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NF LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: WEEK OF MAR. 22, 2021

Welcome to another Legislative Roundup, wherein we highlight some bills that are relevant to the fight to transform our communities. Check out the bills from the week of March 22, 2021!

Federal

  • 747
    • Why we’re watching: This pandemic revealed a lot about America. One of these revelations was the importance of immigrant communities as essential workers, despite low pay and poor conditions. Sen. Alex Padilla’s Citizenship for Essential Workers Act will provide this group with a clear, cheap, and quick path to citizenship.

Arizona

  • HB2461
    • Why we’re watching: Arizona has often found itself in the national spotlight due to poor policing. HB2461 seeks to change that by providing revenue for body cameras through 2026 for its officers. This technology will help shine a light on citizen and law enforcement interactions. We only hope they also consider legislation to mandate their usage.

Missouri

  • SB53
    • Why we’re watching: While most of the bills in this series are helpful in the fight for equity, this one is different. The proposal in question would ban chokeholds but permit Kansas City police officers to live outside of the city. Such an attachment is a blow to community and police relations and permits officers to act as an occupying force, despite the bill’s positives.

Oregon

  • SB401
    • Why we’re watching: Mandatory minimums have been weaponized against communities of color for decades. They sidestep judicial discretion and prioritize punishment over rehabilitation. We hope Oregon moves forward with this bill, which would end mandatory minimum sentencing for most crimes in the state!

Washington

  • HB1267
    • Why we’re watching: We’ve been tracking this bill for a while now and it just keeps advancing through the Washington Legislature. At its core, the proposal recognizes the community’s eroded trust in law enforcement and seeks to rectify this injustice through civilian oversight boards.

What do you think of the bills in this week’s roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or at info@neighborhoodforward.com or you can contact us through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

The Lack of Access to Clean Water in Our Own Backyard

In 1993, the United Nations began to recognize March 22 of each year as World Water Day in a bid to raise awareness for the sustainable management of clean water across the world. These annual celebrations all boast a different theme but help remind global leaders of the problems faced by a large percentage of their constituents.

An estimated 790 million people, or 11% of the world’s population, live without easy access to clean water.

 

child drinking water

 

This astounding deficiency is mostly confined to Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, both areas are the subject of many philanthropic campaigns by business leaders such as Bill Gates. But sometimes the access of clean water eludes America’s marginalized communities as well.

The case of Flint, Michigan is the best example of such abuses.

Flint’s water crisis began in 2014, when the municipality switched the source of its drinking water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River to cut costs. Residents began to complain about the odor, color, and taste of the water coming out of their faucets – all the result of poor oversight.

A study by Virginia Tech in 2015 concluded that lead levels in water across Flint were well above the maximum amount. Some samples had three times as much lead as was legally permitted.

For 18 months, Flint residents were poisoning themselves with this substance. Thousands of children experienced elevated blood-lead levels, a problem that might stay with them for the rest of their lives.

To rectify this injustice, citizens mobilized to influence the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to launch a response. Building on the success of that effort, community organizations, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, filed a suit against Flint. A little while later, a federal judge sided with the residents and ordered the city to replace pipes, improve testing, and offer free bottled water.

Now, different officials caught up in the scandal are facing legal challenges to varying degrees of severity.

Following an extensive investigation, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission stated that the crisis was the result of systemic racism. This label garnered the attention of the usual suspects who deny such discrimination even exists, from talking heads to politicians. But there are only so many times a striking lack of care can correlate with skin color before we start assuming malicious intent.

The situation in Flint is one of the best examples we have of environmental racism in the United States. Chronic disinvestment and ignorance conspired to damage the environment surrounding marginalized communities. Flint’s residents are over 50% Black. It’s not a coincidence that a majority-minority city suffered this calamity.

As climate change barrels onward, we can expect environmental racism to rear its ugly head more often than ever. Black and Brown Americans will be the most affected group. Not only have these families been systemically prevented from gathering the wealth requisite to recover from such events, but even geography is damning.

Coastal areas like New Orleans are the most likely to flood (see Hurricane Katrina). Houses in disrepair are least able to withstand strong winds and storms (see the Iowa Derecho). Faulty transmission and bureaucratic abandonment will let power outages become the norm (see the Texas blackouts).

Climate disasters are discriminatory.

To address this, climate legislation must include equity. These items can range from job retraining to stimulus payments. We need to pass truly forward-thinking bills that acknowledge the failures of past reforms and reject complacency. Through proactive action today, we can better the quality of life for marginalized communities tomorrow.

NF Legislative Roundup: Week Of Mar. 15, 2021

This week, there was no shortage of bills having to do with the fight for equity in society. Our Legislative Roundup highlights some of the most important. Here they are!

Colorado

  • SB182
    • Why we’re watching: School resource officers are notorious for their encouragement of the school-to-prison pipeline. Colorado has made steps to officially recognize this behavior and banned the handcuffing of students. This move will ensure school resource officers do their job of protecting and counseling students from danger.

Connecticut

  • HB6611
    • Why we’re watching: Redlining and housing discrimination are the root of so many ills that marginalized groups experience. Food deserts, heat inequality, and deteriorating schools are all related symptoms. Now, Connecticut is considering a measure that will reimagine zoning and create a framework to address this decades-long inequality.

Illinois

  • SB1510
    • Why we’re watching: After decades of healthcare inequality and a year with a pandemic that’s affected Black and Brown communities more than any other, we’re proud to see Illinois aggressively bolster healthcare. The $150 million per year investment into marginalized neighborhoods will improve public health and address a long history of discrimination.

Maryland

  • SB0271/HB0423
    • Why we’re watching: The voting rights of minorities are under attack in statehouses across the country. Maryland is doing their best to build out their voting infrastructure by standardizing voting devise, thus protecting the anonymity of differently abled voters.

Washington

  • SB5066
    • Why we’re watching: Washington is considering a slew of police reform bills, but this is one is especially interesting. The proposal would require that anytime an officer sees a coworker using excessive force, they must intervene and report the behavior to supervisors.

 

What do you think of the bills in this week’s roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or at info@neighborhoodforward.com or you can contact us through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

This Pandemic is Discriminatory: Part 2

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores, over 500,000 people have died.

We shouldn’t just move on from this. This toll isn’t normal and we shouldn’t treat it as such. It’s not unavoidable or inevitable, either. It is, however, the result of failed leadership in Washington and state legislatures across the country.

Now, as we move on to the vaccine-phase of our “recovery,” the disparities of months past are rearing their ugly heads.

Some of these gaps in vaccine availability may result from injustices at the hands of doctors in Black and Brown history. For hundreds of years, the medical industry has poked and prodded minorities with deadly results and vicious intent.

The Tuskegee Study is the most famous example of this abuse. In 1932, doctors at the Tuskegee Institute set out to investigate syphilis and treatment regimens. Doctors began by giving untreated syphilis to Black males followed by treatments, which proved inadequate. Even when penicillin became available for use, doctors didn’t offer it to the study’s participants. The study continued for 40 years, until an exposé in 1972.

Did we mention that the Black test subjects weren’t told that they were given syphilis?

For 40 years, Black men were subject to a potentially deadly disease without their consent. So, it’s really not surprising that communities of color are hesitant about a vaccine developed so quickly.

Reports have concluded that Black Americans are 20% less likely to want the vaccine than white or Hispanic groups. Unsurprisingly, over a quarter of Black people say they will definitely not get vaccinated. This hesitation is borne from a deeply rooted mistrust of medical figures acting in conjunction with the government.

But if people of color want the vaccine, they don’t have the same access to it as white neighborhoods. Data released by New York City officials found that in mostly white areas of the city, vaccination rates can be up to eight times as high as Black neighborhoods. Data collection is still wanting across the country, where many similar studies have proved inconclusive.

covid-vaccine-syringe

Governors and mayors can drop buzzwords like “equity” and “justice” all they want in press conferences. Unless we distribute vaccines with all of this in mind, it’s just virtue signaling. Our leaders must work hard to overcome the crimes of our nation’s past and assure marginalized groups that the vaccine is safe and necessary.

We must recommit ourselves to a justice-based response and ensure the hardest hit communities are able to overcome the obstacles of history. Simply put, it is criminal to ignore the disparities in vaccine distribution, and COVID-19 itself as we imagine a post-pandemic world. The last year has ripped the thin veil of equality our country has worn for so long.

Now, the entire world can see us for what we are.

Institutional racism is real and must be addressed. Genuine change requires uncomfortable conversations and confronting a troubling reality: A disease may not be discriminatory, but our country surely nudged it in that direction.

NF Legislative Roundup: Week of Mar. 8, 2021

March 8, 2021 – Another week, another Legislative Roundup from Neighborhood FORWARD! Check out these legislative proposals from around the country relevant to the fight for social justice.

 

Colorado 

  • SB29
    • Why we’re watching: College tuition is too expensive for all prospective students. This is especially true for indigenous peoples, who don’t have the same intergenerational wealth and economic capital. Colorado’s SB29 will rectify that by requiring they be charged in-state tuition at Colorado schools.

Maryland

  • HB1345
    • Why we’re watching: As legislators across the country seek to diminish the voting power of minorities, Maryland’s HB1345 hits back. The bill calls for the permanent expansion of mail-in ballots and the creation of easier-to-understand voting materials. This will hopefully serve as a buffer for Maryland voters against racist suppression.
  • HB0670
    • Why we’re watching: Maryland’s HB0670, or the Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021, will empower citizens to hold police officers accountable. While the bill has been watered down from its original language, it will still do a lot of good by limiting no-knock warrants, restricting the use of deadly force, and bolstering training.

New York

  • S4002
    • Why we’re watching: The Rochester, New York Police Department has seen their second tear gas scandal in as many months. This time, they pepper-sprayed a Black mother for no apparent reason. New York’s S4002 will prevent law enforcement from using any chemical agent in the execution of their duties.

Washington

  • HB1220
    • Why we’re watching: The pandemic has forced local leaders to reconcile keeping people socially distanced with providing homeless relief. HB1220 in Washington will prevent lawmakers from banning homeless shelters and emergency housing relief.

What do you think of the bills in this week’s roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or at info@neighborhoodforward.com or you can contact us through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

This Pandemic is Discriminatory: Part 1

For an entire year now, COVID-19 has dominated our lives. To prevent the spread of the disease, professional sports leagues halted competition, workplaces moved remote, and grocery stores have been overwhelmed. Despite our best efforts, the virus has claimed the lives of millions of our friends and family members worldwide. Amid all this confusion and grief, one thing is certain.

This pandemic is discriminatory.

The spread of effects of the virus have removed the mask behind which our healthcare system has hidden. Stark inequities are clear to anyone paying attention to the news and fall mostly along racial lines. Black and Brown people have been doing the lion’s share of the dying since early 2020, and these disparities don’t show any signs of improving.

In fact, people of color are nearly five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and three times more likely to be infected.

A number of factors have contributed to this inequity.

First of all, marginalized communities are more likely to work essential jobs that bring them in contact with the virus. This overrepresentation stems from a lack of economic opportunity in areas dominated by Black and Brown people as well as difficulties in creating intergenerational wealth. It’s more difficult for low-income families to get ahead, so they’re forced to work hourly jobs at low wages.

Housing concerns have also contributed to these COVID-19 discrepancies. Due to a lack of affordable housing, minorities are more likely to live in multigenerational, crowded homes in densely populated areas. There’s a lot less room to live in the inner city than out in the suburbs, so when one person is diagnosed with the virus, they’re more likely to pass it along to a family member.

pandemic-public-transportation

Of course, the list doesn’t stop there. Marginalized people are more likely to take public transportation, be homeless, and belong to a number of other high-risk groups. But even once they catch the virus, the quality of care available is often inadequate.

Hospitals that serve nonwhite areas are chronically underfunded and find themselves at full capacity more often than others. Despite the best efforts of medical staff, this degradation in care has created a startling imbalance in deaths.

Latinx and Black residents are 2.3 and 1.9 times more likely to succumb to the effects of COVID-19 than white people, respectively.

This is not a standalone statistic. All of the aforementioned examples of discrimination play into the best example we have of our society not prioritizing Black and Brown lives. By ignoring these factors, as so many pundits and lawmakers do, we are implicit in millions of preventable deaths.

Marginalized communities deserve better than this. Inalienable rights don’t just belong to those with white skin. It’s only through admission of our faults and failures that we can move past them and offer genuine change. People clapping for essential workers is nice, but thoughts and prayers be damned.

This requires action.

Call your legislators and tell them about the effects of institutional racism on the lives of minorities in America. Urge them to fight for equity in everything they do and especially when dealing with a deadly disease.

NF Legislative Roundup: Week of Mar. 1, 2021

The week is just about over! Welcome to this week’s Neighborhood FORWARD Legislative Roundup, wherein we highlight legislation from across the country that’s relevant to the fight for social justice. Check it out!

Arizona

  • SB1485
    • Why we’re watching: Lawmakers from Portland to Raleigh are debating bills that will infringe upon our rights to vote, and this is one of the most sinister. SB1485 is Arizona Republicans’ second swing at removing voters from early voting lists. This proposal is an assault on democratic participation, especially against people of color.

Connecticut

  • SB842
    • Why we’re watching: The pandemic has made it clear that healthcare inequality is real – and dangerous. Gov. Ned Lamont’s SB842 will help address these problems by capping prescription drug prices and regulating insurance carriers. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and Brown people, which this bill recognizes.

Maryland

  • SB0052
    • Why we’re watching: Structural racism should be front of mind for any legislation addressing health inequality. But in Maryland’s SB0052, all references to racism were removed per Republican request. This willful ignorance of history waters down the legislation by refusing to recognize the context of such inequality.

Oregon

  • HB3351
    • Why we’re watching: As federally elected Democrats stall on their $15 minimum wage proposal, Oregon is taking matters into its own hands. HB3351 will raise the state’s minimum wage from $11.50 in some areas to $17 in phases. Such action will minimize the racial wealth gap and help low-income workers.

Washington

  • HB1054
    • Why we’re watching: Washington’s HB1054 just passed the House of Representatives and now moves to the Senate. It limits police use of tear gas, chokeholds, and other militant tactics against constituents. This bill will bolster trust between law enforcement and marginalized communities across Washington.

 

What do you think of the bills in this week’s roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or at info@neighborhoodforward.com or you can contact us through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood! 

Those Who Govern Us Should Look Like Us

Representation in politics often looks the same — a white man trying to tell the story of racism or women’s rights. A white representative trying to speak for people of color, who have lived through things that the white politician will never have to experience… how is that accurate representation?

While white men still make up the majority of elected officials in America, diversity in politics is improving. Representation is expanding in the U.S. House of Representatives faster than the Senate, but both chambers are still predominantly white. The U.S. Census estimates that 60.4% of Americans identify as white only, while 79% of Congress is white.

One of the first highly visible expansions of representation in government was Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Appointed to the highest court of the land in 1968, Justice Marshall became the voice for minority communities in court rulings. Not only did he uphold individual rights, expand civil rights, and limit the scope of criminal punishment, but he also showed young Black men that sitting on the nation’s highest court is a possibility for them. Opening doors through court rulings and as a political figure, Justice Marshall was only the beginning of a long path toward diversity in government.

thurgood-marshall

Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman, led the way in the 1960s. A voice for the community that needed it the most, Chisholm fought for the civil rights of Black women in America. Chisholm worked to keep minority communities safe and led the way for them to grow and thrive. She would eventually become the second woman to ever be a part of the House Rules Committee. An inspiration to all women, but especially Black women, Chisholm led the charge for more representation.

 

Shirley-Chisholm

Honoring the legacy of these trailblazers, the 2020 election cycle showed a continued expansion of diverse candidates running and, more importantly, winning.

The major ticket, the Democratic Presidential ticket, included Vice President Kamala Harris. Harris as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee was huge for representation, shattering the glass ceiling by becoming the first Black, South Asian woman to hold the second-highest office in the United States at her inauguration on January 20, 2021.

kamala-harris

Vice President Harris has been open about the racism she has faced in her own life. In the first Democratic presidential debate, Harris talked about how as a young girl, her class was only the second to be integrated into her public school system. Harris had to ride the bus each day to get to a school that should have integrated 20 years earlier. A child of immigrants, Harris represents so many people in America that feel they are not seen or heard. These communities can finally see someone who looks like them and who has been through similar experiences and struggles.

A group of progressive House representatives, also known as The Squad, are another great example of broader representation. The Squad consists of of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, who not only fight for the rights of minority communities, but belong to them. The Squad has given hope to women and people of color all over the country.

The-squad-aoc

Mauree Turner also ran for office and won, becoming the first Muslim lawmaker out of Oklahoma. Along with representing the Muslim community, Turner also identifies as queer, making her election a big step forward for the LGBTQIA+ community as well.

mauree-turner

Another consequential win for LGBTQIA+ representation was the victory of Sarah McBride, the first-ever transgender person to be elected state senator in America. McBride has become a role model for trans people everywhere, showing them that their voice matters and they deserve

representation.

sarah-mcbride

Representation matters. To be seen and heard matters. Minority communities deserve representation and political figures that look like us. Children should see people who look like them represent them in office. The strides in diversity made during the 2020 election gives us hope that more voices of minority communities will be heard by our leaders.

NF LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: WEEK OF FEB. 22, 2021

TGIF, neighbors! Welcome to this week’s Neighborhood FORWARD Legislative Roundup. Which bills caught our eye this week? Keep reading to find out!

Connecticut

  • SB 888
    • Why we’re watching: Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont introduced SB 888, his plan to legalize recreational cannabis, earlier this month, and the bill was slated to have its first committee hearing today. While there are valid critiques of the legislation, we can all agree that many aspects of the bill, such as automatic expungement of possession convictions prior to October 1, 2015, are huge victories in the fight for equity and justice. 

Illinois

  • HB3653
    • Why we’re watching: The week kicked off with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signing into law a robust criminal justice reform package. Perhaps most notably, House Bill 3653 will make Illinois the first state to eliminate cash bail. The legislation also requires police officers statewide to wear body cameras, creates a statewide database for logging police misconduct, and more. Bravo, Illinois!

Missouri

  • SB 26
    • Why we’re watching: While Democratic legislators were able to negotiate to scale back the charges for certain protest-related offenses, this bill still penalizes nonviolent protesters for exercising their First Amendment rights. It also establishes a “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights,” portions of which local law enforcement leaders oppose, warning it could jeopardize investigations into officer misconduct. SB 26 now moves to the House for approval. We encourage all Missourians to contact their legislators and warn them of the dangers of this bill. Find your Representative here.

Minnesota

  • SAFE Act
    • Why we’re watching: Late last week, the Minnesota House killed Gov. Tim Walz’s proposal for emergency funding during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed George Floyd. Opposition is coming from all sides; Republicans will not fall in line behind proposed police accountability measures, and progressives refuse to pass a watered-down version. With under two weeks until the trial, all eyes will be on the legislature as they try to negotiate a deal everyone can live with.

Oregon

  • HB3164
    • Why we’re watching: This bill, proposed Wednesday by House Speaker Tina Kotek, would prohibit officers from arresting people for interfering with police if they are passively resisting. Speaker Kotek says that police have been abusing interference charges during protests. The bill actually brings the law in line with a 2017 Oregon Supreme Court ruling, which found that people could not be charged for interfering with police just for refusing to move when asked. For that reason, many law enforcement agencies are supporting the proposed legislation. It’s not every day that we get to meet in the middle… we’ll take it!

What do you think of the bills in this week’s roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or at info@neighborhoodforward.com or you can contact us through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood! 

Serena Williams and the Racism Faced by Black Athletes in America

Sports and politics often intertwine themselves in American history. Jesse Owens defied Adolf Hitler at the Olympics, Muhammad Ali tossed a gold medal in the Ohio River, and Jackie Robinson played baseball amid racist death threats. These moments were all expressions of the fight for equality.

Now, decades removed from those events, the coexistence of sports and politics has returned to the national zeitgeist.

Professional athletes now clamor for social justice: Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem, Lebron James organized against voter suppression, and throughout her all-time great career, Serena Williams has defied the racist history of tennis.

Williams’ historic on-court success hasn’t prevented her from joining the fight for equality. From penning essays against systemic racism to pointing out double standards within tennis, she has given other professionals an example of how to use their voice for good. And as a result, she’s been met with racist vitriol in the media and sports industries.

serena-willams

Williams has been drawn in racist caricature and been subjected to a disproportionate number of drug tests. Additionally, she has dominated a sport with a pronounced history of patriarchy and racism.

Her career, and the careers of hundreds of others, highlight the dissonance between allyship and sports fandom. The “shut up and dribble” crowd will reject any political expression from athletes of color. For decades now, white America has gone from rooting for Black athletes on Sundays to crossing the street to avoid them on Mondays.

The George Floyd protests in 2020 brought these conflicts to the limelight once more. The NBA let athletes swap names on jerseys for social justice slogans while Big 12 Conference athletes implored fans to “cheer for us beyond [the field].”

It’s a good thing that these issues have come to the forefront of conversation among sports fans. Progress can only happen once we all recognize our privilege and listen to the experiences of people of color, including our sports heroes.

Until peaceful protest by athletes is met with unanimous approval, sports will continue to be a vessel for social change in America. Athletes possess a huge soapbox to stand on. They should feel comfortable using their platform for good and speaking out against injustice. If they lose some “fans,” who cares? If fighting for equality causes spectators to abandon their favorite teams, they were never fans to begin with.

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