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Miss Aretha Franklin: A Five-Star Queen of Soul 

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By Rev. Amos Brown

I have known the Rev. Jasper Williams for a long time and respect him as an individual. I wonder, however, if he understood the meaning of “eulogy” in the wake of the unfortunate sermon he delivered at Miss Aretha Franklin’s funeral in Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple last week.

I attended the funeral for eight hours, and I joined Miss Franklin’s family in condemning Rev. Williams’ decision to use a critical moment in history to espouse personal political views rather than to righteously honor The Queen of Soul’s life and legacy.

In his supposed eulogy, the Rev. Williams repeated the false narrative that Black women are incapable of raising boys into men. He then echoed President Trump in suggesting Black-on-Black crime in cities like Chicago is the main issue—neglecting to address systemic injustices inflicted on African-American communities.

The Rev. Williams doesn’t just need to study history. He needs to read, and re-reread the story of Jesus’ death on the cross. Apparently Joseph’s father was not at the cross when the Christian savior died on the cross. There were only women and John’s beloved disciple whom Jesus said, “Son behold thy mother; mother behold my Son.” From that moment on, John became a surrogate to Jesus’ family, and that family produced James, who became the leader of church at Jerusalem. Moreover, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Jesse Lewis Jackson and yours truly, did not have a constant father image present. But these iconic men still achieved.

In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies—a book about young civilized British schoolchildren who survive a plane crash on an uninhabited island—the children gradually devolve into a devastatingly low level of humanity as they attempt to form a new society on the island. That scenario does much to explain what is going on in the more violent areas of Chicago. After the first and second world wars, resources were scarce and African Americans migrated in droves to cities like Chicago for work, particularly in the defense industry during WWII. After the second war ended and factories closed, families in African American communities were left jobless in areas that lacked quality education, adequate housing, and so forth. Like the British schoolboys, they were left stranded on an island without human necessities and a culture of violence emerged.

Last Friday in her eulogy Miss Aretha Franklin should have been recognized, not only for her voice, but for her not giving up on our marginalized communities.

If I had delivered the eulogy, I would have called her a Five-Star Queen of Soul, and then explained why. Her eulogy would have told her story, about how her passion for education along with her father, the late Rev. C.L. Franklin, who also had a “million dollar voice.” Aretha was a high school dropout, but she was a strong supporter of education, regularly assisting organizations like the United Negro College Fund. So she was an enlightened woman who had respect for education. That’s the first star in the “Five –Star Queen of Soul.”

She was also an encourager. She lived to encourage others, and to help others. From the time she sang at her father’s church, she also alongside her father fed people in need. She never stopped helping people at the church through donations and other support, becoming an inspiration to the community. NBA legend Isaiah Thomas said he got to know Aretha Franklin when he was a bad boy in the league.

“I got here to Detroit, Aretha sat me down, her and Mayor Coleman Young, and they kept asking me what are you going to do? What are you going to say about Detroit?” Thomas said in his more accurate form of eulogy to the Queen. “And they taught me about Detroit. And they gave me the courage to speak about race, and class and gender while I was a champion.”

Till the very end, whether it was the Flint water crisis or students in need, Aretha was there to support. Perhaps these good deeds to some degree de-emphasize the majesty of her musical craft.

A third star for this five-star Queen of Souls is not just in the distinction in her voice and her command over it, but how eclectic she was in her artistry and the music she performed. She influenced Elvis Presley in terms of his musical style. She knew how to sing Ave Maria. And the person behind that universal voice spoke universal truths, seeing America not as a melting pot of boiling stew, but more as a health salad bowl of people and ideas. That’s what she was about in her music. That’s what she brought. She not only included all musical styles but also races, creeds, religions. She was a world citizen.

Fourth Star: She was an incredible soul sister. Amid avid support for marginalized populations, she tried to prop up fellow African Americans, provide them with hope. She raised nearly a quarter million dollars to get Angela Davis, falsely accused of being a communist, out of jail. Decades after her father helped plan the March on Washington of 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered portions of his I have a Dream speech, Franklin was in Washington to perform “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the inauguration of the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama.

Fifth star: She was an endurer. In spite of challenges, Aretha Franklin served others to the very end. Months before pancreatic cancer ravaged her body, she went to New York for Elton John’s fundraiser to support the cause for fighting AIDs.  To the bitter end, she was serving, she was enduring. And that’s just who she was.

Though the storms keep on raging in my life
And sometimes it’s hard to tell my night from day
Still that hope that lies within is reassured
As I keep my eyes upon the distant shore;
I know He’ll lead me safely to that
Blessed place He has prepared

But if the storms don’t cease
And if the wind keeps on blowing, (in my life)
My soul has been anchored in the Lord

And it keeps me steadfast and unmovable
Despite the tide
But if the storms don’t cease
But in case the wind keeps on blowing, (in my life)
My soul has been anchored in the Lord
My soul has been anchored in the Lord

My soul’s been anchored
My soul’s been anchored
My soul’s been anchored

Amos C. Brown is an African American pastor and civil rights activist. He is the president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP, and has been the pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco since 1976.

 

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Activism

Rep. Barbara Lee Issues Statement on 2nd Anniversary of George Floyd, Applauds Executive Order on Policing

“Two years ago, George Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of law enforcement swept the nation. His life was taken from him by a broken, racist criminal justice system. While his death catalyzed protests across the country, real systemic change has largely been out of reach,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

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“Hundreds of others have been the victims of racial profiling in the years since, some losing their lives, some making the news, other cases not getting the attention they warranted. On this painful anniversary, my thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with George’s family (pictured) and community,” said Rep. Barbara Lee.
“Hundreds of others have been the victims of racial profiling in the years since, some losing their lives, some making the news, other cases not getting the attention they warranted. On this painful anniversary, my thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with George’s family (pictured) and community,” said Rep. Barbara Lee.

Rep. Barbara Lee issued the following statement Wednesday on the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and in response to a new Executive Order on policing issued by President Biden:

“Two years ago, George Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of law enforcement swept the nation. His life was taken from him by a broken, racist criminal justice system. While his death catalyzed protests across the country, real systemic change has largely been out of reach.

“Hundreds of others have been the victims of racial profiling in the years since, some losing their lives, some making the news, other cases not getting the attention they warranted. On this painful anniversary, my thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with George’s family and community.

“Today, President Biden made progress in repairing the broken system that led to George’s death with a historic Executive Order to combat police brutality. I commend the president for taking action to promote accountability, raise standards, increase transparency, and reform the criminal justice system.

“However, this EO alone is not enough. State and local police departments must follow. The Senate must find the political will to abolish the filibuster and pass meaningful police accountability legislation. Black lives and the fate of this nation depend on it.”

Read the full text of the executive order here.

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Bay Area

What California Is Learning from Expanding Voters Rights

Mail-in ballot voting has been underway since the second week in May.  Assembly Bill 37, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021, requires the state to send vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots to every registered voter in the state. The law applies to all elections held after Jan. 1, 2022.

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California’s response to the current trend in some states that will limit voting, is to make access and methods of voting easier.
California’s response to the current trend in some states that will limit voting, is to make access and methods of voting easier.

By Joe W. Bowers Jr., California Black Media

June 7, 2022 is Primary Election Day in California.

On the ballot are candidates for U.S. Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, State Board of Equalization, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate and State Assembly, as well as candidates for local elected positions.

There are two contests for U.S. Senate on the ballot. One is for a full six-year term ending Jan. 3, 2029. The other is for the remainder of the term that Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) has been serving in place of Vice. President Kamala Harris that ends Jan. 3, 2023.

Mail-in ballot voting has been underway since the second week in May.  Assembly Bill 37, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021, requires the state to send vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots to every registered voter in the state. The law applies to all elections held after Jan. 1, 2022.

Ballots are sent 29 days before the election, which was May 9 for the primary. For the November General Election, voters will start receiving ballots October 10.

A majority of California voters live in counties that have adopted the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) system. In 2016, Senate Bill 450 created the VCA, an election model that expands voters’ options for how, when and where they can cast their ballots in an attempt to provide more accessible voting options.

VBM ballots are provided with a postage-paid return envelope. For a ballot to count in the upcoming primary election, it must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by June 14, 2022. It can also be dropped off in-person to a secure ballot drop box, a voting location or county elections office by 8:00 p.m. on June 7, 2022.

The VCA is an optional law. Counties elect if they want to adopt it. In 2018, five counties adopted the new law: Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento and San Mateo. In 2020, nine additional counties changed their election models to the VCA: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Orange, Santa Clara, and Tuolumne. In 2022, the number of counties that have transitioned to the VCA grew to 28 with the addition of Alameda, Kings, Marin, Merced, Riverside, San Benito, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Ventura, and Yolo counties.

In VCA counties, early in-person voting begins as early as May 28. Voters can vote at any county vote center instead of being assigned to a neighborhood polling place. The vote centers are open four to 10 days prior to the election, including weekends. They serve as one-stop shops with accessible voting machines – venues where voters can drop off their VBM ballot, receive a replacement ballot, register to vote, and get help with voting material in multiple languages.

Unregistered voters who miss the close of registration on May 23 will be able to conditionally register to vote at any vote center and cast a provisional ballot through the end of Election Day.

When California policymakers and election officials proposed the Voter’s Choice Act most proponents applauded its benefits, including lowering election administration costs, providing greater convenience and flexibility for voters, and the potential to improve voter turnout.

Recently, California Secretary of State (SOS) Shirley Weber released a report on the implementation of VCA during the 2020 Primary and General Elections.

Key findings of the report include:

VCA counties had higher voter registration rates in the state. The 15 VCA counties accounted for about half of the state’s registered voters in both elections.

Many VCA counties experienced a higher voter turnout compared to their non-VCA counterparts. Turnout in the 2020 General Election across racial groups showed white voters had a higher overall turnout than their non-W\white counterparts. The voter turnout gap for Black voters was 5.2 points, and AAPI voters had a turnout gap of 4.3 points.

Black and AAPI voters turned out at similar rates as the VCA counties’ average, and Latino voters used in-person voting most among all races and ethnicities.

Use of vote-by-mail ballots was the primary choice of voting in the 2020 elections. More voters chose to return their ballot by drop box than by mail. Use of drop boxes decreased after the age of 45 in the Primary Election and age 35 in the General Election.

Voters in VCA counties cast a ballot in-person at a higher rate than voters in non-VCA counties in the General Election (55.1%). For the Primary Election, that number was 46.6%.

In the General Election, voters aged 46-55 voted in person most compared to all other age groups. In both the Primary and General Elections, voters aged 66+ voted in-person least.

VBM ballot rejection rates in VCA counties were similar to VBM ballot rejections statewide. Voters aged 18-25 had the highest ballot rejection rate. Ballot rejection rates decreased as voter age increased in VCA counties.

VBM ballots were rejected (69.3%) mainly due to not being received on time during the Primary Election. But General Election VBM ballots were mainly rejected due to non-matching signatures (56.09%).

Provisional ballot use decreased significantly between the Primary and General Elections.

There were no confirmed instances of voter fraud in both the Primary and General elections in 2020.

Secretary of State’s Recommendations based on the report findings:

Share best practices from counties that have high voter registration rates with counties that have lower registration rates.

Reduce ballot rejection rates through increased voter education.

Continue to work with counties to ensure drop box locations are accessible and convenient to the public.

Increase outreach and education about early in-person voting and other voting options available in VCA counties.

Increase targeted outreach efforts to engage young voters (18-25).

“We have taken away every excuse a person can possibly have as to why they won’t vote,” SOS Weber said recently. “People realize this is going to be easy and it’s comfortable.”

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Activism

Protest of Palestinian American Journalist’s Killing by Israeli Police Draws 500 in S.F.

“If you were a Palestinian anywhere around the world who watched the news since the late ’90s, you grew up with Shireen Abu Akleh,” said Sabreen Imtair, a San Francisco State University student and Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) member in an interview during the protest. “A lot of people are saying they lost a household member. We are really feeling her loss right now.”

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Protesters march down 16th Street in San Francisco on May 14 to speak out against the Israeli killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, 74 years of occupation, and USA support of Israel. Photo by Zack Haber.
Protesters march down 16th Street in San Francisco on May 14 to speak out against the Israeli killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, 74 years of occupation, and USA support of Israel. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

Starting at noon on May 14, over 500 people rallied and marched in San Francisco’s Mission District to protest the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and 74 years of Israeli occupation of Palestine.

“If you were a Palestinian anywhere around the world who watched the news since the late ’90s, you grew up with Shireen Abu Akleh,” said Sabreen Imtair, a San Francisco State University student and Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) member in an interview during the protest. “A lot of people are saying they lost a household member. We are really feeling her loss right now.”

Abu Akleh, who had worked for the Al Jazeera news network for 25 years as one of the most prominent journalists reporting in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, died of a bullet wound on May 11 while covering an Israeli army raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

She was wearing a blue vest with large white letters stating “PRESS.” During Abu Akleh’s massive funeral on May 13, Israeli police beat people carrying her casket.

“We’re not even able to bury our dead in peace,” said AROC organizer Sharif Zakout during a speech at the San Francisco protest. “It’s disgusting.”

AROC, Palestinian Action Network, Palestinian Youth Movement, and Jewish Voice For Peace organized the San Francisco demonstration. It was one of at least 60 such actions occurring between May 14-16 around the world to remember Abu Akleh and to mark Nakba Day, an annual commemoration for Palestinians that began after 1948, when the British government formally stopped recognizing the state of Palestine and recognized Israel in its place.

This sparked the Arab-Israeli war when Zionist military forces expelled over 750,000 Palestinians and captured 78% of Palestine’s land.

In an interview at the protest, Lisa Rofel, a member of Jewish Voice For Peace, spoke out against Israeli occupation and explained why the Jewish group was present.

“We’re here because we strongly support the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation,” Rofel said. “It’s an occupation which has been vicious, cruel and inhumane and now has turned into military rule over almost every aspect of Palestinians’ lives. We also demand an end to U.S. complicity in that occupation.”

According to a report by Congressional Research Service, the Biden administration has allocated over $3.8 billion in military financing and missile defense funding to Israel this year.

During the demonstration, a diverse array of people that included elders along with young children, marched about a mile-long route carrying signs, banners, Palestinian flags, and art as they chanted in English and Arabic. Over 18 marchers carried one giant Palestinian flag together.

Some protesters carried signs stating 55 journalists have been killed by Israeli forces since 2000, a figure The Palestinian Journalists’ Union cites.

Other protesters carried signs calling attention to Ahmed Manasra, a 21-year-old Palestinian who has been imprisoned since he was arrested at age 13 after being with his cousin, who allegedly stabbed two Israeli settlers in Pisgat Ze’ev.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, UN bodies and the International Court of Justice considers Pisgat Ze’ev an illegal settlement.

Chris Gazaleh, a Palestinian American artist based in San Francisco, made some of the art for the rally by creating signs inspired by Palestinian architecture and Arabic calligraphy to represent cities that Zionists ethnically cleansed during the 1948 Nakba.

During a speech at this year’s San Francisco Nabka rally, Rivka Louissant, a Haitian cultural worker who organizes with the an anti-war and anti-racism coalition ANSWER, spoke about how people and organizations are increasingly supporting an end to Israeli occupation and the struggle for Palestinian autonomy.

“Support for Palestinian rights and BDS is more popular than ever,” Louissant said. “The public is waking up to the evils of imperialism.”

In April of last year, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of “crimes of apartheid,” and in February of this year, Amnesty International described Israel as an “apartheid system,” and characterized its treatment of Palestinians as “a crime against humanity.”

Some local politicians have recently shown support for Israel. During a speech at the rally, AROC organizer Sharif Zakout criticized San Francisco Board Supervisor Rafael Mandelman for his recent visit to Israel for the Israel Seminar in light of Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing. Zakout characterized the seminar as “a propaganda trip.” The Israel Seminar is organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council, which has taken a public stand against the BDS movement, and has refused to denounce Israeli attacks against Palestinians. Photos from the trip, posted on May 15 and 16, also show Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, and San Mateo Councilmember Amourence Lee.

“We are here today to say the Bay Area does not put up with that BS,” said Zakout to cheers from the protesters. “We stand with oppressed people everywhere. From Haiti to Palestine to Sri Lanka, we stand by resisting all state violence, colonialism, occupation and warfare.”

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