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Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Richard Whately stated, “It is the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary.”

Richard Whately’s quote expresses the growing problem with minorities in the United States. For years, minorities have experienced consist suffering that has created a “domino effect” throughout many generations. Neglecting the idea of repairing issues within minority populations is leading to a future of poverty and depression.

On February 27th, 2014, President Obama took a step toward changing the future of not only minorities but all Americans. He is focusing especially on younger generations. President Obama enforced a new White House initiative called My Brother’s Keeper. My Brother’s Keeper was created to implement strategies to keep young minority men in school and out of any chaos. There will be a partnership with businesses and foundations with the goal of creating a better future for at-risk young men. Currently, groups have invested $150 million in the program and pledged another $200 million over the next years.

This initiative is an excellent attempt to change the negative problems that minorities, in this case young minority males, face in the world. But is it too late? Currently, young minority men need mentorship and direction. Issues such as parental absence, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse are corrupting the standards and progress for young minority men. Hopefully, through this program, other important subjects, vital to the success of young minority men, will be addressed to prevent trouble or problem.

Recently, The Education Department recently issued new “zero tolerance” school disciplinary after studies found that minorities were more likely than whites to be suspended for infractions. Students who miss class time due to suspensions are less likely to graduate. Many young men of color, during the suspension, are more likely to find themselves in potentially dangerous situations. This is just a prime example as to why this iniative needs to be extended.

President Obama, as he presented this new initiative at the White House, expressed that, “Government, private sector, philanthropy, and all the faith communities, we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need. We’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience. But you’ve got responsibilities too. And I know you can meet the challenge, many of you already are, if you make the effort.”

This will take effort from the government, families, and the young men that have been given this opportunity. I am encouraged. This is a step in the right direction. We have to continue to create pipelines of success for young men who look like me. Our country depends on it.

Written by IMPACT intern Paul Chambers

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Changing the World One Rhyme at a Time: an Ode to Dr. Seuss

From children to adults, Dr. Seuss has been a major influence in making reading more enjoyable for his audience. With a comical yet poetic twist, Seuss’ stories unlocked imaginations and captured minds.  At 20 years old, I can still appreciate a good Dr. Seuss book.RAA2014PosterThumb.jpg

However, I do not stand alone.

There is an old & young audience across the United States that share the same appreciation for Dr. Seuss. For 17 years, the National Education Association has recognized Dr. Seuss’ birthday with a program called Read Across America.

Read Across America is a literacy program where the NEA motivates children from all across the country to participate in reading while raising awareness of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. To make things more Seuss-Official, President Obama proclaimed March 3rd to be Read Across America Day. What they refer to a ‘Seussical Celebration’ consists of a week long tour where NEA members mobilize students, parents & community leaders to share their love for reading and appreciation for Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel. This tour brings every bit of enthusiasm for literacy development to various cities from the lakes of Michigan to the tea roses of Oklahoma!

Believe it or not, The United States Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy reported an illiteracy rate of 19% among high school graduates. In addition, there are roughly 14% (32 million) of Americans who cannot read. There are a multitude of reasons why the education system may have failed them, however, programs like these can help fix that. As cliché as it sounds, reading really is fundamental!

For those interested in getting involved with Read Across America, share activities you partake in during this national day! In return, you’ll be included to their listserv and exposed to all the various events and opportunities surrounding the Read Across America campaign. If you are more of the pioneer type, take your own initiative, open a book, and read for the youth. Motivate children to read. This is a very important factor in student achievement as well as individual reader development.

Read for the future.

written by Falating Woods

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Did You Know It’s Women’s History Month

Happy March!!! In other words Happy Women’s History Month!!!

The very first time International Women’s day was celebrated was in March 1911.

Unfortunately women have not been celebrated or even recognized as they are now. In the past they were seen as inferior to men (with regard to career, money, and even roles in the household). But slowly and surely, as society has evolved, so too has societal standards, for women to be recognized and celebrated as equals. As the accomplishments of women continued to be highlighted, the more there was a need to celebrate their efforts in a more concerted way.

As a result, Women’s History Week was first commemorated in 1981 during the week of March 7, and International Women’s Day (March 8th) was held during that same week. After Women’s History Week received such a warm reception from public, Congress pushed legislation to extend Women’s History Week to a month. In 1987, the entire month of March was recognized as Women’s History Month.

Another interesting thing to know about Women’s History Month is that each year it has a different theme. The National Women’s History Project has proclaimed March 2014 will be Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. You can visit their website to see this year’s honorees.

All over the globe people are celebrating Women’s History Month, and you do not have to feel excluded! No matter where you are located there are bound to be events you can attend. For example, if you are DC this month, the following events may interest you:

  • March 18th Women’s History Month: “333 Saints: A Life of Scholarship in Timbuktu”, Library of Congress
  • March 20th Concert: Washington Women in Jazz Festival Quintet, American Art Smithsonian Museum

Now to leave you with some random fun facts about women:

  • In almost every country in the world women have a higher life expectancy than men

  • Queen Hatshepsut was the only female Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt

  • Josephine Baker was the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture

  • Wyoming was the first US state to grant women the right to vote

  • The first country to grant women the right to vote was New Zealand

  • Shirley Chisholm survived three assassination attempts during her campaign for Democratic nomination for presidency in 1972

  • Ella Fitzgerald had a three-octave voice range

  • Chaka Chan was dubbed the “Queen of Funk Soul”

So again Happy March and Happy Women’s History Month. Please enjoy the rest of the month, share this post with friends and family and brush up on your knowledge of women’s accomplishments.

written by Uri-Biia Si-Asar

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My Journey in South Africa

“So what are you?” She asks as she stares at me intently while admiring the volume of my tightly coiled hair. I confidently respond, “Black” but she looks at me bewildered as if I am making a poorly versed sarcastic comment.

It has been over a month since I have arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, which many people lovingly refer to as the Mother City. There is something remarkably different about Cape Town. This city holds a piercingly beautiful spirit. For one, the brilliance of the landscapes still has me in awe each and every day. From the time my plane landed I have been imbued with a desire to travel to see more of the miracles the natural world has to offer. As amazing as it is, I have come to appreciate more than the beautiful view.  Cape Town’s population is motley crew. Within that diversity, so many individuals I have met seem to hold both a spirit of overcoming strife but also a love for living. How do two seemingly opposite characteristics blend so seamlessly? One simple three-syllable word gives some insight to that question. Apartheid. South Africa has a remarkable story of overcoming a system of extreme repression in pursuit of freedom. Since it has only been twenty years since the coming of democracy, their journey to a more perfect union continues to be chronicled by the country’s people.

Similarly to the way that slavery’s lingering legacy affects people of color in the United States, there are visible de facto remnants of apartheid. Apartheid was a system of racial oppression that affected all areas of life, so it is unsurprising the ways that race in particular remains a dividing factor in society.

To provide an extremely simplistic description of apartheid the white minority (only about 5% of the national population) dominated society, while Coloreds (10 % of the population) and Blacks (80% of the population) were subjugated to oppression. Coloureds, however, were given a relatively higher degree of freedom than Blacks. This is the system persisted for decades. So while apartheid is formally eradicated today, elements of the racial hierarchy remain. While I was aware of South Africa’s racial constructions prior to my arrival, I have been sensitive to the ways racial stratification has affected me personally.

The university I am attending this semester is composed primarily of people of color, or in South African terms Blacks/Africans and Coloureds. During my first couple weeks as a student here, I was relatively unaware of the racial dynamics that exist on campus. After all, I was too focused on finding the location of my next lecture hall or seminar room. As I’ve settled in, however, I become more cognizant of everyday interactions that are laden with racial implications. While I am obviously and immediately regarded as a black person in America, here my facial features, skin tone, hair texture, and even hair length are a cause for confusion. More often than not, I have been informally classified as a Coloured person.  Subsequently, I have had one too many conversations with students on campus trying to convince them of my racial identity. It usually takes me showing whomever I’m speaking to pictures of my family to convince her of this truth. I assumed that I would likely be considered Colored while in South Africa, but I did not realize there was a substantial differentiation between the two racial groups.

On campus, however, you can see the separation between the Blacks and Coloreds. It is visible while sitting in the student center or in lecture halls; there is a pattern of in-group association. This tendency is not a foreign concept. After all, a desire to be around people similar to ones self is a pattern that is seen throughout all identity groups. What shocked me, however, is that separate realms even exists amongst these two populations. Since both racial groups were subjugated to the same oppressive government, I had assumed that there would be much greater solidarity.  Apartheid was a strong and calculated process that made a conscious effort to weaken solidarity by separating Blacks and Coloreds. South Africa has moved into its politically democratic state, the social implications of the authoritarian regime persist.  It is obvious that decades of physical and mental separation cannot be erased with the change of political regime alone. This process takes continuous social interaction, economic development, along with the improvement of sociopolitical structures. Black or Colored, I have the privilege of being privy to this world for a few short months. Let the learning begin.

 

by former IMPACT intern Colleen Roberts

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Millenials – Let’s Take Back Our Health

Most people throughout the country are well aware that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often referred to as Obamacare, rolled out on October 1st. The high profile debut of the ACA was pretty hard to miss. Its enactment was so contentious that resistance to the legislation by House Republicans sparked the sixteen-day stalemate. You know, that thing we call the Federal Government Shutdown of 2013.

No piece of legislation is perfect and the ACA is no exception to this rule. Still, the law has a ton of benefits that are continuously being overlooked.  Let’s take a moment to recognize the bills many strengths:

First and foremost, the ACA brings the issue of healthcare into the forefront of our medical discussions. Healthcare prevention, practices, and policies, often come into conversation when circumstances take a turn for the worse. Talking about healthcare when you are sick makes sense, but we are probably better off taking our healthcare into consideration before those emergency situations that force us to do so.

Second, the ACA is a vehicle to address minority health disparities in a large forum. Today, African-Americans and Latinos overwhelming represent the number of individuals who are uninsured. With the onset of the ACA, these individuals will have direct access to healthcare coverage. Their coverage consequently gives minorities opportunities to take control of their health in a more proactive manner. It is common to see ailments like asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes throughout minority communities but these diseases can be mitigated if they are addressed preemptively rather than reactively.

Third, the ACA opens many doors. It provides coverage for small businesses that often cannot take on the fiscal responsibility of healthcare for their employees. It ensures that healthcare providers cannot discriminate against people due to a preexisting condition. It ensures that being a woman does not qualify as one of those pre-existing conditions and grants women access to maternity benefits.

There are more positive attributes of the ACA, but there are difficulties and nuances. One of which is that the law is that can only succeed with the support of the American people. For the law to operate in its full vision, Americans have to be open to these changes and buy into improving our healthcare system.

Let us not forget the title of this law, the Affordable Care Act. The purpose of the legislation was is to adjust our current system so that medical care is something that is financially accessible to all Americans despite their backgrounds. Affordable, however, is a bit of a double entendre. Not only does the word signify the low cost of insurance but also that we cannot afford to fail in the enactment of these changes. Universal access to physical and/or mental health should not a privilege guaranteed to the few. Access to healthcare is a right that all Americans hold and should be recognized in that way.

Particularly during these early stages, educating ourselves and sharing what we learn with our networks is paramount. Decisions to follow or disagree with the ACA are both viable responses only if we are fully informed and understand the law.  As millennials, we have the power to essentially make or break this law. The ACA is a law that can change the way healthcare is perceived and operates in this country. As millennials we have the power to revolutionize this issue and really bring our country into twenty-first century healthcare conversations and policies. This is an opportunity to lead that millennials cannot ignore. It is a chance to publicly and loudly take back our health and advocate for the health of our fellow citizens.

Written by Colleen Roberts

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National HBCU Week Conference: A New Paradigm for Educating the 21st Century Student

During this year’s National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week Conference, which began on September 27th, 2013, students and school officials discussed programs and ideas that would help shape the 21st century student.

There’s a presumption that policy makers and influencers have left HBCUs out of important conversations, which inevitably hinders them from financial progress and crucial access.  During the conference, that attitude was shattered as senior administrators, sponsors, student financial aid executives, higher education advocates, and government officials joined to discuss issues HBCUs face.

Organizers of the conference crafted panels, workshops and luncheons to make sure the following tasks were met: strengthening the capacity of HBCUs to participate in federal programs; fostering enduring private – sector initiatives and public – private partnerships while promoting specific areas and centers of academic research and programmatic excellence throughout all HBCUs; improving the availability, dissemination, and quality of information concerning HBCUs to inform public policy and practice; sharing administrative and programmatic practices within the HBCU community for the benefit of all; and exploring new ways of improving the relationship between the Federal Government and HBCUs.

One takeaway from the conference: “Do the work. Build the network.” HBCU advocates must push past the barriers of the society and mold a powerful network of leaders at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Written by Yusef Hood

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The Government Shutdown Has Lasting Effects

For the first time since December 15, 1995, our government experienced a partial shutdown. What was the cause of the shutdown? The answer lies in the federal budget. President Barack Obama and Congress failed to reach compromise on a federal budget before the September 30, 2013 deadline. This occurrence, however, is not unique. In fact, every government shutdown since 1981 has occurred during a funding gap.

But what does all of this mean? What are the economic effects of the government shutdown?

Well let’s start with the topic that probably affected you or someone you know: furloughs. Based on employee furlough days, the government shutdown of October 2013 was the most significant to date. Combined employee furlough days reached 6.6 million days. The Department of Defense had the most employee furlough days with 1.6 million days. The 850,000 employees furloughed per day represented 40% of the civilian federal workforce.

The government shutdown also took a toll on small businesses. During the government shutdown, loans worth $140 million to 700 small businesses were halted. Small businesses that contract with the Department of Defense also took a hit. Compared to the same period in the previous year, contracts with the Department of Defense were cut by one-third and spending was down 40 percent. These cuts caused some small businesses to make layoffs and take other cost-reducing measures.

On the macro level, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), consumer confidence, and job creation declined.  Fourth quarter projections expect GDP to taper between 0.2-0.6 percent, equivalent to 2 to 6 billion dollars of output. The government shutdown weighed on consumers as well. According a survey conducted by Goldman Sachs, two out of five people said that they would cut spending due to the shutdown . Also, private-sector job creation experienced a loss. The combined effects of the government shutdown and debt limit brinkmanship caused 120,000 fewer jobs to be created.

Watch out for these upcoming deadlines:

  • Continuing Resolution deadline- Jan. 15, 2014
  • Debt Ceiling raised until- Feb. 7, 2014

Written by Herbert Belton

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The Affordable Care Act: Hits, Misses, and Solutions

The Affordable Care Act (ACA and often referred to as “Obamacare”), has been unshakably scrutinized by the media.   Whether reports are left-wing or the right-wing, mainstream media coverage primarily concentrates on the tedious legislative process, the propaganda, and (of course) the Government Shutdown.  Amidst all of the media hoopla, the Affordable Care Act was enacted on October 1st, 2013.

Here are statements directly from Medicaid.gov:

“The Affordable Care Act provides Americans with better health security by putting in place comprehensive health insurance reforms that will:

  • Expand coverage,

  • Hold insurance companies accountable,

  • Lower health care costs,

  • Guarantee more choice, and

  • Enhance quality care for all Americans.

The Affordable Care Act actually refers to two pieces of legislation – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-152) – that, together expand Medicaid coverage to millions of low-income Americans and makes numerous improvements to both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Further information concerning Medicaid eligibility, financing, and legislation files at www.medicaid.gov/affordablecareact/affordable-care-act.html.

The day the Affordable Care Act was implemented, October 1, 2013, record numbers of the US population visited the website exploring the new health care options. There were many initial positives. During the first 24 hours of open enrollment, 4.7 million people visited HealthCare.gov.  This posed well for supporters of the law, as this development represented its potential success. However, many Americans have already questioned the law’s effectiveness.

Individuals who attempted to sign up were met with obstacles.  Specifically, there  were cases of the website becoming frozen when attempting to navigate it.  In addition, insurance companies report that they have not received all of the necessary personal information from their customers.  Meanwhile, the statistics of those who have actually signed up for a plan were initially withheld from the American public, causing many to question the law’s success.

On October 21st, 2013, President Obama spoke at the White House, updating the American public on The Affordable Care Act and its progress.   He began by discussing the new health care system and its benefits, including: Affordable Care for lower income citizens, free preventative care treatments (such as mammograms and birth control), and the reduction of prices due to the new health insurance marketplace.  Additionally, those with Medicaid and Medicare insurance now do not have to change their health care plan. Through these services, The President re-emphasized that the Affordable Care Act has already been effective in its primary goals.  Here are the updates concerning ACA statistics.

  • In the last three weeks, Oregon has cut its number of uninsured residents by 10 percent, giving 56,000 people healthcare.

  • Nearly 6 in 10 Americans can acquire health care for under 100 dollars a month.

  • Healthcare.gov has now been visited nearly 20 million times

  • Call centers have averaged a 1 minute wait time to speak with personnel

In addition, President Obama addressed the propaganda surrounding ACA’s main problems.  Healthcare.gov was indeed faulty due to web traffic during the first week of enrollment.  However, it remains operable despite the glitches. Thousands of citizens have still been able to sign up for health care insurance.   POTUS added that the enrollment period is open for an additional five months, and the regulations of the new plans won’t take effect until January 1st.  Concerning the website, President Obama acknowledged its flaws and vowed to have it fixed by November 30, 2013.  He also reported that a tech action team is employed to fix and improve upon the website.  POTUS added that the website is not the only way to sign up for a new plan; people can do so over the phone (with lines open 24 Hours)  or in person.

In spite of the obstacles, the Obama Administration and government officials are determined to ensure that the new health care system runs smoothly.  Statistics show, for those who enrolled, that the the health care marketplace is an effective and beneficial system for the American population. As POTUS stated before, there are five remaining months of open enrollment.  Given the positive statistics and signs of improvement, the prospects of the Affordable Care Act reaping success are encouraging.

Written by Elise Phillips

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A Band-Aid on a Bullet Wound: The Widespread Effects and Implications of the Government Shutdown

Just recently, the American people suffered the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history. President Barack Obama and members of Congress took sixteen days to negotiate consensus on a bill that impacted the lives of thousands of furloughed workers, shut down national parks and government buildings, before finally passing a continuing resolution on the federal budget that satisfied both political parties.

While we were closing out Hispanic Heritage Month, September, the government was tasked with coming up with a federal budget . . . something they do every year. This federal budget is explicit in outlining priority spending as well as twelve appropriations to fund federal agencies. All of this, of course, is to be agreed upon by the House and the Senate. Easy enough, right?

In failing to do so, the U.S. government shutdown commenced and greatly effected the economy, U.S. citizens, DC students, and many others. Who was hit by this the hardest, you wonder. What resources and services stopped? Now that it’s over. . . what’s the end result?

The government shutdown greatly impacted both the economy and the American peoples’ households. Standard & Poor’s, a financial rating corporation, estimates that the government shutdown will cost the economy $24 billion. A small break down of this economic hit:

- About $3.1B in lost government services, according to research conducted by IHS.

    – $152M per day in lost travel spending according to the U.S. Travel Association.

    – $76M per day because of National Parks being shut down, according to the NPS.

    – $217M per day in lost federal and contractor wages in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Second, there were approximately 800,000 furloughed federal workers during the time of the shutdown. Imagine that! “We can’t pay you, but can you still perform your duties for the people?” This shutdown left hundreds of thousands of people and their families without an income. The Washington Post compiled a list of each government agency that was affected by the shutdown.

Lastly, students not just in DC, but also nationally were limited in research outlets because of government websites shutting down and DC public libraries closing as well. Any museum visits, national park educational field trips, etc. were all halted due to the shutdown.

Take a selfless step back, students, and realize some of the other discontinued services that could’ve affected all of DC and the entire nation:

  • Health Services: The National Health Institute stopped accepting patients for clinical research. If you had cancer and you wanted more treatment and understanding of the cancer, you had to wait until the shutdown was over.

  • Immigration: Dept. of Homeland Security discontinued the E-verify program during the shutdown, which disabled employers from checking on legal immigration status of prospective employees.

  • National Parks: The National Park Service closed 400 different national parks and museums in response to the government shutdown.

Here is a full list of all government agencies and services affected by the government shutdown.

Now that the government has re-opened, all is well . . . right? Wrong.

It is true that Congress voted to pass a bill that would raise the debt ceiling and re-open the government: Senate passed measure 81 votes to 18 and House passed measure 285 votes to 144. What President Obama is signing, however, is a temporary fix to the ‘almost-fiscal-crisis.’ The bill sent to the President’s desk funds the government until January 15, 2014 and raises the debt ceiling until February 7, 2014.

So in reality, this heart-attack government is not safe from another shutdown for the next couple months. Moving forward, I hope that politicians take a step back and think of the American people, families, and students before playing politics. There is just too much at stake.

Written by Falating Woods

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Immigration Coalitions Demand Liberty and Justice for All

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 was another day of solidarity in the fight for immigration reform.  Reform activists organized rallies in more than 160 cities across the country to call Congress to take action to implement immigration reform policies. The goal of the rallies was simple —to remind members of the House of Representatives that their constituents are expecting momentum on a immigration reform.

Here’s the breakdown on the current state of affairs concerning immigration reform and the House:

  • House Democrats have put a bill forward that addresses some of the most pressing issues concerning immigration reform.

  • The bill is based off of the piece of legislation that overwhelmingly passed in the house and a security bill that passed with bipartisan support by the House Homeland Security Council.

  • This bill now sits within the confines of the House and is yet to reach the floor. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has stated that the bill will not be brought to the floor as long as a majority of House Republicans oppose it, which is currently the case.

Following the rallies, activists call for action again on Tuesday, October 8th with Camino Americano: Concert and Rally for Immigrant Dignity and Respect. Following the example of the March on Washington, Camino Americano brought thousands of activists to the national mall to express the need for change. The Camino Americano concert followed utilized culture as a source of inspiration and strength. Music was employed as a tactic to share the stories of immigrant families, invoke a sense of unity, and, of course, community.

Once the concert commenced, the rally continued in full force as the group marched from the national mall towards the Capitol. Within the crowd stood immigrants, allies, and supporters from Congress. Near the Capitol activists strategically blocked the streets to provoke awareness of their movement as well as instigate arrests. By the end of the event, over 200 hundred people were arrested for “crowding obstructing, and incommoding,” including eight members of Congress: John Lewis (D-GA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Al Green (D-TX) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

These acts of civil disobedience remind us that immigration reform is not an issue that can be pushed aside, stalled, or ignored. It is an issue that affects 11 million inhabitants of this country every day and not just another talking point on a laundry lists of topics. While a few Congress members were able to attend the the Camino Americano rally, there are many more representatives who are in support of taking much needed steps forward. This issue is on the agenda because it should be addressed now and not later. The United States was built upon principles of equality, liberty, and justice for all. We must hold our federal system accountable to act in accordance with these democratic principles. Our coworkers, neighbors, friends, peers, and family members, deserve the recognition of dignity and respect that immigration reform coalitions are demanding.

If you want to get involved in the movement to ensure immigrant rights, there are many organizations taking action in the greater DC area, including the AFL-CIO, CASA de Maryland, the Virginia New Majority, SEIU, National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, among others. Check out their websites to find ways to stay informed.

Progress is a continuous journey. Let us continue to #IMPACT our world!

See photos from Camino Americano at The Eye photo blog here: http://blogs.pjstar.com/eye/2013/10/09/200-arrested-in-d-c-immigration-reform-rally/

Written by Colleen Roberts

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