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All You Need To Know About The Rising Political Star Stacey Abrams

Abrams has said she is "honored" to be delivering the response to the State of the Union address. She has said that she intends to "deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard.

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Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams speaks during an election-night watch party, May 22, 2018, in Atlanta. VOA

Stacey Abrams, who has been chosen to give the Democratic response to the State of the Union, is a rising political star in the Democratic Party and the first African-American woman to deliver the address.

Abrams recently showed that she can mobilize the power of black women voters in her close but unsuccessful bid to become Georgia’s governor, and Democratic leaders are hoping that her selection to give the prominent address will energize the party’s base.

“She is just a great spokesperson. She is an incredible leader. She has led the charge for voting rights, which is at the root of just about everything else,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Schumer, along with other top Democrats, have been urging Abrams to challenge Georgia’s Republican Sen. David Perdue, one of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken allies in Congress, as part of an effort to gain Democratic control of the Senate.

Boost for fellow Democrats

While Abrams narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race last year to Republican Brian Kemp, her presence at the top of the ticket boosted Democratic votes in the state and helped other state Democrats win office.

Democrats flipped a House seat in a suburban Atlanta congressional district that Republicans had held for decades and also flipped at least a dozen state legislative seats across the Atlanta suburbs.

The fact that Abrams, 45, nearly won the governor’s race in the reliably Republican Southern state has been seen by Democrats as reinforcing her ability to gain supporters and energize voters.

FILE - Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Atlanta, Nov. 6, 2018.
Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Atlanta, Nov. 6, 2018. VOA

Following the race, Abrams challenged the results, sharply accusing Kemp of deliberately suppressing thousands of votes. A group backed by Abrams filed a federal lawsuit this month saying Georgia deprived many low-income people and minorities of their voting rights during the race, which was overseen by Kemp, then secretary of state.

Abrams is a Yale Law School graduate who was elected to Georgia’s General Assembly in 2006. She rose to lead the Democrats in the assembly, taking over as the minority leader in 2011. She was known by her colleagues for being well-prepared, a good listener and someone who inspired others to trust and follow her. Although she ran unapologetically as a liberal, she was still able to earn the respect of many of her Republican colleagues and work with them across the aisle.

‘Vision for prosperity and equality’

Abrams has said she is “honored” to be delivering the response to the State of the Union address. She has said that she intends to “deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard.”

Also Read: Global Concerns Regarding American Foreign-Policy Before Trump’s Speech

In recent years, the response to the State of the Union speech has usually given by someone whom party leaders see as a rising political star. But delivering the response can also be a thankless task that is heavily scrutinized.

“Stacey Abrams embodies the American Dream, and her powerful message of progress for all is deeply needed during this time for our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. (VOA)

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It Is Food That African Americans Began To Create A Long Time Ago To Eat With Dignity As Enslaved People

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Cooking a fried supper as a benefit picnic church supper in Bardstown, Kentucky, in August of 1940. VOA

You can thank enslaved Africans for one of America’s most iconic drinks: Coca-Cola.

“The base ingredient in Coca-Cola is the kola nut that’s indigenous to Africa,” says Frederick Opie, professor of history and foodways at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the author of several books, including “Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America.”

Since the 17th century, when Africans were forced into slavery in the New World, they and their descendants have had a profound impact on what Americans grow and eat. Watermelon, okra, yams, black-eyed peas and some peppers are all indigenous to Africa.

“If you know what people eat, you can find out where they’re from,” Opie says. “There are certain things that we crave. Many African Americans love spicy food. That’s because we’re from the South. But also, we come originally from a culture, from a hot tropical climate, and spicy foods create a gastrointestinal sweating that causes you to cool yourself. So, that’s why so many African Americans love spicy food.”

Hercules, George Washington's head cook in the 1780s, escaped while in Philadelphia with the president, and was later freed under the terms of Washington's will.
Hercules, George Washington’s head cook in the 1780s, escaped while in Philadelphia with the president, and was later freed under the terms of Washington’s will. VOA

There was a practical reason indigenous African foods made it to the New World.

“When Africans were put on slave ships,” Opie says, “the reality of trying to keep your cargo alive and making money off them meant that you found out what this group of people ate, and you made sure that they were fed that and given that when they first arrived in the Americas.”

Fruits and vegetables brought from Africa flourished in America in large part because enslaved Africans planted their own gardens to supplement the meager rations provided by their captors.

A recreated slave garden at Smithfield Plantation in Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Historic Smithfield Plantation)
A recreated slave garden at Smithfield Plantation in Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Historic Smithfield Plantation) VOA

These plants eventually made their way from gardens of the enslaved to those of some of the wealthiest and most prominent people in the country, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, whose gardens were planted with heirloom seeds from Africa.

Enslaved African chefs left their mark on certain cooking methods, while also developing recipes that are now staples in the American diet, particularly in the American South.

“Dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, pepper pot, the method of cooking greens — Hoppin’ John (a dish made with greens and pork),” Kelley Deetz, director of programming at Stratford Hall, told VOA via email.

Stratford Hall is the birthplace and family home of Robert E. Lee, general of the South’s Confederate Army during the Civil War.

The kitchen building on the Chicora Wood Plantation in Georgetown County, South Carolina.
The kitchen building on the Chicora Wood Plantation in Georgetown County, South Carolina. VOA

“The method of deep frying of fish or barbecuing meats were all documented in West Africa before the transatlantic slave trade,” says Deetz, who is also the author of “Bound to the Fire,” which explores how Virginia’s enslaved cooks helped invent American cuisine. “These dishes and ingredients were essential to the formation of Southern, and eventually American, food.”

Many of these foods with roots in African American culture eventually came to be known as “soul food.”

“Soul food is just a term that was coined during the Black Power movement of mid-to-late 1960s as a way of identifying a food that represented the heritage of African Americans,” Opie says. “But also, through the years, it is food that African Americans began to create a long time ago to eat with dignity as enslaved people in (the) diaspora.”

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For more than 200 years, Southern plantation owners relied on enslaved Africans and their descendants to work in their fields and houses, to help raise their children, and to provide food and drink. But the contributions African Americans have made to American cuisine have not been well-documented until more recently.

Deetz says that’s because there’s been a longstanding and intentional misrepresentation of the origins of southern cuisine.

“The skilled and talented black chef has been written out of our nation’s history,” she says. “This negligence gives way to racist narratives that support white supremacist ideology that enslaved Africans and African Americans brought little but their labor to this nation, and that the culture from their ancestral land has not made a positive impact on the United States. … It was both their labor and their talent that shaped American cuisine.” (VOA)