Category Archives: Social Issues

Social causes, activism, and projects

RIP John Lewis – By Elwood Watson

A Tribute to the ‘Conscience of Congress’

As he’s laid to rest, there are no shortage of salutes to Congressman John Lewis, the formidable civil rights activist and legislator from Georgia who departed this earth on July 17, 2020, at the age of 80.

Mr. Lewis was a larger than life figure, a fierce, fiery presence packaged in a medium-sized man’s body. He was a person who lived an extraordinary life.

Mr. Lewis, there have already been numerous, bountiful tributes to you; you were more than deserving of such recognition.

The commentary (save for a few right-wing websites) has been overwhelmingly positive and rightly so. Indeed, even when you were alive, there were a considerable number of articles written about you and your life experiences. You were a living legend.

To hear network commentators, radio hosts, prominent and lesser-known podcasters and people from all walks of life pay their respects to you was and is nothing short of deliriously satisfying.

    For a Black man who was born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, a child of the deep, segregated south, life was a challenge from the very beginning.

Bold Social Activism

From childhood on, you readily witnessed glaring unjust impositions that were routinely perpetrated upon Black men and women who often had no recourse, legal or otherwise, to challenge such indignities. Witnessing and experiencing such injustices made you determined to combat such untoward mistreatment.

While your parents, who were deeply indoctrinated in the mores and customs of the segregated south, were steadfastly opposed to you becoming actively involved in civil rights activities (their concerns and reservations were well-founded), you nonetheless decided to follow your own heart, forge your own path, trust your own instincts, and pursue a life of social activism.

Trust me, more than a few of us, of my generation, thank the Lord that you and others of your cohort did!

    It was largely due to those of your generation that monumental change was able to take place in our nation.

For much of your life, you were engaged in confrontations or challenges of some sort, from disagreeing with your parents about how to behave and live your life as a Black man who was living in the legally segregated south, to challenging and confronting vicious southern mobs who attacked you for daring to ride segregated buses or sit at segregated lunch counters, to enduring violent police officers and brutal beatings (your skull was cracked and you almost died).

     For demanding the right to vote as an American citizen, you were often at the forefront of challenging injustice wherever it reared its tormenting and sadistic head. You will always be remembered for your courageous leadership in the face of racial oppression, such as:

     Your 1960s activism in organizing the Nashville sit-ins in 1960. Your courage in becoming one of the 13 original freedom riders in 1961. Your involvement as director of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963.

Your assistance to Martin Luther King Jr, A. Philip Randolph, and other political and religious leaders of the movement — by adhering to their concerns and wishes that you and some of your fellow comrades modify the language of your eventually delivered speech, and restrain behavior that was viewed as aggressive by some— made that iconic event proceed much more smoothly than it otherwise might have.

In fact, you were often on the front line with Dr. King and other leaders, who you viewed as mentors.

Public Service

During the 1970s, after a few unsuccessful runs for public office, you worked in a variety of government agency positions, first in Atlanta, for the Voter Education Project, for several years, and then working for the Carter administration as a leader of ACTION, VISTA, and similar agencies until you returned to Atlanta.

Unlike the 1970s, your 1980s runs for public office were successful. First you became a part of the Atlanta city council in 1981, and then you pulled off an upset by defeating fellow civil rights activist Julian Bond in 1986 and becoming a member of the House of Representatives.

The campaign temporarily damaged your decades’ longtime friendship with Bond, but over time both of you managed to mend the wounds. You went on to be reelected more than 16 times!

While in Congress you were known and widely respected by your colleagues as, “The Conscience of Congress.”

You, along with several other veterans of the modern civil rights movement were overcome with unbridled emotion at the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Memorial in 2003 as his widow, Coretta King and others consoled you.

Who can forget when you stood on the house floor with a picture of yourself drenched in blood shouting “this was my blood” as you passionately demanded that Congress support the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Fellow congressional members stood up and applauded you for your bravery then and on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma.

Congress went to extend provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2006. Although, it is ironic that such legislation is now under attack as you have passed on.

In your later years, you were as fiery as ever, demanding that the needs of the marginalized and voiceless be addressed.

    Even in your 70s, you were getting arrested for standing up to and challenging injustice. You eventually came to support Barack Obama for president after initially supporting Hillary Clinton.

While you marched with a few Presidents, it was the image of you with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters — the first Black family to live in the White House — marching over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where you almost lost your life more than half a century earlier, which was nothing short of tearful for many of us.

    It was an electrifying moment for many of us. Your emotional embrace of the former president was touching as well.

You argued that all Americans, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other specific factors be treated as equal and human beings. It was due to brave, heroic individuals like you and others that Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and many others now follow in the pathway you opened up. Witnessing President Obama award you the Medal of Freedom in 2012 was nothing short of spectacular.

Fighting pancreatic cancer undoubtedly was one of your heaviest battles to wage. Even then, you did so with sophistication, strength, and dignity.

     You were a shining example of courage.

Final Thoughts

God called you home on July 17th.

There is no doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Frederick Douglas, Juanita Abernathy, A. Philip Randolph, C.T. Vivian (who passed away on the same day as you) and, of course, your longtime friend and short-term nemesis, Julian Bond, and many other forebears have welcomed you with heavenly arms.

Once again, thank you for all you did. You lived and endured an extraordinary life from the womb to the tomb.

May you rest in peace.

Tribalism and The Vote – by Deborah Levine

Some have called our “Me & Us First” politics as nationalism but I prefer to apply the label ‘tribalism’.  In this COVID-19 environment, racial lines, regional preferences, current events and heavy political advertising, are not shaping public opinion as much as the identity of a specific community and the resonance of a leader to that community. Communities are built on religious and ethnic values, family preferences, housing patterns, and health habits. Their political choices have always been shaped by those cultural traits. With the economic fallout and the growing disparities in jobs and  education, politics will become a complex mix of leadership styles that symbolize communities along with the body language, word choice, and facial expressions that resonate specific communities. Policy positions and biographical details will be less relevant as they are filtered through the lens of each group.

Continue reading Tribalism and The Vote – by Deborah Levine

Perspectives: ADR Advisors and Colleagues

Perspectives and Quotes

Editor’s Note: In these challenging times when race-related issues are at the forefront of American society, the American Diversity Report is pleased to share quotes from our advisors and colleagues. I have no doubt that their words of wisdom will stick in our readers’ minds.

Continue reading Perspectives: ADR Advisors and Colleagues

What is Juneteenth and Why? – by Vincent I. Phipps

Foremost Happy Juneteenth to Everyone!

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was the judiciary treaty signed by President Abraham Lincoln which was the country’s official acknowledgment to abolish slavery.

But did it?

Many of us were taught in school the importance of dates:

*1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue
*1920 Women’s right to fight, suffrage allowing women voting
*1969, Moon landing, “One giant leap for mankind”
*2009, America’s first president of color, Pres. Barack Obama

*1863, the ending of slavery, right?

Am in being picky about a date? Darn right!

Although the Civil War ended in April 1865 when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, enslaved people in Texas didn’t learn about their freedom until June 19, 1865.

About 2.5 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, it was Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union army who finally arrived in Galveston and issued General Order No. 3 that secured the Union army’s authority over Texas.

The last city in the United States to be informed of the ending of slavery was in a small town called Galveston, TX, in 1865!

How could this have occurred?

The same way we have the losses of the lives of Mr. George Floyd, Mr. Eric Garner, Mr. Rayshard Brooks, and hundreds more!  The same way we have yet to properly prosecute those who fail to protect.

People who could help stood by and did or said nothing.

Juneteenth celebrates human freedom.  Slave owners in 1865, knowingly broke the law-keeping their slaves in bondage through the Fall of 1865 to capitalize on more free labor.

Consider this?

**What if the minimum wage was increased to $100 / hour but for 2.5 years you were paid at your current rate?

**What if a mysterious stranger paid your rent for the next 2.5 years and your landlord forgets or chooses not to tell you?

**What if your mortgage or car note were paid off and your lender kept taking your monthly payments for almost the next three years?

Get the point?

In “Lone Star Pasts” Susan Merritt reported:

“Lots of Negroes were killed after freedom…bushwhacked, shot down while they were trying to get a way. You could see lots of Negroes hanging from trees.”

Freedom is not an African-American right.  Freedom is a human right.  Juneteenth is more than slaves being freed. It is recognition of a system’s acknowledgment about how immoral, unjust, and unethical the ideology that people could own other people was wrong.

Juneteenth (annually June 19), is to be celebrated by everyone.

Try living in the building – by Terry Howard

If there’s an upside to the images of those protesting the death of George Floyd, it’s dismantling the myth of angry blacks alone roaming the streets, looting, setting fires and burning down their neighborhoods. I mean, one must be blind if they did not see people other than African Americans holding up “Black Lives Matter” posters, getting tear gassed, hand cuffed, arrested ….and looting. Truly a watershed moment in social history if ever there was one.

“Oh my, why are they destroying property in their own neighborhoods?” “They’re hurting their own cause!” Continue reading Try living in the building – by Terry Howard

Juneteenth Message – by Elwood Watson

Remember Rashard Brooks and Other
Black Victims of Police Brutality

In 1964, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to sweep the country, the arc of justice needs to bend more quickly in the case of Rayshard Brooks and other African Americans who have been killed by police. This is especially important as the country commemorates Juneteenth.

The justice system must send a clear message that overzealous police cannot get away with targeting and treating Black men and women as second class citizens. Every American must fully comprehend that all Black lives matter.
Continue reading Juneteenth Message – by Elwood Watson

Leaning in and speaking out – by Hanadi Chehabeddine

In the wake of the killing of George Flyod and the civil unrest that followed, communities of color around the country are feeling more empowered to speak out on issues of racism that make their everyday life harder and even painful. These bitter experiences are not limited to the dominant culture but also take place within communities of colors themselves.

Speaking within the Muslim community, voices echoing sentiments of injustice started rising on the maltreatment of black Muslims under the patronage of Arab leadership. Among the stories that have been circulating offensive social media posts among Arab employers, lack of participants representation among mosque dwellers and incidents of verbal offense among school board members towards black students or their parents.

Continue reading Leaning in and speaking out – by Hanadi Chehabeddine

Eyes and Ears Wide Shut – by Mauricio Velásquez

THE SILENCE IS DEAFENING

I have always specialized in hostile or militant audiences but from time to time even I have to step back and pause for a second.  Current events are always “fair game” in my workshops; it is what makes my sessions current, electric and never boring.  Recent moments of truth in my sessions lead me to pen and update to the original article I wrote many years ago.  The recent rash of horrible racial injustices (some say pattern) of Ahmaud Arbery to Breonna Taylor to George Floyd to Amy Cooper has erupted into a national conversation about racial injustice, white privilege, inequity, diversity, inclusion, and more.

Comments like – “I don’t care about BLM – Black Lives Matter, I am trying to run a business” or “White Lives Matter” or worse “White Lives Matter More (WLMM)” when people mention “Black Lives Matter” has led many to the politicization and polarization of these horrible atrocities and we these acts continue a horrible pattern of racial injustice.  You have to go back to “Rodney King had it coming!” and “Tayvon Martin, who cares.”  Today, you must be a “liberal” or a “conservative” – ouch! 

Continue reading Eyes and Ears Wide Shut – by Mauricio Velásquez

White Allyship and Racism – by Joseph Nwoye, Sabah Holmes, Margie Crowe

 Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Racism is real; it has always been on display even if some continue to deny its existence. Our society has accepted, allowed, sanctioned, and even encouraged discrimination and violence against Black people for over four hundred years. When we see or hear people chant Black Lives Matter, they are essentially saying that sanctioned or unsanctioned, covert or overt racism, continued discrimination, conscious or unconscious and violence against Black people must come to an end. These people who have seen and experienced racial inequality in all aspects of their lives in a society where the discriminatory practice is embedded within federal, state, and local communities recognize how profoundly their lives have been affected on a daily basis and in some cases, lives that have been lost.  Continue reading White Allyship and Racism – by Joseph Nwoye, Sabah Holmes, Margie Crowe

Diversity & Speech Part 12: Systemic Racism – by Carlos E. Cortés

For the past two years I have been writing a series of columns about the complicated intersection of inclusive diversity and robust speech.   Although my last column appeared just two months ago, in some respects it seems like ancient history.  Maybe it is.

Because on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, a Minneapolis Police Officer named Derek Chauvin jammed his knee against the neck of George Floyd, an African American man, for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, until Floyd was dead.  Those 526 excruciating seconds, recorded and widely disseminated, may have changed the course of U.S. history.  That incident has certainly changed the way that we are currently talking about race in particular and about diversity in general. 

Continue reading Diversity & Speech Part 12: Systemic Racism – by Carlos E. Cortés