- Afropunk Army
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- End The War on Black People
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#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.
Tell Walmart: to rehire Thomas SmithHi my name is Thomas Smith. I loved my job at a Walmart in East Greenbush, NY, where I made $9 an hour putting away shopping carts and picking up trash from the parking lot. After being released from prison and facing homelessness earlier this year, I felt like I was really getting my life on track. But then last Friday, after I worked over-time to assist my managers, I was abruptly fired. The reason? I redeemed about $2 worth of empty cans and bottles left in an abandoned shopping cart just inside the store. I didn't know you couldn't take empties left behind. They were garbage. I didn't even get a chance to explain myself to the manager. I was never told that redeeming bottles wasn’t allowed and I immediately paid back the money. I worked hard at Walmart and did a good job. I ended up getting a raw deal. They just told me to turn in my badge. There’s a double standard at my store. My manager told me that a cashier in my store, who is white, was caught on camera stealing $20 from a cash register and stuffing it into her bra. She paid the money back, but she wasn’t fired. I’ve worked hard to turn my life around. And I worked hard at Walmart - I was only a few weeks away from passing my 90-day probation period. I shouldn’t have been fired for redeeming cans that were left for trash.
Walmart's Employee Discount needs to cover ALL food!Across the country, Walmart associates just like me are struggling to feed their families. We work every day surrounded by groceries, but many of them are too expensive for us to actually buy. Walmart could decide to alleviate some of our burden, by joining the ranks of Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Target in offering an employee discount across ALL food items. The current Walmart discount (10%) covers most merchandise, but not bread, meat, eggs, and other basic groceries that Walmart workers need. My name is Jasmine, and I am the mother of two young boys. Every month, I struggle to figure out how to put food on the table and still pay rent on time. I work 35 hours a week, but at $11 an hour I barely make enough to sustain my small family. Every month one whole check goes to rent, while another goes to cover diapers, wipes, and food. We have no extra money, and sometimes I need to decide between buying groceries and paying the water bill. These are basic necessities that I need to choose between every month. As one of many Black women working at Walmart, I'm tired of food insecurity being a part of our shared experience. If Walmart expanded it’s employee discount program to cover ALL food items, I would be one step closer to knowing that I'll be able to give my children everything they need each month. This is a win – win. Walmart is one of the only large grocers in the United States that doesn’t have an across the board employee discount for food. A ten percent discount would allow Walmart associates to spend more money on food at Walmart. The company would get more money and we would be able to be healthier workers. I've even talked to Walmart associates in Canada who said that they receive discounts on all of their food, so why not here in the United States too? Tell Walmart: We need it NOW.
End School-Sanctioned Violence Against Children, Parents and CommunitiesWe wish this story was an isolated incident, but it is not. It’s one of many other stories of children who find themselves the victim of the school to prison pipeline. A system that will arrest children because they had a bad day. Children who may or may not have a disability. Children who may have lost a family member, a friend, or someone in the community. Children who may have recently become homeless, or had a parent or sibling incarcerated. Poor black and brown children are the ones who most frequently are targeted by this pipeline, thanks to the racism and classism that is a widespread part of our society. Nationwide African-American children represent 26% of juvenile arrests and 44% of youth who are detained. Taxpayers spend an estimated $70 billion on corrections and incarceration, yet over half of the children who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. This call to action demands that: Our schools treat every child, every family, and every community with dignity and respect. Our children should not be arrested or made to leave school for things that all children go through. Our teachers and paraprofessionals who educate our most vulnerable populations should not be given the lowest pay and inadequate training. The average paraprofessional salary in Louisiana was $19,970 per year in May 2014, which ranked 46th of the 50 states. By comparison, in 2012, at least 45 New Orleans charter school executives made more than $100,000 a year. Our parents should not be subjected to economic abuse and hardship, from charging $60-$80 for school uniforms, to causing parents to lose their jobs, their incomes, and their livelihoods when they are frequently called to school for minor misbehaviors.
Taking Food out of people’s mouths does not create jobs, it leaves entire communities hungry!Under the 1996 welfare law, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) are limited to three months of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly food stamps) in a three-year period unless they are working 20 hours a week or enrolled in a job training program for 20 hours a week. But the same law that created the time limit allows states to request a waiver for areas with high unemployment where jobs are scarce. Louisiana is eligible for a statewide waiver in 2016 given our high unemployment rate. Louisiana has added 51,000 jobs since January 2013, but at the same time the labor force grew by 102,000 job seekers. Louisiana now has a higher unemployment rate than the nation. Unfortunately, Governor Jindal has chosen not to apply for a statewide waiver. Their position is that a wavier conflicts with a policy of promoting "self-sufficiency." Of course, we all agree that a job paying a living wage is preferable to public assistance. But we also are aware of the reality that jobs--much less good-paying jobs--are scarce in our state. Rates of food insecurity in Louisiana remain high. Surveys averaged over three years show 17.6 percent of Louisianans lacked food security over the 2012-2014 period, a huge increase from the 11.8 percent who were food insecure a decade ago and higher than the 14.1 percent in 2009-2011. Nationally, the rate is 14.3 percent. Denying SNAP to the unemployed will do nothing to increase the rate of job creation, but will increase food hardship and the burden on local food banks already struggling to serve the hungry. People who will be cut off from food assistance because of this harsh rule are some of the poorest people in the state who are generally not eligible for any other type of assistance. Now, it will be harder for them to eat. Taking SNAP benefits away from unemployed workers will also create desperate situations that can increase the crime rate in the state of Louisiana. If DCFS refuses to apply for a waiver targeting high-need areas, the state should at least commit itself to providing a job training spot to every single person who wants one so that they can keep their SNAP benefits while building their skills. Unfortunately, given budget constraints, that isn’t likely to happen. With a lack of jobs, no training opportunities, and limited places to perform community service, thousands will be punitively cut off from basic food assistance. Please sign on to tell Jindal that you will not stand by as he makes people starve.
TELL THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO STOP FUNDING THE KINDERGARTEN TO PRISON PIPELINEWe have a crisis across the country with school arrests and suspensions. We all were horrified to see a South Carolina police officer assault and handcuff a 16 year black student in her classroom. But the school-to-prison pipeline starts the disparate treatment of our youngest black students in school. Black children make up 18% of preschoolers, but 48% of pre-school suspensions. Overall black students are 4 times more likely than their white peers to be suspended. Latino, LGBT and special needs students are also more likely to be suspended. The data is clear suspensions lead to dropouts, which often lead to prison. My 10-year-old son Jamir has faced multiple school suspensions when he was a student at Success Academy charter schools in New York City. He was routinely asked to be picked up or was suspended for minor infractions like being too emotional or not going up the school stairs in a timely manner. My son has special needs and he can act out when not provided the proper supports, but Success Academy did nothing to help him. I finally had to withdraw my son. Jamir and I are not alone. On October 29th, the New York Times reported on a Success Academy “Got to Go” list of students the school wanted to get rid of. These students faced numerous suspensions as early as kindergarten and most of the parents withdrew their children as a result. Moskowitz has boasted on national TV and in a prominent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal about her harsh discipline policies including her suspension of kindergarteners. Last year one of her schools issued 44 out-of-school suspensions to just 203 kindergarteners and first graders. But because Moskowitz has the backing of hedge fund billionaires who use their political muscle to buy influence for her and other zero tolerance charter schools in Washington, D.C., nothing is being done about it. In fact Eva Moskowitz has used her political connections to rake in over $37 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education. She was just awarded $13.4 million of $335 million that the Department awarded to charter schools across the country. If the U.S. Department of Education is going continue to fund Eva Moskowitz’s zero tolerance charter schools in New York, then they will turn a blind eye to zero tolerance charter schools across the country. We cannot allow the U.S. government to fund a kindergarten to prison pipeline. That is why I joined with the Alliance for Quality Education and the Urban Youth Collaborative to ask you to send this petition to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calling on him to stop funding the Kindergarten to prison pipeline. Fatima Geidi