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Visiting Black Lives Matter Plaza–Part 1 of 2

Last Sunday, I took a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. OK, I’m being overdramatic. However, the nearly empty roads along the generally bustling Sixteenth Street corridor resembled a scene from the Twilight Zone. Hardly anyone was on the streets.

Until that day, aside from a doctor’s appointment and a couple of outings to the store, I had not wandered outside my home since mid-March. That’s when the COVID pandemic showed up like an uninvited houseguest and drove everybody into isolation.

My first time taking the 6.04 mile walk along Sixteenth Street happened on 911. Planes had flown into the twin towers in New York, and another crashed into the western side of the Pentagon. Reporters broadcast that a hijacked plane, later identified as United Airlines Flight 93, was believed to be heading to the White House or the U.S. Capitol. Subsequently, that aircraft crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. D.C.’s Metro service had been canceled, and everyone was scrambling to move away from the business district ahead of another anticipated terrorist attack. I had no choice but to take the long, solitary walk home.

I had not rewalked that path since retiring a decade ago. Until Sunday, September 13, Grandparent’s Day, this energetic nana decided to challenge herself, to see if I could still go the distance. My purpose was twofold. I had been yearning to visit the area north of Lafayette Square (nicknamed the President’s Park) since June 5, 2020. On that day, hundreds of demonstrators turned out to protest the murder-by-cop of George Floyd. Later, the defiant D.C. mayor renamed the block Black Lives Matter Plaza.

A longtime history buff, I wanted to visit the area and feel the history. To walk the path and stand on the spot where the late Congressman John Lewis made his last public appearance on June 7, five weeks before his death.

So at 7 a.m. Sunday, my daughter and I leave my home and trek over to Carton Baron. From there, we head south. I’ve lived all my life in Chocolate City, and the scenic, tree-lined 16th Street, bordered by nicely manicured lawns, clean sidewalks, and charming houses, has always been my favorite thoroughfare.

Sixteenth Street runs north-to-south in a straight line. If you start at Eastern Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland, and go south, you’ll pass picturesque homes, the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Rock Creek Park, and Carter Baron. Also along the way are several foreign embassies, including the Embassy of the Republics of the Congo, Cambodia, Lithuania, and Angola.

Near the halfway point of our excursion, we stop briefly in Malcolm X Park. I’ve loved that place since I was a teenager and used to visit there occasionally with my friends. Also known as Meridian Hill Park, the property sits across the street from Howard University’s Meridian Hill Hall. The Hall was one of Howard’s dorms until the building was sold in 2016. The developer plans to convert it to rental housing.

Continuing downtown, we pass Scott circle. Mounted in its center is the equestrian statue of Civil War General Winfield Scott. A short distance away, on the right-hand side of the street, the National Geographic Museum stands temporarily closed. Its windows boarded-up since the George Floyd protests. We go a few more blocks and 90 minutes after we started our trip, we cross K Street and arrive at Black Lives Plaza.

At the entrance of the plaza, on the right-hand side at the corner of 16th & K, stands the Regis Hotel. (Decades ago, when I worked in a government affairs office in the building directly across the street, it was called the Sheraton-Carlton.)

As I stand there, reminiscing, I remember spring 1991. I am watching from the fourth-floor window as Queen Elizabeth and her security detail exit the hotel, climb into her motorcade and drive away. How thrilling, I think at the time, I’ve seen the queen. She was in town then, visiting President George H.W. and Barbara Bush. I later learned that the queen also toured some areas of the city with Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon and other locals.

It was that same window that I rushed to one morning about a year later, after hearing screams coming from outside. I looked down to see a young woman who I later learned worked for Xerox, being dragged beneath the back wheel of a box truck. Pedestrians screaming and gesturing eventually caught the attention of the oblivious driver, and he stopped the truck a few feet beyond the entrance of our building. Paramedics rushed to the scene and extracted the women from beneath the truck. She survived. News reports revealed that the truck driver, who had numerous prior driving violations and was subsequently fired, said he had not seen the woman when she stepped off the curb.

My old workplace building has a new facade and now houses P.J. Clarke’s restaurant. Posted in front of the structure, to the left and right of the double doors, are two large Black Lives Matter signs. Nearly every building on that block and several nearby have signs of assorted shapes and sizes displaying the same persuasive message.

On the same side as the Regis, at the opposite end of the block at H Street, is the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Police cars stationed at both ends of the block restrict vehicles from entering.

There are only about a dozen people in the plaza. In front of the building alongside the Regis, four or five young people are seated in a semi-circle in what appears to be folding lawn chairs. They look as relaxed as if they are socializing in their living room. I wonder if they are some of the numerous activists who participate in the protests that have been ongoing intermittently since the death of George Floyd. (Continued in Part 2)

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Dating Across Political Lines

No one will ever win the battle of the sexes; there’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.”

I recently read an article where a guy said that 90 percent of females he encounters in DC are very liberal and seem to view conservative men as walking deal-breakers. When I was in the dating game (nearly 20 years ago before my current relationship), I dated men whose liberal views aligned with mine – except for two who were conservative Republicans.

Back then, I did not discriminate. If I liked a guy who asked me out, I’d date him. My radar has honed over the years, and I am more political than I’ve ever been. In these polarizing and contentious times, for the sake of my peace of mind, if I were still in the game, I would not be inclined to date across party lines. People who date across the political divide can make a relationship work – if they are willing to put in the work. I’m not. It is sometimes difficult enough to maintain a platonic friendship across party lines.

My first Republican flame was a speechwriter for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger (is one among others) to whom the quote above is ascribed. I began dating the speechwriter on the rebound, following a breakup with my then-boyfriend. After a few dates, I found that I liked the conservative guy. He was a perfect gentleman. He was smart, had a sense of humor, and I enjoyed his company. However, there were a couple of hurdles that intruded in our relationship.

Once, when we were out together, while my date was busy buying tickets I glanced at two black men who were standing about 12 feet away. I guess they were in their late 20s or early 30s. I couldn’t avoid noticing the hateful expression on the face of the one with his arms crossed whose eyes were throwing darts at me. He and the guy who was with him were both wearing black berets. While he was giving me the cold stare-down, I overheard some of his snide comment to the fellow standing beside him. “That sister other there dating a white guy. Ought to be ashamed.” That was in the I’m-black-and-I’m-proud 1970s. Society was moving toward being racially progressive on interracial relationships, but it had not progressed to where it is now. For the next few seconds, I ignored him, until my date and I continued on our way and they went theirs.

Our second tension was more personal. It occurred one evening while we were watching an episode of Roots. The character Kizzy’s master was selling her away from her family for something that she did (I don’t remember what it was) and boyfriend commented that some masters were good to their slaves. Well, Jumping Jehoshaphat! Whether that statement was true or not wasn’t the issue. It was simply the wrong thing said at the right time. Our argument that occurred as a result of that episode wasn’t what led to our break up. We eventually smoothed things over, but I decided to get back with the guy that I broke up with before I got involved with the speechwriter.

The other Republican I dated was black like me. But if you heard him talking smack and couldn’t see him, you wouldn’t know it. He was in the entertainment business and very political. It was difficult enough trying to stomach his political views, but I wholeheartedly resent people who constantly berate members of their own racial group. His arrogance wore me down. It doesn’t matter if the intra-racial bashing is for someone’s job, their political party or because they are blinded by self-hate, in my opinion, constantly stereotyping and denigrating your own racial group does nothing to enhance your image. It makes you look bad. I don’t care whether your viewpoint is due to envy, feelings of superiority or because you think that you are economically and socially better off than other people. Don’t let it go to your head. Life is like a giant sliding board. You can be up at the top one day and down on the ground the next. It doesn’t matter if someone is high on the corporate ladder or picking up trash on the street if a person is out here trying to make an honest living then don’t negate him or her. Actions and deeds aside, as human beings, none of us is better than the other. I strongly dislike seeing black people put other black people down and I view racial animosity with more disdain than partisan animosity. My compassion compass with Republican #2 was not in synch. Thankfully, that pseudo-relationship crashed and burned.

When it comes to mixed-partisan relationships, evidence abounds that Democrats and Republicans have a hard time making relationships work. To the contrary, a high-profile couple, political strategist James Carville and his wife, media personality Mary Matalin are one example of an inter-political relationship that is working. According to USNews.com Martin had this to say about that, “That we disagree on policy was tough, but it’s not one of those deal-breakers. We’re very practical in our local politics, and we’re philosophically opposed on the role and scope of government, but we love each other.”

 

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Voting. Just Do It — or Don’t

“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” Certainly, some folks would agree with that statement by Mark Twain. It has been over a week now since the mid-term election and the recounts are ongoing.

A middle-aged friend of mine has no qualms about saying that she has never voted and never will. Lest you think that she is uninformed about the voting process, she is not. She is very intelligent and highly educated on many subjects. Were you to talk with her, she would tell you that this country’s prolonged history of injustices against so-called minority citizens is the reason that she refuses to participate in many traditions and practices, voting included. She and I agree on numerous things, but voting is not one of them.

I am hooked on politics like weed-heads on pot, and I enjoy spending time listening to spin doctors and pundits discuss all things political. The hottest topic of late concerns suspected manipulation, suppression, and alleged voter fraud in the recent mid-term election that is prompting recounts in various places around the country. Some folks wonder, how can we trust to have a fair election process under a leader who has shown himself to be unethical and morally bankrupt especially when he implies that he supports some of the unscrupulous candidates and at every opportunity reiterates that the Democrats are trying to steal the election? Nevertheless, I feel that not voting would be to dishonor people who sacrificed much and in some cases gave their lives, to ensure that every US citizen regardless of their skin color, culture or ethnicity would have the right to vote.

When I think of people who made the ultimate sacrifice, Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Viola Liuzzo immediately come to mind. Because of them and numerous other victims who suffered for the cause, I must vote. And I suggest that anyone who is tired of hearing the constant refrain “people died so that we could vote” might benefit from viewing Katylin Joy’s list of well-known and unsung heroes of the civil rights era in her disturbing collection of 10 Forgotten Martyrs of the American Civil Rights Movement.

When it comes to voting at the federal, state and local levels, a common argument is “there’s no reason for me to vote. My ballot won’t decide the election.” Also frequently heard from reluctant voters during the presidential election is the excuse that “the electoral college decides the winner” so why should I bother?  While some political scientists and well-informed citizens support the continuation of the Electoral College, the popular public opinion indicates that many Americans favor abolishing it. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. As with most significant processes, there are rules concerning the voting system which are determined by the Constitution. Anyone who wants to learn more about the Electoral College and its pros and cons can gain understanding by reading two books written by someone much smarter than I. The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule and The Enlightened Democracy, were both written by Electoral College expert, retired lawyer and writer Tara Ross.

In two years, the presidential election will present another opportunity for citizens to vote. And if you choose not to vote because you dislike the candidates, lack confidence in the system or just don’t care, ponder this — not voting can itself be a way of voting. George Jean Nathan says it even better, “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”

 

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Claws

Woman stop talking hand gestureI was one of an estimated 500,000 participants in the Women’s March that took place in Washington, DC on January 17th. Sister marches occurred in cities across the country and around the world. Women of every culture and ethnic group participated. Sisterhood was evident. The mood was intoxicating. There were some men there supporting us, too. But this isn’t about the men. It’s about us. Women.

In addition to appearing to enjoy the camaraderie, every woman who I encountered was polite and pleasant, even when we were so crushed together that we were stepping on each other’s toes. I’m not a novice to rallies and marches, but I’ve been riding the natural high of the Women’s March ever since that day. Then, recently as I was chatting with a male friend of mine, he burst my bubble by stating what I already knew.

He did not bite his tongue when he said that the irony of the situation is that some of those same women were “Perpetrating. Hypocrites and haters.” They were showing solidarity with their “sisters” but would soon be back at work or going about their everyday activities, and then the claws will come out. “They will be bad-mouthing, mean-eyeing, back-stabbing and hating on” other women. Ouch! Women know that this stuff goes on, but you feel so transparent when hit with the naked truth by a man. So as much as I wanted to disagree with him, I didn’t.

Do you wonder what makes women so cunningly (or sometimes obviously) envious and hateful toward other women? I don’t know a woman who hasn’t either been the object of clawing or has shown her own claws. It is not improbable that many women wearing those pink kitty caps during the march had their claws concealed within mittens and gloves on that chilly day.

We’ve all seen it or we’ve been IT. If an insecure woman perceives that another woman is smarter, prettier, or more popular than she, it triggers her ire and the claws come out. If she is not only an insecure but also a manipulative and controlling woman, she will do whatever she can to diminish or destroy the woman who she perceives to be her competition, her imaginary enemy. You would think that this is something you see only among immature school girls; but many grown women act just as childish.

When will women realize that your self-worth cannot be measured by someone else’s?  But your empowerment can come from being supportive of like-minded women. Face it; there will always be another woman who is prettier, smarter and depending on your personality – she may even be more likable than you.

The instinct of many of my self-confident friends and my nature is to be helpful to other women; not only in the workplace but everyday situations.

Some women refused to vote for Hillary Clinton for no other reason except that she was a woman. Oh, they made up flimsy excuses like, “You know those emails.” Or “How could she stand by her man considering ….” Truth be told some women refused to vote for Hillary simply because they envied her. Hillary had the chutzpah to get into the campaign trenches. She had the audacity to do something that – given the opportunity – some women wouldn’t or couldn’t garner the nerve to do. Women need to be supportive of each other. To do otherwise is irrational.

Author Nkem Ikeke wrote, “A lady walks into a room, and some other ladies in the room start to hate for no reason…Unlike men, women will often dislike another woman for no logical reason at all.”

Will the day ever come when women stop seeing other women as their competition? Perhaps the Women’s March was a beginning.

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Stand By Your Weiners

Some Baby Boomers may recall a few political extramarital affairs and cheating scandals that occurred in the 1960s and 70s, but it was nothing like the tidal wave of congressional bad boys washing ashore today.

In 1968, Tammy Wynette recorded the hit song Stand By Your Man. That popular tune has become an unofficial anthem for the wives (and some late wives) of adulterous politicians. Just to name a few on a list too long to print, there’s Silda and Eliot Spitzer, Elizabeth and John Edwards, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Dina Matos and Jim McGreevey, and Marie and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And the newest high profile political couple to win the Hot Dog Award is Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner.  

Last month, when it was disclosed that Weiner – no kin to Oscar Mayer – posted a nude photo on his Twitter page he immediately went into denial and then lawyered-up.

That defensive play is as smooth as a 3-move checkmate and it begs a redundant and somewhat unrelated question, “If the accused maintains innocence, why settle out of court?”

Well, Weiner recently recanted his original story, and the fact that his wife was not at his side during his press conferences was as obvious as John Boehner’s year round tan.

Could it be that the wives of high profile men are growing tired of standing stone-faced beside their mate as he lies and sometimes cries his cheating heart out in front of television cameras? One can’t help but wonder whether the public apologies and display of apparent remorse of these men is to conceal their embarrassment, secure their marriage or protect their political career.

Regardless of whether the prominent husband’s affair is with another woman or with a man, when the media gets wind of the story it spells public humiliation for both spouses. Even as the offended wife stands dutifully by her man’s side at the press conference and appears to put on a brave face for the cameras, chances are that inwardly she is in emotional turmoil, visualizing the downward spiral of her marriage, and trying to remember where she put the Washingtonian’s list of the Top 25 Divorce Lawyers.

There is nothing wrong with a wife having her man’s back. But any woman whose husband has been unfaithful can certainly feel the pain of the wives of Capitol Hill whose husband’s infidelity funded a whispering campaign.

Congressman Weiner’s pregnant wife reportedly said that she plans to continue her marriage. Nevertheless, the fact that she was a no show at her husband’s press conferencebrought enthusiastic high-fives from women who are tired of seeing the string of mistreated wives put on a united front just to help their cheating husbands save face.  Which other women did – or did not – stand by their man?

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