process for reporting and investigating sexual assault less traumatizing for the victims. Push police chiefs and law enforcement officials take immediate action to investigate and prosecute those who attack and violate girls and women. But most of all don’t be silent about assault.

Let’s stand with Jada and other sexual assault victims by pushing for fair investigations and laws that protects victim so that perpetrators will be justly prosecuted.

Another School Shooting—We Have to Do Something!

AOL photo

AOL photo

There was another school shooting yesterday at Reynolds High School in an Oregon suburb, in which a teenager killed a 15-year old, wounded a teacher and presumably killed himself.

Everytown for Gun Safety is a group of mayors, moms, law enforcement personnel, teachers, survivors, gun owners, and everyday Americans advocate for policies that will limit gun violence everywhere. They have reported that there have been 74 instances of shots being fired on school grounds or in school buildings since the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. There have been at least 37 shootings on school grounds this year alone.

Everytown has a list of states with shooting incidents reported and Georgia heads the list with 10 shootings. Florida had seven, Tennessee was third with five, and North Carolina and California each had four. Atlanta was the only city that had three such shootings. Some 31 states are on the list and there were 35 on a college or university campus and 39 in K-12 schools.

Here in Georgia, we are aware of the sweeping “Guns Everywhere Law” which extended where licensed gun owners could carry their weapons and extends the “Stand your ground” law. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal after signing the legislation said, “This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules – and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules.”

Richard Martinez, whose only son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez was among six college students killed in the Santa Barbara shootings last month said, “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’ right to live?” When offered condolences by politicians and others he says, “I tell them, ‘Look, I don’t need your sympathy. What I need is for you to do something.'”

Mr. Martinez’s message rings true, we have to do something. We have to continue to fight for common-sense laws that protect us all especially our children and find a sensible balance between the right to bear arms and public safety.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da974B1gSUw

 

 

A Senior Signing Day, We Can All Cheer About

BWBleadTake a look at what Achievement School District Superintendent Chris Barbic calls success in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dozens of students are experiencing success in high school at Lead Academy in Tennessee. There the students and their families celebrate Senior Signing Day, as the graduating seniors announce the colleges and universities they will be attending. The goal of this school district is to “recruit and authorize world-class school operators to serve students that are zoned to schools performing in the bottom 5%.”

These students were not “zoned” to succeed and many of their peers in far too many other cities and states across the country have dropped out of high school and believed college was beyond their reach. National attention on education and reports about the challenges of implementing Common Core requirements nationwide and whether teachers and administrators have had adequate time to prepare for the shift and the question of if Common Core certified textbooks are in ample supply had Blogging While Blue writers looking back 50, 40 and 20 years to our high school days. We were planning for college even when some weren’t quite sure we were “college material’ or at least not “their” college material. At least two of us – Beverly and I- were not standouts on standardized tests. It seemed the test didn’t ask the right questions about the meaning of life or how I might apply my knowledge and experience to addressing poverty and hatred or what lessons we might learn from the writings of Homer or Langston Hughes. The tests were and probably are necessary but they never seemed to tap my love of learning about distant places, the lives of history making pioneers or what motivated them.

Struggling to maintain a high B average in high school taught me much more than any test ever covered. I learned the importance of reading the assigned material as many times as it took to understand it. I learned the limits society placed on me as a young woman and African American weren’t fair but those limits had nothing to do with my potential. I learned hard work and perseverance would win the top prize more times than not. I learned that not every classmate would like me and some teachers would ignore me and most would underestimate my ability to succeed. I learned self-confidence and self- respect are more important to success than being the teacher’s pet, being popular with my peers or having average standardized test scores. I learned to survive and thrive in often the choppy, unpredictable waters of life, to seize opportunities and to seek my dreams. Lead Academy students are well on their way to reaching their dreams and succeeding well beyond the expectations of others. Congratulations to all of the 2014 graduates.