Gwen Ifill: A consummate journalist who demonstrated why diversity matters

Annual book fair and authors night, National Press Club, 17 Nov. 2009. Photo: Michael Foley
Annual book fair and authors night, National Press Club, 17 Nov. 2009. Photo: Michael Foley

There are many reasons to mourn Gwen Ifill’s untimely death today at the age of 61. She was a consummate journalist of the old school variety, who rose through the ranks of newspapers and broadcasting to occupy some of the industry’s most respected positions: co-host of the PBS Newshour and moderator of Washington Week in Review. There will be many tributes and assessments of the way she broke ground by demonstrating that there is still a place for shoe-leather reporting, tough interviewing and striving for objectivity in an industry whose desperation for ratings and clicks has raised fundamental questions about its ability to fulfill its civic responsibilities, most notably in the recent Presidential election. I want to focus on one moment that embodied her excellence, her bravery and the difference that can result when we bring diverse perspectives to our national discourse.

During the 2004 Presidential campaign, Ifill made history by becoming the first African American woman to moderate the Vice Presidential debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and his Democratic challenger, John Edwards. Ifill asked a question that exposed a huge blind spot on the part of both candidates. As she later recalled during a September 20, 2016 “Backstory” segment for Washington Week :

At the time, I was trying to figure out, there’s only one vice presidential debate, how do I get them to talk about something that’s off their topics, something they haven’t rehearsed for, something they wouldn’t expect? And I came across a number, a statistic about African American, I mean HIV infection among African American women.  Sky-rocketing at the time.  No one was talking about this. And I prefaced my question by saying, ‘You’ve both talked about AIDS in Africa, I want to talk about about AIDS in this country.  Please don’t talk about AIDS in Africa. What would you do if you were in this administration about sky-rocketing HIV infections among African American women?’ Very specific.

Neither candidate had a good answer. A statement released by the Black AIDS Institute and Essence magazine took both men to task:

Mr. Cheney’s response to Ms. Ifill’s question was “I had not heard those numbers with respect to African-American women. I was not aware that it was that severe and epidemic there”. … The Vice President’s lack of awareness about the magnitude of the AIDS epidemic in African American communities speaks volumes about the low priority our government places on the lives of African Americans. …

 

As for Edwards, Ifill later recalled,

John Edwards’ response was, ‘Well let me give you my three-point plan for AIDS in Africa.’ I found out afterward from people who prepped him for that debate that that was the question they thought I was going to give them — an AIDS in Africa question.  So he didn’t even hear the distinction.  He just, it just clicked it. It clicked in.

ACTUP, the AIDS prevention and treatment advocacy group, ran an item about the exchange, noting, “You know the chance of that issue being raised by any of the White men who are moderating the presidential face-offs is slim.”

When Ifill talked about that moment, she didn’t focus on her identity. For her, it was about considering important issues being left out of the conversation, and making them visible. She said people would still come up to her years later and say, “I loved that AIDS question.”

People remember when these candidates reveal themselves for what they are — what they don’t know and what they do know.  So I think that’s part of the moderator’s responsibility — to let the viewers at home know what these guys… are capable of.

Godspeed, Ms. Ifill. You were one of the best among us.

 

 

A personal perspective on the Trenton Makes Music project

People who know me credit me with a few talents – but musical ability isn’t one of them. Not only am I not a musician, I have no background in music journalism So, it should come as no surprise that one of the questions I’m often asked about the motivation and inspiration behind my current drive to document the musical history of New Jersey’s capital city, known as  Trenton Makes Music: Cultural Memory, Identity and Economic Development. Along with our students, my TCNJ colleague, Dr.  Teresa Marrin Nakra and renowned Trenton-born entertainer Sarah Dash, I’ve been engaged in the development of digital archive, podcast series and public programs highlighting the significant but largely unrecognized contributions of Trenton music professionals both to the music industry and the economic and cultural development of the city.

Over the course of the last four years, we’ve learned that Trenton musicians were part of some of the most popular musical acts of the last century. What’s more, with its location between New York and Philadelphia, Trenton venues were considered important stops on the tours of musicians across decades and cultures: vaudeville, opera, classical, rock, R&B, disco, funk, punk, and hip-hop. Trenton music. The playlist below is just a taste:

So, the Trenton music story is an amazing and largely untold one, and as a journalist, I’m a sucker for a great untold story. But the origins of the project, and our hopes for it, go beyond that.

The Performamatics project

In June 2012, Teresa Nakra and I attended a Performamatics workshop at the University of Massachussets Lowell that was aimed at encouraging the development of collaborative courses that use music to foster computational thinking in students. Dr. Nakra is a professor of music and interactive multimedia at TCNJ who has done groundbreaking work in the areas of human computer interaction and on using computing technology to measure the emotional and physiological impact of music. At the workshop, we learned about such strategies developed by the Performatiics research team as:

Our materials teach concepts such as modularization by breaking songs down into their components, looping and subroutines by noting where musical phrases are repeated intact and with small variations (requiring parameters), logic flow by creating musical flowcharts, and algorithms by writing programs that generate music.  New materials will explore ways to teach more advanced computing concepts such as threads and synchronization by writing programs that play multiple parts simultaneously and use various Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs), allowing us to combine software platforms into systems that to do more than is possible by one alone.

Pairs of faculty working at the same institution were invited to participate, with the hope that each pair would develop a class applying the techniques and concepts demonstrated during the workshop. Teresa and I had discovered a common interest in storytelling during our prior participation in the development and delivery of our campus’ videogame development curriculum.  As we brainstormed about course ideas, we began realized that we’d each developed an interest in the city’s music history.

Teresa’s digital baton research informed Paul Lehrman’s 1999 production of Trenton-born classical composer George Antheil’s Ballet Mechanique, and she’d developed an interest in Antheil’s life. She had also been getting to know some of the area teachers and students involved in local classical ensembles. I had known that Trenton had a history as a place to hear live music. Venues such as Joe’s Mill Hill Saloon were well known even during my undergraduate days at Princeton. And during the late 1990s, my friends and I regularly attended the Trenton Jazz Festival, where we heard such artists as Tito Puente, Patti Austin and Al Jarreau, along with local greats. My late colleague, playwright Don Evans, had created a History of Jazz class that included field trips to some of the city’s noted venues. Don’s son, Orrin, a notable jazz pianist in his own right, played a well-received concert on campus in 2002.

Meanwhile, my daughter Ja-Tun, a professional singer, had moved back to the area after college and was now performing with such local musicians as Grace Little, a former Philadelphia International Records vocalist whose talent garnered acclaim from the Apollo theater at the age of 13, and Kym Miller, the guitarist from the hitmaking disco band Instant Funk. Ja-Tun has since gone on to a career that takes her throughout the East Coast and overseas.

Kool and the Gang’s trombonist Clifford Adams often performed in the area, including at the school his son and my son both attended. I had visited Grant Chapel AME church, where members of Nona Hendryx’s family were still singing in the church choir. I learned that Hendryx’s Labelle bandmate, Sarah Dash, was also from Trenton, and I met friends and family of hers who were also musicians.

Before long, I met musicians who had recorded and toured with some of the biggest names in the music business, from Nelly to David Bowie. Teresa and I found ourselves asking, “What is is about Trenton? What was going on in Trenton that made this creative flowering possible?” Teresa had another question:” Is there a ‘Trenton sound’?” Can we analyze the music to identify a distinct musical lineage?

More questions: Our technology backgrounds had also made us aware of the region’s contributions to the music industry. As a music technologist, Teresa was aware of the legacy of the Sarnoff Center, the old research division of RCA. The Sarnoff Collection, housed at TCNJ, memorializes David Sarnoff and his company’s contributions to recording, radio and television technologies. We were both aware of the important contributions of Bell Labs, the former research arm of the old Bell System, an institution whose innovations in communications hardware, software, networks and distribution systems helped to revolutionize music production. Could the city’s proximity to these R&D powerhouses have played a role?

And of course, there was the relationship between the evolution of the city’s music scene and the ebb and flow of its economic fortunes, migration patterns, cultural sensibilities and social mores.

To answer those questions, it was necessary to document that history in a way that permitted both ethnographic and musicological analysis.

The Trenton Makes Music project is born

We kept talking about the idea over the next couple of years, as we worked on other projects. By the fall of 2014, we decided that I would offer a First Seminar class that would begin collecting oral histories of some of these musicians. Jazz composer and educator Dr. Anthony Branker put me in touch with Clifford Adams, with whom I had several phone conversations about his musical beginnings in Trenton, and the people in the city’s music community who needed to be part of any archive. Chief among them were two men that he cited as mentors: retired Trenton High school teachers Thomas “Tommy” Grice and Thomas  Passarella. I would soon learn that these men taught and mentored a number of professional musicians and educators. What’s more, they are still performing and creating learning opportunities for young people.

Dean John Laughton of TCNJ’s School of Art and Communication offered his support for co-curricular programming, including a campus lecture by Sarah Dash and a concert by the TCNJ Jazz ensemble. Our campus center for Community-Engaged Learning helped us make necessary community connections. As we started digging into archives and talking about the idea with the Trentonians we knew, we began to realize that the history was deeper, richer and more variegated than we knew, but very little of that history is in the scholarly or journalistic record. (Some of the prior online projects in this area that deserve recognition include:

  • Tom Krawiec’s Trenton Makes Music Facebook page: a photo collection that especially focuses on the city’s rock and roll history.
  • Dr. James Day’s  Trenton Soundscapes First Seminar class project on the contemporary Trenton music scene was featured at the Trenton City Museum in 2011
  • The book and documentary about City Gardens, the club that became a favorite destination for such major rock, punk and alternative artists as Nirvana, Iggy Pop and Green Day.
  • The documentary video and photography produced by Scott Miller’s Exit 7A studios.

 

One anecdote: One day in 2014, I was riding the bus from campus to town, and I got into a conversation with the driver about the Trenton Makes Music class. He says, “You have to talk to my sister.” Who’s your sister? Diane Jones, he says. It turns out that Ms. Jones sang backup for Taylor Dayne and Guns N’ Roses, during the 1980s and 90s. She came in and we recorded an incredible oral history interview with TCNJ first seminar students. The unedited audio of that interview is here:

What’s more, the bus driver, Vance Holland, was a session musician at Salsoul – the hot disco label of the 1970s. and became a tour bus driver for several major acts. And passengers on the bus began shouting out the musicians, music teachers, and musical accomplishments associated with the city.

What was most remarkable about that and other conversations that we have had with Trentonians is the near-universal pride and excitement that comes out when longtime residents start talking about their city’s music heritage. Like many faded rust-belt towns, Trenton has taken a beating in the last several decades, and its rare to hear residents speak about their town with pride. Our hope is that documenting and showcasing Trenton’s music history will foster conversations that reinforce and deepen that pride and rekindle the community’s spirit. Also, we hope that an accessible digital repository of both curated and original information about the city’s music culture will assist the city’s goal of strengthening the arts sector as part of its economic development strategy.

This fall, Teresa and I will be teaching two collaborating classes on podcasting in which students will work with Ms. Dash to create a podcast series that will be hosted on the on our project website. The podcasts will be based on our accumulated research and a series of public programs that will take place on campus and and in the community. We are hopeful that community members will begin using the website to share their stories, in addition to exploring the content that we have begun to collect.

We haven’t forgotten our desire to connect this work to our research on curricular models for fostering computational thinking. We’ve got some ideas for which the documentary project is a necessary foundation.

In one of those 2014 telephone conversatons Clifford Adams told me, “This could be a great project, if it’s done right.” Sadly, we won’t get to find out what he thinks of what we were able to accomplish. The innovative musician and educator died in early 2015. (Here’s his entry in our digital archive.)  If this work brings more attention to and support for the Trenton music community, I am hopeful that he would have been pleased.

Democratic National Convention Press Release on Accessibility

Note: This press release is a sidebar to The DNC and the politics of accessibility

2016 Democratic National Convention Announces Plans to Make this the Most Accessible Convention Ever  

Unprecedented Accessibility Plan Outlines Resources for People with Disabilities, Seniors and Individuals Who Need Specific Accommodations.

PHILADELPHIA – In the lead up to Convention week, the Democratic NationalConvention Committee (DNCC) today announced an unparalleled accessibility plan to make the Democratic Convention being held in Philadelphia from July 25th to July 28th the most inclusive and accessible in history. The DNCC’s Accessibility plan reaffirms the organization’s commitment to build upon the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by removing barriers for all American’s with disabilities who wish to be involved in the Convention and engage in our nation’s political process.

“Our party has been at the helm of advancing the rights of people with disabilities for the last quarter century,” said DNCC CEO Rev. Leah Daughtry. “That is why our priority has been to make this a convention for all Americans, and we have worked tirelessly to ensure full equality for those with disabilities. As we celebrate the 26thanniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we intend to make this Conventionthe most accessible convention in history.”

The DNCC has made accessibility an integral part of all aspects of Conventionplanning since its arrival in Philadelphia, from transportation and housing to designing the traffic flow at Convention events. In selecting official Convention venues, organizers chose sites that were ADA compliant and designed systems to accommodate all individuals including delegates and participants with specific needs.  Last week, the DNCC also announced that Ted Jackson, a recognized leader in the disability rights community, was joining the organization to serve as a specialist in the Office of Public Engagement’s ADA & Community Engagement unit. Ted is helping create an accessible environment for people with disabilities and folks who need an accommodation at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Convention Accommodations for Disabled Individuals

The DNCC has partnered up with the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) and the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) to help enhance the convention experience and ensure that delegates and participants have an array of options to meet their needs during Convention week. For months, the DNCC has been developing our Accessibility Plan, which is inclusive of people with disabilities, seniors and individuals who need a reasonable accommodation.

  • Structural changes – e.g. ramps and seating – to the Convention center and Wells Fargo Center to ensure access for all.
  • Mobility support in the form of wheelchair check out, scooter rental, power chair charging stations and sighted guides.
  •  Access to information by providing materials in alternate formats such as Braille, screen reader accessible electronic materials and large print.
  • Inclusive communication by providing live captions, American Sign Language and Assisted Listening Devices at both facilities and Audio Descriptions forconvention hall proceedings plus an assistance request alert texting system.
  • Disability Services at both locations which include individualized assistance plus:
  • Personal Attendant Credentials (On Request In Advance)
  • Optical Character Recognition Systems
  • Guide Dog Relief
  • Tactile Map
  • Magnifiers
  • Reading and Scribe Assistance
  • ASL Interpreters
  • Reachers
  • Step Stools
  • Medicine Refrigeration
  • Masks for Chemical Sensitivity
  • Non-Stimulation Space
  • Ensuring all public facilities are accessible.
  • The DNCC has secured hotel rooms and event spaces forconvention guests – delegates, the Democratic NationalCommittee (DNC), campaign staff, elected officials, allied groups and members of the media – in compliance with the ADA to ensure equal access opportunities, communication and mobility for all.
  • Hotels are assigned to State Delegations based on the room block allocation for the Delegation, the function/caucus space needs, the number of suites and any ADA room requirements that are specific to each Delegation
  • There are 27 hotels, and 15,000 hotel rooms in the Airport, River to River and Valley Forge clusters that have been exclusively set aside for our state delegations participating in the convention.
  • Transportation: Daily transportation will be provided to the Wells Fargo Center and Pennsylvania Convention Center from all state delegation hotels. Each state delegation will receive ADA accommodations to ensure a safe and seamless shuttle service to and from convention-related proceedings, including Golf Cart transfers from the security entrance to the building entrance at the Wells Fargo Center.
  • Employing people with disabilities to be engaged at all levels of accessibilityplanning.

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 About the Democratic National Convention

The 2016 Democratic Convention will be held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia July 25-28, 2016.   Working in partnership with the Philadelphia Host Committee, the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, our goal is to make this the most engaging, innovative and forward looking Convention in history.  The 2016 Democratic National Convention will leverage technology to take the Convention experience well beyond the hall in an effort to engage more Americans than ever before in the event.  With the birthplace of American Democracy as a backdrop, the 2016 convention in Philadelphia will highlight our shared Democratic values and help put the Democratic nominee on a path to victory.

The Democratic Convention is the formal nominating event for the Democratic candidates for President and Vice President.  At the Convention, the Democratic Party also adopts the official Democratic Party platform as well as the rules and procedures governing party activities including the nomination process for presidential candidates in the next election cycle.

The CEO for the 2016 Democratic National Convention is Reverend Leah D. Daughtry. The official website of the 2016 Democratic National Convention is www.demconvention.com.

The DNC and the politics of accessibility

The Democratic National Convention took place from July 25-28 in Philadelphia PA, and while everyone was focused on the protests over the nomination process, there were some conflicts over decisions made by the DNC and the local host committee. One particularly contentious local issue that got little national attention was the DNC’s and Philadelphia mayor’s deal with the Uber ride-sharing service. Local taxi and Uber Black drivers have been protesting for more than a year that competing ride services should be required to adhere to the same rules and requirements to which they are subjected.

According to the protesters, the DNC deal with Uber belied the Party’s stated commitments to workers and members of vulnerable populations.  Philadelphia taxi union president Ronald Blount told Fusion : “They’re supposed to represent us working people, people who are less fortunate, people with disabilities, but it’s like they’re just rolling over for a shrimp cocktail and a ham sandwich.”

As a disabled journalist, I found myself directly affected by this dispute as I navigated the Convention. While I found demonstrable efforts to make the Convention accessible for those inside the Wells Fargo Arena and Philadelphia Convention Center – the primary locations where Convention activities took place – the preferential treatment accorded Uber put me in a position that could have turned out very badly.

“The Most Accessible Convention Ever”

Rev. Leah Daughtry, CEO of the 2016 Democratic National Convention Committee, speaks at an interfaith service that was part of the pre-Convention activities on Sunday, July 24, 2016 at the Philadelphia Civic Center.
Rev. Leah Daughtry, CEO of the 2016 Democratic National Convention Committee, speaks at an interfaith service that was part of the pre-Convention activities on Sunday, July 24, 2016 at the Philadelphia Civic Center.

Covering a major political party convention takes planning – even more so when you are doing it solo and you have a disability that impairs your mobility. So, I paid close attention to the press release that landed in my email inbox July 20th, outlining the steps that the Democratic National Committee was taking to assure that this would be, in the words of the press release headline, “the most accessible convention ever.” The release listed the measures taken by the DNCC, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors’ Bureau to assure accessibility. It was an extensive list. that included everything from structural modifications to the convention venues, to masks for chemical sensitivity, reachers, tactile maps, etc. As for transportation:

  • Transportation: Daily transportation will be provided to the Wells Fargo Center and Pennsylvania Convention Center from all state delegation hotels. Each state delegation will receive ADA accommodations to ensure a safe and seamless shuttle service to and from convention-related proceedings, including Golf Cart transfers from the security entrance to the building entrance at the Wells Fargo Center.

I live in the area, so I take taxis when I am traveling alone at night. I don’t use Uber or Lyft because I can’t count on them to be helpful or patient with me. Their reputation for accessibility is not good.  I had the number of a couple of drivers and companies that I was accustomed to calling.   I told one of them that I would probably be calling him. “I might not be able to get to you,” he said.  I was sure he was mistaken – the literature I’d been given, and the DNCC website clearly stated that it would be possible to get to and from the Wells Fargo Center, the principle Convention site, by taxi.

The daily media routine at the DNC

Jerry Springer exits the room where media pick up credentials.

A photo posted by Kim Pearson (@journogeek) on

The DNC actually took place at two separate locations, about five miles apart. The televised evening events were at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, while morning and early afternoon press briefings, caucuses, committee meetings and community events were at the cavernous Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Reporters picking up credentials for the Democratic National Convention had to line up outside of this small room at the Convention Center. Not all credentials were created equal. To get to into the Wells Fargo Center as a journalist, you have to have a Secret Service -approved photo badge. The people lined up on the right of the photo are waiting to pick up their credentials. In addition to the Secret Service badge, you have to get a pass giving you access to the Wells Fargo center. Some people get badges that automatically confer access to the Convention floor and press gallery and tent throughout the Convention. Some get daily access. My badge entitled me to daily access to a public, overflow area behind the stage. As I went to through the line each day, I heard journalists from domestic and international outlets on the phone with their bosses, trying to upgrade their access.

The credentials staff got to know me. I was allowed to sit until it was my turn in line. By day three, I could be in and out of that room inside of 10 minutes.

By the way, if you wanted to know what Jerry Springer was doing at the Convention Center,  check out this interview with the Young Turks.

Drivers protest Uber: “This is an example of what’s wrong in politics.”

After Monday night speeches at the Wells Fargo Center,  Pennsylvania  delegates were shuttled back into Center City’s Doubletree hotel for a party hosted by Uber. There, they were met by protesting taxi and limousine drivers from the Fair Ride Philly Coalition.
According to the Fair Ride Philly announcement of the protest:

One of the main concerns of picketers is the recent deactivation of 17 Uber Black Limousine drivers that the coalition believes were retaliated against for their organizing for fair wages. Moreover, the deactivation is a microcosm of the broader problems of a company that inserts itself into the city’s transportation system with absolutely no regulation. Rida Ahmad a limousine driver for Uber explained his dire situation, “Uber has wrongfully retaliated against me and put me in $70K debt.” He continued, “I can’t appeal or do anything because there are no proper regulations. I blame PA Democrats because they gave temporary permission for Uber’s ride-sharing service to operate without any rules or laws.”

Connecting the plight of Limo drivers to the plight of cab drivers, Ron Blount, the President of the Taxi Workers Alliance said, “This is an example of what is wrong in politics.” He continued, “Uber is attempting to buy and bribe the political process so the multi-billion dollar company can get away with refusing to pay the minimum wage, stop workers from unionizing and refuse to offer service to the disabled.”

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal story, Uber maintains that the 17 deactivated drivers were dismissed because they were falsifying their locations in order to collect higher fares. The drivers deny the charges.

At 9 am the next morning, members of the Fair Ride coalition pleaded their case again with the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Replay the Facebook live video of that session.

Meanwhile, I opted not to go to the Wells Fargo Center Monday night, because there were heavy lightning storms. Instead, I hung out at a Convention Center watch party and caught a cab ride home with one of my regular drivers when the storms ended.

At the Wells Fargo Center

Entering the Wells Fargo Center
Entering the Wells Fargo Center on the Second day of the Democratic National Convention

On Tuesday, the day that Secretary Hillary Clinton became the official Democratic Party nominee, I made it to the Wells Fargo Center. As soon as I came through the security tent at the Wells Fargo Center, a staff member greeted me and offered to hail  a golf cart to take me to the door of the Convention. Not everyone was so lucky.  According to this story from Philadelphia’s NBC affiiliate, one Idaho man had to rely on his fellow delegates to help him over a curb at the Wells Fargo Center. The curb cut was blocked by a security fence erected to keep protesters at bay.

Entering the Wells Fargo Center is like coming upon a media bazaar. There’s a carnival of broadcast outlets, but instead of barkers, there are interns and production assistants button-holing people for interviews. I’ve got some more walking to do to find my assigned spot.

I’m almost in the top tier, on the right side and behind the stage. To see the speakers, I have to look at monitors on the side of the stage backdrop. I can see the bank of major print and online reporters on the floor working at tables with power outlets. I had almost been allowed by one volunteer,  but then another volunteer looked at my badge, consulted a color-coded chart and sent me up here, which is regular stadium seating.  I’m texting with delegates to line up interviews, but I have to persuade them to leave the floor. I can see the roll call, hear the excitement. I can also see some of the rows of seats empty out right after Sen. Bernie Sanders calls for Clinton’s nomination by acclamation. I get a text from a newspaper reporter friend about the protest in the media tent, but I’ve been told I don’t have access to it. I don’t even know where it is.

So, I’m alternating between the crow’s nest and the main floor, catching people in the hallways and elevators.  When I get back, the seats are gone, and a Convention staffer is trying to hand me a Hillary poster to wave after the roll call. I hold up my  press badge and say, “I can’t. I’m a journalist.” Everyone else, even the people who have been tapping away on the laptops on their knees the whole time, has a sign.

Any way,  below are some of the images I gathered while running  back and forth between the crow’s nest, hallways and elevators.  And here’s an interview I did in the hallway with a Bernie Sanders delegate, right after the roll-call vote.

Taxi? What taxi?

At the end of the night, I asked the Wells Fargo staff for directions to the taxi stand. “Uber is right across the street, past the security tent.,” they say. “Not Uber, the taxi stand. They look at each other, confused. So does the man who meets me when I get out of the golf cart at the end of the security perimeter. So do the people at the lot, where there is a very big Uber sign. Okay, if there’s no taxi, how about a shuttle, I ask?  I get directed to a tent where mercifully, someone tells me that the only shuttle available there are to take employees to a distant parking lot. Nobody seems to know about any lot for taxis.

A police officer tells me to take the subway – the subway I didn’t want to take because the stop where I would have to get off doesn’t have an elevator,  and getting home from there involves walking several blocks. But it’s nearly midnight, and no one can come get me. Maybe, one Wells Fargo staffer offers, I can get a taxi from the Holiday Inn at Packer Avenue, a mile away.

I take my chances with the subway, which people are running for as if it’s the last train that will ever be come to any subway station ever.  The operator sees me and holds the door for until I board. A nice couple from Jersey who is volunteering at the Convention offers me a seat. They are taking the train back to City Hall and picking up their car from a lot there.

I make it up the steps down the four long blocks to home. The streets and tunnels are empty except for the people who have had to make their beds there for the night. The step counter on my phone registers 22,549 steps. Thank God for Epsom Salts.

The next day, I read that the taxi and Lyft drivers are complaining about being Uber staff denied them the ability to pick up and drop off customers at the arena. According to the Philly.com story on the dispute:

Most car services were allowed to drop off passengers at the Wells Fargo Center at Lot V, while Ubers were assigned to Lot T, DNC spokesman Lee Whack said, adding that all legal car services had access.

“Any and every legal transportation service has access to the parking lots of Wells Fargo Center to pick up and discharge passengers,” he said.

I’m here to tell you that none of the people I talked to Tuesday night knew anything about a lot V. No signs pointed to a lot V. I took a very big chance that night, and I was fortunate. Needless to say that my family and friends were livid when they found out what happened. I did get a lecture that I should have just downloaded the Uber app, but that wasn’t a solution at 11:30 at night in a dark parking lot among strangers.

Putting on  a Convention is a complex endeavor, and I’m not mad at anybody. But complex undertakings often lead to unintended consequences, and this is just one example.

I watched the rest of the Convention on television.

 

Broadcast media area

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The view from the general press gallery.

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Rep. Rosa Delauro

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DC Mayor Muriel Bowser

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DNC 2016: The Women Caucus

At a political convention, caucuses are intended as cheerleading sessions to rally the faithful, and the Women’s Caucus sessions at the DNC were no exception. This was one of several special interest groups meetings run by the DNC during its morning and noon-time sessions, and the attendees on Tuesday morning were getting hyped as party luminaries such as newly appointed DNC Chair Donna Brazile and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi enthused about the historic nature of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

Here’s Brazile leading the crowd in a call-and-response tribute to women’s rights advocates from Abigail Adams to the modern era:

Donna Brazile shouted out feminist heroes from Abigail Adams to Barbara Jordan, and of course, Hillary Clinton.

A video posted by Kim Pearson (@journogeek) on

Brazile recalled that Adams, the wife of Founding Father John Adams, had written to her husband asking him and his Continental Congress comrades to “remember the ladies” as they plotted a course toward independence. Here is the full quote:

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

 

Brazile, a political veteran who speaks in cadences reminiscent of the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the height of his powers, spoke indirectly to the controversy surrounding the Wikileaks disclosure that some DNC staffers talked about ways of undermining the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt).  She had apologized to the Sanders campaign two days before.

 

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