Thousands crowded Central Park in New York City for the Global Citizens Festival on September 27. Credit: Creative Commons/ Anthony Quintano
Over 60,000 people in New York’s Central Park and millions more around our planet were treated to the eclectic sounds of world-class performers at the third Global Citizens Festival on Saturday, September 27. Performers included Jay Z, Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, The Roots, Tiesto, No Doubt, Sting, and Alicia Keys.
The organization Global Citizen, whose goal is to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide by 2030, sponsored the event to shed light on poverty, which continues to affect an estimated 1.2 billion people, and to empower individuals and the world community to take concrete actions to end this scourge. Specifically, Global Citizen urges people to contact world leaders to focus on issues of providing vaccines, education, and sanitation to all the world’s citizens.
Internationally, more people have mobile phones than have clean potable water and sanitation facilities. An estimated 3.4 million people die each year of diseases caused by lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation infrastructures. This shortage kills people around the world every four hours. This lack of clean water and vaccinations significantly lowers a person’s chances for quality education, keeping them in extreme poverty. The vicious cycle continues.
Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia
Public rhetoric is thousands of years old, yet even in an era of high-res video and magnificent audio, to hear a great talk in person is special. That was absolutely the case on Friday night, October 3rd, at Santa Clara University when Dr. Cornel West, public intellectual and democratic leader, spoke extemporaneously and movingly for an hour and forty minutes and received two standing ovations.
Why was it so inspiring? West was not a pulpit speaker in the style of the Reverends Martin Luther King Jr. or Jesse Jackson, but was warm, charming, and often funny. He opened his speech with a point about rhetoric: paideia, frank speech, the kind that got Socrates killed. I was reminded again that truth heals. We need desperately to talk about the emperor’s new clothes or the elephant in the room, especially when the talk is critical, but not hateful, love but “tough love,” as West said with a smile.
There, in that packed room of mostly privileged, mostly white people, who, before the talk began, had been speaking about their horses and far-flung vacations, West made a connection. That was very important too.
by: Rick Herrick on September 26th, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons/Intel Free Press.
In the late 1970s I read a fascinating article in the New York Times regarding the Mobil Oil Corporation. According to the Times, several African-American leaders purchased small positions in the company. Their ownership of Mobil Oil stock gave them the right to lobby for change.
Their target was South Africa. These black leaders began speaking at general shareholder meetings of the corporation. They also lobbied corporate officers. They had two goals in mind. The first was to integrate the dining facility in the South African plant. The second was to achieve equal pay for equal work. They achieved both goals. Their victory was an important symbol of change in the anti-apartheid movement.
At about the same time Leon Sullivan, an African-American minister in Philadelphia, came onto the scene. Reverend Sullivan was a board member of the General Motors Corporation. In the late 1970s he devised a set of principles requiring corporations with divisions in South Africa to treat all employees fairly. If the company violated the Sullivan Principles, American corporations were to cease doing business with them. Reverend Sullivan worked tirelessly to have these principles adopted and was able to achieve some notable successes.
Again, at about the same time, the anti-apartheid disinvestment campaign emerged. This movement required pension funds and college endowments to sell their equity holdings in companies with operations in South Africa. Students lobbied and protested boards of trustees in many universities to achieve these goals. Anti-apartheid activists made similar demands of state and local pension funds.
Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee led a rally in San Jose last week to raise funds and awareness for affordable housing. Credit: L. Kurth
Yes, it’s an oxymoron and a dream — affordable housing in San Jose, the city with the nation’s largest unsheltered homeless population. Four people died of exposure last winter, and so many more live crowded together in small apartments or vans.
So on September 11th a rally was held at city hall by Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee (SHHAC) along with a coalition of others to continue efforts to inform and persuade both the public and our elected and appointed officials to pass a fee to raise funds for affordable housing. It’s just one helpful idea, one drop in a bucket that was emptied when the Redevelopment Agencies (many for good reason) were disbanded.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on September 1st, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons/AFGE
There are milestones in the history of education where conditions have come together to advance progressive social policy reforms. One such milestone was the momentous United States Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas), rendered on May 17, 1954. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the “separate but equal” clause (set down in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) was unconstitutional because it violated children’s rights as covered under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when separation was solely on the classification of “race.” Delivering the court opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the “segregated schools are not equal and cannot be made equal, and hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws.”
The Brown decision rested on accumulated social science research that emphasized the detrimental effects of school segregation on students of color. Following the decision, intransigence on the part of a number of Southern political leaders prevented the law from fully taking effect. In fact, President Eisenhower was compelled to call out federal troops to ensure compliance in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Some Southern governors chose to close some public schools in their states rather than comply with desegregation orders.
Michael Brown, the African-American young man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has been laid to rest. His homegoing celebration was at once a period to his earthly life and the blank space before the next chapter of activism that his family and a variety of communities promise to write.
After peaceful protests, marching in the street, chants of “hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice no peace”, after fires, looting, a militarized police force aiming weapons of war on its own citizenry, smoke, tear gas, and national and international news coverage, the question now is: what is next? Some commentators have suggested that President Obama come to Ferguson and give another speech on race. Others have suggested that we as a nation engage in another conversation on race, this time with different contours.
I say, what this country does not need is yet another presidential speech on race. Is there anything new to say? And I am too tired of the conversation on race. I have been having this conversation my entire life, and I am weary of it. I remember watching Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech at the first March on Washington. I was a little girl watching with my parents. Twenty years later, I was in Washington DC for the anniversary march. In the 1990s, I taught race and racism at Temple University. In the first decade of the 21st century I taught courses on the civil rights movement and on “The Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Since the election of President Obama, I have written about race within the context of birther madness, and after the George Zimmerman verdict, I wrote about the myth of the super-physical black man that explains why so many people see the African-American male body as at once less than human and more than human that requires extraordinary force to subdue.
I have made my contribution to that conversation, and I am done with it.
Let us talk instead about cop psychology. What kind of psychological screening must one pass before we hand him or her a badge and a gun and give them the power to administer lethal force in the name of the state? What is the level of education required of police officers? How are they trained? Does this training include diversity and racial sensitivity training? Do they learn to subdue a suspect without illegal choke holds or gun fire? What goes through the mind of an officer when he is beating an unarmed woman by the side of the road, or when he is choking an unarmed man to death while the man says over and over and over again that he cannot breathe? What goes through the minds of the other officers on the scene who are pressing the man’s head into the pavement as if the man were not human? What is an officer thinking when he shoots six shots into an unarmed young black man and kills him? What police procedures allow for a body to lie in the streets for hours?
by: Andre F. Shashaty on August 20th, 2014 | Comments Off
A local organizer in a town neighboring Ferguson, Mo., shows a typical "porch." Credit: Silicon Valley De-Bug
(Crossposted from New America Media)
On the surface, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., was about local police using deadly force on an unarmed young man. But on a deeper level, it reflected the increasing poverty and economic decline that affects ethnic communities all over America.
Despite rosy reports in the media about the end of the national foreclosure crisis and the recession that followed, all is not well in our inner cities and suburbs with largely minority populations, like Ferguson.
The foreclosure crisis was hard on many Americans, but it was a disaster for communities of color, including the citizens of Ferguson.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on August 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons
While contemplating the topic and eventual focus of my doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I was having difficulty deciding since so many potential directions and questions excited me. Knowing me as well as she did, my major professor offered me some guidance.
The seemingly simple but deeply profound words she uttered placed, for me, the scope of my eventual research into poignant and profound prospective driving my research agenda to this very day.
“Your research is your therapy,” she told me. Though framed as a declarative statement, she was posing in these words what I understood as a number of underlying questions. By implication, what I heard her saying was, “There are many potential directions and research questions for you to investigate. What directions and questions will challenge you to change and to grow, not merely as a researcher, not merely intellectually and academically, but also, and very importantly, personally, spiritually, ethically, emotionally, psychologically?”
I listened to my professor’s words, “Your research is your therapy,” and as I did, the bottlenecks in my mind unclogged and tears welled in my eyes. Visions of my childhood swirled in my memories settling upon a five-year-old self seated upon my maternal grandfather, Simon (Szymon) Mahler’s, lap in our cramped Bronxville, New York apartment.
Writing in Ha’aretz today,
Gideon Levy predicts that ultimately the Netanyahu government will pay a heavy price for the atrocities being inflicted on the people of Gaza. He writes:
I’m no fan of Hamas, quite the contrary. But Israel’s attempt to put all the blame on Hamas is outrageous. The international community will soon judge this war’s atrocities. Hamas may be reprimanded, deservedly, but Israel will be condemned and ostracized far more. And then Israelis will say, ‘It’s Hamas’ fault. And the world will laugh.
I don’t agree. I don’t see that happening for one obvious reason: the power of the Israel lobby.
Think about it. When it comes to Israel, the United States is the ball game. It provides Israel with the money, the weapons, and the United Nations’ vetoes that enable both the occupation and its multiple wars (like this one) to preserve it. And that shows no sign of changing.
Watch the television coverage. For three weeks the killing of children and other innocents in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli military has dominated the news. We see the bombs dropping. We see the destroyed schools, hospitals and mosques. We see the parents wailing over the deaths of their children and children wailing at the deaths of their parents and siblings.
But it makes no difference to the United States government which can stop the slaughter with a few words. (Five of those words are “your $3.5 billion aid package.)
“Listen, if you’re 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, and you’re coming from a country that’s gang-infested – particularly with MS-13 types, that is the most aggressive of all the street gangs – when you have those types coming across the border, they’re not children at that point. These kids have been brought up in a culture of thievery, a culture of murder, of rape. And now we are going to infuse them into the American culture. It’s just ludicrous.”
- Florida Republican Representative Rich Nugent
Rich Nugent does not stand alone in his dire warnings of the dangers children and other migrants will impose on the citizens of the United States if allowed to enter and remain. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican Representative, warns of grave public health threats as well. In a July 7, 2014, letter Gingrey wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“As a physician for over 30 years, I am well aware of the dangers infectious diseases pose. In fact, infectious diseases remain in the top 10 causes of death in the United States. …Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”
Well, “as a physician for over 30 years,” he should know that Ebola is not only extraordinarily difficult to spread, but that it also does not occur in Central America. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola has only been discovered in humans living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Unfortunately, the absence of facts has never seemed to get in the way of anti-immigration activists. Nugent and Gingrey join a long list in their rhetoric of horror, hysteria, hyperbole, and hypocrisy throughout the immigration battles of the United States.