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Economic Empowerment: The hidden tax: Average Americans pay a tax of 74% that they don't know about and isn't in the media

posted Apr 19, 2019, 8:13 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Apr 19, 2019, 8:40 AM ]


Reposted 
from David Akadjian at Daily Kos 

In American media, we hear a lot about the taxes that the wealthy want to cut: Income taxes, estate taxes, and corporate taxes. What we don’t hear about is the largest tax the American labor force faces. This tax is the difference between what we produce and what we get paid.

Let’s call this the profit tax because it goes to corporate profits. This tax is taken from workers and redistributed to owners and shareholders. As tax day approaches, I wanted to highlight this hidden tax. 

2017 Tax Day March in Philadelphia

Photo from the 2017 Tax Day March in Philadelphia depicting a sign saying "Be Transparent".
Taxpayers held protests all over the United States on April 15, 2017, to urge President Trump to release his taxes. However, like most citizens, these protesters are unaware of the 74 percent profit tax taken out by the corporations they work for.
Image attributed to 7beachbum from Tsuruoka, Japan [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What would a fair profit tax look like?

Five percent? Ten percent? Twenty or 30 percent? The average profit tax in America is actually 74 percent. Here’s how to calculate the average profit tax: it’s the difference between the productivity index, what an average worker produces in 1 hour, and what this average worker gets paid by the hour.

The latest business productivity index number from Q4 2018 is $106.27/hour. For this same quarter in 2018, the most recent average wage number is $27.53/hour.

These figures mean that the average worker is producing $106 worth of goods per hour and is getting paid roughly $28/hour for it. The difference or profit tax is 74 percent. In America, business owners take 74 percent before you ever see a paycheck.

Why aren’t more people angry?

Good question. My best guess is because it’s gone before people ever see it. That is, we don’t know about it. Most people have no idea how much they’re producing. All they see is their paycheck. They don’t get to see the profits.

And numbers like the productivity index typically aren’t presented in this fashion. It’s just a number that doesn’t have a lot of meaning to it. Whereas if someone gave you a weekly check for $4,240 and then made you pay 74 percent of that or $3,137.6 to the government we would have armed uprisings. Without seeing the value of what you’re producing, it’s hard to be angry about the difference.

Why didn’t you include benefits?

You could say, “but your calculation doesn’t include benefits.” You would be right. The reason I didn’t include benefits is for a couple of reasons. First, it’s an illustrative exercise. I wanted to show people that we have numbers for what people produce and what people get paid. It just takes some digging to find them because they don’t often appear in our media. What appears in our media are all kinds of numbers trying to convince us to give tax breaks to wealthy people. Why? Because our media is mostly advertising and the wealthy advertise to get what they want.

Second and more importantly, corporate America is trying to shift the cost of benefits onto people. We see this with health care. We see this with the shift to contract labor. We see this with the attacks on Medicare and Social Security (which are benefits we get taxed on through FICA taxes). Corporate special interests want to merely give people a flat wage and then have benefits come out of everyone’s pockets. Benefits are going away so we can’t count on benefits.

Profit Tax: This is what’s really wrong with America

In our media, we hear a lot about what’s wrong with America. We hear that there’s a loss of values. We hear complaints about the government. We hear that our taxes are too high. We hear that it’s the fault of immigrants or gay people or black people in the inner city. We hear about this political party or that.

I think what’s really wrong with America is the 74 percent tax we pay to corporate America. If the average person is producing $106 worth of goods per hour, maybe the average worker should make $80/hour.

Wages flatlined in the 1970s

wage_productivity_gap.jpg Productivity growth (orange) compared to hourly compensation growth (blue) since 1948. Wage growth stopped in the 1970s. Data and chart attributed to the Economic Policy Institute. 

We’re told that a rising tide lifts all boats. Productivity and wage data tell a different story. The reasons often cited by researchers for why wage growth stopped in the U.S. are technology, globalization, and government capture.

Productivity Gap: It’s not this way everywhere

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has also looked at wage/productivity decoupling and found that it’s not happening everywhere.

In the United States, for instance, annual real median wage growth over the past two decades has been around .5 percent. Countries with similar productivity growth but no decoupling such as France, Finland, and the UK, have seen wage growth between 1.5-2 percent.

Global differences in wage/productivity decoupling

There are cross-country differences in wage/productivity decoupling. There are global differences in wage/productivity decoupling. According to the OECD’s report [PDF], the three primary factors behind wage/productivity decoupling are:
  1. Technology —Reducing labor’s share of productivity gains
  2. Labor Globalization Outsourcing reduces labor’s share of productivity gains
  3. Government Capture Governmental policies that put downward pressure on wage growth


Raising America's Pay: Government Matters

In 2014, the Economic Policy Institute released a report titled Raising America’s Pay. In this report, they argue that raising pay is the economic challenge of our times.

In addition, they argue that policy decisions are critical:

Key economic evidence implicates policy decisions–and particularly changes in labor market policies and business practices–as more important in explaining the slowdown in hourly wages for the vast majority than many commonly accepted explanations (such as the interaction between technological change and the skills and credentials of American workers).

What this means is that government is important. However, this isn’t what we’re told. We’re told the government is the problem. Of course, the people telling us this, meanwhile, spend billions on influencing government to increase the profit tax.

If we want to change anything, or if you believe in any cause, the first step is getting people into government, getting representatives who believe that government matters and should be run by and for the people of our country.

David Akadjian is the author of The Little Book of Revolution: A Distributive Strategy for Democracy (ebook now available).

He is also a freelance writer and instructional designer. He has designed sales, negotiation, and communication training for some of the top companies in the world. He has written for Daily Kos, HuffingtonPost, Alternet, Popular Resistance, Truthout, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and The Washington Spectator. He currently lives in Cincinnati, OH.

Perspective: Policy recommendations to the 116th Congress for the preservation of public lands

posted Apr 10, 2019, 5:44 PM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Apr 10, 2019, 5:46 PM ]

Posted from Kathy DeCoster, VP & Director of Federal Affairs at The Trust for Public Land 

The Trust for Public Land is a U.S non-profit organization with a mission to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. The Trust for Public Land's Federal Affairs Team in Washington, D.C. issued this letter as an overview of their activities in our nation's capital. They are petitioning Congress to:
  1. Codify the Antiquities Act
  2. Reinstate protections for all of Bears Ears National Monument
  3. Fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund Program
  4. Stop the public land sell-offs
  5. Stop the Charitable Conversation Easement Loophole

Civic Engagement: Local Demonstration at Utah's State Legislature

Demonstration infront of Utah's State Legislature by Jay DashDemonstration for public land in front of the scenic Utah State Legislature.  Rep. Bishop (R) from Utah introduced a bill that would gut the Antiquities Act, threatening public lands.
In addition to their office in D.C petitioning for public lands, The Trust for Public Land has many local communities within their network. The best activism starts a home and is never done alone. Image attributed to Jay Dash Photography.

BACKGROUND

Our public lands are the pride of our nation and are enjoyed by Americans of all political stripes. They tell the history of our shared heritage, encompass some of the most beautiful terrains in North America, support iconic wildlife, capture carbon, and provide precious opportunities to be in nature. And when the average American now spends about 93% of their life indoors—that connection with nature is more important than ever.

Despite the growing importance of these special places, our public lands face mounting threats. Recently, the Trump Administration rolled back essential protections for some of our country’s most iconic landscapes. This shocking action resulted in the largest elimination of public lands protection in the entire history of the United States and started a battle for public lands as we’ve never seen before. Following this, one of our country’s most successful conservation programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, was allowed to expire for five months, with little thought in Congress or the Administration to the consequences. And in recent years, climate-related disasters are becoming more and more commonplace, wreaking havoc on our communities and economy.

Americans across the country have made it clear that public lands should be created and protected, not sold or rolled-back. Election after election, the majority of voters vote in favor of conservation measures. This display of public support expands outside of elections as well. When the Department of Interior threatened our national monuments, over 2.7 million people wrote public comments urging the administration to keep protections for these iconic landscapes.

This activism and support have made a significant impact. Our Federal Affairs team is working tirelessly around the country and in Washington, D.C. to defend our iconic national monuments and critical conservation programs that are at risk—and with your help, we are making headway. Our experienced staff and volunteers are meeting with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle—and recently helped convince Senators and Representatives to pass the most sweeping public lands legislation in a decade. This legislation—the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (S.47—formerly known as the Natural Resources Management Act)—was signed into law on March 12, 2019.

Even with this law in place, our public lands are still in peril. Congress must take further action to protect our nation’s special outdoor spaces and iconic landscapes. In addition to passing the following legislative items below, we urge Congress to make the protection of public lands a top priority. Unless we protect these wild areas now, we and future generations will have fewer places to explore nature and enjoy the outdoors. And we will be at greater risk of climate disaster.

CONGRESS SHOULD IMMEDIATELY ACT ON THE FOLLOWING ITEMS:

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

Codify the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act was signed into law in 1906—giving U.S. presidents the authority to protect lands of historical, scientific, and cultural significance so these special places would not be at risk of destruction or reckless development. Since then, the Act has been used by just about every president to create or expand our country’s national monuments such as the Grand Canyon National Monument (now Grand Canyon National Park), Muir Woods National Monument, and Dinosaur National Monument.

On April 26, 2017, the battle for our national monuments and the Antiquities Act began. President Trump directed former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review the status of national monuments created or expanded since 1996 with an unprecedented executive order. When Secretary Zinke’s review became public, we were shocked. The man who said “you can’t love public lands more than I do,” recommended gutting protections for 10 of our revered national monuments.

Former Secretary Zinke’s final recommendations threatened Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Cascade Siskiyou, Gold Butte, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Rio Grande del Norte, Katahdin Woods and Waters, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll National Monuments and Marine National Monuments—an unparalleled assault on some of our nation’s most special places.

Despite an overwhelming display of public outrage about the review, President Trump turned some of the recommendations into a presidential proclamation, announced on December 4, 2017, that eliminated over two million acres of protected status on lands at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This action put tens of thousands of archeological sites, Native American sacred sites, and recreational lands at risk of irreversible damage, looting, and reckless development. In addition, the administration indicated that the protection rollbacks wouldn’t stop with Utah’s iconic landscapes.

Worse—a bill, H.R. 1664, was recently introduced in the House of Representatives that would codify this outrageous attack on public lands and gut the Antiquities Act forever—putting all of our national monuments at risk. We cannot let this bill pass the House. National monuments are drivers of local economies, preserve majestic landscapes, and tell stories of our shared history. We need to be sure that not a single acre is taken from the public. That’s why we are working with legislators to rally support for the Antiquities Act of 2019 (S. 367 and H.R. 1050). This bill would not only protect national monuments designated or expanded since 1996—including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante—it also states that presidents cannot revoke or cut-back national monuments without congressional approval. We need your strongest support to help drive this critical legislation forward.

Reinstate protections for all of Bears Ears National Monument

President Trump’s presidential proclamation on December 4, 2017, nearly eradicated Bears Ears National Monument—the iconic landscape is now only 15 percent of its original size! Archeological sites like Cedar Mesa are at renewed risk of looting and desecration, recreational areas within the original monument boundaries could be damaged beyond repair, and the great sandstone buttes of the Valley of the Gods are at risk of reckless development.

We need Congress to fight against this attack on our public lands, so we are working hard to build support for the Bears Ears Expansion and Respect for Sovereignty Act (H.R. 871). This important act proposes to expand the monument to 1.9 million acres—restoring and adding to protections for over 100,000 archeological and cultural sites that are currently at risk. This bill must be passed to minimize devastating long-term consequences for Bears Ears. We need your help to make it happen.

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
Photo: Bob Wick, BLM on Flickr

Fully fund America’s best conservation program

In 1964, Congress passed legislation to protect our nation’s natural lands, water, and cultural heritage called the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act. The idea was simple: direct revenues from the depletion of one resource—offshore oil and gas drilling—to the protection of another resource—America’s land and water, to ensure access to recreation for all Americans. With this legislation in effect, Congress could use up to $900 million a year in revenue from oil and gas companies to create and safeguard parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and open space in every state in the nation.

Since then, LWCF funds have been used to protect areas in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, including special places like the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the MLK Jr. National Historic Site, and the at-risk Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Despite this critical work, in 2015, when the program reached the end of its second 25-year authorization, Congress let it expire. We fought hard against this expiration and pressed for a three-year extension of the program—buying some time to build support for the idea of making America’s best conservation program permanent.

As you may know, the fight for the Fund and the future of our public lands did not stop there. Despite a whopping 45,000 state and local park projects completed with LWCF funds, the 115th Congress failed to renew the program before it expired in the fall of 2018. Again, we fought back. After months of urging Congress to renew the LWCF—with you by our side—we were able to push members of the 116th Congress from both sides of the aisle to permanently reauthorize the program. Finally, we no longer need to spend our efforts fighting for this critical program to exist!

But the good news only goes so far. For most of the years that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been in existence, Congress and various Administrations have diverted large portions of LWCF funds to other uses. President Trump also signed permanent reauthorization for the LWCF into law the day after submitting his proposed 2020 budget to Congress, in which he virtually eliminates funding for the program. Neutralizing the LWCF right after reauthorizing it is not only contradictory, it is unacceptable. It places the future of our public lands at risk. So we are once again fighting on Capitol Hill, and we won’t rest until Congress fully funds the LWCF at the full $900 million. We need your help to garner support so we can protect this essential conservation funding, and in turn, the future of our public lands.

Call to Civic Action: Contact your Congresswomen and Congressmen

If you are concerned about the preservation of your public lands, contact your Representatives and Senators. Before calling, familiarize yourself with bills already in progressing through Congress. You can track bills directly using Congress' website and searching legislation. Depending on where the legislation currently is in the chambers, either the House of the Senate, direct you call towards that Congressperson.

Perspectives: The Missing Black Millennial

posted Apr 5, 2019, 6:39 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Apr 10, 2019, 4:40 PM ]

Reposted from Reniqua Allen at The New Republic
On a cold winter morning this year, I stepped on a downtown 6 train in New York City. I had just come from a grueling workout, and I was tired and hungry. Bundled up in my coat, with a pocketbook and bulky backpack, I took up more space in the aisle than usual, as if I were some exaggerated version of myself. A few seconds later, a blonde woman about my age huffily pushed by me, annoyed that she had to brush past my backpack. Apparently dismayed that her shove hadn’t gotten the message across, she loudly told me that my bag was in the way. Annoyed at her annoyance, I told her, “Figure it out.” 

MLK: A Black Millennial Contemporary at age 34

MLK mugshot birmingham
April 4, 2019, would 51th Anniversary of MLK jr's Assassination
Martin Luther King was called, during his lifetime, "the most dangerous negro," for his work as a civil rights activist advocating for the rights of black people in America. The majority of MLK's work occurred in his 30s and he could be considered a contemporary for Millenials at our current age. Unlike Millenials at our current age, MLK didn't have to operate under the guise of a "Post-Racial Society": everyone could see the injustices happening to Black people. Of the current year, many people do not see injustices still happening to black people.

MLK. Birmingham AL police dept [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
She proceeded to berate me for over ten minutes. Like the rest of the people on the train, I ignored her. A few stops later, as she got up to leave, our eyes locked and I flashed her a smile.

“Typical,” she said, glaring at me as she walked out.

“Typical for who?” I yelled back.

I was fine with being called out for bad behavior and a bad attitude. I probably could have been nicer. My backpack was clunky, and protocol required that I take it off my shoulders and put it on the floor. No, it wasn’t her complaints that bothered me—it was the way “typical” flew out of her mouth.
The only things she knew about me were my race, my approximate age, and my gender. The way she looked at me, the disgust with which she hurled that word, told me that this interaction wasn’t about another rude New Yorker on the subway. It was about what I stood for: some group of people she thought she understood, whose stories she thought she knew.

But she didn’t know my story, nor the stories of many others like me.
A few years ago, because of people like that blonde woman on the train, I set out to collect the voices of young black people across the country for a book. As I talked to these black millennials, it became clear that nearly all of them were frustrated by the gross popular perceptions about what it means to be young and black in America.

A Profile of the Black Millenial: The black millennial is composed of contradictions and ambiguity; her journey of tentative steps forward and horrific setbacks

As a generation, millennials are used to being misunderstood. Perhaps no generation has been so gleefully maligned in the press, which has produced a zillion think pieces casting millennials as entitled, lazy, mayonnaise-hating, over-educated pampered whiners who, in their blinkered narcissism, are selling out the human race. That caricature has slowly given way to a more nuanced picture of a generation profoundly shaped by the events of its time—9/11, the Iraq War, the Great Recession, climate change—and baleful socioeconomic trends: growing income inequality, staggering levels of student debt, stagnant wages. And yet, for all this new understanding, there remains a huge blind spot when it comes to black millennials in particular.

African-Americans make up 14 percent of the millennial population, born, roughly speaking, between 1981 and 1996. Black millennials came of age in the so-called post-race era, their worldview defined by Barack Obama’s historic rise to the presidency, Beyonce’s dominance of the entertainment industry, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s emergence as one of the premier public intellectuals in this country. But they also witnessed tragedies like the Rodney King beating, Hurricane Katrina, and the police shootings of Mike Brown and so many other young black men and women. They saw the horrific and racist treatment of our first black president and his wife. And then they saw the alleged “post-race” period give way to the election of the most openly racist president in modern American history.

The black millennial, then, is composed of contradictions and ambiguity; her journey of tentative steps forward and horrific setbacks. In this, young blacks are not so different from their ancestors, complicating the whole notion of generational change that we are used to ascribing to non-black people, in which a particular cohort is perceived as being fundamentally different from its predecessors. In many ways, the story of the black millennial is as much about consistency as it is about change—which is to say that the story of the black millennial is the story of what it means to be black, period.

The Story of being Black

Like all millennials, black millennials have to deal with a host of economic challenges. In addition to middling wages and the burden of student debt, they have to negotiate a thriving gig economy that provides little security and an urban housing market that has increasingly priced out the working and middle classes. They are uncertain about the future in a way that past generations weren’t, and grasping for an adulthood that feels forever delayed.

But though black millennials have much in common with their white peers, there are important distinctions. In almost all areas of life, the deck is stacked even higher against us, in part due to historical discrimination and in part because of inequities unique to the millennial era. By many measures, black millennials are behind. We lag in terms of employment, wages, and attaining “good jobs.” We have less wealth, live in poverty more. Even when we try to do something positive like go to college, we have to take on higher amounts of student debt. And then we still end up with fewer job prospects than our white counterparts.

As an older millennial, I saw my black friends working harder than ever and going to graduate school—and still taking on multiple jobs. Meanwhile, my white peers regaled me with tales of miraculously landing great positions and getting into fantastic schools with mediocre test scores. They told me about promotions, about just being in the right place at the right time. They struggled less, made more money, and had all the luck. It made me angry. 

And that’s just the economic situation. Black millennials are increasingly asked for their ID when voting. We are still disproportionately being sucked into the criminal justice system. We have less access to health care, and are likely to die at a younger age. We have to dress a certain way so we aren’t stopped by police at night. We are mocked for the way we look and disparaged for being angry and loud. Our sexuality, always expressed as something animalistic and promiscuous, is often still the subject of public indignation. Even the wealthiest, most successful black millennials can’t protest peacefully without being called ungrateful and unpatriotic.
Even the wealthiest, most successful black millennials can’t protest peacefully without being called ungrateful and unpatriotic.

What makes Black Millenials distinct: They are supposed to believe that the playing field has been evened out

Even the wealthiest, most successful black millennials can’t protest peacefully without being called ungrateful and unpatriotic.

The great irony of all this—and perhaps what truly makes black millennials distinct from their forebears—is that we’re supposed to believe that the playing field has finally evened out. Many people, including older blacks at times, just don’t understand why young black millennials are frustrated. They think because we aren’t being threatened by the Klan every day, that, if we point out racism, we are playing the “race card,” indulging in identity politics, playing the victim, and simply not working hard enough. Martin Luther King Jr., once dubbed the “most dangerous negro,” has a national holiday in his honor; explicit segregation and overt discrimination are universally condemned (but nevertheless ubiquitous); Black Panther destroyed the box office last year; and heck, we had a black president.

Obama looms large over this generation, a symbol less of progress than of the fundamental ambivalence of being a black millennial. “I specifically remember the day I watched Barack Obama get inaugurated into office,” Patrick, a 28-year-old graduate of Howard University, told me. “My mind was like, maybe we are in a post-racial society. People elected a black person.” But he slowly began to understand that in this country there is always a qualifier to progress. “We’re realizing more and more that whatever happens, whatever benefits that we get, there’s always a ‘but’ to it,” he said. “There’s always something that comes after that makes it almost not worth it. So, yes, we had a black president, but now we have a racist white president.” 

“We’re not living in a post-racial society,” Patrick added. “We just elected a black president. That’s all we did.” 
I spoke to dozens of black millennials who echoed Patrick’s experiences.

There was Jeremy, a coal miner from West Virginia, who had to overcome the perception that the industry was for whites only. “It was hard on me at first,” he said. “I was called the N-word when I started working underground, people not talking to you, just walking by you like you’re invisible. They put people in a category. If you’re black, there’s nothing good about you—especially if you’re black and taking a white person’s position, where another white person could be. They just don’t like it.”

Then there’s Trina, from Jackson, Mississippi, a mother of three who says black women are constantly held to different standards. “Society makes it harder on us for everything,” she said. “If we have six kids we look like we got no morals. We just have sex with anybody. If a white woman got six kids, ‘Oh she’s probably just doing the Lord’s will. He says be fruitful and multiply.’ Black women, we got colored hair, we ghetto. White women, they got colored hair they’re cultural. We get braids, oh we pro-black. White women braid their hair, ‘Oh they’re just diverse.’ There’s a double standard.”

Jalessa, who worked in communications for a major company in Los Angeles, said that the idea that blacks have to work twice as hard is very real. “Black people gotta prove so much before our opinion can be valued,” she said, “whereas a white man could walk into a room and he could just come out and say what he wants, negotiate with who he wants.” She added, “Let me come in and have a bad day. I’m supposed to suck it up, smile and not be the black girl with the attitude.”

To understand the black millennial, then, is to not only reverse the tired tropes about millennials that have proliferated in the media for the past ten or so years—it is also to rethink the role of race in twenty-first century America. Despite the increased acceptance of interracial relationships, a widespread love of black culture, and a more visible presence for blacks in historically white institutions, it’s still hard to overstate just how much the past remains present in this country. Research conducted by The Washington Post in 2015 about the supposedly “woke” millennial generation found that 31 percent of white millennials think blacks are lazier than whites, and that 23 percent say they’re not as intelligent. Shocking responses, and statistically not much different from those in previous generations.

If it is the case that black millennials are stuck in a cyclical experience that transcends history, then some will ask why the experience of the missing black millennial, in particular, matters. They will say this is essentially the same story that black people have suffered for decades, and to some degree they will be right. Promise and decline, hope and suffering—it is a pattern that weaves together Reconstruction, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights movement, and the election of Barack Obama. Throughout it all, the black community has waited for America to finally make good on its promise. Yet that day hasn’t come.

The Black Millenial: A desperate hope for America to make good on its promise

To comprehend the black millennial experience in America is to comprehend what it means to hope. Not in a feel-good way, not in a naive way, but in a desperate way, as a way of life, because the alternative is unacceptable. This is the story of black America, a story of strength and overcoming. But I sometimes wonder: When do we give up? When will hope fade? I am reminded constantly that, despite the hope of a black president, it was under his watch that the movement for black lives started. And it’s in his shadow that a racist president exists. 

In a 1965 piece for The New York Times, James Baldwin talked about the painful generational trap that blacks face, a trap that black millennials are starting to confront as the older among us approach our forties: 
You realize that you are 30 and you are having a terrible time. You have been through a certain kind of mill and the most serious effect is again not the catalogue of disaster—the policeman, the taxi driver, the waiters, the landlady, the banks, the insurance companies, the millions of details 24 hours of every day which spell out to you that you are a worthless human being. It is not that. By that time you have begun to see it happening in your daughter, your son or your niece or your nephew. You are 30 by now and nothing you have done has helped you escape the trap. But what is worse is that nothing you have done, and as far as you can tell nothing you can do, will save your son or your daughter from having the same disaster and from coming to the same end. 

Yet we continue to hope, we continue to struggle. Study after study shows that, despite being left behind, black millennials are still optimistic. But the nature of that struggle has changed, especially when it comes to the kind of freedom black millennials desire. A new crop of African American politicians, for example, have refused to whitewash their political personas, demanding that voters accept the ways in which they are different. Mayor Frank Scott Jr. of Little Rock, Arkansas, has said he is “unapologetically black.” Park Cannon, who was elected to the Georgia House in 2016, is one of that legislature’s three queer representatives and openly supports Black Lives Matter. Similarly, audacious themes have cropped up in the 2018 campaigns of Gen Xers like Stacey Abrams, Ayanna Pressley, and Andrew Gillum. 

Black millennials, like others in their generation, are frustrated with the current system. Participation among black millennials in presidential elections dropped between 2012 and 2016, according to Pew, with turnout at 55 percent and 51 percent, respectively. That could partly be attributed to Obama no longer leading the Democratic ticket. But black millennials also supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, while their parents went for Hillary Clinton, an indication that young blacks are disillusioned with the establishment and hungry for the kind of economic freedom promised in Sanders’s more far-reaching platform.

Black Millenial Entitlement: "if we worked hard, we could have an affordable home, decent health care, and a modest feeling of security"

Perhaps young blacks are guilty of being that most unforgivable of millennial sins: entitled. But our sense of entitlement does not revolve around avocado toast and CBD lattes. Our sense of entitlement, or at least mine specifically, comes from the notion that the richest nation on earth can provide all of its citizens with basic necessities. I thought that, if we worked hard, we could have an affordable home, decent health care, and a modest feeling of security. I thought that we were supposed to be able to have families without paying out the nose for daycare or worrying about student loans. And I thought that, after 400 years in this country, black people wouldn’t have to remind the world that our lives matter. But I was wrong.

Black America is not a monolith. We don’t all agree on what blackness or Americanness means, or whether we should even reconcile those two things. But we all have our own stories, and those stories are crucial to understanding the experience of black millennials and what that experience says about our country. 

BuzzFeed, for example, recently published a story that addressed black millennial burnout. However, the piece was a response to another article about millennial burnout that went viral and that was very rooted in white experience. Though the response was a beautifully crafted evocation of black trauma and suffering, it reminded me that all too often our pain is seen as a side issue—an addendum to, instead of a legitimate part of, mainstream experience. And only one author ended up on the Today Show talking about millennials. Guess which? 

If we were to put those stories front and center, we would find a version of young black America that is no less profound for being different—for being far from “typical.” My conversation with a young artist Shamir comes to mind. He had a breakout album in 2015, but years later found that he was being pushed in a direction he didn’t like. So he gave up the fancy producers and set out to define his career in a way that departed from what was expected of a black musician, recording a lo-fi album alone in his Philadelphia bedroom. He found the experience to be liberating. “I’ve already reached my American Dream,” he told me. “I have this career that feels boundless now.... It can only go up from there. I know there’s still a lot of other things that I want to do, but they don’t feel out of reach.” 

About the Author: Reniqua Allen

Reniqua Allen is a writer and producer. Her new book, It Was All a Dream: A New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America, is out now from Bold Type Books. 
She has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Quartz, Buzzfeed, Teen Vogue, Glamour and more, and has produced a range of films, video, and radio for PBS, MSNBC, WYNC and HBO. 
Reniqua is also completing a Ph.D in American Studies from Rutgers University. Her dissertation looks at how black culture has and continues to engage with the idea of the American Dream. She lives in the South Bronx.

Media Accountability: Confirmed-- GOP's tea party win under Obama got twice as much media coverage as 2018 Blue Wave

posted Mar 29, 2019, 7:56 AM by Rahni Sumler

Reposted from Eric Boehlert at Daily Kos 

Last year, Democrats posted their best midterm cycle win since Watergate, flipping 40 seats in the House as part of a sweeping blue-wave pushback against Trump. Yet the three major television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, devoted less than half as much airtime covering the 2018 resistance midterm cycle as they did covering the GOP's big tea party-assisted House win in 2010 under President Barack Obama.

Tea Party Demonstration

P1020179 (4491386009)
March 2010 Tea Party demonstration on the Denver Colorado State Capitol. 
Attributed to dalelanham [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last year, during Trump's first midterm election cycle, ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News aired 274 minutes on the topic, according to monitoring done by television news researcher Andrew Tyndall, who recently emailed his annual findings to followers. But during Obama's first midterm election cycle in 2010, the same network newscasts aired an astounding 666 minutes when tea party activists rallied against the Democratic president and helped the GOP take control of the House.  
The networks just weren't that enamored with Democrats last year. For instance, World News Tonight spent more time covering Hurricane Florence in South Carolina (68 minutes) than it did covering the entire midterm election cycle (67 minutes), which Democrats dominated.

The snubbing appears to be part of a long-running trend, where the networks are far more keyed into midterm cycles when Republicans do well, compared to when Democrats score big wins. Indeed, the tea party findings once again seem to confirm that so many Beltway news cycles revolve around a very simple premise: What are Republicans angry about today?
Note that, since 1990, Democrats have posted their two best midterm wins in 2018 and in 2006. During those two years, the networks aired a combined 649 minutes of election coverage, according to Tyndall. By contrast, the networks aired a stunning 1,110 minutes in the Republicans' two best midterm cycles, in 1994 and in 2010.

It's true that, numerically, Republicans picked up more House seats in 1994 and 2010 (117) than Democrats did in 2006 and 2018 (71), but some of that is because of increased gerrymandering over the last decade by Republicans, which has made it harder for political parties to flip seats. Still, there's no question that the amount of time devoted to those four signature midterm campaign cycles should have been relatively similar. But it wasn't even close.



That's because the press went bonkers producing coverage of the GOP's so-called Contract With America in 1994 when Bill Clinton was president (453 minutes), and the tea party uprising under Obama (666 minutes). In both instances, the press played a key role in hyping Republicans’ claims and helping them turn the midterm cycles into national referendums.

How big are those numbers, 453 minutes and 666 minutes, respectively? According to Tyndall, the most-covered news story on the network evening newscasts for all of 2018 was the nomination and then bruising confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. For that, the networks set aside 426 minutes of coverage. Yet that's still less than the amount of time the networks devoted to the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections when Republicans won big.

Beltway news cycles revolve around a simple premise: What are Republicans angry about today?

It really is amazing to look back and see how the political press in America absolutely showered the tea party with nonstop coverage after Obama was elected. The newly elected Democrat had just won a historic landslide victory. Yet the D.C. press corps almost immediately—within weeks of Obama being inaugurated—decided that loudmouth Republican critics represented the real story in American politics. Fox News' unabashed marketing and promotion of the anti-Obama tea party movement helped the Republican allies create even more headlines.

Recall that the tea party movement was born on CNBC, when reporter Rick Santelli started ranting about Obama on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange, warning viewers the new Democratic president was steering the country toward a Cuban Castro-like economy. CNBC then hyped the clip incessantly ("Shot Heard Around The Word"/"Santelli's Manifesto"), while NBC led its evening newscast the night of the rant with a clip of Santelli, announcing his rant had struck a "populist" chord. (It hadn't: Polling at the time clearly showed that most Americans supported Obama’s plan to stem foreclosures, which is what Santelli had railed against.)

One other example of how the network newscasts often pay less attention to midterm cycles that favor Democrats came in 1998. That year, the networks produced a paltry 158 minutes of election coverage. The punch line is that the networks were so busy burying Clinton with impeachment and Monica Lewinsky coverage that they didn't have time left to pay attention to the fact that Democrats used the GOP's and the media's ceaseless scandal hysteria to actually win seats in the House, an almost unheard-of accomplishment for a party in power whose president is serving his second term. In 1998, the three networks aired an almost unimaginable 1,931 minutes of Clinton sex scandal coverage, according to Tyndall, but just 158 minutes on the Democrats' victorious midterm election cycle. That year, CBS Evening News produced just 50 minutes of midterm coverage, compared to a staggering 662 minutes of CBS White House scandal reporting.

When the Democratic Party scores historic midterm election wins, it ought to be treated by the media in the same way as the GOP is when it does.

Eric Boehlert is a veteran progressive writer and media analyst, formerly with Media Matters and Salon. He is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush and Bloggers on the Bus. You can follow him on Twitter @EricBoehlert.

Human Rights and Economic Empowerment: Activists demand Wall Street banks break up with Private Prisons in National Valentine's Day protest [with Update!]

posted Mar 22, 2019, 7:28 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Mar 22, 2019, 7:34 AM ]

Reposted from Huiying B. Chan at Daily Kos 

Love was in the air this Valentine’s Day, but not for Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. These major Wall Street banks have become the subject of increasing public scrutiny for their funding of the private-prison industry and immigration detention centers. Numerous organizations and individuals—from the worlds of grassroots community organizing to social investing—joined together to expose the true money story behind these banks.

In partnership with Daily Kos, Jasmine Rashid at social investing firm Candide Group conducted interviews with key organizers and leaders across the country, in order to get a glimpse into the work of change-makers who are pushing the needle when it comes to exposing the companies profiting most from private prisons and immigrant detention.

Valentines National Day of Action Outside of Wells Fargo Headquarters in San Fransico

Image of community members gather outside Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco to launch the national day of action.
Community members gather outside Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco to launch the national day of action.


But first, what exactly are Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase’s connections to private prisons and immigrant detention centers? The banks are major funders of GEO Group and CoreCivic, the biggest operators of both private prisons and immigrant detention centers in the United States. These two corporations control nearly 75 percent of the private prison industry, and earn over $2.7 billion in taxpayer dollars per year—all to keep people behind bars. A major driving force behind the mass incarceration and detention of black and brown people is a simple one: It makes a lot of money. 

How exactly does it work? GEO Group and CoreCivic collectively hold nearly $4 billion in debt, so they rely on debt financing from major banks as they tighten and strengthen their control over the prison and immigrant detention systems. Without funding from major banks, it would be impossible for GEO Group and CoreCivic to carry out their day-to-day operations and keep the lights on in the facilities where black and brown people are detained and abused by the hundreds of thousands. In other words, without funding from JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, with the complicity of their shareholders, the private prison industry would suffer. 

In the past six months, there has been a surge of national action to fight against banks’ toxic relationships with prisons and detention centers. On the ground, MomsRising, an organization working for the economic security of all moms, women, and families, along with Candide Group, led the #FamiliesBelongTogether corporate accountability committee, with over 80 organizations—representing over a million members across the country who are horrified by the separation and incarceration of immigrant children and families.



Last September, MomsRising held a rally in San Francisco, where they delivered a letter with 400,000 petition signatures to Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase, requesting that they stop financing the private prisons used in family detention. Our very own Daily Kos Community members made up a significant number of the petition signers who helped make the rally a success. The coalition agreed to use Valentine’s Day as a National Day of Action to support an initiative by Real Money Moves: If Wells Fargo and Chase didn’t break up with the private prison industry by Feb. 14, then customers would commit to breaking up with their banks.

On Valentine’s Day, immigrant families, activists, and allies showed up at Wells Fargo branches all across the country to deliver hundreds of thousands of petitions, including the voices of more than 150,000 people who pledged to switch from their banks unless they ended their relationships with private prisons.

Protest outside of Wells Fargo

Image of Immigrant women protesting outside of Wells Fargo. They shared powerful tesitmoies of their experiences with the privately run detention centers that big banks help fund. Image credit to Jasmine Rashid of Candide Group
Attribution: Jasmine Rashid, Canidide Group.
Mothers and children call on Wells Fargo to #ShowLove by ending their funding of family separations and detention. 

Organizers and families held ”playdate protests” around the country to complement the petition deliveries. At these protests held outside of Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase banks, kids played with their families, and led songs and chants with their parents. It gave children a role, and allowed for parents to show the next generation that they too are rising up against hate, and in support of what is right.

“We are doing this to bring thousands of moms and caregivers to the overall movement ecosystem in a powerful way, to build circles of organizing in local communities that can include ongoing protests, but also other forms of mutual aid, and support for people in detention or deportation proceedings,” said Ilana Berger, organizing director at Hand in Hand, a national network of domestic employers. Hand in Hand has been part of protests against ICE and DHS, but they also believe it is important to go after what they refer to as “the corporate backers of hate.”

“As mothers and caregivers, so many of us were appalled by the administration's brutal policy of separating families and detaining children, and we knew that this was an atrocity we could not let continue,” Berger added. “We want them to inherit not just a better society, but also the knowledge that they have the power—and the responsibility—to make a better world for all of us.”

In New York City, members of Make the Road New York (MRNY), an organization that builds the social, economic, and political power of Latinx and working-class communities, spent the morning at their local #ShowLove action with a serenade. They arrived with a mariachi band that sang breakup songs outside of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s doorstep.

Valentines Day of Action: Protestors in New York

Image of New Yorkers calling on JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to break up with the private prison industry. Attributed to Ricardo Aca from Make the Road NY
Attribution: Ricardo Aca,Make the Road NY
Image of New Yorkers calling on JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to break up with the private prison industry. 


“Punctuated by songs of heartbreak and loss, our members called on Dimon to once and for all break up with the private prison companies,” said Mateo Guerrero, lead organizer at MRNY. “The crowd chanted and sang beautifully, before continuing on to deliver more than 100,000 petition signatures to the bank headquarters, urging the bank to show love to their communities by ceasing to bankroll oppression.”

Songs of Protest to the CEO of JP Morgan Chase

Image of a mariachi band and protestors singing break up songs outside the home of JP Morgan Chase's CEO. Attributed to Ricardo Aca from Make the Road NY
Attribution : Ricardo Aca from Make the Road NY 
A mariachi band plays and sings break up songs outside Dimon’s home in Manhattan. 

Since the launch of the campaign back in September 2018, organizers have seen major shifts in the positions of the banks. In the beginning, Wells Fargo’s public position on private prisons was that overcrowding in the state prison system made them necessary. However, in December 2018, it issued a statement to shareholders, shifting its position: It stated that private prisons posed an escalated investment risk that ran counter to its human rights policy. It would no longer seek business from the industry.

“Wells Fargo was the first bank to respond in this way, and their statement was an important first step,” said Matt Nelson, executive director of Presente.org, the largest online advocacy group for Latin American immigrants in the United States. “However, it’s still not good enough. The bank still has tens of millions of dollars in existing funding supporting the private prison industry, and they haven’t presented any long-term strategy for even how they would gradually leave.”

Although there is still a long way to go, Wells Fargo’s shift in its public position is a testament to the power of grassroots organizing and large-scale mobilization. Last year and early 2019 have seen incredible mass efforts and victories against the corporate atrocities of banks and tech giants. The No Tech for ICE campaign highlighted the role of tech companies in aiding ICE, and called for corporations like Microsoft and Salesforce to cancel their contracts. Amazon also saw major public scrutiny for its contracts with ICE and marketing of dangerous facial recognition software. On Valentine’s Day, at the same time the playdate protests were happening, New York City successfully broke up with that monopoly when Amazon officials announced their decision to cancel their second headquarters in Queens—after facing consistent community organizing and outrage in the months since they first announced their decision.

Because of the continued coordinated national actions and press coverage, the stories coming out of private detention facilities have become more and more visible. “With the deaths of children and trans people and the daily torture of families within these facilities, the issue has reached beyond human rights communities to a point of widespread moral outrage,” Presente’s Nelson said. “This has become a moral issue that has put banks in a situation where supporting this industry means supporting the brutal, and often deadly, immigration policies of our current administration.”

“Every time the public gets more engaged, it visualizes the real world challenges and pain that so many migrants are going through because of the policies of the Trump administration, as well as the obscene profit motivation for family detention within the private prison industry,” Nelson added.

100,000 Petition Signatures infront of JP Morgan Chase Headquarters in Manhattan

Image of the one hundred thousand petition signatures to JP Morgan Chase infront of their headquarters in Manhattan.
Attributed to Ricardo Aca, Make the Road NY. Community members deliver over 100,000 petition signatures to the JPMorgan Chase headquarters in Manhattan.

Since the national actions, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has joined in to make a public commitment to hold banks accountable. “We’re going to hold oversight hearings to make these banks accountable for investing in and making money off of the detention of immigrants,” she said at an event held by Make the Road last week in Queens. “Because it’s wrong.”

Berger, from Hand in Hand, remains hopeful for the changes to come. “We hope it will inspire many others to take action in their own communities, so that it will grow the movement of people organizing in solidarity with immigrants and asylum seekers in our country. We hope this will lead to a movement where any private entity sees that investing in private prison corporations will be bad for their brand and for their business.”

Special thanks to Jasmine Rashid who conducted the interviews for this article. This article was published with the Daily Kos Liberation League

Call to Action: Check out the Protest Update

Since the day of action on Valentines Day, the banks have responded! This article was posted here for context but be sure to go check out the results at Chan's follow up article on Daily Kos

Huiying B Chan is a creative writer, multimedia storyteller, and community organizer from New York City with roots in the Toisanese diaspora. They are also a Staff Writer for the Daily Kos as well as a racial justice campaigner through the Kairos Fellowship. 

Rodney Sumler Day 2019 Q&A

posted Mar 15, 2019, 7:26 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Mar 15, 2019, 7:30 AM ]

An evening in budding Spring, lights bloom to life in an opened storefront space. Afrocentric portraits of buildings towered over the reception desk and greeted the people as they entered. The buildings curiously wore warm, dark masks of the people that they housed and were similarly adorned in fantastically textured regalia of Harlem. Rich, bright, and royal sculptures dotted the space, seeming to sway to the smooth beats of quintessential Black, American music.
Attracted passer-byers frequently entered the storefront-turned-community-art-space, inquiring if the party was RSVP only. It was but, as part of the community, they were invited too.

Last week, there was an article over viewing the presentation given at the event by the late honoree's daughter, Rahni Sumler. Of course, at the live event, audience participation always unearths more perspectives! The audience received index cards at the event to jot down questions while the presentation were given. Here were the questions asked.

Celebrating the AC Phoenix Newspaper: Origins of the AC Pharos

front cover of the hand drawn issue of the AC Phoenix Newspaper from January 1994. Egyptian theme inspired the AC Pharos.
The newspaper explored a number of fronts. This issue inspired the name for the foundation’s blog, “AC Pharos.”
Pharos is the name of an Egyptian lighthouse outside of the great city of Alexandria: One of the most famous cultural, scientific, and economic hubs in antiquity.  Rodney Sumler was a casual artist. This header might have been drawn while serving his 5 year sentence after indictment.

"How would a community grant management training program work?"

Background: The Advisory Board allows Social Entrepreneurs to pitch Community Development Projects

In the presentation, Ms. Sumler pitched the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation's Advisory Board to entrepreneurs, small business owners, and researchers interested in community development.  This board would advise the Governing Board in how the foundation should run. The Advisory Board was also described as an opportunity for social entrepreneur. Through Research Expeditions, social entrepreneurs could sustainably develop community development projects that they want to see. The Advisory Board an open forum of similarly minded individuals that could provide the support to help social entrepreneurs reach their goals. 

Community Grant Management Training: Community Development and a Medium for Self-Sustaining Community Service

Ms. Sumler is the Chairwoman of the Governing Board. She is also an entrepreneur with her own business. As such, she meets some of her financial obligations through listing her business as a sponsor of the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation.  Using herself as a serving example of opportunities for entrepreneurs serving on the advisory board, Ms. Sumler shared her vision of an eventual Community Writing Center. This Community Writing Center would offer grant writing and grant management trainings for members of the community. Continuing  the functioning example of how the advisory board would work, she asked permission to share her ideas with the audience, to which they eagerly agreed. 

She went on to explain her observations of how community boards work to develop the community. Community Boards are formed to develop the community. However, Community Boards often do not have the power or the resources to bring developments to fruition. Through seeking grants and using the grant funding apparatus, Community Boards can build relationships with funders and politicians to achieve power. They can also get the resources they need in a sustainable, and manageable way.

Further, having members of the community as the grant managers is a vehicle for self-sustaining community service. This sort of community service will be self-sustaining because these grant managers will be gainfully employed. Community based grant managers are better equipped to their insights as members of the community to obtain these resources. 

The Community Writing Center would teach these skills to interested people in the community. The foundation would assist with this through Research Expeditions that could investigate, for example, the best ways to make community grant writing courses more culturally applicable and impactful to the target community. Culturally approachable and applicable writing courses have greater potential to generate better outcomes. 

"With Rodney Sumler's AC Consultants, AC Phoenix Newspaper and then eventually AC Pharos, why did he use 'AC'?"

Background: Rodney Sumler's Branding

During the presentation, Ms. Sumler described the different projects her father took part in. He started "AC Consulting", where he went on to help employ members of the community to put up billboards and advertise services within the community. Seeing many successes in the community for billboards, he naturally traversed to another vector of marketing. This became the free, monthly newspaper called "AC Phoenix Newspaper" in 1983. The newspaper served the community for over 30 years, helping many community businesses and institutions grow. He also employed journalists and other writers from the community, collecting their insights. 

At his passing, Ms. Sumler explained that the newspaper inspired the starting of the AC Pharos. Starting in 2016, the mission and challenges of the blog lead to the formation of the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation that next year. The AC Pharos would eventually become the online publishing arm and blog for the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation. 

Search Engine Optimization 1.0

Ms. Sumler did not know why her father chose to brand his projects with "AC". She proposed that her mother might know, but then gave some colorful explanation to what her father's reasoning might be. Her father was an avid reader and had a library of books in his office. Ms. Sumler frequently would sneak into his office and peel through some of his books. She recalled an old business book that gave suggestions on naming your business. In the days before the apex of the internet, Ms. Sumler spoke of distant memories of businesses printed in databases called the "Yellow Pages." Members of the audience laughed in agreement.

The business book suggested naming businesses starting with the letter "A," as an indexing hack. Businesses are often listed by name and those starting with A appear at the top of the list. This could be seen as a form of SEO 1.0 hacks. 

Later on in the evening, audience members participated in a electronic scavenger hunt. They were asked to go to Digital NC and navigate to their list of newspapers. Rodney Sumler may have gotten the last laugh as "AC Phoenix Newspaper" was listed near the top of the first page on Digital NC's database of community newspapers.

"What is Environmental Justice?"

Background: Rodney Sumler Day Celebrates Economic, Environmental Justice and Organizing Action

During Ms. Sumler's presentation she outlined the objectives of the evening, one of which was to celebrate environmental justice. One of the realizations since Rodney Sumler's final project and the creation of the foundation was that economic opportunity and environmental justice are intrinsically linked. The "Rodney Sumler Research Foundation for Economic Empowerment and Environmental Protection" was found to focus on the different aspects of this relationship and ways to improve outcomes in the community. This relationship is especially apparent in poorer communities. 
Poorer communities do not have the resources, influence or power to affect policy that impacts many of the environmental conditions of their communities. The AC Phoenix Newspaper was a solution to this problem by being a bastion for civic duties such as voting. Albeit, the paper was most importantly a vehicle for civic engagement.  Audience members got to see parts of the archives, which featured many profiles of local politicians and ways of taking action: contacting decision makers to talk about community issues. This addressed gaps in power. 

Lead in Flint: Environmental Crises stem from Environmental Injustice

Ms. Sumler proposed the example of Flint, Michigan for the audience's consideration. Flint is a high profile environmental crisis that many people know about. However, outside of environmental activist communities, not many are familiar with how the crisis came to be and how to describe it. 

Ms. Sumler gave a brief overview of how environmentalists and environmental activists talk about the events leading up to the crisis. Some corporations wanted to cut corners and make more money, neglecting safety standards. The local government, inundated by contributions to from said corporation, relaxed safety standards in-kind. Further, the local government in Flint in particular wanted to further reduce costs by not maintaining the water system. This lead to the lead contamination and the continuing crisis. Flint is a poorer community and, therefore, had little access to the people who made these sorts of decisions. "Environmental Injustice" encapsulates the political and industry scenarios that lead up to this crisis.

Call to Action: Connect with us to Continue the Conversation

The main way to connect to the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation is to subscribe to the AC Pharos e-letter!  We update weekly on Fridays at 12pm. We also will continue to take questions and continue the discussion on Facebook @RodneySumlerResearchFoundation and our Company Page on LinkedIn
We plan to continue to have small Guided Talks for Economic Empowerment and Environmental Justice throughout the year. You can learn more and actively discuss the intrinsic connections between environmental justice and economic empowerment at these events. You can also discuss what members of the advisory board are up to and their projects. Connecting with us will help you reserve your seat at these events!

An Introduction To Rodney Sumler Day: Economic, Environmental Justice And Celebrating Organizing Action! Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm

posted Mar 8, 2019, 8:42 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Mar 8, 2019, 12:57 PM ]

March 13, 2015, the Mayor of Winston-Salem declared Rodney Sumler Day (RSD) an official city holiday to honor Rodney Jerome Sumler for his service to the city and for the purpose of continuing the spirit of his mission.  
You can RSVP for both the NYC event and Facebook Live event at the link below: 

Rodney Sumler: Community Activist, Social Entrepreneur

Portrait of Rodney Sumler and the logo for the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation for Economic Empowerment and Environmental Protection
The term "social entrepreneur" was coined in the early 2000s. However, Rodney Sumler had been displaying qualities of social entrepreneurship since beginning his consulting agency, AC Consulting, in the 1970s. His paper, the AC Phoenix Newspaper, served communities in North Carolina for over 30 years. It provided many opportunities for small business and even for community members to become more civically engaged. For some members, Civic Engagement turned into Civic Service. The AC Phoenix News was sited for sending many Congresspeople of color to Federal, and NC State capitals. 
March 13, 2019, we will hold both a physical event in Black National Theater in Harlem and a Facebook live event achieve these goals: 
  1. Make people aware of the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation(RSRF), founded to continue the work of Rodney Sumler,  and what we do 
  2. Give people ways to contribute to the RSRF
  3. Build relationships for our programs- potential scholars, expedition fellows, and advisory board members 
  4. Celebrate the digital archiving of the Rodney Sumler’s community newspaper: the AC Phoenix News 
  5. Highlight the importance of preserving our community through digitally archiving our work 

Who was Rodney Sumler?

Rodney Sumler was a Civil Rights leader who, in the 1960’s, organized demonstrations with the now Rev. Jessie Jackson while they were attending their Alma Mater: North Carolina A&T State University.
For the next 40 years, Rodney Sumler remained dedicated to the betterment of people of color. As an entrepreneur, he was well known and provided meeting spaces for community leaders to discuss ways to uplift their community in the 1970's.

For over 30 years, he helped maintain diversity of representation in our nation’s capital as the Head Editor of the AC Phoenix News, providing a medium for community members to learn about their representatives.  His final project was combating forces of environmental injustice afflicting a poor community of color in Eden, North Carolina.

Continuing the Legacy: Rodney Sumler Research Foundation

Rodney Sumler Research Foundation for Economic Empowerment and Environmental Protection was founded on November 2017. The foundation was formed and supported by the family to continue the work of Rodney Sumler. The mission of the foundation is to rewrite negative cultural narratives for people of color through education, research, and development.
 
To serve this mission, the goal of the foundation is to connect researchers and activists to pursue research driven community development. After all, rewriting negative cultural narratives requires the truth to be revealed. The truth is best unearthed and respected through rigorous research. 

In pursuit of this mission, currently overseeing the creation and implementation of these programs:

  • Social Research Expeditions that sponsor researchers in the field
  • Scholars in Residence that serves to incubate journalists, scholars, and activists focused on uplifting under served communities through research

Successful Past Project: Digitizing the AC Phoenix Newspaper


Digitization of community newspapers preserves them and makes them more searchable. This can be used to build the community: overcoming challenges by having a record of what worked in the past. 

The AC Phoenix News was started by Rodney Sumler as the head editor in 1983, serving the community for over 30 years until his passing.  It empowered many voices of the community, small businesses and served as an economic boon for the Piedmont Triad. It was also the spiritual predecessor of the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation's blog, the AC Pharos. 

Scans of the newspaper are currently hosted for view via web at DigitalNC for everyone to see. 
This project is technically on going, as the public can continue to send in their back issues of the AC Phoenix News to the Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University, Rodney Sumler's Alma Mater.
If you have old copies of the AC Pheonix News, contact us here also send the papers to this physical address:
Re: AC Phoenix Newspaper Collection
F. D. Bluford Library Archives
North Carolina A&T State University
1601 East Market Street 
Greensboro, NC 27411

Digitization makes the Voice of the Community more Accessible for Everyone

The AC Phoenix News employed a number of authors from the community, who gave community insights, impacts from past political campaigns, and  cultural events. Not only does this preserve the history of the community, it will also make it searchable. Digitizing community newspapers provides data that can be used to gain valuable insights on the community. This data can be further used to build the community: overcoming challenges by having a record of what worked in the past.

Digitizing the community paper provides sources for community insights. This means that we can contribute information to reference websites like Wikipedia or even NCPedia.org, making the voices from the community more accessible for everyone. 

There are plans to continue the AC Phoenix News as a community publication, but we also need help from the community.

How to Contribute to the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation

Rodney Sumler was first and foremost a businessman, who believed in the power of small business to foster self reliant communities. In that spirit, our outreach is focused on connecting the business owners, activists, and local community together to network on how to build a greater world.

Donate to our Current Project: $83K Campaign to Continue the AC Phoenix Newspaper

As the media landscape changes and evolves, the AC Phoenix Newspaper had continued to serve the community unhindered until Rodney Sumler's passing in 2015. His last issue on February 2015 was enjoyed by many community members in churches, on the PART Transit, on NC A&T Campus, and many other community institutions. Many advertisers were prepared to continue to work with the newspaper as well. 
This campaign will cover final costs, pay staff, and continue distribution. Continuing the newspaper will continue recording voices around the triad. 
We plan to make headlining articles from the AC Phoenix News available here at AC Pharos, alongside community insights and published data from the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation. 

Sponsorships: Reoccurring Donations

Rodney Sumler was first and foremost a businessman, who believed in the power of small business to foster self reliant communities. In that spirit, our outreach is focused on connecting the business owners, activists, and local community together to network on how to build a greater world. This is why our sponsorship packages are geared towards the entrepreneurial individual starting out to the established business seeking tax deductible services.

Benefits of this package include: 

 

Tour

Journey

Odyssey

 

$100

# of Packages Available: 50

$500

# of Packages Available: 20

$1,000

# of Packages Available: 10

Banner on Website and Mention in Event Program

Reserved Tickets to the Benefit

(2)

(4)

(10)

Consulting Services:

Technical Writing

Research

Web Content Development (Including Blogging)

Writing Coaching

 

(2 hours)

(4 hours)


  • Higher visibility for yourself and your Business: by having your banner on our website and a mention in our event program
  • Reserved tickets to our March event celebrating Rodney Sumler Day (as well as any Foundation event of your choosing): Reserved seats to network with other potential partners and/or clients
  • A series of complimentary consulting services from professional consultants that will benefit the growth and prosperity of your organization. These services include:
    • Writing Services (Web content and Technical)
    • Research Consulting
    • Writing coaching
  • All of these services are meant to be mutually beneficial: Allows your company access to otherwise expensive services and networking opportunities, while being able to fund a burgeoning non-profit
  • All proceeds to the sponsorship packages are tax deductible: This means that money spent on the foundation goes directly back into your business

Join our Advisory Board

A challenge as large as building our communities cannot be done alone. Creating more opportunities for everyone requires participation from everyone. The Rodney Sumler Research Foundation seeks professionals, activists, researchers, and any one else with insights in environmental as well as economic justice to join our board. 
For those with seasoned non-profit experience: Joining the board will allow you access to the ground level of a new organization, having a large impact on decisions that steer the course. 
For those looking for experience in social impact and nonprofits: Joining the board will allow you to gain more experience. 

For those interested in social and community based enterprises: Members of the advisory board are also free to list their businesses and "side enterprises" as sponsors to the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation. You will also have the opportunity to volunteer in-kind services to our donors: fellow small business owners in the community. 

Providing in-kind services are already common place for many community entrepreneurs as a way to build networks. Joining the Advisory Board will allow seasoned entrepreneurs to naturally build these inroads while writing off in-kind donation hours to help support your own business. For those looking to start their own enterprises, this an opportunity to practice and continue the work of bettering our communities. 

Ballotpedia: Here are voter registration deadlines for Upcoming Statewide Elections

posted Feb 27, 2019, 2:46 PM by Rahni Sumler


February has drawn to a close and the election season, like the weather, is warming up in some places. Four states are holding statewide general or primary elections in the first half of 2019.

Here’s a list of the elections happening in each state along with the voter registration deadlines.

Voting Rights for 17-year-olds in US States

Voting Rights for 17-year-olds in US States
States (shown in blue) allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries/caucuses if their 18th birthday is before the general election. Image by Daniel Leonard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky Primaries: May 21, 2019

Kentucky is holding primaries for governor and five other statewide executive offices on May 21.Voters must submit their registration application 28 days before the primary, which is April 23.

New Jersey General Assembly Primary: June 4, 2019

New Jersey will hold elections in 2019 for all 80 seats in the state’s general assembly - primary elections are on June 4. The voter registration deadline is 21 days prior to the election, or May 14.

Virginia State Legislature Houses Primary: June 11, 2019

Virginia is holding elections this year for all seats in both houses of the state legislature - the primary takes place on June 11. The deadline to register to vote is 22 days ahead of the election, or May 20.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court, Appeals and Circuit Court Judges: April 2, 2019

Wisconsin will hold spring elections for one seat on the state supreme court, as well as certain appeals and circuit court judges, on April 2.
The deadline for registering online is March 13. Voter registration forms that are mailed must be postmarked by March 14. In-person registration must be completed by 5 p.m. on March 29. Voters can register on Election Day at their polling place.

Call to Action: Prepare for Primary Elections

The main tactic for combating voter suppression is to start early! Primaries determine the quality of candidates that are available for election in November.
For more information about requirements for registering to vote in every state can be found by going to ballotpedia's "Where do I register to vote?" article.

Protecting Black Girls: Here is how I intend to protect my Daughter from Sexual Abuse and Assault

posted Feb 22, 2019, 6:21 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Feb 22, 2019, 6:23 AM ]

Reposted from Rochaun Meadows Fernandez at Daily Kos 

Looking at my newborn daughter is enough to bring tears to my eyes. Although she is just one month old, her personality and zest for life already shine through. But the headlines I’m seeing in the news these days have given me something to fear. As we move through the process of exposing those who have committed sexual abuse in the #MeToo era, I wonder what her future as a young black girl will bring.

Authentic Engagement & Open Communication

Parent and child standing together enjoying a sunset. RAINN suggests that authentic engagement with your children in the form of open communication is another way to prevent sexual assault.
Authentic engagement with your children in the form of open communication is another way to prevent sexual assault. 
Talking openly about sexual assault can decrease the chances that your child experiences it firsthand.
Signs that a child is being abused include withdrawal from loved ones, lowered performance in school, and disruptive or self-destructive behavior.  If your child, or any other child for that matter, informs you that they are being abused, contact your pediatrician, local child protective organization, and/or the police.  

There’s already so much research that shows black girls are perceived as less innocent than their white peers. This difference starts as early as age 5, and the ripple effects of that perception are all around us. You can see it in higher rates of school suspension and incarceration, and (terrifyingly) in the increased rates of sexual abuse experienced by black girls. A recent documentary series about singer R. Kelly that was watched by millions made it clear that our girls need to be protected. But many of us, myself included, were left unsure if anyone cares enough to intervene.

The six-episode program revealed horrific details of abuse. Girls as young as 14 have experienced physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Kelly. Yet shockingly, he and many other child predators continue to abuse and walk free.

As a sexual abuse victim myself, watching the program was painful. But as the mother of a newborn girl, I found the program downright terrifying. My heart shatters at the thought of my daughter experiencing the lifelong pain of sexual abuse. I know firsthand that the pain seeps into every area of your life.  

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to prevent child abuse from happening to our loved ones. But there are a few things we can do to lower its chances of occurring. The following is a list of several things we as parents can do to decrease the likelihood of our children experiencing abuse.

Teach body Autonomy

Setting a foundation that includes teaching your child that their body belongs to them, and no one should have access to it without their permission, is one of several ways to buffer against childhood sexual abuse.

However, teaching this lesson might require unlearning some of the things you were taught during your own childhood. For example, many of us were expected to hug and kiss relatives—including those that made us uncomfortable.

Forced affection goes against the fundamental principles of body autonomy. Assuring your child that they are within their rights to refuse touch from anyone when it is unwanted will assist them on the path to a healthy sense of self. And in the event someone violates this principle, they will be more likely to tell a trusted adult.      

Keep in mind that it’s equally important to emphasize body ownership with our sons as it is with our daughters.

Practice open communication with your Child

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), authentic engagement with your children in the form of open communication is another way to prevent sexual assault. How do you engage authentically with your children? By asking questions about their life from a place of genuine interest. The sooner you start, the better.

With younger children, you can ask questions about their daily interactions and who, including names and descriptions, they met along the way. It might seem strange at first, but with time it will become second nature. If you start during the early years, it will be much easier to talk during the “teenage angst” stage we all know and love.

Using the news as a conversation-starter is a great way to learn more about your children's thoughts and perspectives. When the relationship you have with your child goes deeper than surface-level, you can more easily spot abnormal behavior.

If your child is hesitant to speak to you about tough topics, work with them to establish another trusted adult relationship so that they feel comfortable reaching out to that person if something happens.

Openly discuss abuse with your Children

Talking openly about sexual assault is difficult, but it's important if you want to decrease the chances that your child experiences it firsthand.

In order to do this, it's important that we teach our children appropriate words for areas of the body. As uncomfortable as you may feel with the idea of your child using the term penis or vagina in a public setting, you'll be much more uncomfortable if you find out your child was a victim of abuse and didn't have the vocabulary to tell you so.

Spend time reading resources about abuse, like those found in the #MeToo toolkits. Their resource on grooming, which they describe as “the process in which sexual predators gain the trust of children, teenagers, or vulnerable adults with the intent to sexually abuse them,” is particularly helpful.

After reading them for yourself, take the time to develop an age-appropriate plan to discuss sexual assault with your child. This way, if they find themselves in a questionable situation, they have the knowledge to recognize the signs of abuse when they are present.

And lastly, make sure your child knows you will always take their concerns seriously, even if the culprit is someone you believed you could trust. It’s also helpful to make sure they are aware of sexual abuse hotlines, like the one available through RAINN.

Monitor interactions Closely

No one expects their child to be a victim of sexual abuse. But unfortunately, when it does happen, the abuser is often someone close to the family.

Combat the likelihood of abuse by carefully screening anyone who will be around your child. Enrolling your child in day cares and schools that have “open door” policies so you can check in and participate in class activities is also helpful.

Pay close attention to how your child engages with every adult they interact with. Look out for any signs of fear or general discomfort in the child, or over-friendliness on the part of the adult, and never leave your child with someone that seems to take an unusual interest in them.

Trauma presents in different ways from person to person. Other things to watch for are emotions that are out of the child’s normal emotional range (like increased irritability) and strange role-play with their toys.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that other signs that a child is being abused include withdrawal from loved ones, lowered performance in school, and disruptive or self-destructive behavior.    

And lastly, if your child, or any other child for that matter, informs you that they are being abused, contact your pediatrician, local child protective organization, and/or the police.  

About A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez

A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is a diversity content specialist. Rochuan's content can be found in the Washington Post, InStyle, the Guardian, and other places. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter

She is a writer, speaker, and activist with a zeal for learning. Her passion for health, diversity, and equity are the cornerstones of her career and she is always open to opportunities to share her experiences and expand her knowledge.

She is also a National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence Award recipient and the author of Investigating Institutional Racism, an educational resource released through Enslow Publishing, which will be available for purchase in December of 2018.

Opinion: A Love Letter to my Heart

posted Feb 15, 2019, 6:19 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Feb 15, 2019, 6:33 AM ]

Going on 25 years ago, I was in elementary school. I was one of those little round black girls who wore her hair in plaits, or pig tails. Deep down, I'm still one of those.

I remember a tightness in my chest, on two or three occasions. Always around lunch time or in the afternoon, it was a dilapidation pain. At some point, I remember laying down across the table.

I don't really remember any thing being done about it. I was brought home and I got a lecture about eating too much pork. That was about it.

It wouldn't be until some 25 years later that I finally would get a check in on my heart.

Modifiable and Non-Modifiable Factors of Heart Health

Heart-painting

Original title: "Matters of the Heart" by "denn"  / Denise Chan [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There are modifiable and non-modifiable factors to maintain heart health. Factors that you cannot modify, is family history, age and sex. Heart disease tends to be more common in men and postmenopausal women. Modifiable factors include reducing hypertension, managing diabetes, not smoking, increasing physical activity, and managing cholesterol. 
New research has shown that daily aspirin is not suggested for people who have no history of heart problems. 

Abyssinia's Go Red for Heart Health Screening, February 2019

When I moved to New York 6 years ago my father "suggested", he instructed me, to go to Abyssinia Baptist Church. My father, as a civil rights activist, told me that Rev. Butts was also an activist and that the church would take care of me. This was coming from a man who worked with churches frequently and, as they say about making sausage, its often better when you don't know how they are made. My father was a faithful man but he had a healthy amount of cynicism when it came to organized religion. For him to tell me to go to a church meant he had investigated the church thoroughly: not just for his daughter but just because that’s the sort of person he was. Thus far, he's instruction has been correct.

I've participated in a number of events at the church. I seek to eventually move back to Harlem and be near the church since there are so many opportunities to do things for others. Most recently, one of the events that has had the most impact on me was the Community Health Screening.  They had free tests as well as tests that would be covered by health insurance, including:
  •  Abdominal and Thyroid
  •  Cancer Gene Test
  •  Echocardiogram
  •  Allergy Testing
  • Cholesterol/Glucose
  •  Blood Pressure
  •  HIV Consultation
  • BMI (Body Mass Index)
I gave them my insurance card, filled out the paper work, and then hurried off to service. It was a spectacular service that spoke to issues of the heart and it would really set the stage for my experience.

The Heart: A Place where Willpower and Emotions Meet

I had taken most of my other tests. It was finally time for the echocardiogram. The technician had asked me to turn around so she could scan the other side of my chest. Now facing the monitor, I could see what she was seeing. For a few moments I got to watch my heart work. I could see the little valves opening and closing. I could hear my heart beat. I watched for awhile, fascinated. 

That light bulb shaped object is what is currently keeping me alive. Its been with me since I started my journey in New York, since my adventures across Asia, and even before that. We have dealt with the loss of our home, the imprisonment of our father, the death of our grandmother. It made me really aware of grandmother's heart, hers failed while she was sleeping peacefully. It made me aware of my father's heart, which we believe he had a heart attack while getting ready for work one morning. Regretfully, we would never know exactly what happened because my father was wrongfully embalmed before we could get an autopsy. 

During the service, the sermon was given by Rev. Bachus. In addition to serving the community, Dr. Butts has been employing and training many young ministers for quite some time. Rev Bachus discussed Psalm 51: a prayer of King David, who asks God to create a new heart for him. This was after the king's mistakes eventually caused him to premeditatively murder a man. 

Heart Health: Modifiable and Non-Modifiable Factors

There are a lot of things in this world that corrupts us, causes us pain, and has us seeking comfort in the most destructive ways. Researchers have found that mental conditions like anxiety and depression have physical impacts on our hearts. Just from what I could remember of my father, he may have been severely depressed. After losing our home my mother and father moved to our ancestral land, a house built by my great-grandparents that my father saved for us. We are proud of keeping this property in the family, but is located in a severely neglected community. Due to the break down of many community institutions, churches, meeting halls, and unions, my parents lived in a very isolated place. This was a lot of the reasons why I moved away and my father sometimes lamented about how isolated he felt. My mother feels the same way.

After my father's passing, this caused me to talk to a therapist, to regularly check in with my doctor, and stay involved with the community as well as keep in contact with my friends. In addition to the physical things that we can do for our hearts, improving our diets, exercising regularly, managing alcohol and not smoking; managing our mental wellness is additionally important. 

There are some things I cannot change. I have heart problems on my father's side: both him and his mother. They both passed in their early 70s. However, I can improve my chances by being a good steward and by being aware. 

I will be getting the results of all of my tests in the next few weeks in the mail. As for the other tests, I did well with the breath tests I believe because I practice yoga nightly. However, I have been eating a lot more sugary foods as of late to deal with fatigue and stress. I'm curious about the other results. Watching my heart work for a few moments was what really made it personal for me. Before I ever receive any of the numbers, I will always remember my light bulb sized companion and what I can do to help keep them going. 

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