Celebrating Juneteenth!

“We have made a way when there was no way”

by: Marilyn Bechtel

Posted to peoplesworld.org June 22 2012

OAKLAND, Calif. – Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the day in 1865 when black former slaves in Galveston, Texas, finally learned they were free, is increasingly becoming a festive day across the United States.

At one such event, organized here on June 16 by the Nitty Gritty Community Club, recognition of historic and ongoing struggles for full emancipation was blended with celebrating achievements of African Americans today, and projecting what is needed so the struggle for black equality can move forward.

Music, dance and spoken word mingled with the awarding of certificates of recognition to young and older students who have achieved milestones in education, and to activists making significant contributions to the community.

As awardees received their certificates, a theme running through their remarks was the importance of the community support they received.

Among some 15 honorees was Layloni Marshall, a mother of three who just earned her bachelor’s degree in social work while holding down a full-time job. “Going to school as a single mother is a very hard job,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without my ‘village’ of friends and family who supported me at every step.”

Fadeelah Muyhee, an increasingly well-known performer, told how the actions of a high school teacher marked a turning point in her life: “A bunch of us were cheating on a test, and my teacher saw others copying from me. She called me out of class. I was waiting for the worst, but she said, ‘I won’t fail you, in fact, I’ll give you an A for leadership. Now, I want you to join my Youth Power Club.’ That changed my life. I learned about my history, my life.”

Turning to that former teacher, Cassandra Lopez, Muyhee said, “I’m striving to be just like you. I hope I can do for a young person what you did for me – seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”

The struggle for emancipation is long and ongoing, Lopez told the crowd. From the flood of lynchings after Reconstruction, when federal troops were withdrawn from the south, to the current railroading of young black men into prison at an ever-increasing rate, African Americans have always had to fight for full inclusion in the broader society.

“We have overcome, when that seemed impossible,” Lopez said. “We have made a way when there was no way.”

An urgent task today, she said, is to make sure Republicans can’t take over the White House in the upcoming elections. “Don’t sleep on this election,” Lopez told the audience. “We’re only partly emancipated – let’s finish the job!”

A very special part of the program was the awarding of certificates of achievement to several young students, ranging from one who just graduated from preschool to others transitioning into high school.

Photo: “Listening intently!” by Marilyn Bechtel, PW

Crunch time for CA budget

The legislature is expected to vote next week on California’s state budget, with big cuts looming for human needs programs, and new revenue depending on an initiative vote in November. Earlier this month the Northern California Communist Party issued the following statement on the budget crisis:

California’s Budget Crisis: What can we do?

For several years California has faced a growing budget gap, and ever-deepening cuts to human services programs millions of us badly need as we struggle with joblessness, low-paying jobs, soaring health care costs and a bank-caused foreclosure crisis that has cost many of us our homes.

Now the legislature and governor are struggling with a nearly $16 billion gap as they try to complete a 2012-13 budget by the end of June.

Why the gap?

Some of the problem has been caused by the economic crisis that has gripped our country, and the world, in recent years. Some also comes from Congressional Republicans’ repeated blockage of federal money to help the 50 states.

But much of the gap is because our state legislature can’t gain new revenue to fund the programs all Californians need: public education, health care, environment, transportation, infrastructure and more.

It now takes a two-thirds majority in the Assembly and state Senate to pass new revenues. Democrats lead the legislature but don’t have that majority.

So a Republican minority, most of whom have signed a Grover Norquist “no new taxes” pledge, can block any effort to find more funds for these programs. They can even block attempts to close big tax loopholes that let corporations get away with scamming the public out of billions of dollars.

How can we close the gap?

This November voters can act to end the Republican stalemate in California’s legislature. Just two fewer

Republicans in the Assembly and in the state Senate and they can’t block the new funds we need.

Voters can help make sure that Republicans don’t win the presidency, and that they can’t dominate the House of Representatives and stall the U.S. Senate.

Because the state legislature can’t vote more money for programs we all need, Governor Jerry Brown and the labor-community Restore California coalition are putting a measure on the ballot to temporarily raise taxes on incomes of over $250,000 and raise sales taxes 0.25 percent.

Here are some things we can all do:

• Make sure you, your family, friends and neighbors are registered to vote. Discuss the issues and candidates with them.

• Get involved to make sure the Republican far right is defeated nationally, in California and in your community. Unions and many community organizations are active in election work. Even if you’re not a member, you can help out.

• Vote to approve the Brown-Restore California initiative to tax the rich, though raising the sales tax is not a positive move.

• Support measures to end the two-thirds majority required to pass new revenue.

• Call on Congress to fully fund federal assistance to the states, and aid to programs serving human needs.

• Tell your elected officials what you think our state and nation should do, so the basic needs of all are met. Hold their feet to the fire on what’s important.