Put People First Turns Out for Health Care, Sanctuary Cities, #reclaimMLK and more!

Put People First PA joined millions of people across the United States and world between January 14-20 demonstrating around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and at actions demanding positive change and policy for our communities and families.

January 14 In Lancaster, PPF took part at the #LancasterStandsUp community meeting. Read more at the Lancaster Online.

The Pittsburgh OC had a great meeting where they discussed threats to health care funding and, in honor of of Dr. King’s legacy, they heard from longtime organizers Toni McClendon and Randa Shannon about their work in the Civil Rights movement.

January 15 In Philadelphia, we joined PASNAP, other unions, community groups, and elected officials to call for lawmakers to protect Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). We were featured on a video by Philly We Rise and the Media Mobilizing Project:

January 16, Martin Luther King Jr. Day PPFers in Philly joined with thousands of others at the POWER MLK DARE March in solidarity with the Reclaim MLK actions across the country, recognizing King’s analysis and calls to action around racism and poverty.

The York OC held a standing-room-only event calling for a new Poor People’s Campaign. More than 40 people shared poems, writings, and testimonies calling for human rights and celebrating a spirit of empowerment.

Listen to South Central PA organizer Carla Christopher read a poem about Dr. King’s legacy:

January 18 PPF members, new and old, across the state, had a conference call to discuss our 2017 campaign and what’s currently happening in Congress with regards to health care and the ACA.

January 20 On the day of the presidential inauguration, Put People First took part in the People’s Inauguration in Philly, an event held by the New Sanctuary Movement. Along with speakers from many other community organizations, PPF’s Richard Mosley spoke about health care access in and outside of the prison system and solidarity with immigrants. Then all in attendance took an oath together to protect and fight for each other in the face of all types of systemic oppression.

Coming Up: January 26 Join Put People First in Philly to protest creating a new health care system that’s even worse at meeting our needs than it already is! Resistance in Philly Healthcare Action: PPF Contingent

In Loving Memory of Isabella Oliveras

On Jan. 10, 2017, Isabella (Bella) Oliveras, a PPF Member from Johnstown, PA, passed away in her sleep at home with her husband, Daniel.

Bella was a new member of PPF, having joined the Johnstown OC in 2016, but her impact on the organization was distinct. She brought her entire self to the membership assembly in October, sharing stories and poems, as well as laughter and love. Bella was also very close with Tiffany Walker, another Johnstown PPF member who passed away in December. We remember them both and their determination to fight for their own needs as well as those of their communities, friends and family. Bella was a veteran and a former nurse and paramedic. She was working tirelessly to raise money for a motorized wheelchair, which her insurance refused to pay for, despite its clear necessity.

PPF leader and Johnstown OC founder Danelle Morrow said,

“Bella was a ray of sunshine in my day every time I saw her. Tiffany brought her to her first PPF meeting here in Johnstown. She immediately wanted to fight, not just for herself but for anybody that was going through similar issues. She felt neglected and mis understood by her doctors. It was Bella and Tiffany that came up with the idea for Walk n Roll. She had a strong spirit, and a wonderful laugh. She had no hesitation to start trying to pull people into PPF. She was co-coordinator for the Johnstown OC. Reaching out, making phone calls and doing follow ups for me while I was busy working. Selfless, she wanted to make others feel better when they were in pain. She was so excited to be accepted by us with open arms. Eager to help in any way she could.”

Bella was also a poet. She wrote this inspired by the words and actions of Johnnie Tillmon and Mother Jones.

What it means to be a vibrant woman
To be bold and to stand up for what she believes in.
To dare to speak the truth and show respect where it’s due.
To be loved and be appreciated for who she is.
To know right from wrong.
To be a teacher and be a achiever.
To be a caretaker and to be a friend.
She’s a fighter, believer, lover and supporter but above all she’s a vibrant woman.

Put People First is deeply saddened at the loss of Bella and Tiffany. We will continue to be inspired by their lives, their vibrancy and their determination as we keep on in our fight.

Remembering Fallen Member Tiffany Walker

Tiffany Lynn Walker: 5/21/75 – 12/13/16

Last Tuesday, Johnstown Put People First member Tiffany Walker passed away at home. Another PPF member, Bella Oliveras, was with her when she passed.

Tiffany was a new member — she had been in PPF for less than a year — but she made a major impact on the Johnstown OC and its members. She lost both of her legs this past March due to a blood clot issue, and was unable to get prosthetic legs that would have allowed her to move around freely. She was also dealing with chronic pain. With all of the challenges Tiffany faced, she’s remembered most of all as a giving and selfless person: When the Johnstown Organizing Committee decided to start doing fundraising drives to support our disabled members she pushed Bella, who is trying to get a motorized wheel-chair, to go first.

Tiffany was someone who fought for herself and for the people around her, and someone who is worth fighting for. She was someone that the system, and especially the health care system, abandoned. But still she brought her strength and her energy to the fight in Put People First. We’ll miss Tiffany, and we’ll carry on with her in our hearts and on our minds.

Tiffany’s family and friends are raising money to cover her funeral costs. Please support them by making a donation here.

Bella wrote a poem recently, which she shared at the Put People First! PA membership assembly in Harrisburg this year. She said that it really describes Tiffany, so we’re re-publishing it here below:

What it means to be a vibrant woman


To be bold and to stand up for what she believes in.
To dare to speak the truth and show respect where it’s due.
To be loved and be appreciated for who she is.
To know right from wrong.
To be a teacher and be a achiever.
To be a caretaker and to be a friend.
She’s a fighter, believer, lover and supporter but above all she’s a vibrant woman.

Attacks on health care: what we expect

Ben Palmquist, member of the Put People First! PA Campaign Team and Campaign Manager for the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, wrote the following guide to help us understand the upcoming threats, challenges, and opportunities with healthcare in the U.S.

Put People First is committed to helping our communities meet their needs, engaging people across the state in a strategic response to these attacks and creating solutions to ensure the health and well being of all people in Pennsylvania.

What to Expect from the Coming Republican Attacks on Health Care

Hard-right Republicans have taken over all branches of government, and since the election President-Elect Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have all said that health care will be a major target in January.

The agenda the party is rallying around is truly unprecedented. Never before in history have ideological extremists held such sweeping control of government and had the power to repeal laws, dismantle and privatize public programs, and revoke fundamental civil and human rights. On the campaign trail, Trump was not fully in alignment with Ryan, so it is uncertain just what we should expect, but there is every reason to expect a truly catastrophic defunding and privatization of Medicaid that could force 30 million people out of the program, a dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that could take insurance away from another 22 million people, and a privatization of Medicare that would drastically limit health care access for seniors. The gravity of this would be enormous: taking comprehensive health care access away from people would literally kill tens of thousands of people every year.

While what Republicans will do exactly is unclear, they have released nine health care plans over the last four years. The following is a list of key conclusions that are emerging about the direction things are likely headed, with links to further reading on each topic.

Read more here.