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Politics

Looking back at Black Lives Matter and Parkland

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While I am happy the students of the Parkland Massacre have been so well received, I must admit I feel cheated.

The many calls to action for gun control and reform by the Black community seemed to fall on deaf ears. We organized, marched in the streets, protested on social media, but support was limited to thoughts and prayers. The ability to donate to Black Lives Matter passively through our Amazon purchases is nice, but nothing compared to the large donations of $500,000 each by Oprah, The Clooneys, and countless others. The outpouring of public support, rallying of officials to openly commit to making changes, and then implementing them is unprecedented. BLM never received more than the utterance of three words during opportune moments in the political spotlight where it would only serve to benefit politicians who paid our community dust. Through all of this, the media continues to paint these young activists as the new bastion of civil rights leaders and that leaves an ugly stain on my heart. I am not angry with their success, just curious — Where was the support for Black Americans struggling to make sense of our nation in the aftermath of countless deaths? 

Black tears that fall in America add color to the pages of our past, present, and future, telling a painful story about the value of African-American lives in this nation. Click To Tweet 

Uphill Battle

In 2013, African-Americans stood by in horror, grief, and rage as George Zimmerman was acquitted of the heinous shooting death of Trayvon Martin. This event prompted the use of #BlackLivesMatter across all social media platforms but the group would not take center stage until the demonstrations surrounding the events of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson. After countless hashtags to raise awareness about the massacre of unarmed Black citizens that followed, Black Lives Matter has struggled to gain ground in their good fight to unite our community to crush the systems of oppression that guard privileged White Americans. To their detriment and our own, we have been out-organized and the truth of this is laid bare when evaluating the progress high school students with proper support are making. BLM lacks the political representation, wealth, and notable endorsements of other movements which continues to cripple our progress, but there’s room for growth.

This is in no way a means to discredit or detract from past, current, or future actions taken by BLM. This is also not meant to direct any negativity toward the hundreds of students and families affected by the Parkland tragedy. I am simply using them as examples of community efforts seeking change for the sake of comparison. Having visited BLM’s website as recently as Feb. 27th, 2018, it remains out of date with no posts since January 30th. Their ‘Channel Black’ programming initiative hasn’t had new content since 2017. Even the official BLM shop has yet to launch. The three queer black women who formed BLM are not enough and should not be expected to be enough to support the weight of an entire revolution. This is where community involvement comes in. This is where local politicians and leaders are expected to stand in the gap as representatives for their respective communities to rally for political change. While this process is arduous, it’s where we lacked the representation. However, the opportunity to break the wheel has come in the form of mid-term elections.

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Time for Change

Politics are an avenue where Black Americans across the country need support. Motivated by the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election, more people of color are running for office in 2018 than in previous years. Although not all represent our values or have our best interests at heart (looking at you Stacey Dash), we owe it to them to do our due diligence and take into consideration that as a culture we are attempting to navigate a system that is not invested in our success. While I anticipate positive results from these mid-term elections, I say this with the utmost affection and respect for my people—We need to do a better job of holding each other accountable. We must be as fervently involved in our communities as our Caucasian counterparts. We have to respect and participate in the political process regardless of whether we believe it is manipulated or that results are pre-determined. 503 Black women are running for federal, state, and local seats in the US government. 285 of them are running in red states. We owe it to ourselves not to fail these or any other person of color candidate that means to truly serve the people.

What do you think we can do as a community to continue marching toward success? Will you be voting this year?

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Politics

Ilhan Omar Calls Out AIPAC to Mixed Criticism

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Ilhan Omar

Representatives who were silent as Charlottesville Nazi’s were called “fine people” are having no difficulty raising their voices to condemn Ilhan Omar as an anti-Semite. I wonder why.

Speaking out about the influence of money from Israel on congressional support, Minnesota’s Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar criticized human rights violations toward Palestinians. She has been a vocal opponent of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, territories which were originally allotted to the Arab state in 1947. However, comments made at a bookstore are what sparked the current wave of outrage that conservative pundits are using to push Islamophobia under the guise of defending Israeli-American relations.

Dangerous Ideologies

February 27th, Omar said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” This drew comparisons to an anti-Semitic trope that implies that Jewish citizens of any country will forever be more loyal to Israel than where they reside. These recent remarks, conservatives and centrist democrats have resorted to taking her tweets, which point out the problematic role of lobbyists, out of context to present a narrative that Ilhan is an anti-Semite. While Ilhan Omar has acknowledged that her language was offensive to some, she affirms that “whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry,” her views regarding their controversial contributions remain unchanged.

Those who openly refused to take on the President for his problematic language have jumped at the opportunity to condemn Ilhan Omar for her comments. However, they weren’t all on the same page when it came to a resolution that would effect their speech as well. Thursday, the House passed a resolution condemning both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination, but 23 Republicans voted against the change.

Progress

Democrats and Independents voted in favor of condemning anti-Muslim bigotry for the first time in our nation’s history. While many were reluctant to defend the young Representative, four Presidential hopefuls stood by Omar amid the harsh criticism for her opinions on the Israeli government. Senator Bernie Sanders stated that backlash from Omar’s comments were “aimed at stopping a discussion about American’s foreign policy toward Israel.” He added that what he feared was happening was “an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate.” Senator Kamala Harris chimed in with her own concerns and shared a brief statement:

We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry, especially as we see a spike in hate crimes in America.”

Blood on the House Floor

As one of the first Muslims elected to Congress, she has been marked as a target by conservatives looking to eject her from politics altogether. One racist act, of particular note, resulted in a resignation and left one person injured.

In West Virginia, a physical fight broke out within Charleston’s Capitol building that spilled into the chamber of the House of Delegates. The fight began with an image connecting Ilhan to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Speaking out to condemn the poster, Mike Pushkin, who is Jewish, commented that “In 1933 in Berlin, they might have had a similar poster about somebody like me.” Asking Republican Congressmen to stand with him in condemnation, Pushkin told the Washington Post “not a single Republican elected official in this building could join me in saying it’s wrong.” Pushkin said he was met with Republicans who spoke about the First Amendment instead.

Despite the criticism that Omar is facing, little has been said directly to Republicans who are abusing this controversy as an opportunity to air their prejudices. The division in our current government has made it apparent that there is immeasurable room for growth when it comes to addressing the right-wing administration of Netanyahu, liberty for Palestinians, and denouncing hate speech across Semitic and Islamic lines. As the first term of Trump’s administration comes to a close and with Congressional elections approaching, we must continue to work toward a future that sets us on a path of progression.

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Paul Manafort Sentenced to 47 months in Prison

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Paul Manafort

Former Trump presidential campaign chairman and political consultant Paul Manafort has recently been sentenced for financial fraud. This conviction is the first of two cases levied against him.

As a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Paul Manafort has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison. His sentence is a far cry from the 19- to – 24 year prison term that was expected. According to the New York Times, Judge T.S. Ellis III of Alexandria, VA., gave Manafort such a light punishment because the guidelines were deemed too harsh.

Manafort plead for mercy before receiving his judgment. Members of Mueller’s prosecution team did not seek a specific sentence in the case. Still, Manafort received the harshest judgment out of the six former Trump employees to be prosecuted by Mueller.

Judge Ellis’ sentence has received much criticism from legal experts. While lighter sentencing is common in white-collar cases, the drop from 19 years to less than four has disappointed many onlookers of this high-profile case.

Defense attorney’s presumably swayed Judge Ellis into a lighter sentencing due to Manafort’s age. He is nearly 70 years old and has significant health issues. On top of time in prison, Manafort is expected to pay $25 million in restitution along with a $50,000 fine. Judge Ellis is crediting Manafort for nine months of time served, which means the convict could be out in roughly 3 years.

Other Trump advisers who have been sentenced include:

  • Michael Cohen – Sentenced to 3 years in prison
  • George Papadopolous – Sentenced to 14 days in prison
  • Alex van der Zwaan – Sentenced to 30 days in prison
  • Richard Pinedo – Sentenced to 6 months in prison

Trump advisers who have pleaded guilty or have been charged include:

  • Michael T. Flynn – Pleaded Guilty
  • Rick Gates – Pleaded Guilty
  • Roger Stone – Charged
  • Konstantin V. Kilimnik – Charged
  • Twelve Russian Intelligence Officers – Charged
  • Thirteen Russian Nationals – Charged

As a result of Mueller’s investigation, five additional parties faced charges due to inquiries that branched off from the initial probe.

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Cohen Airs Out Trump in Congress Testimony

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Michael Cohen Trump Testimony

Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hiil and bared the truth of Trump’s misdeeds, singing songs of the atrocities of Trump’s Administration.

The former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump admitted much to Congress during his testimony, quickly earning him personal attacks from disappointed fellow Republicans. Among his admissions, Cohen called Trump “a racist, a conman, and a cheat,” which many of us had known long before he hit the Oval Office. Although bits of his testimony were considered “not fake news, but old news”, Cohen did share some startling information.

Multiple Investigations

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen are under investigation by the Southern District of New York. Cohen’s revelation prevented him from answering certain questions as the investigation in New York is ongoing. Cohen was asked multiple times about records he refused to provide to Congress, which he says were obtained during the raid of his home last fall. When asked if he had continued contact with Donald Trump, Cohen said yes, but withheld details. Two months after the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s home, he spoke with Donald Trump, who he admits communicates in code.

Convicted Russian Mobsters on Payroll

In addition to revealing he purposefully wrote NDA’s to prevent people from coming forward with claims of wrongdoing, Cohen revealed a business relationship between Trump and Felix Sater. Sater is a convicted Russian mobster who was a real estate developer and former manager of the Bayrock Group, LLC. Sater listed himself as a Senior Advisor to Trump on business cards and held contracts with the President where he was paid through Michael Cohen. Bank records, which Cohen alleges were in boxes that were in his raided home and office, indicate payments to Sater’s company, AROC.

This brought a represetative to ask Cohen if he believed the Trump presidency ever stopped being about money. Cohen said yes, but it only stopped when he became president. Now, Cohen says Trump’s goal is autocracy. During his testimony, Cohen said, “he’s sending the message that this is his county; he’s becoming an autocrat.” Autocracy is the system of government with one person with absolute power, where while not officially, Putin has been operating Russia as such.

The testimony yet in progress, Cohen is still being grilled about his complicity in a corrupt campaign and administration.

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