Archive | June 2013

US Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Voting Rights Act

vote button

According to many, the US Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act removed the heart of the Act and reopens the door for voter suppression, intimidation, and abuse. Today, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act on the provision of the landmark civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court. The 5-4 ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

Across the country, for the past several years, there have been reports of efforts being made to shrink the pool of Americans who will be able to vote in the years ahead. In thirty-eight (38) states and counting, strict new voter ID laws, restrictions on early voting and Sunday voting, and racially motivated bans on ex-felons have either been passed or proposed.

As was aptly stated by President Johnson when discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” With that knowledge, there have been rallies across the country to stand up against the forces trying to block the right to vote for millions. The persons in attendance at these events understand that, if we, as citizens, do not take action to stop restrictions on voting, no one will.

Voting is the one right that practically defines a democracy. The right to vote is one of the cornerstones of the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, during periods of history in America, millions of this nation’s citizens were denied this most precious right based on an immutable characteristic such as race. In the century following Reconstruction, African-Americans in the South faced overwhelming obstacles to vote. Despite the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which had enfranchised black men and women, southern voter registration boards used poll taxes, literacy tests, and other bureaucratic impediments to deny African-Americans their legal rights. Southern blacks also risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals, and physical violence when they tried to register or vote. Elsewhere, other minorities also suffered this type of discrimination. As a result, African-Americans and other people of color had little if any political power, either locally or nationally. It took the courageous civil rights movement to put an end to this discrimination.

In response voter discrimination, the Voting Rights Act was adopted initially in 1965 and extended in 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2006. The Act made it a federal crime to deny a citizen the right to vote. It outlawed a number of tricks and schemes used for decades to disenfranchise African-Americans. No longer could racists in state governments use literacy tests, poll taxes, and other devices to keep African-Americans from registering to vote. The Voting Rights Act also allowed the federal government to oversee voter registration and elections in places where discrimination occurred. The Act has been described by Irving Bernstein as “a rare and glittering moment in the history of American democracy.”

The Voting Rights Act has often been referred to as the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever adopted by the United States Congress. The Voting Rights Act codifies and effectuates the 15th Amendment’s permanent guarantee that, throughout the nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or color. In addition, the Act contains several special provisions that impose even more stringent requirements in certain jurisdictions throughout the country.

At least 31 states are considering laws that make it harder for people of color and young, elderly, and disabled citizens to vote. An upcoming decision from the Supreme Court on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may make the implementation of these state laws easier than ever before. All our children deserve to grow up in a country where their voting rights are protected, and where they are respected and supported no matter what race or color they may be.

Voting is a cherished right. Countless brave people gave up their lives to secure that right. Federal law guarantees it. Now it’s up to each of us to protect the right to vote and to make our vote count.

Source(s): US Constitution. Wikipedia. US Department of Justice. NAACP. Stand For Freedom. National Urban League

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

National AIDS Testing Day 2013

Classroom

National AIDS Testing Day is fast approaching. This year, National AIDS Testing Day is Thursday, June 27th, 2013. It’s estimated that more than 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, yet nearly 1 in 5 (20 percent) are not aware of their status.

Getting tested and knowing your status can be a crucial step in continuing to lead a vibrant, productive life and helping end the spread of HIV/AIDS—so get tested.

Source(s): Living Room

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities Conference

holding hands around globe

Event: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities Conference

Date: August 8, 9 and 10, 2013

Where: Detroit, MI

HAVEN and NOMAS (The National Organization of Men Against Sexism) are pleased to announce Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, a three day (August 8, 9 and 10) conference in Detroit exploring gender-based violence through a social justice lens.

Centering the lives of folks who are marginalized is key to creating social justice. The keynote speaker will be Lauren Chief Elk, of the Save Wįyąbi Project, who will be offering guidance on centering the lives of women of color, specifically North American Indigenous Women, in our cultural narratives.

There will also be a plenary panel on recognizing how intersecting identities impact gender-based violence our response to it. The panel will be Jessica Luther, Emi Koyama, and two speakers to be named later. The third plenary panel will be on feminism and new media, and how we create the world we want through technology and media. Speakers on this panel will be Alexandria Goddard, crime blogger who made Steubenville more than a small town in Ohio; Ashon Crawley of the Crunk Feminist Collective, Heather Corinna, doyenne of the amazing sex ed site for teens Scarleteen, and the inimitable tour de force Melissa McEwan, founder and editor-in-chief of Shakesville.

There will be other great things as well, like the 38th Annual Men’s Studies Association Meeting, spoken word performances, a workshop sponsored by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence on the connections between intimate partner violence and HIV infection and much more. We’re also really excited to offer a dedicated space for Healing Justice, with yoga, meditation, art and other self-care workshops. We are committed to creating a space that is accessible, trans* inclusive, and strongly rooted in consent-based interaction.

This conference matters because for 40 years, we’ve focused a lot of energy in the movement to end gender-based violence on fortifying the criminal justice response to intimate partner violence and sexual assault. While that has worked in some regard, calling the police should not be our only option. We need to address toxic masculinity, institutionalized and systemic violence, and center the lived experiences of marginalized folks, especially women. Until we do that, all we’re doing is putting on bandages. I choose, every day, to work to end gender-based violence. Will you join me?

If you want to join us in Detroit, or just find out more information, you can do that here. You can also donate to the Forging Justice Scholarship Fund (making the conference financially accessible) by contacting me at prevention (at) haven-oakland (dot) org. No amount is too small. You can also find the event on Facebook.

Source(s): NCADV

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Protect Voting Rights

Vote Here

Across the country, for the past several years, there have been reports of efforts being made to shrink the pool of Americans who will be able to vote in the years ahead. In thirty-eight (38) states and counting, strict new voter ID laws, restrictions on early voting and Sunday voting, and racially motivated bans on ex-felons have either been passed or proposed.

As was aptly stated by President Johnson when discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” With that knowledge, there have been rallies across the country to stand up against the forces trying to block the right to vote for millions. The persons in attendance at these events understand that, if we, as citizens, do not take action to stop restrictions on voting, no one will.

Voting is the one right that practically defines a democracy. The right to vote is one of the cornerstones of the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, during periods of history in America, millions of this nation’s citizens were denied this most precious right based on an immutable characteristic such as race. In the century following Reconstruction, African-Americans in the South faced overwhelming obstacles to vote.

Despite the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which had enfranchised black men and women, southern voter registration boards used poll taxes, literacy tests, and other bureaucratic impediments to deny African-Americans their legal rights. Southern blacks also risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals, and physical violence when they tried to register or vote. Elsewhere, other minorities also suffered this type of discrimination. As a result, African-Americans and other people of color had little if any political power, either locally or nationally. It took the courageous civil rights movement to put an end to this discrimination.

In response voter discrimination, the Voting Rights Act was adopted initially in 1965 and extended in 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2006. The Act made it a federal crime to deny a citizen the right to vote. It outlawed a number of tricks and schemes used for decades to disenfranchise African-Americans. No longer could racists in state governments use literacy tests, poll taxes, and other devices to keep African-Americans from registering to vote. The Voting Rights Act also allowed the federal government to oversee voter registration and elections in places where discrimination occurred. The Act has been described by Irving Bernstein as “a rare and glittering moment in the history of American democracy.”

The Voting Rights Act has often been referred to as the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever adopted by the United States Congress. The Voting Rights Act codifies and effectuates the 15th Amendment’s permanent guarantee that, throughout the nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or color. In addition, the Act contains several special provisions that impose even more stringent requirements in certain jurisdictions throughout the country.

At least 31 states are considering laws that make it harder for people of color and young, elderly, and disabled citizens to vote. An upcoming decision from the Supreme Court on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may make the implementation of these state laws easier than ever before. All our children deserve to grow up in a country where their voting rights are protected, and where they are respected and supported no matter what race or color they may be.

Voting is a cherished right. Countless brave people gave up their lives to secure that right. Federal law guarantees it. Now it’s up to each of us to protect the right to vote and to make our vote count.

Source(s): US Constitution. Wikipedia. US Department of Justice. NAACP. Stand For Freedom

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

woman with cellphone

Equal pay for equal work is a simple matter of fairness. Four years ago, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, with Lilly Ledbetter, who suffered twenty (20) years of pay discrimination. Data indicates that working women in the United States are paid an average of eighty (80) cents for every dollar paid to men. Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The pay gap is even larger for most women of color; on average, black women earn about seventy (70) cents, and Latinas about sixty (60) cents, of every dollar paid to all men. Our daughters and granddaughters should know that they’ll enter the workforce as equals to their male counterparts. But it’s going to take a real effort to get this done.

The Equal Pay Act, the law that was supposed to make equal pay for equal work a reality, is in bad shape. That’s why right now, the people from all around the country are picking up their telephones to take action– and you can join them. Call the White House comment line and urge the President to get the ball rolling on closing the wage gap by prohibiting federal contractors from punishing or firing workers who talk about their salaries with co-workers. This action from the President would address one piece of the Paycheck Fairness Act and protect nearly a quarter of the federal civilian workforce despite congressional gridlock.

President Kennedy called the Equal Pay Act “a first step” to ending the widespread practice of paying women less than men for the same amount of work. And that’s exactly what it was: a first step. 50 years later, we’re still fighting this fight, and women STILL make 23 cents less on the dollar. House Democrats have proposed a solution — the Paycheck Fairness Act — but Republicans voted to block this legislation from even coming to a vote. That is unacceptable.

In 1996, Equal Pay Day was established by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages. For the past thirty-two (32) years, the National Committee on Pay Equity has been working diligently to eliminate sex- and race-based wage discrimination and to achieve pay equity.

In 1979, the National Committee on Pay Equity was founded as a coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations; labor unions; religious, professional, legal, and educational associations, commissions on women, state and local pay equity coalitions and individuals working to eliminate sex- and race-based wage discrimination and to achieve pay equity.

9 to 5 shared that a woman has had to work an extra three months this year to match a man’s income in 2010. As we think about the work women have done for equal wages, help is needed in the fight for the next step toward pay equity. It reminds us of the continuing problem of sex- and race-based wage discrimination and the need to achieve pay equity. The alert reads as follows:

When the Equal Pay Act passed nearly 50 years ago, a woman earned an average of 59 cents for every dollar a man made. Today, she makes 77 cents. The annual gap between men and women’s median annual wages is a staggering $10,849. With more and more families relying on women’s wages to support them in an ailing economy, shortchanging women nearly $11,000 a year is inexcusable.

Solution:
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is an important step in the continuing struggle for women’s rights. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Actwould take several steps towards closing the wage gap, including: clarifying acceptable reasons for differences in pay between men and women; prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about or disclose information about employers’ wage policies and their pay rates; making it easier to file class action lawsuits based on equal pay; and requiring the EEOC to survey current pay data and obliging employers to submit pay data identified by race, sex and national origin of employees.

Action Needed:
Help 9 to 5 and other advocacy organizations to make this very necessary change: Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative and urge them to support and sign on to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Women have waited too long for equal wages. We, as a nation, cannot afford to wait any longer. —9 to 5

Official Summary
The following summary was written by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress, which serves Congress.

4/13/2011–Introduced.

“Paycheck Fairness Act – Amends the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages. Revises the exception to the prohibition for a wage rate differential based on any other factor other than sex. Limits such factors to bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience. States that the bona fide factor defense shall apply only if the employer demonstrates that such factor: (1) is not based upon or derived from a sex-based differential in compensation, (2) is job-related with respect to the position in question, and (3) is consistent with business necessity. Avers that such defense shall not apply where the employee demonstrates that: (1) an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing such differential, and (2) the employer has refused to adopt such alternative practice. Revises the prohibition against employer retaliation for employee complaints. Prohibits retaliation for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing the wages of the employee or another employee in response to a complaint or charge, or in furtherance of a sex discrimination investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, or an investigation conducted by the employer. Makes employers who violate sex discrimination prohibitions liable in a civil action for either compensatory or (except for the federal government) punitive damages. States that any action brought to enforce the prohibition against sex discrimination may be maintained as a class action in which individuals may be joined as party plaintiffs without their written consent. Authorizes the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) to seek additional compensatory or punitive damages in a sex discrimination action. Requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to train EEOC employees and affected individuals and entities on matters involving wage discrimination. Authorizes the Secretary to make grants to eligible entities for negotiation skills training programs for girls and women. Directs the Secretary and the Secretary of Education to issue regulations or policy guidance to integrate such training into certain programs under their Departments. Directs the Secretary to conduct studies and provide information to employers, labor organizations, and the general public regarding the means available to eliminate pay disparities between men and women. Establishes the Secretary of Labor’s National Award for Pay Equity in the Workplace for an employer who has made a substantial effort to eliminate pay disparities between men and women. Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require the EEOC to collect from employers pay information data regarding the sex, race, and national origin of employees for use in the enforcement of federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination. Directs: (1) the Commissioner of Labor Statistics to continue to collect data on woman workers in the Current Employment Statistics survey, (2) the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to use specified types of methods in investigating compensation discrimination and in enforcing pay equity, and (3) the Secretary to make accurate information on compensation discrimination readily available to the public. Directs the Secretary and the Commissioner of the EEOC jointly to develop technical assistance material to assist small businesses to comply with the requirements of this Act.”

Source: GovTrack. 9 to 5. The National Committee on Pay Equity. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Action Alert DCCC.org.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Reject Any Cuts to SNAP in the Farm Bill

Scared Child

June is national hunger awareness month. Ironically, the U.S. House Agricultural Committee voted to give more subsidies to big agribusiness and cut food aid for 2 million families, children, and senior citizens. Drastic cuts like these are not a necessity. But rather this was a choice to support tax breaks for the wealthy and big businesses (like Apple) by literally taking food from hungry kids. The full U.S. House of Representatives votes soon on whether or not to cut funds for SNAP.

Please contact your members of Congress to tell them to reject any cuts to SNAP in the Farm Bill. It is already a national sin and a shame that one in five children in America are at risk of hunger while companies like Apple skirt taxes on at least $74 billion in profit. Currently, Congress is poised to funnel more subsidies to profitable corporate agriculture companies. This is yet another example of legislation that favors corporations and the 1% over the 99%.

Our voices are more important than ever. Harmful automatic cuts (sequestration) to human needs programs are chipping away at critical and effective anti-hunger initiatives. There are efforts to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid in the farm bill.

Please call your members of Congress today and amplify the stories of others seeking to fight hunger in the world by sharing your own. Tell your members of Congress what drives you to work toward ending hunger?

Join the choir of Bread For the World activists taking to Capitol Hill on June 11, 2013. Let’s show Congress what a movement to end hunger looks like. It’s not too late to come to Lobby Day on Tuesday of this week. But even if you can not be with their for Lobby Day, you can still participate right where you are. Here’s how:
•Call or email your members of Congress today.
•Ask them to
1.Protect SNAP and improve international food aid in the farm bill.
2.Replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes both revenues and sensible cuts.
•Share your story about why you are a Bread for the World member and why SNAP, international food aid, sequestration, and ending hunger matter to you.
•You can include additional facts from our Lobby Day talking points.

It is simply outrageous and morally wrong to give money to highly profitable large corporations at the expense of America’s children who rely on food aid. With that said, contact your members of Congress to tell them to reject any cuts to SNAP in the Farm Bill.

Personal stories like yours are what will move your members of Congress to act. So don’t delay. Help amplify the message that we can and must end hunger.

Source(s): AFL-CIO; Bread For the World

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art.

Father’s Day 2013

Family in the Park

Parents play an integral role in the development of their children either directly or indirectly. In recognition of the important roles played by parents in the lives of their children, we honor and celebrate mothers in the month of May on Mother’s Day and fathers in the month of June on Father’s Day. This year, Mother’s Day was held on Sunday, May 12th, 2013 and Father’s Day is Sunday, June 16th, 2013.

Each year, for the past twenty-nine (29) years, in the United States, on the third Sunday in the month of June, we honor and celebrate the contributions that fathers make in the lives of their children. Dr. Sigmund Freud is reported to have said that, he could not think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.

For a growing number of American children, they have not known the love, protection, and guidance of a father. Social science research has shown the devastating impact of fatherless homes on the lives children. Data indicates that children in fatherless homes experience more major challenges in life than those who grow up with a father at home. The following statistics on children in fatherless homes are alarming and should give any father pause when thinking about his children.

“Incarceration Rates. “Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families…those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated — even when other factors such as race, income,
parent education and urban residence were held constant.” (Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University
cited in “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.)

Suicide. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of the Census)

Behavioral Disorders. 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
come from fatherless homes (United States Center for Disease Control)

High School Dropouts. 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)

Educational Attainment. Kids living in single-parent homes or in step-families report lower educational expectations on the part of their parents, less parental monitoring of school work, and less overall social supervision than children from intact families. (N.M. Astore and S. McLanahan, American Sociological Review, No. 56 (1991)

Juvenile Detention Rates. 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)

Confused Identities. Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely than those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity.(P.L. Adams, J.R. Milner, and N.A. Schrepf, Fatherless Children, New York, Wiley Press, 1984).

Aggression. In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households.” (N. Vaden-Kierman, N. Ialongo, J. Pearson, and S. Kellam, “Household Family Structure and Children’s Aggressive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study of Urban Elementary School Children,” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 23, no. 5 (1995).

Achievement. Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes. (One-Parent Families and Their Children, Charles F. Kettering Foundation, 1990).

Delinquency. Only 13 percent of juvenile delinquents come from families in which the biological mother and father are married to each other. By contrast, 33 percent have parents who are either divorced or separated and 44 percent have parents who were never married. (Wisconsin Dept. of Health and Social Services, April 1994).

Criminal Activity. The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families. Source: A. Anne Hill, June O’Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College. 1993”[i]

If you want to make a meanigful difference in the lives of children and youth in homes where the fathers are absent, you can support the very necessary work of nonprofit organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and/or Boys and Girls Club. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a 100 year history of providing quality youth mentoring services that have proven to have a measurable impact in the lives of: the youth served, their families and their community. Boys and Girls Club’s mission is to “…enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.” Every day, these agencies are changing the perspectives of children and enabling them to see the world around them in a more positive light. With that newfound point of view, they can see their potential more clearly and dream bigger about their future. Get involved in a child’s life.

Sources: Boys and Girls Club’s website. Big BrothersBig Sisters’ website. Indystar.com. “Father’s absence takes heavy toll on children”, Editorial, June 18, 2011. “Statistics on Fatherless Children in America”. Wayne Parker, About.com Guide. Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art.

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[i] “Statistics on Fatherless Children in America”. Wayne Parker, About.com Guide