By Hannah Brandt
August was another exhausting and often discouraging month. From the Fresno City Council passing the ban on homeless dwellings in Fresno to the White supremacist attacks in Charlottesville, Va., to the horrific flooding in Houston, it has been overwhelming. Even my little day-to-day frustrations seemed more intense as my laptop crashed right during deadline time. Insignificant though it is, that did cause me a lot of stress those last few days of the month.
But there has been good, too, and I will try to focus on that. Whenever there are crises people step up, and that was certainly true in August. The outpouring of support for the homeless at the City Council meeting was so great to see. Although there are still too many shamefully dehumanizing comments made, the pendulum is swinging in the direction of compassion. More people are recognizing the humanity of people experiencing homelessness and seeing how those without housing are generally simply lacking in resources rather than being guilty of any crime. That viewpoint used to be the exception, so this is a big first step to creating a better community.
We also saw a lot of solidarity around the issue of fighting White supremacy and neo- Nazism. Although this has been simmering in the background for years, President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and failure to denounce racism and other forms of bigotry have emboldened people who hold these views and allowed them to grow. People of conscience know that this cannot be allowed to take hold. Here in Fresno, like in other parts of nation, demonstrations against hate were much larger and more successful than those organized by hate groups.
We saw a group of interfaith leaders denounce Fresno Unified School District Board President Brooke Ashjian’s shameful and prejudiced comments about LGBTQ individuals, even equating this vulnerable and marginalized segment of society with the powerful Ottoman empire that perpetrated the Armenian genocide. One member of the school board, Christopher de la Cerda, already has called for Ashjian to step down. These faith leaders put pressure on the rest of the trustees of the Fresno Unified School Board to denounce and recall him.
Several progressive policies have gained endorsements this month and passage could be promising. Although only a few weeks ago there was little support from Democratic lawmakers for SB 562 on single-payer healthcare and HR 676 on Medicare for all, they are now being endorsed by the California Democratic Party. Also, SB 10 to end cash bail, which was not endorsed by Central Valley representatives, is now officially endorsed by the party. Moreover, AB 249, the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, which would overturn Citizens United, was endorsed by the California Democratic Party.
In addition, the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SB 623) is gaining support from diverse parts of the community, environmentalists, agricultural interests and businesses. It would create a fund from tax dollars to ensure that every Californian has access to clean drinking water. Similarly, a bill to ban chlorpyrifos, an insecticide used by Dow Chemical, is gaining traction in Sacramento. Although current Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt rejects the concerns, scientific studies have shown negative health outcomes from exposure to the insecticide. Of course, it is mostly farmworkers who are exposed to it. As it is already banned from household use, it is important that farmworkers have the same rights as those of us who do not work in the fields to provide food for the state, country and the world.
The most exciting news for the paper this month is that we have our Spanish section back. We are pleased to welcome Lourdes Medina to the staff as editor of Alianza Comunitaria. This first month, we have two pages in the Spanish section but we hope to expand to include more articles, photos and advertising. If you are interested in contributing to the Spanish section, please contact Lourdes at email@example.com.
Please keep in mind that all articles, letters to the editor, advertising and monthly sponsored pages need to be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by the 15th of the month preceding publication. Thank you!