04 May 2008

that "girl in a shabby green coat on a railway station platform"

i'm having one of those weeks where i forget to breathe, or maybe i'm just so over inundated with information that it doesn't matter whether oxygen gets to my brain anyways because it's running at full capacity and will return after these messages...

as i'm working through the anxiety of having 2 months left at oasis before actually going to morocco with the peace corps (and still deciding whether two years is a long time or not), we're choosing an issue for the summer leadership institute group to tackle and we want to cover something that has a tangible goal, possibly connected to a bigger campaign so the girls can learn about advocacy and see how their voice fits into the bigger picture of a screwed up society at large.
in order to do this, we've been talking with other youth organizations about their current campaigns.
of course they're all connected and trying to make some movement around huge social illnesses, but we're a small group of young people who have an 8 week intensive program where we want to cover systems of oppression and apply those learnings to an action item.
i'm gonna break it down, partially because the issues are apalling but also because some of these folks are doing amazing work, but ALSO because there's an action item for you voters registered in california to keep in mind for the november (and june for SF) ballot. bear with me...

so coleman advocates is a huge organizing/activism group in the city that does alot of stuff around the city budget because they don't get any city funding, so they can cause a ruckus every year around this time when the budget is being figured out.
aside from the fact that our wonderful mayor is trying to subsidize luxury condos going into the bayview, we have a HUGE deficit because he raised salaries for firemen and policemen, not surprisingly his biggest fan base.
on top of that, the honorable and compassionate state of california has decided to cut education yet again, (finally, making california 50th in the nation when it comes to spending resources on education) and that will affect SF to the tune of $40million next year.
[to give you a sense of what that looks like, a couple years back, they closed 4 schools in the district and they saved $2million. $40mil is the equivalent of closing all >90 schools in the district for a month.]
so one /could/ totally call me out and say that i'm running away from this work because holding down programs in what looks like a good 3-5years of deficit does NOT invoke warm fuzzies in my heart.

coleman (who i believe has been around for some 30 years) did some restructuring and has decided to focus on two campaigns, affordable housing and closing the achievement gap.
san francisco has the largest achievement gap (measured, i believe by STAR testing) by race when compared to the seven largest school districts in california. (read: whites and asian, wasteland, blacks, latinos, pacific islanders)
yes, 30 african american males graduated from high school in the school district last year.
(and yes, i've lost count of the young men - brothers, cousins, uncles, friends - just in the lives of the young women we serve who experienced violent deaths in the last year, much less the young women we work with who suffer from varying forms of PTSD as a result.)
so the school board just agreed to pass a resolution submitted by coleman to commit to closing the achievement gap and have 60% of all students in all racial groups proficient by 2011. kinda hot, yeah?

closely connected, but taking a different angle is HOMEY, who is finishing up their campaign to stop the gang injunctions, which pretty much put people who are affiliated in gangs under house arrest because they are not allowed on certain streets or neighborhoods. the police apparently believe that telling rival gangs to keep apart in this manner will stop crime and fighting, all while conveniently keeping fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons from getting to work or being able to go to the store. brilliant, really.

however, the more horrifying issue and pretty much the impetus for this email is a statewide initiative going on the november ballot that had me in tears and pretty much still has my blood boiling.
the "safe neighborhoods act: protect crime victims, stop gangs and thugs" or "runner initiative" will:
~ commit $1billion the first year to prisons and $20billion more over the next 40 years (because that's such a great use of our resources when education is booming...)
~ charge youth 14 year and up as adults (for "gang" related crimes)
~ mandate annual criminal background checks for people in public housing
~ prohibiting bail to illegal immigrants with "gang crimes" and having the INS deport them
and then some... so pretty much targeting young people, folks in public housing, and illegal immigrants in one neat package under the guise of "gang prevention" and /not/ spending on social services of any kind.
aside from the fact that prisons are the biggest gang producing institution in the state, this is probably a really sound plan. i'm sure lots of intensive completely unbiased thought went into it's creation.

so what YOU can do:
~ vote in november and tell Runner that we dont want his racist laws.
~ vote in june (in SF) and tell Lennar that no, we will not subsidize your luxury condos in the bayview and yes, you should be building affordable housing in the bayview comma. (lennar has stated that if that initiative passes, they will pull out as contractors entirely because they dont want anything to do with affordable housing.)
AND if you're feeling especially saucy,
~ check out groups like Critical Resistance, POWER, HOMEY, Ella Baker Center, etc etc etc and get involved or support the cause. they're good peoples.

let me know if you have any questions or need to talk about systems of oppression.
you can have a cookie.

and this week's strip is exactly how i feel today: http://www.asofterworld.com/

/activists are squishy and they smell funny, i dont like them at all.

ps. i could use a hug.

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