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Dueling Memes on Black Murder

Conservatives, vested in racism, always want to start any discussion having to do with the black community on a standard set of racist memes..black-on-black crime, illegitimacy, poverty…

It is, after all, all The Great Society’s fault.

Such racial histrionics stymie any conversation, and derail any substantive effort to attack either the structural or micro-cultural issues at the base of the gun violence issue.

Quite frankly, I am hoping this election cycle ends up in a landslide for Democrats, destroying the Republican Party. Not that the timid-tabby Democrats, replete with their own Closet-Queen bigots, and Blue Mutts are any better. It is just that they are likely to GTF out of the way, instead of actively submarining and resisting community or local efforts.

What Black Americans Say About ‘Black-on-Black’ Gun Violence

We understand that police violence and gun crimes are two parts of the same systemic problem. If only news media saw that, too.

Over Memorial Day weekend, at least 69 people were shot in Chicago. If past trends continue, most of them are people of color. Mass shootings in places like Newtown, Aurora, and San Bernardino grab national attention, but gun violence is a regular part of life in many communities of color. Among boys and men ages 15-34, for example, African Americans are over 20 times more likely than whites to be victims of gun homicide.

While more attention to gun violence in communities of color is sorely needed, too often existing coverage focuses on “black-on-black” dysfunction rather than structural causes and potential solutions.

A recent New York Times story provides an example. “A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, but America is Not Listening” chronicled the victims of 358 shootings with four or more deaths or injuries. Many stemmed from arguments over a petty grievance, an insult, or another sign of disrespect. The story emphasized the “black-on-black” nature of gun violence, and suggested black activists expend too much energy protesting police violence against African Americans and too little energy focused on “routine gun violence.” While the story’s narrative describing the death of an innocent bystander put a compelling face on statistics, the story did not offer meaningful solutions.

The problem of gun violence stems not just from petty grievances among impulsive youth of color, however, but from larger structural issues such as credibility of law enforcement, easy access to guns, and a lack of job skills and opportunities. Communities of color care about both gun violence and police violence. Further, communities of color are not simply sources of problems—they also provide important solutions.

Last month, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Urban Institute, and the Joyce Foundation released Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map for Safer Communities. Our research debunked the notion that African Americans are less attentive to the problem of gun violence than police violence.

In compiling this report, we brought together and listened to residents of communities hard-hit by gun violence—faith leaders, formerly incarcerated individuals, law enforcement, elected officials, social service providers, community activists, and others. Most of the participants were black or Latino—people like Fathers & Families of San Joaquin Executive Director Sammy Nunez; Petersburg, Virginia, Police Chief John Dixon; and Wanda Montgomery of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Others were members of our steering committee and have devoted their careers to building safer communities—people like Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Rev. Michael McBride of PICO National Network; and Kayla Hicks of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. We then tested the ideas that emerged against a nationwide survey of 600 African Americans and 600 Latinos conducted by Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) and Ron Lester and Associates.

While about half of African Americans we surveyed nationally described police brutality (54 percent) and police misconduct (50 percent) in America as extremely serious problems, 80 percent of African Americans described gun violence in America as an extremely serious problem. Indeed, rather than discounting gun violence or seeing it in a silo isolated from police violence, many African Americans see the problems as interconnected. For example, 61 percent of African Americans agreed with the statement that “fewer guns on the streets would improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.”

Similarly, the communities with which we met thought improving police-community relationships was a key factor in reducing gun violence. Distrust that stems from arbitrary stops and discriminatory enforcement makes residents less willing to work with police, and makes communities less safe.

Solutions put forth by community members were supported by the survey research. Over 90 percent of African Americans and Latinos supported strengthening police accountability through civilian review boards, body-worn cameras, and racial bias assessment and training of police (including new recruits). Over 76 percent of both groups support prioritizing enforcement on higher-level gun violence offenders rather than lower-level “broken windows” offenders.

Community members also emphasized other solutions that address structural factors that underlie gun violence.

For example, community residents recommended limiting access to guns by the small group of people at high risk of engaging in violence—sometimes no more than 0.25 to 1 percent of a city’s population. Rather than looking to greater penalties for handgun possession that could increase mass incarceration, community members emphasized universal background checks, mandatory reporting for lost and stolen firearms, and increased oversight of licensed firearm dealers. Each proposal was supported by over 86 percent of African Americans and Latinos in the survey research. These restrictions are seen as reducing rather than fueling mass incarceration.  About three-quarters of both African Americans and Latinos agreed that “if we keep guns out of the wrong hands, we can also help decrease the number of people who are in prison.”

Community members also recognized that areas hardest hit by gun violence often have suffered disinvestment of resources by companies and the public sector, and that many of those at high risk to commit or to be victimized by gun violence face a lack of job skills and opportunities, addiction, and other challenges. Thus, our report recommends increased investment in social services targeted at high-risk populations and their families, such as drug treatment, mental health services, job training and placement, and conflict interrupters who mediate disputes and discourage retaliation. Over 92 percent of African Americans and over 88 percent of Latinos support solutions like job training, life skills support, and mental health counseling available to young people and people just released from jail or prison.

In addition to these solutions, we heard a deep desire for community members to engage with law enforcement, elected officials, and other community leaders in developing and implementing solutions to gun violence.

While we should be honest and give much-needed attention to gun violence in communities of color, we need to consider all the facts. Focusing largely on shallow black-on-black spats makes gun violence a “black and brown” problem, masks deeper structural causes of gun violence, and obscures the responsibility of all Americans to help solve the problem.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter

 

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Tiny Homes For the Homeless

The UN and NGOs have been working on developing cheap modular housing for disaster victims for about 10 years now. A lot of different approaches have been tried, including completely modular “flat pack” style houses which are easily shipped in containers cost as little as $4000 – $30,000 depending on size and amenities, as well as using the containers themselves as housing. Containers were particularly attractive, due to the low cost of a 40′ container, which used, is typically between $1500 and $4000 depending on type and condition. There are literally millions of these containers sitting in storage yards, as they typically are only used once. Indeed, there is a burgeoning market in the US and overseas selling kits, complete with tools and components to DIY for under $20k.

The Rev in this article could probably have done better with a flat pack. This very basic model is $4,000, and this gorgeous one $8,000. Noticing that all of the Rev’s houses are set on trailer frames (which are expensive), I am going to guess the local zoning laws prohibit actually setting the house on the ground, considering them permanent.

In other parts of the world, like London, and in Slovakia – this concept is being introduced to the urban environment.

Seems to me that stripping this concept down into something useable by the urban/suburban homeless could result in a shelter designed for a 7-10 year lifecycle, with a toilet, and electrical connection for heat for something in the $3,000-$4000 range. Making the annual cost of housing about $300-400 a year. Which seems to me cheaper than running a shelter (feel free to correct me if I am wrong). It doesn’t eliminate the need for food and water, nor would the basic model be useable by families (a somewhat larger model?). There are a lot of “cracks and crevices” in most cities (open ground) where clusters of 5 or 10 of these could be placed. Clustering also adds to security for the homeless.

Tiny Homes for the Homeless

One Nashville pastor has a plan to help those without permanent shelter: building 60-square-foot houses with no bathroom, kitchen, or electricity.

ASHVILLE—Around the time that Vanderbilt University released the results of a large-scale study outlining the most effective solutions to homelessness, Pastor Jeff Obafemi Carr was moving into a 60-square-foot house with no bathroom, kitchen, or even a sink. Carr’s idea was to temporarily leave behind his wife and five kids to live in the tiny house, which looks like a tool shed, to raise $50,000 to build more such homes for the homeless.

After two months living in the home, Carr had raised $66,967—enough to build six. The buildings are now set up, on wheels, in the backyard of the Green Street Church on Nashville’s east side, part of a sanctuary that also houses homeless people living in tents who moved from an encampment in one of Nashville’s parks that recently closed.

The homes are brightly painted yellow, blue, orange, and purple, with red doors and white trim. They cost about $7,000 each to build, and measure 5-by-12 on the inside. Residents use bathrooms in the church, and shower outside with a hose. They eat donated food and drink coffee set up under a tent in the yard.

Peter Regan lives in one of the homes. He hangs his jacket on a bar above his bed, and folds his clothes in tiny cube containers at the foot of it. Batteries power a fan in the window, and many days, he’ll sit on a camping chair on his front porch and talk to his neighbors, other people without permanent homes.

“It’s a lot better than living in a tent, and if you’ve got some Yankee ingenuity in you, you can figure stuff out,” he told me from his porch, gesturing to the jury-rigged lights he’s set up (the homes are not yet connected to a power grid or generator).

Tiny homes for the homeless may not be the solution policy wonks dream of. Indeed, the Vanderbilt study found that housing-choice vouchers, which allow families to live in market-rate apartments, are among the best solutions for homelessness. But in many booming cities, including Nashville, where rents are rising and vouchers can be hard to come by, and there’s little city money for anti-homelessness programming, short-term solutions such as Carr’s may make sense. Regan, for instance, says he’s been on the waitlist for a Section 8 voucher for months.

“This model provides a stepping stone to homefulness,” Carr told me. “If you set the goal as homefulness, you have to think, ‘How do we get to that?’ So many times, people think they have to get a Ph.D. so they can get grant money to do a study to find out that the number-one thing to do to fight homelessness is to give someone a home.”

This DIY model to solving social problems is common in Nashville, a Bible Belt city where faith-based organizations play an especially important role in anti-poverty programs. Just consider where these homes are set up: the backyard of the Green Street Church, which welcomed in tents and tiny houses once homeless people were evicted from Fort Negley, a city park. “Sanctuary,” a sign reads on the fence surrounding the lot, the “T” in the word designed to double as a cross…The Rest Here

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life, Uncategorized

 

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Medika Mamba – Saving Haiti’s Children From Starvation and Malnourishment

A Haitian child is given Nutributter, a supplementary food rich in nutrients.Working in Haiti is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done… And rewarding. 19 Months and 19 trips to the country after the earthquake which devastated the country, a hell of a lot hasn’t changed – or is worse. A hell of a lot has changed for the better as well  – much due to the perspicacity of the Haitian people, the hard work of independent charities and churches from other countries, the blood sweat and tears of the relief agencies…

Which I guess defines the “bipolar frustration” felt by many Haitians and AID workers.

The failures in the country include 19 months later, little to no progress has been made in fixing any of the very basic infrastructure systems in the country.  It hits you in the face as soon as you land in the country – the airport is in shambles. The main terminal which suffered severe damage during the earthquake is exactly in the same condition as it was 15 months ago, the Air Traffic Control Tower which collapsed during the earthquake has been replaced by a “temporary tower” – a Winnebago parked in the middle of the airfield…

That is the only way in and out of the country for emergency relief supplies such as medicines and food.

There was supposed to be a major project to correct the basic problems with the airport – it hasn’t happened.

Cholera made it’s reappearance last year killing over 6,500 people. It’s back again this year, spreading into Port au Prince. The country does not have a sewer treatment system, so raw sewage is pumped into the ocean, or in some recently documented cases just dumped right on the ground. Don’t even think about the sanitary conditions in the tent cities where roughly 600,000 Haitians still live, or the rivers where raw sewage is dumped to flow out to the ocean, but which get clogged with millions of plastic bottles causing overflow into entire neighborhoods, despite the frantic efforts of local authorities to clear the debris.

There was supposed to be a new sewer treatment plant – it hasn’t happened.

And that is just the “short list”.

One of the victims of the situation appears to be trash collection. Someone donated dumpsters to collect local trash – but the company which emptied them stopped emptying them (I assume because they ran out of money). So residents now burn the trash in the dumpsters sitting along the streets adding to the already serious air pollution issues (One of the principal killers in Haiti is Tuberculosis, and the average lifespan is only 59).

These issues have to do with the billions of dollars in aid promised by various governmental and international financial agencies – which never got spent to fix the very basic problems in the country. Now – if anyone ever got around to writing a book about why that happened, and continues to happen, parts of it would come out like those international thrillers by a Coyle or Ludnum. The rest like a slow motion disaster movie. The fact of the matter is, both the domestic government under Preval, and the international agencies share the blame. Most people believe corruption is only on the part of the historically corrupt Haitian Government. That’s not entirely true – although the Preval administration was undeniably corrupt to the core – there has been plenty of corruption, bureaucratic incompetence and foot dragging at the international agencies, including by our own US governmental agencies as well. The result has been little progress.

If our conservative friends really gave a damn about government incompetence, malfeasance, corruption, waste, and inability to work together toward a common goal… This would be Herman Cain’s new “bookend” speech. But they don’t – so I expect little to change for the better, regardless of who takes office in 2013. Besides – it’s a black country, and we know damn well where those rank on the hierarchy of conservative concerns.

So I guess, it is uplifting when you hear about something that is working. Here is one, very important case of a treatment that I believe, was initially developed in Africa (Although George Washington Carver could have told them about this 100 years ago), having success in Haiti, and creating an industry.

Thanks for making my day, Meds and Food for Kids!

‘Peanut butter medicine’ giving hope to Haiti’s hungry

 With his ribs showing and his skin practically hanging off him, Pierre Wisny is painfully thin.

The 11-month-old Haitian weighs just 11 pounds, and it’s no surprise that he is severely malnourished.

The same applies for 3-year-old Alcincord Guerviscon, although it’s clear — even without measurements — to see that his growth has been stunted by the same condition. He weighs only 15 pounds.

In most of these cases, the children got this way because of poverty and a lack of access to good food. If they’re not given emergency treatment, they could die or suffer more effects of malnutrition, including reduced brain development.

For staff members at one clinic in northern Haiti, intervention comes in bright green packets: Medika Mamba, which means “peanut butter medicine” in Creole. It’s a ready-to-eat paste packed with nutritious ingredients that — over a period of weeks — gives a jolt to the system and puts children back on track. Made by a U.S.-based nonprofit called Meds and Food for Kids, it’s one of several brands of ready-to-use therapeutic foods.

“You can’t rehabilitate a child who has severe malnutrition with a plate of beans and rice. There’s just no way,” said Thomas Stehl, the nonprofit’s director of operations. “Their stomachs are too small and their nutritional requirements are too great to ever be satisfied in that way. So the quality and the density of food is really important. And that is why ready-to-use therapeutic food and Medika Mamba is such a great answer.” Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Haiti

 

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A Manifesto on Public Education

I have recently been working in a country where there is no public education system. Back in the US last night…

“You don’t know how lucky you are…”

Proceeding Rhee’s resignation –  A Manifesto by leading educators –

How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders

Joel Klein, chancellor, New York City Department of Education;Michelle Rhee, chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools; Peter C. Gorman, superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (N.C.); Ron Huberman, chief executive, Chicago Public Schools; Carol R. Johnson, superintendent, Boston Public Schools; Andrés A. Alonso, chief executive, Baltimore City Public Schools; Tom Boasberg, superintendent, Denver Public Schools; Arlene C. Ackerman, superintendent of schools, the School District of Philadelphia;William R. Hite Jr., superintendent, Prince George’s County Public Schools; Jean-Claude Brizard, superintendent of schools, Rochester City School District (N.Y.); José M. Torres, superintendent, Illinois School District U-46; J. Wm. Covington, superintendent, Kansas City, Missouri School District; Terry B. Grier, superintendent of schools, Houston Independent School District; Paul Vallas, superintendent, New Orleans Recovery School District; Eugene White, superintendent, Indianapolis Public Schools; LaVonne Sheffield, superintendent of Rockford Public Schools (Illinois)

As educators, superintendents, chief executives and chancellors responsible for educating nearly 2 1/2 million students in America, we know that the task of reforming the country’s public schools begins with us. It is our obligation to enhance the personal growth and academic achievement of our students, and we must be accountable for how our schools perform.

All of us have taken steps to move our students forward, and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program has been the catalyst for more reforms than we have seen in decades. But those reforms are still outpaced and outsized by the crisis in public education.

Fortunately, the public, and our leaders in government, are finally paying attention. The“Waiting for ‘Superman’ “ documentary, the defeat of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark’s public schools, and a tidal wave of media attention have helped spark a national debate and presented us with an extraordinary opportunity.

But the transformative changes needed to truly prepare our kids for the 21st-century global economy simply will not happen unless we first shed some of the entrenched practices that have held back our education system, practices that have long favored adults, not children. These practices are wrong, and they have to end now.

It’s time for all of the adults — superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike — to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children. Because right now, across the country, kids are stuck in failing schools, just waiting for us to do something.

So, where do we start? With the basics. As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher.

Yet, for too long, we have let teacher hiring and retention be determined by archaic rules involving seniority and academic credentials. The widespread policy of “last in, first out” (the teacher with the least seniority is the first to go when cuts have to be made) makes it harder to hold on to new, enthusiastic educators and ignores the one thing that should matter most: performance.

A 7-year-old girl won’t make it to college someday because her teacher has two decades of experience or a master’s degree — she will make it to college if her teacher is effective and engaging and compels her to reach for success. By contrast, a poorly performing teacher can hold back hundreds, maybe thousands, of students over the course of a career. Each day that we ignore this reality is precious time lost for children preparing for the challenges of adulthood.

The glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher — and our discomfort as a society with criticizing anyone who chooses this noble and difficult profession — has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future.

There isn’t a business in America that would survive if it couldn’t make personnel decisions based on performance. That is why everything we use in assessing teachers must be linked to their effectiveness in the classroom and focused on increasing student achievement.

District leaders also need the authority to use financial incentives to attract and retain the best teachers. When teachers are highly effective — measured in significant part by how well students are doing academically — or are willing to take a job in a tough school or in a hard-to-staff subject area such as advanced math or science, we should be able to pay them more. Important initiatives, such as the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, are helping bring great educators to struggling communities, but we have to change the rules to professionalize teaching.

Let’s stop ignoring basic economic principles of supply and demand and focus on how we can establish a performance-driven culture in every American school — a culture that rewards excellence, elevates the status of teachers and is positioned to help as many students as possible beat the odds. We need the best teacher for every child, and the best principal for every school. Of course, we must also do a better job of providing meaningful training for teachers who seek to improve, but let’s stop pretending that everyone who goes into the classroom has the ability and temperament to lift our children to excellence.

Even the best teachers — those who possess such skills — face stiff challenges in meeting the diverse needs of their students. A single elementary- or middle-school classroom can contain, for instance, students who read on two or three different grade levels, and that range grows even wider as students move into high school. Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to address all the needs of 25 or 30 students when some are reading on a fourth-grade level and others are ready for Tolstoy? We must equip educators with the best technology available to make instruction more effective and efficient. By better using technology to collect data on student learning and shape individualized instruction, we can help transform our classrooms and lessen the burden on teachers’ time.

To make this transformation work, we must also eliminate arcane rules such as “seat time,” which requires a student to spend a specific amount of time in a classroom with a teacher rather than taking advantage of online lessons and other programs.

Just as we must give teachers and schools the capability and flexibility to meet the needs of students, we must give parents a better portfolio of school choices. That starts with having the courage to replace or substantially restructure persistently low-performing schools that continuously fail our students. Closing a neighborhood school — whether it’s in Southeast D.C., Harlem, Denver or Chicago — is a difficult decision that can be very emotional for a community. But no one ever said leadership is easy.

We also must make charter schools a truly viable option. If all of our neighborhood schools were great, we wouldn’t be facing this crisis. But our children need great schools now — whether district-run public schools or public charter schools serving all students — and we shouldn’t limit the numbers of one form at the expense of the other. Excellence must be our only criteria for evaluating our schools.

For the wealthiest among us, the crisis in public education may still seem like someone else’s problem, because those families can afford to choose something better for their kids. But it’s a problem for all of us — until we fix our schools, we will never fix the nation’s broader economic problems. Until we fix our schools, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will only grow wider and the United States will fall further behind the rest of the industrialized world in education, rendering the American dream a distant, elusive memory.

 

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2010 in Domestic terrorism, The New Jim Crow

 

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This Ain’t Chicago – It’s China

Over the past 3 years or so the City of Chicago has been roiled by a series of shootings of school children by school children. 36 Dead in the 2009 School year, and over 500 injured by violence in the last 2 years. That faction of black conservatives who eek their living pimping black depravity publically experiencing serial orgasms as each new report of a shooting or beat down has come in from police reports providing fresh fodder for their tawdry warez spewed across the Internet and pages of conservative rags operating like hourly hotel rooms on the sin strip of any big city are breathless with anticipation.

There indeed is a problem in Chicago, a serious one shared by far too many urban environments where a culture of violence and guns in the poor, mostly urban black communities (although poor, urban Hispanic communities aren’t far behind in reality). And the purpose of this blog isn’t to minimize those problems. The issue is the context. I mean, this is America – and like Mom and Apple Pie, one of our core shared beliefs is that each and every problem has a solution. Depending on whether you are right or left in your political belief system, those solutions might involve grabbing the bootstraps in self-help, morality, or the application of money…

The first law of computing is … Garbage In – Garbage Out (GIGO). Ergo, automating something doesn’t fix anything that was inherently wrong to begin with (garbage) – it just spits it (garbage) out the other end faster. It is one of the reasons I believe the CRM Systems many companies in the US have fawned all over themselves in adopting as efficiency tools, and methods to address customers are so pathetically disconnected from the very customers they seek to manipulate. “Re-probleming”… Indeed.

Garbage In – in this case is the manufactured proxy that this violence is a “black problem”.

It isn’t – it is an AMERICAN Problem. While it may be more psycho-sexually gratifying in the case of conservatives to point out it’s “their problem” (Dem black folks, or Dem Hispanic folks), and thus score points for whiteness; guilt assuaging – “it’s not MY kids”; or in the Liberal belief set ‘There’s an Ap for that!” – the real issue is we’ve been heading for a train wreck since Ronnie Raygun Rambo-ized America with Hollywood’s full profit minded acquiescence.

Garbage out – is the belief system foisted by intentional or unintentional mis-identification of the problem, is that Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2010 in American Genocide

 

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