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I had just scored a long touchdown – A reflection on Racial Injustice

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

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?

Donald Whitehead, NCH Executive Director, with Rep. Maxine Waters

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.”

Read more about how centuries of racial injustice affect who experiences homelessness today.

Bring America Home NOW Rally – Press Release

Written by admin on . Posted in Press Releases

For Immediate Release 

October 19, 2021

Contact:
National Organization for Women, NOW Press Team,  press@now.org 
National Coalition for the Homelessness, Donald Whitehead, dwhitehead@nationalhomeless.org 

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 press@now.org or dwhitehead@nationalhomeless.org.

Click this link to Contact your Congressperson

Flyer for rally in DC on October 20, 2021, calling to Stop Evictions, Housing is Infrastructure

HOUSING IS INFRASTRUCTURE

Written by admin on . Posted in Action Alert

Bring America Home Now Campaign Supports the Build Back Better Act

Bring America Home Now: A Comprehensive Grassroots Campaign to End Homelessness in the U.S. is led by people who have themselves experienced homelessness and is focused on the passage of federal legislation aimed at addressing the interconnected solutions to the decades-long epidemic of homelessness in the United States. 

Bring America Home is focused on six key policy areas: 

  • Housing
  • Health
  • Livable incomes 
  • Education/Training 
  • Civil Rights 
  • Racial Equity

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

For more information on Bring America Home Now

National Coalition for the Homeless Bring America Home NOW! – National Coalition for the Homeless (nationalhomeless.org)

Bring America Home NOW logo

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