Getting Old And Loving It

Erin Matson

I turn 36 in a few weeks, and I’m excited.

Aging is cool. It’s the ultimate affirmation of having “made it.”

I have written about loving my first gray hair as a political act, because the whole you’re-old-you’re-done message sucks. It is a privilege to age. I’ve long thought women get prettier as we age; there is something sculptural about the way lines cut a face.

36 feels significant to me because this is literally twice the age at which I thought I might never have another birthday. Today, half my life ago, would have been about the first morning I would ever wake up in the middle of the night to flashlights making sure I wasn’t killing myself, going to the bathroom in front of someone so I couldn’t vomit, and taking a shower observed after my razor was retrieved from the locked cabinet in the back.

You see, both my 18th…

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2016 Weekly Wage Gap

Equal Pay Day 2016: Lack of Progress Continues

Since I started this blog in December 2012, I have annually written about pay equity during April on Pay Equity Day (2013, 2014, and 2015).  That day is today. As in past years, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, will be distributing flyers educating the public about the economic inequality in women’s pay.  We’re letting people know that we continue to have a lack of progress in eliminating pay inequity.  Here’s the information we would like the public to know.

April 12, 2016

This date symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.  FYI, this is 2 days less than 2015, 4 days more than 2014, 3 days less than in 2013 and 1 day less than in 2011 when Ni-Ta-Nee NOW started tracking this date! Tuesday, April 12, 2016 is the day on which women’s wages overall catch up with men’s wages from the previous year.  It is also the day when white women’s wages catch up with men’s wages.  But most women of color take much longer to achieve equity.

The Wage Gap

2016 Weekly Wage Gap

A Nationwide View of the Gap in Pay for Women by Gender and Ethnicity

The commonly used measure to determine the wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women as a whole earned just 81 percent of what men earned in 2015 (IWPR, 2016).  In the past ten years (2006 to 2015), the weekly gender wage gap narrowed by just 0.3 percentage points, compared with 6.0 percentage points in the previous ten years (1996 to 2005). At the current rate, it will be 2059 before women achieve wage parity. This lack of progress needs to be turned around and soon!

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 95 percent of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 81 percent of white men’s average income, African-American women (67 percent), and Hispanic women (62 percent) have the largest wage gaps as compared to white men (IWPR, 2016).

A woman who is just starting her career now will earn $430,480 less than her male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career (NWLC, 2016). Differences in the wage gap are due more than just the types of jobs men and women work.  Part of the problem is due to gendered, sex-segregated jobs where women are paid less (often at minimum wage levels & for jobs that require the same level of skills, knowledge & abilities) as well as to a lack of paid sick days, paid family leave, fair scheduling, and pay transparency protections in these female-dominated occupations (Center for American Progress, 2015).

Wage Gap in Pennsylvania

The wage gap is even worse in our state. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed it 27th (tied with IL, ME, WI, NE, & TX) among the states (AAUW, 2016). The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2015 was $39,905 compared to men’s $50,412 or 79% of what a man earns. This is a wage gap of 21% .

Centre County is part of Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District (CD).  Women in the 5th CD earn    $33,616 compared to the $44,578 that men earn or 75.4% of what a man earns. We rank 13 out of 18 in the state in terms of the wage gap.  This is a wage gap of 24.6%. Philadelphia’s 1st CD fairs better than the rest of the state with a gap of just 3.7% (AAUW, 2016).

A woman who is just starting her career now will earn $420,280 less than her male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career. For Asian-American women, it’s $394,760; for African-Americans, it’s $661,840; for Native American women, it’s $804,680; & for Hispanic women, it’s $918,120 (NWLC, 2016).

What Can You Or I Do About this Inequity?

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union at your place of work, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information in a pdf file created by Legal Momentum starting on page 28. Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser. All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the PA Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg. Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

You should also check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. You can also file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

At the Local Level

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and/or family responsibilities across the life-span). If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 communities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination office if you live in another state to determine if your state allows such local ordinances and if such an ordinance exists in your community.

You Can Also Advocate for Changes in the Law

There are bills before Congress and in state legislatures that deal with some of the issues affecting wage inequity.  If you want to advocate at the federal level, you can find your US Representative and your US Senators’ contact information at https://www.congress.gov/members.  To find the contact information for your state legislators, go to http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/ and fill in your mailing address and hit the “locate” button; your legislators’ picture, addresses, and phone and fax numbers can be found when you click on her/his name .  It some cases, this website will also provide a list of bills your legislator has sponsored so that you can see if one or more of them support pay equity.

Here are the issues you should consider advocating for.  Since I live in Pennsylvania, I’m listing both Federal and Pennsylvania-specific bills.  For bills specific to your state, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures website to find and go to your state’s website.  You will then be able to search for bill on pay equity, paycheck fairness, minimum wage, sick leave, etc. to see if there is a bill or law in your state addressing these issues. If not, then contact your legislators/public officials and ask them to sponsor such bills.

  • Raise both the regular and the minimum wages. At the federal level, there are several bills addressing this issue.  They include HR 4508 —The Fair Wage Act , HR 2150 and S 1150 — Raise the Wage Act, and HR 3164 & S 1832 —Pay Workers a Living Wage Act.
  • Pass paid sick leave legislation. At the federal level, check out HR 932 and S 497 — the Paid Sick Leave Act.
    • In Pennsylvania, check out  HB 624 — the  Pennsylvania aid Sick Leave Act and SB 221 — the Employee Paid Sick Leave Act.
    • In some states, this type of legislation can be done at the municipal level.  Currently four states (Connecticut in 2011, California in 2013, Massachusetts in 2014, and Oregon in 2015) and the District of Columbia (2008) as well as 18 cities and communities have implemented paid sick leave.  These 18 cities (with year of passage) are:
      • California: San Francisco (2006), Oakland (2014), and Emeryville (2015)
      • Maryland: Montgomery County (2015)
      • New Jersey: Jersey City (2013), Newark, Passaic, Paterson, East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton (all in 2014), and Bloomfield (2015)
      • New York: New York City (2013)
      • Oregon: Portland (2013)
      • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia (2015)
      • Washington: Seattle (2011) and Tacoma (2015)
  • Create laws that make payment of wages fairer by eliminating pay secrecy rules & pay discrimination. Types of paycheck fairness rules include limiting occupational requirements to bona fide occupational factors like education, skills, and experience, prohibiting employer retaliation against employees who discuss their salaries, and denies employers the ability to require employees to sign a contract or waiver prohibiting them from disclosing information about the employee’s wages. The federal bills that focus on this issue are HR 1619 and S 862, both of which are entitled the Paycheck Fairness Act. The National Women’s Law Center has several good articles on paycheck fairness, including why women need more wage protections and information on how the Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the Equal Pay Act.

Bathroom Police Head to South Carolina

Nel's New Day

Imagine wanting to be picked for vice-president and finding yourself faced with a discriminatory hate law and businesses oppose? That’s Nikki Haley’s problem in South Carolina as the legislature heads to pass a “bathroom police” law.  A legislator introduced the bill on the pretense of “safety” despite the fact that no problems have existed in any of the places where transgender people can legally use the facilities of their gender identities instead of their birth genitals.

Has no one tried to figure out how to enforce the law? Will every public bathroom be forced to be staffed with a security guard who demands birth certificates and visual inspections of genitals before everyone is allowed to go into the restrooms? Would any violation cause a fine? Or jail time? Or both? Imagine the headlines: bathroom sting catches local resident in sting—perp gets six months for peeing.

Haley has good reason to…

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meme detailing the hypocrisy of the majority of the PA House of Representatives taking 9+ months to pass a budget but just 3 days to move a anti-abortion law to the floor for a final vote.

Hypocrisy: Abortion Ban More Important than the PA State Budget

With dangerous proposals like House Bill 1948, Pennsylvania politicians are once again inserting themselves in the most private and personal medical decisions best left between a woman and her doctor.

This bill would ban abortion at 20 weeks and ban one of the most common types of abortion procedures. Almost 99% of abortions take place before 21 weeks, but when a woman seeks a later abortion it’s often n very complex circumstances. Yet anti-abortion access legislators in Harrisburg want to make this private and personal medical decision for women & families in Pennsylvania by passing HB 1948.

It took this same legislature over 280 days to pass the 2015-2016 budget, yet it only took THREE DAYS to introduce (April 1) and send (April 4) this bill to the full House for a floor vote. The debate and final vote in the PA House of Representatives is expected as early as Tuesday, April 12.

The Hypocrisy? 3  days to make war on women’s bodies. 9+ months to pass state budget funding critical government safety programs, education, and the general running of state and local services!

meme detailing the hypocrisy of the majority of the PA House of Representatives taking 9+ months to pass a budget but just 3 days to move a anti-abortion law to the floor for a final vote.

The Hypocrisy of the PA Legislature

What’s wrong with this picture? If it were to become law, HB 1948 would create one of the most restrictive, harmful, and unconstitutional abortion bans in the United States. It would change the states abortion ban from 24 weeks (that’s the edge of viability) to 20 weeks.

It would also outlaw the safest form of 2nd trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). According to a statement released by ACOG, “these restrictions represent legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients.”

Although relatively rare, 2nd trimester abortions done in a safe and timely manner are necessary. Here’s one woman’s story. As Julie says in this video, “This has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with the choices my husband and I needed to make.”

And here’s another story. This one is from Evelyn, who says, “It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. Whether or not to have an abortion is a decision that should always be made between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her god.”

As you can see from these two women who were willing to come forward with their personal stories, it’s clear that lawmakers should not interfere with personal medical decisions. A woman considering an abortion is already facing challenging circumstances. We’re not in her shoes. We should not deny her the ability to make a decision in consultation with those she trusts. And no matter how we feel about abortion, we can all agree that a woman’s health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions. Lawmakers are not medical experts and this is not an area where lawmakers should be intruding.

HB 1948 also places women at risk by ignoring individual circumstances and health needs. Her health and safety is paramount. Providers and their patients may determine later abortion care is the best medical option for a variety of reasons. HB 1948 would take the decision out of the hands of patients and their trusted medical care providers and put it in the hands of politicians. This would endanger women and jeopardize safe, legal abortion care.

These types of attacks are aimed at criminalizing abortion and attack women’s constitutional rights. 20-week bans are unconstitutional and a clear attempt to erode Roe v. Wade at the expense of women’s health. In fact, 20-week ban proponents are outspoken about their goal to challenge the 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. Eliminating access to safe, constitutional and legal abortion services is a war on women from legislators attempting to impose their morality and narrow view of religious

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade also recognized that different moral and religious traditions have differing views on abortion. Protecting a woman’s ability to make her own decision about ending a pregnancy is critical to respecting her religious freedom. It is unjust for lawmakers to privilege the views of those who oppose abortion and seek to impose those beliefs on everyone, as doing so would directly block a woman’s ability to make her own faith-informed decision on this personal matter.

Bottom Line: While a majority of abortions in the United States occur in the first trimester, it is important that a woman, her family, and her doctor have every medical option available whenever she needs it. Laws banning later abortion would take that deeply personal decision away.

If you are part of the majority of voters who opposes these bans, contact your legislator today and urge them to oppose HB 1948.

 

Mississippi Wins Most Hateful Contest

Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina. Now it’s Mississippi spreading their bigotry. Maybe we should suggest that the ‘ol Miss start using this video ad to clearly state who they want to visit the state.

//www.funnyordie.com/embed/8c36175bbc

Sigh!

Nel's New Day

If the states had a contest to see which one could pass the most hateful and broadly discriminatory law, Mississippi would be the winner—at least for now. Mississippi is the “South of the South,” according a friend familiar with “the South.” To keep their pride—and poverty— the state legislature has passed, and Gov. Phil Bryant has signed, a law that may be the model for the conservative extremists in other red states. Legislators started with right-wing reaction to giving marriage rights to same-gender couples and then accelerated with the thought of transgender people using the bathroom that matches their gender identity—and their appearance. The claim is protecting “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” but its purpose is to allow discrimination against most people to run amok. It allows employers to use not only bathroom and locker access policies but also dress code and grooming.

Bryant claims that “this…

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Photographic Blog of Faith’s Support of Bernie Sanders

People from around the world have started to support Bernie Sanders as President of the United States. So after getting to know the people that back him, this is what I’ve learned.

Blog by Faith Brady at Why the World Is Berning — Faith’s True Tales

10-2016 Women's History Month CC Proclamation IMG_8943

Is “Anonymous” Always a Woman Anymore? NO!

We have all heard Virginia Woolf’s quote “Anonymous was a woman.”  This quote refers to women who have disappeared when speaking their truth, history, and art throughout much of recorded history. She may not have signed her statements. Her statements may have been attributed to either a male that she was associated with or she has, over time, had her voice misattributed to a man in the popular mind.  As with quotes, women’s history has long been made hidden or anonymous.

This hidden history is now being addressed and has been since the 1970’s here in the United States.  As President Jimmy Carter said in 1980:

“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.

As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, “Women’s History is Women’s Right.” – It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.”

Initially in the US, the federal government proclaimed the week surrounding March 8 (known around the world as International Women’s Day) as Women’s History Week.  By 1986, 14 states had declared March to be Women’s History Month to have schools and communities recognize and raise up the history of women – individuals as well as movements.  The following year Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. Every year since then the President of the United States creates a special proclamation once again declaring March as Women’s History Month by highlighting the achievements of American women.

We as women are no longer “Anonymous.” Our voices and our history are being added to what children and adults learn.

As part of each year’s Women’s History Month, a theme is associated with the month’s programs on women’s history.  In 2016, that theme is Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.  Following this theme, leaders throughout the country, both women and men, have stepped up to the plate to highlight women’s service and history.

Here’s what President Obama said in his 2016 proclamation on February 29, 2016:

Throughout history, women have driven humanity forward on the path to a more equal and just society, contributing in innumerable ways to our character and progress as a people.  In the face of discrimination and undue hardship, they have never given up on the promise of America:  that with hard work and determination, nothing is out of reach.  During Women’s History Month, we remember the trailblazers of the past, including the women who are not recorded in our history books, and we honor their legacies by carrying forward the valuable lessons learned from the powerful examples they set.

For too long, women were formally excluded from full participation in our society and our democracy.  Because of the courage of so many bold women who dared to transcend preconceived expectations and prove they were capable of doing all that a man could do and more, advances were made, discoveries were revealed, barriers were broken, and progress triumphed.  Whether serving in elected positions across America, leading groundbreaking civil rights movements, venturing into unknown frontiers, or programming revolutionary technologies, generations of women that knew their gender was no obstacle to what they could accomplish have long stirred new ideas and opened new doors, having a profound and positive impact on our Nation.  Through hardship and strife and in every realm of life, women have spurred change in communities around the world, steadfastly joining together to overcome adversity and lead the charge for a fairer, more inclusive, and more progressive society.

During Women’s History Month, we honor the countless women who sacrificed and strived to ensure all people have an equal shot at pursuing the American dream.  As President, the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for working American women to effectively challenge illegal, unequal pay disparities.  Additionally, my Administration proposed collecting pay data from businesses to shine a light on pay discrimination, and I signed an Executive Order to ensure the Federal Government only works with and awards contracts to businesses that follow laws that uphold fair and equal labor practices.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer charge women more for health insurance simply because of their gender.  And last year, we officially opened for women the last jobs left unavailable to them in our military, because one of the best ways to ensure our Armed Forces remains the strongest in the world is to draw on the talents and skills of all Americans.

Though we have made great progress toward achieving gender equality, work remains to be done.  Women still earn, on average, less for every dollar made by men, which is why I continue to call on the Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act — a sensible step to provide women with basic tools to fight pay discrimination.  Meanwhile, my Administration has taken steps to support working families by fighting for paid leave for all Americans, providing women with more small business loans and opportunities, and addressing the challenges still faced by women and girls of color, who consistently face wider opportunity gaps and structural barriers — including greater discrepancies in pay.  And although the majority of our Nation’s college and graduate students are women, they are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which is why we are encouraging more women and girls to pursue careers in these fields….

This month, as we reflect on the marks made by women throughout history, let us uphold the responsibility that falls on all of us — regardless of gender — and fight for equal opportunity for our daughters as well as our sons.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 2016 as Women’s History Month.  I call upon all Americans to observe this month and to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016, with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. 

Similarly, in my back yard, the Centre County Commissioners today proclaimed March 2016 as Women’s History Month here is Centre County and presented the proclamation to Michele Hamilton, President of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW (the local chapter of the National Organization for Women).

Before we were given the proclamation, Michele talked about the history of Women’s History Month and this year’s theme. She then called upon people throughout the county to recognize local woman who have taken up public service and/or are serving our local communities in public office past and present and in the future.

 

01-2016 Women's History Month CC Proclamation  IMG_8934

Michele Hamilton, President of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW presenting the history of the creation of Women’s History Month. Note that in honor of women’s history, we wore the suffragists’ emblematic colors   – purple, white, and gold

I then gave a bit of women’s history – from women being hidden and anonymous to the creation of the Declaration of Sentiments in Seneca Falls in 1858, to the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the vote in the US in 1920, to the continuing activities throughout the US today to put women fully in to the US Constitution through the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

I then, like Michele, called on the public, to advocate for passage of the ERA both at the state level and at the national level.  FYI, here in Pennsylvania, on May 18, 1971, we became the 4th or 5th state in the country to create a state-level ERA (Virginia also created their state ERA in 1971, but I can’t find the actual date of ratification) and we were the 21st state to ratify the federal ERA on September 27, 1972.  Currently, 35 of 38 states have ratified the federal ERA.

02-2016 Women's History Month CC Proclamation IMG_8935

Joanne Tosti-Vasey (l) presenting information on the history of the Equal Rights Amendment

For more information on the ERA and the two routes of activism to full ratification, go to Equal Rights Amendment: Unfinished Business for the Constitution.

Once our presentations giving voice to women’s history in the US and here in Centre County, we were presented with the “County of Centre Proclamation Number 7 of 2016:

10-2016 Women's History Month CC Proclamation IMG_8943

Women’s History Month Proclamation by Centre County PA Commissioners

Here’s the text of the proclamation:

 

WHEREAS, women of every race, class, and ethnic background have made historic contributions to the gro3wth and strength of our County in countless way; and

WHEREAS,  women have played and continue to play a critical economic, cultural, and social role in every sphere of the life of the County; and

WHEREAS, women have played a unique role throughout the history of the County, Pennsylvania and the United States in many ways; and

WHEREAS, women have and continue to, through their work, improve communities through or County; and

WHEREAS, women have been leaders, not only in securing their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity, but also in the abolitionist mov3ment, the emancipation movement, the industrial lavor movement, the civil rights movement, and other movements, which creat4 a more fair and just society for all; and

WHEREAS, younger generations of women from all races, classes, and ethnic backgrounds will continue to contribute to our County, Commonwealth, and Country;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the Centre County Board of Commissioners does hereby proclaim March2016 as “Women’s History Month” and encourages the citizens of Centre County to observe with attending appropriate programs, ceremonies, activities, and to visit womenshistorymonth.gov and or local Centre County Library and Historical Museum to learn about the generations of women who have influenced or history.

ADOPTED this 22nd day of March, 2016

CENTRE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

Michael Pipe, Chair

Mark Higgins

Steven G. Dershem

09-2016 Women's History Month CC Proclamation IMG_8942

Proclamation Presentation: l. to r.: Mike Pipe, Mark Higgins, Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Michele Hamilton, and Steven G. Dershem

 

 

 

 

Leggings Are Pants

Doesn’t matter what age you are. Leggings are STILL pants.

Erin Matson

These are leggings.

Leggings

Leggings are pants.

Pants are made of fabric, and cover the lower abdominal area, crotch, and both legs.

Pants come in a variety of styles.

With pants, as with life, fit is everything.

Women, like men, are allowed to wear pants.

Some people say women’s bodies are “distracting.”

If only women and girls would hide their bodies, the thinking goes, men and boys could succeed.

That’s not right.

Women can have butts, and curves, and fat, and should be free to wear whatever is comfortable regardless of the shapes of our bodies.

Leggings are pants.

Praise be comfort, acceptance of women’s bodies, and women’s full and equal participation in society.

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Why Bernie vs Hillary Matters More Than People Think

What type of Democratic party will we have in the future?

I want another president with the compassion and concerns of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Both of them spoke for equality and economic growth for all. That’s what I’d like to see in this presidential election year.

Benjamin Studebaker

Lately the internet has become full of arguments about the merits and demerits of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been discussing and pondering all the various views about this, and I’m increasingly of the opinion that most of the people engaging in this debate don’t really understand what is at stake in the democratic primary. This is in part because many Americans don’t really understand the history of American left wing politics and don’t think about policy issues in a holistic, structural way. So in this post, I want to really dig into what the difference is between Bernie and Hillary and why that difference is extremely important.

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Black History Month 2016: Black Lives Matter

Social Justice For All

black-lives-matterThis is now the sixth year that Social Justice For All (SJFA) has celebrated Black History Month. Sadly, the past year has proven unequivocally why we still need Black History Month. I can only hope all of us in the United States are doing some reflection around our own racism and encouraging conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also hope as we have these courageous conversations we have a better understanding of what racism is.

In the wake of Ferguson, Cleveland, New York, and all of the other cities where black voices are being silenced, we have an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations around race and racism.  I hope all of us who identify as white have some discomfort as we look at how disproportionately black lives are subjected to police brutality or murder — how all of us should be mourning Michael Brown…

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