When Nationals Visit The White House, Sports And Politics Will Intersect Once Again

Fans gather in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 2, 2019 as the Washington Nationals hold a parade to celebrate their World Series victory over the Houston Astros.

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Thousands of baseball fans sporting red caps and sweatshirts, emblazoned with the Washington Nationals’ curvy W, lined Constitution Avenue in Washington on Saturday to celebrate the team’s historic World Series victory.

On Wednesday, the Nationals defeated the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the series with a 6-2 comeback, clinching the city’s first baseball championship in 95 years.

Next on the team’s schedule — a visit with President Trump.

The Nationals are scheduled to meet Trump on Monday, continuing a time-honored tradition of championship teams traveling to the White House for a meeting with the president. But in a city where partisan politics has long been the dominant sport, Monday’s visit has itself taken a political turn.

On Friday, Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle publicly confirmed that he will skip the event. Doolittle has been vocal about his opposition to many of the administration’s policies.

“There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country,” Doolittle told The Washington Post. “At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it.”

Even before Doolittle’s decision, this year’s World Series had delved into politics. During Game 5 of the series, Nationals fans booed Trump during an appearance at the team’s Nationals Park and taunted him with cheers of “lock him up.” During Game 7 in Houston, more than 16,000 Nationals’ fans gathered for a free viewing party back in Washington and again broke into boos when a Trump campaign ad aired during a commercial break.

While the fan response captured headlines, it was hardly the first instance of baseball intersecting with Washington politics.

The first team visit to the White House was in 1865. That summer, Washington, D.C. held a three-team baseball tournament. The Athletic from Philadelphia beat the Washington Nationals to win the tournament, but both teams were invited to visit the White House to meet President Andrew Johnson. As the story goes, the players from both teams attended and then one by one, shook the president’s hand.

Even then, the meeting had a political motivation. According to The Atlantic’s Yoni Appelbaum, this first meeting was arranged by the president of the National club, Arthur Pue Gorman, a white Southerner and Johnson supporter who in the aftermath of the Civil War wanted to maintain racial segregation. He saw baseball — which was then an all-white sport — and the meeting with Johnson as a way to do this.

It wasn’t until the presidency of Ronald Reagan more than a century later that invitations for championship teams from across the sports world became a regular occurrence. So too did the practice of players snubbing those invitations.

In 1991, for example, after the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA title, Michael Jordan decided to play golf rather than meet with President George H.W. Bush.

Golfer Tom Lehman declined a meeting with President Bill Clinton, referring to him as a “draft-dodging baby killer.”

Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs skipped a visit to the Obama White House, as did Boston Bruins goalie Tea Party supporter Tim Thomas.

But under the Trump administration there has been an uptick in the number of players — and in some cases entire teams — rejecting invitations to visit the White House, citing everything from scheduling conflicts to outright objections to the president’s policies.

The uptick, in part, may be due to a shift in public attitudes. Athletes who were once expected to keep their opinions silent are now cheered by some fans for speaking up and othertimes jeered when they choose not to.

When teams have accepted invitations, the decision by some players not to attend has often overshadowed the actual visit. After their victory in last year’s World Series, the Boston Red Sox visited the White House, but when they did, almost every non-white player and coach on the team was noticeably absent.

In 2017, the White House rescinded an invitation altogether after members of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors said that they were considering skipping the event. Trump tweeted the decision, saying, “invitation is withdrawn!” It was considered the first time a president ever pulled back an invite due to a spat with players.

This past summer during the Women’s World Cup, members of the Women’s National Soccer team, including Megan Rapinoe — said that if they won the tournament, they would decline an invitation to the White House. Trump responded, saying Rapinoe “should never disrespect our Country.” The team ultimately won the World Cup, but did not receive an invitation to the White House.

Since Doolittle announced his decision, he told The Washington Post that he has received a flurry of social media messages from those who disagree with his decision, calling it disrespectful.

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Trump To Kick It At UFC Fight In NYC, Days After Tweeting Residency Change To Florida

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House. He’s expected to spend the weekend in New York and take in a UFC fight.

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Politics is often described as a rough and tumble business. But President Donald Trump is expected to witness an actual blood sport when he takes in a much-hyped mixed martial arts event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

This will be Trump’s second sporting event in the span of a week. On Sunday, he attended Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park in Washington, where he was met with boos and chants of “lock him up.”

Trump’s visit to New York comes just two days after announcing he and his family are switching their permanent residency from New York to Florida, a move that was met with cheers from some of several prominent Democrats in the state. Explaining his decision on Twitter, Trump said he lamented being “treated very badly by the political leaders” in New York.

Trump who was born, raised, built his businesses and launched his political campaign in New York, says he “hated” to have to make the decision to leave, but that “few have been treated worse” by the city and state elected officials.

He’s switching his residence to Palm Beach, Fla., where he owns the Mar-a-Lago resort, a place he’s dubbed the “winter White House.” Trump has resisted calls to release his state or federal taxes, but by switching residences, he’d go from a city that taxes top earners a 3.876% tax rate, and a state with a top rate of about 9% to Florida, which has no state income tax.

Donald Trump Jr., right, poses for a photo with Eric Trump at UFC Fight Night Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in Newark, N.J.

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Frank Franklin II/AP

Before that paperwork is finalized however, he’s expected to spend much of the weekend in the Big Apple, starting with attending the UFC 244 tournament, headlined by Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal. The main event is for a new belt and “title” of BMF, an acronym for “Baddest Motherf*****.”

According to TMZ Sports, the belt cost $50,000 to make and other notables expected to attend include wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Trump’s Connection to Mixed Martial Arts

UFC President Dana White, center, at a press conference ahead of UFC 244 scheduled for Saturday in New York City. The main event is between Jorge Masvidal, left, and Nate Diaz.

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Michael Owens/Zuffa LLC

While a MMA match may strike some as an unusual place for a commander-in-chief to spend a Saturday night, NPR’s Scott Simon pointed out on Saturday’s Weekend Edition that “the president is a fan and used to book MMA events at his casino in Atlantic City.”

Trump’s dealings with Ultimate Fighting Championship and its President Dana White, go back to 2001 when UFC 30: Battle on the Boardwalk was held at Trump’s Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.

Back then, it was a huge score for the UFC to land a venue like Trump’s. The sport had suffered for years, being banned in several states and disparaged as “human cockfighting” by the late Arizona Sen. John McCain.

In a 2018 interview with The Hill, White spoke about MMA’s “stigma” and that “venues didn’t even want us.”

“I will never say anything negative about Donald Trump,” White said at the time. “He was there when other people weren’t.”

White said he and Trump remain close, even though, for a time, Trump partnered with a rival mixed martial arts outfit called Affliction Entertainment in 2008. Affliction soon tapped out, but the UFC has scrapped its way to being a multi-billion-dollar industry, selling for just over $4 billion in 2016.

“Any good thing that happened to me in my career, Donald Trump was the first to pick up the phone and call and say ‘congratulations, I knew you guys were going to do this,'” White told The Hill.

A month prior to UFC’s sale, White spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, something he said he was “blown away and honored” to do.

“Donald championed the UFC before it was popular, before it grew into a successful business,” White said before a crowd gathered in Cleveland.

“I will always be grateful, so grateful to him for standing with us in those early days. So tonight, I stand with Donald Trump.”

Trump is expected to stay overnight at the Trump Tower in New York on Saturday. He is expected to depart on Sunday, and perhaps add to the traffic congestion that’s already anticipated for the New York City Marathon.

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Most California Fires Over 70% Contained As Ventura Firefighters Contend With Drones

An air tanker drops retardant as the Maria Fire approaches Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday.

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Noah Berger/AP

Firefighters continue to combat a fire northwest of Los Angeles, as most fires that ravaged California over the past two weeks are now more than 70% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. But reports of drones in airspace being used by first responders have slowed the response.

The outbreak of the Maria fire Thursday night added a new chapter in the state’s ongoing struggles with destructive wind-whipped blazes, widespread evacuation orders and discontent over power shutoffs by the utility Pacific Gas and Electric. The situation has forced Governor Gavin Newsom to expand the state of emergency in Sonoma and Los Angeles counties to the entire state.

The Maria fire, near the cities of Ventura and Oxnard outside of Los Angeles, is only 20% contained after erupting on top of South Mountain and burning over 9,000 acres. Cal Fire has joined command with the Ventura County Fire Department and the county sheriff’s office to fight the fires. The state has also secured a federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist the agencies, Newsom announced on Friday.

The utility company Southern California Edison said it had re-energized a power line near the area of the reported location of the fire 13 minutes before it started.

Two separate instances of drone flights disrupted water-dropping helicopters from attempting structure protection in the nearby city of Santa Paula, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Mike DesForges said.

“The helicopters had to set down for 30 to 40 minutes each time,” DesForges said. “The drones are difficult to see and they can be pushed by winds very easily. If they strike one of our helicopters, they could cause it to crash, and if not, we would still need to land that helicopter to perform repairs.”

Evacuation orders are still in effect for much of the affected area. Power is shut off to 180 Southern California Edison customers in Ventura County, and seven school districts in the area are closed. The National Weather Service has extended a red flag warning through 6 p.m. on Saturday for the areas in and around the Maria Fire, meaning weather conditions in the valleys and mountains of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties are still ripe for another dangerous fire.

Despite the warning, DesForges said that the efforts to contain the Maria fire were proceeding smoothly.

“We’re getting good progress. We’re definitely taking advantage of that before another weather system hits.”

Justo and Bernadette Laos hug while looking through the charred remains of the home they rented that was destroyed by the Kincade Fire near Geyserville, Calif.

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Charlie Riedel/AP

In Northern California, the Kincade fire, the largest fire of the current active incidents, is now 72% contained after burning through more than 77,000 acres over 10 days. On October 24, PG&E reported that one of its transmission towers may have been the source of the fire. A windstorm that began Tuesday evening fueled the blaze, expanding its perimeter. The fire has destroyed at least 360 structures and injured four first responders west of Sacramento.

“It was a wind-driven episode,” Scott McLean, Cal Fire information officer, said. “We watched the weather very religiously, so we’ll staff up the areas that are predicted to be affected. We brought in extra aircraft, and moved fire equipment from other parts of the state that were not affected by these fires.”

“The weather is definitely cooperating, and it sounds like it’ll be that way for the next week, at least,” McLean said.

McLean said that there had been rumors of drones above the Kincade fire, as well.

“Our aircraft are coming in low, 150 to 200 feet off the ground, and you’re having them fly through mountainous topography, not a simple straight line,” McLean said. “One, you have no time to react, and two, you have no time to avoid it in any way, because what are you going to run into if you do? Whether that be a tree or a hillside, it’s a very dynamic situation.” McLean added that if those flying the drones were caught, his department would pursue all legal actions available against the individuals.

“It’s a safety issue. If they collide with an aircraft, it could go into the windscreen or a motor or a fixed wing. It’s not a game,” McLean said. In 2015, the California legislature made it law that firefighters could not be held liable for destroying drones that impeded with their ability to respond to an emergency.

McLean said that Cal Fire is sticking to its original target of full containment of the Kincade fire by November 7, but added that even after the fires are contained, firefighters will have to contend with the consequences of such a devastating fire.

“We’ll still have resources doing fire suppression repair, and provide for any erosion situations. With the grass and the brush, their roots hold the soil together in those hilly areas, so we’ll have crews for quite some time working in those areas, and others patrolling.”

The other four fires in Southern California listed as active incidents are 95% or more contained, except for the Getty Fire in western Los Angeles, where the Los Angeles Fire Department is reporting 79% containment but has lifted evacuation orders.

Northern and Central California residents still face power shutoffs from PG&E, as the company’s preemptive blackouts have drawn harsh criticism from lawmakers and customers. PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy in January after facing potential liabilities of $30 billion in its role causing the state’s 2018 wildfires, has stalled in negotiations of its bankruptcy case. Newsom threatened a state takeover of the struggling utility company if no progress is made soon, as California residents have contended with preemptive power shutoffs that have threatened lives.

“While this week showed how California is leading the world in wildfire prevention and response, PG&E presented the opposite portrait,” Newsom said in a Medium post yesterday. “Long and widespread blackouts highlighted their culture of ineptitude — a behemoth that was slow to act and resistant to change.”

Alexander Tuerk is an intern at Here & Now.

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‘Un-African’? Photos Challenge Notions Of LGBTQ Identity In The African Diaspora

Tobi, pictured with her daughter Gabrielle, is a nonbinary Yoruba Nigerian who lives in the United Kingdom. She identifies as queer, bisexual and femme. She says she has to change the way she presents herself when she visits Nigeria to avoid conflict with family members she’s not fully out to. But she finds peace in “living in her truth” as much as possible.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

In 2005, when Mikael Chukwuma Owunna was 15 years old, he came out as gay on MySpace.

At the time, many of his Nigerian family members deemed his sexual orientation “un-African.” Owunna is a Nigerian-Swedish engineer, photographer and Fulbright Scholar born and raised in Pittsburgh, where he’s still based today. But when he went home to Nigeria for the holidays as a teenager, a priestess performed several forced exorcisms to “wash the ‘gay devil’ out,” he recounts now in the preface for his new book, Limitless Africans.

Jihan is a French-born, Algerian trans man living in Belgium. He identifies as Two-Spirit because of the strong masculine and feminine energies within himself. He says he hopes Limitless provides younger generations with the representation they need so they don’t feel alone in their identities.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

For years, he says, he felt as if his gay and African identities were at odds with each other. And there were existing laws to enforce that idea. Same-sex conduct is currently illegal in more than 30 African countries and punishable by death in four. Just last week, police in Uganda arrested a group of 16 LGBTQ activists on suspicion of homosexuality. But Owunna points out that these laws aren’t rooted in African traditions — they can actually be traced back to British colonial rule.

That’s why he knew there had to be more to the experiences of LGBTQ people in Africa and the African diaspora besides invisibility or suffering. He began researching different sexual orientations that existed in precolonial Africa, and then set out to document what queerness looks like for African people today.

As a Somali growing up in Canada, Wiilo Greeni recounts the struggle to “reconcile” their queer and Somali identities. Although they grew up afraid of wearing clothes that would reveal their queerness, they now turn to style as a form of self-expression and creativity.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

Starting in 2013, he spent six years traveling across Europe, North America and the Caribbean, photographing LGBTQ African immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. The result, Limitless Africans, is a narrative celebration of how young queer people from myriad African countries define themselves and their cultures.

“Through each portrait, I got a little bit of an answer on how each individual views their LGBTQ and African identities together, and through that I cumulatively found my own answer for myself on how I can be both of these identities at the same time,” Owunna says.

Alicia is a trans Burundian woman who grew up in Senegal and now lives in Montreal. Although she’s no longer in touch with her family, she likes to think her mother, who passed away when she was young, would have embraced her full identity. “I love how my life is an act of defiance toward ignorant people,” she says.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

Across the individual experiences explored in Limitless Africans, similar themes surface. In the text alongside their photographs, many of Owunna’s subjects discuss feeling rejected by their African culture because of their gender or sexual identity. But in Western countries, they recount feeling excluded from mainstream, predominantly white queer spaces.

“Even when I was growing up, I didn’t know any other LGBTQ Africans until I was 18 years old,” Owunna says. “And so there is that kind of recurring isolation which can also lead to depression and anxiety because if you feel anxious about expressing yourself within any context, you can’t live as your full self.”

Juliet is Ugandan from the Acholi ethnic group. She grew up in Sweden and identifies as queer. She says she struggled to feel seen by the white LGBTQ community in Sweden, so she formed an organization called Black Queers Sweden. Her family accepts her sexuality, which Owunna says challenges the assumption that all African families are homophobic or would reject their children for being LGBTQ.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

For many of the people Owunna interviewed, the solution has largely been to create spaces of community with other black queer folks who understand and uplift one another. Many told him they simply hadn’t met or been exposed to other people who fit both identities when they were growing up.

History was also a big factor in a lot of the subjects’ healing. Several people allude to their own research on indigenous African sexualities and the British empire’s role in enforcing heteronormativity in African society. The historical theme and idea that queerness is not new to the continent is present in Owunna’s creative decisions, too.

There are symbols from the ancient Nigerian writing system, Nsibidi, throughout the book, such as one translated to two women sleeping and embracing one another. Owunna also organized the photographs into four chapters in accordance with the four Igbo calendar days, depending on which day they were taken.

Olave is a self-described nonbinary trans femme from Burundi. Growing up in the Netherlands, she says she felt cast out by Dutch society until she stopped trying to fit in. She dove into her African, trans and queer identities instead. “As we develop and root ourselves in ‘African-ness,’ we should imagine it as spacious and inclusive,” she says.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

“Through how the book is formatted, I was trying to help debunk this idea that it’s ‘un-African’ to be LGBTQ by putting LGBTQ Africans within an African cosmological and spiritual framework through the days of the week,” he explains.

Limitless Africans‘ book launch was held at the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco in early October. During the event, Owunna says, a Nigerian audience member stood up in tears to thank him for what they described as his “historic and life-changing” work.

Brian is Rwandan but grew up in Tanzania, Niger, Kenya, Benin and the Central African Republic. He now lives in Montreal. He says he felt for a long time like his queer and African identities were “mutually exclusive” but felt a weight lifted off him when he decided to embrace both. “My Africa is one that is intrinsically hate-free, welcoming, comprehensive and protective,” he says.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

Nesma (left) and Anys are Algerian siblings who came out to each other at a party. They live in Paris, and both identify as queer. “It now makes us stronger and committed together for the queer and Algerian causes,” Anys says.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

Terna is a Nigerian-Liberian American who identifies as black and bisexual. She lives in Boston and says she is still struggling with a lack of acceptance from some members of her family. “I think I learn to live with it differently at different moments in my life,” she says. “I think there are moments where it causes me a great deal of distress and moments where it’s more bearable.”

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

He says the long road it took to create the book allowed him to heal from his own trauma while also acknowledging that the narratives surrounding blackness and queerness don’t have to only focus on negativity. He credits Terna, one of the participants of the project, with helping shift his perspective.

“I realized that the power of the camera and the image was that we can imagine new worlds and realities where all of us, where people from all types of identities, can be free,” he says. “Thinking about what image would have been important for me when I was 15 — and when I was going through all that isolation that I was feeling — I knew that it would be a positive, uplifting image that could give me a space to believe in myself and believe that I deserved to be here, that these identities could co-exist in my body and have a positive outcome long-term.”

Naára is a queer lesbian whose family is from Angola. She was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and grew up in a religious home that didn’t allow her to explore her sexuality until adulthood, when she left the church. “Normative heterosexuality and patriarchy are white concepts, and it wasn’t until Africa was colonized that those two became the norm,” she says.

Mikael Chukwuma Owunna


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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna

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Residents Of An Eroded Alaskan Village Are Pioneering A New One, In Phases

Harry Nevak (left) starts filling his boat in Newtok with his family’s belongings in order to move them over to Mertarvik.

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Marc Lester/ Anchorage Daily News

It’s finally moving day in Newtok, Alaska, the village where erosion has already claimed several homes and the river is banging on more doors. Newtok is sending a third of its residents across the Ninglick River this year, to its replacement village, Mertarvik. Decades of planning have built up to this moment.

“It felt like it was never going to happen,” says resident Lisa Charles.

Charles’ grandparents told her about the plans to move when she was 16. That was in 1994.

“I remember being really excited, thinking it was gonna happen in one year, but every year there would be a delay,” she remembers. “Is it 30 years later, no 25 years later, we’re finally gonna move.”

Moving an entire village is a huge project, but why did it take a quarter of a century to move just some of the residents? Part of the reason is that the federal government has no comprehensive policy — or funding — to relocate communities bearing the brunt of climate change.

The cost of moving Newtok has been estimated at over $100 million. Getting even part of that has meant courting dozens of agencies for a house here, a stretch of road there. And managing the grants and the paperwork has not always been easy.

“We lost by the millions,” says former Tribal Administrator Stanley Tom.

As Newtok has waited, its boardwalk has sunk into the ground. Residents describe it as “spongy” because of the soft mud underneath.

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Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

Tom says millions of dollar in grants were mismanaged and lost in the early days of the relocation process. He blames it on disagreements within the village’s leadership. That led to a power struggle in which the Newtok Village Council eventually wrested control of the relocation effort from the Newtok Traditional Council. During that time of instability, funding stalled for years.

Paul Charles, the current president, says that’s all behind them. “We work together as a community, as one village,” he says.

But before everyone can move over to Mertarvik, there will be a transition period with two separate villages.

“I brought some people yesterday, and it kinda made me wanna move,” says Myron Lincoln. He’s part of the majority who is staying in Newtok this year. About a third of families, those most at risk from Newtok’s erosion and flooding, get to move first. Everyone else must wait.

That means staying in a place that’s long been neglected. Tribal administrator Andrew John says no one wanted to invest in a place that was set to be abandoned.

Newtok has no running water, so people use 5 gallon buckets — called honey buckets — as toilets. Many homes are overcrowded, packed with multiple generations and plagued by mold problems because of flooding.

Lincoln is making the best of the situation. He and his family are moving into his cousin Lisa Charles’ home in Newtok, since Charles is moving over to Mertarvik. He’s not worried about staying in a home that was evacuated due to flooding risk. After all, he says, it’s only temporary.

“Until next year, when we get our own spot at Mertarvik,” he says.

Lisa Charles and her family are among those moving to safer ground across the river.

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Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

Lincoln is not the only one in Newtok who claims he’ll move next year. But Newtok’s relocation director Romy Cadiente says the town actually doesn’t have funding to build more houses, at least not yet.

“We’ll get them over there. Just be patient with us,” he says, “because these things take a while.”

Not all those who are moving this year are sure they’re ready.

“There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to leave home, because I’ve lived here for all my life,” says Michael Fairbanks.

But Fairbanks knows he has to. He’s moving to solid ground to live a safer life. “There’s no other words to describe it but feeling happy and sad at the same time,” he says.

When it gets dark in Newtok, people walk to the south side of the village to look across the river. Homes in Mertarvik light up like stars.

It’s a 25-minute boat ride from Newtok to Mertarvik, and the difference is striking.

Mertarvik’s gravel roads are immaculate. The new homes are a spacious 1,400 square feet. Cadiente, the relocation director, shows off a 4-bedroom complete with stove, refrigerator, wood stove, and thermostat control. By next year, there will be running water and flushing toilets.

“One of the real neat features is this,” Cadiente says as he walks into one of the bedrooms and smiles wide in front of a built-in closet.

Several structures in Newtok are on the very edge of the riverbank. Some homes have already been demolished to avoid them falling into the Ninglick River.

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Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

Albertina Charles’s new home is right on the water. But in Mertarvik that doesn’t mean a threat, just a good view.

Inside, sitting on the bare floor of the living room with her three grandchildren, Charles says she’s happy. But she wishes it didn’t have to come to this.

“If only there was no erosion, no flood, no permafrost melting, we would still be over there,” she says. “But we’ll get used to it.”

Outside, Charles has her own patch of solid tundra on the hillside, unfamiliar ground, but safe. She bends to picks up a leaf, puts it to her nose, and inhales.

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