Monday, 23 October 2017

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C Civil Rights

44 progressive Florida organizations that could use your help right now

By Monivette Cordeiro , Deanna Ferrante , Dave Plotkin , Nick Wills and Rachel LeBar, For Orlando Weekly, On 15 February 2017, Read Original

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The best way to stay grounded and busy for the rest of the Trump administration is to help those who are probably going to need it in the next for years. From what we've seen so far, this administration has already started chipping away at voting rights, environmental protections, Title IX requirements, climate change policy, public education and workplace protections. Communities in need now more than ever include immigrants, LGBTQ youth, the working poor, POC and the disabled.

We’ve put together a list of local, state and national organizations working to shore up protections in these areas, including six profiles of local leaders working to effect change. They need your help and support, whether you can give time, money or both.

Rasha Mubarak - PHOTO BY DEANNA FERRANTE
  • Photo by Deanna Ferrante
  • Rasha Mubarak

Council on American-Islamic Relations

 

You already know the Council on American-Islamic Relations as the national Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group suing the Trump administration to stop what they call the "Muslim Exclusion Order."

You may not have known that our state's chapter, CAIR Florida, supports these legal efforts by providing training to a wide range of people, and not just Muslims.

CAIR Florida teaches "Islam 101" courses for law enforcement officials, and "know your rights" workshops for civilians. They provide cultural competency training for doctors who see Muslim patients, and personal safety training at community centers. They help serve Muslim children through partnerships with organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters of South Florida.

Rasha Mubarak, the Orlando regional coordinator for CAIR Florida, says these collaborations have grown and emboldened "the movement family" in Central Florida.

Mubarak and a handful of local activist leaders organized a successful protest inside Orlando International Airport on Jan. 29. The event made news and brought pro-immigrant demonstrators within earshot of the families of Syrian and Iranian travelers being questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Many protesters heard about the action through online forums usually dedicated to UCF student progressive groups, Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ advocacy.

"These relationships have been built over time, over being there together," says Mubarak. "By joining one movement, you learn about other people doing great work without reinventing the wheel. None of us are free so long as any of us are oppressed."

CAIR and CAIR Florida need donations and volunteers, but Mubarak says there are other important ways for people to help.

"We encourage people to donate but we also ask for support in the form of coming out to our events and inviting us to participate in your conversations, letting us now how can we provide our support at your organization or community center," Mubarak says. "There are always volunteer opportunities like tabling with us, helping us set up new events, and making allies and connections with different interfaith groups and support groups."

Mubarak also recommends following CAIR Florida on social media, as well as following related groups like the Support Central Florida Muslim Community, Floridians Responding to Refugees and the Muslim Woman Organization.

"Let us know how we can be there for you, too." - DP

Florida League of Women Voters, Orange County

The League of Women Voters was founded right before women got the vote in 1920. The women's suffrage movement had gone on for decades, and once founders of the organization suspected that the vote was on the horizon, they realized that this huge portion of the country needed to be educated about the voting process and the issues of the day.

"That is the founding mission of the league and the mission we continue to fulfill today," says Sara Isaac, the co-president of the Orange County chapter of the Florida League of Women Voters.

Today, the league has grown to become one of the leading civic engagement organizations across the country. The chapter here in Orange County is the largest in the nation, with more than 700 members and still growing.

Both men and women of any party are free to join: The League is nonpartisan.

"What that means is that we don't support particular parties or particular candidates," Isaac says. "But we do take strong stands on issues, and we will call out politicians when they don't take what we consider to be the right stand on issues."

One might wonder how, in this divisive time in our country, Democrats and Republicans can come together and agree on an issue.

"In a country that is so increasingly divided politically, we are a third way," Isaac says. "If you strip away the rhetoric, most people want the kind of thriving, inclusive community that we advocate for. So it's a way of finding common ground."

That nonpartisan advocacy is what makes the League special: It's a multi-issue organization with a set of positions that range from the local to the national level. In Orange County, the League advocates for improvements to the juvenile justice system, restoration of voting rights for felons, the use of natural resources, fair and affordable public transportation, gun safety, solutions to public education problems, protecting women's reproductive health and more.

"We are fair, but we're fierce," Isaac says. "We're going to study the issue. ... When we take a position, we're going to advocate it with all our might."

Asked if members are worried about the new administration in the White House, Isaac admits that the League has disagreed with some of the new president's policies, like the recent executive order that temporarily banned immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries.

"I think it's reasonable to be worried, but I also think there has been a huge awakening of how important this is," she says, referring to the recent rise of protests.

The League welcomes anyone with a position they care about and is ready to give them the resources to fight for that issue. Isaac encourages anyone looking to get involved to join a committee, sign up for the newsletter, participate in a workshop or donate through the website.

"It's time for everybody to step up," she says. "We need everyone to come out and advocate for their passions." – DF

Hope CommUnity Center

In the 40 years Sister Ann Kendrick has been working to support immigrant communities in Central Florida at the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, this is the worst it has ever been, she says.

A sense of fear permeates the community. After the election, a group of about 100 kids who gather at the center reported racial slurs and bullying at their schools. Some people have already packed their suitcases as they anxiously wait to see what executive order President Donald Trump signs next after ordering a U.S.-Mexico border wall and threatening to take away federal funds from sanctuary cities, among other actions. Kendrick says some children have come to the center crying, including an 8-year-old boy who was afraid his undocumented mom would be deported.

"He was afraid his mother would be taken away because then who would take care of him," Kendrick says. "People ask us what we're going to do, and I tell them, 'We're doing what we always do, except the stakes are higher. We have to ratchet up.'"

Kendrick, Sister Cathy Gorman and Sister Gail Grimes came to this area in the 1970s to help farmworkers and the working poor in the community. Decades later, they have set up two centers in Apopka where they provide a litany of services, including literacy classes, GED help, school tutoring, citizenship classes, youth groups and other resources for immigrant communities.

Kendrick says now Hope CommUnity Center is working on two fronts to address what will possibly come down from the presidential administration. First, they're teaching people to know their rights when stopped by the police, and also, they're creating "safety and dignity" plans for undocumented immigrants.

"Everybody, documented or not, is being caught up in this anti-immigrant attitude and scrutiny because some see immigrants as hostile and not adding to the fabric of our country," she says. "We're teaching them how to behave if you're stopped by law enforcement, which is usually for driving without a license or can be racial profiling, and explaining to them what to say, what not to say, what can be incriminating."

The center is also helping undocumented immigrants put together "safety and dignity" plans consisting of medical records, school records, bank information, power of attorney letters, prescription information, letters from the community and other records that would be helpful to have readily at hand in case of detainment or deportation. Kendrick says community members who care can start assisting at the center by helping people put together their "safety and dignity" plans or by donating money to help a family in need. She adds that people can also help out by becoming tutors at the center and by letting the immigrant community know they have allies in the fight.

"We can help by creating community," Kendrick says. "We're a safe place where people can come and be introduced to a bigger world. Now is the time to step up." – MC