Friday, September 18, 2009

Remarks of Kathy Black, on behalf of the Coalition for Essential Services, 9/17/09

Good morning. I am here today speaking on behalf of Philadelphia NOW and Philadelphia CLUW, which represents hundreds of members of many different unions from across our region. We have been an organizational member of the Coalition for Essential Services since its inception, and we are proud to stand with the city workers’ unions and the many community and constituency groups who are concerned about the well-being of our City and its citizens.

We reject as false the Mayor’s claim that draconian service and staff cuts are the only way to restore fiscal stability to our ailing city. There is no way that the delay of the hoped for additional $16-$20 million in sales tax revenue requires the cutting of 3000 jobs, or the closing of any libraries or recreation centers, much less all of them. Deferred pension payments are not due until the middle of next year, giving us plenty of time to find other solutions.

No one here is denying that we are in a recession or that the City has lost revenue as a result. But eliminating some of the most necessary and cherished services the City provides to its citizens is not an acceptable answer to these problems.

Last Spring, we all applauded the Mayor’s initiative to involve citizens in the process of planning the City’s financial future. Hundreds of us attended the four forums that were held around the City, and we spent hours thinking through the problems and proposing solutions. Many of our members attended these forums and reported back to our group. Obviously, we can’t speak for every small group in each forum, but we think it’s fairly safe to say that no group of citizens suggested, or would find acceptable, the laying off of 1000 police officers, or the closing of our court system, or the elimination of the critical programs for our children that libraries and rec centers provide.

We do know that hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue enhancement and cost cutting ideas were proposed through these forums - ideas that had been carefully researched by many of our Coalition’s member groups. What happened to those ideas? Why weren’t they implemented? Why did we go through that process if our ideas were to be ignored? We do hate to sound cynical, but in retrospect, it appears those forums were just window dressing. Cutting services and jobs appears to have been the real aim of the Mayor all along.

And so we call on the Mayor and City Council to go back to the drawing board. Look at the creative suggestions that have already been proposed and find others, including raising taxes if necessary, to fill the budget gaps. But please, do not tell the citizens of our beloved City that the only way out is to jeopardize the public safety, decimate the services that provide culture, education and recreation for our people, or eliminate the jobs that provide living wages and family benefits for thousands of City workers who are our friends, relatives and neighbors. Because we do not believe it and we will not accept it.

Regular folks are talking more about racism and sharing their stories

NOW member, Jocelyn Morris

As a retired person I’ve had a lot of time to read the news and although I welcomed Jimmy Carter’s forthright statements about race, it’s clear many did not. I’m stunned by some of the responses such as these reported by Politico:

Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards, who has represented a conservative, heavily white Texas district for 18 years, said he didn’t believe there was any evidence to support Carter’s assertion that racial factors had motivated Wilson.
“I just don’t want a divisive dialogue on race to become a battering ram of division for our country,” he said.
Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis agreed. “It’s not a productive or healthy conversation,” he said.

Read more: here

No evidence?? Not a healthy conversation?? Sure I am worried that focus on the racism of right wing extremists might fuel opposition to Obama, but enabling those who are in denial is what’s really unhealthy.

I do think a lot of regular folks are talking more and sharing feelings and stories on a personal level.

I'd like to share the story I received from my friend and NOW sister, Jocelyn Morris about her experiences. Jocelyn is a Philly native, former East Mt. Airy resident, former president of Germantown NOW and currently a member of the national NOW Combating Racism Committee. She now works for US Army in Missouri

My Story:

I have worked as a civilian for 23 years for the U.S. Army. My current
position is a combat Developer in the Maneuver Support Battle Lab doing
limited and other types of experiments on new equipment and concepts
before material solutions are developed. We have 23 employees in our
department. There are only 2 Black Females and no other minorities.

Yesterday, is typical in that most meetings I attend I am the only Black
and only Woman in the meeting. Yesterday was a little different because
there were 2 other women in attendance. However, I was the only Black
and no other minorities were in attendance.

We were doing an update on our programs to the Commanding General and
other schools and directorate leadership. During the briefing, a lower
ranking Soldier comes into the meeting with a mug of something to drink
to give the General. When I told my husband about it he said maybe he
is the General's driver and assistant. My comment was it was a
continuation of the Slave Plantation mentality to have a Black Man
(Soldier) serving/waiting on a White Man (General). Don't they see or
get it at all? I can't remember a time when I have seen this
relationship any different. Racism at its finest!

Is it because I am Black, that automatically when I enter a room, I
notice whether I am the only minority there? Do Whites notice the lack
of minorities in the setting they are in (Work, social, sports, etc.)?
The "Old Boys Network (White and male) is slowly being infiltrated by
women (One at a time mostly), because organizations like NOW are out
there fighting a daily battle for Equality for Women and other
Minorities. We should not let these incidences of racism go

My husband said I should contact our new Black General (One star pinned
on 1 Sep 09) and see if he has a White Driver/Assistant). I might just
do that (Smiles)!!!

Yours in Global Sisterhood,

Jocelyn P. Morris

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Philadelphia NOW, Bucks County NOW, Montgomery County NOW speak out against racism underlying right-wing opposition to health care reform

The members of Philadelphia NOW, Bucks County NOW, and Montgomery County NOW urge our fellow citizens to speak out against the racism underlying right-wing extremists’ opposition to health care reform.

Yes, the extremists have a constitutionally protected right to racist speech, but the majority of Americans who abhor these ugly appeals to racial fears have a moral obligation to speak out against this poison.

We believe that a relatively small number of people are responsible, but their influence is magnified by media coverage of their attacks on President Obama. The extremists gain legitimacy when leaders of our society appear reluctant to condemn implicit and at times frighteningly explicit racism. Although journalists (e.g. Maureen Dowd, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Joan Walsh) have begun to speak out forcefully, for the most part our elected officials have been silent.

This racism must be exposed for the lunatic fringe movement it is. It’s time for fair-minded citizens to make their voices heard.

Karen Bojar
President, Philadelphia NOW

Helene Ratner
President, Bucks County NOW

Kathy Shank
President Montgomery County NOW

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Resolution requesting that national NOW officers address the racism underlying right wing extremists’ opposition to health care reform.

At our September 14th chapter meeting, Phila NOW and Bucks County NOW passed a resolution requesting that national NOW officers address the racism underlying right wing extremists’ opposition to health care reform.

Although some of our members have concerns about some of President Obama’s policies, we are all appalled by the implicit and at times frighteningly explicit racism of right wing extremists’ opposition to health care reform. Our members want the national organization to take a strong stand and to encourage chapters and individual members to raise their voices in protest.

We are also very upset that although some journalists (e.g. Maureen Dowd, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Joan Walsh) have been quite vocal, for the most part, our elected officials have been silent.

Yes, the right wing extremists have a constitutionally protected right to racist speech but the majority of Americans who abhor these ugly appeals to racial fears have a moral obligation to speak out against this poison.

Last night I asked our members to forward links to articles by journalists who have forthrightly addressed this issue and that I would include these references with our resolution. Special thank to Caryn Hunt and Lauren Townsend for forwarding many of the following links: