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Saying ‘All Lives Matter’ is Wrong

June 14, 2020

There are still some who find it necessary to say ‘All Lives Matter’ when others chant ‘Black Lives Matter’. The problem is when talking about ‘all lives’ people are missing the point of what is and has been going on in our country from its founding.

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

It took a compromise to have our Constitution ratified and it is called the Three-Fifths Compromise which is found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 and reads;  “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

So from day one we looked at African Americans as less. In every action since, including the Civil War, while clearly progress has been made, we still have a system of systemic racism and economic inequality rampant in our nation. We need only look at statistics to see that today “The White-Black economic divide is as wide as it was in 1968”. Yes we are making progress and just recently we saw “Ella Jones, a Ferguson City Council member, become the first black woman to be elected Mayor in the city where the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Mike Brown sparked protests in 2014 and catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement to a national stage.” We are seeing many more Black anchors and reporters on TV reporting today’s protests. Yet one of the scary parts of these protests is it appears police are targeting some of the reporters on the scene. While there is no way to be sure it seems Trump’s attacks on the press are having an impact on these actions by police. 

Now, while my life matters, the simple fact is I was born with ‘white privilege” and in every aspect my life am safer than someone who is born Black or Brown. My white privilege is not something I earned, rather it is something society bestowed on me. Society looks at me differently than it does my Black and Brown sisters and brothers and therefore I am treated differently. The fight we face in our country and around the world is to have people first accept and then act to insist Black and Brown lives must matter as much as mine does. Today unfortunately we still live in a society which makes it abundantly clear to those who are Black and Brown their lives don’t matter as much. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Every person of white privilege must regularly look in the mirror and judge themselves. Ask themselves if they really understand this and then ask themselves what they will do about it. Over the years there have been many times I have made myself look in a mirror and study myself; ask myself; am I racist? Do I always act in the way I say people should”?  If I am totally honest the truth is not always and while it may not have been intentional never-the-less I sometimes failed. The first time I took that look in the mirror I was sixteen years old and just had the honor of presenting my high school’s citizenship award to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was an incredible honor to meet him and get the chance to talk with him. This was in New York, February 1963, six months before Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC. It was a seminal moment in my life. 

One of the most quoted lines from that speech is "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Through the years that line has often been interpreted by many to mean we should live in a ‘color blind’ world. That has never made sense to me. Dr. King was a realist and I don’t think he ever  meant we should not see each other as we are and that would include the color of our skin be it White, Black or Brown. He didn’t mean we need to pretend we don’t see color but rather the goal to strive for must be to see each other, color and all, and still be able to not judge each other by that. When that goal is reached we will know our society is truly moving forward.  

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Patrick Kennedy for Ward 2 Councilmember

May 7, 2020

As a Ward 2 resident for more than 35 years, I have had only two people represent me on the D.C. Council. The first, John A. Wilson, had the D.C. government building named after him. The second, Jack Evans, was forced out of office for improprieties. On June 2 in the Democratic primary and June 16 in the special election for Ward 2, voters have the opportunity to choose a third representative. We need to elect someone who will make us proud. 

One person stands out among a group of qualified candidates. His relevant experience at the ward and community level, and his living by a set of steadfast progressive and honest principles, make Patrick Kennedy that candidate. He recently said: “In these difficult days I am committed to serving the residents of Ward 2 in an honest and transparent way to meet all their needs. I am committed to helping as we weave our way through tough times with a special focus on the economic and health inequities that have been highlighted due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Together we will not only survive we will thrive. The Council will be my full-time job and the only people I will owe anything to are the residents of Ward 2. As new issues arise you have my commitment to work on each one to the best of my ability and to meet and exceed your expectations.” 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Ward 2 is a dynamic part of the District and includes a diverse group of stakeholders, including a large part of the District’s business community. Balancing the needs of business with the needs of individuals is not always easy but must be the goal of the Council member representing the ward. Patrick has community and ward experience, including eight years on the ANC, being chair for five terms. Relevant experience is based on what the job of a Ward Council member is. The job includes oversight of D.C. government agencies; approval of the D.C. budget; and just as important the ability to provide good constituent service to the residents of the ward. Being chair of an ANC gave Patrick a detailed understanding of D.C. government agencies and how they relate to both individuals and the community. A Council member must have knowledge of zoning, local education issues, transportation issues, and know how the programs of D.C. government from DDOT, to DOES, to DCRA, the bane of everyone’s existence, work. It means getting into the weeds on rat (the four legged kind) abatement and knowing how to help a constituent get a street lamp fixed. It is why experience on an ANC is so relevant to the job. 

Another reason I am endorsing Kennedy is my belief it is crucial for our city that young people become involved and take leadership roles. When they do, we must support them. Kennedy represents the best of the young generation of the District. For 10 years he has spent countless hours as an ANC volunteer member and chair working for the people of the ward and the city. He sees himself as a bridge-builder, someone who understands the needs and interests of different communities and he has shown he is able to collaborate with a wide range of people with varied interests and forge consensus and come up with solutions to problems. I found he has a nuanced understanding of public policy and has shown empathy and understanding of people from all different backgrounds and perspectives. 

Ward 2 has the largest number of people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community in the District and while Patrick is not gay his work for — and vocal support of — the community has attracted many activists to his campaign. He has committed to have the city do a much better job of providing equity-based initiatives, which will impact the LGBTQ community. He supports improving hiring practices for trans people in the D.C. government. He is committed to focusing on improving job training programs ensuring they include trans women of color whose unemployment rate was as high as 40 percent before COVID-19. He will fight for more investment in transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ youth and delivering housing resources specifically geared to the needs of LGBTQ seniors. He said, “It is crucial to not just see housing programs as services LGBTQ seniors can access, but rather to craft the services themselves around the needs of those who live alone and are at risk of social isolation. It is clear not all housing providers are culturally competent or welcoming.” 

Kennedy has a history of success. He helped save the Francis-Stevens school, which is now thriving, and he worked on projects with George Washington University and with colleagues and DDOT laying the groundwork for consensus on a protected bike lane between Foggy Bottom and Dupont. His private sector experience includes working for a company helping Fortune 500 companies on their Corporate Social Responsibility budgets. His research had a focus on using SEC filings to evaluate a firm’s financial positions, market opportunities, and risks. In his current position with a small management consulting firm (he is on leave during the campaign) his work includes reviewing budgets and evaluating the competitive bid process including staffing and expense projections, all of which stand him in good stead when he becomes the next Ward 2 Council member. 

Kennedy is committed to working with the Council, our delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the mayor to press the Congress and the administration for D.C.’s full share of federal funding, including Coronavirus relief. He is a strong advocate for public education. Progress in the schools is nowhere more evident than in Ward 2 with an increasing demand for our public schools; not just from families staying and raising their children in the Ward, but from families across the city. He understands the momentum we’ve seen in the early grades hasn’t translated reliably to middle schools. He said, “In Ward 2 we must help families with children at Hyde-Addison stay in the system at Hardy and create a new Shaw Middle School with programming aligned to the thriving elementary schools that would feed it.” Kennedy commits to working to reduce childcare costs and prioritizing funding for Birth-to-3 programs. He understands doing both will make a meaningful difference in reducing the achievement gap in education by providing high-quality early learning opportunities to every child during the most important stage of their cognitive development. 

He has committed to focusing on the production of more affordable housing. He said, “I support the mayor’s plan to encourage the production of more residential units across the city, enhance rent control protections for long-term tenants by gradually enrolling buildings built after 1975 into rent stabilization, and reforming our property tax structure to ensure that assessments align more cleanly with people’s ability to pay.” He is committed to creating new dedicated bus lanes to improve service and ensure stable, fast commute times and investing in more off-peak service. He is a proponent of more dynamic street design, including more dedicated pick-up and drop-off areas on commercial corridors; expanding parking corrals for dockless bikes and scooters to get them off sidewalks; and enhancing the District’s network of protected bike lanes (coupled with enforcement of standards around sidewalk biking) so people have safe places to bike and pedestrians don’t feel unsafe on sidewalks.”

In the aftermath of the recent Ward 2 Council member’s scandals we need a Council member who is a known commodity in the community, someone with a strong record of helping and working with every sector of the community. Someone people already know and trust. Someone the Washington Post said is “qualified and has a good agenda” for moving us forward. That person is Patrick Kennedy and I urge you to cast your ballot for him in the June 2 Democratic primary and the June 16 special election.

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Continuing to Stay Safe, Healthy and Sane ...

April 29, 2020

It is easy to lose count of how long we have been quarantined as the days just drift into one another especially if you live alone and don’t have a full-time job you are doing from home.  Yesterday one of my morning Java House Zoom companions said, “I woke today and my nine-year-old petulant self was saying, “Open the damn country.”

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

It occurred to me my nine-year-old self has said the same adding, “Dammit I want to go eat out, go play on the beach, walk the boardwalk, see my friends and hug them. Enough of staying at home mostly alone.” But after a couple of moments it sunk in I am no longer a nine-year-old and getting over my little sulk accepted why we are quarantined and why we can’t yet open the county. Then it dawned on me listening to Trump say dumb things like we should consider drinking or injecting Lysol or bleach, we have a President who is not only a moron but in his rush to try to reopen the nation is still acting like a petulant nine-year-old. Now, that is criminal. 

As a senior I know I am more susceptible to this virus. Having had some health issues, though now fine, being careful has been important. It means never going into a store without my mask and wearing one on my afternoon walks. Washing my hands so often they are getting chapped. It means wearing the mask and gloves when going to the basement in my condo to do the wash, something I haven’t done in years since there was someone who came to clean every two weeks and did that. For my safety and hers that won’t happen again till this is over. Since I am fortunate and can afford to, she is still being paid. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Like so many of us during the first few weeks of this quarantine I would immerse myself in the TV news watching the moron in the White House every evening during his press conference/political rally and watching an impressive Andrew Cuomo every afternoon. Would have cable news on much of the day, yelling back at the TV and being inundated with reports of what is happening around the world. I have stopped that now because it was just too depressing. Found myself tearing up regularly every time I heard about another death, about another child not having food, about another family torn apart from a loved one who was sick but they couldn’t be with them. I cried when I heard my good friend and political mentor Arlene Stringer-Cuevas, mother of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, died from the virus. Teared up every time another FB friend told of a friend or relative who died from the virus. Then found myself tearing up thinking about all those dying of other causes and knowing their families can’t hold funerals. I think of my parent’s funerals and wonder what it would have been like to not be able to honor them and get the closure they brought with family and friends around when each of them passed. 

So I have found each day how important it is to find something to enjoy, something to smile about, and something to be hopeful about in these difficult times. To hear funny stories about my friends' kids, to continue to enjoy the flowers and beauty around me on every afternoon walk which I share daily on FB. Amazing how many things I notice on my walks around the city that never registered before. Plaques on buildings I once just passed. Remembering how great it feels to be able to help someone else. Small things like finding paper towels in the local Safeway for my ninety-two year old neighbor. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

There is always a feeling of guilt when avoiding people on the street. When someone walks towards me and I walk into the street to make sure I am keeping six feet of separation. Avoiding a street person who comes toward me without a mask. So to make up for that and in some way assuage my guilt each afternoon I sit at my computer and find a charity to which I can make a small donation. Realizing with each click of the donate button how fortunate I am knowing I will never go without a home or without food. So it makes me feel good to give a donation to Casa Ruby in DC; or to an organization like Martha’s Table.  While I have no particular talent I love the theater, am a theater reviewer, and want to make sure it will return and all those talented artists can continue to provide us with joy. Some doing it now online like Michael Urie who raised over $200,000, including my small donation, for Actors Equity with his brilliant online performance of Buyer & Cellar. Lady Gaga who helped coordinate the One World Together spectacular raising $128 million, including my small donation.  Giving a small donation to the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Phoenix Fund to help keep that brilliant DC Treasure alive when this is all over and life can return to whatever our new normal is. 

Each of us is dealing with this pandemic in our own way. Many of my friends on FB are cooking and baking and sharing pictures of the incredible delicacies they are making. Guess I could have put a picture of last night’s Lean Cuisine dinner online, lol. No matter what you are doing to pass the time and keep yourself safe, healthy and sane remember we are all in this together. Reach out to friends, check on your neighbor, and keep busy. This will eventually pass and hopefully we will all be here to celebrate together. Those of you who are young remember you will be telling stories to your grandkids about, “What I did during the Coronavirus pandemic back in 2020.” Make sure those will be really good stories. 

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