26 April 2010

Arizona Governor Signs Racist, Anti-Immigrant Legislation - Join the Grassroots Response

Last Friday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the horrific anti-immigrant bill SB 1070 into law, explicitly condoning racial profiling and the criminalization of undocumented immigrants. We're appalled.

Governor Brewer may have signed the bill for her own political gain, but SB 1070 supporters have undoubtedly been capitalizing on and feeding a broader climate of fear and intolerance encouraged by the likes of Fox News and the Tea Party movement (see our upcoming conference call on May 11, "The Right-Wing Backlash"), hoping to inspire similar legislation in other states and stymie federal reform. As we wrote last week, the potential consequences are vast: "This bill wouldn't just undermine the rights of communities of color and immigrants in Arizona, but nationwide."

Grassroots organizations across the country are mobilizing to fight back. Ms. Foundation grantee, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), has posted four actions to take a stand for justice and human rights. NNIRR will also host a telephone briefing on Wednesday 28 April with more analysis and next steps. [Update: Call canceled; more to follow.] NNIRR will be issuing further statements and alerts for national action. Details will be posted here.

We cannot permit the strong-arm tactics of this law to hijack the immigration debate. Last Friday, President Obama himself criticized the bill, saying it would "undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."

So join the conversation. Help organize a strong response to Arizona's alarming legislation and promote just immigration reform on a national scale.

Photo: by Elizabeth Rappaport. (detail) Immigration Reform March in Washington, DC, 21 March 2010.

23 April 2010

Join Our Conference Call - The Right-Wing Backlash - May 11, 2010

In an upcoming conference call, the Ms. Foundation for Women and Jean Hardisty, Ph.D. will present an in-depth analysis of the "Right-Wing Backlash," including what it means for progressive grassroots women's advocacy across the US.

The Right-Wing Backlash: Who Benefits, Who Believes and at What Cost?

Join our Conference Call on Tuesday, May 11, 2010 1:00 - 2:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time
  • Why are the racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-immigrant messages working, and with whom?
  • Who is financing and organizing the current movement against progressive social change, and what do they have to gain?
  • What are the implications for grassroots women's advocacy across the US?
About the Featured Speaker:
Dr. Jean Hardisty is the founder and president emerita of Political Research Associates, a Boston-based research center that analyzes right-wing, authoritarian, and anti-democratic trends and publishes educational materials for the general public. Currently Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Research on Women at Wellesley College, Dr. Hardisty is a scholar, widely-published author and long-time activist. She is also a former board member of the Ms. Foundation for Women.

Moderated by: Sara K. Gould, President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women

Register by noon on Monday, May 10: Register online.

22 April 2010

A Tribute to Dr. Dorothy Irene Height

A few days ago, I wrote to you about the legacy of Wilma Mankiller. Today, we mourn the passing, and celebrate the extraordinary life, of Dr. Dorothy Height, an iconic leader of both the civil rights and women's movements. In fact, Dr. Height's life and her work in many venues began the bridge building between these two movements as fulcrums for human rights. For this, and her many other contributions, we at the Ms. Foundation for Women are deeply grateful to Dr. Height. Her accomplishments, over many decades, paved the way for our work today, solidly at the intersection of race, class and gender.

René Redwood, a dear friend of Dr. Height, and a member of our board of directors, says that Dr. Height always spoke of her quest to bridge the two movements as her "life work." Dr. Height's commitment is an inspiration, and a wonderful reminder to us all that our work for racial and gender justice is truly ongoing, and that we stand on the shoulders of many before us. We have won, and we will win, many victories, but we can never be complacent.

In the late 1930s, for example, when she worked with the Harlem Y.W.C.A., Dr. Height called massive attention to the exploitation of black women working as domestic day laborers. Her naming of this unspoken issue brought change at that time, and laid the groundwork for further advocacy. In our era, Domestic Workers United in New York, and other organizations around the country, continue this fight to win basic labor rights and protections for thousands of domestic workers, who now include women from many immigrant communities.

In 1997, in an interview with the Associated Press, Dr. Height said that she knew immediately, as she was sitting on the platform with Dr. Martin Luther King that the "I Have a Dream" speech would "echo for generations because it gripped everybody." Dr. Height will also echo for generations, having touched, and deeply influenced, countless women and men of all backgrounds and walks of life, particularly African American women. We honor her extraordinary tenacity and courage, and salute her unending work to create a democracy that truly delivers justice for all.

Sara K. Gould
President & CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women

Dorothy Height, Largely Unsung Giant of the Civil Rights Era, Dies at 98
New York Times

Responding to Newsweek: Young Women Lead a Vibrant Reproductive Justice Movement

Desiree Flores, Program Officer, Ms. Foundation for Women
The title of a recent Newsweek article alone -- "Remember Roe! How can the next generation defend abortion rights when they don't think abortion rights need defending?" -- would ruffle the feathers of most reproductive rights advocates; the argument within has set off a flurry of discussion and counterpoint nationwide.

In "Remember Roe!" Sarah Kliff makes a disconcerting assertion that young women of the post-Roe v. Wade generation are apathetic towards reproductive rights and therefore, potentially responsible for current and future rollbacks. Our experience with advocates across the country paints a very different picture -- particularly when you start asking the question, "Which young women?"

For over 20 years, the Ms. Foundation for Women has witnessed firsthand the innovative leadership of women in their late teens, 20s and 30s who are directing organizations and using creative, community-based strategies to increase the number of people voting for reproductive rights. With these women we have worked to build a broader, more diverse constituency for reproductive rights, health and justice, supporting local and state groups led by and for young, low-income women and women of color. Groups like Choice USA or Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) in Denver or advocates like Kirbie Platero of Young Women United in Albuquerque, New Mexico who represent a passionate, talented and vibrant movement for reproductive health, rights and justice.

These young advocates are increasingly successful because they understand that one size does not fit all -- that past "tried-and-true" approaches to reproductive rights advocacy might not speak to everyone, especially today. They're creating new strategies that meet their communities where they are at. They're bringing people traditionally written off as unlikely allies or lacking political power into the reproductive rights movement. They're making links between abortion rights and issues like sex education in schools, jobs, LGBTQ equality and the environment. And they're broadening their messaging to go beyond "pro-choice" or "pro-life" in order to reach many more people for whom these terms are outdated.

For example, in November 2008, COLOR helped defeat by a slim margin a Colorado state ballot initiative on fetal personhood by launching a Spanish-language media campaign that tailored messages to a Latina/o audience and building partnerships with labor and racial justice groups to expand the base of support for reproductive justice in that election and beyond.

Young women -- and their families and communities -- still care intensely about reproductive rights, they just need to be engaged in new ways. And we must support their efforts now more than ever -- not only in election years. Young women and the organizations they lead need serious, ongoing investments that will enable them to conduct community organizing and advocacy on a far bigger scale than what they've had the capacity to do thus far. Indeed, it's well past time that we all place our trust in young, low-income women and women of color whose strategies and solutions will ensure the reproductive rights movement is relevant, strong and sustainable for generations to come.

Desiree Flores
Program Officer
Ms. Foundation for Women

19 April 2010

Action Alert: Immigrants' Rights Attacks in Arizona Underscore Urgency of Reform

In the last week, the Arizona Legislature and Obama's own Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have proven just how crucial it is that Congress debate and pass just immigration reform now.

Arizona lawmakers -- short of the Governor, who has yet to sign it into law [call on her to veto it here] -- passed a virulently anti-immigrant bill that even the New York Times editorial board says "verges on a police state." Meanwhile, on April 15, ICE conducted massive, military-like raids in Arizona, unleashing over 800 federal, state and local authorities in Nogales, Rio Rico, Tucson and Phoenix. Their stated objective was to target "human smuggling networks," but the greatest outcome was instilling unshakeable terror and fear among immigrants -- a majority of whom are now women -- and their families.

Not coincidentally, the raids took place just days before a key deadline to return 2010 Census forms. Before the Census count began, Ms. Foundation grantee, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), led an effort, which we and over 200 other organizations joined, demanding that the Obama Administration follow precedent and temporarily suspend raids and other harmful enforcement activities to encourage greater immigrant participation. Their response? One of the most sweeping, "dragnet" immigration raids since Obama's term began.

There is still a small sliver of hope: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has yet to sign the anti-immigrant legislation. Whether you live in Arizona or not, raise your voice in support of immigrants' rights and send Gov. Brewer a message demanding that she veto it now.

If passed, according to NNIRR, the bill (SB 1070) would:
  • Criminalize all undocumented immigrants as "trespassers" in the state of Arizona. SB 1070 would subject all undocumented workers and their families to arrest and conviction for misdemeanors, and in some cases felony charges for the new crime of "trespass" (reminiscent of HR 4437, the 2005 'Sensenbrenner bill').
  • Legalize unchecked racial profiling by police of anyone they "suspect" is undocumented.
  • Give police the authority to enforce federal immigration law and arrest people who cannot produce identification proving their legal residency in the U.S.
  • Give police the power to investigate and entrap employers for hiring undocumented workers.
  • Make seeking work illegal for day laborers and force all individuals, regardless of immigration status or citizenship, to carry identification papers or be subjected to detention and even deportation. Public agencies and service providers would have authority to demand identification documents from any person.
Arizona has long been a flashpoint for anti-immigrant fervor -- strong enough to bleed across state lines. That said, this bill wouldn't just undermine the rights of communities of color and immigrants in Arizona, but nationwide -- particularly with national reform (potentially) on the horizon. Groups like NNIRR are already concerned that federal lawmakers' idea of "reform" -- like the proposal submitted by Senators Schumer and Graham -- will lead to increased reliance on local law enforcement and therefore, heightened criminalization.

So join NNIRR, call for the veto of SB 1070, and "send a signal to Congress, the Obama Administration and the country that further criminalization of immigrant workers, families and communities will not solve the problem." We certainly don't need one more roadblock to reform.

15 April 2010

Wilma Mankiller: An Appreciation

All of us at the Ms. Foundation are deeply saddened by the passing of Wilma Mankiller, who died April 6 from pancreatic cancer. Wilma was the first woman elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, which she led from 1985-95. Throughout her life, she made indelible contributions to social justice in the US, particularly within Native and women's rights movements. Her vision, leadership and activism will be felt for generations to come.

Wilma was also active in philanthropy, and we were extremely fortunate to have her serve on the Ms. Foundation board from 1986-1990. While she made many contributions, Wilma especially helped us strengthen and advance our new (at the time) work in women's economic development. She was our keynote speaker at the first Institute on Women and Economic Development, held on Thompson's Island in Boston Harbor in 1988. Some 90 leaders of grassroots women's organizations gathered for three days, including, because of Wilma, seven Native women. When Wilma spoke to the gathering on the first evening, she included all of the Native women, inviting them on stage to tell their own stories of how women on their reservations were leading the way to local economic and community development that benefited individuals, families and whole communities. You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium as the rest of us listened in rapt attention, learning about communities and experiences that we knew almost nothing about.

In ways like this, Wilma always made Native people and their lives more visible. She lived by values that the Ms. Foundation also holds dear: lift every voice, and trust those most impacted by an issue or a problem to have the solutions. We will miss her very much.

Sara K. Gould
President & CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women

Read this Indian Country Today article for more from Sara and others about Wilma's life.

13 April 2010

Abuse Much Closer to Home: New Study Reveals Parents May Be Misinforming Kids

Many of us probably remember hearing the mantra, "don't talk to strangers," repeated time and again by our parents and teachers--or repeating it ourselves as parents and teachers, to help children avoid often unnameable dangers. In fact, this "stranger-danger" caution has dominated child sexual abuse prevention curriculum for decades. But what few among the general public know, and what survivors of abuse and increasing numbers of prevention advocates do, is that the majority of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by people much closer to home.

A recent study by the Child Abuse Research Education and Service Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey underscores the expansive gap between public perception and the reality that, according to lead author Esther Deblinger, "at least 85 percent of the child sexual abuse is perpetrated by relatives, or by individuals who are known -- but not related -- to the child."

The study, which surveyed 289 parents and guardians of children grades K-3 at three elementary schools in New Jersey, found that more than 90 percent of parents identified strangers as the biggest danger when talking to their children about sexual abuse. Discouragingly, Deblinger says, "These are essentially the same mistakes parents were making 25 years ago."

Such research illustrates just how deeply rooted the concept of "stranger-danger" is in our society -- and what a monumental task it will be to undo.

The Ms. Foundation, in partnership with NoVo Foundation, is working to tackle this and other harmful misconceptions about child sexual abuse that thwart meaningful, effective prevention. Learn more about our efforts to shift public understanding of the root causes of child sexual abuse and bring the best thinking of researchers, survivors, and national and grassroots advocates together to advance community-based, social-justice strategies for prevention. Watch a video about an inspiring gathering of survivor-activists at the Ms. Foundation.

05 April 2010

Ms. Foundation Open Request for Proposals: Women's Health and Ending Violence

The Ms. Foundation for Women is pleased to announce an open request for proposals in the areas of Women's Health and Ending Violence.

Women's Health
  • Women & AIDS Policy
  • Reproductive Rights, Health & Justice
Ending Violence
  • Youth Organizing & Activism for Violence Prevention
The deadline for all applications is Monday 17 May 2010, 2:00 pm EDT

Please feel free to share this information with other organizations and networks.

Online Application
The Ms. Foundation is using an online application system for all grant applications. While paper or email applications are not accepted, we are committed to making this a user-friendly process. Our staff is available to answer your questions about the online process and assist you in the technical aspects of submitting your application.

More information and online application.