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raceAhead: Michelle Obama and the Power of Black Motherhood

The Democratic National Convention had a big job to do last night, and the results were mixed at best.

In addition to rallying enthusiasm for a nominee, Hillary Clinton, who remains a disappointing second choice for many voters and delegates, the Democratic National Committee had to own the mess created by the more than 19,000 hacked emails which seemed to confirm that some party operatives had favored Clinton all along.

From the amount of weeping by supporters during Senator Sanders’s speech, it’s all going to take some time.

But the night belonged to Michelle Obama, who framed her support for Mrs. Clinton in no uncertain terms. “This election — every election — is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of our lives. And I am here tonight because in this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility — only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be President of the United States. And that is our friend, Hillary Clinton.”

Mrs. Obama’s unwavering presence as a mother who cares about the needs of all children – from nutrition and food insecurity to education and beyond – has been one of the more poignant aspects of her role as first lady. The optics have been magnificent. From her speech: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughter, two beautiful intelligent black young women, play with the dog on the White House lawn.”

Michelle Obama also comes from a long American tradition of black women, often mothers, who use any platform that comes their way to bring attention to the issues that will make a difference for others. Even if that platform carries a tragedy along with it.

Tonight, Mothers of The Movement, a group of seven women who lost children to violence – four after encounters with the police – will address the convention. The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Ferguson’s Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who died after a chokehold administered by an NYPD officer, will all be there.

And here’s another poignant motherhood moment: Yesterday would have been Emmett Till’s 75th birthday. Till was only 14 when he was abducted, tortured and brutally murdered by racists in 1955, just a few years before the first black U.S. president and first lady would be born. It was an incident that helped galvanize the civil rights movement.

His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted that his horribly mutilated body be filmed for documentary purposes and later laid to rest in an open casket at a public funeral, so that he might know justice and countless others might eventually know peace. “I want everyone to see what they did to my son,” she said.

There’s a lot of gear and axe grinding in the political machine. But Till-Mobley, and the many mothers who will be speaking tonight and in the future, offers some kind of comfort that bearing witness – now, with video and on social media – is its own kind of power that cannot be ignored.


On Point

The return of American hungerAlthough by many indicators the U.S. economy is faring pretty well, there is one deeply worrisome statistic: The number of Americans who are going hungry every day. Some 14% of households are food insecure, which means some 48 million people are not getting the nourishment they need. Ned Resnikoff explores the complex web of state and federal welfare cuts and regulations that are leaving cupboards bare across the country.
The Atlantic

A conversation between black teens and police
Blair Taylor, the CEO of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, follows up last week’s  job fair with an event bringing young, black New Yorkers together with police to talk about rebuilding trust. “The first half of the meeting revolved around letting the two sides talk, releasing air from our increasingly precarious racial balloon,” he wrote. Then, he let them come up with their own solutions. An encouraging read.
New York Daily News

Trump is the candidate of poor, white people for a reason
J.D. Vance has written what appears to be an extraordinary book called Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, about growing up in poverty and chaos in Appalachia. In this lengthy interview, he discusses the reality of being overlooked, mocked, poor and white, and why candidate Trump’s specific bravado is appealing. “What many don’t understand is how truly desperate these places are,” he says. “The two political parties have offered essentially nothing to these people for a few decades.”
The American Conservative

Why schools need more teachers of color
Some 80% of public school teachers are white.  Some 50% of public school students aren’t. Does it matter?  Yes. Studies show that “minority” teachers have higher expectations of their students, while providing culturally relevant teaching and trusting relationships. They’re also able to confront cultural and racial barriers through their work. Like all workplaces, recruiting and retention remain serious issues.

Black lives matter to football programs
Alabama sports writer Joseph Goodman lobbed a challenge to the commissioner of college sport’s Southeastern Conference – and his readers-  by asking them to consider their role in in the complex racial caste system that continues in the south. “Is there anywhere else in our society where the lives of a few young black men mean more to so many white people than the end zone of an SEC football team on a Saturday in the fall?”
Alabama Media Group

The Woke Leader

Athletes using their platforms to push for social change
Carmelo Anthony took a break from his Olympic training to hold a meeting with politicians and community members about a “broken system.” He, along with Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul, took a moment at the ESPYs to support Black Lives Matter. The women of the WNBA defied threats of fines to send a similar message. College football players risked their education to boycott racist conditions at the University of Missouri. Is this activism a good thing?
ABC News

The first Latina Disney princess has arrived
The verdict, according to Latina Magazine, is a good one. Despite the fact that she is generically Latina, as in, not from a specific country, and isn’t getting a big budget film, the princess’ television series is being received as authentic, respectful and fun. The takeaway: It’s good to be represented. Thoughts? I’ll wait to hear from todo el mundo before I make up my mind.

Discussing “Yellowman”and the complexities of race
The director of Yellowman, a play about the colorism experienced by a young couple living in the South, explores the idea that light-skinned and dark-skinned black people enjoy different privileges in society. How does racism become internalized in some people? When the color of your skin determines your value, your attractiveness and your ability to be happy, the artistic possibilities are both rich and painful, she says.
The Kojo Nnamdi Show


With each day, I give thanks for the blessings of life—the blessings of another day and the chance to do something with it. Something good. Something significant. Something helpful. No matter how small it might seem. I want to keep making a difference.
—Mamie Till-Mobley