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Maya Angelou is the Face of the Newest Forever Stamp

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Oprah Winfrey speaks during the Maya Angelou commemorative stamp unveiling ceremony in Washington, D.C. (Jazelle Hunt/NNPA)

Oprah Winfrey speaks during the Maya Angelou commemorative stamp unveiling ceremony in Washington, D.C. (Jazelle Hunt/NNPA)

By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Less than a year after her death, Maya Angelou has been further immortalized on a U.S. Postal Service commemorative Forever Stamp.

An all-star assembly gathered to witness the first-day-of-issue stamp unveiling ceremony, held at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. The at-capacity audience included First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, musician Roberta Flack; two of Malcolm X’s daughters, Ilyasah and Qubilah Shabazz, and other notables.

Melissa Harris Perry, who first came under Angelou’s wing in the early 1990s as her intern at Wake Forest University, emceed the event. Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young gave the invocation. Singer Alyson Williams, who was introduced as Angelou’s “personal songbird,” performed the national anthem and the Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice.”

“The truth is, this Forever Stamp registers the applause of tens of millions of readers over the world where the prose and poetry of Maya Angelou is translated in 17 languages and still counting,” said author and educator, Eleanor Traylor, just before reading a passage from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Traylor was on a short list of featured speakers at the ceremony, which included Oprah Winfrey, journalist, Sophia A. Nelson, and Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez, who each recited original poetry.

“On this past Saturday, her birthday April 4th, it would’ve been her 87th birthday,” Winfrey said, adding that she had spent the day reading Angelou’s poetry in commemoration. “I miss her so. I’m honored to be here, to stand as her daughter sister-friend at the unveiling of the Maya forever, Forever Stamp.”

In the middle of her tribute, an area-wide power outage cut electricity to the theater, but Winfrey powered through a recitation of “Phenomenal Woman,” without the microphone.

The image featured on the stamp is a reprint of the oil painting portrait by Ross Rossin on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. The portrait’s unveiling, held the day after Angelou’s 86th birthday last year, was her final public appearance.

“Today, this new Forever Stamp serves as a tribute to Angelou’s humanity, and contribution to our nation,” said Megan J. Brennan, postmaster general and CEO of the USPS. “You will notice that there’s some other words on her stamp: forever and USA. It is the postal service’s way of honoring and remembering those who left an enduring and indelible mark on our society, and who represent the best of America.”

The featured words on the stamp, however—“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song”—have caused a bit of controversy. Although Angelou has used the line in her travels and has become widely associated with it as a result, the quote actually originated with another writer.

The Washington Post was the first major outlet to point this out. It also reported that USPS spokesman, Mark Saunders responded via email: “Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelou’s] many other works. The sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity.”

Currently, the USPS has no plans to alter the quote. Angelou’s stamp is a commemorative one – as such, it will only be issued once and for a limited time. If the USPS does cease production and reissue the stamps with a different quote, this single batch will become an even more valuable collector’s item.

After the actual unveiling, her son, author Guy Johnson delivered an original ode to his mother.

“I point to the life of a little Black girl from Stamps [Arkansas], whose words and actions we honor here today. With heart in hand she stepped out on His word and believed. She spoke out in clarion tones for justice and truth—and look at what the little Black girl from Stamps achieved.”

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Juneteenth ’22: California Legislature Recognizes Reparations Task Force

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

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While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
While honored by the California Legislature, the California Task Force for Reparations members presented the 483-page, Interim Report to lawmakers of the California Legislature Black Caucus. Shown from left to right are attorney Don Tamaki, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, Sen. Steven Bradford, Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Lisa Holder, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, attorney Kamilah Moore, Sen. Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media

Several members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans received a standing ovation from constituents of the State Legislature last week for their work over the last 12 months.

During the opening of legislative sessions at the State Capitol in Sacramento on June 16, members of the Senate and Assembly participated in the gesture that coincided with the kickoff of the state’s official Juneteenth 2022 commemorations.

“The task force, without a doubt, is probably one of the most important task forces not only in the state, but this nation, dealing with the horrors of slavery,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC). “This task force is a reflection of California’s leadership and progressive nature that made a commitment to help bridge racial division and advance equity.”

Bradford, who was appointed to the task force by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, made his remarks on the Senate floor after fellow task force panelist Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) delivered similar comments in the Assembly chambers.

Seven of the nine task force members and staff from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) were recognized at the event.

Task force members attending the ceremony were Chairperson Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; Vice Chairman Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s; Dr. Cheryl Grills, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Lisa Holder, a nationally recognized trial attorney.

Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States and the only non-Black member of the panel, was also in attendance.

Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon met briefly with the panel.

Task force members Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego Councilmember and Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, could not make the trip due to prior commitments.

Several members of the CLBC attended the function, which coincided with the passage of resolution in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday in the Assembly.

Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Akila Weber (D-La Mesa), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and CLBC vice-chair Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) showed up to support the task force members’ efforts.

The Task Force first convened on June 1, 2021, to conduct an examination of the lasting consequences of discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants.

Under Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who is currently Secretary of State of California, the nine-member panel is charged with making recommendations for how the state can compensate Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved African Americans.

On June 1, the task force released its first interim report, a 483-page document compiled by the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

“The information in the interim report reveals uncovered facts about incidents that disproportionately and negatively affected Black Californians in California for 170-plus years and the country for the last 400 years,” Grills said.

“Until we have a reckoning with the truth, we cannot understand who we are as a nation. When we then begin to have that kind of reckoning, I think the specific manifestation of the harm will be easier to deal with and we will actually have an opportunity for transformative change,” Grills continued.

Over the next 12 months, Moore told California Black Media (CBM) that the task force will focus on bringing increased awareness for the interim report, community engagement, and formulating a framework of how California should compensate around 2 to 2.6 million Black Californians.

“It’s important that the California Legislature understand how important this effort is,” Moore told CBM. “This past year we’ve been working incredibly hard. The next (12 months) I categorized it as the development stage where the nine-member task force has substantive and intentional conversations about what reparations should look like.”

Video link of Sen. Steven Bradford and Dr. Cheryl Grills at the state capitol in Sacramento:  .California Task Force For Reparations at State Capitol 6.16.2022

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Groups Unite to Oppose Landmark California Mental Health Legislation

“With broad support from California’s state Senate, CARE Court is one step closer to becoming a reality in California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, “I am also grateful to have the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Downtown Association, and 21 local chambers of commerce join our ever-expanding CARE Court coalition, which includes a diverse group of supporters focused on tackling the challenge of severe mental illness that too often leaves individuals on our streets without hope.”

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The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.
The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Senate Bill (SB) 1338, also known as the CARE Court Program, is attracting growing resistance as it makes its way through the legislative process. Some legal advocacy and civil rights groups say the law would negatively African Americans and other minorities.

The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.

Focused on the state’s unhoused population, SB 1338, would mandate treatment for people diagnosed with mental illnesses. About 40% of homeless adults and children in California are Black, a number nearly seven times higher than the total percentage of Blacks (5.6%) in a state with about 40 million people.

Opponents of the legislation say SB 1338 dangerously expands judicial power and empowers the criminal justice system to commit people to mental health treatment that is sub-par – and often against their will. There is also the potential for misdiagnosis, they warn.

“CARE Court promotes a system of involuntary, coerced treatment, enforced by an expanded judicial infrastructure, that will, in practice, simply remove unhoused people with perceived mental health conditions from the public eye without effectively addressing those mental health conditions and without meeting the urgent need for housing,” read the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) opposition letter.

“We urge you to reject this bill and instead to take a more holistic, rights-respecting approach to address the lack of resources for autonomy-affirming treatment options and affordable housing,” the letter said.

SB 1338 unanimously passed in three Senate committees before the full State Senate approved it in May.

The legislation is currently making its way through the Assembly, where the Committee on Judiciary is reviewing it.

“Given the racial demographics of California’s homeless population, and the historic over-diagnosing of Black and Latino people with schizophrenia, this plan is likely to place many, disproportionately Black and Brown, people under state control,” HRW’s letter continued.

Some members of the California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations share HRW’s opinion, claiming that the program would “disproportionately affect people of color by imposing another unnecessary court process on an already overloaded and biased system.”

SB 1338 does, however, have support from various California-based organizations.

“With broad support from California’s state Senate, CARE Court is one step closer to becoming a reality in California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, “I am also grateful to have the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Downtown Association, and 21 local chambers of commerce join our ever-expanding CARE Court coalition, which includes a diverse group of supporters focused on tackling the challenge of severe mental illness that too often leaves individuals on our streets without hope.”

Jennifer Barrera, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, expressed her support for the bill.

“The California Chamber of Commerce and our colleagues from throughout the state are pleased to support Governor Newsom and his vision to provide support for those suffering from severe mental illness and substance use disorders through the newly proposed CARE Court plan,” she explained.

Barrera says that CARE Court is a thoughtful, measured response to the tragedy of untreated mental illness impacting thousands of individuals. California employers have a clear stake in seeing the success of CARE Court as many business owners and their employees experience, first-hand, the impacts of inadequate policies that fail to address the needs of those individuals suffering on our streets and in our communities.

Disability Rights California (DRC) is also voicing its opposition to SB 1338.

“CARE Court is antithetical to recovery principles, which are based on self-determination and self-direction,” read the DRC’s opposition letter. “The CARE Court proposal is based on the stigma and stereotypes of people living with mental health disabilities and experiencing homelessness.”

DRC proposes an alternative solution to the problems CARE Court is attempting to address.

“The right framework allows people with disabilities to retain autonomy over their own lives by providing them with meaningful and reliable access to affordable, accessible, integrated housing combined with voluntary service,” read the letter.

The HRW expressed concern about how the program might impact personal rights.

“In fact, the bill creates a new pathway for government officials and family members to place people under state control and take away their autonomy and liberty,” HRW warns.

About a month before Umberg and Eggman introduced SB 1338, Gov. Newsom foreshadowed the bill’s arrival in his January budget proposal.

“We are leaning into conservatorships this year,” the governor said. “What’s happening on the streets and sidewalks in our state is unacceptable. I don’t want to see any more people die on the streets and call that compassion.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Inflation Worries Grow as California Legislature Approves State Budget

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed. “We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

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If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.
If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles and Edward Henderson, California Black Media

Diane Lanette Barkum is an in-home care provider and mom of three. She commutes about 40 minutes every workday between the Riverside County cities of Lake Elsinore, where she lives, and Moreno Valley, where she works.

Over the last few months, Barkum says she has been stressed and scraping by, struggling to balance sharp increases in the cost of gas and food with making enough money to pay for other expenses.

“What worries me most about rising prices is that they’ll continue to rise, making it more difficult for low-income working parents to be able to support their families,” she said.

Terence Henry, who lives in Patterson in the Central Valley, used to drive 77 miles to the Bay Area to make deliveries as an independent contractor. He says the high cost of gas forced him to give up the job late last year and opt for only making local runs.

“It used to cost me about $50 each way to fill up the tank to get to Oakland, San Francisco and other cities,” he said. “It just was not worth it anymore. I was losing money.”

Barkum says she hopes there is relief around the corner for people like her who are working hard, raising children and still unable to make ends meet.

Barkum and Henry are not alone. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 27% of Californians say jobs, the economy and inflation are their top concern over housing costs and availability (12%) and homelessness (11%).

Across the United States, the inflation rate is 8.6% — up from 4.7% last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And the American Automobile Association reports that the average price per gallon of regular gas in California has risen above $6. Several economists agree that the effects of inflation hit poor and working-class families the hardest.

In Southern California, the inflation rate in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the Inland Empire has risen to 9.4%, according to the UCLA Anderson School of Management. That number is among the highest of increases in the country.

Last week, the California Legislature approved a record $300 billion-plus budget for the next fiscal year, the largest annual spending plan in the state’s history. The package includes a surplus of close to $100 billion dollars, half of which must be used to fund schools by law.

Included in the budget are plans to spend the other half. So far, legislators have allotted $8 billion in rebates to taxpayers. Another $1.3 billion has been designated for grants to small business and non-profit organizations. Another $600 million has been specified for tax credits to the lowest-income Californians.

While lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – and the governor’s office agree that addressing spiraling inflation is urgent, they have not reached agreement on how to provide relief to struggling families.

Anthony York, Newsom’s senior advisor for communications, said in a statement that the governor still wants “more immediate, direct relief to help millions more families with rising gas, groceries and rent prices.”

At the federal level, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell approved a three-quarter (0.75) percentage point rate hike — the highest single percentage rate increase since 2008.

“African American-owned businesses and families are experiencing the damaging effects of inflation including the current interest rate increase instituted by the Federal Reserve Board.

“It is important for financial institutions to work with Black-owned businesses and their families to help navigate the rising cost of capital needed to operate and sustain all businesses,” said Timothy Alan Simon, board chair of the California African American Chamber of Commerce.

By statute, Newsom has until June 30 to veto the legislators’ budget bill or sign it into law.

If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed.

“We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

On June 15, Republican leaders held a rally at the State Capitol blasting their Democratic colleagues for their inaction on addressing the high cost of gas.

“Legislative Republicans are gathered here to remind Californians that it has been 100 days since the governor and the Democrats here in Sacramento promised California consumers relief on gas prices. One hundred days is far too long,” said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Yuba City). After 100 days, we are still waiting with no relief in sight. We need action now. We’ve been calling since January to suspend the gas tax.”

Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said the state’s wealth needs to work for hardworking Californians. She pointed to a provision in the budget that provides $200 rebates to working families earning up to $250,000 a year and $125,000 for single filers.

“We are focused on providing struggling families the relief they need to weather rising costs of fuel and groceries, investing ongoing funding in core programs and services, funding one-time infrastructure projects that will keep California moving for years to come,” she said.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) echoed Atkin’s optimism.

“We share a firm belief that our state is strongest when it cares for the weakest among us,” said Rendon. “Our budget proposal continues to lay the groundwork with infrastructure and other investments for future prosperity.”

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