Once again, South African domestic workers win in court, expanding domestic workers’ rights everywhere!

Sylvia Mahlangu outside Constitutional Court

Great news! Last week, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that domestic workers ruled that domestic workers injured on the job in the past can claim damages, under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, COIDA. This ruling includes the family of Maria Mahlangu, a domestic worker who had worked for the same family for twenty years. While washing windows, Maria Mahlangu slipped, fell into the pool, and drowned. Her family received no compensation. More to the point, the family offered no compensation and the State excluded domestic workers from COIDA. Last May, the North Gauteng Court ruled that that exclusion was unconstitutional but did not rule on whether that unconstitutionality covered past injuries. Last October, the Gauteng High Court ruled that the Constitutional invalidity of the exclusion of domestic workers meant that all domestic workers are due unlimited retrospective COIDA compensation. The case of Sylvia Bongi Mahlangu and the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union, SADSAWU, vs the Minister of Labour then went to the Constitutional Court. Last Thursday, November 19, the Constitutional Court decided that the exclusion of domestic workers from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, COIDA, is unconstitutional. Further, “the order is to have immediate and retrospective effect from 27 April 1994.” After 26 years of struggle, domestic worker organizers, Black women such as 77-year-old SADSAWU organizer Eunice Dhladhla “nearly broke into song inside [the Constitutional Court], breaking the law.” After the ruling, Sylvia Mahlangu said she was excited at the decision. We all should be.

Justice Margaret Victor, writing for the majority, opened her decision: “Domestic workers are the unsung heroines in this country and globally. They are a powerful group of women whose profession enables all economically active members of society to prosper and pursue their careers. Given the nature of their work, their relationships with their own children and family members are compromised, while we pursue our career goals with peace of mind, knowing that our children, our elderly family members and our households are well taken care of.

“Many domestic workers are breadwinners in their families who put children through school and food on the table through their hard work. In some cases, they are responsible for the upbringing of children in multiple families and may be the only loving figure in the lives of a number of children. Their salaries are often too low to maintain a decent living standard but by exceptional, if not inexplicable effort, they succeed. Sadly, despite these herculean efforts, domestic work as a profession is undervalued and unrecognised; even though they play a central role in our society.”

Later in her decision, Justice Victor noted, “In considering those who are most vulnerable or most in need, a court should take cognisance of those who fall at the intersection of compounded vulnerabilities due to intersecting oppression based on race, sex, gender, class and other grounds. To allow this form of state-sanctioned inequity goes against the values of our newly constituted society namely human dignity, the achievement of equality and ubuntu. To exclude this category of individuals from the social security scheme established by COIDA is manifestly unreasonable.

“For all these reasons, I find that the obligation under section 27(2) to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within available resources, includes the obligation to extend COIDA to domestic workers. The failure to do so in the face of the respondents’ admitted available resources constitutes a direct infringement of section 27(1)(c), read with section 27(2) of the Constitution.”

This case crosses beyond the borders of South Africa and beyond the African continent. Many countries across the globe, including the United States, continue to exclude domestic workers from labor laws and from labor law protections and rights. That time is coming to an end. Domestic work is decent work, and domestic workers demand formal recognition of the dignity of their labor. Tell your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors about Maria Mahlangu, Sylvia Mahlangu and last week’s decision. Tell them Sylvia Mahlangu is excited. The time to sing the song of the unsung heroines has arrived. Amandla!

Eunice Dhladhla outside Constitutional Court

(Photo Credit 1: Sowetan / Penwell Dlamini) (Photo Credit 2: New Frame / Cebelihle Mbuyisa)

In Lebanon: Escalating vulnerability in current crisis

A 4-year-old girl runs up to me while walking in Hamra, Beirut. Her tiny hands are wide open asking for money. I tell her softly to return to her mother, and she runs back to her with her pigtails swaying side to side. I can tell it is the first time she has begged; because children who have been begging longer, continue to insist on money. I later spoke to her mother, Zahra. She tells me she is a single mother with 4 children, she also has to take care of her mother who lives with her and is sick. They are from Homs, Syria. Her husband left them a few years ago, went back to Syria and she hasn’t heard from him since. She doesn’t stay on the street long, just enough to collect the month’s rent of 300,000 Lebanese Pounds (LBP) – with today’s economy it is equivalent to $40 US Dollars. She tells me “no one will sit on these streets unless they have to”. She said she works in the morning cleaning homes but it is impossible to make enough for rent.

Lebanon is currently undergoing a devastating economic crisis that began last year around January with a fluctuating Lebanese Lira, often rising to 9,000 LBP per US dollar ($) compared to the original exchange rate of 1,500 LBP per US dollar. This is in addition to the general turmoil and struggles caused by the demand for political change, COVID-19, and the chemical explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4th. The income that used to provide basic necessities for a family like Zahra’s, is no longer providing the minimum. As a result, Syrian refugees who are in Lebanon experience more difficulties and oppressions with the current crisis. There are Syrian citizens who cannot travel – to Europe or the United States – nor return to Syria because they lack legal documents or have been exiled by the Syrian government.

Lebanon is home to more than 120,000 migrant workers hailing from African, Asian, and Eastern European countries like Sierra Leone, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines and Russia, and home to around 1,700,000 refugees from neighboring countries like Syria, Palestine, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia. For refugees, Lebanon is the nearest safe country. For migrant workers, Lebanon has a high demand for low wage migrant workers and are unfortunately part of the modern slavery system. On the other hand, migrant workers are deceived by the image of prosperity in Arab countries. The country’s current situation is felt by all; however, the burdens of the crisis fall mostly on the lives of the most vulnerable and underprivileged communities such as the poorer Lebanese families, migrants and refugees. Many are undocumented. They feel paralyzed since they cannot move forward. For example, Genet, from Ethiopia, who is undocumented, is a single mother in Lebanon. Her baby is 2 years old. She cannot return home because her father threatened to kill her for having a baby without marriage.

Sophia is a domestic worker in Beirut. She is from Côte d’Ivoire. She says her employer stopped paying her salary of $200 a month for a 24/7 work schedule 7 months ago. Every time she requested her salary, the employers beat her, and would threaten to take her to jail and accuse her of stealing. When she finally gave an ultimatum demanding her salary or leaving, the employer told her to pack her belongings and threw her on the street a few neighborhoods away. Now she is waiting for repatriation but in the meantime sleeps at multiple friends’ houses, and works 4 hours a week, where she gets paid 10,000 LBP an hour – equivalent to $1.5 US dollars. This occasional, exploitative part time job, that does not even provide her a day’s food supply, puts her in danger of being arrested since freelance work is categorized as an illegal work status as she is no longer sponsored by a Lebanese resident under the Kafala (Sponsorship) system. The Lebanese sponsors treat the rights of migrant workers nonchalantly in a State that does not enforce the rights of noncitizens. The Lebanese government has not adopted a strong and coherent stance on racist and exploitative actions against migrant workers.

Sinay is from Sierra Leone. She left her sponsor’s home in 2017 because, in addition to inconsistent payment of her wages, she was beaten and yelled at often. She regularly sends money to her 3 children who remain in Sierra Leone under the care of her neighbor. She borrowed $500 from a cousin to pay her smuggler, she also has to pay off that debt. Sinay tried to find freelance jobs, but with the COVID-19 lockdown she was forced to stay home. In addition, when the explosion occurred, she was left homeless. One night she was raped by two men.

As migrant workers turn towards their embassies and consulates, there is no sufficient support nor safety ready for them. We saw this with the Kenyan embassy and the number of women who protested outside the embassy headquarters demanding they be sent home. Foreign initiative aid helped the women return to Kenya. Other embassies, like the Ethiopian embassy, are requesting that migrant workers pay for their return flights home in US dollars. It is an impossible task considering the extremely low wages and the high conversion rates. On another note, embassies are often involved in the trafficking and exploitation of their citizens. For example, the “artist visa” is an agreement between the Lebanese government and the embassies of European countries like Ukraine and Russia to recruit European women as dancers in clubs in Lebanon. They are frequently beaten and forced to work in sex trafficking with their passports confiscated. This artist visa legalizes the criminal activities of pimps and governments, trapping the women in sex trafficking.

The near future looks grim for people caught in this power-politics chaos. People migrate mostly out of necessity rather than by choice. Migration should follow different laws to make it safer and more flexible. Migrant workers need to be included in the Lebanese Labour Law, and refugees need to be supported in rebuilding their lives rather than becoming dependent on organizations funding. Organizations need to shift their power dynamics and work to offer these communities jobs and autonomy. We need to address the issues these communities are facing in more diverse ways. There are many grassroots initiatives and organizations who work on supporting the rights of these communities. At the moment, their efforts are directed towards providing shelter, food, repatriation, psychosocial support, cash or legal assistance like Egna LegnaKAFA (enough) Violence & ExploitationSAWA for Development and Aid, Border FreeSyrian Eyes, and Bird of LYF. For more information on the work they do and to make donations, please visit their websites.

(Names of women changed for their protection and safety.)

(Photo Credit Hanging Man: Mona Ayoub) (Photo Credits: Nina Bazin)

Beginning nowhere

Beginning nowhere

So then, we continue from the end…

Mabuded’ubumnyama
(Let the darkness fade)

Arms crossed 
in prayer to gods who 
no longer know how to hear us
we stand at the edge of darkness
bearing a forlorn witness 
to our own slow-motion descent 
into night without stars 
or moons 

We lift our hands to the skies
Makudedubumnyama
kuvelukukhanya
Makudedubumnyama 
Kuvelukukhanya

The pounding of our hearts 
levitates us to the weightlessness 
of questions whose answers 
land like boulders 
on our shoulders
It was never the light 
but us who left 

(Photo Credit: Jane Alexander / artthrob)

A prayer for the woman in all of us

Inside every woman
There is a forest
(Some of us even have jungles in our armpits)
Equally Cheetah’s 
and Chihuhua’s
Needing feeding and walking
Walking
And feeding
Rain and patience.
Sun.
Shade.
And soil that smell of mushrooms.

Yet sometimes
For millions of lifetimes 
There are armies and soldiers
Stomping, thrashing, cutting and crashing
Property developers
Presidents
Ministers
Bureaucrats
Bankers
Concrete mixers
Tearers
Breakers
Fantasy Makers

And then a woman doesn’t want to get out of bed anymore.
It’s not just because she is lazy.
Thousands of years of burning Witch Healers
Bricking up Princesses in Towers
It doesn’t matter
I’m not really hungry
I don’t need
…want
I shouldn’t
I can’t
I must
Sorry.
Sorry.
Sorry.
I’m guilty.
….bad
I don’t have the time
(for my self)

Each one, 
A tree ripped, sawn, broken.

So when the land is barren
the way back to a life filled forest isn’t easy.

Simple, but not necessarily easy.

Planting, watering, singing,
Walking, walking, walking.

Every day
Every day
Every day

Insisting on it
As if your life depends on it because it does.

I seed
1 seed
1 seed
1 see
I seed

Practicing protecting twigs, caterpillars, newly built nests, frogs and small brown birds
Just because you love them.
All ways 
All ways
All ways
Love all ways

hdr

(Photos by jagatjotikaur)

What happened to Lisa Adams? Just another 16-day torture ordeal in Canada’s Nova Institution for Women

Lisa Adams

Canada routinely tortures women in prison by throwing them into so-called “dry cells”. Today, Lisa Adams, 33 years old and about to end a two-year sentence in the hellhole that is Nova Institution for Women, and advocates from the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia, are challenging that practice in court. Some will ask, “What happened to Lisa Adams?” The real question is, “What happened to Canada?”

Lisa Adams lives with an addiction to methamphetamines and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. In March, Lisa Adams was released on day parole. In May, she was picked up on for methamphetamine usage and was taken back to Nova Institution for Women, where she was strip searched and passed through a body scanner. Authorities found nothing in Lisa Adams’ body. A few days later, authorities reconsidered the scan and felt they could perhaps see something, small and round, somewhere in her vagina. Authorities then did a scan of Lisa Adams’ cell and found traces of methamphetamine. They then gave Lisa Adams a urine test, which came back positive. Lisa Adams protested her innocence, explaining that the meth was from her earlier pre-arrest usage and that she did not have any methamphetamine with her. Authorities did not believe her.

At that point, Lisa Adams was dumped into a dry cell, where she stayed for 16 days, from May 6 to May 22. A dry cell is a cell without running water or toilets. The thinking is that by placing someone in a dry cell, authorities can sift through their waste – feces, urine, vomit – and locate the concealed drugs. The prisoner is kept in segregation in that cell, without any water, under 24-hour-a-day surveillance. Lisa Adams stayed in a dry cell for 16 days. She started to tremble, became incoherent, threatened self- harm and suicide. Remember Nova Institution, the hellhole prison where, in 2015, Camille Strickland-Murphy and Veronica Park were effectively executed by the state? That’s where Lisa Adams spent 16 days of hell, and for what?

Lisa Adams only got out of the dry cell when she finally persuaded the authorities to let an actual doctor examine her. The doctor found nothing in her vagina or anywhere else. What the doctor did find was a severely injured woman, who had been battered and abused by the state.

Lisa Adams and her allies went to court today to argue that dry celling is a form of torture. Last year, Canada effectively outlawed solitary confinement, after the court declared keeping anyone in solitary for more than 15 days was cruel, unusual, and torture. Somehow, dry celling does not count as solitary confinement. The segregation is total and absolute, the conditions are nothing short of evil. In fact, the actual material facility of the dry cell is worse than that of solitary confinement. Lisa Adams spent 16 days in dry cell and, again, was only released when she begged for a doctor to perform a real examination.

Lisa Adams explains, “”For me, on a base level, I’d like to have the idea of dry celling removed from female institutions. Because I’m not naive to the fact that drugs are an issue, and there has to be a means to prevent that, I’m hoping that potentially there could be an overhaul throughout all of CSC to find a new way to prevent this from happening. A way that’s less invasive, that’s more trauma-informed and that takes into account the value of the individual as well as the security of the institution … I want the public to see that we are individuals. What happens to us in here is important. People wouldn’t want it to happen to their mother, daughter, sister, wife. They need to keep an eye on that.”  

I want the public to see that we are all humans, that what happens in prisons and jails and immigrant detention centers and juvenile detention centers, that what happens “in here”, not only in `correctional institutions’ but in here in our hearts, matters. What happened to Lisa Adams? She was tortured, traumatized.. What happened to Canada, and by extension to all of us? 

(Photo Credit: CBC/ Elizabeth Fry Society)

The whole world is Africa

The whole world is Africa

we are oft reminded so
in an evocative advert
by resident historian 
and the Blues in the Bush 
Sunday night presenter 

we are reminded so 
by stand-up comedy’s 
erstwhile chief resource 
and former resident
of imperialism’s palace

He stamps his feet
He says he won
He threatens mayhem
He says he won’t go
(He is out playing golf)

He is just
like those folks
who do the lifelong
clinging to power
for their own

The whole world is Africa
though Uhuru has not
reached everywhere
or everyone

We see the changing
of the guard and the guards
though the more things change
the more the guards guard
their bejewelled palaces

The whole world is Africa
it sometimes seems

An old Black Uhuru song it is – “The whole world is Africa”.

Race and Class Complacency in America: What Happened to Love Thy Neighbor?

If a gunman was holding you hostage, with a weapon at your head, what perfect words would you tell them in an attempt to save your life?

I ask myself the same question every time I sit down and try to conjure up the proper words to convince others to care about social justice movements, the perfect words to plead for recognition that mine, and many other marginalized lives, matter. It pains me to perceive that, from my friends and family that remain ignorant, your complacency is an indirect message that your fondness of me is not worth as much as some time spent educating, participating in, and supporting social reform. I understand everyone has their own life filled with conflicts and careers that demand your time, but they do not demand your conscience, and it is timeless to simply listen to the millions of Black voices that are crying out today. 

Do you not believe it is true, the vehement racism, sexism, and other isms that dominate this country? I could cite research articles from the National Institute of Health that acknowledge the negative health impacts that racism has on minority groups directly, making us more susceptible to illness; which is only heightened when coupled with the food desserts preventing access to affordable, healthy food. I could cite the systemic lack of support for Black schools that has crippled the education of Black youth for generations, and continues to do so today. Yet, even so, we are labelled as ignorant thugs and barbarians without any further thought into the proven link between crime, miseducation, and poverty. 

I could testify to my personal struggles with health that have surmounted from a stressful existence in this country as a queer, black woman; giving the gory details of every waking moment that I spend in excruciating pain, begging for some reprieve, only to find discrimination at the door of various health “professionals”. 

I could reference the millions of direct testimonies from nonwhite Americans that suffer so deeply, experiencing both direct and indirect acts of prejudice. My entire family has accounts of acts of hatred, from the casual to the deadly. For every “good cop” story you could tell me, I could tell of ten times as many instances where I or someone I know has felt their life endangered, needlessly, by the presence of a police officer. The historical role that police have played in suppressing nonwhite communities, from returning slaves to enforcing segregationist laws, is often overlooked despite its proven implications in today’s law enforcement. How can you claim American prisons are any sense of just with the predatory profit generation of mass incarceration and the existence of a massive monopoly of private prisons? The facts, the resources, and the proof is readily accessible for most of you, yet you turn a blind eye. 

I could – and thousands of scholars already have – quite literally lay every piece of evidence in front of you, and yet it would make no difference. The reality is that people do not care about our struggles no matter how credible and frequent all the accounts are, and it puzzles me to find that I cannot inspire empathy in my fellow Americans despite how much floral rhetoric and niceties I employ. 

(Photo Credit: The Guardian / Phil Bergerson)

Eleanor Bumpurs and Breonna Taylor, together, haunt the United States. #SayHerName

Eleanor Bumpurs

This week, with evictions and even more the threat of evictions rising across the United States; with police violence spreading and intensifying, especially in communities of color; with police home invasions, as happened to Breonna Taylor, spreading with impunity; with a national election; we must discuss Eleanor Bumpurs. On November 4, 1984, Eleanor Bumpurs was laid to rest. Soon after Eleanor Bumper’s death, her daughter, Mary Bumpurs, would begin a lifetime of Black feminist social justice organizing in her mother’s name. In 1989, Spike Lee dedicated his film Do The Right Thing to six victims, six martyrs, of police brutality and racist violence: Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Griffith, Arthur Miller, Jr., Edmund Perry, Yvonne Smallwood, and Michael Stewart. Two weeks ago, on Saturday, October 17, the families of Eleanor Bumpurs and of Breonna Taylor joined together to lead a State of Emergency Get Out The Vote Rally in New York. At that rally, Eleanor Bumpurs’ granddaughter, also named Eleanor, asked, “When does it stop? When we do become somebody that somebody thinks about?” Eleanor Bumpurs.  Breonna Taylor. #SayHerName

Eleanor Bumpurs came to national attention on October 29, 1984. Here’s how Patricia Williams told the story, in 1987: “On October 29, 1984, Eleanor Bumpurs, a 270-pound, arthritic, sixty-seven-year old woman, was shot to death while resisting eviction from her apartment in the Bronx. She was $98.85, or one month, behind in her rent.’ New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward described the struggle preceding her demise as involving two officers with plastic shields, one officer with a restraining hook, another officer with a shotgun, and at least one supervising officer. All of the officers also carried service revolvers. According to Commissioner Ward, during the course of the attempted eviction Mrs. Bumpurs escaped from the restraining hook twice and wielded a knife that Commissioner Ward says was “bent” on one of the plastic shields. At some point, Officer Stephen Sullivan, the officer positioned farthest away from her, aimed and fired his shotgun. It is alleged that the blast removed half of her hand, so that, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, `[I]t was anatomically impossible for her to hold the knife.’ The officer pumped his gun and shot again, making his mark completely the second time around.” Sullivan was later charged with manslaughter. The court dismissed the case, finding the evidence “legally insufficient”. After the ruling, Sullivan described himself as “ecstatic”. When asked if, given the same circumstances and hindsight, would he do the same thing, Sullivan answered, “Yes, I would.” Yes, he would. So would his descendants. Ask the family and friends of Breonna Taylor.

Eleanor Bumpurs led a full life, full of laughter, sorrow, insight and more. Eleanor Bumpurs’ daughter, Mary Bumpurs, knew that and refused to let her mother be reduced to a victim of police violence. She sued the City and won, but more importantly, she went on to organize, for decades, in the name of the Disappeared of the United States: Black mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, strangers become kin. As LeShawn Harris recently noted, “When her mother died, a community activist was born.”

In 1986, Audre Lorde wrote “For the Record: In memory of Eleanor Bumpers

“For the Record 
In memory of Eleanor Bumpers

Call out the colored girls
and the ones who call themselves Black
and the ones who hate the word nigger
and the ones who are very pale

Who will count the big fleshy women
the grandmother weighing 22 stone
with the rusty braids
and gap-toothed scowl
who wasn’t afraid of Armageddon
the first shotgun blast tore her right arm off
the one with the butcher knife
the second blew out her heart
through the back of her chest
and I am going to keep writing it down
how they carried her body out of the house
dress torn up around her waist
uncovered
past tenants and the neighborhood children
a mountain of Black Woman
and I am going to keep telling this
if it kills me
and it might in ways I am
learning

The next day Indira Gandhi
was shot down in her garden
and I wonder what these two 67-year old
colored girls
are saying to each other now
planning their return
and they weren’t even
sisters.”

When, in 2020, the family of Breonna Taylor joins with the family of Eleanor Bumpurs and declares that justice shall prevail, shall persist, through the current state of emergency, Eleanor Bumpurs and Breonna Taylor are busy planning their return … and they were sisters. Eleanor Bumpurs. #SayHerName #BreonnaTaylor #SayHerName

(Photo credit: Souls)

I crush them

I crush them

Justice Albie Sachs
on evening Safm radio
is reading from his
Quest for justice

I crush them
says a teacher 
quite nonchalantly 
of the insects falling 
into her tea

Cutting Edge
is on evening TV
highlighting schools
or rather their dilapidated 
physical states

shaky toilets
shaky classrooms
shaky infrastructure 
shaky promises too 

Justice Sachs tells
of The New Age paper
distributed back then

I crush them
the school’s office ceiling
letting the insects in

No New Age there
No Albie Sachs there
No justice either

How much longer
for learners 
and educators
will to be
crushed

A Tuesday night passes.

(Photo Credit: Daylin Paul / New Frame)

Eat the rich!

“Quand le peuple n’aura plus rien à manger, il mangera le riche.”
“When the people have nothing left to eat, they’ll eat the rich”
                                                                        Jean-Jacques Rousseau

In the midst of pandemic and deepening and expanding economic crisis, “the total net worth of the nation’s 644 billionaires has risen from $2.95 trillion on March 18 to $3.88 trillion on October 13.” While state and local governments face cataclysmic budget crises; while communities, families, and individuals across the country have faced job loss, loss of health care, eviction, hunger, the top 644 have been raking in money at a rate never before seen. Clearly, we are all in this together, and why worry about economic revival when `we’ are doing so well and there’s a Supreme Court vacancy to fill?

Last week, Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies released their analysis of the current situation, and it’s not a pretty picture. 8.2 million were infected with Covid-19, and 220,000 people had died (that was last week; the numbers today are far worse, a week later). “Collective work income of rank-and-file private-sector employees—all hours worked times the hourly wages of the entire bottom 82% of the workforce—declined by 3.5% from mid-March to mid-September”. Between March and September, close to 62 million lost jobs. 98,000 businesses have closed for good. As of end of August 12 million people have lost employer-sponsored health insurance. In September 22 million adults reported not having enough food the week before. Of that group, 14 million lived with children in their respective households. In September, close to 17% of renters in the United States reported being behind on rent payments. America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.

The 644 billionaires’ increase in wealth represents a 31.6% growth. Imagine if that $931 billion that went to a very small number of people, who themselves represent an even smaller number of families, instead benefited the entire population. $931 billion is more than triple the amount of Mitch McConnell’s proposed `relief’. Imagine all the people who could be served, who could be saved, with $931 billion. 

Let’s take Virginia as an example. Seven billionaires call Virginia home: Jacqueline Mars, Pamela Mars, Winifred J. Marquart, Daniel D’Aniello, William Conway, Jr., Matthew Calkins, and Steve Case. In seven months, during this pandemic, this group’s wealth grew by $6.5 billion. That’s almost a 16% increase … a `modest’ showing. To put this modest increase into perspective, the Commonwealth of Virginia faces a $1.3 billion revenue shortfall in 2021 and a $2.7 billion shortfall over the next two years. Meanwhile, and again, seven individuals in that same Commonwealth increased their wealth, in seven months, by $6.5 billion. There is more than enough money for rent relief, health care, food assistance, education, and so much more. Imagine all the people who could be served, who could be saved.

Meanwhile, sales of million-dollar homes have doubled in the United States. According to the National Association of Realtors, `we’ are in a real estate boom, right now. Here’s another sign of that boom: “From early September to Oct. 17, despite the CDC eviction ban, almost 10,000 eviction actions have been filed in 23 counties in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.” Here’s another sign of the boom: “In September, 865,000 women dropped out of the U.S. labor force compared with 216,000 men. Black and Latina women in the U.S. have been hit the hardest. While unemployment in September fell to 7.7 percent for all women, it remained at 11.1 percent for Black women and 11 percent for Latina women.”

Boom.

(Image Credit: Zeph Farmby / The Chicago Reader)