Leah Chase, who ran Dooky Chase in New Orleans
“I always say we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo.”In the 1950s and 60s at the height of the US civil rights movement, when activists needed somewhere discreet to discuss strategy, they would go to Dooky Chase in New Orleans – meeting in an upstairs room and make plans over generous helpings of the hearty, Creole stew, cooked up by its owner Leah Chase.Known as the Queen of Creole, Chase – who died on Saturday aged 96 – fed Martin Luther King as he organised sit-ins with other civil rights activists.She fed freedom riders – black and white activists who intentionally rode interstate buses into segregated states where it was against the law for them to travel together. Thurgood Marshall, when he was the lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is even said to have made an urgent mid-gumbo call to then-attorney general Bobby Kennedy from the restaurant’s phone.”They would eat gumbo, and talk about what they were going to do and how they were going to do it,” she told the BBC’s Dan Saladino in 2016.
Leah Chase fed freedom riders, pictured in New Orleans – they were black and white activists who rode buses through segregated states together
Decades later, Chase would serve the very same gumbo to Barack Obama, who was soon to become the first black president of the United States – and would slap his hand for adding hot sauce to it.Growing up in the Great DepressionLeah was born in the small town of Madisonville, on the outskirts of New Orleans, in January 1923. Just six years later, the Great Depression would plunge many in the US into abject poverty.Her early years were defined by poverty, and by race. In her BBC interview, she described how black and white people would live next to each other and, although “whites and blacks didn’t mingle”, they would get a sense of what people were like.Growing up, she wasn’t a fan of cooking – but she spent years watching her mother at work in the kitchen, picking up recipes and techniques.Transforming Dooky ChaseWhen she was a teenager Chase moved to New Orleans, and saw a job advert for a “light-skinned coloured girl” to work as a waitress at one of the French Quarter’s upmarket restaurants that was for white customers only.”I wasn’t light-skinned, but I thought I would give it a try,” she said.She got the job, and loved it. When she wasn’t waiting tables, she would once again stand in the kitchen watching meals being prepared – but this time, they were being cooked up by professional chefs.In 1946 she married the jazz musician, Edgar “Dooky” Chase. and started to help out with his parents’ business – a sandwich shop in the majority black neighbourhood of TremÃ©.
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She wanted the business to provide a fine-dining experience, similar to what she’d seen while working in the French Quarter, to her own community. “I said, well why we can’t have that for our people?” she told the Associated Press news agency in 2015. “Why we can’t have a nice space? So I started trying to do different things.”She introduced silver cutlery and tablecloths, and cooked up Creole dishes.This was how Dooky Chase became the city’s first white-tablecloth restaurant for black customers – and shortly afterwards, a safe space for civil rights activists.’Everybody’s got to eat’In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated homes and businesses in New Orleans – including Dooky Chase.The iconic dining room was flooded with 1.5 m (5 ft) of water, which sat for weeks. When the waters eventually receded, the restaurant was covered in mould. Although Chase was in her 80s and Dooky was in his late 70s, the couple spent months living in a rescue trailer next to the restaurant while they rebuilt it. After a burst of hard work, they were back and open for business.And within two years, she was serving gumbo to Mr Obama, just a few months before he was elected as president.
Mr Obama getting ready to eat gumbo at Dooky Chase – without the nearby hot sauce
“He sits down to the gumbo, and the first thing he does is ask for the hot sauce,” she recalled. She slapped his hand and told him that adding hot sauce was “a no-no”. “He never forgot it,” she said.In a statement, Leah Chase’s family said: “Her daily joy was not simply cooking, but preparing meals to bring people together. One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the civil rights movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity.”Indeed, she would often speak of the profound importance of food in bringing people together.
Leah with Mr Obama, who would be elected president just months later
“In this business, we as blacks thought ‘what am I, just a cook’, ‘what am I, I wait on tables, I just wait on people, that’s nothing’,” she told the BBC. “But it is something. Everybody’s got to eat – whether you’re the president if you’re the Pope, you’ve got to eat. “So if you can feed them, it makes them happy – and that’s your part in helping them up.”
We asked Trump supporters to show us their Facebook feeds – CNN Video
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Trump’s use of false content is often defended as humor. But his supporters aren’t always in on the joke
Bemidji, Minnesota (CNN)At a Trump rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, last Friday, grievances against social media platforms Twitter and Facebook were a common refrain. Many of the President’s supporters told CNN that they felt the platforms’ fact-checking processes were biased against conservative viewpoints. Others discussed social media posts that contained manipulated media as if they were…
Bemidji, Minnesota (CNN)At a Trump rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, last Friday, grievances against social media platforms Twitter and Facebook were a common refrain. Many of the President’s supporters told CNN that they felt the platforms’ fact-checking processes were biased against conservative viewpoints. Others discussed social media posts that contained manipulated media as if they were real. “Like when Joe Biden fell asleep during a live interview on television,” one supporter recalled, describing a video that went viral only a few weeks prior to the rally. The video — which appears to show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sleeping as a TV news anchor repeats, “Wake up!” — was shared on Twitter by White House social media director Dan Scavino. It was achieved by splicing together real footage of a 2011 interview between journalist Leyla Santiago, now of CNN, and entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte with footage of Biden looking down, his eyes appearing at least partially closed, to make it appear as if he were snoozing. An audio track of loud snoring was placed on the video to complete the effect. When the video was fact-checked by news outlets, including CNN, and eventually labeled as “manipulated media” by Twitter, prominent Trump supporters complained that it was an obvious joke and a meme. Asked last week why Trump shares fake videos and baseless conspiracy theories about Biden, Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director, invoked a meme defense. “You call it a fake video. What it is is an internet meme,” he said. “Those are very frequently done to make a political point.” The joke was lost on Chris, the Trump supporter in Bemidji, who apparently believed the video was real footage. He acknowledged, “I missed that one,” when he was shown how the video had been manipulated. But the fact the video was faked didn’t change his impression of Biden because he believed something like that could happen, Chris said. Chris said he did not want to share his last name. The dissemination of misleading videos about Biden by the Trump campaign in an effort to make the Democratic presidential nominee seem confused or senile has happened repeatedly. On Tuesday, the campaign posted an eight-second video on Facebook that it titled “Joe Biden completely botches the Pledge of Allegiance.” But Biden was not trying to recite the entire Pledge of Allegiance as the full version of the video shows. Facebook did not take any action against the video. Despite promises from Silicon Valley to tackle election misinformation, videos that contain manipulated media often go unchecked and are viewed millions of times without context. Last week, Trump retweeted a video that was manipulated to make it appear as if Biden was dancing to the NWA song “F**k tha Police.” He wasn’t. When false claims and doctored videos are fact-checked by Facebook or labeled as manipulated by Twitter, it is possible that they have already been viewed and shared for days. And many of the Trump supporters who spoke to CNN in Bemidji said they simply do not trust the fact-checks that are deployed by Facebook. Facebook works with a number of organizations, including the Associated Press and Reuters, in the US to fact-check on its platform, all of which have signed up to a code of principles to be nonpartisan. One rally attendee, Mary Parsons, claimed her posts about the President were often removed by Facebook. While Parsons feels she is treated unfairly by Facebook’s fact-checkers, who she views as overly zealous, some Democrats think Facebook is not doing enough fact-checking. Either way, Parson says, the fact-checks do not sway her opinion.
Obama urges voters to focus on down-ballot races to combat gerrymandering
The video represents the latest attempt by top Democrats to focus attention on down-ballot races, like those for state legislatures across the country. The party hopes that they can take control of a handful of state legislatures in November, wins that could be key because the state bodies elected in 2020 will play major roles…
“You’ve heard a lot about the presidential race, maybe too much,” Obama says in a video for NowThis News, “but there is a lot more that will be on the ballot this fall.”
Obama adds: “In this election, the state leaders we elect will help redraw electoral districts all across the country.”
Obama is not new to the fight over redistricting and has focused a portion of his post-presidency work on the issue, including by folding his Organizing for Action group into the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group run by his former attorney general, Eric Holder, that looks to link Democratic issues with the need to take on gerrymandering.
“President Obama has said this is an all hands on deck moment, and one of the main drivers is redistricting that will happen based on November’s results,” Eric Schultz, an Obama adviser, said. “Now more than ever, we need to elect Democrats up and down the ballot. The Presidential campaign generally gets most of the attention, but President Obama believes these other races are mission-critical.”
The former president says in the video that he doesn’t think people “completely appreciate how much gerrymandering affects the outcome” of elections. The video then notes how Republicans swept into control in key states during the 2010 elections, allowing them to redraw maps in places like Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Ohio.
Obama argues that many priorities of his presidency, including immigration reform and gun control measures, were thwarted, in part, because of gerrymandered districts electing Republicans to Congress.
“Those maps will stand for 10 years, that could mean a decade of fairly drawn districts where folks have an equal voice in their government, or it could mean a decade of unfair partisan gerrymandering,” Obama says in the video.
The video was made with NowThis News, a progressive mobile news outlet.
Democrats, emboldened by considerable excitement among their party’s key voters, hope they can flip at least one legislative body in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and Minnesota. And the party hopes it can make substantial inroads in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Kansas, Georgia and Florida.
Groups like the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and Forward Majority, a super PAC that aims to pour millions into key state legislative races, have been leading the fight to focus Democratic attention to these races.
Forward Majority announced earlier this month that they would direct $15 million into state legislative races in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, so-called Sun Belt states where Democrats believe President Donald Trump could lead voters to reject Republicans in November.
“Without having a seat at the table next year, we will likely see an unprecedented level of gerrymandering,” said Forward Majority co-founder Vicky Hausman, who argued that these four states “represent the most powerful points of leverage in our democracy.”
The is partly a newfound focus for Democrats on down-ballot races like state legislatures. Republicans spent millions to control the legislative bodies over the last decades, leading Democrats to lose control of several state legislatures during Obama’s presidency.
But Democratic groups have been making the case, like Obama does in the video, that these local officials wield notable power on everything from how a state responds to something like the coronavirus pandemic to how they deal with issues of police brutality.
“This year, educate yourself on the candidates at every level on your ballot,” Obama says. “They can make a profound impact on your community and our country.”