How one senator plans to preserve generations of Black history
Sen. Sherrod Brown shines a spotlight on the significance of African-American burial grounds. Plus: Pelosi announces her reelection campaign and Biden goes out for ice cream.
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Who would have imagined a discussion about burial grounds would offer a respite from what’s been a bonkers political news cycle?
But there I was on Tuesday afternoon viewing Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio in conversation on Tuesday with Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution about the significance of Black cemeteries.
The event was a precursor to the reintroduction next month of the African American Burial Grounds Network Act, a bill that would create a voluntary national database within the National Park Service of unmarked, abandoned or other burial grounds that relate to the historic African American experience. The legislation would also provide grant opportunities and technical assistance to research, identify, survey and preserve the burial grounds.
“Black history is American history and we owe it to future generations to preserve that history,” Sen. Brown said. “There are historic Black cemeteries all over this country that can help us tell these stories that have remained silent for far too long.”
Sec. Bunch, the first African American and first historian to serve as head of the Smithsonian and the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, said these sites draw a direct personal connection between American history and our experiences today.
Sen. Brown’s office told me he introduced the legislation after he saw a story in 2019 on a local news station in Cincinnati about the challenges the Union Baptist Cemetery experienced due to lack of funding. Cemeteries were graffitied, headstones were tipped over and the overall destruction of the property led to deep frustration.
As Brown looked into the issue, he realized it’s not just one cemetery but a problem for different Black cemeteries around the country. So as his staff researched it more, they recognized an opportunity to help restore the cemeteries.
Brown’s outreach team secured money from the local Veterans Service Commission for the Union Baptist Cemetery and connected it with the National Park Service, which awarded a $400,000 grant to assist Union Baptist with its preservation efforts and digitizing old records.
“Ohio has such a wealth of history — including its role as a safe haven for Blacks freeing slavery through the Underground Railroad,” the Senator’s office said in a statement. “Sen. Brown wanted to ensure we could bring honor and dignity to this part of Ohio’s history and preserve it for future generations.”
I called Louise Stevenson, who serves as a trustee at Union Baptist Church and chairperson of the grant committee, to learn more about the impact of Sen. Brown’s work. And while most days I’m grateful for deadlines, yesterday wasn’t one of them. I gained so much wisdom in a little over ten minutes and I would have stayed on the phone with Ms. Louise all day if I could have. You should be unsurprised if you see more stories on this issue just so I have an excuse to talk to her.
She told me Brown’s support galvanized and energized the city and made people want to learn more about the cemetery, which was the only one African Americans could go to when it was segregated. Ms. Louise said that schools are teaching classes on the cemetery too.
A group of committed people is key to advancing this work, Ms. Louise said. Union Baptist Cemetery has partnered with one of Cincinnati’s segregated cemeteries for Black soldiers and a Jewish cemetery. “The partnership isn’t just between the community. We’re building a partnership between the cemeteries and that’s where I think the biggest growth is going to be for us.”
She hopes this work transforms the relationship Black people have with cemeteries.
“In general, cemeteries are not our favorite places,” Ms. Louise said. “Most of go on Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. Some of us go on Christmas and maybe a few might on some other holidays. But we don’t gather at the cemetery.”
However, she told me the new thing is that people go to bird-watch, meditate or walk.
“Cemeteries are very sacred places. It’s also a place where you can be in tune with nature,” she said. “There are all kinds of landscapes that were made in cemeteries and there is a history inside of those landscapes. But you need to enjoy the space.”
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that she will run for an 18th term in Congress.
“When people ask me, ‘What are the three most important issues facing the Congress?’ I always say the same thing: Our children, our children, our children,” Pelosi said in a video posted to her official Twitter. “This is my story. This is my song. As you hear me say, when you’re in the arena, you have to be able to take a punch or throw a punch — for the children.”
In her announcement, Pelosi listed health care, the climate crisis, justice in policing, securing voting rights, ending the influence of big dark money in elections and amplifying the voices of the grassroots activists as the issues she intends to continue to advance in Congress.
Pelosi, who will turn 82 this March, has served as the top House Democrat since 2007 with current House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (82) and House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn (81) as her chief deputies during this time. Her announcement ends months of speculation in the press and among congressional Democrats about whether she would retire and give way to a new generation of Democratic leadership.
Pelosi planned to retire after the 2016 election until Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. She agreed in 2018 to serve just four more years as Speaker, a concession made to galvanize support from the progressive Democrats who were hesitant to endorse another Pelosi speakership. It’s unclear if she plans to remain as the top House Democrat next year.
House Democratic Chair Hakeem Jeffries has been mentioned as the top contender to succeed Pelosi, but he ranks fourth behind Hoyer and Clyburn. Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark and House Democratic Vice Chair Pete Aguilar have also been floated as dark-horse candidates.
But for now, Democrats will lean on Pelosi’s prowess as a tremendous fundraiser to preserve and expand the party’s House majority this year.
“This election is crucial. Nothing less is at stake than our democracy,” Pelosi said. “But as we say: We don’t agonize, we organize. And that is why I’m running for reelection.”
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President Biden decamped the White House on Tuesday for an unannounced visit to a local shop and grab an ice cream cone. (The high in DC was 49 degrees.)
He picked up a necklace for First Lady Jill Biden and a mug with Vice President Kamala Harris on it. Biden also, as he’s known to do, spoke with the owner of the shop before chatting with folks and greeting Marines on the sidewalk and walking in for that aforementioned cone.
The entire trip was about an hour.
While he was out, the president was asked if there was an update on the escalating Russia-Ukraine crisis. (There wasn’t.) “I don’t even think his people know for certain what he’s going to do.”
In addition to the economic sanctions his administration has threatened against Russia, Biden said he could see himself leveling similar measures against President Vladimir Putin himself.
Biden also said he has no intention of stationing American or NATO forces in Ukraine. “But, as I said, there are going to be serious economic consequences if he moves.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government has told its citizens that a Russian invasion isn’t imminent. “Don’t worry, sleep well,” Oleksii Reznikov, the country’s defense minister said in a speech to Ukraine’s parliament on Monday.
The White House is taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach anyway.
“While, of course, our preferred path is diplomacy,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday. “We can’t predict where the mind of President Putin is — we’ve certainly seen aggressive actions and preparations increasing at the border.”
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It’s been a week since the White House launched its website for Americans to order free at-home tests. (According to the United States Post Office, I should receive mine tomorrow, nine days after I placed my order.)
The White House has promised to center equity in its policies and programs and said that approximately $4 billion in taxpayer dollars were spent to purchase the tests. But so far, the administration is mum about how many tests have been requested and distributed.
White House Coronavirus Response Director Jeff Zients told reporters last Friday that the administration would have a clearer picture of the demand of orders through the website and shipments this week and would report those numbers.
Jen Psaki was asked about it as well on Tuesday and said that she would check on the status.
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for an update from Supercreator.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York led a letter from members of Congress to President Biden requesting the White House to expand the residential standards for the at-home testing program.
Four tests are limited to each residential address. But the lawmakers said that people who live in basement apartments, renovated multi-family units and multi-family residences are unable to order their tests unless they go through the hotline because these addresses are already claimed in the order portal. It’s common for people in cities like New York to live below ground level or above a retail establishment without a distinct address.
The same spokesperson who did not respond to my previous inquiry also did not return requests for comment on if the administration reviewed the letter or if the White House was aware of any of the issues prior to receiving it.
I received an out-of-office reply from a spokesperson for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to a request for any data on the number of constituents who have reached out to her office with issues ordering tests. The colleague the OOO referred me to also did not respond.
The White House will brief reporters later this morning. So I’ll share any updates in Thursday’s post.
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Today in Politics
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Harris this morning. Then he will meet with CEOs to discuss how Build Back Better will support business growth. Later this afternoon, the president will sign an executive order to make sexual harassment an offense in the Uniform Code of Military Justice and strengthen the military’s response to domestic violence.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
Read All About It
Lexi Pandell on trauma:
Trauma is real, and can result in real disorders, though its meaning is ever-evolving. The DSM-5, the standard in American psychiatric diagnosis, currently defines it as “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence,” either as a victim or a witness. Growing attention to the term has pushed forth a larger acknowledgment of the indirect and long-lasting consequences of violence, certainly overdue in American culture.
Some who study trauma, however, say current cultural references to the word have become a mess of tongue-in-cheek and casual mentions, mixed with serious confessions and interrogations of the past — of definitional misunderstandings and the absurd and the trivial and the profound and the sincere.
“Trauma is one of those words that can mean anything,” says Michael Scheeringa, a medical doctor, professor at Tulane University, and author of the upcoming bookThe Trouble with Trauma. “I was stuck in traffic: That was traumatic. My football team lost: That was traumatic. That’s the way it’s used in our culture.”
The word hasn’t simply been watered down, but adopted widely as a kind of cultural touchstone.
Caitlin Cruz on the politics of abortion:
For decades, politicians succeeded in cleaving apart the reasons to get an abortion. It’s time for clarity. Last year, the Supreme Court heard a case that could end legal abortion as we know it. Last year, the state I love enacted legislation so cruel — no abortions after six weeks in Texas and the threat of civil legal action against anyone who helps — that it surprised even me. States across the country are clamoring to follow suit. And still, people who support abortion access are falling into traps that I did. They still take into account the reasons people want abortions. So, it’s time for clarity: No one owes us their reasons for having an abortion, and it is not our job to convey relief, give praise, or recoil at certain reasons for abortion if we do learn them. Abortions that are safe and necessary are good. When a person is able to take control of their own life, that is good.
Jason Diamond on cartoons as fashion influencers:
Charpy is part of a group of illustrators who provide the sort of style inspiration usually disseminated by magazine spreads and street style photographers. They’re all on Instagram, but also increasingly off of it, picking up work for brands from Brooks Brothers and Drake’s to Zara and Barbour. They remind us that getting dressed should be fun, but, maybe more importantly, it’s hard not to smile when you see an illustration of something like a bear in a Breton striped shirt shirt and a beret. We can all use more things that bring us joy, and few things connect us to a sort of innocence and happiness quite like an illustrated character might. These are cartoons for stylish adults, basically.
These illustrators, then, are taking things to another level: they’re not putting cartoons onto clothes. Instead, they’re using drawings of clothes to remind us that getting dressed can and should be something we do to enjoy life a little more. They’re reminding us that a little whimsy and color can brighten things up even in the darker times—or just when we’re trying to find some inspiration for what to wear.
Wilfred Chan on e-bike batteries, which cause a record-number of fires each year:
In the long run, deliveristas need not only better tech and infrastructure but an industrywide shift in who is held responsible for their working conditions. What if delivery workers were no longer misclassified as independent contractors? What if workers didn’t have to buy their own bikes and batteries and could count on their employers to provide safe vehicles? What if workers could make a living wage without needing to juggle two or three batteries to ride 60 to 80 miles a day?
Kate Linsday on Instagram Stories:
Faced with the challenge of attempting to figure out how to authentically present myself on social media, I instead opted out of one of its most omnipresent features: Instagram Stories.
For me, Instagram Stories had been an IV drip of validation for the past five years, and giving myself permission to live my life not as a constant performance, but for myself, has been liberating. It also means I’m not viewing other peoples’ performances, either, which has brought another unexpected benefit: I’m a better friend.
More specifically, I feel my friendships more fully. There are several reasons for this, the most obvious being that I haven’t already been digitally following my friend’s every move before I see them on a given day. I never quite figured out how to navigate those interactions in which someone is telling you about something they also publicly documented. Do I pretend I haven’t seen it? Cut them off? One option feels like lying, the other is most certainly rude. Now I have no idea if an experience I’m hearing was already shared with the world, and the conversation is better for it.
Last Not Least
YouTube’s CEO defends the social app hiding public dislike counts • Fashion Nova pays $4.2 million for allegedly suppressing unfavorable product reviews • Simply Lemonade gets spiked • Cardi B wins another $3 million in the case against a YouTuber
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