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