Articles

New Deal Vs Rotten Deal

A look at the Hobos to Street People Exhibit and Catalogue

by Margot Pepper
Hobos to Street People Exhibit
Freedom Voices Books

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The last thing one would expect an art show and catalogue focusing on poverty to do is inspire, particularly during such challenging economic times. Curator, artist and author Art Hazelwood has masterfully juxtaposed art created during the Great Depression of the 1930s to the daring perspectives of artists interpreting similar themes today. Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present is empowering because it validates our experience of an “America” denied us by mainstream media. Laws have been won, agreements signed to ensure that the widespread levels of poverty of the Great Depression won’t reappear. But these laws and agreements have slowly eroded. The hope comes from the artist as historian, as a witness to these broken promises, like the heart-breaking photographs by Robert Terrell, whose ironic title draws attention to the failure of the US to live up to its obligations under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by a committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (Article 25, Section1, 1948.)

The Costs of the Embargo

The 47-year-old blockade now costs the United States far more than it costs Cuba.

by Margot Pepper
First published by Dollars & Sense, March/April 2009
Common Dreams March 7, 2009

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On January 1, Cuba celebrated the 50th anniversary of the revolution against the U.S.-backed Batista regime. For 47 of those years, Cuba has suffered under what U.S. officials call an “embargo” against the Caribbean nation. Cubans’ name for the embargo—el bloqueo (the blockade)—is arguably more apt, given that the U.S. policy also aims to restrict other countries from engaging in business with Cuba.

Embargo Costs U.S. Economy More Than Cuba's (750 word version)

by Margot Pepper
First published by Canada's The Scoop and Berkeley Daily Planet

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The U.S. blockade is causing more economic damage to the United States than it is to Cuba. A December letter signed by a dozen leading U.S. business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged then-President-elect Barack Obama to initiate the process of scrapping the 47-year old embargo. The letter pegs the cost to the US economy at $1.2 billion per year. Other sources project up to $4.84 billion annually in lost sales and exports.

TV Selfishness and Violence Explode During “War on Terror:" Second graders discover new trends in TV since 9/11

by Margot Pepper
First published by Rethinking Schools, Spring 2008

Six years into the “War on Terror,” my second grade Spanish immersion students found that aggression, selfishness and insults have exploded on national television.

For the last decade, I’ve had my students at Rosa Parks Elementary in Berkeley, California analyze television shows preceding National TV-Off week organized by the TV-Turnoff Network, which this year is April 21-27. I ask the seven and eight-year-old students to collect all the data themselves, since I’ve never owned a television. For seven days, students study a random sampling of about 35 English and Spanish-language children’s television shows—and one or two soap operas or reality shows.

The Drive to Oust the Middle Class from Inner City Public Schools

by Margot Pepper
First published by Race, Poverty & the Environment, Fall 2007

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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was signed into law in 2001 by President George Bush, backed by both Democrats and Republicans. The backbone of the program, allegedly designed to hold schools accountable for academic failure, is standardized state testing for students and educators. Rather than improve public education, however, there is now ample evidence that NCLB testing is part of a systematic effort to privatize diverse urban public schools in the United States. The objectives of privatization have been threefold: first, to divert taxpayer money from the public sector to the corporate sector; second, to capture part of the market, which would otherwise be receiving free education; and third, to drive out middle class accountability, leaving behind a disposable population that won’t have a voice about the inappropriate use of their tax dollars, nor the bleak outlook on their futures.

Seven-Year-Olds Lead A Strike

by Margot Pepper
First published by Race, Poverty & the Environment, Fall 2007

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For over a decade I’ve been teaching my six-, seven-, and eight-year-old students to strike against me in the classroom. I drew the inspiration from “the Yummy Pizza company” labor unit1 and my own experience in the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and National Writer's Union. Instead of producing pizzas, students at “Pepper Ink.” produce laminated bookmarks of the best poem they’ve written in a year-long study of the genre. This year, however, the experience took a different turn when one of our potential Pepper Ink. workers was forcibly removed from the school.

Deconstructing "Return to Sender"

by Margot Pepper
First published by Counterpunch, June 2007

ZNet, June 2007

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Recently, sending a message of resistance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Berkeley and Oakland, California adopted sanctuary city measures disallowing the use of city funds and staff time in aiding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Over 60 sanctuary city initiatives protecting immigrants have been promulgated in 21 states across the United States. Critics of immigration reform argue that sanctuary proposals send the wrong message to immigrants who, they argue, are responsible for eroding citizens’ living standards. They claim stiffer penalties and stronger barriers are the answer. Little publicized is the fact that actually the opposite is true. Rather than posing a monumental problem, undocumented migration is a desired outcome of unequal international trade policies, boosting the living standards of U.S. citizens and enriching a powerful sector of the U.S. economy. Rather than discourage migration, dangerous but surmountable barriers and unenforceable, cruel laws only contribute to the “illegal,” status of needed workers, rendering them a cheap, profitable source of labor.

No Corporation Left Behind: How A Century of Illegitimate Testing Has Been Used to Justify Internal Colonialism

by Margot Pepper
First published by the Monthly Review, November 2006

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“I feel like a bad person.”

“I feel like a snail without a shell whose heart has been stepped on.”

These feelings were jotted down in Spanish by my second graders during the four weeks of standardized tests required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The educational policy was instituted on the heels of the September 11 attacks by President George Bush, backed by both Democrats and Republicans. My students are required to take tests in Standard English, though half have yet to make the transition from Spanish to a second language in my immersion classroom.

Thousands of Californians Missing--From the News

by Margot Pepper
First published by the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, April 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. César Chávez Day came and went without acknowledgment from most mainstream print media of a Chávez-inspired 365-mile march that lasted 48 days and culminated in thousands of Californians converging upon the State Capitol April 21st. Wave after wave of union workers, educators, students, parents, and demanded funding for basic public services that citizens in developed nations expect for their tax dollars, such as functioning schools, roads and parks.

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