January 20, 2021
You’d never know from watching the events of Wednesday, January 20th’s Inauguration that only two weeks prior, a mob attempting to locate and physically harm Vice President Mike Pence and numerous other members of the U.S. Congress — at the direction of then-President Donald Trump — attacked our U.S. Capitol building. Or that five people would lose their lives in the process. Or that within six hours of Trump’s mob’s insurrection, hundreds of Republicans would still refuse to vote to accept the results of the 2020 Election.
At the Inaugural everyone said all the right things and few commentators even mentioned the fact that 25,000 National Guard troops and miles of razor wire were protecting this “peaceful” transfer of power.
The bottom line – short and sweet – is that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” That means no one gets very much time off from the tension and trauma of the past 4 months or 4 years. We have a Supreme Court that is actually in step with the 1920s, paper-thin margins for our issues in the House and Senate, and a mountain of work to do. And the 2022 election cycle is taking shape – both across the country and here in Maryland.
Maryland NOW plans to be a part of it all and we hope you’ll be an active part of Maryland NOW, If you’re not a member please sign up to subscribe to our mailing list (click on “subscribe” on our homepage), and if you are a member please make sure we have your email address. Get in touch with a chapter near where you live (there’s a link to a list of our chapters on the homepage). If you’d like to work with the state on a committee or project, please let us know.
January 21, 2021
At 22, Amanda Gorman is a Harvard graduate, our U.S. Youth Poet Laureate, 2021 Inaugural Poet Laureate, and published author. It’s difficult to imagine not realizing that many young women in their 20s and 30s are similarly gifted and qualified to contribute to the world. One online biography describes her work as focusing on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. She is a Los Angeles native. She has published a book of poetry “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough.” She read her poem, “The Hill We Climb:” at the 2021 Inauguration of Joe Biden.
We are not alone in our excitement over Amanda. President Biden’s new Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, “As a human and American I have a massive girl crush on Amanda Gorman.”
When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it
January 15, 2021
The name MacKenzie Scott is not well-known. If one were to add that she’s the second richest woman in the world, even more blank stares would follow. It wouldn’t be until one added the information that she is Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife might people remember reading about her this past year. While the numbers are a bit mind-blowing, some may recall reading that Scott gave away almost $6 billion in 2020. The recipients, however, are even more mind-blowing. No big names. No wealthy universities. And nothing with her name attached. And nothing with any strings attached either, which is practically unheard of in the philanthropic world.
Scott worked tirelessly alongside her husband to start Amazon and while her share of Amazon’s worth in their divorce might seem paltry compared to what her ex-husband kept, it made her very very rich. But since her split from Bezos in 2019, she signed the Giving Pledge promising to give the majority of her wealth to charity. She has become very important in that she is charting a new path to give away her fortune. While some rich people create foundations, which are only required to give away 5% of their money each year and keep huge amounts of their financial worth to give away in dribbles over time, thus creating more legacies than help, Scott wants nothing left. While some gifts are made public others are not, so no one really knows how much money she has given away this past year. She has no fancy headquarters, in fact, she refers to a “team of advisors” rather than a staff, and her operation has no known address.
Two things to know: Scott has not created a Foundation to distribute her wealth. Her gifts have very different targets. She is working through a nonprofit organization in Boston that advises philanthropies, and her gifts are direct donations to hundreds of non-profits, HBCUs, community colleges, women’s and LGBTQ+ organizations, groups that hand out food and pay off medical debts. She made gifts to at least 43 YMCAs, and YWCAs which operate many rape crisis centers. Recipients get a phone call, or even an email telling them they’ve just been given more money – usually millions — than they ever dreamed of having to spend on their cause. Several recipients remarked that the first news of their gift ended up in their email spam.
The second important part of her version of philanthropy is that there are no strings attached to these contributions. There is no reporting, no site visits, or other monitoring. The groups are chosen because they are doing good work and she has made them in charge of deciding how they will use the funds. Period.
Three Maryland HBCUs were the recipients of gifts in 2020. Morgan State received $40 million and Bowie State received $25 million. The University of Maryland-Eastern Shore received $20 million. Wow!
Both the $1.7 billion in gifts she announced in July and the $4 billion she has given away in the past four months have been announced through posts she made on Medium.com. After July, Scott asked her team to work quickly to give away a lot more money before the end of the year. She wrote in Medium, “This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty.”
Some are critical of Scott because the source of her wealth comes from the business practices of Amazon which made Scott’s fortune possible. Some feel that perhaps profits that had been more appropriately taxed would also result in a better distribution of this money. We really don’t know if this has affected her philosophy about her wealth and it may well be at least one of her motivations in trying to give away as much money as she can, and as fast as she can. But meanwhile, she has gone into the storied world of philanthropy with her own vision of how it should be done. Her work is causing some wealthy groups to think again about what they are doing to better the world. She certainly hasn’t made them look very “philanthropic.”
Hopefully, she will motivate more wealthy people to change the way they practice philanthropy – starting perhaps with her ex-husband, who lags far behind Scott in making charitable giving a priority.
January 12, 2021
The last four years have been a very overwhelming time for all of us. The anxiety, fear, and dread at turning on the news, and now sheer terror with hundreds – now thousands – of people in this country dying every day in a pandemic, it has all seemed never-ending. In his presidency, Trump created an overt atmosphere of white privilege and white power that was somehow under some kind of threat from the climate of change that was quietly enveloping our country. These divisions were visible from the halls of Congress to Main Street, USA.
Almost immediately in his presidency, Trump instituted a ban on immigration, first from predominately Muslim countries, and then for people from countries in this hemisphere fleeing violence from their own governments to come here, where they were confronted with incredibly inhumane treatment. His actions were condemned internationally, from the United Nations on down. He supported white power groups – in Charlottesville and through countless instances of abuses of police power across the country – and, in the end, unleashed a mob of white supremacists to invade and take over the U.S. Capitol building this past week in an attempt to prevent a Constitutionally-mandated procedure from taking place that would have affirmed the 2020 national election naming someone else as President. The terrifying part of this is the extent to which white nationalists and supremacists appear to have infiltrated all levels of law enforcement which compromises everyone’s safety.
The climate of change quietly enveloping our country? It didn’t start with the 2020 elections. Maryland NOW and other groups here supported a black minister and a young Jewish man to become U.S. Senators. And from a state – Georgia – that hadn’t elected anyone from either group in centuries, if ever. But in 2018, leaders of progressive change in Washington became a “squad” of young women of color – first-generation Americans – who had a very different vision for the future of this country. Ignored by mainstream Democrats, they became a voice moving the political discourse to the left in breathtaking fashion.
The U.S. Capitol building stands for many as a shrine to our representative democracy. Many of us felt fear and rage at the scenes of the violent attacks there on Wednesday, January 6. President-elect Joe Biden will not be sworn in as the 46th President of the U.S. until January 20th and our news feeds are already full of rumblings from these right-wing white supremacist groups that they are “not done” attacking our institutions of government both figuratively and literally. Still, film from various sources of the insurgent attack suggests that it was far more serious and violent than was initially apparent.
Meanwhile, we are heading into at least two months of skyrocketing deaths from COVID and here in Maryland we only this past week got our governor to allocate funds for struggling families. Maryland NOW can make only tentative plans for the year with this huge unknown of the disease’s progression looming.
Harder to address and change will be the systemic racism in our country and the roots of the various cults and white power groups who have made it known that – Trump’s election loss (or not) aside – they are not going either quietly or anywhere in the coming years. They have already announced that there is more to come from what we watched in horror on January 6th.
Interest in working for women’s rights, coming to us through email and our website, is growing. We are now able to reorganize several chapters we haven’t had as active for several years. New members are bringing us skills and ideas for growth for which we are very grateful. But there is lots to do. We welcome everyone and want to let you all know your participation means everything to our success.
The Maryland NOW Executive Committee
Sandy Bell, President
Barbara Hays, Executive Vice-President
Jerry Blum, Treasurer
December 30, 2020
Fair Fight works to promote fair elections. It’s that simple. Their work involves engaging voters and building GOTV efforts, educating them about their voting rights, and working with voters to support election reform.
Georgia’s voter maps have been showing quiet signs for several election cycles of new emerging Democratic majorities in the major cities in the state. At the same time, the state’s Republican establishment continued with “business as usual” running elections that were textbook examples of corruption, mismanagement, and above all, instance after instance of voter suppression. It became clear, especially to Stacey Abrams, that the only way to win elections in the state was to educate and mobilize voters. And that, in a nutshell, is what Fair Fight is all about.
From a legal perspective, Fair Fight is a “PAC with a Non-Contribution Account” which is also known as a Hybrid PAC. Fair Fight can accept contributions from individuals, corporations, labor organizations, and other political committees which are deposited into a segregated bank account for the purpose of funding – among other things – independent expenditure campaigns and generic voter drives pertaining to federal election candidates. One reason why Maryland NOW chose to contribute to Fair Fight was their focus, not on a particular candidate, but on working to counter voter suppression efforts so rampant in the state.
The stakes in the Special Run-Off Senate Election on January 5 couldn’t be higher. We say that a lot, but in this case it’s really literally true. The balance of power in the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance. If we lose even one of these seats, it’s at least two more years of Mitch McConnell with stalled efforts to overturn the chaos of the Trump Administration. For starters, they’ve already begun work to oppose Biden’s nominations for his administration’s cabinet positions. Or, with a 50-50 tie, the Democrats control the Senate with Vice President Harris on hand to break any tie necessary.
Experts have commented on the fact that it is notoriously difficult to get Georgia voters to return to the polls two months following a general election. Biden did not carry the state by a very substantial majority in November, and many voters who voted for him clearly did not vote Democratic in down-ballot races. This, specifically, is why Maryland NOW’s contribution to Fair Fight is so important. Getting out the vote is the whole story here and this is what Fair Fight is uniquely positioned to do.
Early voting is very high and of particular importance late in the campaign is the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider the Democratic bill from the U.S. House to create a $2,000 payment to people struggling with the economic effects of the pandemic. This will undoubtedly be an important late issue in this campaign.
December 12, 2020
Stacey Abrams is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO and political leader. After serving for eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Democratic Leader, in 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, winning more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history. Abrams was the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States, and she was the first black woman and first Georgian to deliver a Response to the State of the Union. After witnessing the gross mismanagement of the 2018 election by the Secretary of State’s office, Abrams launched Fair Fight to ensure every American has a voice in our election system through programs such as Fair Fight 2020, an initiative to fund and train voter protection teams in 20 battleground states. Over the course of her career, Abrams has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels. In 2019, she launched Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 Census and greater participation in civic engagement, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South.
Abrams is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where she serves on the Subcommittee on Diversity. As a Next Generation Fellow of the American Assembly on U.S. Global Policy and the Future of International Institutions, she also served as a discussion leader, editor, and essay contributor. She was also selected as a Salzburg Seminar Fellow on East Asian Studies, an American Marshall Memorial Fellow, an American Council of Young Political Leaders Fellow, a Council on Italy Fellow, a British-American Project Fellow and a U.S.-Russia Young Leaders Fellow. As the top-ranking Democrat in Georgia, she traveled to and met with leaders in South Korea, Israel and Taiwan, and she worked closely with several members of the consular corps. Her international policy travel includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Abrams is a member of former Secretary of State John Kerry’s World War Zero bipartisan coalition on climate change. She has been a featured speaker at the Aspen Ministers Forum, the Kerry Initiative-Yale Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, the National Security Action Forum and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a contributor to Foreign Affairs Magazine.
She is a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award and a current member of the Board of Directors for the Center for American Progress. Abrams has also written eight romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery, in addition to Lead from the Outside, formerly Minority Leader, a guidebook on making real change, and Our Time is Now, which will appear in bookstores in June.
Abrams received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and Yale Law School. Born in Madison, Wisconsin, she and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi and were raised in Georgia.