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When the past is present…


Tim Scott: The No. 2 Black Politician?

Now that the South Carolina congressman has been tapped to fill a U.S. Senate seat, he just might be.

By David Swerdlick,

…As a senator, [Scott will] likely be called upon to be …more of an ambassador to voters of color from the Republican Party and for a farther-right worldview ….

Rep. Tim Scott (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Tim Scott (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

To do that effectively, however, he’ll have to find overlap between his view that “reducing the tax burden, decreasing government interference in the private sector and restoring fiscal responsibility” — themes that resonate among black, Latino and Asian-American voters — and some of the harsher stances that in recent years have put up a wall between the GOP and the voters it will need to win future national elections.

Like when Scott suggested last year that if Obama opted to sidestep Congress on raising the debt ceiling, he’d consider it “an impeachable act.” Or Scott’s 2011 proposal to deny food stamp eligibility for union members on strike — stances that fall squarely within today’s mainstream conservative thought but are generally nonstarters with black voters.

And ideologically, he’ll stand in contrast with the last black GOP senator, Massachusetts’ Ed Brooke, who was pro-choice, an advocate of the Fair Housing Act and arguably more liberal than Obama. It’s a contrast that underscores both the rightward drift of Republicans and the flight of black voters from the GOP over four decades.

Read more here.




Urban Lives Saved by Suburban Gun Mayhem

It’s a sad truth that our leaders only talk gun control when unspeakable tragedy hits close to home.

By Keli Goff,


Suburban vs. urban gun violence: unequal attention and treatment?

Shortly after the Jovan Belcher tragedy I was asked on a television program whether or not the NFL player’s high-profile murder-suicide and sports announcer Bob Costas’ courageous comments about gun violence in the incident’s aftermath would have any impact on gun control in America. I answered that they would not. The reason? Because as I noted during that interview, historically our country has only addressed the issue of gun violence when it touches the lives of those with whom our leaders are most likely to identify. Rarely are those likely to be incidents involving people of color suffering domestic violence or teens of color from low-income communities who are victims of urban gun violence.

Instead the gun tragedies that have actually moved our elected officials to significant action on gun control have been those incidents in which victims are most likely to remind our leaders of their own friends, families and communities, incidents like the 1993 shooting on a Long Island Rail Road train, which killed commuters from New York’s professional class or the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, which made gun control the cause célèbre of white suburban moms, culminating in the Million Mom March in 2000.

Now it appears another incident is poised to finally move our leaders to action once again, 13 years after Columbine. The murder of 20 children and six adults in the quiet and normally safe enclave of Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 is forcing a conversation about gun control that the shooting of 26 residents in one night in Chicago this summer — resulting in the deaths of two teens and injury of 24 others — could not. As previously noted in an analysis by the now-defunct the Daily, more Chicago residents, many of them urban youth, were killed by gun violence in the first half of 2012 than American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan during the same period.

Just think about those numbers for a moment.

Read the rest here.


George Washington’s Runaway Slave, Harry

His journey would take him a world away from Mount Vernon

By Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,, Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 9

Of our first five presidents, four owned slaves. Thomas Jefferson’s slave-owning legacy has been covered in the news lately; however, the biggest slave owner among the four men was the father of our country, George Washington.

Washington and his wife Martha together owned about 200 slaves at the beginning of the Revolution, but at the end of his life the couple owned 317 slaves together. And at least two of these became quite famous, for very different reasons.

William “Billy” Lee, Washington’s personal servant, was the only slave whom Washington freed outright upon the former president’s death (all the others were to be freed upon his wife’s death, though she freed them 12 months after Washington passed). He is depicted looking adoringly at his master in John Trumbull’s famous painting of the president of 1780, standing faithfully by his side.

At the other extreme of attitudes toward the master of Mount Vernon, however, stands another slave. He was a fascinating rebel named Harry, whose life and times have been painstakingly recreated by the historian Cassandra Pybus. And Harry’s dogged determination to be free suggests that not all of the slaves found Washington to be the benevolent master whom historians have depicted.

Read Harry’s amazing story here.


Black in America: It’s not just about the color of your skin

By Moni Basu, CNN

Editor’s Note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT Sunday, December 15.

What is black? Race. Culture. Consciousness. History. Heritage.

A shade darker than brown? The opposite of white?

Who is black? In America, being black has meant having African ancestry.

But not everyone fits neatly into a prototypical model of “blackness.”

Scholar Yaba Blay explores the nuances of racial identity and the influences of skin color in a project called (1)ne Drop, named after a rule in the United States that once mandated that any person with “one drop of Negro blood” was black. Based on assumptions of white purity, it reflects a history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

In its colloquial definition, the rule meant that a person with a black relative from five generations ago was also considered black.

One drop was codified in the 1920 Census and became pervasive as courts ruled on it as a principle of law. It was not deemed unconstitutional until 1967.

Blay, a dark-skinned daughter of Ghanian immigrants, had always been able to clearly communicate her racial identity. But she was intrigued by those whose identity was not always apparent. Her project focuses on a diverse group of people – many of whom are mixed race – who claim blackness as their identity.

That identity is expanding in America every day. Blay’s intent was to spark dialogue and see the idea of being black through a whole new lens.

Read more here.


Watch: ‘How Do Africans Kiss?’ (Intriguing Excerpt From ‘Progress Of Love’ Exhibit)

By Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act

Courtesy of British Nigerian writer, filmmaker, Zina Saro-Wiwa (also daughter of the late Nigerian human rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa),

British Nigerian writer, filmmaker, Zina Saro-Wiwa explores kissing customs in this delightful short film.

comes an excerpt from a documentary project and video installation comissioned by The Menil Collection in Houston, TX, for the ongoing Progress Of Love exhibit.

This is a collaborative project between The Menil Collection, the Centre for Contemporary Art (in Lagos, Nigeria), and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis.

Revealing, thoughtful, at times seemingly uncomfortable, hilarious, and more.

Watch here.


For Young Latino Readers, an Image Is Missing

By Motoko Rich, New York Times

PHILADELPHIA — Like many of his third-grade classmates, Mario Cortez-Pacheco likes reading the “Magic Tree House” series, about a brother and a sister who take adventurous trips back in time. He also loves the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” graphic novels.

Third-grade students at Bayard Taylor Elementary in Philadelphia. Educators say children need more familiar images.

At Bayard Taylor Elementary in Philadelphia, three-quarters of the students are Hispanic. But Mario, 8, has noticed something about these and many of the other books he encounters in his classroom at Bayard Taylor Elementary here: most of the main characters are white. “I see a lot of people that don’t have a lot of color,” he said.

Hispanic students now make up nearly a quarter of the nation’s public school enrollment, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, and are the fastest-growing segment of the school population. Yet nonwhite Latino children seldom see themselves in books written for young readers. (Dora the Explorer, who began as a cartoon character, is an outlier.)

Education experts and teachers who work with large Latino populations say that the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle as young readers work to build stamina and deepen their understanding of story elements like character motivation.

Read more here.


Another White Man Pleads Guilty to Hate and Murder of Black Man

By Emily Wagner Pettus of the Huffington Post

JACKSON, Miss. — A fourth man pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges Tuesday in the death of a black man who was run over by a pickup truck in Mississippi, and another man admitted he was part of a group of young whites involved in racially motivated attacks against African-Americans.

The death of James Craig Anderson, who was beaten and run over in Jackson on June 26, 2011, sparked the charges against a group of young whites. Anderson, a 47-year-old auto plant worker, was run down outside a Jackson hotel.

William Montgomery pleaded guilty in the death of Anderson, and Jonathan Gaskamp admitted to two federal hate crime charges in attacks on other blacks in Jackson.

Prosecutors said starting about April 1, 2011, the group of white young men and women would drive from the majority-white suburbs of Rankin County into the majority-black capital city of Jackson, seeking black people to verbally harass and physically assault, and that they would later boast about the attacks. They would target people who appeared to be homeless or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, believing that such victims would be less likely to fight back or to report attacks to police.

Prosecutors said the group included Montgomery, Gaskamp and the three men who previously pleaded guilty in Anderson’s death: Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Butler and John Aaron Rice.

Sentencing is later for all five men.


Read more about the killing of Anderson and prior hate crimes by these same white men and women here.

During the Jim Crow era, over 5000 African Americans died in lynchings, many of them were targeted, like Anderson, just for being black. We do not call such activities “lynchings” any more; instead they are now “hate crimes.” Is there a difference, and if so, what? Please share your thoughts below.



On Race and Taxes, Both Parties Insist Upon Speaking No Evil

By Imara Jones, Colorlines

Our current national argument over taxes, debt and the fiscal cliff is nominally about balancing spreadsheets and the arcana of economic formulas, but it’s actually about race. And the fact that those on either side of the budget conversation—both Democrats and Republicans—will not acknowledge as much prevents us from having an honest conversation about what’s at stake….

…The fact that America won’t acknowledge the debate over taxes is a proxy for one over race is not a surprise. That’s been true since before its founding, before there were such things as Democrats and Republicans. Northern colonies had asked to leave the British Empire for years over the issue of taxes; the South would have none of it, until an English court ruling threatened slavery. Since the beginning, America’s quest for independence was declared to be about taxes, but it was animated by race.

Read the full article here.


How Many Slaves Work for You?

If you lived in America from 1660 to 1863, you would have fought against slavery, right?

If you dare to discovery just how many slaves support your individual lifestyle today, take the survey “How Many Slaves Work for You” on the navigation bar of Made in a Free World.

Forty-four slaves work for the average American. Take the slavery footprint survey to find out exactly how many work for you.


Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s Food Stamp Challenge

By Sarah Parnass, ABC News

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics,” Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker tweeted Sunday night, not knowing that his reference to the Greek historian [Plutarch] would prompt an online spat over governing philosophies and lead him to challenge a stranger to match him in living on food stamps for a week.

Newark NJ mayor Cory Booker is an activist and hero who ran into a burning home to save residents. He regularly communicates with constituents through social media – and is a partner in Waywire, a start-up.

More than 415,000 families received assistance from NJ SNAP, New Jersey’s food stamp program, in September. Almost 15 percent of those families live in Essex County, where Newark is located. Essex had one of the highest increases in the state in demand for SNAP benefits that month, with the number of families participating rising 9.1 percent in the year ending in September.

@MWadeNC, a user who identifies herself as a “Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR), fighting against any and all forms of socialism/communism.. Army Veteran, Army Daughter, Army Wife,” responded to Booker, “nutrition is not a responsibility of the government.”

Booker said it was a shared responsibility, to which @MWadeNC asserted that food stamps should be enough to enable a family to afford breakfast.

“Lets you and I try to live on food stamps in New Jersey (high cost of living) and feed a family for a week or month. U game?” Booker tweeted at @MWadeNC.

“sure, Mayor, I’m game,” she replied.

[On November 21st] Mayor Booker tweeted that he would participate in the SNAP challenge from Dec. 4-11 and report back about the experience on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Waywire.

[Rucha Gadre, director of a food bank,] took the food stamp challenge earlier this year and said it was “very difficult.”

“I think [Booker] will understand that the minimum benefit of $16 or trying to live on $30 for the whole week is not sufficient,” Gadre said. “There’s no way you could eat nutritious food.”

Even if Booker sticks to the dollar limit, Gadre said the experience still might not replicate the exact experience of surviving on food stamps, because low-income families might not have the luxury of searching for the cheapest grocery stores.

The average food stamp user receives $5 a day ($35 a week) to buy groceries. Here’s what Representative Bob Brady of Philadelphia bought during his participation in the city-wide challenge.

“If you have a car and you have the ability of driving around…then that makes it easier,” Gadre said. Not all of the families she encounters have their own cars and spending $2 or $3 on a bus doesn’t always make sense, Gadre said.

Other mayors who have tried limiting their grocery money to food stamp levels include Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

In his food diary for the week, Mayor Stanton ran into trouble on day four when he forgot to pack his lunch from home.

“I’m facing a long, hungry day and an even longer night getting dinner on the table, which requires making EVERYTHING from scratch on this budget,” Stanton wrote. “It’s only for a week, so I’ve got a decent attitude.  If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant.”

Read a critique of Booker’s food stamp experiment here.

Want to take the challenge yourself? Find out who is taking/has taken the Food Stamp Challenge in your area. Get tools for simple ways to  initiate a community campaign, like the Paper Plate Campaign. Let ABHM know how it goes for you by writing a comment below.