Peace Begins with Generation Z, Fight Voter Suppression, Taking Land Grabbing to the ICC, and More!
This week I am launching what will be a regular feature of this newsletter: Meet a Progressive. This will showcase progressive activists and organizers, with an emphasis on those from Pennsylvania (especially Bucks County). However, I will also introduce folks from across the country, and sometimes from around the globe. The idea is to create relationships, build solidarity, and offer readers ways to get involved with the issues they care about most.
What will (always) follow will be the week’s roundup of some stories I am following in PA, across the nation, and around the globe. I will also link to my columns in the Bucks County Courier Times and the Intelligencer every other week. Finally, please offer feedback and suggestions and forward and share this newsletter to folks you think might appreciate it.
Meet a Progressive
Mykal-Michele Longino, 21, is from Bucks County, PA, and currently is a junior English major at Spelman College, where her concentrations include Communications and Writing. She is passionate about social justice, and her ultimate goal is to use her leadership capabilities to make a difference in her community. Mykal-Michele focuses on issues that affect communities of color, and she is constantly thinking of ways to use her privilege to improve other people's lives.
What inspired you to start working for progressive social change?
My most significant influence is my mother. Growing up, I saw how serious she was about social justice, and it instilled a real passion in me for helping my community. I’ve always been involved in community service efforts, but I became serious about progressive social change during my sophomore year of high school in 2016. There was a lot of social and racial unrest in my community. Even though I could not vote in the presidential election, I felt responsible for ensuring my community was being represented at the polls, so I started canvassing and speaking at my school about the importance of voting rights. Eventually, I began volunteering with The Peace Center to find more ways to get involved with social change. Being a student at Spelman College also encourages me to stay involved in this field of work because as HBCU students, we are constantly reminded of the lack of representation for people like us in the social justice reform field. This is what motivates me to keep going because I aim to open doors for other young people like me.
What do you identify as the top issue progressives must confront locally, statewide in PA, across the nation, and around the globe?
I think one of the top issues progressives must confront is ending voter suppression. I believe that this issue is universal from a local standpoint, all the way across the nation. There are countless conservative political efforts in place that attempt to silence marginalized communities, but this phenomenon is fundamentally unconstitutional. The layers that make voter suppression a reality in this country stem from racism and issues of oppression which America needs to hit face on. However, I don’t think we will get anywhere without proper laws set to ensure every citizen in America can use their right to vote.
In terms of confronting issues from a global perspective, I feel that our world needs to pay closer attention to achieving sustainable development for all while addressing climate change at the same time. There are strong links between the two, and the reason why powerful countries don’t address these problems are because the countries most affected are poor and under-developed nations. The less developed countries are among those most adversely affected and least able to deal with the anticipated shocks to their social, financial, and natural systems. Nothing will change until leaders worldwide commit to acknowledging the science behind these issues and allocate the funds to dismantle the negative contributing factors permanently.
What types of organizing and projects are you working on right now?
I am currently working with The Peace Center [in Bucks County] to encourage discussions about progressive social change within the Generation Z demographic. I began thinking of ways to get my generation involved after the summer we had in 2020 and witnessing the severe repercussions of police brutality across the nation. I noticed that my generation needed an outlet to vent and work together to solve some time-sensitive problems around racism and social justice. I help co-host a bi-weekly virtual dialogue for youth across the community titled "Peace Begins with Gen Z," and it's been one of my most rewarding projects to date. Hosting conversations with other passionate students motivates me to continue working in this field because it gives me hope for the future. I believe that my generation will be the one to make a big difference in this world, and so my efforts to mobilize my peers is some of the most important work I'm working on. I also run our instagram account @Peacebeginswithgenz where we post encouraging content for other progressives in the community.
How can folks get engaged and involved?
I think the best way to get involved begins with educating yourself about progressive issues that are important to you. If you are educated about topics you’re passionate about, you can continue your efforts to educate other people. I believe the more people that feel encouraged to make a difference, the better. There is no maximum or minimum amount of work because social justice is an ongoing problem. There will always be issues that we have to tackle head-on, but folks can mobilize their communities through various avenues. The great thing about technology is we have access to information 24/7, and so spreading your knowledge via social media, web-forums or word of mouth can make all the difference.
Which journalists, writers, podcasts, and publications do you turn to for information and inspiration?
My biggest inspirations come from the woman who represents me. I aim to become a woman like Michelle Obama, and Stacey Abrams, so I look to them for motivation and encouragement. My favorite authors include Zora Neal Hurston, Angela Davis, and bell hooks. Some of my favorite media outlets are MSNBS and CNN, and I look to Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid to give me my daily news. I am on social media a lot, and so following accounts such as @impact and @r29unbothered are also ways I receive my information.
State of the Nation
Students at Kutztown University need solidarity. Community Research Opposing Hate (@crohlv), “a collective of activists keeping tabs on Lehigh Valley's Far Right,” tweeted a thread exposing Kutztown University’s refusal to remove a far-right extremist campus cop with a habit of posting bigoted views. Alan Swartz’s “homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, and insurrection supporting” social media posts were compiled and released on Instagram by a Kutztown University Activists, who are demanding that he be removed from his position.
What’s even more troubling is that Kutztown’s Swartz is president of the Teamsters affiliated union representing campus cops and security at PA’s 14 state schools. Shame on Kutztown and shame on the union. Students also launched a petition to have this cop removed. “CROH Lehigh Valley stands in solidarity with the members of Kutztown University Activists in their call to terminate Alan Swartz. We also echo their demand for a new, permanent accountability board so students have the power to protect their peers from bigoted officers in the future,” the collective wrote in a blog post. “Law enforcement doesn’t keep us safe. We keep us safe.”
Pennsylvania’s Christian Nationalist Insurrectionist in the state senate. PA muckraker Sean Kitchen (@pennslinger) pointed out on Twitter that State Senator Doug Mastriano proudly displays a Christian Nationalist flag - The Pine Tree Flag which states “An Appeal to Heaven.” Mastriano, who is expected to run for governor, spent thousands of dollars to charter busses to the Jan. 6 insurrection. (What a surprise that PA has more citizens arrested for their role in the coup attempt than any other state.)
The Pine Tree flag was spotted at the riots. A Medium post by the Tow Center explores the significance of the flag, its roots with Christian nationalism and dominionism, and how adherents of these movements are finding themselves aligned with the toxic cocktail of domestic terrorists who tried to overturn the last election. Given Mastriano’s history of Islamophobia, maybe he is gunning for another Crusades.
The U.S. is having another Jim Crow moment, or movement even. First, Republicans in Georgia don’t want Black people to vote. It really is that simple. The Brennan Center for Justice published an analysis that shows anti-voter bills in the state “would disproportionately hurt Black voters.” USA Today published a great oped exposing the gravity of the situation nationwide: “American democracy is at a crossroads. Legislators in 43 states have introduced voter suppression bills that, if enacted, would amount to the most far-reaching setbacks for voter participation in well over a century, all based upon the Big Lie that the 2020 election was infected by fraud.” And wouldn’t you know, as The Philadelphia Inqurier pointed out in an editorial, “Pennsylvania’s GOP makes state a national leader in voter suppression efforts.” We need to educate, organize, mobilize and stop these assaults on democracy.
Beyond the U.S. Bubble
Between the Lines to publish, "Testimonio: Canadian Mining in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala." I am honored and excited to have an essay featured in this forthcoming book which the Canadian mining industry presumably pressured a previously expected publisher to not follow through with an agreement to publish it.
The book is a collection of essays, news reports, and testimonials about the actions of Canadian mining companies in Guatemala. The amazing group of contributors includes: @RightsAction, @mimundo_org, @Sandra_Cuffe, @palabrasdeabajo, @pajarolindo, @HeatherGiesm, @cmychalejko, @HyltonAnne, @carenweisbart.
Land Grabbing in Cambodia. FIDH, Global Witness, and Climate Counsel sent a letter to the International Criminal Court urging the world body to investigate land grabbing in the Southeast Asian nation. The letter states that the “single greatest threat facing humankind - the climate and environmental emergency. Land grabbing is not only about the violent forced evictions of residents, or the beatings, murders, or unlawful imprisonment of land activists. In many countries around the world, land grabbing is the har- binger for illegal resource exploitation, persecution of indigenous people, and environ- mental destruction. Putting the brakes on illegal land grabbing will help protect the environment and combat climate change.”
Thanks for reading! I look forward to your feedback and suggestions.