Color Us Connected

We have created this blog to encourage conversations, conversations based on respect, honesty and a shared desire to progress beyond our nation’s historical and persisting divisions. We invite you to join in this conversation here, and in your own communities.

Guy is from Tuskegee, Ala., and Amy is from South Berwick, Maine, and this column and our friendship grew out of a decision by the people of our hometowns to form Common Ground – the Tuskegee/South Berwick Sister City project. Initially the column was written by Amy and Karin Hopkins, another writer from Tuskegee. Guy began writing with Color Us Connected several months in. We hope you enjoy the blog. …. Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller

Daughters of the Revolution and Civil War touch our communities (Aug. 2021)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

On October 11, 1890, the Daughters of the American Revolution was founded, and membership included any woman 18 years and older — regardless of race, religion or ethnicity — who is a descendant of a Revolutionary War patriot. They do community service, preserve history, educate youth and honor and support those who serve our nation.

A very different organization, the National Association of the Daughters of the Confederacy, was founded on September 10, 1894, by Caroline Meriwether Goodlett and Anna Davenport Raines. Its name was later changed to the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), but its mission was the same: promoting “the Lost Cause,” a rewritten history of the Civil War that glorifies the enslavement of Black bodies. They created Confederate monuments and named buildings and streets after Confederate heroes. They also wrote public school history textbooks, glorified the Ku Klux Klan, and developed archives and museums, all reflecting false history. Their influence ranged from the nursery to the school house to public spaces. They moved the “Lost Cause” from cemeteries to town squares.

UDC still lobbies state legislatures on pro-Confederate issues. On March 9, 2017, Alabama Sen. Gerald H. Allen sponsored SB60, “To create the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017; to prohibit the relocation, removal, alteration, or other disturbance of monuments.” The bill, which protects monuments, streets and buildings honoring the Confederacy, passed 24 to 7.

Confederate Soldier, Tuskegee center

In 1896, the UDC established the Children of the Confederacy to impart similar values to younger generations. They sponsor many UDC scholarships at colleges like Auburn University. At the 1907 UDC General Convention, founder Goodlett said the “grandest monument (they) could build in the South would be an educated motherhood.” In 2010, Mary Potts, president of Auburn’s UDC Admiral Semmes Chapter No. 57, said UDC tries to get into schools, in her words, to set the history record straight, but they aren’t always permitted. “I think the children should know what their history is, even if it’s not politically correct these days.” she said.

The Tuskegee Confederate Memorial was erected in 1906 by Tuskegee Chapter 419 of the UDC on land given by the county government to the UDC as a “park for white people.” It was dedicated on October 6, 1909. The Montgomery Advertiser called the ceremony “one of the largest masses of white people ever before witnessed in Tuskegee.” Confederate flags waved and 13 young women were dressed in crimson and white to represent the Confederate states.

At that same time, Booker T. Washington was celebrating Tuskegee Institute’s 25th year, speaking beside Mark Twain. However, he did attend and speak at a Civil War monument dedication in Boston, on May 31, 1897, honoring the all-Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment. Some of the 54th were in attendance.

He said, “All that this monument stands for will not be realized until every man covered with a Black skin shall, by patience and natural effort, grow to that height in industry, property, intelligence and moral responsibility, where no man in all our land will be tempted to degrade himself by withholding from his Black brother any opportunity which he himself would possess. Until that time comes this monument will stand for effort, not victory complete.”

By Amy Miller

I never knew there was a Daughters of the Confederacy until I heard that they owned the Confederate Soldier statue in the middle of Tuskegee. In fact, I know very little about the Daughters of the American Revolution either. And I certainly did not know there were Jewish members of the DAR until I met one last year.

A colleague of mine said her secular Jewish mother learned that her maternal great-grandmother had been a member of the DAR. She was able to show that her ancestors,– several ancestors, in fact, — were among the Jews who had arrived here during the 17th or 18th centuries, most of them refugees from the Spanish Inquisition.

I did a little research of my own to learn more about this small faction of the organization founded in 1890that has a reputation – deserved or not – for stuffiness at best and racism at worst.

The DAR has a focus on teaching people about history that relates to the American Revolution. It has been historically all-white, but some of these barriers seem to be falling.

The group now says that anyone can join, as long as they have an ancestor who helped the American side during the Revolutionary War. At one point, the head of its Manhattan chapter was African-Americanand she brought in more African Americans.

There are not a ton of Jewish members, perhaps because of the organization’s history of opposing immigration in the 20th Century. But really, there were only about  2,500 Jews living in the American colonies during the Revolution, not all of them pro-Colonists – so the number of descendants of Jews who helped the American fight would predictably be small.

One Jewish woman wrote about attending a DAR meeting that closed with a prayer in the name of Jesus. She wasn’t offended, but realized “non-Christians are not on their radar.”

I have attended a number of meetings outside the DAR where this issue of others not being “on their radar” is obvious and regretful.. From community service club meetings to town memorial events, even as far as a meeting with groups whose entire purpose is tolerance and inclusion, prayers have been given in the name of Jesus. One of the most egregious examples I witnessed was in welcoming soldiers fighting overseas back to America at Pease. I wondered what these soldiers – some Jewish or atheist or Muslim, no doubt, — were fighting for if not the right to religious freedom and tolerance.

Rarely is the exclusion intended. Some people, including my local community service group, recognized the issue and changed its prayers. Because of course we must remember it is the minority that this country was formed to protect.

Heading back to school brings old memories and new quandries (Aug. 2021)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

New clothes and a new book bag are my memories of going back to school. Picking clothes from the Montgomery Ward or Sears catalogs was an annual ritual. The criteria was durability; they simply had to last. However, after the rough play you and your friends conducted when you left the school grounds, the pants got knee patches and sweaters got elbow patches. 

Book bags were another matter. They were made of leather and had a very sturdy handle. It seemed each year that the size and volume of books increased. As the school year progressed, each bag’s handle or side or bottom gave way to the weight of the contents, and a hodgepodge of repairs was enlisted to extend the bag’s functionality. In one grade I received a catalog bag similar to those carried by salesmen. That was the first time a bag survived the full school year. 

School supplies were never a big issue since both my parents were teachers. However, I thoroughly enjoyed visits to the Tuskegee Institute bookstore in Huntingdon Hall. It seemed to have everything! I think that is why — after bookstores and electronics shops — it’s the office supply stores and catalogs that capture my attention, even today. 

This year Macon County’s back-to-school lists include sanitizer, as they have for several years, along with face masks. Face masks go against Alabama’s “No Mask Required” policy, and I am so glad of it because this keeps the health of our children as top priority. Another policy focus is not carrying things from home to school, nor from school to home, so book bags are not on the lists. Additionally, Covid 19 testing and vaccine stations are part of back-to-school events. 

The concept of a summer break, and then going back to school, is based on an agricultural economy. School was made available to children only after the work on the farm was complete. During planting season or harvest season, children were viewed as essential workers for the farm operations. My mother taught English, typing, business law and business math at the Tuskegee Institute High School. She often spoke of how many of the boys would miss school during planting or harvest seasons. That was simply life in our community. 

Booker T. Washington trained teachers in community building skills. They could literally build a school and develop a community with any resources to which they had access. Along with his assistant, Clinton J. Calloway, he also fought to extend the length of the school year by coordinating assistance provided by Julius Rosenwald (JR), John D. Rockefeller and Anna T. Jeanes. JR helped him build over 5,000 educational buildings for colored youth; Rockefeller’s General Education Board hired white male advocates in each southern state’s Education Department to advocate for funding longer school terms; and the Jeanes Fund hired Black women to advocate for longer school terms on the county level and on the farms. This coordinated effort extended southern school years from three months to seven months.

I don’t miss my book bags or the Ward and Sears catalogs, but a visit to Tuskegee University’s bookstore. . .hmm . . . .

By Amy Miller

Back to school has always meant pencils and notebooks, calculators and new outfits. Photos of children on the first day of school have become rites of passage for parents. This year, though, the last thing on our minds is shopping for school supplies.

This year the question is more likely: to mask or not to mask. To homeschool or not to homeschool. Hybrid or remote. These are the kinds of choices facing families as the pandemic drags on with new versions of the virus threatening to fill hospitals again, although this time with those who aren’t vaccinated.

In times of challenge and tragedy, children get us through. They demand we get out of bed in the morning, get dressed, fix food. They force us to go on amid our fears. And if we are feeling strong that day, children successfully compel us to play and laugh, to do our best to indulge in life to the fullest possible.

In 2020, when my son graduated from high school, traditional ceremonies were replaced by drive-by diploma presentations. Overnight celebrations were replaced by fireworks and beach walks. And in our family, the traditional commencement speech at the graduation ceremony was replaced by one-minute speeches offered by friends and family.

One wise man and dear friend offered my son advice that seems to be particularly relevant for all of us now. Don’t focus on what you can’t do, he said, but rather what you can.

Children do that naturally, They accept the boundaries and creatively make the most of life within the limits. No TV and no toys. A stick and a ball is great. Many of us made those adjustments for the  past 18 months. No parties inside; a bonfire is fun. No restaurant dining; takeout will suffice.

When school opens late this summer,  we find our children once again having to live within the limits, limits we thought would be gone by now.

The CDC has said, due to the very infectious Delta variant, “Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.” Its website recommends “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”

This recommendation takes into account that even the vaccinated can pass the virus along, although they are unlikely to get very sick. It takes into account that many people are not – or cannot be – vaccinated. In places where vaccination rates are relatively high, like Maine, many people still remain unvaccinated and vulnerable.

I mourn this news. I rue this reality. But I remind myself that my children, even my almost adult children, will do best when they see me accepting reality and focusing, like my friend said, on what we can do, not what we can’t do.

And by the way, getting vaccinated is one thing we CAN do. For our kids.

To vaccine or not to vaccine: the answer depends on what you read (July 2021)

By Amy Miller

I want you to do something. Go to a news source you don’t usually go to. I don’t care if it’s left, right, liberal, conservative, just go online to a news site you normally wouldn’t dream of visiting. There, you will see what appears to be news from a country this is not your own.

If you, like me, are shocked at what a large portion of Americans are or are not doing – getting or not getting vaccinated, wearing or not wearing masks, eating in restaurants or hiding at home- you might find this extremely educational.

In a quest for insight into how “other” people think, I recently surfed into unfamiliar websites to see what was deemed important. What I found was a profound difference in which topics were considered worthy of coverage.

When it comes to vaccines, I learned something about why some Americans are getting vaccines to protect themselves from Covid, while others are refusing vaccines in order to protect themselves from government intrusion and the possibility of serious side effects. In my region, 98 percent of Kittery Point, 70 percent of South Berwick and 53 percent of Berwick has gotten at least one vaccine. And we all feel vehement about our choices.

So what did I find in the headlines to help me understand this disparity?

On some media sites, the reporting led with stories of how every state has seen a significant rise in both deaths and cases of coronavirus; that the more infectious Delta variant accounts for more than half the Covid cases in the United States; and that 99.5 percent of all deaths now are among the un-vaccinated. They had a daily graph that showed Covid cases have more than doubled in the U.S. in the last week and death numbers were up by 33 percent.

Other news sources had no headlines about vaccination rates or the rise of Covid. The reports were about how Los Angeles County was enforcing a mask mandate again, and Facebook was clamping down on the spread of misinformation about the pandemic. They reported that some Texas Democratic lawmakers who fled the state had tested positive for Covid.

None of the information struck me as lies. It just struck me as a chasm between information priorities.

Those hesitant to get a vaccine and who have a healthy fear of pharmaceuticals also need to know that the threat of the Delta variant has grown quickly and Covid is almost exclusively killing un-vaccinated people. Those who resist big government and mask mandates might nonetheless want to voluntarily do what they can to avoid catching a deadly variant.

Many people feel confident they and their family can get through Covid with their health intact, but still must face the reality that every new case brings a new opportunity for a more deadly virus variant to appear and start the entire ball rolling again.   

How is it that 67 percent of Maine and 41 percent of Alabama believe getting a vaccine is the way to stay safe and get out of this endless cycle of disease, while millions of others remain skeptical that the disease is so bad or the vaccine so safe.

We can raise our arms in despair and wonder about this, but we have no idea what our fellow countrymen and women are reading or hearing. So at the very least, whether you listen to Fox or NPR, MSNBC or NewsMax, go today to and see how different the world looks.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Norma Gaillard was a chemist and educator at Tuskegee Institute. In February of 1955 she led a team of over 20 Tuskegee scientists, who worked within the George Washington Carver Research Foundation, to produce a polio vaccine. They used an entire floor in Armstrong Hall, the campus science building, to create an expansive culture production lab. Control of temperature and humidity was achieved by Tuskegee’s engineering and refrigeration instructors. By July 1955, they had produced 600,000 Salk vaccine cultures from Hela cells. This led to the beginning of the eradication of polio, through vaccinations, beginning in 1956.

When I lived in Indonesia as a child, mosquitoes were a big problem because they carried malaria. I slept under a mosquito net each night, and of course screens were over every window and doorway. In my bedroom was a large jar of malaria tablets. Mine were cut in half, and I took one each morning. That was the reality of living in Indonesia: because of the monsoons, the tropical climate, with water everywhere, the consequences of encounters with mosquitoes had to be averted.

Once back in the States, we had screens, but I remember the spray trucks in the Village of Greenwood. These large trucks issued clouds of fogging spray as they slowly came down the street. I remember seeing the fog penetrating large hedges of bushes on one side, and on the opposite side of the hedges clouds of flying insects emerged, fleeing the vaporized chemicals.

We also had mosquito repellent for yard parties or visits to parks. We were covered with this liquid to keep the mosquitoes away. I learned about the repellent as a Boy Scout, and included it in packing for a hike or camping trip. However, we learned something in scouting that was more important to me than the repellent, the spray trucks or even the screens. We learned that only the female mosquitoes bite you and that they keep their babies in standing water. Therefore, if we eliminated standing water from an area, the mosquitoes also left. As a teenager I became a crusader, eliminating standing water wherever I found it in my community.

The repellent allowed coexistence with mosquitoes, but I wanted the mosquitoes eliminated!

Currently, vaccinations are available for battling the coronavirus pandemic, and yes, we are still in the pandemic! The Moderna vaccine provides 85% protection from contracting the disease, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides 86% protection, and the Pfizer vaccine provides 95% protection. These are great and needed. However, as vaccinated people, we have stopped doing what it takes to get rid of the virus itself.

In 2020 we did not have a flu season because we wore masks, socially distanced and washed our hands. We stopped the spread (no standing water). As we reach “herd immunity” — or as we say here, “community immunity” — we should not just live with the virus, we should eliminate it. Once vaccinated, we cannot relax. We must keep the virus from spreading with masks, distancing and washing. Don’t just live with mosquitoes or viruses! ELIMINATE THEM.

New downtown businesses help define our towns (July 2021)

By Amy Miller

While we were hiding in our houses, new businesses were quietly opening their doors in South Berwick. Despite a pandemic, a lockdown, and a near complete lack of foot traffic, three restaurants, an inn and a tech shop opened up within a few hundred feet of each other on Main Street. And the icing on the cake is that all these new enterprises were started by South Berwick families.

First to open was Odd Fellows Tavern, which actually had its grand opening on March 4, just 10 days before people around the country were directed to stay at home. That first week Odd Fellows was packed with diners and enthusiasm, according to owner Greg Sessler, who opened the restaurant with his wife, Kristen Sessler. Then they had to improvise.

In the fall of 2020, brothers John and Jim Flynn opened the Stage House Inn and the inn’s fine dining restaurant, Dufour. The pub, restaurant and 20-room inn sit in an historic building that in the 1820s hosted General Lafayette and President Monroe.

Then in February 2021, Lee and Brooke Frank opened the long-awaited Lee Franks burger and hot dog joint. The Franks had been leasing the building since March 1, 2020, but put their plans on hold waiting for the perfect time to open. When  they realized such a time was not just around the corner, the forged head, opening “to absolute gangbusters,” according to Lee Frank.

How did these business owners do it? How did they open against all odds?

Odd Fellows was already equipped with a wood-fired pizza oven, and Sessler modified his vision to focus heavily on takeout pizza. His kids did homework in the restaurant, staff was limited to family and one other worker, and Sessler and two buddies stayed up most of a night in July building an outside eating area.

By the time Lee Franks opened, people were heading back into restaurants and a fast-food local spot seemed just what the town wanted. The Franks also had a child at the elementary school across the street who could come hang out at the restaurant while parents were working.

For Matt Gallant, who opened Oasis IT in April, the timing was helpful rather than challenging.

“More and more people were becoming more reliant on technology and more isolated,” Gallant said.

And truth be told, Gallant thought this would be a great project for him and his daughter, Katie, who was home from college for the year.

“I was trying to figure out with my daughter what she wanted to do, and I said, ‘for fun we can open a computer store,’” said Gallant, a former tech guy for the Air Force who was already working out of his home as a tech consultant.

When Gallant put out the word that he might start this business, the community was uniformly supportive. People said they would gladly get tech help locally rather than from a big box store.

Local support, it seems, has been key for South Berwick’s new businesses.

PS – Two medical marijuana shops also opened in town during Covid, but we will save that for another column.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Tuskegee’s all Black Village of Greenwood always had lots of places to eat something tasty. Mrs. Burrough’s ice cream, Allen’s Variety Store hot dogs, Perry’s barbecue, the Quiet Place’s 15-cent hamburgers (but don’t let your parents know you went in there!), and Price’s donuts, with flakes of icing, in a wax paper sleeve from Love’s Barber Shop. Of course the list goes on, but I must mention Wiley’s sit down restaurant with linen tablecloths, Thomas Reed’s Chicken Coop, and Larkin’s. For those who don’t know, it was Larkin’s barbecue that was pretty much the best in the land. No fat, an ideal sauce, and the cooking technique that made you want to chew the bone. Apologies to the family dogs. They got no treat that night; all was consumed.

When I attended the integrated Tuskegee High School in downtown Tuskegee, Joe’s Dairy Bar was the main attraction nearby, with their irresistible foot-long chili dogs, and if you had the funds, a shake and maybe fries to go with it. Tuskegee’s first real sandwich shop — in other words, a place to get a hoagie (submarine) — was Tuskegee Sundries, located on the Square. Don’t forget the pickle! They stayed open late and brought in the customers.

Currently, during the coronavirus pandemic, we lost our major department store, Roses, but new businesses focusing on the food industry have emerged in Tuskegee. Downtown, just off the Square, is City Kitchen, offering a great selection for breakfast and lunch. You can get a hearty Southern breakfast with egg, toast, turkey sausage and of course freshly cooked, buttered grits. Take your time to fully enjoy this treat. For lunch there are a variety of sandwiches, delicious wraps and savory soups.

Back in the Village of Greenwood, just across from the Institute Post Office, is Access Health Bar with tasty salads, refreshing fruit drinks, hot food selections, and an amazing variety of delicious smoothies. This business, which began at the Macon County Farmers Market in downtown Tuskegee, still focuses on fresh, locally grown products, and the flavors testify to that. With July and August ahead of us, a nice smoothie is just the thing to help beat the heat.

Allen’s Variety Store’s old building, across from Access Health Bar, is the place to feed your indulgences at The Craving. If your sweet tooth is calling for attention and your desire for those comfort desserts is getting out of hand, then this is the place for you. The Craving has the slogan “Where Desserts of Your Dreams Become Reality!” and their large menu attests to this. From a 7-up pound cake to a Superman or Purple Rain cake, they can make an occasion special.

They also have blackberry, apple and even peach strawberry cobblers. And of course double chocolate, snickerdoodle, and white chocolate macadamia cookies, to name a few, along with ice cream and pies. But their main attraction are the Luckis cheesecakes imported from Detroit. These include orangesicle, butter pecan and pineapple upside down deluxe. You might have to park your car and walk home to exercise the calories away!

Yes, I do have good memories of Larkin’s and enjoying Mrs. Burrough’s ice cream, but I seem to hear my name being whispered by a certain blackberry cobbler in Allen’s old building.

What is freedom and who has it? (June 2021)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

July 4th is the celebration of a vision that became reality. This vision was formed in an unlikely place, by ex-slaves living within Southern oppression. Jim Crow was ever present and posed a constant burden, giving no hope and no relief.

The real problem with Jim Crow for rural ex-slaves was not drinking white water or shopping in white stores. A limited budget kept their cotton production low as they worked on land they rented for high prices; then had to buy high-priced food from their landlord’s store. Their financial survival was threatened daily by a system that favored large landowners. One Black landowner was arrested for cutting wood located close to his property line. His land was later sold while he served time in jail.

Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington had a different vision. They didn’t see ex-slaves as second class citizens, or as a third-world population. On July 4, 1881, they held the first class of 30 students at Butler Chapel AME Zion church, but they saw more than just the birth of the incredible Tuskegee University.

Their vision was practical. If as slaves we built plantation owners’ homes and even the White House, free of charge, then let’s create our own brick-making industry. If as slaves we worked the cotton fields for free, then let’s create our own technologically advanced food production industry, with dairy, vegetable and fruit products both fresh and canned. If as slaves we carried water and emptied plantation bed pans, then let’s create our own water systems, steam heating, telephone and electric systems. If as slaves we were wet nurses and care givers to plantation owners, then let’s create our own full-service hospitals, Veterans Hospital, mental health services, college-level nurse training program and community health outreach services.

Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington took a former plantation and constructed streets, with curbing, sidewalks and even street lights, to create the Village of Greenwood. By creating Greenwood and 52 other communities in Macon County, they moved ex-slaves from one-room shanties to multi-room and two-story homes with indoor plumbing.

They brought George W. Carver south to teach farmers, who could not afford fertilizer and a second mule, to use instead both waste material compost and swamp sediment to boost the productivity of their soil. They brought Robert R. Taylor to help them build homes, but not with store-bought supplies; instead they used local trees for wood and soil to make brick.

What is independence and how do you see it?

Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington saw the promise of liberty and equality, and began moving from dependence on a system of oppression, run by a power hungry, bigotry-led society, to an independent, self-sustainable community where all people can “come and unify.” They worked on this vision daily, as if liberty and equality were a true promise.

That is independence!

Now, what vision are you working on?

By Amy Miller
I was in Colombia, South America, when I first recognized one of the basic freedoms I have. This is when I got a glimpse of what the alternative might look like.

This isn’t about freedom of speech. Or freedom to practice a religion. It isn’t about courts or trials or justice. It is about feeling safe in my body. It is about the freedom to walk down the street, enter a store or even go home without being afraid of physical harm.

Colombia is a beautiful country, with green rolling mountains, a Caribbean coastline and a history that weaves together indigenous and Spanish influences. But in 1993, violence created by a drug war – largely driven by demand in the United States – had driven out the bulk of tourism and left Colombians on edge.

Young and fearless when it came to travel, I walked casually through the streets of Medellin taking in the old architecture, the children playing in the street and the sounds of a new culture. Suddenly a young man grabbed my bag and another, perhaps an accomplice or maybe a bystander, warned “Don’t yell or he will kill you.”

In a flash I went from cavalier to terror-stricken. I returned to my friend’s apartment and no longer wanted to leave the gated building or to see the modern malls my hosts wanted to show me. When a man called to say he had found the bag, with the passport still there but the cash missing, I didn’t even trust his intentions.

Returning to the United States a few weeks later, I was struck with a deep and unfamiliar brand of gratitude for the place I called home, a place where I could walk the streets, carry a pocketbook, and live my life without fear of bodily harm.

Years later I read “Between the World and Me,” in which Ta Ha-Nesi Coates tells his son that his experience as a Black man is integrally tied in with the destruction of his body.

In one of the most repeated quotes in the 176-page discourse, he wrote, “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage.” Over time, African men and women were forced from their land and then Black Americans were enslaved, raped, lynched, imprisoned and, as we well know, choked.

Coates reminded me that it is my America that feels safe, not his. Medellin in 1993 gave me the perspective to understand the precious value of that freedom, a freedom I could recognize only after I knew what it was like not to have it.

With districts, whoever is in power draws the lines (May 2021)

By Amy Miller

Walking near my office in Boston, I have passed by a plaque dozens of times without noticing it. Then one day I stopped to read the small metal sign attached to a store on a bustling corner of Downtown Crossing.

Here I learned the story behind “gerrymander,” a political term that refers to those in power drawing a congressional or state legislative district to manipulate an election in their favor. According to the historical marker, “During a visit here in 1812 by Governor Elbridge Gerry, an electoral district was oddly redrawn to provide advantage to the party in office.”

As our nation gets set this year to redraw the lines of congressional and state legislative districts based on the results of the 2020 Census, we are hearing more about gerrymandering than in other years. The goal of redistricting is to make sure districts are roughly equal in population, but other goals come into play.

In Maine, as in 32 other states, the state legislature draws the boundaries. This means whoever is in the majority has the ability to draw lines in a way that favors their party, no matter how misshapen or inconvenient the results.

In Maine, an advisory commission can make nonbinding recommendations about the district lines. A two-thirds majority is required to approve new district maps, which are subject to veto by the governor. If the legislature can’t pass a redistricting plan, the responsibility rests with the Maine Supreme Court.

Maine state law says state and congressional districts must be compact and contiguous and “cross political subdivision lines as few times as possible.”

Efforts are underway nationwide to find less partisan ways to draw these maps, including reform of redistricting laws, making redistricting more transparent and electing politicians who will fight for reform.

Federal laws provide limits for how the lines should be drawn and states each have their own guidelines, but when partisan groups do the work, as they now do in most states, the results will be suspect at best and undemocratic at worst.

In Tuskegee in the 1950s, for instance, white politicians redrew the city lines, creating a 28-sided district that kept most Black residents from voting in local elections, thereby keeping power for the minority white population. This abuse of redistricting led to a Supreme Court case and the national Voting Rights Act.

Though talk of a national census can sound bureaucratic, its impact goes way beyond the numbers. The results directly determinesno s the number of seats a state or region gets in the legislature. And the redistricting that follows a census count every 10 years can change the results of elections for years to come.

As the plaque in downtown Boston said, referring to the district redrawn by Gerry, “Shaped by political intent rather than any natural  boundaries, its appearance resembled a salamander.  A frustrated member of the opposition party called it a gerrymander, a term still in use today.”

To give you an idea of the impact of changing district lines, in the election of 1812 the opposition party won about 1,500 more votes than Gerry’s Federalist party, but Gerry’s party won 29 seats in the state legislature, compared to 11 seats won by the opposition. Apparently Federalist President James Madison was pleased with Gerry and named him his vice president in his second run.

If we want our government to represent us fairly, we have to be sure our districts are fair. Which apparently can happen only when the people who draw the districts do so transparently and without partisan interests.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

Before colonization, the Mvskoke Creek Nation, or the Nation, was the largest population of indigenous people in the Southeastern U.S., numbering about 24,000. They lived throughout the area now called Alabama, with no lines of separation. The state’s name came from the Nation’s Alibamo tribe, meaning “thicket clearers,” or clearing brush to plant corn and other crops. They, with Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee and Seminoles, were the “civilized” tribes.

President George Washington’s Continental government used treaties to slowly draw lines and cede the Nation’s land to the United States. When Andrew Jackson defeated the Nation at Horseshoe Bend, what is now Macon County was the final land area ceded, and the state of Alabama acquired its current shape. The Mvskoke Nation was not asked if they approved. Those in power used their power, to take power from the people, by drawing lines.

In 1884, European nations held the Berlin Conference and drew lines dividing Africa into separate countries. Africans woke up one morning and their aunt’s and cousin’s home, next door, was now on land designated as a separate country. French is spoken in Sub-Saharan Africa because France divided its share of the continent as well. By 1914, 90% of Africa had been divided among seven European countries. Africans were not asked if they approved. Those in power used their power, to take power from the people, by drawing lines.

In 1957, Tuskegee city officials redrew the city limits, eliminating all but 12 of the 3,000 eligible Black voters and keeping all 1,000 eligible white voters. This “gerrymander” was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Why? Because the Black people in Tuskegee were not asked if they approved. Those in power used their power, to take power from the people, by drawing lines.

Surely this type of thing is over, and it couldn’t happen today. Right? The answer is NO!

Every time the U.S. Census is taken, district lines based on population are redrawn in each state. There are House and Senate districts for both the U.S. Congress and the State Legislature. But ask yourself, Who draws those district lines, and have they ever consulted you about it? Do they inform you?

The district lines in Alabama are drawn by the State Legislature. Do they ask you or let you know about it? NO! Alabama has no requirement for the public to be involved. Alabama citizens are never asked if they approve. Those in power use their power, to take power from the people, by drawing lines. (Or did I say that already?)

Does redistricting make any difference? Districts are where legislators are elected; how district lines are drawn affect whose voices are is heard. In 1957, when Tuskegee redrew the city limits, it excluded Tuskegee Institute from voting in city elections. On November 3, 1970, when Macon and Bullock Counties were District 82, the Hon. Thomas Reed Sr. and the Hon. Atty. Fred Gray Sr. were the first Blacks elected to the Legislature since Reconstruction. Now the two counties are in separate districts. So what new lines will be drawn while we sleep? It’s Time to Wake Up!

Hold on to the feelings so we don’t return to “normal” (May 2021)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

It’s been over a year of the Covid 19 pandemic, and people are saying, “Enough already! It’s time to return to normal!” Well, I am not sure the SARS2 virus is hearing their message. Also, with the vaccine roll out progressing well in the U.S., we seem to forget the pandemic is raging in other countries, reminding us that none of us is safe until everyone is safe, around the globe. There still are those who just can’t wait to travel, potentially transporting new variants to populations lacking vaccines, or populations needing vaccine boosters (like the U.S.).

But in “returning to normal,” whose normal are we talking about? During the past year, there was a time of no fighting or wars on the planet. The hole in the ozone was closed. 2020 had the lowest number of flu cases recorded in decades. Educators and service agencies began using technology on a level never seen before. The U.S. saw more individuals, organizations, churches, agencies and government entities join forces to address community issues than ever before.

Under the leadership of Tuskegee University, the Macon County Community Partners Task Force was formed, and using the various health departments on campus, addressed public policy, community health, distribution of resources, and robust communications. The Task Force continues virtual Saturday meetings and holds individual committee meetings weekly. This has kept both our county infection rates and death rates low.

We also have been able to provide needy households with an abundance of free food through our Macon County Food Distributors Round Table, organized by Macon Means, a community-based cancer support initiative. The Round Table distributes thousands of pounds of food regularly to families, veterans, seniors, the disabled, and those shut in by health challenges.

The pandemic also saw a global effort rising up against racial discrimination. From Seattle to South Berwick, from Tulsa to Tuskegee, from Africa to Australia, protests took place against racially biased killings by law enforcement. Racially offensive aspects of society were changed. NASCAR removed the Confederate flag; musical artists Lady Antebellum is now “Lady A.”

The Tuskegee Airmen, true “Red Tails,” ended the European Nazi pandemic, and “returned to normal.” White soldiers returned to celebrations and hope for a better life with their families. After risking their lives — and many losing their lives — to save the all-white crews of bomber planes, the Tuskegee Airmen had no victory parades and were relegated to U.S. racially biased treatment. But the Airmen did not use their military training, to organize hooded riders to terrorize and kill the white population discriminating against their humanity. They did protect their community, but they also worked at living the “American Dream,” with homes and businesses.

Let’s not “return to normal.” Instead, let’s create a new normal, where government masks are removed and transparency rules, where law enforcement is vaccinated against racism and bigotry, where we keep our environment clean and protected, and where we isolate from hate and sanitize with love, together supporting each other as we make the world a better place.

By Amy Miller

Return to normal?

Why would I want to do that? Why would I want to return to a world where we didn’t know so many things?

We didn’t know how good it would feel not to commute every day.

We didn’t know how nourishing it could feel to spend uninterrupted time with our family, even accounting for big arguments and slammed doors.

We didn’t know how exhilarating it could feel to socialize outdoors all winter long

We didn’t know how different it might feel not to worry about how messy our house is.

We didn’t know that we would not miss shopping.

But more importantly, we didn’t know that in a few weeks of lockdown we could significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we send into the atmosphere as  2020 saw greenhouse gas emissions reach their lowest levels in at least 30 years.

And we didn’t know — really know — that a police officer could kneel on a man’s neck and kill him while other police officers looked on.

So no, I don’t want to return to normal.

Yes, I want to be back in a world where i don’t have to wear a mask, or fear the people who refuse to. Yes, I really really want to be in a world where heath care workers don’t have to risk their lives every single day they go to work.

And yes, I want to visit my mother and siblings and have a drink with friends at a bar. I want to buy eggs without panicking when someone in line in front of me takes an extra minute to find her wallet. And I want to stay in an inn with my husband to celebrate 25 years of marriage.

Slowly I have begun to do those things, haltingly and with predictable questions about variants, break-through cases, and unvaccinated children. Nonetheless I progress, hugging friends I haven’t hugged in a year and slowly entering the homes of neighbors.

But I hope the world I return to will remember lessons learned.

Some of these lessons — about about simplicity or inequities or humanity being interrelated — have been said so many times that writing them down feels like cheapening them. Instead of repeating the words, perhaps we have to remember the feelings. The feeling behind learning how interconnected we are, for better and for worse. The feeling of watching people risk their lives for others. The feeling of what matters to us most in our hearts and homes.

On the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, we need to remember and continue to feel, to care about, all  the ways some people’s lives are devalued. Even if a teenager is not there to document it in horrifyingly stark terms, we must care about these lives.

We must work hard to hold on to the feelings so that we absolutely do not return to “normal.”

We see our past in a police officer (April 2021)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

In the 1960s my brother, Ernest, and George Ware, the Tuskegee Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) field director, crashed during a police chase while distributing voter registration fliers. Both had broken ribs and glass in their eyes. After another police chase, they rushed to the ever-present car with tinted windows following them and beat on the car. The window was slightly rolled down to reveal FBI suits and sun glasses. They angrily yelled, “Why didn’t you protect us?” The answer: “We only observe and record.” Later, arrested in Nashville, they were unharmed while news cameras flashed, but in a closed elevator minutes later the beating began. My mother said their Afros were to cushion the police blows. 

A 1960s National Commission found police to be a source of U.S. social tension. More Americans entered prison in the 17 years from 1965 to 1982 than the century from 1865 to 1964. U.S. policing had been created as slave (catcher) patrols to support Southern plantations, beginning in the Carolinas (1704). Northern police supported the mercantile trade, factories, and business districts, first in Boston (1838), then New York City (1845). Police maintained “law and order” by controlling and denigrating people who were poor, immigrants, Native Americans and Black people, labeling them “bad people” by nature. “Law” was for the mainly white economic powers, while all the “order” was for these lower classes, without regard for their social or economic conditions. 

Early police were white males, notoriously corrupt, flagrantly brutal, strike breakers and “delegated vigilantes” controlled by local politicians/business owners. By the mid 1800s they carried firearms because such “organizations intervened between the propertied elites and propertyless masses who were regarded as politically dangerous as a class” (Bordua and Reiss 1967). The Texas Rangers were organized in 1823 as a quasi-official vigilante group to suppress Mexican communities and drive the Comanche off their lands. In 1973, law officers fired over half a million rounds of ammunition at Native protesters at Wounded Knee. 

Black lives don’t matter to racist police cultures. Deadly force is the tool of choice for Black bodies: George Floyd (counterfeit money) choked; Daunte Wright (traffic violation) shot; Adam Toledo (complying with police) shot; Ma’Khia Bryant (fighting) shot; and Tuskegee’s Jamarion Robinson (mistaken identity) shot 76 times. Finland police fired a total of six bullets in 2013. In just the first 24 days of 2015, U.S. police killed more people than police in England and Wales did in 24 years. Between 2015 and 2020, U.S. police killed more than 1,000 people each year. 

At a 2017 protest in St. Louis, undercover Detective Luther Hall was beaten by white colleagues while his white partner, Louis Naes, was arrested by Black officers in text book fashion. Hall’s attackers had texted, “It’s still a blast beating people who deserve it.” They put a hole in his lip, ruptured his gall bladder and damaged two discs in his neck, requiring multiple surgeries. In 2006 a Black officer in Buffalo NY, Cariol Horne, was terminated for preventing a white fellow officer from fatally choking a Black suspect, Neal Mack. Her case was recently overturned, restoring her pension and benefits. 

For solutions, Police Commissions are ineffective because they simply report, recommend and dissolve. Effective change comes when officers lose pensions and face criminal punishment for inappropriate use of deadly force. Let’s “Hold Police Accountable!” Teach them mental health and social work skills. America must decide between slave patrols or true public servants.

By Amy Miller

My first memory of being stopped by police was in college. We were pulled over and my friend promptly ate a joint to hide the evidence. We simply had a tail light out.

Since then I have been stopped, oh, perhaps a dozen, or more realistically two dozen times. Who can count. I speed, I make illegal u-turns, and I roll through stop signs. I often forget to register my car. I even forgot to register my car when my daughter was due for her driver’s test. And then again before my son’s test. Suffice to say my children were not happy with me, although to be fair my husband could have registered it as well.

When I see the lights of a police car flashing behind me, or even when I just pass a cop car on the road, my heart beats a little faster. It is not because I am worried I will be treated in a violent manner. That never even crosses my mind.

As a 20-something I was stopped and threatened with jail time in Exeter, NH, because I hadn’t paid a speeding ticket and didn’t have cash for bail. After telling me to “act like a lady” or he would handcuff me, the police officer learned I was a reporter and accepted a check for bail. Another time I was stopped for driving over the middle line in the college town of Durham, NH, and the officer again told me- after I no doubt lacked appropriate verbal deference – to “act like a lady.” I told him to go right right ahead and arrest me. Granted, I was young. I am older now and neither as cute nor as feisty, but my fear of police is simply around tickets and insurance fees, sometimes around being late for an appointment.

When Guy and I agreed to write about police officers in the wake of the Chauvin verdict, I imagined he would have horror stories of his own.

So I asked him and learned that no, in fact, Guy has only a few tales of mistreatment to tell. In fact, Guy has had far fewer run-ins with police than I have. He said he grew up in Greenwood, the town created around Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, and basically there were no police officers – just the security force hired privately by the school.

He told of two encounters, both while in college. First was when he was at Tuskegee and with a group of kids hanging out, reading under the lights in the center of town, what was called the White Park. The police kept circling the park and watching them. Guy said this was the first time he recalls being aware of police around him.

A year later, as a college student in Ohio, he took an internship in North Carolina that had him driving country roads. After grabbing onion rings at a local eatery, he noticed a man standing by a pickup staring at him. Guy was followed home by the deputy sheriff as well as the sheriff who had been with the pickup truck. After questioning Guy and trying to decipher why he had ID from three different states, they let him go. Turns out they were looking for a drug dealer expected in the area.

When I think about my confident hubris responding to police, often to authority in general, I cringe. Not because of my behavior per se but because I imagine what the consequences would be if someone with darker skin responded as I often have.


Amy and Guy can be reached at

In democracy, we all have a right to vote (April 2021)

By Guy Trammell Jr.

While in grade school, I remember sneaking quiet bites of sugary cereal in the back seat while returning at night from Roses in Auburn’s Midway Plaza, about 30 minutes from home. My parents, along with the Black families of the Village of Greenwood and Tuskegee, had decided to shop only in Greenwood and other nearby towns instead of at the white-owned businesses in Tuskegee after Mayor Philip Lightfoot’s gerrymander; it redrew the town’s boundaries to exclude all but a handful of the 5,000 Black voters, while including all of the 1,000 white voters.

Organizing with Dr. Charles G. Gomillion and the Tuskegee Civic Association, they decided that if Black votes weren’t wanted, then Black dollars weren’t wanted either. The famous Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Rosa Parks lasted about a year. The Tuskegee boycott lasted more than four years. After the U.S. Supreme Court in 1960 ruled the Tuskegee gerrymander invalid, voters across the state of Alabama decided our Macon County should be abolished rather than allowing Tuskegee Blacks to vote unobstructed. We remain the only Alabama county set for abolition.

In the 2020 national election, the country saw the largest voter participation in history. There were many charges of voter fraud but the judicial system found no basis for them. Given these facts, it is difficult to find the logic for action by state legislators across the country who have, as of March 24, 2021, introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions for voters in 47 states, including Alabama.

Voter suppression is not at all new to Alabama, and right now, in the midst of a global health pandemic, our State Legislature, instead of prioritizing the devastation of health, safety, education and the economy, has introduced a bevy of bills to further suppress Alabama voters. The following are examples now pending approval. Senate Bill 235 and House Bill 285 both prohibit curbside voting, a direct obstacle for voters with disabilities and the many seniors who have limited mobility. Voting from a vehicle is less taxing on those voters as well as on the election official having to assist them from the vehicle into the polling place. Curbside voting also could help in rural districts that have not met the disabled accessibility standards for public facilities, and it would eliminate the hazard to voters with health conditions who need to avoid large crowds.

House Bill 351 prohibits the governor from changing election procedures due to a state of emergency. The logic against this bill is in full display during the current global pandemic. Logic tells us that in an emergency, procedures must change to accommodate that emergency. House Bill 399 is similar to House Bill 351; it prohibits the secretary of state, in a state of emergency, from waiving absentee ballot requirements. This includes the requirement of providing a copy of your photo ID and having your ballot witnessed or notarized. Finding a copy machine or a notary in a rural area during a pandemic can be problematic for most people.

The one question I have regarding all these bills and others not listed here: Where is the data to support them? I see no applicable logic for them, unless the purpose is to reduce voter turnout.

By Amy Miller

I stayed home during the pandemic. My job became 100 percent remote and I didn’t lose any income. As a result, I was better able to avoid exposing myself to Covid.

So what does this have to do with voting? A lot.

When it came time to vote in November, I chose to go in person. I did not have to ask permission from my boss, take a vacation day or file for an absentee ballot. Because I live in a small town, the lines were short and the whole process took less than 10 minutes. Because I live in a state with some of the nation’s most flexible voting laws, many people were able to vote ahead, which helped with both lines and turnout.

My story is very different from many other Americans, though. In some states it is harder to vote ahead, to find a drop box, or to get an absentee ballot. In many places, people wait on line for hours to vote and have to take off time from work to do so.

More than a year ago, a few of us from both Tuskegee and South Berwick decided to interview people in each of our towns about whether they had ever faced an obstacle to voting. We guessed that Black folks in Tuskegee would have some different stories than white folks in South Berwick.

We never predicted, though, how powerfully different these stories would be, especially when we talked to the older citizens who had the longer view. From Tuskegee, we heard about poll taxes and being asked to count jelly beans in a jar. We heard about people being turned away from the polls for no reason and being threatened when they tried to register other voters. Compiled in a book called Together We Vote, these interviews told a shameful story of the ways Black citizens of the United States have in the past been discouraged, sometimes prevented, from voting.

Today, more than 350 pieces of legislation introduced in 47 states would restrict citizen access to voting, according to the Washington Post. Among the most insidious of the changes being considered are bills that would take power from local election officials to conduct their own elections. Georgia’s controversial new law gives the State Election Board the authority to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials. This means a white state government can take power away from a majority Black county. This centralization of election powers means that whatever party is in charge at the state level can control the local level as well.

When we started the Together We Vote project, I imagined we were creating a kind of oral history book, a book that looked back at how hard many Americans have had to fight to get equal access to the democratic process.

Now, as one state after another attempts to pass laws that make it more complicated to vote, I see that this is a fight that continues today.

Guy and Amy can be reached at

Vaccines are critical, but arrive amidst confusion (March 2021)

This column, which typically appears every other week in Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Tuskegee News newspapers, did not run in Fosters because of editors’ concerns over confusion around vaccines and the risk of confusing people further with differing ideas. We respect that decision. Below you can see how even the two of us do not interpret the information and facts available in the same way. We urge you to consider our columns and do your own research. Neither of us is a scientist or public heath specialist. The one thing we agree on is that getting a vaccine is the moral and healthy thing to do.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

I am not a pro-vaccine crusader, trying to recruit everyone to get the Covid-19 vaccine. However, I am also not an anti-vaxxer. I don’t have “vaccine hesitancy.” I am one who looks at and believes in the science, not proponents of politics or those who utilize opinion over facts and data.

I have a history of getting vaccines from the age of 4, so vaccine trust is not an issue for me. I also know vaccine history. I know of the good (1956 Salk/Tuskegee polio vaccine), the bad (1976 swine flu vaccine) and the ugly (April 1955 Cutter Labs polio vaccine disaster). We must learn from science whether we succeed or fail; a lesson learned can only propel us further in our quest for good health and community well-being.

A vaccine is made from very small amounts of weak or dead germs that can cause diseases – for example, viruses, bacteria or toxins. It prepares your body to fight the disease faster and more effectively so you won’t get sick. The term “vaccine” is from the Latin vaccinus, from vacca “cow,” because the first vaccine was for smallpox, using cowpox virus.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines don’t fit this definition because instead of being dead germs they operate by modifying cellular coding. They stimulate the outer portion of our cells (RNA) to produce the immune response. Because this is something brand new, every recipient’s reaction to the vaccine is monitored afterward.

The current pandemic is about the SARS Covid 2 (severe acute respirator syndrome coronavirus 2) virus. SARS has been with us for a very long time. One of its versions causes the common cold, and as with the common cold, we must fight it with a variety of means. If we do only one thing to fight it, such as just taking the vaccine, we will both fail and risk infecting others around us.

Let’s get this straight: A vaccine: a) is not guaranteed to prevent you from getting the virus; b) will not keep you from spreading the virus to others; and c) will not keep you from becoming reinfected by virus mutations. If you do become infected, a vaccine will almost certainly keep you from going to the ICU and dying from the specific virus for which the vaccine was manufactured. Once a virus variant enters the picture, the vaccine can be less effective or not effective at all.

Like taking vitamin C to combat a common cold, vitamin D (including sunlight), zinc (meats, nuts, shellfish) and rest can be effective in fighting and preventing infection of SARS 2, according to studies of NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) conducted in Spain and England.

And for those anti-vaxxers who don’t trust science and see SARS 2 as some conspiracy that can be ignored, or as just something that restricts their freedom to do what they want and go where they choose, I say this: People are dying around the globe. It’s not worth refusing to take this seriously until you or your loved one is gasping for their last breath.

Again, whether you take the vaccine or not, we still must wear our masks (maybe double masks in stores), socially distance, stay safe/work safer at home, and wash our hands (and masks) so we can stop this virus. The “new normal” is all of us being better informed and behaving smarter.

By Amy Miller

Getting vaccinated is a gift we give ourselves and each other. But it is also incredibly and unexpectedly confusing.

I got my first vaccine this month and will get my second before April. As of this writing, more than half of us over 60 in Maine have gotten shot #1. In fact about 27 percent of Maine adults had gotten their first vaccine and 14 percent both vaccines. (The national numbers are 22 percent and 12 percent)

Though I would never pass on the chance – the obligation – to get vaccinated, I have found the process personally, morally and scientifically confusing.

Let’s start with the personal.

Personally, I am not completely prepared to leave this prison, its boundaries limiting who I could see, where I could go, and what I could do. I woke, I exercised, I worked. Sometimes I had simple fireside gatherings. Yes, I am eager and relieved but also surprisingly anxious about a future that allows for a more complicated life. It’s time to see my mother after a year with only a one-night visit. It’s time to think about travel, to consider dinners in restaurants, to invite friends over. Eventually it will be time for parties and commuting to work.

Getting vaccinated was also morally confusing. I am in good health, I have a job that is easily remote and I have family, friends and and forests nearby. Other people face greater challenges. I know that we all need to get inoculated as soon as our number is called, but I feel a survivor’s guilt. More people will die waiting for a vaccine while I am nearly certain I could have carried on a few more months. And around the world, people in other less powerful countries have a fraction of the access to vaccine we have.

And finally, the rules and results of the vaccine have been scientifically confounding. The experts tell us to keep wearing masks and to stay distant in public — whether or not we have been vaccinated. Little by little they are hinting at what I have suspected: At least for the time being, the inoculated are unlikely to pass on the infection. That’s why the CDC announced last week that vaccinated grandparents may host their unvaccinated children and grandchildren, in the house, even without masks. But even Guy and I are reading different studies and interpreting guidance differently, it seems.

Herd immunity depends on breaking the chain of transmission. If enough of us (somewhere over 70 percent) are vaccinated, the fraction of the population that cannot – as opposed to will not – get vaccinated is fairly protected. When enough of us are vaccinated, the infection is stopped in its tracks: it cannot find a willing host to carry it to the next person and the next until it reaches the person who cannot be vaccinated.

Experts haven’t figured out how long the vaccine’s protection will last. And no one can say what variants of COVID-19 will rear their ugly heads or how they will behave. But the one thing we do know is that the more of us who are vaccinated, the better off we all are. And the faster this happens, the better the odds are that we can find our way back to the complicated, but welcome world outside COVID’s walls.