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Tell President Barack Obama: Recognize Black Women Survivors of Rape and Sexual AssaultDear Mr. President, “I just want him to know who I am.” This is what 96 year old Recy Taylor, a civil rights leader who worked with Rosa Parks to address rape in the Jim Crow South and a survivor of sexual violence herself, said after a visit to the White House and being asked what she wished she could say to you, given the chance Mr. President. Recy Taylor’s 1944 rape case is well-documented in books and various online sources. She is an African-American woman from Abbeville in Henry County, Alabama. On September 3, 1944, Taylor, was leaving church when she was kidnapped and brutally gang-raped by six white men. Even though the men admitted the rape to authorities, two all-white grand juries declined to indict Taylor's assailants. Taylor's rape and the subsequent court cases were among the first instances of nationwide protest and activism among the African-American community and ended up providing an early organizational spark for the Civil Rights movement with Rosa Parks at the helm of the anti-rape movement. In 2011, after decades of advocacy efforts put forth by her brother Robert Corbitt, the Alabama House of Representatives apologized on behalf of the state "for its failure to prosecute Recy Taylor’s attackers." The failure to dispense justice in the 1944 case of Recy Taylor is not surprising, but symptomatic of the larger failing of a society where the intersection of racism and sexism has failed Black women and girls for over 400 years. When examined through a gendered lens, it becomes clear how Black women’s unique experiences with violence are often seen as afterthoughts when addressed at all. The result is that violence against Black women and girls, especially sexual violence, often remains invisible and this non-recognition serves to perpetuate the harm being done. But, Mr. President, whether by police or non-state actors, the rape and sexual torture of Black women and the justification of this torture still continue. We see the past replicated today. This was clear with the case of white Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw who was convicted earlier this year of sexually assaulting, raping, stalking, fondling, and exposing himself to at least eight Black women between the ages of 17 and 57 during traffic stops while on duty. We see the continued abuse in the Black Women’s Blueprint study (2014) showing that 60 percent of Black girls experience sexual assault before the age of 18 and when Black women are raped on their college campuses. We see it in the 64,000 missing Black girls across the country. We feel it walking down the street and entering spaces of worship and supposed sanctuary. And we ask, Mr. President, do you see it, too? As Farah Tanis, executive director of Black Women’s Blueprint reminds us, “the U.S. is one of the few places in the world where rapes have occurred systematically against an entire race of people, especially the Black women among these people, and there has been no outcry, no processes for justice, and still little to no acknowledgement of such violations officially and its impact on Black women and girls today.” As the nation that is looked upon as a beacon and model for human rights, we in the United States have also witnessed you, Mr. President, acknowledge Black women and girls’ plight during your 2015 remarks at the 45th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Phoenix Award Dinner. We have also read about your position on feminism in Glamour Magazine with a declaration that “this is what a feminist looks like.” We know that never before has a president of the United States been such a champion of women’s human rights. No other president has come so close to the much needed recognition and national apology for the systematic sexual humiliation and dehumanization of Black women and girls in the United States. To make a public statement means to acknowledge that the violence needs to stop. If we as a nation refuse to talk about it, if we as a nation continue to be silent, we as a nation cannot move forward. For you see, Mr. President, one of the horrors of rape is the silence of victims and survivors. Another is the silence of bystanders and loved ones. However, one of the most deafening horrors is the silence of a nation and its leaders. Silence only serves to support the ones who cause harm. First Lady Michelle Obama has already broken one silence, inspiring us during the Democratic National Convention when she said that “every morning, I wake up in a house that was built by slaves.” Everyday Black women and girls wake up, exist, live, survive and thrive in a nation built by our enslaved ancestors’ hands and birthed by their wombs. Everyday Black women and girls walk in the world, get up every morning, go to school, and work believing that their truth is too ugly, too shameful, too painful to be acknowledged. Imagine believing that your pain has cut lines too deep into your soul for you to be considered beautiful or valued. Imagine being told that your trauma negates your ability to love or to be loved, your ability to comfort and be comforted, to see others and be seen. As one testifier wrote “I was so scared that [my truth] was too ugly and too shameful to talk about.” Mr. President, that is what too many rape survivors carry—that pain, the silence, and an erasure of their humanity. We the undersigned, understand that recognition does not equate with justice, and for many survivors, justice in the form of of the legal system will never be adjudicated. However, recognition does facilitate healing, both personally, and collectively as a nation and is absolutely necessary to move forward. Read the full Open Letter here: http://www.mamablack.org/single-post/2016/09/13/President-Obama---Recognize-the-Sexual-Assault-and-Rape-of-Black-Women-and-Girls
It's Not Over, The County Has Appealed! #LetMIAVoteMy name is Michelle Davis. I am an African-American mother of three, and I've been a registered voter since the day I turned 18. I am sick and tired of feeling like my vote doesn't matter. This cause is important to me because special interests shouldn’t have a bigger say just because they have bigger bucks. I want to be able to see people in my community running for office, even if they don’t have big money from big donors. I worked for months in the hot Miami sun to share this initiative with the citizens of Miami-Dade County. We talked to hundreds of thousands of people and together, gathered 127,000 signatures in support of campaign finance reform. I believe in a Miami where all voices are heard and where the will of the people is respected. Last week, after strong opposition from both county commissioners and the county attorney, the courts sided with the will of the people and ordered that the initiative be placed on the November 8, 2016 ballot “immediately, without delay.” Immediately after the ruling, the county attorney appealed and asked that the Judge’s order be suspended. We’re now in a critical period. We must not let the County Attorney run the time out on getting this initiative printed on the ballot. We must ask the Mayor to stick to his word and direct the Supervisor of Elections to continue her perpartions to put this on the ballot, so that when we are sustained, the election department has this on the ballot. We must act now so they don’t disrupt our democratic rights through legal tricks. Our communities often don’t exercise their rights because they often feel that the political process is rigged, corrupt or not in their interest. Inaction by the mayor and county commissioners is a prime example of the ways in which the voices of voters, the very people who elected them into office, continue to be ignored. It is time for our elected officials to do their jobs. 127,000 voters deserve to be heard. Join me in directing the mayor to enforce the laws of the court and order the supervisor of elections to place the initiative on the ballot immediately. Let’s take a stand against big money in politics and ensure that the will of the people prevails. Sign and share our petition!
Gov. McCrory: Release Emergency General Election Funds NowNorth Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory and legislative leadership have spent millions of our taxpayer dollars to defend unconstitutional legislation like the 2013 Monster Voting Law. Now that the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down this law designed to disenfranchise Black voters and others, it's time they use our tax dollars to help everyone vote. They lost their bid to suppress the vote. Now it's time to pay the price and release the funds to support fair elections. During this hot, high-turnout election season that now has no photo ID requirement and allows Same-Day Registration during the 17 days of Early Voting, election officials in every county are scrambling to craft new Early Voting plans and staff them for an extra week. In addition, they must recruit and train more poll workers, and update vital voting resources – all to prevent long lines and mass confusion at the polls. We’re heading for a train wreck in the 2016 General Election unless counties have the resources to staff the extra week of voting and educate voters about their options in this new landscape. Tell Gov. McCrory that he needs to take swift action and release special funds to help our county election officials do their job of administering fair elections.
Stand Up Against Police Militarization: Say No to Urban Shield!Black people are 40 times more likely to be impacted by SWAT raids than white people. Decades since the War on Drugs began, our homes, schools, and neighborhoods have become sites for the war on Black communities, and other communities of color. Urban Shield is a 4-day SWAT training and global weapons expo that will be held in the Pleasanton, CA September 8-12th. Hosted by the Alameda County Sherriff's Office, Urban Shield is an example of how the war on Black communities has built a billion dollar industry to roll out military tactics against people here in the U.S. and all over the world. Urban Shield brings together law enforcement agencies from across the world- from the Apartheid State of Israel to the Ferguson Police Department. Created by Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern in 2007, Urban Shield has been hosted by the Alameda County Sherriff’s Office every year since. Although proponents of Urban Shield claim that it provides police departments with emergency response training, we know that these weapons, training, and tactics become normalized and broadly used against our communities, such as in drug raids, to issue search warrants, and against protesters. The same forces backed by US imperialism to oppress people across the world are coming together to train people with police forces in our local neighborhoods. It has only been 7 years since Oscar Grant was shot to death while handcuffed at the Fruitvale BART station by police officer Johannes Mehserle. Across the Bay, the family of Mario Woods is still fighting for justice for their son, an unarmed young man who was murdered by a firing squad of 16 San Francisco police officers in front of his own community last year. Despite years of oversight, the Oakland police department continues to come under fire for its racist abuse and killings targeting Black and Brown communities, what we understand as the daily violence of policing that must be stopped. In a time where nationwide we are all fighting against the murder of Black people and other people of color by police- the last thing we need is an expo that encourages the use of military tactics against civilians. We cannot stand by while the Alameda Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Office make policing deadlier and the killing of our community members easier. We demand the Alameda County Board of Supervisors put an immediate end to Urban Shield and use funds from the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative intended for emergency preparedness to focus on real community-based emergency preparedness and health response and not militarizing police. Tell the Alameda County Board of Supervisors: Stand with our communities in the Bay Area and everywhere, and rein in the Sheriff’s unchecked attempts at increased militarization by cutting all ties with Urban Shield! What can I do? Sign this petition to join Stop Urban Shield, a coalition of grassroots and community organizations, in demanding that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors stop hosting Urban Shield and decline all collaborations in the future. While the Alameda County Sheriff, the main figure responsible for putting together Urban Shield, is an elected official with a certain level of autonomy, the Board of Supervisors has the authority to regulate, supervise, and approve or deny how funding to the County is spent. As stated in an April 2015 ACLU memo to the Board of Supervisors, California Government Code § 25303 gives the Board broad authority to “supervise the official conduct” of the Sheriff. As a national and international event, Urban Shield is not only increasing militarization in Alameda County, but across the country and world. To the Alameda County Board of Supervisors: Stand with our communities in the Bay Area and everywhere, and rein in the Sheriff’s unchecked attempts at increased militarization by cutting all ties with Urban Shield! What do we want? If our public officials want greater emergency preparedness and response, it will not come from Urban Shield’s militarized war games and blatantly racist and violent weapons expo. Our communities are demanding investment in real community-based emergency preparedness and health response that do not depend on militarization. Key emergency preparedness needs projected for the future revolve around drought, flooding, earthquake preparedness and other environmental disasters. The Board of Supervisors must prioritize this type of preparedness which has wide reaching impacts on communities, rather than investing in terrorizing communities through increased policing. Join us in demanding an immediate end to Urban Shield!
Tell The North Carolina Board of Elections to Support Early VotingIncredible! Republican leaders who complain about “rigged elections” are trying to do exactly that in North Carolina by making it harder for Black people and students to use early voting. Dallas Woodhouse, Executive Director of the NC Republican Party, sent instructions to Republicans who hold the majority on all 100 county boards of elections to “make party line changes to early voting.” He specifically told them to close early voting sites on Sunday, remove them from college campuses, and open more in Republican areas, according to emails obtained by the Raleigh News & Observer. More than half of NC’s voters used early voting in 2008 and 2012; it was used most by Black and young voters. Closing sites and reducing hours will mean longer lines and discourage voters on Election Day. Fortunately, many Republicans are ignoring Woodhouse and obeying their oath to serve all voters. But in Raleigh, Fayetteville, Wilmington, and many other areas, they are opposing Sunday voting where it was used as recently as the March primary. Black churches organize Sunday “Souls to the Polls” programs which help church members with transportation to the polling place. The reduced early voting plans of these counties will come before the State Board of Elections later this month. The State Board has the power to restore them and repudiate the deliberate anti-Black, anti-youth strategy of Republican Party leaders. Sign the petition to ask Mr. Grant Whitney Jr., board chair, and other board members to restore early voting on Sunday afternoons and, on college campuses where those options were eliminated by Republican county election boards. Last month, the federal Court of Appeals overturned a state voting law it said would suppress voting and had discriminatory intent. We will not let local officials ignore the spirit of this momentous ruling by implementing weak and even discriminatory early voting plans for the November election.. Thanks for fighting for voting rights for everyone! Bob Hall, Democracy North Carolina
SUPPORT A MORATORIUM ON TRAFFIC STOPS FOR REVENUEMy name is Stephanie Findley and I am a longtime resident of Milwaukee. I just started a petition titled “ Support a Moratorium on Traffic Stops for Revenue”. As you probably know the Milwaukee police department stop black and hispanic drivers at a rate drastically higher than white drivers. When black people have interactions with the police violence can escalate quickly and as a Black woman the fear that I feel when a police car pulls up behind me is palpable. Black residents of Milwaukee should not have to live in fear of being unjustly targeted and pulled over by the police when driving. A moratorium will help to decrease the number of interactions Black residents of Milwaukee have with the police. In Milwaukee Black drivers are seven times as likely to be stopped by the police when compared to a white driver. The annual number of traffic stops conducted by police in Milwaukee has nearly quadrupled in the past four years, resulting in almost 200,000 stops last year. Police in Milwaukee stop black and hispanic drivers five times as often as white drivers and they are also five times as likely to be searched when pulled over by the police for a traffic stop. Unsurprisingly, black and hispanic drivers are also arrested at twice the rate of white drivers when pulled over by the police. These statistics further prove what Black Milwaukee residents already know to be true: that the police’s use of traffic stops has a huge racial gap, resulting in the over policing of black and hispanic communities. Black people in Milwaukee live in fear of the police and doing something as simple as driving to work or taking your kids to school can result in a negative interaction with the police. We know all too well that when Black people are stopped by the police during traffic stops violence escalates quickly, sometimes resulting in death as seen with Sandra Bland and Philando Castille. Please join me in demanding that Milwaukee city council introduce a moratorium on traffic stops for revenue.
Stop Legislation to Militarize Nashville PoliceThis is important because the logic behind the legislation is faulty. Black folks are being murdered by the police every 28 hours and Metro Nashville has yet to immediately dip in to the reserves for black folks and or poor people. All of a sudden the mayor feels a need to dip in to metro Nashville's reserve fund for militarized weaponry that will only widen the racial divide and create massive distrust of police moving forward? In addition, Mayor Barry and Chief Anderson is doing this in honor of a police officer who died of natural causes. Come out Sept 6th at 6:30pm Metro Nashville Courthouse, to demand this legislation be turned down and the monies be used for body camera's!!!!!!! http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20830899/metro-to-spend-1-million-on-body-armor-helmets-face-shields-for-police http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2016/08/16/mayor-megan-barry-proposes-ballistic-armor-nashville-police/88840740/
Let Miami Vote!Like you, we believe that the PEOPLE should run Miami, and not the lobbyists and billionaires. Last week New Florida Majority and partners turned in over 127,000 petitions so that we can put balance in the system and get BIG money out of politics on this November ballot-77,000 more than what was needed. But inaction by the mayor and county commission is standing in the way of the will of the people! Our communities often don’t exercise their rights because they often feel the political process is rigged, corrupt or not in their interest. Inaction by the mayor and county commission is a prime example of the ways in which the voices of voters, the very people who elected the mayor and commissioners into office, continue to be ignored. This is a fundamental issue of democratic rights in Miami-Dade, and the voices of 127,000 voters deserve to be heard. All the rules regarding petition circulation and delivery were followed, and now it is time for the Elections Department to fulfill its duty to count and verify the petitions. Mayor Carlos Gimenez cannot ignore the voices of 127,000 people and deny the right to free and fair elections to Miami-Dade's residents. If we're going to win, we will need people like you to take a stand. Sign and share our petition!
Walmart fired me for being pregnantMy name is Arleja Stephens, and I stand with the thousands of other pregnant workers who have been unfairly fired, discriminated against, or mistreated by Walmart— one of the largest employers of African-American and Latino women in the United States. I worked at a Washington, DC, Walmart as a customer service manager in order to support myself and my growing family. Enduring a high-risk pregnancy, I required some time to take care of the medical needs and stress that came along with it. Rather than supporting me, Walmart decided to fire me for my absences— even after I presented credible doctor’s notes. Walmart said it did not matter. Make no mistake: Walmart’s decision to fire me goes directly against the new policy for pregnant workers that Walmart claims to have put in place. Walmart may have even violated Washington, DC's law protecting the sick time of pregnant women. My experience is not an isolated incident; I am not alone. Women across the country reported that Walmart does not allow time off for doctor appointments, that they are not given light work as an accommodation, and that they are scared they will lose their jobs if they speak up or ask for help. In 2014, after Walmart workers and labor rights groups advocated for pregnant Walmart workers nationally with the “Respect the Bump” campaign, the retailer announced a pregnancy policy that would be more accommodating to pregnant workers. Sadly, two years have passed and many pregnant workers are still being mistreated. Why is this continuing to happen when Walmart claims to have policies to protect pregnant workers? Walmart is the largest employer of African Americans in the country. Young, black, working mothers, like me, deserve better. We should not be forced to choose between a healthy pregnancy and the ability to provide for their families. Sign our petition to say pregnant Walmart workers should be treated with RESPECT.
REOPEN THE CASE! RENAME WASHINGTON PARK PLAYGROUND AT 53RD & KING TO RONALD JOHNSON PARK!On October 12th, 2014 Ronald “RonnieMan” Johnson was shot and killed by George Hernandez, Chicago police officer, on the city’s South Side. He was 25 years old and a father of five. On the night of the murder, witnesses have said that police officers did not identify themselves before opening fire on unarmed Johnson, killing him from multiple gunshot wounds. His death has been ruled a homicide. his murder by the hands of the state was captured on police dash-cam video. The lawyer representing RonnieMan’s mother, Dorothy Holmes, was forced to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the Chicago Police Department for the dash-cam video that captured the shooting after multiple attempts at retrieval were denied. Only after a lawsuit was filed by Chicago activists which forced the City of Chicago to release video footage of the murder of Laquan McDonald by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke, did the City finally release the video of the murder of Ronald Johnson. Immediately, following the release of the video, the former state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, announced that she would not press any charges against police officer, George Hernandez. Alvarez represents the face of deep seated corruption that pervades every aspect of government in Chicago. Alvarez, CPD and the entire City government are guilty of covering up evidence of the murder of Ronald Johnson. The inept and corrupt handling of both Laquan McDonald’s and Ronald Johnson’s cases, reveal complicity in cover ups that go all the way to the Mayor’s and State’s Attorney’s offices. We demand the case be reopened. Why A Playground? RonnieMan was killed on 53rd and King Drive, in front of a playground at the entrance of Washington Park. To commemorate RonnieMan’s life, reclaim the land on which his blood was lain, and permanently memorialize his and all lives taken by police and state violence, we are are seeking to rename the park in his honor. For too long, those killed by police and state violence have been erased, invisibalized rendering their lives disposable. By reclaiming the land in which RonnieMan’s last breath was taken, we seek to disrupt the pattern of sweeping Black death into the annals of history, and instead will create a public permanent memorial to celebrate his life, Black life and our full humanity.
Justice for Charles KinseyIt has been since 1986 that Miami-Dade has held an officer accountable for violating the police department's use of force policy. The failure to terminate and criminally prosecute the officer sends a troublesome message to Mr. Kinsey and the general public of whom the department has taken the oath to protect and serve. The real problem facing our communities is that we undergo trauma when officers violate reputable policies and do not suffer reasonable consequences. As taxpayers and concerned citizens, we want justice and not rhetoric. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE CALL TO ACTION FROM CHARLES KINSEY: https://youtu.be/itIv6hlHzT4
A CALL TO DECRIMINALIZE THE U.S. IMMIGRATION SYSTEMSince the nation’s inception, immigration policies have been used to maintain white supremacy, stifle dissent, and as a social control tool, silencing alternative voices seeking social, economic, and racial justice and equality. The 1990s brought us a wave of laws which pulled the rug out from under the advances made by people of color in the U.S., including immigrants, during the Civil Rights movement. As part of this attack on Black and Brown communities, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (“the 1994 Crime Bill”), which re-classified less serious offenses, including drug offenses, as federal felonies, created long mandatory sentences, required state sex offender registries, and provided for $9.7 billion dollars in funding for prisons along with 100,000 new police officers on the street. Fresh off the 1994 Crime Bill, Congress passed the “1996 Immigration Laws”. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (“IIR-IRA”) and Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), expanded the grounds for deportation by broadening the definition of “aggravated felony,” which was first defined in the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act; establishing harsh sentences for numerous offenses and classes of mandatory detention; stripping away judicial discretion and the right to due process; and retroactively punishing those who already served time for their offenses. These laws also created a perverse incentive for local and federal law enforcement agencies to criminalize communities of color and created the private prison contracting sector. Amongst all immigrants, Black immigrants are nearly three times more likely to be detained and deported as a result of an alleged criminal offense. Moreover, many Black immigrants are ineligible for any form of relief, including a green card, executive programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status, or citizenship as a result of criminal contact. As a result of these laws passed twenty years ago, and a political climate that marginalizes and promotes state violence against immigrant, Black, Brown, and poor communities, the number of immigrants deported has increased ten-fold, tearing apart millions of families. Moreover, the U.S. mass incarceration and immigrant detention and deportation systems have become the largest in the world.