J.C. Orton, the new director of the Street Spirit vendor program, received this letter from a female vendor on Father’s Day. It is a testimony to the caring spirit behind Orton’s work with the vendors, and the way he has revitalized the program to better serve the homeless community.
The problem is that the one percent has learned ways to tweak the business and economic environment in such a way that they can receive massive amounts of wealth while depriving others. Why do people continue to behave in this way, amassing piles of wealth while others go hungry?
He opened his desk drawer. Next to his medals, he fingered the black-and-white photo of Molly and mutely kissed it. He treasured the photo more than the medals. Tears were slowly rolling down his cheeks and for the first time in his life he did not try to keep them back.
The Courts of Women on Poverty have launched a challenge to economic injustice. Their gathering was held in Oakland, a city of extreme contrasts — from the hills of green abundance and million-dollar homes to a parking lot at Eastmont Mall, where a homeless woman sleeps in her car with three small children.
Growing up I didn’t have the privilege of going to a dentist. My parents couldn’t afford it and my parent’s employers would never offer us dental coverage, nor would I ever qualify for help under a public program. Now, my oral hygiene is in poor health because I couldn’t afford dental care.
“It really creates segregation between the haves and the have-nots,” says Board of Trustees member Margaret Quiñones-Perez. “If you can pay, you’ll get your classes. That’s guaranteed if you have money. But if you don’t have money, you may get classes, and you may not. Community colleges were not created for this.”
For the first time in history, public schools reported more than one million homeless children. The data also shows the troubling depth of America’s housing crisis. “The severe lack of affordable housing for families has yet to be addressed, and over one million children are paying the price,” said Maria Foscarinis.
Elisa Della-Piana, director of the Neighborhood Justice Clinic in Berkeley decried the anti-sitting measure as punitive. “It will achieve nothing except create division in the community,” she said. “Enforcement of the ordinance would keep people homeless and create criminal records that could prevent them from getting housing or jobs.”
Kenneth McCoy, age 64, has been selling Street Spirit since he was diagnosed with colon cancer six years ago and found he had no way to pay for the medicine he needed to survive. Now he has a roof over his head and the income from his Street Spirit sales.
Food Not Bombs stages a daily protest against a system that values profits more than people. It expresses its values in a supremely nonviolent way. Sharing food is an act of nonviolent resistance to the violence of hunger and simultaneously a protest of the corporate state’s military and economic violence.
In voting to place this discriminatory sitting ban on the November ballot, the Berkeley City Council has betrayed the very concept of equal rights for all. Laws that banish certain groups of people from public spaces — whether based on appearance, economic class, or race — are modern-day segregation decrees, plain and simple.