Happy Father’s Day

Once a year we celebrate our fathers whose role in our lives make such an impression. Today we celebrate all the good that comes from healthy, happy relationships with our fathers and father surrogates. Research shows everyone in the family does better when fathers do well.

In speeches, Clarke/FranklinI’ve talked about the challenges my father faced struggling with alcoholism and how in spite of this debilitating disease and its manifestations in his life and scars it left in mine, he graduated from college at an early age. Somehow he was able to “hold it together” in law school too. When he made the pledge in Alcoholics Anonymous 20 years after his graduation he was able to reclaim a prominent position in Philadelphia’s legal community. Lesson learned: Education matters.

My paternal grandfather had many fewer opportunities but made our lives better through his entrepreneurial efforts as a small businessman. Though poorly educated and barely educated in tough economic times or emergencies, and there were more than a few, Pop was able to support my grandmother, mother and me. He was a father when mine was missing. Lesson learned: Hard work matters. Then there was my uncle, Walter, who stepped in every summer from the first day of the break until the weekend before school started back. He, too, had few educational opportunities in a small Virginia farming community, but he was able to build a small, lucrative upholstery business in Washington, DC. He loved to take my cousins on weekend trips to his family farm in the Shenandoah Mountains. It was there that I learned to feed the hogs and chickens, plant the garden and kneel in prayer before every meal. Lesson learned: Take care of the land and it will take care of you.

Pop and Uncle Veney filled the empty fatherly role when my dad was unable. They are among the men who have loved me, nurtured me and supported me. I did better because of them. Lesson learned: Family matters and extended family matters too.

Today is a good day to celebrate them and their unselfish love for family and community.

This is dedicated to the men who give to those they love and to those who need it. Special recognition to Cabral Franklin and James T. Isom.

 

“If I Were Mayor”— A Young Student Explains the Job

Fifteen years ago in January 2001 a few friends, colleagues and I gathered in my living room to discuss whether my candidacy for mayor could be successful. We talked about the likely candidates, their years of public service and accomplishments; we had an honest discussion about whether I, as a first time candidate even with promised endorsements, could win a race against a seasoned politician and former City Council member. We talked very little about what I would or should do as mayor beyond continuing the legacy programs of previous mayors going back to William Hartsfield.ifIweremayor

Mine was a long shot candidacy and the voters proved the prediction true when the winning percentage of votes in the election barely tipped over the required 50 percentile.  At some level I longed to be in the public discussion about issues held dear to my heart as much as winning the race. Such is the value of democracy. Each of us can be in the public debate about issues we hold dear. Voting is only part of the equation.

During the campaign I found people had opinions about the city, what the mayor should or should not do. Time after time I was struck by the opinions of children.

Here is an essay  written by a Fernbank Elementary School student in August 2002 two months before the November election.

If I Were Mayor

If I were mayor, I would make bigger candy stores, more ice cream trucks, and better playgrounds. But wait a minute. What exactly is a mayor supposed to do? It sounds like a big job-so many things to be done, so many things to be fixed, so many expectations and responsibilities! Decisions, decisions, hmmm…what would I do?

I once heard a poem that said to put your big rocks in the jar first. Then you add the gravel, sand, and water. The big rocks symbolize one’s main priorities, and the gravel and sand symbolize other small projects. One big rock in Atlanta that needs to be put in first, is the task of decreasing air pollution and traffic. If I were mayor, I would change the minimum number of people in an H.O.V. lane to three instead of two; increasing carpool rates and reducing pollution. Then I would encourage the expanding of MARTA. Hopefully, this would reduce traffic. Finally, I’d develop highway clean up teams to keep our roads clean and safe.

Another big rock is the task of helping and caring for the homeless or needy. I, as mayor, would start a sort of “homeless hospital” which would provide good, reliable and cheap medical dental care for the needy. Also at the “hospital”, homeless could sign-up for job skills courses, where trainers would come in and teach certain skills they could use to get a job.

Now comes the gravel and sand. I would paint over graffiti, restore old buildings, improve schools, clean parks, and find good homes for the orphaned children. These and other small things help fill the jar.

Finally, another very important thing that every mayor should do is keep his or her promises. Citizens want an honest and trustworthy mayor who will make fair decisions and listen to the problems of the city. Our city deserves a good mayor. And who knows, one day, it could be me!

” Citizens want an honest and trustworthy mayor who will make fair decisions and listens to the problems of the city. Our city deserves a good mayor.” This young woman captures the expectations of nearly all the voters I’ve ever met.

 

 

Ted Cruz Has Gone Too Far

Contributor, Cecelia Corbin Hunter

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

Just when I thought the national discourse had deteriorated as far as it would go in this election cycle, Ted Cruz says Hillary Clinton should be spanked and not in a playful lets get sexy way. The new Republican leaders seem to believe that (1) they can say any ugly constitution denying rhetoric that they can dream and (2) women are irrelevant and insignificant. It’s the second observation that gives me great pause. It’s become standard fare for the grand old party to discuss and legislate female innards, but a “spanking?” Oh no!!!! Ted has gone too far. Should the flogging be done clothed or should Hillary and all her “girl” supporters strip or just bare their bottoms. Should we gather in a stadium at high noon or be gathered up by Knights in white at midnight.

The days of white men spanking, flogging or beating women for having the audacity of exercising their right to be more correct, to think and unflinchingly to express their thoughts are gone. Ted can get on board or get out of the way. Hillary and the women of 2016 reject his supposition and thinking. We are here and a spanking from you is not on the agenda. Mr Cruz, spanking may be the norm in your house, but not for the woman who is White House bound.

 

We Will Not Be Fine – Stop the Devaluation of Black Womanhood

sandrabland

Sandra Bland

By Christina Perry

On July 9th, Sandra Bland left her home in Naperville, IL en route to Prairie View, Texas. Sandra, 28, had recently accepted a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M.

On July 10th, just miles away from campus, she was stopped by a police officer for allegedly failing to use her turning signal when changing lanes.

The seemingly routine traffic stop escalated as video of the incident shows two police offers forcibly restraining Bland on the ground near her vehicle. She was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer.

On July 13th, she was found dead in her jail cell.

We can honor her life — and the lives of countless other Black women killed during police encounters — by disrupting the narrative around police violence in this country and demanding equal protection of Black womanhood and Black women’s bodies from state violence.

We know that Black women are being victimized as the result of state-sanctioned violence. We know that this often gender-specific violence takes many forms and extends beyond the use of excessive and lethal force.

We know that Black women and girls are consistently rendered invisible in the discussion surrounding police brutality. Black women are hyper-visible; however, in the movement to address and reform the systems of oppression reinforcing state violence against communities of color.

However, Americans continue to dissect police brutality and state-sanctioned violence almost exclusively through the frame of Black maleness and the use of lethal force.

Enough is enough. We must be emboldened to disrupt the narrative. Yes, we must protect Black men and boys. We must encourage each other to be our “Brother’s Keeper”. But, Black womanhood must be valued and protected with the same vigor.

The devaluation of Black womanhood and Black women’s bodies through state-sanctioned violence and sexual assault is not a modern phenomenon. Black womanhood in this country has been irrevocably shaped by the collusion of two distinct forces: sexist oppression and the realities of racism. In order for Black women to be fully protected by any policy reform, this intersectionality — and how it informs police interactions with women of color — must be recognized and affirmed in the public conversation surrounding police brutality.

If the impetus for policy changes is defined by a male-specific frame, Black women will remain vulnerable to continued violence.

 

Misty Opens Doors and Hearts

As we contemplate how much progress we as Americans have made in human relations we are reminded of those who have come before us, who mistyhave sacrificed and struggled to achieve their dreams and make others possible.

As a young ballet student, I attended one of only two Philadelphia dance academies open to African American children, the Marion Cuyjet School of Dance. I dreamed of a career as a principal dancer with one of New York’s most famous companies. On television I watched with awe as a woman of color, Maria Tallchief, captivated the television audience. Tallchief was tall, beautiful, graceful and elegant. In my eyes, she was the luckiest woman in the world, she was following her heart and achieving not just her dream but also mine. It seemed so far fetched that I would ever be that accomplished and fortunate, but her appearance on television gave me hope. Years later one of my ballet school classmates, Judith Jamison, would wow the world as the principal dancer of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. She was no doubt inspired by the numerous African American dancers who visited the Cuyjet School and by the gifted Marion Cuyjet who led the school. Now the world knows another phenomenal dancer, Misty Copeland, the principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater.

In today’s New York Times we get new insight into the challenges African American women and girls have faced in pursuit of their dreams of dancing on the world’s stage. The NYT piece is written by former dancer and college instructor Laurie Copeland, who superbly captures the glory and tragedy of African American ballet dancers and Misty’s story

Perhaps Misty’s assent will not only open doors for dancers, but open hearts and minds to the potential of all young people who have aspirations…..to dance, to sing, to invent and to lead. Our grandchildren are counting on it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/15/opinion/black-dancers-white-ballets.html?_r=0

House Bill 244 Will Help Protect Georgia’s Children

If you are in Georgia and care about children, your own or others there is work to do now as advocates to House Bill 244. As nearly everyone agrees children are God’s gift. HB244 will protect more Georgia children.

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Thank you for calling and emailing your representatives about HB 244. Your voices were heard, and the bill was presented to the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee on Monday, March 2nd. We are disappointed to share with you that the adult entertainment fee was removed from the bill.

Please meet us tomorrow, March 5th at 9am on the main steps of the Capitol as we urge the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee to vote on HB 244 at the next committee hearing. We will provide you with talking points to share with the committee members. We need you to stand with us!

HB 244 contains several important pieces, including:
Extends the statute of limitations for the victims of domestic minor sex trafficking to file civil actions against their traffickers to age 25
Establishes a Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission
Expands forfeiture and seizure laws related to sex trafficking and related offenses–allowing any proceeds from trafficking, and the vehicles operated by a person who is guilty of trafficking, to be subject to forfeiture to the state
Amends the State Sexual Offender Registry to now include convicted offenders of trafficking a person for sexual servitude
Requires the development of a statewide plan for the coordinated delivery of services to sexually exploited and trafficked children

Why do we need HB 244?

Last week, complaints about a woman pimping out her stepdaughter led to a sting in Johns Creek that led to 15 arrests. One of the men arrested is accused of agreeing to pay for sex but he allegedly wanted it to be with a minor, according to a police report. Incidents like these illustrate the importance of amending the State Sexual Offender Registry to include convicted traffickers.

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http://www.youth-spark.org

 

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.

Tiana Parker Learned A Lesson and it Wasn’t In School

Last sTianaParkerummer during the London Olympics Gabrielle Douglas’s hair became the subject of endless commentary that had absolutely nothing to do with her historic accomplishments. This week Tiana Parker a 7-year old student at Deborah Brown Community School in Tulsa Oklahoma was sent home because her hair was not “presentable”. The charter school had a policy that forbids “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles…” After negative national attention, petitions and news coverage the school Board reluctantly revised its policy. Though the language removes specific hairstyles, it hardly improves the schools’ intent. The charter school’s policy now reads, “The Administration reserves the right to contact the parents/guardians regarding any personal hygiene issues that it believes causes a risk to the health, safety and welfare of the student, his or her classmates, and faculty or staff or detracts from the educational environment.”

No question there are much bigger looming political issues in America these days. So why is this important. Because at a time when urban school districts are closing their doors like fire sales, the disparities in race and gender equity remain nightmares for social scientists and little girls self images are being shaped by everything from music videos to celebrities “twerking” it is important to speak truth to power. Barring the Oklahoma ACLU’s legal explanation of constitutional freedom of expression, or the Charter school’s right to their own admissions policy, the fact that the school, the board and the parents are all African American and even the Parker family’s decision to transfer their child to another school——-none of those reasons justify the discriminatory practice of singling out hairstyles in a public academic institution as grounds for dismissal.  And yet, it happens more than you might know. Earlier this year, in Ohio, the Lorain Horizon Science Academy rescinded a similar policy against “afro puffs” and in Virginia Hampton University’s MBA program bans dreadlocks and cornrows for male students.

The public ire surrounding the Tiana Parker incident is about a lot more than simply hair. It is about what the message says to vulnerable little girls. You are not pretty enough, your beauty is qualified because of your hair and your hair makes you different and unwanted. There is no correlation between hairstyles and academic success or a perfect gymnastic floor exercise.  It is well past the time when girls should be measured by who they are and not their hairstyles.

Mother’s Day Everyday

Beverly Isom
Blogging While Blue

I traveled to St. Louis, my hometown, this weekend to visit my mother for Mother’s Day and came face to face with the graceful reality of aging. As a baby boomer there are tons of information about everything from health and fitness news and dating websites to care giving coping skills. By 2030, about one in five Americans will be older than 65, we cannot avoid the inevitable certainty of getting older.

Mom-18 years old

Mom-18 years old

Many of my friends and I grew up alongside our mothers, who were teenagers themselves when they became parents. For those young women who wanted better options for their children, they often worked long hours and multiple jobs, while completing high school and college, and in neighborhoods that were less than ideal for raising a family. By default their children were often surrogate parents to their siblings. As the oldest and only girl, that responsibility fell to me. Selflessness was not a sacrifice it was a family value. I never resented the responsibility and these days, my brothers still treat me with a kind of somber respect that implies I am much older than them. But even as a young mother, my mother demanded deference for family that was fairly common in those days. The rules from the young mother were simple: you looked out for one another, you were accountable for one another, and you faced adversaries (real and abstract) as a united front.

Mable567So these days, I schedule my visits with my mother around the events like her doctor’s visits, family gatherings and holidays that typically include everyone crowded in the kitchen and doing more talking and laughing than anything else. So Mother’s Days are treasured moments in my mother’s house as she ages and quite frankly, as her children age.

I am grateful for the sense of family that the young mother instilled in her children so that we might appreciate Mother’s Day—-everyday.

The Courage of Neighbors and Strangers

Charles Ramsey

Charles Ramsey

Neighbor Charles Ramsey asked the screaming woman, “Can I help?” The actions of neighbor Charles Ramsey helped police discover three Ohio women who vanished as teenagers about a decade ago.  Police have arrested the homeowner Ariel Castro, 52, a former school bus driver and his brothers in connection with the abductions. 

In another horrid captivity case in Philadelphia in 2011, Turgut Gozleveli was the owner of a building who found several disabled people held against their will in a Social Security fraud scheme living in squalor in the basement when he went to check on a noise he heard coming from downstairs. 

The acts of neighbors and strangers who made decisions that saved the lives of others has been well documented.

During the Boston Marathon bombing, many newspapers carried the photo of Carlos Arredondo in his cowboy hat providing emergency assistance to a man who appeared to have lost both his legs in the blast.

Kaitlin Roig was an elementary teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary school during the shooting, when her quick thinking lead her to rush 15 students into a bathroom and put a bookshelf across the door telling the children to be quiet to protect them during the rampage.

In the Aurora, Colorado movie-theater shooting a young man, Jarell Brooks, who was shot in the leg found the courage to lead a woman with her two small children to an exit door to safety.

Time and time again, it has been the humility of neighbors and strangers that has sparked their humanity in our darkest moments.  We are thankful for the acts of courage from neighbors and strangers when it was needed most.