Nigerian Shell Games

Ogoni people protesting Shell in Nigeria. Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan.

Ogoni people protesting Shell in Nigeria. Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan.

The Niger River is the third-longest African river and also has the largest river delta in Africa which rests in southern Nigeria. Of the 27 million people living near the Niger Delta, about 75 percent of the population relies on the environment for their livelihood. This region of Nigeria is also known as Ogoniland, which has a population of 832,000. Once a vibrant source of diverse wildlife and fish as well as a lush landscape, the area surrounding the Niger riverbanks is now vastly different, causing hardship for the people who rely on it for subsistence.

Royal Dutch Shell is a multinational Anglo-Dutch corporation that reported earnings of $18.9 billion in the first three-quarters of 2012. While bringing in these profits, Shell has simultaneously committed crimes against humanity, decimating one of the world’s most important deltas and destroying the health of entire communities while passing blame to local Nigerian governments.


The Wealth of Health

The United States spends more than any other nation in the world on health care – in 2007 we spent $2.2 trillion. Despite consistent increases in spending, disparities among demographic groups persist. Low-income Americans and racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionately higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options, and reduced access to care.

Health Care Disparities: A Case for Closing the Gap

The issue of health care reform and the inequalities related to accessing adequate health care has taken a front seat in political debate since the economic downturn in 2008. Unfortunately, this has been a debate that has polarized most of the American people. It is a deep-rooted issue but the disparities are becoming more and more evident.

America’s health care system needs to be completely transformed.


A Healthy Chicago, Peace by Peace

Cook County Hospital house staff officers on strike in 1975. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Cook County Hospital house staff officers on strike in 1975. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Jack Pizzy is a British filmmaker who began his career as a television anchor and reporter. His documentary I Call It Murder was first aired on the BBC television program Man Alive in 1979. The film depicts Cook County Hospital in Chicago before it closed in 1975 due to a lack of funding. Because the hospital was public, many of Chicago’s poor communities relied on its services. The documentary focuses on violence as being a major problem in Cook County; most of the patients suffered from severe gun and knife wounds. Pizzy even remarks of Cook County saying,

The most common fatal complication of pregnancy is gunshot wounds.

The documentary also shows that many of the fatally injured patients at Cook County Hospital were initially turned away by other hospitals because of poverty and racism — since many of the patients lacked medical insurance and were Black or Latino. Perhaps more depressing is that nearly forty years later, the interplay of poverty, racism, violence and access to healthcare still exists.


Request Lines are Open

Don Cheadle, as legendary Washington DC activist and radio DJ Petey Greene in the 2007 film Talk to To Me.

Your voice is important and powerful. We want you to be heard. Want us to spread the word about your great nonprofit or activist collective? Any Black studies questions you’d like us to answer?  Would you like Progressive Pupil to share your art, poetry or upcoming film screening? Our request lines are always open.

Get in touch so we can share more of what you need on the Progressive Pupil’s blog and social media. You can reach us by leaving a comment or by emailing us at You can also let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter.

We are excited to hear from you. Your input is essential to our success.

How to Get Black People to Smoke

Getting Black People to Smoke

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. The neighborhood I grew up in, Bed-Stuy, is predominately Black — though the gentrification in recent years has been striking. Recently, I became aware of how willingly ignorant I had been to the disproportionate number of cigarette advertisements that are displayed in my community. Cigarette signage has been a fixture in my environment throughout my life. Tobacco companies have specifically targeted both African American and Latino communities with intensive merchandising and advertising to effectively drive up their sales and profits.

In doing so, it also led to more African Americans smoking and, subsequently, a number of related health problems. Research from the American Lung Association shows just how often Black communities are bombarded with cigarette advertising. Since the signing of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) in 1998, every young person in the United States is exposed to 559 tobacco ads annually. This number grows with age and it is estimated that every woman over 18 is exposed to 617 advertisements and every African American adult sees 892 ads. Furthermore, the money that is spent on advertising mentholated cigarettes (popular with African Americans) in magazines increased from 13 percent of total advertising expenses in 1998 to 49 percent in 2005.


Brooklyn Youth Against Violence

Founder of the Kings Against Violence Initiative, Dr. Robert J. Gores, stands with his team.

Founder of the Kings Against Violence Initiative, Dr. Robert J. Gore, stands with his team.

Set against the backdrop of sadness, great debate and urgency, one group is taking bold action to stop gun violence among American youth — a fast-moving and poisonous trend. The Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) based in Brooklyn is a hospital-based, school-based and community-based organization that provides young people with safe alternatives to interpersonal violence by empowering them with knowledge and activities that highlight their potential.

KAVI views the issue of interpersonal violence through a unique lens. Rather than positioning itself as an anti-gang program that condemns this aspect of communities around Brooklyn, KAVI understands that this is often a necessary association for many young people’s survival. Instead of combating or denying these negative truths directly, KAVI provides services at the point of impact to victims and works to create positive influences that sway youth towards a brighter, violence-free future.


May Day!

May Day postcard courtesy of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project archive.

May Day postcard courtesy of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project archive.

See yourself in our blog this May, when we will celebrate Organized Labor, Immigrants’ Rights and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Progressive Pupil makes Black studies for everybody so we are looking for visual art, original short films, essays and photography that discuss these issues as they relate to the history, politics and cultures of communities of African descent either within the US or internationally.  We are also interested in press releases and announcements about related social justice work you are doing in your community.

To be considered for publication in May, please send us a brief proposal, press release or flyer to no later than April 25.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Is a Healthy Diet on Food Stamps Possible?

food stamps

The aftermath of the now infamous Twitter battle involving Newark Mayor Corey Booker and @MWadeNC prompted the politician to challenge himself to buy food using a budget equal to the weekly food stamp allowance in his home state of New Jersey – 30 dollars, or just $4.32 a day. Through his blog and Twitter updates, Booker admitted that the food stamp challenge proved to be a struggle—reporting hunger pains and caffeine withdrawal on day three.

Mayor Booker put the issues of nutrition, welfare, and other social services in the spotlight. But how does the Mayor’s challenge stack up against the experiences of those who regularly rely on food stamps in neighboring New York City—the most expensive city in the nation?


Growing a Just Environment in the South Bronx

When the Hunts Point Produce Market opened, they didn’t have people like Tanya Fields in mind. I suppose this reality is the reason the BLK ProjeK exists–because the dollars that are trucked in and out of the Bronx do not serve the Bronx. While Hunt’s Point Market makes $2 billion per year and is the world’s largest wholesale produce market, the community does not see most of this profit and residents of the Bronx are worse for it. The fumes from the trucks that make nearly 15,000 trips a day are linked to the 60 percent of South Bronx residents that reported asthma in 2010. But the community keeps fighting the expansion of the market.


How to Survive a Plague

How to Survive a Plague Poster

The compelling documentary How to Survive a Plague, directed by David France, explores how activism helped alter public opinion and empower people diagnosed with HIV during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. Using archival footage of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP ) and the Treatment Action Group (TAG), David France excellently captures the stirring losses, achievements and solemn victories of the movement while reflecting on a journey in which too many lives were lost to the disease. The film is a testament to the power of people organizing and emphasizes that organizing – coupled with knowledge – has the ability to create meaningful change. How to Survive a Plague is an inspiring and important film as it gives ordinary people who have an interest in a cause but fearful or uninformed the courage to organize. Successful organizing doesn’t necessarily require an extensive knowledge base but rather change is determined by people with a passion for revolution.