(via Cross Connect)
Amazing paper cuts by Wu Jian’an
(via Cross Connect)
Amazing paper cuts by Wu Jian’an
What “My Brother’s Keeper” - Obama’s new blame game initiative - gets wrong about young men of color
By the Philadelphia Student Union
February 28, 2014
In a statement issued by the White House on President Obama’s latest initiative called My Brother’s Keeper, it says: “Boys and young men of color—regardless of where they come from—are disproportionately at risk from their youngest years through college and the early stages of their professional lives.”
What exactly are young men of color at risk for? We know that they are at risk for being funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. They are at risk for being put in cages of the prison industrial complex. They are at risk for being shot, murdered, or sexually assaulted by police officers. They are at risk for living in a society that criminalizes, abuses and exploits their bodies, while refusing to invest in their communities and schools.
The White House goes on to say: “And we need to help these young men stay in school and find a good job– so they have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to their communities and build decent lives for themselves and their families.”
This plan puts the onus of success on the backs of young people, rather than transforming the systems that oppress young men of color in the first place. When it comes to dismantling systems like the school-to-prison pipeline or the prison industrial complex, we know that it is not about individual effort. Collective organizing is needed to dismantle the systems that continue to oppress young men of color.We seek systemic change that would improve the lives of young men of color for generations to come. We do not expect that systemic change to come from those who manufactured the systems themselves.
This effort will seek “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential,” the White House official said.
By making the problem seem like young men of color just need to “work hard”, they cover up the real barriers to equal opportunity, such as the racial violence of police brutality that is directed at young black men. It is very difficult to “work hard” when the powers that be are working hard at criminalizing you. They allow the bodies of young men of color to be criminalized when they put the blame on young people rather than changing racist policing polices.
When society, specifically those in power, tell a young man of color to “lift himself up”, they are telling him to ignore hundreds of years of racial injustice designed to keep people of color down. This blames youth themselves for their disadvantaged position and the inequities they face. This delegitimizes the current systems and long histories of oppression that have led us to where we are today. We must look back at hundreds of years of the criminalization of young black men and disinvestment from communities of color before placing the responsibility of fixing that in the laps of young people.
Young men of color have in fact been rising up! They’ve been fighting the root causes of systemic oppressions in their lives. We’ve seen young men of color rise up across the nation in remembrance of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and other victims of racial violence. Youth of color, LGBTQ youth and other impacted youth work together to end the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline. Young people know the obstacles they face, because they encounter them daily.
The White House recently released a statement on ending the school-to-prison pipeline. For years, young men of color across the nation have been organizing in coalitions such as the Alliance for Educational Justice, the Dignity in Schools Campaign, Journey for Justice and many others. This work has finally received a response from the the government on the growing crisis of the school-to-prison pipeline. Young men of color have been fighting for change in a way that far surpasses the White House’s request for young men of color to “lift themselves up” They have been fighting to lift up their entire communities despite stop & frisk, the prison industrial complex and widespread poverty.
The President made today’s announcement alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg. These two men have been responsible for the closing of hundreds of schools in both Chicago and New York City; the results of which undeniably displaced hundreds of thousands of young black men. The systematic uprooting of young black men from their communities, those which the President claims will be lifted up by these various proposals, is a perfect example of why we cannot expect those in power to make changes that will actually serve to benefit young men of color in our communities. Real change always comes from we who are impacted by injustice and who have the vision to fight for a just world.
Let’s talk about the responsibility of those in power and their abuse of it, before we ask young people to do the same.
By Alex Emslie
Much of the attention over the housing crisis in the Bay Area falls on the most visual stories in larger cities, like the tech employee buses that have become icons for displacement in San Francisco and Oakland.
But cities on the outskirts of the metropolis are also running into conflicts over affordable housing, homelessness and the responsibilities of governments with smaller budgets.
Much of the attention over the housing crisis in the Bay Area falls on the most visual stories in larger cities.
Housing and homelessness are the subjects of two lawsuits against the City of Albany, a town at the northern tip of Alameda County with a population of less than 20,000. The city has been working for six months to evict a longstanding tent village on a chunk of land sticking into the East Bay called the Albany Bulb.
The land was formed as a construction materials dump, but since the early 1990s, it’s housed a camp of people who would otherwise be homeless. The Bulb is also the capstone in a three-decade effort to create the McLaughlin East Shore State Park, which would finally transfer control of the land from Albany to the state parks system.
The city contracted with the nonprofit Berkeley Food and Housing Project in May to connect Bulb residents with services and help them find a place to live. The city hired Oakland-based Operation Dignity to open a temporary 30-bed shelter near the Bulb in late November. That part of the city’s park transition plan is costing more than $300,000 for six months of shelter.
“We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds,” City Councilman Michael Barnes said when the council voted to finally approve Albany’s park transition plan in October. “I think the plan we have is a good one. People will move a few hundred yards off the Bulb into trailers. They will be warm. They will be dry. There will be showers. They will have food supplied to them. They will have toiletries supplied to them. Their dogs will be there.”
So far, the shelters have not caught on with the Bulb residents. Only three to four people have been using them per night, according to the city.
Berkeley Food and Housing Project’s outreach has had some success, however. The nonprofit has connected four people with permanent housing since summer, although none of their apartments are in Albany.
Professional cook Bradley Anthony was the first Bulb resident to move into a permanent home though the effort. He had been living at the camp for about six months.
“Because I was employed, I knew it would be much easier for me,” he said outside his new home, a room in West Oakland. “It was pretty simple I guess, I mean comparatively speaking to what other people are going to be going through, I’m very lucky.”
Anthony said he moved to the Bulb last spring after he got laid off. Another job he had lined up took longer to come through than expected, and he couldn’t pay rent.
So he got in touch with his sister, April Anthony, who has lived at the Bulb for almost five years.
“I love it here, and I’m grateful for having been able to stay here,” April Anthony said. “As a single female homeless person, it beats the streets, there’s no doubt about it, and we have developed a community here, which is the last thing I thought I’d see. You know, but we’re all like a big family now. It’s kind of messed up that they’re going to break us apart.”
The Anthony siblings are two examples of the Bulb’s heterogeneous population. Bradley Anthony said he had never been homeless except for those recent six months. He said the process of getting into housing was pretty easy once outreach workers realized he had a full-time job.
“I was one of the few people that fit the criteria,” he said.
Anthony said he moved to the Bulb last spring after he got laid off.
April Anthony, however, meets the federal definition of chronic homelessness. She has a physical disability that makes it difficult for her to walk, and bi-polar disorder, and she’s lived outdoors for more than a year. Like many of the people living on the Bulb, she makes a few hundred dollars a month selling art and doing odd jobs.
“We don’t have guaranteed monthly income, and that’s been a major killer,” she said.
Coming to Grips
Albany realtor Francesco Papalia seems a little sheepish when he claims to have started the whole controversy, or at least the most recent round of it. He used his position as chair of Albany’s Waterfront Committee to form a homelessness task force in the city about a year and a half ago.
“If someone was homeless and fell down on the street or was sleeping in someone’s backyard, there was absolutely no one in the city whose job it was to help them,” he said.
The city council directed the task force to study the issue and present options for addressing homelessness in Albany, which is mostly concentrated at the Bulb. The task force delivered several options to the city in May, and the city council voted to pursue eviction under Albany’s “no-camping” ordinance with limited support services.
And at the same meeting, the council recommended task force members form an advocacy group, essentially dissolving it as a part of the city government.
“People were shocked,” Papalia said. “It was like, what just happened?”
Members of the task force did reorganize into an advocacy group, the Albany Housing Advocates, which is now suing the city in federal court.
A Federal Case
The Albany Housing Advocates, April Anthony and 28 other Bulb residents are suing the city to delay the eviction. The plaintiffs say physical or mental disabilities prevent them from using the city’s temporary shelter that opened in late November, and they should have more time to find permanent housing, preferably in Albany.
The lawsuit argues the city’s plan violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and the 14th Amendment right to due process.
The suit says Albany plans to remove people from relative safety at the camp even though the city “does not have a single permanent shelter, transitional house, or available unit of subsidized housing.”
The Albany Housing Advocates and 29 Bulb residents are suing the city to delay the eviction.
Jennifer Wolch is the dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. She gets a little frustrated when she hears cities are addressing homelessness through temporary means, whether it be short-term housing or portable shelters.
“Those kinds of solutions simply kick the can down the road,” she said. “That was the dominant solution in 1985 – build shelter beds. They don’t work very well. They keep people on this kind of cycle – street to shelter to jail to hospital that’s terrible for people and very expensive.”
Wolch has studied homelessness since the 1980s, and she has published research on homeless encampments in southern California. She said cities can best address homelessness through supportive housing, which combines an affordable, permanent place to live with on-site case workers and other services.
But Albany doesn’t have any supportive housing units. Alameda County has more than 2,000 units. Berkeley, Albany’s larger neighbor to the south, has more than 100 units of supportive housing.
Robert Cheasty was mayor of Albany in 1999, when the city last grappled with the camp at the Bulb. Now he advocates for the state park transfer.
“As a small city, you can’t have every possible service,” he said. “It’s just not feasible. So you rely on the county, you contribute to the county, or you partner with another city.”
Still, services for the homeless work better when they aren’t giant, centralized projects, according to Wolch.
“If Albany would acknowledge that they had about 50 people at any one time who needed services and needed shelter and needed long-term support, then there’s no reason that they couldn’t address that need,” she said. “And in fact, homelessness and homeless service provision and supportive housing is much better done on a small scale.”
The Housing Element
Affordable housing is the subject of another lawsuit concerning Albany’s obligations to the poor and homeless. This one is in Alameda County Superior Court.
State law requires all California cities and counties to plan for housing at all income levels. It’s called the housing element of the general plan, and their due approximately every seven years. Albany’s last approved plan was filed in 1992. The city turned in an updated draft for the 2007 to 2014 period in October – more than a little late.
That process has already spurred the city to remove restrictions on building a permanent emergency shelter, and the draft recommends doing something similar for transitional and supportive housing.
This isn’t the first time the city has grappled with its homeless population. In fact, the present saga is a near duplicate of one in 1999, when Albany used the same contractor to build a temporary shelter near the Bulb and evicted the camp.
Berkeley Human Welfare Commissioner Dan McMullan lived at the camp in 1999. He lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident and spent about a decade homeless in Berkeley and Albany.
The present saga is a near duplicate of one at the Bulb back in 1999.
“The reason I was homeless was because I was disabled,” he said. “People that work with homeless people know, scratch any homeless person and you’ll find a disability. And they do nothing in Albany for people with disabilities who are homeless. And it’s amazing to me that after all these years, they’re going to try to pull the same move again.”
Albany Mayor Peggy Thomsen declined interview requests from KQED. Albany’s mayor is part of the city council, and she is the only current member who was also a councilmember 15 years ago.
“We did, I believe, have a humane relocation of the people at that time,” she said at a public meeting. “I personally went out to the Bulb to where the food was delivered into the portables. I would be happy to have lived in one myself. They were very, very clean.”
McMullan said his ideal solution would be to improve the lot of people at the Bulb, maybe with a transitional shelter there, including fresh water and working plumbing. That way, people could camp there until they found permanent housing.
Albany’s disbanded homelessness task force had a similar suggestion, which they called the dignity village model, based on a self-governing community in Portland.
But the city isn’t pursuing that plan, and the task force was concerned that building a dignity village at the Bulb might prolong people living in harsh conditions.
UC Berkeley’s Wolch described a similar, now closed Dome Village in Los Angeles.
“The challenge with those kinds of experiments is you want to make sure you’re not validating a model that says, ‘well people really don’t need housing’ — that it’s okay for people not to be provided with real housing,” she said. “It’s a slippery slope. As a society, do we want to give up on a goal that says people should have decent, safe, sanitary, conventional housing, whether they can earn enough to pay for it on the market or not?”
Aaron Huey: Mitakuye Oyasin: All My Relations (Pine Ridge Reserve)
Aaron Huey has photographed the Oglala Lakota for seven years. The community of Sioux is confined to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, about 75 miles southeast of the Black Hills.
*I can’t find one description of this project that isn’t problematic, so I leave it to others to research on their own. Despite the accolades of TED talks, National Geographic and now a movie shot with OBEY, there are still complex issues over an outsider, entrenched in colonial implications, taking pictures of this community and presenting it to the outside world. Because of some issues over photos of sacred ceremonies that the photographer took, I have chosen to exclude those images from this post. THAT SAID the 7 year investment the photographer has made to establish real relationships with the community and explore a highly complex social/political/colonial issue can be respected.
The best thing to come out of this project is arguably the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project. This collection tells the story of life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, told by the people of Pine Ridge in their own unedited words.
Pussy Riot members freed from prison
December 19, 2013
Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova, 24, andMaria Alekhina, 25, were released from prison, three months before their scheduled release, according to Reuters. The two women and fellow band member Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested for performing
Punk Prayer: Mother of God Drive Putin Away from Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on February 21, 2012. Their crime: “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility.”
While Samutsevich successfully appealed her sentence, the other two punk rockers remained, despite global cries for the their release. Earlier this week, a new Russian amnesty law was passed. According to The Associated Press, prisoners “who haven’t committed violent crimes, first-time offenders, minors and women with small children” are granted amnesty from their imprisonment. During their time, Alekhina went on a hunger strike and Tolokonnikova wrote an open letter, protesting the treatment of prisoners. Just days after that letter was posted, she disappeared for 21 days during a prison transfer, showing up in a Siberian prison hospital.
In a news conference, President Vladimir Putin expressed no regret for the Pussy Riot members. “I was not sorry that they ended up behind bars,” he said. “I was sorry that they were engaged in such disgraceful behaviour, which in my view was degrading to the dignity of women.”
Stealing pennies from Chileros: Green chiles a hot commodity, but fields are overgrown with wage theft
December 19, 2013
In the early morning darkness, Susana Lopez, backpack slung over her shoulder, heads off to a stretch of discount stores on El Paso Street, one of the main gathering places for farmworkers in El Paso, Texas. Here she joins dozens of other exhausted laborers who woke up at 2 a.m. in the hope of being hired by a contratista, the contractors who provide labor for the region’s farms. Some of the workers pick up a pastry at the bakery half a block away; others grab a burrito from a sidewalk stand. They take their breakfast and sit on a curb or lean against a wall of the Payless ShoeSource and wait. It’s a life of uncertainty. “You never know if there’s gonna be work,” Isidro Mancha, 63, who was born and raised in Albuquerque, tells me.“[You] work with different contratistas almost every day.”
On this late September day, Lopez only has to wait a half an hour before getting picked to hop into a contratista’s van bound for a green chile field in Deming, New Mexico, 119 miles away. On other days she has waited as long as an hour and a half. Advocates and workers say contratistas choose people they know—those who work fast and, especially, those who don’t complain. Workers call the system, “Tú sí, tú no.” “You yes, you no.”
Sometimes Lopez gets lucky and gets work in Las Cruces, an easy 45-minute drive, but today the trip takes nearly three hours each way. Once in Deming, she and her companions wait in the van or stand at the top of the chile rows, anxious to get started. It will be another 30 minutes before the contratista finally signals that it is light enough to work. Then it is nonstop movement.
By the time Lopez gets back to El Paso that night, she’ll have spent 13 hours just to get paid $47 for six hours of work. And while it’s legal for the contratista not to pay her for those hours spent waiting on El Paso Street and traveling to and from the fields, I find that he may have broken the law in several other ways to keep her day’s pay that small. For New Mexico’s chile pickers, I soon discover, wage theft is as common as sore backs.
Lopez’s pay is too low to afford an apartment, so she stays at a shelter in El Paso run by a farmworker advocacy group, the Sin Fronteras Organizing Project. It houses up to 125 laborers, many of whom have some type of legal status. All of those I spoke with were legal permanent residents, and several were U.S. citizens. To call the shelter bare bones would be generous. Lopez and several other women share a tiny room next to the reception area that also houses a water fountain; the men sleep nearby in the large main room. There are no beds or cots; everyone sleeps on blankets or thin mattresses placed right on the linoleum floor. The shelter is crowded, often noisy, and there’s no privacy. With only a few small windows, the air quickly gets stale. But it’s free. “I live here out of necessity,” says Lopez. “If I had an apartment, I couldn’t send money to my family”—a 6-year-old daughter and two ailing parents right across the border in Ciudad Juárez.
When I arrive at the chile field with Lopez at dawn on a late September day, the air is surprisingly cool, although southern New Mexico is still seeing highs in the upper 80s. A faint smell of chiles hangs in the air. In the dark, I can barely make out the neat green rows that stretch out for acres. Green chiles grow low to the ground, so Lopez and the other workers kneel to harvest them, pushing buckets ahead of them as they scoot forward on their knees. The plants are wet with early-morning dew, and workers’ clothing quickly becomes covered in mud.
“You get all dirty,” says Eduardo Martinez, 46, who picks chiles to support a wife and two children back in Ciudad Juárez.“You’re like a pig.”
Each time Lopez fills a bucket, which holds about 20 pounds, she hoists it onto a shoulder and hurries to the large crates where she’ll deposit her chiles. Workers are paid piece rate, and most New Mexico farmers were paying 85¢ a bucket for green chiles this year. (“You wanna make money, you gotta move your fingers quick,” says José Valentes, a slight man of 65 who’s been working the fields for almost 50 years.) Every time Lopez dumps her bucket, a small plastic token, a ficha, is tossed in; she tucks it in a front pocket and hurries back to her row to continue picking.
In the cool of the early morning, the crew of about 60 workers moves quickly down the rows, rushing back and forth to the crates. Lopez, a big woman, is soon breathing heavily. As the day progresses, the temperature rises, hitting 88 degrees. Exhaustion kicks in, and everyone slows down.
Lopez was told that the crew would work until noon that day. Then 12:30. Finally, at 1 p.m., she calls it quits. “I work until my body says, ‘Stop,’ ” she says. Her legs hurt, her arms hurt; she is spent. She holds out her right hand. It is shaking.
Soon, more workers leave the field. But the tractors keep coming, bringing more empty crates waiting to be filled. No one gets paid until the day’s quota is met, so Lopez waits. At around 2 p.m., there’s a long pause between tractors and she’s convinced she’ll finally get paid. Then another one pulls up. She shakes her head and mutters “pendejo,” a profane word for idiot. By the time she’s paid, she’s lost yet another hour. For filling 55 buckets, she’s paid $46.75. She worked 6.25 hours and waited another two.
She should have earned much more. With rare exceptions for very small farms, state law mandates that when workers are paid hourly—for example, when weeding a field or picking chiles—they must receive the New Mexico minimum wage of $7.50 an hour. If Lopez’s wait time is factored in, her hourly pay falls far below $7.50. That means that, in effect, her wages were stolen.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, New Mexico ranked first in the nation in acreage in 2012, with nearly 10,000 acres planted and 78,000 tons of chiles harvested. That crop was valued at $65 million, but the true market value of those New Mexican chiles—when they are used in restaurants, sold in stores or made into salsas—was estimated at $400 million in 2012 by the New Mexico Chile Association (NMCA), a group comprised of farmers and processors.
Centro Sin Fronteras is an invaluable place in El Paso because they have organized countless migrant farmers along the border & have provided so many workers with a safe refuge when they aren’t being exploited in the fields. Carlos Marantes & many other groups, such as women’s collective La Mujer Obrera, are doing vital social justice work along the borderland with workers’ rights at the forefront of the struggle.
This is what a true oppression-free food justice movement must look like: non-GMO, healthy, sustainable & affordable food for all communities, including the farmers who work the fields, as well as a living wage for our agricultural workers.
Los Muertos De Las Guerras Injustas by Melanie Cervantes
Got this in my email today:
We are elders of the Maasai from Tanzania, one of Africa’s oldest tribes. The government has just announced that it plans to kick thousands of our families off our lands so that wealthy tourists can use them to shoot lions and leopards.The evictions are to begin immediately.
Last year, when word first leaked about this plan, almost one million Avaaz members rallied to our aid. Your attention and the storm it created forced the government to deny the plan, and set them back months. But the President has waited for international attention to die down, and now he’s revived his plan to take our land. We need your help again, urgently.
President Kikwete may not care about us, but he has shown he’ll respond to global media and public pressure — to all of you! We may only have hours. Please stand with us to protect our land, our people and our world’s most majestic animals, and tell everyone before it is too late.
This petition is our last hope:
Our people have lived off the land in Tanzania and Kenya for centuries. Our communities respect our fellow animals and protect and preserve the delicate ecosystem. But the government has for years sought to profit by giving rich princes and kings from the Middle East access to our land to kill. In 2009, when they tried to clear our land to make way for these hunting sprees, we resisted, and hundreds of us were arrested and beaten. Last year, rich princes shot at birds in trees from helicopters. This killing goes against everything in our culture.
Now the government has announced it will clear a huge swath of our land to make way for what it claims will be a wildlife corridor, but many suspect it’s just a ruse to give a foreign hunting corporation and the rich tourists it caters to easier access to shoot at majestic animals. The government claims this new arrangement is some sort of accommodation, but its effect on our people’s way of life will be disastrous. There are thousands of us who could have our lives uprooted, losing our homes, the land on which our animals graze, or both.
President Kikwete knows this deal would be controversial with Tanzania’s tourists - a critical source of national income - and does not want a big PR disaster. If we can urgently generate even more global outrage than we did before, and get the media writing about it, we know it can make him think twice. Stand with us now to call on Kikwete to stop the sell off:
This land grab could spell the end for the Maasai in this part of Tanzania and many of our community have said they would rather die than be forced from their homes. On behalf of our people and the animals who graze in these lands, please stand with us to change the mind of our President.
With hope and determination,
— The Maasai community of Ngorongoro District
- The Endorois people (also in Kenya) were removed from their sacred land in the 1970s under similar circumstances & for similar motives (the establishment of parks for colonial tourists.
PLEASE REBLOG THIS AND SPREAD THE WORD GUYS. Traditional cultures in East Africa have been getting completely trampled on by the government and barely anyone seems to know or care. And this loss of land isn’t just destroying their livelihood but their entire culture. These really are issues that could actually get some backing if people just freakin’ knew about them, so PLEASE SIGNAL BOOST!
C’mon, it needs 25,000 more signatures!
can some of my followers please sign and reblog is possible?
Message to the Legislators and Our Supporters
October 9, 2013
As human beings who are committed to securing human rights for all people confined in California’s prisons, The Short Corridor Collective greets you with a firm embrace of love & solidarity. We send our endless respect to all our supporters and people of conscience for seeing the value in our humanity and staying committed to this struggle. History will prove you to be among the champions of morality, fighting relentlessly against the beast simply because you know it is the right thing to do.
Since we decided to suspend our peaceful hunger strike, we have been working on healing our bodies and reformulating our plan for moving forward. Many of us are still suffering the physical impact of not consuming any food for 60 days. We are still attempting to get accurate medical evaluations done to determine what damage our bodies have sustained. Make no mistake that what we have put our bodies through was no easy test to endure, but we all realized the necessity of carrying it through.
We also realize that this moment in history itself is a great test for us all. This test will determine whether California is ready to correct its mistakes and reestablish itself as the Golden State, a trendsetter in political thought and action, or if California’s legacy will forever be tainted by its torturous prison conditions and the veil of secrecy and denial that those in power struggle to maintain.
We must not lose sight of the fact that these conditions exist here. No matter how often the Department of Corrections repeats the lie that solitary confinement is not used in California, our decades of existence in these concrete tombs, isolated and alone, will stand as a testament to the truth. No matter how many times the Department of Corrections tries to justify our suffering and dehumanization through character assassination and dirty political games, the whole world will watch and bear witness as we continue to show our unity by fighting for human rights in the most virtuous and honorable ways possible.
This next phase of the struggle will require the power of the people more than ever. We have to work with, and urge our representatives in the legislature to ensure that the following changes are made in the interest of imprisoned people, their loved ones, their communities—in the interests of humanity .
We must put an end to solitary confinement. There is no place for indefinite solitary confinement in a civilized society. Human beings should not be treated like this. Isolation and Administrative Segregation must only be used as a last resort,. Right now we have thousands of people who are isolated in California prisons as a first resort to any problem; from lack of appropriate bed space, to mental health issues, to misconduct, to alleged gang affiliation. These practices have been damaging and destructive to the people who have had to endure them (us prisoners) as well as the entire prison system, the communities outside these prison walls and the state’s economy. Enough is enough.
We must also ensure that all prisoners including those who are in isolation have regular and meaningful contact with their families and loved ones. Allowing prisoners to maintain healthy relationships with other human beings is essential for safer prisons and a better world. It is undisputed that prisoners who have regular contact with their families and loved ones in a way that fosters meaningful relationships do better while they are in prison and recidivate less often. Preventing fathers and mothers from hugging their children or sons and daughters from speaking with their parents and loved one does not serve any legitimate purpose.
We cannot allow the Department of Corrections to continue treating human beings this way. We need our legislative leaders to take a moral and political stand for human rights and let the Department of Corrections know that torture will not be tolerated here. Take a stand right now. Don’t wait. There have been multiple internal policy reforms within the Department of Corrections, but no substantive changes to our conditions. Many of us suffer now just as we did in 1989 when Pelican Bay first opened and just as we did in 2002 when the first Pelican Bay Hunger Strike happened. That strike was only called off when legislators vowed to get involved. And here we are again in 2013.
We cannot ignore the urgency of this moment. Let there be no illusions about the difficulty of making these changes, but they are necessary and inevitable. The opportunity is here, it is up to us to seize it so that we and those that come after us do not end up here again.
The Pelican Bay Short Corridor Representatives
A nationwide strike in Colombia—which started as a rural peasant uprising and spread to miners, teachers, medical professionals, truckers, and students—reached its 7th day Sunday as at least 200,000 people blocked roads and launched protests against a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and devastating policies of poverty and privatization pushed by US-backed right-wing President Juan Manuel Santos.
"[The strike is a condemnation] of the situation in which the Santos administration has put the country, as a consequence of its terrible, anti-union and dissatisfactory policies," declared the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the country’s largest union, in a statement.
The protests and strikes, largely ignored in the English-language media, have been met with heavy crackdown from Colombia’s feared police, with human rights organization Bayaca reporting shootings, torture, sexual assault, severe tear-gassing, arbitrary arrests, and other abuses on the part of state agents. Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon recently claimed that the striking workers are being controlled by the “terrorist” Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a country known for using unverified claims of FARC connections as an excuse to launch severe violence against social movements.