Small moments of connection are our victories

the following is an anonymous member reflection

Having a rough day at work and wanted to share a small victory I had thanks to — and a moment that made it clear to me once again, why we need universal health care and so much more…

**The only trauma talked about below is related to the awfulness of a system that puts profit over people, I don’t talk about intimate partner abuse explicitly.**

I work as a domestic violence counselor in a hospital, so I go to work, and am never quite sure what I’m walking into that day (like many of you also face). Today I was asked to go speak with a woman who had just given birth a couple days ago, and who the nurses believed was suffering from postpartum depression as a result of domestic violence. I went to talk to her using a phone interpreter since the woman was Haitian and spoke French Creole. Soon after talking to her, it became clear that she was not experiencing domestic violence, and was definitely not suffering from mental illness. Even though I’m supposed to stop talking to someone after I realize they aren’t experiencing domestic violence, I stayed and listened because my human rights/health justice antennae were going off. She was definitely in a stressful situation, which was only being made worse by the hospital. She is uninsured, but before going to the hospital to give birth to her child she was told that she would definitely not be charged anything, that she would not see a bill. But people at the hospital kept giving her conflicting information and she was given a bill without any explanation of what financial assistance was available to her. I explained Emergency Medicaid to her, and that it was likely she would qualify for that, and I told her she may need to ask and demand to get an application. I also told her that although people at the hospital keep treating her as though she is a bad mother and “crazy,” she is reacting completely normally to the situation she is in. I told her over and over that she wasn’t crazy, and by the end of the conversation we were able to laugh together at the absurdity of the way people were treating her, and basically the absurdity of the US health system. She told me she felt much better, and was surprised that someone who was much younger than everyone else she had spoken with that day was able to provide her with some relief. It made me angry/sad that there are people who are deeply affected by this messed up health system, and then the health system turns around and blames them for it by diagnosing them with a “mental illness” to dismiss the reality of how traumatizing the system itself can be.

So…I was channeling my PPF community so hard in that room today. Thank you all. I don’t know what I would have done without you. I was able to help someone feel a little less crazed in this absurdity of a system thanks to you all.

Love you all <3

“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

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.