The Women’s Caucus-2016: California Democratic Convention


At the Women’s Caucus 2016 of the California Democratic Convention, across the front row facing the podium Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Water, Barbara Lee, Barbara Boxer and Kamala Harris met with delegates in a standing room only gathering of several hundred women with a few men.   These congressional and state public servants have better than stood for the issues of our times, but remarkably in the process they have only gotten softer in the places where humanity needs them to be, and stronger-like steel-in their resolve to see the human beings who are effected by how congress functions.

Each of these office holders is known for  never forgetting that by their unrelenting work for human rights, women’s rights, immigration and education,   communities and families  function are served or not served by  how they perform roles in public office.  They represent the best interest of not only the powerful, but those struggling with racial injustice and mass incarceration.  Women from all over California with standing room only are enthusiastic as these public servants do not keep their distance or strike a pose in their official capacity, but warmly receive the exchanges within the room.   In fact, there is  the impression in the presence of  these House of Representative, Senate and State representatives in that front row,  that the seven and half years of the Obama Presidency has had them taking positions that put them  directly in the firing line of a contempt oriented congress and political atmosphere. But these congressional members have used  all that to get stronger and represent harder the purpose of their  participation in governing.  The appreciation they held for each other in this morning session and for  the half a dozen other representatives from all over the state, who keep going no matter whatever the obstacles to standing for the principles of the democratic party: each person counts, and all persons count.  Democrats, as Vice President Biden stated as he addressed the over 3000 attendees to the Cal Dem Convention later in the day, democrats are for bringing about the possibilities for the value of each person, that no one is left out, while Republicans are trying to limit human rights, women’s rights and voting rights.

California has been ahead of the nation in their response to the needs of people and the ladies in that front row of women who have carried their roles and functions as senators and congressional members had everything to do with that.  One Trailblazer Award was given by the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus for her dedication to HIV/AIDS legislation, her stand for LBQBT, her work to bring about the relationship with Cuba now opening up and her ongoing work for families and children in her support for social justice for all communities.  Congresswoman Barbara Lee in turn acknowledged Nancy Pelosi for her power to listen and hear above the noise of the senate what is really important to the American people and her ability to inspire collaboration and productive benefit to the people of the country.  She congratulated NARAL for their focus and attention that brought about the repeal of the Hyde Act so that each woman can make a decision for herself about her reproductive rights decisions.

Senator Barbara Boxer, leaving her seat in congress soon, stressed she wasn’t disappearing.  “This is our time,” she said and it is time for a real change and women can make that difference in every field of study and practice. That this is a time when women need to bring other women along with them, and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton best represents the opportunity for women to fulfill their wisdom and contributions.  “The more doors opened for other women, the stronger we become as a country,” Senator Boxer stated.

“This is our time and we have the right to fight,” Maxine Waters stated and from the response in the room, indicating their choice was to move the progressive  message for the California Democratic Convention that will thread through the next months to the California Primary in June.

California Democratic Convention 2016 delegate votes



2016: This is your new year! Make it happen…


2016: This is your new year!  Make it happen.   As always as the holiday approaches and the crescendo of Christmas is met, there is the lost week between Christmas and the New Year’s that provides a lull, that springs into the New Year’s promise. We each carry a list of potentials we hope for in our work, in our families and within ourselves to bring our lives to the best place possible.  It is possible to use the new year to launch our dreams, renew our promises, confront our limitations, and expand what we think is possible.  That’s what the New Years’ resolutions are all about.  But better than that, is the taking a bigger bite of life, assuming more value for your life and wanting more for the world.

What would that look like in your life?

Here’s my list, I urge you to make your own:

  1. Find a way to respond to the world conditions so  that has you feel more like a participant than an observer, or worse a resigned and annoyed complainer.  There’s plenty to care about:

World hunger; ecological measures that slow global warming; children growing up without invested adults who want to steer them toward a good future; the needs of the Syrian families struggling to survive; those attempting to restart their lives from leaving prison; those alone and at home without community or family support facing serious illness; students allowed to drift and fail in school due to lack of interest and attention, mentoring and tutoring and care.

To each of these, take the resignation that protects you from despair, and find a way to engage.  Thanks to Google, you can find in your community the sources that allow us all to participate and add to what can make a difference in the lives of people.  Finding such an outlet for your energy, that energy that groans when you read the paper or see the sound bite on cable news.  That energy that  is quickly covered with the sense of hopelessness that leads you to resignation can be directed to action and engagement.  This is the promise of the New Year: that we can shift gears, open our eyes and hearts and engage in the world around us; vast and cold as it seems sometimes.

  1. This is a tough one:   Find a way to take this political year with the clamoring, and hyperbole, shouting and impossible assertions, attacks and insults of the candidates that challenges our ability to weed through the noise to find the melody of what democracy is all about. Democracy is noisy, it’s messy and history tells us it’s always been like this.  It just seems a little worse with political grandstands that do not challenge our country’s direction and potential when clearly that is needed.  The issues the world faces with wars raging and countries suffering huge losses of human life and human potential, our sister city Paris recovering from the impossible attack on all we hold dear and essential to our lives, that is where we are.  What we need to hear about is what we as a country are going to do in response to these worldwide conditions, not whose fault it was that they occurred. Which former or current President is responsible for ISIS is a red herring.

What we stand for as a nation is up for debate particularly in the refugee migration.  As we watch Germany and Canada welcome the children and families with warm embrace, where is our voice?  We individually have a responsibility to research, engage and represent in our community our best idea of who we are as a country, and challenge the people we elect locally as well as nationally to represent our country, the one we’re behind.

  1. Another tough one:  across the country very similar to our recent past in the 70’s, a movement in this country is underway in response to the killing of youths of color.  We’re suddenly aware of the mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands, a private prison system supported by us as taxpayers, has been exposed.  Sitting on the sofa watching cable news and having an opinion is better than not taking the trouble to identify this national problem.   Even if we feel the injustice just by looking at the numbers and the causes:  poverty, poor school systems, police in schools and not extra guidance and counseling for students in trouble, etc.-and are looking for answers, we need to look at the faces of those who are affected; the women and children, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers.   We need to see their faces and recognize this is a human being problem generated systematically over decades and centuries.  From that perspective, we can find a way to meaningfully engage.
  2.  Take a deeper look at what you think you know about the recalcitrant and stubborn positions you yourself hold on the topic of what is happening to people of color in our country.  How many people of color do you get to know personally and intimately enough to know how they feel when they open the newspaper and find our Tamir Rice’s police have been released from the consequences of their actions that killed a young teen with a plastic gun.  You can be an observer or a participant in the ongoing struggle that is underway to unearth assumptions that have never been cleared about the value of all human life to the recognition that we have not functioned as a country as if that were so.  That is why the women who founded Black Lives Matter shook the ground.   It’s a familiar theme when Black Lives Matter women take over a public meeting and the microphone that although their mission is good, how they are doing it is just not right.  Take another look at what is happening there.  Hear the truth of need for the barrier to be broken as well meaning politicians claim they understand the problem;  polite rhetoric and a nod of recognition of racism thrives in denial and ignorance, and pick your place from which to respond to our national tragedy.
  3.  A bigger bite for 2016 could also be taking on your life more fully; better food in your diet, exercise, more intimate relationships with people in your life, taking in the vast and amazing glory of life’s every day potential on. It’s all there to be had.  Maybe from inside out. As we were reminded on our recent trip to the East Coast with family, a bigger bite in life begins with having the courage to open your heart more, leaving the history behind and reaching out investing more of yourself.  That’s living.  That’s the life of challenge and promise.

Happy New Year One and All.


Black Lives Matter: The Social Revolution of our times


Black Lives Matter:  The new social revolution is showing up-led by three feminists- and it is where we need to  see it.  In the gaps, empty promises and pain and injuries and undeniable realities exposed in Ferguson, and across the country in recent months.   Feminists have often led the charge for equity and justice in social reform from the 1920’s onward.  The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was designed to have race and sex and country of origin not be a limitation to full equality and access to engagement and production in society.  What we see now is  the systematic politically and economically driven obstructions have denied the full application of civil rights through mass incarceration, poor schools, poor healthcare, no early education, racial profiling and a police and criminal justice system that is now being confronted.

Senator Bernie Sanders now running for President has many decades of work for civil rights and human rights.  He says what is wrong with the country can not be changed, it must be transformed.  And that comes from social revolution. A break from the systemic conditions that fill prisons, result in early death and broken hearts is what is required, and that requires not just change but revision coming not from the decay of the missed efforts to civil rights, but a renewal of intention to end the conditions in place and build new opportunity and new hope.  Recently Bernie Sanders had a confrontation with the three feminists who formed Black Lives Matter at a Netroots Nation symposium.  Netroots Nation is highly progressive in their politics and have done a great deal for dismissing the media’s monopoly on how information is giving to the public.  The population has a mixed demography, but is predominantly white, male, college degreed and independent in their political views.  This particular event with Senator Sanders came about because he wanted to talk about the changes he wanted to see in the economic structure that rewards 1% of the population.  Black Lives Matter wanted to talk about life and death, and the death of Sandra Bland which had happened just days before.  Following Freddie Gray, following Michael Brown, and now Sandra Bland there was no room for politics, and Black Lives Matter made that point by interrupting some considered rudely the presentation by Bernie Sanders.  Since revolution is by definition unpredictable, designed to cause the effect that Black Lives Matter created on that stage with Bernie Sanders.  Since Black Lives Matter has indicated that they will not be in the pocket of either Republican or Democrat Presidential candidates.  Now is the time for the killing and imprisonment of young men and women of color to stop, they say.  Now is the time for the empty shell of civil rights to be recognized as having not attained its goal: the incorporation and inclusion of all people, regardless of color, sex or country of origin. Enough, they say.  Enough.

Just as in the 1960’s when revolution made uncomfortable a public that could not turn away from the disparity between what they believed about our country and what they saw in Viet Nam, in the streets of Selma, on the college campuses, there is a demand, an unflinching demand by Black Lives Matter in a confrontation that has just begun.

Gloria Steinem both speak of the necessity of revolution. Karl Marx pointed to the need of “feminine upheaval” as the means to “great social change” and that progress could be measure by where the “ social position of the fair sex.”   Gloria Steinem in the 1970’s argued that reform did not achieve what true revolution does.  She pointed to the visibility of sex and race are “a primary way in which human beings organize around superior and inferior groups.” Humanism she pointed out is really the goal and the means by which feminism brings those changes that add to a better world. For men, for women, for all races. And here we are-about to engage in taking further and going deeper into the hypocrisy and outrage that is just below the surface in every major city of the country.

Revolutions are rude, disruptive and have the intention to interrupt, not change, but transform the conditions limiting human potential.  Co Founders of Black Lives Matter Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi,  began what became a movement after the verdict of the Trayvon Martin, then emerged again as well at the killing of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray-and Sandra Bland-all black killed by white men.   The District Attorney and Mayor of Baltimore and Black Lives Matter caused the disruption of elected local and state government, by holding them accountable for police agencies assaults and killings of black men ad women.  They stir and demand public awareness and accountability and have through protests gathered a momentum that is now called a movement.

Black Lives Matter is showing up with the message that they want to see black youth presented with opportunities to educate themselves, be trained in job skills and awarded for their youthful enthusiasm and energy rather than left behind and incarcerated . They want to see addiction treated medically rather than the cycle of prison being the only response to those suffering from addiction. While the middle and upper class options of rehab and medical intervention with peer support are available for those with the funds, addiction treated as a criminal offense has only made the offenders, their families and their community loose the value of that person. They want to see the promise of human potential being evenly awarded to this and future generations, they want to see life, liberty and justice awarded to all people.  There is every indication, that Black Lives Matter and those criminal justice advocates who have come together will get this result.  The Presidential Primary and election will be the background and at the forefront of this revolution that is already underway.


President Barack Obama: the Iran Deal & the Coalition of Nations who formed it


RE: Iran nuclear deal and stakes involved

IN 2008, 2012, the President came from these basic principles and promises:

1) Important to end the War: But also to end the mindset that got us into war

2) Never have fear be the director of diplomatic policies

3) Stated then and states now that the US and President Obama come from Unequivical support for security for the state of Israel

4) That Top foreign policy would refocus on the tension around nuclear weapons


The President in last 7 years has focused on these issues, but specific impact has been evident in the systematic mobilization to make sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon with major world powers.

Why this is important/why he is convinced that this is not just the best of bad alternatives but a very good deal that we should be proud of –as should the state of Israel.


Cuts off 4 main pathways for Iran to get a nuclear weapon

For the first ten years, it restricts Iran’s nuclear program so that we know exactly what they’re doing at all times.

Shuts down, reverts production of materials for nuclear power.

Requires REDUCTION by 98% stockpiles of enriched uranium

PROVIDES 24/7 coverage of all their declared centers

For an additional 5 years

Greatly restricts  what can be done around nuclear power

Subjects IRAN TO   never getting a nuclear weapon

Inspections long after this Presidency, the next and the Presidency that follows


1) “IRAN GETS DOLLARS THAT HAVE BEEN FROZEN OVERSEAS AND THAT WON’T BE GOOD-they will have economic power and abuse that.”

.Economy has been suffering a depression (It will be 2022 before Iran can get back to pre sanctions economy.)

2) WHY those who claim the Iran Deal is a bad deal- are the same people who were opposed to any deal with Iran.  

******Tv Ads, same columnists, former administration officials responsible for us getting into the war, who were making exactly the same claims that got us into the Iraqi war.

3)” IRAN IS GOING TO CHEAT”: possible, but deal based on  verification not trust.; Iran is an anti theocracy and anti American, anti Israel; they may try to cheat-But Because of the deal we are more effective in catching them than no deal where they are doing whatever they are doing with no accountability or verification possible.  

If they are caught cheating, we can unilaterally bring back sanctions in total and full response.

4) THE INSPECTORS MIGHT NOT GET IN THERE FAST ENOUGH. But the way this is set up we can put sanctions back in place unilaterally at will..During the duration of this agreement, hard for them to cheat, we will catch them quickly and we can impose sanctions swiftly.

5) They will Kick out all the inspectors in 15 years-and have greater    enrichment capacity


6) Iran gets money-will spend on military; IRAN has military budge of $15 Bill-ours  is $500 Billion.  We are going to be able to deter Iran from attacking anyone else.

But there is a danger in no deal.

7) The deal will Legitamize Iran-limit our responses:







8) BETTER DEAL? What do they mean? Iran would not do that –if we were prepared to go to war.

9)THE  False choice: we could just continue till they ask for relief from sanctions.

Reason WE HAVE THE DEAL AND IT IS effective is we have the entire world behind us-the President told them we were sincere about a diplomatic solution. Because of their belief in our sincerity even at the cost of Iranian oil by some of the nations, they made the deal with the  understanding that we would be negotiating in good faith.  It isn’t our deal with Iran, it is with many powerful nations that JOINED IN THIS NEGOTIATION OF THE IRAN DEAL. World has concluded we have done the deal. The British, French, Germans, Japanese, Australians and also EVEN OUR adversaries China and Russia consider the deal done.

As a consequence, if congress attempts to deny Iran Deal and we now  reject it, with 90% nuclear scientists and former ambassadors support-who know what is at stake, as well as the secretary of energy, there will be significant loss for the US in the world court of public opinion. How we will be viewed as  a nation will be impacted.

If in the fact of that consensus we have a congress who for political reasons rejects that deal we could find ourselves in 3 months, 6 months or a year,  facing force with Iran and having lost face and credibility to the worldwide community.

Stakes could not be higher. We have to get more active and loud and involved and informed and start making our voices heard with respect to congress. The lobbying against the Iran Deal that is taking place on the other side is relentless, well financed and committed to destroying the Iran Deal.  In the absence of our voices, we’re going to see the same array of forces and mind set that got us into this war take us back on the path to military conflict.

The President feels the facts are on our side, and  has never been more certain about the validity of the Iran Deal; that is perspective of  world leaders as well.  But the politics  in congress are going to be tough unless we get vocal and active.

The Iraq war had everybody got real active when those of us who were against the war engaged.   Now we have a president that is on our side and makes sure we are promoting non proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as support for Israel.

This opportunity could slip away. Right now the opponents of this deal have been flooding congressional offices. “The truth will out as long we guys will carry it,” was  the belief from the President that ended the phone call.

MY TAKE AWAY************************************************:

This is the time to step in and contact congress and rattle the cages of those claiming inaccurate statements, making claims designed to arouse fear and suspicion. Get to the facts, get to the realities: Put them out as you understand them.  Allow for dialogue.

There is no way that no deal with Iran is better than a deal that is based on verification and inspections; this is not ours deal alone, but from many nations.

Correcting misinformation, putting  out the accurate statements you can find in the press, in the media and support not just the President, Secretary of State John Kerry but the world wide platform that brought the possibility of this deal to reality. We cannot afford politics in our congress at this crucial time. We the citizens who call our representatives in congress can make a difference, and we must.



Black Dads: the best dads in the lives of Children


Black dads are doing better than other dads with their children under 5 years of age.  Always good to have  news that takes away stereotypes that no longer represents reality,, and that’s just what  Charles M. Blow  in his OP-ED in the New York Times today did.  Blow begins with the data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 reporting that nearly 72 percent of births to non-Hispanic black  mothers were unmarried.  The automatic response to this fact would be to view the black fathers as absent from the family, and add to the dysfunctional father mythology.  Turns out not to be true.    But just in case you don’t get to the Blow article in the New York Times, he brings information that shows just how far from the truth the stereotypes are about black fathers.  In fact,  the study on Father’s Involvement with activities of their children under 5, that compared white, hispanic and black fathers, reported that  black Dads Living and Not Living with their children exceed both hispanic and white fathers relative to  the participation, daily care and involvement with their children.

Charles Blow refers to Josh Lev’s Book “All In” with a chapter giving facts and figures to back up the claim called “How Black Dads are Doing Best of All (But There’s Still a Crisis.”) Lev states that most black fathers in America Live with their children unmarried to their mothers.  Of the 2.5 million black fathers,  1.7 million do not live with their children.

The choice of cohabitation over marriage is represented by the results of the  report by the National Center for Health Statistics, reported in 2013 for the first time the preference of cohabitation.  The study Charles Blow addresses shows the results for both the fathers who live his children, and fathers who do not live with their children.  That’s where the statistics indicate that Black father’s have a higher rate (78.2 as opposed to White 73.9 and Hispanic 63.9) of direct hands on care of their children.  Feeding, bathing, playing with the children daily, reading  to the children daily by black Fathers Living With Children held the highest rate of participation.  For Fathers Not Living with Children, again black fathers held the higher rate of participation with their children than white or Hispanic fathers.

How and why Black fathers  lived with some of their children, but participated even without living with the children was the question raised by this study.    To that question, Charles Blow brings up the Forbes report on Ferguson, MO and the “missing men” in the community.  It seems highly symbolic of other communities dealing with racial issues that are coming to light across the country.  The US Census Bureau reported that there were 1,182 AFrican American women between the ages of 25-34 living in Ferguson, but only 577 men in this age group due to incarceration and death of the black males 25-34.  Further, Charles Blow quotes the April New York Times that stated   “Incarceration and early deaths are the overwhelming drivers of this condition.”  He reports that higher imprisonment rates account for 600,000 nationally and that one  in twelve black men at the 25-34 prime age are behind bars, compared with one in sixty nonblack men.

The Unmarried black women birth rate has declined significantly, but the birth rate for married black women has declined even further according to the CDC report.   The Atlantic’s Ta Nehisi Coates article is referenced by Charles Blow to describe the demographics further.  The Atlantic article by Coates offers the fact that  at one time, married black women had more children than married white women, but that is no longer statistically accurate.

Blow ends this report with the fact that the CDC report of December 2013 measured and reported that in fact fathers have children in different families-given the limitation on the number of men compared to women for child bearing.  But most importantly their study reported that black fathers were the most involved compared to hispanic and white fathers on specific measures of care with children they live with and as well, the children they do not live with.

Great to hear that black fathers are invested in their children and in their families.  Sad to recognize the cost of mass incarceration to the formation of family.    Dispelling the myth of the missing father actually highlights the reality of the missing men from their families and their communities.   We are left with the urgent  need for social justice for young black men in Ferguson and other urban communities around the country.  Black Lives Matter and social justice advocates Ella Baker, Books Not BArs  are all working to address this loss of human life and human potential, the measure of which are beginning to emerge in all aspects of our lives.






Ireland votes on Marriage Equality May 22nd, 2015.  That  vote on same-sex marriage will result in adding one line to the Irish Constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex,”  Fintan O’Toole reports.  And he reports in the New York Times OP-ED that  there is every reason to believe this will pass in spite of the opposition of the Catholic Church and Presbyterian churches.  A public opinion survey indicated 70% in favor of marriage equality law passing on Friday.

While the article speaks of the history of attributing “gross indecency” in a 1922 statute, as the prior standing of homosexuals in Ireland, this change to legal sanction of gay marriage is new ground.  Granted, Ireland changed their policies around putting homosexuals in jail with the European Court of Human Rights in 1993.   But essentially Ireland, the author states, is the last Western democracy to “decriminalize consensual sexual activity between gay men,” but may break ground with the election on May 22nd to sexual equality for Ireland.   Contraceptives were legalized in 1985, and divorce in 1995 but Ireland has rigidly maintained restrictive abortion laws with no exceptions. By voting this Friday for same sex marriage, “Ireland may be the first country to grant same sex couples full legal equality by direct popular vote,” O’Toole states the irony pointedly.


O’Toole describes a couple of significant reasons why Ireland is making the changes it has: the first being that the catholic church being exposed for the decades of child abuse has lost “its moral authority.”   Then even with the views of the church toward gay men and gay women,  because of the Pope’s views that expressed “conciliatory tone toward homosexuality, ” the hold on the public view by the church has lost ground.   However most essentially-O’Toole states-  that once people came out, they were not “them” but “us.” They were our sons, our daughters, our nieces, our nephews, our next door neighbors-people we know and care about.  We choose to love and respect those people and that directly  challenges our understanding of the world and changes over time our judgments.

If Ireland by voting YES to same- sex marriage on May 22nd wins the vote, Ireland will be the first country to give legal status to marriage equality even as it maintains restrictions on women’s rights.  Women are a large part of how it is that the same sex marriage vote is happening O’Toole states, because  it is the  “Mothers who count in this debate.”   Mothers, like Mary McAleese-the former President of Ireland and practicing Roman Catholiic who joined her gay son Justin to campaign for the “YES” vote. McAleese refers to the 1916 proclamation of the Irish Republic that stated her desire: “that the children of the nation be cherished equally.”  Equality in who they love and how they choose to express that love is perhaps the feeling and expression of many mothers who support their gay children-certainly in many of our own families, we know that love.

All eyes on Ireland leading with the potential of being establishing the  first  country wide law providing marriage equality.  Last to come to the table of women’s equality, but first in marriage equality- leading with the heart and the soul of its people .



Five feminists lead Baltimore

Five feminists lead Baltimore and Baltimore is leading the country in turning the institution of racism and classism on low income and minority youth into the light of day making evident how change must happen.  Black Lives Matter founders, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cultors and Opal Tometi make clear the intersection of conditions that support racial disparity and assault and killing of young black men.   Created in 2012, Black Lives Matter was a response to  Trayvon Martin‘s verdict.  Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, Freddie Gray in Baltimore.    Black Lives Matter has created the ability for  an immediate response to racial inequity by outright denigration, assault and killing of young black men.

When the community of Baltimore came together on the streets after the killing Freddie Gray, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore, held  her ground  and was rewarded by the community turning from the anger and frustration of the thousands of youth protesting.  AFter Monday night’s violence (4/28/15) she worked as did the pastors and the leaders of the community   to steer the protests away from destructive acts to keeping the focus on justice for Freddie Gray.  The community responded Wednesday coming together and changing the tone and the direction of the protest.  Friday 5/1/15)  Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn J Mosby brought charges against six officers  responsible for the death of Freddie Gray.  By this action, notice nationwide is given that police can and will be held accountable for false arrest, harassment and injury or death to citizens.

These five women, feminists seeking equality and social justice  before the law have turned the community around to work positively toward bettering Baltimore.  In that respect, Baltimore leads the nation in changing the course of history from racial and class disparity to the potential for a fair and just treatment by police, and an address to the condition of poverty and lack of opportunity that has been the great divider and taken the hope of communities of color left behind.

By their actions, these five women have elevated the consciousness of our country and give us the doorway to holding accountable police and institutions that have looked the other way in the face of the death of young black men.  By the response from the communities of Baltimore,  who identified and acted on improving the conditions that have led the impoverishment of a generation of segments of society.   Education and jobs are the means by which young black men can gain jobs, and jobs need to be there for the youth coming up in their communities.  This truly is a gift to mothers who live every day with the concern for their sons,  with the fear that they will be killed on the streets.  It truly represents a new day for mothers across the country,  a new day for black youth, and a great starting point for moving forward with the unfinished work of civil rights .

POSTED:  April 29, 2015  Daily Kos, Peggy Reskin

“We love Baltimore,” Community Takes HoldIMG_4759

The true Baltimore story was an all day event yesterday. Because I was wedded to my sofa, and unable to work due to an injury so couldn’t even be at the computer, I watched all day as Baltimore took hold of its community. Early the parents and children came out and there was the sense of tragedy and disappointment, as they began to clean the litter and markings of the last night of riot in the streets. The leaders of the community were the pastors as they brought together the people of Baltimore into the churches to hear their pain at the loss of the CVS they worked hard to get in their neighborhood, and the pointless destruction the frustrated youth had administered ultimately hurting themselves and not gaining justice for Freddie Gray. The pastors and the leaders were not tolerant of the destruction but pointed out the poverty in the area had young people coming up with nowhere to go, no hope for any future and the pain of the disregard and destruction of young men “once cuffed” by the police for crimes that were never clearly represented. Freddie Gray, after all, a healthy 25 year old encountered six policeman on his bike and was thrown into the police van because he couldn’t walk because his spine had been broken at his neck. He died a week later, but never regained consciousness after being thrown in the van minus a seat belt or any medical aid. Another time, another son, another mother grief stricken and a community reminded of its powerless position in holding police accountable. In fact, as of today, no report or accounting has been made. But this day in Baltimore, the pastors and fathers and leaders of the communities, as well as gang leaders, collaborated with the intention of Baltimore-the city, the community, the people coming through this demonstration and getting to hold the authorities accountable for the life of Freddie Gray.

The churches and restaurants open fed the children who were in the area because the schools had been cancelled. The crowd grew and many were interviewed by the cable news. Cable news, at least MS-NBC most frequently did not add fuel to the flame but asked questions that were in accordance with the messages given over and over again. We are here because Baltimore is in trouble; we need jobs; we need better places for our children to be with youth centers long gone. We need people to care that we’re here. We love Baltimore was often said by many, many who spoke to the cable news.

The parents were torn, they wanted their children safe-they wanted the young men to to be another young black men left in the streets. Very pointedly, the cameras picked up on the mother who saw her son throwing a rock and she went after him as only a mother would, grabbing at his coat, screaming at him “Don’t you understand you could be killed by the police by throwing an object at them?” The cable news people thought that was the sign of a good mother. I thought it was the sign of just how terrified mothers must be to have their sons out at night ever. She explained herself, and it was like she was saying-the reality is my son could get killed and I want him away from this world.”

The afternoon came and in one corner of the screen, young girls and boys in jeans with pom poms began to do their cheering performance. Big kettle drums appears near there and the whole mood shifted from dire and gloom to a reminder of the degrees between the stand these young people took for bringing their spirit of hope to the streets as the number of police lining up increased. There was a picture circulating on the internet from that time period. A solid line of police with their plastic barriers up, their helmets down as far as you could see across the street and a young girl or boy, couldn’t tell which, about four feet 10 inches tall- with 4/5 bottles of spring water, holding one up to one of the officers. That was the spirit in the afternoon. A group of young men, maybe 50-60, came through proudly raising their arms not so much in anger or defiance, but proud to be where they were saying to the world – no more.

The tone began to shift and there were more people talking about honoring themselves- the very people who lived on those streets in those blocks by not participating in violence. The men who spoke spoke of how important it would be to instead show these youths how to bring about change. Some of these men had been in the demonstration in Baltimore in 1968 when Martin Luther King was killed and the streets were full of rage. The lessons of Ferguson were certainly brought up: get your vote counted, get people into office who represent the community’s needs. Follow the direction Ferguson has taken. Even so, the pressure was building and the numbers of protesters, demonstrators and families, people was filling up the screen. As well, the number of police in their armor, as well as cable news showing the national guard in their military uniforms on the ready further back from view. A report of several thousand extra police from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and national guard soldiers were ready if as the governor had said earlier in the day, there was a repeat of the violence of the night before.

Most everyone spoke of the fact that those who had been responsible for the violence the night before did not represent the community, the people of Baltimore but were lost, capable of criminal activity and it was the crowd itself that monitored the acts of the protesters and demonstrators. There was the report that a water bottle was thrown at the police, and one of the men standing in union with others facing the crowd directly in front of the police, picked up the bottle and took the offender off to address this misdeed. These men were the buffers to the police and there to protect the community from a few people in the crowd who had a different agenda.

Then it was 20 minutes till curfew, then 10, then 4 and what was remarkable was how agitated and anxious the cable news journalist were. Who could blame them, it was very uncertain what was going to happen. The long line of police moved forward just inches as the announcements came from the bull horns: Curfew is in effect and 4 minutes. Everyone needs to clear the street.

I didn’t hear but it was reported that the Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s voice was heard over the speaker saying she was proud of Baltimore and that she trusted that the people would do the right thing. That Freddie Gray was not forgotten, and justice for him was the agenda, not violence to the community.” Throughout the day, she had stood firm with resolve and intention for the people to succeed.

A scuffle happened when a canister of tear gas caught a small fire by a doorway. Then there was something that was pepper gas in the mix, and the cable people closed down their positions and left their spots. The next thing to see was that all the people had gone except for it was reported 10, who ultimately also left the street.

Everybody won. The people who left the streets have the promise from the pastors and their mayor that Freddie Gray’s death will be accounted for, that what is needed for the people is an entry into an economy that supports their lives. The veil that has been lifted showing us the places and the people left behind by the concept we hear of income inequality is real. The people who live in these places are represented by a significant margin in African American and Latino neighborhoods. The fathers and mothers who are trying to survive need help in having the young people having reason to believe their lives can be better, they can find jobs, they can have a life.

Baltimore won, and so did the country in this day. The people, the pastors, the community leaders, the gang leaders, the mayor and the police and those who made the decisions to let the people succeed in the curfew made a remarkable passage available to all of the people of Baltimore.


Here before with Gabby Gifford

Here before with Gabby Gifford and liar’s poker in those we elected to represent our interests.  Once again we watch the GOP hassle and test, extort and punish with Homeland Security and  immigration reform at risk in the mix.  We’re used to this from congress, but maybe we shouldn’t be.   I want to remind us of when we first directly encountered the feuding between the parties in 2011.

Gabby Giffords on floor of congress
Gabby Giffords on floor of congress

I want to remind us of Gabby Giffords who reminded us of who we are.  This is from August 1st , 2011.

AUGUST 1, 2011

We all watched the stunning debt crisis drama unfold on August 2, 2011, with a President and a Congress moving inexorably toward the congressional vote and its outcome. It was impossible not to see or hear the hourly threats of potential disaster for our nation, and the world, as the date approached. The media, cell phones, the radio, cable news, the internet: all forms of communication were 24/7. Our response was to distance ourselves from the emotional content. We watched as expert after expert, and politician after politician warned the other party of the dire consequences of their failure to fix the situation. Our future hung, swinging wildly between these feuding of this debt crisis.

The repetition and emotional content escalated to the point where some became completely disengaged. Of course, a nonresponse becomes a response: we were in a state of helplessness and powerlessness, spectators at a political brawl. It was like watching a hair pulling bar fight from people you’re relying on to keep sane: like seeing two dignified people in suits and ties lose themselves to the furor of the moment. Days dragged on. Dire and hostile comments continued. We witnessed the President getting more gray hair before our very eyes.

CSPAN showed us the congressmen milling around in the Congressional chamber. Suddenly, in the midst of the gloom and doom, there was an opening. A few people turned to see the Congresswoman from Arizona enter, smiling: her first public appearance since being shot in a shopping center by a constituent carrying a gun.

Astronaut Mark Kelly, her husband, was at her side. More people became aware that she was there. Even from the grainy CSPAN picture, you could see the people’s spirits soar. Senator Giffords was there because she had insisted on having her vote – as the Congresswoman of her district, as a representative of her people, count. Only Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman, also of Arizona, and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, were informed that she would be on the Congressional floor the hour of voting.

Congresswoman Giffords raised her hand at the stirring of her colleagues, who turned to meet her. The murmur of her presence became a roar. Republicans and Democrats, who seconds before had engaged in polarizing threats and defensive positions, now moved toward her small elegant frame, tears streaming down their faces. Gabby was a reflection of all that is alive and cannot be extinguished, regardless of strife, acrimony, pain, or a gun.

Her soft strength impacted one and all: many of us at home who happened to be watching TV, found ourselves weeping. Weeping for the celebration of her return to the floor of Congress after her life-threatening assault. Weeping at the miracle of seeing how each Congressperson around her was no longer their identity or their party position, but a human being. Rejoicing in the face of the courage and real strength of this delicate and insurmountably present Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Gabby reminded the nation of who we are and what we value by her mere presence and her tremendous fight to return to herself, to her job, and to the people of this country. This was a moment, a time to see what we truly value and what really sustains our lives in this moment of truth on the congressional floor. She brought the Congress and the nation to a level of humanity, a return to who we are.

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly continue their work on gun control legislation, working with the families of Newtown, Sandy Hook. Congresswoman Giffords stood with the President on the gun control bill that failed. Even in her disappointment in the failed attempt at passing a bill that would make guns less accessible to those who would and do harm, her strength prevails. She and Mark Kelly continue with their unrelenting pursuit of responsible gun registration through their grassroots organization: Americans for Responsible Solutions. A frontrunner always, her presence a gift and a reminder always – of the strength of character for what is possible and worthy of our passion.


Black Lives Matter: Berkeley awake


Berkeley woke up to the demand for the Mayor and the City Council to represent the people of Berkeley, and not shrink in fear and place the police on the streets of legitimate protests.  The people reminded these elected officials that Berkeley is the home of free speech.  The spirit of free speech movement and revolution in the 1960’s on the streets of Berkeley are awake again.  Still as we all sat in our homes hearing the two helicopters that were following the protests and demonstrations drone on till late into the night, or  we took a stand and marched with them down Shattuck Avenue or Telegraph Avenue: neighbors stood and watched on the streets. The community itself was very quiet  observing from a distance, but compelled by the insistent urgency and alarm an overhead helicopter conveys. Truly it did feel like a war zone for four or five nights in a row. Not from the demonstrators, but from the imposing helicopters that seemed to be wanting to intimidate the marchers and maybe keep the people in their homes. Still there has not been a city wide response.

However, activists, university students, and many of the people of Berkeley  marched in one of the six nights of the Michael Brown protests.  A significant group of more than 200 people confronted the Berkeley City Council and the police in a heated meeting on February 10th. Thirty plus individuals expressed the insult of the City of Berkeley not having the interest of the people in their response to the protests, particularly December 6th.  They wanted to remind the council and the mayor that the  voters elected them to consider the needs and dignity of their citizenry, and  lead- not follow- the police whose hostile and military stance was far from that.  Many of the police were called in from other towns, the Sherif’s office and presented unprovoked aggression toward the marchers

That meeting at Ed Roberts on February 10th produced some policy decisions and the Black Lives Forum of February 21st was to take the decisions to action in the community.

If Not Berkeley, Where? describes the meeting of February 10th. The right to protest, the protection of the right to protest and the critical issue of race based inequities resulted in the City Council of Berkeley and the Police Review Commission producing the structure of the changes in response to that meeting. The Black Lives Matter Forum on February 21st in Berkeley took a deeper look to implementing and taking action in the conditions of injustice and inequity in housing, education, medical care that shows up in the police shootings of young black men. The Berkeley mayor, the Berkeley City Council and police were confronted with the fact that young black men specifically are at risk in FErguson, Jacksonville, Oakland and yes, even in Berkeley. The irony that the Free Speech movement in Berkeley in the 1960’s led the country, but the response to the marches after Michael Brown resulted in the aggressive unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators was not to be dismissed. December 6th, 2014 University students, townspeople and activists marched for Michael Brown, in what could easily be seen as a science fiction movie. Helicopters for hours and hours zoning in and around the streets, police in masks with armor and guns standing, and then attacking students. No more tolerance for this contradiction, the voters of Berkeley demanded and got the Mayor and City Council to form and act on those new proposals.

But the Black Lives Matter Forum was to go deeper into  the root cause of the conditions that allow the killing of young black men and other men of color.  We were there to  cement and implement the agreements produced from the February 10th Meeting. Neither the Mayor Tom Bates, the Berkeley City Counsel nor police were represented in this meeting. But a panel was made up of representatives for the Berkeley Citizens Action Committee, the Berkeley Citizens Action, the Berkeley NAACP and the Berkeley Peace and Justice Committee, and Black Lives Matter  together with Max Anderson as moderator brought the issues of Ferguson and our country to task.. The conditions to inequity in education, housing, mental health, crib to prison stacked deck that generate racial response was the depth of  response this meeting met solid ground in this gathering.

Demilitarization of local law enforcement, repurposing of enforcement funds to support community based alternative to incarceration, discipline and community based review of police activities with information accessible to the public, ending racial profiling by the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act, with a request to have the Obama Administration develop a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice. As well, an independent Investigation of police responses to the December 6th Protests with the Police Review Commission (citizens of Berkeley) given access and jurisdiction and the power to recommend address to incidents. No tear gas, no over the shoulder baton strikes at crowds, no projectiles directed toward crowds; and a six month plan to implement cameras worn on police and their vehicles when on duty.

The issues of the need for reform addressed by the February 24th Black Lives Matter Forum going to the cause and conditions that limit social justice and equity to black and latino population were drawn out at the meeting.    In Berkeley as in San Francisco and Oakland, real estate costs and therefore rental costs are rising at such a rate due to the Tech Industry Boom that there is a closing down of housing options for many black and latino families. There has been a significant drop in the number of black and latino students in high school. The disparity in educational resources is considered by many to be the condition that recycles the conditions of poverty. By the third grade, the line is drawn: students are left behind and do not get the recognition and help they need to catch up.  It was reported at this meeting that 40% of children born in poverty remain in poverty. High school and two years of community college has a significant increase in income, but getting to and thru high school is the main threshold.  Better teachers, better schools and specific training of teachers to be aware of the cost of expelling students can not be overstated. One survey said in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2014 stated that as little as two suspensions has the consequence of students dropping out before completion of high school. Training teachers to discern inappropriate behavior and authentic responses of defiance and anger for young black men in particular are what is required. The pipeline to prison begins often when children are not diagnosed or misdiagnosed dealing with traumatic experiences and mental illness in the family, generation after generation.

It was noted that the BErkeley School district has one of the largest achievement gaps between Black and Brown students compared to white students in the state. Berkeley’s African American/Black population has declined from 30% of the city’s population to less than 8%, as the real estate boom and high cost of housing in Berkeley are closing down options for owning or renting in Berkeley. The need for an increase in Mental Health Services to be given the priority that would take the services to the people of low income in South and West Berkeley cannot be overstated. Also the Berkeley NAACP recommends creating City Council Oversight Body to monitor unfair hiring, promotional practices, cronyism and unfair treatment of city employees.

The room of activists, mostly white and many seniors have long standing commitment to the values of civil rights as evidenced by the many white haired seniors that came early, stayed late and will not be letting Berkeley forget the commitments of the 1970’s that are a presence in the room. Remember Ferguson! Remember democracy is a messy business-complex, and disturbing. These are the leaders of the citizenry who refuse to tolerate the conditions that limit social justice and equity. They are used to the hard work of taking unpopular stands, showing up for protests and having the results from public outcry and demand for  change in policy and practices. If not in Berkeley-?Well, it will be Berkeley that light is shed on  all the places where race excludes. Demands will not be forgotten.  New practices will be required and follow through will be essential.  Berkeley leads.  Always been that way. Always will be. STay tuned…


Kamala Harris: Violence against Women stops here


How effective is The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 is the question of 2014? As the layers of sexism become exposed, there are valid questions and more exposure to the fact that the 1994 law was only the beginning of a shift in how women are perceived in sexual assault and what that means.   Statistics show that there has been a decrease is sexual abuse since the law was instated.   But it seems than likely as in the sports world, in the military and in the university reports of assault and rape become known, that it is the reports of sexual assault that have decreased relative to their incidence, and not the number of incidences of assault.


The cost of a woman confronting the incidence of her assault is costly, personal and denigrating in many cases if they are even given credence at all once  reported. In the NY magazine Winter 2014, there is a story on student who carries her mattress around campus because her report of being assaulted on campus by a student did not result even in his being expelled from the University.  Only if there are headlines and large figures in the world of professional athletes, the best universities, or the top brass of the military do we find the public awareness pressing in on what might be the current evidence that violence against women has not been fully addressed even with the 1994 law.


In recent months NFL football players Ray Rice of Baltimore and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers assaulted their mates within weeks of each other, and now the world is watching.  There is a demand to change the policies within the sports world to condemn the behavior of these sports athletes, and any others that might follow. There is talk of dire consequences and dismissal from their multi million dollar careers should these athletes fail to meet those standards of not hitting women.  Trained most of the time since high school, these athletes of age early twenties to late twenties are trained to hurl their bodies without mercy onto the fields and the players with different jerseys.   Brutality is an asset; quick moves automatic without consideration for bodily harm-theirs or the player across from them is the game.  A football is the focus, reaching and grasping stretching and extending the body and mind to whatever it takes to get to cross the line to the goal.  Like the ancient gladiators, their spent bodies are of no concern to the sports fans, the producers of the league or the team owners.  Head trauma, broken knees, arms, hips and pelvises that result for these young bodies and minds are being given some attention these days.  Concussions are now being recognized not only for the immediate destructive consequence, but the long range potential consequences of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s as well as the documented link to the conditions of alcohol and prescription drug abuse.  There is the dawning recognition of the cost to young athletes who pay for a lifetime of injury to their physical and psychological damages for the violent use of their bodies in football, and other sports.

For the young athletes who suddenly have huge sums of money offered to them, and fame-they are the winners in the lottery of life. They have little training in how to manage their extraordinary lives.  They are perceived as heroes, and are paid extremely well once professional football players or baseball or basketball.

For the general public the headlines report their car accidents, their fights with other players and their mates, just like other celebrities in the entertainment business.   Just like other celebrities they are public property from which the excitement about them, their lifestyles and their traumatic losses sell newspapers, keep the sports radio shows going, and add to the drama and ticket sales on the football field or sports arena.  For those on the sideline, the justification of the use and exploitation of these young men is that they are paid six figure salaries or more, they drive great cars, and the plays they make on the field are the thrill of their performances.


And it is the video of Ray Rice that even brings the conversation to the level of public awareness, and uproar. Men hitting women and the demand for a consequence began with the suffragettes who closed the bars because of wife beating in what they called “bloody Saturday nights.”  In the 1920’s, men lost a good part of their paychecks and then many came home and beat their wives.  The response by the Temperance Union to close the bars was motivated by the safety of women from the drunken assaults. (Suffragettes History)

Since the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, there is the report of a 64% reduction in violence against women.  However, that reduction cannot include what wasn’t reported; women getting hit and not reporting it.  Nor does it include the casual and frequent response of police when called with their position of blaming both parties in an assault by a man situation.  The woman’s state of being, sober or having ingested alcohol, what she was wearing, her history are all weighed, and she is often considered to have conspired with the outcome of assault or even the cause. That was what happened with the police in the case of Ray Rice and his wife.  This video stirred up the recognition that more needs to be done to train those in power to respond with absolute unequivocal effective action.  For the coaches, for the police, for the public the no tolerance for assault to a woman is being called for.  In the realm of testosterone laden football athletes, the demand for managing themselves is being revealed as not an option but a demand that needs to be met by the players, by the coaches and by the commissioners and their responses to assaults by players. In the heat of the video and the embarrassment of Commissioner Roger Goodell, there was that talk. There was also talk of starting to train young men about themselves and their aggression on and off the field in high school – which made the most sense of everything discussed. Will the attention and intention to encourage the punishment of sexual assault be the answer?

President Obama asked Kamala Harris, Attorney General in California to present to congress that 1 in 5 undergraduates are sexually assaulted, and women who do not attend college have even a higher rate of assault in the age group of 18-24. Sexual assault she mentions is an emotional trauma that maybe a lifelong difficulty and men as well as women are sexually assaulted. To address the underreporting by assault victims, Harris identifies that even with the glare of public light brought on by the Ray Rice Case, in the Universities and military, there are the limiting conditions that reside in the issue of sexual assault. (SF Chronicle 1/26/14) Of concern to Harris are the myths that continue to serve as limitations to women coming forward when sexually assaulted.

“It should go without saying that victims are not, and should not be, on trial, that they bear no burden to prove their own innocence and that our criminal justice system was not created only to serve and protect the metaphorical Snow White.” Women on trial for their sexuality shows up in many forms, and Kamala Harris is directly addressing the residual sexism in qualifying the victim’s complaint of sexual assault by addressing her personal history, her use of alcohol, and burden to prove her innocence. “There does not have to be a perfect victim for a crime to have been committed,” Attorney General Harris commented. The pervasive attitudes of women being sexual beings and attacks on their sexuality persist in the form of questioning her virtue and history. Harris comments on the fact that trauma has the effect of having memory distortions, but women are considered unreliable witnesses often to their own assault because of inconsistencies that are a part of the impact of trauma.

The business of professional sports, the halls of great Universities like Berkeley, the top brass in the military have all been headlined as wanting in terms of addressing the claims of assault with the appropriate gravity that it is due in reference to sexual violence. Women, and men coming forward and reporting sexual violence as the crime that it is will more likely report if they are not attacked, and become the victim of sexual bias.


“We must do better” Kamala Harris states, and yes we must. It is decades past women being the choosers in their sexual activity with the ability to assume responsibility for their sexuality. Aggressive campus sexual assault laws are a good start as Attorney General Harris states, but we have a distance to go in making it safe enough for women and men to expose themselves knowing they will be heard and not attacked, second guessed or have their attack minimalized in this, “the most underreported crime of all.”