• Tell A&E Network to Cancel "Generation KKK"
    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Ku Klux Klan chapters grew across the United States from 72 in 2014 to 190 in 2015, partially due to pro-Confederate flag rallies that occurred in 26 states in response to the removal of the flag from South Carolina's state capital after the June massacre of nine black churchgoers by Dylan Roof. Against this backdrop of increasing white nationalism, A&E has chosen to create and air a documentary series that follows the lives of several families who are involved with the Klan. While the series will show "opposing viewpoints," it still delivers an alarming platform and free publicity and recruitment for a hate group with a long, ugly history of terrorizing and destroying black lives and communities in this country. I believe the attempt at balance is outweighed by the reality of the fame and access afforded to reality television stars. Please appeal to A&E to cancel the series so dangerous, criminal white supremacists do not have a televised pulpit from which to preach hate.
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  • No Power Grab in NC: End the Special Session
    After failing to win the governor’s race the through laws suppressing Black voters, the Republican officials in North Carolina.have decided they’re just going to nullify the results of the election. The Republican controlled NC General Assembly is stripping the election results of their meaning by drastically reducing the power of incoming Governor-elect Roy Cooper with an outrageous package of bills that include: - Having Republican control of the Board of Election during even years -- the years in which most NC elections are held -- and Democrats relegated to odd years. - Rigging the court process so fewer cases are able to be decided by the now-Democratic State Supreme Court appeals and all cases have to go through the full court of appeals, which is controlled by Republicans. - Limiting the number of members the governor can appoint to powerful board of trustees at the University of North Carolina school system and the state Board of Education It is outrageous that a legislature elected by what the federal courts declared to be deliberately racially-gerrymandered districts are further perverting the system to diminish Black political power in the state. The NC General Assembly is denying voters their right to decide who governs state by seizing power from the Governor’s office, cutting its staff to the bone, requiring their final approval on all appointments, and maintain control of the Board of Elections in all election years. This is a naked attempt to maintain supremacy in a state despite the decision of the voters. That this incredible abuse of power is set to happen in a special session of the General Assembly that is supposed to address Hurricane Matthew relief only shows how low they’ll stoop to maintain control. This is the same Republican Party that had the "Monster" Voter suppression laws thrown out this year by federal judges who saw that Republicans wrote their laws only after receiving data on how Black people exercised their right to vote in the state. Help stop this outrageous move that will waste your tax dollars, undermine the independence of the courts, and overthrow the will of North Carolina voters.
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  • Oregon: Fund Education not Executions!
    Oregon is spending millions of dollars on a death penalty system disproportionately invoked against Black people. While Black people only make up 2% of Oregon’s population they make up 9% of the population housed on Death Row. While spending millions of dollars to disproportionately imprison Black people, Governor Brown recently announced a state budget which could increase taxes and cuts services to the same communities who face this unfair criminal justice system. Instead of causing further damage to these communities by cutting vital services, Governor Brown should effectively end the use of the death penalty, save Oregon millions of dollars, and end an unjust practice that disproportionately targets the Black community.
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  • We Demand A New Vision for Criminal Justice in Champaign County
    For five years Build Programs, Not Jails has fought against jail building in our county. It is time for social and racial justice. Our county jail population is 65-70% Black in a county that is 13% Black. Time to end racism, to reduce the jail population and reallocate funding from law enforcement to providing services and creating pathways to success for people in our county.
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  • Serving Life w/ Hard Labor w/o Parole for $20 of Marijuana
    Fate Vincent Winslow was arrested in the Fall of 2008 for making $5 commission for delivering $20 worth of weed. The man he was delivering weed to was an undercover cop and when asked why Fate Vincent Winslow agreed to deliver $20 worth of weed he said because he wanted to use the $5 commission to buy food. Three months later, Winslow was found guilty of selling a Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substance. Another three months and the sentence lands: life imprisonment at hard labor with no chance for parole. Winslow will now die in prison for being tricked into selling $20.00 worth of weed to a plainclothed undercover cop in Louisiana, the world’s prison capital. Join me in demanding the Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards Free Fate Vincent Winslow immediately! When asked about his sentence Fate Vincent Winslow responded, “life for two bags of weed...people kill people and get five years”. Winslow’s case is one of the most egregious for marijuana violations, but it’s far from an anomaly. The Louisiana Prosecutor who handed Winslow’s case, Prosecutor Brown, views Winslow’s case as a major victory in what he calls “pro-active law enforcement”. A system that uses lesser crimes to lock up people whom he, and other Prosecutors, assume to be guilty of more violent crimes. This goes completely against the way the criminal justice system is supposed to work. Fate Vincent Winslow is currently serving life in prison for a very minor offense, selling weed, a substance that is now legal or at least decriminalized in many states, and something that White people do often without facing any repercussions. Winslow, according to Prosecutor Brown, is also in jail for being suspected of committing other crimes, which there is no evidence of. Fate Vincent Winslow, a 47 year old Black man who was homeless at the time of his arrest is another victim of the unjust criminal justice system that is strategically used to over incarcerate the Black community. Join me in demanding that Fate Vincent Winslow be freed! Winslow wrote about life in prison stating that “there is no life in prison. Just living day by day waiting to die in prison”. Winslow does not deserve to spend another day in prison, we demand that he be freed! Thank You, Korstiaan Vandiver "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?" -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. References: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/27/homeless-life-in-prison-weed_n_6769452.html
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  • Tell Ohio Senate: No More Pre-K Suspensions
    I am a parent of two Black children. In schools across America, Black children account for 18 percent of preschool enrollment but almost half (48 percent) of children suspended more than once in a school year. My son was one of these students. My son was expelled from school at age of 5 years old, as a pre-schooler, his very first year of school. From the beginning, children are being taught that they deserve the harsh and punitive treatment that first experience in the classroom and will soon confront in the world. We are here to say that Black children matter. For the first time, the state of Ohio has an opportunity to be a leader in changing these policies by passing HB 410 with amendments that would begin making it possible for parents like me to finally have a say in what happens to their children. Several other states are leading the way in banning the suspension and expulsion of students in early grades. From New Jersey to Oregon, states have eliminated suspensions for pre-schoolers and students up to 5th grade. We know that even this is not enough to mitigating the negative impact on children as young as 4 years old. In addition to Amendment 2629 to end pre-school suspensions, we support provisions in HB 410 that prohibit the use of suspensions and expulsions for truancy as well as the following: Amendment 2630 – Tiered discipline: Students should not be suspended for issues that could be easily resolved with a phone call home. Amendment 2639 – Make up work: It goes without saying that suspensions cause students to get behind on work. Education is a human right. No students should be denied classroom instruction because of racist disciplinary policies. Amendment 2605X4 – Tolling of suspensions during the summer: Students who were suspended at the end of the school year should be able to start the new school year with a fresh start. Rather than applying remaining days suspended to the new school year, students will be allowed to participate in community service over the summer instead. We urge you to include language in this amendment stating that participation in any community service or alternative consequence will not require families to incur additional costs, such as transportation costs. The same year my child was suspended, Kylen English, a 20-year-old lost his life while in custody of Dayton police. He was handcuffed in the back of a police car the last time he was seen alive. Within a few months, we started Racial Justice NOW! because we knew that unless we built real political power for Black students and families to change the written and unwritten rules, our lives would continue to be at stake. It will be 5 years this November that I co-founded and became Executive Director of Racial Justice NOW! I also serve as Co-Chair of the Dignity In Schools Campaign, a coalition of over 100 organizations from 27 states dedicated to dismantling the school to prison pipeline. And while we have made strides towards dismantling the school to prison pipeline, the rate at which change is happening is killing our children. My hope is that in this political moment, even more people will join the fight to fight for the futures of Black children. The fight for Black children is the fight for the future.
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  • Vote NO on California Proposition 66
    My name is Shujaa Graham and in 1973 I was framed for the murder of a prison guard due to my interest in the Black Power movement. I was wrongly placed on death row for a crime that I did not commit however, I was one of the lucky ones and while on death row I was able to fight for my innocence and after a fourth trial I was finally found innocent. I was able to win my freedom however this may not be a possibility for other innocent people on death row if Proposition 66 passes this November. California law enforcement, consisting of the very police departments that are known for their racist practices and numerous killings of Black community members, have raised nearly $5.5 million towards advertising that endorses Proposition 66. California law enforcement agencies want to speed up the death penalty process by limiting the ability to present new evidence of innocence and executing people faster. Some people have been removed from death row within just hours of execution. There is too much at risk here. If a person is killed and later found innocent there is no going back! This is why I need you to join me now and pledge to VOTE NO on Proposition 66. This proposition is unethical, funded by crooked prosecutors, prison guards, and other conservative law enforcement interests that are notorious for disproportionately targeting and killing Black people in California. Now they are working to do the same to those who are incarcerated in California with their attempts to pass of Prop. 66. Poor people and people of color are disproportionately put to death for crimes that bring other folks merely a long prison sentence. Let’s be clear: if Proposition 66 passes innocent Black and Brown people will be at a higher risk of being wrongly executed. California law enforcement agencies are dumping millions of dollars into advertising for Proposition 66 which would make it nearly impossible for innocent people on death row to prove their innocence. 156 innocent people nationwide, including three from California, have been wrongfully convicted of murder, sentenced to death but later exonerated; if Proposition 66 passes it would make it nearly impossible for innocent people on death row to gain their freedom and be exonerated. 61 percent of those exonerated are people of color, like me. This means that people of color, especially Black and Latino men and women, are being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death at a shocking rate. Join me in in pledging to vote NO on Proposition 66 to make sure that innocent people of color are not wrongly executed in California. In Solidarity, Shujaa Graham California Death Row Exoneree Paid for by No on Prop 66 Californians for Fair Justice, sponsored by social justice organizations. Major funding by ACLU Northern CA and Open Society Policy Center.
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  • Stand up for students protesting racial injustice
    I am a proud Pirate. My professors at East Carolina University challenged me to think critically about the world and helped me feel like I could have a real impact. It was at ECU where I learned that my voice is powerful. ECU is why I have a successful and fulfilling career at the intersection of politics, activism, and social change. Usually, I represent Pirate Nation with pride, but right now, I am disappointed in my alma mater’s decision to crack down on protests from the university’s marching band. Last Saturday, several members of the band took a knee during the Star’s Bangled Banner in peaceful demonstration against police brutality and racial injustice. As a former student activist at ECU, I couldn’t have been more proud to see these young people carrying on the tradition of peaceful protest at my alma mater. These young people are carrying on the proud legacy of agitating for social change on ECU’s campus.  In 1969, Black students were fed up with a hostile racial climate on campus and had a tense confrontation with then President Leo Jenkins. These brave students successfully got the university to stop playing Dixie and waving Confederate flags at games and to hire more Black faculty in the name of campus integration. No one would disagree that these brave people standing up for what they believe in made the university a better place. Today as students around the country are ridiculed or worse for speaking up on issues they are care about, we need to show our them that we support their right to protest.  When I read ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton’s statement on the protest, I was elated because it underscored the power of civil discourse and the importance of believing in something bigger than yourself, two values I learned during my time at East Carolina:  “While we acknowledge and understand the disappointment felt by many Pirate fans in response to the events at the beginning of today’s football game, we urge all Pirate students, supporters and participants to act with respect for each other’s views. Civil discourse is an East Carolina value and part of our ECU creed.” Sadly, this feeling only lasted a day because ECU Chancellor Staton reversed his decision saying that further protests “would not be tolerated:” “College is about learning, and it is our expectation that the members of the Marching Pirates will learn from this experience and fulfill their responsibilities. While we affirm the right of all our students to express their opinions, protests of this nature by the Marching Pirates will not be tolerated moving forward.” To make matters worse, it seems that the racial climate on campus has gone from simmering to a rapid boil. Many students felt threatened when a professor responded by promising to carry a gun around campus to demonstrate her Second Amendment rights, seemingly forgetting that doing so is against the law. A racial slur was found written in the library. In a climate where racial tensions are escalating, trying to muzzle students who are clearly trying to start a dialogue on the issue is not the right move. Not talking about it won’t make it go away. As a Black woman, I’ve felt the sting of racial injustice on campus at ECU. I’ll never forget the night a pack of drunk guys shouted a racial slur at me out of a moving car. That night, as hot tears stained my face, I made a silent promise to myself that I’d never live in the South after graduation; I just couldn’t take it anymore. What’s worse is that nothing has changed; knowing that students are still having to putting up with this same racial animosity on campus that I did ten years earlier feels like a knife in the heart.  This is the wrong message to be sending to Pirate Nation. These students have a Constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression. This freedom doesn’t end when students put on their uniform. If it wasn’t for my time engaging in activism during my time at East Carolina, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Chancellor Staton should give these students that same opportunity.
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  • Education Justice is Racial Justice
    The United States promises our children equal access to a free public elementary and high school education. But too many Black and Brown children have been denied schools good enough to make this promise meaningful. Instead of honestly acknowledging the root causes of struggling schools and investing in real equity in public education, today’s policymakers and deep-pocketed corporate education “reformers” offer misguided strategies that fail to address the central problem: a failure to invest in Black, Brown and poor children, the educators who teach them and the communities in which they live. This is a crisis in values, in what we believe and who we believe in. It is a crisis of civil rights — and of human rights.
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  • STOP ITOA
    ITOA promotes police use of military tactics with toxic racism and Islamophobia. Their keynote speaker this year will be anti-Muslim bigot and Fox News regular Dr. Sebastian Gorka [2], a self-proclaimed counterterrorism expert who has served in an advisory role to countless government and military agencies, from the CIA to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The conference will train local police and EMTs to operate “like tactical squads in the military” and incorporate “new data and surveillance technology” in their work, directly contributing to racialized law enforcement violence against communities of color in the Chicagoland area. While Chicago is still reeling from budget cuts that have resulted in the closure of over 50 public schools, mental health clinics, and severe cuts to social services, the city spends over $4 million a day on the Chicago police alone. ITOA is directly involved in training and arming those police, even using empty school buildings [3] as training grounds [4] for Cook County officers. The impact of ITOA reaches far beyond the Chicagoland area. With police departments from around the country, US Marshalls & DHS agents, and former & active military personnel attending their trainings and conferences, ITOA sets a national precedent for police militarization across law enforcement agencies in the United States. SWAT trainings like those occurring at this year’s ITOA conference take place in cities across the country year round, which lead directly to increased violence against Black communities, immigrant communities, and those already experiencing police violence. Weapons manufacturers from around the world also use the ITOA conference to sell military-grade equipment to local police forces–equipment that shocked the country when it was deployed against civilians in places like Ferguson, Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge. As part of the growing movement against policing, we call on Stonegate to end their contracts with the 2016 ITOA Tactical Training Conference. We are appalled that this venue would participate in the proliferation of arms and anti-Muslim, anti-Black bigotry in Chicagoland. Sign this petition to Stonegate general manager Charles Baptist to remind him that police violence & racism are bad business, and bad for business. This campaign is supported by: ----------------------------------------- Assata’s Daughters For The People Artists Collective American Friends Service Committee – Chicago The People’s Response Team Lifted Voices War Resisters League Council for American Islamic Relations – Chicago Organized Communities Against Deportations Black Lives Matter – Chicago Students for Justice in Palestine – Chicago Arab American Action Network Invisible to Invincible: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago (i2i) Center for New Community Anakbayan – Chicago Iraq Veterans Against the War National Lawyer’s Guild – Chicago Black and Pink – Chicago Jewish Voice for Peace – Chicago Showing Up for Racial Justice – Chicago Chicago League of Abolitionist Whites Footnotes: [1] http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/How-Cook-County-Officers-Train-for-Active-Shooter-Situations-360426111.html [2] http://thegorkabriefing.com/about/ [3] http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/How-Cook-County-Officers-Train-for-Active-Shooter-Situations-360426111.htm [4] http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/05/30/what-happens-after-a-school-closes/
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  • Demand Walmart CEO Doug McMillon Protect Workers' Right to Protest
    Four years ago, Walmart workers nationwide rose in protest, igniting some of the first Walmart strikes in history. At a Bay-Area Walmart, six employees peacefully walked off the job after their supervisor, Art Van Riper, openly threatened to lynch and shot workers. But Walmart decided to punish these protesters, rather than discipline or fire Van Riper. At that time, unfair working conditions in the Walmart store had become un-ignorable. Wages, unreasonable. And management, unbending. Walmart associates in Richmond, California began calling on management in their store to stop retaliating against workers who spoke out against any these issues. Toxic energy in the store intensified during one night of work in September of 2012. As an Black employee tied a rope around his own waist to aid in moving a heavy counter, Van Riper told him, "if it was up to me, I'd put that rope around your neck." Van Riper began creating divisions among his employees, instructing non-striking workers not to speaking with associating protesting. He “suggested” that non-participating associates would lose their jobs if they did. Then he told them outright, “If it were up to me, I’d shoot the union.” Van Riper’s intimidation tactics and open racism turned a Walmart in a majority Black and Latino community into a plantation. He used his authority to scare workers seeking union protection, calling out his aggressive behavior, or reaching out to coworkers for support. And with workers already struggling to make ends meet, none of the associates were prepared to lose their jobs. Just this month, the National Labor Relations Board released a statement upholding these workers’ right to protest. According to the Board, Walmart also illegally disciplined these former associates. NLRB required Walmart to reverse its disciplinary actions taken against workers who protested, to demand that supervisors not threaten workers, to allow employees to wear union insignia while on-duty. This decision is an important victory for Walmart workers and employees at other big box stores. It confirms that these workers have a right to strike, particularly when there is no outlet to state grievances. Walmart has already stated that it may pursue appealing to a higher court to have these incredible milestones erased. We need your support to keep pushing Walmart and other industry leaders to respect their employee's rights, especially the right to speak up against mistreatment and intimidation. Please stand with Walmart workers around the country and demand that Doug McMillon protect workers’ right to protest.
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  • Tell President Barack Obama: Recognize Black Women Survivors of Rape and Sexual Assault
    Dear 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
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