Vote for and Support Black Democratic politicians
Commentary by Chitown Kev
Today, I am turning over the bulk of today’s message to a lady that I had the pleasure of very briefly meeting at the 2018 Democratic National Committee Summer meeting which was held in Chicago: Donna Brazile, writing for The Grio today, National Voters Registration Day.
While about 13 percent of America’s population is Black, only 3 percent of the 100-member Senate are Black. That goes up to 4 percent if you add in Vice President Kamala Harris, who can vote to break ties.
Not a single governor in office today is Black.
Fortunately, we have strong representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, where 58 of the 435 members—13 percent—are Black. Many serve as chairs of powerful committees like homeland security, education and labor, financial services and science and technology. But that could fall if Republicans pick up seats during the midterm elections, as all but two Black House members are Democrats. [...]
Democrats have nominated extraordinarily qualified Black candidates who take centrist positions. They support protecting voting rights, abortion rights, job creation, reducing poverty, safer communities, combatting climate change, making health care more affordable, expanding educational opportunities and LGBTQ+ rights, among other issues.[...]
The key to election victories for Black candidates is forming broad coalitions and appealing to people of all backgrounds, as Douglas Wilder of Virginia did when he became the first Black person elected governor in U.S. history in 1989 and as Barack Obama did when he was elected as the first Black president in 2008.
Black folk are a key constituency and base of the Democratic Party and have been so since the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
However, it is only since the 1970’s, really, that we have had a bloc of elected politicians who are Black that have represented Black interests and...really, every American’s interests.
Black Democratic politicians are now representing and defending American interests in the face of a ferocious and regressive racist backlash by the Republican Party. We can debate about the reasons for that backlash at the political and cultural levels.
(Although, really, the “political” and the “cultural” level are one and the same; after all, some people have been arguing about Black mermaids and all… but I digress)
There can be no debate about the effects of the Republican backlash: They don’t want Black people to vote or to be safe as we go about our daily lives. They don’t believe that Black people deserve and have a right to safe drinking water. They don’t really want to see Black people in public spaces or within American popular culture living and enjoying ourselves and our creations. They don’t want Black people to know the truth about our history (which really means that they don’t want to know the truth about their history, either).
Honestly, I believe that many Republicans would like to see Black people (and other people of color and the LGBTQ community) dead. Or miserable at the very least.
True enough, voting for duly nominated Black Democratic representatives at every level of government is only the beginning of fighting back against the whitelash that pollutes American politics today.
Voting for Black Democratic representation is necessary. But not sufficient. There’s so much more to do.
But we have to begin somewhere.
NEWS ROUND UP BY DOPPER0189, BLACK KOS MANAGING EDITOR
Sheila Atim marveled that the top four actors listed on the call sheet during filming of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s hot epic The Woman King “are all dark-skinned Black women.”
Counting on the fingers of one hand, Atim recited the names of her fellow stars: “Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, Thuso Mbedu and me!”
Smiling, she said proudly, “That’s something!”
Atim continued: “A movie of this scale with a studio, with this kind of platform. It does also mean something very significant when a big studio takes us on. That says something.
“I’m so proud of everyone in this film, I’m so proud. I was there with them and saw how much everyone gave of themselves and how much we raised each other up to deliver this.”
This weekend, the TriStar release topped the U.S. box office charts with a projected $19 million opening.
”In the making of this film we were all acutely aware of what it means to be a heavily female team, both in front and behind the camera, and to be predominantly Black women, predominantly dark-skinned Black women as well, which is an added layer. And to be telling a story that hasn’t been told before, and on a huge epic scale as well,” the London-based thespian told Deadline during a lunch at The Union Club located in Soho, in London’s West End.
“We were all acutely aware of what that means and how slim the margin for error was. And the stakes for us on a personal level.”
We met in peace, but talk soon turned to that of warriors and war.
After a visit to his home of Benin on the coast of West Africa, actor Dijmon Hounsou reflected on the part it played in the transatlantic slave trade. Twenty five years ago, Hounsou starred in Steven Spielberg box office hit, Amistad, the story of the Spanish slave ship of the same name whose captors managed to take control of the boat. The now 58 year old tells The Washington Post that his participation in the film helped to educate him further on the history of African people, and how the slave trade resulted in the loss of their ancestry of its descendants.
“We are talking about a severe identity issue,” Hounsou said. “If you don’t know where you come from, you sure don’t know who you are.”
In 2019, this realization prompted the former model to launch the Dijmon Hounsou Foundation on December 2nd, the day that the United Nations marks as the International Day of the Abolition of Slavery. One of the chief goals of the foundation is to help those of African ancestry trace back their roots to the continent. The foundation is also heavily focused on putting a stop to modern day slavery and human trafficking.
This past Saturday marked an important milestone for the Dijmon Hounsou foundation as the inaugural Run Richmond 16:19 took place over three continents including Richmond, Virginia, Liverpool, England, and Ouidah, West Africa. The running and concert event aimed to celebrate diversity while connecting the past to the present and future. Running participants chose from either a 6.19 mile, or 16.19 kilometer distance, with each route including interactive historical landmarks along the way.
“In Richmond, we are fortunate to have a number of African American landmarks or landmarks related to African American history and culture,” said Monroe Harris, board president and acting executive director of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. “But the people that are coming together probably would not be doing so if it weren’t for an event such as this. You are educating people who may not be aware of some of the accomplishments of Black people in culture and history — it increases our awareness and understanding of each other, which if we have that, it makes the world a better place.”
What does Rebecca Nakabiito hope for as she prepares to leave Uganda for the first time? “To be treated as a human,” she says softly. “I don’t want them to treat me as a slave.” Like thousands of others she is heading for Saudi Arabia, to work as a maid. A friend who travelled before her was scalded with hot water as punishment for oversleeping. She will go anyway. There are school fees to pay.
Most migrant workers in the Gulf are Asian, but a growing number of east Africans are joining them. Last year 87,000 Ugandans travelled to the Middle East under the government’s “labour externalisation” programme. About that many Kenyans made similar trips. Official routes to the Gulf are distinct from irregular migration, such as the overcrowded boats that smuggle Ethiopians and Eritreans across the Red Sea. But they are not risk-free. Returning workers tell stories of racism, abuse and exploitation.
For African governments, exporting workers is easier than creating jobs for them at home. Remittances sent back to Uganda by workers from abroad generate more foreign exchange than coffee, the main export crop. Labour migration is good business for more than 200 recruitment firms, some of which are owned by army officers and close relatives of the president, Yoweri Museveni.
Employers in the Gulf want African labour because it is cheap. Under bilateral agreements a Ugandan maid in Saudi Arabia gets 900 riyals ($240) a month—much more than she could make at home, but less than the 1,500 riyals which most Filipinos earn. African men are hired as builders or guards. “They regard us as people who are energetic but lazy in mind, so they give us the hardest jobs,” says Moses Kafirita, a Ugandan who worked on a building site in Dubai, where he was paid less than the Indians alongside him.
Vanessa Nakate knows what it’s like to be Black and overlooked. In January 2020, an Associated Press photographer cropped Nakate from a picture of youth climate activists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, leaving her friend Greta Thunberg and three other white young women in the shot.
It triggered widespread outrage, rightly so, but Nakate regards that very personal experience as a symbol of how the voices and experiences of Black – and Brown and Indigenous – communities are routinely erased.
“Africa is on the frontlines of the climate crisis but it’s not on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. Every activist who speaks out is telling a story about themselves and their community, but if they are ignored, the world will not know what’s really happening, what solutions are working. The erasure of our voices is literally the erasure of our histories and what people hold dear to their lives,” said Nakate.
Nakate is a 25-year-old, thoughtful, smart and quietly spoken climate activist from Kampala, the capital of Uganda – one of the countries most at risk from climate disasters caused by global heating.
Two climate disasters have struck Uganda this year so far: at least 29 people died and thousands were displaced in the city of Mbale in eastern Uganda after heavy rainfall caused two rivers to burst their banks, submerging homes, shops and roads, and uprooting water pipes. And in the north-east about half a million people are facing starvation due to drought in Karamoja, where hundreds of people – mostly women and children – have already died.
Advocacy groups that see racial bias as a major cause of the water crisis in Jackson, Miss., are debating new strategies for taking the Republican-controlled state government out of the lead role when it comes to steering federal spending in its capital city.
Those tactics could include filing a federal civil rights complaint accusing the state of shortchanging the Black-majority city of 150,000 people when distributing federal water infrastructure dollars. Another option under consideration, people involved in the discussions said, is getting Congress to steer additional water funding to Jackson without Mississippi’s involvement — a sharp change from the central role states traditionally play in distributing these kinds of dollars.
And then there is what advocates dub the nuclear option: pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to revoke the state’s authority to carry out enforcement of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA would then oversee Mississippi’s more than 1,000 drinking water systems directly, something it now does only in Wyoming and the District of Columbia. That would put the federal government in charge of not just distributing federal dollars, but also inspecting the systems’ infrastructure and ensuring water quality meets federal standards.
All these strategies would face daunting obstacles, and it’s unclear that the Biden administration is even willing to entertain the last one. But civil rights and environmental justice groups say it’s urgent that Washington take a far more direct role in ensuring safe drinking water in Jackson after three years of federal regulators pressing state and local officials to address the city’s ailing utility system.
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