Don’t tell me how to punch if you are not in the boxing ring!

Dear Poor Folks and Friends,

The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) comes with decades of organizing experience in the anti-poverty movement. Much has been learned from international peasant movements, the National Welfare Rights Union, and other leaders throughout history that we will talk about in other articles.

We are writing these lessons in an attempt to assist our brothers and sisters who are out there trying to survive and build the movement to end poverty, hunger and homelessness, who while organizing are struggling to feed and house their very own families at the same time. Most of you are unpaid, poorly paid and overworked organizers – especially if you are trying to stay away from the non-profit industrial complex, or as Pastor Collins says, the ‘faith-based nonprofit industrial complex.’

These articles will be short/accessible and to the point. Two important lessons for today!

  1. Don’t tell me how to punch if you are not in the boxing ring!
  2. Follow the Money! Philanthropy is a scam!

Don’t tell me how to punch if you’re not in the boxing ring!

I’m writing this to you today as a woman who has spent over 30 years in the anti-poverty movement as a poor single mother. We have spent most of our life being told we ain’t shit. We have had to endure all the stereotypes of all the “progressives” and well meaning people along the way. Everyone has always had a better way of doing things. We have always deferred to people in suits or in collars or at the university. We have rarely listened to ourselves or each other. Now, I don’t believe in collective ignorance, but if you have been able to stay alive and have been busy reading and active in this movement for years, YOU (yes, you) have something to not only say, but TEACH! You see, most of our history folks have used us for photos and testimony and to put stamps of approval on their work, but rarely have asked us to talk strategy, power and direction. Well sisters and brothers, it’s our children on the front lines – it’s time for us to get serious and no longer demand a seat at the table, but to teach another path that leads to the ending of poverty. Ending poverty isn’t even on that table being discussed to begin with. The fight to stay alive is not a 9-5 and it doesn’t come with a salary and a foundation grant.

Philanthropy is a Scam. Stop being a pawn, all of humanity depends on it. The most important thing we have is each other.

Okay, so I know I’m not supposed to talk about this topic. It is taboo in the anti-poverty nonprofit world. Okay, get ready – I’m gonna say it: Fuck the corporations that are funding and running your anti-poverty/faith nonprofit organization. Alright, so that means you’re going to call me an extremist and not fund my work. Oh yeah, I forgot – you stopped giving us money years ago when we began to understand why you were giving us money in the first place.

This quote from Joanne Barkan explains the problem in a simple way: Private foundations “intervene in public life but aren’t accountable to the public; they are privately governed but publicly subsidized […]. [T]hey reinforce the problem of plutocracy, the exercise of power derived from the wealthy.”

Many nonprofit, social justice, and anti-poverty organizations make it seem like they are the answer, and that capitalism is the solution. They can’t say this out loud because the progressive foundations (the corporations/banks on their progressive foundation boards) would end their funding, never allow them to be a scholar, or never publish their book. These entities might never help them pay their staff salaries, never pay for their office rent or massive social media outreach that enable them to stay on top of collecting resources from the public and diverting the attention away from your work and mine.

Or worse, if you are really out there challenging power, you will not only have to deal with living on the front lines, but you will have to deal with the nonprofit social media machine vilifying you and making you disappear by raiding your shops, chapters, and supporters. It should be easy because if you are a team player with your oppressor there is a great deal of money in social control and little to no money in organizing not tied to plutocracy.

Nonprofits and capitalism are not only ‘not the solution’ … they are the problem – placing leaders and mis-leaders (conscious or unconscious) in servitude to the foundations. It also encourages us to look the other way instead of looking at what is happening to our brothers and sisters internationally. A system that allowed capitalists to become so rich is not going to end poverty. Our challenge is to globalize from below – to really figure out how to do our work independent of the corporations that are killing our sisters and brothers, not just here, but around the world. That’s what REAL unity of the poor means! It means giving a damn about where the anti-poverty or social justice organization you are working with is getting its money and how its used! I know this is hard, but we must create a cooperative economy and a new independent way of funding each other’s work. Lastly, these organizations are also linked to the two corporate controlled political parties. Many of these corporations give money to both Democrats and Republicans – it does not matter to them. As long as the poor continue to have faith in these two corporate controlled political parties we will never end poverty. Yes – the way forward is political power for the poor, not pity, not charity, not more nonprofits but political power and independence!!

So now it’s up to you. These are difficult times and we are dealing with new things. I’m watching the permanently unemployed being created right before my eyes due to electronics and technology. It’s now up to us to decide which road we will walk. Our road is ugly and hard, but it’s a true cry for unity of the poor, political power, and independence. It’s a road that future generations will thank us for walking.

Join us in the March for Our Lives June 2 to June 14 as we walk this ugly road. Click here to register today and donate.

I look forward to not just talking the talk, but walking the walk with you.

Warm Regards,

Cheri Honkala

An open letter to the Welfare Queens and Deadbeat Dads: an invitation to walk the ugly road together

Dear Welfare Queens,

I’m a Queen myself so it’s easy for me to identify other Queens.

I live in a little apartment on the second floor of a house with my son who is 15 and has two disabilities. I work doing deliveries during the day for Postmates when I can and the night shift at UPS. I can barely pay my bills and have been on and off welfare for most of my life. No, I don’t enjoy this life or wish it on anyone.

We Queens have always been hated, distrusted, and told that we will never amount to anything because we have poor work ethics, and choose not to go anywhere in life.

The fathers of our children have been called ‘deadbeat dads’ at best, sometimes ‘sperm donors.’ In order to get the little welfare or food stamps we have, we’ve had to cut our children’s fathers out of their lives and applaud when fathers are rounded up and sent to jail for not paying child support. This is a common thing that they do on Valentine’s Day here. It’s called the prison industrial complex.

Welfare Queens: listen up things are about to get even harder for you now!

People already don’t see you and they don’t know your life. Yes, sometimes they might be able to spot you when you pull out your Access Card and look down on you if you are buying ice cream for your kids but, by and large, you are ashamed and hiding it, or you have already experienced the consequences of being tracked by your Access Card and the state has already smacked you down for being politically active. Yes, we can pray for the poor but God knows you better not get involved in politics or speak out for yourself.

Yes, others might even say, I was poor once or on welfare but the goal really is to dismiss the inhumane conditions and life you are living right now, at this very moment. There’s a lot of money to be made in the anti-poverty world, but your life of misery they can’t be bothered with.

Poverty and hunger are not sexy issues to look at or work on in the social justice world. Hearing about how she gets up each day trying to figure out how she’s going to feed her daughter – they just don’t want to hear it or see it. It’s not sexy and this might cause them sleepless nights thinking about their comfortable world and their inability to share what they have. It’s just too disturbing. So it’s easier to create charts, hold demonstrations, use social media, and talk about it – but they must cut off your voice. It’s like fingernails to a chalkboard. They will parade you around when necessary but they don’t really believe that their plight is intertwined with yours.

Sometimes I know she just wants to give up. She works her two jobs and feels the guilt of never seeing her daughter. Each day it gets harder to get up and now she learns of the new work requirements in order to get affordable housing. She tries hard to stay away from the sedation offered everywhere in her neighborhood. Drugs and alcohol are everywhere. She sits in her kitchen and swats roaches and prays that the mice don’t go up on the bed. She longs to just escape, to disappear from all of this misery. But she continues on the ugly road knowing that at any moment they can lock her up or take away her child for being a poor single mom on welfare. She is the woman the nation and politicians have been groomed to hate. Better yet, she better not say anything or she will be known as a belligerent, angry woman with an attitude problem, a non-deserving poor Welfare Queen. Someone who, for some reason, thinks she should only have what you have, a full set of teeth, food when you’re hungry, the ability to wash clothes, heat in the winter, and, yes, a life of dignity and without fear. Because to be poor is to be criminalized. But she doesn’t have it and neither do the millions of other Welfare Queens.

I know the welfare office is the least of your problems these days. Now you have to deal with the social control from the non-profit industrial complex. You mention a problem and they will refer you to an agency that won’t solve the problem and then criticize you for not utilizing city services. But, my dear Queen, you know that our country has been perfecting the non-profit industrial complex. They must pretend that they have the situation under control, so they must buy their alliances.

Because they know there are millions of welfare queens who are working on becoming generals. Conscious Queen Generals. So, my sisters, you must educate yourselves. They are coming for us and we need you to become educated. We need you to follow the money of every organization and person that you meet. We cannot afford to listen to the fancy speeches and rhetoric. “Progressive Foundations” are funding the disunity of our class. These foundations are linking government and corporations in order to create the social control necessary to prevent us from building a movement led by the poor, independent of the two corporate-controlled political parties.

They are trying to cut off your voice and mine. We must stand strong in the tradition of Fannie Lou Hammer, Annie Smart, Dottie Stevens, Rev. Harris, Rev. Annie Chambers, Rosa Clemente, and many other sisters who dared to speak truth to power.

Women who were and are brave enough to speak out against the Democratic and Republican parties and who understood that the poor need more than pity. They need political power!

They will continue to turn us Welfare Queens and Deadbeat dads (the organized poor) into villains because we dare to be educated, organized, political, ethical, and ready to fight.

We will not participate in the isolation and the marginalization of other Queens. If someone tries to throw one of our sisters or brothers in the dirt we will say something about it and, no, we will not take the dirty money from the politicians, labor unions, and so-called “progressive foundations” that are aligned with corporations. We know that corporations are giving money to the “progressive” foundations right now to fund our demise. Let us learn from the history of the Ford Foundation and how it played a key role in the urban renewal program that assisted in moving tens of thousands of low-income families out of their homes between 1955 and 1974, to make way for buildings and convention centers. It’s everywhere now. Puerto Ricans are being thrown from their land. Going without water and electricity only to be called a Welfare Queen in my neighborhood after forced relocation. We see it everywhere. Who is really in charge of the road we are on if at the same time the very people you are up against are funding it? This is what is happening now in the anti-poverty world and you will not be funded if you talk about it or dare to build an independent, cooperative way of living, surviving, and organizing. But you will have something far greater… each other and the strength of our ancestors to stand on.

My dear Welfare Queens, you do have a choice. You can choose which road you want to take. Our road might be hard, ugly, and downright terrifying at times, but it’s a road that leads to political independence, freedom, dignity, and self-respect.

We need you on this road and we hope that you will join your fellow Welfare Queens and America’s hated poor on the March for Our Lives on June 2nd in Philadelphia when we will march to Washington D.C. to reconstruct Resurrection City. You can choose to not have the cat fund your mousehole. You can begin to join with other mice and Queens and build a cooperative economy and society. You can help us build the movement to end poverty, hunger, and homelessness, once and for all in this country and around the world. Another World is Possible! Another U.S. is Necessary and she’s on her way!

Sign up now to walk this road together and support our efforts by donating just $10 today!

Warm Regards,

Cheri Honkala

Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign

US Social Forum 2015: The Real Philadelphia

We the people of Philadelphia are building another world. We are tearing down the walls that keep us divided and weakened. We are building a powerful and inclusive movement that recognizes “Your Fight is My Fight”.

Thousands of people from across the country will join us at the Philadelphia Site from June 25th – 28th for the US Social Forum. Together we will lift up the stories and the struggles of the real Philadelphia, together we will build another world.

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Jill Stein Among Those Calling for Release Political Prisoner Rev. Pinkney

St. Joseph, MI- Dr. Jill Stein was among supporters who attended Rev. Edward Pinkney’s evidentiary hearing on Tuesday, April 14, where a motion for a new trial based on the violation of Pinkney’s rights to impartial jurors was denied. Rev. Pinkney remains in prison, serving a 3-10 year term for altering the dates on petitions to recall the Mayor of Benton Harbor. However, according to Victoria Collier and Ben-Zion Ptashnik, who covered the trial in depth for Truthout:

“There was absolutely no evidence to convict Pinkney, and, legally, the altering of a petition document should have been a misdemeanor offense. Instead, they charged him with felony forgery – though no signatures were forged and all signatories testified that they signed willingly on the correct day. Incredibly, the all-white jury was urged by the prosecutor to believe that direct evidence was not required; they only had to “believe” that Pinkney was motivated to cheat and that he “could” have changed the dates while circulating the petitions.”

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A March to End Poverty

On Saturday, April 4th PPEHRC joined Reclaim MLK PHL and 15 an Hour Now Philadelphia outside of New Vision UMC Church at Broad and Westmoreland for a march to the OIC Building at Broad and Thompson. As a coalition, we were demanding the end to poverty in one of the largest, poorest, gentrified cities in the country. We are demanding $15.00 an hr, the right to unionize, and full employment in the city of Philadelphia.

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