Posts tagged with "Letter"

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A Letter to Vice President Harris

Below is a letter sent to VP Harris and congressional leaders, calling for the inclusion of a permanent broadband benefit for home broadband service in any final infrastructure package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden. The letter is signed by more than 294 Black Church leaders.

This coalition, Black Churches 4 Broadband, includes many notable black civil rights church leaders who are activating their congregations to speak up and engage policymakers. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter as well. 

The Letter

Dear Vice President Kamala Harris,

As Black Religious Leaders across a range of denominations and religions, we continue to pray at this critical time for the Biden Administration team as a whole, and especially for you as Vice President of this country. We are happy you are leading the White House’s push to expand broadband access in this country.

We write to let you know we believe now more than ever in the need for a permanent broadband subsidy to help more low-income households connect to home internet service.

Getting everyone in the country connected to high-speed broadband (internet) at home is a civil rights imperative. Internet access opens the door to so many pathways critical to our advancement: educational and economic opportunities, family and church connection, health care services, greater civic engagement and activism. Unfortunately, only 71% of Black families and 65% of Hispanic families have broadband service at home compared to 81% of white households (Pew studies).

We are pleased that earlier this year Congress authorized the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) that provides a $50 dollar subsidy and up to a $100 dollar device during the pandemic emergency period. This groundbreaking effort builds on the proven success of private sector adoption programs and public-private partnerships that have connected millions of families through free or discounted service. But the EBB is not a permanent solution.

The Federal Communications Commission reported 2.5 million households have signed up for the EBB since it was launched in May. As a nation, we cannot leave these neighbors hung out to dry when the EBB expires. School-age children, the elderly, and job seeking adults in these households will still need home connectivity even after the pandemic ends. We need a more permanent solution to the issue of making broadband accessible to all.

Black Religious Leaders have played a pivotal role in helping this country live up to its constitutional creed as it relates to civil rights, human rights, voting rights and economic justice.  Our churches and houses of worship have been ground zero during this pandemic teaching Black families not only how to access prayer and worship online but also how to access voter information and how to navigate remote learning, telehealth services, job searches, e-commerce, and family hook-ups. This is the work of the Black church in the digital era which does not get the attention of the media.  

We can end the digital divide once and for all with a permanent subsidy. We have subsidies to feed those who are food insecure. We have subsidies for those who need help with childcare, home energy and other essential needs. We need a similar program for the internet. We now stand ready to help the Biden team mobilize our communities around digital and information literacy. The future of our families and community depends upon it.

To build a more just, equitable, and hopeful future, every member of our community should share in the opportunities of home internet access.  

We are hoping you will help lead this effort.

Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems

Coalition Leader for Black Churches 4 Broadband

Co-Pastor of Ray of Community Church

Transgender illustration by Heather Skovlund (Original Photo Credit: Pixabay) for 360 Magazine

Parents Open Letter to Lawmakers

1,500+ Parents of Transgender, Non-Binary, and Gender-Expansive Youth Condemn Anti-Trans Bills in Open Letter to Lawmakers

More than 1,500 parents of transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive youth — from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico — signed a letter imploring elected officials to oppose anti-transgender bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country.  

The letter — organized by the Human Rights Campaign’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council — was sent to elected officials Monday morning.

The letter comes in response to a fast and furious effort led by national groups aiming to stymie LGBTQ progress made on the national level and in many states. There are currently more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Of these discriminatory bills, 106 directly target transgender people, including efforts to ban transgender girls and women from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity and prohibit evidence-based, life-saving health care for transgender youth.

“Transgender kids all across the country are listening to what you say and watching what you do. The act of writing bills like this, holding hearings, and later casting votes sends a direct message to them: ‘You aren’t real to us. We don’t believe you when you tell us who you are. Your existence is dangerous to the other kids around you. We are okay if you feel lonely, isolated, and unwelcome. We are willing to take away even the smallest concessions that have been made for you because we have power and you don’t,’” the parents wrote. “Transgender folks are so tired, tired of fighting for their existence. And parents like us are tired of begging you to see our kids and treat them as full and equal members of society.”

“Transgender children are children. They deserve the ability to play organized sports and have access to medically necessary care, just like all children. These bills are cruel — and parents are not going to be silent when elected officials attack their children through discriminatory legislation,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive youth impacted by these bills are among the most vulnerable to experience depression and engage in self-harm, including suicide. Legislators must realize the seriousness of this issue and remember that they were elected to lead — not call into question whether certain children have the right to exist, to be happy, or to live authentically.”

“As a trans person, I know what it means to have lawmakers try to write me out of existence — imagine being a trans child trying to cope with this reality. There is a coordinated attack on transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive youth being waged in state legislatures across the country and it is having a devastating impact on the mental health of kids, who just want to be kids,” said Jay Brown, Senior Vice President, HRC Programs, Research & Training. “Parents will not back down when it comes to protecting their children, and they will not tolerate their elected officials using their positions of power to harm and further oppress them. We will never give up hope that if people — including elected officials — hear from people at the center of the policy debate, and their loved ones, that their hearts will open, and their minds will change.”

The full letter is below.

April 12, 2021

Dear Elected Officials,

Many of you are sponsoring, co-sponsoring, or considering voting for legislation that would force transgender children to participate in sports based on a letter on their birth certificate rather than who they are – or not participate at all. Some of you are also sponsoring, co-sponsoring, or considering voting for bills that would criminalize best-practice, evidence-based, life-saving health care that transgender youth need (and deserve!) to thrive. 

Parents of transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive youth like us have called you, sent you emails, and have showed up in the midst of a global pandemic to testify about how devastating these bills are…not only if or when they pass and become law, but also right now because, by whipping up a firestorm of attacks on our kids, they have already caused damage to our families.

Parenting during a pandemic is hard enough. The fact that these bills exist at all—that the lives of our children are up for debate in any state in this nation—adds a layer of worry to an already fraught time. Let’s be clear: the impact of these bills goes far beyond sports and medical care; they call into question whether our children have the right to exist, to be happy, to live authentically. The answer is yes. They absolutely do.

We have shared studies with you explaining that trans youth are more susceptible to struggle with anxiety or depression, not because they are transgender but because of stigma and discrimination. You have heard that being able to participate in sports and being on a team with friends and classmates can improve their mental health. You have heard adolescents tell you how afraid they are of experiencing the wrong puberty or how terrified teenagers are of having their medically-prescribed hormones denied to them. 

This isn’t the first time. We tried telling you all of this a year ago before the pandemic thankfully cut many legislative sessions short and these bills floundered. After hearing some of these concerns last year, a senator in Missouri was quoted dismissively saying “We can’t be responsible for everyone’s mental health.”

We are pointedly telling you now that you actually are responsible for the mental health of these kids. We are holding you personally responsible for the amount of stress, anxiety, and fear our precious children are currently struggling with. We are holding you responsible for how some of our children are crying themselves to sleep every night, asking why so many people hate trans kids and want them to suffer. You are the reason they are asking to move somewhere where they will be protected, because their home doesn’t feel safe anymore with you in charge of creating its laws.

You were elected to your positions to lead. And leaders understand that in our great but imperfect system of government, we favor the concept of “majority rule, minority rights.” Leaders do not use their positions of power to harm and further oppress a struggling and hurting minority.

Transgender kids all across the country are listening to what you say and watching what you do. The act of writing bills like this, holding hearings, and later casting votes sends a direct message to them: “You aren’t real to us. We don’t believe you when you tell us who you are. Your existence is dangerous to the other kids around you. We are okay if you feel lonely, isolated, and unwelcome. We are willing to take away even the smallest concessions that have been made for you because we have power, and you don’t.”

Transgender folks are so tired, tired of fighting for their existence. And parents like us are tired of begging you to see our kids and treat them as full and equal members of society. 

Here is a powerful quote from Nomi Ruiz, a Puerto Rican trans woman, artist and performer, that we’d like you to take time to think about…

“The outside world will never truly understand the magnitude of the trans experience, especially that of a child who has an undying need to live in truth despite being ostracized for it. The only way for trans children to thrive is to allow them to live freely in the face of a society that abuses them for it.”

Stop abusing our kids by creating legislation that targets them. Kill these bills now and leave our kids alone.

Justifiably angry,

Parents of Transgender, Non-Binary, and Gender-Expansive Youth

Trans Rights illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Gov Noem × Anti-Trans Sports Bills

South Dakota Gov. Noem Exposes Vulnerabilities for All States Considering Anti-Trans Sports Bills

On Friday, March 19th, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem issued a style-and-form veto of HB 1217, the anti-transgender sports ban bill that she had previously expressed excitement about signing. Having made several substantive changes to the legislation, including striking collegiate-level provisions from the bill, it will now be sent back to the legislature. This backtrack, by even an extreme governor with national political aspirations, exposes the economic, legal, and reputational threats these bills pose to states considering anti-transgender legislation and has sparked an uproar amongst conservative groups who see Governor Noem playing politics and trying to have it both ways. 

Gov. Noem’s winding path from “excited to sign” to a veto

Today, Noem held a press conference standing alongside known anti-LGBTQ extremists to justify her veto

  • Today in a press conference, Governor Noem announced the creation of a coalition to “Defend Title IX Now” which appears to be a national list-building exercise by Noem, with a website created yesterday by someone in Ohio (coincidentally, Governor Noem’s campaign website was created by Ohio political consultants The Aventine Group). This website’s “paid for by” disclaimer refers to a committee that is not yet registered with the Federal Election Commission or the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office.
  • When asked in today’s press conference why she was pressing a ban on transgender student athletes when there are no transgender players currently competing in secondary school sports in South Dakota, Gov. Noem replied “it’s an issue because people are talking about it and for the future.”
  • Among the speakers in today’s press conference was former NFL player Jack Brewer who, in March of 2020, said that he opposed President Barack Obama for “normaliz[ing] the black gay culture.”
  • Noem said of HB 1217, that it was a “trial lawyer’s dream” that would open the state to litigation in its current form and expressed concern for NCAA repercussions, saying “if we’re going beyond [K-12] to the collegiate level…just know that we could face retaliation — it’s more than likely, and at that point, we would have to sue, which is a cost to the taxpayers.” 

From praise to condemnation from anti-equality extremist groups

  • When announcing her support for signing the legislation, Noem quote-tweeted the American Principles Project.
  • But only weeks later, American Principles Project shared their condemnation of Governor Noem’s style-and-form veto of HB 1217, saying that she “[broke] her word,” “[froze] out advocates of HB 1217 and instead [took] advice from the bill’s most vocal critics,” and that “[b]y standing with Joe Biden and the radical left against protecting women’s sports, Noem has irreparably damaged her standing with both her own constituents as well as Americans nationally… This betrayal will have political consequences.”
  • The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, went from support to condemnation as well, saying in a statement that Governor Noem “abuse[d]” her veto power to “cave to ‘woke’ corporate ideology.” They similarly called Noem’s actions a “betrayal” and characterized today’s press conference as damage control to rehabilitate her “credibility and political image.”
  • In reaction to today’s press conference, Sean Davis, co-founder of the conservative publication The Federalist tweeted: “Stop making excuses and insulting everyone’s intelligence and sign the bill already. This is embarrassing.”
Passport illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Airlines Urged to Issue Refunds

Consumer Reports & PIRG Urge Airlines to Provide Full Refunds for Flights Canceled During Pandemic as Voucher Expiration Dates Approach

Groups Call for Airlines to Extend Voucher Expiration Dates Through At Least End Of 2022

With the one-year anniversary of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown approaching, Consumer Reports and U.S. PIRG sent a letter to ten domestic airlines today calling on them to provide full refunds to consumers whose flights were canceled or affected by the pandemic.  At the very least, the consumer groups are urging airlines to extend the expiration dates for vouchers they issued for canceled flights to the end of 2022 or longer.

“Millions of Americans who booked flights in good faith in 2020 were prevented from flying because of government lockdowns and safety concerns brought on by a once-in-a-century global pandemic,” said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser to Consumer Reports.  “The airline industry has received very generous support from taxpayers while stiff-arming its customers and treating their hard-earned dollars as interest-free loans.  It’s time to provide consumers with the long-overdue refunds they rightfully deserve.”

The consumer groups’ letter notes that complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation about airline refunds have jumped dramatically over the past year.  In 2019, consumers submitted a total of 1,574 complaints about refunds to the DOT.  Last year, that number increased 57-fold to 89,518 refund complaints.

Consumer Reports has been contacted by numerous customers frustrated that they couldn’t get a refund during lockdowns and who are concerned that they might not be able to travel before vouchers expire. An analysis by TripAction, a travel management company for businesses, found that 55 percent of vouchers for unused tickets will expire in 2021, and 45 percent will expire in 2022.

Many passengers were prevented from flying because of government restrictions, public health notices, or serious medical conditions that made flying during the pandemic unsafe. Far too many of the trips they booked will never happen, due to the cancellation (not postponement) of conferences, conventions, weddings, graduations, and family reunions.

While passengers on flights canceled by airlines are entitled to a full refund under federal law, a congressional analysis found that some carriers offered vouchers as the default option, requiring passengers to take extra steps to get a cash refund. Many airlines waited until the last minute to cancel scheduled flights, prompting concerned passengers to cancel their tickets and forfeit their legal right to a refund.

“It’s insulting and unfair that airlines haven’t offered refunds to all customers affected by the pandemic,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog Director for U.S. PIRG. “Consumers certainly couldn’t have foreseen a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis. Our research has shown that travelers whose plans got canceled have to wade through refund policies likely written by a team of lawyers. They’re faced with figuring out the difference between a flight credit or a trip credit or a travel voucher and similar offers the airlines make to avoid giving people easy-to-understand cash in their pocket.”

A Consumer Reports review of airline voucher policies found nine different policies among ten different airlines.  Many of these policies are hard to find on airline websites, and the airlines’ descriptions of their policies can be quite confusing and at times contradictory, based on conflicting rules for various dates of booking, travel, and cancellation. The consumer groups’ letter was sent to the CEOs of the following scheduled airlines: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines.

Kamala Harris illustration done by Mina Tocalini of 360 MAGAZINE.

Win With Black Women

Back in 2016, while campaigning for the office of President of the United States, Donald Trump asked black voters, “What do you have to lose?”

He asked in reference to generations of oppression, violence and inequality, saying, “You’re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. 58% of your youth is unemployed.”

The obvious implication is that things couldn’t possibly get worse for black voters, and Trump thought he had a chance to be the solution to the problem.

Well, in Sept. 2020, it seems that President Trump has his answer, and it comes in the form of a letter penned by Win With Black Women and co-signed by over 1,000 black female leaders.

The letter opens with a direct response to the question posed by Trump.

“Our answer, evidenced by increasingly poor economic outcomes, high racial tensions and hate incidents, the coronavirus, and an overall lack of dignity and respect in the White House, is a lot. And for Black women in particular, it’s too much,” the letter said.

It went on to discuss “sycophantic rhetoric” at the RNC that would lead watchers to believe that black life in America is in a healthier place now than it was prior to Trump’s election. Furthermore, the letter said that rhetoric insisted that anyone challenging that notion was brainwashed.

To refute the points set forth at the RNC, the letter cited the State of Black America, saying black households bring in 41% less than white households, and 60% of the black population lives below the poverty line. The letter also said that black unemployment is double the percentage of white unemployment.

The letter covered the cause of the recent protests throughout the country, saying, “Our lives are in constant threat under your Administration. If you are Black in America, you are three times more likely to be shot by the police,” going on to name Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake as evidence that justice has gone unserved.

It also mentioned that black people are dying disproportionally from COVID-19 while black women, specifically, “lag behind in life expectancy, and maternal and infant mortality.”

Win With Black Women finished by saying that they will fight against attacks on Kamala Harris and proposed a call to action.

“We call on voters, no matter their background, to join us in setting the record straight and to reject your distracting antics, lies and attacks. We call on you and the GOP to focus on the crises afflicting the American people and not to insult every American with petty diversions, outright lies, and by sweeping problems under the rug.  We call on voters to stand in solidarity with Black women and reject your derogatory sexist, racist rhetoric aimed at undermining our credibility, our character, and our achievements,” the letter said.

Before closing the letter, Win With Black Women said they “vow to continue to uplift the issues most important to our families and our communities, keep our eyes and ears open, and to work to restore what is true, just, and decent to this election and to this monumental time in history.”

Win With Black Women has published the letter on Change.org, asking signees of the petition to stand with them in unity. To sign the letter and to see a complete list of co-signing leaders, you can click right here.

Kaelen Felix illustrates a political article for 360 MAGAZINE

Black Male Leaders x Biden

USA Today reported Monday that Black male leaders penned an open letter to presidential candidate Joe Biden to say that he will lose the election if he does not select a Black woman as his running mate.

According to USA Today, the letter came from more than 100 activists, leaders, preachers and celebrities. Some candidates on an unofficial shortlist of possible VPs include Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Karen Bass and Susan Rice, the former Ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Advisor during Barack Obama‘s presidency.

The letter also expressed concern that Black women were being unfairly criticized as potential running mates for Biden. USA Today mentions a POLITICO report that said Sen. Chris Dodd criticized Sen. Harris for comments on Biden’s voting record regarding civil rights. The article also mentions a CNBC report saying Biden allies found Harris to be too focused on becoming president herself to hold the vice presidential office.

Signees of the letter included Sean “Diddy” Combs, Charlamagne Tha God and civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, who represented George Floyd’s family.

“We don’t want to choose between the lesser of two evils, and we don’t want to vote for the devil we know versus the devil we don’t because we are tired of voting for devils,” the letter said.

The New York Times reported Monday that Biden’s VP selection committee has been disbanded and that the only thing left was a decision from Biden, also calling the pick “imminent.”

The New York Times also said Biden’s campaign has a virtual event planned to introduce the vice presidential candidate, and the event is sponsored by Women for Biden.