Tag: Politics

Remembering Elijah Cummings (1951-2019)

The Baltimore-area Democrat who chaired the powerful House Oversight Committee and drew the ire of President Donald Trump — died early Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his office said in a statement. He was 68.

Cummings had represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District for 23 years before ascending in January to his perch atop the Oversight panel, from which he oversaw several investigations into the current administration. 

Cummings was a force inside the Democratic caucus who earned the trust of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to take on some of the toughest and most politically sensitive assignments. Known for his booming oratory and poetic delivery, Cummings quickly emerged as one of Democrats’ most effective critics.

“When the history books are written about this tumultuous era, I want them to show that I was among those in the House of Representatives who stood up to lawlessness and tyranny,” he said in a Sept. 24 statement.

“Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior. It only creates more division among us,” Cummings said in his speech in early August. Despite his central role in some of the most politically explosive investigations in recent years, Cummings was a rare figure who forged friendships and bonds across the aisle.

Cummings was the beloved son of Baltimore, born in the city on January 18, 1951, and could often be seen walking the streets of the inner-city district, an area where he lived in the same house for more than three decades. “He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem.”

Remembering Kenneth A. Gibson (1931-2019)

Kenneth Allen Gibson, the first African American mayor of Newark, New Jersey, was born in 1931 in the town of Enterprise, Alabama.  He graduated from high school in Enterprise in 1950 and joined the U.S. Army as a civil engineer.  He remained in the Army until 1958. After his discharge, he took a job as a New Jersey State Highway Patrol trooper while simultaneously attending Newark College. Gibson graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1963.

After college Gibson took an engineering position for the Newark Housing Authority where he oversaw urban renewal projects from 1960-1966. In 1966, he became Newark’s chief structural engineer. He was also the head of Newark’s Business and Industry Coordinating Council and served as vice president of the United Community Corporation, which fought poverty in Newark during that time.

In 1970 Gibson ran for Mayor of Newark, New Jersey and defeated incumbent Hugh J. Addonizio, who was subsequently convicted of extortion and conspiracy charges. Gibson took over a predominantly African American city, still recovering from the race riot of 1967 which left 23 people dead. He was credited for economic revival that resuscitated the city’s economy. When he first came into office, the city was in the midst of a population loss from 400,000 to 300,000.  By the end of his first term, the numbers slowly began to grow again as Gibson encouraged the return of middle class residents with urban housing developments such as Society Hill.  His administration was also initially identified with black nationalist poet and playwright Amiri Baraka whom many credited with Gibson’s first election to the mayor’s post.

Kenneth Gibson served four consecutive terms in office until 1986 when he was defeated for reelection by Sharpe James following a scandal which resulted in his indictment on conspiracy and misconduct charges.  Gibson was acquitted in his subsequent trial that took place after he left office.

Gibson was actively involved in a number of civil rights organizations such as the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).  In 1976 Gibson also became the first African American to serve as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Introducing: Mayor LaToya Cantrell!

Mayor Cantrell’s life has been steeped in community service. As a little girl, her grandmother would bring her to neighborhood meetings, and by the age of 13, she was serving as secretary for her local chamber of commerce.

“My soul found its home in New Orleans,” is how Mayor Cantrell describes her arrival in 1990 as a student at Xavier University. After graduation, she and her husband, Jason, bought a home in the Broadmoor neighborhood, and Cantrell became an active member of her new community.

As the President of the Broadmoor Improvement Association, Cantrell led the neighborhood’s redevelopment following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. Flooding decimated Broadmoor, but through citizen engagement and Cantrell’s leadership, Broadmoor is now considered an international model for disaster recovery.

Elected to the City Council in 2012, Cantrell has prioritized improving people’s lives.

On May 7, 2018, Mayor Cantrell was sworn in as the first female Mayor of New Orleans, just in time to celebrate the city’s tricentennial, or 300th anniversary.

She is a dedicated wife to her husband, Jason, proud mother of her daughter, RayAnn, and a parishioner at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church.

Mayor Cantrell pledges to produce results that will create a more equitable and safe New Orleans for all residents.

Introducing: Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley!

Ayanna Pressley is the first African American woman that Massachusetts elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ayanna Pressley is an advocate, a policy-maker, an activist, and survivor. Her election to the Boston City Council in 2009 marked the first time a woman of color was elected to the Council in its 100-year history. This laid the foundation for Ayanna’s groundbreaking work, with which she has consistently strived to improve the lives of people that have too often been left behind.

Raised in Chicago as the only child of an activist mother who instilled in her the value of civic participation, Ayanna understands the role that government should play in helping to lift up communities that are in need of the most help. After her election to the Council in 2009, she successfully pursued the establishment of the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities. The Committee addresses causes that Ayanna has always been most devoted to: stabilizing families and communities, reducing and preventing violence and trauma, combating poverty, and addressing issues that disproportionately impact women and girls.

Ayanna is intentional about engaging community voices in leading and informing policy by making sure they have a seat at the table.

Ayanna’s legislative achievements resulted in her being the top vote-getter in three consecutive elections, making her the first woman in 30 years to achieve this distinction and the first person of color to top the ticket.

In 2016, Ayanna was named one of The New York Times 14 Young Democrats to Watch. In 2015, she earned the EMILY’s List Rising Star Award and was named one of Boston Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful People. In 2014, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce named her as one of their Ten Outstanding Young Leaders, and the Victim Rights Law Center presented her with their Leadership Award. She is also an Aspen-Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership, Class of 2012.

Ayanna lives in the Ashmont/Adams neighborhood of Dorchester with her husband Conan Harris, nine-year-old stepdaughter Cora, and cat Sojourner Truth.

Introducing: Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver!

Sheila Y. Oliver took the oath of office as New Jersey’s 2nd Lieutenant Governor on January 16, 2018. She is the first woman of color to serve in statewide elected office in New Jersey history. She was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs by Governor Phil Murphy.

Lt. Governor Oliver is a 40-year resident of East Orange, and a native of Newark.

First elected to the General Assembly in 2003, she became Speaker in 2010 – the first African-American woman in state history to serve as such, and just the second in the nation’s history to lead a state legislative house.

She has chaired the Assembly Human Services Committee, and served on the Labor, Higher Education, Women and Children, Commerce and Economic Development, and Transportation and Independent Authorities committees. She also sat on the Joint Committee on the Public Schools and the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity.

Prior to her election to the General Assembly, she served as an Essex County Freeholder, from 1996 to 1999, and was a member of the East Orange Board of Education.  She also served as an Assistant County Administrator for Essex County from 2000 until 2018.

An alumna of Newark’s Weequahic High School, she went on to graduate cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. She also holds a Master of Science Degree in Community Organization, Planning and Administration from Columbia University.

Lt. Governor Oliver began her career in public service as the Director of the Office of Youth Services and Special Projects for the City of Newark, where she focused on preparing young people ages 14 to 21 for post-secondary education and entry into the workforce. She later became the Development Director for The Newark Literacy Campaign while working at Caldwell College as the Coordinator of Career Guidance within the Educational Opportunity Fund Program.

She has taught college courses in Achievement Motivation, Non-Profit Management, and Pre-College Preparation, served as a consultant to a variety of non-profit organizations, and spent several years as the Director of the Essex County Division of Community Action, an anti-poverty initiative.

Lt. Governor Oliver has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including the East Orange General Hospital Board of Trustees, the United Way, the Newark Coalition for Neighborhoods, the Newark Collaboration Group, the Rutgers-Newark Educational Opportunity Fund Advisory Council, the Global Women’s Leadership Collaborative of NJ, the Essex County and East Orange Committees on the Status of Women, Programs for Parents, and a number of other community-based entities. She has held memberships in the Women’s Political Caucus of NJ, the NAACP, and the Urban League.

Why White People Love Africans (But Can’t Stand African-Americans)

I’ve been aware of the preferential dynamic between Africans and White Americans for a very long time. It’s something I witnessed all throughout childhood and well into adulthood. It wasn’t a secret that professors at my university showed preferential treatment to African immigrant students, both in instruction and in resources. And it’s not uncommon to hear about preferential hiring and promotional decisions in favor of African employees as opposed to Black Americans in the workplace. I mean it’s cool for Africans and white people to love each other, the problem arises when innocent people are affected by this preferential treatment and biased decision making. It wasn’t until I saw the effects of such treatment played out in my own life that I thought to explore why this dynamic existed. Now these are just my theories, but let’s explore 5 possible reasons why white people love Africans (but can’t stand African Americans).

“All of the Melanin, None of the Guilt”

Slavery is America’s greatest sin. No matter how much white people would have us forget it ever occurred, grab our invisible bootstraps and move on, we know that can never happen. The truth is the residual effects of slavery are sewn into the fabric of this country, making the avoidance of guilt a seemingly impossible feat, especially when you’re still wearing it’s clothing. Not to mention, interfacing with your victims on the daily can get pretty taxing. Of course the white people we see today aren’t the ones who steered the ships and physically chained us, but their willingness to maintain hold of the privileges they inherited through these atrocities lets us know that they’re in no rush to make amends. And because White people feel this unavoidable sense of guilt when it comes to forging on in their ancestors bloody footsteps, their subconscious is always thinking of ways to avoid further persecution. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to avoid who makes you feel guilty about it.

If this observation is accurate, then it only makes sense for white people to prefer Africans immigrants. Not only can they whip out the “I have a friend from Ghana” card, but they also get to avoid the social responsibility, the expectation of ally-ship, the acknowledgment of wrongs, the challenging of old family beliefs, and many other responsibilities that come along with befriending Black Americans. Sure, the Transatlantic Slave Trade began in West Africa but white people don’t see slavery as a crime committed against Africans — at least not directly. So in the context of friendships and intimate partnerships between Africans and White Americans, these topics are easily avoidable. No victim, no crime. No rallies to attend, no protests, no boycotts, just guilt-free fun. The African friend essentially acts as a breath of fresh air to the white conscious.

“Is This Wakanda?”

Now this next sentence may not go over well, but Black Twitter will pretty much tell you all you need to know about Black culture. What we eat, how to cook it, how to season it, what we’re listening to, who we love this week, who we hate, what boycott we’re half-assing, where the cookout is, how to get there, and what kind of raisins to bring for the potato salad. Black people don’t keep much of anything a secret when it comes to Black culture. Nothing is off limits and nothing is too sacred to discuss out in the open. That’s not necessarily something to fault Black Americans over but when has easy access ever made us more appreciative of something? Not to mention that Black American culture derived from the culmination of European influences and whatever remnants of African culture were permitted to remain on the plantation.

White people know Black culture well because they had a huge part in its inception — been there, stole that. In contrast, African culture is a little harder to access. You won’t find nationally televised shows depicting a modern African way of life, there is no continent-wide cookout for us to dish out invitations to, there’s no honorary South African pass for best gwara-gwara dance, and you won’t find Nigerian gele (traditional West African style of headdress) at Forever 21 or Zara. African culture is tied to Africans which means you must go through the people to access it, which white people have proven they have no problem doing. White people cant get enough of things that aren’t made for them and it doesn’t get more F.U.B.U. than African culture.

“Let’s Have a Pity Party”

National Geographic came forward this year and issued an apology for historically racist coverage of Africans and indigenous groups around the world. Shocker. But that apology doesn’t do much to rectify the lasting imagery that their coverage created. The naked African hunting bushmeat in the forest, the bloated belly of a starving African child, the drug fueled African warlord, some of these images are the only images of Africa that many Americans know. Leading some white Americans to see African immigrants as personal charity cases, whether warranted or not. It’s not uncommon for a white person to befriend an African immigrant for the sole purpose of feeling like a do-gooder. Who else would introduce Mbutu to the wonders of pants and forks? The destitute African friend gives White Americans their much needed dose of heroism, which is not the case for the Black American friend. And why is that, you might ask? Black Americans are somewhat destitute in their home country, are they not? The answer to that question is yes, we most certainly are. But it’s a little more difficult for white people to feel sorry for Black Americans because that would require them to acknowledge their participation in keeping Black Americans destitute in the first place. And white people hate feeling guilty, especially when they’re guilty.

“You Are Really Dumb… Forreal.”

Generally speaking, White People are ignorant. And despite all of the free information at our fingertips, many will choose to remain in that state. And it’s probably best they do, simply based on the fact that most of the ideologies, advancements, and innovations that white culture promotes and celebrates were birthed from Black minds, which for many would be too big a blow to their egos.

What we know about white people’s silent inferiority complex is that it’s very important to them to feel in control, in power, and in moral authority, which is hard to do if you’re constantly being called out on your immorality. And while it’s impossible to avoid the very obvious connection between the condition of Black America and its relation to White America, it’s a little easier to glance over Africa’s relation to the West. The truth is that the continent of Africa has been repeatedly pillaged, siphoned and squandered ever since Europeans first decided her resources were profitable. There have been countless documented incidents of war, genocide, group extermination, sterilization, intentional disease outbreaks, famine, child trafficking, molestation and rape at the hands of UN “peacekeepers”, intentional elimination of indigenous spiritual systems and the list goes on, all at the hands of white people. White people aren’t blameless when it comes to the state of Africa and it’s inhabitants, they’re just ignorant.

“He Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly”

White people aren’t afraid of a lot of things they probably should be: each other, wild animals, extreme sports, each other, the sun, illegal drugs, heart disease, cancer, each other, and chronic lower respiratory disease just to name a few. After all, these are a few of the things that pose the greatest statistical threat to white life. You know what’s not on that list, Black folk. That’s right, Black people actually pose an excessively low threat to white lives, (now if only the reverse were true). But you would never guess that with the immense amount of irrational fear white people seem to have when it comes to Black people. A fear they don’t appear to have when it comes to African immigrants. And while many would look at the rate at which American-born Black men are killed by police in comparison to that of African immigrants and attribute that to some instigative behaviors on the part of Black men, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the vastly different representations these two groups possess. Black Americans are portrayed as unpredictable, unhinged, violent, aggressive and irrational. African immigrants, on the other hand, are depicted as docile, overly religious, determined and jovial. The African is harmless. Harmless to the fragile white ego, harmless to white establishments, harmless to the white savior complex, harmless to white sensibilities, just plain ole harmless.

There are a ton of other reasons that could potentially explain why white people prefer Africans. One being that African immigrants, having nationalities that don’t reject them, are less tied to racial classifications than Black Americans and therefore are less likely to see their race as an inhibitor. White people love that. Another reason could be that Africans are more willing to capitulate, quickly denouncing culture, language, tradition and birth name in order to blend into white society and corporate culture. A third reason could possibly be that Africans are often more willing to overlook the racist and bigoted comments and beliefs their white friends hold, not having the same historical attachment to various words and references. Whatever the reason, white friendship has never been and will never be the prize. And we should all beware of any white people who think making exceptions for a few “safe” Black people makes them any less racist or prejudice. It doesn’t. And whatever we call it, tokenism, favoritism, nepotism or a classic case of divide and conquer, the only thing I know for sure is that we should all be skeptical.

*Originally published on Madame Noire.