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Protecting America's Right to Vote: A Fireside Chat with Rep. Maxine Waters

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A fireside chat between Rep. Maxine Waters and Pulitzer-prize winning MSNBC and Washington Post reporter Jonathan Capehart
A fireside chat between Rep. Maxine Waters and Pulitzer-prize winning MSNBC and Washington Post reporter Jonathan Capehart
(Image by Marta Steele)
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It was timely to convene with a large roomful of African Americans invited to a fireside chat with the distinguished, heroic, and personable Rep. Waters and then to mourn with them for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who passed away at 68 earlier today (October 17 2019).

I felt privileged to be among them.

Preceding the Congresswoman were two of her female colleagues, Ayana Pressley, newly elected to represent Boston in Congress, and the veteran Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of California.

We mourned together for Rep. Cummings as his words "Take pleasure in the grandeur of our brothers and sisters," were recalled by Rep. Lee. She had been elected to Congress the same year he was, 1996.

"Be here among us peace and comfort for all whose lives Elijah Cummings has touched," prayed Rev. Johnzie Cogman of the United Methodist Church.

Barbara Arnwine, founder and executive director of the Transformative Justice Coalition (TJF), recalled that Cummings had been elected to a seat held by the first African American person elected to the House from Maryland, Parren James Mitchell.

Rep. Pressley noted what an important sweep Election 2018 had been for the Democrats. "My win was a mandate for hope," she said. "Maxine is all of our Congresswoman. . . . Black women are the truth and justice seekers."

Rep. Lee recalled that she was the daughter of sharecroppers/preachers. . . . "Don't shirk from the truth," she said. "The journey can't be taken without you." Having previously been forced to do the back-breaking work of cleaning, we're taking up this job again voluntarily. Regarding HR 40, which requires the compensation of the offspring of a force that had built the U.S. economy for 250 years, she said that the work to pass this bill must continue.


Rep. Waters's interviewer, the Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post and MSNBC Jonathan Capehart, reminisced that Rep. Elijah Cummings had called Rep. Lee his mentor. He said that he loved Cummings's energies and expressions, especially "We're better than that." "He worked hard and had a good legal mind," he said. "I loved him and we will miss him."

But the original occasion for the event was to present TJF's first annual Champion of Justice Award to Rep. Waters. Arnwine presided, "singing the iconic and ironic anthem of Auntie Maxine. . . . She never stops striving for justice. As chair of the House Financial Services Committee, she has stood up to banks, regulated them, telling people what to do and how to do it, reclaiming her time."

Accepting the award, Waters said that she was "honored to be honored" and quickly paid tribute to Arnwine, who last week was awarded an honorary PhD by Duke University. "Barbara has given her life to fight for voting rightsjustice and equality," the Congresswoman said.

Interviewed by Capehart, Waters said that she had wanted to impeach Trump soon after he took office. She called him a "worthless human being," having endured frequent verbal abuse by our chief executive. Before taking office he was a racist landlord, refusing to rent to black tenants. She said that she was better than him, period. Who would disagree?

Turning to the subject of Election 2020, Waters noted that the Supreme Court has cooperated in reviving the Jim Crow abuse of African Americans, only now it occurs in more subtle ways equally as cruel and indefensible. Justice John Roberts argued that we now live in a post-racial era, having elected a black president. Congress can update the list of states that still qualify for preclearance, a Republican-dominated branch of the government at that time (2013).

SCOTUS thus abetted the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Waters decried the spread of the brand of election corruption most recently evident in Georgiathe purging of voter lists in transparently twisted and trumped-up ways; Russia's invading the social media with trolls to misguide voters; the replacement of voting precincts with voting centers, to be sure people who can't get to their own precincts on Election Day can still cast votes that will be counted (when many prefer voting the old-fashioned way in their neighborly precincts); ballot harvesting, the practice of going door to door to collect absentee ballots while assuring the unsuspecting subjects that they will be trustworthy in delivering their votes to the polls to be counted; early voting, which so benefits black people and others who can't leave their jobs during weekday work hours.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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