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What’s Going On – 5/20




CONFLICTS: A year ago, the world had a common enemy, the coronavirus pandemic. Everywhere, people were quarantined, living in the unknown about how much devastation and for how long. Today, while most nations are recovering from the pandemic, two countries, Israel and Ethiopia are engaged in war. The week-old Israeli/Palestinian conflict dominates news cycles the world over. Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza under Hamas are at war. The Palestinians have launched rockets towards Israeli sites; and the Israelis retaliate with air strikes which have resulted in deaths of civilians, women and children. The Gaza Palestinians have experienced disproportionately large numbers of fatalities. Neither side is ready to discuss a ceasefire. The intensity of the Palestinian discontent eluded Israeli intelligence. The current warfare is the result of 1) Israeli soldiers going into a holy Mosque in Eastern Jerusalem on the last day of Ramadan, interrupting their services 2) banning Palestinians youngsters from a popular gathering spot in East Jerusalem. The Biden White House says that he speaks with Israeli President Netanyahu and he speaks and Hamas leaders. Biden wants a ceasefire but cannot persuade the warring sides. Hmm. The Israeli conflict between Jews and Palestinians date back to Biblical times. The two groups are brothers, both offspring of Abraham.

The 6-month Ethiopian conflict barely gets media attention because its borders are closed by the government. A multiethnic, multicultural country, Ethiopia observes all Abrahamic religious traditions (Christianity 70%, Islam 33%, Judaism and Animism.) The Ethiopian Central government is at war with the people of the Tigray in the country’s northern region. Tigray is the cradle of Ethiopian civilization. The nation is in crisis. The conflict is a national tragedy against the Tigrayans who are the targets of carnage, ethnic cleansing, rape and starvation. Some Tigrayans escaped and are refugees in Sudan. Those left behind are being killed by Ethiopian soldiers or neighboring Eritreans who joined the killing fields. What started this conflict? The Tigrayans dominated Ethiopian government for almost 30 years until 2018. Last November, an encounter between the Ethiopian military and a Tigrayan defense group has erupted into an ethnic war. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has held that post since 2018. The Ethiopian conflict can be compared to the Israeli/Palestinian family rivalry.

AMERICA: What happened to President Biden’s nominee Kristen Clarke as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights? Last week, her Senate Judiciary Committee vote ended in deadlock, 11-11, of course along party lines. Can the nomination come out of committee so that the entire Senate can cast a vote, relying on a 50-50 split and with VEEP Kamala Harris’ vote?

Tishaura Jones was sworn in as mayor of St. Louis, Missouri on April 20, becoming the first Black woman to hold that office. She ran on a progressive platform. She was St. Louis Treasurer for 8 years after serving in state legislature.

NEW YORK: New Yorkers are in zoom fatigue trying to follow the mayoral candidates and their platforms. This week Eric Adams leads the in the polls. Wonder if it has anything to do with crime in the city. He got an endorsement from politico eminence grise Congressman Charles Rangel. Yang is running second. Scott Stringer is running third, the sex harassment accusation notwithstanding. More attention is focused on ranked choice voting which about 20% of the electorate understands. More than 20% of the voters admit that they haven’t made up their minds about their mayoral choice.


TV: Journalist Stephen Satterfield hosts a four-episode Netflix show, HIGH ON THE HOG with Dr. Jessica Harris, prolific food and culture historian/author. Show is based on Harris’ book of the same title, published in 2011, which explores how African American cuisine has transformed America. The show’s launch date is May 26.
Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, set in antebellum America, circa 1850, is a story about a physical railroad to freedom, employed by enslaved Africans, has been adapted to film by Amazon Prime, in a 10-part series, directed by MOONLIGHT creator Barry Jenkins. Series began streaming on May 14.

THEATER: Woodie King, Jr is to Black theater what Barry Gordy is to Motown recording artists. King founded the New Federal Theatre, NFT, 50 years ago. During that time, he has been producer, director, and the guiding light for multiple plays for theater and film. The NFT was sanctuary and finishing school for scores of Black actors, playwrights, directors, many of whom are household names in theater, film and television. NFT alum include Denzel Washington, Charles Fuller, Barbara Montgomery, Debbie Allen, Samuel Jackson, Ntozake Shange, Laurence Fishburne, Jackee Harry, Morgan Freeman, Anna Maria Horsford, Chadwick Boseman, and Ruby Dee. The King of American Black Theater is calling it a day and retires next month.
Phylicia Rashad, actress/director and distinguished Howard University alumna, returns to HBCU life as the Dean of Howard’s College of Fine Arts, effective July 1. Propelled to fame for her role as America’s favorite mom, Claire Huxtable on TV’s “The Cosby Show,” she won a TONY Award for her Broadway performance of “A Raisin In The Sun ” in 2004.
Vy Higginsen’s Mama Foundation For The Arts presents SING HARLEM LIVE, Episode 7, a free virtual gospel experience, starring the MFFTA teen choir, on May 23 at 4 pm ET. Registration is necessary. Log into Looped Live and go to Sing Harlem Sing or Visit SINGHARLEM.COM/LIVE

GEMINI BIRTHDAY SHOUT OUTS to Carmelo Anthony; Roslyn Woods Cabbagestalk, RN; Naomi Campbell; Ice Cube; Sandra Epps, PhD/Fine Artist; Louis Gossett; Dennis Haysbert; Lauryn Hill; Mia Destiny Horsford; Naomi Horsford; LaMar Kendrick; Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle; Aaron McGruder, writer/lecturer, cartoonist creator of The Boondocks; Mamadou Niang, TV/Film producer; Lionel Ritchie; Edgar Ridley, author of nonfiction book, “The Golden Apple: Changing The Structure of Civilization, Aftermath 3;” Octavio Spencer; Kai Sidberry; Sherry Smith, Wall Streeter; Karen Soltau, real estate/film/tv producer; Pierre Thiam, restauranteur/author; Kanye West; actress Sundra Williams; Bob Tate, Harlem grandee/griot; Franklin Thomas, former Ford Foundation President.
RIP: Political trailblazer Aurelia Greene, 86, transitioned last week. A Bronx politico, she was elected to the NYS Assembly before being named Bronx Deputy Boro Pres. During her tenure as an Assembly member (1982 to 2009), she was the first woman to Chair the Banking Committee and the first African American appointed as Speaker Pro Tempore. She served as Bronx Deputy Boro Prexy from 2009 to 2017. A Rutgers University graduate, she was married to Reverend Jerome Greene, in a loving union which produced two children. Her funeral will be held on May 20 at 9 am at the Thessalonia Worship Center, located at 941 Rev. James Polite Avenue, Bronx, NY. Homegoing services can be viewed via live stream FACEBOOK LIVE.

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