Pages tagged "Blog"
Paul Schmitz: The March Was More Than a Speech
It has been heartening to see the real history of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom emerge in the run up to the 50th anniversary today. It is important that social change agents heed that history, and understand the difference mobilizing people support a cause and organizing people to lead a cause.
Growing up, I understood August 28th, 1963 mainly as the day Dr. Martin Luther King inspired our nation with his transformative "I Have a Dream" speech. For most of my life, I thought it was like a concert: they announced Dr. King would be giving a big speech and two hundred thousand people showed up to hear it. History is often taught as a series of events, and many of us do not learn the true stories of how change happened behind and beyond those events. Unfortunately too many actions today seem more like concerts or events people go to rather than the mass organizing and collective leadership that led to the March on Washington.
The true story of the movement is not just a story of heroes but of countless ordinary people of al ages and stations of life who courageously stepped up, often at great danger to their lives, families, jobs, and property. Many were brutally beaten and killed along the way. And those beaten and jailed like the Freedom Riders came back and marched again and again.
In May of 1963, the media had started writing Dr. King off. He was considered a relic of the '50s and his recent marches in Alabama and Georgia had failed to bring about change. With the movement's future on the line, Dr. King took a radical risk and supported a children's march in Birmingham
organized by his deputy James Bevel. On the first day alone, 600 kids were arrested and despite the threat of police dogs, fire hoses, and prison, thousands more marched throughout the next week filling the jails. The courage and leadership of the children aroused the nation's conscience and lifted the movement.
A. Phillip Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and dean of the civil rights leaders, had threatened a March on Washington in 1941 until President Roosevelt desegregated the war industries. He and his chief strategist Bayard Rustin had planned a March for Jobs when Dr. King and other civil rights leaders came together on July 2nd to expand the vision of the march to include freedom. Rustin was a controversial choice to lead the march as a gay black man in 1963 America, but he did the seemingly impossible in only seven weeks.
People raised money in their communities to attend and send their family and friends to the march. Many marchers lost jobs or faced other hostilities for their participation. The New York Times marveled at Rustin's operation, and one can see why in the March manual he created. Volunteers organized transportation, housing, sandwiches, water, sanitation, signs, and more for the marchers hoping for an ambitious goal of 100,000 people. 250,000 showed up.
Official Washington was terrified at this large assembly of African American marchers and their allies in spite of their demonstrated non-violent resolve throughout the South's brutal resistance. President Kennedy had tried to block the march, had 19,000 troops on call to intervene if there were riots, and had a staff person able to cut off the sound system if speeches became too incendiary. Hospitals had canceled surgeries to prepare for all the injured. The Washington Senators major league baseball game was canceled for fear of safety. This was the fear prevalent behind the march and "the dream."
There were ten sponsoring organizations including the major civil rights groups, the United Auto Workers, and Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant groups. Dr. King was one of over a dozen speakers that day to reach the podium. No women of prominence spoke, but several were honored including the great student activist and strategist Diane Nash Bevel and Rosa Parks. It is sad that the movement has such a sad blind spot for sexism in its language about full equality. Student leader John Lewis's speech was remarkable as the one most critical of President Kennedy. Dr. King's speech was broadcast to a national audience and truly was a transformative moment for the nation.
It is right today to remember Dr. King's dream, but social change did not happen because leaders like him spoke and people came to listen. Change happened because of the thousands of common people who stepped up, spoke out, marched, and kept at it day after day for weeks, months, even years.
It was not about mobilizing people to hear a leader. It was about organizing people to be leaders. This fact does not diminish the genius, vision, or eloquence of Dr. King. It recognizes instead that his vision would have been empty without the courageous leadership of thousands in communities across the country who stepped up to engage their family, friends, neighbors, and congregants in collective action.
Today many people follow causes. Many causes hold events and invite people to take passive roles in support of change. What we actually need is more leadership - more people stepping up in their neighborhoods, in communities, and on larger causes. The March on Washington was not about a speech. It was about the marchers. It was a celebration of collective action that had been happening in communities across the South and even in the North.
A Decade of Flat Wages
The Ongoing Battle with Obesity
Under a False Sense of Normalcy, part three: Reentry and Cyclical Disenfranchisement
Do we have the wrong idea about charity? Part I
Catalyst's Health Insurance Marketplace Navigator: Here to Assist You on October 1st
Mark your calendars: 10/01/13, and get ready for better access and service when dealing with your health insurance needs.
Become a CHAIN Advocate by registering here, and keep up with the latest Health Insurance Marketplace facts and updates.
Under a False Sense of Normalcy, part two: The Prison-Industrial Complex
Last month we looked at the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP), the presence of racial profiling and counterproductive disciplinary action in schools. Now it is time to look at one of the main driving forces behind the STPP, the Prison-Industrial Complex.
The term Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), as explained by Julia Sudbury in the Feminist Review, refers to “the emergence and global expansion of an intricate web of relations between the state penal institutions, politicians and profit-driven prison corporations.” We have witnessed an accelerated expansion of the U.S. inmate population that has been largely driven by political agendas and that of their influencers, the private prison corporations that supply the goods and services to the governmental prison agencies. Now keep in mind prisoners are used for labor and are, on average, paid $4.73 a day, with the lowest figures coming from private prisons: $0.16 a day. In other words, prisoners signify profit, so corporate lobbyists and prison-worker unions are steering political processes to ensure that there is a constant supply of prisoners from which they can keep sustaining their livelihoods.
In an Counterpunch article, Kenneth Hartman mentions the conditions underlying the violence and instability perpetrated by individuals and used by authorities to justify the prison system. He indicates that lack of health care and mental health care, drug addiction therapy, education, and “the opportunity to look at themselves as human,” as a by-product and cause of racism and classism that sustains this system. Yet the most important point he makes is that thinking that punishment is the only way to manage these seemingly non-treatable social ills is “not a statement of fact; it is the declaration of an ideology.” This ideology holds that “punishment, for the sake of the infliction of pain, is the logical response to all misbehavior. It is also a convenient cover story behind which powerful special interest groups hide.”
It is under the logic of punishment that we fail to look at, for example, legislation criminalizing the use of marijuana through a scientific lens instead of an ideological one, ignoring the fact that Blacks are four times more likely than Whites to be arrested for possession of marijuana, despite nearly equal levels of consumption. And it is under the logic of profit that the multibillion dollar private prison industry, as well as police and prison guard unions, are among the top five special interest groups lobbying to keep marijuana illegal.
Under what logic will people realize that our legal and judicial systems are corrupted by profiteers? Under what logic do we tell ourselves that technical definitions of slavery do not apply here? Even if technical definitions do not fully align, it is slavery nonetheless, and to not see it that way is a dismissal of the full severity of this issue.
By: Felix Acuña
Why Miami Should Support the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013
Under a False Sense of Normalcy: The Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline
Miami Residents face challenges in Health Insurance Marketplace and beyond
By Daniella Levine, JD, MSW
On October 1st, the federal government will open up a new health insurance marketplace where an estimated 1.7 million Floridians will have new health insurance options and financial assistance to help them purchase coverage.
However, many of the uninsured households in our state may face challenges purchasing coverage unless the marketplace adopts alternative payment methods. Many do not have checking or savings accounts and are effectively “unbanked” – 7.3%, according to a report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The problem is that insurance companies often require individuals to pay their monthly premiums via automatic withdrawal from a checking account. No account, no insurance.
Federal officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have proposed requiring insurers to accept a menu of payment options, including cashier’s checks, money orders and prepaid debit cards, so that families without checking accounts won’t lose the opportunity to purchase the insurance required by law.
Those proposed rules should become the law of the land.
But we shouldn’t stop there. In addition to ensuring that unbanked South Floridians get the health coverage they need, we must also find ways to address the larger problems that prevent these households from joining the financial mainstream.
More than one in five households in Miami are considered unbanked, according to data compiled by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). An additional 21.4% of households are “underbanked,” meaning they may have a bank account, but still use alternative financial services like check cashers and payday loans. These numbers place Miami as the most unbanked and underbanked large city in the U.S. This is a problem that, according to a Miami Herald article published last month, has “grown in the wake of the recession.” Families are left with little opportunity to save for the future, build credit, and turn their hard-earned cash into valuable assets.
We have witnessed firsthand the impact of programs and services that help families in our area open bank accounts and achieve long-term financial security. Through the Prosperity Campaign, a flagship initiative of Catalyst Miami that has spread throughout the state, lower wage individuals and families in South Florida connect to quality healthcare programs and services, establish financial security, and improve their quality of life. This past year, 845 individuals received financial literacy training, 2,831 individuals were assisted with benefit enrollment, and over 5,000 residents attended our free tax preparation sessions. These programs have granted many residents the opportunity to better their financial prospects, providing them access to financial literacy and capability.
In all, the efforts made by Catalyst Miami in conjunction with several community partners have been successful in promoting financial security in our communities; however, we can still do more.
These programs reach a mere handful of the households they could potentially help. Our government leaders need to play a stronger role in connecting residents to the financial mainstream by using tools like public awareness campaigns to inform residents about the dangers of high-cost payday loans. Local leaders can also help bring together area banks, credit unions and community organizations to extend their services to the unbanked and underbanked residents of our community. And finally, as the Miami Herald suggests, financial institutions need to gain the trust of these consumers.
We need to do more to prevent unbanked and underbanked families from being shut out of everything from reliable health coverage to a secure financial future. The gap in access to financial services is symptomatic of the widening wealth gap in our nation. If policymakers are to successfully increase access to health insurance, expanding opportunities to join the financial mainstream should be a key part of that effort.
Catalyst Miami is proud that its Prosperity Campaign has assisted many thousands and brought in millions in new revenue to our community. We will be joining efforts to promote use of the Affordable Care Act marketplace, and increasing our financial counseling services to promote greater financial capability for our low and moderate income residents. Contact us to see how we can assist you to increase health and wealth for yourself and for others, including through services in your place of work.
Daniella Levine, Founder and CEO of Catalyst Miami, launched the Prosperity Campaign in 2002 to meet financial and healthcare needs of low and moderate income residents. The Prosperity Campaign has gained national recognition and has been replicated statewide. www.catalystmiami.org 305 576 5001