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Slavery has indeed marked this nation. Its soot leaves a residue the best detergent cannot wipe away or wash out. Truth – bitter, the missing ingredient is hard to swallow, let alone see – yet this is what The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and by extension The Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration demands we face. It is not in your head or imagination that these atrocities to other people reside.
Saturday morning, Aug. 19, the day dawned bright and sunny, not a hint of the rain that drenched us the evening before. At 10:30 a.m. when I arrived at Freedom Plaza, there were people with posters and event T-shirts and a brother with a bullhorn. Robert King and Albert Woodfox were there in Amend the 13th T-shirts. King was passing out information about the law – the constitutional amendment – that legalizes slavery. Later on, at the rally, he would conclude the event, which lasted about five hours.
Dimensions Dance Theatre presents its annual youth showcase, “The Village Matters,” on Sunday, May 7. Participants include Rites of Passage, Dimensions Extensions, LIKHA School of Philippine Dance, On Demand, BAY-Peace, Oakland Technical High School, Oakland High School, Bret Harte Middle School and Kipp Bridge Academy. The program also features guest artists Destiny Muhammad, “Harpist from the Hood,” and Batalá San Francisco.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives yesterday introduced bicameral legislation, modeled on reforms that have taken hold in the states, to ensure that job seekers who have a conviction record in their past are not unfairly shut out from employment because of the stigma of a record, but rather are considered on their qualifications just like any other applicant.
Pastor Kenneth Glasgow was one of roughly 500 people who convened in Oakland, California, last weekend for the first national conference of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement. Hailing from more than 30 states, it was a shared fact of life among participants that the change they need – including fundamental civil rights – will not simply be handed to them by people in power. They must fight for it themselves.
Black people are genetic experts at dislocation and assimilation; what with centuries of practice, we come to this place with authority and grief. However, Saturday, July 30, at the fifth OG or Original Good Community Barbecue, children, youth and adults had a chance to mingle, eat and enjoy the chance to introduce Gen X to those elders who made this city situated between Silicon Valley giants – Palo Alto and Menlo Park – what it was, if not what it is now.
Of the millions of people imprisoned in the U.S., most will return home someday – but to what? Barriers to finding a place to live or earning a living – or merely surviving – surround formerly incarcerated people like prison walls. We’re organizing The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People and Families Movement 1st National Conference in Oakland to come together and find ways to break down those walls.
All Of Us Or None applauds President Obama and his administration for “Banning the Box” for federal agencies on Nov. 2. In issuing a federal personnel memorandum, the president directed that the federal government delay inquiries into a job applicant’s conviction history until later on in the hiring process. The president’s memorandum – issued after years of advocacy by All Of Us Or None – marks a historic victory for the campaign.
The NAAFRA Unity Sunday Operational Plan, with the blessing of our Heavenly Father, is moving forward collectively to activate our NAAFRA Million Dollar Perpetual Unity Fund, the monetary strength needed to officially announce that the Black church and Black Family America is the vanguard in our family movement to remove all impoverished conditions from the life circumstances of far too many of our families.
Since my release in October 1981, my deepest commitment in life has been to fight for the full restoration of civil and human rights of formerly incarcerated people and for those who have the current misfortune of occupying cages. It is through this lens that I attempt to come to grips with the tragic murder of Hugo Pinell and its possible ramifications.
Jobs are the fastest way to slow down the revolving prison doors and to stop crime and bullets. No matter where I set the bar in an effort to manage my expectations for this visit, that bar has been forged and shaped by white supremacy. It took over 54 years to take down the Confederate battle flag, a flag used to champion the cause of slavery. It is from and into this environment that the first sitting Black president will walk into a prison system that has absorbed a number of old plantations.
On Tuesday, July 14, one day after commuting the sentences of 46 people currently serving sentences for nonviolent drug offenses in federal prisons, President Obama addressed the NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia. In his address, the president declared that our criminal justice system is “built on the legacy of slavery, segregation and other structural inequalities that [have] compounded over generations.” Our current system, the president said, is “not an accident.”
My name is Dorsey Nunn. I’m with All of Us or None and executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. I’m sitting back there waiting for (agenda) Item No. 3 (a new jail for San Francisco), and while I’m waiting for it I’m listening to the testimony for Item No. 1 (hiring more police officers). And I can’t help but ask the question: “How much racism needs to be practiced for us to determine that we don’t need this jail?” Hours of powerful testimony on June 18 before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee were capped off by Dorsey Nunn – and the crowd erupted in cheers.
By now, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Proposition 47 (Prop 47). With more than 3,200 people released from state prisons and 115,000 petitions filed under the law within the first six months of its passage, Prop 47 is likely the most significant reform to California criminal justice policy since 2011’s Realignment. It is critical that individuals with eligible criminal convictions act quickly because the law created only a three-year application window.
Our Formerly Incarcerated Quest for Democracy (Q4D) Day continues to grow and evolve. This year we had over 250 committed people. We had around 30 teams advocating on legislation relevant to formerly incarcerated people and our communities. Grassroots co-sponsors got a chance to educate community members about their bills. And Sen. Holly Mitchell as well as Assemblymembers Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Autumn Burke addressed participants.
More than 70 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, sent a letter to President Obama on May 21 to adopt a federal fair chance hiring policy. This effort was co-led by Congressmen Conyers, Scott and Davis and Congresswoman Jackson Lee and supported by various groups including Policy Link, the ACLU, National Employment Law Project, PICO Network’s LIVE FREE Campaign, and All Of Us or None.
We commend Apple for taking prompt action to change a facially discriminatory policy. The Cupertino campus project, expected to yield thousands of construction jobs, can still provide a unique opportunity for Apple to support the local economy and provide work for an underserved population. It is not too late for Apple to right a wrong, prove its commitment to inclusion, and become a leader on fair hiring practices.
Bay Area All of Us or None (AOUON) members drove across the country this past weekend to Selma, Alabama, to attend the 50th anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday, which included a speech by President Obama and a reenactment of the historical march. They went to speak out about voting rights for formerly incarcerated people as well as the need for an executive order to Ban the Box for federal contractors.
When I was in prison, I used to work out with heavy weights constantly. But when I started to understand that my best chances of survival were actually centered on education, I focused more on that instead, and it has made all the difference in the kind of life I now have. When I was released, having a student aid package was what kept me from having to go back into the underground economy in order to survive.
As we move into the next solar return, there is much to look forward to despite the stasis that seems to infect this nation with the disease of white supremacy or racial domination. OK OK, perhaps the silver lining is a bit too buried to find Osumare’s twinkle beyond any pots of gold you’ve stumbled upon recently. The knowledge that no matter how it looks, the Creator is in charge and the bad guys just look like they are always winning is what sustains us.