Building to Restore the Vote

Justin Terrell

Justin Terrell

Justin Terrell is the Justice 4 All Program Manager at TakeAction Minnesota. For more information abou the Saturday Restore the Vote MN Rally and Door Knock, contact him at justin@takeactionminnesota.org.

After every election, Minnesotans love to talk about high turnout at the polls. Even when we have recounts and narrow victories, the story on the news is always about our proud voting tradition.

But the reality about that tradition is much more complicated. Black folks are missing out on elections at an alarming rate. Many of us have had our Civil Right to vote taken away by the Justice System. Some of us just don’t believe our country’s democracy is for us. And why would we?

When I hit the block with a clip board, all I hear is “Vote? Vote for who? What are they going to do for me?” and I have finally learned to stop arguing. The answer to the question is “nothing.” No one is going to do anything for our community. As a matter of fact, they will pass policies that result with more Black folks behind bars than during slavery. Corporations will make sure that unemployment stays consistently high and our wages drop through the basement. Not only will people in power not help us, they will fight against us for their own personal gain.

Well, I say enough is enough. Instead of encouraging folks to vote, I am encouraging folks from my community to build. Build a block of voters that hold elected officials accountable. Build an agenda with policies that work in our interest. Build leaders to run for offices. Build organizations focused on power for our community.

This Saturday, we are hitting the doors on the North Side of Minneapolis and the East Side of St. Paul. Our goal is to generate support for the restoration of voting rights for people who have had their rights taken away because they are currently on probation and parole for a felony conviction. Please join us, change starts by connecting with each other in the community. Here is the information to get involved:

Restore the Vote MN Rally and Door Knock

Saturday, September 20th

10:30am – 3:00pm

RSVP HERE

Minneapolis Location

MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

911 West Broadway

Minneapolis, MN 55411

St. Paul Location

Hope Lutheran Church

1340 Hazel St N

St Paul, MN 55119

Igualdad o equidad? Esta es la pregunta… / Equality or Equity? That is the question …

Mónica Hurtado

Mónica Hurtado

By Monica Hurtado, Organizadora comunitaria por la equidad racial y de salud en OAP/OAP Health Equity and Racial Justice Organizer

(See below for English version of this post.)

¿Cómo explicar que Minnesota sea uno de los Estados más saludables de todo el país, pero al mismo tiempo uno de los Estados con las mayores inequidades en Salud?

¿Sabía usted que los jóvenes de las comunidades Indígenas, Latina y Afro-Americana tienen el mayor número de personas con obesidad en Minnesota? ¿Sabía que las mujeres de las comunidades Latina y Afro-Americana tienen mayores probabilidades de ser diagnosticadas con cáncer de seno en etapas más avanzadas? Esto significa que aunque más mujeres blancas son diagnosticadas con cáncer, un mayor número de mujeres de color mueren porque no tienen la misma oportunidad de tener un tratamiento temprano y por tanto más exitoso

¿Qué razones explican estas diferencias? Muchos pensarán que se debe a herencia familiar (causas genéticas), o a que estos jóvenes y mujeres toman malas decisiones y comen mal o no hacen ejercicio, o porque decidieron no ver al Doctor a tiempo. Pues aunque estas cosas influyen, después de muchas investigaciones y análisis hoy sabemos que la genética y las visitas al Doctor contribuyen un 20% en el estado de Salud de las personas, mientras que hay un 80% que tienen que ver con las condiciones sociales y ambientales en las que viven las personas. Tal vez usted habrá observado que hay zonas o barrios más inseguros que otros, con menos parques y áreas recreativas, con un mayor número de tiendas donde se vende tabaco y licor, y tal vez también haya observado que es justamente en esas zonas donde viven personas y familias con más bajos recursos económicos. Además habrá notado que es justo en estas zonas donde hay un mayor número de remates hipotecarios (foreclosures). ¿Ha notado que, en muchísimos casos, es justo en estas zonas donde viven las comunidades de color (Afro-Americanos, Inmigrantes Latinos, Africanos y Asiáticos) e indígenas Americanos? Pues no sólo el sentido común, sino también investigaciones han demostrado que todos estos factores afectan seriamente la oportunidad de tomar decisiones saludables, y explican que la comunidad blanca tenga mayores oportunidades de vivir por más tiempo y tener una vida más saludable.

Estas condiciones no se dieron naturalmente, sino que son el producto de decisiones tomadas por las personas encargadas de agencias públicas, y privadas. Pensemos en cómo se decide dónde construir parques y carreteras, o qué tipo de préstamo hipotecario ofrecerle a quien compra una casa, o en cómo se deciden las políticas de salud pública, de trabajo, transporte etc. Estas decisiones establecen diferencias en la oportunidad para ser individuos saludables, con familias y comunidades saludables. Son estas diferencias en el acceso a las oportunidades entre las comunidades de color e indígena, y la comunidad blanca lo que llamamos inequidades raciales.

Vivimos en un país que defiende la igualdad, y nadie discutiría que es un gran valor. Sin embargo esto se vuelve problemático cuando también es una realidad que las comunidades de color y nativas necesitan mayor inversión, porque históricamente se les han negado oportunidades para ser más prosperas y saludables. Así que en vez de igualdad (dar a todos lo mismo) pedimos equidad (dar según los desafíos, o sea invertir más en los que tienen los mayores retos).

Este es mi trabajo en OAP hacer parte de los esfuerzos que están permitiendo cambiar esas condiciones que afectan desproporcionadamente a nuestras comunidades. OAP trabaja por la equidad racial, cultural y económica para que todos los en Minnesota seamos más saludables y prósperos.

How can we explain that Minnesota is one of the healthiest states in the country, but also one of the states with the greatest inequities in health?

Did you know that young people in American Indian, Latino, and African American communities have the highest number of obese people in Minnesota? Did you know that Latina and African-American women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages? This means that although more white women are diagnosed with breast cancer, a greater number of women of color die because they do not have the same opportunity for earlier and therefore more successful treatment. 

What explains these differences? Many of us think it is due to family genetics, or that these young people and women make bad choices or eat poorly and/or do not exercise, or because they chose not to see the doctor early enough. Although these things do influence the health of individuals, through much research and analysis we now know that genetics and doctor visits contribute just 20 percent to the health status while 80 percent of health status is related to the social conditions and environment in which people live.

Perhaps you have noticed that there are areas or neighborhoods more insecure than others, with fewer parks and recreational areas, with a greater number of stores selling tobacco and liquor, and perhaps you have also noted that it is precisely in those areas where low-income people and low-income families live. It is also in these areas where a greater number of foreclosures occur. Have you also noticed that in many cases, it is these areas where communities of color (African American, Latino, African and Asian Immigrants) and American Indians live? Not only common sense, but also research has shown that these social factors seriously affect the opportunity to make healthy choices, and they also explain why the white community has greater opportunities to live longer and have healthier lives. 

These conditions did not occur naturally, but are the product of decisions made by those responsible for public and private entities. Let’s think for a moment about how decisions are made on where to build parks and roads, or what kind of mortgage loan is offered to those who want to buy a house, and all decisions about public health policy, labor, transportation, and more. These decisions establish differences in the opportunity to be healthy individuals with healthy families and healthy communities. These differences in access to opportunities between communities of color/American Indians and whites is what we call racial inequities.

We live in a country that upholds equality, and no one would argue that it is a great value. However, this becomes problematic when it is also a reality that communities of color and American Indians need more investment because historically they have been denied opportunities to be more prosperous and healthy. So instead of equality (to give everyone the same) we ask for equity (to give according to the challenge, which means to invest more on those communities with the greatest challenges).

This is my job at OAP, to be part of the efforts that are changing the social conditions that disproportionately affect our communities of color and American Indian communities. OAP works to advance racial, cultural, and economic equity in Minnesota and by achieving this, all Minnesotans will be healthier and will thrive.

This piece first appeared in the community newspaper La Tribuna