The Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965 to ban discriminatory voting practices that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote. Despite this pivotal moment in U.S. history, there remain institutional obstacles today that disenfranchise voters, primarily people of color. In certain states, stringent voter ID laws result in those without government-issued photo ID being restricted from participating in elections. Those affected by such regulations are usually low income, people of color. Gerrymandering is another contributing factor to the disenfranchisement of certain voters. This practice involves the re-drawing of district lines that can sometimes lead to an unequal re-distribution of Democratic and Republican voters. In anticipation of this year’s national elections, here are some of the rights Massachusetts voters should be aware of.
Community Works associate member organization, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts has compiled a list of resources and voting regulations to help people register to vote, locate necessary resources such as polling centers, and report any abuse of their rights. Information is also available in Spanish. Visit their website to learn more. The MassVote website also lists resources and information to encourage political participation and to help voters understand the electoral process.
(Image Source: http://www.gazettenet.com/Articles/2016/03/From-Archives/MASSVOTE-HG-030216)
In 1991, a group of Canadian men held the first White Ribbon Day Campaign to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the deaths of fourteen women murdered by one man in Montreal. The purpose of the campaign was to encourage men to use their voices not only to advocate for the rights and well-being of women, but also to speak out against gender-based violence and the toxic hyper-masculinity that often produces this violence. The White Ribbon Campaign is currently recognized in 60 countries and has collected over 5 million individual signatures pledging to address gender-based violence, acknowledging the active role men must play to bring it to an end. Community Works member organization, Jane Doe Inc. is spearheading the Massachusetts White Ribbon Campaign, and has been working hard to expand the initiative of re-imagining manhood in such a way that men are held accountable for abusive and violent behaviors and ways of thinking, rather than placing the blame on survivors’ actions or morality as is usually the case.
Jane Doe Inc. (JDI) has broadened the framework of the campaign to be more inclusive of individuals whose identities are positioned at the intersections of race, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic status and gender. The campaign pledge has been edited to refer to “gender-based violence” in addition to the original “violence against women.” This change expresses JDI’s commitment to creating a meaningful platform for the campaign to interrogate conventional and often harmful heteronormative standards which reinforce rigid gender binaries and inequities. The effort to craft a more inclusive campaign against gender-based violence will continue to focus on the gravity of men’s violence toward’s women, while recognizing men’s interpersonal relationships with other men and the ways in which men’s violence against each other reinforces dangerous gender stereotypes and patriarchal systems of power. The campaign’s broadened vision also promotes the connection between JDI’s efforts and the global movement for human rights.
This year, the Massachusetts White Ribbon Day event will be held at Boston’s State House on Thursday, March 3rd from 1:00 to 2:30pm. Among the exciting lineup of speakers are, Governor Charlie Baker, Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and New England Patriots Community Affairs Executive Director, Andre Tippett. For more information, visit the White Ribbon Day website. While RSVPs aren’t required, you can check in here to ensure faster registration on the day of the actual event.
Women’s bodies have been transformed into a site for political and ideological debate in the Senate, in the media and in the general discussion of women’s rights and reproductive health. Conservative politicians have targeted Planned Parenthood, as they speak out against abortion, birth control and other issues pertaining to women’s health. At a recent campaign event in Iowa, GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz made some supposedly humorous remarks concerning women’s access to contraception, dismissing claims that his anti-choice stance is denying women their fundamental rights. Instead, he argued that his democratic opponents just attack his views as a tool to hurt his campaign.
Beyond the campaign platform, however, lies a more frightening discourse exemplified by events such as the release of a video claiming to show evidence that Planned Parenthood was responsible for the sale of fetal tissue for profit. This video (a gross distortion later shown to have little credibility) aimed to deepen negative perceptions of abortion and abortion providers amongst the general public. In fact, for many women abortion provides a safe choice for ending an unwanted pregnancy, whether from a traumatic sexual assault, or from contraceptive failure, or from an instance of having sexual intercourse without contraception.
The morbid focus on “baby parts” in this video has fueled the idea that Planned Parenthood clinics should all be shut down. This ignores the fact that abortion procedures represent only a fraction of the wide range of critically important reproductive health services that Planned Parenthood offers, often to women with limited incomes and in areas where NO other similar services are available.
It is in this general atmosphere of dangerous anti-abortion rhetoric that the U.S. Senate has just passed a bill to repeal certain elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to cut federal funding of Planned Parenthood for a year. While Republicans do not have the required majority to override President Obama’s veto, this is nonetheless alarming. It is also likely that such rhetoric has spurred many of the violent attacks against Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. As we have seen before, last Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs is being treated as though it were an isolated incident, with media outlets reluctant to label it domestic terrorism. Instead, the shooter is portrayed as a disturbed individual acting outside the influence of the hostile language and climate that anti-abortion activists have created.
Anti-women’s health extremists like Robert Dear are not acting in a vacuum. Their personal religious and political beliefs are bolstered by the ideologies which demonize abortion and deny women the agency to care for their bodies in a way that is best for their physical and mental health. It is not surprising that Dear uttered the words “no more baby parts” during his arrest, an eerie echo of the anti-abortion sentiment created by the distorted video. The fact that Dear carried out this brutal attack on a Planned Parenthood facility, taking the lives of three people, has ignited the usual debates concerning gun control, mental health, and which individuals are classified as terrorists or not (according to their ethnic background). Above all, the attack is also a terrifying manifestation of the fight being waged over women’s bodies and their right to make choices for themselves. Where are women to go if our safe spaces are being transformed into literal and figurative battlegrounds?
(Photo Credit: Ellise Verheyen/Columbian http://www.columbiamissourian.com/visuals/photos/photo-gallery-protesters-march-in-support-of-planned-parenthood/collection_605b637a-97c9-11e5-bc87-7b5d4c0b7dd3.html)
In discussions concerning homelessness, and many other issues of social injustice for that matter, the humanity of the problems at hand can often become clouded by the facelessness of statistics and research findings. Quantitative data holds undeniable importance when it comes to understanding the large extent to which Boston has insufficient resources for homeless people.
The Long Island shelter was closed in October of 2014, a few months before New England was hit with a record-breaking winter. News outlets and other sources explained the effect of the city’s failure to replace all the services that once existed on Long Island in terms of “demand for beds,” using the term “recovery beds” to refer to spaces reserved for individuals fighting addiction. Framed in this technical manner, the discourse surrounding homeless people paints a broad picture of the numerical scale of the issue, while not doing much to dispel the presumed anonymity of the people affected by the shelter’s closing, and by the dearth of facilities for homeless people in Boston in general.
The 700 people who were displaced from Long Island represent more than bars on a graph. They represent 700 distinct collections of experiences and personalities, people grappling with debt, addiction, and many other circumstances which invariably led them to that point, circumstances that could just as easily have occurred in the lives of anyone else. They are among the tens of thousands of individuals concerned with the next source of food and warmth, and with the prospect of leaving the transience of homelessness behind for a more stable situation in the face of a society that often places the blame of their current situation on their own supposed vices and poor decisions.
Figures and statistics can be overwhelming, but the media, public officials and policymakers aren’t completely to blame for the impersonal way those who are fortunate enough to have housing tend to interact with homelessness, if we choose to interact with it at all. With temperatures declining and another winter looming over the region, it’s crucial to be mindful of the fact that we have neighbors who have a new set of worries to consider with the arrival of cold weather. Many are trapped in a cyclical process of bureaucracy, with the search for temporary protection from the elements, employment and permanent housing all rendered almost impossible by the absence of a fixed address.
In engaging with the issue of homelessness, it’s important to recognize that its roots lie in systemic inequality and injustice. Haley House is an example of an organization that is not only working to alleviate the day-to-day suffering of homeless people but is also trying to address this inequality on the level of community involvement and social enterprise. With a variety of innovative projects including an affordable housing initiative in South Boston, soup kitchen, food pantry and the Bakery Café among others, Haley House is dedicated to the promotion of the physical, economic and social well-being of the community. You can find out more about the organization here.
November 3, 2014;WPLG Local 10 (Miami, FL)
This past week, two pastors and a 90-year-old man were charged by Fort Lauderdale police for violating a new city ordinance banning public food sharing. Arnold Abbott, 90, was the first to be charged. Having run a nonprofit that has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale for over 20 years, Abbott has faced obstacles to his mission from the city before. In 1999, Abbott won a lawsuit against the city after restrictions against feeding the homeless on Fort Lauderdale Beach were announced. And legal action might be needed again, as Abbott and the local pastors face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for their charitable work.
In 2012, NPQ covered a similar situation concerning food sharing in Philadelphia. Before that, in 2011, it wasFood not Bombs in an Orlando park. And according to surveys found in the October 2014 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless, “Share No More,” 12 cities, in addition to Ft. Lauderdale and Philadelphia, passed property use restrictions for feeding the homeless in 2013-2014. Such ordinances block the use of public space in terms of public food sharing, claiming that providing food to people experiencing homelessness causes traffic congestion and an increase in littering. Other cities cite food safety among the reasoning behind their anti-food sharing regulation. As such, nonprofits and others looking to distribute food in these cities often need to obtain a variety of special permits—a process that can be costly and time consuming for smaller organizations and individuals.
Such criminalization of the homeless and of people offering assistance is being fought by organizations like the National Coalition for the Homeless, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Claiming that regulations and restrictions on the homeless and their supports are not only ineffective and cost-inefficient as policy but also inhumane, advocacy against such marginalization of the homeless is reaching international levels. In November, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will ask the U.N. Committee Against Torture to review the U.S.’s human rights treaty commitments to rule that the criminalization violates our country’s human rights obligations. Such rights include the right to food, as confirmed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1999, the Commission on Human Rights in 2000 and the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture in 2003.
By ending criminalization, efforts can be put into policies that help the individuals who are suffering from homelessness achieve success rather than penalizing them for their human needs. Such goals can only be achieved through resolving the causes of homelessness – not by banning support services to those that need them.—Michele Bittner
Originally posted by: Non Profit Quarterly
WRITTEN BY MICHELE BITTNER CREATED ON THURSDAY, 06 NOVEMBER 2014 15:00
Author: TARA CULP-RESSLER
Originally posted on October 2nd, 2014 by ThinkProgress
Providing teenage girls with affordable access to long-lasting contraception, like intrauterine devices (IUDs), can cut their rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion by more than 75 percent, according to a new study published in theNew England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday. The data suggests that teens can effectively prevent pregnancy when they’re educated about their full range of sexual health options.
The results come from a large research project, called the Contraceptive CHOICEstudy, being conducted in St. Louis. Researchers there are studying the impact of providing a group of low-income women with the birth control method of their choice free of charge, which is the same policy at the heart of the health law’s contraception mandate.
The latest data was derived from tracking a group of 1,404 teen girls enrolled in the Contraceptive CHOICE project, the vast majority of whom were already sexually active and at particular risk for unintended pregnancy. After those girls received counseling about their different birth control options, and were given a chance to select any method free of charge, 72 percent of the group opted for an IUD or an implant, which are more effective methods because they involve less user error. That’s dramatically higher than the national rate of teen IUD use, which currently hovers around five percent.
And after that, researchersobserved a significant declinein the pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates among those teens. While sexually experienced U.S. teens have an annual pregnancy rate of 158.5 per 1000, for instance, that rate was just 34 per 1000among the teen participants in the CHOICE project.
Altogether, over five years, researchers observed that the pregnancy rate dropped by 79 percent and the abortion rate declined by 77 percent for the girls who participated in their study. Plus, while African American teens have a higher unintended pregnancy rate than white teens nationwide, that racial disparity virtually disappeared in the CHOICE project.
Experts are hailing the “landmark” results, which come just a few days after the American Academy of Pediatrics officially endorsed IUDs as the “first line” of contraception that doctors should recommend to teens. Two years ago, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology took the same position.
“If we provide great contraceptive care and access to all of our teens in the U.S., this is what we could see,” Gina Secura, the lead author of the study and a senior epidemiologist at the Washington University School of Medicine, told Al Jazeera. “We are still in a country where it just makes us skeevy to talk about sex, especially with young folks. It’s a real bummer because we actually have a medical intervention that will work, and we just need to be better about talking about it.”
Previous research has found that parents tend to be uncomfortable with the idea that doctors might recommend IUDs to their teenage children, perhaps partly because they’re worried it will give kids more of a license to be sexually promiscuous. That’s the same attitude that has fueled the resistance to other policies that could effectively prevent teen pregnancies, like implementing comprehensive sex ed across the country. While researchers recommend that sexual health classes should start as early as age 10, many public school districts still resist any efforts to move away from “abstinence-only” courses that tell kids having sex will make them dirty.
Doctors are optimistic about move toward IUDs — the number of teens using them tripled between 2007 and 2009 — and hope the trend will continue. State-level programs that have expanded teens’ access to IUDs have seen similarly encouraging results as the CHOICE project. In Colorado, teen births have dropped by 40 percent over the past five years for this reason.
But without insurance coverage, cost can be a barrier; IUDs can be more than $1,000 upon insertion. Although the health care reform law eliminates that cost, craft chain Hobby Lobby’s recent win at the Supreme Court has given other companies an opening to try to drop coverage for this particular type of birth control.
This Wednesday, June 19th, is a national holiday that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Juneteenth marks the anniversary of a milestone in American history. On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers arriving in Galveston, Texas delivered the news that the Civil War had ended, and that the thousands of enslaved African-Americans living in Texas were now free. Technically, all slaves in the United States were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation two years prior, but in the Confederate South, and particularly in Texas, the Proclamation had not been enforced. After Confederate General Lee’s surrender in April 1865, the last wall of resistance to emancipation crumbled. The last remaining slaves could finally pursue lives as free Americans. Juneteenth celebrations became widespread during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, as a new generation of African-Americans investigated their heritage. Today, Juneteenth is celebrated across the country, with 42 states (including Massachusetts) recognizing it as a holiday. Check out the video below to learn more, and be sure to recognize Juneteenth on Wednesday!