Modern Prisons, Modern Slavery – The prison human rights movement strikes back

By Barrington M. Salmon – Contributing Writer- | Aug 28, 2018

National News

Modern Prisons, Modern Slavery – The prison human rights movement strikes back

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Supporters of Florida’s prison strike in January. Photo: @IWW_IWOCTwitter

Men and women behind bars in the U.S.—at great risk to their personal safety—began a national prison strike to protest inhumane living conditions, brutal and abusive prison guards and what they contend is modern-day slavery.

 

Representatives of the striking prisoners said inmates in institutions across 17 states are taking part in the strike action by refusing to work anywhere in prison buildings, kitchens, laundries and on prison grounds. Palestinian inmates have expressed solidarity and about 300 prisoners in Nova Scotia, Canada, joined the strike.  The 19 days of peaceful protest was organized largely by prisoners themselves, said a spokesman for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS).

“Fundamentally, it’s a human rights issue,” read a Jailhouse Lawyers Speak statement released before the strike. “Prisoners understand they are being treated as animals. Prisons in America are a warzone. Every day prisoners are harmed due to conditions of confinement. For some of us, it’s as if we are already dead, so what do we have to lose?”

The strike which started Aug. 21 is organized by an abolitionist coalition that includes Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), the Fire Inside Collective, Millions for Prisoners and the Free Alabama Movement. Jailhouse Lawyers Speak activists began preparing the action in April after prison officials in South Carolina put rival gangs in the same dormitory which ignited an outbreak of violence leaving seven inmates dead. (See Final Call Vol. 37 No. 40).

“We want to note that although there aren’t widespread reports of actions coming out of prisons, people need to understand that the tactics being used in this strike are not always visible,” said Jared Ware, during an August 22 press conference call.  “Prisoners are boycotting commissaries, they are engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge, and they will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside. As we saw in 2016, departments of corrections are not reliable sources of information for these actions and will deny them and seek to repress those who are engaged in them.

“We have spoken with family members who have suggested that cell phone lines may be being jammed at multiple prisons in South Carolina, and New Mexico had a statewide lockdown yesterday. The departments of corrections in this country are working overtime to try and prevent strike action and to try and prevent word from getting out about actions that are taking place.”

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Prison guards oversee prisoners working in one of the gardens at C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy, La., Aug. 8, 2010. More than 30 acres are farmed at Phelps growing vegetables for the 942 inmates. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

Mr. Ware, a freelance journalist who asked to be part of a team that coordinated with the press, said inmates organized nationally and carefully crafted the demands, strategically whittling them down from 35 to 10. The decision to strike, he said, was prompted by the deadly circumstances at South Carolina’s Lee Correctional Center, an understanding of how the state brings about the conditions of violence like that, and the types of changes that are necessary to prevent a repetition of that sort of violence.

 

“This is a human rights campaign and each of these demands should be understood through a human rights lens,” inmate representatives said.

The demands include:

  • An immediate improvement of conditions and the implementation of policies that recognize the humanity of men and women;
  • A greater investment in mental health services for prisoners;
  • Rescinding the Truth In Sentencing Act and Sentencing Reform Act to increase the possibility of inmates receiving rehabilitation and parole. No human should be sentenced to death by incarceration or no sentence should be imposed without possibility of parole;
  • An immediate end to prison slavery, with inmates paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory;
  • Rescinding the Prison Litigation Reform Act to give the incarcerated a proper channel to address grievances and rights violations,
  • An end to “racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and Brown humans.” In addition, “Black humans no longer (being) denied parole because the victim was White, a particular concern in Southern states.”

Although the United States represents one-fifth of the world’s population, 2.3 million people are incarcerated in America, the highest in the world. Estimates are that about 60 percent of that population is Black or Latino. Those numbers could ratchet up with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at the behest of President Donald Trump, relaunching the failed “War on Drugs” and giving state attorneys and law enforcement the green light to crack down on criminal suspects even for non-violent crimes.

Prison reform advocates and critics of the criminal justice system note that the Prison-Industrial Complex is a multi-billion dollar enterprise which relies heavily on prison labor to work and produce goods and services for major businesses and corporations including Whole Foods, Starbucks, McDonalds, WalMart, Victoria’s Secret and AT&T.

The Prison Industrial Complex is a more than $2 billion enterprise, but many inmates literally work for pennies and others labor for free, said Dr. Kim Wilson.

“Exploitation of prison labor is at the heart of this strike,” said Dr. Wilson, a California resident and prison abolitionist. “Some people are making zero. I don’t want people to get the idea that it’s an at-will job. It isn’t a system where people have a choice to work. And nearer to the release date, you are expected and required to work.”

“At the largest wildfire in Mendocino County, thousands of inmates are fighting the fires. The reason is to save property.  Prison officials try to sell the idea of this being rehabilitative but that’s not true.”

Dr. Wilson cited examples nationally of the work inmates are forced to do. In  Angola Prison in Louisiana—often characterized as perhaps the most brutal prisons in the United States— inmates train and breed thoroughbreds and others pick cotton on the farm. Inmates in other institutions work on pepper and strawberry farms, she said.

“You also have prisoners building furniture for schools and universities, sewing Little League team uniforms and making military equipment, like helmets,” said Dr. Wilson, who has two sons serving life sentences at Vaughn Correctional Facility in Delaware. “This is not a small operation.”

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Abdullah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s National Prison Reform Student Minister, said he hopes the strikes don’t end as tragically as it did at Attica in 1971 when prison guards killed a number of inmates. He added that he doubts how successful the strike will be because of the traditional recalcitrance of prison officials.

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This Sept. 10, 1971 file photo shows inmates of Attica State Prison as they raise their hands in clenched fist salutes to voice their demands during a negotiating session with New York’s prison Commissioner Russell Oswald. The whistleblower who spurred a major state investigation of alleged crimes and cover-ups at Attica prison is still on the case four decades later. Ex-prosecutor Malcolm Bell, now 82 and retired to the Green Mountains of Vermont, filed court papers in support of opening long-sealed investigation volumes. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

“I don’t think they’ll get all they’re asking for, and what they’re asking for will take money,” he said of the strikers. “These people don’t have it in them to raise the money and change the environment. They may get a program—in time.

 

“You can’t change the system. You always have what appears to be a change and what appears to be relief. For a moment. They wouldn’t be slave masters and oppressors if they did otherwise.”

Student Min. Muhammad said he’s struck by the symbolism surrounding the protests. Aug. 21 is the 47th anniversary of the murder of author, activist and Black Panther leader George Jackson, and Sept. 9 also marks the 47th anniversary of the bloody Attica prison uprising in upstate New York which is when the current strike is set to end.

He said he vigorously supports the idea posited by one of the strike organizers, Brother Rasaan, to “redistribute the pain.”

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a program that we (Nation of Islam) executed where from October to Jan 1, no money was spent in White businesses. A lot of people lost jobs, businesses suffered. That should be the program they implement,” said Student Min. Muhammad. The civil rights leader before his assassination suggested that Black people should “redistribute the pain” to White America through economic withdrawal in the demand for justice, a call reintroduced by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in 2015 leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.

At the end of the day, though, Student Min. Muhammad explained, Blacks have no choice but to strike out and form their own nation.  “We need our own land and territory,” he asserted.

Courtney Stewart is a prison reform advocate who was released from prison in 1985 and chairs the National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens in Washington, D.C. In his opinion, the prisoners who decided to strike had no choice.

“The thing is that these people, the corporations who make up the Prison Industrial Complex, have been getting away with murder for a long time,” Mr. Stewart told a Final Call reporter. “They’ve been able to sustain the Prison Industrial Complex and they have ruined generations and generations of the Black community. It’s been so devastating, and we still haven’t recovered.

“Using the school-to-prison pipeline and the ‘War on Drugs,’ these people are criminalizing and have imprisoned Black men, women and children. It’s profit over people and power and money in this capitalist, White-privileged society we live in. They don’t see any value in the Black family or Black people. They always throw pennies when it comes to fixing the African American community. We have to address this with force and radicalism. There has to be a radical revolution in how to address this.”

Mr. Stewart is not alone in the belief that the Prison Industrial Complex has to be dismantled and Dr. Wilson agrees.

“I’m a prison abolitionist. I see prisons as part and parcel of the problem,” said Dr. Wilson, co-host of a podcast called “Beyond Prisons” with Jared Ware. “I don’t know how they (prison guards) sleep at night. But those individual people are part of a larger system. I’m more concerned with the system as a whole.

“We want an end to the physical places we call prisons and conditions that make it possible in our society. But we can’t do that without addressing the underlying issues of racism, anti-blackness, capitalism, gender violence, ableism and other issues deeply implicated in the broader prison system. We must take seriously the things the prisoners are saying.”

Dr. Heather Ann Thompson has written extensively on the history of policing, mass incarceration and the current criminal justice system. She warned that the unrest, pushback and uprisings against the harsh conditions in America’s prisons will continue.

“I think that we have as a country been involved for so long in the ‘War on Drugs’ and the ‘War on Crime,’ that we have forgotten that it’s not normal,” said Dr. Thompson, a professor of history at the University of Michigan and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy.”

“But we have a whole generation of children for whom it’s normal to be pulled over, be arrested and shuttled into the system. We have been in a catastrophic prison crisis for decades now. And conditions have gotten even worse. South Carolina was a wake-up call for people,” she said.

“What cannot be understated or ignored is the fact that this is created and driven by racism. Seven point five million Americans are in the system. Most would not be here if they were the children of White lawyers, doctors and politicians. People turn a deaf ear to reform because White folks often don’t see Black children as children and think that Black people can absorb more trauma than they can.”

Dr. Thompson said she’s a White woman who grew up in Detroit and therefore, “My perspective is different. The situation is perfectly tenable as long as other people are being affected but when it becomes untenable is where White kids get caught up in the system. I give lectures and talks all over and the thing is that once they (Whites) really know what’s going on, they are appalled. They don’t know.

“Authorities cannot lock up 2.5 million people and have the trauma we have and it go on indefinitely. The incarcerated will continue to protest and people will continue to seek release,” she explained.

A strike organizer echoed Dr. Thompson’s warning. The inmate spoke with freelance journalist Brian Sonenstein, publishing editor at ShadowProof and a columnist at Prison Protest, in a story published in ShadowProof.

“No matter how many of these people they employ, it’s not going to take away from the issues and the problems of the violence that’s occurring inside the prisons,” said the inmate, a member of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS),  which is a network of incarcerated self-educated legal advocates.

“What we’re dealing with consistently is prisoncrats refusing to accept responsibility, accountability,” said the inmate, who, fearing retaliation spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Because [they] created these conditions, these are the results. Instead, what they try to do is deny any responsibility, any liability, and say, we’re going to keep the same conditions while trying to force people to be subjected to those conditions. And how do we do that? We hire more employees.

“It never works. It’s not going to work. You can’t snuff out a human’s life without killing them,” the inmate said. “There’s gonna be some type of resistance.”

If They See Us

Opinion by Barrington Salmon

If They See Us

By Barrington M. Salmon

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‘The presumption of innocence is vaporized by the hot glare of racism.’

When it comes to the issue of race, America is in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. The dominant majority, through miseducation, a lack of exposure or willful ignorance always seems to be surprised and thrown for a loop when stories like the Exonerated Five grab headlines.

For a moment or two, as they hear or see cases of Black women, men and children railroaded by a system that pretends to be fair and equal, they are aghast, unsettled, unsure of what to do or say.

Yet for generations, Africans in America – children and adults – have been sacrificed on the altar of greed, domination, cruelty and casual racism.

People of African descent in this country have lived with the reality that the color of their skin has marked them in indisputable ways, such as being guided to the school-to-prison pipeline, the troubling disparity in the arrest and sentencing of Black and white people for the same crimes/offenses; the naked racism and the structural racism in the so-called criminal justice system that ensures that the majority of America’s 2.3 million incarcerated individuals are Black and brown.

Yet we are living in a time when a harsh light is being shined on much that’s been hidden or obscured. Acclaimed director Ava DuVernay is owed a debt of gratitude for her commitment to exposing the truth about what this country is and has done to Black people. On the heels of 13TH, an award winning documentary which explores the history of racial inequality in the prison system, she produced the heart-rending miniseries that aired on Netflix last month to much acclaim and which detailed what has been called by some “one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in history.”

I applaud her because she has been a drum major for social justice using her platform of film to force this country to confront the Original Sin of slavery and the many “children” this odious institution has spawned.

We must never forget that the five males whose youth was snatched away were CHILDREN: Antron McCray was 15; Kevin Richardson, 14; Yusef Salaam, 15; Raymond Santana, Jr. 14; and Kharey (Corey) Wise was the oldest at 16.

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The detectives rounded up and held the boys and interrogated them for between 14 to 30 hours – without a lawyer or their parents present – telling them that if they confessed, they could go home; played them off against each other; and beat and brutalized some of the young men.

A New York Times story explained what the now grown men have talked about very openly: “Locking up those boys for a gang rape that had not happened but that most of society believed in was the same as planting a bomb in their lives that never stopped exploding. That story is told without blinking in “When They See Us,” and will enlighten even people who have followed these events.”

The five were convicted and jailed despite there being forced confessions, no physical or forensic evidence connecting them to the crime, no DNA evidence, no evidence placing the boys at the scene, but there was evidence that placed the real rapist, Mattias Reyes at the scene that investigators ignored while they pursued convictions for the five.

The conversations among and between Black mothers and fathers, with their children, with friends and relatives that has come after the Netflix miniseries were searing, heart-breaking, agonizing, excruciating. Many of us couldn’t watch the whole thing because those boys were us, they were our children.

I Googled several magazines and got a variety of perspectives that captured the maelstrom in which the boys were thrown. Ken Burns: “I think that the “Five” became the Central Park Five because they were the most vulnerable to the system. None of them had ever been in trouble with the law and their families had never been in trouble with the law, so … when seasoned detectives brought them in for questioning, they were exposed to the techniques that these detectives use so effectively.”

And in an interview with NPR, DuVernay said about the prosecution: “The city never apologized; they settled. No one on the side of the prosecution ever apologized. They’ve stuck by the fact that even though the real man came out and said: I did it, I did it alone. Even though all of that physical evidence was from him, was matched to the victim, and it was in fact him, and only him, these people still refuse to acknowledge that they—not made a mistake—lied. Lied.”

Prosecutors like Linda Fairstein and the New York City Police Department have completed an internal review of its management of the Central Park Jogger case. NYPD brass found no wrongdoing on the part of its officers, and despite overwhelming new evidence and vacated convictions, they maintained that the young men were likely guilty.

None of those involved, the city, prosecutors, detectives and other cops, have ever expressed remorse or accepted responsibility or apologized for destroying the young men’s childhoods. In fact, former DA Linda Fairstein has doubled down, saying the Five were somehow involved and did something wrong.

As we confront, understand and unpack this story, we should know that what happened is not an aberration. Putting Black and brown people behind bars is big business. Although the United States represents one-fifth of the world’s population, 2.3 million people are incarcerated in America, the highest in the world. Estimates are that about 60 percent of that population is Black or Latino. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at the behest of President Donald Trump, relaunched the failed “War on Drugs” and gave states attorneys and law enforcement the green light to crack down on criminal suspects even for non-violent crimes.

Prison labor is the new slavery. The Prison-Industrial Complex is a brutal, oppressive system which relies heavily on prison labor to work and produce goods and services for major businesses and corporations including iconic brands like Whole Foods, Starbucks, Compaq, McDonalds, WalMart, Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Target and AT&T. Some incarcerated individuals work for free, others for as little as $00.04 an hour and others make $00.23 an hour making military equipment like nighttime goggles, bullet proof vests, tents, shirts and bags, as well and a range of products for other corporation. As the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights notes, there are no unions, safety regulations, pension, social security, sick leave or overtime in these sweat shops.

The sprawling Prison-Industrial Complex is a more than $2 billion enterprise and 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations who brings their operations inside prison walls.

“The thing is that these people, the corporations who make up the Prison-Industrial Complex, have been getting away with murder for a long time,” Courtney  Stewart told this reporter an interview last year. “They’ve been able to sustain the Prison Industrial Complex and they have ruined generations and generations of the Black community. It’s been so devastating, and we still haven’t recovered.

“Using the school-to-prison pipeline and the ‘War on Drugs,’ these people are criminalizing and have imprisoned Black men, women and children,” said Stewart, chairman of The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens in DC and founder and CEO of Mentoring Works2. Inc. “It’s profit over people and power and money in this capitalist, White-privileged society we live in. They don’t see any value in the Black family or Black people. They always throw pennies when it comes to fixing the African American community. We have to address this with force and radicalism. There has to be a radical revolution in how to address this.”

Courtney is right.

The question is, what are we prepared to do?

(Photos courtesy of BET and ABC News)

 

The fight for equal pay, gender parity heats up 

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Despite the United States touting itself as the bastion of freedom and equality, women in this country – despite comprising 50.8 percent of the population – have always found themselves in the position of having to fight for salary and wages comparable to men.

A range of studies show some progress, but stubborn racial and gender wage gaps persist in the United States.

Often, researchers point to disparities in education, the fact that many African-American women and other women of color are clustered at the lower end of the pay scale and that the minimum wage hasn’t been increased since 2007 as factors contributing to the wage gap. But what’s often downplayed or ignored is the racism and sexism that’s also at play.

Black women sit at the nexus of race and gender and are buffeted by the twin spectres of these “isms”, and struggle upstream against a current of prejudice and bias which is compounded by gender and race.

This intersectional discrimination exacerbates those gender and race gaps, stymies Black women’s ability to access educational opportunities, and has a pervasive and corrosive impact on their careers and career advancement, experts say.

The wage gap has real-world consequences.

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever said that over their lifetimes, Black women stand to lose between $800,000 and $1 million because of these disparities.

“While the gender pay gap is an issue for all women, it is an especially wicked problem for black women,”said Dr. Jones-DeWeever, a women’s empowerment expert, international speaker and diversity consultant.

“Black women are already economically disadvantaged and face double discrimination within the workforce. The additional burden of a 38 percent pay gap exacerbates the black wealth gap in America. It’s such an engrained problem. The typical Black woman will lose more than $800,000 over her lifetime, and in DC, the inequality means that Black women could lose more than $1 million.”

“A black woman has to earn a B.A. to earn what a white man with a GED would earn. It’s huge and really hardwired into the system,” continued Dr. Jones-DeWeever, who, among her many portfolios, mentors and instructs black women on how to navigate the shoals of business and achieve career and financial success.

“It’s devastating because with Black college-educated women making as much as 30 percent less than their white male counterparts, that’s a huge disadvantage. That means not being able to put food on the table, buy clothes for your children, not being able to have a better quality of life or diverting money to wealth-building.”

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), median wages for black women in the United States are $36,227 per year, compared to median wages of $57,925 annually for white, non-Hispanic men. This amounts to a difference of $21,698 each year. In that same report, NPWF also highlighted that if the wage gap were eliminated, on average, a black woman working full time, year-round would have enough money for:

  • Two and a half years of childcare
  • Nearly 2.5 additional years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university, or the full cost of tuition and fees for a two-year community college
  • 159 more weeks of food for her family (three years’ worth)
  • More than 14 additional months of mortgage and utilities payments 22 more months of rent.
  • The National Women’s Law Center reports that women of every race are paid less than men, at all education levels – and it only gets worse as women’s careers progress.

“Despite the fact that women have made enormous gains in educational attainment and labor force involvement in the last several decades, unequal pay remains pervasive in 97 percent of occupations, showing that no matter what their job, women are paid less than men doing the same job in nearly every sector of work,” an NWLC fact sheet noted.

Women who work full time, year-round in the United States are paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap, which amounts to a typical loss of $10,086 per year for a working woman – or $403,440 over a 40-year career – means that women have to work 15 months … to make what men did in the previous 12-month calendar year.”

Studies by gender specialists, academics and women’s activists have statistics showing that the occupations African-American women have does not explain away the Black women’s wage gap, the NWLC said.

  • For example, Black women working as physicians and surgeons—a traditionally male, high wage occupation—make 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as physicians and surgeons.
  • Black women working as customer service representatives—a mid-wage, female-dominated occupation—make 75 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as customer service representatives.
  • Black women working as construction laborers—a traditionally male, mid-wage occupation—make 81 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as construction laborers.
  • Black women working as personal care aides—a heavily female, low wage occupation—make 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as personal care aides.

In addition, Black women experience a wage gap even in occupations where they are over-represented. More than two in five African-American women (44.8 percent) are employed in one of 10 occupations.

In every one of those occupations, Black women are typically paid less than white, non-Hispanic men. Among the 10 most common occupations for Black women, two of those occupations – cashiers and retail salespeople and janitors, building cleaners, maids, and housekeepers – typically pay Black women a very low wage – less than $10 per hour – while they typically pay white, non-Hispanic men substantially more.

Some solutions, NWLC experts say, include strengthening America’s pay discrimination laws, pushing harder to get Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the Family Act and the Schedules That Work Act – all which would address the discrimination women face when they’re pregnant or caregiving and support those who need paid leave, predictable work schedules, and stability for themselves and their families.

Raising the federal minimum wage is yet another way to move towards parity. So far, six states and the District of Columbia have increased the minimum wage to $15 over the next few years.

Another solution is making the Earned Income Tax Credit more widely available to needy recipients. The EITC is a tax credit designed to offset payroll taxes and supplement wages for people working in low-wage jobs, providing the most benefits to low- to moderate-income families with children.

The federal EITC lifted more than 1.2 million women 18 and older and nearly 3.5 million children out of poverty in 2017, and 28 states and the District of Columbia currently offer their own EITCs to provide an additional boost.

Dalana A. Brand, vice president of Global Total Rewards at Electronic Arts, Inc., contends that Black women can’t afford to wait, arguing in an opinion piece last year for Blavity, an Internet media company, that in the midst of the flurry of publicity, tweets, posts, hashtags and calls for change, one important element is missing.

“What often gets left out of that discussion is that the hallmark day in April does not apply to black women and other women of color,” she said. “… So, while white women caught up on April 10, black women must wait for over half the year to pass before our wages catch up to what men made a year ago.”

Brand, a highly-sought after salary strategist and career transformation coach, said black women are paid 38 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women but “the sad fact is that most people are either unaware or don’t care about the appalling disparity black women face with respect pay equity.”

She added that a study byLeanIn.Org, which partnered with Survey Monkey and the National Urban League, indicates that a third of Americans aren’t aware of the pay gap between black women and white men, and half of them don’t know about a similar gap between black and white women.

Much like the feminist movement, black women are being largely ignored by the equal pay movement,” she added.

Dr. Jones-DeWeever and Brand said that as career strategists and salary consultants, there are a number of things that Black women can and need to do to fight back against wage disparities. The first action is for Black women to embrace their power and value and translate that into dollars and benefits during salary negotiations.

“We don’t understand the basics of negotiating,” Dr. Jones-DeWeever said. “We have to understand our value and how to negotiate. When you’re first hired, that’s when you’re most powerful. I never accept the first offer.

The first offer is only the beginning of negotiations. You’d be surprised how much money you can get. You have to negotiate for money, a package and vacation.

Black communities must also take other tacks to confront and topple this problem, they said.

“The reality of racism means that Black women will be offered less,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever. “In terms of fixing it, we have to have conversations about financial literacy and we also have a responsibility to educate our children about their power, worth and value and empowering them.”

Brand concurred.

To date, she said, much of the equal pay movement has been focused on awareness building campaigns and encouraging women to effectively negotiate their salaries.

“While these are important steps, this is only scratching the surface,” Brand explained. “Getting to pay parity must also involve addressing the corporate systems and state and federal laws that need to change.

As black women, we must unify and use our collective voices to push pay equality and the racial wealth gap to the top our agenda. Black women have always been at the forefront of the push for equality in our country, whether it was civil rights or social justice, we have been critical forces for change. The equal pay movement should be no different.”

Brand and Dr. Jones-DeWeever are called in frequently to consult with Fortune 500 and other companies.

They said Black women should also be actively engaged in tackling the equal pay issue within corporate America by participating in employee resource groups at work and collectively guaranteeing that the companies they work for are held accountable for addressing these issues.

African American churches, sororities and fraternities and civil society and community organizations need to actively engage in the political process and pressure elected officials to advance additional laws designed to protect against gender discrimination and pay inequality, they said, and concerned people also need to organize efforts and/or sign petitions to demand to push the government to act.

Guaido, U.S. fail to overthrow Maduro, again

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON – CONTRIBUTING WRITER- | LAST UPDATED: MAY 9, 2019 – 10:57:31 AM

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Various organizations held a rally in D.C. on March 16 calling for the U.S. to cease interference in Venezuela where Nicolas Maduro is president but opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president with the support of the U.S. and other countries.

Recently, U.S. social media such as WhatsApp, Twitter suddenly came alive with commentary, pictures, videos and reaction to news that Juan Guaidó was leading a coup in an attempt to topple Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly—with backing by the Trump administration and several rightwing Latin America presidents—declared himself interim president in January of this year. He argued then, that according to the constitution’s Article 233, President Maduro’s presidency was invalidated because of a disputed election last year.

On April 30, Americans and Venezuelans woke up to videos online of Mr. Guaidó surrounded by heavily armed soldiers, claiming that his military supporters had captured an air force base in eastern Caracasvenezuela_1.jpg. He called for the military to back what he described as the “final phase” of an effort to oust the Maduro government. There was sporadic fighting between troops allied to Mr. Guaidó and Venezuelan security forces.

If someone followed mainstream U.S. media, he or she would have gotten the impression that Guaidó forces had the upper hand and was within inches of grabbing the presidency. Yet, by the end of the day, little had shifted to change the months-long stalemate between President Maduro and Mr. Guaidó. Forces opposed to President Maduro dissipated or were routed and more than 100,000 Venezuelans flocked to Miraflores Palace to protect the president and the Bolivarian Revolution.Cultural educator and activist James Early, a frequent visitor to Venezuela and a vocal opponent of U.S. intervention, blasted the U.S. attempts to overthrow the Maduro government.

 

“This is a dangerous escalation of a violent sector of the opposition in cooperation with the most violent sector of the Trump administration,” he said during an April 30 discussion about Venezuela on WPFW 89.3 FM. “For Eliot Abrams and Mike Pompeo, this was a gamble. They tricked a number of soldiers and are willing to put people’s lives in danger. The fascist Trump administration is trying to overthrow a government that the majority of Venezuelans voted for.”

“They need to call off the dogs of war. Citizens must press the elites in both parties,” continued Mr. Early, a member of the Institute of Policy Studies’ Board of Trustees.

“This is a threat exercised by a rightwing government and will likely open a civil war and extend wars in Latin America. This is a bloody onslaught of Trump carried out my (Sen.) Marco Rubio. We must stand up to protect the international sovereignty and independence of Venezuela and act as global citizens to aid Venezuela.”

According to Democracy Now, the Trump administration, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and other Latin American leaders openly supported the coup attempt. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox Business news that military action in Venezuela is possible, “if that’s what is required.”

Alex Main expressed concern for ordinary Venezuelans and said U.S. aggression could lead to civil war. “I was expecting this,” said Mr. Main, director of International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “This administration is hell-bent on producing a military coup. They are putting pressure on the military and civilians with economic sanctions. This shows that from Day 1, the military coup strategy is based on a lot of wishful thinking.”

“Threats and pressure for the U..S government show that they don’t have a plan. This strategy is doomed. They don’t have a Plan B. They should initiate dialogue towards a negotiated settlement but they (The U.S.) has been openly hostile to any dialogue. Maduro is open to dialogue and Mexico, Norway, Switzerland and the Vatican have offered to mediate. That’s where things stand.”

Grayzone journalist Anya Parampil warned during a rally in March in Washington, D.C., that a sustained war is already underway against Venezuela.

“With that gang that has taken over in the White House, anything is possible,” Ms. Parampil told the rally crowd at Lafayette Park. “They have filled the administration with John Bolton and Eliot Abrams. They are creating terror in Venezuela. People are terrified, afraid of a U.S. intervention. One woman I talked to down there said we watched the U.S. destroy Iraq and Syria. And now they want to do the same to us. It’s psychological warfare. The U.S. is creating a pretext for a military invasion, but it didn’t happen. Venezuelans aren’t afraid to fight.”

“We need to recognize that war of Venezuela is already being waged. I don’t believe that we’ll see an Iraq-style war. We have entered a new phase of using the media and the weaponizing international capital and finances. It is financial terrorism. All of this is a direct result of U.S. policy.”

To illustrate Ms. Parampil’s point, earlier this year, the U.S. government seized $7 billion of Venezuelan oils assets from Venezuelan oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), leaving it “at the disposal of the legitimate interim president,” Mr. Guaidó. Meanwhile, after pressure from Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Bolton, The Bank of England is refusing to release 14 tons valued at $1.2 billion to the Venezuelan government and according to Jorge Martin of Marxist.com, Mr. Guaidó has lobbied the British government to put these assets at his disposal as well.

Mr. Bolton has sent threatening tweets such as this one: “My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don’t deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities being stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia. We stand ready to continue to take action.”

Ariel Gold is one of several dozen protestors who have occupied the Venezuelan embassy since embassy staff was forced to leave after their visas expired in mid-April.

Ms. Gold, co-national director of Code Pink, has been at the embassy for almost three weeks, as a part of the Embassy Protection Collective. She spoke to Oscar Fernandez of the Latino Media Collective, who moderated the Venezuela discussion on WPFW.

“We’re here under the permission of the only government of Venezuela,” said Ms. Gold. “We’re here because our government is trying to orchestrate yet another coup, must like it did in Libya, Chile and Iraq. We’re here to uphold international law and the principles of democracy. Under international law, the Secret Service and police cannot enter the embassy. Six million people voted for Maduro not Guaidó.”

“I don’t like who is president, but I would be enraged if a European government overthrew Trump and gave us Pelosi. We’re prepared to put our bodies on the line, prepared to go to jail. People power will stop the U.S. government from illegally taking over this embassy.

Patricio Zamorano, editor of the publication produced by the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, said the coup was an abject failure.

“Yes, there’s no doubt that there was an attempted coup. The military mobilized, and they had tanks and weapons. Guaidó lied and said they were in the military base and then Pompeo lied that Maduro had a plane ready to take him to Cuba. They were blocks away on a highway. He called on the military to overthrow the government. This is the narrative of a coup d’etat. But it didn’t happen, it was a failure.”

“This was supposed to be a big coup d’etat. They call it the final liberation moment. And nothing happened. I’m afraid that we give Guaidó too much credit. Thousands of Venezuelans went to Miraflores Palace to support Maduro—about 100,000 people. It was impressive. But this doesn’t correspond to the U.S. narrative. It’s possible that the generals prefer another leader but they won’t give their country to the U.S.”

Mr. Main said the media gave the impression that most of the military were behind the opposition. “It was extraordinary to see the media actions. It is business as usual for the major media,” he said. “They just parroted the White House and extreme neo-cons who are openly talking about U.S. military intervention.”

Mr. Zamorano said he drove up to the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown and interviewed people who support and oppose the Maduro government. D.C. filmmaker Catherine Murphy said she went to the embassy answering the call from activists who put out the call for opponents of U.S. intervention to defend the embassy.

“It was an ugly scene was going down,” said Ms. Murphy, activist, teacher and director of Maestra, a film that chronicles the year that Fidel Castro orchestrated to dramatically increase Cuba’s literacy rate in 1961. “It was so crazy out there. The Venezuelan opposition are all white and reek of privilege based on how they act. It was so aggressive and nasty. I wish I had taken some video.”

“The Venezuelan opposition were right on the edge of being violent. They were insulting people saying nasty disgusting things, making racist, sexist and homophobic comments. They were yelling at members of the embassy staff saying that they knew where he lived and would come to get him. That’s some nasty sh*t. They had bullhorns and emergency sirens and were blasting it forever. It made me think about torture.”

Ms. Murphy, who lived in Venezuela for many years and studied in Cuba, said she got to the embassy at about 1.30 p m. on April 2 and ended up reaching back to her home at 1:00 a.m.

“I couldn’t leave. I was so concerned. The opposition was so horrible. The sirens and yelling went on for 12 f**** hours. The good news is people are still inside. They’re holding it down. The embassy supporters outside held it down too.”

She said representatives of almost a dozen organizations added their support to the Embassy Protection Collective. This includes BYP 100, members of the DMV Black Lives Matter Movement, a Peace and Justice organization from Richmond, the ANSWER Coalition and others.

“The people out here are fascists and the elite who can’t handle losing their privilege. The middle class had made who started to going to literacy classes, voting, organizing, mobilizing and having a dignified place in society and these people can’t get used to that.”

Changing the game: Ice Cube’s battle to buy regional sports networks

Barrington Salmon #NNPA BlackPress, Barrington Salmon, Black History, Business, Community, Entertainment, Featured, Law, National, News, NNPA Newswire, Sports, The Final Call 0 NNPA NEWSWIRE — …Ice Cube is looking to take the next step in not only raising the profile of his professional basketball brand, … Continue reading Changing the game: Ice Cube’s battle to buy regional sports networks

White nationalism, a worldwide threat unlikely to cease

Originally Published in The Final Call on March 25, 2019 – 2:24:26 PM

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON -CONTRIBUTING WRITER- |

The murder of at least 50 Muslims in New Zealand—struck down during Jumu’ah, traditional Friday congregational prayers—was the latest mass killing of Muslims, Blacks or others by White extremists intent on attacking innocent people they despise and hoping to start a race war.

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A woman holds a sign reading “No more White Terrorism” at a rally close to Finsbury Park Mosque in London, UK on March 15. The rally was organised by Stand up to Racism in response to the recent shooting in New Zealand. At least one gunman killed 50 people and wounded more than 50 during Friday prayers at two New Zealand mosques. Photo: Claire Doherty/Sipa USA; Sipa via AP Images

The victims were at the Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque in Christchurch, the country’s capital, when the gunman burst in and opened fire. Witnesses said he shot into people on the ground and went back to his vehicle at least once to reload.

 New Zealand authorities say at least another 50 worshippers were injured and the alleged gunman was later arrested. A young Muslim man confronted the armed attacker, who dropped his weapon, fled, and was later apprehended by police.

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Mourners pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 16 where one of the two mass shootings occurred. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Baker

The prime minister characterized March 14 as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” and called the massacre “an unprecedented act of violence.” The terror attack drew global condemnation and expressions of solidarity for Muslims and the “Kiwi” nation. Four days later, the prime minister said lawmakers had essentially agreed to tighten gun laws in the country. The single-day murders in Christchurch equaled the average number of murders in the country for a year and the broader and global community joined Muslims in mourning as they buried their dead.

The suspected killer, a 28-year-old Australian, wrote a manifesto outlining the reasons for his actions. Brenton Tarrant described resenting immigrants in New Zealand and countries in Europe he visited. He wrote that while touring Western Europe in 2017, an Uzbek man killed five people after he drove a truck into a crowd in Stockholm, Sweden. He was enraged by the death of an 11-year-old Swedish girl.

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Ash Mohammed, right, talks to a police officer about his father and two broth- ers who were missing near the Masjid Al-Noor mosque, site of one of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand March 16. Photo: AP Photo/ Mark Baker

The accused mass murderer, said he trained for the attack for three months in New Zealand, but had been plotting for two years. While in New Zealand, he decided it was an acceptable place for his deadly rampage. By attacking that country, Mr. Tarrant allegedly would show no place on earth was safe—and that even a country as far away as New Zealand was tainted by immigration.

The gunman credited mass shootings in the U.S. with inspiring him to kill immigrants. He also praised President Trump. The suspect idolized American, Canadian and other White nationalist mass shooters and had White supremacist lingo emblazoned on his weapon.

The alleged shooter did not have a criminal record and “was not known to authorities in connection with far-right violence,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a press conference March 16 in New Zealand. The onetime personal trainer began legally buying guns last December, had two semiautomatic weapons, two shotguns, and a lever-action firearm, she said. Authorities in Australia raided properties belonging to members of the alleged killer’s family March 18.

What happened in Christchurch isn’t an aberration or a one-off.

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Brenton Tarrant

Seventy-seven people died in a massacre by a White terrorist in Norway a few years ago. Last year, a White nationalist gunman killed 11 worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill. Another White gunman shot two Black shoppers dead in a supermarket in Louisville, Kentucky; a then-21-year-old White boy killed nine church members in Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 because he resented what he saw as Blacks taking over. Similar incidents have occurred with depressing regularity in Europe, the UK, Canada, Denmark and other parts of the White world.

Meanwhile, burgeoning White resentment is reflected not just in shootings, but demonstrations, the emergence of political movements and other means of expressing perceived outrage and racial resentment.

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A police officer directs pedestrians neat the site of one of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Baker

President Trump’s rise and popularity, his supporters’ view of him as their champion; his statements and policies, his remarks about race and his denigrating and condescending remarks about “the other” and his defense of White nationalists are well known. 

Wider afield, incendiary and racist statements by Iowa Republican Steve King about protecting White civilization and society, anti-Islamic violence in America and Europe, the rise and power of the right wing in Europe, the UK and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s visits to Europe indicate an ideology on the march.

Asha Castleberry, a foreign relations expert, said attacks by White terrorists are consistent with the rise of populism and rightwing movements and governments in Europe, the U.S. and Latin and Central America.

“Global extremism is at its peak. Extremists are targeting immigrants, Muslims and other non-Whites,” she told The Final Call. “Look at Brexit and Muslims targeted in Belgium, France and other European cities. These are inspired by nativism and populism ties in with this extremism. We’re seeing the growth of social movements that embrace nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment and action.”

Ms. Castleberry said those drawn to such movements tend to feel they’ve been marginalized by the system.

“They feel disenfranchised, are unhappy and are driven by emotion, which makes the movement erratic,” she argued. “Populist movements are short-term because they lack an objective. Donald Trump embodies that. He isn’t good thinking long-term, makes decisions on the spot and promotes the idea of isolationism.”

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NYPD increasing security at mosques and places of worship in light of the New Zealand attacks. Photo: MGN Online

She said the U.S. president bears a good deal of responsibility for these terror attacks because he liberally uses White nationalist rhetoric and by word and deed, has emboldened White nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, White militias and other groups and individuals. 

When asked at a White House event March 15 if he saw White nationalism as a rising problem, unsurprising, President Trump said no, downplaying the threat. “I don’t really, I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case,” he said. “I don’t know enough about it yet … but it’s certainly a terrible thing.”

But despite his denials, Mr. Trump cannot escape his role in empowering the reappearance of overt White nationalism. In his manifesto, the alleged gunman called the president “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Labor union organizer Bill Fletcher said the president has demonized Black people, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims and other Brown or foreign people inside and out of this country. Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, critics contend, is feeding an upsurge in hate crime, violence against “others” and even murder.

FBI.jpgThe Federal Bureau of Investigation released data at the end of last year showing the number of hate crimes reported to the bureau rose about 17 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. 2017 is the latest year for which those statistics are available. It is the third-straight year that incidents of hate crime rose. But, according to the feds, only about 50 percent of hate crime victims report incidents to authorities. Blacks, Jewish Americans and members of the LGBTQ community were the top three targets of hate crimes. 

But over the last decade, the overwhelming majority of murders linked to domestic terrorism have been committed by White nationalists or White supremacists.

Mr. Fletcher, who is also a talk show host and racial justice activist, said White terrorists need to be dealt with firmly and ruthlessly.

“There are a few things that have to be factored in such as self-defense,” he explained. “Every mosque needs to have armed guards. They need to take them out. That will send a very important lesson: If they (White nationalists) attack, they get wiped out.”

“The nature of rightwing populism is violence based upon articulating that there’s an existential threat to White people, so how can you be surprised? They attack a mosque, you have to smash them. There should be no tolerance for right wing populists. They encouraging violence and they have to be stopped,” Mr. Fletcher added.

Dr. Wilmer Leon, III, agreed with Mr. Fletcher’s assessments.

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Masjid Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand

 “This is White supremacy. These White people are afraid of being annihilated from the planet,” Dr. Leon said. “The one thing this guy talked about was immigration … the one thing that links all these nuts together is annihilation: ‘Immigrants are taking over my space.’ ”

“Ninety percent of attacks are Europeans and European-Americans against people of color,” Dr. Leon continued. “We’re encroaching on their economic space, cultural space, music and food, and encroaching on their genetic space. They have always been the minority in the world, but always seen themselves as a dominant force in the world but that’s only because they have such a truncated view of the world.”

“Yes, this is the new normal at least for the rest of my lifetime and well beyond that,” Dr. Leon predicted soberly. “This is not going to be resolved anytime soon. Because we’re not going anywhere and we have biological superiority. Yes, it is the new normal, because the economic elites don’t want to come to grips with the fundamental reality of the chaos that they cause.”