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.
If the School District had planned ahead last year, perhaps 12-year-old Laporshia Massey would be alive. A sixth grade student at Bryant Elementary, Laporshia died three weeks into the school year after suffering an asthma attack at her school where there was no nurse on the premises.
More than 30 percent of children between the ages of 5 to 12 in West Philly have been diagnosed with asthma. So it was reasonable to expect a child would suffer an asthma attack or otherwise get sick while at school. Yet there was no plan to deal with medical emergencies.
Garner’s death and the police use of chokeholds have sparked outrage across the country. On Saturday, August 23rd, the National Action Network will lead a justice caravan and march to protest police brutality and the use of excessive force.
The justice caravan will travel across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in a dedicated lane on their way to Staten Island. The activists will rally at the spot where Garner was choked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. They will then march to the office of the Staten Island District Attorney and demand that charges be brought against the cop.
Rev. Al Sharpton said:
If you want to stop chokeholds, get on the bus.
Don’t think marching matters? Think again. NAN Acting Executive Director Janaye Ingram recently wrote:
Well, I understand that the end game is not the march itself. Marching in and of itself never solved anything. Marching is a public display of solidarity around a particular issue. It’s one part of mass action that people can do to show that they are united around a specific cause.
On August 23, we will march in New York to call for action in the case of Eric Garner, the man who was killed by police after breaking up a fight.
Police officers put him in an illegal chokehold and he stopped breathing while cops and EMTs looked on without helping. It’s not the first case of overly excessive force being used by police, but we have to make it one of the last.
So we march.
We show that this is an issue that we won’t let pass by without action. We won’t just be social media activists, posting our thoughts and feelings today and then tomorrow talking about who wore it best. We have a responsibility and a role. That role is to stand united with our brothers and sisters who want to see justice served, and the more people that come, the more that people in positions of power will recognize that they need to pay attention.
Sharing “hands up” photos on social media is cathartic. But we must move beyond hashtag activism. It’s what you do offline that will bring about change.
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.
Last week, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams released the findings of the grand jury investigating the Darrin Manning case. To no one’s surprise, the grand jury “concluded that the police acted responsibly and that no criminal act was committed by any members of the police department on that day.”
To hear the cops tell it, the Jan. 7, 2014 incident was a Norman Rockwell moment.
You see, Officer Thomas Purcell wanted to stop Darrin and his teammates out of concern they were trying to get this attention:
Unsure whether the students needed help or were trying to communicate with the police, he opened his door and asked the students what they said. Officer Purcell further testified that he did not hear any response from the students; the students, including Student #1, agreed that they did not respond to the officer.
At 1:55:22 p.m., Officer Purcell activated the police lights on the van in order to perform a U-turn on the busy street. He also testified that he was performing a U-turn to further investigate whether the students were victims of or witnesses to a crime, hence their trying to get the officers’ attention.
Lewis S. Small, Darrin’s attorney, wrote in an email message:
Matthew Smith Sr., president of the Pennsylvania State Chapter National Action Network, dismissed Officer Purcell’s testimony as inconsistent with police-community relations in Philadelphia. Smith said in a statement:
It strains credulity to suggest Officer Thomas Purcell stopped in the middle of Girard Avenue out of concern the teenagers were trying to get his attention. When they ran that should have been a clue they didn’t want to talk with him. And that should have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t. Darrin Manning stopped because he knew he had done nothing wrong. Everything that followed flowed from an illegal investigatory stop.
The grand jury found the evidence doesn’t support Darrin’s claim that a white female officer grabbed and squeezed his testicle. Officer Cucinotta testified she was “physically unable to reach his genital area.”
My experience is that a man’s genital area is in easy reach no matter what he’s wearing.
Attorney Small asked:
The real question is why did they omit Darrin’s teammates’ testimony in their finding that he heard Darrin screaming that the police officer was squeezing his balls, and yet they quote him as to the resisting arrest? He corroborates Darrin’s version of the events.
WPDC is a nonprofit organization whose members include Yorktown homeowners and residents, William Penn alumni, North Central Philadelphia community stakeholders and supporters of quality public education.
In 2009, William Penn was temporarily closed. Then-School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman promised the community the school would be refurbished and reopened in 2014.
Instead, the School Reform Commission put the school up for sale. The School District has not engaged the community regarding community needs and priorities. Nor has it communicated market and property realities.
The Public School Code requires the School District to hold a public hearing on the question of the permanent closing of a public school building at least three months prior to the decision of the SRC to permanently close a school.
That didn’t happen. In a single resolution on June 19, 2014, the SRC voted to suspend the public hearing provision, permanently close William Penn and approve the sale of William Penn to Temple.
WPDC member Tyrone Reed said:
We do not want anyone to think that Yorktown is for sale. We are out to let everyone know that we are not going to stand idly by and let Temple University, or anyone else, come into our community and dictate what they want to do.
Temple and the elected officials who remain silent in the face of community opposition should have seen this coming. North Central Philadelphia has always been the launching pad for movements of resistance by black Philadelphians. So it’s not surprising the strongest opposition to the rapid displacement of indigenous people is coming out of North Central Philly.
Yorktown residents are highly organized. After all, they are fighting to protect their home values and their community’s peace and quiet. They have fought Temple before. And won.
Temple has refused to meet with Yorktown homeowners and residents who live less than 200 feet from the property. Yorktown residents will not be bamboozled and allow Temple to determine who speaks for the community.