In the last issue of The Fire Inside in 2008, we began celebrating the election of President Barack Obama. The country is still reeling from what 8 years of the Bush administration brought us: torture, war, more prisons and fewer schools, less access to health care and every other basic social service and human need, and a general looting and pillaging of every precious natural resource?including the most precious resource, our people. California passed Prop 8, which eliminated rights of same-sex couples to marry, and Prop 9, making it more difficult to get parole, but defeated Prop 6, which would have made it easier for the state to prosecute youths as adults. So where do we stand now?
We come into this New Year with hope and determination for positive change, for an expansion of human and civil rights for all, for the chance to rebuild communities based on mutual respect. A good beginning was created with Eric Holder being appointed the first Black Attorney-General, and his beliefs about the need for the country to discuss racism. As the head of the Department of Justice he is in a unique position to reverse the incarceration explosion and initiate decarceration strategies which are a central part of addressing racism in the country today.
But on New Year?s Day in Oakland, Oscar Grant III, a young Black man, was shot and killed by a BART policeman. And soon after that, a young Latina woman was shot by the police in southern California. Neither of these are isolated police killings, and the communities have responded demanding justice [read more about Oscar Grant?s case on page 7]. You will also see a legal update on what is happening with Prop. 9 (page 2-3)
Obama?s election inspired many, many people to speak out and act. While we move forward with hope and determination, we know that there is a lot of work to do.