Levees Not War
“The mission here is not accomplished.”

Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

Rising Tide X Is Aug. 29, Tenth Anniversary of Katrina

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

DeRay Mckesson, Social Justice Activist, Is Keynote Speaker

We are registered and all kinds of psyched for the 10th annual Rising Tide conference—“the premier annual new media conference in the GulfSouth”—to be held on Sat., Aug. 29, at Xavier University in New Orleans. Admission is free,  and the lineup is great. Check it out.

The keynote speaker will be civil rights activist (detail of) DeRay Mckesson Sid Hastings:for WDeRay Mckesson, a former school administrator recently profiled by The New York Times Magazine for his organizing genius in using Twitter and other social media to publicize police violence in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Charleston, and beyond, and in popularizing the Black Lives Matter movement. Rising Tide organizer Mark Moseley says Mckesson is “at the forefront of an innovative digital movement to expose and resist systems of racial oppression.” (More about DeRay Mckesson and the NYT profile below.)

Another guest speaker we’re eager to hear—we met him at an RTX planning meeting in May—is former New York Times reporter Gary Rivlin, author of the new Katrina: After the Flood, recently published by Simon & Schuster. Rivlin has been praised by Nathaniel Rich as “a sharp observer and a dogged reporter . . . unerringly compassionate toward his subjects.”

Panel Discussions on Environment, Transportation, and Schools

RTX poster from RT-FB.bIn the great Rising Tide tradition, there will be informative talks on such perennial concerns as the environment, and education, and transportation in New Orleans.

The environment panel—of keen interest to this blog—will be moderated by Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (based in Lafayette) and including Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Bob Marshall (now of The Lens, formerly of The Times-Picayune) and Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network. (Click here to see Anne Rolfes and Bob Marshall at Rising Tide 6 in 2011, commenting on the BP oil spill.)

The talk about transportation around New Orleans—“a conversation about how New Orleans makes infrastructure an obstacle course”—will be moderated by Megan B. Capone of Public Transit Tuesdays, with Dan Favre of Bike Easy, Rachel Heiligman of Ride NOLA, Jeff Januszek of Fix My Streets, and Amanda Soprano from #NOLATwitter.

The education panel, “Education in New Orleans: The Next 10 Years,” is moderated by Dr. Andre Perry, columnist and 2014’s keynote speaker, and brings together Amanda Aiken, principal of Crocker Elementary; Sharon Clark, principal of Sophie B. Wright Charter School; Karran Harper Royal, parent advocate; Jamar MckNeely, CEO of the Inspire Network; Dana Peterson, deputy superintendent, Recovery School District; and Lamont Douglass, parent and PTA member at Wilson Elementary.

Among other attractions, BrassyBrown.com—“Where women of color are first in line”—presents Black Women Writers, “10 Writers for 10 Years”; Cynthia Joyce, editor of the new anthology Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina; Scott Sternberg talks politics; and Dr. Beth Blankenship surveys social services and domestic violence issues in post-Katrina New Orleans.

And there’s much more. See the Rising Tide blog for further details about the program and the participants, how to register—it’s free—and more.

Click here for Levees Not War’s live-blogging and other coverage of Rising Tide, since 2007.

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Johnetta Elzie & DeRayMckessonNYTMag

More about DeRay McKesson

In a profile of Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie in The New York Times Magazine (shown at MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse in St. Louis) titled “Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us,” Jay Caspian Kang writes about the protests in Baltimore following the death-by-police of 25-year-old Freddie Gray:

One protester was DeRay Mckesson, a 29-year-old former school administrator who has spent much of the past nine months attending and catalyzing such protests, from Ferguson, Mo., last summer and fall, to New York City and Milwaukee in December, to North Charleston, S.C., in April. Mckesson, who is from Baltimore, had returned to his hometown not long after Gray’s death to join the protests. . . .

Since Aug. 9, 2014, when Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department shot and killed Michael Brown, Mckesson and a core group of other activists [including Johnetta Elzie] have built the most formidable American protest movement of the 21st century to date. Their innovation has been to marry the strengths of social media—the swift, morally blunt consensus that can be created by hashtags; the personal connection that a charismatic online persona can make with followers; the broad networks that allow for the easy distribution of documentary photos and videos—with an effort to quickly mobilize protests in each new city where a police shooting occurs.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Mckesson and Elzie have helped launch the National Police Violence Map at MappingPoliceViolence.org, a collection of data on police violence fatalities—at least 197 black people have been killed by police so far in 2015—for which they were honored with the PEN New England 2015 Howard Zinn Freedom to Write Award.

Rising Tide has had many distinguished keynote speakers over the years, solid authorities on all kinds of important subjects—from historian John M. Barry and and Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré  to actor Harry Shearer and Treme creator David Simon—but this year’s guest speaker may be one of the most compelling yet. Mckesson will certainly bring a brave and passionate commitment to social justice and a can-do spirit about democracy that we all need to hear.

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Click here for links to previous Rising Tide posts here at Levees Not War. We’ve been going, as often as possible, since 2007, and we hope to see you there.

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Top photo of DeRay Mckesson by Sid Hastings for The Washington Post. Rising Tide X illustration by Varg. Photograph of DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie by Christaan Felber for The New York Times Magazine.

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“There Is a Creative Force in This Universe”

Monday, January 16th, 2012

The Poor People’s Campaign, 40 Years before Occupy Wall Street

“Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. . . . God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty.” —from an imaginary letter from St. Paul to American Christians in a 1956 sermon by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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In a time of resurgent, emboldened racism and a deliberate, legislated taking away of voting rights in states all across the land; in this time of meanness and hostility toward the poor and the “differently colored” from political candidates (mostly white and privileged); in these days of cowardice by public officials and those in a position to defend the weak, the poor, and the marginalized; and, more hopefully, in these days of a people’s movement toward economic fairness through Occupy Wall Street and other activism, we take some comfort and courage from the words and the actions of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Especially relevant today is his work on the Poor People’s Campaign.

We focus today on Rev. King’s remarks in the speech “Where Do We Go from Here?”, his last address as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to its members, in Atlanta, on August 16, 1967. The ideas of social and economic justice expressed in this address underlay his and the SCLC’s Poor People’s Campaign, on which Rev. King was working when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis. At the time of his death he was lending support to the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike. Selections from “Where Do We Go from Here?” follow. (See also King’s book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?)

Where Do We Go from Here?

What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on. . . .

We must develop a program that will drive the nation to a guaranteed annual income. . . . Now we realize that dislocations in the market operations of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. . . .

. . . our emphasis must be twofold. We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available. In 1879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote in Progress and Poverty:

The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves driven to their tasks either bay the task, by the taskmaster, or by animal necessity. It is the work of men who somehow find a form of work that brings a security for its own sake and a state of society where want is abolished. 

 

Work of this sort could be enormously increased, and we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished. . . .

. . . Now our country can do this. John Kenneth Galbraith said that a guaranteed annual income could be done for about twenty billion dollars a year. And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet right here on earth. . . .

. . . as we talk about “Where do we go from here,” . . . the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. . . . We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. . . .

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrow. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

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Click here for a slide show of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and the immediate aftermath of King’s assassination.

King’s Last March by American Radio Works. See also ARW’s special features Beyond Vietnam; New Front in the Fight for Freedom; The FBI’s War on King; and From the Pulpit to the Heart

Read “Dr. Martin Luther King’s Economics: Through Jobs, Freedom” by Mark Engler in The Nation

And see the fine American Experience (PBS) documentary “Freedom Riders,” available through Netflix.

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The excepts above (except the epigraph) were transcribed from Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World (1986, 1992), with a foreword by Coretta Scott King, pp. 172–79. ¶ Top photograph by Dan Weiner: Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. Middle photo by Horace Cort for Associated Press.

Below: Memphis, 1968: National Guardsmen block the entrance to Beale Street in Memphis. Two days after the March 28 demonstration that King had led in support of striking sanitation workers turned violent, people continued to protest in Memphis (Mississippi Valley Collection).

 

 

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Good Riddance to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

This will make for happier holidays.

We applaud the long-awaited, hard-fought repeal of the destructive policy commonly known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by a Senate vote of 65 to 31. It is good for American society and its individuals, and it’s good for the U.S. armed forces and for national security. After weeks of depressing developments, something we can say “Yes” to. Now, we admit this is not one of the issues we’ve been working on, though we’ve given DADT repeal a lot of thought—it makes sense in so many ways and it’s the morally right thing to do. For months now it has been high on the list of issues about which we’re “this close” to writing a piece and making phone calls and faxing letters to members of Congress to get with it already. (As we understand it, the House of Representatives had already passed repeal twice; as usual it’s the filibusted Senate—or a certain obstructionist minority therein—that’s holding everything up.)

The endless, disheartening news reports of Arabic-speaking translators outed and fired for no offense other than being quietly, discreetly gay (as if the U.S. can afford to dismiss even one trained Arabic translator) . . . the personal accounts of army, air force, and navy personnel and military institute students on The Rachel Maddow Show . . . articles about  the U.S. armed forces’ desperate recruitment of mentally challenged youths to meet quotas . . . and the serious, thoughtful advocacy of Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates—not exactly radicals—all these have demonstrated to the nation that it’s far past time to repeal the policy and focus our attention on more pressing concerns. The nation has been held back socially and militarily by this misguided and backward policy, and America’s service members have been put under undue and unfair torment, for far too long. (As if military service were not stressful enough already.) This policy should never have been instituted in the first place, and to it we say good riddance.

Here’s a map and list of which senators voted “aye” and which “nay.” It would be a good thing to phone or fax your senators to thank them for their “Yes.” An aye for an aye.

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