By Sandy Bredt
“Our founding ideals of liberty and equality were false when they were written.” With that salvo, Nikole Hannah-Jones opens the introduction to her latest gem, the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” a comprehensive exploration of slavery and racism, produced with the Smithsonian and the Pulitzer Center in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first African slave ship landing on our shores.
By Christina Robinson and Elizabeth Humphries
In just one week three communities across this country faced terror and the loss of loved ones at the hands of white men armed with guns. Our hearts are heavy with sadness for those who are grieving and those who have been touched in other ways — like those who will never be able to attend the Gilroy Garlic Festival without remembering the terror that happened there. And because it can feel like any town, city, church, or festival could be next, we share the fear and trepidation of people throughout our country.
If you follow the California State Legislature, May was an exciting month! Since all California bills must pass both state legislative houses (the California Assembly and the California Senate), May is the month when bills that successfully passed with enough votes in their house of origin “cross-over” to their second house, hopefully on their way to the governor’s desk.
The Policy Working Group of the SURJ Bay Area chapter is working in service to, and in collaboration with our POC-led partner organizations that work on legislative advocacy: Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) / All of Us or None(AOUON), Essie Justice Group, and Initiate Justice. We listed our original policy goals in our previous post SURJ Bay Area Policy Priorities For 2019, and now that some bills have successfully crossed-over, here’s the updated list of bills that we are actively supporting as the bills go through their second house!
As described in our previous post The Role of Policy in SURJ’s Racial Justice Work, the Policy Working Group of the SURJ Bay Area chapter is working in service to, and in collaboration with our POC-led partner organizations that work on legislative advocacy: Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) / All of Us or None(AOUON), Essie Justice Group, and Initiate Justice. As we enter the 2nd quarter of the 2019 California legislative cycle, we’d like to share the bills, propositions, and campaigns that are our focus for 2019. While we expect a few more additions, this list will give you a good idea of what we’ll be supporting (and opposing) as this year progresses.
By Lynn Levey
Children separated from their parents, families traveling on foot for months to get to the U.S. border, people fleeing rape, gang violence, government brutality, torture, and murder - we were horrified by the stories we had been hearing about the situation at the southern border. So earlier this month, my daughter and I traveled to Tijuana, to volunteer and support asylum-seekers there. We knew thousands of migrants had arrived in Tijuana without resources, facing a standoff at the border where, in violation of U.S. and international law, they are not being allowed to cross into our country to seek asylum.
By Micki Luckey
I admit I was distressed reading Mothers of Mass Resistance, the new book by Elizabeth Gillepsie McRae that documents how women upheld white supremacy in the US from 1920 to 1970. Not that any part of this meticulously detailed history was false. After reading and writing about the struggles for civil rights and integration, I simply did not want to recognize the power white women have wielded in opposing desegregation and civil rights. But McRae contends that the roles women played to support segregation of the races, while generally kept out of the limelight, were nonetheless effective. She states, “…when we focus too much on national legislative victories over legal segregation, we miss the endurance of white supremacist politics and practices in local institutions, in local communities.” (McRae, p.10)
As we continue the struggle to challenge and topple the prison industrial complex, it is important we take pause to celebrate our successes and learn from our losses. In many ways, 2018 marked a year in which legislation undoing the dark legacies of mass incarceration gained momentum. Led by the inspiring work of our POC-led partners, last year grassroots movements generated enough pressure to pass five vital pieces of criminal justice reform. Together, our actions were part of a targeted and coordinated legislative strategy that elevated the voices of the most impacted, amplified the power of our organizing, and led to some significant legislative victories in California.
This year, as part of our commitment to confronting white supremacy’s role in creating violence against trans women of color, SURJ Bay Area has continued partnering with the Transgender, Gender-Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). SURJ supports TGIJP in its mission to support transgender, gender variant and intersex people inside and outside of prisons, jails and detention centers. TGIJP is a Black trans woman led organization fighting for self determination, freedom of expression, and gender justice.
We have become all too familiar with hearing the reports of police brutality against people of color, the statistics of prisons disproportionately crowded with Black and Brown individuals, and the stories of families torn apart by extreme sentencing policies. Our nation’s history of racism is inextricably linked to our prison system and it is critical that we take real steps nowto dismantle this system and reallocate resources to our communities.
Stripping communities of their voting rights is a centuries-long tool used to silence and disenfranchise people of color — and it must stop now.
The passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 was a major victory of the civil rights era. But in the decades since, attacks on voting rights have been relentless. In California, 162,000 citizens — mostly people of color — can’t vote today, simply because they are in state prison or on parole.