Category Archives: United States

Through Kwanzaa, A Celebration of Culture, Struggle and Hope

If you ask most people  about Kwanzaa, they will probably say that they have heard and seen the term at some point, and they may even say that it is celebrated mostly in the Black community.  But after that, the details get spotty at best.

It’s easy to associate this tradition with Christmas because it begins on December 26th of each year, and ends on January 1st.  But Kwanzaa is a Communitarian holiday not based in religion, but is rather a celebration of the culture, struggle and hope of African people.  Let’s learn more about this special holiday from its founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga writing for Ebony Magazine on the 50th Anniversary..

We remember our history and the legacies left and the people who made and left them for us and the world. We reflect on the expansive meaning of being African in the world, on the context and issues of our times, and on our way forward in struggle to forge a future responsive to our needs and interests as well as those of the world. And we recommit ourselves to our highest values, to our most anchoring, elevating and liberating practices, and as ever to the good of our people and the well-being of the world.

At this historical milestone and marker, it is good to remember and reflect on the origins of Kwanzaa, not only in the ancient African festivals of harvest and shared good, but also its origins in the relentless and righteous struggles of the 60s (i.e., the Black Freedom Movement for freedom, justice, equality, and power of our people over their destiny and daily lives).

For deeply embedded and ever-present in the celebration of Kwanzaa and the practice of its founding principles, the Nguzo Saba, is the constant call for and commitment to striving and struggling. Here, I use striving and struggling interchangeably, with the meaning being exerting great and focused effort to achieve, excel and advance. For the struggle, as we imagined and waged it and continue to do so, is not only to defy and defeat the oppressor, but also to overturn ourselves, removing from ourselves the legacy of oppression, clearing social space in which we can live, love, work, build and relate freely, and striving diligently then to come into the fullness of ourselves.

Kwanzaa, then, was conceived, born and came into being in the midst of struggle, in the fires and furnaces of the Black Freedom Movement, and therefore carries within it this legacy and the lessons from it.

Though it honors contributions which originated on the African continent and takes it’s terminology from the African language of Swahili, the first Kwanzaa was actually celebrated in the United States.  Now after 51 years, people all over the world observe this rich holiday tradition.

Here are some facts about Kwanzaa…

Each of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba are celebrated on their own special day, and each occupy a candle on the Kwanzaa candle holder, or Kinara

Umoja for Unity

Kujichagulia for Self-Determination

Ujima for Collective Work and Responsibility

Ujamaa for Cooperative Economics

Nia for Purpose

Kuumba for Creativity

Imani for Faith

The colors of Kwanzaa represent unity and commonality for peoples of African descent…  Black for the people, Red for the struggle, and Green for their progress, and the hope for prosperity and achievement.

With the rise of movements like Black Lives Matter and such current and complex political struggles, it’s no surprise that recent years have seen renewed interest in the holiday festival.

Another great Kwanzaa resources is a 2008 film, The Black Candle.  The film, directed by M. K. Asante and narrated by Maya Angelou, is an in-depth examination of the holiday’s history, connections to the Black Power movement and other socio-political factors which surround its founding.

 

As we close out this year and wind down on a very busy season, Kwanzaa offers an opportunity to not only celebrate the year’s triumphs and the many incredible contributions of the Black community, but to help set important goals to achieve in the coming year.  With the complex challenges that are present today, we need holidays like this one perhaps more than ever.

Do you celebrate Kwanzaa, or have you celebrated in the past?  What are your thoughts on this holiday?  Let me know in the comments.

Heri za Kwanzaa / Happy Kwanzaa everyone!

 

 

(if you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation!)

 

 

Holiday Stress: Watch Out In The Parking Lot!!

For all of their positive benefits, the Holidays is often the most stressful time of the whole year.  Be it physically, emotionally or financially, it’s easy to become over-extended during this fast-paced season.  It’s also very easy to become distracted.

While it may not be a surprise, these factors can also lead to an increase in traffic accidents at some at some very busy locations.  As Roland Rodriguez of KRIS TV Corpus Christi reports, be sure to watch out on your shopping trips this season…

During the holidays, parking lots at malls, shopping centers, and supermarkets are packed, increasing the possibility of a fender bender.  It’s a very common situation.  Parking lot accidents increase by 20 percent during the busy holiday season.

The holidays create a perfect storm for  accidents, especially in busy, congested parking lots.

“They’re so many vehicles on the road and in the parking lots. You add more vehicles and people, accidents are bound to occur,” said CCPD Lt. Timothy Frazier.

With all this activity and chaos in a small area, it’s no wonder that many car accidents happen in parking lots.

And don’t forget… unlike city streets, highways and other public roads, parking lots are often going to be private spaces owned by businesses, so it’s not a matter that can be handled by the police.  BUT by law when an accident occurs, you and the other party are REQUIRED to exchange information, so you can inform them of that.

Texas Insurance Agent Cheri Roman also posted a great YouTube video with some helpful tips on how to avoid such accidents, so it’s a good one to check out as well…

So in addition to dealing with increased traffic on the roads themselves, this is a helpful reminder to keep your guard up when you arrive and exit a busy destination.

Stay safe everyone!!

A Festivus Celebration!! Courtesy of President TRuMP

It’s a Festivus Miracle!!

And by “it” I do sincerely mean President Donald Trump.  For once, and maybe only once, Texas Leftist is going all in to celebrate our nation’s most distinguished 45th President.

After all, if the point of the cult holiday Festivus is to air our many grievances and let people know how much of a DISAPPOINTMENT they’ve been throughout the year, then it’s a holiday tailor made to recognize our fearless leader.

So, for the rest of us, here’s my Festivus list, with a TON of help from Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post, who did an excellent job of documenting 282 promises made by Trump when he was on the campaign trail.

  1. Trump’s Infrastructure Plans have deconstructed .  Remember all those good, America First jobs our President planned to spur by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure??   Though Trump continues to pay lip service to the idea, any actual plans have stalled out.  It’s a far cry from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was off and running well before the close of 44’s first year in office.  Whether one agrees or disagrees with that project, we can’t deny that it did put people to work, and tackled several infrastructure projects.
  2. Trump has long promised to protect the working class, create at least 25 million new jobs, and bring back manufacturing jobs from overseas, going all across the country telling steel mills, coal mines and other factories that they’ll be back in top production, and to rebuild communities that have been affected by automation.  MAGA, right??  But if that is indeed his intention, it sure doesn’t reflect in the recent Tax Giveaway Law.  Though Americans will see a slight bump next year (well-timed for the 2018 Election), after that working families are going to be footing the bill while the 1% receive very large tax breaks.   On Coal and Steel?  While true that there has been a slight uptick in the coal workforce since inauguration, the nation’s Steelworkers are going into their holiday season with a new round of layoffs.  Steelworkers are dependent on the Federal Government to pursue aggressive new trade deals which can promote American goods overseas.  And as for all of those jobs rushing back to us from overseas???  Kinda tough to do when the Trump Administration would rather infuriate and bully other world leaders.  So far, “the greatest jobs president that God ever created” isn’t getting the job done.
  3. Tax Reform that would simplify the Tax Code, and Reduce the number of Tax Brackets.  OK!!  At long last, we’ve got a promise kept here people!!  Before the GOP-led Tax “Reform” bill was signed into law, we had a total of 7 Tax brackets.  After the bill’s passage, we have 7 Tax brackets!!!!!!! The truth is, the Tax bill didn’t really simplify anything.  All those loopholes that were to be closed, basically none of them were. But any guesses as to what the GOP did accomplish in this bill?? With less money coming in to the Government, Republicans are now saying they’ll be forced to cut Government services like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and CHIP.  No, seriously, House  Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Orrin Hatch are already talking about it.
  4. Guarantee 6 Weeks Paid Family Leave?  It was a nice gesture, but no.  Has Trump himself ever even mentioned this, or was it just First Daughter Ivanka?
  5. DRAIN THE SWAMP!!  Ah yes, a personal favorite of Trump while on the campaign trail, where he promised to end the influence of lobbyists in Washington, and be the “most transparent President, ever”.  Yet since his inauguration, our nation’s capital has reached a new low.  We can barely keep up with the daily litany of scandals and lies, with no end in sight.

We could go on, but that’s going to have to suffice for this year’s Festivus.  After a year’s wait, it feels great to finally celebrate our nation’s leader on the day that’s appropriate.

Happy Festivus, Mr. President!!  You’ve Been a Real Disappointment to us all.

If you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation.

#GrandOlePriorities: After Massive Tax Giveaway, Budgetless GOP Scrambles On Short-Term Government Funding

The funny thing about our Republican leadership in Congress… for certain things they ALWAYS seem to find time.

After passing “the largest tax cut in our nation’s history”, which don’t forget is also the single largest ballooning of the deficit in our nation’s history from legislation, President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and a bunch of other GOP lawmakers were nothing short of jubilant.  Had they stayed long enough, there would’ve been dancing in the streets.

But for many millions of Americans, there’s no celebration to be had, because their representatives in Congress are not working   for them.  Here’s the story, from Rachel M. Cohen of The Intercept

IT’S BEEN 82 days since Congress let funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program expire. For months legislators have promised the public they would get it done — certainly by end of the year — working on a deal that would reauthorize the program for the next five years, at the cost of $8 billion.

But in a stunning turn of events, the House of Representatives released a continuing appropriations bill Wednesday that would keep the government open and extends CHIP funding only until the end of March, at the extraordinary cost of $2.8 billion. In order to avoid a government shutdown, legislators have until midnight on Friday to fund the government.

In addition to shorting CHIP, the bill also does not grant legal protections to so-called Dreamers, children brought to the United States without documents whose legal status is in jeopardy. House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been pressing Republicans to include the DREAM Act as part of the spending measure. Without it, Republicans will need to find the votes to keep the government open on their own.

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi told The Intercept that Democrats are whipping their members to vote against the continuing resolution.

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you.  With Republicans in control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency, they’ve went all year and never managed to pass a budget.  Since January 20th of this year, Republicans had plenty of time to take care of these issues, but instead chose to use their time (and OUR taxpayer dollars) to please their super-rich donors.  So as you see and hear all the news clips from their big legislative “win”, keep this in mind…

As they celebrate, kids and families in all 50 states are wondering how many weeks or months they will have healthcare for critical needs through the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

As they celebrate, Texans in Gulf Coast communities like Rockport and Port Aransas are still waiting on Trump’s promise to help them rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

As they celebrate, American families of mixed immigrant status continue to live under the threat of being ripped apart by deportation, as comprehensive Immigration Reform now seems like a distant memory, and the Dream Act has barely been mentioned, except by Democrats.

As they celebrate, Americans are forced to walk, bike and drive on an aging infrastructure, wondering how long it will last, and if Trump really intends to keep his promise to rebuild like we’ve never built before.

Nice try TRUMP and Republicans, but the time to pass an actual  BUDGET and not a Continuing Resolution was long ago. A PATHETIC, 3-week CR for the holiday break is unacceptable. If the GOP truly cared about the American People they would have put our priorities FIRST.

So enjoy the Grand Ole Party, Republicans.  We’ll see if the American People can end it on November 6th.

 

If you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation.

Part 2: Lessons For Texas Democrats In Alabama’s Big Victory?

Y’all ready for this Two-Step?   Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it.

Along with strong support in the suburbs, The incredible surge of African-American voter turnout also proved to be a big boost for Jones.  Black voters showed up at historic levels to support the Democrat.

But the key here?  It wasn’t just turnout in the cities or the suburbs, but Alabama’s Black voters in rural counties also voted in force.  More on this from Van Newkirk of The Atlantic

Exit polls showed that black voters made a big splash. The Washington Post’s exit polls indicated that black voters would make up 28 percent of the voters, greater than their 26 percent share of the population, which would be a dramatic turnaround from previous statewide special elections in the South, including a special election for the Sixth District in Georgia, which saw black support for Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff dissipate on Election Day.

As the Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman noted on Twitter, turnout was particularly high in the counties with the largest black populations. In Greene County, a small area that is 80 percent black and that Martin Luther King Jr. frequented in his Poor People’s Campaign, the turnout reached 78 percent of that of 2016, an incredible mark given that special elections and midterms usually fall far short of general-election marks. Perry County, also an important mostly black site of voting-rights battles of old, turned out at 75 percent of 2016 levels. Dallas County, whose seat is the city of Selma, hit the 74 percent mark. And while the exact numbers aren’t in for all of the majority-black or heavily black counties, black voters appear to have favored Jones at rates close to or more than 90 percent.

It’s always an unsure proposition to play “identity politics”, but for a whole host of reasons, African-Americans have become one of the most reliable, most well-informed and most consistent voting blocks in the nation.  And by and large, they show up to vote for Democrats.  So it should be no surprise that if Black voter turnout is high, it spells trouble for most Republicans.  Remember all of those ultra-stringent Voter ID laws Texas (and Alabama) keep passing?  Yeah they’re aimed squarely at weakening the Black vote.

While the recent dogma for Texas Democrats has been to pour all of our resources into a precious few urban centers, 2018 offers an opportunity to branch out and reconnect with voters across the state.  As this week’s victory in Alabama shows, there’s no better place to start on this journey than with the state’s many rural black communities. Thanks to a strong, dedicated organizational network, much of the infrastructure is already in place to reach out to these communities.  But Democrats have to make the first move.  Especially for statewide candidates like those running for U.S. Senate, Governor or Lieutenant Governor, now is the time to build these connections and plan for a true statewide campaign.

In the interest of this issue, Texas Leftist has created a special graphic.  Using data from the 2016 US census estimate and compiled by the Texas Association of Counties’ County Information Program, the graphic shows counties which have an African-American population of 10 percent or higher.  Maps like this one could help to reveal additional opportunities for candidates, especially those looking to mount a statewide or State Senate election.  As you can see, there are many strong African-American communities in areas of rural Texas.

In Black:  Counties with African- American Populations of 20 percent or more…   Anderson, Bell, Bowie, Dallas, Falls, Fort Bend, Gregg, Harrison, Houston, Jefferson, Madison, Marion, Morris, Newton, Robertson, San Augustine, Walker and Waller.  
In Green:  Counties with African-American Populations of 15 percent to 19.99 percent… Angelina, Camp, Cass, Coryell, Freestone, Grimes, Harris, Jasper, Limestone, McLennan, Nacogdoches, Panola, Red River, Shelby, Smith, Tarrant and Washington. 
In Red:  Counties with African-American Populations of 10 percent to 14.99 percent… Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Cherokee, Childress, Colorado, Cottle, Denton, Ellis, Galveston, Jones, Kaufman, Lamar, Lee, Liberty, Matagorda, Mitchell, Navarro, Polk, Potter, San Jacinto, Titus, Tyler, Wharton and Wichita.  

 

With information like the above and in the previous post, Democrats and Progressives running for statewide office can better utilize their resources and construct a campaign that reaches beyond the traditional urban strongholds, to voters ready to carry their message forward.

Thankfully some candidates have already gotten the message.  El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourkewho is challenging Ted Cruz for Texas’ seat in the United States Senate, pledged back in April to visit every single one of the massive state’s 254 counties.  He’s off to an impressive start, having visited 155 counties as of last month.  But even in the case of his trailblazing campaign, information like the above may be of benefit.

So there you have it.  Even days before the new year, 2018 has already gotten very interesting for Texas Democrats.  Let’s hope the party can use the momentum to its advantage, and help create a better state for us all.

 

If you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation.

Unless GOP-led Congress Acts, Texas Children Risk Losing Healthcare Next Month

As President Trump eggs them on, Republicans in the United States Congress are racing towards their own self-imposed finish line at historic speed.  Desperate for a major legislative accomplishment, they are clearing every possible hurdle to pass a massive, omnibus, and until last Friday afternoon, mysterious tax bill which will have major implications for generations of American citizens.  To give you an idea of the speed with which this legislative “process”  has occurred, the first actual bill was introduced in the US House on November 2nd, 2017– just 48 days ago.

But while Republicans have put all of their eggs into one HUGE “Tax Reform” basket, millions of American families have been left to worry and wait.  In a few short weeks, Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program will begin to run out across the country, leaving real kids and families without the ability to pay for life-saving medications, doctor’s visits and medical procedures.  While every state is set to run out of funding by July of next year, children in Texas are at risk of losing their funding by the end of January.  Here’s more from Sam Petulla of CNN

Sixteen states will run out of federal funding for CHIP — the Children’s Health Insurance Program — by the end of January, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Three-quarters of all states expect to exhaust funds by the end of March unless Congress can agree to fund it. (Scroll to the bottom for the full list.)

CHIP provides health insurance coverage for just shy of nine million children whose families have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford the cost of insurance. It is increasingly used by families whose employer-provided insurance is too expensive. CHIP is provided for free or the program’s premiums are pegged to an amount based on a family’s annual income.
CHIP has come into the news lately because Congress has not yet reauthorized its funding mechanism and, as a result, states are running out of money. Once the money runs out, potentially hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of low-income kids could lose their health insurance. That could be a dire situation for some families.
Low and middle income kids like the ones in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.   As Santiago Caicedo of KGBT News- Valley Central.com reports, Texas has a plan in place to cover additional funding, but it won’t last very long…

By the end of Feb. 2018, 400,000 children in the state of Texas could be without government subsidized health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP.

“You have counties along the Texas-Mexico border where three quarters of the children are enrolled in either Medicaid or CHIP,” said Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director for Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities.

[…]

In the meantime, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is giving Texas $135 million to continue the program through February. After that, CHIP will no longer receive funding from the federal government.

“The alternative is, do we pay bills, our gas, our light, or do we buy medication?” said Diana Martínez from McAllen.

Amazingly enough, the whole situation has been surprisingly quiet on Capitol Hill, with Republican leaders continuing to assure the press that the funding will be renewed, and Democrats, understandably, hesitant to make this a political issue.  Healthcare for our nation’s kids should never be political.
But at some point, we have to state the obvious.  If everyone is so confident that this is going to get done, then why hasn’t it already been done?  And WHY does something like a Tax bill take precedence over the health and safety of families?? The inauguration was held on January 20th.  This could’ve been passed long before December.  Should American families be worried that one of their top priorities continues to languish at the wayside, while Congressional leaders hoist all of their strength into tax cuts??
For the children of Texas, the choice is crystal clear.  Maybe Congress needs to reconsider its priorities, and put our children first.  

If you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation.

Part 1: Lessons For Texas Democrats In Alabama’s Big Victory?

In a week filled with fast-moving political news, the Alabama victory of Senator- Elect is still the most fascinating out there.  In his stunning defeat of Republican Roy Moore, Doug Jones became the First Democrat to win a United States Senate election in 25 years.

In an off- off year election, this particular race has dominated the national media, in part because of Roy Moore’s many, many flaws as a candidate, not the least of which is his past filled with allegations of sexual harassment.  But even with that history factored in, the election of Democrat Jones in a state that Donald Trump won by a whopping 28 points just a year earlier indicates that the pendulum may be swinging in the Democrats’ favor for 2018.

Here’s what Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times noticed after the November 2017 elections in New Jersey and Virgina…

RICHMOND, Va. — The American suburbs appear to be in revolt against President Trump after a muscular coalition of college-educated voters and racial and ethnic minorities dealt the Republican Party a thumping rejection on Tuesday and propelled a diverse class of Democrats into office.

From the tax-obsessed suburbs of New York City to high-tech neighborhoods outside Seattle to the sprawling, polyglot developments of Fairfax and Prince William County, Va., voters shunned Republicans up and down the ballot in off-year elections. Leaders in both parties said the elections were an unmistakable alarm bell for Republicans ahead of the 2018 campaign, when the party’s grip on the House of Representatives may hinge on the socially moderate, multiethnic communities near major cities.

And just one month later in Alabama, similar trends seemed to bare out. A diverse coalition of suburban voters in Alabama’s 5 largest counties put Roy Moore over the top, and completely erased Trump’s massive margin of victory from 2016.

Interestingly enough, Texas voters have already shown movement in this direction.  As I’ve written in the past, a big sign post for Texas to ever be considered a Swing State is not only Democrats winning in urban counties, but when they also become competitive in the suburbs.  After years of reliable Republican wins in suburban counties, that streak finally ended in 2016.  Not only was Donald Trump beaten in urban counties like Harris (Houston), Dallas and El Paso, but the suburban county of Fort Bend also went for Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump won the state of Texas by 9 percentage points, the smallest margin of victory for a Republican presidential candidate since the Bill Clinton era, and nearly 6 percentage points below Mitt Romney’s 2012 Texas victory over Barack Obama.  So the lesson here?  As with the rest of the country, 2018 is the year for Texas Democrats to get back into the suburbs, win or lose.  While urban centers are still hugely important, Democrats cannot afford to leave our suburban friends out of the political conversation.

What else was interesting from the Alabama contest?

Stay tuned for Part 2!!  

If you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation.