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We Must Have A New Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Revival

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Civil Rights Groups Urge Black Parents to Lead on ESSA State Plans

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L.A. County Fair Sept 1-24, 2017

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We Must Have A New Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Revival

Channeling the incisive analysis of our best historians, TaNehisi Coates cut through the talking points of political pundits last week to name Donald Trump America’s “First White president.” Writing for The Atlantic, the National Book Award recipient made clear how there could be no Donald Trump without President Obama. The chaos from which the whole world now suffers is a direct result of the backlash against racial progress in America.

To see this is to know that Trump is not our problem. He is only a symptom. During this time of intensifying political, economic, and moral crisis, with the lives of the most vulnerable and the spirits of all under vicious attack, people in growing numbers around the country are fighting back for their lives, communities and deepest values. As we respond to invitations from communities across America, we hear a resounding call for a Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Revival in America today.

Fifty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others called for a “revolution of values” in America, inviting people who had been divided to stand together against the “triplets of evil”—militarism, racism, and economic injustice—to insist that people need not die from poverty in the richest nation to ever exist. He joined with people across the country like Myles Horton of the Highlander Center, Loretta Two Crow of National Welfare Rights, Cesar Chavez of United Farm Workers, Al McSurely of the Appalachian Volunteers, Phillip Bernstein of the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare, Tillie Walker of the United Indian Scholarship Fund, and John Lewis of the Southern Regional Council. Theirs was a coalition as diverse as America.

We draw on the history, vision and unfinished work of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign as we embrace the task of reigniting that campaign to unite the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized across difference to take action together. In the aftermath of 2016’s rejection election, we are building a Movement from the states up, to unleash what Dr. King called “a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.”

This Campaign has emerged from more than a decade of work by grassroots community and religious leaders, organizations and movements fighting to end systemic racism, poverty, militarism, environmental destruction & related injustices and to build a just, sustainable and participatory society. We would need to do this work even if Trump had not been elected. But the blatant extremism of this administration only serves to amplify the need.

The twin forces of White supremacy and unchecked corporate greed continue to gain more power and influence, both in statehouses across this nation and at the highest levels of our federal government. Today, one in every two Americans are poor or low-income, while millions of children and adults continue to live without access to healthcare, housing, clean water, or good jobs.

At the same time, the issues of poverty and racism have been forced to the margins of our moral narrative and claims that a limited focus on personal morality should overshadow and supplant a commitment to public morality rooted in a critique of greed, racism, and injustice.

Our campaign aims to build a broad and deep national moral movement—rooted in the leadership of poor people and reflecting the great moral teachings—to unite our country from the bottom up.

For years, we have seen a kind of attention violence towards issues of systemic racism, poverty, and militarism. There was a time when our nation was fighting a war against poverty; now, it seems, we are waging a war on the poor. Our social fabric is stretched thin by widening income inequality, while politicians criminalize the poor, fan the flames of racism and xenophobia to divide the poor, and steal from the poor to give tax breaks to our richest neighbors and budget increases to a bloated military.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will strategically connect and grow different struggles and lift up and deepen the leadership of those most affected to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society. The Campaign will push forward concrete demands, build unity across lines of division, and draw on art, music, and religious traditions to challenge the dominant narrative that blames poor people for poverty.

This will necessarily be a multi-year undertaking. This fall and winter we are touring the country to publicly launch the campaign with partners who have been working across race and class lines in their own communities. Next spring, we plan to begin engaging in highly publicized civil disobedience and direct action over a six-week period in at least 25 states and the District of Columbia. Our goal is to force a serious, national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and environmental devastation during a key election year, while strengthening and connecting informed and committed grassroots leadership in every state. We are building power to continue this fight long after June 2018.

A precise diagnosis is key, but naming the problem is never enough. We need a Movement rooted in the moral forces that have demonstrated a capacity to change America. At such a time as this, we need a Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Revival to help us become the nation we’ve not yet been.

Bishop William J. Barber, II, is President of Repairers of the Breach, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and author of The Third Reconstruction. Follow Bishop Barber on Twitter @RevDrBarber. Follow Repairers of the Breach on Twitter @BRepairers.

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Civil Rights Groups Urge Black Parents to Lead on ESSA State Plans

Sirraya Gant, the mother of two sons who graduated from high schools in Washington, D.C. said that getting involved in her older son’s academic career definitely helped their relationship.

“Not only did it help him, but it also helped his friends level of respect for me, some of them even called me, ‘Mom,” said Gant. “My son played football too, so there were times when [the team] gave me awards and said, ‘I was their biggest fan.’”

Gant continued: “My house was the place to be after school, because they felt comfortable. [My son] knew my expectations of him and he knew that his teachers would call me,” if there were every any problems.

Gant said that she was happy to learn that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) encouraged greater parental engagement and open communication between parents and administrators.

Gant added that she was very impressed by a recent National Black Parent Town Hall Meeting on ESSA hosted by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).

“The new Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law Dec. 10, 2015, rolls back much of the federal government’s big footprint in education policy, on everything from testing and teacher quality to low-performing schools. And it gives new leeway to states in calling the shots,” according to an article on EdWeek.org.

Some of the major components of ESSA include state-level accountability plans, evidence-based plans to address challenges of low-performing schools and subgroups, and resources to help train teachers.

During the town hall, education policy experts and community stakeholders offered the parents advice on engaging with their schools to ensure equitable access to a high-quality educational experience for their children.

“I wish I had known about ESSA, when I was a PTA president, because I definitely would have had [Education Department] officials come in and speak to parents,” said Gant “I think that outreach is something that the [NNPA] can do with the PTA and the schools to have workshops, so that they can speak to parents.”

Even though ESSA wasn’t implemented before her sons graduated from high school, Gant is still a staunch supporter of parental engagement and the mission of ESSA.

Liz King, a senior policy analyst and director of education policy for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that the civil rights community is hoping that Black parents will drive the conversation around the implementation of ESSA to benefit Black children.

King added that she hoped that ESSA would bring new attention to data that could reveal, which opportunities are available to Black children—and which ones were not. King also said that new policy changes should “ensure that African American children get the quality of education that they are entitled to and that they need to grow and learn and thrive.”

King said that parents have to get involved and stay involved in their children’s schools.

“The school has to see consistency on the parent’s part,” said King. “Educators have to take parents seriously. It takes a lot of work; you can’t get tired of advocating for your child.”

States must submit their ESSA plans to the Education Department by September 18, 2017.

When it comes to ESSA, education advocates say that parents and community leaders should voice their concerns and expectations for their local school districts.

“One really important way for parents to have their voice heard is during the public comment process, in which a state releases its draft plan for what it’s going to do to create change in its schools and to make sure schools are working well,” said King. “During those public comment periods everyone has the opportunity to communicate with [his or her] state school board and say what their priorities are for their community and their child.”

King added: “We also need to make sure parents are communicating with the press and that the media is reflecting interest in the attitudes and beliefs of communities of color…we encourage parents to reach out and to let the media know what their priorities are.”

King said that, the truth is, there are strength in numbers.

“We encourage parents to work with one another to come together with community organizations to really advocate for the priorities and changes that they want to see in their state, in their school district and their school,” said King.

Kwesi Rollins, the leadership programs director for the Institute for Educational Leadership said that the most important thing is awareness about the new law.

“We want parents, families, and community based organizations, grassroots leaders, and teachers, as well, to be aware of what’s required of them, in terms of support, in their communities, and to be in a better position to hold their school district and their state accountable for what’s required in the law,” said Rollins.

Even though the road may be tough, education experts agree that investing in a child’s education is worth the sacrifice.

“The rewards are so fruitful in the end,” said Gant.

Civil Rights Groups like Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wants Black parents to help craft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plans.

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It’s Time for Congress to Pass a Hurricane Harvey Emergency Funding Package

Historically, during times of national emergency, Americans unite to meet the challenge. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina altered the lives of thousands of Americans throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, damaging cities that have not been the same since. But, no matter our differences, we as a country have always come together in the face of tragedy. Now, it is time we act in unison once more.

Since August 25, the city of Houston along with Harris and Fort Bend counties have felt the effects of Hurricane Harvey. The unprecedented storm dumped an estimated 11 trillion gallons of water on just Houston alone. First responders, emergency personnel and the U.S. National and Coast Guards along with hundreds of volunteers, were on the frontlines of the battle ensuring all those affected by Harvey were safe and dry.

As the natural disaster travels towards Louisiana and Mississippi, we ask for our great country to continue to stand with one another by volunteering, sending donations, and praying that for strength, hope and perseverance to weather this storm.

Hundreds of people of color have been affected by the storm already. If anyone would like to lend a helping hand to the relief effort through donations, we are asking you give to local organizations that focus on people of color such as: The Black Women’s Defense League, Raices, ICNA Relief, BlackAmericaWeb.com Relief Fund or the South Texas Human Rights Center. Any contribution will be greatly received as we ask Congress and President Donald Trump to provide immediate emergency funding and resources to deal with the crisis at hand. We believe at least $150 billion will be needed just to aid Texas residents in reconstruction, with much more needed later as the storm continues to travel the Gulf Coast.

In addition, Southeast Texas needs funding for storm surge protection research, just as New York and New Jersey received following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Congress should pass an aid package not only to help the people of Texas, but to also provide an assurance to the American people that their government will be there for them in a time of crisis. This legislative package should not be weighed down in political rhetoric and partisanship. Instead, it should be aimed at helping as many people affected by Harvey as possible.

It is essential for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a full and complete assessment of the entire Gulf Coast region’s infrastructure capabilities when it comes to flooding. Time and time again, we have seen our region suffer from hurricanes, and we must take steps to prevent another city from struggling to rebuild.

Americans from around the country have offered themselves in service to help their fellow citizens. Now, we as Members of Congress must do the same. The best way for us to do so is with a comprehensive emergency funding package. Volunteers, first responders and so many others have stepped up to the plate, now it is up to us to hit the ball out of the park.

When Congress goes back into session, let’s pass this package without unnecessary political debates. The people of the Gulf Coast are depending on us.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) represent Gulf Coast residents. They are all members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

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