Social Justice

January 31, 2004

Five weeks after Jan Williamson arrived as principal of Highland Park Elementary School, her young students took up their No. 2 pencils for their annual standardized tests. As the school had done countless times in the past, they packed up the sheets of graphite-filled bubbles and sent them to be evaluated. Once the tests were graded, the new principal was in for an unpleasant surprise. She was notified that the school had not achieved "adequate yearly progress."

Bloomington was getting its first taste of the new No Child Left Behind legislation ( NCLB ), passed in 2002. As required by the new law, Monroe County Schools would soon extend a choice to parents at Williamson's school--do you want your child somewhere else?

January 17, 2004

"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
-- Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Honoring Dr. King's memory, a thousand protesters greeted George Bush on Jan. 15 when he visited Atlanta to lay a wreath at Martin Luther King Jr.'s tomb. Protesters refused to be herded by police into a "free speech zone" and continued to boo Bush during his brief remarks.

January 11, 2004

The following article was submitted to The Bloomington Alternative by Charity Ryerson, a Bloomington activist and inmate at the Federal Prison Camp in Pekin, Ill.. It was written by Bloomington activist Jeremy John, who is an inmate at the Federal Prison Camp in Terre Haute. Both are completing six-month sentences for protesting at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2002.

Charity wrote: "When I read this, I was amazed at how similar our situation is here. The differences between men's and women's prisons are drastic; they are two different worlds. But it appears that around Christmas time, the two worlds become one."

November 29, 2003

The following article was submitted to The Bloomington Alternative by local activist Charity Ryerson, an inmate at the Federal Prison Camp in Pekin, Ill, where she is serving a six-month sentence for protesting at the School of the Americas. Of the piece Charity writes: "Vinette Crowley's (we call her 'Shorty') article is a basic rundown of our health care situation, or lack of as it were. None of the stories she tells are unique. This is standard procedure."

November 22, 2003

The following article was submitted to The Bloomington Alternative by Bloomington activist Charity Ryerson, who is serving a six-month federal prison sentence for protesting at the School of the Americas.

She writes: "Ruth's letter to the editor expresses a common sentiment around here, that the famous and the wealthy don't have to play by the rules the rest of us do. Many have said, 'But Rush was a user, the convicted felons are dealers.' I, for one, was surprised to find that this is not the case. No evidence is required for drug convictions, causing users to be swept up with the dealers and manufacturers."

November 22, 2003

NUVO

Dear commissioner,

Do you hear that? It's a cry for help.

I've written about Michael Parrish several times before, and talked with members of your staff about him a lot. Michael has struggled with severe mental illness since he was a child. He was first thrown into your prison system over a decade ago, after a botched teen-age escape from LaRue Carter Hospital.

November 9, 2003

NUVO

There are two different stories being told about the global AIDS crisis. The first is told by President Bush and his appointees. In January, Bush made headlines with his State of the Union promise of $15 billion over five years to fight global AIDS. He accepted praise for the pledge of "a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa," and endorsed an authorization of $3 billion for 2004.

But now Bush is quietly backing away from the promise.

October 19, 2003

Thursday, July 3, 2003, was an ordinary summer day on the federal death row, only hotter. The temperature was in the 90s outside. David Hammer, 44, a Row resident for the last several of his 22 years in prison, estimated the temperature in his cell, its windows sealed shut, to be 130 or 140°F.

In a letter to me, a pen pal of his, David said, "I flooded my cell after stopping up my cell door, there was approximately one foot of water in the cell, so I laid down and wallowed sort of like a hog in slop, in order to cool off."

October 12, 2003

Editor's note: Gregory Travis is on vacation this week. The following CIVITAS column originally ran on Jan. 19, 2003.

It never ceases to amaze me that sometime between elementary school and college people forget what "there's no such thing as a free lunch" means. It means that everything, no matter how good it appears on the surface, comes with an associated cost. And whether it's because of blind optimism, willful ignorance, or just plain stupidity, this is one concept that's totally foreign to our community's political and business leaders.

October 12, 2003

NUVO

"I was spit on, beaten while pregnant, pushed down stairs and shot at," says Ieta Kimbrough, a caseworker at Coburn Place Safe Haven in Indianapolis, which provides housing for women and children escaping domestic violence. "An ambulance did come once, the time he hit me in the face with brass knuckles." She points to her left eye, which still has impaired vision 20 years after that final beating.

"I didn't call the police because I just thought it was a family issue. My grandmother and mother and aunt were all victims of domestic violence themselves, and none of us called the police. I twice tried to kill myself. I thought that since I was married to him, that was the only way out."

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