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COMMENTARY: Racism and Sexism Help End Kamala Harris’ Presidential Campaign

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I’m mad at the triple standard [Harris] has to face when it comes to her race and gender, putting food on the table and choosing a life partner. I’m mad that so-called allies are only allies when Black women are helping them to attain their goals and perfectly willing to throw us under the bus, once they’ve gotten there. I’m mad that the same folks who are now saying we need Harris at the impeachment hearings are unwilling and unable to see a Black woman in the highest office of the land.”

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U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (Photo: Office of Senator Kamala Harris / Wikimedia Commons)

By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

Yesterday, Senator Kamala Harris announced she was suspending her 2020 presidential campaign, because of low poll numbers and financial pressures. Unsurprisingly, this announcement came on the heels of a coordinated weekend media blitz of a leaked resignation letter by Kelly Mehlenbacher, a disgruntled staffer, who had unsurprisingly left Harris’ campaign to work with former New York City Mayor and billionaire, Michael Bloomberg on his newly announced candidacy.

Harris had announced in early November there would be widespread layoffs and an intense focus on Iowa so Ray Charles could see from the grave that the campaign was in trouble.

Pundits, news publications and political junkies treated Mehlenbacher’s letter like a smoking gun, which detailed how horrible of a work environment Harris created blaming Harris’ lack of leadership, focus and clear vision on how to win for the current state of affairs. Mehlenbacher laid Harris’ issues at the feet of the leadership (Campaign chairwoman Maya Harris and Campaign manager Juan Rodriguez), without detailing what role she may have played in the demise of the campaign as Director of State Operations.

Mehlenbacher’s job was to make sure the campaign was run efficiently by planning, executing, monitoring, evaluating, improving and correcting the systems and processes over time so the campaign could grow and scale as the candidate moved closer to the actual race. Only well-funded campaigns even have this position which is why Mehlenbacher may have cut her losses and bolted to Bloomberg’s campaign because that well-paid, position was about to be over.

Aside from the curious case of Mehlenbacher, what began as a promising U.S. presidential campaign ended with a whimper and the resignation letter was just the final nail in the campaign coffin of a Black woman constantly dogged by racism and sexism.

At a dinner party, I learned of the resignation letter and a friend asked me what my thoughts were. After reading it, I said I’m never surprised by a Black woman being undermined by a disgruntled white woman at work, especially when times get tough.

Yes, the campaign had problems, debate performances were uneven and voters needed more clarity on Harris’ health care plan, which she failed to communicate clearly. No, you cannot blame the ultimate failure of the campaign on the resignation letter. However, who wrote it, how it was received and used, played a significant role in the end of the campaign.

The willingness of people to immediately take the word of a disgruntled staffer over a campaign manager and chairwoman is telling. Mehlenbacher didn’t say anything in the letter anyone who has spent time working on or covering a political campaign doesn’t already know. When you run out of money, hard decisions must be made and when you fail to deliver i.e., raise enough money or put efficient processes in place, then sometimes what you may have planned is no longer viable. What she wrote isn’t a smoking gun, but simply status quo when it comes to political campaigns. The weight given that letter by the media was astonishing and the willingness to accept that Harris couldn’t lead a political staff let alone a presidential campaign was interesting.

Three of Senator Bernie Sanders’ top strategists left his 2020 campaign, citing creative differences the week after he launched his campaign in February and nada. No coordinated media blitz about how his campaign was over then or in October when the 78-year-old suffered a heart attack.

One disgruntled white woman essentially says, “I’m mad at Kamala because my job is harder than usual, life isn’t fair and the people in charge won’t do what I tell them to do,” and game over?

It wasn’t just the letter. It was also the idea that the letter was the final straw when folks have been coming for Harris over her racial identity and career as a prosecutor from the jump.

The continued pummeling of Harris by Black folk around being mixed-race and somehow less trustworthy because of it, is laughable. The fact that people hate her because she was a prosecutor when 80 percent of all prosecutors are white men is ridiculous.

Coupled with the fact that many who don’t trust her because she was a prosecutor, are riding with the white men who actually authored, introduced and voted for the crime bill that led to mass incarceration is disgusting.

As for Harris being a prosecutor – we can’t all be defendants. Having all white judges, prosecutors, lawyers and jurors worked so well for Black folk before those in power started allowing us to hold these jobs.

To lay an entirely broken justice system at the feet of one Black woman, when Black women activists, scholars and filmmakers like Jill Nelson, Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander and Ava Duvernay have been doing the actual work of raising awareness, confronting mass incarceration and actively working to change racist laws is unconscionable.

If it sounds like I’m having a tantrum, I am.

I admit that I am sick of agents of the state like Mehlenbacher and Tulsi Gabbard, who do the bidding of white supremacy and patriarchy and benefit from it while pretending to critique it. Women can’t get free because some women won’t get free.

I am sick of Black folks failing to learn from previous mistakes. If cancel culture had been in place when then Senator Obama was running for president, he would have never made it past early critiques of his Blackness and identity.

Until we realize the damage that is done when parroting the same reckless, white supremacist ideology, language and ideas around what makes someone Black, we will create unnecessary distractions from real issues that need our attention like Harris’ platform.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’d rather see Senator Harris on the Supreme Court than in the White House — especially coming behind Mango Unchained — so I’m not mad that she didn’t get the nomination. I’m mad at how she was forced out while folks who have no business being in the race are still there. (See Independents Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg for starters.)

I’m mad at the triple standard she has to face when it comes to her race and gender, putting food on the table and choosing a life partner. I’m mad that so-called allies are only allies when Black women are helping them to attain their goals and perfectly willing to throw us under the bus, once they’ve gotten there. I’m mad that the same folks who are now saying we need Harris at the impeachment hearings are unwilling and unable to see a Black woman in the highest office of the land.

I guess I wish that folks could see Black women the way they see infirmed white politicians on borrowed time and billionaires with little to no political experience.

I know that’s asking for too much in a country that is quite comfortable using the bodies and labor of Black women to literally become a global power while telling Black women to be happy singing in the background.

I’m mad that an entire political party needs Black women’s votes to win local, state and national office, but doesn’t care about the needs of Black women. I’m mad that Black people don’t realize that when we tear down our candidates over bullshit like parentage, it doesn’t take much more than a leaked resignation letter or bad press to finish her off.

Kamala Harris did not run a perfect campaign and no, she wasn’t for everyone. If you look at some of the candidates left in the race – one who talks in Blaxploitationese, one who just discovered racism exists, one who is so clueless about toxic masculinity that he sprays whipped cream into the mouths of adoring supporters and one who is boo’ed up with Trump and White Supremacy, Inc., then there is no reason why a candidate like Harris, despite her missteps, should be out of the race this early. Yeah, some of it is her fault, but it ain’t all her fault.

The relentless assault on Senator Harris will not be forgiven or forgotten at the polls or otherwise by a whole lot of women who look like me. Black women are not here to push everyone else over the finish line while we finish last. Not today or any other day and certainly not anymore.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., entertainment and culture editor for NNPA/Black Press USA. Nsenga is also founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news blog The Burton Wire, which covers news of the African Diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.

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Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.
The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

The documentary She Had A Dream by Tunisian filmmaker Raja Amari premieres on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series tonight at 8 p.m. EST on WORLD CHANNEL. Season 14 of the acclaimed documentary series captures Black artists and activists shaping and reclaiming culture, advocating for change and mobilizing for brighter futures. She Had A Dream offers an intimate portrayal of one young Black Tunisian woman’s quest for political office and her fight against racism and oppression in a society that often seeks to overlook both.

The documentary follows Ghofrane, a 20-something Black woman from Tunisia as she walks the path of self-discovery of young adulthood while running for political office in a homeland where many still view her as an outsider.

Watch the trailer below:

A dedicated, charismatic activist and a modern, free-speaking woman, Ghofrane in many ways is the embodiment of contemporary Tunisian political hopes still alive years after the Arab Spring. She Had A Dream follows Ghofrane as she works to conquer her own self-doubts while attempting to persuade close friends and complete strangers to vote for her. As audiences follow her campaign, they also follow the dichotomies of her life as a woman striving for a role in politics in the Arab world and as a Black person in a country where racism is prevalent, yet often denied.

“The 14th season of AfroPoP shines a light on the collective power, strength and resilience of Black people and movements around the world,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, AfroPoP executive producer. “Viewers will see artists use their platforms to push for progress and human rights and see ‘ordinary’ people do the remarkable in the interest of justice.”

Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.

She Had A Dream airs on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Monday, April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org at the same time.

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is presented by Black Public Media and WORLD Channel. For more information, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena.
The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BBC Africa is reporting Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing a water shortage because of changing weather patterns and aging water facilities. The article reports, “Residents in informal communities like Kibra pay private vendors for water, meaning they now control the supply and access to water in the community.” The privatization of water access has led to an increase in the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for water.

“Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena. Check out the 2018 ANEW documentary short below:

The water crisis and the sexual exploitation of girls and women as a result of the water crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

To read more about this crisis, visit BBC Africa‘s series of articles and videos on Kenya’s water crisis and the Water Integrity Network’s (WIN) study on sextortion.

This news brief was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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#WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright

THE AFRO — Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.
The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Maya Pottiger, Word in Black

It’s no surprise that we’re living through difficult times. After two years, we’re still in a global pandemic, which has predominantly impacted people of color. In addition, Book bans, attacks on critical race theory, and partisan political fights target everything from Black youths’ sexuality, to history, to health.

And we’re seeing the effects.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.

For a variety of reasons — ongoing stigma, lack of insurance, most accessible — Black students often rely on the mental health services offered at school.Outside of a mental health-specific practice, Black students were nearly 600 times as likely to get mental health help in an academic setting compared to other options, according to 2020 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In fact, mental health services in schools have been steadily gaining popularity among students since 2009, before dropping slightly in 2020 when the school year was interrupted, according to the SAMHSA report. As a result, the rate of students receiving mental health care through school decreased by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

So how are schools changing the way they address and prioritize mental health — and the specific needs of Black students — since 2020?

The Renewed Focus on Mental Health

For school-aged people, the majority of their time is spent in a school building — about eight hours per day, 10 months out of the year. To help address mental health during academic hours, schools are trying to focus on social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. This includes teaching kids how to be in touch with their emotions and protect against adverse mental health outcomes.

But it’s been difficult.

Though there’s been more conversation, the implementation is challenging, says Dr. Kizzy Albritton, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. There was already a shortage of school-based mental health professionals before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated, as have mental health issues. In addition, though schools clearly recognize the importance of mental health, they aren’t always provided adequate resources.

“Unless there are more resources funneled into the school system, we’re going to see a continued catch-up issue across the board,” Albritton says. “And, unfortunately, our Black students are going to continue to suffer the most.”

In a survey of high school principals and students, Education Week Research Center found discrepancies in how principals and students viewed a school’s mental health services. While 86 percent of the principals said their schools provided services, only about 66 percent of students agreed. The survey did point out it’s possible the school offers these services and students aren’t aware. The survey also found Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to say their schools offered services.

Dr. Celeste Malone, the president-elect of the National Association for School Psychologists and a Howard University associate professor, says she hasn’t previously seen this degree of attention to mental health in schools.

“I see that a lot in my role for a school psychology graduate program: the outreach and people contacting me with openings where they didn’t exist previously,” Malone says. “With this increased push in funding to hire more, that’s definitely a very, very positive movement.”

Mental Health Is Not One Size Fits All

Just like with many aspects of health, Black youths need different mental health support from their peers of other races. They need a counselor who understands their lived experiences, like microaggressions and other forms of discrimination or racism, without the student having to explain.

For example, in order to best address the specific mental health needs of Black students, districts need to provide information breaking down mental health stigmas; focus on hiring Black counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; and fund anti-racist and trauma-informed mental health practices, according to the Center for American Progress.

While she hears a lot of talk, Albritton says she isn’t seeing widespread evidence of these solutions in practice.

“There needs to be a willingness, first of all, to understand that our Black students, their needs look a lot different,” Albritton says. School officials need to understand where Black students are coming from — that their families and households experience systemic and structural racism, which are known to trigger anxiety and depression. The effects of the racial wealth gap also play a role, from the neighborhood kids are living in, to the schools they can attend to the impacts on their health. Students might be bringing worries about these challenges to school, which could be reflected in their behavior. This is why, Albritton says, it’s crucial to also work with students’ families.

The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .

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