NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG
Twitter Facebook Instagram YouTube

Search Results for ‘history’

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.

Member spotlight: Anita Beaty

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

After the Peachtree-Pine Shelter was forced by the city of Atlanta to close its doors in 2017, Anita Beaty has remained dedicated to activist efforts in the homeless community, continuing her decades-long career advocating and providing for those in need. Beaty, who oversaw the Peachtree-Pine Shelter for twenty years, has worked in the homeless community for much longer, her history of activism stretching as far back as the eighties. Whether it was activism or overseeing the shelter, Beaty consistently abided by a philosophy that no one should be left behind or left out. She has always placed high value on “letting the people who needed the service run the service,” and described how this philosophy of care for others informed her activism through the years. 

In one story, Beaty described a march she organized every year for twenty-nine years to celebrate homeless memorial day on November 1st. Various shelters, congregational groups, or other facilities would carry banners representing their group, made in the Peachtree-Pine art studio, along with a procession of crosses with the names of homeless people who had died that year. Each year, she recalled, there would be around 60 to 80 crosses. The procession finished at the Cathedral, where there would be a ceremony addressing the issue of homelessness, with a Litany created by the Task Force, and remembrances of the dead, name by name. 

Beaty and her organization, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, would hire buses to pick people up at every shelter that would participate, and the cathedral served them a hot meal. Looking back, Beaty recalled the event with fondness for the community it fostered. 

Beaty also reflected that a key component of her personal philosophy was an element of playfulness. “I need to enjoy what I do,” she said. In one story she recounted, Beaty and the Task Force were protesting the improvement project the city of Atlanta was undertaking at Woodruff Park prior to their hosting of the 1996 Summer Olympics. The park had been a gathering place for members of the homeless community, so when the mayor of Atlanta showed up in a hard hat for a photo-op groundbreaking on the construction, several of the protestors laid in the hole the mayor was to stand in, completely preventing their chance at a photo-op. Beaty chuckled as she recalled how the mayor’s face turned purple with rage, and when he retreated to his car the protestors followed, and it looked as if he was the one leading the march. Beaty also recalled a city council meeting they attended, when she handed out signs to everyone with them that said “true,” “false,” and “bald-faced lie.” When one of the council members said something about homelessness, the crowd held up their “bald-faced lie” signs, and Beaty recalled it was “hysterical” as the council member tried to talk down the signs. 

The visual arts have always been a major part of Beaty’s activism. During her time as its leader, Beaty opened an art studio at Peachtree-Pine, where shelter residents could come to draw, paint, and be creative. Beaty sometimes brought in artists from around the country, especially artists who had been homeless or experienced similar struggles. They “had a ball with us,” she remembered. “It was so exciting to intentionally bring in like-minded people who can show folks who’ve been excluded from all that that they, too, can dream.” Beaty emphasized that giving shelter residents access to resources that they would not otherwise have access to was a way of lifting them up: “There are artists who don’t even know it, don’t have the leisure to explore that, or could become artists and become part of that culture.” Beaty’s art studio is living proof that art has the power to bring out the best in people who are experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, or other problems. Not only that, Beaty noted that putting shelter residents’ work on display helped to bust public stereotypes about them. 

 “Let’s break the mythology,” she said. “Let’s take care of the fear by being together in fun places: food, art, coffee.” 

Beaty is sure to acknowledge that activist efforts do not always turn out the way we hope they will. When she took part in the Housing Now March on Washington in 1989, she recalls the immense expectations they had: “It was an action that we thought was gonna change the world, change this country at least, and sensitize the policymakers to the absolute necessity of changing laws,” she remembered. Obviously, the march did not have the effect Beaty and its organizers hoped it would.  The funding of a growing homelessness services “industry” was a direct result, but the right to housing, permanent affordable accessible housing, was then and is still the emergency need.

But Beaty also believes the march did make a difference, even if it wasn’t on the wide scale she had hoped it would. “Success is relative,” she said, recalling many times when she thought an effort she was part of was more successful than it was. But activism can still be successful, even if it’s in the smallest of ways. One outcome that Beaty pointed out from the Housing Now March was HUD policy, which, she says, she is still looking at to determine how it has evolved over the decades since the march. 

Beaty’s long career in activism shows us that success, whether small or large, can be found through determination to make a difference and a passion for celebrating inclusion. It is the stories of activists like Beaty that have the most to teach us about how to make change happen, and Beaty’s stories remind us that change happens in and with communities, leaving no one behind, including the excluded in operating, managing, and developing of all services designated for those very people, and working together to foster a just and creative world.

Ask Publix to take a stand against violence

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Action Alert

National Coalition for the Homeless Action Alert
Date: May 3, 2021
WHO: Todd Jones, CEO of Publix Supermarket Company
WHAT: Condemn the actions of Law Enforcement for beating a homeless man in your Miami Store

The National Coalition for the Homeless is calling on Todd Jones, CEO of Publix, to terminate the employment of Miami police officer and Publix security guard, Alexander Garcia Contreras, who was caught on video at your Miami Publix supermarket beating a homeless man, Willie Barber for the alleged crime of stealing a sandwich. We want the police officer fired from both Publix and from his day job in law enforcement and brought up on assault charges.  No one is above the law and no one should act as judge, jury and executioner especially in a matter of a $5 chicken sandwich. 

Publix officials have to be aware that because of the pandemic, there are lines of traffic waiting to get food in almost every city in America.  So many have lost their jobs and much of their income that food insecurity is a huge issue right now.  We can all agree that stealing is wrong, but it does not justify the disgusting display of violence released on that bystander video in the Miami Publix.  We are aware from local activists that Publix is often the first group willing to give during a natural disaster and are the backbone in many communities of the anti-hunger programs, which makes it all the more surprising that they have yet to publicly condemn the actions of the officer and to end his employment after 16 days. 

We are concerned that in the time of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Duante Wright that there was not better training around use of force in shoplifting cases.  We are concerned with the Publix hiring and monitoring of its security personnel considering the seven use of force incidents by Officer Contreras over the last five years.  We believe that corporations in South Florida might need to reconsider employing Miami Police Department in security positions if their officers are so quick to escalate a situation into a violent confrontation. 

NCH is asking the Publix CEO to condemn these actions, fire this officer and tell the public what actions they are taking to assure that this will not happen again.

Will they offer training to their security personnel? Will they look into the history of the use of force by the police officers in their employment?  Will they work to weed out racism from their security staff?  

We are asking all of our members to call the Communications Department of Publix with this simple message to deliver to Todd Jones CEO:

  1. Fire the law enforcement officer in that Miami Publix who beat Mr. Barber.
  2. Compensate Mr. Barber for his pain and suffering inflicted by this Publix security employee. 
  3. Implement an updated training message to all Publix employees that you will not tolerate a violent response to shoplifting, because it endangers the lives of customers and employees alike. 
  4. During the orientation process as well as on-going training modules that Publix will work to eliminate inherent bias and racist tendencies by all employees.  

Post on social media @Publix, or send a message to Maria Brous, Director of Communications for Publix, at 863-688-1188 x55339 or maria.brous@publix.com, and ask her to forward the message to Todd Jones.

NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG

National Coalition for the Homeless | 2201 P St NW, Washington, DC 20037 | (202) 462-4822 | info [at] nationalhomeless [dot] org
© 2022 National Coalition for the Homeless | Privacy Policy
Wildcard SSL Certificates
Powered by Warp Theme Framework