Mayor and City Council Candidate Forum

by Jonathan Krall

On May 18, 2018, Grassroots Alexandria, along with Tenants and Workers United and NAACP Alexandria, hosted a city council and mayoral candidate forum at the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology. Present were mayoral candidates Allison Silberberg and Justin Wilson, along with city council candidates Canek Aguirre, Willie Bailey, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, John Chapman, Michael Clinkscale (Republican), Kevin Dunne (Republican), Matt Feely, Dak Hardwick, Amy Jackson, Del Pepper, Robert Ray, Mo Seifeldein, Mark Shiffer (Independent), and Paul Smedberg. J. Chris Hubbard was represented by his wife, who was allowed an opening statement only. Unless noted, all candidates are competing in the Democratic Party primary election on June 12. In person absentee voting has already begun.

In addition to opening and closing statements, candidates were given 30 seconds each to answer each of four questions. This was followed by a “lightning round” of seven yes/no questions. Topics included immigration, affordable housing, police reform, education, safer schools, and LGBTQ human rights. The complete set of questions, along with our brief notes on the answers can be found here.

Photo (L-R): Dak Hardwick, Matt Feely, Kevin Dunne, and Michael Clinkscale respond to the idea of introducing armed “resource officers” into elementary schools (photo by Barbara Hale).

A video recording of the forum can be found on the Tenants and Workers United Facebook page.

Fighting for the Public Good

by Jonathan Krall

I’ve been reading Democracy in Chains, by Nancy MacLean, where she reports that the very basis for civilization, the idea of “a public good,” is under attack. A public good is something, such as the subway or Social Security, that we all pay for. We do this to invest in our nation and as a duty to each other. Opponents of “public goods” have had some success, such as diverting taxpayer money from public to private schools. Because the public keeps fighting back in favor of public goods, opponents are attacking democracy itself.

Medicare is a popular program. Millions of seniors depend on Medicare daily. Yet Paul Ryan successfully pushed a bill through the House of Representatives to replace Medicare with a voucher system (it died in the Senate). Another example is transportation. Instead of investing in high-capacity subways, the current administration is encouraging cities to partner with private companies to build toll roads.

MacLean describes a school of thought, promoted by the late James Buchanan, that public schools, for example, come about because parents, and politicians, use emotional appeals to exploit the rest of us. That is, they are sneakily getting us to pay for the education of other people’s children. Buchanan and his allies wished to abolish public schools (and roads, parks, emergency rooms, etc.), so costs fall only on those who directly benefit. However, Buchanan’s disciples have found that, in a democracy, these draconian ideas fail. Rather than give up, MacLean reports, disciples of extreme privatization are attacking democracy itself.

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ICE and Alexandria: What we’ve learned so far

by Jonathan Krall (Grassroots Alexandria) and Mia Taylor (Tenants and Workers United)

A small group of activists, representing Tenants and Workers United, the Advancement Project, and Grassroots Alexandria, met with representatives from the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office in November, 2017, to better understand the relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bad news is that the Sheriff’s Office is voluntarily collaborating with ICE. The good news (or not-as-bad news) is that we can – and must – take straightforward steps to protect all Alexandrians and keep families together. Here is some of what we’ve learned so far and steps you can take to help. Continue reading “ICE and Alexandria: What we’ve learned so far”

Celebrating a Year of Grassroots Alexandria: Why Grassroots Activism Matters More Than Ever

by Kate Watters

Last week I attended an international conference for civil society organizations from countries that are members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). I was there representing my organization, Crude Accountability, which protects environmental and human rights in communities impacted by oil and gas development. Drawing in part on my experience in Grassroots Alexandria, I described the decaying human rights situation in the US, a description that stunned my colleagues from the other OSCE countries. But there is a silver lining. We in the US are witnessing the last gasp, a painfully prolonged gasp, of the old white patriarchy. By stepping up for equality, justice, and representation for all, we are expanding and strengthening the beautiful patchwork quilt that is our population and our future. Continue reading “Celebrating a Year of Grassroots Alexandria: Why Grassroots Activism Matters More Than Ever”

Trump Normalizing Hate and Islamophobia

by Zeina Azzam

Although Donald Trump’s latest anti-Muslim tweets elicited criticism from some sectors of American society, it is clear that people have come to expect this type of pejorative opinion from the president. Many seem to have decided, perhaps in a resigned fashion, to dismiss his disparaging tweets about African Americans, women, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ folks, and more, with responses like “There he goes again,” or “He’s just not going to change”—and the conversation falters. But what is happening is that Trump is succeeding in normalizing hate speech about minorities. He has given license to racists, misogynists, and many who are prejudiced against religious, ethnic, LGBTQ, disabled, and other minorities to speak up and spew their hate in the media, at rallies, and in their local communities.

In his election victory speech in November 2016, Trump asserted, “I will be president for all Americans.” We now see that his words and his deeds are, too often, hypocritical and disingenuous.

The latest flap involves Trump retweeting anti-Muslim propaganda videos posted by Britain First, a British ultranationalist hate group. British Prime Minister Theresa May characterized this fringe group as seeking “to divide communities by their hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions.” Meanwhile, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, praised Trump’s actions.

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Thankful for Democracy

by Jonathan Krall

In Grassroots Alexandria, we’ve spent nearly a year fighting for the idea that Democracy thrives when people participate, that there is more to Democracy than the partisans and the professionals, and that Democracy is rewarding. But mostly, it sometimes seems, we’ve been fighting Fascism. Personally, I’ve learned more about Fascism than I ever wanted to know, and I’m glad I have. The more I learn, the more I see how far we’ve gone in that direction. On Thanksgiving Day, 2017, I am thankful that we still live under Democracy.

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Why Restorative Justice Matters

by Sharon Solorzano

The Vulnerable Communities team met this week to view and discuss the documentary “13th,” which researches the dramatic rise of prison populations since 1970. The film exposes the disturbing racism and profiteering behind imprisonment; in fact, according to the NAACP, “African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.”

I expressed frustration that the film educated us, yet left us lacking in direction for what we could do. Jonathan Krall countered that  Grassroots Alexandria is doing something about it, by backing Restorative Justice and Data Transparency Initiatives in the City of Alexandria.

What is Restorative Justice, and why should we care in Grassroots Alexandria? Restorative Justice is an educational philosophy that:

“…empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and in small groups, and it’s a growing practice at schools around the country. Essentially, the idea is to bring students together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions, and air their grievances. For the growing number of districts using restorative justice, the programs have helped strengthen campus communities, prevent bullying, and reduce student conflicts. And the benefits are clear: early-adopting districts have seen drastic reductions in suspension and expulsion rates, and students say they are happier and feel safer.” Continue reading “Why Restorative Justice Matters”

#takeaknee4justice

by Brian Sando

On August 26, 2016, before the 2016 election, NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem of a preseason game to raise awareness of police brutality and white nationalism. Kaepernick and others are speaking out against mass incarceration and violent policing.

Taking a knee is not about the flag, but is rather a courageous stand for justice. To quote Kaepernick: “I am not going to stand up [during the anthem] for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Kaepernick and other athletes are exercising their free speech in the context of militarized sporting events. The Department of Defense paid $5.4 million to fourteen NFL teams between 2011 and 2014 for military displays including fly-overs, Jumbotron veteran salutes, and recruiting efforts. Such activity by the Pentagon represents two crucial elements of Fascism: powerful and continuing nationalism, and supremacy of the military.

By taking a knee, we are taking a stand for criminal justice reform and for democracy. As a member of Grassroots Alexandria who is committed to opposing white nationalism, I invite others to join me.

The “Appomattox” statue isn’t history

by Jonathan Krall

Like many other Civil War monuments, the Appomattox statue was erected during the Jim Crow era for the purpose of intimidating African Americans into submitting. In the era of the New Jim Crow, it continues to serve its purpose. It reminds the Black community that they are not yet equal. If African Americans had greater standing in our society, those statues, along with the confederate flags, would be long gone. These Civil War statues aren’t history. They are active players in our modern political arena.

The active presence of white supremacy is all around us. It marched in Charlottesville. It lives in Old Town, in the person of Richard Spencer.  When the nazis in Charlottesville, chanted “You will not replace us; Jews will not replace us,” they were literally saying that only “white” people should hold prominent places in our society. Is it any coincidence that Trump’s shutdown of the DACA program will remove college-educated immigrants from jobs coveted by white supremacists? Instead of accepting white supremacy, we must ensure that these hateful monuments no longer hold prominent places in our society. To be silent is to be complicit. Continue reading “The “Appomattox” statue isn’t history”

Alexandria City Council takes a stand on Healthcare

By Sarah Stott

On September 12, the Alexandria City Council unanimously passed a resolution entitled, “Regarding Affordable and Attainable Health Care in the City of Alexandria: A resolution to protect and expand access to quality, affordable health care services for all Alexandrians.”

After 10 WHEREAS clauses with important background information, the resolution made the following points:

  • The City supports initiatives to improve the Affordable Care Act and to expand Medicaid in VA.
  • The City opposes repeal of ACA, cuts to Medicaid or Medicare and cuts to the Prevention & Public Health Fund.
  • The City requests that the Public Health Advisory Commission keep the City Council informed of changes in State and Federal programs.

This resolution is important at a time when members of Congress are attempting to weaken the Country’s current healthcare system. The Graham-Cassidy bill released last week is a perfect example.
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