Going Forward

Image: Franciscan Spirit, franciscanmedia.org

As my commitment to a weekly contribution to an organization working for racial justice in the US for the month of June was coming to a close, I decided that – in order to remain more involved – I will select an organization to support on a monthly basis. The first group I have chosen is The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

The Poor People’s Campaign is centered around a caring, common-sense, heart-based – what they call a moral – agenda to respect and thereby improve the lives of people that US policies have systematically attacked and disempowered.

Its platform identifies legislative and policy priorities grounded in five principles:

1.  We need a moral revolution of values to repair the breach in our society.

2.  Everybody in, nobody out.

3.  When you lift from the bottom, everybody rises.

4.  Prioritize the leadership of the poor, low-income, and most impacted.

5.  Debts that cannot be paid must be relieved.

Their demands include:

1. Protecting and expanding the right to vote. 

2. Consequences for abuses of police power, and justice for families and communities who have been harmed and terrorized by police violence must be a matter of law.

3. Demilitarizing the police. Ending mass incarceration. Stopping criminalizing the poor. 

4. Establishing real security by taking care of our health needs in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond and address the poverty and disinvestment in our communities that brought us to this point. 

5. Working with frontline movements and impacted communities, establish a National Truth Commission on the violence of systemic racism. 

I find Reverend Dr. William Barber II so inspiring and the Campaign consolidates so much of what is needed to make the US a decent home for all of us. 

This is possible – the 2019 Poor People’s Moral Budget found that “The United States has abundant resources for an economic revival that will move towards establishing a moral economy.”

Their vision for the United States is one that makes our world more beautiful.  Not just for some, but for everyone. (and as I wrote that, this song did come into my head). 

I invite you to learn more about their work and support them and these principles.

Black Excellence Collective

For the last of our weekly June donations to support racial justice organizations in the United States, I am making a donation to the Black Excellence Collective.

The Black Excellence Collective formed in 2015 to “organize for our collective liberation using art, direct action & political education.” Over the past five years they have hosted workshops and trainings, organized rallies and vigils for members of the community lost to state or interpersonal violence, and coordinated direct support for people in need.

As many of us are aware, the black trans and queer communities are disproportionally affected by COVID-19 as well as racism, transphobia, rising unemployment, and police and interpersonal violence. As trying as these times are, they are multiplied in these communities – making the work of the Black Excellence Collective even more essential.

You can see an example of the powerful actions they are leading on this video and follow their activities on their Instagram.

They are currently working to raise $250,000 for their programs. They will divide the funds:

• 50% for bail funds, legal fees, and food/ride share support for black trans/queer youth in New York City

• 20% to build out organizing and arts mentorship programs for black trans/queer youth in NYC

• 15% to send commissary funds to incarcerated or detained Black trans/queer young folks nationwide

• 15% to continue a mutual aid micro grants program to black trans people nationwide who are affected by COVID-19

Please join me in learning more about, following, and supporting their work.

Pride 2020

For the last week of Pride Month, we donated to The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC).  NBJC focuses on federal public policy and “strengthening bonds and bridging gaps between movements for racial justice and LGBTQ/SGL equality.”  

“NBJC envisions a world where all people are fully-empowered to participate safely, openly and honestly in family, faith and community, regardless of race, class, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Please join me in learning more and supporting them in their advocacy alongside the African American LGBTQ/SGL community. 

Chrysalis

Hectonichus / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

We didn’t want this to happen; I’m not saying that. But we wanted something to happen. We all understood, consciously or otherwise, that the life we have all been living, the global economy we have created, was not sustainable. “

As the people of the world are in degrees of lockdown, we initially circulated not-always or wholly-true but most definitely uplifting information about a world that has healed itself in our absence.

The imaginary dolphins of Venice became, for a moment, a way of projecting ourselves forward into a world beyond the coronavirus crisis — a world where we have learned something, and been changed. “

We imagined that we would emerge from our sheltering in place to find a beautiful world where neighbors still sing to one another, the air is clean, animals have returned to regions from which they have long ago been displaced by humans.

But the world has far from healed itself. Abuses of power, of systemic racism, of racial capitalism did not magically disappear as we stayed at home. For black people in the US and for people around the world, stepping out of their homes – to shop, to jog, to eat – and sometimes even when they are sleeping in their homes, is a risk to their lives so much more pervasive and immediate than the virus that keeps us inside.

And now we begin to step outside, not to a healed idyllic environment, but to find ourselves on the streets. Demanding justice. Demanding humanity. Protests around the world in support of Black Lives Matter bring us together to demand that we transform into a just society.

How we get there is something that is our responsibility – every day – to get our heads around and take that next step. To make the time to learn about our history and to identify and dismantle the white supremacist frameworks that we inhaled with the air we breathed. To feel that in ourselves, to recognize it, and to act differently.

In acting differently, it may require making amends, but it definitely requires taking action in solidarity with organizations that have been fighting injustice all along.

These issues are not new, and those of us who are newer to them must follow the lead of those more experienced, and of those who are negatively affected by systemic racism in more aspects of their lives. Especially if we have always been a leader, this experience of getting in line and taking direction is part of the change we need to make in our world.

Sprout the seeds for what will be created next like a caterpillar in a chrysalis.

We will learn, rethink, reimagine.

Stand up. Support. Every day. As long as it takes. Even when we are tired. Because someone else has been fighting longer and is more tired.

Staying home for 3 months won’t reset the planet’s ecosystem. Being on the streets for a month won’t reset entrenched systems of injustice.

A combination of long-term commitments and perseverance is the only way.

To emerge. Better. Together.

Trans Lives Matter

As we hope, pray, and take action for meaningful systemic change, the past week has brought us the high of the Supreme Court ruling that the Civil Rights Act provides legal protection for LGBTQIA employees and the lows that the Trump administration allows health providers to deny service to transgender patients.  This year, the murders of Nina Pop, Monika Diamond, Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton, and activist Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, the lynchings of Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch in California, and the killing of so many others tumbles our broken hearts to new depths.

We do not have a beautiful world until there is justice for all.  Until every individual is able to go about their life without fear of being harassed or murdered and is treated equally under the law, in their communities, and in their families.

This week we donated to a basket of black trans-led organizations that includes:

The Okra Project providing black trans people with mental health care and therapy

The Third Wave Fund led by and for women of color, intersex, queer, and trans people under 35 years old to resource political power and self determination of communities of color and low-income communities

The Unique Woman’s Coalition to foster the next generation of black trans leadership through mentorship, scholarship, and community care engagement work

Black & Pink advocates to end the criminal punishment system and the harms it causes on LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV/AIDS

My Sistah’s House which is a resource for finding doctors, social groups and safe spaces for the trans community, and provides emergency shelter, access to sexual health services, and social services.

To learn more about what you can do to support the #BlackTransMovement including places to donate money; books and articles to read; films and videos to watch; podcasts to listen to; and people, hashtags, and organizations to follow, visit ActForBlackTransLives.org

Learning

Last week, I decided that in addition to our monthly donations to indigenous activists and organizations that preserve the land, culture, and livelihoods of native peoples, for the month of June I would be making weekly donations to organizations that advocate for black lives, fight for systemic changes, bail out protestors, and support civil rights.

My first donation was to Campaign Zero because their eight immediate actions that police departments could take to reduce police violence by 72% made me feel hopeful (for the first time in a long time) about solutions.

Since then, I have learned how the eight actions they recommend are not enough. And I have learned that many of Campaign Zero’s actions have been tried and were not sufficient. For example, New York City’s police department had already banned choke holds when NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner. Pantaleo put Eric Garner in a choke hold while arresting him on suspicion of selling single cigarettes from a pack.

Police violence is out of control in the United States. But I am learning that police are not a given in our society. That by reducing the power of the police we can not only reduce police violence, but also strengthen criminalized communities. More cities can follow Minneapolis City Council’s vote to defund the police and reallocate its municipal budget so that more money goes into building healthy communities, creating jobs, improving education, providing childcare and social services.

I am learning by reading the commitments of 8 to Abolition and following their hashtag #8toAbolition. They are committed to a world without policing, to “a world without police, where no one is held in a cage, and all people thrive and be well” and have eight policy changes to get us there.

As we remain in lockdown due to COVID-19 and we discuss the new “post-COVID” world we want to live in – one where the environment and human rights are prioritized, where there is no hunger, no poverty, where corporations take financial and social responsibility for what were previously allowed as “externalities” – let us continue expanding our minds and our visions of society.

Let us deepen our understanding of policing in the US and expand our dreams of what life without police and the prison industrial complex would be. Let us, a society, take financial responsibility for the damage to communities caused by policing and other structures of systemic racism.

Let us imagine what the world can look like when all communities thrive and are self sufficient.

And let us create that world. Together.

Bail Funds

Cash bail enables people to afford it to buy their way out of jail. It is unjust that people who can not afford to post bail must stay in jail when fellow cell-mates with access to funds can get out in a matter of hours (full disclosure, I bailed myself out using a credit card when I was arrested at Occupy LA in 2012). This financial requirement to obtain freedom disproportionally burdens (and thereby incarcerates) people living in lower economic brackets.

Every day in the United States there are over 450,000 people in jail who have not been convicted of a crime. They simply could not afford to post bail.

In the past 13 days of protests, over 10,000 people have been arrested across the United States. This week we donated to bail funds to assist people who have been arrested at the protests get out of jail.

Please consider supporting people in this way and also exploring the carrd for information about other actions you can take.

Black Lives Matter

Right now, in the United States, people are responding to 401 years of state-sanctioned slavery, oppression, injustice, abuse, and murder of Africans and African Americans. The nexus of racist and white supremacist politics, policing, economic, and environmental justice that is at the foundation of the American system needs to change. It needed to change 401 years ago when the first African was brought to the US in chains, it needed to change in the 19th century at the height of slavery, it needed to change in the early 20th century with the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, it needed to change under Jim Crow, it needed to change in the civil rights era, and it needs to change today. From the other side of the world, in solidarity with those fighting for this change, each week for the month of June we will make a donation to an organization advocating for black lives, fighting for systemic changes needed to protect black people, bailing out protestors, and civil rights.

Our first donation was made today to Campaign Zero – an organization that analyzes policing practices across the US, identifies solutions to end police violence, provides technical assistance to other organizers in this space, and develops model legislation and advocacy to end police violence nationwide.

Please join me in learning and taking action to bring an end to state-sanctioned violence against African Americans in the United States. If you want to learn about ways to get involved, please look at Campaign Zeros’ recommendations for Immediate Action and this collection of Ways You Can Help.

COVID-19 in Indigenous Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent colonial scourge on indigenous communities.  In the Amazon basin, people who have been defending the forests against colonial capitalism are now falling ill with this most recent disease from the outside.  This is particularly tragic because of their remote locations they do not have easy and equal access to the healthcare required to treat the debilitating and life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19.  Among the United States, there is exponential growth of the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among Hopi and Navajo and among the highest death rates in North America.  This is again a function of settler capitalism that continues to threaten not only the health of indigenous communities but also created a situation where they are more vulnerable due to historical lack of access to resources including clean water, food, and modern healthcare.

This month we have donated to both the Amazon Emergency Fund and Navajo and Hopi COVID-19 Relief.

It is my hope that you will join me in supporting these efforts to assist indigenous peoples during this time. 

Ayni at Home

Masks for Hands of Love school & community in Kariobangi, Nairobi, Kenya

As the world is reeling from the precautions that must be taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus until scientists are able to develop a vaccine or a cure and governments are able to distribute them, I decided that this month we would give our support closer to home.

I have been funding the production and distribution of masks in two communities in Nairobi, where I live – the community around Hands of Love school in Kariobangi and the communities in which Taka Bank Community Champions are identifying the most vulnerable in the communities; providing information in order to make the most effective interventions; sharing information about preventing, identifying, and managing Covid-19; and bringing resources to those in need.

In the informal settlements in Nairobi – people are not able to wash their hands after every activity and stay six-feet apart. People live without running water, families live in one-room homes, and 20 families can be sharing a public toilet yards from where they live. In these living conditions, masks are the the best option to prevent the spread of the virus.

Thus far, my friends and I have delivered over 3,000 masks and have another 2,000 on order. If you are able to join us in this effort, please visit Empower Venture Partners for information on how to contribute and updates on the number of masks we have provided.

Thank you, be safe, and stay healthy.

Flooding on the Bobonaza River

Image @helenagualinga Instagram

The Bobonaza River runs through the Ecuadorian Amazon region. It recently flooded, destroying the homes and food gardens of thousands of indigenous people.

The floods, a result of climate change and deforestation, are threatening the lives of people who are on the front lines protecting forests and fighting the encroachment of extractive industries.

This month, we made our donation to Amazon Watch’s effort to provide shelter, food, and clothing for people affected by the flooding as they rebuild their communities. Please join us in supporting them in their time of need.

Wet’suwet’en

The five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have full jurisdiction over their land. Canadian Federal and Provincial governments can not legally grant permits to industries with interest on Wet’suwet’en land.

The Wet’suwet’en have opposed all pipeline proposals and have not given free, prior, and informed consent for Coastal Gas Link pipeline owned by TC (formerly TransCanada) to work on their lands. Yet the Canadian government is not upholding Wet’suwet’en rights and the people are now blocking the largest hydraulic fracturing (fracking) project in Canadian history.

In December 2019, the court granted an extension to CGL’s injunction, allowing Royal Canadian Mounted Police to continue to arrest and remove anyone they consider could be involved in preventing the works and RCMP has begun to restrict supplies going to the camps.

Please consider joining me in supporting the Wet’suwet’en exerting their legal and lawful rights to their land, tradition, and heritage.