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Post Election Day Editorial: We are not there yet ?

Dorris Ellis
Dorris Ellis

Why do voters stay home? Why do voters allow others to carry the heavy weight of government? Have the democrats given up hope? Do democrats have a qualified field of candidates who can motivate the constituents? Do democrats know how to engage the absent voter?

The disenfranchised voter is in a major funk. On the ground is where the vote is won. Connecting with the voter is what motivates voting. Learning what voters need is essential to prospective voters.

The status quo has been the rule of the electorate in Texas since the Civil Rights legislation signed by President Baines Johnson 50 years ago. The nation has fought that progress continuously. For the black and white together has not occurred as our nation has yet to overcome the issues that divide. Are we there yet? Maybe the question is do we want to go there? If so, how do we get there?

Regardless of the kind of legislation passed to equalize the socio-economic classes and the racial and gender classes, law cannot regulate nor change the hearts of men and women. America has an entrenched band of entitlement and it is ruthful and unwise to think that a “mine” and “take” American will give another what they think will weaken their position. To make one equal, something must be taken from the other who has access to more. America is a capitalist nation and those with the capital are uninterested in sharing their capital with those who have less. In the past six years, ultraists who practice extremism, especially in politics or government have become radical, employing an intense anti – President Obama stand that is making America an unsustainable, unsound country placing it on shaky ground as a melting pot nation.

Why do I assert this notion? The risk our nation faces is evidenced in the lack of hope our nations’ citizens’ displays. For example, the economy has improved; the stock market is up; unemployment is lower; the air is cleaner; all are indicators that the nation is moving ahead nicely, still the menu of media talkers fill the minds of Americans with defeat. Hence, citizens become overwhelm with continuous negative concepts and fail to perform self – analysis, therefore they retreat into becoming irrelevant and as a result of not protecting their own interest – i.e., not voting.

When citizens of the greatest nation on the planet Earth do not participate in its government of the people, for the people, and by the people, we become a nation that is in trouble. When more people stay home than select to exercise their right to be a part of the directing of America’s polices, we establish a pattern of abandonment and negligence. When the children of the nation experiences abandonment and negligence, they lose hope and without hope, we risk not forming a progressive nation. Instead, we work to build an oppressive nation.

A nation that seeks non – inclusivity, does not encourage people to register to vote defeats itself. When this happens we do not energize the opportunity to get the best from all of our citizens. The oppressed is encouraged to remain oppressed by the creation of insidious policies, which dumb-down the citizens causing many of them to believe that one’s vote does not count. The vote does not count only if it is not casted and in Harris County just as through America, Americans failed themselves. They failed, because during this 2014 mid-term election, we rejected the gift that forefathers gave us. We rejected their work, counted it a zero, saying that they were foolish to risk their lives thinking that we would be wise enough to use and expand their work for the good of America and it starts with the vote.

The Voting Rights Act is an Act. It is not a law. You must know that it has to be reauthorized every 25 years. If future generations do not keep their eyes on the calendar, it will go away. With the turnout of the 2014 mid-term election, it might as well go away some may say. Now, what is Americans to do? Analyze this cycle. At the top level of the Democrats, 37 million dollars was raised, which is a benchmark for the next election. As the Democrat learns how to raise money, they must also learn how to Get Out the Vote. That strategy should begin now, not a month before the election. For when a commitment is made for democracy, the work is 365 days a year, not just during the election season, which is upsetting to the people who refused to cast their votes on yesterday. During the next 730 days our nation regardless of party affiliation need to fix some things. Our nation needs to learn the answers to these questions: Why do voters stay home? Why do voters allow others to carry the heavy weight of government? Have the democrats given up hope? Do democrats have a qualified field of candidates who can motivate the constituents? Do democrats know how to engage the absent voter?

Democracy works better when more citizens participate. Albeit most voters stayed home in Texas and throughout the country, those who had the insight to vote for their interest did, as they understood the value of their vote.

Texas is still “red” from top to bottom. The US House and Senate are “red”. America has a “blue” executive branch and we must learn what will happen in January when the Republicans take its responsibility to govern the nation at the congressional level. The last time that the Republicans governed at the federal level they issued a Contract with America. It is time for all Americans to participate in a 2015 version of the contract as a joint venture between the people and those who represent them.

May God bless and I will see you next week.

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Does Alameel, Democratic Party want the Black vote?

Texas Publishers Association

Has the African-American community become so loyal to the Democratic Party that politicians the likes of David Alameel and the Texas candidate for the Governor’s office feel they no longer need to work to earn our vote? It’s a fact since 1932 with the election of Roosevelt, the Democratic Party has consistently garnered more than half of the Black vote. Understandably so, considering who the Republicans have had to offer in the past years and with the emergence of the Tea Party in recent years, the overall party is ever so hostile towards Blacks, people of color, women and every other demographic excluding wealthy white males. But that’s no excuse for the continued gross and negligent oversight of the Democratic Party as a whole and its many candidates respecting the need to earn the Black vote.

Perhaps this is why Alameel and the current Texas Democratic candidate for the Governor’s Office have yet to answer the call of the Black press to sit and address the Black agenda. They have been happy to sit down and speak to FOX News about issues of importance to the Latino community. They have even made it their business to address local issues affecting the LGBT community in order to receive support.

Alameel even seemed elated to speak with CBS KENS5 News about his plans, if elected to bring back American jobs from Japan and China. He sounded jubilant to talk to Jay St. John and Sergio Mora on AM Radio about his travels “all over the state of Texas” and how much “fun” he has been having.

We know where both candidates stand on immigration reform. We know where they both stand on the economy. We know they are working very hard to gain the support and votes of the Latino community. But why are they deliberately ignoring the Black vote? Is the Black vote not equally as important? Do we not have issues that are pressing? Why are we continually being disregarded when we have a number of media outlets that can ensure the Black communities throughout Texas receive the proper information regarding the platforms of each Democratic candidate who claim to represent ALL of Texas.

Maybe these two Democratic candidates have been ill advised regarding the importance of addressing the Black community collectively and continually. Maybe these two candidates believe that Black people will not mobilize collectively to demand a platform that addresses Black unemployment, police brutality, voter suppression laws and the host of issues plaguing the Black community.

Considering it was in the heart of the Black community, Oak Cliff (a Dallas Community), where Alameel got his humble beginnings one would think courting the Black vote would be atop Alameel’s campaign agenda. However, if he thinks aligning with certain politicians of color is enough to win our support, he has made a gross miscalculation. Black leaders sometimes are well intentioned in their efforts, howeer it would be wise for them to pay attention to their constituents in their districts. Texas Black Publishers are now requesting a meeting to address and stress the need for Alameel, and other Democratic candidates meet with the Black Press of Texas. It’s time to stop being inaccessible to the concerns and questions being asked by the Black Press. It’s time to stop being unresponsive to the Black community. We are tired of the symptomatic negligence both candidates and the Democratic Party have continued to display for the Black communities around the Lone Star State.

Do not make the mistake of thinking a select group of Black elected officials speak for the Black community at large and definitely not the Black press. If David Alameel and the candidate for the Governor’s Office want our continued support, our endorsements and our vote, then they will have to earn it just as any other viable candidate would. Do not expect us to toe the Party line. These candidates cannot assume that just because their opponents do not like the agendas of our current presidential administration that the Black vote is in the bag. It is no longer a matter of the lesser of two evils.

We look forward to sitting down in the near future.

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State Senator Rodney Ellis remembers Mickey Leland

Mickey Leland
Mickey Leland

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the untimely passing of Congressman Mickey Leland. While leading a relief mission to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, his plane went down in remote mountains, killing him, his staff, and a group of international leaders.

Mickey was my boss, my mentor, and my dear friend. He died as he lived, trying to end world hunger and serving as a voice for the voiceless. His story is worthy of celebration and remembrance, as the values he embraced still live on a quarter of a century later.

First elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1972, Mickey was unlike anyone who had ever served in that body previously. Picture an African American with an afro, platform shoes, leather shoulder bag, and bright dashiki walking around the Texas Capitol. He caused quite a stir.

By the time he got elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978 – replacing Barbara Jordan – he had traded in the dashiki for a business suit, but that did not change what he fought for. He used his position in Washington to shine the spotlight on the plight of the powerless in this world.

Mickey had a motto, quoted from the Talmud: “If you save one life, you save the world.” He put that motto in practice, fighting to bridge the differences in our society, expand diversity, and end world hunger.

One of the first things he did in Congress was create a program that has sent hundreds of students from his congressional district to Israel during the summer of their junior year of high school, helping to broaden their perspective of the world.

He also began an internship program to start casting the net for more minority students to get involved in government service – one that I emulated through the Texas Legislative Internship Program. Mickey opened the door to students interested in the system and helped them get their foot in the door for training and experience. His efforts helped change lives, and also – in small ways – helped change the culture and complexion of the professional staff in Congress.

It was also his staff that ended up changing my life. I met Licia Green at an event in DC with Mickey. She later moved to Houston to run his district office, we fell in love and got married, and the rest is history.

But the cause that came to define Mickey was the plight of Africa, particularly the children of the continent. He talked frequently and eloquently about how this issue became his defining cause. On a trip to the Sudan in 1984, he watched a young girl die of starvation right before his eyes. He said he saw her face every day.

He knew something had to be done, and he was in a position to do something about it. He worked hard to expand ties and increase aid to the nations of Africa. He championed anti-hunger efforts and helped expand U.S. aid to Ethiopia during the famine in 1985. He traveled frequently to Ethiopia and across Africa and put into practice his deep belief that we are supposed to help “the least of our brothers.”

I still miss Mickey every day, but the lessons that he taught me will always guide my public service.

He taught me that there are no lost causes or unwinnable fights. He taught me that patience, cooperation, and dedication are the small but vital steps of progress.

He taught me that change comes in constant and consistent action, not in one fell swoop. He taught me that we are responsible not just for ourselves and our families, not just for our friends or neighbors, but for the people and children of the world.

And he taught me that we can all make a difference if we simply choose to get involved and take a stand.

So I am using the anniversary of Mickey’s passing as a moment to rededicate myself to the values that he espoused: courage, compassion, and a commitment to all people. I hope today’s solemn occasion will cause more to follow his lead.

Rodney Ellis

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Wendy Davis recognizing the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer.

As we enjoy the bright days of summer, we should take time to reflect on two important anniversaries. Fifty years ago, this summer, America and the world watched one of the most iconic moments of the Civil Rights Movement unfold. And it was ninety-five years ago that Texas took a large step forward for women. Both anniversaries concern a right we as Texans hold dear: the right to vote, through which we express our desires and priorities as citizens.

In 1964, scores of young people, black and white, energized with a spirit of racial justice converged on the state of Mississippi. They had journeyed there to help register African-Americans to vote. That season of heroism and insurmountable determination became known as the Freedom Summer. Only a small fraction of eligible African-Americans in the state were registered. In Mississippi, as in other places across the country, an entrenched establishment resisted allowing racial diversity to express its voice through the political process.

But soon after the summer began, tragedy ensued. Late that June, three volunteers disappeared after first being arrested by local police: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. On August 4, 1964, their bodies were found. They had been murdered by people who were willing to kill to prevent African-Americans from voting. But the young men had not died in vain. Outrage over their deaths ultimately led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The right of women to vote was itself the culmination of a long struggle. Since our country’s birth, women have fought to have their voices heard in the halls of power. Women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery were often discussed together. Indeed, Frederick Douglass was among the earliest and most prominent male supporters. In the last part of the nineteenth century, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony wrote the text of a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. It would not be until 1919, though, that Congress finally proposed it to the states. On June 28, 1919, Texas became the ninth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.

Honoring these two anniversaries allows us to measure the great strides we have made. Were it not for the political ripples that spread out from the Freedom Summer, we would not have known the great vision and leadership of a Barbara Jordan or a Mickey Leland. Had brave and tireless women not demanded the right to vote, we Texans would never have had trailblazers like Irma Rangel, Ann Richards, and Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

Today, though, many Texans face some of the same challenges that the Voting Rights Act and women’s suffrage sought to remedy. Soon, a federal court in Corpus Christi, TX, will consider whether Texas’ restrictive voter ID law, passed in 2011, violates the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Previously, a panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., determined that implementation of Texas’ voter ID law would result in a discriminatory impact on minority voters, while noting during the trial that women whose last names had been changed through marriage or divorce could be disproportionately harmed, as well.

Whether the Voting Rights Act will continue to provide Texans with the protections it was meant to assure hinges on the outcome of that trial. It is sobering to consider that lives were lost toward a cause that may eventually be rendered hollow.

Our state and our nation are stronger when all of our voices – regardless of race, gender or economic stature – are included in political dialogue. Speaking our priorities through our votes assures public accountability in education, infrastructure investment and an economy that works for all Texans, not just a select few.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and the efforts of those who risked their lives in order to guarantee each of us the precious right to vote, let us take a moment to consider their work. And this November, let us honor the memory of those who fought to assure that we were granted our most sacred of Constitutional privileges by making our voices heard at the ballot box. Remaining silent by failing to vote does them a disservice and carries tremendous consequences.

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Actions and choices forge change

Fifty-years-ago I could not enter the public library in my southern segregated hometown of Lexington, MS. Nor could I attend a high school, the facility built for the Negro students who wished to excel was called, Lexington Attendance Center. There were many basic access problems for the Negro during my childhood. Not to be thwarted by what I was forbade by laws and practices from receiving, my village lead by my parents said, “Keep studying, keep trying and we will work to make changes for you.”

Fifty-years-ago, of the stores that we were allowed to patronize, we were only allowed to hold the garment in front of our bodies, never allowed to try-on the garment. So, instead, my mother made her children’s and other females in the village their clothing. Therefore, I learned to select fabric, patterns, how to measure all parts of the body so that the garment would be a customized design and fit. Hence, my mother became to “go to” seamstress in the neighborhood.

Some years ago, while attending my oldest brother’s funeral, a lady approached me inquiring if I was Ethel’s daughter. Ethel is my mother’s name. I said, “yes”. She said, “You wouldn’t remember me. You were very young. (I look like my mother). But Ethel made all my family’s clothes.” Proudly she proclaimed while smiling, “Ethel could take scraps of different fabrics, put them together and make all of us look good.” I smiled and told her thanks, remembering how I would help my mother with the gathering, hemming and cutting of the fabric then ironing and preparing the garments for pick-up. (She was teaching me business and service in a segregated era. I use those lesions today).

Institutionalized racism was brutal and embedded in it required a resilience that mandated vital strength, courage, hope and faith that through work, effort and presentence, things would be better for the next generation. Hope and trust in the next generation is that which the folks in my village were working toward. Those freedom fighter volunteers believed that we could make an impact on the world. They had taken the risks to allow freedom meetings to be held in their homes and churches to advance the cause and saturate the thirst for a better life. In my town it was Epworth AME Church. It was the store front business on Beal Street in my hometown where the Freedom Democratic Party met.

Fannie Lou Hammer, Robert G. Clark, Medgar Evers and others would come and plan. My mother would attend the meetings offering her ideas and services and she would allow me to attend the meetings and make copies and distribute them to the leaders and volunteers. It was Saints Junior College, the African American controlled church school operated by the Church of God in Christ that made its space available for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to come, speak and raise money for the civil rights movement. I was provided an opportunity to serve and to have had a chance to talk with Dr. King as a teenager. The white lady however, Mrs. Hazel Brandon Smith, lost her newspaper business because she allowed Dr. King to stay in her guesthouse.

The white merchants subsequently, boycotted her paper refusing to place advertisement in it and she went bankrupt.
My mother would say, “I want a better life for my 10 children so that they can have access to broader opportunities beyond the farm and what we do at home.”

Moving forward, we watched the result of our work coming to pass as the civil rights legislation was authorized by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. I witness my mother crying when President Johnson signed and spoke about the legislation he had signed. “The hope that reigns from the law is a reality, now we must change the hearts of men”, she said. Well, that is taking some more time.

Holding the Civil Rights Summit in Austin is apropos as it was President Johnson who seized the power of his office to advance the nation among racial matters. In his actions, he acknowledged that the Democratic Party had lost the south for the residuals of slavery were entrenched in the economic wealth of 13 slaves states. The republican party issued a statement about the Civil Rights Summit saying, “Embedded in the Republican Party’s DNA is a history of championing civil rights. What began with its founding by abolitionists and continued through its fight for the passage of the Civil Rights Act, today lives on in leading the charge for the civil rights issue of our time: equal access to a quality education.” – Orlando Watson, RNC Communications Director for Black Media.

Regardless of how much we hope for smooth sailing post civil rights legislation passage, changing the hearts of men is a difficult and stringent process. We are living in a world were the vestiges of the past lingers and it is holding on tighter as the opposing side is fearful of losses that it may endure.

Subsequently, new laws and court cases rise to the top such as the U.S. Supreme Court decision that questions the key provision of the 1964 Voting Rights Act which was a legacy piece of legislation during the Johnson presidency that removed restrictions for African American voters that aimed to enforce the 15th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Therefore, the children of the freedom fighters and their children still has work to do, should they choose to be able to utilize the benefits gained 50 years ago. We make the decisions about the kind of world we choose to live in based upon our actions. We likewise, make the decision to leave the kind of world for future generations based upon what we do today.

May God bless and I will see you next week.