Sunday, December 16, 2018

Cory Booker response to rumors about his sexuality: I’m heterosexual

It’s a question he has been asked since entering public life, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker sought to put the rumors to rest as he considers whether to run for president in 2020.

“I’m heterosexual,” Booker told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The interview took place as Booker decides whether to jump into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. He told NJ Advance Media last month that he would “consider running for president" in 2020 and would "take some time during this holiday season to sit with family and close friends and advisers to give it a really good consideration.”

Despite his best efforts to talk about policies and issues in his campaigns for Newark mayor and U.S. Senate, the unmarried Booker’s sexuality has been a topic of interest. U.S. Sen.. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., faced similar scrutiny when he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

When Booker first ran for the Senate and was asked about his sexual orientation, Booker answered, “What does it matter?”

Should he win the White House, Booker would be the first unmarried president since Grover Cleveland in 1884. He said it wasn’t necessarily by choice.

“It’s tough to date as a senator,” Booker, D-N.J., told New York magazine in September. “The title I seek the most is probably husband and father."

Booker told the Inquirer that there were more important things to talk about on the campaign trail.

”Every candidate should run on their authentic self, tell their truth, and more importantly, or mostly importantly, talk about their vision for the country," he said.


National Park Foundation Statement on the purchase Martin Luther King Jr. Birth Home

Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation (NPF) issued the following statement regarding the recent transfer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Birth Home to the National Park Service:

As the official philanthropic partner of the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation works with individuals, non-profit partners and companies to benefit our nation’s national parks.

Thanks to private philanthropy, the National Park Foundation facilitated the purchase of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home from the King Center, the owner of the home since 1973, and its immediate transfer to the National Park Service. The transaction closed on November 27, 2018. As part of Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, the home has been and will continue to be open to the public.

The National Park Foundation is honored to partner with the King Center and the National Park Service to help protect the home in which Dr. King was born and grew up. As a part of the National Park System, this national treasure of such historic significance and meaning will have the ongoing support needed to preserve it for future generations and to ensure that all people are able to access and share the stories and lessons it holds.

The National Park Foundation plays a critical role in helping the National Park Service expand people’s understanding of and direct access to American history. As a part of this tradition, the National Park Foundation is committed to increasing public understanding of and access to African American history and the legacy of the civil rights movement through national parks. As such, the National Park Foundation has helped preserve places like Camp Nelson National Monument, Freedom Riders National Monument, Pullman National Monument, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. We are delighted to be able to add Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home to this legacy.

Further details will be shared at a press event to take place after the King holiday.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren seeks to solidify backing of African Americans

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is seeking to solidify her connection with African-American voters as she prepares to launch a potential presidential campaign amid criticism of her approach to race and identity.

The Massachusetts Democrat visited Morgan State University in Baltimore Friday, marking her third trip this year to a historically black college or university. It follows her widely panned October release of a DNA test meant to bolster her claim to Native American heritage. Her speech Friday offered an opportunity to regain her footing.

``I'm not a person of color,'' Warren said. ``And I haven't lived your life or experienced anything like the subtle prejudice, or more overt harm, that you may have experienced just because of the color of your skin. Rules matter, and our government _ not just individuals within the government, but the government itself _ has systematically discriminated against black people in this country.''

Warren could face additional pressure from Democrats to address race. Bakari Sellers, an attorney, Democratic political analyst and former South Carolina Democratic state representative, urged Warren to more publicly say that ``you were wrong in the way that you interpret and address race.''

``Having that moment of ignorance _ we all do, but we need to address the fact that we were wrong,'' he said. ``I love the fact that she's making attempts to make inroads with the African-American community, but her path is very narrow.''

Mo Elleithee, a veteran Democratic strategist and founding executive director of Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service, described Warren's outreach to African-American and other minority groups as even more vital to her potential campaign in light of the DNA test's poor reception.

``I think it has sort of knocked her off balance a little bit when it comes to issues of identity and minority outreach, broadly,'' Elleithee said, adding that ``the stakes are a little bit higher when you are one of the more recognized candidates at this early part of the process.''

Warren's work to spotlight racial as well as economic inequities is significantly more advanced than her fellow New England liberal icon, Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont Independent is weighing his own 2020 Democratic campaign after struggling to break through with minority voters during his 2016 run.

The theme that Warren struck Friday _ that minorities don't get a level playing field in America _ is one she's long tackled. She drew acclaim from Black Lives Matter activists for a 2015 speech that acknowledged ``we have not made enough progress'' toward creating fairness and opportunity for African-Americans. She slammed the nation's criminal justice system as ``racist'' in August during a Q&A with Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond, with whom she partnered again this week on affordable housing legislation backed by civil rights groups.

Democratic strategist Symone Sanders said Warren ``does a good job of authentically and honestly speaking not just to communities of color'' but also ``incorporating race into policy prescriptions.''

Sanders, a former campaign aide to the Vermont senator who is not currently working with any 2020 hopeful, said Warren's ``trip at the finish line'' on her DNA analysis isn't ``indicative of Elizabeth's Warren's understanding of communities of color, or of the type of presidential campaign she would run.''

In remarks last month to the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Warren reiterated her critique of a justice system that research has shown gives black offenders stiffer punishment.

Warren has ``proven that she has the skills to relate to an audience that is of color,'' Sharpton told The Associated Press. ``Her image before was a New Englander, academia-type policy wonk. And she's been able to, in her delivery, show some real passion toward things of concern like health care, criminal justice and the kinds of things that you don't expect a New England professorial type to show passion and connection.''

Asked if Warren's ancestry was a fight that he would have advised her to pursue, Sharpton said: ``I might have fought it differently, but I would have fought it.''

Richmond described ``the passion and the commitment'' that Warren displayed in remarks to their members that led to ``a natural relationship'' working on issues. Four CBC members introduced the House counterpart to Warren's housing legislation on Tuesday.

Richmond also took no issue with Warren's presentation of the story of her past: ``People are always going to look for the negative in no matter what you do. And I just think that she's very authentic, very open, and sometimes that's going to open you up for some criticism on how you did it, why you did it.''

DeJuana Thompson, a former DNC and Obama administration staffer and the founder of WokeVote, recalled that Warren was among the first people that she heard from following the work that her group did in Alabama to help turn out black voters in support of Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.

``She contacted us literally the day after we won and said, `I'm so proud, this is the kind of work that we need to be doing across the country,'' said Thompson, who is not currently supporting any of the prospective candidates. ``It felt genuine, it felt authentic, and it felt like she had been following and watching our work, and I had no idea.''

Aimee Allison, the founder of She The People, an advocacy group focused on political leadership for women of color, called Warren's efforts on race ``authentic'' but candidly described the DNA test release as ``a big stumble,'' adding that the senator's challenge going forward is similar to the one facing other white presidential hopefuls.

``As a white candidate for president, the demographics and the politics and I think zeitgeist really calls for a difference kind of leader than before,'' Allison said, adding that candidates who can't deftly address race ``I don't believe will make it through at all.''


Saturday, December 15, 2018

For the First Time in History, Two African Americans will Hold Top Leadership Positions in Congress

Congressional Black Caucus Member Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08) has been elected chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (D-SC-06) was elected Majority Whip, making it the first time in history that two African Americans will hold top leadership positions in Congress at the same time. In response to these elections, the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02), released the following statement:

“When the Congressional Black Caucus was founded in 1971, I know our 13 founding members dreamed of the day when we would have more than one member in our ranks competing for top leadership positions in Congress. Today was that day, and I know they are proud.

“When Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries articulated to our colleagues why they were the best candidate for Democratic Caucus chair, it was one of the best displays of black brilliance that I have seen in a long time. The unfortunate part of their race against each other was that one of them had to lose.

“I congratulate Congressman Jeffries on being elected Democratic Caucus chair; he has more than demonstrated during his time in Congress that he is ready to lead in this position.

“I also congratulate Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn on being elected Majority Whip. There are few Democrats who have done more than Assistant Democratic Leader Clyburn to mentor young members of Congress and make sure that Democrats win elections.

“When former congressman George Henry White, the last African-American congressman to leave Congress before the Jim Crow Era, left office in 1901, he said in his famous farewell address, ‘This is perhaps the Negroes' temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again.’

“Next Congress, the CBC will have 55 members, including two who will be in top leadership positions and five who will chair full House committees – former congressman George Henry White was right, and the Phoenix has risen.”

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Barack Obama Receives Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award

Former President Barack Obama was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award at a gala in midtown Manhattan Wednesday evening.

The award celebrates leaders of the international business, entertainment, and activist communities who have demonstrated a commitment to social change and reflect Robert Kennedy’s passion for equality, justice, basic human rights, and his belief that we all must strive to "make gentle the life of this world."

"I'm not sure if you've heard, but I've been on this hope kick for a while now. Even ran a couple of campaigns on it. Thank you for officially validating my hope credentials," Obama said during his remarks.

The organization's president, Kerry Kennedy, presented the award, which celebrates leaders "who have demonstrated a commitment to social change." Past recipients include Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Bono, George Clooney and Robert De Niro.

"If we summon our best selves, we can inspire others to do the same. It's easy to succumb to cynicism, the notion that hope is a fool's game," Obama said.

"When our leaders are content on making up whatever facts they want, a lot of people have begun to doubt the notion of common ground," Obama said. "Bobby Kennedy's life reminds us to reject such cynicism."

Also honored with Ripple of Hope Awards were New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav and Humana CEO Bruce Broussard. Speakers included actors Alec Baldwin, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfre Woodard and journalist Tom Brokaw.