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Confederate Statues Removed in Memphis After City Council Vote to Sell Parks

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In this Aug. 18, 2017, photo, a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest sits in a park in Memphis, Tenn. (Photo/ABC News).

MEMPHIS — The City Council voted Wednesday to sell two city parks with Confederate monuments, clearing the way for two statues to be removed before the city commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mayor Jim Strickland first announced the sales of Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park on Twitter.

“History is being made in Memphis tonight,” he said at a news conference later in the evening.

Health Sciences Park had a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and an early member of the Ku Klux Klan, which was removed around 9 p.m. local time.

Within an hour of the Memphis City Council’s vote, police officers and cranes were deployed to Health Sciences Park.

Kyle Veazey, Deputy Communications Director for Mayor Strickland, wrote on Twitter that the statue was lifted at 9:01 p.m., an apparent nod to the city’s 901 area code. One of the groups that led the movement to remove the statues was called Take ’Em Down 901.

By 10:30 p.m., cranes were visible within Memphis Park—preparing to ascend upon the statue of Jefferson Davis—the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Minutes later, a crane hoisted the statue onto a truck as the crowd burst into jubilation—chanting “Hit the road Jack.”

Janet Jackson, left, and her daughters Janiah, 12, center, and Tatiana, 14, watch as the statue of Confederate general and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, is removed from a park in Memphis, Wednesday night. (Photo: Brandon Hill/New York Times).

The removal of the statues spurred heated debate for months with rallying cries for the visual stains of hatred and bigotry to be removed by activists and various community organizations, within the city and abroad—notably “The Memphis Coalition for Concerned Citizens.”

August of this year, activist Tami Sawyer called for the removal of a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the city’s Memphis Park.

Around the nation cities have removed symbols ranging from the Confederate flag, to memorials of rank-and-file Confederate soldiers, to statues of prominent generals including Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

A reflection of Jefferson Davis’s statue is seen in a puddle of water as protesters hold hands while surrounding the Confederate monument at Memphis Park in August. The protest followed the death of Heather Heyer after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “We can not celebrate MLK50 with these statues in our city,” said activist Tami Sawyer.  (Photo: Yalonda M. James/The Commercial Appeal).

Outcries from counter protesters within the quagmire of a sweeping national debate about the significance of Confederate monuments fall within the theory of “erasure of history” vs. “a righting of past wrongs.”

Looking ahead citizens who called for the removal of the Confederate statues remained steadfast in cleaning up the stains of the past while moving toward viable solutions to address societal ills, such as crime, blight, and unemployment, etc., within their communities.

A counter-protester talks to a Memphis police officer as local activist Tami Sawyer, second from right, films the exchange during a gathering of local activists in front of Jefferson Davis’s Confederate statue at Memphis Park  on August 15, 2017. (Photo: Yolanda M. James/The Commercial Appeal)

“Just to finally get to this moment is overwhelming,” Tami Sawyer, a  of the group, said.

“I looked Nathan Bedford in the eyes and shed a tear for my ancestors,” she said, recalling the history of African-Americans from slavery to modern incarceration.

December 20, 2017 – Community organizer Tami Sawyer, #TakeEmDown901, raises her fist as workers remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from Health Sciences Park on Wednesday night. (Photo: Yalonda M. James/The Commercial Appeal).

The nonprofit seems to have been created expressly for the purpose of buying the parks: It filed its incorporation papers in October, Mr. Strickland said. Mr. Turner did not immediately return a request for comment.

Bruce McMullen, the chief legal officer for the city, said in an interview on Wednesday night that the parks had been sold to Memphis Greenspace, a nonprofit led by Van D. Turner Jr., a Shelby County commissioner.

The transfer of the parks to private ownership effectively allowed the city to skirt the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, a state law that prohibits the removal, relocation or renaming of memorials on public property.

In October, the Tennessee Historical Commission, a state agency that oversees the law, voted to deny the city’s application for a waiver of the law regarding the two statues, the television station WREG reported.

Congressman Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, praised the City Council’s move, calling the statues “not representative of Memphis today” and “an affront to most of the citizens of Memphis.”

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, it’s important that these relics of the Confederacy and defenders of slavery don’t continue to be displayed in prominent places in our city,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement.

Mr. McMullen said another motivation for removing the statues was ensuring that they would not create an “incendiary type of environment” during the city’s commemorations of Dr. King in April.

He dismissed the criticism of some groups, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who had accused the city of willfully violating state law. He said the city had been weighing the sale of the parks to a private group for a year.

“We’ve always felt that we had a right to sell city property. We have in the past, and we probably will in the future,” Mr. McMullen said. “And what we did was perfectly legal and right.”

At the news conference, Mr. Strickland echoed Mr. McMullen’s comments. The mayor said the City Council had undertaken a long, complex process to ensure that the handoff was done legally, including passing a law in September that allowed Memphis to sell the parks for less than their market value.

But he also invoked the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., in August as the “sea change” that spurred those efforts to success. One woman was killed after white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

In the days after the deadly rally, Mr. Strickland said, “we saw an avalanche of support come together behind our efforts.”

“But this day, this day should be more about where we go from here,” he said. “I want to say this loud and clear: Though some of our city’s past is painful, we are all in charge of our city’s future.”

 

The Commercial Appeal and New York Times Contributed to this Report.

#LeNora Millen            12-21-17

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Oklahoma Teachers Exercise their Voice

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Oklahoma Teachers Exercise their VOICE!

Oklahoma public school teachers banded together to strike for supplies and better wages

Have you heard the “tea” on the statewide teacher walk-out in the state of Oklahoma and the ripple effect it’s starting in the country? Well, if you haven’t and you’re the kind of person that need numbers and statics, which are important, don’t get me wrong. I hope that this article encourages you to take a deeper look into this now national situation and also, take a deeper look at your education system in your own backyard. However, in this article, I want to give readers a candid look inside of the protest from the perspective of a now local resident and a first time experience of anything like this.

I originally had no intention of attending the walk-out at the state capital here in Oklahoma City. To keep it all the way real, which I wouldn’t have it another way, I didn’t think it would last more than a day if it happened at all. Now I know, some of you are probably wondering why I’m glad you asked… While I’m not a public educator, I’ve lived in Oklahoma City for 10 years now and have worked closely with the public school system for the majority of my time here. Teachers have been complaining about things like lack of fair pay, little to sometimes no supplies and little to no budget to properly serve those with special needs, to name a few. However, even though this is a real problem, the teachers stay for something much bigger than themselves and their personal needs, they stay for the love of the children and communities they serve. Because, I know first hand of the passion and degree of selflessness it takes to continue to work under certain conditions, I didn’t think they would actually follow through with it.

April 2, 2018, was the first day of the protest and over 35,000 we’re said were in attendance. In my gut, I didn’t think it would last but thought they put forth a gallant effort to get the attention of Governor Mary Fallin and legislators. Day 2 a reported 38,000 was reported to have been in attendance, the people weren’t backing down. In fact, they said they weren’t moving until their voices were heard! I had the exhilarating experience of attending Day 3 of the protest at the capital with, again well over 30,000 people in attendance, standing strong. By this time, teachers from Tulsa Oklahoma banded together to make the 107-mile walk to the capital and the public educators in  Kentucky started a protest of their own. I’ve never actually experienced anything like that in my life and I wanted to give you my raw perspective on what it was like up close and personal.  I’ll start by saying that seeing the coverage is one thing but actually being there has had an entirely different effect and perspective for me as an individual.

On my way to the capital, I didn’t know what to expect, it was bumper to bumper traffic down 23rd street. I saw people walking from as far as three miles back with bright signs, picketing on their way to the capital. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t say a little prayer driving past them, just hoping I had a closer parking place just for me… whoa yes! Keep in mind, I just started doing research that morning and even with that, I didn’t know how deep it would be. I found a spot a little under a mile from the action and for that, I was grateful.

  Upon the first exit of my car, I felt an almost magnetic pull in the atmosphere that drew me towards the masses. It was a surreal feeling as if I couldn’t help it. I don’t think I’ve experienced a situation where I was standing near or in the middle of a crowd of people where most of the attendees stood in agreement of what they saw as the greater good for humanity. Sure, this amount of people fill-up arena venues and stadiums all over the world every day with numbers larger than this. However, this was an entirely different energy that surged among the masses.   

Coming alone to something like this definitely has its pros and cons, but I decided to make the best out of this situation and take it all in. I took my time and literally observed everything before I actually arrived and walked straight into the nucleus of the action. To be honest, my mind was blown before I got there. The first thing I noticed was the amount of school age kids that were there to either stand with their parents or support their teachers. I’m not kidding, there was an almost equal ratio of teens to adults. Most made very creative signs that reflected their personal feelings and viewpoints. People of all races, colors, and creeds stood together in unity, standing for what they believed was right. 

  I was overwhelmed by the number of people that wanted to be a part of my candid coverage for Exposure Magazine. I walked next to different groups of people and gained many different perspectives, from both sides, although mostly from one, how affected the public education community and the children that are in it really are. Because people were literally standing there ALL DAY there were food vendors who volunteered their foods and services to the cause. Other services that we might not think of like water and restrooms were also provided and school-aged kids 18 and under had everything provided for them free of charge, from snacks, water, meals and even some local events were held around the city, and childcare in some places as well.

The photo (on the left) depicts not only the unity but the faith exercised by some of the teens in attendance at the protest rally. However, I must acknowledge some of the views from the opposing side as well. People were concerned that a rally like this could cause an uproar in not only the state of Oklahoma but the country as a whole, which could threaten not only overthrowing the government at a state level but eventually the country. There were also some angry parents across the state that were concerned that, they weren’t properly informed or considered during the uprising in standing against both local and state officials. Parents that are accustomed to their children going to school all day. The walkout could cause other unforeseen charges such as childcare, extra food, and transportation expenses. Some parents are concerned, if this goes on much longer, they too, are at risk of not having a job.  Some people think this entire protest can help create a lose/lose effect on children both home and at school. I completely understand and see this side clearly. Seeing this side so clearly made me want to take a deeper look at another viewpoint, just to even out the playing field so to speak.

 

As I walked through the massive amounts of people, reading the signs, listening to conversations and observing the different emotions throughout the capital, I found myself almost at the front of the stage which to me, served as the nucleus of the protest. This is where I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing teacher of Del City school district Joy A. Glenn Ahmad. She has been a teacher since 1976 and explained her viewpoint with literal tears in her eyes. Ahmad explained that the teachers demanded 200 million dollars from local and state officials which would cover a $6,000 raise to teachers, some whom haven’t seen a raise for over a decade and some who are only making it with the help of there spouses income to sustain their own family. The rest of the money would be used for much-needed supplies and educational material for the 700,000 students the public school system serves.

Students stand together and pray with teachers during Oklahoma Teacher Walkout 2018

Teachers voices were in fact heard and they were granted 50 million dollars, a quarter of what they were asking, which only would cover the much-needed raises for the teachers. This offer was rejected by the teachers and the strike continued as planned. Teachers claim that this was less about them and more about the students they serve and they refused to take a raise and leave the students needs out. To give me a clear perspective she shared the picture with me you see to the left.

The book cart shared among teachers and students

  I know, it seems like a cart with books on it, what’s the big deal, right? I thought the same thing until she explained to me that this was the cart of books shared between classes for teaching materials for both students and teachers. This cart is the only access to educational materials for the entire high school. I was shocked, to say the least, I couldn’t help but wonder if the parents who are against the protest are aware of the true condition of their children education. Were they aware that this was perhaps the reason for Oklahoma having the lowest test scores and reading scores in the country? Or, does the need to survive and provide for their families now take precedence over the future of their children and possibly the future of the leaders of the state of Oklahoma. This is obviously an “elephant in the room” that couldn’t be ignored anymore. What do you think? Are you aware, truly aware of your education system in your own backyard? This movement that now, has national attention will continue for week 2 in the state Oklahoma. Teachers claim, they will not back down until their voices are heard! This protest has potential to change the education system not only in the state but in the country. Don’t forget to keep up with both local and national news for up close and personal coverage. 

#thatsall 

 

-Deonna Marie

 

Deonna Marie | The Gift of Voice, Professional Classical Singer, Vocal Coach, and Speaker

Facebook: @thegiftofvoice

Instagram: @thegift_ofvoice

Email:  deonnamarie2003@gmail.com

Youtube: Deonna Marie Cattledge

 

 

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The Former President Barack Obama Speaks: In your own ability to make a difference in your community and your country.

The Former President Barack Obama Speaks:

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Friend —

A little over a year ago, at my farewell address in Chicago, I asked you to believe. Not in a candidate, or a politician, or a party — in yourself.

In your own ability to make a difference in your community and your country.

For eight years in the White House — and long before that — I’d seen it happen time and time again: ordinary people who got involved, stayed involved, and pushed for a better future for this country we love.

That’s how change happens.

And this November, we have a chance to make that change happen in local and federal elections across the country. We cannot squander it.

Commit to vote in November 2018. Say you’ll fulfill your duty as a citizen, and that you’ll keep pushing for progress.

That faith I placed all those years ago in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change — that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.

In the past year, I saw people like Kim, an OFA volunteer in Virginia, bravely share her story during the health care fight — of how, before Obamacare, her 13-month-old son Isaac was on the verge of being kicked off insurance as he went through surgery after surgery. She spoke up, and helped save health care for Isaac and millions of Americans.

I saw folks in South Carolina identify a problem with their town’s outdated, dangerous school buses — then roll up their sleeves, do some organizing, and get the statehouse to fund new buses for Charleston’s kids.

And I saw a new generation of young leaders grab clipboards, collect signatures, and decide to run for office themselves.

Throughout 2017, I saw Americans all over the country step up, have the tough conversations, and speak out about the issues affecting us all. We have to keep it up in 2018 — because every ballot measure, every election, every conversation on an issue we care about — it all matters.

There are no do-overs.

So right now, I’m asking you to make a commitment: Seize the power you have. Speak up. Make this democracy work. Do not succumb to cynicism. And say you’ll vote in 2018 — there’s too much at stake this year to sit this out.

I’m in

Thank you,

Barack Obama

Reported by Tam Lawrence

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Trump Tweets About an ‘Insecure’ and ‘Biased’ Oprah Winfrey Over Her ’60 Minutes’ Segment

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Oprah Winfrey in a 60 minutes segment with a voter focus group on America’s political divide.  (Photo Courtesy of CBS News).

Donald Trump venting over the FBI and the Russia investigation took to Twitter on Sunday night in a tweetstorm attack on Oprah Winfrey following her “60 Minutes” segment on America’s political divide. Despite his denial of spending time watching television, his response to Winfrey stated otherwise.

“Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes,” tweeted Trump, “The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!”

Winfrey’s report followed up her September segment featuring the same panel of Trump voters and non-Trump voters in the battleground state of Michigan. The goal of the segment was to understand their thoughts on his presidency and direction of the country one year after he took office.

In the wake of Winfrey’s historic #MeToo speech during the Golden Globes in January, an #Oprah2020 movement took root, with many stars – including Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg – calling on Winfrey to consider running. Days later, Trump addressed the speculation, telling the press, “Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah.”

In 1999, Trump thought Winfrey would be a good running mate.  At the time Trump said: “I know her very well. You know, I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump – this was before politics – her last week, and she had Donald Trump and my family. It was very nice.”

Oprah Winfrey, despite earlier rumors of a presidential bid, has been clear that she has no intention of running for president.  Making it clear on her intentions she said in a 60 Minutes overtime clip separate from Sunday’s report. “If God actually wanted me to run, wouldn’t God kind of tell me?”

@LeNoraMillen       02-20-18

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