Women of Color Are Making History Ahead of Midterms

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Ayanna Pressley, the first woman of color elected to the Boston City Council, speaks at a 2013 event at Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center. (Ktr101/ Wikimedia Commons) (CC

It has been a banner year for women running in elections across the country in statehouse, gubernatorial and congressional races. But women of color, who have been so dramatically underrepresented in the halls of power for so long, are making particularly significant gains. What’s even more exciting is that many of them are going beyond standard identity politics and espousing strongly progressive positions. While the more important battles will come in November’s general elections, the primary races have already indicated that we are witnessing a game-changing moment in the nation’s political landscape.

Much has been written about the breakout star of the New York primary, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned the nation in an overwhelming victory against top Democrat Joe Crowley in the Bronx and Queens for a House seat. The 28-year-old self-identified democratic socialist of Puerto Rican heritage, who is expected to handily beat her little-known Republican opponent in November, is slated to become the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress.

Two progressive Muslim women—Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Somali-American Ilhan Omar in Minnesota—recently won their respective Democratic Party primaries for seats in the House. Both women are running in strongly Democratic districts, with Tlaib poised to win the seat vacated by John Conyers and Omar appearing likely to replace Rep. Keith Ellison (who has stepped down to run for another office). Together, they would lead the way as the first Muslim women to ever serve in the U.S. Congress. Even more significantly, both women espouse core progressive demands such as “Medicare for all,” abolishing ICE, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

New Mexico’s Deb Haaland could also make history in November, if she beats her Republican opponent, Janice Arnold-Jones, by becoming the nation’s first Native American woman to serve in Congress. A new poll showed her with a small but significant lead against Arnold-Jones, who is a Trumpian Republican. Haaland is also progressive, especially on issues of women’s reproductive rights. She could be joined in Congress by Sharice Davids, another Native American woman, who won a Democratic primary in Kansas. If Davids wins her House race in November, she would break an additional record—becoming the first openly gay congresswoman from Kansas, as well as the first member of the indigenous LGBT community to hold federal office. If Davids and Haaland both win, they would be the first two Native American women to become members of Congress.

Black women are also making their voices heard in this year’s elections. Jahana Hayes just won Connecticut’s Democratic primary race for a House seat, backing Medicare for all, abortion rights and other progressive policies. If she wins in November, Hayes would become Connecticut’s first-ever black female congressional representative. Journalist and activist Shaun King celebrated that primary win, writing that Hayes would “likely become the only black leader serving in the U.S. House or Senate from all of New England. She would also become one of only a few black members of Congress serving a district where white people make up a majority of the voting population.” Another black woman, Ayanna Pressley, is challenging an incumbent white male House representative, Michael Capuano, in Massachusetts’ Sept. 4 primary.

Women are also running for governor in states across the nation. A record number, 11, have already won their primary races to become major-party nominees. Among them is Stacey Abrams, who’s running for governor of Georgia. If Abrams beats President Trump’s favored candidate, Republican nominee Brian Kemp, she would become the nation’s first black female governor—an all the more impressive feat in a Deep South state like Georgia. Her opponent, Kemp, is so virulently right-wing that a New York Times opinion writer labeled him an “Enemy of Democracy.” Meanwhile, Abrams is running on a leftist platform, having won support from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Even if some of these women don’t win their races against Republicans in November, they have already achieved much. Aimee Allison, president of the advocacy group Democracy in Color, told me in an interview that “women of color largely are Democrats, and they’re the most likely to face challenges by other Democrats in their own party. So as the most ‘primaried’ group of people, getting through the primary process is quite something.”

“These women did not get party support,” Allison said. “They didn’t get the typical validators, donors, people that are typically considered gate keepers. And yet, they’re being very, very successful.”

These progressive women of color embody in a tangible manner the worst fears of white supremacists like Trump, his supporters and advisers. They are the demographic opposite of the Republican base, which is dominated by white males.

A decade ago, when Barack Obama won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, the backlash against people of color assuming higher political office ramped up, with Obama’s skin tone and ethnic background provoking an irrational hatred among extremist conservatives. Trump was part of that group with his unrelenting “birther” allegations claiming that Obama was born outside the U.S. Today, the Republican Party is seeing the natural outcome of its constant flirtation with racist policies, all the way from the Nazi-sympathizing Republican House nominee Steve West in Missouri to the white supremacist in the White House.

Sadly, as Allison implied, the Democratic Party isn’t living up to expectations either. It resists fully embracing the progressive women of color running this November, even as it has long relied on nonwhite voters to faithfully and uncritically back the party. Subsequently, candidates like Ocasio-Cortez and others have found new ways to win elections, relying on clearly defined progressive policy positions and working hard to increase voter turnout through grassroots efforts. Allison put it this way: “They’re creating a new path to being at the table, winning their primaries, and ultimately having a good shot of getting into office in November.”

“Something’s happening that’s coming up from underground,” concluded Allison about the groundswell of support for female candidates of color. “For generations, women of color have been part of expanding democracy, fighting for civil and human rights.” Indeed, since the nation’s founding, women of color have had the least political representation—with 90 percent of elected positions at all levels of government being white and mostly male. The importance of incumbency—holding office makes you more likely to win re-election and stay in office—keeps that political power concentrated in the same hands year after year.

But in a few decades, women of color will outnumber white women in America, and Allison is hopeful that the recent wave of primary successes is just the beginning. “Running for office is the latest iteration of insisting that we have the representation, people power, and a social, economic and racial justice agenda that can transform our country,” she said.

By Sonali Kolhatkar/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, dies at age 76

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Aretha Franklin — the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and known as the “Queen of Soul” for powerful anthems like “Respect” and “Chain of Fools” — died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit. She was 76.

Image result for aretha franklin

Image: E! News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHR1bJFQsMk

Born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, to C.L. Franklin, the most prominent black Baptist preacher in America during the mid-20th century, and a gospel singer, Aretha Louise Franklin began performing in front of her father’s congregation at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, which she considered her hometown. She became a star on gospel caravan tours with her father, known as “The Million Dollar Voice,” who became her manager when she was 14.

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Black women candidates feel slighted by Democrats

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An illustration of a donkey blindfolded

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

There are at least 43 Democratic black women running as challengers for U.S. House seats, but only one — Lauren Underwood of Illinois — has the backing of the national campaign organization.

Why it matters: Black women are a powerful voting bloc for the Democratic Party as they work to capture the House and Senate. In 2016, 94% of black women voted for Clinton over Trump. In Alabama’s special election, they helped Doug Jones win — 98% of them voted for him, compared to just 34% of white women. Now they’re running for office in overwhelming numbers, but some feel the party isn’t investing in them.

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The big picture: Right now, there are only 19 black women serving in Congress. Only 67 women of color overall have been members of Congress since 1964.

Be smart: The conversation about the party’s support of the black community — both as voters and candidates — is not going away any time soon. Just look at Cynthia Nixon’s gubernatorial campaign in New York, where she’s getting headlines like “Cynthia Nixon’s Political Run Should Be Taken Seriously Because She Takes Black Voters Seriously.”

Black women running say their enthusiasm isn’t matched by groups like the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Even the Congressional Black Caucus is backing Michael Capuano, the Democratic incumbent in Massachusetts’ 7th district, over his challenger Ayanna Pressley, who’s a black woman.

  • There’s been a focus on the progressive vs. moderate fight within the Democratic Party, making some feel overlooked. “I think some of the other groups [like progressives] have gotten more attention than any racial group,” Kimberly Hill Knott, who’s running for Congress in Michigan, told Axios. I don’t hear the national party talking about an urban agenda.”
  • But one progressive candidate who is also black, Kerri Harris, who’s running for U.S. Senate in Delaware, said she’s had no recognition from the party. “They can keep pretending like we don’t exist or come out against us as candidates, but they’ll realize the best way to uphold our Democracy is to encourage it.”

One big challenge: Politics is driven by money. If you’re not raising a lot of it, you’re viewed as unelectable. But raising money as a first-time candidate and a black woman is often half the battle, according to the candidates interviewed by Axios.

“These are organizations that are meant to help make sure black interests are represented and yet everybody is looking at who’s more electable based on money.”
— Alabama congressional candidate Audri Scott Williams

The other side: While some candidates want more from the national party, black women were praised at the DNC’s annual Women’s Leadership Forum this year, with Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters and DNC Vice Chair Grace Meng calling them the “backbone” of the party.

  • The DNC’s Political and Organizing Director Amanda Brown Lierman said in a statement: “While the DNC does not endorse in contested primaries, we work with our state parties to make sure first-time candidates have the tools and information they need.” She added: “African-American women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we know we can’t take them for granted. That’s why we’ve made meaningful investments in our state parties in order to turn out and engage women of color.”
  • The DCCC didn’t address the number of black women on their Red to Blue list, but said they’ll keep working on diversity of candidates because it’s “crucial to winning back the House.” DCCC spokesman Kamau Marshall added: “The DCCC is proud to support the historic number of women and African American candidates running for Congress, who will bring a wealth of knowledge and cultural competence to the political table for Democrats.”

By the numbers: A recent collection of polls (from the Associated Press/NORC Center and CBS News) shows the diversity among black voters. Only 1% identify as Republicans, 92% disapprove of President Trump, and the 59% who identify as Democrats is smaller than the percentage of black voters who actually vote for Democratic candidates.

The bottom line: Black women candidates want more from the Democratic Party, but Democrats might not have to worry much about how they’ll vote in 2018 or 2020.

By Alexi McCammond/Axios

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Ambien Maker Shames Roseanne Barr for Blaming Her Bigoted Rant on its Drug: ‘Racism is Not a Known Side Effect’ Sanofi threw shade at the former sitcom star after she claimed she was “Ambien tweeting” when she attacked former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

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Sanofi, the pharmaceutical company behind Ambien, has put out a statement knocking Roseanne Barr for seemingly blaming its drugs for her racist tirade this week.

“People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world,” the company said in an official announcement. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

One day after her hit ABC sitcom got cancelled in the wake of her racist attacks on former Obama White House aide Valerie Jarrett, Barr took to Twitter to say that “it was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting” when she decided to compare Jarrett’s appearance to that of an ape.

 

Sanofi US

@SanofiUS

People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world. While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.
9:57 AM – May 30, 2018

Political Pressure in Nebraska

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The University of Nebraska at Lincoln bowed, at least to some degree, to political pressure when it permanently removed a lecturer in English from the classroom last fall. In so doing, and in denying her the dismissal hearing to which she was entitled by campus policy, Nebraska may have violated her academic freedom.

So concludes a new investigative report from the American Association of University Professors. The document provides new insight into the locally infamous Courtney Lawton case at Nebraska and the university’s shifting rationales for her suspension. It also sets the stage for a possible vote to censure Nebraska’s administration at the AAUP’s annual meeting next month.

AAUP censure for alleged violations of academic freedom is a symbolic gesture, since the association has no actual authority over the institutions with which it disagrees. But many campuses see censure as a reputational black eye and work with AAUP to lift it.

The university, which participated in AAUP’s on-campus investigation, expressed “disappointment” with the association’s findings this week and stood by its decision to effectively end Lawton’s teaching appointment, in the interest of the campus as a whole.

In August, Lawton — who was then an adjunct at Nebraska — was recorded protesting an on-campus recruiting table for Turning Point USA. That’s the conservative group behind Professor Watchlist, which many academics believe distorts their views and chills academic freedom. Lawton called the undergraduate behind the table a “neo-fascist Becky” who “wants to destroy public schools, public universities, hates DACA kids,” and flipped her off. The video was shared on online, went viral and drew the ire of Republican state lawmakers.

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Black Venture Capitalist Announces $36M Fund to Invest In Black Female Founders

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Arlan Hamilton Fund

Black Venture Capitalist Announces $36M Fund to Invest In Black Female Founders

A Black venture capitalist is taking it upon herself to support other “underestimated” Black women founders who see less than 0.2 percent of venture capital funds when trying to get their dream businesses off the ground.

CEO Arlan Hamilton is no stranger to throwing her support behind underrepresented groups and stuck to her trend last weekend when she announced the launch of a $36 million dollar fund aimed at investing in Black women founders like herself. The exciting announcement came during the United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles on May 5.

“.. This has been in the works for several months,” Hamilton, the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, told AfroTech. “It had a few iterations, but in the last couple of months, I made the decision that the money would go to funding Black women specifically and $1 million at a time, specifically.”

“It was very intentional and something that … I knew would probably get pushback from some people, but I have the greatest conviction around it,” she continued. “There’s a lot that goes into raising a fund of this size when you have had less than $5 million under management as a new fund manager, but I was up for the challenge.”

The rumors are true. Today at #USOW2018 I announced that my venture capital firm @Backstage_Cap has launched a $36m fund that will invest in Black women founders $1mill at a time. Thank you to the Backstage Crew, headliners, LPs, mentors & network for making this moment possible. pic.twitter.com/yT1SMQOFAR

— Arlan 👊🏾 (@ArlanWasHere) May 5, 2018

They’re calling it a “diversity fund.” I’m calling it an IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund.

— Arlan 👊🏾 (@ArlanWasHere) May 6, 2018

Like most Black women entrepreneurs, Hamilton built her seed-stage investment fund from the ground up. She spent her days pitching investors across the San Francisco Bay area but was also broke and homeless at the time, often sleeping on the floor of the San Francisco International Airport, according to Quartz. Her ultimate goal was to found a venture capital fund  “dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders” who are non-white, women and/or LGBTQ.

By 2018, she had done just that. To date, Backstage Capital has invested in 80 companies across various industries, according to its website. All of the companies have at least one founder who is female, a person or color or member of the LGBTQ community.

Before 2018 ends, Hamilton’s firm plans to invest in two or three companies, the first of which is expected to be announced this summer, AfroTech reported. The entrepreneur said she anticipates funding at least six companies by 2019.

“We are no longer accepting the scraps at the end of the dinner table in venture capital and beyond as Black women,” Hamilton told the news site. “We asked nicely, and now it’s our turn.”

There have been a few bumps in the road, but Hamilton said her persistence wouldn’t let her give up on her dream. Speaking to Quartz, she said she looks for that same relentless persistence when deciding who to invest in.
“I look for founders that remind me of myself,” she said. “Would they have done what I did to get here?”

By Tanasia Kenney/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Three black teens are finalists in a NASA competition. Hackers spewing racism tried to ruin their odds.

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From left, India Skinner, Mikayla Sharrieff and Bria Snell, 11th graders from Banneker High School in Washington, are finalists in a NASA youth science competition. (Evelyn Hockstein/for The Washington Post)

The three D.C. students couldn’t believe the news. They’d developed a method to purify lead-contaminated water in school drinking fountains, and NASA announced last month that they were finalists in the agency’s prestigious high school competition — the only all-black, female team to make it that far.

“Hidden figures in the making,” one of the teens wrote in a celebratory text message to her teammates and coaches, a reference to the 2016 movie about the true story of three African American women who worked for NASA in the 1960s.

The next stage of the science competition included public voting, and the Banneker High School students — Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell, all 17-year-old high school juniors — turned to social media to promote their project.

But while the teens were gaining traction on social media and racking up votes, users on 4chan — an anonymous Internet forum where users are known to push hoaxes and spew racist and homophobic comments — were trying to ensure the students wouldn’t win.

The anonymous posters used racial epithets, argued that the students’ project did not deserve to be a finalist and said that the black community was voting for the teens only because of their race. They urged people to vote against the Banneker trio, and one user offered to put the topic on an Internet thread about President Trump to garner more attention. They recommended computer programs that would hack the voting system to give a team of teenage boys a boost.

NASA said in a statement that voting was compromised, prompting it to shut down public voting earlier than expected. The federal space agency said it encourages the use of social media to build support for projects but wrote in a statement Tuesday that public voting was ended because people “attempted to change the vote totals.”

“Unfortunately, it was brought to NASA’s attention yesterday that some members of the public used social media, not to encourage students . . . but to attack a particular student team based on their race and encourage others to disrupt the contest and manipulate the vote, and the attempt to manipulate the vote occurred shortly after those posts,” the NASA statement read.

“NASA continues to support outreach and education for all Americans, and encourages all of our children to reach for the stars.”

The federal agency named eight finalists — including the Banneker group — and said it will announce the winners this month. In addition to the public voting, judges assess the projects to determine the winners, who are invited to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for two days of workshops, with the winning team receiving a $4,000 stipend to cover expenses.

Sharrieff, Skinner and Snell did not talk about the controversies tainting the voting but said in interviews Tuesday that they are excited about the positive attention their project has received from classmates, the D.C. community and even strangers on social media.

Prominent black activists and organizations, including one of the leaders of the Women’s March, helped spread the word about the competition, saying that black women are underrepresented in science and that the public should help propel the Banneker students to the top of the competition.

One of Sharrieff’s tweets urging her followers to vote for the project was retweeted more than 2,000 times. And someone even set up an online fundraiser for college scholarships for the teens.

“In the STEM field, we are underrepresented,” Sharrieff said, referring to the widely used acronym for the science, technology, engineering and math fields. “It’s important to be role models for a younger generation who want to be in the STEM field but don’t think they can.”

The NASA competition called on students to find creative ways to use space technology in their everyday lives. The teens said they considered dozens of ideas but settled on a water purification system because they noticed some water fountains in their school could not be used because of potential lead contamination.

They worked at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator — a technology lab focused on diversity and entrepreneurship near Howard University — where they volunteer, and their mentor at the incubator encouraged them to compete and supervised them on weekends as they built a prototype.

The teens purchased two jars, placing meters in each to test the purity of the water. In one jar, the teens place shards of copper in the water — with the copper acting as the experimental contaminant. An electric fan spins the water while filtering floss — a type of fiber — collects contaminated particles. Once clean, the water is transferred by a straw into the second jar. The meters verify that the water is clean, and the teens said they trust their system so much, they drank the water.

The filtration system is based on NASA technology used to develop automatic pool purifiers.

“Ours actually shows you that the water you are drinking is clean,” Snell said.

Sharrieff, Snell and Skinner, who are all on the cheerleading team, said they plan to go to college and pursue careers rooted in science.

Skinner wants to be a pediatric surgeon, Sharrieff aims to be a biomedical engineer, and Snell hopes to be an anesthesiologist.

“The popular norm is sports and modeling and advertising,” Skinner said. “And for people to see our faces, and see we’re just regular girls, and we want to be scientists.”

By Perry Stein/WashingtonPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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