Archive | August, 2009

Perez’s Arrest: Not Something to Care About

HARTFORD — It’s hard to fathom that someone who is innocent can be arrested twice in the same year.

But most people of color and poor, struggling whites, including this writer, will reserve judgment until the high-profile suspect has his day in court.

Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, 51, has a warrant for his arrest again. This will be his second arrest as a result of an almost two-year grand jury investigation, which began October 2007. He was first arrested in January and charged with bribery, fabricating evidence and conspiracy to fabricate evidence. The mayor allegedly accepted a free kitchen and bath remodeling job from Carlos Costa, a long-time city contractor who was awarded a $3.5 million streetscape project. He pleaded not guilty. The judge sealed parts of the grand jury investigation.

Now I’m really curious. What is in those sealed records?

Perez has been maintaing a high profile since his arrest in January, though, even granting an interview to this writer. It was as if that cloud was not hanging over his head. But the mayor and I talked about other matters brewing in the city, things people care about. That’s because I know whether or not Perez gets sent to the slammer, things would not drastically change the situation of the city’s most needy, who don’t care about Perez’s arrest. And I don’t care, either.

Don’t get me wrong. I care about whether the mayor is giving big bonuses to his cronies or connecting them with jobs in the city. I care.

But I care more about other things that are going on in the city and that receive little press attention. I care more about people in the NorthEnd, that part of the city neglected by big wigs in the city. People in the poorest section of the city have other things on their minds besides whether Perez goes to jail.

They care about feeding and clothing themselves, the lack of services in their part of the city and the blight. They, I repeat, don’t care about whether Eddie goes to the slammer. In fact, they don’t even want to think about Eddie because they feel he doesn’t think about them much.

In fact, I don’t care whether he goes to jail. I care, instead, about the services his administration provide to the city of Hartford. And that’s what our conversation centered on. This month and the rest of year, we will publish the result of our interviews with the mayor and several residents in Hartford.

In the meanwhile, we will follow the hoopla the mainstream media has created with the Eddie Perez grand jury investigation because one thing is clear: they powers that be want him out. And they are doing their best to get him out. And if you don’t believe me, you can just ask George Gombossy how that is done. Gombossy is a Hartford Courant consumer reporter who was recently fired.

Now that is something to care about.

–Ann-Marie Adams

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Miles Davis’ Drummer Opens Jazz Concert

HARTFORD — Jazz drummer Al Foster and his Quartet will open the 2009 “Pork Pie Hat Jazz Concert Series” on Friday, Sept. 11 at the Polish National Home in Hartford.

The jazz series is sponsored by the City of Hartford Office of Cultural Affairs and is considered one of the top reasons to visit Hartford this summer.

al_fosterFoster has been a major innovator in the world of jazz for several decades as a member of the Miles Davis band from 1972-1985. Foster also recorded and performed with Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden, Chick Corea, Dexter Gordon, Carmen McRae, Sonny Rollins, and numerous other luminaries in jazz.

Respected and admired for his keen sensitivity, Foster is known for his unique ability to listen to and play off others in an almost telepathic way, responding to them with a style that is at once both charismatic and understated, organizers say.

Al Foster is a great believer in the purity of the music, a genuine artist who continues to push the boundaries of creativity again and again, devoted to preserving and perpetuating the highest standards in jazz today.

For additional information, please call Andres Chaparro, City of Hartford, Office of Cultural Affairs, 860-547-1426 ext. 7413.

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City Holds Back to School Celebration

HARTFORD — The Hartford Department of Health and Human Services— as part of the Healthy Hartford Campaign— in partnership with King Chapel Church of God invites all Hartford families to join us for a back to school celebration.

The event kicks off at  11:00 a.m. on Saturday, Aug, 29th at King Chapel Church of God, located at 400 Woodland Street.

  • Free Health screenings
  • Back to school items
  • Entertainment, food and so much more!

For more information, please contact Elsa Pleasant in the City’s Department of Health and Human Services at (860) 543-8860 or log on to

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The Amistad Center Showcases New Collection

HARTFORD — A new collaborative exhibition featuring the works of Willie Cole and Hank Willis Thomas, entitled Digging Deeper, will open this fall at The Amistad Center for Art & Culture.

Both Cole and Thomas were invited by the museum to explore The Amistad Center’s extensive collection of art, artifacts, and archives which document the African American experience and respond with new works inspired by this rich source material.  The show will also include additional objects from The Amistad Center’s collection to highlight the common threads between historical characterizations of race and present-day conceptions of African American culture.  Digging Deeper is on view from Sept. 19 through April 4, 2010.

Cole and Thomas are both known for their transformation and reinterpretation of identifiable objects into works of art, many of which reference race and socio-cultural issues.  Cole is best known for his use of irons and ironing boards to create images of slave ships and African masks. His work often references his family’s history as domestic workers and their roots in Africa.  For Digging Deeper, he created several new pieces including a video piece entitled Remembering Mammy, which references the place of the mammy figure in historic and contemporary culture.

Thomas recently gained notoriety for his photographic works, which provide commentary on branding and consumer culture and often re-appropriate advertisements and other instantly recognizable symbols to suggest the exploitation and commoditization of African American culture.  Thomas’ work for Digging Deeper includes a large scale mixed media installation entitled Greetings from the Sunny South, which is a house-like structure that incorporates more than 500 post cards from The Amistad Center’s collection.  The post cards depict stereotypical imagery as well as personal photographs that were adapted to post card form.

The artists also created two cabinets of curiosity inspired by pieces from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art – where The Amistad Center is housed.  One cabinet, titled “Curious objects from the demise of a peculiar institution,” holds objects from The Amistad Center’s collection including advertisements, product packages, and other objects of ephemera that seem immediately offensive to today’s viewers, but were once readily accepted by society.  The other cabinet, called “Curious objects from the now yet to be understood,” includes objects contributed by both Cole and Thomas that are unproblematic today, but may be questioned by future generations.

A high-quality catalog will accompany the exhibition.  There will be an audio guide available via cell phone at no additional charge.

Founded in 1987, The Amistad Center for Art & Culture is a not-for-profit cultural arts organization housed at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art -the nation’s first public art museum and the first major museum in the region to house a gallery devoted to displaying African American culture.

For more information about The Amistad Center visit

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is located at 600 Main St. in Hartford, Connecticut.   Please visit for more information.

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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Dies

The Boston Globe reports on the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, an inspiration to this editor who was an intern in his Senate Majority Education Committee’s 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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Chris Brown Sentenced in Assault Case

THIS JUST IN from the Associated Press

AP, Aug 25, 2009 7:02 pm PDT A judge on Tuesday sentenced Chris Brown to five years’ probation and six months’ community labor for the beating of Rihanna and ordered the R&B singer to stay away from his former girlfriend for the next five years.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg told Brown that he could be sent to state prison if he violated any terms of his sentence, including an order to stay 100 yards away from Rihanna unless they’re attending music industry events.

A probation report prepared for Tuesday’s sentencing describes two previous violent incidents. It said the first happened about three months before the February beating while the couple was traveling in Europe; Rihanna slapped Brown during an argument, and he shoved her into a wall. In the second instance, Brown allegedly broke the front and passenger side windows on a Range Rover they were driving while visiting Barbados, Rihanna’s home country. Neither attack was reported, the probation report states.

Brown will serve his sentence in his home state – Virginia – and his community labor will be overseen by the police chief in Richmond.

The judge said she wanted to ensure that Brown, 20, performs physical labor instead of community service, such as mentoring young people. He will also undergo a year of domestic violence counseling.

Rihanna did not attend Tuesday’s sentencing.

At one point, Brown, who was accompanied by his mother, agreed to the terms of the sentence before Schnegg had finished going through them all.

The hearing had been planned for Thursday afternoon, but Brown’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, asked to move up the singer’s sentencing to Tuesday. A previous attempt to sentence Brown was postponed when Schnegg said she hadn’t received adequate assurances that Brown would perform physical labor if allowed to serve probation in Virginia.

The judge said she was satisfied with a letter presented by Geragos that Richmond Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood will directly oversee Brown’s labor program.

After Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault in June, Schnegg ordered the pair to stay away from each other and to not contact one another. Her order Tuesday essentially extended that until Brown completes his sentence.

Donald Etra, Rihanna’s attorney, has said he didn’t think the strict rules were necessary, but that he and Rihanna favored a less-stringent ruling that simply ordered Brown not to annoy, harass or molest the 21-year-old pop singer. He said after Tuesday’s hearing that Rihanna did not object to the stay-away order, which allows the former couple to be within 10 yards of each other if they are attending music industry events.

Schnegg said she was aware of reports that Brown had been spotted on several occasions in the same places as Rihanna.

“I am not amused with the chatter that has been on the airwaves and any violation of your probation in this case comes with the potential for state prison,” Schnegg told Brown.

A felony charge of making criminal threats was dropped during Tuesday’s sentencing.

“We feel that the sentence for Mr. Brown is an equitable one,” said Sandi Gibbons, a district attorney’s spokeswoman. “He has his future in his hands. He has control of his fate.”

Gibbons said Brown’s charge could eventually be reduced to a misdemeanor if he completes his sentence.

Brown was arrested Feb. 8, hours after he was accused of beating Rihanna.

The attack occurred in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park neighborhood as Brown drove a rented sports car. A Los Angeles police detective described a brutal attack in a search warrant affidavit filed in the case, stating Brown hit, choked and bit Rihanna and tried at one point to push her from the car.

Brown’s career suffered after his arrest, with sponsors dropping him and radio stations refusing to play his music. Both he and Rihanna had to cancel several high-profile appearances, including planned performances at the Grammy Awards the day of the attack.

In a probation report released after the sentencing, Brown is quoted as saying he was “depressed” since the attack and that he “‘does not want to carry on that cycle.'”

The report included letters of support for Brown from RCA/Jive Label Group Chairman Barry Weiss as well as an entertainment lawyer and a pastor.


Associated Press Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this report.

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Habitat Holds Charity Gulf Event

WEST HARTFORD — In its quest to raise money to build more houses,” Hartford-area Habitat for Humanity will hold its 15th annual golf tournament at at Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford on Monday.

The event, which will open at 11 a.m., has fewer sponsors this year, but a few former donors have returned, including Konover Development Corporation and Maritime General Agency and York Programs.

Registration and barbecue lunch is at 11:30 p.m.

The event will finish with raffle and door prizes, awards, cocktails, and hot hors d’oeuvres around 5:30 p.m.

Supporters are still allowed to register! Rain date is Tuesday, Sept. 1st. To find out more information and register please visit

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Manute Bol Holds Benefit Concert

WEST HARTFORD — He is the tallest player in the history of the National Basketball Association. He is also the only player in the NBA to have killed a lion with a spear and to have paid 80 cows for his wife.
A native of the Sudan and a member of the Dinka tribe, at seven feet, seven inches, Bol, left the Sudan in 1983 to play basketball, first for the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and later for the NBA. Now retired, Bol’s passion revolves around the desperate conditions faced by the children of the war-ravaged Sudan, declaring, “The key to peace is education.”

Calvary Fellowship, located at Conard High School in West Hartford, will host The Sudan Sunrise Benefit featuring Manute Bol and three contemporary Christian bands, including national recording artists The Glorious Unseen. The event will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m on Friday, Sept. 11, . Proceeds benefit the Manute Bol Turalei School fund.

Bol has special connections to Connecticut.

“My friends know that Connecticut has a special place in my heart,” said Bol. “The University of Bridgeport gave me my start with basketball. And for many years, West Hartford was my home. So I am coming home to ask all my friends here to help the kids of my home village in Sudan.

Bol, who is known for his activism and philanthropic endeavors, is heading up an effort to build a school in his hometown of Turalei. Currently the village’s 300 children attend classes held outside under trees. During the rainy season, from May to October, classes are dismissed. Bol’s school will be constructed of compressed earth block, cutting costs and deforestation and allowing for classes to remain in session even during extended periods of inclement weather. Children from all areas of the Sudan will be allowed to enroll, regardless of tribe, religion or race.
Bol continued: “These kids don’t have classrooms, chairs or even paper to write on. When I was a kid I didn’t have the chance to get an education, but I want to change that for the kids growing up in my village now. This school is for all kids, whatever tribe they are from, whatever region or whatever religion. I want my school to give these kids a chance, but I can’t do it without your help.”

The evening will also be highlighted with performances by Frozen Ocean and Ethereal both opening for national recording artists The Glorious Unseen. Hailing from Nashville, Tenn., The Glorious Unseen, is a Christian rock band comprised of frontman and lead vocalist Ben Crist, guitarist Ryan Stubbs, bassist Ben Harms, drummer Jon Todryk and pianist Patrick Copeland. The band released its first album, Tonight The Stars Speak, in Oct. 2007 and a digital EP, The Cries of the Broken, in Nov. 2008. The band will release its second album, The Hope That Lies in You, later this month.

“Calvary Fellowship is pleased to support Manute Bol and his efforts to educate the children of the Sudan,” says Bill LaMorey, lead pastor. “We are delighted have Manute Bol address the Greater Hartford region and share his passion to build a school to educate Turalei’s youth. It’s also a privilege to be able to present to the area three fantastic bands all of which perform uplifting spiritual music in a contemporary style.”

For more information, tickets and directions to Conard High School in West Hartford, visit or call 860-231-9957.

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City Holds Workshop on Government

MANCHESTER — The town of Manchester announces the 15th Government Academy session. Government Academy is a hands-on opportunity for town residents to learn about local government free of charge. It is also open to anyone that works in Manchester.

While space is limited, so far we only have 10 participants and need at least 10 more.

For more information please call (860) 647-3126 or visit our website at, click on Government Academy.

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Obama and the Black Elite

by Patricia J. Williams

BS Top - Williams Obama Dmitry Kostyukov, AFP / Getty Images As the first family departs for Martha’s Vineyard.

As the first family departs for Martha’s Vineyard, Patricia Williams says the trip illuminates their delicate relationship with the black upper class-a clubby world of debutantes and BMWs.

When President Barack Obama appointed Valerie Jarrett as his senior advisor and Desiree Rogers as White House social secretary, there was, among the mainstream media, a bit of muffled gasping about from where on earth such designer-clad doyennes might have emerged. In what hidden universe do black people exist who can actually distinguish a fish knife from a shoe horn? And are there more of them?

When President Barack Obama appointed Valerie Jarrett as his senior advisor and Desiree Rogers as White House social secretary, there was, among the mainstream media, a bit of muffled gasping about from where on earth such designer-clad doyennes might have emerged. In what hidden universe do black people exist who can actually distinguish a fish knife from a shoe horn? And are there more of them?

View Our Gallery of the Obamas on Vacation

HP Main - Obamas on Vacation AP Photos (2); Getty Images

The phenomenon of a black upper class has always been complicated, ambivalent. Often the descendents of “house slaves,” some significant percentage grew up imitating the manners, mores, and various condescensions of white plantation society-including setting up private clubs and exclusionary networks. More recently, the ranks of the black upper middle class have been increased with beneficiaries of the civil rights movement-with people such as Barack and Michelle Obama, who represent a generation able to take advantage of increased access to jobs and schools once off limits. This new mobility has not altogether erased some of the clubbishness and snob appeal of older black organizations, however. There are still fault lines and hidden hierarchies within black social life.

For those whose only exposure to upper class African American social organizations may be the black student organization on one’s college or grad school campus, well, brace yourselves: there’s a world of black debutantes out there, and they mean to do serious, social-climbing business, the wheels of their black BMWs and silver Mercedes Benzes sinking up to their plantinum hubcaps in the soft white sand of the beaches on Martha’s Vineyard, the North Fork of Long Island, and the islands off the coast of South Carolina.

Colson Whitehead’s novel, Sag Harbor, reveals a glimpse of this Cosby-inflected world of strivers, arrivistes and “black boys with summer houses.” These relatively well-off African Americans come largely from the ranks of what the novel’s narrator describes as “the magic seven”: doctors, dentists, lawyers, preachers, teachers, nurses, and undertakers. This is the world that those African Americans not part of such networks sometimes refer to, with a dismissive sad sigh, as “boogie, ” which is a class reference seemingly unknown to most white people. The New York Times, writing about Whitehead, spelled the word, with utter, and utterly cringe-worthy, uninitiated innocence: “bourgie.”

So, a little background for those terrified that the ship of state is about to be steered toward the shoals of Rush Limbaugh’s wildest fears : it may come as a surprise that the black middle class is just that, middle class. It is conformist, pleasantly centrist, relatively conservatively Christian, overweeningly upwardly mobile and generally better (if more anxiously) dressed than its white counterparts.

The media often speaks of “the black middle class” as though it were a solid singularity that includes any dark-skinned person with a job or an education-from bicycle messengers to Oprah Winfrey. Likewise, any black person without a permanent 9-5 job is tossed into “the underclass.” This is in stark contrast to the way “middle class” is applied to white citizens, where it connotes a specific income level lodged above the “temporarily unemployed” and the working class and just beneath the upper-middle class, with the wealthy and the super-rich above that. In other words, popular depictions frequently suppress the political presence of a large black working class, as well as a black upper-middle class, to say nothing of those wealthy African Americans who are bankers or industrialists or computer geeks rather than just movie stars or sports figures.

Hard as it might be to imagine if your head is filled with the Hollywood haze of Gone With the Wind, whatever Miss Scarlett yearned for, so did succeeding generations of her ex-slaves-who in real life were as resolute and deeply ambitious as she was. And so, after the Civil War, African Americans arranged themselves into all manner of self-help groups patterned upon the gilded hierarchies of Tara. Most Americans are at least aware of the role of the black church in this effort at uplift, as well as of the NAACP, of the Tuskegee Institute, and of the Urban League. Thanks to Spike Lee’s movie, School Daze, perhaps a few more are even aware of the contribution of historically black colleges-as well as the function of segregated Greek fraternities and sororities-in coalescing fairly conservative, life-long networking circles.

As with white fraternities, hazing rituals can be snobbish, or bullying. And as with white country clubs, exclusivity can have its ugly edge: some black social groups have the reputation of discriminating based on “connections” of ancestry or education or income, or, in the not-so-recent past, skin color (must be “lighter than a brown paper bag”) and texture of hair (a comb would have to move flowingly through smooth and therefore presumptively not-kinky hair). As for those debutante cotillions…well, what can I say?

Today, some of the largest of these organizations were set up to provide dating opportunities for the children of suburban black professionals-that is, teens living in nearly all-white neighborhoods and attending nearly all-white schools, environments that unconsciously or otherwise exclude them from social events or coming-of-age rituals. But most of these groups-Jack and Jill, The Links, The Girl Friends, The Coalition of a Hundred Black Women-are also philanthropic; they raise money for scholarships, public relief efforts, mentoring, and health care. Like Hadassah or the Junior League, the most vibrant and visible of them are matriarchies, serviced by well-educated, mostly married women whose husbands are well-to-do enough to allow them to engage in charitable work.

There are lots of men’s organizations too, of course, but they have historically been somewhat more secretive, with more rituals and even better hats. Like the Knights of Columbus or the Bohemian Club, they are all about bolstering manhood through mutual esteem, fine whisky, cigars, and purest nepotism. 100 Black Men of America. The Guardsmen. The Boule. These and a thousand other networks are the backbone of the black bourgeoisie.

Yet such organizations operate within a distinctly ambivalent theater of relationship: On one hand, there is all that philanthropy. On the other, it’s all funded by terribly effete events like golf tournaments, tennis meets sponsored by law firms and cigarette companies, gourmet get-togethers, Caribbean cruises, black-tie dinners, fashion shows, and bachelor auctions. Oh, and did I mention those cotillions…?

One of the most interesting aspects of the Obamas’ ascendency is that neither one of them is the product of this approval-dependent world of relentless obligation, prayerful duty and punishing well-scrubbed-ness. In the first place, Obama’s mother was white, and membership in organizations such as Jack and Jill depends on mama-geniture (mother must be African-descended; it’s not as important that one’s father be black). And since both of Michelle Obama’s parents were working class, it’s doubtful that they would have considered the hefty fees and consuming time commitments a priority, even assuming they’d have met the more social-climbing criteria that a number of such clubs emphasize. (As in: You will be dropped if you miss too many meetings-unless, of course, you’re a legacy. You are likely to be shamed out of the ranks if your kids have the kinds of learning disabilities that preclude their becoming-at least!-doctors, dentists or lawyers. You can buy back into the ranks if you have enough money, influence, or celebrity.)