#Afterthoughts: what disenfranchisement does

Friends share #afterthoughts in the days following #Ferguson and #EricGarner.

new age of slavery flag

Analilia Mejía, on Facebook

Analilia Mejia
07 Dec 2014 at 08:42
Watching a White Christmas for the first time this morning and all I can think of is that this exemplifies the economic disadvantage forced on people of color.. There are no black soldiers in the 151 Division, in fact no black characters asides for the AA car porter (whom at the time would have been discriminated against in employment, advancement and pay). All of the happy GI’s who created comfortable lives (enough to drop everything and head to Vermont) did so through their access to higher Ed, a growth in professional jobs and their ability to build equity in a newly created suburbia. Blissfully ignorant (or directly complicit) to the denial of the same benefit to AA GI’s. Redlining prevented home purchases and neighborhood covenants kept them out of suburbia (and its schools). Racism denied (and denies) equal access and advancement into more lucrative jobs and careers. The American Legion and VFW routinely denied claims of African Americans in pursuit of higher education, and those who did access it where barred by racist policies in many universities, or limited to increasingly strained HBCU’s and even then faced the hurdles of an inferior preparation by Jim Crow segregated AND unequal k-12 schools.. This all led to a wealth gap passed on through generations. Your comforts today are DIRECTLY influenced by your grandparents owning a home, generations of superior education impacts how well YOU did (much less if you went). This inequity is exacerbated today by the foreclosure crisis that disproportionately dismantles POC communities thanks to predatory lending. All of this didn’t happen centuries ago and hence we are past it. This systemic racism has tentacles that reach back into times of slavery, peonage re-enslavement, Jim Crow, the struggles of the civil rights era and into today with the subsequent dismantling of that dream through continued inequity in education, mass incarceration, an unjust justice system to name a few.. But much like those soldiers and Bing in that movie, most of white America is OBLIVIOUS to all of this. Insulated or intentionally blind. Lucky them, they get to dream about a White Christmas while black mothers are mourning their sons and WE continue to lose our belief in the system this holiday season…

Read more about the New Age of Slavery flag pictured above with its creator, Patrick Campbell. Patrick created this work in honor of lives unjustly lost in the struggle for human rights and dignity in America

Free press defender Joe Torres speaks at BCC Oct 2

Joe Torres @ BCC

Joe Torres @ BCCThere are times in history when the story of current events – what we know as news – enters a state of flux. New voices emerge to tell the stories of people and our world that are happening in real time. Today, we see this with YouTube, blogging, social media, community radio and TV. Periods of change can also be times of danger. People’s right to know must be protected and reporters must hold themselves responsible for present facts and truth without embellishment as far as they are able to discern them … in other words, the principles of expository journalism must be upheld.

Protectors of truth and ethics emerge to serve the people, and one high profile protector is Hispanic-American journalist, author and Eyewitness News reporter, Joe Torres. Mr. Torres will share his life and career experiences with students and the community at Bergen Community College on Thursday, October 2 2014 at 11am in the Ciccone Theater. Come and hear his story and thoughts.

Wikipedia tells us:

Joe Torres is senior adviser for government and external affairs for Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund (an advocacy arm of Free Press), a non-governmental organization for research and policy lobbying related to media reform. Free Press lobbies in Washington, DC and in the states, with the goal of supporting diversity and independence in US media. Torres was also deputy director of communications and media policy at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and was a journalist for eight years.

…Torres is co-author, with Juan González, of “News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media” (2011, ISBN 978-1-84467-687-3), a history of the American media with special focus on media outlets owned and controlled by people of color, and how they were suppressed—sometimes violently—by mainstream political, corporate and media leaders.

Young Black woman Zionist shares her truths about Israel

Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 11.32.53 PMChloé Simone Valdary is young Black non-Jewish woman Zionist who believes that the current worldwide campaign to create unfounded hatred of Jews and Israel has been artificially engineered by Arab oil magnates, and is funded with their fortunes. Chloé established the group “Allies for Israel” at the University of New Orleans where she studies, to fight “anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism on campus”.

In Tablet Magazine Chloé explains why an anti-Israeli/Jewish position is fundamentally wrong, especially for African Americans:

The student organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is prominent on many college campuses, preaching a mantra of “Freeing Palestine.” It masquerades as though it were a civil rights group when it is not. Indeed, as an African-American, I am highly insulted that my people’s legacy is being pilfered for such a repugnant agenda. It is thus high time to expose its agenda and lay bare some of the fallacies they peddle.

• If you seek to promulgate the legacy of early Islamic colonialists who raped and pillaged the Middle East, subjugated the indigenous peoples living in the region, and foisted upon them a life of persecution and degradation—you do not get to claim the title of “Freedom Fighter.”

• If you support a racist doctrine of Arab supremacism and wish (as a corollary of that doctrine) to destroy the Jewish state, you do not get to claim that the prejudices you peddle are forms of legitimate “resistance.”

• If your heroes are clerics who sit in Gaza plotting the genocide of a people; who place their children on rooftops in the hopes they will get blown to bits; who heap praises upon their fellow gang members when they succeed in murdering Jewish school boys and bombing places of activity where Jews congregate—you do not get to claim that you are some Apollonian advocate of human virtue. You are not.

• If your activities include grieving over the woefully incompetent performance by Hamas rocketeers and the subsequent millions of Jewish souls who are still alive—whose children were not murdered by their rockets; whose limbs were not torn from them; and whose disembowelment did not come into fruition—you do not get to claim that you stand for justice. You profess to be irreproachable. You are categorically not.

• If your idea of a righteous cause entails targeting and intimidating Jewish students on campus, arrogating their history of exile-and-return and fashioning it in your own likeness you do not get to claim that you do so in the name of civil liberty and freedom of expression.

• You do not get to champion regimes that murder, torture, and persecute their own people, deliberately keep them impoverished, and embezzle billions of dollar from them—and claim you are “pro-Arab.” You are not.

• You do not get to champion a system wherein Jews are barred from purchasing land, traveling in certain areas, and living out such an existence merely because they are Jews—and claim that you are promoting equality for all. You do not get to enable that system by pushing a boycott of Jewish owned businesses, shops, and entities—and then claim that you are “against apartheid.” That is evil.

• You do not get to justify the calculated and deliberate bombings, beatings, and lynchings of Jewish men, women, and children by referring to such heinous occurrences as part of a noble “uprising” of the oppressed—that is racism. It is evil.

• You do not get to pretend as though you and Rosa Parks would have been great buddies in the 1960s. Rosa Parks was a real Freedom Fighter. Rosa Parks was a Zionist.

Coretta Scott King was a Zionist.

A. Phillip Randolph was a Zionist.

Bayard Rustin was a Zionist.

Count Basie was a Zionist.

Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. was a Zionist.

Indeed, they and many more men and women signed a letter in 1975 that stated: “We condemn the anti-Jewish blacklist. We have fought too long and too hard to root out discrimination from our land to sit idly while foreign interests import bigotry to America. Having suffered so greatly from such prejudice, we consider most repugnant the efforts by Arab states to use the economic power of their newly-acquired oil wealth to boycott business firms that deal with Israel or that have Jewish owners, directors, or executives, and to impose anti-Jewish preconditions for investments in this country.”

You see, my people have always been Zionists because my people have always stood for the freedom of the oppressed. So, you most certainly do not get to culturally appropriate my people’s history for your own. You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.

Your cause is the antithesis of freedom. It has cost hundreds of thousands of lives of both Arabs and Jews. It has separated these peoples, and has fomented animosity between them. It has led to heartache, torment, death and destruction.

It is of course your prerogative to continue to utilize platitudes for your cause. You are entirely within your rights to chant words like “equality” “justice” and “freedom fighter.”

You can keep using those words for as long as you like. But I do not think you know what they mean.

How Koch Bros’ $25M gift to United Negro College Fund can hurt us

A mind is a terrible thing to waste (girl)

A mind is a terrible thing to waste (girl)A friend posted this on Facebook about the $25 Million gift given to the United Negro College Fund by the Koch Brothers:

If this money comes from sincerity (their heart) it is a blessing, but if it comes with “strings attached” the Koch brothers will have not surprised us. They will show us as usual their true colors! Win-win situation either way!

My thoughts are different:

Not necessarily, Maria. The insidious multi-level strategies that typically accompany gifts by the rich and powerful are designed to have subtle, but long-lasting and far reaching effect. First we should ask, what is being asked for as a direct trade for the gift? We may never know everything that was bargained away behind closed doors but we do know that two Koch Brothers designees will sit on a scholarship decision committee of three that will decide which students get that blood money. Right out of the gate, it’s clear that the money was not given with an open hand.

Second, the gift buys the public perception that Koch Bros are not that bad, after all because: Look! They gave millions to the United Negro College Fund. But that wouldn’t be true, because the Kochs are very bad.

Third. That large a gift is usually a solicited one, meaning it’s very likely that some board member or key administrator at UNCF is buddy enough with the Koch Bros organization to have solicited the donation. In the wake of this gift, it’s not inconceivable that in the future more board and key staff members with similar connections to Koch or other Big Money people might replace board and key staff members with community ties. Because, well. $25 MILLION.

Now let’s factor in the influence of the widely accepted adage, “You should never bite the hand that feeds you.” It’s pretty reasonable to assume that criticism of the Koch Bros will diminish at all of the institutions that benefit from UNCF funding – which now will also be Koch funding?

There’s also the issue of the scholarships this money funds and how they will affect families whose students receive them. Recipients and their families will be grateful and by extension their local and national communities will be too. And the public that learns of the scholarship awards will probably admire the brothers’ generosity without considering the insidious influencing strategy behind them.

Families may change their buying habits, buying Angel Soft toilet tissue and Brawny paper towels in the mistaken belief that supporting the Koch Bros will end up benefitting our communities’ children. But when you consider that Angel Soft is the leading US brand of toilet paper, bringing in 1.25 trillion dollars each year, you can see why it makes sense for the brothers to invest in public-relations stunts like this that are intentionally designed to keep the public buying Kochs.

So, buyers beware, America! Major influencers like the Kochs know better than most that the simple act of a well placed gift can topple a societal reform movement. As for the rest of us, we should not agree to be either bought or sold.

We should all boycott products made by the Koch brothers. Here’s a list of brands to stop buying.

Emerging BCC Latino leaders share thoughts on debut development program

Four years is a long time in community college terms but it was so worth it to keep on working at bringing this program to Bergen Community College. I got to know so much about the college and campus organizing just by recruiting advisors, speakers and participants to the College Leadership Development Program. 2014 CLDP @ Bergen Cohort members are enjoying participation tremendously, and the speakers we’ve brought in are enjoying us!

Thanks to USHLI for dreaming up a really good program and providing us with guidance to get it off the ground, to our speakers, donors and advisors, to BCC for hosting our evening workshops and to Kimi Wei of The Wei for so much help.
~ Jorge Ivan Gomez Wei

Members of the first CLDP @ BERGEN Cohort share thoughts about our participation.

Jorge Ivan Gomez WeiJorge Ivan Gomez Wei
There were times in the past four years I wasn’t sure I could actually get this program started in Bergen. Now, I’m so glad I didn’t give up. I put together a great group of students and we’re not only learning, we’re interacting. And, our speakers are imparting some very useful information.

Luis Ariel Lopez WeiLuis Ariel Lopez Wei
This is a great program, especially for a first semester student like myself. I’m happy to be a part of it and honored to have helped put it together. It’s been very informative. I know so much about the functions of school administrators and where to go for help if I need it.

Mario CuevasMario Cuevas
These CLDP meetings have been a great oppurtinity to learn and better understand the services that are provided by the college. Services we are never aware of until it is thrown into our faces. Also I have enjoyed the time spent with old and new friends alike. This most definitely needs to be a yearly thing, which I hope grows.

Nora FigueroaNora Figueroa
It’s great to be part of the USHLI CLDP program. I have enjoyed every CLDP session that we have had because I got to learn something new about every speaker at the meetings. I like the fact that all the speakers have brought something to the table, either information that is going to be helpful for our group’s members in our near future, or a personal experience that we can learn a lesson from. In every session an interesting topic is brought up and we all gain something from it. The sessions have been not only informative but also fun and I am sure its not only me who feels this way … I’m pretty sure the rest of the group does too.

Kevin CalleKevin Calle
I really enjoy this group because it’s so informative. It’s educating me about opportunities out there for scholarships and financial aid, which in a lot of ways are tied together. Many of the speakers have tackled these issues and give us the facts about them. In a way, the speakers are putting the path to success right in our hands.

Santos Garcia, Jr.Santos Garcia, Jr.
This is an awesome program for learning all about my school. I love it.

Johnnie OrozcoJohnnie Orozco
I strongly believe that Ivan overcame many difficult obstacles by recruiting and successfully engaging interested and capable members to this program. I am glad that the CLDP program has taken the initiative to connect Hispanic students with faculty members who can educate them on different policies that are set to benefit us and listen to the problems we have, so they can create new policies that are sensitive to issues that Hispanic students share and increase the percentage of graduation rates. As a Puerto Rican student in his third year at Bergen Community College I wish program like CLPSD had been available to me earlier on. However, moving forward I feel more comfortable about engaging administrative staff members with my individual needs.

Jose MolinaJosé Molina
This is a great program. I believe every student should be part of it and become more familiar with everything it has to offer. The meetings are full of so much information that will definitely help every student in their college experience and lead to future advancement. Great program overall.

Ricardo Montero Hernandez:Ricardo Montero Hernandez
Apart from the positive and educational environment present at every session, every member of CLDP is willing and urgent to listen and ask questions, the sessions are engaging and educational, with each speaker always bringing something new to the already informative sessions. However, if one word was used to describe CLDP, it is definitely “Inspiring.”
The sessions, the speakers and my fellow members have inspired me to become a better leader and a better role model, at times showing me new paths to my uncertain but hopeful future.

Natasha PineirosNatasha Pineiros
I think the USHLI sessions are a great idea to let students know what goes on in Bergen, who is in charge of these important programs and how they can take advantage of the resources that we have available to us.

Jefferson A. GuerreroJefferson A. Guerrero
I was very excited about the sustainability speakers – that really motivates me. This is the future and I am too. It’s good to keep the earth clean. And I like technology … to create technology and new devices without hurting the environment is an essential concept. About the CLDP program itself, it’s about the Hispanic community, which is growing in the United States. People don’t know everything the Hispanic community can do, and we would like to open people’s eyes to see how we can help make changes. We’re not just about making money and sending it to our families back home. We’re about making positive change here.

Please help us with a donation!

If you can help these deserving students with a donation please contact Ivan by email, @ivanwei on Twitter, Facebook, @kimiwei or call 201-477-8711. We’ll send you our fundraising packet and information on how to make a tax-deductible donation to the program.

Learn more about this program

CLDP @ BERGEN students thank our sponsors!

CLDP@Bergen logoWe’re fundraising to cover the cost of food served at the five College Leadership Develop Program (CLDP) workshops we just completed … and hopefully, we’ll receive a few thousand more dollars to get to the USHLI National Conference in Chicago. Participants in the inaugural CLDP at Bergen Community College are invited as USHLI’s guests!

The CLDP @ BERGEN students and The Wei Team which organized the CLDP @ BERGEN workshop series thank our awesome sponsors for helping us enjoy great food during our sessions. We also thank our advisors Gene Calderón and Johanna Heule and the beautiful speakers who brought words of enlightenment, hope and knowledge to this project and all of its participants.

We hope you’ll spread the word about how committed this group’s members are to advancing our families and communities through knowledge, networking and financial strength we acquire in the course of completing our educations and developing our own careers. We need to raise $10,000 to cover getting 25 people to Chicago in mid-February. Please help us if you can – contact information below.

A big thank you to our sponsors!

Beth giving check to CLDP kids
Beth Marmolejos giving first sponsorship check to the CLDP kids.

Beth Marmolejos donated refreshments for our first workshop
Bergen Community College NAACP donated refreshments for our second workshop
BCC has generously donated travel costs for 5 students
Sally Gallert made a personal donation
Noemi Candia made a personal donation
Maria Santiago made a personal donation

Fundraising contact information

If you can help these deserving students with a donation please contact Ivan by email, @ivanwei on Twitter, Facebook, @kimiwei or call 201-477-8711. We’ll send you our fundraising packet and information on how to make a tax-deductible donation to the program.

Learn more about this program

CLDP program motivates & inspires Bergen Community College Latino students

BCC students Jorge Ivan Gomez Wei and Ari Lopez Wei brought an exciting college completion and student engagement initiative to Bergen Community College this winter of 2014, one which promises to boost Latino student success. The Wei Development Team supports the program with pro-bono technical assistance and BCC provides the venue for most workshops. College staff members Gene Calderón and Johanna Heule serve as advisors and the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) is the program’s conceptual creator.


The Wei is a sustainable engagement team that empowers social and environmental justice communities. In this project, Ivan serves as Student Coordinator, Ari Lopez Wei is both project helper and cohort member and Kimi Wei handles public relations, logistics, translations and chief fruit salad maker.

Latino students need support to finish college

Statistics show that Latino students want and are in need of support to successfully complete their Associate’s Degrees (the degrees awarded by community colleges in the United States):

  • Latinos comprise 33% of the overall student population of 34,000 BCC students* and
  • Latinos have averaged about 25% of each graduating class in the past 5 years* but
  • Only 14% of BCC Latino students complete Associate Degrees within a 3 year span (last tracked years 2009-20012)*;
  • And this is slightly less than the overall Latino student community college completion rate for the state of New Jersey, where only 17.1% of Latino community college students graduate within a 3 year time span.

CLDP cohort members hope to develop as leaders in both academic and career paths; and as self and peer advocates become empowered to influence policies and situations that impact their present and future success. They are kicking off their futures by earning Associates Degrees. The 2013 cohort of BCC students is equally divided between men and women of Latino heritage. Most members are from low-income families, several are EOF students and they live in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson Counties. Program founders Ivan and Ari Wei share Colombian heritage.

Natasha PineirosMembers of the 2013 CLDP @ BERGEN cohort share their thoughts about the program.

About the CLDP @ BERGEN program

Under the guidance of Ivan and The Wei, students held 15 individual, interactive sessions with administrators of the school spread out between 4 nighttime workshops and an all day session on Sunday, Jan 19 at a beautiful space secured by one of the participants. The goal was to inspire exchange and mutual appreciation between school officials and Latino students, expose students to little known opportunities and life/academic support in their school … and to open students’ eyes to exciting career possibilities through hearing the experiences of administrators.

Various administrators remarked on how impressed they were with the students’ interest and respectful attention even when sessions lasted well into the night, after they had attended classes and even worked. An ice storm one evening didn’t prevent students from traveling up to one and a half hours by public transportation to attend sessions. One arrival that night – Herardi – came although he was recuperating from an operation on his hand.

Can you help participants get to the USHLI national convention?

As the inaugural CLDP @ BERGEN cohort, current participants will receive scholarships from USHLI to its national conference in February but must fundraise for travel to Chicago; two nights’ lodging; and to cover the costs of light meals for workshop sessions. Altogether, they need to raise $10,400 to cover expenses for 25 people.

If you can help these deserving students with a donation please contact Ivan by email, @ivanwei on Twitter, Facebook, @kimiwei or call 201-477-8711. We’ll send you our fundraising packet and information on how to make a tax-deductible donation to the program.

Learn more about this program

*Data provided by the Bergen Community College Research Center for Institutional Effectiveness