Bringing democracy to Amerikkka

willie-ratcliff-by-leuren-moret-213x300, Bringing democracy to Amerikkka, Local News & Views Editorial by Willie Ratcliff

With Black youth on the front lines this election season, along with all youth plus older Blacks and other people of color, the struggle for real democracy can finally claim victory in the U.S. Masses of new voters have registered and are already lining up to vote wherever early voting is available, as it is here in the Bay Area.

lil-eazy-e-registers-blood-to-vote-in-compton-my-hood-votes-by-shon-smith-for-de28099angeloe28099s-photos1, Bringing democracy to Amerikkka, Local News & Views Because a free and independent press is essential to real democracy, let me catch you up on how you come to be holding this Bay View newspaper in your hands. [This editorial first appeared in the November 2008 print edition, which hit the streets on Oct. 24.] It’s the first Bay View in print since July 2, when we ran flat out of funds.

Thanks to some very generous readers, we’re back in print with this, our first monthly newspaper. Funds are still extremely tight, though, so from now on we’ll be able to mail you the paper only if your subscription is paid – stamps are fine – or it’s covered by donations to the Prisoners’ Subscription Fund. Donations to the fund are sorely needed.

If you’re used to picking up your Bay View at your doorstep or nearby, you may have to look a little further next month. Watch out for our green newspaper racks – recycled but good as new – where we’ll leave bundles of papers for you to enjoy.

Why all that belt tightening? You see, the Bay View has always been a labor of love; advertising never covered the most frugal expenses. We kept printing it by draining the equity out of the little building where we live and work. When the value dropped and the equity was gone, we lost the building in a foreclosure auction like millions of other folks.

Elect Barack Obama president of the United States

barack-obamas-holey-shoes-1008-by-callie-shell-300x199, Bringing democracy to Amerikkka, Local News & Views But God is good and hope is on the horizon Nov. 4. Barack Obama’s vision for the U.S. and the world is to lead a movement for change that will raise the standard of living for people everywhere. He will work with other leaders to stop the wars between the haves and the have nots in our ‘hoods and internationally and put an end to the exploitation of people and resources around the world.

A good friend gave me this glimpse into Barack’s character: A couple of months ago, he visited the college in Reno that her daughter Jasmine attends, and after his speech she joined the crowd around him and asked something like, “What about Black people?”

Barack Obama invited her to come with him to lunch. She figured she’d be one of many people at the table, but no, it was just the two of them talking with no one else but Secret Service listening. For 45 minutes she had his ear.

Just last week when she went to another rally, he recognized her and talked with her again! And would you believe the very same day Jasmine had lunch with Barack, he later spoke at a high school in Las Vegas and met with the staff of the school newspaper, including Jasmine’s brother Jonathan.

barack-obama-with-the-hopes-and-dreams-of-the-race-on-his-shoulders-300x205, Bringing democracy to Amerikkka, Local News & Views Barack Obama is at the top of your ballot, but to help him make that kind of fundamental change, we need to vote on all the other candidates and ballot measures. You have my recommendations in the Bay View Voters Guide, and here are some of the reasons that convinced me to make those choices.

Elect Cindy Sheehan for Congress

Sending “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan to Congress in place of Nancy Pelosi is a top priority, because, as Minister Christopher Muhammad says, “Pelosi is no friend to this community.” Nancy Pelosi, who votes with George W. Bush almost as often as John McCain does, has been trying to push us out of Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco’s Black heartland, for decades.

Pelosi started privatizing the Hunters Point Shipyard almost two decades ago. She denied that this federal Superfund site, one of the most polluted in the country, was making us sick, denied us jobs to clean it up and even twisted the admiral’s arm, the Chronicle reported, to get the Navy to turn Parcel A over to Lennar before it was clean.

Pelosi always sides with the huge, corrupt and now near-bankrupt homebuilder Lennar. Her nephew, who is also Mayor Gavin Newsom’s cousin, was Lennar’s vice president for acquisitions. When San Franciscans had the choice in June to vote for Prop F, the community’s plan to ensure a minimum of 50 percent affordable housing in Hunters Point, or Prop G, Lennar’s multi-billion dollar gentrification plan, Pelosi sided with Lennar.

By electing Cindy Sheehan, we can STOP LENNAR and give peace a chance in this war-weary world.

Vote No on State Proposition 6

Nothing on the ballot is more dangerous than Prop 6. We must defeat it. World renowned children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman tells some of the reasons why:

“Under the pretense of creating ‘safer neighborhoods,’ Proposition 6 changes current law to require that more children, as young as 14 years old, are tried and sentenced as adults. … We should not abandon thousands of youths to lives spent going in and out of a revolving door to prison.

“Proposition 6’s sweeping revisions target at-risk Black and Latino youths in socio-economically disadvantaged communities, making it especially dangerous for young people who are already struggling to stay on the right track. For example, Proposition 6 puts youths at risk of a new jail sentence for infractions as minor as failing to provide local officials with their current address. Another provision subjects families receiving federal housing assistance to yearly criminal record checks for all residents, including children. If a youth has been arrested for certain crimes, the family would lose housing assistance; this places entire families at imminent risk of homelessness. It would also make it impossible for many youths who have served their time to move back home with families who receive federal housing assistance. …

“Proposition 6 includes no provision for new revenue yet requires new spending of more than $500 million each year for law enforcement personnel and prisons. It also mandates $500 million for new prison construction. …

“Proposition 6 specifically weakens community efforts to help at-risk youths. Despite research that shows how community workers and organizations are a key component of crime reduction strategies, Proposition 6 explicitly removes community members from county Juvenile Justice Coordinating Councils. …

“You and I must demand that our nation stop criminalizing children at younger and younger ages and instead institute policies that place all children on a path to productive adulthood. We cannot allow Proposition 6 to become law. Do everything you can to make sure that Californians vote to reject it.”

Vote No on State Proposition 9

Prop 9 is almost as bad as Prop 6. Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, says: “Prop 9 requires increased spending on corrections but doesn’t provide one additional dollar. Thus, its passage means money would be taken from education and other programs to fund Prop 9. That’s just what we don’t need.”

Vote Yes on State Proposition 5

From behind enemy lines, Dortell Williams explains why we need to support Prop 5: “With all the sour news about failures – prisons and financial – finally there’s an initiative that is prudent, fair and offers to actually reverse the growing costs of prisons. Initiated by the Drug Policy Institute, Proposition 5, The Non-Violent Offender Rehabilitation Act of 2008, would improve on the successes of Prop 36 of 2000, approved by 61 percent of you, and expand drug treatment programs for the substance addicted, including youth.

“Apart from Prop 36, California’s response to the state’s drug epidemic has been to simply lock people up – the non-violent with the violent, youths with adults – creating a cauldron of chaos and destructive delirium behind the walls. Once inside, little or no assistance is offered to help them overcome. …

“To close California’s multi-billion-dollar budget deficit this year, $19 million was cut from MediCal, $7 million was slashed from food stamp recipients and $6 million was snatched from mental health care patients. … In contrast, billions are steadily being added to this failed prison model. This must change, and come Nov. 4, Californians can say it loud and clear: ‘Yes on Proposition 5!'”

Vote No on State Proposition 8

Don’t be afraid of Prop 8. Voting No is simply a vote for fairness and equal rights. What we want for ourselves, we should want for everyone.

A Black coalition called And Marriage for All, partnering with the NAACP, the National Black Justice Coalition and many other major organizations, hosted an event last Sunday evening at one of San Francisco’s largest Black churches, Jones United Methodist Church, with several gospel choirs and a panel of speakers that included host pastor Rev. Phillip Lawson, Dr. Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church, Bishop Yvette Flunder of City of Refuge United Church of Christ and Rev. Kenneth Samuels of People for the American Way. You’re not alone in casting your No vote against bigotry and against Prop 8.

Vote No on San Francisco Proposition V, military recruitment through JROTC

One of the most critical issues this election is at the bottom of the San Francisco ballot. In a joint statement, United for Peace and Justice and the ANSWER Coalition explain: “In 2006, the San Francisco Unified School District became the first major school district in the country to eliminate an existing Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program from its high schools. JROTC is one of the military’s primary recruitment tools, aimed at students as young as 14 and 15.

“The Pentagon and its allies immediately launched their counterattack. They placed Proposition V on the November ballot, asking San Franciscans to support the military program. In 2005, nearly 60 percent of San Franciscans voted to eliminate military recruiters from their schools.

“But the proponents of Proposition V are telling the Big Lie, denying that JROTC is a military recruitment program – and they have already collected over $85,000 for their campaign of lies from the likes of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the San Francisco Police Officers Association and various military organizations around the country.

“The peace and justice movement cannot let the JROTC military recruiters back into our schools. If we do, then our movement will be set back immeasurably – not just in San Francisco, but throughout the country.”

Prop V is also being used to try to defeat an excellent candidate for Supervisor, Eric Mar in District 1. Huge donations are being “laundered” through Choice for Students, a pro-Prop V campaign committee, to support his opponent, Sue Lee.

But now there’s a real alternative to JROTC and the “leadership skills” it supposedly teaches. School Board member Jane Kim has introduced the Student Emergency Response Volunteers program (SERV) to teach disaster-response skills to students. These are skills to save lives, not take lives in war.

Vote Yes on San Francisco Proposition B, Affordable Housing Fund

You know why! Without affordable housing, all of San Francisco, including our Black and Brown neighborhoods where real families live, will be an exclusive playground for the super-rich. This is our city! Fight for our right and our children’s right to live and thrive here by voting Yes on Prop B.

Vote Yes on San Francisco Proposition H, Clean Energy Act

The Bay View story “Vote Yes on Prop H: Don’t believe PG&E’s fossil fuel-powered lies” tells you why.

Vote No on San Francisco Proposition L, Criminal Justice Center

Here’s what one of our favorite writers and organizers, Tiny of POOR, has to say: “Proposition L is for Legalized Lies and Liars. Join Poverty Scholars from POOR Magazine, the Coalition on Homelessness and all people resisting the criminalization and incarceration of folks for the sole act of being poor at a TRUTH session on Proposition L on Monday, Oct. 27, 9 a.m., in front of San Francisco City Hall. Speak the truth about Proposition L, the ballot initiative to launch the Paupers Prison Pipeline – a.k.a. Community Justice Court – in San Francisco.”

Vote 100%

Above all, VOTE! Make sure everyone you know votes. Voting is the beginning of democracy. After the election, the hard work starts – pushing the winners the way we want them to go.

Don’t let anybody intimidate you or stop you from voting. In this paper, you’ll read about some of the ways the haters who are afraid of real democracy will try to steal your right to vote and even steal your vote. It’s happened before. We can’t let it happen again. Call me at (415) 671-0789 if you need some advice and encouragement. Real democracy is worth fighting for!

Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff can be reached at (415) 671-0789 or through