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Undercurrents

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By Jerry Waxman

Prior to this year the date June 28 produced a few blips on the radar of some historical significance. Here’s a sampling:

1846   Adolph Sax patents the saxophone

1902  Congress passes the Spooner Act authorizing the building of the Panama Canal

1914  WWI begins with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

1919  WWI ends with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles

1922  The Irish Civil War begins

1942  Germany expanded the war in Russia

1969 The Stonewall Riots begin

1978  The US Supreme Court bars the college quota system

Notable birthdays on this date include:

1491  British Monarch Henry VIII

1577  Artist Peter Paul Reubens

1703  Theologian John Wesley, founder of Methodism

1712  Philosopher Jean Jaques Rousseau

1873  Nobel Prize Winner Luigi Pirandello

1902  Composer Richard Rodgers

1902  Public Enemy John Dillinger

1909  Author Eric Ambler

1920  Author A.E. Hotchner

1926  Comic Genius Mel Brooks

1931  Racing Legend Junior Johnson

1934  U.S Senator Carl Levin

1938  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

1941  Pitcher Al Downing, who seved up Hank Aaaron’s 715th home run.

1946  Actress Gilda Radner

1966  Actor John Cusack

By all accounts it was an ordinary day. Events happen, some special and not so special people are born and some special and not so special people die. It would be nice to think that it was an uneventful day but history demands that things happen which affect all of us and it chose June 28, 2012. Now I can never celebrate my birthday alone again. No, I can never again have the anonymity of only sharing my birthday with my daughter and my cousin.

Three things of note happened on June 28 which will go down in history. The Supreme Court 5-4 ruling upholding the Affordable Health Care Act will have the most impact and will be debated ad infinite for years to come. This decision, which could have come anytime in the last two weeks day sucked the air out of any other news story that happened:

  1.  In a heavily partisan vote the House of Representatives (including 17 Democrats) shamelessly and shamefully held Attorney General Eric Holder guilty in Contempt of Congress for doing his job properly.
  1. The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) kicked off its national voter registration campaign in the historic town of Eatonville, Florida.

Let’s not waste any time on the SCOTUS decision because everyone else is going to put their two cents in for a long time. The only benefit of this decision is that Republican states will resist so heavily that it is fuel for Sharpton’s fire in energizing minority communities to register and vote. Let’s also not waste any time on the contempt charges either because they are meaningless. Again, it could fuel the fire if properly identified and used in the voter drives. What is more important is why only a relative handful of people were there in Eatonville for something as important as a national kickoff.

Eatonville was chosen because it was the first black incorporated town in the United States. During the Reconstruction period after the Civil War in 1882, Joseph C. Clarke bought land from Josiah C. Eaton, a white man who was willing to sell his land to Blacks. Clarke began selling lots to black families from Maitland, Orlando and Winter Park. On August 15 of 1887, the residents voted to incorporate. Eatonville was a way for the black community to create its own culture and town without having to deal with being subject to the white man’s rules. Eatonville is best known for its Zora Neale Hurston Arts Festival and the Zora Neale Hurston Library, which opened in 2004. Hurston was a mainstay of the Harlem Renaissance during the early part of the 20th Century. Much of her writing deals with her growing up in Eatonville.

NAN issued its press release on Monday, June 25, which gave people enough time to publicize the event properly. The network of churches and activists sent out their fliers yet only two local television stations and one local news organization were there to cover the event. This should have been covered by all the National news media.There were about sixty people at the invitation only luncheon and only a handful of activists showed up, some of whom were running for political office. Nobody knows more about generating publicity than Al Sharpton, so it seemed awfully strange that there wasn’t more activity generated. It also seems that an organization such as NAN travels awfully light with just a handful of people yet no media person and no advance team. NAN has been around since 1991 and they should have this down pat. Al Sharpton is a master at what he does and if you look at his exhausting schedule his time management skills are superior, but he can’t do it all. There was no one from NAN recording the event. Channels 9 and 13 were there but did not record everything. This should have been a PR Mecca for NAN. I offered to give them a disk with the complete video on it yet no one wanted to collect it before they left for Atlanta. Instead, I was told to mail it to an address in New York.

In contrast, however, Sharpton was in total control. He is a master at working the crowd and this was no exception. He stressed the importance of united action in getting people to register noting that everyone should be involved including all students, minorities and women. He recalled the civil rights battles of previous generations stating that no one gave them the right to vote; it had to be fought for and that many people gave their lives in order to get that vote. In a rebuff to today’s generations he called them selfish and lazy. He challenged them to stand up to the current voter suppression laws and help get ID’s for those who need them regardless of hardship and cost. It’s a small price to pay compared to the sacrifices of previous generations. Warning again that the conservative forces are going to fight hard to keep an estimated 5,000,000 people from voting the National Action Network is going to be fighting hard for every eligible voter to be able to vote. Citing the biblical story of King David, who had promised his crown to Solomon, his son by Bathsheba, his other son Adonijah plotted to steal the crown and become king upon David’s death. David, however did honor his agreement and Adonijah’s plans were thwarted. “Don’t let them steal your crown!” he warned. “Don’t let them steal your crown!” June 28, 2012. An ordinary day like any other, only it will never be the same.

Here’s links to the speeches:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfxp1Bjsimk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqO-LEgNHz4

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