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WSSN Stories

“What Shall We Do Now?”

Lou Coleman-Yeboah

Lou Coleman-Yeboah

By Lou Coleman-Yeboah

Now that the celebration of Black History Month is coming to a close; how can we honor our history, respond to the present, and build a viable, vibrant future for our people? I’ll tell you how…. We can honor their memory by rediscovering the “Faith” that allowed them to survive. The Faith, that enabled our forefathers to endure trials and hardships that we can only imagine. The Faith, that inspired leaders to respond courageously to the problems of our people. We can build on the legacy they have left us by carefully following the One they followed – Jesus. It is not too late! We can still return to the God of our fathers. For we have an extraordinarily rich spiritual heritage and there is victory in our bloodline. We belong to the family of God, and being engrafted into His family means that we are over-comers through the Blood of Jesus; the Blood of the Lamb, the Conquering Weapon.

Therefore, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the pioneer and perfecta of our Faith. For it wasn’t by power nor by might, but by the Spirit of God—the wisdom, authority, power, and presence of the Most High God—that freedom, equality, and justice was and will continue to be.   Let us learn from the stories of the great cloud of witnesses.  “Though beaten, they were not beaten down by life because they looked to Christ. Though enslaved physically, they were not enslaved spiritually because they were free in Christ. For a people in bondage for 400 years— it is a sustaining and comforting reminder to know that God has not forgotten. “He has seen!” our afflictions, and heard our cries: every tear shed was preserved, and every groan uttered was being recorded, in order to testify at a future day, against the authors of the oppressors.”

Understand this truth…. God has chosen us for Greatness…. And there’s nobody, there’s nothing, and there is no circumstance, under the Sun that can keep God from doing exactly what He wants in us for His Glory! We have victory through Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior who lives and Reigns in our heart…. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” So, if God be for us, who can defeat us? If God be for us, who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  If God be for us, is there anything that we can’t do? If God be for us, is there anything our families can’t overcome? If God be for us, is there anything that the world can do to stop us? I hear our slave ancestors answering, “No!” I hear the civil right marchers, answering, “No!” Because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same Jesus who heard the songs of the slaves and the chants of the civil rights marchers will hear the prayers of those who now cry out for justice throughout our country. With God’s help, we shall overcome.

Oh, what an amazing future it is! Living moment by moment looking back with thankfulness on all that God has done for us, and looking forward at all God promises to do for us because of Christ. Let us rejoice in God’s great faithfulness consistently displayed through our great struggles and great strides. For empowered by God as they were, we can continue their work and likewise pass down legacies of strength, perseverance, faith, and victory to future generations. [Psalm145:41].

As it is written: “For our sake [they] were killed all day long; [they] were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in ALL THESE THINGS [they] were MORE than CONQUERORS through Him who loved us. They were persuaded that neither death nor Life, nor Angels nor Principalities nor Powers, nor things Present nor things to come, nor Height nor Depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate them from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:35-39].

Thanksgiving toward the Past, Faith toward the Future!

Black History Month Spotlight: Tanya Wallace-Gobern

Tanya Wallace-Gobern

Tanya Wallace-Gobern

By Alexandra Fenwick

Most people are familiar with the phrase, “If you are doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, Tanya Wallace-Gobern is one of lucky ones doing just that. As the Executive Director of the National Black Worker Center Project, she is fulfilling her dream to serve and uplift the Black  community.

As a criminal justice and social work major in college, Tanya fell into an internship at the Organizing Institute of the AFL-CIO right before graduation that changed her career trajectory. Tanya climbed the ladder and continued to work in advocacy and organizing for more than 20 years, but as time went on, she felt she was getting farther and farther from her calling – making a difference in the Black community. That is until she joined the National Black Worker Center Project.

The National Black Worker Center Project focuses on supporting and incubating Black worker centers, providing education about the impacts of low-wage  work and unemployment in the Black community. The Center works to prevent racial discrimination in the work place. Through national convening’s, supporting their local affiliates and creating campaigns and initiatives to share the Black worker’s experience, Tanya and the National Black Worker Center Project are protecting the rights of unemployed and low-wage Black workers everywhere.

While working on the Project’s nationalWorking While Blackcampaign, Tanya realized the scope of Black workers facing discrimination was much bigger  than the unemployed and low-wage workers she primarily focused on. While speaking to a man who worked in film in L.A. and earned a six-figure salary, he uttered words that would stick with her: “What about the rest of us?” Tanya thought, if you believe he shouldn’t be the kind of person the National Black Worker Center Project should also focus on, you’d be wrong.

Research shows the more educated or the higher the salary, the more opportunities there are for discrimination against Black workers. Tanya is working against the discrimination itself, as well as the fallacies that once Black workers reach a particular status or salary, they no longer encounter discrimination.

As a Black worker herself, Tanya knows this to be true. That’s why it’s so important to her that she, and people who look like her, are at the forefront of the movement. She understands the people she serves aren’t waiting for a savior. What they are looking for is leadership development so they can become the leaders in their own movement.

Although their focus is on Black workers, Tanya is clear that the work the National Black Worker Center Project does encompasses people of all races, economic status, religion and sexual orientation. “The work doesn’t end with us. It isn’t a poor person’s issue, or a Black person’s issue, or rich person’s issue, these are worker issues.” Tanya doesn’t think she can solve this problem any time soon, but that isn’t stopping her from trying. She believes the mere existence of her organization is a win for workers everywhere.

To learn more about the National Black Worker Center Project, or get involved with an affiliate, please visit: https://nationalblackworkercenters.org/.

Lady Justice and Her Plantation: A History of Black People and the Prison System

By Aldon Thomas Stiles

The story of Black people in the U.S. has always been one of triumph in the face of impossible odds. It is the heritage of an entire people that rose from bondage and overcame one of the greatest atrocities in human history. June 19, 1865 marked the end of legal slavery for Black people in the U.S. and ushered in a new age of progress. But with the reality of residual intolerance and an economy built on free labor, those who escaped the chains of subjugation often found themselves bound by those very chains once again under a new name: Prison.

According to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, the U.S. represents under 5 percent of the world’s population and over 21 percent of its prisoners. Mass incarceration in the U.S. has a long and arduous history that can be directly traced back to the end of slavery. In regard to the prison system in the U.S., Criminal Justice Attorney Vonya Quarles, who spoke during the Inland Empire Women’s March, said, “We have an addiction to cheap labor. We have an addiction to slavery.” Slavery existed as an economic system and when it went, our economic security almost went with it. Thus, began a trend of criminalizing and incarcerating Black people for small infractions in order to exploit them for cheap labor.

In the late 60s, the rhetoric surrounding criminality became far more hostile in nature. The heavily criticized “War On Drugs” painted drug addiction as a criminal issue and not a health issue. John Ehrlichman, former advisor to President Richard Nixon, said about the “War On Drugs” that “the Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and Black people… We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Blacks.”

According to the NAACP, African Americans “constituted 2.3 million, or 34 percent, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.” African Americans make up about 13 percent of the world’s population but comprise over one-third of the country’s prison population. Regarding San Bernardino, CA, Dr. Annika Anderson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at California State University, San Bernardino and Project Director of Project Rebound, wrote in an email, “In 2014, in San Bernardino, African Americans had the highest jail incarceration rate (958.3 per 100,000), followed by Whites (420 per 100,000) and Latinos (354.2 per 100,000) with significantly lower rates.” Anderson went on to discuss how community context also plays a role in the high recidivism rate for African Americans in California, which was at 66.1 percent as of 2013 according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

There are, however, programs in the Inland Empire area that aim to help this special population. Project Rebound, for example, is a program on CSUSB’s campus that helps formerly incarcerated students attend classes and work towards a degree. “The CSU Chancellor’s office supported the development of Project Rebound programs at all CSU campuses, and CSUSB is one of several pilot efforts,” Anderson wrote in an email. “We have established relationships with several community colleges, three reentry centers, and provided outreach efforts to potential students who are currently incarcerated at several prisons (e.g. Chino Institute for Women, Chino Institute for Men, CRC Norco, and Chuckawalla prison).”

Another resource for the formerly and currently incarcerated is the grassroots human rights group known as All of Us Or None based in Southern California. Their goal is to fight for the rights of these people and “strengthen the voices of people most affected by mass incarceration and the growth of the prison-industrial complex.” During their monthly meeting, the group discussed policies such as Assembly Bill 1008, the California Fair Chance Act, which prevents employers from performing a background check into the criminal record of potential employees until the former has officially offered them a position. Members in attendance also discussed the Voting Restoration and Democracy Act of 2018, a bill that proposes to restore the voting rights of those in state prisons and on parole. Riverside County Supervisor Candidate Penny Newman attended this meeting as well. She remarked, “The whole criminal justice system is screwed up. In fact, our society is screwed up.” This idea seemed to echo Vonya Quarles’ opening statement during her speech at the Inland Empire Women’s March. As thousands of people cheered, Quarles said, “We don’t have a justice system, we have an injustice system.”