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COMMENTARY: Voting Matters! It’s Not Too Late 

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Election deniers and suppressors are working overtime to ensure that our vote is nullified or diluted. We must respond in such large numbers that we overwhelm and thwart their efforts, until we gain the political power to overturn their suppressive voter restrictions. Their goal is not to ensure governance through a democratic process, but to take control in an autocratic manner. While they shout about election abuse, their intent is to use abusive tactics to maintain control. Let’s be clear, they are afraid of losing in open and fair elections.
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By George H. Lambert Jr. | Washington Informer

The 2022 midterm elections are perhaps the most consequential in our lifetime.  While similar declarations are made every voting cycle, this is especially true this year. Whether abortion rights, criminal justice, human rights, health care, or a plethora of others, each election cycle has its share of issues that take prominence and precedence over others.

This year, none is more important than the preservation of our democracy. While we have major issues that demand our attention, it is quite possible that if we do not vote now to save our democracy, then we will have little or no hope for addressing any of the issues that are important to us, such as equal rights,  equity, and yes, the economy.  If we lose our democracy, we have no hope of pursuing them through a democratic process.

Election deniers and suppressors are working overtime to ensure that our vote is nullified or diluted. We must respond in such large numbers that we overwhelm and thwart their efforts, until we gain the political power to overturn their suppressive voter restrictions. Their goal is not to ensure governance through a democratic process, but to take control in an autocratic manner. While they shout about election abuse, their intent is to use abusive tactics to maintain control. Let’s be clear, they are afraid of losing in open and fair elections.

As we continue declaring to the world that our lives matter, we must remind ourselves of the one fact that gives life to this declaration, it is the fact that voting still matters. Not just because many people died for the precious right to vote, though that alone is enough and worth fighting for, but voting still impacts the political decisions which determine nearly every aspect of the quality of our lives.

According to a 2022 Pew Research Center article, “Key facts about Black eligible voters in 2022,” by Mohamad Moslimani, Black Americans are projected to account for 13.6% of all eligible voters in the United States in the November elections.  This is political power. Power to determine outcomes in critical races.

The National Urban League declares that “For African Americans, full voter participation isn’t a goal; it’s a necessity.” In the 2022 NUL State of Black America, Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League wrote “… and since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the United States has seen a steady rise in disenfranchisement practices giving one party an edge over the other. But never before has the nation seen such an insidious and coordinated campaign to obliterate the very principle of ‘one person, one vote’ from the political process.”  NUL’s Reclaim Your Vote session examined the stakes and the opportunities for African Americans as this year’s election season enters its final stretch.

Here at the Greater Washington Urban League, we loudly and boldly urge Black, brown, marginalized and underserved persons everywhere, to vote. Through a discussion on our radio broadcast, and voter registration and participation messages through our auxiliaries, the Greater Washington Urban League Guild and Thursday Network, we are using our voice to urge you to vote.

But here’s what you can do! It’s not too late for you to start your own get-out-the-vote effort! Here are four simple things you can do to be a part of this movement:

  1. Cast your vote – if you have not already participated in local early voting, then start your campaign by declaring to yourself that nothing will stop you from voting whether through early voting (if it’s still possible in your area), or on Election Day.
  2. Urge your relatives and friends across the nation to vote – contact your personal network and urged them to vote. While you cannot vote in other communities across the nation where our vote is critical, you can and must contact persons in your own network who live in states with key races across the nation. Call a relative, call a friend, and ask them to vote.
  3. Use your social media influence. You are an influencer and have followers who will be motivated by you to exercise their right to vote. Use your social media platform of choice – Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, to reach as many persons as you can.
  4. Encourage every person in your network to conduct their own individual “get out the vote initiatives.” As you reach out to your family, friends and associates urging them to vote, ask them to take steps, two and three above, just as you will. Collectively, we can determine the outcome of critically close elections across the country.

Our strong appeal to you, is to urge every person you know to vote their interests. Tell them not to waste energy on candidates and organizations that have never shown an interest in our issues.

Who are we if we fail to carry the torch to save not only ourselves but future generations? We don’t want to be that generation that failed to act to save our democracy, protect our rights, and end our ability to have control over our destiny. While not perfect, a less perfect union is unacceptable!

Lambert is president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League.

The post LAMBERT: Voting Matters! It’s Not Too Late  appeared first on The Washington Informer.

The post COMMENTARY: Voting Matters! It’s Not Too Late  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Beloved Actor and Activist Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. Dies at 87

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Louis Gossett Jr., the groundbreaking actor whose career spanned over five decades and who became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his memorable role in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” has died. Gossett, who was born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn, N.Y., was 87. Recognized early on for his resilience and nearly unmatched determination, Gossett arrived in Los Angeles in 1967 after a stint on Broadway.
The post Beloved Actor and Activist Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. Dies at 87 first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

@StacyBrownMedia

Louis Gossett Jr., the groundbreaking actor whose career spanned over five decades and who became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his memorable role in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” has died. Gossett, who was born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn, N.Y., was 87. Recognized early on for his resilience and nearly unmatched determination, Gossett arrived in Los Angeles in 1967 after a stint on Broadway.

He sometimes spoke of being pulled over by law enforcement en route to Beverly Hills, once being handcuffed to a tree, which he remembered as a jarring introduction to the racial tensions of Hollywood. In his memoir “An Actor and a Gentleman,” Gossett recounted the ordeal, noting the challenges faced by Black artists in the industry. Despite the hurdles, Gossett’s talent shone brightly, earning him acclaim in groundbreaking productions such as “A Raisin in the Sun” alongside Sidney Poitier. His Emmy-winning portrayal of Fiddler in “Roots” solidified his status as a trailblazer, navigating a landscape fraught with racial prejudice.

According to the HistoryMakers, which interviewed him in 2005, Gossett’s journey into the limelight began during his formative years at PS 135 and Mark Twain Junior High School, where he demonstrated early leadership as the student body president. His passion for the arts blossomed when he starred in a “You Can’t Take It With You” production at Abraham Lincoln High School, catching the attention of talent scouts who propelled him onto Broadway’s stage in “Take A Giant Step.” His stellar performance earned him the prestigious Donaldson Award for Best Newcomer to Theatre in 1952. Though initially drawn to sports, Gossett’s towering 6’4” frame and athletic prowess led him to receive a basketball scholarship at New York University. Despite being drafted by the New York Knicks in 1958, Gossett pursued his love for acting, honing his craft at The Actors Studio under the tutelage of luminaries like John Sticks and Peggy Fury.

In 1961, Gossett’s talent caught the eye of Broadway directors, leading to roles in acclaimed productions such as “Raisin in the Sun” and “The Blacks,” alongside legends like James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Roscoe Lee Brown, and Maya Angelou. Transitioning seamlessly to television, Gossett graced small screens with appearances in notable shows like “The Bush Baby” and “Companions in Nightmare.” Gossett’s silver screen breakthrough came with his role in “The Landlord,” paving the way for a prolific filmography that spanned over 50 movies and hundreds of television shows. From “Skin Game” to “Lackawanna Blues,” Gossett captivated audiences with his commanding presence and versatile performances.

However, his portrayal of “Fiddler” in Alex Haley’s groundbreaking miniseries “Roots” earned Gossett critical acclaim, including an Emmy Award. The HistoryMakers noted that his golden touch extended to the big screen, where his role as Sergeant Emil Foley in “An Officer and a Gentleman” earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, making him a trailblazer in Hollywood history.

Beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Gossett was deeply committed to community activism. In 1964, he co-founded a theater group for troubled youth alongside James Earl Jones and Paul Sorvino, setting the stage for his lifelong dedication to mentoring and inspiring the next generation. Gossett’s tireless advocacy for racial equality culminated in the establishment of Eracism, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating racism both domestically and abroad. Throughout his illustrious career, Gossett remained a beacon of strength and resilience, using his platform to uplift marginalized voices and champion social change. Gossett is survived by his children, Satie and Sharron.

The post Beloved Actor and Activist Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. Dies at 87 first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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COMMENTARY: D.C. Crime Bill Fails to Address Root Causes of Violence and Incarceration

WASHINGTON INFORMER — The D.C. crime bill and so many others like it are reminiscent of the ‘94 crime bill, which produced new and harsher criminal sentences, helped deploy thousands of police and surveilling methods in Black and brown communities, and incentivized more states to build prisons through a massive infusion of federal funding. While it is not at the root of mass incarceration, it significantly accelerated it, forcing a generation of Black and brown families into a never-ending cycle of state-sanctioned violence and incarceration.
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By Kaili Moss and Jillian Burford | Washington Informer

Mayor Bowser has signed the “Secure DC” omnibus bill passed by the D.C. Council last month. But we already know that this bill will be disastrous for all of D.C., especially for Black and brown residents.

While proponents claim that this legislation “will make D.C. residents safer and more secure,” it actually does nothing to address the root of the harm in the first place and instead maintains a cycle of violence, poverty, and broken community ties. The omnibus bill calls for increased surveillance, drug-free zones, and will expand pre-trial detention that will incarcerate people at a significantly higher rate and for an indeterminate amount of time before they are even tried. This bill will roll back decades of nationwide policy reform efforts and initiatives to keep our communities safe and whole, which is completely contradictory to what the “Secure” D.C. bill claims it will do.

What is unfolding in Washington, D.C., is part of a dangerous national trend. We have seen a resurrection of bad crime bills in several jurisdictions across the country — a phenomenon policy experts have named “zombie laws,” which are ineffective, costly, dangerous for communities of color and, most importantly, will not create public safety. Throwing more money into policing while failing to fund preventative measures does not keep us safe.

The D.C. crime bill and so many others like it are reminiscent of the ‘94 crime bill, which produced new and harsher criminal sentences, helped deploy thousands of police and surveilling methods in Black and brown communities, and incentivized more states to build prisons through a massive infusion of federal funding. While it is not at the root of mass incarceration, it significantly accelerated it, forcing a generation of Black and brown families into a never-ending cycle of state-sanctioned violence and incarceration. Thirty years later, despite spending billions each year to enforce these policies with many of these provisions remaining in effect, it has done very little to create long-term preventative solutions. Instead, it placed a permanent moving target on the backs of Black people, and the D.C. crime bill will do the same.

The bill calls for more pretrial detention. When our loved ones are held on pretrial detention, they are held on the presumption of guilt for an indeterminate amount of time before ever seeing a judge, which can destabilize people and their families. According to experts at the Malcolm Weimer Center for Social Policy at Harvard University, just one day in jail can have “devastating consequences.” On any given day, approximately 750,000 people are held in jails across the nation — a number that beats our nation’s capital population by about 100,000. Once detained, people run the risk of losing wages, jobs, housing, mental and health treatments, and time with their families. Studies show that pretrial detention of even a couple of days makes it more likely for that person to be rearrested.

The bill also endangers people by continuing a misguided and dangerous War on Drugs, which will not get drugs off the street, nor will it deter drug use and subsequent substance use disorders (SUDs). Drug policies are a matter of public health and should be treated as such. Many states such as Alabama, Iowa and Wisconsin are treating the current fentanyl crisis as “Crack 2.0,” reintroducing a litany of failed policies that have sent millions to jails and prisons instead of prioritizing harm reduction. Instead, we propose a simple solution: listen to members of the affected communities. Through the Decrim Poverty D.C. Coalition, community members, policy experts and other stakeholders formed a campaign to decriminalize drugs and propose comprehensive legislation to do so.

While there are many concerning provisions within the omnibus bill, car chases pose a direct physical threat to our community members. In July 2023, NBC4 reported that the D.C. Council approved emergency legislation that gave MPD officers the ability to engage in vehicular pursuits with so-called “limited circumstances.” Sgt. Val Barnes, the head of MPD’s carjacking task force, even expressed concern months before the decision, saying, “The department has a pretty strict no-chase policy, and obviously for an urban setting and a major metropolitan city, that’s understandable. If our law enforcement officers themselves are operating with more concern than our elected officials, what does it say about the omnibus bill’s purported intention to keep us safe?

And what does it mean when the risk of bodily harm is posed by the pursuit itself? On Saturday, Feb. 10, an Eckington resident had a near-miss as a stolen car barreled towards her and her dog on the sidewalk with an MPD officer in pursuit. What responsibility does the city hold if this bystander was hit? What does restitution look like? Why are our elected officials pushing for MPD officers to contradict their own policies?

Just a few summers ago during the uprisings of 2020, we saw a shift in public perspectives on policing and led to legislation aimed at limiting police power after the highly-publicized murders of loved ones Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — both victims of War on Drugs policing and the powers gained from the ’94 crime bill. And yet here we are. These measures do not keep us safe and further endanger the health of our communities.  Studies show that communities that focus on harm reduction and improving material conditions have a greater impact on public safety and community health. What’s missing in mainstream conversations about violent crime is the violence that stems from state institutions and structures that perpetuate racial and class inequality. The people of D.C. deserve to feel safe, and that includes feeling safe from the harms enacted by the police.

Kaili Moss is a staff attorney at Advancement Project, a national racial justice and legal organization, and Jillian Burford is a policy organizer at Harriet’s Wildest Dreams.

The post COMMENTARY: D.C. Crime Bill Fails to Address Root Causes of Violence and Incarceration first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Mayor, City Council President React to May 31 Closing of Birmingham-Southern College

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — “This is a tragic day for the college, our students, our employees, and our alumni, and an outcome so many have worked tirelessly to prevent,” Rev. Keith Thompson, chairman of the BSC Board of Trustees said in an announcement to alumni. “We understand the devastating impact this has on each of you, and we will now direct our efforts toward ensuring the smoothest possible transition for everyone involved.”
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By Barnett Wright | The Birmingham Times

Birmingham-Southern College will close on May 31, after more than a century as one of the city’s most respected institutions.

“This is a tragic day for the college, our students, our employees, and our alumni, and an outcome so many have worked tirelessly to prevent,” Rev. Keith Thompson, chairman of the BSC Board of Trustees said in an announcement to alumni. “We understand the devastating impact this has on each of you, and we will now direct our efforts toward ensuring the smoothest possible transition for everyone involved.”

There are approximately 700 students enrolled at BSC this semester.

“Word of the decision to close Birmingham Southern College is disappointing and heartbreaking to all of us who recognize it as a stalwart of our community,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a statement. “I’ve stood alongside members of our City Council to protect this institution and its proud legacy of shaping leaders. It’s frustrating that those values were not shared by lawmakers in Montgomery.”

Birmingham City Council President Darrell O’Quinn said news of the closing was “devastating” on multiple levels.

“This is devastating for the students, faculty members, families and everyone affiliated with this historic institution of higher learning,” he said. “It’s also profoundly distressing for the surrounding community, who will now be living in close proximity to an empty college campus. As we’ve seen with other institutions that have shuttered their doors, we will be entering a difficult chapter following this unfortunate development …   We’re approaching this with resilience and a sense of hope that something positive can eventually come from this troubling chapter.”

The school first started as the merger of Southern University and Birmingham College in 1918.

The announcement comes over a year after BSC officials admitted the institution was $38 million in debt. Looking to the Alabama Legislature for help, BSC did not receive any assistance.

This past legislative session, Sen. Jabo Waggoner sponsored a bill to extend a loan to BSC. However, the bill subsequently died on the floor.

Notable BSC alumni include former New York Times editor-in-chief Howell Raines, former U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Perry O. Hooper Sr.

This story will be updated.

The post Mayor, City Council President React to May 31 Closing of Birmingham-Southern College first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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