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.
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).
It’s Week Four of Philadelphia’s school funding crisis. The fight for equitable funding of traditional public schools is rooted in the Pennsylvania state constitution which provides for a “thorough and efficient system of public education.”
The fight for full funding is being waged online (hashtag #phillyeducation) and offline.
Students at Roxborough High School “got the eye of a tiger.” They created video to express their concern about the state’s failure to provide a “thorough and efficient system of public education.” Since 2001, Philadelphia’s public schools have been run by the School Reform Commission, which is controlled by the governor.
At last weekend’s conference at the Church of the Advocate, Bishop Dwayne D. Royster, executive director of P.O.W.E.R., said he’s raring to go. P.O.W.E.R., Philadelphia’s largest faith-based organization, is an interfaith movement that uses prophetic voices to “fight for the least, the last and the lost.”
He said “interposition and nullification are dripping from the lips of political leaders in Philadelphia and Harrisburg. It’s time to hold them accountable:
We must be the source of their nervousness; make them tremble when they see us coming.
Bishop Royster added:
We have to do something that’s going to be transformational.
There are no new books, no art or music, few guidance counselors and no plan to provide IEP services as mandated by federal and state law. Roughly 14 percent of the school district’s 136,000 students are in special education, which includes homeless, foster and gifted children.
On Feb. 28, 2013, 7000 Villagers filed a class action lawsuit to stop the school closings and protect the interests of students who under federal and state law are classified as “special needs” students. The school district is required to develop and implement an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for each special needs student. The lawsuit is about shared sacrifice (publicly funded charter and cyber schools are not subject to the “doomsday budget”), transparency and accountability. The bottom line: Follow the money.
It bears remembering that Gov. Tom Corbett runs Philly schools through the unelected School Reform Commission.
In his State of the Urban League Address, NUL President Marc H. Morial observed:
Next month – on Aug. 28 – will be 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, organized in part by our own Whitney M. Young, Jr., and challenged this nation to live up to the founding ideals that were conceived in Philadelphia and engraved in that Liberty Bell.
The events, both good and bad, of 1963, awakened the conscience of this nation and sped up the wheels of progress. I mention these events, not to elicit tears or sadness, but to remind you of both the sacrifices and the progress that have been made over the past 50 years. These events directly led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Thank God, things ain’t what they used to be. As Morial noted:
Fifty years ago, 75% of black adults had not completed high school. Currently, 85% of black adults have a high school education. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more blacks enrolled, and five times as many blacks hold a college degree.
As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Urban League and The Memorial Foundation will convene Drum Majors for Justice Summit: Redeem the Dream “to celebrate, renew our commitment, and equip young leaders to be drum majors into the future.”