Radical Humanists in the Hood: Moving Social Justice 2014

CFI parking lot Kim Jenn Darren J

Black Skeptics Chicago, BSLA, Chocolate City Skeptics & Black Atheists of Philadelphia represent

Black Church LGBTQ

“Confronting Homophobia & Transphobia” in the Black Church w/Jenn Taylor, Raina Rhoades, Rev M. Moises & Teka Lark Fleming

By Sikivu Hutchinson

It was fitting that our recent Moving Social Justice conference in Los Angeles coincided with the Week of Resistance in Ferguson and a Week of Action against school push-out of black and brown youth.  In the midst of massive mobilizations around state violence and police terrorism much ink has been spilled over whether or not social justice “conforms” to atheist orthodoxy.  The majority of the naysayers have been white dudebros (and a few status quo POCs) shrieking from their perches of privilege about the corruption of atheism by people of color and white allies who give a fuck about the deepening socioeconomic, racial and gender divide in the imperialist U.S.  With the GOP potentially poised to take over the Senate and further cement its far right neoliberal anti-human rights agenda for generations to come (with the help of corporate Dems) the political stakes for communities of color couldn’t be higher.  Given this climate, the tantrums of first world atheist “purists” are not surprising.  When black people talk about the connection between racist prison pipelining and Jim Crow in STEM education of course white atheists want to deflect with how all black folk need is a trip to Darwin Day.  For the first time atheist and humanist activists of color are getting organized around an agenda that isn’t all about religion bashing and caricaturing black and Latino believers.  This new brand of activist refuses to let the dudebros and POC apologists do their colorblind shuck and jive in the name of some fake atheist solidarity.

That said, Moving Social Justice was a beautiful thing.  It was a multiethnic, multi-regional, intergenerational gathering of atheists and religious allies of color who live, work in and/or identify with “the hood” and POC legacies of resistance struggle.  For the first time ever racial justice—without apology or accommodation to white people’s let’s-ghettoize-this-into-a-diversity-panel reflex—was the focal point of an atheist-humanist conference.

BSLA's Daniel Myatt w/Claremont & Pitzer Colleges students

BSLA’s Daniel Myatt w/Claremont & Pitzer Colleges students

Sponsored by the People of Color Beyond Faith network, Black Skeptics Group, African Americans for Humanism, CFI and the Secular Student Alliance, the conference spotlighted the intersection of secular humanism, social justice activism and interfaith coalition building.  The event was emceed by hip hop artist and Chocolate City Skeptics member MC Brooks. It kicked off with a panel on “Confronting Homophobia and Transphobia in the Black Church” moderated by Teka-Lark Fleming of the Morningside Park Chronicle, the discussion featured Raina Rhoades of Chocolate City Skeptics, Jenn Taylor of Black Atheists of Philadelphia and Reverend Meredith Moises.  The panelist critiqued the culture of religious abuse, black male heterosexism, corruption and the “quelling of unrest” in Ferguson by some black churches.  During the “LGBTQ Atheists of Color and Social Justice” panel, Reverend Meredith Moise, a practicing Buddhist and spiritual humanist, captured the sentiment of the event when she said “I don’t live in the (white) gay ghettoes I live in the hood and I roll with ya’ll.”  Skillfully moderated by Black Freethinkers founder Kimberly Veal, the panel debunked mainstream myths and stereotypes about interracial queer solidarity in an age of rigid segregation and police state violence.  Veal informed the audience that recent CDC grants for HIV/AIDS prevention shafted black organizations.  Panelists Debbie Goddard and A.J. Johnson drew comparisons between white atheists’ fixation on their “underdog” status and that of white gay men.  All four women slammed the hypocrisy of mainstream gay and lesbian emphasis on marriage equality while queer and trans people of color deal with epidemic rates of HIV/AIDS contraction, homelessness, joblessness and anti-trans violence (trans people of color have the highest rates of violent assault among trans communities).

LGBTQ Atheists of Color w/M. Moises, AJ Johnson, Debbie Goddard & Kim Veal

LGBTQ Atheists of Color w/M. Moises, AJ Johnson, Debbie Goddard & Kim Veal

Queer white youth aren’t disproportionately bounced out of school or sent to prison for minor infractions.  Yet these disparities are reflected in the high rates of criminalization of queer, trans and straight youth of color.  At the schools I work at the majority of those who are being suspended, arrested and shipped off campus are African American.  A few months ago Black Skeptics joined the Dignity in Schools campaign, a national coalition to redress the push-out regime in public schools.  During the conference, a panel entitled “Busting the School-to-Prison Pipeline” featured activists from three leading L.A.-based juvenile justice and prisoner advocacy organizations.  Moderated by Thandisizwe Chimurenga, author of No Doubt: The Murder(s) of Oscar Grant, the panel highlighted the destructive impact of mass incarceration on black and Latino communities nationwide.  Tanisha Denard from the Youth Justice Coalition became an activist after being briefly incarcerated for truancy tickets as a student in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  The Dignity and Power Coalition’s Mark Anthony discussed how his organization has spearheaded the effort to create a civilian review board with the power to curb rampant inmate abuse in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

Moving out of the insular world of social media and the Internet, the “#beyondsolidarityisforwhitewomen: Feminism(s) of Color” panel highlighted the work of L.A.-based feminist organizers from working class communities of color.  All of the women on the panel spoke of the need for intersectional alliances and organizing strategies that recognize the complexities of class, geography, sexuality and gender in one of the most segregated regions in the U.S.  Organizer Yolanda Alaniz of the socialist organization Radical Women spoke of the importance of interracial labor activism in a neoliberal economy where public employee unions—many of which are dominated by women of color members—are being gutted and demonized.  There was heated discussion about the implications of respectability politics for black women.  Moderator Angela Plaid of The Feminist Wire and Nourbese Flint of Black Women for Wellness commented that black women have always been constructed as sexually promiscuous “hos” and that the monomaniacal focus on sex-positivity by some white feminists is irrelevant for feminists of color fighting against

Feminisms of Color w/Yolanda Alaniz, Marlene Montanez, Heina D., Nourbese F, & Andrea Plaid

Feminisms of Color w/Yolanda Alaniz, Marlene Montanez, Heina Dadabhoy, Nourbese Flint, & Andrea Plaid

criminalization and economic disenfranchisement in militarized communities.  Considering schisms between black and Latino communities over immigration, jobs and language, the panelists also stressed the need to complicate mainstream views of undocumented communities due to the frequent exclusion of African and Asian immigrants from liberal-progressive campaigns for immigrant rights.  Freethought Blogs writer Heina Dadabhoy reflected on being socialized into the dominant culture’s divisive model minority myth which is based on the stereotype that Asian Americans bootstrapped their way to success in contrast to “less high-achieving” African Americans and Latinos.  Panelists also discussed the media’s portrayal of the Ray Rice case vis-à-vis how sexist misogynist condemnations of Janae Rice intersected with racial stereotypes about black male violence.

In a panel entitled “What’s Race Got to Do With It?” six atheists of color discussed the pros and cons of “inclusivity” versus “accommodation” as well as racism and intersectionality in the atheist movement.  Much of the panel unpacked the constant pressure people of color feel to educate “well-meaning” white people about their investment in racism, white privilege and white supremacy.  Panelists Georgina Capetillo of Secular Common Ground and Frank Anderson of Black Skeptics Chicago acknowledged the insidiousness of white privilege in the movement but argued that white allies need to be actively engaged.  Raina Rhoades, Anthony Pinn of Rice University and Donald Wright of the Houston Black Non-Believers contended that it was incumbent upon white people to educate themselves and stop expecting people of color to play the role of native informant.  Moderator Daniel Myatt of Black Skeptics Los Angeles asked panelists to evaluate the impact of secular organizations of color on social justice versus that of black churches.  Wright argued that, given the relative newness and scarcity of secular POC social justice organizations, it remains to be seen what impact they will have.

Racism & Intersectionality w/Frank Anderson, Georgina Capetillo, Sergio Ortega, Donald Wright & Tony Pinn

Racism & Intersectionality w/Frank Anderson, Georgina Capetillo, Sergio Ortega, Donald Wright,Tony Pinn & Daniel Myatt

This is an important caveat as the backlash against anti-racist intersectional atheism continues and white atheist organizations reveal themselves to be less interested in POC communities than “minority” dollars and “minority” faces at conferences.  Next year’s conference will be held in Houston, Texas.

MC Brooks closes with original work

MC Brooks closes with original work

Angie’s Legacy Fund

I knew Angelina Lattice Collier for a brief moment in time. She was beautiful, well-spoken, highly intelligent, and dedicated to truth. Above all, though, she was fiercely devoted to her three children, Quantance, Robyn, and Jaden. Amazingly, she was able to express complex, difficult, and controversial concepts and opinions without a hint of arrogance or condescension; rare talent.

 

When I learned of Angie’s death in April at the hands of her husband, who subsequently committed suicide, I was shocked and soon discovered that she suffered in silence -protecting her abuser’s reputation and standing in the community- while trying to preserve his relationships with his children. She cared for him and wanted him to seek help for his anger issues.

 

Despite her knowledge of the plight of domestic violence victims and the futility of their efforts to help their abusers, Angie fell into the same cycle: sacrificing her own well-being to save him from himself. Even after deciding to divorce him, she did him the undeserved courtesy of informing him of her intentions. This was a deadly error.

 

I miss her. Just as many others do. We are all left with a hole in our hearts that will never be filled. But it is the duty of the living to carry on the legacy of the fallen. We cannot simply offer platitudes of condolences and move on with our lives. Not when there are three children left orphaned in foster care. Angie’s children will find a permanent home soon, but they will never have their mother again. This week, on August 19th, Angelina’s youngest child, Jaden, turned two years old. Our hearts are heavy at the knowledge that he won’t remember Angelina and how wonderful she was. He’ll never understand what a spectacular person she was.

 

Angie’s Legacy Fund was conceived by Émelyne Museaux, Raquelle Rodriguez and I as a way to help these children get something else that they will need soon: an education. We have pledged ourselves to funding a trust for the education of Angie’s children. We cannot bring Angelina back from the dead, but we can pick up where she left off to see that they are cared for. Angie was the sort of person who would have championed such a cause and tried to rally the support of the secular community if she had learned of such a case. So now we do this in her honour, in her memory, and to try to better the lives of her children. Your support of our efforts is needed and much appreciated.

 

Thank you,

 

Shoeresh Coppage

 

You can donate directly to the Angie’s Legacy Fund here.  You can also purchase a mens or womens tshirt with the proceeds going to the Angie’s Legacy Fund.

Brave New Face of Humanism: A Gathering of Atheists, Freethinkers & Humanists of Color

Brave New Face of Humanism

“What is secularism without social justice in a nation where whites have over 20 times the wealth of people of color & our children are being pipelined into prisons?”

Beyond Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris &Toxic Myths of postracial colorblindness

Moving Social Justice Conference

Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles

October 11-12th

A gathering of freethinkers, atheists & humanists of color on the issues of our times

People of Color Beyond Faith/Black Skeptics Group

MSJ_Photo_flyer

STEM Divide Youth Conference Features Amazing Scientists of Color

 

 

 

STEM Conf 2014 FINAL-page-0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When youth of color see scientists, mathematicians and engineers depicted in the media they rarely see people who look like them.  On Saturday, September 13th, the Level Playing Field Institute is co-hosting Bridging the STEM Divide, a mini STEM conference (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) for over 100 high school students from the South LA, Inglewood and Crenshaw neighborhoods at the University of Southern California. The goal of the conference is to demystify STEM majors and careers for students of color, as well as expose students to STEM networking opportunities, scholarships, college preparation resources, and free to low-cost programs in Los Angeles. With over 20 faculty, students and professionals of color volunteering during the event, the conference is designed to support, motivate, and empower low income students of color to pursue STEM studies & careers at four year universities and beyond. Bridging the STEM Divide will be held at Stauffer Science Lecture Hall on USC’s main campus.  The conference will feature esteemed USC Physics professor Dr. Clifford Johnson as keynote speaker.  The Women’s Leadership Project is one of the lead organizers.

Featured speakers include:

Dr. Stacey Finley, USC Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Jarvis Sulcer, President LPFI, Nuclear Science & Engineering

Brandon Bell, Microbiology, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Devin Waller, Planetary Geology, California Science Center

Black Women Matter: Support Petition to Remove Rapist Cop

Change.org Petition

Oklahoma City Police officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw has been charged with 16 counts of first degree rape, sexual battery, indecent exposure, stalking, forcible oral sodomy and burglary against seven African American female victims. On September 5th Oklahoma County District Judge Timothy Henderson lowered Holtzclaw’s bail from $5 million to $500,000. Holtzclaw was released Friday after posting a cash bond and will wear a GPS monitor until his trial hearing on September 18th. Holtzclaw is a former football player and the son of a longtime city police officer. He is currently on paid leave. The victims in this case were all black women between the age of 34-58, living in predominantly poor and working class African American communities in Oklahoma’s City Northeast side. Holtzclaw stalked most of these women and capitalized on their fear of arrest to exploit, sexually assault and intimidate them. He manipulated the racist/sexist stereotype of black women as hypersexual, socially expendable prostitutes in order to keep them silent:

“According to a probable cause affidavit included in the charging documents, Holtzclaw stopped a woman walking in the area of Northeast 14th and Jordan on April 24. He located a crack pipe in her property. Instead of arresting her he allegedly took her home, forced her to perform oral sex and then raped her, making the statement, ‘This is better than the county,’ referring to the jail.

Speaking of her client’s reluctance to report the crime, one of the victim’s attorneys stated,“She was so afraid that no one was going to believe her because she’s African-American.”

This campaign of sexual terrorism by a law enforcement officer is similar to the institutional sexual assault and harassment of black women and girls during the Jim Crow era. The recent beating of Marlene Pinnock, a middle-aged African American homeless woman, by a California Highway Patrol officer, and police violence against black women in cities like New York continue to amplify the mistreatment of black women by law enforcement. Shortly after Holtzclaw’s indictment, hundreds of his supporters launched a Go Fund Me campaign (which has since been taken down) and a Facebook page to raise money for his defense and clear his “good name”. They also created a special Twitter hashtag called #FreetheClaw. Non-blacks who commit criminal acts against black victims routinely receive more lenient sentences than when the assailant is African American and the victim is white. Black women have some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the nation. We demand just and equitable treatment of the victims, full prosecution of these heinous acts of sexual violence and immediate removal of Holtzclaw from the Oklahoma City PD.

SSA Travel Grants to “Moving Social Justice” Conference

The Secular Student Association is offering travel grants to students wishing to attend our October “Moving Social Justice” conference in Los Angeles. This the first ever atheist of color conference on social justice and culturally relevant humanism and will feature panels & presentations from secular, atheist/humanist and faith-based community activists on the following:

Youth leadership & busting prison pipelining
Feminism(s) of Color & Intersectional community activism
Racism in the atheist movement and the myth of colorblindness
Confronting homophobia & transphobia in the Black Church
Culturally relevant humanism: what is it and why do we need it?
LGBTQ/Queer atheists of color and social justice

Applications available at: https://www.secularstudents.org/node/5918
Registration is open at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/moving-social-justice-conference-tickets-12231333247.
Find more information at https://www.facebook.com/events/259183107587755/.

This grant application is available to students in the US only.

Black Skeptics/POCBF Statement on Ferguson & Our Hate Mail

Black Skeptics Group & People of Color Beyond Faith condemn the actions of Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. We would like to extend our condolences and well wishes to the family and friends of Michael Brown, and we stand in solidarity with the protestors in Ferguson and elsewhere. Given the recent events in Ferguson it is imperative that systemic inequalities pertaining to policing and white supremacist policies are closely examined and redressed. We are very concerned about the militarized response of police to peaceful protests from those who seek justice for communities that have had a long history of police suppression, racial segregation and discrimination. We at Black Skeptics Group recognize that communities of color are over-policed and underserved.  We join the community in calling for a timely and transparent investigation into Brown’s death as well as potential criminal prosecution of Officer Wilson.

 

Carl Roberts
0 approved
tbxxx@lycos.com
96.234.223.176
Submitted on 2014/08/21 at 9:43 pm | In reply to

Keep on killing each other you Black racist.

 

The Moeller
0 approved
themoeller@gmail.com
166.137.89.156
Submitted on 2014/08/25 at 5:31 pm

Stop making this a racial issue. You blacks riot before getting any facts. If you want to be taken seriously, start acting like a human being. No doubt we need to address these killings, but to turn this into a racial issue, which is what you always do, is absurd. I just fired a man, black man, for showing up to work drunk, stealing money from my drawers, and giving away hotel rooms. He claimed it is because he’s black. Get over yourselves.

 

Confederate Cash
0 approved

loyal.infidel@Gmail.com
66.87.120.166
Most niggers know, as stupid as tbey are, that your long winded mouthy hitrionics are pure anal sucking antics.
Ask any useless nigger in the South, and there are millions, what they would be today, if they didnt have the White Privilege of being the descendants of hard working slaves. Niggers today dint have a clue, and neither do you siviku, of what an hobest days work is. Thats niggers cannot live with out free schools, healthcare, abortions and food stamps.

Nat’l Moment of Silence for Victims of Police Terrorism

NMOS

 

 

“Come out on Thursday, August 14, 4 PM PST/7pm EST to join us for a national vigil to commemorate all those who have become victims of police brutality and terrorism in the US. These vigils will happen simultaneously around the country to seer the names of those slain by the state into the national conscience.

These are peaceful gatherings of friends in the same location to pay respects to victims. You’re allowed to gather together in small groups, peacefully… If you encounter police and are asked what you’re doing, inform them that you and your friends are gathering to remember friends of yours that passed away. If they ask you to move along, you can ask why they are requesting it and when it became against the law for friends to gather together in public.”

List of cities and locations can be found here

 

In Solidarity w/Ferguson sick of your colorblind bullshit

White America:

Michael Brown.

The young man was on his way to college the next day.

Yet he was brutally executed by fascist police state thugs in occupied territory and left to bleed in the street like a dog.

He did everything that white America claimed he should do to keep from being branded a savage and was murdered in cold blood.

White people this will never ever happen to your children.  White women this will never (see below) ever happen to your little girls.

Don’t come on here with any racist colorblind bullshit platitudes.

Michael Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aiyanna Jones

Aiyanna Jones

 

Aiyanna Jones, murdered for sleeping while black, Detroit PD, 2010

 

 

 

 

Margaret MitchellMargaret Mitchell, murdered for walking while black, LAPD 1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyisha Miller

Tyisha Miller, murdered for being incapacitated while black, Riverside, CA PD 1998

BSLA’s 2014 First in the Family Humanist Scholars!

High dropout and push-out rates, mass incarceration, skyrocketing college fees, diminishing financial aid opportunities, lack of mentors, first in the family status:  these barriers to college access are especially acute for undocumented, homeless, foster care and LGBTQ youth of color.

Black Skeptics Los Angeles proudly announces our 2014 First in the Family Humanist scholars and thanks all the generous donors* who made these awards possible.  Scholarship awards will be given on August 16th  at CFI Los Angeles.  We extend special thanks to Atheists United and the Freedom from Religion Foundation who generously gave $1000 each.

Elizabeth Hernandez, CSU Monterey Bay (Gardena HS)

Elizabeth Hernandez

Elizabeth Hernandez

Elizabeth is a foster care youth and has been active in Gardena’s Gay/Straight Alliance, Students Against Destructive Decisions and the Cinco De Mayo committee which helps Mexican American women go to college.

With a lack of education my classmates have low self-esteem…they target who they feel are the ‘weak’ students, including special needs students, homosexual students, even students of the same ethnicity…(So) Being a humanist is easy for me through supporting our GSA and being vice president of the SADS group to stop violence and create a safe environment for everyone on campus.”

 

 

Tiare Hill, El Camino College (Gardena HS)

Tiare Hill

Tiare Hill

Tiare is a foster care youth and a member of the Women’s Leadership Project and aspires to be a journalist.

“Through the things I have seen in my community there are numerous problems in our criminal justice system that must change. It is known to a lot of people that the police are racist against African Americans.  I would like to become a television news anchor who reports on issues like these and government policy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom From Religion Scholarship Award:

Kelvin Manjarrez, El Camino College (Gardena HS)

Kelvin Manjarrez

Kelvin Manjarrez

Kelvin has been a volunteer for Reading Partners Los Angeles and a translator in the 2014 primary election.  He identifies as an atheist and aspires to be an English professor.

I have always been passionate about our educational system.  A wise man once said that: ‘Humanity’s greatest fear is the unknown’.  This accounts for contrived religions of all sorts, a simple explanation to the unexplained…Citizens who are better educated can better distinguish between right and wrong.  This, in turn, generates understanding and unity amongst different groups of people who would have otherwise segregated, fought and killed one another.  It is of no coincidence that some of the brightest minds in history have been social activists as well as advocates for a better pedagogical system: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Neil Degrasse Tyson, just to name a few.”

 

Returning Scholars: Mini-scholarships for outstanding community service

Jamion Allen, El Camino College (Washington Prep HS)

Jamion Allen, BSLA scholar

Jamion Allen, BSLA scholar

 

“The Black Skeptics first in the family scholarship had a big effect on my first year of college coming from an inner city neighborhood in Los Angeles.  I’m from a single parent home and by receiving this scholarship I was able to pay for books, scantrons and extra-curricular items and succeed in my first two semesters…I think there would be a great impact if more students could receive this scholarship.”

 

 

 

 

Hugo Cervantes, UC Riverside (King-Drew Med Magnet)

Hugo Cervantes

Hugo Cervantes speaks at Atheists United

“My first year at UCR is finally over and I’m glad that I have still been in contact with you Ms. Hutchinson.  You are extremely inspiring to me to be as dedicated to marginalized youth as I pursue my own dreams and hope to do the same as you one day. My first year was fantastic! I’m planning to remain an English major and double major in Art History. I’m ecstatic to say that I will be assisting Professor Jennifer Doyle in an art project with Noa Bustamante in the fall. Professor Doyle has offered me a volunteering position at “Human Resources, HRLA’ for the summer. So it’s exciting that this summer I will be able to gain some gallery/museum experience so for next year I can apply to the bigger museums in the city. I know I wouldn’t have been able to be exposed to these opportunities if I hadn’t attended UCR and that was made possible by the First in the Family scholarship.”

 

 

 

*Donor List & Community Supporters

Atheists United

Freedom from Religion Foundation

D. Frederick Sparks

Amelia Pergl

Helen Kahn

Donald Wright

Cheryl Purnell

Mollie Knute

Bethany Monsted

CW Westlund

Perde Williams

Lachlan Monsted

Daremy Butler

T Battistelli

Quantheory

Rebecca Watson

Platypus1

SD Theiss

Michelle Kothe

Reality Enthusiast

Alvin Greene III

Veronica Berglyd Olsen

JE Beck

Kelsey Hazzard

Derrick Pates

Matthew Love

Nicole Eveland

Don Sisler

Steve Schlosnagle

Jennifer Taylor

Greta Christina