Tag Archives: Vincent C. Gray

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.”


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.