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The Legacy of Gabriel García Márquez


New America Media, Raymond L. Williams

Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, the inventor of the mythical town he called “Macondo,” has passed away at the age of 87. Journalists loved him for his ability to spontaneously produce catchy one-liners in interviews. The general reading public adored him for his entertaining and engaging stories so related to their own real experience. Academics have been fascinated to speculate on the meaning of such oddities as abundant yellow butterflies, old men with inexplicably long wings, or the very best definition of his trademark “magic realism.” As an academic who decided in the 1970s to launch a career researching the unlikely and then relatively obscure subject called “Colombian literature,” I always benefited from the anchor of at least one accomplished Colombian writer widely recognized beyond that nation’s borders.

Who was this man whose “Macondo” seems so exotic yet at the same time so close to so many lives?

My first image of the writer dates back to when the then 48-year old emerged from the elevator in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel in Bogotá, October of 1975. Already rich and famous from the 1967 publication of the best-selling novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, he had just arrived from Barcelona a few months after publishing the novel The Autumn of the Patriarch. A mutual friend (the Colombian critic from Barranquilla Néstor Madrid-Malo) had arranged for me to meet the writer in the hotel lobby, where I was immediately struck by the stark contrast between everyone else in that lobby—wearing elegant dark suits and ties—and the visibly informal García Márquez, who was wearing blue jeans and a colorful shirt. The straight-forward, no-nonsense and absolute clarity of the conversation in his room, centering on this complex novel The Autumn of the Patriarch, left a lifetime impression on me. I’ve met other accomplished creative writers in my career, but few others have approximated García Márquez in the simplicity and clarity of what was his genius: finding the magic in the things of everyday life.

r_williams_marquez_500x279Eventually, as a specialist in what was this still academically dubious field called Colombian literature, I found myself writing a book on the work of García Márquez, starting in early 1982 and then–with a stroke of serendipity—found myself finishing it on a writer now awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in late 1982. Suddenly, my book had far more relevance than might have been the case otherwise. For me, however, reading García Márquez has always been a much more satisfactory experience than writing about his work. With this writer, I tend to resist interpretation for he seems to be so over-interpreted: why not let those yellow butterflies just inhabit Macondo rather than insist on dissecting them? Struggling through that first book on the Colombian writer and reading of his work in the process, however, clarified a lot, including the following: the writing of García Márquez is really about how the common people—the pueblo of the impoverished Caribbean coast of Colombia—not only survive but find ways to live with dignity.

I do not want to simplify this writer’s complex work too much by claiming it was only about survival and dignity. This was, however, a constant theme in much of his work, and this was the feature that made the Colombian so appealing world-wide. That down-to-earth 48-year-old pre-Nobel García Márquez was a man of total integrity: he not only talked-the-talk, but he walked and wrote the talk of the supreme value of common lives and everyday things.

Over the course of an increasingly viable academic career centered on “Colombian literature,” I spoke with the post-Nobel García Márquez at the ages of 58 (in Cartagena) and 60 (in Mexico City). Now even more of a celebrity public intellectual, he was still alarmingly simple in his genius. He was one of the few writers, for example, whose speech patterns are similar to his writing style.

In a dinner conversation among writer friends in Cartagena in 1993 (age 66) he stated that the one book that he wished had written himself was Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo. Years before, he had claimed to a journalist that his best book was No One Writes to the Colonel. What these two brief novels have in common is both their brevity and the simplicity of the language.

In a complex technological, globalized and postmodern 21st century, García Márquez invited all his readers to appreciate the special qualities (or magic) of the commonplace, to revere simplicity, and to celebrate the human spirit. This attitude toward the world placed not only his work on the world map, but the entirety of a nation and its literature in the consciousness of the world community. His attitude, as well as his spoken and written words, represented a life and a writing practice of admirable integrity.

Raymond L. Williams has published books and articles on Colombian and Latin American literature.His most recent book is A Companion to Gabriel Garcia Márquez (Tamesis, 2010). He holds the title of Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Riverside. 

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Connecticut River Watershed Council to Host Earth Day Celebration


 Old Saybrook, CT  – Wondering what to do on Earth Day? The Connecticut River Watershed Council will host two easy ways to support the Connecticut River basin this Earth Day.

A three-show concert series this weekend in Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut will benefit CRWC’s annual Source to Sea River Cleanup.

Well-known musicians Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group will play three shows throughout the Connecticut River valley April 25-27 to benefit CRWC’s annual Source to Sea Cleanup. Robin and Linda’s blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country music is known from NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion and many other shows.

You can see Robin and Linda Williams perform live on Friday, April 25, 7:30pm at Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls, MA; Saturday, April 26, 7:30pm at the Pentangle Town Hall Theater in Woodstock, VT; or Sunday, April 27, 3pm at The Kate in Old Saybrook, CT.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, online at www.ctriver.org/concert or by calling800-838-3006 in NH, VT or MA or 877-503-1286 in CT. Memorial Hall tickets can also be purchased at World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield, MA, Mocha Maya’s and Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls, MA. Limited VIP tickets are available, which include refreshments with the artists before the show and premium seats.

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Whitey’s Towing Should Be Topic of Concern at Hearings on Hartford’s Parking Problems


Updated April 23, 2014, 4;00 p.m.

As part of its efforts to improve parking accommodations in downtown, Mayor Pedro Segarra and his administration recently held a kick-off meeting at the Hartford Public Library to get feedback about downtown parking. Stakeholders, including residents, business owners and visitors, were invited to give input.

Here’s our input.

For years, Whitey’s Inc. has been known for its predatory towing tactics. And year after year, the city of Hartford gives this company unconditional support by turning a blind eye to the mountain of complaints to out-of-touch politicians, who have special parking spaces at the downtown library and other compounds.

editorialbannerthumbFor years, Whitey’s would hook up people’s cars, some of which were parked legally, and towed them across town. And car owners would be charged a fee of more than $100 to retrieve each car.

For years, Whitey’s would target the most vulnerable populations in the city. And the workers seemingly relish doing so because of the company’s contract with the city of Hartford and their support from the Hartford Police Department. The company seemingly has carte blanche access to people’s cars.

 Reports of cars that were legally parked and then got towed have been mounting over the years. And Whitey’s still have a contract with the city.

tow_trucks_003On March 20, 2014, Whitey’s towed a 2013 Silver Subaru Impreza from a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot on Washington Street, across the street from Hartford Hospital after a Hartford Guardian editor went inside to get coffee and sat in there for about two hours before walking across the street to do business. When she returned, the car was gone.

We have done a brief survey, including checking in Avon, where the owner of that Dunkin’ Donut shop lives. And we have yet to find a these parking policies in Avon and other surrounding towns. We understand this kind of behavior if these parking lots were full to capacity by non customers, and other customers had nowhere to park. But no. In this case, the parking lot was half-empty.

But our run in, though costly, is minor in comparison to the horror stories we’ve heard over the years–since the 1990s. And if you live, work or play in Hartford, you’ve been a victim. Or you have friends who were victims of Whitey’s and the company’s tactics. Most of these victims, unfortunately, are black people.

There are also cries of racism when these victims interact with the all-white, working class drivers at—gosh darn it–Whitey’s. They are known to prey on Hartford residents and visitors with its “trespass tow” spiel.

A casual survey of the Better Business Bureau’s site on the number and nature of complaints about Whitey’s and the company’s attitude toward customers who shop in downtown and other parts of the city cannot go unnoticed.

One woman wrote a detailed report of her painful ordeal with Whitey’s. And like many other victims of this particular company, she felt targeted. She writes: “I am writing this complaint because I was treated horribly and possibly discriminated against.”

How many more complaints does the city need to take decisive action? Why is this contract in place for so long to further oppressed already oppressed people? And why are these towing policies by Dunkin’ Donuts only in Hartford?

These and more questions should be addressed soon, Mayor Segarra. The city can find the issues laid out in the mountain of complaints that already exists.

Otherwise, the city’s gesture will only serve as a pretense to assuage the latest victims.

So before the city spends thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns that invite people to shop downtown, it should focus on making sure they can park without worrying about their cars being towed if they cross the street to visit another shop or business.

Who wants to get into a car to drive across the street–just to do business? Think about it.

If city officials really care about people’s concerns about parking downtown or other parts of Hartford, it would seek first to end its relationship with companies such as Whitey’s.

Seriously.

Photo: Wethepeople.com

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10 Hartford Stereotypes That Are Completely Accurate


By Erika Zane, Movoto.com

1. In Hartford, UConn Is Not A College–It’s A Lifestyle Choice…

hartford-stereotypes-hartford-guardianSource: Flickr user JTommaselli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone knows that UConn students dominate Hartford-it’s the closest city to UConn’s main campus in Storrs and also is home to UConn Hartford, UConn Business School, and UConn Law school. Plus, the UConn Huskies men’s and women’s basketball teams regularly play games at the Hartford XL Center. Basically, Hartford is UConn country, so don’t be alarmed when you hear a random person in the street yelling: “UCONN,” followed immediately by someone screaming back, “HUSKIES”.

2. Hartfordites Are Drunk, Rowdy, And Often Embarrassing Frat Boys…

Hartford Stereotypes

Source: Flickr user Clinton Steeds

Despite what you may have heard, UConn Spring Weekend is still a thing–there’s just no stopping it. Instead of taking place on the Storrs Campus, however, the party has moved 20 minutes South to Hartford. And Hartfordites (a.k.a The UConn students who overtake Hartford) know how to party.

Sometimes we’re even a bit too rowdy for our own good. And I’m not the first to say it: Dave Chappelle actually condemned the city of Hartford after having to walk off stage during a comedy routine at Hartford’s Comcast Center. The drunk, rowdy crowd just couldn’t keep it together long enough to actually hear the show. Yeah. Not our finest moment, people.

3. Or They’re Geeky Number Crunchers

Hartford Stereotypes

Source: quickmeme.com

If you live in Hartford and you’re not a rowdy UConn student, you’re probably an actuary. Hartford is the insurance capital of the world, and this stereotype defines the city. Driving through Hartford, you’re overwhelmed by the skyline of insurance buildings. Practically everyone and their mother works for an insurance company-Aetna, United, Travelers.

Basically, in Hartford, no one’s afraid to jump off a roof because they’re all 1) skilled enough in probability to know whether or not they will die from the jump and/or 2) They are covered under extremely extensive health/life/car/any-other-insurable-thing-you-can-think-of insurance plans so they simply do not care.

4. Hardfordites Never Miss A Chance To Demonstrate Their Right To Assemble

Hartford Stereotypes

Source: Flickr user ragesoss

Hartford is nicknamed the “Heartbeat” for a reason: the people of Hartford run Connecticut politically and have put on some of the largest political demonstrations in the state. It is the state capitol, after all, so the city attracts a lot of activists, hippies, politicians, and others who will not be silenced!

5. Hardfordites Like Totally Crush On Obama <3 <3 <3

Hartford Stereotypes

According to citydata.com, 95 percent of people voted for President Obama on the 2012 presidential election in Hartford. Yes, you read that correctly: 95 percent. That’s a lot of Hartford citizens voting democrat! And it definitely influences the culture of Hartford: Obama paraphernalia is pretty much everywhere you look. So if you lean right, perhaps Hartford isn’t the place for you.

6. Hardfordites Ride Or Die For The Red Sox

Hartford Stereotypes

Source: Flickr user Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Connecticut is known for being filled with pinstriped wearing, Jeter loving, straight-up diehard Yankee fans. However, while the Yankees may have the allegiance of Connecticut as a whole, the Red Sox have won the hearts of Hartfordites. A higher percentage of Red Sox fans live in Hartford compared to other Connecticut cities, making the state capitol a safe-haven for Boston fans.

7. Hardfordites Are Still In Mourning Over The Hartford Whalers

Hartford Stereotypes

Source: quickmeme.com

Everyone remembers going to see the Hartford Whalers as a kid-it was epic. And now they’re gone. And none of us can let it go. Sigh. The Hartford Whalers used to be an NHL team based in Hartford (and CT’s only professional sports team), but they left the state several years ago. People have petitioned and rallied and started FB pages called, “Bring back the Whalers”-but, to no avail. Most cities would let it go. But Hardford never will. I guess that makes them Hartford …. OK, moving on.

8. Hardfordites Live On A Steady And Oh-So-Tasty Diet Of Paella And Pasteles

Hartford Stereotypes

Source: Flickr user bluepoppy6

Approximately 44 percent of Hartfordites are Puerto Rican, making Hartford the city with the second largest Puerto Rican population in the Northeast. The culture of Hartford is definitely influenced by Puerto Rican food, music, and dance. So if you don’t like paella and pasteles, you should probably move.

9. Hardfordites Are Your Worst Nightmare Behind The Wheel

Hartford Stereotypes

Driving through Hartford is every Connecticut resident’s worst fear. It has been theorized that, when designing I-84 through Hartford, the city management wanted it to closely resemble hell. Not an exaggeration. And, let’s be honest with ourselves, Hartford has some crazy drivers. Because the state is sandwiched between New York and Massachusetts, we really are a mixture of the worst of both stereotypical drivers. They drive 60 mph in the left lane and Will. Not. Let. You. Pass. But they also will not hesitate to run you over–”pedestrian right of way”? Pssh, ain’t nobody got time for that.

10. Hartford Is Tougher Than Any Other Connecticut City–If You Have A Problem With It, We Can Take It Outside

Hartford Stereotypes

Source: Flickr user Ninja M.

Hartford is full of people who don’t take “no” for an answer, who will stand up for their beliefs at all cost, and who won’t put up with any crap. While it’s true that CT is the wealthiest state in the country, it’s important to note that not everyone is rolling in dough here. Connecticut has immense economic diversity with many of its residents living below the poverty line, particularly in the big cities, and Hartford is no exception to this.

This hasn’t brought the city down: we’ve withstood a lot of hardship, and we pride ourselves as a “come-up” city. We are the heartbeat of Connecticut, after all–the UConn-yelling, statistics-analyzing, Obama-lovin’, Paella-eating, butt-kicking, heartbeat.

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EEOC Report: Number of Discrimination and Harassment Complaints in Connecticut Increase


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD  – While other areas of the nation saw a significant decrease in workplace harassment and discrimination complaints, the number of complaints in Connecticut has increased, according to a 2013 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Connecticut workers filed 294 harassment and discrimination charges in 2013, a six percent increase over the previous year.

Experts say Connecticut’s spike in discrimination and harassment in the workplace might be misleading. There may be many more cases than reported.

“Although the numbers indicate that there is a decline in some states, we can not be remiss to notice that the numbers are still high in many areas.  There have been some significant climbs such as in the state of Connecticut,” said Isaura Gonzalez, a licensed Clinical Psychologist in New York. “These numbers might also not be truly indicative of the greater problem at hand because many employees chose to handle the situation by not making complaints and removing themselves altogether from the situation.”

According to the EEOC website, any form of discrimination and harassment in employment violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. These kinds of harassments include “unwelcome behavior that is severed and pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile and abusive environment.” And if they are based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, these behaviors violate federal laws.

hartfordguardian-Connecticut-H&D-Stats-Although discrimination and harassment in employment are prohibited by law, the number of complaints have been increasing since it was first implemented. The categories with the most complaints in 2012 was race/color and disability. Age and gender follow respectively,  according to the state’s five-year report. Retaliation for filing complaints is also significant.

The state’s increase is unlike other parts of the nation, which saw a decrease in workplace harassment and discrimination. And because the economy is still fighting its way back from the Great Recession in 2007, experts say some employees may have opted to stay put and stay silent about discrimination and workplace bullying.

“It is no secret that in difficult economic times, employees tend to stay at their jobs, even if they experience harassment or workplace bullying.  When things get bad enough, they file complaints with the [Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunity agency] CHRO,” said Bloomfield Attorney Shawn Council. “A decade or two ago, harassed and bullied workers would change jobs but not now. They cannot do so as easily.  Instead they sue for peace of mind, an end to the harassment/bullying and perceived future workplace stability.”

Others say the spike in Connecticut’s number of complaints could be a false positive. That’s because as more people become aware that there is recourse and that protections are available, they feel safer speaking up.

“In the past too many
 people were afraid to even say anything if they were being harassed for
fear of making things worse,” said Walter Meyer, author of the novel Rounding Third and a nationally recognized anti-bullying advocate, which delves into the issue of bullying and suicide. “Without more research it would be hard to say 
if what appears to be a spike in occurrences is really just an increase in
reporting.”

Meyers added that 
sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference among bullying, harassment and
 discrimination. But in many cases, the nature of the harassment is undeniable.

“If someone is being bullied because they are gay or black
 or a woman, it can cross the line to all three,” he said. “In most states, including
 Connecticut, there are clearer protections from harassment or
 discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation and other 
factors.”

Tara Fisher is a conflict resolution specialist based in New York. She said bullying doesn’t always end on the playground and employers can learn how to recognize and eliminate workplace bullying. In her article on how to mitigate workplace bullying, she points out the nuances of different workplace bullying cases, saying:

“Workplace bullies are a very real 
and common drain on productivity and morale in many companies. 
In fact, according to a 2010 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35 
percent of workers have experienced bullying firsthand. Men and women are 
culprits as well as victims. Sixty-eight percent of bullying is same-gender 
harassment. When women are the bullies, they target other women in 80 
percent of cases.”

Fisher also said that workplace bullies may humiliate targets, spread rumors or gossip, or in 
extreme cases, stalk or threaten targets.

And much like children and teens, Fisher said, adult bullies also 
may recruit other adults who prefer to be friends rather than foe with bullies. These complicit observers will also support the bully’s efforts to harm targets, thus further 
isolating victims.

Many experts agree with Fisher, saying discrimination, harassment and bullying can have a significant and lasting impact on the victims and on their employers. Victims’ health and work performance suffer. They may have health problems such 
as headaches, difficulty concentrating, depression, and sleep and anxiety 
issues.

Also, victims may 
fear meetings, office activities or even going to the workplace. So their work 
performance often suffers.

According to Jimmy Lin, Vice President of Product Management & Corporate Development at The Network discrimination and harassment continue to rise in the workplace because of the lack of proper training companies provide employees. Too often, companies just hand employees a 200-page book about code of conduct and do little or no other training.

Technology has also added another dimension to the discrimination and harassment, and the number of cyber bullying among adults have also increase and complicated the nature of work in America. Connecticut businesses and other organizations, he said, could turn this trend around by having more training in place.

“Preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace needs to start with a solid policy. Managers also need to know how to deal with these issues and when to escalate them,” Lin said. “Incidents are often buried by middle managers who do not respond properly or by the time issues escalate, are afraid to get additional help from above. A comprehensive workplace harassment training program needs to include periodic education and ongoing awareness communications – it can’t be viewed as a “once and done” exercise.”

 

 

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Trinity College Taps Katie Couric for 2014 Commencement


HARTFORD – Katie Couric, the host of Katie, a daily syndicated daytime talk show, and Yahoo News global anchor will be the featured speaker at Trinity’s 188th Commencement on May 18.

An award-winning journalist and TV personality, Couric is also a devoted cancer research advocate, documentary film producer and author of The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives.

Couric served as a special correspondent for ABC News, contributing to ABC World News, Nightline, 20/20, Good Morning America, This Week, and primetime news programs from August 2011 to December 2013.

katie-couricHer steady rise in television news occurred over a 15-year span as she co-anchored NBC News’s Today and became the first solo female anchor of a national nightly news broadcast as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. At CBS News, Couric also contributed segments to 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning and primetime specials.

In addition to her TV career, Couric authored The New York Times bestseller, The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives.

A tireless advocate for cancer research and awareness, Couric is a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), an organization that has raised nearly $200 million to accelerate research and get new therapies to patients more quickly. 

Photos Courtesy of AllVoices.com

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Christians Celebrate the Hope we have in the Easter Message


By Glenn Mollette, Contributor

Unfortunately, millions of Americans are faintly holding on. They are holding on to the instilled American dream they saw in grandpa or even mom and dad. It’s about the attainable dream of living securely with a job, a house, a car and trips to the grocery store. Don’t forget a trip to the doctor when necessary. Many Americans can remember people in their family retiring at 55 – 65 years old. Those ages seemed old then but not so old today.

glen mollettIn the middle of today’s political chaos, government shutdowns and the national finger-pointing blame game, many Americans keep hoping. Years ago many of us were instilled with belief, faith, hope and dreams. We were taught that you don’t give up. We heard, “When the the-hartford-guardian-Opiniongoing gets tough, the tough get going.” We heard about independence, liberty and that eventually with enough work, faith and focus life would settle in and work out.

We heard about the power of people helping people, the great United States of America and that all things with God are possible. Today, many see our country as a place of “me-ism.” Fewer people are confident that we can count on our government leaders to make wise choices and to look out for the people. While mega churches are flourishing thousands of churches have closed their doors due to lack of interest.

America is more desperate today than we’ve been in a long time. Overall, America is desperate for government leadership to stop fighting and do something. We’re tired of hearing about the evil Democrats and the hypocritical Republicans. We’re tired of the unemployment numbers and hungry Americans living in the streets. We’re weary of worrying if there is any future for our children. We don’t want another ten- year trillion dollar war that we can’t afford and takes the lives of our innocent children and parents. We just want to get past all of this mess, but it never ends and is ever growing.

This week there is a shining example of someone who taught us about hope and making a real difference. He went more than the second mile, helped others, cared for the sick and the poor and actually had some very wealthy friends. His name is Jesus. He was a friend of sinners, loved people and humbled himself even unto death. His life changed our world. He was a problem solver and a grave conqueror.

Sadly, America must hope and pray this Easter that our political leaders might become what we elected them to be – servants of the people. They are not servants but they are supposed to be. Our entire planet, from Vladimir Putin, President Barack Obama, Kim Young-Un, Hassan Rouhani to all of us caught in the crossfire, could turn our planet around if we would all become more like the one man who Easter is about.

Glenn Mollette is an American columnist and author.  Contact him at GMollette@aol.com.   Like his facebook page atwww.facebook.com/glennmollette.

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Author and Activist Kevin Powell to Keynote Luncheon


HARTFORD — Author and activist Kevin Powell will be the guest speaker at Passing the Torch Luncheon: Faith vs. Fear event at Central Connecticut State University on May 17.

The Brooklyn native is one of the most acclaimed political, cultural, literary, and hip-hop voices in America today. He was born and raised by a single mother in Jersey City, New Jersey and is a long-time resident of Brooklyn, New York.

thHe is the author of 11 books, including Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays. A fixture on the pop culture landscape the past several years, Kevin was a cast member on the first season of MTV’s “The Real World”; has hosted and produced programming for HBO and BET; written a screenplay; hosted and wrote an award-winning MTV documentary about post-riot Los Angeles (“Straight From The ‘Hood”).

Walk Worthy Brands was founded by Daemond Benjamin, a native of Hartford, CT to promote positivity and empowerment among men of color in the Greater Hartford community. The premise for Walk Worthy Brands derives from Ephesians 4:1 “I, therefore, prisoner of the Lord, beseech thee to walk worthy of the vocation of which you were called.”

Walk Worthy Brands encourages individuals to live a life of purpose, determination and upliftment. The Passing the Torch Luncheon is an effort to encourage young people to be the best they can be, by celebrating exemplary models of the best of our tradition.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. For tickets contact: Daemond Benjamin walkworthybrands@gmail.com and/or 860.881.8594. Tickets are also available at: www.walkworthybrands.com/events.

 

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Choose One America: Obamacare or Reparations


By Ann-Marie Adams

With only one day left to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, opponents are still removing logic and common sense from arguments that tout the ACA as unsound. Basically, they don’t want to subsidize insurance premiums for Americans on the government exchange.

This debate, seen as another attempt to gut the law, comes weeks after the Congressional Budget Office released a report that says the ACA, or Obamacare, would nix 2.3 million jobs. According to some, this would shake the foundation of the American economy.  Most recently, a divided federal appeals judge said it was “an unmitigated disaster.”

Really?

Dr_AnnMarie_AdamsBefore we move into hyperbole, we should examine the drawn-out brouhaha (more than 50 attempts to repeal it) over the ACA in an uncomfortable context.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionThe health care law, otherwise known as Obamacare, allows uninsured people—mostly poor whites, the elderly and people of color—access to health insurance. The main arguments against it are that universal healthcare—found in other developed countries, is too costly for America—the richest nation on the planet. And Americans will become lazy and work less because they have access to healthcare.

Sounds ludicrous? It is.

But I would urge some opponents of universal healthcare to consider the life of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman whose cells were taken without her consent and then used to develop cures for polio, vitro fertilization and other vital scientific breakthroughs in science.

This fascinating topic was recently discussed at the Avon Free Public Library. Two of the Lacks family members participated in the discussion. The series offered an opportunity to explore not just health, ethics and race but the healthcare industry itself.

For more than 60 years, the healthcare industry made billions from Lacks’ cells. And today the Lacks family still wonders why their mother’s immortal cells did so much for science, and they can’t afford health insurance. After all, some in the Lacks family argue, their mother’s He-La cells benefited “the whole world and all they got was her Bible and medical records.”

The story of Henrietta Lacks’ immortal cells is both amazing and unsettling. And the question of how race played into her healthcare is not difficult for some of us to answer. That’s because we know that race is a central theme in America. And it is well established that race affects healthcare delivery and outcomes.

This is not an attempt at what some people would call “race hustling.” It’s about highlighting certain facts in American history. I’m aware that many Americans have not studied U.S. history. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us who did should acquiesce to them.

Consider this: In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins took slices of the woman’s tumor and decided to grow them, so he could “figure out the causes of cancer.” This is long after doctors found a dime-size tumor on her cervix. They kept sending her home until she protested and begged for admittance, so she could be treated. By then, her body was riddled with cancer.

UnknownThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a book based on the Lacks family, details the encounter.  And people are rightfully asking whether this family is owed something for thier contribution to humankind. This is a good conversation to have amid the tired healthcare debate over whether to repeal Obamacare.

I think giving access to healthcare for the Lacks family and others in similar situations should be favorable over reparations. At least, this is one way of looking at it. Or perhaps it’s time Americans opposed to Obamacare choose: universal healthcare or reparations?

Some would argue for both.

Interestingly and ironically, the same argument used for not paying reparations has been used in the Lacks family’s case. Many are quick to offer statements and questions like: It’s impossible to calculate how much money is owed. Those who did the crime did their time on earth and died. And who would pay?

In both cases, the consequences of those past actions by individuals and institutions still linger. The Lacks story, among many, illustrates the need for universal healthcare in America.

Americans should consider universal healthcare as a human rights issue, or think of universal healthcare as payback for all the historical wrongs done not just to the Lacks family for “the good of humankind” but to all those other wrongs done in the name of science.

The most famous one in public memory is the Tuskegee Syphilis study, which began in 1932 and ran until 1972. In this study, the United States Public Health Service conducted an experiment in watching black men died from syphilis. The doctors didn’t tell these men they had syphilis. And they didn’t get healthcare. This story, like many, illustrates black oppression and medical neglect.

The Tuskegee case is more prominent, however, because it happened to black men. But there are other lesser-known atrocities, which happened to black women. Besides the Lacks case, we have the notorious J. Marion Sims, the so-called father of gynecology who used enslaved African women as experimental subjects.

These stories are known because the records exist. And unless we want to have more reasons to dig up America’s past medical atrocities, we should perhaps silence the chatter about repealing Obamacare.

If talk about a repeal of Obamacare persists, we should juxtapose that discussion with a public debate about reparations.

I’m so ready for that.

Dr. Ann-Marie Adams is the founder of The Hartford Guardian. Follow her on twitter @annmarieadams.

Photo: Ann-Marie Adams/The Hartford Guardian: ( l to r): Shirley Lacks, Victoria Baptiste, Dr. Robbin Smith.

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CT Legislators Approve Minimum Wage Hike to $10.10


UPDATED: Friday, March 28, 2014, 9:55 a.m.

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Connecticut will increase its minimum wage to $10.10, sealing its place in history as the first in the nation to have a minimum wage that closely matches the rate of inflation.

That’s because the state’s General Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill to increase the minimum wage in 2017.  The House’s vote was 87-54. And the Senate’s vote was 21-14.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will sign the bill on Thursday.

Support for the bill’s passage came from all quarters, including the state’s largest AFL-CIO union.

minimum-wage-hartford-ct“Raising the minimum wage will help reduce our state’s income gap — the 2nd largest in the nation — and helps us retain young workers who are on the verge of leaving the state because wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living,” said Council 4 Executive Director Sal Luciano. “Our members are excited that the Governor put forward this plan, and that the Legislature acted on it so quickly.”

Currently, the state’s minimum wage is $8.70 per hour, which when adjusted for inflation, is below the rate it was during when it was first implemented under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in 1938.

According to a recent study, about 90,000 Connecticut workers earn the minimum wage. And more than half the minimum wage earners are women. The age for the average worker is 35.

State Sen. Eric Coleman championed the passage of the bill, saying: “Working families across Connecticut will see a genuine change in their day-to-day lives as a result of the legislation we passed. Faced with the costs of housing, food, utilities, car maintenance and gasoline, our current minimum wage isn’t sufficient for many families to make ends meet. This will help our families and lift them up at a time when they need it most. We can be proud that Connecticut is leading the way on this issue.”

The state’s legislative move comes after Malloy’s campaign and President Barack Obama visited Connecticut on March 5 to push for a nation-wide increase of the minimum wage.

In a statement to the press, Obama said: “I hope Members of Congress, governors, state legislators and business leaders across our country will follow Connecticut’s lead to help ensure that no American who works full time has to raise a family in poverty, and that every American who works hard has the chance to get ahead.”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch agreed.

“Increasing the minimum wage will not only help more families make ends meet in Bridgeport, but will serve as a catalyst for economic mobility by putting additional resources in the hands of hard-working consumers.”

Some Republicans balked at the idea of raising the minimum wage, saying a raise would curtail hiring and retard job growth.  The GOP bolstered their claim after a Congressional Budget Office released a report that says America would lose about 2 million jobs.

An author of the report has since said others have misinterpreted the report. And the Obama administration has vigorously refuted that claim.

Furthermore, many small and large businesses support the minimum wage increase, according to a Bloomberg poll.

Similar proposals are being considered in, among other states,  Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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