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1. Stopping Corruption Before it Starts: Miami Dade’s Candidates Academy

From sex scandals to fraud, we’ve seen a lot of politicians recently who have abused the power of their office and betrayed the trust of their constituents. Florida has had notoriously bad luck when it comes to its politicians; from corrupt representatives to attacks on civil voting rights, the laundry list of problems seems endless and, to many Floridians, pretty hopeless. But an interesting thing happened when a group of professors in the Miami Dade area recently decided that enough was enough. They didn’t just make noise about their discontent; they’re trying to do something about it. These professors want to ensure that true leaders in their community have the opportunity to run for office and win. Together they are hoping to form a school for political training called the “Candidates Academy,” which will scout promising young men and women from communities around Florida and equip them with the resources and knowledge to carry out a successful campaign. Maybe, finally, we can return a level of respect and trust to public office. If a political academy opened in your community, would you or someone you know enroll?

2. What Can We Learn From The East Harlem Gas Explosion?

A gas explosion in East Harlem, New York last week led to the death of 8 New Yorkers including a 22-year old father-to-be. The tragedy was made worse by reports that residents of the neighborhood had smelled the gas leak for several days before the explosion, and some told reporters that they even attempted to have their landlord electric company check it out. Though we can’t be sure exactly what caused the explosion and the gas leak just yet, it’s scary enough just to know that something like this could happen in our own communities or in our homes. So its beyond important to know what we can do if you suspect there is a gas leak nearby. The Gothamist, a New York periodical, spoke to a representative with Con Edison electric company who said that the best thing to do is get a safe distance away from the smell and call the electric or gas company immediately—the longer you wait, the more dangerous the situation can become. Make sure you have yourself and your family in order, that you follow instructions, but most of all I believe the best thing you can do—what you must do—is be relentless about your own safety. If the electric company is not responsive, keep calling, alert your neighbors, make noise—together you can have a stronger voice in getting the help you need.

3. The War On Food Stamps Wages On

Last month congress passed a bill cutting food stamps aid by $8 billion, dealing an extraordinary blow to the crucial lifeline that millions of families and individuals need to get by everyday. The cuts were based on a theory that these “benefits” were costing government too much money and that we’d all be better off economically if they saved that money for something else; exactly what is more important than making sure Americans can survive day to day and feed their families, I can’t be sure—the money is certainly not going to our children’s education that’s for sure. You see, losing food stamps is not just devastating for the individual or their family—it hurts our entire economy and sets us all back. The Daily News in New York has reported that cutting food stamps often means cutting working hours for many employees whose work times were reflected in the number of food stamps credits they received. So we have less work, less money, less food, and less economic activity. Tell me again how this is a good thing? Thankfully, Governors from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Oregon are living in reality and not in the theoretical world like some republicans in congress. They are trying to operate within a loophole that will allow them to give food stamps to those who need them most. Of course congress isn’t happy, and Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, has claimed that these governors are “cheating” the system and committing “fraud.” Well it seems to me that Speaker Boehner and anyone who is fighting against food stamps are the ones who are truly guilty of “fraud” for calling themselves representatives of their constituencies; they are the ones who are “cheating” the American people.

4. Progress, Past and Present: President Obama Awards 24 Medals of Honor

On Monday, President Barack Obama made a major, and majorly heartwarming statement when he awarded 24 Medals of Honor to service men who had been denied the honor for reasons of racial and religious discrimination. We have come such a long way in our community’s struggle for civil rights, equality, and respect from our fellow Americans. The fact that we have a Black president only 50 years after we were being beaten for simply demanding that we exercise our right to vote is no small victory; I believe President Obama knows that and he’s doing what he can to extend that victory to us all. From the Affordable Care Act that significantly benefits the black community, which has suffered from an incredible health disparity with white Americans, to My Brother’s Keeper, which will find the best ways to improve educational and economic opportunity for young men of color across the board, I believe that our President wants to ensure we keep taking strong strides towards equality. Awarding the Medal of Honor to those who served our nation and sacrificed their lives to protect ours, but treated as second-class citizens back on our shores, is an attempt to right the wrongs of the past. It is an attempt to say that we will no longer accept the discrimination of any American—Black, White, Asian, female, gay, straight, whatever. We have to learn from the past so we can teach the right lessons in the future.

I’ve spent my entire career as a civil rights activist and anti-violence advocate. I hear from folks all over the country about how fed-up they are—how much they want change—but they don’t know where to start. It’s not enough just to be informed, we’ve got to work tirelessly to do better. With the “The Lookout,” I’ll collect the most important stories and action items that you need to know about and things you can do each week, keeping you involved so you can create positive change for yourself and your community.

I want to hear from you; what’s going on in your community? What stories or events should folks know about? Leave a comment below. 

More About Tamika Mallory

Called “a leader of tomorrow” by Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie B. Jarrett, Tamika D. Mallory is a nationally recognized leader and civil rights activist. Tamika is the Founder/President of Mallory Consulting, LLC and the former Executive Director of the National Action Network (NAN), one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations. She is featured regularly as a leading voice on key social justice issues and is currently making headlines around the country for her tireless activism and strong stance on women’s issues, anti-violence, young adult advocacy, and decency.