Fast Food Workers – Social Media Share

by Granate Sosnoff on 3rd April, 2014

Partnering with this fast-breaking campaign mostly with social media. We’ve been successful with bumping up engagement by about a thousand percent and audience up by over a third and still building… some of our artier posts here. The workers are fighting against widespread wage theft in the industry with lawsuits across the country and for $15 and a union.

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Olga

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East Bay College Fund Op-Ed

by admin on 11th March, 2014

Happy to help East Bay College Fund get this exposure:

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Game Changers in Oakland: East Bay College Fund

by Granate Sosnoff on 14th January, 2014

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New piece up on the importance of support and mentorship for college success in Oakland Local. An excerpt:

“This past summer, a powerful three-part series, Even Odds, ran in the Chronicle about young African-American males in Oakland. The premise, and the basis of the headline, was that “Being male and black in Oakland means being about as likely to be killed as to graduate from high school ready for college.”

It was an important series, but also wearying for some working hard to change these odds to read through yet another set of grim statistics that reinforce negative stereotypes. Part one of the series told the parallel stories of two young men from Castlemont High School. One is murdered and one graduates, ready for college.

While that story ended on the page, the East Bay College Fund continues it. Thomas Logwood, the Castlemont student profiled in this piece started his first year of college at UC Santa Cruz with the help of a 4-year scholarship (now accepting applications) from the East Bay College Fund and the commitment of a mentor, Diedra Barber, to help support him through those four years with monthly check-ins.”

http://oak.lc/fwz43

 

Thanksgiving and the modern land grab

by Granate Sosnoff on 28th November, 2013
Photo of Papua New Guinea logging operations from the film On Our Land from the Oakland Institute.

Photo of Papua New Guinea logging operations from the film On Our Land from the Oakland Institute.

Reposted from Oakland Localol-logo-1

In a short while most of America will sit down to a hearty meal commemorating the human kindness of Native Americans towards settlers to the new world. We celebrate the practice of being grateful while toasting glasses and carrying on.

Yet it’s hard to celebrate the beginning of the end of land and other rights for Native Americans.

Far from wanting to wreck a day for gratitude, I ask you to consider the parallels of what occurred in the U.S. a few hundred years ago and what’s happening right now in regards to land grabs, and to devote a small part of your day to questioning how and why we should challenge this.

The modern land grab is occurring

in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, Argentina, Papua New Guinea, and many areas in the Global South. Land is being unfairly taken, not by settlers, but by corporations in search of fast money and fertile ground often for biofuel crops. Depending on the source, estimates put large-scale land acquisitions at between 20-60 million hectares, (minimally the size of Texas, 50 times over).

Some of the corporations feign green agendas and use the language of environmental sustainability to acquire land. One such group, Herakles Farms in Cameroon, proposes cutting down old-growth rainforest to plant palm oil trees in a quest for sustainability. Many local people aren’t buying this convoluted logic or the development strategy and are working to stop the deal.

In Papua New Guinea, where the Constitution protects customary land rights, residents are being coerced into signing away their heritage by a government whose strategy is to unlock land so that the country can progress. Even after admitting to widespread failure, in a process riddled with corruption and deception, the government continues with a development strategy that gives foreign companies bloated rights to log and destroy rainforest.

This kind of global activity by governments and corporations can feel unstoppable. But it isn’t.

For example, in Tanzania, AgriSol Energy was in deep negotiations with the government to move 172,000 people so that the company could develop an area already thriving with small farms, markets, and community. After the Oakland Institute, an independent think tank, brought attention to the ugly realities of the deal, it fell apart, and 172,000 people remain in their homes, on their land.

In the current global land rush, many stories of unoccupied, un-owned lands available for development are false, and echo the idea of empty lands discovered and taken in America.

At Thanksgiving time as I eat a familiar meal and think about some of the dark history of this country and what it all means I will also feel gratitude. Not just for human kindness, but also for persistence, and the work of people all over who stand up to injustice and do what seems undoable. I will feel gratitude worthy of a whole new holiday.

Tight pants are good for the revolution: Russell Brand

by Granate Sosnoff on 26th October, 2013

The last time we heard this much talk about a revolution, from British celebrity, it was the Beatles.

Actor and comic Russell Brand’s recent “revolution” video interview was a refreshing critique of the powers that be and struck a chord with many – judging by the millions of views. His protest against voting as “tacit complicity” in a nonworking political system that “administrates for corporate interests” was much more cogent than what I could come up with in college. (I voted anyway.)

The power of our vote to create change gets sold to us every four years or so and delivers, in Brand’s view, incremental changes within an existing “failed paradigm.”

I enjoyed hearing this passionate and intelligent extremism from a celebrity with a large audience. His defense of facetiousness and reference to “Prius-owning” offered bonus and entertaining critique.

If you haven’t heard this rare shake up of the status quo, including the word “revolution” without association with a product or service, here it is. Brand isn’t playing spokesperson or do-gooder, the interview is unscripted and that’s part of it’s power.

“I am angry, I am angry because for me it’s real, for me it’s not just some peripheral thing that I turn up once in a while to a church bake for. For me this is where I come from, this is what I care about… this is time to wake up.”
(Excerpt from interview.)

UN ad campaign on women

by Granate Sosnoff on 23rd October, 2013
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Campaign so worth checking out – Actual Google autocomplete results. Take a look.

UN ad campaign

Movement building and defending MLK’s dream

by Granate Sosnoff on 23rd August, 2013
New York Times photo

New York Times photo

Fifty years later, no amount of messaging can change the fact that we aren’t further along than we’d hoped in attaining civil and political rights or anything resembling racial equality in this country.

Martin Luther King had a dream, and before he spoke that day at the March on Washington, civil rights leaders gave speeches about economics, jobs and freedom in America. What we talk about most is MLK’s dream of racial equality – because it is inspiring and uplifting. It’s a message we can get behind, but something unattainable without economic and racial justice.

This is partly why, fifty years later, we are talking and dreaming about the same things.

Nowhere was this more evident recently than after the not-guilty verdict of George Zimmerman and the deep disappointment that swept the nation.

Fifty years later, Trayvon Martin was murdered because he was a young, African American male in an upscale neighborhood.

Questions about who are we in this country, and why are we so far from where we need to be with racial justice and equality have resurfaced. Even with a black president, numerous role models and achievers, we are deeply and economically divided with a huge number of brown and black people in prison and living in impoverished neighborhoods.

But, as always, there is hope. One bright star has emerged from the void of justice in Florida that day and that is the Dream Defenders, a new civil rights group organized by young people in Florida.

The not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial evoked righteous anger, disappointment and a deep sense of injustice. The country seemed to take a deep breath and moment to grasp the blatant racism on a national stage.

And while some lashed out, the Dream Defenders got to work on an executable strategy to change things.

In Florida’s Capitol, the Dream Defenders began what would become a month-long sit-in. About 30-60 people were locked in each night and left to sleep on hard marble floors. Joined at times by Jesse Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Julian Bond and other leaders and artists, they were also supported daily by a multiracial community. They held their own hearings when denied formal ones by the governor. They talked about what it was like to be racially profiled as young black people.

They got real and people responded.

The Dream Defenders are pushing for reforms under the umbrella of Trayvon’s Law to combat racial profiling and Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and other states where they exist. They have impressed many with their tenacity and commitment and made progress by pushing to get the Florida legislature to consent to hold hearings on these issues in the fall.

August 24th, Phillip Agnew, the executive director of the Dream Defenders, is slated to speak at the 50-year anniversary March on Washington. His organization may be the most authentic representation of that era and many will be listening to what he has to say. Our president is slated to speak too (Aug. 28). His presence represents the pinnacle of achievement and shows the limits of leadership in bringing about far-reaching change.

Why aren’t we further? It’s a question many ask every day.

The Dream Defenders represent a new hope. They are inspiring and reflect the brains and energy of young people - who so often bear the brunt of racist actions.

Like Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant in Oakland and so many others.

Events in the last months have worked as a catalyst to reinvigorate civil rights activism. Some organizations are going to rebuild their brand with the new energy.

The Dream Defenders look like they are going to build a new movement.

Dream Defenders: superheroes for racial justice

by Granate Sosnoff on 7th August, 2013

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Written by Granate Sosnoff. Reposted from Oakland Local

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There is something very impressive happening right now in Florida. A human rights organization of “Black and Brown youth confronting inequality and the criminalization of our generation with nonviolent direct action”… are doing that this minute, in Florida’s state Capitol, camping out on hard marble floors since the Trayvon Martin verdict.

This is day 22 of the Dream Defenders takeover of Florida’s Capitol, and each day they are there, the more authentic, far-reaching and motivating their actions become. They are also making progress and winning victories with their direct action. On August 2, after much pressure and constant presence at the Capitol, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford announced he will hold hearings on the state’s “stand your ground law” in the fall. Although short of what the Dream Defenders would like, which is a legislative hearing right now, Philip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders stated that “It’s a critical first step, we’ve been here three weeks. We know Democracy takes time. Progress takes time.”
Seemingly out of nowhere, this politically savvy, committed group has emerged. Youth of color are standing tall and sitting-in, reminiscent of the sixties and impressive as hell.

Their well-thought-out campaign is one that demands justice by peaceful direct action, guided by strategy and intelligence. The Florida group, with chapters throughout the state, has captured the attention of the media, support of the NAACP and ColorOfChange.org and hearts of civil rights stalwarts like Jessie Jackson and Harry Belafonte. Jackson spent one night with the Dream Defenders and Belafonte met with them and endorsed their efforts with his elegant words of praise including:

“If they reject you, then the world will pay attention to what’s happening to you, and it is possible that Florida could become ungovernable,” Belafonte said. “By ungovernable, I don’t mean violent. But it could mean tens of thousand of people will join you. That’s not good for tourism.”

While police issued alerts around potential riots and violence after the Zimmerman verdict, Dream Defenders organized the opposite and called for an audience with Governor Rick Scott and a special session to repeal Florida’s stand your ground law. They were given a meeting with Gov. Scott but instead of a congressional session, he offered a “day of prayer” to deal with racial profiling.

In response, Dream Defenders organized their own hearings and are coming up with their own drafts of legislation and strategies to combat racial profiling — while still sitting in at the Capitol. Since July 16th, these young people have stayed committed and determined — a counter on their website marks each second of their protest. They have been 150+ strong with a wide range of visitors including an original Black Panther, university professors, and support people of all colors bringing food and and other items daily.

The not-guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial is sparking a new phase of young, persistent and effective civil rights activism.

One can only hope that Dream Defenders spreads to California. We could use some superhero energy. Currently Florida is “ground zero” for Dream Defenders as they are organizing freedom rides across the country to address racial profiling, dismantle the “school to prison pipeline” for youth of color, and repeal other existing state stand your ground laws.

More info here: Dreamdefenders.org

Their petition here.

Oscar Grant, Zimmerman trial and BART strike connected

by Granate Sosnoff on 14th July, 2013

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Online with Oakland Local, Friday July 12.

When three related stories regarding race, labor and BART occur, you need to pay attention, especially in Oakland.

As “Fruitvale Station” opens and retells the story of Oscar Grant’s murder, we also brace for juror deliberations in the Zimmerman trial. Oakland gets angry when the judicial system betrays young black men. A backdrop to these two stories is that BART is in the middle of strike negotiations and if nothing changes soon, Fruitvale station, and all other BART stations will be closing for a while.

The Zimmerman trial has already been disappointing particularly in how Trayvon Martin and his young friend have been denigrated in the media. What seemed like an open and shut case against George Zimmerman, a man who stalked and killed a young African American youth, is now seeming less so.

Those of us who lived in Oakland during the BART police shooting of Oscar Grant by Johannes Mehserle are flashing back to a similar time and feeling of impending betrayal by the justice system and wondering if we will once again need to take to the streets to let the world know that a young black man’s life is worth as much as any other life.

Even if Zimmerman is found guilty, the murder still happened, in the name of security and safety, in a country filled with fear around race and thick with racism.

And as the Sundance award-winning movie “Fruitvale Station” opens, giving Oscar Grant back to Oakland for a moment and skillfully telling a one-day story till his tragic and preventable death, wounds will open up. This shameful, tragic BART incident, revisited in the shared-story format of film, will have an impact on many.

BART has apparently been very cooperative in the making of the film, even allowing movie posters at the Fruitvale Station. A BART liaison to filmmaker Ryan Coogler was quoted to say: “The film is really about humanizing Oscar Grant, and Ryan did a superb job.” (Thank you BART?)

In the real world of BART security we are being told that reforms at BART are underway. A few weeks prior to the film’s opening, in what might be viewed as a PR move, BART released that they’ve hired a retired police chief to review these new reforms.

The other BART story is about the strike (30-day stay ticking away…) and it seems that more than the coincidence of timing connects these.

The union has released a video stating that security and safety are of high priority for workers at BART but that management refuses to respond to that need.

Unfortunately, what “more security” usually means is historical racial profiling and the targeting of youth of color and in particular black men like Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin. The opportunity to make an important statement and connection seems lost on union organizers and begs the question of whether you can publicly make a request for added security without acknowledging the pain and public tragedy surrounding BART police.

It seems to me that this is the perfect intersection for union and worker concerns to build solidarity with social justice organizations. If you are going to make a demand for more security, in the same breath why not ask for public review of reforms and changes? What specifically is BART doing to prevent another tragedy like what happened to Oscar Grant?

BART workers are angry with management and have good cause I can imagine. They have a variety of demands but currently a focus on making visible the high pay of management and a need for more safety and security. They recently stated: “We will be prepared for the bloodiest, longest strike since the 1970′s.”

But will we, their natural allies, friends of labor, social justice workers and concerned community members be ready to stand in support of them?

The union is losing an important opportunity to link worker’s rights and social justice with this connection. In their primary (current) video they flash on a mural of Oscar Grant as if hoping the slight association and acknowledgment will say something. Similar to BART’s decision to cooperate fully with filmmaker Ryan Coogler and to allow “Fruitvale Station” posters in BART stations, it seems to lack authenticity and doesn’t say much of anything.

Advocacy media – one up from the Simpsons?

by Granate Sosnoff on 29th June, 2013

Drugs are bad. You shouldn’t do drugs.

This is what Mr. Mackey, the guidance counselor on the Simpsons, tells Bart Simpson and his classmates.

But it’s not so far from what many a nonprofit imitates in their advocacy.

It’s not pretty but it happens. And because we are who we are it ends up on a bumper sticker, your social media and shared elsewhere.

And as our president said a campaign ago – “we can do better.” 

BACKSTORY:

My friend is the epitome of the tireless, brainy, activist-leader. She’s involved in complex work in Africa investigating and organizing to stop “land grabs.” Land grabs are when financial groups and corporations swoop into (usually) poor countries and buy up or lease large swaths of fertile land for investment not development. These mostly foreign groups are involved in a variety of industries, with a majority focused on export crops – including palm oil for biofuels.

Investors claim to be improving economies and livelihoods for impoverished communities, but investigations into the benefits are negligible. Worse, the projects often cause great harm to the environment, loss of work and food production and displacement to the people already living there.

It is a very troubling global trend impacting Africa particularly hard. Not a brand new issue, the fight against what’s been dubbed a global “land rush” is underway by environmental, land and human rights activists. Unfortunately the work isn’t unified by a single vision and messaging.

SIDEBAR: My friend’s group works on a shoestring budget, even after impressive wins and courageous strategy that put a halt to the largest land grab in South Sudan and stalled out a huge land grab in Tanzania that would have displaced over 170,000 people. They don’t get the kind of funding name brand nonprofits get, even with the notable strides they’ve made. The money seems to go elsewhere.

BACK:

By chance I stumbled upon a very slick video made by a much, much, larger international group working on land grabs. It shows what appear to be first-world people who suddenly find themselves without homes. Shown with various belongings, like couches on the street and the like, and doing things like brushing their teeth and sleeping (in clip after clip) out-of-doors while a song by Coldplay plays in the background.

Copy appears and states things like: “imagine getting kicked out of your home.”

The problem with the campaign is that it isn’t about the widespread tragedy of poverty and homelessness that occurs in first-world countries every day (like the areas shown in the video) the video is addressing “land grabs” that most often take place in Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea… but no word is said about these places. And nothing points a finger at the corporations and investment groups taking over the land.

There are no answers to who, what, why and where.

The message is: land grabs are bad, you wouldn’t want to be displaced. The secondary message is: aren’t we awesome for being a part of saying it’s bad.

“Drugs are bad, you shouldn’t do drugs.”

And there you go.

I’d like to think we’re more than one up from the Simpsons’ guidance counselor when it comes to this stuff, but sadly others think differently. It’s not a lack of money that is the issue, it’s a lack of creativity and respect for our intelligence.

Just like regular bad advertising.

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