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

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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 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.

NC Vote Defender featured in the Nation blog

“In 2012, the Koch brothers and right-wing millionaire Art Pope achieved an extremist takeover of North Carolina, resulting in devastating legislation from healthcare to education to voting rights. Fifty years after the original Freedom Summer in Mississippi, youth are organizing to reverse the onslaught. July 7 marked the first day of hearings for a preliminary injunction on the most draconian voter suppression law in the country, which eliminates same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, guts campaign finance laws and requires a photo ID but prohibits the usage of student IDs. In response to this law, we’ve mobilized at Moral Monday’s with the state NAACP, and more than 350 people with NC Vote Defenders and Democracy NChave monitored polls in thirty-four counties. This month, while youth pack the court room and county board of elections, the Youth Organizing Institute Freedom School is training high school students on community organizing to build on the legacy of youth struggle in North Carolina.”

—Bryan Perlmutter

See the full article here

Moral Monday

Last Monday, the Ignite crew went to go take on the last Moral Monday of the year. It was a great inspiring protest with the focus being on LGBTQ rights. It had an electric feel with everyone being there working to change the way our state was dealing with issues from healthcare, minimum wage, education, the environment and voting rights, just to name a few. It was great to people from across the state get involveds in such local issues than many people and often the press overlook. Everyone there was united to stand-up for the ideals we believe in.

MM photo

This Moral Monday was different from many of the ones in the past because it involved a      sit-in/pray-in/teach-in throughout the halls of the capital building.  There we had a fascinating discussion about what we need to fix in North Carolina and how we should set about doing it. It was great to hear from everyone there, including the Ignite members I went with and other people from our local community. Everyone had great and unique input about the issues so close to all of their heart’s. After the teach/pray/sit-ins all finished then everyone went to the main foyer, to start singing and for those who decided to get arrested to be arrested. It was a great moment to see and was truly inspirational. Despite, the police kicking us out early for a fire-code “violation”, which clearly was not being violated, it was a wonderful event. It made me so proud to see all my Ignite friends there and all of us working to make a difference.

Mix’d Mic Monday

After Moral Monday, the Ignite NC crew went to a bi-monthly open mic event, hosted at Cuban Revolution, to register voters. The restaurant was filled to the brim with people, all excited for a night of live music, in a hip area of Durham. Before the music started, Josh, the field director of Ignite NC, gave an impassioned and moving speech about the needs for everyone to vote so that we can fulfill our most basic civil duty. A right that Americans fought and died for in the 1960’s and that people having been fighting for across the World. A right that people in our own state and across our great nation are trying to take away for mere political reasons.

Josh Photo

It was great to see a group of people immediately raise their hands asking for voter registration forms knowing exactly what they needed to do to have their voices heard. Another fascinating part of the night was that much of the poetry and music was about the need to get involved and the systemic problems that are affecting their community. The music was great and a whole lot of fun to attend. It was the first time that I had ever gone to an event like that and I definitely plan on going back with the entire Ignite group.

Wake County Board of Elections Meeting

This week the entire Ignite Crew met-up with many other local groups to go to a public hearing at the Wake Board of Elections. The hearing was for public input on where to place the eight early voting sites in Wake County. Ignite and many other groups were asking for one site to be located at ­­­­Chavis Community Center and another on North Carolina State University’s campus. These sites were of the up most importance because State’s largest university where over 35,000 students study every day, and were close to another 10,000 employees work; and Chavis Community Center would be key for the working class community with the beltway of Raleigh.

At the Board of Election’s hearing it was great to see members across the community asking for
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locations that were sensible for the working members, students, and the elderly that make  Raleigh what it is. Two N.C. State Alumni, that came with Ignite, spoke, they gave impassioned speeches about how the early voting on campus allowed them to vote when it was at their most convenient  The most powerful moment of the entire afternoon was when one of the speakers asked everyone who supported the idea to stand up and a room filled to brim (there were not enough chairs) stood up with the exception of 7 people still sitting. It was a great site to see Ignite going to a local meeting and having our voices heard.