Black Atheists of Philadelphia’s HIV Testing Day Outreach

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By Jennifer Taylor

When Kimberly Veal of the Black Freethinkers Radio Show informed the listening audience of a cooperative outreach plan for Black Skeptics Group and Greater Than AIDS to participate in promoting awareness and free on-site testing during National HIV Testing Day in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, DC I was interested in participating in this important event as a representative of the freethought community in Philadelphia.

I received a call from a representative of WeDoBigThings, an organization that fosters educational endeavors in academia and community service within urban environments. He asked if I was able to come to his place and pick him up and drive him to the Liacouras Center on Temple University’s main campus in order to deliver several packages containing both male and female condoms, informational brochures and other supplies that we would need for the National HIV Testing Day event. Once he got into the car he said, “This is really a blessing. Thank god that you came out to assist.” I responded by saying that I do not believe in a god or gods. He then stated, “Well to each his own. I went on to tell him that I organize an atheist group called Black Atheists of Philadelphia and that we care about what is going on in the community. In addition, I mentioned that I was there as a representative of this group and that my intent was to focus on the greater good and service to the community and not to promote my individual world views.

During the course of the day I worked with people from both Temple University’s School of Medicine and Health Center, WeDoBigThings, Greater Than AIDS, iROC and several other volunteers. This was the first time that these organizations had worked together in order to put on an event such as this one. At least 30 volunteers assisted and passed out information to hundreds of students and passersby on the Temple University campus. I assisted with greeting everyone that came through the door of the Liacouras Center and registering people to be tested for HIV. I also helped to escort people back to private rooms in order to be tested. One young man was fearful of being “stuck” I took the time to tell him that I was the first person that was tested earlier, the finger prick was quick and reassured him that he would know the test result in about 10 minutes. I went on to reassure a few others throughout the course of the day and assure them that the testing process was very quick and easy.

In addition, during my time there a woman came up to the table to register and offered a few of us some bible tracts. I refused. When I got back to the table from escorting the woman to a testing room, one of the volunteers mentioned that he thought that my refusal was funny. I informed the volunteers at the table that I have no need for bible tracts and that I am an atheist. One of the ladies that was sitting at the table stated that I was the second atheist that she had ever met. The gentleman at the table went on to ask me if I had ever believed. I went on to explain to him that I did believe at one time; however I no longer do so. I also stated that just as there are many denominations of religions, there are atheists with different world views who have a variety of morals and values. One thing that atheists have in common is that we do not believe in a god or gods. I went on to say that there are many atheists in the community that care about social justice issues, health-related concerns and community service and I happen to be one of many non-believers that are volunteering for this very event in other states including but not limited to: LA, Chicago and DC. I thanked them and said, “I’m glad that we were able to have this dialogue; I am very happy and proud to be working with you all today and I look forward to our [Read more...]

Atheist/Humanist Statement Condemning US Border Crisis & Nativist Attacks on Undocumented Immigrants

border crisis

As many of you are aware there is a growing human rights crisis on the U.S. border vis-a-vis the treatment of unaccompanied minors and their families.  This has emboldened nativist and nationalist activists across the country.  I’ve drafted a brief statement condemning the racist/nativist treatment of refugee and undocumented communities and included it below.  Given the lack of organized atheist/humanist anti-racist response to these issues it’s important atheists/humanists of conscience take a stance. If you’re interested in signing please see this link

STATEMENT

The influx of Central American families and unaccompanied minors at the U.S. border has escalated into a human rights crisis which some have exploited to make xenophobic, racist and nativist attacks against undocumented immigrants and refugees.  Over the past few months, thousands of underage youth fleeing violence and instability in their native countries have been warehoused in substandard Homeland Security facilities.  According to the ACLU some have allegedly suffered abuse at the hands of border officials.  This week, angry protestors stormed and turned away buses full of predominantly women and children detainees in Murrieta, California.  These attacks will only increase, as they are part of a national climate of hatred, hostility and discrimination against undocumented individuals and their families (which are often of mixed citizenship status) and communities.  These attacks have been encouraged by the Republican-controlled House’s refusal to pass a comprehensive humane immigration bill that is informed by the progressive legacy of civil and human rights resistance forged by disenfranchised communities in this country.

As humanists and atheists of conscience, we find this climate of demonization morally and politically reprehensible.  We categorically condemn the anti “illegal” immigrant and anti-human rights vitriol promoted by Republicans like California Congressman Darrell Issa who has called for the Obama administration to rescind its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.  We fundamentally oppose the Obama administration’s escalation of deportation on the grounds that it is inhumane, breaks up families, and exposes both undocumented and citizen youth to sexual exploitation, foster care placement, homelessness and incarceration.

As humanists and atheists of conscience, we strongly support the administration’s DACA policy, as well as regional efforts to ensure equity, access and opportunity for undocumented youth in education and employment.  We support humane efforts to resolve the refugee crisis at the border peacefully—including providing unaccompanied youth with just legal representation, immigration relief and humanitarian protection—while respecting the dignity and human rights of unaccompanied youth and their families.

Recently, the Obama administration expressed a willingness to bypass the obstructionists of the House on immigration reform.  As humanists and atheists of conscience we believe that the administration’s commitment must address the climate of racist demonization that prevails in this country, as well as equitably uphold democratic rights for undocumented and other disenfranchised communities.

 

Initial Signatories:

Maggie Ardiente, The American Humanist Association

Toni Achebe Bell, Black Skeptics Los Angeles

Richard Carrier, Author

Greta Christina, Author/Activist

Rebecca Hensler, Grief Beyond Belief

Sikivu Hutchinson, BSG/Black Skeptics Los Angeles

Yvonne Divans Hutchinson, Educator

Anthony Pinn, Professor and author

Amy Roth, Los Angeles Atheist Women’s Group & Skepchick

Secular Woman

Aishah Shahidah Simmons (spiritualist in solidarity), Documentary filmmaker and professor

Hilaire Sobers, Skeptically Speaking

Frederick Sparks, Black Skeptics Los Angeles

Kimberly Veal, Black Freethinkers Network/POCBF

Donald Wright, Houston Black Non-Believers

 

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/atheists-and-humanists-condemn-human-rights-crisis

Not Just Christian Fascism: Economic Justice & the Hobby Lobby Atrocity

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By Sikivu Hutchinson

The myth of American exceptionalism has always been impervious to data and empirical evidence.  Despite being the richest most prolific jailer in the world, the U.S. is fond of favorably comparing itself to Western Europe with its evil big government social welfare safety net and waning capitalist moxie.  Despite allowing Christian fascists to control its public policy it is fond of flailing Muslim theocracy while touting its status as a beacon of secular democratic rights.  Despite telling American women that they are liberated, post-feminist and beyond all that affirmative action shit, it is beholden to a medievalist court blazing a “new” trail of misogynist jurisprudence.

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is staggering in its criminal disregard for individual liberty, women’s self-determination and economic justice.  It is indicative of how much the political ground has shifted in eight years that the seemingly modest requirement that all employers be mandated to provide birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has emerged as a pitchfork clarion call for the radical right.  As commentator Sally Kohn pointed out recently on CNN, the cost of birth control meds like Plan B is prohibitive for women who are making at or below minimum wage (HL apparently funded Plan B and other contraceptives it disingenuously labels “abortifacients” before the passage of the ACA).  The absence of this coverage will have an immediate impact on their families and day-to-day livelihoods.  But this endorsement of Christian fascists cannot be separated from the broader context of GOP assaults on worker rights and racial justice.  In addition to subverting reproductive rights, the GOP has consistently opposed raising the federal minimum wage and fought tooth and nail against minimum wage increases in state legislatures like California.  SCOTUS’ ruling against a requirement that home care workers in Illinois pay union dues was another salvo in the radical right’s campaign against public employee unions like SEIU.  SEIU’s membership is fifty six percent female and forty percent of color.  Nationwide, working class and low income women of color disproportionately rely on public employee unions to fight for benefits and higher wages.  [Read more...]

Support for Acid Attack Victim: Skepchick Advocacy

Surly Amy over at Skepchick has put out a call for support for a young Ugandan acid attack victim who will be receiving treatment at the Grossman Burn Foundation in Southern California.  The young woman needs a host family and financial aid while she’s receiving treatment over the course of a year.

From Skepchick:

A friend of mine, named Claire Knowlton, does that on a regular basis. Claire is the Board President of The Life You Can Save which is a 501(c)(3) that focuses on effective giving. life you can saveYou can find out more about her fantastic organization and the valuable work they do by clicking here.

Claire recently came to me with a project that her associate, Angie brought to her attention, that she thought Skepchick and Skepchick readers may be able to help with.

A young woman named Christine was attacked with acid in Africa and is coming to America (specifically the Calabasas area of California) to receive restorative surgery. Some back story:

When I worked in Uganda, I met a young Tanzanian woman named Christine
who was the victim of an acid attack in 2012. When I got back to the
US, I started asking around about the possibility of a probono surgery
for her and through the help of a friend of mine, contacted Grossman
Burn Foundation in LA, who agreed to take her case (awesome news!)
Grossman Burn Foundation will take care of all of the medical parts of
her care, but it is up to me and my friend to find a host family for
her while she is here in the US. She will need multiple surgeries
with rehabilitation time in between so they are estimating she will be
here for about one year. (I’m attaching a picture of her so you can
have a sense of the extent of the damage.) In addition to a host
family, we are looking for people who can volunteer to help in
supplementary ways– for example, driving her to appointments, taking
her shopping, invite her out for entertainment, etc.

My question for you is whether you know of anyone in LA who might
consider being a host family or people who can help in the additional
ways I listed above. I don’t know personally know anyone in the area
so am just trying to reach out in whatever ways I can. If it’s
helpful, I’m also happy to provide more information about Christine’s
background.

For more information on how to help check out Skepchick or contact avredeveld03@gmail.com

Wash Post Article: Atheism’s Race Problem & Our Fans

From my article “Atheism Has A Big Race Problem”:

Just as cliché holds that there are no atheists in foxholes, it’s commonly believed that there are no atheists in overwhelmingly Christian black America. African Americans are the most religious ethnic group in the nation; nonbelievers make up just 1 percent of the population.

That’s a problem, and not just because atheists face discrimination in their own communities.

African Americans still live in disproportionately segregated neighborhoods, with few living-wage jobs, parks, accessible public transportation and healthy grocery stores. We make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but nearly 40 percent of its prison and homeless populations. This disparity has only deepened in the Obama age.

Faith-based institutions provide resources to these poor and working-class families. They also fight racial discrimination, offer a foundation for community organizing and create access to social welfare, professional networks and educational resources. These are essential issues, and atheists of color often find themselves allied in these missions.

White atheists have a markedly different agenda. They are, on average,more affluent than the general population. Their children don’t attend overcrowded “dropout mills” where they are criminalized, subjected to “drill and kill” curricula and shunted off to prison, subminimum-wage jobs or chronic unemployment. White organizations go to battle over church/state separation and creationism in schools…More @http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/06/16/blacks-are-even-discriminated-against-by-atheists/

Top Comments from fans:
Hermann W.
6/17/2014 12:45 PM PDT
It’s a good thing Ms. Hutchinson isn’t the founder of Elderly Black Female Lesbian Skeptics with Disabilities, because then she would be even *more* disappointed in the issues the majority of Atheists are trying to address.
MitchBBBBBB
6/17/2014 2:07 PM PDT
This is just ridiculous on so many levels. All the points related to “racist atheists,” such as white affluence and black dropout rates, are not related to a belief system AT ALL. these are just points related to the two races. The fact that white people are more affluent has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they believe in a god. Secondly, the idea that black atheists must make separatist groups because they are unequal makes NO sense because their inequality doesn’t begin in the community of atheism. In that community, they are treated exactly the same as white people. This article is 100% bogus.
JohnD16
6/17/2014 12:19 PM PDT
Atheism does not have a race problem. I just happen to be white and I happen to be an atheist. If I choose to support atheist organizations it is because they are pursuing things that are related to theism or atheism.

If I wish to support organizations that fight racism I will do this independent of atheism. While many “isms” may be worthy, they should be supported independent of any kind of atheist organizations…. this includes “feminism, racism, environmentalism, vegetarianism” etc, etc, etc…..

Typical atheist political topics might include, separation of church and state, religious tests for political office, teaching religion as science in school. Please notice…. all of these things are related to theism!

Bridging the STEM Divide Youth Conference & White Atheist STEM Hypocrites

STEM_conference

Do atheists care about STEM literacy and education as anything other than a gotcha debate point for religionists? In numerous articles about racism in STEM I’ve made the following point: “While Neil D.G. Tyson is widely revered as an icon of science literacy in humanist and atheist circles, there has been little to no humanist or atheist critique of the legacy of segregation that informs STEM inequities” nor are there any major atheist organizations that seek to address these issues through STEM programming or youth leadership development.  In fact, last year Black Skeptics approached one of the leading “science n’ reason” spewing atheist organizations about sponsoring a STEM immersion program and scholarship opportunities for youth of color interested in STEM but it was no dice.

Interestingly, now we have (yet another)  virtually lily white secular science organization, the humbly titled “Global Secular Council”, comprised of the “the world’s great minds” who place “precedence on science and reason”, who will lead us third world-in-the-first-world barbarians to the frontiers of enlightenment.

On September 13, the Level Playing Field Institute, the Women’s Leadership Project (sponsored by BS) and several other organizations will hold a youth conference on STEM fields, careers and academic disciplines at the University of Southern California. The conference is specifically designed to introduce youth of color to STEM careers, professionals and academics as well as address some of the following egregious stats:

  • According to the Washington D.C.-based Stem Connector group, overall interest in STEM has declined among African American high school students and female students of all ethnicities. This decline is especially pronounced in engineering and technology majors and careers
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “The percentage of African-Americans earning STEM degrees has fallen during the last decade. In 2009, they received just 7 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, 4 percent of master’s degrees, and 2 percent of PhDs”
  • In a typical year, only 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of (of all genders) receive Ph.D.’s in physics
  • High poverty schools in predominantly African American and Latino communities have fewer “elite” Advanced Placement science courses than do schools in affluent communities
  • African Americans are less than 1% of the faculty at Cal Tech and 4% of the faculty at MIT
  • Silicon Valley giant Google’s 46,000 plus workforce is 70% men, 30% women, 61% white, 30% Asian, 3% Latino and 2% black — reflecting the overall lack of diversity in SV

As Level Playing Field founder Freada Kapor Klein notes in a recent L.A. Times article on diversity in SV, “Silicon Valley’s obsession with meritocracy is delusional and aspirational and not a statement of how it really operates,” she said. “Unless someone wants to posit that intelligence is not evenly distributed across genders and race, there has to be some systematic explanation for what these numbers look like.”

Insert the Global Secular Institute, rinse, upchuck, repeat.

Black Atheists Stand in Solidarity with Week of Action for Marissa Alexander

marissa alexander week of action
To raise awareness about mass incarceration and domestic violence, Black atheist groups will participate in the Mother’s Day Week of Action for Marissa Alexander from May 9th through 18th. Alexander is a Florida mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for protecting herself against her abusive ex-spouse in 2012. In November 2013 Alexander was released on bond and is currently under house arrest awaiting a new trial, which is set for July 2014. Florida prosecutor Angela Corey is now seeking a 60-year sentence for Alexander.

Alexander’s case exemplifies the disproportionate burden criminalization, domestic violence and mandatory minimum sentencing has on African American women and communities of color. According to the Sentencing Project, the lifetime likelihood of incarceration for Black women is 1 in 19; versus 1 in 118 for white women. The Black Skeptics Group of Los Angeles and Chicago, in addition to the Chocolate City Skeptics, will participate in fundraising, letter writing and other outreach to increase awareness of the impact of prison pipelining on communities of color.

About Us: The Black Skeptics Group (BSG) is a 501c3 organization provides resources, education and outreach to non-believers of color. BSG partners with community-based organizations across the nation on projects that promote social justice and humanism.

Bring Back Our Girls: May 5th Protests/Events

Bring Back Our Girls demonstration:
We ask you to join on on May 5th, 2014 at 6pm, on the corner of Crenshaw Blvd and King Blvd (by the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall) to stand in solidarity. These girls are daughters, sisters, and friends and we need to show them that we care and will not turn a blind eye towards them.

Please wear the color red, and wear your gele if you have one.
Location: King Blvd & Crenshaw in South Los Angeles
Time: 6pm PST

Black Freethinkers Podcast: Crisis in Nigeria with Anthea Butler (Penn U), Kamela Heyward-Rotimi (Duke U) and Teka Lark-Fleming (Morningside Park Chronicle)
Time: 5pm PST

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blackfreethinkers/2014/05/06/bring-our-girls-home-crisis-in-nigeria

Passionate Present: Protecting Black Girlhood with bell hooks & Salamishah Tillet
Location: Eugene Lang College, New School for Social Research, NYC
Time: 4pm EST

https://www.facebook.com/events/242391872612165/?ref=22

Bring Back Our Girls: African Agency & the Kidnapping of Nigerian School Girls

In the post, “Everyone is an Expert on Nigeria Now” blogger Atane discusses African political agency and why Western takes on the recent kidnapping of Nigerian school girls in Chibok by Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram reek of paternalism:

1. After the news broke that some of the kidnapped girls had been taken across the border into Cameroon and Chad, and some might have been forced into marriage, one of the most disgusting things I read was from someone going on about “Nigerian culture”. This person went on to say that this is normal in Nigeria. Yes, they were serious. If it isn’t clear by now, no it isn’t normal in Nigeria to storm schools with guns and kidnap young girls, take them deep into the bush, hold them against their will, rape them and then traffic them into neighboring countries as your new forced teen brides. WTF?

How can anyone insinuate that this is “Nigerian culture”? I’m sure people in Iraq and Afghanistan and those from Iraq and Afghanistan in the US were constantly in a state of uneasiness and anger by the outright lies propagated about their country by some westerners. I understand this feeling now. This is where I am at the moment. I’m angry. These people saying these awful things don’t understand that they are dealing with human lives. These are people. Your lies and distortion has an affect on public perception and day to day life. Ignorant people also imbibe this nonsense and it will shape their beliefs and ideology about people they don’t know and places they have never been. It’s why my former neighbor who is a Sikh had to prop up a US flag after 9/11, because he wears a turban and didn’t want to be assaulted by the roving gangs of white dudebros who wanted to exact revenge on any brown person they saw. The flag didn’t help him because he was still accosted and harassed. His store was vandalized several times.

2. Stop using Nigeria as a stepping stone for your talking points…More @ http://atane.tumblr.com/post/84316429194/everyone-is-an-expert-on-nigeria-now

The Sterling Shuffle: Unpacking White Jewish Racism

sterling
By Sikivu Hutchinson

Every Sunday for the past several years the mug of real estate mogul and L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling has commanded prime ad space in the Los Angeles Times. Touting Sterling’s philanthropy, these ads often feature grinning photos of prominent African American politicians, religious leaders and other glad-handing public figures who’ve received hefty donations from his financial empire. After TMZ revealed a recording of Sterling’s racist comments about black people to girlfriend V. Stiviano, President Obama and other dignitaries were swift to condemn him. On Monday it was “shockingly” revealed that Sterling, who is Jewish, went the extra mile with his racism in the recording, contending that “the blacks are treated like dogs” in Israel to Stiviano. Responding to her criticism of this claim, Sterling reiterated that “the black Jews” are “less than” white Jews and that that is the way it should be.

Anti-black racism among white Jewish people is a seldom discussed, controversial aspect of the complicated arc of black-Jewish relations in the U.S. Yet, Sterling’s comments are noteworthy because they not only highlight the white supremacist bent of Israeli anti-African sentiment but the social construction of Jewish whiteness. Echoing rancher Cliven Bundy’s recent references to blacks thriving under slavery, Sterling expressed the paternalistic view that he “supports” blacks on the team by giving them clothes, houses and cars. He then blasts Stiviano for comparing anti-black racism and discrimination to the Jewish Holocaust.

Implicit in this shutdown is the notion that Jewish suffering under the Holocaust precludes consideration of how white Jews have benefited from institutional and systemic racism.
The illusion of lockstep black-Jewish solidarity on liberal political coalition-building has long masked the reality of white Jewish privilege and investment in white supremacy. This is especially relevant to Sterling (who tellingly changed his name from Tokowitz to the more Anglicized Sterling) because he is a multi-millionaire developer who has also been the subject of two federal racial discrimination lawsuits involving tenants of color. In her book How Jews Became White Folks, Karen Brodkin notes that Jews contrasted themselves with the specter of a “mythic blackness”. Deeply ingrained racial stereotypes of shiftless, lazy, culturally pathological and mentally enslaved blacks—versus “hard working” immigrants streaming through Ellis Island in search of opportunity—have always been a subtext of the American dream. Hence, “mythic blackness” implicitly signified social dysfunction and downward mobility—i.e., the antithesis of American notions of rugged individualism and bootstraps uplift. This divide allowed Jewish, Irish and other reviled, provisionally white ethnic immigrants to highlight and capitalize on their (relative) whiteness. As Salomon Gruenwald notes in a review of Brodkin’s book, “Jews did not become white because they succeeded in spite of racism, rather, they succeeded because of white racism. Economic and social shifts following WWII reconfigured whiteness in such a way as to allow them—particularly Jewish men—the entitlements that being white brought (like the G.I. Bill and access to the suburbs).”

The long term economic legacy of these entitlements has been amplified in the post-civil rights era. African Americans of all income levels are hyper-segregated in urban communities heavily impacted by foreclosure, joblessness, predatory lending, subpar schools, racist policing and mass incarceration. And, relative to white working class homeowners, even the most wealthy African Americans are segregated into neighborhoods that have high poverty rates. As the most segregated racial group in Los Angeles, the socioeconomic divide between blacks and white Jews couldn’t be more profound. Like other European Americans in the post-World War II era, Jews took advantage of New Deal FHA, VA and GI Bill loans (which were denied to African Americans) to flee South L.A. and East L.A. neighborhoods and move to wealthier enclaves in West L.A. and the Valley. Once upon a time, predominantly Mexican American Boyle Heights was a thriving Jewish enclave. New Deal era affirmative action policies for white people, coupled with the Great Migration of African Americans from the South, facilitated white Jewish upward mobility and assimilation. As Ryan Reft writes on the transformation of Boyle Heights, “the Great Migration led others to rewrite the rules that kept whites separated from non-whites. As a result, definitions of whiteness shifted. Jews now found themselves increasingly included as part of the metropolitan area’s…conception of whiteness, and many took advantage of new housing opportunities.”

Sterling’s racist references to shiftless black untouchables are simply yet another snapshot of how caste, ethnicity and the bootstraps mythology play out in “post-racial” America. And in a country in which the racial wealth gap is most powerfully reflected in corporate real estate and apartheid-level access to private space people of color in particular shouldn’t be shocked or surprised.