Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jul 15, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

Ida B. Wells Monument Unveiled in Chicago

Ida B. Wells was an enslaved person who later became a newspaper editor and civil rights activist in Memphis, Tennessee. As a journalist, she travelled the South in a crusade against lynching. Wells published the stories she heard in her newspaper, The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight. She also helped to found several important civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Wells died in 1931, and after her death, received a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for her work in journalism and activism.

photo of Ida B. Wells an African-American woman, who became a leader in the early Civil Rights Movement
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) was an investigative journalist focused on lynching in the American South during the Reconstruction Era. Credit: Alpha Historica/Alamy Stock Photo

Last week, the city of Chicago unveiled a new sculpture dedicated to Wells, called “The Light of Truth Ida B. Wells National Monument.” You can find the 30-foot-tall memorial in Bronzeville, the South Side neighborhood where Wells lived. It stands on the grounds of what was once the Ida B. Wells Homes, a housing project built in the 1930s, which has since been torn down. The sculpture was created by Chicago artist Richard Hunt. Hunt’s sculpture is three bronze columns supporting intertwined bronze spirals. The $300,000 fundraising effort for the sculpture lasted for more than thirteen years. The effort was led by Michelle Duster, Wells’ great-granddaughter. “The Light of Truth” is one of the first monuments for an African American woman in Chicago.

What Do You Think? The name for the sculpture was taken from a quote from Wells: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” What do you think Wells meant by this? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

Spelling Bee Winner Makes History

For the past 96 years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has awarded a prize to the best speller in the nation. This year, for the first time ever, the title was won by an African American student named Zaila Avant-garde. She’s fourteen years old and in the eighth grade in Harvey, Louisiana. To prepare for the event, Avant-garde practiced for two years, studying 13,000 words a day. She is also a three-time Guinness world record holder for dribbling multiple basketballs at once! One record is for the most bounces in one minute with four basketballs. Another is for the most basketball bounces in thirty seconds with four basketballs. The third record she shares is for the most basketballs dribbled at once by one person.

The spelling competition began with 209 spellers, ranging in age from 9 to 15. It was reduced to the top 11 contestants. They competed on July 8, 2021, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney Resort. There were also additional rules this year. Each level had a new “word meaning” round. Second, ties ended in a ninety-second “spell-off” to break the tie. First Lady (and teacher) Jill Biden was a special guest at the event. The winning word was murraya, a type of tropical tree found in Asia and Australia.

What’s the prize for being the nation’s best speller? Avant-garde will receive $50,000 for her win. She says she plans to celebrate by having fun and eating a lot.

Dig Deeper Avant-garde is the second Black student to win the Scripps Spelling Bee. Who was the first, and when?

Taliban Gains Ground in Afghanistan

In April 2021, President Biden announced his plans to begin withdrawing the final U.S. troops from Afghanistan starting in May. The president set a hard deadline for a full withdrawal by September 11, 2021–the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack on the United States. Unfortunately, as U.S. and allied troops withdraw, the Taliban has been gaining ground. Recently, it has taken control over about a third of Afghanistan–at least 150 of the nation’s roughly 400 districts. The capital cities had remained free and under Afghan government control.

Last week, however, Taliban forces entered and briefly captured Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis Province. The population at Qala-e-Naw is about 50,000. The fighters approached the city from three directions. Once there, they entered a prison in the city and freed almost 400 prisoners. This included more than 100 Taliban soldiers. U.S. and allied forces used air strikes and special forces to push the Taliban out and reclaim the city.

The goal of removing U.S. troops in favor of the Afghan military remains. But Afghan troops say that they do not have enough support or ammunition to keep the Taliban at bay alone. As a result, hundreds of the Afghan soldiers have surrendered in recent months. They have turned over their weapons and equipment to the Taliban. There are also reports of Afghan troops fleeing across the border to Tajikistan to avoid fighting. At least three other capital cities–Kunduz, Maimana, and Taliqan–are on the verge of being invaded by the Taliban as well. Nevertheless, Afghanistan’s national security adviser says that the government has a plan to protect the cities and to regain the lost territory.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, should President Biden continue with his plan to remove all U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan by September 2021? Why or why not?

An Update on the Tokyo Olympics

Recently, btw looked at the upcoming Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo beginning July 23, 2021, and running through August 8, 2021. The plan was to hold the Games in person, but with fewer spectators and extra safety measures, including temperature checks and mandatory testing. But now Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, has re-issued a state of emergency for Tokyo. He declared that the Olympic Games will continue but without any spectators. This includes events that take place outside of stadiums, such as the torch relay and the triathlon. The lack of spectators and tourism is devastating for Japan, which has spent about $15.4 billion on the Games. Ticket revenue was expected to return about $815 million of that expense. Now the ticket revenue will be close to $0.

The decision to re-issue the state of emergency (just three weeks after it was lifted) is due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the region. Japan is facing a fifth wave of infections, including the highly contagious Delta variant. While the country’s ambitious vaccination program was briefly successful, imported vaccination supplies  quickly ran out. As of July 8, 2021, less than 15 percent of the country has been fully vaccinated. (About 25 percent of the population have received at least one shot.). If trends continue, it’s estimated that Tokyo could see 1,000 new daily coronavirus cases in July and 2,000 in August. At least three athletes have already tested positive for the virus, as well as several staff members at the Olympic Village.

At this point it is possible that VIP guests (such as members of the International Olympic Committee, corporate sponsors, and foreign dignitaries) may still be permitted to attend certain Olympic events. Events taking place outside of Tokyo also may be allowed to have some spectators.

What Do You Think? Do you agree with the organizers’ decision to host the Tokyo Olympics without spectators? Why or why not?