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COMMENTARY: Nipsey’s life: A hussle that motivates, resonates around the globe

THE FINAL CALL — From buying up the block, to creating businesses that employed Black people, aimed to educate them, and give them a space to be creative and help develop and realize their dreams, Nipsey Hussle was a man of the people because he was a man who saw what their needs were and took it upon himself to do what he could to help provide opportunities and a platform for others, because at one point in his life, he was looking for someone to give him the same opportunities and guidance. His death has seemed to galvanize the Black community, and this was evidenced by the recent gang truce that happened in the wake of his death.

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By Bryan 18X Crawford, Contributing Writer, The Final Call
@MrCraw4D

The life, death and legacy of Nipsey Hussle not only deeply touched those who live in his Crenshaw community and the Greater Los Angeles area, but people across the country and around the world were mourning the 33-year-old man whose work in the streets and the suites was inspirational, and rooted in a commitment to build and help his people make progress.

Ermias Joseph Asghedom was seemingly born to be a bridge that connected people to worlds that seemed distant and, in some cases, carried warning signs that read, “Do Not Cross.” The distance might have been as far away as the Horn of Africa or as close as blocks that surrounded the house where he grew up.

Born in 1985 to a Black mother from South Central Los Angeles, and a Black father from Eritrea, a country situated on the Red Sea in East Africa, Nipsey carried the DNA of a revolutionary, in his genes. His father, Dawit Asghedom, fled his home country in the midst of war where the combatants’ faces all looked the same, and landed in the U.S. where he would become politically active. In 1975, Dawit was photographed in New York City holding a sign that read, “Down With Apartheid and Imperialism.”

A decade later, his second and youngest son would be born in a place fighting a similar war in which the combatants’ faces, once again, all looked the same, and the son would embody a fearless spirit opposed to oppressive forces in South Central Los Angeles.

The name Ermias is Hebrew and when translated means “Sent by God.” A cursory look at Nipsey Hussle’s life, his works and response from the Black community and Black world in the aftermath of his death seems to bear witness to the meaning of his name.

Nipsey was born and raised in Crenshaw which is controlled by the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips; a community that is basically bordered on all sides by rival factions of the Bloods street gang. He joined the group. However, despite being affiliated with the Rollin 60s, unlike most members of Los Angeles street gangs, Nipsey was able to move, relate and associate seamlessly with those who were, by street code, the opposition, with essentially no beef—something unheard of in a city where having the wrong color rag (bandana) could lead to dire, and sometimes fatal consequences. He collaborated with artists in “rival” gangs and in media interviews talked about how he and others in Los Angeles built intentional relationships across gang color lines to keep conflicts out of the music and provide an example of how to enjoy mutual respect and mutual success. Those relationships went beyond Los Angeles and spread to other parts of the country as he toured to pursue his music and business ventures.

“If he met you, you were his people. That’s how he made you feel, and we don’t have a lot of people in this rap game who are like that. That’s why nobody is saying anything bad about Nipsey,” Terrance Randolph, a Chicago-based social media brand manager and influencer, known in the hip hop music industry as Hustle Simmons, told The Final Call. “I don’t know what purpose God had for his life, but he must’ve lived it out.”

By the time Nipsey Hussle was 14, by his own accounts, he had left home and begun taking care of himself, hustling on the streets of Crenshaw to survive. By the time his rap career had begun to take off and people started to recognize his name, acknowledge his talent and respect his art, Nipsey made sure to let everyone know, as the lyrics of one his songs go, he was a man with a different thought process, personal blueprint and unlike the usual “rap n****s” in the game.

“[We had a] real war in the streets. It was heavy. We were knee-deep into something real and it was about surviving and defending our opportunities,” Nipsey said in a 2018 interview with Mass Appeal. “I’m conscious that there’s an intentional pushback against people that look like me. I’m supposed to be in jail or dead. There’s a whole prison complex [that exists.] Then, you think about as an artist, there’s a business model that exists in the music industry that prevents you from having ownership; that prevents you from being a partner in the lions’ share of the profits. … When I said I was the Tupac of my generation, Pac was intelligent, but in our culture—street culture, especially in his generation—intelligence is viewed as weakness. So, how do you get the people affected by what we’re really trying to solve, involved?”

For Nipsey, the answer was being an example of what Black ownership meant and looked like, which in itself, was a game changer, especially for those from his community. With family and partners, he purchased the strip mall where he once sold CDs out of a car trunk, opened businesses, advocated for children and created a shared work space for techies in the hood.

According to media reports, there were over 101 million live streams in the two days after Nipsey’s March 31 passing. Streaming and purchasing the music was encouraged because the income directly benefits his estate. Victory Lap, his latest album, sold 64,000 copies the week of April 1. Other popular songs that were streamed included: Racks in the Middle featuring Roddy Rich and Hit-Boy (11.8 million); Dedication featuring Kendrick Lamar (9.6 million); Double Up featuring Belly and Dom Kennedy (8.5 million), Last Time That I Checc’d featuring YG (7.1 million) and Hussle & Motivate (2.9 million.)

The proud West Coast rapper began his career in the mixtape circuit, selling his albums from the trunk of his car in Crenshaw. They were a success and helped him create a buzz and gain respect from rap purists and his peers. In 2010, he placed on hip-hop magazine XXL’s “Freshman Class of 2010”—a coveted list for up-and-coming hip-hop acts—alongside J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and others.

Jay-Z even bought 100 copies of Hussle’s “Crenshaw” for $100 each in 2013 and sent him a $10,000 check.

Nipsey, once signed to Sony’s Epic Records, hit a new peak with “Victory Lap,” his critically acclaimed major-label debut album on Atlantic Records that made several best-of lists last year, from Billboard magazine to Complex.

At this year’s Grammy Awards, “Victory Lap” was one of five nominees for best rap album in a year that saw hip hop dominate the pop charts and streaming services, and debates ensued about which rap albums would get nominated since a number of top stars released projects, including Drake, Eminem, Kanye West, Nas, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Migos and DJ Khaled. Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” won the honor in February, while the other nominees alongside Nipsey were Travis Scott, Pusha T and Mac Miller.

Touching South Central, America and the world

With his passing, his revolutionary and inspirational spirit traveled beyond the borders of the Crenshaw district, Greater Los Angeles, and touched Black communities throughout the U.S., and as far away as Africa and Canada.

“We have to move and act as a fraternal organization, as businessmen, and people that care about our communities and make an actual investment like Nipsey did,” said rapper Killer Mike at a Nipsey Hussle memorial vigil held in Atlanta just days after his death.

Killer Mike added, “We have a choice. We don’t have to be nobody’s savages. We don’t have to be their examples of the wrong way [to go]. We gotta be no thugs that’s been thrown away. That rag that’s over your forehead or [hanging] out of your left pocket, is better served wiping the sweat off your head for the work you’re doing on behalf of your community in a way that does not murder other Africans.”

“A sucker took out a king. … A real king to this era,” said Harlem-based rapper Dave East for an impromptu memorial gathering he organized to commemorate the life of Nipsey Hussle. “I was a kid when Big and Pac died, so I couldn’t feel that. I feel this. … Don’t let his name die.”

Other vigils were held in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Birmingham, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Diego and as far away as Vancouver, Canada,

In Houston, more than 1,000 people gathered in the Midtown section of the city, at the behest of Houston-based rapper Trae The Truth, all clad in Blue, to release balloons in honor of the slain star.

“Some people loved him for the person he was, some people loved him for his music. But regardless, people loved him as a partner, as a brother, as a father. Anything he was, he gave it his all and it was genuine. And these days, you don’t find too many genuine people,” Trae The Truth told NBC News affiliate KPRC in Houston.

T.I., another Atlanta-based rapper, took to his Instagram Live account to talk about Nipsey and take questions from his fans. Nipsey, who had a reputation in the hip-hop community for being both studious, and an avid reader, was known to gift books to people. When asked what book Nipsey gave him to read, T.I. answered, “Message to the Blackman by Elijah Muhammad.” Nipsey’s respect for the Nation of Islam isn’t something that was widely known publicly, but he never shied away from it. He, along with his friends, once famously threw rocks at the Los Angeles Police Department in defense of Student Minister Tony Muhammad of Mosque No. 27, who showed up after a young man was killed in Nipsey’s Crenshaw neighborhood.

“I remember some years back, one of our close friends from our area got killed and [Min. Tony Muhammad] came on 10th Avenue,” Nipsey Hussle explained in video posted on Min. Tony Muhammad’s personal Instagram page. “The police had put a cover on the young man’s face, and the cover was going up and down. There was people who knew the young dude telling the [paramedics] that he was still breathing, that he was still alive. But they just sat there and let him expire on the scene. But Tony Muhammad showed up and represented our community and he stood up. But he ended up having an altercation with the LAPD, but people in our area and myself specifically, always respected him for that.”

Said Min. Tony Muhammad in the caption for his video post, “I will never forget our Brother, a Giant ‘Nipsey Hussle’, he stood up for me years ago when we had an altercation with the LAPD in his Hood! Now I will continue my work of bringing an end to the killings of each other, in his name.”

While the impact of his death hit hardest here at home, it also resonated and affected those of Eritrean descent who live here in America and Africans on the continent.

Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones went online and uploaded a freestyle video devoted to Nipsey Hussle.

In Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, candles were lit during a memorial service for the beloved artist. “With poems and speeches, Ethiopians have held an emotional farewell for murdered rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose roots in neighbouring Eritrea won him admirers in both countries,” AFP reported April 7.

“‘When we heard there’s an Eritrean rapper out there, we were fans before we heard his music,’” said Ambaye Michael Tesfay, who eulogized Nipsey at the event held in a darkened parking lot. “ ‘He was an icon for us,’ ” AFP said. Despite conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia before a peace pact last year, Ethiopians shared their pride about Nipsey’s music and impact. “‘We’re all one people,’ ” Nemany Hailemelekot, who organized the gathering that drew hundreds of people, told AFP.

Eritreans paid their respects to Nipsey Hussle with many offering their feelings via social media. Journalist Billion Temesghen tweeted April 1: “Ermias Asghedom AKA Nipsey Husle was an Eritrean rap star, a preformance phenomenon, who had just returned home. In my pleasant talk with him I was delighted to learn of the Eritrean & African pride he carried deep inside him. He is a legend. compassionate compatriot. We miss him.”

“#NipseyHussle stood for #Eritrea when he was alive & he is still standing from heaven. His life is reinvegorating Eritrean youth to follow his footseps to stand for country & people despite all enmity thrown at them. Nipsy is rendering all anti-Eritrea campaigns mute. Rest in P,” tweeted Amanuel Biedemariam, who often writes for an Eritrean website.

Nipsey’s two visits to his father’s native homeland, once as an 18-year-old young man still trying to figure out who he was and his place in the world, and the second time as a recording star had a profound effect on him.

On his last visit to Eritrea in 2018, Nipsey was treated as a dignitary who seemed to understand who he was and what he represented, while being fully aware that he was both a voice and example for two distinct peoples with a long history of fighting against injustice and oppression, not just one.

When asked by Eritrean journalist Billion Temesghen to describe in his own words what hip-hop is, Nipsey Hussle’s answer was both deep, and profound.

“[Hip-hop is] a form of expression for young people who have so much to be told. It is a vocabulary, it is an art and it is a culture that originally was only of young people in America but now has gone global. The neighborhoods from where Hip Hop came out had unique environments and situations that made people search for a real and efficient form of expression. From police brutality to gang cultures, the riots, racial discrimination and more unique events that urged the growth of Hip Hop in terms of music and Hip Hop in terms of culture and identity.”

He added, “The story of Hip Hop is similar to that of Jazz. Music in America was an expression of our struggles; being black in America. And I, as an Eritrean American, I feel connected to this aspect of the African American history. My father is from Eritrea and we have always been in touch with our Eritrean ancestry and culture thanks to him. However, we still grew up in South Central LA all of our lives. So our exposure was to the culture of Los Angeles, which was gang culture. I was born in 1985 and grew up in the 90s. …  All of the social issues that took place back then happened in our backyard.”

When asked what it meant to have roots and ties to a place that has experienced its own share of violent struggle in the fight for independence, Nipsey’s answer poignantly encapsulated the parallels of life growing up in South Central Los Angeles, where the expectation for Black men is a life that leads to death, not one that can garner the love, respect and admiration of millions all around the globe.

“I am proud of being Eritrean. The history of our country, our struggle and the underdog story, the resilience of the people and our integrity is something that I feel pride in being attached to,” he said.

“He embodied Pan Africanism. He was a bridge between the two worlds of East Africa and the hood, which is really important,” former professor and Los Angeles native Kwame Zulu-Shabazz told The Final Call. “So, he was hood but also very Pan African, and he was proud of it. That’s something that we need more of, too. Part of the reason that we’re lost in the U.S. is because we’ve been disconnected from our roots, and brothers like that can help us reconnect and affirm that Africa is a positive place, and that there are positive things going on in Africa that can make us proud of our heritage as African people.”

His family and close friends, while understandably still mourning and trying to make sense of his tragic death, seem to all take some solace in reminiscing on the good things he did for himself and his family, but also the positive impact he made in the lives of others.

“He recognized at an early age his own capability. His own potential. He has always known,” Nipsey’s mother, Angelique Smith, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I would like for him to be remembered as a humble, spirited, respectful man who had, since his childhood, an extraordinary and unlimited intellectual capacity.”

Said his brother, Samiel “Blacc Sam” Asghedom in the same LA Times piece, “There’s a lot of politics within the area that we grew up in, but he stayed the course and showed what he was about. He made something work in an area that was run-down, that people were scared to come to, and he turned it into a landmark.”

Lauren London, mother of Nipsey’s two-year-old son Kross, told the newspaper that her fiancée, “was a protector and wanted us to be our best at all times. He was a truth seeker and truth speaker. I’m going to keep my head high and always represent for my king to the fullest.”

Dawit Asghedom remembered his son this way.

“It was like he was sent by God to give some love to bring us together because that’s what his lyrics were saying, always,” the elder Asghedom said, adding, “He’s not shy to tell the truth even though it might not look good. He wasn’t scared of anything. [God] sent him to send a message. It looks like, ‘Your time is up because you have completed what I sent you to do.’ We all have a plan, but God has his own plan. So, he had completed what he needed to be doing and he did it early so [God] probably wanted to take him early too.”

From buying up the block, to creating businesses that employed Black people, aimed to educate them, and give them a space to be creative and help develop and realize their dreams, Nipsey Hussle was a man of the people because he was a man who saw what their needs were and took it upon himself to do what he could to help provide opportunities and a platform for others, because at one point in his life, he was looking for someone to give him the same opportunities and guidance. His death has seemed to galvanize the Black community, and this was evidenced by the recent gang truce that happened in the wake of his death. Over the April 7 weekend, hundreds of Crips, Bloods, and members of L.A.’s various Hispanic gangs, all marched through South Central together, gathering in front of Nipsey’s Marathon clothing store and standing in solidarity with one another as brothers and sisters in the same struggle, committed to carrying on the legacy of independence and ownership, which was Nipsey’s messaging in the final stages of his young life.

“My recent music is about the reality of the business; the challenges of working for your own business and how to be a Black young successful entrepreneur,” he told Ms. Temesghen. “I want my music to be an inspiration of individual growth in the economic sector. That is the path I took as I grew up and I want to put it in music. My life is different from when I first came out as a teenager with expressions from the teenage perspective of young men in the streets. Now, as I grew older and became successful in music and business my perspective changed accordingly. And so my art evolved with it.”

Ms. Temesghen explained to Nipsey in their interview that Eritreans had translated his name in their native Semitic language of Tigrigna, to “Nebsi,” which means “self,” and in Eritrean slang terminology, loosely means “homie,” giving his name dual-meaning in the country among Eritrean people: “Self Hustle,” or the “Hustle of Homie.” Ironically, this dual meaning of Nipsey’s stage name in Eritrea, fits perfectly with who he was back in America: a self-hustling homie whose fearlessness motivated and inspired others to follow his lead and do the same.

(Final Call staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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