The new Civil Rights movement

Moderated by Rick Badie

Protests, demonstrations and sporadic violence spewed across the nation after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A spotlight was cast on civil rights leaders. The Old Guard, in some arenas, shared stages with younger voices, a contingent often edgier and eager to join the conversation. Today, an Atlanta reverend outlines efforts to merge the two groups into a “civil and human rights” endeavor that addresses social ills. Other topics today: teen dating violence and the mortality rate of pregnant women.

New Civil Rights leaders

By Markel Hutchins

On the heels of protests surrounding the controversial deaths of unarmed black men, a new breed of denizens is emerging to answer the question: “Where are new civil rights leaders?”

As we celebrate black history, commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and approach the end of Barack Obama’s historic presidency, one needs to merely consider the recent racially charged and volatile outcries to recognize we are in what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once called a “decisive hour.”

Recently, 12 pastors, all under 40, co-hosted with me an inter-generational gathering to lay a new foundation for social and civil justice. Revered icons including U.S. Rep. John Lewis came to consecrate our gathering.

Faith communities have historically undergirded movements for progressive social change, so we began organizing with clerics. There was inordinate brilliance in the room as more than 70 ministers met to establish a national consortium that provides space for another generation of advocates to combat today’s burgeoning civil and human rights challenges. That base will expand to involve additional faith leaders, lawyers, educators, technologists, entertainers, business leaders and entrepreneurs.

The movement to rid society of racism, poverty and militarism remains unfinished. Minorities, women, immigrants and LGBT persons, among others, continue to face inequities. Crime and violence are rampant in urban cities. Equal access to economic opportunity remains elusive. Our educational system falters and threatens our nation’s global dominance.

The unemployment rate among people of color is disproportionately high. Homelessness remains pervasive largely due to inadequate public policy relative to mental health. Food deserts persist in low-income neighborhoods and result in health disparities. Our nation’s prison population is exorbitant. Global capitalism continues to export jobs. Still, more unites us than divides us.There are too many concerned, conscientious and capable women and men of every race, age and ideology for this moment in history to be so void of leaders in the vein of the icons recently portrayed in the widely acclaimed movie, “Selma.”

Failure to propel another crop of drum majors committed to King’s philosophy and conciliatory tone could subvert progress made during the past 50 years. While outrage about injustice is understandable, regrettably, many recent demonstrations have been ineffectively profane and in contravention to the transformative spirit of reverence, peace and allegiance to America that permeated the civil rights movement.

A new body of activists genuinely committed to the King tradition is long overdue. Many in the media erroneously present activists and anarchists together. Activists brought the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner tragedies to public light. Covert and dilettante anarchists converged to wreak havoc and incite riots.

An absence of courageous servants like King, Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, Joseph Lowery, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, C.T. Vivian and other Atlantans who fought for fulfillment of the American promise has given rise to a movement that lacks identification, accountability, discipline and the kind of defined policy and cultural agenda that made the Voting and Civil Rights acts possible.

The challenge of our time is to weave our common threads of decency, altruism and respect for our differences into a beautiful quilt of freedom and justice for all. Atlanta remains the global capital of civil rights, human rights and racial understanding. The journey to the mountaintop continues here.

On April 9, the 47th anniversary of King’s funeral, we will announce the creation of a civil and human rights organization that affords this generation productive space to continue advocating for “The Beloved Community” where all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, class or sexual orientation are treated equal.

With community support, we will bridge gaps between the glories of our past, challenges of our present and hopes of our future, moving Atlanta and America forward.

The Rev. Markel Hutchins is an Atlanta-based civil and human rights leader.

Black women’s health matters

By Melody T. McCloud

To a physician, any disease-related death is one too many. But death is a certainty of life, and despite best efforts, deaths from cancer, heart disease and/or Alzheimer’s are more readily understood, albeit painfully accepted.

Not so with death near the time of birth.

To hear that a woman has died during her pregnancy, or shortly after giving birth, is seemingly more stunning to the senses. But physicians and the general public need to take note of a statistic that for years has gone unnoticed: a persistent increase in maternal mortality from pregnancy-related causes.

A “pregnancy-related death” is defined as “death of a woman while pregnant or within one year of pregnancy termination — regardless of the duration or site of the pregnancy — from any cause related to, or aggravated by, the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”

Since 1990, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths for women in the United States has essentially doubled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. Between 1987 and 1990, the rate was 9.1 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births; the rate in 2011 was 17.8 per 100,000.

CDC researcher Andreea Creanga and colleagues published this data in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ January 2015 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. The data indicates pregnancy-related mortality increased for all American women and all age groups. The greatest threat is to women 40 years of age and older, regardless of race.The increase of deaths in women of advanced maternal age is not surprising. American women are increasingly delaying childbirth until their later years. Many undergo assisted-reproductive procedures such as IVF. With that, there is a greater potential for pregnant women to already carry chronic conditions such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Add race, social determinants and other demographic factors, and it’s easy to see the kettle is a-brewing.

Additionally, Hispanics with less than 12 years of education, and blacks who get pregnant outside of wedlock, have higher mortality rates. Black women have the highest risk of dying from pregnancy complications. Between 2006 and 2010, the mean pregnancy-related mortality ratio per 100,000 live births was 11.7 in Hispanics; 12.0 in whites, and 38.9 in blacks.

As a black female ob-gyn who has treated patients of all races, I say it is time to change the history of black women’s (and men’s) health. Black health matters must matter to blacks.

Black women have the least successful health care outcomes for most killer diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart disease. Some attribute this to a lack of access to care or having no insurance. Those factors may play a role. For those who lack insurance, utilizing community health services, as well as better allocation of discretionary spending, is advised. But even for black women with access and insurance, less successful health care outcomes persist.

Black women also experience unique psycho-social stressors that, due to cortisol stimulation, affect their physical condition, decreases immunity and increases the risk of serious diagnoses. In the book “Living Well: The Black Woman’s Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness,” there is a “social stress and black women’s health” infographic that demonstrates this psych-social-physical connection and its increased risk of death.

The increase in pregnancy-related deaths for American women is important data for obstetricians. Regardless of specialty, all physicians need to advise women patients — white, black, Hispanic, Asian or other — that there must be a commitment to seek preventative health care and begin prenatal care early to have not only healthy newborns, but healthy mothers to care for them.

Dr. Melody T. McCloud, founder and medical director of Atlanta Women’s Health Care, is an obstetrician-gynecologist affiliated with Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Stop teen dating violence

By Sherry Boston

In a world full of headlines about adult domestic violence, it is no wonder dating violence impacts our teenagers. If our kids do not see it at home or experience it firsthand among their peers, they hear about cases like NFL player Ray Rice knocking his future wife unconscious on an elevator. Despite the outrage we express about such situations, many teens get the idea this type of behavior is normal.

Sadly, domestic violence is an epidemic in our culture. In its most recent domestic violence report, the Washington-based Violence Policy Center ranked Georgia 9th in the nation for the number of women killed by men. According to, one in three teens will experience some type of dating violence — physical, sexual, verbal or emotional. As DeKalb County Solicitor-General and the mother of two young daughters, I find this unacceptable. We must do more to protect our teens.

Last year, my office prosecuted 27 cases of misdemeanor teenage dating violence. Two involved strangulation; one, statutory rape, and two, knives. We believe more cases were not reported and that too many teens and parents make the mistake of believing, “It can’t happen to me.” Unless we intervene, tragic consequences are often the outcome.

So what can you do to help?

Watch for warning signs. Speak up if you see someone being abused, and never hesitate to seek assistance.

Warning signs for teens may include a partner’s extreme jealousy, constant criticism, telling them what to do, efforts to isolate them, pressuring them to send inappropriate photos or engage in sexual activity, monitoring their cell phones or email without permission, an explosive temper and/or physical harm. Since teens may not speak up, parents should watch for changes in their teens’ behavior — avoiding friends and family, falling grades and/or dropping out of activities.Violence tends to escalate in abusive relationships, no matter what apologies and promises are made to the victim. It is also important to be aware the most dangerous time in these relationships often comes when a victim tries to break up with the offender. If you are in danger, our Special Victims Unit can connect you with community resources and help you develop a safety plan for leaving an abusive relationship.

I hope you will help us spread the word about preventing dating violence. My goal is to stop abuse at the misdemeanor level before our teens become victims of more serious felony abuse, and before they choose to stay with their abusers long-term.

Unfortunately, we see many cases of domestic violence where the couples started their relationships as teenagers. If someone you know is a victim, always call 911 if there is immediate danger. If there is not immediate danger, please call the Love is Respect Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 (8453 TTY) or text “love is” to 77054.

Sherry Boston is the DeKalb County Solicitor-General.


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