Wednesday, March 18, 2015

50th anniversary of the "Sound of Music"

A quick post for now (just because I'm tired of hearing about the wondrousness of it all today).  My sister, seven years older than me and eight years older than my brother, took us to see the "Sound of Music" here in Charleston when it debuted at the Riviera Theatre.  We had to sit upstairs, in the balcony -- cuz that's where the "Coloreds" had to sit.  I'm 58 years old now, and seems I'll never forget, nor "get over" that memory.  It's important I never do...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

For Mama Cissy...

The "girls" are alright now, Dear Heart.  Accept all the love you can get right now and please, take care of yourself as best you can during this incredibly heartbreaking time.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Strange Fruit" -- still just as low-hanging as we ever were

UPDATE: Take a listen as Mychal Denzel Smith from The Nation and former NYPD detective Graham Witherspoon talk some REAL truth to power on Democracy Now:


Family, Ms. Holiday is singing my heart's song tonight.  Not only is my heart past breaking, it is broken.  From Michael Brown's murderer not being indicted, to 12 year-old, Tamir Rice being murdered by a cop already deemed unfit, to now -- Eric Garner's murderer NOT being indicted (even with a video) -- it has been a soul-murdering week.

I am numbed by the grand jury's verdict in the Eric Garner case -- and enraged.
"Lynchings offer evidence of how defenseless blacks were,  for the defining characteristic of a lynching is that the murder takes place in public, so everyone knows who did it, yet the crime goes unpunished." (emphasis mine)
Lies My Teacher Told Me -- James Loewen
And we are still defenseless it seems.  Here's "A list of unarmed Blacks killed by police" to which we should pay attention.  Family, if you've not ever visited Abagond's blog, please do -- you'll learn a lot of shit!  If nothing else, it should get your minds clicking about the relevancy of Loewen's quote above.  "In public" and "unpunished" -- that's how they roll, because we continue to let them.

I linked to the video of Eric Garner's murder in my 12/01/14 post about the Michael Brown grand jury's, bullshit non-indictment, but I'm posting it now -- because, unless you're a white supremacist, or a "respectability politics" apologist,  there's no way one can look at it and not believe this cop should not have gone to jail:

And after they choked him to death -- they did nothing (WARNING:  You're viewing Mr. Garner's, already dead body in the video below):

Around the 3:20 click, you hear one of the cops ask, "Did anybody call an ambulance?"  Never mind NONE of those charged "to protect and serve," even attempted to perform CPR (Hey, Twitter-verse:  CLEARLY -- Black lives don't matter!).    At the 4:00 click, they're talking to him like he's faking (or covering their asses):  "Sir, EMS is here, answer their questions, Okay?" (so damned respectful -- after they'd all jumped the big, scary Black man and Pantoleo choked him to death, No?).  Then, at the 4:03 click we hear one of them saying, "He can't breathe."  I'm with Mr. Garner's wife -- at WHAT video was the grand jury looking???  Maybe that's why the prosecutors gave all the other officers involved, immunity before testifying.

And what kind of EMS personnel can Black folk expect to respond in NYC, or anywhere in this country for that matter (cute white ones with nice jewelry, it seems)???  From the 4:03 click to the 4:27 click, she's checking for a pulse, and then -- like the officers covering their asses, she talks to him!  "Sir, it's EMS.  C'mon, we're here to help alright.  We're here to help you (inaudible) alright?"  She gave up after that, and by the 5:15 click, Blacks and Browns in Blue standing around should've been ashamed of their damned selves.

By the 5:59 click, they all knew he was dead, trying to get him up on the stretcher.  "Strange Fruit -- Reloaded."

At the 6:35 click, you hear one of them ask, "Why nobody's doing CPR?"  And white bread in the aviator, "I'm a cop" glasses answers, "Because he's breathing (I'm sure he was one of them that got immunity).

Yes, Brother "Sylon R," -- "That's what the f*ck they do."  I'm tired of being low-hanging fruit, Family.  I've raised two sons who look like me -- and I fear for their lives everyday.

The Medical Examiner ruled Eric Garner's death a "HOMICIDE."  Chokeholds have been banned from the NYPD SOP -- and still, this grand jury let this cop evade indictment.  They, and the grand jury in Ferguson, have literally given cops a license to murder us (as if they needed one).

Screw milk dud-head, Charles Barkley, et al!  When will WE  get, that the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy will never make any bones about erasing us after having used us TO BUILD THIS DAMNED COUNTRY???

My beloved ancestor, Mr. James Baldwin addresses it here for me...

- The Not So Strange Fruit of Racial Murder
- The System That Failed Eric Garner and Michael Brown Cannot Be Reformed
- When the System Provides No Remedies to Torture, You Must Overthrow It
- Tamir Rice
- Can We Stop Police From Shooting Our Boys?
- Protesters decry Eric Garner grand jury vote LIVE UPDATES
- Man That Filmed NYPD Executing Eric Garner Arrested On Gun Possession Charges 

Monday, December 1, 2014

In Memoriam...

The murders won't stop unless and until, one way or another -- they are made to pay

"First of all, the European reigns; he has already lost but doesn't realize it; he does not yet know that the "natives" are "false natives." He has to make them suffer, he claims, in order to destroy or repress the evil they have inside them; after three generations, their treacherous instincts will be stamped out. What instincts?  Those that drive the slaves to massacre their masters?  How come he cannot recognize his own cruelty now turned against him?  How come he can't see his own savagery as a colonist in the savagery of these oppressed peasants who have absorbed it through every pore and for which they can find no cure?  The answer is simple:  this arrogant individual, whose power of authority and fear of losing it has gone to his head, has difficulty remembering he was once a man; he thinks he is a whip or a gun; he is convinced that the domestication of the "inferior races" is obtained by governing their reflexes.  He disregards the human memory, the indelible reminders; and then above all, there is this that perhaps he never new:  we only become what we are by radically negating deep down what others have done to us.  Three generations?  As early as the second, hardly had the sons opened their eyes than they saw their fathers being beaten.  In psychiatric terms, they were "traumatized."  For life.  But these constant acts of repeated aggression, far from forcing them into submission, plunge them into an intolerable contradiction, which sooner or later the European will have to pay for."

(Excerpt from Jean-Paul Sartre's preface to
Frantz Fanon's, The Wretched of the Earth)

I'm sure the title of this post is unsettling for those of you who don't like having your "certainties disturbed" (I could almost SEE the practitioners of the endlessly annoying "respectability politics" clutching their pearls as I wrote it).  However, like Baldwin, Sartre and Fanon in his,  The Wretched of the Earth above (whenever you have the time, please DO read this very important liberation handbook at the link.  Thank you so much Warrior Publications for making it available!) -- it is exactly what I believe.

Since time immemorial we've suffered and died (and continue to do both) at the hands of these jack-booted thugs.  Sometimes pleading, sometimes demanding, sometimes helpless -- we keep asking them, hoping they'll just treat us, "Others" with the dignity and respect every human being deserves.  We've marched, we've tried to conform, some of us have sold out, we've berated one another and we've even gone to historically Black churches (on Father's Day no less) denigrating us (simply, IMHO, to assuage our own sense of loss) -- all to no avail.

All of this, Family is the definition of insanity!  We keep doing the same damned things over and over again and expecting different results.  Aren't you tired??  I sure as hell am!!

I've purposely not written about the murder of Michel Brown until now because quite frankly, I've been overwhelmed -- by so many things.  Though I've briefly mentioned standing in solidarity with all those beautiful, young people who humbled me with their resolve as they gathered in his name for over 100 days and counting in Ferguson -- I needed to wait.  Wait, until I wasn't so overwhelmed by all that's been going on personally this past, almost year and a half; wait, to see if the white supremacists would get a damned clue and prove me wrong for a change (even though I never expected they would) -- I just needed to wait.

Eerily, I was on the road to Florida to see the husband last Sunday for our 34th wedding anniversary (two years ago, I didn't think we'd be here, but that's another story), alternately listening to BBC and CBC Radio.   Switching between each, around 7 p.m. or so, they both began reporting that the Ferguson grand jury had made a decision -- but it wouldn't be announced for a couple hours (more damned game-playin',  I thought to myself).  My youngest called to check on me as he always does when I'm road-trippin' right after that.  I told him to turn on his TV and keep me posted about what was happening because I couldn't' see it, but knew, "those mofos are gonna let Darren Wilson go free."


I say eerily because, in February of this year, after having put the house in the "Belly of the Beast" up for sale, the husband and I had two trips to make: a house-hunting trip to Florida for him, and a meeting on the 15th with the builder in South Carolina for me (more on that later).  We went to Florida first, because the day of the builder meeting coincided with the dedication of the Denmark Vesey Monument in Hampton Park in Charleston and I had to be there for deeply felt personal reasons (more on that later too).  Staying in a hotel as we checked out some places, we were also following the Jordan Davis case in Jacksonville, intermittently watching TV and listening to the radio -- constantly asking each other as we checked, "Got a verdict yet?"

We headed to South Carolina on the 14th, and shortly after our meeting, we heard the verdict -- Guilty!  While not totally what he deserved, he'll be in prison long enough to really know -- that shit he did was foul as hell.


About two hours or so after his first call,  the youngest checked in on me again as the BBC cut to Ferguson.  Listening to McCullouch's long, drawn out, bullshit spiel on the radio, I already knew -- Darren Wilson had gotten away with murder.  When the phone rang in the car, he didn't have to say anything.  I said, "Baby, I told you."  I listened, as he angrily vented about the unfairness of it all, then --  I just let loose (suffice it to say, not only was it past warm, it was vitriolic and quite profane). After letting me unload, he said, "Calm down, Mom. Pay attention to the road.  Call me when you get to Dad's and -- take it easy on Dad, he didn't kill Mike Brown" (Little did he know I was also listening to reports on the Tamir Rice killing in Ohio during the trip as well -- and it sure was gonna make that, "take it easy on Dad" thing,  a Herculean task!).

Nervous energy abounding, we both burst out laughing at the same time because he knows us as well as we know ourselves and he knew I was pissed. He knew I'd unload on his society-identified white Daddy as soon as I got there.  I said, "Okay, I love you madly, Man," -- and I kept driving the 20 or so minutes until I got there.

And he was dead-on. Not only was I feeling that familiar "quiet riot" roiling deep in my belly -- I was seething. Talking aloud to myself as I pulled in and parked, I said, "When in the hell are we going to see that none of this shit will ever change until we make them feel what we feel??!!  My head was so filled with all that had gone on before and since.


Shortly after closing on the house the end of May, I was assaulted by the death of yet another Black young man in June -- in what we used to call Bayside Manor.  Yes, it was then, and still is -- the "projects" (with a new, and white-folk-acceptable-name til they gentrify it and probably turn them into condos or something like everything else) -- but damn!!   This time though, it was one of our own -- a "Black in Blue," protected by a system, led by the same white man who'd been mayor when I left home at 18 -- 40 years ago!

When I was an integrationist, I was always, more or less, a "joiner" (ΔΣϴ, NAACP, US Navy, Teaching Tolerance, BCCLT, blah, blah, blah).  But, as I continue working to decolonize my mind -- I know today, I ain't none of them (that didn't, however, stop the president of the local NAACP chapter at home, from trying to recruit me when I attended the meeting concerning the murder and the three missing minutes from the surveillance tape finally released by the Charleston PD).  The tape showed the time the off-duty, CPD cop working private security encountered Denzel Curnell, then a three-minute blank, then the time he was dead, in front of the officer's car.  I felt so f*ed up about the "insanity" of it all, I had  to say something -- and I did.

Charleston used to be a city with a "Black Majority" when I was growing up -- not any more.  As one of my favorite commenters, "king of trouble" noted, on another of my favorite commenters, "jefe's" guest post, Anacostia over at Abagond's -- the city has slowly and methodically been, and to date, is successfully -- BLEACHED (and it breaks my damned heart).

Considering this child, IMO had been murdered, the attendees at the meeting were way less than I'd expected (and not even a march was planned or executed).  I told my brother later, "It doesn't matter if the killer was Black -- by day he wore blue and was automatically protected by that! -- and no response?!"  He said, "Welcome home, Deb, welcome home."


When the pupples and I walked in, the husband was watching CNN.  I said, "Hey, how you doin' -- I'm NOT in a good damned mood."  He said, "I know, I talked to Alan. already."  As I sat down and watched Ferguson on fire, my first words were, "Dammit!  Go burn down their shit, not ours!!  Then I realized, the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy's plan had always been to just LET it burn (plenty cops armed at the ready for protesters, but no fire trucks, no ambulances -- nothin' in the hood.  Wasn't their shit -- Oh well!).

And when the powers that be trotted out their Sambo/Quimbo puppet to yet again give his presidential words of wisdom, I was really through (yes Family, do re-read Harriet Beecher-Stowe's, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" -- now I understand how we've been focusing on the wrong Negro all this time.  It was Sambo and Quimbo to whom we should've been paying attention)!!  Family, this man is "skin-folk, not kinfolk."  He's no more our people than any of the white supremacists who've bought and paid for him.  As I listened to his voice, all I could think of was dear, old Maxine saying:


As I said in the beginning, they must be made to pay.  Be it hitting them in their capitalist pockets as these wonderful, young folk chose in Ferguson, OR --  read Fanon's chapter, "On Violence" at that link up there and let it sink in.  Either is preferable to nothing at all at this point.  However, the onus is not merely on us to do something.  As Mr. Baldwin so succinctly explains here, starting at the 4:41 click -- they've got some shit to figure out themselves.

Family, I'm pretty full about all this (as well as those other things I mentioned above).  I just had to let some of it out right now.  I do plan to write more later, so please bear with me.  Most importantly though, never forget this:
“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity”
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
My young Bothers and Sisters holding' it down in Ferguson still -- again, I'm so damned proud of YOU!

- Enough Is Enough
- No Indictment for Darren Wilson, No Justice for Black Lives
- Chronicle of a Riot Foretold
- As a white mother, I fear for my black son
- Despite Blacks Killed By Cops Here, Ferguson Reaction Unlikely
- Gaps remain in the Denzel Curnell suicide narrative
- Denzel Curnell case: Read the full SLED report

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Congratulations to my favorite, homeless, Homeless Advocate!!!

Tuesday morning at City Hall, the Washington DC Council honored my friend, Mr. Eric Jonathan Sheptock, enacting ceremonial Bill 200283, which proclaimed December 31 -- "Eric Sheptock Day" (you can read the text of the bill at the link).

Last Thursday evening, Eric sent me this:
November 18th: DC Council to Honor My homeless Advocacy (and I THOUGHT Others' Work Too)


I received word on October 20th that the DC Council would honor the work of myself and possibly other advocates as well. I received the date for the event earlier today. It will take place on Tuesday, November 18th, though I haven't been given a time.

DC Council sessions generally begin around 10 AM, sometimes at 11. I'll publish the exact time when I have it. You are invited. I'll be sure to put in a plug for other advocates.

I've begun to go to work on the Bowser administration:
My initial reaction was a swelling sense of pride deep in my heart (I've had that feeling often since I met and interviewed him for a class paper I was writing while working on my M.A. in Journalism back in 2009).  I emailed him back about an hour later saying:
Congratulations!!! Be careful though, Man.  Folk like them tend to think they can massage activists into silence with honors! Keep your eyes open and your head up!

He emailed me back to say he'd call me in about 45 minutes and he did. We talked for an hour, catching up on current events and talking about his upcoming big day.  It was wonderful!  I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I am so proud of this young man!  He's not only been talking the talk for as long as I've known him, he's definitely been walking the walk (not too many people I can say that about these days!).

On Monday he sent me this email:

On November 18th, 2014 in the DC Council chamber I will be recognized for my 8.5 and counting years of homeless advocacy. They will declare December 31st, 2014 to be Eric Jonathan Sheptock Day. Councilman Jim Graham's office just called for a list of my closest associates. I gave about a dozen names that might include YOU. It would be great if YOU were there. I've attached my speech and a copy of the resolution which you'll also find here: Washington D.C. CER20-0283 | 2013-2014 | 20th Council.
He was excited, and two hours later, I replied:
If I could afford to make the 9-hour drive tonight so I could be there in the morning, you know, or ought to know that I would. As a matter of fact, I sat down and took a look at my finances after our telephone call the other day to see if I could surprise you, but I realized I couldn't make it work because I'm driving down to Florida this weekend to spend the week with my husband — we're celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary on Nov. 28th (gotta honor that long damned time together, Man)!!

Like I've told you many times before — I am so-o-o-o damned proud of you Eric!! From our first meeting at Cosi's near the library, UP UNTIL TODAY -- you have been the man you said you were!!!! I am so grateful to have been able to call you my friend. I enjoyed meeting your friends in the park that day (How's "Better Believe Steve doing?), I felt privileged when we all went to see "The Soloist" because I was with people who really, really knew the life Jamie Foxx was trying to portray.

I know that little laptop is probably long-dead by now, but I hope it lasted long enough to keep you pecking away at this wonderfully, meaningful work to which you are committed. While I've always been a homeless advocate, I've never been as activist an advocate as you! Knowing you my Brother, has enriched my life wa-a-a-y more than you will ever know and for that, I thank you.

Have a great day tomorrow Eric, you deserve it! But, remember what I said, "Be careful, Man. Folk like them tend to think they can massage activists into silence with honors! Keep your eyes open and your head up!" -- and of course — KEEP GIVIN' 'EM HELL!!

Take care of yourself,

P.S. Great speech! Would you mind if I posted it along with the text of the resolution (I'll post the resolution today and update the post with your speech after the event is over)? Please let me know. I think it's important that more people than those in DC recognize not only the work, but the kind of man you are.

He responded:
Feel free to post my speech -- written and video. I'll send you the latter soon.

I'm using the laptop you bought me right now. it's 4 years and 2 months old. I've had to do major non-invasive work on it at times (clean out files, remove viruses etc.); but, it's still working.

happy anniversary! My parents did 41 years until he passed in 2000. I'm sure you'll surpass the number in 8 years.
I wouldn't trouble you to come for this event. I haven't forgotten that you said you'd drop what you're doing and catch a plane to DC if something revolutionary jumped off in a big way. I WILL call you for THAT.

Better Believe Steve is having mobility issues and is in an unstable housing situation right now. He's often in pain due to lower back and leg issues. he's still advocating though. He uses a walker now. I'll tell him you asked about him.

Through coincidence...err Divine providence, this event occurs at 9 AM and then some of its participants will enter Shitty..City Hall for my ceremony and legislation that is before the council concerning affordable housing. It's gonna be a great day!!!
I'm late in posting both (due to some dental work from which today, I've recovered), but I replied:
Thanks Eric. I'll post the resolution tonight. Damn, I'm glad it's still working!! I tell you Man, that was the best investment I ever made given what you've done with it! Again, Man -- I'm very proud of you. I s-o-o-o look forward to your work with this "new/old administration!"

Thanks for the happy anniversary wish! When we began, 34 years of longevity would've seemed a long time. But now, given your parents' 41 years and his parents' over 60 years before his father passed last year, I think, as my Grandmama used to say, "God willin' and the creek don't rise!" -- we'll get there!

"I wouldn't trouble you to come for this event. I haven't forgotten that you said you'd drop what you're doing and catch a plane to DC if something revolutionary jumped off in a big way. I WILL call you for THAT."

If I could've, I would've, but I'm glad you understand. And yes, particularly since I'm closer in SC now than I was in Texas, I will certainly answer THAT call! Hate to hear about Steve. Isn't he an Air Force Vet? Couldn't he get PSH from some of those gazillion dollars the Changeling proposed in his FY 2010 budget proposal for housing and homeless programs? {smdh} Yes, please do tell him I asked about him.

Divine providence — at least you'll have a larger audience! Yes, my friend, it IS gonna be a great day! Enjoy and savor it, then — get back to work!!!

Take care,
He replied about Steve's situation and then continued:
...PSH it is just another waiting list for housing, though it's shorter than at the Housing Authority. If they determine his condition is not as bad as someone else's, he moves down the list. That said, I know he's on some housing list but don't know if it's PSH.

DC has come up with a combined assessment for all of the housing lists. That makes applying easier but doesn't necessarily get you housed sooner. I'm not sure if Steve has done this consolidated assessment which is only a few months old called the VI-SPDAT (Vulnerability Index something, something something Assessment Tool)."
With that, I took my ass to bed -- fully planning to post all this the day before it happened. But as I said earlier, the tooth slayed me. I'm feeling better now -- and there's no way I wouldn't pay homage to this man who never, ever gives up -- "Homeless Advocate, thy name is Eric Sheptock!"

Here's his speech:

Eric Jonathan Sheptock – Advocacy Award Acceptance Speech for Nov. 18th, 2014

First of all, I'd like to thank you for this award. It's nice to know that my work hasn't gone unnoticed, though I've been involved in at least a couple of Facebook debates as to whether or not my virtually unpaid advocacy qualifies as work. But I can't say that it's a thankless job; as, many homeless people have stooped me in hallways or on the sidewalk to tell me how much they appreciate what I do sometimes three or four of DC's nearly 9,000 homeless people per day.

I stand on the shoulders of Mitch Snyder and others who worked with him. I'd also like to recognize the dozens of other current day advocates for the rights of the homeless, for living-wage jobs, for affordable housing and for the many other human rights which this city claimed to support on December 10th, 2008. Some of them hearken back to the days of Mitch Snyder and the Reagan Revolution.

While congratulating all advocates – myself and others -- for having an unwavering commitment to ensuring that all people have all of their basic human necessities, you should take pause to recognize what may very well be the grimmest reality of our time – that in this land of plenty there are those who go without.

No worries; for the other advocates and I will continue to fight the good fight as we transition into the Bowser administration. After 15 months in office, Fenty committed to and oversaw the housing of the most vulnerable homeless singles. After 38 months in office, Gray committed to and drew up a plan for providing better shelter to homeless families. I hope that by the time Ms. Bowser has been mayor for six months we'll have a plan for connecting able-bodied homeless adults to living-wage jobs and affordable housing which they can pay for without subsidies.

So, while I appreciate this award and the recognition from the DC Council, the work of the advocates is far from over. We actually have about time-and-a-half as many homeless people now as we had when the Inter-agency Council on Homelessness first met in June 2006 and probably twice as many as we had in 2004 when we adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness by next month (December 2014). Needless to say, I don't have any faith in 10-year plans.

My commitment to real solutions is proven in part by the fact that I've already attempted to connect with the Bowser transition team so as to offer guidance on how to actually DECREASE homelessness in the city. In January we need to hit the ground running – especially if the weather is anything like it is today.

Thank you.

While I do believe the new administration is trying to get out in front of Eric's relentlessness by stroking him (they've no idea with whom they're dealing!)  -- I must say again, I'm so damned proud and privileged to call him -- "FRIEND."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Homelessness in the seat of power, during and after the Age of Obama

I remember a mere three months after the Changeling's "selection" and their move into the Big House, my favorite homeless, homeless advocate, Eric Sheptock called me excitedly saying that Michelle Obama had come to Miriam's Kitchen in DC to feed the homeless.

It was his hope the "selection," coupled with her show of some interest in homelessness (vis-à-vis her one-day visit to the soup-kitchen) -- that the DC government apparatchiks (former mayor, Adrian Fenty in particular) would "turn to" (Navy slang for "Get to work!") regarding the homeless.  I didn't share his enthusiasm and said so.

Then, two months later, a funny thing happened from deus ex machina to actual Trojan Horse-dom regarding the Changeling.  According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness:
Today, May 7, President Obama released his budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2010. The budget included funding proposals for housing and homeless programs....Highlights of the funding for homeless programs include:
• $1.8 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, an increase of $117 million over FY 2009;
•$46.3 billion for HUD programs, an 11 percent increase;
•$1 billion for a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund;
•$68 million for the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program, an $8 million increase over the FY 2009 level;
•$19 million for a new DC Housing First Initiative to provide supportive housing to homeless individuals and families;
•$26 million for a pilot program to prevent homelessness for veterans.
That's a lot of damn money, no??!!

Yet, when I read this piece at OpEdNews on Election Day -- 90-year-old man, two pastors cited for feeding homeless in Florida, I immediately thought about two things:  this visual from Truthdig's, 'Somebody Called the Cops on Jesus' (Audio) story earlier this year...

The Rev. David Buck sits next to the Jesus the Homeless statue that was installed in front of his church, St. Alban's Episcopal, in Davidson, N.C.
...and this more recent post in early October from Eric, which he graciously allowed me to repost:
Job Discrimination Against the Homeless: Shirley Contracting and DC's First-Source Law

It's been said by social justice advocates and activists that, “There are 20 years that don't make a day; and then, there's that day that makes 20 years”. I think I just had my day that makes 20 years on October 3rd, 2014. I attended a hearing at Washington, DC's City Hall (The John A. Wilson Building). It was about the 41% cut to TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) that went into effect on October 1st, 2014. I didn't plan to testify, only to observe. However, as I heard various homeless or poor mothers and one single woman from the non-profit community testify, the gears began turning and I gave into tempation.

A woman on the previous four-person panel set things off when she shifted from talking about the increased hardships that she and her child will endure as a result of the near-half reduction in public benefits to talking about how she doesn't believe that city officials really want to end homelessness or poverty. She even talked about how the system that creates or deepens people's poverty then blames those people for their poverty and was one of at least two mothers who talked about how more poor people will commit crimes of survival as their public benefits are cut. They went on to mention the prison-industrial complex and how that, as people commit crimes of survival, prisons are being built and expanded and police are at the ready to arrest the poor and throw them in jail where money can be made off of them.

I shared the testimony table with three mothers. Naila (nah – EE – lah) is still relatively new to advocacy. Other long-term advocates and I have been offering our support to get her started. She sat to my right. Naila was the first person on our panel to speak. She told of homeless parents being intimidated by staff for speaking out about shelter conditions and of how the homeless families at the Quality Inn, courtesy of DC Government, had received notices of eviction with nowhere to go and no one to talk to. I fleshed out what the woman on the previous panel said by giving some very specific examples of systemic failures that add up to poor people being gentrified out of the city or that make their lives harder. After all, I've dealt with DC Government for eight years and some change. I know about their major SNAFU's since June 2006 first-hand and have heard about others that occurred prior to my becoming a homeless advocate. A woman who shares my mother's name and put herself through professional schooling while homeless sat to my left. A woman who suffers from Dyslexia but has three gifted children sat to the right of Naila who broke into tears as she heard the mother of three speak. I held and comforted her.

Councilman Jim Graham was so impressed with the testimonies of our panel that he strongly advised us to organize for power. Immediately after our panel was finished, the four of us stood, exchanged hugs (which is uncommon at a hearing) and walked into the hall to exchange contact info and plan when we would meet to organize. (That will happen on Monday, October 6th at 1 PM at the MLK, Jr. Library in Room A-9.) I was impressed by the fluidity of our collective testimonies even though we hadn't collaborated on them. I was also impressed by the critique of the capitalist system that took place during the hearing. It was reminiscent of the hearing a day earlier before the same councilman concerning the future of the CCNV Shelter. During that hearing a man who is new to advocacy talked mainly about the hurtful effects of the capitalist system and the fact that much of what city officials claim to do out of concern for homeless people is just a facade. While myself and other advocates have known these things for years, it is unusual for a person who is testifying to exit the topic of the hearing and give a general critique of the system; and, it is almost unheard of to have several people's testimonies so unintentionally and coincidentally build the case for an indictment against the same.

During my testimony I mentioned the fact that there weren't many homeless families present at a hearing that directly affects them; because, they don't have enough money to ride the transit system – that the problem we were there to discuss was self-compounding insomuch as the decreased funds decrease the ability of the poor to attend events where they should be speaking out about their plight. I also said that,though it's rather pie-in-the-sky, maybe we should approach the transit authority about assisting homeless families by giving them free rides or reduced fares, especially when attending such a meeting. Councilman Graham would later say that he can help with transportation. I also mentioned the fact that,with homeless families at the Quality Inn having been told to leave with nowhere to go and no one to talk to about their plight, we were returning to the atrocities of the winter of 2010-11.

During that winter, homeless mothers were turned away from an over-crowded shelter with their infants and toddlers in tow and given tokens to ride the bus all night. (The buses stop between 2 and 5 AM.) One particular boy who was born on February 10th spent his first month of life homeless as his mother slept with him in her storage unit, the Greyhound station and the stairwell of an unsecured apartment building. I too mentioned the insufficient political will to end homelessness, as I had the day before. At both hearings I mentioned Shirley Contracting which has begun a large 10-year building project right across the road from the shelter and only made a token effort to hire homeless people. I'm left to wonder if they've made any more of an effort to hire other Washingtonians.

I left the hearing at about 1:20 PM to go to an interview with an American University student who wanted to know about the phenomenon whereby homeless people are made to feelinvisible. Along with one other man, I told her about how the general public often tries not to notice a homeless person. I told her of how homeless parents often sleep in the bushes of various parks for fear that if they apply for shelter, the shelter is full and they are honest about not having anywhere to sleep indoors, then theirchildren will be taken away. This causes homeless parents to want to become “invisible”. I also told her about FEMA camps that are being erected in various cities, ostensibly in preparation for a disaster, and are being used as homeless shelters where a homeless person must go and is not allowed to leave without an escort in a van.

Then it was on to the radio station where I was one of three people on an hour-long show that centered around the book by my good friend, former Cleveland resident and current American University professor Dan Kerr called “DerelictParadise”. His book addresses poverty pimping from an academic standpoint. It shows the connection between the cheap labor afforded by day labor halls, the race to the bottom in terms of wages and the increase in homelessness since 1945. Dan, a Caucasian, beat me to the punch by being the first to mention that “urban renewal” is actually”negro removal”. (I really WAS getting ready to say that in my next comment when he said it. Great minds think alike.) It was here at WPFW 89.3 FM during the show with Garland Nixon from 6 to 7PM on October 3rd, 2014 that I mentioned the indictment of Shirley Contracting for the third time in two days (all three times having been taped and made available in the public domain.) The indictment is as follows:

In late August or early September 2014 Shirley Contracting which is a subsidiary of Clark Construction began work on a 10-year project near the 200 block of E Street NW in Washington, DC. There is a shelter building which holds up to 1,350 of the city's 8,000+ homeless people which is located diagonally across the road on the southeast corner of the same intersection. It contains three separate shelters, a clinic, a drug program and a kitchen that feeds 5,000 poor people per day and is collectively known as the Federal City Shelter. The CCNV (Community for Creative Non-Violence) is one of those shelters in the building with 950 of the beds. There are probably 300 people in that building who are fully capable of doing construction labor. There may be upwards of 100 who have skills in the construction trades.

Washington, DC has what are called “First Source Laws” which mandate that employers make a good-faith effort to ensure that at least 51% of their employees are DC residents. After they make a good-faith effort to hire DC residents, they are allowed to hire people from outside of DC. The following amounts to what I suspect was a token effort to hire DC residents and one which uses homeless people in ways that the homeless might not be aware.

I was told by a man who, along with his co-workers, comes from the Academy of Sciences during his lunch break to help homeless people write resumes and apply on-line for jobs that Shirley Contracting had indeed contacted the shelter administration to inform them that the company was hiring. This friend had been led to believe that the company wanted to hire a large number of people from the shelter. The shelter administration did not make it their business to convey this information to all residents, though I have no complaint about the man who told me.

I went to the company's website, sent them a message expressing my desire to discuss them hiring homeless people, made a flier with their contact info along with what I'd been told and posted those fliers at the shelter. On or around September 10th I called Shirley Contracting. I was put through to a certain Carrie Carr-Maina (703-550-1127) and explained my understanding of the matter. She seemed rather friendly, for what that's worth to you. (She works in HR.) She said that, while she doesn't know who from her company contacted the shelter, she thinks that they might have simply told the shelter that Shirley is hiring but doubts that they stated a desire to hire any homeless people. She emphasized that anyone may apply. She explained that the application can be done on-line or in person at the office in Lorton Virginia which is beyond where the transit system goes and considerably difficult to get to – especially if you are a homeless person of limited means. (It stands to reason that the interview would be in Lorton even if one were to apply on-line.) Ms. Carr-Maina suggested getting a van and bringing 10 people out to apply in Lorton. She also told me that Shirley Contracting would be participating in a job fair at the Washington Convention Center on September 24th.

On September 23rd I called Carrie Carr-Maina to confirm that she would be at the job fair the next day. She said she would but then asked me if I'd seen her e-mail. I hadn't. She then proceeded to tell me that I was publishing bad information about Shirley Contracting that included the idea that the companywould transport homeless people to Lorton for the interview. I asked her when she sent it and she said the 15th. I thought that a mentally ill homeless advocate whom I know may have made his own version of my flier and sent it out in the name of SHARC, the advocate group that I chaired beginning at the group's inception in April 2011. When I went back and read the e-mail, it had a faxed copy of my flier and a company flier along with a message from Carrie about the large amount of human resources that were wasted dealing with people who were calling in based on bad information. My flier said nothing about the company having offered to ride homeless people to the office in Lorton.

During this conversation I asked her about the claim by a certain homeless man that Shirley Conracting was hiring through the Local 657 labor union for construction and general labor. She said, “No”. She also told me that many other Shirley jobs were coming to a close and that those workers would be transferred to the site near the shelter, leaving very few jobs for the homeless to obtain.

I received a text from a different number (702-358-0411) on September 23rd which said that the job fair was at the Doubletree Hotel in Crystal City. The number belongs to what appears to be an identity protection firm in Las Vegas named “Level 3 VoIP”. I'm left to wonder why anybody from Las Vegas is contacting me, with me having no connections there. I didn't actually see the text until the morning of the 24th. I'd hung fliers directing people to the Washington Convention days earlier. I now had to write what I thought was the proper address on the fliers by hand. But it was too late. Some people had already made their way to the Convention Center.

I wrote this entire experience off as water under the bridge and decided that I would still do all that I could to connect homeless people to the jobs across the street from the shelter. I printed the company flier that Carrie had sent me, which had very scant information about the company's job offerings. Then I went to the hearing about the shelter's future on October 2nd. During my testimony, I mentioned the irony of it being so hard for homeless people to get the job across the street. I highlighted that there was an affordable housing issue on one side of the road and a living-wage issue on the other side of the road. What I would hear another man testify about moments later would cause the plot to thicken.

The last man to testify was new to advocacy. He made an indictment of the system as a whole and talked about how DC is being given to the wealthy and the well-to-do. Then he mentioned his experience dealing with Shirley Contracting. He'd initially been told that the job fair was in Crystal City. He claims that it actually took place in Pentagon City. At that moment I realized that I wasn't the only one to be given the run-around by Shirley Contracting and that it wasn't a matter of my own carelessness. I made sure to mention my updated assessment at the October 3rd hearing and during my October 3rd broadcast.

I've brought this matter up during several of my in-person conversations (as opposed to radio broadcasts). My friends and associates agree with me that, if Shirley has a project which I've been told will net them $2.8 billion and which will last for 10 years, they should have to establish a DC office or a mere office trailer on the job site where Washingtonians can apply and interview. We also agree that Shirley just used the homeless. Irrespective of their homeless status, the 1,350 people at the Federal City Shelter are DC residents. Shirley could, in theory, call the shelter director to say that they are hiring and then put that down as having reached out to over 1,000 DC residents about prospective employment with the company. Not only would it bring them closer to reaching the bare minimum of DC residents so as to justify them looking outside of the city for employees, in accordance with the First Source Laws. It might also bring them closer to satisfying some federal law that mandates that they reach out to depressed communities and other disadvantaged groups – such as “Equality Opportunity Laws”.

We can't let this token effort pass as a satisfaction of either law. Let's strengthen either law so as to require Shirley Contracting to establish a DC-based employment office and to visit the shelter and talk directly to groups of prospective employees at the shelter across the road. Let's take it a step further by strictly defining the real employment opportunities that they must offer and the reasonable accommodations that they must make to enable homeless people to obtain employment at the site across the road. They should also have to help them make it through until their first check – namely with cash advances against their hours worked. They should have to do this last thing for at least two weeks and, at most, five or six weeks. I've picked a fight with Shirley. Who will join that fight?????
Unfortunately Eric, I doubt there are many (if any) residents in the now, nearly completely gentrified (read "bleached," thanks to Jefe at an Abagond post some time ago), decidedly unaffordable District of Columbia -- including the newly "selected" mayor, Muriel Bowser who will likely join that fight. {smdh}

Now, if the afore-mentioned instances are not excellent enough reminders of how so totally un-Christlike, these self-professed Christians, living in and running this so-called Christian nation really are, I don't know what else you need.  Not only is homelessness criminalized (pretty much everywhere the gentrifiers slide in), they're also involved in all sorts of schemes to totally crush people's spirit -- and keep them homeless!!!  I just gotta ask all you God-fearin', Scripture-spoutin',  saved hypocrites two things:  Is this what Jesus would do and -- what the hell happened to all that money??!!

Wake the hell up Family!  After the current  mid-terms, where Republicans have gained total control of an already, do-nothing' Congress, it's not going to get any better for humanity in this country!  Corporations as people and how much your "brand" is worth, is unfortunately, the order of the day -- unless of course, we all "join that fight."

Please check out Eric's blog on homelessness in the seat of power in these alleged United States of America at: Tick Tock Sheptock.

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