Letters to My Son: Marching on from Washington to Damascus to Cairo, My Hopes 50 Years after 1963’s March

By Talib I. Karim*Image

Son, so for the record, on August 28, 1963, when the first famous March on Washington took place, I was not yet born.  In fact, your granddad Talib and grandma Linah did not meet until the summer of 1968.  However, I’m told that mama Linah, a former Jet Magazine centerfold model turned activist, did attend the ’63 march and on the next day, gave birth to your uncle Tony in a Maryland hospital.

Thus, for me, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is not only symbolic but also sentimental.   Yet, for all the progress in the last 50 years, the march is also a very real, and painfully disappointing reminder, that Dr. King’s dream…remains…just that, a dream.

True, we have an African American President, a Harvard educated constitutional law scholar and community organizer born to an African Muslim father and Anglo American mom.  And yes, Obama shares the White House with his African American wife and two teen girls, Malia and Sasha.

The Obama’s are not the only African Americans in the White House.  Even though his government is not quite a mirror of the nation’s rich diversity, the President has tapped other people of color for his team. 

In 1963, not only did few African Americans even dream of working in let alone living in the White House, we were also largely locked out of residing in many “White Only” neighborhoods throughout the nation.  Today, with very few exceptions, the only color that matters in purchasing or renting a home is green (i.e., cash or credit).

Despite the strides in employment, education, housing and other social indexes that African Americans have made, many argue that these gains are largely superficial and that America is just shades better, if not worse than it was 50 years ago.

In the nation’s capital, both poverty and unemployment are higher today than they were in 1963, according to Marion Barry, four-time DC Mayor, who in the 60s, led the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Also, while the US is #1 in building jails, and raising men and women to occupy them it ranks # 48 in the quality of its math and science education.

On the civil liberties front, many contend that the public enjoys less freedom today than 50 years ago.  Not only is the government spying on civil rights leaders, like it was doing to Dr. King, Al Hajj Malik Shabazz and other 60s activists, but according to brave whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) public surveillance is sinister enough to resemble a science fiction movie, but is all perfectly legal according to the Justice Department.

Finally, the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder case involving the shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin is proof positive that not only do Dr. King’s children live in a world that judges them more by their skin color than character, but sadly his grandchildren are also citizens of a society and world community that remains a largely race-based caste system.

As an advocate and writer, my work focuses mainly on local and national issues such as expanding our nation’s ranks of scientists and engineers or even building an environmentally sustainable (green) health center in an underdeveloped neighborhood of DC.  However, as a Muslim American, my mind and heart are occasionally pulled towards international affairs. 

While Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis (in the hometown of my father, who actually served as an aide to Dr. King during the sanitation workers strike), the civil rights leader’s mind and heart were also internationally focused.  A year before a sniper snuffed out King’s life, the Nobel Peace Prize winner suggested that the US was the greatest purveyor of violence in the history of mankind. Sadly, in the five decades after the March, our nation’s number one status in this category has remained intact.

Drone strikes in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.  Possibly instigating a civil war in Syria, that can only mean moral and financial ruin to its people.  And supporting the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Egypt, who came to power in a revolution that many claim was inspired by Obama’s very own speech to the Arab people in 2009.  These are among the evidence which paints a clear picture that Dr. King’s vision of racial harmony and world peace remains not only a dream…but perhaps even an illusion.

However, like my parents, I remain hopeful.  I still believe in President Obama’s favorite quote from Dr. King’s writings, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

So with my head and hope bloodied but unbowed, I plan to March on Washington on August 28, 2013.  And while I march, I plan to pray…prayers not only for true freedom, equality and justice, here in Washington, DC, but also in Damascus, Cairo, and everywhere throughout this world.

Son, I share Dr. King’s dream, and remain prayerful that one day our dream will become reality.

Talib I. Karim is a lawyer, political strategist, and writer of a soon to be released book: “Letters to My Son, a Father’s Lessons on Love, Law, and Science.” The writer can be contacted at talib@talibkarim.com.

District Officials Plan Green DC for 900,000 By 2032

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray addressed developers, construction professionals at an event billed as a Green Building Symposium on Friday, September 14, 2012 to solicit input on plans to build a green DC to accommodate 250,000 more residents in next 20 years (courtesy/Office of Mayor Gray).

By Talib I. Karim, Health & Technology Writer

Recently, District of Columbia officials hosted a day-long symposium at Gallaudet University to discuss plans for building what they call a “Green DC” by 2032.  By then, according to DC Mayor Vince Gray (D), the District’s population is expected to be near or beyond 900,000.  “We are growing at a pace of 1000 per week,” noted Gray.

In 20 years, Gray has set his sight on the District becoming the healthiest, greenest, most livable place in the country.  By so doing, Gray hopes that future generations of DC residents will credit his administration for thinking and planning ahead.

Gray says his vision was inspired by a Siemens report about sustainability read by the Mayor while attending a conference.  After the conference, Gray recounted that he called upon his team to develop DC’s own plan for sustainability.  To mark Earth Day this year, the Mayor rolled out this plan entitled A Vision for a Sustainable DC.

The symposium was a chance for the Mayor to get feedback on this vision from developers, construction companies, and other District building professionals.

According to DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Director Nicholas Majett, the event also sought to advance Mayor Gray’s plan for striking a balance between sophisticated growth and mindful conservation.

A central component of turning the Mayor’s vision into a reality is the construction of green buildings, structures that are designed and operated to reduce their impact on the community and on the health of building occupants, according to the US Green Building Council.

To stimulate the construction of green buildings, Brendan Shane, of the DC Department of the Environment, announced the plans to roll out a Green building code.  This code is instrumental in helping achieve the Mayor’s goal of having the District house more than 200 green buildings by 2032, noted Shane.

The “Green Code,” will help achieve the District’s goal of bringing about a “[F]ifty percent (50%) reduction in energy consumption in 20 years,” said Shane.  “By 2032, we need buildings that produce as much energy as they use…The Green Code will help us do that,” Shane added.

Shane also reviewed plans to stimulate urban agriculture where food is grown on roofs so, as he envisions, “[Y]ou have locally grown food accessible to everyone across the [District].”

The green symposium included several break-out sessions covering issues including renewable energy, construction and demolition, waste management, and LEED/green building standards.  In the end, the Mayor’s sustainability plan and summits like this, hopes to “[U]se a strategic approach of job creation in the green economy to chip away the District’s overall unemployment,” shared Shane.

The writer is a lawyer and talk-show host in the District of Columbia and can be reached at Talib@talibkarim.com.

DC, National Democratic Leaders Demand Rights for District at National Convention

At a convention center that sits on Charlotte’s historic Martin Luther King Blvd, local and national luminaries gathered for a rally in conjunction with the 2012 Democratic National Committee Convention. Mayor Gray, who led the District of Columbia’s convention delegation, made news for footing his own expenses to attend the Democratic convention, came with a clear mission, he said — to advance the District while also campaigning for the President. “We want to convey that the people of the District of Columbia deserve the same rights as all other Americans,”  said Mayor.  The Mayor described the District’s current status, as “taxation without representation.”  “We need to bring democracy to America.  The best path to do that is clearly, in my opinion, is Barack Obama,” stated Gray. Even though the National Democratic party platform was conspicuously void of a statehood plank, the Mayor pointed out “It [the platform] does mention legislative autonomy and voting rights.”  Further Mayor Gray noted that the Republican national platform included language that would even strip the District of rights, such as limits on gun laws and women’s reproductive health programs. Yet the Mayor stated affirmatively “We want statehood and I would love for the Democratic Platform to take that up and I look forward to working with my Democratic brethren to include that [in future platforms].” Gray’s optimism has won the Mayor, in his opinion, a “warm reception” from other convention delegates including mayors of other cities, even at a time when some in the District have yet to warm up to his administration.  The Mayor believes his “cred” with other convention attendees springs from what he calls an appreciation of the challenges the District has faced and its ability to, nonetheless, achieve successes under his watch.  Gray touts a record low homicide level, progress in education, and a $200 million surplus in the District as some of his achievements. Later that evening, the Mayor and other District leaders, are expected to share the spotlight with other democratic leaders to cast their official votes for Obama as their presidential nominee.  When the Mayor takes the mic, he promises to deliver a simple message “that taxation without representation is one of the principles upon which this nation is founded and its ironic we pay the same taxes in the District of Columbia yet[are] denied the same rights.” Nationally syndicated writer and President Emeritus of North Carolina’s Bennett College Julianne Malveux was also among the other dignitaries in attendance for the Democratic Convention. Malveux said “This convention is exciting…as a Democrat I could not be more proud.  However, I must say that I’ve been disappointed that the District of Columbia has not been treated fairly.  We belong on the platform…The District is one of the most reliable Democratic votes and we deserve to be on the platform.” According to Malveux, she’s been a longtime resident of the District of Columbia and as such, “I feel disenfranchised every time I go to vote.” Malveux’s comments came on the heels of what many called an “electrifying” speech by Michelle Obama during the first night of the Democratic festivities in Charlotte.  “Women, particularly women of color were completely uplifted by the speech,” noted Malveux.  “What would Fannie Lou Mamer have thought,” asked Malveux, reflecting upon the legendary civil rights era leader who protested at the 1964 Democratic Party Convention in order for African American delegates from Mississippi to merely have the right to be seated. “She,” Malveux said of Mrs. Obama “is such a role model for our young women…intelligent, a mother, a wife, a help mate for her husband.” Reverend Jesse Jackson, who himself twice sought the Democrats nomination for President, in 1984 and 1988, reflected on the work yet to be done by his party.  “We are facing amazing levels of poverty and violence,” noted Jackson.  To tackle these problems, Jackson, called on his party to develop a program to focus on “violence, poverty, and urban reconstruction.”  As the former Shadow Senator of the District of Columbia, Jackson lamented that the District, even after four years of an African American President, still lacks statehood and even a statehood plank in the Democratic platform. In the way of advice to Mayor Gray, Jackson, taking a note from his days of community organizing and mobilizing, advised Mayor Gray to “[C]ontinue to protest…Keep the issue visible.” And this advice appears to describe the focus of Mayor Gray and other District leaders who plan to continue pressing for full democracy for the people of the nation’s capital until they are victorious.  District advocates like the Mayor have reason for optimism, pointing to the election of Obama as an example that in America, “anything is possible.” The writer is a lawyer and talk show host in the District of Columbia and can be reached at Talib@talibkarim.com. ##

D.C. Mayor Gray Hosts Historic Ramadan Iftar Dinner

By Talib I. Karim, Health & Tech Writer

For version published in the Afro American: http://www.afro.com/sections/news/Washington/story.htm?storyid=75938

D.C. Mayor Gray welcomed scores of Muslim and non-Muslims to the Wilson Building, which he called “the people’s house,” for a Ramadan Iftar (Courtesy Photo/Lateef Magnum)

On Aug. 17,  2012, the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) hosted an Iftar dinner at the Wilson Building.  Joining the Mayor in presenting this event was the D.C. Muslim Democratic Caucus along with a distinguished list of co-hosts including the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Red Toque Café, and Real Halal, LLC.

Iftar is an Arabic word, that literally means “breakfast.” Traditionally it’s known as the meal Muslims enjoy at sunset following a day of fasting. During Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims are obligated to avoid eating, drinking, and sexual relations from the early morning, when the sun begins to rise, until it sets. The fasting requirement is relaxed for those who are traveling, sick, and, for women, during menstruation.

Since the Islamic calendar is lunar based, the months rotate throughout the official calendar year. This year, Ramadan was observed during the summer, from late July to Aug. 18. As the first late-summer occurrence of Ramadan in forty years, Muslims were required to fast for upwards of 15 hours per day. Thus, the Iftar meal can be a big deal and is often celebrated along with family, neighbors, and friends.

With an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of District residents having at least one Muslim family member, literally thousands of Iftar feasts were held in D.C. this Ramadan. These gatherings took place in homes, businesses, embassies, and even in government buildings like the White House. At the Iftar hosted by President Obama, he spoke about importance of religious freedom both here and globally, the strength of Muslim women, and the gains for Muslims over the past year since the Arab Spring.

A week after the president’s remarks at the White House, Gray at the Wilson Building Iftar observed, “Regardless of your race, culture or religious beliefs, the principles of fasting, reflection and discipline — which are upheld by the Muslim community year-round and especially in this season of Ramadan — are practices from which everyone can benefit.”

“We could all use a little more discipline,” Gray said, possibly referring to some who’ve called on the veteran politician to leave office early in light of the investigation into his successful 2010 campaign.

The mayor left his guests with a prayer. “I pray that this time of celebration will remind us that we can only advance as a city and as a nation together when each of us values the contributions of the other and respects their beliefs and their practices…[M]ay we all draw upon the strength of our diversity so that we can be closer, more effective and more powerful than any of the things that would otherwise tear us apart.”

The event drew over 100 Muslim business, religious, and political leaders along with distinguished non-Muslims like Franklin Garcia, chairman of the D.C. Latino Democratic Caucus. “I was pleased to see that the Muslim community was not only so well organized but they are a growing minority in the [District],” said Garcia. “You had a sense in the room that everyone was there for… a purpose that was very serious and meaningful. “The Latino community can learn from the Muslim community about the way they organized themselves,” Garcia added.

Garcia also had some words of wisdom for his Muslim hosts, who earlier in the Iftar program, observed that of the over 150 judges in D.C., not a single one is Muslim, while Maryland has at least two Muslims sitting as judges. “What you do is organize, organize,” to change this fact urged Garcia.

Several members of the Mayor’s cabinet attended his Iftar including DCRA Director Nick Majett; Interim Health Director Dr. Saul Levin and Ron Linton, chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

While not the first such Iftar hosted by a D.C. mayor, event organizers described the event as the first to be both widely publicized and attended.

Imam Talib Shareef, who leads one of the largest Muslim congregations in the District of Columbia, saluted the Mayor on hosting one of the best Iftars he’d attended throughout the month of fasting. “This Iftar was mainly for the common people,” said Imam Shareef.  Concerning the Mayor’s political troubles, Imam Shareef said, “We support good works, the Mayor has done some good works and that’s what we see…like a ground breaking we attended for senior housing….We don’t pay as much attention to things we don’t see.”   Imam Shareef’s advice for the Mayor was “[J]ust keep doing good works and… this [the Iftar] was an example of good works for the people.”

African-American Women Face Challenges, Find Support in Quitting Smoking

By Talib I. Karim, Health Writer*

Nearly 20% of African American women smoke cigarettes, some fear gaining weight if they quit. Health professionals suggest that women can shed smoking and pounds, together. (Photo/courtesy.colourbox.com)

 Sister Mary, as we’ll call her, is sharp-dressing, nice looking, and holds an MBA degree along with a six-figure position with the federal government.

An usher board member with a prominent church, Sister Mary recently added a new title, “ex-smoker,” she proudly professes.

“I got started young…and used to smoke a pack a day,” says Sister Mary, which according to the American Legacy Foundation can be as many as 25 cigarettes.“Two years ago, when my mom died, I cut back to three a day,” Sister Mary reflects.  From then until just recently, Sister Mary explains “I would normally go onto my balcony and enjoy a cigarette along with a glass of red wine,” she adds.

In late July, a friend disclosed to Sister Mary that he could taste cigarettes in her skin and on her lips, even though it had been hours since she had last smoked.  “That’s when I knew it was time for me to quit for good,” recounts Sister Mary.

The taste of cigarettes as described by Sister Mary’s friend is real according to Dr. Joseph Adams, MD, who specializes in internal and addiction medicine at Park West Health Systems in Baltimore, MD.  “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ash tray,” says Dr. Adams, past president of the anti-smoking group, Smoke Free Maryland.

Dr. Adams also notes that smoking by mothers during pregnancy is widely understood to cause behavior problems and learning disabilities in their new born.  The American Legacy Foundation recommends that since smoking can damage the DNA, it is “vitally important” for men and women alike who wish to have children to quit smoking at least several months prior to conception.

Women who smoke can also risk the health of those near them through second-hand smoking.  The U.S Surgeon General estimates that living with a smoker increases the chance of getting lung cancer by 20% to 30%.  Many studies show that secondhand smoke causes children to develop asthma, ear infections, and pneumonia in children.

In fact, some researchers suggest that even after a person gives up smoking, the toxins from past smoking that remain in a person’s hair and clothes or in carpet and furniture are hazardous to infants and children.  Researchers describe this gradual buildup of toxins from secondhand smoke as “thirdhand smoke.”

While stats like these inspire women like Sister Mary to kick the habit annually, quitting smoking like ending a long relationship, is easier said than done, according to Dr. Adams.  And that’s not by mistake, he adds.

report by the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine suggests conditions called “smoking withdrawal symptoms” are tied to nicotine, the highly addictive ingredient in cigarette smoke.  According to the report, cigarette companies manipulate levels of nicotine in cigarettes to make sure that smokers become addicted.

Nicotine causes the brain to release chemicals that create feelings of pleasure, or the “buzz” which many smokers report.  Within half an hour, the “buzz” fades away and the smoker is left feeling depressed and tired. This feeling is what causes smoker to light up the next cigarette. The cycle of stimulation and depression keeps repeating, which leads to addiction.

A person who plans to stop smoking can expect several withdrawal symptoms including headaches, nausea, and low blood pressure.  In addition to physical symptoms, women should also be on guard for the emotional issues that often result from smoking withdrawal such as anxiety, trouble sleeping, and even hunger.

To cope with these issues, Dr. Krystal Stanley, Ph.D., a DC-based licensed psychologist offers patients a few techniques.  Dr. Stanley recommends that those seeking to kick the habit should be prepared to address anxieties that may have caused them to start smoking in the first place.

For sleeping troubles and weight gain concerns, Dr. Stanley advises patients to (1) avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages up to five hours before bed; (2) spend an hour or so before bed to wind down, without TV, text messages, or other highly stimulating input; and finally (3) drink a warm, non-caffeinated beverage before bed such as warm milk or tea.

Beyond the withdrawal symptoms, since as Dr. Adams notes, over 4000 chemical compounds are created by burning a cigarette, many additives like nicotine can remain in the body long after you quit smoking.

The health web portal, primehealthchannel.com, suggests several steps for flushing your body of nicotine including drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water per day; consuming fruits containing antioxidants like Vitamin C; and regular and rigorous physical exercise.

Knowledge is one of the most potent weapons to help women leave cigarettes for good suggests Amber Bullock with the American Legacy Foundation.   On this front Bullock’s organization offers a free hotline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) and a website where smokers can develop a personalized quit plan at www.BecomeAnEX.org.

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*Brian Jones contributed to this article.  To contact the writer, email him at tkarim@teclawgroup.com.

DC Finds “Cure” for Ending Mother-Child HIV Transmissions, No HIV Births Since ’09

By Talib I. Karim, Health & Tech Writer
 
For version published in theGrio.com: http://thegrio.com/2012/07/26/no-children-born-with-hiv-in-d-c-since-09/

The District of Columbia has cut mother-baby HIV transmission from 36 per year in 1989 to zero from 2009-2011 (photo courtesy/communityoperationsmile.org).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of the more than 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia, 2.7 percent are living with HIV, according to a new D.C. government report. This rate is double the amount needed for a disease to be called an “epidemic” by the World Health Organization.

Despite that fact, no children have been born with HIV since 2009.

The D.C. government’s success in eliminating HIV births, down from a high of more than three per month, is an “awesome” achievement, says Dr. Marta Gwen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, mother-to-child HIV transmission can occur anytime during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding.

Between 1988 and 1990, when AIDS cases were at their highest levels, Dr. Gwen led a team that tested thousands of delivering moms in D.C. over a given 12-month period. It was discovered that, of those tested, 121 mothers and an estimated 36 newborn babies were HIV-positive.

HIV infections of African-American mothers continue to rise

While D.C. celebrates no new HIV births, children remain at risk due to the increasing infection rates among women, particularly African-American women. In D.C., the rates of HIV infection among all women have doubled in the past four years to 12.1 percent — that’s more than one in every ten women.

Nationally, African-American women are among the highest group of newly infected persons. In 2009, of all women newly diagnosed with HIV, 57 percent were African-American — 15 times that of Caucasian women, and over three times the rate among Hispanic and Latina women.

Unlike years past, when intravenous drug use was the primary cause of HIV infection among women of color, most acquire HIV through heterosexual sex. Yet, fear remains a hindrance for some African-American women.

“There is still a large amount of stigma surrounding HIV in women of color,” says Chip Lewis, spokesperson with D.C.’s Whitman-Walker AIDS clinic. That makes it much less likely that large amounts of women of color will get tested or treated for HIV, he adds.

Winning formula, good investment

Eradicating mother-to-child HIV transmission hasn’t been easy, says Dr. Gregory Pappas, director of D.C.’s HIV/AIDS administration.

“Physicians have worked to provide HIV tests to all new moms in the District. Those found to be positive are immediately put on medication,” explains Pappas, who credits D.C. Mayor Vince Gray for ensuring that mothers and anyone else who tests positive can receive antiretroviral medication for free. These new medicines have allowed mothers to reduce their HIV viral loads so low that it is highly unlikely for them to transmit HIV to their infants.

Babies of infected mothers are also being delivered by C-section, which “eliminates much of the blood that causes mother-infant transmission,” states Pappas. And, after birth, HIV-positive mothers in D.C. are often instructed to feed their infants baby formula rather than breast milk.

Finding a solution for perinatal HIV transmission hasn’t been cheap. A lifetime pack of antiretroviral drugs costs the D.C. government $400,000 per person, notes Dr. Pappas.

But, the investment by the District makes sense according to Larry Warren, CEO of Howard University Hospital, who regularly delivered babies with HIV in the 1980s and 1990s. In terms of D.C.’s unique HIV prevention strategy, Warren asserts “I don’t believe the District of Columbia has a peer [that rivals us] in this country.”

Talib I. Karim manages a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that assists clients in resolving health, family, and construction-related legal issues.  In addition to writing for his blog, talibkarim.com, Talib hosts a weekly talk show in Washington, D.C.

The Nation’s Capital Deserves “One DC”, Now, More than Ever!

Leaders call on DC residents to demand fairness and respect for Mayor Vince Gray.

As DC business, labor, and faith leaders, we take issue with the tone and underlying motivations of those attacking District Mayor Vincent Gray and his 2010 Mayoral campaign.

Many understand that this story has its roots in an earlier election, the 2006 Adrian Fenty for Mayor campaign.

Fenty excited a cross-section of the District based upon his can-do, must-do attitude, his willingness to roll up his sleeves and take his message to every DC neighborhood, and his solidly progressive legislative record, such as standing up for low income residents.

The Fenty ’06 campaign inspired many of us to invest into building what became the Fenty machine.  On election night, our coalition helped Fenty win every voting precinct in the District.  Yet, sadly, almost immediately after the election, we began to realize that we had created a political Frankenstein.

First, was Fenty’s decision to strip power from the elected school board.  Next, Fenty placed DCPS under his direct control and hired Michelle Rhee as Chancellor.

Over the next three years, the Fenty-Rhee team would close schools, violate labor rights, and disenfranchise parents, under the guise of education reform, without much evidence of academic improvement.

Then came the pay-to-play system of awarding government contracts, the summary firing of DC employees, and the intimidation of those who dared to differ with or toe the Fenty political line.

One example of the infamous Fenty arrogance was his refusal to meet with the late civil rights leader Dorothy Height and author Maya Angelou, seen as slap in the face of all women, particularly women of color.

By late 2009, the once-beloved Fenty managed to alienate and diss nearly every group in the District.

In response, the diverse coalition that elected Fenty began looking for a new horse, an anti-Fenty.

It took months to convince Vince Gray to run against Fenty, his cronies, and their $3-5 million war-chest. Gray’s decision to take on Fenty was a political gamble of the highest order.

In 2010, Gray was ending his first term as DC Council Chair.  Because of Gray’s mastery of DC’s $10 billion operation and traits of conciliation, deliberation, and collaboration was positioned for easy reelection.

When Vince Gray decided to enter the mayoral race, he had just five months to hire staff, develop position papers, design campaign messages, give speeches, recruit volunteers, secure endorsements, and raise money all sufficient enough to defeat perhaps the most organized disciplined political machine in DC history.

On election night, the Mayor’s campaign of mostly volunteers won Fenty’s own Ward and every other, save, one, Ward 3.

So upset by Fenty’s defeat, his supporters ran, albeit unsuccessfully, a Black Republican against Mary Cheh, their council rep, as pay-back for her principled decision to back Gray over Fenty. After the primary election, Gray immediately extended olive branches to the Fenty camp in the spirit of healing, party unity. Yet, the bitterness among team Fenty and his loyalists was so intense, they waged an unheard of write-in general election campaign against Gray.

When the elections were over, Gray worked to win over his former foes.  He invited many Fenty supporters to his transition team and retained numerous Fenty officials such as Chief Cathy Lanier and Michelle Rhee’s number two, Kaya Henderson. Gray even elevated a key Fenty hire Alan Lew to serve as the City Administrator.

At the start of the Gray Administration, it surprised many that the most well-paid District employees were Fenty appointees. Yet, for those who knew Vince Gray, the fact he would match his words with his deeds to create One City, was of no surprise.

What is surprising was the intense sense of entitlement of Fenty backers.  Instead of accepting the Mayor’s overtures of friendship, many Fenty friends were intent on thwarting and even un-doing the people’s will. The recent calls for the Mayor to resign by David Catania and Muriel Bowser, two of Fenty’s biggest Council allies are illustrative of this political opportunism.

In the end, we believe the Mayor’s track record, in its totality, should be the basis for how he should be judged.  His record includes, education reform policies that respect teachers, parents, and other stakeholders, including Charter Schools.  Initiatives to ensure that sustainable development reaches every DC neighborhood.  Launching a health insurance exchange, as a model for health reform implementation.  Improved labor-management relations.

And least we forget, last year the Mayor put his own body and liberty on the line by getting arrested for DC Statehood and dignity, garnering international attention and  support for DC rights.

Today, our Mayor, the District and the rest of the nation need DC residents to unite and demand respect and fairness for Mayor Gray.   Now, more than ever, the people of the District deserve “One DC.”

Signed by,

Geo Johnson, JD, AFSCME Council 20; Averette Mhoon Parker, MD; DC Muslim Democratic Caucus; Talib I. Karim, Esq., TEC Law Group; and Rosalind M. Parker, Esq.