Tag Archives: Activism

Black History Month: Giving From The Heart

Back in December, I was overcome with tears at the secret Santa’s who gave anonymously so that families in need could have a better Christmas. As I know first hand, it is easy to feel isolated and forgotten when you are overwhelmed. Many people are struggling and feeling subsumed beneath the ongoing grind of economic strife and lack of employment.

People hear the economic numbers and the unaffected find it convenient to dismiss them, forgetting that they translate into actual families and individuals.

The 4 million foreclosures forecasted this year, are 4 million crushed dreams. More than just shelter, it is the hard work, the hoping, planning and sweat it took to carve out one place on the planet to call your own, to retreat, renew and build – gone. In many cases, after years of sacrifice.

How about the inability to meet basic needs like buy healthy food, pay for health insurance, or keep the heat on?

As the events of 2008 proved, life can flip you on your head with no warning. Unless you are someone like Romney whose safety net extends beyond our shores.  Say for instance…

  • The bank cuts off your equity line of credit, or claim (repeatedly) that they lost your HAMP application.
  • Your food stamps get cut without warning, or the state announces that they have no money to keep your child’s school running.
  • The GOP decides another unemployment insurance extension is not a priority, or heartless maniacs cheer at the thought of letting the uninsured die while the insurance companies make billions off the sick.

It can, or has happened, to someone you know right now.

Sometimes, the so called safety net is not enough. Only the Romneyesque with the convenience of many mansions, servants and staff, who buffer him from the hardships or every day life, can believe that it is.

So many more of us have been fighting to fulfill our basic needs for longer than 2008 and it is only now that the house of cards almost collapsed and numbers of the poor are increasing that the embattled have moved – center stage.

In my opinion, man is at his best during times of stress. People find unknown stores of strength to fight and others feel compelled to lend a helping hand. It is the good thing about crises, seeing how people come together and forget about race, class, sexuality and all the other factors that we use to divide ourselves.

Which is why I am totally psyched and inspired by my latest find.

Kudos to Chris Jansing and The Grio.

The Grio, which I love, is a great online publication for African American news. The Grio.com’s 100 showcases 100 African Americans who are making history. Browsing the diversity of categories is nothing short of inspiring and informative but my favorite is Service & Activism.

Take a look at the following story about the emerging phenomenon of online giving, featuring the fantastic Andrew Bo Young III. Andrew is the CEO of Givelocally which connects charitable individuals, in a new and personal way, with those who are in need.

Make no mistake, the gift of giving is not quantified by dollars, but the currency of caring and kindness. It is the greatest gift you can give, one straight from the heart.

Blessings to all who sacrifice and uphold their fellow man. They make me proud to be human, unlike the GOP who make me wish I could become a tree ;). Hey, it could happen lol.

What Does It Mean To Be A Human Being?

An excellent question. What does it mean to you and what do you stand for?

I’ve been writing frantically all day and have no energy to write my intended post :(. In it’s place, I leave the next best thing, two must see videos that are sure to inspire you and make you think. Kudos to Angela Davis and Danny Glover. I thought I loved Danny before but now… I have no words.

I have always respected and loved Angela for her sacrifice and commitment. Watch for the link at the end of the video, which will appear at the top in white text, that takes you to the Q&A section.

One of the most beautiful things that has come out of OWS is the spiritual, selfless and passionate articulation of humans, from all walks of life, across the spectrum, who have chosen to join the movement. It has gone along way towards renewing my faith in mankind.

Power To The People!

#Our Speech for Congresswoman Maxine Waters: Democracy In Action

Today marks the day that I had the effrontery to stick my neck out lol. Undoubtedly, I will be labeled by some as crazy or, at the very least, as an ideologue. I do not care.   Great aspirations are not attained without risk and this, such as it were, is a tiny rock whose ripples I hope will spread far.

Below is my latest labour of love, a speech which has been submitted to Congresswoman Maxine Waters for the #Our Speech call to action. I hope that at least some of it is heard or better yet, acted upon.

To add to the this weekend’s historic moments, Cornel West was arrested today getting his voice heard in Washington DC. How fitting is that?

We are the 99%.

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I do not profess to be a politician. The halls of congress and the White House are grounds that I never expect to walk upon, except as a tourist. Yet, within the halls of democracy lies the beating heart of the people who dared to conceive it and took the necessary steps to actualize it.

Democracy is the form of government which we believe exemplifies our dream of a just and equal society. We believe so deeply in its aspirations and veracity that we uphold it as the ideal to which other nations should aspire. The people are both the wheel upon which the system turns and the very steam which powers the engine of democracy and capitalism. Social injustice, racial disparities, institutional racism and economic inequality are systemic issues which mirror the failings of humanity. None of which are acceptable and all of which must be fought against.

The time has come to acknowledge that our ideology and aspirations are greatly out of step with reality. The current strife underscores this more than any speech ever could. Americans are sick of hearing Congress bicker about whom is to blame for our issues and what is the best way to solve them. I happen to be a Democrat but before any political affiliation, I am a human being and so I expect our politicians to put aside their differences and do the job we elected them to do.

While Congress pontificates and filibusters, Americans are starving, losing their homes, working multiple jobs, if they can find them, and puzzling over ways to balance our incredibly, shrinking budgets against the rising costs of tolls, gas, food and corporate thievery in the guise of bank fees and loan rates.

We wonder how we will pay our taxes and student loans, avoid answering our phones, leave our mail unopened, as we struggle against a rising tide of depression because the system, if it ever was for us, has failed at this critical juncture in history to safeguard us. That is unacceptable.

Americans have lost HOPE. Hope, is the sacred right of every human being and what many politicians seem to have forgotten is that they are elected to be our hope and serve the arm of the people in a world rife with uncertainty. It is a sacred trust which has been broken as Americans are falling under the wheels of Corpocracy and greed due to officials failing to keep up their end of the bargain.

I acknowledge, unlike many, that “the people” have helped to create the mess we are in by their apathy and silence. I applaud Congresswoman Waters for reaching out to Americans as change must be a joint effort, of the electorate and our government. We need to be reminded and we need to be held accountable.

The global Occupy Wall Street movement illustrates beautifully the consciousness of the people which has been missing from the political landscape. Our silence has finally and irrevocably been broken. Those of us who have been awakened are now willing soldiers in the fight. Our strength, our passion and our vision can, and should be, harnessed to power change. How can America hold out its hand to other nations but not have the wherewithal to do the same for her people?

My suggestions are listed below:

  • Revise the tax code and raise the taxes for the rich and corporations and pass the American Job Act.
  • Close the loopholes, legally or by constitutional ratification, which allowed corporations to skirt the system and create the mortgage crisis.
  • Pass legislation to get the money out of congress. We need citizen funded elections to limit corporate influence.
  • Enact a National Foreclosure Moratorium to stem the tide of homelessness and allow people to get their finances in order.
  • Create an Oversight committee for mortgage fraud investigation and HAMP. The program is a farce because banks are not making modifications as agreed to and homeowners have NO resource to go to.
  • Waive 401K tax withdrawal penalties for the unemployed and underemployed as discussed during the 2008 campaign. How can people get back on their feet if they are in debt to everyone incl. the IRS?
  • Create additional incentives for banks to lend to small businesses and new entrepreneurs.
  • Procure unused tracts of land to create a national program more urban community gardens or provide grants. Volunteer committees can plant and manage the grounds; sell proceeds (with a cap on profits) and be mandated to give a percentage of the yield to organizations which feed the homeless.
  • Provide a liaison for the Occupy Wall Street movement to ensure that their objectives (TBD) can be communicated effectively without resorting to more violent measures which is a foreseeable outcome.
  • Keep the channels of communication open between the electorate and government. Encourage volunteer committees of a select, and changing group of citizens, selected by lottery, who are responsible for communicating/brainstorming quality of life issues and provide feedback to their local governments.
  • Determine what can be done to repeal the recently enacted Voter id laws which will have a direct impact on the 2012 election.

Occupy Wall Street: Bridging The Color Gap

I’m happy to say that I have followed The Occupy Wall Street Movement from the beginning of the occupation. Like many of their followers, I found them on Twitter and have watched, cheered, donated and tweeted my days away in slavish fervor in keeping with my commitment and admiration.

I believe wholeheartedly in what they are doing, civil disobedience is our constitutional and human right. Anyone with eyes can see that the government has become less and less effective, reaching a state where one is tempted to call politicians mere titular heads. I agree with many who say that party alignment is irrelevant as there is definitely “Something rotten in Denmark.” It is painfully obvious that government is failing to safeguard and enact the will of the electorate which is their primary function. Nowhere was this more evident than the bailout of the financial sector and the complete lack of accountability for their actions which has affected the nation and it continues to snowball.

The question I kept asking as I watched uprisings around the world unfold was,  “When will Americans wake up and take a stand?”

Finally, they have! Do I see issues within the movement? Absolutely. Yet, I take heart that this anger can be fueled for positive change in a world careening towards disaster and that any issues, glaring as they are, will be addressed. The movement is taking shape and needs our help.

There has been a lot of talk about organizational, communication and goal oriented results and demands which are key factors to the success of any movement. Yet the issue which bothers me the most is the seemingly minimal involvement by people of color (POC). The term POC is all encompassing: African Americans, Hispanics, Indigenous Peoples and so on. In this dialogue that has started, “Of the People, By the People and for the People”, our faces are glaringly in the minority. The question is WHY?

The question must be asked because the movement is supposed to stand for the 99%. It does not purport to be about one class, one race or one state. It is now, unbelievably, GLOBAL. Why? Because we all have the same basic human concerns: safety, housing, education, a fair wage, a political system that is representative and corporations which are accountable and do not stampede over us in their unending pursuit of profit.

If the movement fails to incorporate all people, other valid issues which are directly tied to economic policies like social justice and institutional racism will not be addressed and that would be a crying shame.

I’ve been doing my homework, monitoring Tweets, reading articles which have begun to spring up espousing the idea that the 99% is really 99% White, and talking to my circle for the last two weeks. As soon as that was articulated, a dull rumbling began. Smart folks are wary since divisveness is a tool that has historically been used to conquer people and it WORKS. We must work together to unify and so the discussion can’t be truncated to those subjects that are easy to discuss. Who exactly would that help?

I have compiled a short list of issues below that I feel bear discussing, failing all else I hope to raise consciousness.

Disclaimer: The issues listed below are NOT all inclusive. Breathe. However, I do belive it speaks directly to the reluctance of POC to become more actively involved. 

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1. They have never cared about us or stood up for our concerns.

This, of course, is a generalization as there are White Americans who have stood up and fought side by side with POC to achieve their goals. However, it would be fair to say that those who have are in the minority. America has been since it’s inception a racist country which White Americans, over many generations, have profited from, directly or indirectly. In spite of what some would like to believe with the election of President Obama, we are NOT in a Post-Racial society.

The facts and statistics, excluding the electoral shift, simply do not support this notion of Post Racism, grand as it is. Ask a POC how their life has changed since 2008. You will hear crickets or get cursed out for your pains.

African Americans, Hispanics and other POC still suffer disproportionately in America and anyone who denies this is delusional. Anyone who says this is our fault is at best ignorant of history, societal norms and the deeply embedded stereotypes of racial superiority. At worst, they are bigots.

We are plagued by high rates of unemployment which affects housing, education, incarceration rates and our quality of life. From an African American perspective, there has never been a movement, not started by an African American, to address the fundamental inequalities they face. Worse, their is a history of lies and betrayal has a long memory. So it’s understandable why POC do not trust that this time is different and “colorblind.”

2. A sense of separation pervades our minds.

Many seem to believe that the concerns of Occupy Wall Street are not our concerns. They see White faces on TV, they see Hippies, Intellectuals, Activists and the most of them are White. Therein, lies a disconnect. We need to see someone we identify with in order to feel comfortable. Which can be said of most human beings. For example, feminists don’t want MEN to speak for them because, as well meaning as they might be, it’s accurate to say that they lack something as they have no experience in this arena. Understanding and empathy, while laudable, is not experience. POC have lived with the injustices of the system long before 2008.

The fact that the movement’s concerns are universal is hard to overcome when you are burdened by anger and have felt separate for so long. Be honest, many of us do not leave our Hoods. Our friends, in many cases, are the same race with the same concerns and are the same class.  Of course, there are exceptions but I’m talking about the norm. Denying the class divisions, or the justifiable anger of POC, will not make it go away. In fact, the lack of acknowledgement merely makes it worse.

3. Law enforcement does not treat us the same.

Nope, it doesn’t. For those of us that wish to join, we wonder how it will go down, if and when, things get hectic.

We don’t believe that if we turn up in force that we will be treated equally by the nice officers. Say the names Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Rodney King to yourself if you don’t believe that’s a valid concern. Many of us, thanks to the industrialized racism of law enforcement and prisons have records as well. How easy will it be to get us released, or get bail money?

The negative experiences that many of us have had add historical precedence and experience to the mix. The memory of dogs, hoses, plastic bullets, billy clubs and police brutality would cause many to deem that it is simply not worth the risk.

4. NO ONE ASKED US

Because of all the issues above, it is understandable that POC would want to feel included. It is not a question of an engraved invitation, as I originally raved, but the feeling that our input is valued and required.

Understand, that sadly, many of us do not believe that anything we do will matter. That’s the duck down mentality which I don’t agree with but that makes it no less significant.

Historically, the organizers of any movement must make an effort to spread their message and invite others to join. NAACP? Community Colleges? Radio? Schools? Brooklyn? Harlem? Uptown? Any Hood? We have neither seen, nor heard, from anyone other than the distorted messages that are being broadcast by mainstream media. Social media is just the start. Whatever misguided reasons served as the base for this decision it is actively being addressed.

Cornell West, Tavis Smiley, Russell Simmons and Talib Kweli are down for the cause. They have joined their voice to the thousands crying out for justice.

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The truth is that there are many people throughout the world who have suffered at the hands of colonization and capitalism. Just looking at the issues above makes my head ache :). Most of us have baggage, no doubt.

The effects of racism and social injustice can not be remedied overnight but if we seek to make a better future we have a lot of work to do. I am hopeful that joining together to fight a common enemy will result in the beginning of a desperately needed national conversation. I believe that it can begin to heal wounds and CHANGE the future.

Silence will not save you.

Occupy The Hood has been created to bridge the gap. Click here to find out more about them and how you can contribute. Join the global conversation by clicking here.

STAND UP AND LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD. SPEARD THE WORD. WE ARE THE 99%.

My Breaking News: Activist Archive – Educate, Empower & Challenge

Some of you have already noticed that I have added a new page to my blog, Activist Archive – Educate, Empower & Challenge. Please visit the link at top of my Home page.

I have added this page for those who are disgusted with the current state of American politics, our failing economy and various social issues. The time is ripe to raise your voice and make change.

The page will contain those causes that are close to my heart but I am, as always, open to suggestions. If you would like to contribute, feel free to email me at dreamingnwords@gmail.com.

Spread The Word!

Things Fall Apart…Belief & The Power of Change

Yesterday was a heavy day for me as I was psychologically burdened by the weight of my frustrations about the Troy Davis case and the state of things. I actually felt disconnected from myself, because all the things that are usually on the forefront of my mind vanished into the mist – so I did nothing. Nothing but feel clouded and muffled….it was a stormy day.

Not content to wallow in hopelessness, I took my angst to the Net. I was looking for information on the movement to stop the death penalty and was overcome with a burning compulsion to find out what I could do. 

When I talk to people so often what I hear is not that they don’t care about politics or injustice, but that they do not believe that caring means anything. What point is there to caring if there is nothing you can do about it? The polls call them the Undecided but it would be more accurate to call them the Unbelievers. The general feeling is that they are just one person against a mountain of money, corporations, politicians and a system rife with corruption, racism, greed and indifference.

In such a world, isn’t it better to keep your head down? Better to worry about your own life because nothing you do will ultimately matter?

I have never been a person who accepted that way of thinking. It’s comfortable and familiar for many but it’s not the way I choose to live my life. Not just because caring about others comes naturally to me, but because such  acceptance is a kind of spiritual death. That’s what arises when you feel powerless and at the mercy of your environment.

I am positive that my resistance is spiritually and historically based. Think of all the people who have gone before who have manged to effect real change in the world and where we would be if they too were Unbelievers. Thoughts of my ancestors, what they sacrificed, and how they struggled, is all that’s required to inject me with a passionate belief that change is possible.

Our world mirrors the imperfections of the human race and I have no doubt that it always will. But one of the key differences between us and animals is our ability, at any given point in time, to reject our teachings, surroundings and harness the power of mental and spiritual evolution which is the impetus for change. Without it, we would be dead already.

I will admit that this train of thought was not uppermost in my mind yesterday but being on the Net changed all that. What began as a simple foray into finding out about the death penalty movement ended with me bleary eyed at 2:45 AM. I found a trail of bread crumbs and it led me from one site to another and another and another.

I read about the history of the death penalty and found organizations like Amnesty International, Color Of ChangeCampaign To End The Death Penalty and Democracy Now. I found the website for Troy Davis, read articles from tons of newspapers and Opinion Blogs. I also watched The Egyptian Revolution video (below) which brought me to tears. Many thanks to my Twitter Community for their uplifting and insightful comments and leading the way.

I ended the day on the Occupy Wall Street site and what I saw amazed me. The movement, now in it’s sixth day, is receiving little or no mainstream media coverage which of course reminded me of Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” It is largely made up of college students, so they say, and has engendered international support. The world is watching and cheering us on.

I read through 172 comments last night, which were remarkably free of hate messages, containing advice from every quarter, lawyers, older activists who understand the politics of revolution, and everyday folks. They gave REAL advice, legal and otherwise. It was uplifting and empowering and reminded me of just what can be done when we stand together to right a wrong. Better yet, they reminded me of the beauty, diversity and power of the human race. They gave me hope and a renewed belief which I so sorely needed.

The power of the Internet is not routers, servers, fiber optics or the cloud. It is the power of connection that allows human beings to connect with one another and draw strength from one another and celebrate our humanity.

Note: The title of this post is humbly borrowed from the book entitled “Things Fall Apart” by famed author Chinua Achebe.

A Stain Upon Our Nation – RIP Troy Davis

Troy Anthony Davis

October 9, 1968 – September 21, 2011

Funeral Donations

When the announcement came through last night that the U.S. Supreme Court would not grant a stay of execution for Troy Anthony Davis I was inconsolable. I cried and fought against my feelings of anger and hopelessness and when I woke up this morning it was the first thing that came to mind.

It makes NO sense to me that with the preponderance of doubt in this case that the justice system proceeded, mercilessly and inexorably, while a potentially innocent man was led to his death. If a case where 7 of 9 eyewitnesses recanted partial, or in some cases, complete reversal of their original testimonies, doesn’t deserve a retrial – what does?

You must ask yourself what kind of system is at work that in the face of such glaring discrepancies would allow the harshest possible punishment and call it JUSTICE. I have asked and do not like the answer. When the innocent are executed in the name of capital justice we should call it what it is – murder. It is a stain upon our nation that should be eradicated. America has enough blood to bear.

Consider just how many prominent people and organizations expressed their outrage to no avail: Pope Benedict XVI; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; President Jimmy Carter; Harry Belafonte; NAACP; Amnesty International, to name a few. Yet, it did nothing to turn the tide of what was viewed by hundreds of thousands as a miscarriage of justice. Do our voices not carry weight?

African-Americans, of course, feel that this is yet another statement about the social injustices that are in integral part of our history, stretching back endlessly. We know that in the minds of many a Black man’s life holds no weight when shored up against a White police officer. The system has shown repeatedly that such offenders, regardless of circumstance, evidence or public outcry are not innocent until proven guilty which is a constitutional outrage.

It broke my heart reading the Tweets by people of all races who were similarly enraged and disgusted but I was completely unmanned by the articulation of feelings by Black folks which underscored our implied worthlessness, hopelessness and dehumanization. The overwhelming outcry “Still it continues…” Troy Davis is one of too many to face a similar fate and this is one more tragic example. It is evident that because African-Americans are jailed at a disproportionately higher rate that they are more likely to be affected by capital punishment so our feelings are not unfounded.

“African Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 42 percent of prisoners on death row. In Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Maryland, and in the U.S. military and federal system, more than 60 percent of those on death row are Black; Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio all have death rows where more than 50 percent are African American. Although Blacks constitute approximately 50 percent of murder victims each year, 80 percent of the victims in death penalty cases were white, and only 14 percent were Black.

Of the over 18,000 executions that have taken place in this country’s history, only 42 involved a white person being punished for killing a Black person.

According to Amnesty International, more than 20 percent of Black defendants executed since 1976 were convicted by all-white juries.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that death penalty laws in the U.S. were unconstitutional, in part because capital punishment was rife with racial disparities.”

Campaign To End The Death Penalty www.nodeathpenalty.org

The world isn’t fair and many injustices roll out on a daily basis and some will argue that this is just one more example being played out, regrettable, disturbing but unavoidable. But this was not a natural disaster or some fickle happenstance event – it was done at the hands of men and is preventable.

I can’t, now or ever, stand behind the death penalty as a means of punishment because it is senseless to tell people it is wrong to kill and then use the same methods to punish them. There is no such thing as a humane death and we are kidding ourselves if we believe otherwise. In my heart, I believe that the death penalty is inhumane and dangerous in the hands of a system that is all too often ineffective, inaccurate and mired in institutional racism.

I have made jokes about being an armchair activist but this has motivated me beyond words and in my conscience will not stand. I hope that enough people will take this for a wake up call and do something more than rant and rave. I am incredibly weary of being screwed over by the systems we put in place to protect us. In the grander scale, this is a human issue which should be important to all people of conscience.

Rashad Robinson of The Huffington Post put it beautifully, “There is no better way to honor Troy’s memory than to keep fighting for justice.”

There are myriad resources on-line to raise your voice and join the fight – exercise your rights as a citizen and do something with your outrage. Check out Campaign Against The Death Penalty. Today, has been declared a day against outrage and there will be events held nationally.