#KeepItDown: Solidarity with Bree Newsome and all others resisting racism and anti-blackness

IMG_0339

Image above shows  Bree Newsome, Ignite western field organizer, Tribe CLT organizer, and People’s Power Assembly organizer scaling the SC Capitol flagpole to remove the racist confederate flag.

Ignite’s statement written by Irving, our eastern field organizer.

Today in Charleston South Carolina activist Bree Newsome was arrested for taking down one of the last relics of the old South. This act was not just in defiance to the massacre at Mother Emmanuel, but in defiance to the systematic terrorism and oppression black bodies have suffered for centuries in this country. The fact that the flag could not be removed by the governor alone  as  it is being protected by congressional super majority  procedures illustrates how endemic white supremacy is within our structure. Overnight society views on the flag began to change and government was not able to answer the call of the people they are elected to serve. When the government fails to hear the voice the people, the people must act in its best interest. We cannot wait on legislatures to play political football while lives are being taken everyday. If Bree Newsome was wrong, the actions in Greensboro February 1, 1960 were wrong. Noncompliance with an unjust law is mandatory if we are to ever live free. Today at 11 a.m.  a White supremacist rally will take place with the emblem of oppression flying overhead in affirmation, while a helpless state government watches. We call on the governor to pardon Bree Newsome for her courageous actions. Now is not the time to engage in gradual or incremental steps. The soul of this nation cries out for justice and government must hear that call.

Recapping 4/15: Enough is enough, “the bottom has been stuck.”

A piece by Communications Fellow Chris Hart-Williams

Hundreds came out to the Historic Shaw University Quad at Shaw University for the the largest one-day mobilization of low-wage workers in the history of North Carolina.

Low wage workers, such as fast food workers joined supporters and students who mobilized during the nationwide one-day strike, a to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage along with union rights for not only fast food workers but, also and not limited to university adjunct faculty, home health care providers, and farm laborers.

Student’s included those speaking out and fighting for fair pay at the rally, Ariel Griffin Shaw University’s Student Body President, welcomed protesters to the campus and said, “the ‘Fight for 15’ encourages you to bring and fight for change in your community.”

Shaw University is birthplace of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC which gave voice to young people who desired social change in the 1960’s during the civil rights movement.

Students from across the state representing campuses from UNCG, UNC-CH, and NC State to App State, UNC-Pembroke, and NCCU traveled to Shaw and participated in demonstrations throughout the day of action.

North Carolina is one of 21 states whose minimum wage is not higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Ignite NC fellow Ajamu Dillahunt, JR. said, “We are students demanding a living wage, and we can not survive on 7.25, and we will demand a living wage, and we will get a living wage.”

“I’m here to let all of the college students know what they are walking into, said Kwanza Brooks a fast-food worker from Charlotte who spoke at the Rally.

“You all go to school everyday, focusing on your degrees, and thinking you’re going to get in that career, but like me and some others who are out here fighting today we walked that path, completed school, got degrees, and we’re working in fast-food for $7.25. an hour.”

Brooks encouraged young people and college students to start promoting and pumping the movement up, because the future of this movement relies on young people to say, “enough is enough!”

“This is not the future that I sat here and laid for my own kids, and the rest of you Brooks herself is 38-years-old with three kids. “My oldest is 16, getting ready to graduate from highschool, and this is the type of job her parent has to have right now just to make ends meet,” Brooks said. S

Single women make up about 43 percent of the the low-wage workforce, nearly double their share of the overall workforce of 23 percent. One in five families with a someone with a fast-food job receives an income below the poverty line, 43 percent of fast food workers have an income two times the federal poverty level or less, according to census data analyzed by the University of California–Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

“It’s not right, I didn’t go to school for five years to stand here and struggle between my light bill and my electric bill or my car insurance, or my water bill, or my rent, or my or some food, or some clothes – you know the bare necessities.”

For young people who haven’t yet entered the workforce but will soon, the fight for economic justice is of grave concern.These injustices cannot continue.

The low-wage workforce has gotten more highly educated in recent decades, 43 percent of low-wage workers have at least some college education, a degree, or even an advanced degree. With this reality, adjunct professors who are also making poverty wages and fighting employment insecurity are joining the fight for $15.

The Fight for $15 has become everyone’s fight.

Labor and civil rights are a moral issues said Rev. Dr. William Barber II president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP who joined in the one-day of action at Shaw. He encourage young people to, to support the Fight for $15, saying that it is also a fight for justice.

“An economic policy that does not establish justice and promote the general welfare of all is unconstitutional and un-American, ” Barber said. “You can’t enjoy the fruit of your labor on a poverty wage,” said Barber. “There is no justice in salaries that do not allow you to live once you have worked.”

The top has had phenomenal growth since 1973, according to Barber, but “the bottom half has been stuck.”

“The average CEO makes 350 times more than the person whose working for them, what we are saying to the CEO is you can have some of your money but you can’t have all your [money] especially when workers are making it for you,” Barber said.“We are all connected together in america we are the richest nation on earth more people than any other time in our history.”

In solidarity, attendees marched around the block adjacent to Shaw’s quad plaza, to the McDonald’s on E. South Street.

NC AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan said in a statement on the day of action, that “workers in the ‘Fight for 15 and a union’ are the vanguard of a resurgent labor movement in the South, a movement that is focused on raising wages for all workers and empowering them to bargain collectively for their share of the wealth and prosperity made possible by their labor.”

Hundreds of fast-food workers first walked off the job in New York City two-and-a-half years ago, since low-wage workers in big cities and small towns across North Carolina have continued to make their voices heard.

The fight to raise wages is more demanded than ever across the country.

The April 15 day of action highlights the fact that many fast-food and other low-wage workers are willing to whatever it takes to win.

Victories include a $15 wage in Seattle and San Francisco, and a $12.25 wage in Oakland, cities such as Raleigh and the dozens represented on April 15 are set to continue to mobilize to achieve a living wage.


 

Chris Hart-Williams is a senior at North Carolina State University. There he is studying political science. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of N.C. State’s Nubian Message and is a former staff writer of the student paper Technician. Chris received a certificate of appreciation from the state of NC while a communications intern at the Office of State Human Resources in Spring 2014. He also worked as an intern at WRAL News in the Fall of 2014.

Turn up! Raise up! #FightFor15

On April 15th thousands of people came out to Shaw University to demand living wage and union rights. Among thousands were students from across the state of North Carolina who are coming to fight alongside fast food workers, home healthcare workers, adjunct faculty, and childcare workers demanding dignity and respect.

Ignite NC organizing fellows were instrumental to this mobilization: playing roles of bus captains, media spokespeople, and organizing direct actions to raise the stakes.

The #FightFor15 is Everyone’s Fight: Students for a Living Wage!

By Chris Hart-Williams, Ignite NC Communications Fellow Spring ’14

#StudentsFor15 are turning out in solidarity with low-wage workers across the country, demanding living wage, right to a union, and dignity and respect on the job!

Workers in the Fight for $15 met for the 1st Charlotte People’s Power Assembly where they shared shared their stories that highlighted the struggle to demand living wages from the multi-million dollar corporations that employ them.

The Charlotte People’s Power Assembly is a monthly meeting space to build solidarity through trainings, dialogue, and collective strategy and mobilization. The first People’s Power Assembly happened on March 7 and focused on the economic justice and the “Fight for 15.”

Fast food workers, who are tired of working for poverty wages had time to share during the assembly.

One worker, Brittany, spoke of the realities facing today’s fast-food workers and the difficulties of covering basic needs such as food, rent, healthcare, and transportation in absence of a living wage. For Brittany, the April 15 strike is more than a day for low-wage workers, it’s a part of a movement that attends of the assembly hope to continue

This movement in large part depends on young people taking a stand and saying that economic injustice is not acceptable for their future.

People who work hard for a living should make enough to support themselves, their families, and be treated with dignity and respect.

Brittany shared that just the day before the assembly, she lost a family member, and her superior told her she couldn’t leave until she found someone to replace her.

“We are behind right now and we have to keep up,” Brittany said. “Economic injustice hasn’t died.”

Fast food and low wage workers are mostly adults with families. Just compensation and dignified treatment would strengthen communities across the state and allow struggling workers to provide themselves and their families with basic necessities.

Youth involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, students, and other community members were also at the assembly for dialogue and collectively strategized about what we can do to fight back together. What emerged was the need to mobilize in mass numbers to the April 15 national day of action for living wage. Tens of thousands of people across the country will be speaking out for better jobs and justice.

“Economic justice and the Fight for 15 is essential, and that’s what’s necessary,” said Ignite NC fellow Ajamuito Dillahunt. Dillahunt is a student who will join hundreds of other students to unite with workers on April 15 in Raleigh at Shaw University. “We need to be in solidarity with workers, who want to be paid for the work that they do”

Students, community members, workers from all over North Carolina, and the rest of the nation, are taking action to demand a future.

For young people who haven’t yet entered the workforce but will soon, the fight for economic justice is of grave concern. These injustices cannot continue, and voices like  Dillahunt are important and need to be heard, loud and clear.

Today’s college graduates are set to be the most in debt. While their odds of landing a job that pays a living wage has not not increased they on average pay back around $33,000 in student-loan debt.

The low-wage workforce has gotten more highly educated in recent decades, 43 percent of low-wage workers have at least some college education, a degree, or even an advanced degree. With this reality, adjunct professors who are also making poverty wages and fighting employment insecurity are joining the fight for $15.

The Fight for $15 has become everyone’s fight: students, fast-food workers, home care workers, and adjunct faculty. Anyone who is concerned about economic justice, living wage, and right to a union will be taking the streets on April 15 to demand a better future for all of us.

Ignite NC fellows have a crucial role in this major mobilization. Fellows will be organizing on their campuses across NC to bring out over 500 students in solidarity with low-wage workers. Be sure to follow Ignite NC on Facebook, Twitter, and Website to get updates about how you can get to April 15 and make an impact.


 

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.42.38 PMChris Hart-Williams is a senior at North Carolina State University. There he is studying political science. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of N.C. State’s Nubian Message and is a former staff writer of the student paper Technician. Chris received a certificate of appreciation from the state of NC while a communications intern at the Office of State Human Resources in Spring 2014. He also worked as an intern web contributor at WRAL News in the Fall of 2014.

 

Ignite NC Statement of Support for the Prohibition of Discriminatory Practices Bill

March 10, 2015

Ignite NC supports NC House Representative Rodney Moore’s Prohibition of Discriminatory Practices Bill and the push for the powers and duties of the Department of Public Safety to be under review with respect to criminal information. The Prohibition of Discriminatory Practices Bill will collect data to track police conduct, racial profiling, and the dissemination of information collected. The purpose of the change in law is to provide a fairer system that provides non-bias judgment before charging an individual with a crime.

The bill prohibits discriminatory profiling and will create independent citizen review boards to ensure that particular race, ethnic and gender groups are not being targeted. The community will form a commission that thoroughly evaluates the conduct and judgment of the local law enforcement with the permission of the General Assembly. Additionally, the bill will enforce training for standardized Local and State Police and Sheriff Deputy and Correction Officers on race equity, LGBTQ equality, religious freedom and domestic violence prevention including the revamping of Neighborhood Watch programs.

Ignite NC supports this bill because it will allow the community to have oversight on local law enforcement behavior and decisions.  The bill will also reduce racial discrimination within the Greensboro, Charlotte, Durham, and Fayetteville communities, with hopes of extending to the entire state of North Carolina.

Organizations and community stakeholders are encouraged to be integral members of the oversight commission, equity trainings, and citizen review boards. Passing the bill will educate officers about the diverse communities in the area to make sure they  are making decisions that are fair and beneficial to the city. Despite the advancements of this bill, Ignite NC believes this is only the beginning of an effort to be transparent and accountable. We strongly encourage more action to taken by the General Assembly, elected officials and community leaders.

Ignite NC recognizes and uplifts the important work being done by youth of color across the country over the past year to end police brutality and violence. This acknowledgement is significant because Black youth, youth of color, and LGBTQ youth are disproportionately targeted, prosecuted and incarcerated.

We remain committed to building community and genuine partnerships with young people most directly affected by police violence and the Prohibition of Discriminatory Practices Bill. While we support this bill we understand that this is not the end. Young people across North Carolina demand more and we stand firmly behind them.

Ignite NC is a statewide youth-led organizing and leadership development program committed to justice and equality.

Ignite NC supports organizing fellows across North Carolina who are working for economic justice through the Fight for $15 and and for police accountability. We support young people-led and centered efforts for justice and accountability across systems, whether they be fast food corporations, police agencies, prisons, or criminal justice system.

IGNITE NC VISION STATEMENT:
Solutions to the problems facing North Carolina and our global community lie within our ability to work together for the common good and to build the leadership and power of young people to create lasting change.  In order to create the kind of future we all deserve, we must understand our past, defend the gains made by those who came before us, and ignite and empower everyday people to lead efforts to build a fair and just future. When those most affected by injustice are the leaders who find and implement solutions, we will create a better world.

Ignite NC’s Valentine’s Day

A reflection piece by Communications Fellow Chelsea Moore 

This past Valentine’s day was a big weekend full of justice and love for Ignite NC fellows and essentially any and every activist across North Carolina.

The 9th annual HKonJ Moral March on Raleigh happened with the participation of thousands of activists, organizers, and organizations from across the state. Ignite NC Fellows were present along with our partners Youth Organizing Institute, and NC Student Power Union. Ignite NC Fellows along with our partners and other youth organizations from across the state marched at the forefront of HKonJ in the Black Lives Matter/Stop The War On Black America Contingent.

The march was overall a racially, gender, and religiously diverse setting for participants. And despite the chilly weather, Black Lives Matter was a loud and resonating message throughout the weekend. With so much taking place in the past few years regarding injustice for the African American community this was a great place to have their voices heard. There were also many other issues marchers were rallying for ranging from women’s health, to the fighting for $15 for minimum wage workers, to rights for immigrants, to education for our children and their future.

Later in the day Ignite NC Fellows participated in the first-ever statewide Black Lives Matter Youth Assembly hosted at Shaw University where SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) was founded in 1960. This youth assembly brought together nearly 200 youth to discuss issues in their communities and what kinds of solutions are needed.

This year we are looking forward to our fellows rooting themselves in the communities each of them attend school in and/or reside in. Our mission is to educate our very own as well as surrounding communities on issues that take place not far from us. Furthermore, this spring we plan to unite and defeat the unreasonably low pay for minimum waged workers, with a new wage of $15 per hour and right to a union. We will also fight to end all police brutality, holding each individual and every system guilty of racist violence accountable.

HKonJ weekend was very impactful for Ignite NC fellows and we made an impact as well: highlighting the important work and issues from our local communities and campuses while uplifting the work happening everywhere across North Carolina. As we incorporate both new and old fellows for the spring it was great to see fellows reunited in the same space and have our voices heard. Many of us took to HKonJ weekend to spend Valentine’s Day with those we are fighting with side-by-side for a more love-filled and justice-filled world. Look forward to hearing and seeing more from us.

For more information on HKonJ and about us visit our website! https://ncignite.org


 

chelsea moore ignite ncChelsea Moore is a sophomore at Bennett College for women. There she majors in Journalism and Media Studies with hopes of becoming a notable public relations specialist/marketing executive. She is most passionate about equality for all races and genders in corporate America. She looks forward to partnering with other fellows to have their voices heard about issues taking place in our nation.

Ignite NC to march at HKonJ: Fully fund HBCUs! End the pipeline!

A piece by Communications Fellow Chris Hart-Williams

Young people will join thousands at the “Moral March on Raleigh” to visibly challenge attacks on voting rights, economic justice, public education, equal protection under the law, and more at the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street, HKonJ march through downtown Raleigh on Saturday, Feb. 14.

“I’m going to HKonJ because my first experience was a good one, and also I want to express my concern with the school-to-prison pipeline,” Bernard Fields a junior at UNC Pembroke studying international business with a concentration in marketing said.

The school to prison pipeline is a system too many North Carolina school children fall victim to. It’s a system of laws, policies and practices that pushes students out of school and on a pathway toward the juvenile criminal justice system.

Quisha Vaughn, who is also a student will be at the march. Vaughn studies chemistry at Elizabeth City State University, ECSU in northeastern North Carolina.

During the summer of 2014, it was publically announced that ECSU was potentially the target of a UNC Board of Governors study that looked into dissolving system schools suffering with low enrollment. ECSU is one of the 16 UNC-System institutions. Lawmakers amended the budget to end the closing provision only after hearing outcry throughout the state.

“Students from all over decided that coming together to help a fellow HBCU was needed because that could have easily been their school. We understood that the legacy our founders created had to be continued,” Vaughn said.

The NC Senate budget mandated the study for campuses where full-time enrollment declined by more than 20 percent since 2010. ECSU saw a 26 percent enrollment drop between 2010 and 2013 — the only UNC school that meets that definition.

Closing ECSU, an economic hub in the northeastern region of the state would be “putting hundreds of people out of worK” said Vaughn.

In January the UNC Board of Governors voted to eliminate four degree programs at ECSU. Its studio art, marine environmental science, physics and geology programs were cut to save $468,000 annually, according to the New and Observer.

Vaughn said she wants lawmakers to support all institutions of higher-education in the state no matter their size.

“Because we are smaller institutions does not mean we are of less importance.”

According to Vaughn, her fellow Vikings felt the same as her when she found out that proposed program cuts at ECSU were going to be carried out by the UNC Board.

“Students felt hurt, alone, and let down,” Vaughn said. “They were disappointed because they felt as though they had put their trust and education in the hands of people who were supposed to protect them and make sure they get the best quality education.”

Now many ECSU students sense that there is lack of communication, security, and stability, according to Vaughn.

“When I applied and was accepted, I made a conscious decision that I wanted to start my legacy here,” Vaughn said.

In Spring 2014 she ran for class president to become a voice for her peers and that she wants to continue to do so.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are sixth on the 14 Point People’s Agenda for North Carolina, it calls for the state to financially support HBCUs, and develop equitable infrastructure and programs with doctoral-level leadership for today’s challenges, the agenda reads.

It also lists action steps which include rejecting any proposed tuition hikes supporting the establishment of an HBCU Development Commission with staff and a long-term mandate to increase public and private funding for the HBCUs as well for need-based scholarships, higher faculty salaries, better recruitment programs and stronger curricula.

Ignite NC fellows will be mobilizing our local communities and campuses to HKonJ to uplift the work we will be doing this Spring to ensure that all workers have a living wage and right to a union, that all students will not be met with attacks on their public education, that HBCUs will not be defunded, that youth and students of color will not be met with police brutality and violence, and that North Carolina move towards a more progressive future for all who call it home.


 

Chris Hart-Williams is a senior at North Carolina State University. There he is studying political science. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of N.C. State’s Nubian Message and is a former staff writer of the student paper Technician. Chris received a certificate of appreciation from the state of NC while a communications intern at the Office of State Human Resources in Spring 2014. He also worked as an intern at WRAL News in the Fall of 2014.

Welcome Spring Fellows

Ignite NC Spring 2015 Fellows
Ignite NC Spring 2015 Fellows

Ignite NC has begun another semester of organizing and building power across the state! Twenty-three new fellows from Boone, Charlotte, Greensboro, Triangle, Pembroke, and Elizabeth City convened in Durham NC for a two-day training. Throughout the weekend we built community, organizing skills, and learned form each other about our struggles and vision for a better society.