Tag: homelessness

#BBQBecky Called the Cops on Kenzie Smith and Now He’s Running for Oakland City Council

Oakland City Council hopeful Kenzie Smith (photo via Facebook)

by  via motherjones.com

Kenzie Smith, one of two men who had police called on him by the woman the internet dubbed #BBQBecky, is running for a City Council seat in Oakland, California.

Back in April, as you may recall, “Becky”—since identified as Jennifer Schultecalled the police to report that two African American men were barbecuing with a charcoal grill in a lakeside area designated for gas grilling only.

The #BBQBecky affair—which went viral thanks to a video posted by Smith’s wife—was part of a recent string of “doing X while black” incidents that lit up the internet. The Oakland encounter prompted memes and local protests, as well as #BBQingWhileBlack events—organized, in part, by Smith—in the very spot where Schulte sought to shoo the men away.

Not long after Smith’s run-in with Schulte, an Oakland council member nominated him to a position on Oakland’s Park and Recreation Advisory Committee. Smith, 37, now says he has also filed the paperwork to vie for council in District 2, where he’ll face an uphill battle against incumbent Abel Guillen and local housing activist Nikki Bas Fortunato.

But Smith, the brother of Bay Area rap legend Mistah F.A.B., has strong local connections. He and his wife, Michelle Snider, are the co-founders and co-owners of Dope Era Magazine, a local music and culture magazine. Through Dope Era and his work with other community groups, Smith, a lifelong East Bay resident, has helped organize a range of initiatives, including resource drives for the homeless, backpack drives for Oakland schoolkids, hygiene kit drives, and STI testing events. He recently helped raise more than $14,000 for a local homeless man targeted in another viral incident—a video showed a jogger throwing the man’s belongings into the trash and the lake. (Smith told Mother Jones he is now trying to help the man find an apartment.) He and his friend from the barbecue encounter, Smith says, also hope to launch a nonprofit that will focus on youth job and leadership training.

Since announcing his council ambitions in June, Smith has officially declared his candidacy, begun collecting the signatures he needs to accept campaign donations, and started building a campaign staff. His platform, he told Mother Jones, will focus on homelessness and renters’ rights—key Bay Area issues—as well as education and jobs for youth.

Smith campaigned publicly for the first time on Sunday at the most recent #BBQingWhileBlack event in Oakland, where he shook hands and mingled with residents in a T-shirt that read, “Kenzie Smith: City Council for District 2.”

Read more: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/07/bbqbecky-called-cops-on-kenzie-smith-now-running-for-oakland-city-council/ 

Team USA Long Jumper Tianna Bartoletta Medals at Worlds Despite Being Homeless for Three Months

by Marissa Payne via washingtonpost.com

Tears streamed down the face of Team USA’s Tianna Bartoletta as she collected her bronze medal in the long jump during the final days of the IAAF world championships last weekend. Having previously won gold in the event at worlds twice before, and being the reigning Olympic gold medalist at the long jump, Bartoletta has had better finishes, but she wasn’t crying sad tears. Her tears came from relief — that she could persevere and even succeed through even the darkest of times.

“[Y]ou may find it hard to believe but this Bronze medal is THE most special medal I have ever won,” the 31-year-old wrote on Instagram after collecting her hardware. “Because just three short months ago I had to run away from my own home, I had to decide which of ALL my belongings were the most important, I had to leave my dogs, I had little money, I still have no actual address, all to give myself a chance at having a life and the love I deserved — one that didn’t involve fear or fighting, threats, and abuse.”

Bartoletta shocked her fans, revealing that she’s been homeless for three months, while she escaped what she has alleged was an abusive marriage to her husband of five years John Bartoletta. (For his part, John Bartoletta has characterized the couple’s divorce as “amicable,” per the BBC.) “I took a huge gamble blowing my life up in such an important year for me career-wise. But it was about time for me to see that I was worth it,” she continued. “It was worth it. Thanks so much for riding with me.”

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I knew defending my title would be difficult. And you may find it hard to believe but this Bronze medal is THE most special medal I have ever won. Because just three short months ago I had to run away from my own home, I had to decide which of ALL my belongings were the most important, I had to leave my dogs, I had little money, I still have no actual address, all to give myself a chance at having a life and the love I deserved–one that didn't involve fear or fighting, threats, and abuse. To stand on the podium today after not even being in the mix for 4 rounds means the world to me. I took a huge gamble blowing my life up in such an important year for me career-wise. But it was about time for me to see that I was worth it. It was worth it. Thanks so much for riding with me. ❤️

A post shared by Tianna T. Bartoletta (@tianna.bartoletta) on

Not having a permanent address, however, was just one of the many obstacles Bartoletta had to overcome on her way to Worlds. On Wednesday, she opened up to the BBC about the effect her relationship had on her mental health. “I lost my personality,” she said. “I felt like I became a stranger to myself almost.” Bartoletta said she even thought about suicide. “It got so dark that I was contemplated walking off a train platform in front of a train in Europe last season because it just started to feel like I had no way out, no way out of the feelings of frustration and shame,” she said. “It was just so tempting to call it quits.”

Bartoletta told the BBC it took her a while to open up to people about how she was feeling, including family, but doing so put her on the path to feeling better.“This has been my therapy — sharing this story with you, sharing the Instagram post, blogging,” she said. “It has kind of been my way of healing.” Now she hopes to inspire others who might also be struggling. “The most important thing is you’re not alone,” she said. “[Depression] is a very difficult situation, it’s complex, it’s confusing and hard for a lot of people who aren’t in it to understand, but … I understand.”

To read more, go to: Team USA’s Tianna Bartoletta medals at worlds despite being homeless for three months – The Washington Post

Toronto Native Tonika Morgan Goes from Homeless to Harvard Graduate School, Thanks to Crowdfunding

Tonika Morgan, pictured at the Artscape Youngplace in Toronto.
Tonika Morgan, pictured at the Artscape Youngplace in Toronto. (Photo: ISA MIGUEL RANSOME)

Tonika Morgan has not had an easy life. Now 32, the Toronto woman says she left home at 14, was homeless for four years, and slept in shelters and on park benches. She was kicked out of high school, she says, because she hardly ever showed up.

Even though she’s overcome problems that would overwhelm almost anyone, it wasn’t until this year that she faced what she calls her “biggest fear of all”: the fear that her application to attend Harvard’s Graduate School of Education next fall would be rejected.

It wasn’t. She’s in. But with her acceptance letter came another big worry: that she couldn’t pay the approximately $77,000 needed for the one-year master’s program, where tuition alone is $43,280.

So, lacking resources or workable options, she joined a growing number of needy college students and turned to crowdfunding to raise the money. She launched a “Mission for Harvard Tuition” in April on the GoFundMe site.  According to aol.com, after local media publicized the page, Morgan exceeded her goal and nearly $93,000 dollars was fundraised.

But Tonika Morgan knows that being able to go to her Harvard is not without the help of others who are helping her fulfill a dream of a lifetime.  “I have to say that this has been quite emotional for me. I have shared hugs, tears of joy and laughter with the beautiful souls who have noticed me on the street. I’ve never felt more supported and connected to anyone the way I have felt since this campaign started.”

“I was on the trolley and this woman reached her hand out and started crying,” Morgan, who goes by “Toni,” said in a phone interview from Toronto. “She said, ‘I’m so proud of you!’ I didn’t know that by telling my own truth, I’d connect with so many people.”

Continue reading “Toronto Native Tonika Morgan Goes from Homeless to Harvard Graduate School, Thanks to Crowdfunding”

In a U.S. First, New Orleans Finds Homes for All its Homeless Veterans

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US Navy veteran Ray Charles Griggs receives keys to his new home in New Orleans, December, 2014. New Orleans became the first US city to end veteran homelessness on Jan. 2 after housing 227 people in less than six months. (Photo Courtesy of UNITY of Greater New Orleans)

Most people celebrate the New Year by making resolutions. The city of New Orleans rang in 2015 by keeping one.

At 6 p.m. on Jan. 2, social workers in New Orleans moved the city’s last known homeless veteran into his new apartment – becoming the first US city to effectively eliminate veteran homelessness.

Homelessness advocates around the country are hailing New Orleans as a model for cities around the country looking to end homelessness, not just for veterans, but for all people needing a permanent home.

“The solutions that work for veterans are the solutions that work for all people,” says Laura Zeilinger, executive director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. “The problem is absolutely solvable when we invest in the practices that we know work.”

This time last year, nearly 50,000 US veterans had no home to call their own, according to an annual count. On Independence Day, first lady Michelle Obama launched the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Since that time, more than 300 mayors, six governors, and 71 other local officials have joined the pledge to house every veteran by the end of 2015.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu took that pledge one step further, promising to meet the goal by the end of 2014.

“We owe our Veterans our eternal gratitude for their service and sacrifice to this nation, and making sure they have a place to call home is a small but powerful way we can show our appreciation,” Mayor Landrieu said in a statement Wednesday, announcing that New Orleans had housed all known veterans in the Crescent City.

In total, the city has placed 227 veterans in housing since the start of 2014.

Other cities have made huge strides in this area as well. Both Phoenix and Salt Lake City have managed to house all chronically homeless veterans, who have experienced long-term homelessness. The city of Binghamton, N.Y., successfully housed its 21 homeless veterans in November 2014. However, New Orleans is the first major city to be able to meet the needs of all homeless veterans, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“There’s been a lot of skepticism as to whether this is a problem that we can actually solve and I think that [New Orleans’ progress] is a proof point for us as a nation that this is something that can actually be done,” says Ann Oliva, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for special needs.

Continue reading “In a U.S. First, New Orleans Finds Homes for All its Homeless Veterans”

Ex-Homeless Single Mom Evelyn Wynn-Dixon Thrives As Mayor of Riverdale, Georgia

Dr. Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, the mayor of the City of Riverdale
Dr. Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, the mayor of the City of Riverdale

RIVERDALE, Ga – Dr. Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, mayor of the City of Riverdale, has come a long way. Her story is a testimony to her ability to overcome the odds and persevere through difficult times. At her lowest point she was a homeless single mom raising four young kids and contemplated suicide by throwing herself off a bridge.

In a frantic attempt “to find a way out” Wynn-Dixon made her way to Pryor Street Bridge in Atlanta, overlooking I-75, and was prepared to jump. “I felt as if everything was gone and I’d ruined my life with one poor decision.”

She says her life spiraled out of control after she became pregnant during her first semester at Fort Valley State University. Dixon, a high school honors student, was forced to abandon her scholarship and drop out. Upon returning home, her mother passed away, leaving her with a six-month-old baby to care for.

Soon afterwards she got married, partly to avoid the stigma of being a single mom. She had three more children, but then the relationship fell apart, her husband walked out and subsequently Dixon was evicted with four infants, aged between 8 weeks and 6 years old.

A vision saved her life

Dixon, an Atlanta native, says she only snapped out of the overwhelming desire to give up when she saw a vision of her mom. “I was selfish but in the end I couldn’t do it.” It took many years to recover. But Dixon knew her only option was to educate herself out of welfare. She went back to school, earned an associate degree and later a Bachelor of Science. In her early forties, Dixon graduated with a Masters from the University of Georgia with her two sons.

Later she completed a PhD in public health and forged a successful career as a case worker at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital, specializing in neurology, before taking on a new challenge as director of a hospice. Still, it has been a difficult journey. When she first returned to higher education she made a six-mile trek from school to home because she was unable to afford public transportation.

“If one person can hear my story and think, ‘if she can do it, so can I,’ then I have done my job. I didn’t let my zip code make me. I made it for myself.” In 2007, at the age of 59, with no prior political experience, Dixon launched a campaign to become mayor of the City of Riverdale in Clayton County, Georgia.

A new chapter

“I never desired to be in politics, never ever.” But Dixon, a devout Christian, says a prophetic visionand the hand of fate opened doors for the start of a new chapter in her life. “I prayed for it to be a sweat-less victory and for God to order my steps,” says Dixon, who was already well-known in the Riverdale for her commitment as a community foot soldier. “The campaign cost less than $3000. We had a runoff and I won.” The highly-accessible ‘People’s Mayor’ says from the start her dream has been to “change the branding and imaging of the City of Riverdale.”

Continue reading “Ex-Homeless Single Mom Evelyn Wynn-Dixon Thrives As Mayor of Riverdale, Georgia”

Ugandan Teen Phiona Mutesi Overcomes Homelessness To Become International Chess Star

Phiona Mutesi relishes her first victory at the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia

Phiona Mutesi relishes her first victory at the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia

(CNN) — She grew up in one of the poorest spots on earth. She couldn’t read or write. As a child, she scrounged for food each day for herself, her mother, and her brother.  But a chance encounter with a chess coach turned her into a rising international chess star, the subject of a book — and the protagonist in a future Disney movie.

Ugandan teenager Phiona Mutesi is “the ultimate underdog,” her biographer says.  Those who work with her believe she’s 16. But since her birthday is unclear, she might still only be 15, they say.  Her father died from AIDS when Mutesi was around 3.  “I thought the life I was living, that everyone was living that life,” the teenager told CNN, describing her childhood in Katwe, a slum in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat at the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge.”

Robert Katende, a missionary and refugee of Uganda’s civil war, had started a chess program in Katwe. He offered a bowl of porridge to any child who would show up and learn.

Continue reading “Ugandan Teen Phiona Mutesi Overcomes Homelessness To Become International Chess Star”

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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