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I Marched the DC Women’s March in Honor of My Mother

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

 

Naomi HinesI was one of the more than 500,000 persons attending the DC Women’s March.  For me, the March was personal in honor of my mother, Naomi.

 

My mom was born in Mt.  Gilead, NC, a small town of less than 1500 persons in rural North Carolina.  Growing up in the Jim Crow South, she longed for a better life as discrimination was rampant and the way of life there. Like so many Blacks living in the south during that era, she, as a young woman, migrated north, first to Buffalo, NY and later to Baltimore.  During her lifetime, she experienced various forms of discrimination such as not being able to shop in stores due to the color of her skin, sit and eat in at many restaurants, live in many areas of Baltimore City, purchase homes in certain areas due to restrictive covenants preventing Blacks from living and buying homes in some areas.  And this was after she moved to Baltimore.

 

My mother fought for many health care reforms as an employee and later as a retiree of the Baltimore City Health Department.  Although, she on religious grounds did not support abortion for herself; she supported every women’s right to choose.  And she was instrumental in getting a health care clinic built in our community. She was a staunch supporter of her union, knowing that unions make life better for working Americans.

 

And she knew that education was key and crucial for her children who attended public schools and later obtained college degrees.   She and my father never failed to attend and become active in PTA meetings and our school events. Although my mother never mentioned the word “disability” in relationship to herself, she was born with an obvious physical disability.

 

When I saw many of the signs during the Women’s March supporting Planned Parenthood, the right to choose, unions,  women in wheel chairs  moving along the course during  march,  I felt like my mother was there with me in spirit.  One sign in particular reminded me of my mother. Growing up, at times when we misbehaved, she would say, “I brought you in this world and I’ll take you out.”  And one sign I saw online was a twist on her words, “Vaginas brought you in this world and vaginas will vote you out.”

 

All that my mother fought for during her lifetime is now in jeopardy with the Trump Administration.  We are facing possible setbacks in all areas of women’s rights including in areas of health, education, housing, civil rights, workers’ rights, disability rights and voting rights, to name a few.  And for those who say, we should take a wait and see approach to Donald Trump’s administration, I say that we cannot wait to take action.  And that’s why the more than 500,000 women marched in DC and many millions more marched in solidarity across the country and around the world.

 

The lyrics of the old gospel song state, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around applies to the new Trump era.  My mother lived to see many changes in her life that afforded me the many opportunities I now possess.  And on my watch, I will do all that I can to resist any efforts to turn around our rights.   I owe it to my mother who showed me the way.

 

 

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Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator and former Baltimore City prosecutor.  She often appears on MSNBC, PBS, CBS, Al Jazeera and Fox 5 DC among others. Her op-ed writings appear in the Huffington Post, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Afro American.

Remembering Barack Obama’s First Inauguration

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

ObamaElectionOn this Inauguration day, I choose to reflect on President Obama’s first inauguration on January 20, 2009 and what it meant to me. It was a blistering cold day with temperature in the 20’s.  I attended with a college friend and sorority sister. We were so excited that we could hardly sleep the night before. My friend wanted to get there very early to make sure we had a good spot. We were not fortunate to have tickets with seats.  We settled on arriving at 7:25 am.—a little later than the original 5:00 am time my friend suggested.  The actual swearing in was not until 12 noon.

 

The time passed by effortlessly. We talked to those in the crowd as though they were old friends. As I looked around the crowd, I saw faces of all races, ethnicities and ages. I recall an older black woman who came from Florida. Her son brought her a ticket and paid for hotel room in November.  When she had to have back surgery, her son assumed she would not be able to attend. She was determined to make it—-walker and all.  She knew it was likely a once in a lifetime experience.

I will never forget Aretha Franklin singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee while clad in her green church going hat.   Her rendition was part gospel, part jazzy and all soul.  It made the words of the song ring clear to me for the first time.

“My country ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty—of thee I sang. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

 

It was the first time I saw my country with new eyes. And as President Obama took the oath of office, tears swelled in my eyes—as they did in those around me. All my emotions of that day and my life as a Black woman in America were wrapped up in that moment. I felt like I was a part of America for the first time.

 

At the end of the swearing in ceremony, flags were given out. People were hoarding flags—taking two, three and four flags as souvenirs.  Unfortunately, I did not get one.  I asked every Black person I saw if could have one of their extra flags. No one wanted to give up one flag.  One small white boy gave me one of his extra flags. I still have that small flag today.  That flag is a reminder to me of what I felt like as a proud Black woman in America on January 20, 2009.  That was a long time  ago from where I stand today.

 

Today I feel sadness for my country.  And I mourn the fact that President Obama’s term is finished.  That frigid cold day on January 20, 2009 gave me the spirit to fight for what I want this country to become.  This is my country –and I will fight  to feel what I felt on January 20, 2009 once again.  And just like the words to the gospel song—“ I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal  and political analyst and former prosecutor.  She frequently appears on MSNBC, PBS, CBS, Al Jazeera, Fox 5 DC, among others.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 2017 Trump Era

Monday, January 16th, 2017

MLKMonumentOn December 31, 2016, I attended a watch night church service where Rev. Dr. William Barber led the service. During the service, I heard a rousing account from singer, activist and song writer Joan Baez about an event with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It bears relevance for today. Baez tells a story from when she was traveling with Dr. King and he fell asleep, making him very late for a speech.  The other ministers and activists could not wake him.  They asked Joan Baez to go in into the bedroom and sing a song to Dr. King.  As Baez finished her song, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, Dr. King raised his voice and said, “Joan, sing another one”.   Today we need to waken the inner voice of Dr. King to fight the battles that lay ahead of us with the new Trump Administration.

 

As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King on his holiday and birthday, we are reminded, as King once wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And we see that even before Donald Trump’s inauguration, there are many new injustices facing the nation and affecting the world.  There are battles once fought that we must now fight again. As we see a new era with justice being dismantled for immigrants, women, people of color, LGBTQ community, civil rights and civil liberties being taken away, the Voting Rights Act being diminished, health care rights being challenged, religious freedoms at risk, sexism, racism and xenophobia on the rise, we must channel our collective inner Dr. King to rise from a sleeping bed.

 

It is not enough to quote Dr. King’s speeches on his birthday and watch his clips on TV, one day of the year.  Those of us who demand justice must now all rise to the occasion and continue the fight that Dr. King started.  And we must fight not on one day but every day. With the Republicans holding the three branches of government, House, Senate and Executive with the ability to forge a new Supreme Court era, the battle will not be easy.   As President Obama said in his farewell speech, change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.

 

And we must think beyond the norm, for the times coming ahead are anything but normal.  Rep. John Lewis, (D. GA.) the only remaining living person who spoke on the stage with Dr. King at the 1963 March on Washington, does not believe that Trump is a “legitimate president” as the Russians illegally engaged in the electoral process of this country.  Despite Donald Trump’s assertions that John Lewis is all talk, John Lewis’ record speaks for itself. And the intelligence data obtained by our various intelligence agencies express a real threat to our Democracy due to Russian hacking affecting the legitimacy of our incoming President.

 

As we go forth to remember Dr. King, we must now more than ever, be reminded that history repeats itself, if we allow it.  Everyone who respects and loves Democracy and justice must wake up from their slumber and stay woke.

 

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal commentator and former Baltimore City prosecutor who appears on CBS, MSNBC, PBS, Al Jazeera, Fox 5 DC, BET, among others. Her op-ed articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post and Baltimore Afro.

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