Tag Archive | "Ann-Marie Adams"

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Hartford Public Library to Hold Forum that Explores Past and Present Civil Rights Movements


Updated Dec. 2, 2012, 6:32 a.m.

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The Hartford Public Library’s annual literary feast, One Book, One Hartford, will culminate with what’s anticipated to be an electrifying forum about the murder of Emmett Till, which helped spark the 20th-century Civil Rights Movement in the American South.

Organizers say the discussion will explore the past and present civil rights movements, more specifically how much progress America has made since the terrible tragedy occurred in 1955.

Entitled “Where Are We Now?: The Past and Present of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement,” the two-hour discussion will be on Monday, Dec. 3. with an hour of questions and answers. It will be held in the Center for Contemporary Culture auditorium on the first floor of the Downtown Hartford Public Library at 500 Main St. Light refreshments will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The discussion will begin at 6 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Confirmed panelists represents a cross section of the Greater Hartford community: Hartford NAACP Executive Director Mohammed Ansari; Senior Pastor of Faith Congregational Church, Rev. Stephen W. Camp, University of Connecticut Professor Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar; Hartford Youth Activist Yusef Kardulis; American Civil Liberties Union, Hartford Chapter Executive Director Sandra Staub. See flyer here.

The five-member panelists will be moderated by The Hartford Guardian Founder, Ann-Marie Adams.

The discussion will center on this year’s book, A Wreath for Emmett Till, written by University of Connecticut Professor, award-winning Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson.

The book, which garnered a Robert Frost Award, is actually comprised of interlinked sonnets.  A sonnet is a fourteen-line rhyming poem in iambic pentameter ( meaning it’s sing songy). Critics said A Wreath for Emmett Till gives us this martyr’s wreath, woven from a little known but sophisticated form of poetry, and challenges us to speak out against modern-day injustices, to “speak what we see.”

This book is also intricately laced with lines that lingers in one’s memory, such as:

Trillium, apple blossoms, Queen Anne’s lace,

Indian pipe, bloodroot, white as moonbeams,

Like the full moon, which smiled calmly on his death,

Like his gouged eye, which watched boots kick his face.

Organizers said they selected Nelson’s book not just because of its literary merit or because it’s accessible to young readers, but because of its social relevance today in light of the Trayvon Martin case, in which a 17-year old boy was shot and killed in February as he made his way home with iced-tea and skittles. Since the Martin case earlier this year, other cases have emerged.

According to a recent Washington-ABC poll, there’s a stark racial divide on the Trayvon Martin case, which riveted the nation. People across America, including Hartford, protested, marched and discussed the delayed justice for Martin.

This year’s book speaks to that theme of the long walk to justice in the black community, organizers said.

” We are doing this program because it’s been 57 years since the tragedy [of Emmett Till], and we want to explore how things have changed or have not changed,” said Hartford Public Librarian Julie Carroll. “On one hand, there is the terrible Trayvon Martin case. On the other hand there is the re-election of Barack Obama. So where are we now in terms of human rights? That’s our question.”

Adams, a recent Frank C. Munson Institute Paul Cuffe Fellow, said she is excited about that the Library chose Nelson’s award-winning book and was having this difficult but necessary discussion about race in America.

“Race is always on the table in our daily lives in New England and across the nation,” Adams said. “But many Americans tend to silence or sanction those who speak out about it, hence the fear that has paralyzed leaders in our community. Frankly, I was a bit surprised when I learned about this forum. Nevertheless,  I’m so looking forward to what seems like an intellectually robust and satiating discussion.”

The anticipated discussion, originally scheduled for Nov. 30, was rescheduled for Dec. 3 because of Tropical Storm Sandy.

A discussion guide for this year’s One Book One Hartford theme is at http://onebookonehartford.org/Discussion_Guides.shtml. Or click here.

For more information, call Julie Carroll at 860-695-6300.

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Scholar Uses Journalistic Skills to Tell Untold Stories


By Carrie Stetler, Rutgers Focus

As a journalist working in Hartford, Connecticut, Ann-Marie Adams was painfully aware that the city’s daily newspapers ignored Hartford’s thriving Caribbean-American community.

“Talk about invisibility,’’ says Adams, whose parents are from Jamaica. “But what struck me was that I didn’t cover the community either, and that’s my heritage. That’s when I took pains to know the Caribbean-American story. It’s an immigrant story that’s mostly untold.’’

Adams, a post-doctoral fellow and lecturer in the Rutgers history department, founded The Hartford Guardian, the city’s first hyper-local news website, in 2004 with personal funding and contributions from the city, foundations, and individual donors.

Back then, journalists were skeptical that news sites run with public and private grants would work, but Adams and others proved them wrong. The Guardian now gets more than 400,000 hits daily and continues to provide in-depth coverage of the city, with an emphasis on Hartford’s underserved neighborhoods, like “little Jamaica.’’

The Guardian wears its mission on its sleeve: civil rights, “responsible social policy’’ and stories that help residents access community services, according to the site’s “about’’ page.

“You’re there to advocate for your readers by serving as a watchdog in city hall and the community. That’s the job of a journalist,’’ says Adams, who will appear at a June 1 New York Times panel on Caribbean-American identity and the media.

Caribbean immigrants are hit hard by limited access to aid and information, she says.

“Not only are they marginalized from mainstream America; they are also marginalized within the black community,’’ says Adams. “Just watching them trying to navigate the system was disturbing. I could see how complicated it was for my relatives with children in the school system. They took it for granted that in America, kids would go to school and get a good education. They trusted the system to treat their children well, but found that was not always the case.’’

Adams says the election of President Obama has focused new attention on black immigrants and what it means to be African-American, a term that in some circles often refers only to descendants of American slaves.

Throughout her career, Adams has fused journalism and academic research.“I started the Hartford Guardian because I saw that as a tool for civic engagement. It’s a bridge from academia to the public,’’ she says. “With digital technology, I can connect my scholarship with underserved communities.’’

Adams is revising her dissertation for her first book, about a 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court case in which judges ruled that the state unintentionally segregated schools. The book, “Silent Cries: The Story of Sheff vs. O’Neill,” argues that Connecticut was complicit in segregation efforts by continuing to enforce regulations like an early 20th-century law that prohibited city students from crossing over municipal lines to attend suburban schools. Many other states have county school systems.

Similar laws resulted in the arrest last year of a Connecticut woman charged with “stealing’’ educational services after sending her 6-year-old son to school. Such regulations, which exacerbate Connecticut’s widening student achievement gap, are descended from so-called “black laws’’ of the 19th century, when blacks were prohibited from crossing municipal and state lines, according to Adams.

As part of her research, Adams uses her skills as a reporter to shed light on the history of Caribbean immigrants. Although they have been in the U.S. since the 17th century, their experiences have often been subsumed by the broader story of blacks in America.

“I was interviewing older people about the 1940s and 1950s and asked them what it was like in terms of racial solidarity. They said, ‘oh, we were all black back then,’’’ she says.

But the election of President Obama focused new attention on black immigrants and what it means to be “African American,’’ a term that in some circles often refers only to descendants of American slaves, Adams says.

Many Americans of Caribbean descent are now more vocal about their heritage, and it’s more common for celebrities like Nikki Minaj, who emigrated from Trinidad as a child, and Rihanna, who moved to the U.S. from Barbados, to show pride in their Caribbean roots.

“Black immigrants have realized that their own heritage has been folded into the larger African-American story, and their contributions to American society are obscured,’’ says Adams. “Now, they refuse to be silenced.”

This article was first published in Rutgers Focus magazine.

 

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Locals To CNN’s Steve Perry: Man Up


CNN’s Education Guru Faces Backyard Backlash

By Ann-Marie Adams, Op-Ed Columnist

HARTFORD, CT — CNN’s point pundit on everything education is under fire in his own backyard.

And it’s about time some people in Hartford want Perry to Man Up.

Often, I’d hear from a friend: Look, Perry is on CNN again. His and other people’s fascination with Perry was interesting for several reasons. Prime among them was Perry’s determined rise to celebrity. I figured his fame was good for Connecticut because it helped put the spotlight on Hartford.

Perry is not from Hartford, however. He skipped Middletown, CT–his hometown– and came  to help city children excel. Soon after his prominent rise, complaints began. One critic, who was unemployed, said he, unlike Perry, has “actually been a teacher inside the classroom.” And he resented that “this light-skinned man” was telling teachers what to do.

This critic also resented Perry telling black people to pull themselves up by the bootstrap. That’s because Perry seemingly wanted to ignore the more than three centuries of slavery and the complex psychological and economic impact of a draconian machine that garnered wealth for the western world.

The CNN pundit wanted parents to be on the football field cheering on their children, instead of trying to manage two part-time minimum wage jobs. He shunned the idea that parent involvement also included working to pay bills, keeping a roof over their heads and feeding their children.

More importantly, they said, Perry’s children attended Breakthrough Magnet School, the district’s Blue Ribbon school.  As a result, they argued, he knew nothing about tackling the nasty attitudes of disengaged black and white teachers, who drive from the suburbs into the city. He knew nothing about blacks dealing with Latino administrators, who have an affinity to Europhilia (the love of everything European). He knew nothing about parents who have to subject their children to teachers, who believe not all children can learn. And he knew nothing about teachers, who ignored their children to the point that one student felt compel to blurt out to a substitute teacher: “I’m not learning anything. You’re the fifth sub in four days.”

That was the argument bandied about in the community.

Then I’d say to myself: Haters.

That’s because parochial people, most of whom always make it known that they were born in Hartford, resent others coming into Hartford and succeeding, supposedly displacing their kinfolk. Perry was an outsider making a difference.

As Perry’s star rose, talks persisted. Parents complained that Perry kicked their children out of school, that Perry had a 100 percent success rate because he picked bright students, and he had fewer than 50 students graduating each year. So, they argued, it would be baffling if he had failed to graduate only a few students.

Recently, I watched the controversial 2009 CNN special that featured Perry. On the surface, his message is inspiring and instructive: You can achieve if you work hard, overcome obstacles and be persistent. However, the subtext is familiar yet disturbing: Yeah, there’s racism. But get over it.

Perry’s principal message is at the crux of the local backlash.

That’s because blacks in Connecticut have been trying to get over slavery and its long-term effects since 1638. And the state has responded by enacting laws to prevent them. Take for example the Tanya McDowell incident in Norwalk. Norwalk officials arrested the 33-year-old, homeless woman because of a law that has its genesis in the 1830s.

In April 1833 a white teacher named Prudence Crandall opened a school for black girls in wealthy Canterbury. The state responded by enacting a law that banned blacks from traveling into the state for an education. In April 2011, McDowell’s decision to put her six-year-old in the Brookside Elementary School in a high-achieving and wealthy school district exposed that lingering custom. She was arrested and charged with a felony for stealing a quality education. She faces 20 years.

Slavery and racism perfected for almost five centuries cannot be over within five decades. Today, like the 1830s, a convicted white man has a better chance of getting a job than a black college graduate with no criminal record. Black unemployment rate today is the same level as it was in the 1960s. Blacks with credit scores of 750 and a graduate degree are subjected to predatory lenders and collectors. They also face discrimmination when seeking loans and apartments.

And Perry’s Washingtonian message that blacks should get over racism has rightfully rubbed some the wrong way — as it should.

Racism is not an obstacle to get over like a hurdle on a school playground. It’s a systemic problem to confront.

Ann-Marie Adams, Ph.D. writes a bi-weekly column for the Hartford Guardian. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Hillary Clinton Launches Global Diaspora Initiative


By Anthony Advincula NAM Contributor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week announced that the state department was adding a fourth “D” to its toolbox of Diplomacy, Development and Defense: Diaspora.

Marking a historic shift in the agency’s view of global migrants, Clinton spoke at the opening of a three-day “Global Diaspora Forum” that drew over 300 invitees including The Hartford Guardian‘s own Ann-Marie Adams, a star-studded cast of international development experts, diplomats and representatives of different diaspora groups.

“You have the potential to be the most powerful people-to-people asset we can bring to the world’s table,” Clinton told a standing room only crowd at the State Department’s Loy Henderson Auditorium. “Because of your familiarity with cultural norms, your own motivations, your own special skills and leadership, you are, frankly, our Peace Corps, our USAID, our OPIC, our State Department rolled into one.”

Clinton highlighted the contributions of some 60 million Americans who last year sent over $48 billion in remittances to countries around the world. “It dwarfs any foreign aid that our government can give,” she noted.

Clinton also acknowledged that diaspora groups and individuals are the first to respond to natural disasters, economic stagnation, poverty or civil unrest overseas. “When an earthquake happens in Haiti or civil unrest begins in Tripoli or a multitude of disasters hit Japan, we hear from Americans who have roots, who have business connections, who want to know what they can do.”

Clinton was most passionate when it came to the intersection of diaspora communities and diplomacy. She pointed to the role of Irish Americans in bringing peace, at long last, to Northern Ireland. She recounted the first time she and her husband, Bill Clinton, went to Belfast, where the hotel they stayed in “had been recently bombed and windows were still boarded up.”  Because of the help of Irish Americans, the next time she went back after the Good Friday Accords, “there was 98 percent occupancy.” She noted how conflicts de-escalate when women become engaged and find common ground as wives and mothers.

The state secretary also emphasized the leadership of American diaspora communities in helping home countries in their transition to democracy.

“Many don’t know the first thing about politics…and this is where many of you can come in. We need to just get into the basics of what it means to participate in the hard and sometimes frustrating work of politics. That’s the way you get to govern in a democracy.”

As the United States grapples with difficult global challenges – whether natural disaster, war, economic recession, or terrorism – it would be impossible for it to work alone, she concluded. These challenges will only be solved by partnership with the private sector, civil society, public institutions and diaspora communities.

To that end, Clinton announced the launching of the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IDEA). “We spend a lot of time in the State Department trying to think of how we can put words together so the first letter spells something,” she joked, but she added that IDEA would engage “the whole of government.”

She ended with a call to action: “I hope you will look back on this day and really see that we started something that has just spread across the world, improving the lives of so many people, giving them the same chance that all of us have had because of this country that we love and we call home,” Clinton said.

The conference — cosponsored by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) — featured the heads of the Export-Import Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the US Trade and Development Agency, the Millenium Challenge Corporation and the International Fund for Global Development, as well as dozens of Non-Governmental Organizations and grassroots organizations. New America Media ran a special workshop on diaspora communications which featured a panel of ethnic media leaders and reporters from the Haitian Times, Al Jazeera English, Sing Tao Daily, Indian Express and ImpreMedia.

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Hartford Oral History Project Kicks Off in April


HARTFORD — The Hartford Oral History Project focusing on the essence of the Civil Rights Movement in Hartford kicked off on Friday and will run for the next three months at the University of Connecticut Greater Hartford campus.

Project Director Ann-Marie Adams and a group of students and volunteers will conduct interviews with Hartford residents who witnessed the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and the 1980s.

“Hartford was very much a part of the national Civil Rights Movement,” said Adams, a journalist and adjunct history professor.  ”The city during the Civil Rights Movement was fascinating, and this history must be explored to find meaning in the present.”

Besides building a research library for the public, these interviews will serve scholars of the civil rights movement in the North. Selected transcripts will also be deposited in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. The project is also sponsored by the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities.

For more information about volunteer opportunity for students, teachers and residents, call 860-997-8299.

 

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Lawmakers Digest Death Penalty Debate


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – The legislature judiciary committee’s all-day public hearing on Monday elicited impassioned testimonies from about 60 people on whether Connecticut should repeal the death penalty.

Proponents included Dr. William Petit Jr. and Linda Binnenkade. Both families are victims of two heinous crimes. Dr. Petit’s wife and children were murdered during a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire. In 2003 Binnekade’s brother-in-law, Barry Rossi, was murdered in Windsor Locks. Perpetrators for both crimes are on death row, and one is awaiting trial.

Death penalty advocates included the state’s public defenders’ office, those released from death row because of innocence and Innocence Project Director Barry Scheck (center in featured photo).

A key concern was whether the law would be retroactive, thereby giving those already on death row another reason to prolong the appeals process.

Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, (D-New Haven) dismissed that idea, saying the argument focused on a non-issue. That’s because a prospective bill deals with the time the crime was committed, not the time a trial is held. Therefore, the upcoming murder trial of Petit’s family would not be affected if this new bill were to become law.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. In 2009, both the house and the senate passed a similar bill. However, Gov. Jodi Rell vetoed it.

The judiciary committee is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks.

At issue in this recurring debate are two different questions: first, should victims of heinous crimes get closure by having their perpetrator sentenced to death?  Secondly, should the death penalty, which is flawed because of racism and other factors, be abolished?

Connecticut has the largest disparity in its prison system, which correlates to its academic achievement gap. Currently, 60 percent of people on death row are black, according to a state report.  In some urban school districts, close to 60 percent of its high school students drop out.

Despite that, some lawmakers say, Connecticut is not Texas, where hundreds are on death row. In Connecticut there are ten men on death row, and only one has been executed. That was Michael Ross in 2005.

Upon hearing this, Scheck said some lawmakers should rethink their position on the death penalty because humans are flawed and can make mistakes. He argued that by eliminating the death penalty, the state would prevent an innocent person from being sentenced to death row.

“It’s hubris to think it can’t happen here,” Scheck said to the committee. “It can.”

Judiciary Chair Sen. Eric Coleman(D-Bloomfield, Hartford, Windsor) pointed out that it has happened in Connecticut.

Three high-profiled cases in which several men were on death row and were later proven innocent are James Tillman, who served 18 years before DNA proved him innocent in 2007. Miguel Roman spent 20 years before being freed in 2009. And Kenneth Ireland spent 21 years on death row before being released in 2009.

“The fallibility of the justice system is clear,” Coleman said.

Ray Krone agreed. He was an Air Force veteran convicted of killing a woman in Arizona. He spent 10 years in prison. After a DNA test proved his innocence, he was released from death row in April 2002.

“I’m here to tell you those mistakes are going to happen,” said Krone to the committee.

At least one lawmaker pointed out that no one could say that the 10 on the state’s death row are innocent. And others wanted to factor in a poll that says 76 percent of Connecticut residents prefer the death penalty.

Rep. Alfred Adinolfi, (R-Cheshire) is a supporter of the death penalty. He said the cost of having the death penalty in place should not be a factor in justice. And the committee should weigh public sentiment expressed in a recent Quinnipiac poll.

Scheck pointed out the flaw in using a poll to factor into this contentious debate. Poll questions, he said, are sometimes skewed to elicit certain responses.



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Connecticut Students Still Waiting For Superman


By Ann-Marie Adams, Op-Ed

It was a noble plan: screen the latest film about America’s failing schools and hope to spark meaningful dialogue in Hartford, Connecticut, home of the nation’s widest academic achievement gap.

Last Wednesday at Bow Tie Cinemas in Hartford, that plan failed.

During the almost two-hour screening of the gut-wrenching documentary, Waiting For Superman, the audience winced, sighed and cried as they watched on screen five families (four are working-class black and Latino. One is white and middle-class) struggle for access to quality education for their children. Except for a few announcements afterward, the audience remained reticent about a film that had received plenty of media buzz.

Education advocates will not give up, however. In the coming months, other reform-minded individuals and groups in Connecticut will use this film as a catalyst for conversations about the lack of progress to fix Connecticut’s failing schools and to eliminate the achievement gap, a catch phrase lobbed around to describe the fact that some students’ national test scores are low and others are not; that more than 50 percent of students in some school districts drop out of high school and even fewer go on to four-year colleges.

Education advocates are also mindful that the storyline in Superman is not new. After watching the film, some parents became frustrated. It didn’t take long for them to realize the documentary was an old story repackaged as something new.

When pressed for comments about what they had seen in the film, the audience sat in awkward silence. Minutes later, one woman from Waterbury punctured that silence. And she was blunt.

“I’ve seen The Lottery. Now this,” she said referring to the other documentary, which tells the story of low-income students in the Newark, New Jersey school district entering a lottery to win spots at top performing charter schools. “I’m not going to anymore of these screenings. I’m frustrated that there is still no change. Let’s talk about the resistance out there.”

No one did.

They talked around it, though.

State Rep. Doug McCrory added:

“Let’s deal with the reality here,” he said. “We have studied the problem. And we know the solution.”

But there was no discussion about what exactly the problem is.

And although Davis Guggenheim’s documentary zeroes in on the political underpinnings of America’s public educational system, it presents an ahistorical view of contemporary poor, black and brown students fighting for quality education.

Davis’s documentary presented the story as though those children’s troubled situation popped up in 2010. However, the reform-minded filmmaker concluded that the issue is complex and the powerful teacher’s union is at the crux of the problem. He might be true. But the lingering problem is that the filmmaker puts that problem in a vacuum and apparently has forgotten that past is prologue.

That’s because America has a history of not educating some of its students; that less than 50 years ago, there were vicious verbal and physical attacks on those who tried to integrate schools after the Supreme Court decided in 1954 that separate schools were unequal and therefore unconstitutional; that immediately there was white flight from city schools after some states implemented the first phase of the Brown remedies.

More than 50 years after the Brown decision, Connecticut has New England’s only ongoing school desegregation case because the state is moving with deliberate speed (translation: slow) to enforce court mandated remedies. Plaintiffs in Hartford’s 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill case will return to Court this month for a status conference about the implementation of the court-mandated remedies.

Those remedial efforts—even though it would benefit all students—are moving at glacial speed, mostly because of a strong resistance to regionalism—a true solution that would give children access and choices to quality schools, many argue.

But there’s a larger—and more insidious– issue at play. And it’s also an inconvenient truth: many people think some students cannot learn, especially students who are black and brown. This sentiment is undeniably the classic definition of racism. Embedded in this notion is that these students are intellectually inferior. And no matter which charter school pops up and produces all college-bound students, intellectual inferiority among these children will persist when they go on to college and enter the workforce. That’s because the idea that some people are inferior is deeply ingrained in the psyche of many white people—and increasingly some black and brown people—that not all students can learn. And there’s nothing soft about this kind of bigotry.

In April 2009 after the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network ran an episode of Where We Live with host John Dankosky about the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Sheff lawsuit, an anonymous commentator posted this on the radio’s website:

“The cognitive abilities of these poor descendants of agri-workers will not increase no matter where you attempt to educate them for the greater part.”

(See more here—link).

Davis does not address the issues of the kind of race or bigotry displayed by that anonymous commentator, but he chooses instead to focus on the economic implications of this familiar American story about the ongoing struggle for quality education.

In the coming weeks, there will be more forums and debates among whites who have ideas about how to create a solution for everyone, including the majority of black and brown students in “drop out factories.” This kind of paternalistic behavior in Connecticut continues to foster the belief that only whites can be Superman. The students get that. The adults get it, too. But most of them can only silently oppose this kind of showmanship displayed by top business and civic leaders in the area.

But know this: If Connecticut is to close the achievement gap, it ought to start first with candid dialogue with racially and economically diverse stakeholders. As an education reporter and educator, I’ve been to many conversations about education. And I have yet to see that in all the talks and forums I’ve been to in the last decade. Feeble attempts at dialogue will not effect change, nor create an environment for anyone to boldly “speak truth to power.” It’s going to take many current leaders with political will to speak and act boldly

And while we wait for individuals already in key positions to act decisively, Connecticut’s children continue to wait for Superman.

Ann-Marie Adams is a Ph.D. Candidate at Howard University and is writing about the Sheff v. O’Neill lawsuit.



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Hartford Guardian News Magazine Wins National Award


WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Connecticut’s capital city online newsmagazine The Hartford Guardian is one of three winners of the 2010 McGraw-Hill Companies Personal Finance Awards national competition.

The Guardian’s founding editor Ann-Marie Adams won third place for stories that tackle economic issues facing minority communities. Adams’s story,  “Losing Ground: Foreclosure Rate Higher Among Minority Homeowners”, details the particular hardships faced by minority homeowners in Connecticut facing foreclosure.

The Guardian covers Hartford and its surrounding areas and focuses on untold stories about the city’s diverse residents.

First place went to Elizabeth Ostos of a monthly newspaper Mercado de Dinero for her article “Credit consolidation in a country in debt”. Second place went to Carlos Rajo of Telemundo, Los Angeles for his article “A House of Their Own: Is the American Dream too Expensive?” Rajo explains how the mortgage crisis has changed the perception of home ownership among the Hispanic community.

The journalists were among 30 reporters who participated in The International Center for Journalists online program in English and Spanish. The program sought to provide in-depth knowledge of consumer finance issues of particular importance to minority communities.

The winners will be honored in September at The McGraw-Hill Companies’ headquarters in New York. The New York Times Columnist Ron Lieber will give the keynote address.

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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Dies


The Boston Globe reports on the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a inspiration to this editor who was an intern in his Education Committee office in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. I will never forget that experience. He touched everyone, friend or foe, the seen and the unseen.
May God bless his soul–Ann-Marie Adams

By Martin F. Nolan Globe Correspondent / August 26, 2009

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who carried aloft the torch of a Massachusetts dynasty and a liberal ideology to the citadel of Senate power, but whose personal and political failings may have prevented him from realizing the ultimate prize of the presidency, died at his home in Hyannis Port last night after a battle with brain cancer. He was 77.

“We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever,’’ his family said in a statement. “We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness, and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.’’

Overcoming a history of family tragedy, including the assassinations of a brother who was president and another who sought the presidency, Senator Kennedy seized the role of being a “Senate man.’’ He became a Democratic titan of Washington who fought for the less fortunate, who crafted unlikely deals with conservative Republicans, and who ceaselessly sought support for universal health coverage.

“Teddy,’’ as he was known to intimates, constituents, and even his fiercest enemies, was an unwavering symbol to the left and the right – the former for his unapologetic embrace of liberalism, and latter for his value as a political target. But with his fiery rhetoric, his distinctive Massachusetts accent, and his role as representative of one of the nation’s best-known political families, he was widely recognized as an American original. In the end, some of those who might have been his harshest political enemies, including former President George W. Bush, found ways to collaborate with the man who was called the “last lion’’ of the Senate.

Senator Kennedy’s White House aspirations may have been doomed by his actions on the night he drove off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 and failed to promptly report the accident in which Mary Jo Kopechne, who had worked for his brother Robert, died. When Kennedy nonetheless later sought to wrest the presidential nomination from an incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter, he failed. But that failure prompted him to reevaluate his place in history, and he dedicated himself to fulfilling his political agenda by other means, famously saying, “the dream shall never die.’’

He was the youngest child of a famous family, but his legacy derived from quiet subcommittee meetings, conference reports, and markup sessions. The result of his efforts meant hospital care for a grandmother, a federal loan for a working college student, or a better wage for a dishwasher.

“He died the way he lived,’’ said a longtime Kennedy staffer, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the moment, breaking up with emotion during the interview. “Fully in the moment, with incredible courage. He knew exactly what was going on. He wasn’t afraid. And given everything that he had been through his entire life, was always optimistic and knew that this country’s best days always [were] ahead.’’

Plans have already been made for the funeral, which will take place in Massachusetts, the aide said, and President Obama would be expected to attend.

“Without question Senator Kennedy was the most accomplished and effective legislator for economic and social justice in the history of our country,’’ said Paul G. Kirk, Jr., a former Kennedy aide who is chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “He was the most thoughtful and genuinely considerate friend I have known.’’

“He taught us to persevere and carry on in the face of loss and adversity,’’ Kirk added. “And we owe it to him to do the same at this time.’’

In a statement, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said, “The Kennedy family and the Senate family have together lost our patriarch. My thoughts, and those of the entire United States Senate, are with Vicki, Senator Kennedy’s children, his many nieces and nephews, and his entire family. . . . It was the thrill of my lifetime to work with Ted Kennedy.’’

Senator Kennedy’s congressional career was remarkable not only for its accomplishments, but for its length of 47 years. Massachusetts voters installed him in the Senate nine times – starting with a special election in 1962. Since the Senate opened in 1789, only Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina served longer.

“I have every expectation of living a long and worthwhile life,’’ Senator Kennedy said in 1994. This expectation contrasted with the fate of his brothers. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. was killed in 1944 on a World War II bombing mission. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated while campaigning for president in Los Angeles in 1968.

Senator Kennedy brought to the Senate a trait his brothers lacked – patience – and what his mother called a “ninth-child talent,’’ a blend of toughness and tact.

The ninth child of Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth, Feb. 22, 1932. His brother Jack, then at the Choate School in Connecticut, wrote to his parents, asking to be godfather and urging the new arrival to be baptized George Washington Kennedy.

The parents agreed to the first request but named the child Edward Moore Kennedy. Part of his boyhood was spent in London, where his father was US ambassador to Great Britain. After nine schools on two continents, he entered Milton Academy in 1946 and maintained midlevel grades, including in Spanish, a subject that would trouble him at Harvard College, where, in 1951, he asked a friend to take a Spanish exam for him. A proctor recognized the substitute, and both students were expelled but were told they could return if they showed evidence of “constructive and responsible citizenship.’’

The incident would become the first of several episodes creating public doubts about his character.

After two years in the Army, Ted Kennedy returned to Harvard, graduating from there in 1956 and the University of Virginia Law School three years later.

At a Kennedy family event at Manhattanville College, the alma mater of his sisters, he met Joan Bennett. They married in 1958, the same year he managed the Senate re-election campaign of his brother John. The outcome was not in doubt; Ted’s assignment was to steer the incumbent to a victory big enough to impress national party bosses. The victory margin was 857,000, the highest in the Commonwealth’s history.

After JFK won the presidency in 1960, he declared in his inaugural address that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.’’ This iconography would play out over generations of Kennedys.

John Kennedy persuaded Governor Foster Furcolo to fill his vacant Senate seat by appointing Benjamin A. Smith II, the mayor of Gloucester who was a friend of the president at Harvard. On March 14, 1962, after he attained the constitutional age of 30 to be eligible for election to the Senate, Edward Kennedy announced his candidacy for the unexpired term. His only public experience was a year as assistant district attorney of Suffolk County, and he had to take on two Massachusetts dynasties.

In the special primary, he faced Attorney General Edward J. McCormack Jr., the nephew of US House Speaker John W. McCormack. At a debate in South Boston, McCormack ridiculed the young Ted, saying the senatorial job “should be merited, not inherited.’’ Pointing his finger at his opponent, he said: “If his name were Edward Moore, with his qualifications – with your qualifications, Teddy – if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke.’’

Ted Kennedy looked pained. His silence created a wave of sympathy. He went on to win 69 percent of the primary vote and then to defeat George Lodge, the son of the former Republican senator, in the general election.

Even with a brother in the White House and another as attorney general, a freshman senator was supposed to work diligently for local concerns and to perform committee work in patient obscurity. Senator Kennedy did so, taking on his brother’s legislative concerns on refugees and immigrants. He sought “more for Massachusetts’’ by pursuing fishery development and a Cambridge space research center.

Kennedy’s immediate family grew with the birth of Patrick Joseph Kennedy in 1967, joining Kara Anne and Edward Jr.

On Nov. 22, 1963, Senator Kennedy was presiding over the chamber, a chore assigned to freshman members, when a messenger arrived at the rostrum with the news from Dallas. After confirming with the White House the president’s assassination, Senator Kennedy and his sister, Eunice, flew to Hyannis Port to deliver the news to their father. Joseph P. Kennedy had suffered a stroke in 1961 and could not speak or walk.

In 1964, eager to win a full six-year term, Senator Kennedy planned to visit Springfield to accept the endorsement of the Democratic state convention. On the night of June 19, after casting votes on final passage of a civil rights bill, Senator Kennedy and the convention’s keynote speaker, Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, boarded a private plane en route to Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield.

In heavy fog, the aircraft crashed in an orchard, killing the pilot and a Kennedy aide. Senator Kennedy sustained three broken vertebrae, fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and internal hemorrhaging.

After a six-month recuperation, Senator Kennedy was released, but back injuries would cause him pain for the rest of his life. He was reelected with 74 percent of the vote.

In that same election, voters of New York elected Robert F. Kennedy as their senator. The siblings teased each other frequently, but seldom diverged in their liberal voting patterns. Robert had seniority in the family and was a former US attorney general, but Edward took the lead on legal issues such as repealing the poll tax.

In October 1965, Senator Kennedy made his first visit to South Vietnam, a nation not yet dominating the news but one that would profoundly affect the United States, President Johnson, and the Kennedys.

By 1967, antiwar rallies were proliferating and on Nov. 30, Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota agreed, after Robert Kennedy declined, to challenge Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primaries. After McCarthy won 42 percent of the New Hampshire vote and before Johnson would bow out, Robert Kennedy reconsidered and entered the contest.

In June, after winning the California primary, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, the voice of the surviving Kennedy brother cracked as he eulogized Robert as “a good man, who … saw war and tried to stop it.’’ Senator Kennedy became the surrogate father of his brothers’ children and the patriarchal figure in the growing clan.

Vietnam dominated the 1968 Democratic National Convention, as did speculation about Senator Kennedy’s intentions. “Like my brothers before me, I pick up a fallen standard,’’ he said at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester a few weeks before the convention.

But the Capitol, not the White House, seemed the focus of his intentions. Senator Kennedy surprised many by running instead for majority whip in 1968. By a 31-26 vote, he defeated the incumbent, another son of a political dynasty, Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana.

Majority leader Mike Mansfield of Montana welcomed his new assistant, saying, “Of all the Kennedys, the senator is the only one who was and is a real Senate man.’’ Senator Kennedy mobilized Democrats against what he called the “folly’’ of an antiballistic missile system proposed by President Nixon. On July 18, 1969, Mansfield predicted that his colleague would not run for president in 1972, saying “He’s in no hurry. He’s young. He likes the Senate.’’

On that same day, Senator Kennedy arrived on an island that his actions would make notorious. On Chappaquiddick, across a narrow inlet from Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, six young women who had worked on Robert Kennedy’s campaign gathered for a reunion. Senator Kennedy’s marriage was already troubled, and he had been seen in the company of glamorous women. But the women at Chappaquiddick were all respected political operatives.

Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, had worked for RFK’s Senate office. A passenger in a car driven by Ted Kennedy, she drowned after the car skidded off a bridge. Senator Kennedy failed to report the accident for several hours. The crash gave him a minor concussion and a major personal and political crisis.

As American astronauts walked on the moon, fulfilling a JFK pledge, Chappaquiddick was front-page news across the globe. The senator was unable to explain the accident for days. After consulting in Hyannis Port with his brothers’ advisers and speechwriters, he gave a televised speech a week later. He praised Kopechne and wondered aloud “whether some awful curse did actually hang over the Kennedys,’’ then asked Massachusetts voters whether he should resign. They replied overwhelmingly: No.

His critics snarled that Senator Kennedy “got away with it’’ at Chappaquiddick, but the price he paid was high. Voters expected quick and cool judgment from presidents. Senator Kennedy, in effect, disqualified himself when he confessed on television that he should have alerted police immediately.

He returned to his work in the Senate and in December 1969 began a long campaign “to move now to establish a comprehensive national health care insurance program.’’ He also led the effort to give 18-year-olds the right to vote.

After winning reelection in 1970 with 62 percent of the vote, he found how Chappaquiddick reverberated in the Senate chamber. In January 1971, Byrd unseated Senator Kennedy as majority whip by a 31-24 vote. Years later, Senator Kennedy thanked Byrd because the loss made him concentrate on committee work in health care, refugees, civil rights, the judiciary, and foreign policy, areas in which he would leave a lasting imprint.

As he was rebuilding his stature in the fall of 1973, Senator Kennedy and his wife, Joan, received devastating news. Their 12-year-old son, Edward Jr., had cancer and his leg had to be amputated. Although Ted Jr. persevered, the crisis cooled the senator’s ambitions about running for president in 1976.

The election of 1976 would bring a Democrat back into the White House. Jimmy Carter of Georgia, however, was not a Kennedy Democrat. The ideological divide between the two was profound. Senator Kennedy thought Carter’s health care programs were timid. The president sometimes resented Senator Kennedy’s celebrity status, especially when foreign leaders consulted with the senator.

When the Democrats held a mid-term conference in Memphis in December 1978, it was dominated by the senator’s nautical metaphor. “Sometimes a party must sail against the wind,’’ he said. “We cannot afford to drift or lie at anchor. We cannot heed the call of those who say it is time to furl the sail.’’ Carter’s response to a group of Democratic congressmen: If Senator Kennedy did challenge him in the 1980 election, “I’ll whip his ass.’’

Shortly before he announced that challenge, however, Senator Kennedy stumbled in an interview with CBS’s Roger Mudd. The commentator’s question seemed simple: Why was he running for president.

“Well, I’m – were I to make the announcement and to run,’’ Senator Kennedy said, “the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country, that it is – there’s more natural resources than any nation in the world; there’s the greatest educated population in the world; greatest technology of any country in the world.’’

His responses to questions about Chappaquiddick sounded rehearsed, and the interview was widely considered a disaster. He would not recover.

Three days later, on Nov. 7, 1979, the 47-year-old senator formally declared his candidacy, saying he was “compelled by events and by my commitment to public life.’’

“For many months, we have been sinking into crisis. Yet we hear no clear summons from the center of power,’’ he declared, standing on the stage of Faneuil Hall, before a giant painting of Daniel Webster, a longtime US senator from Massachusetts who never became president.

Unable to persuade Democrats to abandon a Democratic president, Senator Kennedy won only 10 of the 35 presidential primaries. In July, he reluctantly endorsed Carter at the Democratic National Convention in New York, offering his own anthem to the Democratic Party. He cited Jefferson, Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, and those he had met at “the closed factories and the stalled assembly lines.’’ After congratulating Carter, he added, “For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.’’

In 1981, because of Ronald Reagan’s coattails, Senator Kennedy was in the Senate minority for the first time. But he was accustomed to reaching across the aisle for support. Throughout his career, Senator Kennedy’s name animated Republican fund-raising efforts. In reality, the GOP’s bete noire cooperated with party leaders from Barry Goldwater to John McCain, a list that included conservative stalwarts Robert Dole, Orrin Hatch, and Alan Simpson.

Senator Kennedy’s success owed more to craftsmanship than charm, more to diligence than blarney. In 1985, outside the hearing room of the Armed Service Committee, a reporter encountered Senator John Warner, a Republican of Virginia, who spontaneously volunteered praise of his liberal colleague: “This man works as hard as anyone. When he knows his subject, he really knows it. He listens, he learns, and he’s an asset to this committee.’’

In the 1960s, the young senator had learned a lesson from Senator Philip Hart of Michigan, who said of the Senate, “you measure accomplishments not by climbing mountains, but by climbing molehills.’’

In the 1980s, those molehills amounted to the renewal of the Voting Rights Act and an overhaul of federal job training (co-sponsored by a freshman senator from Indiana, Dan Quayle). With his Massachusetts colleagues from the House, Speaker O’Neill and Representative Edward P. Boland, he worked against Reagan administration policies in Central America.

In 1985, Senator Kennedy renounced presidential ambitions, saying to Bay State voters, “I will run for reelection to the Senate. I know that this decision means that I may never be president. But the pursuit of the presidency is not my life. Public service is.’’

“When he finally lifted the curse from himself that Kennedys had to be president, he truly became a legislator,’’ said Simpson, a Wyoming Republican who served 18 years in the Senate with Kennedy. “In fact, he immersed himself in legislation.’’

Others in the Kennedy clan would join him in such efforts. In 1986, he watched with pride as his nephew Joseph won the seat vacated by O’Neill and in 1994 as his son, Patrick, won a congressional seat from Rhode Island.

Not all family matters, however, were a source of pride. In 1991, the senator had to testify in Palm Beach about rape charges brought against his nephew William Kennedy Smith in the aftermath of a drinking party organized by Senator Kennedy. The incident embarrassed the senator into silence during judiciary committee hearings into allegations of sexist conduct against Clarence Thomas, later confirmed as a Supreme Court justice.

Senator Kennedy’s reputation as a roustabout lingered until, years after he and Joan divorced in 1982, Senator Kennedy met Victoria Reggie, a lawyer and divorced mother of two who was 22 years younger than the senator. They wed in 1992 and began a partnership that brought equilibrium and focus to his life.

In 1994, when Republicans would recapture the House for the first time in 40 years, no Democrat was safe, even the leading lion of liberalism. A Republican businessman, Mitt Romney, captured the attention of some Bay Staters until, in a Faneuil Hall debate, Senator Kennedy proved his mastery of the issues. For the senator, it was a relatively close call. He won with 58 percent of the vote, his smallest margin since his first election in 1962.

In Washington, he continued to do battle with Republicans on issues, subtle and unsubtle. In the latter category was one of his favorites, raising the minimum wage, a perennial struggle because its recipients lacked the active lobbies that support business interests.

As he had done for more than half his time in Washington, Senator Kennedy launched his crusade on behalf of those who daily do the menial work that make everyone else’s day cleaner, brighter, and safer. “The minimum wage,’’ he often said, “was one of the first and is still one of the best antipoverty programs we have.’’

During the administration of Republican George W. Bush, Senator Kennedy led the Senate’s antiwar faction as the president persuaded Congress to authorize the use of military force against Iraq.

But Senator Kennedy displayed a willingness to be helpful when he thought Bush was right. He was a force behind Bush’s chief domestic policy achievement in its first term, No Child Left Behind, the sweeping education bill that mandated testing to measure student progress. When Bush introduced him at the bill’s signing ceremony, the president said: “He is a fabulous United States senator. When he’s against you, it’s tough. When he’s with you, it is a great experience.’’

In early 2008, shortly before his cancer diagnosis, Senator Kennedy surprised much of the political world by endorsing Senator Barack Obama for president over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The endorsement was seen as a passing of the Kennedy torch to the man aspiring to be the nation’s first black president.

Despite his illness, Senator Kennedy made a forceful appearance at the Democratic convention in Denver, exhorting his party to victory and declaring that the fight for universal health insurance had been “the cause of my life.’’

He pursued that cause vigorously, even as his health declined; when members of Obama’s administration questioned the president’s decision to spend so much political capital on the seemingly intractable issue, Obama reportedly replied, “I promised Teddy.”

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