Things That Matter

A Deadly Virus Is Back With A Vengeance And It’s Hitting Our Farmworker Community The Hardest

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Farmworkers face dangerous and even life-threatening conditions each and every day they’re at work. It’s a seriously difficult job to do but so many of our country’s most at-risk people are the ones doing it.

Our nation’s farmworkers face discrimination, refusal of payment, immigration crackdowns, physical injury, and now – according to an NBC report – an outbreak of valley fever.

This outbreak of valley fever has the potential to be deadly for farmworkers.

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A new NBC News report details the story of Victor Gutierrez, who contracted valley fever, a dangerous fungal disease. Victor was suffering from flu-like symptoms – coughing, night sweats, exhaustion, and a strange feeling that he was burning up on the inside. He ignored the symptoms and kept working so that he wouldn’t lose his job but eventually the illness caught up with him and he was struggling to breathe.

The next day, Gutierrez’s lungs filled up with fluid and he felt so sick that he went to a local clinic. This time, they tested him for valley fever, and it came back positive.

He told NBC News: “The nurse called me and told me to rush to the clinic because it was an emergency.” They told him he might only have six months to live.

While Gutierrez managed to beat those odds by taking the antifungal medication fluconazole for more than a year, he has seen valley fever kill many other people he’s known.

The worst of the valley fever outbreak is happening where nearly two-thirds of our nuts and fruits come from – putting a huge amount of workers at risk along with our economy.

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In California, rates of new cases rose 10 percent in just one year. The state budget has $8 million for valley fever research, while about $3 million will go to the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical Center, in the heart of the growing threat.

These figures pale in comparison to the actual costs associated with valley fever. In 2011, California spent approximately $2.2 billion in valley fever-related hospital expenses.

Climate change has been singled out as a possible cause for the outbreaks.

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Coccidioidomycosis or cocci (pronounced “coxy”), the fungus that causes valley fever, thrives in dry, undisturbed soil. It becomes airborne when that soil is disturbed – whether it’s by dirt bikes, construction crews, or farmers putting in a new fruit or nut orchard. It can travel on the wind as far as 75 miles away. Years of climate change-fueled drought and a 240 percent increase in dust storms appear to have led to a swift rise in the number of people diagnosed with the illness across the Southwest.

Adding to the threat of valley fever is that 49% of farmworkers are undocumented and unlikely to seek medical care for fear of deportation.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Like 68 percent of the estimated 800,000 farmworkers in California, Gutierrez was born in Mexico. An estimated 49 percent of the state’s farmworkers lack work authorization and most live under the federal poverty line in unincorporated communities with few public services.

Undocumented residents are far less likely to visit a doctor or a hospital, even for urgent medical care. This puts an already at-risk group of people at greater risk of health complications.

Other’s are forced to make a choice between eating or medicine.

Like many farmworkers who contract the illness, Gutierrez found the cost of the antifungal medication needed to treat valley fever totally unaffordable. At the height of the illness, it cost $1,200 for two months of pills because he had to take two to three times as many as one would if they were treating a typical candida infection.

He didn’t have insurance at the time and said his family often had to choose between food and his medication. He still isn’t able to work regularly and his family mainly survives on the money his wife, Maria, makes in the fields.

People took to Twitter to worry about what this meant for the state and its farmworkers.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

With more than 800,000 at-risk farmworkers, people who work in the fields to help deliver foods to plates across the country, this is an urgent problem.

Valley fever could leave large groups of the community unable to work.

While some offered up first-hand experience on their battle with valley fever.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Although valley fever is often mild with no symptoms, it has the potential to be deadly – especially in at-risk groups. Symptoms include fatigue, cough, fever, night sweats and can progress to painful skin lesions and fluid-filled lungs.

Thankfully, vaccines are in the works but they won’t be a silver bullet.

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Two vaccines are in the works – at the University of Texas and the University of Arizona – but it’s not clear how close they are to being tested on humans.

Three members of Congress from the Southwest last month introduced a federal bill, the FORWARD Act, in an effort to increase public awareness of the disease while “promoting the development of novel treatments and a vaccine.”

Kamala Harris Proposes Ambitious $100 Billion Grant Program To Close Racial Gap In Homeownership

Things That Matter

Kamala Harris Proposes Ambitious $100 Billion Grant Program To Close Racial Gap In Homeownership

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Democratic Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, a California Senator, has recently proposed a $100 billion federal grant solution to help address the racial wealth gap for Black Americans. The crux of the solution is centered in homeownership. She wants to help pay for down payments and closing costs for families of color that are still affected by redline segregation-era practices. She announced her plan Saturday at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, which aims to lift up Black women.

“That not only lifts up black America, that lifts up all of America,” she told the crowd.

The plan would help at least 4 million families that are living in those areas that were redlined. Redlining is the term used to describe Jim Crow laws that limited black families’ abilities to take out loans to buy homes. Redlining effectively set boundaries on where those families could live, and, generations later, those families continue to suffer.

The plan also includes a crucial policy change that would raise credit scores for many minority families.

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Her plan is to change federal policy that would count rent payments and utility bill payments toward credit scores, effectively raising credit scores for POC. The plan would give families of color assistance with buying homes in neighborhoods they had been racially biased from living it by offering grants up to $25,000.

The plan would increase the average wealth of Latino households by $29,000.

Credit: @KamalaHarris / Twitter

It would also increase the average wealth of Black households by about $32,000, according to The New York Times. By aiding with down payments and closing costs, it allows families to buy homes that they could pay off with their existing monthly income, rather than requiring tens of thousands of dollars in savings before ownership.

Of course, Fox News is already screaming their heads off about reverse racism.

Credit: @Bakari_Sellers / Twitter

Unlike offering home loans that families can’t afford, which caused the 2008 housing crisis, this plan seeks to make true reparations for Black families that were prevented from owning homes due to Jim Crow laws.

Thankfully, folks are clapping back at the #whitesplaining.

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Instead of discussing the issue at hand–reparations for redlining–Tucker Carlson and his gang talked about how it would be racist to white people by not including them in the conversation. If white folks were included in the conversation, it would be as perpetrators of racist systemic oppression, but Kamala Harris is focusing on justice for black folks, not punishing white folks.

Some people are generally concerned over “race-baiting” policies.

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We see you Pan Dulce. There are over 40 million Black folks in the United States, and several responded to Harris’ tweet with concern that this only helps 10 percent of the population. Of course, the 4 million that would be helped are a diverse group of POC that are descendants of those that were racially segregated. That’s several generations of POC paying rent to a landlord instead of owning a home they could pass onto the next generation, to give them a leg up in the world. When reparations aren’t made, families remain static, instead of progressing.

Just one example of a certified Doctorate in Reverse Racism.

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We don’t know what your Ph.D. is in, Mr. Eddie Donovan, but it certainly isn’t in systemic injustice or empathy. Hope you had fun leaving that little winky face at the end of a tone-deaf comment, though. Harris’s plan aims to undo generations of unfair and racist practices that hurt Black and brown communities. The same plans being proposed were once used exclusively for white communities so it is just a way to even the playing field.

Harris is tackling systemic injustice alongside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in other ways, too.

Credit: @KamalaHarris / Twitter

Just this week, the duo introduced a bill that would reduce recidivism through housing after incarcerated individuals leave the system. America has the highest percentage of our population behind bars than any other country in the world. Many of the laws that place folks in jail started out as Jim Crow laws and have simply evolved to become more insidiously racist.

Regardless of those offended by the proposal, people are coming out in droves to support the effort.

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Keep it going, Harris. #BlackWomenMagic

A Univision poll showed that Kamala Harris support by Latinos more than doubled from 6 percent to 22 percent after the debates.

@KamalaHarris / Twitter

The poll only included 411 Latino voters and showed Kamala Harris in the lead with 22 percent. Castro was behind her with 18 percent, and Biden and Sanders were tied at 16 percent.

READ: Don. Jr. Said Kamala Harris Wasn’t Black Enough And Democratic Presidential Candidates Are Not Having It

Cheech And Chong Might Be Over But Cheech Marin Is Saving Chicano Art With An Exciting Art Exhibit

Entertainment

Cheech And Chong Might Be Over But Cheech Marin Is Saving Chicano Art With An Exciting Art Exhibit

Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Cheech Marin is one of the most successful comedic voices to come out of the Mexican-American community in the United States. As part of the comedic duo Cheech & Chong, he has toured the nation offering acts full of caustic humor and political references that get our heads thinking and our hearts racing. He was born Richard Anthony Marin on July 13, 1946, in South Los Angeles. He has lived and worked in California his whole life and has appeared in such iconic films as Machete, and TV shows like the classic Nash BridgesHe has also done voice work in children’s classics such as The Lion King (where he voices one of the despicable hyena) and Pixar’s Cars trilogy. Culturally, Marin identifies as a Chicano, even though he does not speak Spanish. Guess where his nickname comes from? The story goes that when he came back from the hospital his uncle said that he looked like a chicharron (pork crackling), so the apodo of Cheech stuck.

But he is much more than an actor and comedian, and he has made a very important contribution to Chicano cultural life. Read on to find out more about it.

He is a famous actor, but his true love is not acting.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Cheech has been collecting Chicano art for years, something that his fame and fortune has allowed him to do. It is believed that he possesses the largest individual collection of Chicano art in the world. 

He found his love for art at church, of all places.

Credit: TheCheechCenter / Instagram

Cheech told The Orange County Register that he first fell in love with art as a kid when at 11 he would stare at the ceiling at church. He said: “There were all these paintings there, guys in togas and some of them getting barbecued. What’s the deal? So art was very important to me and I learned as much as I could about it by going to the library to check out the art books.” Gracias a Dios! 

As a generous collector, guess what he decided to do.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Yes, you guessed it, he decided to donate his entire collection to a museum. The lucky institution? The Riverside Art Museum (http://www.riversideartmuseum.org/) in  3425 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, California. 

The new Chicano art center: simply The Cheech.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

The museum and Marin decided to call the new center simply The Cheech, which both speaks of the main benefactor’s generosity towards the arts and Mexican-American identity, and to an iconic symbol of Chicano culture. 

But of course, money is needed for this project.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

So Cheech and the museum relied on what Latino’s do best: community organizing. Through both online and offline fundraising he got the attention he needed and the rest, as they say, is history. 

It has taken him four decades to amass his great collection of Chicano art, after all.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Cheech told the Las Vegas Sun on August 2018: “It’s more than I could ever ask for. I’ve been putting together this collection of Chicano art going on 40 years, and it’s been touring close to 30 years visiting various museums across the nation and Europe. It’s kind of a unique thing because it’s a private collection and museums don’t like to show those for a lot of reasons. It’s like, I have this collection because you don’t “. Talk about perseverance! If you truly love something, then nothing will be able to stop you! 

His motto: “Chicano art is American art.”

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Cheech is a proud American, and he considers, and rightfully so, that Mexican-American communities have contributed immensely to the social and cultural fabric of the United States. He didn’t want his art collection to be just his, but everyones. He toured with the collection but not he found a permanent home for it. He told the Las Vegas Sun: “When you’re sifting through those materials, you come to the realization of what good does it do you? What am I going to do, stuff it under the bed? It’s for the people to see where previously they have not had that chance. It’s going to a special place that can expand the outreach of Chicano art and better include it the American canon. Chicano art is American art.” Preach, carnalito

His passion got young people interested in art that speaks to our cultural roots.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

The only way for culture to survive throughout the years is to be communicated to the next generations. During his fundraising efforts, Cheech found an echo in young adults. As reported by The Orange Country Register in December 2018, the group known as The Pick Group of Young Professionals organized the Pick 100 x 100 campaign, which urged 100 young professionals to give $100 each by October 2019 for a total of $10,000. The group’s president, Lauren Lee, said in a press release: “Imagine the difference we can make in our community by deciding to give back as young professionals to a community that has given so much to us.”

He got the State of California to donate $9.7 million for the museum.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

In June 2018, after Cheech had already raised $3 million dollars for the museum, the state government pitched in an extra $9.7, which came from the 2018-2019 budget signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Cheech told the Associated Press shortly after the government funds were made available: “I have dreamed for many years of finding a home for the hundreds of pieces of art that I have spent much of my life collecting, protecting and showing, when possible, at major museums around the world. The Riverside community has made this dream a reality.”

The museum will have over 700 paintings.

Credit: TheCheechCenter / Instagram

The depth and breadth of Cheech’s collection encompass both established and upcoming talent, as well as painters who are great but haven’t been able to break into the highly elitist art circles of Los Angeles. Among the paintings, drawings and sculptures are works by such artists as Gilbert (Magu) Lujan, Frank Romero, and Carlos Almaraz.

The Cheech Center will revitalize Riverside.

Credit: TheCheechCenter / Instagram

Besides being culturally important, the arts center will draw attention to Riverside. Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey said in 2018: “But there is also a business side to the equation. A world-class art museum draws visitors to our city, potentially from all around the globe. These visitors book hotel rooms, pay bed tax, eat in our local restaurants and frequent our coffee shops and nightspots. The arts are one of the drivers that make Riverside a good place to do business”. Dinerito habla! 

By the way, Cheech Marin is also a marijuana advocate.

Credit: Cheechmarinofficial / Instagram

Yes, his other passion is pot: he is an active promoter of the legalization of marihuana, and of course is good friends with other pothead celebrities such as Snoop Dog! Un toquecito para Cheech! And yes, he has entered the legal pot growing business.

READ: 20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Actor And Comedian Cheech Marin

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