Get on the bus for ERA ratification

By Susan Laume:

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment are sponsoring a 10-day bus tour across Virginia to urge legislators to make Virginia the 38th and final state necessary to achieve ratification. The bus stopped in several locations in Fairfax County on Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, after visiting Richmond, and continued on to Fredericksburg.

The bus tour is run by VAratifyERA, a non-partisan, single issue campaign focused on this issue.  In Fairfax County, the third day of the tour, the bus stopped at George Mason University, Clifton, Falls Church and Fairfax.

At the Clifton stop, state Sen. George Barker (D-39) and his wife Jane were on the bus. Sen. Barker first introduced the ERA in the state legislature in 2012 and has been a strong supporter ever since. Mrs. Barker is co-chair of the Democratic Women of Clifton and Northern Virginia, and a leader in the bi-partisan effort to build a memorial to suffragists near the former Lorton Reformatory location where many suffragists were imprisoned.

Also on the bus were state Delegates Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2), Hala Ayala (D-51) and Kaye Kory (D-38).

From The Blue View

Long-term NoVa immigrants in TPS program face expulsion

By Brad Swanson:

Organized labor and allies rallied Saturday morning against Trump Administration plans to deport an estimated 20,000 protected status immigrants from northern Virginia.

“This is a cruel and vicious attack on families,” said Virginia Diamond, president of the Northern Virginia AFL-CIO. Many of these immigrants have been in the USA for a generation and have sunk deep roots into their communities, she pointed out.

Nationwide, the federal government plans to withdraw Temporary Protected Status (TPS) covering 400,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras in 2019 and 2020.

TPS was originally granted because of political turmoil and elevated violence levels in home countries but supporters say that after many years of living in America, TPS holders have become American in all but name – homeowners, job holders, valuable members of their communities. Moreover, 300,000 children, all US citizens, have been born to these families and raised in this country. Their fate if their parents are forced to leave is in question.

After hearing speeches outside the Northern Virginia Labor Federation office in Annandale on Saturday morning, rally participants dispersed to canvass for Jennifer Wexton, a Democratic state senator who is in a tight race against incumbent Barbara Comstock as representative for the 10th Congressional district – the second biggest region for protected status immigrants, after Long Island, New York.

“Comstock has been silent on the [TPS] program,” commented Jaime Contreras, vice-president of Service Employees International Union 32BJ. “Wexton has been a supporter of labor in Richmond.”

More in The Blue View

Virginia could be the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment

Virginia’s vote could be the last state vote needed to allow the United States Congress to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would become the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Alice Paul / Historical Photo

VAratifyERA Sunday — Women’s Equality Day — kicked off a campaign to press Virginia lawmakers to approve the amendment in January by holding screenings around Virginia of “Iron Jawed Angels.” The film stars Hilary Swank as Alice Paul, the suffragist who first drafted the ERA.

Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, commemorates passing the 19th Amendment in 1920, prohibiting state and federal governments from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex after a fight for women’s rights that began in the mid-1800’s.

The proposed ERA seeks to further expand equal legal rights guarantees for all American citizens regardless of sex.

Voting rights were a significant victory for women in 1918. Suffragists endured unthinkable treatment during the quest. Drawing little public interest when picketing began in January 1917; by April, as World War I started, the public became outraged at suffragists’ criticism of President Woodrow Wilson’s “hypocrisy” in calling for Democracy in Europe.

Suffragists suffered multiple incarcerations, increasing fines; even the torture of force feeding following hunger strikes, and eventually beatings, choking, and kicking by prison guards during the infamous “Night of Terror” on Nov. 14, 1917, at the Occoquan Workhouse.

Finally, public sympathy and shock over such treatment, for merely picketing, led to their release two weeks later. In January 1918, President Wilson came out in favor of the 19thamendment.

It had taken 72 years for women to get the vote, but women have yet to be recognized as having equal rights, beyond voting, under law in the United States Constitution.

From The Blue View

Fairfax Democrats prepare to challenge themselves on race

By Sean Perryman:

Following the election of Donald Trump, the Democratic Party at both the local and national level continues to grapple with race and the role it should or shouldn’t play in its platform and organizing.

In that vein, on September 12th, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) will hold a Racial Equity Workshop for its membership. The workshop is designed to give members a greater understanding of structural racism and its impact on day-to-day interactions.

Essential to any understanding of race is an examination of racism. The construct of race after all was conceived to justify maltreatment of people of color. But it does not end there.

So, what is racism?

With Nazis, Klansman, and white supremacists running for office, taking center stage in our media, and organizing marches on the nation’s capital in a sequel to their violent gathering in Charlottesville, it’s easy to point and say “that’s racism.”

This overly simplistic definition of racism absolves us of deeper self-reflection because “at least, we’re not them,” but it fails to capture the insidious and pervasive nature of systemic racism. To point to examples of explicit racism as the only form of racism make us accountable for only our intentions and not the consequences of our actions or inactions. This simplified understanding that racism is explicit, intentional, and stems from ignorance, however, fits within the popular conception of the term.

Let me offer a more thoughtful definition: In his award-winning book, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” scholar Ibram X. Kendi flips that ahistorical definition on its head.  “[S]elf-serving efforts by powerful factions to define their racist rhetoric as nonracist has left Americans thoroughly divided over, and ignorant of, what racist ideas truly are,” he writes.

Instead, Kendi posits that racism is better understood this way:

“Racial discrimination -> racist ideas  ->  ignorance/hate”

That is, we discriminate based on self-interest, we create racist ideas to justify that discrimination, and people internalize those racist ideas. In this understanding of racism, it is critical that we tackle how we all have internalized racist ideas, even people from traditionally marginalized communities.

If we want to be serious about being anti-racist, we cannot pat ourselves on the back for merely not ascribing to the ideology or not adopting the language of the lowest among us. We should strive for better in both policy and practice.

Can we say we have done that?

From The Blue View

Time to vote for politicians who support gun safety

By Karen Kirk:

“VOTE THEM OUT” was the rallying cry of speakers and protesters as more than 100 people gathered outside of the NRA Headquarters in Fairfax Saturday in support of gun safety.

“This nation breathes the oxygen that is the promise of liberty and right now, our people are suffocating,” said speaker Micaela Lattimer, a 17-year-old Latina from Maryland. “We’re not free when gunshots pierce classrooms. We’re not free when people are criminalized just for being black or brown. We’re not free when gun violence in Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit goes ignored,” said Lattimer, speaking in English and Spanish.

“We point cameras to schools whose windows are shattered but muffle the voices who cry black lives matter. When black activists protested police brutality they were met with full riot gear and teargas,” said Lattimer, who helped organize the rally.

“To my fellow young people, it is now our job to actively urge those around us to vote and to lobby legislators and question authority,” she said. “Eternal vigilance is necessary to protect our freedom.”

“To elected officials, we the people are calling on you to develop and carry out policy that prevents a firearm from getting into the cold grip of a domestic abuser, policy that prevents the phone call telling a family their child was gunned down at age 16, policy that protects black youths from the shackles of criminalization and policy that keeps hateful people from committing a massacre. Most of all, policy that promotes humanization and education.”

“If you wish to stay in office, we demand that you actively protect our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Lattimer said.

Read the rest at The Blue View

Kavanaugh will support Trump’s march toward autocracy

                      Judith Shamir

By Judith Shamir:

Donald Trump has always made it abundantly clear that his choice for the Supreme Court would be someone who, like him, is staunchly determined to overturn abortion rights as well as many other civil and human rights. In picking Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee, he is fulfilling that promise.

Kavanaugh’s pick is the most frightening of all the prolific steps toward autocracy that the Trump regime has taken so far. Seeing Trump’s cozy conversation, just concluded, with his Russian puppet master in Helsinki highlights the danger of picking a nominee with so little regard for rights and rule of law.

Whatever he might say about respecting precedent and giving due consideration to the facts of each case, Mr. Kavanaugh has demonstrated that he will not hesitate to bend the law to serve his views.  In a dissenting opinion on a recent DC Circuit Court decision, Kavanaugh argued against allowing a young undocumented woman to access abortion care, putting her health at risk by delaying the procedure. In another dissent, he argued that the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement places a “substantial burden” on religious employers who seek exemption from this mandate.

Some might say that we dodged a bullet – that Kavanaugh is actually more “moderate” than other potential nominees. Should we feel relief then? Certainly not. Kavanaugh believes the President should not be subject to subpoena or charged with a crime while in office. His writings indicate that he would favor dismissing the independent counsel’s investigation as unconstitutional, making the prospect of his participation in Supreme Court rulings regarding the Mueller investigation yet another dramatic threat to American democracy.

Read the rest at The Blue View

Fairfax NAACP Recognized as Best Branch in the United States

By M. J. O’Brien:

The Fairfax County NAACP has been named the top branch in the country by the national organization. The branch will receive the prestigious Thalheimer Award, given annually to the branch with the most outstanding achievements, next week at the NAACP’s Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Kofi Annan, President, Fairfax County NAACP

“Fairfax County is the home of the best branch in the NAACP in the nation,” said Kofi Annan, president of the Fairfax branch in announcing the award. “We’ve always felt that way … but today it became official!”

Established in 1944, the Thalheimer Award recognizes “outstanding achievements” by local branches in “the implementation of the Association’s strategic priorities and goals.” These include “enhancing advocacy, civic engagement, economic and political empowerment, criminal justice, and educational equity.” The award is named for Dr. Ross Thalheimer, a psychologist who was executive director of the Community Guidance Service and also founder of the American Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.

In its application for the award, the branch cited a variety of activities and initiatives, including the successful two-year “Change the Name” campaign that sought to convince the Fairfax County School Board to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School. Name change proponents pointed out that naming the most diverse high school in the county after a Confederate general was a detriment to learning and an insult to students and residents alike.

In July 2017, the school board voted that the name of J.E.B. Stuart had to go and later in the year support coalesced around the name Justice High School. The school is being revamped this summer and will officially open with its new moniker next month.

Read the rest at The Blue View

Photo Essay: Thousands rally in Washington, D.C., to bring families together

Tens of Thousands of demonstrators rallied Saturday in Washington, D.C., to protest the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and separating children from their parents.

On a sweltering day in the capital, the crowd gathered at Lafayette Square across from the White House to protest separating thousands of children from their parents at the border and the new plan to detain families together. Some 600 “Families Belong Together” rallies were held around the country.

The rally began with Sebastian Medina-Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation addressing the crowd in Spanish and English, reminding people that this is a nation of immigrants. Then he beat the drum.

Then Jocelyn, an undocumented immigrant who didn’t want to give her full name, told of how she was separated from her son when she came to the United States from Brazil last August and she was held at a detention facility in Texas. She said that she was told that her son could be adopted. It took 9 months for them to be reunited.

Celebrities Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the smash musical “Hamilton,” singer Alicia Keys and actress America Ferrera were among the rally speakers. Miranda sang a lullaby from “Hamilton,” Keys read a letter from a mother separated from her son and Ferrera talked about being a new mother, her Honduran roots and her duty to defend justice.

After the rally, protesters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Trump International Hotel to the Department of Justice.

Read the rest at The Blue View

School Board votes to make sex ed more LGBTQ inclusive

By Karen Kirk:

The Fairfax County School Board Thursday night approved changes to the Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum that are more inclusive of LGBTQ students, thwarting opposition from a national right-wing media campaign.

The proposed changes include using the term “sex assigned at birth” rather than “biological sex” and informing high school students about “pre-exposure prophylaxis” or “PrEP,” a treatment to protect against HIV. The FDA in May approved Truvada for adolescents to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Supporters of the proposed changes outnumbered opponents in a packed auditorium at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, and several of them addressed the board.

Read the rest at The Blue View

School Board weighs changing sex ed to make it more LGBTQ inclusive

By Karen Kirk:

The Fairfax County School board heard spirited comments both for and against changing the public school sex education curriculum to make it more LGBTQ inclusive at its regular meeting Thursday, May 24.

The discussion was a precursor to the vote on June 14 on changing wording in the Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum. The proposed changes include using the term  “sex assigned at birth” rather than “biological sex” and informing high school students about a pill that was recently approved for adolescents to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Paul Wooldridge, who has two children who attended the Fairfax County Public Schools system, one of them transgender, spoke movingly of his son’s experience.  “Now FCPS has many teachers and administrators who recognize the rights and needs of transgender students. However my son’s experience showed that there are plenty of students and a few teachers that were not so understanding and accepting of the person he is.”

“He was teased and degraded in the halls by fellow students,” continued Wooldridge. “He was also intimidated by a few faculty members in apparent attempts to make him feel shame or lesser of a person. This unsolicited treatment was dished out in spite of my son’s attempts to proactively educate the faculty and fellow school students about the transgender issues and human rights.”

Read the rest at The Blue View