Empowering Discussions, Social Action

43 Students Disappear – How Can We Fight Corruption and Violence?

It was almost 6 months ago that 43 young students went “missing” in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. Believed to be handed over to the cartels by the police, these students have never been reunited with their families and never been found. Government officials in Mexico say it was a “case of mistaken identity” carried out by the local mayor of Iguala and a local gang.  Parents of the students allege the corrupt narcogovernment is truly at fault.

Either way, 43 human beings are gone, presumed dead and their families will forever feel this loss.

Forty Three, Cuarenta-Tres. How do that many youth disappear without more public outrage? How do their families continue on with any sense of peace whether they are confirmed dead or if justice is never found?

What if it was your child, grandchild, niece or nephew?

On February 28th, I marched from the Mexican consulate to NBC San Diego studios in an attempt to draw attention to this mass abduction of 43 young students, and call on NBC to cover this story. I stand up and speak out for others because I know that’s a large part of individual empowerment.

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Citizens prepare to march in order to draw media attention to the 43 students missing in Mexico

 

The following is information posted by event organizers “February 26th marks the 5 month anniversary of the forced disappearance of our 43 students. We are marching not only to honor and stand with the families and mothers of our missing students, but to honor the fallen human rights activist Gustavo Salgado, unjustly killed by the same narcogovernment. They continue to lie to the faces of the families about the identification of remains and have still not provided a single cohesive answer. We are standing with the families in solidarity, that we do not believe the lies either, we know the truth that it was the STATE. We are marching for JUSTICE, for TRUTH, because we want them back alive! IF NBC WON’T PUT AYOTZINAPA IN THE NEWS, WE WILL MAKE THEM PUT AYOTZINAPA IN THE NEWS.”

My brother is devastated because his son, Jorge, has been gone for five months, but when he sees these shows of affection and solidarity from so many people across the world, he gets new energy and a new hope,” said Raul Alvarez at a recent march from the Mexican Consulate in Little Italy to the NBC news studio in downtown San Diego.The march, which took place on Saturday, Feb. 28th, was organized by Comité Acción Ayotzinapa, a local organization that has been at the forefront of this movement in San Diego in favor of the missing students’ families.Laprensa-sandiego.org/featured/san-diegans-ask-for-justice-in-ayotzinapa/

In January CNN ran a story about the students. “At a news conference Tuesday, the parents of the students refused to believe authorities, even suggesting the Mexican military might’ve been behind the disappearance of the young men. The students attending a rural teachers college were left-wing, anti-government activists, mostly in their late teens and early twenties.Cnn.com/2015/01/28/americas/mexico-missing-students/

Last week UT San Diego published an article about the problems with Iguala including the opium trade and corrupt politicians. “Some say the problems started when the mafia entered politics — and politicians joined the mafia. Before, “they let (the drugs) pass and agreed to leave the people in peace,” said one local elected official, who requested anonymity due to safety concerns. “The problem is when the mafia decides to enter politics, because then you can no longer instill any respect or sense of order.”

Sofia Mendoza Martinez, an Iguala councilwoman, said there was no dividing line between government leaders and organized crime under Abarca. Her own husband, an agrarian activist, was killed in 2013 after clashing with the now-detained mayor who faces charges in the death. It’s easy for the government to blame it all on organized crime, but often organized crime is taking orders from politicians, said Mendoza, who arrived to an interview with two state police bodyguards. “The federal police are going to leave and we are going to still be here.Utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/09/mexican-town-where-43-students-disappeared-is/

Citizens rally for media coverage of the 43 students missing in Mexico. the NBC logo is behind them.
Citizens rally for media coverage of the 43 students missing in Mexico. the NBC logo is behind them.

So how do we fight corruption?

  • By calling it out and making sure those who use their power to harm others are removed from power.
  • Find a local organization in your area that is making waves. Join a peaceful rally, march, vigil or other action that draw attention to injustice. 
  • Start a writing letter campaign to apply pressure.
  • Contact your representatives and speak up.
  • Be brave.

If you want change you have to get involved. So what are you waiting for?

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Empowering Discussions, Social Action

San Diego Police Draw Guns on Man Laying on Ground – Woman Calls Them Out in Video!

I LOVE THIS VIDEO!  (except for her language) This woman is a hero for saying something and recording what the police do everyday, hassling people who have nothing. Homeless? Mentally ill? How about human beings like you and me that just had shitty lives and got screwed over once too often!

This is your tax dollars at work people! Look at how many police are wasting your tax dollars creating drama!

Why don’t they take him to a home where he can take a shower, eat some food put on some clean clothes and get assistance? These are things we take for granted everyday. Why are they pulling guns on this man laying in the ground?

That man wasn’t doing anything. I walk around homeless and mentally ill people daily and they do NOT bother me. The way San Diego police treat people is awful, but the way we “the people” don’t stop it is even worse!

If you want change you have to get involved. So what are you waiting for?

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Empowering Discussions, Social Action

All-Inclusive Activism: Alicia Garza’s Isn’t Just Supporting African-Americans, She’s Giving a Loud Voice to All Who Are Marginalized

Alicia Garza is an engaging speaker with a sense of humor and intelligence that draws listeners to her. She is best known as a co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) along with Opal Tometi and Patrice Cullors. I recently had the honor to attend her speech about social activism and a renewed civil rights movement. I was not disappointed!

She began her talk about growing up in the San Franciso area and learning about the black liberation movement from those who had been actively involved. Speaking to a crowd of young women and men at University of San Diego she encouraged students to learn from and form relationships with their elders. “We’re living in different times, but facing similar issues.”

Already active in the Domestic Workers Alliance and conscious of being a black queer woman in a racist society, the inspiration that prompted Alicia to start Black Lives Matter was watching the trial of George Zimmerman; a racist vigilante who killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old youth in 2012. Alicia said “I hoped for something different to happen, for an apparition in the system…I felt like I got punched in the gut.” As the media criminalized Trayvon she wondered how she would tell her younger brother that his life is not valued and how racist fear could take it away.

So she went to social media searching for support and words, but was not appeased by the cynics stating the “system is broken”. What she saw was lots of blame on black citizens, because in these times having darker skin makes you automatically guilty. So she wrote her own message stating that it doesn’t matter if you vote, are educated or pull up your pants because we do live in a racist society. instead she encouraged people to do more than Tweet about issues. Her friends added the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, her words spread swiftly and they inadvertently started a movement that has been growing for 3 years.

She asks that we work together because in 2015 we have such advanced technology yet no “full humane dignity of all people.” She continued to speak on how we need to be inclusive and include everyone in the conversation; LGBT, Native Americans, Asians, those living with disability, foreign workers, immigrants and those incarcerated. We must make space for the voices of ALL who have been marginalized because yes all lives matter. “If we wanna live in a society where all lives matter, we have a lot of work to do… we have an incredible opportunity right now to rehumanize a society that’s been poisoned.” says Alicia.

Not one to shy away from the importance of all lives, she spoke of the need to protect the Trans women who are killed and whose murders are so often ignored, of the jail cells overcrowded with black males, of the harmful stereotypes of black women and the list goes on. She also said that “There’s a lot of different ways to solve problems that doesn’t mean putting people in jail.” A statement I agree with whole heartedly. We have a higher number of human beings living in cages than most other countries in the world and that is a shining example of how disgusting and inhumane our ‘Great Nation’ has become.

There have been many adaptions of BLM, such as Native Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter, Womens Lives Matter, etcetera. While she played it cool in regards to her work being so popularly repurposed she was quick to state that these other hashtags must not be allowed to erase the underlying issue that it is still a crime to be black in America. In regards to Police Lives Matter she was honest about how the large majority of officers sign up for a job that is NOT what they thought. Yes there are a few cops who sign up to kill, but they’re the minority. Suddenly these officers, as human as you and I, are thrust into an environment of fear, pathology and corruption. This changes people.

She also brought up important points that you might not expect. These are important to not just oppressed, but everyone’s right to freedom, liberty and justice.

-Our taxes are paying for police brutality, harassment and corruption. This means our non-white sisters and brothers are literally paying our government to be harassed and killed.

-We allow local police to militarize forces which are then used against PEACEFUL protesters.

-The internet cannot become a pay-to-play game! Without the freedom and range of the internet BLM would not exist. Luckily the FCC recently struck down an opportunity for those in power to silence us, but we must stay alert..

-Realize that we are living in an ‘anti-terrorism’ time period that criminalizes activism. We cannot let our right to free speech and the right to gather in public be taken away.

So what can you do? 

1. Learn how power functions.

2. Talk with other people about how it works.

3. Organize.

“Figure out how to build power together to change what we don’t like.”, Alicia Garza.

4. Have a relationship with your elders.

5. Create ongoing engagement with those who are marginalized.

6. Listen and support people. Don’t tokenize. If you feel you might be tokenizing you probably are. Most of us are all guilty of it.

7. Be open to learning.

8 Give resources to those who can build.

I found myself nodding along and hanging on to her words, ferociously scribbling any quote I could catch in my notebook. Like many strong women before her Alicia Garza is a leader we can all learn from. She is the embodiment of individual empowerment. If you’re carrying the weight of oppression on your shoulders or seeing it on your neighbors, if you’re tired of waiting for something to change and feeling like you can’t breathe than join in, be the change, and we can as Alicia says “breathe together”.

During her talk, Alicia recommended the following books as resources and motivation. “Roads to Dominion” by Sara Diamond and “There’s a River” by Vincent Harding.

Get involved and learn about the goals of the #BlackLivesMatter movement at Blacklivesmatter.com/demands

If you want change you have to get involved. So what are you waiting for?

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Social Action

U.S. Courts Punish Victims of Domestic Violence and Allow Abusers to Walk Free!

The United States “Justice” system still doesn’t understand domestic violence and why victims become too afraid for their lives to leave. In the case of Tondalo Hall, she is being punished in prison for 30 years for the crime of not protecting her children AND suffering abuse at the hands of her violent partner Robert Braxton Jr. who was allowed walked free after 2 years. How does this make sense to anybody?

First of all while victims of  domestic violence are technically putting their children at risk, they are still VICTIMS and therefore should be helped with counseling and treatment. They should not be sent to prison and certainly not for 30 years.

Second why did the abuser Mr. Braxton only receive 2 years of prison when he committed violence against his children and partner? He should be in jail and undergoing counseling and treatment.

So why are we handing out stricter punishments for victims than violent offenders? Two reasons.

Firt, because the system was set up by males who don’t understand and have no empathy for female victims. Blaming a victim for failing to report or flee domestic abuse is akin to blaming a victim of other abuse such as molestation, sexual harassment or rape.

Second, she is in prison because it’s clear that the prosecutor Angela Marsee had a vendetta. She wanted Braxton to go to jail for a long time, and blames the victim for basically not being a good enough witness.

“Marsee also had another reason for recommending a long sentence: Hall, she declared, was part of the reason the case against Braxton “fell apart.

So Marsee wanted justice and when she couldn’t get it with Braxton she turned on the easiest target nearby, Hall.

UGH! How immature is that!

What’s really messed up is authorities know that Robert Braxton Jr. was the abuser, yet they still punished Tolanda Hall much more severely.

“After Braxton admitted he had squeezed his baby daughter too tightly and cranked her leg, detectives concluded that he was the one who had injured both children, not her.

Read more about this injustice at: Buzzfeed.com/alexcampbell/this-battered-woman-wants-to-get-out-of-prison?

If you are as outraged as me you can sign the petition at Act.weareultraviolet.org/sign/tondalo_hall/?source=uv_website

You can also volunteer at a local domestic violence resource center. Find one at Domesticshelters.org

 

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Social Action

Saving Women and Girls from Danger in Refugee Camps; The Darfur Women Network Supplies Safe Stoves to Women

by Leah Oviedo.

After escaping violence at home, women and girls in refugee camps face many dangers such as violence, hunger, displacement and looting. On top of this when they venture far away in search of firewood or water, they also risk rape, assault, abduction, beating and death.

Firewood is the main reason for these dangerous excursions out of camps near Touloum, Chad. As the conflict in Darfur, Sudan continues, more refugees arrive with few if any resources from home. They rely on aid organizations and donations to survive, but cooking food usually requires collecting wood far from their new homes. As more people arrive and more trees are cut down close to the camp there is less wood for each individual along with the added problem of deforestation. The cutting of so many trees has caused erosion and also creates conflict with locals who rely on the forest for their own survival.

The Darfur Women Network(DWN) is stepping in with fuel-efficient stoves and a reforestation plan to support the refugees. On August 25, 2014 they distributed 202 stoves to women in the camp. Many women showed up to receive a stove and witness the occasion dressed in their colorful, cleaned clothes. There was a  huge celebration and much appreciation.

The “safe stoves” are made with a mixture of mud, water and donkey’s dung and produced by refugee women in their own homes for a production total cost of $10 each. A woman can produce one or two stoves a day depending on her home chores, the time it takes to collect the materials, and drying time which is dependent on the season. The stoves are designed with two windows on its side, a big one for firewood and smaller one for air. A pot is placed inside the stove to hold and keep it stable during the cooking process. It can cook with as little firewood as one stick, unlike a traditional stove.

These clay safe stoves were chosen based on the test that DWN and refugees did for three stoves; a traditional stove, metal stove, and clay stove. As a result, the clay stove was chosen because it is efficient, safe, culturally acceptable, cheap and doesn’t create smoke. Since the stoves are made by refugee women, they are able to earn an income and become empowered. Once a stove is given the DWN continues to offer support. Recipients are taught to utilize all the benefits of the stoves, trained to use different cooking techniques in relation to time and consumption of firewood, and advising on how to change eating habits and cooking processes to benefit the women and girls.

Fuel efficient stoves are only part of the solution since refugees still need firewood. DWN is partnering with the Chad Agriculture Department to provide seedlings so each family can plant at least three desert-trees. “If the 7000 families do their jobs, the refugee mothers and girls will be safe and protected.” says DWN founder Mastora Bakhiet. With less danger and more time saved from searching for fuel, families will have the ability and strength to focus on education and income creation.

The organization is fully operated by volunteers and was started by Mastora Bakhiet who moved to the US from Darfur over 10 years ago. They supply resources, economic development programs, and partner with another organization that offers daycare for young mothers to attend school. Based in Mastora’s home town of Indiana, USA the mission of this non-profit is to empower women and girls from Darfur and improve their cultural communication among various communities. DWN works together with refugees determine their needs and collaborate to meet those needs via education, awareness, and empowerment. Also, this project will help women build their teamwork skills, small business management, and self-sufficiency.

Mastora has a goal to bring a total of 7,000 stoves to the camp. She is hopeful more people will get involved and donate so that all women in the camp are able to cook safely. “So, now, I call on those who value the dignity of women and girls and  who  support the survivors of Darfur genocide to help us continue to provide our clients with safe stoves.” says Mastora. You can help supply safe stoves to women and girl refugees through Global Giving, Globalgiving.org/projects/protect-empower-refugee-women-and-girls-from-darfur/, Paypal, or send a check to 2902 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208-4715. Volunteer and get involved on the DWN website, http://www.DarfurWomenNetwork.webs.com

Many of the refugees in Chad are seeking safety from a violent conflict that started in 2003 when Janjaweed(an Arab Militia) allied with the Sudanese government to kill Africans and force them to leave their lands in Darfur. Genocide and violence have forced tens of thousands to seek refuge. Ongoing violence continues to create refugees, many of whom are women and children. Returning home is not an option. These stoves are needed now.

 Related links:

Facebook.com/DarfurWomen

Bringing It All Back Home, To Darfur

 

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Social Action

Time for a Donation – North Texas Giving Day – Ending Domestic Violence

My amazing niece works for an organization supporting and saving women who are victims of domestic violence. Right now is North Texas Giving Day and I knew that I could afford donating $10 so I did. This is much better than splurging on a new shirt or hair gel.

Brighter Tomorrows, Inc.
Thank you!
Thank you for donating $10.00 to Brighter Tomorrows, Inc. on North Texas Giving Day. Please print this page for your records. A receipt for tax purposes will also be emailed to the address you provided.
Your donation will be credited to Brighter Tomorrows, Inc.

YOU CAN GIVE TOO: Northtexasgivingday.org/#npo/brighter-tomorrows-inc

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Impower You supports ending violence and providing support for all people:http://impoweryou.org

Social Action

Is Fear Holding You Back? Loretta Claiborne Wants You to Be Fearless

Loretta Claiborne could have spent her life institutionalized because of her intellectual disability. Instead her mother fearlessly worked to give Loretta a life similar to that of her siblings. Despite the sad and long-standing cultural idea that different abilities decides our worthiness, she became a celebrated athlete, a speaker, and fearless fighter for equal rights.

In this TED Talk Loretta talks about the struggle of living disabled, of being bullied, and societal bias which together grew into self-doubt and anger. When chance stepped in and pushed her into the Special Olympics, her life took on new meaning and she became a force for good. She is not fearless all the time, but she knows that we all have to be fearless if we really want to make difference. She closes her talk with this inspiring request. “I hope you will go home, if you fear something today keep your faith, keep faith in yourself, keep faith in what you believe, and you can be fearless”.

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