Tuesday is Election Day. You know the mantra: Our ancestors died for the right to die. It’s your civic responsibility. It could be a lot worse. Vote for the lesser of two evils. This is the most important election since [fill in the blank].
If you’re unsure of the location of your polling place, hours of operation or who’s on the ballot, there’s an app for that -- Get to the Polls.
While I’m a voting rights activist, I understand why many are skeptical about the efficacy of voting. It seems like little ever changes for the better. Yes, your vote is your voice. But the change you want doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.
Turning out to vote is the first step. But civic engagement is a process, not an event. Truth be told, elected officials want you to go away after you vote for them. To make a difference, you must stay engaged after Election Day.
You also must hold those for whom you vote accountable. No elected official should be given a pass simply because he or she looks like you.
I first wrote about illegal immigration in 2005. I’m passionate about a lot of issues but nothing makes my blood boil more than calls for amnesty for the millions of illegal immigrants who either sneaked across the border or overstayed their visa.
I’m a policy wonk so I can cite report after report about the high cost of illegal immigration. But I don’t have to go there. For me, it’s real simple: What part of illegal don’t you understand?
Like a lot of Americans, I’m paying a lot of attention to the mess in Texas. If President Obama had listened, he would have known that Americans want to send the so-called “border children” back to Central America. They’re still here so now Obama is paying a high cost.
Immigration has emerged as perhaps President Obama’s worst issue -- definitely for today, and maybe of his entire presidency -- when it comes to public perception.
A new poll from AP-GfK shows more than two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) disapprove of Obama’s handling of the immigration issue in general. Just 31 percent approve -- down from 38 percent two months ago.
Count me among those Americans who want to #SendThemBack. It may sound “mean-spirited” but my give a damn gave out 11 million illegal immigrants ago.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s address before the 1st Berlin Jazz Festival. In his opening remarks, Dr. King reflected on the importance of jazz:
Jazz speaks for life. The blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.
This is triumphant music.
Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.
It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.
Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.
On Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, the Pennsylvania State Chapter National Action Network (PA NAN) will return to its roots and present the 3rd Annual Jazz for Justice Fundraiser.
I hope you will join us as we party for a cause and kick off PA NAN’s 2014 advocacy in action. Tickets are $20.00 and include live jazz (the Unity Band) and a fish platter.
Proceeds from the event will help fund PA NAN’s social justice initiatives, including voter protection and voter mobilization for the midterm election.
Tickets may be purchased on PA NAN’s secure website (please click this link).
“Budget crisis” is too tame a phrase to describe what’s happening in Philadelphia right now. The cuts hit bone. Nurses, counselors, teachers, lunchroom aides, assistant principals and librarians were eliminated. On Sept. 25, a sixth-grader named Laporshia Massey passed away after she suffered an asthma attack at school. Massey’s school didn’t have a nurse, and her family argued one could have saved their daughter’s life. In fact, during the budget crisis, school nurses warned that cuts to nursing staff would hurt student academic performance and endanger student safety. Three weeks after Massey’s death, amidst public outcry, Gov. Corbett released $45 million in state money to rehire some teachers, counselors and other support staff. Corbett had been withholding the money on the demand that the teachers union hand over further concessions in their contract standoff. When he released the funds, Corbett’s administration made sure to mention that he wasn’t doing it because of Massey.
The budget crisis in Philadelphia, in cutting as deep as it has, highlights the fact that schools are so much more than buildings that house desks and kids, and that education is much more than classroom learning and testing. Schools are lifelines in communities, often functioning as the hub in a neighborhood. Nurses, counselors, assistant principals, music teachers and librarians play crucial roles in sustaining those communities and keeping children afloat. Take counselors, for instance, who do so much more than settle class schedules and lay out college brochures. At the start of November, 80 counselors laid off in the midst of the crisis were returned to Philadelphia schools so that every high school will have at least one counselor, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. But the damage was done for many students. Not having counselors around for nearly two months at the beginning of the school year left them without guides through the testing and college application maze. Some schools even declined to offer PSATs, which prep students for the SATs, because they didn’t have counselors to coordinate the tests.
Students are acutely aware that Corbett is investing in incarceration rather than education.
Three weeks ago, 12-year-old Laporshia Massey suffered an asthma attack while at school. That should be the end of the story. Sadly, it isn’t. There was no school nurse on duty that day. Laporshia was sent home. Within hours, the sixth grader from West Philly was dead.
While the family and the School District of Philadelphia dispute the circumstances leading up to her death, the fact is we’ll never know whether a school nurse would have recognized the severity of her condition.
It’s also a fact that more than 30 percent of children between the ages of 5 to 12 in West Philly have been diagnosed with asthma. So it’s reasonable to expect another child will suffer an asthma attack or otherwise get sick while at school. If there’s no nurse on duty, will school officials rely on a child’s own diagnosis of her condition to determine whether to call 911?
Later today, the Philadelphia School District Nurses will hold a silent candlelight vigil for Laporshia.
Justice for Laporshia Massey dictates that we remain vigilant lest her tragic death is swept under the rug.