How long….how long?

The recent police murders remind me of the most terrifying days of the civil rights movement, when people were being killed with impunity and if the perpetrators were apprehended, were then set free by Jim Crow juries. Or during the days of the Black Panther Party when political assassinations were carried out across the country and in plain sight. Read more

November 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Race and gender, Society and Economy 

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Ferguson means fight back: Thousands march in St. Louis against police violence

When Mike Brown was shot to death in Ferguson MO last summer, his hands up in surrender, he didn’t know when he awoke that morning that he would die that day as yet another victim of American racism. Neither did Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd or countless others, going back to when the first Black slave was killed for resisting their involuntary servitude.

That we are forced to carry signs that read “Black Lives Matter” in 2014 is a measure of how far the USA may have advanced in years but not in wisdom.

So we gathered once again in mourning and in anger. This time it was in downtown St Louis on October 11, part of a month-long series of events called Ferguson October. I boarded a bus at 4:30 am from South Side Chicago sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Action Now (a local community organizing group).

By around noon we were on Market Street in St Louis, marching past gray fortress-like court and government buildings that promise to guard justice and democracy, but too often fail to protect either.

Ferguson October: March against police violence Read more

October 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Race and gender, Society and Economy, US politics 

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When the Nuns on the Bus rolled into Chicago

“We are working on voter registration which is an action people can take easily. It’s so important because there is so much big money in our country trying to steer legislation away from the common good.”– Dr. Patricia M. Fishman, Sisters of Mercy Associate

Nuns on the Bus? It sounds like a joke. But while the Catholic sisters of Nuns on the Bus do joke and laugh often, their mission is a serious one of social justice and compassion for the oppressed.

It was no joke to Sister Marie McKenna who is a social activist in Chicago:

“I work with a lot of people who can’t afford to pay their rent. They’re working full time but there is no living wage for them. Lots of folks are pulled into part-time employment situations with no benefits. If there is an illness or anything that disrupts even a short period of time, people are going under.”

Started in 2012 as a reaction to the Paul Ryan budget which punished people simply for the “sin” of being poor, Nuns on the Bus is a traveling group of nuns who ride across the country to promote their social justice agenda.   In 2013, the theme of Nuns of the Bus was immigration. In 2014 it was voter registration.

Chicago was one of the bus stops for a day of action last week on Thursday September 25, 2014.

 

The Nuns on the Bus Voter Registration Project

Working with Arise Chicago, a local workers center, there were plans for a morning of voter registration among students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), a meeting with Governor Pat Quinn where 3 low wage workers could tell their stories and a picnic in Union Park followed by a press conference and rally. Read more

October 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Society and Economy, Unions, US politics 

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Run, Karen Run….with Chicago’s working class

The Chicago Teachers Union marched in the 2014 Mexican Independence Day Parade
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis
at the 2014 Mexican Independence Day parade in Chicago 

When the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) denounced Chicago’s traditional racism and segregation as “education apartheid” and linked school closings to corporate privatization of schools and real estate speculation, it helped provide a clear narrative that I heard over and over again from Chicagoans at rallies, hearings and meetings all over the city.

Apartheid is a harsh word, but it was accurate and on point.

So when CTU  President Karen Lewis came out in support of Fight for $15 and expressed strong opposition to cuts in vital city services that hit hardest at Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, she helped cement her  reputation as a leader of the working class against racism and class exploitation.

Clarity on race and class is essential for her to win a mayoral election in Chicago. Because what is good for the working class is good for the city as a whole. Read more

September 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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The USA’s toxic culture of white wealth

“Despite all evidence to the contrary, blaming black culture for racial inequality remains politically dominant. And not only on the Right.”—–Jonah Birch & Paul Heideman

This morning I read the latest attempt to chip away at the “culture of poverty” mythology that has survived all previous attempts to debunk it. Published in the always interesting Jacobin Magazine, the article “The Poverty of Culture” by Jonah Birch & Paul Heideman got me rethinking my own ideas on the subject.

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Photo Credit: Jacobin 

So here goes a BobboSphere reaction to the Jacobin article:

If you believe the dominant narrative in today’s mass media and political culture, racial inequality and its accompanying economic inequality is the fault of  African Americans  because of their supposed “culture of poverty”. This monstrous canard has been disproved in countless studies, but somehow its proponents never get voted off the island.

What the corporate owned media does not dwell upon  is the toxic “culture of wealth” that exists within the white corporate elite (yes, it is still white dominated). They prefer to overlook the white corporate elite’s propensity toward coldblooded mass violence in the form of the wars they help start, of their criminality as evidenced by their massive financial and environmental crimes, or their contempt for work as shown by the habit of driving down wages, and assigning jobs based on race and gender while treating employees with inhumane disrespect.  Read more

September 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Race and gender, Society and Economy, US politics 

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The corporate attack on public education: A threat to human survival?

“The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.”
― Rachel Carson

About 70,000 years ago humanity appears to have faced its greatest challenge up to that time. According to genetic studies, the human population, never very numerous, may have dropped to as few as 2000 individuals worldwide. Some scientists link this population loss to the explosion of the Toba super volcano which they believe caused dangerous environmental changes. Others do not. But something took place that nearly wiped our species off the face of the earth.

As a species, we are not blessed with an immortality gene. Read more

September 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education, Environment, Society and Economy 

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Fred Wright: Labor Laffs for the Working Class

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” ― Erma Bombeck

Labor cartoonist Fred Wright was a radical artist who walked that thin line in a way that would impress any circus tightrope walker. The son of working class parents, Fred Wright knew the world of class warfare up-close and personal when he first began cartooning for the National Maritime Union (NMU) in 1939. He became staff cartoonist for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) in 1949, a job he held until the early 1980’s.

Layoffs, industrial accidents, harassment of all types, discrimination, poverty wages, union-busting, exposure to mean bosses and other human tragedies were the basis for his humor.

Poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht once said,”The man who laughs has not yet heard the terrible news.” Fred Wright was used to hearing terrible news. It was all around him. And like Brecht, Wright understood how tragedy can be the basis of humor; humor that can help people laugh in the face of adversity and then if possible, organize and try to prevent the same tragedies from happening again.

spend wages

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July 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Media, Unions, US politics 

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Chicagoans prepare to take back their city: 
A view from the West Side

“Imagine what a community would look like that you and your children deserve and what are you willing to do to bring that to fruition.”—–Tara Stamps

Chicago Teachers Union(CTU) activist and West Side resident Tara Stamps repeated variations of that phrase in a packed community July 17th meeting held at LaFollette Park in the 37th Ward  within the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s far West Side. Each time she said it, she spoke slowly and distinctly to catch people’s attention.

Community meeting in the Austin community of West Side Chicago
West Siders and allies gather in the LaFollette Park fieldhouse on Chicago’s West Side

With the expected announcement that CTU President Karen Lewis will run for Mayor against Rahm Emanuel, along with plans by the CTU and groups like the newly formed United Working Families to conduct massive voter registration and coordinate efforts by progressive aldermanic campaigns, meetings like this one at LaFollette Park take on a more urgent significance. It is a good example of the working class community organizing that is going on Chicago right now.There have been a number of similar meetings across the city in recent weeks.

Austin is Chicago’s largest neighborhood by physical area. Like much of the largely African American West Side, Austin has been hit hard by divestment, unemployment, low wage employment, foreclosures, street violence, and school closings, as well as school privatization through ”turnarounds” and charters.

The year 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of the decision by the Board of Education under Arne Duncan to close Austin High School as a general high school for the community, instead putting three small schools (two of them charters) inside the cavernous building. Duncan’s attack on Austin (both the high school and the community at large) was one of the opening shots in the massive privatization and charter school plan that has unfolded in the decade since.

Community meeting in the Austin community of West Side Chicago
Tara Stamps

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July 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education, Unions, US politics 

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Brown v. Board Of Education at 60: Will we ever achieve compliance?

The night the 1954 Brown decision to desegregate schools was announced, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund threw a party. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had worked on the case was reported to have said this, ‘You fools go ahead and have your fun, but we ain’t begun to work yet.”

In 1952 my kindergarten class at Pleasant View Elementary School was located in a wooded area of suburban Wheaton MD, a working class community just outside of Washington DC. It was a child’s garden of earthly delights.

Each day brought new wonders: new songs, new stories, new indoor projects, big kids showing off green snakes from the forest and visits to the school hatchery where I watched baby chicks emerge from eggs. I loved climbing to the summit of the jungle gym where I thought it might be warmer because it was closer to the sun. I was wrong, but the view was worth it.

Kindergarten at Pleasant View was the best educational experience of my 12 years in the Montgomery County school system. What I didn’t know at the age of 5 was that not far away, there were schools that didn’t look like Pleasant View at all.

A local civil rights leader named Romeo Horad spoke to the Montgomery County government about these segregated African American schools saying conditions were “deplorable”:

He told the Commissioners ‘not one Negro school in the county compares favorably with any white school’. He charged [that] the county government ‘disregarded’ conditions at Negro schools which he said include no running water, outdoor privy toilets, schools located far from Negro population centers, some near railroad tracks. All Negro schools, he said were overcrowded.”—- from a 1948 Washington Post article

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July 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education, Race and gender, US politics 

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Community groups charge possible conflicts of interest in Chicago school turnarounds

“We have asked the Inspectors General for CPS and the US Department of Education to examine the last votes to turn over 3 schools to AUSL for turnaround to determine if there were any conflicts of interest among board members and AUSL; to analyze the relationship–if any– between political contributions to Mayor Emanuel from AUSL board members and the significant increase in the number of Chicago Public Schools turned over to AUSL on a no bid basis…”— Valerie Leonard of the Chicago Citizens United to Preserve Public Education (CCUPPE)

In the wake of the latest Chicago school “turnarounds”, a broad alliance of community groups called Chicago Citizens United to Preserve Public Education(CCUPPE) has come together to call for a moratorium on future school actions (the Chicago term for privatization efforts) and to reverse the decision to turn over Gresham, Dvorak and McNair to the private Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). All three schools have predominately African American students living in low income neighborhoods.”

 May 27 press conference on school turnarounds
Cathaline Gray Carter (left) and Valerie Leonard (right)

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