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COMMENTARY: Senate Republicans Block This Generation’s Voting Rights Act: Will President Biden Meet the Challenge? 

The Freedom to Vote Act would reverse many of the new anti-voter laws. It would expand access to voting by mail and early voting, make voter registration automatic, and make Election Day a federal holiday. Together, these measures will increase access to voting for working people, Black and Brown voters, women, and people with disabilities. The bill will also end abusive partisan redistricting and help stop billionaires from buying our elections.

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way.

By Ben Jealous, President of People For the American Way

Across the country, Republican state legislators have been busy imposing new voting restrictions and devising corrupt redistricting schemes to give their party more power than they could win under a fair system.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate protected that wrongdoing again in October by using filibuster rules to stop federal voting rights legislation from coming up for debate. This is political obstruction of justice, and President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats must not allow it to stand.

One day before Senate Republicans made it clear that they have no interest in protecting the right to vote or a healthy democracy, 25 religious and civil rights leaders and voting rights activists were arrested in front of the White House. Hundreds more joined us in solidarity as we marched, sang, prayed, and demanded stronger leadership from President Biden.

We know that President Biden is a supporter of voting rights. His stirring speech at the National Constitution Center called voting rights the test of our time and brought moral clarity to our cause.

Now we need presidential action that matches the urgency of Biden’s words and the urgency of our time.

In the eight years since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, dozens of states have erected new barriers that target voters who are Black, Brown, female, and young. A flurry of new laws was introduced this year after record voter turnout contributed to the defeat of former President Donald Trump and the loss of Republican control in the Senate.

The new wave of voter suppression is a direct response to last year’s expansive voter participation. These laws do more than undermine democracy. They defile it. Rather than celebrating efforts to broaden citizens participation, they seek to squelch it. Rather than expand the franchise, they seek to narrow it.

The Freedom to Vote Act would reverse many of the new anti-voter laws. It would expand access to voting by mail and early voting, make voter registration automatic, and make Election Day a federal holiday. Together, these measures will increase access to voting for working people, Black and Brown voters, women, and people with disabilities. The bill will also end abusive partisan redistricting and help stop billionaires from buying our elections.

All 50 Senate Democrats support the Freedom to Vote Act, as does Kamala Harris, our nation’s first woman vice president, who is prepared to cast the 51st vote. But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has demanded that his colleagues keep that vote from happening. They are preventing the will of the people from being realized.

With voter suppression and partisan redistricting threatening next year’s elections, we don’t have time to wait. The Freedom to Vote Act must become law now.

President Biden must use all his personal influence and the power of his office to protect voting rights. He must publicly call on Senate Democrats not to let Republicans resort to Jim Crow tactics to succeed in blocking voting rights protections for our generation.

Those of us who have gathered at the White House are keenly aware of the generations of activists who put their bodies on the line to secure and expand the right to vote—including suffragists who faced beatings for having the audacity to demand the right to vote for women, and activists who risked and sometimes gave their lives to protect Black Americans’ right to vote. And we know the essential role that presidential leadership has played in overcoming resistance to voting rights.

This is a time for the “good trouble” that the late John Lewis called for at the height of the civil rights movement. We will be back at the White House throughout the fall, in greater numbers, to demand that President Biden do what it takes to get voting rights legislation onto his desk and signed into law this year.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way.

Bay Area

COMMENTARY: Abuse Is Not Love

Domestic violence is the No. 1 violent crime in Marin. Women account for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, and men for 15%. Half of the men who assault their wives also assault their children. Adults in same-sex relationships suffer abuse at the same rate as heterosexual couples.

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photo from www.itv.com.
photo from www.itv.com.

By Godfrey Lee

The Mental Health Advocacy Team of First Missionary Baptist Church (FMBC), along with the Marin City Mental Health Services, and the Center for Domestic Peace, conducted a training called “Working Together to End Domestic Violence” on October 25.

Rev. Ronald Leggett, FMBC’s pastor, hosted the Zoom program.

Cynthia Williams, a domestic violence advocate for peace, and a friend of FMBC, introduced the presenter and facilitator, Meghan Kehoe, from the Center for Domestic Peace.

photo from left: Rev. Ronald Leggett, Meghan Kehoe

photo from left: Rev. Ronald Leggett, Meghan Kehoe

Kehoe says that domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior used to exert power and control over an intimate partner. The abuser may use a variety of types of abuse to make sure that they have and maintain control over their partner. These types of domestic violence include physical, emotional, economic, sexual, spiritual abuse as well as stalking and strangulation.

Domestic violence can be physical, but the greatest impact is through verbal and emotional abuse. How victims have been abused and how they feel about themselves will always be present in their mind.

Domestic violence is the No. 1 violent crime in Marin. Women account for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, and men for 15%. Half of the men who assault their wives also assault their children. Adults in same-sex relationships suffer abuse at the same rate as heterosexual couples.

Survivors need unconditional support from their friends. Many of those who stay in an abusive relationships have probably lost a lot of friends who love and support the victim but don’t understand the pattern of abuse, and do not understand why the survivor leaves, then returns to the abuser.

Children witness and experience the domestic violence and fear it just as much as the survivor does, if not more, and 60% of them are also victims of the physical violence as well.

The children, youth, and young adults are also being traumatized and affected by the violence. They may not know how to articulate what is happening to their family, or how to feel when their parents are hurting each another. So, talk to them and see if they want to talk to their parents or a safe person in their life.

Even if children know that they are not the cause of the violence, they still feel it in their hearts. Tell them that it is not their fault, and nothing they did caused the violence.

Young people who survive need good information, programs and services to help them find and maintain healthy relationships.

There is never a wrong time to reach out to someone who is being abused in a relationship. And you should also go with them to get help. Connect them to professionals, or a domestic violence agency. Offer them unconditional support a friend who will look out for them no matter what happens to them, what choices they make, whether or not they go back to their abuser, and be there for them in a non-judgmental way, Kehoe said.

For more information, go to centerfordomesticpeace.org. If you are in need of emergency assistance or wish to make an appointment with Center for Domestic Peace, please contact their 24-hour hotline: (English/ Spanish) 415-924-6616.

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Activism

OPINION: A Great Way to ‘Listen to Black Women’ Is to Elect Them

Recent reports also show that Black candidates are faring especially well in Senate fundraising in the 2022 cycle. While summary numbers might mask persistent hurdles, these data indicate that Black candidates might be better financially positioned for electoral success in the next election.

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Candidacies neither ensure nomination nor election, but it’s a start. Black women — and others who are launching political campaigns — are doing what they can to create a more representative democracy.
Candidacies neither ensure nomination nor election, but it’s a start. Black women — and others who are launching political campaigns — are doing what they can to create a more representative democracy.

By Kelly Dittmar and Glynda C. Carr

Listen to Black women, they say. Support Black women, they tweet. The praise of Black women in recent years is evident in words, but public statements and hashtags must translate into action. And that action should include efforts to elect Black women.

Seven years ago, our organizations joined forces to spotlight the status of Black women in American politics. Since our first report, we have seen — and hopefully contributed to — great progress.

In that time, 17 new Black women were elected to Congress, including the second Black woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate and the first Black women to represent their states from Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, and Washington. The number of Black women state legislators has risen by nearly 50%.

Black women have made tremendous strides in representation as big-city mayors, with 12 Black women taking office for the first time as mayors in the top 100 most populous cities from mid-2014 to present.

Today, Black women are mayors of eight major cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. Just two weeks ago, Elaine O’Neal was elected as mayor of Durham, N.C.; she will take office in early December. And, of course, with Kamala Harris’ 2020 election as vice president, a Black woman now serves in the second-highest position in U.S government.

Progress for Black women in elective office is not measured in numbers alone. The effects of Black women’s political representation are evident in both disrupting white- and male-dominated institutions and making policy change.

Research at the state legislative and congressional levels has shown how Black women’s identities shape policy contributions and behaviors in ways that give voice to underrepresented groups and perspectives.

Five years ago, Representatives Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ), Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Yvette Clark (D-NY) created the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls to promote public policy that “eliminates significant barriers and disparities experienced by Black women.”

Just this year, representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Alma Adams (D-AL), with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), have pushed for “momnibus” legislation to address the crisis in Black maternal health. And in late summer, Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) slept on the stairs of the U.S. Capitol as part of a relentless push to extend the eviction moratorium — which disproportionately affects Black and Brown Americans.

Black women have also been at the forefront of changing the actual institutions in which they serve. Bush’s efforts on the eviction moratorium included calls for institutional change, such as ending the filibuster, in hopes that it would clear the way for a policy agenda that would better serve Black communities.

And in a July 2020 floor speech, Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) made clear that patriarchy is “very much at home in the halls of this powerful institution” and called on her colleagues to build the world that all girls and women deserve, beginning with the institution of Congress.

Black women’s gains in representation should not mask the persistent hurdles they must navigate to find electoral success.

Research demonstrates that Black women are among those women more likely to be discouraged from running for office, confront disparities in campaign fundraising, navigate distinct politics of appearance, and are evaluated by voters and media alike in ways that both rely on and perpetuate damaging stereotypical biases.

Recent reporting has also revealed more than ever before the abuse that Black women face as both candidates and officeholders, abuse that is often rooted in the confluence of racism and misogyny and leads not only to personal harm but also to decisions to abandon political careers.

And while many Black women have navigated these hurdles en route to electoral success, Black women’s underrepresentation in elective office persists, especially in the Republican Party and offices elected statewide.

Today, just three Black Republican women serve as state legislators and no Black Republican women serve in statewide or congressional offices. Former Representative Mia Love (R-UT), the only Black Republican woman ever elected to Congress, was defeated in election 2018.

Her decision to stand up against then President Donald Trump in defense of Haitians specifically, and immigrants more broadly, damaged her chances for re-election and illustrated a distinct challenge she faced in giving voice to her own identity and experience while also aligning with the politics of her party. This challenge persists in today’s GOP, creating unique conditions for Black Republican women who decide to run.

Just two Black women have ever served in the U.S. Senate, and there are no Black women senators serving today amidst key debates over the economy, infrastructure, the environment, voting rights, criminal justice, and immigration.

Black women also hold just six of 310 statewide elective executive offices in the U.S., roles that are key to shaping state policy agendas and outcomes. Just 17 Black women have ever held statewide elected executive offices in 14 states, and no Black woman has ever served as governor.

The 2022 election offers some opportunities to address these gaps. With more than a year before Election Day, the number of Black women who have announced major-party candidacies for U.S. Senate has already exceeded the previous record of 13.

Recent reports also show that Black candidates are faring especially well in Senate fundraising in the 2022 cycle. While summary numbers might mask persistent hurdles, these data indicate that Black candidates might be better financially positioned for electoral success in the next election.

At least five Black women have announced major-party gubernatorial candidacies in this cycle, one short of the previous high. And there remains time for more Black women to step forward, including former Georgia House Minority Leader and organizer Stacey Abrams (D-GA), who is the only Black woman who has ever won a major-party gubernatorial nomination.

Candidacies neither ensure nomination nor election, but it’s a start. These Black women — and others who are launching political campaigns — are doing what they can to create a more representative democracy.

But their success relies on others, including those who issued public directives to support Black women over the past 18 months. You can support Black women on the campaign trail with your time and your money, and you can support Black women at the ballot box with your vote.

You can listen to Black women by ensuring they have seats at policymaking tables where their voices, expertise, and perspectives can inform substantive change. It’s time to translate words into actions.

Kelly Dittmar is an associate professor of Political Science at Rutgers-Camden and Director of Research and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. Glynda C. Carr is CEO and co-founder of Higher Heights for America.

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Black History

IN MEMORIAM: Referee Jim Burch Got the Final Whistle in The Game

Jim Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019). To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

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jim burch
Jim Burch

By Tamara Shiloh

Created in 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference, an athletic conference headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., quickly rose to prominence. Within 13 years, the university and college teams in its membership had a number of victories to its credit. North Carolina State University won the first three championships, and the conference was getting heavy exposure outside of the region. Several ACC teams went to the Final Four of the NCAA’s basketball championships. In North Carolina, Duke University took four titles, Wake Forest University took two and University of North Carolina had one victory as did the University of Maryland.

Life inside the ACC could not have been better, except for one minor but not overlooked detail: there were no Black players or officials.

But Jim Burch (1926–2019), who began his officiating career with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1959, would become the first, signing on with the ACC in 1969. His debut, however, was delayed for a season because “he reportedly refused to cut his hair and sideburns.”

A Raleigh, N.C., native raised in Larchmont, N.Y., Burch was a 1949 graduate of North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University. There he was a two-sport athlete – football and baseball – having large dreams.

Burch “talked about sitting in the ‘colored’ section of Reynolds Coliseum watching games, telling his friends that he was going to be on that court someday,” ACC referee Jamie Luckie told ESPN in 2019 referring to the sports complex in Raleigh, N.C. “They said he was crazy, and sure enough, he was on that court one day.”

Burch never made a big deal out of the historic mark, although many would benefit from his humility. He would train and mentor hundreds of officials over the years. In fact, it was Burch who gave Luckie his start in refereeing.

Throughout his 60-year career, Burch officiated in the CIAA, ACC, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Southern Conference. He also worked 14 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and was an educator and administrator within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

Working as an educator made Burch “an unbelievable teacher of the game in terms of what he wanted us to do on the floor, how he wanted us to deal with coaches, how he wanted us to communicate, and just his delivery and style was one where he could get it across to you, but he was a teacher. That never stopped,” Luckie said.

Burch continued to make monumental achievements as well as give back.

Many of those he trained moved into CIAA, ACC, Southern Conference, and NCAA championship careers. He was twice featured in the NCAA Champions Magazine, served on numerous civic boards, and was the first African American to serve on the Charlotte Housing Authority board.

Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019).

To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

Before retiring in 2018, he served as the head coordinator of officials for the South Atlantic Conference and the CIAA.

Burch died at his home in North Carolina in 2019 at the age of 91.

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