Tag Archives: Racial justice

INVITATION: Six-week study and action series on racial justice in Benicia

From Progressive Democrats of Benicia, December 2, 2020

Members and friends of PDB:

In Chief Erik Upson’s recent City of Benicia News update as Interim City Manager, he announced that the Benicia Library is partnering with Benicia Black Lives Matter and the Bay Area Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) for a six-week series of classes on racial justice. This course is free to the public but classes are limited to 30 members for each of the two sessions available – one to be held on Tuesdays beginning Jan. 12, and a second session on Saturdays beginning Jan. 16. (See REGISTRATION, below.)

ABOUT SURJ AND THE STUDY/ACTION SERIES:

SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) Bay Area is part of a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice, with passion and accountability.

SURJ Study & Action is a community of learners committed to examining the histories of white supremacy and resistance movements and building our abilities to effectively take action in support of Black and Brown-led organizations fighting for racial justice.

…We are responding to Black peoples’ long-standing call for white people, in large numbers, to talk, study and take action with each other so we can confront white supremacy in our workplaces, schools, with our families and throughout our lives.

Learning in community makes our movements strong. We train up, so we can show up!

FROM RALPH DENNIS, PDB CHAIR: I strongly recommend that white PDB members and friends look in a mirror and consider the benefits that attending these classes will provide. No matter how much we who are white think we are “aware of” and fight against racial prejudices and discrimination, and/or that “I’m not racist,” none of us can know how it feels to be black in a white-dominated culture. And, all of us need to acknowledge the history and systemic nature of racism in our country, and here in Benicia, and learn how to address it and become anti-racist in actions and deeds. These classes are a path towards beginning that journey in Benicia.

Here’s more information from Chief Upson and how to register for the classes.


Showing Up for Racial Justice – Study & Action Course

(From City of Benicia this week, Message from the Interim City Manager 11/30/20)

The Benicia Public Library and Benicia Black Lives Matter are teaming up to offer a free series of classes for the community, cosponsored by the Bay Area chapter of Stand Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).

Participants are asked to:

  • commit to attending all 6 sessions of this intensive program in order to hold accountability to the group, build community, and get the most out of the series;
  • allow enough time in your schedules to read the weekly assignments, about 2.5-4 hours per week;
  • commit to participating in at least 3 racial justice actions during the course of the Intensive. Facilitators will suggest actions to be a part of at each weekly meeting.

Two six session courses are available, one series held on Tuesdays beginning January 12 (registration deadline Dec. 29), the other held on Saturdays beginning January 16 (registration deadline Jan. 2). Please choose either Tuesdays or Saturdays. There are 30 spaces available in each series. All meetings are held on Zoom.

REGISTRATION

For Tuesday Classes: Register Online

For Saturday Classes: Register Online

Questions? Please contact Nancy.

More information is available at https://benicialibrary.org/standing-up-racial-justice.

Year of calamities taking toll on mental health

Mental health professional: “In the past two weeks, my practice has exploded.”

San Francisco Chronicle, by Steve Rubenstein and Nora Mishanec, Sep. 11, 2020
Michael Waddell, a professional dog walker, out in Alamo Square Friday. He said the loss of dog-walking business has caused him more stress than the recent meteorological calamities.
Michael Waddell, a professional dog walker, out in Alamo Square Friday. He said the loss of dog-walking business has caused him more stress than the recent meteorological calamities. Photo: Nora Mishanec / The Chronicle

In a year of wondering what could possibly come next, the next things just keep on coming.

After eight months, they’re starting to add up, say mental health experts. And there’s lots of 2020 left, plenty of time for more next things.

“I’ve been hearing the word ‘apocalyptic’ a lot,” said San Francisco psychiatrist Scott Lauze. “I’m doing a tremendous amount of hand-holding these days. You can’t even rely on the color of the sky anymore.”

Lauze, in private practice for three decades, said he had never seen the call for his services take off like right now.

“In the past two months, there was a significant uptick in demand,” he said. “In the past two weeks, my practice has exploded.”

Pandemic, social unrest, heat waves. Wildfires. Smoke. Mass evacuations. Therapists call them stressors, and there has been no shortage of things to get stressed over.

And this just in: ash raining from the heavens, and darkness at noon.

“I couldn’t fall asleep,” said San Francisco nurse Valieree MacGlaun, who works the night shift and was walking home Friday on Divisadero Street from the VA hospital in her scrubs.

She said she feels overwhelmed, though her job is to help other people overcome feeling overwhelmed.

“This is my calling,” she said. “But you have to take care of yourself.”

Connie and Michael VonDohlen flew from their home in Tennessee to San Francisco on Wednesday to attend their daughter’s wedding, just in time for the dark orange daytime skies that made some locals say it felt like living on Mars. Streets were deserted. The VonDohlens, who don’t seem to shock easily, said they were shocked.

“We thought we had gone into the Twilight Zone,” Michael VonDohlen said. “I was expecting zombies to jump out from every doorway.”

“The fires, added to the pandemic, and the inability to escape — all that adds to the potential for hopelessness,” said emergency room psychiatrist Yener Balan, head of behavioral health services at Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Calamity and malaise are part of the human condition, he said, and pondering the world wars endured by prior generations can put a virus or a wildfire in perspective.

Coronavirus live updates: SF urges people to stay inside due…
“As a species, we are resilient,” he said. “Many generations have seen this level of calamity.”

Taking care of oneself, living in the moment, checking in with family and friends, getting enough exercise and sleep — those are the keys to coping, Balan said. And turning off the TV and the computer when enough is enough — that helps, too. It also reduces exposure to the added stresses of a national election and its apocalyptic nuances.

“Just when you think you’re beginning to deal with one disaster, another one comes along,” said David Spiegel, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University. “Patients who have been stable are experiencing an exacerbation of depression and anxiety.”

The year 2020, he said, is turning out to be a “remarkable test of everyone’s ability to cope.”

Trying to cope in Alamo Square, while holding three dogs on a leash, was professional dog walker Michael Waddell. He used to wear a plain mask, for the virus. Now he wears a mask with an air filter, for the virus and the smoke. Different disaster, different mask.

Two in 5 U.S. adults say they are “struggling with mental health or substance abuse” since the pandemic hit, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the “prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder” were triple those of last year, the report added.

Even if psychiatrists are doing more business these days, Waddell said, dog walkers aren’t. Business has largely fallen off as people staying home can walk their own dogs.

Waddell’s usual complement of dogs is six. Losing half his income, Waddell said, “has added more to my immediate stress than the smoke or the wildfires.”

Dogs, who have no problem living in the moment, help. So do hobbies, said Melissa Smith, who was waiting for 5-McAllister bus. She said her therapy was to try “old lady hobbies.”

“This is the perfect excuse to take up knitting,” she said. “It’s a good outlet for the frustration. You need something to channel your energy.”

Smith was on her way home, where the knitting was waiting.

“What better place to practice peace than the middle of a storm?” she said. “I just think, after this, we are all going to be so resilient.”

John R. Lewis – Though I am gone…

“Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

New York Times, By John Lewis, July 30, 2020

Mr. Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral.

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

Good Trouble in Benicia – What would John Lewis say and do here?

Rep. John Lewis remembered for legacy of ‘good trouble’

Associated Press, July 18, 2020
In this Feb. 23, 1965, file photo, Wilson Baker, left foreground, public safety director, warns of the dangers of night demonstrations at the start of a march in Selma, Ala. Second from right foreground, is John Lewis of the Student Non-Violent Committee. Lewis, who carried the struggle against racial discrimination from Southern battlegrounds of the 1960s to the halls of Congress, died Friday, July 17, 2020. (AP Photo/File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon and the last of the Big Six civil rights activists led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died Friday at age 80. He is being remembered by congressional colleagues, civil rights leaders and former presidents as a “titan” of the struggle against racial discrimination.

FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

“Considering his enormous impact on the history of this country, what always struck those who met John was his gentleness and humility. Born into modest means in the heart of the Jim Crow South, he understood that he was just one of a long line of heroes in the struggle for racial justice. Early on, he embraced the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as the means to bring about real change in this country, understanding that such tactics had the power not only to change laws, but to change hearts and minds as well.”

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HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI

“John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation – from the determination with which he met discrimination at lunch counters and on Freedom Rides, to the courage he showed as a young man facing down violence and death on Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the moral leadership he brought to the Congress for more than 30 years. ”

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SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL

“I will never forget joining hands with John as members of Congress sang We Shall Overcome at a 2008 ceremony honoring his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It could not have been more humbling to consider what he had suffered and sacrificed so those words could be sung in that place.”

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FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON AND FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON

“From a small farm in Alabama, to life-risking service in the civil rights movement, to three decades in Congress, he was always ‘walking with the wind,’ steered by a moral compass that told him when to make good trouble and when to heal troubled waters. Always true to his word, his faith, and his principles, John Lewis became the conscience of the nation.”

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FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER

“He made an indelible mark on history through his quest to make our nation more just. John never shied away from what he called ‘good trouble’ to lead our nation on the path toward human and civil rights. Everything he did, he did in a spirit of love. All Americans, regardless of race or religion, owe John Lewis a debt of gratitude.”

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THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS

“The world has lost a legend; the civil rights movement has lost an icon, the City of Atlanta has lost one of its most fearless leaders, and the Congressional Black Caucus has lost our longest serving member. The Congressional Black Caucus is known as the Conscience of the Congress. John Lewis was known as the conscience of our caucus.”

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ATLANTA MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS

“The City of Atlanta’s Congressman Lewis is an American hero and one of the pillars of the Civil Rights Movement. Congressman Lewis was also revered as the dean of the Georgia Congressional delegation whose passionate call to “make good trouble” became a generational rallying cry for nonviolent activism in the pursuit of social justice and human rights.”

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THE NAACP

“He fought harder and longer than anyone in our nation’s continuing battle for civil rights and equal justice.”

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THE REV. JESSE JACKSON

“John Lewis is what patriotism and courage look like. He sacrificed and personifies a New Testament prophet.”

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THE REV. AL SHARPTON

“My friend, role model, and activist extraordinaire has passed. Congressman John Lewis taught us how to be an activist. He changed the world without hate, rancor or arrogance. A rare and great man.”

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BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

“Farewell, sir. You did, indeed, fight the good fight and get into a lot of good trouble. You served God and humanity well. Thank you. Take your rest.”

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FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID

“Few have had as powerful and inspiring an impact on our country as Congressman Lewis and America is a better, more equal place because of his sacrifice and leadership. Our nation owes so much to this incredible man. We served together in Congress for decades, and I was honored to call him my friend.”

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REP. MAXINE WATERS

“It is not enough to say he was a revered civil rights icon. He was a man of impeccable integrity who dedicated his life to fighting against racism, discrimination & injustice. John was a true leader who inspired us all to have the courage to fight.”

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THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF GEORGIA

“Time and time again he demonstrated moral and physical courage in nonviolent defiance of the white supremacist regime in the South. Throughout his long life, his commitment to full equality for all people never wavered. He will always be remembered with gratitude and admiration.”

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U.S. SEN. DAVID PERDUE OF GEORGIA

“No one embodied the word ‘courage’ better than John Lewis. As a civil rights icon, John inspired millions of Americans to fight injustice and reject the status quo. Without a doubt, his wisdom and resolve made the world a better place.”

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U.S. SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER OF GEORGIA

“As a leader in the civil rights movement, he always pushed America to live up to its promise of freedom and equality. Our nation is better because of his leadership and courage. We know his legacy will never be forgotten.”

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STACEY ABRAMS, GEORGIA POLITICIAN

“Defender of justice. Champion of right. Our conscience, he was a griot of this modern age, one who saw its hatred but fought ever towards the light. And never once did he begrudge sharing its beauty.”