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DACA Dreamers: From Promise To Peril

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

 

The deadline was met. It was Sept. 5. President Trump followed through on another nation shifting promise to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, (DACA) program. In a widely reported 2016 immigration policy speech in Phoenix, AZ—where Trump rolled out his plan to build a wall along our southern border and have Mexico pay for it—the president boastfully stated, “We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants.” This, after blaming Sanctuary Cities, Obama, Clinton and “out of touch politicians” for the many lives lost at the hands of illegal immigrants.

 

 

In this same speech, he declared “Zero tolerance for criminal aliens,” an inflammatory terminology many immigration advocates reject as dehumanizing. Angel Ramirez is a DACA recipient and agrees. He joined about 30 other protesters and local activists to voice opposition to the president’s decision at a rally in Utica, NY, and says “I don’t think there’s any illegal person in the world anyway because we are just limited and bound by policies and political actions that, if you think about it, doesn’t make any sense.” Nevertheless, President Trump asserted, “We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. It is our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish here.” Accordingly, wouldn’t the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients be the ones more likely to thrive and flourish having benefitted from living in America most of their lives? Dreamers, as DACA recipients are often called, grew up in America’s school system, have been enculturated in this country, embrace America as their only home, fight wars and die in her name, and love her equally as those here on legal grounds. In other words, it contradicts the very message of this administration, especially if finding a solution to the country’s immigration problem is still the outcome all sides are aiming for.

After taking office, President Trump told David Muir with ABC News in a February interview that DACA recipients need not worry because, “I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.” He followed his rhetoric with actions; pardoning Joe Arpaio and ending DACA. And, throwing his support behind tougher immigration legislation like Kate’s Law and The Davis-Oliver Bill. Sonia Martinez, President of Mohawk Valley Latino Association says she hopes former President Obama steps in to help those under threat of deportation. “He gave the approval for this program, for the Dreamers to stay in the United States of America. I think it would be very important.” The former president did chime in via social media in a lengthy statement essentially condemning the move as making “no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know.”

Ramirez says the move to end DACA is devastating. “I’m married, I have two kids, we just don’t know what’s in the future, what’s going to happen. He goes on to say, “I was here my whole life. My parents are from Mexico and I didn’t know anything. And, if I go back to Mexico, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” He says the uncertainty is weighing on him because he may have to uproot his family from the only home they’ve known. “I have to start thinking about what other options we have in case this completely ends and there is no other way for us.”

 

 

The first time Ramirez realized he was in the country without legal documents was when he applied for a job after high school and was asked for his social security number. “I’m like, ‘what is that?’ because even when you go to school they don’t ask you for that, they just give you your ID to go to school, they don’t tell you, oh, you’re illegal.” He adds, “Then you find out all these things that you cannot qualify.” Ramirez says since gaining employment he has steadily paid his taxes and even became a homeowner. “I always pay my taxes, I always pay everything that I needed to because my hope is one day that I will become a citizen because this is all I know. This is home for us.”

Even so, the decision to end DACA was the writing on the wall in the president’s speech when he said, “While there are many illegal immigrants in our country who are good people, this doesn’t change the fact that most illegal immigrants are lower-skilled workers with less education who compete directly against vulnerable American workers, and that these illegal workers draw much more out from the system than they will ever pay in.” Perhaps, but as it pertains to DACA recipients, a 2016 survey by the Center for American Progress found that after taking part in the program, 63 percent of recipients moved to better paying jobs, 49-percent gained greater access to employment that matches their education and skill sets and 48 percent gained jobs with better working conditions. If we want to close the gap between who we are and who we want to be as Americans, we must keep working towards the principles that set us apart from all other people on earth, and those against a pathway to citizenship for these young people must also considering the spirit of the laws that bound us as one to form the ideals of E Pluribus Unum.

 

 

In the State of New York, DACA recipients have greatly benefited from the amnesty program. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services nearly 42,000 young people came forward, passed background checks, and live and work legally in the country since implementation of the program. And, according to research conducted by Washington: Center for American Progress Ending, DACA would cost New York nearly $2.6 billion in annual GDP losses if it’s phased out. “Right now, some people are saying go back to your country but what would Native People say about you now that you’re here and settled,” Ramirez asked with a quizzical look on his face of those who oppose the Dreamer’s pathway to citizenship. He says being called “Illegal” or “Alien” by his own president is disturbing. “What does that word even mean? Like, we are outside of this world? A lot of things don’t make sense anymore. We feel like we’re being excluded, we have no value…that’s how we feel right now,” he says.

Ramirez says although his faith in God is strong, it’s going to take real action to keep DACA in place. “We need to let them know that this is not okay.” If he could talk to President Trump directly, Ramirez says he would remind him of his own immigrant roots and family ties and our collective humanity, “We are all immigrants. Nobody is better than anyone else, we are all the same, we are all humans. There is no races, there is only one kind and we are all humans.” Regardless if his words reach the president, Trump has punted the issue to Congress almost superficially reassuring DACA recipients and the thousands who spoke out against his decision in an audio clip provided by The Washington Post that, “We’ll see what happens in Congress. I have a feeling that’s not going to be necessary, I think they’re gonna make a deal. I think Congress really wants to do this.” He goes on to say that he wants to see in the legislation some “good border security” measures and a “great DACA transaction where everybody is happy and now they don’t have to worry about it anymore.” If history is any indication of how Trump’s promises play out, Dreamers and immigration advocates should definitely worry until the proof is in the pudding. And, that proof will come in the form of firm, realistic and enforceable immigration policies that embodies the spirit and culture of America.

 

 

Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh Is Leading The Charm City By Example In A Climate Of Transition

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of Baltimore police officers in April 2015 unquestionably had an impact on the city’s image. Nonetheless, Catherine E. Pugh, the Charm City’s 50th mayor and 3rd consecutive female at the helm, says there’s much more than what meets the eye and enough spirit to debunk any perceptions one may have of Baltimore. “We’re the 9th city in America considered by millennials to be the great city that people should move to. I think Freddie Gray had its impact but certainly not the greatest impact in terms of what Baltimore is today.”

Pugh is proud of her role as the city’s leader, a place she’s very comfortable occupying as a highly successful business owner herself. “It was something I desired but it was certainly not something I thought was in my reach at this particular point in history in my own life because I was Majority Leader of the Senate and doing an important job on behalf of the citizens of Baltimore. So, I was very focused on making sure that I created and passed legislation that would have a tremendous impact on our city and in the state, and hopefully lead in terms of some of the innovative legislation that would pass in the nation.”

During her first State of the City Address, Pugh made her mission to continue improving the quality of life for Baltimore citizens clear by rolling out her plan on five major areas her administration will pay close attention to; Education, Youth Development, Public Safety, Economic and Workforce Development, and Expansion. And, the mayor leads by example. A rare form to see in modern day American politics. However, taking into account her own life’s journey, healthy lifestyle and the work she’s done for her community during her years in public service, it’s not hard to surmise that Mayor Pugh’s heart, along with her vision, expertise and blueprint to bring Baltimore out of the shadows of Freddie Gray and beyond, is a welcome trajectory for a city desperately in need of reconditioning.

 

 

“When I think of my entire vision for Baltimore, it’s not centered around Freddie Gray. It’s centered on a city that’s been neglected for decades in certain parts of the city. It’s also centered around the vision for being more inclusive and diverse in a city that has so many opportunities and has created opportunities for so many, but had neglected others. And, my vision is about housing and homelessness, and how do you reduce violence but at the same time, create public schools that everyone would want to come to, and so we see that happening in our city.” Even so, Pugh says Freddie Gray played an important role in terms of how the city looks at its police department. “I see it as something that occurred in our history that made us pay attention to community policing and how we go about the business of reforming our police and creating relationships between the police and community that would bode well for how we move forward and resolve our criminal activity in our communities.”

Pugh says her work to help reform the criminal justice system—a system marred by vast racial disparities—happened before Freddie Gray. “For me it began back in the Legislature when the Ferguson situation occurred and when you think about New Orleans and the issues that they face and other cities faced around the country…I think it made all of us pay attention to criminal justice reform. Pointing to former President Obama’s work to reform police departments and improve community policing, Pugh says, “Those things occurred before Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray was a wake-up call for our own police department but certainly not the wake-up call for the entire city in terms of all the issues that the city faces.”

Criminal justice reform is “absolutely necessary” she emphasizes, adding that the city is currently under a Department of Justice consent decree following a resolution adopted by the city, aimed at controlling the rapid growth in gun violence and to get guns of the streets. Pugh along with Police Commissioner Kevin Davis are behind the new city ordinance that would impose a one-year minimum sentence for carrying an illegal firearm in Baltimore, essentially treating illegal guns like a public health crisis. “I thought it was important to get that done because of the situation that happened with Freddie Gray.”

Nevertheless, and despite the city’s crime rate—Forbes Magazine ranks Baltimore #7 on The 10 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities list—Attorney General Jeff Sessions objected to the city adopting the consent decree that also seeks to address rampant racial discrimination and constitutional violations among police officers against residents. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar overruled his attempt to block the agreement. Pugh says, “We thought it was important that we move forward with the consent decree and so we’re just about finished with that process. The Federal Judge did sign the consent decree so, we’re well on our way of doing what’s important for the City of Baltimore.”

Pugh says despite Sessions suggestions and agenda for Baltimore and the rest of the country, DOJ has been helpful in facilitating the consent decree process. “In terms of providing us with consultants to review our own police department, providing us with resources…every federal agency is engaged here.” In addition to the assistance the city is receiving, a new ATF site is being designated to help enforce the agreement. “Our federal partners have been very helpful to us.”

Another positive and measurable move for the city deals with its beleaguered school system. The mayor says the city has worked out a deal to repay the $1 billion in bonds the school system needs to improve its crumbling schools and build 23 new ones, (the state, city and school system each pledged $20 million a year over 30 years). “We just opened up another one recently and built the first new school in the public school system in 30 years. So, I know the possibilities, I know of some of the pitfalls but at the same time, I see through all of this as an opportunity to change the trajectory of the city based on its people, its population and its opportunities.” She says government does two things, “it provides services and it creates opportunities.” Pugh goes on to explain that the difference with her administration is inclusion. “What we’ve done is not included everybody in the process in the past.”

 

 

Baltimore’s economy and the $15 minimum wage increase proposal, a focus point for Pugh’s administration, came up for a vote back in March but was vetoed by the mayor. The minimum wage hike was a bill she supported at the state level before taking control as Baltimore’s Mayor. And, naturally, the mayor’s veto was met with some opposition from critics who accused her of breaking her promise to support the bill, to which she says, “I was a big proponent at the state level. We raised the minimum wage in 2014, we raised the minimum wage in 2015, we raised the minimum wage in 2016, we raised the minimum wage in 2017, we’ll raise the minimum wage again in 2018. So, the next time the minimum wage should be taken up is in this General Assembly session.”

She adds the bill was moving along the same lines as previous wage increases, “and, so it really picked up from where we already were and went to 2027. I would hope that anybody who is living today, making less than minimum wage, would make more than $15 an hour in 2027. So, to have a bill that projects to 2027 was to me inappropriate for the citizens of Baltimore, especially when the surrounding jurisdictions weren’t pushing that because it made Baltimore the hole in the donut. And, we got to be competitive with our surrounding jurisdictions.” Pugh says her decision to veto the bill was based on the best interest of all the people of Baltimore, adding that she will follow the state’s lead in a gradual and sustainable increase of wages. Her supporters, according to local media outlets, credit her for making the tough decision, saying that it showed real leadership in a time of transition, growth and future jobs.

Another social strife impacting Baltimore and the nation, and budding an all too familiar climate across the country centers on the take down of Confederate monuments and an uptick in neo-Nazi, KKK and alt-Right led demonstrations. Following the violent unrest in Charlottesville, VA the mayor took immediate action to circumvent any possible violence in her own city by taking down four Confederate monuments. A move the previous administration had taken up but didn’t complete. Pugh says the monuments were taken down under the cover of darkness and in the best interest of the city. “We had four statues that needed to be removed, three of them Confederate statues, and one of the judge who presided over the case that said that African Americans specifically were not full human-beings, and so we thought that his statue should be removed as well, (Chief Justice, Roger Brooke Taney, who oversaw the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision). My plan and meeting with my contractor was that we should move them as quickly and as quietly as possible.”

Pugh says her decision to act quickly and under the cover of darkness was intentional and based on sound information. After meeting with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu about the process he followed to remove his city’s four Confederate monuments back in May, Pugh decided to take a different route. “He told me about all the hate mail and everything that he had received, how contentious it was and what a painful experience it was for his staff, and I decided then that we would not do it that way.” Pugh says her experience working in news rooms and being in the news business for a long time allowed her to act strategically to avoid any media coverage. “I knew that news rooms closed up at 11:30…people would not be around and so it would be very difficult for people to begin reporting as we began moving.” Pugh says the process to take down all the monuments was estimated to take between midnight and 5:00 a.m. “We were finished at 4:57 a.m. and the media caught up with us around 3:30 when we were on our 3rd statue.”

What becomes of the statues is yet to be determined however, Pugh says her administration has appointed a commission to look at the issue and even taking suggestions from citizens. She says the monuments could be placed at Confederate cemeteries and museums across the country. “This is the United States of America and according to the Constitution we are all equal. And, in the Bible we’re all equal in the eyes of God and we should be treated as such. And so, any symbolism of hate I think should be removed but I think at the same time we shouldn’t rewrite history. I think that they should be contextualized in such a way that we remember who they are and why they existed because they are part of our history, but we’re not the Confederacy. We are the United States of America.”

She says her advice to everyone, especially young people is, “We have to learn how to love and respect each other, and that we work together, we learn to be more inclusive and diverse because that’s what this country is becoming; more inclusive and more diverse.”

 

An avid runner and healthy lifestyle advocate, Pugh stresses the importance of taking responsibility of your health and incorporating a healthy diet as part of a well-balanced life; a message she consistently shares with young people. Referencing another Bible scripture, Pugh says, “Moses lived to be 120 years old and it says you couldn’t tell how old he was by his face or his energy and that’s because he lived a purposeful life. If you want to live a purposeful life than you have to take care of yourself. You got to make sure you’re exercising and eating right.” If it wasn’t for public records, one would be hard pressed to guess the mayor’s age as well.

Pugh founded The Baltimore Marathon 17 years ago with 6,600 registered runners, “today its 25,000 plus,” she says. “It’s a very hard marathon to get into but we just encourage people to exercise and eat right. Do what’s best for you because without your health, there’s nothing.”

How does she do it all during a tumultuous time in the country’s history when race relations, police brutality, living wage concerns and numerous other social woes are rolling down a steep hill towards her and picking up speed? She says, “You lead by example, and that’s what we try to do every day.” Pugh says, despite the uphill battle she faces as she leads Baltimore out from the stigma of the Freddie Gray incident, she still pinches herself every day that she gets to do this work. “It’s a lot of work but at the same time; with challenges, we get opportunities.”

It’s clear to see—from the construction projects, new restaurant openings and community investments and enrichment programs—Baltimore is ready for some much-needed opportunities, particularly on the heels of its many surfaced challenges partly exposed by a tragic police brutality incident.

 

AFROPUNK: A Weekend Of Live Music, Good Vibes And Black Culture

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

In its 12th year of bringing a myth busting music festival to people of all walks of life, Afropunk certainly didn’t disappoint this year. The music festival, which started in 2005 with less than 50 attendees according to those close to the festival, lured over 60,000 revelers to come out to Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, NY over the weekend to celebrate a healthy dose of African American musical culture. Organizers say the festival started as an attempt to debunk the myth surrounding African Americans and their involvement in the Punk/Rock scene and music genre. The festival was born following the documentary AFRO-PUNK; “AFROPUNK – ‘The Rock and Roll Nigger Experience’ was the original title for the movie before it was changed to what we know today as: AFROPUNK – The Documentary, a 66 minute documentary explores race identify within the punk scene.” Today, Afropunk has morphed into a money-making cultural phenomenon that celebrates a fantastic mix of musical talents from across the globe and musical genres. The festival has now expanded into an international celebration of black music and black culture, which is on full display during the weekend long event. And, one doesn’t have to be black to celebrate black culture as clearly evident from the participants.

Organizers say Afropunk celebrates being a person of color and music is a major part of black culture, not just in America but all over the world, making it fitting that the festival is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa in December later this year. According to officials, Afropunk is also working to bring the celebration to Brazil as it continues to challenge the perceptions surrounding black culture and black music. Other locations have been; Atlanta, Paris and London.

 

 

The Black And The Blue: A Peek Into America’s Law Enforcement Culture

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

The disproportionate policing of minorities, especially black men in America has been a topic of national debate for some time now. Michelle Alexander captured this evolution poignantly in her book, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Even so, there is another voice chiming into the larger issue in an effort to add a deeper understanding of policing in America. Matthew Horace, Corporate Security Executive and retired Law Enforcement Executive, co-authoring his latest book; The Black And The Blue, says his new book may shed some light into this social justice issue in America’s law enforcement culture.

Horace, a frequent CNN law enforcement contributor, says his first co-authored book, The CALL, started as a project aimed at mentoring young black men but following his frequent guest appearances on national news programs, he realized he needed to reach a bigger audience and decided to write a second book. “I was being called to go on-air, on national news, to talk about the spate of police shootings of black men and others around the country and it seemed that week after week, month after month, there were more incidents… The Black and The Blue started by examining Coptics. I came up with the term Coptics. And, what Copitcs is, is the optics of policing in the digital age.” Horace says he coined the term Coptics because it became very clear that video was changing the course of the narrative, “and was sort of creating a discourse because now people were seeing what some communities had been talking about for so long.”

Alexander alludes to this troubling realization by saying, “…I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control and functions in a matter strikingly similar to Jim Crow.” There’s no debate that African Americans have disproportionately felt the brunt of American policing. This treatment is not new as Horace and Alexander assert. And, the Walter Scott case is more clear evidence of the Jim Crow style of policing subjected to blacks in America. Horace adds, “Had most people not seen that on video, they may never had believed that a police officer would have shot somebody in the back who was running away, you know, five or six times. So, now this puts the whole world into the living room of what actually happens out here.” He says it is incidents like these that galvanized him to take an analytical view on American style policing.  “Taking a look at the different incidences of what actually happens and what the public thinks. But, also, the idea that the 10-second video clip doesn’t create the entire narrative because it doesn’t capture the whole incident.”

Horace says there are several elements to consider when analyzing the Scott case. “There’s the incident; you know, what actually happened, what is the truth. What was the engagement? Were police right or wrong in their use of force? There’s the crisis management and how the police respond to the community after the incident.” Also, he says the media coverage adds to the overall narrative of an incident. “And, whether the coverage accurately reflects the actual incident,” Horace said. He explains that the Scott case was unique because the video came from a private citizen and not a dash cam or body camera most police officers are required to wear now due to these types of police-involved shootings. “The video came in right away and because the Walter Scott case was after some of the other cases like Michael Brown and others, the government, meaning, the Mayor’s Office and the police, had to respond pretty vigorously, and they did. They fired the police officer ASAP awaiting charges. They came out with very strong communications messages that it was abhorrent, despicable and they were going to get to the bottom of it. They met with the community; they voiced their displeasure with the incident with the community. So, in that case, the government in my view did a really good job of managing the crisis from the community perception stand-point.”

Horace says despite the numerous incidents of police involved shootings, citizens must still give law enforcement officials the benefit of doubt before rushing to conclusions based on a short video that doesn’t tell the entire story. “If we can’t believe broadly that police officers are telling the truth, than we can just turn the lights out and go home because broadly we are dependent upon to tell the truth. Not just about incidents, but in court matters and matters of public records.” He adds that the presumption that an officer’s account is the truthful one has a lot to do with culture, more so than the process. “Culturally, other police officers are definitely going to side often times with police officers before they have all the information. So, you have the presumption of truth and then you have the cultural aspect of, ‘we believe the cop first.’”He says sometimes it’s the right move and sometimes it’s not.

Nonetheless, the contradictions lay at America’s ethnic history that encompasses an ugly truth Alexander brings to the forefront in her book when she talks about our racial caste system that’s still on full display in many of these police and even civilian shootings of unarmed black people. She says racism is highly adaptable, adding, “The rules and reasons the political system employs to enforce status relations of any kind, including racial hierarchy, evolve and change as they are challenged.” Giving law enforcement officials the benefit of doubt would be more widely accepted as a cultural norm if our racial history told a different story of how justice is carried out… still. And, although our justice system is structured to be blind, we see case after case, incident after incident that our unyielding past still rears its unsightly head to muddy the American ideology we are striving towards. It is a common assumption that a black American or another minority will experience a heavier hand of justice compared to white Americans, making institutions like the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and Southern Poverty Law Center, (SPLC) extremely necessary in the pursuit of equality for those unable to escape the stigma of brown skin.

Alexander points out that since the abolishment of slavery and Jim Crow, new rules “in the legal framework of American society” have only morphed with language for a new social consensus that produces the same results. It’s no coincidence that the demographics in American jails show minorities—especially black men—being the majority. For Horace’s Coptics to work as intended, America must continue its trajectory towards racial equality. Reva Siegel, a legal scholar at Yale Law School dubbed this phenomenon, “preservation through transformation.” Alexander quotes her saying it is, “the process through which white privilege is maintained, though the rules and rhetoric change.” She adds, “This process, though difficult to recognize at any given moment, is easier to see in retrospect. Since the nations’ founding, African Americans repeatedly have been controlled through institutions such as slavery and Jim Crow, which appear to die, but then are reborn in new form, tailored to the needs and constraints of the time.”

Horace also highlights his book as a discussion on the convergence of black and blue. He says blacks and other minorities in blue uniform are also facing down mostly black protesters that typically follow a police shooting of an unarmed black person. “What we are facing in the world right now is a convergence of technology—everyone is armed with an iPhone—we have the use of video technology and then we have this idea that police actions are now being caught live and in living color by ordinary citizens.” He says law enforcement has not adequately kept up with the pace of technology making them more victims of it than partners to it. Despite this observation Horace says it’s actually a good thing for all involved. “And, here’s the reason why; because the video evidence doesn’t lie. There may be ways to interpret the video evidence, there may be ways to evaluate the video evidence but at the end of the day, there is no better evidence than an accurate account of what exactly happened. So, in that light, in defense of policing, often times the video evidence defense the story or narrative that they’re using. And, not just the story for the public but the story for the police reports, which are used in court rooms. And that can go from a local court all the way to the Supreme Court.”

As it pertains to body cameras, Horace says while it’s a crucial tool meant to protect police and civilians, there was resistance from some in law enforcement that had more to do with the culture of policing. There is a great resistance to change he says, adding, “A lot of departments didn’t want to do it at first but most departments now have body cameras.” He says they have come to embrace it as another avenue of documentation of their actions. “Now, it doesn’t help when officers aren’t doing the job the right way, but when they are doing the job the right way, these video depictions of events actually help them. Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion had never changed throughout the years.”

On the other hand, when Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion become a profiling technique to stalk black men and other minorities, law enforcement officials are inevitably causing more harm than good. A form of profiling called Stop-and-Frisk was a major police tactic that blossomed under former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, a Federal District Court in New York ruled that the tactic violated the constitutional rights of minorities. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin who rejected the Stop-and-Frisk tactic concluded in her decision that, “The City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of singling out ‘the right people’ is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution.” Despite her decision, Scheindlin says the Stop-and-Frisk program is a useful tool for law enforcement as long as it’s not used to discriminate against minorities.

The Black And The Blue, as explained by Horace, stresses the importance of seeing the full picture of a police incident or policing in general before rushing to judgments. “We want people to remember that there are several different sides to every story. For instance a 10-minute video of a 30-minute incident does not give you an accurate depiction of what actually happened. Also, people should remember that policing is no different than any other profession. I lived and worked in it for 24 and a half years. Yes, there are racist law enforcement officers. Yes, there are sexist law enforcement officers. Yes, there are officers that should not be on the job. And, police departments need to do a better job of hiring, promoting, screening and retaining or terminating those bad officers. But, the overwhelming majority of police officers do the job well and do it for noble causes.” And, he says the public needs to understand that when it comes to the use of force there is a graduated level of force to the process called, The Use of Force Continuum. “Whenever you see things escalate to the point where police officers are using deadly force, there should have been a graduated level of force process.” Horace says often times there is a time for that but sometimes things escalate too quickly for this process to work as intended. “In dire situations a suspect pulls a gun, or a knife or a hatchet, things are evolving very quickly, you may not have the opportunity to go from talking to walking to empty hand control, to physical control to use of deadly force. In those situations things happen so quickly you don’t have the opportunity.”

He adds that the book is also aimed at shedding light on the typical questions that come up following an incident. When the public wants to know why an officer didn’t use a taser instead of a gun, or why did an officer strike a person rather than subdue them or wrestle them to the ground, etc… “These are all questions that people that are not in the profession don’t really understand the answers to no matter if they’re watching the video or not, so we’re trying to shed light on that.” Horace says police officials need to understand the public’s perception of policing from the early 1600s up to now. “Policing was used back during Jim Crow and prior to that to enforce segregation laws. So, a lot of people still view law enforcement as enforcing laws that were discriminatory from the very beginning of time, and the only way to overcome that is through good community policing strategies.”

He says it’s crucial to understand that policing is not a black and white issue. “That’s why there’s no title in the book that says, white and black and blue.” He goes on to give an example of the Department of Justice, (DOJ) finding wrongdoing and violations of citizens rights in Ferguson, MO—a predominantly white police force and governing body—and in Baltimore, MD—a predominantly black police force and governing body, following investigations on the heels of two high profile police incidents, (Michael Brown and Freddie Gray) that caused rioting and major protests. “So, we as a culture should not assume that this only happens in situations where whites are in control of politics and blacks aren’t. It’s happened in departments throughout the United States where there’s been equal representation of blacks and whites, so it’s a problem that we need to come to the table and solve together but we have to do it truthfully and honestly and with a real open eye.”

Horace explains that in progressive law enforcement circles there is an honest attempt to get officers to understand how their own implicit biases impact their ability to treat people and the public. “And, that goes for police, fire and everyone.” He says policing is very different than other professions because they have the power to take people’s rights and lives away, and he adds, “Implicit bias plays a very big role in policing, it’s not only direct racism. Part of it is recognizing where your implicit biases lie and then understanding how to manage them so that these behaviors aren’t the norm and may become the exception. Things have to change. We have to get better.” He says biases create an issue for all of us when you paint people and communities with a broad stroke and fashion what he calls, “The Boogie Man Factor.” Fear of black men is not a new phenomenon in American culture and Horace says recognizing that it has been a historic and cultural problem in the U.S. is the first step in enacting wholesale culture change.

The International Chiefs of Police, (IACP), an institution founded to support law enforcement members, also joined nationwide efforts to improve policing and law enforcement culture in America in light of the increasing number of police involved shootings and killings of unarmed black men and other minorities. In an October 2016 statement, the group’s then president, Terry Cunningham said, “There have been times when law enforcement officers, because of the laws enacted by federal, state, and local governments, have been the face of oppression for far too many of our fellow citizens. In the past, the laws adopted by our society have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks, such as ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans. While this is no longer the case, this dark side of our shared history has created a multigenerational—almost inherited—mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies. Many officers who do not share this common heritage often struggle to comprehend the reasons behind this historic mistrust. As a result, they are often unable to bridge this gap and connect with some segments of their communities. While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future. We must move forward together to build a shared understanding. We must forge a path that allows us to move beyond our history and identify common solutions to better protect our communities.”Horace says the statement started an important dialogue within the law enforcement community. “There were a lot of people in the profession that disagreed with him because they felt like he was painting a broad stroke, but he wasn’t. He was just saying, listen, we’d all be fools to sit here and say that law enforcement is not a part of the problem.”

The country is at a crucial point where the expectations of communities all across America are greater than they’ve ever been. This shift has also paved the way for social justice groups like Black Lives Matter, (BLM) to form and vigorously demand change and equality in policing. And, Horace, who believes BLM is an important and vital movement, says if law enforcement refuses to adapt to these changes taking place, “We risk losing confidence and the faith of people that trust us to police.” He says using technology to support the law enforcement narrative will improve relationships with the public. “You have to be a part of what the community values.” Horace says hiring the right people for the job plays a vital role in policing. “We have to continue to bring people in that will help execute the agenda that communities across America, and the government demands and anything less than that is a recipe for failure.” He also asserts that there are internal processes in place to deal with cops who break the law, saying, “They are no different than anyone else who commits crimes, and make it very difficult for the rest of us to maintain credibility.” Horace says in general the public depends on police officers to show up when they dial 9-11 and appreciate the work they do.

Although America is guided by laws, it is not a perfect system. We still have our work cut out for us. Nevertheless, this experiment that is America still reigns supreme when compared to any other society on earth. Nowhere else on earth have so many different people come together to try and form a union based on shared values and a strong belief system. We’ve certainly come a long way but the road to the American ideal is still being paved and we have to keep working together, and hand in hand with law enforcement, to fulfill it.

 

A Glimpse Of The 2017 Solar Eclipse In The East Coast

 

By Jeanette Lenoir

 

The 2017 Solar Eclipse reached its peak at 2:44 p.m. in the eastern part of the United States. If you missed it and can’t make your way to the West coast by 10:20 p.m. when it will be in its peak view, check out this short video to satisfy your curiosity and get a glimpse of it. Also, Time Magazine has a great interactive video showing the times of the Solar Eclipse.

 

 

 

The Charlottesville Monster March Is A Stark Reminder Of America’s Shameful Past And Fragile Future

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Did you think the days of Martin Luther King, Jr., marching for freedom and equality were over? And, when you listen to old civil rights movement stories of Medgar Evers, James Baldwin, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and even still living civil rights era leaders and social activists like Rep. John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Cornell West and Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., were you relatively comfortable in your existence as an American until the Nazis, the KKK and Alt-Right group took their revolting message to Charlottesville, VA? You’re not alone. And, you should be uncomfortable if you’ve taken comfort on the sidelines of history by not participating in the greatest democracy ever known to man. Simply minding your own business, keeping you head down and your mouth shut can no longer be an option. Not when the days of Hitler and Mussolini are once again upon us like a bad reoccurring nightmare, or a street packed with walkers from The Walking Dead. Yes, that’s how bad it feels when racism is in full bloom.

Despite several attempts to put out the racial fires taking place across the country, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, is playing games with American lives and flushing our common values down the toilet. When nearly every major nightly show host like, Jimmy Kimmel, Steven Colbert, John Oliver, Seth Myers and even Jimmy Fallon—who decided to play footsie with Trump during his appearance on his show rather than hold him accountable for his boorish actions and behavior—take a stand against the president’s latest attack on basic human decency…one can’t help but surmise that we are a nation at war with ourselves. We are a nation held hostage by a mad man supported by the most hateful Americans among us. If you don’t believe America is in crisis, you’re not paying attention, you’re not invested in our common ideology that all men are created equal, and your silence equates to support or blatant disregard of the Kraken that’s been released by Trump and the people that support his destructive behavior and administration.

When former Klan leader and white supremacist David Duke, who didn’t miss a chance showing his face at the racist rally in Charlottesville, thanks our president for his support by saying the group’s staunch discriminatory stance represents a turning point in the country, adding, “We’re going to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believe in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump because he says he’s going to take our country back and that’s what he’s gotta do.” …it’s as clear as a cloudless sky, that America is suffering some major social indigestion. So, something has to give, or someone has to go.

 

ITALY – CIRCA 1941: mail stamp printed in Italy showing Hitler and Mussolini, circa 1941

 

A staunch Republican and frequent vocal critic of the president said it best. Ana Navarro didn’t mince her words when she boldly addressed Trump directly on CNN, saying, “Let me talk to Donald Trump and explain to him that as President of the United States, he represents Blacks and Jewish people and Hispanic people and people of every color and every creed. And, it is his job as President of the United States to stand up for each and every American, to stand up vertically against racism and bigotry. Peddling to racism is just as bad as being a racist. So, Donald Trump is either a racists, or he’s peddling to it. And, both are frankly unacceptable and make him unfit to be President of the United States. If you can’t be President, if you cannot stand up and represent Americans, you should not be President.” She also addressed the few Republicans speaking out against Trump’s latest deplorable conduct by asking, “What the hell took you so long? When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.”

And, she’s right. Where are the collective voices of the president’s own party members and leaders? How can they be silent at this crucial moment in our history? How can these so called American patriots remain silent when our president steadily blows his dog whistle, encouraging the spread of the hatefulness we are witnessing in Charlottesville and elsewhere? Trump can’t help but be Trump. He’s an expert at being who he is; a proven and dangerous liar, bigot and sexist individual. This behavior has worked in his favor his entire life and since making his debut on the world’s stage. This is a man who boldly claims that he can commit a heinous crime and still be comfortable on his perch. So, why do we expect him to be anything other than what he’s successfully been? Albert Einstein is credited for the quote: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s a quote we Americans frequently use to describe something or someone we want to lecture, judge or advice. So, why aren’t we as a nation of decent people taking our own advice? Why are we allowing this sore that is Trump to fester?

When South Koreans demanded change after their president, Park Geun-hye—the country’s first democratically elected leader to be forced out of office—was caught embroiled in a cult-like scandal, and accused of abusing her authority, the people took to the streets in massive numbers to demand her ouster. And, it worked. The difference between our two countries lies at the heart of Unity as we know it. We are struggling to remain united, thanks to a single but powerful mad man who refuses to lead our country as a nation of one people beholden to our Constitution and Bill of Rights that has governed and shaped us throughout our relatively young democracy. America is only 241 years old. And, in that time, we have risen from the depths of shame by abolishing Slavery, advancing Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Workers Rights, Voters Rights, and even the LGBTQ movement. We did it together. Hand in hand. We took to the streets and marched on Washington. We crossed the bridge in Selma. We sang songs to stop the lynching of black bodies hanging from poplar trees. We prayed over the bodies of young girls bombed in the most sacred of places; the church. We wept over the sight of Emmett Till. We fought to end segregation. We demanded equality in our schools and elsewhere. We even took our determination to love who we want to love all the way to the Supreme Court in support of Mildred and Richard Love. We hold onto hope for a better tomorrow, singing songs of overcoming…and yet, here we are facing the biggest threat to our precious democracy; President Donald J. Trump, and find ourselves paralyzed.

New York Daily News Columnist and social activist Shaun King didn’t mince his words either when he called upon all Americans united on common goals to take to the streets like the South Koreans did, to oust our destructive and dangerous president. However, it seems that fear of another civil war traps us in our trepidation, like a deer staring blankly into oncoming traffic lights and not moving until it’s too late. If Fox News and the Daily Caller aren’t afraid to post a video basically instructing their followers on how to mow down people that have bravely taken to the streets to fight for our country, we can’t be afraid to meet that message head on. And, even demanding that Laura Ingraham who gave a clear Nazi salute and dog whistle like nod to these bigoted creatures, not be allowed to have her own show on Fox News, as it’s been reported. We have to fight for our beautiful and diverse country. Let’s not get run over. America is our country. America does not belong to Donald Trump, the KKK, the Neo-Nazis, or the Alt-Right Middle Earth-like creatures and haters of humanity. America belongs to all of us that call it home, value who we are and what we stand for and against. The time to stand up for our nobility and virtues is always now. That’s what makes us uniquely Americans. We fight for the rights of all people.

 

NABJ New Orleans: A Significant Moment In America’s Journey In A City Full Of Culture And Black History

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

New Orleans can easily be described as America’s secret gem. Despite the havoc caused by Hurricane Katrina and the negative portrayal of a city plagued by violence, New Orleans stands alone in all its glory, people, culture and revelry.

This year, the National Association of Black Journalists congregated in the historic city, part of the group’s annual convention and career fair. America’s racial turmoil, like the most recent incident in Charlottesville, VA, makes the destination for the gathering a unique one that highlights who we are, what we’re capable of and what we continue to stand for as Americans and NABJ members. The struggle for equality and a more just country isn’t over but neither is our resolve and determination to fight bigotry with education, success and the most powerful armor man has against hate; Love. And, New Orleans has plenty of love, history and black culture for the greater mission to improve our world and American culture as a whole.

The Big Easy, as the iconic and beautiful city is nicknamed, was the perfect complement to highlight NABJ’s work and the people that come out to support it. People like, Roland S. Martin, Charles Barkley, Harris Faulkner, Dr. Jeff Gardere, Nyja Greene with CNN in Atlanta, Tracey Rivers with Fox 26 News in Houston, and many other prominent black figures. And, even the presence of arguably the most unpopular black woman in the White House, Omarosa Manigault, couldn’t overshadow the power of the event in a city full of life, talent, charm and charisma. And, how fitting and telling of the group’s importance, growth and impact that even Facebook joined the convention this year to recruit talent for its own innovative work across the globe.

In our current state of aggressive and divisive nationalism, New Orleans was the perfect backdrop to mark black progress in America. Black folks, specifically those that call the Big Easy home, have come a long way as a people. In the repugnant face of racism and discrimination, to a natural disaster that changed the lives and demographics of the city; New Orleanians are overcoming everything that has plagued their journey with music, food, revelry, an organic entrepreneurial spirit and a potent dose of American culture. Nevertheless, it’s clear to see, especially thanks to an administration fueling anti-American values that the civil rights movement is far from over, making NABJ’s mission and work more important than ever.

Jazz or Jass as it was first spelled, was born in New Orleans, making dancing and singing in the streets to great local bands simply a cultural norm. From Bourbon Street to Frenchman Street, the city cradles its patrons like moths uncontrollably drawn to light, despite all the effects that comes with merrymaking, and an alcohol and drugs infused atmosphere. However, there’s more than the music and revelry to talk about. The local artists on the streets hawking their goods like, Alex Lee Calacuayo, add a certain essence to the bright beautiful colors that is New Orleans and its people. Food venders, like Mr. Joe’s Island Grill—unlike some other cities in America—take a great deal of pride in what they prepare and offer. It’s a constant party that hits you all over, from your dancing feet to your mouth full of the best food on the planet. And, none of it takes away from the cultural significance that is New Orleans.

A significant perspective of NABJ’s presence in the Big Easy is the story of Palmer Park, which according to, New Orleans Historical, was named after a staunch supporter of slavery and segregation; Benjamin Parker. The white’s only park was the scene where during the Jim Crow era, during a 1924 speech, “Shreveport Mayor Lee E. Thomas, challenging Senator Randsell for his seat, drew loud applause when he accused the senator of signing a letter supporting a black man for a federal job; the mayor’s allegation sought to condemn the senator’s egalitarian gesture. Similar racism could be seen in reaction to a 1934 incident. Residents nearby the park and civic organizations complained about an unlicensed shoe shine stand, “Sam’s Shine Parlor,” which appeared in the park. The stand, aimed at people waiting nearby for the bus to Kenner, was originally chained to a tree in the park. The black vendor’s chair was removed. White vendors, like the man who sold hot tamales, were allowed in the park.”

Despite a long and arduous journey plagued with racial prejudice black people in America are still standing, and still working towards their own prosperity as our collective American values instills in each and every one of us. And how fitting that after all these years and racial turmoil’s, NABJ is still working to bring organizations together that recognize the importance and value of diversity in the work place, especially in media. We represent the spirit of Sam’s Shine Parlor.

The country is changing. New Orleans is going through it too, especially following the mass public upheaval brought on by Katrina. Walking the streets of the city you can still hear folks talk about all they’ve lost during the August 2005 storm. The breaking of the levees didn’t just spill massive amounts of water covering the city and destroying lives. Some argue that it also washed away a great deal of its culture and fast-tracking gentrification. Even so, the city full of charm with one of the best American accents you’ll hear is still thriving. And a large reason for it lies at the feet of the local population that make a living in the streets, where a great deal of the city’s booming tourism industry can be seen and deeply felt. New Orleans is not just beautiful; the Big Easy is the epitome of what we recognize as the birth of American culture.

 

The Dynamics Of Tea In The Formation Of American Culture

By JEANETTE LENOIR

 

A 5,000 year old leaf drink is making an impact on a culture addicted to its rival; coffee. American culture, like life itself, is in a constant state of change, and tea has taken an important role in facilitating this culture shift that’s embracing tea. Facilitating this change is Miriam Novalle, an entrepreneur with a nose for fragrances and a genius mixologist fluent in all the notes of tea. “Tea as liquid communication,” is how Novalle describes this unique language she speaks. “I’m a painter, a perfumer that put both of them together in a cup of tea,” she said.

Twenty-five years ago, Novalle, with help from a couple of friends, including Peter M. Brant, opened her first tea salon, (T Salon) in the basement of the Guggenheim Museum in SoHo following her success from developing a fragrance called Listen with trumpet player and record company executive, Herb Alpert. “Peter Brant and dear friends helped open the first T Salon below the Guggenheim Established in 1992. Brant was the landlord with an idea, but it was really my funds and two other dear friends that helped build it,” she says.

Sitting with her grandchildren on their special summer days together at one of their favorite tea stops in New York City; The Hyatt, one of her major tea accounts. Novalle, a new age and hands-on American grandmother who has a mission to influence and shape the next generation of tea drinkers, starting with her own two grandchildren, explains her move as an idea that developed following afternoon tea in Liverpool, England. “Everything was fabulous except the tea was washboard. I said, I don’t get it, I thought the English were supposed to have a great cup of tea.” That disappointing cup of afternoon tea in a country known for drinking the ancient brew is what led Novalle to her new venture utilizing her God-given blending forte to create the perfect cup of tea in her own country. Following her success from her partnership with Alpert, Novalle relocated with her young daughter to Florence, Italy. She says her travels across the globe is what opened her to the tea drinking culture. “We realized the whole world was drinking tea except for Americans in the 90s.”

Despite not being the main morning beverage of choice for many American consumers in the country’s relatively short democracy, tea played a major role in the formation of an independent America. Nonetheless, tea was a hot commodity regularly imported to American colonies in the 18th century. However, heavy taxation from Britain led to the December 16, 1773 destruction of tea in America by way of The Boston Tea Party, a significant event in American history that ended our love affair with the leafy drink.

“So, I did a little research, did my due diligence and I was going to open this little tea shop with teas from all over the world.” She says it was that idea that led to the suggestion from Brant to open a tea room in the basement of the Guggenheim that was being built in SoHo at the time.  “So, I built a 5,000 square foot, 257 seat tea room. All of a sudden, out of nowhere in the City of New York—they had never seen such a thing…who comes and opens a 5,000 square foot tea room?!—180 teas that I started putting my nose into and started blending…black teas, green teas, white teas.” Novalle says she kept building her tea empire with a variety of flavors like beet root, ginger, oranges and raspberry leaves until her sister’s health scare inspired her to develop a tea wellness program. “Nine years ago she got ovarian cancer that’s when I realized it can’t just be tea anymore; it had to be a wellness program. It had to be tea that makes a difference in your life.

 

 

 

She says her tea blends and creations couldn’t just be for having afternoon tea anymore. “And, so I went to India and sat with an Ayurvedic Doctor and told him what was going on with my sister. I told him everything she had and I told him what the world was dealing with. And, not only cancer but women that were always fearing their weight, people that can’t sleep, people that are always going through these cleanses and not really taking care of themselves and so we sat and worked on my wellness tea line. I worked on it for two years.” She says. Novalle goes on to explain that she uses tea for people that need to find themselves in a quiet moment just like the story of the birth of tea itself, which according to her and historical accounts, started with a Buddhist monk who accidentally discovered the mighty leaf.

Novalle’s new creation called High Tea was born out of her sister having ovarian cancer. “Here’s a woman that goes to chemo at the end of every month, here’s a woman that comes back and her immune system is shot, she’s completely almost left lifeless after going through this,” she says as she explains when she learned about the CBD—an oil combination of the Hemp and Cannabis plant—her sister was taking to help her through her illness. She says, “CBD Hemp is legal if there is 3 percent less THC in the product.” Novelle says she soon traveled to Colorado and found organic growers of Hemp CBD that’s grown just for the health benefits. “I took it back home to New York and I started blending,” she says as she talks about the booming business of this new High Tea craze. “Now, everybody and their brother is coming at me,” she quipped, adding, “Every well-known chef, every grower in Colorado and Oregon calls me every day on the phone, I mean, it’s like insane… I didn’t realize what industry I was getting into. How big it was, (11-billion dollar industry) how helpful it can be for people with Leukemia. … People with Parkinson whose hands are shaking that drink this CBD and you can see, all of a sudden, their hands calming down.” Novalle goes onto share a story of her client in Minnesota that uses her CBD products for her dispensary that’s seeing a major boost in sales, especially among cancer patients that find the product helpful in their healing journey. “And today, she’s on the road repping my products because she believes it helped her with her cancer,” she says.

Research by the World Health Organization shows tea beating coffee when it comes to measurable benefits; however the temperature of the popular morning and afternoon beverage is what makes a difference in how the human body processes it. “On the basis of available data, the working group concluded that coffee is possibly carcinogenic to the human urinary bladder. Evidence further suggests that coffee may actually protect humans against cancer of the colon and rectum. The risk for breast cancer was shown, with remarkable consistency, to have no association with coffee drinking. The second monograph evaluates the carcinogenicity of black and green teas. Although available data were judged inadequate to classify tea according to its carcinogenic risk, the analysis uncovered evidence suggesting that the temperature at which tea is drunk may be a more important determinant of risk than the chemical composition of the beverage.”

Despite the health benefits and ever expanding flavor combination of tea, Novalle says tea is not a substitution for coffee. “We’re never going to substitute. That’s like substituting the love of your life. I don’t think you ever want to substitute the love of your life. You just want to enjoy it, open your mind to it, and realize it’s a healthier lifestyle. If you would like an open healthier lifestyle, a bodhisattva lifestyle and have God in your heart, and being open, it’s going to happen with anything, but a cup of tea helps.”

America may be a Johnny-come-lately to the world’s tea table, but thanks to innovators like Miriam Novalle, the country is quickly catching up and even paving new roads to access all the benefits of this ancient and holistic brew.

Defining American Culture And Identity

By JEANETTE LENOIR

 

America is one of the most diverse countries in the world, making defining American culture a difficult task to undertake. Considering the many traditions Americans from all walks of life adhere to, pass down, recognize and celebrate, one would be hard pressed to capture all that she encompasses and constitutes. Nevertheless, the University of Michigan took on the challenge and came up with 101 characteristics that define American culture.

The “Melting Pot” has been a fitting description for as long as the question of her identity has been pondered, but thanks to the break down, specifics have been added to our cultural description. Since her independence 241 years ago, America has steadily evolved into a more perfect union representative of the many facets of the world.  People from all walks of life can adequately represent what it means to be an American.

As the world turns, including our own democracy, we decided to post this question to various Americans in New York City and other parts of the state: How do you describe American culture? As you’ll see, the question wasn’t easily answered…

 

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Searching For America On Independence Day

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

If you’ve seen the movie Idiocracy, chances are you’ve been experiencing life these past couple of years with a slack jaw, owing to the conduct across the country and especially from the white house and its new inhabitants. From Spicer to Conway, Manigault, Bannon and President Trump, the performances we’ve all witnessed equates to something concocted in a Hollywood studio. Disheartening poll numbers consistently drive home the realization that on her 241st birthday, America is in desperate need of some soul searching and healing.

America is going through a serious identity crisis, and questions addressing and reevaluating our core values and beliefs are certainly warranted now that the shift in civility and governing has taken a specific tone. What kind of people are Americans? Does Trump represent Americans adequately? Have we morphed into an anti-immigrants, anti-refugees and anti-Muslim nation now that Trump is president? Is the “Fake News” label a sign of things to come? Is it open season on journalists, and factual information? Even racism, a long standing social problem in the U.S. that has improved with time, has seen an uptick in discriminatory activities, leaving many wondering if we’re approaching an era of blatant bigotry and intolerance aimed at each other; American against American.

Unfortunately, America is still in the eye of the storm Democrats and Republicans have churned up and thus far, even on the eve of its independence from Britain, can’t seem to calm for the sake of her people. Putting a hideous stamp on this dysfunction that has built up like pond scum is Governor Chris Christie’s recent stunt concerning New Jersey beaches and parks. As if Bridgegate and his boorish behavior wasn’t enough, thanks to a budget standoff, Christie got to flaunt his special kind of audacity for the world to see by brazenly and shamefully going to one of the beaches he closed off for millions of other Americans on this special 4th of July weekend. Christie got to flippantly enjoy the beach while others suffered the consequences associated with the closings, and that’s exactly what his character in this real life unfolding of Idiocrazy does.

A recent NPR, PBS News Hour/Marist poll revealed how far down the spiral we’ve fallen when it comes to trust for politicians, the news media, our justice system and even our intelligence agencies. Some of the questions posed to likely voters concerned the rights Americans deeply value, and those numbers confirm the state of our relatively young country and democracy. The recently released poll by these reputable and respected organizations will undoubtedly be labeled as “Fake News” thanks to a president marching to a beat majority of the country can’t hear or follow. And yet somehow, his staunch supporters, or enablers as some pundits have described them, are behaving like certain guests on the Maury Povich show that swear up and down, “He’s the father!” right before Maury opens his envelope to reveal what’s really going on in the case of Trump and his backers. Regardless, they’re sticking with their man despite the static and skipping CD noise the president’s special beat is blaring in their ears.

When it comes to the president’s job approval ratings, only 37 percent of the population say he’s doing a good job while 51-percent disapprove of his performance. And, 41 percent say they don’t trust the Trump white house. Also, the year when the U.S. gained her independence, only 69 percent of the people answered this question correctly. And, as it pertains to our Intelligence Community, a mere 23 percent say they fully trust agencies like the CIA and FBI. Trump has done his own bashing of our Intelligence Community that has served as a rallying cry for his followers. Trust for America’s courts didn’t fare better during the poll conducted from June 21 to July 25, 2017. Since March, trust in our courts went from 23 to 22 percent. Rightfully, Congress is seeing terrible approval numbers too, with only 6 percent of support tallied. And, only 17 percent of Americans say they wholeheartedly trust that our elections are fairly carried out. Sentiments of an unfair election that put Trump in the white house can still be heard like wind chimes on windy days. The media, like Congress, didn’t do well in the polls either, showing only 8-percent say they trust the media, while 37-percent say they have zero trust in the media.

Many would argue that the negative rhetoric coming out of the white house against the media didn’t help their numbers, as the poll shows a clear mistrust of those responsible for disseminating information. However, when the sitting president is constantly tweeting insults and delegitimizing the news business these numbers shouldn’t come as a shock. Additionally, neither should the poll showing a mere 8-percent of Americans fully trust opinion polls. And, when it comes to the nation’s tone and level of civility in Washington, and comparing Trump and Obama’s ratings, 6-percent of people say civility has improved under the current administration, while the poll conducted in 2009 by USA Today and Gallop during the previous president’s administration, shows that 21 percent of the population thought civility amongst politicians on both sides of the isle had improved. President Trump’s unprofessional and disturbing behavior, during his short time in office, has already taken the twenty-one percent number to a 6… A number more fitting of his female rating system.

The numbers aren’t favorable. They expose a deeply dysfunctional system of governance that has side-stepped normal political operations and discourse. Operations, like the Constitution, that have been shaped and amended along the way by Americans yearning to live with liberties that make us unique among other earth inhabitants. It is these very same systems—which includes a collective belief system—that has kept us united as a nation of one people, despite the pitfalls of wars and civil strives along the way. Even with the bleak outlook these poll numbers divulge, we can’t keep our heads under water like geese in search of underwater snacks, hoping the tide will eventually turn in our favor. The time to bring about positive change is always upon us. As we celebrate this 241st milestone, it’s comforting knowing that America will find her way again if her people continue working towards a common goal for humanity and our culture, and a common love for our great nation.

 

Independence Day