Category: Politics

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama Portraits Unveiled at National Portrait Gallery

Kehinde Wiley has set Mr. Obama against greenery, with flowers that have symbolic meaning: African blue lilies for Kenya, his father’s birthplace; jasmine for Hawaii, where Mr. Obama was born; chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, for the city where his political career began. (Credit: Kehinde Wiley)

by Holland Cotter via nytimes.com

With the unveiling Monday at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. of the official presidential likenesses of Barack Obama and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, this city of myriad monuments gets a couple of new ones, each radiating, in its different way, gravitas (his) and glam (hers).

Ordinarily, the event would pass barely noticed in the worlds of politics and art. Yes, the Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution, owns the only readily accessible complete collection of presidential likenesses. But recently commissioned additions to the collection have been so undistinguished that the tradition of installing a new portrait after a leader has left office is now little more than ceremonial routine.

The present debut is strikingly different. Not only are the Obamas the first presidential couple claiming African descent to be enshrined in the collection. The painters they’ve picked to portray them — Kehinde Wiley, for Mr. Obama’s portrait; Amy Sherald, for Mrs. Obama — are African-American as well. Both artists have addressed the politics of race consistently in their past work, and both have done so in subtly savvy ways in these new commissions. Mr. Wiley depicts Mr. Obama not as a self-assured, standard-issue bureaucrat, but as an alert and troubled thinker. Ms. Sherald’s image of Mrs. Obama overemphasizes an element of couturial spectacle, but also projects a rock-solid cool.

It doesn’t take #BlackLivesMatter consciousness to see the significance of this racial lineup within the national story as told by the Portrait Gallery. Some of the earliest presidents represented — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson — were slaveholders; Mrs. Obama’s great-great grandparents were slaves. And today we’re seeing more and more evidence that the social gains of the civil rights, and Black Power, and Obama eras are, with a vengeance, being rolled back.

On several levels, then, the Obama portraits stand out in this institutional context, though given the tone of bland propriety that prevails in the museum’s long-term “America’s Presidents” display — where Mr. Obama’s (though not Mrs. Obama’s) portrait hangs — standing out is not all that hard to do.

Amy Sherald’s take on Mrs. Obama emphasizes an element of couturial spectacle (with a dress designed by Michelle Smith) and rock-solid cool. (Credit:  Amy Sherald)

Mr. Wiley, born in Los Angeles in 1977, gained a following in the early 2000s with his crisp, glossy, life-size paintings of young African-American men dressed in hip-hop styles, but depicted in the old-master manner of European royal portraits. More recently he has expanded his repertoire to include female subjects, as well as models from Brazil, India, Nigeria and Senegal, creating the collective image of a global black aristocracy.

In an imposingly scaled painting — just over seven feet tall — the artist presents Mr. Obama dressed in the regulation black suit and an open-necked white shirt, and seated on a vaguely thronelike chair not so different from the one seen in Stuart’s Washington portrait. But art historical references stop there. So do tonal echoes of past portraits. Whereas Mr. Obama’s predecessors are, to the man, shown expressionless and composed, Mr. Obama sits tensely forward, frowning, elbows on his knees, arms crossed, as if listening hard. No smiles, no Mr. Nice Guy. He’s still troubleshooting, still in the game.

His engaged and assertive demeanor contradicts — and cosmetically corrects — the impression he often made in office of being philosophically detached from what was going on around him. At some level, all portraits are propaganda, political or personal. And what makes this one distinctive is the personal part. Mr. Wiley has set Mr. Obama against — really embedded him in — a bower of what looks like ground cover. From the greenery sprout flowers that have symbolic meaning for the sitter. African blue lilies represent Kenya, his father’s birthplace; jasmine stands for Hawaii, where Mr. Obama himself was born; chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, reference the city where his political career began, and where he met his wife.

Mrs. Obama’s choice of Ms. Sherald as an artist was an enterprising one. Ms. Sherald, who was born in Columbus, Ga., in 1973 and lives in Baltimore, is just beginning to move into the national spotlight after putting her career on hold for some years to deal with a family health crisis, and one of her own. (She had a heart transplant at 39.) Production-wise, she and Mr. Wiley operate quite differently. He runs the equivalent of a multinational art factory, with assistants churning out work. Ms. Sherald, who until a few years ago made her living waiting tables, oversees a studio staff of one, herself.

At the same time, they have much in common. Both focused early on African-American portraiture precisely because it is so little represented in Western art history. And both tend to blend fact and fiction. Mr. Wiley, with photo-realistic precision, casts actual people in fantastically heroic roles. (He modifies his heroizing in the case of Mr. Obama, but it’s still there.) Ms. Sherald also starts with realism, but softens and abstracts it. She gives all her figures gray-toned skin — a color with ambiguous racial associations — and reduces bodies to geometric forms silhouetted against single-color fields.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/12/arts/design/obama-portrait.html

Portraits of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama
At the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington; 202-633-1000; npg.si.edu.

Jackson Elementary School in Utah, Named for Andrew Jackson, Votes to Rename Itself After Mary Jackson, NASA’s 1st Black Female Engineer

Mary Jackson, NASA’s first black female engineer
Mary Jackson, NASA’s first black female engineer(Photo: NASA Langley Research Center)

by Marina Koren via theatlantic.com

An elementary school in Utah has traded one Jackson for another in a change that many say was a long time coming.

Jackson Elementary School in Salt Lake City will no longer be named for Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, whose slave ownership and treatment of Native Americans are often cited in the debate over memorializing historical figures associated with racism.

Instead, the school will honor Mary Jackson, the first black female engineer at nasa whose story, and the stories of others like her at the space agency, was chronicled in Hidden Figures, a 2016 film based on a book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly.

A unanimous vote by the the Salt Lake City school board this week was met with a standing ovation from the crowd in the room, reports The Salt Lake Tribune’s Erin Alberty. School employees and parents have discussed changing the elementary’s school name “for years,” Alberty reported, and last year started polling and meeting with parents, alumni, and others. More than 70 percent supported the change. Of the school’s 440 students, 85 percent are students of color, according to the Salt Lake City School District.

Mary Jackson, a native of Hampton, Virginia, worked as a math teacher, a receptionist, and an Army secretary before she arrived at NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1951 as a member of the West Area Computing unit, a segregated division where African American women spent hours doing calculations with pencil and paper, including for the trajectories of the country’s earliest space missions.

Two years in, a NASA engineer picked Jackson to help him work on a wind tunnel that tested flight hardware by blasting it with winds nearly twice the speed of sound. The engineer suggested Jackson train to become an engineer. To do that, Jackson had to take night courses in math and physics from the University of Virginia, which were held at the segregated Hampton High School. Jackson successfully petitioned the city to let her take the classes. She got her promotion to engineer in 1958. After 34 years at the space agency, Jackson retired in 1985. She died in 2005, at the age of 83.

Continue reading “Jackson Elementary School in Utah, Named for Andrew Jackson, Votes to Rename Itself After Mary Jackson, NASA’s 1st Black Female Engineer”

Baltimore Launches Office of African American Male Engagement to Keep Black Men Out of Prison

Photo of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement Team from 2016, on which Baltimore’s new program is modeled. (via mayorsofficeofblackmaleengagement.wordpress.com)

by Nigel Roberts via newsone.com

Next week, Baltimore is expected to open the Office of African American Male Engagement to reduce the Black male incarceration rate, at a time when the city’s homicide rate is sky high–setting a record per capita rate in 2017. This program will hopefully save lives and end the cycle of incarceration.

“We want to save lives. The reason the office is important is because too many Black men are either the perpetrators of crime or victims of it. It is about saving lives,” said Andrey Bundley, who’s leaving his position as safety director for Baltimore City Public Schools to lead the new office, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Mayor Catherine Pugh opens the new office on Feb. 12. Modeled on a similar program in Philadelphia, the Baltimore initiative focuses on providing mentoring and a range of services for boys and men. It will connect to existing mentoring programs and includes a focus on men returning home from prison.

This effort is much needed. Baltimore was one of the most dangerous cities in America in 2017, setting a new per-capita homicide record of 343 killings. The police arrested tens of thousands of African-American males last year. And in many cases, once these young men were caught in the criminal justice system, many of them become repeat offenders. It was estimated in 2015 that 73 percent of former inmates in Baltimore City re-offend within three years.

The program seeks to create a support network, Bundley said. “We need that kind of space for individuals who don’t have a father or who have come out of prison or who are going through the process of getting a job,” he added, noting that scores of young Black men in the city lack families that can help them readjust and stay out of trouble after incarceration.

To read full article, go to: https://newsone.com/3772849/baltimores-mayor-launches-program-to-reduce-black-male-incarceration/

Black Lives Matter Activist Hawk Newsome Calls Out ‘White Privilege’ of Post-Super Bowl Property Damage

White men and women in green and and black and white and grey clothing stand over grey and yellow traffic pole on grey sidewalk in front of grey buildings and black night sky
People break a traffic light while celebrating the Philadelphia Eagles’ victory in Super Bowl LII game against the New England Patriots on February 4, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

Tens of thousands of Philadelphia sports fans flooded the city’s streets on February 4 to celebrate the hometown Eagles’ 41-33 win over the returning champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. According to U.S. News and World Report, many fans’ belligerence led to various instances of property damage, including a collapsed Ritz-Carlton Hotel awning, an overturned car, destroyed traffic poles and two reportedly stolen police horses.

Photos detailing this destruction on Getty Images and Twitter largely show white male perpetrators. The Philadelphia Police Department has not yet released a final arrest tally for the vandalism, but Ajennah Amir, a spokesperson for the the mayor’s office, told CNN of just three arrests. Black Lives Matter of Greater New York president Hawk Newsome called out the department’s treatment of these people—as compared to the aggressive policing of Black protesters at actions against police violence—in an interview with Newsweek.

“Somehow, it seems there’s a line drawn in the sand where destruction of property because of a sports victory is okay and acceptable in America,” Newsome explained. “However, if you have people who are fighting for their most basic human right, the right to live, they will be condemned.”

Newsome pointed out city officials’ seeming reluctance to condemn the property damage, including police sergeant Brian Geer’s tweet telling people to simply “go home”:

Newsome told Newsweek that this response was “a glaring example of White privilege.”

“You can riot if you’re White and your team wins, but if you’re Black and being killed, you can’t speak out,” he added.

Newesome also contrasted the situation in Philadelphia with the Baltimore Uprising, when Black city residents demonstrated following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Newsweek says those actions led to 34 arrests. “I can’t condemn them and neither can anyone else, especially not the media, especially not politicians when they condone people who are just drunk and destroying property because their team won,” Newsome said.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/black-lives-matter-activist-calls-out-white-privilege-post-super-bowl-property-damage

#MeToo Founder Tarana Burke to Publish Memoir “Where The Light Enters” via Simon & Schuster

National CARES Mentoring Movement's Third Annual For The Love Of Our Children Gala
Tarana Burke attends the National CARES Mentoring Movement’s third annual For The Love Of Our Children Gala on January 29, 2018 in New York City. (Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

Tarana Burke first launched the #MeToo campaign in 2007 to build solidarity and healing power among Black girls and women who survived sexual assault. Nearly 11 years later, the organizer and activist will chronicle her and the movement’s journey in a memoir.

The Associated Press (The AP) reported today (February 2) that Burke is working with writer and fellow activist asha bandele on the upcoming book, titled “Where the Light Enters.” Simon & Schuster will publish it next year through 37 Ink, its imprint that previously released books by Issa Rae and Dr. Willie Parker.

Burke told The AP that the memoir will address her own “ordinary, extraordinary journey from victim to survivor to thriver,” as well as the evolution of the movement.

“The book will also help readers understand the often overlooked historical connections of the role sexual violence plays in communities of color, specifically Black communities, even today, while exploring ways the same communities have been both complicit and resilient,” Burke added. “More than anything, this memoir will provide survivors across the spectrum of sexual abuse a road map for healing that helps them understand that the ‘me too’ movement is more about triumph than trauma, and that our wounds, though they may never fully heal, can also be the key to our survival.”

via #MeToo Founder Tarana Burke Writes Memoir, ‘Where the Light Enters’ | Colorlines

African Immigrants More Educated than Most, Including Native-Born U.S. Citizens

Ifeozuwa Oyaniyi, 5, born in Nigeria, holds flags given to him by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services while waiting to receive his citizenship certificate in New York City. (John Moore/Getty Images)

by Ann M. Simmons via latimes.com

Lots of the news from sub-Saharan Africa is about war, famine, poverty or political upheaval. So it’s understandable if many Americans think most Africans who immigrate to the United States are poorly educated and desperate. That’s the impression that President Trump left with his comments to members of Congress opposing admission of immigrants from “s***hole countries” in Africa and elsewhere.

But research tells another story.

While many are refugees, large numbers are beneficiaries of the “diversity visa program” aimed at boosting immigration from underrepresented nations. And on average, African immigrants are better educated that people born in the U.S. or the immigrant population as a whole.

“It’s a population that’s very diverse in its educational, economic and English proficiency profile,” said Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute think tank in Washington and co-author of a report last year on sub-Saharan African immigrants in the U.S. “People came for a variety of reasons and at various times.”

Overall, their numbers are small compared with other immigrant groups but have risen significantly in recent years. The U.S. immigrant population from sub-Saharan Africa (49 countries with a total population of more than 1.1 billion) grew from 723,000 to more than 1.7 million between 2010 and 2015, according to a new report by New American Economy, a Washington-based research and advocacy group. Still, they make up just half a percent of the U.S. population.

Drawing from U.S. surveys and Census Bureau data, the report found that the majority come from five countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.

The Pew Research Center reported that African immigrants are most likely to settle in the South or Northeast, and that the largest numbers — at least 100,000 — are found in Texas, New York, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia. Many African refugees have also relocated to or have been resettled in states such as Minnesota and South Dakota.

The Refugee Act of 1980 made it easier for people fleeing war zones to resettle in the U.S., and today there are tens of thousand of refugees from Somalia, Sudan and Congo. About 22% of African immigrants are refugees, according to Andrew Lim, associate director of research at New American Economy.

At the same time, the diversity visa program — also known as the visa lottery — has opened the door to immigrants from more peaceful places. Of the sub-Saharan immigrants who have become legal permanent residents, 17% came through the program, compared with 5% of the total U.S. immigrant population, according to Batalova.

Applicants to the program must have completed the equivalent of a U.S. high school education or have at least two years of recent experience in any number of occupations, including accountant, computer support specialist, orthodontist and dancer. As a result, the influx includes many immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa who are highly skilled professionals.

Continue reading “African Immigrants More Educated than Most, Including Native-Born U.S. Citizens”

Dana Gresham Named Chief of Staff for Newly-Sworn in U.S. Senator Doug Jones

PHOTO: Dana Gresham was named on Jan. 2, 2017 by Sen.-elect Doug Jones, D-Ala., as his chief of staff.
Dana Gresham was named on Jan. 2, 2017 by Sen.-elect Doug Jones, D-Ala., as his chief of staff. (via abcnews.com)

by David Caplan via abcnews.com

Senator-elect Doug Jones, the Democrat from Alabama who beat Republican Roy Moore in last month’s special Senate election, has tapped former Department of Transportation staffer Dana Gresham as his chief of staff, making him the only African-American chief of staff for a Senate Democrat.

“I would like to welcome Alabama native & former Asst. Secretary for Governmental Affairs at @USDOT Dana Gresham, who will be joining our team as Chief of Staff,” Jones tweeted Tuesday.

Prior to working at the Department of Transportation under President Barack Obama, Gresham worked for Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Ala., and Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala.  The appointment follows pressure from several organizations representing various communities of color that asked Jones last month to hire at least one minority to a senior-level position.

Two Republican senators, though, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Jerry Moran of Kansas, reportedly have black chiefs of staff.

Seventeen organizations, including the NAACP, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and the National Urban League, wrote a letter to Jones in December suggesting he hire a person of color in light of the lack of diversity among Senate staff. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies organized the effort and drafted the letter.

“As a new Member of the U.S. Senate, you have an opportunity to show your constituents that not only do their voices matter, but that their experiences and skills are vital to the work that you do to represent them,” the groups wrote in the Dec. 19 letter to Jones. “Ensuring racial diversity among your staff would enhance the deliberation, innovation, legitimacy, and outcomes of your office and of the Senate as a whole. Hiring at least one person of color to your senior staff in Washington would speak loudly, and we ask that you do so among the qualified applicants that you will receive.”

News of Gresham’s hire was applauded across the Twittersphere.

“Great News! Birmingham’s own stand out Dana Gresham chosen to be Chief of Staff to Alabama’s Senator Doug Jones!” tweeted Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala. “Looking forward to working with them to move Alabama forward!! @GDouglasJones.”

Amanda Brown Lierman, political and organizing director for the Democratic National Committee tweeted, “Snaps for @GDouglasJones naming Dana Gresham as his Chief of Staff! #DougJones will be the ONLY #Senate #Democrat to have a black COS.”

And Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity tweeted, “Congratulations to Brother Dana Gresham [Mu Lambda ’97] for being appointed as Chief of Staff for Alabama Senator-elect, Doug Jones, who will be the only member of the Democratic caucus to have a Black/African-American chief of staff.”

To see original post, go to: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/doug-jones-hires-senate-democrats-african-american-chief/story?id=52109446

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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