Redeem the Dream
(Opportunity & Justice = Equity)
Monique Perkins, Director of Programs at Marin City
Community Development Corporation
WEAP Executive Director Ethel Long-Scott got a standing ovation from Marin County residents after a passionate half-hour Martin Luther King Day speech laying out a vision of a better world for all.
She told a Marin City audience of nearly 200 people at a “Redeem The Dream” celebration that when the need for social change is as great as it is right now, there are three ways that happens – from the courts, through public policy and in the streets.
“We need to build a broad transformative movement with organizing campaigns that show how we can establish a new social contract that puts the things we need into the public domain, from housing, to education, to health care, for the safety and security of all society!” she said.
Not quite 50 years ago, she said, there was another occupy movement begun by a man who gave his life trying to prevent an economic mess like the one we are in. His name was Dr. Martin Luther King, and six months before he was assassinated he issued a call for people to take to the streets in a poor people’s movement for economic justice.
The result, she said, was that, “thousands of people of all races from all parts of the country, people who did not share in the economic prosperity of those days of intense civil rights activity, traveled by train and by bus and even by mule train to Washington D.C. to protest economic injustice . . . They didn’t call it “Occupy Washington” in those days, they called it Resurrection City.” And in May of 1968 about 2,500 people camped out in tents and plywood huts in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Long-Scott said that if he were alive today, “Dr. King would likely draw attention to the shameful role of all three branches of government in today’s unending economic assault against democracy.
“So what has changed?” she asked. “Why do we see what amount to Resurrection City encampments occupying hundreds of American cities when it’s so clear that lots of the rigid racial barriers Dr. King fought against have fallen? Our children do not think in the limited racial categories that guided thinking in the 1950s and 1960s. What battles are we fighting now that would be familiar to Dr. King if he were here?”
The call for economic security in those days was for “jobs, unemployment insurance, a fair minimum wage, and education.” Those demands are familiar to the occupiers of today, Long-Scott said. But today the terms are less racial and more class-based.
“What has changed is that we are in the midst of an economic revolution that is dramatically altering the nature of capitalism, but our leaders are pretending it isn’t so,” she said. “This is happening because digital technology and the computerized control systems and robots it spawned have fundamentally disrupted our economy. It’s a huge change, as big as the Industrial Revolution, because digital technology and globalization have changed the basic relationship between labor and profits that is the fundamental enabler of capitalism.”
It no longer takes huge numbers of people to make things, she said. “Every day the list of goods and services produced by computer-controlled machines instead of people grows longer. It’s no longer possible to have the capitalism that your grandparents and parents grew up under.”
Corporations and the super-rich understand this, Long-Scott told the crowd in Marin City’s Manzanita Recreation Center, and are successfully bribing elected officials of both major political parties to “guarantee that the super rich will continue to get richer at the expense of workers and the middle income and poor . . . This is the power of government being used to reorganize society so that private corporate power dominates everything and public services nearly disappear. The drive to set up anti-democratic government is pushed on a federal level, in our states and local municipalities.”
She cited one report that from 1979 to 2006 the income of the top 1% increased by 250% “. . . and we know what happened to middle class income during that time. The census bureau now says 146 million Americans are low income – that’s nearly half of the American population!”
The digital economic revolution began more than 40 years ago and rolled first through manufacturing jobs, devastating blue collar industries and creating a “rust belt” of abandoned factories as corporations mechanized jobs and shifted them overseas to countries with cheaper labor, Long-Scott said.
Twenty years ago it began eliminating white collar and professional jobs, and today it is slashing the jobs of government workers, the very people who are supposed to be working for the common good of all.
“As the digital economic revolution rolled forward, some captains of industry and their political allies maneuvered to secure their own economic positions,” Long-Scott said. “As a result the economic boom of the 1990s made the rich much, much richer without doing anything to improve the declining situation of blue collar workers and the poor. That was how determined our political and business leaders were to use the profits from digital technology for their own private gain.”
“Our elected officials from both major parties are setting things up to guarantee that the super rich will continue to get richer at the expense of workers and the middle income and poor. The Occupy movement has been important for bringing attention to the fact that all of this is being driven by an economic revolution that should be used to provide a more secure life for everyone by expanding public resources instead delivering them to private interests.”
“. . . We need a new vision of the possible that will transform society. One thing the digital economic revolution makes possible is an unprecedented abundance that could deliver the necessities of life to everyone. That’s not what it’s being used for, but it could be.
Two days after Long-Scott spoke, the Marin Community Foundation released a report documenting “exceedingly lopsided . . . stark disparities” of wealth and access to opportunity in Marin County.
Its findings included:
- The distribution of income in Marin is exceedingly lopsided; the top fifth of Marin taxpayers take home about 71 percent of the county’s total income. The bottom fifth earns 1.3 percent of the total income.
- Residents in Ross are likely to live 13 years longer than residents in the Hamilton neighborhood of Novato—88 years compared to 75.2 years, with longevity in Ross a decade longer than the national average. Plus, the median personal earnings of Ross residents are more than double those of the typical American worker, while the typical worker in the Canal area of San Rafael earns just over $21,000, about the same as an American worker in the late 1960s.
September 27th, 2011 Teach-In:Defending Democracy and Anti- Corporate, Anti-Poverty, & Class Rights
On September 27th WEAP hosted our monthly Teach-In and Round Table discussion onDefending Democracy and Anti- Corporate, Anti-Poverty, & Class rights featuring renowned guests, Reverend Edward and Dorothy Pinkney. We were honored to have the Pinkneys join us from the impoverished Rust Belt town of Benton Harbor, Michigan, the first American city to be placed under Michigan’s new Emergency Financial Manager law. Controlled by corporate powers of Whirlpool, the residents of Benton Harbor face extreme economic crisis with 90 percent unemployed and 70 percent living in poverty.
Over 30 people come out for the discussion, representing 10 organizations and universities across the Bay Area including Hip Hop Congress, BOSS, CA Black Women’s Health Project, CHAM Ministry, SEIU 1021 and St. Mary’s College. WEAP Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott opened the Round Table discussion with commentary on the economic transformation we are facing, and the impact of multiple state cuts to Social Service especially as they relate to public sector workers the safety net. California is now entering the same crisis that has afflicted the Rust Belt for over a decade. With unemployment at depression era levels, and severe cutbacks to important programs, cities are declaring fiscal emergency while corporate profits at record highs. The State government is actively dismantling services, education, and health care programs for working people it now considers disposable.
Ms. Long-Scott posed the question, “how do we elevate and advance the battles. What will it take for us?” To explore this question, the discussion turned to the Reverend Edward and Dorothy Pinkney who bring a considerable moral high ground to the battle and are in the “in the business of freeing minds.” WEAP volunteer Austin Long-Scott introduced the reverend and his wife who have been working for years to defend our hopes. The couple joined WEAP as part of their Northern California tour as national spokespersons against police brutality, courtroom injustice, and corporate dictatorship.
Reverend Edward and Dorothy Pinkney opened their presentation reminding us that “education is a powerful tool and that with organizing and persistence, the people can win against corporations,” as they have proved with their battle against Whirlpool. Reverend Edward Pinkney is President of the Benton Harbor NAACP and has been singled out for political attack because of his years of outspoken criticism of the takeover of his local City government by Whirlpool Corporation. He spent a year in prison in 2008-09 for the “crime” of quoting a curse from Deuteronomy Chapter 28 in an article condemning the behavior of a local judge. An appeals court later reversed his conviction.
The city of Benton Harbor represents a window into the future of any city across the nation that faces industrial collapse. The city is the home of Whirlpool, which formerly employed most of the residents there. But the closing of its last manufacturing plant in March of 2011, resulted in massive unemployment and a per Capita income $10,000 year. In extreme opposition to this poverty lies the corporate interests of the Whirlpool family and the wealthy residents of Benton Harbor’s “Twin City,” St. Joseph, Michigan that has a per capita income of over 3 times that of Benton Harbor. Recently, the State appointed an Emergency Financial Manager that has taken complete control of Benton Harbor’s laws, stripping the Commission of any rights to make decisions.
The Pinkney’s have led a battle against the injustice facing Benton Harbor by organizing actions with over 5000 people and over 10 cities resulting a recall on the commissioner of Whirlpool, the largest family in Benton Harbor with tremendous financial backing. When asked by a participant of the Round Table how he was able to organize and build so much momentum, reverend Pinkney offered these tools: Petitions – go door to do to talk to people register voters and use absentee ballots, spread the word with newspapers that advance the cause of the poor & workers rights such as People’s Tribune and also to use the same media as corporations use to communicate the message. He also described one of his strategies called “Court Watching” where he documents what goes on in courthouses, monitor judges, court-appointed attorneys and prosecutors.
Other states hope to copy the new Michigan law that allows appointed financial managers to strip elected city officials of their power. The effects of globalization, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the shredding of the social safety net are pushing the rest of us into destitution while corporations rake in record profits. The Pinkney’s leadership and vision is an inspiration for all of us and a call to action for all us to continue to fight and organize.
On August 18, 2011 WEAP presented a Teach-In titled, “The Debt Deal & Its Impact on Poverty, Health Care Reform & Workers Rights.” The discussion focused on the broken healthcare system and included a budget analysis towards a human rights agenda. WEAP also discussed our main campaigns, “Health Care is an Economic Human Right” and the“World Courts of Women” as a way to mobilize and build unity around the impact of recent budget cuts specifically to Medi-Cal and Medicaid.
At the table were guests from United Food Commercial Workers Local 5 (UFCW 5), Hip Hop Congress, California Black Women’s Health Project, LifeLong, BOSS, Healthcare-NOW!, SEIU 1021 among other distinguished leaders and community members. The discussion began with a presentation from Lucinda Bazille of LifeLong Medical Center giving an overview of the $1.5 trillion to be cut from public programs and the burden this has on unionized workers. She also shed light on the recent creation of the “Super Committee” that will decide how the budget will get spent.
With corporations taking over, people are being told there is no money, but there is an amassing of wealth by a few, who do not get taxed or redistribute their wealth like working people do. The discussion posed the question of what will limitations, capping, eligibility changes do to people’s actual health and not just their ability to get access to care? How can it lead to more financial burden on working and low-income people?
Ms. Bazille urged participants to call and write letters to Congress people to mark such cuts as absurdity.
The discussion then turned to a budget analysis looking at the ripple effect from federal cuts down to state level and the impact of these cuts. We heard testimony from a current Cal-WORKS participant on her increasing struggle to provide for her and her family and the lack of support from social workers.
The final portion of the teach-In was a discussion on an important campaign that WEAP is working on, the World Courts of Women on Poverty in The US (WCW). Organizing work is happening regionally & nationally for the upcoming event. WEAP will be hosting the Western regional WCW and is in the planning stages of this monumental event. For more information on the history of the WCW, see the more detailed report on WEAP’s website: World Courts of Women on Poverty in the U.S. For a detailed report on the August 18th meeting go to this page.
July 17th Teach-In & US Social Forum Report Back
On July 21st, WEAP continued the ongoing Teach-In & Leadership Training lunch series with a session following the ground breaking 2010 US Social Forum in Detroit. Attendees who joined the 22,000 participants at the Social Forum reported on their experiences in Michigan. Highlights included the breadth of experiences and inspirational advocates in attendance. With such a diverse population, including well over 3,000 persons under the age of 19, a wide range of ideas and points-of-view were shared at the event. One event goer has this to say: “The overwhelming power, strength, and voice of the poor was unbelievable.”
Through the USSF, the rights framework was used (although not always explicitly), with many emphasizing the need to redefine poverty, resistance, and the social safety net to better reflect the changing landscape of America. Perhaps most inspirational was the commitment each group and attendee made to continue their efforts back home, bringing with them a fresh batch of ideas and solid plans to work together towards a broad social movement.
The teach-in continued with a discussion of California budget cuts and its affects on our most vulnerable citizens. A representative from LifeLong and Representative Nancy Skinner each gave a talk regarding the ludicrous denial of basic human rights by individuals and by a broken political system. As communities we need to stand up and talk to other groups about changes in revenue and tax strategies in California, as well as the way these problems are part of larger societal issues. The same corporate interests that threaten the lives of California’s elderly and disabled are indicative of the same problems that caused the terrible BP oil spill in the gulf. See our calendar for upcoming Teach-In date.
July 14th Teach-In & Round Table
July 14th saw the continuation of WEAP’s ongoing Teach-In & Dialogue series. Titled ‘Workers Rights/Human Rights: Way Way for America?”, WEAP was joined by representatives of Lifelong Medical health centers, CHAM, Hip Hop Congress, the Oakland California Immigrant Policy Center, Safe Ground, and more. The session began with a discussion of the national Medicare and Medicaid developments and their effects on workers, elderly, and the disabled. With caps being placed on medications and doctor visits, patients’ lives are being threatened. Adult-care centers are being decimated and entirely removed, and the Department of Human Assistance will soon no longer exist. While the stated intention is to filter the individuals using these services into other programs, alternatives are being devastated themselves and have little room for those in need. The cuts that went into effect July 1st now impact 7 million people, many of whom have run out of options.
Many attendees shared their own experiences, from being turned down by doctors now less willing to accept Medicaid to the gutting of low-income housing in San Jose. The effects of the current California budget crisis is wide spread and disastrous. Low-income families, particular those with children, are struggling more every day. In the words of Sandy Perry, “Without organizing, we cannot do anything.”
The Teach-In continued with a brief discussion of ongoing efforts to achieve single-payer health care for all. This featured a video by Healthcare Now! as part of their “ Put Medicare for All on the Map ” campaign. We encourage all our allies to participate.
The Teach-In drew to a close with an update on the World Court of Women event schedulaed for next year. Drawing on various human rights commissions and a history of thirty-seven other courts of women, the upcoming event is growing moment but needs the continued support of our allies. We invite our readers to learn more about endorsing and sponsoring the WCW and join in our planning committee.
The Human Faces of Health Care
Yesterday’s Assembly Health Care Committee passage of SB 810 was the result of thousands of efforts like the recent “Human Faces of Health Care” event held at Andrew Hill High School in San Jose. The June 12 health fair was a significant success, with about 200 people attending including many dozens of volunteers. Some 40 people received blood sugar screening and counseling, and an additional 40 received blood pressure tests and counseling.
In addition, there were information and referral services provided by 18 agencies and organizations that came to table, and two excellent panels of doctors, nurses, and community and labor leaders. Panelists introduced the idea of single payer health care and SB 810 to scores of people who had never heard of it before, and encouraged them to continue fighting for health justice during these difficult times.
Supervisor George Shirakawa’s office was indispensable to the success of the event. Working with Principal Bettina Lopez, they secured the location for us at Andrew Hill High School and opened the door to participation of school staff, especially the Health and Human Services Program led by Mary Metz-Foley.
Supervisor Shirakawa also helped us connect with St. Maria Goretti Parish, Cryout Christian Fellowship, and Seventrees Neighborhood Group, whose president Elizabeth Contreras became one of our panelists.
Assemblymember Jim Beall addressed the event at noon with a report on the progress of SB 810 in the legislature. He stressed the importance of including coverage for mental health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation in health care reform.
In addition, SIREN (Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network) was instrumental in introducing us to the Andrew Hill area neighborhood, where it arranged for us to speak at three of the Cafecito PTAs and at the Seventrees Elementary School Cinco de Mayo celebration.
We have always felt that without the active involvement of immigrants we will never win a truly universal health care system. We were able to provide simultaneous Spanish translation for the entire program, and Vietnamese translation for part of it.
We look forward to continuing to work with Andrew Hill residents in the future and perhaps even making this an annual event. The battle for our human right to health care can only sharpen as Wall Street corporations step up their efforts to loot our society of every last shred of dignity and compassion for one another.
Immigrant Rights/Worker’s Rights – Teach-In & Dialogue
On May 27th, WEAP brought together an assortment of leaders and activists to discuss the recent anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona, California budget cuts, the United States Social Forum, and the future of health care reform at our continuing Teach-In & Dialogue series. We were fortunate enough to bring together representatives from Journey For Justice, Safe Ground, Local 2 Union, CA Immigrant Policy Center, Lifetime, and more. Each shared their perspective, from the experience of single-mothers to homelessness, from policy analysis to training young doctor for low income communities – connecting each of our struggles to a wider issue.
An excellent presentation by Doctor Sal Sandoval put the Arizona legislation, and its copycat bills, into a historical context. This bill is part of a long history of blaming immigrants for social and economic troubles. During the great depression, half a million people were deported as people began to blame the recession on immigrants of various races and ethnicities. Right wing organizations are exploiting the national anger, depression, and confusion over the current economic recession to divide workers and foment racist animosity.
Moving forward, we need to reframe these issues from a class perspective. As Isaac Menashe from California Immigrant Policy Center illuminated, there is no factual basis for much of the ant-immigrant sentiments. Instead, purveyors of racist fears use misinformation for their own benefit. We continued to discuss these trends within a wider history of exploitation and the lack of protection of human rights. From the oil spill in the gulf to the terrible budget cuts in California that are slashing essential social services, numerous injustices are taking place while a few individuals and corporations become richer and richer. We concluded with an orientation and discussion on the importance of the upcoming US Social Forum. We encourage you to learn more by heading over to the USSF home page.
“Changing The Work Place Changing The World”
The 6th annual regional leadership conference
Sponsored by the National Organization of Working Women 9 to 5
On April 8th, WEAP participated in “Changing The Work Place Changing The World” the 6th annual regional leadership conference sponsored by Working Women 9 to 5, a national organization devoted to labor rights.. Labor activists and South Bay elected officials joined together to discuss issues of equal pay, wage discrimination and the dismantling of social safety nets. Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott, was invited to speak along with former Assemblywoman Sally Lieber. Long-Scott discussed our human right to fair wages. She also addressed the destruction of social safety nets and the realities of the working poor.
Executive Director Long-Scott also lead a workshop on Wage Theft, focusing on trends in contractual public service employees. Almost all of the workshop participants identify as having been victims of wage theft from current or former employers. In some cases, individuals have gone as long as 3 months without pay.
The conference concluded with a powerful presentation from the chair of the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee, Assembly member Jim Beall. Beall explained the difficulty in advocating for legislation aimed at increasing eligibility for programs that provide food, health care and housing in today’s political climate. He also discussed several legislative proposals that present viable solutions to top issues affecting California’s labor and wage problems, signs of hope for a struggling community
March 4th Day of Action
On March 4th, WEAP participated in a protest against impending budget cuts into the California education system. WEAP joined with thousands of students and teachers rallying under the slogan “”No cuts! No fees! Education should be free!” Spending cuts across all levels of education in California, including a 30% increase in University of California and State university tuition fees, has crippled the idea of “public” education.
The cost of the recession is increasingly on the shoulders of students and teachers. Meanwhile, the quality of public education in California has been degraded, decreasing student services and increasing class size. Students, teachers, concerned parents, and activists across the state are rallying together to give education back to everyone. From here in Oakland, to Los Angeles, and across the nation, events like this are parts of a larger struggle for our human rights.
Pre-March Teach-In and Training
On January 19th, preceding a march for affordable housing in San Francisco, several advocates from SafeGround Sacramento participated in a WEAP Teach-In & Leadership Training. Our opening comments stressed the changing economic landscape, the dismantling of social safety nets, and the need for a unified vision and strategy. All over the country, affecting people with all sorts of backgrounds, basic needs are not being met. There is an opportunity for those most affected to come to the table and become leaders.
The remainder of the training discussed WEAP’s tools and methodologies, including rights violations surveys, truth commissions, and education. Participants filled out the health care addendum to rights violations survey and added their voices to numerous individuals who have experienced our broken health care system.
We concluded with a discussion about the current budget crisis in California and strategies Schwarzenegger is exploiting to make deep cuts into social services. Using words like “cap” instead of “cut” is indicative of legal wording tricks. Meanwhile, crucial services like SSI, MediCal, and all services to legal immigrants here for less than five years have been slashed. It is crucial for activists and advocates to fight the protection of wealth and the propaganda that delegitimizes the movement to protect our human rights.
Healthcare-NOW! Strategy Conference
On November 14th, WEAP participated in Healthcare-NOW!’s national strategy conference in St. Louis, MO. Activists from around the country joined together to plan a strategy to achieve a guranteed single-payer universal health care program. Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott, was invited to speak to the assembly. The following video is a portion of this speech. Here you can find the written speech in its entirety.
The annual Health Care Now Strategy conference took place just one week after the Senate passed “The Health Care Reform Act”. This factor significantly affected the mood and tone of the strategy conference. Participants representing labor, health care professionals, teachers, and social workers from across the nation were exasperated by the seemingly endless struggle towards real, fair, and comprehensive health care reform.
The dominant quandary in the strategy conference was messaging. How can Health Care Now move their single payer health care as human rights message forward, given the current political climate? How can we draw attention to the universal mandate to protect and care for everyone regardless of class, race, or gender
WEAP offered the Strategy Conference participants several options at generating strong grass roots support for health care as human right and single payer option. In her speech the first evening of the conference Director Ethel Long Scott presented both a question and a solution. Long-Scott asked “What should we do as we go forward? We can go forward by building outreach based on human rights values.”
WEAP’s delegates presented a workshop at the conference that further reinforced Long-Scotts message. The delegates shared powerful personal stories in their plight as working class women. They presented evidence of our failing social safety nets, from the lack of health care to the lack of housing. The delegates also spoke of the empowerment they had obtained through WEAP’S teachings and learning tools. WEAP invited the strategy conference participants to use WEAP’s methodologies, toolkits, website and written material to promote a grass-roots agenda that changes the social values surrounding poverty, illness, and health care.
WEAP & St. Mary’s College Leadership Training
In October WEAP participated in a Leadership & Social Justice Conference put on by St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. Joined by Patrizia Longo, Professor of Politics and Women’s Studies, and about twenty-three of her students, WEAP began a health care discussion. WEAP addressed the fact that our health care delivery in the U.S. is a for-profit business directed by major financial corporations that consider health less important than profits. Questions about health care delivery, the relationship between health and corporations, and the human right to health led to students sharing their own experiences of a lack of health care for them and their families.
The students had strong opinions in support of some form of Universal or National Health Care Plan. They also expressed concerned over the right wing propaganda against health care that fueled confusion and misinformation. A brief presentation on health care as a human right was followed by a personal story from Prof. Longo comparing Italy’s health care system and her experience as a young pregnant graduate student in the U.S.
WEAP shared the importance of a new vision and a new strategy built around the human right to health care, as well as specific tools we use to advance comprehensive health care reform as a part of a new social contract. We put forward the importance of linking health care reform to poverty elimination.
This St. Mary’s session concluded with discussion about activism, and how taxpayers can direct funds that reflect their values and not those of elected officials. WEAP emphasized the importance and significance of empirical and qualitative data on social reform. Accordingly, each student filled out a health care addendum to WEAP’s human rights violation survey report, providing an invaluable service towards the education and advocacy for human rights for all.
Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Disease (WORLD) in Oakland
On October 20th, 2009, WEAP held a Leadership Training and Information Session in conjunction with Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Disease (WORLD) in Oakland. Our discussion of tragically inadequate treatment of the sick and poor was bolstered by the presence of WORLD members and people from Life Long Medical Health Clinic, each with their own personal experiences.
WEAP’s Human Rights framework was brought into the training early as a tool to change the health care narrative, creating a moral responsibility to provide health care for all. By focusing on the importance of this responsibility, and the importance of reporting rights violations, we are better able to understand our situation today and what we need to work towards.
CJTC Santa Cruz: Building a Movement to End Health Disparities and Poverty
On May 19, 2009 WEAP’s Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott, was invited to speak as the 10th Annual Spring Speaker during an event organized by The Center for Justice, Tolerance, and Community (CJTC) at UC Santa Cruz. In a packed room of approximately 300 people, Long-Scott spoke passionately about health care and poverty issues, as her talk was themed “Health Care is a Human Right: Building a Movement to End Health Disparities and Poverty.” Covering the broad, structural reasons for our country’s economic turmoil to begin, she also spoke about how single payer, universal health care could help millions, challenging the audience to participate in the creation of a broad movement for health care that is a human right . The following morning, several WEAP members met with two UCSC student groups, Chicanos in Health Education (CHE) and the Black Science Network (BSN) during a breakfast meeting sponsored by El Centro Resource Center. The purpose of this meeting was to re-emphasize the importance of the human rights framework in the health care struggle and the use of educational tools when advocating for health justice.
On April 29th at Mills College in Oakland and again on April 30th at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, WEAP put on two screening events for the documentary, The Water Front. Earlier this year, WEAP joined the Water Rights campaign, which is lead by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. This campaign seeks to raise awareness about the increasing dangers of water privatization, domestically and internationally, and to stop local water shut-offs. Both screenings of the film were largely lead and facilitated by WEAP student interns from Mills and St. Mary’s College and were shown primarily to other students, family, and community members. Both screenings also included a post-film discussion, in which audience members expressed their outrage about the very apparent human rights violations that take place in the film. If you are interested in learning more about the fight to secure our human right to water or are interested in putting on your own screening, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
From April 20-22, 2009 WEAP members traveled to New York and joined with the Rochester arm of the Social Welfare Action Alliance (SWAA) in anti-poverty leadership development, education, and organizing work. Both WEAP and SWAA are members of the umbrella organization, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign(PPEHRC). For three exciting days, WEAP educated and organized for “Health care as a Human Right” by teaching about Single Payer & Universal Health Care, sounding the alarm against unjust health care “Individual Mandates,” and highlighting the immediate need to end poverty and build a broad social movement to secure the health justice we need in the United States right now. To spotlight the urgent need to end poverty, WEAP’s Executive Director Ethel Long-Scott, appeared on two radio shows (WDKX radio and WXXI radio) and conducted two major speaking engagements (at the State University of New York and the Dugan Center of St. Mary’s Church). Throughout, the people of Rochester responded positively to the vision that WEAP presented, articulating their great need and desire for change.
In the last week of March 2009, WEAP’s Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott, traveled to Rambouillet, France to join organizers working in some of the world’s most voiceless and invisible populations in order to discuss how to strengthen the voices of billions of marginalized people. Among the concerns of the nearly 40 participants was that bad times in the world economy could literally squeeze the life out of many of the people they have been working to support. As organizers, they represented dozens of countries from every major continent. Most came from grassroots “self-help” networks that are little known to most people. The topics ranged from how water privatization is denying people access to clean water to the brutal affects of the criminalization of HIV. In other words, they discussed the increasing abuses of people’s basic human rights, discussing whether organizing globally would make them stronger. The primary issues covered at the conference were how to get more of the world’s poorest and most marginalized people to speak up for themselves, instead of having others speak for them, and how to get more effective international support for the changes they need to improve their lives.
“Health Care is a Human Right” Training
On February 20th, 2009, WEAP, along with the assistance of community members from CHAM, STRONG, and CNA, conducted a four hour and a half “Health Care is a Human Right” orientation training with a Sociology & Women’s Studies class led by Professor Ganote at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. WEAP has worked with St. Mary’s College since 2002, believing the partnership to be an excellent opportunity to not only bring academia and the broader community together, but to push students to think about issues such as health care through a human rights and social movements framework. Throughout the training, the students were engaged, eager to learn, and demonstrated a keen insight into the current health care crisis and possible solutions to the problems plaguing our for-profit health care system. Like in the past, WEAP looks forward to working with these students on several community-based projects over the course of the spring semester.
WEAP’s Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott, was invited to participate and facilitate a workshop discussion during Mayor Dellums’ Model City Summit on Women held February 17, 2009 at the Oakland Marriot Convention Center. The widely attended workshop was entitled “And Still I Rise: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.” Joining Ethel for this discussion were: Cherri Allison, Esq. – Executive Director of the Family Violence Law Center, Nola Brantley- Executive Director of MISSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth), and Carolyn Thomas-Russell- Executive Director of A Safe Place. These phenomenal and moving women shared their perspectives on Poverty Elimination versus Poverty Management, the horrific realities and statistics of Domestic Violence, and the work being done in Oakland to address youth and adults typically labeled as “throw away people.” WEAP posed several questions around how we can begin to break the cycle of poverty because living free of poverty is our HUMAN RIGHT! Several panelists and participants expressed how interconnected domestic violence, poverty, and abuse are and that we must start exploring ways to prioritize prevention rather than simply intervention and ensure everyone has access to healthy food, adequate housing, a clean environment, control over her/his own life, and be able to fully participate in decisions about her/his community.
60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights
On December 10th, 2008, WEAP attended a commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the creation of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights put on by Oakland’s St. Mary’s Center. Across the world, millions celebrated in the name of “Dignity and Justice for All of Us” and the recognition of basic human rights inherent to all people. At St. Mary’s Senior Center, and affiliate of the California Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, the celebrations focused on a remembrance for the homeless who died in 2008. Seniors took turns speaking about their friends and the disappeared of America through songs, poems, and eulogies. The seniors also spoke on the need for universal health care and affordable food and housing for everyone. The day concluded by celebrating the publication and release of the Oakland Institute and St. Mary’s Center’s collaboration on Going Gray in the Golden State, which documents the root causes of poverty among Oakland’s seniors in a city with the largest population of impoverished seniors.
2008 Healthcare-NOW! Strategy Conference
ONE PLAN, ONE NATION! – A rallying call and demand for a bailout for America’s workers, families, and poor. At Healthcare-NOW’s two-day 2008 annual strategy session in Chicago, WEAP provided leadership in the discussion around the direction of the Single Payer, Universal Health Care movement for the upcoming year. The meeting brought together dozens of organizations and labor unions from around the country, including NNOC, CNA, PNHP, IBEW, PDA, AFL-CIO, UE, and the UAW just to name a few. Congressman John Conyers, who sponsors the current federal legislation for Single Payer (H.R. 676), was a constant presence, speaking and answering questions both days of the conference. WEAP, joined by ally STRONG, presented on how the Human Rights Framing can be a valuable strategy in this movement and the importance of Truth Commissions/Hearings going forward in our fight to secure health care for all. We also played a primary role in stressing the importance of linking health reform with poverty elimination in the budding single payer movement. WEAP was clear that we must continue to mobilize for health care that is comprehensive and inclusive to everyone, otherwise we will miss a great opportunity to really fight for change that secures our rights and raises the well being of America’s people. To read more about the conference, check out Healthcare-Now’s summary.
On October 25th, 2008 WEAP joined dozens of other social justice organizations at the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry (CHAM)’s “Reclaiming the Right to Housing” event. Over four hours of presentations and small group discussion sessions were held, giving everyone the opportunity to elevate the discussion around the plague that is consuming individuals from all walks of life. The fact that Housing as a Human Right has been denied to millions of people in the United States was elaborated on by presenters and facilitators from CHAM, WEAP, MAIZ, the Western Regional Advocacy Project, Youth United for Community Action, Affordable Housing Network, Low Income Self-Help Network, and many others. Several courageous individuals donated their time in order to testify and share their knowledge about the obstacles prohibiting people from living a healthy lifestyle, such as predatory equity, immigration status, health care bills, poverty, and the decreasing availability of employment in the job market. Thus, the event significantly connected the lack of affordable and quality housing to other economic human rights violations: the lack of food, health care, education, and living wage jobs. While several short term and long term solutions were discussed, the primary demands made during the event were ending the privatization of housing and holding the government responsible for supplying the means and resources necessary for all to enjoy healthy and productive lives.
The International “Eradication of Poverty” Day
For over two decades now, October 17th has been set aside as an observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In Oakland, St. Mary’s Center held its third annual community gathering in order to educate about this critical subject and honor the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger. A special focus was put on children this year while the overall message boldly affirmed that poverty is a violation of human rights. WEAP, who has partnered together with St. Mary’s for almost three decades, took part in the planning and education of the event, which garnered the sponsorship of a wide array of community organizations including the Alameda County Food Bank, AmeriCorps, Health Access, and the Children’s Defense Fund. WEAP also actively participated in the event by providing several testimonies on the subjects of poverty, health care, and family support. WEAP Executive Director, Ethel-Long Scott, was bestowed the honor of giving a speech on the history of the CA Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, emphasizing the role it has played in breaking the silence around poverty and building a broad social movement to ensure that our basic economic human rights are respected.
WEAP joined hundreds of local SEIU union members and other working people at the September 30, 2008 Oakland City Council meeting to protest and rally against the proposed 15% cuts to city services and city service jobs. Cuts would include parks, libraries, and adult literacy programs among others. In comparison, no cuts have been proposed to the Oakland city police department, whose vast overtime costs are a major factor in Oakland’s $42 million budget deficit this year. WEAP’s Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott, spoke in support of SEIU workers and other working people’s right to a living wage job and against the possibility of hundreds of Oakland residents taking pay cuts, or worse, losing their jobs. Importantly, WEAP and other working people pointed out how cutting Oakland residents’ jobs, in lieu of contracting in cheaper labor, will only continue to hinder the creation of a healthy community by exacerbating poverty and thus fostering increases in violence. To learn more, visit SEIU Local 1021, or view local channel 7’s media of the event by clicking here.
September 2, 2008 “March for Our Lives” in St. Paul, Minnesota
Throughout the entire month of August, the national Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) held actions throughout Minnesota in preparation for the March for Our Lives at the Republican National Convention on September 2, 2008. WEAP, as hosts of the CA PPEHRC, sent a delegation of six people to the last week of events. Throughout the event, WEAP and the CA PPEHRC provided and lead opportunities to teach on “Health Care is a Human Right” at Bushville, the PPEHRC homeless encampment where many members and allies stayed. The day before the march, a National Truth Commission was held and WEAP Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott, spoke on California poverty and health injustices, while also calling for the poor and low-income to stand up together in demanding a new vision and a new agenda to secure economic human rights for everyone. On the last day, Long-Scott again spoke at the rally that kicked off the March for Our Lives. Despite heavy police intimidation tactics, the March grew to several thousand as it neared the Republican National Convention in order to highlight Crimes Against Humanity. Ample media attention of the March and supporting events helped make the March for Our Lives an important victory for poor people and the movement to end poverty. View videos of the March, Ethel Long-Scott speaking, and a PPEHRC Democracy NOW interview to learn more about the experience.
July 16th “Health Care is an Economic Human Right” Teach-In & Dialogue
WEAP continues its Teach-In & Dialogue series by holding several members of the community at the WEAP office to discuss and educate around the nation’s health care crisis. The day was kicked off by a WEAP presentation on the ubiquitous dangers of the CA budget cuts and was followed up by Assemblyman Swanson’s aid, Annie Flores, reporting on the MediCal situation. The meeting also included discussions on the increasing corporatization of Medicare, the growing numbers of the underinsured, and the most recent “veiled” threat to true universal health care: the new Health Care for America NOW campaign. We ended, once again, discussing the need to secure Health Care as a Human Right for ALL through the building of a resident’s movement!
June 28th Journey for Justice: Addressing the Crime of Poverty
In a blaring hot Chowchilla, CA, dozens of activists and community leaders came together for the Central Valley’s 3rd Annual Journey for Justice on June 28, 2008.Tying the array of poverty issues all together was a common culprit and common solution: big business and the absolute necessity of taking profit out of the picture when it comes to human lives. As the day progressed, a second theme was eventually born out of the fruitful discussion: a desperate need for a “Revolution in our Values”.
June 19th Nationwide Health Insurance Protests
On June 19th, WEAP joined over 3,000 community and labor activists, nurses, doctors, social workers, and other passionate community members in front of San Francisco’s Moscone Center for over an hour to protest against the National Health Insurance Industry. The protest was also a celebration of the anniversary of the emancipation from slavery and reminded everyone participating that we fight for our emancipation from health insurance corporations and their enslavement of the health care system.
2008 Truth Commission & Public Hearing
Stories, testimonies, speeches, and presentations were all heard at the May 15, 2008, Truth Commission & Public Hearing on Health Care hosted by WEAP at St. Mary’s Center in Oakland. This was the third in a series of nationwide truth commissions, all themed around breaking the silence about the US health care crisis, the threat of individual mandates, and educating on the only real solution: single payer universal health care. Check out WEAP’s Health Care: A Human Right Pamphlet for more information.
Healthcare-NOW! Strategy Conference
In Chicago on November 10-11, 2007, WEAP joined dozens of other organizations and labor unions from 30 different states at Healthcare-NOW’s national strategy conference. WEAP’s executive director, Ethel Long-Scott, spoke about the importance of framing health care as a human right and building a broad social movement that recognizes health care is a fundamental right for all people. On the second day, WEAP was given an opportunity to present their Just Health Care Financing tool, which breaks down the affordability of single payer universal healthcare by taking the profit out of the health industry.
Teach-In & Dialogues on “Health Care is a Human Right”
On March 5th, 2008, many of WEAP’s allies gathered at the WEAP office for the third in a series of teach-in and dialogues on the subject of “Health Care is a Human Right”. Beginning back in November of 2007, the teach-ins included enlightening presentations by representatives of CNA, SEIU, Alameda Health Consortium, the West Oakland Community Collaborative, CHAM, ILWU, and others on different health care issues. The overarching theme of each teach-in was the need to frame our fight for health justice as an economic human rights issue in order to give it the principles and ethics all broad-based movements need in order to be successful.
Community Health Access Forum
On October 9, 2007, WEAP co-sponsored the Alameda County “Health Access Community Forum”. This event was just one of many replicated throughout the county in fall 2007. The primary purpose of the forum was to hear local voices talk about the problems evident in our health care system and to discuss possible solutions. Everyone’s experiences and ideas were recorded and then compiled into a larger report sent later to state policy makers.
The US Social Forum
In late June 2007, WEAP sent several of its members to the five-day U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia. The USSF provided a space for social justice conscious organizations and individuals around the world to share their analysis and build relationships and leadership.WEAP met up with the National Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, partaking in panels, workshops, and truth hearings that highlighted poverty in the U.S. For more information on this event, read about two of WEAP’s community organizer’s experiences, Heather McLaughlin and Dorothy Cooper.
International Housing Hearing
In 2005, the Poor People’s Campaign was granted an international hearing on housing rights violations. Social Justice Manager Janine Grantham provided testimony on WEAP’s behalf.
WEAP’s State of the Budget Report
Read WEAP’s position on the state budget from 2005.
Martin Luther King Health Care Speak-Out & Teach-In
On January 27, 2005, WEAP, SEIU 790 and CHAM co-sponsored a teach-in and speak-out on the health care crisis in our community. We heard powerful testimony from SISTERS recovery program and the Committee of Interns and Residents as well as from the co-sponsors on the problems facing our community and the need for real solutions. We spent much of the night educating each other on the Just Health Care Campaign.
WEAP hosts the Women’s Trade Union Leadership Exchange
On January 12, 2005, WEAP hosted visitors from Brazil’s Unitary Central of Workers, Guyana’s Teacher Congress, the Nigerian Labor Congress, and South Africa’s textile and clothing union. These four trade women union leaders have struggled in their own countrie