- Created on 08 March 2013
Journalist Karen Jordan, a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford University, is currently researching the lives of her great-great-grandfather, who was the first Black doctor in Houston, Texas, and her great-grandfather, the first Black doctor in Coweta County near Atlanta. Both men were originally from Troup County, Georgia, and attended Clark Atlanta University. This is their story.
Meharry Medical College has graduated at least 15 percent of all Black doctors in the United States, according to the Nashville-based university history, many the sons of slaves. Georgia native John Henry Jordan was one of them and his story is still being told 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
Jordan was born in Hogansville, Ga., to Berry and Isabella Jordan. After being freed from slavery, Berry Jordan became a sharecropper. He expected his son to do the same, but John Jordan had other plans. Even though he knew little about the world beyond the backbreaking work of picking cotton, he decided there had to be something better. Helping people overcome illness was his goal, perhaps fueled by the fact his own mother died when he was just two years old.
By the age of 10, Jordan found a role model: Dr. Edward Ramsey, Troup County's first Black physician. Ramsey, an 1880 graduate of Meharry Medical College (known as Central Tennessee College at the time), was himself a Hogansville native.
Jordan modeled his path after Ramsey's, enrolling at Clark Atlanta University (formerly Clark College) before being accepted to Meharry Medical College. It was a victory for Jordan even though his own father was adamantly opposed to his plans.
Undeterred, Jordan relocated to Tennessee. Eager to learn, he excelled in the classroom but later faced a dilemma common to many students today: a lack of funds. By the fall of 1894, unable to pay his tuition, he had to drop out of school. Although humiliated, he persevered, working odd jobs for months to raise money for his tuition. He finally returned to school a year later, making his graduation in 1896 as valedictorian of his class that much sweeter. By the time he went back to Hogansville after graduation, the town was badly in need of a Black physician. Dr. Ramsey had relocated to Houston, Texas, becoming the first Black doctor to practice medicine there.
While John was anxious to prove his father wrong, his days in Troup County were a struggle. It was difficult for those he knew to accept him as a doctor, so he taught school by day to earn a living, becoming what was known as a "sundown doctor," referring to physicians who worked other jobs during the day while practicing medicine at night.
After two years, Jordan had had enough. He relocated to Newnan, becoming the first Black doctor in Coweta County, and married Dr. Ramsey's daughter, Mollie, the same year.
Jordan's career flourished in Newnan. He built the first Black hospital in the county. After the tragic crib death of their infant son, he and Mollie welcomed another son, Edward, in 1900, making their family complete.
Some Newnan residents in recent years could still recall Edward's birth.
"It was like a prince being born," they said.
Life seemed perfect until one day tragedy struck. Jordan was on his way to make a house call when his car stalled. While he checked the gas tank, a passerby lit a match, causing the gasoline fumes to explode, burning John's upper torso. He died 72 hours later. He was 42. His death "was mourned by both races and all classes of citizens," according to the History of Coweta County, Georgia.
Not only were his own dreams snuffed out that night, but his dream of his only son becoming a doctor was never realized. However, 30 years later, Edward's son picked up the torch. Karen's father, Dr. Harold Jordan, graduated from Meharry Medical College and established a career at the university that has lasted for nearly 50 years.
- Created on 07 March 2013
Already a hero to many, this summer civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis will take on bad guys in his very own graphic novel. The comic is called "March" and it is a first-hand account of Lewis' work and struggle for civil rights that the congressman co-authored himself.
"March" includes his key roles in the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March as well as a brief history of Lewis' life.
"Meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation," Lewis' character, "also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement," says the office of John Lewis.
The comic is a collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, who is a winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for his comic work on "Swallow Me Whole" and a NY Times Bestseller for "The Silence of Our Friends."
The comic won't just be a one-off, though. Lewis' office reports the trio are planning to make "March" a graphic novel trilogy that will be released by Georgia-based publisher Top Shelf Productions, a company known for the award-winning works of Alan Moore, Craig Thompson, and Jeff Lemire.
March is a historic first, both for the U.S. Congress and for comics publishing as a whole, marking the first time a sitting member of Congress has authored a graphic novel. Top Shelf Productions is the first and only graphic novel publisher to be certified by the House Committee on Standards.
The first volume, "March (Book One)," will appear in stores everywhere on August 13, two weeks before the country is set to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom.
For more information and a 14-page preview of the graphic novel, visit http://www.topshelfcomix.com/march.
- Created on 05 March 2013
(CNN) -- Hugo Chavez, the polarizing president of Venezuela who cast himself as a "21st century socialist" and foe of the United States, died Tuesday, said Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
Chavez, who had long battled cancer, was 58.
Chavez's democratic ascent to the presidency in 1999 ushered in a new era in Venezuelan politics and its international relations.
Once a foiled coup-plotter, the swashbuckling former paratrooper was known for lengthy speeches on everything from the evils of capitalism to the proper way to conserve water while showering. He was the first of a wave of leftist presidents to come to power in Latin America in the last dozen years.
As the most vocal U.S. adversary in the region, he influenced other leaders to take a similar stance.
But the last months of Chavez' life were marked by an uncharacteristic silence as his health condition became "complicated," in the words of his government. Chavez underwent a fourth surgery on December 11 in Cuba, and was not publicly seen again. A handful of pictures released in February were the last images the public had of their president.
Chavez's ministers stubbornly maintained a hopeful message throughout the final weeks, even while admitting that the recently re-elected president was weakened while battling a respiratory infection.
Chavez launched an ambitious plan to remake Venezuela, a major oil producer, into a socialist state in the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, which took its name from Chavez's idol, Simon Bolivar, who won independence for many South American countries in the early 1800s.
"After many readings, debates, discussions, travels around the world, etcetera, I am convinced -- and I believe this conviction will be for the rest of my life -- that the path to a new, better and possible world is not capitalism. The path is socialism," he said on his weekly television program in 2005.
Chavez redirected much of the country's vast oil wealth, which increased dramatically during his tenure, to massive social programs for the country's poor. He expanded the portfolio of the state-owned oil monopoly to include funding for social "missions" worth millions of dollars. That helped pay for programs that seek to eradicate illiteracy, provide affordable food staples and grant access to higher education, among other things.
But Chavez also leaves a legacy of repression against politicians and private media who opposed him.
He concentrated power in the executive branch, turning formerly independent institutions -- such as the judiciary, the electoral authorities and the military -- into partisan loyalists.
Through decrees and a judiciary tilted in the president's favor, many political opponents found themselves barred from running in elections against the ruling party. Even former allies, like Chavez's onetime defense minister, Gen. Raul Baduel, faced accusations that critics called trumped-up corruption charges.
Chavez's government similarly targeted opposition broadcasters, passing laws and decrees that forced at least one major broadcaster and dozens of smaller radio and television stations off the air.
Opponents also have criticized his social programs, calling them unsustainable over the long run and responsible for unintended consequences. Price controls, for instance, drove up inflation, while expropriations of farmland depressed production.
In lengthy, freewheeling speeches, Chavez saved his most acerbic barbs for the "imperialist" United States and its "colonial" allies in the region.
He accused the United States of trying to orchestrate his overthrow, and referred to President George W. Bush as the devil in front of the United Nations General Assembly.
At home, business interests accused him of scaring off investment by abusing the power of expropriation. Venezuela struggled to grow its economy during this period, even as the nation was flush with money from oil, which was at about $17 a barrel when Chavez took office and rose to more than $100 a barrel.
In addition to domestic social programs, the Chavez government pumped money into his foreign policy interests. He invested millions of dollars in oil and cash in countries that were ideologically similar.
Chavez considered former Cuban leader Fidel Castro a mentor, and aligned his country with Iran and other nations opposed to the United States.
Cuba loses a benefactor in Chavez, whose provision of an oil lifeline at below-market prices could be at risk under a new government.
While Chavez admired Castro, he found most inspiration from Bolivar, even renaming the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
An affable, if sometimes bombastic, man, Chavez had a disarming manner that even his critics could not deny.
Some called his style buffoonish, but he spoke like an ordinary Venezuelan -- not like a bureaucrat -- and voters reacted positively.
Other leftist leaders elected after him, like Bolivia's Evo Morales, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, followed Chavez's example to varying extents.
Chavez could also be secretive. He was slow to publicly admit that he had cancer, and never shared what type of cancer affected him. The government kept a tight seal on details of the president's treatment and declining health.
The death of the Venezuelan president leaves a sharply polarized country, with no clear successor for his party and an untested opposition. Chavez' passing means new elections will be held, although he had said previously he wanted Maduro to succeed him.
Chavez was born in the plains state of Barinas, in southwest Venezuela, on July 28, 1954, the third of the seven children of two educators.
As a child, he was an altar boy who went on to develop a great love of baseball. Recently, even as questions arose about his health, the media-savvy Chavez sought to reassure the public by playing catch with his foreign minister on state television.
As a young man, he enrolled in the Military Academy of Venezuela, reaching the rank of sub-lieutenant in 1975. He joined the parachute corps of the army and rose through the ranks to become a lieutenant colonel.
His first political steps came when he founded the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement, or MBR-200, in 1982. A decade later, on February 4, 1992, he led a failed military rebellion against then-President Carlos Andres Perez. He also made his first public appearance in front of the television cameras.
"Compatriots, sadly for now the objectives that we proposed were not achieved in the capital city," he said. "That is to say, we here in Caracas did not succeed in gaining power. You did it very well out there, but now is time to avoid more bloodshed. Now is time to reflect and new situations will come."
Chavez served two years in prison before then-President Rafael Caldera granted him amnesty.
Chavez went on to form a new political party, the Fifth Republic Movement, which carried him to a presidential election victory in 1998. His fiery campaign speeches blamed the traditional parties for corruption and poverty.
Chavez married twice and divorced twice. He had three children with his first wife, Nancy Colmenarez: Rosa Virginia, Maria Gabriela and Hugo Rafael.
Years later, he married Marisabel Rodriguez, with whom he had a fourth daughter, Rosa Ines. He divorced in 2003; Venezuela has had no first lady since then.
Upon taking office, Chavez made rewriting the constitution one of his first orders of business. A July 2000 referendum affirmed the new constitution, which the government printed as a little blue book that Chavez used regularly as a prop during speeches.
In the following years, the charismatic Chavez rattled off a string of electoral victories that made him seem almost invincible.
He won re-election in 2000, survived a recall election in 2004, and won another six-year term in 2006.
Chavez secured another re-election victory in October, describing his win as "a perfect battle, and totally democratic." He vowed to "be a better president every day."
A turning point for Chavez came in April 2002, when a coup briefly removed him from office.
But the interim government couldn't consolidate power, and within 48 hours, with the help of the military, Chavez returned to power.
While short-lived, the coup had a profound effect on Chavez, who took a more accelerated authoritarian and leftist turn afterward.
Human Rights Watch wrote in 2010 that the coup provided a pretext for policies that undercut human rights.
"Discrimination on political grounds has been a defining feature of the Chavez presidency," the report concluded.
"At times, the president himself has openly endorsed acts of discrimination. More generally, he has encouraged his subordinates to engage in discrimination by routinely denouncing his critics as anti-democratic conspirators and coup-mongers -- regardless of whether or not they had any connection to the 2002 coup," the report said.
Consolidation of power in the presidency -- to the detriment of separation of powers -- became a theme in Chavez's policies.
Another challenge to Chavez's rule followed the coup. From December 2002 to February 2003, a crippling general strike pressured the president. The economy took a hit, but Chavez outlasted the strikers.
The following year, in 2004, the opposition gathered enough signatures to hold a recall referendum on Chavez, but again, the president survived.
Chavez's vitriol toward the United States also increased in the period after the brief coup because Washington had tacitly approved it.
In one of his most memorable insults, Chavez said of Bush in 2006 before the U.N. General Assembly:
"The devil came here yesterday. And it smells of sulfur still today."
In 2007, Chavez tasted defeat for the first time, in a referendum seeking approval for constitutional reforms that would have deepened his socialist policies. Nonetheless, thanks to a National Assembly friendly to him, Chavez achieved some of his goals, including indefinite re-election.
That same year, Chavez created a new political party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which merged his party with several other leftist parties.
His detractors accused him of being authoritarian, populist and even dictatorial for having pushed through a constitutional reform that allowed indefinite re-election.
Increasingly, Chavez used legislation to clamp down on broadcasters and other media. His government relentlessly went after opposition broadcaster Globovision, accusing it of a number of violations, from failure to pay taxes to disregarding a media responsibility law.
The broadcaster is the last remaining TV network that carries an anti-Chavez line, since the president refused to renew the license of another opposition station, RCTV, allegedly over telecommunication regulation violations. The station had to go off public airwaves and transmit solely on cable.
Abroad, Chavez was also known for his colorful -- if sometimes strange -- statements.
Last year, after several Latin American leaders were diagnosed with cancer, himself included, he wondered if the United States was behind it.
"Would it be strange if (the United States) had developed a technology to induce cancer, and for no one to know it?" he asked.
During a water shortage that Venezuela suffered in 2009, he took to the airwaves to encourage Venezuelans to take showers that lasted only three minutes.
At a summit in 2007, his repeated attempts to interrupt resulted in King Juan Carlos of Spain saying to him, "Why don't you shut up?"
Chavez was a believer that the days of the "Washington consensus," a model of economic reforms favored by the United States for developing countries, were over.
Along with Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and some Caribbean countries, Chavez formed the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, or ALBA, a group intended to offer an alternative to U.S. influence in the region.
As president, Chavez made clear his ambitions of being a regional and international leader who left, in his own way, changes that awakened passions and feelings in favor and against -- everything except indifference.
CNN's Mariano Castillo reported from Atlanta and journalist Osmary Hernandez reported from Caracas. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.
- Created on 06 March 2013
This is why we can’t have nice things. Following in the footsteps of the “Star Wars” Death Star and Secession “We The People” petitions, S.R. of Wilmington, North Carolina has created a petition to make R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix) the new National Anthem of the United States.
The petition, posted on WhiteHouse.gov, reads as follows:
- Created on 05 March 2013
(CNN) -- Vote counting began in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday after largely peaceful elections in which millions of voters stood in line to choose their next president in a tightly contested general election.
The Elections Commission said some of the nation's 30,000 polling stations would remain open late to accommodate those still in line and to make up for having opened late.
"Definitely, there is going to be some hiccups here and there, but I think, when you assess the whole, then we think the work, so far, is very good," said Abdullahi Sharawi, a commisssioner of Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. "I think all Kenya, it looks like they have faith in the system, in the new constitution."
Though some people waited in the sun for more than eight hours to cast their ballots, there was "no reporting at all" of intimidation, said John Stremlau, the Carter Center vice president for peace programs. The center, at the invitation of Kenyan authorities, placed 60 observers in all 47 counties.
In Nairobi, some lines stretched for more than a kilometer (0.6 miles), he said.
But the observers' initial reports were "universally complimentary to the citizens of this nation in showing their determination to have their votes counted," Stremlau said.
Those glitches that did occur appeared related to a new system of computer-based biometric identification of voters, he said. "Sometimes a couple of computers would get kind of out of whack and would slow the process down," he said.
Residents were eager to avoid a repeat of the last election, in December 2007, when the nation plunged into ethnic violence after results were disputed. Some 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced.
"There have been so many steps and safeguards put into the system so far to prevent that kind of cataclysmic event that we're kind of encouraged that that is not going to happen," said Stremlau. Carter Center observers were not in the country during the 2007 vote.
Hours before the polls opened, a group of heavily armed men attacked a police post in the port city of Mombasa, killing at least 10 people, including two police officers, officials said.
David Kimaiyo, inspector general of Kenyan police, said a group of men approached police officers manning a post between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. and refused to comply with orders to stop. Police fired on the men, who fled into a nearby slum, he said.
When police called for backup, about 200 men ambushed them on a road, Kimaiyo said.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga blamed the attack on the Mombasa Republican Council, a separatist group that wants Mombasa, the second-largest city in Kenya, and its surrounding coastal area to secede.
Stremlau said the violence may have been unrelated to the election.
Party agents representing the two main coalitions contesting the elections will let observers and everyone else know if they have concerns about the violence being linked to the election, Stremlau said. "They can be adjudicated by the courts, as needed," he said.
Elsewhere, ETV correspondent Soni Methu told CNN that her crew came across the bodies of five people at a polling station in the coastal town of Kilifi. Two of the bodies were wearing police uniforms; one had on a Kenya Wildlife Service uniform, Methu told CNN.
In Mandera -- near the border with Somalia and Ethiopia -- witnesses said bombs exploded at two polling stations. Red Cross Mandera Coordinator Abdi Ahmed said three people were slightly wounded.
And in the Kenyan town of Kitengela, south of Nairobi, at least 20 people were hospitalized after a stampede at a polling station, CNN affiliate NTV reported.
But voting in the rest of the country was largely peaceful. "We want a leader who would be mindful of people who are living below the poverty line," one enthusiastic young man told CNN as he waited for his turn to vote. "You see, the majority of Kenyan people live below the poverty line, so we want a leader who will be mindful of these people."
The stakes are high. After the 2007 election, the government boosted security and set up an ambitious new constitution, making this election one of the nation's most complicated polls since the country gained independence from Britain in 1963.
Eight contenders are vying for the presidency, including front-runners Odinga, the prime minister; and his deputy, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Polls show a tight race, raising the possibility of a second round of voting. Kenya's constitution calls for a runoff within a month of the results if no candidate gets more than half of the vote.
After the last election, the nation also revamped various political systems, including the constitution, the electoral process and the judicial system. The new system aims to empower citizens and local governments, thereby ensuring a peaceful election.
"It is one thing to change the constitution, but we have to change our underlying issues of ethnic sentiments that have dated years," said Mark Kamau, who lives in the capital, Nairobi.
After the last election, Odinga disputed results that declared the winner to have been the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki. Odinga alleged the election had been rigged.
Protesters took to the streets, where supporters of both camps fought one another. More than 1,200 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced -- the worst violence since the nation gained independence.
Optimistic, but prepared
Leading up to this election, the candidates declared they would settle any election disputes in court.
Candidates have implored their supporters to avoid bloodshed, no matter the vote's outcome.
But some citizens remained wary.
"I don't know what possessed people last time," Kamau said of the violence. "I hope there will be no violence. I'm waiting for Kenya to restore my faith this time."
But as he waits, he is prepared. His refrigerator is stocked and his car is filled with fuel.
"Just in case," he said. "You never know."
'My main issue'
The economy, security and the fight against corruption, which is rampant in the country, are among voters' top concerns in the election.
The election also poses a challenge: Kenyatta has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for allegedly inciting a local militia to conduct reprisal attacks in the last election. He has denied the charges.
His running mate, William Ruto, also faces ICC charges.
Though Kenyatta nevertheless enjoys widespread popularity, some voters expressed fear that the international community will isolate the nation if a candidate facing ICC charges is elected.
Dominic Muia, 35, was in line at 5 a.m. to cast his ballot in the town of Nakuru.
"My main issue is the economy," he said. "I'm voting for Uhuru (Kenyatta) because he is younger and has a better vision to move the country forward."
At 51, Kenyatta would be the youngest Kenyan president ever. Odinga is 68.
'Things an average citizen worries about'
Harrison Mario, 37, said his vote is based on issues and policies, and will go to Odinga.
"Basically, he has been fighting inequality." he said. "He has been campaigning for the less fortunate. His manifesto focuses on security, education and food -- things an average citizen worries about."
Both leaders are campaigning on almost the same policies, leaving the more than 14 million registered voters to choose based on criteria that include personality, ethnicity and links to political parties.
"I don't know that much about their differences, so I'm voting for the candidate of my favorite political party," said Susan Kamau, who lives in Nairobi. "In short, I'm voting on loyalty to my party, not issues."
In addition to the presidential race, the nation will also pick governors, senators and a slew of other local candidates under the new constitution.
Whoever wins, the race evokes memories of a political dynasty.
Kenyatta's father was the nation's founding president, while Odinga's father was his vice president in the 1960s.
Both started out as allies in the fight for independence from Britain, but they had a falling out that led Jomo Kenyatta, a member of the Kikuyu tribe, to force out Jaramogi Odinga, a Luo tribe member, as his vice president.
Their history has strained relations for decades between Kikuyus and Luos.
Nima Elbagir and Lillian Leposo reported from Nairobi, Nic Robertson reported from Mombasa, Faith Karimi reported and wrote from Atlanta.