Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No Roland Martin, We Should NOT Send The National Guard To Chicago

If you have not yet read Roland Martin's article on sending the National Guard to Chicago, please do so first before you dive into this post.

So this was my initial response to Roland Martin's article:

I wanted to stop there, but then I figured that we really need to look at why sending, or even suggesting, the National Guard should be sent to Chicago is a BAD idea.

Militarizing Chicago & The History of Military & Increased Police Presence in Black Communities

Suggesting military intervention in Chicago is the last thing that city needs. We all know that if the National Guard goes to Chicago, they're going to the South Side, and we know the racial makeup of that part of the community so it is easy for us to deduce who would be most impacted by this military presence.

Chicago is plagued with poverty, violence, discrimination, abuse and a fear and mistrust of law enforcement already; amplifying a military presence there is not a responsible way to assure public safety after years of oppression. Having the National Guard in Chicago will surely lead to the criminalization of black and brown bodies, displacement of black residents and ultimately gentrification. Militarizing Chicago and increasing the police presence is only treating a symptom of a much larger issue, which is another reason why this will not work. There are larger, deep-seated issues that contribute to violence in Chicago that no military presence can solve. Education, poverty, employment and social services are all contributing factors that must be addressed to even begin to solve or "fix" Chicago's issue of violence.

Militarization & heightened police presence in black communities have ALWAYS had devastating impacts. Remember the MOVE bombing and the destruction of Black Wall Street? 

In 1967, Detroit erupted in a riot that lasted four days. Governor George Romney ordered in the Detroit National Guard and President Johnson sent in army troops. The result: 43 people died, 1,189 were injured and it left devastating and lasting effects on Detroit til this day. 


Sensationalism & Statistics

The media has sensationalized Chicago and it has us believing things about the city that just aren't true (See misleading FBI crime statistics report from 2012). For starters, Chicago is NOT the murder captial of the U.S. Flint, Michigan actually has the highest homicide rate according to FBI statistics, but no one is talking about that. See, statistics, when not put into proper perspective, have a way of skewing the way we interpret the data. When you hear about the number of lives lost in Chicago in a year, it is not equivalent to the homicide rate. You must consider the overall population of Chicago in order to see how their homicides compare with other cities. So if we put these stats into proper perspective (typically by looking at Chicago's homicide rater per 100,000 people), we will find that there are other cities that are worse off than Chicago, but because there are a high number of shootings at once (like the 84 people shot during the 4th of July weekend), the media sensationalizes it and we start calling for military intervention.

We have to get out of the mindset of trying to solve all of the worlds problems with military intervention. As Albert Einstein so aptly stated, "We cannot solve a problem with the same mind (read: thinking) that created it".

Show me a black community, or any community, that fared well under military control and then (Maybe. And by maybe, I mean never) we can talk about sending troops to Chicago. Until then, NO.

*I am not a Chicago resident, never have been. 
Therefore, I do not speak as an expert on Chicago or claim to know exactly how to solve the city's issue of violence. But history has shown me what has NOT worked in the past, so we know there is no need to repeat it. I encourage anyone truly concerned for Chicago and its residents to link up with the people and activists in that community and ask them specifically what solutions to implement and how we can work directly with them to end violence there.*

Twitter: @SoulRevision

Monday, May 19, 2014

America's Children Are Starving

Amanda and her son, Dominic
Last week, Amanda Keown received a call from her son, Dominic Gant, at school saying he couldn't receive lunch because of an "outstanding balance" ($4.95) owed on his lunch account. Dominic offered to pay down his balance with the $2 he had, which would have brought his balance to $2.95, but that was not enough for the school. Not only was Dominic denied lunch, the school publicly posted his name, and the names of other students with outstanding balances, in the cafeteria for all to see. Amanda left work, went up to the school and paid off her sons balance, as well as the rest of the students with "outstanding balances". 
Amanda's receipt for paying off student's balances
While this is most certainly a commendable deed, there's a much larger issue here, and I'd like to use this as a teachable moment on the issues of food justice, food insecurity and food waste. We need to realize how REAL food insecurity is in America.

Food insecurity - 1 in 5 american children suffer from hunger
Food insecure households are defined as, 'households where the members are unable to consistently access the adequate amount of nutritious food necessary for a healthy life'. In 2012, 49 million people in the U.S. lived in households struggling to find enough food to eat, nearly 16 million in those households were children. In Los Angeles alone, there are 643,640 children living in food insecure households. Children are less likely to have access to sufficient food than adults are because they don't have the same access to money as we do, this makes school lunches so important, because they are a primary source of food for MANY children in America. So when children go to school expecting to eat and are denied lunch, that could mean going without food for an entire day. No child should go without food at school, EVER. 

Food waste
Not only did they not allow Dominic to eat, they THREW HIS FOOD AWAY. This is not the 1st time that a school has denied a child lunch and/or thrown the lunch away. In April, a middle school in Massachusetts refused to feed & threw away the lunches of 25 students who missed payments. A survey of Minnesota public schools in February found that 94% of districts in 2013 deprived kids of food in some way for not having enough money.

Food Justice and America's unrealistic educational expectations
We can't expect our nations kids to perform well in schools when they're being denied the only source of nutrition they receive throughout the day. Hunger has REAL implications. Consider how difficult it is for us, as adults, to concentrate when we're hungry, now imagine how that feeling is magnified for a child that's hungry in school. How can our kids be great when our school systems say a measly $4.95 "outstanding" food balance means more to them than the sound of hunger echoing in their students bellies. Don't get me wrong, the school lunches are not the greatest (that is a topic for another day), but when it's your ONLY source of food or nutrition, it's a necessity!

Food justice matters, it is a smaller part of the larger social justice movement.

(Check out Feeding America's Child Food Insecurity Report from 2012)

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Friday, May 09, 2014

How Bill Gates Profits Off Of Israeli Apartheid

On Tuesday, Israel celebrated its Independence Day, and in good fashion, twitter celebrated it by calling out Israel’s practices of injustice against Palestine with an #IsraeliIndependenceEquals hashtag started by Rania Khalek, Steve Salaita, Reem, Jenien Barakat, Brady, Dina and Julie. It was during this hashtag that a friend of mine, Cherrell Brown, exposed me to an ugly truth; Bill Gates invests in, and profits off of the Israeli occupation!

What is Bill Gates’ connection to Israel’s occupation?
With a net worth of $72 billion, Bill Gates stands as the richest man, both in America and the world. Alongside his wife, Melinda Gates, Bill Gates started their charity, the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation is the largest private foundation in the world. Recently, Bill Gates used his foundation to purchase $172 million worth of shares in G4S, effectively making it one of the company’s biggest shareholders.

After looking into this information, I was in disbelief that Bill Gates, a man who has built a charity dedicated to improving the world, with a particular emphasis on improving the lives of those that are marginalized, would be complicit in the Israeli occupation. But further research proved exactly what I had been told.

Who or what is G4S?
G4S (Group 4 Securicor) is the world’s largest private military and securitycompany with operations that span 125 countries. This private security company has a contract with the Israeli Prison Service where it provides and maintains security systems at five prisons, and detention centers, and also assists Israeli police, Israeli military checkpoints, the Ministry of Defense, the Israeli army, and the settlement businesses.
Mass incarceration & Israel’s violation of international law
It is estimated that 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested and imprisoned from 1967 til now. To date, there are more than 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, along with new reports of 183 Palestinian children, currently held in Israeli prisons and being subjected to widespread torture, abuse, solitary confinement and coercion. The Defence for Children International Palestine reports that during 2013, there were more than one in five cases in which children were coerced into signing statements containing admission of guilt, in Hebrew, a language they do not understand. Palestinian children are also reportedly held in solitary confinement for weeks. In March alone, 202 Palestinian children were imprisoned and prosecuted, 24 of which were between the ages of 12 – 15 years old.

Addameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights organization, has reported that 72 Palestinians have died as a result of torture and 53 have died due to medical neglect inside Israeli prisons since 1967. Just last year, a 30 year old Palestinian man, Arafat Jaradat, died in an Israeli prison after being tortured. These horrific acts are happening in most of the prisons operated by G4S, and as long as Israel continues its mass incarceration of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, G4S, and its shareholders (to include Bill Gates and his foundation), profit.

If breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by its treatment of Palestinian child prisoners wasn’t enough, Israel also violates Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention as it is clear in stating that detainees are to remain in the occupied country, not in the country of the occupier; a law that Israel has violated many times over by forcing the transfer of prisoners to
Israeli territory.

The irony
If you glance at the Gates Foundations website, you will see that they are, "guided by the belief that every life has equal value". The question now is, which lives are they referring to? You simply cannot tell children in Africa that their lives matter when your money aids in the mass incarceration of Palestinian children. This is contradictory to the mission and values of the foundation.

Make no mistake, through the Gates Foundation, Bill and Melinda have done incredible work, both in the U.S. and abroad. But their investment in G4S is contributing to the most oppressive conditions and pervasive human rights violations of Palestinians. Even the greatest, most admirable work in the world cannot allow us to ignore the atrocities taking place in Palestine. We cannot fight for quality education, health and fight against poverty in some nations and then financially profit off of the driving force that leads to these outcomes in other nations.

It was Anna Lappe that said, "Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want". With his money, Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, has cast a grotesque vote for the cruel and inhumane treatment and oppression of Palestinians, and has made their grantees, whether they know it or not, accomplices in the violation of human rights.

As activists, freedom fighters, writers, truth speakers and advocates, we cannot remain blind and deaf in the face of truth, no matter how painful that truth is or who it involves. We have an obligation to act. I implore you to sign the petition and join Addameer and other human rights groups as they urge Bill Gates to divest from G4S. Now is the time to divest from blood money, mass incarceration and genocide, and recommit ourselves to investing in human rights.

Twitter: SoulRevision

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

We Celebrate The 4th Of July & Juneteenth, But We're Not Really Free

Juneteenth, The 4th of July And Black “Free”dom

As many of us know, Juneteenth reached its 148th anniversary two weeks ago, celebrating the freedom of those that were enslaved. Juneteenth is widely recognized by African Americans as the day the union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas in 1865 and received word that they were now free. The importance of this date in history is that the news of their freedom came two years AFTER President Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Juneteenth is celebrated by many African Americans all over the world, as it has become a longstanding tradition. And then we have Independence Day, commonly known as the 4th of July, a federal holiday that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in which the U.S. declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain; another holiday also celebrated by many African Americans. These two nationally recognized days deal with freedom, but with our current times, and the current state of black America, one has to wonder, what are we really celebrating and just how free are we?

Mass Incarceration

Michelle Alexander enlightened us about the state of African Americans and prisons by saying, "Today there are more African-Americans under correctional control — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. There are millions of African-Americans now cycling in and out of prisons and jails or under correctional control. In major American cities today, more than half of working-age African-American men are either under correctional control or branded felons and are thus subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives."

But what has led to so many African Americans being under correctional control? The simple answer, the ‘War on Drugs’. The more complex answer is racial profiling and mandatory minimum sentences.

War on Drugs

African American make up a mere 13% of the US population and 13% of drug users, however, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and 59% of those convicted of drug law violation.

When it comes to the war on drugs, there is significant racial bias when police are making arrests. The ACLU has found that, despite roughly equal usage rates, blacks are nearly 4 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana. Last month the New York Times pointed out that there are federal programs in place that are providing incentives to law enforcement for racial profiling. Federal dollars are literally being awarded to states or precincts that produce the “right” numbers.

Zero-Tolerance Policies

In schools, our children’s freedom is challenged by zero-tolerance policies that restrict our students from making mistakes in a learning environment. A prime example of this is 16 year old Kiera Wilmot who was arrested and charged with two felonies and expelled from school after a science project that went wrong, in which no one was harmed and no damage occurred.

The implementations of zero-tolerance policies have had a negative and disproportionate impact on black students. A 2008 study in Florida found that Black students were two and half more times likely to be referred to the judicial system. Those studies also found Black students more likely than whites to be suspended, expelled and sentenced to jail time for infractions that take place on school grounds.

These types of harsher disciplinary actions have been linked to a higher rate of high school dropouts who, in turn, are more likely to become incarcerated. Black students only make up 16% of the nation’s population but account for 45% of juvenile arrests.

School Closings

This year has dealt a devastating blow to public education as we have watched mass school closings hit Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia. 28 schools are now closed in Chicago, 23 are closing in Philly and 26 are to be closed in NYC. It should be no surprise that blacks students were the impacted most as 43% of all Chicago students are black, 58% of all Philly students are black and 30% of all NYC students are black.
What happens when public schools close in poor neighborhoods of color? Students are forced to cross gang territories to get to their news schools and relationships and rapport between students and their teachers are broken, often times causing disruption to their learning process.
Voting Rights Act
Last week the Supreme Court struck down a key section, section 4, of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Section 4 deals with a coverage formula to determine which jurisdictions will be subject to pre-clearance requirements in section 5. Pre-clearance mean that certain jurisdictions (mainly those in southern states) must receive federal permission before changing any law related to voting. The reason for this is due to the racial discrimination that black voters received in the past. In the 60’s, poll taxes and literary tests were put in place to deter and bar black citizens from voting. While we no longer have poll taxes and literary tests, we still have political groups creating various voter ID laws and suppression tactics to silence our vote, and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike section 4 means that these southern states can now enact new laws to make it difficult for our voices to be heard at the polls. Since the decision has been passed, both Texas and North Carolina have wasted no time implementing new voter ID laws and ending long standing voting practices that have been popular with black voters.
Are we truly “free”?
Physically, yes, most of us are free. So, celebrate your freedom; your ability to move around, purchase what you want, live where you want etc, but remember the systems in place (mass incarceration, the war on drugs, zero tolerance policies, the plight of public education) that are still keeping us bound.
Having more African Americans under correctional control now than were enslaved in the 1850’s is NOT freedom. African Americans being nearly 4 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession is NOT freedom. Dismantling public education on the backs of poor black students is NOT freedom. Eliminating section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, a key part of the civil rights movement, is NOT freedom.
The truth is we are not as free as we’d like to believe as long as our civil rights are constantly being infringed upon and challenged.
If we believe that our humanity and well-being is intertwined with one another, then none of us can truly be free unless all of us are free.

Twitter: @SoulRevision

Friday, June 28, 2013

Why Are Student Loan Interest Rates Doubling?

Student interest rates are likely to DOUBLE on Monday!
But what does this mean? Who does this affect? Why is this happening?
Allow me to explain in the simplest way possible …
Friday (today) is the LAST day that college students can get a federal student loan with a 3.4% interest rate. On July 1, interest rates will double to 6.8%.
What loans will be affected by the interest rate increase?
Only interest rates on subsidized Stafford Loans will double. These are loans for undergraduate students only and they don’t accumulate any interest while the student is in college.
Whose interest rates will go up?
College students applying for subsidized Stafford Loans after July 1. The rate hike will not affect those who already have existing Stafford loans, however, Congress’ joint economic committee has estimated that this increase will cost the average student about $2,600 and there are 7 million students who rely on these loans to pay for their education.
Why is this happening?
Last year the interest rates were set to increase on July 1; in order to prevent this from happening, Congress and the President passed a bill that extended the 3.4% interest rate for another year. This meant that congress had a full year (from June 2012 – June 2013) to come up with an agreement to prevent this increase from happening again.
Republicans came up with a bill to tie federal student loan interest rates to the cost of government borrowing which means the interest rates would fluctuate each year based on the economy.
Democrats wanted to extend the 3.4% interest rate again until congress could reform the law that deals with federal student loans.
Needless to say, neither party agreed on the others’ solution and this is why interest rates will increase on July 1.
Is there anything I can do?
Yes! You can press your members of congress to do something when they get back from vacation. Let them know how much education means to you and others, and that financial support is necessary and should be provided with decent interest rates. You can Send an email to Congress or you can call Congress
Is there hope?
Possibly. Congress can very well come back after their vacation, reach an agreement and retroact it, but that’s not a guarantee.

Twitter: @SoulRevision