Monday, November 23, 2015

Where to spend money in New Orleans during the holiday season, 3rd Annual Edition

Hey you! Over there, with the disposable income!

Just in time for this holiday season, here's a list of places to spend money in New Orleans where your dollars are going to have positive impact on the local economy.

Consider donating money to the following groups in honor of your sister or whoever, for whatever holiday you observe. It beats that "candles and potholders" gift idea you had for her!

In no particular order:

Trystereo / New Orleans Harm Reduction Network
Provides health supplies, wellness education, wound-care consultations, toiletries, and clothing to drug-users in southeastern Louisiana. Facilitates workshops on safer drug-use, first aid practices, and overdose prevention. Self-funded (no overhead!). Runs a 12-Step Alternative support group for people who feel kinda judged or unwelcome at AA/NA/etc meetings.

Sex Workers Outreach Project
This anti-violence network provides health, legal, and safety information to people engaged in sex work (stripping, escorting, etc)  in New Orleans. It is an important support in an industry where many laborers experience stigma and alienation.

Women with a Vision
Facilitates the empowerment of low-income women of color through legislative advocacy, educational programming, and other initiatives that nobody else is taking up. They do important work around harm reduction for drug-users and sex workers; they're currently running domestic violence support groups as well.

Common Ground Health Clinic
"Solidarity, not Charity" is the motto of this Algiers community-based clinic that focuses care on low-income residents of New Orleans. They also publish and distribute a free (and extremely useful) guide to mental and physical health resources in the GNO area.

Food Justice
Supporting Urban Agriculture
Grows food in the Lower 9th Ward and gives it to the neighbors, sells it to the people who can pay. Kinda evens things out, and promotes healthy eating for everybody.

Community Kitchen
Makes and serves free meals (including vegan and gluten-free options!) for anyone who's hungry. Caters events for other radical groups in the city.

Break Out
Organizes against police profiling and brutality of queer and transgender youth of color. A totally self-determined group of badass visionary young people.

Apex Youth Center
Originally run by a couple out of their living room, this organization does an awesome job of providing free afterschool care for youth in the city. Kids get snacks, clothes, tutoring, whatever. The older kids are the "mentors." The center is often open to the neighborhood for barbecues and other parties. The founders even negotiated with the police to extend the nighttime youth curfew to kids leaving the Center late at night.

Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools / The Rethinkers
A participatory education group of New Orleans students who reject the school-to-prison pipeline, and the teach-to-the-test pedagogical approach. Instead, they work to make their schools supportive environments for learning and leadership development.

Arts, sports, foreign language, yoga, drama, dance, culinary, etc. classes for youth in New Orleans. This program - formerly called CP3 Afterschool Zone - used to be funded by Chase Bank, but Chase Bank no longer cares about the children of New Orleans. Somehow the program has to fund itself now. You can help!

All-volunteer run bicycle shop that teaches neighborhood kids how to build and repair their own bikes.

LOUD: New Orleans Queer Youth Theater
Queer youth create, design, and perform top-notch theatrical productions. Also produce educational workshops on civil rights and sexual health.

The Prison System, and the People Affected by It
Cornerstone Builders
Free buses to prisons around Louisiana. Help a mama visit her son while he's locked up!

Books 2 Prisoners
Sends free books to people in the South's jails and prisons. 

Voice of the Ex-Offender
Helps formerly incarcerated individuals re-acclimate to society. Provides legal resources, financial management education, and leadership development opportunities. Promotes community education and collaboration around voting rights and interaction with law enforcement.

Resurrection After Exoneration
Say you spent a lot of time in prison for a crime you didn't commit. Then you get released, but you have nowhere to go. This organization will let you live in their house for free! They'll also hook you up with clothing, legal resources, and whatever else you might need.

Youth Rebuilding New Orleans
Founded by two New Orleans-born brothers in their 20s, this agency engages youth to build houses for public school teachers. They also make room to train and mentor young people doing court-mandated community service.
Rebuilds people's houses in the Lower 9th Ward. Pretty simple. The homeowners just pay for the construction materials; volunteers do the rest. On a side note, it's pretty ridiculous that we're still relying on volunteers and donations to rebuild people's houses in the Lower 9th Ward. Let's get it done already.

Survivors Village
Stands up for people whose housing was seized after Katrina for "abandonment," "blight," or other political reasons, when really they just didn't have enough money to come home.

New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, specifically:

Congreso de Jornaleros / Congress of Day Laborers
One of the bravest groups around - a union of undocumented workers. These people rebuilt New Orleans after Katrina; now they're being deported. Fuck that. Give them money to access healthcare, education, labor rights, housing, and stable legal standing.

Stand with Dignity
Tirelessly advocates to improve the housing, employment, and educational opportunities for low-income residents of New Orleans. These people were left in deplorable conditions during Katrina, and stood up to (successfully) demand radical changes to the city's shelter and evacuation protocols.

General Community Development
Asserts the rights and needs of Spanish-speaking populations in New Orleans. They do stuff like: help clinics translate health flyers; advocate to get interpreters wherever they're needed; link families to information about schools and housing; and hold businesses and social services accountable for working with Spanish-speakers.

Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training
Promotes education, economic self-sufficiency, and access to social resources in the Vietnamese communities of New Orleans East. Runs free summer camps for children.

Ashe Cultural Arts Center
Promotes African, Caribbean, and African-American art and artists. Hosts community groups about health and fatherhood, among other themes.

The successor of the Free Southern Theater, this organization produces and encourages social justice-driven art. Recent productions have concerned the privatization of New Orleans schools, and the experience of displacement in the environmentally fragile Gulf Coast.

A film festival that spotlights the struggles and triumphs of marginalized populations.

A multidisciplinary arts group that produces works around ecological and other civic concerns. Their stellar outdoor "Cry You One" show was performed on the canals and swamps of St. Bernard Parish, highlighting the human consequences of environmental degradation.

A multidisciplinary performance arts group that uses theatre as a tool of healing and recovery. Runs a theatre group at Louisiana's St. Gabriel prison for women.

New Orleans Community Printshop & Darkroom
A low-cost studio space for artist-entrepreneurs. Also runs free workshops for neighborhood kids to learn screenprinting, photography, and zine-making.

Books & Other Things for Purchase
Jala and the Wolves, and the Jaden Toussaint series, by Marti Dumas. Lacking many promising options for literature featuring children of color as the main characters, this New Orleans mom and educator started writing her own books.

Immigrant Dreams & Alien Nightmares, by José Torres Tama. Explores the bilingual, bicultural identity of the author as he poetically documents his own experience of immigration to the United States and in New Orleans.

Mixed Company, by women of color in Louisiana. A collection of writing and visual art that confronts spatial and mental boundaries, and expresses contemporary Black intellectualism.

Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, by Jordan Flaherty. Tells the oftentimes underheard stories of grassroots organizing and collaboration in New Orleans, during and around the time of Hurricane Katrina.

Art, comics, and ephemera, by Ben Passmore. This hyper-talented, hyper-sensitive Black New Orleans-based artist explores masculinity, anarchist theory, and police violence in his playful art.

Also check out:

* * * *
Hit up the comments section if you want something included! Thanks to everyone who helped me compile this list by doing the work / shouting out others who do the work.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Anti-oppression / Anti-bullshit voting guide for New Orleans RUNOFF elections, Nov. 21st

Hello, New Orleans!

We're back with your runoff election voting guide for November 21st, 2015.

Early voting is November 7th-14th, but not November 8th or November 11th. Who said democracy is convenient?

As always, we are against oppression and bullshit, and we are for a reasonable way of life. This guide is a working draft, and we welcome your input in the comments section below. Please see our guidelines as to what constitutes "reasonable." Big thanks to local human rights attorney Monique Harden for compiling the candidate demographics.

This election is the runoff for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. Depending on where you live, you might also be asked to vote for State Senator, State Representative, and/or Orleans Parish School Board member. Check GeauxVote for the ballot that corresponds to your address.

Vote early and vote often! Or there's always a vote for Nobody. Why vote for Nobody? Because Nobody is the best candidate. Nobody cares. Nobody will keep election promises. Nobody will listen to your concerns. Nobody tells the truth. Nobody will lower your taxes. Nobody will defend your rights. Nobody has all the answers.

Love ya!

John Bel Edwards - Democrat, White, Male
David Vitter - Republican, White, Male

Good Lord, this is truly not a good situation. On the one hand, we have Vitter, an anti-abortion, pro-business career politician guided by his conservative religious conviction. On the other hand, we have Edwards, an anti-abortion, pro-business career politician guided by his conservative religious conviction.

The benefit to a Governor Vitter is that if we truly believe that the apocalypse is upon us, he will hasten it by killing the environment even faster than we already are, with his hands in the diapers of oil&gas.

Edwards pays lip service to improving higher education and pay equity for women, so that's good.

VOTE: Edwards, just because Vitter is actually crazy enough to kill us all

Lieutenant Governor
Melvin "Kip" Holden - Democrat, Black, Male
"Billy" Nungesser - Republican, White, Male

Of the bunch last time, we liked Holden the best (disliked him the least?). To review: He may or may not have sexually harassed his employee; he thinks that oil&gas are just a part of state economic development, not the whole thing; and he's done quite a bit to invest in the arts in Baton Rouge.

The Pat Buchanan-booster Nungesser is likable in the avuncular, Plaquemines-punchy kind of way, and he has stood up for the defense of coastal Louisiana throughout his political career, at least on camera. His record as Plaquemines Parish president is warped towards conservative fiscal and social values. He has also been sued for sexual harassment. (Maybe that's a campaign requirement these days?) Pretty much everyone who's endorsing Vitter is also endorsing Nungesser.

VOTE: Holden

Attorney General
James "Buddy" Caldwell - Republican, White, Male
"Jeff" Landry - Republican, White, Male

The tricky part about this race is that our favorite from the last go-round, Geri Baloney, endorsed Jeff Landry in the runoff. I'd say to trust her judgment but hang on, this guy is like NRA Gangbusters, fresh from the Tea Party Caucus. The dude literally kicked the underdog during his career as a business lawyer, when - in his words - he "represented numerous job creators and business owners" [read: oil&gas corporations] "against frivolous lawsuits" [read: the environment]. In 2012, he lobbied against an LGBT studies program at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, saying it was "an unnecessary use of taxpayer money." He thinks people don't serve enough time in jail for criminal activity, and wants more surveillance for those on probation and parole. Get a grip, wingnut.

Then there's Wingnut #2, Elvis-impersonating incumbent Buddy Caldwell, who not only spent public funds on golfing equipment and a vacation to Montana, but actively refused to prosecute his own embezzler family members. Before that, he was a district attorney who boasted about keeping non-violent offenders locked up. This guy has engaged in seriously dubious ethics and flouted the public interest mandate of his position, only to seek election to his third frickin term.

VOTE: Ugh, it breaks my heart to endorse Caldwell. But as my neighbor Creole Sassy says, "We have to hold our nose for him because otherwise, who knows."

State Senator, 7th District
Jeffrey "Jeff" Arnold - Democrat, White, Male
Troy Carter - Democrat, Black, Male

Troy Carter is a former City Councilmember and State Representative endorsed by Mitch Landrieu. He supports Medicaid expansion, and is against further state budget cuts to higher education and healthcare. His nephew just won the election for the State Rep position that Troy Carter held in the 90s, and that Jeff Arnold is vacating due to term limits.

Confused, much? Yeah, these two are career politicians from political families.

Current State Rep and NBC Bank Vice President Jeff Arnold has publicly called for the secession of Algiers from the city of New Orleans. He sees crime as a major problem in New Orleans, and wants to "examine" public defender services as a dimension of criminal justice. Arnold is the son of Algiers' assessor.

VOTE: Honestly, it's a toss-up. Nobody impresses us here, but we can't in good conscience tell you to vote for a banker. Troy Carter it is.

State Representative. 99th District
Ray Crawford - Democrat, Black, Male
"Jimmy" Harris - Democrat, Black, Male

A Ray Crawford canvasser accosted me with great enthusiasm at the Mirliton Festival this past weekend, and told me that "Ray's a pastor, so you know he's gonna look out for you." Being Jewish myself, I wasn't so convinced. But Crawford's said some good stuff about Medicaid expansion, as well as the rights of teachers and parents to make decisions for public education. His candidacy was originally challenged in the Louisiana Supreme Court on the grounds of residency requirements, but it was allowed to proceed when it was found that the court documents misnamed him as "Raymond," instead of "Ray." Ah, the mighty wheels of justice.

Former Attorney General staffer Jimmy Harris' campaigning has focused largely on incentivizing business development in this district, which includes parts of New Orleans East and the 9th Ward. He used to be part of Congressman Cedric Richmond's machinery, and we usually like us some Cedric Richmond.

VOTE: Harris, but Crawford probably wouldn't be terrible either.

State Representative, 100th District
John Bagneris - Democrat, Black, Male
Alicia Plummer Clivens - Democrat, Black, Female

We like Alicia Plummer Clivens' consistently strong advocacy for public education and accessible healthcare in her community. Endorsed by teachers' unions and the AFL-CIO, she has confronted the Landrieu administration on New Orleans East's stagnant post-Katrina recovery. She is also endorsed by an outfit known as the Independent Women's Organization, which promotes female Democratic Party candidates. The NRA gave her a 0% rating, which is probably good for the children of America.

Bagneris is from a political family with ties to the Morials. He shares Clivens' goal to attract business growth to the East, as well as her 0% NRA approval rating. He might be fine as a State Rep, but we're trying to undermine political dynasties here.

VOTE: We're gonna go with Alicia Clivens on this one.

State Representative, 103rd District
"Ray" Garofalo - Republican, White, Male
Casey Hunnicutt - Democrat, White, Male

Ultra-conservative current State Rep Garofalo was one of two legislators to support something called the "Marriage and Conscience Act," which, as you can imagine, was not designed with any kind of recognizable civil rights orientation except towards businesses that want to discriminate against LGBTQ employees and still reap the benefits of state tax incentives. So you could say he's really gone out on a limb for his rightwing gay-hating constituency.

Casey Hunnicutt was elected to St. Bernard Parish Council at age 24, and has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO. It's hard to find more information about him, but he's probably not worse than Ray Garofalo.

VOTE: Casey Hunnicutt

Orleans Parish School Board, 1st District
Keith Barney - Democrat, Black, Male
John Brown - Democrat, Black, Male

Keith Barney was a special education teacher before joining the charter board at Mary Coghill, a Gentilly school under the purview of the state-run Recovery School District. He voted not to return the school to the locally controlled OPSB last year, citing poor leadership and "bad behavior."

Former principal John Brown was somewhat contentiously appointed to the OPSB back in March, after former member Ira Thomas was indicted for bribery. At the time, Brown was asked to pledge not to run for the position this November, but whoops - he forgot about that. So you can see the ethical precedent on this Board is, er, let's say "not strong." But Brown has contended that success in public education occurs "where community partnerships are reciprocal and demand coordination, collaboration and mutual investment...[The Orleans Parish school system should be] providing quality learning environments that promote academic excellence and engaging the family and community in the support of student achievement." Stand for Children endorses his candidacy.

VOTE: John Brown