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Opinion: The Spirit of the Emancipation Proclamation is Under Attack Again Today

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Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.

Wednesday, Jan. 1, begins the new year. It also marks the anniversary of a new America.

On Jan. 1, 1863, as the Civil War, the bloodiest of America’s wars, approached the end of its second year, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are and henceforward shall be free.”

The Proclamation was limited to fit wartime necessities. It applied only to the states that had seceded from and were at war with the United States, leaving slavery untouched in loyal border states. It also exempted the parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. And, of course, the freedom it promised depended on the victory of the North.

Yet, the Proclamation’s effect was far more expansive than its terms. It transformed the war into a war of freedom. As the U.S. Archives summarizes, “Every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom.” And of course, it dramatically aided the Union cause, with nearly 200,000 Black soldiers and sailors fighting for the Union.

The Proclamation was the beginning. Upon victory, Congress passed three amendments to the Constitution — the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments — designed to finish the job of transforming the country that was, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “half slave and half free” to one in which all were guaranteed — under the Constitution — the” blessings of liberty.”

The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude; the 14th began to define the rights of citizens and guaranteed equal protection under the law; the 15th prohibited discrimination in the right to vote on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” (Ironically, the Constitution still does not guarantee the right to vote to all).

The amendments, forced upon the defeated Southern states as a condition for re-entry into the Union, launched the reconstruction that sought for a few short years to bring the country together. Newly empowered Blacks joined with progressive whites to build coalitions that transformed state constitutions, guaranteeing the right to education, launching programs to provide more equal justice under the law.

Sadly, Reconstruction met with fierce reaction across the South. Segregation masters succeeded the slave masters. The Ku Klux Klan, formed by the elites of Southern communities, terrorized newly freed Blacks. The right to vote was sabotaged by various tricks and traps, from the poll tax to unequally administered tests on the Constitution, to simple threat and terror. In 1896, the Supreme Court to its shame ruled that apartheid — the mythic “separate but equal” standard — was legal in the United States. By the turn of the century, segregation was the law of the land.

It took 100 years and the historic civil rights movement to overturn that reaction, and to begin to reclaim the promise of equal justice under the law and the revive the right to vote. The civil rights struggle, which united the movement of courageous citizens on the ground with the force of Lyndon Johnson in the White House, produced, among other legislation, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act that brought America closer to its promise.

Today, we once more see the stirrings of reaction against that reconstruction. Racial division, stoked cynically from the highest offices in the land, once more is on the rise. African Americans, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, gays, women — all once more feel the rise of resentment and often of hate. The Supreme Court has gutted a critical part of the Voting Rights Act. States under reactionary governors are inventing new ways to restrict access to the vote.

Will this reaction be as successful as that which undermined the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation? America, I believe, is better than that. Our democracy is stronger than it was then. We can mobilize and vote in large numbers to keep expanding the domain of freedom.

On this Jan. 1, let us remember the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by the greatest of our presidents, a Republican, and devote ourselves to redeeming its promise.

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Civil Rights Before the Loving Decision

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

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Not so recently in the United States, same sex marriages were illegal. In the last century, there were laws on the books that prohibited folks from different races marrying.  

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

In 1958, Mildred Loving, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for violating the state of Virginia’s laws prohibiting their marriage.

That conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1968, ending discrimination in marriage based on race.

The Loving decision was a catalyst in 2015 to help abolish discrimination in marriage in same-sex marriages, which allowed for equality in the LGBTQ communities of all races including this author.

Before the Loving decision, Joan Steinau, a white woman, married Julius Lester, who at the time was a singer and a photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Julius later became a writer.  

Joan and Julius were divorced in 1970.

Next month, Joan’s memoir, “Loving before Loving:  A Marriage in Black and White,” will be released. In the book, she recounts her marriage to Julius Lester before the Loving decision in the midst of the civil rights era as a wife, mother, and activist. 

In an interview with the Post, she said,   “Given both the erasure and distortion of Black lives as presented in the white-led media, the existence of a robust Black press . . .has been essential to the survival and thriving of Black community.”

Quoting the Chicago Daily Defender in her memoir, she said, “When one of its reporters asked President Truman, after he said school integration might lead to intermarriage, ‘Would you want your daughter to marry a Black man if she loved him?’ The president responded with a typical segregationist attitude of the time, ‘She won’t love anybody that’s not her color.’   It was important for the Black reporter to be there, because of course he assumed the possibility that naturally she could love anyone and pointed that out with his question.”

She added,  “That’s just one example of a long history of significant advocacy and reportage by hundreds of Black newspapers over the last 150 years. The Post News Group has jumped into the gap regionally to fill this important space, and I’m grateful for it. Until we have true representation of all experiences/perspectives at major media outlets, we will continue to need media targeted to excluded groups.

“My own history with Oakland/Berkeley dates to the 1980s when I began to visit from the East Coast and plot a way to move here. In 1991, my wife and I did settle in Berkeley. We immediately joined a predominantly Black church in Oakland and began creating a friendship circle. The diverse culture here was high on our list of reasons to move from our predominantly white area in New England. And it has been everything we hoped for.”

Joan Lester dedicates this memoir to her wife, Carole.  In addition to this memoir, she is a commentator, columnist and book author.

“Loving before Loving A Marriage in Black and White” by Joan Steinau Lester is available for pre-order now and on sale on May 18 on Amazon and at local bookstores.

For more information log onto JoanLester.com.

Wikipedia was a source for this story.

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Bay Area

At Least 4 Bay Area Counties Pause Use Of J&J Vaccines Amid Blood Clot Concerns

Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Marin counties announced that they would temporarily halt use of the vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.

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     At least four Bay Area counties paused administrations Tuesday of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after a handful of people across the country developed blood clots less than two weeks after the shot.

     Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Marin counties announced that they would temporarily halt the use of the vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.
The state’s Department of Public Health also issued a statement Tuesday urging a temporary pause on the vaccine’s administration while state and federal officials determine whether the clotting incidents are significant.

    More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the country.
Health officials have confirmed cases of rare and severe blood clots in just six women between the ages of 18 and 48 who received the J&J vaccine, with symptoms appearing between six and 13 days post-vaccination.

   Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have also advised states to pause administration of the Janssen vaccine to allow for an investigation of the clots and whether a causal link with the vaccine can even be established.

     In a joint statement, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks and CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said the two agencies will review the cases of clotting this week to determine whether they are statistically significant. “Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Marks and Schuchat said. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

     State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said the state will also follow the recommendation by the FDA and CDC and order a statewide pause of administrations of the Janssen vaccine.
“Additionally, the state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue,” Pan said.

     California joined the states of Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to establish the workgroup last year to conduct independent review and analysis of each vaccine as they are approved for emergency use by the FDA.
Officials in the four Bay Area counties noted that Janssen vaccines represent 4 percent or less of the doses administered in each county to date, with the majority being the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Health officials have lauded the Janssen vaccine’s utility in reaching demographics like unhoused residents and people who are homebound, who may have difficulty returning for a second vaccine dose.

     Officials in the four counties said they did not expect the Janssen vaccine pause to force the widespread cancellation of vaccination appointments or significantly affect their ability to continue vaccinating their respective populations.

    Janssen vaccine recipients who got vaccinated more than a month ago are not deemed at risk for developing blood clots, according to local, state, and federal health officials.

   People who received the vaccine more recently are encouraged to contact a health care provider if they begin noticing symptoms like severe headaches, leg pain, and shortness of breath, which may be associated with clotting.

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