immigration

Families Belong Together: Ways to Help

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I, like most of you, am completely distraught and enraged over what’s happening at our border. I, too, am worried over the Supreme Court vacancy and angry about their recent rulings. Yet I have also found hope in the fact that so many Americans have put aside political and religious differences to come together and fight for human rights. Hundreds of thousands of us have already donated over twenty million dollarsOrganizations like RAICES have already reunited multiple familiesA number of prominent politicians, including Republicans, have publicly decried Trump’s policies. And Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez just beat 10-term Congressman Joe Crowley by a huge margin! As a result of this pressure, the Administration released an executive order ending family separation at the border only days after saying they would never do such a thing. Our efforts are working.

However, this executive order is nowhere near the end. Over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and are now living in hospitals, warehouses, detention centers, and cages all over the country. And while ICE is no longer separating families at our borders, it is still their practice to separate families within our borders by detaining and deporting immigrants who have lived here, many legally, for years, even decades. It is also still their practice to imprison children, who have committed no crimes, and hold them indefinitely, alongside their families who have also committed no crimes.

Many people are saying, “This isn’t who we are, this isn’t America.” Others are saying, “This is exactly who we are, just look at our history.” While it is absolutely vital that we address our country’s history of genocide, slavery, lynching, and more (Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, anyone?), it is also absolutely vital that we hold on to the positive aspects of our identity. It’s easy to get lost in rage and feel like America is full of monsters, but this is only partly true; America is also full of helpers.

There are so many people and organizations working for these children, their parents, immigrants, women, the working class, and human rights in general. These organizations need our donations and our volunteering efforts right now. Our Senators and Representatives need to hear our voices. Even if you just have a few minutes on your lunch break, please be a helperEvery action matters.

keepfamstogether

Below is a list of organizations to donate to and/or volunteer for, along with ways to stay updated. There are also country-wide #FamiliesBelongTogether demonstrations this Saturday, June 30th – click here to get involved, and sign the petition here.

Remember: being a helper requires taking action, but also taking care of yourself. Hug your kids. Enjoy a good meal with your mom. Tell your friends you love them. Find and spread your joy, even if – especially if – your joy feels impossible to find. We cannot let fear, anger, and hatred take over.

I am sending my love to you all. Stay strong, and keep paying your union dues.

WAYS TO HELP

Lunchtime for Change – Quick daily actions you can do from anywhere.

The New York Immigration Coalition – This fantastic organization helps immigrants apply for citizenship, provides free legal aid, organizes demonstrations, and more. You can donate here, and also join them in Foley Square on Saturday at 10 am to march across the Brooklyn Bridge for a demonstration in Cadman Plaza at 11:30 am. Text “NYIC” to 864237 to receive their updates. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Make the Road New York – “Building power of Latinx and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice.” Follow them on Twitter and FacebookDonate here. Text “ROAD” to 52886 for action alerts.

Cayuga Center
 – 
This NY-based organization has taken in many children who were separated from their parents at the border. I know this is a little fraught because they receive government money in exchange for taking these kids, which feels like they’re a little in cahoots with the Administration, but at the same time, the kids are there. They aren’t currently accepting volunteers due to fingerprinting/background check requirements, but they do have an Amazon wish list created by the kids currently being held there.

RAICES – An excellent organization based on the Texas/Mexico border. You can donate as part of this fundraiserThey also have many great resources on their website for grassroots organizing.

Mamas Week of Action – Beautiful message with actions all week following June 30th’s protest.

The ACLU – Always doing amazing work tackling not just immigration but many other human rights issues. They always need financial support.

Abortion Funds – The truth is, even under Roe v Wade, many low-income and rural women do not have access to abortions even when they’re medically necessary. Abortion Funds picks these women up, takes them to providers, gives them support and after care, and more. They need our money. Donate here.

Planned Parenthood – Making sure women have access to affordable healthcare and birth control. They are constantly under threat. Support them here.

Images taken from Mamas Week of Action.

 

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May Day Actions!

maydaybannerMay Day Banner by RNZ / Creative Commons

It’s May Day! Yes, this day is a pagan holiday celebrating the beginning of summer, but more importantly, this is a significant, historic day for workers’ rights and labor unions, going back to 1886 when over 300,000 workers went on strike in an effort to secure the 8-hour work day, something we all currently take for granted.

Now, it’s our turn. Trump, his administration, and many of our Congressmen and women have targeted our most vulnerable people, attacked our unions, threatened our immigrants, in fact have threatened most of us in one way or another (job security, healthcare, education, you name it). Get out there and show them that we will not stand for it. We are the resistance, and this is a perfect opportunity to RESIST.

For New Yorkers, here’s a list of day-long protests, meetings, and other actions.

For teachers, here’s a drop box of resources to use in your classroom.

A Free Write on War

War. What is it good for? Making rich people richer.

I’ve been avoiding writing this piece. The topic of war has been swarming around my brain so much this past week, but I can’t seem to organize my ideas. The task of putting my thoughts into a cohesive essay feels impossible. I’ve decided instead to free write. We’ll see what comes out.

greed.jpg“Greed” by Liz West / Creative Commons

There are so many facets to war; it’s easy to get lost on a tangent and realize that I only brought up thousands of questions without any clear concept of how we can end war. And that’s the thing. I want to end war, but it seems like most people actually don’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about the military-industrial complex and feeling myself roil with so much anger that it’s difficult to breathe. I even hate the way we reference it – the military-industrial complex – like it’s some kind of academic topic fit for a text book as opposed to the horrible reality that a handful of rich people, including many of our elected government officials from the past many decades, get richer and richer off of killing children. The whole thing is a gross business, yet we talk about it like it’s some kind of cerebral debate.

I don’t understand the greed, the rampant, bipartisan greed, that seems to be ever-present in our country’s (our world’s) leaders. How do these people live with themselves? I don’t believe that our current Administration actually cares about the recent events in Syria. Trump’s prepared lines about the “attack on children” having a “big impact” were useless. It doesn’t matter what he says anymore. A, we know he lies and changes his mind so frequently that we can’t trust a word of anything, and B, his actions speak louder. A Syrian refugee ban followed by dropping bombs on Syria? The lack of care for actual human life is sickening.

There’s always some self-serving, underlying motive, for Trump, Clinton, Obama, all of them. A small group of rich assholes are currently running the world. They’re exploiting, hurting, killing anyone so that they can get more money and power. Our politicians are working for them. And it’s all going unchecked. I get that the situation in the Middle East is more complicated and involved than this, but if we were somehow able to stop these money-grubbing, war-mongering pricks, we’d experience some major changes right away.

So how many pictures of drowned children do we need to see before we demand that our leaders show some kind of consideration for human life and make a real attempt to end war? God, the image of that man wailing over his dead wife, the videos of him burying their dead twins. Can’t get it out of my head. Tears in my eyes right now.

What. The. Fuck.

And do not throw the fake news argument back at me. Yes, fake news is a real problem. But all of our masters, no matter if they’re Democrat, Republican, or Independent, are using fake news to their advantage while denouncing the other side for doing it. It’s like our livelihoods and our lives are all one big game to them. So let’s please not argue with each other over this. Whether you believe the images you see and the journals you read or not, the fact is: Syrians are dying every day and our tax money goes toward bombing them, toward bombing Koreans, Somalis, Yemenis, Afghanis. That’s right – America conducted tens of thousands of airstrikes in dozens of different countries under Obama, and Trump has already demonstrated his desire to follow this example.

Interesting how all of these people in power decided to stop using the word “war,” decided to control how our so-called free media reports on these bombings, decided to feed us lines about how our government is protecting democracy and how we Americans simply can’t stand for these war crimes. You know what all of this translates to? BULLSHIT.

We Americans are the war criminals.

quitwar.jpgDavid Owen / Creative Commons

So let’s not argue with each over who is or isn’t using fake news; they all are. In fact, let’s please not argue over the vast majority of absolutely ridiculous shit we keep arguing over. Our masters are so brilliant, they have us all staring at these tiny little devices that track our every move while stripping us of our ability to communicate face-to-face. Then they use these devices to thrust advertisements at us that tell us how badly we need more – more clothes, more electronics, more money, more youth. They have us competing over minimum/unlivable wage jobs, they’ve convinced us that immigrants are the enemy of the working class, that black people are criminals who are killing each other and should be feared, that education is not a right but is actually some hoity-toity liberal bubble elitism, when in reality, we’re all getting fucked and WE SHOULD ALL BE WORKING TOGETHER. We’re sitting here in the same boat competing over trite nonsense like wrinkles and weight and hairstyles, judging each other’s lifestyle choices as if any of it matters, staking out our tiny bit of space and jumping to aggression the second someone dares to “threaten” it, instead of talking, listening, accepting, sharing. We’re doing exactly what they want – we’re fighting each other instead of banding together to fight the CEOs who are stealing our wages, the real estate moguls who are destroying our neighborhoods, the war hawks who are denying us healthcare so that they can kill people while putting more money in their own pockets. Imagine if everyone in America who makes less than $100,000/year refused to spend money for a day, just one single day. It would have such a strong impact that this whole rigged system would implode. We have power. We just don’t know how to organize and use it.

And I’m not saying I know how to use it. I can organize on a small scale, and that feels good and rewarding, but I have no idea how I can convince people that race and ethnicity and whether you live in the city or on a farm shouldn’t be barriers, that we do have the ability to listen to each other, to heal wounds, to come together and demand something better. I also have no idea how to go about changing the capitalist greed that currently rules our world to a more compassionate form of ruling. Our election and voting systems seem set up against this, so while I do exercise my right to vote, I’m not positive it does much when I’m presented over and over with the same variations of the same shit. And I can’t just march into the president’s office, stomp my foot and say, “It’s time you give a damn!”

We type our names into petitions. We post our repulsion on Facebook. We raise money for organizations that are doing good work (and this probably goes the farthest out of all these actions). But at the end of the day, we just don’t have the same level of power that the warmongers do. And this is the thing that really depresses me: good, honest people who want to end all of this killing don’t become President of the United States, of Russia, of Syria.

But this doesn’t mean we stop. We have to keep going. We have to make our small difference, for ourselves, our neighbors, our children, our future. Our small actions will spread and grow over time. They may never equal the actions of Trump or Putin, but that doesn’t make them any less important. In fact, that makes them even more important. And there are so many organizations and people doing good work. We have to support them, encourage them, let ourselves feel buoyed up by their existence.

gboweeLeymah Gbowee / Creative Commons

Add this to your action list: call or email an organization or politician you support and let them know you’re grateful for their work. This is how we oppose war – through daily acts of kindness. Spread love. Put down your damn cell phone and smile at a stranger. Hug your friends. Tell them you love them. Thank your roommate or your mom or your husband for being around. Remind yourself every night of the good things you have.

I’ve decided that I’m in it for the long haul. Like, the millions of years from now long haul. Those of us who support peace talks and compromise, empathy and compassion, building community and opening our borders to refugees, we’re the more evolved humans. I read an article recently about scientist Michael Wilson’s long-term study of chimpanzees, and it seems that human warfare actually isn’t a modern invention but rather goes back to our deepest ancestral roots. When I first learned in high school about the Locke vs Hobbes debate, I was immediately on Locke’s side. Of course people are born good! Babies don’t discriminate. They don’t care about race or religion. They don’t pass judgment on others like we adults do. I believed that humans were taught to be evil, that badness came from our nurture as opposed to something in the fabric of our being. But now, I think it’s not even a matter of being inherently good or evil – this concept is yet another human construct that allows us to become too cerebral and judge each other. Humans are simply products of evolution, and it’s actually great progress that we’ve seen people like Martin Luther King Jr., Leymah Gbowee, Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s amazing that the UN exists and that so many people care enough to run organizations like the American Refugee Committee and the ACLU. When looking at the timeframe of the universe, maybe we humans are doing okay.

I’m reminded of a lesson my Granny taught me over and over: You always need to leave things cleaner than when you found them. She was talking about physical spaces, about cleaning up after yourself, but now I understand her deeper message and find great comfort in it. So, humanity, I’m going to try to leave you cleaner than when I found you, and that’s honestly the most any of us can strive to do.

granny-1My very wise Granny

End notes:

Regarding fake news, I sincerely hope you’ve done the research and can trust the sources you read.

When I say open our borders to refugees, I mean screened refugees. No one is saying, “Hey everybody in the world, it’s a free for all in America right now, run on in!” I hate how black and white these issues are often portrayed.

“Home Grown” Was a Blast – The Resistance Is Strong!

What an inspiring and motivating night! Many thanks to poet Terence Degnan, novelist Nora Fussner, blues/rock band JSanti, and folk/country group Brotherhood of the Jug Band Blues for killin’ it this past Saturday, and to Sidewalk for having us. And thanks to all of YOU for supporting us artists and the NYCLU! We raised over $200, wooo! Stay strong, ya’ll, and check back every Friday for a new post + info on all the happenings with The Brooklyn Players Reading Society.

The BPRS Presents “Home Grown”- An NYCLU Fundraiser @ Sidewalk Cafe on Sat, March 4th!

The BPRS Presents “Home Grown” – An NYCLU Fundraiser at Sidewalk Cafe, Saturday, March 4th, 6-9 pm, $10+ suggested donation! All proceeds go to the NYCLU!

untitled-by-anthony-finePhoto by Anthony Fine

Join us on Saturday, March 4th at Sidewalk Cafe (94 Avenue A) for a night of words and music featuring poet Terence Degnan, novelist Nora Fussner, singer/songwriter John Santiago, rock/poetry duo The Brooklyn Players Reading Society (that’s us!), and folk/country group Brotherhood of the Jug Band Blues. Literary door prizes, too!

In light of the recent executive order telling refugees, immigrants, and even legal green card holding residents that America is no longer their home, the reading portion of the night will revolve around the question, “What is home?” We’ll also provide you with resources and ways to join the resistance so that you’ll leave ready to act.

$10+ suggested donation – all proceeds go to the New York Civil Liberties Union!

Come share ideas, enjoy some art, and get motivated. RSVP on Facebook! #artistsresist

There’s more great music after our show so please stick around! Blues band Victor V. Gurbo goes on at 9, followed by The Line Up, a hip-hop/soul/rock showcase presented by CPP and The Band Called FUSE. Hosted by Silent Knight. (Read: dance party!)

Please note that Sidewalk has a two item minimum (including delicious food, beer, wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks).

We the People: Meet Nozim

nozimName: Nozim Bakhriddinov
Age: 36
Lives in: Brooklyn, NY
Ethnicity: Uzbek
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Pear and Melon

I moved to NYC to realize my dreams of getting an education in art and of speaking English. Moving to New York was really very fast for me. I made a decision and approximately one month before leaving, I sent a letter to my old friend from college, Aziz, with some questions about life in NYC. He said, “I don’t know, but let’s do it together.” At that time he was living in Cincinnati and planning to change location, too. He arrived in New York about three weeks before me, and we agreed that he’d meet me at the airport and let me stay in his apartment for a few days. But when I got here, I was surprised to learn that I needed to fill out an address of where I was going to stay during my visit or I couldn’t enter the country (I came here with a tourist visa and then changed my status later). My cell phone had no internet connection and I didn’t know how to ask about addresses. The immigrations officer said that he couldn’t let me in until I filled it out, but he called a colleague over to help me. The officer was young and thin with kind eyes. He gave me his phone and finally, I was talking with my friend. Now here I am studying English, working as a pastry chef, and making my art in Brooklyn.

Welcome to We the People, a column featuring stories and profiles of your fellow Americans because we the people of the United States need to meet one another. Click here to learn more.

Donate to Refugee Parents Via Lew’s Birthday Giving Page!

Happy Birthday, Lew! Please donate to his birthday giving page by clicking here to help refugee parents and children.

IMG_1681.JPGLittle Lewbug is one-year-old today. Crazy! We’re so grateful to all of you who have supported us and loved him throughout the past twelve months. He is absolutely incredible. You know what else is incredible? The amount of stuff we’ve accrued. So, if you were thinking about getting him a birthday present, please consider putting that money towards some people who really need it right now: refugees. You can donate now via Lew’s birthday Giving Page (even just $5 will help!).

During Lew’s first year of life, 9 million more people became refugees, raising the total amount of refugees across the world to nearly 60 million. Over half of these refugees are children, which means there are millions and millions of parents raising their kids under these conditions. Throughout the nausea and fatigue of pregnancy, the pain and joy of labor, the stress and bliss of raising an infant, Dave and I always had a safe home to come back to. Imagine being pregnant, giving birth, and raising a baby on a dangerous boat, in an overcrowded, bacteria-infested camp, or on the streets of a foreign country. And these traumatic scenarios are what awaits parents after the devastating experience of fleeing their homes because of war. Yet despite all of this trauma, they still have to be parents.

Please consider donating to help these parents throughout their ongoing struggles. We want Lew to grow up knowing that he is a small but important part of a huge, great world, and that he can always do something to help make our world even greater

(All statistics taken from UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency – http://www.unhcr.org/558193896.html.)