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Who will Call the Question?

This Man who is President is breaking all imaginable standards of basic decency, respect and responsibility.
Many of us have known this, been obsessing about it, and been trying to figure out what to do since his ascendence into power. But the Republicans have enabled him at every turn.
Where was the intervention when he spoke so cruelly about immigrants, women, people of color? When he passed rules and regulations that destroy honorable diplomacy? When he bullied and lied every day?
Trump has been dragging the entire country down the proverbial “slippery slope” since his illegitimate electoral “victory” 20 months ago, enabled by cowardly(at best), and collusive (at worst) Republican enablers.
STOP. Enough.
The Republicans in Congress have all the power. The Courts have other judicial restraints. The opposition cannot be “loyal”, even a little bit, for even a minute more.
Congress can meet and censure him. Congress can demand that he resign. A group of Bipartisan leaders can visit him unofficially, and/or with police escort, and demand his resignation. They can declare him unfit for office. Pence can denounce him and call for him resign, or threaten in own resignation.  But this has to stop.
If Republicans at every level don’t demand this now, shame on them.  Same on us all if we allow it to continue as if it is normal.  The world is waiting, and watching. Our children and grandchildren are waiting.
Enough. No excuses.
If we don’t do all we can to stop him now we are ALL guilty.

Ann Withorn, Citizen, Outraged inhabitant of this state, this nation this world. July 2018.

A Movement is Building, The Poor People’s Campaign is Moving, and Learning as We Go.

It is much too soon to publish any kind of full assessment of our efforts, and too much work is still in-progress to write something that would even presume to be any kind of “evaluation,” much less to suggest a plan.  But as of mid-July I just want to post some of my own thoughts, for my memory’s sake at least, and maybe to stimulate discussion:

  1.  The Campaign has done well, nationally and in this State to get attention to the cause without weakening the message.  No small feat in the midst for creating a national presence and action.  .  Good for everybody.  We have to keep it up.
  2.  For me, the most important parts of our practice thus far have been that we have kept to our commitments to bring the faces and voices of the people most directly impacted by poverty in the forefront — on camera and in our words and actions.  We can still do better, but this Movement is already much stronger  than the white anti-War New Left that defined me since 1968 because of this.  It is deeper than the Black Civil Rights Movement that inspired and so challenged me since I was a wanna-be Southern white girl supporter in the mid-1950’s because of this.  And it much wider than the Women’s Movement that I have been part of, despite and because of my Mean Mother, since the early 1970’s .  And it even may be the long-hoped for Movement of “The People, United Who Can Never Be Defeated” that I have been chanting for and demanding , at hundreds of demonstrations and meetings, in so many places  since it turned 21 in 1968.  I hope so.
  3. As a long-time activist and radical teacher, I truly do believe in the leadership and mission of the Poor People’s Campaign.  And increasingly, here in Boston, I can see ways to bring my experience directly into our popular education work, starting this summer.  Now we are past the past 40 Days of NonViolent Resistance and moving into a careful, yet intense, community and organizational development phase that will push the misleaders of both parties back, and motivate new folks,– younger people, tired older people, students and union members into greater solidarity and activism.  I can feel it, and I see real possibility for me personally to be a part, building from my experience, even if the body, but not the spirit, is weaker than it used to be.   I must find a way, and know I can alongside my amazing new comrades, especially the group of SEIU 1199 PCA’s who so motivate me, just as Welfare Rights Mothers did 40+ years ago.
  4. More later, except to say that as we move forward, my priorities are to help Massachusetts PPC to go to public colleges and universities and work with students to organize around the danger coming from the student loan debt that is diminishing the ability of our younger generation to take the personal, political and social risks they must take together.  We must teach ourselves the history of the Right in this country and elsewhere, in order to identify what’s happening to us, to name who is leading it, and to organize to fight back in little and big ways.  We must remember always to link the problems associated with poverty with the intentional and inevitable danger stemming from immoral Wealth and irresponsible rich people. We must also learn from our own movement’s’ histories about how to speak out clearly in large and small groups, in writing on all the old and new”platforms” and, through it all, as we keep our love for each other alive AND our Eyes on the Prize.  I look forward to working together with everybody as we accomplish this.  We have no choice.

So let’s get going, bringing new comrades along, and strengthening Ourselves every day.   Starting Now.  ……Please respond however works best for you.

Paying Attention…Catching UP…

“ I call on Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good employees and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”     Trump’s State of the Union Address 1/30/18

When I originally heard this I realized that, in the midst of all our righteous uproar regarding racism and other systemic abuses within new immigration, social, criminal “justice” and educational policy assaults, we also must heed this brief, chilling threat to today’s public sector workers, their unions, and therefore to all us.   Most of citizens and residents of this nation have rights to expect government to be effective, accountable, and responsive. Yet our criminal “justice” system is still, and has always been essentially racist. We must document and highlight and never forget this, even as we keep demanding more and getter service.

Since January, under the guise of tax reform, Republicans have already undermined healthcare promises, protections for immigrants, and the environment.  By not hiring new workers to meet the government’s obligations we only create more dissatisfaction.  With Tax Day just past, it’s time to remind ourselves of what it meant historically when governments failed in these ways.  We know get what we pay for.  And in terms of public services, we must be prepared to pay (fairly and proportionately) for it all.

Please, let’s demand the revenue we need to operate as a responsible society.  otherwise we undermine our ability to trust ourselves, and to demand what we need from ourselves

 

Honoring Paulo Friere

I’ve been working here in Massachusetts to build the Poor People Campaign’s Popular Political Education Committee.  In doing so I have been looking back at my favorite  Paulo Friere quotes: Here are my top five, at least for this purpose.

  1. “education is freedom.”  2) “The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”    3) “The radical, committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of a ‘circle of certainty’ within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.” 4)“Reading is not walking on the words; it’s grasping the soul of them.” and 5)“No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption”Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

 

Updates from the Poor People’s Campaign

Over the past several months I have become very involved with the Massachusetts Poor Peoples’ Campaign.  As I have said before the whole national Campaign is very exciting, and now we are beginning more state and local activism, leading to Forty Days of Civil Disobedience in May.   For now it just want to post the principles of the national Campaign and a link to be connected to the Massachusetts Campaign.

More later, but for now check out Poor Peoples Campaign principles +

Supporting the Poor People’s Campaign — No distractions, please

If you don’t know more of the story behind who Cheri Honkala is and how she has been part of the welfare rights/Poor People’s scene for years,
As long time welfare rights activist,Cheri’s statement seems powerful BUT why is she issuing it now? If she has problems with the current PPC, why isn’t she being direct about it?
Why announce her own march without respect for all the amazing, legitimate work motivated by William Barber, Liz Theoharris and Willie Baptist, and lots of us NOW, around the nation, which being led by more poor people, and more people with real personal poverty experience than any major social movement in history. Indeed, why introduce innuendo suggesting that the only current movement that is actually coming forward with real success is suspect?
Don’t get confused. Ask questions. Check out who has been doing the the most work of fighting poverty for the longest time. It is William Barber, Liz Theoharris, and Willie Baptist, along with others prominent in the PPC.
I respect Cheri’s history, and lifelong energy and I recognize her powerful voice.
But Cheri’s way now is not the right way. It is confusing and divisive. She could be joining, but then she might not be leading in the way she expects to lead — I could say “mislead.”
Today’s poor people ARE single mothers like Cheri using what’s left of welfare to survive, AND they are also immigrants, and low waged workers who are often single mothers or the children of single mothers. Today’s poor people are still disproportionately African Americans, who join with college students of all ethnic backgrounds in invisible poverty as they try to get an education, even as they know that the debt they are accruing to get it will keep them poor or near poverty for a very long time. Today’s poor people are sick and getting older living in fear that there will be no simply available health care for them. They reside in all parts of the USA — in large part because real estate developers are taking their cities away.
Finally, we now have a new national anti poverty movement growing organically again, out of the history of civil rights, labor rights and women’s rights and human rights movements. It is built upon the best parts of global environmental and LBGT movements. It is led by “people of faith” but still is welcoming to all who have been damaged by faith or who never sought it. AND the new Poor People’s Campaign has adopted 12 fundamental principles for a moral revival that preclude righteous Neoliberal tricks.
Let’s embrace it. Cheri Honkala should too. But I, for one, will not widely circulate her statement directly, nor waste time engaging with her self-serving plans fro her own march to distract us.
Let’s move on and build the one big movement that is proving its credibility every day. Please. The time is NOW.    Cheri’s original statement can be found here.

Mass. Poor People’s Campaign

This is really important effort, Stay tuned

Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Media Advisory for February 5, 2018
Contact: Savina Martin, 339 216 7181

Massachusetts Poor, Disenfranchised To Join The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Poor People, Clergy and Activists to go to the State House, Demanding Moral, Just Political Agenda; Vow Historic Wave of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience, Direct Action This Spring

Local News Conference Decrying Systemic Racism, Poverty, the War Economy, Ecological Devastation Part of Nationwide Day of Action in over 30 States, District of Columbia

Boston, February 1, 2018 — Poor and disenfranchised people, clergy and moral leaders from across Massachusetts will join the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival Monday.

Poor people, clergy and activists will hold a news conference at the state capitol to serve notice on state legislative leaders that their failure to address the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and America’s distorted national morality will be met this spring with six weeks of direct action – including one of the largest waves of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history.

The Massachusetts delegation of impacted people and moral leaders will deliver a letter to politicians highlighting dozens of racist voter suppression laws passed nationwide in recent years and a stark jump in the percentage of people living in poverty. They will vow to risk arrest beginning Mother’s Day if politicians fail to adopt a moral and just agenda.

The news conference in Massachusetts will be one of over 30 at state capitols and the U.S. Capitol Monday, marking the first nationwide action by the campaign since it launched on Dec. 4, 50 years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others called for the original Poor People’s Campaign.

WHO: Poor, disenfranchised people, clergy and moral leaders joined by many local supporters

WHAT: News conference and letter delivery at the Massachusetts State House and in over 30 state capitols and the U.S. Capitol as part of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

WHEN: Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, 10:00 am

WHERE: State House steps on Beacon Street

BACKGROUND:

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is the product of a decade of organizing by grassroots groups, religious leaders and others to end systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation. Expected to be a multi-year effort, the campaign will unite the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized, combining direct action with grassroots organizing, voter registration, power building and nonviolent civil disobedience.

Once again, what IS to Be Done?

September ordinarily offers me hope for better days, for making “plans for the Fall”.  Summer is ending,  school is starting, new people are coming around. But hope seems a bit foolish now.  It’s hard to feel better — except that much of the worst has not happened (yet) to most of us–maybe. The extreme weather even reflects my mood.  The world seems, and is, unsettled, out of sorts.  Charlottesville highlighted the reasonableness of my ever-present fears. I’m not paranoid. And I’m still angry — but not looking for “wellness training”.

Surely I can’t avoid seeing what’s happening to people and the values that matter most.  But what to do?

Obviously we regroup. We document. We prepare for the worst. We try to figure out what it means to resist.  We listen to each other, keep exposing all the grand and petty threats. Folks have done pretty well at blocking Him (and the Republicans) from doing the cruelest deeds. They look pathetic.  And the worst (declaring war? a white supremacist pogrom?) hasn’t happened.  But….still, it’s hard to imagine a better, intentional near-future. Hard to get it together, hard to find a focus and keep it. Hard not to sound hopelessly naive in continuing to call for “a movement”. But what else is there?

I can’t help being afraid of what is happening across the US and the globe.  The escalating crudeness and tolerance of violent words and deeds in so many places is unnerving. Now, too many suffer from Trump fatigue, and are even more likely to miss possibilities.

I keep coming back to the wisdom of Guy Standing’s warnings of increasing precarity. The insecurity that puts so many people in such danger is not only economic, it’s social disruption and moral enervation at the deepest levels. And it cycles in on itself. It breeds distrust. Maybe this is the essence of today’s populist nihilism. Everything feels off kilter.

For the next three weeks I’m in Europe, in Berlin, Prague, Bordeaux, and Lisbon. Seeing old friends, giving a few presentations about Basic Income. Looking for better ways to figure out what’s happening. What can happen. What we can do to find a new balance, to join with others, to find support for keeping going, for fighting back, for having hope.

Any ideas?

PS I do know that Reverend Barber, and the New Poor People’s Campaign are there, as are those at Political Research Associates and the Southern Poverty Law Center. But it still seems very hard.

Basic Income Blues June 2017

 

Inspired by the North American Basic Income
Guarantee Congress NYC JUNE 2017

I’ve got the Basic Income Blues….
Because in my heart
         I believe all need to feel secure,
                  to have enough to eat, to live, just to be,
Because in my soul, (whatever that is),
         I feel that BIG is a chance to live with hope, able to “speak our own truths” —
without so much fear of poverty, violence, homelessness, and distain.
Because, in my head,
         I know it’s possiblewe can get a BIG, IF we
work together, led by those who need it most,
Stay deeply generous, not tight, in our vision,
Not fearing failure if we don’t get it right the first time.
As Brandy sings, I want a Basic Income “Because I’m Alive.”

 I’ve got the Basic Income Blues….
But now I worry,
         because people with money, high tech status, and so much certainty,
         have “discovered” BIG, want to promote it, to design it,
                  to “own” the brand.
         Already, with hope for funding, the rest of us are obligated:
                  Obligated to please them,
                           obligated to “align with their values,”
                                    to place them in front of the cameras,
                                             to keep criticisms internal and “civil.”
         Because we can’t lose their money

SO I’ve got the blues…
         
I’ve seen it happen before.
         Seen radical movements, lose themselves in the quest for what’s possible, what’s
         winnable, for what’s fundable, for what seems to work,
                  but doesn’t.
Who’s most hurt then?
         Not the founders, not those who explain it, study it,
                  not the white professionals who discover BIG and “like the idea,”
Rather, the people most hurt are those who absolutely need a Basic Income, now:
         The precariat — our “new dangerous class,”
         People of color, immigrants, those less abled,
         People who hope a BI will change their present and their futures.
                  who want it for themselves, their families, and their communities,
                           who gain strength from imagining it, from working for it,
                                    and who will be most dispirited if we fail…
Let’s not go there…
Those who know poverty, up close and personal, must lead, not just advise,
                  head the table, not just be at it, when decisions are made,
                           when tactics and strategies are determined
                                    when the vision and goals are expanded
         Otherwise, only the form will remain, while the spirit passes away

And that’s a reason to sing the blues

 

PS I’ve got more to say in a discussion about what’s next for NABIG, about how to proceed, how to organize ourselves, and where we should not go. But that’s for later, based on collective responses to the Congress. But for now, I needed to send this out to my broader world,

THANKS for listening, and responding.

                           ..

Suezanne Bruce — Basic Income as an Empowerment Tool

This is Suezanne Bruce, of Massachusetts Basic Income Initiative, MBII,  my partner in crime.  We are currently working together to link Massachusetts Basic Income organizing with Survivors Inc.,  the longstanding welfare rights/anti-poverty organization in Boston,  with an effort to create local chapter of the Social Welfare Action Alliance, SWAA (formerly the Bertha Capen Reynolds Society). We are doing outreach, making contacts, and hoping for funding from the Economic Security Project.  The proposal for this funding is below

Proposal to Economic Security Project

UPDATED, MAY 15, 2017

Building an Anti-Poverty Base for The Massachusetts’ Basic Income Initiative (MBII), Under the auspices of Survivors Inc., Boston, sponsor and fiscal agent

Ann Withorn, Director,  Suezanne Bruce Coordinator/Organizer

  Project Narrative

The goal of the Massachusetts’ Basic Initiative (MBII) is to launch an educational and mobilization Initiative that will directly link Basic Income ideas and actions with the ideas and goals of poor peoples’ groups and community organizations in Massachusetts. Thereby we will strengthen networks for BI education and action across community, academic and professional groups.

Our underlying purpose is build support for a Basic Income Movement among those people who will most benefit from BI by developing a model that specifically responds to visions and concerns articulated by people who experience poverty.

The MBII Initiative grows out of earlier efforts to connect supporters of the 30+ years-old Boston’s welfare rights organization, Survivors Inc., with the loosely organized four year-old network of Basic Income Massachusetts adherents. With ESP’s help, the Massachusetts Basic Income Initiative (MBII) will focus on:

1) effectively getting the word out about Basic Income to a wide range of poor people’s groups and their allies in antipoverty, social justice and community organizations. This effort will allow us to open dialogue and create plans for cooperation regarding a range of mutual concerns.  

2) building a base for a Basic Income Movement in Massachusetts through a variety of outreach methods. We will draw initially from the network of Massachusetts social and economic justice organizations that are led by poor people, immigrants and people of color. We will support discussion, based upon the differing experiences of people in such groups, about what a Basic Income Movement should be, and what strategies and tactics should be used to build it. These organizations are full of experienced activists who have been long-time allies of Survivors Inc;

3)sponsoring a set of conversations among low income people from varied backgrounds about “What a Meaningful Basic Income Would Be for Poor People: How much? How Distributed? Anticipated Complications?” We will transcribe, edit and use these conversations as a base for development of a Poor People’s Basic Income Model” by the end of Year One

4) collaborating with BIGMinn, to create a model for local BI organizing, for the purpose of learning about their extensive local outreach and organizing efforts. We will share results from our work with poor people’s organizations as a base of support for BI. From this collaboration we will together create a Guide to Grassroots Basic Income Organizing to be shared with other local BI groups. (The base for this joint endeavor comes from the partnership that Ann Withorn and Liane Gale have created thought their continuing co-leadership of the Basic Income Woman Action Group)

Over the year, MBII will use ESP funds primarily to expand the existing informal cohort of current BI advocates and allies in the Boston area into a more recognized source for BI ideas and activity within the Massachusetts economic/social Justice community. Our specific plans include

  • creating an active Advisory Group for MBII, made up of people who have worked with us previously around welfare rights, poverty, social justice and Basic Income concerns. They will respond to and help direct our efforts
  • engaging in outreach to, and engagement with, local poor peoples’ organizations by visiting with members, attending local events, and individual outreach to leadership.
  • sponsoring a set of conversations later in the year, among low income people from varied background about “What a Meaningful Basic Income Would Be for Poor People? We will use these conversations as a base for development of a “Poor Peoples’ Basic Income Model
  • preparing and distributing accessible material for the purpose of connecting BI talk/ideas directly with poor people’s concerns, in the hope to building joint efforts with sister organizations in Boston and across Massachusetts
  • supporting the continuation of Survival Tips and other traditional Survival News activities, through the Poor Peoples United Fund, primarily via an electronic format.
  • underwriting transportation to selected conferences and related BI-related national gatherings (i.e. , the June NABIG Congress in NYC, the June Michigan Welfare Rights Poverty Summit in Detroit, and collaboration with BIMINN, and national Social Welfare Action Alliance (SWAA) gatherings in Rochester NY, among others.

What is unique about our Initiative

Historically, much of Basic Income activity in Massachusetts (as elsewhere in the US) has been focused on developing and explaining the concept, speculating about what it might mean in practice , and reaching out to educated informed audiences, based primarily in universities, professional and civic interest groups. This work has been good. As have the pilot projects and other efforts to create real-world models for UBI.

We hope that our project will serve to further ground Basic Income in the philosophy and goals of US anti-poverty movements, based on conversations and collaboration with existing poor peoples groups in Boston and other areas of Massachusetts. Most specifically we hope that the creation of our “Poor Peoples’ Basic Income Model” will be of assistance to BI organizing throughout NABIG. Especially we hope our work will spur Basic Income advocates to bring more low income people, and anti-poverty activists, into all BI efforts.

Our Approach

in Boston, Basic Income appeals to us today because it is a natural extension of early proposals of the 1960’s National Welfare Rights Organization for a Guaranteed Income for all.  That effort had significant support in Massachusetts especially through local welfare rights groups in Boston, Cambridge and Springfield. For years it was carried forward by the Coalition for Basic Human Needs in Cambridge (CBHN,) a group with which many Survivors Inc. members were long affiliated.

The past work of Survivors inc, and the example of Survival News serve as the base for our approach — grassroots activism, lead by poor women, in coordination with low income and welfare rights groups around the country. The voice and activity should always be democratic, participatory, and representative of the voices and perspectives of people who have current and past experiences of poverty.

Conclusion

We view our request for support from ESP to build a Massachusetts Basic Income Initiative as essentially, an anti-poverty proposal in the fullest sense — and a way to establish a local base for establishing a model for a Basic Income that can help anybody who is currently poor, and also reduce the real and often paralyzing fear of poverty for all in the future. AND we are especially excited by our plans because we believe that any current Basic Income Movement can only succeed  in today’s precarious political economy if it also has significant numbers of poor people meaningfully involved from the beginning — along with other anti-poverty, labor, and community allies.  Otherwise BI is just another interesting policy scheme which will be discussed by policy wonks and academics forever. And, if it ever were to be enacted without such input, the result will likely shortchange the very people who are most deeply connected with poverty.

On the other hand, if all who see the imperative for a Basic Income can fully include, listen to, and take leadership from those who know deep economic/social insecurity and precarity in their own lives and within their communities, we may have a chance “to keep on keeping on.” Besides, if we can all take turns on the soapbox. our work becomes less lonely and more grounded.

Ann Withorn, our Director (un-paid) has engaged in related activity for many years — primarily though speaking at academic and organizationally-sponsored settings and through writing and media opportunities. From the start of her BI involvement in 1988 she has attempted to link the Basic Income and Welfare Rights Movements. Now a Professor emeritus from the College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Professor Withorn plans to play a leadership role in this Initiative based on her 40 years working with her adult students and activists in the Boston-area social justice community. She will also bring years of writing and collaborative experience to the effort, and especially to the production of the “BI Model for Poor People”

Suezanne Bruce, the Initiative’s Coordinator/Organizer, also brings extensive personal and profession experience with realities of poverty and front-line work around economic rights, anti-racism health access, plus experience with criminal justice, substance and domestic abuse and homelessness organizations. Ms. Bruce is well known locally for this work –across a wide range of Boston area community settings. Recently she graduated as a Community Fellow from Tufts University with a Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning, Ms. Bruce brings newly honed research and administrative skills to our Initiative.

In short, both Withorn and Bruce contribute wide knowledge, varied skills and extensive contacts to the Massachusetts Basic Income Initiative, as do our potential Advisors and community allies. That this combination of people will be actively involved is, in itself, a sign that MBII will interact with more than the set of the “usual suspects” who traditionally define Basic Income efforts.

 Related Sites

http://www.survivorsInc.org

http://www.ppuf.org

http://www.dsni.org

http://www.socialwelfareactionosallianec.org

http://www.radicalReentry.com

FB Woman Action Group