Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 14, 2022

Representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

On January 17, 1733, Georgia’s Trustees in London voted to ban Jews from the colony.

An elected Provincial Assembly first convened in Georgia on January 15, 1751. The Assembly did not have the power to tax or spend money, but was to advise the Trustees.

On January 18, 1776, James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia, was arrested by John Habersham, a member of the Provincial Congress.

The state of New Connecticut declared its independence of both Britain and New York on January 15, 1777. In June of that year they would decide on the name Vermont. Vermont would be considered part of New York for a number of years, finally being admitted as the 14th state in 1791.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 16, 1786, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted by the Virginia General Assembly.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Represestatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

The donkey was first used as a symbol for the Democratic Party on January 15, 1870 by cartoonist Thomas Nash.

democrat-donkey-cartoon

 

On January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify the Amendment.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol as part of a school assignment.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

Martin Luther King, Jr. began the Chicago civil rights campaign on January 17, 1966.

At 4:30 PM on January 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began as air attacks against Iraq launched from US and British aircraft carriers, beginning Operation Desert Storm.

On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Click here for the full text of Governor Kemp’s State of the State.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday delivered his State of the State address. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Gov. Brian Kemp’s State of the State address touted what he called “unprecedented success,” despite unforeseen challenges of the pandemic.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia remained open for business, bringing record levels of jobs and investment, he said.

“We now have the opportunity to build a safer, stronger Georgia for all who call the Peach State home,” Kemp said.

“I also look forward to working with the House and Senate to pass, and sign, a parental bill of rights in our education system and other pieces of legislation that I strongly support to ensure fairness in school sports and address obscene materials online and in our school libraries,” Kemp said.

Democrats said the controversy in many states over critical race theory is not an issue, though Republicans have called the concept divisive.

“We have a made-up issue that’s been manufactured to support cultural war and distract persons in our state from the real issues students and teachers face with budget shortfalls,” said Democrat Sen. Harold Jones II during the Democrat press conference. “It’s remarkable that made-up issue would come first, when we fail to give teachers the support they need and threaten to punish them for teaching accurate facts about American history. We’re pushing good educators out of the profession.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle:

In his fourth and final State of the State address of a four-year term, Kemp told a joint session of the Georgia House and Senate education, health care and public safety will top his agenda as he seeks reelection.

“It invests historic levels of resources in our students and educators,” the governor said toward the end of a 26-minute speech. “It reduces the cost of health insurance for Georgia families [and] recruits 1,300 new nurses and doctors into communities where they’re needed most.”

Kemp also announced his fiscal 2022 mid-year budget will include $425 million to fully fund the K-12 school funding formula, doing away with “austerity” cuts that have plagued Georgia school systems for most of the last two decades.

On health care, Kemp asked for $1 million for the University System of Georgia to expand nursing programs to support up to 500 students a year for five years and funds for the Technical College System of Georgia to add up to 700 nursing students.

“Physicians and nurses are in short supply across the country, but especially in rural Georgia,” he said.

From the Associated Press via Statesboro Herald:

Kemp aims to show voters what he can deliver, hoping to use the legislative session to elevate his standing. His proposals, laid out in the speech and in recent days, include bombarding teachers, public schools, universities and their employees and state employees with more money. Kemp also wants to provide $1.6 billion of state income tax rebates, but didn’t mention that in his speech.

“I have fought hard to live up to the commitments I made on the campaign trail and ultimately do the right thing, even when no one was watching,” Kemp said.

The governor appealed to conservative voters by saying he wants to end the requirement for permits to carry concealed weapons, protect students from ideologies, ban transgender girls from playing school sports, create a parents’ bill of rights, and remove obscene materials from school libraries and online resources.

Kemp’s agenda also includes anti-crime initiatives including creating an anti-gang task force in Attorney General Chris Carr’s office to complement the one established by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Kemp said state assistance is needed because “in too many jurisdictions across our state, soft-on-crime local governments and prosecutors have been unwilling to join our fight to rid their communities of these criminal networks.”

Democrats have targeted Kemp on COVID-19, saying he has mishandled the pandemic. Kemp on Thursday again defended his choice for an early business reopening and minimal restrictions afterward, citing low unemployment and new industrial announcements.

“Georgia is on the move because we chose freedom over government shutdowns,” said Kemp, who also has backed lawsuits against federal vaccine mandates. “We trusted our citizens to be part of the solution — instead of part of the problem.”

From the AJC:

“Hardworking Georgians in our schools — the school staff, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teachers — all do a terrific job keeping our kids safe and investing in their futures,” Kemp said in his address to lawmakers.

“To support their heroic efforts day in and day out,” he said, “I believe we as state leaders must continue to do everything we can to ensure they have the resources necessary to fulfill their mission and prepare the next generation of leaders for successful lives and careers.”

Lawmakers had cut k-12 and college funding in mid-2020 when they feared a pandemic recession. Kemp’s plan would restore that lost funding in the budget, costing about $650 million a year.

“We are pleased that Gov. Kemp continues to keep public education at the forefront of his agenda,” said Lisa Morgan, a kindergarten teacher and president of the Georgia Association of Educators. “We applaud his efforts in fulfilling his promise of a salary increase, including added bonuses, as well as fully funding the QBE formula for the coming school year. We hope and expect the General Assembly will approve his budget priorities.”

From WTOC:

During Kemp’s speech, he talked about his promise in 2018 to raise teacher pay in Georgia by $5,000. To date, teachers have received a $3,000 raise. Kemp announced that his Fiscal year 2023 budget proposal will include the money for the other $2,000 that was promised.

He also announced that the amended Fiscal Year 2022 budget will recommend a one-time pay supplement of $2,000 for full-time, state-funded instructional staff, school support staff, and school administration and a $1,000 supplement for school bus drivers, nurses, nutrition workers and part-time employees.

Kemp also announced the budget for this year will include an initial $1 million to be used for the expansion of the University of Georgia’s nursing program. His proposal will also include $.5 million for 136 residency slots and $1 million for Mercer University to use to address rural physician shortages.

Next, Kemp announced his budget proposal will include nearly $28 million to allocate a 10% provider rate increase for all foster parents, relative caregivers, child caring institutions and child placing agencies.

From 13WMAZ:

[Governor Kemp] announced plans to give $1 million to Mercer University to help them fight the doctor shortage in rural Georgia.

Governor Kemp says his proposed budget is all part of his effort to keep the state’s economy strong as we fight through the pandemic. The money is supposed to help Mercer’s School of Medicine continue providing doctors and clinics in some of the state’s most-underserved areas.

According to a WalletHub report, the Peach State ranks 35th in the nation for access to health care. There’s one primary care physician for every 1,500 Georgians, but on the county level, it’s worse. County Health Rankings data from 2018 shows there is one primary care physician for every 740 people in Macon-Bibb County. In Putnam County, it’s 1 to 2,730 people.

“Rural communities deserve the same quality of care as urban areas,” Doctor Jean Sumner, Dean of Mercer’s School of Medicine, said. Sumner says they will use the $1 million effectively.

“We want to be the best money the state ever spent on trying to change our state,” Sumner said. “We want them to feel every dollar that comes this way is used to make our state a healthier state in the areas that have the most need.”

Also from 13WMAZ:

Governor Brian Kemp is allocating $900,000 to Middle Georgia State University’s Dublin’s campus to help the college to graduate more nurses and address the state’s critical nursing shortage.

Dr. Tara Underwood, the Dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences, explains the need for state-of-the-art technology, simulation labs being high on the list.

“Our health science students in particular, to practice on mannequins and practice various situations they will encounter in the hospital or various healthcare settings,” said Underwood.

Altogether, the state has funded $5.7 million  in improvements to Middle Georgia State University’s nursing program in Dublin. They expect to complete their expansion there this summer 2022.

Georgia Democrats had a wish list, according to WRDW.

Democratic state Sen. Harold Jones said the governor instead should have discussed funding to support schoolchildren who live in poverty.

The Democrats said Kemp should use the budget surplus for Medicaid and raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in addition to helping state employees.

House Minority leader Dr. James Beverly said the governor is more concerned about getting guns in the hands of people than vaccines in the arms of Georgia’s residents. He also said constitutional carry — the governor’s plan to allow people to carry guns without having a permit — is 100% political and 0% public safety.

Mercedes-Benz stadium will host a COVID-testing mega-site, according to the AJC.

Georgia Department of Public Health announced Thursday that the site will be hosted at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium was home to a massive site supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that administered 300,000 doses the first half of last year.

The drive-up site will be located at the Home Depot Backyard, 1 Backyard Way.

This new operation will be open every day except Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until further notice. These PCR tests are free to all Georgians, but insurance will be billed if available.

State officials last week announced two more mega-sites in the metro area: one at Jim Miller Park (Gate 1) at 1295 Al Bishop Drive in Marietta and another at 2994 Turner Hill Road in Stonecrest.

The State House Governmental Affairs Special Subcommittee on Cityhood, chaired by Rep. Victor Anderson (R-Cornelia) voted to recommend passage of a bill allowing the creation of a City of East Cobb, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Matt Dollar and Sharon Cooper, both of whom represent east Cobb, calls for a city of about 55,000 centered around the Johnson Ferry corridor. It would stretch from the Chattahoochee River on the south to Shallowford Road on the north and from the Fulton County line on the east to Old Canton Road on the west.

A study conducted last year by the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University found the proposed city to be financially feasible.

The city would be governed by a six-member council with three at-large posts and three district seats, all elected citywide. The six would elect a mayor from among themselves.

House Bill 841, which Dollar and Cooper introduced last year, is the second legislative effort at forming a city in East Cobb. A 2019 bill was abandoned due to lack of public support, Dollar said.

Democrats captured control of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners in the November 2020 elections, while east Cobb is heavily Republican.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) assigned Senate legislation allowing a City of Buckhead City to the Democratic-majority Urban Affairs Committee, according to the AJC.

Duncan’s move on Thursday effectively bottled up the legislation sponsored by Republican state Sen. Brandon Beach, though it’s far from scuttled. A similar House measure is pending, and the provision that allows for a cityhood referendum could be tacked onto other legislation.

The fate of the legislation will now be up to the Senate Urban Affairs Committee, which is composed entirely of Democrats, including several who are outspoken critics of the cityhood effort. State Sen. Lester Jackson, who chairs the committee, said the panel would be “transparent and fair” with the proposal.

“The details matter here. The financing issues. The education issues. The governance issues. These are all issues that must be fixed before — and not after — a referendum is passed,” Duncan said in a recent interview. “My hope is that we’re able to figure out a way to help all of Atlanta significantly cut crime.”

The Republican-backed bill, if passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, would allow a November ballot referendum in which Buckhead residents would vote on whether to leave Atlanta and form a new city.

The DeKalb County Board of Elections voted for a new Elections Director, according to the AJC.

The local elections board voted unanimously Thursday to hire Keisha Smith — who currently leads the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority — to the prominent position. She is expected to start work on Feb. 14.

“[Smith’s] dynamic vision for the department, her clear approach to leadership and extensive background in navigating high-profile professional environments, coupled with her enthusiasm for this position, gave us the collective confidence that she was the candidate best suited to lead DeKalb into a bright future,” elections board chair Dele Lowman Smith, who is not related to the new hire, said in a news release.

The elections board began its search for a new director in October, about two weeks after the resignation of former department head Erica Hamilton had been finalized. Hamilton, who was heavily criticized by local leaders during the 2020 election season, had been on an “extended leave of absence” since the previous month.

Doraville City Council voted to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, according to the AJC.

Doraville councilmembers passed an ordinance Wednesday to allow up to two dispensaries to open in the city, which can sell medical cannabis, including THC oil, edibles and other products. The vote wasn’t unanimous, with Councilman Andy Yeoman criticizing the policy as overly restrictive and unnecessary.

“I’m disappointed in this. I feel like I’m in Dalton tonight, not in Doraville,” he said, comparing the more conservative-leaning north Georgia city to his left-leaning home.

The rest of the council felt the ordinance, which also lifted a temporary moratorium on medical cannabis dispensaries in Doraville, was a necessary precaution. While no current business in the city sells these products, the city attorney previously said he’s heard there is interest in the metro Atlanta market.

State law dictates that only 30 medical marijuana dispensaries can open in Georgia. Recreational marijuana, which is illegal in Georgia, typically has a much higher proportion of THC than medicinal cannabis. State law also requires THC products to be prescribed by a doctor and filled by a pharmacist.

Georgia allows for the manufacturing and dispensing of oils with a THC content up to 5%. While there’s a statewide commission over licensing, it’s up to local governments to dictate zoning restrictions.

State Senator Burt Jones (R-Jackson) unveiled a massive warchest for his campaign for Lieutenant Governor, according to the AJC.

Republican Burt Jones will report about $3.4 million in cash on hand for his campaign for lieutenant governor.

It’s a formidable warchest for a contender in a down-ticket race, and the GOP state senator is set to use the money to amplify his endorsement from Donald Trump.

Jones, an executive at the petroleum firm owned by his family, will report amassing $3.75 million since he entered the race. He pumped about $2 million of his own cash into the contest and collected another $1.75 million from donors.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan isn’t seeking a second term. Jones is squaring off against Senate GOP leader Butch Miller, also a prodigious fundraiser, for the party’s nomination. Republican activist Jeanne Seaver is in the race as well.

The United States Supreme Court struck down the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for large employers, according to the Associated Press via AcccessWDUN.

At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court’s orders Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant.

The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.

From WSAV:

“This afternoon, the Supreme Court affirmed what we all know to be true: Joe Biden has no right to force federal government mandates on private businesses,” tweeted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

The governor said he’s proud to have taken part in legal action against the Biden administration.

“I’ll keep fighting to ensure hardworking Georgians are not forced to choose between their livelihood and a vaccine,” Kemp added.

Congressman Buddy Carter, who represents Georgia’s 1st district, said it appears the federal government has “a blind spot” when it comes to health care workers [speaking of the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers that the Court left intact].

“At a minimum, this will negatively impact the workforce in our healthcare community, which is already struggling due to a worker shortage,” said Attorney General Chris Carr of Georgia. “We look forward to continuing our fight against the unlawful vaccine mandates for federal contractors and the Head Start program.”

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) is co-sponsoring legislation to prevent members of Congress and their families from trading stocks, according to CNN via the Albany Herald.

Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia introduced a bill this week with fellow Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona called the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, which would require lawmakers, their spouses and dependent children to place their stock portfolios into blind trusts. If passed, the legislation would not allow lawmakers to use inside information to trade stocks and make money.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a very similar bill Wednesday called the Banning Insider Trading in Congress Act, which would also ban lawmakers from trading stocks while in office.

There are some key differences between the two proposals: Ossoff’s legislation would apply the ban to any dependent children in addition to the spouses, while Hawley’s bill would not. Also, Ossoff’s legislation would have the congressional Ethics Committee oversee the issue, while Hawley’s bill would have the Government Accountability Office audit.

And probably the biggest difference: Ossoff’s legislation would fine the lawmakers from their salaries if they broke the law, while Hawley’s would require lawmakers in the wrong to return their profits to the American people through the Treasury Department.

The Georgia Senate Ethics Committee voted to recommend passage of legislation to amend the state Constitution to prohibit non-citizen voting, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

The Senate Ethics Committee voted 7-2 on Thursday to advance Senate Resolution 363. It moves to the full Senate for more debate. A constitutional amendment needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber to advance to a ballot referendum, meaning unified Democrats could kill the measure.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Gainesville and other supporters argue the current constitutional provisions that say all citizens of Georgia shall be entitled to vote needs to be clarified to reflect state law that says only citizens of the United States and residents of Georgia can vote.

“It sends a clear message that in Georgia, the right to vote is sacred, and citizenship matters,” Miller said.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been campaigning in favor of the change. Sam Teasley, of Raffensperger’s office, said the state should “move to this level of clarity” and predicted “there would be broad bipartisan support of a measure to make it clear that only citizens should be voting in elections.”

Whitfield County Commissioners voted to pay bonuses to deputy coroners, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to use federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) money to provide two $1,000 bonuses each to three deputy coroners.

“We considered them the last responders when, unfortunately, someone passed away from COVID(-19),” said Board Chairman Jevin Jensen. “They must deal with challenging situations and possible infections just like first responders do when going into victims’ homes.”

The commissioners voted in December to give firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and 911 dispatchers a $2,500 bonus in December and another $2,500 bonus in February.

“The deputy coroners are part time,” said Jensen. “This is why their bonus is smaller than full-time firefighters and sheriff’s deputies.”

Department heads, such as the fire chief, and constitutional officers, such as the coroner and the sheriff, did not receive a bonus.

Delta Air Lines, the Metro area’s second-largest employer, said nearly 11% of its workforce has been sidelined by COVID, according to Fox5Atlanta.

Delta Air Lines said Thursday that 8,000 employees — or nearly 11% of its workforce — have contacted COVID-19 over the last four weeks, a factor that has contributed to thousands of canceled flights since the holidays.

The airline lost $408 million in the final quarter of 2021, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 surge fueled by the highly-transmissible omicron variant and severe winter weather. Delta predicted that it will suffer one more quarterly loss before travel picks up in the spring and summer.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a pickup in bookings or travel during January and probably the first part of February,” CEO Ed Bastian. “It’s always the weakest part of the year, and it’s going to be that much weaker because of omicron. We need confidence in travel returning once the virus recedes.”

Both storms and crew calling out sick forced airlines to cancel or delay thousands of flights over the busy holiday travel season, including airlines like Delta, United and JetBlue. Delta alone had to drop more than 2,200 flights since Dec. 24.

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office has invested in equipment, supplies, and training to prevent the spread of COVID in the jail, according to WTVM.

Thunderbolt adopted a short-term rental ordinance that includes a $700 permit fee, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Town of Thunderbolt has updated their recently implemented short-term vacation rental (STVR) regulations, adding a $700 registration fee. Recertification for an existing STVR will cost $580 thereafter.

The fees were approved by the town council at Wednesday’s meeting by a 4-0 vote, with members Edward Drohan and Bethany Skipper recusing.

City manager Robert Milie explained that the fee was “not intended to make money” but to ensure the existing tax base, or its permanent residents, aren’t incurring costs from the STVR business.

Thunderbolt Town Council passed their first ordinance regulating STVRs in December, which set a limit of 70 rentals allowed in the city. The cap is the estimated number of existing rentals out of a total of 1,316 housing units in the city.

Valdosta City Schools are closed today due to COVID, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Positive COVID cases are on the rise across the country and in our community,” the statement said. “We have seen a large increase in COVID exposures and are experiencing higher than normal absenteeism rates in our faculty, staff and students.”

“We will close all Valdosta City Schools Friday, Jan. 14, through Tuesday, Jan. 18. Schools will reopen on Wednesday, Jan. 19.”

The school system noted it was already scheduled to be closed Monday, Jan. 17, in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Long County Schools are closed today due to COVID, according to WTOC.

The Long County School System will be closed Friday, Jan. 14 due to a critical staff shortage caused by COVID-19, according to a news release from the school system.

The district is set to reopen Tuesday after undergoing a deep clean. Superintendent David Edwards says the district made the decision after not having enough staff available for classes, and some parents say they’re concerned about the rest of the school year.

Superintendent David Edwards says the school district is missing about 25 percent of its staff due to COVID, leaving about 40 staff vacancies for the day, even when trying to fill in with substitutes.

“It’s just to a critical point where we’re missing staff from teachers to cafeteria staff to transportation,” said Edwards.

The portraits of President and First Lady Obama are at the High Museum in Atlanta now, according to the Albany Herald.

But the exhibition is more than two paintings in a large room. The High Museum tells the stories of the Black artists who captured the Obamas in a way the world had never seen before.

Georgia native and Clark-Atlanta University alumni Amy Sherald is the face behind the iconic six-foot-tall painting of Michelle Obama, which captures the former first lady in a flowing colorful dress reminiscent of the quilts of Gee’s Bend. Her skin, notably painted in gray-scale, is not only a response to early portraits of African Americans but also reminds viewers of the absence of Black people in the history of large-scale photography. Sherald’s approach is to challenge her viewer to look beyond the superficial differences of race.

Barack Obama’s seven-foot-tall portrait, portrayed by Los Angeles native Kehinde Wiley, shows the president sitting before a lush green backdrop with distinct flowers appearing throughout the painting. But, as the exhibition shows, the artwork is more than meets the eye.

For Wiley, the portrait tells a story. The jasmine flower references Hawai’i, where the former president was born. The African blue lilies; a tribute to Obama’s father who was from Kenya. Vibrant chrysanthemums are on full display as the official flower of Chicago, the meeting place of Michelle and Barack and the city where his political career took flight.

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