I don't know whether it's the time of year or the eight inches of snow on the ground that are making me feel retrospectively reflective, but whatever it is, I was gratified to see a YouTube video enumerating ten racial justice victories that came to pass in 2013. I believe progress is made one heart at a time and this year I and millions of others have been diligently working to change hearts. It's nice to sit back a minute and recognize where our labor has borne fruit.
To partake in the feast, read the transcript that follows or jump below the orange power squiggle of justice to view the vid. Solidarity.
Hi, this is Rinku Sen, executive director of Race Forward, the Center for Racial Justice Innovation. 2013 has been a big year for the racial justice movement. Here are ten of this year's victories that will resonate into the new year and beyond:
This year, President Obama reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, despite repeated attempts by House Republicans to kill the bill. They said it did "too much" to protect Native American women, immigrants and queer and trans folks. These are communities that are structurally blocked from relief and safety, and these are the communities that rose up, along with a multiracial coalition, and got VAWA passed. Nobody under the bus, just a victory for justice.
In April, the Associated Press announced it would no longer use the term 'illegal immigrant' in its styleguide, with other national news outlets following suit, marking a huge media justice victory for immigrant communities of all backgrounds. This represents the culmination of three years of concerted effort by a massive coalition of activists, including our own Drop The I-Word campaign.
And this year, after ten years of pressure, the FCC forced the private companies that run prison phone services to play by the rules and stop exploiting inmates and their families. Thanks to the tireless, innovative work of the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, people are no longer forced to pay a dollar a minute to hear the voices of their loved ones.
In Queens, New York, activists won a lawsuit against the Board of Elections, forcing it to finally make good on its failed promises to provide Bengali-language ballots. Thanks to the work of Asian community organizations to get a federal government order, immigrant voters can know that their voices are finally being heard at the polls.
In Seattle, public schoolteachers risked suspension by refusing to make their students take meaningless standardized tests in exchange for keeping their jobs. And in May of this year, they got the system changed. Tests-for-jobs policies hit schools in communities of color especially hard, and this pushback on so-called 'corporate education reform' is happening nationwide.
Across the country, 2013 saw young organizers and established activists working together to change unjust policies. In North Carolina, student organizers teamed up with the NAACP to hold sit-ins and pray-ins at the state legislature. Over the course of 13 'Moral Mondays,' nearly 1,000 peaceful protesters were arrested, forcing the media to report on the lawmakers' attacks on voting rights, reproductive health, and worker protections.
And in Florida, following the Zimmerman trial's miscarriage of justice, the Dream Defenders camped out at their own state capitol for over a month in protest of lethal Stand Your Ground laws, the school-to-prison pipeline, and climate change. They were joined by luminaries like Jesse Jackson and Harry Belafonte. And despite event organizers canceling executive director Philip Agnew's speech at the 50th Anniversary of the March On Washington, the Defenders and their partner organizations are showing us the future of organizing.
Just because the movement is getting things done, that doesn't mean the movement has no work to do on itself. In April, the Human Rights Campaign apologized for silencing transgender and undocumented activists at marriage equality protests over the summer. That happened thanks to pressure from multiple allied organizations and advocacy news outlets.
And when actor, activist and former White House staffer Kal Penn tweeted in defense of New York City's Stop and Frisk law, his fellow Desis rallied on social media -- not to defend him, but to correct him, reminding him that stop-and-frisk is indeed a form of racial profiling. In response, Kal did something few public figures have the courage to do; he admitted he was wrong and changed his position.
And finally, this was a big year for Native Americans around sports. Major national news outlets and sports writers stopped printing a certain D.C. football team's racist name. With the D.C. City Council urging the owner to change the name already, it's only a matter 2of time. Not only that, but two sisters from the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, Jude and Shoni Schimmel, dominated the NCAA tournament, bringing the Louisville Cardinals to the national title game and smashing tired narratives about Native American women. And like the Schimmel sisters can tell you, they aren't your mascot on a hat, but they might be your worst nightmare on the court.
In 2013, the racial justice movement faced challenges we never imagined, and we won victories we might not have dreamed possible. We don't know everything that the new year will hold. But we know we'll meet it facing forward.