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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.

The Chaos Of Pitchfork Populism Is A Threat To Our Democracy

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Unquestionably, populism has shaped America. Faux populism on the other hand, as explained by author and political analyst, Bradford R. Kane, is dangerously shifting our political landscape in the era of Donald J. Trump, a president who chooses to divide our country for his own self interests. These are unprecedented times.

Kane is the author of, Pitchfork Populism, Ten Political Forces That Shaped An Election And Continue To Change America. In it he examines our past, present and future political landscape, including the impact and dangers of the current administration’s use of populism, dishonesty, racism, hate-fueled and misleading propaganda that has diminished our progressive culture and standing in the world. Even voting, a sacred and hard-fought for right, isn’t immune from attack and intimidation. And if Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again, isn’t clear enough motive, his actions since taking office should be. This so-called American president is not only dangerous but a clear and present threat to our nation and the common bonds of our ideals, yet to be fully achieved.

We’ve come a long way from the type of American leadership, though flawed, that has steadily inched us closer toward a more just nation rich with diversity. Assessing our political landscape today, one would be hard-pressed accepting that our trajectory has taken us from the depths of slavery to the glory of the presidency of Barrack H. Obama, America’s first Black president. It hasn’t been easy, and we have more hurdles to overcome, especially concerning racial injustice, economic inequality and police brutality. Nonetheless, Kane leaves us with hope for the promised days of a post-Trump era. He foresees a stronger nation reinvigorated to birth a more rational governing culture rooted in the principles of humanity and sanity. He offers us a roadmap to take us from the disenchantment we’re experiencing under this president and his rabid, resentful and resistant to change base, to a more fact-based and inclusive governing structure. We, the people, must be more duty-bound than ever in paving the way from the chaos Trumpism ushered in. And, we must vote in every single election, to make the pavement eternal.

“Anyone can be a barbarian; it requires a terrible effort to remain a civilized man.” – Leonard Sidney Woolf

Kane’s timely, well-written and funny book can be found HERE, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Breonna Taylor: Disrespected, Unprotected, Neglected And Denied Justice

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

My son didn’t understand why I said it was a lonely feeling grasping the tragic reality of Breonna Taylor. I explained that beyond the hurt and betrayal cruelly delivered as a just outcome in seeking accountability from the officers who violated her human rights, was the face of the Black man, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, handing down the bitterly slanted and backstabbing grand jury decision. I’m surprised he didn’t shout out, “white power!” at the end of his sell-out performance for his caretaker, the despicable and treasonous Mitch McConnell.

“They put your mind right in a bag and take it wherever they want.” — Malcolm X

Taylor’s executioners, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, were absolved of any guilt by a man whose family tree—despite his buffoonery and attempts to distance himself from it—flowed down the same bloody river familiar to all Black people before taking root in America. And yet, Cameron saw fit to uphold the racist system that continues to devalue Black lives. I wonder what stares back at him when he stands in front of a mirror… I doubt it’s human, let alone a proud Black man.

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.” — Malcolm X

Cameron, knowing the state of Black America, stood up to defend the police who failed the basic requirements of their job—making sure the person they’re looking for is not already in jail—and justified Taylor’s murder. Compounding his cultural abandonment and shameful betrayal, he pushed the knife in deeper by only charging the since fired police officer, Brett Hankison, whose bullet missed Taylor. Let that sink in.

“The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” — Malcolm X

As a Black woman fully aware of my assigned place and status in American society, this display of buffoonery and disloyalty reached beyond the place of hurt and settled in a deep despair and loneliness. Black women, separate from the collective Black experience, are abandoned on an island of their own. Adding to this despair and loneliness is that some prominent Black men, Shaquille O’Neil and Charles Barkley, joined the anti-Black woman ban wagon with commentary defending the police … It’s unconscionable. What a sunken place we found ourselves in.

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” — Malcolm X

The saying, “Not all skin folk is kin folk” never reigned truer for Cameron who stands on top of that symbolic hill waiving a rebel flag. I’m sure he and Candace Owens have enshrined the confederate flag as their solidarity with the KKK and Proud Boys. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cameron is feverishly working to support efforts to dismiss the charges against Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Caucasian who was driven by his mother from Illinois to Wisconsin to engage in combat with BLM protesters and killing two people. Like Dylan Roof, he was handled with white gloves, even getting a standing ovation from Wisconsin Republican lawmakers … for killing two people protesting for humanity and change.

“We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.” — Malcolm X

The illegal no-knock warrant issued by a judge to go into Taylor’s home without just cause is part of the crime of being Black in America. In this country judges can rubber stamp the paperwork needed to carry out our murders thanks to the Castle doctrine. And because they see our Black bodies as disposable, they simply deal with the consequences of their actions—right or wrong—later. The police and our justice system have an out. A get out of jail free card for violating our basic human rights. This isn’t new. It’s designed to work as it always has. Cameron knows this. He knows the system that uses our Black bodies as battering ramps and yet he stood in place of a hooded Klansman singing Dixie and speaking legalese to protect the men who stole his mind, spirit, culture and dignity. He stood in defense of those who continue to benefit from our brutality and second-class citizenship in a country built under the cracks of whips by his ancestors.

“A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.” — Malcolm X

Breonna Taylor was shot 8 times while she lay sleeping in her bed. She was a 26-year-old EMT, an essential worker during a pandemic. A judge cleared the way for her execution as part of the larger operation targeting stereotyped poor and Black people. This is how our legal system continues to devalue Black lives. And, as if the cultural symbolism doesn’t matter, they usher out a Black man to dig the hole they’ve put us in a little deeper. This country and its system of governance doesn’t care about us. This reckoning has to take root in our psyche. Voting, our 21st century revolution, is the only way out of this hole we’ve been in for 400 hundred years. There are roughly 3 million voters in Kentucky. 48 percent are democrats. Unfortunately, 1.6 million of them are nonvoting democrats, making it possible for the likes of Cameron to take elected office alongside the henchmen of Black terrorizers.

“If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.” — Malcolm X

Malcom X once asked: Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? To most Black folks the answer is clear and historical. But to Cameron, perched with the plantation mindset of a house Negro, undoubtedly will point his finger at his own Black family tree, as he proudly and shamelessly fondles the blond locks of his caretaker’s daughter.

“When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire . . . or preserve his freedom.” — Malcolm X

History is cyclical. Our brutality is too.

Susan Goldfein On Aging Successfully With Candor And Wit

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

James A. Garfield once said, “If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon our heart. The spirit should never grow old.” That’s how the witty and inspiring Susan Goldfein lives her life bicoastally in Florida and Connecticut. After being forced into retirement thanks to the damage caused by Bernie Madoff, Goldfein embarked on a writing career she calls her second wind. Today, she’s an award-winning author of two books offering wisdom flavored with humor through enjoyable essays on life and its circumstances.

Her first book, How Old Am I In Dog Years, was inspired by her two dogs she noticed were aging right alongside her and her husband Larry. Her second book, How To Complain When There’s Nothing To Complain About, is a collection of short essays about life as a retiree and other topics that touch on different issues people in her age group face.

Her books won the 2016 Delray Beach Library’s Authors’ Showcase, a Silver Medalist in the 2016 Independent Publishers (IPPY) Book Awards in the humor category, the prize for humor in the 2017 NYC Big Book Awards, the Gold for Humor in the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award as well as the 2019 International Book Award for Humor.

In addition to writing books, Goldfein runs her own website, susansunfilteredwit, where she publishes monthly articles  on topics ranging from reincarnation, becoming her mother, zoom etiquette during COVID to her thoughts on television shows, entertainment and much more. Her website is full of amusing essays that will make you happy you stopped by for a read. Goldfein’s views on aging and life in general is wisdom we can all use, especially now when the rhythm of our planet is moving to an unfamiliar beat. Her books can be purchased on her website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. There, you will also find links to all her social media platforms.

My conversation with Goldfein:

 

A Discussion On Race And Racism In Schools

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Tracey A. Benson and Sarah E. Fiarman have written a timely and important book tackling race and racism in our schools. The book, Unconscious Bias in Schools, A Developmental Approach to Exploring Race and Racism, dives deep into the real issues many young people and educators face in their learning and teaching journey.

It’s an uncomfortable truth and recognition this nation is facing from a different angle and platform. This time. A platform that buoys her children, woke to the harsh realities of the illusions presented by a seemingly secure and protective bosom: the ideals of America. But America has a lot to atone for and this atonement is not just being demanded by those directly affected by the stark inequalities and racism they’ve marinated in since the birth of our nation, but by those who have unwillingly benefitted from the principles that unapologetically and with the blessings of God–manifest destiny–gave more to one by way of brutality and stealing from the other. Are the chickens coming home to roost? Perhaps. Nevertheless, there are those who choose to fight these blatant inequalities in our schools like Dr. King did. Not with violence, but with intelligence adequately designed and explained with a roadmap starting from recognition to management and eventually change we can all finally believe in.

The discussion with Benson, an experienced educator, highlights the focus and intentions of this valuable book presented as a tool to challenge bias, race and racism in schools.

To learn more about Benson’s anti-racism work or to purchase his book click: here.

“The concept of unconscious racial bias helps decouple intentions from actions … Good intentions aren’t being questioned. It’s impact that comes under the microscope.” – Tracey A. Benson

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month With Pride

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Hispanic Heritage Month is a national celebration of our diverse American culture. From the Arts to the culinary and agriculture industry, including social movements inspired by the African American civil rights struggles, Hispanics have and continue to shape American society.

Here are 10 things you need to know about Hispanic Heritage Month:

  • The annual month-long celebration and recognition of Hispanic culture runs September 15 to October 15.
  • President George H. W. Bush issued a Presidential Proclamation on September 14, 1989 to recognize the month-long celebration of Hispanic culture. It was a weeklong celebration before the change.
  • The significance of the date is to include the recognition of independence days for Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Chile.
  • Celebrations of Hispanic culture typically includes events focused on food, music, costume, dance, film, art and more.
  • Justice Sotomayor is the first Hispanic American appointed to the Supreme Court and the third woman.
  • This year’s theme for the celebration is, “Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future.”
  • As of July 1, 2019, the Hispanic population of the United States was 60.6 million people, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority (18.5% of the total U.S. population).
  • The United States has the 2nd largest population of Hispanic people in the world, second only to Mexico.
  • The U.S. Government carried out many propaganda activities during World War II. One was an effort to appeal to Hispanic Americans and the people of Latin America to foster a united front against the Axis powers. Featured in this endeavor were the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs and the Office of War Information. These offices hired artists with ties to Mexico to illustrate posters.
  • Hispanics are the fastest growing population in U.S. Military, making up 15.8 percent of active Military personnel.

There are numerous ways to take part in celebrating Hispanic or Latino culture. Unfortunately, the on-going pandemic has limited the opportunities for normal festivities to take place but many organizations and communities all across the country are finding ways to highlight this part of our diverse American culture. Here are just a few ideas to consider taking part in: The Smithsonian Institution, The 6th Annual Official Latino Film and Arts Festival, The National Portrait Gallery, and Immigrant Food restaurant is offering a special in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Let’s embrace the future together!

WWII Spanish Poster

The Art Of Keeping Business Flowing During A Pandemic

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The R&B Group may sound like your typical music alley or fun venue to explore but don’t let the name fool you. This exclusive high-level executive business networking group is turning the pursuit of rubbing elbows and making deals into an art form. And, since the start of the COVID pandemic, the group, in its 10th year hosting networking events in the New York region, has found another footing online connecting financial experts, HR officials, media executives, diverse portfolio entrepreneurs and the who’s who of the financial business world with each other. And it’s all thanks to the passionate advocacy undertaken by the group’s Founder and Director, Jay Rovert.

From New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, including DC and crossing to the West coast in parts of California, The R&B Group is making great strides in the business networking world in spite of the global health crisis still at our feet. In fact, the group is able to expand its reach thanks to the move to online platforms like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. Now more than ever, people all over the world are conducting more of their work and business online, including their social activities, learning and even teaching. The R&B Group is a great example of riding the unsuspecting waves of life and staying afloat, especially with the uncertainty of financial markets and conducting business during COVID. The R&B Group may just be a perfect fit for someone looking to connect with like-minded folks open to sharing their professional expertise and building a quality community centered on business development and of course, good music, food, drinks and wholesome fun. So, how does one get a ticket to enter? You must be invited by a standing member. To learn more about the process contact Rovert via LinkedIn, he’s excellent in responding and clear with his communication.

The age of technology is here to stay. Our lives are increasingly moving toward a more comfortable, sustainable and user friendly space we love and hate equally: the World Wide Web, making another aspect—production—of this new online world worthy of mention. Most of us don’t put too much thought into preparing for an online meeting. As long as you look presentable from the waste up and have pretty good lighting, you’re in business. But there’s so much more that goes into these events. Barrett Lester, Head of Video Production and a Creative Teams Leader, facilitated the Zoom interview between myself and Rovert. His passion for video production, his keen eye for background, lighting and his overall attention to detail are commendable. Lester does the work behind the scene many of us tend to take for granted. He loves producing and it shows. His work reminds me of a bumper sticker I read once: Hug a musician, they never get to dance. In that spirit, it’s important to recognize the work being done behind the scenes to create quality content and bring you information that just may change your life. Check him out on LinkedIn too, he’ll improve your online presentation and make you look good doing it. Don’t get left behind during these stressful times. Check out The R&B Group and find out of it’s a good fit for you and your business endeavors.  Tell Jay, Jeanette sent you.

The King Of Wakanda Has Taken His Rightful Place In Nirvana

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Grace. That’s the only noun best suited to describe Chadwick Boseman, King of Wakanda. Boseman left this side of the universe for nirvana, and the world will forever be marked with the glory that only he can wear as a tailor-made robe for a respected King. When rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle died tragically by the hands of another Black man, the Black community was stunned, paralyzed with shock even. Many compared his legacy and impact to that of Jesus Christ. And they took comfort in the shade of an uncomfortable and reluctant understanding that, although he preached peace and humility, he was the Robin Hood of gangsters. He too rose to his rightful throne as a deity for African Americans still saddled with the struggles of simply being Black in America.

Boseman, however, was different. He reminded us of who we truly are as a people: powerful, dignified, worthy of love and goodness and full of grace. He uplifted us without taking a detour on a well-traveled road some Black people know very well in America. Just ask Jay-Z and many like him who sold drugs to their community as a detour to, “Cash, Money, Hoes” as he puts it in melody.

But unlike the Jay-Z’s of Black culture, Boseman avoided the criminal detour and chose to take the long, lonely road to reach his throne as a man for all people, especially Black people in need of a hero. He was the epitome of what it means to be selfless and he didn’t choose to sell drugs to his community to live high on the hog while spitting in his people’s eyes with Jay-Z’s lyrics, “Money cash hoes money cash chicks what, Sex murder and mayhem romance for the street, Only wife of mines is a life of crime...” No. Boseman truly cared about people and the world. That’s why he left it in better standing than he found it. I’m so happy and grateful he came.

Majority of entertainers who make it big love to brag about all the money they have all while negatively impacted those who look up to them. They sell pipe dreams and we buy it like hotcakes. Not Boseman. He is the exemplary of what it means to be a good human being with a platform. One who saw beyond his own needs, desires and power. One that wasn’t distracted or influenced by all the gold thrown at his feet. One that stuck to the true spirit of humanity. One that loved us more than we loved ourselves. One that saw our worth as Black people. He saw us. He valued us. He gave to us. He sacrificed for us through his horrible illness with the dignity and grace only the most enlightened beings can understand. And despite the wide open detours to enrich himself with “cash, money and hoes,” he chose to enrich us with humanity instead. Jay-Z will never understand this grace as he enjoys that fat NFL check he took to throw Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and racism under the bus. But hey, at least he’s married to Beyonce, the self-appointed Black queen who, despite what many want to admit, only sees dollar signs in this new era of Black empowerment. She’s no different than Melania if Jay-Z was Trump.

And speaking of queens that aren’t self-appointed flip-floppers, money hungry and addicted to fame, it’s no surprise Boseman chose an equally graceful partner, Taylor Simone Ledward, to be by his side to the end of this part of his life’s journey. Tears will continue to fall like raindrops for such a tremendous earthly loss, but we must remember that Boseman has taken his transcendent place where there is no suffering, desires or even sense of self. Boseman has taken his seat next to the Buddha. And like the Buddha, he gave us so much to hold on to—grace, humanity, kindness, strength, selflessness, humility—that he will forever be remembered as our Black King. Wakanda Forever.

 

American Voices On Donald J. Trump

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Anti-Trump protesters gathered at the White House in Washington, DC to drown out the president during his Republican National Convention acceptance speech.

A lonely Trump supporter at the White House speaking of his support of the president.

Protesters from Dallas, TX spoke up against Trump in front of the White House. The group traveled to Washington, DC to protest the president’s RNC acceptance speech and to attend the 2020 March on Washington.