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A Birthday Celebration

For more than 35 years, Carl Adams has attempted to develop affordable housing for local residents, always trying to grow his business while working against the systemic racism faced by African American developers.

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Carl Adams, a Richmond businessman, Jim McMillan, former Richmond city councilman, and McKinley Williams, former president of Contra Costa College.
Carl Adams, a Richmond businessman, Jim McMillan, former Richmond city councilman, and McKinley Williams, former president of Contra Costa College.

On Dec. 16, a group of old friends assembled for dinner and drinks at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in Oakland. The occasion was the celebration of the birthdays of three of the old comrades, some of whom had known each other for more than 50 years. Being feted were Carl Adams, a Richmond businessman, Jim McMillan, former Richmond city councilman, and McKinley Williams, former president of Contra Costa College.

For more than 35 years, Mr. Adams has attempted to develop affordable housing for local residents, always trying to grow his business while working against the systemic racism faced by African American developers.

A successful pharmacist, during his time on the Richmond city council, Mr. McMillan aggressively and successfully fought against racism in a police department that was notorious for the actions of a faction known as “the cowboys,” which no longer exists.

Mr. Williams grew up and attended schools in Richmond and then went on to study and receive degrees from San Francisco State University and the University of Colorado. After serving in various administrative positions Mr. Williams became president of Contra Costa College. During his time as president, he aggressively led the effort to recruit and support African American residents from the local area.

While sharing memories and great stories, a great time was had by all.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: The Big Truth: The Big Problem is the Big Lie

Many if not most Republican officials know that Trump’s Big Lie is not true. But they are cynical and corrupt enough to use it to justify new voter suppression laws and other schemes to overturn the will of the voters. Far-right activists have harassed and threatened election officials across the country. And they are trying to get elected to state and local positions that will give them the power to oversee future elections.

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By Ben Jealous, President of People For the American Way

It’s been a year since a mob of Trumpists violently attacked the U.S. Capitol. They wanted to stop Congress from affirming President Joe Biden’s victory. Some of them were out for blood. All of them were motivated by the former president’s Big Lie that he won the election but that his victory was stolen from him and his supporters.

That lie has been debunked by journalists and election officials — both Republicans and Democrats. It has been rejected by courts. But it has never been abandoned by Trump or his right-wing allies. And so, one year after it fueled an attack on Congress and the Constitution, the Big Lie is still a big threat to our democracy.

The Big Lie causes big harms in lots of ways by fueling anger and mistrust about our elections among Trump’s base.

Many if not most Republican officials know that Trump’s Big Lie is not true. But they are cynical and corrupt enough to use it to justify new voter suppression laws and other schemes to overturn the will of the voters.

Far-right activists have harassed and threatened election officials across the country. And they are trying to get elected to state and local positions that will give them the power to oversee future elections.

Donald Trump would love to go into the 2024 elections knowing that he has loyal Trumpists in place to reject or “find” as many votes as he needs to declare victory. That’s why Trump has endorsed the effort by Rep. Jody Hice to replace Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Raffensperger refused to embrace the Big Lie, stood up to Trump’s bullying, and respected the will of the voters. Hice has promoted the Big Lie. That’s the kind of guy Trump wants deciding which votes to count — and not count — in 2024.

Trump has endorsed other secretary of state candidates, and his political henchman Steve Bannon in encouraging Trumpists to try to replace election officials at the local level.

Meanwhile, state legislators are making it easier for partisan Republicans in state legislatures to mess with vote counting by taking control from local officials — and even to simply override the will of the voters.

That is why we urgently need new federal voting rights legislation — and why we need senators and President Biden to work together to overcome “states’ rights” Republicans and their use of filibuster rules to block the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Both pieces of legislation take on both voter suppression and election subversion. The John Lewis Act would make it illegal for a public official to “willfully fail or refuse to certify” an election victory by the candidate who gets the most votes.

The Freedom to Vote Act only allows local election administrators to be removed by the state if they have a legitimate cause to do so.

As Sen. Raphael Warnock said on Jan. 4, “Our democracy is in peril and time is running out.”

“This is a moral moment,” Sen. Warnock said. Indeed, it is.

There’s also another moral duty facing our elected leaders. And that’s finding out the truth about the Capitol insurrection and those who incited it, planned it, facilitated it, and have since tried to downplay or cover-up that assault on our democracy.

Criminals need to be held accountable for their crimes — and not just those who smashed windows and attacked Capitol police.

Republicans love to talk tough about the rule of law, but now many of them are resisting the rule of law by trying to undermine and obstruct the House committee investigating the insurrection. And they’re trying to rewrite history, downplaying the violence and portraying its perpetrators as patriots.

The problem for them is that the violent reality of that day has been well documented. The same is true for other casualties of the Big Lie, including harassment and threats against election officials.

The Big Lie and all those who have spread it have created a dangerous reality in which millions of Americans falsely believe that President Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate and that Donald Trump should still be our president.

And that makes them more willing to determine the outcome of elections through violence or the raw exercise of power.

In the year ahead, we need to defend democracy by answering the Big Lie with the truth, and by acting to defend our democracy at the ballot box.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of Practice in the Africana Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania where he teaches leadership.

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Beautiful Bus Tour of Atlanta Neighborhoods Ends at National Center for Civil and Human Rights

I got to experience what it would have been like sitting at a lunch counter as a Black person and enduring racial slurs just because I asked to be served a cup of coffee. Even though I knew what to expect by sitting at this faux diner counter with headphones on, it was dehumanizing and frightening, to say the least.

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Mural inside the entrance to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Photo by Navdeep K. Jassal.
Mural inside the entrance to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Photo by Navdeep K. Jassal.

By Navdeep K. Jassal, Post News Group Ambassador

In my first week in Atlanta, I took a city bus tour to get better acquainted with the city.

I really noticed how green it is with large trees growing abundantly everywhere.

Besides ‘Sweet Auburn’ Avenue, tour highlights included riding through the Buckhead neighborhood and to see Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s mansion. As many know, Kemp is a Republican who opposes mask mandates and getting vaccinated.

The beauty of this was seeing another mansion across the street with a gigantic mask in the yard, encouraging responsible mask-wearing to protect oneself and their fellow Americans noting it’s patriotic. It was a glorious sight for my eyes and gave me a good chuckle, too!

We drove around Centennial Olympic Park, a 22-acre greenspace that serves as Georgia’s legacy of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Next to the park is the incredible National Center for Civil and Human Rights which is a museum and cultural institution that connects the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to human rights challenges today.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.

There, I got to experience what it would have been like sitting at a lunch counter as a Black person and enduring racial slurs just because I asked to be served a cup of coffee. Even though I knew what to expect by sitting at this faux diner counter with headphones on, it was dehumanizing and frightening, to say the least.

My co-volunteer at the Food Ministry at First Presbyterian of Oakland and co-Publisher of the Oakland Post, Mrs. Gay Plair Cobb, had shared stories with me about travelling to Atlanta during that era in the 1960s and sitting at these counters, trying to get served and being completely ignored.

In one of the magnificent displays, I read personal stories from some of the original Freedom Riders. I imagined the bravery and courage these college-aged African Americans had to challenge segregation on bus terminals and buses that travelled interstate. This was such a powerful moment in history, that there were buses being set on fire to stop integration from happening!

I perused the personal papers and items of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This collection represents much of Morehouse alumnus Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and work spanning from 1944 to 1968. There was a remarkable multi-media display on his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech made during a rally for Memphis sanitation workers who were striking for better pay. It was one of his most powerful speeches and alluded to the numerous threats on his life and eerily forecasting his death, which occurred the next day.

Prior to visiting Atlanta, I spoke with Mr. Paul Cobb, co-Publisher of the Oakland Post, and he told me about how close he had come to getting a ride from Mrs. Viola Liuzzo one night to get a hot shower and food.

Liuzzo, a white housewife and mother of five from Detroit, felt compelled to take action during these demonstrations and drove down to help in Selma. A few nights later, as she was driving with Leroy Moton, a Black teenager, she was murdered by members of the KKK. Astonishingly, Moton survived because he pretended to be dead when the Klansmen looked into the vehicle. There was a posterboard dedicated to her courage on the walls of the museum.

There was an outstanding temporary exhibit on the Rosenwald schools. Mr. Julius Rosenwald and Mr. Booker T. Washington forged one of the earliest collaborations between Jews and African Americans to create schools throughout the nation for Black children who had no access to publicly funded education.

From 1912 to 1937, the Rosenwald schools program built 4,978 schools for African American children across 15 Southern and border states. Hundreds of thousands of students walked through these doorways. I am one of the many interfaith lay people who believe in the inherent worth and dignity for all. This exhibit made my eyes well up with how great humanity that collaborates for what is right can look.

The museum also covers contemporary issues such as white supremacy, international human trafficking, and LGBTQI policies.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Schools and streets have been named after Martin Luther King Jr. 

Those who misrepresent King and Critical Race Theory are illogical, and they only reveal their fear of him. There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached nonviolence and love. King was a peaceful warrior who was radically obedient to Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies.

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Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign. (Via Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University)
Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign. (Via Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University)

By Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. | Baptist News Global

J. Alfred Smith Sr.

J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Churches and libraries are named after him. He is the only African American and the only American clergy honored with a national holiday. In many countries around the world, he is numbered with global heroes like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Some discredited him by calling him a communist, a detractor and troublemaker. Sophisticated ideological historians are deconstructing his history in order to distort the powerful truth of his ministry. Those who pass laws against teaching Critical Race Theory are making sure that present and coming generations will not learn as Professor Cornel West said, that King’s universal religious commitments led him to internationalize the American ideals of democracy, freedom and equality.

Those who misrepresent King and Critical Race Theory are illogical, and they only reveal their fear of him. There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached nonviolence and love. King was a peaceful warrior who was radically obedient to Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies.

“There is no need to fear this American Black preacher who preached non-violence and love.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our ignorance

Forgive us, Lord, for reducing Martin Luther King to being only a civil rights leader. Forgive us, Lord, for our ignorance. All many people know about him is that he had a dream. He was more than a dreamer. Forgive us for ignoring your calling of Martin Luther King as a minister with good news for a bad news world.

In keeping with Luke 4:18-19, King — like Jesus — had a deep commitment to the poor, pushed down, left out, disrespected Black sanitation workers of Memphis. He addressed, to the displeasure of the white power structure, the basic constitutionally guaranteed rights of the Black population — equitable education, decent housing, jobs that paid living wages, and equal justice in the courts. The sanitation workers had lost their lives working long hours for dirt-poor pay with unsafe trucks that had taken the lives of several workers.

The workers had a strike with the support of many in the community. They carried signs that said, “I AM A MAN!” Some critics of King did not understand his identification with the cause of sanitation workers.

On March 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, right, lead a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Sam Melhorn)

On March 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, right, lead a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Sam Melhorn)

Professor Luther D. Ivory states in Toward a Theology of Radical Involvement that King used the teaching of Imago Dei to counter the notion of Black inferiority. Everyone irrespective of race, gender, education or economic status is to be valued and treated with respect and dignity. Blacks needed this message to overcome feelings of shame, inferiority and self-hatred caused by the absurdities of racism.

With this understanding, the foundation is built for Blacks and whites to live together in the beloved community. Living in the beloved community calls for Blacks and whites to work together to transform existing injustices in institutions and public life.

Forgive us, Lord, for our distorted gospel

Martin Luther King speaks to an overflow crowd at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church in Memphis. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Martin Luther King speaks to an overflow crowd at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church in Memphis. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Lord, forgive American Christians — Black and white — for their middle-class captivity with a distorted view of the gospel. This understanding of the gospel was concerned about life after death and not life after birth, addressing only the sweet by and by while ignoring the nasty now and now. This gospel condemns the personal sins of the individuals while ignoring corporate and institutional evils. This gospel refused to oppose chemical and nuclear waste dumps that are built on the edge of communities where the poor and politically powerless live.

In his book Stride Toward Freedom, King corrects the distorted view of the gospel saying: “The gospel deals with the whole man, not only his soul, but his body; not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. … Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the conditions that scar the soul is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our white nationalism

Forgive America, Lord, for her ethnocentrism and white nationalism that justifies her behavior whether it is right or wrong. American arrogance has been promoted by persons who have held the highest leadership positions in the nation. America has promoted herself as being No. 1 among the wealthy nations of the world.

In “A Lament for Humanity” on Humans Rights Day 2021, pastor, author and judge Wendell Griffen wrote, “The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. Nearly half the world’s population of 3.4 billion people lives on less than $5.50 per day. Every year, 100 million people are pushed into poverty because they must pay out-of-pocket for health care. Currently 258 million children (one out of five) will not be allowed to attend school.”

Pastor Griffen adds: “And it came to pass that humanity appears to have cursed itself and the world by that greed, lust for power, inequality and bigotry that make community seem like a global fantasy instead of a human imperative.”

The inequality is not accidental; it is deliberative, calculated and purposeful.

Forgive us, Lord, for we were warned by King in his last book, Where Do We Go from Here? He wrote, “We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to learn to live together, Black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu. A family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who because we can never live apart, must somehow learn to live with each other in peace.”

Forgive us, Lord, for our violence

Martin Luther King delivers a sermon on May 13, 1956, in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Martin Luther King delivers a sermon on May 13, 1956, in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Forgive us, Lord, for our worship of guns. There are more guns in America than people. Our money says “In God We Trust” but there are 121 firearms for every 100 residents. And 75% of homicides are related to guns. America leads all other nations in gun deaths. Our children have fears of being killed in school by a student. Black Christians in churches and Jews in synagogues have been killed while worshipping. Our shopping centers have had mass killings.

On Jan. 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol was invaded by persons with guns attempting to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes. The reports say the lives of the vice president and the Speaker of the House were marked for death.

Guns are used to settle differences. The United States is the No. 1 seller of arms to the countries of the world. Forgive us, Lord, for giving deaf ears to the apostle of nonviolence. He preached against what he called the triplets of evil: war, poverty and racism. It was he who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

A prayer for hope

May those of us who have become discouraged because racism seems to be on the increase find hope. May those of us who have become discouraged because white supremacy and white nationalism are boldly obtaining a stronger foothold in state and national governments find hope. May those of us who have become discouraged because voting rights for which people shed their blood so we could vote are now being stolen, placing democracy in jeopardy find hope.

Forgive us, Lord, if we forget how Martin Luther King told us in his very last speech that we would face difficult days. Those days are here.

Two months before his assassination on April 4, 1968, he spoke powerful words of hope. We must not forget them. He said, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

Yes, the immediate future may not look promising. Negative news about climate change may haunt us. Young college graduates are uncertain about career opportunities. The COVID-19 virus and its mutations trouble us. These finite disappointments multiply geometrically, but we must not lose infinite hope.

I am not speaking of blind hope but an infinite hope that presses forward believing that if we do our part, our way-maker God, who brought us through the Middle Passage, the horror of runaway slaves chased by bloodhounds and beaten with many stripes if caught, the sexual abuse of the slave woman bearing a mulatto child for the slave owner, and the way-maker God of liberation who helped us survive the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and inspired our preachers to preach on after their churches were burned and to rebuild them back bigger — that this God will inspire us and create in us the power to keep the dream alive.

Not the God of the slave master’s preacher who told us not to steal the master’s chickens when our babies were crying from hunger, but the God of infinite hope, the God who creates ex nihilo, who makes a way out of no way. The way-maker God inspires us and creates in us the power to keep the dream of Martin Luther King alive.

Dante Stewart reminds us how Pastor James Bevel spoke about infinite hope: “There is a false rumor around our leader’s death. Martin Luther King is not our leader. Our leader is the man who led Moses out of Egypt. Our leader is the one who went with Daniel in the lion’s den. Our leader is the man who walked out of the grave on Easter morning. Our leader never sleeps nor slumbers. He cannot be put in jail. Our leader is still on the case. Our leader is not dead. One of the prophets died. We will not stop because of that.”

Alfred Smith served four decades as pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif. Now pastor emeritus, he is a member of the American Baptist Churches in the USA and dually aligned with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, where he served as the organization’s 12th president.

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