Monday, December 22, 2014

Of course 'All Lives Matter'

According to US Census data, females outnumber males throughout the United States between 50 percent and 56 percent. Niagara and Erie counties are both 51 percent female. Have you ever wondered how females are defined as a minority even though they’re actually the majority of our population?

Demographically, it doesn’t make sense. Maybe issues concerning females are a minor concern of the dominant society. Maybe it’s because females don’t share the power, opportunities, rights and privileges as their male counterparts. Here’s some facts to consider:
• Even though females are out-graduating males in college they’re still under-earning males in almost every degree.
• Females earn about 75 cents on the dollar compared to males.

• Unlike many countries, the U.S. still doesn’t have a national law to guarantee paid maternal leave for females.

• Females make up only 4 percent of the CEOs of the S and P 500 companies.

• There has never been a female vice president or president of the U.S.

Because of this historical and present day reality affecting our female population, there have always been people, organizations and movements dedicated towards establishing human/civil rights and fair economic opportunities for women. The facts I’ve shared, and other statistics, show a historical sexist and misogynistic sentiment that has pervaded American society since its 1776 conception. Females lives matter and we cannot diminish, minimize or trivialize this. That would be equivalent to going to a woman’s rally against domestic violence and arguing that they need to stop talking about this because “All Lives Matter” and men are DV victims too. Some may even advocate that dogs lives matter because x amount die every year protecting their owners from home invasions. 

Whatever a person’s reasoning is for hijacking an important narrative like this, and redirecting attention away from the main concern that females lives matter, it’s one of the main reasons institutional sexism persists. The same lack of consideration and engagement also applies to the infamous “R-word” — Racism.

On Dec. 13, in conjunction with an International Day of Resistance, there was a rally held at Legend’s Park to bring awareness to the disproportionate instances of police brutality toward African-American citizens. The rallying cry was, and is, “Black Lives Matter.” According to data from 1999-2012 from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice on police brutality:
• A black person is killed extra-judicially (unlawfully) every 28 hours by law enforcement.

• Black men between ages 19 and 25 are the group most at risk to be shot by police.

• Black youth are 4.5 times more likely to be killed by police than any other age or racial group in America.

• Black people comprise 26 percent of police shootings we only makeup 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Like females, and various segments of our population deemed “minorities,” African-Americans are also disproportionately affected by socioeconomic conditions including police brutality. Although some of you would love to believe these issue are because black people are on welfare, criminals by nature and/or uneducated, many times we are discriminated against simply because of the color of our skin — the same way many females are discriminated against because of their gender. This also gives you some insight into the degree of scrutiny, bullying and outright attacks black women, double minorities, have historically received when they play prominent roles or hold executive positions within this society. Of course “All Lives Matter,” including females and black lives.

In this critical day and time it’s important to understand that in the U.S. there are still marginalized segments of our society, deemed minorities, that are outright disrespected and discriminated against simply because they’re female, they’re black or both. These problems specifically affects these groups, not all people, and it must be discussed and resolved because whatever is allowed to happen to the least of us eventually affects us all. We share neighborhoods. We are your co-workers, doctors, public officials and prepare your food at restaurants. We are your children and grandchildren’s peers. We are your family members through marriage or birth.

Learn more about the plight of your fellow citizens and what you can do to be a positive agent of change. Knowledge empowers you to “know” the “ledge” or limitation of certain ideas that no longer reflect our changing societal landscape.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Photograph: Dan Cappellazzo [Niagara Gazette]
 Black Lives Matter
The following article by Philip Gambini appeared in the Niagara Gazette highlighting a December 13th Rally I organized on the National Day of Resistance against police brutality:
"Legends Park gathering in support of national protests focuses on community issues"
Community members and city leaders gathered in Legend’s Park Saturday in solidarity with national protests speaking out against police violence in America.
The gathering, organized by local activist Saladin Allah, was attended by a dozen residents young and old, including Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti and Council Chairman Charles Walker. In the formidable cold, it became less a rally and more a forum on the issues facing members of the Niagara Falls community and across the nation.

"We are showing publicly that we take responsibility of ourselves," Allah said. "We are not relying on somebody to speak for us and we are not relying on somebody to take care of us."

The group stood in a circle in Legend’s Park, discussing a range of topics from the historical treatment of African-Americans, to the family’s importance in a productive community, to the responsibility of individuals to learn for themselves about this country’s heritage and history.

"It’s important that we are mindful and aware of what we need to do for ourselves," Allah said. Resident Ezra Scott braved the December air to show his support. He spoke about critiques of the national protest, whether they were to identify police brutality or community violence. In the end, he said, it is not localized to a specific issue. Rather, it is a gesture of strength to identify that community members who are not often heard have a voice. "Whether it was because of an unfortunate event," he said, "we need to take charge, take initiative, keep it moving, and people are going to follow."

A focus of the forum was that it was not organized specifically around faith, color or denomination. Those present talked of a common humanity that must be elevated and honored if we are to live in a truly equal, just society. The group took time to congratulate the presence of the council members and thanked them for standing in unity with their cause.

"The power behind it," Grandinetti said, "is once you take the risk and use your voice one time it becomes easier and easier ... It’s not about being angry or violent, it’s about having a voice." She discussed her involvement in women’s and children’s rights. She asked for those present to raise their issues with positive energy in city government. "We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and this city should be thriving," she said. "But it’s because there’s a small group of people who want to be big fish in a dirty little pond. They are keeping it down."

The group also touched on an understanding of historical context. Allah spoke of immigrant community members who had changed their name to conceal themselves from persecution, while Grandinetti recounted her father’s own efforts to do the same. "Out of the 238 years we have been in this country, 189 of those years we were not allowed to participate in American society. Eighty-nine years we were slaves, another 100 years we were segregated," Allah said. "That’s over 75 percent of the time we have been in this country we’ve been looked at as less than, as thugs, as savages." Walker spoke how American civil discourse had devolved, rather than progressed, with election of President Barack H. Obama. He recounted his shock at how this president had been spoken about in media, while other members of the crowd noted that his very citizenship had been questioned from the start.

"Our voices are the importance," he said. "We are not going to take this. Collectively speaking out is the only way we’re going to change things." Unfortunate as the circumstances in Ferguson and New York are, he said, they have to happen in order to gather peoples’ attention and focus their efforts on change. Though the numbers in Niagara Falls paled in comparison to the protests in Washington D.C. and New York City, many of those present dismissed the consideration outright. Any turn out, they said is a valued and important show of support. "In the Bible it says faith without work is dead, and obviously we are a people of faith," Allah said. "But we need some work, straight up work, to go along with that faith. That’s what we are, we represent that work."