Reflections on the morning of the passage of the Presidential Baton

Barack Obama had the audacity to challenge the history of the ages. No African American, though others were courageous and smart, has been able to challenge the status quo of American politics like he has. He shattered the glass ceiling, broke out of the locked box, tore down the walls that kept African Americans in “their place” and denied service in the most powerful political position in the country. Before his presidency no person of color was the center of national news on every topic every day; no African American family was portrayed daily as the American standard, no African American woman First Lady set the national agenda for civic activism. President Obama is the 21st century standard for calm under pressure, thoughtful, compassionate and smart leadership. Every American witnessed it and people around the world did too. Most Americans acknowledge him as a great leader for his time and recognize his accomplishments. No one can deny his impact on American politics and culture if they are honest. The world we knew in 2008 has changed largely for the better. His legacy cannot be denied in the decades to come. He’s opened the door for more like him on America’s political stage. His successors, no matter who they are or what they say, will be measured in history against the standard of intellectual rigor, reflection and compassionate leadership President Obama has set as the 44th President of the United States. Our children’s grandchildren and their heirs will revere and recall the Obama legacy. It is done and cannot be undone. Will policies change, maybe, but the Obama legacy will endure.

I am encouraged and inspired by President Barack to seek a better, more just and peaceful world for all of us. His words and deeds will matter for generations to come. I believe tens of millions of Americans are inspired too. Onward and upward…

Bullying Weakens our Democracy

Dan Rather supposedly posted the following regarding Donald Trump’s distracting reaction to the Broadway play Hamilton cast member response to Mike Pence who attended a recent performance.

“Bullies are often thin-skinned, quick to overreact when challenged, and undone when people are no longer afraid to speak truth to their face. Great prhamiltonesidents are almost always the opposite in all those categories. Reflecting on Donald Trump’s complete overreaction to a statement made at the end of a performance of Broadway’s Hamilton: An American Musical, I couldn’t help but think – doesn’t this man have more important things to worry about? Hasn’t the theater long been a stage for political art? And isn’t this a man who broke so many norms as a candidate, insulted so many people – individually and as groups – that he now has the nerve to demand an apology when he never gave one himself?

I know there are many who say that this incident shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. Yes, when compared to cabinet posts or paying out $25 million in a fraud case against “Trump University,” a Tweet maybe might not seem that important. But being president is to have every word you utter scrutinized. And these words are intimidating and unfitting of the office of the presidency. But more importantly, they show a real weakness of vanity and small-mindedness that our enemies abroad will likely look to exploit. I can also imagine that Trump’s political foes at home are noticing – once again – how easily he can be rattled.

I imagine this is not the last we will see of these kinds of incidents.”

As someone with a enhanced appreciation of the arts and politics, I could not agree more with Rather. Trump’s campaign of hate and fear was an unfortunate winning combination for him. But I have long believed that resorting  to name calling, personal attacks or “low blows” should not be standard fare nor acceptable because Eugene Clarke, my dad, made it clear to me that those who did so were displaying the limits of their intelligence and knowledge of the topic at hand.

I have debated contemporary issues publicly and privately my entire life, as an opinionated youth and an appointed official who challenged Maynard Jackson on criminal justice solutions and airport management or Andrew Young on education reform programs and public art or among my friends and relatives on discussions from Pan-Africanism to nonviolent political activism.

Seven years into the administration of Atlanta mayor Reed, I have marveled at the personal attacks I have garnered from him when we either disagree on the facts or hold different opinions. My son, Cabral and I developed Reed’s winning election strategy in late August 2009, when his top campaign advisors and he were befuddled, flat footed and losing his first mayoral election. Yet, he routinely smears me and disparaged Cabral unnecessarily. We ignored Reed’s bullying tactics to exercise our freedom and independence in politics and in business. Cabral masterminded Atlanta Councilmember Andre Dickens’ first campaign against Reed’s candidate Lamar Willis and he advised Teach for America, Atlanta Public School candidates on how to gain four Board seats (more than any other school board in the country at the time). We never started a fight, Cabral would walk away more than I would or do but neither of us ever felt intimidated by bully tactics regardless of who was bullying.

Reed’s bullying outbursts are not much different from those we have witnessed these last 18 months in president-elect Donald Trump’s despicable behavior. If such behavior and tactics are acceptable by any high ranking elected or appointed official, as Americans we lose because the guarantee of free speech won’t matter. If everyday folks and leaders are intimidated by the possibility of retribution and verbal or physical attacks by their leaders, then fewer will exercise their freedom of speech. When we lose civility in politics and accept bullying from our President or our Mayor, our human rights are weakened.

Kellyanne the GOP should seize this time to lead

gopKellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, said Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Democratic leaders should encourage demonstrators to be peaceful and welcome the nation’s transition to a Trump administration. No, Kellyanne it was the GOP that made the threats, and it should be your responsibility as a GOP leader to right the wrong you created.

As stories emerge of violence as a result of words or actions from the fallout of the presidential campaign it is important for us to look forward while we assess the damage of the hateful language and threats used by the GOP candidate. As a nation we are sorting through our political options with the presidential election behind us.  Community leaders from all sectors have their work cut out for them for the foreseeable future. Our children and youth need our guidance to avoid the negative psychological effects of the angry discord they have witnessed in the presidential campaign. Their fears of danger must be assuaged. Political campaigning can be scary even for those of us who have been in the thick of political “battles”. The GOP leaders must put the hateful threats and rhetoric in check by making clear that all Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, disabled people, and those who disagree with the President-elect are not under attack nor will they ever be. The reckless attacks on these Americans and immigrants are harmful and dangerous.

In the last Atlanta citywide election a former council member viciously attacked my family members in the media and I was subject to an untruthful and hateful citywide robo call assumedly designed to scare me and my family into silence. Rumors attribute those strategies to political leaders at the highest levels of Atlanta politics. That’s a story for another time. Fortunately, my grandchildren weren’t harmed by the attacks but many children and youth are confused by the misbehavior of adults and the discord they are witnessing in their neighborhoods, on the Internet and on television. The GOP leadership has a unique opportunity to reverse this madness by issuing a pledge to cease the banal explanations of why the President-elect’s threats weren’t meant to hurt anyone nor were they intended to provide the foundation of public policy. No, Kellyanne, it is your responsibility to reassure Americans. The GOP should seize the time to lead an inclusive, fair and just America.

 

 

Mr. Trump, racism was not “misconstrued”

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Donald Trump and Judge Curiel

Despite a late attempt to pivot from his attack, Donald J. Trump’s most recent explosive remarks regarding the objectivity of Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel who is overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University highlights once again what matters to him. No matter who you are—you just might not meet Trump’s standard for professional, fair, decision-making. Your professional record doesn’t matter; your experience, education nor credentials matter. What matters to Donald Trump is your ethnicity, race, gender, religion and mostly if you agree with him despite the facts.

He insults and demeans those who challenge him. He’s a classic bully whose primary concern is a presidential victory. His tactics focus on winning the presidency as if he’s closing the next great real estate deal of the century.

Can a woman judge make a fair legally sound judicial decision in a case against a man or defend him in a legal case?

Can a Christian judge make a fair legally sound decision in a case brought by a Jewish defendant?

Can an African American make a fair legally sound decision in a case brought by a white defendant?

The presumed and likely Republican Georgia winner in November, according to recent polls, will be Donald Trump. His denunciation of an American judge of Mexican heritage or one who is Muslim is ludicrous, racist, and outrageous.  Pick your word. It is likely that Donald Trump has insulted you. Sometimes it is not a group but an ideology that warrants his wrath. There seems to be no place for Donald Trump to hide his ignorance, his racism, and his sexism. He chooses to take any political route to create new division among increasingly diverse Americans, in an effort to twist and omit the facts to win attention.

Unfortunately, Trump’s racist rants are reminiscent of a time when being racist was an effective political strategy for winning. Or maybe Georgians voting for Donald Trump in November’s presidential election aren’t concerned about his tactics.  No one should fee safe or free from his attacks…at least not for very long.

We stand in the shade of a tree planted by others

DFranklin2DFranklin2 1Born and educated in Atlanta, David Franklin loved Atlanta and all the possibilities it offered for all Atlantans never expecting African American economic opportunities would come without controversy and lots of public debate. Rarely did he speak in public settings but he had lots to say in hundreds of conversations and to political allies.
This is one of the few letters found in his desk when he died a few years ago. The letter to Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Jack Tarver along with a Hosea Williams campaign poster, a Maynard for Mayor button and a copy of a 1974 New York Times article about Atlanta politics along with family photographs were worthy of saving as prized possessions.
Forty-one years ago David and a small group of black and white leaders joined Mayor Maynard Jackson in pushing open the doors of economic opportunity in public and private business sectors. Such courage was demonstrated by few but many have benefitted. The biggest beneficiary is the city itself whose economy has grown by leaps and bounds over four decades.
This week was David’s 73rd birthday and it reminded me of a familiar phrase. We stand in the shade of trees planted by others. Thoughtful, grateful people know so and are thankful for the opportunities afforded them by the actions of others. Only fools think otherwise or worse, believe that they stand alone as champions for their or the city’s success.

A super highlight of a super-man in New York Times voter feature

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At Antonio’s 2010 Lincoln University graduation in Jefferson City, Missouri is Lincoln University SGA President Antonio Lewis and Dr. Carolyn Mahoney, Lincoln University President.

NYTimesThis is a super story about a super young man in the New York Times, Of the People feature. It highlights Antonio Lewis, one of the Mayor’s Youth Program (MYP) students during my term as mayor. He  graduated from Atlanta Public Schools and earned a scholarship to Middle Georgia, which he lost after the first semester. While he was on winter break, he visited me as mayor and asked for my help in attending a local community college. Instead, I called our local Lincoln University-Missouri alumni contact who arranged for a partial scholarship that was matched with MYP funds. Four years later Lewis graduated with honors as Lincoln University student body president. The following year he joined the Obama field team and the rest is history. This happened hundreds of times during the six years of the program at the City. His success is the result of a village of people like, Deborah Lum and the staff at the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, who supported him. I am happy that we caught him before he fell through the cracks like far too many of our young people, unfortunately, have done.

HBO’s Confirmation Is a Painful Flashback

Beverly Isom

“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Poet/philosopher)

ahillThis Saturday, April 16 at 8:00 p.m. EST on HBO, “Confirmation”, the story of the 1991 public hearings on the Senate vote for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with witness Anita Hill will debut on cable television. As a raging progressive and lukewarm loyal Democrat, I admit to watching the hearings hoping that in this real-life saga, the woman would win. And in some small way, I hoped all women would win. But for three days during those crisp Washington, DC October days, I saw an America where men judged women about an issue they had little knowledge of and even less patience for understanding. Four votes could have made the difference in who is sitting on the high court now but maybe “passion and party” blinded their eyes. However, the final floor vote was not strictly along party lines: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats (Dixon (D-IL), Exon (D-NE), DeConcini (D-AZ), Robb (D-VA), Hollings (D-SC), Fowler (D-GA), Nunn (D-GA), Breaux (D-LA), Johnston (D-LA), Boren (D-OK), and Shelby (D-AL) now (R-AL)) voted to confirm Justice Thomas while 46 Democrats and 2 Republicans (Jeffords (R-VT) and Packwood (R-OR)) voted to reject the nomination.

Television has afforded us the ability to have a piercing and lasting image of how we remember history. Even though Vice President Joe Biden, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Clarence Thomas and authored the Violence Against Women Act, I can’t forget the memory of him presiding and looking down at Hill during those hearings. Though the hearings were conducted to confirm Thomas they were really much more about sexual harassment in the workplace. Hill had the courage to withstand the public aggressive intimidation by a dozen men who were not her peers. Biden among them. He did very little to change the “optics” on what we saw on television. He did not stop the vicious and searing attacks from Senators Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson, and the late Arlen Spector. Anita Hill’s public humiliation was felt by many women who knew her story firsthand from assembly lines to corporate board rooms. There is no question that while Thomas won the confirmation, nameless women in the workplace have benefited from Hill’s heroic stand.
The Anita Hill story has been written about and a documentary was also done, but this weekend Kerry Washington transforms into Anita Hill to tell the story once again. “If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!”

Demographics haven’t shifted elections in Georgia, yet!

Vinson Institute-UGAAs more and more people become engaged in the presidential campaigns either as voters, caucus members or active campaigners, news articles and columns are speculating about which supporters are best positioned or angling for appointments and VIP statuses the new administration.

There is talk all over Atlanta about who will get the nod for which positions in which administration. Ambassadorships and Cabinet appointments are among the most mentioned. Hopes are high in political circles that at least a few Georgians will follow their predecessors – United Nations  Ambassador Andrew Young, White House staff person Rita Samuels, Director of Presidential Personnel Veronica Biggins, Ambassador Gordon Giffen or Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are among the host of other Atlantans who have served among a President’s most respected and trusted advisors. Even as those considerations are being entertained, most voters and most polls expect Georgia to remain a red state in November. The growth of Georgia’s population over the last decades and the demographics – young, black, brown and international have changed the “color” and “culture”  of the state’s residents,  but we have yet to see a change from “conservative and right leaning” political philosophy in statewide or Congressional elections.

Last year Cabral reminded me about having thousands of qualified registered yet seemingly uninterested voters move to the state or the city doesn’t automatically change election outcomes. Even massive voter registration drives like Georgia House Minority Leader and State Representative for the 89th House District Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project in 2012 haven’t moved the needle much. The population of Georgia might be browner and more left leaning but so far election results haven’t shifted.

Before anyone starts packing for Washington, DC maybe we should ask them to focus on a few of the issues that face at least a million Georgians. Those who live on limited or fixed incomes have the greatest needs but all Georgians suffer when we “play politics” while Georgians face social and political obstacles to improve their everyday lives. From the LIMITED accessible, affordable, clean public transportation, affordable housing, healthcare and mental healthcare options, affordable post-secondary and higher education, funding for medical research, support for technology incubators, business retention and expansion incentives,  business opportunities for small, minority and female businesses to HIGH rates of incarceration and recidivism, high school, community college and college dropout rates, family and child poverty and persistent and growing high levels of homelessness in both cities and the suburbs, Georgia officials and civic leaders, all of us, have a lot of work to do at home before moving up the ladder to national leadership.

I count myself as responsible to do some of the hard work too. Whether Georgia is red, blue or purple in the November elections, we should choose the road less traveled and double down on getting Georgia on the right track for those who are most in need.

The Wizard of Fear

bwbtrumpRepublican presidential candidate Donald Trump made his rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows amidst criticism that he has incited the recent violence at his campaign events. His public remarks on the campaign trail against Muslims, immigrants and others have fueled physical attacks and angry protests. In the spirit of throwing a rock and hiding his hands, his response on “Meet the Press” was, “I don’t accept responsibility…….They’re not angry about something I’m saying. I’m just the messenger”.

The impassioned anti-Trump protestors that appear to be diverse and varied are increasing as the campaign travels. There are ample photos and video footage from protests that led up to the cancellation of the Chicago campaign event due to security concerns. The violence has grown from a simmering dislike to full on hate. From protestors being ordered out of Trump events to being punched in the face to yelling obscenities and even to journalists being roughed up and thrown out of his events. This weekend, in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, there were injuries and arrests and in Kentucky, Trump reportedly promised to defend his supporters if they fought with protestors and in Chicago, he relegated his detractors to “thugs”. It is rumored that Trump may pay the legal fees for the supporter who punched the protester at his recent rally. If so, then his responsibility will be decisive and clear—he will be putting his money where his mouth is.

And in another unbelievable act of messenger amnesia, Trump warned Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that if his campaign people keep coming to his events, he would send his supporters to Sanders’ events. Whether it is threatening or bullying, Trump’s bravado has instigated flagrant and irresponsible discourse. Trump’s shameless reliance on fear and intolerance to fuel his campaign is likely the result of frustration and resentment from the crowds who support him. People who have seen their lives dramatically impacted by economic and social changes they were unprepared for. People looking for hope in small towns and big cities—desperate for a new and better future. Unfortunately, the billionaire candidate has chosen to pillage their hope with the tactics of fear. He has found acceptance as the messenger of hate but as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear”. The only question now is when will it be too much for the majority of GOP voters because it is already too late for the rest of us to believe he is more than the Wizard of Fear.

 

Flint–The Poison of Politics

flintPrior to the environmental fiasco in Flint, I would never have imagined the likelihood that an elected official would make a budget decision that would poison an entire city. It is unimaginable, yet here we are. For those unfamiliar with the widely publicized story, a brief summary is offered.

In 2011 when many cities had still not recovered from the 2008 economic recession, the financially strapped city of Flint was taken over by the state. Then Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, retained emergency managers to cut costs and manage the struggling city.

Two years later, it was decided that Flint should break away from the Detroit water system that pulled water from Lake Heron and join a new water district. In April 2014, Flint switched its water system and started drawing water from the Flint River. There are lead pipes throughout the system and in older homes with copper water pipes that were held together with lead solder, the lead corroded the water. The World Health Organization has said that lead poisoning can cause adverse neurological effects.

The problem is now headline news as reports of sick school children who now have lead poisoning, state EPA officials have resigned, truck loads of donated water arrive in Flint everyday and both the state and federal government officials have declared a state of emergency for the city.

I wish this was just about a bad budget decision, but the cries of environmental racism can’t be overlooked. And not just from political candidates hammering for sound bites. New York Times columnist, Charles Blow wrote,”An entire American city exposed to poisoned water. How could this be? It is hard to imagine this happening in a city that didn’t have Flint’s demographic profile — mostly black and disproportionately poor.”

If not racist it is clearly unjust, unfair, and unacceptable.