How Ceasefire Has Changed This Organizer And Baltimore

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By Lisa Snowden-McCray for Baltimore Beat. Baltimore, MD – Just a few days after the second 72-hour Baltimore Ceasefire weekend, which ran from Nov. 3-5, Erricka Bridgeford and I are sitting in her car in her old Rosemont neighborhood escaping the cold and rain. She has a bit of a cough and she’s just off a speaking engagement at the Community College of Baltimore County’s Essex campus, but Bridgeford has gamely agreed to take a few moments to share her thoughts about the second ceasefire, meant to pause the violence in the city and connect with and create community.

Using Public Spaces To Organize Communities

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By Sam Allen for Transition Network – One summer night in 2014, Lucille Burns, a 34-year-old mother, was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight. Tamar Manasseh, a mother of two who had already seen too much gun violence in her Chicago neighborhood of Englewood, was devastated. Then she sprang into action. As she wrote in her recent op-ed for Truthout, “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a theory, though: If enough adults, mainly moms, sat outside in lawn chairs and eye-catching shirts, violence would cease. I knew how much my own teenagers hated to be watched and how different their behavior was when they were, so I figured all teenagers would pretty much react the same way to supervision. So, I started my project: Mothers Against Senseless Killings. Every evening, we set up our lawn chairs and a barbecue grill on the block where that shooting took place — a block that had also seen high levels of gun violence in the past. We fed not only the bodies of the people in the community, but also their souls.” In the three years since MASK was formed, not a single act of violence has taken place on their block – not even a fistfight. Volunteers sign up to feed the block every summer night, and special events draw crowds to the corner, like the MASK Back-to-School Block Party with backpack giveaways, DJs, barbers, braiders, face painters, and tattoo removal services.

Perverse Mobility: From BaltimoreGhetto To HabanaStation

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By Cliff DuRand for The Center for Global Justice. Last year’s film hit in Cuba was “HabanaStation”, directed by Ian Padron. It is the touching story of a developing friendship between two boys from very different social backgrounds: one from a materially comfortable family living in Miramar, the other living in a “poor” barrio of Havana. For many foreign views of the film it is a shocking window into economic inequality in Cuba. For Cubans, it is a welcome public acknowledgement of a well-known reality. But the comments I’ve seen on “HabanaStation” overlook what makes it a powerful revolutionary film.

New Economic Vision: Amish Culture, Occupy & Start-Ups

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By Alexa Clay for Nation of Change. If markets and industrial production have become separated from society and community, the task now seems to be figuring out how to envelop production within community. Localizing production in community might lead to a certain sacrifice of market efficiency, but would also offer greater flexibility and enhanced quality of life, and would strengthen social ties and community resilience. Ultimately, to reimagine production, we have a variety of models to choose from. Culture is no longer contingent on particular ethnographic contexts. Rather, practices from indigenous peoples, protest movements, entrepreneurial startup hubs, intentional communities, and even religious traditions require remixing by emergent forms of community around the world. While this remixing might feel like a consumerist “pick and choose” approach, it’s also one of the quickest pathways I’ve identified for accelerating social change and building more resilient local economies and communities. Designing community around cultural hybridity gives us a much broader diversity from which to organize ourselves and foster a greater sense of belonging for very different types of people.

Woman Is Trying to Make World A Better Place, One Community Center At A Time

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By Sarah Lazare for AlterNet – Five years ago, Janet Wilson was one of thousands of people who flocked to New York’s Zuccotti Park to participate in the Occupy Wall Street movement that would eventually sweep the country and the world. “It was life-changing to see people come together and pay attention to what was going on,” Wilson told AlterNet. “Young and old people were organizing together, and people were actually talking to each other. It gave me chills.” Like countless others, Wilson sought to take the lessons she learned with her after she left New York. For her, this was buying an RV and traveling to 160 Occupy camps across the country.

In A Broke And Crumbling City, This Woman Is Building An Urban Paradise

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Shamayim “Shu” Harris plans to turn her entire block in Highland Park, Michigan into a sustainable community village with small businesses, youth programming and food production. Highland Park, located within the city of Detroit, has experienced extreme disinvestment, and many residents don’t have easy access to basic amenities.

By Kate Abbey-Lambertz for The Huffington Post – DETROIT — In a neighborhood that has lost its school, library, streetlights, many businesses and a huge chunk of its population, one woman is transforming her half-abandoned block into a community hub, where there are books to borrow, people playing in the park and lights on in the darkness. Shamayim “Shu” Harris lives in a house on Avalon Street in Highland Park, a small city surrounded by Detroit. Blighted and broke, Highland Park faces challenges similar to Detroit’s, but lacks the public attention and private investment that has boosted Detroit in recent years.

Public Art Fest Made A Real Change In A Detroit Neighborhood

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Kate Abbey-Lamberts for The Huffington Post – A public art festival that brought dozens of murals to a Detroit neighborhood last week also sparked a subtler, but no less inspiring, change in students at a nearby school. Designers, painters and former graffiti artists traveled from as far away as Australia to convene in Detroit for the first Murals in the Market festival, which wrapped up this past weekend. They painted 45 pieces on the walls of buildings all over Eastern Market, a district best known for its historic public market and as a hub for food production. The festival was organized by Inner State Gallery and its sister company 1xRUN, which publishes art prints. Organizers at 1xRUN have put on mural festivals in cities around the world, but bringing artists to their own neighborhood was particularly meaningful, said Jesse Cory, one of the founders of the gallery and company.

Here’s How To Cop Watch

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By Muna Mire in The Nation – In academic circles, copwatching is considered a form of sousveillance, which translates from the French to “watching from below” and refers to recording or monitoring of authorities, like the police. (Surveillance, by comparison, translates to “watching from above” and refers to being monitored by authorities.) Through copwatching, communities are learning that, depending on which way the cameras are facing, they can become a powerful tool in court or in advocacy. While the state trains its gaze on communities to “keep them safe,” members of the public are increasingly aware that it is the watchers who need to be watched. Here, we break down what copwatching is, and how to do it.

Big Dreams And Bold Steps Toward A Police-Free Future

Demonstrators in Seattle, Washington, march in December 2014 in support of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed men killed by police officers. (Photo: Scottlum)

By Rachel Herzing in Trth Out – Projects such as the Harm Free Zone project in Durham, North Carolina, and Audre Lorde Project’s Safe OUTside the System Safe Neighborhood Campaign are testing grounds for community responses to harm that do not rely on law enforcement interventions. The Harm Free Zone is building community knowledge and power to enable community members rather than the police to be called upon as first responders. The project educates and trains interested Durham residents to intervene in situations of harm without police intervention. Based in Brooklyn, New York, the Safe Neighborhood Campaign focuses on reducing harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, trans and gender-nonconforming people of color by working with local businesses and community spaces to provide safe haven for people in need without contacting the police.

Communities Organizing Own Emergency Medical Service To Avoid Police

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By Candice Bernd in Truth Out – When Jens Rushing was working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for a 911 service in one small Texas city, he was dispatched on a call where he witnessed a man suffering during a mental health crisis. He remembers how the police officer who accompanied him wanted to cuff the man’s hands behind his back and force him, face down, to the ground, until he “calmed down.” “[The officer was] completely unaware of the threat of positional asphyxia, of which people die,” Rushing told Truthout. “We had to argue with him to get the patient away from [the police], and let us [EMTs] do it our way, chemically sedating the patient rather than physically restraining the patient, and actually tending to them as a patient, rather than as a person committing the ‘crime’ of having an acute psychotic episode.”

Colorado Coalition Urges Community Rights

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By Simon Davis-Cohen in This Changes Everything – In Colorado, local governments cannot raise the minimum wage, pass rent control laws, or ban fracking. A system of state “preemption”—a favorite tool of the fossil fuel industry—stands in their way. Local activists have long been outspoken about this legal barrier to keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Now, a coalition embodying a range of economic and environmental justice fights is coming together to directly challenge the basis for state preemption: On August 17, a statewide initiative was launched by Coloradans for Community Rights to do just that. It may be the first time that anti-extraction and workers’ rights movements have allied behind a concrete political tactic in modern US history. The “Colorado Community Rights Amendment,” which needs some 99,000 signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot, disrupts preemption by granting local governments a constitutional right to raise state standards—empowering them to boost the minimum wage, bolster environmental protections, and strengthen tenant rights, for example.

10 Reasons Why Cities Should Consider Going Car-Free

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By Ice Bike – Our climate is changing, and time is running out to take thoughtful action. If you’re like me, you may feel powerless in defending yourself and those that you love from the negative impacts of climate change. A handful of smaller communities embrace the concept of driving less by banning personal carswithin their city limits – granted, most of these communities are small island towns that thrive on tourism. While most of the world’s major cities aren’t quite ready to embrace emission-cutting tactics like banning personal cars, this article presents 10 reasons why they should. Getting to know our neighbors, and getting more engaged with our communities limits feelings of isolation, and develops more connected and stronger communities.

Dyett High School Strike Continues After Major Concessions

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By Ted Cox in DNAInfo – Chicago Public Schools will launch an open-enrollment, neighborhood arts school at Dyett High School, district officials announced Thursday. In doing so, they circumvented a formal request for proposals on the school by coming up with a concept of their own, not submitted in the conventional process. “Ultimately, the goal was to do what was right for the children,” said Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool in making the announcement at CPS headquarters. Yet the dozen Dyett hunger strikers urging acceptance of their proposal for a Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School were quick to signal their disappointment outside after the announcement was made. “The hunger strike is not over,” said Jeanette Ramann. “CPS did not follow its own process.”

BLM Opposes DC Mayor's Increase In Policing

People react in opposition as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser  increases in police activity during a press conference at the former Malcolm X Elementary School in Congress Heights. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

By Eugene Puryear & Sean Blackman for Stop Police Terror – Mayor Muriel Bowser has released her plan addressing the spike in crime. Stop Police Terror and many others, have stated, she is headed in the wrong direction. In her framing she states the plan is “comprehensive.” Translated from politician-speak that means it contains “something for everyone.” Stop Police Terror has some serious concerns particularly about the massive increase in police presence and expansion of police powers. Much of what Bowser proposes is based on spurious information. Tougher penalties for crimes on public transit is a strategy that simply will not work. One of the principal studies on the effect of more severe penalties concluded: “the studies reviewed do not provide a basis for inferring that increasing the severity of sentences generally is capable of enhancing deterrent effects.” Stop Police Terror rejects this mass incarceration approach to criminal justice that has been proven by the academic and anecdotal evidence to be unsound.

Poll: Women’s Issues Connect To All Issues

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By Ms. Foundation For Women – The survey shows that people see issues in their community as interconnected and would rather hear candidates and elected officials propose solutions with this in mind. When it comes to community problems, issues around economic security rise to the top – not necessarily a new polling finding. What is new, however, is that the survey reveals which issues the public sees as having disproportionate effects between genders. While most feel that women and men approach problems differently and have different strengths, they are much more likely to feel that men — rather than women — are in positions to fix problems. Finally, the survey shows the term “feminist” may have lost some of its meaning. After hearing a very simple definition, the percentage of the public who adopts the label triples.