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Dutchess County Legislators: We Don't Need a New $300 Million Jail!The rush to build a 569-room jail and Sheriff’s complex in Dutchess County will end up costing taxpayers approximately $300 million over 30 years. This threatens the county’s fiscal stability and does little to address criminal justice priorities. Declining crime and reform efforts are leading to less prison facilities, lower incarceration rates and evidence-based, fair and effective diversion programs in New York and around the country. It doesn't make sense that Dutchess’ plan goes the opposite direction. The county's population is going down, but the proposal still calls for a 15% increase in jail beds. More disturbing is the fact that Dutchess saw its incarceration rate increase 41% between 2006 and 2015 when most other counties in New York saw their rate remain flat or decrease. The human cost of incarceration is also disproportionately borne by Dutchess County’s black residents, who make up 11% of the county population but 39% of the inmate population. The jail proposal sends a terrible message to black youth that they are seen as threats rather than valued residents and future leaders. This project is moving too fast and without appropriate safeguards and disclosure. We call on you to to reject the jail expansion project in current form and work with the community on reforming Dutchess County's criminal justice system first.
RETURN NORTH CAROLINA FARM UNJUSTLY SEIZED BACK TO BLACK FARMERWe are very concerned what appears to be a glaring and very violent assault on small farmers, Black farmers, and the right to self-determination in this country, via the recent seizure of North Carolina Farmer Eddie Wise’s land. On Wednesday, January 20, 2016, around 7:30 a.m., at least fourteen (14) Federal Marshals in full military gear with full-scale military guns drawn, along with several county sheriff officers, descended on the 106 acre farm in Nash County, NC, and forcibly escorted Eddie Wise and his wife, who was still in bed and suffers from a debilitating medical condition, out of their home and off the land that they have owned for more than 20 years. Reportedly, farmer Eddie Wise had been working on his loan with Farm Service Agency (FSA) until Farm Services Agent Paula F. Nicholls and Mike Huskie took over his case. Not soon after, Mr. Wise’s loan increased and sky rocketed to almost $60,000 more within only a month’s span of time, thus lending to an escalated foreclosure process and, the seizure of property and an incredible number of subsequent questions and outrage from people all across the country. Mr. Wise and his wife Dorothy have suffered the height of indignity and racist degradation. This process is highly problematic and we see this seizure as a major threat to family farms nationwide. Not only did the Federal Marshals render Eddie and Dorothy immediately homeless and landless, they did not allow them to take any of their belongings except the clothes on their backs. They also insisted on “securing” every firearm legally owned by Mr. Wise. Mr. Wise was in fear of his life and the life of his wife. “I believe if I had shown one ounce of resistance, the Federal Marshals would have killed me. I actually believe that’s what they came to do” said Mr. Wise, his eyes moist with tears. Saving their land has been a long and exhaustive process for the Wise family. The ugliness of the one dimensional unfairness, racial characterization, and mental traps set for this family and thousands of other Black farmers by USDA, and a corrupt legal system, defy reason and logic. Black farmers are a racial minority and do not represent a large political power block, therefore they are unfairly treated like terrorized slave captives in their own country, a country they were vital in building. MORE BACKGROUND ON FARMER EDDIE WISE: 1. In 1993 the Wises applied for a loan to purchase a 106-acre hog farm. Wise said that at first the FmHA (now FSA) County Loan Officer didn’t let him know that the farm had been “earmarked for minority farmers.” Then officials tried to reappraise the farm to increase the value, but the value actually dropped. Last, a White farmer who wanted the farm paid a Black woman to apply for him. She was one of the final two applicants whose names were drawn from a hat. “We won the draw,” Wise said. Wise continued to face resistance from the county loan office, which is now demanding that he provide a production history going back five years and a production plan for the new farm. 2. Eddie and Dorothy Wise raise hogs on 106 acres near Whitakers, in east-central North Carolina. Eddie is a fourth-generation hog farmer but the first to own a farm; his father and grandfather were sharecroppers. During a 20 plus career in the military, and as an ROTC instructor at Howard and Georgetown Universities, Eddie raised hogs in his spare time. It was his dream to return home to North Carolina and farm full-time. When he retired from the Army in 1991 at the age of 48, that’s what he set out to do. Dorothy Wise grew up in Washington, D.C., but she too hoped to one day live on a farm. When she and Eddie met at Howard University in the 1980s and she discovered he was a farmer, it seemed that her wish had come true. Still, it took the Wises five years, until 1996, to secure the loans they needed to buy their farm. They were repeatedly turned down by local government loan officers who, the Wises are convinced, did not want African-American farmers to succeed. It was only through determined effort and much research and legwork that the Wises were able to receive the financial help for which they qualified. Prior to them being ordered off their property, the Wises had 250 hogs, which they raised from birth and would sell to a black-owned pork processor in the area. Eddie’s lean pork, raised without hormones or antibiotics, is sold at a premium in area supermarkets. Finding such a market niche is the only way the Wises can compete with the much-larger farms that mass-produce hogs for the large meatpacking companies. For the last 40 years American Black farmers have lived a hellish nightmare deliberately orchestrated by the USDA and its local Farmers Home Administration (FmHA – now the Farm Service Agency, FSA) offices to confiscate Black-owned land and homes. A review of the now historic Pigford v. Glickman Class Action by Black farmers will help one to understand the extremely vicious attack against black farmers and the USDA’s own Civil Rights Action Team report, (CRAT February 1997). (For details on the Black Farmers Class Action, See https://www.blackfarmercase.com/Background.aspx or http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/pigfordmonitor/index.htm). We demand a full investigation, a halt to all land seizure and illegitimate farm sales and to return Eddie and Dorothy Wise’s farm and property to them immediately. For more information, contact email@example.com. ------------------------------- Check out BFAA on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BFAA.org/ and here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/106046796096003 To support Farmer Eddie Wise and Dorothy Wise: www.gofundme.com/39m8623g
No Grand Jury #Justice4JamarGrand juries consistently fail to deliver justice in cases of fatal police shootings. In grand juries, prosecutors often rely on evidence gained solely from police. Moreover, the process is extremely secretive: the prosecutor and the grand jury members may not reveal what occurred in the grand jury room to the public, including any evidence or videos presented. Since 2000, 142 Minnesotans have been killed by police. Grand juries have returned indictments in zero of these cases. In fact, no police officer in Minnesota has EVER been indicted for a fatal shooting. While Mike Freeman insists grand juries have been a part of Minnesota’s justice system for 35 years, this is exactly the reason to eliminate their use in cases of fatal police encounters. The criminal justice system has been purposefully failing people of color for centuries. It is time to change our approach. Grand juries are neither effective nor required by law. California recently became the first state to ban grand juries in cases of deadly force by police. The governor of New York has appointed a special prosecutor for these cases. Recently, the city of Baltimore directly indicted police officers in the death of Freddie Gray without resorting to a grand jury process. A special prosecutor can and should decide whether to pursue charges directly, without obstructing justice via a grand jury.
Gov. Christie: Condemn Hate & Renounce Trump, or Resign!In a desperate final bid for relevance on the national stage, New Jersey Governor Christie is traveling the country in support of Donald Trump's racist and hateful presidential campaign. The Trump rallies Chris Christie now headlines have become beacons for hate groups and hate speech. By standing with them, Christie is turning his back on the millions of constituents who reject the racism and misogyny that Trump's campaign now embodies. Christie's actions sully what is left of his reputation and our state's as a whole. Enough is enough. We deserve a Governor who treats us with dignity and respect, not one who aligns himself with bigotry and violent racism. Governor Christie: renounce Donald Trump or resign!
Stand with Ravi Perry and Luke Harris Against Racial Censorship in Henrico CountyDid you know that school boards across the country have already banned some of the only books cataloguing the experiences of people of color? And it's not just literature that's being suppressed and erased; the African American Policy Forum's “Unequal Opportunity Race” video is the latest educational media suppressed by conservative school boards. As part of Black History Month, the Unequal Opportunity Race, a short animated video produced by AAPF, was shown to students at Glen Allen High School in Henrico County, Virginia. The clip was included as part of a program to facilitate a conversation on structural racism. Despite accurately illustrating historical events and contemporary racial inequities, conservative activists and right-wing outlets, like Fox News, labeled the educational tool as a "white guilt video.” The Board of Education fueled the conservative outrage when it called the video “racially divisive.” Micky Ogburn, the School Board’s Chair, went as far as to apologize to parents and community members who believed the video was "reverse racism.” Let us be clear: labelling multiracial visions of American society as “divisive” is nothing new. The Civil Rights Movement was called divisive. Martin Luther King, Jr. was called divisive. Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court’s landmark school desegregation case, was labelled as divisive. What is truly divisive is a ban that discourages conversations around structural racism, furthering the dangerous myth that Black people’s suffering can be blamed on individual or cultural shortcoming rather than systemic flaws! What is truly divisive is the miseducation of millions of children, leaving them ill-equipped to understand the complexity of race and racism. Join us supporting parents, students and community leaders in urging the Henrico County School Board to lift the ban on the Unequal Opportunity Race! We further call for transparency from the School Board on their decision-making process used to ban the video, and unbiased coverage from the local press on the ongoing dispute. Learning about the systemic roots of modern-day racial inequality is critical for not only Black students, but for everyone. Censorship of this material in response to conservative agitation is a direct expression of racial repression being translated into official policy. We cannot stand by as our stories are labeled as irrelevant to our country’s social reality, while anything that lifts up the struggles of people of color are deemed racist!
#StandUp4Kids NOT Billionaires23 years ago a group of determined parents filed a law suit called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity against New York state to prove that the state was discriminating against districts with mostly Black, Latino or impoverished students by not properly funding their education.10 years ago I stood on the steps of the New York State Court of Appeals with my then 10 year old and 12 year old daughters, Rayya and Zaire, awaiting the hearing that would determine CFE and the fair funding of our New York City Schools. I was so elated when the decision was made that our schools did deserve more, because it meant opportunities and dreams would no longer be denied not only for my children but all other Black and Latino students and students living in poverty. Yet here I am, 10 years later still fighting the same fight. Throughout this 10-year fight, I’ve been up in arms with fellow parents, organizers, and teachers alike. All of which, have witnessed the disparity in opportunity afforded to students because of their skin color or zip code. Education should be about accessing knowledge to expand your world but a consistent disinvestment in public school dollars on top of educational cuts limits this and unfairly stints school potential through a lack of resources. These resources could provide programs that have been proven to enhance a child’s learning environment like advanced classes, technology, longer school days, after school programs, teacher supports, and the list goes on. That’s why right now we’re challenging our legislators to #StandUp4Kids Billionaires and hedge fund managers in New York drive the overwhelming income inequity that creates a gap in educational funding. When the 1% is paying less in taxes than our school secretaries, sanitation workers, nurses and truck drivers we must stand up and say change needs to happen, NOW! With just 1% more in taxes from the 1% (those making $665,000 and over) New York State could raise over $2 billion in funding for education. But when Governor Cuomo says there is “no appetite” for raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires—what I hear is that addressing a 50% child poverty rate is not a priority for New York State. And Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is opposing it because his Republican colleagues depend on hedge funds and billionaires to finance their re-election campaigns. We must put our children before hedge funds and political interests. The future depends on it. Sign our petition to demand Governor Cuomo, Senator Flanagan and the legislators of NY to #StandUp4Kids, NOT billionaires! While my 8 children may never get the opportunity to reap the benefits of CFE my 3 grandchildren can. It’s time for legislators to make the right choice. Together, we can protect the promise of a quality education for generations to come.
Restore the Vote MN 2016Over 47,000 Minnesotans living in the community working and paying taxes 32,827 are White, 9,045 are African American, 2,822 are Hispanic, 2,765 are Native American. African Americans in Minnesota make up 5% of the state’s population and 35% of the prison population. African Americans in Minnesota are seven times more likely to be disenfranchised than White Minnesotans
Don't Prosecute #BlackLivesMatter ProtestorsOn December 23, 2015, 9 #BlackLivesMatter members were arrested for taking part in non-violent direct action that briefly stalled traffic on the 405 freeway in order to lift up the names of Black people who have been killed by law enforcement. This was a part of a #BlackXmas synchronized action which occurred in 6 cities around the United States. ONLY IN LOS ANGELES are demonstrators facing felony charges…including felony conspiracy charges, typically used in political prosecutions. It is especially important on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday and moving into Black History Month that we celebrate the tradition of non-violent protest not prosecute it.
TELL DE BLASIO: STOP PUSHING BLACK/LATINO KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL AND INTO CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEMLast fall, the whole country saw how violent and traumatic the "broken windows" approach to school discipline is when we watched a white police officer brutally attack a young black girl sitting quietly in her classroom. Shakara, the young girl that was attacked, and Niya, the young girl that stood up for her, are still facing criminal charges for "disturbing school." New York City is still using a"broken windows" approach to school discipline that criminalizes us for similar reasons. In New York, every day students receive a criminal summons for "disorderly conduct," which could be everything from refusing an order to leave a classroom to being excessively loud. Our school system must end these policies and practices that refuse to value Black Lives. As young Black women attending public high schools in Brooklyn and Harlem every day we wake up and go to school we feel the impact of the policies and practices that continue to maintain the school-to-prison pipeline. Black students make up only 26% of students, but we account for 53% of all suspensions. Black girls are disciplined at a rate 10 times that of white girls. And Black and Latina/o students account for 67% of all students but at 94% we account for almost all students that are being arrested. Black and Latina/o students do not behave any differently than white students,- but we are more likely to get pushed out of school for minor infractions. Last year, I (Miaija) got into a schoolyard fight. It was the kind of schoolyard fight that happens between young people all over, but instead of sitting down with adults and working through the conflict, I received a criminal summons for disorderly conduct. I was forced to miss school and go to Manhattan Criminal Court to resolve the charge. Students that miss school to attend court are twice as likely to drop out, and if I missed court, or failed to pay a fine, I would have a criminal warrant for arrest out in my name. The disorderly conduct charges against me were dropped, but I was still forced to navigate the criminal justice system when I should have been worried about finals. There are thousands of students that receive criminal summons in our schools and every day and for many of them it leads to them dropping out of school. There are over 90,000 students in New York City that pass through metal detectors everyday, almost all of them Black and Latina/o. Our schools do not have to feel like prisons. New York City spends almost $400,000,000 annually on School Safety for police officers, metal detectors, surveillance equipment and suspension trials. The city’s investment in Restorative Justice in schools is less than $1,000,000. You don’t build safe and supportive schools by suspending and criminalizing students. You build safe and supportive schools by investing in Restorative Justice to develop strong relationships between students, educators, and parents and by adopting policies that create a fair and just approach to discipline. Our city must stop investing in the school-to-prison pipeline and start investing in our future. If all Black Lives Matter it is time for our schools to treat us all with dignity and respect. Thank You, Zaire Agostini and Miajia Jawara Urban Youth Collaborative
Put expanded voting rights on New Jersey's 2016 ballot!In New Jersey, a full 36 percent of Black Americans aren't registered to vote. A full 55 percent of younger Black voters (18-29) say they don't vote because they aren't registered. In June, the New Jersey Legislature put the "Democracy Act" on Governor Christie's desk in an attempt to reverse that trend. The Democracy Act would have registered tens of thousands of new Black voters and made it easier than ever for all of us to have a full say in our Democracy. Governor Christie vetoed the Democracy Act in November, but the Legislature doesn't have to let him have the last word on our voting rights. Sign our petition asking the NJ Legislature to put the major provisions of the Democracy Act on the 2016 ballot, including: Automatically registering qualified residents to vote when they visit their local MVC. Allowing people to register to vote or correct voting information online. Making voting more convenient for working families by expanding early in-person voting. Improving access for military and overseas voters. Printing ballots in languages that reflect our diverse communities. Additionally, legislators should advance full rights restoration for people on probation and parole. Currently 1 in 5 otherwise eligible Black voters in New Jersey are denied the right to vote because of past convictions. By putting the Democracy Act on the 2016 ballot and restoring rights for people with prior convictions, legislators would give New Jersey voters a chance to strengthen their own voting rights, and to expand the right to vote for their fellow residents. If Christie's veto of the Democracy Act was cynical politics at its worst, putting voting rights on the ballot would be democracy at its best.
Life Saving Treatment Now for Mumia Abu-JamalMy name is Keith Cook, and I am Mumia Abu-Jamal’s brother. My loss, and my pain, have been constant for three decades since my brother has been in prison. He needs to come home, like so many of the men from our community. Mumia is very ill. I was in the waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit, just feet from where he lay nearly dying, for 28 long hours in Pottsville, PA before the guards would let me see him. He was chained: his right arm and left leg shacked to the hospital bed. Did you know that there is absolutely no reason for him to suffer? There is a cure for Hepatitis C — just one pill a day. I see my brother. But the Department of Corrections and the courts see “a prisoner”. Wasn’t Jesus a prisoner? Wasn’t Nelson Mandela a prisoner? Dr. Paul Noel, Director of Health Care for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Dr. Carl J. Keldie Chief Clinical Officer of Correct Care Solutions would let incarcerated people die from this disease. Yes, Mumia is supported by Amnesty International and Desmond Tutu, among many others. But he is also just like any other Black man in prison. Together we must stop this shameful practice of denying lifesaving health care to Mumia Abu-Jamal and all prisoners. And we must expose the public health imperative of treating Hepatitis C inside and outside of prisons. As the drug’s inventor Michael Sofia notes, “How can you deny people access to a cure?”. Right now, my brother is in the infirmary at SCI Mahanoy, and he is receiving absolutely no treatment. We are in court, right now with a petition. You can make sure that the U.S. District Court Judge Mariani, and Magistrate Mehalchick see and hear more than the word “prisoner”. We know these folks are our mothers, fathers, and brothers. We know they deserve to be treated with dignity and with respect. We need your voice to be heard. Tell them you know that intentional medical neglect is a violation of the 8th Amendment and their Hippocratic Oath. Medical apartheid must stop. Please join me. - Keith Cook, Retired Command Sergeant; Major, US Army; Former Chairman Orange, County School Board; Past President, North Carolina Caucus of Black School Board; District Director, NC NAACP Conference of Branches
Divest from Wells Fargo! University of California (UC) Prison Divestment!We, the undersigned community members and justice seekers, are excited by the Afrikan Black Coalition's recent victory in getting the University of California to divest $25 million from the private prison corporations Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), The Geo Group, and G4S. The victory was historic because private prisons have exacerbated America's mass incarceration regime, are implicated in gross human rights violations, and should be outlawed. However, we share the Afrikan Black Coalition's outrage and frustration resulting from the UC system's startling $425 million investment in Wells Fargo, one of the largest financiers of private prisons. According a report from Enlace, Wells Fargo facilitates access to over $1.2 billion capital for private prisons. As of their latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wells Fargo owned nearly 1.5 million shares in private prisons. It bears noting that Wells Fargo is a bank that practiced discriminatory lending and maneuvered people of color (primarily Black and Latino) into subprime mortgages that led to the financial meltdown of 2007-2008; and in response to accusations of racial discrimination in its lending practices, Wells Fargo settled for $175 million in 2012 with pending litigations from several U.S cities (Los Angeles and Oakland) about discriminatory practices. It is for these reasons that we stand in solidarity with the Afrikan Black Coalition in its call for justice for those who are systematically dehumanized by an unforgiving and unfair judicial system that continues to criminalize Black and brown bodies. We acknowledge these cases illustrate the evolution of America's legal institution to uphold race, gender, and class hierarchies. By investing in Wells Fargo Bank, the University of California is actively supporting a legacy of historical emphasis on profit margins at the expense of human beings, and the continued mass criminalization of Black existence. It is an ethical embarrassment and a clear disregard for Black and immigrant lives for the UC to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Wells Fargo as a financier of private prisons. In the age of Black Lives Matter and a reinvigorated Black Freedom Struggle, the UC should NOT be bankrolling the inhuman mass incarceration regime that has gripped America.