SNCC Legacy Project Statement on theRescinding of DACA
Credit: Amin El Gamel
September 21, 2017
As young SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) activists who organized for voting rights and social justice in the Deep South in the 1960's, we strongly support DACA and the Dream Act. The "Dreamers" have organized their way out of the shadows in the 21st century. Some engaged in face to face lobbying of both sides of the congressional aisle to pass the Dream Act. Others produced large crowds at immigration hearings and street protests. Still others risked deportation by civil disobedience resulting in arrests. Others sunk themselves into solid research creating briefs about the legality of an executive order's authority on immigration to provide administrative relief without congressional action.
The decade-long organizing campaign worked. In 2012 The Obama administration issued the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals executive order providing protection from deportation to those brought to the US under the age of 16. DACA recipients could live and work legally in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods.
Climbing out from the shadows for many of them meant taking minimum wage jobs...sometimes working full time...while finishing high school. Their families relied on their earnings to survive. Many of them, still working part to full time, took several years to earn associate or bachelor degrees...and often post-graduate degrees, while still contributing earnings to their families. On top of these obligations, some young undocumented leaders took on responsibilities of organizing for immigrant justice. They carry on the SNCC tradition of grass roots organizing, collaborative leadership development and taking risks to achieve justice. In fact, many have told us that by studying the history of SNCC they found deep parallels to the ways they wanted to shape their movements.
With the rescinding of DACA by President Trump, these young people, 800,000 strong, are now threatened with being viciously yanked out of the only country they have known and cruelly tossed into countries they do not know. As nearly 40% of them have siblings that are US citizens, their families will be torn apart in a trauma that will last at least into the next generation. Their economic contributions do not stop at their family's doorstep...it also would result, over a 10-year period, in the loss of nearly half a trillion dollars to the US Gross Domestic Product not to mention the annual losses of billions of dollars in state and national tax revenues.
How appropriate that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the white sheriff organizing this anti-immigrant posse. He framed the rationale for the reversal of DACA with intentional lies demeaning immigrants including:
* DACA recipients are adult illegal aliens, implying they broke the law in entering this country. DACA recipients were children when brought to this country and have no responsibility for the decision to immigrate.
* DACA recipients are over-burdening benefit programs for U.S. citizens. DACA recipients are ineligible for Medicaid, food stamps or cash assistance. Furthermore, they cannot vote, nor are they eligible for federal grants, aid or student loans for college.
* Dreamers take jobs from hundreds of thousands of U.S. Citizens. Economic studies of this assertion have been unable to turn up a correlation between immigrant employment and citizen employment. In fact, many economists say that immigrant employment broadens the job base.
* President Obama's executive order was an illegal and unconstitutional usurping of congressional authority. Both (Republican) Presidents Reagan (1987) and H. W. Bush (1990) issued executive orders providing protection for hundreds of thousands of family members not covered by the immigration act of 1986 and therefore subject to deportation.
Racism needs no facts. Racism thrives on generating fear, hatred and the false promises of a safe white nation with people of color removed, disempowered and/or marginalized. It is clear that Sheriff Sessions carries the flag for the "make America white again" movement.
There is nothing more radicalizing than when your country betrays you. Do anti-immigrant forces in this country really want 800,000 young people plus hundreds of thousands of their relatives -- combined with hundreds of thousands of allies, young and old -- up in arms about this unjust and immoral rescinding of DACA? This may well be the kind of watershed moment that radicalized so many of us in the 1960's and 1970's when we felt the U.S. had turned its back on its values and moral principles when it came to civil rights and the Vietnam war.
The SNCC Legacy Project calls upon all movements for justice and their allies to stand behind the efforts to codify DACA and the DREAM ACT into law without conditions such as border walls, decreased immigration quotas, religious bans or increased deportations. Then we can proceed to a just system of immigration with pathways to citizenship for all.
Keep up to date with the SNCC Legacy Project:SNCC Digital Gateway - www.snccdigital.org
SNCC Legacy Project email - firstname.lastname@example.org
SNCC Legacy Project website - www.sncclegacyproject.org
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Mexican-American photographer Maria Varela was present at some of the most dramatic moments of the Civil Rights Movement, capturing images of voting rights demonstrations in Alabama and efforts to create Head Start programs in poor, rural areas.
As one of the few Latinas involved in the black Civil Rights Movement, historians say, her work has often been overlooked.
Now the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago is set to feature 28 images from the Albuquerque resident's rarely seen photography of the movement at an exhibition called "Time to Get Ready: Fotographía Social."
"You can tell she wasn't just someone who dropped in and photographed what happened. She was part of what was happening," said Cesareo Moreno, the museum's visual arts director.
Moreno said the exhibit will cover Varela's work from Mississippi marches and voting rights battles to photographs she took of Chicano activists fighting to get Spanish land grants recognized in New Mexico.
In 1963, the Chicago-raised Varela was recruited by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a key organization in the movement, to work in Selma, Alabama, for a voter literacy program. A local sheriff arrested its staff and broke up the program.
Varela was then reassigned to Mississippi where organizers told her to develop training materials.
After training with noted photographer Matt Herron in New Orleans, Varela grabbed a camera and built her own dark room in Mississippi since local drug stores likely would refuse to develop her film. She dressed in a skirt and a head scarf and tried to remain invisible while she took photos.
The images she captured were meant to be part of informative booklets passed out to farmers, town residents and parents who were working to resist segregation and poverty. She created pamphlets to train activists to build political campaigns and develop farming co-ops.
Her photos illustrated an autobiography of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
"A lot of times I wasn't thinking. I was just shooting," she said. "Other times, I was zeroing in on strong faces ... people with determined expressions."
As news of her work spread, SNCC assigned Varela to various marches and demonstration. Organizers felt law enforcement officers would be less likely to beat protesters if there were more cameras, Varela said.
One of her assignments was to capture images of the 1966 "March against Fear" in Mississippi, an event created by activist James Meredith to encourage blacks to register to vote. But Meredith was gunned down by a sniper on the second day of the march.
That prompted SNCC and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join and continue the march. It was during this event that historians believe Stokely Carmichael shouted the phrase "black power."
Though Varela rarely took photos of the famous civil rights leaders like King, she noticed King, Carmichael and Andrew Young leading the crowd. The three leaders weren't smiling. "They clearly looked burdened. They looked thoughtful and pensive," she said. So, she snapped the shot.
Less than two years later, King was dead.
Varela would photograph Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, New Mexico land grant leader Reies Lopez Tijerina and the organizing meetings leading to the 1968 Poor People's Campaign, a march King planned to draw attention to poverty.
Brian Behnken, a history and Latino studies professor at Iowa State University, said historians likely had a problem placing Varela in the context of the Civil Rights Movement because she was a Mexican-American documenting conflict between whites and blacks.
"It has taken a while, but I think she's being appreciated more now," Behnken said. "She was way ahead of her time."
Moreno said artists today can learn from Varela and how she used her photography to tell stories of people often overlooked. "She was literally walking along history," Moreno said. "And her work is tender and honest."
The exhibit will run March 3 to July 30 at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.
Trump plans to use the federal government to increase the criminalization of communities of color. His executive orders attack our collective safety with the construction of pipelines on indigenous lands and walls between nations, the suspension of refugee programs, the bans on entry of individuals from Muslim-majority countries, the punishment of sanctuary cities, and the elimination of programs that protect undocumented immigrants. His call for federal law enforcement in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods is another way to target communities of color through a hateful campaign. It is clear that this administration’s rhetoric and policies serve only to criminalize and dehumanize large segments of our country, and will inevitably embolden others to target our communities for hate violence, discrimination, bullying, and harassment.
We reject this. We condemn this. We resist this.
We reject the outright criminalization and dehumanization of large segments of the American population.
We condemn the racial hatred implicit in the policies of the Trump Administration. We resist these attempts to control and constrain the liberties and freedoms of our communities.
Black, Brown, indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ, and faith communities have endured - and continue to experience - the effects of enslavement, genocide, internment, surveillance, xenophobia, religious bigotry, homophobia, sexism, systemic racism, and Islamophobia. We know from our own collective histories that solidarity and resistance movements can and will change the direction of our nation. We have more in common than not, and we refuse to let the politics of fear and divisiveness prevail. Instead, we stand together as a united front against any policies rooted in fear, racial and religious bigotry, xenophobia, and hate.
Urgently, we call upon all people of conscience to join us in resistance and solidarity. We ask you to:
*Make public statements denouncing the language and policies of criminalization sanctioned by Trump’s executive orders
*Affirm solidarity with those most vulnerable or targeted in words and actions that name and center the myriad of ways that our identities, dignity and humanity are all under attack
*Urge local elected officials and policymakers to stand firm in declaring their cities, schools and neighborhoods hate-free zones and sanctuary spaces with public statements and enforceable policies
*Call upon federal representatives to advocate against the implementation of the executive orders and the expansion of the role and size of law enforcement in our communities
*Refuse to comply with any efforts that could lead to the implementation of the executive orders
*Raise awareness of the impact of the executive orders and the importance of resistance and solidarity through conversations, forums, civil disobedience actions, and prayer services
*Provide support to places of faith, community centers, and grassroots organizations on the frontlines of resisting the executive orders
Last of all, we ask you to make a choice. To raise your voice. To give your time. To organize for a peaceful and inclusive society. And to stand united together with each other and with us in true solidarity.
Knoxville civil-rights leader Avon Rollins Sr., who joined the movement as a high school student and became one of the charter members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, died yesterday.
Rollins became active in civil rights as a student at the former Austin High School and worked for more than half a century to improve lives for blacks and other minorities. He was honored last year at age 73 with the naming of the Avon W. Rollins Sr. Overpass on Cherry Street in East Knoxville below the Interstate 40 bridge. A wing of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center is also named for him.
"His life was filled with the leaders of the civil rights movement," said his wife, Sheryl Rollins, on Thursday. "He’s the kind of person who wanted you to be bigger than yourself when it comes to civil rights."
Former Knox County Commissioner Sam McKenzie, who went to high school with Rollins' son, remembered growing up calling him "Mr. Rollins." McKenzie later worked alongside Rollins on projects to help highlight the many cultures of the region.
"In East Tennessee, we sometimes get branded as a monocultural area," McKenzie said, "and (Rollins) really lent a voice to say that East Tennessee is a great place for all people. And that's a voice that I think will be missed."
McKenzie worked to help get funding for the Beck Center, which Rollins headed for years. McKenzie said Rollins was a Knoxville connection to the civil Rights movement who reached beyond a textbook.
"Knoxville is a better place because of his knowledge and willingness to tell the story," McKenzie said.
Rollins was a co-founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and served as administrator at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center after a career at the Tennessee Valley Authority.
“I’ve been beaten, shot at and put into jail 30 times,” he said of his 1960s-era work to bring about civil-rights changes. “I tried to make America a better place to live, and hopefully America is a better place to live.”
Hubert Smith, a local radio show host and community advocate, said he and Rollins developed a friendship through the years and ate lunch together monthly.
"When I think of Avon, I think of Avon and that famous picture of him lying in front of the Tennessee Theatre (in 1963) protesting segregation," Smith said.
Local politicians also voiced their sympathies.
“I’m saddened to hear about the death of my friend Avon Rollins," Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said in a statement Thursday. "He was an outspoken leader who spent his life making our community a better place. My prayers are with his family.”
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero also released a statement:
"Avon Rollins was a great champion for civil rights, in Knoxville and nationally," she said. "Avon believed strongly in preserving and interpreting African-American history and culture, and he was a guiding force at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center for decades.
"I’m personally saddened by the loss of my friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many, many friends.”
State Rep.-elect Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, said Rollins "walked the walk." He said he recalled being a boy in the 1970s, seeing Rollins at work.
This is why he was rejected by a majority of the voters who cast ballots in this past presidential election. However, given the Electoral College system, he is president-elect now and it is important that we do not become paralyzed or overwhelmed and sink into despair. There is also great opportunity to organize and take advantage of America's great diversity, making it a liberated and safer country for all of its people.
Fear was at the heart of Donald Trump's campaign. He successfully exploited the fear and anger that many white Americans feel over changes, both demographic and cultural, that seemed threatening to a way of life they expected to last forever. He used fear to fan hysteria that Mexicans, other Hispanics, Black people and nonwhite people in general are subverting American values and undermining the nation's "greatness." He coupled fear to his most blatant lie: that he was a man of the people willing and prepared to take on the moneyed interests that sent jobs overseas causing lost jobs and income here at home.
He also used the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and hyperbole about Islamic terrorism to create great fear of Muslims (and now as his administration comes in, discussion of internment camps for Muslims has begun.) Trump also used similar hyperbole about Black communities to create fear in white America about crime and their safety.
Donald Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again" especially sold hope to white male America that people of color would not be political or economic players of any significance; that women would return to the kitchen, gay people would remain in the closet, and that immigrants would come mostly from Europe. He breathed new life into the Ku Klux Klan. So now, what is to be done?
Thousands of people across the country have taken to the streets to display their anger and frustration at the temperament, the policies and the pronouncements of Donald Trump. While all of this is understandable and important, we must now turn our attention to the kind of organizing that will put forward policies and people at the local, state and national levels to make sure that America represents all of its people.
We can do this. Hillary Clinton received 7 million fewer votes than Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Aside from low turnout, Clinton's poor campaigning and alienation were undoubtedly important parts of the reason for this loss. Now we see media falsely steering post-election analysis into discussion of how to reach the white working class male as if that is where her failure lay. So part of what is needed are efforts to turn the discussion toward the real issues of democracy that have largely been obscured and avoided.
Topping this discussion is surely the issue of economic justice, an issue to which Secretary Clinton offered nothing new.
Our main point here, however, is that there is work to be done over the next two years-between now and the mid-term elections-that will shape the Congress, and local and state offices. Indeed, in the final analysis, when we talk about what impacts our lives day-to-day, it is the kind of decision-making at this level that most immediately affects us. Legislators at the state level, for example, drive voter suppression.
Police violence, to give another example, will not be contained until we who are most affected by it gain the levers of power to restrain and end it. And, at a higher level, we have the numbers to end Republican control of the Congress and to put fear into those who do manage to retain their seats. The energy we see on the streets in protest can be most effectively used at the grassroots in the kind of day-to-day organizing that uproots the old order in cities, counties and parishes. This is difficult but necessary work.
Anger is understandable but not sufficient to generate the kinds of changes that are needed; or to mobilize the kind of effort that is needed now. We want to repeat and emphasize what we think is urgently needed: hard, diligent grassroots work; the kind of organizing that will put forward policies and people at the local, state and national levels to make sure that America represents all of its people-the kind of deep community organizing that we of SNCC and the Freedom Movement engaged in to defeat Jim Crow segregation and win voting rights for people of color across the nation.
We can change state legislatures, and city councils, and congressional seats. We acknowledge that this will not resolve every issue confronting us. And the very large question of how best to hold accountable people we put into office through our work, remains. But we can put fear into the minds of those like Trump and his cohorts who think they have been mandated to start this country down a road leading to what amounts to fascism.
November 22, 2016
Copyright © SNCC Legacy Project
The Fannie Lou Hamer institute @ COFO is planning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Meredith March Against Fear and its role in the civil rights movement and the memorable call for Black Power. Through a series of conversations, intergenerational dialogue, and presentations, the purpose of this commemoration is to recognize the bravery and accomplishments of those men and women who were part of the journey in spite of jeopardizing their lives and jobs.
To create continuity of programming, events will be held on the exact dates and localities which took place along the route of the original march 50 years ago including: Hernando, Sunflower County, Greenwood, Canton, and Tougaloo. More information:
Organizing Partners include Tougaloo College and The Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.
Remembering Sammy Younge, Jr.
"Preserving our History" now available online
The SNCC Legacy Project has published a pamphlet, "Preserving our History: What to do with your freedom movement papers". The content of the pamphlet is on this website under Preserving our History.
Ms. Ella Baker
This is to let you know that as a the follow-up to our 50th Anniversary Conference, and your feedback about needed actions for the future, a SNCC Legacy Project (SLP) has been established. The purpose of the SLP is to organize strategic programs and activities that address those critical issues identified in your responses to the post-conference survey conducted last summer.
Over the past nine months, the SLP has been incorporated, secured tax exempt status and organized a 15-person board.
Our first educational project is about to bear fruit. We filmed and recorded every plenary and panel session at the 50th and a set of 38 DVDs (52 hours) has been produced. California Newsreel will handle their sales and distribution which should begin later this month. The DVDs can be purchased as either a complete set or individually. Money from sales will help provide revenue for the SLP programs.
At this point there are four SLP “working committees” that are in the process of designing programs, activities and materials in the following areas:
Of course we are at the very beginning stage of the SLP, so much can change. We will keep SNCC people regularly informed of our progress and our invitation to participate with ideas or work will remain open. Our only expectation is your commitment to hard work
Courtland Cox, Chair
SNCC Legacy Project