Archive | June, 2011

Mass Imprisonment: The Moral Equivalent of Jim Crow

Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal, including job discrimination, housing discrimination, and denial of the right to vote.

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Creative Sit-In Challenges Berkeley Sitting Ban

A unique, quirky and imaginative protest was held at the Berkeley BART on May 22 to protest the City Council’s proposed sitting ban ordinance. Called a “Chair-a-Pillar,” the colorful act of defiance summoned forth a powerful historic echo of past sit-ins for civil rights.

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Building a Movement to Reclaim Public Spaces

Same-day protests were held in San Francisco, Berkeley and Portland to challenge laws banning sitting or lying by homeless people. These “copy-cat laws” travel from city to city, as municipal officials copy each other’s efforts to erode human rights by making it illegal for poor people to exist in public.

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Glimpses of the Spirit – Paul’s Pendant

Contrary to everything our society teaches, the Masters of War and the Wall Street bankers are in a rat race for last place. Instead, the meek will inherit the earth. As Bob Dylan warned, “The order is rapidly fading, and the first one now will later be last.”

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Town and Gown Join Forces to Oppose Sitting Ban

Human rights include not only civil rights, but economic rights as well. George Lippman, chair of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, said, “Nothing defines the right to human dignity more clearly than such elemental human needs as the right to sit, the right to rest, the right to eat.”

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Poetic Resistance to the Berkeley Sitting Ban

Poets held a poetry reading to challenge the City Council’s proposed sitting ban. How delightful it would be if we could just sing our way right past this terrible proposal to outlaw something as natural as sitting down. We should pour enough poetry on it that it is doused entirely.

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Oakland Tenants Are Targeted for Displacement

Oakland tenant Aiyahnna Johnson said, “They caused us a lot of stress and anxiety in our community by trying to frighten us out of our housing. They have been trying to pressure us into signing documents in an effort to force us to move out of our homes.”

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Churches Should Offer Sanctuary for the Homeless

If every Christian was raised to meditate on three words, “Jesus was homeless,” churches would be true places of refuge, shelter and sanctuary, open to everyone. When cities enact laws that criminalize poverty, the homeless become refugees who must be offered sanctuary and asylum from unjust laws.

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June Poetry of the Streets

“Mona Lisa of the Streets” I gave the woman a simple smile,/ some dollars, knowing not enough./ Her aura glowed: she once had style./ I gave the woman an open smile/ then plowed my way, single file/ holding tears, keeping the bluff./ I have Mona Lisa a knowing smile/ some dollars that were not enough.

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Writing for the Street Spirit: My 17 Year Journey

Writing for Street Spirit has awakened in me a sense of responsibility toward others. Street Spirit is a way for people silenced by big money and big media to have a voice.

Animal Friends: A Saving Grace for Homeless People

“I wrapped her in my jacket and promised I’d never let anybody hurt her again. And that’s my promise to her for the rest of her life. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

A Testament to Street Spirit’s Justice Journalism

The game was rigged against the poor, but I will always relish the fact that Street Spirit took on the Oakland mayor and city council for their perverse assault on homeless recyclers. For me, that was hallowed ground. I will never regret the fact that we did not surrender that ground.

Tragic Death of Oakland Tenant Mary Jesus

Being evicted felt like the end of her life. As a disabled woman, she saw nothing ahead but a destitute life on the streets. She told a friend, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go.”

They Left Him to Die Like a Tramp on the Street

Life is sacred. It is not just an economic statistic when someone suffers and dies on the streets of our nation. It is some mother’s son, or daughter. It is a human being made in the image of God. It is a desecration of the sacred when that life is torn down.

Joy in the Midst of Sorrow in Santa Maria Orphanage

This amazing priest not only housed 300 orphaned children from the streets of Mexico City, but he also took care of 20 homeless elders in his own house and started a home for children dying of AIDS. Father Norman also ran a soup kitchen that fed many people in the village.