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ePa Sponsors April DEI Virtual Event

As part of the mission of ePluribus: America to help advance diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging in every aspect of American culture, we are proud to announce this partnership to teach the core concepts of diversity. This DEI event is structured to help CEO’s, HR officials, Diversity Officers, thought leaders, policy makers and everyone with a stake in DEI initiatives recognize and overcome the barriers of organizational inclusion and belonging. In many cases, we have to unlearn in order to learn better ways of expressing our collective humanity for the sake of a better world for all. And ultimately, that is the purpose and focus of ePa’s DEI initiative and collaboration. And as a thank you, subscribers will get a $20 discount that reduces the ticket to $39.00. The discount code for ePa subscribers is EPLUR.  

Yours Truly,

Jeanette Lenoir

April DEI Virtual Event!

Join these business professionals virtually as they learn and discuss strategies for shaping the work culture with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021
10:00 am – 12:00 pm EST

Registration and the full itinerary for the event can be found here: www.thestrategiesthatwork.com

“When we open communication up, down, and across our organization, we enhance our ability to recognize and value our differences and similarities. Communicating effectively requires observation and empathetic listening to ensure understanding. As we identify our own listening skills and cognitive biases, we will become better equipped to mindfully acknowledge our barriers and intentionally work to put them aside, cultivating a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace. Lynda and Kashonna collaborate to provide engaging and informative sessions in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with a focus on improving communication. After forty-five minutes of content and engagement with breakout activities, we will entertain questions and share ideas for the remainder of the hour.”

My interview with Larry Wilner, Organizer:

Navigating The Labyrinth Of Grief

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

One day, a woman went to see Buddha. Her infant child had died during the night and she pleaded with Buddha to help her revive her dead child. Buddha sympathized with the devastated woman and told her to go to every home in the village and ask the people living there for black mustard seeds. However, she can only accept the black mustard seeds from homes that have never experienced a loss of a family member or a servant. The distraught mother went to every home in the village to beg for the seeds. Many were willing to give the woman the black mustard seeds, but she could not accept them because each one had lost someone in their home. Exhausted from her search, the woman went back to the Buddha and described how she went door to door looking for the seeds without luck. Buddha then explained that he sent the women to look for the black mustard seeds knowing she would not find them because no one is immune from the conditions of life, and because death is part of life, one is never alone in their grief. And this shared experience eases the path through our sorrow. The woman, still grief-stricken over the loss of her infant child could not comprehend that every home in the village had lost someone they loved, too. Though still mourning the loss of her child, Buddha’s enlightenment helped her find comfort. She went home and buried her child.

You see, like birth, death is a solitary journey that each of us must walk. And how we grieve and cope with death divides people in many ways, including culturally. Some whale in agony and throw themselves on the ground. Others curse God or end their own life due to the inability to cope with the pain of losing someone they love. Different customs and religions tell diverse stories of how Man copes with death, grief and the ceremonies surrounding it. From New Orleans, where death is mourned with celebrations of a life lived, to Africa, India, Asia, South America, the Caribbean’s and West Indies where death comes with strict customs for those grieving the loss of a loved one. The spectrum of grief is vast. And yet, despite knowing it will happen to each of us, death remains taboo in the human mind.

Brooke James is changing that.

When James lost her father to cancer, she found herself drowning in grief. There was no escape from the reminder of her tremendous loss. Even well-meaning condolences wounded like broken glass on delicate skin. She decided to turn her grief into advocacy. Similar to the Buddha’s wisdom shared with the grieving woman, James found solace and community, grieving the loss of her dad. She created a Podcast, widening the avenue people see as taboo: talking about death, planning for life after death and all that comes with the process of grieving. Brooke James became, The Grief Coach.

Op-Ed: Whither Charlotte Scott’s Tribute To Emancipation

Editor’s Note: The views expressed are solely those of the writer, John Parker; Former MPP and Toronto City Councilor.

BY JOHN PARKER

Upon hearing that President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated, a woman who had been freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation proposed that a memorial statue be erected in his memory. She established a fund for the purpose and made the first contribution: five dollars.

The project was picked up by the quaintly named Western Sanitary Commission, a philanthropic agency that had been established in St. Louis during the Civil War. Its original purpose was to provide hospital services for sick and wounded soldiers, but over time it also came to provide shelter for the homeless and dispossessed and schools for their children. It largely served those who had been freed or who otherwise had escaped from slavery.

As the country’s centennial year approached a design was chosen and a statue was commissioned. It features Abraham Lincoln standing with the Emancipation Proclamation in his right hand. In front of Lincoln is the figure of a man in a crouched position, looking up, rising, and breaking free from chains of bondage. The model for the casting was Archer Alexander, a man who had escaped from slavery but who was on the verge of being returned to his previous condition when the Emancipation Proclamation secured his freedom in 1863.

The statue was dedicated at a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington in April 1867. President Ulysses S. Grant and members of the Supreme Court were present on the occasion. Frederick Douglass – himself a former slave – delivered the keynote address.

Douglass had been free since 1838. He is known to history as one of the foremost American abolitionists but in truth he was outspoken and courageous in support of a broad spectrum of social reforms, including the rights of women (in 1848 he wrote “In respect to political rights, we hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man.” In 1866 he was one of the founders of the American Equal Rights Association in support of universal suffrage.) Most of all, he is known mostly for being one of the greatest pubic orators of all time.

Running short on patience with regard to his most cherished priority, Douglass had been one of Lincoln’s fiercest critics early in the Civil War. But he came to be one of Lincoln’s most sincere admirers by the end of the war and thereafter. His remarks at the dedication ceremony in 1867 traced the development of his own sentiments:

To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the States where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation…. 

In the fullness of time, we saw Abraham Lincoln … penning the immortal paper, which, though special in its language, was general in its principles and effect, making slavery forever impossible in the United States. 

Though we waited long, we saw all this and more.

A plaque on the monument gives it the name Freedom’s Memorial in grateful memory of Abraham Lincoln and reads:

This monument was erected by the Western Sanitary Commission of Saint Louis Mo: With funds contributed solely by emancipated citizens of the United States declared free by his proclamation January 1 A.D. 1863. The first contribution of five dollars was made by Charlotte Scott, a freedwoman of Virginia, being her first earnings in freedom and consecrated by her suggestion and request on the day she heard of President Lincoln’s death to build a monument to his memory. 

Eleanor Holmes Norton, currently DC’s nonvoting member of the US House of Representatives, has decided that the statue should come down. She intends to introduce legislation to that effect in the House. According to her, “the designers of the Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park in DC didn’t take into account the views of African Americans. It shows. Blacks too fought to end enslavement. That’s why I’m introducing a bill to move this statue to a museum.”

The proposal to remove the statue has the enthusiastic support of a strong contingent of protesters who gathered at the site earlier this week and vowed to return later and get right to work to topple it.

It is demonstrably true that the designers of the statue didn’t take into account the views of African Americans such as Eleanor Holmes Norton as of June 2020 – or those that animate the group that gathered at the memorial this week –, but it also seems clear that her remarks in June 2020 don’t take into account the views of African Americans at the time that the statue was conceived, executed, and dedicated.

It may be difficult for Eleanor Holmes Norton and the protesters to accept, but it is just possible that Charlotte Scott, Archer Alexander, Frederick Douglass, and the emancipated citizens of the United States who paid for the monument had more insight into the views of African Americans alive in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War than they do. And a review of the record would confirm that, contrary to Homes Norton’s apparent understanding, Douglass made particular reference to the role of African American (he called them “dark and dusty”) soldiers in the Union Army in his remarks. It should come as no surprise that he would have done exactly that, the enlistment of African American soldiers in the Lincoln’s army having been one of the causes that he had vigorously recommended to the President at virtually every opportunity when they met and spoke during the war.

If the point of erecting memorials is to lock into place a record of a person or an event that is deserving of enduring memory, the message that Charlotte Scott hoped to deliver to posterity has been overshadowed in the minds of some by the context of more recent events and concerns.

It is a bad time to be a statue these days. If this one comes down, the event will itself be a symbol of the irony of our current day, in which the sentiment that is causing memorials to defenders of slavery to fall will have also also led – almost a century and a half after its dedication – to the destruction of a memorial to the single most important agent in the ending of that slavery, erected by those who, in his time, understood and appreciated his accomplishment and wanted future generations to know it.

BHM: Holistic Health And Wellness In The Black Community

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

As we close the month of February marking Black history in America, it’s important to reflect on our collective journey since the Diaspora out of Africa. And the stories that highlight our diverse experience as Black folks, like Anansi folktales, continue to shape our culture and humanity. The anthem, “I’m Black and I’m proud” takes on a whole new meaning when put in proper perspective these days. Our ancient life lessons are evident in countless modern stories, including that of Nathanial “Nate” Mines, a holistic health guru, retired firefighter and owner of Dynamic Health & Wellness in Washington, DC.

Nate, as most people affectionately call him, for years has advocated a return to nature and holistic living, especially for Black people. “Natural living is what I advocate for my people,” he said during our interview at his H St. NE location. And his holistic health and wellness business is growing, especially amongst his target audience: Black folks. And it’s a welcome sign Nate says, especially when data continually show African Americans have the greatest need for improvement when it comes to their health. And long-standing social factors—racism, poverty, education, housing, access to healthy foods, environmental exposures, violence, criminal justice—are still the main determinants of these health disparities.

Nate says our salvation lies in nature. And when we can’t access nature, supplements, exercise and healthy eating can make a difference. He says the holistic supplements, oils, herbs and books he carries have personally changed his life and he works to share the blessings of nature and holistic living and healing with others. “Everyone has a calling and this is mine.” Nate and his grandsons are planning to open another store in Atlanta and they’re in the middle of planning a Grand Opening in the coming days for the newest Dynamic Health & Wellness in Waldorf, MD. In addition to his herbs, oils and supplements, Nate leads a weekly Chess Club with fellow instructor, Vaughn Bennett. The two advocate teaching Chess to Black youths as a way to overcome structural racism and to break barriers. Bennett recently started a petition in partnership with Change.org to help end systemic racism in Chess.

To learn more about the petition click HERE.

Here’s my conversation with the wise holistic health guru, Nate Mines:

Brad Kane: A Post Election, Post Trump America

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

My conversation with author and veteran political analyst, Bradford R. Kane on a post election, post Donald J. Trump era.

Who is Brad Kane?

Bradford R. Kane has developed policy, legislation, and initiatives in Congress, California state government, and the nonprofit and private sectors. He was a speech writer and researcher for Congresswoman Maxine Waters, counsel to Congresswoman Cardiss Collins and counsel to the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce & Consumer Protection.

Kane was a member of President Clinton’s Task Force on Health Care Reform. He was Deputy Controller for Legislation, and Deputy Secretary of Information Technology for the state of California. As a member of the Nielsen Media Research Task Force on Television Measurement, he created the Bipartisan Bridge and developed environmental, economic and racial equity initiatives. He was also a member of the United Nations Global Alliance on ICT & Development, CEO of the International Commission on Workforce Development, and Director of Strategic Initiatives and International Development at TechSoup Global.

His book, Pitchfork Populism: Ten Political Forces That Shaped an Election and Continue to Change America, is an examination of the political forces that led to the current form of faux populism in America. The book also evaluates the evolution of demographics and racial dynamics, the media’s role and impact, increased activism, bipartisanship and globalization.

     Click HERE to purchase Brad Kane’s book.

The 117th Congress Reflects Our Changing America

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

“The 117th Congress will be the most diverse group of lawmakers ever to chart the nation’s course when it meets in January after women and nonwhite candidates made gains in the November elections,” states a recent report in The Hill.

This shift in our nation’s armor is a testament to the strong will and perseverance of a people that refuse to live on their knees so rich white men can continue to reap the lion share of our nation’s wealth and supremacy. Black folks, after building the most powerful nation in the world via brutal slave labor, fighting its wars without adequate thanks, inventing products that forever changed how people live, all while subjected to living on the dark side of the moon for what feels like eternity, are changing the face of Congress and other governing institutions across the country. And this fierce determination of grace is not only the pilot light of humanity, but the embodiment of E Pluribus Unum. We’re finally seeing the face of America and it’s a tapestry full of colors, cultures and religion.

Out of many, one nation of diverse people is finally emerging from behind the iron curtain staunchly guarded by a dying breed of shameless dividers and greedy power-hungry hoarders like Mitch McConnell. No doubt, history will reward him and his ilk accordingly, and rightfully so. Just like Confederate statues tumbling down, so will their legacy of white supremacy, greed and total disregard for the path of righteousness that stands right before them. McConnell represents the shame of American greed that refuses to budge, despite the harsh truth and evidence of his impact on his own state of Kentucky, and the entire nation struggling through a deadly pandemic. His impact on America, unique in its search for identity, will never be forgotten and should never be forgiven. As families lineup in food lines across the country, McConnell is fighting to maintain his grip on power rather than cooperate with fellow lawmakers to provide relief for desperate Americans. A crucial piece of legislation to provide Americans with much needed Covid-19 relief, as well as fund our military, H.R.6395 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA) is facing a veto threat from Trump and pushback from McConnell. Why, you ask? Because they object to the level of protection for taxpayers during a pandemic and renaming U.S. military bases honoring Confederate commanders. President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell believe the nation is overreacting to a pandemic and want to protect traitors who killed their own countrymen to preserve slavery. They say the forces that surround power are the real power. And that power belongs to McConnell. Folks, evil has a face, and he’s the epitome of Sheev Palpatine seething with gritted teeth, “everything that has transpired has done so according to my design.”

Although the road to self-determination has been long and bloody, the struggle is finally bearing some edible fruit. And the makeup of the 117th Congress tells us we’re on the right path to creating the world Dr. King spoke of during his speech at the 1963 March on Washington. We’re rising up to live out the true meaning of America’s creed. The fight to break the chains that have bonded Black people since the dawn of European conquest for the riches of Africa are slowly coming off. One revolution after another, bit by bit, struggle by struggle, heartache upon heartache, injustice after injustice, our spirit, protected and guided by the dreams of our ancestors, refuses to buckle, bend or retreat. From the many battles to maintain Africa for African people, slavery and the African Diaspora, the Abolitionist movement, the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage, Industrialization, the Jim Crow era to the Civil Rights movement, Black people have led the way for mankind’s ultimate freedom, even from self. And Black people in pursuit of salvation have galvanized other ethnic groups to do the same by rising up to face a common enemy: greed and imperialism birthed by Europeans and their designated murderer of humanity, Christopher Columbus who paved the way that ushered in slavery.

The whistling winds of change blowing from plantation to freedom in America is slowly being reflected in the hub of our collective power: Congress. Even so, there is no moment for rest, as there is no rest for the weary. The work to deliberately right the wrongs is just beginning. And not just to clean up Trump’s 4-year destruction of political, societal and international norms, but to rebuild an unjust system that oppresses Black and brown people.

And what does that look like? It looks like flipping the Senate by way of voting Democrat in Georgia. Despite a historic win to seat Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. President, staunch efforts are being made to muzzle we, the people who spoke loud and clear with our votes. Bishop Talbert Swan said it perfectly on Twitter, “17 white, Republican, attorney generals are supporting the Texas attorney general’s attempt to reverse the results of the 2020 election by suing PA, MI, GA, and WI because Black people in Philly, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta voted against Trump is white supremacy on steroids.” This is the movement Trump dragged in like the dead rodent brought in the house by the cat. Bob Marley once said, evil never takes a day off and neither should good, making the work ahead crucial as this country heads into an unknown future as leader of the free world in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

The justice being ushered in also looks like, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, General Lloyd Austin selected to head the Department of Defense, Congresswoman Martha L. Fudge as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation. And it looks like the feisty Congresswoman Katie Porter who isn’t afraid to fight her elders in Congress for the sake of her countrymen. There can be no peace without justice. And it’s not a personal pursuit of pillory against white people, rather war against a system structured to oppress Black people in every sector of our society. This unifying movement in America, is a demand to right blatant wrongs and finally end the brutality inflicted upon Black people and other POC by Europeans and their descendants. This isn’t new. Many wars have been fought, from Africa to the shores of America and everywhere in between, to push back their land and wealth grab, and inhumanity.

Our work also looks like honesty about the history of the world, curriculum change that teaches the truth about man’s history, cultural theft and genocide, discoveries and conquests from ancient to modern times, deliberate upward mobility initiatives to finally allow Black people to hold their rightful prosperous place in America, police reform and equality; socially and economically. Similar to whites receiving reparations following the end of slavery, so too must African Americans benefit from an eternity of brutality, lynching’s and injustice in a country of their making. Imagine 500 years of being forced to live on your knees for the benefit of one group that continues to profit from these unjust circumstances. We’re not there yet but I’m grateful we’re on our way to the mountain top Dr. King envisioned for all Americans. The changing face and make-up of Congress isn’t about one group of people losing, but rather all of us winning.

The History Of Thanksgiving And Why It Matters Today

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Every year Americans gleefully celebrate Thanksgiving. Today the holiday has morphed into consumerism, displays of costumed harmony and gratitude shaped by the fables and illusions constructed by those in power demanding we overlook the harsh truth and history of Thanksgiving. Still, no matter how far we stray from the path of truth, and as long as grass grows and water runs, history will remain seated in its scared place on top of the mountain awaiting man’s arrival for deeper knowledge and finally, true freedom rooted in a just and equal world.

Today, young people are still drawing pictures of pilgrims eating harmoniously with Native Americans when that depiction is far from historical fact. The truth, unfortunately, is the brutal genocide of Native Americans. And the official commemoration of Thanksgiving by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 was an idea born from George Washington as a political strategy for pilgrim unification, and in celebration of The Constitution. Historians say the turkeys significance as part of the origin of Thanksgiving, is due to the pilgrims dependence on wild turkeys they found to sustain themselves in their new world. And the national day of celebration was directly tied to their protestant religion of praising God for all the glory, land and newfound opportunities for riches outside the boundaries of Europe.

Equally important to note is how the European settlers defined themselves in an effort to unify and strengthen their hostile takeover of Native American lands. At some point, they no longer wanted to be seen as immigrants. Thus, after forming The Constitution, they evolved from being called pilgrims, colonists, Europeans and finally settling on whites, which essentially removed their specific place of origin across Europe from their identity. This new white institution was to form a political force and also to establish world dominance via the construct of white supremacy. Unfortunately, the “white” label of unity didn’t stop the Civil War from dividing the country, but I digress.

There are numerous historical accounts describing the brutality inflicted upon Native Americans by the pilgrims who came to be known as whites. It’s also important to remember, Black enslaved people were part of this journey of discovery to colonization. And they endured the worst of the pilgrims voyage and eventual settlement of the new world. It’s no secret our American teachings is shaped with many untruths and myths about our journey to this point in time, including the rotund myth of Christopher Columbus. As we advance in our knowledge of the world and its history, it’s becoming more evident that all the lies spun have been to lionize white men and their place in the world. This, despite clear, historical and anthropological accounts to the contrary. From human evolution to advancements in civilization, Africans paved the way.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated as a unique American tradition. It’s a day we celebrate the blessings of family, friendships, abundance and American liberty as we know it. Sadly, many Native Americans recognize this day as one of mourning. And rightfully so when you consider the ugly truths of Thanksgiving, which depicts their ancestors in a tale of brotherhood with their killers. Also, Black folks remain economically and socially oppressed in America despite the riches and bounties their ancestors reaped under forced slave labor that the pilgrims who turned white control and use as a dominating global force and superpower.

The significance of Thanksgiving matters, especially today, because we celebrate despite the reality on the ground for the people who suffered the greatest toll in the establishment of this day of harvest, feasting and celebration of our bounties. It’s a callous truth and yet every year we skip to the festive beat of Thanksgiving, with presidential turkey pardoning’s, parades and family gatherings, all while blindly ignoring history and realism. The world I want to live in celebrates a Thanksgiving where all the people who labored for the harvest equally enjoy and benefit from it. And until that day comes, the gobble, gobble will never be sweet in America.

The Finger Of Providence Pointed To A Trump Loss

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

“Only virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin 

Knowing that nearly 70-million Americans voted to keep a deranged racist at the helm of the most powerful nation in the world couldn’t dampen the spirit that rose like a phoenix from the ashes today. We did it, America! With the fire of the legend of Jim Thorpe, we did it. And this new dawn isn’t just washing away the worst of American greed and corruption, it’s ushering in the dreams and the hopes of enslaved Africans responsible for the wealth of our great nation, leaving behind the domestic terrorism fueled by the sitting duck in chief, Donald Trump.

And if you listen really close, you’ll hear the words in the breeze Dr. King spoke in 1963 during the March on Washington, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…” Well, America, we’re rising despite all the noise from those with a death grip on hate, racism and intolerance.

And let’s not forget the spirit of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first African American to vie for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972. If you can’t see her essence in our first Woman of Color Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, you don’t know American history, the divine power of spirituality, the Black struggle for equality and the true meaning of demanding a seat at the table. Chisholm emboldened us to bring a folding chair to the table if a seat wasn’t offered. How proud she must be looking down at her countrymen who, during her lifetime, denied her basic human rights. We’ve come a long way but the journey to true freedom and equality is still far from our reach.

As Louisiana proudly holds on to the shame of American history with its support of a hateful and corrupt president, I can’t help but remember the 1863 photo of the brutally whipped slave, Whipped Peter, who had escaped to join the Union Army. You see, Louisiana is comfortably numb to the truth of Black lives in America because they’ve been successful in convincing the, “lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man.” So, they maintain their grip on hate disguised with political rhetoric unsuitable to the reality on the ground for their people; Black, white and everyone else not secured in generational wealth catalyzed by slave labor and persistent, inexcusable inequality. It’s an ugly truth but it must be told.

Another story worthy of remembering as we mark America’s first Jamaican Vice President is that of Fred Littlejohn. In the 1920s he moved his family from the South to Queens, New York and called themselves Jamaicans to avoid the mistreatment of Southerners in the North. And it was a biracial student committee in Chicago that founded Congress of Racial Equality, (CORE). The group staged its first sit-in at a coffee shop, leading to the inclusion of serving Blacks. Harris embodies all of America; the lives of the enslaved, native born and immigrant, who sacrificed everything for the homecoming we are witnessing in the election of this historic Democratic ticket.

And this win is also reminiscent of the 1968 Summer Olympics when African American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their gloved fists in a Black power salute. What many of us miss in translation is the white sprinter from Australia, Peter Norman, who joined in the protest by wearing a button on his uniform promoting a Human Rights campaign to stamp out racism. Australians punished him for his act of bravery, only coming to their senses 6 years after his death in 2006, (after a tragic life spurred from the abuse he endured) with a formal apology from the Australian Parliament saying his gesture “was a moment of heroism and humility that advanced international awareness for racial inequality.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are progenies of revolutionaries intent on fully birthing the dream that is America. And Biden’ American legacy beats in rhythm with Harris’, making them a powerful and symbolic metaphor of America’s strength and deep-rooted posture as leader of the free world and beacon of hope for all mankind. The disheartening election results serves as a reminder of the evils of mankind, including the demagoguery, thuggery and authoritarianism that Donald Trump and his family demonstrated. So, let’s heed the lessons learned because it’s time we do the necessary and uncomfortable work to make America, and the world, a place where we all feel good in.

“The sum of us all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves.” – Samuel Adams

The Ancestors And Our Vote

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The day we’ve all been waiting for, November 3rd, has come on gone. How are you feeling? Anxious, I bet. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s a collective state most Americans are in, including the spirits of the ancestors. With votes still being counted, it’s a sad realization despite the rhetoric of having far more in common than not, this election proved we’re not a united nation. We’re learning that more Black men voted for Trump this election cycle; jumping from 13% in 2016 to 18% in 2020. Also Black women, according to the NYT, doubled their support—from 4% to 8%—for a race agitator who referred to African countries as “shithole countries” and has consistently disrespected nearly every woman of color covering him. And, the number of white women who supported this foul-mouthed crotch grabbing president who doesn’t care about caging babies and separating families at our southern border jumped from 42% to 55%. Sadly, even the LGBTQ+ community increased their support for a president who stated multiple times that he doesn’t support gay marriages. The illusion of America is real. Our life predicted on screen is not.

This election outcome is another reminder that it is in our ancestors that we can discover ourselves and demonstrate their teachings of our social functions. And these last 4 years of the Trump administration have been a lesson in humility, hope and hate: a lesson on humility because trump reminded us of the fragility of our sacred human bonds and the tenacity of racism; a lesson of hope because these deeply troubling times under Trump’s so-called leadership suggests that to make America truly great will require a renewed commitment to the ideals of a blossoming nation yet to be fully satisfied and equally felt by all her people; and a lesson in hate because Trump reminded us that this nation remains deeply divided by it.

“I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”Lyndon B. Johnson

It’s unconscionable that our country, specifically the Republican Party, that proudly bombed ISIS in the name of democracy and to end their reign of terror across Iraq and Syria has adopted ISIS like tactics of loaded trucks with violent flag flying intimidation, blatant voter suppression and engaging in race fueled domestic terrorism. This nation is eating itself from the inside as the founding fathers warned could happen. It’s become a gang war; Red vs. Blue. That’s how much we have cheapened our country. We bomb developing country’s to adopt our ways and yet, we fight each other mirroring what we fight to stop in so-called hostile nations. These are ever changing times. And the 2020 election is a stark reminder of the rising tide of American racism fueled and emboldened by an unhinged madman at the helm of the most powerful nation in the world.

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” – Abraham Lincoln

Setting aside the devastating impact of Trump’s mishandling of COVID-19, money, power and race were the main actors in this election cycle. Money because the rich want to get richer at all cost, even by deteriorating a nation they claim to be patriots of. Make no mistake, they won’t stop sending jobs overseas for cheap labor and interference from human rights watchdogs. The elites make it abundantly clear; money over humanity and decency is their way forward in our democracy. And basic fairness has no practical value from their perch. It’s hard to accept billionaires fighting against paying Americans a living wage of $15 an hour but that’s the ugly truth of the matter. And yet, they’ve managed to convince even the poorest whites to adopt their position with lies and brainwashing tactics of government overreach and the unfulfilled promise of a trickle-down economy. If that’s not power, you don’t know what it is. South Carolinians refused to hold Lindsey Graham accountable with his own words. Maine voters are sending Susan Collins back to Washington despite setting women’s rights back several decades with her votes and shamefully supporting this boorish president who paid off the stripper he was cheating with while rubbing elbows with a powerful and bold pedophile. And Kentucky is a prime example of successfully convincing the neediest Americans to cast a vote against their own self interests. And unfortunately, the truth about Mitch McConnell’s track record has fallen on racist deaf ears amongst the poorest and least educated Americans, with Kentuckians voting for the 7th time to stunt their progress, throwing away an opportunity to rise from the depths of their poverty and educational access by reelected the sickly man who has only enriched himself and his family. Imagine the level of deep rooted racism that requires. 

 “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.” – John Lewis

These words echo across our nation from beyond the boundaries where the ancestors roam. They left us the tools we need to improve the walk of life. Their wisdom is meant to guide us in forming a more perfect union. And yet, the fight for the soul of our nation in the era of Donald Trump has derailed us from the tracks of decency and humanity like the ill-fated Germans before WWII. That this election wasn’t a hands-down defeat for a madman likened to Hitler is personally demoralizing. I’m left feeling suspicious and even fearful of some of my white countrymen who make up 70% of voters, and who clearly harbor all that Trump represents; hate and intolerance of others in a country made rich by enslaved Africans; my ancestors.

When the election results are finally settled may this land, formed by the sweat, blood and tears of my enslaved ancestors, perform the Day of Death dance by ancient Africans, singing:

Natir ben be, O yi ye’e; O yi Man gon, O yi ye’e.

Here there are sores, May they go away; Across the river, May they go away.

Today, we find ourselves in an unholy place, not just because the Trump family represents America’s sore, but because they constitute all seven deadly sins, from gluttony, greed, wrath, lust, sloth, envy to pride. And a Biden win is how this ancient purification ceremony will symbolically wash away their stain on the White House and in due time, America.

Homelessness And The U.S. Census

BY JOHN LENOIR

I came to Austin to work the 2020 census and spend time with family here. Through the census I got an up-close look at the nooks and crannies of the city, and nose-to-nose encounters with Austinites living in its jewels of Westlake and between its toes under highway bridges and behind parking lots.

At the direction of the U.S. Census, my team and I were required to meet with residents and ask the formulaic questions about age, race and whether they owned or rented their homes. Knocking on a door in Bee Cave or Westlake generally involved getting through layers of security gates to reach breath-taking homes with pools, expansive views, or private docks on the lake. I got a lot of “Leave-Me-Alone” responses often couched as “I’m really busy,” and “I’ll do it online.” The underlying dynamic was, “You are uninvited on my property,” and “How did you get past security?”

When we completed the door-knocking count, selected teams focused on finding and counting Austinites in the tortured census acronym, TNSOL (Targeted Nonstructured Outdoor Locations) — in other words, the homeless. It was easy to follow the highways to find the tent and tarp communities under the overpass intersections. More challenging was to locate people disbursed in the woods, behind Walmart dumpsters and wherever they could catch a piece of dry land near an intersection where they could “fly” their cardboard signs asking for money.

We were fortunate to have introductions from support crews such as the Travis County constable, whose Precinct 3 team seeks out the most isolated encampments to deliver food and water. Other church-based and nonprofit organizations provide food and clean water to various camps — lifelines to a population that lives in the margins. Many people we encountered seemed to suffer from addictions and illnesses that they said cost them their jobs and put them on the street in the first place. In the one officially sanctioned homeless encampment on a former state Department of Transportation storage yard, I had expected to see rows of identical tents or temporary structures like the UN refugee camps in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Here, the hundred-plus inhabitants of Camp Esperanza make their own shelters through a hodgepodge of tarps, tents and cardboard.

With the homeless there was, of course, the quiet ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ posture when we approached. But this was different. There was not the ‘Get Off My Property’ look of the high-grounders and lakesiders. The homeless were acutely aware that they have no right to be where they were and possess absolutely no property to protect. The ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ looks we got behind the iron security gates said, ‘I am where I want to be, doing what I want to do.’ The ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ under Highway 183 meant, I am in a place no one wants to be, subject to eviction, and I am humiliated. Their security moats were fear and despair. But they also seemed to project a sense of small pride in the resourcefulness to have put together enough shelter to stay alive. And as it was particularly dangerous to be alone in the woods, there were touching stories of taking in others recently on the street.

Once the regular follow-up door knocking cases started winding down, a few field supervisors like myself volunteered to take on managing teams counting the homeless population during the fourth week of September. Very few of the original crews opted to switch and take on the TNSOL. I heard concerns about the added dangers of COVID-19 exposure, unfamiliarity with the homeless population and, frankly, no interest in becoming familiar with the homeless camps. The census began recruiting people to work with the homeless; the team members I ended up working with each had a heart for the task. I was proud of them.

They were committed to getting a full and accurate count of the homeless population, and we were able to get through the Leave-Me-Alone defenses behind the tarps by acknowledging the human dignity of the people we were to “enumerate” and convincing them that they were to be counted just like everybody else in Austin, no matter where they lived.

Lenoir is a retired federal prosecutor living in Austin.