SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

ColorLines magazine just released their list "10 Racial Justice Wins for 2013"—and it is impressive.

In a year when George Zimmerman was permitted to legally lynch Trayvon Martin, it can be all too easy to overlook the hard work of racial justice activists around the nation who have scored important victories. Wins for racial justice include activist campaigns that compelled the Associated Press to drop the use the term "illegal immigrant" in its style guide, grassroots efforts that resulted in the FCC forcing private companies who run phone services in prisons to stop charging families a dollar per minuet to speak to incarcerated loved ones, the activism of the Dream Defenders occupying the Florida Governor's office to demand an end to "stand your ground" laws, and...the victory of the MAP test boycott for high schools in Seattle!

Dec 10

Farewell Madiba

By Lewis Gordon, The LRG Blog | Op-Ed

I, along with millions, perhaps even billions, lit a candle on the 5th of December 2013 in memory of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Madiba orTata, as he is also affectionately known in the Xhosa language of his Native Land, Azania, known through its colonial and now post-apartheid name, South Africa.

The candlelight has many meanings in many societies. As light, it signifies disclosing a path for his new journey. For the living, it shines upon us a form of continued connection, disclosing to us something on which to reflect. And for the deeply religious, as something that must be left to its own course, it reminds us, as in the Mourner's Kaddish of Judaism, that all is ultimately left in G-d's hands.

Dec 10

"Zero Tolerance" to "Zero Occurrence"

By Cristell Alejandra Perez, Sayra Alanis, Jasmine Isokpunwu and Alisha Zou, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The stories of sexual assault in the military continue to emerge, yet most victims will never find justice, given the response from within the military. Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice covers rape, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct offenses. The U.S. Army's Study Guide defines sexual assault as "heterosexual and homosexual rape, as well as non-consensual oral or anal sex, unwanted sexual contact or fondling, or attempts to commit these acts." Thanks to the Department of Defense, more realistic figures surrounding sexual assault in the Armed Forces are beginning to be published. Last year alone, there were an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual harassment within the Armed Forces, but only 3,374 incidents reported.

While Nelson Mandela became the foundation and architect for a free and peaceful democratic South Africa, Frederik de Klerk was the catalyst. They are living witnesses that two, not one, makes for a better peace and democratic system. And when the United States Congress decided to implement economic sanctions against South Africa's brutal and racist apartheid system, it showed how even three, not two, always makes for an enhanced peace with political and economic equality.

Dec 09

When Religious Leaders Support Class War

By Justin Doolittle, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Buried on the fourth page of Lori Montgomery's recent piece in the Washington Post on Paul Ryan's alleged anti-poverty crusade is an incredibly disparaging quote from Bishop Shirley Holloway, a minor religious celebrity in D.C., who, after assuring us that "Paul wants people to dream again," omnisciently asserts that "you don't dream when you've got food stamps."

It's a bizarre sentiment that understandably provoked a snarky backlash from liberal bloggers. But it's also an unusually honest expression of how religious conservatives and allies of Paul Ryan view the lower classes. For many on the broadly defined Christian Right, what ails the poor is that they are not "dreaming" as they should be.

Dec 09

Nelson Mandela: A Jewish Perspective

By Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun | News Analysis

Jews love and loved Nelson Mandela. He inspired us with his insistence that the old regime of apartheid would crumble more quickly and fully when faced with revolutionary love and compassion than when faced with anger and violence.
Mandela also challenged us to think deeply about whether the current situation in Israel/Palestine reflects the ethic of compassion that is so central to Judaism.
Some people on the Left reject Mandela's strategy. "How can one be openhearted toward one's oppressors?" they say. "Fostering compassion toward oppressors will undermine the revolutionary spirit needed to defeat the evil ones."

t's 1983, and for some reason, Facebook exists. Ronald Reagan is President. The Cold War is still a thing. And an increasingly isolated South African government's apartheid rule is still at-large, holding revolutionary anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela in Pollsmoor Prison. On December 5, 1983, Nelson Mandela dies while incarcerated. 1980s Facebook explodes with activity as people post about his passing.

The only catch is, instead of "Rest in Peace," the overwhelming message from Americans is "Good Riddance." Instead of calling Mandela a freedom-fighter, most people call him a "terrorist." President Reagan makes an impromptu address from the Rose Garden to tell the American people that "a convicted terrorist finally got what he deserved."

Dec 09

Let's Begin Ending War Again

By David Swanson, War Is a Crime | Op-Ed

Recently I noticed a post on a social media site honoring Rosa Parks for her refusal to move out of her seat on a segregated bus. Someone commented underneath, that in fact another individual deserved credit for having done the same thing first. What happened next was entirely predictable. Post after post by various people brought out the names of all kinds of forerunners of Parks, pushing the date of the first brave resister to segregated buses back further and further -- many decades -- into the past.

WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro today introduced the Sequester Delay and Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, a bill that would end sequestration and curb corporate use of offshore tax havens. The legislation also requires country-by-country reporting of corporate tax payments to both developed and developing nations. This reporting is critical to curb corporate tax avoidance, a systemic cause of poverty. 

“Congressman Doggett and Congresswoman DeLauro have introduced legislation that will benefit millions of people," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, a faith-based antipoverty organization. "When corporations don't pay their taxes, it's always the poorest people who are hurt the most.”

New York – Federal prosecutors routinely threaten extraordinarily severe prison sentences to coerce drug defendants into waiving their right to trial and pleading guilty, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. In the rare cases in which defendants insist on going to trial, prosecutors make good on their threats. Federal drug offenders convicted after trial receive sentences on average three times as long as those who accept a plea bargain, according to new statistics developed by Human Rights Watch.