Our Voices

Amplifying Our Voices for Racial Justice

Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez

Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez

For weeks leading up to my fourth birthday I listened to Radio Cultural Campesina with anticipation. My mom had promised me a shout out, and no present could get me more amped than that. Mexican community radio in the 90s was about power to the people. It was resistance wrapped up in laughter, corridos, and political debate.   I go back to these scattered memories of community storytelling through radio waves often, as I think about what it means to have independent platforms to lift the power and stories of our communities.

In my work at Voices with youth, we always acknowledge the lies mainstream media tells us about who we are. We ramplifyflyer JUST BACKGROUNDecognize mainstream culture is invested in replicating narratives that hold the logic of racism—and that the biggest trick that systems, media, and people can play on us is to convince us we don’t have the power to define our own stories.

AMPLIFY: Organizing for Media Change and Racial Justice will be held May 20th and 21st. It’s a convening developed by our team at voices with local organizers, cultural workers, and artists in partnership with the Media Action Grassroots Network. The goal is to share tools, resources and workshops that will be useful as we build powerful narratives in our work and provide an opportunity to connect with different local communities creating and organizing for media change and racial justice.

If you’re wondering why it matters to talk media change when we talk racial justice,the simple answer is that it’s too urgent not to. That the threat to open internet is a threat to economic justice. That we can’t talk about structural inequality in low-wealth communities of color, without talking about the fact that these communities pay the highest rates for internet, and that families are being left to have to choose between an internet bill and a water bill. That we can’t talk about prison justice without talking about access to phone lines and the exorbitant rates families of incarcerated loved ones have to pay to talk to them. That high-tech surveillance is taking the violence of racial profiling to a whole new level. That the fight for independent media platforms is one against corporate control and if we really want to shift the narratives of our art, our work, and who we are, we need to build our own platforms.

Join us next week as we share, vision, learn about new opportunities to build bridges across our art, media and organizing.

 

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Racial Equity Bill Watch: It’s Not Too Late for Racial Equity in Minnesota

RallyBy Brett Grant and David Gilbert-Pederson

The Minnesota State Legislature convened on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Two days later, Voices for Racial Justice held a rally across the street from the State Capitol to celebrate the release of the 2016 Racial Equity Agenda, a 16 page policy blueprint for a more equitable Minnesota. More than 60 supporting organizations shared in the creation of the Agenda, which contains 33 policy proposals that cover nearly every area of the state with implications for rural and urban Minnesota. For a complete look at the Agenda, visit http://voicesforracialjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Agenda-2016_FINAL_web2..pdf

Immediately following the rally, every state legislator received a hand delivered copy of the Agenda. The hope was that they would use the Agenda to inform their policy proposals and objectives at the start of the legislative session, create policies that advance racial equity, and that they would use the session to legislate against structural racism in Minnesota. Yet with only a few weeks left to go in this year’s session, our hopes to advance racial equity seem fleeting.

A little over a week ago, Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, wrote a letter to House Speaker, Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, urging Republicans to do more to address Minnesota’s racial and economic disparities. Thirty of her DFL colleagues, including Minority Leader, Paul Thissen, co-signed the letter, which urged Speaker, Daudt, to take action this session. “It is time we come together,” wrote Moran, “to acknowledge that racial economic disparities in our state is an emergency.” It was this same sense of urgency that motivated community organizations and members from different racial and ethnic backgrounds to come together around the theme We the People in the 2016 Racial Equity Agenda.

This theme was a deliberate choice. The community organizations that helped create the Racial Equity Agenda want legislators to know that ending racial and economic disparities in Minnesota will take a collaborative effort. They want legislators to know that they do not have to act alone, but that solutions can come from local communities. Most important, they want legislators to seek guidance and to follow the visions for a more equitable Minnesota that come from the communities that are most negatively affected by racial and economic disparities: American Indian communities and communities of color across the state. A better future is possible – for all Minnesotans – if legislators would hear the voices of our communities.

cover 3It is not too late. As a complement to the 2016 Racial Equity Agenda, Voices for Racial Justice just released its 2016 Racial Equity Bill watch. The Racial Equity Bill Watch includes bills introduced in the Minnesota Legislature that address racial and economic disparities. This is a working list that will be updated and changed continually until the end of the session. Although some of the bills on this list may not progress further, it is important to recognize the racial equity impact they could have if adopted. The Racial Equity Bill Watch serves as a precursor to the 2015-2016 Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity – an accountability tool which grades legislators on their efforts to advance racial equity. The Report Card will be released following the end of the current legislative session.

Like the Racial Equity Agenda, the Racial Equity Bill Watch is a collaborative effort of numerous community partners. Whereas the Agenda contains general policy suggestions for a more equitable Minnesota, the Bill Watch contains specific bills to advance racial equity currently under consideration in the Senate and the House. Among these solutions are the following:

  • Strengthen the Working Family Credit so that working people can better make ends meet, and so that children can get off to a stronger start in life. While people of color make up about 18 percent of the state population, about 30 percent of Minnesota households that qualify for the Working Family Credit are people of color. Expanding the Working Family Credit can play a role in narrowing Minnesota’s racial and economic disparities (HF 3589/SF 2586 and HF 3163/SF 3039);
  • Support the startup and expansion of small businesses owned by women of color (HF 3099/SF 2931);
  • Provide access to public health insurance to individuals regardless of immigration status, many of whom currently lack an affordable source of health care despite making vital contributions to our economy (HF 3780/ SF 2422);
  • Restore the right to vote to formerly incarcerated individuals. Minnesota should pass legislation to allow people to vote who have served their time and are living in their community (HF 342/SF 355).

These are just a few of the bills contained within the 2016 Racial Equity Bill Watch, which can be found at http://voicesforracialjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2016RacialEquityBillWatch-050316.pdf.

In total, the bill watch contains 16 pages of bills that advance racial equity in Minnesota. Yes, it is a short session, an election year, and a bonding year; but that is no excuse for inaction. There is still time in this legislative session to advance racial equity in Minnesota.

Brett Grant is Director of Research and Policy and David Gilbert-Pederson is Legislative Researcher at Voices for Racial Justice.

 

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Bemichigamaag Community Walk Against Drugs

Audrianna GoodwinAudrianna Goodwin, student, wrote about her experience at the Bemichigamaag Community Walk Against Drugs, Saturday April 2, 2016.

“Saturday at the walk against drugs, I took from it hope, hope that the drugs and the addictions that come with these drugs will one day be non – existent. One speaker said two things that really stuck out to me

1. He feels that it’s the woman who have the answers to our problems.

2. That the negative stigma around “snitching” is our own form of oppression.

Next Nicole spoke and said some really good things but when she mentioned that she had invited the chief of police of Bemidji, and the Sheriff of Beltrami county to come walk with us, but they never showed.I understand that they have lives of their own, but that in itself shines light that things they say to the media don’t necessarily reflect their own personal agendas.

Before we started walking an elderly man said a prayer and the one thing I took from it is he said each and every one of us is walking for a hundred people that can’t be here, that meant alot to me. Drugs affect all of us in one way or another.

It’s not going to be the cops, or the government officials solving our problems, it’s up to us. We really have to start thinking outside the box when we talk about these issues, the programs that we have in place currently aren’t being successful. I ask myself how can we put our minds together so our children, and our children’s, children don’t have to see the same turmoils we are today. Drugs/alcohol are tearing our communities apart, and it hurts me to see so many of my people suffering.

I know that it’s not only the drug dealers fueling this problem, but for those of you that choose to live that lifestyle. I ask you to open your eyes and see the destruction it has on our communities. And for those of you struggling day to day battling drug/alcohol addictions think of how much better your life would be if, how all of our lives would be,if this epidemic wasn’t upon our people. Our bodies and our minds were never meant to have these things put in our bodies. So with that I pray today, and I will continue to pray for guidance that one day we will have the solutions and be the strong resilient people that we were meant to be.

Mi’iw Miigwech bizindawiyag”

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