How Put People First says “yes” to universality

Read an excerpt from a workshop by PPF member, leader and co-founder Nijmie Dzurinko at the Philly Leadership Institute last month!

One way that a human rights framework is strategic is that when we talk of universality, it’s about opening up the space. We need healthcare for people who are locked up. We need healthcare for people who are undocumented. We need healthcare for people who are queer and trans. So if you say “yes” to universality, you are saying “yes” to that whole thing. And we can’t back down from that.

And so the human rights principles are very strategic because they allow us to say “Our class, of poor and dispossessed people has people from every race, from every ethnic group, from every gender, from every ability, from every part of the state, from every status, and we can’t be separated.” We are all part of the same class. We can build and bring in all those people, because we need all those people. Like Danelle said [in our Healthcare is a Human Right campaign video]: That there are more of us who need this, who are fighting for this, than there are people who are trying to prevent us from getting it. No one in this room is one of those people who are trying to prevent us from getting our needs met, we don’t have the power to do that, we don’t have the decision-making power, we aren’t in that place. If you are, please identify yourself!

We are not those people who are making those decisions, and supporting those systems, propping those systems up. We are people who don’t agree with that, and saying “You know what — just because you are doing that, that’s not an Act Of God.” Those are human decisions and human systems created by human beings. And we are all human beings, and we can change those systems. We can change those conditions. We can change those circumstances. And the more that we believe that, and stop believing that they are “Acts Of God,” that “the market” is some kind of unseen force that has different moods on different days and feels like different things. Those kinds of ideas cause us to not realize that we do have power to change systems, and to change those forces.

I also want to situate our work in the Black Radical Tradition of building multi-racial poor people’s movements that started in the foundation of this country, with things like Bacon’s Rebellion. It continued on through Reconstruction, it continued on through the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, through Fred Hampton and the Original Rainbow Coalition, through the Poor People’s Campaign, through the Homeless Union organizing in the 1980s, and it continues on through the legacy of Put People First. Those are the traditions that we come out of.

Five Key Things to Know about the Republican Healthcare Plan

Paul Ryan and the House Republicans finally put out their health care plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), though the plan is in fact less about health care than it is about redistributing wealth. The plan would deliver half a trillion dollars in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy by taking health care access away from poor, working class, and middle class people. It would do nothing to address the crisis of unaffordable health care that imposes impossible costs and denies millions of people access to care.

Read more analysis from Ben Palmquist of the Put People First Campaign Team and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative here.

“Health and dignity for everybody — not just a few.” PPF leader Farrah speaks out

On January 26th while the Republican leadership was in Philadelphia, PPF joined thousands in the streets and demanded health care. Put People First leader and fundraising team member Farrah Samuels gave a speech. Watch it here and read the transcript below!

We believe that health care is a basic human right; not a privilege

We’re fighting for all of you as a statewide organization to promote health and dignity for everybody — not just a few.

So I want to tell you my story because I believe in the power of stories like most of you. I just beat cancer — stage four. I had two forms of cancer. I had surgery the day before the election and when I woke up, Dump was in the office. I cried tears of sadness instead of joy because dump was in the office and I stood to lose everything that I had fought for.

On April Fools Day 2015, I went to the doctor. He gave me a cruel joke: He said, “You got two forms of stage-four sarcoma; you’ve got three months to live.” I said, “Doc nah those must be some alternative facts; you gas lighting me right?”

Then I began to fight.

Before that, my family and I were already enduring hardships: death of family members who couldn’t afford insurance because they had pre-existing conditions, foreclosure, lack of jobs, a stint of homelessness in which we spent a month in a tent in Amish country. I’d had a big job! I had a bigly huge salary! I went from that to a salary of $5000 a year as an adjunct professor with a master’s degree. For three people to live off of, that’s not enough to survive — it’s not enough for anything. Then you’ve got that five month waiting people for those of us who are disabled. Even though they called me a “compassionate allowance” That basically means “we think you’re about to die, and we don’t care.” It’s like the people who make the disability decisions said, “We’re going to wait. We’re going to see if you get cured or you die, because we don’t want to pay you right now, even though you’ve been paying into this system since you were 14.”

So instead of my energy being focused on my fight, I had to beg for money everyday on GoFundMe. Who’s done that before? Too many families. Without the vital lifesavers of Medicaid — which threw me a life raft when I didn’t have shit — SSPI, the ACA/Obamacare, and the friends and family and people like you who gave me a dollar here and there so I could survive those six months.

My story’s still being written, and fortunately I’m here to tell it. For all the sarcoma and cancer patients who didn’t make it because they didn’t have what I have. (Thank you President Obama.) And I’m in remission today because I had Obamacare, because I had surgery the day before the election. And don’t think that timing does not matter. I’m grateful because the reality that it is that 43,000 people a year, could die from mass genocide and science that is guided by “alternative facts.”

The pillars of our safety net that saved my life and thousands and millions of others are being dismantled by officials who receive premium healthcare, sustainable salaries, pensions. They spit and laugh at us who want the same. We deserve the same. Financial ruin for families like us is brutal. my survival so far cost me $200,000, but luckily, because of ACA I’m paying a tiny piece of it. I’d be dead trying to pay $200k on a $5k salary. everyone deserves the right to live with a decent quality of life and the right to healthcare with dignity! So what’s the prie of a life? dont think that this sis any coincidence that the sun is shining right now, because it’s been raining for a week. Our city might be tainted right now, but it’s still the city of brotherly love. We need y’all to stand up right now and Put People First!

I’m almost done y’all

I was watching this movie; they said to exist alone is to survive unfair choices. So do I pay for my health insurance as a chronically ill person, or do I put food on my table to feed my family? It’s a choice none of us should have to make but too many do. I want to remind those legislators at the Loews that no one is immune and there is no backseat for crappy life circumstances. Illness does not discriminate. In the last month, our own PFFPA family lost two of its Johnstown members, across the state, because they didn’t have quality health care. My friends, we speak your name, Bella Oliveras and Tiffany Walker, and we will continue to fight and to resist in your honor. Our Put People First aim is this this year — y’all that know football, it’s football season — go on offense, go on defense, build your healthcare rights communities; look at the power of this group of people; hold your leaders accountable. Be creative, take action. Shout out to those last night who were dancing; I was with you in spirit.

Remember healthcare is a right not a privilege. And as Kendrick Lamar said, We gon’ be alright. But only if we stand together in solidarity and resistance of inhumane governance. Independent of political party or bipartisanship. So I’m inviting you to join me and PPFPA because we and you are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

And I want to say that with the current powers and the leaderSHIT that is, a revolution just may not be televised. So we got to make it live, and we got to make it alive. Will you fight for me? I will fight for all of you. Thank you.

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

LANCASTER In Lancaster, PPF representing the Poor People’s Campaign took part as a featured speaker/organization in the #LancasterStandsUp community meeting at the Southern Market Center. More than 350 people gathered, representing concerned individuals or socially progressive organizations. People shared healthcare stories and personal testimonies, organizer tales from the front and report-backs from local work, and took part in small group discussions asking “What are Lancaster County values?” Read more at the Lancaster Online.

PITTSBURGH Fifteen people came out for a community meeting held by PPF’s Pittsburgh Organizing Committee, where they began to build our local strategy to push back against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and push for solutions to the healthcare crisis on the state level. They also celebrated MLK Weekend by learning about Dr. King’s work to build a “new and unsettling force” of poor and dispossessed people to change our society, and they joined the call for a New Poor People’s Campaign. The meeting closed with stories and poetry from Gary Evans and Randa Shannon, two members who participated in the Black Freedom Movement in the ’60s and ’70s.

The packed workshop received rave reviews.

NEW YORK Eleven members of the Healthcare is a Human Right Collaborative from Pennsylvania, Maine, New York and Vermont attended the Single Payer Strategy Conference, and presented the workshop “Building a Winning Movement: Moving from Tactical Coalitions to Strategic Partnerships.” The packed workshop received rave reviews and outlined the ideas and definitions that guide our work in an interactive way.

January 15

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

January 16, Martin Luther King Jr. Day

PHILLY 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.

YORK The York OC hosted a Martin Luther King celebration issuing the call for a new Poor People’s Campaign at Gusa Fashion House and Gallery. More then 40 people gathered with food and traditional African crafts for children. A dozen community leaders read the words of Dr. King and share poetry, songs, and personal reflections and the learn about and discuss the new Poor People’s Campaign.

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

January 18

STATEWIDE 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

PHILLY 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