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Mark Dobbins: “Dear Becky”

Singer and Songwriter Beyonce

Dear Becky:

I’ll wait while you put down your yoga mat.

You voted for Trump. After these past few weeks, I really have to ask, “What the hell were you thinking?” Seriously, Trump? The shouting guy on the TV?

I know, you were so concerned about those email servers. Do you even know what an email server looks like? And Benghazi! Find Benghazi on a map unassisted and I’ll eat a bug.

You overlooked the fact that he broke two marriage vows but somehow think he’ll keep his oath of office.

You overlooked his addiction to tweeting – and tweeting – and tweeting.

You overlooked a lot that would have set your hair on fire had President Obama done the same.

And because of you, every thinking person in this country is freaking out. But not you.

Because you are safe behind your yoga mat of white privilege.

You didn’t join the millions of people who crammed our streets to protest. Because you were busy. Because Emma had a lesson. Because Noah had a game. Because you had to get the oil changed on your SUV. Because you were busy being white. Because it doesn’t affect you – and it never has.

By now you’re sputtering, “But I have black friends,” “I’m not racist,” and my personal favorite, “I’m not privileged.”

Yes, you are. You’re privileged, and probably racist too. Most white people are and don’t even know it – or do, and don’t care.

Here’s a simple way I use to test white privilege. Can you go an entire day without interacting with a person of color if you tried? I’m betting the answer is yes. That’s the bubble of white privilege that you think will protect you. But it won’t. Not by a long shot.

So you want to keep those “nasty hombres” out of our country by building a wall? When the price of your food skyrockets because white folks won’t pick crops, you’ll care then. Because it affects you.

So you think by insulting foreign leaders our nation looks stronger? You equate shouting with strength – because you have always had the microphone and always think you will. How many times have you shouted “I want to see your manager,” when you didn’t get what you wanted, then, at that moment?Now Trump is the manager and there’s no one else to call.

So you think defunding Planned Parenthood will make abortions go away? When Emma comes home someday with bad news, you’ll always have a way to fix that problem. A poor woman’s abortion is Emma’s D&C. Most people won’t have those choices. But you will. That’s why it’s called “pro-choice.” Because we want the choices you have always had – and always will.

By now you’re probably angry and about to write something nasty in the comments section. I hope you do. I want you to be angry. As I promised in my first column, I’ll probably make you mad from time to time. This is one of those times.

But stop for a moment and think.

Could I be just a little bit right?

And could you be just a little bit white – and privileged?



PS: We’ll talk more about this in the upcoming months. I’m just laying the groundwork for that conversation. I hope you’ll stick around.

(Featured Image: Katrina In Yoga Pose, by Earl McGee on Flikr CC)

AFL-CIO Report Shows Black Women Voters Are The Key To Electing Hillary Clinton President

AFL-CIO data reveals Black women voters
are pivotal voting bloc in 2016 election

(Washington, DC,) – Yesterday on a press call held in honor of National Voter Registration Day, the AFL-CIO released new data revealing Black women voters as the key to electing Hillary Clinton president in November. The data reveals that Black women turn out to vote in higher numbers than other women and, just as they helped President Obama win in 2008 and 2012, can secure the presidency for Hillary Clinton.

Image from report, Black Girl Magic:The Power of Black Women in Elections

Image from report, Black Girl Magic:The Power of Black Women in Elections

“Black women cannot afford to sit this election out,” said Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO Director of Civil, Human and Women’s Rights. “A loss for Secretary Clinton is a loss for the Black family, from the White House to the Supreme Court. We need to let our communities know what’s at stake if we let a divisive fear monger like Donald Trump make decisions that affect everything from our families to our jobs.”

The AFL-CIO plans to do large scale outreach to all women union members across the country this election cycle in the key states of Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  Many of these states are where Black women made the difference in the last presidential election.

“Black women are born organizers,” said Petee Talley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ohio AFL-CIO, the first Black woman to hold that position. “We know what our families and communities need to thrive and we vote for candidates who can deliver.”

“Black women do more than vote; they are active in their unions, acting as an engine of organizing and mobilization. A recent survey done by Lake Research Partners (LRP) illustrates that regardless of union affiliation, black people, regardless of gender, are very supportive of unions and collective bargaining,” the report states.

Image from report, Black Girl Magic:The Power of Black Women in Elections

Image from report, Black Girl Magic:The Power of Black Women in Elections

The new AFL-CIO data indicates that Black women participate in leadership in America’s unions at a greater percentage than their actual unionization rates. The benefit of this leadership is spread across Black communities, making these women a force and the foundation for political change.

The report continues, “Given the black community’s commitment to unions, it’s no surprise that black women take on leadership roles in their unions. While black women are 7% of all union members, 8% of them are stewards and local leaders.”  On top of taking leadership roles, black women are generally more active in their unions. Over 24% call themselves “very active” in their local unions.

Read the full report here.

Troubling The Ashes: A Tale Desegregation In Governor Wallace’s Alabama

Troubling the Ashes_CoverI just finished reading a wonderful new book, Troubling the Ashes, that highlights the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South.  The fictional story follows the life of a white woman, Marley, and her family, living through the turbulent times of the 1960’s.

Marley’s husband Winston was offered a job as a football coach in the small town of Natasugla, Alabama. The town was still reeling from when the school was burned to the ground just two years prior. Curious about what happened to the school, the school principle, Hunter,  tells the story of how the school was burned down to prevent the black children from the nearby town of Tuskegee from being allowed to attend.

Hunter told them about the first day students from Tuskegee came to Natasugla. He told them of how the mob of segregationists beat a white photographer in the streets for supporting the integration all while the county sheriff watched.

Marley and Winston eventually decided to stay and raise their own children in Natasula. The next few years are filled with attacks, false accusations, and the KKK.  Marley, Winston and a growing group of “public school supporters” work together to lessen the racial tensions that erupted over the past few years always hoping that one day they would be gone forever.

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes, does a masterful job of weaving the fiction characters and historical events.  At times the book reads more like a historical autobiography than a work of fiction.

The release of this book could not be prudent as some have noted the eerie similarities between Governor George Wallace and Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump.  While many political pundits on the right claim that racism and segregation ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, it is simply not true.

According to a new Pew Research Study, 61% of Americans believe that changes must be made in order to achieve racial equality.  It also reveals that black-white gaps in social and economic well-being persist across several measures. So how far have we come?

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes

“Of course, we’ve seen many great changes since the turbulent 1960’s,” says Aaron. “But racism still lingers in closets, under beds, and inside the mind. Today, it just wears a different mask.”

With the current rise of the Black Lives Matter movement many Americans are learning that systemic racism still hinders blacks from getting a quality education, a good paying job, and that blacks are routinely targeted by law enforcement.

George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Troubling the Ashes is the prefect way to stop and look back to see how far we have come in the last fifty years only to see that there is more work to be done.

Leo W. Gerard: Donald Trump – The Divider

Photo by Evan Guest

Photo of Donald Trump by Evan Guest via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The man Republicans will nominate this week as their presidential candidate sees himself as a U.S. generalissimo. Donald Trump would be, he said last week, the law-and-order president.  He’d be a tough guy at a time when crime is down. He’d strong arm at a time when reconciliation is required.

What Trump didn’t say, because he lacks the insight to know it, is that he’d also be the nation’s most self-involved, egotistical president ever. Rather than bearing the important mantle of consoler-in-chief after tragedies like those in Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge, a President Trump would be Tweeter-in-chief, bragging about how he, and only he, had predicted it would happen.

Precious few Americans want a bully as a leader, someone who barks, “You’re fired,” who calls people names, ridicules the physically handicapped, and builds walls between races. They want a president who brings people together, who inspires, who offers hope and who can give solace to the nation in times of crisis. All of that was missing from Trump’s responses to national shocks like the gunning down of 49 people at the LGBT club in Orlando, the massacre of five police officers in Dallas, and the killings by police officers of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Trump’s reactions showed he’s a businessman with a heart of stone, a man who would widen the divides of this country.

As the self-proclaimed law-and-order candidate, Trump on Tuesday spoke about the slaughter of the five officers in Dallas and the wounding of seven others. He said:

“Our whole nation grieves and mourns for the loss of five heroes in Dallas. Law enforcement. These were great, great people. Great people. We pray for their families. We pray for their loved ones. We pray for all the wounded survivors. We pray for our country. So important. The police are not just part of our society. The police are the best of our society. Remember that.”

And Trump went on talking about police. He didn’t mention the two civilians who were wounded, including a black woman, Shetamia Taylor, who was protesting the Sterling and Castile killings at the peaceful Black Lives Matter rally the night of the officer assassinations and who has repeatedly credited Dallas police with saving her life and the lives of her sons.

But Trump gave Taylor no time in his speech. It focused on the police, except for a brief mention of the recorded incidents in which police killed two citizens. Trump did not speak of Sterling and Castile themselves as human beings. He didn’t ask for prayers for them or their families.

He didn’t discuss the frustration, fear and anger in the black community as interactions between African Americans and police end in death far, far too frequently – more than 1,000 times last year, with young black men nine times more likely to be killed by police than other Americans. He didn’t mention that only the recordings of these incidents have made the rest of America pay attention to what black people have said for a long time.

Here’s what Trump said about the Sterling and Castile killings: “It was tough. It was tough to watch. For everybody here, it was tough to watch.” So, to Trump, the problem was the watching. It was a shame Americans had to watch some shocking video.

The hard thing wasn’t that a Baton Rouge, La., father, known in his community as the “CD man” because he sold them outside a convenience store, was taken too soon from his children. The hard thing wasn’t that a beloved Minneapolis, Minn., school cafeteria supervisor, who knew all the kids’ names and fed them like a grandma would, was taken from them too early, was shot multiple times, point blank in front of his girlfriend and her toddler.

The hard thing, for Donald Trump, wasn’t that for the African-American community this was two more names on a wall of horror that includes from just the past few years infamous cases such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Eric Harris and Walter Scott.

That the hard thing was the watching for Donald Trump is another example of Donald the Divider. He began his campaign by slandering undocumented immigrants as drug runners and rapists. He physically mocked a handicapped reporter. He slammed Muslims by claiming he saw “thousands and thousands” in New Jersey cheering the fall of the twin towers on 9-11 – despite the fact that this urban lie has been debunked repeatedly. He mocked the face of primary opponent Carly Fiorina and ridiculed a female Fox New anchor who asked him tough questions.

President Obama handled the Sterling, Castile and Dallas tragedies very differently. He met with both police officials and Black Lives Matter representatives at the White House. He tried to hear and understand both sides. He spoke with Sterling’s and Castile’s families and went to Dallas and comforted the families of the slain and wounded officers. And there, he said this:

“Today, in this audience, I see people who have protested on behalf of criminal justice reform grieving alongside police officers. I see people who mourn for the five officers we lost, but also weep for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In this audience, I see what’s possible.

“I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving equal respect, all children of God. That’s the America I know.”

That is a president who speaks of unity. That is a president who offers comfort and hope. That is a president who believes in the best of all Americans and who intends to help bring those qualities forward.

President Obama also cited the Bible during that speech. He talked about the Lord telling Ezekiel that he would give him a new heart, quoting the Lord, “I will remove from you your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

Then President Obama said, “That’s what we must pray for, each of us, a new heart. Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens. That’s what we’ve seen in Dallas these past few days, and that’s what we must sustain. . .with an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged and worry more about joining sides to do right.. .We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share.”

Later, he said, “Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down. It is found by lifting others up.”

Donald Trump is excellent at putting people down. At slander. At ridicule. He can Tweet-slam with the best of ’em. Such bullies are terrific as tyrants. And tyrants are great at gruesome, cracked-skull style law and order.

But, frankly, Americans need a president with a heart of flesh.




Follow Leo W. Gerard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/uswblogger

After Continued Violence, UFCW Calls for National Summit on Justice

Public Letter in New York Times Calls on Leaders to Convene, Media to Broadcast a National Conversation

UFCW_logo.svgWashington, D.C. – With acts of violence against police officers and African Americans shaking our nation, today the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union placed an open letter in the New York Times calling for a national and public summit on justice in America.

The UFCW letter was submitted before the deaths of three police officers in Baton RougeSunday morning. It pleads with our nation’s elected officials, civil rights leaders, police and justice officials to jointly address the division and violence we are witnessing. It also asks our nation’s broadcast and cable networks to air this discussion in prime time to help unite the country.

“Even before yesterday’s horrific killings, our hope was that this open letter would encourage Americans to come together and face what divides us,” said Marc Perrone, International President for the UFCW and co-chair of the AFL-CIO Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice. “For the sake of all our children, we must believe in a better America. We cannot continue to allow hate to determine who we are and who we can be.”

Excerpts from the ad are below:

“As a diverse union family with over 1.3 million members, such a national summit would give our members and all Americans the chance to hear directly from our national and state elected leaders, civil rights officials, Black Lives Matter movement leaders, local and state police officials, as well as representatives from labor, media, and corporate America.

“It would provide opportunity to listen to difficult truths, to hear the sincerity of fears and concerns so many feel, and to understand the changes that we must make.

“To help focus our nation’s awareness, we believe that all our nation’s major cable and broadcast channels should all agree to televise this national summit in prime time. By simulcasting this summit across all major networks, the call for change would echo across this nation like never before.”

Read the full letter here.


UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW www.ufcw.org

Sanders Campaigns in South Carolina, Criminal Justice and Civil Rights TV Ad Set to Air

Bernie and Jane Sanders walk along the waterfront at Battery Park in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo credit: Hilary Hess

Bernie and Jane Sanders walk along the waterfront at Battery Park in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo credit: Hilary Hess

CHARLESTON, S.C. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his White House campaign back to South Carolina on Tuesday with two morning stops in Columbia and an afternoon town meeting here where he predicted his come-from-behind campaign will surprise pundits when Palmetto State Democrats go to the polls on Feb. 27.

“On Election Day, I think folks here in South Carolina are going to wake up the next morning and find a very big surprise,” Sanders said to cheers from supporters at the historic Memminger Auditorium.

Earlier Tuesday, Sanders spoke at a prayer breakfast at the historically black Allen University about his proposals on a range of issues from reforming the criminal justice system to creating jobs and raising wages.

Speaking to a mostly-student audience at the University of South Carolina, Sanders detailed proposals for tuition-free public colleges and universities. He also detailed plans to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges with a five-year, $1 trillion investment in infrastructure improvements.

Sanders was introduced at the university by Erica Garner, whose father died when he was choked to death during an arrest two years by New York City police officers. She called Sanders a “fearless public servant that is not afraid to stand against the establishment for the people.”

Erica Garner is featured in a new television ad set to air here in a six-figure ad buy on stations in South Carolina and on national television beginning Wednesday.

The campaign day in South Carolina followed Sanders’ 22-point victory one week ago in New Hampshire and a tie in the Feb. 1 Iowa precinct caucuses.

To watch the ad, click here.

Berger-Marks Foundation Honors Young Women Leading The Fight For Social Justice

#BlackLivesMatter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors Wins $10,000 Edna Award 

Kate Mullany Courageous Young Worker Awards and Edna Awards of Distinction Will Also Be Presented at November 12 Reception 

Patrisse Cullors (image from Twitter)

Patrisse Cullors (image from Twitter)

WASHINGTON – Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, has been named winner of the Berger-Marks Foundation 2015 Edna Award for Social Justice. The Edna Award, which carries a $10,000 prize, honors women age 35 or younger who have distinguished themselves as social justice leaders. It is named after Edna Berger, the first woman organizer of The Newspaper Guild and the inspiration behind the Berger-Marks Foundation. 

Ms. Cullors is an artist, organizer, and freedom fighter. As founder of Dignity and Power Now, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, and the director of Truth and Reinvestment for The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, she has worked tirelessly to promote law enforcement accountability across the nation. She led a think tank on state and vigilante violence for the 2014 Without Borders Conference and produced and directed a theatrical piece titled POWER: From the Mouths of the Occupied. 

Ms. Cullors will receive the Edna Award at an awards reception on Thursday, November 12th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Also to be honored with $1,000 Edna Awards of Distinction are: Neidi Dominguez, Director of Worker Centers and Assistant Director for Community Change at the AFL-CIO and Nelini Stamp, Co-Director of Rise Up Georgia.

“Patrisse, Neidi, and Nelini are inspirational examples of the young women leading today’s fights for justice all over this country,” said Linda Foley, President of the Berger-Marks Foundation Board of Trustees. 

Judging the Edna Award contest this year were: Valerie Ervin, Former Executive Director of the Center for Working Families; Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union; Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women; Sara Steffens, Secretary-Treasurer of the Communications Workers of America; and 2013 Edna Award winner Jennifer Epps-Addison, Executive Director of Wisconsin Jobs Now. 

At the November 12 event, the Foundation will also honor the three winners of the $1,000 Kate Mullany Courageous Young Worker Award. The award is named for an inspiring young laundry worker who, more than 150 years ago, organized one of the first women’s unions in an industry that was harshly exploiting them. It honors young women age 35 or younger who have stood up for workers’ rights and organized their own workplaces. 

The three 2015 Kate Mullany Award winners are:

  • Stephanie Alejandro, a restaurant worker from Los Angeles, CA who organized her co-workers to fight wage theft and poor working conditions at their restaurant.
  • Anggie Godoy, a restaurant worker from Los Angeles, CA who organized her McDonald’s co-workers to Fight for 15.
  • Sarina Santos, a baggage handler at the Philadelphia International Airport who organized her fellow airport workers for a union and a living wage.

“We honor these young women for their steadfast commitment to workers’ rights,” says Foley, “Their strength in standing up in the workplace on behalf of all of their co-workers is a reminder that there is strength in numbers and young women can lead the way”.

The Berger-Marks Foundation was created by bequest of Tin Pan Alley composer Gerald Marks (“All of Me”) in honor of his wife, Edna Berger, who rose from being a receptionist to become the first woman organizer of The Newspaper Guild. The Foundation seeks to change the gender balance of the labor movement by providing support and recognition for women labor leaders.

The November 12th Award Reception is open to all who want to attend. To make reservations go to: https://2015ednakate.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Beth Becker at beth@beckerdigitalstrategies.com.


My Point Of View: Black Lives Matter Protests #NN15 Town Hall With O’Malley And Sanders

A lot of people have been messaging me about the events that transpired during the Netroots Nation town hall event with Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders.

For those that did not see the news about it, NBC News had a good write up of what transpired.

Long story short, as Governor O’Malley was speaking a group of protestors gathered at the bottom of the stage chanting “Black Lives Matter.” They demanded to be heard. They completely took over the town hall and demanded answer from O’Malley, and later Sanders, to the most pressing issues facing the African-American community.

The biggest question that came from the group was, what are you going to do police brutality and rampant racism in America’s police departments? To his credit, O’Malley waited patiently and listened to what they were saying did attempt to answer them. At one point he said, “Black lives matter, white lives matter, and all lives matter.” They were obviously not happy with O’Malley’s response and the fact that Baltimore, the city that O’Malley was Mayor of, sparked riots after and African-American man was killed while in police custody.

After O’Malley left the stage knowing he had said something wrong, the moderator welcomed Senator Sanders to the stage. Once again the protestors began demanding answers. As NBC News explained: “I will answer your question, but I’d like to speak for a couple of minutes.” Sanders began rolling right into his main talking points about income inequality and the corruption in Washington.

The protestors wanted him to answer their question and began chanting again.   To answer their question he started to talk about how African-Americans have the highest unemployment rate in the country and that that we need a jobs plan to help reduce crime and poverty.

In my opinion, he is right about how to lift people out of poverty and by pushing a comprehensive jobs program that will provide jobs to millions of Americans it will help these struggling communities. The problem is that Sen. Sanders was not addressing the African-Americans’ real concerns about safety from the people who are sworn to protect them.

Sen. Sanders has been an advocate for civil rights for fifty years and walked with Martin Luther King in the March on Washington. This is something that is not as well know about Sanders as his stance on breaking the Wall Street banks. In my opinion he is your ally, not your enemy.

(Read also: Why Bernie Sanders Got Twice as Much Applause as Hillary Clinton When He Spoke to La Raza: Sanders connects at the Latino civil rights group’s big convention.)

So what was the point of all this? I had vigorous discussions about this with many people over the last 24 hours as was this good or bad, and my response is both.

Good: The Black Lives Matter protesters were successful in bringing their issues to the forefront of the news.

Bad: Their protest destroyed the town hall and the news only focused on the protest because the candidates were never really given enough time to explain their positions and what they would like to do to correct these problems.

Neither candidate handled this situation well. I am not sure if either of them have been confronted with this type of protest before and I am sure they never expected it from what should have been a friendly environment for them. O’Malley did talk about having more transparency and report all police involved shootings, complaints, and brutality complaints.

Good: Bringing national attention to Black Lives Matter campaign efforts.

Bad: Black Lives Matters is not the only issue that needs attention and by overwhelming the town hall all of the other groups (who already support the Black Lives Matter campaign) did not get to her the candidates answer questions about their issues.

There is another issue here, and that is that the mostly white progressives at Netroots Nation do not know or care about the racial injustices in the African-American community.

This is absolutely false!

One thing is for sure, we as progressives can always do more to help support Black Lives Matter and fighting racial injustice in our communities.

We can Monday morning quarterback this situation to death but the truth is that the repercussions and results of this action have not fully been realized yet. Only time will tell what will happen next.

  • Will the media continue to talk about Black Lives Matter or was this just a flash in the pan?
  • Will Netroots Nation be able to attract high-level candidates, and elected officials, to speak to the attendee’s knowing there is a potential that they will have their speech hijacked by protesters?
  • Will those who found the protest inappropriate, overcome their feelings of disgust and return to Netroots next year?

Only time will tell.

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