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It's time for a brand new congress and you can help

Brand New Congress just scored our first big win of 2022!
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick won the special election to represent FL-20, and she’s headed to Congress immediately to join BNC Reps. Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Rashida Tlaib, and AOC.

But we are just getting started.

We have candidates on the ballot from now until November, and we need to win as many seats as possible.

Help us set off a wave of progressive victories in 2022!

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Will I Be Next?

Although February is Black History Month, we cannot celebrate fully yet. The United States has moved on from slavery and segregation, we still have a long way to go. We still have not seen full justice yet. It is evident that we are still experiencing racism in our justice system. Black Americans are still being wrongfully accused of crimes and are still being interrogated by police to plead guilty of a crime they did not commit. In the United States, Black youth are 5x more likely to be incarcerated than white youth in 2015. Do we not also get that presumption of innocence?

We need to change how we conduct interrogations and need to change how criminal prosecutions are conducted. For example, the case of the Exonerated Five shows how race in America plays a major role in incarceration than actual data and real evidence. Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise, were just teenagers when they were coerced into giving a false confession in 1989 despite the DNA evidence proving them innocent. The presumption of aggression and dangerousness of Black boys in the justice system is extremely harmful, and we need concrete legislation to eliminate this bias. One glance, and immediately we are burdened with the presumption of guilt and aggression, but what have we ever done but be human?

Georgina Oyugi and Betty Obungu

In 1972, when the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty, the majority wrote that the death penalty was akin to, “self-help, vigilante justice, and lynch law” while also proclaiming that, “if any basis can be discerned for the selection of these few to be sentenced to die, it is the constitutionally impermissible basis of race.” A system made popular as a court-ordered alternative to lynchings cannot be reformed. It’s no mistake that, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, African-Americans make up 42% of people on death row, 32% who are later executed, yet only make up 13% of the United States’ population. We cannot continue on as a country who still bears the stains of the Jim Crow. We must end the death penalty.

We must not integrate the system but rebuild the system as a whole. The only way to truly get justice is to completely change the way our justice system works. We can’t combine hatred and justice.

 There are no two sides, we need justice alone. We would have a 30% less poverty rate if we didn’t incarcerate innocent people. The Innocence Project estimates between 2.3 percent and 4 percent of all US prisoners are innocent. With the US prison population numbering 2.4 million, that means as many as 120,000 innocent people could currently be in prison.

Today, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against formerly incarcerated individuals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against Black Americans.

In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander writes that, “In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal”.

Demonstrators lay down for a moment of silence for George Floyd during a march against police brutality in downtown Nashville. Sergio Martínez-BeltránWPLN News

So what can we do to fix the criminal justice system, help innocent people, and protect young children who look like us from police brutality? We can call for Congress to pass bills that will reform the system altogether, such as eliminating incarceration as a penalty for drug addiction and mental illness, while also strengthening drug treatment programs. We can pass legislation to reverse the devastating consequences of the 1994 crime bill, and redirect federal funds away from prison and police expansion and toward criminal justice solutions that actually work — such as the BREATHE Act, which calls for several grassroot changes to the system, including cuts to funding for both the prison system and police. 

By The All-Nite Images from NY, NY, USA (Black Lives Matter Black Friday) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It also holds politicians accountable for promises to the Black community, according to USA today. The Senate needs to pass H.R.1280 – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, it “establishes a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. It also limits the unnecessary use of force and restricts the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds” according to the bill summary. 

We need to also abolish cash bail. Across America, 3 out of every 5 people sitting in jail have not been convicted of a crime and can’t afford to pay for a bail. Cash bail criminalizes poverty and holds millions of innocent people pretrial every year. As with many criminal justice systems, this disproportionately affects low-income people, and people of color. According to the Brennan Center, Black and Latino men obtain higher bail amounts than white men for similar crimes by 35 and 19 percent, respectively. In Maryland, Black defendants were charged more than double the amount of bond premiums than all other races, put together, yet they only make up around 30% of Maryland’s population. States like Illinois, who ended the practice in February 2021 provide a model for other states across the nation, as well as a model at the federal level as well. It’s a system that treats rich and guilty defenders more favorably than if you’re poor and innocent.

Hundreds gathered in Revere for a protest march for George Floyd and others killed at the hands of law enforcement. ERIN CLARK/GLOBE STAFF, Boston Globe

We need to make sure that, in all 50 states, law enforcement must wear a body camera and have it on at all times. If passed and signed into law, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 would provide funds for local, state, and tribal governments to purchase body cameras in order to hold police officers accountable, increase transparency, as well as a means to decrease the use of excessive force by officers.

 We need sweeping federal legislation to protect all Americans across the country. It must be passed at the federal level so we can help everyone in this country and put an end to the present criminal justice prejudice. This would be the start of dismantling the systemic racism and white supremacist systems that this country was founded off of. We are calling on the House and Senate to pass these reforms, because everyday we ask ourselves, “Will I be next?”

Georgina Oyugi and Betty Obungu

Georgina Oyugi and Betty Obungu

Georgina Oyugi and Betty Obungu are 14-year-old high school students, cousins, and volunteers for Brand New Congress. Both are highly politically engaged, thoughtful young leaders who are excited to be working with BNC to elect a more representative Congress and fight for real change.

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Will I Be Next?

A mother’s endless heartbreak,
and the world we have to change.

Marsha WIlliams

Marsha WIlliams

Marsha Williams is a Brand New Congress candidate for U.S. House district IL-17. She is a working class mother of three and a fierce advocate for reproductive freedoms.

My son Carl would have turned 15 years old today.

 

I should be taking him to get his learner’s permit and teaching him how to drive. He should be driving me bonkers by being too loud with his friends and playing video games past his bedtime.

 

But I never got that chance, because 15 years ago today, I lost my son 12 days before my scheduled C-Section.

 

This is the hardest story I’ve ever had to tell, but it’s an important message, and I hope you will stay with me to the end so we can prevent what happened to me and my son from happening to anyone else.

 

On the morning of March 14th, 2007, I was at my weekly obstetric check-up. I was due to give birth within a couple weeks, but something went wrong that day.

 

The nurse couldn’t detect Carl’s heartbeat. For several minutes she flustered and fiddled with different equipment, trying to find a machine that worked. My first inkling that something was wrong was when the doctor suddenly pulled me in for an ultrasound.

 

My doctor told me to go to the hospital immediately. Believing that Carl’s life was in imminent danger, and that I was about to be rushed into the delivery room, we quickly arranged a babysitter for my daughter and went straight to the ER.

 

But instead of rushing me into treatment, the ER staff stalled me for five grueling hours before forcing me to get a second ultrasound to confirm what they, and my doctor, already knew. My son was dead – caused by true knots in my umbilical cord.

 

Little did I know, that was just the beginning of my long nightmare.

 

First, my doctor strolled into the room hours after my 2nd ultrasound and casually broke the news. Worse, he blamed me, claiming “this only  happens late-term when the mother does something wrong.”

 

My fault.

 

I was still reeling from the shocking news, trying to process what was happening, and without knowing anything more, my doctor told me this was my fault.

 

Two weeks earlier I had urged my doctor to deliver Carl early because I could tell something wasn’t right. He wasn’t kicking as much as he had been, and something just felt wrong. He dismissed me and insisted I was fine, saying, “Pregnant women worry all the time.”

 

Now, I was in the hospital and my nightmare had come true.

 

That same doctor who wrote off my fears while my son was still alive now gave me two options: I could remain pregnant and continue carrying my son while his body decomposed in my womb, putting me at significant risk of death, or they could perform a C-Section and remove my deceased son immediately.

 

My choice was obvious. I asked for the C-Section, but my doctor inexplicably dismissed me again. Despite having just detailed what would be an extremely graphic death if they didn’t remove the fetus, he told me “No, you’re not thinking rationally. Let’s just wait.”

 

The conservative Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s in Joliet, IL, then sent three nurses and a priest to talk to me. All of them pressured me to continue carrying my deceased son, urging that this was what “God had intended.”

 

In a fit of despair and disbelief, I began to question them. What if their tests were wrong? What if my son actually WAS still alive and they were putting his life at risk by denying me a C-Section?

 

Only then, when I suggested my son might still be alive, did they agree to take me into the operating room – not when it was clear that my life was in danger.

 

The nightmare continued after the procedure was done. The hospital priest told me that my son wouldn’t be allowed to go to heaven because he hadn’t been baptized.

 

They made me take a drug test to determine if illicit drug use was to blame for my son’s death – ignoring the natural and common phenomenon of true knots that were clearly to blame.

 

In the months that followed, I joined pregnancy loss support groups and learned that many, many other women had been subjected to the same cruel treatment. One woman I met was actually arrested for homicide because doctors believed her to be responsible for her miscarriage.

 

Imagine grieving the loss of your child, your body recovering from a traumatic failed pregnancy – and then being arrested and accused of murder.

 

It’s been 15 years since I lost my son. I am still, and always will be, his mother. And I still grieve for him.

The pain feels as fresh today as it did 15 years ago – and all of it was preventable.

If my doctor had listened to me two weeks earlier, it’s likely my son would still be alive today.

I had to beg them for a late-term abortion that day. If I hadn’t been able to convince them, it’s very likely that I would NOT be alive today.

Why should I have to beg for life-saving medical care? How many other women have been forced into this position and lost their lives as a result?

 

The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world – in fact, American women die in childbirth at twice the rate of our peer countries. And women of color are most affected.

Even 15 years after my horrifying nightmare, women are still dying of preventable conditions because doctors won’t listen to us and women like me are coerced into suffering in silence.

Well, I won’t be silent anymore. I have to be a voice not only for the women like me who were subjected to physical and emotional trauma, but the women who didn’t make it and aren’t here to be heard anymore.

I’m running for Congress because abortion is healthcare, and healthcare is a human right. I refuse to stand by and let men like Joe Manchin deny life-saving healthcare to women like me.

I won’t allow radical right-wingers like Marjorie Taylor Greene or my GOP opponent, Esther Joy King, moralize and grandstand at the expense of lives like mine. I’m running for Congress to fight for our rights – to abortion care, to healthcare, to housing, to living wages. Our very right to liveI do it for Carl, and for my two living children. And I will never stop fighting to make the world a better place for them.

Marsha Williams is a Brand New Congress candidate running for U.S. House in the open seat of IL-17. We share her heart wrenching story with you to highlight what is at risk with the unprecedented attack on the rights of pregnant people. Marsha is a fierce advocate for reproductive rights and the only candidate in her race running on universal healthcare, strengthening unions, and the Green New Deal. If you would like to help Marsha get elected, please consider a split contribution with her campaign here.