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Family Values

Posted in Commentary, Politics with tags , , , on July 14, 2013 by substanceandstyledc

martin familyThey are not the Huxtables. They are divorced. Yet, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton are a beautiful expression of love, parenting and perseverance.

In the face of a tragedy, untold personal stress and worldwide media attention, they have stood together to fight for justice for their son and millions of young boys that look just like him. So many could have and would have cracked under the pressure of losing their child, let alone an ugly national debate on race, guns and politics but Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton have not.

Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton allowed us all to be students of the American judiciary system, walking with them step by step in a drawn out investigation and trial for the murder of their 17 year old son that often felt like he – the victim – was on trial. Beyond lessons the public have learned, or relearned about race, politics and courtroom drama from the State vs Zimmerman case, we have also been dutifully instructed on other valuable lessons from Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton.

1. After a divorce, both parents can play an active role in the care and upbringing of their child(ren). Even in his death, the solidarity shown by Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton in pursuing peaceful justice for the life of their child that was taken from them provides a blueprint for parents to work together for what is best for their child, always.

2. Black women are not angry. Ms. Fulton has suffered the greatest loss that a woman can have, she has buried a child whose life came from her womb. Under intense media scrutiny in numerous interviews and on the witness stand during the murder the trial for her son, she has not raised her voice nor her fist. Throughout this journey she has maintained dignity and grace.

3. Black men love their sons. Although Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton were divorced, Trayvon Martin had a relationship with both of his parents. A small detail that can’t be overlooked about the night that Trayvon Martin was killed that has nothing to do with the trial or verdict but helps create a backdrop for his story is that he was walking to his father’s house. Trayvon’s father hadn’t divorced his mother and left him forever. Trayvon’s father was still present in his life.

Regardless of the stereotypes and media portrayals of Black fathers, Mr. Martin was a Black man who may not have had his son living with him full time, but was still actively involved in raising his Black son. In the months leading up to the trial against George Zimmerman for killing his son Mr. Martin expressed on numerous occasions his fond sentiments about his baby boy. Moments after Zimmerman was found not guilty he took Twitter to say: ‘Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY.’ Black men do love and express that love in a multitude of ways. Mr. Martin proved that fact again.

For years to come the Zimmerman case will be debated, the legacy of Trayvon Martin and what he represents will not be forgotten and hopefully, the lessons of Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton will also not be lost.

Our Beloved Justice

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , on January 14, 2013 by substanceandstyledc

Our beloved Supreme Court Justice that represents an American dream come true, the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor will appear in an intimate conversation Friday, January 18 at 7:00pm at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium discussing her new book. Sotomayor, the High Court’s first Hispanic member, knew from early on that she wanted to be a lawyer; by age forty, she was a federal district judge. Her memoir, My Beloved World is a story of hard work, vision, and perseverance despite many obstacles. Her rise as a Latina from a Bronx housing project to a spot on the Supreme Court inspires hope in oneself and the Nation. Tickets can be purchased in advance. One book and one ticket: $30; one book and two tickets: $40.

From Elections to Engagement

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on November 5, 2012 by substanceandstyledc

Being an elected official is a big and significant job …. But, at the end of the day,  it is a job like any other. I believe that the same is true for all elected positions. While I have a tremendous respect for any person who chooses to run for office and serve their communities, I view them as  being public servants and in the truest sense, American workers.

Men and women in elected positions should be seen as American workers because they have been (sel)elected by their peers to work to make their neighborhoods, cities, states and our nation better.

Like most other jobs in this economy, the application and interview process for these positions can be rigorous. Prior to election day, candidates interview for elected positions in advertisements, town hall meetings, debates, and anywhere else that a potential voter can see and hear them. Candidates tout their credentials, explaining to all who will listen why those credentials and their vision make them a better fit for the elected position than other candidates in the running.

Finally, when election day arrives, people head to the polls to select the best man (or woman) for the job. No longer a candidate, the elected person will move into the position and begin to do the work to make reality that vision she (or he) laid out in their campaign. Their success in the job depends heavily on their ability to realize their vision. Ultimately, voters decide whether they can keep their job by reelecting them or whether they should give that job to someone else.

But wait, is this really how other American jobs work?  Usually, a worker is hired and along the way his manager – read the person that hired him or her – is going to manage the employee. Sadly, this is where American voters have gotten it wrong in recent years. Once a person is elected to office, too often voters haven’t acted like the hiring managers. I can’t think of any job where a person is just given the keys to their new office and are told by their boss, “I’ll be back in two or four years. Good luck!”

I know there are some frustrated people across the nation who are fed up with some of their elected officials and plan to vote them out in a few days.  I speculate that these dissatisfied voters who feel their incumbents didn’t meet their expectations are like the unusual, almost never heard managers that leave employees on their own after the first day and never come back until they think they want to hire someone else. Voting someone out of office is fine, but should that be the first resort? Our jobs as Americans, is not just to put someone in office, but to support that person while he or she is in that position. Every citizen must pay attention and sound off in the governance of our cities, counties, states and our nation, all year long, not just in the months leading to and on election day. Elected officials are American workers who should be held accountable for their work 365 days a year. The future is in our hands as voters and we empower those we elect with the privilege to work to make that future a reality.

During campaign seasons I appreciate the emphasis being put on getting Americans to participate on election days, which is wonderful, but more attention needs to be given to  sustainable civic engagement.  Discourse on civic engagement moves beyond  getting a citizen to check a box for a candidate on election day. Sustainable civic engagement involves getting that citizen to call, email or write a letter to  elected officials during their terms to check on them and to support the vision that they selected through the election!   Further, meaningful civic engagement and democracy building moves beyond training people from disenfranchised communities to register voters and knock on doors for a candidate to training more people from those communities to run for office, be the candidate and knock on doors in support of their own campaign.

The conversation about how and who is the best person to govern our local municipalities and our nation will intensify between now and election day 2012, but my greatest hope is that the day after election day people will still be having those conversations and remain vigilant  and active on all the days between then and the next election day.

Be Fearless

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by substanceandstyledc

October 26 and 27 over 40 great minds are coming together to help inspire attendees at the Harman Center for the Arts to unlock their own greatness and to Be Fearless. TEDxMidAtlantic 2012: BE FEARLESS will celebrate the power of ideas to positively change the world; while aiming to build community by bringing together like-minded people who believe in said mission. Speakers include Colin Powell, Jose Antonio Vargas, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski and Melody Barnes. Tickets can be purchased for either or both days of the event.

An Eye on “I” in September

Posted in Culture, Politics, Reading List with tags , , , , , , on August 15, 2012 by substanceandstyledc

The first sub-Saharan African to hold the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan has led an extraordinary life of service to the global community. Wednesday, September 5 at 7:00pm at the Sixth and I Synagogue he will share some of his experiences and knowledge that he has memorialized in his new book, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace in conversation with David Ignatius. Immediately following Mr. Annan will sign books for a limited period of time. A single ticket for the event is $36 and includes one book. Two guests may attend for $45 and receive one book. This signing is being presented in collaboration with Politics & Prose. There will be no walk-up box office sales.

Thursday September 20 at 7:30pm international recording artist, actor and activist Wyclef will also appear in conversation at Sixth and I promoting his memoir Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story. His Washington stop on the book tour is one of the very few in which he will also perform a set of his latest music before signing books. Tickets are $35 and include 1 copy of the book. Doors for this event open at 6:30pm.

The Great Debate

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2012 by substanceandstyledc

On April 14, Centric, in partnership with the Office of Cable Television, celebrates the freeing of slaves in Washington, DC with the DC Emancipation Day 150th Anniversary Great Debate.  Nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln freed the enslaved workers and laborers of DC making them the first freed by the federal government.

In 1858 there was a seven debate series between Democratic Senate nominee Abraham Lincoln and Republican Senate nominee Stephen Douglas dealing with many issues Lincoln would face as President.  The main issue discussed throughout the series was slavery and brought forth Lincoln’s famous quote   “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

The DC Emancipation Day 150th Anniversary Great Debate will address key matters affecting African Americans today. The economy, unemployment, health care, education and the upcoming Presidential election may all be covered in the 90 minute program. There will be four panelists (confirmed to date are Georgetown University professor/author Michael Eric Dyson and minister/civil rights activist/radio & television host Reverend Al Sharpton). BET News’ TJ Holmes will moderate the session where each panelist will have ten minutes to state their position on a topic and five minutes will be allocated for rebuttals.

The DC Emancipation Day 150th Anniversary Great Debate will be held at the historic Lincoln Theatre located in the urban cultural U Street corridor from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.  The Office of Cable Television will live stream the event on their website and a feed will be available to BET.com/Centrictv.com to live stream as well. Centric will edit down the debate into an hour show to broadcast at a later date.

Occupy the Vote

Posted in Politics with tags , , on February 23, 2012 by substanceandstyledc

Wednesday, March 7th the National Urban League will release their 2012 State of Black America Report and have what they are calling one of the most important pre-election events of the year, a town hall style meeting in Cramton Auditorium at Howard University at 7:00pm. If you can’t be there in person, you can view the live webcast that evening at www.iamempowered.com.  You can also be a part of the national conversation on Facebook and Twitter (#SOBA 12, #OccupyTheVote).

 This year’s State of Black America report and town hall will launch a year-long campaign, “Occupy the Vote to Educate, Employ & Empower.” In addition to a fuller discussion of our “Occupy the Vote” campaign, this year’s State of Black America report and town hall will include a discussion of the Equality Index — a statistical analysis of the status of Blacks, Hispanics and Whites. The report will also contain essays by a host of political, business, and community leaders including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, singer John Legend, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, entrepreneur and author Steve Stouts, and others with prescriptions for the empowerment and education crisis facing the nation.

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