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Archive for the ‘racial justice’ Category

Two Great Causes and Cute to Boot!

In art, cultural activism, indigenous communities, intellectual freedom, racial justice on July 19, 2012 at 10:43 am

First, I just love this poster by Oakland-based artist and activist Melanie Cervantes! She writes, “Hola Gatita sends messages of solidarity to Arizona and any where books about Chicana experiences are banned. La Gatita dice no to censorship.” Download your own copy here.

Second, this poster nicely coincides with Aunt Lute Books latest fundraiser. A small, indie press for 30 years, Aunt Lute needs support to publish a fourth edition of Gloria Anzaldúa’s groundbreaking book Borderlands/La Frontera, which Hola Gatita loves! If you have not read this book, you should. It is one of those transformational feminist texts that compels you to empathy, to action, to a vision of social justice in historical context, and to a deeper, more engaged humanity. Yes, it’s that good. (Among those critical books that gave me roots and taught me to dream when I was a teenager and newbie activist).

So DONATE to Aunt Lute’s crowd sourced fundraising campaign.

Aunt Lute will be giving away four limited-edition screen prints featuring Gloria Anzaldúa’s image and text from Borderlands created and donated by Melanie Cervantes of Dignidad Rebelde. “The 22 x 30 inch five-color screen printed posters were printed at the Serie Project earlier this year and are valued and placed at the $250 prize reward level… Every donation, no matter what size, brings us closer to our all-or-nothing funding deadline on July 28. Please consider viewing our campaign page, or passing this information onto friends.”


Oh, and read why Hello Kitty opposes SB 2281 in Arizona. Librotraficantes! Stand up for Ethnic Studies.


Open Internet is Crucial for Equity, Opportunity, Innovation

In information access, media justice, net neutrality, open access, racial justice on January 15, 2010 at 7:13 am

I definitely recommend reading this important brief filed by a broad coalition of racial justice and information freedom groups, including my organizational alma mater. Background:

January 15, 2010 – In an historic day for the Federal Communications Commission and the Internet, the Media Action Grassroots Network,,, Applied Research Center, Afro-Netizen, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Native Public Media and Rural Broadband Policy Group submitted a range of grassroots stories and comments from urban, rural and struggling sub-urban communities in response to the Commission’s notice of proposed rule making “In the Matter of Preserving the Open Internet and Broadband Industry Practices.”

The groups’ comments speak to the urgent need for an open and free Internet for low to no income, rural, Native American, African American and Latino communities.

“Like telephones, the Internet is increasingly an essential part of everyone’s daily lives,” says Malkia Cyril, Executive Director of Center for Media Justice, which coordinates the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAGNet). “Ensuring strong rules to keep the Internet free and open for communities in the midst of a widening digital divide is fundamental to a vibrant and representative democracy, and cultural and human rights.”

The groups say without strong “Net Neutrality” rules to keep content on the Internet accessible to all, communities most in need may end up “virtually redlined” from of the innovation and opportunity that springs from a free and open Internet.

“In a democratic society, every idea must have a chance to flourish and all people should be able to access legal content equally and without fear of foul play,” says Amalia Deloney, MAGNet coordinator. “People use [the Internet] to find jobs, access health services, obtain education resources, advocate for representation, increase connection, and its an important tool to build strong and healthy communities in low-income neighborhoods of color.”

The groups’ comments can be found online here.

Network Neutrality, Universal Broadband & Racial Justice

In broadband, information access, information policy, net neutrality, racial justice on January 5, 2010 at 8:01 am

By the Center for Media Justice.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality ensures that Internet users can access any website, service, or application of their choice without interference or discrimination by the Internet Service Provider (“ISP”). This means that once a consumer buys an Internet service connection, he or she can choose to access any lawful content without fear that the ISP will block or impair access to it. Net Neutrality prevents ISPs from censoring content for any reason or giving preferential treatment to any specific website, service, or application based merely on its content, message, or ownership. This non-discrimination concept has been the guiding principle for the Internet since its inception, and at one time was the law.

Why is Net Neutrality a civil rights issue?

The Internet has the potential to increase equity in media access and political participation for historically marginalized communities. Due to high barriers to entry in television, radio, and cable, traditional media outlets have not included enough diverse voices, or provided content that is significant and relevant to underrepresented groups. With lower barriers to entry, the Internet can create a platform where these groups can speak for themselves and on behalf of their communities, to wider audiences. Neutral networks grant equal opportunity to every idea and can help ensure that communities of color do not experience the same lack of representation they have in other media platforms.

How does Net Neutrality help communities of color?

  • Net Neutrality is community-based and people-centered policy.

Neutral networks lead to more empowered communities. Rather than focus on corporate service providers, Internet policy should address the human impact: the opportunity for all people—regardless of their digital skills, or geographic and socio-economic situation—to create, access, and share information useful for their own life plans. Net Neutrality is rooted in fairness, equality, and freedom, and can support the creation of digitally empowered communities of color.

  • Net Neutrality can help drive adoption and innovation.

Studies suggest that home adoption rates for broadband Internet service are low among communities of color. However, the accessibility and availability of more relevant content could help underscore the importance of the Internet. Net Neutrality will ensure that the Internet remains a platform for innovation, equality, connection, and community, and as a result a valued space for economic growth and democratic engagement in communities of color.

  • Net Neutrality can help close the digital divide.

When fairness is the rule, ISPs invest more. Publicly available data indicates that investment by the telephone companies was actually higher and rose substantially during the time when ISPs were subject to Net Neutrality– like regulations stemming from the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Moreover, decisions on investment and deployment are not dictated simply by Net Neutrality regulations, but depend on factors such as demand and supply, costs, competition, and overall confidence in the economy.

What is Universal Broadband?

Universal Broadband refers to the effort to define broadband as a Title II service, which would extend several FCC public interest obligations to broadband and make broadband service eligible for Universal Service Fund (USF) support. Universal Service is a concept established in 1934 to make rapid, efficient, nation- and worldwide wire and radio communication available to all people in the United States at reasonable rates, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. If the FCC declares broadband a Universal Service in the National Broadband Plan, it could:

  • Promote the availability of quality broadband services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates, and increase access to quality broadband services throughout the nation—specifically to unserved and underserved communities.
  • Open broadband up to full USF support and expand available resources, creating subsidies to consumers that alleviate pressure on their monthly bills and subsidies for companies seeking to build out networks to unserved and underserved areas.
  • Require broadband to have neutral networks that are operated in an open and nondiscriminatory manner and provide reasonably symmetric service (this means that both download and upload capacity would be protected), treating consumers as active speakers, rather than passive listeners.

Why is Universal Broadband a civil rights issue?

The nearly 70-year commitment of Congress and the FCC to Universal Service has helped to deliver essential telecommunications services and connect rural areas, the poor, schools, libraries, and communities of color to jobs, education, services, and health care. It made the telephone an indispensable communication tool, and increased the value of the public network to all users. However, serious inequities still exist. Defining broadband as a public infrastructure and Universal Service will address these inequities, help foster economic growth and democratic engagement in the poorest communities, and increase their quality of life in immeasurable ways. Broadband access and deployment to poor communities, communities of color, and rural communities is essential to the public health and public safety of our nation.

How does defining broadband as a Universal Service help communities of color?

  • Broadband is a critical piece of national infrastructure, we must protect it.

As we move into the 21st century, all people—and especially communities of color—need an affordable, accessible and well-distributed national Internet backbone. As the numbers of people of color using the Internet, and its relevance in their lives, grows, it is imperative that this critical national infrastructure not be left to the whims of the market.

  • Universal Broadband helps build empowered, engaged, connected communities.

Though the numbers of people of color online are growing, a significant digital divide still exists. As a Universal Service, broadband access and deployment to poor communities, communities of color, and rural communities will improve educational and health outcomes, support local business, and increase democratic participation and good governance. Universal Broadband can expand our ability to build community, remain culturally connected, and advocate for change.

  • Universal Broadband will increase racial justice and economic equity.

Universal Broadband will help to close the digital—and the democracy—divide, and reduce existing economic and racial gaps. Government, business, and organizations have a responsibility to champion universal accessibility, challenge anti-competitive behavior, and address unmet community needs through increasing the access, quality, and relevance of broadband services.

A Time to Conspire: The Copenhagen Moment

In environmental justice, indigenous communities, intellectual freedom, public policy, racial justice, social movements on December 7, 2009 at 7:20 am

Magazine CoverThe new issue of Left Turn magazine is out with an important article about this week’s convergence in Copenhagen by my colleague Gopal Dayaneni. Here’s a preview.

Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project

“Imagine waking up on December 1, 1999, and learning about the World Trade Organization for the first time, as a left organizer, by watching it fall apart on television. You’d probably be thinking to yourself, “Why didn’t I know about that?” or “This is a very different political moment,” or “Wow, things might really be changing.”

The potential for such a political moment is once again upon us, ten years after the collapse of the WTO in Seattle. From December 7-18, 2009, the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be meeting in Copenhagen to forge a post-Kyoto climate policy that substantially reduces atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses, while addressing the certainty that many consequences of climate destabilization are coming and will disproportionately impact the poor. The UNFCCC will also see the massive convergence of social movements, indigenous peoples and vulnerable nations from around the world.

This meeting in Copenhagen should not be thought of as being about climate or carbon. It is about everything: international trade, forests, food and agriculture, the rights of indigenous, land-based and forest peoples, resource privatization, international finance (both private and public), development rights, oceans, technology, intellectual property, migration, displacement and refugees, health, wealth, poverty, the future of human settlements, and biodiversity, to name just a few.

We all have a lot at stake. …”

Read the rest at

Or, read Movement Generation’s live blog from Copenhagen.

Grassroots groups speak up for Net Neutrality

In media justice, net neutrality, racial justice, racism on October 29, 2009 at 11:45 am

Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Network Neutrality policies that would preserve the open Internet on all wired and wireless networks. While the battle is far from over, this was a positive step forward for grassroots groups who partnered with the Media and Democracy Coalition to collect signatures in support of network neutrality from 40 grassroots groups representing communities of color, low-income communities, and other historically marginalized communities from across the U.S.

Read the coalition’s letter.


…It is well documented that people of color and low-income individuals are among the least-connected segments of the U.S. population. In 2009, 46% of African Americans had broadband at home, and only 35% of households with incomes $20,000 and under had access, compared to the national average of 63% of adult Americans. That means millions of African Americans and low income individuals fail to get jobs that their connected neighbors get; their children struggle more to complete their homework; and their voices are not heard as loudly in important civic debates.  The very real divides between race and class in U.S. society continue to be perpetuated on the Internet.

[snip]…We are also steadfast in our support for efforts at the FCC that would prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from discriminating content on the Internet.  These network neutrality rules are needed for people of color and low income individuals to be creators of Internet content that is relevant to their communities, not just consumers of content that is profitable for big cable and phone companies.

Expanding the Definition of ‘Justice’ in the PATRIOT Act Debates

In community organizing, intellectual freedom, library profession, media justice, public policy, racial justice, Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act. In the coming months the national debate about the PATRIOT Act will heat up once again. Three controversial sections of the Act are scheduled to sunset December 31, 2009. These are Sections 215 and 206 along with the “lone wolf” provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (Sec. 6001). The reauthorization process also presents new opportunities to address FBI rampant use of National Security Letters.*

Rep. Lamar Smith (TX) has already proposed legislation (HR 1467, Safe and Secure America Act) to extend certain sections, as they are currently written, with no reauthorization period for 10 years. Just last Thursday, Sens. Russ Feingold (WI) and Richard Durbin (IL) announced the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act proposing new reforms to both the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act. Yet, still, the Obama Administration supports reauthorizing the Act without any added safeguards.

In 2009, the whole of the progressive community must take coordinated action to reverse the PATRIOT Act and reinvigorate public conversation. The debate is currently framed by those who favor extending these controversial sections versus those who seek greater judicial and congressional oversight and more narrowly tailored spying. Given this context, progressive activists and librarians may decide to support civil liberties advocates, such as the ACLU and the American Library Association, in achieving the safeguards proposed by the JUSTICE Act. But, we must do so mindfully while considering the limits of those reforms.

Much of the current debate relies on constitutional arguments about the First and Fourth Amendments. This makes sense in the courts where the judiciary is only obligated to consider interpretations of the Bill of Rights. But this is not the standard on which we should base our mobilizing. More is at stake than free speech and privacy. As librarian Emily Drabinski wrote during the last reauthorization period:

“There are … fundamental limits to a strategy of resistance that is essentially reactive and narrow in focus. While librarians respond quickly and effectively to challenges posed by the Patriot Act, we have little in the way of sustained resistance to systemic forces that undermine information equity and access in less visible but more fundamental ways” (2006).

This means, fundamentally, we must address the fact that the PATRIOT Act was born in the context of neoliberalism. Its foundation was laid long before September 11, 2001. So, as we consider a shared platform for public education, grassroots actions and Washington lobbying efforts, activists and progressive librarians should frame our concerns and solutions within the frameworks of human rights and global justice. This requires some deeper vision and deeper collaboration than we have attempted.

To start, a global justice vision of intellectual freedom has at its heart a practice of active solidarity with the communities (both domestic and international) most impacted by the War on Terror, including immigrants to the U.S. regardless of their citizenship status. Our demands must include an end to racial profiling and directly challenge attacks on dissent and political speech — such attacks were recently embodied by “homegrown terrorism” legislation (H.R.1955, S.1959, 110th), which passed the House by a vote of 404–6. The bill never became law, but we can expect to see similar legislation again.

A global justice vision of intellectual freedom draws connections between privacy erosion, the growing prison system, preemptive wars and the repression of global social movements. It has at its core a commitment to the abolition of torture, indefinite detainment, secret wiretaps and other forms of government surveillance. It means overturning the PATRIOT Act, not simply reforming it. We must not lend truth to the idea that safety and human rights are at odds.

Further, the library profession, in particular, needs to achieve broader coalition than we have in the past. Section 215 (dubbed “the library provision”) is a threat to more than just library patron privacy. While the library community mobilized quickly to challenge Section 215 and succeeded in winning important changes during the last reauthorization, the revisions do not go far enough. Warrants issued under Section 215 remain a danger to community organizing groups, charities, service providers, international aid organizations and, especially, groups working with communities of color and immigrants. Section 215’s expiration provides a critical opportunity for libraries to work in coalition with other impacted groups.

What do I propose? By joining with public interest, human rights, media reform, racial justice and grassroots global justice groups, the library community might help bring these policies into greater focus. At least one example in the right direction includes the joint proposals made by contributors to the document Liberty and Security: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress. Their collaborative effort to address broad information policy issues is an example to follow. I hope to post more community-based examples to this blog as the reauthorization debate gains momentum.

The 111th Congress will make a number of important decisions over the new few months. The level of heat in those debates should be determined by the strength and coordination of our local-to-national organizing. With December 31 just around the corner, it’s time to light the match.

*NOTE: According to DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General, the FBI issued 192,499 National Security Letter requests between 2003-2006 alone. All but 3 of these NSL recipients are unknown because PATRIOT Act § 505 stipulates nondisclosure, or a gag order. We do know that San Francisco’s Internet Archive (IA) received one of these NSLs. The FBI ordered IA to turn over transactional records including the name, address, email headers, length of service, and activity logs for specific users. IA fought the request and gag in court. Details came to light in mid-2008. We should not miss the opportunity to build on the momentum of well-publicized NSL abuse.

Recommended Reading and References

Drabinski, E. (2006, Winter). Librarians and the Patriot Act. Radical Teacher. Retrieved from,

Gorham-Oscilowski, U., & Jaeger, P. T. (2008). National Security Letters, the USA PATRIOT Act, and the Constitution: The tensions between national security and civil rights. Government Information Quarterly, 25(4), 625-644.

Mart, S. N. (2008, March 12). The chains of the Constitution and legal process in the library: A post-Patriot Reauthorization Act assessment. [Unpublished working paper]. Retrieved November 25, 2008, from Social Science Research Network at UPDATED VERSION AVAILABLE: 33 OKLA. CITY U. L. REV. 435 (2008).

Office of the Inspector General. (2007a, March). A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of National Security Letters. [NSL Audit Report]. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from

Office of the Inspector General. (2007b, March). A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of Section 215 Orders for Business Records. [Section 215 Audit Report]. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from

Digital TV for the People

In community organizing, disability, information access, information policy, media justice, racial justice on April 18, 2009 at 11:53 am

3451579398_d338e3a3ffYesterday (April 17th) groups around the country teamed up for a Digital TV National Day of Action. Coordinated by the Media Action Grassroots Network, the multi-city effort is part of a months-long campaign for a more socially responsible transition to DTV (just around the corner on June 12, 2009!).

According to the coalition, “With up to 20 million people, including seniors, low mobility, low income, people of color and rural communities unready for the transition, we must ensure a no cost digital transition in the interest of democracy and the common good, not corporate profits.”

Participating cities included:

Albuquerque-Santa Fe
Minneapolis-St. Paul
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
New York City
San Antonio

For more on the public information access and public space issues at stake, along with photos and stories from the National Day of Action, see the DTV for the People blog.

Video Book Report: Popularizes Hidden History

In activism, critical pedagogy, gender, indy media, racial justice, racism, social movements on April 18, 2009 at 5:55 am

jonesI am always delighted by research that unearths lesser known histories. So, I was excited to see this community-produced video posted by Alexis Pauline Gumbs on Facebook.

It highlights the work of Sojourners for Truth & Justice in the 1950s, a national Black feminist Marxist-Leninist organization — more than a decade before the women’s lib movement. The video is based on information in the book Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones by Carol Boyce Davies (Duke 2007).

The 3-minute video is a great teaching tool and an example of how students, librarians and community leaders can produce video “book reports” to promote learning and popularize books, ideas and history for a wider audience. Alexis used this video in a locally organized study session on Black feminist history.

Watch here.

You can also read more about Claudia Jones at the blog Black Feminist Mind.

New African Activist Archive at MSU

In activism, archives, racial justice, social movements, special collections on March 2, 2009 at 2:22 pm

aaaprojectThe African Activist Archive Project is preserving records and memories of activism in the United States to support the struggles of African peoples against colonialism, apartheid, and social injustice from the 1950s through the 1990s.

The Project is building an online “people’s archive”including video, photos, written and oral history, documents and artifacts such a buttons and posters. According to the website, “The U.S. African solidarity movement was racially diverse and was a significant part of the broad struggle against racism in the United States. The movement involved many types of organizations across the country, and this project seeks to document as many organizations as possible that participated in activist work in solidarity with African people’s struggles. The geographic focus of activism in the collection is Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe; however, this focus is not exclusive.

This movement offers important lessons about popular organizing for social justice. The anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s-1994, in particular, was unprecedented. Campaigns by community activists, students, faculty, churches, unions, and city, county, and state legislators led to divestment from U.S. companies doing business in South Africa and culminated in passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 that changed U.S. foreign policy over President Reagan’s veto.”

The archive invites anyone who can help document additional campaigns and organizations to contribute to the website or donate materials to a physical archive.

Get started by browsing here.

Chicago Magazine Explores 1968 Legacy

In archives, class, community organizing, indy media, racial justice, social movements on December 20, 2008 at 6:51 am

Peggy Terry VP Campaign PosterContinuing on the theme of the 1968 anniversary, an excerpt from my forthcoming book** was published this week in Chicago’s AREA magazine.

Issue #7 of AREA presents a look back at Chicago in 1968, its meaning, its art, and its vibrant  though lesser known rebellions. Read Rebecca Zorach’s Introduction here.

My contribution focuses on JOIN Community Union and the political transformation of one of its members, Peggy Terry. Terry, a southern-born poor white woman, became the heart of JOIN’s welfare and housing rights work, and later ran for vice-president in 1968 on the Peace & Freedom Party ticket with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. Terry didn’t ever expect to win, but she had another victory in mind: negating the influence of presidential candidate and renown racist George Wallace in poor white communities.

Read the except here: Uptown’s JOIN Community Union, 1964-1966

Other great features in AREA Issue #7:

**The book tentatively titled Keep on the Firing Line will be published in January 2010, and traces the history of five little-known community groups that organized white working-class communities against racism and poverty during the 1960s. It was coauthored with James Tracy.