Updated: 2 hours 43 min ago
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 21:21
Two things happened quietly on Oct. 8 that could have much louder impacts on the 2016 presidential race.
First, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission, in which the named plaintiff is seeking to lift caps on how much money individuals can donate directly to candidates and campaigns in federal elections.
The second thing: Quentin James, a 25-year-old organizer who has spent almost a decade working for civic engagement groups like NAACP and the Sierra Club, was announced as one of the first key hires for the super PAC that hopes to launch Hillary Clinton into the White House. James will lead outreach to black Americans for the Ready For Hillary PAC, which already has over 25,000 donors. "Our job is to build grassroots energy to convince Hillary Clinton to run for President," James said in an interview at Union Station in downtown D.C. shortly after his appointment was announced.
Ready For Hillary splashed the media all this week for its first national convening of donors, prompting conservative writer Myra Adams to warn in The Daily Beast that the Republican Party should be afraid of the PAC's potential. But many people believe these kinds of super PACs are ruining politics, by making candidates bow to the influence of wealth rather than serve a ballot-based democracy. And some research suggests James's work reaching black communities on behalf of Ready for Hillary could be ironically self-defeating. Last year, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that black and Latino voters were more likely than whites to feel discouraged from voting due to the expanding role of super PACs. If the Supreme Court uses the McCutcheon case to allow further erosion of campaign finance laws, the trend Brennan identified could intensify for voters and candidates of color, as George Washington University campaign finance law professor Spencer Overton told me. It could also worsen income inequality, as Stanford University political science professor Adam Bonica argued in a recent report.
James, however, argues these concerns overlook the potential upsides--and the new realities of politics. Asked about the Supreme Court's deliberation in McCutcheon v. the FEC, James said, "While for many people in the progressive community, it raises flags, we think the voices of the grassroots will not be silenced by Big Money." He argues that "grassroots" does not exclude financial donors and, in fact, he believes "there is potential for a grassroots movement within the super PAC structure." Most of Ready for Hillary's donors have contributed minor sums--97 percent have given under $100; 76 percent under $25. The PAC is not accepting donations over $25,000. It's similar to the small-donor strategy executed by Barack Obama in his first presidential run.
James is not alone in jumping ship from civil rights to more partisan fundraising. The departing NAACP president Ben Jealous was reported in USA Today to be moving "toward raising money for a fund to promote black participation in politics." Jealous, in fact, appears in the press release for James's announcement, saying, "Quentin understands both the challenges we face and the opportunities before us, and I am absolutely confident that he will be successful in his new role."
James may be emblematic of a gear shift in the build-up to the 2016 presidential elections. His individual trajectory begs a larger, uncomfortable question: Is a shifting emphasis from non-partisan, get-out-the-vote work to proudly partisan, get-out-the-wallets political action inevitable in the post-Citizens United era, in which corporations and shadow-money groups can spend without restriction on political ads? Voting rights and civil rights advocates hope the Court doesn't continue with McCutcheon what it started with Citizens United, but people like James are preparing for a society in which an increased share of the electorate may need to include financial donations in their understanding of civic engagement--if not as a replacement for traditional door-knocking and GOTV efforts, then as a crucial supplement.
Black Support for Clinton?
James certainly has credentials in more traditional civic work. He's been a political organizer since he was 16, when he became president of the local NAACP's youth council in Greenville, S.C., where he grew up. He went on to start NAACP chapters at his first college, Furman University, and at Clemson University, where he organized students in response to the blackface party scandal in 2007.
James also worked for the Obama campaigns, even during the primaries of his first run, when Obama was a newcomer and many black American leaders had already thrown their support behind Hillary Clinton, including civil rights icon and congressman John Lewis.
Rep. Lewis eventually shifted his support to Obama. But looking ahead to 2016, Lewis is once again out front for Clinton. On the Ready For Hillary website, Lewis is quoted saying, "If [Hillary] makes a decision to run I would be with her. I think today she is the most qualified person in America to be president. No one has worked so hard or done a more effective job in representing this country as secretary of state in modern times."
But will the rest of black America buy in to Clinton? James said there is already "a lot of support among wealthy African Americans" for her. "We're making sure that they are a part of the conversation around donor participation," said James.
Black participation in general in the last two presidential elections are a reason for excitement, said James, pointing out how the voting rate among African Americans exceeded that of white voters for the first time ever. "The question now is can we sustain that black turnout," said James. One indication of how much black people are truly ready for another Clinton era may well be determined in dollars.
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 21:13
Writer, filmmaker and activist dream hampton made an appearance on Democracy Now alongside Dawud Walid, the executive director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The two spoke to host Amy Goodman about the ongoing outcry in Detroit for accountability in the aftermath of the shooting of Renisha McBride, an unarmed 19-year-old black women who was killed by a white homeowner after she reportedly sought help following a car accident. In the interview, hampton articulated what's at the core of anger surrounding the case:
AMY GOODMAN: So, there was a toxicology test given to the victim, to Renisha McBride's body, but Ted Wafer was not tested? Is that the case?
DREAM HAMPTON: I mean, unless they--unless the Dearborn Heights Police Department produces a toxicology report from that night, which would, to me, seem standard procedure--if someone claims that there was an accidental shooting at their home, then it seems that--it would seem that they would be tested for alcohol or drugs. A toxicology report on Renisha McBride's body is more criminalization of black corpses. I don't make the analogy to Trayvon in this case. I think Jonathan Ferrell, killed in North Carolina by the police while he was seeking help after an accident, is a far--
AMY GOODMAN: Now, he was the Florida A&M football player who gets in a car accident, is running toward police, and they shoot him dead.
DREAM HAMPTON: Yes, he's a better analogy, if we need make one; I don't think that we need to. I think that we can deal with Renisha McBride and the life that was lost on its own merit. But this criminalization of black corpses is deeply troubling, as well. We saw this happen with Trayvon. We saw his public record, his school record, his attendance record, whether or not he had ever smoked pot--you know, this teenager, like, kind of criminalized even as he was a corpse. I'm not interested in seeing that happen again with Renisha McBride. Like the family, I'm hopeful that Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who, as you know, Amy, has a very serious reputation, will do the right thing and bring justice for the McBride family.
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 21:11
Othella Stanback could very well be a Philadelphia public school success story in the making. At 19 years old and in her senior year at Ben Franklin High in North Philly, she's dropped out of school twice and considered leaving more times than that. But she's always come back. And she has dreams for herself.
"I want to be an FBI agent," Stanback says, sitting in the late afternoon on the steps of a local welfare office, where she's come to file paperwork. She has two young children--4-year-old Amor and 2-year-old Amira--and while it's been tough juggling school and parenting, her ambitions have remained intact. "Or teach philosophy," she says, ticking off her potential careers. "Except I took one of those quiz things for college recently and it told me the thing I'd be good at is organizing." Of course, before starting any of those careers, she needs to get into to college--and that's where the odds are stacked against her.
Stanback's got her sights set on Millersville University, a state college in Pennsylvania an hour and a half west of the city. College applications are typically due at the end of November, but she doesn't have the strong file she ought to. From ninth through eleventh grades, Stanback attended University City High, where she took biology, chemistry and physical science from a favorite science teacher. That's who Stanback would have asked for a letter of recommendation for college. But earlier this year, Universtiy was shut down in a massive sweep of school closures in Philadelphia. In the ensuing chaos, Stanback lost touch with her science teacher.
"I had connections with teachers, it was relationships I built," Stanback says, looking back at the educational home she lost. "So now when I come to school I don't really know anyone. I have nobody I can connect to and no teacher I can really trust to talk about certain things, because that takes time."
Philadelphia's public education system, with roughly 140,000 students, is struggling for survival. In 2010, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was elected on a platform that included a range of controversial, if increasingly widespread education reform ideas. He called for test-driven teacher accountability, vouchers, decreased regulations for charter schools and a larger role for private, for-profit entities. So when Corbett faced a state fiscal crisis--one that has been compounded by the loss of federal stimulus money, which was propping up the state's education budget--he responded with a mixture of austerity measures and hardline reforms for public schools. Last year, the governor slashed $1.1 billion from the state's K-12 budget, cuts that particularly devastated Philadelphia's state-controlled schools. On the advice of a private consulting group, school officials announced that the district would need to close a stunning five dozen schools, and noted that the district ought to brace itself for dissolution. This year, in an effort to forestall that devastation, the district asked teachers to take pay cuts of between 5 and 13 percent of their salaries. That wasn't enough. In the spring, the district closed 23 schools, including Stanback's. This fall, students went back to schools with skeletal staff after the district laid off 3,859 people, one of every five district employees.
Philadelphia is deep into worst-case scenario territory, but it's not alone. In cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Chicago--all of them with sizable black populations and long histories of entrenched poverty--lawmakers have responded to budget crises with cuts to public education and market-driven education reform agendas. In a city like Philadelphia, which has the worst poverty rate of the ten largest U.S. cities, in which 39 percent of the city's children live in poverty and in which blacks and Latinos are twice as likely as whites to be poor, robust public schools are even more vital. The consequences of the collapse of the city's public school system is falling squarely on the backs of Stanback and her classmates. [Photo below: Mural outside now-closed University City High School]
Stanback was uprooted from University City High and replanted in a crowded field. She was one of roughly 9,000 students, the overwhelming majority of them black and Latino, whose schools were shut down in the mass closures. Benjamin Franklin High School, which Stanback now attends, is bursting at the seams with an influx of new students from shuttered schools. "The hallways are so crowded, and at lunch you have to fight to find a seat, that's how packed the lunchroom is," says Sharron Snyder, an 18-year-old senior at Ben Franklin who is best friends with Stanback.
Ben Franklin has thus far weathered the immediate budgetary crisis intact. But previous rounds of budget cutting have been wearing away at the school for years. "We used to have pre-calculus, and an advanced writing class," says Kelli Ross, a 17-year-old senior at Ben Franklin who had her eye on that advanced writing class for years. By the time she was old enough to take it, it was gone. "We had honors classes for ninth graders, too. But we don't have any of that anymore." When Ross started in her freshman year the school had a counselor for every grade. Gradually counselors disappeared and today there's just one serving the whole school. "We've always had good programs," Ross says. "It's just, a lot of the good stuff, we can never keep."
"Budget crisis" is too tame a phrase to describe what's happening in Philadelphia right now. The cuts hit bone. Nurses, counselors, teachers, lunchroom aides, assistant principals and librarians were eliminated. On Sept. 25, a sixth-grader named Laporshia Massey passed away after she suffered an asthma attack at school. Massey's school didn't have a nurse, and her family argued one could have saved their daughter's life. In fact, during the budget crisis, school nurses warned that cuts to nursing staff would hurt student academic performance and endanger student safety. Three weeks after Massey's death, amidst public outcry, Gov. Corbett released $45 million in state money to rehire some teachers, counselors and other support staff. Corbett had been withholding the money on the demand that the teachers union hand over further concessions in their contract standoff. When he released the funds, Corbett's administration made sure to mention that he wasn't doing it because of Massey.
The budget crisis in Philadelphia, in cutting as deep as it has, highlights the fact that schools are so much more than buildings that house desks and kids, and that education is much more than classroom learning and testing. Schools are lifelines in communities, often functioning as the hub in a neighborhood. Nurses, counselors, assistant principals, music teachers and librarians play crucial roles in sustaining those communities and keeping children afloat. Take counselors, for instance, who do so much more than settle class schedules and lay out college brochures. At the start of November, 80 counselors laid off in the midst of the crisis were returned to Philadelphia schools so that every high school will have at least one counselor, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. But the damage was done for many students. Not having counselors around for nearly two months at the beginning of the school year left them without guides through the testing and college application maze. Some schools even declined to offer PSATs, which prep students for the SATs, because they didn't have counselors to coordinate the tests.
Sometimes, though, it's the everyday details that are the most maddening. Trina Dean, a fourth grade teacher at Thomas Mifflin Elementary in North Philly, had 42 students at the start of the year and only 30 textbooks. So what did she do? She started photocopying the books. "Which is illegal, actually," Dean notes. By the time the district shifted 10 students out of her class, she had gone through an entire case of copy paper--a supply that was supposed to last her the entire semester. Students across the district have been sent home with supply wishlists asking parents to bring in copy paper, pencils, markers, even toilet paper.
"There's no other word for it than 'criminal,'" said Hiram Rivera, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union. "They're destroying futures, the impacts of which will be felt for generations after. What has been done to the Philadelphia school district the past two years alone will leave impacts that will be felt for generations after."
If only it was just the past two years, though. Philadelphia has been the guinea pig for every kind of education reform fad that's come along in the past 30 years, driven primarily by venture-philanthropists like Bill Gates and for-profit consultants like McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group. Performance standards, state control, vouchers, restructuring, decentralization, charters, teacher-focused and test-driven accountability efforts--Philadelphia students have had a front-row seat to all of it.
Mass school closures are a hallmark of this movement. Sharron Snyder, Stanback's friend at Benjamin Franklin High School, has seen it reshape the North Philly neighborhood where she grew up. Snyder ended up at Ben Franklin in her junior year after Rhodes, the all-girls public high school she attended from seventh through tenth grades, was reconfigured into a co-ed school last year. This kind of churn isn't just a symptom of education reform, it's a tactic. In the business world, successful businesses thrive and weak, underperforming ones wither and shut down. Proponents argue that when this principle is carried over into public education, the resulting competition lifts the bar of expectation and results for everyone. But in practice, schools are not businesses and communities don't function the same way as markets, and school closures haven't left a trail of academic success stories in their wake. Rather, the instability they provoke takes a toll on communities. For Snyder, it goes back further than high school. She and her siblings went to a neighborhood elementary school that was remade into a daycare center after it was shut down in the last round of closures. It's still jarring for her to walk by the school and not see neighborhood kids playing in the yard. "It's like, where are all the kids?" Snyder says. [Photo below: Sharron Snyder]
Back in March, Snyder, Stanback and Ross, who are all active with the Philadelphia Student Union, took part in a walkout to protest the mass school closures. Some 5,000 students and parents took part, using the hashtag #walkout215--Philadelphia's area code--to mobilize students. The closures still went ahead, and by every account more are on the way.
Snyder is direct about the racial dynamics at play. "They're taking away mainly from the black and brown communities," she said. "Everyone can notice that." Black youth are 54.5 percent of the district but were 80 percent of those whose schools were announced for closure. "They make us feel like we're the bad ones," Snyder says. "We're not. You're just not giving us the things we need. So when you see our failing test grades you want to close our schools?" Snyder says those low test scores reflect the catch-22 in which students are trapped. "It's because we don't have books, because of what you're doing."
Othella Stanback's two big college-application challenges today are studying for the SAT and gathering the means to visit colleges."Ideally I want to be able to expand my options and see as many campuses as possible, but that's the hard thing right now," she says.
Even getting through this school year will be a challenge for Stanback. She notes that University City High supported teen parents with a program to help pull them through school with extra social and academic support. Ben Franklin's got its own Teen Parent Classroom, one merciful constant from her University City days. But Stanback's had to miss school to take care of her kids, and of her own mom, who usually looks after Amor and Amira while Stanback's at school.
Instability is the norm at Ben Franklin now. Seven weeks into her last year in Philly public schools, Othella's course schedule has been changed three times. Teachers and students and classrooms were swapped every few weeks. Of her six classes, Stanback doesn't have textbooks in three. The books she does have are chewed up, bindings broken and pages missing, she says. Both Stanback and Snyder say that in their English classes they sit three students to one book. There simply aren't enough books for everyone, so no one's allowed to take them home. All Stanback's schoolwork fits in a small children's backpack meant for toddlers.
The other thing Ben Franklin doesn't have? An open library. "I asked them the first day here, 'Do you have a library?' and they told me, 'It's closed,'" says Stanback. The doors are shut; students can't go in.
Of course, Stanback doesn't remember the book and library situation being a whole lot better at her old school. "At University City High, you couldn't ever take a book home," she says. "Ever." But she was close with a teacher who looked after her. "She'd give me books to read," Stanback says. "If she had it, then I could have it."
According to the Association of Philadelphia School Librarians, at the end of the last academic year 13 librarians took an early retirement in anticipation of the mass layoffs. Brenda Maiden, the president of the association and former librarian at Carver High School of Engineering and Science, was one of those who chose early retirment. She says that eight of the 16 school librarians who remained after the early retirements got laid off, which left eight school librarians to serve the entire district this school year. That doesn't mean they're able to guide students through the library. "Our certified librarians are being used as classroom teachers, or as prep teachers for testing," Maiden said. "The libraries may be open, but the books are sitting on the shelves."
The only thing that clearly stings Maiden more than being forced into early retirement is that Philly students are being denied access to a school library experience. "It's a disservice to the children of Philadelphia," she says. "Especially at the elementary school level. Those children need those skills. What is a fiction book? What is a non-fiction book? Are they being read to? It's like having a baby. And you have to take care of and mold that child," Maiden frets.
Since the start of the school year, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, together with the advocacy group Parents United for Public Education, have collected roughly 800 parent and community complaints about the impact that this year's budget crisis has had on students. They are filing their complaints with the state in an attempt to force Pennsylvania to take responsibility for Philly youth. Philadelphia schools have been state-controlled for a dozen years, and the movement argues that Corbett and state lawmakers are failing in their legislatively mandated duties to provide adequate, quality public education.
It's unclear what course the legal process will take, if any. Pennsylvania has 60 days to investigate each complaint made. "I think the filing of these complaints is unprecedented, and the reason why this is happening is because parents are desperate and are searching for anything they can do to provide some hope of action," says Michael Churchill, an attorney at the Public Interest Law Center.
Stanback certainly feels the urgency. For herself, for her family's future, for her daughters. When asked to envision her ideal high school environment, she doesn't ask for much. "It wouldn't even have to be beautiful," Stanback says. "It would be like, you know, you have books. You have paper. You have the classes you need to get you to college."
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 20:36
The Williams Institute estimates there are one million LGBT immigrants in the U.S., 30 percent of whom are undocumented. While immigration reform remains stalled in Congress, and seems increasingly unlikely to pass this year, the Center for American Progress produced an infographic to map out what immigration reform could provide for LGBT immigrants.
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 18:39
Black and Latino families have been hardest hit by "housing income segregation," which is shrinking middle income neighborhoods across the country. And now it seems Latinos are also having a harder time qualifying for home loans than before the Great Recession, experts say. In a recent interview, Gary Acosta, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals told VOXXI that Latinos are particularly affected by new, stricter rules.
"Latinos are one of those sectors mostly affected by these new regulations because of their non-traditional ways of earning income and lack of credit history in many cases," said Gary Acosta, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).
Some of the new rules could require as much as a 30 percent down payment for those "risky candidates," which Acosta also says is difficult for Latino families whose non-traditional, often inconsistent income earnings make it hard to accumulate the money needed for such a large payment. And these same informal labor jobs also make it harder for Latinos to establish good credit.
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 18:29
Macklemore has joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union in an effort to get more people to join the organization.
"I've got a lot of things to do during the day," the rapper says. "So something like being beaten with a club, pepper-sprayed, and tased for expressing my political views would really slow me down. That's why I carry the ACLU card."
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 18:21
The New York City council recently approved a plan to for developers to replace an iconic factory in Queens with luxury high rise condos. For 20 years, the owner of that Queens factory has allowed artists to cover the building's exterior in elaborate graffiti and the area, known as 5Pointz, has become an iconic draw for tourists from around the world.
From Atlantic Cities:
Developers Jerry and David Wolkoff offered to provide 10,000-square-feet of "art panels and walls" in the new buildings. But that arrangement did not satisfy artists, who immediately filed a lawsuit and were granted a 10-day injunction. On Tuesday afternoon, the court ruled against a permanent injunction.
That decision leaves the artists scrambling to re-apply for landmark status before the Wolkoffs rush in with the wrecking ball (a previous application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission was rejected in August). A spokesperson for 5Pointz insists, however, that the fight is not over. "The building is not going to go down before 2014," she told The Queens Courier, explaining that a demolition permit still needs to be issued and tenants have until January to move out.
So far, the public has been split on the news. Banksy, whose New York residencyspurred street art mayhem last month, left these parting words on his website: "It's been fun. Save 5pointz. Bye." But others support the plan, saying the current site is in noticeably bad shape and an inefficient use of space.
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 18:08
I guess the saying is true: all good things must come to an end. After a great two season run, "Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell" will air its final episode this Sunday.
FXX has yet to comment on the cancellation.
Thu, 11/14/2013 - 01:44
Asian Americans, as human beings, deal just like other people with the gamut of mental illness, including postpartum depression and anxiety. But that doesn't mean it's openly acknowledged, let alone discussed. In fact, while 14 percent of women in the U.S. report postpartum depressive symptoms, women of Asian descent were least likely of all races to report having been told about postpartum depression by a health care provider, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Cultural perceptions about mental illness, by both patients and providers, may have something to do with that.
In a frank personal essay published by Hyphen Magazine this week, Sharline Chiang takes a different tact, writing openly about her shattering experience with severe depression and anxiety after she gave birth to her daughter Anza. But she hasn't told everyone.
I didn't know I had postpartum depression--postpartum anxiety to be exact. Even after I found out and was diagnosed with severe PPD a month later, I lied. Even after I was put on anti-psychotic medicine, even after I was registered at the mental hospital in Berkeley, I lied. I lied, because I didn't want my parents to worry. It seemed the right, Confucian, filial thing to do, to protect one's elderly parents from one's own suffering. Most of all I lied because I didn't want to be judged. I already felt like such a failure. I was failing as a mother and I was ashamed.
Four years ago I had three miscarriages. "You're not careful enough," my mother said. "You're too active." While I was pregnant with Anza, I learned I had balanced translocation, a genetic condition. We needed to get lucky. Even after explaining this to her, my mother would insist: "Go on bed rest so it doesn't fall out."
I couldn't risk hearing words that sounded like blame. I already felt it was my fault: I was too soft.
My grandmothers combined had birthed and raised 15 children while fleeing the Japanese, the Communists, and poverty. What right did I have to fall apart?
So I took selfies of me and Anza smiling and sent them to my parents every day.
Read the rest of Chiang's piece over at Hyphen.
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 23:54
Affirmative action is back for yet another day of court today. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments today in Fisher v. Texas, the major affirmative action case which was sent back down to appellate courts by the Supreme Court this summer.
While the Supreme Court affirmed in its June ruling on Fisher v. Texas that diversity on college campuses is a worthwhile goal and allowed colleges and universities to continue to take race into consideration in admissions, the High Court sent the case itself back to the Fifth Circuit to take a closer look at the University of Texas' admissions policies. The question before the Fifth Circuit right now is whether race-neutral alternatives could still advance the school's goal of fostering diversity as well as its current program, under which the majority of students are admitted via a race-blind policy and a small percentage are admitted through a separate process which considers race, among multiple other factors, to complete its admissions.
Proponents of affirmative action argue that race-neutral alternatives can't and don't produce the same kinds of diversity.
Catch up on Colorlines' affirmative action coverage, including Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the other major affirmative action case currently before the Supreme Court, here.
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 23:46
In the first full month since the marketplace for new health insurance plans under the Affordable Healthcare Act opened on October 1, over 106,000 people across the nation have selected plans. Not exactly metrics to pop champagne over, but U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius said they expect those numbers to improve over the next few months when she announced the enrollment numbers this afternoon. Another 975,407 people at least made it through the application and eligibility process, but haven't selected a plan yet, said Sebelius.
Getting through that process has not been an easy ride for millions of Americans who've tried and failed to access the Obamacare plans through the online portal Healthcare.gov. The website probably won't get fixed anytime soon. Meanwhile, the HHS administration has appointed "Navigators" -- community-based Obamacare evangelists dispatched to help people sign up for health insurance through other options. The Tea Party has been publicly attacking the Navigators program as part of their larger agenda to derail Obamacare.
Meanwhile, today's enrollment numbers also include an additional 396,261 people who have been determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
"There is no doubt the level of interest is strong," said Sec. Sebellius when announcing the figures. "We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months ... They're also numbers that will grow as the website, HealthCare.gov, continues to make steady improvements."
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 22:39
Naima Lowe is a queer black artist based in Washington state whose most recent project is causing quite a stir. She's created a book called "39 Questions for White People," a collection of simple questions that are meant to generate a discussion around white privilege. Here's how Lowe describes it:
The deceptively simple text asks complex questions about race and accountability. Each page of this limited edition, forty-page, loose-leaf book, was hand inked and hand typed at a small collectively run print shop in Olympia, WA. This work started as an experiment based in my curiosity about how whiteness is framed and understood by white people. The work of creating the book became an exercise in turning the emotional labor of racism into tangible physical labor. I was able to turn all that pain into an object, which is incredibly strange, but also incredibly freeing.
Questions include: How do you know that you're white? Do you notice when the last white person leaves the room?
Copies of the book just went on sale and it's currently on display at The Wing Luke Museum in Seattle as part of their special exhibition "Under My Skin: Artists Explore Race in the 21st Century."
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 20:41
Films that celebrate queer women of color are rare, and the upcoming "Women and the Word: THE REVIVAL Documentary Film" promises to be a heartwarming thought-provoking look at five poets on an international tour. After a 55-day campaign on Kickstarter the project has been successfully funded, with post-production led by Sekiya Dorsett and Andrea Boston. Artists featured include T'ai Freedom Ford, Be Steadwell, Jonquille "Solsis" Rice, and Elizah Turner who explore gender, sexuality, and the unique barriers faced by queer women of color using music, poetry, and performance. More on the film:
Women and the Word chronicles the creation of an international salon-styled tour led and supported by women. It tells the story of how Jade Foster recruited a group of five dynamic poets and musicians to become stewards of a movement that builds community among queer women of color, upholds literary arts excellence, and occupies living rooms across the country.
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 19:41
Poet, activist, and current UCLA student Sy Stokes sends a powerful message with his poem "The Black Bruins," which calls the school out for dismal black student enrollment. According to Stokes, only 35 black students in the incoming class are expected to graduate, and of the black males at the school--who make up a tiny 3.3 percent of the overall male population-- 65 percent are athletes. Stokes says he was inspired to perform this piece because of his own experience of alienation as a multi-racial student, and the legacy of his cousin Arthur Ashe.
"We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for a level playing field," he says.
NPR reports that black student enrollment at UCLA has plummeted since the state voted down affirmative action in 1996. Stokes' video is a timely response to ongoing inequity at one of the most respected schools in the country, and challenges viewers to consider the systems that enable the school to continue to enroll only certain kinds of black students.
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 17:31
What do "Saved by the Bell," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "The Cosby Show" have to teach us about models of school discipline in today's schools? That so much of what passes for school discipline these days is actually an extremely harsh and unnecessarily punitive introduction to the criminal justice system.
A new video from the Advancement Project highlights exactly the sorts of student infractions--talking out of turn or failing to keep to the dress code--which used to be dealt with with a stern talking-to or at worst, detention but which these days can mean suspension, expulsion or even arrest for far too many students. As the video points out, even one out-of-school suspension doubles a student's chances of dropping out of school.
But a key point the video doesn't mention is that harsh zero-tolerance policies disproportionately target black and Latino youth. Such harmful school discipline wouldn't be excusable if it were evenly applied across all races, but it also happens to be deeply racially skewed.
Click here for more about the Advancement Project's Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track campaign.
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 17:29
Jai Tigget over at Shadow and Act rounded up five stellar documentaries that were all directed by black women and have qualified for Academy Award consideration. Watch the trailers below, and visit Shadow and Act for reviews of each film.Free Angela And All Political Prisoners, Shola Lynch
Valentine Road, Marta Cunningham
Gideon's Army, Dawn Porter
American Promise, Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster
The New Black, Yoruba Richen
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 17:24
Malcolm X diligently kept a diary during the last year of his life as he broke away from the Nation of Islam and traveled throughout Africa and the Middle East. Now, decades after his death, those intimate thoughts will be made public in a book that's slated for release this Thursday, November 14, 2013.
The Diary of Malcolm X will be published by Chicago-based Third World Press and will be co-edited by one of the slain activist's daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz.
"It's really beautiful that we get to see Malcolm in his own voice -- without scholars, historians, or observers saying what he was thinking or what he was doing or what he meant," Shabazz says in a video released by the publisher.
But other surviving Shabazz family members are apparently not on board with the project and have filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court to stop the book's publication.
The diaries are part of a trove of papers that were loaned to the New York Public Library by Malcolm X's daughters in 2003.
(h/t The Guardian)
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 16:46
Last month, the Supreme Court rejected the final appeal in Onondaga Nation v. State of New York, a land claim case that has been in the courts for eight years. The case focuses on Onondaga Lake and surrounding lands in what is now upstate New York. Prior to European settlement, the shores of Onondaga Lake marked a spot of deep historical, spiritual and cultural connection for the Haudenosaunee, a confederation of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca nations that lived in the region (a sixth nation, Tuscarora, joined in 1720). Today, the lake is a Superfund site divided into nine subsections that address the nearly 50 pollutants in the water, lake bottom and fish.
The state of New York took land from the Haudenosaunee in a series of five seizures in the 18th and 19th centuries in clear violation of federal law. Yet, in 2010, a U.S. District Court of New York ruled that the Onondaga Nation's claim was Onondaga Nation v. State of New York was dismissed because, according to New York's Northern District Court, "the claim would ... undermine and disrupt settler land ownership and expectations." The Onondaga appealed and were denied. That denial was upheld by the Supreme Court last month.
"New York let that lake become some of the most polluted waters," says Matthew L.M. Fletcher, who heads the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University's College of Law. "The Onondaga want a say in how the cleanup effort moves forward, particularly because the body of water is of upmost significance to the nation, and to the Haudenosaunee as a whole. The case is largely about being able to have the same interactions with the water that the Onondaga have always had, prior to confiscation."
To appreciate the depth of the Onondaga's claim, you have to go back to 18th century federal law. In 1790, the first United States Congress passed what's now called the Nonintercourse Act which prevents any individual, group of people or state from purchasing or otherwise taking possession of Native land without the explicit consent of the federal government. Three years later, the Haudenosaunee and the U.S. entered into a treaty, formally establishing a government-to-government relationship. The Canandaigua Treaty, as it's called, was entered into 219 years ago Monday.
Nevertheless, several states--including New York--took or purchased Native lands without federal authority. Oftentimes, the sale of Native land was negotiated by individuals who claimed to represent Native nations, but did not. Such negotiations and agreements would have had to have been ratified by the Native nations themselves, but they were not. That's how Onondaga Lake, and the land that surrounds it was taken in bits by the state of New York.
The federal government had the ability--and legal obligation--to intervene but didn't. "The federal government has been incredibly negligent in every conceivable way when it comes to Indian lands in these areas," says Fletcher.
While the Haudenosaunee, which is better known as the Iroquois Confederacy, protested the state of New York's land grab, it lacked a legal venue in which to voice the complaint. That's because courts barred Natives from even bringing land claims to court until 1974. That was the year the Supreme Court reversed a 2nd Circuit ruling, and along with it, the longstanding practice of dismissing Native land claims. Since then, the Haudenosaunee have filed several claims. Among them is Onondaga Nation v. State of New York.
New York hasn't denied that it took these lands and the lake in violation of federal law, but it has also taken protection knowing that the federal government never remedied the situation. The Onondaga filed suit in 2005, but a new twist in Indian Law had already spelled disaster for the nation.
That year, in a case involving the Oneida, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to all Native nations by using a legal doctrine that dismisses nations' ability to enforce treaty rights because they waited to long. Once land claim suits were allowed, Native nations had to work to acquire resources, and attorneys especially, to bring those claims forward.
"The courts have failed miserably for Indian nations in the last eight years, turning everything on its head," says Joseph J. Heath, general counsel for the Ononodaga Nation.
But the Onondaga are not giving up. The nation has identified three international venues--the Organization of Americans State's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as two United Nations committees--where the case can move next. The obstacle is that a decision from one of those bodies would not necessarily bind the U.S. or the state of New York to do right. But, says Heath, "The moral victory would help towards working on a resolution."
That moral victory, if attained, would be one hundreds of years in the making.
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 01:07
First Lady Michelle Obama moved into new political territory today when she visited students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. to discuss the importance of higher education. It's not the first time the First Lady has weighed in on the importance of education, but today marked her first official forway into the world of ed policy. And while she framed her remarks around President Obama's goal to make the U.S. the world's top producer of college graduates, she kept her speech policy-free, instead choosing to speak about her own childhood, and lace her story with the personal responsibility themes which show up so often in her husband's remarks toward black audiences in particular.
"At the end of the day, no matter what the president does, no matter what your teachers and principals do or whatever is going on in our home or neighborhood, the person with the biggest impact on your educaiton is you. It's that simple," Obama said today. "It's you, the student. And more than anything else, meeting that 2020 goal is going to take young people like you steppig up and taking control of your education."
"It's not your circumstance that defines your future," Obama later said. "It's your attitude. It's your commitment. You decide how high you set your goals. You decide how hard you're going to work toward those goals," she said.
Her words are important and inspiring; that Obama can call on her own path growing up the daughter of working-class parents and climbing to the heights of the country's most elite educational institutions makes them even more powerful. But, much more than Obama acknowledged in her remarks, structural forces like poverty and racial inequity have a great deal of power over young people's educational outcomes. In fact, recent studies have shown that the achievement gap today is not solely due to a bottoming out of the test scores of the poorest students. It's actually that the test scores of the wealthiest students are rising higher and higher into the ether, dynamics exacerbated by growing class and enduring racial stratification in the country. There are always exceptions--take Obama herself--but for most and on a broad scale, structural forces beyond the control of any one student matter.
The First Lady's remarks today were innocuous enough on their face, stressing the importance of hard work and believing in oneself and never feeling shame for the struggles one has faced. But they should be noted with caution. Obama, with all her power and charm, may very well be carrying on the neoliberal education reform agenda her husband has championed, while wrapping it up in her deeply personal words which erase the larger political and social forces at play.
Watch Obama's remarks in full here.
Wed, 11/13/2013 - 00:46
For what will be the second year in a row Vietnamese LGBT groups will not be allowed to participate in the Westminster Tet Parade, an annual Chinese New Year Celebration in Orange County, Calif. Despite widespread public outcry, the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, which now organizes the once city-run parade, voted Monday to exclude LGBT groups from the 2014 event.
LGBT groups have participated in the event for at least the past three years, but this year organizations such as Viet Rainbow of Orange County were banned from walking in the parade. Some say the move reflects an ongoing "cultural divide" within Vietnamese communities, who often adhere to a strict moral code that looks down on homosexuality and gender difference.
A spokesperson for the group told the LA Times that they were prepared to respond.
"They had an opportunity to make right what was wrong, and they chose the same path. Last year we were caught off guard, but this time we're prepared with options."
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