Expert Voices

Dear White House “Resister”: A Response To The Anonymous NYT Op-Ed Writer

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Here’s a perspective. Like Drake, I’m upset. The timing of this letter is suspect.

Never in the history of modern day America has a White House administration exhibited such disarray and dysfunction endangering the country and the world. The Trump administration isn’t just dysfunctional; it is downright dangerous.

And this anonymous “resister” wants it all; to not only eat the cake, but to throw it in the faces of the American people by way of being part of forcing one-sided legislation down our throats and help do the bidding for the most prosperous among us who don’t need more wealth in a country losing its middle class to poverty.

Pointing out the president’s “amorality” as the root of America’s problem is equivalent to telling us that water is wet. Was “grab them by the pussy” not enough to “resist” or help thwart his political advances? What about his long documented business practices of cheating hard-working people? Why speak out now when the world is watching us crumble within, fighting amongst ourselves, and showing us to be the fools destined to perish by not coming together like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned during the civil rights movement.

“I would know. I am one of them,” the anonymous “resister” boosts about the sabotaging of an American president as if he or she is a Marvel character in a super hero movie. Unfortunately, this is real life and the attempts to take away healthcare from the common man has real life consequences; giving “historic” tax cuts to the rich by taking more from the poor is the opposite of what a super hero would do; being silent when the president attacks minorities and shows support for racists is complicity in its true form; not writing sooner, you know, like when the president banned Muslims from entering the country, ripping Mexican and Latin American children from their desperate parents’ arms at our southern borders, calling Mexicans rapists, disrespecting the needs of those affected by Hurricane Maria, suggesting that black immigrants are less desirable in America because they come from “shit hole countries,” … I can go on but I think you get why I’m upset.

Your “dear America” letter is disrespect.

If your first duty is to this country, as you put it, why would you want Donald Trump to succeed in his efforts to “Make America Great Again” when all this campaign slogan embodies is a call to revive the atrocious history of a country still working to overcome it; a past that had black people in bondage and living as second class citizens in a country they built through slave labor. The extreme ideological platform you and your fellow “secret resisters” chose to build upon is exactly why America is in the pickle jar. From selecting Sen. Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice despite the warnings of Coretta Scott King, putting Scott Pruitt in charge of protecting the environment when he’s only shown that it’s for sale to the highest polluter, looking to Betsy Devos to lead our nations education system despite her lack of experience or ability to even identity with people who attend public schools or live below the billion dollar income line; blatantly disrespecting long standing federal bidding practices by grossly handing out FEMA contracts to well connected friends with no business managing natural disasters, and handing out pardons like Mardi Gras beads…Thank God Joe Arpaio didn’t have to show us his man boobs.

The list of corrupt behavior is long. How many times has Jared Kushner changed his answers on his security clearance form? Against federal rules, Ivanka Trump’s clothing and jewelry line is being pimped out on television by top advisors like Kelly Anne Conway, and Fox News has turned into a propaganda machine for hate and intolerance, something the president and his enablers feed and supports. The entire family is benefitting financially from the blatant nepotism taking place and costing Americans millions in tax dollars. Let’s not forget, you “top advisors” blessed Kushner, a wealthy out of touch and inexperienced realtor, to be the savior of the Middle East while birthing peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

I’m upset; despite your letter full of regret.

You say the president shows no affinity for conservative ideas as if he hasn’t switched political parties before or shown the world his true colors. Just because you’ve enabled and made excuses for Trump along the way to this pile we’re now sitting on doesn’t mean majority Americans, decent and good hearted people, don’t see him exactly for who and what he is; a pathological liar and an all around terrible human being. Your house of cards is crumbling and like a rat you’re trying to jump a sinking ship. You may have changed your cloth but you’re still the being behind this new resister frock.

The same people that saw fit for then press secretary Sean Spicer demand the American people accept that their eyes were lying to them when he said Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest ever. Video and photographic evidence wasn’t enough to stop this perpetual lie; another attempt to cloud truth and blur the boundaries of right and wrong to appease Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States. And let’s not forget, Chief of Staff John Kelly has yet to apologize for lying about statements Rep. Frederica Wilson made about the president’s disastrous phone call with the wife of a fallen soldier and for insulting her using racially insensitive language.

Nonetheless, you want the American people to believe you all are the Space Force Avengers.

The disbelief of senior officials at the president’s words and actions is laughable considering Trump hasn’t changed since becoming president. He’s simply more powerful. And this is exactly what Trump’s base loves about him. “He’s not your typical politician” and “He speaks his mind” they excused no matter what Trump did or said. Even evangelicals found loopholes in their bibles to justify every sin Trump committed and turned a blind eye to every one of his hypocritical moves or ungodly behavior.

The adults in the room colluded with Russia to win an election and made Trump their messiah despite all the warnings and push back from the American people. And now, seeing a steady drop in his approval numbers, they want him returned to sender before the blue wave hits.  Ironically, the adults who stood silent while the president attacked the media as the “enemy of the American people” now turn to it for salvation.

 

 

Saying Goodbye To The Queen Of Soul The Wakanda Way

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

If you happen to be in Detroit today for The Queen of Soul’s Homegoing ceremony you’re getting the real life version of Wakanda culture or African American tribalism. The celebration of black cultural pride and unity is on full display for Aretha Franklin. And how deserving, considering what she gave to all of us. To describe the week long ceremony as moving would be a disservice. Watching the memorial service was powerful. Especially in the era of Black Lives Matter, Color of Change and all the other social justice movements dedicated to improving the lives of black people and other minorities in America.

The Queen of Soul is going home. She’s leaving behind a country still in turmoil with itself and being led astray by the most incompetent administration this country has ever seen. Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, wants to “Make America Great Again” when it’s impossible to find a time when our country and all her people felt that greatness he’s fooling the willing with. I prefer Stevie Wonder’s message at the funeral service when he said, “Let’s make America love again.”

The outpouring of grief and celebration for the passing and life of Aretha Franklin is a moving tribute to a life well lived. A life lived under the brutality of the most powerful government black people helped create. We must never forget that America owes its power to black slaves forced to construct her under cracks of whips and some of the worse treatment ever inflicted on a people. And yet, Aretha Franklin overcame the America Trump wants to revive by turning her inherited unjust circumstances into magic. Magic that will carry on from generation to generation like the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that her death overshadows one of the most powerful, and to some, heroic men in America that for years influenced, wrote and help enact laws that have negatively impacted people of color; keeping blacks and other minorities from gaining the equal footing that has long eluded them despite their contributions to this country even before her birth in 1776. Senator John McCain, according to congressional record, voted in line with Trump’s position 83 percent of the time. He even voted to confirm Kristjen Nielsen to be Secretary of Homeland Security. And yes, the same Homeland Security that carried out Trump’s disastrous family separation policy at our southern border. However, considering McCain’s softening it’s fitting for the bona fide war hero to go home with a queen.

The journey has been a long and hard one and yet Aretha Franklin got to be. Through her music and civil rights work, she made America great for all her people. Unlike this administration, she brought us together, helping a nation of diverse people overcome their struggles. It’s also a testament to our resolve and strength as a people—black people—that makes Franklin’s funeral service comparable to a real life version of the Wakanda tribes. Detroit belongs to Aretha today and Wakandans would agree.

Black people have a unique way of celebrating the departed and Franklin’s homecoming is nothing short of all that beautiful blackness and culture. New Orleanians are known for their festive and unique funeral rituals that celebrate the lives of the departed. This rite of passage or ceremony is not foreign in other black communities in America or in other parts of the world, making our unity as a people even more significant. We’ve been broken but we’re still standing strong, and for the most part, united. That’s why we dance and sing at funerals. It’s our strength as a people that inspired us to sing in fields during forced labor and torture during slavery, or sing directions to escape the bondage of slavery for freedom. Aretha Franklin took our people’s singing to another level. In addition to her incredible talent as one of the greatest singers the world has ever known and her audacity to demand respect when she grew up in a world that told her she didn’t deserve it … it is her spirit of unity, love for her family and community that we’re left to build upon. And that’s more than enough.  Wakanda forever.

 

Donald Trump Goes To Utica

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, (yes, you read that correctly, it’s still true) received a typical welcome from the American people in Utica, NY. Over 2,000 protesters showed up to voice their opposition to arguably the most hated man in the world. Roughly 200 of those gathered came to support the president. Even the Trump chicken made an appearance in front of 207 Genesee Street!

 

It’s no secret Trump is the least popular president in recent memory and yet it’s because of him so many New Yorkers joined forces to protest his visit. Thanks Trump! The President was in town to stump for Claudia Tenney, another unpopular republican incumbent, at a pricey fundraiser at the Hotel Utica. Tenney, (NY-22) is facing Anthony Brindisi, (D) in November. For details on this and other House and Senate races click here.

For local details on Trumps visit click here.

 

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Losing Earth: NYT Magazine Panel Discussion On Climate Change

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

From 1979 to 1989 scientists, activists and the government came close to solving global warming. Unfortunately, they didn’t act on the established science that showed climate change is not a hoax. New York Times Magazine Special Climate Issue lays out the narrative in two parts in their new issue.

Losing Earth: The decade we almost stopped climate change. A strategy in two acts.

Science, industry, government, the international community — everyone was on board and ready to act. How we got there, and why we ultimately failed, is the subject of a major new project from The New York Times Magazine published in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

On August 5, the entire magazine will be dedicated to a single story by Nathaniel Rich, a writer at large for the magazine, that tells the story of this critical decade in the planet’s history, and the individuals who tried to warn us. Rich’s narrative is accompanied by a series of stunning photos from around the world by George Steinmetz that show the profound effects of mankind’s inability to effectively address this slow-moving catastrophe. This story will change the way you think about climate change.

Jake Silverstein, editor in chief of The New York Times Magazine, will be in conversation with Nathaniel Rich and two of the primary subjects of his story, the former NASA geophysicist James Hansen and the environmental activist Rafe Pomerance.

Below is a short discussion on climate change during the NYT Magazine launch event at New York Times Center.

 

 

The Arts And Humanities In Trumps World

Editors Note: This piece was also featured in DCReports

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

When it comes to the state of the Arts and the Humanities under Donald Trump’s administration, not much has changed other than his lack of action, his proposals to eliminate all funding for the independent federal funding agencies and his refusal to attend major cultural events.

The four new board members Trump said he would appoint to the National Council on the Arts were finally announced earlier this month. They are; Charles Wickser Banta of New York, Michelle Itczak of Indiana, Barbara Coleen Long of Missouri and Carleton Varney of Massachusetts. If these nominees are in line with Trump’s personal palate for art, Americans for the arts and humanities should prepare for the Scott Pruitt’s and Betsy DeVos’s of the art world. Funding for the arts hasn’t changed by much, but that’s only because Congress voted to restore money for the programs in the 2018 spending bill.  Trump’s proposed budget would have phased out all arts and humanities funding.

Victoria Hutter, spokesperson for National Endowment for the Arts, said “all of the NEA’s major funding programs have remained the same or seen slight increases.”  That’s true for now for the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Trump shows no interest in arts and culture. He skipped the Kennedy Center Honors, hasn’t given out any NEA or NEH awards, and became the first American president to suggest eliminating NEA and NEH all together. Lady Bird Johnson probably said it best, “Art is the window to man’s soul…” never mind. That may not be the best quote to use when it comes to Trump and the arts considering his attempt to undermine its importance in American society. Lady Bird’s quote, though poignant, clearly doesn’t cover Trump’s “soul window” because his window is covered with gold colored tin foil.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) joined the National Council for the Arts earlier this year. In addition to set functions and advisory roles, members are tasked with recommending individuals and organizations to receive the National Medal of Arts, a prestigious Presidential award. She said, “It’s clear from his repeated proposals to eliminate funding for both agencies that President Trump doesn’t appreciate the important work of the NEA and NEH or understand the incredible value they bring to our communities. That’s disheartening to see, especially because funding for these two agencies is such a miniscule part of the federal budget. But the loss of funding would be felt hard throughout the country. That said, I think the Trump era has shown that the arts and humanities do have allies in Congress—Democrats as well as Republicans. Twice he has proposed eliminating funding and twice it has been denied. This year, Congress actually gave NEA and NEH funding a $3 million increase. And for next year, the House has approved an additional $2 million increase on top of that.”

Bipartisan Congressional support for continued arts and humanities spending was on display just last week in amendments to the Interior Appropriations bill, which funds both agencies. A member introduced an amendment to reduce the two budgets by 15 percent—or $23 million each. The proposed budget cuts failed by a vote of 297-114.

Trump’s lack of interest or value of the Arts and Humanities isn’t a surprise considering his character and boorish behavior. But his attempts to destroy the national endowments for the arts and humanities should be of concern to anyone who considers the arts and culture valuable parts of our American identity.

 

 

 

 

Remembering Civil Rights Activist And Educator, Maria L. de Hernandez

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Described as a woman before her time, social activist María Rebeca Latigo de Hernández moved from Mexico to San Antonio where she became an activist for better education and better treatment of Mexican Americans. She stood up and became an outspoken community leader whose legacy lives on through her work and her family.

The 1930s were a tumultuous period for Mexican Americans. And yet, despite the pressures those with Mexican heritage faced, Maria L. de Hernandez became a fearless civil rights fighter for her people. According to the book, Decade of Betrayal by Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodríguez, “1 million people of Mexican descent were driven from the United States during the 1930s due to raids, scare tactics, deportation, repatriation and public pressure. Of that conservative estimate, approximately 60 percent of those leaving were legal American citizens. Mexicans comprised nearly half of all those deported during the decade.”

Although Mexican Americans served as a convenient scapegoat during these tumultuous times, Maria L. de Hernandez stood up and fought back. Not just for herself but for the entire Mexican American community. She worked tirelessly to improve the lives of others during her lifetime. Her recognition today, which would have been her 122nd birthday, is a testament of the importance of remaining strong, resolute, determined, forward pushing and selfless in the pursuit of justice and equality for all people.

 

 

Basic Facts from SRPS:

  • María Rebecca Latigo de Hernández was born July 29, 1896 in Garza García, outside of Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico.
  • Hernandez immigrated to Texas as part of the flood of people leaving Mexico during the chaos of the Mexican Revolution.
  • She taught elementary school in Monterrey, Mexico.
  • In 1915, she married Pedro Hernandez Barrera. The family moved to San Antonio in 1918, where they opened a grocery store and bakery, and set about raising their family, which eventually grew to ten children.
  • In 1929, they helped found the Orden Caballeros de América (the Order of Knights of America), an organization dedicated to civic and political activities to benefit Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants.
  • In 1933, Hernández helped organize the Asociación Protectora de Madres, which provided assistance to expectant mothers.
  • In 1934 the Hernándezes helped organize La Liga de Defensa Pro-Escolar, an organization dedicated to obtaining better facilities and better education for the West Side Mexican community.
  • In 1932 María became San Antonio’s first Mexican female radio announcer, and in 1934, she spoke on the “Voz de las Americas” program to promote Council 16 of the League of United Latin American Citizens, organized to promote equality for Mexican Americans in all spheres of life. She was the only female speaker at the first meeting in 1934. The league was officially organized in December 1934, and she supported its efforts until 1940 and again in 1947, when it was reorganized.
  • In 1938 she took up the cause of women workers’ rights in the Pecan-Shellers’ Strike when they stopped working to demand better pay and better working conditions.
  • In 1939, she was part of a group of women to visit Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas to express good will between Mexico and the Mexicans in the United States.
  • In 1945 she published her essay “México y Los Cuatro Poderes Que Dirigén al Pueblo,” in which she asserted that the domestic sphere was the foundation of society and mothers were the authority figures who molded nations. Around this same time, she organized Club Liberal Pro-Cultura de la Mujer, to build on those ideas.
  • Over the years, she made hundreds of speeches promoting equality for the Mexican American community. In 1968 she appeared regularly on television in San Antonio to speak about education and social progress on a program sponsored by El Círculo Social Damas de América. In December of that year, she and her husband were also invited to testify at the San Antonio hearing before the United States Commission on Civil Rights, where they argued for changes in education to reform the embarrassing inaccurate portrayals of Mexican Americans and other minorities in the curriculum.
  • In 1969 she was elected to the positions of treasurer of the order’s board of directors and president of Círculo Social. At the order’s fortieth anniversary she gave the keynote address. In 1970, continuing to grow her political activism, she joined the Raza Unida party and in July of that year served as a keynote speaker at its statewide conference in Austin. In 1972 she and her husband toured South and Central Texas in support of the party’s gubernatorial candidate Ramsey Muñiz and State Board of Education candidate Marta Cotera.
  • María Hernández died of pneumonia on January 8, 1986, and was buried in the plot of the Orden Caballeros de América outside of Elmendorf, a symbol of the respect and prestige she had earned through her life’s work.

 

Yes We Can Read These Books This Summer!

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Former President Barack Obama gave us a sample of what he’s thinking, influenced by and of course, reading. Before traveling to Africa recently he reached out to millions of his adoring fans to share his summer reading list. It’s not too late to get started! Quick tip: Audible allows me to catch up and keep up with my reading list, and my long drives are made easier.

Which category do you fall under? 

Former President Barack Obama:

This week, I’m traveling to Africa for the first time since I left office – a continent of wonderful diversity, thriving culture, and remarkable stories.

I was proud to visit sub-Saharan Africa more times than any other sitting President, and I’ll return this week to visit Kenya and South Africa. In South Africa, the Obama Foundation will convene 200 extraordinary young leaders from across the continent and I’ll deliver a speech to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Kenya, of course, is the Obama ancestral home. I visited for the first time when I was in my twenties and I was profoundly influenced by my experiences – a journey I wrote about in my first book, Dreams from My Father.

Over the years since, I’ve often drawn inspiration from Africa’s extraordinary literary tradition. As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I’d recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers – each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.

A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

A chronicle of the events leading up to Kenya’s independence, and a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.

The Return by Hisham Matar

A beautifully-written memoir that skillfully balances a graceful guide through Libya’s recent history with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons.

The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes

It’s true, Ben does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House.

 

Who Is Frederick Lee Nichols?

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

For starters, don’t refer to him as Black or African American. Frederick Lee Nichols, a Republican running for the 119th Assembly District in NYS prefers the pronoun, American with African descent. “I’m the first American with so-called African people descent to run for the seat. I’ve never been to Africa so I never put another adjective in front of my own country,” he said during our sit down interview at Utica Roasting Co. on Genesee Street. He explains that his thinking evolved after spending some years overseas as an American Culture teacher. He says being referred to as an American is “good enough”.

 

 

His Views On Dual Identity

“Our country’s people are the only ones separating like this…I’m Irish American, I’m Italian American, I’m African American, but when I was overseas people would say to me; where are you from? America. Ok. The rest of it don’t matter because you’re an American. And I started changing. I won’t do it anymore. So, I say I’m an American with African, Irish and maybe some Hebrew descent”

And yet the irony is that Nichols being African American is exactly what makes his candidacy important. In the struggle for minority representation in governing, he breaks the mold and offers a pathway for many unhappy Democrats to consider the Republican Party. He’s the first black person to run for the 119th assembly seat. And like it or not, race in politics across America has always mattered. The split between members of the two parties isn’t just moving further apart on ideological and moral grounds, it’s creating an even deeper divide among different ethnic groups. The Republican Party is predominantly white and Democrats are largely people of color. Republicans are seen as hostile toward racial, social, immigration, economic equality and justice policies, whilst Democrats are seen as extreme on all those fronts that “threaten our democracy”. Nonetheless, the 119th Assembly seat being vacated by Anthony Brindisi (D) who’s challenging Claudia Tenney (R) for the 22nd Congressional seat, offers a rare opportunity for minorities to make some gains in governing, especially in this part of the country where communities of color continue to struggle socially and economically.  

“I stopped the victimization attitude and I stopped the blame game, and I said that even though racism is prevalent in our society, bigotry, all of it; it’s there. What does that have to do with you getting a grade; nothing.” He adds, “The book is not racist. Algebra is not racist, writing is not racist, the library is not racist, the pen and pencil is not racist…the paper. So, what’s stopping you from getting your grade? It’s not racism, that’s you.”

He makes a point. However, the context has to include data showing the correlation between access and education; access that is largely given to whites. Minorities’ straggling behind their white peers is directly tied to racial and social inequalities in schools. Poverty plays a role too. It’s no coincidence, but rather by design, Nichols is the first black Republican to run for the 119th Assembly seat.

Nikole Hannah-Jones who covers race in the U.S. for NYT Magazine said during a talk with The Green Space at WNYC and WQXR on school segregation in NYC, “Segregation and integration at their core are about power and who gets access to it.” She says blacks in particular still have a hard time being “full citizens in their own country” and that matters when it comes to education and its outcome for minorities in America, particularly in small town America and uniquely pertaining to governing.

“The systems that and the actions that created this inequality took a lot of effort and a lot of time. And we want to undo them, you know, with no pain for anyone with a snap of the fingers. On my Twitter account, I say – I cover race from 1619. And 1619 is the year the first Africans were brought to what would become America as – to be enslaved. I say that so that we understand there is a very – before we were even a country, we had created this system that was going to put black people on the bottom and we created a caste system. And to undo that, we feel like no one has to give anything up or there’s not going to be any tension or it’s going to be easy, and it simply won’t. One of the things that I really try to do with my work is show how racial segregation and racial inequality was intentionally created with a ton of resources. From the federal government, to the state, to city governments, to private citizens, we put so much effort into creating the segregation and inequality, and we’re willing to put almost no effort in fixing it. And that’s the problem,” Hannah-Jones said.

And because apathy is poverty’s cousin, those mostly impacted rarely participate in our democracy. Data shows only two-thirds of Americans vote in presidential elections. That number is even lower for state and local races. Nichols being the first person of color to run for this seat in 2018, is a stark reminder that change is overdo. Even though he has views that more liberal minded Americans might find distasteful and even off-putting, he’s the epitome of turning lemons into lemonade if you separate his rhetoric from his determination. Nonetheless, whether diversity of opinion matters as much as representation, will be determined when the people vote.

Why He’s Running As A Republican

Nicholas says the Democratic Party hasn’t lived up to the promises made to minorities in America since they shifted from being the more conservative party after the Civil War. “Most minority people in this country and in poor neighborhoods are democratic to the core. I was also as a young man because I only knew what people told me. Then when I started to educate myself and read books, I found the Democratic Party was totally contrary to what was to improve the lives of people that they say they care so much about. Their program, 90-percent of them, in the name of doing something good is just hurting the people they say they care so much about.”

With an intent look in his eyes, Nichols says he’s laser focused on changing business as usual on behalf of the people he grew up with; as a Republican. And he’s looking for a complete overhaul, starting with morality, education, land and business ownership in poor communities primarily made up of minorities. And he wants to change the lens that shows Republicans as bad for minorities. He says when it comes to understanding the history and process of politics in the region; people have to become more engaged. “I plan on, after being elected, is to always have town hall meetings; twice a month. Because people got to be able to voice what they want me to do.” He says as he explains how he plans to work for his constituents and encourage them to take a more active role in local politics.

The Lack Of Support From Local Black Leaders

Nichols says the local NAACP Chapter does not recognize him because he’s a Republican despite his good intentions. “They don’t recognize me for nothing; the NAACP. And I know who the chapter head is; he’s a very nice person. The other black organizations, they don’t recognize me. I came from the same community; I went through the same hardship and I overcame long before they knew I was a Republican. But now they see I’m a Republican, they don’t want to use me as an example for those kids.”

Nichols says him being Republican doesn’t make him naive about racism or immune to its impact. “Racism is there, I don’t deny it. I’ve been through it; I still go through it today. I went to Republican districts way out there in the woods. I knock on their door and they don’t want to talk because they think I’m a Democrat.” He says he wants to “burst the gap” between black Democrats and Republicans, “To say, hey I’m here, they supported me, I’m from your loins, I’m here now, how about we use me as an example that we can both look at each other’s platform and try and find a common solution. Because what would be one of the greatest things in this area is to have a minority—male or female—in a high position; that it can finally be, it can show that this area is trying to break some of their racial tensions in the area. Winning this position is not a small thing; it’s a big deal and I want to use this as a positive thing to say, you know what, I don’t agree with all Democratic policies but I’m willing to work with them on any policy that has proven results.”

His Platform

The issues Nichols says he’ll tackle if he’s chosen to go to Albany to represent his constituents are to repeal NY Safe Act, increase support for Veterans, end corruption, reduce taxes, improve education and make more jobs available for young people. Nichols pledges to support pro-life policies although when he explains his position on abortion he sounds like a pro—choice candidate. Only time will tell if Nichols is the one to break the mold, but if history means anything, his chances of winning are slim to none. History also shows Democrats; especially minorities, have nothing else to lose by supporting this “American with African descent” Republican candidate, idiosyncratic as he may be, because voting the same way season after season hasn’t changed the persistent bad weather in poor neighborhoods here or across the country. Poverty levels are still high in the district and social inequalities still keep the area lagging behind in the times, keeping people segregated in their respective corners of society; blue vs. red, whites vs. people of color, and poor vs. rich.

The other Republican in the race is Dennis Bova, Jr. Democrats Christopher Salatino and Marianne Buttenschon are also running for AD-119th.  The district includes the cities of Utica and Rome, and the towns of Floyd, Frankfort, Marcy and Whitestown. The election for the Assembly seat will take place November 6, 2018. Nichols must pull a win in the September Primary in order to appear on the November Ballot.

 

 

 

Thanks Trump! The Global Shaming Of America

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

America is being shamed by the world. And it’s all thanks to President Donald J. Trump and his clan. It’s clear, we have an unusual leader at the helm. Unfortunately, the helm is leader of the free world and that’s terrifying af. It’s rare when the world speaks with one voice. And right now it’s chanting loud and clear across Europe, “We hate you Donald Trump, Go Away!” Even the State Department is cautioning Americans abroad to keep a low profile. And, believe it or not, the word Trump actually means Big Fat Problem Baby in Na’vi! That’s why they made a huge baby Trump float to “welcome” him. It’s true.

But, in all seriousness, the take away from this stance is positive and negative. It’s uplifting to know that most people, world-wide, don’t want to blur the lines that separate right and wrong for greed’s sake. This collective stance against Trump and all he represents—arguably, the worst of mankind—makes the negative response to his visit even more poignant, especially on the heels of countless terror attacks in the region and a wave of anti-immigration moves from the top down. I mean for God’s sake, Brexit happened!

On the other hand, it’s deeply disappointing to see the man who represents us as Americans not only behave badly in all social situations but is pushing to advance policies that divide and weaken us here and abroad. Rather than move us forward as a world that stands as one and beholden to goals rooted in humanity and prosperity, Trump is trashing his opportunity to make the world a better place for all of us. And that includes taking care of planet earth, allowing future generations to experience the miracle of life, nature and the universe.

With a decreased status as the world’s super power, thanks to China’s hot dragon breath behind our neck, America is perceptibly floating on “the Nile” River tap dancing away like Fred Astaire because the show must go on despite what’s at stake; nuclear war. President Trump’s performance at the G7 Summit in Europe didn’t go any better than his current visit across the pond. Remember the iconic photo of the G7 leaders looking down at the petulant child-man with all the power? I’m still embarrassed.

But seriously, is he that clueless and unprofessional?! Leaving the queen waiting? … Walking in front of her and just embarrassing himself and by default, the rest of us decent and good Americans? The. Queen. Of. England. Had. To. Stop. And. Go. Around. Him. While. He. Was. Puffing. His. Chest. And. Chin. Out. I cringed watching him walk with his chest inflated, chin up in the air and that ever present stupid, and spoiled, jerky brat look on his face. Keep in mind, Trump goes out of his way to treat women poorly. His lack of respect of the queen is right in line with what he embodies; misogyny. From refusing to shake hands with Angela Merkel, throwing skittles at her, insulting and rating women’s looks and boasting that he can get away with sexual assault. When it comes to modern social norms, Trump is revealing that manners and respect for others didn’t matter in his household when he was growing up. Only he did; shame on his parents.

And considering his hostile policies targeting immigration, you’d think his family never migrated here from one of the countries protesting his European visit; Scotland. His mother migrated to the U.S. from Scotland, paving the way for the life he now lives. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy that keeps him afloat is astounding. His current and third wife, First Lady Melania Trump is accused of lying on her own visa application… It’s hard to think back to her appearance on Larry King Live to support the birther movement to discredit Obama’s birth certificate. She clearly hiked Mount Audacity in Pandora…

The blatant racism, bad behavior, hypocrisy, bold-faced lying and shameful unprofessionalism from this family and the entire administration is astounding and dangerous because it sets the tone of normalcy and precedent for our nation, the world and future leaders.

From Britain to Scotland, people have taken to the streets to voice their disdain for Trump. And yet he doesn’t care that the world hates him and all he represents; American greed and culture. The world can literally see Trump … chosen “democratically”… grabbing America and the rest of the world “by the pussy” and we can’t move his little hand away.

Our democracy is hanging in balance and Trump, propped up by his supporters and enablers couldn’t care less. Why? Because they want to win; even though the prize is debasing American values.

The press plays a crucial role inflating the Trump blimp. Being their bread and butter makes coverage of him and his family increasingly disheartening. And, at times even laughable if there wasn’t so much at stake, making the laughter morph into instant pain and concern. World renowned expert on culture, Edgar H. Schein says culture is very hard if not impossible to change. But in the age of Trump one can argue that American culture is rapidly changing right in front of our eyes. Thanks Trump!

Partisanship is part of the fabric that formed our country. As a nation, we will never see eye-to-eye on how to govern ourselves or lead the world. But that’s what makes us innovative and progressive people. That’s why we have three branches of government, the Constitution and Bill of Rights to ensure our cooperation and coexistence with one another; a diverse people working to overcome a painful past and striving for racial, civil and economic equality. Unfortunately, the hive that accompanies Trump are like biblical locusts dead set on destroying everything in front of them. Who knew Roe v. Wade would be in jeopardy after all this time?! Don’t be surprised when bible thumping conservative lawmakers call for segregation across the land as they work to weaken the working class.

The election of President Obama revealed a dormant racist underbelly anxious to rear its ugly head; an attempt to reverse racial progress. And everything was Obama’s fault. Even rain couldn’t escape being blamed on the man. The trend, “Thanks Obama!” became fodder. Lawmakers at the highest levels of government were more interested in seeing him fail than move the country forward together. It’s those race-obscured blinders that has us waste deep in Russian election meddling today. A serious national security threat. Trump deflecting his involvement with Russia in swaying the election by pointing fingers at Obama is not only par for the course, it’s telling of the continued partisanship that has crippled our democracy.

Trump shames us at home and he shames us abroad. And his party remains silently complicit while feverishly turning the wheel of progress backward to fit a country and world that only values those with golden toilets. The wealthy, the ignorant and the racists among us are the only ones benefiting from Trump. And, the indictment of 12 Russians accused of tampering with the 2016 presidential election won’t phase him or his supporters. This, despite publicly being asked by Trump to hack our security system. Sadly, their “Make America Great Again” slogan touting patriotism as their rationale for standing behind the antithesis of what a great American actually looks like, lives on. Josiah Gilbert Holland once said, “The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on.” Perhaps it’s Trump’s glutinous soul diet that needs an overhaul for him to become the human being this world needs. But, I won’t hold my breath while I cringe.  Thanks Trump!

 

Heraldry Blankets The Cradle Of Mankind’s Identity And Culture

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Ceremony, rank, pedigree, membership of a noble family, values and culture are the statements behind family crest’s, tribal totems, coat of arms and all forms of heraldry. Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and wife of Prince Harry had the distinct privilege to design her own crest or coat of arms when she became a member of the British royal family. This is significant. Here’s why: The practice of this tribal symbolism and identity dates back to the cradle of mankind. A crest is the emblem of a clan or tribe. Although Markle being biracial, a divorcee from America or any other ridiculous disqualifier one may add, shows significant progress as it pertains to tolerance and acceptance at the highest level of society’s totem pole. Creating her own emblem highlights the personal but also our collective legacy as black people. Royalty is not new in African culture but Markle joining the British Royals as a member of their family is progress we can all support, unless you’re a racist witch like Princess Michael of Kent who wore that awful racist brooch to have lunch with Markle. Her statement, using a brooch like First Lady Melania using a jacket, spoke loud and clear.

Although history points us to the medieval times when knights personalized their shields with a  coat of arms, the practice actually goes even further. Europeans aren’t the only ones who personalized their clan, family, unit, position or tribe. These kinds of symbolic statements can be traced back to ancient times before the fall of Rome and the birth of the middle ages. Symbolism has always played a vital role in society. There would be no society without symbolism. Human beings and their respective clans have used flags, totems and other forms of tribal and religious heraldry to distinguish themselves from each other since recorded history.

Markle’s crest had me thinking about my own family’s crest or heraldry. Luckily, after going through some family photos I found one. The image is of my great uncle and Paramount Chief of the Pamaka people of Suriname, Grangmang Forster. Pamaka people live on several islands within the country but our main island is Langetabetje. My grandfather, Nikolaas Forster, served as Captain alongside his older brother Grangmang Forster who is holding our tribes symbol or crest in each hand. In one hand he holds a pineapple and in the other a fire breathing dragon. These two symbols are the Pamaka people’s crest. It essentially says; we can either get along, or we can get it on. It represents who we are as a people just like Markle’s crest identifies her family and what she values.

When explorers were sent out during Europe’s great age of discovery they were slow to understand the customs and institutions of the people they came across, explained author Marvin Harris in his book; Cannibals and Kings. He writes, “Although the Europeans exaggerated their “savagery,” the majority of these village communities collected enemy heads as trophies, roasted their prisoners of war alive, and consumed human flesh in ritual feasts. The fact that the “civilized” Europeans also tortured people—in witchcraft trials, for example—and that they were not against exterminating the populations of whole cities should be kept in mind (even if they were squeamish about eating one another). Harris goes on to write, “Explorers encountered fully developed states and empires, headed by despots and ruling classes, and defended by standing armies. It was these great empires, with their cities, monuments, palaces, temples and treasures that had lured all the Marco Polos and Columbuses across the oceans and deserts in the first place.” It’s not hard to surmise what influenced knights to create their own coat of arms. In our modern times this practice would be called cultural appropriation.

From China to India and South America, explorers found a diverse people with their empires and worlds unto themselves, each with distinctive arts, religions and yes, even heraldry. To believe that heraldry, crests or coat of arms are solely a European invention started during the medieval times, is to deny the mere existence of the people they discovered across the oceans, deserts and jungles of the world. Markle’s crest, in many ways, is the return of the rightful royals of the world. A family crest is more than a pretty design, it’s a deep rooted cultural connection to our past and the cradle of mankind’s identity.