How can we get the defense of Black churches on the gay agenda?

by Granate Sosnoff on 15th July, 2015

gay agenda

The power of the rainbow is in full glow this summer. The significance of the June 26 Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality is concretely meaningful for so many, and symbolically meaningful to everyone.

#LoveWins this summer, but not for everyone and not if you plan to get married in a Black church. Because it is a summer of hate this year as well.

Parallel to the civil rights victory of same-sex marriage is a growing state of emergency of violence against Black people in the U.S. Late this June, eight African-American churches were set on fire in a period of ten days in the South. It is a time of terror.

Race-motivated crimes are at a boiling point in this country. The church burnings, together with the race-hatred murders committed by Dylann Roof, and the ongoing and undocumented police murders and brutality of African Americans is bringing combatting racism to a priority need for any political group concerned about human rights.

A gigantic item is getting checked off for LGBT advocacy groups. Winning same-sex marriage in the highest court of the land is historic, but for many in this community it is also a relief to be able to shift gears and move on.

But there is no published gay agenda. And if there were, it would be created by leadership in organizations who do not always reflect our gender and racial diversity.

One of the largest and most powerful LGBT political groups is Human Rights Campaign, a group recently confirmed through their own commissioned report as riddled with discrimination and diversity problems, and essentially a “white men’s club.”

At this historic moment, where #LoveWins it would be an incredible shift to intentionally put LGBT money and power in support of Black organizing.

Without losing the mission of focusing on LGBT rights and equality… organizations have an opportunity to extend at this time and become real allies in the fight against police brutality, racially-motivated hate crimes, the burning of Black churches and other terrorism targeting Black lives and Black freedom.

Because we are not all white and male and in charge.

In the tradition of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, and so many other Black LGBTs we stand on the shoulders of, the gay political powerbase that’s emerged should find a supportive way to step into this battle and unleash some gay power into this arena in a meaningful way.

Granate Sosnoff is a Bay Area writer who directs Southpaw, a social change communications group supporting advocacy and social justice. @granate


Voices of 3 fast food workers going to Chicago convention

by Granate Sosnoff on 6th August, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 2.40.59 PM

via Oakland Local – Was my honor to talk with these inspiring young people.

Meet three from Oakland who attended a national convention of fast food workers in Chicago with about 1,300 others July 26-27. Their movement for $15-an-hour wages and a union has helped bring national attention to extreme income inequality from a workers’ perspective. Recently, the NAACP announced unanimous endorsement of the $15-an-hour fight. Since fast food workers first walked off their jobs in New York City in November 2012, the campaign has spread across the country and internationally.ronnie2-752x1024


Rhonesha Victor is 24 years old, a skilled photographer, and finishing an AA degree at Laney Community College. She works at a KFC/Taco Bell in Oakland. She was drawn to the fast food movement early on in the organizing in the East Bay and has been involved with the fast food workers for two years. One of her chief motivators is the responsibility she has for elderly parents, who she cares deeply about.

“They don’t have any other people. $15 an hour would allow me to go to the store and buy groceries. Right now I go to the food bank. Both my parents are disabled and haven’t worked for over ten years. I would love to have a car to go to the places we need to go. When the transmissions went out in our cars, we had to sell them … I am no one’s charity case. I work and should be able to support myself.”

When asked about going to the first-ever fast food convention in Chicago, Ronnie said, “I’m excited about going to Chicago specifically to talk with more African-American women involved in this work. I feel really strong about this campaign and believe that we can make a change. It just takes people getting up and doing something.”


Zharia Harper is 18 years old and a recent graduate from Berkeley High. While Zharia was completing school in June, her mom was finishing up a program to become a pharmaceutical technician. The certification hours didn’t allow her mother to work, so Zharia’s $8-an-hour paycheck from McDonald’s had to cover their rent and bills. Of this difficult month, Zharia says “June was hard, it was really something.”

Zharia is a gifted dancer and part of an African dance performance group. She is attending Laney Community College in the fall and plans to transfer to a 4-year university where she can study environmental agriculture and politics. She’s been working at McDonald’s for about a year and became involved with the East Bay Fast Food Workers through a coworker.

Zharia started going to meetings and learning about the struggle for a $15 wage and the right to organize. This all made sense to her, especially given how hard it is for she and her mom (who currently also works for minimum wage pending her certification) to make ends meet.

Zharia is a straight-shooter. She has had one run-in with management at McDonald’s when she tried to do the right thing (after forgetting to clock out) but was threatened with suspension for a week because the work climate is one of “guilty before proven innocent.” In the end, Zharia was vindicated, but it was an eye-opener.

When asked what $15 an hour would mean to her, Zharia said, “$15 would make a huge difference. It would help with college. I could put money aside. I could help my mom. I’m 18 and McDonald’s is my first job, but I’m not this imaginary worker happy with minimum wage. I’m fighting for $15 for now and for the future.”

Going to Chicago is a milestone. It is the first-ever nationwide fast food workers convention and it’s also the first time Zharia has ever been on a plane. She looks forward to hearing the stories of other workers and meeting new people like her who want to change things.


Chris Higgenbotham was born and raised in Oakland. Chris is a recent graduate of Morehouse College, class of 2013 (English Major, concentration in film and journalism) and teaches high school history at Patten Academy, a private school. He’s in the process of getting his teaching credential. Chris is actively involved in the community (volunteers at youth centers, homeless shelters and coaches basketball) and works part-time at McDonald’s in Oakland to supplement his teacher’s pay. He’s worked for McDonald’s while in college and during breaks for a total of 5 years.

When asked why he’s going to Chicago for the convention Chris had this to say: “I’m going to the Chicago fast food worker convention because it’s not just about one city – it’s for all of us working in the industry to have a chance for the American dream. The government, everyone, tells us that we can achieve this dream… but since we don’t get paid right and don’t have sick days, we are highly disadvantaged compared to other industries. We just want the same benefits as others, to strive for ourselves and our families. We’re working just as hard and making sure that McDonald’s has huge profits, so we should benefit more from those profits – because they are ridiculous.”


#Palestine #Gaza

by Granate Sosnoff on 17th July, 2014

Getting slain by the slowness of change.


In 2009 we created this HOPE art for Jewish Voice for Peace after a horrendous round of bombing in Gaza. Since then many more bombings… and now  the current onslaught. The US plays a pivotal role as a chief supplier of arms to Israel. But more and more the voices for justice are overpowering the voices of reactionary defense of Israel. Our growing dissent in the US and a new movement for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel — until compliance with international law — will prevail. The occupation has to end in Palestine. There are fears about anti-semitism and there is real anti-semitism but neither should prevent justice for Palestinians.


Meanwhile Ronald McDonald gets a makeover and a twitter account

by Granate Sosnoff on 27th April, 2014



While Ronald McDonald was getting a makeover, put out this report showing the fast food industry leading the nation in income inequality. Fast food CEOs make about 1,000 times ($26.7 million a year) more than their average workers. This report comes on the heels of numerous “wage theft” cases around the country where individuals were forced to work overtime, through their breaks, or otherwise off-the-clock for no pay. A recent survey showed that close to 90% of fast food workers experience some form of wage theft. Cases have been settled in New York with McDonald’s and Domino’s and there are four cases pending against McDonald’s in the East Bay.

Fast food workers are organizing for fair wages, $15 an hour, and a union.


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.

rmh-2 4





Game Changers in Oakland: East Bay College Fund

by Granate Sosnoff on 14th January, 2014

new 4 square 2

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.”


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
TAGS: , ,

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.

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