John McCaslin

How ironic, Janet Langhart Cohen observed yesterday, that it is a black person, Barack Obama, who has been called up to the podium to answer to the deep racial divides that have existed in the United States for centuries.

"Think of the irony of that. Only in America," said the playwright, author, former TV journalist and wife of former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Mrs. Cohen will expand on the race issue as it pertains to the presidential election in Monday's column, but we wanted to first report that she adds yet another title to her name, "Queen Esther, Hadassah," when she marches today in the Purim parade through Washington.

Born with Jewish roots, like her husband, Mrs. Cohen is using the honor of being selected Queen Esther to draw attention to the racism and anti-Semitism that remain so prevalent throughout the world and in this country in particular.

She notes that Queen Esther successfully appealed for Jewish people to be spared from massacre on the 13th day of Adar. Jews celebrated on the 14th day, and the walled city of Jericho rejoiced on the 15th day when the news arrived there. Thus, the three-day observance.

Similarly, Mrs. Cohen pointed out, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution abolished slavery, granted citizenship to former slaves and gave black men the right to vote.

All of which segues to her latest project, a one-act play titled "Anne and Emmett" that draws historical parallels between the lives of Anne Frank and Emmett Till, teen victims of anti-Semitism and racism. The play has its first U.S. reading at Emerson College in Boston on April 10, during Holocaust Remembrance Month and shortly after the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

"It's an amazing play, it really came through me," Mrs. Cohen told Inside the Beltway. "With all the recent cases of anti-Semitism, Mel Gibson's derogatory comments, the whole issue of race in America and what is now coming out in the [presidential] campaign, Anne and Emmett couldn't be more timely."

Boxers for Barack

Supporters of Barack Obama are coming up with some unique party themes when hosting fundraising events for the Democratic presidential candidate, such as playing "Barack Jeopardy," "Running With Obama," "Wine Tasting With Obama," even "Praying for Obama."

Michael Romelotti, a member of the Washington-area boxing community, now is planning a "Boxing for Barack" exhibition — in Clinton, Md., no less — featuring several amateur and professional bouts.

"Washington, D.C., is a hotbed of boxing talent," he notes. "Several professional boxers are current title holders or ranked in the top 10."

Worth noting

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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