Bethune-Cookman University graduates turned their backs, booed and walked out during Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ 22- minute commencement speech on Wednesday. Graduates participating in the protests were intent making it known they did not want Devos, as a representative of the Trump administration, to speak on their special day.
The university’s president, Edison O. Jackson, stopped the ceremony for approximately one minute into Ms. DeVos’s address to tell the crowd of students, “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you.”
Students and alumni protested DeVos’ scheduled appearance as commencement speaker for little over a week. Her remarks in February that historically black colleges and universities “are real pioneers when it comes to school choice” sparked outrage in the African-American community. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were founded during the segregation-era when minorities weren’t allowed to attend the same institutions as whites.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Wednesday.
DeVos walked back her comments, later stating, “Providing an alternative option to students denied the right to attend a quality school is the legacy of HBCUs.”
DeVos also faced backlash after her appointment of Attorney Candice Jackson as deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights. The new acting head of the department once complained that she experienced discrimination because she was white
On Monday after HBCU was incorrectly spelled “HCBU” in a message from DeVos on the Education Department’s website, outrage and anger were expressed across social media. The error has since been corrected.
Above the jeers, DeVos delivered the exhortation to graduates to live a life of service, with courage and grace in the spirit of their school’s namesake.
DeVos spoke to graduates on the importance of following in the footsteps of founder Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator, and civil rights activist, founder of the National Council of Negro Women and an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you, and particularly with those who have disagreed with the invitation for me to be here,” DeVos said. “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree.”
DeVos implored, “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear each other out.”
The crowd obliged only a few times during her roughly 20-minute-speech.
Faculty at Bethune-Cookman University stood in solidarity behind DeVos as she spoke. University President Edison Jackson stood with arms folded and eyes fixated on protesters while audience members booed and graduates stood with their backs turned.
Hadiya Bomani, a graduate and member of Delta Sigma Theta who turned her back to DeVos, said the issue is deeper than the commencement speech.
“It’s more so the university that we have an issue with at the fact that they brought her to our celebration,” Bomani said. “It wasn’t time for them to make a political decision on our behalf, it was a time to celebrate us.”
Bethune-Cookman Graduates stand and turn their backs during a commencement exercise speech by Education
Secretary Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University.
Boos resurged when DeVos said she would visit Bethune’s grave and “pay her respects.”
Bethune is buried on campus. Her home is also located on campus, which has been designated a national landmark.
Critics of DeVos pointed to missteps from the outset of her tenure—e.g., her office’s misspelling the name of W.E.B. DuBois in an attempted tribute, to a statement she issued calling segregation-era historically black colleges and universities “pioneers of school choice.” The mistakes, along with President Trump’s seemingly wavering support for HBCUs and a strained relationship with African-Americans, made Ms. DeVos an especially unlikely choice.
Dominik Whitehead, a 2010 graduate of Bethune-Cookman, who generated the first petition calling for Ms. DeVos to be replaced as this year’s graduation speaker said,
“Even though she apologized, she has shown how tone deaf she is, and how disconnected she is from our community,”
Activists dropped off boxes filled with petitions, reportedly having 50,000 signatures, to the school’s administration on Tuesday night in a last-ditch effort to keep Ms. DeVos from speaking.
In a letter to the community defending the choice of Ms. DeVos, Mr. Jackson wrote, “I am of the belief that it does not benefit our students to suppress voices that we disagree with, or to limit students to only those perspectives that are broadly sanctioned by a specific community.”
Other prominent black leaders also defended the university’s decision to invite Ms. DeVos. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, wrote on Twitter shortly after Ms. DeVos was named speaker, “I believe we should hear Secretary DeVos at @bethunecookman, just as we want her and President Trump to hear the voices of #HBCUs.”
Oklahoma Teachers Exercise their Voice
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.
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.
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.
Youtube: Deonna Marie Cattledge
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:
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.
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.
Reported by Tam Lawrence
Former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. Fired by Morgan Stanley for Alleged Misconduct
Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman, was fired by the financial services firm Morgan Stanley following allegations of misconduct, NBC confirmed on Thursday.
Morgan Stanley declined to say specifically what prompted the firing. The allegations were presented after a woman who was not employed at the firm accused Mr. Ford of acting inappropriately in a professional setting.
Mr. Ford’s termination reported by HuffPost as an exclusive has been challenged by the former Congressman as “false claims.”
Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman, was fired from his position as a managing director at the financial services firm Morgan Stanley for what the company described as behavior “inconsistent with our values.”CreditMike Groll/Associated Press
In a statement provided by his lawyer, Mr. Ford denied the sexual harassment allegations, stating in a tweet on Thursday that he will be bringing legal action against the reporter, for making false claims against him, as well as Morgan Stanley for wrongful termination.
I will now be bringing legal action against the reporter who made these false claims about me as well as Morgan Stanley for improper termination.
— Harold Ford, Jr. (@HFord2) December 7, 2017
“This simply did not happen,” Mr. Ford wrote. “I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.” He added that socializing with members of the press was part of his job, and said that “false claims like this undermine the real silence breakers.”
In regards to news today, This simply did not happen. I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.
— Harold Ford, Jr. (@HFord2) December 7, 2017
Mr. Ford served five terms in Congress as a Democrat representing a Tennessee district after first being elected in 1996—serving as Congressman from 1997 to 207.
He joined Morgan Stanley as a managing director and senior client-relationship manager in 2011 as a vice chairman and senior policy adviser at Bank of America.
Amid the heightened scrutiny of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior toppling key figures in the entertainment and political arena, Mr. Ford is the latest high profiled man to lose his job in recent days for similar allegations.
Time magazine on Wednesday named the “Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year. They shared personal stories about harassment and assault and sparked the #MeToo movement.
According to Time, the #MeToo became a hashtag, a movement, a reckoning. But it began, as great social change nearly always does, with individual acts of courage.
In a tweet acknowledging his thoughts on the “Silence Breaker” quite pointed in his statement, Mr. Ford said the following in regards to news of his firing on Thursday, “This simply did not happen. I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.”
In another tweet, Mr. Ford spoke about his professional demeanor and his tremendous respect for the brave women speaking out “in this important national dialogue.” Mr. Ford was pointed in stating that false claims alleged against him “undermine the real “Silence Breakers.”
Mr. Ford appeared as a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” MSNBC – which is owned by NBC 4 New York’s parent company.
“We are looking into the report about Harold Ford Jr.,” a spokeswoman for MSNBC said. “During that time he won’t be a guest on MSNBC.”
LeNora Millen 12-7-17
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