I’ve spent my entire career as a civil rights activist and anti-violence advocate. I hear from folks all over the country about how fed-up they are—how much they want change—but they don’t know where to start. It’s not enough just to be informed, we’ve got to work tirelessly to do better. With the “The Lookout,” I’ll collect the most important stories and action items that you need to know about and things you can do each week, keeping you involved so you can create positive change for yourself and your community.
1. An Uphill Battle: Make 2014 The Year Of Action Against All Odds
In his 2014 State of The Union address Tuesday night, President Obama implored us all to make 2014 “The Year of Action.” From the economy to women’s equality there is so much positive work to do, but that’s easier said than done with the obstacles standing in our way; Because this week we also got a glimpse into the minds of some of America’s most out of touch individuals—individuals who have a massive influence over our national politics, economics, and culture.
Rand Paul, Republican Senator from Kentucky, declared “The War on Women” nonexistent because the women in his privileged family are secure in well-paying positions of power. Senator Paul seems to have forgotten that regardless of his own family’s security, American women still make an average of 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes, and women of color are making even less. According to the Schriver Report, 1 in 3 women live in poverty. This is all without even starting on issues of reproductive and personal health under attack everyday in states across the country.
Meanwhile, Kleiner Perkins CEO, Tom Perkins, compared rising criticism of our nation’s wealthy elite to the Nazi scapegoating of Jews during the Holocaust. The outrageous claim is an insult to the Jewish people, history, and our common sense of human decency—but it’s also missing the point. We are living in a time where the top 1% of earners controls 43% of the wealth, unemployment has skyrocketed, and mobility is very nearly impossible.
These people are out of touch with the lives of average Americans, but unfortunately they’re not alone in their opinions and together they have undue influence in the fate of our nation. By voting these people out of office, protesting their irresponsibility, and making sure our voices and concerns are represented, we can make 2014 The Year of Action.
2. Take Your Finger Off The Trigger: How We Can Help End The Deadly Cycle Of Mass Shootings
This year has been deadly. As first reported by Think Progress, there have been 9 school shootings in the first 18 days of the 2014 school year. That’s a shooting every other day, that’s more than 9 children shot or killed. But more than that, it’s a generation of children we are conditioning to believe that school is a dangerous place, or that their lives are on the line every time they get off the school bus and walk through the doors of those once hallowed institutions. We’re not even taking into account the mall and movie theater shootings that have happened in the last 4 weeks. Yet Congress, the Senate—they’re silent—and shockingly, according to the New York Times, most states across the country have been quietly passing legislation to make gun restrictions looser. We have to keep our priorities straight. During his State of The Union Address, President Obama re-avowed in front of our entire nation to pass regulations in Congress to reduce gun violence—and it’s up to you to hold him to that promise. Do not let these tragedies fall from the headlines, do not let the ball drop this time. Spread it across your networks everyday. Flood your local representatives voicemail and email—make them work to stop the violence.
3. Close the Door On Pay Day Loans And Open The Door to Opportunity
Finally, there will be one-less way to disenfranchise Black America. This week, the Department of Justice announced its plans to investigate and prosecute banks that took part in the billion-dollar industry of predatory “payday” loans. This is not a criticism of those who have taken payday loans, and many of us have; for people struggling to make ends meet, these loans appeared to be a saving grace—money in your pocket when you need it. Yet, with interest loans as high as 400% there was no way they could ever be repaid. In fact, most people end up taking out even more loans to pay off the first one, entering a vicious predatory cycle that made banks and lenders billions of dollars. Now we have to work together to create real solutions for everyday Americans, raising minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, and creating jobs so that we can pull ourselves up out of desperate situations.
4. Be Prepared: Climate Change, Extreme Weather, And Personal Safety
“Climate change is a fact.” With that statement, President Obama made it clear he won’t be dancing around the issue, entertaining the idea that there is some debate to be had on the future of our climate. This winter should have been a wake-up call for all of us: climate change is real and we’re not ready. Despite early forecast warnings this week, cold weather and snow swept across southern states like Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Carolinas causing immense chaos. We need our local governments and agencies to be prepared, to work together and create plans of action not only for the worst disasters like Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, but also small and abnormal changes in weather. There was no blizzard in the South, just an inch or two of snow that local authorities were in no way prepared to deal with—and neither were local residents. We need to do our part to be prepared, to keep our children and ourselves safe regardless of our city or state’s level of readiness. Go online to Ready.gov, FEMA’s website for disaster preparedness, and learn everything you need to do to protect yourself and your family. It is also our responsibility to call our local representatives and tell them we’re unhappy with their response, that we need them to create a cohesive plan of action. This is not about being afraid, it’s about knowing that you have the power to make sure crises like these don’t happen again.
5. Super Bowl Weekend: Common Sense, Safety, and Fun
This weekend, folks will be out in full force with family and friends, forgetting about work and personal drama and indulging in the biggest night for sports. The Super Bowl is a time for fun, but we can’t forget the need to be smart and stay safe. There are small actions you can take to protect yourself: Don’t drink and drive, be wary of people looking to get rowdy and start fights, watch out for scammers online and in person trying to empty your pockets. If you can, try to support small businesses selling food and drink and other merchandise over the weekend, but most of all, enjoy the game.
I want to hear from you; what’s going on in your community? What stories or events should folks know about? Leave a comment below.
Called “a leader of tomorrow” by Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie B. Jarrett, Tamika D. Mallory is a nationally recognized leader and civil rights activist. Tamika is the Founder/President of Mallory Consulting, LLC and the former Executive Director of the National Action Network (NAN), one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations. She is featured regularly as a leading voice on key social justice issues and is currently making headlines around the country for her tireless activism and strong stance on women’s issues, anti-violence, young adult advocacy, and decency.