February is Black History Month and 360 Magazine would like to recognize some historic people of color who have become a positive influence on society. In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement skyrocketed and brought attention to the diversity that still exists within our community. Although society has come a long way from the early 1900s when segregation ran rampant, the movement for equality has a long way to go. From inventors to musicians, there are a number of successful people we would like to acknowledge in honor of Black History Month.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Arguably one of the most important leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King spent his time preaching for equality in a peaceful way. He will always be remembered for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and his ability to lead others in this historical movement. Dr. King is one of the most influential
Joseph E. Lowery
Joseph E. Lowery is the grandfather of 360 Magazine’s President Vaughn Lowery and founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference alongside Dr. King. Throughout his life, Lowery served as vice president, chairman of the board and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as well as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
George Washington Carver
Many people are familiar with George Washington Carver for his inventive skills. He made over 300 products from peanuts and as an agricultural scientist promoted methods to prevent soil depletion.
Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. is to thank for the invention of traffic lights as well as gas masks. Every time you stop at a red light, take a moment to think of Morgan for this essential technology.
As the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama made an impact as the 44th president and showed young people of color they have representation in politics. He continues to use his voice to connect with the American people.
Keeping in the theme of politics, Vice President Kamala Harris is the first woman vice president, the first African American vice president and the first Asian American vice president. She’s giving young women of color everywhere a sense of representation.
Madam C.J. Walker
As the first recorded female self-made millionaire in America, Madam C.J. Walker was an influential entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist of her time.
Frederick McKinley Jones
Frederick McKinley Jones was the co-founder of Thermo King and he brought incredible improvement to long-haul transportation of perishable goods. Jones also won the National Medal of Technology.
Stevland Hardaway Morris, better known as Stevie Wonder, is a musical prodigy that became blind after birth and learned to play the harmonica, piano and drums by age nine. He is now a notable singer, songwriter, musician and record producer.
Lonnie Johnson is known for his success as an aerospace engineer. He has worked on the U.S. Air Force term of service and has also worked at NASA for twelve years including in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
As an ophthalmologist, Patricia Bath was an early innovator of laser cataract surgery. She was also the first woman, African American physician to receive a patent for a medical invention.
After being born into slavery, Harriet Tubman was a conductor of the Underground Railroad and helped many enslaved men and women escape. She led many people to freedom with her bravery and connection with antislavery activists.
Rosa Parks gained her notoriety as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement and is known for starting the Montgomery bus boycott after refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. She has been called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” by the United States Congress.
John Lewis was chairman Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as well as one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington. He was an essential part of the Civil Rights Movement and ending legalized racial segregation.
If you’ve ever ridden in an elevator, you can thank Alexander Miles for the automatic opening doors; he was awarded the patent for this invention in 1887. Mills was riding in an elevator with his daughter and he deemed an elevator shaft door left open could be dangerous.
Mary Kenner was an inventor famous for her development of the sanitary belt, the precursor to the self-adhesive maxi pad. However, due to racial discrimination, the idea wasn’t adopted for thirty years. She has five patents for various household items.
Known for her many famous pieces of writing, Maya Angelou was a poet, memoirist and civil rights activist. Over fifty years, she wrote a number of autobiographies, essays, poems, plays, movies and television shows. She also received over 50 honorary degrees as well as awards for her writing.
Along with being considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time, LeBron James also started the LeBron James Family Foundation to help create generational change for the children and families of LeBron’s hometown in Akron, Ohio.
As a popular spokesperson at the time of the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X encouraged Black Americans to protect themselves against racism. He preached a much different lesson than Martin Luther King Jr. who preached nonviolence.
Thurgood Marshall was the Supreme Court’s first African American justice as well as a prominent civil rights activist. He served on the court for 24 years and helped with influential rulings at the time of the Civil Rights Movement such as the case of Brown v. Board of Education.
Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the United States during the 20th century. He broke the color barrier of the MLB when he played for the National League Brooklyn Dodgers as second baseman with the jersey number 42.
2022 has proven to be nothing short of eventful with only one month under its belt. Below, we discuss and highlight the leading news stories for the month of love, February.
Rihanna pregnant with first baby
Esteemed musical artist, fashion and business icon Rihanna is expecting her first child with boyfriend A$AP Rocky. She debuted her baby bump for the first time while out in New York City – you’ve seen the photos; Rihanna looking effervescent in a long, pink jacket strolling through the streets of Harlem.
Whoopi Goldberg suspended from ‘The View’
The announcement of Whoopi Goldberg’s suspension from ‘The View’ came the evening of Tuesday February 1 following her stating that the Holocaust was “not about race.” She argued that both the Nazis and Jews were white on the programming, later apologizing for these comments.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, was invited to the show on Tuesday where he told Whoopi, “There’s no question that the Holocaust was about race. Literally, the first page of ‘Maus,’ the book you were talkingabout yesterday, Whoopi, opens with a quote from Hitler, and literally it says, ‘The Jews undoubtedly are a race, but they are not human.’ Hitler’s ideology was predicated on the idea that … the Jews were a subhuman race. It was a racialized anti-Semitism.”
Whoopi extended her apologies, stating, “So yesterday on our show, I misspoke… “I said that the Holocaust wasn’t about race, and it was instead about man’s inhumanity to man — but it is indeed about race, because Hitler and the Nazis considered Jews to be an inferior race.”
She continued, “Words matter, and mine are no exception. I regret my comments, and I stand corrected. I also stand with the Jewish people.”
US to deploy troops amidst Russia/Ukraine conflict
February 2, the Pentagon announced that United States President Joe Biden authorized the deployment of 3,000 US troops to Poland, Germany, and Romania. This repositioning of US military persons comes from the suspicion of a potential invasion of Ukraine initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This skepticism comes from the growing presence of Russian military near the borders. Which has caught the attention of Ukraine and fellow NATO allies. A total of 3,000 troops will be moved, with 2,000 leaving directly from the US and 1,000 troops already in Germany planning to relocate to Romania.
Pamela has voiced her disapproval of Pam & Tommy, while Tommy has been in support of the new show. An insider communicated that the robbed home video devastates Pamela and is a topic she does not wish to be rehashed.
The insider stated, “It was a violation having this tape taken. This was a very traumatic time in her life. And it’s shocking that they are recreating it.” They continued, referencing Pamela when saying, “apparently doesn’t deserve privacy because she’s a sex symbol. It’s a sad reflection of how far we’ve not come as a society. Where are the apologies owed to Pam?“
Tommy talked about the portrayal of their history, stating, “I think a lot of people would think that it’s one thing, but it’s really about privacy and how things got crazy then and there’s different laws now.” He continued, “It’s a cool story and people need to know. It’s cool. I’m stoked.“
Satellite images depict increasing Russian military presence in Belarus
Amidst the growing suspicion of a potential Russian military invasion into Ukraine, new satellite images from February 5 show an increase in intensity in Russian military sites in locations like Belarus. The images are assumed to be connected to combined efforts with Russian and Belarusian exercises.
Although these images may add to the rising awareness of Ukraine and NATO allies, further imaging also depicts camps being set up closer to Ukraine’s borders, far away from where the Russian/Belarus practices are set up.
Euphoria renewed for season 3
As the dramatic second season of the blockbuster HBO series Euphoria continues to air throughout the course of February, the show has been confirmed for a third season. As one of the most encapsulating series airing modern day, there was no question as to if the series would come back for a third series, but nonetheless this announcement gives us that reassurance we all were anticipating!
Peloton enlists new CEO and removes 2,800 jobs
Popular fitness company Peloton announced the removal of their former CEO John Foley for his replacement Barry McCarthy. McCarthy has worked for the likes of Spotify and Netflix as the brands chief financial officers, now taking on the title of CEO and president of Peloton on Wednesday February 9.
Peloton, too, announced their elimination of around 2,800 employees amidst new brand operation plans. Further projects include the limitation of warehouses that the brand owns and making the switch to broadening delivery arrangements with more third-party sources. All these changes come to amass a whopping $800 million saving in annual expenses.
The company also announced that their official first factory in the United States is almost ready to open in Ohio. The production of the factory, like the other changes to the company, aims to lessen costs and save around $60 million for Peloton.
12-year-old Black swimmer almost excluded from swim meet after wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ swimsuit
A 12-year-old Black swimmer was nearly disqualified from a Wisconsin swim meet for wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ swimsuit. The Duluth Area Family YMCA, who was in sponsor of the February 6 meet, stated an independent volunteer official tried to ban the student from the meet, asserting that the suit went in opposition to a USA Swimming rule that bans political language.
Sarah Lyons, mother of Leidy, argued that her daughter wore the suit to show her unwavering support for the Black Lives Matter movement, as it is in an important cause to her. Lyons stated, “She is very passionate about social justice. She has been through a lot already at a young age. It’s a big part of her, which I think is wild at 12,” she told CNN affiliate KBJR.
The YMCA overrode the threat from the official to exclude Leidy from the swim meet. They further issued a statement that read, “The Duluth Area Family YMCA is committed to being an anti-racist organization and stands with BIPOC communities throughout the Northland and throughout our country. We know that Black Lives Matter and we will continue to work to educate ourselves, to stand against inequality, and to strive to be active allies in the ongoing fight for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Book bans swarm US school libraries
The United States has reportedly seen a rise in the number of book bans, increasing from the end of 2021 to mid-February. Differing book bans in various places across the nation have been argued due to the contents of such books. Often, the books under fire contain some type of content relating to topics including race, gender and sexuality.
Local school boards and librarians have faced scrutiny and potential criminal charges from concerned parents. Bills in states such as Oklahoma have been created to outlaw public school libraries from housing books that had subject matter surrounding sexual activity/identity or gender identity. Another instance that had the nation, and Whoopi Goldberg, talking followed the exclusion of the ‘Maus’ from an eighth-grade module as voted on by the McMinn County Board of Education. The removal of the crucial Holocaust novel came due to “nudity and curse words.”
These book bans have been rather controversial due to the US’ protection of free speech under the first amendment. While conservative activists have been pushing for the restriction of books that delve into the US’ history of slavery and racial oppression, liberal activists have urged against books that may contain racist or insensitive material.
NYFW captivates NYC
New York Fashion Week commenced on Friday February in New York, New York. The week full of fashion commenced on February 11 and closes on February 16. An array of designers showcased at the shows in February, all elevating the world of fashion as we know it.
Shooting following Justin Bieber concert in LA
Saturday February 12, a shooting broke out at an afterparty following a Justin Bieber concert apart of the “Homecoming Weekend.” The shooting occurred on the outside of Beverly Grove restaurant. Police are still searching for the gunman who put at least four men in the hospital. Rapper Kodak Black was reported to be among the injured from the shooting.
Super Bowl LVI
February 13 at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, CA, the hometown Los Angeles Rams triumphed over the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20. Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar all performed during the halftime show.
Bitcoin surpasses tech stocks by an average 12%
Though Bitcoin has suffering throughout the course of 2022, a substantial turnaround has been observed. Data in accordance with Finbold shows that as of February 13, Bitcoin outperformed leading tech stocks by an average return on investment (ROI) of 12.24%. Bitcoin surpassed six of the upper tech stocks, even including Amazon.
Sarah Palin x The New York Times defamation trial comes to an end
February 15 a Manhattan jury in the widespread Sarah Palin defamation trial against the Times ruled against the former Alaskan governor. This decision came following the judge’s decision to dismiss the suit on February 14. His reasoning stemmed from the fact that he believed that there was not enough suitable evidence to prove that the Times’ 2017 editorial in question defamed Palin.
Scientists may have a potential HIV cure
A New York woman may have been cured from HIV following an intensive stem cell treatment process. The treatment entails that patients must have a terminal cancer or condition that allows them to receive the full procedure.
While involving the use a radiation, the aim of the stem cell treatment is to replace the existing immune system with a new HIV resistant stem cells. This procedure has been proven effective in a total of three men, and a potential other two women.
Jasmine Kennedie Comes Out As Trans
Jasmine Kennedie, a contender on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14, recently came out as trans on Untucked. Untucked is a companion show to Drag Race, where you get to see the competitors after they’ve received critiques from the judges and before the two queens to be eliminated are announced. The queens will discuss their performance, and whether or not they think they will stay within the competition, among other things.
During episode seven of the series, in a tear felt confession, Jasmine Kennedie says that she was going to begin hormones before entering the competition, and after seeing fellow trans contestant Kerri Colby, she felt the need to come out.
Russian leaders announced that they have approved a full-scale attack on Ukraine, after Putin announced that the neighboring country poses a threat to them. Putin believes there is aggression near the country’s border. Russia’s embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, has been cleared out. Putin delivered a fiery speech in which he declared that Ukraine had no right to exist, most likely based on the fact that the country gained its independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Russian troops are continuously added to the country’s border, and The Pentagon has stated that the attacks might occur at any time.
Ukraine President Volodomir Zelenskyy stated that Russia has no reason to believe Ukraine poses any threat to them, and asked for a call to Putin, which was denied. Ukraine has now issued a State of Emergency and is preparing for the invasion. Many national leaders are deeming invasion imminent. Sanctions have been placed on several Kremlin officials as a warning. Vice President Kamala Harris stated the US response to Russia would be “swift, severe, and united.”
New South Park Episode
South Park is releasing their newest episode, “BACK TO THE COLD WAR,” at 8 PM ET on March 2nd via Comedy Central. In the episode, a lot is riding on Butter’s ability to crush the competition in the all-important dressage championship.
All-New Season Episodes will be Available to Stream in HD HERE and HERE, and the Comedy Central App post-premiere. Comedy Central’s South Park the series launched on August 13, 1997, and is based on the VHS-shared, animated short entitled “The Spirit of Christmas.” Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the co-creators of South Park. Parker, Stone, Anne Garefino and Frank C. Agnone II are the Executive Producers of the Emmy® and Peabody® Award-winning show. Eric Stough, Adrien Beard, Bruce Howell and Vernon Chatman are Producers. Christopher Brion is the Creative Director of South Park Digital Studios.
Press Room Bar and Alamo Drafthouse
For movie lovers, an elegant theater is tucked away in Lower Manhattan. We went for a private preview held by Press Room Bar and Alamo Drafthouse for signature cocktails, hip treats and typographic activation. The highly anticipated Liberty Street is the third location of the New York metropolitan area.
With 36 locations throughout the country, it was established in 1997 by the contractor and producer Time League. The home to both blockbuster and classic films, featuring a dine-in American cinema with seat-side service.
Below is a letter sent to VP Harris and congressional leaders, calling for the inclusion of a permanent broadband benefit for home broadband service in any final infrastructure package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden. The letter is signed by more than 294 Black Church leaders.
This coalition, Black Churches 4 Broadband, includes many notable black civil rights church leaders who are activating their congregations to speak up and engage policymakers. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter as well.
Dear Vice President Kamala Harris,
As Black Religious Leaders across a range of denominations and religions, we continue to pray at this critical time for the Biden Administration team as a whole, and especially for you as Vice President of this country. We are happy you are leading the White House’s push to expand broadband access in this country.
We write to let you know we believe now more than ever in the need for a permanent broadband subsidy to help more low-income households connect to home internet service.
Getting everyone in the country connected to high-speed broadband (internet) at home is a civil rights imperative. Internet access opens the door to so many pathways critical to our advancement: educational and economic opportunities, family and church connection, health care services, greater civic engagement and activism. Unfortunately, only 71% of Black families and 65% of Hispanic families have broadband service at home compared to 81% of white households (Pew studies).
We are pleased that earlier this year Congress authorized the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) that provides a $50 dollar subsidy and up to a $100 dollar device during the pandemic emergency period. This groundbreaking effort builds on the proven success of private sector adoption programs and public-private partnerships that have connected millions of families through free or discounted service. But the EBB is not a permanent solution.
The Federal Communications Commission reported 2.5 million households have signed up for the EBB since it was launched in May. As a nation, we cannot leave these neighbors hung out to dry when the EBB expires. School-age children, the elderly, and job seeking adults in these households will still need home connectivity even after the pandemic ends. We need a more permanent solution to the issue of making broadband accessible to all.
Black Religious Leaders have played a pivotal role in helping this country live up to its constitutional creed as it relates to civil rights, human rights, voting rights and economic justice. Our churches and houses of worship have been ground zero during this pandemic teaching Black families not only how to access prayer and worship online but also how to access voter information and how to navigate remote learning, telehealth services, job searches, e-commerce, and family hook-ups. This is the work of the Black church in the digital era which does not get the attention of the media.
We can end the digital divide once and for all with a permanent subsidy. We have subsidies to feed those who are food insecure. We have subsidies for those who need help with childcare, home energy and other essential needs. We need a similar program for the internet. We now stand ready to help the Biden team mobilize our communities around digital and information literacy. The future of our families and community depends upon it.
To build a more just, equitable, and hopeful future, every member of our community should share in the opportunities of home internet access.
Pyer Moss First Couture Show WAT U IZ: Historic Tribute To Black Inventors
By: Kai Yeo
“We are an invention inside of an invention. Inside of the creation of race, we made blackness. Uprooted from home and put in a foreign land, we made culture. And when they tried to strip our humanity, we made freedom so tethered to each other that it still shapes the world today.” – Pyer Moss show notes.
Kerby-Jean Raymond’s Pyer Moss label has unveiled his first-ever couture collection. The award-winning designer and creative director is the first Black American designer to be invited to present during Haute Couture Week, a historical achievement made even more successful by making his collection a tribute to Black inventors. All Pyer Moss shows attract interest, but this show had more buzz because of his exclusive invite by France’s Chambre Syndicale to show a collection, with officials in Paris extending the length of Couture Week to accommodate the rescheduled show due to Hurricane Elsa.
The Pyer Moss Couture 1 couture show, WAT U IZ, was opened by the last surviving member of Black Panther leadership and civil rights champion Elaine Brown. The setting was deeply significant: Villa Lewaro, an early 20th century mansion in Irvington, NY, built by Madam CJ Walker. Madam CJ Walker was American’s first self-made female millionaire and her estate served as a gathering place for leaders of the renaissance (her story is also on Netflix). Now, Elaine Brown’s words herald another landmark moment for black culture while celebrating the Black Panther’s 55th Anniversary.
The 28,000-square-foot estate, designed by Vertner Woodson Tandy (the first licensed black architect in New York State, and one of the seven founders of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at Cornell University), was recently purchased by the New Voices Foundation for an undisclosed amount. The foundation is the nonprofit branch of the New Voices Fund, a $100 million investment fund dedicated to entrepreneurs following in Walker’s footsteps. Both the fund and the foundation were created by Richelieu Dennis, who was seated at the front row at Pyer Moss.
“Where do we go from here? Where does the freedom movement go from here?” activist Elaine Brown opens the show quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but she also seemed to be reflecting on the history being made at the very moment. Jean Raymond, whose shows always entwine his ideas about fashion with those about culture, race, and society, said in an interview that his goal was “to highlight inventions by Black people and show them in a non-traditional way,” involving 3D construction and sculpture.
And so, there was the peanut butter dress, literally a huge, soft sculpted jar honoring George Washington Carver. The stunning roller cape that took two weeks to create, featuring hot rollers from head to toe. Each one wound round and round with strands of fake hair. An air-conditioning unit, a kitchen mop, an old-fashioned mobile phone he remembers his father carrying, a childhood ice cream cone. There was a pastel pink lampshade dress with beaded fringes, a metal folding chair, every single costume a sophisticated work of culture. And there was a refrigerator with magnets that spelled out, “But who invented Black trauma?” Each soft sculpture in the Pyer Moss couture show correlated to an invention on a list that designer Jean-Raymond had seen at the Library of Congress attributed to a Black individual. All the inventions Jean-Raymond chose from to celebrate spoke to his lived experiences, a beautiful show reminiscent of a masquerade ball or art installation.
Jean Raymond talks about paying homage to his Black culture, “I want people to experience Black wealth in not a dirty thing. It is one of several means to an end – this house, inventions, creativity, ingenuity, all of those things are pathways to that sort of economic independence. I’ve said a lot of things at my shows. I’ve talked about mental health, multiple prong approaches to liberation, and this is just one of them.” Richelieu Dennis will help oversee the transition of restoring the villa and making it an incubator and center for Black women artists and women-run businesses. Just as once upon a time the villa was a center for the artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance, the sculptured garments of Pyer Moss will eventually be part of an exhibit inside Villa Lewaro.
By: Kai Yeo, Vaughn Lowery, Armon Hayes,Emily Bunn x Sydney Mayer
Lexus has announced its brand new 2022 NX model, equipped with updated technology and driving dynamics. Toyota and Lexus invited 360 Magazine to fly out with Delta Comfort+ to visit the automaker’s headquarters in Texas, so the company embarked on a Covid-friendly, four-day lifestyle trip for the first time since the pandemic. The trip offered participants the opportunity to experience the new 2022 Lexus NX, learn about Lexus’s initiatives and launches for the near future, and even ride with celebrity drivers like Scott Pruett.
The headquarters in Plano, TX is a state-of-the-art corporate campus oasis. The architecture displays outstanding craftsmanship and an innovative foundation, which are the principles upon which that Toyota was founded. Meredith Ezinma Ramsay, – classical hip-hop violinist who has worked with artists such as SZA, Kendrick Lamar, and most famously with Beyoncé on her Coachella stage – performed a strings piece at the campus to introduce the Lexus NX 2022.
Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel
The Renaissance Dallas was breathtaking. An anchor to the upscale complex of Legacy West in Plano, the cosmopolitan hotel was located in the city within walking distance of top dining and shopping options. Drink in hand, visitors can gather at the rooftop pool or by the fire pit to relax and enjoy our food. The rooms were also equipped with pillow-top bedding, high-speed Wi-Fi, and a smart TV.
Designed to highlight local and regional cultures, Renaissance Dallas allows guests to immerse themselves in a creative blend of North Texas western influences and Asian culture. The hotel prides itself on “West of Zen” visual art experiences, as well as an urban mixed-use development. As Lexus is a brand that originated from Japan, this theme was fitting for the trip. Simply staying in the hotel was already a vacation in itself.
Lexus is the luxury vehicle division of Toyota. Marketed in more than 70 countries and territories worldwide, the Lexus brand is Japan’s largest-selling maker of premium cars. Akio Toyoda, current CEO and grandson of Toyota founder, has promoted sports models like the Lexus IS-F and Lexus LF-A at auto races. He also participates as a driver at racing events under the fake name “Morizo.” It’s unusual to see a brand’s president be so hands-on with development, but that’s just another reason that Toyota is a unique company prepared to lead the future.
Since the pandemic started, global mobility has been essentially halted and there has been a huge financial downturn, even for the giants of the car manufacturing industry. AutoBlog has posted that Toyota hit their decade’s lowest sales in 2019, “The Japanese automaker said its sales in July fell 19% versus the same month in 2019, to 169,484 units.“ Despite being one of the top brands of car manufacturing, Toyota was also affected by the Covid crisis, “In its financial year (FY) ending in March 2021, Toyota only produced 7.55M units of vehicles compared to 8.82M in FY 2020. FY 2021’s figure is also the lowest number of vehicles produced by Toyota since FY 2012 when Toyota only produced 7.44M vehicles.“
As they compete with Volkswagen for the top car brand spot and struggle with sales during the pandemic, Toyota continues to produce car models with strong, new developments.
The NX will be available in a variety of fresh colors, including Redline, Cloudburst Gray, and Grecian Water. There will also be options that include Ultra White, Obsidian, and Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0, which are exclusive to the F Sport NX models.
Luxury Inside and Out
The 2022 NX will also have additional updates made to alleviate interior cabin noise and reduce exterior distractions. On the inside, drivers can choose their nature theme of choice with Thematic Ambient Illumination, an optional feature that transforms the NX interior with 14 themes and 64 colors. Each mode has been carefully selected “to express ephemeral emotions and evoke nature-inspired feelings.” The themes included are Rain Forest, Waterfall, and Sunset.
Luxury is not only about looks, but also about how the customer feels. The new NX comes with standard heated front seats and optional heated rear seats for added comfort throughout the cabin. Increased head and legroom, as well as storage space, have also been added. Interior seat and console colors come in Black, Black with Rich Cream, Palomino, and Rioja Red NuLuxe.
For the NX’s first time, the panoramic moonroof lets passengers see the sky with the push of a button. The smooth gliding opening and closing elevates the luxury feel and provides easy stargazing and airflow.
Cockpit Design and New Multimedia System
The NX driver-centered cockpit has been updated with the driver in mind. To better connect the driver to the vehicle, the new 7-inch Multi Instrument Display (MID) and optional 10-inch Head Up Display (HUD) are designed to convey vehicle information as well as alerts within the driver’s line of sight. All functions are accessible through the steering wheel to allow for intuitive operation while still ensuring safe driving practices and keeping the driver’s eyes on the road.
An optional 14-inch touch screen (first for NX) features an immersive multimedia experience. The large screen allows for easy operation and viewing. Dial controls remain for frequently used functions such as climate control and media volume, and comfort features are readily accessible. This all-new interface allows the NX to integrate and navigate swiftly, providing intuitive technology at the driver’s fingertips. Equipped with Human Machine Interface (HMI), user interaction is enhanced through sight, touch and voice, thus catering to accessibility needs. Following the customer-first approach, the newly developed Virtual Assistant (VA) is intended to be the primary way occupants interact with the new multimedia system. The voice-first approach allows front seat occupants to access features such as navigation, media, phone, and other vehicle settings. The built-in VA responses allow for intuitive replies, thus creating a human-like conversation.
The Lexus Interface was devised with function and easy access in mind. 100% cloud capability and Google POI integration allows the system to have faster and more accurate navigation to get the driver and passengers to their destination quickly and safely. Enhanced navigation allows for offline mode, which detects when vehicles enter areas with low connection and then automatically downloads maps in advance, saving trouble and panic.
In the age of digital transformation, the user profile feature creates a more personalized experience so that moving from vehicle to vehicle is convenient. The driver’s personalized settings will be retained on the cloud and are accessible each time they return to the vehicle. Once created, users can use a Bluetooth device to access their profile. An extension of the user profile feature, vehicles equipped with this new system will enable owners the access to a digital key. This digital key allows drivers to lock/unlock and start/stop their vehicle through the Toyota of Lexus app (when within Bluetooth proximity to the vehicle). The digital key can be shared with up to seven different guest users and no password or PIN is required, creating a seamless guest experience via the app.
Through the app, drivers also receive personalized maintenance updates and vehicle health reports to help maintain their vehicle. For the 2022 model, Lexus NX will also feature standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, as well as a new addition to charge your phone wirelessly.
With the safety of all passengers in mind, the new Lexus NX will come equipped with the latest Lexus Safety System +3.0 for safe driving. Functions of the system include:
Risk Avoidance Emergency Steer Assist – supports collision avoidance within the lane by providing gentle braking and steering operation.
Left Turn Oncoming Vehicle Detection/Braking – designed to provide a warning and automatic braking if the driver turns left in front of an oncoming vehicle.
Right/Left Turn Oncoming Pedestrian Detection/Braking – designed to provide a warning and automatic braking if a driver turns left or right in front of an oncoming pedestrian or cyclist.
Oncoming Vehicle Detection added to the Pre-Collision System – designed to alert the driver, and potentially activate automatic emergency braking to help avoid a frontal collision.
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Management – maintains a cruising speed in alignment with the flow of traffic while managing speed on curves.
Additions to the current Lexus Safety System features for NX:
Road Sign Assist – displays select road sign information in the instrument panel.
Pre-collision System – provides the potential to detect a preceding vehicle, pedestrian, or cyclist in low-light situations.
Lane Assistance – designed to provide an audible alert if an inadvertent lane departure is detected.
Intelligent High Beam– provides greater visibility for drivers with added illumination when the road ahead is clear, then temporarily switches to low beams when it detects the headlamps or taillamps of vehicles ahead.
Road Sign Assist – uses a built-in camera to help provide road sign information in the instrument panel or even on the available Head-Up Display. The system can also alert the driver of certain detected signs that otherwise might have been missed.
Safety Exit – seamless door opening with the push of a button, when activated it makes sure that door does not open when there are passers-by such as bikes or pedestrians. Available for rear doors as well for protection of children and family.
These safety features provide peace of mind for unexpected emergencies and connect drivers with a 24/7 emergency response agent.
The all-new 2022 NX will start production in the third quarter of 2021. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.
New NX 350 2.4 Turbo Engine
Enhancements in vehicle rigidity now allows the NX for a higher horsepower 2.4 turbo gas engine. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but the new 8-speed transmission also provides the gas-powered NX with the feel of a performance vehicle with the perspective of a crossover utility vehicle. The turbo gas-powered engine has an estimated 275 horsepower and 317lbs. per foot of torque. When combined, the engine results in a 0–60 second time of 6.8 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the previous models.
This is made possible by improvements to torsional rigidity through laser peening welding and the addition of high rigidity foam. The twin hood lock also adds front lateral flexural rigidity that improves the aerodynamics of the vehicle.
NX 450h+ Plug-In Hybrid
The new plug-in hybrid PHEV system brings Lexus Electrified to life through performance and design, as well as through the signature quietness of this model. The NX 450h+ has an estimated 36-mile range on electric power only, made possible by the newly developed lithium-ion battery. The system achieves the EV output equivalent to a 2.0-liter engine. When combined with the newly developed hybrid transaxle, a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder engine delivers on the performance luxury guests are seeking with an estimated 6.0 second 0–60 second time.
The high-output and high-efficiency systems were constructed to reduce power loss when converting AC power to DC power, resulting in shorter charging times. The NX plug-in hybrid can be fully charged in about two and a half hours when equipped with the optional 6.6 kW Expedited Onboard Charger. With the standard 3.3 kW charger, it will take about four and a half hours.
For a sporty driving experience, the NX 450h+ uses a newly developed, electronically-controlled, full-time AWD system. Optimizing front and rear torque distribution according to the driving conditions, the driver can control the vehicle as intended, with elegant control for a wide range of driving styles.
Along with the navigation, Predictive Efficient Drive will be coupled to learn driving habits and predict the expected roadway ahead while analyzing real-time traffic reports. This helps to optimize charging and discharging of the hybrid battery. With more miles clocked on the NX, more data is gathered to help optimize fuel consumption. With accumulated knowledge about the driver’s behavior, the system will be able to predict when the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. This allows for more efficient energy to be recovered and recharged into the hybrid battery, optimizing battery capacity for the electricity plug-in hybrid model. While Lexus is unable to give us the exact specs yet, an official announcement will be made later on.
Hybrid Performance and Fuel Economy
Known for their signature driving performance, passengers can experience great performance and fuel economy with the new Lexus NX 350h. With a combined 239 horsepower, a 20% increase over the current model, and an estimated 36 MPG, the NX hybrid brings a brilliant performance that illustrates the brand’s hybrid leadership. Passengers will also be able to feel the quicker 0–60 time with 1.5 seconds taken off the time from previous NX generations at 7.2 seconds.
The hybrid drive system pairs the D4-S fuel injection 2.5L 4-cylinder gasoline engine with two high-torque electric drive motor-generators for strong acceleration and passing performance. Instead of transfer gears and a driveshaft for the rear wheels, the AWD system employs a second, independent electric motor to drive the rear wheels to maintain optimal traction.
Teammate Advanced Drive Backgrounder
The Teammate advanced driver assistance will debut on select 2022 Lexus LS 500h models with AWD and is expected to arrive in the US this fall. The Level 2 system evolves from adaptive cruise control to automatically change lanes and pass vehicles while driving.
Designed to partner with and assist the driver on the highway, it enables automatic steering, acceleration, and braking on the highway under the active supervision of the driver. This technology also enables the car to parallel park itself or back into a parking spot. Lexus Teammate teams two systems: Advanced Drive and Advanced Park.
Safety is the first priority of the automated driving development program, so Lexus has committed Advanced Drive to this cause. The Advanced Drive integrates the vehicle’s mapping system and plans 6 miles ahead to help reach the car’s destination. This benefits the driver by reducing fatigue from driving. A series of fail-safe operations are also included to help prevent loss of control for up to four seconds in the event of a system malfunction or limitation.
Developed in close coordination between Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor North America, engineers used the same test vehicles in both countries. This allowed for the development of U.S.-specific considerations, such as HOV lanes and draw bridges. These tests helped to incorporate catered design and performance into the Advanced Drive system.
Alongside the safety of passengers, the environment is also a top priority. Toyota and Lexus will debut a new, electrified model lineup, with two battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). These models are eco-friendly and brilliantly created, similar to a “Mission Impossible” movie.
The new electrified models further expand Toyota’s leadership in alternative powertrain vehicles. Toyota’s goal is to have 40% of new vehicle sales be electrified models and expects that to increase to nearly 70% by 2030. Toyota hybrid vehicles sold globally have avoided emitting an estimated 139 million tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. In the US alone, Toyota hybrid vehicles have avoided 38 million tons of GHG. This achievement was made possible with Toyota’s commitment to the environment.
Toyota’s internal research found that both the BEV and PHEV models provide similar environmental benefits. By factoring in pollutants created by electricity production and using it to charge batteries, the production of a PHEV emits less GHG. Both of these models have a unique profile and by diversifying their car portfolio, consumers will have a bigger range of models to choose from to best suit their usage needs and cost profile, while still maximizing GHG reduction.
At the press conference, Toyota promised 20 new models by 2025 for more sustainable development and looked to continue expanding their electrified car models. As further proof of Toyota’s commitment to the environment, they agreed to purchase power from a Clearway Energy Group wind farm to reduce the overall carbon footprint from electricity used from the power grid. For transparency and positive environmental impact, Toyota writes an annual environmental report to update its consumers.
Kamala Harris Will be First Vice President to be Immortalized by Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
Madame Tussauds New York Releases Clay Head Sculpture Images of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Honor of Their 100th Day in Office
Kamala Harris made history when she was sworn in on January 20th becoming the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American vice president. Madame Tussauds New York is adding another first to Harris’ list of achievements by creating a wax figure in her likeness; an honor that has never-before been extended to a vice president. It’s tradition for Madame Tussauds to create a wax figure of each U.S. president. President Joe Biden’s figure was announced following the 2020 presidential election.
Madame Tussauds shared the news by releasing work-in-progress images of Biden and Harris, just ahead of their 100th day in office. The clay heads were created by a team of studio artists based in London and represent meticulous detail captured by researching hundreds of images to achieve an exact likeness of the famous U.S. leader’s faces. The heads took six weeks to sculpt, and the figures will take between four to six months to complete. “We’re honored to create a figure for Vice President Harris and reflect this significant moment in U.S. history for guests inside Madame Tussauds New York,” said Brittany Williams, spokesperson for Madame Tussauds.
President Biden and Vice President Harris’ figures will be wearing replicas of the outfits worn at the 46th presidential inauguration ceremony. President Biden’s figure will be dressed in a midnight blue Ralph Lauren suit, white dress shirt with a French cuff and a lavender tie. Madame Tussauds designers also included small, yet noteworthy details including navy and gold cufflinks with the words ‘U.S. Senator’ and a United States flag lapel pin.
The outfit for Vice President Harris’ figure was created custom for Madame Tussauds New York by Christopher John Rogers, the designer of the symbolic and elegant purple coat and dress worn at the inauguration. The look created for the figure is a replica of the blazer and dress worn by Vice President Harris on Inauguration Day for her indoor appearance and swearing in of the senators. Her gold and pearl necklace, pearl earrings, bracelets and rings will also be replicated to complete the authentic look.
Madame Tussauds plans to unveil the figures later this year and place them in the “Oval Office” experience at Madame Tussauds New York where guests can make their own history posing with Biden and Harris up close.
COMCAST ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE OF TWENTY PEARLS – A DOCUMENTARY EXAMINING THE STORIED HISTORY OF ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY, INCORPORATED – ON ITS NEWLY LAUNCHED BLACK EXPERIENCE ON XFINITY CHANNEL
Comcast NBCUniversal is excited to announce the exclusive premiere of the documentary film “Twenty Pearls: The Story of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated”, arriving Friday, March 26 on its newly launched Black Experience on Xfinity Channel, available on X1, Flex, and on-the-go with the Xfinity Stream app.
From award-winning filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper, produced by Coffee Bluff Pictures, and narrated by Phylicia Rashād, Twenty Pearls closely examines the founding and legacy of the first Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, which is now regarded as one of the most significant and influential Black organizations in history. The documentary tells a powerful story of sisterhood. In 1908, nine Black women enrolled at Howard University made one decision that would change the course of history. These college students created Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. For over 113 years, the sorority has influenced many of the most famous watershed moments in history.
“This is an extraordinary time to look back at our past to serve our future,” added filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper. “A future where Black women are centered. Helming this documentary love letter to the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the generations of women that followed in their footsteps, and to all Black women everywhere is an honor. This is an important history for all of us to know and understand.”
“We’re thrilled to work with award-winning filmmaker, Deborah Riley Draper, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to bring this exclusive premiere to the Black Experience on Xfinity channel, furthering our company-wide mission of investing in and showcasing authentic Black stories and culture,” said Keesha Boyd, Executive Director, Multicultural Video & Entertainment, Xfinity Consumer Services. “We launched this channel to help facilitate the discovery of stories like Twenty Pearls while providing a platform for emerging Black content creators.”
“Telling our own story is essential to preserving our history and uplifting the culture,” said Alpha Kappa Alpha International President and CEO Dr. Glenda Glover. “Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated’s remarkable 113-year journey which began on the campus of Howard University is punctuated by stories of history makers, ceiling breakers, public servants, and ordinary women who have changed the course of American history. Through this beautifully written and narrated odyssey, this film highlights in undeniable ways the vision, courage, tenacity, determination, and power of Black women while putting to bed the age-old questions about the relevance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Divine Nine sororities and fraternities.”
Black Experience on Xfinity is a first-of-its-kind destination of Black entertainment, movies, TV shows, news, and more. It features high-quality content from many of Xfinity’s existing network partners, at no additional cost, while investing millions of dollars in fostering and showcasing emerging Black content creators. The channel is the only one of its kind endorsed by the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), the world’s largest group of Black film critics that gives annual awards for excellence in film and television. Available at home on Xfinity X1 and Flex, and on-the-go with the Xfinity Stream app, the Black Experience on Xfinity will entertain, educate and uplift, featuring Black actors, writers, producers and directors. At home, Xfinity subscribers can visit channel 1622 or simply say “Black Experience” into the Voice Remote to instantly enjoy the ultimate in Black storytelling.
Visit Xfinity to learn more about the Black Experience on Xfinity and other Black programming available on X1, Flex, and the Xfinity Stream app. Visit Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated to learn more about Twenty Pearls, which premieres on March 26 on Xfinity and is free for subscribers, and will be available nationwide, on-demand, starting on March 30, 2021.
Today, Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States which commences his four-year presidency and Kamala Harris as Vice President.
Earlier it was revealed that former president Donald Trump would not attend the ceremony. Trump announced this on his Twitter account before the account was suspended. On January 8 he tweeted, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Trump is the sixth outgoing president that did not attend the presidential inauguration. The last time this occurred was in 1921 when Woodrow Wilson did not attend the inauguration of Warren G. Harding because of poor health.
“It’s usually a sign that American society is in the midst of major political feud,” the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said in the New York Times. “The fact that the incoming and outgoing presidents can’t shake hands and co-participate in an inauguration means that something’s off-kilter in the democracy.”
President Biden took an upbeat approach while speaking to the public in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the “Celebrating America” concert. After addressing many difficulties the nation has encountered recently, he asked if American’s were up for a challenge.
“Will we meet the moment like our forebearers have?” he asked. “I believe we must and I believe we will. You, the American people are the reason why I have never been more optimistic about America than I am this very day.”
“There isn’t anything we can’t do, if we do it together,” he added.
“So thank you for this honor, I will give my all to you,” Biden concluded.
The “Celebrating America” concert was star-packed and many celebrities came together to celebrate the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris. Performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, John Legend and Katy Perry all had smashing performances. The celebration was hosted by Tom Hanks, who many sources noted as looking “freezing” because he didn’t have time to take a break in the heated trailers set up for performers.
There was of course concerns because of the violence that recently occurred at the Capitol earlier in January, explained Adrienne Elrod, the director of talent for the Biden transition team. “What happened on January 6th I wouldn’t say derailed us, but it certainly caused us to take a step back,” she said.
This inauguration is monumental as the first female Vice President is sworn in inspiring girls throughout America. Many people showed heartwarming tweets of their daughters watching Harris as she was sworn in as president. It was also reported that Harris will not immediately be moving in to the Vice President’s residence at the Naval Observatory.
In Harris’s first statement to the public in her role as Vice President, she encouraged the people of the United States to unite in this time of crisis.
“In many ways this moment embodies our character as a nation. It demonstrates who we are, even in dark times. We, not only dream, we do. We not only see what has been, we see what can be. We shoot for the moon, and then we plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless and ambitious. We are undaunted, in our belief that we shall overcome, that we will rise up. This is American aspiration,” Harris said.
Dr. Jill Biden tweeted a video of her and President Biden arriving at the North Portico of the White House as her first official tweet as First Lady. “Thank you for your faith in something that is bigger than all of us: that we will build a better world because we’re going to do it together,” the tweet read.
One unexpected part of the inauguration that has taken social media by storm is an image of Bernie Sanders sitting in a chair with mittens on. A huge number of memes have been created of Sanders in various locations and according to the Los Angles Times Sanders has also been laughing at the memes.
A school teacher from Vermont was responsible for crafting the famous mittens and has since been flooded with requests from people that want to buy them. However, she has announced she is no longer selling them.
“Thanks for all the interest in Bernie’s mittens!” Jen Ellis wrote on Twitter. “I’m so flattered that Bernie wore them to the inauguration. Sadly, I have no more mittens for sale. There are a lot of great crafters on ETSY who make them.”
Sanders said he had no idea that the image of him would cause such an uproar on social media. “I was just sitting there trying to keep warm, trying to pay attention to what was going on,” he said during an interview on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” Thursday. Even celebrities like Reba and Sarah Jessica Parker joined in on the fun making memes of the image.
Biden began his duties as early as Wednesday when he finalized over a dozen executive moves in the Oval Office. “There’s no time to start like today,” Biden told reporters as he began signing a stack of orders and memoranda. “I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people.”
Biden also made it clear during a swearing-in ceremony that his employees are expected to respect each other.”If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treating another colleague with disrespect, talking down to someone, I will fire you on the spot,” said Biden.
The Biden administration has also put a plan in place to focus on specific issues that need attention. Starting on January 20, the Biden Administration began with Inauguration and four Crises to focus on.
They decided to pick a theme for the following ten days so they would be able to focus on specific issues each day. Some of these themes include Covid, Economic Relief, Climate, Health Care and Immigration. In February there is a plan to focus on restoring America’s place in the world. Throughout these days there will be a variety of executive orders depending on the theme.
The House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time in his four-year term as president, which started in January of 2017. He is the third president to be impeached and the first president ever to be impeached more than once. This second impeachment comes shortly after the riots in the capital last week on January 6th, 2021. Trump is being impeached on the charge of “incitement of insurrection’’ because of the statements he made on January 6. He told his supporters to “fight like hell” because the Democrats were stealing the election. You can watch the speech here. During the riots, Trump supporters carrying a variety of racist and white supremacist paraphernalia swarmed the Capitol and forced their way into the building to stop the count of electoral votes. The riot caused the deaths of at least five individuals, including a Capitol police officer.
Because of the insurrection, Democrats pushed for Vice President Mike Pence to enact the 25th amendment, which he could use to declare Trump unfit to serve as president and remove him from office. Republicans blocked this move. U.S. Congressmen David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Ted Lieu (CA-33), and Jamie Raskin (MD-08) introduced the article of impeachment to the House of Representatives on the morning of January 11, 2021. The article of impeachment is co-sponsored by 211 members of Congress according to Cicilline’s press release. You can read the full article of impeachment here. On January 13, 2021, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump with a 232 to 197 majority. 10 Republicans voted to impeach, more members of the president’s party than in any prior impeachment.
Impeachment does not mean removal from office; impeachment is adjacent to an indictment. The difference in American law is that indictment applies to criminal charges, while impeachment is the accusation of misconduct in a political setting. Any civil officer in the United States can be impeached. In the case of the President or Vice President, the first step is the introduction of the article(s) of impeachment in the House of Representatives. After the article(s) of impeachment are introduced to the House, the House then votes on each article of impeachment, and if any pass by a simple majority, more than 50%, the articles will be tried in front of the Senate. During the Senate trial, the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over the Senate trial, the Senate body functions as the jury, a committee of House representatives, called “managers,” act as the prosecution, and the president and his or her lawyers act as the defense. All articles of impeachment are argued on the Senate floor, then are voted on by the Senate body to either convict or acquit; to convict, there must be a two-thirds majority. Only two presidents, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, were impeached and reached the Senate trial, both were acquitted. Despite an extensive impeachment investigation, Richard Nixon was never impeached because he resigned.
Yesterday, January 13, 2021, the House voted to impeach Trump with only six days until the inauguration of Joe Biden. It is highly unlikely that Trump will be removed from office before the end of his term as president. The Senate is not set to be in session until January 19, 2021, and neither Democrats nor Republicans benefit from rushing the trial to be any sooner as this Senate trial will be a lengthy process that requires preparation from both the prosecution and the defense. Despite Trump losing the support of some members of his party, it is unclear how likely it is that Trump will be convicted because, even Mitt Romney, who voted to impeach in the first impeachment, has implied he is unsure that this is the right way to go. Many Republicans may hesitate to vote to convict because of the 74 million people who voted for Trump; these are the people who control whether Republicans will be reelected in the future. The main person who could cause a possible shift is Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. If McConnell chooses to vote to convict Trump, other members of the Republican party may do the same. McConnell released this statement on January 13 saying that “there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week.”
Trump has been silent since besides releasing this video condemning violence and has not acknowledged the second impeachment. He has been banned from social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, and Snapchat. Along with these bans, the tech industry has made broad statements against this recent violence. Apple and Google have removed the app Parler from their app stores. The app was used by Trump supporters and white supremacists to communicate and coordinate the attack on the Capitol. Further, Amazon Web Services, which hosted the app, has cut off its service to Parler on the premise that it violated its terms of service. One feature of the app was that users could upload a photograph of their government-issued ID or driver’s license to become a “Verified Citizen.” The app lost the support of its security services, which protected user data, leaving it vulnerable to hackers who stole the data and turned it over to the FBI to be used to identify terrorists present at the riot. Read more about it here. Additionally, there are accounts publicly identifying people in photographs from the riots on platforms including Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Federal officials are identifying and arresting individuals who were at the event.
The riots have caused many security changes in Washington D.C. and state capitals across the U.S. as Joe Biden’s inauguration grows closer and threats of further violence continue to spread online. These changes include the resignation of the U.S. Capitol Police chief, Steven Sund, increased police and national guard presence in Washington D.C. and the implementation of high security barriers around the Capitol building. Many D.C. businesses inside of the security perimeter are already making changes in preparation for the inauguration. Some are boarding up their windows in preparation for possible protests while others are preparing to serve guests who come to D.C. for the inauguration. In response to various local, state, and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C., Airbnb has canceled all reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during the inauguration week, according to this press release. Some hotel chains in the city have stated that they will be hosting guests; as of now, nothing has been done to prevent this.
The events in this article, including the Senate trial, the consequences of the riots, and the coming inauguration, are all ongoing.
January 3rd marked the commencement of the 117th Congress and the swearing of its newest members. For many, it marked the beginning of a new dawn. One that will be followed by the inauguration of TIME’s People of the Year, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. They will replace President Trump on Inauguration Day on January 20th. Yet several other remarkable individuals were elected this year and sworn in a bit earlier, solidifying the 117th Congress as the most diverse in American history. One of these representatives is a freshly elected Ritchie Torres, a 32-year-old politician serving the 15th congressional district in the Bronx, New York. Torres is the first openly gay Afro-Latino man elected to Congress, and one of two gay Black men that will serve in the 117th Congress, a distinction he shares with fellow New Yorker Mondaire Jones. 360 Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Torres to discuss the story of his life, the issues he considers vital, as well as pick his brain for his thoughts on current events.
“I am a product of the Bronx,” Torres says of his childhood, “I spent most of my life in poverty.” Ritchie Torres was raised by a single mother, one of three children, in the Throggs Neck neighborhood of the East Bronx. He recalls the difficulty his mother had raising a family on minimum wage in the 1990s, as well as the awful conditions of the public housing he grew up in. Torres recollects these experiences with the soft yet fluid countenance that marked his speech throughout 360’s conversation with him. He floats between topics and memories with ease.
He recalls, with a rich sense of irony, the construction of Trump Golf Links as a child. “My life is something of a metaphor. I grew up right across the street of what became Trump golf course and actually something funny, is when the golf course was undergoing construction, it unleashed a skunk infestation. So, I often tell people I’ve been smelling the stench of Donald Trump long before he became President.” His own situation, compared with the government subsidized construction of the Trump Golf Links, deeply unsettled Torres’ image of society. He says collectively of his youth, “Those experiences shape not only who I am as a person, but as a public official.”
Such injustices prompted Torres to seek to become “The change that you wish the see in the world,” he says, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. He named public figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Ted Kennedy as role models. He got his start as a housing organizer and eventually took the leap of faith to run for public office, becoming New York’s youngest elected city official at age 25. He had “No ties to the machine. No ties to the dynasties of Bronx politics, but I was young and energetic. I knocked on thousands of doors,” he claims that kind of face-to-face contact won him that election. Torres then became the first LGBTQ+ official elected from the Bronx.
“I think it has several implications,” he says when asked what this early accomplishment meant to him. “I mean, first, we are all products of our identities and our lived experiences. Right? Who we are as people shapes what we do as policy makers. It is important to have LGBTQ policy makers in the room where decisions are being made. A wise person once said, ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you are probably on the menu.’” Referring to his 2020 election win, he says “My election means that LGBTQ people of color, in particular, will have a seat at one of the most powerful tables, the United States Congress.” He calls the reality of his election both empowering and normalizing. “I am a symbol of possibility.”
“I met Mondaire for the first time four years ago,” Torres says of Mondaire Jones, U.S. representative of New York’s 17th congressional district. “I remember when I met him for the first time, we had a conversation about the lack of LGBTQ representation of color in New York state politics. And I never imagined that four years later, he and I would become the first openly LGBTQ Black members of United States Congress.”
Congressman Torres recognizes that his path, though marked with accomplishments, has not been one of only highs. Torres stands apart as a public official on the national stage who is open about the lows of his life and his struggles with mental health. When asked why he chooses to be so transparent, he says “I felt a deep sense of obligation to speak openly about my own struggles with depression in order to break the silence and shame and stigma that surrounds mental health.” He seeks to evolve, not perpetuate, the current ideas surrounding mental health. He hopes to show that “there is a way forward” out of difficult moments, which for him were struggles with substance abuse, the loss of a friend, and moments when he considered taking his own life. But seven years later, Torres was elected to city council. “I would not be alive today, much less a member of the United States Congress, were it not for mental health care which saved my life.” He aspires to send a message that “Recovery is possible. You can take an antidepressant, as I do every day, and find normalcy and stability” and achieve feats like being elected to Congress.
The 117th Congress is slated to be the most diverse in history. Torres says of this reality, “I think American is increasingly becoming a multi-racial, multi-ethnic inclusive democracy. We are witnessing the collapse of politics as an old voice network. I am part of a new generation of young leaders every bit as diverse as America itself. Congress is becoming what it always should have been, a miniaturization of America itself.”
Torres acknowledges the year 2020, monumental in many ways, as harrowing for his Bronx community. “COVID-19 has been a catastrophe for the city and the country, and the South Bronx has been the epicenter of COVID-19. The South Bronx had the highest rate of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality during the peak of the pandemic. And just as destructive as COVID-19 itself were the deeper inequalities that were brought to light.” He argued that the coronavirus exposed the deeper health inequalities, racial inequalities, and class inequalities laid bare by the pandemic.
These issues are at the forefront of Torres’ mind in thinking of his work as a legislator. When asked what he saw as the first step to rectifying the rampant racial injustice in the United States, he answered “the first thing is to bring greater accountability to policing in America,” an argument familiar to many Americans following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd and their ensuing protests. As the Black Lives Matter movement swept the nation with greater momentum than ever before, cries for justice and defunding the police became common across the country’s cities. “Where there is no accountability, there will never be an end to police brutality” Torres says, being especially critical of qualified immunity in the United States.
Torres heads to Congress as a man with a mission regarding many issues. He himself declares “My great passion is affordable housing,” reflecting a long journey working continually in the housing sphere. He seeks to secure far greater funding for public housing in New York City and to expand the Section 8 program. The Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, created by an act in 1978, provides assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income families to rent housing in the private market. Torres says, “For me the surest way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the pockets of struggling families.” In order to do that, he believes the solution is an expanded child tax credit, which he describes as the single largest tax expenditure in America, yet he finds fault with a system that is “so regressive that it excludes a third of American families. Particularly the poorest families in America.” Torres’ passion shines through when he discusses the subject, detailing how this solution could slash childhood poverty by 40% in the span of the year. He calls its potential an absolute “game changer.”
Without question, affordable housing and tax reform are the first issues Torres hopes to address after being sworn in to the 117th Congress on January 3, 2020. “For me, the central mission of my life is to fight poverty in America. Racially constructed poverty in America. The South Bronx is said to be the poorest district in America and if we can make progressive policies work in the South Bronx, we can make them work anywhere.”
360 Magazine also had the opportunity to discuss a variety of current issues with Congressman Torres, one of which being the then impending Senate run-offs in Georgia. Following races too close to call in November 2020, Republican incumbent David Perdue is facing a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff. Additionally, GOP appointee Kelly Loeffler is defending her seat against Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock. The election is vital because it will determine which party will control the Senate. “The stakes are supremely important,” Torres says of Georgia. “As long as Mitch McConnell refuses to bring critical bills to the floor for a vote, there is a limit to what we can accomplish. For me, Mitch McConnell is the single greatest obstruction on the path to progress. Winning those two seats in Georgia are essential.”
Regarding the impending mayoral race in his home of New York City, as well as early polls that display former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang as the frontrunner, Torres is coy. “The mayor’s race is wide open. Anyone who claims to have it figured out is lying.” He goes on to affirm “It is full of more than one credible candidate.”
“To be clear, I never announced that I wasn’t going to be in the squad.” Torres says, referring to ‘The Squad‘ of United States Congress, composed of Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow New Yorker, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. With new young progressive politicians like Torres joining the fray, claims of expanding membership are common. Torres, along with the aforementioned Mondaire Jones, as well as Congresswoman Cori Bush, Congresswoman Marie Newman, and Congressman Jamaal Brown are commonly referred to as impending members.
Instead, Torres clarifies, “I would never issue an announcement that I would not be a part of something. That would be an odd thing to do. Whenever I’m asked about the squad, I simply state that I’m my own person and I prefer to be judged on the basis of my own story and my own record, on my own terms.” He goes on to assert he is willing to work with “anyone and everyone in the service of delivering to the people of the South Bronx. That is my highest priority.” Torres is clear in this declaration that he is willing to work with more conservative members of his own party or the Republican party in hopes of progress.
On a future in politics, Torres affirmed his intent to serve the people in the moment and to “let the dice fall where they may” regarding the future. When asked what wisdom he would impart to a younger generation, Congressman Torres says “We are all only as strong as the support we have in our lives and be grateful for the supporters you have. The friends and family. I would not be here today if not for the friendship of people who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Know who those people are and value them and be grateful for them.”
Update as of 1/14/21, Congressman Ritchie Torres has formally endorsed former presidential candidate Andrew Yang for mayor of New York City. This comes just a day after Andrew Yang announced his campaign in a video titled ‘Why I’m Running,’ which features Torres in it.