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Affordable Housing for Miami Families Affected by SlumlordsIn 2014, low-income residents forced to live in slum-like conditions due to lack of resources began to organize for their rights to affordable, dignified housing and formed the "Smash the Slumlords" campaign. The women organized community meetings, educated other residents about their rights, garnered support from the city mayor and sought out legal action against slumlords. Conversations focused on the collective need and partnership with other grassroots organizations recruited allies from outside their community and helped bring the campaign into public light. Legal action against one slumlord led to his prosecution and the City of Miami placed his property under their control. Afterwards, the residents of Liberty City rightfully demanded that the slumlord face greater consequences and that the buildings be repaired. However, when it became apparent that the buildings were so woefully neglected that they could only be condemned and destroyed, the City faced a new challenge: where to relocate the families in a city where there is a chronic shortage of affordable housing stock? In response to this dilemma, SMASH has tasked itself with developing expedited affordable housing units for these families on a Community Land Trust (CLT). Unlike other affordable housing projects, this one would be unique for its prioritization of extremely low-income families, and the community driven design and management process through the CLT model. This would not only provide the slum affected families of these buildings with the transitional housing units they need, but it could also be re-used for every set of families that find themselves in similar circumstances. Once they are relocated, their original buildings can be condemned, destroyed and rebuilt into permanent affordable housing where the families have a right to return.
Veto Bill to Fund Militarization of Florida SchoolsThe state of Florida needs change to prevent more tragedies, but it will not come with more children staring down the barrel of a gun. Three weeks ago, 17 students and school staff were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Florida was shaken to its core. The Florida legislature followed Governor Rick Scott's lead in drafting "solutions" that involve filling Florida schools with even more guns. Our state's elected officials have approved a bill that provides funding to arm school staff, including teachers, coaches, librarians and counselors, while dramatically increasing funding for police and high level surveillance security in schools. At Governor Scott's direction, this bill will make Florida schools a lot scarier for students, particularly students of color, across the state. After Columbine, 10,000 school police officers were hired to prevent another mass shooting. Two decades later and more police presence in school has not proven to be an effective solution and has not stopped a single mass shooting. Instead, police in Florida have locked up 1 million children, mostly black children, for routine behavior disruptions, like talking back to a teacher or getting into schoolyard scuffles. The proposed bill allots $400 million to make our schools feel more like prisons when they should feel sanctuaries. This bill will have catastrophic consequences for insurmountable numbers of black, brown and poor youth in Florida. Our representatives have a responsibility to act in a way that keeps all Florida children safe. Tell Governor Rick Scott to veto any bill to allocate resources for more police and guns in schools. Supporters Dream Defenders Power U Center for Social Change Advancement Project National Office Color of Change Florida’s Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199 New Florida Majority Miami Worker's Center Alliance for Education Justice National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Demand FL State Attorney Arrest & Charge Gardner Kent Fraser for the murder of DJ BroadusOnce again, our community in Macclenny, FL is reeling from another loss of Black life. Dominic Jerome Broadus II, a father, son, musician and our family’s storyteller, met an untimely death at the hands of a racist neighbor. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) continues to disrespect our family with non-answers and heavily redacted statements, further demonstrating a complete lack of regard and interest to thoroughly investigate this case. To this day, my family has not received any information about what happened to DJ and continues to suffer. In numerous cases, from Trayvon Martin to Keegan Von Roberts, racist killers are allowed to walk free and families are expected to move on without any closure. The persistent denial of justice causes communities to live under a cloud of racist terror. Most fear retaliation from local law enforcement each time a new story of state-sanctioned violence occurs. In spite of it all, the community is coming together to say, no more. State Attorneys can shift this paradigm and demand accountability from police departments instead of enabling the continued disregard for Black life. Cervone can begin to set a precedent by righting this terrible wrong and bringing justice to my family.
Minimal Sentencing for Wriply Bennet of the #BlackPride4On June 17th, 2017, four Black queer and trans people--now known as the BlackPride4--were violently arrested while peacefully protesting the Columbus Pride Parade to draw attention to the disproportionate murder of trans women of color and the non-indictment of Philando Castile’s murderer, Minneapolis Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez. After months of widespread outrage at the police brutality against the #BlackPride4 and their subsequent arrests, three of them have gone to trial and were found guilty on February 12th, 2018 of charges ranging from disorderly conduct to resisting arrest. With a quickly approaching sentencing date of March 13th, 2018, we must continue the fight to #FreeTheBlackPride4. Their lives and futures hang in the balance, and Judge Ebner is the sole gatekeeper to their freedom. Wriply Bennet and her lawyer have suggested that folks all over continue to show their solidarity in hopes that the Judge is lenient. We really need to keep these Black trans activist home and free from any jail time -- sign the below petition to urge Judge Ebner dole out minimal sentencing to Wriply of the #BlackPride4! -- Here's the petition! Dear Honorable Judge Ebner, We write today in support of Ms. Wriply Bennet and to urge you to deliver the most minimal sentence to her. Ms. Bennet is an asset to our community. Columbus will benefit by Ms. Bennet being allowed to continue the great work she is involved in the community, and our entire community will feel the negative impact should she be required to serve jail time. Ms. Bennet is a nationally recognized artist who has organized around community service efforts for years. In addition, Ms. Bennet has acted as a consultant for local organizations (like Kaleidoscope Youth Center and the Trans/Queer Racial Justice and Transformation Network of the OSU Sexuality Studies Program and others), providing much-needed support to groups working to better our communities. We know that it would be most beneficial to our city and country if she had the opportunity to continue investing her skills and leadership directly into the community instead of serving jail time or navigating restrictive supervision. We respectfully request that you also consider that incarceration is particularly dangerous and traumatizing for Black trans women, who are already faced with the looming threat of violence in their day-to-day lives. For recent context, Ashley Diamond, a Black trans civil rights activist in Georgia, was assaulted, placed into solitary confinement, and denied her medication while incarcerated in 2015. As a direct result of the conditions she experienced, Diamond currently suffers from PTSD and other mental health issues that have hindered her integration back into her communities. We as individuals, join with numerous local and national organizations that have publicly supported Ms. Bennet. In the past eight months, groups from all over Columbus and beyond have offered vocal and material support for the #BlackPride4, from releasing public statements (Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, Equality Ohio) to being present during the week of trial (including BQIC, TransOhio, People’s Justice Project, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Yes We Can Columbus, and former 2017 Stonewall Columbus Pride Planning Committee members who resigned from the Planning Committee due to Stonewall Columbus’ response to the Pride protest). This coordinated, community support demonstrates the interest that has been taken in their case, both locally and nationally, as well as in the defendants’ futures as free people. We understand that as the presiding judge in the case, you have a duty to honor the verdicts given in a court of law. We believe it is imperative that our community’s constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and free speech be protected. Our First Amendment rights enabled so many before us to call attention to social issues and spark lasting change. In light of those interests, the vast network of support for Ms. Bennet, and her history of community service, we urge you to give the absolute minimum sentencing to Ms. Bennet.
Eliminate Cholera In Haiti!Now that Donald Trump’s budget bill has passed through Congress, the Budget Appropriations Committee has a month to decide where the money will be allocated. The Budget Appropriations has a moral obligation to include $12 million towards the UN’s Haitian cholera fund. Appropriations Committee Representatives Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Hal Rogers, as key decision makers in this, should vote yes in supporting this funding and help save thousands of cholera victims in Haiti. The rest of the world is looking to the U.S. for leadership around providing aid to cholera victims in Haiti who have been unnecessarily affected by this lethal virus. Over the past seven years, hundreds of thousands of Haitians have fallen victim to cholera due to the United Nations reckless sewage disposal on their peacekeeping base in 2010. Cholera is an infectious and often fatal bacterial disease, typically contracted from infected water supplies and causing severe vomiting and diarrhea. Today, at least 10,000 Haitians have died, and over 800,000 had been sickened, after years of the U.N. denying and covering up what they did. Cholera has ruined Haiti’s poorest communities, leaving families who lost breadwinners destitute and children orphaned. The epidemic continues to ravage Haiti today and still spikes following large rainfall, such as during Hurricanes Irma and Matthew. In 2016, the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon finally acknowledged their responsibility in the outbreak of cholera in Haiti and issued a public apology to the Haitian people. Unfortunately, an apology will not bring 10,000 people back to us, it will not bring mothers and fathers back to the children and it certainly will not provide treatment for the thousands still suffering. Public health actors on the ground strongly believe that with enough funding, the cholera virus can be eliminated in Haiti this year but we need UN member states to step up, including the U.S. The U.N. has proposed a New Approach to Cholera in Haiti, which seeks to eliminate the virus and provide assistance for people who have been directly affected. However, only 4% of the funds have been generated to make this “New Approach” a reality. If the New Approach continues to be underfunded, there could be another outbreak of the devastating disease . The United States has an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the world by granting money to the U.N’s fund. This money will save the lives of so many Haitians and put an end to this deadly epidemic. Please join us in this fight to eliminate cholera in Haiti.
Boycott Companies that Advertise on Fox News: Who support racism in exchange for profitAs a person of color, my life is regularly made more difficult and unpleasant due to the nature of the content propagated by Fox News. Fox News brings out the worst in people by preying on their fears and prejudices, bolstering people's preexisting stereotypes, and espousing and encouraging racist, homophobic, islamophobic, misogynistic, and ignorant behavior. I will not support any company that supports an entity such as Fox News that seems to be in direct opposition to all of my values and thinks of me--and tries to convince others to think of me--as lesser, dangerous, lazy, and unintelligent due to the color of my skin. People may think it is not worth it and they are only making their own lives harder by boycotting because so many companies advertise on Fox News and nothing will change that, but my life is already made difficult by Fox News, including all the companies that support it, so I have no problem taking it upon myself to make decisions that align with my self-interest and may be difficult. If we do nothing, what is going on in society and politics will only continue, so we might as well speak up for ourselves and hit the companies where they'll notice it: the wallets!
Tell NYC Mayor to Stop Tolerating Racism in SchoolsIt's been more than a week since the Daily News broke a story about a white teacher in the Bronx who, in a lesson on slavery and the Middle Passage, made Black students in several classes lay face down on the floor and even stepped on a female student while asking "see how it feels to be a slave?" It's been more than a week, and the city has still not taken any steps to ensure that this type of degrading and traumatic incident will not occur again. When asked by press about what the city is doing to make sure this type of incident never occurs again, Mayor de Blasio has said that the city already offers training on cultural competency. The truth is that those trainings are currently offered to just 450 out of 77,000 teachers - less than 1% of NYC teachers. For over a year, parents have been demanding that Mayor de Blasio provide leadership in our schools and implement a comprehensive program of Culturally Responsive Education, including cultural competency trainings for teachers and school staff, in order to avoid just this kind of traumatic incident. Now, the responsibility for this incident rests firmly on the Mayor's shoulders. We know that racism and bias in schools is a national crisis. " White teachers have lower expectations for students of color, and are significantly less likely to expect Black students to finish high school and college " School staff frequently perceive Black boys as threatening and dangerous for the same behaviors that are seen as innocent for White students. " In 2015, only 15% of children's books were written by African-American or Latino authors, or focused on African-American or Latino characters " Over 80% of public school teachers are White women, though a majority of public school students are people of color. In New York City, for example, that means that 266 NYC schools have 0 or just 1 Latino teacher, 327 have 0 or just 1 Black teacher, and 690 have 0 or just 1 Asian teacher Given these statistics, in how many other classrooms across the city are Black children are learning about slavery in a degrading way? And in how many classrooms across the city are Black children learning that their ancestors were kings and queens, fighters against enslavement, strategists and spies, scientists and inventors, doctors, healers and entrepreneurs? Culturally Responsive Education is a research-based strategy that helps teachers build social and emotional connections with their students across racial and cultural differences, and root learning in students' culture and prior experiences. It has shown to have impressive impacts on student achievement in Tucson, San Francisco, and other districts across the country. But Mayor de Blasio, who claims to be a national progressive leader, has dragged his feet and been slow and timid to embrace this approach. Parents need him to step up and take action, to get justice for those students in the Bronx, and to make sure no child has to experience that again.
#FREESADAT: Demand the release of a Gay Black Asylum Seeker from DetentionSadat Ibrahim is a young gay man from Ghana where homosexuality is a crime punishable by three years in prison. Sadat had been brutally attacked by a homophobic vigilante gang back in Ghana, the ‘Safety Empire’, that hunts down, beats up and kills gay people. Fearing for his life, he planned a long escape route, and finally made it to the Mexican/U.S. border and presented himself at the border requesting asylum. An asylum officer agreed that Sadat had a credible fear of persecution. His family sent videos supporting his claim to Sadat in detention in Georgia, but not only did the officers in the detention center not give Sadat this critical evidence, they never even told Sadat that the evidence had arrived. Without the corroborating evidence, the judge denied Sadat asylum. Sadat faces deportation back to the same situation that may see him incarcerated, attacked and/or murdered for being gay, as his asylum claim was denied. Had Sadat been able to share the video evidence that ICE withheld from him until after the hearing, we believe the judge should have granted asylum to Sadat, and likely would have done so. Sadat’s legal team has managed to win him a temporary stay of removal so why is he still being detained?
Demand DA Faith Johnson Support Bail ReformThe cash bail system in Dallas County discriminates against poor Black people in the most harmful ways. Black families are stripped of community, financial resources and a sense of basic human dignity. Black people remain in cages for weeks, months and sometimes years at taxpayer expense. And oftentimes, Black people are jailed with no evidence they have committed a crime. This is a crisis that can no longer continue. In the past, I have had many family members who were forced to serve time simply because they did not have the money to make bail or were not given enough time to produce the money. In many cases, the amount requested for bail did not fit the crime. Families in the Dallas community like mine are tired of losing their loved ones to the criminal “injustice” system. To make matters worse, District Attorney Faith Johnson is routinely locking up Black people for crimes of poverty. It has been reported by multiple sources that Johnson has received thousands of dollars from the bail industry and even sits on the board of the Dallas County Bail Bond Board. Her silence on the bail reform cannot be tolerated. By pressuring District Attorney Faith Johnson to renounce the bail industry and to refuse political donations from these corporations we get one step closer to ending money bail’s exploitation of poor, Black people in Dallas County. There are many in our community who, not only believe in ending money bail, but are also working to make this come true. It is time for Faith Johnson to do right by her constituents. Join us in demanding Faith Johnson to renounce the bail industry and return all political contributions to bail corporations!
#BreakSilenceBreakCeilings: End Employment Discrimination Against Black DesignersBlack designers continue to face systemic employment discrimination within the mainstream fashion industry. This renders them generally incapable of landing upper management and executive roles, and—as evidenced by H&M’s “Coolest Monkey in The Jungle” hoodie photographed on a young Black boy—often allows for the irresponsible dissemination of insensitive, insulting, and/or exploitative depictions of Blackness within advertising. I recently launched a social media campaign, #breaksilencebreakceilings to address just these issues. Attention around the campaign, resulted in me publishing a game-changing op-ed “Why Aren’t There More Black Designers”, last week in the Business of Fashion. Not content with merely listing complaints throughout the piece, I delivered actionable steps toward dynamic change, charging the Council of Fashion Designers of America and American Vogue to partner on initiating a 3-pronged plan to engage the fashion design and recruitment communities in greater transparency and more equitable hiring practices. The proposed initiative aims to reform an industry that has normalized the exclusion of Black professionals. Design and recruitment industry participants would be availed of comprehensive bias mitigation training and hiring-practice audits. By signing this petition, you will amplify this call-to-action directed at the CFDA and Vogue, organizations that have a responsibility to no longer turn a blind eye to the fashion industry's marginalization of Black talent. Collectively, our signatures will #breaksilencebreakceilings, declaring that time's up for employment discrimination against Black designers. Proposed CFDA/Vogue Partner Programme: 1. Design Purpose: address the non-meritocratic appraisal of design talent that most consistently disadvantages Black professionals. - Design-studio racial stats disclosure. - Immersive hiring manager bias elimination training. - Pledge of commitment to creating equitable inroads for Black talent via meritocratic hiring practices. 2. Headhunting & Recruitment Purpose: address the consistent denial of fair access and representation for prime opportunities for Black design talent. - Compliance with auditing of recruitment and headhunting practices by contracted third party. - Pledge of commitment to creating equitable inroads for Black talent via meritocratic representation. 3. Talent Pool & Academic Communities Purpose: bring greater visibility to consumers, students, talent pool and media regarding overall industry commitment to change regarding inroads for Black design professionals. - Annual disclosure/endorsement by CFDA/Vogue of participating brands, along with statistics regarding the racial composition of their design teams. - Annual disclosure/endorsement of participating headhunters and recruitment firms.
#FreeMichaelDuvall: My Brother Is InnocentThe wrongful yet systematic incarceration of Black people in this country has weakened our community for decades; it’s slavery by another name. This system is causing Michael and others like him, to be jailed while waiting for their case to come to trial. Sometimes, that takes years to happen. Michael has already refused to plea to anything because he is not guilty. The scary thing is; this is the same thing that happened to Kalief Browder. He didn’t want to plead guilty to a crime that he didn’t commit, so this system took his life away in so many ways. I don’t want that to be the case for my brother or anyone. My heart is broken and a part of me is being held in the Upper Marlboro Detention Center with my brother. It is important that we take a stand against this type of abuse from the criminal injustice system so that others in our community do not fall victim to this type of pain and torture.
Bring Dameon Brome and David Lahoz homeDavid Lahoz and Dameon Brome were incarcerated as children and have spent 26 and 30 years in prison, respectively. Each of them has demonstrated rehabilitation, redemption, and remorse. Despite exemplary disciplinary records while incarcerated and plans to continue helping people when they were paroled, both men were recently denied parole on the same day by the same parole hearing examiners. Any review of these men's files will reveal that this is horrible mistake. Dameon and David are rehabilitated and should have been paroled. We call on Board of Probation and Parole Chairman Leo Dunn to correct this error. David and Dameon were juvenile lifers. Montgomery v. Louisiana was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that declared Dameon and David’s sentence unconstitutional. The ruling in that case stated that juvenile lifers needed to be treated as individuals and, if they were not permanently incorrigible, given a chance to come home. After their resentencings last year, both David and Dameon were made immediately parole eligible; but unfortunately Leslie Grey and Mark Koch denied them parole and told them they would need to wait five years before the board would hear their cases again. David and Dameon have appealed and Leo Dunn, the Chairman of the PA Board of Probation and Parole, can overrule their parole denial and allow them to come home to their families and communities. David was once a lost soul running around in the streets of North Philly living a life that was very disruptive. He believed he was destined to die or get locked up; he was sentenced to life without parole as 17 year-old. After a rocky start to his incarceration, he has been active in a lot of programming: playing sports and learning multiple trades. His passion is being a mentor to young people through softball and basketball. David has worked for years to better himself and to help those around him. He has been misconduct free for 15 years and he had institutional support for his parole. Dameon has spent the greater portion of his life incarcerated but refused to accept that it was what would define him. He decided that he would find a way to grow even within the confines of prison. He acquired his GED and worked briefly tutoring others. He's worked in various positions within the institution from the Cook for Specialized Diets to the Law Clerk in the library helping others with legal problems. He has founded, been part of, and facilitated numerous groups to change the hopeless, lost, or disenfranchised perspectives of other incarcerated people, while simultaneously trying to advance his own education and understanding of what it means to be human. He took to Mechanical Drafting and CAD and studied Print Media. Dameon has written books and stories not just to "fill a void I saw that existed" but also to try to show other incarcerated people that there was another way and more possibilities for them even behind bars. Both Dameon and David have loving and supportive families and both plan to continue helping people and bettering the world if released. Their parole denials each listed multiple errors. For example, Dameon’s denial states that he lacked a home plan but he submitted an 11-page home plan. He planned to be paroled to a halfway house in Philadelphia, something the Department of Corrections has encouraged for juvenile lifers but he was questioned about this decision and believes this plan was held against him. They went on to say that Dameon was denied due to misconducts and poor institutional adjustment. Dameon hasn’t had a misconduct in over 9 years and hasn’t had a misconduct relating to fighting in over 23 years. David’s denial stated that he needed to get a GED but he received a GED in the Department of Corrections. His denial went on to say that he had a misconduct at his minimum which was one year ago. He hasn’t had a misconduct in 15 years. A modern professional parole board shouldn’t be making these mistakes. We call on you, Chairman Dunn, to correct them and do the right thing. We believe that Dameon and David should be with their families and communities on the outside. They are rehabilitated. We call on you to grant parole for Dameon Brome and David Lahoz and grant them relief after decades of incarceration.