Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Orleans Police Department Blames Victims

The New Orleans Police Department recently released a statement on "women and safety," that has outrage across the city and furthered the perception that this police department does not get it. They are more interested in blaming the victim than preventing assault. With absurd advice like "don't get into an elevator with a stranger," or "dress comfortably so you can move quickly if you have to," the statement is pure victim-blaming. We have pasted the entire release below.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2013
New Orleans Police Department Crime Prevention Unit
Women and Safety 
Violent crime can happen to any woman, anywhere, in any situation. Victims and attackers come from all economic classes and cultural backgrounds. Often, victims know their attackers. Violent crimes can happen any time of the day.  You can help protect yourself by understanding the risk and learning how to reduce them. 
Stay out of isolated areas:
  • Avoid little-used stairwells, parking lots and roads.
  • Don’t get into an empty elevator with a stranger.
Trust your instincts.
  • If you sense trouble, get away as soon as possible.
Show confidence.
  • Walk at a steady pace. Keep your head up.
  • Avoid carry lots of packages. It can make you look defenseless.
Practice street smarts.
  • Plan the safest route before you leave.
  • Dress comfortably, so you can move quickly if you have to.
  • Don’t wear headphones. It’s important to stay alert.
  • Vary your biking and jogging route, and bring a friend.
  • If someone follows you, change course and head toward other people.
  • Stand back from the car when giving motorist directions.
  • Take self defense classes.
When using public transportation:
  • Wait at busy, well-lit stops.
  • Sit close to the driver.
  • Speak loudly or yell if you feel threatened.
Use caution on dates and in relationships.
  • Beware of alcohol and other drugs. They affect judgment. Watch how much your date uses them, too.
  • Don’t leave your drink alone. And don’t drink anything you didn’t get, open or pour yourself. “Date rape drugs” mixed in drinks can leave you at risk.
  • Make your sexual limits firm and clear.
  • Be independent. Don’t let your date make all the decisions.
  • Provide your own transportation.
  • Avoid secluded places.  
Know the warning signs of abuse.
Watch for behavior and attitudes in your date, partner or friend that signals trouble. For example, he or she may:

  • Show a lack of respect for your feelings or ideas.
  • Want to make all of the decisions.
  • Frequently display anger, mistrust or jealously.
  • Misuse alcohol or use of other drugs.
Responding to an attack
Only you can decide how to respond, and no one strategy will work every time. But in   general: 
Size up the situation. You have several options. Many women will:
  • Scream for help or yell “Fire!”
  • Run away
  • Fight back
  • If you think resisting would put you in more danger, cooperate. Remember that your survival is most important. Do whatever you think is best.
If you have been attacked or sexual assaulted:
  • Act quickly.
  • Get to a safe place. Get in contact with a friend, relative or rape crisis center.
  • Go to the hospital. Don’t shower, brush your teeth, douche, comb or clean any part of your body, or change your clothes. This might destroy medical evidence.
  • Tell the police.
  • Remember, an attack is never your fault. Don’t blame yourself.

Sergeant L. J. Smith
New Orleans Police Department
Commander, Crime Prevention Unit
715 S. Broad Avenue, Office # A- 412
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 658-5590 – Office Phone
Sylbrown@nola.gov - Email

Friday, March 29, 2013

Robert H. King responds to Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell



Many thanks to all of you who have aided our cause and added your voices to our quest to free Albert from an obviously unjust imprisonment of more than 40 years. Please continue to make your voices heard and your dissent known, especially in light of the recent email response by Louisiana's Attorney General, James Caldwell. One wonders: Why in the face of so many mitigating facts and circumstances would the Attorney General persist in his unethical efforts to pursue the persecution of Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace? Is it really justice he seeks, or is there something else he wants? The following may add some light to the subject.

When Woodfox was first granted a new trial in 1993, the Attorney General's Office elected to retry the case, which is a rare occurrence. Twenty-three years earlier, John Sinquefield, a young and ambitious local assistant district attorney, prosecuted Albert and made repeated references/inferences to Albert's political beliefs and militancy. Having had prior involvement in this case, Sinquefield could not (or chose not to) prosecute in his second hearing. However, this recusion (or self restraint) did not apply to his assistants. Enter Julie Cullen, an attorney working with Sinquefield.  It was Cullen who declared to the press, that she would retry Albert as "a 'Black Panther." During that trial in 1999,when I appeared as a character witness for Albert, Julie Cullen made repeated references to Woodfox's militancy as Sinquefield had done before her and Woodfox was again convicted.

Sinquefield, Cullen and Caldwell were all previously connected to this case by the thread of time and they have all used this case to further their careers. Sinquefield and Caldwell are well-documented boyhood friends, who went to school together, graduated together and became lawyers together. In Sinquefield's own words, "We've been friends, allies ever since." Julie Cullen has worked with and been very close to both men. As you can see, their careers have been protected at all costs, even accusing innocent men of murder or rape, as Caldwell in his recent email has done once again.

Buddy Caldwell has long done a great disservice to people of intelligence, especially lawyers...and jurists, in his attempt to sell this malicious and unsubstantiated rape lie. If, in 1969 there had been actual evidence of Albert committing rape, why would the system instead choose to try Woodfox on only the lesser charge of robbery? According to Caldwell, Albert was considered "a career criminal." The logical question therefore remains...If Albert had committed all of these other alleged crimes and was in fact a career criminal, why was he not prosecuted? Just for the record - any young black man that was arrested became a suspect for unsolved crimes. This was a process so widespread that across the country the practice is known as "clearing the books."    

It is in this same context that Caldwell has wrongfully accused Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace of committing the murder of prison guard Brent Miller. The evidence linking Herman and Albert to the crime is nonexistent. The bloody fingerprint at the scene of the crime did not match Herman or Albert's. A knife found at the scene of the crime had no fingerprints on it at all. Other DNA evidence that allegedly had Albert's specks of blood on it was lost by the prison. Furthermore, multiple alibi witnesses testified that Albert and Herman were in other parts of the prison at the time of the murder. In contrast, it has been proven that state witnesses were bribed to lie under oath. Albert's conviction has now been overturned three times, and Herman's conviction is similarly under Federal Court scrutiny for evidence exposing prosecutorial misconduct and constitutional violations.

Finally, by claiming that the Angola 3 have never been in solitary, Caldwell is redefining the nature of solitary confinement and minimizing its inhumane conditions. Courts here in the US have already ruled that confining prisoners in cells 23 hours a day constitutes solitary confinement regardless of any small privileges that may or may not be incrementally given and taken away at random. Over a decade ago, we filed a civil lawsuit challenging the State of Louisiana for their unconstitutionally cruel and unusual treatment that is solitary confinement. Magistrate Judge Dalby describes our almost four decades of solitary as "durations so far beyond the pale" she could not find "anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence." It is for the courts and not for Attorney General Caldwell to define whether or not being held in close cell restriction constitutes solitary confinement.

Attorney General Caldwell would do well to consider that I was prosecuted for being a "co-conspirator" by proxy for only knowing Albert and Herman and for my affiliation with the Black Panther Party. I had never met prison guard Brent Miller but I was put in solitary confinement and placed under investigation for this crime for 29 years. More to the point, had I not been 150 miles away at the time in another prison but at Angola prison, I would probably have been charged and convicted for a murder I did not commit. As I am free, speaking out now is what I must do.

Again, thanks to the many individual supporters and organizations who stand by the Angola 3 and ask you to continue to take action.

Power to the People/As Ever

Robert H. King
International Coalition to Free the Angola 3

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Global Left Converges in Tunisia – Day One


Tens of thousands of people marched through downtown Tunis on Tuesday in a spirited march celebrating the beginning the 13th World Social Forum – the first to be held in an Arab country. The majority of marchers were from Tunisia and neighboring nations, but there was substantial representation from Europe, as well as from across South America, Asia, and Southern Africa. An enormous annual gathering that bills itself as a “process” rather than a conference, the WSF brings together by far the largest assembly of international social movement organizations, aimed towards developing a more just and egalitarian world.

The WSF was first held in Brazil in 2001, and is billed as an alternative to the wealth and power wielded at the World Economic Forum, an elite annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland. Tuesday marked the official opening of the WSF, but official sessions start today and continue through March 30 at the El Manar University Campus. The theme of this year’s Forum is “dignity,” inspired by the movements collectively known as the Arab Spring, launched here just over two years ago.

As of last night, the WSF had reported registration by more than 30,000 participants from nearly 5,000 organizations in 127 countries spanning five continents. Since that estimate, thousands more have registered on-site. The officially announced activities include 70 musical performances, 100 films, and 1000 workshops.

Tuesday’s march traveled three miles from downtown Tunis to Menzah stadium, with chanting in multiple languages and representation from a wide variety of movements from the Tunisian Popular Front to Catholic NGOs to ATTAC, a movement challenging global finance. At Menzah stadium, an opening ceremony began at 7:30pm with female social movement leaders from Palestine, South Africa, Tunisia, and the US taking the stage, including Besma Khalfaoui, widow of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid, who was assassinated last month. According to Forum organizers, only women were chosen for the opening as a response to the rise of conservative religious governments in the region as well as patriarchal systems around the world. “We decided this because women are the struggle in the region,” said Hamouda Soubhi from Morocco, one of the organizing committee members. “They are struggling for parity, they are struggling for their rights. The new regimes want the constitutions to be more religious, and we want to take our stand against this.”

In short speeches – each about 5 minutes in length – the women projected a vision of a global movement that was inexorably rising, as the audience roared in approval. “We are trying to hold our government accountable for what it has done and continues to do around the world,” said one of the speakers, Cindy Wiesner of Grassroots Global Justice, a US-based coalition of social movement organizations.  “Some of the most inspiring movements and people are gathered here in Tunis. Together, we can change the course of history.” Among the loudest cheers came when speakers mentioned left political leaders and movements, including the jailed Palestinian leaders Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa’adat, as well as sustained applause for Hugo Chavez and the Occupy movement.

After the opening speeches, legendary musician Gilberto Gil took the stage. Known for his politics and musical innovation, Gil was a leader of Brazil’s tropic├ília musical movement of the 1960s and more recently served as Minister of Culture in the administration of President Luiz In├ício Lula da Silva.  As a sea of people from around the world danced ecstatically, Gil played a set that ranged from his own songs to pieces by Bob Marley and by John Lennon.

Among the opening sessions this morning was a press conference led by members of La Via Campesina, an organization representing more than 200 million poor farmers from 150 local and national organizations in 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.  “The false solutions of the government have been affecting us worse and worse,” said Nandini Jayara, a leader of women farmers in India. “I feel the WSF is a stage for us to share our problems and work together for solutions.”

Over the past decade, the WSF has been credited with a number of important international collaborations. For example, the global antiwar demonstrations in February 15, 2003, which have been called the largest protests in history, came out of a call from European Social Forum participants. In the US, labor activists who received international attention for a successful factory take-over in 2008 at Chicago’s Republic Windows and Doors factory said inspiration came from workers in Brazil and Venezuela that they met at the World Social Forum.

Among the many movements seeking to launch new campaigns and coalitions are indigenous activists who are seeking to educate activists from around the world about the problems in the climate change solutions, such as the “cap and trade” strategy put forward by the United Nations and mainstream environmental organizations. “We have to look at the economic construct that has been created in this world by rich industrialized countries and the profiteers that have created this scenario,” said Tom Goldtooth, director of Indigenous Environmental Network, an international alliance of native peoples organizing against environmental destruction. “We have ecological disaster, and that is capitalism’s doing.” Goldtooth’s organization is also seeking to raise awareness about REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), a United Nations program promoted as an environmental protection strategy that Goldtooth calls “genocidal” because it promotes solutions like carbon trading that he says will lead to mass deaths of poor people due to environmental catastrophe brought about by climate change. “We’ve come to a time where there has to be a transition to something different, Goldtooth added. “Our communities are saying we need some action now.”

Every year, some Forum attendees must overcome travel restrictions from various countries, and the WSF is also plagued by infighting from a sometimes fractured left. Among the incidents reported this year, Human Rights Watch reported that Algerian border authorities illegally barred 96 Algerian civil society activists from traveling to Tunisia. Meanwhile, in Tunis, a group identifying themselves as Tunisian anarchists said that they were boycotting the Forum, and appeared at the opening march, parading in the opposite direction of the rest of the crowd.

“For us the forum is already done. We have succeeded,” declared Hamouda Soubhi in an interview at the close of the opening ceremony. “Tomorrow will be problems, as there always are.”

Pictured above: 1) Maria Poblet of Grassroots Global Justice, 2) Crowd at opening ceremony, 3) Besma Khalfaoui, 4) Gilberto Gil.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mayor Landrieu and Ronal Serpas Wage War Against the City of New Orleans


Mayor Mitch Landrieu ran for office on a promise of reform of the city's police department. He promised a national search for a new police chief as his first major initiative as mayor. Then the members of his search team began quitting, saying the process was rigged. When Landrieu "national search" ended with the choice of his childhood friend, it was clear that our new mayor had a different vision of reform than many in this city.

So it should come as no surprise that the mayor who made a big statement about inviting in the Department of Justice to oversee the NOPD recently ended up taking back his invitation

Community members protested Mayor Landrieu's decision to ignore community input and hire Ronal Serpas. They protested his choice from day one; Serpas' inauguration. Landrieu ignored the protests and warnings, and insisted his choice was the right one. And now, three years later, New Orleans still has among the highest murder rates of any city in the world. It still has the highest incarceration rate of any city in the world. It still has one of the most corrupt police forces in the world, and that force continues to kill young Black men, like Justin Sipp and Wendell Allen. They continue to attack Black youth: one recent incident was captured on video, when police (state police and NOPD) rushed at two kids whose only crime was being Black and in the French Quarter.

Serpas and Landrieu have fiddled while the city burned. Last summer, faced with reports that New Orleans' murder rate had gone up in his first two years, Serpas declared, "I think we're seeing exactly what we wanted to see." Tulane criminologist Peter Scharf responded, "If this is good I don't know what bad would look like...I'd prefer frankly, some serious self introspection and staring at the numbers to figure out what's going on, rather than congratulating yourself."

Landrieu's major anti-crime effort of the past year seemed to rest on a badly-conceived advertising campaign that most people found either confusing or offensive.

Serpas' efforts have been marked by terrible ideas that were launched with big fanfare then quietly shelved, like his idea to release the criminal records of murder victims - the ultimate in blaming the victim from a police chief that was desperate to find anyone to blame but himself for policies gone badly wrong. Then there was his plan to send officers around checking to see if car doors were locked. His department put out a much derided statement on sexual assault that seemed to place blame for sexual assault on the victims, with advice like "Dress comfortably, so you can move quickly if you have to," and, "Don’t get into an empty elevator with a stranger."

In a city that already had the highest incarceration rate in the world, the Landrieu-Serpas team not only sought to increase arrests for petty offenses, they also seemed to have declared war on the culture the city is known for. Prosecutions of alcohol vendors rose 628%. In the city famous for Storyville and sex workers as culture workers, Serpas arrested as many indigent women who were selling sex as he could. Landrieu-Serpas have attacked secondline vendors, musicians, costume-sellers, live-music venues, and seemingly everyone else that creates the culture this city is known for. His traffic cameras have made most of their money by catching people driving what they think is the correct speed limit, not by enforcing public safety.

Overall, there is a feeling in New Orleans that Mayor Landrieu prioritizes the concerns of tourists over the people who actually live here. In response to this tendency, Rosana Cruz, Associate Director of VOTE (Voice Of The Ex-offender), has named Landrieu our "concierge-in-chief." Cruz added:
Please understand, out of town guests, I want you to have a good time! But we also constantly hear local and state officials telling the nation, “Your party is real important to us! New Orleans is a place to come and have a good time!” The unspoken end to that sentence is, “no matter how much pain and suffering is still happening.”
Luna Nola, another local blogger, echoed that theme with a recent post, in which she noted:
The movers and shakers of our city seem hell-bent to attain the desired 13 million annual visitors at any cost. Do you ever get a sinking feeling that those coveted 13 million non-residents seem to matter more than the ~370,000 New Orleanians who, to date, have dug their heels in to rebuild this city? I do… and with ever increasing frequency, as the Landrieu Administration continues to march relentlessly to the beat of its own drummer.
With a serious lack of community trust in the police department, Serpas made things worse through an aggressive policy of harassing and arresting Black youth - in which 93% of those arrested for curfew violations are Black, and a stop-and-frisk policy that has apparently ensnared 70,000 people and is likely racially discriminatory. Meanwhile his department lied and concealed the records for these policies

And when evidence came out that New York City police officers were spying on New Orleans residents, Landrieu and Serpas had no reaction.

A recent editorial by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund Lewis lays out the breadth of opposition Landrieu's reign has brought:
After several years of community meetings designed to document NOPD misconduct, several years of investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and more than a year of negotiations and debate about the proposed NOPD consent decree and efforts on the part of the Landrieu Administration to prevent the inclusion of a civilian oversight panel in the decree, the mayor has decided that the NOPD consent decree is “not necessary.”

You have got to be kidding me.

Mind you, this is also after decades of murder, terrorism, robberies, corruption and unconstitutional policing by New Orleans’ finest, including the murders of Kim Groves, Ronald Madison, James Brissette, Henry Glover, Raymond Robair, Adolph Grimes III, Steven Hawkins, Justin Sipp, Wendell Allen and all the other men, women and children gunned down by the NOPD, tangible evidence of continuing racial profiling in the Mid-City Retail District and French Quarter and the recent attack on two Black teenagers in the French Quarter.

This is the mayor of White Chocolate City who has publicly described his Black critics as dysfunctional and called the cops involved in the shooting of Earl Sipp and the killing of Justin Sipp “heroes.”...


I don’t think this mayor gets how tired people of this city are of him. Even those who detested the mayor’s predecessor and once believed that anyone would be better than what we had after the Great Flood of 2005 are now questioning the wisdom of making such a declaration.

Cab drivers are tired of the mayor and the way he has undermined their ability to earn a decent living.

Minority contractors who continue to be locked out of opportunities to do business with the City of New Orleans are not happy with the mayor.

Civil-service workers who are being undermined by their boss at City Hall while watching him give his inner circle six-figure salaries are certainly tired of the mayor.

NORD referees who the city takes its time to pay are fed up with the mayor.

Residents who pay exorbitant property taxes but see no improvement in the infrastructure, no reduction in neighborhood blight or adequate police protection are sick and tired of this mayor and his shenanigans.

Civil rights groups and leaders who the mayor excluded from taking part in annual events commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and Juneteenth have certainly had their fill.

Elderly residents on fixed incomes who have been forced to pay more in Sewerage & Water Board bills and will likely be similarly fleeced by Entergy are sick of him.

Mothers whose sons have been racially profiled by the NOPD have had enough of this mayor.
For decades, New Orleans has had one of the most corrupt and violent police forces in the world. Mayor Landrieu promised to change that, but he and his police chief have fought against change, and every step they have taken seems to have made things worse. New Orleans deserves better.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Orleans Film About James Booker Sets SXSW Festival on Fire

Bayou Maharajah Trailer from Lily Keber on Vimeo.

New Orleans filmmaker Lily Keber's film Bayou Maharajah, about James Booker, "the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced," premiered this week at SXSW film festival in Austin Texas, and has already been generating excitement.

The trailer for the film was featured on RollingStone.com. The film’s poster debuted on IndieWire. The Hollywood Reporter named the film the #1 Must See Music Movie of SXSW 2013. PASTE Magazine called Bayou Maharajah the #2 Must See Movie at SXSW. Billboard Magazine mentioned Bayou Maharajah in three separate articles, including an extensive profile featuring interviews with Harry Connick, Jr., Joe Boyd, Scott Billington, Don Williams, and director Lily Keber. Variety Magazine listed the film first in their Searching For The Next Sugarman article and featured a picture from the film as the headlining photograph. Out Magazine listed Bayou Maharajah as the top Most Notable LGBT film to see at SXSW and featured a still from the film as the headlining photograph. A longer article for Rolling Stone followed.

Interviews with Director/Producer Lily Keber were featured on Austin Fox-7’s Morning News Show, KOOP’s Writing On The Air, efilmcritic.com, nola.com, and OffBeat Magazine. The Austin-American Statesman called the film “ecstatic, sorrowful, beautiful, pained, full of anger, joy and something otherworldly.”

Bayou Maharajah has also been profiled on NPR’s Weekend Edition, NOLA Defender, The Vinyl District, Larry Blumenfeld’s Blu Notes, Sal Nunziato’s Burning Wood blog, Alex Rawl’s My Spilt Milk. Roger Ebert has tweeted about Bayou Maharajah twice.


It's always exciting when New Orleans culture receives some of the international recognition it deserves.

Friday, March 15, 2013

So, You Want to Collaborate in My Community? By Sharon Hanshaw

Reprinted from our friends at Bridge The Gulf:

When I started Coastal Women for Change, it wasn't my vision to run a nonprofit. If it had been, I would have done my research and learned how to manage one. I was thrown into this work after a devastation. I was a cosmetologist before Hurricane Katrina. I started speaking up for my community and reaching out to my neighbors when I saw how my community of East Biloxi was being left out of the recovery process (like so many predominantly Black and poor communities and neighborhoods across the Gulf Coast).

I would not change my direction or my position. I feel God has a plan for each of us. Our legacy must begin with the change we do for our community, and the whole Gulf Coast region.

Nearly eight years later, it's a struggle to keep our community work going. People are being laid off big time around here. Still, staff are being hired at other nonprofit organizations, but not in many grassroots groups with connections to the community. Funders give grants to nonprofits in Biloxi to collaborate on community work, and the collaboration sounds good on paper. But when you reach out, it stops there. People say "collaboration," but act like, "This is money for us. Let's not collaborate with them."

These collaborations are not supporting people like we need. It's about how the funders see grassroots organizations. It's about what skills are valued – community organizing is taken for granted. Organizations that have the expertise to write grants are the ones that secure the funding. These people come into the community to work. I live in the community. It's assumed grassroots organizations will do the outreach to the community without support or funding. A university gets money, and we're supposed to do all the outreach for free. That's not true collaboration.

Instead of giving more money, support, and skills to organizations that already have these resources, funding decisions and collaborations should be about sharing money, support, and skills with grassroots and community-based groups. And it takes more than a two-hour workshop on grant writing to get those technical skills. It takes relationships and partnerships based on trust and mutual respect, that develop over time.

Here are just two examples of Coastal Women for Change's work that is not supported through collaboration or big funders. We do a backpack giveaway every fall. We serve 1000 people in our community, giving away book bags and school supplies. The giveaway is also a way to assess how great the need is. We collect the names of everyone, and ask people, "What do you need to be sustainable?" We survey, call and follow-up. We build off of the giveaway – It is a way to support our community and engage people further in making changes locally.

This year for the giveaway, I reached out to other nonprofits to say, "Can we do this together? Can you help me with the fundraising effort? You can be on this committee, help me write this letter, contribute volunteers, donate some paper for the event, for example." But I just got no response. It's a dead-end. Emails don't get responded to.

Another part of CWC's day-to-day work is just doing what we can to help people in our community survive. For example, I recently wrote a reference letter to recommend a woman for a job – she was having trouble finding employment because she had been incarcerated. She told me, "I got out jail and am trying to get a job, but no one will hire me." She found employment, with the help of my letter. Those kind of those things – helping the people – are often overlooked by funders and nonprofit collaborations.

The people who live in Ward 2 in East Biloxi should know all these nonprofits and the people who work there by name. They know who I am – I live here, I walk the street here. My people are gone, displaced after Katrina, but I am visiting with new people here. I'm trying to help the ex-offenders, homeless people. People match my face with the organization, because I come to the door. 
 
I don't see the grassroots people and the faith-based people who are walking the streets getting the respect needed so the people they're seeing get served. Those people are not at the table, and need to be at the table.

I recently heard Willie Baptist, author of Pedagogy of the Poor, speak about letting poor people be their own advocates. It really spoke to me and the kind of work we strive to do at Coastal Women for Change. We are trying to sustain the people that exist here, that are making under a living wage. How do you be sustainable in a world designed to keep you down? And how are nonprofit programs supposed to help if they replicate the same problems? We're at the meetings, we're the heads of the nonprofits, but where are the people we are talking about? They should be at these meeting. I recommend you read Pedagogy of the Poor.

If one of these nonprofits with technical skills, staff, and resources, asked "Sharon, what do you need?," here's what I would say: Lend me staff for a few hours a week. I could use a couple hours a week from one of your secretaries to help with my paperwork. 

Also, sit and look at what's been done, at our reports and photos. The proof is in the pictures of our work, the newspaper clippings. We had a childcare program, it ran out of funding.

Finally, reassess yourself. Revisit yourself. Ask yourself: Am I really for the people? Without the pay, would I still do it? What are my feelings towards fellow human beings? Are they my sisters and brothers? Is it genuine? How am I collaborating? Do I reach out to somebody who is doing the same thing, working in the same community?
 
I'm not going to build houses when I know my colleagues are building housing. I am going to focus on the youth and the seniors in the houses, or on a community garden – find the piece I can do, connect the dots. It takes all of us collectively to make a whole, and preserve our future.

You have to walk the talk, not just talk the talk.

Like Rosa Parks being recognized by Congress nearly 60 years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, how long do we have to wait to recognize something that should have been automatic? We are not respected in a way that suggests we have overcome. It's a challenge, teaching our kids, "you have to fight, you have to fight, you have to fight." But they that see our local municipalities don't even respect us, and think, "how are we going to make a difference?" They see racism all the time in school.

If our nonprofit organizations and funders cannot manage respectful and authentic collaboration, what kind of communities and movements are we building?

The change must begin with action, not talk. Show the community you care through action.

Sharon Hanshaw is Executive Director of Coastal Women for Change, in Biloxi, Mississippi. A native of Biloxi, Sharon worked as a cosmetologist for 21 years. She got involved in community organizing and activism after Hurricane Katrina, working to make sure that community members are decision makers in the recovery process. Coastal Women for Change (CWC) focuses on women's empowerment and community development through programs for the elderly and children.