A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum: I was tremendously heartened in the first days of the Trump administration in January to see thousands of people come out to airports around the US to protest the president’s travel ban. People mobilized because of what was at stake. It was not just the status of foreign travellers, but our core values as a society. In the echoing halls of airport terminals from coast to coast, a spirit of resistance and humanity came alive.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Since the days of the #NoDapl encampment, now nine months in the past, dozens of films have been released documenting the event. One of the latest is an offering from award-winning documentarian Brian Malone, titled Beyond Standing Rock. Malone has been touring the film and I recently had the chance to view it in Los Angeles, at the Autry Museum of the American West. What follows is my review of the film.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum: In my experience bargaining union contracts and negotiating with politicians, I’ve found that it’s easy to overestimate the importance of what happens at the bargaining table. When I’ve led union negotiations, I’ve emphasized to bargaining team members that what we win in the end depends ninety percent on what we do outside of bargaining, and only ten percent on what takes place inside the room.
By Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen: Celebrate democracy. Invite local musicians to a public park or library event room to share and teach songs related to freedom and democracy. And if you have the clout of an organization behind you, goad them to go for the spectacular. Imagine tens of thousands in a big-city stadium celebrating democracy. Wouldn’t Bruce Springsteen be up for that? We love the idea of audiences honoring Leonard Cohen by chanting and swaying to his powerful “Democracy,” with its refrain “Democracy is coming to the USA.” Concerts with a message have an impressive history.
A Q&A with Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi: One reason why early advocates pushed to establish a universal, compulsory education system was because, in a democracy, the presumption is that we are all part of the “deciding class,” and therefore need to be educated in order to make informed decisions. And public institutions and spaces, including public schools, are essential in a democracy, because their very existence conveys that we are a society in which we meet together and share common resources. So it’s not just public schools that we argue are essential, but public institutions writ large. Throughout the book, we deliberately use the word commonweal, which means the “welfare of the public.” It’s a word that few people use in conversation, but we make a modest effort to bring it into our communal conscious.
By Carole Joffe: In addition to all the other devastating blows Houston-area residents weathered from Hurricane Harvey, those women who had previously scheduled an abortion or who suddenly realized they had an unwanted pregnancy were in particularly difficult straits. Area clinics were closed immediately after the storm, and in any cases, many potential patients had no way of reaching a facility even if one was open. Fortunately, due to a quite extraordinary mobilization effort on the part of abortion providers in Houston and elsewhere, the situation for those needing abortions improved considerably and far quicker than one would have had reason to believe.
By Joseph Rosenbloom: As a graduate student at Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about the social ill of poverty and vowed to do something about it. He put the resolve on hold. For his first decade as a civil rights leader, he dedicated himself to ending racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans, not poverty. By the mid-1960s, however, the idea to grapple with the issue of poverty had seized him with a fierce urgency. “What does it profit a man,” he often quipped, “to be able to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”
By José Orduña: When I was ten my dad gave me my first wallet—it was green, with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the outside. Then he handed me my identification card, my first green card, which was actually pink. He said we’d gotten it when we’d gone to Juárez but that he didn’t think I was ready to carry it then. I remembered we’d gone very suddenly and that I missed my thirdgrade class trip to an amusement park, that a man I’d never seen showed up at our door in Chicago, and that my dad let him into our house. The next day we were on a Greyhound bus that took three days to get to El Paso, Texas, and then we immediately took a cab across a bridge into Juárez.
By Margaret Regan: On her first day in an Arpaio jail, in the short-term holding pen at Fourth Avenue Jail, Mariana was locked up with twenty other women, most of them older than she was and a lot tougher. None of them had been convicted: they were being held for trial, innocent until proven guilty, but no one would guess that by the treatment they got. Mariana was in the packed cell from ten in the morning until eleven that night, and the only food she and the others got all day was a small bag of peanut butter—an Arpaio specialty—and bread and juice, delivered at 6:00 p.m. There was a single toilet, in a bathroom that had no door.
The events in Charlottesville, Virginia are a frightening and disheartening reminder of how hate and intolerance in the US resurface when bigots feel empowered to act on their prejudice. Cornel West described the rally that took place on August 12 as “the biggest gathering of a hate-driven right wing in the history of this country in the last thirty to thirty-five years.” Watching the violence unfold left us feeling sorrowful and horrified.
By Martin Luther King, Jr. This is no time for romantic illusions and empty philosophical debates about freedom. This is a time for action. What is needed is a strategy for change, a tactical program that will bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible. So far, this has only been offered by the nonviolent movement. Without recognizing this we will end up with solutions that don’t solve, answers that don’t answer, and explanations that don’t explain.
By Caroline Light Against the moral absolutism of police violence and DIY-security citizenship, the Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName movements have emerged to call out the deadly consequences of racist, classist, and (hetero) sexist violence. Beyond critiquing police violence, these movements challenge the larger structures that serve white supremacist, patriarchal power. Black Lives Matter, a network founded by three queer-identified women of color, “affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” This “intersectional” approach to systemic violence considers the simultaneity of identity threat for vulnerable populations, and it is profoundly threatening to the DIY-security citizenship ideal. Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName challenge the epistemic roots of inequality, as well as its maliciously antidemocratic effects.
By Steve EarlyThe Chevron fire became a wake-up call for citizen action to make California refineries safer for their own workers and less harmful to air quality, community health, and the environment in general. Since August 2012, labor and community organizers have used lobbying, litigation, regulatory intervention, electoral politics, and strike activity to pursue these goals. There has been some safety enforcement progress, modest financial concessions by Big Oil, and related promises to behave better in the future. Yet, thanks to Big Oil’s legal and political clout in our nation’s second largest oil refining state, the wheels of environmental justice turn much too slowly.
This month, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? turns fifty. King’s acute analysis of American race relations couldn’t be more prophetic. Written in 1967, in isolation in a rented house in Jamaica, King’s final book lays out his plans and dreams for America’s future: the need for better jobs; higher wages; decent housing; quality education; and above all, the end to global suffering. King’s dreams are very much our own today.
By Adam EichenFor the last nine months, we have assessed the state of our democracy. In our search, we confirmed the now seemingly intuitive notion that Americans across the country are upset, for they feel increasingly powerless, that their voice does not matter, and that the political system does not represent them. But we also found something underreported—that people are eagerly yearning and demonstrating for solutions to make our democracy better represent all voices and work more efficiently. In fact, there is nothing less than a Democracy Movement emerging in our country.
After twelve years of leading the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II has announced that he is stepping down as state chapter president. He’ll be joining activists and faith leaders across the nation to lead them in a new Poor People’s Campaign, envisioned to advocate economic justice for all across the racial spectrum.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-WhitakerIndigenous nations have for many decades negotiated with and litigated against the United States for its unfair and many times illegal dealings with them, dealings that have resulted in the massive loss of land and resources. Beginning with the Indian Claims Commission in the 1940s, the United States has paid out billions of dollars in settlements in acknowledgment of its depredations, with Native nations sometimes extinguishing their right to aboriginal title or status as federally recognized tribes in exchange.
By Eileen TruaxElioenai Santos’s first memory is of himself as a little boy, crying, as an adult tries to give him a stuffed animal to soothe him. Elioenai associates this memory with coming to the United States at two years of age. Originally from Orizaba, in the eastern state of Veracruz, Mexico, his parents decided to migrate, as almost all migrants do, in search of a better future for their children. The ﬁrst to make the journey was his father. Although he had wanted to be an engineer, he could not afford to go to school, and once he became a father he decided to try his luck in the United States. He arrived in California in the early 1990s and got a job working in a bodega. A few months later his wife joined him with Elioenai. Two years after they arrived, his parents gave Elioenai a little brother, a US citizen, and his mother worked taking care of other people’s children as her own grew up.
By Patricia Hill CollinsOn August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people gathered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One line stands out: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Some would say that the outcome of the 2008 presidential election has been either the realization of King’s dream or evidence of its failure. We can speculate endlessly about how and why Barack Obama won and John McCain lost, but this may not be the best use of our time. For the United States and the globe, too much is at stake to concentrate too closely on winners and losers.
The critical role that scientific research plays in our health, safety, understanding of the natural world, and future as a species is under threat. With an administration that is pushing to suppress scientific evidence and keep scientists from communicating their findings, our need for empirical inquiry into how to protect our home and sustain our resources is more important than ever. That’s why the March for Science, an emerging and growing grassroots movement, is launching nationwide tomorrow, April 22. Scientists and science supporters, teachers and parents, global citizens and policymakers will take to the streets, united, to defend and advocate for science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.