Voices and Sounds of the 2013 March on Washington

As March on Washington marks 50 years, youth call for equality and justice in ongoing struggle

August 26, 2013 | Washington, DC — At the national program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Representative John Lewis, the youngest speaker at the original March on Washington in 1963, put out a call to action for youth to stand up for voting rights, immigration reform and equality.

“Back in 1963 we didn’t have a cellular telephone, iPad, iPod, but we used what we had to bring about a non-violent revolution. And I said to all of the young people, you must get out there and push and pull and make America what America should be for all of us.”

The crowds in Washington Saturday were filled with many youth activists. FSRN’s Noelle Galos spoke to some of them about what the gathering meant to them and their dreams for the future.

Those are the voices of Howard University students, Chelsi Davis, Charissa More, Debra Samuel, Ashley Washington, and Asia Quick; Loyala University student Theda Tann; Amuche Nwafor, senior at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, MD; Mackenzie Williams, student at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, VA; Tyla Goodridge, Teen President of the Greater New Haven Youth Council; and Avery Steck, a DC-area high school student.

Read more or listen to the audiocast here (via Free Speech Radio News)

Local DC activists draw attention to racial profiling, incarceration ahead of March on Washington anniversary

August 23, 2013 | Washington, DC — Events marking the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington are taking place across the country.  Illinois State University students are organizing a series of performances to pay tribute to Bayard Rustin, an organizer of the 1963 march. In Detroit, where Martin Luther King, Jr. originally delivered a version of his “I Have a Dream” speech, thousands gathered for a march earlier this summer. Now, that energy is coming to Washington, DC, site of the historic march and rally. Several days of events kick off this weekend. Marchers will gather Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial to protest against a number of civil rights issues that persist: the attack on voter rights, racial profiling, poverty and discrimination. Local activists are organizing to have a share in the weekend’s events, and they hope to address racial profiling within DC law enforcement, which they say is part of the “New Jim Crow.” They are planning two feeder marches from opposite ends of the city, and hope to bring national attention to racial inequalities in the Nation’s Capital. Laura Lising, one of the group’s organizers, explained to FSRN why the group was formed and how they are plugging in their campaign to the March…

Read more or listen to the audiocast here (via Free Speech Radio News)

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July/August News Compilation

Communities United for Immigrant Rights,” (8/19/2013 // GrassrootsDC.org)

Unity March Event OrganizersOn August 17, a coalition of organizations held a unity rally for immigrant rights in front of the White House, calling for Congress to act on immigration reform and put an end to deportations. Organizers of the rally included WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend), DMV LOLA (Latinas Organized for Leadership and Advocacy), and NAPAWF-DC (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum), joined by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Speakers at the event discussed the misrepresentation of immigrant rights as an exclusively “Latino issue,” instead demonstrating that the movement for immigrant rights is part of the movements for women’s rights, workers’ rights, and human rights. A running theme of the rally was that whether we like it or not, the hijacking of immigration reform at the national level has devastating consequences for all our families, economies, and communities

“Mayor Gray Must Understand, Our Language is Our Right,” (7/27/2013 // GrassrootsDC.org)

Washington, DC – On July 22, 2013 Mayor Vincent Gray, along with a handful of aides and scores of reporters, paid a visit to Petworth with the intention of cracking down on synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia being sold at small businesses in the neighborhood. “That’s illegal, man. Can’t do that. That’s drug paraphernalia,” warned the Mayor. This isn’t the first time that Mayor Gray has posed as a law enforcement official in order to bust local shops, in his effort with the group Advocates for Drug-free Youth.

DC Government-Issued The visit took an unexpected turn, however, when Gray encountered an Ethiopian clerk who had trouble understanding English. “You don’t understand? How do you sell anything if you don’t understand? If somebody asks you for something, do you know what they’re asking you for?” Mayor Gray chided. At one point, visibly frustrated by the language barrier, the Mayor told the clerk “I don’t even, I really don’t know how you are working here if you can’t communicate with the people who come in here.” Despite criticism from NBC4 reporter Mark Segrave, the Mayor denied that his remarks could be considered insensitive and said that the language barrier was “irrelevant.”

“A Lesson in Systemic Racism, Part II: ALEC, School Closures, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” (7/23/2013 // GrassrootsDC.org)

The previous post, entitled “A Lesson in Systematic Racism: Stand Your Ground, the NRA, and the American Legislative Council (ALEC),” examined the connection between the untimely death of Trayvon Martin and the powerful lobbying groups that made laws like “Stand Your Ground” possible. This post expands on the previous one by highlighting ALEC’s connection to school closures and the privatization of education.

That’s How You Win Campaigns: What DC’s Progressive Community Did Right in the Final Legislative Session of 2013,” (7/15/2013 // GrassrootsDC.org)

walmart-400x281Last week, the District’s most vulnerable residents organized to win two major victories in the City Council: the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), which would require big box stores to pay their employees a living wage, and which effectively prevented the expansion of six Walmart stores within the District; and the Driver Safety Amendment Act (DSAA), which grants the City’s 25,000 undocumented residents the ability to obtain a driver’s license without a mark indicating their undocumented status.

Building a Broader Language Access Movement

Last Friday at “La Casa” in Mt. Pleasant, Many Languages / One Voice (MLOV) advocates gathered for a powerful (and long overdue) teach-in, co-hosted with the organization BeHEARDDC — a true testament to the power of grassroots coalition building.  The event was meant to highlight some of the overlapping challenges faced by deaf and LEP communities,
especially the barriers in equal access to government services.   Here’s a quick rundown of what I took away from the event:

1) Language access doesn’t have to be an immigrant rights or differently-abled issue, but a social justice issue for all.  When I think of “language access” beneficiaries, I’m picturing limited- or non-English proficient individuals in the immigrant community.   But Talila Lewis, the founder of HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf) said it doesn’t have to be that way.  Why?  Because…

2) Wrongful incarceration is an issue that impacts the immigrant AND deaf community alike, oftentimes as a result of poor language access implementation and compliance.  MLOV board member Nadia Firozvi shared a story about her and DC’s first language access complainant, a Korean man who spent 4 days in jail without interpretation… only to find out he was the wrong Mr. Lee.  As a consequence, DC was found in noncompliance with the Act and the city took major steps in retraining all of their personnel.  They now have “Liaison Units” for the Latino, API and LGBT communities.  Nevertheless, LA implementation has a long way to go, according to a recent report released by the DC Language Access Coalition and the AU-Washington College of Law.

3) Toward a broader language access movement?  Technically, the DCLAA only covers LEP/NEP individuals, not the deaf.  They are backed by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).  However, the advocates on both sides agreed that ADA and the DCLAA are not enough on their own.  Talila suggested we think about both groups as linguistic minorities, which would include spoken and visual communication.  If these groups continue mobilizing under the broader umbrella of government accessibility, I can only see a stronger movement in the future and the legislative reform that is so sorely needed.  A most inspiring event!

Where visual semiotics and advocacy intersect: The infographic

In much of his work, linguist and social semiotician van Leewen (2004) speaks to the importance of visual literacy as the new literacy society (and individuals) will need to address in the professional context.  He says “visual communication is coming to be less and less the domain of specialists, and more and more crucial in the domains of public communication.”  Unfortunately, he argues the current education system does little to improve this.  [Compare the amount of drawing you did in 1st grade vs. 12th… get it?] He goes so far as to say that “not being ‘visually literate’ will begin to attract social sanctions… will begin to be a matter of survival, especially in the workplace” (3).

Luckily, some advocacy and social justice organizations are ahead of the curve by keeping their graphics as stimulating as the text in their research publications.

One of the benefits of using visual representations is that the message is received in such an instantaneous way.  [For the sociolinguists reading right now, van Leeuwen calls them image acts: speech acts + images that are realized as a single syntagmatic unit].  For many social justice organizations (and non-profits in general) resources are low.  Investing in good graphics can mean the difference between reaching 0 and 1000 people.  Or more!
A local DC group called Save Our Safety Net is great when it comes to using visuals and props in their organizing, with some clear influence of the practices behind radical puppet theater.  Anyway, you can click here for a taste, around minute 1:25, if you wonder what that looks like inside the chambers of DC City Council during budget season.
They also happen to have made huge gains this year in advocating for the restoration of the social service budget that was about to be hacked away.   Coincidence?  I think a lot of the success they’ve had in building grassroots support stems from (at least partially) their ability to make speaking truth to power a fun, creative, and ultimately engaging endeavor as well.
[UPDATE: After a little more research I’ve learned that they have a name: Infographics.  Check out this article here by the New Organizing Institute to find out more about how to make infographics work for your cause.  In it they recommend Visual.ly, a community platform for making data visualizations and infographics based on data from Twitter and Facebook.  Free and new, user-friendly way to represent data?  I like it.]