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PGN - After months of secrecy and strategic leaks from his campaign, former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden revealed his running mate August 11:

California Sen. Kamala Harris. 

Harris ran for president last year and was briefly the frontrunner before dropping out last December citing lack of funds.

Harris is an historic choice. The daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother, Harris will be both the first Black woman and first Asian-American vice-presidential candidate. Harris was previously the first female, first Black and first Asian-American Attorney General of California, She was also the first Black woman and Asian-American woman District Attorney of San Francisco.

Harris is a long-time LGBTQ ally, with her work for the community dating back decades.

Reaction to Biden’s choice was swift and overwhelmingly positive from Democrats.

Lambda Award-winning novelist and AIDS activist Greg Herren, who had been a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2016, told PGN, “I thought tears of joy was something I would never experience again. My social media exploded into so much joy and excitement yesterday, that I again experienced hope.”

Herren, who was also previously a Democratic strategist who worked with Stonewall Democrats, added, “I also see that women are not going to take what they did in 2016, will not back down, and are ready to fight back this time, which also makes me teary.”

Maddy Gold, a design professor at a local university, told PGN that the choice made her “ecstatic and every other adjective. It’s been such a terrible year — this is just such good news, for once.” Harris had been Gold’s initial choice for president and she had hoped Biden would choose her for VP.

“It means so much to have a Black woman in this role,” Gold said, “particularly at this time, when we are out in the streets protesting for our lives and when Black women have been the backbone of the Democratic Party.”

Gold, who identifies as a lesbian and has had many LGBTQ students said, “I am so glad that they can know they have a strong ally in Harris, one who has their back and will work to protect all of us in the LGBTQ community.”

Harris’s history with the LGBTQ community began officially when she was San Francisco DA. On Valentine’s Day 2004, Harris was among the first in the country to marry lesbian and gay couples. Then-Mayor (now Governor) Gavin Newsom had urged the county clerk’s office to begin issuing the marriage certificates, asserting that the state Constitution prohibited discrimination. California was then the only state other than Massachusetts to grant same-sex marriages.

While running for Attorney General in 2010, Harris asserted that she would not defend Prop 8, the Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act, which had banned same-sex marriages in California 2008 and was being litigated in the federal courts. After being elected, Harris declared her office would not defend the marriage ban.

In 2013, when Proposition 8 was overturned, Harris issued the order to begin marrying couples that day. There is vivid footage of gay and lesbian couples lined up to get marriage licenses and then-Attorney General Harris in front of news media, on the phone, issuing the directive that “You must start the marriages immediately!”

During Pride Month, Harris put a video of the event on her Twitter page.

As a senator, Harris is among the most progressive, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who also ran for president this year. Harris has supported healthcare reform and co-sponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Medicare for All legislation. She supports the federal legalization of marijuana, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the DREAM Act, a ban on assault weapons and progressive tax reform. She is a proponent of the Equality Act and had pledged to sign it into law when running for president.

Harris has consistently spoken out about anti-LGBT violence — especially against trans women of color, about the Trump trans military ban and about attempts to block healthcare for queer and trans people by the administration. She applauded the June Supreme Court ruling which banned anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination.

Harris gained a national profile for her pointed questioning of Trump administration officials during Senate hearings, including Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and William Barr.

During her intense grilling of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, she repeatedly asked him if he recognized Obergefell v. Hodges, the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, as “landmark Civil Rights legislation” similar to rulings on school desegregation. Kavanaugh refused to answer.

Many of Harris’s fellow senators issued congratulatory and supportive statements on social media. Pete Buttigieg, who was the first openly gay presidential candidate this year and won the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, said on Twitter, “Kamala Harris fights tirelessly for justice, dignity, and equality for all Americans. I’m thrilled she’s joining the ticket and can’t wait to call her my Vice President.”

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta tweeted a photo of Biden and Harris and noted, “This team is going to beat Trump like a drum.”

On hearing that Biden had chosen Harris, Trump deemed her “nasty” “fake” and “a phony.” He also said she was the “meanest” and “most horrible” and claimed she was “disrespectful” in her attacks on Biden during the Democratic primary when Harris had challenged Biden on his previous stance on busing.

Harris will debate Vice President Mike Pence in Salt Lake City on October 7.


How this super consultant, Mary Morton is creating change. - As a Chicagoan, Mary Morten was born to be a mover and a shaker. She jokes that when she was growing up, in her house there were pictures of Jesus Christ and Richard Daley.

And sure enough, before she started The Morten Group, her high-powered consulting firm, she was a mayoral appointee under Richard M. Daley. As the mayor’s liaison to the LGBT community in the office of violence prevention, she had a staff of 10. All joking aside, the job wielded significant power.

“Being the liaison was particularly interesting and enlightening,” Morten says. “The mayor sees you as his advocate, and the community sees you as their advocate. It was necessary to make it clear to both that my politics had not changed.”

Morten’s political activism was forged in feminism. She was both the first African American and first lesbian to be elected president of the powerful Chicago chapter of NOW. She immediately put her activism to work.

I created a lesbian rights committee and a women of color committee—it was important for people to know we needed both,” she says, adding, “I build bridges.”
After her stint as the mayor’s liaison, Morten considered a run at politics herself—in a city known the world over for its political maneuvering.

“I was very interested and I seriously considered it,” she said. “But you give up every shred of privacy that you ever had. I have advised people who have run for office. And if I was going to do it, I would have been well-positioned after my job in the mayor’s office. But I decided to go in another direction.”

That direction was founding The Morten Group. Not a bad idea, considering that she was trading on 20 years of work as an organizer. Her goal was to consult with both nonprofit and for-profit agencies. As a lesbian and a woman of color, she had been particularly attuned to the struggles facing nonprofits.

“There are a lot of challenges that nonprofits face,” she explains. “The first thing I teach people is to focus on your assets, not your deficits.”

Morten is well-versed in the concept of skills development—helping companies to identify and leverage their assets—and as she gives her pep talk it’s obvious that she must be a terrific motivator to those who seek her advice. The list of her clients includes the prestigious Chicago Foundation for Women, which has millions at its disposal. “Most of my work at the Morten Group is on referral. Often, what I am doing for organizations is trustee development, board development, fund-raising and resource development.”

She is her own gatekeeper, noting, “The beauty of being a consultant is that I get to choose who I work with. I don’t work with organizations that I don’t believe in. While a client might be interviewing me for a position, I am interviewing them as well. I have to make sure it’s a good match for me.”

Focusing on assets, not deficits, is also at the core of Morten’s most recent project, the documentary film Woke Up Black. The film was inspired by the Black Youth Project, but, as Morten notes, “No one wants to listen to data.”

Morten, who has a degree in communications, with an emphasis in radio and television, has completed many short films for her clients, but this is the first feature film she has directed. Woke Up Black focuses on five African American students from Chicago who are dealing not just with negative stereotypes, but with broken families, the lure of gangs, the stifling impact of poverty and drugs and, above all, the media’s misrepresentation of who they are.

Morten allows these young women and men to tell their stories——in all their complexity. She says that she traveled around the country, doing preproduction in New Orleans and San Francisco, before she returned to Chicago to do the project there.

“We followed African American youth—followed their interaction with family, with institutions.” The film is interview-driven. As Morten describes them, these young people are “at the center of sociopolitical issues” in America, and it is these people she wants to hear from—a segment of the African American community that is often talked about but not talked to.

“On the news, we see the 20-second sound bites,” she explains. “These are the real stories. My role as an advocate now is to document what our communities are doing,” she says succinctly.


Imprinted with the larger-than-life politics of Chicago, she has parlayed her knowledge of the system—its machinery and its machinations—into an advocacy for those who have been branded by others but who have rarely had the opportunity to brand themselves. Women, queers, people of color—Morten helps them to refute the stories they’ve been told about themselves and to reveal their own identities.

One of her favorite workshops is teaching organizations how to fund-raise—a skill she got to employ firsthand while working on her film. “I am totally psyched by it,” she says. “I am trying to role model how to talk about asking for money. There are certificate and degree programs on fund-raising but there is nothing like doing it. When you tell your story, you’ve told one more person about what you do.”

Morten is of course telling her own story as she empowers others to tell theirs, and the energy she exudes in the telling is palpable. She notes that “Women of color in general deal with this issue I have dealt with again and again in positions I have held. When you’re the first, you have to be extraordinary.”

12/27/2018 — Part one of a two-part series.


Philadelphia remains the poorest of the top 10 most populous cities in the United States, according to census data released in September. While poverty rates have decreased in the nation overall, Philly holds that dubious designation for the 10th consecutive year, with 25.99 percent — more than 400,000 Philadelphians — living in poverty and 36.4 percent earning $25,000 or less.Philadelphia remains the poorest of the top 10 most populous cities in the United States, according to census data released in September. While poverty rates have decreased in the nation overall, Philly holds that dubious designation for the 10th consecutive year, with 25.99 percent — more than 400,000 Philadelphians — living in poverty and 36.4 percent earning $25,000 or less. - We’ve heard that term repeatedly since the 2016 election. Mainstream media has talked more about the plight of the working class in the past two years than it has in decades. Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton each made their own claims about this critical demographic, but none have been quite as bold as Trump. — A young woman in a wheelchair, her hands zip-tied behind her back like a criminal, screamed, “Kill the bill, don’t kill us!”The fear in her voice, her face unseen by the camera, should have sent a frisson of outrage through anyone watching. It did not affect the president nor the Republican-led Congress.

3/13/2018 — Frida Kahlo just became the first out bisexual Barbie. How thrilling is that? The American toy maker, Mattel, released a new line of 17 signature Barbie dolls to celebrate International Women’s Day and women’s achievements. The "Inspiring Women Series" Barbies are, according to Mattel, role models for young girls (or boys, we hope lots of boys, too) playing with the dolls. Mattel said, "Barbie dolls have long inspired young girls with their beauty and fashion sense.

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