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It is difficult to use the title that this commentary bears, but upon reflection, it must be so, for the truth supports it. For the truth is, this nation was born in rape. The rape of indigenous women (so called “Indians”) was considered but a spoil of war. African women were ravished aboard slave ships, clad in rags and chains. Many women leaped into the dark, roiling sea, preferring death to how they were treated onboard by seamen.
On April 12, two Black men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, were arrested for trespassing at a Philadelphia Starbucks while sitting at a table waiting for a business partner. Starbucks responded by making plans to close 8,000 stores on May 29 for racial bias training. The incident prompted consumers and activists to #BoycottStarbucks and consider alternatives like Oakland-based Red Bay Coffee. Owned by Black entrepreneur Keba Konte, Red Bay Coffee’s staff is composed entirely of women, people of color and the formerly incarcerated.
As the campaign over allegations of sexual misconduct has unfolded, it has become clear that what is involved is of far greater magnitude than the form in which it initially emerged – allegations against one Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein. With the initial shock beginning to wane, opposition is emerging from some of those targeted. PBS personality Tavis Smiley, who was summarily suspended based on anonymous and unspecified allegations, issued a blistering statement denouncing PBS for launching a “so-called investigation” without even contacting him.
Currently, two historic events are being characterized in a manner that erases the significant contributions of Black women. The #MeToo Movement is being recast in the national narrative to fit into a more comfortable version of U.S. history. A seminal moment within this movement was when white celebrities began to use the hashtag to make people aware of the extent of sexual abuse suffered by women in this country. But this moment came 10 years after the movement was begun by a Black woman, Tarana Burke.
The people who organized the country’s biggest prison strike against what they call modern-day slavery have planned their next target: corporate food service giant Aramark. The $8.65 billion company is one of the country’s largest employers and serves food to more than 100 million people a year. It also provides meals for more than 500 correctional facilities across the country and has been the subject of complaints about maggots and rocks, sexual harassment, drug trafficking and other employee misconduct.
Not quite a month ago, I wrote that we at Black Agenda Report had received word of a new self-organized hunger strike among prisoners in Georgia’s notorious Diagnostic and Classification Prison at Jackson. A second communication says eight prisoners are still refusing food and are on the receiving end of abuse and threats from correctional officers at Jackson. The note also sheds some chilling light on the reason for the prisoners’ self-organized action.
On Feb. 9, 2014, prisoners in the special management unit of the Georgia Diagnostic Correctional Prison began another hunger strike to protest conditions. Some of the prisoners have had enough of the oppression and decided to take a true stand in fighting for their rights. Most of the prisoners participating are some of the same prisoners from the Dec. 9, 2010, and the June 11, 2012, hunger strikes, and these prisoners are again refusing to eat until conditions change.
After telling the public that their main goal at the bargaining table was saving money to buy new trains, BART management blew up negotiations by insisting that employees sacrifice workplace protections in exchange for economic well-being. This was a poison pill for workers: Choose between your paycheck and your rights.
The U.S. State Department recently released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, posing as the world judge of human rights again. As in previous years, the reports are full of carping and irresponsible remarks on the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China. However, the U.S. turned a blind eye to its own woeful human rights situation and never said a word about it.