On The Vine: It didn’t have to be this way

Y’all worry me.

I go to the barbershop, Target, the grocery store, coffee shop — anywhere I go virtually no one is wearing a mask. I know the numbers, and they suggest that some of all are lying (obviously that was going to be the case).

Vaccination rates across Missouri — where, believe it or not, there’s a concerning surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations — sit at roughly 45.4%. That’s well below the national average, which to be honest ain’t that good to begin with, at 55.5%.

In Kansas City the rate drops to 43.8% and across Jackson County it dips further to 41.9%.

Maybe I put too much faith in Juvenile. Smh.

Why aren’t you all getting vaccinated? I really want to know. Did we not just live through the same 12-plus months?

Hospitals in the area are watching the trends and they’re concerned to the point of “dusting off their ‘surge plans’ from a year ago.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way, but maybe it was always going to be this way... maybe we should have known that the stubbornness and ignorance of the masses would outweigh the public good. And now people are dying all over again.

Y’all really worry me.

Around the block

Stack of Used Old Books in the School Library, Toned Cross Processed Image. Getty Images | Royalty Free

KS Board of Education: critical race theory is misunderstood and not in state standards

The Kansas Board of Education has accused some critics of critical race theory of conflating the concept with educational equity, which consists of policies and requirements for measuring fairness and opportunity. The board did not specifically name any state officials.

The Star’s Katie Bernard writes:

For years, critical race theory was a little-known but accepted academic concept, used in colleges and law schools as a framework for understanding the impact of racism on institutions and society.

Over the last couple of years, however, conservatives have adopted the term to broadly condemn any serious attempts to discuss systemic racism. Critics contend that CRT teaches children to hate America and pits white children against children of color...

The board voted unanimously to issue a statement clarifying its position as GOP officials and politicians call for state and local policies banning what they regard as critical race theory from the classroom.

“Just as we teach our students to be judicious consumers of information, we encourage all Kansans to educate themselves on what critical race theory is and what it isn’t,” the statement said.

It notes that CRT is an “advanced and complex concept” examining the ways laws and systems promote inequality.

In case you missed it...

Mayor Quinton Lucas spoke to fast-food workers in Kansas City, during a Stand Up KC rally and car caravan on Friday, Jan. 15, through the McDonald’s parking lot at 3051 Van Brunt Blvd., as workers seek a $15 minimum wage and unionization.

After 2 years, a look at Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’ record, good and bad

The Kansas City Star’s editorial board endorsed Mayor Quinton Lucas for the city’s top job two years ago — now their looking back on the decision they made and the job he’s done leading Kansas City through a tumultuous time. The board delves into his response to COVID-19, police reform and economic development.

Over the past two years, the mayor has succeeded more times than not, even when faced with the enormous, unforeseen challenges of a pandemic and racial unrest after George Floyd was murdered.

His public pronouncements were sometimes at odds with his private commitments. Stubborn issues including affordable housing, homelessness and violent crime remain on the agenda.

On the whole, however, Lucas has shown he can handle the region’s toughest and most important political job....

“No one was ready for COVID,” Lucas told us, but “I sleep well at night, because I think we saved the lives of hundreds of Kansas Citians.”

Here’s the plain fact: the COVID response became so political so quickly that no mayor would have escaped criticism for taking the steps needed to protect the health and safety of the community. Quinton Lucas did better than most, particularly in a state where the governor has been a COVID no-show.

Beyond the block

FILE - In this April 20, 2016, file photo, a man smokes a marijuana joint at a party celebrating weed in Seattle. Legalizing recreational marijuana for U.S. adults may have led to a slight decline in teen use. That’s according to research published Monday, July 8, 2019, in JAMA Pediatrics. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Democratic senators move to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level

We all know and are in agreement that the war on drugs a) was a failure and b) disproportionately harmed communities of color, right? Hell, one might even go so far as to argue that was the intent.

OK, and since we can agree on that, we can also agree that marijuana still being categorized as a Schedule 1 illegal substance while some 18 states have legalized recreational marijuana use — 37 have legalized medical marijuana — makes little to no sense, yeah?

Great, so listen to this news: For the first time in history, Senate Democrats on Wednesday moved to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

“This is monumental,” Schumer told reporters. “At long last we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs.”

While Schumer conceded that Democrats do not yet unanimously support the draft decriminalization bill he unveiled, he said the announcement marks an important step in combatting injustice, especially among communities of color.

“The war on drugs has really been a war on people, particularly people of color,” Schumer said. “The waste of human resources because of the historic over-criminalization has been one of the great historical wrongs for the last decades and we are going to change it.”

The bill also aims to expunge criminal records and create banking systems that give small and minority businesses a seat at the table.

Give this a read...

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, Louisiana is covered with confetti as she celebrates winning the finals of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Disney World Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Zaila Avant-garde makes Spelling Bee history

This is the official newsletter of celebrating Black girl magic, and we were blessed with this latest entrant late last week: Zaila Avant-garde.

The 14-year-old spelling phenom with a tight handle and dope last name made history when she nailed the spelling of “Murraya” — it’s a flowering citrus tree that comes from eastern Asia and Australia — and became the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in almost 100 years of contests.

The girl’s not even in the ninth grade yet and is a Spelling Bee champ and holds three Guinness world records for dribbling, bouncing and juggling basketballs.

I’m convinced she can do anything she dreams up, but her plans are to attend Harvard, play in the WNBA and possibly coach in the NBA. It’s either that or a career at NASA — hell, maybe both.

Demonstrators sign the letter “L,” for liberty and wave flags, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, as people rallied in support of anti-government demonstrations in Cuba.

Cuba lifts customs restrictions on food and medicine after biggest protests in decades

The Cuban government on Wednesday temporarily lifted restrictions on travelers bringing food, medicines and hygiene products into the country, as its citizens continue to rally against the government.

Patrick Oppmann and Eliza Mackintosh report for CNN:

Thousands took to the streets across the island nation last weekend to protest chronic shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties and the government’s handling of a worsening coronavirus outbreak, marking the most significant unrest in decades.

The rare wave of demonstrations against the country’s communist government has been fanned by a deepening economic crisis worsened by the pandemic. Covid-19 has devastated the country’s tourism industry, sending Cuba’s economy into a deep slump.

Cubans now spend hours in long lines to buy food and medicine, and lockdowns have left many without work. Driven by desperate conditions, migration is on the rise by both land and sea. Since the start of the 2021 fiscal year, the US Coast Guard reported intercepting around 500 Cubans at sea.

In a country known for repressing dissent, the demonstrations have been viewed as remarkable. US President Joe Biden on Monday expressed support for the Cuban people, urging Cuban President Miguel Diàz-Canel’s regime to “hear their people and serve their needs.”

Read up...

For the culture

Actor Mj Rodriguez attends FX’s “Pose” third and finale season premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Thursday, April 29, 2021, in New York.

Mj Rodriguez becomes first trans woman up for major acting Emmy

I have to say first, I love this lede from Danielle Turchiano at Variety...

The category is: making history.

The history is, “Pose” star Mj Rodriguez becoming the first transgender actor to garner a nomination for a major acting Emmy.

Prior to Rodriguez, Laverne Cox was the first openly transgender performer to earn a nomination, picking up her first in the guest drama actress category for Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” in 2014 — she received three more, all in the same category, in 2017, 2019 and 2020) — and Rain Valdez of “Razor Tongue” earned a nod for short form comedy or drama.

Rodriguez is nominated in the lead drama actress category for her fierce and formidable portrayal of house mother and nurse Blanca Rodriguez on FX’s ballroom culture period drama “Pose.” It is her first-ever attention from the Television Academy.

“I do believe this is a pivotal moment. There’s never been a trans woman who has been nominated as a leading outstanding actress and I feel like that pushes the needle forward so much for now the door to be knocked down for so many people — whether they be male or trans female, gender nonconforming, LGBTQIA+, it does not matter,” Rodriguez told Variety. “A moment like this extends and opens and elongates the possibilities of what’s going to happen and I believe the Academy is definitely making it possible and their eyes are more than open. Yes, I do believe they’re going to continue, and I also feel like we’re going to keep speaking and encouraging and informing and educating people around the world. I think that’s the most important thing.”

Stop playin’

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