Proclaiming the Fierce Urgency of Now
by Virginia R. Smith
DA Toronto members responded to the “fierce urgency of now” by gathering across the street from the U.S. Consulate on the 54th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to reread those momentous words and rediscover their meaning as Americans confront the racism on display at events such as the recent neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A number of speakers brought viewpoints to the gathering based on their personal experiences:
-MC Carol Donohoe talked about how Dr. King’s speech expressed “the ideal we strive” for, which is stated in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” The "I Have a Dream" speech was fundamental to the process of passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she said.
- Danielle Stampley, vice chairperson of DA’s Toronto chapter, said that “we need his inspiration right now…Dr. King showed us how to resist…His speech is a source of hope.”
- Ed Ungar, vice-chair of DA Canada, was present at Dr. King’s speech on August 28, 1963. When he and other young people travelled from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., they immediately sensed the “universal love in the air…I’ve never felt anything like it before or since…From his first words, we knew that this was something different.” Ungar said that he was “grateful for the opportunity to be there.”
- Dewitt Lee III, treasurer of DA’s Toronto chapter, emphasized that “we have to be honest about how Africans came to the United States” and about “how they are treated” even now. About Dr. King, Lee said that “we need to take his advice…we are the inheritors of his dream and as he said, 'we cannot turn back!'” Lee also cited Emancipation Month in Canada as a time to remember the abolition of slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834, and noted the UN General Assembly’s proclamation of 2015 – 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent.
- Ken Sherman, the chair of DA’s Hamilton-Burlington chapter, recalled that he was a pastor of a Black Lutheran Church during the 1960s civil rights movement. On February 6, 1968, he and other members of the organization Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam stood together with Dr. King at a vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Immediately following the assassination, Sherman went to Memphis to support the sanitation workers, and he marched with Coretta Scott King, SCLC and union leaders, and 42,000 others to honor Dr. King on April 8, 1968.
The "I Have a Dream" speech, which has become an oration second only to "The Gettysburg Address" in U.S. history, was then proclaimed. Readers, including Dewitt Lee’s children, Dewitt IV and Chy'Ana, took turns reading portions of the speech. A sense of deep respect spread through the gathering as we once again heard: “Free at last, Free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last.”
The gathering was well attended by Toronto media, which reported on the event that evening.
About a dozen Democrats engaged in discussion and postcard writing to members of Congress at an August 12 pop-up summer resistance event in Toronto’s High Park. Democrats Abroad (DA) banners alerted park strollers to DA’s active presence in the city’s west end. The event was one of three DA summer pop-ups in the Toronto area.
These events are important because Americans abroad want to be contacted so that they can show their resistance to hurtful initiatives such as the effort to repeal Obamacare, according to Danielle Stampley, vice-chair of DA’s Toronto chapter. DA Canada membership spiked after the 2016 election, and there is strong new interest in DA Canada’s women’s caucus and LGBTQ caucus. DA needs to keep raising its level of visibility through gatherings like the High Park pop-up.
Participants in the pop-up wrote postcards to their members of Congress about issues such as health care and peace making. Some wrote in support of a bill that would restrict the president’s first use of nuclear weapons, which was introduced this year by Senator Edward Markey (Mass.) and Representative Ted Lieu (Calif.). The bill, known as HR669, would require a declaration of war by Congress before the use of nuclear weapons.
By Virginia Smith, member at large on the Toronto board
Brooke Scott published Statement from House Representative D. Ciciline, D-RI regarding the passage of the AHCA in News 2017-05-08 17:21:29 -0400As you know, House Republicans introduced their “repeal and replace” health care bill, entitled the American Health Care Act (AHCA), in March of 2017. The AHCA would allow insurers to charge older customers up to five times more than younger customers, while also charging a 30% penalty to any person who has a lapse in health coverage, including people with preexisting conditions. It will also shorten the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by three years and eliminates the Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium tax credits that millions of Americans depend on to pay for health coverage.The AHCA also greatly reduces funding for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, reducing resources for some of our society’s most vulnerable members. President Obama’s health care law expanded Medicaid and allowed more than 14.5 million people to get health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that “in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law” increasing to 21 million uninsured in 2020 and then to 24 million uninsured in 2026.Like you, I believe that healthcare is a vital human right. This bill benefits the rich while making it more difficult for seniors and low-income Americans to get the quality healthcare they need. It gives huge tax cuts to insurance companies and the super-rich, while neglecting those members of society who require the most assistance. As if these issues were not enough, the AHCA also cuts funding for Planned Parenthood without offering a replacement for the vital services Planned Parenthood provides, which would cause millions of women to go without cancer screenings, prenatal services, and family planning options. Subsequently, healthcare premiums will go up and millions of Americans will lose coverage. This is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, this legislation was passed by the House of Representatives by a margin of 217-213 on May 4, 2017 with no Democratic support. Trumpcare is currently being considered by the Senate. Please know I will continue to fight against this irresponsible, dangerous legislation should it be passed by the Senate and comeback to the House of Representatives for consideration.Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me about access to healthcare. Your thoughts and opinions on this issue are of great value. Please be sure to sign up for my e-newsletter so we can stay in touch about the issues most important to you. Just visit my website at www.cicilline.house.gov and sign up today.
David N. Cicilline
Member of Congress
Brooke Scott posted about Women's Caucus on Facebook 2017-03-08 17:29:51 -0500Check out Democrats Abroad. I just joined.
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