October 12th, 2012
06:30 PM ET

As Election Day nears, voter ID laws still worry some, encourage others

Editor's Note: CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns will debut a one-hour documentary, Voters in America: Who Counts, which focuses on new voting laws and how they may affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, airing on CNN/U.S. on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. ET and PT.

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

Washington (CNN) - For LaVon Bracy, the pain of racial discrimination, of fighting for her rights as a U.S. citizen, still aches every time she thinks about Florida's new voter identification law.

"When I think I had ancestors that died for this right. I owe it to them ... to do what I'm doing," said Bracy, who years ago helped desegregate her Florida high school and today is fighting to change voting restrictions she feels are designed to keep people like her away from the polls.

Parts of the Florida law - which required a photo ID to vote, restricted voter registration techniques and limited early voting - have been curtailed by federal courts.

Still, it is one of more than two dozen laws across the country approved in at least 15 states since 2011 to deal with concerns around voter fraud and election irregularities. But courts and the Justice Department have reversed or weakened several of those regulations in a flurry of recent litigation.

Anita MonCrief, however, could not disagree more strongly with Bracy.

MonCrief, who is also African American, told women gathered at the Woman's Up Pavilion at the Republican National Convention in August that she resents when other blacks suggest that efforts to crack down on voter fraud are racially motivated.

"This is not the 60's and blacks are not your victims," MonCrief tweeted during the week of the convention. "Do you know any blacks that have been disenfranchised by having poll watchers in place? Neither do I."

CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns will explore the impact of tough new voter laws in an hour-long documentary set to air on Sunday. It focuses on new legislative voting changes in Florida and how those changes may affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Ethnicity • Race • Where we live
October 12th, 2012
04:03 PM ET

A cafe on a mission of empowerment

By Sarah LeTrent, CNN

(CNN) - Drake takes drink orders, greets regular customers with a warm handshake and sets the tables for the next wave of the lunch crowd. It’s a stark change from the sheepish man who patrons first encountered when Harvest Café opened its doors in the beginning of 2011.

“My goodness, it’s like night and day. You’d see the change in him week by week,” says Jean Ringhoff, a regular at the café who works at a nearby bank. “At first, he barely made eye contact.”

Drake, like the restaurant itself, now commands a second look.

The pale yellow house with the white wrap-around porches serves not only as a fully-operating restaurant, but also as a day habilitation program for people with developmental disabilities.

Harvest Café is owned and operated by A Very Special Place (AVSP), a not-for-profit corporation for people with varying degrees of developmental disabilities on Staten Island, New York.

Day-to-day operations in the café – whose slogan is “great food with a mission” – are carried out by both paid, trained restaurant workers and AVSP trainees (or “consumers” as AVSP calls the people in their programs) with disabilities. On-site, the latter receives occupational training to prepare them for entry into the workplace, and ultimately, a more independent and fulfilling life.

Read the full post on CNN's Eatocracy blog
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Filed under: Disabilities • How we live • Who we are
Alice Walker talks race, women and power
Author Alice Walker reflects on solutions to the world's problems in a new poem called "Democratic Womanism."
October 12th, 2012
02:10 PM ET

Alice Walker talks race, women and power

By Moni Basu, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - In this 30th anniversary year of "The Color Purple," and as a presidential election fast approaches, activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker ruminates on changing American identity, the choices in national leadership and her own legacy.

CNN spoke last week with Walker in Atlanta, where she was reading 30 years of her journals that are a part of a collection of papers she donated to Emory University. "I wonder why I ever wrote all that. I was thinking it would make a nice fire," she said.

She's written an election-year poem, "Democratic Womanism," dedicated to Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, who, as Walker says, remembered the beautiful bountifulness of her land before colonization and resolved to bring it back by planting trees.

I want something else;

a different system


One not seen

on this earth

for thousands of years. If ever.

Democratic Womanism.

Notice how this word has "man" right in the middle of it?

That’s one reason I like it. He is right there, front and center. But he is surrounded.

I want to vote and work for a way of life

that honors the feminine;

a way that acknowledges

the theft of the wisdom

female and dark Mother leadership

might have provided our spaceship

all along.

CNN: Is "Democratic Womanism" an answer to our national problems?

Alice Walker: That’s a very good possibility. But I think what I am really more interested in is that I want people to be thinking in other ways - to stop thinking they have to remain glued to a system that has failed and to ideas about society that’s necessarily about being run by Democrats or Republicans.

I think that indigenous women’s wisdom is crucial. So much of the care of the Earth ... has come from the mothers. I think it’s imperative we turn to their wisdom in how to take care of the planet.

I would like leadership and a collective leadership. It’s not about electing a president or maybe a council but definitely something that is informed by the wisdom of the indigenous and women of color who have had some compassion for the Earth and some compassion for the children of the Earth. So they would be less likely to engage in wars in which they end up killing each other's children. FULL POST

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Filed under: Black in America • Who we are • Women
Disabled voters face Election Day challenges
Disability rights advocates say more polling stations must be made accessible, as this polling station in Revere, Mass., was in 2006.
October 12th, 2012
09:21 AM ET

Disabled voters face Election Day challenges

By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - On Nov. 6, there's a very real possibility that many Americans with disabilities will not be able to vote because their local polling places will be inaccessible.

Advocates for the disabled are worried that local governments aren't doing enough to prepare - as are some of the small businesses that outfit polling sites with ramps.

"We've gotten quite a few inquiries from major municipalities, but they're not following through to actual sales," said Dave Henderson, sales manager at EZ-Access in Algona, Wash.

The family-owned business makes portable wheelchair ramps. Prices range from $500 for a four-foot ramp with handrails to as much as $4,000 for a 30-foot modular model.

In 2008, as many as 1,000 polling centers were retrofitted with the company's ramps, Henderson said. "For us, the election can be a big revenue generator."

This year, Henderson says he has gotten about 600 to 800 orders, and he's uncertain how the next few weeks will go.