Just weeks before election day, voter intimidation billboards have popped up in Black and Latino neighborhoods in Ohio and Wisconsin. The billboards threaten voters with lengthy prison time and enormous fines if they commit “voter fraud.” It’s a clear tactic to frighten people of color and keep us away from the polls.
Today, ColorOfChange and partners including Drug Policy Alliance launched a campaign calling on members of the New York State Legislature to stop unlawful, discriminatory marijuana arrests.
Black and Latino New Yorkers experience a different New York from that experienced by their White counterparts. By supporting legislation that’s now backed by Gov. Cuomo and a bipartisan coalition, lawmakers in Albany can keep young people of color from being saddled with criminal records that can exclude them from school, work and other important opportunities.
This week, ColorOfChange launched a campaign calling on state officials to repeal Shoot First Laws – the dangerous law that’s being used to shield George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin.
Please join us in calling on elected officials in your state to stand against these laws. Here’s the email we sent to our members.
Dear ColorofChange Member,
Florida’s ‘Shoot First’ law allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to walk free without formal charges — for more than a month. Shoot First laws legalize vigilante homicide, even in circumstances that would otherwise merit murder charges.1 In Trayvon’s case, local law enforcement hid behind the Shoot First law as justification for failing to arrest George Zimmerman, saying that his claim of self-defense stopped them from pursuing even manslaughter charges.2
Florida’s dangerous Shoot First law was spread to many other states across the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Please join us in calling on our elected officials nationwide to take a stand against the shoot first agenda. It only takes a moment:
Today, State Farm, Johnson & Johnson and McDonald’s have all been receiving phone calls from ColorOfChange members and allies. Hundreds of people aremaking calls to the three new corporations to demand that the companies stop funding ALEC, the conservative policy group behind voter suppression and “Shoot First” bills. In Florida, the so-called “Stand your Ground” law — the prototype for ALEC’s model legislation — has been used to defend the actoins of Trayvon Martin’s killer.
Last week, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Kraft Foods all announced that their relationships with ALEC had drawn to a close. And yesterday, our members started contacting AT&T, with the good folks at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) joining us in the wake of their own victory with the Gates Foundation.
This campaign is on fire, and we are so excited by all that you’re doing to support.
Will you help us hold State Farm, Johnson & Johnson and AT&T accountable for supporting voter suppression and Kill at Will bills? Please take a moment to call and demand that they stop supporting ALEC.
Today, NPR broke the news that PepsiCo has also dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The shadowy group has pushed discriminatory voter ID laws in statehouses across the country. ALEC is also behind Kill at Will bills like the Florida legislation being used to defend George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. From the NPR piece:
Coca-Cola’s announcement came hours after a civil rights group, ColorOfChange.org, launched an online drive calling on Coca-Cola to stop underwriting the ALEC agenda on voter ID laws in several states… Read the rest of this entry →
Today, ColorOfChange launched a campaign calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.
Please read the email we sent to members below, and join us in our demand that the DOJ take over the case, arrest Zimmerman and launch an independent investigation into the Sanford police department’s unwillingness to protect Martin’s civil rights.
Just minutes before Trayvon was killed, Zimmerman had called police stating that Trayvon looked “suspicious.” Trayvon was unarmed and walking back to his father’s home in Sanford, Florida when Zimmerman accosted him.
Trayvon’s family and hundreds of thousands of people around the country are demanding justice.5 Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to take over the case, arrest Trayvon’s killer, and launch an independent investigation into the Sanford police department’s unwillingness to protect Trayvon’s civil rights. It takes just a moment:
Most of us had never heard of Jena, Louisiana. But in 2006, six teenage boys were arrested and the small town of 4,000 would soon be thrust into the national spotlight as a prime example of 21st century Jim Crow justice.
It all started on August 31st at Jena High School when a Black student sat under a tree in the courtyard that had come to be known as for White students only. When students returned to school the next day, they found three nooses hanging from the same tree.
School administrators dismissed the incident as a prank and gave the students responsible three days suspension. African-American parents were never notified of the incident. In response, Black students held a peace rally under the tree, gathering there in solidarity during lunch. Administrators responded to the peaceful demonstration with hostility, and the school would later call in the district attorney. Flanked by police officers, District Attorney Reed Walters infamously told Black students, “I can end your life with a stroke of a pen.” We would soon see the lengths he’d go to prove it.
Throughout the fall of 2006, a series of racially-charged incidents occurred in Jena. On one occassion, a White student drew a gun on a group of African-American students, claiming self-defense. After the Black students wrestled the gun away, they went to the police to file charges. Local law enforcement responded by charging the Black students with assault and stealing the gun. The White student was never charged.
Tensions continued to rise among community members, and eventually six Black teenagers were taken into custody for beating a White classmate who was severely battered after he allegedly shouted racial slurs at them. The six boys, all between the ages of 15 and 17 years old, were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy. Each of them faced between 20 and 100 years in prison — a life sentence for what was essentially a schoolyard fight. And the district attorney made it clear in a press release that he would seek the maximum penalty.
Mychal Bell, 16 at the time, was the first to appear before an all-White jury. He was charged with aggravated battery and conspiracy and faced up to 22 years in prison. Marcus Bell, father of Mychal, would later say, “You know, if this don’t teach him what it is to be Black now, I don’t know what will.” Marcus Bell’s words speak to a sobering fact: Black boys face a 1 in 8 chance of entering prison once they enter their twenties. Racial disparities within the criminal justice system have been at the center of much of our work at ColorOfChange.
Hosts on Black radio shows and a network of racial justice bloggers and organizers began getting the word out about what was happening in Jena. Soon ColorOfChange was in the midst of one of our most dynamic campaigns to date. Read the rest of this entry →
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in August and September of 2005, upending the lives of 1.5 million people and putting Black folks’ lack of political and social power front and center for all the world to see.
The storms magnified racial disparities in the U.S., and no place demonstrated this more clearly than New Orleans, where 80% of the city was submerged after Katrina. Out of this devastation, ColorOfChange was born.
When Katrina touched land on August 29, more than a third of all Black New Orleanians were living in poverty. As we know well from the televised accounts, these impoverished and largely Black neighborhoods bore the brunt of the disaster. And the lack of access to resources was one major reason why folks couldn’t simply leave when they got news of the coming storm.
Adding insult to injury, the federal government took its time responding once the levees and flood walls broke. We were heartbroken by the apathy of the Bush Administration and the failures of corporate media, some members of which depicted African-American survivors as “looters” and “refugees.” These characterizations had real consequences, as a groundbreaking investigation in The Nation magazine would later reveal.
Within a month of the organization’s launch, ColorOfChange had attracted its first 10,000 members. People who received our earliest emails in the aftermath of the storm passed them along to their family and riends, who in turn joined the cause. Following Katrina and Rita, our members raised their voices in support of Gulf Coast housing rights, voting rights, and access to an intact safety net. Our campaigns represented everyday folks’ ability to amplify the demands of those affected by the storms. They represented the power of Black Americans and our allies to respond to the costliest national disaster in American history by building a network that could respond quickly and forcefully.
For victims of the storms, the battle for dignity and justice is far from over. As recently as last month, FEMA told Hurricane survivors to repay federal funds they’d received as part of the relief effort. And ColorOfChange has supported the local fight against the expansion of the Orleans Parish Prison, the same jail where inmates were left in their cells to fend for themselves as the floodwaters rose in the days following the storm.
So why point to Katrina during Black History Month?
Events that took place during and after the storms continue to shape thousands of lives. New Orleans in particular is struggling to rebuild in the face of sobering statistics. Just one example: 65% of Black children under the age of 5 in the city live in poverty. We’ve seenvictories in the region, but progress has been slow.ColorOfChange remains committed to supporting Gulf Coast residents as they work to rebuild their communities. That’s Black history in the making.
This month the ColorofChange blog will feature some key events in contemporary Black history, almost all of which coincide with campaigns the organization has taken on. We’ll be offering you a catalogue of 21st century Black American history and showcasing the stories at the center of our work.
Each event we’ll highlight lifts up the power that you — our members — have flexed while shaping history for all Black Americans and our allies.This Black History Month we’re celebrating what our community has done to create a powerful online lobby that didn’t exist prior to the devastating hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast just over six years ago.
That’s right. It was more than six years ago when Kanye West gave his infamous monologue, spurring our team to respond with a powerful message. It may feel like ages ago, which is why it’s important to take these four weeks to reminisce on our heroes and our communities’ heroic actions. Ever since Dr. Carter G. Woodson organized the first “Negro History Week” in 1928, many have questioned whether we truly need a period of time devoted to recognizing African Americans’ accomplishments. The ColorOfChange staff believes that we must remember our roots and routes to this moment, especially given that some Americans are fixating on the “good ol’ days”. We’re not exactly sure when these good old days occurred, but the people who reference them seem to be talking about some time before the Civil Rights Movement.
Meanwhile, Tea Party members in Tennessee are rallying to “depict the lighter side of slavery” in Tennessee children’s schoolbooks. And in Tucson, AZ, the rhetoric of colorblindness and unity are being used to ban the teaching of certain books including, Critical Race Theory, Rethinking Columbus, and Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. (Keep in mind that Tucson is only 35 minutes from the Mexican border). The teaching of books by Mumia Abu-Jamal, Howard Zinn and Jonathan Kozol has also been banned in the district. Read the rest of this entry →
Today we launched a campaign calling on President Obama and Attorney General Holder to stand up to big banks and push for a full investigation of those responsible for the foreclosure crisis that devastated Black wealth. Check out the email we sent to our more than 800,000 members today and join the campaign here.
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