As the country emerges from the shutdowns surrounding the pandemic, Americans have become inpatient. Promises made regarding voting rights, paid time off, and tax hikes on the wealthy to pay for much needed infrastructure have not come to pass.
Now, after several months of negotiations, the president’s original $3.5 trillion-dollar spending measure for the infrastructure bill and the social spending package has now been reduced in price tag to $1.75 trillion dollars (read the text of the Build Back Better bill). Some of the highlights of the bill include:
150 billion in housing investments
Extension of the Child Tax Credit for one year
100 billion to reduce immigration backlogs
Expansion of health care coverage that will save nine million Americans $600 a year on their premiums
Things left out of the final framework:
Paid family leave
Clean Electricity Performance Program
Ability for the government to negotiate with drug companies for Medicare also won’t be allowed.
While the American people appreciate the efforts for the things that will remain in the bill, it is severely underfunded, and will affect our housing insecure population for generations. The cities of New York and Los Angeles combined need at least 150 billion alone to being their public housing infrastructure up to code. Also, eliminating the ability for the government to negotiate drug prices is damaging. Who wants to make the choice to pay for medicine, or pay to survive without medicine?
In his latest remarks, President Biden reminded the country that this bill is historic, and an investment in the American people. Not everybody got everything they wanted including me, but that’s what compromise, and democracy is. While his remarks are true, the American people counted on lower drug prices, lower housing costs, clean air, and paid family leave to survive. Are the American people getting what they voted for? It remains to be seen, stay tuned.
by Donald Whitehead
I was a part of a small group of thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds who often played a lively game of tag football in the Burnet Avenue U.S Post office parking lot in Cincinnati, Ohio.
I had just scored a long touchdown. As I was finishing my touchdown celebration, I noticed a University of Cincinnati Police cruiser drive by. I saw the woman in the back pointing at some of the people in the parking lot. Minutes later, the parking lot was swamped with police cars. Campus police and Cincinnati officers jumped out in mass with guns drawn, and suddenly we were ordered against the vehicles, and guns were pointed at our heads. We were confused and terrified about what was happening what we had done other than play football on the lot for several hours. Why was there so much anger coming from the police officers? Why did they have their guns drawn?
I can still hear my best friend say, “let’s run for it.” I sometimes wonder what might have happened if we had taken his advice. We know from recent history that running would have been a mistake, potentially a fatal mistake. Luckily one of my brothers who wasn’t placed against the car had gone to get our parents. Our houses were less than a hundred yards away.
The white woman in the police car pointing had been robbed and assaulted by a group of black boys, and we fit the description. To her credit, after further inspection, the woman realized that none of our group was involved. The tension faded; however, the damage was done. We were good kids; we went to church every Sunday and sang in the Church Choir; none of us had ever been in trouble.
This was our first contact with law enforcement ever.
We did not commit the robbery; in fact, it was us that got robbed that day. We were robbed of innocence, robbed of trust in those that protect and serve—robbed of our belief in a colorblind world. This is not a unique scenario; it is a lot more common than many would believe.
No child should have to learn such painful lessons with a gun pointed at their head.
That day was the first of many pen pricks of racism that I experienced and still experience to this day.
The incident also taught me not to be silent in the face of discrimination. Our silence is negligence; we cannot see or experience injustice without protest or at the very least identify it. Our minor protest resulted in season-tickets-for-life to the University of Cincinnati football games.
The other lesson learned for me was the need to understand how and why I fit the description. Why am I suspicious without provocation? Why is my excellence somehow seen as out of the ordinary or achieved through dishonesty or criminality? I immediately wanted to understand history, my history, our collective history. I became a Dr. Martin Luther King fan; unfortunately, this was the only historical figure fully accessible in my post-secondary education.
I became my own historian, and the more I have learned over the years, the more I have wanted to know.
I have been completely horrified by the middle passage, chattel slavery, black codes, and Jim Crow practices.
I have also been so proud and grateful to my ancestors. I am so respectful of their incredible resilience and their ability to survive the unthinkable horrors they endured.
As my teams and I work to reintroduce the world to our full history, we often encounter the voices of the apathetic or the discouraged. The level of internalized racism is surprisingly significant. I find myself troubled by the thought that nothing will change from some in the community.
To not believe in change is disrespectful to the many changemakers who have given their lives. Things have changed in many ways, most notably, the end of chattel slavery and the opportunity to gain civil rights have been hard-fought and slow and painful.
In many ways, it does appear that we are going in the wrong direction. From Charlottesville to massive voter depression efforts, it’s easy to be discouraged. It’s easy to ignore the senate election in Georgia or the election of Barack Obama when the Supreme court weakens the civil rights amendment. Watching angry crowds protest students having the ability to learn the unfiltered history of the United States by misrepresenting every attempt as the misunderstood Critical Race Theory, it’s easy to overlook that the Secretary of Defense is a dark-skinned black man.
Our racial reconciliation is recent in history; the first African Americans landed on the continent’s shores in 1619. Brown versus Board of Education was passed in 1954. For 300 years, we survived on a steady diet of resilience, pride, and hope; we must never abandon those ideals.
Those discouraged by the current state of our country learn from the setbacks and rejoice about the progress and never stop believing in change. Every living breathing African Americans is a product of success. We are descendants of unfathomable resilience. Resilience from the 400 years of all of the things I mentioned earlier and resilience from the pen pricks of racism today and those yet to come. The great Booker T. Washington said “Success should not be judged by ones station in life but the obstacles they had to overcome to get there.”
October 20: Bring America Home NOW Rally & Press Conference
National Organization for Women, National Coalition for the Homeless and End Homelessness Advocates Demand Investments to Solve Housing Inequality Crisis
Washington, D.C. – The housing crisis in the United States has reached a critical point due to long-standing structural inequities compounded by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Congress debates President Biden’s “Build Back Better” Infrastructure Bill, advocates from across the affordable housing, women’s rights, and social justice movements have come together in an unprecedented coalition calling on Congress and President Biden to prioritize investments to solve this public housing crisis.
The coalition, led by the National Organization for Women and the National Coalition for the Homeless, is urging Congress not to cut over $300 billion in much-needed funding for long-overdue renovations of severely dilapidated public housing, an expansion of over 500,000 units of affordable housing for low- income Americans, and the removal of toxic lead paint from public housing. As millions of Americans fall behind on their rents and mortgages, and with the imminent risk of evictions during freezing winter weather conditions, advocates are also urgently calling for an extension of the CDC moratorium on all evictions throughout the duration of the pandemic to avoid the needless tragedy of unhousing possibly millions of families, women, and children.
“Homelessness is a feminist issue that NOW’s activists are deeply invested in solving. We know numbers show that women – especially women of color – are disproportionately affected by homelessness,” stated Christian F. Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW). “This issue is compounded by gender-based economic inequality, racial discrimination and the impacts of domestic and sexual violence, which contribute to women, children and families becoming the fastest-growing segments of the homeless population.”
“America is the wealthiest country in the world, and we can easily afford to pay for the President’s bill, and therefore not cut the housing investments in the legislation. We must have the political will and emergency citizen advocacy to make this happen,“ said Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “The majority of the American people, both Democrats and Republicans, support the President’s plan. Now we the people are organizing a mass mobilization to demand that Congress and President Biden pass the bill, without any cuts to the desperately needed housing provisions.”
“We as a nationwide progressive end homelessness/housing for all movement will not allow millions of Americans to be evicted and thrown into the streets during the lethal Covid-19 pandemic. Have we no shame,” added Joel Segal, national director of the Bring America Home Now Campaign. “Furthermore, the national BAHN campaign’s most important priorities right now are to stop any cuts to affordable housing in the President’s Infrastructure Bill and a zero-tolerance policy for any evictions during the Covid-19 Pandemic and freezing winter temperatures. It’s unamerican, immoral, and cruel for we the people not to intervene now to stop the unnecessary, life-threatening, and destabilizing nationwide eminent eviction emergency.”
In addition to calling for investments within the Build Back Better infrastructure package, the coalition has also called for meetings with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo to discuss allocating funds to the development of housing crisis “navigators,” emulating the success of the Affordable Care Act program to simplify the application process for rental assistance. The coalition hopes to meet with Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and other congressional leaders to discuss how our country can create lasting solutions and provide housing security for our most vulnerable populations.
WHAT: Bring America Home NOW Rally & Press Conference
WHEN: Wednesday, October 20th at 10:00am-12:00pm ET
WHERE: Capitol Hill, Constitution Ave & New Jersey Ave. NW (Robert Taft Memorial)
WHO: Bring America Home NOW Campaign featuring NOW & the National Coalition for the Homelessness, members of Congress, and other guest speakers
MORE INFO: Additional confirmed speakers and logistical details, including location, will be updated here. Members of the media interested in attending or connecting with speakers can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Bring America Home is focused on six key policy areas:
Bring America Home, therefore, supports Build Back Better as it includes important provisions within many of the Campaign’s core elements. Specifically, if passed, the Build Back Better Act would help move us toward the goal of preventing and ending homelessness by making significant investments in Housing Choice Vouchers, the Housing Trust Fund, rural rental housing, HOME, and CDBG programs. Additionally, the Act contains important provisions around zoning, fair housing protections, and addressing homeownership disparities through a down payment fund. Beyond housing, Bring Back Better further seeks to secure broader economic security, as envisioned by the Campaign, through job training and workforce investments, an expansion of the child tax credit, extending family leave, and increasing childcare options.
It is urgent to act. To ensure the inclusion of these critical investments in Build Back Better, it is necessary your Senator and Representative hear from you immediately. Call Now and express your support for these provisions within the Bring Back Better Act. To find your representative and Senators, click here: GovTrack.us: Tracking the U.S. Congress or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121
Joel Segal has spent the last several decades answering a question that plagues activist organizations while he worked on Capital Hill as well as out in the field—how do we get things done? His vast wealth of experience with outreach, activism, and policymaking at every level of government has allowed him to gain a thorough understanding of how to make change actually happen. Segal is a problem-solver, utilizing a systemic understanding of issues to craft policy solutions to resolve those problems with a conviction that we can overcome barriers facing the voters through collaboration and setting a goal to make change happen. Segal was recently hired to take on the campaign of the National Coalition for the Homeless “Bring America Home Now“—a comprehensive strategy to end homelessness in the United States.
Show them how to solve it, and how to pay for it,” he said. “Get experts together and write bills—but do it with the people impacted. Then you’ve got to pass the bill.” Segal’s intense focus on helping those experiencing oppression is what sets him apart from most other policymakers in DC. “We can’t dance around be nice to the system,” he said. “You’ve got to shine a big mirror, show them this is what you’re doing to people.” Making people aware of the struggles of others and amplifying the voices of the oppressed is a major part of Segal’s strategy, one which lends itself to a model of social justice which is intent on making things happen.
One of Segal’s major achievements has been as a pioneer of the universal healthcare movement and as a co-writer of the original Medicare for All Bill as a staffer for Rep. John Conyers, introduced in Congress in 2003. Segal’s fight for Medicare for All began when he was kicked out of George Washington University Hospital for being uninsured. After the experience he promised himself he would start a universal healthcare movement—and he did just that. He began by meeting and getting to know other uninsured people online, then he began attending meetings of the Gray Panthers, an activist group, with whom he discussed the possibility of fighting for universal healthcare. He started holding town hall meetings on the issue, and eventually launched his campaign with a speech on the steps of the Capitol with Rep. Barney Frank and then-Rep. Bernie Sanders.
Four weeks later, Segal was hired to the staff of Rep. Conyers, with whom he traveled to congressional districts around the country, holding town halls to promote the cause of universal healthcare. He brought together people who were uninsured, activists, and members of Congress. Segal firmly believes in the power of town hall meetings—they “take the emotion and anger and frustration, and bring it right to the doorstep of elected officials and civil society leaders,” he says. More importantly, town halls transform people’s feelings. “People aren’t going to talk to homeless people,” he remarked. “You have to bring the pain and suffering to them.” Segal also advocated for a systemic approach: “Always try to show how structural deficits create an amazing amount of trauma and pain that is immoral. Just because you have a system that’s in place doesn’t mean that it’s a moral system.”
The next step is to organize around policies, says Segal. Mobilize in the streets, and then pass reforms, he says. Segal is insistent that legislation should be the most important goal of the movement, saying that while suburban activists may deny the importance of policy, legislation has the power to make a real difference to the lives of people living in shelters or on the street. Always tie your activism to legislation, always march with a purpose, he said. That’s how you create a movement.
Segal centers his activism around building passionate communities. In order to build a movement, “you’ve got to find the right people,” he believes. Building communities and families with similar interests, compassionate hearts and sometimes a little humor is the key to successful organizing. Segal cites his Jewish heritage and upbringing as a major inspiration for this philosophy. For thousands of years, he explained, the Jewish people survived by laughing, by caring for each other, and by enjoying life—even in the face of great adversity. This is the sort of community Segal seeks to emulate in the movements he creates. “You don’t build a community by being corporate,” he said. Building a community by fashioning relationships with one another is how you create a successful movement. And, he pointed out, by building those relationships, people who aren’t necessarily invested in the specific issue will offer support if they like the person pitching their support and if they have developed a connection.
But it’s not always such smooth sailing for Segal—he is as aware as anyone that the work of an activist can be discouraging. But, he said, “righteous indignation will keep you going.” He recalled some work he did in Congress, when he and others plastered the halls with a laminated picture of an uninsured family. That’s what keeps him going, Segal reflected. There are poor people, sick people, and seniors in this country with no rights to healthcare or housing—“and those are things they can’t live without,” he said. “We’re the richest country in the world, so we’ve got to figure this out.” “Go where the pain is, keep with those people, walk with them,” he said. Doing that, seeing and understanding the hardships they are going through, should get you through any discouragement.
It’s important to Segal that he always walks with the people he’s trying to help, never above them. He always is sure to organize “the people at the tip of the oppression” first in order to build communities based on love and care. In one story he told, Segal started up an emergency winter shelter by taking over a park with about 120 people from a shelter, promising the people living in tents they wouldn’t be left out in the cold. The key, Segal recalled, was going directly to the people in the tents and teaching them how to organize, how to do TV interviews and other such skills. Segal is well-practiced in building bridges, especially with people with whom he, or the organization he is working with, might have little in common. “Respect the person when you first meet them and ask them what they are working on,” he said. The most important thing, he advised, is to ensure “everyone benefits from the work you are doing. That’s how you build a coalition.” He will work to organize diverse communities to put in place legislation that fundamentally changes the injustice that every unhoused person in America understands and has to overcome with BAHN.
“The problem with this country is we evolved into a Reagan nation,” Segal said—a nation where you look out for yourself and no one else. “How do we get people to care about each other again?” Segal wondered. “How do we get that back, just caring about each other?” That, Segal emphasized, is the crucial work of any activist but especially those working on behalf of a traditionally marginalized group. Not only must we fight for our political goals, but to do that we need to build coalitions, build power and in the end build families. By creating families of people dedicated to a cause, we can get things done. We can bring the pain of the people to the doorsteps of the powerful; we can get people to understand that pain; and most importantly we can write bills and pass laws to alleviate that suffering. Segal firmly believes that we can make the world a better place by working with one another. “There’s nothing more powerful than caring about each other,” he said as he begins his journey to Bring America Home.