2019
June
19
Wednesday

A relative of mine is a one-man warrior against a social problem that’s growing globally: loneliness. Each day he finds reasons to engage with people around him. Entry points can be the weather, the long line he’s in with a stranger, a book in someone’s hand. Sometimes the exchanges are minimal. But far more often he generates a spark and even turns some frowns upside-down. 

His approach speaks to an interesting fact: Interacting with strangers can be a great route to a better day or an improved outlook. You don’t necessarily have to seek out a friend.

Loneliness is hardly new. It’s long been the stuff of philosophers, novelists – the Beatles, for that matter. And while the problem is often associated with older people, the 2018 BBC Loneliness Experiment found that 40% of 16- to 24-year-olds also reported feeling lonely. Culprits include everything from too much time with our electronic devices to being the target of discrimination.  

Enter the small encounter. Take the story one reporter wrote recently about flying amid terrible turbulence. She asked her seatmate to chat and then to hold hands. The woman responded cheerfully and reassuringly. But afterward? “I have to admit that I was just as scared,” she told the reporter. “Thank you for helping me through this very scary situation.” 

Now to our five stories, including a Monitor Breakfast with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a look at why Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has become such a target of public anger, and what a South African loaf of bread can tell us.

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1. For Hong Kong’s leader, pressure isn’t just from protesters

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam tried to push through a bill Beijing wanted. She failed – and in the process may have given a new sense of empowerment to young people worried about Hong Kong's future.

Amelia
Kin Cheung/AP
A protester (c.) calls for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down as she and others continue to protest an unpopular extradition bill near the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, June 17.

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An estimated 2 million Hong Kongers braved hazy heat Sunday to continue protesting a controversial extradition law.

The day before, Chief Executive Carrie Lam had announced she would shelve the bill, for now. But increasingly, Mrs. Lam herself is a target of the protests. Calls of “Carrie Lam! Step down!” echoed through the canyon of high-rise buildings.

Analysts say Beijing’s patience is also wearing thin. Hong Kongers’ overriding message is mistrust not only in Mrs. Lam, but also in mainland China’s authoritarian system, which they fear is encroaching on their territory’s special freedoms. That’s a blow to the mainland’s image at an inopportune time for President Xi Jinping: ahead of the Group of 20 meeting in Osaka, amid an escalating trade war with the United States, and as China tries to woo Taiwan under the same “one country, two systems” model it has with Hong Kong.

Most of all, the continued protests are an obstacle for Beijing as it pushes to strengthen control over Hong Kong itself. The young generation in the streets is one that Beijing has hoped to cultivate as its own, says Samson Yuen, a political scientist in Hong Kong. “The same people China wants to pull closer, this [extradition] bill pushes them away,” he says.

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1. For Hong Kong’s leader, pressure isn’t just from protesters

When prop-maker Terry Yim joined up with throngs of marchers in Hong Kong on Sunday, he brought a homemade accessory: a pumpkin-sized likeness of Carrie Lam, the city’s unpopular chief executive, complete with tidy short hair and spectacles.

For weeks, Hong Kong residents have rallied against a proposed extradition law in mostly peaceful protests. Escalating demands for Mrs. Lam’s ouster were clear Sunday, as a plea echoed through the canyon of high-rise buildings: “Carrie Lam! Step down!” The frustration was clear: Several marchers took turns using a fake police baton to hit the Carrie Lam effigy before the baton finally snapped.

Indeed, much of the semi-autonomous city snapped this month when Mrs. Lam tried to rush through a bill that would allow certain criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial, among other places with which Hong Kong does not have an extradition agreement. On Saturday, Mrs. Lam announced the bill would be shelved for now. But the following day, an estimated 2 million of the city’s 7 million people endured hazy heat to turn out and demand the bill be killed – perhaps the largest protest in Hong Kong history. Many fear the proposal would leave Hong Kongers vulnerable to the mainland’s opaque legal system. 

Hong Kong leaders are selected by a committee dominated by Beijing loyalists, and often walk an uneasy line between Hong Kong’s autonomy and Beijing’s control. But Mrs. Lam now finds herself caught between determined marchers and a frustrated Beijing. By misjudging the depth of popular opposition, the chief executive has sparked a major political crisis that has embarrassed her superiors in Beijing at a sensitive time, local political analysts say.

Mrs. Lam “has become a lame duck,” says Willy Wo-lap Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and an expert on China’s Communist Party politics. “The Chinese have made a scapegoat out of Carrie Lam; she has become the fall guy.”

At a news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang in Beijing voiced the central government’s support for Mrs. Lam. But political experts say Beijing’s trust has eroded now that she has lost the public’s confidence.

“She will be given a face-saving grace period, and if Beijing can’t find a viable successor for her, she may serve the rest of her term,” Dr. Lam says. Mrs. Lam was appointed by Beijing in 2017 to a five-year term. “But it will be hard for her to govern or push through controversial projects,” he says.

Unwelcome complication

The overriding message of the Hong Kong protests – widespread mistrust of not only Mrs. Lam, but also of China’s authoritarian system – represents a blow to the mainland’s image and an inopportune problem for President Xi Jinping, who favored Mrs. Lam for the job and swore her in, analysts say.

Vincent Yu/AP
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, June 18. Hong Kong's leader apologized for her handling of an unpopular extradition bill.

For Beijing, the Hong Kong unrest has emerged as a major new distraction at a time when China’s leadership is grappling with the upcoming Group of 20 summit meeting late this month in Osaka, Japan, where Mr. Xi will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump amid an escalating U.S.-China trade war. U.S. officials say Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi will discuss Hong Kong, which experts say wasn’t originally on the agenda.

The mass demonstrations have also hurt China’s bid to woo Taiwan to rejoin the mainland under the “one country, two systems” model of Hong Kong. Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, has attacked the Hong Kong extradition bill as “evil” and voiced solidarity with the demonstrators. “One country, two systems won’t be accepted by a democratic Taiwan,” Ms. Tsai said June 13, when she secured the nomination of her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to run again in January.

Most of all, the protests mark an obstacle for Beijing as it pushes to strengthen control over Hong Kong, a former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. The young Hong Kong residents who swarmed into the streets are a generation that Beijing has hoped to cultivate as its own, says Samson Yuen, an assistant professor of political science at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

But protesters generally view the Hong Kong government as a puppet of Beijing, the ultimate target of their criticism, according to surveys he conducted. “The same people China wants to pull closer, this [extradition] bill pushes them away,” says Dr. Yuen. “This truly is a setback for China’s attempts to integrate Hong Kong.”

Roots of the problem

Indeed, Mrs. Lam’s drive to update the rendition law unnerved many Hong Kongers, who fear her administration will not ensure the territory’s rights. Residents’ freedoms, which are significantly greater than on the mainland, are supposed to extend until at least 2047, according to Hong Kong’s constitution.

Moreover, she has been saddled from the start with public suspicion because she is not democratically elected, says Dr. Yuen. Pro-democracy groups have been trying to scuttle the committee-based selection process since before the British handover.

“Her political legitimacy has never been high because it’s not a democratic system – 1,200 people elect her, not universal suffrage,” Dr. Yuen says. “Carrie Lam has this inherent problem from the beginning of the lack of popular support.”

Mrs. Lam, who was born and educated in Hong Kong, has argued the extradition bill is necessary to prevent the city from becoming a haven for fugitives. But on Tuesday, she issued “a sincere and solemn apology to all people of Hong Kong.”

“This bill over the last few months has caused so much anxiety and worries and differences in opinion,” she told a crowd of reporters. “I will not proceed again with this legislative exercise if these fears and anxieties cannot be adequately addressed.”

Yet despite Mrs. Lam’s partial retreat – by suspending the bill – her refusal to withdraw it completely led protesters to vow to continue their street marches. Mrs. Lam said she would not resign, but conceded that “as for my governance in the future, it will be difficult.”

Pro-Beijing lawmakers in Hong Kong have distanced themselves from Mrs. Lam’s positions, while reports from Beijing have emphasized her responsibility for the bill.

“A lot of the pro-Beijing parties are very unhappy,” says Ma Ngok, an associate professor of government and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Members of Hong Kong government’s executive committee, pro-Beijing lawmakers, and a former transport minister have all urged her to delay or withdraw the controversial extradition bill.

Meanwhile, young protesters – especially those hit by tear gas and pepper spray fired by police last week – say they don’t trust Mrs. Lam’s assurances that she won’t raise the bill again.

“The people should not forgive her,” says Edmund, a 13-year-old who joined a planning session of protesters on Monday. “She did this bad thing, betraying the people of Hong Kong. It can’t be forgiven. ... She’s not worthy to be the chief of Hong Kong.”

Milly Wu, a young retail worker, insists that Mrs. Lam meet key protester demands by a June 20 deadline: withdrawing the extradition bill, investigating the use of force by police, retracting the “riot” label the government gave the protests, and dropping charges against arrested demonstrators.

Otherwise, Ms. Wu says, “our protest will go on.”

Such sentiments reflect a new empowerment among young Hong Kong people, as they relish an unexpected victory against their government through sheer strength of numbers.

“The political dynamics have changed,” says Dr. Lam. “They have mastered the means to turn out huge numbers of people, which is an impactive weapon against unpopular policies from the Hong Kong and Beijing governments.”

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Monitor Breakfast

2. Pelosi on impeachment: ‘This isn’t about politics’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is fighting battles on all sorts of fronts. At a Monitor Breakfast today, she shared her thoughts on the role of Congress and the courts in checking presidential power.

Not sure what a Monitor Breakfast is? Watch our explainer video.

Amelia
Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Monitor Breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel on June 19 in Washington.

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The last time Rep. Nancy Pelosi appeared at a Monitor Breakfast, in March 2017, she made news: She said she would have retired to California if Hillary Clinton had won the election.

“It was really shocking that somebody like Donald Trump could be president,” the then-leader of the minority House Democrats said, expressing concern about preserving the Affordable Care Act. “That motivated me to stay.”

Now-Speaker Pelosi could not possibly have imagined what she was in for. Two-plus years later, the most powerful woman ever in American politics is locked in a battle royal with a president like no other over the future of American democracy.

Speaking at a Monitor Breakfast Wednesday, Ms. Pelosi referred repeatedly to the role of Congress and the courts in checking presidential power. “We intend to live up to our responsibilities,” she said.

So far, however, Ms. Pelosi has been holding firm against rising sentiment – though still a minority – within the House Democratic caucus to launch an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump for alleged obstruction of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“This isn’t about politics. It isn’t about partisanship,” she said. “It’s about patriotism to honor the Constitution of the United States.”

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Pelosi on impeachment: ‘This isn’t about politics’

The last time Rep. Nancy Pelosi appeared at a Monitor Breakfast, in March 2017, she made news: She said she would have retired to California if Hillary Clinton had won the election.

“I have grandchildren to love,” said the then-leader of the minority House Democrats.

“It was really shocking that somebody like Donald Trump could be president of the United States,” Ms. Pelosi said, expressing concern about preserving the Affordable Care Act. “But anyway, that motivated me to stay.”

Now-Speaker Pelosi could not possibly have imagined what she was in for. Two-plus years later, the most powerful woman ever in American politics is locked in a battle royal with a president like no other over the future of American democracy.

Speaking at a Monitor Breakfast Wednesday, Ms. Pelosi referred repeatedly to the U.S. Constitution and the role of Congress and the courts in checking presidential power.

“We intend to live up to our responsibilities to protect the Constitution when it comes to the checks and balances on the presidency,” Ms. Pelosi said. “This is an important time for our country.”

She also ruled out a congressional censure of President Donald Trump as an alternative to impeachment proceedings. “I think censure is just a way out,” Ms. Pelosi said, calling it “a day at the beach for the president, or at his golf club, or wherever he goes to get that complexion.”

“If the goods are there,” she said, “you must impeach.”

So far, Ms. Pelosi has been holding firm against rising sentiment – though still a minority – within the House Democratic caucus to launch an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump for alleged obstruction of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But, she added, “I feel no pressure from my members to do anything, and I have no pressure on them to do anything. This isn’t about politics. It isn’t about partisanship. It’s about patriotism to honor the Constitution of the United States.”

Ms. Pelosi’s current role is one she has been training for, unwittingly, in her 32 years in Congress, rising from backbencher to speaker – twice. She is a master tactician and a partisan with a gracious manner and a spine of steel, standing up not just for herself but for her branch of government.

She’s also in her late 70s, but that’s not stopping her. In fact, her age and gender may both be a plus. Mr. Trump too is in his 70s, and so they are peers. And like other women in Mr. Trump’s life, Ms. Pelosi “is attractive and knows how to ‘hold a camera,’” says Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer. “She’s a grown-up. She exudes significance.”

Since regaining the House gavel in January, Ms. Pelosi has shown increasing willingness to go toe-to-toe with Mr. Trump. She outlasted him during the record-long government shutdown and more recently triggered his fury – including prompting a walkout from a meeting on infrastructure – after coolly accusing him of a “cover-up” amid congressional investigations.

For Ms. Pelosi, the attacks by Mr. Trump are doubly beneficial. Republicans grit their teeth every time the president takes the bait, saying that he hurts his image. And within the speaker’s famously fractious House caucus, her increasingly pointed rhetoric toward the president buys her time to hold off on a formal impeachment inquiry, which she opposes for now.

The collapse of the once-cordial Trump-Pelosi relationship bodes ill for getting things done. Budget negotiations are at an impasse, risking another government shutdown in the fall. More broadly, Mr. Trump has said he won’t work with Democrats on any legislation while investigations of him continue.

As recently as last November, Mr. Trump was praising Ms. Pelosi as “tough and smart” and telling reporters, “I like her. Can you believe it?” He had spared her a demeaning nickname, presumably a show of respect. Now she’s “nervous Nancy,” “a disaster,” and “a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.”

The name-calling is a sign Mr. Trump doesn’t want to appear weak, says a Republican close to the White House.

“Now, you’ll notice ‘nervous Nancy’ has become more frequent since the prison comment,” says the Republican, a reference to Ms. Pelosi’s reported closed-door statement to senior Democrats that she’d rather see Mr. Trump in prison than impeached. 

Ms. Pelosi has responded to Mr. Trump’s insults by saying she feels sorry for him and is praying for him and the country.

The speaker’s steely approach to a norm-busting president reflects a literal lifetime in politics – from her Baltimore childhood as the daughter of a congressman and mayor to her 32 years in the House and rise to the speakership. As speaker, she is second in line to the presidency, adding to her aura of power.

Early on, those who dismissed Ms. Pelosi as “a housewife from San Francisco” did so at their peril. Today, even as the GOP has tried to make her a symbol of rampant liberalism, she has shrewdly managed her own caucus as well as her relationship with Mr. Trump. She herself often suggests that raising five children before entering Congress prepared her for today’s political challenges.

Like Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Trump also went into the family business – in his case, real estate. And he’s hewing to his “Art of the Deal” ways – trying to maximize leverage and exploit weakness – as he navigates his new role. After last November’s midterms, when Mr. Trump offered to help Ms. Pelosi win the speakership with GOP votes, it was seen not as generosity but as a bid to gain leverage over her and use her as a foil in the 2020 campaign. She rejected his offer.

Mr. Trump is used to dealing with strong women, like those who have worked for him in senior White House positions. As a businessman, he had a history of hiring women in executive positions “at a time when not everybody was doing that," Ms. Blair says. "He knew they would give him some value.” 

But Ms. Pelosi has power over the president that other women don’t. He can’t get legislation through Congress without her. And she doesn’t seem to let the president get under her skin.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., says the president “doesn’t know what to do with her.”

“He’s a little bit afraid of her,” Congressman Connolly adds. “In his own odd Trumpian way, there’s even respect for her authority. I don’t mean the title. I mean the aura of authority she genuinely projects over a subject, over politics, over a meeting.”

Another House colleague, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., sees a speaker who respects the office of the presidency, but a president “who doesn’t honor it.”

“When you have the speaker of the House, the leader of the opposition, go to the Oval Office and the president refuses to shake her hand, that’s a real breakdown in communication,” says Congressman Khanna.  

Now the speaker is fighting not just to defeat Mr. Trump in 2020 but to maintain the Democratic majority in the House. In the current climate, little is certain. But Ms. Pelosi can count on this: As part of her deal to regain the speakership, she pledged a limit of two terms. By 2023 at the latest, she can finally retire.

Staff writer Jessica Mendoza contributed to this report.

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3. Dollars today for enslavement long ago? Georgetown students say yes.

The debate about reparations for slavery at Georgetown University has focused on values: monetary, of course, but also "collective generosity and gratitude," as one alumnus puts it.

Amelia

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This spring, students at Georgetown University in Washington voted in favor of having undergraduates pay a “reconciliation contribution” of $27.20 each semester. The funds would benefit descendants of people enslaved by Maryland Jesuits, including the GU272 – a group sold in 1838 to help keep Georgetown afloat. Although many American universities exploited slaves, this was the first time a group took financial responsibility for redress, observers say. Georgetown’s board of directors has yet to approve it.

The school’s experience is part of a national dialogue that includes a House subcommittee hearing today on a bill on “reparations,” a word that carries with it a wide range of definitions. Even among the Georgetown descendants, there’s no consensus about what form, if any, reparations or reconciliation should take.

At a campus town hall meeting this spring, Mélisande Short-Colomb, a 60-something descendant who had taken the school up on its invitation to apply, swayed others to vote yes. She pointed out that they had all come to Georgetown voluntarily knowing they would get something in return. In 1838, she said, people “were gathered up and they were sold to the deepest, most racist concentrated labor camps. ... They didn’t volunteer. ... This place exists today because of them.”

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Dollars today for enslavement long ago? Georgetown students say yes.

They aren’t just a list of enslaved people. They have stories, and descendants, and names: Polly, Revidy, Noble, Minty, Mary Jane, Michael, Sally Anne.

Buttons bearing these names were worn by “vote yes” students as they campaigned at Georgetown University this spring. They wanted undergraduates to pay a “reconciliation contribution” of $27.20 each semester. The funds would benefit descendants of people enslaved by Maryland Jesuits, including the “GU272” – a group sold in 1838 to help keep Georgetown afloat.

At this elite university in the capital of the United States, the invisibility cloak that shrouds institutional entanglement with slavery has been stripped away. In the wake of student and alumni pressure, college and Jesuit leaders have renamed campus buildings, participated in ceremonial repentance, and offered legacy admission preferences to descendants.

But four years of slowly evolving dialogue can try the patience of students seeking bold action. So Georgetown’s undergraduates made their own history in April, with a two-thirds majority vote in favor of the referendum.

Although many American universities exploited slaves, “this is the first time we’ve seen a particular group taking the responsibility – not only with an apology, not only with a symbolic gesture, but by taking financial responsibility,” says Ana Lucia Araujo, a Howard University history professor who has researched the public memory of the slave trade.

The story of what happened before the vote – and what hasn’t happened since (namely, any commitment from Georgetown officials to implement the non-binding referendum) – is a parable of sorts about a nation wrestling with inhumanity at its very foundation.

Even the word “reparations” – popping up most recently thanks to a bill in Congress and the Democratic presidential primary race – carries a wide range of definitions. Where people stand on the matter can’t be assumed based on skin color or their own family history related to slavery. A House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on HR40, a bill that would set up a commission to study and recommend reparations proposals, on Wednesday morning.

The hearing coincides with Juneteenth, a day that since 1865 has commemorated the end of the enslavement of black people in the United States. Supporters of the bill, including actor Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, were among those who testified, alongside those who oppose it, such as writer Coleman Hughes.  

“[W]hile emancipation deadbolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows wide open,” said Mr. Coates. “The matter of reparations is one of making amends, indirect redress. But it also a question of citizenship,” he said, urging lawmakers to “reject fair-weather patriotism, to say that a nation is both its credits and its debits, that if Thomas Jefferson matters, so does Sally Hemings. ... The question really is not whether we will be tied to the somethings of our past but whether we are courageous enough to be tied to the whole of them.”

Georgetown’s experience is one part of a national dialogue that’s still finding its way, with some Americans say it’s time to push for long overdue justice while others argue to let bygones be bygones.  

Shift in thought

The campus town hall event in April was packed. When Javon Price saw that everyone vocally opposing the referendum was white, he stood to add his voice: “As a black student, why should I have to contribute to this reconciliation fee? I don’t see how that makes sense,” he recalls saying at the forum.

A conservative Republican who had recently returned from a tour with the Air Force Reserve, he had been working to get fellow students to vote no.

Right in front of him sat Mélisande Short-Colomb, a descendant who had taken the school up on its invitation to apply for admission with a legacy preference.

Her answer: “We all come to Georgetown University, including myself today, voluntarily … believing that there is something here for each of us to receive” and leverage to help others. Ms. Short-Colomb recounts: In 1838, people “were gathered up and they were sold to the deepest, most racist concentrated labor camps. ... They didn’t volunteer. ... This place exists today because of them.”

Mr. Price sat down.

“At that moment, I kinda just shut my mouth and allowed myself to receive the information that I had been rejecting,” he says. “When she speaks, there’s this gravitas. ... For a moment it felt as if my grandmother was speaking to me,” he says of the 65-year-old Ms. Short-Colomb, who can trace her lineage to two GU272 families, the Queens and the Mahoneys.

He voted yes. The word “reparations” is still problematic in his view, Mr. Price says, partly because it implies giving a one-time payment and being done.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Actor Danny Glover (r.) and author Ta-Nehisi Coates (l.) testify about reparation for the descendants of enslaved people during a hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Washington on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

But as he came to understand this student-generated effort, the word they used – reconciliation – was indeed a better fit.

The intent is for a group of student and descendant representatives to consider proposals that would benefit descendant communities with the roughly $400,000 to be raised each year.

“Reconciliation is a process, a marathon; it’s not a sprint,” he says.

Plenty of Georgetown students still objected. Some argued that none of them were slaves or owned slaves, so none should be forced to pay more on top of already steep fees. Others favored a financial commitment, but felt strongly that the university should commit the dollars, not the students.

Who should decide?

Even among the descendants, there’s no consensus about what form, if any, reparations or reconciliation should take.

Jessica Tilson – a descendant who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana – raised multiple objections. She thought the student advocates should have polled the 4,000-plus descendants, rather than letting the few who are Georgetown students hold sway.

Alfredo Sosa/Staff/File
Jessica Tilson walks the grounds of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Cemetery on December 8, 2017 in Maringouin, Louisiana. The Cemetery is segregated by race and holds the remains of some of the original slaves sold by Georgetown University in 1838, as well as some of their decedents.

When the advocates said they’d consider directing money toward things like boosting education or internet access for descendant communities like Maringouin, Louisiana, where Ms. Tilson has roots – they “made us look like country bumpkins,” she says.

She told them, “What do you mean you are more privileged than me?... You’re going to have student loan debt just like me,” says Ms. Tilson, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern University and A&M College.

She especially disagreed with students being forced to pay, saying she would never want to receive something that wasn’t given willingly. She says she told some of the on-campus descendants, “Y’all guilt-tripping those white kids there.”

But some supporters of the referendum say it purposely avoided the narrative of shame.

“This is not being framed as a matter of collective guilt. This is being framed as an act of collective generosity,” says Richard Cellini, an alumnus and founder of The Georgetown Memory Project, the nonprofit that has helped identify 8,425 descendants, half of whom are still living.  

It’s really an expression of gratitude, he says. The students are “saying of the Georgetown slaves: Their story is our story, and we want to share our resources with the families that made our university possible.”

Awaiting approval 

The collection of the $27.20 fee won’t happen without approval from Georgetown’s board of directors, which has met with some student leaders but did not vote on the reconciliation fee at its June 5-6 meeting.

“Georgetown University values the perspectives and engagement of our students in grappling with the history and ongoing legacy of slavery in our community,” spokesperson Meghan Dubyak said in an email to the Monitor. “We are working to contribute to a vital national conversation about the need to promote racial justice. ... The referendum provides valuable insight into student perspectives.”

The board is planning more discussions and will meet again this fall, she added.

If the Georgetown administration doesn’t implement the students’ plan, “it would be an abdication of responsibility on an historic scale,” Mr. Cellini says.

Ms. Short-Colomb became a student at Georgetown in August 2017, just one year after discovering that her ancestors had been part of the 1838 sale.

Since her own family had been among “the involuntary founders of Georgetown University, who have been left out of the history,” she wanted to understand the institution up close. “I went out on a big limb for myself … and I think the administration went out on a limb with me as well. ... It’s been wonderful,” she says.

After the highest voter turnout in student government history, the results of the April 11 vote were announced online around 1 a.m. A giddy phone call from her fellow student advocates awoke Ms. Short-Colomb. They said they were coming over to celebrate, “and I said, ‘No, no, no. Thank you. I love you all. Goodnight, I’m going back to sleep,’” she says.

She laughs about it now, but as the news sank in that morning, she says, “I cried a little bit. I thanked the ancestors. Because this is really for them, you know?”

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4. Bunny chow: South African history in a loaf of bread

Food nurtures and fuels us in many ways, especially when it offers us insights about our past and our values. This particular meal is especially satisfying in that regard. 

Amelia
Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Elijah Maphumulo, who works near the Durban city center, stops for a bunny chow at Patel's Vegetarian Refreshment Room on a recent afternoon.

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The first rule of bunny chow is that you must eat it with your hands.

Bunny chow is the culinary star of Durban, South Africa, a city of rolling hills on the Indian Ocean. And no, it doesn’t involve rabbits. A “bunny” is actually a hollowed-out loaf of bread, filled with spicy curry.

“The story is basically that some guys invented a lunchbox made of bread, and the rest is history,” says Vishaal Sewpersadh, an IT worker who visits bunny chow joints whenever he’s in town.

Created by the city’s Indian shopkeepers, bunny chow is a testament to South Africa’s dizzying diversity – as well as its violent origins. Most of Durban’s early Indian community arrived as indentured laborers, shipped in to work plantations and railroads. And one theory about bunny chow holds that the portable lunch took off because people of different skin colors weren’t allowed to eat together.

But today, more than 20 years since the end of apartheid, its popularity endures.

“A bunny chow is to Durban what a pizza is to New York,” says Ritesh Patel, whose family has owned a bunny chow shop for decades. “It’s that standard comfort food for this place. The food of the people.”

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Bunny chow: South African history in a loaf of bread

There are a few must-dos for any first-time visitor to Durban, a city of rolling hills in eastern South Africa. Among them: You must be sure to have a bunny.

Wait, a what?  

Actually, bunny is short for bunny chow – but don’t be fooled. It’s not a rabbit, or a rabbit’s food. The Durban bunny chow is actually a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with spicy curry, and it’s this city’s star culinary attraction.

“A bunny chow is to Durban what a pizza is to New York,” says part of Ritesh Patel, the third generation at Patel’s Vegetarian Refreshment Room, a takeout joint that is one of Durban’s earliest bunny chow peddlers. “It’s that standard comfort food for this place. The food of the people.” 

It’s also a meal that was forged at society’s margins – a riff on Indian cuisine that is both a tribute to South Africa’s dizzying diversity and a reminder of its violent origins.

There are many legends of the bunny chow’s illustrious beginnings, but they all share a few common features. For one thing, it’s undoubtedly the creation of Durban’s Indian community, most of which arrived here as 19th century indentured laborers, shipped in by the British to work the sugar-cane plantations and railroads.

It also probably owes its name to the banias, the city’s early Indian shopkeepers. By the early 20th century, several were running lunch counters. And then one day, the legend goes, one of them had a novel idea: hollow out a loaf of bread and fill it with beans curry. Voilà: a kind of low-budget, edible lunch pail for workers at the nearby factories and shops. 

“The story is basically that some guys invented a lunchbox made of bread, and the rest is history,” says Vishaal Sewpersadh, who works in IT in Johannesburg but makes a pilgrimage to his favorite bunny chow joints whenever he comes into town to visit family.

Some versions of the lore, however, offer a darker reason. In early 20th-century South Africa, people of different skin colors often couldn’t share the same shops, the same neighborhoods, and certainly not the same restaurants. Enter the bania chow, a takeout meal that black customers could eat on the road.

Whatever its precise origins, bania chow morphed into bunny chow. Joints selling the curry bread bowls proliferated along the length of the Grey Street Casbah, a multiracial stretch of shops, mosques, and apartment blocks through the center of Durban’s downtown.

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
The mixed-vegetable bunny at Patel's Vegetarian Refreshment Room, one of the earliest places to sell Durban's iconic bunny chow, which was invented by the city's Indian community in the early 20th century.

(Around the same time, cousins of the bunny chow were born as laborers’ food in other major cities as well. Johannesburg got the “kota” – tectonic layers of cheese, bologna, french fries, and fried eggs balanced between the four walls of a hollowed-out quarter loaf of bread. And Cape Town’s answer was the Gatsby, a glorious riff on the British chip butty – a sandwich stuffed to bursting with fries, meat, cheese, and chutneys.)

Like many pockets of multiculturalism in South Africa, the Grey Street Casbah was known for its music (jazz), its gangsters (feared), and its politics (anti-establishment). In the earliest years of Patel’s Vegetarian Refreshment Room, the restaurant shared a road with the offices of a fiery young Indian lawyer who’d gotten into politics after being kicked off the white section of a local train.

His name? Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Did Gandhi ever drop in for one of the Patels’ famous beans bunnies, the turmeric so thick that it stained your hands deep yellow? (The first rule of bunny chow, after all, is that you must eat it with your hands.)

That much is lost to the ages, but when it comes to South African history, the Patels have seen a great deal.

From the windows of their small shopfront, and the apartment they built above it, family members watched as the apartheid government began to move out black, mixed-race, and Indian residents of the area, scattering them to segregated neighborhoods on the fringes of the city. A few Indian families, like theirs, were allowed to stay, but their neighborhood was eventually whittled down to just a few square blocks.

When apartheid ended in the 1990s, South Africa’s cities became the site of another radical transformation, morphing into hubs for migrants from around the country and across the continent.

Today, Grey Street is Dr. Yusuf Dadoo Street, renamed for an Indian titan of the anti-apartheid movement. Zulu gospel music jostles for space with calls to prayer from the gold-domed Juma Mosque down the road. Hawkers sell fat green avocados, roasted corn on the cob, and 25 kinds of knockoff brand name shoes, while prospective customers stream by chatting in Zulu, Shona, and Lingala.

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Ritesh Patel is the third generation of his family to run Patel's Vegetarian Refreshment Room, one of the first establishments to sell Durban's iconic food, the bunny chow.

Most of the original bunny chow shops have shut down or relocated to the slick suburban malls. At Patel’s, too, business is down. But Mr. Patel’s father, Manilal, 77, still rises each morning at 1:30 a.m., as he has for the last 65 years, to begin cooking his cavernous vats of curry. The standard-sized bowl – perhaps four thick slices of bread deep – sells for 15 rand (about $1), and the shop will sell about 800 in a day.

But the younger Mr. Patel doesn’t know how much longer the store will survive here. Both his grandfather – whose portrait smiles down over his onetime lunch counter – and his father came of age at a time when opportunities for brown men like them had a hard, low ceiling. Neither had a chance to finish school.

Mr. Patel and his siblings, on the other hand, grew up as racial barriers toppled around them. He and his brother are accountants; his sisters are pharmacists. But there is still a part of him most at home in the Casbah, where he once sweet-talked neighboring shop owners into giving him syrupy cakes and played cricket in the street. When his father retires, he says, he will take over.

The place has history, after all. Not just for him, but for the city all around it.

“When you have a legacy,” he says, “you have a responsibility to carry it on.”

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Books

5. Why do birds migrate? Ask the man who’s followed them.

If you could be a migrating bird, which would you be? That’s just one question birding expert Kenn Kaufman answers for the Monitor as he marvels at avians’ navigational skills and endurance. 

Amelia
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Why do birds migrate? Ask the man who’s followed them.

No matter where you are on earth, unless you’re near the poles, countless migrating birds have been passing overhead this spring. Kenn Kaufman, author of birding guides, uncovers the mysteries of this extraordinary phenomenon in his latest book, A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration. He spoke with The Christian Science Monitor recently. 

Q: What makes migration so remarkable?

It’s an amazing feat of endurance and navigation – billions of birds moving great distances twice a year. And it’s largely invisible. Of course, I’m biased because I’m captivated by birds in general. I’m most drawn to how they’re so intensely alive, even when they’re sitting quietly.

Q: Why do birds migrate? 

Some birds nest during the summer in places where they couldn’t possibly survive through the winter, so they’ll fly thousands of miles to the tropics.

Q: Why don’t they just stay where it’s warm?

Even the most remote regions of the Arctic are overflowing with abundant life in summer. Once things thaw out, there are wildflowers everywhere and an abundance of insects. It becomes worth the effort for the bird to fly a long distance to go back there and raise its young.  

Q: What role does radar play in birding? 

Birders regularly look at Nexrad [Next Generation Weather Radar] on apps on our phones to see what’s happening in terms of migration overnight. This gives you a rough sense of how many birds are moving. 

So many of the small birds migrate at night – warblers, vireos, orioles, songbirds. We can look [at the radar] and see if tomorrow is a good time to go outside. Most of these nocturnal migrants will come down around dawn wherever they happen to be. If there’s been a big movement overnight, it’s exciting to go out and see what’s come in.

Q: You write about a battle over bird-killing wind farms. How do you view wind power?

It can be really effective and an important source of green energy. But in some places, wind turbines can kill a lot of birds. We’re concerned about having good preconstruction studies to determine which areas are the most risky for bird populations. In some places, such as major stopover habitats for migratory birds, they kill so many birds that they become a genuine conservation issue. 

Q: How is climate change affecting migration?

It’s already starting to have some impact. We know that some of the migratory birds are coming back earlier in the spring and leaving later in the fall. In some cases, the timing has put the birds out of sync with local conditions. They may be coming back a week earlier while the trees are leafing and the insect populations are peaking at a different time. Some species will be able to adapt and change rapidly, and some won’t. 

Q: If it’s warmer everywhere, will fewer birds need to migrate?

That’s one way to look at it, but the effects are not uniform. We have changes not only in temperature but also in rainfall patterns. Things are becoming more extreme. 

Q: If you could be a migrating bird, which would you want to be?

I’d be proud to be a migrating blackpoll warbler. It’s a tiny bird that weighs about half an ounce and looks like the dullest bird in the flock. But ... they can fly hundreds or even thousands of miles without stopping. I’ve seen them in eastern Peru, and they may have just flown in from the Yukon Territory. And when they go back, they can find their way to the same tree.

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The Monitor's View

A global moment for the #MeToo movement

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 2 Min. )

On Thursday, the International Labor Organization in Geneva will vote on a proposed agreement aimed at ending sexual harassment in the workplace. It is not clear whether the final pact will be legally binding or hold companies responsible for harassment by an employee. Still, the fact that a United Nations agency feels compelled to address gender-based harassment reflects a revolution in attitudes.

Part of the global struggle lies in the problem of depicting women as potential victims in the workplace yet also empowering them to flourish. Punitive laws are not enough. Company culture must reflect the values of respect and equality. In fact, the “feminization” of society, or the rise of influence for women, is one reason for a centuries-long decline in violence of all kinds, according to Harvard scholar Steven Pinker. Human nature, he writes, “contains the seeds of its own improvement, as long as it comes up with norms and institutions that channel parochial interests into universal benefits.”

This week, the ILO may make history by setting a new global norm on sexual harassment.

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A global moment for the #MeToo movement

The #MeToo movement may finally have found its global moment.

On Thursday, world leaders at the International Labor Organization in Geneva will vote on a proposed agreement aimed at ending sexual harassment in the workplace. Enforcement of such agreements can be notoriously weak. And it is not clear whether the final pact will be legally binding or hold companies responsible for harassment by an employee. Still, the fact that a United Nations agency feels compelled to address gender-based harassment reflects a revolution in attitudes.

One in three countries still has no laws protecting women or men from workplace harassment. Even in the United States, both laws and company practices remain a work in progress more than three decades after the Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Part of the global struggle lies in the problem of depicting women as potential victims in the workplace yet also empowering them to flourish. Punitive laws are not enough. Even company policies and training seminars are seen as inadequate. Company culture must reflect the values of respect and equality, starting from the top. The fastest route to such a values shift lies in hiring more women and promoting them to leadership positions.

In fact, the “feminization” of society, or the rise of influence for women, is one reason for a centurieslong decline in violence of all kinds, according to Harvard scholar Steven Pinker. The pacifism often associated with women helps reduce a tendency to settle scores or achieve an ambition by force.

In his latest book, “Enlightenment Now,” Mr. Pinker points to qualities of character that have helped drive progress at the global level. Human nature, he writes, “contains the seeds of its own improvement, as long as it comes up with norms and institutions that channel parochial interests into universal benefits.”

This week, the ILO may make history by setting a new global norm on sexual harassment. New or tougher laws will help. But it is the shift in thought that counts, especially if it lifts everyone in the workplace.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

A powerful change of thought

  • Quick Read
  • Read or Listen ( 3 Min. )

For one man, a lesson learned from his first job has stuck with him ever since: the value of mentally yielding to God, divine Love, rather than to frustration and complaint.

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A powerful change of thought

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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A simple change of thought often makes all the difference. It can be a change of attitude, a change in the way we see the world, a change in the way we see ourselves, a change in how we behold others.

When we change our thoughts for the better, good things can happen. But there’s another way our thinking can change, and it’s even more powerful. When we invite God to change our thoughts, wonderful things – even healing – can occur. As a high school sophomore at my first job, I experienced one such powerful change of perspective.

I was working in a position that didn’t require much training and the pay was quite low. I was glad to be earning it, but I wasn’t always feeling so glad as I worked along through my shift. It was hot, sweaty work, and after a few months, I liked it even less.

But I’d been attending a Christian Science Sunday School and there I’d learned that if I was feeling upset about something, I could turn to God for inspiration. So that’s what I did, and as I was praying one day, I became inspired to do something very specific – and that was to more consistently let God’s love fill my thoughts and guide my actions.

What that meant to me was if I found my thoughts muddied with things like complaint, resentment, self-righteousness, and fear, I could turn to God for a clean, clear line of thinking. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, metaphorically explains in her insightful book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “We cannot fill vessels already full. They must first be emptied” (p. 201). Later on the same page, Science and Health goes on to give specific instruction on how to do this: “pour in truth through flood-tides of Love.”

When I was at work, that’s exactly what I did. Rather than focusing on the unpleasantness of the job, I let appreciation for God, who is divine Love itself, fill my thoughts. As I did, I consistently felt the presence of God with me and was truly grateful for God’s love actively overflowing in me.

It wasn’t always easy to keep my thinking steadily clear in this way, but it ended up being quite a joy-filled activity. And after a time of conscientiously letting God’s love pour into the “vessel” of my consciousness and flush out those thoughts that weren’t loving, I realized I had started to really like my job. Each moment was an opportunity to fill my thoughts to overflowing with all that God is – acknowledging His goodness, tenderness, strength, intelligence.

When God is behind the inspiration that we bring into action, we are often happily surprised. Jesus explained: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). That describes how I felt. Instead of frustrated, I felt full of qualities such as joy and patience – qualities that are actually natural to all of us as God’s children.

Not long after, my supervisor increased my responsibilities and also significantly increased my pay. I’ll never forget how happy I was a few months later when I was able to pay in full for some items I’d been diligently saving for. Above all, the change that took place in my thinking has stayed with me as a powerful reminder of our ability to let divine Love fill our thoughts and inspire whatever we do.

The changes of thought that occur as a result of mentally yielding to God’s love are never simplistic. They’re deep and far-reaching. At any time, no matter what concerns us, we can pray wholeheartedly, as the Bible says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). When we invite God to change our whole perspective – and then act consistently and honestly on the inspiration that divine Love provides – little by little, things change for the better.

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Viewfinder

Seahorse

Mohammed Salem/Reuters
A Palestinian man washes his horse in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea as people swim on a hot day in the Gaza Strip June 18.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( June 20th, 2019 )

Remember the Central Park Five? "When They See Us," which is based on the harrowing case, has been Netflix's most streamed series since it launched. I hope you'll check out our story tomorrow that talks about the real-life impacts the partially fictionalized account has had. 

Monitor Daily Podcast

June 19, 2019
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