Monday Reads: Fired up! Ready to GO!

Rev Al Sharpton and Trans Activist Ashley Marie Presley introduce Senator Elizabeth Warren to the Power Stage (my photo)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I had the opportunity to attend the 25th annual Essence Fest this weekend.  It was a great experience and a good way for me to hear some of the Democratic Presidential candidates in person.  There were unexpected visits by Colorado Senator Bennet and New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio.  They addressed those of us assembled in front of the Power Stage.  Later, I heard Senators Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Elizabeth Warren who spoke and then took questions from a panel led by Rev Al Sharpton.  There were a lot of things going on, as usual, all over the Morial Convention Center but I want to make sure you got to hear and see a bit of what I saw in these candidates as they addressed the crowds.

Just a few notes. I left before Beto hit the stage and did not come back Sunday for Mayor Pete.  Biden and Bernie were no shows which I believe was a serious mistake.  I’m not sure about the others but Biden and Bernie made the usual “previous commitments” out

I have to admit that there were several moments that really thrilled me including the short speech from Auntie Maxine who was introduced by my former mayor Marc Morial.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters is a national treasure.  From the Essence: “Rep. Maxine Waters Reminds Black Women At Essence Festival: ‘We Don’t Take S— From Nobody’”.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters brought the heat to the Essence Festival Power Stage on Saturday afternoon. In a stirring address, she told thousands of attendees that the time for Black women is now.

As the nation readies for the 2020 elections, Waters did not mince words about the power of the specific voting bloc and the community as a whole. The veteran politician from California also used herself as a blueprint for what needs to be done to remove Donald Trump from office.

“I’m not intimidated. I’m not afraid,” Waters said about opposing the man in the Oval Office. “All of my life I have been trained to deal with demagogues like him. I will take him on any day of the week. And so what I want to leave with you today is this is our time, ladies.”

Waters pointed to the many ways in which Black women have proven that they are ready to step up to the challenge of not only removing Trump from office but also taking on the harmful policies that have been created since his election.

“Black women are moving forward,” Maxine triumphantly stated before adding that we are getting elected to public office in record numbers, remaining civically engaged in our organizations, leading the fight in our educational institutions, and being all-around change agents in our cities and neighborhoods.

“Don’t be discouraged.

“Don’t be disgusted.

“Don’t give up.

“Show Donald Trump who we are!” Waters said to cheers.

All of the candidates spoke to empowering black women to become entrepreneurs by giving better access to capital for their business ventures. There was also a lot of emphasis on closing the gap between wealth accumulation of white and black families with each candidate having a somewhat similar approach. Corey Booker suggested “baby bonds” be available to all families on the birth of a child with income-indexed contributions provided each birthday until that child is 18.  This would be available to all babies born in the US.  The two women definitely brought the excitement to the audience but Booker was well-received.  He also had the home court advantage since he was born and raised here.

This is also from Essence.

Even with this shifting demographic, Black women still overwhelming vote Democrat, and still have the power to determine election outcomes, something of which Booker is keenly aware.

“Black women are going to be the highest voters in this country, then the agenda of African American women has to be at the center of the Democratic Party’s agenda…because right now the reality is unacceptable,” Booker insisted from the Essence Festival Power Stage to loud applause.

Reading from his notes, Booker itemized the oppression of Black women in this country:

“Black women have the highest level of workforce participation. Eighty-percent of Black mothers are the breadwinners for their families. But still the pay gap for Black women making only 61 cents of every dollar that a white male makes is unacceptable in our country. The fastest growing group of entrepreneurs are African American women who don’t get the access to capital that they deserve. Black women have four times the maternal mortality rates of white women. This is unacceptable.

Channeling James Baldwin, who wrote in Notes of a Native Son (1955), “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually,” Booker located Black women’s pain within the larger white settler-colonial project known as the United States, telling the Essence Festival audience, “If America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough.”

In his closing pitch, the senator from New Jersey set his sights on Donald Trump, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., saying, “We are in a time right now where a person in the White House is spewing bigotry and racism…a person pushing policies that hurt communities of color.”

“But, the existence of demagoguery and hate has never defined us as a nation,” Booker claimed. “What defines us is how we choose to respond to the challenges before us.”

Senator Booker’s speech is here at MSNBC.  I continue to like the Senator but I’m not sure he has the fire required to do this election.  Both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris left me with no doubt.

My shot of Senator Bennet. I was in the middle of the room but far away from the stage. Thank goodness for the big screens!!

A good capsule of the weekend can be found at WAPO where, for some reason, Biden still got the freaking headline.  They just can’t help themselves I guess.

Arriving to a smattering of polite applause from the thousands of women in the room, Buttigieg, whose campaign has struggled with black voters, immediately began trying to win over the audience. “I stand here knowing that black women aren’t just the backbone of the Democratic Party, you are the bone and sinew that make our democracy whole,” Buttigieg declared. “When black women mobilize, outcomes change. And we need some different outcomes at a time like this.”

Buttigeig’s appearance came a day after six other candidates spoke at the festival, each appealing to black women in different ways.

Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) pitched policy proposals aimed at closing the racial wealth gap. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio argued for universal health care. Former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) championed his support for a new voting rights act. And Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) invoked the road trip he’d taken to the festival through impoverished areas of rural Mississippi to pitch his plan to improve the nation’s education system.

I had the pleasure to sit next to a retired black woman from my families’ home of Kansas City.  She gave polite applause to every one.  Polite applause went to every one including Kamala whose #KHive section was filled with enthusiastic sign waving supporters from the sorority sisters at HBCs.  She was basically for Biden but had also was warmed up to Elizabeth Warren.  I asked her if Biden’s history of supporting state’s rights bothered her.  She shrugged and said it was a long time ago and that if Biden was good enough for Obama that was good enough for her.  She proudly told me that she had paid off her own home and talked about what happened when Kansas City Power and Light–her old employer–got bought out by a private provider.  She was just the perfect example of a Kansas City, church going lady that I saw every weekend we visited the family.  She did remind me that there would’ve been no gay marriage without Joe’s push.  I nodded and said yes, there is that.

Bill DiBlasio was a fiery speaker and made certain he gave a shout out to his wife the first lady of New York.  He came out from behind the podium and addressed a lot of issues in his short period of time. (Via NY1)

Mayor de Blasio looked to raise his profile with black voters Saturday while speaking at the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

The annual event is always one of the largest gatherings of African American women in the country.

After being introduced by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday, de Blasio touted First Lady Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative, Thrive NYC.

“She is taking away the stigma related to mental health. She is making people realize that we have to do something different in this country and get people the help they need,” de Blasio said. “There is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition. There is something wrong when people can’t get the help they need. Right? So join me in thanking the first lady of New York City, the love of my life, Chirlane McCray.”

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, standing and indoor

I caught Senator Harris on one of the big screens. You can tell she was having fun and in her element. She’s looking straight at the #KHive

Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado is wonky as it comes. I’m not sure he has a plan for it all but he sure can speak to the issues. This is from Essence.   Bennet’s background is in Public Education and he basically spoke to his strength.

Democratic Candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) took to the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival to remind us all about the importance of education when it comes to transforming the economy and creating a better future.

“There was a time in America when Public Education was the wind at our back in transforming our economy but today, taken as a whole, our education system is reinforcing the income inequality that we have, not liberating people from it,” Bennet told the crowd Saturday morning.

Income disparity and access, Bennet pointed out, are the main issues when it comes to the quality of education a child receives. And unless everyone has access, “equal is not equal,” as he pointed out.

“When one group of children has access to preschool and the other through no fault of their own does not, when one group has access to $1 million house and therefore a quality K-12 education and the other does not, when one group has access to tutors and counselors and parents who went to college themselves and the other does not then even equal is not equal and we need to make a change,” he said.

Democratic Candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) took to the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival to remind us all about the importance of education when it comes to transforming the economy and creating a better future.

“There was a time in America when Public Education was the wind at our back in transforming our economy but today, taken as a whole, our education system is reinforcing the income inequality that we have, not liberating people from it,” Bennet told the crowd Saturday morning.

Income disparity and access, Bennet pointed out, are the main issues when it comes to the quality of education a child receives. And unless everyone has access, “equal is not equal,” as he pointed out.

“When one group of children has access to preschool and the other through no fault of their own does not, when one group has access to $1 million house and therefore a quality K-12 education and the other does not, when one group has access to tutors and counselors and parents who went to college themselves and the other does not then even equal is not equal and we need to make a change,” he said.

So, that leaves me down to Harris and Warren who were basically the two candidates that got the most enthusiasm that I could see.  I sat with a friend my daughter’s age who has been politically active as a New Orleans native.  I also sat in front of a older black couple from Detroit and next to a black woman and her daughter from here.  I was surrounded by Warren Fans.  Literally. Warren’s volunteer desk even was handing out Warren Planners!  She and Kamala definitely had the best swag.  There was a desk in the middle that rotated from Booker to Beto as the day wore on but all my friends were either at the #KHive or All in with Warren.

So, let me just put their speeches up.

 

You can hear the Kamala Chants and feel the excitement as she speaks to things she feels strongly about.  This is from ABC News. “Kamala Harris stars as 2020 presidential candidates pitch African American voters at Essence Fest”.  

Harris, the only black woman running for president, and the only black woman in the Senate, hit the stage to Tupac’s “California Love,” a nod to her home state, and got an enthusiastic “Skee Wee” from the large number of sorority sisters from Alpha Kappa Alpha — a black sorority founded at Howard University, Harris’s alma mater — in attendance.

“Good morning, my beautiful sisters,” Harris said, before launching into her plan to boost home ownership among African Americans.

This is from Essence and takes from the Campaign that has the plans. I also have to say that I met with Warren campaign staff on Friday night. There were two things that impressed me. First, they come from Stacey Abrahms’ campaign. Second, they asked each of us what we want Elizabeth to know about what’s important to our community. By the next afternoon, Warren addressed those items in her speech. The audience for Warren was much older. Both women had a following among white gay men and white women who both showed up in the volunteer desks and in the audience. Both campaigns have diverse volunteers and staff.

“It is good to be at a party with purpose and I am here with purpose. Our purpose is to take back the White House in 2020,” Warren said as she opened her remarks. “We must win, but winning is not enough. When we win we must make real change in this country, and yeah, I got a plan for that.”

Warren started telling her own personal story of grappling with access to childcare as a young professional, struggling to find work-life balance only to have babysitters quit on her and childcare centers not work out. She came out on the other end thanks to the help of one of her aunts. But not everyone has an aunt like she did, Warren acknowledged.

“How many women of my generation were just knocked off the tracks because of childcare, how many women of my daughter’s generation were knocked off the tracks, how many women and how many men today just get knocked off the tracks because childcare today is harder than it was two generations ago,” Warren said. “I’m running for president of the United States and yeah I got a lot of plans because [if] you want to get something done, you better have a plan to do it.”

At the top of Warren’s plans, as many of us already know, is her wealth tax – a tax on the top one-tenth of the one percent which would require the super-rich to give two cents on their 50 millionth and first dollar, and an additional two cents on every dollar after that.

“You know what we can do in America with two cents?” Warren asked, getting visibly excited as she listed the possibilities. “We could start by providing universal childcare to every baby 0 to 5 in this country. We could provide universal pre-K for every three-year-old and four-year-old in this country. We could raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in this country.”

“And with that same two cents, we could do more. We could provide tuition-free technical school, community college and four-year college to every one of our kids who wants an education. We could also level the playing field and that means a $50 Billion investment into HBCUs,” she continued. “We could cancel student loan debt for 95% of the kids who got it. We can start to close that Black-white wealth gap.”

In the Q&A segment, speaking to Rev. Al Sharpton, ESSENCE CEO Michelle Ebanks and Founder and Chair of Essence Ventures Richelieu Dennis, Warren expanded on her ideas on the wealth gap, pointing out that it has led to a Black-white entrepreneurship gap.

The big headliner of the Day was former First Lady Michelle Obama.   Here’s USA Today’s coverage of her discussing living through hard hits with Gayle King.

Speaking onstage to Gayle King on Saturday at Essence Festival’s 25th anniversary celebration in New Orleans, the former first lady got real about how she learned to shake off hateful comments.

“It was important to tell that part of the story (in “Becoming,” her 2018 best-selling autobiography) because they see me and Barack now, but they don’t know how many punches it took us to get there,” said Obama, according to Essence. “People from all sides, Democrats and Republicans, tried to take me out by the knees. And the best way they could do it was to focus on the strength of the black woman, so they turned that into a caricature.”

So, this is how I spent my weekend.  I know that every one wants to speak on the breaking news about Jeffrey Epstein and I’m also sure that BostonBoomer will be far better equipped to elabortate on that tomorrow.  But, they  SDNY just gave a presser and it was a doozy.  My suggestion for a read to start that discussion of is this one from New York Magazine: “Everything We Know About the Sex Crimes Case Against Jeffrey Epstein” b

On Saturday, billionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for the alleged sex trafficking of dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. In a criminal indictment unsealed Monday, federal prosecutors claimed that Epstein lured underage girls, some as young as 14, to his luxurious homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach under the guise of paying them cash for massages. He then molested them and encouraged them to recruit other young girls to return with them. The victims who returned with new victims were paid a finder’s fee.

“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

The hedge-fund manager and former friend of presidents Trump and Clinton faced similar charges a decade ago but escaped federal prosecution via a widely criticized, shockingly lenient plea deal. After a decade of legal efforts by many of his victims — and, more recently, increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the media — Epstein faces prosecution by the notoriously tough Southern District of New York and a long prison sentence if convicted.

Trump’s name comes up several places.  Read the article to find out more.

And now … what’s on your reading and blogging list today?