Newswire : Medicaid funding, public transportation highlight Arise’s 2018 priorities

Alabama Arise logo

New Medicaid revenue and creation of a state Public Transportation Trust Fund are among the goals on Alabama Arise’s 2018 legislative agenda. Nearly 200 Arise members picked the group’s issue priorities at its annual meeting Saturday in Montgomery. The seven goals chosen were:

· Tax reform, including untaxing groceries and closing corporate income tax loopholes;
· Adequate funding for vital services like education, health care and child care, including approval of new tax revenue to prevent Medicaid cuts;
· Consumer protections to limit high-interest payday loans and auto title loans in Alabama;
· Dedicated state revenue for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund;
· Reforms to Alabama’s death penalty system, including a moratorium on executions;
· Creation of a state Public Transportation Trust Fund; and
· Reforms to Alabama’s criminal justice debt policies, including changes related to cash bail and driver’s license revocations for minor offenses.

“All Alabamians deserve equal justice and an opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families,” Alabama Arise state coordinator Kimble Forrister said. “We’re excited to continue our work for policy changes that would make it easier for hard-working Alabamians to get ahead.”

More than one in five Alabamians – almost all of whom are children, seniors, pregnant women, or people with disabilities – have health coverage through Medicaid. That coverage plays an important role in keeping hospitals and doctors’ offices open across the state, especially in rural areas.

“Medicaid is the backbone of Alabama’s health care system, and we must keep it strong,” Forrister said. “The Legislature needs to step up and approve new, sustainable revenue for Medicaid in 2018. It’s time to stop the annual funding battles and ensure all Alabamians have access to health care.”

Lack of adequate transportation is another major challenge that limits economic growth and erects barriers to daily living for many low-income residents and people with disabilities across Alabama. Arise will push for creation of a state Public Transportation Trust Fund as a step toward closing that gap. A bill to create a trust fund passed the Senate this year and has momentum heading into 2018.

Alabama Arise is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of congregations, organizations and individuals promoting public policies to improve the lives of low-income Alabamians.

Newswire : Historic marker honors Autherine Lucy Foster, Tuscaloosa Civil Rights heroine


 U. A. campus to honor Autherine Lucy Foster; and her 1956 student photo
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A giant in civil rights history was recognized on Friday, September 15, 2017 with the unveiling of the Autherine Lucy Foster Historic Marker at The University of Alabama.
An afternoon ceremony was held on the lawn of Graves Hall. Speakers were UA President Stuart R. Bell, Dr. Peter Hlebowitsh, dean of the College of Education; Marian Accinno Loftin, a UA distinguished alumna; and Dr. E. Culpepper “Cully” Clark, former UA dean and communication professor emeritus and author of “The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at The University of Alabama.”
In stressing Foster’s importance to UA’s history, Bell said, “Mrs. Foster’s initiative and courage opened the doors and created the opportunity for all races to attend the University. This historic marker will serve as a testament to her enduring impact on our campus and beyond.”
Hlebowitsh said the idea for the marker came from faculty who petitioned the University to place a historic marker near the site where Foster first attempted to enroll but was driven away by a mob in 1956.
“We are gratified that the University is recognizing Mrs. Foster in this manner,” Hlebowitsh said. “This honor is in keeping with the magnitude of her contributions to the history of our University.”
On being notified of the honor, Foster said, “I never imagined my decision to enroll would affect so many in so many ways. Today, I have several children who have attended the University and am, myself, a proud graduate and member of the alumni association. I am very humbled that the University has chosen to recognize me in this way.”
The Autherine Lucy Foster story is one of persistence, patience and desire for self-improvement. In 1952, after graduating with an English degree from Miles College, she applied to UA but was rejected because of her race. After a three-year legal battle, she was admitted by court order.
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, 1956, she registered as a student in UA’s College of Education. That Friday, Feb. 3, she attended her first class as a graduate student in library science, becoming the first black person in Alabama admitted to a white public school or university. But on Monday, Feb. 6, as some 3,000 protested, the board of trustees expelled her, citing her and other students’ safety.
Loftin was in a children’s literature class with Foster on that fateful day. She had these memories of the turbulence as well as of Foster’s contributions to UA history:
“On Friday, February 3, Autherine’s first day in class, she crossed the Quad alone without notable incident. But on Monday a crowd gathered, and the disturbance accelerated. Chants became angry shouts. Our class was dismissed, and Autherine was ushered out of the building to safety.”
Loftin continued: “I had the honor of nominating her to the College of Education’s Educator Hall of Fame — our College’s highest honor — and to be seated at her table in 2016 when she was inducted. It was a delight to see her interact with the guests, who admired her so greatly. Seated in her wheelchair, she was gracious, with a good-natured sense of humor.”
In 1988, the University officially annulled her expulsion. The next year she re-enrolled at UA with her daughter, Grazia. Foster earned a master’s in elementary education in 1991 and participated in the graduation ceremony in May 1992 with her daughter, a corporate finance major.
In 1998, UA named an endowed fellowship in Foster’s honor and unveiled a portrait of her in the Student Union Building. She was recognized again in 2010 when the University dedicated the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower recognizing her as one of three UA desegregation pioneers, along with Vivian Malone and James Hood.
Today, UA is a multicultural campus including more than 4,000 African-Americans among its approximately 38,500 students.

Newswire : Equifax data breach leaves at least 143 million consumers at risk

By Charlene Crowell (Communications Director, Center for Responsible Lending)

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Record-breaking, back-to-back hurricanes in Houston and Florida brought unprecedented winds and rains affecting millions of Americans. Yet another storm just as brutal, but financial in nature, is raging and affects at least 143 million Americans: that’s the Equifax data breach that took place from mid-May to July of this year.
On July 29, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting corporations, discovered that unauthorized data access had occurred. Yet it was not until September 7 when the multi-national data breach was announced publicly. This massive cybersecurity breach includes federal income tax records, as well as employee records for government employees and those of Fortune 500 firms. Even recipients of major government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are affected.
For consumers, the personal information exposed to fraud and identity theft could mean a lifetime of closely monitoring and defending personal data to fight theft, fines and more. For businesses, questions will emerge as to whether millions of credit accounts were fraudulently opened and additionally whether they will be held partially responsible for its perpetuation.
In reaction to this cybercrime, a surge of federal class action lawsuits are going after Equifax. As many as 50 have been filed in at least 14 states and the District of Columbia as of September 12. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly examining what went wrong from a criminal perspective. On the civil side of the law, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is beginning its own independent investigation.
Now a growing number of bipartisan inquiries from Capitol Hill are demanding to know why these breaches of personally identifiable information (PII) came about, what actions Equifax took, and what the global firm intends to do on behalf of consumers whose names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers and drivers’ licenses are all in jeopardy. Equifax also knew that an estimated 209,000 credit card holders and some 182,000 consumers in the U.S. who have a dispute on file with a creditor also had comprised PII.
“This hack into sensitive information compiled and maintained by Equifax is one of the largest data breaches in our nation’s history and someone has to be held accountable,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee in an article for “Business Insider.”
“Given the important role credit scores play in the lives and financial futures of hardworking Americans, Congress must diligently examine the way our credit reporting agencies are operating and impose additional statutory and regulatory reforms to protect the integrity of the country’s credit reporting system,” Waters continued.
In a September 11 letter to Richard F. Smith, Equifax’s Chairman and Chief Executive Office, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee went further to pose a series of questions to be answered by September 26. Issues raised in the letter include binding arbitration clauses that deny affected consumers the right of class action lawsuits, the firm’s security systems and controls, how consumers can expect to be officially notified, and what, if any, protections Equifax will offer to affected consumers.
“The scope and scale of this breach appears to make it one of the largest on record, and the sensitivity of the information compromised may make it the most costly to taxpayers and consumers,” wrote Senators Orrin Hatch, Senate Finance Chair and Ron Wyden, the committee’s Ranking Member.
The following day, September 12, another letter to Equifax included questions on what data changes to Equifax’s security plans and procedures were made as this breach now becomes its third one in only two years; the letter was signed by 24 Members of Congress, who serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and represent 15 states. Three are also members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Representatives G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Brooklyn’s Yvette Clarke and Bobby L. Rush of Chicago.
“Your company profits from collecting highly sensitive personal information from American consumers—it should take seriously its responsibility to keep data safe and to inform consumers when its protections fail,” wrote the representatives.
“The massive Equifax data breach is one of the largest in our country’s history, affecting half of the United States population and nearly three-quarters of consumers with credit reports,” said Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center. “A security freeze is the most effective measure against “new account” identity theft, because it stops thieves from using the consumer’s stolen information.”
To follow Wu’s advice, consumers will need to contact all three of the major credit reporting bureaus and request that no new accounts be opened in their names. Once requested, consumers will not be able to easily apply for new credit accounts or apply for a loan. An additional layer of precaution would be to contact every creditor and request that respective accounts be flagged for unusual or new credit activity. Detailed information on how consumers caught in the Equifax breach can take these and other steps to protect their credit is available on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has another consumer-friendly rule that Congress is currently fighting: preserving the right for consumers to file lawsuits when financial disputes could not be resolved otherwise. Announced on July 10, Richard Cordray, CFPB Director explained why the rule is important.
“Arbitration clauses in contracts for products like bank accounts and credit cards make it nearly impossible for people to take companies to court when things go wrong,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “These clauses allow companies to avoid accountability by blocking group lawsuits and forcing people to go it alone or give up. Our new rule will stop companies from sidestepping the courts and ensure that people who are harmed together can take action together.”
Days later on July 20, Capitol Hill lawmakers turned to a seldom-used option, the Congressional Review Act, to deny the rule from taking effect. Sen. Mike Crapo, Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Chair of the House Committee on Financial Services announced a coordinated legislative attack to roll back CFPB’s arbitration rule. The law allows Congress to fast track a veto of new federal regulation with limited debate and a simple majority vote in each chamber.
On July 25, the House passed its resolution on a highly-partisan vote of 231-190. To date, the Senate has yet to take a corresponding vote.
“The Equifax data breach is yet another reason to support the CFPB’s arbitration rule that would restore consumers’ day in court,” noted Melissa Stegman, a senior policy counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). “When a company has injured consumers, it should not also decide whether those affected have a right to pursue justice. Although Equifax claimed it will not assert arbitration in the aftermath of its data breach, consumers must be able to challenge corporate wrongdoing in the courts and Congress should cease its efforts to quash the rule.”

Newswire : Thousands of celebrities, luminaries and ordinary people bid Dick Gregory farewell

By Barrington M. Salmon

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 Thousands filled the City of Praise Church to honor the contributions of Dick Gregory. PHOTO: Roy Lewis/Trice Edney News Wire

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Several thousand mourners packed into a Landover, Md. church listened as friends, family and admirers lionized comedian, social justice warrior, civil rights activist and provocateur Dick Gregory. The spirited, electric memorial service on Saturday, Sept. 18, turned out to be more celebration than funeral.
Gregory’s passing brought together a constellation of local, national and international celebrities and luminaries from the arts, entertainment, politics and sports as well as ordinary people, all whose lives Gregory touched over the course of his 84 years.
Among the descriptors used: Firestarter, agitator, freedom fighter, legend, peacemaker, genius, artist, teacher, guide.
“We experience the loss not of a comedian but the loss of one sent from above to be a guide, a teacher, a friend, a teacher, an activist, a giver, a sufferer, one of the most marvelous human beings I have had the privilege of meeting during my 84 years of life on this planet,” said Minister Louis Farrakhan, who gave the eulogy. “I want to thank Mother Lillian and the Gregory family for the great honor and privilege that you have given me to ask me to be the eulogist for a man that is so difficult to describe, But I’m going to try in a few words to say what I think and I believe about man who lie there but is not here.”
He continued, “I enjoyed every speaker, every song, every word … Everyone who spoke represented the matchless, exquisite diamond that Dick Gregory represented and as the light shined on that diamond in every direction a different color because he was a man who represented every color of the sun,” he said. “His mind was always on justice and on peace, on freedom and equity, not only for Nlack people, but all who were deprived.”

Speaking of Gregory’s dogged research, he said Gregory would bring a suitcase with materials and newspapers giving facts and figures, things he heard and sought the truth about.
“Dick Gregory had us laughing but he was not a comedian. Even his jokes were filled with wisdom. He was so far beyond dogma and doctrine and rituals of religion. I loved to hear Dick talk about the real God, the Universal God because he had grown and outgrown the negativity of denominationalism and the sectarianism of religion. He wanted us to grow into where he was.”
Farrakhan had been proceeded by a parade of stars of sorts bring reflections about Gregory from every walk of life.
“I’m so pleased that you organized a real celebration where you’re not ending quickly and trying to shut people up. I’m going to take as long as I want,” said U. S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to peals of laughter and applause. “I have talked to Dick for hours. We would talk – no, he would talk – about things going on in the world. He brought me to this time and place in my life.”
For more than six hours, in a service “Celebrating the Life of a Legend,” people regaled attendees spread over the City of Praise Family Ministries with stories about Richard Claxton Gregory. The speakers also included Stevie Wonder, Bill and Camille Cosby, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, members of the American Indian Movement, The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and the Hon. Louis Farrakhan.
“I praise him who has brought us all together,” said Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers and a close friend of Gregory’s. “I give thanks to Dick Gregory for this. I recommend that we love each other, recommend that we hold the memories and hopefully rededicate ourselves to the ideals that Dick Gregory believed in.”
Evers-Williams’ husband, Medgar Evers, the NAACP’s first Field Secretary in Mississippi, was shot and killed in an assassination in his driveway in 1963. She said the work of civil rights is clearly not finished.
“Seeing the children of the leaders, I saw them speak the truth of their parents, speak the truth of their generation and speak the truth of what America should be…Let us not forget who we are and remember that each of us has a responsibility to keep on doing the job.”
Interspersed with the speakers were musical performances by India Irie, Ayanna Gregory, Sweet Honey on the Rock, the Morgan State University Choir, Farafina Kan, and ‘Scandal’ star Joe Morton reprising a portion of his one-man biographical play on Gregory, “Turn Me Loose,” among others.
One extraordinary moment brought together several children of slain Civil Rights activists and Rain Pryor, daughter of comedian Richard Pryor. Renee Evers-Everette, Martin Luther King, III, and llyasah Shabazz, the third daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz extolled Gregory.
“Baba was part of my Pryor life of laughter and that special attention he gave you,” said Pryor. “He said that truths were soul food and a map to live by. He told me to always choose my words wisely. Today, as we honor our newest Ancestor, we are reminded not to morph, not to imitate, but to speak the highest truth. We have to keep them lifted in our actions as we become the change they sought.”
Evers-Everette said she initially refused strenuously when asked by Ayanna Gregory to speak but, “There’s no way I could not be here,” she said. “My father and Dick Gregory were brothers of the spirit and the hearts … They (her father and other slain Civil Rights activists) spilled the blood of truth for our freedoms. The words, wisdom and spirit they powered out in us was given to the world. The time given may have been small but it was enormous. They made the most impact on our minds and hearts.”
Shabazz said Gregory fought for people trapped on the periphery of economics and justice.
“He challenged the social climate and challenged a superpower that has been systematically and historically unjust to certain populations,” she said. “I’m honored to be here today for my parents and Ancestors. The Ancestors are lining up to welcome Baba in anticipation of a progress report on the status of life down here.”
“When it came time to say who took Malcolm’s life he rose to the occasion. He clarified Martin Luther King Jr’s death and raised his voice for those slain by bullies and bigots,” Shabazz explained. “And when this new generation reminded the world that Black Lives Matter, he stood up with them and spoke truth to power.”
In 1961, Dick Gregory’s big break came when he was asked to fill in for another comedian at Chicago’s Playboy Club. What was supposed to be a one-night gig lasted two months and led to an appearance on the Tonight Show and a profile in Time Magazine. Fifty-dollar-a-night gigs became $5,000 a night appearances. Gregory waded into Civil Rights leading and joining marches and often getting arrested for his involvement in demonstrations for justice and equality, for Native American rights, DC statehood and an assortment of other causes. Several people said he gave up millions as he assumed the mantle of activism.
Master of Ceremonies the Rev. Mark Thompson, host of Sirius XM radio’s ‘Make It Plain’ recalled that commitment. “He helped us lead the statehood movement in 1993,” Thompson recalled. “We were the original Tea Party – no taxation without representation. We went to jail every week for the entire summer.”
Waters, who has gained notoriety as an outspoken and acerbic critic of President Donald Trump, promised that she would continue to be “this dishonorable person’s” worst nightmare.
Waters concluded, “I’ve decided I don’t want to be safe. I’m not looking for people to like me. It’s time for us to walk the walk. If you cared about him, loved him, stop being so weak. It’s time to stop skinning and grinning. It’s time for us to have the courage to do what we need to do, especially at this hour.”

Newswire : South Africa remembers the Steve Biko legacy

Steve Biko
Steve Biko

Sept. 18, 2017 (GIN) – South Africans marked the 40th year since the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre.

An African nationalist and African socialist, Biko was at the forefront of a grassroots campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement during the late 1960s and 1970s. His ideas were articulated in a series of articles published under the pseudonym Frank Talk and later, in two books.

Nelson Mandela called him “the spark that lit a veld fire across South Africa”, adding that the race-based Nationalist government “had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid”. In an anthology of his work in 2008, Manning Marable and Peniel Joseph wrote that his death had “created a vivid symbol of black resistance” to apartheid that “continues to inspire new black activists” over a decade after the transition to majority rule.

Johann de Wet, a professor of communication studies, described him as “one of South Africa’s most gifted political strategists and communicators”.

“Steve Biko fought white supremacy and was equally disturbed by what he saw as an inferiority complex amongst black people,” said President Jacob Zuma at one of the memorial events recalling Biko’s life. “He advocated black pride and black self-reliance, believing that black people should be their own liberators and lead organizations fighting for freedom. He practiced what he preached with regards to self-reliance and led the establishment of several community projects which were aimed at improving the lives of the people.”

“They may have killed the man, but his ideas live on,” wrote Professor Tinyiko Maluleke of the University of South Africa in an editorial citing Biko’s writings: “I Write What I Like” and “Black Souls in White Skins”.

Although Biko’s ideas have not received the same attention as Frantz Fanon’s, the men shared a highly similar pedigree in their interests in the philosophical psychology of consciousness, their desire for a decolonizing of the mind, the liberation of Africa and in the politics of nationalism and socialism for the ‘wretched of the earth’, according to Professors Pal Ahluwalia and Abebe Zegeye of the University of Adelaide and South Africa.

Biko died on Sept. 12, 1977 from injuries sustained while in police custody at what was then called the Pretoria Central Prison. His murderers, four officers of the security branch in Port Elizabeth, were denied amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in February 1999.

Newswire : Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s Statement on Trump Voter Commission Meeting

Voter commission hears from right-wing panel on voter suppression tactics
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 Terri Sewell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, the Trump Administration’s Election Integrity Commission held a series of public presentations in New Hampshire, receiving testimony from political allies and long-time advocates for discriminatory voter restrictions. Leading the meeting was Commission Co-Chair Kris Kobach, who has a history of voter suppression and who has received wide condemnation from civil liberties and civil rights groups.

“Today’s meeting makes it clear that the real purpose of President Trump’s sham voter commission is to the lay the foundation for voter suppression efforts,” said Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-AL). “Rather than hearing from experts in the field of election integrity, the commission gathered a panel of Trump loyalists who support severe voter restrictions. This isn’t an investigation, it’s a kangaroo court that has put our access to the ballot box on trial. I strongly believe that to improve the integrity of our elections, we should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder. In Congress, I will not stop fighting to give every eligible voter a voice in our democracy.”

Rep. Terri Sewell is the Vice Chair of the Commission on Protecting American Democracy from the Trump Administration. The group investigates voter suppression, the “voter fraud” myth, and strategies for modernizing the voting process to provide more Americans better access to the polls. Other members include the Commission’s Chair, Jason Kander, and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who has refused to turn over state voter data to Trump’s Election Commission.

President Trump, after losing the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, has falsely claimed that “millions” of illegal votes were cast. The head of Trump’s Election Commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has a well-documented history of creating barriers to voting in his home state of Kansas, where he drafted requirements for documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote, which have been tied up in court and administrative battles for years.

Newswire : Even with advanced degrees, Black women earn less than white men

By Bria Nicole Stone (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
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Black women have to work seven extra months to earn what White men were paid in 2016. On average, Black women make 67 cents on the dollar compared to White men.
In a recent blog post to mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute analyzed and debunked myths concerning the reasons why Black women earn less than White men.
Some people mistakenly believe that if Black women simply worked harder, they would earn higher wages. However, according to EPI, the truth is that, “Black women work more hours than White women. They have increased work hours 18.4 percent since 1979, yet the wage gap relative to White men has grown.”
The EPI blog post said that the growth in annual hours is “larger for Black women than for White women and men” who work in low-paying jobs and that, “both Black and White workers have increased their number of annual hours in response to slow wage growth” and “working moms are significant contributors to this trend.”
Half of Black women who have jobs are working moms compared to 44.5 percent of White women.
Another common myth associated with the pay gap between Black women and White men is that Black women would earn higher wages, if they were more educated. “Two-thirds of Black women in the workforce have some postsecondary education, 29.4 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher,” the blog post said. “Black women are paid less than White men at every level of education.”
According to EPI, Black women with less than a high school diploma make $10.62 on average compared to White men who make $15.16. Black women with advanced degrees earn $31.57 compared to White men, who make $48.27.
The racial wage gap persists in jobs dominated by Black women and jobs dominated by White men, according to EPI, dispelling the myth that Black women earn less due to their career choices.
“While White male physicians and surgeons earn, on average, $18 per hour more than Black women doing the same job, the gap for retail salespersons is also shocking, at more than $9 an hour,” according to EPI researchers.
Valerie Wilson, the director of race, ethnicity, and the economy at EPI said that career choice and education have little to do with the pay gap between Black women and White men.
“Black women, whether they make the same career choice [as White men] or not, will still earn less than White men,” said Wilson. “This can be in any career choice whether it is a male- dominated or a female-dominated career. We have seen that even in fields that are more common for women, men still make more than Black women in that career field.”
Wilson said that even though wages are growing faster for women than men, Black women still don’t see much benefit. “While White women do make less than White men, they still earn quite a bit more than Black women,” said Wilson. “Women’s Equal Pay Day was held sometime in April while Black Women’s Equal Pay day is held in July.”
While the wage gap for Black women is caused by both gender and racial disparities, there are still ways to help minimize and close the pay gap between Black women and their counterparts.
Wilson said that economic policy in the U.S. can play a much larger role in minimizing the pay gap.“We have anti-discrimination laws, but we must enforce those laws and ensure they are effective. There also has to be greater pay transparency,” said Wilson. “Other things that can help raise wages is collective bargaining. Also, Black women are known to be in lower-paying occupations, so raising the minimum wage would be very helpful.”
Wilson continued: “We need to make sure that Black women are fighting and being paid what they’re worth.”