August 6 is the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. If the constitutional amendments passed after the Civil War — the 13, 14 and 15th Amendments — were the “second founding” of democracy in America, the Voting Rights Act, which after nearly a century of segregation gave legal effect to the 15th Amendment that outlawed discrimination in the right to vote, should be considered the “third founding.”
Selma was its Philadelphia. John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lyndon Johnson were its founding fathers. Over the last decade, the Act and the right to vote have come under unrelenting attack, an attack that is now escalating dramatically.
The Voting Rights Act outlawed the various tricks and traps that states in the South used to deprive Blacks of the right to vote. It outlawed discrimination against racial and language minorities, providing Hispanics with protection, among others. It identified states with an egregious history of discrimination and required pre-clearance of any changes in their election laws by the Justice Department.
The results were immediate. African American, Hispanic American and Asian American registration increased dramatically.
In the former confederate states, African Americans elected to the state legislators increased from three to 176 in 20 years. Local elected officials went from less than 1,500 to 10,500. In 1964, there were five African American representatives in Congress and no senators. Now, there are 51 representatives, three senators and two non-voting delegates. The stunning increase in political participation by people of color culminated in the election of Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008.
The reaction to the law began almost immediately. Republicans under President Nixon sculpted their infamous “Southern Strategy” to capture white voters in the South. In 2013, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, in a shameless act of legislating from the bench, marshaled the right-wing majority of the Court in Shelby v. Holder to decide that the geographical focus of the act was “out of date,” despite the fact that it had just been renewed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities of both houses of Congress after extended investigation.
Roberts’ assertion that discrimination was behind us was immediately belied by a flood of actions aimed at making it harder for Blacks and other minorities to vote. Without prior review, Republican-led states, particularly those in the South, enacted partisan gerrymandering, dual primaries, and voting roll purges; and closed voting sites, limited early voting, required specific forms of voter ID and more.
Today, this reaction has moved to new extremes. Donald Trump — aided and abetted by Republican senators and governors — has sought to discredit voting by mail, blocking funds for the U.S. Postal Service and the states to gear up for mass voting by mail, the sensible, safe way to vote in the midst of the pandemic.
Trump has even argued that only those votes counted on Election Day should determine the election, knowing that a full count for massive voting by mail will necessarily take several days. Not surprisingly, polls show a higher percentage of Democrats plan to vote by mail, while most Republicans plan to vote in person.
Once more, our elections are endangered by partisan, racially-biased efforts to constrict the right to vote. Once more, it is time for a renewed drive to protect the vote, the centerpiece of democracy. A sensible reform agenda, summarized by President Barack Obama in his address at the memorial for John Lewis, includes making voting day a national holiday, extending early voting, having efficient and widespread vote by mail, automatic and same-day voter registration, and strengthening of the Voting Rights Act.
Importantly, senators Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin have taken up the cause of amending the Constitution to guarantee the right to vote, a guarantee that shockingly does not now exist.
Enforcing the right to vote should not be controversial. It should enjoy support across the political spectrum. However, there are always those who want to limit that right for their own political purposes. Reform is invariably met with reaction.
The right to vote won’t be inherited; each generation must fight to preserve and to extend it. Now more than ever, those who care about our democracy must rally to protect that right once more.
FOOD: Sweet Potato Creme Brûlée
NNPA NEWSWIRE — I put my foot down and said, “Today’s the day, no more procrastinating!” Until I realized I don’t know how to make it different than the rest. But my mom made a suggestion that changed the game: Sweet potato creme brûlée.
By Paris Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor
Today is finally the day where I take on creme brûlée, one of the fanciest desserts of all. I’ve wanted to make it for a long time with my own twist, but I just never got around to it.
So, I put my foot down and said, “Today’s the day, no more procrastinating!” Until I realized I don’t know how to make it different than the rest. But my mom made a suggestion that changed the game: Sweet potato creme brûlée.
Since I couldn’t find a sweet potato creme brûlée recipe, I took a pumpkin creme brûlée recipe and tweaked it. Then boom!
A fantastic sweet potato creme brûlée recipe that’s easy and fun to make. Not to mention the fact that it’s delicious!
- 12 oz heavy whipping cream
- 2 roasted sweet potatoes, mashed and cooled
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large egg yolks
- Nutmeg to taste
- Cinnamon to taste
- additional sugar for topping
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
- In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar
- Add heavy whipping cream, mashed sweet potato, vanilla, and 1/4 cup sugar to a saucepan. Heat over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring often.
- Remove about 1/3 cup of the sweet potato mixture and add it slowly to the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Keeping the whisk moving quickly keeps the eggs from scrambling. Add the rest while stirring. Add spices.
- Add ramekins to a baking dish, then carefully place the mixture into ramekins. Add hot water into the baking dish about half an inch high. Be careful not to get any water into the ramekins!
- Bake for 42-45 minutes until the edges are set, and the middle is jiggly. Let stand for an hour, then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
- Cover the tops with sugar and place in a broiler until caramelized.
Commentary from San Quentin – Stress and Depression Brought on by COVID-19
COVID-19 isn’t only a physical complication, it’s a mental ailment as well and very few can really ignore or escape the harm done by the effects of this crippling condition.
There are ways to at least manage or minimize the debilitating impact of COVID-19 but trying to avoid or dismiss the melancholic gloom can tend to intensify rather than bring about a subsiding of the psychological and mental discomfort.
In my particular situation at San Quentin, I personally find myself locked in most of the time, encased in round-the-clock dread, loneliness, fear, and physical limitation in every way. Therefore, it’s vital for me to be innovative in ways to stay mentally active and not become a victim of irrational acts and thinking.
Just by acknowledging and taking drastic action to take hold to address the mental lull will set you on the road to recovery. You must be inventive by beginning with what brings you peace and joy on a physical level such as watching insightful movies, walking, exercising and sight-seeing. Things that you can now do of course with the proper protocols and restrictions.
Meditation and yoga are among some things that can increase a positive state of mind. You only control things within your power, don’t contemplate on things that you have no power over because it only increases the anxieties associated with the COVID-19 condition.
One should engage in stimulating conversations, if possible, via the internet, or protected face-to-face conversations through masks.
Going to the park for a picnic for fresh air can help with a new start out of the gloom, despair and emotional deprivation.
For those who are also confined or bedridden, you can resist the thoughts of perceived neglect, brought on by solitude, by becoming your own best friend. All it takes is you.
Build your own world.
I find comfort in doing puzzles, listening to assorted music, reading good books and exercising in this limited space.
I’ve discovered that there’s a need to find ways to make lemon juice out of lemons and not allow COVID-19 and all its ill-effects to simmer and traumatize myself to the extent that it prevents me from moving forward. I believe that we should never be afraid to seek help where needed.
Richard Johnson K-53293
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