Newsletter – Black August, End Neo-Slavery, Resist

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Black August is coming to an end as we commemorate the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As many head back to school, a full season of actions are being planned for the fall to stop the corporate takeover of our communities and world and the push toward neo-slavery.

Black August and the Prison-Industrial Complex

Yesenia Barragan writes in TeleSur that Black August was created by Black political prisoners in California’s infamous San Quentin State Prison in August 1979 to commemorate the long legacy of prison protest and other forgotten events in the history of Black freedom struggles.” The need for protest continues to this day as we continue to see disproportionate murder and incarceration of people of color and the creation of a path towards imprisonment that begins in early childhood for the benefit of the wealthy.Black August

Mumia Abu-Jamal is facing death by intentional medical neglect. He is being denied treatment for Hepatitis C, even though it has a 95% success rate. Mumia’s lawyers are in court demanding justice for this political prisoner. Here are steps you can take to help

Michigan political activist Reverend Pinkney was targeted in a bizarre prosecution and wrongly imprisoned. The ACLU says his case is “almost certain” to be reversed on appeal but a 2-1 decision by the appeals court denied him bail pending the appeal. The 66 year old Pinkney is is paying a debt to society that he does not owe and has been in prison for 8 months already. He is  political prisoner.  Join the letter campaign to demand that he be released.

When people of color are mistreated or killed in the prison system, the perpetrators usually go free. This week in Poughkeepsie, NY, the family and friends of Samuel Harrell who was killed by a prison ‘Beat Up Squad’ demonstrated to demand justice. Shandrae Delaney, mother of ‘Dallas 6’ prisoner Carrington Keys writes about her son and his allies who fight for the rights of prisoners from the inside and who have been punished and tortured for it. Now they are facing riot charges while though were in solitary confinement.

How important are the deaths of prisoners? The US doesn’t even track them; although it tracks the deaths of bees. Daniel Lazare blames the lack of data and accountability on the fragmentation of our police departments. Michael Ludwig of Truthout describes the massive corruption in the Prison Industrial Complex between industry, prison employees and public officials.

Protest at Gates Foundation against private prison investment from Presente.orgThere is another type of corruption that is not so obvious. Susan DuFresne of the United Opt Out movement explained it well on Clearing the FOG Radio this week. The Bill Gates Foundation (of Microsoft) invests in private prisons and promotes Common Core (as Gates says, it opens up a whole new market for software products) and the high-stakes testing in schools that is used to fail students and schools. In Seattle, the city is using elementary school test scores to predict the number of youth jail beds needed. And the punishment of students is racially biased. This is part of the school-to-prison pipeline. In return, prisoners work for Microsoft for extremely low pay – a form of neo-slavery. Microsoft profits all around.

The right to an education is disappearing in the US through the closing of public schools that accept all students and the creation of charter schools that restrict admission. In Chicago, parents, teachers and allies are on hunger strike to save the last open enrollment school in their area. They have a tough fight. Please support them. Click here to take action.

Imagine if instead of investing in youth jails, communities invested in youth, communities and took steps as simple as providing healthy organic meals for students as they are doing in the wealth community of Sausalito, CA. A pilot program showed improved school attendance and behavior.

Hurricane Katrina, Climate Justice and #BlackLivesMatter

Katrina people on rooftop seeking to be rescuedThis week was the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Elizabeth Yeampierre reminds us that most of the people who died in New Orleans after the storm were people of color and that the struggles for black lives and for climate justice are interrelated. This week it was reported that fracking is more often done in communities of color in California, often right near schols. It’s important to keep that in mind as we near the United Nations climate talks in Paris this December. People of color around the world are the most impacted by the climate crisis.

There are a number of groups organizing actions for the fall and leading up to the Paris meeting. Rising Tide North America is providing an organizing booklet for the “Flood the System” actions that will take place around the country starting in September. Beyond Extreme Energy is holding a three week fast at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission starting on Sept. 8. The Global Climate Convergence is calling on people to participate in aPeople’s Climate Strikeduring the UN talks. And there are many actions being planned in the European Union.Shell NO Blockade in Portland danglers and kayactivists

These actions build on the great work that many communities are doing to end the fossil fuel era and move to clean sustainable sources of energy. The good news is that there are victories. Washington, DC surprised many people when it voted to deny a merger of Pepco and Exelon. In Newcastle, Australia, the world’s largest coal port, the city council voted to divest from banks that support fossil fuels. In Hawaii the governor has decided to forgo carbon fuels and go to an all, 100% sustainable green energy economy (note: that does not mean gas). And even Big Oil CEOs are warning Shell not to drill in the Arctic. The price of oil dropped below $40 a barrel this week and it is not predicted to rise anytime soon. 

11058321_10207629773208535_1320239986682271657_nIn addition to stopping fossil fuels, we need to reduce water consumption. Guess which crop is the biggest in the US (and a huge water consumer). The answer – grass lawns. Californians are being urged to transition to desert landscaping with a “cash for grass” program, but we can all trade in our lawns. One of the first things we did when we moved to Baltimore was to replace our lawn with food plants and flowers that support bees, birds and butterflies. We also use a variety of techniques to capture rain water instead of allowing it to flow into the street.

Averting Another Financial Crisis

The recent upheaval in the stock market reminds us how precarious the global economy is. Seumus Milne writes, “Financial markets pumped up with credit and quantitative easing to keep the real economy afloat are in any case ripe for a crash – or “correction”, as the market players like to call it. The only question is how far and fast they go – and how great is the price paid by the rest of us.”

Activists with Fed Up are converging on the Federal Reserve’s annual symposium in Wyoming this week to urge them not to raise the interest rate which hurts people of color disproportionately. They aim to bring attention to the fact that economic recovery has primarily benefited the already wealthy and call for changes in the Fed that would reduce the wealth divide.

Fight for 15 Steve Rhodes on FlickrThe Fight for 15 movement had a victory this week when the National Labor Relations Board voted that franchises like McDonalds have an obligation to the workers and can be liable for employment conditions such as wage theft and setting the minimum wage. While the Fight for 15 is an important struggle, we recognize that even $15 an hour is not a living wage and that more transformative changes are needed to a democratic economy where workers own business and control their own future.

In addition to being inadequate for workers, raising the minimum wage doesn’t help those who don’t have a job, and we are unlikely to have enough jobs for everyone given the growth of technology that replaces workers and globalization to slave wage labor around the world. Some advocate for reducing work hours without reducing overall pay so that more people can work and so that workers have more leisure time. Another approach we support is to create a universal basic income. This would immediately start to lift all people out of poverty.

A new book from the Democracy Collaborative, “Educate and Empower: Tools for Building Community Wealth,” provides information on the ways that communities are organizing to develop local economies that keep wealth in the community. Keeping wealth in communities can insulate them from the ups and downs of the global economy.

Source: SumOfUs Flickr

Source: SumOfUs Flickr

Another threat to the stability of the global economy, and thereby our communities, is the group of international treaties, the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade-in-Services Agreement (TiSA). These treaties will drive wages down in a race to the bottom. Not only will they further deregulate financial institutions, but they will also drive greater privatization which takes the economy out of public control and fuels neo-slavery.

The TPP could be completed and sent to Congress as early as this fall. We must organize to stop it! That is why we have issued this urgent national call to action. Local actions are being planned in mid-October in solidarity with our European allies fighting TTIP. And actions in Washington, DC are being planned for mid-November during the Asian Pacific Economic Council meetings. Click here to read the call to action and to sign up. Then spread the word!

Stopping the Next Wars

Jeju Island march with Oliver Stone 2The TPP is the economic arm of the Asian Pivot. As part of the military arm, the US is forcing new bases on ecologically sensitive areas in South Korea and Okinawa. Read about the horrors the people of Jeju Island are experiencing and their brave resistance here. And read about the daily protests in Okinawa. They need our solidarity and support.

This week was also a national day of action to support the agreement with Iran. While we are writing this newsletter we are making food for this afternoon’s peace picnic across from the White House to support the Iran deal. It will go for a vote in the senate when they return in September. Click here for actions you can take to support the deal.

Screen-Shot-2015-08-28-at-10.36.21-AMAnd Stopping the Con

As you can see, there is a lot of resistance going on. We hope that you have an opportunity this summer to relax and build up your energy for the many actions that are being planned for the fall. If you go to a park, there is one more thing you can do: take a moment to think about the people who inhabited the land before it became a park. Learn more about that at Stop the Con.

See you in the streets!

  • DHFabian

    Can middle classers even grasp why Katrina remains a powerful symbol for the poor? It’s a symbol of this generation’s politics and policies against our very poor, as those policies continue to tear apart families, destroy and even end lives. Remember how so many people desperately sought shelter in the Astrodome? After the hurricane, the very poor found that they had nothing left, nowhere to go and no way to get there. Remember how the middle class responded with disgust and contempt as those who no longer had boots were unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps? They said these people deserved to suffer because they “chose not to” find jobs — even though the jobs were gone, and applying for a job isn’t possible without clean clothes, a home address and a phone. For so many, the hurricane hasn’t stopped.