A Few Words on the Election by Pearl Cleage

pcleagePearl Cleage, playwright/novelist/poet/citizen

I want to offer a few words about our upcoming presidential election to be held on November 8, 2016. The reason I only need a few words – 5 to be exact – to say my say is that I am not interested in arguing a position, promoting a specific candidate or platform or discussing the record of our current president, the ever amazing Barack Obama. I have only one mission between now and Election Day and that is to make sure everybody I know is ready to vote. That means, you have registered, checked the location of your current polling place and secured the necessary ID to vote in your state/territory/district. It also means ordering an absentee ballot now if there is even the remotest chance you might not make it to the polls on Election Day and returning that ballot the day after it arrives so you won’t forget to do it. Early voting is always a good option for busy people. You should also make childcare arrangements in case there are long lines at the polls. Here too, advance preparation is key. Take water and a protein bar for sustenance. Wear comfortable shoes. Congratulate yourself on being a good citizen at a time when your country truly needs you.

If you can check off everything on this list, you are registered and ready to vote. 5 words – registered and ready to vote – will make all the difference on Election Day. 5 words – easy to adapt as a personal affirmation: I am registered and ready to vote. Easy to utilize as a friendly inquiry: Are you registered and ready to vote? Easy to offer as an invitation to action: Let’s get registered and ready to vote.

You will find the more you use those 5 little words, the easier it is to say them. To your family. To your friends. To your mail carrier. To the woman behind you in line at the Post Office or the man sitting beside you at church. After a few days, you will share my enthusiasm for these 5 little words and realize that in the midst of all the fussing and fighting and name calling and bigotry and womanhating and lying through the teeth, the only way this election will come out wrong is if sane, right thinking people aren’t registered and ready to vote when November 8 rolls around. And if that happens, all the angry tweets and indignant Facebook rants you can post aren’t going to make a damn bit of difference. ‘Nuff said.

 

Blogging While Blue: In November 2001 I won the election for mayor of Atlanta  as a first-time candidate. Miraculously the election was decided without a runoff between the top two candidates. Less than 200 voters decided the outcome of that election. Polls and those running for office tout the importance of every election. That is always true…once again we are faced with clear choices for President and U. S. Senate. The candidates hold different opinions on the issues and have totally different records, experiences, and skills they bring to bear as leaders. My 2001 election taught me how important every vote is…..since I believe  I would have lost the run-off election… There is no run off in the Presidential election.

In Georgia, you can register to vote in the Presidential election until October 11. Yours could be the deciding vote. 

“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

Loretta Lynch and the Political Power of African American Women

Sometimes the improbable happens.Lynch

In the case of the Presidential nomination and U.S. Senate confirmation of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch it shouldn’t have been improbable given her impressive educational preparation and her extensive legal experience.

The Senate finally voted to confirm Loretta Lynch after five months. The 56-43 vote makes her the first African-American female attorney general in the United States.

Lynch comes from a long line of super accomplished women who have served honorably and with distinction in top federal government positions and even more who should have based on their credentials. It just so happens that Lynch is the first African American woman to serve in this position and only the second woman. Somehow women like Janet Reno and Loretta Lynch were passed over for decades.

When Attorney General Lynch’s appointment seemed to languish in the U.S. Senate, women and some men all over the country started asking questions. Some went into action starting with the sisterhood of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. that was joined by other Greek organizations.

Atlantic magazine’s Theodore Johnson wrote in his recent article, The Political Power of the Black Sorority, “….unlike most other sororities, membership in a black sorority is not simply a college phase, but a lifelong commitment. Alumnae comprise 75 percent of the active membership of these groups. Black sororities do not confine their concerns to college campuses. And their fight for Lynch’s confirmation only represents the surface of over a century’s worth of work.”

Black sororities and fraternities have been active advocates for over a century and with Lynch’s confirmation in limbo they activated their vast network to push for her confirmation. There was no loyal to letters instead it was collective political activism joining together to do the right thing.

Last week all the “action” finally paid off and America can proudly celebrate the crushing of yet another glass box that separates qualified candidates from public service. Unfortunately Georgia Senators voted against Lynch’s confirmation putting them on the wrong side of American history. African Americans represent a large voter constituency in Georgia and 70% of eligible African American women voted in 2012, which represents approximately 10.4 million voters. Their numbers are not likely to be ignored. When African American women put their issue-based advocacy into action they can influence elections in political races, especially when the numbers are small.

Discrimination anywhere is….,,,,”

 

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.

What Maya Angelou wrote and said about race and politics

What Maya Angelou wrote and said about race and politics
By Jaime Fuller –Washington Post  Updated: May 28 at 11:04 am

Washington Post Blog

Maya Angelou, who died Wednesday at age 86, first leapt into the political consciousness when she read a poem she wrote for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration titled, “On the Pulse of Morning.” A poet had not read at a presidential inauguration since 1961, when Robert Frost read “The Gift Outright” for President John F. Kennedy.
She told The Washington Post at the time: “It is fitting, at the risk of taking away from the fact that he really likes my poetry, it is fitting that he asks a woman and a black woman to write a poem about the tenor of the times. It might be symbolic that black women when looked at are on the bottom of the graph. It is probably fitting that a black woman try to speak to the alienation, the abandonment and to the hope of healing those inflictions which have befallen all Americans, that accounts for white Americans feeling so estranged. Somehow a black woman knows all about that.”

Angelou, born in rural Arkansas, was politically active long before her role at Clinton’s inauguration, however. In 1960, she became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where she helped raise funds for the civil rights movement and met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. When she resigned six months later, she sent King a letter that noted, “I join with millions of black people the world over in saying, ‘You are our leader.’ ”

Her poetry and writing proved an honest and forceful examination of race and gender in the United States, which led to their popularity and hers in the political sphere.

She told The Washington Post in April 1978: “My equipment tends to be that of a social humanitarian and a poet, which I suppose is the same thing, and I tend to watch how people are. I have three very close friends in Washington, two black and one white and they lie about fifteen blocks apart. They have much to share, to laugh about, but because Washington is incredibly segregated, these women would, if they met at a public gathering, hardly get to know each other.”
She told the Advocate in Baton Rouge that although she thinks racism is still “extremely ugly in America,” things are better than when she wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in 1969. “Our country is better now than it may seem to be. You can look around and see black people in positions of leadership, and they’ve been voted in by large white majorities … men and women who head some of the large corporations and men and women who head some of the largely white universities.”

She also spoke of her admiration for President Obama — although she was often critical of his policies — and what he meant politically for other African Americans. She told the Guardian in 2012: “His physical self, just being there, his photograph in the newspapers as president of the United States; that has done so much good for the spirit of the African American. We see more and more children wanting to be like President Obama, wanting to go to school.”

In 2007, National Public Radio interviewed Angelou about her support for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The interviewer asked her if she would write a poem for her inauguration. She replied, “I don’t know if she would even want me to. I would do my best, but I think we have other great poets in this country.”

© The Washington Post Company

 

 

 

This Mother’s Day I Pray for Nigeria’s Mothers

Former Nigerian Education Minister and Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa division Obiageli Ezekwesilieze leads a march of Nigeria women and mothers of the kidnapped girls of Chibok, calling for their freedom in Abuja on April 30

Former Nigerian Education Minister and Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa division Obiageli Ezekwesilieze leads a march of Nigeria women and mothers of the kidnapped girls of Chibok, calling for their freedom in Abuja on April 30

I am grateful to be able to share this Mother’s Day with my children and grandchildren. But I do so with a heart that prays for the mothers of the more than 300 Nigerian girls who were abducted and the 250 who are still missing.

The girls were abducted and Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has taken public responsibility for the abductions and has threatened to sell the girls. Human rights organizations like Amnesty International have long warned about illegal detentions, torture and deaths in Nigeria but the social media campaign #bringbackourgirls has helped to highlight the latest atrocities.

The ‘bring back our girls’ hashtag was first used by a Nigerian lawyer who tweeted the message during a speech by the vice-president of the World Bank for Africa. Desperate mothers of the missing girls quickly adopted the hashtag.

This week the U.S. sent a team of advisers to Nigeria and it is believed that the U.K., China and France will join them. US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Our inter-agency team is hitting the ground in Nigeria now and they are going to be working in concert with President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to do everything we can to return these girls to their families and their communities.”

This Mother’s Day my prayers are with those Nigerian mothers whose souls must be aching for the return of their daughters.

http://ibwppi.org

https://www.facebook.com/bringbackourgirls