Tri-State Defender Opinion Stories


Will driverless vehicles put black people out of work?

By Maya Rockeymoore, Ph.D., The Root

Driving while black in America has always been fraught with peril. During the Jim Crow era, African Americans traveled the highways by night to avoid harassment by law enforcement and packed extra fuel and food because they could not stop at gas stations and restaurants that served only whites. Today, encounters with police that are supposed to be harmless, such as stops for broken taillights or speeding, are cause for intense fear given the number of videos that have surfaced showing African Americans dying at the hands of law enforcement in such situations. Now comes the news that driving while black may soon be a thing of the past. For several years, technology firms and auto companies have been testing driverless-car technology with the intention of placing such vehicles on the road in less than a decade. At first blush, this type of technology may seem like a solution to one of the great civil rights challenges of our time. African Americans might ask: “If I’m not driving, then they can’t stop me, right?” Yet the advent of fully autonomous vehicles brings a different set of concerns for African Americans, particularly those who make their living driving delivery and heavy trucks, buses, taxis and chauffeured cars. Curious about how autonomous vehicles might affect U.S. workers, my organization, the Center for Global Policy Solutions, conducted a recently released study: “Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work.” We found that whites make up the largest number of our nation’s drivers and would be especially vulnerable to job loss in the event of a rapid transition to autonomous-vehicle technology. Nevertheless, with 4.23 percent of black workers employed in driving jobs, compared with 2.85 percent of all workers in these jobs, blacks rely on driving jobs more than any other racial or ethnic group and would lose a greater-than-average share of jobs under conditions of rapid automation. Additionally, African Americans would lose relatively good-paying jobs if driving occupations were rapidly automated, since black drivers receive a “driving premium” from these jobs, earning a median annual wage that is $2,500 more than they earn in nondriving jobs. Blacks living in certain Midwestern and Southern states would also experience increased vulnerabilities. Although states like California, Texas, New York and Florida have the largest number of workers in driving jobs, Mississippi, Wyoming, West Virginia, North Dakota, Iowa, Indiana and Arkansas are among those states that would be disproportionately harmed, primarily because workers in these states are both overrepresented in the driving industry and earn a wage premium from driving jobs. Although men of all races and ethnicities dominate all categories of driving jobs and receive much higher wages (earning 64 percent more than women) across these positions, it’s worth noting that bus-driver positions employ the greatest number of women and that the number of black female bus drivers (70,000) comes “close” to reaching numerical parity with black male bus drivers (86,000), even though they are still paid less—earning an annual median wage of $22,000 versus $32,000 for black men—for doing the same job. Understanding how black women would fare is important given the percentage of black women who are the heads of household and primary breadwinners. So while a rapid shift to autonomous vehicles may have net positive impact on civil liberties for African Americans, the resulting job loss would have a disproportionately negative economic impact on black workers, families and communities. In light of this possibility, it will be important for black voters and organizations to advocate for a stronger social safety net that includes easy access to quality retraining programs, apprenticeships and affordable postsecondary-education opportunities that can align their skills with available jobs or entrepreneurship programs that can actually spur the creation of sustainable businesses. Expanding important social-insurance programs like Medicaid, unemployment insurance and Social Security will also be vital for preventing undue hardship on displaced workers and their families. Indeed, if moderate to liberal estimates of projected job losses are likely (a very plausible assessment, given data from technology corporations themselves), Social Security should be expanded to accommodate a progressive basic income program. A PBI would ensure workers against the risk of automation-triggered job loss and be progressively scaled to correspond to estimates of the worker’s pre-job-loss income in an effort to protect low-income households from economic insecurity. The PBI would augment, not replace, Social Security’s existing benefits framework for retirees, the disabled and the survivors of deceased workers. In sum, African Americans have a significant stake in the automation debate and its likely impact on the future of work in America. Given that experts predict sizable job losses (pdf) from automation in industries beyond driving jobs, it will be important for black communities to understand and prepare for the possibility of coming labor market disruptions.


By TSD Newsroom

The March 9-15 edition of The New Tri-State Defender featured a syndicated commentary by Harry C. Alford entitled “Is the DNC headed south with a bullet?” A reader takes issue with Mr. Alford’s first paragraph, asserting that it was incorrect to state that Bill Clinton named Ron Brown head of the DNC in the early 1990’s. Here is what we found: According to “The Life and Times of Ron Brown,” – A memoir by his daughter, Tracey L. Brown, Brown was elected by a unanimous vote at the DNC meeting at the Washington Hilton on Feb. 10, 1989. After referencing what she called “the worst experience” – a meeting Ron Brown attended in Atlanta of the DNC southern regional chairs and southern governors – she made this reference: “Despite the closeness that would later develop between them, Clinton did not issue his public statement of support for my father until January 1989, quite late in the process, after only a few candidates remained and when Dad already had gained considerable support and momentum.” She also shared this quote from Clinton (who wrote the introduction to her book): “I thought it was a little bit of gamble...but I thought it was one well worth taking...He called and asked me to support him. I told him that I would think about it. And I checked around and asked some other people what they thought. I decided that I thought that, number one, he was the best person...(and) number two, I thought it would be a good thing for the party to have its first African-American chairman, especially since he was the ablest person interested in the job. And thirdly, I thought that he was, more than anything else, a very shrewd politician, so that he would try to broaden the base of the party, not shrink it....And so I endorsed him.”

The TSD Interview, Part I: OTIS L. SANFORD

By Karanja A. Ajanaku

Veteran journalist Otis L. Sanford, who holds the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Journalism at the University of Memphis Department of Journalism, has completed his inaugural book: “From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis Politics.” My relationship with Sanford dates back 40 years. He became a reporter at The Commercial Appeal a few months ahead of me in 1977. Later, his career took him to the Pittsburgh Press and then to the Detroit Free Press before he returned to The CA, where he furthered distinguished himself as deputy managing editing and then managing editor. Still a Sunday Viewpoint page contributor at The CA, many know Sanford for his commentary on WREG-TV. He worked three-plus years on the writing of this book, taking advantage of an opportunity to build on an idea that he started thinking about before he left The CA. Asked by the University of Tennessee Press to submit a proposal, he did, getting the OK to go full speed ahead. “I had it in my head for the last five, six, seven years that I wanted to try to connect the dots between Boss Crump and the election of Dr. Herenton, who I believe are the two most significant political figures in the history of Memphis. There’s a story there about what connects them,” Sanford said. We met in Sanford’s office and soon delved into a discussion of the title – “From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis Politics.” Sanford said he was a bit hesitant about calling Dr. Herenton “King Willie. I didn’t want him to get mad at me. …Well, in the end, he loves it….He embraced it….I didn’t tell him initially what the title was. …I think I told him about a month or two ago. He said he was fine with it.” Karanja A. Ajanaku: Tell me about (the) interview (with Herenton). Otis L. Sanford: The first and the longest interview that I had with Dr. Herenton was in December of 2014. …I didn’t interview him right away. … let me lead up to that. KAA: OK. OLS: I knew I wanted to do it in chronological order. I started with everything that I could do research wise on Boss Crump. I knew that nobody (was alive) who really could tell me the story of Boss Crump from an eyewitness standpoint. …I was at the library all the time. They know me on a first-name basis over there….Wayne Dowdy over at the library helped me…That man was tremendous for me. I was actually writing chapters as I was going along in the book. Sanford interviewed Dr. Herenton at Herenton’s office in the Nonconnah Industrial Park. The conversation lasted two to three hours. Knowing that Herenton had plans to write his own book, Sanford made a point to stress that he wasn’t writing “Dr. Herenton’s story.” “This book is not any one person’s complete story, but I’m hoping that it will be seen as the complete story of Memphis and Memphians,” Sanford said. “And the people they put trust in politically to lead the city forward. The two most important individuals in the book are Boss Crump and Willie Herenton, but there are others who are in the book as well.” KAA: Did anything surprise you that (Dr. Herenton) said? OLS: Well, maybe not surprised, but I was enlightened and he illuminated some things. … There were at least two incidents or two anecdotes that I used in the book…that I didn’t know if they’d ever been published before. One was when he was in the running or up to be superintendent of schools, this was in 1978. ...I thought I collectively remembered that whole situation, and I certainly remember the school board rejecting him and going with William Coats from Gross Pointe. … Dr. Herenton told me about a private meeting that he had with (then school board member Frances Coe, in which she came to his office and sat down and told him the day of the meeting that she was going to have to go with William Coats…. The way Dr. Herenton explained it to me was (that) Dr. Herenton looked her in the eye just like this and let her speak, but she was sort of looking over, because it was not a proud moment for her…. KAA: Yes, yes. I remember that section. OLS: Then he just said, “Well, Ms. Coe, you should do what you have to do.” He got up and escorted her out. She was embarrassed I believe. …Then he left and went home to his mother, and his grandmother was still alive at that time, and he said, “I didn’t get the job.” His grandma said, “Willie, if God meant for you to have that job, you get that job.” I think that was one of the most significant moments in the interview. …. The other moment with Dr. Herenton, Sanford said, had to do with when he was running for mayor and “how he sort of strategically put (former Congressman) Harold Ford on the spot to tell him to come up with this leadership summit to pick our next mayor.” KAA: Is that when Mr. Ford came into the auditorium? OLS: That’s when he came in Clayborn Temple. He told me the details of that meeting. But you know, I got the backup for that part of the interview from the Tri-State Defender. KAA: Is that right? OLS: The Tri-State Defender covered that event …They said exactly what Dr. Herenton told me happened. Harold Ford came in late, sat in the back. He (Dr. Herenton) called him up to the front, challenged him to ... You’re our leader. It was just sort of putting him on the spot, and he (Ford) accepted the challenge. Then, of course, we know what all happened after that. “He (Ford) was dragging around to do the leadership summit while Shep Wilbun, Vernon Ash, who was with the Tri-State Defender as well, I think, at some point; and Teddy Withers (the late state representative, they were doing the People’s Convention. It was just that call out at Clayborn Temple that I didn’t know about until he told me. So those are the two things that tell me that Dr. Herenton really wanted the story to be told. KAA: I gotcha. .. .There’s several things about the book, but just talk about the press for the moment. You got politics and you got race, but you make a point to weave the element of the press … and the role that (the press plays). Will you speak a little to that? OLS: It is one of my dominant themes in the whole book, because I believe that the press, and I’m talking about the printed media in this town, historically has had a huge influence in how this city progresses and regresses. It didn’t just start during the civil rights movement. The press has always had a huge influence on shaping opinion in this town, and, unfortunately, early on a lot of it was for the negative, especially the way African Americans were concerned. I’m going back to the days of Ida B. Wells. I make reference in there to the People’s Grocery incident and how Ida B. Wells was writing editorials and the free speech that really took the white community to task, and it just inflamed the newspaper editors in this town. …They incited the community. People like C.P.J. Mooney, Frank Ahlgren, those folks and the way they handled, especially on their editorial pages, they shape public opinion. Yes, the press and the power of the press is interwoven throughout this whole story. … KAA: I see that. I had in my mind that you could sort of see the press as a person. So like other persons in the book, they’re struggling with the whole concept of race and race relations. You can see that during various papers.… It’s not just The Commercial Appeal… You can see that relative to the Tri-State Defender, too. OLS: That’s true, although the Tri-State Defender... and, again, this is just my impression …The Tri-State Defender has always tried to, especially editorially, respond to how things would impact and affect hopefully in a positive way the black community. They’ve always done that, I believe. When they made editorial decisions, it was based on that principle. I make a point in the book that in 1955 the Tri-State Defender endorsed Henry Loeb. KAA: I saw that. OLS: They didn’t make a big to-do out of it, but he was just one of the people who were running for a city commission seat. They just said, “We endorse him because we think that he will be fair to the Negro.” I think it’s worth pointing out that the Tri-State Defender did that. Now, four years later, when he was running for mayor, they didn’t endorse him. … “They did see Loeb for what he eventually became, which was really no friend to African Americans. Yes, I think the Tri-State Defender sort of struggled a little bit, but I think for the most part they always did things trying to make sure that African Americans in this town at least got their fair share or not to being totally mistreated. Now they were, the Tri-State Defender, they were big supporters of Harold Ford. Big supporters. To them Harold could do no wrong.” NOTE: Part II of the conversation with professor – and now author – Otis L. Sanford picks up next week.

Teaching ‘our’ history 24-7-365

By George M. Johnson, theGrio

It was my first time visiting the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and the nameplate read “Araminta Ross.” I stood in disbelief as if someone was going to pull my Black Card, because while I knew the story and the face, I had no idea that Harriet Tubman’s real name was Araminta Ross. It was then I realized that my U.S. education was questionable at best, as I knew my own ancestors only by nicknames and pseudonyms. The kindergarten through 12th grade education system, like most America systems, is an oppressive structure that serves as the catalyst to the erasure of black history, which ultimately is American history. Unfortunately, black history is often treated and disseminated as a small footnote in America’s comprehensive history, and even then, said black history comes with major gaps between the start of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and now. The use of major event markers in our history tend to focus black history around three very pivotal time periods in the United States for African Americans: slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of Barack Obama. Our story is often characterized as one of “progress,” yet the fact that we were fully civilized in Africa prior to the invasion of Europeans often gets lost. The colonization of black people was and is a part of the conditioning process that causes us to understand our history through a white lens. This whitewashing of our history has been a hotbed for white supremacy, and black Americans have subsequently, and unknowingly, assimilated into it. That assimilation was the reason that I fought to play the lead role as Abraham Lincoln in a Black History Month school play called “This Land is Your Land” in the third grade. As black children, we are taught white history by default and it’s often in the context of the “savior complex.” The white forefathers were depicted as catalysts for change, who stood up against the oppressive powers of Britain, yet our own Constitution once considered blacks three-fifths a person and only gained the right to vote through an amendment to the original supreme law of the land. Slavery itself is even watered down in history books, often taught as if it were simply a mistake or decision that went too far. This rather than the truth, which is that the system of slavery was the foundation of our economy, and a top commodity for which many of our current financial institutions such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, gained their initial capital. President Lincoln is then sold as the American Hero who saved black folk with his “Emancipation Proclamation,” reinforcing the notion that black freedom can only come at the hands of a white man with a good heart. I remember Black History Month in elementary school being as celebratory as Halloween. We were allowed to dress like our favorite ancestors and feel empowered, even if only for a limited time. Much of my history was taught to me by white teachers, using white-centered textbooks, whitesplaining our history in effort to soften the blow of what happened to our people versus what is told. This pipeline of erasure continued throughout middle school and high school. By the time I reached high school, learning history became a choice that almost never included black history. Every construct in education was used to erase the power, presence and significance of black people outside of how they helped white people. The biggest offense, however, has been the conditioning of our history, which is reduced to one month of recognition and not all year round. The unfortunate truth about this conditioning is that it happens subconsciously and can only be broken when noticed. Breaking that conditioning takes years, and for many in the black community, that revelation never happens. The instant disassociation with black history once March 1 rolls around every year is not done purposely, as much as it was by design. While black people wait all year to celebrate this month, much of our country can’t wait for it to end. To be sure, there’s a strong correlation between the suppressing of black history and how it’s celebrated. Allotting only a few short weeks to celebrate our history is very much like a token of appreciation for all the work we have done in this country. The challenge is, as with every structure of oppression, making the necessary changes to how we engage black history will likely not happen without white validation. Otherwise any attempts to change the narrative falls on death ears, because: racism. With black history, however, we have an opportunity to circumvent that system in our own homes and communities. What if, we as a people decided to teach our youth outside the classroom? What if we decided that one month is simply not enough, and created our own celebratory days that happened each month to spread our important and rich history throughout the entire year? With the use of social media as a vehicle, we are now able to celebrate our history whenever we want. Hash tags like #BlackJoyMatters, #BlackLivesMatter, #AllBlackEverything are now used as ways to trend our stories of triumph and tragedy as a record-keeping tool to preserving our culture. That day in the National Museum of African American History and Culture changed my life forever. Although I felt as if my entire blackness was about to be called into question, I knew that it was nothing that I had done wrong. It was the system rather that had done me and my people wrong. Going forward, we as black people have a call to duty. If the education system is unwilling to teach our history, then we must do it ourselves. Black History is American History. And there is no system that could ever change that. (George M. Johnson is a journalist and activist based in the Washington, D.C. area. Follow him on Twitter: @iamgmjohnson.)

Speak out to protect your health

By U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)

For six years, Republicans have repeated the same phrase in every conversation about healthcare: “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now that Republicans control all levers of government, they are preparing legislation to strip 30 million Americans of the everyday security of health insurance. The impact of any repeal would be massive and disastrous. Experts estimate that repealing the ACA will kill 43,000 Americans every year. A disproportionate number of these deaths will be from the African American community. The ACA is the most significant piece of health equity legislation we’ve had in a generation. It reduced the number of African Americans living without health insurance by more than half. We know that increased coverage has decreased the number of Americans dying from cancer. A recent report by the American Cancer Society showed that cancer deaths have declined by 25 percent since peaking in 1991. In their report, the American Cancer Society specifically notes that the ACA is driving “these shifts [that] should help to expedite progress in reducing socioeconomic disparities in cancer, as well as other health conditions.” The report also lauded the ACA for helping to decrease the “excess risk of cancer death” facing African Americans. The ACA has also significantly expanded mental and behavioral treatment access, especially to community hospitals and schools. The Office of Minority Health notes that African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience “serious mental health problems.” Yet, only a quarter of African Americans seek mental healthcare, compared to 40 percent of white Americans. Thanks to the ACA, we are starting to see that gap close and more people are receiving the care they need to live healthy, productive lives. We know that the ACA saving lives, so why are President Trump and Congressional Republicans so determined to repeal it? This question is truly vexing when you consider the fact that, in addition to the tens of thousands of Americans who will die every year, we will also add trillions to the national debt and increase taxes. According to the GOP’s budget resolution, repealing the ACA would add $29.1 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. That’s more than $90,000 for every American citizen. But the fiscal pain doesn’t end there. A GOP Senate bill and recently leaked audio from the Republican retreat confirms that Congressional Republicans are plotting a tax hike. If you, like the majority of Americans, get health insurance through work, Republicans plan to give you a bigger tax bill. Even Republicans are skeptical of this proposal. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.), said: “It sounds like we are going to be raising taxes on the middle class in order to pay for these new credits.” Now that we know the fact, we have a choice. Do we allow President Trump and Congressional Republicans to undo President Obama’s legacy, imperiling and killing thousands of Americans by ripping away their health insurance or fight back. To me, there is only one option. We fight back for ourselves, our families and our community. Here’s how to fight back: Add your Senators’ and Congressperson’s phone numbers to your speed dial or call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Remember, we work for you and Congress needs to hear from you! Together, we can stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and stand up for our fellow Americans’ right to live a long, healthy life. Congresswoman Robin Kelly represents Illinois’s 2nd Congressional district; she chairs the Congressional Black Caucus’s Health Braintrust. Follow her on Twitter at @RepRobinKelly.

It’s time for black people to get politically and economically engaged

By Julianne Malveaux, NNPA Newswire

The unfortunate election of Donald J. Trump to the Presidency of the United States speaks volumes about the limits of African American involvement in the political system. Don’t get me wrong. I was born and will live and die a political junkie, obsessed with the minutiae of politics. Actually, I’m a recovering politician; having run for office, got my butt beat, and flirted with the possibility of doing it again for years. Politics is about making the rules of distribution, of deciding how laws determine who gets what, when, where and why. Politics, importantly, ensures that those, who make the rules are favorably disposed toward justice and fairness. Politics allows resistance, when those elected don’t follow the lead of their constituents. Economics and politics are closely aligned. Economics also determines who gets what, when, where and why. “So-called” free markets determine the flows of economic distribution, but politics often regulates the way that these “so-called” free markets work. I say that these markets are “so-called” free, because we know that politicians distort markets to their liking. During a recession, for example, politicians agree that bankers need a tight rein on them that they can’t simply exploit for the purpose of earning predatory profits. After a recession, some politicians might loosen the rein on bankers and decide to let predatory markets flow free. African Americans have righteously focused on politics and the political system, especially during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, when the fight for the right to vote was a priority. People like Fannie Lou Hamer were beaten within inches of their lives, because they were determined to vote. Medgar Evers was killed because he was organizing voters. We had a focus on laws. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “The law will not make you love me, but it will keep you from lynching me.” And so we focus on the laws and on politics. The Trump election reminds us of the limitations of politics, and the need to focus on the economic aspects of our lives. Political involvement is necessary, but not sufficient for Black progress. Every single economic indicator shows African American people lagging. Not much has changed since 1967, when Dr. King said, “Of the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those of Whites. Of the bad things of life, he has twice those of Whites. Thus, half of all Negroes live in substandard housing. And Negroes have half the income of Whites. When we view the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of Whites and there are twice as many Negroes dying in Vietnam as Whites in proportion to their size in the population.” The numbers have changed some, but the bottom line is that African-Americans are not full equal participants in our economy. How do we fix that? How do African-Americans flex our full economic muscles? How do we reward those corporations that support equality, and punish, through selective buying and boycotts, those who oppose freedom and equal opportunity? How do we stomp with the big dogs like the Koch brothers who buy politicians with the same ease that some of us buy potato chips? Do we even stand a chance? I think that we have to spend as much time and place as much emphasis on economics as on politics. I think we have to be clear that poverty is a profit opportunity for some corporations. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already reversed the Obama executive order that would stop the use of private prisons for federal incarceration. But these private prisons are machines of predatory capitalism, and now that Sessions has approved their use, their stocks are soaring. So we have to ask ourselves if our pension funds, mutual funds, or other financial instruments invest in corporations like Corecivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, $CXW) and the Geo Group ($GEO). Can we push our investors to withdraw investment from these funds? Or will we be willing, in the name of predatory capitalism, to profit from this chicanery? Similarly, from Ava DuVernay’s film “13th,” we are reminded of the others who profit from the prison industrial complex, including those who provide meals (Aramark is one of those companies) and phone calls. How much discomfort do they impose on our incarcerated brothers and sisters to make a profit? Politicians make rules, but money talks when the nonsense walks. We need to spend as much time focusing on economics as on politics. We need to follow the money when we see oppression. And we need to be clear that the clearest path to Black liberation is that path that focuses on economics.

Meet the black women seeking to change the face of the DNC

By Glynda Carr, theGrio

As Democrats regroup and reimagine a stronger and more engaged party, it is imperative they revisit the successes and lessons learned from the past. Black women voters have been the building blocks of winning coalitions for Democrats, a consistent and loyal constituency. Black women have been among the three most active voting groups in America. In 2008 and 2012, 70 percent of eligible black women casted ballots accounting for the highest voter turnout of any racial or gender group, proving that their voting power can and does determine elections. A closer look at the data shows that in 2012 Barack Obama won re-election by 4.9 million votes. Black women cast a total of 11.4 million ballots, providing the margin he needed to win. This past November 8th, hoping to protect the gains made over the last eight years, black women did what we always do, we showed up and casted our ballots for Democracy, a system and infrastructure that often times does not show up for us. Not only did 94 percent of black women vote to keep this country moving forward by casting ballots for Hillary Clinton, we saw important elected-office gains by black women, despite the otherwise dismal defeat of progressives during the general election. At this critical crossroads, some are suggesting moving away from “identity politics” and shifting priorities and resources to winning back white working class voters. This is not an “either or” proposition. As the Democrats decide on their leadership, priorities and strategies, they must recognize the pivotal role that black women play in the fabric of our democracy and progressive politics. According to a new study by pollster Cornell Belcher, the CEO of Brilliant Corner Research, 63 percent of black voters feel taken for granted by the Democratic Party. Democrats cannot move forward with a plan that does not strengthen their very foundation. If the party wants a more reflective democracy then its leadership, policy priorities and engagement investments must mirror that commitment. Currently there are two black women serving in leadership roles at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Donna Brazile, the interim chair and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who serves as Secretary. Donna Brazile has served twice as an appointed interim chair, but neither the DNC nor RNC has ever elected a black woman as Chair. This Saturday members of the DNC will cast their votes for the leaders who will seek to rebuild the Party’s infrastructure and redesign a plan and pathway forward after a bruising loss this past November. There are five black women seeking to change the face of the DNC. Meet the black women seeking to lead the DNC: Jehmu Greene Jehmu Greene is one of two women running for Chair of the DNC. Greene has been a Fox News Political Analyst since 2010. Early in her career she was the Executive Director of the Texas Young Democrats before moving to Washington, DC. Greene is the former Executive Director of Rock the Vote and has worked and served on various committees at the DNC including the Director of Women’s Outreach and Southern Political Director. Greene is also the former Executive Director of The Women’s Media Center, a national organization focused on amplifying women’s voices in the media. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Stephanie Rawlings -lake currently serves the Secretary of the DNC and is running for re-election. Rawlings-Blake is the former Mayor of Baltimore where she served from 2010 to 2016. During her tenure she became the first black woman elected as the President of the Conference of Mayors. She is an attorney who spent her early career as a public defender before running for office. In 1995, Rawlings-Blake became the youngest person ever elected to the Baltimore City Council. During her tenure she served as Vice President and President of the Council until her appointment as Mayor. Lorna Johnson Lorna M. Johnson is running for Treasurer of the DNC. Johnson is a certified nurse, health care services professional, entrepreneur and philanthropist. She is the founding partner of the Advanced Family Care Medical Group serving low-income residents in Los Angeles. Johnson was appointed by President Obama to the Kennedy Center President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts. She has also served as a member of President Obama’s National Health Care Advisory Council. Johnson has been a fundraiser for the DNC and supported candidates running on the federal and state levels. She has served on both the Clinton and Obama National Finance Committees. Karen Carter Peterson Karen Carter Peterson is running for Vice Chair of Civic Engagement and Voter Participation of the DNC. Peterson is a member of the Louisiana State Senate where she represents New Orleans and parts of Jefferson Parish. Currently Senator Peterson is the Chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party, the first woman to ever hold this position. Prior to serving in the State Senate, Peterson was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives where she held various leadership roles including serving as the House Speaker Pro Tempore. LaToia Jones LaToia Jones is running for Vice Chair of the DNC. Jones is an organizer, community and labor leader and activist. She is currently the Assistant Director for the Human Rights and Community Relations Department of the American Federation of Teachers. She has held various positions within the DNC as a member and staffer on the national and state level including serving as vice president of the College Democrats of America. Jones became the first black woman to become the executive director of the College of Democrats of America. She is the co-founder of black and Engaged, a multi-city civic engagement training series for millennial grassroots activists.

A my hair-your hair reflection

By Ashantai Hathaway, theGrio

Jacob Philadelphia’s barber once told him he had the same hair as President Barack Obama. Obama had just been elected America’s first black president. “At that point, the barber probably didn’t think too much of it, but then, I wanted to see if our hair was the same,” Jacob tells in a recent interview. And, remarkably, Jacob would have the chance to get his answer. Carlton Philadelphia, Jacob’s father, was serving as the executive assistant to the Deputy National Security Advisor for the Bush administration. He was set to leave his position roughly six months into the presidency. It’s a tradition that White House staffers departing take a picture with the president, so Carlton brought his then five-year-old son Jacob and other family members along. “I think of myself as a very lucky kid,” says Jacob, who’s now 13. “I asked (President Obama) if I could touch his head. Then he had bent over and actually allowed me to touch his head. I was actually surprised.” It turns out his barber was right. “It felt like my hair,” Jacob says. “It really did seem like what my haircut felt like.” What Jacob and his father didn’t realize is that his farewell to the White House would be documented for the world to see. The White House placed the picture on the White House website, and it went viral and stayed on the White House website during the entire Obama administration. “The president’s photographer took a series of photos when we were in there meeting with him, and this one just so happened to resonate with people,” Carlton says proudly. Pete Souza, the White House photographer at the time, told the New York Times in 2012: That (photo) became an instant favorite of the staff. I think people are struck by the fact that the president of the United States was willing to bend down and let a little boy feel his head. For Jacob, the photo is more than just a picture with the president. “I would usually look at the picture when I’m a little bit sad to just remind myself that life always will go on,” Jacob says. “I will try to do it the right way.” A large portrait of the exchange is hung up at his house in Falls Church, Va. When the viral moment happened, Jacob didn’t fully understand who Obama was. He thought he was just one of his dad’s buddies. “I thought that he didn’t have that much power, he was just some ordinary person,” Jacob laughs. “Now I actually realize that he was the President of the United States, one of the most powerful men in the world.” “I mean it just showed the humility of President Obama,” Carlton said. “You got the innocence of a five-year-old there and here’s the most powerful man in the world bending over (so a boy) could touch his head. Here is power and innocence and humility all wrapped up in this photo.” Jacob is now in seventh grade. He says he’s not really into politics but hasn’t ruled out one day running for president himself. In the meantime, he’s fine with having met the first African-American president. “I was very lucky to actually meet (President Obama),” Jacob said. “I actually became famous for something that I didn’t even know would ever happen.” (Ashantai Hathaway is a reporter at theGrio. Keep up with her on Twitter @AshantaiH)

Opinion: The incredible legend of the black church

By Michael Harriot, The Root

Today, for Black History Month, I’d like to tell you about something that has been long forgotten in the legacy of Africans in America. You may have heard these stories and dismissed them as fabulous folklore or passed-down legends that bloomed into fable over the years, but trust me, this ain’t no Paul Bunyan fairy tale. Everything I’m about to tell you is 100 percent true, with no alternative facts sprinkled in. You might want to sit down for what I’m about to tell you: A long time ago, all across this country, there used to be—OK, I know this is going to be hard to believe, but stay with me for a minute. In black communities everywhere, there were preachers, pastors and clergymen who were honest, trustworthy men of God. They were the heads of the most important institution in the entire black universe: the black church. And both the churches and these men were—now, here’s the part that’s going to blow your mind: They were actually important to the black community! I heard you gasp. Don’t look at me like that. I know it is hard to believe, but I swear it’s true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I even visited a few of them, back when I was a young man. Stop laughing. I’m not even kidding. I knew you wouldn’t believe me, but I understand. You probably roll through black neighborhoods and see churches on every corner and wonder how there can be so many problems in black America when we have these well-attended, amply funded, faith-based institutions sprinkled throughout every place people of color live. I’m sure you’re wondering how we could have trustworthy men and women leading what amounts to community town hall meetings every Sunday, yet fail to produce any real results? I ask myself that question all the time. But you should know, I’m not lying when I tell you they used to be very relevant to our struggle. They weren’t always run by con men and gold diggers. I’m not talking about things my grandmother told me, or regurgitating something I once read in a World Book Encyclopedia. I’ve seen black preachers and clergy go from home to home spending time with the disabled. I remember how they prayed with the sick, consoled grieving families and even—why are you laughing so hard? OK, I know you’ve seen Creflo Dollar’s poker-faced pleas when he explained how he needed a bigger private jet to do the Lord’s work. I thought it was hilarious, too. Well, to be honest, before that video, I had never actually seen Creflo Dollar, so I thought it was an ingenious sketch satirizing the black church. I asked who this new black actor on Saturday Night Live was, until someone informed me that it was real. (Also, most people aren’t aware that during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he, too, asked the Pharisees to upgrade him to a G5. You just can’t expect the son of God to fly commercial. Not with 12 disciples and Mary Magdalene. Do you know how much those tickets would cost?) I bet the reason you’re giving me the side eye right now is that you’ve heard Kim Burrell’s golden-voiced carols about the love of Christ, right before she launched into a hateful, homophobic rant. I understand that it’s hard to fathom the con men we now call clergy as pillars of communities once you’ve seen Donnie McClurkin tell people not to protest but to pray. Eddie Long’s extended history of abuse is reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s centuries-long scandal, so I can see why you’re skeptical. You probably watched fake doctor Pastor Darrell Scott sell his soul to sidle up to the devil’s dingleberry we now call “president,” and it all looks so detestable. I get it, I really do. But there was a day when these men were our shepherds—and not just in the spiritual sense. There once was a time in our history when “reverend” wasn’t just a title. It was an apt adjective. Before they started calling Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons “civil rights speeches.” Back when black churches were organizing centers, polling places, help for the poor and shelters from the storm. Back when we gathered in the sanctuaries to discuss marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Back when our places of worship were such catalysts for change that white supremacists bombed the Baptist one in Birmingham, Ala., to bits. Back when we huddled in them for the first watch night services. Even before they were stops on the Underground Railroad, our churches were always beacons of black freedom. Ask Denmark Vesey where he planned his slave rebellion. Ask Dylann Roof where he knew he could find nine angels. When we were first allowed to read and write, it was these tabernacles that injected literacy into hungry black brains. We learned phonics from the Bible, and our first school desks were pews. After the Civil War, those same congregations established HBCUs to further educate parishioners. I’m sure this all sounds like a tale about a Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster, but we stand on the shoulders of men like Nat Turner, King, Malcolm X and countless others who truly dedicated their lives to God and their people. The black church has been our respite, source of strength and the tie that binds our community since our shackled ankles first set foot on these shores. So what happened? The hell if I know. Maybe it was the slick-mouthed charlatans who dipped their hands in King’s blood, smeared it on themselves and tried to replace him on the throne. It might have been the opportunistic snake oil salesmen who magically teleport themselves to the scene of every black tragedy (but only if there are cameras and spotlights). Maybe it was when they put ATMs in the vestibules. Perhaps it is our fault—black people have a blind spot and weakness for charismatic hustlers, Jesus and sweet potato pie. To be fair, this isn’t a new phenomenon. There have always been opportunistic vampires hiding in the shadows of black communities waiting for their chance to pounce and drain our blood, money, sweat and anything else of value. We’ve been fighting this same problem since Sweet Daddy Grace, but it seems like it has gotten worse. That’s because it has. You shouldn’t stop dreaming. But sometimes you should open your eyes, watch the deacons wearing six-button, pastel Steve Harvey suits passing around offering plates. Think about the power that our places of worship piss away. Think about the millions of black people faithfully tithing their blood and sweat into those collection baskets and imagine the economic power we could have if we recirculated that money back into our communities. Calculate how many kids we could send to college for free if we had 10 percent of the incomes of all the black churchgoers—because someone has it. Imagine the power our communities would have if all the black churches in your town put their money in the same black bank. Think about the political lobbying power those churches throw away on gold-plated candelabras, building funds and perks for the pastor. If I told you that I once saw Bigfoot walking around in the woods, you’d think I was crazy. If I told you I set a million dollars on fire, you’d say it was a shame. But what if I told you that there was a 200-plus-year-old institution that was responsible for some of the greatest progress black people have made in our entire history in America? What if I told you that it was still around? What If I told you that institution had more money than all the HBCUs combined? What if I told you it still had more members than the NAACP, Black Lives Matter and Earth, Wind & Fire? What if I told you that institution had rendered itself irrelevant and had almost no impact on the current state of black America? You’d think I was lying. You’d think it was a fable wrapped inside a myth tucked inside a tall tale. You’d think I was making it all up. Oh, how I wish I was.

Pots & pans: It’s about time it was Oscars-so-black

By John X. Miller, The Undefeated

Sunday’s Academy Awards show from Hollywood is likely to present zingers about President Donald Trump. But if the 45th president is showered with ridicule at the Oscars, Hollywood artists and corporate bigwigs also must confront a truth they might find hard to handle. Since its birth, the nation’s film industry has sold the world pernicious notions and stereotypes about everyone from African-American maids to Asian-American houseboys. And, in our nation of strangers, those notions and stereotypes have made it easier for generations of American politicians, including Trump, to demonize, diminish and denounce people defined as the other, especially people of color. But Hollywood can atone for its past and present sins by recognizing the normality of being something other than an ostensibly straight young white man. Hollywood can cast actors of color even when there isn’t anything about the role that dictates the part be played by someone who is African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American or Native American. Further, Hollywood can embrace the idea that many people’s lives, their aspirations for decency and goodness, are rooted in their faiths, including Islam. Hollywood can embrace that anyone’s story can be an American story and that all well-told stories are universal. Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that agitprop replace artistry and profits as the movie industry’s primary motivations: that Hollywood start making movies where disabled, transgender, undocumented Islamic immigrants of color over 60 start saving the world from invading space aliens. Though such plots wouldn’t be any more preposterous than films that feature white children saving the world or white men over 60, what my son calls kick-ass geezers, saving the day and getting the girl (a woman half the geezer’s age), too. What I do advocate is that Hollywood take advantage of the abundance of talent at its disposal. Mahershala Ali (supporting actor nomination for Moonlight) and Ruth Negga (best actress nomination for Loving) should be future stars. Viola Davis (supporting actress nomination for Fences), Naomie Harris (supporting actress nomination for Moonlight) and Octavia Spencer (supporting actress nomination for Hidden Figures) should be brighter Hollywood stars than they are. By the way, Dev Patel, 26 and leading-man handsome, is the seventh member of a Hollywood minority group (an Indian from England) to garner a 2017 Oscar nod in an acting category: best supporting actor for Lion. Further, today’s young black male film actors shouldn’t have to compete to be the next Denzel Washington: Hollywood’s black leading man of his generation, a baton Washington (best actor nomination for Fences) grasped from Sidney Poitier, who turns 90 today. Rather, actors from Idris Alba to Chadwick Boseman should be able to go as far as their varied talents can take them, just as white actors such as Chris Evans, Chris Pratt and Chris Pine will. And it’s about time that an actress of color becomes the enduring Hollywood leading lady that Lena Horne, Rita Moreno and France Nuyen couldn’t be, the enduring Hollywood leading lady Halle Berry, Joan Chen and Jennifer Lopez almost were. With 2017 best picture nominees Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Fences featuring largely black casts, Hollywood sees new evidence that such films can excite and satisfy diverse audiences. More top quality films featuring people of color should follow. But if Hollywood steps up its pace of integrating the world’s fantasy life through its films, American communities of color need to reward the effort by going to see the good movies activists say we crave. The black community and others did that with Academy Award-nominated Hidden Figures, which grossed more than $100 million. But we didn’t do that for Queen of Katwe, a taut and sweet little movie that featured dynamic and endearing performances by David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o. It grossed a little over $10 million. Sad. Let’s do better.