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President Obama Speaks, Sings of ‘Amazing Grace’ in Memory of Rev. Pinckney

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President Obama eulogizes Rev. Clementa Pinckney Friday at TD arena in Charleston, South Carolina. Pinckney and eight members of the historic Emanuel AME church were tragically killed in a mass shooting last Wednesday. (Lawrence Bryant/St. Louis American)

President Obama eulogizes Rev. Clementa Pinckney Friday at TD arena in Charleston, South Carolina. Pinckney and eight members of the historic Emanuel AME church were tragically killed in a mass shooting two weeks ago. (Lawrence Bryant/St. Louis American)

by Kenya Vaughn
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

“His sacrifice must lead to reconciliation,” said U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).

Rev. Clementa Pinckney paid the ultimate price when a stranger was allowed to stranger join him and about a dozen others for bible study at Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church two weeks ago.

Pinckney, a South Carolina State Senator in addition to serving as senior pastor of “Mother Emanuel”, was mourned by the thousands who packed into Charleston’s TD arena and millions via television and live stream on Friday.

“His last act was to open his doors to someone he didn’t know, he didn’t understand and who didn’t look like him,” Scott said. “Let’s not close the doors that Senator Pinckney gave his life to open.”

The service stretched from late morning to mid-afternoon as nearly a dozen came to bid farewell to the leader of “Mother Emanuel” through remarks and reflections, culminated by a soul-stirring eulogy delivered by President Barack Obama.

By eulogy’s end –members of the clergy endearingly referred to him as “Reverend Obama” after he lifted the audience not only through words, but by a surprising impromptu rendition of “Amazing Grace” that compelled clergy, the massive choir and mourners to join in.

Just like the church and Charleston community echoed in the wake of the tragic mass shooting that killed nine faithful members, Pinckney’s home going would echo the theme of forgiveness and the “amazing” grace that moved President Obama to song.

“The alleged killer was so filled with hate,” Obama said. “He failed to comprehend what Rev. Pinckney so clearly understood – the power of God’s grace. Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer couldn’t see the grace surrounded by Rev. Pinckney and others. But God works in mysterious ways. God has different ideas. He [Roof] didn’t know that he was being used by God.”

Rev. Pinckney and then Senator Obama met during his 2008 presidential campaign. He is also a practicing member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church – and offered a bit of insight on how Re. Pinckney was able to seamlessly merge his ministerial calling along with his political work.

“Our calling is not just within the walls of the congregation, but life and the community in which our church resides,” Obama said of the oldest historically black religious denomination in the Western Hemisphere.

In his thirty minute eulogy, President Obama managed to touch upon the issues of racism, gun violence and the confederate flag debate. All became hot topics in the wake of the tragic shooting that suspect Dylan Roof reportedly confessed to police said was orchestrated to spark a race war.

“By taking down that flag, we express god’s grace. But I don’t think God wants us to stop there,” President Obama said. “Perhaps this tragedy will cause us to answer some tough questions – cause us to examine what we are doing to cause our children to hate. Maybe we now realize how racial bias can infect us- how we’ll call Johnny back for a job interview, but not Jamal.”

President Obama praised the families of the victims, the city of Charleston and the state of South Carolina for their reaction to the tragedy. In particular, he pointed out the spirit of forgiveness and compassion expressed by the family and the greater “Mother Emanuel” church family and the progressive action by Governor Haley in her efforts to get the Confederate flag removed.

He talked about the legacy of hatred that has managed to survive not only in the south, but all across the nation –and how Rev. Pinckney tireless efforts to eradicate its lingering aftermath.

“Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other – and that you being free means me too,” President Obama said. “I believe it would be a betrayal against everything Rev. Pinckney has stood for if we go back to a place of business as usual.”

He encouraged mourners to take note from Rev. Pinckney’s life and implement grace in working towards building a truly united America.

“This whole week I’ve been reflecting on this this thing called grace,” Obama said. “Clem knew that the path of grace involves an open mind – but more importantly an open heart. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace everything can change.”

Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Applauds 2nd Round of Workforce Funding from COVID Community Care Act Legislation

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

Announced on July 27, these awards are funded with resources from provisions within the American Rescue Plan Act that Lee led through her COVID Community Care Act.  This reflects the second of two funding opportunities announced in May 2021 for community-based efforts to hire and mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists, and others to increase vaccine access for the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities through high-touch, on-the-ground outreach to educate and assist individuals in getting the information they need about vaccinations.

The first round of funding, which was administered in June, included an $11 million award to the Public Health Institute in Oakland and a $9.5 million award to the Association of Asian/Pacific Community Health Organizations in Berkeley. Three Oakland based organizations, the Public Health Institute, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases, and Safe Passages, are recipients of this round of funding, bringing the total funding brought to organizations in CA-13 to nearly $23 million.

“We are facing another inflection point in this pandemic. We must make meaningful investments in getting everyone vaccinated—especially communities of color and medically underserved communities,” said Lee.  “I worked hard in Congress to invest in trusted messengers at the community level to build confidence in vaccines and COVID-19 prevention efforts. This is a much-needed continuation of that work, and we’ll see over a million dollars of investment on the ground in our own East Bay community.

“Our Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Native American member Congresswoman Sharice Davids, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott and Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro deserve credit for their hard work and support in getting this across the finish line in the American Rescue Plan.  We can see that the work of House Democrats is making a real-life impact on the ground for communities.  This is an important step, but we must continue our work to dismantle systemic racism in our public health system and ensure that vaccines are equitably and adequately distributed.”

The purpose of this program is to establish, expand, and sustain a public health workforce to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.  This includes mobilizing community outreach workers, which includes community health workers, patient navigators, and social support specialists to educate and assist individuals in accessing and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.  

This includes activities such as conducting face-to-face outreach and reaching out directly to community members to educate them about the vaccine, assisting individuals in making a vaccine appointment, providing resources to find convenient vaccine locations, assisting individuals with transportation or other needs to get to a vaccination site.

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Community

Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year

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Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.

 

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Commentary

Whitewashing History and Suppressing Voters Go Hand in Hand 

There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state Legislature.

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Element5 Digital on Unsplash

There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state Legislature.

Now it turns out that voter suppression is not the only “special” project Abbott has in mind. He and his fellow Republicans are pushing a far-reaching “memory law” that would limit teaching about racism and civil rights.

Abbott already signed a bill last month restricting how racism can be taught in Texas schools. But he and other Republicans in the state don’t think it went far enough. The Republican-dominated state-Senate has voted to strip a requirement that white supremacy be taught as morally wrong. Also on the chopping block: requirements that students learn about civil rights activists Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

It’s not just Texas. Just as Republicans are pushing a wave of voter registration laws around the country, they are also pushing laws to restrict teaching about racism in our history, culture, and institutions. CNN’s Julian Zelizer recently noted that such laws downplay injustices in our history and lead to teaching “propaganda rather than history.”

Here’s a good example:  Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the new legislation is meant to keep students from being “indoctrinated” by the “ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.” If Patrick really believes it is a “ridiculous” idea that racism was embedded in our Constitution from the start, he has already put on his own ideological blinders. And he wants to force them onto teachers and students.

Some of these state memory laws specifically ban teaching that causes “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.” As educators have noted, that’s a recipe for erasing and whitewashing history.

“Teachers in high schools cannot exclude the possibility that the history of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression will make some non-Black students uncomfortable,” history professor Timothy Snyder wrote in the New York Times Magazine. Those laws give power to white students and parents to censor honest teaching of history. “It is not exactly unusual for white people in America to express the view that they are being treated unfairly; now such an opinion could bring history classes to a halt.”

Snyder also explained how new state “memory laws” are connected to voter suppression. “In most cases, the new American memory laws have been passed by state legislatures that, in the same session, have passed laws designed to make voting more difficult,” he wrote. “The memory management enables the voter suppression.”

“The history of denying Black people the vote is shameful,” he explained. “This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to protect young people from feeling shame. The history of denying Black people the vote involves law and society. This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to tell students that racism is only personal prejudice.”

As I wrote in The Nation, far-right attempts to suppress honest teaching about racism is meant to “convince a segment of white voters that they should fear and fight our emerging multiracial and multiethnic democratic society” and to “help far-right politicians take and hold power, no matter the cost to our democracy.”

That’s also what voter suppression bills are designed to do. We cannot tolerate either of these assaults on democracy.

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