low income rights

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People should definitely know that boycotting this movie won’t solve anything, but it does mean standing up for what you believe in and it absolutely does hold significance for folks like me who are cash-poor and don’t have the luxury of boycotting corporations and folks that are pro-Israel and for the continuing massacre of Palestinians.

I end up reading a lot of home living magazines while waiting in doctor’s offices and such, and based on the articles contained therein, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a chunk of the population for whom financial planning is basically performance art - and I don’t think they actually realise it.

Like, just today I spotted an article about a case study in creating affordable home-building solutions by assembling houses out of old shipping containers. I’m figuring, all right, sort of a low-income housing initiative, right?

What I actually ended up reading was a rambling story that starts with the owner borrowing fifty thousand dollars from her parents to pay for materials and permits, off-handedly mentions getting her architect stepfather to draw up the plans for her, continues with her three brothers - all of them experienced builders due to overseeing their own hobby renovation projects - taking a week off work to help her put the place together, and caps off with a funny anecdote about how come the first winter, all the plumbing froze, so she had to go live with her mom for a few months anyway.

Basically, she used her family connections to score an interest-free five-figure loan, access to rare expertise, and hundreds of hours of free skilled labour, and plowed it all into a cramped, ugly playhouse that’s only livable for part of the year.

The unfathomable part is, based on how how the article framed the whole thing, it’s clear that both the subject and the author honestly believe that they’ve discovered some sort of amazing money-saving life hack. They’re seriously convinced that this is the magic-bullet solution to the country’s affordable housing shortage, and not an expensive and impractical vanity project that ultimately failed to produce a house people can actually live in.

Just blows my mind. And this is the segment of the population that basically all of our politicians and business leaders are drawn from!

“Queen Sugar” just had one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard on Social Injustice

This needs to be heard by everyone. Reblog forever. This show deserves ALL THE EMMYS…

Melissa: Nova, our conversation today is going to focus on the idea of the journalists as activists. And looking at your body of work, of which I’m a big fan, you’ve covered everything from police corruption in low income communities to the problem of the American migrant workforce. When you think of your role as a journalist do you feel a sense of responsibility to take an advocacy position in your work?

Nova: I absolutely do. I worked hard to get to a place where I can choose the stories I want to cover, and it’s important for me to reflect humanity in my work, so there’s definitely an advocacy component in everything that I write. I think it’s critical that you use your platform, whatever that is…blogs, twitter, social media, whatever…to empower as well as educate.

Melissa: Let’s talk about a piece you wrote earlier this year on the “for-profit” prison complex and over-policing. I understand that you were able to help the young man featured in that story. His name is Too Sweet.

Nova: Yes, that’s correct. He’s been released on bail, but we still have a huge uphill battle to get his charges dropped. The Public Defender’s Office in Louisiana is woefully underfunded, yet they are sure happy to keep the bail money coming in. It could be years before Too Sweet gets a trial.

Melissa: But I just want to reiterate, his charges are quite serious. I mean “intent to distribute”, “assault on an officer”. Those are pretty serious charges.

Nova: Serious charges if they were true. Now, regardless, no minor should be held in an adult prison. They are not equipped to handle the emotional and psychological trauma of prison culture.

Melissa: That’s a good point. That’s a form of PTSD that we rarely talk about.

Nova: Yeah.

Melissa: Now, I know that you’re not publicly affiliated with the Black Lives Matter network or movement, but BLM has really changed the way that civil rights and social justice are articulated and the way they’re executed in this country. But now with one tweet you can move the needle. So as a journalist, give me your thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole.

Nova: The BLM energy was formally birthed in response to the 2012 acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer. And there have been chapters around the world that respond to incidents of anti-blackness and state sanctioned violence against black people. The movement is for people who are interested in the liberation of black lives.

Melissa: And yet, there’s serious criticism of BLM. What do you make of those critiques, especially of their relationship with Law Enforcement? 

Nova: The one criticism that frustrates me the most is this idea that there is a need for a leader, which is this coded language for meaning that there is no “straight male leader” at the helm. But truth is, civil rights work has been organized by communities of women, queer, and gender non-conforming people of color. Secondly, there’s this misconception that anything “pro-black” means “anti-white”. It doesn’t. Anybody who wants to fight for equity and justice should feel empowered to do so. I mean, reality is…law enforcement in this country is built on anti-black racism. As a community we need to interrogate our relationship with police. It’s critical for our survival. We deserve to be served and protected, and I want to work hand in hand with the brave men and women who agree with that on the force. Because they do exist. I know that for a fact.

-“I think it’s critical that you use your platform, whatever that is…blogs, twitter, social media, whatever…to empower as well as educate.”

Empower. Educate. Pass this along. Don’t let it die. The only way to fix what’s broken is to talk about it.

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This is a fantastic video by Buzzfeed’s Ladylike where the crew tries “free bleeding” (the practice going without any products to absorb their menstrual flows) for an entire day. It’s a unique experiment and something some people find empowering.

HOWEVER, for many people it’s not a choice or a game. Just like the video states, many low-income and homeless people right here in the U.S. simply cannot afford pads, tampons, or other products that help keep us clean, confident, and able to exist within the norms of society. This is super uncomfortable, and not something anyone should be forced to endure. 

If you’re looking for a good way to help out this holiday season, donate pads and tampons to your local homeless shelter. Next time you’re buying your own, just buy an extra box! Or if it’s possible for you, go to Costco or Sam’s Club and grab a bunch. Encourage others to do the same.

Help out your fellow period-people!

A few of my friends have made posts on facebook sharing how the Affordable Care Act has helped them and/or their family members access health insurance and health care that they would otherwise not have been able to access. They inspired me to do the same.

I have Medicaid. The only reason I’m able to access this program is because eligibility was expanded by the ACA to include people of my (low) income level. Right now in Illinois, people making under $16k a year (me) are able to enroll in Medicaid. I am not able to afford private health insurance otherwise, so having access to Medicaid has been amazing. My therapy visits are completely covered, and I can get the care I need without having to stress about affording it.. 

If funding for the expansion of Medicaid is taken away, I lose all of that. I lose not only my insurance, but my peace of mind. 

I remember what it was like when I was first diagnosed with depression, trying to get my care covered by insurance once I was off my parent’s plan. It was horrible, and made me feel so much worse than I already did. Honestly, it makes me feel horrible just thinking about it. I had to switch my insurance plan/company several times, but each one was a never-ending struggle.
Having Medicaid has been the opposite. It’s been such a huge relief, and I’m so thankful for it. I really don’t want to lose that.

It’s okay if you cannot vote.

If anyone sees this who, for whatever reason, cannot vote, I want you to know that it is okay and you should not be beating yourself up over it!  There are far too many reasons to list why people in the United States are not able to vote. I want you to remember and know that you are still a good person.

(If you are not familiar with why people can easily have a hard time voting, please check out my other post.)

Clearing up misconceptions about Food Deserts!

What is a Food Desert?

A food desert is “a geographic area where affordable and healthy food is difficult to obtain”.

What counts as a Food Desert?

There are a number of factors which go into determining what is, and what is not, a food desert. While there is no standard measurement for what is adequate and inadequate access to food, since this will depend on the individual’s resources, it offers a more general description of inaccessibility to work with. These factors may include:

  • distance to the nearest supermarket or grocery store
  • distance to affordable food products and distance to healthy food products
  • whether or not affordable food products in the area are healthy, and vice versa, whether or not healthy food products in the area are affordable

Why are Food Deserts a Bad Thing?

Lacking regular access to nutritional food products is associated with a number of diseases and illnesses centred around malnutrition. Communities where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is extremely limited experience a recognizable increase in health problems.

Note that the issue of Food Deserts is not simply that everyone in a certain area “eats a bunch of junk food and gets fat”. The concept of Food Deserts is not a concept about perceived ideas of weight or obesity. Certain dietary habits which promote thinness can exist within food deserts, and certain diets irrespective of their weight promotion hold problems for health. So the issue of Food Deserts is not one propagated by those who have a fear or aversion to weight, but a concern for the health and well-being (longevity of life and quality of life) of entire communities. However, some resources on Food Deserts may make a point to discuss how diabetes and obesity is related to this issue.

How Many People Live in Food Deserts?

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that about 23.5 million people in the US live in Food Deserts, with about half of these inhabitants being low-income. The total population of the US is approximately 313.9 million. This means that 7% of the American population lives in a Food Desert. If we expand the definition of what a Food Desert is, this number could reasonably rise to about 15%. This follows that anywhere from 3-7% of low-income individuals live in Food Deserts.

So while Food Deserts are an immediate problem for millions of people, Food Deserts are also a very small minority of the food availability landscape, at least in the US.

So People in Food Deserts Can’t Access Healthy, Affordable Food?

Yes and no. Since half of the population that inhabits Food Deserts in the US is not in a low-income household, half or more of the individuals who live in Food Deserts have steady access to transportation. Many are suspected to have access to a personal automobile, while others utilize public transportation. This means that many people who live in so-called Food Deserts do have access to healthy and affordable food, but they can’t simply walk to their grocery store or take a 5 minute drive to the supermarket. This may only amount to a half-hour drive to a large supermarket, which middle-class citizens may find inconvenient, but not dire.

Food Deserts are thus, I suggest, only true problems for low-income individuals and households, and middle-class residents who live in Food Deserts should not cite this as an excuse for deliberately choosing certain types of food products that may be unhealthy or unethical. The concept of a Food Desert as an actual problem is inseparable from the socioeconomic status of the individual.

How Do We Eliminate Food Deserts?

There are a number of different theories and methods that have been formulated in order to combat inaccessibility to healthy, affordable food for low-income residents of these communities. Some plans focus on offering easier and more reliable methods of transportation to supermarkets and grocery stores, others create organizations that work with small businesses in the area to offer a wider range of health food options. Some more encourage personal agriculture - growing your own fruits and vegetables - for more rural areas. In the end, there are multiple approaches to decreasing the existence of Food Deserts, many of which are seen as equally viable methods of working towards the same goal.

Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert

2. http://apps.ams.usda.gov/fooddeserts/foodDeserts.aspx

3. http://www.ehatlas.ca/built-environments/food-deserts

4. http://apps.ams.usda.gov/fooddeserts/

5. http://www.dccentralkitchen.org/eliminatingfooddeserts/

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Ferguson “debtors prisons” targeting low-income African-Americans – civil rights lawyers