Domestic (In)justice Activism Opportunities

  • #KeepHousingFair via @natfairhouse - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Keep Housing Fair.

    Since the Supreme Court did the unthinkable two years ago and gutted the Voting Rights Act, social justice advocates can no longer assume decisions on longstanding affirmative laws and policies put to SCOTUS will go their way. Next up on the chopping block to have the enforcement provisions stripped is the Fair Housing Act.

    The court heard arguments in January on Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, which challenges a key aspect of the Fair Housing Act known as the "disparate impact.” In a time where increasing attention is being drawn to the long-term impact of redlining and gentrification and cities like Chicago are tearing down housing projects while failing to build the promised “mixed income” buildings, it seems impossible that the Supreme Court would take away this vital tool for fighting discrimination.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren explained in a Washington Post op ed that stripping out “disparate impact” would affect more than just those who are directly discriminated against.

    "As with the voting rights decision, a decision limiting the scope of the housing laws would ignore the will of Congress and undermine basic principles of racial equality. But there is even more at stake in the fair housing case, because the wrong decision would reduce economic opportunities for working families and raise the risk of another financial crisis.”

    As this is an issue of racial justice and economic justice, many organizations and elected officials have spoken out over the past few months. The National Fair Housing Alliance and other social justice groups created a hashtag — #KeepHousingFair — to spearhead an awareness campaign with events, speeches, shareable graphics and more. You can follow the latest via their Twitter and Facebook feeds. As always, proactively letting your representatives know that fair access to housing matters to you through ContactingTheCongress.org is a valuable action should the court make an unfortunate ruling.

    Also, a reminder for Chicago listeners: your current mayor has been no champion of fair housing, mainly continuing the broken promises policies of the Daley dynasty. Rahm Emanuel is facing Jesus "Chuy” Garcia April 4th in a runoff election. You can find your polling place at ChicagoElections.Com.

    Fair housing needs to be on the radar ahead of the 2016 primaries. ProPublica writer Nikole Hannah-Jones has a series of articles as well as a book — a $1.99 Kindle download — "Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law” that’s a must read for anyone who wants more of the history on unfair housing practices in the U.S. so that they’re prepared to be part of the effort to ensure it’s a an issue next year. The thought of such a long election season may be exhausting, but with republicans already announcing, it’s never too early to raise public consciousness on vital issues that should be part of debates, platforms and campaigns.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Follow #KeepHousingFair through The National Fair Housing Alliance on Facebook and Twitter

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    CHICAGO VOTERS: the mayoral runoff election is APRIL 7. Rahm has continued harmful Daley policies, so Find Your Polling Place

    READ: "Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law” — a $1.99 Kindle Single by Nikole Hannah-Jones

    Sources/further reading:

    "Supreme Court’s Latest Race Case: Housing Discrimination” by Nikole Hannah-Jones at ProPublica

    "Segregation Now: Investigating America's Racial Divide” by Nikole Hannah-Jones at ProPublica

    "Housing Discrimination, Gentrification and Black Lives: We Call These Projects Home” by Monique "Mo” George at The Huffington Post

    "After SCOTUS Gutted Voting Rights Act, Is Fair Housing Act Next?" by Jon Queally at Common Dreams

    "African-American vote could be key to Chicago mayoral election” by Rick Pearson, Cynthia Dizikes and Juan Perez Jr. at The Chicago Tribune

    "Elizabeth Warren: Supreme Court housing decision could put our financial well-being at risk” by Senator Elizabeth Warren at The Washington Post

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #908 "Unfair housing, unfair society (Racism)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Demand Congress Address Civil and Human Rights via @civilrightsorg - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Demand Congress Address Civil and Human Rights.

    Even those with only a cursory knowledge of the work done by Martin Luther King, Jr and the millions of Civil Rights activists from the founding of our country through today can look at the current climate in our courts and Congress and see the systematic dismantling of the protections fought for with blood and sweat and tears.

    From the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act to the announcement made by the newly GOP-lead Congress that the words “Civil Rights and Human Rights” had been deleted from the Senate Constitution Committee, the infrastructure that provided some measure of relief from pre-Civil War and Jim Crow days is crumbling.

    Perhaps the Grand Old Party thinks we are, indeed, post-racial and post-patriarchal. Or perhaps they simply don’t care about civil rights. Or perhaps they feel threatened by it. Or perhaps they are just trying to reduce their work load and simplify their jobs — we all know how hard they work the 132 days they’re in session.

    The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has a simple, important action at Civil Rights.org under the “Take Action” tab. Add your name to the letter with the clear title: "Congress Must Address Civil and Human Rights Priorities in 2015.” Apparently this is something we must now remind our legislators is part of their job description.

    The letter urges your legislators to make 2015 a year of action on civil and human rights issues. The three categories this coalition of civil rights groups seeks to address are: Economic Security and Opportunity, Voting Rights, and Criminal and Racial Justice.

    Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, responded to the Senate’s decision to rename the Constitution committee. She said, in part:

    “The new Senate Republican Majority’s decision to expunge civil rights and human rights from this subcommittee’s name is a discouraging sign given the growing diversity of our nation and the complex civil and human rights challenges we face... Names matter. This, after all, is a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of many of our most important civil rights laws... We cannot afford to demote the importance of civil and human rights in the 114th Congress. While we have made progress, we still have a long way to go to address issues such as voting discrimination and hate crimes and violence committed against individuals because of their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. In addition, the recent deaths of unarmed African-American men and boys at the hands of police have spurred a movement across the nation calling for reforms to our nation’s justice system, which would likely fall under this subcommittee’s jurisdiction.”

    Take two minutes and support The Leadership Conference in demanding that Congress tend to the needs and rights of all the citizens they represent. Considering their behavior so far this session, we’re going to need to continually remind them and it’s best we get started immediately.

    Also, if you haven’t yet, go see Ava DuVernay's “Selma.” The movie grabbed a nomination for Best Picture, but she was snubbed by the 94% white, 76% male academy voters in the director’s category. Anyone who’s seen the end of any awards show knows how rare this is; your movie is nominated, you clean up in additional nominations and typically in wins as well. When you see “Selma," you can feel the director’s influence; it would be an entirely different movie without her perspective behind the camera.

    It’s not enough to know what happened during King’s lifetime and be able to list the accomplishments of the movement — especially at a time when that legacy is being dismantled. Go see Selma and feel what happened.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Add your name: Congress Must Address Civil and Human Rights Priorities in 2015 via The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    Go. See. Selma. Find listings HERE

    Sources/further reading:

    "Will Justice Scalia Be the Savior of the Fair Housing Act?” at ACLU.org

    "Civil and Human Rights Coalition Troubled by Deletion of “Civil Rights and Human Rights” from Senate Constitution Subcommittee” press release from The Leadership Conference

    “Yes, The Oscars Are So White, And Here’s Why That Matters” at MTV.com

    #OscarsSoWhite via @ReignOfApril

    Ava DuVernay: ‘Selma’ Is the ‘Vision of a Black Storyteller Undiluted’” by Mychal Denzel Smith at The Nation

    "Congress Will Be in Session Longer Next Year. Will It Make a Difference?” by Kate Scanlon at The Daily Signal

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #894 "Dispelling the selective memory of Dr. Martin Luther King"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • #BlackBrunch - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: #BlackBrunch.

    To a privileged group of mostly white people, brunch is held up as almost sacred. The word provokes images of leisure and lazy Sundays, mimosas and bloody marys. And though plenty of socially conscious people eat brunch — some even use it to organize, because, well, brunch is certainly cheaper than dinner — it still has that “feel" to it. A doing what you want, when you want, because you can “feel.”

    A group of creative organizers in Oakland decided they would take peaceful protesting to a group that on the whole doesn’t engage and has the privilege to ignore social injustice — specifically racial injustice. And so #BlackBrunch was launched with protests in the Bay Area and Manhattan.

    Writer Muna Mire describes the goals of the protests and the organizing on the hashtag:

    "The idea behind Black Brunch is to target those who can afford to avert their gaze, bringing the struggle for racial justice to the table, literally, so that it’s impossible to ignore. Brunch is the hallowed tradition of the affluent, the comfortable, and often those with enough white privilege to insulate them from the struggle to end the war of on Black life in America.”

    Predictably, the first round of protests — especially in New York — were met with mixed reactions. While some stood when asked at the end of the demonstrations, many couldn’t resist being ridiculously racist and threatening. Posts to social media like the one made by former NYPD officer John Cardillo proved why the protests are so necessary. Holding his gun up in front of his nose with his finger on the trigger, he posted: “I’m really enjoying these Eggs Benedict so move along now” to the hashtag when a group briefly interrupted his meal.

    Michelle Malkin called the coordinated wave of actions: “Attack of the ‘Black Brunch’ Brats." For the New York Post, she writes: "Opposing racism now means practicing it in the most obnoxious manner possible.”

    Because the extrajudicial death of a person of color at the hands of police isn’t “obnoxious” or reason enough to put down your biscotti for four and a half minutes — a time honoring the four and a half hours Mike Brown’s body was left in the street in Ferguson.

    #BlackBrunch protests are organized and carried out by people of color — as is, I’m sure, clear from the name and the description. My job as a privileged white guy is to amplify the organizing — especially with an action that can be taken in any city around the country by a small group of individuals — and also to pass along some advice to my white listeners who recognize their privilege, but want to support these actions without co-opting them.

    And so, should you, white listener, find yourself at a #BlackBrunch unexpectedly, Derrick Clifton of Mic News has some tips on how to recognize your privilege and handle yourself and your potential discomfort appropriately:

    1 — Remain calm and listen.
    2 — Use the time to reflect on the issue.
    3 — If you're able, stand in support when asked.
    4 — Continue eating as usual after the demonstration ends.
    5 — Share what happened with family and friends.

    Please follow the #BlackBrunch hashtag and remember that one of the most powerful things you can do is to push back on the racism in your networks. Post the stories, videos and articles on your social networks and respond to the comments you hear in your daily life. Silence equals consent; it’s time we all did more shouting.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Get the info on #BlackBrunch: "#BlackBrunchNYC Disrupts Diners To Protest Police Brutality” via Lily Workneh at HuffPo

    Follow @BlackBrunchNYC and #BlackBrunch on Twitter.

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    Go. See. “Selma.” Now showing Find your local listings #MarchOn

    Sources/further reading:

    "Former NYPD Officer Responds To #Blackbrunch With Gun-Toting Selfie” by Hannington Dia at News One

    "A Guide for Anyone Who Finds Themselves in the Middle of a #BlackBrunch” by Derrick Clifton at Mic News

    "Black Brunch Won’t Let Us Turn Away From Victims Of Police Violence” by Muna Mire at {Young}ist

    "Attack of the ‘Black Brunch’ brats” by Michelle Malkin at The New York Post

    "Hashtag Activism Isn't a Cop-Out” by Noah Berlatsky at The Atlantic — an interview with Deray Mckesson

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #889 "The system is built to fail (Injustice System)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Families Against Mandatory Minimums

    BOTL segment excerpt:

    The ineffectiveness of the “war on drugs” is not a new concept to listeners of this show. We regularly discuss the for-profit prisons, racist structure of the court system and hurtles impeding a return to full citizenship in clips as well as in our voicemail and commentary segments.

    What’s often left out is a major (and politically inconvenient) cause of our prison population spike: mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Congress passed mandatory minimum sentencing laws in the 80’s as part of an attempt to appear “tough on crime.” Since then, the federal prison system has seen a nearly ten-fold increase in incarcerations. Consequently, one out of every four Department of Justice dollars is spent on locking up mostly nonviolent drug offenders in federal prisons.

    Take Action:

    Add your voice in support of common sense reform: Tell the Commission: Cut These Drug Sentences!” from Families Against Mandatory Minimums

    More info:

    Listen to the source segment for this activism at BOTL Activism: Families Against Mandatory Minimums, episode #798 "Learning to play nice with human nature (War on Drugs)”

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich